Afternoon Tea with a toddler. Think twice

Try not to sweat the small stuff

I love creating memorable experiences for my kids and finding special occasions to bring us closer together. Whether that’s a weekend adventure, a trip to a museum, or creative projects at home. With two young kids, I almost always feel exhausted at the end of any project or endeavor. My son is also at an age where he is over-the-top inquisitive. Parents, you know what I’m talking about.

My son, on the subject of Margherita pizza

Why is the pizza called Margherita? What are these green things? Do I have to eat them? What’s basil? Does basil grow in the ground or on trees? Did God make them? Does God eat basil? Can we get a pizza without basil? Actually, I just want pizza with no sauce, no cheese, no basil, and no tomatoes.

Me: No, because it’s no longer a pizza.

Fast forward: The basil and the tomato slices (on his side of the pizza) have been surgically removed.

Half and half
You can tell which side is his side of the pizza.

I love that my son is curious. He has an existentialist mindset, questioning absolutely everything and defining his own sense of the world. Something we should always encourage as parents…to question things.

My daughter, when it comes to tea time

My youngest is a toddler with a bold personality. She can be a hurricane force of nature, and I can see the machinations behind her cherubic mien. In many ways, she and I are most alike. My mom says she is a mirror copy of what I was like at that age. Personality to boot. Embracing her English side, my daughter loves playing make-believe with tea sets and sipping from tiny cups.

Make-believe tea time
Playtime with tea and cakes

My son was an easy toddler in comparison. He has a breezy, sunny personality and in my eyes, a total charmer. My daughter is far more intense in comparison, a roller coaster of fun and ebullience.

Afternoon tea with fine china

I had made an appointment to take my parents and the kids out for afternoon tea. It would be a first-time treat for my daughter and son. I thought “how cute” if I could dress up my girl in a frilly outfit and adorn her hair with a fascinator hat from her Auntie D. She was so good with her toy tea set. Surely this was an excellent idea.

Reality: Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The English Rose Team Room in San Francisco’s East Bay is a gorgeous place with fine bone china and tables covered in pretty tablecloth. Every inch of the place is covered in floral patterns. Very English I thought. But as soon as I walked in, I had a feeling of dread. Everything was in close quarters and the fine china looked incredibly delicate as I saw my toddler stomping her little feet.

Beads of sweat formed on my brow and on my upper lip. As we sat in chairs with little seat cushions, the server appeared and patiently walked us through the tea service.

Tea service
Server was warm and friendly

Delicate teapots in the shape of chimneyed houses, cups with delicate handles, clattering saucers, gilded plates, and a 3-tier tray of finger foods appeared. Every inch of the table was covered with dangerously breakable items. Did I want hibiscus tea or mint tea? Cucumber sandwich or egg sandwich? Scone with clotted cream and jam, or carrot cake? Sugar cookie or apple pie? Everything was sumptuous, but I was too busy hovering around my little girl to have much of an appetite. Making sure she didn’t touch this or that, or worse actually drink anything from a tea cup.

I looked over at my son. He was enjoying himself and was quite happy with his special meal and apple juice in a tea cup. Bonus, he found a tiny dish of M&Ms next to his flower shaped PB&J sandwich. Talk about finger food!

Afternoon tea with the family
Happy with his kid-friendly meal

My son was a perfect little gentleman and made his momma proud. My daughter, on the other hand, was building herself into a quite a state. Of course she wanted to interact with the fine ladies sitting at adjacent tables. An elderly pair were having a polite conversation to our right, while the table to our left had the most well-behaved pair of young sisters, bows and all. This was not going to be my day.

My daughter bellowed that she wanted to get down from her chair. Nana and I promptly escorted my mini-me outside where they had pretty tables and tea sets displayed in a garden party setting. Phew, disaster averted. We had escaped outside.

Garden party setting
My girl running around in the garden party setting

Pretty soon a stuffed bunny with long floppy ears caught my daughter’s eye. She managed to decapitate it with one quick swoop of her energetic arms. The bunny’s head was fortunately affixed to a wooden stick, so I was able to easily re-attach the head to its floating body.  Another potential crisis averted.

So much for finding respite outdoors, the garden party setting was rife with adorable breakables. With defeated looks, we marched right back inside.

Back inside for tea
With nana by her side, she dips her pirouette smack dab in a frosted cupcake

We finally got my little one to take a few bites of her meal. She managed to dip her pirouette straight into the frosting of a pink cupcake, and made a little mess of things. Bits of her beautiful floral PB&J sandwich ended up on her lap, and she slingshot launched the fascinator hat, nearly hitting me in the face. Her idea of sitting in a chair was to stand, so she was at eye-level with all of us. Did she think she was the Queen of England?

Our afternoon tea outing turned to be an abbreviated visit, and we left with a generous doggie bag filled with all the sumptuous food we had not been able to enjoy.

We’ll come back in a couple years

Fine time
Afternoon tea in the future

In summary, I loved the ‘idea’ of experiencing afternoon tea with the kids. My son happily nibbled on all the finger foods and loved the whimsy of the tea settings. It was too much to expect my toddler daughter to sit still for even a few minutes. Would I go back? Absolutely! But I’ll wait a while until my daughter is a bit older. At the moment, we’re better off taking her to the local pumpkin patch.

Relationships are work (in a good way)

Marriage, a journey in progress

Whoever said marriage is easy has not been married. It’s hard work. Just like you work to excel in your career, parenting, sport, or other pursuit. Marriages are not Netflix Originals where someone realizes the error of their ways, and decides to whisk you away in romcom fashion for a happily ever after.

It’s also not a dating app scenario where you get to swipe right if something doesn’t work in your favor. Don’t like the way he picks food from his teeth. Too bad. You’re committed. Unfortunately, we live in a challenging time in which a “disposable” mindset is so pervasive. Fragmented families, experience with unhealthy family and romantic relationships, and an instant gratification culture where you’re just an app, tap, and swipe away — can make commitment that much harder. Everyone comes from a different place, and everyone comes with their unique set of baggage.

So, let’s talk sustainability.

Great relationships take work because it’s worth the investment.

We are products of our childhood, upbringing, and cultural norms. Statistically speaking, children of divorced parents are more likely to jump ship. And, if your parents married others after divorcing, you’re 91% more likely to get divorced. (Source: Nicholas Wolfinger, Cambridge University Press 2005). 

But statistics are just numbers at the end of the day. Like Ben Stiller’s risk manager character in Along Came Polly, it’s best to throw the risk assessment out the window and commit to doing the work. And be your own best judge.

After reading key publications and articles on the subject (the work required is consistent), I’ve distilled the summary down to five points.

1) Be a good listener and ask questions

As a busy mom I am engrossed in work, caring for the kids, running errands, and juggling multiple projects. Being a good listener is one of the most important aspects of being a great partner. You can visibly see your partner’s reactions and emotions. We each have our own idiosyncrasies, and it’s important to be present for those we love.

2) Have high standards for each other

Having high standards for each other is crucial. There was a reason you got together in the first place and exchanged ‘I do’s.’ If something bothers you, address it immediately. Don’t tolerate negative or hurtful behavior on either side. Talk it out, and work on nipping the problem in the bud.

3) Learn to argue constructively

Sometimes you agree to disagree. It’s inevitable. I can have strong opinions as does the hubs. Arguing constructively means respecting the others’ opinion and exiting the argument gracefully. That may involve humor, a time-out from conversation, and sometimes just an acknowledgement that both views hold merit. Agree to disagree.

4) Show you care

I grew up in a household where “acts” (i.e. making a favorite meal, planning a special trip) spoke volumes when it came to love and commitment. For others, those acts aren’t enough. Some require more tactile or verbal demonstrations of care and love. Talk about and understand what your partner needs from you (and vice versa).

5) Plan regular date nights

Life gets in the way, and you find yourself frequently exhausted and drained. Having kids are an absolute delight, but it’s hard to schedule regular date nights. This is an area that can provide a great opportunity to re-connect, and just have fun.

Enjoy the journey (there will be bumps)

For my part, I am a work-in-progress and on this journey with my partner.

Yes, marriage is a lot of work. It has its ups and downs, and that’s par for the course. The down times can be incredibly tough, but it’s an opportunity for an honest relationship assessment, and a time to reboot with kindness and forgiveness.  I read a refreshing post (encourage you to read) by Winifred Reilly, a Marriage and Family Therapist, which gave her perspective on 36 years of marriage.

My parents have an amazing relationship and 40+ year marriage, which came from a shared journey with shared goals, and a belief in a happily ever after.

 

Family Time Management Tips [From a Chief Mom]

Doing Things Together

One of the most challenging, rewarding responsibilities I’ve had is working in the tech space. I’m drawn to innovation and disruptive technologies that really connect people — from mobile games and smartphones to pet technology that can literally give pets a voice (AI/ML). I have a lifelong love of learning and tinkering.

Most importantly, I love being a mom (aka Chief Mom Officer), and it’s a tough gig! For this week’s fiver, here are tips to make the most of family time.

1) Calendar to plan everything

The all-important calendar is necessary to plan every appointment, party, meeting, lesson, and to-do’s. I can always check it on my phone, get reminder alerts, and it gives me the semblance of being organized.

2) Order essentials in bulk

Why buy TP or paper towels as one-offs? Ordering in bulk on a recurring schedule is a great way to save time and to ensure you never run out of the important things. What did I ever do before Amazon?

3) Pack lunches the night before

Packing lunches the night before
I’ve embraced the bento box lunch

I’m not that good at origami, but I’ve gotten creative with preparing bento box style lunches. This is effective with picky eaters, and a great way of showing you care (notice the hearts?). I prep lunches the night before, so I don’t feel rushed in the mornings.

4) Spend quality time; ask thoughtful questions

Compromises are made every day. One area I don’t negotiate is spending quality time with the kids daily. I’ll think of ways to engage them with questions (peppered with hugs).

Being present
Spend quality time; ask questions

Questions like: What was the most interesting thing you learned today? Did you like the lunch I packed for you? What made you smile? Who did you play with today? Did anything bother or upset you? (why?)

5) Organize weekly baking / other creative projects

I’m no Martha Stewart, and neither is the hubs. But together, we make a great team when it comes to cooking up projects with kid-friendly themes. Weekends are the best to do things together, and Sundays are designated Sunday Fundays.

Baking projects together
Space rock cookies were the theme

Well, that’s it for this week’s fiver.

How do you manage time with loved ones? Suggestions always welcome.

 

Top Fiver for Back-to-School (B2S)

Get kitted out for B2S

Are you stocked up on back to school supplies and essentials? This week’s top fiver has some adorable recommendations for you (and your cherubic sidekick). Backpacks, rolling bags, new kicks, graphic tees, and water bottles. What’s on your B2S list?

1) Swedish Cool with Fjallraven

Hand it to the Swedes to make some of the most stylish gear for young and old. Hashtag #Mykanken for Fjallraven, and get thee a gorgeously cute backpack in a bright color. With a foxy logo and quality craftsmanship, their gear is built to last. Get a Kanken backpack for yourself and your older kids, and a Kanken Mini backpack for your little’uns. A Kanken Mini is currently $70, standard Kanken $80, and Kanken 15″ laptop backpack will set you back $115.

Great wall of Fjallraven backpacks
Mom shopping with her daughter for back to school gear

2) Rolling Backpack

Good posture starts at a young age, and to limit the strain on the back and neck, opt for a rollie. Your kids will love it, and you’re protecting their backs. Amazon sells some entry-level rolling backpacks that you and your kids can use everyday. A bonafide Amazon bestseller is the J World New York rolling backpacks good for school and travel, and has a nifty compartment for your laptop, iPad or Kindle. With nearly 1,250 reviews, an average 4-star rating, and Prime shipping, the price is right if you’re looking for something relatively inexpensive (<$50). If you want a matchy-match insulated lunch bag, you’ll pay a bit extra for the combo pack (<$80).

3) Colorful sneakers for you + kids

PLAE shoes are for cool kids and now adults too. You never have to lace up your sneaks with their signature styles of velcro and an “alternative” lacing system. Basically, you don’t have to tie your own shoelaces ever! Remember Adam Sandler’s character Sonny in the film Big Daddy where he tells the boy Julian “loop it, swoop it, and pull?” No need with PLAE.

PLAE has a cult following as a cool kid’s sneaker brand and was featured in Fast Company. Founder Ryan Ringholz was formerly a lead designer at Puma. Shoes for adults are the new new for PLAE. Currently, they’re running a promotion on their site, so save 15% if you buy a pair of 2 or more shoes. Kid kicks start in the $50 range and adult kicks generally $90 on up.

Now you can explore the mommy and me, or daddy and me pairings. Make it a family affair.

4) Bright graphic tees that pop

School uniforms yuck! If you’re not bound by strict school dress code policy, then stock up on some adorable, colorful graphic tees from Uniqlo. The Japanese casual wear brand does fun collabs year-round, and they’ve done one with artist KAWS to reimagine Sesame Street characters.

See? Even Roger Federer is one of the cool Sesame Street kids. Wear fun graphic tees with old school favorites like Elmo, Cookie Monster, Bert, Ernie, and Big Bird. Sunny days are back again!  The price is <$10 per tee at Uniqlo. You can buy the whole collection at this rate.

5) Stainless steel water bottle

Keep your kids hydrated with H2O in a stainless steel water bottle. Nowadays, you have so many options for water bottles and sippy cups. Eco-friendly stainless steel is more durable than plastic, completely BPA-free, easy to wash, and more sanitary. You have many options, including fan favorite S’well, Mira, and YETI, as well as the beautifully elegant MiiR bottles.

S’well has an adorable collection of kid’s bottles with their S’ip line. You can breeze through Target and check them out. Hope you enjoyed this week’s fiver!

What B2S essentials do you recommend? You’re welcome to share your comments. 

Top 5 Time-Savers for Busy YOU

Fiver for Adulting

This week’s Top Fiver is for folks who are busy adulting. Whether solo, in a relationship, or busy juggling work-family-life, there are some everyday hacks to keep your adult life under control.

Urban Dictionary definition: 

Adulting (v): to carry out one or more of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals (paying off that credit card debt, settling beef without blasting social media, etc). Exclusively used by those who adult less than 50% of the time.

1) Create a to-do list. Rinse & Repeat.

Seems like a no-brainer right? It’s a must if you’re trying to keep your life organized and minimally cluttered. Create a to-do list in whatever form or medium works for you. Some people like the good ol’ fashioned notepad/notebook or fancier Italian-made moleskine notebook. You can always default to a Notes app, sticky notes, or task list.

While the aspect of creating a to-do list sounds mundane, it can keep you organized and help drive purpose in your daily existence. Each day, you can reprioritize what matters most to you.

I, for one, never seem to complete my to-do list, but I keep it moving each day.

2) Go minimalistic with your wardrobe

I’m not advocating that you take on Mark Zuckerberg’s approach of buying multiples of the same grey t-shirt. But, keep your everyday wardrobe simple. Spend less time worrying about coordinating the top, bottom, shoes, belt, or whatever accoutrements complete your look.

If you want to look slick and polished, tap into your inner Johnny Cash.

Pinterest is a great way to discover basic looks. Then head over to sites like Uniqlo, Madewell, J. Crew, Everlane, or MM. LaFleur to get your range of staples and more lux outfits that fit within your budget and shopping predilections.

For shoes, I like the versatile grey (or black) Allbirds loungers and sneakers, and I’ve been loving my splurge-worthy Sevilla Smith flats. Neutral shoe colors go well with just about anything – shorts, skirt, slacks and jeans.

3) Make breakfast in under 5-10 minutes

I save the grander meals for the weekends when I have more sit-down time with the family. During the week, I hustle breakfast and make it under 5-10 minutes.  But you won’t find me shoveling spoonfuls of cereal into my mouth. I like a bit of variety. So, here’s my hit list of simple, fast brekkies.

  • Gluten-free pancakes (or waffles) that are premade (frozen).
  • Bagels (or toast) with a variety of toppings.
    • Banana on creamy almond butter
    • (Vegan) cream cheese x berry preserves
    • Avocado toastie in its various delicious forms. Popular post here.
  • Breakfast sammie. Toast or pita with scrambled eggs and cheese for the basic.
  • Boiled eggs and soldiers. If you’ve got 6 minutes, perfect the British-inspired eggs and soldiers. More to come in an upcoming post.
  • Berry fruit x granola bowl. Mix berries and bananas with your favorite granola. My fave is Nature’s Path Love Crunch (*hint: peanut butter & dark chocolate)
  • Non-Dairy Yogurt + toss in some fruit. I opt for coconut milk, almond-milk or cashew-milk based yogurts. Our household had dairy sensitivity. I like Forager, So Delicious, and the ultra-creamy CoYo.

4) Subscribe online for essentials

I find the act of shopping at the mall physically and mentally exhausting. So, I do my shopping online. With essentials, I hate toting large rolls of TP, paper towels and other household essentials.

Amazon Subscribe and Save is a great way to stock up on essentials, get deliveries on a recurring schedule, and even snag 5-15% off the list price.

5) Work at the gym (sometimes)

Get your regular workout and fire up the laptop post-shower. Maximize your precious time by fitting in cardio, showering, and catching up on some work. For you tired moms and dads, some of the bigger fitness clubs offer onsite daycare. Take advantage of the daycare, so you can look after yourself and your fitness regimen. Then pick up your kid and grab a healthy smoothie.

Now go maximize your day, and enjoy some downtime.

Hope your enjoyed this week’s fiver!