The Stages of Toddlerhood They Don’t Tell You About

We all hear and read about those standard stages of toddlerhood. The transition from crib to big boy bed. Potty training. Tantrums (a.k.a. the “Terrible Twos.”) Food regression. Major jumps in vocabulary. But it seems over the past few months, I’ve discovered some funs stages that the educational books just don’t tell you about.

The I Know Better Than You Stage: For example, I’ll tell my son that something is orange. “No,” he insists, “it’s red.” No, I tell him, this is orange, then I should him something that’s red. Let it be known that he has already long established that he knows the difference. He’s not colour blind. And he knows very well what’s orange, red, green, blue, yellow, and so on. This same argument repeats for other things. “Here’s a pretzel.” “No, that’s not a pretzel.” Um, I’m pretty sure it is. 

The Age of Indecisiveness: I’m noticing this one getting worse and worse. Given an either/or choice, my son will flip flop between them as if it’s the most difficult decision in the world. I ask if he wants milk. Yes. I proceed to take the jug out of the ‘fridge, and he yells out “No! I want juice.” OK, I switch to the apple juice. “No!” he declares again. “I want milk.” This will go on forever until I essentially make a decision for him. Whatever the decision, he’ll inevitably cry and be upset with it. This certainly tries my patience.

The I Am Too Busy to Eat Stage: My son’s typical answer to “Patrick, do you want to come have breakfast?” Is “No, I want to play with my cars.” Well yes, I’m aware of that. But you also need to eat to gain the sustenance needed to continue actively playing with those cars. Strangely, he doesn’t quite comprehend that just yet. Priorities, I guess.

The ‘Oh, You Want me to Tell You I Popped BEFORE I Go…?” Potty training sucks. I wanted to begin as soon as my son was able to walk. But I quickly learned that as much as every mom wants that wonder child who was magically potty trained by a year, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes just aren’t physically and/or mentally ready. At 27 months, I still don’t think my son is. Though there’s progress as he now sometimes tells me after he’s gone. Baby steps, I guess.

The Repetitive Stage: The most common words I hear in the car are “I want cereal bar. I want cereal bar. I want cereal bar.” Yes, he will repeat this over and over again. I guess because, locked away in that darned car seat, he’s got nothing else to do and finally realizes that he’s probably hungry. And maybe he should have actually eaten that breakfast instead of pushing it away and insisting he get back to Lightning McQueen. He’s smart enough to know cereal bars are portable food, and often kept in the diaper bag. And they taste good. Hence, the request. Over. And over. And over again.

The Parrot: Yes, this tip you’ve heard before. Kids are like sponges. They soak up everything. my son kept going on this morning about $60. I have no idea what he was talking about, but he obviously heard it somewhere. He’ll often repeat things I say immediately after, which means the cursing has to be eliminated, at least during his waking hours. What baffles me, however, is when he repeats full sentences I said to him days prior, out of the blue. As if to say see mommy, even when you didn’t think I was listening, oh, I was listening. I’m always listening. It’s kind of creepy, come to think of it…

The Binge Watching the Same Movie: I have gone through stages over the past few months. First, it was the Cars stage. Then Jungle Book, followed by Monsters, Inc., Kung Fu Panda, and The Lion King. Yes, whenever my son watches a movie, he gets it stuck in his head, and wants to watch it every single day. On a happier note, if it means I’m not relegated to watching 3 episodes of Bubble Guppies every day, I’ll take it.

A Few of My Favourite Apps

Apps are a mainstay in today’s society. If you have a smartphone, whether it’s an iPhone, Android device, BlackBerry, or other, chances are you have a ton of apps filling up your phone’s screen.

I’ve covered apps before in this column. In this post, I’ll run through a general list of some of the favourite ones that I use on a daily, or almost daily, basis.

Going Social

Given my occupation, and my nature, it comes as no surprise that I toggle among my various social media apps on a daily basis. The top contenders? Facebook, Facebook Pages, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I haven’t yet gotten onto the Instagram and Pinterest bandwagons. I feel as though the former is far more appealing to the younger generation, and the latter for creative and artsy types. But when it comes to the first three, I can’t get through a day without checking, updating, and linking in.

Uber

OK, so I don’t access this personal taxi service on a daily basis. But the company is stellar in its operations. Order a cab, hop in, get to your destination, and your far, including tip, will be automatically charged to your credit card. You’ll get an e-mail confirmation of the drive and charge, and will have full access to information on the driver, his rating and company. It’s a service I’ve used many times, and I would recommend. There are often promotions. This weekend, for example, Uber teamed up with Roots to send drivers to homes who collected and bagged clothing for Goodwill. Awesome. Sadly, we did not have the time to complete Spring cleaning in time, which means we’ll have to do our own Goodwill run later in the year. But the service offering, which also came with a 20% discount to Roots stores, was a great example of how to do things right. Last summer, Uber had a fleet of on-demand ice cream trucks on some of the hottest days of the year. And the service often has $10 referral credits.

The Weather Network

Forget TV or radio. Every morning, I open my Weather Network app to see what the weather will be like, hour by hour, for the day. As an aside, it’s pretty sad that I was excited for a 3-degree Celsius day in Toronto, ON. When will winter be over?

Google Maps

I’m what they would call directionally-challenged. So I rely on Google Maps when I’m traveling both in car and on foot. I’ve even used it for bus routes when attending press events in my local city. It’s never failed me yet.

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I like a good deal, as does anyone. So before I go grocery shopping, I’ll scan the week’s offers, and see if there’s anything that’s on my list, or that I might need soon, and grab it for the cash back offers. Accumulate $20 worth of cash back discounts, order a cheque, and one will arrive in the mail in a few weeks. I typically deposit these cheques into my son’s bank account, hoping they’ll, over the years, accumulate enough to pay for at least school books…or something. Every dollar counts, right?

Chromecast

I just received a Google Chromecast for review, and it’s a great way to get Netflix movies up on the big screen for my son to enjoy in the morning while I crank out my first hour or work. Pop the device into your TV’s HDMI port, follow the setup wizard, and in about 10 minutes, you’re up and running. While you can’t cast from anywhere (only the Chrome browser, YouTube, Netflix, and a few other compatible apps), it’s a pretty cool and easy way to get whatever’s on your phone or tablet to show up on your TV screen.

Misfit Shine

I’ve been using this device since the International CES in January, and I access it several times a day to check on my status. It communicates via Bluetooth to a watch-like device I wear on my wrist, calculating my daily steps, activity levels, and sleep patterns. It’s one of the first apps I open in the morning to see how many hours of sleep I got, and how many of those hours were deep sleep, and one of the last apps I open at night to see if I’ve reached my activity goal, and compare stats with the global average, and other users in my network.

PCPlus

I am a sucker for loyalty programs, and Loblaws’ PCPlus is one of my favourites. I scan the virtual card at every grocery trip (typically once per week), and seek out brands and items that will help me accumulate points. Often times, these items are ones I typically buy, since the offers are tailored to each individual member. I’ve redeemed hundreds of dollars in discounts over the past year or so since I’ve been using the app. And I really don’t need to do anything but show my physical or virtual card at the checkout.

Messages

I use an iPhone, and my primary method of communicating with everyone from my husband, to mom, sister, friends, and clients, is via instant message. I love that I can also access my IMs on my Mac computer, which makes it easy.

Photos

If you have kids, you know how every little thing they do seems like a worthy photo opp. I just cleared out 4,000+ pics from my iPhone by uploading them to an album on Shutterfly. But every day, either I or my son has a look at the album to check out the latest or old pics. He, in particular, loves looking at old videos of when he was a baby.

Camera

Linked to the aforementioned app is the camera app. I don’t recall a day over the past few years that I didn’t snap at least one pic. Whether it was of my son, of something I cooked or baked, or something for work purposes. My digicam? I think it’s tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

What are some of your favourite apps?

A Day at the Movies & Pie…Commission

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The Muppets have been a big deal for kids for generations. So with the latest Muppets movie released yesterday (Muppets: Most Wanted), it was a no-brainer that we’d take our son to see it.

He’s only just over 2, but he made it through The LEGO Movie in 3D, so I was confident he’d make it through this one, too. And he did, though after about an hour in, he was prone to yelling “I’m a piggie, oink oink,” and “I’m a froggie, ribbit ribbit.” That aside, he thoroughly enjoyed the flick, as did mom and dad. It was fun, light-hearted, poking fun at adult action flicks with the typical characters: the bad guy (appropriately named Mr. BadGuy), the criminal (Constantine the frog, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Kermit, but for a mole on his face), and quirky cop team, played by a muppet (CIA), and Ty Burrell of Modern Family fame. Burrell’s hilarious Interpol cop character is more interested in taking his breaks, and leaving for his paid 8-week vacation in the midst of an investigation, then finding the culprit. (A nice nod to stereotypes about European culture.) Ricky Gervais was convincingly creepy in his role as the “number two” on the bad side; Constantine’s right-hand man.

The movie had some nice throwbacks to the original; anyone over the age of 30 in the theatre likely couldn’t help but feel a twinge of nostalgia. But even never having seen the Muppets before (he kept declaring that he was going to see the “muffins” movie), my son still offered up plenty of giggles, and swayed in his seat to the catchy song and dance routines.

After the flick, we decided to stop into the Pie Commission, a spot on the Queensway in Etobicoke, ON, just outside of downtown Toronto, to grab some dinner to-go. The tiny hole-in-the-wall spot is known for its selection of savoury pies, served hot and ready-to-eat in a convenient cardboard holder, or fresh and ready to freeze or bake at home. There are a couple stools for eating inside, but the place is more one of those spots where the line crowds the interior, cars park wherever they can in the tiny lot, and grab and go what they want.

We opted for a 4-pack of unbaked pies to take home and have for dinner (the hot dogs and fries at the movies still had us full.) I chose braised beef rib and beef and beer, and my better half chose the braised beef as well, along with butter chicken. I also ordered a small apple strawberry pie for dessert, and a sausage roll for my son. The total came up to $40, so it’s pretty expensive. Pies are about $7 each when purchased individually; the dessert pie was $6. (No tax.) The pies were conveniently handed to me just like a pizza, in a cardboard box with baking instructions on the cover (12-15 minutes at 400 degrees, then turn down to 350 and bake for another 25-30 until crisp and golden brown.)

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At left is the butter chicken pie. At right is the beef and beer.

Come dinner time, and I was salivating, anxious to sink my fork into the scrumptious pie. And indeed, it is thoroughly delicious. The crust was crispy and buttery (almost a little too buttery for my taste.) The beef was soft and tender, and beautifully seasoned. A bit sweet, with just enough moistness. The pies would definitely be easy to eat on-the-go, just like you would a burrito or hot dog. It’s not runny or watery at all. It’s an interesting twist on the to-go meal.

A few days later, we devoured the butter chicken and beef and beer pie. The butter chicken is interesting: I’m not quite sure that butter chicken fits within a pie. It essentially tastes like butter chicken with a buttery pie crust in place of the typical basmati rice for the dish. I only had a small taste of my husband’s, but it looked like there were some chick peas in there, too. The beef and beer was a more traditional-tasting pie, like any you’d get in a restaurant (except for, again, the very buttery crust.) I much preferred the braised beef pie, which is I believe about $0.50 extra. I have heard that the pulled pork pie is great. I’ll have to try that one next.

Thoroughly full (no side dishes needed) I still managed to wolf down the dessert pie. It was tangy and sweet, with the same buttery crust around the perimeter, and a sweet, sugary and crunchy crisp topping. However, it unfortunately wasn’t the strawberry apple I was so looking forward to, but rather cranberry apple. I double checked my receipt to ensure I wasn’t going nuts, and I indeed ordered strawberry. Bummer. Strawberry and cranberry have very distinct tastes from one another. I still sucked it up and enjoyed the pie, though. How could I not?

I’d definitely suggest checking out The Pie Commission. The menu is simple, and they have specials every day. Today, it was the two types of dessert pies, plus pulled pork pie, and lobster and shrimp (I tried to order lobster and shrimp but it was sold out.)

935 The Queensway, at Queensway and Islington. You won’t see it off of Queensway; you’ll need to turn onto a side street where you’ll see the sign directing you to the location behind the building.

http://www.piecommission.com 

This Generation of Tech Kids

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It struck me after attending DX3 Canada, a digital marketing and retail trade show, that the world my son will grow up in will be vastly different than the one I did. And even the one today.

Let me back up a bit. This revelation didn’t just hit me now. After all, my son was practically manipulating an iPhone with ease from within the womb! But looking at the futuristic ways the retail landscape is changing really tells me how the whole idea of hanging out at the mall with his friends, going out for a beer, or socializing, will be vastly different.

For the past few days, I’ve looked at the many ways that smartphones will (and already are) integrated into the shopping experience. The best way to describe this is to think back to the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report. Remember the scene where he walks through the wall, and various marketing and advertising messages pop up as he passes by, recognizing him and pushing offers, deals, anything to him to get his attention?

That’s the idea, albeit not as invasive. It’ll all be permission-based, and customers can opt out simply by turning Bluetooth off on their phone. But already, there are sensors, apps, Wi-Fi-enabled systems, that can track when you walk into a store, who you are, what you last purchased, where you are, and send personalized offers. I know that’s Christine. She just bought a pair of jeans last week. She might like this new belt that just came in. Or I know she has a Keurig single cup coffee maker, so let’s send her a coupon for 20% of K-cups while she’s here.

It’s a crazy idea. Browsing in a store may be a thing of the past by the time my 2-year-old reaches teenage-dom. What will he and his friends do, other than communicate via the social media Website du jour and play video games? Will he have the social skills necessary for basic human interaction? Will anyone?

I can’t help but picture this Brave New World, with a splash of Minority Report and dash of iRobot thrown in. The retail experience is just the beginning.

That said, I don’t think it’s a good idea for parents to try to shelter their kids from those high-tech gadgets that are in abundance today. Let them use smartphones. Let them get familiar with tablets. Let them show you how to use the PVR, and program the universal remote, and set up an online profile. These are skills that are just as essential today as learning to use a computer and the Internet were in my school days.

It’s a brave new world we live in, indeed.

Some of my fav cooking/baking results

One of my hobbies (when I have time for them, that is!) is to bake and cook. And like many in today’s social media world, I like to snap photos. Here are some of my fav results:

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My niece asked for cookies for her birthday. I couldn’t do simple :)

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More cookies. This time Christmas sugar cookies with fruit Grinch sticks in the middle.

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Asparagus risotto. Great, hearty meal when there aren’t many ingredients in the house.

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Not much cooking involved here, but I love the simplicity of pita pizzas as a quick dinner. And it’s fun to make as everyone can use their own toppings.

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My super awesome Halloween party cheesecake. The skeleton is drowning in the cherry blood!

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Another Halloween treat: Medusa head marshmallow treats. I bought the styrofoam head from a small hair cutting place for $5!

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Homemade whole wheat bread. I hate buying store bread. I make these in batches then slice and freeze in ziplocks. Last time, I made the main loaf plain, then one small olive loaf and a small cinnamon raisin.

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Homemade lasagna. Mmm…

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More sugar cookies for my sister-in-law’s baby shower

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Christmas Santas made with strawberries and cream cheese mix.

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I almost forgot about this one. Sweet potato sheppard pie. OMG

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Super goat cheese summer salad

Whew! I have so many more but I think I’ll need to do a part 2!

Mamatech’s First Attempt at Homemade Chocolate

On Valentine’s Day, realizing I hadn’t had the chance to go out and get anything for my significant other, the idea popped into my head to make homemade chocolates. Never having done it before, however, I didn’t have any molds. The idea quickly passed and I opted to make brownies instead. But I couldn’t shake the desire to conquer this new challenge.

So earlier this week, I headed to Bulk Bran and grabbed some molds. I searched for a recipe online and off I went.

How did it turn out? The recipe was for truffle like chocolates and indeed they are. Very soft so difficult to get out of the molds. I solved this somewhat by putting them in the freezer to firm up. But then I can’t for the life of me get them out of the molds!

Nevertheless, I got creative with some pecan chocolates, almonds, and a few with coconut.

Here’s a pic of the final product. There are tons more. Hopefully I’ll add them to this bunch as soon as I can figure out how to get them out! (Twist or tap and push them out easily my a@&!) otherwise, I’ll have to dig them out, melt it down again, and make a mean icing for my next set of brownies.

Mmm….chocolate.

Any tips for chocolate making?

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Top Tech For Kids

I promised in a previous blot post about the International CES that I would include a list of some of my favourite gadgets for kids from the show.

While admittedly, I spent very little time in the dedicated kid’s tech area (I had far more important things to cover), a few items did catch my eye, both there, and in other areas of the show. Here’s a short-list of some of the most enticing ones:

The ibitz GeoPalz Wireless Activity Tracker

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We all talk about the important of keeping kids active, and this handy wearable device is a great way to encourage them to do so, while also having fun. It’s worn just like an adult wearable device, and pairs wirelessly with mom or dad’s smartphone. Kids can access the mobile app, which features a virtual character for which they can achieve rewards, like a new outfit, or spaceship, as they accomplish goals. This might be walking a certain number of steps in a day, for instance. Mom and dad can keep track of how active the kids are, and alert then when it’s time to maybe get outside for half hour and play jump rope, or get active with the Wii instead of the sedentary activity of watching TV. At $35, it’s a nominal investment, too.

D-Link DCS-825L Video Baby Monitor

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I’ve expressed my love for the video monitor several times in this blog. I saw this new Wi-Fi monitor at CES. And just recently had the chance to review it for one of my clients. I’ll admit: the initial set up process had me frustrated. The gist is that you connect the camera to your home’s Wi-Fi network, download the app, then view live video from a compatible Android or iOS device. The camera just refused to connect to my network, and would constantly drop the connection. Finally, I reset the camera, as well as my network, and somehow, the wireless gods decided to work in my favour. That said, this could have just been an isolated incident. But even that aside, I still prefer the simple, plug-and-play set up with a dedicated monitor that displays high-resolution video. What does make this model really cool is the mydlink online portal, which lets you view the camera remotely. This is great if you want to check in on the nanny, if dad wants to get a quick look at what’s going on while away at work, or even to have it double as a security or pet cam while you’re away from home. $180

Withings Smart Kid Scale

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I don’t know about you, but I was one of those overly paranoid moms that was constantly worried that my son wasn’t getting enough food. It’s especially difficult to tell if you breastfeed, since you have no idea what your supply is like, and how much baby is eating. My solution? I’d step on the scale to weight myself, then grab my son, weigh again while holding him, and subtract the difference. Whew! He’s doing just fine. This scale has a tray just like in the doctor’s office where you can lie baby down and weigh him. But you don’t need to tuck it away in the closet once the child can stand and walk. Just remove the tray, and it becomes a standard scale you can use throughout your child’s life. The high-tech part comes with the ability to wireless sync the scale to a smartphone app to plot your child’s growth, and share it on social media. You will pay handsomely for all of these niceties, though: it’s $180.

iDevices iSwimband

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As a 30(something) year old who still can’t swim (I know, I know), I find safety devices for kids on the water to be especially appealing. This packages include one head band for older kids, and a wrist band for toddlers. The child wears it, then, based on his swim abilities, you’ll get an audible alert on your smartphone if the child is under water for too long. Naturally, no child should ever be left unattended by water. But it’s a nice, added safeguard to ensure that any accidents are avoided. $125.

Griffin KaZoo Tablet Cases

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As much as we want to say that kids shouldn’t have their own electronic devices, I know plenty of parents who have gotten tablets for their older kids. Typically, they’re used for educational purposes. But kids are still kids, and you need to be careful when entrusting them with a device that’s likely costed a couple hundred dollars. There are lots of protective cases, but you can have some fun with these ones, which are shaped like animals, made from soft but durable material, and come in a bevy of fun colours. $25-$40.

Sphero 2.0

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It’s tough to describe this “toy,” which is equally appealing to kids as adults. Like robotic cars and airplanes, this ball can be controlled by your smartphone or tablet, and lights up, rolls, does flips, and can make patterns on a flat surface as you guide it along. There are a number of game apps, including augmented reality ones. And you can even download an app to learn programming: ideal for older kids looking to pursue such a career. The ball is waterproof, and while you shouldn’t play a game of baseball with it, it can be tossed about by a toddler, or run into objects without any critical damage. $130.