Winter Isn’t Over Yet

I really had to work hard not to put a sad face emoticon in that headline.

If you live in Chicagoland, then you probably woke up Monday morning, looked out the window, and felt your heart sink. I mean, you heard that it was going to snow, but you didn’t think it would snow that much. And, after several days of spring-like weather and outdoor fun at the park and the zoo, what do you do with a young child when you’ve spent a long winter exhausting all your indoor play options?

You read my piece, 10 Unexpected Places to Take a Toddler on a Cold or Rainy Day, over at Pick Any Two, one of my favorite mom blogs out there!

If Caillou’s Mom was a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills

Disclaimer: Mommy Sanest is not a place for judgment of other moms, but we are making an exception for Real Housewives and cartoon characters.


By Sarah Berg

Caillou – it’s that show you let your toddler watch one time. You hated it, but your kid loved it, and now he’s always asking to watch it.

Like many aspects of parenting it’s time to weigh the pros and cons of the situation before making a decision.

Situation: Should I let my kid watch Caillou?

Making this call is kind of like deciding whether or not your kid should eat food off the floor. You know it’s bad, but is it really that bad?

My inner monologue goes something like this: Ugh… Cliff (my kid) is asking to watch Caillou. I hate that show. If he watches Caillou will he become as annoying as Caillou? That kid is so whiny. Plus, he’s always yelling at his sister. I don’t like that. Speaking of his sister, how old is she? They act like she’s 9 months, but she has the vocabulary and motor skills of a 2-year-old. It’s so confusing. Also, and I’m sorry, this is mean, but what’s up with his hair? I don’t understand the early onset male pattern balding. He’s 4 years old (I know because he says so in the opening song). Shouldn’t he have hair by now? I will feel bad if he has a genetic condition. Wait, why would I feel bad? He’s a cartoon! On the other hand, when I think about it, the show isn’t that bad. It’s not like there’s any violence. And I guess they try to tie in a lesson about sharing… and… I don’t know. One time Caillou learned he shouldn’t pretend to be a lion and scare babies. I guess those are all important lessons. Plus, Cliff is so engaged with the show. But first, let’s see if he notices me turning on Super Why instead. Oh crap, he’s screaming. I can’t take it! Okay decision made – he can watch Caillou.

Sigh.

I’m going to change gears. I am writing today not to bash Caillou – that’s been done. I’m actually writing to bash his parents, specifically his mother, Doris. And the reason I’m bashing her is because, frankly, I’m jealous of her life. And since I am also jealous of some of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast members and since season 5 is coming to a close, I couldn’t help but think about how Caillou’s mom has a little bit of RHOBH in her. Here are some similarities between Caillou’s mom and a few of the RHOBH cast members and how Doris would have handled some of the sticky situations we saw the real housewives get themselves into this season.

If Caillou's Mom was a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills

Yolanda

Both Yolanda and Doris have nailed down that “work-life balance” myth we’re all aiming to achieve. Between tending to 500 lemon trees and maintaining a perfectly fresh see-through fridge, Yolanda also manages to help pack her kids up for college, schedule an easy-on-the-eyes yoga instructor for a private lesson, and take a ton of vitamins for her Lyme disease every single day. Meanwhile, Doris has the ability to drown out all the noise around her and focus. She never misses a chance to improve her yoga practice, even when her crazy 4-year-old Caillou has an electric train set going in circles around her. Doris didn’t even notice when Caillou broke the train. (Spoiler alert: He realized he should admit his mistake and confess.) All of this happened while Doris was juicing kale and beets, obviously.

But the biggest thing Yolanda and Doris have in common is their relationships with their spouses. Sure, Yolanda always says, “Hey ladies, my life is not perfect. Let’s be real friends, not ‘Hollywood friends.’” But let’s face it, only the perfect side of her marriage to David Foster is ever shown (even though that one time he was kind of a dick to Taylor Armstrong… “You used to be married to my best friend! Stop acting like you never met me!”). Sure, I wish Yolanda would tone down the sexual references, “Oh we were away on vacation, doing what lovers do.” I didn’t need to know that. Regardless, it seems to me like David and Yolanda handle parenting much like Caillou’s mom and dad — meaning, they will not let their children come between their relationship, and by relationship, I’m talking about their physical relationship.

Remember that episode when Caillou was afraid of monsters and he wanted to sleep in his parents bed, and they were all, “No way”? You know there was a real co-parenting discussion that went into that decision far in advance. They seem like the type of couple that anticipates everything and annoyingly communicates well.

The conversation probably went something like this:

Caillou’s dad: Hi there Doris. Can we take a moment to talk about our relationship and how having children has impacted our intimacy and ways that we can combat that problem as a cohesive parenting unit?

Caillou’s mom: Why sure hon. I’ll make some hot cocoa. Then let’s sit down and have a rational, adult discussion.

5 minutes later
Caillou’s mom: Here you go dear. It’s hot, so make sure you blow on it first. (Wink.)

Caillou’s dad: Wow, this hot cocoa is out of this world.

Caillou’s mom: Slow down there big guy. We have a lot to discuss. First of all, since having Caillou and Rosie, I know there aren’t as many opportunities to be intimate with each other as we’d both like. And sure, I’ve been a little self conscious about my body since I did just give birth to Rosie anywhere from nine months to two years ago. Having said that, I’m starting to incorporate yoga and ringette into my daily routine. Sure, this means I tell the kids I’m ‘busy’ whenever they ask me to play, but we both know how important it is to balance ‘work’ and ‘life’. Without that balance, I fear our intimacy will suffer.

Caillou’s dad: That’s a fantastic observation. First let me say that I am so proud of you for being able to take time out for yourself and for being a loving mother and wife. Your body looks amazing. I hope some day in the future you believe me and take off your shirt while we’re making love. [Dorris nods yes.] But let’s not focus on what we don’t have and let’s focus on what we do have and what we can do as a cohesive parenting unit to benefit our relationship and ultimately our entire family.

Caillou’s mom: Of course dear. What did you have in mind?

Caillou’s dad: I propose we implement a structure around bedtime that disallows the kids to sleep in our bed. The bed is a sacred space that is meant for our intimate relations and sleep. If Caillou ever fears there are ‘monsters’ under his bed and asks to sleep with us we should agree to tell him there ‘isn’t enough room,’ even though we did just buy that California king.

Caillou’s mom: That’s a fantastic idea. I fully support this.

End scene.

Kyle

Both Kyle and Doris will do anything to maintain respect from their children — which means they will not eat space cake on camera. If Doris was given space cake and called out by Brandi for previously smokin’ a doobie, she would have handled it almost the same as Kyle. Except for the fact that she would have lied through gritted teeth. Here’s how that would have gone:

Brandi: Doris, I don’t understand why you’re acting like you’ve never smoked pot. I know you’ve done it. In fact, the last time I smoked weed was with you.

Caillou’s mom (smiling so hard her eyes are about to pop out): Why, that’s a funny thing to say, Brandi. We smoked pot together? How could that be? I don’t usually prep my garden until April. The soil just isn’t ready. And if I had potted something in advance, how would I have smoked it? Do you mean set the weeds in the garden on fire? That actually sounds like a really interesting way to solve my pesky weed problem.

Brandi: Don’t play coy with me. You’re such a hypocrite. You know you smoked the reefer with me. Stop pretending to be something you’re not. You’re not perfect! I’m sick of being called a liar and an alcoholic when you’re just as bad!

Caillou’s mom: Okay Brandi, let’s take a deep breath. When you refer to ‘reefer,’ are you talking about my Australian honeymoon when the hubs and I visited the Great Barrier Reef? I don’t recall seeing you there, but it was an awful long time ago. Either way, I’m sorry you’re upset Brandi. Sometimes we have feelings of happiness and sometimes we have feelings of sadness and sometimes we have feelings of anger. These feelings are a normal part of life.

End scene.

Eileen

Since this was her first season I don’t know a ton about her. Her story was centered on the drama of other people, but I am excited to learn more about Eileen. I find her fascinating. The same goes for Caillou’s mom. She’s a mystery.

What do we really know about Doris? I actually had to Google, “What is Caillou’s mom’s name”? (P.S. His dad’s name is Boris.) I’m also unclear if Doris works. She occasionally has a “business call” at home. Since I’m pretty sure they don’t live in the U.S., maybe she’s still on a fully paid maternity leave? Maybe she has a flexible work from home job? Perhaps she’s in the direct sales business for Avon or Stella & Dot? Speaking of jobs, we all know that Eileen is an actress by trade – like a real actress (no offense Kim and Kyle) – and we all know that Doris does a lot of acting on a daily basis, considering she’s able to always keep her cool when faced with parenting a dilemma. And by dilemma, I mean her annoying kid.

Lisa V.

Lisa is English; Doris is Canadian. They both like to announce this to everyone. Sure, I’ve never actually heard Doris say she’s Canadian, but they did dedicate an entire episode to her days of playing ringette. That’s Canadian, right? Anyway, Lisa runs a tight ship at home with her family of 10,000 puppies, plus she’s manages a psychiatric hospital named SUR, which proves that she and Doris are basically the same person. Forgive the Vanderpump Rules crossover, but remember that time Lisa tried to convince Stassi to forgive Katie because she’s been “such a loyal friend over the years” and really, she did nothing wrong by going to Scheana’s bachelorette party? That situation is right out of a Caillou storyboard and Doris would have handled it almost the same as Lisa.

Caillou’s mom: Now Stassi, I hear you’re feeling some anger towards Katie for not telling you she was going to Scheana’s bachelorette party.

Stassi: Damn right I’m angry. She’s just like the rest of them. I hate her now. I hope Kristen hooks up with Tom Schwartz so Katie can understand a quarter of the betrayal I’m feeling. Once confirmation of hook-up is attained via Twitter or Insta, I’ll take a red eye to Miami and Uber it to Miami’s state run correctional facility where I will find an inmate willing to trade me some used improvised tattooing equipment – preferably in the form of a mechanical pencil and melted styrofoam – for cigarettes. Then I’ll Uber it to the bachelorette party, sedate Katie with a shot of Jagermeister laced with Xanax and Klonopin so I can easily tattoo KARMA’S A BITCH on her forehead. Wait, is Uber allowed at MIA?

Caillou’s mom: Let’s slow down a minute, Stassi. I understand you’re hurt, but that doesn’t mean using hurtful words will make you feel better. In the end it will just cause even more hurt. And to answer your question, Uber has not been banned from Miami International Airport, to my knowledge.

Stassi yawns: Can I get a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and some fried goat cheese balls?

Caillou’s mom disregards request: Why I’d be happy to make you some hot cocoa. I’ll be right back.

5 minutes later
Caillou’s mom: Here you go. You know, this reminds me of the time my son, Caillou, had his first sleepover at Leo’s house. He was sad and lonely and wanted to come home. But then he realized his teddy bear, Teddy, was in his overnight bag and then he felt better.

Stassi: What does that story have to do with anything?

Caillou’s mom: I think you should apologize to Katie.

Stassi: Look Doris, I know you like being in control of everything, but I no longer work here and I don’t have to listen to you.

Caillou’s mom: I know it’s hard to believe but sometimes the person we’re really mad at is ourselves. That’s not always an easy thing to admit. Sigh. Katie will understand if you call her and say you’re sorry.

Stassi: You’re right, I am sorry.

Caillou’s mom: I’m proud of you, Sta-.

Stassi interrupts: Sorry I didn’t plant a bomb inside Scheana’s penis necklace before they left.

End scene.

Lisa R.

Call her a people pleaser if you want, but at the end of the day Lisa Rinna is able to find the best in everyone (for example, telling Kim she has a beautiful heart less than 48 hours after Kim going crazy on her). To be candid – I love Rinna and she can do no wrong in my eyes, even if that means defending her wine throwing, glass shattering behavior to my 25-year-old co-workers who don’t get her hair and lips. Well I get her hair and her lips, and I will continue to stand up for her, at least until she becomes a mega-diva in her second season like they all do.

Speaking of defending, I’m not a super fan of Doris, but if push comes to shove, meaning if literally someone pushed me so hard it was considered a violent shove, held a knife to my throat and yelled, “You have a choice to make! Either sincerely say five nice things about Caillou’s mom or die,” I would think “WWLRD” and come up with five nice things.

  1. Much like Lisa R, Doris can find the best in everyone. I mean she’s Caillou’s mom and therefore has the patience of a saint. I don’t know what cocktail of happy pills she has to take to get through the day, but whatever it is, it’s working.
  2. She’s always exercising or gardening or doing something for herself and doesn’t apologize for it – bravo Doris!
  3. I don’t think I have ever heard her yell at her husband and she laughs at his terrible jokes.
  4. She cooks three meals a day. I have yet to see a “fend for yourself night” at their house or the kids plopped down eating pizza in front of the TV.
  5. I like her blue Ked-like shoes.

Kim and Brandi were left off this list because I could not not think of one similarity between them and Caillou’s mom and since I hold myself to high journalistic standards, including them would not have been right.

Now that you’ve reached the end of this 3,000 word essay about Caillou’s mom and RHOBH — first of all congrats — you might be wondering, “What’s the point?” Well, child psychologists say… who am I kidding, there isn’t a point, but the next time you’re guilted into watching Caillou I hope that remembering this epic blog post makes it slightly more enjoyable.

Namaste.


Sarah Berg is Lou’s sister. She’s a longtime fan of the Real Housewives, while her 2-year-old son, Cliff, loves Caillou.

Encouraging Early Literacy Skills in Toddlers and Preschoolers

BY DENISE WORTHINGTON

During the toddler and preschool years, you are laying the groundwork for your child’s reading and writing success — but don’t let that overwhelm you. There are reams written about early literacy skills and reading development, and we could spend all day discussing research-based ideas, what educators want to see when your child enters school, and things to do to help your child establish early literacy skills.

But, I don’t believe in making your toddler’s or preschooler’s playtime like school. What I do believe in is creating a literacy friendly environment without judgment, so that your child learns to love books, writing, and creating — not a threatening place where reading, telling stories, and scribbling becomes hard work and not much fun.

8 tips to help parents promote early literacy skills and reading readiness in young children. Try these ideas with your toddler or preschoolers. Build a foundation for reading with your child.

So instead of providing hard and fast rules, I’ll touch on some ideas that you can do easily to help your child begin to establish early literacy skills.

8 Tips for Encouraging Early Literacy Skills in Your Toddler or Preschooler

  1. The most important thing you can do is the most obvious – Read!
  2. Young children need to learn early on that print contains a message, there is a world to discover in a book, and reading is fun. A child is never too young to be read to or to snuggle up with a bedtime story. You can read to your child from the day you bring her home.
  3. It’s important to expose your little one to a variety of genres, including rhyming books, old-fashioned nursery rhymes, fairy tales, alphabet books, label books and poetry. Cadence of language is important and also helps to engage even the most reluctant and ‘busy’ child.
  4. Reading doesn’t start and stop with a book. Reading is all around us — on cereal boxes, road signs, in the mail — opportunities to read to your child are everywhere.
  5. Besides sitting down to read, you can take an ‘interactive approach’ when reading. This means that in addition to reading the text of the story, you can use descriptive phrases to talk about the pictures in the book. I like the approach, but not to the point of losing the thread of a story. If you’re interested in learning more about interactive reading, check out The Incredible Years by Dr. Carolyn Webster-Stratton, who feels it’s important to encourage your child to be an active participant in the reading process.
  6. Another important area of literacy learning is writing. Writing is the reading process slowed down, and scribbling is the first stage of this important skill.
  7. Set your toddler or preschooler up with an area for writing and drawing. An easy way to do this is have a box with scrap paper, construction paper, crayons, markers and other writing tools. Encourage your little one to draw a picture about a favorite story. It doesn’t matter if no one really knows what the picture is, he knows and he has had a chance to tell his version.
  8. Magnetic letters also help build early literacy skills. Besides learning the alphabet through songs, books, and puzzles, the tactile aspect of magnetic letters is important. Kids use all senses to learn.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules for developing early literacy skills. No two children are alike and children develop at different rates. Think about the time when your child was learning to walk. He crawled, pulled himself up and then took off on his own schedule. That’s how it is with the reading process too — in stages and at a child’s individual pace. 


Denise Worthington is Lou’s Mom. She’s a retired reading teacher and children’s book author who spends her time serving on local boards, entertaining at the lake, and running for political office.

Mommy Sanest is Expanding

Let me tell you a story. Seventeen years ago, I went to orientation at Ohio University the summer before college began. I knew my roommate’s name — room assignments had been sent earlier in the summer — and I knew she would be at the same orientation session. We had plans to meet, but before that happened, we ended up sitting back-to-back at lunch and somehow, my mom figured out that she was at the table next to us.

And so, Gena Kittner and I met, eyed each other suspiciously, and after a few months of living together in a tiny dorm room, became friends. (The turning point for Gena, according to Gena, was when I hugged her good-bye for winter break.)

Post-college, Gena and I have become even closer. Before Mommy Sanest was born and Gena’s family moved to Arizona, I would retreat from Chicago to visit Gena in Wisconsin (and not just because she always bought me New Glarus beer). Then she had her daughter Ellie, and I had Emme 11 months later, providing us with yet another dimension to our friendship. When I started Mommy Sanest, I “jokingly” asked Gena, who is a seasoned journalist, if she would be interested in writing for me from time to time.

And the rest is history.

Then, last fall, I met a woman named Deb at a mom’s group in the western suburbs of Chicago. I swear I wasn’t being a stalker, but I happened across her Facebook profile and realized that she and Gena, both journalists, worked together in Wisconsin for several years. Deb was relatively new in town, so the next time I saw her, I said something about not being a stalker, but I thought we might have a connection in common… oh, and would you like write for my blog?

And the rest is history.

Then it the whole thing got META.

In November, Deb wrote a piece for Mommy Sanest about baby sprinkles — smaller showers for moms who are expecting their second child. Who would have thought that less than six months later, Gena, Deb, and I (we’ve never all been in the same room!) would be celebrating together at a baby sprinkle…

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for Gena! Baby no. 2 is on his way (yep, his).

Gena’s sister, who lives in Chicago, threw an adorable destination sprinkle for Gena. Family came from Ohio, friends from Wisconsin, Gena from Arizona (obviously), and Deb and I from the ‘burbs. The theme was cowboys and cactuses.

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Don’t worry Internet Police, Gena’s just refreshing my prosecco mimosa. Isn’t she an adorable pregnant lady? Not to mention, she’s a great host… why on earth is she getting me a drink?

It was good food and lots of fun. I always love catching up with Gena’s family, and it was so cool to finally hang out with Deb and Gena in the same place, at the same time. I feel lucky to have both of these women in my life, and the random connection really does make it all the more special.

Anyway, I can’t tell you how excited I am for Gena (and not just because I know this will give her good material to blog about). Gena is an amazing mom, which you probably already figured out based on her creative playdates and smart parenting tips, and Ellie is going to be an awesome big sister. I told her that when her son is 21, I will be able to say, “I’ve been friends with your mom for 40 years,” when I call him on my space phone from Mommy Sanest’s moon office.

Congratulations Gena!

St. Paddy’s Playdate with Rainbow Craft & Snacks

By Gena Kittner

Holidays and food go together: Christmas and cookies, Thanksgiving and turkey, St. Patrick’s Day and … green beer and corned beef? Sure, but not if the crowd you’re entertaining consists of a bunch of toddlers and preschoolers.

But just because a few of the guests are still in diapers, doesn’t mean we can’t be festive. Here are a few ideas for some St. Patrick’s Day fun complete with rainbow craft and rainbow snacks that kiddos can enjoy during a playdate (while you and the other moms reminisce of crazier St. Patrick’s days gone by).

EasyIdeas for PlanningaRainbowPlaydate Rainbow Fruit Plate

This is a great way to serve a variety of fruit sure to please picky eaters. Arrange cut-up fruit pieces in an arch according to color to make a rainbow. My 3-year-old daughter had a great time helping with this. Marshmallows at the end can be replaced with gold fish or gold-wrapped candies for a more leprechaun feel.

Rainbow Waffles

Waffles are a great playdate/party food because they can be made (and even frozen) ahead of time and reheated in a 200 degree oven or toaster. Plus, waffles are easy for kids to eat, but not terribly unhealthy. Ellie and I used my heart-shaped waffle iron to make a batch the afternoon before her friends came over. A few drops of food coloring in the batter is all it took to turn plain waffles into rainbow treats. We used the Heart Smart Bisquik waffle mix, but any batter and iron will do.

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A salty snack

I find all playdates require goldfish. They are salty goodness that every kid enjoys. We grabbed a bag of the rainbow-colored ones and set them out in pre-filled cups to avoid 10 preschooler hands in one bowl.

A Tasty Rainbow Craft

I love mixing food and crafts because if the kids don’t like the craft, at least they’ll have fun eating the food. For the rainbow craft, we set out bowls of Fruit Loops for kids to glue on paper plates and make a rainbow. They did more eating than gluing, but it was a fun, low-mess craft that kids of a wide-age range could enjoy.

So this St. Patrick’s Day, consider throwing a rainbow playdate and joining me in raising a frothy glass of green milk (and maybe indulging in a few gold coins at the end of the rainbow).


Gena is a Midwest transplant living in Tucson, Arizona with her husbaGena Kittnernd and 3-year-old daughter, Ellie. When not killing scorpions, Gena writes about food and family. Follow her on Twitter @genakittner, and check out her previous guest posts on Mommy Sanest.