A Stranger Reprimanded My 3-Year-Old in Front of Me

BY GENA KITTNER

A few days ago, a stranger reprimanded my daughter. In public. In front of me.

Ellie wasn’t causing physical harm to anyone, she was simply having a 3-year-old meltdown after a long, hot morning.

Moms: What do you do when a stranger reprimands your young child in front of you in public?

Here’s what happened:We were in the check-out line at Nordstrom’s Rack when the cashier realized the hairbands Ellie picked out didn’t have a UPC code, so she gave the bands to another cashier who walked back to the display to check the price.

Now, in the mind of a 3-year-old, someone just took away her “special treat,” and a meltdown ensued.

I tried to explain to Ellie that the cashier would be right back, and we couldn’t buy the hairbands unless we knew the price. But it’s largely pointless to reason with a semi-hysterical 3-year-old. I know this, so admittedly I didn’t try too hard, knowing she’d be OK in a couple minutes.

The woman behind us felt differently. As she passed us to get to an open cashier, she leaned into our cart where Ellie was sitting, got within six inches of her face, and shushed her.

I couldn’t believe it and was momentarily struck dumb.

When I snapped back to it, I reassured Ellie, and after 30 more seconds of processing what had just happened, encouraged her to cry louder.

Perhaps this was not the most mature reaction, but I’m a hormonal 8-plus month pregnant woman. I’m already slightly insane.

By this time, other women in line behind me were expressing shock and outrage at the shusher’s actions. The cashier also was apologizing profusely. I smiled and thanked people for their support, paid, and tried to leave as quickly as possible. But before I left, I stopped by the shusher, who still was paying, and said, “I’m sorry my child was being loud, but what you did was not OK.”

She didn’t even look at me.

Ellie had calmed down once we reached the parking lot, and as we loaded up the car, I told her how cool I thought her new hairbands were and how we should totally ignore the woman who shushed her — she was just having a bad day.

I’m pretty sure none of that sunk in with Ellie — she was just happy to have her hairbands back.

But here’s what I’m wondering, and why I’ve decided to write about the incident: What’s the best way to handle this type of situation? Has this ever happened to anyone else? And how much do we need to explain what happened to our children?

What I’ve told myself, and what I honestly believe, is the shusher was having an off day. Maybe she hasn’t been shown a lot of compassion or patience in her life and therefore doesn’t know how to show it to others. And, she’s obviously not a “kid” person.

I’m also trying to focus on the kindness the other strangers showed — especially the woman who stopped me in the parking lot and offered Ellie her own hair ribbon to make Ellie feel better — an incredibly sweet gesture.

But man, the more I think about it, the more I really want to slap the shusher — if not physically, then verbally. My child had a meltdown at Nordstrom’s Rack — not at a church, school, library, or during an event where such actions are especially disturbing.

What would you have done?


Gena is a Midwest transplant living in TucsoGena Kittnern, Arizona with her husband 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 posts on Mommy Sanest.

May is the Longest Month

It kind of blows my mind that June is here. So much has happened, and I’m aware that I’ve been a bit silent here. May began with a blogging conference (my first!), and continued on with some higher highs and lower lows. May shook things up, and now, the pieces seem to be settling.

A re-evaluation of goals

In the beginning of May, I headed to Arizona with the family to visit Gena and attend my first blogging conference. I left Mom 2.0 feeling inspired, full of ideas, and ready to (re?)conquer the blog world.

Clearly, that is not how the rest of the month played out.

I have so many things to say, but the state of blogging as it is today (please see this article) fatigues me — I struggle to have a sense of where I’m going and if pouring everything I have (creatively and time-wise) into this site is the right choice.

Post-Mom 2.0, I decided that the answer to that question is no. It is not the right choice for me, and yet (YET!), I am not going to leave this space. If it magically becomes a highly trafficked blog, then cool, but my goals are diverse enough that I simply cannot spend the time and energy necessary to compete in this space the way other bloggers are able to do. And so, I’m tapping out from the frenzied world of FINDING MY TRIBE and CONSTANT SOCIAL MEDIA INTERACTION and PARTICIPATING IN FOUR DOZEN BLOGGING GROUPS. And I’m just going to write on my blog instead.

Your least-pressing question answered

So will this change the content? Yes and no. I worked hard on coming up with content plan, but basically I’m going to write what I want to write. Some posts will still be Pinterest-worthy with tips and whatnot, others will be less so, and I plan to do a bit more old-school-style blogging, if you will. Gena has free reign to do basically whatever she wants, whenever she wants, as long as she wants to do it.

That said, while I don’t do a ton of toddler-parenting posts here, you probably won’t see any from me in the near future — not on Mommy Sanest anyway. That’s because, as of yesterday, I am the newest Toddler and Twos expert on About.com. I’ll be writing there twice a week about all things toddlers. It’s a paying gig and when the job came through, it 100-percent made me feel like, OK, this whole freelance writing thing is going to work out. My first piece, inspired by my child, the puker, published today: 10 Tips for Traveling with a Carsick Toddler.

summer

There’s more where that came from

Like I mentioned above, I realized in May that my goals were diverse enough that I couldn’t pour everything I had into this blog. But, I also realized I had to focus, or maybe refocus, on the main reason I quit my job. That reason was to be a writer — a paid writer for brands and media outlets.

Focusing on that goal — with the help of an amazing class I took — netted a couple big wins for me last month, which I plan to share with you in the next month (hopefully). In all, after spending January through April writing two or three paid articles a month, I have 13 pieces due in June between About.com, my brand clients, and two freelance pitches that were accepted. It’s no where near a full-time salary, but it’s a huge leap forward for me.

Sunscreen Favorites for Baby and Mama

BY GENA KITTNER

Post contains affiliate links.

For many, Memorial Day weekend is the official kick-off to summer, which means more time spent outdoors, soaking up rays.

Not to brag, but here in Tucson, this has been our norm for months. It also means mamas here have been obsessing about sunburns and drenching our little ones with sunscreen since March.

A quick roundup yielded close to half a dozen sunscreen sticks, sprays and lotions in my house. We stash them everywhere — in the stroller, beach bag, hiking backpack, my purse — because you never know when you’re going to need to apply an extra layer of sunscreen.

As you get ready to restock your sunscreen supply, here’s a rundown of some of my favs for baby and mom.

Sunscreen favorites for mom and baby. Advice from a mom who lives in Tucson and has to be prepared with sunscreen year-round!

Moisturizers with Sunscreens

Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer
SPF 15
Cost: $11.39
I feel this is totally old-school (or old lady) of me, but I’ve used this moisturizer with sunscreen for years and am perfectly happy with the results. The sunscreen protection is solid for everyday use, but I double-up with something stronger or wear a hat while at the beach, zoo or other prolonged sunny outing.

Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen
SPF 30
Cost: $8.99
This is my new favorite. I discovered it last spring and wear it almost daily on my arms and chest. I’m quick to get “turnpike arm” (where your left arm is more tan than your right) by just driving around doing errands, which is an indication to me I should be applying some baseline sunblock. This lotion has little-to-no smell and is a nice moisturizer to boot.

Sunscreen Sticks

Neutrogena Ultrasheer Face and Body Stick
SPF 70
Cost: $7.51
I love this one for kiddos and adults. It goes on clear and is great for kids’ faces (the bigger stick makes application quick and painless even for the squirmiest child). And while a little greasy, its coverage is solid. I use it on my face, neck and ears when I want serious protection. I’ve also applied it directly to my scalp along my part — because scalp burns SUCK.

Aveeno Baby Sun Natural Protection and Neutrogena Baby Sunblock Stick
SPF 60
Cost: $10.58 and $21.57 (for three)
While different brands, these two work essentially the same to me. Nice and small, I keep one in my purse and another in my beach bag. Both go on white as opposed to clear, which is nice because you know exactly what spots you missed, but kind of a pain in that they don’t rub in well. Another plus is you can use these on infants, starting at 6 months.

Sunscreen Sprays

Coppertone Clearly Sheer Sunscreen Spray
SPF 30
Cost: $6.97
This is a new find this season. The spray lives up to its name and doesn’t leave you with the greasy, must-shower feeling after wearing. I save this spray for me and use the Coppertone Sport, SPF 50, as the primary sunscreen for Ellie.

Coppertone Sport Clear Continuous Spray
SPF 50
Cost: $18.55 (for two)
This one’s greasy and smells like a day at the beach, but I find the sweat-proof element effective and the spray essential for quickly applying (and reapplying) before the mad-dash to the pool/sprinkler/splash pad.

These are some of my favorites, but I’d love to hear what sunscreen or other UV protectors you and your family use and love. Here in Tucson, with its 350+ days of sunshine, you can never have enough.


Gena is a Midwest transplant living in TucsoGena Kittnern, Arizona with her husband 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 posts on Mommy Sanest.

What Do You Do?

The other day, I was talking to someone about becoming a freelance writer, and the real and/or perceived struggles I am experiencing. Anyway, I had an epiphany and I wanted to share it here. Maybe it will be helpful to you, particularly if you’re thinking about self-employment.

Being someone who willingly walked away from a “good job” to pursue a freelance career, I just realized that one of the most difficult aspects of this transition for me is figuring out how to answer the question, “What do you do?”

How to answer the question, "What do you do?" when you're self-employed (especially newly self-employed).

Here’s how I typically end up answering, “What do you do?”

Um. Well. I’m a freelance writer, but I only have a couple of clients. I just quit my job three months ago, so I am kind of still figuring it out. So, we’ll see if it ends up working out for me or not.

You know what that sounds like?

It sounds like I don’t believe in myself. It sounds like I’m worried about what other people are going to think about my life choices. It sounds like I’m making excuses. (These are true to some degree.)

That lovely saying you’ll hear about a gazillion times between the time you finish college and when you retire or die comes to mind: Fake it ’til you make it. Clearly, I need to take that a step further.

Fake it until you can fake it better.
I’m bad at faking it. I have no patience for inauthenticity, which is why I sometimes swing a bit too far in the other direction with extreme honestly and too much information. I let my feelings about how I’m doing encroach on the facts about what I’m doing.

So what do I do? Tell people what I do without implied question marks or caveats.

I’m a freelance writer, a content strategist, and a small business owner.

Simple, true, and to the point.

Organizing Your Freezer Meals for Easy Summer Cooking

by Gena Kittner

I love the term “nesting.” It brings to mind a plump little momma bird busily feathering her home. Lately, I can relate, at least regarding the plump part, and with this pregnancy, my nesting tendencies have taken a decidedly food-related turn.

Let me explain.

“New Baby” will be born in July, one of the two hottest months in Tucson, with an average high temperature of 99 degrees.

There are many adjustments I’ve learned to make here during the summer. For example, I now place a frozen water bottle in Ellie’s car seat while running errands to make it bearable for her to climb in after a grocery run.

Crayons and granola bars are diaper bag no nos as both will melt into gooey messes.

But the trickiest part, for me, is figuring out what the he** to cook for dinner. I’ll admit, this question stumps me even when it’s not 100 degrees, but I find it especially challenging when the last thing I want to do it turn on the oven or stove.

So I’ve turned to the freezer.

Don't turn on the oven or stove this summer to cook! Instead spend some time organizing your freezer meals and have easy meals all summer long using these tips.

I’m a big fan of freezing food. Soups, steaks, fruit, quiches, pies, hummus — all find homes in my freezer. The problem, though, is finding and remembering what you have, otherwise you’re stuck with a quart bag of what you think is spaghetti sauce that turns out to be beef stew (true story). My goal is that leading up to, during and after New Baby’s arrival, I can take the stress out of making dinner by easily pulling something out of the freezer.

So I recently decided to spend half an hour and overhaul my freezer. Here’s what I did:

  • To avoid future spaghetti sauce/beef stew mishaps, virtually everything in the freezer is stored in a quart or gallon freezer bag that’s labeled and dated.
  • I have a side-by-side freezer with several shelves and a drawer at the bottom, so I organized all food into separately themed shelves. For example, the bottom two shelves are MREs — Meals Ready to Eat. Leftovers like chili, soup, or already cooked meat that can be defrosted and heated in the microwave. NO STOVE REQUIRED.
  • Another shelf I dedicated to raw meats for the grill. Steaks, pork chops, scallops, etc. On the door I have smaller shelves dedicated to frozen veggies, cheeses and lunch items (Morning Star burgers, etc.).
  • The biggest shelf is for over-sized items. The huge bag of chicken breasts from Costo, a gallon of ice cream, a pork butt, etc. Finally, the top shelf is for dessert and breakfast items such as frozen loaves of bread, cookie dough and popsicles.
  • In addition to labeling the bags of food themselves, I put actual stickies in the freezer indicating which shelves have which foods. My thought is when my butt’s glued to the couch nursing new baby, daddy, grandma etc. can easily located some dinner options.
  • If you have the type of freezer that sits on top or underneath the fridge, I suggest organizing the freezer bags of food into small plastic bins that you can easily pull out and look through. I did this in my house in Wisconsin with good success.

This is just what applies best for my family — your freezer organization might take on different themes. For example, my husband grills most every weekend, so having a shelf dedicated to just raw meat makes sense. Maybe you’ve done a make-ahead crockpot workshop and want to dedicate a shelf just for that. Or you often take frozen dinners to work for lunch — dedicating a freezer shelf would maximize your staking space and minimize the chances of those boxes sliding out every time you open the door (yes, I know from experience).

The key, I believe, is knowing what you have and where it is. So here’s to a coming summer of keeping cool and low-stress dinners (I hope!).


Gena is a Midwest transplant living in TucsoGena Kittnern, Arizona with her husband 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 posts on Mommy Sanest.