Archive for the BangorMama Category

The Big Kid starts kindergarten in the fall, and I’ve been told by those who’ve gone before that it’s not too early to consider figuring out before and after school care for when September rolls around.

There are several options, and we aren’t sure which one we’ll end up with. There are two that provide transportation, regardless of school: Bangor Parks & Rec’s Kids Cave will transport to Bangor schools, and the Bangor Y will transport to Bangor & Brewer schools. (These options can change at any time, please contact the agencies I mention for current information!)

Kids Cave rates are $75 for full time, morning & afternoons, M-F. They have other rates for other configurations, as well.

The Bangor Y rates are $95 for full time, morning & afternoons, M-F, and they, too have some pro-rated options.

Another option would be to find a home daycare provider in your neighborhood who will provide before and after care, or to find a sitter to come to your home for those hours.

Complicating our situation is the baby, and the advent of having kids in two different places for the next few years, or, really, the rest of our lives as they are four years apart and will never be in the same school at the same time! Imagining the morning shuffle, which would end up with the big kid getting to a before school program just in time to get on a bus and go back to our neighborhood school, is daunting.

What have you done for before and after care? (And while we’re here, if anyone has recommendations for an option local to 14th Street, I’d love to hear about it, and you can email directly.) And here I thought the working parent gig would get easier and less expensive as they got older! I guess that’s not so true.

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For years, we’ve had a swing in our backyard. With the big kid, we only needed one, and we have the perfect tree, so the baby swing was eventually replaced by a belt swing, and she has always, always loved it. Then the baby came, last spring, and suddenly we find ourselves in a conundrum — no place for a baby swing! To that end, we are looking to build a swingset.

Swing!

There are lots to choose from! If you are looking for high-end, look no further than the Maine-made Cedarworks sets. I don’t even dare have their page open with my big kid in the same room, for fear of setting an unreasonably high expectation. You can play on a set at their headquarters in Rockport, at 799 Commercial Street.

Another high-end (though not made in Maine) company is Rainbow Play Systems. They have many configurations, and their nearest dealer is in Portland. It’s not hard to be excited about the possibilities of a luxe playset, but it can be hard to afford one.

The big box stores sell basic playsets, from simple plastic sets (great for portability if you know a move is in your future, or for resale!), to classic metal sets, to wooden sets that are not quite as luxurious as the custom companies. Lowe’s and Home Depot also sell components for the DIY-ers — and that’s likely where we will be landing.

You can search for swing set plans online, and find all kinds of ideas, but I’m hoping the more experienced families might have some input on what would be in the ultimate budget DIY swingset for their kids. What do you love about your swingset? What do your kids play with the most?

 

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I am a lucky mama, in that I happen to work at a job I love. I love my chosen career, I love the people I work with, and I love that I work in Bangor. My work/life balance is really not so bad — my home, my job, my husband’s job, and our daycare are all within a 2 mile radius. My ‘commute’ is a quick shot up Valley Ave, where I watch the seasons change over the Kenduskeag, where I have seen wildlife like deer, turkeys, foxes — in the city! — and I see kayakers and ice climbers and cyclists and runners, people enjoying that little stretch of road and stream and gravel path.  If there is a daycare sick call, my husband or I can get the girl in need in minutes, and have them home and tucked into bed (or, if necessary, at the ped’s office or walk-in care) in minutes, generally less than ten. It’s one of the reasons I love living in Bangor (and right now with gas at 3.89/gallon, it’s nice to not have to burn as much if we lived in the bedroom communities.)

But even in Bangor, there can be wobbles when it comes to one’s work/life balance. In trying to find out when the big girl’s Kindergarten (!) orientation is, I’ve called a few times, and just today, as I feared, it looks like her orientation will be on the same day as a conference I need to attend at UMaine. The date is not set, so I am crossing my fingers that they don’t finalize for that day, but if they do, I’ve already planned the day — I’ll go to my conference, miss a session to meet the big girl and my husband at the school, and as soon as it’s over, race back for the rest of the conference.  After I worked that out in my head, I attended a lecture at my employer, and several of us were in the back row, and someone asked why — and it turned out it was because we were all on daycare pickup duty, and the lecture was going to bump into that. Before it was over, the back row (me included) had to duck out, because we needed to fetch our kids.

On the flip side, my post-daycare pickup destination was the Breastfeeding Support Group at Central Street Farmhouse. This has been a great place to talk with other moms, many of them also working moms, which isn’t always easy. There are so many activities structured around the concept of the stay at home mom, but working moms have to, you know, work. Having this meeting scheduled to meet the needs of those of us that work (it’s Tuesdays, 5-7 pm — join us!) has been great. We discuss the logistics of pumping, nursing, daycare…. if you are a working, nursing mom, you should check it out.

And I do have pretty good balance, and a great husband who is a partner in this parenting thing, and not just being dragged along. When the sick kid call comes, we are comparing our schedules to see who is most easily able to take the day with the kid, and daycare is just as likely to call him with any concerns as they are to call me. He does drop off while I do pick up, and again, living in town and so close to everything means that, generally, our whole family is together again by 5:15. That’s pretty nice.

How is your work/life balance?

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My baby turned one year this week(!),  so I thought I’d share my top ten list of things that make life easier for us.

Baby specific:

Babywearing — a wrap, or pouch, or soft structured carrier — there are many, many ways to wear your baby. Our family prefers to not use the ubiquitous infant ‘bucket’ seat, and babywearing makes it possible. For a little baby, a fleece pouch or a stretchy wrap (you can buy the Sleepy Wrap locally) is great, and as my kids get bigger, I prefer a woven wrap and my husband prefers a soft structured carrier. Wearing the baby means we’ve been able to take the kids where strollers can’t go, it’s made air travel a (relative) breeze, and it’s a guaranteed cozy place for a nap when out and about. If you want to learn about your babywearing options, visit Central Street Farmhouse — they are well versed in the many ways to carry the little one.

Nosefrida — Okay, yes, it LOOKS disgusting. I know. But here’s the thing — as long as I am responsible for blowing someone else’s nose, I want it to be as quick and painless as possible, for both parties, and the Nosefrida hits the mark. The traditional bulb that comes home from the hospital is awkward, pointy, of questionable cleanliness, and doesn’t even WORK that well. The Nosefrida is great. I generally give a Nosefrida and a package of filters as a baby shower gift now, with the caveat that “yeah, it’s gross, but even if you only ever use it to suck a pea out of a toddler’s nostril, you’ll be glad you have it.” (And then the not-yet parent thinks “oh, but MY baby will never stick a pea in her nose!”) I don’t change the filter between uses, but might after a particular bad cold just to quarantine the germs. And when traveling, I’ve been known to wash the filter and let it dry between uses. I have never, not once, after 4 years of using it, gotten boogies in bad places. The babies generally don’t like it (but they don’t like the bulb, either) and at least with the Nosefrida, I KNOW I’m not poking them and hurting them, and the deed is done in one or two breaths, not repeated squeezes of the bulb. Trust me. People who’ve used it, love it. (And I have used it to pull a piece of apple from a toddler’s nose, so it saved me $80 in an ER copay, by my estimation.)

Baby Leg Warmers: I have these from multiple sources, and these are also a staple in a shower gift for me. They cover the gap between pant leg and sock in the best way (especially in a Maine winter, when that gap can get chilly, quick!) and they make the best ‘tights’ for my daughters when they are in dresses — no wrestling actual tights on between diaper changes, and honestly, they are usually cuter than true tights. For both boys and girls, they function like a long john layer, again, without having to deal with that layer with diaper changes. Central Street Farmhouse has some adorable styles, for less than $10 a pair.

Simple Wishes pumping bra: I work full time, and I breastfeed, which means that I pump. Pumping is never glamorous, and generally not enjoyable, but the Simple Wishes bra makes it so much easier. With my first, I never had a pumping bra because I didn’t want to roll the dice on choosing the wrong size, so I just made do without. With this baby, I went back to work earlier, and the Simple Wishes bra took the size quandary out of the equation — there are two sizes, and then those sizes are infinitely adjustable, so as you lose the baby weight you can adjust the band to accomodate that. It holds both flanges in place, solidly, and allows me to still work on the computer as I pump. It’s still not glamorous, but it is key to making it less onerous for me. You can also find those at Central Street Farmhouse.

For mama:

iPod touch : I am a professional geek, anyway, and have a laptop, an iPad, a Kindle, etc, but hands down, the iPod touch is my must-have tech gadget for a mom. When I was pregnant, I used it to track everything from my doctor’s appointments to my glucose numbers (I had gestational diabetes) to my contractions. I tweeted my labor to keep phone calls at bay, but still keep family and friends updated. I tracked early nursing sessions using an app, to remember which side I’d last used, and I read books on the Kindle app during late night nursing sessions in the dark. And now, the new models have a camera that takes (low-res) stills and shoots HD video! The ideal gadget for the mama who is going to have one arm occupied for hours at a time, or end up  pinned under a sleeping baby but in desperate need of a glass of water — just email daddy! In celebration of the baby’s first birthday, I actually upgraded to the iPhone4. It’s pretty cool.

CamelBak water bottle: If you are nursing, you need water. All the time. (And if you aren’t nursing, you need water all the time, too, but I think breastfeeding mothers experience a thirst that is unlike other thirsts.) The Camelbak with a bitevalve is the best water bottle to use, hands down. I could wedge that between me and the couch cushion and drink hands-free while nursing the little one, because it doesn’t require you to tip it back to get water. They make it in several sizes, and the bitevalve is easy for a little kid to figure out, so if you are out hiking, etc, and they need water, they aren’t going to dump the entire bottle down their shirt trying to sip out of one of those old-school Nalgene bottles (whose caps ALWAYS hit me in the face, which is also not a feature of the Camelbak.) They come in cute colors, and a cleaning tip — disassemble the straw, bite valve, moving parts, etc, and drop those into the bottle with a denture cleaning tablet and follow the directions of the denture cleaner. Great trick to clean fiddly things like Camelbaks and travel mugs and sippy cups!

Roku: We don’t have cable, but we do have a Roku, and it is the best way to watch tv, ever. I swear. With a Roku (models range from $60-$100, depending on features) you can stream from your Netflix Instant queue, in HD, to your tv. The content has grown by leaps and bounds over the two years that we’ve had our box, and for our older kiddo, it’s nice to have television that she likes (Dora, Blue’s Clues, the impossibly whiny Caillou) without the ads that cable likes. With a brand new baby, it was great to curl up and watch movies while the little one nursed the day away, without having to go to a Redbox or, you know, pay for cable. (Our Netflix account is less than $10 a month.) In addition to Netflix streaming, a Roku can access Hulu+, Amazon Video on Demand, Pandora, and  a whole slew of private channels.

Flip & Tumble bags: These little bags roll up into a ball when you aren’t using them, and when you get to daycare and have a pile of art projects, lunch leftovers, a hat that was left behind a week ago, and all the OTHER things kids pile up at daycare, it pops out to a full (or mini) shopping bag. I always have a 24/7and a minibag in my bag or coat pocket at all times and they’ve been great.

Mabels Labels:  If you are a working mama, you know the need to label everything for childcare. Mabel’s Labels are stickers that will stick to just about anything, are dishwasher and microwave safe, but then peel off when you want them to. We buy packs of the Skinny-Minis, as they fit perfectly on the bottle parts at daycare, and our daycare providers have loved them just as much as we have! Once they move past bottle stage, we use them to label books that are hauled into preschool from home, backpacks, lunchboxes, food containers, you name it. We love them!

Amazon Mom:  I do a lot of shopping at Amazon, and the Amazon Mom program offers a free trial of their Prime membership, that can be extended based on what you buy from their baby section. I have a diaper subscription through Amazon Mom, and that earned me a full year of free Prime. Being able to have stuff shipped directly to me, and quickly, is amazing.

There’s my top ten! What are you must-haves for that first year?

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Bangor has had stores that sell baby things, but hasn’t had a store that’s devoted half of it’s floorspace, and half of it’s focus, to baby things — until now. Central Street Farmhouse recently opened at 30-32 Central Street (in typical Bangor directions “the old Alcott Antiques/Sarah’s Books’, you know, down across from the Bagel Shop, I mean, Bagel Central?”) and while the first floor is dedicated to home brewing, the 2nd floor is All About Baby.

When I had my first baby, I used cloth diapers, and I used baby carriers, but my sources were the internet — I would peer at YouTube videos as I figured out how to use a wrap, and I would google and research the best way to wash my cloth diapers. (The internet is where I learned that the sun is a natural bleach — diaper stains disappeared after a day on the line, and I took that knowledge and have used it on all kinds of stained laundry since then!) I ordered my goods online, I learned how to use them online, and when I was done with them, I sold them online. How I would have LOVED to have had someone experienced to show me how to use all this stuff, or had a local source for nursing bras, in MY SIZE (one that is not generally carried in local brick and mortars) where I could try different options on instead of throwing darts at a size chart found online. It would have been awesome.

Which is why I was so excited to meet Betsy Lundy, who along with her husband Zeth, are the proprietors of Central Street Farmhouse. Her second floor carries several brands of cloth diapers and wipes (and these are NOT the cloth diapers your mom or grandma used, these are cute and as easy to use as disposables), baby carriers, from wraps to ring slings, and nursing supplies. If they don’t have the Bravado product in your size or style, they can order it (ask me how I know!) and for pumping moms, they carry the Simple Wishes pumping band, which is the best invention to have happened between my two stints as a nursing and working mom. And if you aren’t into the cloth diapering, babywearing, nursing thing, they have baby legwarmers and onesies that are adorable. Seriously. (I’m planning on writing a post soon about my favorite things for the first 6 months, and several things that are bound for that list anyway are sold at Central Street.)

In addition to the products, Central Street Farmhouse will be offering a free Music and Storytime every other Tuesday, from 10:30-11, starting December 14, and will be hosting free workshops — Cloth Diapering 101 was earlier this week, or this coming Saturday, there will be a Babywearing workshop at 3. (I’ll be at that one, with the newest Bangor Baby!) And if you can’t make a workshop, the staff are all familiar with the products they sell, and they can help you choose just the right product to meet your need. They even have a certified lactation counselor on staff! And if you’re a nursing mom who is still gaining the confidence to nurse anywere and everywhere, they have a great comfy couch on the 2nd floor if you need a spot downtown to feed your baby in a very breastfeeding-friendly space.

I am hoping to profile local businesses that would be of interest to local families, and for the first business, I interviewed Betsy about her newest venture and raising a family in Bangor. Here’s what she had to say:
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I’m always torn about how soon is too soon to be thinking about the holidays, but as of today there are less than seven weeks until Christmas (and less than a month until Hannukah), so I don’t think it’s too early (but you won’t hear me whistling Christmas carols just yet.)

How do you handle the holidays? Are you a die-hard Black Friday shopper, or do you go for Cyber Monday? Do you use the holidays as a time to shop local? (If you do, this week the Briar Patch is having a 20% off sale!) Do you have any rules or traditions you follow to keep the spirit in check, and what do you do when your kiddo requests something you would really rather keep out of your house (be it a pet, a toy gun, a Barbie, or the loudest plastic toy ever?)

In our house, we’ve adopted the Rule of Four, and try to stick to “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” Our kids also get stockings, and of course, gifts from doting grandparents and aunts and uncles, but having the Rule of Four helps keep OUR spending in check. And a favorite gift in our family is the renewal of our Maine Discovery Museum membership — that is one gift that we enjoy year-round, never have to store, find all the pieces to, or trip over, which is always a plus.

What are your plans for gift-giving this holiday season?

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As promised, a loooong time ago, some more of What I’m Reading.

As the big kid has gotten older, we ‘ve been working on increasing her independence. There are lots of reasons for this, but basically we don’t want our kids to be sheltered by the ‘safety’ of tv, and be turned out into the world without practical problem solving skills. There still is that fear, that lives in our animal brain, that commands us to protect our young, and Gavin De Becker’s book,
Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane), is a GREAT read for teaching kids about their personal safety. (Surprise — it’s not about stranger danger and finding a cop. In fact, it’s about the opposite. The recommendation for a lost kid (from him, which I think is brilliant) is to “find a mom with kids.” Those are a whole lot easier to identify than a cop, especially when you’re four and staring at the hips of every grown-up around. He puts the horror stories we’ve all heard into perspective, so there are horror stories (maybe don’t read it if you are especially sensitive to those, like, oh, after the birth of a child …) but his overarching message is that we only hear about them because they are rare. (He also has a book about adult personal safety, which is just as interesting, in my opinion, but I love that human behavior stuff. That one is The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence.

On that same note of fostering independence, you’ve probably all heard of Lenore Skenazy — she’s the mom that dared let her kid navigate their usual NYC subway route, alone, at ten. (A side note, when I am in NYC, and see  little kids running about on the train platforms, I’ll admit, it makes my heart skip a beat. (But I’d bet if a city mom saw my kids running on a lakefront dock — which they do — they’d have the same reaction. It’s all in your comfort zone. ) Her book, Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) is a good resource to gain confidence in letting your kids learn independence. She also has a great blog at www.freerangekids.com

Rounding out the trifecta of “books about letting kids be kids, safely” would be Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. I actually first read this way back in grad school, as part of my research on technology’s impact on community (which, hey, BangorBaby was the product of!) and for someone who, literally, grew up in the actual woods, it was especially meaningful. Living in the big city of Bangor means I’m often looking to recreate some of those rural experiences, which is why you will see my kid turning over rocks and digging up worms, learning to ID trees and birds, and experiencing all four seasons that Maine has to offer. And related to the loss of kids’ experiences with nature, the book The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It by Sarah Bennett and Nancy Kalish is a must-read if you are feeling the pressure of homework, especially in lower grades. (Apparently, this is to prepare them for the “next grade, where it gets Important” — but they say that for every grade — so by that logic, I guess I should have the 6 month old start on some busywork now. She’ll only eat them, but we can say that we tried, right?) I’d rather have my kid collecting earthworms in the rain than doing work that has little to no value to her actual life. (Disclaimer: I’m a former teacher who ascribed to this in the classroom as well, and didn’t assign homework then, but made time in class for independent work. Most parents were very appreciative of this.) They also have a website, which is no longer updated, but has a great FAQ and a fact sheet if you are looking for the basics.

And how about a few shorter reads?
This article on NPR was great (which probably explains why I’m a nut about stringent car seat use, and less worried about Stranger Danger):

5 Worries Parents Should Drop, and 5 They Shouldn’t

And this is an article that came out shortly after the birth of my oldest child, and really struck a chord with my family, and has helped guide our parenting partnership ever since:

When Moms are Gatekeepers

Coming up in a future post: my must-have items for life with baby. Sadly, I can’t link to “an abundant amount of time,” so it might be a week or two. Until then, do you know of a Halloween activity in the Greater Bangor area that other local families should know about? Email me, or comment, or mention it on the Facebook page.

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Okay, between neglecting my laundry and the blog, and taking care of my family and my job, I have been able to read (you know, on my iPod touch while a baby naps on me) a few things that I want to share:

Raising Maine — this is a free publication that is heavily geared towards Southern Maine families, but they won’t reject your subscription if you live north of Brunswick. They have a twitter feed, too, and it’s not so bad to have ideas on stuff to do in southern Maine for those random day trips. In this month’s issue, the farewell column by Raye Tibbitts really made an impression on me, and is basically the advice I’d give any new mom, myself.

One Mom in Maine — this is a blog written by a nearby mom that focuses on family and fitness, with lots of love for our area evident throughout.  And it’s kind of heartening to know that the beautiful meals she cooks aren’t always savored by her kids, you know? Real.

Bangor Metro — I love the magazine, and if you can’t get it in hand, the flipbook is a great way to see the current issue.

And a column from The Globe and Mail that was well-timed for this working mama: Ditch the guilt, working moms: The kids are all right.

What have you been reading this summer? I’ll be posting about the actual books I’ve read recently, soon.

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I shouldn’t be surprised, really, that it’s been three weeks, but it’s been three weeks? Really? I returned to work after my maternity leave, and juggling work, a preschooler and a newborn, and trying to enjoy our Maine summer (and this one has been a beauty!) posting came in last. Honestly, I should probably be folding laundry right now, so let’s say it came in second to last.

I am still here, though, and always taking suggestions or tips on stuff that’s going on in our fair city (and beyond), just currently working to get my sealegs under me. I have another post cooking already.

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It’s the first day of summer! Today, the other Bangor pool opened (Dakin, on Pine street) following the opening of the Pancoe pool on Saturday. I have to confess, though, that while people here in Bangor were facing the muggy day at the awesome Pancoe pool, we were out of town, swimming in the lake of my childhood. There really isn’t much that’s better than a crisp, cool lake on a hot muggy day, and seeing your own kid doing all the things you once did growing up — jumping off the same docks, preferring the same entry points, digging the same trenches to the waterline — is pretty cool. We’ll certainly make it to Pancoe more than a few times this summer (we live just a few blocks away, so we don’t even need to deal with parking!) but I will always cherish the lake days.

Of course, my lake is a hundred miles away, which is two hours of “are we there yet?” and I Spy and kids’ music in the CD player, and that has it’s own…. merits, but I know that closer to town there are good options, too. We’ve been to Peaks-Kenny, in Dover, but generally we make the drive or go to the pool What are your favorite swimming holes in the Greater Bangor area?

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