Thursday, September 27, 2007

Are We There Yet?

This morning on the way to the gym, I was almost T-boned by some jerk running a red light at probably 60 miles an hour in a 45 mile an hour zone. Worse than that, this is the SECOND time THIS WEEK I have almost been hit by someone running a red light in addition to the idiot that tried to change lanes into my lane when he was only halfway past my car. All near-miss accidents with both of my kids in the car and less than a mile from my home. Which shouldn't be a surprise since we've all heard the statistic that almost a quarter of accidents happen within a mile of home.

Appropriate car seat safety has always been a pet peeve of mine, but it is not a user friendly obsession. Months before Cade was born, Aaron spent an entire afternoon in the driveway installing infant seat bases in each car, only to get to the fire station car seat check and have the inspector shred his work. Another non-surprise since she told us that 80% of car seats are installed incorrectly. Further, she instructed us to come back once the baby was born so she could ensure proper shoulder strap/breastplate placement. A college degree in engineering is no match for a car seat.

Because we know that we are both such poor installers, for the first three years of Cade's life, EVERY TIME we moved car seats or added a baby, we took both cars to the fire station to have the installation checked. There is a reason there was a 3 month wait to get your car seat checked - The Fox Family was hogging all the appointments.

And then came preschool. All of the sudden there were carpools and pickups of extra children and other moms picking up my kids and for the sake of convenience, my hard line approach to installation fell by the wayside. I would think to myself, "They're just going across the street - what could happen?" Until this week and my 3 near misses right here in the neighborhood, which has given me pause on who transports my children and how. And how responsibly I transport other people's children.

Today, as I crossed myself and said a little prayer of thanks for the third time in a week, I vowed to do these four things:
-Look left and right every time I head into an intersection instead of letting the stoplights put me on autopilot.
-Take my van over to the fire station for a car seat checkup - it's been almost a year since the last one and we've moved seats several times.
-STAY OFF THE CELL PHONE. It is scary when you arrive somewhere and realize that you don't remember anything about your journey to the place. In my mind, hands-free sets are worthless because it's not my hands that cause me to be distracted while I'm chatting on the phone and driving - it's my brain. Therefore, until they invent a brain-free phone, I'm staying off of mine.
-Slow down. My husband is forever making fun of me for my lead foot accelerating and braking style. Which I defend by saying that I have so much to do that I am always in a hurry. But that doesn't make sense. Speeding doesn't get me there faster and where am I going, anyway, that's so important? When I leave 10 minutes earlier than I think I need to, I am a MUCH better driver.

My experiences this week remind me of the age-old parenting adage issued to teenagers - "It's not you I don't trust - it's the other guys on the road!". I have realized the true meaning of that in recent days. And it has definitely made me realize the weight of my responsibility to be fully present and aware of what is going on on the road, whether my kids are toddlers in their car seats or teenagers behind the driver's seats.

NOTE: The Governor's Office of Highway Safety provides a listing of car seat check stations in Atlanta at If you're outside the city of Atlanta, check with your local fire station, hospital, BabiesRUs or even some car dealerships. You can also check out this site at

Monday, September 24, 2007

Atlanta's Top Ten for Tots

For my inaugural post on this blog (and since it is an ATLANTA parent blog), thought I would recycle something I wrote a few weeks ago for my personal blog since I've gotten great feedback on it from my friends. After 3 years of parenting in Atlanta and verbally reviewing the different sites around town for various friends, I finally sat down and compiled my "Top 10" (okay, 16) list of places to go/see/do with little ones. Whether you've lived here for awhile or you're new to parenting in this city, hopefully you'll learn from my mistakes...

Pros: Air conditioned, very well baby proofed, great for first time moms because the baby classes include ideas for things to do with your baby and Mommy discussion time. We are still in touch with our friends from my oldest son's Gymboree days.
Cons: Not cheap. Difficult once you have a second child because it is twice as not cheap and little sibling are neither welcome nor encouraged in a big sibling's class (classes are divided by age/ability).

Music Class
Pros: Air conditioned, songs on CD are only marginally annoying, second child can come for free up to like 4 months old or something.
Cons: "Ba, ba bup bup bup bup baaaaa" rhythm song will NEVER leave your head.

Library Story Hour
Pros: FREE! Air conditioned. Fosters love of reading.
Cons: Libraries, by nature, require a certain level of decorum that my children are not capable of.

Little Gym
Pros: Opportunity to practice stunts in safe environment. In the air conditioning. Can you tell the heat bugs me in the summer?
Cons: Expensive

Art Classes
Pros: No mess at my house.
Cons: My children seem to bypass the paints, crafts, metal sculpturing and other cool stuff and head directly for the markers, which we have at home. $10 an hour per kid buys a lot of markers.

Pros: Toddlers don't care whether the rides "go" or not - $5 worth of tokens will last hours. They also don't care that the pizza tastes like cheese covered cardboard - there is a salad bar for moms. They stamp your kids' hands at the door to prevent kidnappers from leaving with someone else's kids.
Cons: A little overstimulating - hard to supervise multiple kids depending on the layout, what with all the moving rides, loud noises, and blinking lights. Also, no hand stamp checking to get into the bathrooms, so it's not an entirely molester-free zone. I always have this fear that the hand stamps cause predators to target ChuckECheese for a challenge. Irrational, I know. But that's part of my charm. : )

Kangazoom/Monkey Joe's/Jumping Places
Pros: An air-conditioned way to wear them out for an affordable price.
Cons: Can get a little rough when school-aged kids are around - take toddlers in the mornings while big kids are in school.

Pros: You get to leave them there! Without you! Plus they learn stuff.
Cons: They close for the summer.

Pros: They are everywhere. You could hit a different one each week for forever. I never,ever thought I would spend so much time touring playgrounds.
Cons: It's too freaking hot for this in the summer!

Swimming Pool
Pros: Nice cool place to hang out in the summer and you can bring your lunch and camp out for the whole day.
Cons: Not so great for crawlers or early walkers - I found it exhausting to try to keep my kids from killing themselves on cement at this age. Also, I am not hot about teenage lifeguards who seem to spend most of their time twirling their whistles and inspecting their own tan lines. I feel justified in saying this because I was a teenage lifeguard at one time so I know how they think. Do NOT plan to go to the pool and leisurely read magazines while lifeguards "watch" your kids. Keep a vigilant eye on the wee ones at all times. No one is watching them but you.

Children's Museum
Pros: Air conditioned. Free for kids under 2, I think. Worth buying an annual family pass once they turn 2 if they like it.
Cons: The Atlanta one has kind of an open format, making it difficult to supervise multiple children at once by yourself. And the "security" guards are apparently guarding the gift shop, not children - they will let your kids waltz right out without you.

Pros: Atlanta zoo is nice sized - not too big, not too small.
Cons: HOT. Do not attempt this activity in the summer. Also I personally think the food is a little gross so we always bring our own lunch. Individual admissions are expensive, so buy the annual family pass once your kids are old enough that you have to pay for them.

Pros: World class aquarium! Right here in Atlanta! We saw the Monterey Bay aquarium this summer and Atlanta's holds it's own against this one.
Cons: Expensive. Get an annual pass if you think you will go a lot. Also, they check your bags for food so don't plan on bringing your own lunch.

Yellow River Game Ranch
Pros: Exotic animals right here in Lilburn!
Cons: It will cost you more to feed the animals than to get in. Bring your own carrots, apples, peanuts, crackers, etc. Bring your own picnic lunch as well, but the playground is a death trap for toddlers so steer clear unless your kids are school aged.

Botanical Gardens
Pros: Awesome children's garden with a fountain.
Cons: The rest of the gardens are cool too but it is impossible to enjoy them with my kids in tow. Perhaps parents of more mellow children have better luck.

Burger King/McDonald's/ChickFilA (indoor playground variety only)
Pros: Air conditioned, economical, one stop shop. Food, activity, chair for mom, free refills on Diet Coke, what could be better?
Cons: Why do my kids always get lost in those stupid indoor playground tunnels?

I know I've left stuff off and I'd love to add new sites to my repertoire - anyone else out there got any faves to share?