Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Restaurant Review: Giggles-N-Hugs Revisited

Giggles-N-Hugs has been open for a couple of months now - time enough to work out the kinks certainly and as fine a time as any for another look.

I scheduled another lunch date to meet and play and I have to say I was impressed. Either the owners read my post or they've received the same feedback from others. Possibly both. Whatever the source, they've corrected nearly every issue I had - at least those that are within their control.

Let's start with my biggest beef and the one I least expected them to address: the blaring televisions. Not only were they off completely during our visit, Giggles -N- Hugs was playing music instead!! The music was a mix of children's tunes and tunes for children of all ages (hello, Kool and the Gang!!) and both Island Boy and I loved it. He was snapping his fingers and smiling and generally rockin' out.

This time we were told at the counter that someone would get our drinks for us. Hurray!! In fact, the super amazing gentleman that works the dining room carried our number over to the table of our choice for us, then brought us plates and utensils and a highchair. There was so little left for me to do I fantasized about hiring someone like him to come to our house for all future meals! (This guy is so wonderful he's not fazed at all by plates, utensils and cups hitting the floor every couple of minutes and reacts simply by wiping up the mess and replacing plates, utensils and cups on the table as needed. Positively dreamy!!)

I visited the ladies room this time rather than taking my friend's word for it and it was rather messy, but I loved the layout. The changing table is in the stall so if a flush is needed it is conveniently close. Complimentary wipes are provided and handy, although the changing table covers bin was empty (not that I've ever seen it full at any place I've been to, but I kind of expected it to be stocked here).

Once again the place had plenty of tables available and there were enough people there in the play area as well as in the dining area to give it some life but not so many that it was overwhelming. There were even a few daddies in attendance.

The menu hasn't changed and this time I had plenty of time to discuss it with the counter staff before ordering. According to the staff, my assessment of the options for the pre-teeth set was accurate - there isn't much. We ordered a Kid's Size Bolognese for Island Boy. While it was a huge portion for him, we were able to take the leftovers home and enjoy several more meals of it. I can't vouch for it personally as I am not an omnivore, but I can say that Island Boy seemed to like it. In my dreams they'd add more options for those with dietary restrictions (i.e. low sodium, gluten-free or just plain finicky) as well. This is Southern California, after all, so that sort of thing is almost expected.

I didn't notice this offering last time, but I love the idea of Curbside Takeout Service!! If you're crunched for time this seems like a great option. I don't think a lot of places have this option, but they should.

What makes Giggles-N-Hugs different from any other restaurant with high chairs? Their understanding of and tolerance for toddler behavior. This alone helps a mother relax. There also happens to be the play area, but you're not required to use it by the facility (your child may have other ideas but that's the risk you take when you show up).

The restaurant has improved on so many of the little details - all the way down to the flexible straws now offered. I still don't love the $9 entry fee to the play area especially since on most occasions we just want to run around for a couple of minutes after lunch before we jump in the car. Still, Giggles -N- Hugs is a great place to meet and eat a reasonably healthy meal with your toddler.

Nice work, Giggles -N- Hugs!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Little Man on Campus

Island Boy has already had his first visits to a major university where he has been a voluntary subject for several scientific research studies. These particular studies involved language and cognitive development but I must say that the purpose of the studies is not always intuitively obvious to the casual observer.

As far as Island Boy was concerned these studies were an opportunity to play. One involved locating toys in the sand. Another involved being introduced to a variety of toys one by one and having to hand them back to the researcher. I have to admit, as cooperative as my little boy was, he eventually found this a bit trying. Who wouldn't? "Here's a toy. Ok, now give it back." Yeah, we got tired of that one.

Still, we had fun and did our little part to contribute to scientific research. The researchers seem very grateful and I'm not surprised. It turns out it's not that easy to find toddlers running around college campuses volunteering for research studies! If you happen to live near a college or university big or small, give them a call to see if you can help out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Green Day

Earth Day is today, so do something green! Better yet, make it Earth Day every day in your life.

Here's one thing - just ONE THING - you can do right now to help save the planet. It's so easy anyone can do it, so no excuses, ok? Here it is:

Bring your own bag(s) to the grocery store.

That's it! So easy anyone can do it. What's that? You don't have one? Sure you do! Everybody has a bag. It doesn't have to be fancy. You can take the same grocery bag you got last time you went to the store and bring it with you this time. Or you can buy a reusable bag a the store if you'd like something a little sturdier. Or you can buy my favorite bag here.

Need more motivation than simply "saving the planet"? Really?? Ok, look at your child or your grandchild or your niece or your nephew or your friend's child. I think they'd probably reuse a bag for you, don't you?

There are many "shades" of Green and we're lighter Green than I'd like to be, but darker Green than many. If going Green sounds like too much effort, just try to become a little darker Green than whatever shade of Green you are now.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Nannytown, USA

Since our little one loves music I enrolled the two of us in a music class. We had enjoyed our sign language class, but our sessions finished weeks ago. I was really looking forward to the first day of our music class, eager to meet other parents and see what the teacher had in store for us.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself in the minority as a mother bringing her own child to the class. I felt so bourgeois! Instead of mommies and their children in the class, there were mostly nannies with their respective charges and a few grandmothers with their grandchildren.

I'm a little flummoxed by the whole thing and just not sure what to make of it. Still, while the experience wasn't quite what I had envisioned, we had a great time dancing, singing and playing with a variety of "instruments".

Special Effects

I'm not quite sure how I did this, but I like it, so thought you might enjoy it too.

Friday, April 11, 2008

That's my boy!!

Island Boy has picked up on some signs that surprise me completely. In the most recent example, he surprised us all by signing "diamond". That's right, folks! They learn early!!

Just to set the record straight I believe he picked this up from the song, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star".

This is a very good time to point out that the sign for "diamond" involves using your right hand to form the letter, "D", then tapping your right hand on your left ring finger where a diamond is traditionally worn. I point this out because this is the American Sign Language way to sign "diamond". Other versions of the sign for "diamond" taught to children turn out to be something rather naughty in American Sign Language, so if you're going to teach your child to sign, it's a good idea to teach them ASL-based signs! (Imagine an entire classroom of children singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and signing - well, I won't tell you what they're signing, but it isn't very nice! - instead of "diamond"!)

He does seem to apply it correctly in appropriate situations.

For example, while in the presence of our friend who has been waiting (and waiting and waiting!!) for an engagement ring he began to sign "diamond". She asked me what he was doing since it was obvious he was trying to communicate something and unbelievably to me she couldn't understand his rendition of the spoken word "diamond". When I told her what he was saying and signing, she said, "That's right! Where's the diamond?" and glared at her would be fiance.

Yes, that's our boy!!

(p.s. In case any would-be fiances are reading this, I've even provided a convenient shopping link (actually, two) for you!)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Feeling Social

We've had our last visit from a social worker (I guess I should knock on wood or something) - a milestone certainly, if not of the same magnitude as those that came before.

She was very nice, but it still felt strange talking to someone about our son and having them take notes. It felt even stranger being a little uncertain about just how the information will be disseminated. Heck, at least with my blog I'm the one writing about my son so I know what information is going out even if I can't fathom just how far my words may travel in both space and time.

In any case, that bit of business is now behind us and a social worker shall not visit us again unless invited socially. :-)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sweet People

I just stumbled upon this article in People. It's an interview with Harrison Ford and he talks about the son he is raising with Calista Flockhart.

I don't have the luxury of time to read goodies from magazines like People very often, but this link enticed me while I was working (ahem!) and checking out CNN of all places. I thought Harrison's comments were very sweet.

And then I read this other article - again found on CNN. And yes, I found it during Island Boy's nap time and during a narrow window of time in which I had to shower and get tons of work done. Instead of getting a lot of work done or showering I found myself distracted and wandering over to read CNN and then to People for just a bit. Of course, that counts as doing something important too, even if I didn't get to shower. If you don't believe me, read the article. :-)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Single Parenting

Hubby just got back from traveling on business for over a week. While he was gone a number of people asked me how I was enjoying "single parenting".

While I missed him terribly and frequently fantasized about moving back to Ohio to be close enough to get help from my family, I cannot for a second imagine what it would be like to be a single parent. Being without your partner for relatively short periods of time (even if it feels like a relatively long period of time!) is so different from being on your own.

First of all, I knew Hubby was coming back and I knew when he was coming back. What is interesting about that is that Island Boy did not know he was coming back, nor when. It was that fact that made the time particularly challenging for both of us. While I tried to reassure our little Island Boy, he truly loves his Daddy and missed him boatloads (i.e. "this much!!!"). This was made obvious throughout the day every day as Island Boy signed "Daddy" and said "Daddy" when he woke up, when he was bored, when he was upset and at other random points throughout each day. Although he seemed thrilled to see Daddy on Skype, it wasn't quite enough. I could totally relate.

I did wonder what our little boy thought about Skype. He was introduced to Skype on the day we met him, but this is the first time he's really interacted much with it, playing peek-a-boo and doing a few party tricks at Daddy's request. It reminded me a bit of Flat Reed and I wondered if we should refer to Skype Daddy as "Flat Daddy".

I need wonder no more. Daddy is home and we're all very happy about that.

Friday, April 04, 2008

More on Privacy

On a related topic, I heard a bit on the radio a few days ago about paranoia. It was funny because it reflected on how challenging it would be to do a study on paranoia. How do you survey people that are paranoid? They are likely too paranoid to respond to the survey!!

As a few of my readers pointed out on my post about privacy, you can never be too careful. While it's true that many of the folks reading blogs like this one are folks who have been prescreened for sanity, those aren't the people you really worry about.

We bloggers make choices about the level of comfort we have with the information we share. Some freely post names and more. Others add a level of protection by making their blogs invite only. One reader offered another option that some may find helpful.

I don't think there is a right answer, but I do know the only way to be completely private is to post nothing at all and what fun would that be?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Magic Signs

Our sign language instructor told us that if we signed "it's time to change your diaper" to our babies they would eventually lie down and wait for us to change their diaper. I was skeptical.

A few days ago I signed "it's time to change your diaper", turned around to grab the diaper, and viola! Island Boy was lying there as cute as can be waiting for me!! (Of course he got up and ran away by the time I was ready, but that's beside the point...)

He's doing it often now, but it still floors me every time. It is just unbearably cute!!