Jen Wittes
Bump Birth & Baby
I like to tell my daughter she’s made of teddy grahams and milk. Cottage cheese with pickles and Wheat Thins. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches. My son is all brownies and Mexican food. Those were my go-to pregnancy cravings. Powerful, consuming, satisfying, must-have. “What’s your baby made of?” It’s one of my favorite questions to ask. It inspires a variety of eager answers as women wistfully recall how nothing ever tasted as delicious as fresh summer... more
Paced bottle-feeding
Whether you’re formula feeding from the start, pumping the occasional bottle for the sitter or practicing for the return to work, there are best health practices for bottle-feeding.A bottle-fed baby should be fed according to feeding cues (mouth movement, rooting, sucking on hands and eventually crying — just as you would feed a... more
Bleb and beyond
Before we get into all the fun things that can happen to your boobs while breastfeeding, I want to make something clear: I support all feeding choices. Next month, I plan to focus on bottle-feeding. It is my belief, having worked with many different families during their postpartum period, that some moms love breastfeeding and some... more
The doula is in
Whether by birth or adoption, your transition from non-parent to parent covers about two years and change — two years of monumental, unparalleled, bonkers, worrisome, heartbreaking, heart-healing change. My daughter, my firstborn, changed me in about 5 billion ways. From the foods I ate, to the medical choices I made, to what I did... more
So long, Toddler Time
It started with an innocent Freaky Friday daydream, parenting-columnist style. “Your kids are toddlers now. You should do a guest spot at Toddler Time,” I said to Shannon Keough, Minnesota Parent’s Baby on Board columnist.“And you know babies!” she countered. “Maybe we could trade places for a round?”Well, one thing led to another,... more
Confessions of a coach-mom
Some of us end up coaching youth sports because we have a passion for the sport of choice. Some of us think it sounds like a really cool way to spend more time with our kid — or we get roped in by a fellow parent. And many us naively check the box that comes up during online registration that says, “Feel free to contact me about... more
A toddler-friendly park
One of the coolest things about toddler parenting is the constant newness — new milestones, new friends, new foods, new experiences. Particularly satisfying is finding a wonderful new place to explore. If you haven’t already, take a trip to Jensen Lake in Eagan. For the sake of discussing the toddler-friendly nature of... more
Duck and cover!
It’s the big “but …” of toddlerhood. As in, “This would be the best age, but ...” or “He’s such a sweet kid, but …”If there’s one thing that universally challenges toddler parents, it’s tantrums. Much like earthquakes, they vary in style, duration, intensity and frequency. Between the ages of 1 and 3, these fits are as certain as a... more
Time out for Dad!
As promised in last month’s issue, Dad’s Night Out (DNO) follows Mom’s Night Out (MNO).I really want to make it clear: You dads need to do this! Though it’s sometimes implied that new fathers inherently have more freedom (you don’t lease your womb to occupants, you don’t breastfeed), you, too, need to remember what it’s like to be... more
Your next Mom's Night Out
Toddler Mom, the time has come to get out of the house. Wait. Let’s reorganize that thought: Out of the house, without child, showered and off to a destination other than Target, the gym, the indoor playground or work. Though you may have previously dabbled in the tradition of a good old Mom’s Night Out — MNO, as the... more
'I will not eat the cat food'
I will try one new food every single day. Willingly. Even cauliflower. I will stop saying the word “mine” and will replace it with, “yours.” Sharing is caring.I will stop suggesting that my baby brother be given away, sent back, sold to the pet store or physically harmed.I will resist the urge to criticize my father’s cooking in... more
Don't let tech safety slip
The group of parents now raising tweens is the last to grow up — basically — without the Internet. The good news is that, having received our first email addresses on dinosaur systems as college students, we DO know how the web works. We all have Facebook (well almost all of us), plus most of its cousins. We’re hooked on... more
Looking up
I recently took a walk around Como Lake in opposition of typical traffic flow.Not only did I see the knockout fall colors from another angle, but I also looked upon more faces. Intrigued, I actually made an effort to smile and nod — maybe say hello — to each and every person (and dog) I passed.Even if I felt shy, even if the... more
Toys schmoys
Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE our annual Toy Issue. My kiddos have participated in the official Minnesota Parent Toy Test, and I even rely on the results for holiday ideas. I’ve also genuinely loved checking out all the cool new toy favorites — old and new — with my kids, neighbors, nieces and nephews during each stage of childhood.... more
The parent vote
By now you likely feel over-saturated with all the election hullaballoo — the commercials, the emails, the Facebook soapboxing, perhaps a tense conversation or two at the dinner table. We’re almost there. It’s almost over.While this probably isn’t your first election, it might be your first major election as a parent — as a toddler... more
Mommy cliches
As they say, a cliche is a cliche because it’s rooted in truth. The phrases roll off our tongues freely because they’re (Exhibit A) lit-er-ally a part of the modern American vernacular. But don’t you get tired of what’s commonly said about you, Mama?I do. Let’s start with wine In the last five years or so, wine has... more
Party on, Toddler!
There are so many rites of passage to behold as we guide our littles through childhood: skinned knees and bad dreams. Barf and birthday parties.Toddler Parent, you may find it curious — even alarming — that your favorite toddler columnist would loosely equate the joy of a birthday party with barf.Oh, but be certain, that choice was... more
Hitting the ground running
Adoption is a wonderful way to welcome a child into a family, rich with a unique set of joys and challenges.Though not initiated by pregnancy, labor and birth, the start of the parent-child relationship is a birth of sorts — the birth of a new life together.Toddler adoption is an entirely different situation — also filled with specific... more
100 summer activities for toddlers
1. Cut a watermelon in half and eat immediately with spoons. 2. Master somersaults.3. Have a teddy bear picnic at Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater.4. Take in a matinee with real butter popcorn at the Riverview Theater. Or hit the cheap seats in Hopkins.5. Make your own popsicles.6. Pajama day, all day.7. Make your own play dough.8... more
Do not stand for it
I am a Minnesota parent.I have, for the most part, raised my children here. And, on top of that, I'm lucky enough to have a voice as a columnist and features writer at the magazine that represents our parenting community.But I did not grow up here.I grew up in a predominantly white, sheltered community in Southern California, proximal to... more
Are we still talking about SLEEP?! (Yes.)
The whole shebang starts during your first brave trip to the grocery store, solo, with a 2-week-old: You're rocking a look I might gently call postpartum chic (not in PJs) meets zombie apocalypse (green-grey circles under your eyes, paper-thin pasty skin, hormonally imbalanced and wild-eyed with hunger). A pack of evil grannies... more
Gear up for summer!
In Minnesota, we do a great job of making the most of winter, but we absolutely live for the immense relief at the end of our signature lengthy deep freeze. For parents of littles, there’s extra joy in the shift from bouncing off the walls to running barefoot and carefree through the fresh-cut grass. You’ve spent the winter months... more
Zootopia
Man’s best friend. A house is not a home without a cat. Honk if you love ferrets. Pet enthusiasts consider their furry and scaly friends to be part of the family. Of course, there are also humans who prefer household members be limited to those on two 10-toed feet. But, as parents, both the animal lovers and the animal shy, we all... more
Labor of love
In many ways, our notion of pain during labor comes from cultural expectation, including basically every birth depicted in scripted TV. Mothers scream and sometimes become cartoonishly violent toward their spouses. It’s high drama.But for a growing number of women, even in the U.S., childbirth is viewed as an intense, but not... more
Your tot and the doc
By now you’ve probably come to know your pediatrician or family doctor fairly well. There are — after all — nine well visits between birth and the third birthday. And that’s to say nothing of the mysterious rashes, first colds, earaches and bumped heads. I spoke with local pediatrician Ilene Moore of Southside Medical Clinic in... more
Mix and match
Camp Pillsbury is not your typical woodsy, lakeside summer camp. It’s not remote, secluded or even a little bit rustic. Instead of cabins, Camp Pillsbury lodging is comprised of dormitories on a beautiful 20-acre campus in the city of Owatonna, population 25,000, 65 miles south of the Twin Cities. Held at the former... more
Books for parents
Said the gal who writes a parenting column: “What you REALLY need to know about parenting cannot be found in a book, blog or magazine.” If you follow me here at Toddler Time, you know I encourage readers to parent individualistically. We all have different levels of patience, different ideas about how long to breastfeed, different... more
The D word
Divorce is like a death, in a sense. The death of your — however misguided — picture-book fantasy, the death of living under one roof — always — with your intact family, the death of “’til death do us part.”When you’re a parent, the grieving process is open-ended. You can’t walk away. You can’t say goodbye. You and your... more
Your obsessed toddler
When my daughter was 2, she developed a fascination with snowmen. We lived in New York at the time and it was an unseasonably warm winter. We weren’t making any actual snowmen, and when we did they weren’t to her liking. She favored round, perfect snowmen drawn on paper, and she asked me to draw them every day. “Draw snowman... more
Facing the mental-health monster
Without hesitation, you’d take your child to the emergency room for a broken arm, the dentist for a cavity, the pediatrician for a sore throat.But what do you do when your child suffers the death of a loved one, bullying at school or low self-esteem? What happens when you learn that your child is hurting other kids at day care,... more
The Need to Stop Time
“The days are long, but the years are short.”“Enjoy every minute! It goes too fast.”“Don’t you just wish they could stay this way FOREVER?”Ah, the many clichés that we, our own parents and grocery-store busybodies, use to describe the phenomenon of watching our children grow up. The push for milestones, the simultaneous adrenaline... more
Let's talk about sex
The new-mom cliche “touched out” means something different to each individual. For some, it’s something like, “I’m nursing twins, damn it, and if you even look at my boobs, I will find a way to muster up a pair of laser eyes … and I will burn you.” For others, it’s straightforward and simple: “Sleep is the only thing that’s... more
Turn it off and get out!
Parenting has changed. No, I’m not referring to the changes one sees from generation to generation, I’m talking about what it was like to parent a mere 10 years ago.You know what we didn’t have then? Smartphones. Tablets. Phablets. Screen time.Today many of us sleep with our smart phones at the ready (if not under our pillows... more
My first frenemy
There’s a good chance you’ve been hanging with “play groups” since before your child could even roll over. There are so many wonderful ways for parents to connect with peers and likewise expose babies to other babies — even if all that looks like is a small cluster of floor blankets with infants independently exploring their own toes.... more
Blessed with love
“This is my favorite, favorite thing to do,” said doula Sarah Longacre, owner of Blooma, as she invited Minneapolis mom-to-be Mia Como to take the center seat in the circle of women gathered for her Mother Blessing. “It’s different than anything else we do at Blooma — and different than anything we do in the United States — to... more
When toddlers want to 'help'
Perhaps the thought occurred to you with a sharp headache and a grimace, as your toddler sweetly asked, “Can I help?”Maybe you were shamed when — at the neighborhood barbecue — a handful of other parents were already talking about allowance. What? Before potty training?Sometimes the subject comes up when we’re faced with a sudden request... more
Big feelings for toddlers
Parenting a toddler can be — at times — tumultuous, exhausting, frustrating, even farcical. And that’s on a good day! They throw tantrums, they poop their pants, they declare independence when — and only when — you’re running late and don’t have time for them to pick out and put on their own clothes. It’s a wild ride, to say... more
Six sweet scoops
Is there anything better than sitting outside with an ice cream cone on a hot summer day? This ritual gives us a moment to pause, to stop and smell the lady slippers, to perhaps reclaim some unplugged family time, to look back on our own good old days of summer.We don’t go out for ice cream to sustain the... more
Repeat after me? Um, no.
My son was 2, approaching 3, when he made what is still one of his most iconic declarations. We were trying out Guitar Hero on the Wii and it was his turn to muddle through Pat Benatar. In Pull-Ups, no less, he strapped on the faux guitar and turned to me: “Mama, I’m gonna rock this and you better f***ing clap.”So many emotions,... more
Toddler activities your way
Take a browse through the local parks-and-rec or community ed brochures and you’ll be amazed, if not completely overwhelmed. Our wonderful Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs offer an extensive array of enrichment opportunities for the whole family. Talk to your neighbors and you’ll hear many parents breathlessly list off team... more
Top 10 date nights
Sometimes, in order to put our best parenting foot forward, we need to engage in a little self-care. Care for the romantic relationship, in particular, is often overlooked and goes a long way in terms of refreshing parental energy and creating a family environment that’s both happy and connected.Here are 10 Twin Cities date-night... more
Baby carriers 101
Parents and grandparents around the world have been wearing infants for centuries, using a variety of slings, wraps and other contraptions. Though the practice is only just becoming a mainstream habit in modern Western culture, companies are offering a dizzying array of devices that allow parents to easily carry children from the... more
Make-believe and marmosets again?
A friend of mine recently confessed, “I don’t have the make-believe gene. I love my kid, but I don’t like to play with him.” While I consider this mama to be one of the very best I know and saw absolutely no shame in her confession, I felt something shamefully “superior” inside. Pride? Relief? Accomplishment?I consider... more
Free-range kids?
We’ve all seen those Facebook posts and chain emails that recall a simpler childhood — free of cell phones and full of outdoor adventures with boundaries in the form of a neighbor’s corner lot and the end of play time determined by the street lamps flickering on at dusk. We look back fondly on biking to school and epic games of tag... more
STILL nursing? (You're not alone)
Though the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding to a minimum age of 2 and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 1 year and beyond, as is mutually desired by mother and child, only 27 percent of U.S. mothers — of the 76.5 percent who breastfed to begin with — are still nursing at 12 months, according to the AAP... more
Breaking down the baby registry
Setting up your baby registry? Here’s what to splurge on, what to skip, plus a few outside-the-box ideas.You might not need it, but you'll love it. Blooming BathThis soft, colorful flower-shaped pad ($40) turns your kitchen sink into a baby bath. It later serves as a bathtub cushion for bigger babies — a simple solution to the... more
Where should you give birth?
The Twin Cities supports a uniquely vibrant birthing community. There are dozens of seasoned home-birth midwives, a handful of free-standing birth centers in the metro and surrounding areas and several hospitals striving to be more mom-baby friendly every day.Add to that an unusually concentrated pocket of maternity and postpartum... more
Giddy up!
Every summer, campers at Sunnyside Stables Horse Camp get lots of opportunities to ride horses. Thanks to indoor and outdoor riding arenas — as well as horseback riding trails on 75 rolling acres in rural Rosemount — kids ride every day, rain or shine. But they also get horse experience that goes far beyond “giddy up.”... more
Winter sanity: Part 2
Technically, the first day of spring falls on March 20.But, in Minnesota, we won’t hold our breath. Around here, March is “in like a lion” and out like a nasty slush pile with a chance of blizzard. We’ve seen snowflakes fall into our Cinco de Mayo margaritas in the past. We’ve packed up the winter coats only to drag them out again a... more
Your new frontier: Discipline!
It can be an uncomfortable transition — from “you are my most precious little baby and I will never deny you anything” to “OK, I think we need to go over some rules.” The change often starts with an incident and an impulsive response — perhaps an unexpected step into the street resulting in a resounding, “NO!” Or maybe a crayon to... more
Choosing a child-care path
Whether you’re considering hiring a neighborhood babysitter for the occasional date night or a full-time daycare center for your return to work, finding the right child-care provider is an overwhelming endeavor — and likely one of the most important parenting decisions you’ll face.After all, this is your child! Of course you want to... more
Surviving the unthinkable
As parents, you expect to raise your child through many bumps and bruises, nightmares, broken curfews and broken hearts, triumphs and aspirations.These expectations begin during pregnancy. Excitedly you begin to stockpile teeny-tiny onesies, board books, even middle names.Loss of a child — whether in miscarriage, stillbirth, infancy,... more
Om with me, baby
If yoga  brings balance, confidence, strength and — most important — calm to the whirling lives of busy adults, could it cool down fighting siblings? Squelch toddler tantrums? Smooth the tempestuous moods of teens and adolescents? Miraculously … yes!Moving and breathing mindfully, connecting body and brain, can indeed help with... more
Stay sane this winter
Minnesota winters, in general, aren’t easy! The meteorologist seems to mock you, relishing buzzwords such as polar vortex, La Niña and — shudder — thunder snow. As you’ve perhaps realized by now, a Minnesota winter with a toddler is an even nastier beast, with temperatures too dangerous for adult human exposure, let alone your child... more
The spoiling curve
Among the many, many things you swore to yourself while waiting to become parents — including but not limited to no screen time, no Dora, no yelling, no sweets — top on the list of good intentions was “no spoiling.” You would raise a well-mannered and thoughtful child. One who says “please” and “thank you,” holds doors open for... more
Toddler Times Two? I Salute You
Toddler parents: There are some among you who deserve a special shout-out. You’re warriors of a different distinction. I’m talking about those of you who have not one but two or — have mercy — three toddlers.Perhaps your “perfect” pink-hued, albeit over-romanticized, pre-pregnancy vision included two angelic little girls — one year apart... more
The power of early childhood music education
Shakespeare called it “the food of love.” It can calm nerves, ignite passions and sooth a broken heart. It’s a part of nearly every celebration and ceremony. Some might call it the common language of our world. What would your favorite movie be without it? What would life be without it?We’re talking, of course, about music.And it’s... more
Toddler meets baby: Sibling love?
My daughter was 2 when her brother was born. I did a million things wrong and a few things right, or so it seemed at the time.  I involved her in the pregnancy. I read the “new baby” picture books. I took time — precious, bleary-eyed time — just days after his birth to sit with her and do puzzles. She got a new sandbox “from... more
Surviving colic
Your baby cries. That’s normal, of course. But what if your baby really cries? A lot. And you begin to hear repeatedly — when in the presence of grandmothers, opinionated observers and even your pediatrician — the word “colic.”The Mayo Clinic defines colic as predicable periods of distress in an otherwise healthy... more
Preschool: Just think about it
Preschool. What are you thoughts, Toddler Parent? Wait … let me guess: Is he ready? Am I? My sister-in-law has been on the waiting list since her second trimester: Does that make me a slacker? Potty training! Does he even have to GO to preschool? Can’t we just hang out here like we always have? Montessori kind of freaks me out... more
Birthday party bliss
A child’s birthday celebration seems to bring — to the parent — a unique mix of excitement and dread. You pitch, you plan, you budget. You try to reconcile your preconceived notions of “special occasion” and “spoiled rotten.” You deal with the child’s changing mind and ever-changing moods. You struggle to create a day to remember,... more
Potty training: The SATs of toddler parenting
Potty training is like the SATs of toddler parenting — hard, confusing, exhausting, sometimes pointless. Getting through successfully allows you to move on to bigger and better things, but your memories afterward are disjointed and hazy. There are books, boot camps, videos, trained professionals, singing toilet seats, sticker... more
Tummy time made easy
In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics started encouraging parents to lay healthy infants younger than 1 on their backs for sleep rather than on their side or stomach. In 1994, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development joined in the public education effort with its “Back to Sleep” campaign. The goal was to reduce... more
Soak it up: Your best bets for summer fun!
Ah, to be a Minnesota parent. We white-knuckle it through some of the longest, hardest winters in the country, daydreaming of long days outdoors without fear of frostbite — green spaces galore, bicycle rides with the kids, bucking the confines of our four walls, thick boots and oh-so-many layers. Then we hit July. With stubborn... more
Your child's emerging personality
Before motherhood, I maintained a normal, healthy relationship with dinosaurs. I mean, I’d been to the natural history museums in New York and D.C., as well as the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. I’ve seen huge finds — fossils and murals — and tour guides stage-whispering, “Can you even imagine a living creature THIS tremendous?”... more
'Try It' and error: 'Picky' eaters
They go from breast or bottle to something mashed and messy — big grins and sticky hands. They examine individual peas and black beans before giving them a taste. They delight in the rite-of-passage, first-birthday frosting face; and they want to try everything on your plate.And then, one day — suddenly and without warning — bananas are... more
‘No!’ and ‘uh-oh’: talking safety
During the toddler years, you move from baby to big kid, from baby-wearing to holding hands, from “Ah goo” to “No!” complete with foot stomping. This new independence is breathtaking, in every sense of the word. You clap, hoot and holler as your child jumps into the pool — your loving arms outstretched and waiting, heart beating... more
Earth Day the toddler way
With Earth Day approaching, you might be wondering how to involve your toddler in the ecological discussion. They are old enough now to enjoy some Earth Day events, participate in eco-friendly habits such as recycling, and even start to see that their world goes beyond your finished basement.“Now wait, Jen,” some of you might say, “we... more
The importance of creative play
There is a sweet duality in the developing toddler brain — boundless imagination alongside a tendency to be extremely literal. We ask them not to actually eat the dusty, colorful fallen leaves on the ground and later make a “garden salad.” Or we watch as they stare — perplexed — at the dark sky, after the announcement that it’s... more
Living with the Hulk
Tan-trum [tan-truh m] noun. A demonstration of rage or frustration; a sudden burst of ill temper. Synonymous with: the toddler years.Toddlers are cute, cuddly, and hilarious—a barrel of fun and wonder and butterfly kisses. They are also miniature versions of the Incredible Hulk—easily provoked and instantly transformed from a total... more
Double Wow
Seeing double? You’re not alone. Today, 1 in 30 newborns is a twin. So, it’s common—sort of. I saw a woman walk out of the ultrasound room after learning that there was an actual gathering of babies in her womb. She looked—at once—both enchanted and also stricken, so clearly thinking, “Wow. Wow, wow, wow. This is going to be hard.”... more
Amazing
I often find myself fascinated; observing what I feel are perhaps my natural habitat’s most incredible creatures: toddlers—and their parents.Seriously. I stand there in the coffee aisle at Target, head tilted, watching as a mother explains—for at least the fifteenth time—that, “the shopping cart is not, in fact, a racecar…Honey."Mouth... more
Beyond the first 40 days: Rejoining the real world with baby
For me, it was a Mommy & Me exercise class at the Chesapeake, Virginia hospital where my daughter was born. I’d received a flyer in my discharge packet: Get Back Out There! Get in Shape! (*And bring a doctor’s note giving you permission to resume exercise.)I was late, of course, because Baby Girl wanted to nurse when she wanted... more
Let’s talk about (postpartum) sex
It is, after all, how you got into this mess in the first place.An evening walk, a talk until sunrise, a glass of wine, and that song on the jukebox. Infatuation, love, commitment, sex. This is how it happens.Romance, relationship, and the physical expression of both is what—essentially—brings about parenthood and yet, those very things... more
Back to work after baby
Although renewed autonomy and adult interaction found at work can be a welcome relief from the complexities of postpartum life, most women find picking up the briefcase or returning to the keyboard after maternity leave is at least somewhat stressful. Naturally, it’s tough to leave your baby. Of course you will feel (often) exhausted and... more
Honoring the fourth trimester
Often, it starts with a little white stick. Hands shakily open the thick foil wrapper; a woman—too anxious to consider dignity—aims, as best she can, for the small, dense receptor.It is a messy, memorable right of passage followed by a glacially paced three minutes. In those three minutes, she might bounce back and forth—several times—... more
Birth is a big deal
 // Processing your birth story //Childbirth is at once a common event, and also a pivotal moment of unparalleled intensity. Transformative, heartbreaking, trying, exquisite. Torturous, euphoric, primal, enlightening. These are all words often used to describe something that happens globally four times per second. I... more