About the Author · Learning 101 · Op-Ed · What's Going On

Op-Ed: Oh legitimate news stories – where are you?

Lately I’ve been hearing the under-the-breath grumblings from Americans who are curious to know where they can read legitimate news stories.  Oh what, your Facebook news feed isn’t cutting it anymore?  Seriously, according to my students this quarter social media is where they get most of their daily news.   Apparently it’s true for most Americans.  During the 2016 presidential election many voters chose their candidate based on what they read on Facebook. In a September 2016 article from The Washington Post, How Facebook could swing the election – and who will benefit “Facebook can influence millions of votes by the literal press of a button,” said Michael Brand, a professor of data science at Monash University in Australia.

What is really interesting to me about this topic now in 2017 is that if everyone actually cared about the news they were reading 6-12 months ago, we wouldn’t be having this uneasy feeling to start fact checking everything we read now, including from our most reliable news sources.  I know I don’t like walking around not knowing what just happened in Washington D.C. to the country I love and not knowing what’s the next big news story just around the corner.

In an effort to educate myself and our household, my husband and I agreed we needed to invest in more trustworthy news sources to help educate ourselves with factual news.  We agreed that The Washington Post and The New York Times seem to have the most credible stories with multiple sources being cited in their stories on a regular basis.  I did some research and found that I was able to get a FREE subscription to The Washington Post and a discount subscription to The New York Times because I am an educator.  I applaud these news sources for allowing educators and others to obtain their news with such access.

I feel our current President has put us on a news roller coaster since his inauguration, which is extremely exhausting to follow at times.  While I may not agree with the policies the President has put into place, I feel it is my duty as a tax paying, voting American citizen to educate myself on what is happening to MY country.  I vowed a long time ago to take social responsibility online and to not share any news stories on social media that are nonfactual and not vetted by a credible news source.  I would like to challenge all social media moguls (i.e. Mark Zuckerberg) to make it part of your user online rights and responsibilities to have all your users check off on a “online social responsibility policy”.  There are policies in place that you cannot use online images without the permission of the creator of the image, (and yes thank you to everyone who keeps cutting and pasting the same “rumor” FB policy from 2009), I believe that everyone who wants to help make a more educated and informed society to take the same online social responsibility pledge with me.  I ask everyone to have more accountability online when posting new stories and to not repost anything from a non-credible source.

But realistically money drives our world.  What amount of advertising dollars would Facebook and other social media sites loose if their fake news sources couldn’t post on their website anymore?  What would society be if online trolls who like to stir the pot with fearful posts about what is not actually happening in our country or worldwide do with all their free time?  Wasn’t the internet created for us to share more information at our fingertips and to keep people in touch, but has since torn friendships and families apart?  Take responsibility for your posts, delete them if you think they are untrue, follow up with educated responses when you find someone who is not like-minded as you, and learn to listen more than you speak (or post).

About the Author · Family · What's Going On

Is Maternity Leave Really Over Already?

How does 40 weeks waiting for a baby to arrive take an eternity but 12 weeks (sleep-deprived) while caring for a newborn go by so quickly?  Ah, America!  While I appreciate the 12 weeks that I am “allowed” to take off work from my employer to care for my newborn child, who just started sleeping through the night at 10 weeks, the thought of going back to the daily grind of work is met with mixed emotions.

For us, a lot has happened between Halloween – MLK day.  Here are some highlights: My parents sold our childhood home, moved to a new 55+ condo community and both retired! Our second son was born and baptized and has brought great joy to everyone in our family.  We also bought a new car, well actually a new minivan which I am thrilled about! My husband and I both celebrated our birthdays and we had tons of Christmas / winter holiday fun.

I had this grand plan in my head that because it was my second child I was so ready to really be productive on maternity leave.  You know, unpack boxes from when we moved over the summer, organize my file cabinets, update baby #1’s baby book before baby #2 arrives… ha, yeah right.  Clearly I forgot that I also have a toddler who is my shadow, always wanting to know and see EVERYTHING his Momma is doing while also caring for a newborn.  As you can imagine, I learned and appreciated quite a lot while on my 2nd (and final) maternity leave.  Here are the highlights:

Colicky Babies DO Exist!

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I actually thought this was just something people said when they had a fussy baby. BOY WAS I WRONG! About 3 weeks after our son’s birth he was crying all the time and nothing would console him.  I tried everything to calm him down.  While working on my “I don’t want to compare my two boys” language in my head I really couldn’t have had two more opposite newborns, despite the fact that they look identical.

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Jimmy on the left and Marty on the right – both at 12 hours old. 

After two weeks of trying to change formulas and adjusting my techniques on how to comfort our son, I finally went in to see the doctor.  My exact words to the doctor were, “I don’t want to be one of those parents who says my child won’t stop crying…but my child won’t stop crying”.  He informed me that he’s probably a little colicky, potentially having a bout of acid reflux and gave us a few tricks to try, but ultimately he said that “this too shall pass.” Those words were like throwing gasoline on the fire to sleep deprived parents.  Looking back, I’m so glad we went to the doctor.  Lesson learned: having some piece of mind when parenting is key, even if you don’t have all the answers. It gave my husband and I some piece of mind to know that yes, you have a screaming baby, but you are doing everything you can – and that’s the best you can do.  And yes, the doctor was correct –  about two weeks after our visit our son turned a corner, the screaming stopped and he has been a very good baby since.

Sometimes you’re in survival mode, and that’s okay.

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I know there were days when my parenting dos and don’ts were totally mixed up.  If our toddler wanted to play games for a while on his tablet so I could sit down and have lunch – sure! Actually questioning when was the last time I had a shower or “did I really just have my 5th cup of coffee today?” – common place when you’re in survival mode! Yes, I realize that you need to take care of yourself in order to be a good parent for your child, but sometimes just getting to nap time with the kids or reaching the end of the day without a blowout diaper was the greatest accomplishment.  Lesson learned: everything in moderation is key to keeping balance in our household.  A little time on the tablet when requested was just enough to keep a little toddler happy (and Mommy could enjoy her one a day cup of coffee in peace).

Appreciate the little things in life – like wine and dates

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There were a few days when I would tell my husband I just needed to get out of the house for a bit.  As this maternity leave was in the winter months, cabin fever was raging in our home for everyone.  Taking time to leave the house to shop at Target alone or to get a mani/pedi were far and few between but extremely appreciated when I did them.  I felt like ME again.  I am used to leaving the house at 7am for work and not arriving home until close to 5pm.  Those hours on my commute to and from work and my lunch break were always ME hours.  Having that little ME time when I was able to was and is still clearly something I need to keep my sanity. Date nights were few and far between but we were able to sneak away from the boys to see Rogue One and have dinner at Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Chicago. Lesson learned: Needing to take time away from being parents while still taking care of yourself and your spouse will refresh everything.

A strong circle of other parents is key.

When I was pregnant with my first child and I was trying to put together my baby shower registry, I had posted on Facebook asking what essentials do you need / not need for a new baby?  Once I read all the responses from my post I was totally overwhelmed.  I learned that if I have a question related to a hot button issue of parenting, a text, call or email might be a better form of communication.  Thankfully my husband and I have a good circle of parent friends who are able to share parenting successes and failures about our kids without judgement.  Viewing other people’s posts on group discussion boards or on your own Facebook feed regarding their children can be daunting and really not give you the outcome you desired.  Lesson learned: Trust your instinct regarding your kids.  Every time I have done this my gut has not steered me wrong, including the time when I thought my toddler was having explosive diarrhea from teething with his two-year molars which was the case (and is totally a post for another day).

Kindness of strangers should never be dismissed.

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After our youngest son was born (and he gave us a little scare in the NICU) I returned back to my church to become a regular attendee in mass.  My lack of attending mass had nothing to do with losing my faith in God or anything, I would like to have categorized myself as a lazy catholic. It seemed like such a chore to attend weekly mass when I could just pray daily at home. After much self-reflection, I decided I needed to go back to the roots that my parents instilled in me and start attending mass on a weekly basis.  During our family’s first trip back to mass, I had the good fortune to be greeted after mass by a woman from the parish named Meg who was the group leader for a tiny tot program hosted by the parish on Friday mornings. Meg invited us to participate in the program and our toddler has loved every second of being a part of the class. I call Meg our little angel who in her own sweet way guided our family back to church. I could have just dismissed her kind offer of inviting us to the class, but I’m glad I didn’t. Thank you, Meg, I am forever grateful for your kindness and I hope to pay it forward one day.  Lesson learned:  reflect upon who you were, where you’ve come from and what you’ve become in order to shape your future self. 

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During this maternity leave, I’ve learned to appreciate all the little things that life has to offer.  The boxes in the basement are still not unpacked, the file cabinet is still a mess, and yes the boys baby books are still unfinished.  And it’s okay! Someone once told me that the days are long but the years are short – and that totally rings true for us.  As a Mom, I’m lucky that each day is a blessing, a challenge and a new learning opportunity.  My thought for today – smile through the spit-ups that just landed on your new dress before work, as they are only little for so long. 🙂

About the Author · Op-Ed · What's Going On

Op-Ed: What the National Women’s March and Movement Means to Me 

I tend not to share on social media my personal politic views, as I don’t want to start an argumentative conversation behind a keyboard.  But while posting a video of today’s live feed from CNN showing how many people showed up in Chicago for today’s rally and march, I had a FB friend who seemed to think that today’s march was a bunch of “cry babies” and that today’s will “accomplish nothing” and to “get over it”.  Being an educator by nature I feel like I need to explain what today’s movement really means to thousands of Americans.  Hence why I am hitting the keyboard (extremely aggressively) to have my voice be heard.  Note this is NOT to open the door to an argumentative conversation but an op-ed piece to share my point of view.

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First of all, I want to thank all the #nastywomen and #WomensMarch brigade who hit the pavement this weekend.  I loved your signs, your pictures and videos you shared online.  Thousands of men, women, children, marched to show solidarity of one thing – THEY WANT TO BE HEARD.  Similar to how many of American had Exercised their first amendment right to assemble for years, so have they.

Right To Assemble

The right to assemble is intricately related to the formation and growth of the philanthropic sector because it answers the need to come together, share common beliefs, and act upon those beliefs (concepts that have been so essential to this sector’s creation). Groups form for many purposes, from reform movements (the Civil War, women’s suffrage, the struggle for civil rights) to charitable organizations that meet specific needs (e.g., the American Red Cross) to churches, mosques and synagogues

What is bothering me today is the lack of education and pure ignorance on the part of many American who don’t quite understand what The National Women’s March is and what it stands for.  So let me share my perspective on what today’s movement means to me.

I am writing to frame today’s march as a movement.  I would hate to see the days spent by thousands across the country in preparation for today as only seen as a march.  I view today’s movement as an awaking to an ideology of a paradigm shift towards understanding the concerns of all Americans, especially the concerns facing all women living in this country.  I am a daughter, wife, mother, aunt, educator and friend who I would like to do my part in helping create a momentum in sharing this movement beyond this weekend.

20 years ago when I graduated high school I viewed the world very differently.  My goal in life at 18 was to go to college, get a degree, getting married and have kids.  Through expanding my horizons in college and the years beyond, I was given the ability to see the world through a difference lense.  Through the past 20 years I have faced injustices in the workplace, unfair pay because of my gender, reproductive challenges, observed friends who have been denied access to affordable health care due to a predetermined medical condition, and the list goes on and on. While everyone faces different adversities in their lifetime, being ignorant to the challenges of those around you is unacceptable, especially if you have been awarded the presidency of the United State and you represent a country which s made up of people who are facing such adversities.

Ad I sit here my kitchen of my home, a well-educated mother of two healthy boys, while my loving and supportive husband is at the grocery store it occurs to me there are no traditional gender roles in our home.  Daily we share the duties on who cooks the meals for the day, who takes care of the kids, does the laundry and grocery shopping.  We are a united team in our household and I wish this model could be shared across the country in ever home and workplace.

So what can you do to make your mark on the movement?  Volunteer in your community.  Share your talents with the less fortunate not just your opinions.  Make known your voice not just in words but in actions too.  Get informed on local and national politics through credible news sources and practice social responsibility in person and on social media.  Fore more ideas and information on this movement, please visit their website at https://www.womensmarch.com/.

 

About the Author · Family · Health & Wellness · What's Going On

What I’m Thankful for in 2016

While I’ve been a little MIA the past few weeks, it’s all for a good reason.  On October 26th, my husband, our son (and new big brother) Jimmy and I welcomed a new little member to our family, Martin “Marty” John Reaney at Prentice Women’s Hospital at Northwestern Medicine. Marty was so excited to meet his new family that he came into this world super fast arriving at 7:07am weighing in a 7 lb, 14 oz and 21 inches long.

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As many of you are aware, I take daily blood thinners to prevent any blood clots and because of this I was induced for Marty’s arrival.  We arrived at Prentice at 1:30AM and, after checking-in and getting settled in the L&D room, my IV and Pitocin was started about 3:30AM.  After the contractions became unbearable, I asked the nurse to have the anesthesiologist issue my epidural at about 5:30AM.  About an hour into the epidural I started to think that it wasn’t working because I was having some major pains, but unbeknownst to me it was because Marty was trying to arrive on his own.  My doctor barely arrived in time to deliver the baby!  I labored from start to finish about 3 hours and barely pushed three times before he shot out of me!  Because his arrival was so quick he developed a grunting, which sounded like a soft wheezing sound, due to the amniotic fluid still in his lungs.  While we thought this sweet sound was cute for about the first hour, when it lasted more than 10 hours post-birth, the pediatric team said it was actually caused from fluid in his lungs which usually would have passed within an hour or two post-birth.

Since Marty was still making this grunting sound, the pediatric team admitted him to the NICU for observation until he was discharged from the hospital 48 hours later. While his oxygen and blood levels were completely normal, the NICU started him on two antibiotics via an IV to prevent any infection he might be fighting off, which was another possible cause of the grunting sound.  After his lab work came back all clear, he was finally released from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

We had a few more bumps in the road medically during Marty’s first weeks (i.e. tongue tie which sent us on an ENT visit to Lurie, an abnormal newborn screen blood test which required four days of isolation at home until the test results came back normal–which they did–and the return of the grunting sound which is the result of his esophagus muscles still developing which is also normal). All of these little bumps in the road had me praying a lot to God and all my angels to make sure our little “Miracle Marty” was safe and healthy, and I have also returned to regular mass attendance (which is a post for another day).

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While each year I am so blessed and thankful for my family and friends, who are the best support system I could have ever imagined, this year I am truly thankful for the medical caregivers in my life.  I am so thankful my OB/GYN, my hematologist and our pediatric offices are all connected on the Northwestern system and talk to each other on a pretty regular basis.  I never have to explain my medical history because everyone seems to already know my “case” and is informed on all my medical issues.  Over the past month I have received many calls and follow-up calls directly from my doctors checking in on how I’m doing and how Marty is doing.  It has been overwhelming, and delightfully comforting, to be known as a patient in a large medical practice, not just a number.  Thank you so much to all the caregivers in my life, but especially the unnamed staff and faculty of Northwestern Lurie and Prentice hospitals who continue to give the best care to my little family.  You have made this family so very blessed!

Happy Thanksgiving to All – Love:  Colleen, John, Jimmy & Marty Reaney


 

What's Going On

Must See TV: Something New to DVR

I recently had a friend post on FB the following status, “HELP! I’m in a tv show rut. What’s your must not miss show right now?”  Have no fear, Beth, I’m hear to be your 30-something TV Guide.

As a busy adult, (i.e. wife, mom, FT job, PT professor, blogger…) I don’t have much time to watch TV. So I rely heavily on my DVR to record shows I might be interested in watching at a later date. Now, my husband and I have an agreement (which im pretty sure were in my wedding vows) that I can DVR anything I want, as long as I don’t fill the memory with reality TV or shows from Bravo – seems fair.

Each fall I go online to read new show reviews to see what might be of interest to me.   Then I start setting the DVR for series recordings without reruns. Now, being totally realistic, I don’t get to all the shows I set to record due to lack of time in the week as I tend to watch my DVR’d shows during my son’s nap time on the weekends. Some shows that were recorded but I didn’t have time to watch were Quantico and Heroes Reborn.

I do, however, have a few selections which I never miss so, to help my friend out with her TV blues, my absolute must-see shows are listed below. I’d also like to point out that these are mostly shows on basic or extended cable packages. Even with 200+ channels, I like sticking to my basics.

American Crime Wednesday 9:00PM CT – ABC

I intended to watch this show last year because I’m a huge fan of anything Regina King is signed on for, but I never got around to it in its first season.  This time I really made a point to watch this show, especially because of this season’s storyline (which pushes the boundaries of our socio-economic comfort-zones).  If you’re not familiar with the show, each season the show takes on a new challenge facing America, the returning actors play completely different characters, and the setting and storyline changes from year to year.  Here is brief overview of this year’s storyline from the ABC website:

The second season of American Crime is set in the U.S. Midwest, representative of the canvas that is America, at two high schools, one public and one private.

Issues of sexual orientation and socioeconomic disparity come to a boil when lurid photos of a high school boy, Taylor Blaine, are posted on social media following a school party. Circumstances become more complicated when Taylor accuses two players on an elite private high school’s championship basketball team, Kevin LaCroix and Eric Tanner, of drugging, assaulting and then posting the pictures of him online. The team’s head coach, Dan Sullivan, tries to unite the players, while overlooking the dysfunction of his own family. Headmistress Leslie Graham struggles to maintain the school’s reputation in the face of accusations of privilege and cover up.

Taylor’s mother, Anne, remains a steadfast supporter of her son, despite being publicly assailed by the school’s wealthy families, principle among them the LaCroixs. Taylor’s girlfriend, Evy, deals with racial tension at her own school, led by Principal Chris Dixon. While the two schools at the center of the story are worlds apart in status, the lives of the students and teachers at both become inextricably linked.

Ultimately, support for Taylor comes from an unlikely place – a person who Taylor and his mother have never previously met, and who inhabits the fringes of the online community.

“American Crime” stars Felicity Huffman as Leslie Graham, Timothy Hutton as Dan Sullivan, Lili Taylor as Anne Blaine, Elvis Nolasco as Chris Dixon, Trevor Jackson as Kevin LaCroix, Connor Jessup as Taylor Blaine, Joey Pollari as Eric Tanner, Angelique Rivera as Evy Dominguez and Regina King as Terri LaCroix.

Recurring guest stars this season include Andre Benjamin as Michael LaCroix, Hope Davis as Steph Sullivan and Richard Cabral as Sebastian De La Torre.

“American Crime” is created and executive-produced by Oscar®-winner John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”). Michael J. McDonald also serves as executive producer. “American Crime” is produced by ABC Studios.

Jane the Virgin Mondays 8:00PM CT – CW (Local Chicago WGN channel 9)

This is one of my favorite shows from the fall of 2014 and is still going strong.  Long, LONG story short Jane is a virgin who went in to the OB/GYN for her annual pap and was accidentally artificially inseminated…with a millionaire’s baby.  That plot line alone piqued my interest!  If you’re new to the series, the show always gives the audience a little recap in the beginning to catch you up on anything you missed a-la telenovela style. Will this show still be around next year?  I think so and it helps that Chicago native Gina Rodriguez, who plays the lead character Jane, has won a few awards, including a Golden Globe, which I hope helps keep the show on the air for a while.

Life in Pieces Thursdays 7:30PM CT – CBS

The storytelling on this show is great.  It’s about a larger extended family with each episode having four different story lines, all going on at the same time, broken into quartiles over the 30-minute episode (as opposed to the typical structure of alternating between the main story and the sub-plot).  My husband and I are guaranteed to have more than a couple laugh-out-loud moments as we watch this underrated-but-stacked cast, which includes James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, Colin Hanks and Thomas Sadoski from The Newsroom.  Here is a brief overview, according to the CBS website:

LIFE IN PIECES is a single-camera comedy about one big happy family and their sometimes awkward, often hilarious and ultimately beautiful milestone moments as told by its various members. Of the three siblings, middle child Matt may have just found his true love, his co-worker, Colleen; his coddled youngest brother, Greg, and his wife, Jen, are overwhelmed by the birth of their first child; and the eldest, Heather, and her husband, Tim, are dreading their impending empty nest so much, they’re considering having another baby. Their parents are Joan, the family’s adoring matriarch who would do anything for her kids – as long as she agrees with it – and John, the gregarious patriarch who’s searching for ways to soften the blow of turning 70. As the family’s lives unfold in four short stories each week, they try to savor these little pieces of time that flash by but stay with you forever, because these moments add up to what life’s all about.

Younger Wednesdays 9:00PM CT – TV Land

I. LOVE. THIS. SHOW.  I truly believe this show is what has been missing since Friends, 90210 and Sex in the City all went off the air.  The Executive Producer is Darren Star so you know this show is going to be extremely entertaining.  The best way I can explain this show is that it’s about 40 year old housewife who finds herself recently divorced and needing to reenter the workforce. Relying on her past skills in the publishing world, she decides to lie about her age and say she’s in her 20’s and pray that no one suspects she not a millennial…that is until is all starts to unravel at the end of season one.  Season two just started this month and it’s amazing!

Sadly, I think I could’ve added a review for the ample amount of “Super Why!” episodes that are clogging the current DVR memory, but I’ll save my kid show reviews for another day.

So what show are you watching this season?  Feel free to add in any additional show that you think others should be watching too!

 

Education · Family · What's Going On

Parent & Tot classes for Working Moms

As a working parent, I wanted to make sure that I’m giving 100% to my son as if I was home with him all day long.  During the winter months, I’m noticing that cabin fever is starting to settle in on my little toddler who needs room to run, play and be a kid.  While there are some park districts and private community organizations that offer classes for kids over the age of 3, finding classes for 1-3 year old toddlers is extremely challenging, especially for nights and weekends as well as finding something nearby.  Recently I’ve been in contact with Rory Halperin who is the Editor-in-Chief at Mommy Nearest.

Mommy Nearest is the fastest growing mobile community for parents and caregivers in the United States. We believe in forming consensus when it comes to the places that we take our children and that the opinion of the masses outweighs that of the individual. We encourage our community of parents and caregivers to share their experiences with others so that, at the end of the day, we can all make the best decisions for our children.

Rory and I recently emailed about how working moms lament on parenting blogs that it is challenging to find Mommy & Me classes that accommodate after work or weekend schedules.  Another challenge I’ve personally encountered was that many websites were not updated with the most recent information when searching for dates/times when their classes were offered. So you may need to do a little research to see what tot classes might be the best for you and your little toddler.

I recently found a few classes in Chicago’s southwest suburbs which I’d like to share with local parents to help combat the winter cabin fever that you and your kids might be facing (I’ve listed the evening and weekend times for the working moms, but other dates and times are available for these programs).

Evergreen Park Recreation Department – Mom & Tots classes (Dads always welcome!)

A comprehensive gym and movement experience designed to allow the child, with the help of the parent, to learn basic stretching and flexibility exercises. Also, movement education principles to increase balance, coordination and body awareness. These classes include songs, finger exercises and equipment exploration, as well as socialization for the children. Classes held at the Community Center (3450 W. 97th Street).
Classes start Weds. Feb. 3rd.
Fee: 8 week class. Residents – $50.00, Non-Residents  -$55.00
For ages 13 (must be walking) – 27 months Wednesdays: 6:00—6:45 P.M.
For ages 28 to 48 months Saturdays: 10:15—11:00 A.M.

Frankfort Park District – Family Swim

Get out of the cold and join us indoors for swimming! Registration is done at the door at the Lincoln-Way East Aquatic Center.  Children 18 & under must be accompanied by a parent/guardian.

Location:        Lincoln-Way East Aquatic Center
Day:                Sundays
Dates:             Jan. 10, 17, 24 & 31  Feb. 7
Time:              2:00-4:00PM
Fee:                 $2 per child and $5 per adult.

You’ll notice that I’ve listed resident and non-resident fees.  I live in the City of Chicago, but many of the tot classes through the park district and private centers are during the day which don’t fit my work schedule.  I’m so grateful these classes are offered to non-residents for a very minimal additional fee.

There are other park districts in the south suburbs like Tinley Park, Orland Park and Palos Heights just to name a few.  Many of them, along with the Chicago Park District, have lots of classes for tots especially during the day and for kids 3 and over, but these classes fill up quickly.  When looking for classes check the dates offered and when registration opens.

Like in many different situations, you need to be your own advocate for your child. I would suggest calling to find out more information regarding parent and tot classes, especially with your local park district. If you see a class description for a class that would be of interested to your toddler, ask them if the class is really for kids over the age of 2.  If you have a 20 month old child who you feel has the skills and abilities to be successful in a particular class, speak up.  Bottom line, these toddlers need to stay active year-round and to get out of the house, so help get them involved!