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5 Ways to Keep Your Kid Busy with Craft Sticks

This year, I was lucky enough to take the summer off and spend some extra QT with my toddler. And in the beginning, it was pretty awesome. I’ve missed having endless amounts of time to spend hanging with him since I went back to work. That being said, we’ve been home eight weeks and I think we’re both ready to get back into the swing of things. I love my toddler, but DAMN, he’s exhausting. I’d pay serious cash for the ungodly amount of energy he possesses. At this point in the summer, we’ve pretty much done anything and everything that I could possibly come up with to keep him busy. With only a few days left, I’m scraping the barrel for ideas.

Lucky for me (insert sarcastic tone here), the kid woke up well before 6:00am today. That means I had a few extra hours to spend keeping him from jumping off staircases and swinging from the chandelier. So by 8:00am, I was desperate. I found a bag of craft sticks and challenged myself to find five ways to keep this kid entertained (hopefully for a length amount of time). If you’re lucky enough to have a busy baby like me, feel free to check out some of the awesome activities I came up with below.

1.) Craft Stick and Clothes Pin Color Match

I used markers to color the end of six or seven craft sticks. Then, I colored the ends of each clothespin with the same colors. I challenged my toddler to attach the clothespin to the craft stick that has the same color. He LOVED this game! In the beginning, I had to help him squeeze the clothespins, but he got it down. Great for color recognition and fine motor skills.

Craft Stick and Clothes Pin Color Match

Craft Stick and Clothes Pin Color Match

2.) Matching

Next, I took a bunch of craft sticks and colored simple designs on each one. I made sure to make pairs of each design that I drew. Then, I laid all of the sticks on the table and had my toddler pick a stick and then find the matching design to make pairs. He really loved this one, too, and we had fun taking turns to find matches. If your child is a little bit older, turn the crafts sticks over to hide the designs and take turns picking sticks to make matches, similar to the game Memory.

Craft Stick Matching

Craft Stick Matching

3.) The Name Game

Write your child’s name in large capital letters on a piece of paper. Write each letter of their name on the end of a craft stick. Have them match the craft sticks to the correct letter on the paper. If your child already knows how to spell their name, have them do it without the paper that has their name written on it.

The Name Game

The Name Game

4.) Counting Craft Sticks

Cut four small pieces of paper into squares. Write the number “1” and color one dot on the first piece. Write the number “2” and color two dots on the second piece, and so on. Have you child lay the correct number of craft sticks onto each piece of numbered paper.

Counting Craft Sticks

Counting Craft Sticks

5.) Craft Stick Puzzles

This was, by far, our favorite! Print out two copies of a simple picture from your computer. I chose a clip art photo of a dog. Lay out craft sticks onto one copy to determine how many you will need. Cut the picture so that the pieces can be glued onto the craft sticks. When it dries, give your child the second picture so that they know what they are trying to assemble. Give them the craft sticks and ask them to assemble them to make the picture.

Craft Stick Puzzles

Craft Stick Puzzles

Need even more ideas??

  • Write one letter of the alphabet on each craft stick. Have your child put them in ABC order.
  •  Write both capital and lowercase letters on craft sticks and have your child match the capital and lowercase letters.
  • Try writing a sight word on a craft stick. Write each letter of the word on clothespins and have your child clip the correct letters onto the stick.

 

After a rough morning, these games kept my kid from climbing the walls for about an hour! Oh, and I think he learned a thing or two, as well. I’ll take it! I hope you try some out and enjoy! Leave me a comment below if you have some more crazy craft stick ideas!

Bad Parenting Moments

Well, fellow mothers. The day has come. After many months spent dreading this one inevitable parenting moment, it finally happened. It was bad. It was worse that I had imagined. And if you are a parent, you might have an idea of what I’m referring to here. Maybe it’s even happened to you.

Yup. You got it. My kid puked ALLLLLL over the backseat of my car.

When my husband and I were deciding whether or not we should have a baby, we had a lot of fears. Were we ready? Would we be able to handle the responsibility of raising a child? Were we financial stable enough? And most importantly, what the fuck would we do if our kid puked? Who would clean that shit up???

Vomit is by far my worst fear in life. Just thinking about barfing makes me want to barf. I swear, I was scarred for life after watching that scene in The Sandlot where the kids are blowing chunks at the carnival after chewing tobacco. Screw being afraid of “The Beast,” that puking was more horrifying than anything I had ever seen in my eight-year-old life. I’m actually nauseous just thinking about it.

So back to my gruesome story. Last week, we were invited over to our friend’s house for a play date. My son was acting totally normal. Happy. Fine. No indication of what was to come. He was playing contently in his car seat, chugging apple juice (yeah……. It wasn’t the last time I was going to see that apple juice). He started getting pretty obnoxious towards the end of our drive, so I told him to settle down. He screamed once or twice, which was weird… I peeked in my rearview mirror but he looked fine. As we were pulling into my girlfriend’s neighborhood, I heard him yell that his stomach hurt. God, I wish I took that comment seriously. Within moments, he was hurling apple juice all over himself, the car seat, and the back seat of my car.

Luckily, we were almost in my friend’s driveway when this all went down. I’m pretty sure I had at least three minutes of complete parenting shock. I might have momentarily blacked out while trying to decide how to the hell to handle this situation. I jumped out of my car, called my friend from the driveway, and yelled at her to come outside with supplies – I needed bags, wipes, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc. (You know your friend is a good person when you make that kind of phone call and they actually come outside with all said supplies, no questions asked).

I cleaned everything up as much as I could without tossing my own cookies, plopped my son into the extra car seat that I just happened to have in my car that day (THANK GOD), and prayed to sweet Jesus that we would make it home before he puked again.

It was an intense drive home. I’m fairly certain that I ran at least three red lights and drove twice the speed limit. In my defense, there are two times that breaking traffic laws are totally acceptable: 1) when you are on your way to hospital with your wife who is in active labor and 2) when your kid is losing his lunch in the backseat of your car. And yes, I’m fully prepared to defend that in a court of law.

Thankfully, we made it home before my kid decided to engage in round two of ralphing. Actually, it turned out that his puking was a one hit wonder (THANK GOD). I spent the remainder of the day with nose plugs and rubber gloves, attempting to clean out the car seat and the back seat of my car, which is really an entirely different post of its own. FYI – assembling, washing, and reassembling a car seat is pretty much comparable to cracking the Da Vinci Code.

So all in all, we both survived (although my son and I are both equally traumatized). I’m pretty sure throwing up was one of the most confusing and scary experiences for my two year old (AND me). He will most likely talk about the back seat barfing every single day for the next six months and I have will nightmares about it for a similar time frame. I was lucky to have made it two and a half years vomit-free and I will spend every day praying to the parenting gods that it doesn’t happen again anytime soon.

And if it does, hopefully it will happen on Daddy’s watch.

Toddlers and Tricycles

When my son was a newborn, I was pretty much terrified to leave the house. Venturing into the world meant having to attempt diaper changing in public restrooms or trying to breastfeed a screaming baby in the middle of the mall without flashing a boob in front of a crowd of people. After two and a half years, I have finally mastered carting a kid around the world, but at the time, I wasn’t ready. So most days in the very beginning, we hung around the house.

Being home alone during my maternity leave quickly became monotonous, especially in the winter time when we couldn’t get outside very often. As soon as the weather changed, I was pumped to take my son for walks around the neighborhood in his stroller. Going for a walk was the perfect way for me to get out of the house without actually going anywhere too overwhelming. Plus, I felt the need to put that travel system stroller to good use considering it cost us almost as much as our monthly car payments combined.

Oh, how I miss those days. Sleepy baby in the stroller. Love it.

Oh, how I miss those days. Sleepy baby in the stroller.      Love it.

Morning walks with my son became part of our daily routine. Not only did it feel good to be outside, but I was happy to chat with just about any other adult that I might run into on those daily strolls. After many long hours in the house during the middle of winter, talking only to a newborn while my husband was at work, I could have chatted with mailman for days just for the sake of some adult interaction.

A year later, when my son was about 12 months old, I still loved taking him for walks. However, at that time, the purpose of strapping him into a stroller and taking a walk around the neighborhood was solely to take a break from chasing the kid all over the house. I had no idea how much shit a baby that age could actually get in to. I was spending the majority of my time trying to prevent him from crawling up the stairs, putting anything and everything in his mouth, and splashing in the dog’s water bowl – so getting out of the house for a walk was a life saver.

And then flash forward one more year – two years old. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to convince this kid to get anywhere NEAR a stroller. It’s like it finally dawned on him one day that he could actually boycott being strapped it to any kind of baby container. No more umbrella stroller, no more jogging stroller, he’s even tired of sitting in the wagon. I had to say goodbye to hundreds of dollars worth of strolling equipment. If we were going on a walk, he was going to WALK.

And then, he learned to pedal his bike.

Oh God, the bike. Where do I begin? I love the fact that he learned to ride his bike and there are some advantages to letting him ride over pushing him in the stroller. First of all, he almost always fell asleep in the stroller, so letting him bike is a good way to avoid too much snoozing while we were walking. Plus, pedaling a bike for several blocks throughout the neighborhood is an awesome way to burn off the unnatural amount of energy that a toddler possesses.

On the flip side, following my son around while he rides his bike has a few downfalls. First of all, this kid can ride. FAST. Picture me in my PJs, carrying my coffee mug, unwashed, unruly hair blowing in the wind as I chase my two year old up and down the street at 8:00am, screaming at him to stop when he gets to the street before crossing. It’s not a pretty sight. Sometimes he rides that damn bike so quickly down the driveway that his pedals spin too fast for him to keep his feet on them, which typically doesn’t end well. Needless to say, we bought the kid a helmet.

Sweet ass helmet, if you ask me.

Sweet ass helmet, if you ask me.

And then, other days, I swear to god, it takes him two hours to ride around the block. It’s like I have to drag his ass every inch of our trip, begging him to move faster. On these days, he likes to stop at every single tree, touch the trunk, and talk about the bark. He has to inspect every blade of grass as we pass by. We stop at EVERY damn fire hydrant and have the exact same conversation that we had yesterday (and the day before, and the day before that) about how firefighters use them to put out fires in houses. Then, he stops to pick up 4000 pine cones, acorns, and rocks and spends at least 15 minutes trying to figure out how to fit all that shit in the trunk of his bike. One day, he had such a fit that he couldn’t get all of his stuff in his trunk that he ended up filling his pockets AND mine with all kinds of acorns and other random junk he came across as we walked. And god forbid if I get rid of any of this crap when we get home. It’s all neatly stored in a pile on his dresser in his bedroom – like a little acorn/pinecone trophy collection.

Stopping to inspect something. Just another day in the life of a toddler.

Stopping to inspect something. Just another day in the life of a toddler.

And then, there are days when he rides half way around the block and decides he wants to walk and I end up chasing him AND carrying the bike. I can see you shaking your head. You’ve done this too, I bet.

Needless to say, taking a walk is not the leisurely activity it once was like when he was a newborn. However, letting him ride around for two hours on his bike typically tires the hell out of his little legs – which means a nice, long nap time. For us both. I’ll take it.

So to all you new mommies out there, enjoy your relaxing walks while you can. And if you’re in the market, feel free to come browse the collection of gently used strollers that are now collecting dust in my basement. And FYI – any used stroller purchase comes free with a collection of pine cones and acorns.

Leaves, acorns, and a birthday invitation. The literal version of "junk in the trunk."

Leaves, acorns, and a birthday invitation. The literal version of “junk in the trunk.”

My Brief Blogging Break

So over the past two months, you may have noticed that I’ve been a little MIA from the blogosphere. I’m sure many of you were really concerned that I finally fell over the edge of the mommy mountain and decided to give up blogging AND parenting all together due to the out of control chaos involved in raising children. Or maybe you just assumed I’d finally checked myself into rehab due to the over-excessive, toddler-induced wine drinking that takes place around here on a regular basis. Don’t get your granny panties in a bunch. I appreciate your deep concern, but no need to worry. I haven’t thrown my child to the wolves. I’m not stuck in a permanent pinot grigio hangover. I’ve just been pretty damn busy, and I’m sure you can all relate in some way or another. So let me catch you up to date.

I know I’ve bored you to death with the topic of kids and careers in the past. I’ll try not to get to long and drawn out about it again at the moment. But, let me just say, kids + careers = chaos. I’m going to try to make this long story short. I’m a certified teacher by trade and I worked in the field of early childhood education prior to having my son. After he was born, I made the decision to stay at home for a year and then attempt to transition into a position in the school districts. In case you aren’t from New York State, I will fill you in on a little secret. Getting a teaching job in this area has pretty much the same odds as winning the lottery, getting struck by lightning, or getting pregnant with quintuplets naturally. It’s damn near impossible. So in September, I started working as a substitute teacher and then eventually took a full time teacher aide position in hopes to get my foot in the door.

Well, I got my foot in the door all right and then had the door slammed several times (leaving me with a figurative sore foot and a disheartened outlook). In the past two months, I’ve gone on six job interviews for various positions and haven’t yet secured a full time teaching position for September. As of right now, I’ll be returning as an aide in the fall. Which is totally fine, of course, but I was hoping for my own classroom.

Now besides the fact that I clearly believe that I am the most amazing, dedicated teacher on the planet, I also believe I deserve a position solely based on the amount of work that goes into trying to search for a job while raising a child (and working full-time). Just attempting to use my laptop to complete job applications with a child in the house is challenge. If you are a parent, you get what I’m saying here. My toddler actually believes that every electronic device in this house belongs to him and serves no other purpose than the play Thomas the Tank Engine videos on YouTube. So trying to convince him to give me a few minutes to write a cover letter hasn’t gone over very well. To be honest, I have no fucking idea what I’ve even applied for because I’m trying to move so quickly while working on the computer, attempting to finish an application before a computer coup d’é·tat organized by the toddler occurs.

Then, of course, there is the actual interview. Printing resumes, creating folders, coordinating a babysitter. It’s exhausting to think about. And trying to get out of the house on time in a freshly pressed suit without being attacked by greasy fingers and dog hair is pretty much like a mission straight out of the motherhood matrix.

Considering the amount of effort it takes to get an interview scheduled and actually get there in a presentable manner, I should be handed a position just based on the fact that I showed up.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. And with all of the effort I’ve been putting into finding a teaching job, I was forced to take a little time away from my website. But here I am, back at it. I’ve decided not to let the job search get me down and to continue to work on the things I enjoy – like blogging and drinking wine. Oh, and parenting, of course.

So stay tuned. Lots of tales about the tireless toddler are on their way.

The Real Meaning of “Getting Mugged”

The first thing I can hear as I awake from a drowsy state is the steam spiraling out from the top of the machine. Oh, and my toddler screaming for me over the crackling of the baby monitor, of course. The water seeps through the grinds and I can hear the sweet sizzle of my first cup slowly dripping into the pot. The thick aroma of the caffeine spreads throughout the house as my husband and I begin our morning routine of madness.

Amidst packing lunches, popping Eggo’s, and picking outfits, we sneak a quick moment to take a sip from our favorite mugs. Coffee – every exhausted parent’s small savior.

I carefully prepare our travel mugs, filling each with the perfect proportion of cream and sugar, so that my husband and I can enjoy a second dose of the delightful drug during our separate commutes to work.

I make sure to pour my husband’s cup a little higher; a thank you gift for driving the toddler to daycare every morning. With that, our day begins.

I climb into my car and take a deep breath, enjoying the peacefulness of solitude. I turn on my iPod and revel in the fact that I can listen to something other than “The Wheels on the Bus” on repeat. I slowly pull out of the driveway, mentally checking off a list, ensuring that I’ve locked up, fed the dog, set the alarm, and so on. I am waiting at the end of my street for the traffic to clear when a shiny, metallic object on the side of the road catches my attention.

I recognize it in an instant. The silver of the mug. The St. John Fisher College logo. It’s my husband’s travel mug, laying right there in the gutter, pouring his precious caffeine into the street.

mugged

Here’s how it happened:

While attempting to strap the toddler into the twisted belts of the car seat, he carelessly set his coffee mug on the bumper of his truck to free up a second hand. Having successfully prevailed in the car seat-buckle-battle, he swiftly (and proudly) jumped into the driver’s seat, trying to make up for lost time.

As he pulled onto the highway, he reached for his mug, looking for a sip of that strong serum that was sure to soothe him after a fast-paced start to the day. It is at this very moment that he realized his error. It’s a devastating blow to any overtired parent. A coffee mug casualty, right there in the road.

It’s certainly a depressing way to kick off your commute. Maybe you’ve even witnessed a similar tragic event: A mother’s travel mug flies off the rooftop of a minivan packed full of kids on the way to school. A cup of Starbucks sits sadly on the bumper of a sedan (with three cars seats lined up side-by-side in the back) before slowly sliding to the pavement as the father in the driver’s seat steps on the gas. Here’s my advice: Don’t let it happen to you. Find a cozy cup holder for your coffee and avoid the dreadful consequences of getting “mugged.”

 

The Biggest Challenge After Becoming a Mother

Finding a balance between career and kids has been a long time battle for many mothers. The decision to continue to pursue a career or to spend those precious years at home when your kids are young is complicated to say the least. In my short two years as a parent, I’ve somehow managed to spend time as a full-time working mother, a part-time working mother, and a stay at home mother. Just to be sure the grass wasn’t greener, I apparently felt the need to test out every option before deciding what was going to be best for my family. Most recently, I’ve returned to work full time once again. But through it all, I’ve learned an important lesson. No matter what decision you make – to work or not to work – parenting is hard. It isn’t easy to be at home all day with crazed kiddos who’ve been cooped up with a bad case of cabin fever all winter. Similarly, it isn’t easy to work full time and to spend hours on end packing lunches and setting clothes out and fighting rush hour traffic on the way to drop the baby off at day care. Simply put, either way, it’s all hard as hell.

During the time when I was staying at home with my son, I wrote a post called “Things No One Told Me About Being a Stay at Home Mom.” It was a weird time for me. I was adjusting to motherhood in general and getting used to the fact that I had given up my career to be at home with my son (and two other children that I was nannying for, for a little extra cash). I found myself becoming jealous of my husband’s quiet commute to work, the fact that he could actually take a lunch break, and maybe even pee in peace once in a while. That post was probably the most honest thing I’ve ever shared and I was terrified of the negative feedback I was sure I’d receive. I figured I’d get people telling me to be grateful for the opportunity to choose to stay at home and to treasure the years when my son was little. I was shocked to read the comments that I received from so many other mothers who felt like they were also becoming maniacs from spending all day long taking care of kids. I realized that full-time, long term, stay-at-home-mothers are practically saints and I didn’t make the cut. I gave in and returned to work part in September.

SAHM

By January, I took on a full-time teaching position. I was thrilled to be able to regain my career (and to be able to have eight hours a day without succumbing to the constant demands of a toddler). I absolutely love my job and it’s been amazing, but that doesn’t mean that being a mother has become easier. There are times that I dread making lunches and ironing outfits before going to bed, which is probably what I should be doing right now… I hate having to wake my son up on the rare occasion that he actually sleeps past 6:00 just to rush him to get ready for daycare. And on the weeks that my husband is traveling for his job, I feel like I’m drowning in a pool of solo-parenting , counting the hours until he returns home to help me with the demands of our daily grind. It’s definitely tough, but the rewards out-weigh the challenges. I am a happier person and a more patient mother after having returned to my career.

wokring mom

Now that I’ve gotten a taste of both sides, I have the upmost respect for mothers who have taken on either role. Unfortunately, there is often a line drawn in the sand at the playground separating the working moms from the SAHMs. I’ve heard mothers who work full-time make negative comments about those who “just” stay-at-home. Additionally, I’ve listened to stay-at-home-moms judge others for leaving their children in the hands of daycare center for 8-9 hours a day.  The fact of the matter is that every mother is just trying to find a balance that works for her and her family – to figure out how to pay the bills, how to manage their kids, and how to maintain their sanity.

When a woman becomes a mother, there are a multitude of things to learn about raising an infant. But the breast feeding, the sleeping-training, and the bottle-weaning – all of that can be learned. Books, websites, and support groups can assist you in the basics of care-taking. For me, it’s finding the perfect balance between career and kids that has been the biggest challenge in becoming a mother. What I have learned is this – the grass is not any greener. Both working and being at home are equally amazing and challenging options. Both have pros and cons. Both are wonderful, difficult, and exhausting. I think it’s time that as a whole, we ban to together and support our fellow mothers no matter what decision we choose in regards to our families and our careers.

Maybe you spend your day battling a small brood of children who are capable of capsizing an entire household before 10:00am. Maybe you are that mother who pumps breast milk in your office with the shades closed while shooting off a few e-mails to your boss. Either way, kudos to you. In my book, you’re a kick ass mom who deserves a quiet bubble bath, an evening of relaxation, and a good night’s sleep (not that any of those things are actually attainable, but a mom can dream).

Toddlers and Toilet Seats

The nice thing about having a toddler when it comes to running errands is that I don’t have to pack a ton of shit every time we leave the house, like bottles and formula and all that nonsense. However, the tough thing about running around with a toddler is that he is smart enough to realize that he can rebel against sitting in the cart. Therefore, my time spent in a store is usually about 15% actually shopping for what I need and 85% trying to contain the kid.

This morning was no exception. My husband and I (who are not handy at all, by the way) had the bright idea to install crown molding and a chair rail in our dining room. We decided to take a trip to the hardware store today to pick up all of the supplies.

If you’ve never shopped with a child before, than you probably have no idea what kind of logistical challenges are involved in entering any store. And as it turns out, the hardware store is not a very toddler-friendly, child-proofed kind of place.

For example, one of the first things my child spotted as we walked into Lowe’s was an enormous tower showcasing 5000 eco-friendly light bulbs. Clearly, they did not take into account that children may at some point enter this store because a tower built with light bulbs is probably the most amazing thing my toddler has ever seen. Even more unfortunately, a tower built with light bulbs is very fragile. Not to mention, probably very expensive if my toddler had decided to topple that light bulb tower.

We managed to dodge a light bulb disaster and found the aisle that displayed all of the different kinds of crown molding. It looked something like this. My husband would grab a piece of 12-foot molding from the shelf, swing it around the aisle, and ask for my opinion. In the meantime, I was trying to avoid getting hit by the molding that my husband was waving around while chasing my child up and down the aisle, trying to prevent him from throwing corner pieces and caulk all over the place. In short, it was shit show.

I realized that the only way to get this job done was to let my son run around the store while my husband chose whatever he thought would look best (YIKES!). Steering clear of the light bulb castle, I let him walk up and down any aisle he pleased and let him touch anything that didn’t seem too dangerous. We actually had a good time looking at a wall full of clocks and then checking out all different kinds of kitchen cabinets (which is the next project on my list, unbeknownst to my hubby).

By far, the highlight of our adventures was the toilet seat display. Who knew twenty toilet seats could keep a toddler occupied for so long?

toilet seats

And even though it was a stressful trip for me, my son had an awesome time “helping” Daddy push the cart. And carrying the caulk, too.

toilet seats 2

Now actually getting that crown molding and chair rail installed in the dining room?? I’m sure that will be an entirely different story of its own….. Stay tuned.

 

 

Family Swim Session

When my son was first born two years ago, I had a lot of anxiety about taking him out in public. Going places with a newborn posed a lot of challenges and I was honestly more content just staying home. Then, after about three weeks of mid-winter maternity leave, I began feeling the serious effects of cabin fever and I realized that a little anxiety was worth a trip out of the house.

In the beginning, I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to bring with me when trekking out with a tiny baby, so I typically ended up bringing everything. The travel system stroller was always crammed into the trunk of my car and the backseat was packed full with the diaper bag (which was more like a suitcase at that time), a baby sling, bottles, formula, the breast pump, and so on. With all the shit that I brought along for every trip out of the house, you’d think I was preparing for the end of the world to occur during every outing. If it was possible to buy an SUV that housed a mini-freezer for storing breast milk and small diaper factory in the trunk just in the case the baby had 400 blow outs while we were in public, I would have purchased it with a doubt.

Ironically, I never really needed any of the crap that I packed during our first few solo ventures into the real world for one reason. While I had finally gotten brave enough to leave the house with my baby, I was still terrified to actually get out of the car. For at least the first month, I only went to stores and businesses that offered a drive-thru window, solely because I was afraid there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get the car seat back into the car if we actually got out. Or what if I got into the store and the baby screamed for 15 minutes in a long check-out line? Or what if he got hungry and I had to feed him immediately?? I sure as hell wasn’t prepared to bust my boob out to breastfeed in public. And so, we stuck to the drive-thru.

Over the course of the next 18 months, I slowly kicked my fear of parenting in public and finally felt comfortable when we were out of the house. As Grey got older, I realized I didn’t need to pack 14 suitcases of baby gear in order for us to stop by the grocery store. I stopped caring if he cried in the checkout line. I learned to mix a bottle when stopped at a red light (talk about distracted driving….) and I wasn’t afraid to change his diaper in the backseat of my car before heading home from running a few errands.

I realized that getting out of the house was the best thing for both of us. We started going to story time at the library every Monday, visiting friends for play dates, and dropping by a free music class in our community when we had time. While I do still have a tiny bit of anxiety when we are out and about, which I’m sure is normal for every mother, I think we’ve gotten pretty good at getting out.

Which leads me to the bright idea I had on Monday. I’m off from work this week so I want to make sure I get in as many exciting things with Grey as possible. The weather has finally gotten a little bit warmer and we’ve been craving some summer-type activities. And so, the idea to try open swim came to be.

While we have taken tons of classes and visited lots of kid-friendly places, swimming is one of those things that I’ve avoided. We have never taken any baby swim classes with Grey and he’s probably only been in a pool two or three times. I have to admit, I’m just not a swimmer. I don’t love it – I’m not good at it. It’s just not my thing, which is probably why I’ve had no interest in signing us up for a mommy and me swim class. But this week, I really wanted to try something we’ve never done before and show Grey a good time.

I found an open swim session at our local high school for Monday afternoon. As I was getting us ready for family swim, I had new-mommy déjà vu. It felt like we were leaving the house for the first time all over again. I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to bring with us. I stuffed something crazy like 40 swim diapers in the diaper bag just in case Grey decided to shit in the pool several times. I had towels and dry clothes and swim shoes and all kinds of other crap that I knew I probably wouldn’t need.

image via canva.com

image via canva.com

Here’s the issue with trying new things with your children. A lot of logistical questions come up. My thought process went something like this: “Do I need to bring some sort of flotation device or not? I mean, I’m just going to hold him in the pool right? What if the water is too cold? What if he doesn’t like it? Should I get us dressed in our swim suits before we leave the house or change in the locker room? Wait, what the hell should I wear to this? Is a bikini inappropriate for family swim? Do I have to wear a mom-approved tankini or one-piece?? OMG – the other mothers are definitely going to judge me if I wear a bikini. Maybe we shouldn’t go after all.”

Luckily, I had invited a friend and her son to join us, so there was no backing out. As I turned into the high school parking lot, I had another small panic attack as I realized I had no idea where the pool even was within the school. There were four different buildings and about eight different doors to choose from. Thankfully, my friend Googled the information for me while I drove around the high school campus looking for other clueless mothers with kids in swimsuits. I realized that bringing a friend when attempting something new is crucial – otherwise I probably would have nixed this trip when I realized I didn’t know where to park.

Surprisingly, the open swim session was a success. I had no idea if Grey was going to get into the water, but he ended up loving it! It was a little chilly, but we survived. After spending at least twenty minutes worrying that a bikini wasn’t appropriate for family swim, it turned out that there was only one other family there so we pretty much had the entire pool to ourselves anyhow.

And even though I was totally prepared by packing 40 swimmy diapers, Grey didn’t shit in the pool after all. I’d call that a swim session success.

The Newborn Baby Basket

basket4

When I was pregnant, my husband and I were so lucky to be given hundreds of amazing, generous gifts at our baby showers. We had all kinds of gear – swings, seats, carriers, strollers. We had things that we didn’t know how to put together and we had things that we didn’t even know we’d need. It’s amazing how much stuff it takes to raise a tiny baby. Anyways, as far as the baby products go, we were sure we had everything.

And then, the baby came. As we were preparing to leave the hospital, the doctor rattled off a list of directions and medications. He mentioned infant acetaminophen and vasoline for my son, who was recovering some a circumcision. He told me it was safe to take ibuprofen around the clock for the discomfort. One of the nurses recommended Lanolin to help with the pain during the first few days of breastfeeding. All of a sudden, I realized we did NOT have everything we needed. We actually had to make a pit stop at the pharmacy on the way home to stock up on the little things we had forgotten about. 

Since then, I’ve attended two baby showers. When it comes to finding a gift, I have to hold myself back from buying butt loads of adorable outfits and toys. Additionally, I’m always compelled to purchase the precious gear that mothers cannot live without in my opinion, like a bouncy seat and a good baby carrier. But instead, I’ve made it my mission to pick up all those little things that often get forgotten in hopes that my friends won’t have to worry about stopping at Walgreen’s during that first family car ride home.

Today, I want to share with you the basket I put together for a friend this weekend. My apologies about the awful photos, but I didn’t think to take any to post until the last minute. Hopefully you will find this useful and consider putting one together for your preggo friends, too. Enjoy!

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First, I purchased a bunch of products that I found useful in the first few months of motherhood. Then, I found a set of free printable labels from a scrapping blog called Vintage Glam Studio. Print them out here.

These are the labels I chose from Vintage Glam Studio.

These are the labels I chose from Vintage Glam Studio.

I printed the labels, cut them out, and attached them to card stock. I wrote the name of each product on the front of the label. Then, on the back of each label, I wrote a tip for first time parents. Here’s how they came out.

Finished Labels

Finished Labels

Here is the list of products I chose and the tips I included on the labels:

  • Desitin Diaper Cream: Diaper cream is great for preventing diaper rash. However, don’t apply diaper cream to an open rash, as it can cause further irritation.
  • Nursing Pads: Be sure to keep extra nursing pads in your car and at work for the morning that you forget to put them on!
  • Lanolin: Lanolin is every breastfeeding mother’s best friend!
  • Tide Free and Gentle: Many people use Dreft detergent for newborns. However, a dye-free, perfume-free detergent is safe and sensitive for babies – and 1/4 the price of Dreft!
  • Aveeno Lotion: They say newborn babies’ skin doesn’t need lotion right away. However, when baby is a few months old and dry skin appears, we have found Aveeno to be the most sensitive and effective.
  • Aveeno Baby Wash: For the first week or two, use a washcloth and water to clean baby. It’s safe to bathe baby in a tub of water once the umbilical cord has fallen off.
  • Soft Brush and Baby Oil: If baby has cradle cap, apply baby oil to baby’s scalp and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, use a soft brush to clean the scalp.
  • Nail Clippers and Emery Boards: Emery boards (nail files) are much easier to use than clippers in the beginning. Plus, files help soften sharp edges on nails so that baby won’t scratch her face.
  • Baby Powder: Desitin is great for preventing rashes, but we have found powder to be much better for easing the discomfort once a rash develops. Also, add 2 TBSP of baking soda to a warm bath to help soothe baby’s rash.
  • Vick’s Baby Thermometer: Anything above 101 degrees is considered a fever in an infant. Ear or forehead thermometers are great, but a rectal thermometer is most accurate. This thermometer is great because it is very small, making it easy to use and fool-proof.
  • Adult Advil: It’s safe for you to take ibuprofen for pain after birth even while breastfeeding.
  • Vick’s Baby Rub: Vick’s Baby rub is safe after three months of age. They say rubbing Vick’s on the chest and on the soles of the feet help ease an infant cough.
  • Infant’s Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is safe after three months of age. Dosage charts can be found online.
  • Infant’s Ibuprofen: Ibuprofen is safe after six months of age. Dosage charts can be found online.
  • Little Remedies Saline Spray: Saline spray and a suction will help remove congestion from baby’s nose.
  • Formula Dispenser: Once baby is drinking formula, a travel dispenser will help assist in making bottles-on-the-go very easy!
  • Vasoline: Vasoline can be used on the tip of a thermometer to help when taking a rectal temperature. Also, Vasoline can be applied to the inside of a diaper to help protect baby boys after a circumcision.

It’s amazing how quickly I had forgotten most of this stuff. I used a parenting book that I had read when my son was born for some of the information that I used on the labels. I attached these labels to each baby product using ribbon and placed them neatly in a basket. I also purchased clear shrink wrap to place the basket inside. I found both the basket and the shrink wrap at Hobby Lobby, but you can find these items at any craft store.

Here’s a closer look at the products and the finished basket! Happy Baby Showering!

Finished Product!

Finished Product!

The Peaks and Valleys of Parenthood

Throughout our lives, we take on a lot of things that require a serious level of responsibility. We work stressful jobs, we become homeowners, and we enter into marriages. We want to be successful in all of these areas and of course, each of these things will have their own up and downs over time. For instance, you probably have weeks at work in which you close record amounts of sales or you take on a handful of new clients. Maybe every student in your classroom does well a test. These weeks are the best – you impress even yourself and you feel like a success. On the other hand, there are times when everything feels like a challenge. You get stuck in rush hour traffic and miss an important meeting. You spend three months losing ten pounds and you gain three back after one indulgent, irresponsible weekend. Or maybe your furnace kicks the bucket. Either way, these are the weeks when you want to crawl into a hole and hibernate for the remainder of this god awful winter.

And raising children, my friends, is no exception. In my short experience, I’ve learned that parenting is a long road filled with peaks and valleys. The good times go something like this: You get up early enough to work out AND cook a homemade breakfast for the kids before they wake up. You enjoy a large cup of fresh, hot coffee first thing in the morning because you remembered to pre-set the pot the night before. You have time to shower every day. You get everyone to school on time and you even have a few minutes to enjoy a second cup of coffee before starting your day at work. You’re on top of your game at home. The laundry hampers are empty and the clean clothes are neatly folded and put away. You even remembered to send thank you notes for your child’s birthday party in a record amount of time. Your kids sleep through the night for several nights in a row and you (almost) feel well-rested.  Such months (or days, even) are amazing. You feel like supermom. You’re so put together during these times that you might even consider having another child someday…….. Until you hit a rough patch, that is.

The months when everything runs smoothly are like the calm before the parenting storm. Something will inevitably come your way and throw wrench into your routine. You might recognize a rough patch to look something like this: The baby cuts a tooth, and thus spikes a fever, keeping you up all night for at least three nights in a row. You finally get him back to sleep around 5:00am only to wake up to your alarm a half hour later. You hit snooze these times, then fall back to sleep accidentally, causing you to miss your morning workout and your shower. You drag whatever kids are still asleep out of bed, throw clothes at them, and shove them into the car since they clearly missed the bus. You hand every one cereal bars for breakfast in the car as you head to the daycare, only to realize that you left your work bag, your purse, and your coffee at home. Mornings like this tend to snowball, causing you to become so exhausted that you can barely stand by the end of the long day. The kids will eat dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets or hot dogs and you will choose to skip dinner because you’re too tired to cook anything substantial. The laundry is overflowing, the floors haven’t been washed in weeks, and no one can remember if they’ve fed the dog.  Your children are fighting so much that it seems as though they might kill each other, and you’re considering allowing that to happen simply because you can’t take anymore fighting. Times like this make you wonder why you ever decided to raise children in the first place, and you daydream about your childless life as you wash off two-day-old mascara from your face. During a rough patch, there isn’t enough coffee on the planet to keep you from falling asleep at any given moment due to downright exhaustion.

You’ll have one or two moments when you feel like you can’t take another second of craziness, when you reach that point of no return. You’ll feel like you might need to lock yourself in the bathroom for a very long time solely because you haven’t peed in peace in months, and it’s usually at that exact moment that the parenting gods decide to take pity on you and throw you a bone (and a large glass of wine). Your schedule stabilizes and everyone seems to stay on routine once again. The kids quit annoying the hell out of you and the baby finally gives you a straight eight hours of rest. It’s amazing really – one or two nights of good sleep can make you feel like normal, functioning human being. And as quickly as you had fallen into your parenting pothole, things calm down.

Like everything, parenting is going to have its up and downs. My advice is this – enjoy the good times. Celebrate when things are calm. Don’t take the quiet moments for granted. And when you feel like the house is starting to get a little hairy, prepare yourself. Pre-set your coffee maker for a strong 12-cup pot and prepare for the cyclone of crazy children to come swirling through for the next couple of days. And if worst comes to worst, you can do what I am doing at this very moment – grab your wine glass, lock yourself in the bathroom, and hide in the tub until the rough patch passes.