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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!

 *

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.

 

Why Finding a Good Sitter is Like Finding Good Love

enquire today (3)

I stood outside my son’s daycare classroom today and ran through what I was going to say to his teacher as I watched him play for a minute or two. I walked into the room, gathered his things, and struck up a casual small talk-type conversation with this girl. He’s been there for about three months now and I know that he loves her. However, because I only see her for a few minutes in the morning and at night, I don’t actually know too much about her. I asked her where she went to college and what she was studying as I worked up the nerve to ask her what I had rehearsed. After a few awkward minutes and some stuttering on my part, I finally took the plunge and went for it. “So,” I said, “do you babysit?”

If you have kids, then you understand that good babysitters are tough to come by. You want someone who has a specific set of qualities – someone who is dependable, trustworthy, intelligent, nurturing, compassionate, punctual, reliable, and loving. In fact, it’s a lot like looking for love. They say a good man is hard to find. And a good babysitter? Even harder to find. And sometimes, even more important.

Overall, securing a good babysitter is very much like the awful and tiresome process of dating. Maybe a friend sets you up with their sitter who you’ve met before and were interested in. If you’re desperate, maybe you hire a babysitter who you don’t know but who was highly recommended by a friend, much like a dreaded blind date. Or maybe you’re brave and you consider using a website to scroll profiles in order to meet your babysitter soul mate. No matter how you go about it, the important thing is to find a good one and hang on for dear life.

Once you’ve committed to an awesome care taker, you’ll fall deeply in love with the ability to actually leave your house child-free more than once every six months without having to desperately beg your own parents to watch your child for you. You’ll be able to meet up with friends, enjoy a glass of wine at happy hour after work, or even go on a much needed date with your husband (imagine that!). Before you know it, you will have fallen head over heels for your hired help and you’ll do anything to keep your relationship intact. You’ll purchase pizza every evening that she’s scheduled to sit for you. You’ll pay her an absurd hourly rate and then some, even though the baby was asleep for the majority of time that you were out – solely because you want to keep her happy. After all, you remember how much effort it took to find a good sitter in the first place.

Unfortunately, just like many of our past dating relationships, the babysitter breakup is often inevitable. Maybe she stops answering your calls or she claims she’s too busy to babysit. Either way, it’s almost as painful as losing your first love. You’ll sadly call and cancel your dinner reservations for your date night, knowing that you’ll never find another sitter by the time the weekend rolls around. It’s depressing, really. And if you’re like me, you’ll take a break from the babysitter-searching world and you’ll accept that it could be months before you’re back at your favorite bar for happy hour.

It’s been about six months since our last babysitter sadly (for us, at least) took a permanent teaching position. We’ve been relying on our family and friends to help us out when we are desperate for a sitter, which I totally hate doing on a regular basis. I knew it was time to finally get back in the game. I’ve had my eye on her for a few weeks. I have a very important baby shower to attend next week and no sitter in sight. And so, today was the day I finally worked up the nerve to ask her. I felt like I was getting ready to propose – to pop the most important mommy question – I even considered getting down on one knee and begging her, “Will you babysit for me?”

“Sure! I’d love to.” She said. I almost died from relief, or cried tears of joy, knowing that we might be able to leave the house alone occasionally once again. I wiped the sweat from my brow and clumsily fumbled around with my purse. I told her I’d write down my cell phone number and address for her. I walked out of the classroom and silently cheered to myself. I called my husband immediately to share the good news – we’re getting a sitter. We’ve only got the first date scheduled, so I don’t want to get my hopes up for a long-term babysitting relationship. But in the meantime, we’re going to enjoy any adult-only time we can get.

 

25 Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy When You’re Stuck Inside

If you live anywhere within the Midwest or the Northeast, then I’m sure you’re aware of Winter Storm Vulcan passing through this very moment. The only positive side to enduring a major blizzard in the middle of March is an unexpected day off from work to spend at home with my son. Between the 10-24 inches of forecasted snow accumulation and the 50 mph winds, I think it’s safe to say that we are going to be stuck inside today.

I’ve been back to work full time for a few months now, so I’m savoring any extra time with my son. That being said, we still get cabin fever after eight hours trapped inside the house. And if you are one of the millions of mothers dealing with this awful winter weather (and lots of snow days off from school), then I’m sure you and your kids often feel the same way.

So today, I want to share with you some creative ways to keep your kids busy when you’re stuck inside. As a teacher, I love coming up with exciting activities for my son and I to enjoy at home. However, we are on a budget around here and I like to try to use what we have around the house rather than spending tons of time and money on buying supplies for extravagant crafts. Here you can find twenty five quick and easy activities to keep your kids busy on those blustery, winter indoor days. Enjoy!

1.) Pop Bottle Bowling – Remove the labels from six pop bottles. Then, fill the bottles with a cup or two of colored water. Have your kids take turns knocking them down by rolling a ball and keep score. At the end, have your children add up their scores to determine a winner!

2.) Mystery Sensory Box – Invite your children to make a Mystery Box by decorating an empty tissue box. Then, hide something inside the tissue box. Have your children reach inside, feel the mystery item, and then take turns guessing what it might be.

3.) Road Work – Use wide masking tape or painter’s tape to make “roads” on the floor for your children to drive their cars on. When they are finished, invite them to help peel the tape off the floor (a great fine motor exercise!).

Beep! Beep! Coming through!

Beep! Beep! Coming through!

4.) Kid-Friendly Yoga – Get your kids exercising with a kid friendly yoga session! I’ve seen this website used in a kindergarten classroom that I was working in and the students loved it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cNjAj_o0SI

5.) Shoe Sort – Set ten pairs of shoes on the floor in a pile. Have your little one match the correct shoes together. Then, give them index cards with names on them to label who each pair of shoes belongs to.

6.) Oatmeal Sensory Play – Pour a container of dry oatmeal into a baking tray. Let your kids scoop and pour the oatmeal with measuring spoons or offer them small trucks to dig and push around the oatmeal.

7.) Shaving Cream Play – Shaving cream is such a great sensory activity and it’s pretty easy to clean up, too! Set your kids up at the table with a baking sheet to keep the shaving cream contained (hopefully…). Today, we used shaving cream to “paint” in the tub. Either way is lots of fun!

Painting with Shaving Cream!

Painting with Shaving Cream!

8.) Shoe Box Building – Bring down as many shoe boxes (or any cardboard boxes) you can find and let your kids use them to build a tower! One time, I covered them in white paper to look like ice blocks and had the kids build an “igloo.”

9.) Use masking tape or painter’s tape to make indoor hop scotch.

10.) All About Me Book – Use a file folder to help your child make an “All About Me” book. See the photo below!

File Folder "All About Me" Book

File Folder “All About Me” Book

11.) I Spy – I almost always have empty paper towel tubes in my recycling bin. Invite each child to decorate a tube as their “telescope” and then enjoy a game of “I Spy” using your homemade telescopes.

12.) Make Play Dough – Play dough is always a big hit around here. But it’s even more exciting (and time consuming, too) if you let your children make their own playdough. Mix one cup flour, one cup salt, and a half of a cup of water in a bowl. Add food coloring if you like. You can even have your children make a sculpture with this dough, bake it, then paint it when it dries!

13.) Shape Block Sort – We had a bin full of colored blocks that come in various shapes. I used construction paper to make a spot for each block shape. Then, the kids sorted the blocks by shape.

Blocks are not JUST for building!

Blocks are not JUST for building!

14.) Indoors/Outdoors– Bring outdoor toys inside!! My son loves his big basketball hoop that we usually keep outside in the summer. However, on days when we are stuck indoors, we bring the hoop inside! We even let him ride his tricycle inside, too….. although if I ever get around to refinishing the floors, we will probably banish bikes from being inside.

15.) Treasure Hunt – Before I went back to work, every Friday was designated “Treasure Hunt Friday.” I’d make little clues that led the kids from one place to another around the house and leave a little treasure for them at the end. The treasure was usually something silly like a pack of fruit snacks or a cookie, but they we’re always excited no matter what they found! If you have big kids at home, they can be in charge of writing the clues!

16.) Obstacle Course – Make an obstacle course indoors! Here are some ideas for obstacles: crab walk through the kitchen, crawl underneath the dining room table, crawl through a tunnel in the family room, hop over painter’s tape on the floor in the playroom, somersault on the rug in the living room, and finish with 10 jumping jacks at the front door.

17.) Fashion Show Snow Day – Have your kids plan a fashion show from start to finish. Encourage them to pick out outfits, make posters, create a program, and pick music to play. Have them model the clothes down the “runway” while you video tape.

18.) Water Play – Plug the sink and fill it with water, bubbles, and bath toys. Let your child pull up a stool and play!

19.) Table Cloth Toss – I used a table cloth leftover from a birthday party to make into a bean bag toss game. Draw large shapes on the table cloth and put a number inside each shape. Kids take turns tossing a bean bag (we used beanie babies since we didn’t have bean bags handy) and invite them to keep score by adding up their points.

Table Cloth Toss!

Table Cloth Toss!

20.) Cloud Sand – I haven’t tried this one yet, but it sounds awesome! Mix two cups flour and ¼ cup of baby oil to make cloud sand. Check it out here!  http://www.kiwicrate.com/projects/Flour-plus-Baby-Oil-equals-Cloud-Dough/384

21.) Homemade Puzzles – Help your child choose an image of their favorite character online. Enlarge it and print it. Then, glue it onto a piece of cardboard. Once the glue has dried, cut the image into pieces to make a homemade puzzle!

22.) Make a Fort – Use pillows, blankets, and chairs to make a huge fort. My son loves to play with flashlights while he hangs out inside his fort.

23.) Felt Activities – I had some felt leftover from another craft. There are TONS of cool things you can do with felt pieces! Make shapes for your children to match. Cut felt into the shape of a face. Then, cut several mouths, eyes, and noses. Let your children use the pieces to assemble silly faces. During the holidays, I cut felt into pumpkins and Christmas tree shapes so that the kids could make jack-o-lanterns and decorate the trees. One time, I even cut felt pieces into an Angry Bird for the kids to put together. Check out the photo below!

Angry Bird Felt Characters

Angry Bird Felt Characters

24.) Balloon Play – My son is totally obsessed with balloons! Anytime we are really struggling for something fun to  do, we blow up a few balloons left over from his birthday and try to keep them in the air.

25.) Paper Airplane Contest – Have your kids design a paper airplane. Have each child throw their airplane. Use a measuring tape to measure and record how far each air plane flew. The airplane that flew the farthest is the winner!

For photos of other activities plus lots of arts and crafts for kids, visit my Camera Roll page at http://thehonestmommy.com/camera-roll/

From Mommy Obsession to Daddy Infatuation

When my son was eight months old, we traveled with him to Buffalo, NY, to attend our best friends’ weddings. My husband and I were both in the wedding, so we planned to leave our son with my in-laws for the evening of the rehearsal dinner. Because my in-laws live out of town, we only see them about every 6-8 weeks. Still, our son had stayed with a babysitter a few times at that point and I wasn’t concerned that he’d be uncomfortable. We were thrilled to be in our friends’ wedding and we were even more excited for a few evenings out. Considering that my son was only about eight months old at the time, my husband and I were still new at this whole parenting thing and apparently we were pretty naïve, completely disregarding the possibility of any problems that weekend. But low and behold, two hours into rehearsal dinner, I got a phone call from my mother-in-law, and I quickly headed home to my inconsolable, crying infant. I felt equally ad bad for my in-laws as I did for my son. I’m fairly certain his two hours of tears traumatized all of them. And so began a long stretch of some serious separation anxiety.

At two days old, my son had some serious mommy attachment. Look at that grip!

At two days old, my son had some serious mommy attachment. Look at that grip!

Apparently, attempting to leave my baby with his grandparents in a hotel room for two hours completely scarred him, urging him to assume that every time I took more than three steps out of his line of vision, I was surely leaving him permanently. It was like all of a sudden, he was old enough to realize when he was near strangers and the thought of letting his mother move freely around a room full of people he didn’t know was completely outrageous. He clung to me and cried for me every time I attempted to leave. Having a child with separation anxiety is like the equivalent to being grounded when you were a teenager. You’re unable to go anywhere, you have absolutely no privacy or rights, and you can kiss your personal space a sweet goodbye. The only difference is that being grounded as a teenager lasted for a very specific length of time, usually a few weeks depending on the offense, and then granted you back your freedom after you’d completed your sentence.  Separation anxiety, on the other hand, surfaces unfairly without warning and lasts for an undetermined, sometimes unbearable, length of time.

This is the result of me attempting to leave the room when Grey was about 10 months old: screaming, crying, gripping, clinging. Oh the joys of separation anxiety.

This is the result of me attempting to leave the room when Grey was about 10 months old: screaming, crying, gripping, clinging. Oh the joys of separation anxiety.

Looking back, maybe I had brought this onto myself without even knowing it. I’ll admit, maybe I was a touch overbearing in the beginning. Plus, by that time, my son was home full time with me, so we spent every waking moment together. Somewhere along the line, I had taken over routines like bedtime, assuming that I could most definitely do a better job than my husband. However, around eight months my son could have been considered an appendage, an extension of my body, for the entirety of the day. I was exhausted. By bedtime, I was dying for a break.  But I had been putting him to bed every night for his whole life. If I was home and available, he simply would not allow anyone else but me to put him to bed. I had a little mommy attached monster and it was probably partially my own fault. In order to break the beast of his clingy ways, I would have to start separating myself. I started “hiding” around 7:45 so that mommy wasn’t an option at bedtime. I made sure to leave the house alone now and again. And within the next six months, I realized that I wanted to return to work full time by the time Grey reached 18 months.

As the months passed and I transitioned back into working part-time, something very strange happened. Slowly but surely, my son’s separation anxiety had thankfully dissipated, but so had his mommy obsession. To my surprise, he wanted daddy. He wanted daddy to play with him, he wanted daddy to hold him, he wanted daddy to feed him, and he wanted daddy to put him to bed. He even told me to go away during bath time one night. At first, I felt like I had won the mommy lottery. A break, at last. I had seriously lucked out in some respects. I got out of poopy diaper duty solely because he only wanted daddy to change him. I enjoyed a quiet glass of wine at night while daddy rocked out bedtime routine. I assumed that it was a stage, that I better enjoy it while it lasted, because sure enough, he’d return to his mommy infatuated ways at any moment. If anything, I knew that as soon as I switched to full time in January, he’d definitely be craving some serious mommy time.

So here we are, two months later, and you know what? The daddy streak continues. It was an amazing break at first, but as time passed, I started feeling hurt. I heard him tell my husband that he loved him and I was jealous. Mostly, I missed rocking him to bed every night. At two years old, he almost never wants to be held anymore, so bedtime is like a gold mine for snuggling time. And now, he only wants daddy to do it.

Last night, I decided that I had had enough. I wanted my bedtime back. So I did what any rational mother would do. I bribed him. I let him take two flashlights upstairs with us to play with while I sang him his songs and rocked him to sleep. We had a mini baby rave in his bedroom, swinging two small flashlights all around the room to sound of “Rock a Bye Baby.” He absolutely loved it.

And tonight, when bedtime rolled around, he wanted me again! I had won the bedtime battle by bribing him with two little LED lights. Tonight, I sang him another song as he pointed his flashlight in my face when I heard him say, “I love you, Mommy.” Maybe he really meant it, or maybe it was because I let him play with flashlights, but either way, I’ll take it <3