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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 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).

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!

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/

Cake Pop Catastrophe

I’ve always felt that Valentine’s Day is a sad excuse for a holiday, mainly created by Hallmark purely for the sake of increasing sales. If you read my Valentine’s Day post last year, then I really don’t need to get into detail here. Because of this, I’ve never expected my husband to spend hundreds of dollars on some cheesy and hideous Open Heart necklace designed by Jane Seymour as a means of showing me his love on this fraudulent holiday. Before kids, we typically used Valentine’s Day as an excuse to indulge in dinner and drinks at a trendy restaurant without feeling guilty for spending a little extra cash. Come to think of it, at that time in our life, we didn’t really feel guilty for spending money at all, for the most part, considering we didn’t have a child to support at the time. But I digress.

In 2012, Valentine’s Day became the official day that we got to bring out newborn baby home from the hospital. Now that seems like something to celebrate. So even though I sort of hate the holiday, at least it has a little bit more personal meaning than in prior years.

While I would have loved to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the same way we did before having kids, enjoying late night dinner reservations in a cozy booth at a dimly lit wine bar, things have changed a bit. Not only are good babysitters hard to come by, but we are a little bit more careful with our financial situation, now that daycare costs are slowly sucking away at our savings. Nevertheless, we wanted to celebrate the anniversary of bringing home our little Valentine. With money being tight, we were forced to get creative.

I have to say, the first half of my Valentine’s Day surprise went pretty well. I used an idea that I found on another blog to create a simple, homemade gift for my husband. I bought a white mug and use chalkboard paint to paint a heart on the front of the mug. Now, I can leave personalized messages on my husband’s coffee cup every morning. Not bad, right?? Here’s a pic:

I wrote, "I Love You" in chalk on the mug. Tomorrow, I'm going to write, "Do the Laundry." :) So convenient.

I wrote, “I Love You” in chalk on the mug. Tomorrow, I’m going to write, “Do the Laundry.” 🙂 So convenient.

And it was all downhill from there. Unfortunately, the second half of my amazing DIY Valentine’s Day idea didn’t go quite as well. I made the decision that I wanted to bake. Not only did I want to bake, I decided to bake something challenging. Cake pops. That’s right. A girl who has literally never baked anything in her life decided to tackle cake pops on the night before Valentine’s Day. You can probably imagine where this is going.

This is what I imagined my cake pops looking like. Hahahahahahaha.

This is what I imagined my cake pops looking like. Hahahahahahaha.

A few generous girlfriends of mine offered to assist with this overzealous undertaking. I drove over to my friend’s house on Thursday night after work to begin the baking. It was an evening filled with flying chocolate, crying babies, and several much needed glasses of wine. To sum it up, here’s a list of mistakes we made.

1.)    Baking cake pops while caring for four kids is probably too much to take on at one time.

2.)    If you are going to attempt to bake something for a gift or an event, do a trial run before the real thing and plan for lots of uninterrupted free time to get them done.

3.)    PUT THE BALLS IN THE FRIDGE OR FREEZER BEFORE YOU DIP THEM IN THE CHOCOLATE.

4.)    Unless you want softball sized cake pops, make the cake balls small.

5.)    Have at least three bottles of wine on hand to manage the stress involved in creating these evil baked goods.

I know this isn't the best photo, but you get the idea. They looked like shit.Literally. LOL.

I know this isn’t the best photo, but you get the idea. They looked like shit.Literally. LOL.

At the end of the night, the cake pops looked like a hot mess. But I have say, I did have an absolute blast hanging out with my girlfriends and I probably haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. I can’t thank them enough for even attempting this uphill baking battle with me. Luckily, my husband thought the cake pops tasted awesome even thought they looked like hell. He even got a little creative, too. This is what I came home to on Valentine’s Day:

So romantic, right?? At least he had the smarts not to attempt to dip those strawberries himself. Apparently, store bought is always better in my house when it comes to baking.

So romantic, right?? At least he had the smarts not to attempt to dip those strawberries himself.

It takes an especially thoughtful man to purchase gorgeous chocolate covered strawberries and then add a mustache photo bomb selfie to the plate. You’re jealous, I know.

And the most important lesson learned in regards to Valentine’s Day baked goods? Next year, I’ll go with something store bought.

 

Websites Used:

http://alldayidreamaboutfood.com/2011/02/valentines-cake-pops-fun-projects-with-kids.html

http://www.kay.com/en/kaystore/diamond-necklace–round-cut-sterling-silver

http://thehonestmommy.com/2013/02/14/hallmark-hell/

http://emmalinebride.com/holiday-2013/6-diy-valentines-day-gifts/

What You Wish You Had Packed In Your Hospital Bag

Six weeks before Greyson was born, I began packing hospital bag. I admit, it was a little early. Maybe it was the crazy-pregnant-lady-nesting that urged me to get packing more than a month before my due date.  Then again, maybe it was just wishful thinking that the kid was going to come sooner rather than later.

As I grabbed my hospital bag, I sat in my room, unsure of what the hell to pack. I was sure I had about 400 pregnancy books somewhere in my house that would put me on track – if only I could have found those books underneath the mountain of baby gear and crib assembly instructions and breastfeeding supplies and so on….

I remember Googling a few articles for advice and while some of the things on the list were helpful, some suggestions were just downright ridiculous. One article actually proposed bringing a basket of goodies for the hospital staff. Umm, really? Is that expected? Don’t get me wrong – I was thankful for the great care I was going to receive. However, I could barely find the time to do anything except work, sleep, and pee; The thought of whipping up some damn homemade cookies was less than realistic.

As shocked as you may be, I decided NOT to bring any home baked desserts for the staff. And even after all my planning and research, I did end up sending my husband home to pick up some things that weren’t on any hospital packing list that I had come across.

So today, I am going to save you some time and get straight to point about what you will really wish you had packed when you finally reach that much anticipated hospital stay.

The Essentials:

  • Pads – Yup. This is the very first thing on my list. Unless you want to use a maxi pad circa 1960 that feels pretty much like sticking a brick in your undies, then I suggest bringing your own pads (and buy extra long, with wings).
  • Large Undies – While some women apparently rave about the hospital provided “mesh underwear,” I have to admit that I hated them. Before delivery, I bought a pack of large, comfortable granny panties that I didn’t care about ruining and used those in the weeks after giving birth. I really wanted to include a picture of the mesh underwear, but I don’t want to scare you….
  • Ziploc Bags – The hospital that I stayed in ripped open the side of a newborn diaper and stuffed it with ice for me to sit on. Between the large brick-like pad, the mesh undies, and the ice-stuffed diaper, I was a hot mess. Next time, I will bring some Ziploc bags for make a proper ice pack.
  • Toiletries – I am definitely one of those people that hate going 24 hours without a shower (and sadly, motherhood sometimes puts a damper on that). I brought travel sized toiletries with me to the hospital. After two days of labor and delivery, I was finally free from IVs and monitors. And in case you didn’t already know this, having a baby is….well…messy. I was very thankful for a long, toasty hot shower.
  • Shower Towel – While we are on the topic of showering, the washcloth-sized towels provided by the hospital didn’t stand a chance in covering my 24 hour post partum body, so my lovely hubby went home and brought me back a normal sized towel (and flip flops so I didn’t have to face the hospital shower barefoot – what a good man).
  • Slippers – If you aren’t into rocking the halls in the socks with grips that the hospital will gladly give you, then toss your own comfy slippers in your bag.
  • Wipes – Unbeknownst to me, wipes are not recommended for newborns and are generally not provided by hospitals. (I know – you’re as shocked as I was). However, I’ve never cleaned a baby’s ass without wipes, so we brought our own. Look at that – I was a rebellious mother from the beginning.
  • An Old Robe – I packed a bunch of clothes for myself, but honestly, I spent the majority of my stay in my hospital gown and an old bathrobe. Whatever you decide to bring, just make sure you bring items that you don’t mind staining (yeah, sorry to be gross). Also, make sure you bring maternity clothing. Shockingly, you will still look just about as pregnant as you did around 5-6 months along. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, ladies.
  • iPod or Playlist – For me, this was the most important item on my list. I chose to listen to my favorite artist on Pandora, Amos Lee, while laboring. I had been listening this all throughout my pregnancy and it really helped me to stay (somewhat) calm throughout the delivery process.
  • Chapstick – If you are planning on doing all of the “heeee-heeee-whoooo” breathing, then you are going to need some serious Chapstick.
  • Headbands – Make sure to have several headbands and hair ties available. You are going to want your sweaty hair out of your face when you are pushing out that baby.
  • Baby Book – This sounds totally random, but the hospital asked if I had a baby book that I wanted them to stamp my son’s footprint in. I felt like a total slacker mom.  Obviously, it’s not essential, but if you want the hospital to do this for you, plan on bringing the baby book along.
  • Breastfeeding Supplies – If you are going to attempt to breastfeed, plan on packing some comfy nursing bras, breast pads, and nipple cream. You may even want to bring along a breastfeeding book for help. Our hospital had a lactation consultant available, but she wasn’t able to meet with us until our last day in the hospital. How convenient.
  • FOOD – This is BY FAR the most important thing on this list. If you didn’t already know this, they won’t let you eat once you are in labor. Let’s just say it was a LONG few days for me. I’m not even kidding, I called my best friend and she picked up a pizza for me immediately after my son was born. I was literally starving. I might have cradled that pizza in my arms before I even held my child. Plus, hospital food is horrendous. Plan to have someone drop off some sandwiches or have hubby run out to pick up some take out.
These are the hospital-provided non-slip socks. So yeah, pack your own socks and slippers....

These are the hospital-provided non-slip socks. So yeah, pack your own socks and slippers….

The Obvious Things:

  • Electronics – Don’t forget your phone, your iPad, or your camera plus any chargers you may need for your electronics.
  • Clothes for Baby – I let our son stay in the hospital provided clothing because it was simple and easy. We did bring one cute outfit because the hospital offered newborn photos, which by the way were pretty awful and expensive. We chose a really simple outfit to bring him home in, mostly because we had no idea how to dress a newborn.
  • Installed Carseat – If this item needs any explanation, you’re screwed.
  • Paperwork – Make sure to have your insurance information and your ID on you. Some hospitals will let you fill out paperwork a few weeks before your due date so that you don’t have to worry about it when you’re actually in labor. Very helpful.

Things You Won’t Need:

  • Diapers – The hospital will provide the essentials, like diapers. I tried to stash as many in my bag on our way out of the hospital as possible. Diapers are expensive, if you weren’t aware.
  • Diaper Bag – The hospital will probably have anything that you’d be packing in a diaper bag and most likely, you’ll be heading straight home so don’t worry too much about a diaper bag.
  • A Bathing Suit – One person told me to pack a bathing suit in case I wanted to sit in the birthing tub. Honestly, by the time I got to that point, I didn’t give a shit that I was sitting in a tub practically naked in a room full of people, as long as it meant that I was comfortable for a few minutes before my epidural.
  • A Birth Plan – I’m against the birth plan. I totally promote being informed about your options, but your little one will probably have their own plan in mind. Try to be as flexible as possible and remember that the only thing that matters is a healthy mom and baby.

Things to Have Ready at Home:

  • Advil – Lots of Advil.
  • Infant Ibuprofen – If you are having a boy and he will be circumcised, you will probably want some Infant Ibuprofen handy.
  • Stool Softeners – A reader suggested that I add this to the list and I totally agree. I was popping Colace like candy after my son was born.
  • Pads – I’m serious about the pads. Just buy a shit ton. They won’t go to waste.
  • Vasoline – Again, if you baby boy is being circumcised, your doctor may recommend applying some Vasoline onto the diaper for a few days to be sure it won’t stick to his wound.
  • Pacifiers – I swore I wasn’t going to use a pacifier, but I SWEAR, it got my through my first night at home. Luckily, my son only stuck to it for a few weeks before losing interest.
  • Food – Stock your freezer! You aren’t going to want to cook for a few days (or for a long time).

There you have it – the hospital bag essentials, with everything from pads to pizza. Like anything in parenting, you can prepare as much as possible but you won’t know what to expect until you’ve been through it. So good luck, keep breathing, and don’t forget your Chapstick!

Have a suggestion for an addition to the list??? Leave it in the comments below!

The Full Circle

Before my son was born, I planned to take an eight week maternity leave from my job before returning back to working full time. Maybe even less, if I felt so inclined. I loved my job and I was very career oriented. I couldn’t imagine spending so much time away from what I had worked so hard for over the past several years. At that time, I worked as the Center Director of a local children’s center that offered preschool and child care services. I was responsible for all daily operations of the center, ensuring that we followed each and every detailed state regulation, and managing a staff of thirty employees. It was a challenge, but I loved it. I was very proud of my center and my staff. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the kind of position that allowed me to take too many days off at one time, much less a lengthy maternity leave. I was afraid that in my absence, things would fall through the cracks. Not to mention, I’ve never stayed at home for eight weeks with a newborn baby and I figured that I’d be itching to get out of the house.

It’s amazing how motherhood can change a person. In the hours before my son was born, I sat in my hospital bed, talking to my Assistant Director on the phone in between contractions to make sure she was ready to take over for me. I was worried about work and wanted to make sure we had tied up any loose ends. After what seemed like a very long weekend, my 9 lb. 2 oz. son finally made his grand entrance and surprisingly, I didn’t think about work again for the next eight weeks.

It’s not that I didn’t care about my job and how things were going, but I had a lot of other shit going on. In the beginning, I was focusing mostly on how to walk up and down the stairs without an excruciating amount of pain and blood loss and trying not to pee every time I coughed, laughed, or sneezed. Over the next month, I spent the remainder of my time trying to figure out how to breastfeed in public without flashing my breasts to the entire world and what to do when my newborn shits all over the car seat while out running errands (in some cases, even an extensive amount of wipes are not effective).

The day that I returned to work was one of the weirdest, saddest days of my life. I’m not an overly emotional person and thus I blame the hormones, of course. I dropped him off that morning and entered my office for the first time in eight weeks. I didn’t know what to do with myself. My Assistant Director had done an amazing job covering for me. She made sure my first day back wasn’t completely overwhelming in regards to the work load. There weren’t huge piles of shit for me to take care of. There weren’t any major issues I needed to address. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought that bringing my baby to the day care where I worked would be the perfect situation for me. However, without a lot to do to keep me busy that first day, I sat in my office, listening to my eight week old baby crying down the hall and spent the majority of my energy (which I had very little of at the time) resisting the urge to run to him. After about four hours into my day, I pretty much decided that this wasn’t going to work out.

It wasn’t even just the emotional side of things. The UPS campaign, “We Love Logistics” made me want to punch someone in the face. I fucking hated the logistics of being a working mother. I hated trying to get myself ready and the baby packed while my husband traveled for work. I hated trying to find someone to watch the baby after work for me so that I could stay late for staff meetings. I hated pumping in my office and storing little baggies of breast milk in the staff lounge refrigerator. I know that there are a lot of women that are able to make the transition to becoming a working mother easily and smoothly, but I was not one of them. And so, four months in, I put my career on hold to get my shit together.

Over the 16 months following my resignation, I held all kinds of titles such as stay-at-home mom, work-at-home mom, mommy/nanny, part-time working mom, etc.  I did a complete full circle when it comes to roles as a mother. I have to say, they all have their challenges. Being at home with children all day was not always easier than going to work full time. It’s been two years since I became a parent and I am JUST finally starting to feel like I’m adjusting. I’m happy to announce that tomorrow is my first day back in the saddle as a full time working mother. It’s taken me two years to trust someone else to take good care of my son and to not feel guilty for pursuing a career. And you know what?? I think I’m even going to make UPS proud. It’s only 2:00pm and I’ve already got our bags and lunches packed and clothes laid out for the morning. Who loves logistics now?

ups

I’d love to hear about your experience as a working mother, stay at home mother, or some crazy combination in between! Leave me a comment below about how you adjusted and any advice you have for my return to work!

The “Do We Call the Doctor” Debate

As moms, we are obligated to worry about every tiny sniffle, red mark, or red rash that appears on our children. It’s what we do. No matter how serious or minor it may be, we can’t help ourselves. We worry about it. We scrutinize the symptoms, we take photos when possible, and then we start consulting with anyone and everyone for their opinions (including our own mothers, our mom friends, our sisters, our online support groups, our Facebook friends, etc). And after we’ve exhausted all of our resources, we being the ever exhausting, “Do We Call the Doctor Debate?”

This is precisely the chain of events that occurred on Tuesday night when my husband took Grey upstairs for bath time and then began yelling for me from the bathroom. From the tone of his voice, I was imagining that my son was bleeding on the bathroom floor or drowning in the tub. That’s another thing mothers do. We imagine the worst. We can’t help it. (FYI – Raising kids is seriously stressful). But anyways, it turns out Grey had come down with a rash on his backside. And right then and there, I took photos of my son’s bare ass and then texted them to my mom and my sister for their opinion. Yup. Just another day in the motherhood.

And so it began. The Debate. Do we call the doctor? I go through the same thought process every time I find myself in this situation and it almost always goes like this: Should I call the doctor? Is it that serious? Will they think I’m crazy? They’ll probably just tell me it’s viral. Is it worth bothering the on-call physician at home for something little? Do I care if these people think I’m crazy?

I really want to be that laid back mother who doesn’t give a shit about anything and could stay calm even in the craziest situation (if that mom even exists, that is), but I just can’t. In the end, I always end up calling the doctor. And as I’m describing whatever ridiculous health issue I’m concerned about, I always end up sounding like a total nut case and realizing half way through my spiel that cradle crap is probably not a pressing issue and doesn’t warrant a phone call to the pediatrician on the weekend.

A few months ago, my son fell and hit his head on the hardwood pretty early on a Saturday morning. After assessing the massive bruise and finally convincing myself that this was definitely an acceptable situation to bother the doctor, I made the call. It went like this.

 Is he bleeding? 

No.

Is he still crying?

No.

Is he vomiting?

No.

Are his eyes dilated or is he losing consciousness?

Um…. No. Shit. I probably should have Googled this before I woke you up at 6:00am on a Saturday….

You get the drift.

So, back to Tuesday night. The Rash. After consulting the opinions of my Mommy Army and before making another obnoxious phone call, I decided to do a little research myself. As it turns out, Googling health symptoms may not be the best idea either. If you type in “toddler rash on back and buttocks” into your search engine, which I am NOT recommending, I can almost guarantee you will lose your lunch. It’s like a health symptom horror movie. You may need to call your OWN doctor to help you recover from the post traumatic stress disorder you are about to endure from viewing photos of that shit.

Originally, I was thinking my son might have some kind of cold virus that produced a rash, but after my super scientific research (aka WebMD), I was convinced he had something really nasty and scary. Roseola, Coxsackie, Impetigo, Chicken Pox…. What the fuck is Herpangina???

So what do you think I did?? I’ll give you one guess. I called the on-call doctor. Want to know how that turned out???? They didn’t call me back. HAHAHA. Maybe you only get a certain number of on-call phone calls before they just start ignoring you. But seriously, here we are two days later, and the rash is still present. I swear to God, not only am I going to make an appointment and take him into the doctor tomorrow, but I am going to give someone some serious shit for not calling me back. I’m sure they won’t think I’m crazy at all.

And for your information, I was going to include one of the bare ass red rash photos I took because I think it’s totally ridiculous and hilarious that those are seriously on the camera roll of my phone right now, but I decided to spare you. So, you’re welcome.

Oh and one last thing. The next time your spouse pisses you off, just Google “toddler butt rash” and leave the window open on their laptop. Sure way to ruin their day.

The Parking Lot Show Down

I’m walking out of the grocery store, in a full sweat, cart overflowing, toddler squirming, trying to locate my keys while attempting to keep my kid from jumping out of the cart. It’s a Saturday morning, so the grocery store is absolutely packed. I only managed to get an amazing parking spot since I arrived here at the ass crack of dawn (or so it seems) and it’s gotten busy during the crazy amount of time I’ve spent trying to complete this errand. As I’m walking the short distance to my car, I can’t help but feel as though I’m being watched. I turn around and notice that a car is slowly creeping behind me while I’m pushing my cart, probably looking like the motherhood version of a bag lady, still sweating and struggling to end this god awful grocery shopping chore. I realize that the car’s blinker is already turned on when it finally hits me – this person is going to follow me and wait for my parking spot.

Clearly, this driver doesn’t have children because it’s obvious they have no idea how much time and effort I’m about to spend loading my entire trunk full of groceries and then attempting to fight the wild beast into his car seat.

I’m annoyed for several reasons. I was already feeling rushed, knowing that my toddler is a ticking time bomb, set to go off as soon as he finished the last of the snacks I packed. Now I’m feeling the added pressure of trying to hurry up so that this douche bag can have my parking spot. Plus, after taking a look around the parking lot, I notice that there are plenty of other spaces (just not nearly as close to the entrance as mine). But really, it’s not raining, it’s a gorgeous day, and this lazy Mother Effer is making me feel the need to rush even more than I already am, just to save  himself a few extra steps to the door?

Well, I hope that this guy’s time isn’t as important to him as his precious energy because it’s going to be at least 15 minutes before I am even thinking about backing out of this parking spot. And not because I’m just trying to be annoying or purposely slow (Ok, maybe a little….) but because it’s seriously going to take me that long to get myself organized.

I finally locate my keys and begin loading the 100 bags of groceries into the trunk of my car. On a side note, how is it possible to need this much food for a family with only one small child?? What am I going to do when he’s a teenager??? But I digress. All while I am loading the car, I am singing and entertaining the kid to keep him from losing his shit out of pure boredom. I can’t load him first because I have to walk 10 parking spaces away to put the cart in the little corral. I bet the driver who’s waiting for my spot is one of those people who doesn’t even put their cart in the corral out of pure laziness. I take my time loading the car and walk my cart down to the corral, toddler in tow. I pick up my son and walk back to my car, shocked that this person is STILL waiting for my spot. I realize at this point that I left the box of diapers on the shelf underneath the cart, so I walk ALL the way back to the cart corral carrying a 30lb kid and grab the damn box. (Now you are starting to understand why I’m  in a full sweat and why I consider grocery shopping a full fledged workout).

I get back to my car and realize that my son’s diaper is leaking. I lay him down in the back seat, change him, and then begin strapping him into his carseat, which is no easy feat.

Seriously, this person is STILL fucking waiting??? It’s impossible. He could have finished his shopping by now. But at this point, I guess, he’s committed. He’s waited this long. He is NOT giving up now.

As I walk around to the driver’s seat, I catch a glimpse of the driver. It was a man. Go figure. Only a middle aged man who prides himself on getting the best spot possible would wait this long. Or maybe a teenaged girl who doesn’t mind talking or texting on her cell phone for 15-20 minutes while she waits. Or people who don’t have kids in the backseat, I suppose.

The point of my story is this. Stop being lazy. But if you really feel the need to stalk someone walking to their car in order to get a good parking space, you should probably follow someone who doesn’t have kids (unless you have 20 minutes to spare).