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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.”

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.

 

 

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/

Our Second Attempt at Breakfast with Santa

If you follow my blog, then I’m sure you already know about the awful experience at Santa Breakfast that we had last year. Long story short, the venue was a warehouse, the food was vegan-organic-soy-gross, and Santa’s little elves were dressed in combat boots and fish nets. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed. On a side note, that place actually had the balls to call me back and ask if we’d be attending again this year…. I’ll just let you imagine my response.

So this year, I was bound and determined to make it right. I researched several Breakfasts with Santa and we decided to make reservations for one held St. John Fisher College, where my husband and I met. How cute, right? If you aren’t familiar with Fisher, let me fill you in quickly on the dining hall situation. Fisher had the absolute most amazing dining hall food in collegiate history. There’s a reason I weighed 25 pounds heavier in college and only a small portion of that weight (Ok, maybe about half that weight) was due to the exorbitant amount of alcohol consumed regularly. Brunch in the Fisher dining hall is legendary. On a Sunday after a long night of drinking, there was nothing better than a minimum of three plates filled with eggs, bacon, breakfast pizza, home fries, and whatever other delicious additions you could find floating around the dining hall. In short, the food was damn good. So when we found out that Fisher hosts a Breakfast with Santa, it seemed the perfect opportunity to visit our Alma mater. At least we knew the food would definitely be better than the organic cardboard crap we pushed around our plates at last year’s event.

Walking around the Fisher campus was a little bit surreal. I swear, the same old woman who swiped your meal card at the door was still there. The last time that I was in the dining hall in college, I definitely didn’t have a child with me and I was probably far more hung over. And brunch? It was even better than I remember. We had a blast eating breakfast and decorating cookies. Then, it was our turn to meet Santa.

Here we are trying to convince our kid that Santa isn't a total creep.

Here we are trying to convince our kid that Santa isn’t a total creep.

Greyson has always been a little bit scared of strangers, so I knew the chances of him sitting on Santa’s lap were probably slim. Now that I think about it, I actually prefer  that he has a problem with me handing him off to a stranger, especially a creepy old man with a beard and a ridiculous red jumpsuit. I’m totally fine with the fact that he doesn’t think it’s normal to sit on a stranger’s lap, even if they are trying to bribe you with toys and candy…. But I digress. We got Grey a train table for Christmas, so we were trying to hype him up for it by telling him to ask for choo choo trains when it was his turn to meet Santa. While we couldn’t get the kid anywhere near sitting on Santa’s lap, we did get close enough for him to tell Santa what he wanted. And do you know what he asked for? Not choo choo trains, not a bike, not trucks or books or airplanes. He asked for a water bottle. He wants a frickin’ WATER BOTTLE. Are you kidding me?! God, I love toddlers. Now that, my friends, I can make happen. I don’t have to wait in lines on black Friday to get a good deal on a water bottle or try to beat the crowds to ensure that the store isn’t sold out of water bottles. I’m almost positive it doesn’t get any easier than buying your kid a water bottle for Christmas. I know in a few short years he’ll  think he’s worthy of a PS4 or the newest Apple product, but this year, I am just enjoying the fact that the kid wants a fucking water bottle.

Check out this sweet construction truck water bottle. I'm going to have the happiest kid ever on Christmas morning.

Check out this sweet construction truck water bottle. I’m going to have the happiest kid ever on Christmas morning.

All in all, it was an awesome day. I got to enjoy an amazing breakfast with my family, visit with some friends, and got to watch my son tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas for the first time. And on top of that, Santa’s Elves were dressed appropriately this year and didn’t even seem like they were smoking something between shifts. Cheers to that.

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