## 1-2-3-4. Raising Baby Costs Some More.

Babystar is a genius and also she knows nothing.

She knows that she is two years old, and she can hold up two fingers. I am certain she has no concept of time. She doesn’t know what ‘two-years-old’ means.

She can count to ten. I am pretty sure this is solely because her 20-year-old brother makes her count to ten before BLASTOFF. Blastoff is a game they play where he flies her to the kitchen and back. I pretend I don’t understand it because I don’t want to play.

She can count her toys or her fingers or her books. She can bring me three books. She understands amounts, especially amounts of cookies. But she has no clue what a five looks like.

We bought this Melissa & Doug puzzle to try to help her learn what the numbers look like. (\$7.99) It is sort of working. She has 1, 3, 4 and 8 on lockdown. She knows where 7 fits in the puzzle, but she doesn’t know that it is seven. 6 and 9 are a lot of fun because they fit in each other’s spots. 2 and 5 give her trouble. They are almost the same but they aren’t the same at all. (Except on a calculator so she’s basically a genius.)

She calls this puzzle her Number Game and she loves playing her Number Game. She’ll get there.

I totally need to Pinterest-Mom DIY a number matching game for her, and I totally will. Someday. Maybe when she goes to college and I have a few minutes to myself. For now, we match the puzzle numbers to the numbers on her wooden blocks and then name the numbers.

MAYDAY MAYDAY: DOES ANYONE ELSE HAVE ANY IDEAS THAT ARE SUPER EASY AND SUPER EFFECTIVE?

I also bought these flash cards from the Target dollar aisle. One of them is for numbers. I haven’t opened any of these boxes. They are in the ’emergency distraction’ drawer. I’ll think of a number game soon. Maybe.

Babystar busted out with ‘eleven, twelve’ the other day and I was all, what do you know about twelve?!?

It turns out that her iPad plays a song that counts to twelve, and she knows about clock numbers from Blue’s Clues.

Then I figured out that her laptop* plays a song that counts to twenty. And Babystar has learned up to fourteen. Guess what comes after fourteen? Fourteen!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 14, 14, 14, 14, 14, 14, 14.

This is where we live now. Good enough.

RAISING BABYSTAR: \$21,184.43

*This laptop that was a birthday present last year from her uncle. It also totally taught her the alphabet. But she calls N ‘newt’. It is so freaking cute and I don’t want to correct her. Can we all just agree to change the pronunciation of N to ‘newt‘? Please? Ok, cool, thanks.

## Pura and Simple.

YOU GUYS I FOUND SOME SWEET NEW WATER BOTTLES.

Well, ok, I found them in my mailbox after asking the nice people at Tryazon to hook me up with their Pura Stainless party pack. I said please. They said yes. Sweet!

(Skip to the bottom if you already love Pura Stainless and just want the discount code. It’s fine. I won’t be mad. Much.)

I invited over some friends and their kids and we painted rocks and talked about water bottles. We talked about other things, too, but water bottles are fascinating, y’all.

(I may have mentioned my obsession to find the perfect water bottle before. But maybe you don’t know that this obsession extends to Mama size bottles too.)

I love the earth, and I love drinking water, and I have a ToddlerMonster that will spill any water with no lid. So I need perfect water bottles at home on the couch, by my bed at night, AND on-the-go.

The perfect water bottle will keep my water cold. The perfect water bottle will not have a weird taste. The perfect water bottle will not spill if knocked over. The perfect water bottle for the ToddlerMonster will not spill even if it is banged around in my backpack. The perfect water bottle is easy to clean. And the perfect water bottle is good for my health and kind to the earth.

I have found an almost perfect water bottle.

YOU GUYS OMG!

Before I declare complete perfection, I do need to tote Babystar’s straw-spout bottle around in the backpack/diaper bag for a bit to see if it leaks all over everything. I don’t think it will — I turned it upside down and shook it VERY HARD. I will update this post later with my very scientific results.

The Pura Stainless bottles definitely keep my water cold. I have been using the larger size insulated bottle for a week, and my water is just as cold at 4am as it is when I set it on my bedside at 10pm. And it’s STILL COLD in the morning.

The spout is silicon, even though most of the bottle is stainless steel. Silicon tastes like nothing. PERFECT!

Results are out on the long-term spilling situation on both the mama bear and the baby bear size. The outlook is good but further testing is needed. I want to tell you about them NOW though, not in three months.

All parts of the Pura stainless bottles are (top-rack) dishwasher safe! But more importantly to me, there are not many parts and they all come COMPLETELY APART. So there is no question of whether that is mold in that plastic bit that I cannot dismantle.

There is literally ZERO PLASTIC. None. It’s really freaking cool. The bottles are stainless steel and silicon. That’s it. 100% recyclable and good for my family and the entire planet.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.

These bottles have a feature that I didn’t even know I wanted. But now I’m so mad that every company doesn’t do this. Every single component is compatible with the other. There are six sized bottles from 5oz to 28oz. There are five different types of tops: baby nipple, toddler sippy, straw top, capped drinking spout, and a silicon lid that closes the bottle completely to turn it into a storage bottle (which would be great for formula or those powder sports drink mixes). I can mix and match as much as I like. The thready bits are all the same size, so everything fits on everything.  I LOVE THIS SO MUCH.

(Well, ok, the bottom part of the straw won’t reach the bottom of the larger bottles but I suspect there will be straw size options eventually. And you can technically still use the straw top on any size bottle but you have to tip it.)

I AM OFFICIALLY OBSESSED. Right now, I prefer this bottle to almost everything in my entire kitchen. Babystar is less impressed; she prefers her Unicorn Water but I think that’s only because there is a freaking unicorn on it. Toddler logic, y’all.

I gave away three of the five bottles that Pura Stainless sent via Tryazon because I AM SO NICE. I miss them. I kept the two that Babystar and I have been trying. Below is a size comparison, using my hand. Not a ruler because I am lazy. Those are the insulated bottles in 9oz and 22oz. I totally kept the insulated ones because I AM SO GREEDY. (Well, ok, I gave away one of the three insulated bottles they sent to me. See? NICE.)

Dear Pura Stainless, please make some sleeves with dinosaurs or unicorns or clever sayings (for the teenagers — and mostly me). Love, your latest social media stalker.

I wish I could have invited the whole internet to my rock painting party but I didn’t have that many rocks. I guess you could have brought your own. Whoops, my bad. But you can still use the party’s discount code for 20% off  through September 3: Pura22206.

HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

MAYDAY MAYDAY: Have you tried Pura Stainless bottles? Do you have a different favorite water bottle? Am I the only reusable-bottle-obsessed mama on the internet??

RAISING BABYSTAR: \$20,963.61

## O Target! My Target!

O Target! my Target! our shopping trip is done,
This mom has search’ed every rack, the prize we sought is won,
With Cat and Jack, with Up and Up, through self check-out gates,
With empty Starbucks in my hand, the minivan awaits;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the concrete balls of red,
Where in the haste my Cartwheel app,
Was forgotten once again.
I love Target. I am basic af and I don’t even care.
I love Target like Babystar loves coloring. Which is, like, a LOT.
During my most recent journey to paradise, I bought two new Cat and Jack shirts for Babystar because I just can’t get enough. (\$4.50 each.)
I bought four more Up and Up blank paper pads for the insatiable Toddler Artist. (\$2.19 each.)
And then I went back because their Back to School sales are ridiculous (and because I live at Target now) and bought two more paper pads and two packs of markers for \$5.75.
And THEN I was like WUUUUUT so I went back again and bought a whole bunch of art supplies for \$15.36. I stocked the art supply chest for the YEAR with this haul.
Oh, and I got some scissors for \$0.94 and pencil cases (that I’m using to corral crayons and markers) for \$0.97 each.
Then I noticed that the Cat and Jack shirts were on sale and/or clearance so I (obviously) bought four more for \$2.10, \$4.00, \$2.25, and \$3.15.
Also, I DISCOVERED A NEW LAND AISLE with tons of super cute baby and toddler plates and cups and bowls and utensils. You guys. OMG. I snapped some pictures to show you. Have you seen this adorableness??
I love that there exists colorful BPA-free divided and non-divided plates for as low as seventy-nine cents! Circles AND squares! (Though the divided plates seem about as shallow as a Kardashian.)
The Pillowfort printed plates also look really cool but I wish the dividers reached the top of the lip of the plates, like my beloved Re-play Recycled divided plates.
I found are ‘big girl’ cups and utensils, too. I bought a set of utensils from Cheeky Kids for \$3.99. The front of the box promises that Cheeky Kids will donate a meal for every item sold.
The back of the box explains that actually means a ten cent donation. And that the products are made in China. Cheeky Kids website says they are ‘made with love in China’. I’m not sure if that means there are pictures of hearts on the sweatshop’s walls or what. I’ll hope for the best. At least they are feeding hungry children with some of the money they are saving by making their products overseas. I guess.
Babystar loves the innobaby fork and spoon that came with the Din Din Bus Platter Mealtime Set. The utensil sets are available on innobaby’s web site for \$9.99 each, but I am looking for a lower cost alternative. The Cheeky Kids utensils are a bit smaller and lighter than the innobaby utensils, but Babystar doesn’t seem to have a preference. Unless she is in a ‘pink’ mood. Or a ‘penguin’ mood.
I guess I should go back to Target for a set of the Pillowfort utensils to really compare. Oh no. Golly darn it. I have to go back to Target. JUST KIDDING I’M AT TARGET RIGHT NOW.
MAYDAY MAYDAY: When did you switch your child from plastic to metal utensils? Did you buy child size metal utensils or just go straight to the adult size ones? Are you also a fan of the Target? (I know it’s not just me. I’ve seen the memes.)
RAISING BABYSTAR: \$20,620.87

## The Art of the Bribe.

Bribery. Good parents would NEVER bribe their children, right?

Who can say? There is no way to contact these Bribery-Free Good Parents. They are all very busy explaining to Toddlers why the Good Parents need at least one hand and a small amount of quiet in order to make a phone call oh never mind the office closed hours ago.

Child Bribery is the reason banks have lollipops. Without lollipops, banks are basically the most boring place on earth. WITH lollipops, banks are a super fun treat.

Child Bribery is the reason that popsicles EXIST. I make popsicles so I can say, ‘hey, do you want a popsicle’ and Babystar will say ‘obviously’ and I have about four minutes to load the dishwasher or change my tampon unassisted or make a dentist appointment.

I don’t know what I will offer when she starts refusing popsicles. Twenty dollar bills?

Whatever works, y’all.

But here’s the thing. Or, at least, here is the thing that I tell myself but is probably not true at all because Toddlers are wily af. Babystar has no clue that she is being bribed. She just thinks mommy is really nice and sometimes gives her popsicles along with a little personal space to eat them and drip them on the floor if that is her choice.

Boom. Mom of the year.

We have spent the last six years a few weeks this summer at various stores shopping for the Teenager’s dorm furnishings. (In case you don’t know, The Teenager likes everything to be just so. Dorm shopping involved a lot of Pinning and Browsing and comparison shopping and returning things and buying other things and returning THOSE things and buying other things.)

Babystar loves her sister and she loves going bye-bye (mostly) but everyone has limits. And of course she wants to touch everything in Home Goods and RUN SO FAST through Target’s aisles because duh. She is also learning sequences, and she responds really well to ‘first this, then this’. I can say first we change your diaper, then we go to the park. Or first lunch, then diaper, then park. So I always made the third thing fun. First we return sheets at Target, then we buy hangers at Home Goods, then we go to the splash park. First we get dorm snacks at Trader Joe’s, then we buy storage bins at Target, then we have a picnic with the airplanes. First Ikea, then Target (ALWAYS Target), then we can pick out a toy at Home Goods (while the Teenager decides on the absolutely perfect throw pillow).

Home Goods has the BEST toys, y’all. They almost always have discounted Melissa & Doug toys. And Green Toys. And books. There is only one small Toy Aisle so Babystar’s choices are limited (good) but the inventory is constantly changing so it is a new toy store every time (better). I am a huge fan.

During my three desperate ‘you can pick any toy’ days, I was pretty willing to buy whichever toy she chose. The most expensive thing there is usually still under thirty bucks.

The first Toy Bribe Day, Babystar chose Green Toys Sports Boats. There were two on the shelf; one was blue and one was orange. And they both had cool Duck Captains. Babystar could not choose a color, so I bought both. They were \$5.99 each, and they are normally \$11.99, so one was basically free, right? Isn’t that how math works? (I know. Shhh.) She loves them and plays with them every night during her bath.

The next Toy Bribe Day, Babystar chose a Melissa & Doug felt food sandwich set (\$12.99). It is pretty sweet. Pretend food is apparently ALL THE RAGE in Babystar’s world right now. (I eat fake corn and take bites of fake ketchup several times a day.) So it is really strange to me that she has not even asked about the sandwich set since we brought it home. It is sitting in the top of her closet waiting for a rainy day (proverbial or actual) or perhaps Christmas.

The last Toy Bribe Day of the Dorm Shopping Extravaganza, Babystar chose a small pack of wooden blocks (\$3.00). These blocks were on CLEARANCE at Home Goods. Home Goods prices are already basically clearance prices. I was very excited about the wooden blocks. I was mostly excited about the fact that they only cost three dollars.

The blocks are meant to be a little town or something but Babystar loves to build a TOWER SO TALL TO THE SKY so she plays with them a bit different than intended. (Whatever; her blocks, her tower, her life.)

And oh yeah, we all got pedicures before taking the Teenager to college. Babystar’s blue toes cost \$10.

RAISING BABYSTAR: \$20,564.60

MAYDAY MAYDAY: Do you use Child Bribery to make your life easier? What form? Does it work? (I’m clearly soliciting new plans, if you couldn’t tell.)

## Back to School.

Tis the season for back to school blog posts. You know, right between vacation tips and pumpkin carving. I think I’m supposed to be writing this in a chalkboard font. Whoops.

Today I am driving my middle child to college. And coming home without her. If you need me tomorrow, I’ll be huddled under the dining room table with my thumb in my mouth, rocking back and forth. Babystar will hang out with me and we will have snacks. And probably several toys. And a cat. Hmm. It’s going to be difficult to wallow in my sadness with all that fun.

But I’m not sad. This is so exciting. LOOK HOW HAPPY AND EXCITED I AM.

It’s ok to be all of these things, right?

I am typing this early as I will be driving and crying (wait wasn’t that a band?) all day Monday. But I will use the magic of the internet (and future posting) to trick all of you.

Did it work?

My beautiful college freshman and I have spent the last month gathering everything she might need for her dorm. She needed a LOT of stuff, and we shopped around for deals, and for the prettiest of the pretty things. Which meant that Babystar has spent a LOT of time at a LOT of stores (ok, mostly Home Goods and Ikea and our beloved Target), helping us choose sheets and pillows and notebooks and laundry detergent and so much everything.

I have basically forwarded my mail to Target.

And we did go a little crazy in the Back to School section of the Dollar Aisles of Target for Babystar, too.

Please note: I am not pressuring my two-year-old child to, like, start reading and doing algebra or whatever. But she is naturally curious, and she loves to sing the ABCs, and point out letters, and count things. She loves books and sometimes she wants me to read books to her and sometimes she reads them to me. And other times we just have reading time and she brings me my own board book and sits next to me with another and we mind our own business. Interesting creatures, Toddlers.

My son was about Babystar’s age when he started asking to do ‘workbooks’. Target had them for one dollar each so I bought some (\$5) to put in the arts and crafts dresser for whenever Babystar is ready.

But wait, there is SO MUCH MORE. We bought some flash cards for letters and numbers. Babystar knows all the letters as long as they are capital letters. We need to work on lowercase letters next. And she likes to count but she has been starting with four unless reminded about lowly one, two, and three. We bought some matching puzzle games for concepts like opposites, shapes, counting, and the alphabet. We also bought flash cards — not to quiz the baby — but so she can have her own cards to play with. (Her older brother loves magic and especially loves card tricks and Babystar likes to play with his cards. Sometimes that is ok and sometimes it is not ok.) And if Babystar wants to talk about the letters and numbers on her cards, EVEN BETTER. We also bought a felt pizza counting game because Babystar loves pretend food. All of these were one dollar each.

The Felt Counting Pizza is one of the few games we have opened at this point, and she LOVES IT and practices over and over and she’s totally doing it. I’m actually surprised at how fast she picked up the counting game. And y’all — she starts with ONE. OMG. Thank you, pizza.

We got a few other sneaky learning toys. We found a pack of square wooden blocks with the letters of the alphabet both uppercase and LOWERCASE. She has some wooden blocks already, and these are only the tiniest fraction of an inch smaller. For only three dollars, I really thought the difference would be more noticeable.

This set of wooden fruit is fun on it’s own and it also teaches balance, as the smaller fruits all balance on the watermelon. They don’t have to be in a specific order, they just have to be equal on both sides. Kind of perfect for teaching the concept of weight to a toddler.

And we bought a Tickety Tock. Do you remember Blue’s Clues? Babystar is obsessed with that show. I know that she is too young to learn to tell time. I really do know this. But she very much WANTED the chalkboard clock and she has been SO PATIENT with all of the dorm shopping and it was only three dollars, so we bought the toy clock.

The grand total for all of these cool learning toys was \$21.

Ridiculously low, I think. I do NOT want to think about how or where they were made. I know I could have made many of these things myself or I could have spent a hundred dollars buying from small business. I also know that I SHOULD have done that. But this time I did not. Please feel free to drop links for responsibly made versions of these items in the comment section.

RAISING BABYSTAR: \$20,456.30