Riding in Cars with Toddlers.

I recently took a road trip with my toddler. Just me and the two-year-old.


I was cocky. I was so prepared. I was writing a blog post in my head as I pulled out of the parking lot. It was all about how TOTALLY EASY traveling with toddlers could be as long as you were prepared.

Turns out all you really need is a whole bunch of extra clothes and a lot of patience.

I pulled over three times before I left Virginia. I live in Arlington, which is the very TOP of Virginia. The first two times were because she ‘dropped’ something important, like a particular Care Bear or Little Pony. The third time was because she Exorcist-style puked all over herself and I had to clean her and her car seat on the side of the road. Then, fourteen miles later (but finally in a different state), she hurled again.

And I thought I had overpacked.

I stopped at the first place I could find. We changed her clothes and washed up in the Waffle House bathroom. I doubt Babystar was the first person to clean puke in that Waffle House bathroom and I doubt she will be the last. She is likely the cutest.

We walked around outside for some fresh air before we went inside and found a booth. ($10 for both of us, with tip.) My toddler ordered a piece of toast. Babystar is 85 years old, y’all.

When we finally got back in the car, she fell asleep almost immediately. We had been gone over two hours and we were about thirty-five miles from home.

So. Extra clothes and extra time. That’s mostly all you need when traveling with toddlers. I feel like I totally should have known that.

Instead, I prepared by packing an entire backpack full of fun activities (to puke on).


I brought along our beloved Melissa and Doug Water Wow ‘Art Show’ book plus two more that I bought for the trip. ($9.98) I also brought two Melissa and Doug Color Blast books, which are the ‘magic’ marker books. They only color on the paper in the book. They totally rock, but she didn’t play with them until we got to Pennsylvania. (Then they were awesome for sharing with her cousins so yay?)

I packed a super swag backpack. Inside were a few of her favorite books, a new pack of crayons from my back-to-school haul, two blank Dr. Suess tiny notepads from the Target dollar aisle, a cool generic Magnadoodle that I found for five bucks at Target, an awesome new ‘Nature’ sticker book ($6.99), and some stuffed friends for when she dropped the ones that started the voyage in her car seat. Babystar’s car seat is directly behind my seat, so I planned to just hand her fun new toys as she got bored.

I also filled and packed all three of her water bottles. I gave her one but planned to pass her the others if she emptied or dropped it.

I did not plan on the puke.

No one ever plans on the puke.

All of my preparation was totally useful for the forty-eight minutes of the trip that she was awake and feeling happy and well.

These minutes were not consecutive.

But. We made it. On the way home, I took her to a playground after our hotel breakfast (free!). We visited a train museum (free!). We waited until midday to get on the road, and it kind of worked.


She didn’t get sick right away. She played in the car seat with her bears and books and toys for a couple of hours. My magic backpack was a total hit! She then slept for a long time. And then she got sick when she woke up. We cleaned her up and spent ninety minutes at a Chick-fil-A ($10.55) that was about forty-five minutes from home. I wasn’t that mad. Babystar was a trooper.

All she ever wanted after puking was a clean shirt.

Travel tip: Pack a super cool fun backpack if you want. But mostly, pack extra clothes. And extra time.

MAYDAY MAYDAY: Does anyone have kids that are prone to carsickness? What helps?
RAISING BABYSTAR: $21,233.93

 

A Friday for Remebering.

Babystar and I are out of town this week for a funeral. It’s not the sad kind, except that all funerals are sad. My Uncle Frank lived to be 91 years old and was in good spirits but also in pain when I saw him last year. In fact, the wake was a little too serious this afternoon because the man who would make everyone laugh was lying in the casket instead of telling stories, joking with the adults, and lovingly teasing the children.


This guy.

I had this lighthearted learning-to-count post scheduled for tomorrow, but instead I am in a hotel room with my sleeping toddler in a town full of memories and so instead here is this.
(Turning forty and then a family funeral is making me soft. We will return to our regularly scheduled sarcasm shortly.)

So. Me. Nostalgia. 

I was a Teen Mom before it was capitalized. I had my first child at the so very young age of nineteen. This was 1996; MTV still played music videos and books still had paper.
There was no Teen Mom television show; there was no 16 and Pregnant. There was no Facebook, no Instagram, and no Twitter.

There. Was. No. Internet. Can you imagine? We still spelled out all of our words. OMGLOL.
Ok, there was a tiny bit of internet. We had America Online and we paid by the minute and the chat rooms were (mostly) full of creepy old men. Computer games were on floppy disks. We still addressed our emails like old-fashioned letters.

There were no DVRs. My son (and later daughter, born in 1999) watched Blue’s Clues on VHS cassettes like every other child of the Nineties. (Babystar watches Blue’s Clues on my phone in Target if she hasn’t had a nap.)

As regular readers know, just as my two children of the LAST MILLENNIUM were headed off to college, I had a brand new baby in 2015.

Back in 1996, the doctors would have called mine a Geriatric Pregnancy. In 2015, it was no biggie. I was an Old Mom, but so was everyone else.

(Um, who coined geriatric pregnancy? Because that person is clearly an asshole who has never met a pregnant woman.)

Raising babies in the 1990s and raising babies now is mostly the same but also ABSOLUTELY COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

We still need to take care of the babies in utero.

I remember the excitement of the sonograms in the 1990s. We had one grainy black and white sonogram at the beginning of the pregnancy to check out the heartbeat and then one later on in the pregnancy to check the fetal progression (and usually find out the sex!). They were very exciting and you got a nice snapshot of a blurry black and white semicircle so you could try to figure out which side was the head.

In 2015, I had SO MANY SONOGRAMS. It felt like they lasted for hours. They were definite twenty to thirty minute ordeals. I remember wishing them over so I could go pee. The technicians checked out every little tiny part of baby in utero, which is AMAZING. Science is amazing! But it also took forever (to me), as I was expecting a quick slimy belly time and ‘ok there’s a baby cool beans’ and then boom, done.

We still need to birth the babies. 


Back in the nineties, my labor was induced with my first two babies because they both went past their due dates. My son was only five days past his due date (and it was a first pregnancy!) when the doctor insisted I head to the hospital for induction. He called me high risk solely because of my age and my poor little baby boy was born jaundiced after over twenty-four hours of labor — including over two hours of active pushing. After he was born, the doctor reached his arm into my body to pull out the baby’s placenta. (Yes, you read that right and it hurt more than the actual birth. Also, I’m sorry for that godawful visual but I LIVED it.) The nurses weighed and measured and bathed and swaddled my son before finally handing him to his father (not me) and I had no idea that there was any other way to do this childbirth thing.

I went to a different doctor when pregnant with my second child. My daughter was induced at ten days past her due date, but other than that the labor was easy. I’m sure it was just luck, because ideas had not changed much in two years and I still had never even heard the term ‘Birth Plan’.

Thankfully, we know much more about childbirth now. I think both the medical professionals AND the parents are much more informed. My doctor and I agreed from the beginning that we would not force baby to come before she was ready. I have heard from friends (and strangers on the internet) that babies are not even really considered late until two weeks past their due date. My placenta was delivered by the doctor. My baby was placed on my body as soon as humanely possible (she had an issue but it was resolved in minutes) and we had skin to skin contact, which we now know is as important for parent-to-baby microbe transmission as it is for parental bonding.

I have read that some parents are choosing to delay the cutting of the cord for a few minutes to help baby transition earth-side. I know that a lot of people are choosing midwives and doulas and home births. I love that there is a conversation between parents and the medical professionals. I love that we now know more about our options and have choices and voices as parents.

We still have to feed the babies.


In 1996, I took my jaundiced son home and a nurse came with us to set him up in what we lovingly called ‘his nightclub’. He had to spend almost every minute under ultraviolet lights with his eyes completely covered and the rest of his body completely naked. We were told to take him out every two hours to baste him. (Just kidding. We had to feed him and clean him and clean the dishtowel lined baking pan in which he laid. Lay? Lie? You know what I mean.) The nurse helped me with breastfeeding but also brought us ready made bottles of Similac from the hospital and encouraged supplementing ‘so mama could get some sleep’.

His bilirubin count came down and he was out from under the lights within a week, but the resulting nipple confusion from the bottles that we were encouraged to feed him made breastfeeding difficult. I know that NOW. I did not understand what was going on back then, so I kept offering the bottle when he had a difficult time at the breast. No one told me to stop.

I was much more successful nursing my second child, but again, I think it was luck. 

With my last little sweetheart, I was inundated with the benefits of breastfeeding before baby was even born. I had a Feeding Plan in place while still pregnant. The nurses at the hospital all checked to make sure baby was latching well, and even kept the baby in the room so I could feed her every two hours (or more) from the moment she was born. I took a breastfeeding class before leaving the hospital, where I asked about pumping so others could feed the baby while I slept. The woman teaching the class told me that was a horrible idea and if I wanted her to, she would be happy to speak with my husband to make sure that he didn’t feel like he had to ‘have a turn’ feeding the baby. (Um, I was just wondering if I would ever sleep again, but the message was definitely received. Hard no.)

About six weeks in, my sweet little baby started having screaming fits at night for over an hour. My firstborn did the exact same in thing 1996: the doctor called it ‘colic’, and it lasted for almost a year. In 2015, the pediatrician put ME on an elimination diet to see if something I was eating was affecting the baby. The baby was indeed sensitive to dairy via my breastmilk for almost the first year of her life. I now think that my poor baby boy had the same issue twenty years ago, but the doctors didn’t know to even try removing dairy from his diet.

Per the doctor’s recommendation, I started my firstborn on cereal at four months and he was eating jars of Beechnut by six months. Twenty years later, I read for hours the benefits of Baby-Led Weaning versus purees. I decided to feed this baby purees because she had no teeth by the time she seemed interested in food at seven months old. I made all of her pureed baby food myself to avoid preservatives and whatever other scary chemicals are in ready made baby food. I know IN MY HEAD that ready made baby food is fine and certainly more healthy that it was twenty years ago but the information overload really got to me so I felt like I had to make all of her food in order to be a good mother. The mommy guilt is strong these days.

We still need to raise the babies.

The internet is a wonderful and terrible thing. I love reading Mommy Blogs and being a part of parenting groups on Facebook. I can now get advice from literally hundreds of people within minutes. Twenty years ago, we had a handful of baby books and our friends and family to turn to for answers. Your friends and family generally won’t tell you the worst case scenario every time, but you can ALWAYS find that on the internet. Dr. Google is terrifying, irresistible, and always available at 2am when that last thing you need to do is freak out over your child’s symptom that is probably fine but might kill them immediately. My 21st century baby often had pretty severe dyschromia, which is like marbled skin tone, as an infant. The internet told me that it was totally normal except sometimes. She might be fine or she might need emergency medical treatment. Of course I called her doctor in the middle of the night who told me to get offline immediately and that I would not be able to miss it if my baby became limp and needed to go to the ER. I have tried with mixed success to stop searching baby’s symptoms, at least when the sun is down.

My firstborn’s first birthday party was a few friends and family bringing gifts and eating a cake that I made from a boxed mix and decorated myself. The cake was kind of ugly but no one really cared and I barely even noticed. Including sodas and paper plates and napkins, I probably spent $50.

Today I would post that cake on Instagram with the hashtag #PinterestFail.

Thanks to Pinterest, (and also thanks to having a much older sister that loves Pinterest), my millennial baby’s first birthday party was gorgeous and themed and crafty and we all drank out of mason jars and the entire house was decorated and we spent HOURS on DIY crafts and STILL spent $500. I love Pinterest but I also kind of despise Pinterest.


I totally let the 90s babies drink soda, but only Sprite because it didn’t have caffeine. I can count on my fingers the number of times my two-year-old has had juice. JUICE. She had never had soda. Maybe when she’s eighteen.

I remember telling my two older kids how big they were on their first birthdays and turning their car seats around so they could see the world. I will rear-face this toddler until she can convince me, via Powerpoint, why she is old enough to forward-face.

I dressed my first two babies in baby clothes. Baby clothes with Winnie-the-Pooh or ladybugs or dinosaurs or cutesy flowers or some other type of childish motif. My 2015 baby wears rock band tees and handmade pants made from organic cotton and purchased from an independent shop on Etsy. (And Cat and Jack from Target because we are basic/AWESOME like that.)


In the nineties, we worried about how much tv to let the kids watch. Now we have to decide if the toddler can play with our phones, our tablets, our laptops. I personally do not let my toddler play games on my phone or iPad but I GET WHY PEOPLE DO. I totally love that she can video chat with her grandparents and other relatives that live far away. It makes everyone seem closer. That helps, this week. And all the time. But also this week.

I used to print out photos from actual cameras that used actual film and send them with Christmas cards to our far away relatives. Now I can send pictures via text or email or social media. The extended family definitely feels more close. Babystar met a lot of new (to her) cousins this week so I suspect the FaceTime will be flowing. Are we the Jetsons? I think maybe we are, so why doesn’t my car fly?

I also FREAKING ADORE that today my phone is also a camera. AND it records videos! Twenty years ago a video recorder was at least the size of a tennis shoe and maybe the size of a pair of heavy boots. I have a few albums of baby pictures of my first two children, and a few videos from Christmases or school plays. I have literally over ten thousand pictures and hundreds of videos of Babystar already.

And I took a few of her playing with her new cousin-friends at the wake today. 


What is it going to be like raising a teenager in another fifteen years? Will we have self-driving cars by then? Please tell me we will have self-driving cars by then.

xoxo 

The Doctor is In.

You guys I have had SO MANY check ups this week. And this doctor doesn’t even take my insurance. But she does take popsicles. And so far, I have been declared ‘ok’. I am also EXTREMELY up to date on my shots. And your shots. And all of the neighbors shots.

(Lucky me. My husband had the audacity to cough during a check up and he was declared SICK. Babystar is a really good doctor. Even if she pronunces check up as chep-uck.)

Babystar is TERRIFIED of the doctor. All was well until our last visit, when she screamed and fought everything. She didn’t even like the scale. Which is weird because she LOVES the scale at home. (They wouldn’t take my word for her weight, though. I guess that is good but it was annoying.)

She also cannot handle band-aids if she actually has a need for one. She will put a band-aid on anything or anyone, including herself, any other time. I find them everywhere. In fact, I think I should add $7.99 for the multipack I bought recently because Babystar had used all the band-aids. And by ‘used’ I mean ‘wasted’. She can reach the band-aid drawer and almost always comes into the bathroom and pulls at least one out when I pee. Maybe more if I am too slow.

In an attempt to get her more comfortable with this whole doctor thing, I bought her a doctor kit. I really wanted an original Fisher-Price doctor set like the one I had when I was a kid. I totally should have stalked eBay or something. But I was impatient and I just bought the first one I found at Target. ($24.99)


Babystar LOVES it and I have had several thousand check-ups this week. According to the doctor, I am ok.

Adorably, when she bumps her head or stubs her toe, she comes to me for a check-up. As long as I use enough of the doctor tools, I can declare her ‘ok’ and she seems to buy it. I hope she doesn’t ever require proof of my nonexistent PhD.

Have you bought a doctor kit for your toddler? Did it help him or her feel more comfortable at the actual doctor’s office?
RAISING BABYSTAR: $21,173.44

 

 

Forty.

I never thought I would be chasing a toddler at forty years old.

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I was a teen mom before Instagram and Facebook and the MTV show. I mostly just hoped I wouldn’t have GRANDCHILDREN by age forty. (I don’t. I somehow have two amazing college students with practical knowledge of birth control.)

My Teen Marriage didn’t last (surprise!) but I have been married to my current husband for over ten years. We tried for a baby almost right away, but then got sucked into the dark depths of Secondary Infertility. As anyone who has been through any type of infertility knows, it was HELL. After six years of charting and procedures and hoping and crying and crumbling, I gave up.

I had to give up. For my sanity and for my marriage, I needed to stop the monthly devastation. I had two unbelievably amazing children and my husband had two wonderful step-children. We were both very lucky, actually. And our family was complete.

My two wonderful children lived in Florida with their dad during the school year (another long story for another time), and I missed them so much all the time. I luckily had a job that allowed me to work from home, wherever that home might be. We made a hard decision to rent an apartment for me in Florida during the 2014-2015 school year. It was my son’s senior year of high school and my daughter’s sophomore year of high school. I found a three-bedroom apartment across the street from the high school for less than $900 per month. At that point, I was spending about $1500 each month on hotels and AirBnBs and airplane tickets and car rentals and dinners out with the kids in Florida. The finances sucked but it kind of made sense. So I moved there without my husband.

But of course we visited one another.

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Imagine my surprise when three months into the school year (and three months into my Florida lease), my period was late. Holy crap. I could hardly believe it. I didn’t believe it. And then I couldn’t deny it. I took a pregnancy test and called my husband 700 miles away with the news.

I WAS PREGNANT! OMFG.

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But. I was living in Florida for the school year. The school year that ended in May. My daughter was turning sixteen in May. My son was graduating in June. Babystar was due on June 19.

That was a hell of a ride.

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I went to doctor’s appointments and ultrasounds without my husband. I heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time all by myself. I sat alone to take the gestational diabetes test. I drove myself to the hospital when I started bleeding early in the third trimester and sat in that hospital bed texting my husband five states away while he checked the airline schedules. (I was ok. The baby didn’t come until June.)

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I fetched my own ice cream. I spent too much money on pedicures just for the frequent foot massages. I ripped my cartilage and had to bind my ribs myself because the doctors I was seeing were not my own and were pretty horrible and I was not invested enough to find a new temporary doctor in Florida. I had strong faux contractions from about Week 22 and I laid awake night after night trying to get comfortable. I complained to no one. (Ok, those two wonderful college students might disagree.)

I didn’t set up a nursery, because I wasn’t home. I didn’t shop for the baby because I was too busy with my teenagers. (And we were too broke from supporting two households.) I basically tried to ignore the pregnancy. Not because I wasn’t excited — I was! I was that wary but ecstatic sort of excited experienced by parents that gave everything trying for a baby. But. But still, I didn’t want anything to take away from being in Florida with my teenagers.

Who were not at all amused, by the way. Well, my son thought it was hilarious. My daughter just rolled her eyes.

I threw a Sweet Sixteen birthday party for my daughter at 36 weeks pregnant. And I danced — in heels! I sat on backless bleachers for hours at 37 weeks pregnant to watch my son graduate high school. At 38 weeks pregnant, I sold as much as I could and packed up the rest of that Florida apartment and moved back home.

I went into labor two weeks later, on my due date. I was out running last minute errands for the baby. Everything was last minute with this baby. My son was driving but I wouldn’t let him take me home until we finished everything on my list.

I was right.

Babystar was born the next day.

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And all of a sudden I was paying attention. I didn’t put her down for months. You can’t spoil a baby, right?

Babystar has been the best little surprise. She definitely changed all of our lives. My daughter chose a close-ish state school and I am certain the main reason is her two-year-old BFF. My husband was Mr. Live Music and Football Games and I can count on my fingers the concerts he has been to in the last two years. My plan was ALWAYS to spend my fortieth birthday in Cape Town, finally reaching my dream vacation destination. Instead, I am having a movie night that will probably be a Moana double feature. First Moana, and then Moana again.

And I fucking love it.

My birthday blog post was going to be a story about me and how I felt about turning forty. And just like my life, this post was taken over by this tiny human that I never expected to meet. What’s forty? I’m too busy building block towers and pushing swings and reading picture books and blowing bubbles to care.

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Dear Fisher Price: Thanks, Boo.

Babystar received some really excellent gifts for her birthday last June. I didn’t list them here because of course I didn’t BUY them, but she was a very lucky little two-year-old. (In fact, she got so many great presents that I immediately packed a few of them away so she could have new toys this fall. #momhack)

One of her favorite new toys is her vintage-inspired Fisher-Price cash register. These days she mostly enjoys popping in the coins and pushing the buttons, but I can see the potential for plenty of imaginary play in the future. Every single kid that comes over to play gravitates to that cash register. All of them. And some of the adults.


By mid-July, we were down to two coins. (The cash register comes with six.) No one was surprised. The ToddlerMonster relocates things like its her job. Every kid that comes over fights over plays with this toy. PLUS the new kitten is obsessed with the coins. I have literally seen her reach her little paw into the drawer and bat out a plastic coin and then carry it away in her mouth. 


After a bit of googling and searching the Fisher-Price website and eBay, I realized that I could not purchase replacement coins. Huge bummer. (Really, Fisher-Price, you should get on this.)

I emailed Fisher-Price asking if there was any way they could sell me some additional plastic coins. They wrote back that they were very sorry that they did not offer the coins for sale and they sent me a $25 gift certificate for anything Fisher-Price! (Or Mattel, or Hot Wheels, (but not American Girl), but LIKE WHOA SO NICE!)

I didn’t have to provide proof of purchase or anything, which is good, since the cash register was a gift. So, um, live your life however you like. But just know that you can email Fisher-Price about your cash register coins and they might send you a gift certificate for a free toy.

I’m actually not trying to help the world defraud Fisher-Price. I really just want them to manufacture and sell packs of replacement / additional coins for this super cool cash register!! But I can’t control other people. Yet. 

I couldn’t use the voucher online and it was a pain to use at Target, but the Target cashier eventually overrode something and made it work. Babystar chose a $14.99 “iPad”, and I didn’t get any cash back or anything. But hey! FREE TOY!

 

Babystar loves her iPad and keeps it by the bed with a pile of books. Most mornings she will play with the iPad and read books and drink her Unicorn Water while I have my coffee. WHICH IS AMAZING SHE TOTALLY WINS TODDLER OF THE YEAR. At least in our house, where the competition is admittedly slim.

PLUS, once we figured out that the CAT was losing the coins and not the BABY, we had a better idea of where to look. The current coin total is five but it fluctuates daily. 

RAISING BABYSTAR: $21,140.26