Cousins.

Babystar has an older brother and and older sister both of whom she adores, but they are SO MUCH OLDER that they may as well be extra grandparents. (Age gaps of eighteen and sixteen years, LOL, my life!)

Luckily for Babystar, my younger brother and sister each had a kid fairly recently so she has a 3yo nephew and a 4yo niece to play with (and imitate). These are the ‘big kids’ in her life. My nephew lives far far away in the land of Florida and my niece lives fairly close in the far away land of Fairfax. The nephew visited recently, so all three toddlers/preschoolers were together for about two weeks, having a lot of fun and fighting over a lot of toys.

We scheduled a lot of outings just for the Little Kids. The coolest new place I discovered was the Club Run RECenter. It was a bit of a drive (about 45 minutes, almost at Dulles airport) but TOTALLY WORTH IT! (If you are ever staying near Dulles airport, you should absolutely go here.) I paid the non-resident rate of $12.50 and Babystar was ‘free’ with me. She LOVED the water park and keeps asking to go back. The zero entry pool has a few fountains and a twisty slide (which she totally went down a few times before declaring it too scary). Her older cousins crushed that slide over and over again. The toddler area is walled off from the bigger pool and never got deeper than my little shortie’s chest. The RECenter has life vests and water wings available for use so you don’t even have to bring your own. There are also lockers for a quarter or free open cubbies inside the water play area. And there is a bigger pool, cool current river, larger water slide, and neat water cyclone area for bigger kids, and a hot tub for the grandparents. (I’m sure the hot tub for everyone but it seemed sparsely populated by blissful older people with no small children to look after, on this particular day.)

waterwings

The Club Run RECenter also has tables both indoors and out, so we packed a picnic lunch. (The only food to purchase there was from a vending machine.) After about two hours, we packed up and drove about ten minutes to the often overlooked Air and Space Museum right by Dulles Airport. All three of our littles are huge fans of airplanes, and this is just an airplane hanger full of planes and helicopters, and the Space Shuttle Discover, which is pretty freaking cool. The museum is free but parking is $15/vehicle. (My brother was in my car and paid for us, though, in case you are checking my math. Please do check my math, btw.)

airplanes

We had fun Toddler Adventures at our tried and true Busy Bees in Falls Church. Tuesdays in July are 2-for-1 admission and I paid for our three toddlers plus a surprised stranger behind us in line ($30) and bought another 3-pass for Babystar while I was there ($36). We also ordered Chick-fil-A snacks (conveniently located next door) on their awesome app ($18.36). And then we went back AGAIN the following Tuesday (it was a looooong visit, y’all), and again I paid for Babystar and a random stranger behind us ($15) plus Chick-fil-A for me and Babystar ($13.59).

busybees

At Springfield Mall, we played at the fruit-themed indoor play space and rode the train. The train costs $5/person so it was $10 for me and Babystar. (I got to be the designated adult rider and it was super awesome. Mostly because my sister and sister-in-law bought me a Starbucks drink while I rode. <3.)

toddlersinatrain

Finally, My Gym Alexandria threw a Moana party ($25 for non-members, which we are) that seemed like a slam-dunk toddler fun grand finale for the last day of their visit. In reality, it was a chaotic mess, but the kids did have a good time. My 4yo niece was front and center during the hula lessons and all three of the kids liked spinning the poi balls which is something I would NEVER let them do with toys at home. (I almost can’t believe that no one was hurt. I am GLAD no one was hurt, but totally surprised.) But during the Moana story time and the lines for tattoos and pictures, the kids just played on the super cool equipment at My Gym. Their favorite was the rope swing into the ball pit. Even little Babystar tried it, though she didn’t really swing on the rope. She sort of held onto the rope and jumped into the ball pit and laughed and laughed and laughed. My Gym offers a free introductory class so I think we will be back soon.

(In my pre-SAHM life I planned travel for groups and meeting and it was WAY EASIER than these two weeks of preschool event planning! I’ll post some ready made ‘super cool fun auntie days’ shortly to save you some sanity. XOXO!)

RAISING BABYSTAR: $19,509.86

 

 

 

Art Show.

Melissa and Doug have done it again. We already love their puzzles and toys and stickers, so I am not at all surprised. But DUDE have you checked out their toddler art sets!? I am particularly referring to the Water Wow! painting books ($4.99). Babystar LOVES this thing. She calls it her ‘art show’. She can paint the pad with water and it will color in the picture plus add a few surprises like birds in the sky or starfish in the sea or whatever. They are marketed as on-the-go activities, and I did not realize until writing this post that the ‘paintbrush’ actually unscrews so you can add water to it and you do not actually need a cup of water for the tiny artist. I did wonder why the brushes were so chunky, but I just thought it was because they were made so perfectly for toddler hands. (I am clearly a genius.) Plus the cup of water is a sensory activity. Right?

Protip: dab the pages with a paper towel when your child finishes to avoid them sticking together. And lay the books on their side with the pages fanned out to dry. They will dry clear and are actually totally reusable. We are on about six times now (in only a few days) and the Water Wow! book is still as good as new.

I also bought a Melissa and Doug stamp pad ($5.99) and a Color Blast marker coloring book ($4.99) at the same time. I’m saving the stamp pad and marker book for later, though.


I like to dole out new toys a bit at a time. Once I show her the stamp pad, THERE IS NO TURNING BACK. I know this. I almost feel like a bad mommy because she got a ton of little stamps in her easter basket but she has no stamp pad. But right now, she still likes naming the animals on the stamps and has not even asked for a stamp pad. She knows that stamp pads exist. She loves to play with them at Nook. So I know that once they are available at home, THAT WILL BECOME MY WHOLE LIFE AND I AM NOT READY FOR THAT JELLY.

The stamp pad totally says washable and I have high hopes. But. I believed Crayola once too, so we’ll see. Washable = it will totally come off but be prepared to scrub really hard, mama.

I also recently purchased a Magic Ink Moana coloring book from Amazon as a fun new toy for her sister to give her when she babysat her recently. It was $6.50 at the time but I see now that the price has gone up. Babystar was underwhelmed, but I think it was just a bit too old for her. The marker tip was a bit too small to hold a toddler’s attention for revealing the colors. Though she did play with it for about an hour, I’m told. Mostly, though, it isn’t just a coloring book but more of an activity book. It would be great for older Moana-lovers on a road trip or something; it has games and mazes and such. I’m hoping the Melissa and Doug marker book will be more toddler-focused.

MAYDAY MAYDAY: Has anyone found any truly washable markers? Do tell! Pretty please.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $19,333.92

 

Elephants and Turtles and Snakes and Turtles and Turtles.

Just the other day, Babystar and I took an impromptu trip to the zoo. The weather was perfect and the Toddler REFUSED to get dressed to go to whatever class we were planning to attend that morning. (I am 99% sure it was a baby dance class because we have been trying to go to that at Nook but so far have literally never made it.)

She only wanted to read books in her pajamas. When we came to a book with a zoo (Peek-a-Who by Nina Laden), I asked her if she wanted to go to the zoo instead. She ran to put her shoes on right away. (I explained about getting dressed and she went along with my suggestion begrudgingly.)

I have been to the zoo many times but never with just a Toddler. I let Babystar direct our traffic and it was the best day. We spent more time than you would think watching a waterfall, we skipped some of the more popular attractions, and we watched one of the elephants eat an ENTIRE pile of hay. Babystar hissed some Parseltongue at her snake friends whom she ADORES. And we spent a very long time hanging out at the lemur exhibit, though we did not see a single lemur. There were about a million turtles swimming in the water surrounding the lemur mountain and Babystar waved to all of them. Individually.


I learned about a lot of good ‘stop for snack’ spot that I might otherwise have not noticed.


I highly recommend this exercise if you have the time and a spare toddler.

I packed lots of water and snacks so we didn’t spend a penny, but that is because we are FONZ which is a fancy way to say ‘zoo members’ in the DC area. $80 per year gives us a few cool perks but we bought it mostly for the free parking. Which we bought last fall when Babystar started learning about animals. And I forgot to add it back then, so I’ll add it now.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $16,291.37

 

Toddler Art.

Ever since we started going to Nook in January, Babystar LOOOOVES to ‘do art’. One of my most very very favorite things about Nook is that the Toddler Art stayed on tables that were miles from my house. (Because it sure as hell didn’t stay on the paper.) But alas. No longer.

My craft closet used to be very grown up, but now all the fun dangerous needles and permanent markers and poisonous glues are on the high shelf (where I can’t even reach) and the closet is full of crayons and washable markers and finger paints and water colors and cool painting books and construction paper. And stickers. Oh em effing gee with the stickers.

Babystar loves them. I’ve mentioned the reusable ones I got at the Children’s Library in Richmond. We ordered more from Amazon ($x.xx) because she can actually ‘do stickers’ by herself, but only with the puffy set. I like having seven whole minutes to get ready to go out or cook an entire dinner or clean an entire room or whatever (I can do amazing things in seven minutes), so we needed more puffy sticker sets. They do eventually wear out. Especially the way she uses them which is to put ALL OF THE STICKERS on top of each other in a big pile. It’s hilarious. And ridiculous. Just like a toddler.

She also loves coloring, and will color with her crayons by herself at her little table for a giant chunk of time (like maybe NINE minutes). She has been telling me the names of the colors, and she is right about 61% of the time. (She nails yellow 100% because yellow is her bae.) It’s kind of amazing.

The regular stickers and the markers and stamps and the paint books and the water colors are all fully supervised activities at this point. I once got up to change the water in her water color cup and she was sucking on the paintbrush when I got back. So. Yeah.

I have not braved the finger paints yet. Some day. There is no return from that kind of madness.

However, I love arts and crafts so I’m excited that Babystar does too. I hope it sticks. The Teenager and I have so much fun doing cool arts and crafts so I am hoping that Babystar will still be into it when she’s old enough to up her game.

  • Jumbo crayons (her first pack got pretty broken at play dates) $2.99
  • 24-pack of smaller crayons (she prefers these anyway) $1.39
  • Kid’s paints $4.99
  • Variety pack of cheap brushes and sponges $4.99
  • inkpad and stamps (one is an airplane of course) $4
  • finger paint and pad $8.35
  • 21 more packs of $1 stickers from Micheals (with coupon) $16.80

(I still love Nook. In fact, we re-nooked our membership for another $120 recently. I’ll keep it up as long as she keeps going and keeps loving it. I’m headed there shortly. Plus they have some safe hippie nontoxic version of play-doh which Babystar loves and I WILL NOT buy play-doh for the house. HAHAHAHAHAH. Until I do, right?)

RAISING BABYSTAR: $15,829.48

More Adventurous.

I miss Rilo Kiley. I miss when I used to be hip on all the new music. One of my favorite things about Nook is the fact that they play (kid-appropriate) indie music and not in-your-face toddler tune/nursery rhyme/wheels-on-the-bus type of stuff that I get to hear PLENTY of, thank you very much.

So anyway, I paid $120 to join Nook for a month. February 15-March 15 you will find me there A LOT. Especially on Thursday mornings for Baby Yoga. (OMG, I took Babystar for the first time last week and she was SO INTO IT. For like ten minutes before getting bored and wandering off but still. Next week we are shooting for twelve minutes.)

I’m not sure yet if I will join for another month, but maybe. There are lots of other classes that I very much want to check out. Membership gets me in even if there is a wait list, and I love being VIP, even at a baby play place. A day pass is $20 so we just have to go six times to cover membership. And with the membership, I can pop in for 45 minutes so Babystar can play, and then leave before she gets bored, and I don’t feel like I wasted $20.

So far, we dig it.

As I’ve mentioned before, it is the opposite of a place like Busy Bees or a soft play room, so we still go to those too. I recently bought another $36 3-visit pass to Busy Bees. And I went on a 2-for-1 Tuesday with Babystar and my niece so that was another $15. Oh, and I treated my SIL and niece to Chick-fil-a that day too ($23.47 for all four of us, but we wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for Babystar and Busy Bees so I think I have to include all of it). We also went to the cool play room with the giant ball pit again ($5).

Cooler than ALL OF THESE is the Building Museum in D.C.!


I recently went with a mama friend who has a membership and so Babystar and I got in free. I helped pay for parking ($4.60) and bought some lunch at the cafe ($9.63) and I really might consider joining also. It’s only $90/year and the Building Museum has constantly changing exhibits. Not all are kid friendly, but they do have a permanent kid friendly area that is so popular that you need timed tickets that you can only get once you arrive at the museum. The area has a fully stocked mini-house, a bunch of building toys, blocks, dolls, a wall of cool latches, and so much other stuff that I can barely remember everything. I remember that none of the kids (age 1-5) were ready to leave when we had to leave. That’s high praise.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $15,091.48

 

Oh My Darling, Valentine.

I belong to a chapter of MOMS Club International (and I just paid my annual dues which are $25 but really $26.80 if you pay online and I paid online). This month our MOMS Club decided to have the kids make valentines to bring to a local assisted living home. This is the same place where my motherfreaking rockstar Teenager hosts a weekly ‘art club’ because she is an amazing human with nothing but kindness in her soul and also because she has to do a community service project to earn her IB diploma. Anyway. I have not met these seniors but I have heard a lot of great stories and I want them to have wonderful valentines from the adorable children in our club.

Something always comes up, right? On the day that we planned to make the valentines, one mama couldn’t leave her house because her children had turned into flying monkeys from Oz. Another mama had an exorcist-like vomit situation going on. Another mama had a baby that set the house on fire. Probably. I think the remaining children wrote an avant-garde musical and went on tour. Or something like that.

Unfortunately, hardly anyone showed up last week when we were meant to make the valentines. Babystar was actually the oldest of the only three children there, and she was all about the markers for approximately three of the one hundred twenty minutes. She created a stunning work of art. (The other two were a bit too young.)

Babystar loved the stampy markers at Nook last month and clearly remembered them because she basically reenacted that super fun marker time. Except these were not the right kind of markers. Whoops.


This past weekend I went to Micheal’s to find some of those stampy markers and some age appropriate valentine-making supplies. So basically, foam hearts and stickers. They were out of valentine stickers so we got animals and cars and stuff. I used a couple Micheal’s couponS and the total was $22.03. I did get one small pack of heart stickers at Target for $2.99.


We made some valentines. I know some other mamas in the group made some valentines. At least we won’t show up empty handed. If we run out, Babystar is A+ at blowing kisses.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $14,683.49