I Can’t Drive 95.

Actually, I can. I DID drive SO FAR down Interstate 95 and then back all in about a week, with a few days of visiting family squished in between.

For those of you following along in your hymnals (Instagram), you know that I drove to Florida last week.

Here are a few facts that you might not know about me.

  1. I hate Florida. (I know. I’m like the only one. I love the beach. I like sunshine. I even like armadillos. But I freaking hate Florida and I don’t know why. I like people in Florida. I like places in Florida. I love oranges. But I get all itchy in that state and it’s only partially to do with all the bugs.)
  2. I hate road trips. (I fantasize about driving across country in a VW camper van or up the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible. But, to me, interstate highway driving is hell. I’m pretty sure if I am ever assigned to my own specific hell, it will be an eternal I-95. For those of you lucky enough to be unfamiliar with I-95, imagine a highway stretched to forever with sporadic surprise traffic and the only thing to look at are trees and billboards for either strip clubs or churches or fireworks or the less-racist-than-when-I-was-a-kid but still sketchy South of the Border, which is a themed motel on the border between North and South Carolina with a giant sombrero for a symbol and a cartoon named Pedro as a mascot. You feel me?)
  3. I love thunderstorms. (Florida did not disappoint. One entire day of my three day visit was spent stuck inside my parent’s house watching the rain pour out of the sky as it only can in Florida. Babystar was also fascinated so this is perhaps an inherited trait. But we were still stuck inside the house. So.)

The reason I drove to Florida instead of flying was wonderful (to me). My sweet firstborn son decided to move in and go to a local college so he will be here for at least a year. We needed to pick up some of his things. Yay for having my son around! Yay for my child making fiscally smart decisions! Yay for cleaning out a room for him! (Ok — two out of three, I guess.)

Babystar was along for the ride and she was an EXCELLENT PATIENT OMG WONDERFUL passenger. She had an older sister or brother riding next to her at all times, which helped immensely. I dropped off the Teenager in Florida with her dad for a longer visit, so Big Brother had to ride in the back next to the baby the entire way home. He deserves some type of award, but all I got him was some crap McDonald’s french fries.

SPEAKING OF McDONALD’S: I am obsessed with their french fries. I find it odd and kind of gross and suspicious that they are not vegetarian, but I love them anyway. I craved them when pregnant with Babystar, although I normally stay out of McDonald’s. HOWEVER, their kid’s meals are on point. For $2.99*, you get a burger or nuggets (which I eat for even more savings becuase Babystar is not that interested in meat), a very small (in a good way) sleeve of fries, AND your choice of (PEELED!) apple slices or yogurt. And a toy! Right now they are handing out cute mini stuffed animals and Babystar happily played with them for almost an hour combined. (THAT IS LIKE TWO YEARS IN TODDLER TIME.) All of the other fast food joints make you choose fries or a healthy choice but McDonald’s knows what is up and gives both. Because what kid will be happy without fries? (I know, probably lots of perfect babies have never had french fries but Babystar is not at all perfect. Homegirl looooves french fries.)

We had a lot of fun in Florida. I drove over an hour with two toddlers (my nephew is three and my sister is in fancy Aveda Insitute school) to Bay & Bee, which I ADORE. When I visited Florida last March, my sister and I took three toddlers there and everyone’s first visit was free! Amazing. They recently sent us both an email offer for a free drop-in class. Woot! So I used that to go play again for free. I have given these people zero dollars. (Well, that’s not true. I made my firstborn drive there last year for the Tula Coast Shine because they happened to stock on a day he was already flying to visit and I love that thing!) But I have given them zero dollars for the kids to play in their awesome Montessori/Waldorf inspired play room for a combined six hours and I really think they should charge me next time. But it’s totally cool if they don’t. I tried to get the toddlers excited about the Spanish Language Story Time class offered that afternoon, but they just wanted to play. Fair enough.


Bay & Bee is sort of like our beloved Nook in Arlington, but on steroids. The play space is much bigger, yet it still manages to feel calm even with twenty Tinys running around everywhere. There are so many great toys to discover, and there is even a giant freaking Cedarworks play stucture in the middle of the playspace, yet it does not feel crowded AT ALL. I understand that real estate in Florida costs less than in Arlington, Virginia, but I am still totally jelly of the mamas that get to chill there on the reg. (And membership is less expensive than my beloved Nook, and I get it, but ugh don’t talk about it.) They also have a retail shop with all of my favorite crunchy toy and feeding and teething brands AND baby carriers that you can try on and then so many more in stock for sale. OMG, y’all. If you visit Jacksonville, Florida with a toddler or a crawler or a baby in your belly, go there.

Also do yourself a favor and check out Moon Babies in Fleming Island. QUICK WARNING: if you click on that link, their webiste will come up and start playing kid’s music. So maybe don’t do it if you are reading this next to a sleeping baby. Or if you hate kid’s music. However, the children’s resale shop is totally worth a visit. I bought eight pairs of skorts and shorts one pair of pajamas for Babystar for $31.57 with tax. She is totally set for summer and they are way cute. I found two pairs of shorts with pockets so maybe she will stop putting toys and crayons ‘in her pockets’ but really down her pants. (Toddler logic, y’all.) Plus recycling!


We also visited Clarke House Park in Orange Park. I had to google the name of that playground, because we always just called it the ‘Castle Park.’ The playground looks like a castle. It was built back in the 1990’s, so it was practically brand new when my two (now officially technically omg!!) adult children were babies. We had many fun afternoons and birthday parties at the Castle Park, though it’s showing it’s age a little. The Teenager and I took the toddlers there last week on the Teenager’s eighteenth birthday. It was coincidental but still quite poignant but I managed not to cry about it so good job me.


I would have driven down to pick up College Boy’s things whether Babystar existed in this world or not, so the gas and road snacks are not on her tab. BUT. We had to break up the trip in both directions because sweet Babystar has the patience and attention span of a toddler (shocking, I know), so we took two days to drive each direction. I would not have done that if not for her. So I have to add $121.30 and $145.95 to her tally. I packed a small cooler with fruit and chicken and let her just share from our three plates when we stopped for dinner the first night mainly because I didn’t want to keep track of her food costs on the way down. Talk about a lazy blogger.

I did eventually buy her some food and diapers during the trip. YOU GUYS MY BABY IS NOW IN SIZE 5 DIAPERS. She leaked through her diapers on the way down and I thought it was becuase I was a terrible mommy and I wasn’t changing her enough. Nope. She is ready for SIZE 5. That is the LAST SIZE in some brands of diapers. (I have noticed a Size 6 in others.) And she’s talking about pottys. Crap (literally). I hate potty training.

  • watermelon $4.25
  • mandarin oranges $4.99
  • Seventh Generation diapers $7.99
  • Publix brand diapers $7.99
  • McDonald’s kids meal $2.99
  • Chick-fil-A grilled cheese with fruit kids meal + small fries $3.48
  • Texas Roudhouse kids meal $1.99 on Kid’s Night
  • Chick-fil-A kids meal $3.25
  • blueberries $2.79
  • bananas $0.89
  • generic multigrain O’s $1.79
  • Aldi Penguin ‘goldfish’ crackers $1.49
  • Aldi Little Journey diapers $4.99
  • Aldi Little Journey wipes $3.49 for a 3-pack
  • McDonald’s kids meal $2.99
  • McDonald’s kids meal $3.68 (*The one at exit 97 in NC only offers one side so I had to pay extra to get fries AND apples. Bruh.)

MAYDAY MAYDAY: Does anyone have any potty training tips? It’s been so long and all I remember is that I did not enjoy it at all and there was a lot of bribery and power struggles involved. I really want to avoid all of that this go round. What worked for you?

RAISING BABYSTAR: $17,767.29

 

 

 

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

 

Food and Snacks and Snack Stacks.

I love Re-Play Recycled kid’s plates and utensils. One look at my Instagram is all the proof you need. If you need proof. Like, if you think I’m constantly lying to you. Wait, what? Oh yeah.

Re-Play. I also love the Snack Stacks. I have three of the containers and three lids, so I can use them together or separately. I find myself making snacks in advance and putting them in the refrigerator so I can easily pack the Baby Bag in the mornings. (My family, we are not a morning people. Not even little Babystar. Weird, right? Babies are usually known for their 5am parties.)

Now Babystar likes the Snack Stack containers to hold her crayons at various impromptu workstations throughout the house so that she can create masterpieces the very moment that inspiration strikes. Brilliant artist, that one.

Clearly, I needed more. A few weeks back, Re-play had a great 50% off all Snack Stacks sale, so I bought the Rainbow Set for $25.24 including shipping. (I despise their $79 minimum shipping but the $6 shipping was worth it for such a great sale. The regular price for that set of twelve containers plus lids is $38.50. Score!)

So pretty.

And here is all of the food I purchased in March for Babystar. (These food posts are boring but important for accuracy. And I love accuracy. Again, I’m only counting food that I buy specifically for Babystar. We share our food with her, of course. And she shares hers with us. But for math purposes, I count all of the extra stuff that I would not have bought if she didn’t exist. Except now I count half of the money spent on frozen pizza and tots because we sort of buy those for both the Teen and the ToddlerMonster now. She LOVES tater tots.)

March Food

  • Watermelon 2.69, 2.55, 4.33
  • Chia waffles 3.59×2
  • Bananas .46
  • Granola bars 8.99 (Costco)
  • Ice cream 2.98
  • Tots 2×2.79
  • Mac and cheese 2.99×4
  • Pears 2.99
  • Clementines 2.99
  • Cheese 3.19
  • Eggs 3.99
  • Apple bars 1.99
  • Graham crackers 1.99
  • Apples 6.98
  • Frozen pizzas 12.00
  • Strawberries 8.00
  • Angelica Pizzeria slice 3.64×2
  • Chik-fil-A 2-strip kids meal 4.65×3
  • McDonalds Happy Meal (sans meat) plus Cutie clementine 3.49

RAISING BABYSTAR: $15,967.94

VCU and Melissa and Doug and Lucy.

Last Saturday was ‘Admitted Students Day’ at VCU in Richmond, and the Teenager is one of those admitted students. We woke up before the sun to drive down and check out the school. The Teenager has big decisions coming soon, but shhhhh, she doesn’t like to talk about it.

(Side note: Since I have been paying attention, I have noticed that literally every adult asks every college senior they meet if they know where they plan to go to college. Poor kids.)

So, we went to VCU. VCU is cool. Babystar hung out in the Tula for most of the walking tour bits. We all got free lunch at Chick-fil-A (thanks, VCU!) but had to pay $2.88 extra for Babystar. Pretty good deal.

(OMG, Babystar accidentally drank some of my husband’s lemonade instead of her water and then got obsessed. She cannot say ‘lemonade’ but she tries and it sounds like ‘ell-mell-mleh’ and her tongue literally turns upside down in her mouth and it is my new favorite thing. #favoritethings)

After college-ing it up, we did a 180 and went to the Children’s Museum of Richmond to let the toddler run out her wiggles. That place rocks, btw! There are a bunch of different areas all sponsored by local (or regional, I guess) businesses. There was a tiny Wegman’s play grocery store and a kid-sized play Silver Diner and a cool water table area and a tv studio and a stage and a reading room and a separate giant toddler area and and and we didn’t even have time to see everything. Legit cool. If the Teenager decides on VCU, we will definitely buy a family membership there. (No pressure, Teenager.) $30 after AAA discount plus a carousel ride.

IMG_0700

On the way out (we only left because they closed), I bought Babystar some cool Melissa and  Doug activity books. Except they aren’t really books. I bought some paint with water activities and reusable sticker scenes. They were $4.49 each, totaling $24.13 with tax. So far we have played with the puffy barn scene stickers and she is OBSESSED. We also did one of the Paint with Water pages and it was a huge hit. (I did one too — it’s super fun!)

IMG_1297

We were completely exhausted, but still hungry, and we can never leave Richmond without stopping at our favorite restaurant, Lucy’s. This is not the kind of place that has a kid’s menu, and it’s not really for kids. I mean, there’s no strippers or anything, but also their single high chair is from, like, 1973. (But luckily, they let us come eat anyway.) Thank you, Jason Lucy, for making a super yummy grilled cheese sandwich for Babystar. She totally ate one bite and lots of french fries. ($5.) And she loves the homemade ice cream on homemade cookie sandwiches. And omg so do I. ($3.)

The sun was setting as we finished dinner and headed home. So pretty.

IMG_1292

RAISING BABYSTAR: $15,615.20

 

Do I Have a Target on My Back?

I must.

I SWEAR with that place. Target, I mean.

Last Friday afternoon, the girls and I went to Target. The Teenager was to be Cinderella at a five-year-old’s birthday party the next day, and we went in search of a blue headband. We found one for one dollar! Score, right?

No. I spent $58. And change. And most of it was (of freaking course) spent on the baby.

So, ok, Babystar needed new socks. She has a big bin of infant socks that we have been stretching over her getting-so-big toddler toes. And I have been searching for socks that SHE could easily put on (which means NOT the fold down kind) and that had a lot of rubbery grippy bits on the bottom because she is forever at a soft play room in her socks. Ta-daaa! $10.49.

img_9094

Also, the Dollar Aisle had kid’s sunglasses. The black pair might be a little big LOL. $3.

 

And can Cat and Jack please stop being so freaking CUTE? And CHEAP? $4.50? Did a child make this shirt? Don’t tell me. I guess I should investigate this. Dammit. I love them so. It all seems too good to be true, though.

img_9105

(Babystar was SUCH A GOOD SPORT about modeling all of these for me!! She even had the ‘impatient but whatever’ attitude that I imagine most models have. Except Chrissy Teigen. Obvs.)

I also bought more of the foamy Method soap. Dispensers and refills. Babystar likes washing her hands. To be accurate, Babystar LOVES washing her hands. Which is great. Time-consuming but great. I also wash my hands waaaay more due to diaper changes and sticky watermelon so all hand soap purchased Friday goes on Babystar’s tab. $12.97.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $15,303.10

 

 

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

 

Ballin’.

Once upon a time my little brother brought a slide into my living room for Babystar. Last month, he added a ball pit. It is her favorite thing ever. She plays in the ball pit every day. Her snowman plays in the ball pit. Her dinosaur plays in the ball pit. Her babies play in the ball pit. Errybody plays in the ball pit.

img_0651

It used to belong to her cousin V, and some of the balls were crushed in the past two years. Babystar has upped her stunt game to include diving head first into the ball pit, so we decided to Amazon Prime a few more balls for some extra cushioning. $38.16 for two packs of 250 Fisher Price balls.

Guess who stopped by when there happened to be a giant Amazon box on the front porch? Yes, the awesome uncle who makes ball pits appear in the living room as if by magic brought the box in with him. Of course I had to let him dump all the new balls in the ball pit for Babystar. She stared up at him with so much joy. I think she likes him better than me now. I think she likes him better than PENGUINS now.

img_6179

Babystar looks like a little turtle swimming in all those balls with just her head popping up. The new balls were smaller than the original ones, which actually makes for a nice mix. After two days of picking up ballsballsballs and putting them back in the ball pit, I took some out and hid them in a closet downstairs. She didn’t even notice, and now we have backup for when some of these get squished or lost or whatever happens to small plastic balls in this big scary world.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $14,263.39

Boxing Day.

I hope you had a very merry Christmas, if you celebrate Christmas. Or are in the midst of a happy Hanukkah, if you celebrate Hanukkah. Or are enjoying a nice British Boxing Day, if you know what that is. And if you do, please tell me, because even Wikipedia is vague on the origins of Boxing Day. It’s either an extended Christmas (brilliant why didn’t we think of that!) or a Black Friday type situation. Either way, it sounds groovy.

I like to celebrate Boxing Day by removing boxes from my living room.

Christmas was bittersweet at my house. Babystar is here, of course, but the Teenager is visiting Florida where the College Boy now lives. So I only had one of my little chickens here on Christmas morning.

And I am super mean and am making the Teenager wait until she gets home to open her gifts. Or am I really awesome and creating a second Christmas in January? Yes. That one.

img_6081

Santa brought a LION. As requested. And Babystar is terrified of the lion. He does look super scary tbh. Lion is currently living in the basement working as a guard lion in front of the work bench. So far, Babystar just likes to talk about her lion and growl and sometimes go wave at him. Someday they may become roommates but it’s definitely not happening in 2016. (Santa, what have you done? Whoops.)

How does Santa work at your house? Santa never wraps gifts here. He’s far too busy. And he only brings one special gift. But I am told that he has different arrangements with other good little boys and girls. What’s yours?

img_6093

Also, we do the Somethings you Want, Need, Wear & Read deal. Christmas gifts were getting out of had so I had to stop the madness somehow. This seems to work. Except Babystar can’t count or understand this year so I wrapped up some extra things for her. For example, the dinosaur magnets and hammer toy have been hiding under brown paper in a box in the living room for weeks. I bought them when I bought her Buckle Bear (oh yeah, I’ll tell you later) because of an awesome sale and made them available in case anyone needed a tantrum distraction during this past month of skipped naps and added sugar. But they were still in that box when I was wrapping presents the other day so under the tree they went! The Ikea hammer set has been in the top of her closet forever because I bought it for my nephew but forgot to give it to him the last time he was here and it says 18 months so I thought he was too old for it now (but Ikea lied and I am once again putting it back at the top of her closet until she is ready) so under the tree it went! I just realized I gave Babystar two hammers for Christmas. Oh, well. Jesus was a carpenter, right? Hammers are totally Christmas-y.

img_6099

2016 tally (not all are pictured above and some of her gifts were from other people’s bank accounts):

  • Lion $59.99  (Santa always makes us pay!)
  • wooden bus, airplane, helicopter, extra people  $73.95
  • Melissa & Doug hammer toy (in picture) and dinosaur magnets $30.08
  • Three Usborne books $34.17 (a friend had a party this fall)
  • Re-play plates (and snack containers that didn’t get wrapped) $20.14
  • Dinosaur pajamas above were added to tally in previous post
  • Ikea toolset $7.99

Her Christmas haul was meant to be Something she Wants (wooden vehicles and yes she looooves them), Needs (more plates), Wears (pajamas), and Reads (books). The others snuck under the tree but I’ll be more strict next year, I promise. Probably. Otherwise, she might start to notice and then want extra presents in ten years when everything is holograms and hover boards.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $14,072.21

Birthday Balloons.

No, we don’t celebrate half birthdays or anything although holy bananas, Babystar is zooming up on 18 months. Big Brother is here visiting and he turned 20. Two. Zero. TWENTY. I have been a mother for twenty years. You would think I would have this thing down by now. Whoops.

Babystar’s squirrel balloon lasted a loooong time but was on the floor when we came downstairs two days ago. So we went to the party store to get balloons for Big Brother’s Birthday (but really for her). A snowman, three stars, and a dinosaur happy birthday balloon. Babystar can’t read; I think she thinks it says RAWR. Plus we bought noisemakers and party hats (again for the kids — Babystar and my 3yo niece, NOT for this grown up man that I apparently gave birth to) for a total of $25.69.

Don’t worry, I bought desserts and actual birthday gifts for the birthday boy. But we all know these things were for Babystar so onto her tab they go.

img_5843

RAISING BABYSTAR: $13,697.47

Airplanes and Dinosaurs.

Babystar is growing out of her pajamas. I was SURE I was set for the winter. I just gave away everything up to 18 months (except for one pair of Carter’s fleece pajamas because all of Carter’s clothes run small except the fleece or terry footed pajamas and we just have to accept this fact). I am trying to squeeze some more wears out of her 18-24 months pajamas but they are basically capris. Babystar is not tall; I don’t get it. But it’s cold at night. And she hates blankets. So I bought some 2T jammies to hopefully get her through the winter. The cotton sets were buy one, get one half off. I bought two of the same, so four sets of airplane pajamas. Babystar loves airplanes. She waves to them and blows them kisses. She knows the difference between and airplane and a helicopter. It is really funny listening to her trying to say helicopter. The fleece dinosaur two-pack was on clearance. She also loves dinosaurs. Yes, I bought these in the ‘Toddler Boys’ department but she legit loves dinosaurs and airplanes. Which she learned about from her pink laptop and the sky, respectively. Also, why are airplanes and dinosaurs for boys and not girls? Many girls ride in AND fly airplanes. Amelia Earhart, anyone? (Ok, maybe she is a bad example.) And I happen to know from watching Jurassic Park that there were DEFINATELY girl dinosaurs. So, what’s the deal?

img_4470

Also, I did LOOK in the ‘Toddler Girls’ section for airplanes. I found two shirts on clearance for $2.25 each, but no airplane pajamas.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $13,527.96