Santa, Interrupted.

Oh, the Holidays. The time of year when we try our hardest not to offend those we love and cherish. Or something like that.

Because we are moving soon (OMFG I NEED TO PACK), we took the ToddlerMonster to visit one set of grandparents in Myrtle Beach. The Teens* were in Florida with their dad and we all met back home after Christmas.

*The boy Teen just turned twenty-one and has not been a teenager for a few years but I have no other name for the two of them.ย The Teens is just so short and easy. I am open to suggestion, as they don’t care for the alternatives I have proposed: The Freeloaders, The Children of the Last Millennium (abbreviated COLT), or the Starter Kids.

SO ANYWAY.

Babystar is and was and remains all about Santa this year. And THE TEENS wanted to watch her experience SantaMagic and open her other gifts because they love her and they are brats. So we waited.

We told Babystar that Santa took her gift to her house. When we were just about to leave for Myrtle Beach last week, I ran back inside to hang the stockings. And I left instructions for THE TEENS to build the trains set ‘from Santa’. The shenanigans were only 99.9999% stressful and annoying.

But worth it. Ugh. Loving your kids is SO OVERRATED.

(Presents do not equal love. This whole delaying Christmas so all three of my favorite children could be happy and get what they wanted DOES equal love.)

But. Um. Y’all. I feel like I must Confess.

Babystar had WAY TOO MANY presents to open last night. And I didn’t even realize that it had happened.

Christmas shopping was done from about September to November. Sometimes via Amazon in the middle of the night. (When those packages arrived, I put them straight into a closet without opening them. So I guess I may have forgotten about them.) Often the Girl Teen was at Target with me, and she is a huge Babystar enabler. It is just so much FUN to choose toys for little kids. And so the Target bags would go in one closet or another and I guess I sort of forgot about them.

We even wrapped all of these gifts in November. The Teen and I had a wrapping party and we had music and snacks and it was fun and I was sad when it was over so I didn’t realize that I had purchased an entire toy store for the two year old.

It’s actually quite lucky that we are moving to a big farmhouse with no friends because she will have plenty of toys to play with and plenty of room to keep them and plenty of time to play with them. But soon I have to pack them. Ugh.

Santa brought her the train set that she wanted. Of course it was made by elves, but I think their summer job is at Ikea. Ikea would have charged $57.96 for all of the pieces that Santa’s elves made. And some are still in the closet. Santa went overboard.

Her Christmas stocking was full of chocolate coins* ($1.99), three packs of pink Play-doh ($0.77 x 3), a Rudolph board book ($1), a pack of M&Ms ($1.29), a Princess Poppy expandable washcloth from the Target dollar aisle which she already used last night ($1), ten adorable ‘monsters’ from Ikea** ($7.40), and a tiny baby doll*** ($3.59).

*Did you see those awesome Coins from Around the World for $1.99/bundle at Trader Joe’s this year??

**Ikea chooses ten kid’s drawings each year and turns them into stuffed animals with two sizes each and all proceeds go to charity and it is the cutest thing.

***Her Toddler BFF has this little baby from Target and Babystar loooooves it. Her BFF calls her ‘Baby Lucy’ so this one is naturally ‘Baby Lucy’.

And then there were a million more gifts wrapped under the tree.

  • Melissa and Doug felt food Sandwich Set
  • Melissa and Doug Scoop and Stack Ice Cream Cone Magnetic Play Set $21.20
  • Melissa and Doug Birthday Party Cake $14.97
  • Felt donuts from the Target ‘dollar aisle’ $3
  • Wooden breakfast food from the Target ‘dollar aisle’ $3
  • Strawberry Shortcake doll $9.99
  • Angel Cake doll $9.99
  • Blueberry Muffin doll $9.99
  • Orange Blossom doll $9.99
  • vintage Huckleberry Pie doll from eBay $9.95

I tucked Huck in with Angel Cake because she was the only one without a giant hat.

  • Terra Prehistoric World Playset (basically an awesome giant bin of dinosaurs) $15.99
  • CAT mini machines (“just like at nook!”) 5-pack $4.69

CAT trucks at nook

  • Hotwheels car launcher (meant to go with a track but Babystar just likes to zoom her cars) $9.97
  • Moana pajamas $17.97
  • Usborne books: Ludwig the Space Dog (it’s 3D!) and My First Book About Me (to help with naming feelings) $28.24
  • Three adorable winter hats with animal ears ($3, $3, $3)
  • Lacing toy for building fine motor skills $3
  • Honestly Cute Potty Training set (a baby doll with a flushing potty that she already adores and is currently peeing on my table and I hope will get Babystar excited about using the potty herself) $20.69
  • Play-doh Florist Shop $9.99
  • (We also bought an 18-pack of Play-doh but didn’t give it to her. We have been doling it out as she smooshes her Play-doh colors together.) $15.49

I did luckily get most of these things on sale. But dude. Yeah. It’s a bit much. I know, I know. I have no idea how this happened?

Parents: Got any advice for reigning it in with the gifts? I didn’t THINK I was an Over-Do-It Mama but apparently I am one. Bummer.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $25,036.15

Rock Soup.

Babystar is super into Alternative Toys. Yesterday, she spent 45 minutes taking the coffee K-cups from the giant Costco-sized 100-pack and placing them on her little Ikea table. Then putting them back in the box. Then putting them all back on the table. And then putting them back in the box.

They didn’t even stack like blocks. It was just a sea of Donut Shop coffees. She loved it.

She followed this with a 15 minute puppet show but the puppets were straws.

And then she headed over to her kitchen to make Rock Soup.

This kid LOVES rocks. We taught her how to put her pointer finger and pinky finger up to throw horns and say ‘ROCK!’ She does it all the time, but I don’t think she gets the concept of rock as inย rocking out. Iย am convinced that she thinks she is communicating with actual rocks.

I heard a rumor that Santa was going to bring a play kitchen for Babystar this year. I raced that jolly old elf to Ikea (AKA I totally could not wait until December) and voilรก: there is a play kitchen in the dining room.

(I did this last month. I’m so behind on posts. Wah wah.)

Ikea kitchen2

I bought ALL OF IT: the Ikea kitchen and the Ikea pots and pans and the Ikea stuffed felt food and even the kid’s chef hat and apron ($178.62). I also ordered several sets of Melissa & Doug wooden food ($88.42). Plus Babystar picked out a cute Melissa & Doug wooden toaster as a TOTAL BRIBE TO BEHAVE during a errand-heavy day not long ago ($10.60).

Even with more food in her play kitchen than I usually have in my real kitchen, the kid mostly cooks rocks. She fries rocks. She bakes rocks. She LOVES rocks. She washes her rocks in her pretend sink before, I don’t know, braising them. Mostly, though, she makes rock soup.

We went to the Smithsonian Natural History museum last week ($4.60 for more street parking) and we stopped in the gift shop on the way out. Guess what she chose to take home? Rocks. For her kitchen. ($6 for a fill-it-yourself bag of shiny rocks.)

rocks in gift shop

RAISING BABYSTAR: $23,216.76

 

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

 

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.

wooden blocks

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.)

block tower

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.)

 

SaveSave

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