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.)

 

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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

 

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.

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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!)

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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.

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RAISING BABYSTAR: $15,615.20

 

Airplane + Food.

We went out to dinner last month and did not order a single thing for Babystar. She shared with everyone, and basically got the Teenager’s extra side (fries which is all Babystar really wanted anyway).

But. Whoops. We forgot to bring any toys. WHAT ARE WE, ROOKIES?!?

Luckily, we were at Longhorn Steakhouse which is in the parking lot of a strip mall. One of my favorite strip malls. It has a Home Goods (cue that ahhh ahhh shhhhhh music). And luckily (luckily?), there was a 40 minute wait so the girls and I walked over to Home Goods just to browse.

When my darling husband texted us to say that the table was ready, the Teenager had to text back: we’ll be there in a min. mom is buying an airplane. emoji emoji emoji.

Babystar LOVES this Melissa and Doug airplane. She played with it at dinner. She plays with it all the time at home. She has decided that certain two passengers are ‘mommy and daddy’ and she even eats lunch with the mommy and daddy at her little table and feeds them and shows them her toys. She uses the luggage as cell phones. I saw her take a selfie with one. Best. Toy. Ever. Plus it was only $13.77 because Home Goods is the bomb diggity. (Am I allowed to type bomb and airplane in the same blog paragraph? I can’t keep up with the TSA rules.)

 

We did buy some food for Babystar in February. I’m still only counting food that I buy specifically for her. I eat a lot of it, but I buy it for HER. She eats a lot of my food, too. She’s lately loving salmon, but we don’t cook any more than usual. I just eat a little less. She also shares our veggies, but we would always cook the entire bag. Again, I just eat a little less. A toddler serving is like a couple of bites for me.

We buy a LOT more fruit than we used to. A whole lot more. I try to buy in season and whatever is on sale but DUDE FRUIT IS EXPENSIVE. I never noticed before this fun, terrifying project called babycostsmoney.

  • graham crackers 2.99
  • clementines 14.47
  • strawberries 13.97
  • blueberries 4.98
  • tater tots (1 of 3 bags for the month but she eats a lot of the Teenager’s tots) 3.09
  • apples 12.54
  • pears 5.71
  • watermelon 11.36
  • shrimp platter 11.99 (she didn’t eat a single one of course but we bought them for her)
  • granola bars 5.19
  • grapes 3.05
  • organic carrots .99
  • cucumbers 1.69
  • chia seed waffles 5.98

Plus some fast food meals out. Shhh, don’t talk about it.

  • Chick-fil-A 1 strip meal 3.39
  • Chick-fil-A 1 strip meal 3.39
  • Chick-Fil-A 2 strip meal 4.69
  • Elevation Burger fries 2.95 and orange slices 1.95
  • Costco pizza 2.19
  • Costco pizza 2.19
  • Costco pizza 2.19
  • Pizza Hut pizza via Target 4.29
  • Pepperoni at Sbarro (Yes, just extra pepperoni. She shared our stromboli.) 1.49

 

RAISING BABYSTAR: $15,232.37