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

 

All About that Basement.

Like everyone else on the planet, I’ve decided that 2017 is the year that I GET ORGANIZED.

Unlike everyone else on the planet, I have a lion living in my basement (and baby it’s ready to ROAR.)


In order to make room for my oldest chicken coming home to roost, I have been spending a lot of time cleaning out the basement and pantry and all of the closets.

I have paid the teenager $50 (in segments) to occupy Miss Babystar so I could have some uninterrupted time to sort through all of the valuable and necessary items crap.

I also paid College Boy $30 to occupy Babystar while I continued cleaning out closets. He needs SOMEWHERE to put the all of the stuff that we just drove here from Florida.

I babysat my younger sister and brother so much when I was growing up, and I definitely resented them for a long time because of it. I’m over it now, but I still tend to mother them. (They would probably appreciate it if I would stop. Nope.)

The Teenager and College Boy adore their little sister, and they play with her all the time. HOWEVER, when I ask them to occupy her for however many hours while I either work on something at home (or shower), or get out alone with my husband (rare, but it does occasionally happen), I pay them our area’s going rate of $10/hour. I think it keeps them from resenting her (they play with her plenty on their own), and it definitely keeps me from taking advantage of them (because that is expensive, yo, and I don’t have a job).

We HAVE actually gone out to two (!!!) concerts recently and it cost us $190 in combined babysitting so we clearly need to find shorter concerts that are closer to home.

MAYDAY MAYDAY: I really want to know. What is the going rate for babysitting where you live? (I pay my kids at the lower end, actually, but I deserve a small discount for BIRTHING THEM.) Do you pay your older children to babysit your younger ones (if you have that type of situation)? Did you babysit siblings in your youth? Did your parents pay you (mine did NOT)?

RAISING BABYSTAR: $19,149.45

 

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

 

 

 

Oh HEY, RVA!

Last weekend or the one before or next weekend (because they are all running together now), we voyaged down to Richmond, Virgina, so that Miss Teen USA could visit the city in which she has chosen to spend the next four years.

(Real quick Mom brag: a particular school in Richmond gave my Smarty Pants Sweetheart a 28K scholarship!! Woo!!)

So we went down to check out the vibe, find the dorms, figure out where she will get her pizza, etc. Most of the trip was Teen-focused, but Babystar was along for the ride. She was such a little trooper, but we still snuck in a few activities just for her.

We stayed overnight but had to get a hotel near the airport. When we got to campus, we figured out why. All of the parents/guardians/whatevers were there picking up their kids/siblings/whatevers, because it was unofficial ‘move-out weekend.’ It also rained all of Saturday, so we drove around campus and then hit up Target to buy bathing suits since the hotel had an indoor pool and the SMARTY PANTS TEENAGER was the only one of us smart enough to pack a swimsuit.

Babystar needed another one anyway, and we got a cute once piece watermelon suit that she loves. She LOVES watermelon. And when she says ‘watermelon’, her tongue comes out of the side of her mouth and it’s my favorite thing. We also bought a swim diaper which is also fine because she needed another swim diaper for this summer. ($11.99, $9.99.)

 

We went to Target for the bathing suits (of course!) and also bought a pack of diapers, $4.99.

Babystar also got a shirt from the college bookstore ($21.99), a plastic snake and a gigantic hershey bar from Cracker Barrel (we let her pick out her own treat but I only gave her a small medium bit of the chocolate). ($3.99, $1.99.)


Yeah, so there was a Cracker Barrel by the hotel. Side note: I despise Cracker Barrel because they are always there on I-95 welcoming buses and luring my older two (when they were a bit younger) with their toy store lobby and giant checkerboards. But the service is inevitably slow and the food is whatever. However, I had lots of time and we needed to find a place that wouldn’t glare at the ToddlerMonster AND we let the Teenager pick so there we were. Twice. I wasn’t even mad. Babystar’s food was $3.19 (mac & cheese and apples), $2.79 (fries), and $2.79 (apples and she shared all the rest of our food). Plus tax and tip we spent about $13 on her two Cracker Barrel meals. We also hit up a Chick-fil-A (NOT ON SUNDAY THO) for $3.19.

And Insomnia Cookies, that was having a 5 for $5 sale. She ate almost an entire $1 cookie.

Before heading north on the dreaded I-95, we took Babystar to see some nature at Maymont Park in Richmond. It was raining so we only visited the Nature Center. Babystar was technically free (under two) but we were only there so she could commune with the turtles and get some wiggles out, so our collective $12 admission all goes on her tab.


Is tab the right word? It’s not like I’m giving her a bill when she’s all grown up. OR AM I?

Tally? Count? Ledger? I don’t know. Her number. Her very giant skyrocketing number.

 

RAISING BABYSTAR: $17,008.12

 

I’ll Never Feed THIS Baby Fast Food.

HahahahahahaaHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

I totally said this when I was pregnant. And I have no fucking excuse.

Babystar is my THIRD child. I love going to Chik-fil-A with the teenagers (their food is better than their politics but it is waaaaay better and chicken sandwich love conquers all). I don’t even really care that McDonald’s french fries aren’t vegan (even though they are potatoes, right, so how–nevermind, I don’t care). This is not my first rodeo.

But I said it. All smug. And stupid. Last December, Babystar had her very first kid’s meal of her very own. And in January she had, um, a few more.

(I currently have three ‘Corduroy Gets a Pet’ board books because our local Chik-fil-A didn’t think to diversify the toddler toys this month. Also, why does a bear need a pet? Who decides which animals HAVE pets and which animals ARE pets? Does this have anything to do with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?)

  • Chik-fil-A 1-strip meal $3.35
  • Chik-fil-A 1-strip meal $3.35
  • Chik-fil-A 1-strip meal $3.35
  • Chik-fil-A 2-strip meal $4.55 (no she didn’t eat the second one)
  • Chik-fil-A fries $2.89 (we shared but they were for her)
  • Chik-fil-A 4-nugget meal $3.35
  • McDonald’s fries $2.99
  • Elevation Burger grilled cheese and oranges $3.25, $1.95

She also still loves to share with us at Shake Shack or our local pizza place (omg she LOVES going for pizza, knows the way there when we are walking, and starts yelling PIZZAPIZZAPIZZA as soon as we turn the corner). She still never eats enough to justify buying her a separate meal.

 

January groceries purchased just for Babystar:

  • Blueberries $2.99, $2.99, $1.99, 4.99
  • Strawberries $6.99, $7.59, $3.00, $5.99
  • Graham crackers $2.99, $2.99
  • Clementines $6.99
  • Sweet onion $1.71
  • Bananas $1.46 (She still won’t eat them what is happening.)
  • Opal apples $6.70, $5.91, $1.88
  • deli turkey (Can toddlers eat this? She loves it.) $3.65, $5.17
  • eggs $2.89, $3.99
  • granola bars $5.49
  • cheese $3.00, $3.00
  • cookies (yep, the kind with m&m’s in them, don’t worry I ate most of them) $2.50
  • Trader Joe’s mac & cheese with the chilis $2.99, $2.99
  • Chia seed waffles $2.99, $2.99
  • Trader Joe’s Honey-O’s $2.59
  • chocolate ice cream minis $1.39, $1.39 (Shhh, her throat was hurting.)

RAISING BABYSTAR: $14,543.67