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

 

 

 

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

 

To Grandma’s House We Went.

I used to love Thanksgiving, back in the last millennium when I was but a wee little one. Thanksgiving meant a break from school, lots of cousins, and extra desserts. It was the beginning of the holiday season. My dad had a big family all close together, so I remember folding tables for MILES that stretched through doorways into adjoining rooms. We kids were running and tumbling everywhere, or more often banished upstairs or outside (depending on the weather), where we got into all kinds of mischief. Ouija boards and naked Barbie dolls feature prominently in my childhood memories.

But now. Everyone has moved away or passed away or simply doesn’t hang out together anymore. My husband is an only child. I live pretty far from most of my family. Air travel is so damn expensive this week. We used to have a LOVELY lonely Hard Candy Christmas type of Thanksgiving with just us and the cats, with the two older children at their dad’s house and the Babystar not yet existing. WHY does having a baby come with certain holiday expectations? My in-laws moved to Myrtle Beach about five minutes before I got pregnant with Babystar (or I doubt they would have made the move). And so we tortured the teenager and the toddler on Interstate 95 last week.

I despise I-95. Fuck that road. The actual visit was lovely, though.

We did break up the trip on the way down because the baby cannot stand more than five hours in the car. Total, all day. After that begins the screamy times. Also, it cannot be dark. Also, someone must hold her hand at all times. Also, people must be singing. People she actually KNOWS, not people from the radio. Dance music isn’t fun unless we can actually dance. DUH, MOM.

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So anyway, that $136.53 at the Hampton Inn is on Babystar’s tab. We could have driven straight through without her along.

Once we arrived, Myrtle Beach was a whirlwind of food and shopping. I wasn’t mad at all. My MIL is a very good cook, even though she always pretends not to be very hungry while she passing me the gravy. Or the butter. Or the cupcakes and ice cream with peanut butter cups on top. Of both.

And that woman is FIRE at the mall. Do you remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelei and Rory run into Emily at the mall and everyone there knows her? And they know all about Lorelei and Rory too, just by association? It was like that, if Emily Gilmore was much nicer. The teenager and I just watched in awe. I am not even kidding. The dude at the Cinnabon kiosk had her coffee ready when she walked by. One lady at a department store recognized her immediately and told her all about the sales on the ceramic pumpkins that she has had her eye on for two months. A lady in the shoe department knew that the Teenager was a gymnast without being told, and had been thinking about the perfect boots for her since before the Teenager even knew that she was getting boots. A different lady at a different department store gave me hella free samples including actual travel sizes with my Kiehl’s purchase because I was with Emily Gilmore my MIL. I straight up asked her (out of MIL’s hearing) if she was being so nice because I was with MIL, and she looked me straight in the eyes, smiled, and gave a single nod. I buy Kiehl’s at home all the time and they maybe give me two samples of lotion. If I ask nicely.

We did pop out to the outlets once on our own and while the Teenager and I were standing in line, my sweet husband distracted the baby by going to look at the ‘dogs’ at the weird outlet mall kiosk. $13 later, we owned one of those yippy beasts.

We also took a walk one day and found ourselves at a playground and then at Barnes & Noble where we spent way too much time (and money) in the children’s section. We brought home three board books and one story book for $45.32. Yes, they probably would have been less on Amazon, but it feels good to support a brick & mortar book store. I never would have said that about a chain bookstore even ten years ago, but now even the chains are dying. RIP Borders.

Another day, we went down to the boardwalk for a bit. The sand was cold but the ocean was beautiful. We watched the sun set and then Babystar got excited about all the lights. She had fun running around the arcades pushing blinking buttons and getting some wiggles out. And I bought her a $5 piece of crap light up thingy that she IMMEDIATELY bashed against the boardwalk until it broke. It still lit up for another two hours or so. It is in the trash now.

The WORST part of the trip was that it would have been considered rude to binge watch the new Gilmore Girls and the Teenager is so busy during the school week and we will have to wait over a week to see what is up with Rory and Lorelei. We have cleared Sunday evening’s schedule and now I just have to avoid spoilers. I’m scared, y’all. I might google in a moment of weakness. Like a 4am insomnia moment of weakness. Please keep me in your prayers.

The ride home was straight through, though broken up by fast food play places and one actual restaurant. We had snacks from South Carolina and the food on our plates and the ever present mama milk so the only cost to feed her was the $3 cookie I bought her at the fancy grown-up restaurant to eat while we ate our actual dinner. Judge me, I don’t care. I was hungry and desperate. I do not recommend this at all but it TOTALLY works in an actual meltdown-avoidance-emergency.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $13,485.59

 

Cousin Tony Had a Farm.

Ee eye ee eye oh.

Last week Babystar and I went to western Pennsylvania to visit family. I drove the minivan with my brother and his adorable fam along for the ride. They were super good at entertaining the baby while I drove. Thank goodness, because that baby takes after mama and HATES a long car ride. But we love our family. So there we were.

We had a blast. There isn’t much in western Pennsylvania between Pittsburgh and Erie besides farms and lakes, and we played at both. Babystar loved running around near the corn fields. And soybean fields. And llama fields. She did NOT like anyone touching her except me or anyone under the age of four. We ate together, slept together, swam together, and played together.

Skipping showers is all fun and games until you cuddle with a goat.

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I would have made the trip even if Babystar did not exist in this world, so the gas and tolls are on me. I do have $36.65 worth of food and merchandise to add to her bottom line, though.

  • Nuetrogena Baby Sunscreen – $10.99 (this stuff rocks!!)
  • Some cheap Giant Eagle brand of disposable diapers – $5.69
  • Gerber Fruit and Veggie melts – $3.00
  • Floaty thing that she immediately hated and I didn’t even bring home – $3.00
  • Floaty things for her two cousins so they wouldn’t feel left out – $6.00
  • Shovel and pail that she ignored – $3.00
  • Sbarro pepperoni pizza slice on the drive home – $4.97

 

RAISING BABYSTAR: $11,707.74

 

Treasure Hunting.

Our weekend road trip left us with a large chunk of down time in the middle of nowhere.

(PS I love the middle of nowhere. All the nowheres. I like it when my soul can spread out.)

We went treasure hunting in antique shops. I was looking for vintage Fisher Price toys for Babystar and old cool looking cameras for Miss Teen USA. I found a few things, including some toys for the small one. All of these will be hers after some cleaning. I think the best score was that Fisher Price airplane for $4. Also, one of those plastic baggies has an old FP car inside. I’m sorry, I mean a vintage FP car.

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I spent $26.30 for toys she will probably hate. But it was fun! Look — Smurfs and Weebles! (“Smurfs and what, Mom? Where’s my iPad?”)

RAISING BABYSTAR: $6,307.53

Spoiler Alert. I have been playing with eBay since we came home. Whoops. The mail should be fun soon.

Fast Food Nation.

Babystar had her Nine Months Doctor Visit yesterday. She’s now been on the outside as long as she’s been on the inside. Whoa. Doctor Lady says to start feeding her three times a day plus snacks. Four ounces of food per meal. Double Whoa. That’s four ice cubes! Plus snacks!? So just constantly feed the baby, all the time? Oy. Doctor Lady also said to add cereal and meat. MY BABY IS GROWING UP OH NO PLEASE STOP I WANT YOU TO STAY LITTLE.

She also said to teach her to sleep in a crib. For her safety. Since she’s crawling. So she doesn’t fall out of the big bed. We’ll see. *Sniff.*

So I bought some oatmeal. And some magic pouches. Ohhhh…pretty! We’re taking an impromptu weekend road trip for a great aunt’s funeral. (It’s not sad because she was old, right? Lived a long life and all that? Am I callous? Probably.) Lots of car time and hotel time and meeting family members and visiting so I really won’t have time for making Babystar three meals a day plus snacks. Baby fast food to the rescue!

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I’m sure it will be fine. They totally say ‘organic’. But DUDE, those pouches were 4/$5! That’s ten bucks of pouch food right there. Holy expensive baby food, Batman! (OMG, one of the pediatricians in Doctor Lady’s practice is named Dr. Batman and I can’t even.) I can make SO MANY puree cubes for ten bucks. Yikes. Well, you know what they say about pouch food? It’s, um, expensive? That’s not a saying, is it? IT SHOULD BE.

Plus $2.89 for the oatmeal.

(I’m totally buying disposable diapers for this trip too. BRB gotta run to Target.)

EDIT: Updated total because I went to Target and bought those diapers. Found a box of Seventh Generation on clearance.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $6,281.23

 

**Does anyone have experience moving a bedsharing baby to a crib? If so, please drop some wisdom my way.