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

 

 

 

Patio Paradise.

Babystar was the big winner on Mother’s Day.

I had previously paid a local landscaper/handyman/general awesome guy $100 to clear the weeds (SO MANY WEEDS) and put down some mulch. My son and I tried to do it ourselves but after the fifth giant spider tried to murder us, we had to retreat. We had no choice.

Before Babystar, I always kept on top of the ‘gardening’. Gardening is in quotes because we live in a townhouse and the patio is not that big, but I still always grew herbs and sometimes even tomatoes and peppers and lettuce and chard. And I pulled the weeds on the regular.  I haven’t been able to do it the last two years because Babystar did not want to hang out with me outside. (Now she loves it!) So I guess the $100 is all her.

Mother’s Day was thankfully gorgeous and we did in fact make the patio an awesome place to be. I have flowers and herbs and even some tomato plants (though not as many as pre-baby). We also now have a Step2 Happy Home Cottage & Grill ($189.99) and Duck Pond Water Table ($34.99), along with a small plastic Babystar-sized chair ($7.99) for inside the playhouse and some plastic Little Tikes food ($14.99) for the faux-grill. 



I am looking forward to many hours of fun and relaxation on the patio verandah, dahling.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $17,409.43

 

 

 

New Clothes. And Old New Clothes.

New Clothes: I bought Babystar a ‘Wild Feminist’ tee during Feminist Apparel’s 25% off sale recently. (I bought a few for me and a few for my oldest daughter but figured that Babystar needed at least one. I’m a sucker. I know. $22.47 after the discount.)

 

More New Clothes: I also bought her the coolest pink sunhat from Costco that supposedly will last for years if she doesn’t lose it. (Spoiler alert: She or I will lose it.) The hat fits children ages 3-10 according to the tag. Babystar must have a big head because it fits now, but it is adjustable. $7.99.

 

Old New Clothes: While my almost-adult goddess child was getting ready for prom, Babystar went into her dresser and chose her own ‘pretty dress’ to wear. As I removed the tags for her, I realized that 1) she had clearly never worn this dress and 2) I had not added it to the blog. I bought the dress at Costco back in February for $12.99 intending it to be her Easter dress. But then my MIL bought her a cute tutu dress with a bunny on it to wear on Easter instead, and I forgot about this one. It is ADORABLE and I think she may wear it every day now. She’s on kind of a dress kick lately. 


(And MY GOD will you look at that beautiful Prom Goddess and her stunning gown!?)

RAISING BABYSTAR: $17,061.57

 

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

 

Taxes.

I have decided not to consider or ‘subtract’ the child tax credit because that is waaaay too much math. (Since it’s not a straight deduction from our tax bill — or is it? I don’t even understand it really.) Also, any tax credit credit IN NO WAY covers the cost of raising a child. And definitely not this privileged little middle-class Babystar in our privileged pocket of America. But mostly because we literally never get a tax return. We always always always have to pay. How much or how little depends on the year, but there is no refund headed our way.

So that is why. If you were wondering.

Also regarding taxes: Sometimes I add in the sales tax when adding up Babystar’s total and sometimes I don’t. Quite honestly, it really depends on how easy it is to add the tax to the total. I save receipts, and I have a giant list on my phone of what we purchase for Babystar. If it is an Abby’s Lane email receipt for a Babystar purchase, I’ll add the total including tax. If it is a Target receipt with a bunch of other non-Babystar items, I’m not adding the sales tax. (I am definitely not asking the cashier to ring Babystar’s items separately so I can be more accurate, like I would if this bloggy experiment were an actual job. But now that I type this, maybe I should. It would definitely make my receipt pile smaller and more accurate.)

Just if you were wondering.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $16,003.94

B. Ball. Balloon.

This post is brought to you by the Letter B.

We finally brought out the letter magnets that I’ve had tucked in the closet for over a year. I can no longer find my refrigerator. Babystar likes naming the letters now. Not all of them; she has favorites. And she is convinced that we have two ‘W’s.

 

Also, unrelated, Babystar fell in love with this rainbow ball at Micheal’s. I posted all about the crayons and stickers but forgot about this ball. And so did she, apparently, because it is currently under my seat in the van. $4.

And another balloon joined our family. Babystar asked for the ‘LELLOW STAR!’ at the Harris Teeter checkout line and then I almost died when I handed it to her and she very clearly said, ‘thank you, mama.’ But I recovered long enough to pay for it. $3.50.

We have also been to Busy Bees (more B’s!) twice lately with my darling niece, during 2-for-1 Tuesdays. $15.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $16,921.49

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

Balloon Life.

Toddlers like balloons.

Toddlers love balloons.

Toddlers are obsessed with balloons.

I know, I know, I shouldn’t generalize. MY TODDLERMONSTER CAN NOT GET ENOUGH BALLOONS in her life. She’s living that balloon life.

This Peanuts balloons has been around longer than the actual Peanuts comic strip. I think we brought it home in late January. I will miss this one when it’s gone. $6.99.

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This lucky little guy moved in at the beginning of the month, but he’s still hanging around looking shiny. $3.99.

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And these superstars were given to Babystar when we left the Children’s Museum last week, or the week before, they are all running together. We drove them ninety miles home because we love that little ToddlerMonster.

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They hang out near the sky because they are stars, duh. Also because one of the strings is only about four centimeters long.

Does anyone else have a balloon-obsessed toddler?

RAISING BABYSTAR: $15,665.97

 

 

Worker (Ba)Bee.

Babystar likes tools.

Since it’s kinda dangerous and pretty dirty and maybe illegal to let her play with the tools on my workbench, we got her a set of toy tools. (Yes, I said MY workbench. I 100% guarantee that my husband would agree.)

They are cute and sturdy and BPACDEFG-free and made of recycled materials in the USA. This is my first Green Toys purchase, but I totally dig them. I bought them at Home Goods so they were less expensive than usual. Which I also totally dig. ($16.99 instead of $27.99.)

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Babystar digs them too. She took the pliers on the airplane to Florida earlier this month,  and ‘fixed’ the airplane window. Whew. Those other travelers don’t know how close we came to a possible broken window. Babystar to the rescue.

(Note: I had to go to their website to look up the actual retail price since I bought them at Home Goods. They have a pink set. Gross. GIRLS LIKE BLUE TOO. At least the tea set comes in both pink and blue too. BUT STILL.)

And while we are on the topic of fixing things, the living room ball pit has been getting some serious abuse aggressive love by visiting older kids. It’s totally to be expected, and a large part of me wants it to break completely and be out of my life, but alas. Babystar loves it too much. So we bought some Duck tape (yes, Duck, that’s the brand) and fixed the broken loops. $3.77. She picked yellow, so they don’t match the other loops at all but whatever. Also, we took the ball pit downstairs so it maybe gets less abuse and so I maybe don’t have to look at it as much. Win-win.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $15,654.99

 

HOOO Turned Off the Light?

Once upon a time, over Christmas break of 2015, we adopted a super cute Skip Hop owl night light courtesy of the Myrtle Beach grandma. The blue owl sits on my nightstand and glows while Babystar nurses to sleep each night. The very wise owl gently turns itself off after thirty minutes. I love this thing!


One day many months ago, Babystar was playing with the owl an dropped him onto the floor. A piece of plastic broke off of the battery case. We fixed this by covering the bottom tightly with packing tape.

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We use this owl every night. After a few battery changes, the tape method grew less effective and more annoying. If the nightstand was nudged at all, the owl would abruptly flicker off, sometimes causing bedtime distress and NOBODY LIKES BEDTIME DISTRESS.

We replaced the owl in November. ($19.03 via Amazon Prime.) Bedtime improved greatly until a few weeks in to the new owl coming to live with us. Owl #2 broke for real. Even more broker than Owl #1. The battery pack legit broke off and fell inside the owl completely. In fact, we have been using the OG (less) broken owl for months, with our handy tape hack. Fast forward to March and we finally got around to calling Amazon and they replaced it with no issue. Amazon is awesome or maybe we just spend waaaay too much money on Amazon but either way, YAY.

Let’s see how this goes. Take three.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $15,634.23