Get Togethers, Playdates, and Mommy Groups….OH MY!

Mommy groups seem so cliche and snobby to me. I imagined them full of self-centered women who only get together to measure up their child against another. To boast about how smart their kid is or tout the latest developmental milestone their child smoothly reached. Not TOO early and definitely NOT too late. So why then, did I willing go?

Mainly, I wanted some company. Another adult or two to chat with while doing the mom game. So I was thrilled when my little man and I ran into this sweet British lady and her two adorable boys, the youngest a mere month behind mine, at the little play area in the mall. We got chatting about things and it turns out she’s a stay at homer, with lofty ideals of teaching in our over saturated teaching market just like me! SHE asked if I wanted to be on her mommy group email list. I felt like I had just won an oscar. Me? Me with my sloppy t-shirt and jeans? Me tromping around on my knees behind my – not quite walking yet – 9 month old? “Of course!” I said, trying to rein in my enthusiasm, didn’t want to seem too eager. She said they don’t get together that often and there’s only a few of them, but I was already worlds away imagining us moms sipping on lemonade under a sunshade while our wee ones played together like the best of friends.

About two weeks later, I get the long awaited email invite to get together at her house. I waited a day to respond, again didn’t want to come off to strong, and agreed to attend offering to bring some muffins or coffee. Her house was VERY nice. I immediately realize I cannot host one of these at my little shack down in the ‘city’ . We hang out in her finished basement full of awesome toys that keep my guy entranced. The other mom that comes brings her two boys of similar ages as well. My little one can’t get enough of all the action. He just absorbs what the older boys are doing. Us moms chat it up, learning about each other. Turns out the other mom is a part time doctor and her husband? A surgeon. Yeah…definitely not gonna host at my place. I mean, I don’t have toys for the bigger kids, yeah that’s it!  haha. Despite the income gap, we had a swell time. They were very friendly and down to earth ladies. We had a lot in common as moms and it was nice to bounce experiences off of each other. I was glad to hear that we’ll try to get together again. This time at the park when the weathers nice. The park will be an excellent neutral ground. The ladies mentioned a bigger, more organized mom group they’re a part of. It sounded waay to intense for me. There are monthly meetings. Enough said. So my mom group experience wasn’t exactly like I’d imagined and I think that’s a good thing.

First Birthday on a Budget

My little man will be turning ONE June 2nd and I’ve already begun thinking about his first birthday party. In my pinterest and general internet searches, it seems these type of parties can be as extravagant and expensive as a wedding practically. With our travel filled summer, my first birthday party budget is quite slim. So I thought I’d share some unique, budget-friendly, kid party ideas I’ve come across.

Adorable Thank You notes – A lovely, simple handprint. I’m thinking we’ll spend a day outside, shirtless and get these done in one go. I can hose him off when we’re done and I he’ll have tons of fun doing it (or maybe just the first few…we’ll see).

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http://www.artbymegan.com/easy-thank-you-notes-1st-birthday-edition/

 

Felt Crown – I can just picture my little tot wearing this. If I miraculously find more time, I can fashion some for the other tiny guests too! I’m sticking to primary colors and these will look great!

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http://www.hellobee.com/2012/05/30/diy-felt-crown/

Photo Banner – This cute, easy to assemble banner serves two functions: adorable party decor AND a look at the past year in baby monthly photos that guests will definitely want to see. Doing it! I’m thinking I’ll use clothespins. I can write the month on their and color the clothespins to match my theme.

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https://www.etsy.com/listing/78306774/0-months-to-12-months-photo-banner

 

Water Balloon Ice – Clever, cute, and it’ll work with any color theme. It’ll be the perfect thing for his outdoor summer party.

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http://www.babble.com/home/25-clever-ideas-for-diy-party-decor/water-balloon-ice/

Cupcake Liner Garland – This looks like a fun project. I can get some simple, plain, brightly colored liners for the party. I like the idea of using various sizes too!

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http://www.cookiemondays.com/2011/03/cookie-monday-camdens-cookies-milk.html

 

Hopefully I will be able to write a follow up post with my own versions of these this summer! 🙂

 

 

 

Parenting: Here’s What I’ve Learned So Far (SPOILER ALERT: it ain’t much)

Ever the student and often the teacher, I find it’s time for me to sit back and take stock of what I’ve learned so far about parenting.

1) I’m still me. I’m realizing this more and more. When I was younger and not even too much younger, I thought parents and moms were these older, wise, caring, grown up, polite, disciplinarians. But I’m one now, officially, by every definition. And my personality, likes and dislikes all stayed the same. I prefer junk food to vegetables. I hate doing the dishes. I can’t stayed focused on one topic in conversations. I google everything I’m unsure of. Maybe I thought once I crossed over that clear line from carefree youth to caring mom I’d magically have all the answers, a clean house, and a healthy diet. But for now, I guess I’ll just fake it til I make it!

2) Babies grow SO fast! Everyone told us this and still does. But it’s one of those things you have to see to truly understand. It seems just yesterday I was hardly ready to care for a brand new baby. And now, a mere 9 months later, I’m taking care of a completely different animal. He babbles, he twists, he reaches, he walks (with our help), he holds his own bottle, he can feed himself, his poop is just like mine! He spots stuff a mile away and wants it. He turns his head to investigate every little noise. No more am I worried about supporting him, or if he can see or hear me. He’s a whopping 25 lbs, which is really heavy to haul around. He has a big kid car seat. He wears a regular (albeit small) winter coat. He eats practically everything. He has two VERY SHARP teeth. In my early parenting weeks, I never even gave a thought to a different car seat. That milestone seemed ages away. I figured he’d be in a swaddle for the longest time and teeth just seemed like such a toddler thing.

3) Only you can make the best decision for your kid. No parenting book, website or even google can give you the right answer 100% of the time. And what’s available and assured for the masses is not always set in stone. There was so much I was afraid of early on that seems silly now. Of course, when your little one is brand new they need that extra special care. I was sure he’d practically graduate college before I let him have a blanket in bed (we gave him one of those awhile ago). He drops a pacifier on the floor and I just give it a quick mom sanitization (I pop it in my mouth for a second). I thought I had to give my baby pureed, official “baby” food. Then I discovered baby led weaning and threw all that commercial nonsense out the window. Even baby led weaning I customized.

4) It’s all a balancing act.It feels like I have this incessant inner voice saying stuff like: “Now don’t give him too much food, he’ll learn to over eat…Oh come on, give him just another bite, he seems like he’s starving.” or “Put a onsie on under his jammies so he’s not too cold tonight…what have you done, he’s going to wake up sweating in the middle of the night”. a recent classic “He’s screaming, take him from the babysitter and comfort him…great, now you’ve just created a dependent, momma’s boy!”.  I’m always looking to find that middle ground just to quiet my inner paranoia.

5) I have so much to learn.

That time I met my Husband on an Internet Dating Site…

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I was the one to first ‘woo’ him on a little known site called okcupid. I could tell from his profile that he was pretty great and couldn’t wait to meet him. But of course, I played it cool (I think?). We chatted a couple of times, and just being silly, I asked when he was going to come to New York to visit me. He lived in a small city upstate, Binghamton, about three and half hours away, so it seemed like a long shot. He surprised me and said that he was actually visiting the next weekend with a couple of friends. They’d never been to the big city and he was coming along to show them around. We hadn’t even exchanged numbers yet, so I shied away from discussing details about a meet up. He continued to message me, providing his cell in case we could get in touch while he was there. Well, after a few drinks at a party, I got up the courage to text him during his visit. The problem was, it was about 2 in the morning (we were so young and crazy back then!) and the trains were all sorts of slow. He finally hopped in a cab and met me on the corner of 33rd and 3rd ave. I know what you’re thinking but, it was brightly lit and very safe and my friends were still at the party just around the corner! When we met face to face, I gave him a vigorous handshake and suggested we have a drink in a bar nearby (The Hook and Ladder, sadly now closed). I ordered a bass (apparently it impressed him that I was into quality beer). We chatted the night away amid flying sparks. We hung out the next day and I met his friends. After the weekend was over and they left the city, I was sure he was the one, (of course still playing it cool, I didn’t share that until an appropriate year or so later). There was one hitch in this “perfect” match. I was VERY close to buying a one-way ticket to Spain where I had an au-pair job waiting for me. I was really in a pickle. I had JUST met the man of my dreams. But it was so early on in our relationship (like a few weeks) that I was sure if I moved away to a foreign country with no idea when or if I’d ever come back it probably wasn’t going to work out. I went with my heart and stuck around in the states. Good thing I did. We continued dating, making the trips back and forth. Two and a half years later we were engaged on Christmas day. Two years after that we got married on a beach in Hawai’i. We own a house upstate and just had our son 9 months ago. It has been a thrilling 7 years since I joined okcupid and met my dream guy, my tandem bicycle captain, my sky diving buddy, my water skiing partner, my other half. A big thank you to Okcupid, couldn’t have been possible without ya! Can’t wait to see what the future holds. And if you read my past blogs then you know, we just booked our tickets to Spain for a FAMILY trip this summer!

Hey Teachers: This post is for YOU!

Being a mom, a substitute teacher looking for a full time position, and a part time waitress, you’d think I’d be busy enough! But, I decided to take on a tutoring gig online. I’m currently “waiting” for a student who is now a no show and figured I’d share with my colleagues about this neat, legitimate work from home company (don’t worry, you still get paid even if students don’t show up).

It’s called educate online. Go ahead and google it. See? It’s official looking.

Here’s what makes it legit: It’s not too good to be true. The pay is a mere 11.50 an hour. When you have a master’s degree that can seem fairly low. However, there is no lesson planning, and of course you work at home, in your jammies, around your schedule. For me, it’s not so much about making lots of money as it is about being able to continue working in my field. I get to hone those teacher skills. And being completely online, you really learn fast about clear verbal communication, since you have no visual cues.

There’s no video at all. At first, I thought it was going to be impossible. But they have it all figured out. There’s a nice classroom environment, similar to a smart board where you can write, draw and read the lesson articles or problems. You and the student can interact with it at the same time or not if you don’t want them to.

You have to be certified to teach in your state and they prefer a master’s degree. Often those too good to be true “jobs” don’t have any requirements since they prefer to scam everyone equally, ha.

This can’t be a full time job. You can only work a maximum of about 26 hours a week. And you have to be available for a minimum of 10.

You don’t pay anything. Zero. Zip. As well you shouldn’t if you are an employee. They even give you the headset you need and pay for your training, again a simple 10 an hour.

The really good stuff?

It’s just as rewarding as regular, face-to-face teaching. You can really get a feel for a student by their voice. You can hear their enthusiasm and their confidence. You can give stickers on their correct responses or as a motivation tool and they love it. They’re often in a school setting, like a computer lab with a teacher present, so you don’t really have to worry too much about behavior issues. That’s not to say there are none. Sometimes working with the younger students (I’ve worked with kids as young as 7) can be a real test in how engaging and motivating you can be.

There seems to be many levels for growth within the company. I’ve just started out and above me there’s the lead instructor (my go to person with any questions/ my evaluator), learning coaches that motivate students, scheduling coordinators and curriculum developers.

In an all online company, there’s a real sense of community and support among the employees. You can tell the lead instructors and other teachers really enjoy what they do and want everyone to be successful. There’s a weekly newsletter that highlights outstanding instructors and even cites anecdotal evidence! The mandatory (and yes paid) monthly, hour-long meetings are very helpful and make you feel good about working for the company.

I just hope I can maintain these 10 hours, because it’s a lot more fun than waiting tables. If only the pay were at all comparable…

Tickets are Booked!

It’s official! We are going to Spain this summer! Now that our flights are booked, it finally feels real!

Here’s  our tentative itinerary: We’ll be landing in Madrid. We’ve already reserved an awesome vacation rental right in the city center through airbnb.com. We’ll be staying for 4 nights. Maybe one day we’ll take a day trip to Toledo. Then we’re off on the train to the beautiful Costa Del Sol. We plan to stay about a week in the coastal town of Malaga. We’ll spend our days tooling around city, lounging on the beach, renting bikes, and making a day trip or two to neighboring cities like Cordoba. Then we’ll ride the train north towards Madrid but stopping of for a couple of nights in a small town called Almagro. We’re hoping we can stay in a fantastic parador (government run hotels in historic old buildings). This one happens to be an old convent. Then we’ll continue to Madrid and stay one more night before flying home the next day.

 

As fun as it is to plan adventures, traveling with a one year old means we need to be flexible. Aside from our lodging we probably won’t commit financially to too much more. Day trips might be difficult but hopefully not impossible. We’re very lucky that my mother in law, sister in law and another friend will be joining us. Maybe we can even have a night or two on the town!

Why My House is a Mess!

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How do parents of tots keep their houses clean? I have fairly low standards compared to most people when it comes to cleanliness and I am overwhelmed. (Perhaps I should be cleaning instead of blogging….nahhh). I’m no neat freak but I like to the main spaces cleared of clutter, the dishes done and no food bits around. That seems pretty reasonable to me. Well today just took over and when the whirlwind of life finally settled down, my house is a wreck. I’ve escaped into our spare room (that I’ve only just recently cleared out) just to relax. I know I should venture downstairs and pick up but sometimes just thinking about cleaning can be exhausting. All the tricks I used to use have gone out the window. Clean as you cook hardly works when you have a little guy who wants to do nothing but “walk” around but doesn’t know how to walk yet. So I have to hold his hands and walk behind him. Makes getting anything done a challenge. I realize now what a golden opportunity I had to make my place sparkle before I had a child. I did not realize what I was capable of! I have to sneak in a dish here or there as I make a bottle or get lunch ready. Then dinner comes along and the pile grows instead of shrinks. I have a basket of clean laundry just begging to be folded and put away, but I haven’t even looked at it in days. This awesome push behind toy that we ordered (to save our aching backs) came in the mail today. Along with all the packaging that needs to be folded down and recycled. By the way, the boy refuses to stand behind it. He only wants to play with it sitting down. At least it’s something new to look at for a minute. I feel we have a decent amount of toys but day in and day out playing with the same ones over and over can get monotonous. Now that he’s practicing walking, socks are everywhere! His feet slide all around in the socks, even the ones with the grippers on the bottom. So I put them on him to start the day but usually take them off pretty quick since all he wants to do is walk. We’ve got baby gates up. Those are an eye sore. We didn’t have the money to get fancy pearly gates so the basic model is what we got. With the weather requiring all sorts of gear to stay warm the area by the door is filled with boots, gloves, hats, snow pants, etc We don’t have a mud room so it creeps out into the center of the kitchen! Well I suppose I better make a concerted effort to whip this place back into shape. Wish me luck!

 

*Picture: http://www.myrenohomesearch.com/2012/06/selling-your-reno-home-10-steps-to-prepare-your-home-for-sale/