4 Ways to Make Playtime More Fun (For Grownups!)

mom playing with baby cartoon

It’s my one year anniversary with WordPress! To celebrate, I want to share some ways to make playtime fun for grown ups. Lately I’ve gotten into a rut with playtime. It seems we play with the same toys, read the same books, and do the same things over and over. He’s totally fine with it at almost 11 months old. But me at 28? I’m more than bored! So here are some things I’ve done to spice up playtime:

1) Busta (Nursery) Rhyme – Yup, you read that right! Try pumping up the jam with Jack and Jill. Instead of the boring cadence you usually use, try reading it extra quick and with extra vigor! Get silly, get Ludacris! Your little one will love your style and it’ll breath new life into those worn out rhymes. Also, jazz up those kids books with different accents.

2) Dance party – Turn up your favorite music. It’s never to early to introduce your tot to your tunes, but maybe skip the hard stuff. You can both enjoy it and get some exercise by grooving around the room. This is great for all ages. You can carry or wear your tiny tot while dancing or have your toddlers stand on your feet.

3) Get Dramatic – Whether your babe can talk or babble or just stare wide eyed, when you’re trying to entertain, do it to the max. Gather up those millions of stuffed animals and act out the latest episode of Downton Abby, teddy bear edition. Or whatever your favorite show is, they’ll love to see you so into it and you’ll get a kick out of reliving or adapting your latest tv show addiction.

4) Take Selfies – pretty ‘self’ explanatory. Have fun hamming it up, use some nifty filters, post online or text to your friends and family.

And of course, like everyone says, enjoy each moment no matter how boring it might seem at the time. It’s true that time flies, and soon enough you’ll be longing for a few more ‘boring’ seconds with your little baby.

 

 

clipart: http://www.clipartof.com/portfolio/toonaday/baby

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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.

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.

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/

Making Good on Our Promise to Stay Active Post Baby

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From road trips to Florida to our recent cross country skiing adventure we are doing our best to stay active. It’s certainly harder now that we have to bundle up and pack for the little guy, but it’s not impossible. Today we decided to take the little man out for a ride in his fancy red hiking carrier. My husband has been itching to take him out in it since he scanned it for our registry! The day has finally arrived. We got him an adorable bear snow suit and tested out the carrier the night before. He seemed to be alright with the idea. 

We’re lucky that my husband’s sister has a place with a nice open area in the back for cross country skiing. She enjoys skiing herself and had already laid down some nice tracks we could follow. We ended up taking him out in the dark because we had to wait for our guy to wake up from his nap. Even with all the prep work (packing the car with ski’s, getting into our ski gear, getting his bottle ready, etc) done before he got up we still didn’t manage to get out there until 5ish and it was pretty dark by then. 

He did great! Despite waking up and being whisked away into the cold, dark night he rode along like a champ. We just took him out for a quick 10 minute run since it was his first time and we wanted to make sure he was cool with it. We’re blessed with a fairly even tempered child and he’s happy in most situations. That isn’t to say he doesn’t have grumpy times but he does well with change. I think the week long road trip to Florida when he was 3 weeks established a good sense of adaptation to his temperament. 

So the packing up and getting ready took longer than the actual activity. It was cold. It was dark. Was it worth it? Absolutely! We know now that he can handle a ride in the carrier when we’re skiing. Maybe next time with some light and a few extra family members we can go twice as long. Sure, things take longer and can at times be frustrating (for example, when you have him all bundled up, the car packed and heating up and then he does a massive poop!) but staying active and being true to our lifestyle is where it’s at! 

Mom Moments in the 21st Century

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Sometimes I’ll be smack dab in the middle of a classic mom moment and it’s as if I have an out of body experience and I’m looking at myself thinking “How much more “Mom” can I get?”. I had one just tonight and it was so 21st century!

My evenings go by so quickly these days. My husband comes home and it’s a whirlwind of dinner making, pumping, entertaining baby and then BAM it’s bedtime for him. Tonight was exceptionally busy. I had an online interview for a teaching position with an online education company. I had no idea how long it would take and I should have asked first because it went on for an hour and a half. My husband was watching the little tyke downstairs while I interviewed upstairs but he had to go play in his regular Tuesday night hockey game after about an hour in. Fortunately the interviewer allowed me to continue with my tot by my side. So there I am, headphones on, trying to impress this lady with my teaching knowledge and at the same time, I’m wiggling a toy to entertain my little guy. And I think to myself, “I am uber Mom right now”! My baby did fabulous. It was a group interview so there was down time and he was out of the screen shot. He played next to me and was very quiet. I was very surprised since he’s usually fairly fussy just before bed time. We’ll see if I got the job. Hopefully they didn’t hold it against me too much.

We Deserve Time. It’s Money After All!

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You know, one thing about teaching that really seems to get people is the vacation time. I think it’s easy to point fingers and say that someone doesn’t deserve it. Instead we should realize that we all deserve it!

It’s no secret that many other countries provide considerably better vacation/sick/personal/maternity/paternity time off than here in America. Would you take a pay cut for more vacation time? longer maternity leave? I think we assume money equals happiness, but time with our family and friends is happiness too. Out in the webosphere you can find article after article citing how time off makes workers not only happier and healthier, but in turn more productive (see below for a few links). How do we make employers see the light, when we keep working overtime and holidays? Maybe we need to stop it! We need to choose jobs with more generous paid leave. This might mean foregoing larger salaries which is tough choice to make. It might mean a house that’s not that fancy, clothes that aren’t always new. But perhaps you’ll hardly think of those things when you’re spending extra time with your grandchildren, children, neighbors and friends. And what’s with this “working until we’re practically dead” thing? I say, no! Retire when you want to. People might be reading this thinking that there is no way they can go without the money they’re used to or they want. Money seems to be a slave driver in that way. Yes, you need money to participate in society but you can have a very full and happy life on less. Think about all the people out there in third world countries who see the poorest Americans lives full of riches they’ll never experience, like running water for example. Money doesn’t have to control us, we can control it! 

Wow, that got a bit ranty and preachy. Mainly, being a Mom has made me appreciate time so much more. Since my husband and I are both teachers and have the holidays and the summer, I do feel very wealthy in the time off department. I believe teachers deserve it. My husband works very hard during the school year, considerably more than 8 hour days. In turn, we have a very busy summer and take advantage of the time to visit friends and family and create great memories. I also believe secretaries, bank tellers, bar tenders, accountants, nurses, and the numerous other hard working American employees deserve it too. If you want it, go and get it my friend! 

 

Those articles I mentioned earlier:

http://www.fordyceletter.com/2013/11/21/taking-time-off-can-make-you-happier-and-more-productive/

http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/contributors.asp?id=1301

http://www.npr.org/blogs/babyproject/2011/08/09/139121410/parental-leave-the-swedes-are-the-most-generous

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/06/08/countries-most-vacation-days/2400193/