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

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.

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!

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/

Our Plan for Getting to Spain

piggy bank

If you’ve read my blog before, then you know that my little family is planning to go to Spain this summer. I thought I’d share how a mostly one income, lower middle class family plans to make it happen.

First of all, priorities! We have made this trip a priority. This means we are willing to sacrifice to get there. No new clothes, no new furniture, tons of meals at home, lots of diy, extra jobs and overall thriftiness.This has been challenging, to say the least. We’ve set a modest budget and the groceries are the hardest for me to rein in, even with a list that now excludes nice craft beers and other unnecessary extras. Wouldn’t ya know, kids are expensive! There are just some things we HAVE to get, like milk storage bags and fresh fruits and veggies.

In addition to my few days a week as a substitute teacher, I’ve picked up two other jobs that are part time. I’ve got an extra shift or two a week at the old restaurant I used to work at. That was a tough one for me. I just assumed I would not be waiting tables once I had my masters and I was CERTAIN that I wouldn’t still be doing it as a mom. But I’ve adjusted my outlook, gained some perspective and served with a smile. It’s really not bad work, the people are great and for the time I’m putting in, you can’t beat the money. I also started as an online educator very part time. This was a nice gig to get since it’s in my field, I can schedule my own hours, and do it from home. Doesn’t pay a whole lot, otherwise I’d probably quit the restaurant thing. So there’s no doubt, I am doing my share to get us to Spain!

Our fridge started acting up and it seemed like all might be lost. A new fridge would definitely take a big chunk out of our Spain budget. So we got a local fridge expert to take a look, that alone cost a pretty penny. When he told us that in addition to his fee, a new part and more labor was going to cost us 150$, we did what any 21st, gen Y family would do. We googled and youtubed a cheaper fix. For a total of 45$ (including shipping) we got the part we needed and watched a youtube video about how to install it. Piece of cake!

In addition to cutting down the groceries, fixing fridges and picking up extra jobs we’ve also done away with eating out, going to movies, or other costly adventures like downhill skiing. I know, I know, it’s pretty drastic buuuut all is not lost. Just this past weekend we did a some cross country skiing up north. It’s much cheaper than downhill skiing and we can bring the little guy along in the frame backpack. We brought snacks and good company and it was a lot of fun, oh! and hard work. Watching the Olympics is free and that’s been pretty entertaining. And every time we time we hear about about something we want that’s costly, like a live band and a new chipotle porter at our favorite local brewery, we just have to remind ourselves in a passionate inner voice, “Para Espana!”.

 

Not All Microwaves are Created Equal

It’s true. As we travel to different family members homes this season, that is one lesson I’ve learned! At home, I have warming my sons bottle down to a science. When I’m at someone else’s house my carefully executed method doesn’t hold up. It takes longer and I find I’m fiddling with the microwave for most of it. Not only are they all different as far as size, model and year but a minute on one can be equivalent to 10 seconds on another! 

 

Anyway, this post isn’t all about microwaves. Traveling around with a little one really forces you to LIVE in someone else’s home. I’d never used someone’s microwave before or in some cases, been in there spare rooms or kids rooms or even there own rooms until now. Needing a quiet place to put my son down for a nap grants me access to the innermost living quarters of others. It’s neat in a way to see how these people that we see so rarely throughout the year live and keep the part of their house that’s not on display. It makes me feel closer to them. That in addition to the glow and buzz of the holidays makes for a cozy good time! Enjoy your time with family and friends. Maybe, try to see them more often this year.