Tag Archives: activities for babies

The Write Choice

A friend of mine recently went to work for the mom-founded, mom-run upstart Juice in the City. So, I was using my Friday night to troll the company’s site since it’s expanding to the D.C. area soon. Basically, if you subscribe to stuff like Living Social or Doodle Deals, you’d probably be a fan of the Juice. It’s similar in that it offers discounts to cool stuff in your metro area, but it’s totally targeted to the mom in us.

Every day the site features a deal on anything from mommy-and-me painting classes to family portraits to mini van tune ups, all provided by locally owned businesses. Not only are the discounts great, but you can have the assurance that it’s a good deal on a good product or service because it’s been totally checked out by a local mom. I think it’s a really cool concept–a buy-local business built by moms for moms.

But that’s not really what this post about. While I was scavenging the site, I ran across this blog post, A Writer Mom’s Balancing Act. From one writer mom to another, it really struck a chord with me. Especially this part:

“We [writer moms] have an ever-present need to put words down. No matter what else demands our attention, no matter how severe our sleep deprivation, our personal muse is always hovering nearby whispering, ‘Write.’ We must write. But finding the time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard can become more challenging than finding a needle in a haystack the size of Mount Everest.”

I write for a living. And that’s fun and rewarding. But what I really find fulfilling as far as writing goes are the hours I spend feeding this site. And I so have those same muses whispering in my ear to the point that if I go too long without posting, I start to feel bad, kind of guilty or something. It’s pretty silly–I mean, who’s really reading this thing anyway–but blogging has become a major part of my weekly routine. It’s very similar to when you get into a good exercise routine and then you miss a few days; you get all anxious to get back to the gym.

And so while it’s always hard to find free time when you’ve got a baby, it wasn’t until I had a baby that I was ever this disciplined about writing for myself. And I am grateful for that. Writing is just good for my soul and, until I became a mom, I didn’t really realize how much of myself I had been missing by not writing for fun frequently enough. Funny how for as much as babies can take from you–time, energy, patience, and all the rest–they give back more without even knowing it.

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Filed under babies, daily life, first year, moms, working mom, writing

Cool Mom or Just Crazy?

Every once in awhile the reality of my life slaps me right upside the head Joe Jackson style. Today it was the fact that I was driving home from baby’s French play group, rocking out through the rain and the traffic to Kidz Bop Monster Ballads.

I had often seen the Kidz Bop CD series and had no trouble taking a pass. The idea of a bunch of 8-year-olds singing anything from Lady Gaga to the Glee soundtrack sounded absolutely painful. But in a moment of weakness, the impulse buy got the better of me and I shelled out the $10 or so for the Monster Ballads version. I mean, seriously, bands like Poison, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Scorpion, and Firehouse definitely should have a place in my child’s musical education.

For as ashamed as I am to admit it, I love this CD. The playlist is amazing. How can you go wrong when it starts out with “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and wraps up with “Love of a Lifetime”? It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think it’s a toss up between “Winds of Change” and “Love of a Lifetime.” Probably because they remind me of dancing with a boy named John Goodenbury at a junior high dance at the local YMCA. I was seriously crushing on him and couldn’t believe he picked me for the most amazing slow dance double header of the night.

But while I kind of feel like a cool mom for moving beyond “Old McDonald Has a Farm” and other classic nursery rhymes for musical entertainment, I also have a sinking feeling that my listening to Kidz Bop makes me officially lame. I can imagine that if I had gotten a glimpse of myself belting out kid-ified versions of “I Remember You” or “High Enough” in my Volvo with a baby stuffed into a car seat in the back when I was young, single, and free, I would’ve been mortified. I’m pretty sure I would’ve thought, “Man, she needs to get out more.”

And maybe I do. But chances are next time I do, I’ll be rocking out to Brett Michaels’ kids covering his classic “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” And I’m okay with that.

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Born To Run, Not Just Walk

Baby crossed a few major milestones this summer. And while I’m sorry that I’m only now getting to catch up on them, the truth is I’ve not only been busy trying trying to enjoy them but also just trying to keep up with them. Literally.

When baby and I arrived at my parents’ house for July Fourth weekend, baby was a crawler. He was pulling himself up on furniture, creeping around the house from chair to chair, and pushing all his walker toys, but he was not what I would consider vertical. Then one day not too long after we arrived, he took the first step on his own. The next day he took three steps on his own. The day after that he took five steps on his own. And after that he was a walker.

I had no idea it would happen that fast. I thought it would be a much longer process, one where he would spend weeks only being able to take a couple steps before crashing. I thought for sure it would take a decent chunk of time to develop the muscle strength, coordination, and balance to be toddling around. Apparently not. By the time we were packed up Labor Day weekend to head home, baby could run. 

And as fast as his chunky bow legs can carry him is clearly his preferred mode of transportation. This of course means that I also am doing a lot more running than I’m used to–even with the training that I’ve been doing to prepare for the Army Ten Miler next month. (Remember you can still donate; just click here before Oct. 3!) My mornings should start with “on your mark, get set, go” followed by the pop of a pistol because, from the second my alarm clock rings, it’s off to the races, the finish line being 7pm when my baby goes vertical to horizontal in his crib.  

But as I say that, one thing occurs to me: My baby really isn’t much of a baby anymore. I’m not sure I like the sound of toddler–just yet.

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Filed under babies, child development, daily life, first year, holidays, play time, walking

My First Stroller Derby

One of my summertime projects has been to get back into running. See, I signed up to run the Army Ten Miler this fall with a group of mommies like me who have wee ones and soldier husbands. Our team is called the “Military Mommas” and to motivate us through those 10 undoubtably painful miles, we’re raising money to support the Fisher House Foundation, which provides housing for military family members while their soldiers undergo medical treatment. (Click here if you’d like to donate.) While the charitable fundraising is helping pump me up for the run, it’s not doing the work for me, so I decided to sign up for the Save the River 5K last week as a fun way to log some miles.

This particular 5K is a little event–about 300 participants–and anything but competitive. It’s one of those small-town events where it’s ok to walk, kids and grandparents are totally invited to participate, and strollers are more than welcome on the course. I used to be a runner, but it’s been a good five years and change since I could last call myself one, so this low-key event was so my speed (or lack thereof). Given the baby-friendly set up, I decided to take the wee one along for the run and fun.

I run with baby and the buggy from time to time, but this was my first baby-in-tow race and I definitely learned a few things about being a mom on the run:

  1. Learn to be loud. Chances are you’re not going to be the first up at the starting line–stroller pushers tend to wind up near the back of the herd–so find your stride becomes first about just finding a clear path. You don’t realize how much extra room you need to maneuver when you’ve got your front traversing wheel locked into a stationary position for a better ride, so moving through the crowd becomes a little more difficult, especially when the people ahead of you are doing their own thing. Many thanks to my friend Eva who was clearly a good 30 seconds faster than I and was alerting people to watch out behind them that a stroller was coming through as she passed them. I actually heard someone call her a bitch for doing it–mostly because she passed them, I think–but I thought she rocked because as much as I wished my Baby Trend Jogger had a horn, it didn’t. And god knows I didn’t have enough breath left to do my own shouting–on your left!
  2. Don’t run alone. Misery definitely loves company, so I count myself lucky enough to have a couple of friends do the race with me because I think I can officially say it would have been rough to do it alone. Somewhere into mile 2, I know I definitely looked at my friend Lesley and said, “This sucks.” But having a running partner (or two or three) was a lot of fun, too. I know as Lesley and I came into the last half mile we decided to pick up the pace and as we were sprinting toward the finish, our heavy breathing was definitely punctuated from time to time with encouraging words to each other like, “We can do this.”
  3. Water breaks are for sissies. There were two water stations along the course. I wasn’t thirsty when I ran past the first one, but when I saw the second I was dying for something at least sort of cool. I let go of the stroller handle to grab a cup and as soon as I did I realized that there was no way this water thing was going to happen unless I stopped. Not only was water splashing out of the cup, but I felt like I could barely steer the stroller. And seriously, stopping was not an option because I was never going to get the baby rig going again if I did. Next time around I’ll definitely have a water bottle with a squirt top stuffed into the cup holder.
  4. You’ll make insta-friends. When you’re working a stroller at one of these races, you automatically start picking out other stroller runners and kind of naturally gravitate toward each other. I had seen two mommies with their strollers before the race that sort of caught my eye, mainly because they had the same stroller as I did, their babies looked to be about the same age as mine, and they looked like they could tear up some asphalt with three wheels. (Turns out one was a half marathoner and the other was a triathaloner.) As I headed into mile 3, I saw the two of them up ahead of me. They got hung up at the water station, so I ended up passing them. But after the race, the two mommies wheeled over to me to congratulate me on my finish. I was kind of blown away–my face was too red to have made my finish look easy–but I thought it was really cool of them. Turns out we had more than just the strollers in common–their husbands too are military–so it was a fun way to meet some new people.
  5. It’s more fun that you think it’ll be. I set out with no goal other than to finish. But just being with the crowd on a nice day on the River turned out to be quite a bit of motivation. I ended up finishing in the top quartile–if you want to check out the rankings, you can find them here–despite what during my running heydey would’ve been an embarassing time. But out of all the fun runs I’ve done over the years, I definitely won’t forget this one because it felt awesome to hear someone yell, “You’re the first stroller!” as I ran over the finish line. Of course I would’ve felt even better about my final results had there a 1 minute handicap, but it was enough to know I at least finished in front of the only dad I saw with a stoller at the start line.

So, it was a lot of fun and just what I needed to help me get a little closer to be ready for the big 10 mile trudge in the fall. Many thanks again to my running buddies–definitely couldn’t have done it without you–and to Save the River for organizing such an awesome event. Definitely signing up for the stroller division next year!

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My Love-Hate Relationship with Swim Diapers

It’s full-on summer these days and when the temps start climbing, there’s really nothing more adorable than a baby in a pool or at the beach. While I have always been the type happy to sit waterside for hours on end with nothing more entertaining than a beer, babies certainly do not have my tolerance for nothingness when the sun is shining. So, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the most out of whatever pool or beach time I can get with a one year old.

I thought swim diapers might turn into a hot-weather essential, but after a handful of uses I’m becoming more skeptical. Here are the pros and cons, as I see it:

Pro: Swim diapers don’t suck up unbelievable amounts of water after every dip,  end up weighing a gazillion pounds, and drip it out all over you when you pick up your kid.

Con: Because they are not absorbent, despite their name, they are not intended to be used actually as diapers. I learned this after I thought I was being smart, got my kid into his swim gear, popped him in the car seat, and headed to the lake. When I pulled him out of the seat a short time later, not only was he literally dripping wet, but his car seat was soaked. I still feel like my car smells.

Pro: They aren’t ridiculously expensive. That’s always a plus in my book.

Con: Not a fan of the S-M-L sizing, particularly since it seems to run a bit small. I’d imagine that a one-year-old would be a medium, but they seem tight.

Pro: The pull-up style of the swim diapers helps them stay on better when soaking wet. When regular diapers get really wet, the adhesive straps can unstick due to the weight of the diaper.

Con: The pull-up diaper is a nightmare when we’re talking No. 2. My kid has the uncanny knack of always taking a dump about 5 minutes after the swim diaper goes on. (What is with that, seriously?) So, after I get him all dressed, I have to undress, and then redress him. The on and off of clothes is trying to begin with at this stage because baby is too big to lie there but still too small be very sure on his feet. Tear away sides or not, I am usually trying to shimmy a full diaper down my squirming baby’s legs. It’s a mess. Literally and figuratively.

 

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Match Dot Mom

Back in my swingin’ single days, I used to spend all week waiting for the weekend to kick off with Friday night happy hour. Although I think it really should be called happy hours since many weeks I found myself still lugging my work bag around town at 1am on a Friday night. As a mommy now, obviously things have changed. But I still look forward to Fridays, but mostly because that’s the day I meet with my French mommy group. It’s a far cry from the happy hours I used to have, but it still is one of my happiest hour and a halfs every week.

But finding the right mommy group is hardly easy, as many of my mommy friends can attest. In fact, when I think about it, it’s kind of like dating all over again.

The ideal is to find a group of educated women who have laid-back personalities and a sense of humor, varied but complementary interests,  keep to a similar schedule, live relatively close to you, and, of course, have (at least) a kid around the same age as yours. It’s a tall order by any standards. I’m not sure I had as many requirements when looking for my last boyfriend. (Thank god my husband found me first.)

But where do mommies go to meet other mommies? The options are somewhat finite:

But let’s get real… chances are you’re looking for a mommy group because you don’t work at the moment, don’t go to church (or at least aren’t active in the community), don’t get to the gym as often as you’d like to admit, don’t have time for volunteer activities, and don’t want to shell out anywhere near $70/month for a membership to a baby club. And if you had friends with babies who lived in your neighborhood, you’d already be hanging out with them.

I lucked out and found a mommy group on the Internet, through http://www.meetup.com. (I totally get why people Internet date now and would admittedly be going down that road if I was single, as it’s an efficient and economical way to meet people.) I had to give on some of the said requirements–I drive roughly 40 minutes (although it’s probably less than 10 miles from my house) to get there–but the French connection outweighed the distance.

I think I lucked out, too, in that I’m sort of an inaugural member of the group. I found out about the group and was able to show up for the first meeting, and that likely made all the difference. It’s so much easier to try something new when everyone is new at it. I definitely think it would be much harder to jump into a very established group.

With that said, I always look forward to seeing if there are any new people at our weekly meetings and even if it’s a bit awkward and forced, I feel like my group’s organizers really try to make everyone feel welcome. But I can tell almost immediately who is never going to come back. In our group’s case, it’s usually someone who realizes the second she walks into the room that her French language skills maybe aren’t as good as she remembered them being in college.

But even as one of the regulars, more or less, I still find myself trying way harder than usual to have these women like me. I literally get up a half hour early, so I can spend extra time on my hair and make-up. I also spend an abnormally long time (for me) deciding what I’m going to wear; I always feel like I want to look fresh and chic and not the strung out and underdone that I usually am. I even stress a little over what baby is going to wear.

That’s when I know this is so like dating. Only minus the drinks and the free dinner.

And perhaps that’s why I find mommy groups, at least the one I’m in, a little awkward. Basically we sit around and watch each others’ kids play and make small talk about breastfeeding, nap schedules, and our husbands’ jobs. We don’t even have coffee or donuts, which makes me think that maybe I should bring some next time. Then again, everyone is currently thin, so maybe that wouldn’t go over so well, if it became a regular thing.

Maybe this whole blind-date, first-date feeling lasts for so long when getting to know other mommies because everyone sort of knows that they either (a) would never have crossed paths or (b) never become friends, if there weren’t babies in the picture. That fact is just sort of the Barney in the room. No wonder so many of my mommy friends who have tried some mommy groups have never gone back to them; that’s kind of a hard thing to get over if the chemistry just isn’t right. And seriously, when you have an infant, who has time to make an effort to spend time with women they don’t necessarily like?

But for as awkward as it can be during some of our meetings, I’m so glad that I’ve stuck with the group. Of course, I love getting the chance to practice my French, but every week, I get to know the women, at least the regulars, a little better and I like them not just a little but a lot more every week.

I just hope they feel the same way about me. I don’t want to have to try to pick up another mommy group any time soon.

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Tuesday, I’m in Love

I love Tuesdays. Tuesdays are the days that baby goes to music class. But before I claim the title of Super Mom, I’ll just put it out there that I don’t actually take him to music class. Baby’s nanny has that joy.

And in fact, it was her idea. She came to me and asked if it would be okay if she signed him up for the free class, which is held in a nearby school. I think she thought he needed more musical exposure. I remember one of the first weeks she was working with us she took him to a children’s concert. If this tells you how sweet she is, she brought me back a CD from the concert, signed by the artist Jose-Luis Orozco with a personal note to me. I have no idea what the note says and cannot understand much of the lyrics, as everything is in Spanish, but baby loves the music. (There’s this one part in the beginning where the singer says, “Eye-eye-eye!” sort of Speedy Gonzalez style and baby always looks up and smiles when he hears that; it’s hilarious.)

I guess maybe she thought it was strange that all she ever heard in my house was the blare of two TVs–one tuned to CNN; the other to MSNBC. (Okay, if I’m being honest, occasionally she’d find one of them on Bravo, if it was a slow news day.)

At any rate, of course I said yes–Lord knows I would’ve paid for it if it weren’t free–and then Tuesdays became all about his music class.

Weirdly enough, I like how the class gives us some structure in the week. See, the first time baby went to class, he cried the whole time. The music teacher told the nanny that it was pretty typical for babies to scream their lungs out until they got used to it. But I had a sneaking suspicion that part of it was that 11:30am class feel within his normal nap time, so I was pretty sure that exhaustion led to the meltdown.

So, I started switching things up and trying to get the wee one to nap earlier, so he’d be in a good mood for all the singing and dancing. Amazingly enough it wasn’t that hard to make the change. Of course it meant my day went at a different pace–showers now were on hold until after the nanny picked him up–but it was a good move, as the next week the nanny reported he didn’t cry once and had a ball.

While I love that our nanny is enterprising enough to seek these types of activities out, I have to not-so-secretly admit that I’m a little jealous. I wish I was taking him to music class.

I feel a little selfish saying that because I get to do plenty of things with him. Baby and I, we have our gym routine and its requisite play group friends and we have French group and all of its fun times. But it’s that mommy-ness in me that makes me always feel like I could/should be doing more. Or at least not feeling as guilty about not doing it, even though I know it’s not only good for baby to have his special things he does with his nanny but it also affords me the time to work uninterrupted, which is key when your job requires you to be at least a little creative.

A few months ago, I was telling my mom about baby’s music class when she asked me what the babies did during the music class. I’m sure my guilt showed through when I told her that I didn’t know. I mean, I assumed that the group listened to music and did sing-alongs and such, but I had no idea what type of music they listened to, whether the group was mostly babies or toddlers, or even if they were speaking English or Spanish. All I really knew is that occasionally I would find the dog with one of those multicolored plastic Easter eggs, stuffed with dry rice and taped shut–a make-shift percussion instrument.

I broke down and asked my nanny to video baby during class. I felt a little strange asking her to do that even thought all I wanted was like 2 minutes of video to be able to send my mom. But in asking her to shoot a little video, I wondered if she thought I was checking up on her. Or ‘if the other parents or nannies in the class were going to look at her askance for taking video of the class. Some people are really funny about that kind of stuff even though it is innocent enough. And really I just wanted to see my son have a good time.

Fortunately, when my nanny asked if shooting the video would cause any problems, no one said it would. So, here’s an inside look at what happens on Tuesdays when I’m not around.

I don’t know about you, but I think that kid’s got real musical talent. While he may have appeared to be more interested in the other people than the music, I know I saw him shake a castanet a couple of times and do one clap. 🙂 So, here’s to Tuesdays!

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