Tag Archives: toddler

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation – Chicago Edition, Part 1

I may never catch up on my writing, but maybe I’ll finish the summer by the end of the year!

We traveled to Chicago for a family wedding this past June, but since it’s such a big deal to fly with littles we extended our trip for a fun (not restful) family vacation. Henry was great on the flight up: he colored, played quietly, and then watched movies or gamed for the duration of the flight. He also got hopped up on juice and skipped his nap, but that wasn’t too bad. Elliot, however, did not like to be contained since at one, he could finally move on his own and could not understand that he needed to sit still for the flight. It wasn’t the easiest, but still it went fairly smoothly since there were two of us to one of him. And as adults, we are bigger and stronger than him so we prevailed.

Keith’s cousin, Donna, graciously picked us up from Midway and drove us downtown to our hotel in rush hour traffic the week of her son’s wedding so we didn’t have to worry about figuring out how to get all our gear and the boys downtown. She even packed us a cooler with snacks and drinks for our stay – she is the best! The boys napped during the commute, and our hotel (Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront) turned out to be fantastically situated on the Chicago River. We especially lucked out and got a corner riverfront view – we had giant windows on two of our walls! We could people watch, boat spy, and check out all the cars, trucks, and buses to our heart’s content! In other words, it was a preschooler and toddler’s dream, spoiling us making all other hotel rooms pale in comparison.
 


After unloading our gear, we had two priorities on our first day: (1) eat and (2) find Maggie Daley Park. We decided to combine the two and get carry-out Chicago-style pizza for a park picnic, before running wild at the playground. The three of us determined that deep dish pizza is not our favorite, but Maggie Daley Park definitely is. This Park is a wonderful garden oasis with several playground areas for all kids. If you want to climb a rock wall – there is a giant one available. If you adore miniature golf, play your heart out on its course. If you want peace and quiet, there are plenty of nooks scattered throughout where you can have alone-time.
 
The Play Garden is 3 acres of amazingness for kids. It encourages imaginative play with trails meandering to hidden treasures, gigantic playground structures, and water fountains. Henry spent the majority of his time in the Slide Crater, dashing across the Tower Bridge, climbing the towers, and speeding down the slides. He had a blast running up and down the hills and playing tag with new friends. Elliot strolled with me through the Enchanted Forest, balanced himself across the tree beams, and tried his best to jump into fountains (despite it being chilly for us Floridians!)
 

Every day of our trip Henry asked to return to this park. It may be his favorite one ever! He still asks us when we will be returning. Unfortunately, it rained a ton while we were downtown, so we only made it back one additional time, in the rain. Still, totally worth it, and it wasn’t crowded when it was raining! This time we first focused on a couple of Play Garden areas we missed the first time around – the Sea and the Harbor – before returning to the Slide Crater for madness.


Located about a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel, we returned from Maggie Daley through Millennium Park and Pritzker Pavilion by way of the Bean. This area of town is truly a gem, and we will be returning for more fun on our next visit!



Going Home to Jacksonville Part 3 – Arlington

In college, whenever I told someone I met I hailed from Jacksonville, and they also came from there, they would become interested and ask me, “What part?” Jacksonville is the biggest land area city in the country, so your neighborhood served as an identifier. When I responded, “Arlington,” mostly they looked shocked. Unless they have been there, Arlington is portrayed on local news as a decaying neighborhood whose heyday in the 1950s through the early 80s is long past.
 
Arlington became the first automobile-dependent suburb and flourished following the construction of the Matthews Bridge in 1953. My parents’ home in the Fort Caroline Club Estates was built in the late 60s, and they’ve been its owner since 1977. It’s always been a nice, middle class neighborhood within walking distance of the St. John’s River.
 
To me, it’s home. I spent entire summer days swimming at the Fort Caroline Club pool. I rode bikes around the neighborhood without a helmet. I played softball at Arlington Little League. I snuck into my first R-rated movie (There’s Something About Mary) at the Gazebo theater. I attended the local (non-Magnet) schools and received a great education thanks to committed teachers and my involvement in after-school activities.
 
I’m feeling nostalgic about Arlington lately because my parents are preparing their house to sell within the next year and move closer to my brother in Kissimmee. We’ve been trying for years to convince them to move closer to me or Scott and now they are actively moving forward in their process. And it kinda scares me. I’m not entirely sure why; I rarely visit Jacksonville because (a) my kids do NOT sleep when we aren’t at home and (b) my parents visit us on a monthly basis. It’s the change that’s intimidating…my parents will be moving from the place where I grew up, the only one, and all its familiar idiosyncrasies. I have to make sure to get back at least one more time before they move, sleep be damned!

Back to our visit…my kids had a blast at Grandma and Grandpop’s house – playing with new (but seriously old, like my dad’s old) toys, splashing in the sprinklers, and walking to and terrorizing Gerrie’s Park, just like my brother and I used to. It’s a small, neighborhood park with a few climbing areas, some swings, and space to run around. They boys’ favorite was helping Grandpop pick up tree debris from a recent storm. Who needs an actual playground when there are sticks bigger than your body? It was the best!



Going Home to Jacksonville Part 1 – Downtown

Keith had a church thing at the Lutheran church closest to my parents’ house in Jacksonville (St Matthew’s) so we took a mini-vacay because it’s summertime and the living is easy (even if travel with littles isn’t so easy). Our first evening there we headed downtown to see the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp play baseball. I hadn’t been in the new stadium (it opened in 2003; I’m slow) and I definitely hadn’t seen a game since the team changed names from the Suns to the Jumbo Shrimp. 


The name change suits the team (because Florida), and the stadium is awesome! We had third baseline seats, and could see everything. The beer was cheap and cold ($1 beer night), and the game was short in length thanks to a rainout the day before (only a 7 inning game). Henry liked dancing in the grass seating berm and sliding down the inflatable slide (bring money if you want to do this or play the other outfield games). I think even my mom had fun (and she’s an indifferent sports-ball watcher).


 
The next morning we checked out the Dinosaurs in Motion Exhibit at the Museum of Science and History for free since we have a MOSI annual pass. We even got my parents in for free (something they always like) since our pass is for five people! We controlled the dinosaur bones’ movement and sound via levers, wheels, and game controllers – Henry’s dream! Other parts we enjoyed were seeing the live animals from Florida, building structures, and zooming through Jacksonville’s history (not so interesting for a little).


 
My favorite activity of the day, however, was taking the monorail to and from the museum. It’s just so cool to ride above the road and see the city and river from a different perspective. Henry was all about it, too!

Hiking Black Balsam Knob With The Littles

We spent our last day in North Carolina hiking up a mountain. You may be thinking, they have two kids not even school-age – they must be crazy! Naysayers be damned – the kiddos did splendidly!
 
Keith selected Black Balsam Knob (via the Art Loeb Trail) in the Pisgah National Forest (Mile 420 off the Blue Ridge Parkway) as the location. It’s the second highest mountain in the Great Balsam Mountains at 6,214 feet tall! The weather was freezing for us Floridians – in the 40s! It was quite a shock from the temperature in Asheville, so I took Henry’s hat for myself because he had a hooded coat. 


Henry has been preparing his whole life for hiking. He has an abundance of energy, climbs everything in sight, and has been doing trail walks since he took his first steps. Up on the mountain, he acted like a little mountain goat hopping from rock to rock and sprinting the straight-aways. We have a great backpack carrier that Elliot rode in since his walking skills weren’t up to snuff for a mile and half hike. He could look out and see over Keith’s shoulders, and looked quite relaxed so long as we didn’t stop moving.


After the one mile hike to the peak, we took a break for snacks and water, reclining on the grass while enjoying the beautiful view. On a clear day, you can see Shining Rock, Looking Glass Rock, Mt. Pisgah, Cold Mountain, and occasionally Mt. Mitchell (the highest point in the Eastern United States). In other words, the view is pristinely lovely. Henry only needed the tiniest bit of help going down the mountain when the rocks were slippery. We didn’t see any bears (thank goodness!), but ran into a few hiking dogs (much to the Hen’s dismay). 


We stopped for ice cream at Dolly’s Dairy Bar (Lutheridge is a special flavor!) on the way back to Amber’s (kids were sleeping so we got to enjoy a mini-date), and ended the day with an evening stroll and playground adventure in her neighborhood. It was such a great visit; I hope we return soon!

Asheville Adventuring with the Littles

Let me first start by saying that everyone needs a friend like Amber in their lives. She’s one of the best, and we are lucky to have been friends with her since college. It’s one of those friendships that can pick up after not keeping in touch well (on my part, she’s always the one reaching out to say hi) and it seems like no time has passed. Additionally, she was kind enough to invite all four of us to stay with her for a week while Keith was at his conference and she was teaching. Adding our four-person level of craziness to her quiet home was probably an adventure in itself, but then we ventured out!


She recommended a playground in Asheville called Carrier Park which was incredible! A velodrome surrounded the playground area so we had fun watching bicycle racing before playing. The playground itself was a wooden castle, with climbing tunnels, swings, slides, and an airplane! In two sections – one for older kids and one for the smaller ones – we spent equal time in both. Henry loved playing hide and go seek against me and Elliot because there were so many spots to hide. We also took a walk alongside the French Broad River to relax before heading back for lunch and a nap.


The next day we headed into downtown Asheville to get awesome books from Malaprops, the local bookstore. The kid’s selection was on point – we got four excellent books. Then we attempted to go to the Western North Carolina Nature Center. Unfortunately, all the schools and everyone with kids (at least that’s how the crowded  parking situation seemed) had the same idea, so we didn’t even make it past the parking lot. There was a playground nearby so we hung out there until lunchtime. Are you sensing a theme? When all else fails, a playground always makes things better.


The final day of Keith’s conference occurred on Saturday, so Amber had the day off to play with us! We visited the Hands On! Children’s Gallery in nearby Hendersonville and had lots of rainy day fun. Henry loved creating energy by peddling a bike, selling ice cream in the ice cream shop, making lego cars and racing them, and rapidly running from exhibit to exhibit. I think everyone took naps after this.

I Survived

Well, I survived my first day with two kids on one parent. It went smoother at times than I thought it would, but also was more overwhelming at times. Elliot did a great job napping in his crib in between nursing sessions. He would wake up, eat, be quietly alert for about 30 minutes, and then fall back asleep (sometimes doing another nursing session). This allowed me time to play endless board games with Henry. We also put together a jumbo fire truck puzzle and played in his darkened tent with glow in the dark bracelets, which became a parking garage and later became one giant circle. It was fun, but exhausting on only a few hours of sleep.


Henry gave me time to clean the kitchen and make our lunches for later. We decided to bring one to Keith since we couldn’t be apart from him all day long. It was difficult figuring out how to get two kids into car seats and into the car (fruit snack bribes for one to prevent excess rocking of the other’s infant car seat), but we managed fairly quickly. It was really nice lunching with Keith, and Elliot got to meet some of the office staff.


Naptime was horrible, I’m not going to lie. Both kids needed me at the exact same time, and I’m not great at nursing while doing anything else. So I attempted to comfort the baby while changing Henry into his diaper, reading, and tucking him in. Just when I thought I could feed Elliot, Henry needed me two additional times. I went in once, and he managed to self-settle the second time. Of course, Elliot didn’t nap when Henry did (until the last 30 minutes ore so) so I only got a 20 minute nap. Better 20 minutes than nothing (I had time today to catch up).

tackle hug
poop face

After nap, we settled into our normal routine, pre-baby: watch a few shows, get dinner ready, and eat with Keith. We had an after dinner adventure – I took a 2-mile walk at Lake Seminole with Elliot while Keith played with Henry at its two playgrounds. It was really nice to have some quiet time at sunset. We got both boys ready for bed afterwards (well, Elliot ready for his next round of eating and sleeping and Henry into bed), and then I was ready to crash and burn at 9:30. I can’t remember the last time I was in bed so early, but I made it (not asleep, because I knew Elliot would be eating again around 10 but close enough).

always ready for more mama milk

Our Lovely Little Bubble

Our time spent living in our little paternity leave bubble is almost complete. Keith goes back to work tomorrow, and it has been wonderful having him home for the past two weeks. He has played a million and seven games of Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It and Connect Four with Henry, taken point for mostly all things Henry, attended doctor’s appointments, and swaddled and performed diaper changes whenever necessary for Elliot. In other words, he’s been a great dad who has worked hard during his leave time, which has not been a vacation. 
This has allowed me to focus on my nursing relationship with Elliot; nursing on demand whenever he likes. I’ve also been sleeping as much as possible (but still not as much as I like/need) to be as rested as I can to survive the upcoming onslaught of having two kids demanding my time and attention simultaneously. I am definitely feeling intimidated by tomorrow, but Keith says I can do it so he must be right. It’s just going to be difficult at first until I get a routine going again. It will happen. Until that time, I have a team of awesome family and friends to help because it takes a village or something. Wish me luck.

A “Good Baby” Does Not Mean He Sleeps Through the Night (or A History of Henry’s Sleep Habits to Date)

Why do people tie a baby”s ability to be a “good baby” to a baby’s sleep? It’s ridiculous. I absolutely cannot count the number of times I was asked if Henry was a good baby. And people meant, “Is he sleeping through the night yet?” This started as early as one month of age when babies cannot sleep through the night without eating because their bellies aren’t large enough. And it isn’t other people’s questions about goodness that perpetuate this; new parents’ reminisce that if their first kid is a great sleeper, they think they are doing everything right. So we have internalized a child’s goodness based on his or her ability to be quiet and sleep.
Newsflash – this is not true! Parents of children who sleep through the night earlier are definitely better rested and able to be better functioning adults in terms of life and parenting skills, but these parents have won the sleep lottery and are incredibly lucky. Yay for them! Seriously. I wouldn’t wish sleep deprivation on my worst enemy; there’s a reason it is used as torture. 

But what about the poor parents whose kid(s) don’t sleep well right away, or until months or years later? Your kids are good kids, too. They haven’t figured out this whole sleep thing yet. My son is awesome at so many things. He has hit all of his milestones early so far (with the exception of being able to get dressed and undressed; he can’t get his act together with that which is probably good because he would always be naked), and is generally happy and excited for life. He has gone through several sleep phases, however, that did not involve quality sleep for anyone. And we tried anything and everything (systematically) to get him to sleep. This includes nighttime sleep and naps.

After the newborn stage where he ate every 3-4 hours around the clock and slept most of the other time, until he was six months old he only woke up twice most nights to eat, which was totally doable because he would eat for about 10 minutes and then immediately fall asleep. Right before six months, things changed. He began crawling (without bothering to know how to sit up first), teething, and eating solid food all at once. The solids were no problem, the teething (and to some extent the crawling) definitely were. And our sleep suffered majorly for it for several months. We refused to do cry it out, but tried everything else we could to get him to sleep and stay asleep (at this point I can’t remember what we tried). We ended up co-sleeping a lot, which worked best for Henry, but not for me. 

  
When Henry turned one, we decided to cut out night nursing, which involved Keith taking the reigns on quieting him at night and spending several nights sleeping on his floor. Keith can sleep anywhere like the dead so it wasn’t so so bad, but definitely not ideal. Hen got the hang of it quickly, realizing no mama milk would be forthcoming, but would not fall asleep unless Keith or I stayed in the room until he passed out. This new routine lasted a year (same for naps) – staying in his room until he fell asleep, then sneaking out like a ninja and hoping, wishing, and praying he wouldn’t wake up and we would have to return. He became better at putting himself to sleep when he woke up in the middle of the night using his Sleep Sheep (http://www.amazon.com/Cloud-Travel-Sound-Machine-Soother/dp/B000J6CDY6/ref=pd_sim_75_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=07BXX5T5DP1GHZTPP0XQ), but never his Sleep Giraffe. If he ever had his Sleep Giraffe in his crib it was literally, “No, Giraffe, No!” when he had his midnight wake up. At this point, we would only need to help him quiet down once or twice a week in the middle of the night, which entailed telling him to go back to sleep and laying on the floor until he resumed sleeping in his crib. It got old, but it worked and I loved my own sleep so much I was willing to do whatever means necessary to keep it up. 

 

around one year old
  
  

  
When Henry was around 22 months old, he regularly started climbing out of his crib. This was unsafe, of course, and although he wasn’t getting hurt, we decided to convert his crib to a toddler bed. The first few weeks were rough. He didn’t want to stay in bed and definitely not in his room. He also wanted to play with his toys instead of sleeping. Our solution was threefold: (1) Keith flipped the lock around and we lock him in for sleep so he doesn’t wander the house and get into trouble; (2) he can sleep wherever he likes in his room – on the bed, the floor, even under the crib; and (3) we put his larger toys in the locked closet, keeping smaller toys and his books available if he’s not quite ready to sleep on schedule. It works! For now he’s sleeping better than he ever has before. It will change, I’m sure, but for now I feel like I’m winning at sleep. 

current sleep situation

Playground of the Week (PlayWorld)

This week’s playground of the week is PlayWorld at the Highland Recreation Complex in Largo (400 Highland Ave, 33770). It’s a three-story indoor playground for children 11 and under and it is amazing. There are two sections: one for kids under five and then one for bigger kids (but little kids can try it out, too). The younger kids area has tunnels, padded stairs, climbing sections, and giant exercise-like balls to bat. The older kids area has multiple slides (including a 3-story twisting, tunnel slide), platforms to climb, balance beams, hanging climbers. It also has a small rock climbing wall. 
   
 
Did I mention it is air conditioned?! A/C is my favorite, especially during summertime in Florida. Henry loves the slides, mostly in the bigger kids area. He needs help climbing up to the middle-sized slide, and luckily doesn’t even know how to begin to climb up to the 3-story one, but he giggles with glee each time he slides down. He also likes the tunnels in the little kids area, as well as swinging Tarzan-like on punching bags. 

   
   

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, from 9-10:30am, they have “Itty, Bitty Playtime” only for kids five and under for $1.50 (it’s normally $3 or $4, depending on whether you have a rec card). It’s so affordable, we may be going here weekly until the heat lets up. I’ve heard it can get incredibly busy during the summer, so it’s great they have a separate playtime for the littles. 

  

Dance, Dance, Party, Party (at the Library)

Henry and I spend most Thursday mornings at “Wiggle, Giggle, and Sing” at the Seminole Community Library. The program itself starts at 10:30, but beginning at 10am there are toys for the under-five set to play with and get some energy out. It’s a nice way to ease into the chaos that is 30+ toddlers and their caregivers dancing around. The class consists of 10-15 minutes of movement-based songs, then 10 minutes of dancing with beanbags, handkerchiefs, or a parachute, and 5-10 minutes of playing with musical instruments. 

 

the chaos
 
The Hen’s fav dance move is spinning, always spinning. He can totally do what the songs are talking about, but he’d much rather spin in circles. I don’t know how he never gets dizzy. He also loves playing with the musical instruments, especially the coffee can drums. He can drum and spin at the same time, yet somehow trips when standing still. It makes no sense. He’s starting to sing along with the songs (any song he loves, actually) – his current favorites are “Swim to Stay Strong” and “Shake Your Sillies Out.”

 

drumming like Animal from the Muppets!
  
 

Afterwards, we either color or do the craft of the week, read a few books (trucks, trucks, and more trucks these days), and play with the puppets in the puppet theater. Henry and the other kids mostly throw the puppets from the ledge and hide behind the curtain while giggling excitedly. It’s pretty adorable. We finish by eating a snack outside at the picnic tables because all that playing builds up quite an appetite. Yogurt raisins and oranges are usually the perfect combination. Today we had two special guests with us – my parents, Grandma and Grandpop to Henry, are visiting for a couple days. Henry thought reading with Grandma was the best part of it all.