Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mothers Day Gift Ideas (for moms with young kids)

I actually started compiling this list back at Christmas time but never had a chance to finish it, so I thought it might be good for mothers day. These are just a few things that have made my life easier over the last two years so I thought I would pass along the ideas in case there are some husbands out there in need of inspiration.

A 'not just for diapers' bag- These may seem silly since if you have a baby you already have a diaper bag. However, this is what I requested this year for mother's day. As Colin has gotten older the need for a diaper bag has evolved. We don't need to carry as many things as we used to so the shoulder bag we used as an infant isn't necessary. We have been using a drawstring bag but this is very uncomfortable to carry. I've found that with a toddler I need a backpack because I am constantly moving quickly.Bending to pick up Colin or anything he has dropped causes a shoulder bag to fall off my shoulder (or if I'm carrying it across my body I tend to get stuck in it as I stand up). I'm thinking that the North Face Isabella will fit my needs, lots of pockets so I can easily find what I need (like my cell phone and wallet), small size so it doesn't tip over the stroller and an outside pocket for easy access to a sippy cup or water bottle. It should arrive tomorrow but I might not be able to test drive it until Mother's Day. It was probably a little presumptive of me to take mothers day into my own hands, but I need this and I needed a reason to splurge on it. Sean doesn't seem to mind, gift giving causes him a lot of stress. (your should know I ordered two bags and will return one, I *think* this is the one I will like better but if that changes I will be sure to let you know).

Wallet- Along those same lines I could not live without my Vera Bradley All in One Wrislet It holds all my essentials and I just toss it into the bag with Colin's stuff or (more often) hang it on the stroller handle and off we go. My current cell phone is a bit too fat for the pocket but it works well for a quick stash of a few bucks or a metro card. I also love that I can clip my keys on the handle and not loose those in the black hole that is the current diaper bag.

Water bottle- If you are a new mama and you don't have one of these yet I don't know how you've survived! Drinking bottled water is so 2005! You need a reusable water bottle and a water filter for the fridge or faucet. I personally like Thermo Intak  Straw Bottle because of the closed top and the straw, but I know a lot of other moms who use CamelBak Better Bottle with Bite Valve or something similar. (Note to dads: I wouldn't make this the only thing you get the mother of your child/ children. While it is a great add on I'm not sure it can stand alone)

Built Gourmet Getaway: I've talked about this before but I still love love love it. For both Colin's things and occasionally my own things too. It folds flat and it keeps things cold, fits all we need for a day or so. Love it. As an added bonus it looks like it is on sale!

Bluetooth Headset: This was something I didn't even want until we accidentally got two after Sean ordered one for himself (first they sent us a broken one, after we returned it they sent us two more...). These things are really handy when you have a child running around. No wires, no hands, happy mama!
Kindle This is probably WAY over budget for most mothers day gifts but I got one for Christmas and I LOVE it so I'm adding it to the list anyway. I love the instant gratification of getting the book i want right away. I love that I don't clutter up our bookshelves with my non-sense chick-lit. I don't miss paper, I don't even notice that it isn't paper. I do miss being able to share my books with other people, but the fact that I carry my library with me wherever I go makes it easy to share a piece of a book I've read with anyone anywhere. Love it! and I love it even more with a M-Edge Go! Kindle Cover.

If inspiration strikes again I'll update this with more ideas. I had thought about adding more things, but I'm not comfortable recommending things I haven't fully researched, and fully researching things I'm not planning on purchasing isn't in my time budget right now. If anyone else has other ideas to pass along feel free!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vacation Rewind

I've been a bit remiss in posting the remaining vacation pictures from our trip to OH/KY. We really had a great few days, hanging out with Carter and Family and just doing fun things as a family. One of those fun things was going to the baseball game. Prior to that we made a quick trip the the Newport Aquarium
 Colin was feeling antsy in the hotel (as if our two bedroom apartment wasn't small enough, he was not too pleased with our one room living arrangement), so we decided to take a very quick trip to the aquarium. Here he is checking out a starfish in the touch tank.

Enjoying the fish in the coral reef exhibit.
All he really wanted to do was be able to run around and burn off some steam. It was a little bit challenging since the place was kind of crowded but we managed. It was a chilly day so we were glad to have somewhere to go that was indoors. Our original plan was to go to the zoo on this day but it was too chilly.

I think this was the electric eel exhibit. Does this now count as a 'working vacation'? (I work with a species of electric fish, much smaller and less dangerous than the eel)

Excited to show us where all the fish were.

We arrived at the aquarium about 2 hours before it closed, but it turned out to be the perfect amount of time for Colin. 

Watching the rays and sharks swim overhead.

Colin loved this section. We actually saw it on the map and figured it would be best to hit it last. Good thinking on our part since we pretty much carried a crying (not screaming but not happy) child out of the aquarium at closing time. He wanted to do more climbing and playing with the frogs.

Climbing in the jungle gym with his daddy. This would have been easier if the older children weren't chasing each other around inside. The would get behind Colin and get so freaked out that they were going to get 'caught' by whomever was 'it' that they would wait a second and then bowl right over him. Needless to say we couldn't let him run free inside.

In the plaza near the aquarium.

We ended up visiting the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens later in the trip when we got some nice weather.We had originally planned on going to an indoor water park as well but Colin was very nervous about the pool at both hotels so we decided not to push it with a water park visit. I personally love zoos, and aquaria so it was fun for me too! The nice weather made it a great way to spend the day. I may have said this before but Colin was really flexible for us with his nap time. On our Zoo day we took him out in the morning and didn't return to the hotel until 2ish. Since he typically naps at 11 we knew we were pushing our luck but he was a champ.
 Because nothing says "proud to be an American" like sitting on a rhinoceros with an American flag behind you.

As far as zoos go this one was pretty good. I never think the exhibits are big enough, but these at least didn't make me ill. They had the most amazing variety of felids (aka cats) I've ever seen in a zoo. All zoos have the big cats, but this zoo had (I just looked it up) 13 species of small cats including my favorite the ocelot! More than any other zoo in North America. I just kept walking to around the cat house with my jaw on the floor. Species I had only seen in one book ever!! It was pretty awesome. Again the exhibits could have been larger but they were well designed at least.  The downside: it smelled like 13 varieties of small cats lived there. Small price to pay in my opinion.
The zoo is also a biological garden. Since it was tulip season the place was alive with blooms. I would have loved to take more pictures of just flowers but Colin didn't appreciate my artistic endeavors.

While the cat house was my favorite part of the zoo, feeding the giraffes was a close second. I have a huge affection for giraffes. I was actually a little disappointed that Colin wasn't too afraid to feed them the crackers we bought. We weren't allowed to touch them but it was still really cool. Giraffes are traditionally non-contact animals because of their razor sharp hooves so I was excited to see that the zoo came up with a way to make them approachable.
We also fed another animal while at the zoo!  Feeding Colin on vacation is the subject for another post altogether. Pizza was a one of our healthiest options during the entire trip.

Our last day we were out of 'plans' and had to come up with something to do on fly. Since it was 'fly away home' day we had to check out of the hotel (which meant waking Colin from his nap because they 'couldn't' give us a late check out) and heading out packed at noon but not flying home until 8. After reading through a tourism magazine in the hotel room, we figured we had two options 1) the children's museum and 2) renting bikes in Loveland OH. For a variety of reasons we choose bikes and it turned out to be a very good choice.
Loveland was a charming area, and the bike ride was actually the most relaxing part of our trip. We went about 6 miles stopping twice at different playgrounds to let Colin stretch his legs. Since we found out we had bike racks not too long before the trip we were toying with the idea of purchasing bikes, and this sealed the deal. It was the perfect end to a wonderful little getaway.  Thanks to Kristeen and Family for inviting us along for the adventure. There is little chance would would have traveled to this area..who knows, we might even go back (I want to see those cats again!)

If you still havn't had your fix of vacaiton pictures I've posted a few more here:


Saturday, April 24, 2010

We love MyGym

,My plan for the winter was to enroll Colin in a Gym class to help with the 'cabin fever', but the only ones I knew of were smack dab in the middle of nap time. While we were at the Kids Fun House I overheard one of the other moms say something about MyGym so I looked it up and found one not too far from us, with a class early enough in the morning that I could get Colin home by nap time. As an added bonus they have parking (although it isn't free parking but it is in a garage so there is no driving around to find a spot). Thanks to a late February snowstorm our free trail class was canceled so we didn't start until March, when a special promotion waived the lifetime membership fee (saving me $75!)  We are nearly done with our 8 week session so I thought I would post some thoughts and pictures before it was over. I took pictures on two different days trying to get good pictures. He moves so much while we are there that it is difficult to get good pictures.

Colin really enjoys the ball pit. I'm a little creeped out by the germ potential of this thing (because how often can they realistically clean all those balls?!) but I try to remember that challenging his immune system is a good thing. We have been a bit sicker since starting MyGym, but this time of year is always sickly for me. The season change gets me every time.  

On this particular day we were there for a 'free play session' so it is mixed ages, enjoying the gym without structured play. When you enroll in classes you are also allowed one free play session a week. This is a BIG bonus for me, since taking advantage of the free play once a week really increases the value, making it $11 an hour instead of $22!  Another thing I like about MyGym is that the gym set up changes every week. So you can see here that there is a ramp going into the ball pit here, the next week the gym is reorganized so the ball pit might be on a different wall and the ramp used in a different application. This makes it look like a different gym every week, really decreasing the possibility of  boredom.

Flashing a smile while he bounces a ball off my head. In this picture you can see the rock climbing wall in the background. Colin is way too young for this but it shows the potential for the gym to become more challenging for older children.

Before joining my gym, you'll remember Colin could not jump. Now he is a pro, thanks to all the jumping toys he has played with at MyGym. This is the smaller of two trampolines. Some days it has a mirror and some days it doesn't but I think watching himself jump with the assistance of the bar really helped him understand the concept. 

Here is the larger of the trampolines. Colin's favorite thing to do is "jump jump jump boom" where he throws his feet out and bounces on his butt. I caught him doing this on my bed this morning. Be careful what you wish for I guess!

This is the view of the entire room. It isn't a huge place, (this is NYC afterall) but I don't think it needs to be. They use the space very well.

Colin paused to flash me a 'cheese' face. On this day we were doing a make-up because our recent trip caused us to miss our normal class. However the make-up class allowed Sean to go with us (he took an extra day off since we got in so late at night).  Colin thought it was so much fun to have Daddy there with us. He kept dragging him around to show him everything. It was very sweet. It also allowed me to take more pictures since I didn't have to monitor and photograph at the same time.

On our first day (not pictured), Colin could not support his weight while hanging but now really enjoys doing so. We will often catch him on the playground dangling from things. I'm sure this is another recipe for a fall, but it is nice to see him developing physically so quickly. His agility on the playground is immeasurable better now than it was before we started at MyGym.

During class days, free exploring of the gym is interrupted by different group activities. There is:
  • circle time during which (among other things) we learn a 'practice skill' which is something that can be done at home 
  • an adventure (a novel set up for the kids to explore together e.g. car wash was hanging tube mats and pom poms that they drove toy vehicles through while a teacher filled the place with bubbles),
  • 'a big deal' activity- Something each child gets one turn at and is a very desirable activity, once it was riding a swing down the zip line, another time it was riding a pool raft into the ball bit.
  • a gymnastic type activity- shown here, there are two different activities going on at the same time, one with each teacher.

These pictures are of Colin doing some age appropriate 'gymnastics' with Mr. Jamel. Colin (as per his temperament) had some trouble with the teachers at first, Mr. Jamel in particular made him a bit nervous. After seeing him a few times, Colin did warm up, but you can almost read what he is thinking in the picture above. "I'm watching you mister!" It doesn't really look like it but Colin is actually a foot and a half off the ground in these pictures. I was so impressed with how long he was able to hold on, and he was so proud of himself when he dropped down.

Colin demonstrates his ramp technique. He loves to walk up and then slide back down on his belly.

Overall, our experience with MyGym has been very positive! Colin absolutely loves it and asks about it all the time. It isn't cheep but I think we've gotten a lot out of it. Colin really needs extra exposure to different situations because of his slow-to-warm temperament and this really was great for him. About every other week they have "separation time" where parents/caregivers go into the lobby area (still in view of the kids) while the kids all play together with a bunch of toys. Other than one time when I didn't prep him properly before I walked away and then ended up out of his eyesight for a minute, he has done VERY well with separation time. He isn't ready for one of their 'drop off' periods yet but I'm very encouraged by his progress.
So why are we stopping? Like I said, Colin benefits from exposure to different situations so I like to switch things up a little bit. Last fall we took a music class (which I never blogged about officially), and we are enrolled in that again this spring (so I promise I will write about  it this time), and then in the summer we will participate in swimming lessons again. He is a toddler, so I don't want him to 'specialize' into only music or only gym just yet and these classes cost money and take energy so doing more than one at a time would just be TOO much. There is plenty of time to "over-schedule" him, I would rather wait until he is older for that!  However, in addition to free play periods which are for enrolled members, MyGym also has some "Open Play" periods for $7 an hour that anyone can attend. We will be back.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Colin is 21 months old!

Whoops I'm a wee bit late. Even the pictures were taken late! Sorry, we were out of town then we had friends staying with us.. school work hasn't gotten done, blogs haven't been written, laundry is piling up and we are out of milk. Such is life I suppose.  Here is what Colin is up to this month:
21 months (and two days) old
Sleeping: Colin was a total champ adjusting to new surroundings while on vacation and transitioning back to sleeping at home. We had one challenging nap a couple days into being back home where Colin was just really upset about 30 minutes into falling asleep. He told me his mouth was ouchie, so after giving him some Motrin I jumped into the shower only to hear  him start up again the second I got shampoo in my hair, by the time I was able to get to him he was beyond upset and unable to calm himself down. He never asked to be held (he says "Hold you?" or "Hold you Mommy." now when he needs to be picked up, it is pretty heart melting") but did ask me to hold his hand, which I did...I sat there with my hand through the bars until he feel asleep again. I hope that doesn't turn into a habit but he was in such a bad place I was wondering if he had a nightmare. I'm told this is the age where they can start to pop up. That nap aside he slept like a champ and was really flexible about napping. He is showing signs of being ready to move his nap to later in the afternoon. I'm trying to keep him on the same schedule as Leo so we can maintain our weekly child exchange but I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep the early nap. Right now it seems like he can easily wait until 1 or 2 for a nap if we are out and about, but that becomes a challenge if we try to do it two days in a row. He is also more consistently sleeping 2 hours at nap time, even pushing 3 hours sometimes. Combine that with a later am wake up call (nearly 8 am three days in a row) Colin is sleeping more now than he did as an infant!

Just like his father, sleeping along the diagonal. Although to be fair that is the only way he fit! 

  • Baseball. Since going to the game, it seems like baseball is all Colin talks about. We will allow him to watch a few innings on TV, and while he doesn't seem to pay very close attention, he does get mad when the commercials come on. He also asks to play the 'game' on the Wii frequently. This is something I'm not a huge fan of but maybe once a week I let him pretend he is playing. This just seems like a total waste of 'screen time' to me at his age. At least with Signing Time or his Preschool Prep videos he learns something!
  • Playing Catch. Going right along with baseball, Colin loves to play catch. He is still a very poor catcher but he isn't too bad at throwing. He has started trying to mimic the pitcher wind up (which looks hysterical because it is no where close to a wind up, instead turning all the way in a circle with his arm as far behind him as it gets) which usually means the ball goes in crazy directions, but if he throws normally he is fairly accurate. He still throws with both arms, although he appears to have more control with his right arm. I picked up the velcro pads and ball set a few months ago (it is really for 3yr olds) and will hand me the pad to play at least 4 times a day. He only stays interested for about 7 or 8 minutes but he does enjoy the process and is getting better at removing the ball from the velcro.
 "I can do it!"
  • Socks. Colin is wee bit obsessive about wearing socks. To the point where he made me put socks over feet-y pajamas one night because he didn't think they counted as socks (that could not have been comfortable, and he hasn't asked for it since, but I now try to say I'm putting his socks on as I put his feet into the feet portion.) If he is having a difficult time with putting on clothes, some mornings I'll let him pick out his own socks. This leads to unusual combinations, but I think it is important to let him 'win' sometimes too.  I still have yet to get him into his crocs this spring without socks on too..should be interesting this summer.
  • Crocs. Speaking of crocs! Colin and I both have crocs and he is very proud when he and I wear them at the same time (usually on laundry day.) He also has started point them out when other people are wearing them as well! He isn't very discriminating, they do not have to be the "croc" brand for him to point them out, but he never is totally off.
  • Elevators: I'm not sure why he all of a sudden become obsessive about elevators while we were on vacation. He rides an elevator every day here at our apartment, but something about the light up buttons he could reach flipped a switch. He would wake up from a nap or in the morning and the first thing he would say was "elevator!"  
 "this one's for you mommy"
  • g-diapers?!?. I am not completely sure what this is about, but right before we went on vacation he started getting mad when I pulled out a g-diaper to put on him, At first I was able to work around it by letting him pick out which color he wanted (always choosing orange but calling it blue), but after being on vacation and wearing disposables full time he won't let me use a g-diaper at all. I can quick put one on him if he is distracted and he I get the pants on quick enough he doesn't totally melt down, but on occasion he has lost his cool and I've had to give in and let him wear the 'nother diaper' as he calls them. I'm not sure if I scratch him with the velcro as I put it on, or if the plastic snap parts rub on his skin (they sometimes leave little red marks) or if it is that he feels more wet, or maybe just that they are bulkier... it could be all of those things but now that he can tell me what he wants, he doesn't want g-diapers... we'll see how this goes. I'm hoping it is just a phase.
  • Being given water when he wants juice. Colin gets watered down juice, to the tune of two sippy cups (for a total of about 6 oz of juice) per day. If he drinks two cups before lunch he doesn't get anymore and can only have water or milk. He sometimes will choose water over juice so we usually have three sippy cups going every day, but if he asks for juice and I tell him no and give him water...woa be prepared for a fight. The boy knows his mind and he will stick to his guns. Sean and I are very careful to say what we mean and make sure we mean it when we say "no more" I don't mind him letting us know he is displeased, but I will not allow things to spiral out of control by sometimes giving in and sometimes standing strong. I want Colin to learn if we say "no more" or "last one" we mean it.  So far, it is working. He will show he is not happy but he has yet to throw a complete tantrum. 

New and Notable Things:
I've changed this title because often when I remember to write about something it isn't always 'new' he may have started it a few months ago, but the frequency has increased to the point that it has become 'notable!'
  • Playing Pretend. Colin has always been good at pretending to use a telephone but now he will pretend in other ways too. For example, he often likes to pretend things are ice cream cones. I'm not sure where he learned about ice cream cones but he will stack blocks, or use something of a similar shape, hold it to his mouth and say 'eye-ceam'. He also has started showing stuffed animals books and reading to them. This is just too cute.
  • Colin is a play by play announcer. Particularly when it comes to sounds. If a car horn goes off Colin doesn't miss a beat and says 'horn' (sounds more like 'hun').  Airplanes, phone calls, text messages, car alarms, fire trucks, police cars, buses,  if it makes noise, he will announce it! 
  • Cup use. Colin is very motivated to use a cup, but doesn't really get it yet. I can give him small cups with an inch of water and he will try to drink it but generally chokes on it. This actually surprises me because he is really good at drinking out of a bowl! The milk left over from a bowl of cereal, or the last of the soup, he will lift the bowl and drink with the grace of a geisha but give him a cup and it goes everywhere. The real problem is he doesn't quite understand the lack of a top and will turn over the cup dumping the contents everywhere.. We are working on it. He is really good with silverware right now though!
  • Speaking in sentences. Colin has been using the occasional sentence for a while now, but recently they have started making up a good 50% or more of what he says. The other night Colin caught Sean eating cake before dinner so Sean had to share some. Since this is obviously NOT ideal dinner, Colin only got a few bites and then got upset when more wasn't coming. He just kept yelling "I. WANT. MORE. CAKE." while we were annoyed by the request and the yelling we were both proud of the complete sentence since he would typically just say "more cake". He was eventually distracted by fruit and moved on. 
  • Memory. While Colin has obviously had a memory before now, he now has a better memory for things we have said to him or that he has asked for. "Not right now" or "maybe later" would have been the end of a discussion about three months ago but now more and more he is remembering to repeat his request at another time, or remind us that we agreed to do something "later".  I suppose this was inevitable but I thought we would have more time before we had begin to negotiate with Colin.  Since I typically prepare Colin for events like people coming over or going somewhere we haven't been in a while, I now have to be more careful to only prepare him when I am 100% sure something is going to happen. I can't say " Tomorrow we are going to see so and so" unless we are really going to, because chances are "so and so" will be the first thing he requests when he wakes up in the morning.
  • Potty Awareness. After returning home from vacation, Colin isn't interested in the potty any more. In fact he seems quite nervous about it. So we are stalled for now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easter Rewind.

 I am very behind in my posts right now because life is very full right now, not overflowing yet but certainly busting at the seams.  I will hopefully get to Colin's 21 month old post and the rest of our vacation pictures this week but for now I wanted to get some of the Easter pictures up.

Easter was a pretty busy weekend for us. Saturday morning "Uncle JJ" (Jayson) was in town for a baptism so we drove into Manhattan to have a quick breakfast with him before the rest of the festivities began.  Colin was a little cranky at first but warmed up before we parted ways. Jayson even taught him how to 'jump' down stairs (thanks jay!)
jumping down stairs

Enjoying 'Uncle JJ'

After that Colin came home and took a nap and then we went to an Easter Egg hunt at the queens county farm museum. This was a mistake, but there was really no way to know ahead of time that there would have been a 2hr line for the Easter Egg hunt and a 1hr line to see the Easter bunny. We paid the admission but didn't stay long at all. It just wasn't going to be worth it. So we ended up walking around looking at the animals and then going to Panaera Bread before heading to Sean's fathers house. Colin did Easter egg hunts both inside and out there on Easter morning.

Poor kid has seen a lot of farm animals lately!

Hunting for Eggs inside, before we dressed him for church.

Family Photo after church

Poppy Grammy and Colin

Just us.

Silly 'nin' and 'taytee'

Sean and his little sisters

Outside egg hunt. Colin quickly discovered the treats in these eggs.

Inside the eggs were either an Annie's bunny fruit snack or an organic jelly bean.

He loves the fruit snacks but he spit out the jelly beans.

Basket shot. He picked it out, it has a monkey on it.

After brunch we went to Sean's moms house where Sean and Colin napped for two hours and then we had dinner. We attempted another Easter egg hunt there but Colin was over it.
he picked up a few eggs...

but decided he wasn't interested anymore...

I had to pick the eggs up for him.

I do have a video of Easter eggs  hunting but I haven't uploaded it. Someday I'll show it to you.