10.01.2014

the mother of all baby showers is coming back to south florida!

The Mother Of All Baby Showers is coming back to South Florida! Mark your calendars for Thursday, October 16th from 5:30-9:00 p.m. at Young At Art Museum in Davie because this (adults only) night out is going to be awesome! The Mother Of All Baby Showers features over 50 products and sponsors perfect for parents-to-be and new parents all the way up to toddler moms. Check out the newest, coolest products on the market for your little one from gear to clothing to accessories to snacks and mingle with the top names in the business from photographers to pediatricians to OB's.

The Mother Of All Baby Showers also features a slew of educational seminars from cord blood banking to car seat safety and everything in between, including one hosted by Jenn Brown, host of TV's American Ninja Warrior.

Don't leave daddy at home, either! This year, the Mother Of All Baby Showers will be featuring a Destination Dads area which features dad-specific food, vendors and giveaways especially for the daddy (or daddy-to-be!).

Speaking of giveaways, there will be over $20,000 in giveaways going on this year! With everything from strollers to restaurants up for grabs, you're not going to want to miss out on your chance to win. In between trying your luck with the giveaways, you'll want to stop and be pampered in the pampering suite provided by Belly Love Spa. Not to mention the great food, snacks and drinks provided by PDQ, Naughty Cow, Delvecchio's Pizzeria, PRP Wine and many more!

Did someone say swag bags? With every VIP ticket, you'll receive The Mother Of All Swag Bags, valued at over $250. Each VIP swag bag will be filled with great products -- plus a Young At Art museum free pass for four people! (If you've never been yet, Young At Art is Ethan's new favorite museum and place to be -- you're not going to want to miss it! Plus, 100% of ticket proceeds go back to Young At Art Museum! Great event, great cause!) Each swag bag also contains a signed copy of the NY Times bestselling book Sh*tty Mom! VIP attendees also receive entry into the event a half hour early!

Tickets are $15 for regular admission (the first 50 regular admission guests will also receive a swag bag), $25 for couple admission, $25 for VIP admission or $45 for VIP couple admission.

To buy your tickets: Order now! (Psst, use code MOABS to receive $5 off your ticket admission!)

Here is a peak at some of the highlights from last year's Mother Of All Baby Showers South Florida:

WIN 2 VIP TICKETS! Yes! I'm so excited to be able to give you the chance to win two VIP tickets to this great event! Enter below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

9.30.2014

when loss hurts

I hang out with a lot of moms and in a lot of places where moms go. This happens when you spend all day with a 3 year old. Inevitably, there will be pregnant women and there will be babies. There will also be announcements and excitement and then the also inevitable introductory "so how many kids do you have?" Sometimes people who know our story will awkwardly try to hide these things from me. Two women will be discussing a pregnancy and a friend will swoop in and start asking me about the weather and if I think it will rain on Friday. Seeing other pregnant women doesn't hurt me. Seeing other newborn babies doesn't hurt me. Their babies are not my baby; it's not as if they took Wylie away from me and that's why I don't have her. Sometimes, friends will avoid the word baby at all cost, as if they're playing that silly baby shower game where you lose your clothespin if you say the word. They'll avoid it to the point where it's awkward and sticky and silent and uncomfortable. The same goes for "pregnancy" or "daughter" or even "Wylie." It's well-meaning, but "the thing that happened" is a lot more hurtful than "your daughter." I explain this and the response is always inevitable: "I just didn't want you to hurt."

Here's the thing: I don't hurt when I hear her name. I don't hurt when someone remembers her or talks about my pregnancy with her -- the morning sickness, the cravings -- as if the outcome were different. If anything, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel valid. It makes me feel like I'm not some lunatic who dreamed up a second pregnancy and scheduled a c-section for a phantom baby that existed only in my head. It doesn't hurt when I hear her name or when you ask me how much she weighed at birth or who she looked like.

Loss hurts always. It's unavoidable. The thought of my daughter's brief existence is validity. It's warmth. It's some kind of blanket of comfort that sweeps over me and numbs the pain for a few fleeting seconds.

Loss hurts constantly. It hurts when it rains, when it's sunny, when it's hot, when it's cold. It hurts when you're awake, when you're asleep, when you're working out or grocery shopping. It hurts when you're all dressed up with a face full of make-up and styled hair. It hurts when you're schlepping through the day in a torn pair of yoga pants and your husband's t-shirt.

Loss hurts when I'm alone and when I'm in a room filled with other people. Loss hurts when I'm surrounded by anyone, the current state of their uterus completely irrelevant.

It hurts when I'm watching my favorite television show or reading my favorite book. It hurts when I'm listening to my favorite band or singing along to my favorite song. It hurts when I'm drinking my third Starbucks of the day or when I'm dragging on a Thursday afternoon.

Loss hurts when I'm laying out at the beach or wrapped up in a busy schedule. It hurts when the doctor tells me that my fertility isn't doomed and it hurts when the friendly Target cashier smiles and says "is he your only one?" Loss hurts whenever I walk the hallway and pass her closed bedroom door. It hurts when I imagine the crib, the clothes, her things still laid out and untouched even though she's gone. It hurts in my dreams to the point where sometimes I wake up because I feel like my bones are aching.

Loss doesn't stop. It never lets up. You simply learn to trudge through, somehow. But the pain? It's always there. It suddenly becomes the only constant. The only thing you cannot question. The only thing your subconscious understands that you will never lose.

But her name? The way she would dance in my stomach and listen to Cake and eat Captain Crunch in the mornings before Ethan woke up to see? This doesn't hurt me. Hearing her name escape the lips of someone who never got the chance to meet her, it's comfort. It's the warmth of a hug and a meaningful conversation all wrapped up into one word. Wylie. And as long as you remember her, as long as you acknowledge her as my daughter as much as Ethan is my son, it almost feels impossible to hurt. At least in that moment.

9.29.2014

toys. what are they good for? absolutely nothing.

I hate toys. I know, we don't use the word "hate" -- but I do. I can't stand them. They're an unnecessary evil that everyone thinks your child is lacking and needs. More toys, more toys, more toys. Toys everywhere. Buzzing, beeping, blipping, blinking plastic chunks to trip over and clutter up valuable space. I didn't always feel this way. I mean, sort of. I could never stand toys but I figured they were a necessary part of life. A necessary part of childhood. After all, from the day I posted we were expecting Ethan, we were bombarded with Amazon packages containing toys. By the time he was 1, we had an entire storage room filled with all of the toys he still hadn't played with and that we also had no room for. As it was, we already had to step over mountains of plastic to even get to a bathroom. It had to be some kind of fire hazard.

Once upon a time, my house looked like this:

And let's be real, it really only looked like that when we were expecting guests. On normal days, the pieces were strewn everywhere, the ball pit balls covered the tile, there was simply brightly colored, plastic chaos across the living room and most days it would make me cry. Nothing to see here. I'm just hysterically sobbing because there are balls everywhere and some go in the elephant ball popper and some go in the dinosaur ball popper and some go in the ball pit and I don't know where anything goes because I can't see over the broken pieces and mismatched pieces and ceiling of Fisher Price hell.

These were the days when Ethan had a playroom (what became Wylie's room), plus toys in our home office and the entire living room. Our house was Toys 'R Us and there was no way to escape. None. Put one toy away and the next day, my mom would stop over with a bag of eight more toys she couldn't resist buying for Ethan at Target.

I mean, there was a time when this was Ethan's Christmas haul:

And that was normal. And 75% of it sat in a room with his half birthday haul, his 1st birthday haul, his just because haul, his Hanukkah haul. Sat in a room because there was no room and because as used to the throat-closing, choking, claustrophobic feeling of being surrounded by toys that you are, even you have limits. Even you can only take so much before you sign yourself up for Hoarders: Toy Edition.

It also didn't take me long enough to realize that the toys didn't make Ethan happy. The stuff didn't make him happy. He'd mindlessly stare at the stacking toys, get a good chuckle for fifteen seconds out of the ball poppers, suck on some hunks of plastic which always made me cringe and then get just as stressed out about it all as I did. Even then, we rarely stayed home during the day and when we were home, we were always creating. Making our own joy. Creating some art. Whipping up some playdough. Doing our own thing. The toys became nothing but an obstacle, a stressor, something we all just wanted to escape from. I mean, no one can argue against the fact that a kid can learn more from an empty toilet paper roll and a stick than they can from some light-up plastic toy you push a ball into over and over and over again.

So one day, long ago now, shortly after Ethan turned 1, I got rid of it all. He was napping and my husband was at work and I filled boxes and bags with toys. All of them. I emptied the spare room, the living room, our home office. I giggled with maniacal delight as I tossed each deflated, smushed ball pit ball into a garbage bag. When he woke up from his nap we had no toys and he didn't care. He didn't notice. He has still never noticed. On the rare event we are actually at home, we're still making. We're still creating. We're still doing tot school and crafts and experiments and cooking. We're not lacking or missing anything.

I've slowly allowed some toys back into our home. I limit it to open-ended toys that don't have one right way to use them. The toys that Ethan currently has: his play kitchen, a bin of cars (wooden and matchbox cars), a bin of trains and train tracks, a tub of blocks and other stacking and building materials, a bin of musical instruments, a bin of animals (TOOB animals, mostly, and other similar figurines) and a bucket of balls. It's bliss. It's happiness. Paired with a couple ride-ons, a push mower, Hungry Hungry Hippos, a drum set and some guitars, that's the extent of it all. The guitars are in his bedroom but everything else sits nicely in our living room. There is a place for everything, there is no chaos and there is space. Oh, glorious space which is so hard to come by in a tiny home.

When we are home, we're usually doing tot school or some kind of craft or art project. The older Ethan gets, the more interested he is in helping with dinner and other household tasks. When he's not feeling it and needs his own alone time, he usually chooses to sit at the table and do a painting or play independently with the open-ended toys that we keep in our home. It's great. Some days the animals can be space explorers, sometimes they can drive trains, sometimes they can drive cars, sometimes he can build them cascading castles and towers and a city to call their own. And then, when it's all over, they head back to their appropriate buckets where they await their next adventure. Without chaos. Without stress. Without unnecessary plastic and clutter and crap.

I still stand by my statement that the best thing I ever did was get rid of all of the toys. It's been a liberating experience. It's made for a happier kid. It's made for a happier home life for us all. It's made for more space and less stress. It's helped "I want that" actually mean "I want that" without the assumption that one must have everything they see and like.

For birthdays, we ask guests to consider donating to our selected charity in lieu of gifts. For Christmas, we ask for experiences (zoo or museum memberships) or practical gifts (art supplies, clothing, books). Sometimes my mother will smuggle big, obnoxious plastic toys for Ethan into her house but, without fail, he tires of them within a week whereas he's been playing with the same bucket of kinetic sand for months now. Marble toys. Things he can build. Something he can do once and twice and eighty four times. Something he can make and then remake.

Two years in to our own No Toy Revolution and my only regret is not having done it sooner.

9.28.2014

tot school - animal classifications - age three

We wound up with two weeks of animal classifications week. Well, more like a week and a half. It was sort of a busy week (or two) outside of tot school so we weren't able to devote as much time to the trays as we would like. We won't even get into the paint and glitter mess that Ethan decided to make in tot school while I wasn't looking so, really, we took the second half of the second week off. It was easier that way. Still, this was a great week (or two) and Ethan had a lot of fun! With everything we had going on, I slacked off at taking as many photos as I typically do, but I managed to remember to get all of the trays photographed. Ethan had a lot of fun applying his new animal classification knowledge and lingo throughout the week to the animals we saw outside. Because of conflicting weather, I wasn't able to take him to the nature center to identify the animals as I had planned, but we still were able to do so with our everyday animals who we see in our backyard.

WORM FARM

Ethan loved making a worm farm and playing with his invertebrate friends. We used this tutorial for constructing our farm. I picked up a package of small pebbles from the educational store and also included a couple of bigger rocks from the front yard at the bottom of the bottle. Then, we topped that with a small bag of sand also from the educational store. We used some potting soil and then, after examining our worms and playing with them a little, put the worms in. Ethan insisted we add a banana peel on top because "that's how you compost, mommy" so we did. He loved watching the peel gradually disappear over the two weeks and the way he could see the worms building tunnels through the sides of the bottle. After the two weeks, we emptied our worm friends in my parent's yard and watched them slither away. Our worms were purchased from the bait freezer at Wal-Mart. I think they lucked out!

ANIMAL CLASSIFICATION SORTING

For this one, I set out two pails: one marked vertebrates and the other marked invertebrates. There was a container of some Toob animals for Ethan to sort as well as a pair of tongs. I also included a little cup with further classifications (fish, bird, reptile, mammal, amphibian). Once the animals were separated by vertebrate or invertebrate, he could then separate them further into their other classifications. He had fun with this one and once he figured out where all of the animals belong, he enjoyed playing with them throughout the week.

BACKBONES FOR VERTEBRATES

For this one, I printed out some coloring pages of different animals and included a cup of sliced up q-tips. Ethan got to add the backbones to the animals who had one. We went over how turtles actually do have backbones, against his first guess, and had fun recreating where each animal's backbone goes.

VERTEBRATE AND INVERTEBRATE SORTING

I found this tray at Goodwill and have been dying to use it, so this seemed like the perfect time. Ethan got to sort the animals as vertebrates or invertebrates into the proper side of the tray. He wasn't too into this tray and out of all of the trays, he liked this one the least. The actual Toob animals were a lot more fun to play with than the paper cut-outs.

WHO AM I?

For this one, I included some different cards with "clues" as to what each animal was. Ethan got to guess and then draw his guess. He loved this activity and once he finished all of the cards, he made me give him more clues for additional animals that he could draw.

ANIMAL SPELLING FINE MOTOR ACTIVITY

I found these little beads and sticks on clearance at Michael's a few weeks ago and it seemed like the perfect time to use them. I printed out some animals and wrote some letters on the beads and Ethan got to string them together to form the full word.

LINKING UP WITH:

Tot School Montessori MondayI Can Teach My Child

No Time For Flash CardsFor the Kids FridayThe Weekly Kids Co-Op



9.27.2014

ethan's homemade trick or treat pumpkin bucket

I came up with this idea on a whim on one of our days stuck home waiting for the antibiotics to kick in while Ethan grumpily battled strep and a double ear infection. My husband's unread Wall Street Journals were calling to me as we began to go stir crazy. We've done paper mache before and our creation just didn't turn out (turns out toddlers like to glob on way, way too much glue), so I didn't really expect miracles with this one. Hence the no pictures of the entire process...which I'm kicking myself for now, because our final product not only turned out but turned out really cute. Ethan is so proud of his trick or treat bucket and it just added to the excitement towards Halloween coming up!

So, here's a recap with less than stellar photos that I mostly only took to send my husband apologetic pictures about what we were doing with the Wall Street Journals he never read.

Make your paper mache glue. We mixed 1 part flour with 2 cups water, added a teaspoon of salt and a few squirts of white school glue. I also pre-shredded the newspapers so Ethan could easily pull the scraps of a bag to use rather than rip his own which quite possibly could have taken forever.

Make your shape. We blew up a balloon really, really big and covered a little more than half with the paper mache glue and newspaper scraps.

Let it dry. This took, like, three days. Something about toddlers and heaping globs of glue. I put the knotted side of the balloon (which was the side we didn't cover in glue and scraps) in a jar to get it to stand upright. This helped a lot with the drying time.

Pop the balloon. Once dry, pop the balloon! This didn't please Ethan at all.

Paint your pumpkin. Now it's time to paint your pumpkin. Ethan's faith in this project was restored. My entire house remained covered in orange paint for a good three days. Good times.

Have your toddler paint on a face. We were all out of black paint, but Ethan settled for brown for the eyes. He insisted it needed a green mouth, though, and a smiling mouth so it wasn't too spooky. I think he did a great job!

Add the strap/handle. Once it dried, I punched two holes in the side and tied a piece of elastic to each end for the strap.

And there you have it! Your toddler's very own homemade trick or treat pumpkin bucket! Ethan is so proud of his bucket and can't wait to use it. I think we'll do a homemade bucket every year -- it's too much fun not to!

9.26.2014

you

You are my best friend. You have always been, of course, but now more than ever you are my teammate. My soulmate. My helper. My partner in all things.

You are stubborn. You are timid but are beginning to feel the bravery in the tips of your toes. You are shy. You are my confidence. You are sweet.

You are my reminder of good things. "Some people aren't nice friends, mommy, but some people are. Some people are nice friends and that makes me happy." You are the spewer of wisdom.

You don't like to sleep, so you don't. You wake up when you want to and turn all of the lights on in the house until everyone follows suit. You are full of energy. You are full of laughter. You are full of opinions.

You are the order in the chaos. You let me know where things should go and what we should do. You let me know what is on our agenda and when.

You want to be a crossing guard when you grow up. You sometimes want to be a chef, a dentist or a firefighter, but lately you just want to be a crossing guard. "I can help the boys and girls go to school safely," you say. You are a do-gooder.

You put the balls back into the ball pit at My Gym when the other kids toss them out. Did I mention that you're a do-gooder? Because you are. You are the reinforcer of kindness. You are always there to tell me you love me. You always know when I need it most.

You like sparkly polish on your toes and you wear it well. You love "1985" and tell me that Bright Eyes hurts your ears. You are your own person now. You are the most amazing person I've ever met.

You are a stickler for routine. You prefer fruit in the mornings with a glass of almond milk. You pronounce milk "miltk" and it's so cute and the main reason I offer you milk in the mornings.

You have formed an obsession with three robots I found at the dollar store. You lose them and pitch a fit until we find them again and all of the paint has been rubbed almost completely off of them. You love them anyway. You love everything anyway in spite of imperfections.

You, ironically, are a perfectionist. You don't like to get your clothes dirty. You don't like to make mistakes. You're also the first person to remind me it's okay when I make a mistake. You are forgiving of others and I want you to learn how to forgive yourself.

You are my everything. You are my son and my sunshine. You introduce yourself as a vertebrate who lives on Earth when people ask who you are. You have a backbone and you are mine.

You are my joy. You are my pride. You are the reason I feel I can tackle whatever the day may bring even when I feel myself sinking. You are proof that there really is magic. You have made my memories my greatest possessions. You are proof that kisses do heal boo-boos.

You. You, my sweet boy, are everything.

9.25.2014

escaping privilege

My sister was a freshman in high school when she was assigned the task of writing an autobiography. The teacher required students to list several select details about their lives including where they were born and where they were currently living. My sister and my mother got into a heated argument over this. Doors were slammed. Tears were shed (on behalf of both parties). My sister pleaded with me to use my neighborhood as her own and my mother went into her finest "I didn't work this hard for you to be ashamed of everything I gave you and did for you" speech that I know I've had memorized since I was a preteen. On one hand, it was silly. She was avoiding using "West Boca" as her birthplace because Boca Raton is synonymous with snobbery and she wanted to avoid using the city in which she lived because it, too, basically stood for the almighty dollar sign. "And is that something to be ashamed of? Is this why I worked so hard and put myself through college?" I understand my mother's argument. It was silly. You came home to the house you came home to and you went to the school you went to and you were born in the hospital you were born at.

But I understood my sister's argument, too. I made the same argument a million times over when I was that age.

When I was fourteen and a student at a "prestigious" private school (quotes because I'm still insisting it was an overpriced sham), I told the boy I had a crush on -- a boy who lived in a dilapidated apartment complex the next town over who I met outside of the movie theater one Friday night -- that I was on welfare. I didn't know much about welfare, other than it was mentioned in an Everclear song and I thought it sounded so appealing. I'm a little ashamed to admit that, as an adult, all of it, but I had wanted to hide the truth. When he likened his father to a deadbeat addict, I told him mine was an alcoholic. It was a story I made up based on the fact I saw my dad drink a beer once, but I thought it made me better. I thought it made me different. I thought it did a fine job at covering up the awful, scary truth that I lived in a beautiful, expensive home with my really put together family who loved me and doted on me and worked hard to do so. At the time, the city in which I lived in sounded like poison to my ears and while the pretend me wasn't the real me, I always felt that the real me wasn't really me, either.

To be honest, it's a struggle I still battle with. After college, my husband and I bought a home in the city just a few feet over from the one in which I grew up. I can walk from my current house to the house I grew up in, which I do when the weather is nice and Ethan and I want to take a trip on foot to visit his grandparents. I've quickly adopted our city as my hometown. I take pride in it. I'm a little obsessed with it. I care about who our commissioners are and what is going on in our parks and if there is graffiti under slides or library books that need replacing. More than that, I still harbor bitterness towards the city in which I grew up. Ethan will attend the same high school I did and he will attend the middle school that my parents sent me to private school to get away from. I would rather saw my arms off with a butter knife than send him to private school and it's not so much out of stubbornness as it is legitimate care for his education. I believe in our public schools and our city and the fact that even the crossing guards make Ethan feel like a million bucks in the mornings and life feels a little bit like Pleasantville everyday.

Perhaps one of my favorite parts about my city is that there is a range in income. There is a chance Ethan will go to school with someone who is, in fact, truly on welfare and someone whose parents are CEO's of a million dollar company. There is a chance he will go to school with someone who shares a bedroom in an apartment complex with five other siblings and someone who has their very own movie theater inside their home. He will go to school with someone who wears hand-me-downs and someone who always has the current designer trends. He will go to school with someone whose parents are doctors, whose parents own their own small business, whose parents are unemployed and barely scraping by. He will understand that the reason someone is taking the bus is because it's their only method of transportation, the reason why someone is shopping at the dollar store is because it's all they can afford and that these are not reasons to make fun of someone (I won't go into where I got those samples from). I don't want Ethan to be at a school that recently enrolled it's first black student. This is South Florida and it's 2014. A huge chunk of the appeal of sending Ethan to the schools we want to send him to is that they aren't 99.9% white. I mean, I know I can't save Ethan from undoubtedly experiencing the "fun" in being the butt of a "you mean you don't own designer shoes?" joke because this is still South Florida and it's all around us -- but if he can sort of even that out a little, well, I'm okay with that.

Of course, just because you have money doesn't mean you're raising a child who puts gum in the hair of other kids based on the assumption that they're poor. It doesn't mean you put postage stamps on their notebooks in school and tell them to go buy food with their stamps. (This happened.) I had a wonderful childhood. I didn't want for much or worry about anything important. I received a car on my 18th birthday (and I'm still driving that damn thing to this day). I also never owned designer shoes or taunted a classmate. I get it. I do. And there shouldn't be any shame in any of it -- not having anything, having excess -- any of it. I have guilt with being the first person to laugh at the online jabs and mockeries of the city in which I was raised and thus feeling as if I've trivialized the wonderful childhood that I had. As if by laughing at the jokes, I'm somehow again a teenager listening to my mother recite the list of hardships she experienced to bring us to where we were. And, worse, I feel like I'm fourteen again and lying about where I live and the family I come from but this time I get caught. This time someone finds the preparatory school uniform hanging up in my closet and exposes me as the fraud I am.

I never want Ethan to be ashamed of what he has. I never want him to feel like he has to create an alternate identity. I am grateful for my upbringing, for all my parents still continue to do for my family, for the life I led and the life I'm able to give Ethan. I don't want to peg the woman at the park with the designer clothing as the enemy because I'm not fourteen and she isn't the girl that taunted me to the point where I ate lunch in the bathroom alone. I also don't want to be the reason that she makes up some fraudulent welfare story because she thinks I won't talk to her otherwise, trading in her designer leggings for a pair of Target yoga pants for the sake of a playdate. I mean, if I'm going to be all open minded about raising a child who sees people at face value and not for what isn't in their bank accounts, it should work the other way, too.

I'm still learning. And hoping to not completely screw my child up in the process.

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