Thursday, January 21, 2016

Preschool Panic: Sibling Edition

applying for preschool in los angeles
She's a maniac, maniac on the playground
Remember how I swore I wasn't going to f*ck up the whole preschool application thing with my second child?

Well, as Britney Spears so eloquently put it, "Oops, I did it again."

In my defense, I didn't think that I would have to apply to preschool for the Little Lady.  I assumed that because the Muffin Man was in school already I would just enroll her at the same place and be done with the whole thing.  However, after all of the drama with Noah's preschool enrollment, we ended up at a school where, if I were to start Rose in September, the two of them would be in the same class.

Now, I'm sure for some siblings this wouldn't be an issue, but if I were to send Rose to school with Noah every day she would steamroll the poor guy.  If you're a parent who is concerned about playground bullies, I'd like to gently suggest you steer clear of my daughter; if you even think about stealing her sand shovel, she will cut a bitch.

Rose is an amazing little person.  She's sweet and loving, but she is also incredibly determined and fearless.  If you tell her that something is too high for her to reach, she will simply find the closest chair, drag it over to where it needs to be, and hoist herself on to it.  There is no dissuading Rose if she has set her mind to something.  I often watch my daughter and wish that I were more like her, as perhaps then I wouldn't have quite so many different entries on my "Jobs at Which I Failed" resume.

I don't know if Rose is the way she is because she's a second child, or if it's just her personality.  I suspect it's a combination of the two, but so many of the traits that she possesses seem to have a lot to do with the fact that she is a younger sibling.  She is so close in age to her brother (18 months, exactly) that I wasn't able to coddle her like I did with Noah.  There were very few long, lazy days spent nestled in my bed nursing, dozing, and getting to know each other.  Rose learned to fend for herself early, since I was busy chasing after her older brother, chugging coffee, and knocking back handfuls of placenta pills.

Setting aside my Mom guilt about not spending enough time with her as a newborn, I think she's better off in some ways.  She's far better prepared to function in the cruel world than my first born who I've been holding close to the vest since conception.  Unfortunately, this doesn't alleviate the need to find my daughter a place to interact with her peers in the near future.  Since I didn't even think about applying anywhere for Rose, I've missed all the application deadlines and will be forced to either enroll her with Noah and hope she doesn't beat him to death with a sand shovel, or keep her home with me for another year.

Perhaps I should view an extra year with Rose as an opportunity to enjoy the bonding time that we didn't get to have when she was a newborn.  After all, I'm feeling much more loving towards her now that I'm not exhausted and bleeding from my lady parts.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Top Six Toddler Toys (according to me)

Top toys for toddlers

The Muffin Man is officially three.

I know, I can't believe it either, since it feels like just yesterday that he looked like this and that I still had boobies:
best toys for toddlers

The official birthday party is happening this weekend, which you've most likely deduced already if you're following me on Pinterest.  I'm going to attempt to actually make some crafts which is truly terrifying.  Here's hoping I don't end up having to be rushed to the ER for some sort of third degree glue gun burn.

It occurred to me as I was trying to find places to stash all of the amazing new toys that Noah received, that I no longer have any actual babies in my house anymore.  Gone are my baby must haves, and in their place are blocks and trucks and plastic foodstuffs.  The good news is that toddlers and little boys (mostly) sleep through the night.  The bad news is that these toys go everywhere.  If you do not yet understand the appeal of the Lego-proof slipper then you definitely still have babies.

The choice of toys is kind of overwhelming.  If you even mention the words "Toys 'r Us" I get so anxious that I have to pop a Klonopin.  And let's not even talk about how my house is beginning to resemble a small toy store with comfortable seating.  That being said, there are certain toys that we use more often than others.

So, I present to you our current list of Top Six Toddler Toys:

The play kitchen provides hours of fun for both of my kids.  Yes, all of the plastic food ends up dumped all over the house, and my offspring have been known to try to stab each other with their play kitchen knives, but overall this is one of the most used items in our home.  Fair warning: if you go for the Kidcraft model it takes about three hours to put together, so don't start at 11pm the night before Junior's birthday and expect to get a whole lot of shuteye.

Both of my kids love tools, and the tool bench has paid for itself one hundred times over.  It comes with a few pieces of faux wood as well as a couple basic tools, but add on a tool box for each of them  and enjoy checking your social media while your children occupy themselves fixing everything in sight.

We're lucky to have a pretty sizable backyard (as well as temperate weather), but a sand and water table will fit on even a small balcony and will keep your kids entertained for at least ten minutes, usually more.   Yes, they will get wet and get sand in their shoes, but that is a small price to pay for an activity that involves you sitting still instead of having to chase your children.  Just remember to dump all the sand out of their shoes before letting them back in the house, or your living room rug will start to feel like a sandbox.

An alternative to the sand and water table that's just as entertaining but that takes up far less space, is kinetic sand.  We received some as a gift, and I can't tell you how many hours my kids have spent molding this stuff into all kinds of shapes, specifically poop shapes.  I have no idea what it's made of, and I'm sure it's probably toxic, but I really don't care because anything that captures their attention for longer than 10 minutes is a win in my book.  Pro tip: be sure and put a sheet or a splat mat down if you're playing with this stuff inside, because it gets into everything, and it doesn't vacuum out.

Baby dolls are awesome, especially when they come with a stroller that you can use to run over your parents toes.  I admit that Rose plays with the babies more than Noah does (nature people, nature!) but they both enjoy loading the stroller up with books and toys and whatever they've stolen from my purse, and running as fast as they possibly can down our long hallway.

I never had Tinker Toys as a kid, but Noah's Grandparents got him a set for his birthday, and he has played with them every single day since then.  He wants to build when he gets up in the morning, and when he comes home from school.  Even Rose gets in on the action bringing Noah the different pieces for whatever it is he's building.  So far neither of them have tried to use the sticks as a weapon, so as far as I'm concerned this is a super successful toy.

Of course, if you don't feel like spending the money on any fancy toys, just order yourself something from Amazon and give your kids the box.  Chances are they'll spend just as much, if not more, time playing with that than whatever it was you purchased off their wish list.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou!

traveling with toddler tips
You can't beat those Big Island sunsets.
Welcome to 2016, my friends.  El NiƱo has finally arrived here in the city of concrete and broken dreams, which means that many residents are refusing to leave their houses and the ones who do go out into the world at large are driving like complete idiots.  To be fair, the rains have been so heavy that I'm thinking of having my son build an ark as his next craft project.  

The grey skies and chilly temperatures have made me nostalgic for our recent Hawaiian vacation.  Sure, it sucks to travel with children, and we're still trying to get over our jet lag three weeks later, but you can't beat the tropical breezes, sandy beaches, and warm-as-a-bathtub ocean water.  

I never thought I would say this, but the kids had so much fun that it was totally worth the flight from Hell.  I might even be convinced to travel with them again sometime in the future.

The last time we were in Hawaii we did not have children.  It was so long ago that we weren't even thinking of having children.  As I recall, we spent the majority of our vacation drinking tropical cocktails beside the Adults Only pool.  My, how the times have changed.  These days we're sitting in the pee-filled kiddie pool handing out juice boxes and refereeing sibling squabbles.  The only good thing about this is that I now have a number of Big Island travel tips just for those of you thinking of braving a Hawaiian vacation with your children in tow.  

Keep in mind that the Big Island is called that for a reason.  It's BIG - the same size as the state of Connecticut, to be exact.  

Volcanoes National Park is totally worth seeing, but not if you have little kids.  It's 100 miles away from Kona, so unless you find being stuck in a car with screaming children relaxing, I suggest you save that particular adventure for a later trip.

We spent most of the week at my parent's house, and then spent two nights at the Waikoloa Hilton.  Here's my honest opinion: unless you can afford to stay at the Four Seasons (which is amazing and priced accordingly), don't waste your money on a resort; rent a house or a condo instead.  You'll have more space, a kitchen so you can cook if you want to, and housekeeping won't be knocking on your door at 7am.  

La'aloa, or Magic Sand Beach (where most of the video was shot) is our favorite beach near Kona Town.  It's easy to park and there's a shady area as well as picnic tables, bathrooms, and outdoor showers.  Just be warned that if the weather has been stormy there might no be any sand to sit on.  The reason it's nicknamed Magic Sands is because the sand disappears and reappears overnight, like magic.

Hapuna Beach is a 40 minute drive from downtown Kona, but it's so worth it if you want a beautiful, not-too-crowded beach experience.  Hapuna has a long stretch of pristine white sand, but it gets super windy in the late afternoon, and the undertow can be crazy strong, so bring a sweatshirt and keep a close eye on the your little ones.

Catch a sunset at the Lava Lava Beach Club.  If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my post about this place. It's owned by the duo who catered our wedding, and the cocktails are as spectacular as the view.  Ideally, you would be able to ditch your children and enjoy this place unencumbered by offspring, but  you'll still enjoy it even if your dinner companions eat with their hands.

Be sure and hit up one of the local Farmer's Markets (I'm partial to the South Kona Green Market in Keylakekua), especially if you're renting a house.  The Island of Hawaii has 11 different climate zones, which means almost every type of veggie, fruit, and protein is grown or raised somewhere on the Island.  Buy local whenever you can, not only because it's less expensive, but also because it tastes so much better than anything flown in from the Mainland.  Be sure and try the local bananas.  They are small - about half the size of the bananas sold in stores here - and the taste and texture are both different than the ones sold here.  Also, keep an eye out for the Brooklyn Hipster couple who moved to Hawaii, bought a farm, and are selling Vegan Kale and Vegan Lettuce.  I thought vegetables were already vegan, but I guess they are farming with vegan fertilizer while bathing in patchouli and sampling the local bud.  

Flip flops, or slippahs as we call them in Hawaii, are the only footwear you need.  Pick up a pair of Locals at any grocery or drug store - they cost all of $1.99 - and your feet will love you forever.  No other brand compares, and I swear by my Locals.  I have literally worn holes in every pair I've owned, and I even walked and bicycled all over Cambodia in these plastic wonders.  Buy some for your kids and watch their minds blow trying to figure out how to get (and keep) them on their feet.  Just be warned: once they figure out how to walk in them you may not be able to convince them to wear anything else.  


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