Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Nate at two

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Toddler friendly Northport

I recently found a great resource at my library - Baby Friendly Long Island. The book has chapters on the best indoor activities, outdoor activities, classes and cute towns to visit. It gives you the kind of key information you need if you have small children, like whether there are diaper changing areas, if the facility is stroller accessible and if you'll get kicked out if your child starts screaming like a banshee. It's a fantastic book. The only problem is that it was written in 2004. So unless you make some calls ahead of time, you may drive to a lovely little town only to discover that the places you were most looking forward to seeing have been closed down for years. (Not that I would know about that or anything.) Luckily, yesterday was not one of those times. We visited the adorable town of Northport and everything we wanted to see was still there. But really, where are the playgrounds and the bay going to go anyway?

While I had come prepared with Nate's lunch, by the time we got there I was starving. And of course, I had completely overlooked the fact that the entire town might still be without power from Irene. Luckily, Skipper's Pub had a generator. They were super kid friendly (crayons, kids menus to color and booster seats) and the food was delicious.

We took a walk along the water and out onto a dock. It was a gorgeous day and such a pleasant setting. Except for that constant, overwhelming fear that Nate would slip out of my grasp and jump into the water. Yeah, other than that - totally relaxing.

The town center area - along the water - has two playgrounds, clean bathroom facilities and a huge lawn for any little boy who happens to run like a CHEETAH!

Oh yeah, and there is a huge gazebo that must be a hot spot for wedding pictures. But we used it for a rousing game of Leap Toddler.  Dave won. (My legs are kind of short.)

Friday, August 26, 2011


Some scattered Friday afternoon thoughts about my favorite two year old...
There are several areas in our life that require a discussion of who is an adult and who is a kid. These talks mostly revolve around knives, crossing the street and climbing playground equipment. For example, Nate really enjoys climbing the "big kid" equipment at the park. He'll run over and start climbing before I can get there, which results in just about the same conversation every time: 
Me:      Nate. What are the rules about climbing at the park?
Nate:    DOLT.
Me:      Right. You have to wait for an adult. Who are some adults?
Me:      Yes, we're all adults. So you have to make sure Mommy is here just in case you fall. What about you - are you an adult?
Nate:    I, KID.
Chubby little baby Nate was incredibly cute, but I think this kid of mine is pretty adorable too. He now grabs my hand, pulls me and says, "COME ON MOMMY! LET'S PLAY GAMES!" (By the way - I type most of what Nate says in all caps, not because he's always yelling, but because he always sounds excited.) I just love that he's started grabbing my hand.

And he has a great memory. We brought home a ton of books from the library yesterday, including one about firetrucks. He was reading it on the floor when he popped up, walked over to his book bin saying, "LET ME CHECK SOMEPIN'!" He pulled out one of his own books, flipped to the vehicle page, pointed to the fire truck and told me it was the same. I thought it was odd that he was making such a big deal about two random firetrucks until I looked closer. The library book had a large picture of truck 231 in a fire fighting action shot. Nate's book had a small picture of truck 231 just sitting there with a white background. But they were the same exact truck. I was amazed.

You know what else this kid does? 

He talks to our dog. He shows her his books. And he tells her if he has a boo-boo. Every day he tells her, "I LOVE YOU!" And every night he says, "GOODNIGHT AH-VA BEANS!" 

I like this age very much.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Muchkin theft

Before I had Nate, I was completely unaware that random people looove giving food away to babies. People in stores (primarily women) are always offering Nate food - cookies, bananas, filet mignon - you get the idea. I thought it was really bizarre at first, but now I kind of get a kick out of it. Maybe it's a nurturing thing, maybe they just want to put a smile on his cute face - I guess I can't really fault them for that.

But something else entirely is going on over at Dunkin' Donuts.

Dunkin Donuts Ground Coffee - 40 Oz

But before I get into that, I need to cop to my caffeine addiction. I love coffee. More than the taste, the fake awake feeling or the warding off of headaches, I love the ritual of it. And to me, the ritual is always better when someone else makes the coffee. So even though I'm all "plastic is the devil," I often stop by Dunkin' Donuts in the summer for their completely mediocre iced coffee in a plastic disposable cup with plastic disposable straw.  Because it's convenient. Because I need it.

So last spring and summer when Nate was nine or ten months, I started stopping in frequently for my fix. And every single time they would offer Nate a munchkin. At the time I was all aghast that they would think it was appropriate for my baby to chew on their fake, sugary "food."

But somewhere between then and now things have changed. If I tell Nate I want to go get a coffee, he immediately demands a MUNCHIN (no "k").  I guess at some point they wore me down with their offers and I let Nate try one. And he fell. in. love.  So now I occasionally purchase them with my coffee. And yes, maybe, perhaps, I use them as bargaining chips in the battle that is life with a toddler.

But the thing with the Dunkin' Donuts people is that they get off on giving them away. I don't know if they are just a generous group or they want to screw over their company. But they will never, ever give you the correct amount of munchkins. I've been to a few in the area and I always have the same experience. Munchkins are five for a dollar. So if you ask for just three, they will remind you that they are five for a dollar and when you agree to go for the five they will give you eight. And if you insist that no, really, you just want the three - they will give you five and not charge you. And if you say you just want one for the little guy, they will give you three. Seriously, I challenge you to go there, ask for munchkins and walk away with zero free munchkins. It is not happening.

This may sound like a good thing, but it is not. I try really hard to stick to fresh, whole foods and stay away from processed crap as much as possible. But really - I have no self control. I love processed, sugary crap. A lot. So if you give me eight freaking munchkins, I will give one to Nate. And guess where the rest go?  Channel Mike Meyers for the answer.

Am I alone? Have you noticed munchkin theft in your neck of the woods? Do people push food on your kids too?

{Um, Dunkin' Donuts obviously didn't pay me for this post. But their representatives have certainly given me plenty of free munchkins over the course of the year. And this is how I repay them.}

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Hippo riding


Monday, August 22, 2011

Good Nite Lite update

Nate has had a long history of waking up too darn (note: I don't actually say "darn" in real life) early. Like five a.m. early. And there were definitely some days that started at like four thirty in the morning. Um, Nate? Four thirty is not morning. Anything before six is still nighttime in my book. So we have been ecstatic that Nate has been sleeping regularly until seven in the morning lately. While we have done a lot along the way to get here, I think there is only one reason Nate now sleeps (usually) until the blissful hour of seven: the sun is not up yet. And by sun, I mean the sun on The Good Nite Lite.

The Good Nite Lite

I mentioned the Good Nite Lite about four months ago, when it really started clicking for Nate. Since that time, we've been able to push his wake up time back bit by bit.  Now that he really understands that we're not getting up until the sun face lights up on the behavioral modification tool, I am hoping we can use it to help the dreaded daylight savings transition coming up this fall. Do you like how I'm already thinking about daylight savings time when summer isn't even over yet? I guess not sleeping for over a year will make a person particularly sensitive to anything that can screw up our sleep schedules.

As much as I love the night light, I do have a couple of complaints. I might have just picked up a faulty one, but the clock on our light slows down. So over the course of a few days or weeks, the time on the light won't match the time in real life and the sun won't come up on time. This is annoying when your kid is yelling and you are trying to figure out if it's really time to go in yet or not. The light on the moon has also gotten a little wacky. I'm not sure if there are multiple lights and some have burnt out, or what, but the moon will often flicker. Nate doesn't seem to notice or mind, but it kind of creeps me out. But you know what? Even if they are all made this way - totally worth the money.

How late do your kids sleep in the morning? By the way, I've now totally jinxed us by writing this post. I just know I'll be up early tomorrow. Excuse me while I go knock on some wood...

8/23/11 Note: I spoke to the people at Good Nite Lite (super nice!) and it sounds like there is something wrong with my lite. A new one should fix the problem.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Natural finger painting: Clementine Art Natural Fingerpaint

Okay. I have finally found the answer to my finger painting woes.  To give you a little art history lesson:  first I tried to make some myself = disaster. Then in rainy day desperation, I bought Crayola Fingerpaints. Nate grew to love them, but I could never get over the overpowering chemical smell. To be fair, I can't find any info on the Crayola Fingerpaints, and they may be totally safe to play with and occasionally shove in your mouth. But since Nate gets really into his artwork - or his craft, as he calls it - I like to be on the safe side...

So I got natural, non-toxic finger paints - Clementine Art Natural Paint - for Nate on his birthday. We used them to make Nate's birthday thank you cards. (Which I'm still in the process of getting ready to go out in the mail. I like to blame my mom for all of my late and/or lack of card habits. Hi, mom! You know it's true.)

These pictures make it look like the project was a complete disaster and Nate was absolutely miserable, but neither is true. He had a fabulous time until the moment I started snapping pictures. It was at that second that he decided that he had had enough and started wiping at an itch on his face. I think the paint on the face is a nice compliment to the Wolverine 'do, myself.

I am very pleased with these paints. The colors are vibrant, the texture is more liquid-y than the Crayola paints, but works just as well. And while they have a slight odor, it's pretty light and not unpleasant at all. I would absolutely recommend them.

If you're feeling more frugal and/or crafty, my friend Jenn at has a great recipe for DIY Finger Paints. She swears it's incredibly easy.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding somepin' at the Queens Zoo

As I mentioned before, we took Nate to the nearby Queens Zoo on his birthday. It was the perfect size and layout for a toddler. We saw all of the exhibits, including the aviary and the domestic animals (oooh fun, you can feed them and look - they love eating dog food pellets!) and ate lunch in under two hours - or was it three? I don't know, but it was the perfect amount of time in any event.

Nate's two favorite new phrases are "I SEE SOMEPIN'!!!" and "I FOUND SOMEPIN'!!!" which came in very handy while spotting birds, porcupines, puma and deer.

He had a blast.

And so did we.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Password protection

Since discovering that a pervert had found my site through a search engine, I've been evaluating all the reasons I blog. Many of the reasons - having a creative outlet, sharing my son with loved ones and friends, connecting with other parents - can still be achieved through a blog that's password protected.

To be clear, I don't think that perv is coming back. He was only on my site for about 18 seconds (he clearly didn't find what he was looking for) and I've blocked his IP address anyway. I will absolutely miss out on making new blog friends, but it will be freeing to keep all unwanted visitors out. Like me, lots of people perform their hobbies in public (jogging, shopping, nose picking), but it's sort of unsettling to know you're being watched with critical eyes while you're doing it.

If you would like the password email me at or leave a comment here and I will send you the password when I set it up.

Until then...

8/18/11 Note: I was unable to password protect the site, so I went for a "sign in" only option. Unfortunately you have to have a gmail account and be on a list to sign in now. This is terribly inconvenient (sorry!) and may be temporary. I'll see how it goes. If you know of anyone who wants to be on "the list," please let me know!

8/21/11 Note: The experiment with privatizing the blog didn't work out for many reasons. Apologies for the inconvenience!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


After this week's birthday extravaganza, I am just too exhausted to write much of anything. I guess I will let the pictures do (most) of the talking.

birthday morning: presents and goofy family pictures

afternoon: the zoo!

evening: both sets of grandparents, more presents! and cake

Perhaps after a good night's sleep - or five - I will have more energy to discuss the zoo, our visit with Gam & Bubba and the party on Saturday. Having fun is tiring!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy Second Birthday, Nathaniel!

Dear Nate,
You were born two years ago today. The past two years have somehow managed to simultaneously be the slowest and the fastest years of my life. Slow, because being responsible for you every hour of every day can be exhausting. You are so precious and I don't want to mess up. And slow because you have been through so many stages and learned so many new things that it is almost impossible to wrap my brain around the fact that you have only been in our lives for two years. But fast because those stages whipped by and I barely had enough time to recognize each phase you were in, let alone appreciate them. I know for a fact I did not get enough time with chubby legged, rosy cheeked Natey. Part of me wants to complain about the time that went too fast, but in good faith I cannot. Each new month comes with so much excitement. So much joy. And if time stood still I wouldn't be able to enjoy watching you learn and develop and grow. It has been the most amazing experience of my life - being able to see the small steps and the big ones that are shaping you into you.
It's a boy!

Two years ago you entered the world and I instantly fell in deep, deep love. I couldn't possibly comprehend that I would be able to love you more each day.

zero - four months

Your first four months were spent mostly laying around. On me, on your daddy, in your bouncy chair and on your belly. Looking back now, it doesn't seem like you did a lot back then. But at the time, every little change was amazing. Every new expression, every laugh, seemed momentous. I spent a lot of time just looking at you.

five - eight months

Then all of a sudden you were sitting up. And eating baby food. And sprouting teeth. And not sleeping.

nine - twelve months

And then you were on the move - rolling, crawling, pulling your self up and cruising on furniture. You started to let us know what you were thinking. Communicating took off with your signing and pointing. It was fascinating to get a little window into that brain of yours. Who ever would have guessed that the washing machine had made such a big impression on you?

thirteen - sixteen months

And then things exploded. You started walking - then running. You were signing like a maniac (it is well documented that maniacs use a tremendous amount of sign language). And you started speaking too.

seventeen - twenty months

By seventeen months the old, simple games weren't cutting it. You had an imagination and you needed more to stimulate you. You started to really get into pretend play, arts & crafts and the park. I saw less and less baby, more and more boy.

twenty one - twenty four months
And now? Now you are full blown toddler. My little boy. You started using the potty (kinda, sorta semi-regularly), stopped breastfeeding and every day is a fight for more independence. I love seeing the person you are becoming. You have such an interest in your world and I love showing you what's out there. Even if that means I have to let you pet the hissing cockroach at the library's petting zoo. Shudder.
Some days, when we're just hanging around the house, you need a lot of entertaining from me. Other days you are content to read by yourself, color (although I still can't trust you alone with coloring instruments) or run around the living room in circles giggling and saying, "SILL-LEE BOY!!"

During these summer months we have spent less time on our ABCs and 123s and more time on social lessons, like patience and manners. Teaching you the concept of patience was one of the best things I've done. I thought it might be over your head, but I should have given you more credit. You're a smart little cookie and you caught on right away. It has been a lifesaver. Particularly in those grocery store life or death situations where you need a muffin. Immediately.

You are incredibly empathetic and I love that about you. Whether you hear a child crying or see a character hurt in a book, you show deep concern for the individual. I know there are things one can do to teach/promote empathy, but I think it's amazing that you naturally feel this way.

Nathaniel, I could go on forever. I just want you to know how proud of you I am. And that I love you more than tongue could tell. Happy, happy birthday sweet boy.

~ Mommy

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Long Island Children's Museum

Today was day two of Dave's vacation our staycation Natey's birthday fun week. We went to the Long Island Children's Museum. I discovered you can sign up for free passes at the library. Yay. But I did have to sign a waiver in order to get the passes and I'm pretty sure if I lose the laminated paper they'll publicly humiliate me by posting my library book history for all to see. I swear all those teen paranormal romance novels were for Nate. He's really advanced for a toddler.

Nate still enjoyed the seeing eye dog, but wasn't nearly as enamored with him as last time. He didn't seem particularly in love with any one thing. He was content to just run around in circles and explore everything.

Good times.

Do you have a children's museum near you?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bring your toddler to the beach day: Robert Moses State Park

Today was our yearly trek to the beach. We can't seem to make it more than once a year since we live so very far from the beach (a whole thirty minutes) and it's incredibly expensive ($10 parking fee).  No, really, it's because it is a lot of work to take a small child to the beach and also - I am just not a beach person. It's the sand. The sand annoys me a lot. And the beach, shockingly, has a lot of sand.

But Nate loved it. It was a gorgeous day. Hot, but not humid. And big, noisy waves crashed onto the shore. Nate couldn't get enough of going into the ocean with Dave. And only Dave. I don't know if it is because Dave's more enthusiastic about water sports, or just more fun, but when it comes to all things water (pools, oceans, baths) Nate always prefers his daddy. And that is fine by me, because it freed me up to relax and read a whole page (sometimes two!) of my book at a time.

This was our first time at Robert Moses State Park and it was perfect for our needs. We've decided it will be our go-to beach for the future (um, you know, for next year). It was smaller, less Jersey Shore-ish than other local beaches and had the amenities we need - like a place to change a diaper with a pound of sand in it and a place to purchase ice cream with which to bribe Nate off of the beach. There's also a very nice looking playground on the beach which we didn't have time for today, but definitely next time.

And when Nate wasn't in the water, he got a big kick out of digging in the sand for treasures. We told Nate he could bring some of his favorites home. We now have a nice collection of pretty shells, a crab leg and a handful of cigarette butts.

We actually had a really great day. It wasn't as much work as it could have been (as much as I'd thought it would be). The only unpleasant part of the excursion was the three minutes in which I tried to juggle Dave's wallet, the change from the cashier, Nate's hand, a giant overflowing cup of ice cream, a frozen lemonade and an ice tea while flies attacked (those things can bite!) my feet like they were covered in the most delicious dog feces ever (they were not). Dave couldn't help because he had his own hands full holding the bags, cooler, umbrella and our beach monkey (a small capuchin we keep to scare away the seagulls). But it was okay, because the seventeen year old cashier entertained me with her witty banter and confused expression, "It's so, like, HOT today. Yeah, I don't know WHAT it is. But it is HOT."  Yes, it is a great mystery with it being summer and all.

Do you enjoy the beach?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Baby sign language tip: Acknowledge communication attempts

Once you start using baby sign language consistently, it may still take awhile for your baby to sign back to you. The older the child, the faster they usually catch on. I began signing to Nate regularly when he was about four months old. (Four months is on the early side and baby sign language can be beneficial even if you start much, much later.) His first sign, MORE, didn't come until he was about ten months old. 

An important thing to remember is that you should always acknowledge your baby's attempts at signing. The more the child hears the verbal word in connection with the sign, the faster their vocabulary will grow.  When your child knows you understand them, and knows they are communicating effectively with you, the more confidence they will gain in their signing ability and the more incentive they have to sign.

In the video below, I demonstrate what not to do. I was so focused on trying to encourage Nate to crawl, that I pretty much failed to acknowledge any of his attempts to tell me that he wanted MORE of something.

10 months old

Poor Nate is desperately trying to tell me something, and I just kept putting hats on the gorilla. Each time he signed MORE, I should have acknowledged the communication by repeating the word verbally. Even better if I also signed MORE (though a little difficult to do while holding a video camera and accessorizing primates). Luckily, even with my screw ups, Nate kept learning and was regularly using over fifty signs by the time he was 15 months old.

Do you have any baby signing tips to share?

Interested in learning more about our experience with baby sign language? You can find more info on this page. Need a good book to get started? I used Baby Signing 1-2-3: The Easy-to-Use Illustrated Guide for Every Stage and Every Age.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Nate & Jason

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Ashauns

I think loveys are a helpful part of a bedtime routine, and since I'm so obsessed with Nate's sleep, I've been trying to push loveys on Nate for a long time. My mom warned me that you can't really pick a beloved item out for a kid - they have to do the choosing. (Apparently my choice was a soft white blanket with silky trim that eventually turned a lovely shade of gray. Oh Blankie, how I miss you!) But that didn't stop me from trying. We first tried "Tiger Bear" - an easily replaceable, small organic stuffed animal. Nate was not impressed.

Then we tried various members of the Sesame Street gang, since Nate loves them so much during the day. He liked playing with Bert, Ernie and Elmo, but he didn't seem particularly attached to them. He really like his stuffed gorilla for awhile, but that bromance never really went anywhere either.

I had pretty much abandoned all hope of finding a lovey when Nate discovered Ashaun. Or rather, both of "the Ashauns."

I don't remember which Ashaun came first, but at some point after Easter, he decided the bunny that came from his basket was Ashaun. On a side note, Nate picks great names. His rocking horse is Bep, for awhile everything was named Steak and now any newly named animals are Sitar. And right around that time he found a smaller pink and white checked bunny in a drawer (which must be mine, because I'm sure I would remember if someone gave him a pink bunny 'cause I'm totally sexist), which he informed us was also named Ashaun.
Sometimes they're big Ashaun and little Ashaun, sometimes Ashaun One and Ashaun Two, but mostly they are "the Ashauns." Whatever we called them, they quickly became the big bunnies on campus. They joined us at story time, right before bed. They were given a turn at the milk bar. (Yes, my son made me breastfeed stuffed rabbits. Awesome, right? Hi, Dad!) And most importantly, they were invited to sleep over in Nate's crib every night. Official lovey status.

Like many relationships, the adoration waxes and wanes. Today, just as I was thinking he was maybe getting over the Ashauns, Nate grabbed them ("ASHAUNS READ STORY!") and pulled them up into my lap for pre-naptime stories. Then he turned little Ashaun to face him and said, "Hi Ashaun! I missed you!" and planted a big kiss on his face. Guess I was wrong.

Are you a breastfeeding mama? You may be interested in my breastfeeding articles HERE.
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