Adventure Lost: Finding Me by Caring Less

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Driving our boat for the first time through Choctawhatchee Bay.

So, how does this forty year old mother of a very active toddler fully regain her sense of adventure, and in essence, who she is?

I have always been an optimistic person. However, after a decade and a half of loved ones dying, including one concentrated year of the passing of three very important people, my father, my aunt, and my mother-in-law, followed by the passing of a favorite uncle, caution and worry has come to overshadow fearlessness and excitement. Fear came into my life, complete with shiny white fangs and gnarly, pointed horns, growling and hissing words like: Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Heart Disease, Pulmonary Embolism, Chemotherapy; personally, with pregnancy, Gestational Diabetes and Cesarean Section. Throughout the years, fear has chipped away at my sense of “I can do and be anything,” and that is hard for me to admit! Even while writing this, a part of me is still in lotus land going – you are still an adventurer, an explorer, a positive person, and you have lost none of that!

But, my friends, part of the true adventure is admitting when the sense of adventure has started to fade away like watercolor, and then grabbing a paintbrush of bold oils and creating a beautiful new work on a blank canvas.

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Sunset, Seaside, South Walton County

There is a part of me, especially after becoming a mom, that has become so cautionary that I hate coffee tables, corners, and anything with a sharp edge at the height of my son’s head. I try to sit back and not hover, and I think I have done a fairly good job of not being the dreaded “helicopter parent,” especially as a first time mom. I admit it – while my son knows his boundaries – when Mac runs full speed down the sidewalk to the curb’s edge, right to the edge, I have to restrain from shouting out, “stop,” or more likely, “be careful.” Guess what? He always stops. I don’t have to remind him. Finding balance between hovering and letting go is something I think most parents can relate to. It can be tough. And I see so much of myself in my son: I can hear my mom’s amazement that I was always “right on the edge of everything,” and I know her anxiety. But she trusted me and gave me room to be me, and I am determined to do that for my son, too.

To do that, I have to find a part of myself that has been tempered and muted: my gypsy soul, if you will. Yes, I just said that. The adventurer and explorer. I have a feeling she’s right where I left her, twenty years ago…even just four years ago.

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Destin Harbor

My dad used to depart from his friends by shouting out, “Be Careless,” instead of “Be Careful,” and it always got a laugh. I didn’t hear him say that as often until after he had fought cancer for years. He may have said this phrase earlier in his life, but I never heard it much till towards the end. That’s significant. He, like many, in arguably the most challenging part of his life, found laughter, fun, and adventure. Even in a phrase.

So, with a little less care, and filling the glass half full of lemonade, I have started to regain who I am and laugh in the face of fear by doing things that are full of adventure, and doing them with my son!

Mac, who can climb up ladders like a boss, but going down is a different story. At the top of the ladder, he has been nervous like a kitten in a tree. However, he decided the other day that he could climb back down with my help. Finally! And it was on a tall ladder at the top of a tree house that he made that decision. Yesterday,  I was invited to paddle board while with friends, recently. It was in the morning before work, and my husband was at the office. I jumped on my friend’s paddle board for a quick ocean ride after assuring Mac he could watch me and would be fine with our dear friends whom he knows very well. He was fine and even sat on the paddle board after I returned from my short jaunt; this is huge, considering his newfound understanding of sharks, stingrays, and jellyfish: all the big bads in the water. We have a beach camping trip we are planning – our first time camping with Mac. We’ll be roughing it on a small island, but with all the accommodations of a true glamping experience. ūüėČ May wanderlust and exploration abound.

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Treehouse on the walk to Baytowne Warf Marina in Sandestin

I have firmly reset my adventure compass to find that girl from twenty years ago, from four years ago, and with a little luck and a sprinkling of fairie dust, I’ll morph into a healthy combination of the three.

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My favorite beach somewhere on 30A. The second time I went paddle boarding. Dolphins came to chat.

What about you? Have the difficulties in life dampened your spirit of adventure? What healthy ways do you keep a positive attitude?

 

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Helen McCall Park

We love this park! It’s off 98 in Santa Rosa Beach, right near 30A, and the playground is well-designed.

I have written about two other playgrounds that we frequent in the Destin area. This one is not as visible. When I first heard about it, I knew it would be good because when I asked a 6 year old on our neighborhood playground the location of other playgrounds nearby, he told me about it.

There is a toddler section of the playground that is completely shaded. Much of the playground is shaded, offering respite from the bright sun.


Across the playground is a larger structure, complete with rock walls, ladders, slides, and bridges. It is nice because when toddlers graduate to this side of the park, the structure is built for various developmental stages and stimulates different levels of growth.



The swings, rope tower, and see-saws keep the kiddos moving. My son never tires of this park, and it is our favorite.

The park also has a picnic area and bathrooms that are kept clean, so it’s perfect to bring lunch, snack, or to plan a child’s birthday celebration.


One of the best features is the splash pad. As most splash pads, it only runs when it’s warm. This park is wonderful for a morning, or afternoon, of playground time and then a cool-off in the splash pad.

Play hard,

J.

The Village of Baytowne Warf Playground

Located in the Grand Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, The Village of Baytowne Warf is the hub for fun, family-friendly activities.  Our first holiday and third day after we moved here, October 31st, we put on our Winnie the Pooh and friends costumes and went to the Halloween festival for a reprieve from moving and boxes, and we had a blast! Each holiday, the Village is brightly and beautifully adorned. We have enjoyed celebrations and parades there since. Most events are family-friendly and free. If you are a new resident or are vacationing, here is a link to the Village’s calendar of events.

img_1623-1When you enter Grand Sandestin Golf community you’ll need to ask for a parking pass to Baytowne Warf at the gate. The playground here is an adventure of activity from toddlers to ten year olds, and the occasional big kid, like yours truly. The red and white lighthouse stands as a beacon: the promise of curiosity and fun for the energetic child.

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Nautical themed in structure and decor, the playground inspires the imagination of swimming underwater with sea creatures to climbing into the lighthouse as a keeper or sailor.

Safe! I love how this playground is built and how safe it is, especially for the young and adventurous toddler. Many taller structures make me a little nervous as Mac is a daredevil (karma sucks) since so many of them tend to have wide open gaps at the tops of ladders and rock walls. Here, Mac can walk up the wide steps to the lighthouse tower and go down the slide without encountering those high gaps. Climbing ladders is a skill he has acquired but isn’t totally comfortable with, especially if the ladder is high. Here, I feel confident he can practice that new skill with 4 or 5 rung ladders within small passages.

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The higher walls can limit visibility, so while I feel the structure is safer than many, to keep an eye on Mac on some parts of the playground, I am usually right behind him on the otherwise hard-to-see places; it makes me feel a little like a helicopter parent. That’s really the only downside I’ve found to this playground. Darn, I get to climb and play with my kiddo. That’s tough. ūüėČ

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Half the playground is lower and spread out, structured for blossoming toddlers. The mulch is rubber from recycled tires. There are only two swings – a baby swing and a chair swing. The tunnel, slide, and climbing stairs are great for little legs.

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Toddler zone
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A view from the very back of the playground. The toddler section is at the back of the playground, seen here.

Next door is an ice cream shop which is nice for a fun post-playground treat. Also, around the back of the ice cream shop are the nearest public restrooms.

 

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If it’s near lunch, The Baytowne Melt is across from the playground, and offers a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s a convenient and inexpensive lunch, especially for the little ones. Grilled cheese sandwiches are Mac’s favorite.

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There are plenty of other fun activities at Baytowne Warf, including an arcade, putt putt, a shooting gallery, ropes course, rock wall, a bungee trampoline thingy, and my son’s favorite – a carousel complete with horses and other fantastic creatures. One of the best features is a simple green grassy hill in front of the stage, by the fountain where children can run, run, run!

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View crossing over the second footbridge, going toward the carousel and rock wall.

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Rock wall.
Don’t miss a tour of the impressive marina just a short walk from the playground. You’ll find a few, fun tree houses along the way. My husband was very impressed when he saw a Nordhaven docked on our first visit. There are several restaurants to satisfy your taste, including places with seafood, pizza, sushi, and wings. Do you like dualing pianos? Check out Rum Runners. Want a little late-night fun? Stay past 10 pm for this sweet beach town’s local nightlife. It’s fun, yet low key, and the area is clean and safe.

Baytowne Warf is full of entertainment for kids, and adults. I recommend adding it to your rotation of Destin activities, whether you’re a local or a visitor.

Enjoy!

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Mardi Gras golf cart parade at Baytowne Warf, 2017.

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img_0730Mac and I dancing to  a little live Dixieland jazz at the Mardi Gras parade. My hubby dancing with him, too. No we didn’t plan to wear the same thing. That’s how our Mardi Gras happened to work out. ūüôā

 

 

Destin Commons Playground and Shopping Area

When I moved to the Destin area, I was thrust into a temporary stay-at-home mom life. My busy two-year old needed outside time and playgrounds and kids…and I needed adults. I searched online in the Destin area playgrounds and didn’t find much. I asked neighbors and explored and found great playgrounds, which were a life-saver. This is the first review of my playground series for the primary playgrounds in my rotation for those new to the area and those visiting on vacation.

If you are new to the Destin area or you are visiting and need a fun, physical outlet for your kiddos, the playground at Destin Commons is fantastic. From a 2 year old’s perspective, everything is happy pirate and nautical. Mac loves the colorful pink and yellow ray he calls Mr. Ray, from the movie Finding Nemo, the boat because…it’s a boat, and the cannonball pile from which he thankfully still has not jumped off the very top. I keep waiting for that one.


The playground equipment is typical of what one sees at many malls these days: soft foam sculpted structures that are bright and colorful. The ground is padded as well. Pirate and nautical themed benches surround the border of the playground and there is a clear view of all play structures Рvery open. 

Mac was able to handle most playground equipment at the Destin Commons playground very well, so I have been able to sit, watch, and relax and not have to follow him around. It’s nice for quieter days after there’s been a lot of activity and we need a day to recoup, yet he still needs entertainment and activity.

If you’re visiting and want to go to a movie, there is an AMC directly across from the playground. A children’s train runs most weekends, and tickets are $4, although that may have changed during season. There are plenty of stores to tempt: Pandora, Brighton, Sunglasses World, Sephora, H&M, Guess, Hollister, Build- A-Bear Workshop, Bass Pro. It’s an outdoor mall, so there is an abundance of shopping, including some adorable boutiques. You can visit the Destin Commons website here.¬†


We moved here in October. Leave it to us to move to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and not be able to go in the water because of cooler weather. Yes, this is north Florida and temps can get into the teens. We love the water and often say we would live in the ocean if we could. Despite the colder weather, we did log in plenty of beach time on a few of the rogue, warmer days.

When the weather is rough, we loved going to visit Bass Pro, let Mac climb in and out of boats and on the side-by-sides, and dream of future warmer days. ¬†(Please always attend your child if they’re on any equipment for their safety, and to teach them to respect property.) Mac loves to see the fish – they have an enormous Grouper he loves, a huge Red, and three Jacks. There is a cool doamed window kids can sit in and feel like they’re in the water with the fish. Bass Pro in Destin Commons is two-story wonderland of fishing, hunting, and camping goods and other outdoorsy merchandise. We like to visit the playground when the weather permits, and then we may stop at El Jalisco for lunch, but that’s when we’re there in a weekend family outing.

Last week we had more warm weather after a cold front had passed through. When I took Mac to Destin Commons, We approached the playground and I heard it before I saw it: water! The splash pad was up and running! It’s spring break, so tourist season is in full swing. I knew he wouldn’t leave dry. I had no bathing suit for Mac and no towel in the car. Hadn’t I figured that out by now? Toddler life in a beach town? Have bathing suit, have towel, will travel? Come on, now, Janie.

My kid. After I told him we would go to the playground, first, and then maybe the splash pad, he agreed and ran to the playground. He played for ten minutes- maybe fifteen. I had my eyes on him the entire time, and I saw it. The stop, the little blond head turned toward that rushing water, and he darted to the water. All I wanted to do was remove the shoes and socks for which I had no replacements! Like a slow-mo action sequence in an action film, and I bolted after him…the shoes! Take off the shoes! I jumped from the bench, leaped across the playground, dodged children, yelling his name. Did I actually think I would catch him? We had other errands to run and planned on meeting my husband, Mac’s daddy, “AP” for lunch. I did have a spare change of clothes and a pair of his sweatpants, which substituted for a towel.¬†


He had a blast, of course. A dozen or so other children were politely playing on the playground. My child was chasing the sprouts of water, soaked through, head to toe, having the time of his life. We later went about our errands and lunch, and he got carried everywhere. I now have a spare pair of flip flops in his clothes bag.

If you visit the playground during the spring and summer months, be prepared for spontaneous water escapades and enjoy.

Love, J.

3 Day Potty Training – Success!

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He did it!

 

Two weeks out – the entire experience was a great success.¬†I highly recommend this method. Knock it out and you’re home-free…diaper-free…pull-up free…wipe-free…no. Never wipe free. Wipes are gold – useful for so much more than little bottoms.

That being said, here’s the worst:

The first big disaster: I think this was day four or five when¬†Mac was sitting on our loveseat and I asked him if he had to potty and he said no. He was watching a show and he peed on the loveseat. This is a piece of furniture that was given to us by good friends who moved cross country and have three children, two grown. She knows her stuff. It’s an older loveseat/small sofa with a couch cover, and the cushions are brilliantly wrapped in plastic. Thank God she is a smart mama!

Scene straight out of classic chaotic mom movie: naked toddler, toys scattered, couch cover stripped and in the washer; couch cushions unzipped and waiting to go in washer; plastic-covered foam couch cushions on floor; clean red blanket ready to be wrapped on top of cushions to sit on because Рoh yeah! Рwe had company in a half hour to watch the FSU basketball game.

And did I mention the other pile of sheets and bed cover waiting to go into the washer with¬†the couch cushions because there was a nap-time accident (one of three since all this started). Dog running around. Kitten bouncing overhead. Full-on family circus mass hysteria! Cue husband entry through the front door. He hugs me, assesses the situation, and directly makes me a lovely martini. (I am not a big drinker, especially when I am in full-on mommy mode, but I relished the cocktail.) Good man. And our company was our good buddy who would get a kick out of everything…so no pressure there. At that point, I was no longer concerned. No Shirt, No Shoes, No Pants, No Problems over here in Potty – Training Land! Ok. for the little guy only, please.

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Minor disaster…nothing time, a washing machine, patience, and love and laughter can’t fix.

 

That’s the worst it got.¬†So, in the beginning, there was a mommy…

As I researched this and talked to others, I heard day one was the hardest. Of course my craziest was well after¬†the initial three days. But,¬†I was ready! I had the potty we have been using with us in the living room since that’s where we spend most of our time. However, when we played in his room, and I moved the potty in there, he had a problem with it. I understand. Who wants a potty near their bed…unless you live in the medieval or renaissance periods.¬†We had our coloring books, movies, toys all lined up. We had watched the potty training video and started each day with it. I was prepped with Reece’s Pieces and marshmallows, and gummy bears¬†as treats. (Let me state here that I did not, and still do not, discipline if he has an accident. This is a learning process and it takes patience.)

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Day  One: I had braced myself for potty training hell. He made it to the potty all day except twice, and those were just wet accidents, and he was dry all through nap and that night! I woke up at 2 am to take him to the potty. He went. After washing hands and everything, he went right back to bed. It was a breeze.

I dressed him in an over-sized t-shirt as recommended. Be sure to tie at the waist with a belt or sash. I used a bathrobe belt. It worked for the first day and a half. Then he was over it.

Dare I hope? That was the bad day?

Day Two: He did everything right away in the potty that morning. Seriously? Another good day except a wet bed through nap. The long t-shirt came in useful because it catches…things. We had one incident where we made it to the potty, but barely, so I recommend the long t-shirt thing. That night, I woke up in the middle of the night, and he had a complete meltdown. He did not want to go potty…tears…the works.

Right here, let me say this: listen to your kid. Yes, you need to sit them on the potty to try, and you may need to say something like, “If you go, you’ll get marshmallows,” but if they are full-on rejecting it, crying or bucking, like the song says, let it go! Return when things calm down.

So, I put him back to bed. What’s the worst that would happen? I’d have to wash sheets and give him a bath. Big deal. We all went back to sleep, and he stayed dry all night!

Day Three: ¬†Last day! He had no accidents and went in the potty all day! Overall, the initial three days went well. We have recently moved into a two bedroom apt. when we moved to the Destin area – downsized greatly from a 3/2 and full garage of stuff. We don’t have much space. We have carpet (we prefer tile and wood floors). I have read some people in our situation camped out in a tiled area for the three days. That’s fine if you’re willing to do it. I was not. That may work better for an 18 month old, but my 26 month old is way too active. I have a fantastic carpet cleaner and our sanity was worth more than having to clean up a few messes.

Day 4 and After: It has been interesting on occasion. The three days worked. On day three, after my husband got home from work and we were talking, Mac ran to the bathroom and yelled, “I going pee-pee! I going pee-pee!” So, he felt he had to go and went.

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Running on the beach – pull-up free in big boy underwear!

 

You’re supposed to leave your child in only pants for one month – three months after the initial 3 day training. Basically, never put them in underwear because they are so used to the feeling of a diaper or pull-up that they mistake the underwear for a diaper or pull-up and can regress to going in their underwear. I get that. Makes sense. However, because Mac took to it so well, I was willing to try wearing nothing under pants for a few days as we slowly started to venture out. I put the little potty in his radio flyer wagon, and we walked to our playground in our complex. We were so happy to get out! We only stayed out for a short period, and I asked if he needed to potty. He said no. And he didn’t.¬†He went when we came back inside.

As soon as we really left the house to go out, the underwear came on. Baby steps out the door…baby steps to the car…baby steps to the¬†car seat…. I was not going to take him to the playground or anywhere with no underwear on. Again – maintain sanity. Also, Mac was doing well, and I didn’t think he’d regress. It’s totally your call because you know your kid. Know we did no underwear at the house for a week after and now he wears underwear and is doing fine.

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Child sized potty at a local WalMart family restroom. It was a big deal for Mac to see one his size!

 

When is your child ready? I understand when your child pays attention to the potty, wants to be out of diapers, and shows interest in watching you go potty, that’s the time to start. This intensive method is recommended for children 18 months and up. Mac had trained some before our move. When he ran to the potty once a few weeks ago to go #2 in the potty, I decided to go for it. I am glad I did!

Two tips: Take your child shopping to pick out his or her first underwear and make a big deal! That is the prize, not the candy or treats or stickers along the way, but to wear big boy or big girl underwear (like mommy and daddy). Also, choose¬†one or two¬†books to keep by the potty so that your child will sit and wait on #2.¬†I use small, hard-page books for easy cleaning with a Clorox wipe. Teach that it can take a little while for that to come, and even if your child goes once, to sit and be sure there is no more coming. That second tip came from my former day-care director. She’s a pro, and I listen to those who know! This has helped us.

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Good Luck! Comment below and let me know how your experience is going. Have any tips for readers? Please share.

Cheers, J.

3 Day Potty Training – New Adventures, New Town, New Year

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I am back. Since my last post, I have moved to a new town and we have a very new life on the Emerald Coast in Florida. My husband received a call from a recruiter and a great job opportunity with a really good company. We got the call in August, got the offer at the beginning of October, and after downsizing a 3 bdrm, 2 bath house with a full two car garage of storage and moving our family, we were in our new, albeit beautiful, but TWO bedroom apartment in 27 days. Whew. After more downsizing and the fun of the holiday season, I am back on my blog schedule. I wish I could say I’m organized enough to blog¬†during extremely chaotic times, but that just ain’t true. I do continuously journal, however.¬†So, I’ve missed you guys and I’m glad to be back.

wp_20170109_005And my first post¬†on my first day back at it is on this whole 3-day potty training craze. We start today!¬†I am home, for now, with my son. Before we moved, I worked full time and I had planned on doing the 3-day training a few months ago over a holiday weekend, but a little Cat 1 hurricane called Hermine hit¬†us, and well, although I had still planned on potty training¬†despite the hurricane, to the point that I went to Toys¬†“R” Us to buy our Paw Patrol potty while everyone else was buying hurricane supplies (we were already stocked), the circumstances proved to be too much for me. So, here we are: a new home and town, a new year, and ready for a new phase of toddlerhood…and parenthood!

There are lots of sites that help with how to do this. You can even buy programs. I talked with friends about their experiences (thanks and shout out¬†to my friend, Jonathan and my other friend, Blake) and read online. I like this article in Parenting magazine. What this article doesn’t include is that you should keep the potty with you in every room your in, which I learned from my friend Jonathan. That worked this morning until Mac was in his room, playing with his trains, and was all, “I don’t want to go potty, Mom! Take the potty out of my room!” I think he’ll be cool with it in the living room, since he hasn’t really noticed it. I can’t blame him. I wouldn’t want my potty by my bed, either. Also, you’re supposed to let your kid go for a month without underwear – only pants. That’s also not in this article, but is what I learned from friends. So, we’ll see how that goes.

The article says you’re supposed to take them or ask them to go every 15 minutes. My kid started looking at me like I had 3 heads. So, I backed off a little. He has put everything in the potty, before, so he’s used to the feeling, a little. I think he’s ready. He just turned 2 in October, and he started potty training at his former daycare before we left. We had a pretty good rhythm. He regressed a little when we moved over. Out of nowhere, he wouldn’t even try, and I couldn’t get him to. Hopefully this works. We’ll know in 3 days…and then another month. I am trying not to annoy him by having him constantly drink. I have Honest Kids juice boxes which are fun for him to drink, so I plan to use those to get more liquid into him.

wp_20170109_001I put him in this extra orange t-shirt I had as an extra shirt from when I made (ahem…threw together) my husband’s Halloween Tigger costume this year. I grabbed a sash I had for a “belt,” and he loves it! He looks like a brightly adorned Jesus or like he’s wearing a kimono, haha. The article suggests putting them in an oversized shirt to cover everything, but for easy access (no pulling down and pulling up, just going). I’d let him run around in his birthday suit, but it’s dead of winter and the coldest days we’ve had (yes, I know, we’re at the beach how cold can it get?¬†But, we’re¬†north Florida or LA – Lower Alabama). A little coverage helps.

One final tool that my friend Blake sent me is a fabulous potty training video geared toward toddlers. It’s helpful and teaches sign language and cute songs that Mac liked. It repeats and is a little annoying for adults, but it preps them for their new adventure. As an educational tool, I like it.

Have plenty of Clorox wipes on hand! I wipe the potty after each time he uses it. Also, if you can stay on tile, do it. If you’re like me and you have carpet (not my choice) Folex is a cleaner my mom told me about and you can find it at Lowe’s or Home Depot. It is awesome! For stains, every mom needs a bar of Fels-Naptha! Thanks to my longest and best friend Jennifer and SIL Kelly for that info. It gets out stains like nobody’s business!

Find a reward for when your child actually goes in the potty. We potty, wash hands, and he gets 2 or 3 marshmallows or Reece Pieces. However, that being said, the only way I could get Mac to try and sit on the potty this morning was by letting him eat his cheese toast in his pop up tent, per his request. He didn’t go, but he sat on the potty! So, whatever it takes…within reason. ūüôā

Since I wrote this, he has gone twice. The longer shirt proves very helpful as it caught some of¬†the urine¬†and the rest went in the potty. So, he’s now in one of my oversized old t-shirts and the second shirt has stayed clean! Baby Steps.

Be good,

J.

Halloween 2015: Where the Wild Things Are (or Were…)

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Halloween Morning, 2015, tailgating on college game day! College kids were yelling out their cars: “That was my favorite book!”

It’s that time of year when my writing and exercising suffers because I’m busy making costumes for our family. My early-morning free time before work inevitably becomes a cloud of material, polyfoam, thread, and snippits of sequins, fur, and other glitzy or scaly parts. I love it!

This year, I am making a Winnie the Pooh costume for Mac Attack. Next year, he may be too old to want to be Pooh, so I’m taking advantage of his love for the “hunny” grubbing, lovable bear this year. That post, when and if I finish, will be posted in the next few weeks. (It’s proving a bit of a challenge as I am a novice seamstress, at best!)

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Mac Attack’s first Trick-or-Treat outing, Halloween evening. Children were bounding up to us, excited to see their favorite storybook characters.

Last year, when my son was 6 months old, I brought home a copy of a children’s classic: “Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak. It was my souvenir for him from my anniversary trip with my husband to New Orleans, and my visit to The Faulkner House. Mac Attack fell in love with the story! So, naturally, I thought it would be super fun to do characters from the book for Halloween.

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I am often overly-ambitious and can be a bit obsessive once I’m involved in a project. I love a challenge! So, I found two amazing sources on the internet that I used to create our costumes. The first was a fabulous blog “Tell, Love and Party” on how to make the Max wolf costume you’ll find here, and linked into her blog about her costuming experience was a great instructional YouTube video you’ll find here. I am no seamstress and have never followed a pattern and this video was a treasure to find!

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Mac Attack as “Max” and my beautiful mama – his “Memaw”

So, not only did I make the costumes, I decided to make the wild thing head pieces. I found instructions on Instructables.com, here. There are many options to choose from using paper mache, poster board, to paper plates. I liked this because it seemed it wouldn’t be quite so heavy as paper mache, and it would still have the big bobble-head look. ūüôā

My husband wins the “Hubby-Daddy of the Year” award for rocking his Wild Thing costume! Especially since I ran out of time to make his shirt and didn’t paint on the orange stripes, but used duct tape, instead. In a colder climate, that would’ve been fine. Not in North Florida on a hot Halloween! With the polyfoam wild things head pieces in 70 degree weather, we were a hot mess. Literally. But it was fun!

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Mac Attack receiving his first candy while trick-or-treating!

If you are silly like me and want to do extensive head pieces and costumes, I recommend starting in late August, especially if you work full time, like I do. I didn’t get to finish all the claws or my costume, completely (layered feather leg look in “Tell, Love and Party” blog). Also, I didn’t finish all the hair on my wild thing, nor did I finish the beard part of my husband’s costume. Mac Attack didn’t keep his hood on because it was too hot. I used a lighter-weight fleece, and it was okay for a short period. I’d use a lightweight jersey or cotton material here in Florida, next time. I will resurrect these in another year or two, remake the Max costume, and add finishing touches to the monsters.

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Where the Wild Things Are Selfie

So, Happy Halloween! “Let the wild rumpus start.” ūüôā

Prost,

J.

 

Happy Hour in Toddlerville

 

wp_20160914_004Last week was wild. By Friday afternoon, after a week of intense work and Thursday night emergencies with other family members, I was ready to jump off the zooming train and land on soft, comfortable dirt, bushes, or cacti…anything to stop and breathe. Thursday was the pinnacle of chaos. My heart was breaking for my family in trouble.

Friday morning comes along and I see our office hotline calendar at work and notice the colored-in circle on Thursday’s date: a full moon!

That is why people parked crooked at WalMart on Thursday afternoon and why all hell broke loose that night with phone calls and text messages about the two massive difficulties on either side of my family! Thursday night was all “dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.” I thought the monster from Stranger Things was going to burst through the ceiling any moment.

I blame it on the full moon. ūüėČ

Friday Afternoon Happy Hour: Mega Blocks, Winnie the Pooh, and a Sam Adams Octoberfest, please!wp_20160914_002-2

After the rippling effect of the proverbial boulders falling in the water had settled, and after a workday of foggy-viewed, head-ache infused tedium had ebbed, I got home to my sweet Mac Attack, whose attack was snuggles and kisses, and a promising half hour of mega-block castle building pared with Winnie the Pooh on in the background and a Sam Adams Octoberfest (only 1 for Mama).

My how happy hour has changed. The only stress for that short time was if a Mega Block tower fell down and when the Heffalumps and Woozles invaded Pooh’s dreams. And even the latter is a pretty entertaining show. (Good grief! What were those 1960s Disney cartoonists and composers smoking?) ūüėČ

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(Things did settle down in one situation, and the other will soon work out.)

Sweet Morning Moments

I was up at 4 am to get my workout in. Really, to get started back in a workout routine. After my workout and shower, I was ready for an hour of writing before getting my family up for school and work.

I had my tea made. I had my laptop open to my most recent chapter of my novel, and then I heard it.

The doorknob rattling in surround-sound.

The volume on our baby monitor is up so that I can hear my son if he wakes up and opens his door in the middle of the night. He always closes the door behind him, so I always hear a rattling and shutting, as I heard it at 5 a.m. this morning.

I turned around and saw his near 3 ft. silhouette standing at the end of the hallway and started running toward me. Forgetting the computer, my tea, and writing goals, I knelt down and opened my arms to embrace his morning hug. I turned everything off, sat down on the couch with him, and we watched his nursery rhyme YouTube channels. His new favorite is woodland creatures in a snowy forest singing Jesus Loves Me. We played it on repeat.

I know, very well, there will be a morning when I have hours to write. My boy will be off playing at a friend’s house, off to camp, off to college, so I treasure every moment with him.

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Mac Attack playing at our neighborhood park.

Being an older parent of a toddler has many blessings. I have years under my belt and a different appreciation for life than what I had at twenty. I’m not knocking twenty, but I still had my entire family alive and well at twenty. Now, most of them have passed away. That sort of loss changes you. Yet, with the difficult comes much good. Through all that, now I’m married to the love of my life, and we have a beautiful little boy.

My sweet morning moments: my well-rested son running out of his bedroom in the early morning hours into my arms. Now that’s a great way to start my day!

Gratefully,

J.

Kittens and Toddlers – Best Friends or Archenemies?

In my seventh month of pregnancy, two and a half years ago, my beloved adopted cat, Hercules, “dun r-u-n-n-o-f-t.” I was devastated. We looked everywhere. Hercules had a problem, though. He was possessive. Any other man who came into my life, he hated, like my husband and my two dogs. We all (family and friends) knew why he left. He sensed that I was pregnant, and that was the last straw. Like one of my favorite vocalists, Frank Sinatra, he was done with me once I crossed him.

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Hercules at Halloween, approx. 7 years old. I had him for a year, circa 2011.

Our suspicions were confirmed when my brother went for a walk in our neighborhood on Thanksgiving day, a few months after my son was born, and found Hercules. He picked him up and walked him back to our house. The closer my brother got to our property, the more agitated Hercules became. When I approached him, he growled and bounded out of my brother’s arms. No chance for a reconciliation.¬†He was¬†obviously well fed¬†and seemed settled at his new home where my brother found him, so that let me rest well at night.

Fast forward a little over a year from the time he left. Our son, whom I’ll call Mac Attack, was using all his new words and making animal noises. Cat and kitten were favorites.

The hubs, being a sensitive and thoughtful guy, decided to get us a kitten – one who would be a family cat. Now, I would’ve gone to the shelter or pet store and brought the first kitten home (maybe a few), but the hubs has had lots of pets, cats included, and is a savvy shopper. He brought home our little tuxedo kitten one night. My awesome SIL, aka “the animal whisperer,” found her at the pet store in her small nearby town. Meet our girl, Zoe.

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Zoe is a kitten. How do you explain to a 1 1/2 year old that kittens chase things? Nobody told me I’d have to referee between my kitten and toddler.

Zoe’s toys: Megablocks; blankets; my bathrobe belt; Thomas the Train miniature toys; dump trucks; any mouth-sized toy; a plastic slinky. And that whole tuxedo cat thing? Yeah. Tree-cats. She gets on top of everything she can and looks for ways to get higher.

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I know having multiple children can be tough. What about an only child and a kitten? You can’t put the kitten in time-out to help improve its behavior. The kitten swats at Mac Attack (we keep her claws clipped), and Mac Attack swats back.

The following ensues: ¬†“Don’t hit the kitten. But, it’s okay if she hits you. That’s how kittens play. But, we don’t play like that. People don’t hit when we play. So, no hitting.”

Seriously?

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Zoe in the Mega Block drawer. Waiting to pounce on the blocks.

Zoe has calmed a good bit, and she has her moments when she’ll be still long enough to let us pet her. Mac Attack pets her and they have their sweet moments until he puts a long blanket on as a cape, imitating the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. He turns, and sees Zoe wrestling with my bathrobe belt. A double-whammy “mine, mine, mine” meltdown.

These are some of our problems in Toddlerville, but I’ll take ’em!

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Zoe and Mac Attack prowling the slinky…who will get to it first?

 

How about you? Do you have any funny toddler-kitten stories? Or toddler and any pet, for that matter?