I’m so excited to get to share with you a review of the Britax Advocate 70-G3 car seat, and also giveaway a car seat to one of my readers this week! Read on for more about this great car seat, and your chance to win.
We just got back from five days on Siesta Key, Florida. It’s one of the best beaches I’ve ever been too, and the fact that Mr. B’s sweet grandparents live nearby makes it pretty much our number 1 vacation destination at this point in our lives. We try to go down to Florida once a year to visit B’s grandparents and get some beach time – it doesn’t always work out to be exactly on the calendar year – it was a year and a half between our first visit with Thomas and when we took both T and Nell last Fall, but less than a year between our November visit last year and this one – but in five years of marriage, we’ve made five trips to Siesta Key, so I’d say we’re doing well with our goal.
We love traveling with our kids. I know it’s not for every family, but B and I find so much joy in watching our children discover the world. Whether it’s Nell’s first real encounter with sand – she was meh about it – or Thomas discovering that he loves the ocean and body surfing waves after a summer of refusing to be anywhere near water without pitching a relatively large fit (which broke his swim instructor mama’s heart), it’s almost like we rediscover the world through our children’s eyes. I think the biggest key in enjoying a vacation with your young kids is to manage your expectations. The plane ride (or car ride) will have its tough moments. You won’t stay out late drinking and eating like you used to. What used to be my idea of quality beach time – at least half a day every day in the sand and the surf – has evolved to mean that two 90 minute beach sessions a day = success. Rather than walking the entire beach hand in hand with Mr. B talking about our goals for the next 5 years, we’re now running the same 20 yards of beach over and over again after two kids and talking about how to survive bedtime with four people in one tiny bedroom in our hotel. Our late night extravagant dinners have changed to early dinners, and drinking wine on the beach at sunset has become eating ice cream on the beach at sunset. And I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
On the first night we were at the beach, we walked up to Siesta Village from our hotel and grabbed ice cream to eat on the beach and watch the sunset. And for the first time in my life, I saw the green flash. Well, I’m calling it a partial see, because I had my camera up to my eye to take the picture above of the sun setting into the ocean and definitely saw the flash, but had to wait for confirmation from those around us that they saw it too before I felt comfortable saying I’d seen it and it wasn’t just some camera effect. Thomas’s mind was blown seeing the sun set into the ocean. “The sun goes Night Nights in the water?!? Can I sleep underwater? Pllllllease.” These are the moments that make playing musical Nell for 3 hours on an airplane so worth the trip.
Thomas adored the ocean. I was nervous, as I mentioned earlier, because this summer he gave his mama a lot of trouble refusing to swim. In typical Emily fashion, I said since before I had children that I would never use any kind of floatation device for my kids and never, under any circumstances, would I put them in water wings. When my friends asked me for advice, I said, “If you HAVE to have something, please pick a life vest so that they learn their torsos are how they float, not their arms.” I mean, honestly, I’ve probably deterred 5 friends from putting their kids in water wings. And last Tuesday when T was at school and I was running last minute trip errands? I threw the freaking clearance Target water wings in my cart, because our summer had been such a mess and I was willing to do anything to at least have T enjoy the water again. I didn’t break them out until he’d already been out in the ocean with me, jumping waves and having a blast, and then I gave him the water wings and he had an absolute blast. He loved floating with the waves. We held hands in the ocean and kicked our feet up together towards the sky. And I looked at B and said, “I don’t care how lame they are or the fact that I think water wings look dorky. I don’t care that I think they’re the worst invention ever for teaching your child to swim. He’s loving the water. I’m sold.” Sorry, friends who I’ve told to avoid water wings. Do whatever you need to do for your kid. Oh, Emily.
Little Miss Sis was hit or miss about the beach and the water. Some moments she loved it, some moments she wanted nothing to do with it, marched herself over to the umbrella stroller, climbed in by herself and sat with her arms crossed staring at us playing. She’s hilariously herself and we love every spicy little part of her personality.
This was one of my favorite moments of the trip. The second morning we were going to the beach, B and I were still packing the beach bag and finishing sunscreen and T and Nell were ready to go. Thomas took Nell’s hand and said, “Come on sister! Let’s go to the ocean! Mommy and daddy will catch up wif us.” Ha. 5 minutes later he fell on the walk to the beach and his skinned knee was apparently impossible to recover from, so it diverted our entire beach trip – we ended up driving to Longboat Key to see it and hope the kids fell asleep in the car.
It was a fabulous vacation, and one that we look forward to every year. So that’s where we’ve been the last little while, now I’m ready for Fall.
Can I come clean? I have struggled so much in the past two years – since Thomas hit an age where he would have “play dates” with other kids with the whole sharing thing. Like, my skin crawls when I hear a mom say, “Share”. Because I feel like so many times, kids are instructed to just share. And I don’t always want Thomas – or Nell – to grow up thinking they always have to share. In the sense that I feel sharing has come to mean, “Give whatever you’re enjoying and playing with to the kid who wants it because that’s nice and that’s sharing”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know sharing is important. And my kids have plenty of opportunities all day long to share – with each other, with friends we have over to play, etc. But I feel like there are certain circumstances where as a parent we’re ingrained to say, “Share”, or maybe we truly believe that the easiest solution would be for the kids to just share. And is sharing always necessary? Really? Just in the last week I’ve had several encounters – with my own children doing the taking and with other children doing the taking – that have brought this hot topic of mine back to the surface.
We were at a splash pad/ fountain in a cool re-developed area of Denver with a friend and her daughter who is two months older than Nell for lunch this week. Nell and her buddy were happily just sitting on the ground kicking their feet in the inch or two of water, and a little girl who was about Thomas’s age was playing with a bucket and a watering can nearby. I had brought the pool bag but left it a ways away thinking that the fountain and things to climb on would be plenty of fun for Thomas. And it was, until he saw the little girl’s bucket. And he promptly marched up to her and tried to take it out of her hand. I didn’t stop Thomas before he approached the girl, because I wanted to let him make a choice and see what he was going to do. Because eventually the goal – and he’s not there yet – is that Thomas could say to this girl, “That’s a cool bucket. Can I play with you?”. And if I hadn’t given him the opportunity to interact with that girl, then I wouldn’t have known what he’d have chosen. But when he chose the behavior that was not okay, I stepped in. I gently told Thomas that the little girl was playing with her bucket, and that we don’t take things out of other people’s hands. But, hey! Look at all the fun things we brought, and let’s just go get the pool bag and see what we can create with our own bucket and a paintbrush. I chose the teaching moment because, um, I don’t want my kid to be a bully who steals buckets at the splash pad. And I feel like gently teaching in situations like this is pretty much my job as a parent. But should I have instead taught him to ask to share it? Maybe, but in that scenario, he was trying to take something, it wasn’t his, he didn’t know the kid, and let’s be honest. How often do you walk up to a stranger and say, “Hey, great purse. Can I have it when you’re done with it?” You don’t.
Fast forward to Saturday when B had a morning golf game and I decided to take the kids to the pool. We brought our pool bag and set up shop in the corner by the baby pool, because that’s where my kids prefer to be most of the time right now. There was a mom sitting across from us with her son who was probably 2. The mom had her feet out of the water and was facing the sun – obviously using pool time with her toddler as sun bathing time. The boy was just running around the pool playing with toys, being a toddler. Nell and I were playing with the dive sticks and Thomas was practicing his kicks with his kick board when this little boy comes up to Thomas and yanks the kick board out of Thomas’s hands. The boy’s mom is looking in the general direction of this, but not doing a damn thing while I’m remembering my conversation with Thomas not two days before at the splash pad about how we don’t do that. And I thought, yeah, it would be great if T could share his kick board, but he just had it taken out of his arms. And that’s not okay – just like it’s not okay for him to take something out of someone else’s arms. And isn’t sharing about taking turns, not just giving up what you have whenever someone else wants it?
Thomas goes back to the boy, and as I watch him attempt to rip it back, I say, from about 3 feet away, but loudly enough for Thomas, the boy and this boy’s mother to hear, “Tom, why don’t you try telling him that you’re not done playing with that and you’d like it back please”. And Thomas says, “May I pease have my kick board back, I’m not done paying wif it.” And the little boy ignored T. Not uncommon for the age. But his mom did nothing, either. So Tom said again, “Peaseeeee may I have my kick board back?”. At which point the other mom says, “Cayden*, share”.
To which I wanted to say: “Well listen Cayden’s mom: It’s not Cayden’s kick board to share. So, your suggestion that Cayden share makes me realize that you expect me to tell Thomas to share his kick board, which he doesn’t have to do. Especially since your son just ripped it out of my son’s arms while you did nothing. And I’m a firm believer in giving suggestions and then letting the kids make choices, but every single bone in my body right now wants to rip the kick board out of your sweet Cayden’s arms and throw it at your Starbucks sipping head that can barely be bothered to watch your kid in the pool.” But instead, I just said, “Maybe give something else a try, T”. At which point Thomas took the kick board right out of Cayden’s arms and I couldn’t help but think, “Atta boy”.
And then, Cayden took a few other toys of ours that were floating around the baby pool, and Thomas – who wasn’t playing with them at that moment- tried to go get them and I stopped him and said, “T, are you wanting to play with those right now?” “No, but they’re mine”. “Yeah, but maybe since you’re not playing with them, this little boy can play with them for a few minutes and when you want to play with them again, you can ask him for them back”. Which I feel is the appropriate time for a kid to share – when they’ve been ignoring something completely. But I take issue with the idea that a kid who is happily playing by them self has to “share” whenever they are asked.
And I thought about it all weekend. Should I have instead of teaching T to ask for his kick board back, asked him to take turns with his kick board? Should I have taught him to say, “I’m playing with it right now, but you can have a turn in a minute?” Maybe. But do they have to share everything? Really? Because I’d corrected this exact same behavior in Thomas two days earlier because I don’t want my kid to think it’s okay to just take something that’s not his – and I don’t want him to think that just because he thinks something looks fun means the other kid has to share with him. And I don’t think my kid should always have to share, either. And I certainly don’t want my kid to grow up thinking that the moment something is demanded of him by a peer, he should have to do it. Or give up easily when something is taken from him. It is nice to share, but isn’t it also okay to say no? What do you do when you’re in these situations – when your child is both the taker and the one taken from?
Just last week I was getting weepy about my baby turning one, and here I am, now the mother of a three year old. Impossible. My sweet baby boy is 3 today, and I can’t help but reflect a little bit on the young man he is becoming.
In the past year, Thomas, you have developed an absolute obsession with all sports. Golf, football, baseball, basketball, hockey…even swimming and diving and lacrosse. You have a ridiculous memory, and so daddy has taken to teaching you the names and numbers of all the Colorado athletes so that you can rattle off sports trivia Rainman style at his request. To quote daddy, “Thomas is everything I ever wanted in a son”. But oh Thomas, you’re so much more than random sports trivia. You are funny. You are tender. You are smart. You are thoughtful. You are athletic. You are tenacious. You are pure joy.
I love the way you view the world. Everything’s magical in your eyes. I want to remember these days when everything is new, different and amazing. When a Peyton Manning jersey is the only article of clothing you’ll wear for weeks on end. When we have to tell you that an orange and blue striped polo shirt is Peyton Manning’s church shirt to get you to wear something other than your “one-eight” jersey to church. When happiness is so easily achieved by pitching a baseball to you in the backyard, or sitting down and really working with you to put together a puzzle.
I want to remember the things that one day all too soon will be no big deal – riding a light rail train with Gigi and Papa and Auntie Kate to a baseball game, getting asked to play with the big kids you adore in our neighborhood, taking bike rides to the park, and playing with your mama, daddy and sister – are the things that make your day. I want to remember the nights when you wake up and can’t go back to sleep, and you come into our bed and snuggle between daddy and me. I want to remember you love for the “If you give a mouse a cookie” series of books. I want to remember your absolute adoration for your daddy and papa. I want to remember how you watch out for your sister, how you kiss her and hug her – and sometimes move her out of your way. You are the most phenomenal big brother, and I love watching your relationship with your sister develop.
I want to remember how much you love your “guys” – Corduroy, Hippo, Lambie, Duck, Goose, and Tiger to name a few. I want to remember the look on your face when you opened a musical Snoopy card at the grocery store and insisted on getting it for Papa, then danced around King Soopers to the music.
You are so much fun, Thomas. As you hit three, you’re also tough. That tenacious attribute I mentioned above? You never give up. You want to play WITH someone at all times. You whine when you don’t get your way. But oh my, when we focus on you, you are absolutely delightful. And I know that one day, I will miss the requests to play with you all the time. I will miss you hanging on my leg when I’m cooking. And so I try to remember that in these moments, that sooner than I’m ready, you’ll be independent.
In fact, you just took your first set of swimming lessons. Having taught swim lessons, I didn’t see a huge benefit to putting you in parent tot lessons – especially since we have a neighborhood pool so you’re exposed to water all summer long. But I’m a huge proponent of swim lessons in general, so once you were old enough to take them without a parent in the water with you, I signed you right up. I talked your way into the three year old class since you were two weeks shy of the age requirement, and you rocked your first true teaching experience by someone other than mama or daddy. And we think you developed your first crush, too, on the sweet instructor. You pretend to talk to Maddie on the phone, you talk about her all the time, and when we take you to the pool you tell me your practicing your kicks so Maddie will be so proud of you.
You’ve had such a big year, Thomas. From becoming a big brother to potty training, you’re certainly much older than you were a year ago. And when I look at pictures of you a year ago to now, I’m shocked that I thought you were so big at two. You, my sweet, sweet boy, are an absolute dream. As we tucked you into bed last night we said, “Good night two year old, see you in the morning when you’re three!” and I almost cried. Because two was such a great year. And I just know that three will be equally as wonderful. There’s so much that you are “allowed” to do now that you’re three. You’ll start preschool in September, you’re eligible to play soccer which we’ve you’ve informed us you will be doing. We love you, Thomas Kirby – our 3 year old boy.
Last year shortly after Thomas’s 2nd birthday I posted the toys he loved to pieces for the previous 6 months. So I’m back with the hit toys of the last year. I joke that until he was 2, Thomas was an intellectual, then he became a jock. I’m hoping that between years 3 – 4 we can bring back a little balance.
Favorite Toys and Games for 2 – 3 Year Old Boys
Mudpuppy Puzzle Wheel - Jess brought this to Thomas when Nell was born, and I immediately fell in love with Mudpuppy puzzles. T learned how to do jigsaw puzzles with this, and I still pull it out for him when I need just 5 minutes to myself.
Mudpuppy Jumbo Puzzle (United States Map). As soon as I knew about the Mudpuppy puzzles, I ordered the Unites States Floor Puzzle for T. And we put this together at least 3 days a week. The pieces are big enough for his hands, and just complicated enough for him to spend time on it, but not so complicated that he loses patience or interest. I usually sit with him to do this puzzle, but let him do it all himself. Mudpuppy puzzles (of any variety) are one of my go-to gifts for 2 – 4 year olds now.
Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game. I’ve already waxed poetic about the Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel game. Quick, simple, a huge hit with every toddler we’ve played it with. As toddler games go, on the low end of the tedious spectrum.
Alphabet Memory. Another one I’ve mentioned before, Thomas got this for Christmas when he was 2 1/2. At first the whole game was too much for him, so we just played the letters of his name, then added his middle name. When we need a quick 5 minute version, we just play Thomas, but at 3 he can now play the whole alphabet.
Strider Bike. We got this for T when he was 27 months old, and it took him about 6 months to feel super comfortable on it, but by Spring he was a Strider Bike champ. Love this thing – he has developed great balance. And I feel like he’s pretty cool cruising around the new neighborhood on a strider bike.
Plasma Car. Oh Plasma Car. I love this thing. It’s fun for T, fun for B, fun for me. We have spent hours cruising around on this thing, Thomas cruises around on it and pretends it’s his real car. Best toddler toy ever.
Plastic Golf Clubs. I could have done this whole post with a different piece of sporting equipment, but that would be redundant. Golf still remains Thomas’s number one love, though Football made a run for his affection last Fall and he’s currently enamoured with Baseball. These plastic clubs I bought for $6 at Walmart are all he really needs. He plays in the house and backyard with these, and B takes him to the putting green with them, too. He’s getting real clubs for his birthday from us, but these will continue to be his indoor clubs.
So, those are the toys that saw us from ages 2 to 3. With a lot of other really fun stuff mixed in, but these were the toys we pulled out on a daily basis. What about you guys? Any big hits for your toddlers? Also, it’s safe to assume that Nell’s favorite toys are whatever Thomas has in his hands. She’s 100% the 2nd child who doesn’t play with age appropriate toys because her brother’s are way more fun.
Sweet Baby Girl,
We’ve made it a whole year. Hard to believe that just one short year ago, you were placed into my arms for the first time. That just one year ago we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of this sweet bundle – we didn’t know who you were, we didn’t know what you’d look like, and we didn’t know if you’d be our son or our daughter. You are still a sweet, innocent baby in my eyes, but before I know it you’ll be off to school. It won’t be long before we’re shopping for prom dresses together. Before we’re arguing over curfews. You’ll be taking on the world one day at a time – learning more and more every day who you are, what you love, and how to create happiness for yourself. I have so many hopes and dreams for your lifetime, but more than anything, I am so looking forward to having the opportunity to observe the world – and watch you grow – through your own eyes. Here are just a few things I want you, my daughter, to know.
You are beautiful. I am committed to sheltering you for as long as I possibly can from the crazy body image battle that you will soon see everywhere – on magazines at the grocery store, on TV, from your friends and even your friends’ moms. Beauty is a mindset. If I could, I would never let you hear another woman speak negatively about her body, but I know that I won’t be able to shelter you forever. So know this, my darling girl: You are beautiful, smart, funny, and the purest joy I could ever imagine. I will tell you this every single day. Multiple times a day. And I will tell myself that same thing. Do I strive to live a healthy life and make healthy choices as a role model to both you and your brother? Absolutely. But when you were born, I realized exactly how much my body is capable of. YOU taught me that. But there’s so much more to beauty than what the world will want you to believe. Know this: You fill your body with healthy foods, you keep your body active, and you love it for what it is capable of and how you were made. You treat your body well, and it will treat you well. There will be days when you feel awkward in your own skin, but you are beautiful. You will always be beautiful regardless of how tall you are, how much you weigh, or what size jeans you wear. You are perfect. You are you. And we love you to pieces.
You Are Kind. When I’m focused on the day to day and not so much the big picture, I often marvel at the difference a few months makes in the first two years of a baby’s life. Compare you, at 12 months, to a friend who is 14 months and you are still such a baby. You learn SO many new skills every week at this age. Just a year ago, you couldn’t even hold up your own head and now you try to hold mine up every morning at 4 AM like you’re trying to say, “It’s time to PLAY mom, open your eyes! Let’s go!” It’s easy to think that these are the days I’ll remember as the ones when you changed so much day to day.
But the truth is, that you have a lifetime of rapid growth ahead of you, and sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that we’re raising you for the big, wide open world. It’s been a year that makes me sometimes want to shut the world away, sweet girl. Since you were born, I’ve held your warm, dependent infant body in my arms too many times as tears rolled down my face watching breaking news of things that should not have happened – some physically close to home, some further away – all of them have touched me in a way they never would have before I had you and your brother. In the last year, simple day to day activities are no longer “safe”, to the point where you have to think not once, not even twice, but daily: “Will I go to the movies ever again? Will I ever be able to send my baby to kindergarten? Should I run that marathon?” And I’ve realized, the answer is “Yes”.
Because the world can be scary. There are bad people out there. But there are more good people. And so, we live our lives so that we can be a part of the good, and so that we can share the good that we witness with others. I owe it to you, and to your brother, to live our lives in the real world. To embrace the good. You are kind, and when you feel like the world is insurmountable, look for other kind people.
You are in charge of your own happiness. It seems silly to write this to my one year old, because right now, I’m in charge of your happiness. Daddy and I provide you food, shelter, cuddles, playtime and security. But with each passing day, you become more independent and more capable, and one day, you will be on your own. Or so you’ll think, mama and daddy will always be here for you. Always. But one day, you’ll think you’re on your own, and here’s the trick to conquering life on your own: You are in charge of how happy you are. That’s it. You will make decisions every single day that contribute to your overall happiness. Not every choice will be a great one, and that’s okay, too. We all make mistakes, so take responsibility for your mistakes and move on – it’s how we learn. Sometimes you’ll just have to admit defeat and take a new path. Sometimes you’ll have to put in hard work to get the path you chose back on track. But you create your happiness. No boy. No friend. No “happy weight”. No designer label. No car. No house. None of those single “things” will make you happy. Fill your days with the things you love, the people you love and who love you back. Somedays, you’ll wake up and feel grouchy. That’s okay. Sometimes you might need help, and that’s okay, too – part of finding happiness is learning how to ask for help. But oh, baby girl, if I could impress just one thing on you and your brother, it’s that you’re in the driver’s seat of your life. Sometimes happiness requires work. Sometimes happiness requires help from others. But it’s out there, and you can find it.
I love you sweet, sweet baby girl. Daddy and I are your champions, we will do everything we can to help you learn and grow and become the smart, independent, happy and beautiful young lady we know you will be. This first year of your life has been a beautiful one – you’ve taught us so much already – and how lucky we are that you are ours. We cannot wait to see what your second year of life will bring, and how you will continue to make a lasting impact on all the lives you touch – watch out world, here comes Nell.
The last two weeks have been tough. Nell started randomly throwing up and refusing to eat two weeks ago and for five days I was convinced we needed to be watching her for a food allergy. Then she spiked a temp, developed croup, and I realized that she just had a long bug. And just as she was on the tail end of it Sunday (she still has her croup cough), Thomas came down with the 10 day multi-bug – though he started it off with the cold and croup, and added the stomach bug into the mix on day four. We’re on day six with him, so here’s hoping that in 4 days we’ll all be well.
Couple the sick kids with some dreary days and I’ve got a bad case of spring fever. Which have led to what I call “lazy mom days”. Now, granted, when the kids are sick, sometimes you have to do what you have to do to survive, but I’ve parked T on the couch in front of the golf channel too many mornings while I disinfect the house, and his behavior is showing it. So, I’m going back to my three intentional activities a day deal from 2011. We’ll start off with quiet activities because I don’t expect him to be 100% tomorrow, but here’s what’s on the docket for T ( and Nell when appropriate) and me in the next week. I thought I’d share in case any other mama’s out there are in my rut.
When I’m doing my three (sometimes only two if one of the activities gets us out of the house for an extended period of time) intentional activities a day thing, I try to mix them up so we get something active, something thoughtful, and something fun mixed in there.
Today: Water the Garden; Write letters to B’s Grandparents; Paint Easter Egg Rocks
Monday: Swimming at the Rec Center & Easter Egg Letter Match;
Tuesday: Morning at the Playground; Springtime Sensory Tub; Paint flower pots
Wednesday: Bike Ride; Easter Storytime at Home; Plant seeds in our painted pots
Thursday: Gymnastics & Carrot Matching
Friday: Field Trip to the Zoo (weather permitting)
What have you been up to with your kids lately?
When we were getting ready for our two week trip in November, everyone we mentioned the flights and road trip to offered us their DVD players and iPads. And we considered it (before realizing we didn’t trust ourselves with other people’s $500+ technology).
And then we considered it as a good excuse to run out and buy an iPad.In the end, we decided against that for a couple reasons: 1) $500 is a lot of money, and B and I have talked on and off since they came out about buying an iPad and always decide that we wouldn’t use it enough to justify the purchase. 2) Our kids are relatively good in the car as it is, so even though we were talking about some long travel days, we didn’t think movies or apps were necessary yet, and we figured we could re-evaluate if the first day of driving was a disaster. 3) Even though we were talking mostly about entertaining a 29 month old, we wanted this trip to be about family togetherness, not distract the kid while we tourness. Talking to and pointing out signs, golf courses, and new cities to Thomas was one of the most fun things about our trip. 4) We really try to avoid technology and TV with our kids as a general rule for now. That’s not to say we never have the TV on or that we will do this forever – but as far as Thomas knows, my iPhone is for listening to Raffi and looking at pictures of himself (my vain little man) and the television was invented for the sole purpose of watching football and golf. And we’re good with that for now. Let me say that this was a personal decision for our family and we know it’s not a choice everyone makes, and we also know that there are television programs and apps that teach kids lots. Our little man is like a moth to flame with technology, if something is on TV or he has an iPhone in his hand, he’s addicted until we force him to move away. This combined with the fact that we know that once the kids are in school, computers and TV and all of that becomes so much more prevalent, we’ve decided that while we still get full control over our kids’ bubbles, we will limit technology.