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Hurrah for the Upper East Side Good Samaritan!

Posted by flsquared on January 15, 2010

Today we spent the entire day outside.  We met up with a new friend and her son and cruised around Central Park and the Time Warner Center.  My older son fell asleep on the stroller ride home and we headed over to the ING Cafe to grab a coffee and a snack and let my little guy stretch his legs.  It was a great morning, but we had to head home for lunch.

Unfortunately, David, my youngest, did not agree.

He fussed and threw a huge tantrum in the stroller as I pushed them home.  Strangers looked at me, some shot me dirty looks (even after he fell asleep!) but I paid no mind.

When I got home, I understood.

This little 14 month old had managed to take off his shoes and socks and chuck all but one shoe over the side of the stroller through the wind protector plastic that was velcroed down.  The poor guy was barefoot in 38 degree weather.

(As an aside, I am convinced that if we could find an adult with a toddler’s energy and determination, they would rule the world.)

I put a blanket on him and headed back down 15 blocks to look for the missing shoe and socks.

Nothing.

Not a huge surprise, but there is always hope.

I came back home and hung out for an hour or so when my neighbor called wanting to go for a walk.  On the hunt one last time before sundown.

Would you believe that some sweet person had put the shoe up, with the socks wrapped in a little ball inside, so that the owner would find it?

Hurrah for that kind stranger!  You seriously made my day.

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Clutter Costs: The Case of the Missing PJs

Posted by flsquared on December 13, 2009

I have admitted it before that I am an unabashed packrat.  I buy very little, but I have difficulty letting things go.  Coupled that with our living in a teeny Manhattan-sized apartment and my tendency to overestimate my free time and energy and thus begin (and not finish) projects, we have a full house.

It’s a slooooow work in progress (I work on projects and de-clutter about 15 min/day after my husband comes home), but since it doesn’t interfere with daily living it doesn’t bother me too much.

Well, let me say that it normally doesn’t interfere with daily living.

Here’s what happened a couple of weeks ago:

My oldest son’s PJs were starting to look a little small.  This summer, my mom scoured the garage sales for clothes for her grandchildren and brought up a few pairs of 3T pajamas.  Damned if I can find them anywhere!  I have looked high and low, emptied boxes and suitcases, searched closets and under the bed and they have just disappeared!

It is the worst feeling of frustration to know that you have stored something that you need and you just can’t find it.

After spending a total of probably 3 hours looking for them (care to put a cost on that lost time?), I decided that I needed to streamline the boys’ things.  I put old clothes and toys in bags and put an ad on Craigslist and Freecycle.  We got rid of 4 huge bags of stuff that was just sitting in the closet as well as our car seat travel system!  Hurrah!

I wish I had a happier ending and could tell you that after all of this purging I found the PJs but they are still missing.

The good news?  When I do decide to give up the search and rescue mission, I can use my $110 that I made from the purge and buy some new ones.

The bad news?  I sure would have rather used that time and money for something else!

Posted in baby, clutter, money, organization, saving money, simple living, toddler | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Toddler Tip: 10 Quick and Easy Ways to Toddler Proof Your Holiday Destination

Posted by flsquared on November 22, 2009

With the holidays and family get togethers coming up, one thing that I dread is predicting how my babies will stay safe in a hotel or someone else’s home.  Especially when that someone else does not tend to have many visits from babies and toddlers.

I put together a list of quick and easy ways you can temporarily toddler proof for your holiday stay while someone takes your little darling for a quick walk around the block.  Of course these are not 100% fail proof, but they may give you a few extra seconds to respond before your baby gets in trouble.

1. Quick scan:
**Get down at your toddler’s level and do a quick scan of the area to see where s/he could get into trouble.  Is there a heavy coffee table?  A delicate vase?  See what you can remove, relocate, or just be aware of.

2.  Cleaning products:
**Take a quick look in the usual areas:  under the kitchen and bathroom sinks, laundry room, etc (or just ask your host) so you can know where they are.  Close doors to these areas where you can.  If they are in common areas (or you are afraid that your toddler will wonder into these areas unsupervised), see if you can put the products up high, out of reach.  For example, I keep my cleaning products above the refrigerator and on the top of my closet.

3.  Bathroom:
**Keep the door closed and the toilet seat down.

4. Cabinet doors:
**Knob doors:  Loop one end of a rubber band around the knob, give the band a twist and loop it around the other knob.  If it’s loose, just wrap it around the knob a few more times.

**Handle doors:  slide a wooden spoon through both handles until the spoon piece “locks” against the handle.  Take a rubber band and loop it around the spoon end.  Give a twist and slide the end of the band over the other end of the spoon.

**Glass doors (for example the “push open” doors on entertainment centers):  if paint and finish are not an issue, I have used packing tape to tape the door(s) closed.  You can also use duct tape, but since packing tape is clear, it’s more difficult for little fingers to pry it off.

5.  Kitchen Stove:
**Most stoves will allow you to remove the knobs from the burners.  You can do that whether or not the stove is in use.  Just keep them handy in case you need to adjust the burners.

**Make sure to keep the handles of pots and pans turned inward and away from little searching hands.

6.  Bookshelves:
**We all saw the Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives where little ones got in trouble with bookshelves.  I spent a nightmarish summer in a sublet apartment chasing after my crawling son who was attracted to the shelves like a moth to a flame.  If any look like they would be interesting to climb, see if you can slide a chair in front of them or block them off altogether.

7. Stairs:
**I have been known to park my stroller in front of the stairs. Make sure to close (and lock) stairs to basement, attics, etc.

8.  Fireplace:
**Wrap a few towels or a blanket around a brick/stone fireplace footing.

9.  Patio / Balcony:
**Keep the door closed and locked.

10.  Bedroom:
**If you are staying the night and your toddler will be sleeping in a big boy bed, put a second mattress (or at least a few blankets or sturdy pillows (such as from the couch) to soften their fall if they slip out of bed.  In a pinch, I have used a few chairs with their backs to the bed to serve as railings and prevent the fall.

What did I miss?  What other ways do you baby and toddler proof an unfamiliar setting?

Posted in baby, family, safety, simple living, toddler | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Battle of the Laptop (or how to keep the focus on the kids)

Posted by flsquared on November 18, 2009

Toddlers are exhausting.  They have endless sources of energy and fear nothing.  No matter where they are or what they are doing, they always seem to find exactly what they should not touch, and put it directly in their mouths.  Or what they should not climb, and not only climb it, but try to jump off….head first!  Just physically and mentally exhausting.

I remember reading an article sometime last year that one of the reasons that Facebook is so popular with new moms is that it allows you to catch up with friends (or at least read their status updates) in 30 second increments.  Which is approximately the free time you have after re-directing your baby from climbing up onto the dining room table to eating the TV cable.

The problem with these 30 second intervals is that they become addictive.  First, you are reading an email or two every few hours, and slowly but surely you are creeping over to check for any sort of outside stimulation every 10 or 15 minutes.

What I have found is that when this happens, I start watching the clock as the day passes so very slowly, the kids are cranky and vocal (read:  crying, tantrums) for attention, and there really aren’t that many interesting FB updates, emails, or blogs to read.  (At least ones that you can intelligently digest in 20 seconds or less).

Instead, when the laptop is out of sight, the kids and I (and my husband, if he his home) spend quality time together and enjoy it all the more. I focus 100% on them (okay, 90%), instead of stealing glances at the inbox, and have a great time.  And time just seems to fly by.

So why does that pesky laptop seem to migrate to our dining room table more often than not?  Easy.  There are things to do: emails to answer, plans to make, weather forecasts to check, library books to renew, etc.

My new challenge to my husband and I is to put focus back on the family.  I challenge us to keep the laptop out of the common area during all but 2 hours/day, while the kids are awake.  Believe me, this will be tough for us.  And I have yet to break the news to hubby.

I will let you know how it goes.  Wish us luck!

In the meantime, I would love to hear how you minimize distractions in common areas of your house.  How do you keep your family tuned in to each other during family time?

Posted in activity, baby, challenge, family, happiness, philosophy, simple living, toddler | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Simple Pleasures: Say Goodnight

Posted by flsquared on November 9, 2009

Last night, shortly after putting my 2 year old into bed, he called me back into the room.

I was surprised.  He has always been a good sleeper, rarely making a big fuss at bedtime.  I opened the door and walked back into the room, hoping it wouldn’t be one of those nights.

I sat on the floor by his bed and stroked his hair and whispered, “What’s up?  It’s time for bed.”

Smiling, “Mama!”

“Yes?  It’s time for bed, sweetheart.”

He looked at me for a moment.  “Victor happy.”

Until that point, it had been a normal day, nothing special.

Or so I had thought.

Upon hearing those two words, my heart filled, and I knew I would remember this day forever.

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Mama’s Challenge: Can I buy a baby gift without purchasing anything else?

Posted by flsquared on October 22, 2009

Gymboree is having a 60% off sale on baby and kiddie clothes.  And I have a 20% coupon that a friend gave me to further discount the sale!

Awesome, right?

Except we don’t really need anything right now.  Well, that’s not exactly true–I could stock up on next fall’s clothing for my oldest.  However, my in laws will be in town in just 2 months and have already mentioned that they would like to buy the boys some clothes.

So we don’t need anything.

Except my Super just had a baby boy last weekend and we need to buy them a small gift.  Since they already have everything from their oldest (except in pink!), I thought I would get them a little outfit.

I entered Gymboree, kids in tow, impressed that they were actually content to hang out in the stroller while I shopped.  I found the PERFECT little outfit for the new baby, as well as a few things for my boys.  Luckily, I forgot my wallet, so I put ONLY the gift on reserve to come back later and pick it up.

The next day I stroll by and am welcomed by a huge line.  However, this is the only time that I can pick up the clothes so I stick it out…  And I start checking out little outfits here and there while in line.  Oh, the agony!!!!  Seriously, what is it about baby and toddler clothes that makes you want to buy everything even when you have more than you need?  I even check out the girls’ outfits and fawn over them!!!  (I sometimes wonder if they spray hormones in the air to make you baby-crazy).

I am happy to report that I only purchased the gift and nothing else.  Not even socks.  Not even shoes for next season (my weakness).

Do you have any tricks to avoid purchasing extra items when you are buying a gift?  I would love to hear them (as I think I got lucky this time!!!)

Posted in baby, budget, frugal, saving money, shopping, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Toddler Tip: Sticker Happy!

Posted by flsquared on April 4, 2009

On Friday, Victor and I spent some one-on-one time at the library’s Baby Play Day.  

The Carnegie Library does a great job of organizing activities for small children and this was no exception.  For the past 5 Fridays, we have been able to hang out with babies from 0-3 years, playing with new toys and learning new skills.  The toys are in different stations such as “fine motor skills”, “gross motor skills”, “art”, “music”, “reading”, etc.  Every week a different “expert” attends to answer any questions parents or caretakers have about nutrition, speech, development, etc.

This past Friday the parting gift included some stickers from the dentist.  When we got home, we broke them out and inadvertently came up with a new game:

  1. Mommy gives baby a sticker and says “Put the sticker on Victor’s tummy”
  2. If Victor puts it on his tummy, CHEERS!
  3. If he doesn’t EEEEERP!
  4. Choose a new body part and repeat.

It sounds silly, but it was a big hit!  We must have played for 20 minutes and only stopped when the stickers were completely stick-less.

Definitely a game to put on the rainy-day list!

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A Swing and a Smile

Posted by flsquared on March 28, 2009

Yesterday was a beautiful day–60 degrees, the sun was shining….  

We took a ride over to Bartlett Park to meet some friends.  Victor fell asleep in the stroller so all attention fell on David.  He just loved the swing!  

david swing

When Victor woke up, he decided to join the fun:

david victor swing

Yea Spring!!!

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Don’t Tell My Husband, BUT….

Posted by flsquared on March 24, 2009

I had a DATE on Saturday!  

Actually, he already knows.  It was with my son, David.

david

You see, with my husband being a full-time student and my being a full-time mother (and with no family within a 5 hour radius), we get few breaks.  Since David turned 4 months and has started getting a “routine”, I have started to have some time off.  Generally, Wednesday nights are my free nights (usually I get a coffee and work on the blog, go to my knitting group, or take a walk with a friend), Thursday nights out with the girls, and Saturday mornings/afternoons I go to “The Strip” to get our food for the week.

That’s the goal, but it doesn’t always work out that way.  

This past weekend, for example, my husband had to work on a presentation.  So I grabbed David and headed off to The Strip while Victor was taking his nap.  I’m not going to pretend it was easy wheeling the stroller around in the midst of the Saturday crowd, but it was worth it!   In fact, I think this is going to be the start of a new tradition.

You see, Victor, my 19 month old, is always the center of attention.  He loves people (especially women) and is a HUGE FLIRT.  Going to the Strip with David, I realized what a gem he is too.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore him, but we just haven’t have the time to bond as Victor and I have.

As we checked out the produce and fresh pasta, we were stopped by women left and right:  “He is so cute!”  “Just look at those cheeks!” “What a good baby!”  “What a smile!!”  

Makes a mama proud!

My favorite part was stopping to get a coffee and just “hanging out” with David.  We made googly eyes at each other and just smiled and laughed together.  I’ve been making such an effort to have “alone time” with my toddler that until that moment I didn’t realize that I needed time to focus on the baby as well.

I definitely think that Saturdays are now going to be mama and David days!

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Letting Go….

Posted by flsquared on March 18, 2009

We all have our weaknesses.

Even though I like to live simply, and even though it takes a very little amount of “stuff” to make me happy, and even though we try to send one thing out of the house for every thing that comes in, it seems like the amount of things we own keeps multiplying.

But I keep fighting the battle.

Right now, we’re preparing for my husband to graduate and a summer move from Pittsburgh to Manhattan.  While we live in a small space here, I’m afraid that the space may be smaller (and the kids bigger) after the move.

In preparation for the move, I am starting to sort through our things…. mostly the kids’ things.  I think the most difficulty I’m having is getting rid of outgrown clothing and streamlining “clothes-in-waiting”.

First of all, the clothes are so little and cute!  Not to mention the what ifs.  Mainly, what if we have another baby?

We’re not completely sure one way or another what we will do, but it’s a definite possibility.

In the end, I’ve decided to only keep clothes that fall into the following 4 categories:

  1. those that were given to me by my mom that I (or my brother) wore when we were little.
  2. those that were hand-knitted by me or my mother-in-law.
  3. one or two things from each size that we absolutely love.
  4. those that Victor has outgrown, but David can still wear.

Using those rules, I’ve already pulled out 7 boxes of clothes!  Amazing!!

If and when we have another baby, we can buy a few things at that point.  After all, it doesn’t make sense to lug around several boxes on a “what if”.

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