An Adventurous Life for the Budgeting Family

Amazing Playgrounds Popping Up Everywhere

Amazing Playgrounds Popping Up Everywhere

Amazing playgrounds have been popping up everywhere I go lately. First, it was the telltale construction signs around the old playground in Audubon Park. Then, I saw themed playgrounds in a suburb of Atlanta while visiting over the summer. Before I knew it, our closest city park had two fantastic new playgrounds. And there is a recurring theme I’ve noticed — these playgrounds were created by the same company.

I was so impressed with the new playgrounds at Audubon Park, which were donated by the Drew Brees Foundation, that I started inspecting the insignia on the pieces of equipment. The space was created by Landscape Structures. I am incredibly impressed with this company. They create all-inclusive, differently abled-accessible play spaces that childhood dreams are made of! For instance, at Audubon Park in New Orleans, there is a zip line for both big kids and little kids or children without core strength and need to sit in the bucket seat. I will admit, I’ve tried both of them on multiple visits and they are thrilling!

While in the suburbs of Atlanta last summer, I came across another Landscape Structures creation that blew my mind. This playground was entirely farm themed. There was a pig pen with a giant hog to climb on, a climbing structure with tube slides and a chicken coop area, and a big tractor along with swings and a seesaw for all abilities and ages.

Now I totally want to do a trip to all of my favorite playgrounds made by Landscape Structures. Here are some of the most impressive ones I found on their website with the location. If you’re in one of these cities with your children, be sure to stop by and play awhile!

Indian Creek Playground

Berwyn Heights, Maryland

Indian Creek Playground

Jonathan L. Ielpi Firefighters Park

Great Neck, NY

This one would be near and dear to my heart as a firefighter’s wife.

Firefighters Playground

Firefighter Dog

Sibley Park

Mankato, Minnesota

This playground has the same farm theme as the one in Lawrenceville, Georgia that we visited. So cute!

Farm Playground

Turkey Thicket Recreation Center

Washington, DC

Waterworks Playground

Beaver Dam, Wisconsin

“For all Kids. For all Abilities.”

Westside Park

Los Angeles, California

Westside Playground, LA

West Common Playground at Central Park

Carmel, Indiana

This is futuristic awesomeness.

Playground at Central Park Indiana

What It Was Like to Have an Incomplete Miscarriage and Emergency D&C

What It Was Like to Have an Incomplete Miscarriage and Emergency D&C

I had hoped that my children would be two years apart. That always seems like a great way to have alone time with your first child and get through a little over a year of being a new parent before beginning the journey of being pregnant and having a second child. So when I missed my period last November, I was thrilled. The timing would be perfect! My son was 17 months old, I was ready to wean him off breastfeeding, and the new baby would be born mere weeks after its older brother would be turning two!

My excitement led me to go ahead and tell my family and a select few friends that I was expecting. I also allowed myself to eat a little extra yummy food at each meal (okay, between meals too because I’m a glutton when it comes to food) to fend off my constant morning sickness. In retrospect, I feel really silly and naive that I blabbed all about my nausea and my excitement for this new life all through Christmas with my family. Because a week or two after I came home from our vacation after the new year, I began to spot.

I’m pretty sure I spotted before my first was born. It is a fairly normal occurrence in early pregnancy. But something felt different. I still hadn’t had my first prenatal appointment with my midwife group at Ochsner Baptist in New Orleans, so I had not had the reassurance that I was definitely carrying a viable pregnancy yet. When my appointment finally came around, I shared that I had been spotting. I had to answer a ton of questions as usual for a first prenatal exam and then had a pelvic exam. The nurse midwife said that everything was good and I was definitely pregnant. However, she didn’t check the heartbeat. I didn’t realize until afterward, on my drive home, that I didn’t get to hear my sweet baby’s heartbeat. That would have made everything so real and let me know that things were progressing okay. I wonder if she had skipped that on purpose or if it was by accident. And if it were on purpose, was it because she wasn’t sure she would hear a heartbeat? Or was she having a bad day and wanted to get the meeting over with?

Anyhow, my spotting didn’t stop. Two days went by and the bleeding felt like a light day of a period. I called the off-hours phone line of the midwives and received a call back from a new midwife that I hadn’t met. She was really kind and sensitive and told me that I should come in the next day; they would fit me in even though they were filled with patients so they could double check that everything was fine.

I knew in my heart that I was having a miscarriage already. Going to the midwife would only confirm it. I started to feel really sad about this loss when I woke up the next morning. My husband was at work again, so I had to hold it together as I spent the day with my one and a half year old. I shed some tears quietly and quickly when he was busy with his toys at one point in the morning. Then, right before his usual naptime, I loaded us both into the car to head to the hospital to do a blood test and check on my pregnancy. My toddler was sleepy and started fussing and crying on the short car ride over. I parked in the large garage at the hospital and tried to get him out of his car seat as he flailed and screamed. He wanted to stay in his seat so he could sleep while the driving lulled him to sleep. But we were here already so I wanted to get him out and get this over with. Since he was so sleepy, I thought I’d pull the stroller out of the trunk and put him in it to walk inside. A car pulled up and parked right next to me. As the strangers gaped at me trying to hold a writhing, screaming 30-pound boy and lift the stroller out of the back of the car, I felt a surge between my legs. It felt like a floodgate had opened. I knew what had happened and was sort of prepared for something like this to happen within a day or two. I just hadn’t expected to be out in public when it did. I looked down at my pants. My thickest pair of jeans were completely soaked through with blood. I could feel bodily tissue parts inside my underwear. I had bled so much in that burst of liquid that it was streaming down my legs, soaking my shoes and creating a puddle on the concrete. I immediately burst out crying, threw the stroller back into the trunk, placed my boy back into his car seat, sat on a sweatshirt that had been in the back of the car, and drove myself back home. I couldn’t bear to go inside the hospital in this condition and with my son upset. I knew it would scare him to see me so upset as well, so I composed myself in the front seat and focused on getting us home safely.

I called my husband and told him what happened. I told him that I knew from reading and talking to friends and just from life in general that this was a miscarriage and that I was probably in the worst part of it and just needed to get through the day until our son’s bedtime and then I could just relax and let it happen through the night. But I guess he heard the hurt in my voice because he got someone to cover him at work and he came home as quickly as he could. I was very grateful when he walked through that door at home. I hadn’t been able to clean myself up or put the nasty clothes in the wash because of my motherly duties of cooking and cleaning up and being present for my son. I let my caring husband play with our son while I laid down with bad cramps and weepy feelings. I thought about all the women that have miscarriages and how hard it must be when you are trying to conceive with your first child or if you’ve had multiple miscarriages and are losing hope. I truly feel for all of you women out there who have gone through so much with your fertility and I pray that you heal your heart and mind. We’re all sisters and have to help each other. It’s hard when someone tries to comfort you by saying that it happens to lots of women all of the time. Even if it’s happening to millions of people at the same time, that doesn’t make it any less painful to each individual. Every single one of those people had hopes and dreams for that new life and had most likely started to grow attached. For me, I was just about at the three-month mark, when you’re told it’s highly likely that you’re in the clear. I can’t imagine how painful it must be to be even further along than that.

It would have been hard enough if this was all that happened to me. Unfortunately, the physical part of the miscarriage process became a bit trickier than I had anticipated. I read forum after forum and saw that a miscarriage could be light bleeding for a number of days and then you’d go through a more heavy part with tissue coming out and surges of blood and painful cramps, and then it would taper off again after half a day or maybe a day of the heavy flow. When I was still bleeding heavily and having surges every time I moved, my husband insisted I call the after hours line again. It was the midwife from my first appointment. She told me that I could come into the hospital to finish my miscarriage, but they really wouldn’t be able to do anything for me. If I was more comfortable at home, which I told her I was, then I would be fine to just ride it out in the comfort of home. She let me know the warning signs to look for, such as soaking through two overnight sanitary pads within an hour. I went to sleep a little sad but knowing that I didn’t cause this to happen and that it wasn’t meant to be. I was forcing my mind to understand what had happened so that my heart would be able to move past it.

But for the next two days, the heavy bleeding and passing of big chunks of tissue and clots continued. My husband had to take off another day of work to help me. I know he was worried about missing work, and usually, I try not to ask for help for anything, but I could hardly leave the bathroom and was soaking through pads whenever I had a surge. To make matters much worse logistically, our old shotgun home could not handle the cold weather we were having. It must have been the coldest week I had ever experienced in my years living in New Orleans. Our homes are not equipped for frigid temperatures and despite letting our faucets drip overnight, our pipes froze. So I couldn’t flush the toilet. My husband would go in after I made the toilet a mess of red and use gallon jugs to flush it out. I couldn’t wash any of my blood-soaked clothes. We couldn’t wash dishes and they were beginning to pile up. Our home was a wreck. And we were freaking cold! Our heater basically stops working if the temperature dips below 40 degrees, which it had. So for two days, we had to live in relative filth and cold while I was dealing with my bodily and hormonal changes.

Finally, after three days of all this, my husband voiced his concerns even louder. I could see in his face that he was worried. I should have listened to him sooner, being that he is in a medical profession, and gone to the hospital to check things out. But I kept thinking, “This is obviously a miscarriage and my pregnancy is over. I want to be here, not poked and prodded at the hospital just to have them tell me what I already know.” Finally, around dinner time, I told him that as soon as I was sure I could stay out of the bathroom for 10 minutes, we’d load up in the car and he could drive me to the hospital. But I couldn’t get out of the bathroom. I kept having surge after surge, and suddenly the cramps were so bad that they felt like labor pains. Then I started throwing up because the pain was so bad. While I was in the bathroom, my husband was working on whipping up dinner for our boy. I shuffled out of the bathroom to see our son eating in his high chair. I had to hold onto the wall because it felt like the room was spinning. That’s when I realized I had to go to the emergency room. If I passed out, which I knew was inevitable now, my poor dear husband would not only be trying to watch our child, but he would also be trying to revive his wife and pick her up off the floor and keep our son from crying when he saw that scary sight. So I said, “Let’s go now.” Since it was our son’s bedtime, I insisted that he just drop me off at the ER and I would get settled in while they went home and then we’d figure out what to do from there.

Neither of us is from New Orleans, so we don’t have strong connections or any family there. We do each have a couple of good friends, but I just didn’t feel comfortable calling any of them late at night to either stay at our house while August slept or come be with me in the hospital. I would definitely rather be alone at the hospital and have my family safe and sound sleeping at home.

I checked in at the reception desk and tried to tell the apathetic lady who was logging me into the computer system that my midwife had told me to come in immediately if I was bleeding through multiple pads and that I had long exceeded that marker. But she just lazily put my information in and barely even looked up at me. I started to worry as I sat down in the waiting room and counted how many people were already there before me. I wasn’t sure if they were family of sick people with the flu (there were lots of intense cases this winter) or some malady or if they were the people in need of emergency care. Thankfully, my name was called pretty quickly. The intake nurse took my vitals and exclaimed, “You’re tanking!” and called someone over who wheeled me on a gurney straight into an exam room.

A doctor looked my chart over, asked me some questions about how long I’d been bleeding, and then asked me if I would please sign off on getting a blood transfusion if necessary. It turns out that my red blood count was right on the verge of me having to get a transfusion or else I would be in a life or death situation. That was scary to realize. Another OBGYN was called for and she came with assistant nurses and a med student. They did an internal exam and she used a tool to manually extract some of the blood clots and tissue that she could see. She said that it was going to slow the bleeding a bit and that would buy us time to go up and get a Dilation and Curettage (D&C). I was going through an incomplete miscarriage. That is, my pregnancy was no longer viable and my body was trying to cleanse my uterus of everything. However, something was stuck in my uterine wall that my body was having trouble extracting. So basically my body kept flushing itself with blood to try to clear everything out, but it wasn’t working so I just kept bleeding and bleeding. Before long, I was being prepped for the D&C, signing papers, and staring into blindingly bright lights in a stark white room as anesthesia quickly took its effect and I drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up, I saw a young nurse next to me and I said, “I thought you were my son. I was about to be like, ‘Oh my gosh it’s way past your bedtime! Time for night night!’” I heard a handful of nurses and doctors giggle from elsewhere in the room. And then they wheeled me out to a recovery room for the rest of the night.

I had to sleep at the hospital that night. Well, I didn’t actually sleep because someone came in to take my blood pressure and draw my blood every half hour or so throughout the night. My blood pressure was still very low and they had to put me on an IV of a blood thickening agent. My red blood cell count was also too low so they wanted to continue to monitor it until they felt safe sending me home. I still was covered in multiple days’ worth of grime and blood due to the lack of running water. They told me I couldn’t shower until the morning because I would probably fall down due to my great blood loss combined with the hot water. So I just enjoyed the dark room and the leg massagers they put on me to prevent blood clots. I didn’t sleep, but it was a restful atmosphere in between the poking and prodding.

The next morning, my husband and son came as soon as they were able. I was ecstatic to see them after my strange night. I thought that everything was done and all better. I knew I’d be sad for a little while, but at least the physical part was over.

The part that I had no idea about was how sick I would feel after the incomplete miscarriage saga. Because of my extreme acute blood loss, I had low iron. I had hardly any energy for over two weeks. Every time I stood up or moved at more than a snail’s pace, I was overwhelmed with dizziness. My discharge papers said that I should take iron supplements and that it would be normal to experience some dizziness and fatigue. But I feel like nobody warned me just how extreme it would be. I also looked like a ghost. My skin was completely pale. It was practically translucent from the low amount of blood. I searched the internet for incomplete miscarriage facts and couldn’t find anything that resembled my situation. Then I moved on to looking up symptoms after acute blood loss and compared my blood levels with others on forums. That’s when I read that it would take months to have my blood count back to normal and I realized that I had been very close to needing a blood transfusion.

More realization of the severity of my situation came when I received a bill for the ER services. Ugh. Medical bills are the pits. Then I saw the code for the services rendered and looked up what it meant. I had been marked with a 5 for severity, which was their code for the direst need of medical attention. Scary!

For me, it took about two and a half weeks until I felt fairly normal again physically. It took another week or so to feel better mentally and emotionally. For others, I can imagine and understand that the emotional part would take longer to heal from. And for that, I am so sorry and sympathetic to anyone that is going through that pain. I wanted to share my small story to maybe help someone else who didn’t know what to expect or isn’t sure if they should go see their doctor if they suspect they are miscarrying. It would have been a lot easier if I had been told by my midwife that there was no heartbeat and could elect to have a surgery to remove everything. Then I could have avoided the difficult half week of bleeding profusely and difficult weeks afterward of recovering from the blood loss.

Although I know that I took good care of myself and my pregnancy, this experience pushed me into wanting to be healthier. I already very rarely drink, never smoke or do drugs, and am actively chasing around and lifting a toddler all day every day. Some strange part of me wants to be completely positive that if I miscarry again, I know I did everything within my power to have the best vessel to carry a baby. So I am working on cutting back on coffee and I’ve finally gotten my act together with eating healthy foods. I’m loading up on vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods every day and no longer eating junk food, fast food, or processed foods. I feel good about it and have more energy from it. I’m following the F Factor diet. If you’re interested in a healthy lifestyle change, I totally recommend you look into it.

Another side effect of my miscarriage is a change in how I feel about having more children. While I do want to have more children, I am more cautious now. I actually am a little bit scared of getting pregnant again. I know I will be even more of a nervous wreck than with my first pregnancy now, knowing that something can go wrong at any stage. That’s terrifying. Before I became pregnant back in November, I was adamant that we needed to start trying for our second child and that it was the time. I knew that two years age difference was right for us. Now I realize that whenever that second child comes will be the right time for us. I’ve seen Instagram posts where the poster asks everyone how far apart their children are and whether they like it or not. Every single answer — and they span from 9 months apart to 10 years or more apart — includes the parent saying that it is the perfect age difference. That just goes to show that you make the best of what life throws at you, and God’s will shall be done and it’s what is best. I have even, for the first time, decided I’m okay with having my son be our only child. He is the most magnificent human being I could ever dream of, and my heart is full with him. If we are blessed to have another, or if we decide to adopt sometime in the future, then my heart will grow bigger and it will be filled with that much love for the other child(ren) too. Whatever happens, happens. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my newfound healthful energy, fill every day with love and discovery and joy with my toddler, and treasure the time I have with my husband. I’m no longer in a crazy rush to get pregnant. If I do, I’ll be nervous but hopeful yet again.

Mardi Gras with Babies & Toddlers

Mardi Gras with Babies & Toddlers

Mardi Gras is a wondrous, magical time here in New Orleans. Sure, it can be a hassle with all the traffic and the fact that I haven’t gotten mail in a week because nothing gets done during the big carnival weekends. Despite all the inconveniences, once you’re on that parade route, something clicks. I can procrastinate getting out there, consider skipping the holiday and staying home for a week and a half, but once I drag myself to a spot on the neutral ground side (I’m a neutral ground side kind of lady most days), the magic hits me and I come alive. The spirit of the revelry takes over and I dance and wave my hands and yell like a maniac to get beads and to cheer on all the marching bands and dancers. It’s the apex of fun.

When I experienced my first Mardi Gras, I was in college. It was the first carnival after Hurricane Katrina. It felt special because it was mostly locals instead of tourists, and the city was proving its resilience. Also I was drinking a lot so I really let loose and had fun with all my new Tulane buddies. My birthday fell during the big parade weekend before Fat Tuesday, so I got a great haul of beads and throws when I used the date to my advantage. A guy I met – I’ve never seen him again but through the power of Facebook I still know his name, so shoutout to Larry! – raised me on his shoulders and my friends helped me scream, “It’s my birthday!” and “It’s her birthday!” at the top of our lungs to the krewe members on floats. It was spectacular.

Take a look at my very classy Mardi Gras of yore:

Mardi Gras 2006 Summer No Yesterdays

When I had my beautiful son a year and a half ago, I thought maybe I was done with parade going. I’d have to bring so much extra gear for the baby and food and have to find a place to breastfeed and I’d have to walk really far with him and what if he hates it and I’d have to get baby headphones so his ears won’t be damaged from the loud music and so on and so on. However, I soldiered on to the parade route to try it out. It turns out, we both loved the experience. And we saw other babies and toddlers on the route, too!

Here are some photos from our first year of Mardi Gras as a family of three:

mardigras2017_1 mardigras2017_2 mardigras2017_3 mardigras2017_4 mardigras2017_5 mardigras2017_6 mardigras2017_7

And some from this Mardi Gras:

mardigras2018_1 mardigras2018_3 mardigras2018_4

mardigras2018_2 mardigras2018_5

Now that my son is a year and a half, this Mardi Gras has been even more fun. He understands the concept of the parades and that he gets lots of prizes (“throws”) at the parades. He is especially fond of the light up balls that some float riders throw for him. We have had a ridiculous amount of fun this year going to a couple of select parades.

Here are my top tips for enjoying the carnival festivities in New Orleans with a baby or young child:

  • Plan Your Parking –  This is an obvious advantage whether you have children or not. It’s best to have a friend on the parade route so that you have a place to park (if they have a driveway) and a place to escape from the chaos to use the bathroom, feed the kids, breastfeed, or get out of any intense weather like rain or heat. But if you aren’t fortunate enough to have pals near the parade, at least have a general plan of where you’ll look for parking. You know you’re going to have to walk a good distance unless you come super early to find a spot. But consider a potential meltdown; if you need to leave before the parade is over, you’ll want a quick exit. That means you should park on the side of the parade that you can drive home from. Don’t get stuck within the parade loop!
  • Set up Camp – or Don’t – You can go early to the parade route and set up a tarp, a tent, coolers, a grill, and all sorts of comforts so that everyone can stay all day at the parade route. I have never been one of those prepared planners. If you are, make sure there are comfortable spots for the kids to take a break and space for them to play. I suggest the neutral ground side of the parade for this. If you’re like me, you can just bring what you need to the parade route and leave once anyone gets tired of the festivities. This way it is easier to come and go as you and your child please.
  • Bring A Wagon  – Thanks to my sister-in-law, we have a perfect fold-up wagon with a detachable canopy. My son adores riding in it. And it fits some drinks, a backpack, and other supplies you may need. This Mardi Gras season, I brought food, an extra bag to put our throws in, and our diaper bag. It all fit into the wagon along with my son. So he got a fun ride, my shoulders got a rest, and we easily got to and from our parking spot and the parade.
  • Prep for Weather – In your wagon or diaper bag, bring some light layers, sunblock, an umbrella, a cover for your wagon or stroller, and raincoats. You never know how the weather will change on you over the course of the day or night.

Those are my only tips! Other than that, the number one rule is to have fun! And be courteous of others.

Let me know about your experiences with Mardi Gras in the comments below!

Yellow River Game Ranch

Yellow River Game Ranch

While in the north-eastern suburbs of Atlanta recently, Baby A (now Toddler A!) and I had an afternoon to ourselves. He’d been through a lot of traveling and suit-wearing for funerals, so I wanted to treat him to a fun activity. I googled and yahoo’d and nothing was striking me as super fun for my one-year-old. Then, Bobby told me about a game ranch he’d been to on a field trip as a youngster. Aha! That was the ticket!

My toddler adores animals, especially ones he can pet. So we headed to the Yellow River Game Ranch for the afternoon. This wilderness wonder is located in Lilburn, Georgia. Although it was still hot in September when we went, the ranch is all in the woods so there is plenty of coverage from the sun. On a mile-long wooded trail, we saw tons of cute and exciting animals!

toddler and goats

There were coyotes, foxes, deer, buffalo, bunnies, peacocks roaming free, the friendliest squirrels ever, and even bears. We were able to walk right up and feed and pet many of the animals including donkeys, sheep, goats, and llamas. Others were in cages that had shoots you could send food down into the cage through. We gave some nuts to black bears and corn kernels and seeds to countless others.

baby and donkey at yellow river game ranch

llamas at yellow river game ranch

yellow River Game Ranch

toddler and pig at yellow river game ranch

buffalo at yellow River Game Ranch

You can find more information about Yellow River Game Ranch on their website.

A Summer of Loss & Goodbye Mr. Wilton

A Summer of Loss & Goodbye Mr. Wilton

I was on a roll with posting weekly but took a hiatus from blogging for the past month or so. Earlier this summer, my maternal grandfather and my paternal aunt passed away on the same day. Later, my dear uncle and my father-in-law passed away within 24 hours of each other. One of my best friends also lost her father this summer. There has been so much loss that it’s hard to emotionally process it all. On top of that, the logistics of getting to our families in other states in a rush after a death has caused stress and other worries.

It has been particularly hard to see my loved ones deal with the loss of their closest loved ones. Although I truly loved each of my family members that have recently passed, I know there are others in my family who feel the loss in a much deeper, more painful way. I have been focused on them and their healing, worrying about how they are coping and praying for them to be okay. My grandma with her husband. My dad with his younger brother.

My husband and his sister and mom with their father and husband, respectively.

My father-in-law’s memorial and funeral were held in Georgia about a month ago. I knew him for the past 6 or so years. Although I’m told his personality was different from the rest of his life because of a stroke he suffered a few years prior to our meeting, I know that the core parts were present. He was a real character. He loved people and always wanted to make them laugh. At the same time, he didn’t care what anyone thought and said what was on his mind no matter how many feathers it would ruffle. It was part of his tough exterior, I suppose, but it also portrayed his sense of humor. He would say inappropriate things that were pretty freaking hilarious and that nobody else would have ever said out loud.

Whenever we visited Atlanta, Bobby would get into his old teenage mode and sleep in super late. I’d be up early and drink coffee at the kitchen table with Mr. Wilton. I always enjoyed that quiet time with him, hearing his stories about serving in the military and hearing what my husband was like when he was a little kid. It was always fascinating to hear what life was like for their family back when they lived in Korea on a military base.

I’m not sure Mr. Wilton ever realized how proud his children were of him and what he had accomplished in his life. Coming from humble beginnings and a rough childhood, he had made his way around the world, fallen in love, served his country, ended up with a wonderful wife, and raised two amazing children. He was a hero in the eyes of his family and close friends, even if it wasn’t in the way that he saw war heroes portrayed in his favorite movies.

A few days after the memorial mass for my father-in-law, the family plus some church members and a few good friends drove to the Georgia National Cemetery for the military funeral and burial. I know my husband, his mother, and his sister were filled with not just sadness but a huge amount of pride during the beautiful ceremony. It was somber and powerful. Everyone sobbed when the trumpets played taps and again when the young soldiers made a gun salute. My husband was given a few of the empty shells after. Those will serve as special symbols of his father’s life. It was a goodbye fit for a hero.

Goodbye Mr. Wilton. Thank you for creating the family that will continue your legacy. I’m so glad you were able to meet your grandsons in the last year. Please shine down on us all.

a salute to his brother

Sensory Spaghetti – An Easy How To!

Sensory Spaghetti – An Easy How To!

Before I start, let me tell you that I did a poor job executing this easy DIY kids’ play activity. I wanted to make a sensory play day with our plastic storage bin. It’s a great tool for rainy or too hot days when you are stuck inside but need something to break up your routine. I got distracted while cooking my spaghetti and burnt a lot of it. I’m still trying to clean the bottom of the scorched pot. Also, this became very messy because I have a wild child who did not want to keep the fun contained in the plastic bin. But if you’d like to try it out, here are my easy instructions.

1. Buy Lots of Cheap Spaghetti

I went to WalMart and bought 4 pounds of off-brand spaghetti and linguini. I figured the two different thicknesses would be fun.

While you’re at the store, find food dye. I found neat neon colored dye. Ideally, you will want to use organic food-based dye in case your child tries to eat the spaghetti.

2. Cook the Spaghetti

This should be easy. We’ve all cooked spaghetti for many a meal. But I got distracted and started playing with my son and forgot to stir often. Needless to say, I had some burnt pasta on my hands and a huge pot to scrub vigorously. Ugh. Like I needed another dish to linger in the sink.

3. Let it Cool & Place in Plastic Bags

Once the spaghetti was drained and cooled enough to touch, I transferred it into plastic Ziploc bags. I used tongs, which was annoying and time-consuming. Not very effective. It would probably be easier to just use your hands. Yay! You get to get in on the sensory fun, too! I was in a rush, too, so the spaghetti was still fairly hot. Haste makes waste, ya’ll. I ended up putting the spaghetti in the freezer to cool it down more so I wouldn’t burn myself or the plastic bags.

4. Add Food Coloring

spaghetti sensory play

This part is fun and when your child can get involved. I squirted a bunch of food coloring into each bag – one color per bag. Since I had 4 colors, I used 4 bags. Close the bag up so that it is thoroughly sealed, then shake and shimmy the pasta around to coat every strand in color. Your little one may enjoy this part the most.

5. Let It Dry and Then Play

To make sure the liquid food dye doesn’t get on everything, you can put your bags back into the freezer for about 10 minutes. Then, empty the bags into your big plastic bin. I put the colors in a row so that we could talk about the colors before they got mixed up. I put my baby right into the tub once he got his hands in for a few minutes and seemed interested. He loved the squishy feel on his toes.

spaghetti sensory play

6. Clean Up and Re-Use

After a few minutes in the bin, my little maniac started to chase the dog with fistfuls of spaghetti. There was a lot of cleanup for me. I had to mop the kitchen floors, pick strands of spaghetti out of my dog’s (and my own!) hair, and give my baby a bath immediately after the sensory activity concluded. The bath was fun, though, since he was already in a great playful mood.

spaghetti sensory play

The colors of the spaghetti did not get mixed up much, so I put each color back into their separate ziploc bags and put them back in the freezer. It will be great to use again another rainy or too hot day.

Have fun! And comment below or tag me on Facebook or Instagram with how your sensory spaghetti turned out. Thanks!



Keeping Cool in the Summer Heat

Keeping Cool in the Summer Heat

As we near September and the start of a fresh school year, it is still hot as heck down south in New Orleans. As I’ve written before, I go a little stir crazy if I’m stuck in my house for too long, so I’ve had to get creative and find ways to enjoy getting out while also staying cool in these final dog days of summer.

Here are some of the ways that we’ve found to beat the heat this season. Use some of our ideas over Labor Day weekend coming up, and leave a comment if you have other great ideas!

Plan and Improvise Around the Weather

We have been heading to our favorite playground first thing in the morning. It’s a great way to start the day, get energy out before the morning nap, and to enjoy playing outdoors before it gets too hot. Plus, the playground isn’t usually crowded on weekdays before 9 a.m. That means there is always a baby swing open for us.

With high humidity comes a high chance of rain. We have random thunderstorms all throughout the summer. This is when improvisation comes into play. There is usually a cooler hour or so right after a big rain, so we will quickly get outside to take a walk or explore at a park right after the rain ends.

Pack Extra Clothes and Diapers for Unexpected Water Fun

Most of you parents probably already carry around a diaper bag full of extra outfits and diapers anyway, so this is easy. What isn’t easy for some people is spontaneity. Last week, we went to the aquarium to spend some fun time indoors on a hot afternoon. When we went outside, we noticed kids running through a fountain on the New Orleans Riverfront. The kids of varying ages were having a blast. My husband said we would come back another day with a bathing suit and let Baby A try it out. But the little man and I couldn’t resist. We ran right through the spouts of water and laughed and screamed our hearts out. It was great! Who knows when we would have been downtown again on such a perfect day to play in the water? Baby A even got up the courage to run through the fountain on his own a few times and was delighted about it. We used a spit-up cloth to dry him after and changed his clothes in a shady private area next to the aquarium. I was soaked through my clothes, but I knew walking in the sunny weather for a few minutes would solve that issue.

So when an opportunity to play in the water presents itself, take it! It’s just water; you’ll get dry quickly.

Find A Pool

pool silly boy

Lots of cities and towns have community pools that you can visit for free. I am a little hesitant to visit our local pools because of a news story last year with people’s hair falling out after taking a dip in pools with the wrong mix of chemicals. So instead of that, we have paid $5 for a day pass to the University of New Orleans’ pool. Other gyms and community centers might offer a day pass in your area.

If you live in a place with lots of hotels, you might be able to sneak in and enjoy a pool day. I know that isn’t the most ethical idea to share with you guys, but a family on a budget has gotta do what it has gotta do, am I right? My family visited this past weekend and we were able to use the pool at their hotel. Maybe you have a friend with a condo complex with a pool that you can visit one afternoon. There are also hotels that offer day passes to their pool areas. Here in New Orleans, those usually are party spots with heavy drinking, so we avoid hotels like The W and Ace Hotel and opt instead for the quiet, small rooftop pools at hotels like the Marriott and Renaissance (my personal favorite, but you have to have a guest key for it).

Use Sprinkler Toys

You can splash around and play in your own backyard (or driveway, if you don’t have a yard like us) with a multitude of toys. You can get a water table or plug your hose into a fun sprinkler toy like the ones below. Just don’t forget to apply lots of sunscreen on the kids when you’re outside!

Go On Easy Outings to the Indoors

Check our post about easy outings with your infant and toddler for some ideas about places you can go to get a break from your house. Also, check your neighborhood and town for parenting centers – in New Orleans we have one attached to the Children’s Hospital that is great for play groups – and indoor play places. In New York, we visited this fun indoor play place for a small fee.
Do Sensory Activities at Home

Finally, if you can’t even fathom getting dressed to go out somewhere and it’s just too hot to go outside, then change things up with new activities at home. With the purchase of a simple plastic bin, you can get creative and plan tons of sensory activities. Check our Pinterest board about Indoor Play for some amazing ideas from moms around the web. So far we have played with food-dyed spaghetti and had an amazing water playtime.

water sensory play spaghetti sensory play
this post to see how I created our spaghetti sensory playCheck this post to see how I created our spaghetti sensory play. It was ooey gooey awesomeness.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, help those in Houston, and have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

11 Tips for Surviving Plane Travel with Your Infant

11 Tips for Surviving Plane Travel with Your Infant

This is it – what you’ve been dreading. It’s daunting. It’s intimidating. It’s frightening. It’s… your first flight with your baby.

I don’t know if every new parent feels this way, but I was super nervous to go on an airplane with my baby for the first time. I’ve flown plenty of times, but I didn’t know what to expect with a baby in tow. How would it work with getting my stroller on the plane? Would he cry the whole flight and everyone on the plane would hate us? Is this going to be one of the worst days of my life? Well, that first flight was scary, but I have since flown 10 more times with my baby, most of the time without any other adults to help me, and I’ve learned a lot. You could consider my baby and me pros at this point. So I will share my wisdom with you.

1. Research and Plan Wisely

First and foremost, know your airline’s rules about traveling with an infant. What age can they fly free until? Most airlines let you fly with an infant in your lap until they are two. To save money, I have been keeping my baby in my arms. It makes the already tight space of your seat even more cramped, but I need to save the money. If you are able, then you can buy a seat for your baby and bring their car seat on to fly in. It’s safer and you’ll have much more space.

While you’re researching your airline’s rules, also find out what you need to do in order to travel with the baby. For Delta, you have to call and speak to a reservations agent in order to have them put “Infant In Arms” on your ticket. You’ll need that ticket to get through security. After my first Delta flight with the baby, I assumed all airlines had the same rules. Not so. For Spirit Airlines, I had to bring paperwork from our pediatrician showing our baby’s birth date and immunization records to a ticketing agent at the airport, then they gave me a special pass to bring through security. That caused issues because I was already in another state, so I had to go to a Kinko’s to have the forms faxed. Then, I thought I was just supposed to bring my pediatrician papers to security. So I made it all the way through security when they sent me back to the ticketing desk to show them my paperwork and get the special pass. Ugh. Don’t make the same mistake as me!

2. Figure Out the Best Flight Time

Think about how busy your flight will be. Usually, I have to fly to Atlanta from New Orleans to get anywhere else. Unfortunately, Atlanta flights are always at capacity because it’s the main hub to get other places. So I know that I’m going to have no extra space to spread out. But, if you do some research, you might find that the flights to your particular destination are not as busy on certain days of the week and certain hours of the day. You might want to snag a less packed plane in order to spread out. It’s heavenly when there is nobody sitting in the seat next to you. You can put your diaper bag under the empty seat, put the armrest up, and spread out a bit.

3.Consider Nap Time

sleeping baby on airplane

Think about what time your baby naps. It’s ideal to be on the plane, ready to take off, right around when your baby is ready to doze off. This way, you can nurse or bottle feed your baby during take off and hopefully they will fall asleep once all the buzzing and humming of the plane begins. This has happened a few times for me, and you can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the rest of the flight while your baby sleeps.

Sometimes this doesn’t work out. On one of my last trips, our flight got delayed by 4 hours. That meant we had to waste 4 hours of time in the small airport terminal, skip nap time, and have our baby wake up in the middle of the night in a new city when we landed and all the plane’s lights turned on. Not cool! Alas, we survived.

4. Sleep Arrangements

Did you know that most airlines have baby bassinets that attach to the seatback in front of you? Oh my goodness, I wish I had known this sooner. They are for younger infants and I didn’t find out until mine was too big. A lot of them are for babies under 20-25 pounds. If you are traveling with a new baby, this is a lifesaver! Call your airline ahead of time to find out what their restrictions are and how to reserve yours. I also found this great resource that lists all of the airline’s bassinet rules.

I’ve gotten some gnarly back aches from holding my baby while he sleeps for an entire flight. Again, if you get an empty seat next to you or have someone traveling with you, it’s helpful. But if you are alone and will need to hold your baby, pack accordingly. Do you need to put a small pillow or folded up sweater behind your back to be comfortable sitting up for that long? Or maybe you can bring a boppy along and let your baby lie on it in your lap (if it all fits in your seat area).

5. Find a Mother’s Room

I was thrilled to discover that the New Orleans Louis Armstrong airport has a Mother’s Room in the JetBlue terminal. It’s a private room that you can lock with a changing table, chairs, books, and open space. This was great for my new walker when we were delayed for 4 hours on that last trip. I nursed him, but couldn’t get him to fall asleep. So instead I let him walk and crawl and get his energy out so that he would at least be able to sleep when we finally got on the plane. I’ve found that most airport bathrooms are not conducive to changing diapers; they have flat areas by the sink, but they are granite, hard and cold. So it was nice to actually change him lying down on a padded area.

6. Explore the Airport
baby airport fun terminal

If you have time between security check and boarding, explore the airport. Now is a good time to get some food in your and your baby’s belly. It’s messy and difficult to feed the baby solid foods on the plane. If you have your stroller or baby carrier, get some exercise while letting your baby take in the sights and sounds of the terminal. Some airports might even have play areas or other interesting interactive experiences that your child will enjoy. In one of the terminals at JFK in New York, there is a JetBlue kid’s pretend play area. It’s so cute and fun! It’s also a good educational moment where you can explain to your child what the cockpit is and how the airline and airplane run.

7. Don’t Forget Your Headphones

I didn’t think I’d be able to have any time to myself on a flight with my child, like in the old days when I’d chill out, listen to music, watch a movie, or read. However, once your baby falls asleep, you actually can veg out a little bit! I have forgotten my headphones but found movies on Delta’s seatback TVs that have closed captioning. I watch a lot of things with the sound off, so I didn’t mind this solution. If you can, get the wireless Bluetooth headphones that are on the market now. That way, you won’t have to worry about your cords getting wrapped around the baby anywhere when he squirms in your arms while sleeping. You also won’t have pesky cords tickling your baby and waking up.

8. Stroller Practice

I had some issues with my stroller the first few flights. Someone in TSA was rude to me about putting it on the security scanner belt. I was holding my baby and trying to get my shoes and carry-on onto the belt, with impatient people behind me in line, and then trying to fold my stroller up with one hand. The anxiety got to me. Sometimes, TSA will let you push your stroller around and they will manually check it. So I thought that would happen again, but the guy scolded me and rudely demanded I somehow fold it up and shove it onto the narrow belt and he rolled his eyes at me when I didn’t put it on facing the “correct” way to fit through easier. I say all this to tell you that you should practice folding and unfolding your stroller with one hand.

You’ll have to fold and unfold your stroller again when you get to the gate to get onto the airplane. You always bring your stroller to the door of the plane, then fold it up with its little check tag (the gate agent will give that to you). It will be at your destination in the same spot unless they tell you otherwise and it’s at baggage claim.

9. Smile and Be Polite

When I was alone traveling, there were a handful of times that I just plain needed a little assistance. One time I could not for the life of me get my stroller to fold up. It was new to me and one of the buttons were stuck on the handle to fold it. My baby wasn’t able to sit/stand on his own yet, so I had to hold him. I hadn’t brought the baby carrier with me that day, so I had him in my arms and was trying to also use both hands to unstick the button. Anyway, I needed help. All I could do was smile at the other passengers coming down the gate. When I caught eyes with a fellow friendly stranger, he asked if I needed help. “Oh, could you? I really really appreciate it. It’s stuck and I am having trouble.” He was really nice and helped me fold it up and away we went onto the plane. I thanked him profusely. There has been another time where the luggage handler came up to collect all the strollers and saw me struggling and helped out as well. Thank you, kind strangers!

While I don’t think this is necessary because you can’t help it if your baby cries on a plane and people should understand that, I do often apologize in advance to the folks sitting around me. I tell them that I’ll try my best to keep my baby happy on the flight, but he might cry. They usually are kind in return and say they understand. But I think it is appreciated that you at least acknowledge that it isn’t fun for people to have to sit next to a crying, screaming infant.

10. Protect Your Car Seat (and Your Back)

You can buy travel bags for your car seat. If you have a baby that still needs to stroll and be carried in their car seat, or if you’re going to be taking automobiles anywhere during your trip, you’ll need to bring your car seat along. If your baby is in the car seat in the stroller, you’ll be allowed to check it at the gate like your stroller. Otherwise, you can check it for free before you go through security. Of course, either way, you run the risk of your important gear getting manhandled and thrown about and smacked into other luggage during the flight. I bought this Zohzo Car Seat Backpack that fits most car seats because it was cheaper than the one my car seat brand sells. Not only will the padding protect your precious car seat from damage, but it also makes it easier to lug around on your travels. You can wheel it like a suitcase or put it on your back. It’s still gigantic, but it’s better than trying to carry it while pushing your luggage and stroller. Trust me, I’ve done it.

11. Don’t Panic

Inevitably, you’ll have bad travel days. Try not to be too anxious and panic. The flight will eventually be over. You won’t see the miserable people who complain about your baby ever again. If your baby is inconsolable at your seat, try walking in the aisles and rocking her a bit or let her look at all the interesting strangers up and down the aisles. Take a trip to the bathroom for some peace and quiet. This also can be a good time to let your tears roll if you need to just let out your stress for a few minutes in private. Before you know it, the plane will land and you can feel proud that you made it.

Now go enjoy your vacation!

I Want to Be More Like My Toddler: Thoughts About Courage

I Want to Be More Like My Toddler: Thoughts About Courage

I’ve loved my son since before he was even born. When he was barely a zygote, I had hopes and dreams and prayers for the life growing inside of my belly. Since then, he has become more beautiful and amazing in my eyes as each […]

Should You Stay Home or Keep Working After Having a Baby?

Should You Stay Home or Keep Working After Having a Baby?

This question becomes a huge struggle for some people. Should I stay at home with my new baby or go back to work? For me, my heart knew what I wanted to do, but my brain and logistics held me back from making the decision […]