Where are all these emotions coming from?!

(Part 2) First Day of School Night

What in the holy heck was that? Literally I blinked and it’s 9pm. I’m pretty sure I blacked out today, not from alcohol or any other inappropriate activity. But from stress and adrenaline. Is that even a thing? I guess it was a good thing that I was out-of-my-mind busy while at work, because it didn’t leave me any time to FEEL the feelings I had last night.

She did, they did, we did.

She did great. Well, my standard of great. If you read my post yesterday or know all about my chronic diva problems (to be fair, they aren’t problems…) with Tessa; you’d know I really wasn’t sure how she’d do at her first day of daycare. I was right about a number of things. Nope she didn’t take a bottle. I swear she’s actually sarcastic about it. Miss Darcy said she sat there and played with the bottle nipple and spit it back at her nonchalantly. Yep she had a few episodes of stranger danger/mama attachment issues resulting in uncontrollable crying fits. At least she came out of them ok after either crying herself to sleep or Miss Darcy distracting her with some of her solid foods. BUT after all that, I showed up at pick-up and my bow was happily playing with her toes sitting in a stroller watching the older kids play outside. She locked eyes and immediately burst into wide mouthed smiles and reached her arms out to snuggle. In that moment, my mama heart exploded and I knew she’d be ok in all the days to come (even though I’m a little nervous she’ll try to make up for her lack of bottle drinking all day by nursing all night long tonight…).

They did great. The oldest bruise got a special day of exploring with Gammy since he doesn’t go back to school until Wednesday. He hiked and explored and snacked and even went swimming decked out in sweatpants and a t-shirt (no swimmies, no problem). The youngest bruise was abnormally shy and had two pee accidents, but no poo accidents (WIN!) and no biting or hitting episodes (WIN!). He greeted me at pick-up by running to me waving and yelling “Hiiiiii Mommy!!!” And he was so excited to carry his own backpack to the car and get home and tell Luca and Daddy all about his new friends Quinn and Colby and his old friend Ellie that he hasn’t seen since March.

Sooo we did great because they did great. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was still great in my book. My terribly stressful day really didn’t matter anymore and was promptly in the rearview mirror once I snuggled my bow and played with my bruises at home again, back where I belong.

Here’s to doing it all over again tomorrow!

Where are all these emotions coming from?!

(Part 1) Back to School Eve

It was a weirdddd weekend for me. I’m usually not the emotional type, but I’ve somehow caught myself in unusual emotional moments the past 3 days, and to be honest it blindsided me.

But then I realized it.

First, we made it through 2 weeks of quarantine as of this Friday, of which the first 7 days we were convinced our kids (and probably us too) had COVID and I swam in mom guilt. They were showing symptoms, and one of my kids had confirmed positive exposure so we thought it was a done deal. After several agonizing days of waiting for 3 kids’ test results to come back, all were negative. Really relieving, but at the same time we were hoping these mild cold symptoms were all it would be if it actually did hit us. So a little disappointing in that sense?

Second, the second 7 days of a quarantine were official back to work days for me, except I had to do it all remote instead of in person because of this quarantine. You’d think it’d be a silver lining to have 7 extra days home with the kids. But by Thursday and Friday of this past week, I was in back to back to back meetings from 8am till 5pm daily with a four year old, two year old, and almost eight month old basically fending for themselves. We survived, but it was hell.

Third, I’m realizing now that it’s been since March 13th with my little family unit. I’ve watched my four year old turn into a little independent human. HE actually taught ME how to play a board game this weekend. One that I didn’t even know he knew how to play. I’ve watched my two year old become the wild one with big feelings that I’m pretty sure he’ll always be. I’ve watched my newborn infant turn into a baby girl full of sass and zest and playfulness.

Months of us all together, all the time. Though hard at times, it’s been precious, and we’ll probably never get anything like this back again, at least when the kids are this little (unless of course, the COVID situation goes to sh*t again and we’re back in stay at home orders). Now it’s about to end, and we have to try to get back into some sense of normal. After spending months figuring out what our new normal was.

Fourth, I’m about to leave Tessa after an unexpected almost eight months of being my little baby kangaroo, attached to my hip all the time. If this year was normal I would have left her after three months. But it’s been eight! A lucky eight, for sure, and I’m so grateful for the extra time. But it’s making this normally rational, normally logical, normally put together mama extra emotional. Add that to the fact that she still doesn’t take a bottle and cries when she’s with other people. You know. I’m feeling….good about it? Nah not really.

I know there are so many other parents who have already transitioned back to work or back to school or back to whatever their normal was before COVID. I know it can’t stay this way forever.

We’ll do it though. Tomorrow will come and go and we’ll survive it. I’ll probably look at pictures all day long and text my husband wondering how everyone’s doing. We’ll do it though. Tomorrow will come and go and we’ll survive it. I probably won’t cry but I will worry and I will watch the clock go by minute by minute. We’ll do it though. Tomorrow will come and go and we’ll survive it.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Check back tomorrow for part 2. Cross all your fingers and sleep with your pjs inside out for me please!

SOS, Haircut Help!!

Pre-haircut. Hiding out of fear when I found him.

You know when you sign your kid up for an activity or it’s a new school year so the teacher sends a “get to know you” form to fill out? And on that form is usually a box for “your child’s fears”? Usually I write ‘loud noises’ and ‘itchy tags’, because he’s uber sensitive to loud noises (won’t ride a school bus, covers his ears when a smoke alarm goes off, gets scared when a motorcycle drives by…) and he loses his sh*t if an item of clothing has a tag he can feel (Nike is THE WORST – absolutely massive tags).

So what’s this have to do with haircuts, you ask? Well the two things he fears most in this world – loud noises (buzzers) and itchies (hairs) combined into one. It is the definition of sensory overload for him. It also doesn’t help that a while back, a hair stylist accidentally nicked his ear, too. You’d think it’d be no big deal, but he remembers it vividly. The kid has PTSD, I swear. And I’m not making light of PTSD – I legit think he has it. Haircuts have progressively gotten worse and worse as he’s gotten older (it wasn’t this bad when he was much younger).

30 seconds post-haircut.

The last time we actually went to a barber, it took my hubby plus TWO other employees to restrain him and they didn’t even make it all the way through the haircut – meanwhile I sat in the car with the other littles and refused to go in with him because it is traumatizing for ME to watch! (Yes, I hesitate to use the word ‘restrain’ because of such negative connotations but this is MY truth so, judgements and trolls, beware!) We’re at that point where we can’t even take him to the barber anymore. It’s too traumatic and embarrassing for all of us.

There’s not a lot that really gets me in the momming world, especially with the oldest. But haircuts with my little big guy make my heart shatter into a million pieces.

This is what they look like these days…(And time-lapse gives us the grace of making it look a little better than what it’s like in real time.)

Before everyone starts suggesting things we can try to help ease his fears and get through haircuts, here are the things we’ve already tried:

  • Electronic distractions: iPad in his hand or favorite show on the TV, no difference.
  • Desensitization: Backtrack and just use scissors, watch his brother, watch his dad. Slow lead up.
  • Treats: We’ve tried treats during the haircut and the promise of treats after the haircut. No dice.
  • New toys: Does that count as treats? “Luca, if you let us cut your hair you can pick out a toy on Amazon” (pandemic). Or “Luca, if you let us cut your hair we can go to the toy store after!” (pre-pandemic).
  • Ripping off the bandaid: Not mentioning a thing about him getting a haircut until we walk through the door (or sit him in the chair if it’s at our own house).
  • Giving plenty of notice: Talking about it a week ahead of time, and letting him ask any questions he wants, or share any emotion he feels.
  • Model: Watch the buzzers on Daddy’s head. On Dommy’s head. Feel them on your arm. He does this all just fine…on his head/near his ear is a different story.
  • Mama snuggles: “I will hold you and hug you and kiss you and won’t let go of you until it’s all over. You know I love you and you are brave and you are strong.”

I’ve consulted everyone I can think of, too. The hair stylists at the kids’ place where they usually go. My hair stylist. The pediatrician. Even put a poll out on IG stories a while ago.

I’m at that point where I’ve only got one more thing up my sleeve. I’m taking a page out of my special education colleagues’ background with this one. Just made him this social story and gifted it to him today. He LOVED it, and read it to his brother right away. And we’ll keep it in our playroom library till the next haircut. It’s my last hope!

If this doesn’t work, I am really not sure where to go from here. Am I scarring him for life? Maybe just not ever take him to get a haircut and let him grow his hair out until forever? Or at least for a while until we attempt it again? Honestly, help!!!! Is there anything – ANYTHING – I haven’t tried that I could try? Special tricks that I don’t know about?

This mama needs your help, or at the very least, your sympathy!

Pee and Poo and Potty Parties

Potty Training. In case you’ve been following my IG stories and wondering why we’ve been living in PJs and no pants and never leaving our house, this is why.

It’s time to face the music. I’ve just been putting it off and off. This bruise has been ready for a while now, and we finally took the dive and committed fully this past week. (We weren’t anticipating committing fully – at least I wasn’t – until I got off a work call and randomly found my hubby with this guy on the mini potty. “He said he wanted to go potty.” One week before we all go back to school and daycare. Sure, that sounds like the most optimal and convenient time to attempt potty training!) I’ve been knee-deep in pee and poop ever since.

So let’s rewind for a bit. Flashback to two years ago when we potty trained the oldest bruise. Mike and I agonized over when to do it. Should we do it now? How about now? Is now a good time? Do you think he’s ready? What about now?

We ended up setting a goal: If he doesn’t come around to it by Christmas break, we boot-camp-it-out over the holiday. Well, turns out this kid just started doing it on his own the first week of December. He was a little over 2.5 years old. And for whatever reason I don’t remember it being so bad. We stayed at home for 2 days just so he could learn to wear underwear and get used to it, and he did great.

We ventured out to Chipotle on day 3 (we figured this was our safest bet) and I vividly remember being down on my hands and knees cleaning up a massive puddle of pee under his high chair while the rest of the joint continued eating around me. I was mortified but I’m not really sure anyone else noticed? Maybe they did but just honored me with grace knowing what was going on. Yeah, let’s go with that.

But honestly, after that day we never looked back. It was a lot easier than I had anticipated. Occasional accidents here or there but it was rare.

Fast forward to now, with my middle bruise. I can’t even begin to tell you how different it has been so far. While this kid has been able to sit on the potty and make himself go pee for a few months now, Dominic has been having trouble noticing the urge when it comes naturally. And it takes everything in my silent willpower not to get frustrated.

So, what’s my secret?

Wish I had one. Things with Luca just kind of fell into place on their own. But here are the things we’ve been doing this time around to hopefully help our cause.

Treats. I’m kind of worried he’s going to force himself into a UTI because he is so enamoured with treats that he literally jumps up and yells “Time to go potty!” every 20 seconds because he knows he gets a treat right afterwards. I can’t figure out if I’m harming him with this reward system or if it’s going to pay off.

Nudity. Yup, good ole fashioned no pants parties and potty parties. At first it’s super cute seeing a little butt playing all over the place. But after a while I feel like the joke’s on me – especially when we are firehose peeing all over the ground (or secretly peeing in random spots only for Mommy to find a few hours later because of the stink), and especially when his older brother regresses because he sees all the attention on the little guy. Basically everyone is running around my house naked or in underwear right now. Not just my house either, all around the yard too – the neighbors must think we’re crazy.

Portable potties. Even when we are house-bound, portable potties are super convenient. If I want to take all the kids outside to play, it’s a lot easier to tote around a little portable potty than have to run inside every 20 minutes for potty breaks. Ones with splash guards (like the one pictured above) are a major plus, especially for boys! I have to be honest, I’ve been running around like a crazy person trying to find our portable potty for the car from when Luca was potty training. But think I can find it? Nope. Just ordered this one as a replacement from Amazon to go in the car. The replacement bags are also a must have to be able to easily dispose of portable pee and poop!

Lots of extra underwear. Especially because this bruise is having a heck of a lot more accidents than the first one ever did. It’s been a lifesaver to be able to throw poopy splattered underwear right in the garbage rather than trying to clean and disinfect everything. Maybe I’m just lazy?

Patience and calmness. I need to preach to my own choir with this one. Because when my child went pee pee on the potty and earned his treat today, I proceeded to find him outside standing in the front yard pooping in his underwear while eating his treat. (He’s successfully potty trained when naked; add underwear to the picture and it’s a different story.) It took everything in my power not to lose my sh*t. On one hand I feel like the little bugger knew exactly what he was doing. On the other hand, I have to consciously tell myself he’s 2 and learning – every kid’s journey is different. Woosahhhh.

This moment today is also when I went back to Dr. Google out of frustration to refresh my memory on potty training. It can take 3 to 6 months, they say. Respond to accidents with kindness and calmness, they say. Each kid will potty train differently and at different ages, they say. Have kids clean up their own accidents, they say (Uhhhh this sounds like a terrible idea to me – I envision my 2 year old playing in his poop….anyone else?). Be patient and offer lots of encouragement, they say.

I was hoping to write this blog post once we were considered officially potty trained and it was considered a success. But I’m quickly realizing this might be a longer journey for Dominic, so we’re in it for the long haul and I’m practicing patience. In the meantime, enjoy this video of my kids mowing the lawn in their underwear. (And if anyone wants a good laugh these days, just take a drive by our house.)

WFH

I had every intention of doing a Books post today. Lot’s to share about toddlers and emerging writers. It’ll have to wait until tomorrow because this is how my morning went trying to work from home to prep curriculum for the start of the school year. I could tell the morning was going to sh*t so for the first two photos, I happened to set my phone up in the corner and pop the self-timer on. The other photo was a result of me hearing my 2 year old excitedly sing, “Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, up, up!” from the kitchen prompting me to wonder what he was riding.

(Please note: No animal was harmed in the making of this photo, I quickly yelled for him to get off the dog once I was able to snap the picture.)

Let’s play Where’s Waldo? Or seek and find. Whatever you want to call it.

1 point for spotting the stressed out teacher mama on a work zoom meeting in the middle of summer.

1 point for spotting the dog, who came to the playroom to check us out for all of 2 seconds before this happened. Haven’t seen him the rest of the day.

1 point for spotting the bruise who thinks it’s funny to ride the dog.

1 point for spotting the jumping bruise who knows exactly how to quietly break the rules when Mommy steps out for a second.

1 point for spotting the chalkboard that lists the daily routine we should be following but haven’t been following for the past 3 months.

3 points for spotting the caffeine – mom juice in my book.

3 points for watching the video below, in case you wanted more perspective on my day.

3 points for spotting the Hurricane Isaias forecast, hence canceling oldest kid’s day camp for the day and confining all kids indoors for the day – this mama’s worst nightmare. (At least at this very moment we still have power!)

25 points for spotting the perfectly behaved bow (or the baby monitor that shows she is sleeping upstairs like the angel that she is).

100 bonus points for counting the number of toys this mama will NOT clean up today, but probably step on or stare at until one of the bruises decides to actually take me seriously and actually clean up.

250 bonus points for posting a picture of your WFH situation in your IG or FB stories and tagging bruisesbowsandbooks!

An additional 500 points if your WFH situation trumps mine.

109309890345094385 bonus points for telling me this is a productive and efficient work environment, and that it’s possible to work from home and carry out your job responsibilities well while simultaneously parenting young children.

Who wins? Would love to see your point values below. Honor system! And go give your fellow working mamas a hug or a shoulder to cry on, knowing this is what they are experiencing daily. Heck, go give your fellow SAHMs a hug or shoulder to cry on, too!

The Magic of Summer Camp

Before Camp (T-shirt linked – click on photo)
After Camp

Can I just start by saying, I sent this bruise off to summer camp this morning for the first time this summer and the only thing missing when he came back was his socks. WIN!

Preface

Before I get into it, I feel like I need to give lip service to the current COVID situation. I DON’T feel like I should have to defend my decisions for what I do or don’t do with my kids in regards to COVID. Nor should I have to explain them, so I’m not going to. We all need to practice getting in the habit of honoring and respecting others’ decisions, rather than judging or questioning them. So when I tell you I sent my kid to summer camp, your response should simply be, “Wow, I’m really proud of you for making that decision! I know it must have been really hard.” (Because trust me, this is the nature and reality of any decision-making surrounding families with kids and camp/school/daycare). No room for hate or judgement when families are already dealing with all sorts of stress and anxiety as it is.

Now for the magic of summer camp.

Summer camp is one of those growing-up memories lots of kids have, whether they went because they wanted to or they went because they had to. I grew up going to day camps all summer long because I had two working parents who did everything they could to provide for us. I’m lucky in the sense that I chose to be a teacher, granting me summer vacations to spend with my own kids. But I want them to experience the magic of summer camp, just like I did, so we compromise…I’ve sent Luca (and I’ll send Dominic next year when he’s old enough) to a half-day (9:00am-1:30pm) program for Scouts (preschool age) at the lake we belong to for two weeks in August right before we all go back to school.

But let me let you in on a little secret: No one ever tells you that when you hear “the magic of summer camp”, it’s really the parents who experience magical bliss while their kid(s) is off burning energy and exhausting themselves just in time to come home for nap, dinner, and bedtime.

First and foremost, by August, this Mama is spent. By this point in the summer, I’ve spent 2+ months of my year changing diapers, wiping butts, preventing life-threatening injuries and accidents, eating leftover mac and cheese, ignoring temper tantrums, putting bandaids on boo boos, not ever showering, and not using a single adult brain cell (HUGE shout out to all the SAHMs out there!!). And this is night and day compared to my day job during the rest of the year – despite what most people think – this is a far cry from teaching! So sending 1 out of 3 off to summer camp for a few hours a day and consequently only having to deal with 2 kids instead of 3 is MAGIC.

You want to know what else is MAGIC? It buffers the transition back to school. Gets Luca back into a normal routine – getting up in the morning, brushing his teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and getting out the door. Mama and the rest of the kids get to do camp drop-off in our pjs. Starting slowly by getting one out of five family members ready for the day is a lot easier than trying to transition back to doing all five of us at once. That’s why I’m super systematic about it and only send him at the end of the summer when I need a break and when he needs to get his butt back into school mode.

It’s also pretty great when everything you’ve been fighting with your toddler about doing himself this summer just falls into place because Mommy’s not at camp with you to help you wipe your butt. Or put your swimmies on. Or spread your towel out. Or open your lunch. Or carry your backpack. Or change back into your dry clothes. Or put your socks and shoes on (probably why we came back with no socks today, but I’ll take it…). Literally he fights us tooth and nail about getting himself dressed. “But Mommy shirts are a little tricky!” (Insert Mom eyeball roll here.) But somehow, MAGICALLY, he can do it all by himself at camp!

And am I the only Mom out there who, most days, literally counts down the hours until bedtime just because I know I’ll finally get 30 seconds to myself and go pee without an audience? I really hope not. Guess what? Summer camp is MAGIC for that too because Luca comes home at 2pm so dead tired that he immediately takes his rester (thanks, cousin Ryan for coining the term to describe laying comatose on the couch watching youTube kids on the iPad) while the rest of the kids are actually napping. On a good day, no one wakes up till 4 and Luca will go back and forth between youTube kids and independently playing with his toys during this whole time. Giving me some earned hours back in my day, and also that much closer to bedtime!

Honestly, I can’t wait until NEXT August when I can send BOTH the bruises off to summer camp, giving me very rare girl time with my bow. That sounds like an absolute dream.

Really though, BIG shoutout to all the high school and college kids who agree to spend hot summer days with toddlers at a lake…during a pandemic.

Empty Threats (And Other Discipline Techniques That Never Work)

Send help. I damn near lost my mind last night. We went to the drive-in and, I swear when I say it, the bruises were the craziest kids on the block. They were SO BAD. I was straight up embarrassed – like throw-my-hands-in-the-air-and drink-a-whole-bottle-of-wine kind of embarrassed. I even accidentally butt-dialed my boss (Sorry Carrie!) mid-curse rampage because Dominic decided to act like a puppy all night. The poor, poor people who happened to have spots around us. We were THAT family.

I don’t know why the automatic preset for this video is to display it the wrong way. Need blogger help. At least when you click it, it plays the right way.

So it got me thinking about all the things we do for discipline…which never seem to work. I’ll admit, for some of them, I know why they don’t work. Others, I really don’t. I’m just trying to survive and keep my kids alive over here. And I have a two year old who doesn’t listen to a word I say. EVER. Like a puppy. I’ve compiled a list of all the discipline techniques we use, ordered most used to least used.

  1. Empty Threats. You know. “If you don’t stop wrestling you’re brother we are going home right now.” And, “Dominic. STOP. If you want to go to the lake you need to STOP. Ok you’re not going to the lake. I guess you’re staying home all by yourself.” *Whole family leaves for lake 20 minutes later.* This is one of the ones I know why it doesn’t work. Follow through. No follow through means they don’t believe a word I say.
  2. Time Out. Luca responds to time out really well! I deliver the time out and he heads right over to whatever spot I’ve designated. He sits and waits, and most of the time I forget he’s even in time out. He eventually politely asks if he can get out yet and I quickly remember he’s there. Dominic though. I deliver the time out and the little devil stares into my soul and smiles or laughs maniacally. So I deliver the time out again, this time a little sterner and a little louder. He straight up runs away, to the point where I chase him and drag him to the designated spot. If I happen to go in the other room, he’ll slither his way out or quickly find Luca to continue poking and prodding.
  3. Take away the item or toy or food in question. Usually results in immediate (crocodile fake) tears from Luca, and immediate attempted biting from Dominic (followed by tears post-bite). It seems to work for a hot second, until they find something bigger and better to be sword fighting with.
  4. Ignore completely. I believe the experts call this extinction. If you ignore something long enough the behavior supposedly happens less and less over time and eventually becomes extinct. You’re telling me the beat-each-other-up will become extinct if I do this enough? Ha. I think my kids would be dead before this happened, thus defeating the entire purpose…right? Side note, everyone knows when I ignore completely it’s because I’ve lost all energy and am waving my white flag.
  5. Tell them Santa’s watching, or tell them Elfie’s watching. Christmas. Don’t mess with Christmas. I have to say, this one DOES work if it’s close to Christmas. But when I whip it out mid-May, Luca will come back with some fresh response like, “But Mommy it’s not even winter yet.” Touche kid, touche.
  6. Mimic them. This one usually just results in a good laugh or doesn’t register with them at all. And I don’t do this one in public. I don’t think it’s a good idea to flop myself down in the toy aisle of Target and scream and cry till I get what I want. But if one of them is throwing a tantrum, have you ever tried flopping yourself down on the floor next to them and doing the exact same thing? They look at me like I have five heads and ask, “Mommy what are you doing?” They don’t even realize I’m copying them exactly. Whiney voice too – if I talk back to Luca in the same whiney voice he’s using he’ll innocently ask, “Mommy why are you talking like that?”
  7. Scream like an absolute maniac (but close the windows so the neighbors don’t hear how loud it really is). This is that last straw, I’m-gona-lose-it, are-you-ok, do-you-need-a-second kind of thing. The one where I hope and pray that the volume as well as pure and distinct rage in my voice is going to strike a chord and they GET it. Also the one I’ll never admit to anyone I actually do here and there. Usually, both boys immediately start crying – not because they feel remorse but because I scared them, and then my heart melts and I feel terrible and I run over and hug and kiss and apologize and proceed to have mom guilt for the next month and swear I’ll never do it again. Yes, I do need a second.

So I guess if you’ve figured out something that works for your toddler boys, send it my way. I’m begging you. Otherwise I think I’m just going to be a hermit and not allow my kids to leave the house ever again. Either that or I’m running away. Far, far away.

Bruises, Bows, and the Beach Part 2: All the Help

Short and sweet. This one’s going to be short and sweet.

Yesterday, I wrote about the goods and the gear — all the things I usually pack for a day at the beach with two toddlers and a baby. One of the essential items on my itemized list was ALL THE HELP YOU CAN GET. I still haven’t figured out how to actively supervise all three kiddos around water, especially when Tessa is nursing. She’s a sleepy nurser who doesn’t like a lot of movement or interruption so I’m usually pretty stationary if she’s eating. And if you have a two year old like mine – who doesn’t listen to a damn thing you say, ever – you can’t afford stationary at the beach.

So, we enlist. We enlist anybody and everybody who wants to help. But really this post is a special shout out to the usual suspects. Our help crew runs deep, and we’ve gotten pretty darn systematic about it. So even though I may not get to ‘relax’ the entire time at the beach, I’m usually able to steal at least a few minutes…all because of our handy helpers.

Between Nana, Papa, Auntie Ally, Uncle Pauly, Uncle Nic, Auntie Lindsay, Gammy, Popsy, and the occasional Uncle Dave, we’ve got it made. The boys are usually a tag team, so as long as one adult is willing to go in the water, catch hermit crabs, build sandcastles, or catch shrimpies, then we’re good. Initially at the beginning of the summer Tessa was a little fussy at the beach – lots of stimulation and she wasn’t sitting up yet so she didn’t like not being able to see what’s going on. So if she was awake, we’d have one adult on her. Recently, she’s stronger sitting up and is easily distracted by just sitting directly in the sand so as long as someone’s in the vicinity, we’re totally good. That usually leaves 1 or 2 of us out of the rotation, effectively allowing us to take shifts. Inevitably, the person who is off-shift ends up being the drink runner (adult drinks, that is). But amidst drink runs, that lucky one gets to park it for a few minutes and maybe, just maybe, close their eyes or read a book or sit in peace and quiet. And then the shift changes and we do it all over again.

Ultimately, though, we’re SO dang lucky. We’re so lucky we have family that happily agrees to tag along with us, even when deep down they know a day at the beach with kids our age is no easy feat. I imagine every time a Cape weekend or a WT day comes to an end, all the helpers silently and secretly cheers to our departure so they can go back to their calm, quiet, luxurious day. So if any of my immediate family has made it this far in my post and are still reading, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for sticking those (not-so-relaxing, crazy, hectic, exhausting, sweaty…) beach days out. It means the world to my kids, and means the world to me too. ❤

Bruises, Bows, and the Beach Part 1: The Goods and The Gear

Let me just start by saying, if anyone ever tells you that going to the beach with babies and/or toddlers is easy, they are certifiably crazy. Like before I had kids, I would dream of taking my future angelic kids to the beach – parking my butt in my beach chair with a book and some snacks so I can supervise my kids frolicking happily in the waves in front of me. (If I happen to spot this at the beach, I sit in awe and jealousy of this family wondering when it will be my turn? Never.) This is so absurdly far from the truth, and while I’ll say it takes a whole ton of sh*t and a whole ton of planning to get our little family to the beach, I still love my beach days, and the kids do too (most of the time). They just aren’t anything like the storybooks say they’ll be. This two-part series will outline for you what it takes to “enjoy” a beach day with a baby and two toddlers, including the goods and the gear, and the help.

I feel like I should itemize what we pack to bring to the beach in terms of goods and gear. And I’ll preface this by saying we have a lake we frequent often as well as my in-laws’ Cape house, and in both situations we walk to get to the beach. I’ve linked items to the actual product where possible! Thank you Amazon!

  • PATIENCE. Lots of it. Like more than any other time.
  • NO EXPECTATIONS. Some days you last an hour and others you last the whole day. Some days the kids are entertained and others they whine and cry the whole time. If you don’t have expectations, then you won’t be disappointed.
  • WILLINGNESS TO GET SANDY. In your unabashed pre-kid life, you could go to the beach and avoid any grain of sand on any of your things. With kids, you need to expect it. All over you, all over them (yes they will eat it and you won’t be able to stop it), and all over your sh*t. Learn to accept it.
  • HELP. You need all the help you can get. I’ll have a separate post devoted to this entirely.
  • ADULT BEVERAGES. Whether it’s coffee or booze or seltzer water, it is an essential item.
  • Beach wagon or beach buggy. The beach buggy we used to use broke, and the wagon has held up much stronger.
  • Beach tent. It needs to be easy to put up AND easy to take down. I went through a bunch at first that were like trying to put together origami when trying to put them away before I found this one.
  • Beach umbrella. Since baby’s skin is so sensitive, we need portable shade. So we always bring the umbrella in addition to the tent. This year especially we discovered how amazing it is to put it right on the water line. Helps us supervise with baby in tow, but also provides much needed relief on really hot days to be able to sit with your butt in the water.
  • Kid beach chairs. This may sound excessive, but it honestly helps SO much. If the kids want a snack, they have to sit in their chair. It helps us avoid sandy snacks and dropped food. And the baby beach chairs trap the baby so you don’t have to worry about chasing them around. LOL. We love the Summer Pop ‘N Sit chair for babies, and the big kid version too.
  • Adult beach chairs. You can’t go wrong with the Tommy Bahama backpack chairs because you can still carry them if they don’t fit in the wagon. They also have a cup holder, cell phone pocket, and built-in cooler.
  • Sand toys in an easy open, easy close sand toy bag. So the kids can carry them if needed, and help to clean up at the end of the day. For the bruises, I especially recommend buckets, nets, and shovels, so they can catch anything and everything nasty and gross.
  • Cooler. For adult beverages and kid cold snacks, but mostly adult beverages. My mother-in-law came across this awesome Tommy Bahama zipperless cooler bag at Marshall’s.
  • Snack bag. Pack all the snacks. And pack easy tupperware or kid containers so they aren’t sticking their sandy hands into bags of chips or boxes of cheez-its. We just use a re-useable shopping bag. Easy enough.
  • Water bottles for the kids. Ones with the pop up mouth pieces so they can be closed to avoid sand. We like the Yeti ones and Hydroflask ones because they keep water icy cold. A little pricey but worth the investment.
  • Beach towels. I ditched the beach blanket a long time ago because toddlers don’t understand the idea of keeping sand off the blanket or not walking across it. Towels are a lot easier to keep in a bag and only take it out when you need it. I’m a big fan of the Pottery Barn Kids towels – personalized (so the kids don’t argue over which one they want) but also really thick and high quality. Another worthwhile splurge. I also bought cheap ones on Amazon to send to camp with Luca so he doesn’t lose any of the good ones!
  • Extra change of clothes for every kid because inevitably, “Mommy, I’m sandyyyyy!” or “Mommy, I’m colddddd!”.
  • Diaper bag. Still need all things baby, even at the beach.
  • Portable white noise machine, in case the little needs a little extra help taking a nap on the go.
  • Swim diapers. Honestly, I just keep the whole package in our beach bag now. Too many experiences with blow outs or leaky pee to only pack 1 or 2 extras. Need the whole package, all the time.
  • Water shoes. You’ll thank me later for this one because your kid will no longer be able to say “Mommy can you carry me?” (hot sand, rocky sea floor, seaweed in the water…).
  • Puddle jumpers. SO much controversy here. Lots of media coverage lately due to the false sense of safety they provide kids when around water. Here’s how I see it though. I have 3 kids, that at any time, can all go in 3 different directions. I NEED something that can give me a little extra comfort when I’m trying to supervise them all around water. It holds them upright very well. But, holding a child vertical in the water is essentially holding them in the drowning position, so we still do swimming lessons and spend plenty of closely supervised time NOT in our puddle jumpers so they can get comfortable in water without anything helping them.
  • Koozies. I almost started buying non-alcoholic slim-can seltzers JUST so I could use my BruMate. But then I realized people would probably assume I jumped on the booze-wagon at 9am by myself at the beach with 3 kids and….yeah, that wouldn’t go over well. BUT, we all know what happens when you crack your seltzer (alcoholic or not). Immediately, every kid needs your help doing 25,000 different things. So when you come back to that seltzer 3 hours later, you better believe you still want it cold! Invest in a quality koozy, BruMate or not.
  • Sunscreen. Kid sunscreen and adult sunscreen. We use Beach Bum/Baby Bum or Babyganics.
  • Hats for every kid. I don’t put sunscreen in their hair, and I still don’t put sunscreen on Tessa’s face yet. So they know the rule is: out of the water, hats on.
  • Beach shoes. Easy on, easy off, and ones that are still comfortable with sand in them. We have our Natives and our sharky shoes that we got from Stitch Fix but are kind of like these Amazon ones.
  • Boogie boards. They love to float on them and pretend to surf, even though neither boy has figured out how to actually boogie board yet. I think we got ours from the seasonal aisle at Stop and Shop.
  • Portable, wireless speaker. Music makes everything better.
  • Candy and gummies. BRIBES. Whatever you need to bribe them to: get out of the water, change their diaper, let the hermit crabs go, take a picture, eat lunch, sit still on the towel….I could go on and on.

I’m probably forgetting a bajillion things. Moral of the story: we pack our house and more to go to the beach. But who doesn’t?

My Top 5 for Him

Wah, wah, wah. I feel like I had to write this post because I did a top 5 for her. Boys clothes. The no-fun, non-creative, can’t-find-anything-unique gender. The way I see it, with my bow, I can be all sorts of creative. I can find the most ridiculous bows or dress her up in sparkly tutus, and it can still be fashionable and cute. With the bruises, I feel like I basically have to dress them like mini-men. To get my inspiration, I usually just think about current trends for my husband’s generation and look for replicas in mini sizes. I’m pretty traditional when it comes to the boys too. My absolute favorite colors to dress them in are navy blue, red, and grey or white (hence the reason we have themed outfits for Memorial day, Fourth of July [well the whole month of July, really], and Labor Day…no matter what). For other colors, I tend to stay plain and simple with olive greens and baby blues and sometimes the occasional masculine pink or purple. And every now and then I’ll throw in a pop of neon colors. We’re also at the age with Luca where he wants to pick his own clothes, so he almost always insists on comfy pants. Hence owning every pair of sweatpants and joggers known to mankind. Here’s my top 5 picks for him:

  1. crewcuts by J.Crew. I love J.Crew for me and for Mike, so it’s logical I’d love it for the bruises. Simple, traditional pieces that can keep the boys looking cute but also comfy. One of the biggest benefits of crewcuts is J.Crew factory, because sometimes J.Crew/crewcuts can be pricey. I’ve found full wardrobes of THE SAME STUFF FROM REGULAR J.CREW on factory before and paid 1/3 of the price. The one drawback to crewcuts is it only starts at size 2T (they do sell baby clothes, but they are partnered with other brands), and in my experience, sizing tends to run larger (though there is shrinkage with washing and drying). I remember eagerly waiting for Luca to get to 2T just so I could start shopping here…and it was worth the wait!
  2. Gap. Gap/Old Navy made honorable mention for my top 5 for bows, but it comes in second for my top 5 for bruises for one main reason. Quantity and affordability. Honestly, I haven’t found a ton of brands I love for boys the way I have for girls. With Gap, I know their sizing like the back of my hand (they run big!), and I can rely on them for staples in colors that I like. The bulk of my boys’ wardrobe comes from Gap – any time I need to move Luca up a size, my base purchase is a haul from Gap.
  3. H&M. I love H&M for boys the way I do for girls. I like that most of their boy clothes have a European style and fit. Less baggy and a cleaner cut. Love their skinny jeans and jogger sweatpants especially. They have plenty of fun prints that still look sophisticated and stylish without looking to baby-ish or busy. My only problem with H&M is I can’t figure out their sizing for boys no matter how hard I try. Some of their stuff runs big, some of it true to size, and some of it runs small. When all else fails, err on the side of caution and buy big, so at the very least he can grow into it if it doesn’t fit right away.
  4. Burt’s Bees Baby. Also made the list for girls, and it’s on here for the same reasons. Great sleepers and casual wear for boys. I especially love their sweatsuits for boys, that usually come with zip-up hoodies and joggers. Remember, with BBB, the more washes, the softer so wash and dry as much as your little heart desires!
  5. Target (Cat & Jack). I almost exclusively shop Cat & Jack for the boys when I go to Target. Sometimes it feels like they throw their clothes away at the prices they list for. This is the brand I usually hit up when I’m interested in neon or a pop of color. What I also appreciate about Cat & Jack is they tend to run SMALLER. So if I have an abundance of crewcuts and Gap for the boys, I know I can offset the larger sizing with smaller sizing from Cat & Jack.

Honorable mentions for boys include L’ovedbaby, Nordstrom, Zara, Kyte Baby, and Kohl’s (bear with me on this last one before you LOL). I don’t shop L’ovedbaby as much for boys as I do for girls, but their sleepers were still mainstays in our PJ collection for baby boys. If you want to know when and why I shop Nordstrom, read “My Top 5 for Her” in the Bows section of this blog. I’ll just say ditto to that. I LOVE Zara. Like love, love, love it. But they are even more European than H&M, and so for that reason I mostly buy from them in person, where I can eyeball sizing and style better. (Side note: need this pandemic to end so I can hit up Providence Place Mall again!) I’m not as confident shopping from them online, which is why I put them as honorable mention rather than in my top 5. Kyte Baby just has the softest sleepers and onesies imaginable. Ok, and now Kohl’s. I rarely step foot in this store, but my husband loves it. I will say, they have a really good selection of Nike and Under Armour clothes for baby and toddler, and I like loading up on lots of these every summer. Highly recommend!

A note on L’ovedbaby and Kyte baby. Super gender neutral. Most of their items are either/or and it really doesn’t matter what gender you are shopping for.

**Please note, I am not employed by any of the above brands, just simply a mom on the internet sharing her opinion.