Category Archives: My little dragonslayers

Doing Dragon*Con with a baby.

By the time we moved to Atlanta, home of Dragon*Con, I’d been itching to go to a con for years.  When we were living in middle-of-cornfields-Indiana, it wasn’t really an option, considering all the travel expenses it would have entailed, so I was thrilled at the prospect of living in the home city of one of the country’s largest conventions.

Of course, by the time we moved to Atlanta, I was also pregnant with our second kid, and due two and half months before Dragon*Con.

Doing Dragon*Con with a baby.

Doing Dragon*Con with a baby.

Extreme introvert + first con ever + baby = terrifying (especially since I’d be going with Wil alone–my husband would stay home with our two-year-old).  But…there was still a part of me that still really, really wanted to go (largely due to some of the posts about cons on my favorite blog).  And I was afraid that if I let something get in the way this year, I’d do the same next year, and maybe the next.

I did my research first.  I read some helpful blog posts on Dragon*Con tips (this one and this one were the ones I found most helpful), but I couldn’t find much online about handling a large con with an infant in tow.  I began wondering if people even really do that, or if I’d be breaking some unspoken rule of etiquette by dragging a baby along with me.  So I called the phone number on the Dragon*Con contact page with a list of questions, and to get a general feeling for whether or not I’d be welcome with a baby.  The guy I spoke with was super nice and very helpful, and left me feeling like this definitely could be done!  So I bought my membership and began planning.

I’m still a newbie at the whole con thing, but I thought I’d chime in with my own tips on doing Dragon*Con with a baby, since I wasn’t able to find much help online myself.  So here are a few things I’d recommend thinking about before attempting a con with a baby in tow.

1. Plan out what gear to pack in advance.

Unless you’re staying in one of the hotels where the con is being held, you’re going to need to bring a lot of gear to keep your bases covered.  Babies need a lot of crap.

Wil was two months old when we did Dragon*Con, so I was exclusively breastfeeding.  A lot of people will tell you that breastfeeding is the easiest and simplest way to feed, because you’ll already be bringing your breasts, right?  But breastfeeding was a challenge for us.  There were a couple times that I was able to breastfeed him under a cover while sitting in line for a panel, but most of the time, he preferred to be bottle-fed pumped breastmilk (which meant I also needed to pump during the day).  So I brought:

  • a nursing cover (made from this tutorial–great because it covered my back, so I could sit anywhere while I breastfed or pumped)
  • a battery-operated pump (and extra batteries)
  • two small coolers with icepacks
  • plenty of bottles and nipples (I used these bottles, which I’d gotten in a sample bag at the hospital where I delivered–they worked with my pump, and fit four nicely in each cooler)
  • a bottle brush and a travel-size bottle of dish soap (in case I needed to wash bottles, though I always ended up packing enough that I didn’t need to)
  • burp cloths

Every morning, I packed one cooler with six to eight ounces of refrigerated breastmilk to start the day with, and filled the other cooler with empty bottles to pump milk into during the day.  I also kept a couple of those pre-mixed formula samples (along with a disposable nipple) in the bottom of my diaper bag, just in case (never a bad idea to have those on hand in case of emergency!).  Even if you are breastfeeding (or planning to breastfeed), be prepared for there to be times that it won’t go smoothly, especially if your baby hasn’t experienced much chaos and commotion during feedings.  Have a contingency plan, whether that’s pumping and bottle-feeding, using formula, or going home early.

I know it’s becoming more acceptable to breastfeed in public, but I was still worried about attempting it (even by kid #2).  I used a cover every time (I’m a very private person), and no one ever gave me a hard time or even looked at me funny (or at least I never noticed).  The guy I spoke with on the phone ahead of time assured me that if anyone hassled me for it, I could go to one of the volunteer staff and they’d back me up.  Most of the time, I was able to breastfeed or pump in the hotel lobby between panels.

You’ll also need all the standard baby stuff:

  • diapers (bring extras!)
  • wipes
  • changing mat
  • change of clothes
  • blankets (one for the floor, and one to cover baby–hotels are air-conditioned!)
  • toys (quiet ones for during panels)
  • gas drops (especially if bottle-feeding)
  • …and whatever else you usually pack in your diaper bag,
  • plus, a STROLLER (bring one you like, with lots of storage space)

You’ll also need stuff for you:

  • water bottle (there are usually water stations to get a cup of water near the line for the panel, but there were quite a few times that the water jugs were empty)
  • snacks (it’s hard to fit meals in; don’t count on being able to get to the con suite–where there are supposedly free snacks–with a stroller)
  • tylenol
  • book to read (I got through quite a chunk of Wheel of Time: Memory of Light while pumping during an extra-long nap Wil took)
  • badge and lanyard for it (I used a ribbon)
  • pocket program (unless you have a smart phone and can access the app)
  • …and whatever else you think you might need

Think about what you’ll need to pack weeks before the con, in case you need to buy or make anything (like coolers or a nursing cover).  Make a detailed list, and add to it as you learn your baby’s routine in the weeks leading up to the con.

Baby Chewbacca, waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

Baby Chewbacca, waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

2. Plan your panels.

You can find panel schedules for each track on the Dragon*Con website (or linked) ahead of time.  Look through the schedules for each track you’re interested in and make a list of panels you might want to attend.  Figure out which ones conflict, and which ones you must attend.  Don’t plan for more than three panels in a day, and try to avoid back-to-back panels (especially if they’re in different hotels).

Schedules may change as the con approaches, so if you start planning a couple weeks out, don’t forget to check your schedule for changes in the days leading up to the con.

I’d also recommend planning to end your days on the early side.  One of the things the guy on the phone told me when I called ahead of time was that con-goers tend to get rowdier in the evening, as the drinking starts.  Since most of the panels I was interested in were morning and afternoon panels anyway, it worked well for me to leave sometime in the afternoon or early evening every day.  That way, I could also spend a little time with my two-year-old at home, get Wil to bed on time, and take a shower before going to bed at a decent hour, too.

Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris), Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers), and James Marsters (Spike) at the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" panel.

Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris), Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers), and James Marsters (Spike) at the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” panel.

3. Pick up your badge and pocket program on Thursday.

If you can pick up your badge on Thursday (Dragon*Con starts Friday), do it.  The lines were awful on Friday morning, and I talked to a number of people in line who had friends missing panels because they were still waiting to get their badges.  Also, picking it up the night before the con starts gives you the opportunity to explore the con hotels, which I highly recommend doing.  Glance through the pocket program to see which hotels will be holding your must-see panels.  Your pocket program will also have maps of each hotel; I recommend highlighting elevators, bathrooms, and bridges between hotels.

Walk through each hotel, while you’re not fighting through hordes of people with a stroller, and familiarize yourself with the places you expect to spend your time.  Find the elevators and the bathrooms, figure out which levels the bridges connect on (Hyatt to Mariott to Hilton), and look for good places to breastfeed and/or pump.  (The Mariott is crazy.  Most of my panels were in the Westin, and there were plenty of seating options in the lobby for me to find a place to breastfeed and/or pump without drawing attention to myself.)  If you’ll be attending panels in different hotels, or if you’re using MARTA, walk the outdoor routes between hotels (and MARTA)  so you won’t be digging out your map while being shoved along the crowded streets the next day.

Baby Whovian: Wil sports his "Allons-y" onesie on the day we went to the "Torchwood" panel.

Baby Whovian: Wil sports his “Allons-y” onesie on the day we went to the “Torchwood” panel.

4. Get in line for panels early.

Most of the panels I attended were the ones with stars from my favorite shows, and famous people tend to draw a crowd.  You’ll want to get in line as early as possible for two reasons: 1) you’ll want to make sure you get a good seat (on an end for a quick exit if necessary, but not so far back that you’re missing all the action–and panels do often fill up to capacity); and 2) depending on the layout of the hotel, lines often extend up or down stairs (not possible with a stroller) or outside (in extreme heat).  Panels are scheduled an hour and a half apart; lines queue for one panel as soon as the line from the previous panel as cleared.  So, try to be there to get in line a full hour and a half before your panel.

Once you’re safely in line, you can sit on the floor, spread a blanket out for baby, breastfeed, etc., and relax while you wait.  It’s not so bad spending time in line–you’re surrounded by people interested in the same thing you are, so you’re likely to make some friends to pass the time.

Baby Captain Hammer naps in my arms after a snack waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

Baby Captain Hammer naps in my arms after a snack waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

5. Avoid the vendor halls and all basements.

The vendor halls are ridiculously overcrowded.  Don’t expect to be able to navigate them well with a stroller.  In fact, I had to haul my stroller down a few stairs to even get to the elevators in that building (AmericasMart).  It’s just not worth it.

And basements…when you are dependent on using the elevators, it is unfortunately very easy to get stranded.  I got stuck on the bottom floor of one hotel for half an hour, as dozens of elevators came down full of people who had gotten on on floors above me intending to ride down to go up.  Eventually a hotel manager happened to walk by, and he offered to let me use an employee elevator to get back to street level.  Another time, I was stuck for a good twenty minutes or so, along with a lady in a wheelchair, as we watched elevator after full elevator go by, until we were finally able to squeeze onto a couple less-packed ones.  It’s ridiculous.  Don’t go below street level unless you’re really, really interested in what’s down there, and you have time to get stuck.

We braved the crazy Mariott for the "Torchwood" panel with Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), and Burn Gorman (Owen Harper).

We braved the crazy Mariott for the “Torchwood” panel with Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), and Burn Gorman (Owen Harper).

6. If you have questions, ask.

The volunteer staff are amazing.  I cannot rave about them enough.  The guy on the phone was very nice, helpful, and welcoming.  I stopped by the help desk after registration to ask some of the same questions, just to make sure I was okay, and they were very helpful.  When I arrived to get in line for my first panel, I asked one of the volunteers about bringing a baby in with me, and if there was anywhere in particular I should sit, and he was super nice and helpful.  On the one hellish day I attended a panel in the Mariott (SO. CROWDED.), I planned ahead and arrived two and a half hours before my panel, so I could try to find a way to get in the front of the line when it began forming an hour later; apparently I wasn’t the only one with that idea, though, so in the end, it was going to be a free-for-all once they started letting the next line queue.  I’d heard the line would extend onto stairs as well as outside in the extreme Georgia summer heat, so I spoke with a couple volunteers, who hooked me up with some other volunteers, and someone found me a place to sit with Wil near the head of the line, and they even let me in early (after the disabled, but before everyone else) to find a good seat on an end near an exit.

Follow the rules, listen to instructions, and don’t make yourself a special case unless you have to.  Be respectful and polite to the staff–they work hard, and unfortunately take a lot of crap–and you’ll find that they’ll usually be more than willing to help you in any way they can.  (Point in case: Most of the panels I attended were in the Westin, in the same ballroom every time, so I’d interacted with a few of the volunteers there several times.  There was a panel on the last day that I wanted to attend that was immediately after another panel I wanted to see.  It was in the same room, but by the time the first let out, the line for the next had already extended up multiple flights of stairs.  I asked one of the staff, when they weren’t too busy, if there was somewhere on that level where I could wait to join the end of the line once it started moving.  He pointed me to an out-of-the-way spot, and I waited for half an hour for the queued people to be allowed into the room.  It was a packed panel, but in the end, when they determined it was full and the staff were turning newcomers away, one of the staff quietly told me to stick around for a few minutes.  They found an empty seat on the end of a back row, and let me in anyway.  I’m convinced it was because I’d spent all weekend following the rules, being nice to the staff, and responsibly arriving early–and also because the staff are genuinely very nice people!)

Also, most of your fellow con-goers are good people who are happy to help you out if you have a quick question about where something is or how something works.  There are going to be a few people who seem to think you brought your baby and stroller just to inconvenience them personally, but on the whole, I found the other attendees to be very nice.  (With the exception of hogging the elevators.  But then there were other times, while waiting for an elevator on a main level, that someone would see me and shout “Let the stroller on first!” so I could actually get on one before everyone else made the mad dash to load first.)

Gandalf visited us in line as we waited for the "Torchwood" panel.

Gandalf visited us in line as we waited for the “Torchwood” panel.

7. BE CONSIDERATE.

Yes, you paid to attend, and you deserve to enjoy it.  But so did/does everyone else.  Don’t let your decision to bring your baby get in the way of others enjoying their con experience.  Be prepared to leave panels early if you need to.  Get a seat on an end, know the route to the exit, and keep your stuff as packed together as possible, so if your baby freaks out and you need to get out fast, you can.  If you need to give your baby toys to keep him happy, give him quiet ones.  If you need to stand and rock him to keep him calm, make sure you’re not blocking anyone else’s view of the stage.

Wait your turn, follow the flow of traffic, and do your very best not to run over people’s toes.  Apologize when you should, and say “excuse me” a lot.  Use your manners!  Other people are going to be in your way, but you’ll be in theirs, too.  Be pleasant, and most people will be pleasant back.

Miracle Laurie (Mellie/November), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard; he was also Karl "Helo" Agathon in BSG), and Eliza Dushku (Echo/Caroline) at the "Dollhouse" panel.

Miracle Laurie (Mellie/November), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard; he was also Karl “Helo” Agathon in BSG), and Eliza Dushku (Echo/Caroline) at the “Dollhouse” panel.

8. Remember that your baby is more important than your con experience.

Wil was the perfect baby to take to a con.  At two months, he was still sleeping a ton, he could sleep anywhere, and he was perfectly content to just chill in the stroller or on a blanket on the floor, and be held during panels.  He was the sort of rare baby that only cried when something was wrong, too, so as long as I was keeping him fed and in a clean diaper, he almost never cried.  We managed to make it through the whole con without ever having to leave a panel early!

But…I was prepared to leave a panel if I had to.  And I would have.  And there was one day I headed home before I panel I’d hoped to see, because it had been a long day already and I felt like it would be better for him to get home early.  Listen to your baby’s cues, and cut your own fun short when that’s what’s best for him.  If you don’t, he will make you miserable for it anyway, so you might as well enjoy what he lets you and let go of what he won’t!  Be flexible (if this is your first baby, that’s a lesson you’ll have to learn eventually anyway; if it’s not your first, then you already know that).

Managing that mischief, hanging out in line in his "Harry Potter" onesie.

Managing that mischief, hanging out in line in his “Harry Potter” onesie.

If you’re thinking about trying to attend a con with a baby in tow, be assured that it can be done.  But temper your expectations: you will not have the freedom to get the full con experience.  As long as that’s okay with you, then I’d encourage you to do it!  I did see a few other parents with babies and children tagging along, so you won’t be alone.

Baby Browncoat.  This was our "extra" onesie, which I kept in the diaper bag just in case he needed a change of clothes, but we never broke it out during the con!

Baby Browncoat. This was our “extra” onesie, which I kept in the diaper bag just in case he needed a change of clothes, but we never broke it out during the con!

(By the way, I made all of Wil’s onesies for the con, since I didn’t really feel much like dressing up myself at two months post-partem.  I also made him a couple ribbon tag blankets–one “Firefly” and one Star Wars–which are similar to what I now sell in my Etsy shop.)

My little dragonslayers.

My little dragonslayers.

If you do it, I wish you the best of luck!  And if I run into you, I’ll give up my spot on the elevator and hold the door for you. 🙂

Advertisements

The perks of living in Atlanta: Part I.

love Atlanta.  We moved here from middle-of-cornfields-Indiana, and, while I’ve never considered myself much of a city person, it is wonderful to live within ten minutes of Olive Garden, Target, Costco, and everything else that isn’t just Walmart (seriously, we used to hang out at Walmart, because that’s all there was).

So, last weekend, we drove twenty minutes to the fifth closest mall to our house (not exaggerating): the Mall of Georgia.  Just to hang out.

Kaylie picked her own clothes:

Kaylie asked to wear her Star Wars shirt and her pink skirt.

Kaylie asked to wear her Star Wars shirt and her pink skirt.

TOO. CUTE.  I love that she paired her Star Wars shirt with a girly pink skirt.  That’s three-year-old fashion sense for you!

We went to the Disney Store (just to play), threw pennies into an indoor fountain, and ate lunch at the food court.  There’s a carousel in the food court, and our seats were right next to it, so Kaylie enjoyed watching it go around.  She asked to go on it, and we explained to her that sometimes fun things cost money, and so we can’t do them very often, so, no, we were not going to ride it today….and she was great about it.  We had fun just watching it.  But, as we were preparing to leave the food court, Casey discreetly checked out how much the carousel cost to ride…..and then we bought her a ticket.

First time on the carousel!

First time on the carousel!

We didn’t get any great pictures, because every time I asked her to smile at Daddy, she responded, “No, I’m just going to have fun.”  Ha!  But she loved it….she kept exclaiming “I’m a cowgirl!” throughout the ride, and when it was over, she said goodbye to her horse.

The other one.

The other one.

Wil never seems to make it into these posts, but he’s getting cuter (I’m not a baby person).  He was a doll waiting with Casey during the carousel ride, so we somehow ended up with better pictures of him than her at this point!  He’s a good kid.

"I want to go inside!"

“I want to go inside!”

Then we walked around some more, and we found a cardboard TARDIS in a shop window.  Kaylie kept asking to go inside while I was trying to take her picture, and at first we thought she meant inside the store…and then she corrected us–she wanted to go inside the TARDIS……me, too, honey.

Dancing with Darth Vader?  Flashing him?  I'm not quite sure.

Dancing with Darth Vader? Flashing him? I’m not quite sure.

And then we met Darth Vader.  Well, a cardboard version of him.

It’s nice living in a real city!


May the Fourth be with you.

Happy Star Wars Day!

To celebrate, my kids and I decked out in our Star Wars shirts and took a Stormtrooper-style selfie:

Our Stormtrooper-style selfie, in celebration of Star Wars Day.  May the Fourth be with you!

Our Stormtrooper-style selfie, in celebration of Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you!

Get it?  ‘Cause Stormtroopers always miss.  Haha!

(I can’t take credit for the idea; see my inspiration here.)

May the Force be with you! 🙂


Star Wars cookies.

I usually get a little chunk of time with just Kaylie while Wil naps in the morning.  So the other day, I thought it would be fun to bake cookies!

Cookie time!

Cookie time!

Of course, we cheated and used the store-bought dough.  (Wil’s naps aren’t very long sometimes!  I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time for cutting out and decorating them.  Plus, I’m lazy. 😉 )

These ARE the cookies cutters you're looking for.

These ARE the cookies cutters you’re looking for.

It was a great opportunity to break out the Star Wars cookie cutters my family got me for Christmas!  (Here’s where you can purchase the characters set and the ships set.)

04

Kaylie helped cut out the shapes.  I let her pick which one to use each time.

05

She used every single one.  When you ask her what her favorite anything is these days, she almost always answers “All of them!”  Same here.

06

Playing with the flour was her favorite part, though.  That, and getting to stand on the chair (she’s a little short for a Stormtrooper).

Before baking.

Before baking.

Here they are before we baked them!

After baking.......I find your lack of shape disturbing.

After baking…….I find your lack of shape disturbing.

They didn’t retain their shape so well.  Oh well…..that wasn’t really the point, anyway. 🙂

Mommy let me hold the icing!

“Mommy let me hold the icing!”

Now for the fun part: DECORATING!!  I gave each a coat of vanilla icing before letting Kaylie help draw on it with the green icing.

Chocolate chips!

Chocolate chips!

Then came her favorite part: I gave her a bowl of dark chocolate, white chocolate, and caramel chips, and told her she could put six on each cookie.

I'm gonna eat this one, Mom.

“I’m gonna eat this one, Mom.”

After decorating the first cookie, she asked if she could eat one of the chips, and I said yes.  Then she assumed that was the rule for every cookie….place six, eat one.  She was just so cute that I let her (I think she Jedi mind-tricked me!).

"What's in your mouth, Kaylie?"

“What’s in your mouth, Kaylie?”

See the cuteness?  The Force is strong with this one.

Finished!

Finished!

A couple of them broke, so we only iced eight of them.  You can tell she got tired of helping with the green icing before the end, hence the faces on Yoda and Darth Vader and my attempt to re-draw the TIE bomber.  (I liked her chip placement on Yoda, though.  That was all her.  Not sure why he ended up with a third eye on his forehead, though….)

Done with her cookies!

“Kaylie, smile!”  The three-year-old version of smiling is hilarious.

I made her wait to eat one, though, until after lunch.

"Mommy, help me make a Dalek!"

“Mommy, help me make a Dalek!”

We had some time to kill before lunch, so Kaylie asked me to help her make a Dalek out of the stacking cups (no, I’m not kidding–that’s what she calls it).

Our kid-toy versions of a Dalek and TARDIS.

Our kid-toy versions of a Dalek and TARDIS.

Then I made a Duplo TARDIS.

Finally getting to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

Finally getting to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

I finally let her eat a whole cookie after lunch.  She picked Darth Vader.

Gouging out Vader's eyes.  She's too badass to need a lightsaber....she'll just take him out with her bare hands.

Gouging out Vader’s eyes. She’s too badass to need a lightsaber….she’ll just take him out with her bare hands.

She mutilated that thing before ever picking it up to take a bite!

19

Darth Vader didn’t stand a chance.

"Would you like a bite, Mommy?"  (Mommy ate the TIE bomber.)

“Would you like a bite, Mommy?” (Mommy ate the TIE bomber.)

It was a very fun morning, even if our cookies did not end up looking quite like they were supposed to.  That’s one of the perks of doing things with a three-year-old; just about anything can be salvaged and it’s just as fun!  She had an absolute blast (and I got the opportunity to reinforce that Star Wars equals “fun”!).  I had such a good time with my little Padawan!


Birthday tricycle.

Kaylie’s third birthday was this week!  I can’t believe she’s already three!

I asked her a few days ago what she’d like to eat on her birthday.  She immediately replied that she wanted cupcakes, monkey bread, and veggie pasta.

Monkey bread!

Monkey bread!

So we started the day with monkey bread!

Making cupcakes.

Making cupcakes.

Once Wil went down for his morning nap, Kaylie helped me make cupcakes.  (Kaylie loves to help me stir the batter, and place the liners in the cupcake trays.  Such a good helper!)

"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

“Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”

While the cupcakes baked, we played a rousing round of “fifty-card-two pick-up” (with Kaylie’s three decks of cards), which was followed by helping her dinosaurs play hide-and-seek.

"Mine is an evil laugh--now, DIE!"

“Mine is an evil laugh–now, DIE!”

The tyrannosaurus rex has been named “Rex” since she got it, I think because of Toy Story.  The previously-unnamed stegosaurus was christened “Cupcake” (gee, I wonder why?).  Cupcake would hide under all of the cards, and Rex would come to find him.

Lunch was, at her request, ABC Spaghetti-Os with meatballs.  And dinner was her favorite–veggie pasta with Parmesan (along with green beans with almonds–I gave her a few choices for a vegetable to go with dinner).  And after dinner, we all headed outside for her biggest present of the day:

Her very own tricycle!

Her very own tricycle!

We gave her a dress-up box a week and a half ago, so we could celebrate early while her grandma was visiting, but this was her other “big” present this year.  She’s been talking about tricycles for months, and she sings a song about riding a tricycle that she learned from Elmo on “Sesame Street” all the time, so Casey and I were super pumped to get this for her.

"Why does Mommy have a camera?"

“Why does Mommy have a camera?”

I waited outside with Wil and the tricycle, juggling both cameras so we’d get pictures and video of the moment.  Of course, the first thing she said as she came out the door was “Why does Mommy have a camera?”  It took her a few more seconds to notice the tricycle!

"What's that?"

“What’s that?”

Her reactions are always subdued.  She’s not one for exclamations or jumping for excitement (though she loves jumping for its own sake).

"It's a tricycle!"

“It’s a tricycle!”

With her, you see it in the eyes.  They just light up as it sinks in.  It’s like we have to tell her something good a few times before she believes it, and then she starts smiling.

IMG_9419

By the time we strapped on her helmet, she’d begun smiling and repeating, “It’s a tricycle for Kaylie!”

IMG_9422

I think she started singing Elmo’s “Riding a tricycle, all the day long” as soon as her bottom hit the seat….

IMG_9436

We didn’t make it very far–just to the end of our driveway.  She loved the little bell on the handlebars!

IMG_9438

Wed tried to get her to start pedaling on her own, but she kept getting off to stare at and admire her new tricycle, so she didn’t make much progress there.  But that’s okay; it’s hers now, so we’ll have plenty of time to practice!

IMG_9443

I think this one was a hit! 🙂

 

 


“I don’t want to be a princess. I want to be a pirate.”

It’s something of a tradition among the women of my husband’s side of the family: little girls get a dress-up box on their third birthday.  My mother-in-law suggested it to me ages ago (I don’t remember if I was even pregnant yet at the time), and, as I thoroughly enjoyed playing dress-up as a child, I loved the idea.  So I’d been keeping an eye out for thrift store finds and post-Halloween sales for quite some time, and both my mother and mother-in-law made considerable contributions as my daughter’s third birthday neared.

Kaylie’s birthday is still a week away, but my mother-in-law, who is a teacher on the other side of the country, visited us last week on her spring break.  It seemed a good opportunity to celebrate a little early, so she could give Kaylie her contributions in person, so we planned a pre-birthday–complete with cupcakes–for this past Saturday.

PRESENTS!!!!

PRESENTS!!!!

She was, as any child her age would be, very excited to open presents!

I thought she’d also be excited at all the new stuff inside.

Flipping through the contents.

Flipping through the contents.

NOPE.

She opened and quickly discarded a set of fairy wings from Grandma Carol, and then started on the first of three wrapped boxes.  She opened mine first, and, in record time, emptied it by fistfuls, ignoring my attempts to interest in her individual items.  “Kaylie, look!  It’s a ____!  Would you like to try it on?”  “No, no, no!”  And she moved on to the next box.

This pin-on flower was the first thing she expressed an interest in.

This pin-on flower was the first thing she expressed an interest in.

Dresses, scarves, tutus, boas, hats, skirts, shawls, and more, and every time, “No, no, I don’t want to!”

IMG_9038

Until this little pin-on flower.  Finally, we got a “Wear it, please?”

Stinker.

Stinker.

Of course, she wanted it right off again within a minute.

A fan!

A fan!

And she liked this feathery fan.

I can do it myself!

I can do it myself!

Not wearable, but at least she didn’t toss it aside.

IMG_9047

In the end, this cowgirl hat was the only thing we could get her to wear.  She LOVES all the Toy Story movies, so she’s a big fan of cowgirls and cowboys (like Jessie and Woody).

Cowgirl Kaylie.

Cowgirl Kaylie.

She fetched her horse, Rody (of whom she always says, “His name is Rody, but I call him Bullseye”) and rode around the living room for a while.

IMG_9053

Our little cowgirl.

How we do birthdays with family long-distance.

How we do birthdays with family long-distance.

She did eventually get off the horse to put on every single necklace she got in this haul along with what she already had.

(And this, by the way, is how we do birthdays with both sets of grandparents living across the country from us–Skyping on multiple mobile devices.  What a world our kids are growing up in!)

So, my daughter has a dress-up box overflowing with princess dresses, tutus, fairy wings, and sparkly magic wands….and, in the days since, it has been like pulling teeth to get her try on anything but the cowgirl hat, the only things she has asked to dress up as are a cowgirl and a pirate (which we don’t have costumes for), and she uses one of the wands primarily as a “bat” to whack a ball around on the floor.

Disappointment and pride have warred in my soul these past few days.

On the one hand, we acquired all this adorable girly dress-up stuff that I would have loved wearing as a kid.  I especially love the princess dresses–and, in our defense, Kaylie did ask just two weeks ago to dress like a princess!  (She had just met a girl in our neighborhood who was dressed as Cinderella.)  So I’m disappointed that this gift that I’ve been putting together for literally months was such a flop…..

But I’m also the mom who dressed her as a pirate for Halloween when she was one and too young to give her own input, mostly so I could dress like a pirate and take her trick-or-treating–and then let her re-wear the costume the next year, because she asked to.  I’m the mom who has been stockpiling classic My Little Pony toys from garage sales and giving them to her at birthdays and Christmas in the hope that she’ll love horses like I do, and now sits through the 1986 MLP movie because she likes it better than the new series (I grew up on it; it has a special place in my heart; but after 50 viewings, it gets a little rough).  I’m the mom who has swordfights with her, makes toddler armor out of empty toilet paper tubes, and crawls around on all fours to give her horsey-back rides.  So when my little girl takes one look at a boxful of girly princess-y things* and says, “I don’t want to be a princess–I want to be a pirate!”, I can’t help but feel proud of her.  She’s being her own person, and I love it.

It helps that I love pirates and cowgirls, too.  I also like princesses.  I hope I do a good job teaching her that she can love both…but that she also doesn’t have to love either.  There’s all this discussion going on these days on gender assumptions and expectations, and the only extent to which I wish to weigh in on that is that it’s perfectly okay to like girly things, it’s perfectly okay to not like girly things, and it’s perfectly okay to like boyish things.

It’s also okay that she was more excited about the wonders of Scotch tape, and wanted to play with the pieces instead of unwrapping the rest of the first present.  She’s two.  Well, almost three, but still.  The point is, kids will like what they like, and that is okay.

Anyway, I did manage to talk her into trying on one of the princess dresses yesterday.

Angel princess!

Angel princess!

She actually wanted the angel wings and halo to go with it!  Progress!

(If it seems like I’m pushing her, you should know: Kaylie is often extremely reluctant to try new things.  We have to push.  If she doesn’t want to do it again, that’s fine; but half the things she loves to do, we had to make her do the first time.)

"I'm Jessie!"

“I’m Jessie!”

I convinced her to try on the Merida wig by reminding her that Jessie (from Toy Story 2 & 3) has red hair under her cowgirl hat.

Admiring herself.

Admiring herself in her new mirror.

Of course, while I am confident that she will come to enjoy dressing up in the clothes she now has (if we can just get her to try it a few times–that’s typical Kaylie for you), I also want to encourage her to dress up as she wants to dress up.  So last night, after much fruitless online shopping, I dug up the Halloween costume she’d worn the last two years (it’s a little small now, but the other pirate costume I’d already bought for her is still way too big), and I found pair of cowgirl boots I bought ages ago that are still a couple sizes too big.

"I'm a cowgirl!"

“I’m a cowgirl!”

She LOVES the cowgirl boots!  I couldn’t find an affordable cowgirl or cowboy costume online, so now I’m brainstorming how to make her dress-up chaps or something.

IMG_9108

Really, the hat and the boots are what make the outfit, anyway.

And this morning, as soon as she got up, she asked to dress up like a pirate.  So we went straight from pajamas to this:

IMG_9111

That’s my girl!  My stubborn, independent, contrary girl. 🙂  Gosh, I love her.

*Just to clarify: There were actually a couple of “boy” outfit pieces in the box, too; just not, apparently, ones she was interested in.  (And she’s had a set of fairy wings with a matching tutu since Christmas that she regularly wears around the house, so getting her more girly things didn’t seem unreasonable!)


Georgia Aquarium.

We have an annual pass to the Georgia Aquarium that expires this month, so we all made a trek downtown the other day.

Look, fish!

Look, fish!

As soon as you enter the building after the ticket line, there’s a narrowing hallway between these two walls of fish.  There’s nothing spectacular about them (they just swim around in a circle, and they’re not even pretty), but all three times we’ve visited, Kaylie has spent at least ten minutes perched on the ledge beside the tank, utterly enchanted.  On our first trip, we had a hard time convincing her to move on at all!

Look, a waterfall!

Look, a waterfall!

And then there’s her other favorite part….the waterfall at the entrance to one of the exhibit tracks.  No, there are no fish or animals or anything….it’s just a waterfall over some rocks.  But that’s two-year-olds for you!

Yes, it's fun to look at fish.  It's also fun to JUMP!

Yes, it’s fun to look at fish. It’s also fun to JUMP!

She’s almost three now, and age three is when the Georgia Aquarium starts charging admission (two and under is free), and they have got that pegged.

Aquarium 04

Kaylie will be three next month, and this was our first trip where we felt like she was really able to enjoy all the exhibits (except for the touch-and-feel pools–she still doesn’t want to touch anything in the tank, though she likes dipping her hands in the water).

Albino alligators, aka "dinosaurs".

Albino alligators, aka “dinosaurs”.

They had a pair of albino alligators, but I’m not sure we were successful in convincing Kaylie that alligators and dinosaurs are not the same thing.

Beluga!  Well, beluga tails, anyway.

Beluga! Well, beluga tails, anyway.

They were feeding the three beluga whales when we got to this exhibit, so they were really close to the glass, but the food must have been good, because we didn’t see much more than their tails!

More jumping.

More jumping.

That’s okay, Mom; I’ll just jump some more.  (In fact, I’ll jump right into these nice strangers over here, since you’re four steps too far away to reach me in time!  Yes, she did.)

Waiting for the dolphin show.

Waiting for the dolphin show.

I was super excited for Kaylie to go to the dolphin show.  The first time my mom and I took her to the aquarium, we went to the dolphin show, and Kaylie, at almost two years old then, was very overwhelmed.  We didn’t even try going to it the second time.  But I figured she was old enough now to enjoy it, and she did!  Casey got to take her, since I had to stay with Wil (who spent nearly the whole trip just chilling in his stroller–he’s so laidback!), but she loved it.

Hello, there, Mr. Dolphin!

Hello, there, Mr. Dolphin!

Apparently she really liked this dolphin figure.

Two-year-old camera faces are the best.

Two-year-old camera faces are the best.

And this is what happens when you tell Kaylie “Look at me!” while you’re trying to take a picture.  (Thank goodness for digital cameras!  You other parents know what I mean.  Though this is still often the best we can get….)

Aquarium 11

We were about ready to call it a day after the dolphin show, but we’ve watched enough Finding Nemo that Kaylie did want to see the jellyfish (like the ones that Marlin and Dory swim through).

Aquarium 12

Bizzare creatures.  But very relaxing to watch, so it was a good way to wind down at the end of the trek.

Aquarium 13

We stopped at one last large tank, full of all kinds of colorful fish.  We didn’t see any “Nemo” fish, but we did find a few “Dory” fishes!  Those were Kaylie’s favorites.

Another "camera face".

Another “camera face”.

“Kaylie, look at me and smile!”  Yeah, that’s about as good as it gets.

It was a fun day!  When I bought the annual pass almost a year ago, I was six months pregnant and we lived five minutes from MARTA, which we could take almost right to the aquarium, so I had all these plans of taking Kaylie for little trips during the week to get out of the apartment…..but instead of my morning sickness going away by my last trimester, it just got worse.  So, while we’ve gone enough times to pay for the pass, we didn’t get as much out of it as I hoped to.  I think we’ll wait to renew our pass until Wil is old enough to enjoy it, too, but I am loving living in a big city with these sort of attractions to take our kids to!

 

 

 


DIY (No-Sew) Crib Rail Chew Guard.

Stabled horses often exhibit a particular habit called “cribbing”.  It’s when a bored horse begins chewing on what it can reach from the confines of its stall–usually the wood at the top of shorter walls and half-doors.  I always thought that was a weird name for the habit….

….Until I had a nine-month-old.

Ah, CRIBBING.  Got it.

Ah, CRIBBING. Got it.

Apparently, the name comes from the fact that that’s what teething babies do once they can pull themselves up in their cribs.

Not just Kaylie--this is the crib we're borrowing for Wil.

Not just Kaylie–this is the crib we’re borrowing for Wil.

Clearly, it’s not just Kaylie who does this–we’re borrowing the crib pictured above for Wil (Kaylie was still in hers when Wil was born, and is now using it as a toddler bed) from some friends with two boys.  At least one of them apparently loved chewing on wood as much as she did.

Of course when Kaylie first gnawed through the finish on her crib, I freaked out at the thought of potential splinters lodging themselves in my baby’s little mouth.  (I don’t know if that ever actually happens.  First-time moms are allowed to freak out about that stuff, anyway, though.)  Fortunately, I had read a blog post someone had pinned on using a yard of fabric to cover the crib rails; unfortunately, I hadn’t repinned it and couldn’t find it again, so I started from scratch.

Two yards of fleece, numerous snips, and an afternoon later, and that ended the “cribbing” problem.

The pieces.

The pieces.

Kaylie grew out of that phase quite some time ago.  She was nineteen months old when we moved to Atlanta, and I don’t think we ever put them back on once we got the crib set up in our apartment.  But I kept the pieces for when we’d need them for baby #2.

Well, Wil is now eight months old, has his first three teeth, and has been pulling himself up into standing for close to two months now.  To my knowledge, he hasn’t started chewing on the crib yet, but he’s certainly capable of it by now if it occurs to him.  So I dug these out and washed them, and set about chew-proofing Wil’s borrowed crib two weeks ago (sorry for the lull in posting!).  I wasn’t sure how well they would fit the crib he’s in, since I made them for Kaylie’s crib.  There’s no one-size-fits-all pattern for this project.  It definitely doesn’t fit quite as well on his, but, fortunately, it should still work just fine.

Sadly, I have no pics of the cutting process, since I first made this over two years ago, but I’ll give you the basics on what I did the first time around and post pics of putting it on.

I bought two yards of fleece (definitely get something stretchy!), to be on the safe side, and I was glad that I did.  I did end up with some leftover, but I used most of it, and I did use almost the full length.  First, I measured the ends and sides of the crib, and added 8-10 inches for each tie (so, length + 16-20 inches).  Then I measured bottom-on-outside-to-top-to-bottom-on-inside the part that needed to be covered and added about three inches on each side for the ties (so, width x 2 plus width of top + 6 inches).  Once I had all my measurements, I figured out how to best cut the four rectangles (two ends, two sides) from the fabric.

(My measurements for the pieces were: ends – 46″ (30″ rail length + 8″ ties on each end) x 16 1/2″ (10 1/2″ bottom-to-top-to-bottom + 3″ ties on both sides), sides – 74″ (54″ rail length + 10″ ties on each end) x 10″ (4″ bottom-to-top-to-bottom + 3″ ties on both sides.)

Crib Rail 04

Lay one of your end pieces out on the floor and make cuts on either end for the big ties (measure the piece of railing it will cover and cut the excess on either side).  Then center your piece over the railing…

First tie.

First tie.

…and tie both ends in place.

My little "helper".

My little “helper”.

Next, make cuts three inches deep along each slat.  Don’t bother measuring the width of the slats; it varies crib to crib, and if you are a little off, it’s easier to compensate by just eyeballing it–this is one of those projects that is actually easier to approximate than to measure to death like I usually do.  Just measure how deep your cuts are (mine were three inches), to be sure they are consistent.  And make sure that the cuts are along each slat, not between them (the ties–between the cuts–need to lie between the slats).

I found it easier to cut on the outside, then take the whole piece off, turn it around so the cut side was then on the inside, and make the rest of the cuts on the outside.

For the second end piece, you can either repeat the process, or you can take your finished piece, lay it over the second piece, and make cuts on the second where they are on the first.

Next, do the exact same thing with the side pieces.

Side piece.

Once all your pieces are cut, tie them all into place!

This is not how it is supposed to fit.

This is not how it is supposed to fit, but that’s what happens when you custom-make these for one crib and try using them on another!

Since I originally made these for Kaylie’s crib, they did not fit as well on Wil’s borrowed crib.

I shoved it down on the inside to cover the wood...

I shoved it down on the inside to cover the wood…

The ends were taller on this crib than on Kaylie’s, so I had to stretch the fleece a bit to tie it, and then shove it down on the inside so it would reach the bottom.

...so it rode WAY up on the outside!  Oh, well....

…so it rode WAY up on the outside! Oh, well….

On Kaylie’s crib, both sides looked the way the inside of Wil’s does.

Start tying from the ends.

Start tying from the ends.

A tip: start by tying the ends of each piece in place, and then work your way from both ends toward the middle.  That way, if the fabric needs to stretch a little to cover the whole thing, you won’t be tugging it to fit as you tie the last few ties on the end.

This one won't tie--don't worry about it.

This one won’t tie–don’t worry about it.

The very first gap won’t have enough slack to tie, but the fabric should still be tight enough to cover the wood and keep those baby teeth from getting to it!

DIY Crib Rail Chew Guard: to protect wood from teething babies, and vice versa!

DIY Crib Rail Chew Guard: to protect wood from teething babies, and vice versa!

Finished product!

It fits a little funky on Wil’s crib (the ends aren’t covered as well, as pictured above, and he also has one fewer slat than Kaylie’s crib does, so one of the middle gaps has two knotted ties), but it works just as well as it did on hers!  All it cost to keep my babies from splinters, buy my peace of mind, and protect our cribs was the price of two yards of fleece–well worth it!


Geeky children’s books? Yes, please!

Wil’s eight months now, so I know it’s a little early to be buying him birthday presents……but when I found some adorable geeky kids’ books on Etsy, I couldn’t resist!  Charles Thurston, the author/artist, explains:

“As a parent I wanted a way to introduce the great pop culture shows and books that my wife and I love to our toddlers without it being too scary. You cant explain Doctor Who or Star Wars or Lord of the Rings to a toddler and you cant show it to them with out scaring them because of some awesome monster or angel statue. SO I created a series of small kid friendly pop culture parody books that introduces them to these things in a fun way so that when they are older and they can handle the shows Mommy and Daddy love, they will already be familiar with the characters and love the show just as much as us.”

I love other geeky parents.  Thanks to Mr. Thurston, I’ll soon get to read Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, and Firefly stories with my kids. Shiny!

(If you are interested in purchasing any of his books yourself, I recommend that you do so quickly. He seems to sell out fast, and doesn’t list items often.)


That’s my daughter.

So, most of those who know me know that I am a little….quirky.  One of my “quirks” is that I like things in twos.  I don’t like odd numbers of stairs, I like the volume to be set on an even number, and I especially adhere to my two-rule when it comes to eating.  I eat M&Ms in twos, cheese balls in twos (they have to be close to the same size, too), and even when I take bites of things like pizza or sandwiches, my bites are in twos; I can always tell you if I’m on bite number one or two, and I will often give away the last piece of popcorn or whatever if I’m going to end on an odd number otherwise.  But even more than even numbers, I like factors of two: two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two….and even more than that, I like squares of factors of two: four, sixteen, sixty-four, and so forth.  So if I can manage to consume something in four or sixteen bites, it’s perfect.  It makes me feel at peace.  Yes, I know that’s weird.

In addition to most likely having undiagnosed OCD myself, I happened to marry a man with diagnosed OCD.  And we’re about a hundred percent certain we passed it on to Kaylie.  I know every kid likes to have a routine and gets upset when things are out of place, but she takes it to a whole ‘nother level.  Truly.  (We have certain videos to prove it.)

Kaylie takes a closeable straw-sippy cup to bed with her for when she gets thirsty during naptime or nighttime.  Earlier this week, out of the blue, she informed me that, “I always take FOUR drinks, then I CLOSE my cup and go to sleep.”  And sure enough, now that I know to look for it, I watch her on her video monitor every time I lay her down: after I leave, she sits up, reaches for her cup, takes exactly four sips, and lays back down.  Every. Time.

Guys, I do exactly the same thing.  I keep a cup of water by my bed, and before I go to sleep (and every time I get thirsty in the middle of the night), I take exactly four sips.  Sometimes eight, if I’m really thirsty, but usually just four.

So, if I was ever worried that they somehow mistakenly sent us home with the wrong baby at the hospital, I’m pretty sure I could put that fear to rest now.  She’s definitely my daughter!