Hurry Up And Wait

On Tuesday night July 22, 2014, the day before my due date, I went into labor. There is nothing fun about labor and in my case, nothing predictable about it either. I did what I was supposed to, according to the doctor, which was wait for my contractions to become very regular. Guess what? They didn’t. But the pain was worse than my worst Braxton Hicks contractions so I knew this was not a drill. They hovered between 3 1/2, 4 and 1 minute apart, never becoming consistent. I almost didn’t call in reinforcements (aka my labor coach – my sister-in-law, and my awesome childcare team – my neighbor and friend Allison and my step father Tim). Luckily pain is the ultimate dictator. It forced me to decide that waiting for a rhythm that wasn’t coming, wasn’t doing me any good.

Early Labor
What early labor looked like for me.

Will sleeping
What early labor looked like for my husband.

Labor Not By The Book

I had heard pleasant theories that subsequent labors would be shorter and easier. I got the easier part right and the shorter part oh so very wrong. I went into labor at 9 pm and didn’t have her till 5:08 pm the next day. I can tell you one thing after one 12 hour delivery and one 10 hour, I sure as hell didn’t see a 20 hour labor coming. My labor stalled at 4 cm and then again at 6 cm so I had to be given Pitocin to move things along.

Doula In Disguise

Julia Doula
My sister-in-law Julia really helped me get through
all my labors, including this one.

I’m pretty proud of myself for reaching a new level of pain tolerance, and perhaps I can chalk that up to my body’s experience by my third delivery. I was up with headphones on dancing around my room for several hours trying to get gravity to help things along. At some point I had to admit that even though it made me feel better to be up and doing something, it just wasn’t moving things along. So after the first 10 hours, I got my epidural, which I had forgotten hurts like a B@$#%. It truly was worth it though. I got to avoid the pain of them putting in the catheter and the more painful contractions that follow once they break your water and/or start Pitocin. I know there are women that can go natural, but I know it’s not for me. Someone told me to get a doula after I wrote my post Post-Traumatic Labor Disorder. What I discovered was that I had one all along in my sister-in-law Julia.

Transition
If you’ve never seen it before – this is what the
transition phase of labor looks like.

Her words were steady, reassuring and yet insistent. I listened and trusted her and it paid off big time. When laying down she noticed my contractions weren’t as strong and urged me to sit as much as I was comfortable doing so. She talked to the nurse who told her that when the baby’s heart beat dips slightly with each contraction, it’s because the baby is pushing down, working with the contraction. So she was able to reassure me that the baby was working just as hard as I was to come into the world.

When transition pain hit, she urged me to breathe even though I felt like there was no air left in my lungs. She talked to the baby and rubbed my belly. She told me I was doing good when I felt like she was never going to come out. Can you believe they had a lock down drill take place while I was in transition? I thought they’d never come in and check me and I had a pretty good feeling I was ready to push. The only thing quick about my labor was the pushing. I was so exhausted and determined that I did one “practice push” and refused to stop until she was out.

Welcome To The World – Sydney Alexa Grace

Sydney Alexa Grace
Sydney Alexa Grace, born at 5:08 pm July 23, 2014.

Mommy & Sydney
Love at first sight.

Daddy & Sydney
The proud Papa!

Recovery in the hospital is not restful, but I’m super happy to be home now with my new daughter – Sydney Alexa Grace. She was 7lbs, 9 oz, 21 inches long and the most beautiful thing I ever saw. I wept with joy the second they placed her on my stomach. My theory popped into my head clear as bell – you don’t forget the pain of childbirth, what you do is look at your children and think, “What wouldn’t I do for you?” Looking at my little peanut that’s exactly how I feel.

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My sister-in-law Julia holding Sydney for the first time.

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My Step-Dad Tim made an exception to his no
holding newborns rule.

So the first day and night home has been all feedings, diapers and lots of sleeping. I’m thankful that even though my body would never let me nap except during pregnancy or sickness it has allowed me to nap with my daughter. I’m so thankful I enrolled my older children in camp and that my husband is home for a week to help me. I just couldn’t have done any of it without my husband Willie, my sister-in-law Julia, my neighbors and dear friends Sean and Allison who took care of my older kids, and my step father who hung out for the duration and reminded me how much my mom would have loved the baby if she was still around to see her.

Sisters
Big sister Hannah and little sister.

Jay Kissing Sydney
Big brother Jayden loves giving her kisses.

Bringing Sydney home
We got to bring her home Friday,
July 25, 2014.

We are all in love with her and I’m looking forward to all the wonderful ways she’ll change me as a person and a mother. I have no idea how I’m going to handle the challenges of having three kids, but I’m ready.

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When I’m in need of a vacation but the budget doesn’t permit it, I head over for a day in New Paltz, my absolute favorite place in all of the Hudson Valley.  It embodies all that I love about this area; it’s quaint, picturesque, walkable and there is almost always something going on.  This past weekend was no exception, so we headed over to do all of our favorite things in addition to the annual Hudson Valley Chalk Festival.

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We have a few favorite spots in New Paltz that we frequent.  Our first stop is almost always the Water Street Market.  It’s a kid and dog friendly little square with artisan shops, antiques, and cafes.  Obviously my kids do not enjoy antiquing, but there is entertainment for them while my husband and I take turns browsing including a niche with a waterfall and chess games set up.  My girls love to sit on the edge of the pond and watch the koi swim.  When they tire of that they play a round of chess.  Just kidding, they pretend the chess pieces are little people which entertains them for quite some time or until they get hungry.  

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We often head up to the Bridge Creek Cafe located above the market overlooking the commons area where live music is featured on the weekends.  Dining outside always makes me feel like I’m on vacation, so if weather permits, we opt for a table on the deck where we can enjoy the live music and the view of the Shawangunk Ridge.  It’s a perfect little spot with an eclectic menu featuring local ingredients.

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If time permits, we head out of the village and over to another of our favorite spots ten minutes up the road: Split Rock.  The girls splash around and explore the stream and  pool while we relax by the waterfall.   Antiquing, shopping, culture and the arts, lunch, and a nature hike and we were still home for nap time.  It may not have been a trip to Hawaii, but it was an enjoyable and restorative day with my favorite people.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday.  Where is your favorite place in the Hudson Valley?

 

So I had another blog post in mind, but all I can truly think about is – when is this baby going to come? Somebody said to my husband the other day, “Wow, it seems like your wife’s pregnancy just flew by.” Better that they said it to him than me, because I would have said, “Oh HELL no it didn’t.” Even my husband said to me, “It feels like you’ve been pregnant forever.” This is what happens when you get to this late stage in the game; it’s now time to sit back and wait for labor to start. I feel like an egg about to hatch or a bomb waiting to go off.

38 weeks pregnant
Me two weeks ago (38 weeks pregnant). Due July 23rd.

It could happen anytime, anywhere like while picking up my kids from camp, in the grocery store aisle, or in the middle of the night. I imagine all the possible scenarios and it’s driving me nuts. Being 39 weeks pregnant in the middle of July has its own challenges. I thank God that I have central air conditioning in my house or else I’d be in a constant state of misery. I pass the time reading birth stories online, cleaning my house, or whatever I can think of to take my mind off my dread and impatience of my imminent labor. I think pregnancy is designed this way so that you get so sick of being pregnant that you think, “Ok fine, bring on labor if it means that I can just roll over in bed at night again or won’t have to waddle around everywhere.” In an effort not to focus on the waiting game, here is my distraction game plan.

First day of camp
Camp has been a great experience for the kids
and it will keep them entertained during the early
weeks with a newborn when I can’t do as many fun
summer activities with them. I was super lucky that
my school used a grant to cover tuition for the first 150
kids who signed up. You can bet Discount Diva sent her
applications out pronto.

1. Get out of the house – I’m going to try and get out of my house as much as possible. Whether that means going to a friend’s house, taking the kids to the town pool, or just going to the library or grocery store.  The less I’m inside the better. Why? Because at home I’m surrounded by my stockpile of diapers and unused baby gear just waiting for my daughter’s arrival. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t plan on heading too far from home just in case.

Jay town pool
It’s been fun watching Jay get really brave in the pool.
He’s been trying to swim underwater this year.

Hannah passed her 5 ft. swim test at camp so I take my
water babies to the pool as much as I can before baby girl
arrives.

2. Redirect my focus- With everyone who sees my massive belly asking me when I’m due, it’s going to be challenging. I’m going to try and work with Jay to get him ready for Kindergarten. My library has these great new literacy kits for kids ages 2-4. I picked one up for Jay and it’s filled with books, puzzles and phonics cards to help get him ready for Kindergarten. He’s actually enjoying it, even if it’s only for 5 minutes at a clip which is the limit of his attention span at the moment. So I’ll be working with him on his letter and letter sounds while I still have time to devote to it before the baby comes and demands a lot of my attention.

library kits
Fallsburg Library got a grant to put together these
awesome literacy kits for young children filled with
books, puzzles and games that teach phonics and
foster a love of learning. Read the other reasons I love
the library.
 

3. Vow to stay off online contraction timers - While they do come in handy for keeping track of the length and frequency of contractions, when you’ve had as many bouts of false labor as I have they just frustrate the heck out of you. The truth is, this isn’t my first trip to labor town and what they say is true – When you’re in labor you know it. They’re referring to active labor of course, not early labor which is easily mistaken for Braxton Hicks (in my case many times now). When active labor starts, contractions take your breath away and it’s like time stops while you’re having one. You can’t walk, talk or focus on anything around you.

Diaper stockpile
My stockpile of diapers (bought on sale with coupons
of course) and baby gear sits ready and waiting.

So while I hate this waiting game, I do realize that this is what I signed up for. Remember my baby fever blogger-vention? Sure there is something to be said for scheduled inductions or C-sections and being able to plan for childcare for your other children or just being better prepared, but there is also something magical about letting your baby choose their own birthday. It may not be convenient as is often the case and I struggle not to freak out whenever my husband is more than 20 minutes from home, but I know that I can’t appease my inner control freak.

Labor and childbirth is a roller coaster. Once you board, there’s no getting off till the ride is over.  

So if you’re in the homestretch like me and playing the waiting game, take hope ladies; the ride will start at some point. I have mere days on the clock so wish me luck and hopefully next time you hear from me I’ll be a mommy of three.

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What’s our shared secret? I’ll never tell, but at least Madison can laugh at my many parenting fails.

I am going to deviate a bit from my normal subject as both of my children have been sick with Coxsackie going on two weeks now. That’s two weeks of sick kids and two weeks of being stuck in the house other than the occasional doctor’s appointment or emergency run to the pharmacy. If you are not familiar with Coxsackie, I have to assume one of two things: 1. You don’t have children or 2. You are in good standing with the Coxsackie gods. The first is no longer an option for me, but if you fall into the second category, please send me the Coxsackie gods’ number so that I may make amends for whatever I have done to displease them.

 

In between restless nights, bouts of vomiting, and clingy kids, I have had some time to think about my own take on and experience with the Mommy Wars after reading The Whatever Mom’s post. In my experience, the mommy wars are often within, a struggle with ourselves and what is reality versus what we wish the reality was. I have found that moms are mostly hard on themselves and supportive of each other. The one area that irks me comes from my projection of my own self doubt and guilt onto other’s good intentions in the stay at home mom versus the working mom battle.

 

I was once the working mom, but it was a tough gig and I couldn’t hang.  I always felt there was never enough: never enough me, never enough time, just never enough. My husband travels frequently for work and when not traveling is in the city leaving the day to day stuff to me. It was exhausting, and it was hard. I felt like a terrible teacher when I arrived and left work on time but always before my work was done just so I could get in some time with my daughter. I felt like a terrible mom waking my girl to rush her off to daycare for eight hours a day to just have enough energy to make dinner and put her to bed. I felt like a terrible wife because after my daughter went to bed, my evening was spent finishing my school work and prepping for the next day leaving little “us” time. I was never able to find that elusive balance.

 

I suppose I should be helping...

I suppose I should be helping…

So, now I’m a stay at home mom, and this is where the mommy wars plays a part in my life. Some working moms I have encountered have commented on how I’m “living the dream” and express how jealous they are that I get to stay home. Even though I know these comments are meant to be positive and are well-intended, they weigh on me terribly because the truth is: I couldn’t hang in the working world but also struggle with being a stay at home mom. I still lose my patience, my house is still a mess, and I still frequently burn dinner. The only difference is the amount of guilt has multiplied since I should in theory have enough time to improve in at least one of these core areas. These comments isolate me in my guilt of still not being enough.  How could I possibly share my trials or my triumphs now without sounding either whiny or boastful? Truthfully, I am aware and appreciative that I have the choice, that I get to spend more time with my children but some days it’s just hard.

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Plastic wrap and a walker: epic parenting fail. But, look how happy she is!

For me, the mommy wars are within and come from the guilt and fear of not being good enough as the parenting fails accumulate.  I see the mom dressed for work, picking up a coffee on her way by herself as I juggle two kids while in my sweatpants.  I don’t think that mom is a bad mom for going to work, I’m secretly envious of her. I see that mom in the grocery store filling up her cart with organic kale while her toddler quietly snacks on edamame. I don’t hate that mom either; but I do hate myself a little as I immediately scan my own cart complete with a sticky lollipop sucking yet still loud toddler and that bag of chips I just threw in there. And the mommy wars against myself rages on.

It’s a constant struggle to find balance and what works today may not work tomorrow. This can leave my head spinning and my heart heavy. So, thanks to the Whatever Mom, I plan to cut myself some slack, to compare myself to other moms less, to be truthful in my both my success and failure, and to just be the best mom I know how to be for my kids.  Hopefully that will be enough.

potty trainer

So you know that What to Expect when you’re Expecting series of parenting books? I’m about to add another volume to that called, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting- Potty Training Edition.”  Potty training has not been a magical 2 day experience for me. It hasn’t even been a difficult 2 months. It has been an on again off again roller coaster from hell for the last 26 months. No joke. Not even a typo.

My twins are a special breed. There is no pushing them to your way of thinking. No amount of bribery will sway them. They dig their heels in and plant roots. If you are fantasizing your kid (or twins) will be potty trained by age 2 (or at least before age 5) you can expect the following:

Expect to increase the number of potties you own. You will have one that plays music and sings and cheers. I have a Mickey Mouse potty for each twin, plus a travel potty for our traveling rest stop. I also have 2 toilets at home and somehow still have to fight for a seat!

Get a little potty that YOU love, because you will be carting that thing everywhere; birthday parties, ball games, trips to the park. EVERY. WHERE. While you are at it upgrade the family car to an SUV with enough space to accommodate your rolling urinal (complete with life like smell). Expect to keep it fully stocked with extra wipes, undies and clothes. Make sure you include a change of clothes for yourself because believe me $#@! happens.

Woman Cleaning Toilet

Expect to get cozy with poop. Get to know it on a first name basis and be prepared to shake hands because the two of you will be spending a lot of time together. Most kids can’t clean themselves properly until age five. Nope. Not a typo. You can expect to wipe those adorable tushies for nearly FIVE full years.  Also, FYI, you’ll find yourself increasingly obsessed with each family member’s daily constitution. If anyone cries the wrong way, or gets a little crabby the first thing you will wonder is, “when was the last time you pooped?” This applies to husbands as well.

Expect to apologize to Mother Earth right now for the things you will turn a blind eye to. Like the 17 pairs of actual undies you will throw in the trash because there is no way you’re cleaning that! If you are an earth huger try not to think about the BUH-zillion wipes needed to get kids through the first five years of life. Also, (if you use them) the 20 KUH-gillion pull ups you just sent out to the curb wrapped in plastic.

Hands on a globe

Expect to invest a small fortune in laundry cost too. If you are lucky to have a working washer and dryer you can expect to use them every single day (more if you have multiple potty trainers). Or just start searching now for the closest laundromat. This will be your new home for a while. Expect your kid to pee through every single pair of underwear within the first 2 hours of your first day of potty training. (Tip: bathing suits make great back ups in a pinch!).

laundry

Expect to be a hypocrite. Remember all those things you said you’d never do when you have kids? Expect to do them all! Just for funsies here is my ‘never going to’ potty training list:

I’m never going to use rewards like M&M’s, lollipops, stickers, and video games. (Used them ALL).

I’m never going to freak- accidents happen. If by accident you mean a child purposely squats in a corner to set a “pee trap” for the beasts to slip in. (Totally freaked!)

I’m never going to let my kids run around in just underwear in the yard. (Outside potty = clean floors inside).

I’m never rearranging potties. Potties belong in the bathroom. (And the living room, and the kitchen and the hallway).

Everyone keeps telling me that I can expect my kids to potty train when they are ready. But, really no one understands the steely determination my kids have to get their own way. The girls know the ins and outs of potty training. They understand where it goes and even have a potty preference. Heck, they are bringing ME stickers after I flush. Yeah, they’ve got this. At this point they are just messing with me.  And, I can expect that part will never change for us.

potty meme

Special note: If potty training doesn’t happen for you in 48 hours or less your kid is totally normal and you are doing nothing wrong. If your kids are like mine and take 26+ months … Whatever! It’s totally a them not you!

 

Photo Credit: Pennings

Photo Credit: Pennings

Going out for a meal with my 2 year old and 5 year old is often more work than it’s worth. Sophie (2) only eats two things: cheerios and blueberries, so it’s hardly worth buying a meal for her. In addition, meal time is not important to her as she can take both of those items on the go so to get her to stay seated in the time it takes to order, wait, and eat is not a relaxing experience. My five-year-old, while more patient with a wider repertoire of foods she will eat, is restless in her own way having to use the bathroom several times, climbing under the table to “retrieve” something, and complaining the food is taking too long. In summary, there is very little conversation or relaxation that is typically associated with dining out.

 

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However, the Hudson Valley being the locavore mecca it is, we found a farm-to-table place to eat where the kids can play and feed the animals while the adults dine, converse, and even take a trip into the beer garden without placating a toddler or entertaining a preschooler. Penning’s Farm in Warwick is where it’s at.

 

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This is one of our favorite places to eat after a laborious morning of fruit picking. After ordering your meal, you are given one of those remotes that vibrates when your food is done so that you are free to roam the farm, feed the chicks, and play on the wooden train while you wait. In addition, the food is seasonal, local and delicious. Madison always goes for the local, grass-fed beef burger and fries while I love their seasonal soups and salads such as the butternut squash bisque in the fall and the orchard salad in the summer.

 

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We are surrounded by little farm-to-table gems in the Hudson Valley.  Another favorite of ours is Rogowski Farm for Sunday brunch with the family and A Tavola in New Paltz for date night. Do you have a farm to table restaurant you love?  Let us know so we can add it to our list!  

 

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We’ve all heard the term “Mommy Wars.” It just doesn’t sound right. Moms are supposed to be peaceful role models for their children. We teach our kids not to fight, to think of other people’s feelings, and to be kind to others. I have struggled the last few months to find just the right words to sum up my thoughts on the “Mommy Wars.” Turns out I don’t need to find the right words; one picture has a thousand of them! So, why not include a whole bunch of pictures? I was inspired to create my own photo montage with local Hudson Valley moms after I read the CT Working Moms Group blog a year ago. I sent out the call to arms to all my Whatever mom friends. They eagerly jumped on board!

SAHM

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tatoo

As the project unfolded, I realized I know most of the moms pictured here personally. We all met through a Hudson Valley Moms’ Facebook group. We’ve celebrated birthdays together, brought each other meals, and have encouraged and supported each other through the trials of motherhood. There we were standing next to each other smiling and holding signs reflecting our “opposing” mom choices. This just goes to show that even though we make different choices for our families, we can still be friends and even respect each other’s personal choices. Without the different opinions and choices presented by other moms in my circle I wouldn’t know I have options in my parenting.

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Twin moms

Hudson moms

Crunchy mom

I admit I am still a little confused as to why we even have a war going on. My mom world does not come to a screeching halt when a mom decides to feed her kid formula or non-organic potatoes or even McDonald’s for dinner. I don’t even feel a slight shift in the wind when a mom uses 409 to clean her floors. And, I’m quite sure that if a mom falls at the playground and no one is around to hear her she still swears like a trucker (oh wait, that’s probably just me).

Tech rox edit

Formula fed

birth edit

Gay edit

Food edit

Most people hear Mommy wars and picture this:

Mom life edit

I hear Mommy wars and picture this:

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I am convinced that not once has a Harvard grad mentioned in their acceptance speech their gratitude for their mother keeping a meticulous house; making perfect dinners and throwing over the top birthday parties; nor cited those exact reasons for all their success. I am also convinced that if at the end of the day you have kept your kid safe and alive, you’ve pretty much done your job. We all bear the same burden of motherhood. By burden I mean the labels (fun mom, mean mom, Pintrest mom) and the judgments (spoils her child, doesn’t discipline, too strict). No matter what our style of mothering is, we have all run the same course: stomach bugs, sleepless nights and feelings of self-doubt. All of these quintessential mom moments level the battlefield on which we fight our “Mommy war.”  None of us is free from flaws, and certainly none of us makes perfect decisions. We all have the same end goal- to raise healthy, happy and productive humans. Does it really matter what path we follow to get them there?

So here’s your call to arms Whatever Moms: do whatever it takes to let go of your fears and worries that you are not enough. Take up the charge to own your mom choices. Decide right now to be confident in your decisions because any decision we make in the best interest of our children is the best decision we can make for them. The question isn’t “which side are you on?” The question is, “can we all stand together?”

 

 

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO: Danielle Sidarous for lending your excellent photography skills. Your time and talent is very much appreciated! All the moms who participated in creating this montage. Thank you for your commitment to helping me complete this project! And my husband, Keith for racing home to help twin wrangle while I got to do something besides wipe butts all day!

Important note: republication of these photos is expressly prohibited without consent from Danielle Sidarous. 

I’m not sure who coined the phrase “babymoon,” but this “honeymoon” type getaway before the baby arrives has become really popular. When I was about six months pregnant with my daughter Hannah, my husband and I went away for a short trip to Cape May, NJ. Since my son was born when my daughter was only a little over two-years-old we didn’t have a chance to get away because I didn’t want to leave my daughter. With this pregnancy we went away for a short family babymoon camping at Pine Cradle Lake Campground in Pennsylvania last week. If you’re a regular reader you know how much I value the life lessons that camping instills in my kids and how much fun it is for my family. BUT with that said, I had to toss out my idea of roughing it at 9 months pregnant and opt to go “glamping” for the first time ever.

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In the past I would have scoffed at sleeping in a fully loaded cabin with a kitchenette and bathroom, but being so close to my due date there were certain things I knew I could not forgo. Here’s my top 5 key ingredients to have a successful babymoom. 

1. Go In Your Second Trimester – If it’s possible try to plan your trip for your second trimester. This is usually the best of the three in terms of feeling good. Morning sickness is probably all but gone and your belly is not so large that it’s causing sleep and digestion issues like in the last trimester. Plus it’s after the usual time frame of miscarriage has passed in the first trimester and before you need to worry about air travel or going away too far from home when your in your last trimester.

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2. Plan For Your Comfort- We can’t all afford to stay at a swanky luxury resort, but where possible make sure your living accommodations meet the sometimes high demands of a pregnant mama. I had to leave the tent at home and pay more for a cabin with a bathroom for the sake of my three nightly trips to the bathroom thanks to being so close to my due date. I also sucked it up and let my husband rent a golf cart so we could explore our campground without me having to stay behind or waddle slowly after my kids since my Braxton Hicks kicked up every time I tried to walk long distances. I also really appreciated having an air conditioner and a fan in my cabin. Temperature control is a big deal when you’re growing a little person which makes you feel at least 10 degrees warmer than everyone else.

Camping

3. Make It A Family Affair – Some people really like the idea of getting away without the kids if this isn’t your first baby, but I totally recommend making it a family trip. Maybe it’s because I have so few family members that I could leave my kids with, but I really loved that this trip was a special time and our last one as a family of four. Next year my baby girl will be with us and that will be special too, but my kids can look back at photos of this trip and remember the special times we had with each of them before the baby comes and demands a lot of mommy’s and daddy’s attention. My kids loved playing at the pool and fishing with daddy and I’m so glad they were with us.

Daddy and Hannah Fishing

4. Scope Out The Local Hospital – If you’re leaving the state, scope out the local hospital and how far away it is. You could even print directions from your babymoon destination so you have the quickest route ready to go if the need should arise. It also might be a good idea to bring a copy of your medical records with you. Granted I went away with only three weeks to go till my due date and wanted to be prepared if my daughter decided to come a little early, but pregnancy can be unpredictable and even if nothing goes wrong it’s nice to know you can get help quickly should you experience anything that causes you concern with your pregnancy while you’re away.

Daddy and Jay Fishing

5. Relax – So many times you come back from vacation more exhausted than when you left. Why? Because you try to cram a year’s worth of fun into a week or less and all that running from place to place and scheduling outings can be a kind of work all it’s own. That’s why I like camping. It sort of slows time down and there’s no need to run from place to place. Shoot for all inclusive destinations and keep activities to a minimum. It might be tempting to do a bunch of activities you won’t have time for once the baby arrives, but I’ll tell you the only thing you’ll REALLY wish you did more of before the baby arrives is rest and sleep.

I wish you all a happy and healthy babymoon if you’re planning one. Feel free to share where you went and what you loved about it.

 

Happy July 4th!  I’m going to keep it short and simple because we are celebrating with our family as we do every year and I hope you are celebrating too.  However, next week begins the lazy days of summer.  To help us stay active and about, here are 5 more free/low cost things to do this summer in the Hudson Valley.  To see the first five, click here.

 

6. It is July 4th so fireworks are always on the agenda.  Be sure to check out Hudson Valley Parent’s list of fireworks for a show near you this weekend.

 

7. Get out those bikes and hit the rail trails!

 

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8.  No pool? No problem.  Split Rock at Mohonk, Lake Minnewaska, and the beach at Waywayanda State Park are all scenic ways to cool off this summer.

 

 

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9. We have some awesome, local playgrounds that are both free and fun.  A few of our favorites are this one, this one, and this one.

 

10.  For those hot days, Barnes and Noble in Newburgh has a free story time on Thursdays at 1pm, Poughkeepsie’s B&N story hour is on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10.  The kids will listen to a story, participate in an activity, and can play in the children’s area.  They also have a reading rewards program: have your k-6 grader read 8 books, fill out a brief journal entry for each, and at the end your child can pick out a free book from B&N’s list.

 

Enjoy your weekend!

christmas-in-july-web

Here it is right smack in the middle of Summer and I am going to talk to you about Christmas. I know it’s 6 months away but as I mentioned last week, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. It isn’t long after the smoke from the fireworks clears that my mind starts making Christmas plans. This week I am going to share with you how I made Christmas happen for $150. That’s not a typo. I only spent $150 on two kids for Christmas. We didn’t need to take cash from our household budget either. Find out how I make extra income without leaving for work.

Our Christmas haul

Our Christmas haul

First, start planning early (like July) and hit up the garage sales. Yes, I said garage sales. I was inspired by a friend of mine who shops garage sales for toys for Christmas gifts. At first it didn’t sound right to me, but then I realized I buy toys from garage sales all year long. My kids don’t seem to notice, or care where they come from. What makes Christmas different? And really isn’t it the same as re-gifting?

Now, let me clarify here  my kids did not get used junk for Christmas (leaky Jell-O mold anyone?). I was very selective about items I purchased.  The toys I picked out for them were either brand new in package  or were very gently used. My biggest score was two copy paper boxes filled with pristine condition children’s books  for only $8.00. That was more than enough to give each girl a wrapped book every night as part our Advent countdown.

A good book, cookies & milk makes a good countdown to Christmas

A good book, cookies & milk makes a good countdown to Christmas

Second, set your budget and stick to it. I thought $150 sounded reasonable, but you may want or need to go a little higher. once I reached $100 I felt like I had enough big stuff. I then set aside $20 for stocking stuffers and spent the remaining $30 on new pajamas and one new outfit for each kid. Of course shopping online for these items and avoiding any holiday traffic is what worked for me!

Alphie our talking robot has to be the kids' favorite gift

Alphie our talking robot is the kids’ favorite gift

Third, plan for a better tomorrow: buying second hand helps save the planet (you’re welcome); buying from local families helps them afford to buy for their little ones; and by planning for savings you can afford to be generous with your favorite charity.

It might sound crazy to start planning this early since most of us can’t even think about what we are having for breakfast tomorrow. But the time I saved by getting things done early really paid off. I had all my shopping, gift wrapping and stockings stuffed before the Thanksgiving turkey hit the oven. My weekends in December were free for creating a fun old-fashioned family Christmas. We baked cookies for our local firemen; we watched Santa jump from a plane (our new favorite tradition); had our picture taken with Santa; decorated the tree; crafted a whole bunch of stuff; drove around to check out the Christmas lights and spent plenty a snowy day snuggling in our jammies.

Less time shopping = more time to bake!

Less time shopping = more baking!

By not focusing on what went under the tree, we were able to truly enjoy the season. My kids won’t remember what their favorite Christmas gift was when they were 3, or that mom only spent $150 on used gifts. But, my hope is that having the extra time to focus on the feeling of Christmas will instill a lifetime of warm memories for us. There is no price tag on memories.

 

When do you start planning for Christmas? Are you an early shopper, or are you just sliding in under the tree Christmas morning?

 

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