Five – A Hero’s Day

Now that it’s nearly August, I figured I should finally get Hadley’s birthday documented!

Another birthday has come and gone for our firstborn. We felt that this one – the big 5 – was a big one, for come fall he’ll be starting his academic journey, taking his first real steps towards independence, and truly be considered a little boy (no longer toddler, preschooler, our baby).

I’m not crying. You are.

So, we wanted to make it special. I mean, we want to make them all special for ALL the kiddos, but before too long the celebrations will simplify to just family or just a couple of friends for pizza or whatever. Hence, special was the order of the day – and, thank God, after an absurd amount of hours of work, we succeeded. I mean REALLY succeeded. A family + friends (preschool kids are THE BEST) + superheroes galore party.

Starting a week (or more, really) in advance, Dave’s parents helped us set up our new play set (and his mom helped me do way more weeding than my pregnant body could handle, woohoo!) so that *if* the “outside” part of the shindig worked, the kids could use it.

I had a list a mile long for readying the house (and food). Fixing a door I broke in the basement to contain the cats (ahem…I blame Winston, but that’s another story), cleaning, purging, making games and a photo backdrop, doling out food responsibilities, asking Dave for a million favors (which he excitedly executed – he wins MVP for this one!)…and keep the kids alive in the meantime.

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On Hadley’s actual birthday, I tried to think of something fun but easy-ish to do. So, we hit up our closest library to get his first library card and I broke his heart that we couldn’t stay for the puppet show. He did stock up on books, though, so he was pretty jazzed.

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Instead of the puppet show, he was introduced to his first Billy Beez experience. I played with Harper in the toddler area (where he also made some friends) before letting him explore independently. Here, we had lunch and played more, although Harper decided she wanted to do the bigger slides. Let’s just say it proved a challenge since I tried ONE toddler slide out that had me a bit concerned about the baby. No big slides for Mama, no big slides for Harper. Commence meltdown.

Five - A Hero's Day - image IMG_3351-e1501536703658 on https://megactsout.comHadley had a BLAST and still talks about it, though. He also still regales us with the story of how he got “lost” (I knew where he was but I don’t think he knew that I knew…?) and asked adults for help. The things they remember.

After a nap, he picked a restaurant to go to so that Daddy could celebrate with us, too (Uno’s, of course), then opened the rest of his gifts. It was pretty darn near perfect. Anything after that would be icing on the cake.



The day before the party, my mother came over to help me work in the garage to get it as orderly and emptied as possible for a possible Plan B in case of rain. My MIL graciously took the kids (plus her other grandson) for the day to let me prep, I brought my husband lunch (he had to unexpectedly work the whole day), and got back to the cooking.

On the morning of the party, we STILL didn’t know what the weather was up to. It’d rain a bit, then get sunny, then rain…all making us think of what a crappy job our yard does draining and drying out. Seriously, it’s been the summer of “A River Runs Through It” (although it’s also been an abnormally wet one). We finally decided on using mostly the garage and got setting up with the help of our parents and my sister.

Long story slightly shorter: It was exciting to see people show up since Hadley only had a slight idea of what family members (and MAYBE which school friends) would show up. Even a couple of the parents and I found ourselves tearing up when the kids were so ecstatic to see each other. We really couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids. So fun, so grateful, so sweet – and so fun!

We invited everyone to partake in the food. The main event – huge sheet pizzas and “batwings” (boneless chicken tenders with dipping sauces since we didn’t want real wings to be a choking disaster) was picked up at our local pizza joint (we’re officially locals) but we assembled and asked family to put together other foods.

Like “Poison Ivy’s Veggie Platter” and “Flash’s Fast Fruit”…

Five - A Hero's Day - image IMG_3395-e1501536743849 on https://megactsout.comOr Thor’s hammers (pretzel sticks stuck into cheese rectangles), Captain America Shields (round pretzels with white chocolate and red, white and blue M&Ms), and Kryptonite Bars (Rice Krispy treats drizzled in white chocolate and sparkly green sprinkles).

Five - A Hero's Day - image IMG_3394-e1501536731519 on https://megactsout.comOh, and before lunch the kids crowded around a table to color some printouts of various superheroes that my husband picked up, then after eating we broke out some superhero masks and, since the sun was cooperating, we let them hit the backyard if they were brave about the slightly damp ground. The most entertaining part of the whole thing? A worm the kids found under the play set.

The things kids remember.

Five - A Hero's Day - image IMG_3396-e1501536757823 on https://megactsout.comThen, we had cupcakes (my MIL graciously made those, and I made Hadman his requested fruit-covered Superman cake) and Hadley opened every present with a politeness and excitement only a 5-year-old can muster. His friends kept crowding around him, they were so happy to give their own gifts! So, so sweet.

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We handed out goodie bags (with TONS of superhero paraphernalia – yeah, we went overboard, needed to cut it back by half…or more) and a big surprise for Hadley. Dave had made a Super Hadley comic book – like, he wrote, sketched, had his friend ink and color, then had it professionally printed as a gift to the kids and, most importantly, a surprise to Hadley. The kid’s mind was blown and Dave was ecstatic.

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I pulled out some more crafts (I painted old toilet paper tubes they could decorate for superhero cuffs and there were make-your-own masks…among many other things I had prepped). Our “Gotham City backdrop” kept falling over in the breeze, but I think one or two kids used it, anyway, and I pulled out a toss game I had whipped up after many of the kids had left for the remaining few to try out.

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Overall, the day was beyond delightful. Honestly, the grown-ups had fun, the kids had a blast, and Hadley said it was the best. Day. Ever.

He definitely wasn’t wrong.  

WHAT WE’D DO IF WE HAD IT TO DO OVER AGAIN – I like to figure out what worked well and what we should pare back for other parties. Especially since, without telling this stuff to the world (and Future Meg – hey, Future Meg!), I’ll totally forget. It might also help you guys with any party planning you’re doing, of course!

Perfect timing. The party went from 12 noon – 2pm, just in time for the younger siblings’ naps and it left very little room for meltdowns. Not too long, not too short – juuuuuust right! (Parents even commented on it.)

Appreciate others’ help but take control. Definitely delegate some of the duties, especially if you have people who ASK to help (like our parents and my sister, who were integral to the day’s success). But, make sure to know exactly what you need done and when, and let them know. Tell everyone an exact time to come if you expect help with setup. Sometimes my husband and I have a hard time making up our minds, but there are times in life when you just have to decide and relay the decision, y’know?

Remember to leave time for independent play. We ended up being pretty go-with-the-flow and I’m glad I planned LOTS of activities but I ended up skipping most of them. And don’t forget that kids enjoy hanging out and playing independently (but having a set schedule, too, so things don’t get out-of-control).

– Think about what will be most stressful and skip it. While they were cute ideas, I could’ve skipped a couple of things and the party would’ve been just as fun for the kids (and less stressful for me). And never underestimate simple fun – like free coloring sheets!

– Take the reigns. In the future, we’ll do one cake or tons of cupcakes…Had doesn’t need his own. I asked him in advance what kind of cake he wanted, but I meant, like, chocolate or vanilla with blah-blah frosting. Instead, he went into a detailed description of the Superman logo. Ugh. So, yeah…I don’t need to ask and I’m pretty sure he’ll be happy with whatever’s made.

– Make those darn “Captain America Shields” again. My kids were in LOVE with the pretzels I had drizzled with melted white chocolate then topped with an M&M (I couldn’t find the white chocolate discs, which are supposed to melt if you put them in the oven at a low temp before placing the M&Ms). And they were apparently a hit with the other partygoers, too, so Future Meg? Dip pretzels in all sorts of chocolate, and maybe toss some candy on it. It’s a people pleaser!

Our now 5-year-old still has some inexplicable meltdowns and seems to still have these crazy phases that make us raise our eyebrows (or pull our hair out!), but overall he’s such a joy. A kind, thoughtful, super smart, highly verbal cutie who responds best to hugs and laughter. We’re so proud of the boy he is – and admittedly a bit frightened of whether school might dim his bright, energetic, trusting light.

Hadley’s Third Birthday – Best Laid Plans

So, I was hoping to have a rundown of the decorative plans I had in mind for the little guy’s birthday, along with some pictures of the whole thing for you today. Well, I have some pictures, but they don’t show much of anything.

With all three of us under the weather and unsure of whether or not we’d be super contagious, we had originally decided to cancel the whole thing. Then, after talking with my mother a bit, we decided just to have the grandparents over. There are a couple of newborns in the family that we wouldn’t want to get what we’ve got, so we cut it back. Besides, I had already bought tons of food (which there was no way we could save another week or two for a party that we weren’t even sure others could attend), so it would be great to celebrate the day in a low-key way.

That said, I still worked hard (which, as a pregnant lady means that I worked until my belly ached — the belly knows when it’s time to slow down, y’know) to bake and chop and grate and assemble. As the time drew nearer and nearer, I realized I wouldn’t have the time I’d hoped to do the decorating I had planned on.

No baby blue streamers. No Peter Rabbit cake topper and wall hanging. No poufs. No Pinterestworthiness.

That’s not a word, but it’s definitely a thing.

But, we did have time to do a thorough cleaning job, and last night at 11pm I found myself sketching chalkboard drawings to bring a little festivity. Oh, in complete honesty, this stuff finally took the place of my spring chalkboard and *ahem* Easter baskets. Seriously. I’ve been slacking. 😉

So, from the things I grabbed at the local “dollar store”, I used some faux greenery on vines to give a little garden feeling. And, seriously, don’t fresh fruit and veggies do a great job at hitting both a) feeding partygoers and b) adding to the ‘garden’ theme?

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Five - A Hero's Day - image  on

Five - A Hero's Day - image  on
 Sorry, beverages. Party was underway and, as usual, Dave took the pics while I did last-minute stuff.
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Five - A Hero's Day - image  on

So, we served a pared-down version of the original menu: loads of fruit, veggies and homemade herb dip (Ina Garten), cold cuts with fresh rolls, chips/cheese/crackers, “munchies” (Annie’s chocolate bunnies and bunny snack mix…get it? Peter Rabbit??), and our family’s favorite pasta salad (Mom brought). Water, lemonade and iced tea for the hot day’s beverages. Oh, and chocolate-covered strawberries (Ina, again), homemade carrot cake (good ol’ Good Housekeeping – very moist, but took FOREVER to grate the carrots) with cream cheese icing, and an untouched strawberry rhubarb crisp. Admittedly, everyone was stuffed, so that’ll be breakfast this week. 😉

I know it still sounds like a lot, but considering I cut the decorating down to next to nothing and we didn’t have tomato pie and sausage bread and stuff…it was far less crazy and more chill than it would’ve been. Oh, and for the record, it’s the only cold cuts I’ve had (I believe?!) the entire pregnancy. I cheated, but at least I didn’t have a beer…right??

Considering we only had three guests (my stepdad wasn’t feeling well) plus the three of us, this kid got GIFTS. Thomas stuff, clothes galore, books, a fishing game he’s loved at his cousin’s, some superhero stuff, a bubble mower and A SHAAAAARK! (We also saved some stuff for tomorrow since that’s his actual day, but MAN I’m thinking we should save some of it for Christmas!)

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Five - A Hero's Day - image  on

When it was time to nap and he melted down, you could hear how sick he still is. Super runny nose, incredibly raspy…not as croupy as when he sleeps, but not good, poor thing. I’m just glad that his daddy and I have gotten past that “I don’t feel goooooood” whiny crappy feeling so that we could focus on how awesome our special guy is.

We felt awful that we couldn’t party it up with the whole family (namely, his super fun cousins, and I always love seeing my siblings), but I know we’ll see everyone throughout the summer, so we’re trying not to focus on it too much. Considering he’s only turning 3 and he doesn’t have a huge circle of friends yet, it was still a memorable, fun day meant to make him feel remembered. I’d say, snotty noses aside, it was a success!

Now, if he could just feel better. 🙁

On a positive ending, we didn’t realize how much Hadley has changed in the past year until Dave started putting together his annual video. Wow. A year ago, his words existed but were guttural and communication was highly emotionally-charged. A recent BabyCenter email updated me that he’s probably saying 3-word sentences now, but it’s sooo far from the truth. Aside from run-ons, he’s incredibly verbal, and his vocabulary surprises us with its complexity. We still have our toddler meltdowns, but he’s much better able to communicate his feelings.

He helps when we give him a task. He’s open and welcoming to the idea of a little sibling (he insists it’s a girl and today said her name is “Flamingo”). He’s sweet with a tiny mischievous side, prefers running to sitting still, and is dying for us to find him more friends. Somewhere along the way, he’s started coming to us with spontaneous moments of love and brief cuddles, which he was never a fan of before. Overall…the kid rocks.

Here are some of the answers to some questions I asked him:

Favorite Things – Age 3

Color – “Blue.” (funny, it’s usually orange)
Toy – “My firetruck.” (really?!)
Stuffed animal – “My lamby.”
Thing to take to bed – “My shark.”
Fruit – “I like all of them.”
Cereal – “Gorilla Munch.”
Breakfast – “Gorilla Munch.” (I blame the order of the questions on that answer)
Lunch – “Peanut butter and jelly.” (had to answer for him; this is his fave)
Dessert – “Ice cream.” (not really, he doesn’t eat the stuff)
Beverage – “Grape juice!”
Dinner – “Nothing, nothing, nothing.” (I think lunch and breakfast are his big meals; he’d prefer not eat dinner.)
Animal – “Uuummm…a lizard!”
Book – “Pajama Time.”
Song – “1-2-3 sing with me…(continues singing own lyrics)”
Game – “Matthew and me used to play golf. And Aunt Mary and Lizzie and Uncle John were there….”
TV Show – “Cartoon Batman” (the 1970s cartoon version, although we know he loves “60s Batman”, too.)
Movie – “The Muppets”
Thing to do outside – “Run around.”
Best friend – “Cooper.” (Actually, equal parts Cooper and Lizzie, so the answer varies.)
Job when he grows up – “Do Daddy’s job…Lego Batman exercise!” (He wants to use Dave’s old Lego Batman Wii game but knows he can’t until he’s big.)

Our Kid is Healthier Than We Are

Much like my post of yore about our earth-friendly cats (just one kitty at the time of writing), it’s time to fess up about our toddler boy: he eats better than we do.

Well, for the most part. I mean, he’d still live on pickles, PBJ, mac ‘n cheese, pizza and pancakes if we’d let him, but as far as a diverse and well-rounded diet? I think he’s got us beat.

And, yes, I get the irony of the thing. I’m the one making these healthy choices for him, after all. I mean, we often ask him his opinion between two healthy options (or ask him which “meal” he wants and stick in fruits/veg as a side), but we’re also pretty lucky that he’s not a super picky little guy.

When I sit down to eat a lunch with him, I occasionally find myself thinking, “Hmm. How is his healthier than mine? Maybe I should skip the chips for an apple…” And, while Dave is a salad fiend, he’s probably the pickiest eater in the house (sorry, hon! At least you eat tomatoes!), so I find myself having a difficult time finding new recipes to try that we’ll ALL enjoy.

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So, while we’re not working towards a weight-loss resolution this January 1st, one of my hopes is to get healthier as a family. As I mentioned in my “intentional New Year” post, we’re researching our CSA options (but that won’t take effect until late spring) and work towards purchasing more fresh fruits/veg and breaking our processed food habit. We’ve fallen off the farmers’ market bandwagon (we only went a few times this year), so hope to start hitting up the couple of winter market options. Soon.

The funny thing is that, while a lot of people use this time of year to focus on weight-loss and health, I find that my body starts to actually crave lighter foods. After the glut of sugar (and, believe me, I’m downright addicted to sugar), fat and generally heavy meals during the holidays, there’s nothing I want more than a nice salad or roasted vegetables. I’m hoping, also, to find a few nice vegetarian main meal recipes to throw in the mix.

Anyhoo, here’s some of Had’s advice (paraphrased) for you —

* If you love something, it’s delicious, even if it’s good for you. (Find what those delicious healthy things are and enjoy. He eats fruit and yogurt or pure applesauce as voraciously as he does a slice of pizza.)

* Try everything, at least once. (He will get three or four mouthfuls of something before he realizes that maybe, just maybe it sucks. By then, I can convince him to finish. ;-))

* Share! (I’ll often split an apple with him since he doesn’t generally eat an entire one on his own. I have to remember this when I choose to eat a pickle with a sandwich; he WILL see it and he WILL want one, too.)

* Mix-and-match. (Don’t just try to eat boring, good-for-you stuff. A sandwich or wrap is okay if it’s made with minimally-processed bread and healthy toppings, especially extra veggies. Hadman will even eat a complete salad if we drizzle a tiny bit of natural, organic ranch dressing on. Don’t beat yourself up over the “bad” on your plate; pat yourself on the back for upping your intake of the “good.”)

* Don’t drink soda. (I’m sure he would if he could…but I won’t allow it. Ain’t nobody got time for that crap. As it is, I’m trying to ween him down from the watered-down juice. Gah.)

* Treats are treats. (You’re not entitled to them — and, crap, neither am I. Hadley’s “treat” is all-fruit, all-natural fruit “gummies.” He gets them maaaaaybe once a week. Lately, he’s also been getting my gingerbread cookies a little bit, but he still knows they’re treats and that it’s a BIG deal to get them.)

I think it’ll be easier, in all, to remember our monkey’s relatively stellar diet the next time I start to choose a bagel over fruit and yogurt.

All the World’s a Stage

Kids are natural performers. Our little guy comes by it honestly, of course. Both his mom and dad were active community theatre actors before he came along (actually, we did a show in our first trimester, so…). When he sees a stage, he bolts for it. Lately, he’s been inclined to frequently “a-tap, a-tap, a-tappa,” doing his own version of tap dancing. Before he could walk, I held him up in amazement as his little legs flailed, his brow furrowed, attempting to emulate an Astaire routine he was watching. It’s apparently in his blood, but I also believe that the force is strong in all children.  

There’s a lot of awesome to be had from this level of creativity. It builds social and mental development, to say nothing of the confidence it creates.

But, what if your child is a major introvert? Does that mean that he or she will miss out on all of the benefits of “performing”? Absolutely not. Our guy isn’t always “on.” He has his shy moments. There are tons of very different ways to get the best out of this form of play (I like to think of it as play, at least), and oftentimes kids come to them naturally. Just watch the next time they’re playing independently and see if they’re actually, secretly, performing by doing any of the following:

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Pots and Pans Pretending. It seems like almost all kids gravitate to the grown-up pots and pans, don’t they? Our little one uses them for their intended purpose…or, at least, pretends to be a chef. Others use them to let out their musical inclinations. Still others use them for, well, whatever the heck they want. I know it can be a pain at times, but let them and even encourage it. (Oh, and providing their own tools to continue this pretend play helps, too. If they like to “drum,” give them toy percussion instruments. We gave Hadley some cooking tools of his own and his own “pantry area”, too.)

Dance Parties! Dance and general bodily movement is so integral to brain development, it’s crazy. Certain motions trigger sections of the brain to start synopsing, such as cross-over hand and foot motions and other slightly complex movements. Plus, it’s a fun exercise that you can do as a family! It definitely helps us take ourselves less seriously (especially if it’s silly music) and even gets the parents off their hineys. 

The Type of Toy Matters. I’m building a post specifically about this, but I’ll just put the premise out here: “character” toys are fine, but make sure there’s a good mix of simple and creative toys available, too. I have a definite love-hate relationship with purchasing toys because it’s a character on a show that our little man loves, or buying the whole Disney gamut of products. Additionally, lots of toys DO SO MUCH (noises! lights! letters! songs! colors! gah!) that they don’t allow the rationalizing parts of a child’s brain do their thing. So, this Christmas we’ve been sure to ask Santa for more Duplo Legos, Play-Doh (I know, I should be making my own or buying eco), a generic doctor kit, and my “homemade” gift for him is for total imaginative play.  

Dress-Up. We’ve been working on a “dress-up box” for Hadman since well before he was born. Um, yeah, we’re a little weird. I think part of the reasoning is that WE love playing pretend, so we hope to encourage it if our kid(s) feel an interest, too. For now, he has one or two pretend items (like a bandana and a soft pirate hat) in with the rest of his toy stuff for if and when he wants to use it. As he gets older, he’ll have a designated dress-up area that he can pull whatever he’d like out of. Oh, and you don’t have to spend a million dollars on this stuff — perusing your local thrift shop may turn up some fake glasses or an awesome artist’s beret (just wash it first…ew).

Pretend of Any Kind. Whether it’s structured role play, play time with a sibling or friend, or just letting your child play independently, this is crucial to their development. It teaches problem solving, the ability to work (and occupy oneself) alone, and much more. Plus, as a parent, the first time you hear your child talking amongst himself about the scene he’s playing out before him? Melt. This is how we first heard his rendition of the alphabet. They open up this new side to the world, a completely non-self-conscious little person who will lay it all out because either they don’t realize anyone’s listening, or they don’t care. Can’t we all learn something there?

See Shows. We have yet to take our guy to a show. He’s still at a very wiggly, won’t-sit-still age. He knows that Mama and Daddy like to see shows (rare these days, but still) and he’s asked to go, too, but I know full well that it’ll be a disaster of a night. However, we’re on the lookout for short, kidcentric shows (like “Sesame Street Live!” which comes around every year or so, or other short, live-action performances of famous story books) to give him his first performance. Another thing I’d like to try out is a public library read aloud or puppet show (I know, I’m a librarian and I haven’t taken him yet) since it’s so different than a one-on-one book reading at home.

Get Artsy Fartsy. Stock up on whatever art supplies suit your little one’s age and encourage an art project when you have the energy and time to do so. I lack in this department a bit, but even keeping around a little finger paints (I wait until about 20 minutes before bath time, strip him to his dipe and put him in his high chair to minimize clean-up) or crayons with a coloring book or two can help. I’m excited that he’ll be getting a Melissa and Doug kit for “early artists” where the color appears when you brush water on the coloring pages; perfect for our budding creative kiddo.

Listen to Music or Old Radio Shows. Not just for dance parties, we expose the whole family to a wide variety of music styles and genres (Dave has played classical in the car since he was an infant; I’m so proud!). I feel deeply that musical connection enriches our lives more than anything else, culturally speaking, in addition to opening up paths in the brain for deep development. Needless to say, I can’t wait until I get a piano in the house again. In turn, listening to old radio shows (usually the humorous ones, like “Our Miss Brooks” and “Fibber McGee and Molly”) opens him up to a new creative outlet and the concept that, not that long ago, this was the world’s most popular entertainment and news retrieval system. Not to mention, it’s still a stellar form of entertainment for the family.

Watch a variety of movies. We’ve fallen more into the “watching TV together” trap than we had initially hoped we would. However, we try to expose Had to more than just children’s fare. He’s totally fine with black and white (although, give him the option and he’ll pick color; can’t blame him too much), and knows who Shirley Temple, Andy Hardy, Robin Hood, Tiny Tim, Uncle Scrooge, and ALL the characters from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” are. He’ll see the Monkees and the old ’60s Batman, along with the Sesame Street we were raised with. I think the sensibility of these programs is a bit different and, at times, more thought-provoking and heart-warming than some of the stuff today. So, exposure to different cultures, realities, and even history helps broaden their knowledge (and gives them fodder for pretend).

Readers’ Theatre. If your kiddo is on the older side, just Google “readers’ theatre” (or any variation of the spelling), and you may be surprised at how much you find. This can range from the earliest reader’s abilities to a lengthy, multiple-person diatribe, from a fun, fluffy story to a serious non-fiction educational role-playing piece. The cool part of readers’ theatre is the fact that there’s no memorization involved (it’s literally just reading a script and adding some props and costumes if you like), and it’s highly flexible (you could have three people playing tons of parts of eighteen playing individual roles). Also, it helps readers of high and low levels continue to grow and increase fluency. I could go on, but instead, I’ll move to my next favorite subject. 

Read, Read, Read. Never underestimate the quietest bookworm, my friend. Their imaginations are often swimming with the most incredible ideas, diverse vocabulary, and problem-solving methods in the room. And, regardless of your child’s age, it’s never too late (or early) to start reading to them every night. I’d say that about 95-98% of Had’s evening routines have involved reading, from the time he was one week old. He might have been too young to understand the words or to even see the pictures, but the rhythm of the books and the nurturing sound of his father’s voice (Dave has read most of the books, although I sit nearby often) created a child who absolutely loves reading. At less than 2 1/2 years old, he knows all of his letters and recites the alphabet (with some issues getting from L to P, admittedly), and I attribute it completely to reading.

So, what do you think? What creative outlets do you and your family utilize? Anything to add to the list? Share in the comments!

Learning + Toddlers = Fun

For those a bit late to the party, I’m an educator by trade. (Some might say that a school librarian isn’t an educator, but dudes…I educate.) While I have no idea whether this is my lifelong calling, it’s definitely something I strive to do on a daily basis, whether the kids are in my classes or under my own roof.

But, when you have a two-year-old (or any toddler or kiddo, for that matter), it’s not always practical or realistic to have nice sit-down lessons. At this age, it’s all about making things palatable, like hiding veggies in meals and smothering things with cheese. (We all do it, guys, there’s no shame here.) Life’s also all about fun (as it should be), and it can be surprising what simple things kids can deem as a good ol’ time.

So, today I’m here with a few tips on fitting some simple, fun learning into your little one’s day. Even if you just pick out one or two to try here and there, you can feel a little bit better about the amount of times he’s watched the same Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on repeat. (Or, in our house, Duck Tales and Mickey Christmas Carol. Yep. It is what it is.)

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Use toys as learning tools. We tend to over-think the early learning process. Simple is totally best at this stage. So, things like simple mathematical concepts are totally doable. “Let’s count how many farm animals you have!” (Depending on his/her stage, count along. Hadman’s great up until 13, but then repeats it several times and skips to 17. We’re working on it. ;-)) You could also line up four Legos, have him count them, then take one away and ask how many are left. Simple addition/subtraction like this will get his mind thinking in a different, problem-solving way than basic counting.

Magnet letters are my BFF. I need to buy another set since he’s used the crud out of these (read: half are missing), but our Melissa and Doug magnetic letters LIVE on the fridge. Recently while waiting to get packed up, Hadley had a bunny toy and a stuffed baby doll in his hands. We named what they were (“bunny” and “baby”) and while making the “B” sound several times, I asked him what letter they start with. He ran to the fridge and immediately started to search for the “B.” I’ve found my favorite new game, folks, and he LOVES getting claps and hugs for correct answers. Believe it or not, toddlers are people pleasers. 

Potty time is learning time. Let’s face it: waiting for potty to come out is a boring (sometimes excruciating) job. Turn it into a fun time by reading short board books together, doing a rhyming game, learning “patty cake” (Had can now do it all by himself. My proud mama heart bursts!), singing the alphabet, naming the parts of the body, and more. When I do the alphabet, I’ll pause for him to say the next letter, or lately we’ve even started trying to name things that start with the letter sound. Vowels are a challenge since they take on the sound of the letter following it (for example, “elephant” sounds like “L”), but moments like “What starts with an ‘M’?” “MAMA!!!” are awesome. (This tip goes for bath time and commutes, too.)

Never too early to read. Okay, so maybe you’re not like us. Maybe you don’t have a bedtime routine down yet. Maybe you thought your infant was too little to start reading to. It’s totally okay! Just know that it’s NEVER too early or late to read with your little one. There are so many studies touting the importance of early reading — that they feel love and security in the routine and one-on-one time, they learn the proper care and use of books (modeling how to turn the page properly and that we can’t turn the page until we’ve finished reading all the words), that books can teach AND entertain us…the list goes on. Establishing the routine also helps them settle down and learn expectations for each night; in other words, we have very little divergence from the regular routine (once in awhile I’ll bring him a sippy cup of water, but even that is pretty rare). Another awesome side effect? Seeing how their personal preferences and interests develop.

Give art meaning. I often draw a holiday symbol as a little coloring sheet to mix up our usual Sesame Street coloring activities, but you can take this a step further. Give your little one a sheet of white paper and ask them to draw something and describe it. (Sometimes it’s one word, sometimes it’s a full sentence.) Then, either write the sentence/phrase below the picture or post it on a piece of construction paper with a separate sentence strip below it. Show this to your child and read the sentence. You could also do the same with plenty of seasonal or concept-driven themes. For example, an apple stamping and write a fact from an apple book (or a basic fact like “Apples come from apple trees.”) to create a sense of importance to the art, but also teach a simple lesson.

Can’t say enough about independent play. I’ve heard that boys are better at this than girls, but I also feel that it depends on their environment. Hadley is, for the most part, an only child (aside from pets). He’s the only little one at his grandma’s house during the day. He’s the only little one at home, for now. While we do play with him often, he’s quite content to seek out his own time to play and pretend. I, however, was the fourth and youngest child in my family. I was used to having people play with me, so as I got older and they weren’t into my little kid games anymore, it stung and I had a very hard time playing independently. I truly believe that a greater imagination is developing in our little guy, as well as additional skills that I may not have been blessed with. People need to know how to be alone, how to occupy themselves happily, how to have an internal dialogue. I truly think it leads to deeper thinking and connecting, so I’m happy that our buddy is so happy doing this.

If you have more than one child, it’s AWESOME for them to play together – don’t get me wrong! They need that social interaction and to learn the ebb and flow of proper communication. However, trying out alone time (even if a couple times a week for a short period of time) will help them to develop this additional those imaginative, independent-thinking skills.

Kinetic play is just as important as the alphabet. We haven’t done a ton of this, but have just recently started to get into it. Let’s just say he LOVES it. We’ve been using traditional Play-Doh (I know! An eco-mama who doesn’t make her own flour-based solution?! Blasphemous!) and he adores squishing and poking his fingers in. He’s amazed by the rudimentary dinosaurs, heads, and other animals we make for him to play with — to think, he’s completely non-judgmental of poor artistic ability. (Dave’s awesome at it, though.) Getting hands-on gets neurons in his brain moving that haven’t hopped, skipped and danced before. I’m thinking of making a SIMPLE seasonal sensory box to up the fun (and brain activity).

Don’t be afraid to make a mess. This one can apply to the Play-Doh or any other artistic activity…or, heck, play, for that matter. It’s just not worth obsessing over a train track that takes over your entire living room floor or the fact that the paint project your kid’s mastering also includes painting every. single. finger. Besides, it’s not what life’s about. At any given moment, we have cat toys, random Little People and play food strewn about or stuck in unexpected storage spots. It is what it is. Visit anytime. 😉

That said, now’s a good time to teach responsibility. Yup, we can make a mess. It’s totally cool. But, we’re hitting on the “don’t play with the next thing until you pick up the last thing” rule in our house. We’re trying to keep it low-key and relatively fun, though, by making it a team effort. Sure, the kiddo is the one who made the mess in the first place, but by teaming up and helping him it seems like a) a more manageable task and b) almost FUN! “Let’s see how many puzzle pieces we can each put away!” or “Hadley, I forgot where the train pieces go. Can you show me, please?” can be a good starter.

Or, if your little one hasn’t started “helping out” yet, start by explaining the reasons. We already have, and he’s catching on a little at a time. Making them aware of a mess is the first step, stating that it’s okay but that it needs to be picked up is the next step, then just getting them to put ONE toy away is the final. Moving from this stage will happen gradually but surely, and the day that your child puts ONE toy away without argument seriously feels like you won the lottery. SIDE NOTE: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood uses a great, short clean-up song that we sometimes sing to make it fun. Some moms hate these songs, but I’m a Daniel junky.  

What about you guys? Any tips to add to the list?

Hadleyisms 3.0

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Hey, guys. Back for a trip down Hadley lane. He’s been super, super verbal lately, and truly seems to enjoy being able to finally communicate sufficiently with us. His sentences are even evolving; sometimes just a noun and a verb, but more often than not they’ll include adjectives and more.

And I totally wish you could actually HEAR a lot of these phrases. When you see them written flatly on a screen, they don’t show the depth of his character or the bubbly way that he speaks. Y’all are missing out, folks.“Yittle bit?” This has been his big one. He’s asking to do something, and thinks that asking for a little (“I rock in chair yittle bit? I eat yittle bit cookie?”) that he’ll be likelier to get a yes. It’s actually pretty genius, and the way that he says it (along with his two little fingers showing how little he’s asking for), he knows full well it’s adorable. I’m just learning not to laugh and blow my “tough cop” attitude. (It’s usually when he’s stalling to go to bed.)

(He actually means “now.”) “We go outside TODAY?” (voice rises at end) “We eat lunch today?” “Me pet kitty today?” I mistakenly told him, “Oh, you mean ‘now’, right?” once, and he started using it immediately. Luckily, he slipped back into his “today” requests, which sounds far less demanding and even sweet. 

“Happy day!!!” He often starts dancing around and saying this at the most mundane of moments. Can’t say much more than that. It’s absolutely heart-filling.

“Circus Boy!!” Apparently I’m a human trapeze or something, because Hadley LOVES to climb up me, jump on my legs, pretend to “fly” (I hold him up), etc, all while shouting “Circus boy! I a circus boy!!” How he even knows what a circus is, I have no clue. Maybe from an old Mickey Mouse or “Peg + Cat”…? And how he knows about Mickey Dolenz’s first stint into fame, I’m even more clueless. (crickets chirping)

“Daddy, you a good person.” Dave wrote about this one, but it begs to be told again. This came out of the blue one day as Dave drove him to his mom’s. I had talked to him the day before in the car; just a stream of consciousness type of conversation, but I chatted about how nice and good his daddy is. Apparently, it stuck.

“I brave! I a brave boy!” This came about for his flu shot (yes, we immunize and do the flu shots, although there’s tons of conversation between Dave and I as to whether it’s worth it). Since I know he’s of the age to rationalize things better, I had a big talk with him before we went for the shot, and bravery was a big part of it. When I picked him up to go to the doctor’s, he was ready and brave! This continued the next day during this conversation with his daddy…

(After Hadley coughs in the back seat.)
“You okay, buddy?”
“Me no sick, Dada! Me BRAVE!”
A moment later, puts his arm up in the air.
“You certainly are, buddy.”
Doesn’t that just say it all?

Back to Vermont

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Long one today! Grab a cup of coffee and prop your eyes open with toothpicks, folks. 😉

Have you noticed that we have a bit of an autumn tradition? Yep. Every year, we make it a point to take a quick overnight trip to Vermont. Our first stop to the state was actually early on, when we were first dating, to attend a friend’s wedding. We fell in love with the state and its awesomeness back then, so we returned for our honeymoon, for our one-year, three-year, and now our four-year anniversaries. (Our second-year anniversary, Hadman was only a few months old, so we nixed it.)

We had taken to pretty much following the same equation every year: head to Middlebury, hit up the co-op to stock up (and shops if they were open), have “tea on the veranda” at the inn, and crash until dinner. The next day, waffles at the inn (a MUST), followed by a slow trip back home, stopping in at antique shops and Camelot Village along the way.

This year, we adjusted things a bit. We’ve been noticing some changes; some of our favorite antique haunts on the way home had closed, and because we visit Sunday into Monday, a lot of shops in Middlebury are closed. So, we headed out early on a Saturday morning. We also added a couple of stops and deleted a couple of unnecessary ones.

The foliage from NY into VT was absolutely perfect this year. Sometimes they’re not even close to turning; other times, there are very few trees left. We lucked out this time! So, after a quick gas-up and a grab of a couple of local egg white sandwiches (Hadley ate at home before we left), we were on our way.

This time, we stopped at the outlets near Queensbury. It was a very last-minute thing, and I promised Dave that we’d be there no longer than 30 minutes (just to run into a couple of kiddo stores). I was true to my word, and in no time we had a few deals and were back on the road. Woohoo!

By the time we rolled into Middlebury, Had was napping in the back and needed far more time to do so. So, Dave checked in with the inn (strangely enough, our room was ready early), and we tag-teamed staying in the car with the sleeping munchkin while grabbing potty breaks and lunch. I ran to the co-op nearby to stock up on salad bar fixin’s (and, ahem, homemade organic desserts), and we all enjoyed the quick lunch in the car. We’re fancy.

After getting settled into the room, we explored the town and did some small shopping. The shops ranged from quirky to adorable to kitschy to stylish to traditional (we finally hit up the Ben Franklin! And it was exactly what I imagined it to be, LOL). Hadley picked out our Christmas ornament (a sterling silver old-school truck hauling a Christmas tree) before melting down, so we high-tailed it to the park to get some energy out. Let’s just say — LEAVES!!! And an awesome gazebo was icing on the cake. A sweet local guy ran over to take our picture without us asking.

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By this time, we decided to head back to the inn, and tea was almost over so the only cookies left were ones I wasn’t sure had nuts (Hadley’s okay with peanut butter so far, but we haven’t tried any other nuts yet), so that was kind of a bust. We went to our cozy room to relax, play, watch TV, and get ready for dinner.

We always like to eat dinner and breakfast at the inn since they go out of their way to source their food locally and it’s always a good meal. This year, we were a little disappointed that our waitress didn’t offer any children’s ideas (last year, the waitress was a sweetheart and worked hard to make suggestions), so I had no choice but to give him some of my food and some healthy snacks I had brought along. I know this probably ticks off wait staff, but I would’ve been happy to purchase a meal for him…had it been offered.

Otherwise, our meals were delicious and Hadley, while coming close to having some “bother folks near us” moments, maintained his composure pretty well. *huge sigh of relief* Seeing a couple of other young children in the space helped calm my nerves about it, too. 😉

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After a good night’s sleep, we got dressed and ready in the morning, excited for breakfast. It’s always more casual, so I tend to be less nervous about Hadley acting out (which he did, a little). I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s going to happen and we try hard to maintain our patience and have a conversation with him or try distractions, but ultimately it’s the life of a toddler. Poor thing has only so much of an attention span.

There were waffles! So, we loaded our plates and went to town. Hadley had made a little friend who came over to greet him, which was downright precious. All while eating breakfast, though, my thoughts were onto our next adventure…

See, we weren’t able to go apple-picking locally this year thanks to weather and scheduling. So, I figured I’d see if there were any local apple orchards or pumpkin patches so that we could at least do SOMETHING fall-ish while in VT. These weekends seem to breeze by so quickly that before you know it, it’s winter. So, when I discovered Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury, I couldn’t wait to get there.

It was everything I hoped for and more! We were the second customers of the day, so it wasn’t busy at all. They had a wagon to pull him around in, plenty of apples, tons of pumpkins to choose from, and the woman running the place adored Hadley (her grandkids are out of state, and he’s such a ham it’s hard not to fall for him). It. Was. Perfect.

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After loading up on apples, pumpkins, gourds, cider, and a couple of donuts, we hit the road.

We only visited one antique shop (and didn’t find anything, which is fine), and stopped at a maple shop to pick up some candy for folks back home, then meandered towards Bennington. Starving and unsure of what there was to eat locally, we found a Stewart’s and I grabbed burgers before we high-tailed it to the monument.

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We love visiting this thing, and I’m not sure why. We can relax on the green (it’s where we ate lunch; Hadley sat still, can ya believe it?!), Hadman can get his energy out and run around, Dave can get his annual “picture with a militia man”, and we can get potty breaks before heading to our last stop – Camelot Village.

Dave was kind enough to let me go inside and look around (we brought Hadley in and he was doing fine, but Dave thought it’d be nice to get him outside for awhile longer before the long haul back home). I saw some awesome stuff and almost grabbed a thing or two, but more than anything it was just nice to have the chance to look.

Then, before we knew it, we were home. The trip back does get excruciating, but the fact that we were traveling on a Sunday made the traffic far easier to deal with.

So, there’s all the boring details of our trip to VT! It’s somehow an exciting, relaxing, fun, at-times stressful trip that we LOVE to go on, but that I LOVE getting home from all at the same time. Like, after we do it I feel like we can hunker down for the winter (unless we want to take a quick day trip to Mass to see friends). Either way, it’s always invigorating to see a place that feels like home but that takes us to a new comfort level every year.

Oh, and you know we stocked up on soap while we were there, right? That’s our thing.

Our Lil’ Pumpkins

I wanted to fit this post in before Halloween, but because I’ve got tons of posts piled up, it gets its own day! Hurrah!

Pumpkin time! Dave‘s gonna get into the pumpkin carving and everything, so I figured I’d just share a few pictures and chat more about the painting. Yep, we did one large “family” pumpkin to carve (we asked Hadley what kind of jack-o’-lantern he wanted {a HAPPY one!} and what shapes he wanted for the eyes and nose, and whether he wanted it to have teeth, etc) AND took three mini “pie” pumpkins to the next level with some paint.

Just ’cause. Plus, he’s never painted, so I figured it was time. (I know, I’m hanging my mommy blogger head right now. He had never touched paint!)

So, here are a few action shots of the pumpkin carving planning, reaction and the spooky fun effect…

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Awesome, right? He picked the shapes (hence the animated picture of him with “round eyes, Mama!”). After staring at it for a few minutes, it starts to look like a Sesame Street Muppet. Totally appropriate.

Anyhoo, on to the messy stuff!!!

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So, adorned in Daddy’s old t-shirt, we plopped him into his “high chair” (the SpaceSaver kind), handed him a pumpkin and a brush and he went to town. Pretty much. I mean, I asked him what colors he’d like (purple and red for one, blue and green for another, and he was mute about the last choice, so we rounded it out with orange and yellow), loaded up the brush for him, and he much more enjoyed painting his hands than the pumpkin. But, then he’d massage the heck out of the pumpkin, so they each ended up with some amount of color.

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I also gave him a piece of paper at the end to continue practicing his new-found artistic skills.

One of my favorite things about the painted pumpkins is that they add a nifty bit of color to the stoop — AND they totally go with our new welcome mat. Hooray for happy accidents! I even got a teal pumpkin out of the deal! Plus, they make me grin when I see them. So cheery. So Hadley.

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I ended up spraying them with several coats of a satin sealer since this type of paint tends to come off in the rain.  Oh, and you know I totally whisked him away to the bathtub immediately (Dave had it ready to go for us). It was hardly a mess at all, which makes me think we can do something like this more often. Probably for the next big holiday. TURKEYS!!!

To Pinterest I go…

Anyhoo, here’s the final cheery product…

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In the interest of full disclosure, our carved pumpkin bit the big one within a day of this picture. I think the humidity (and the fact that the pumpkin was a couple weeks old) meant its days were numbered. Oh, well. We had the fun experience and at least Daddy got a great picture for the ol’ memory file. Now I’m REALLY glad we painted a few little ones!

The Love Triangle of Luis, Maria and David

We’ve been watching a tonload of old Sesame Street episodes lately. When I say “old,” I mean OLD. Like, 1970s and early ’80s old. And we love them.

Hadley sings the theme song (has yet to say the words “Sesame Street” although he knows ALL the characters, most of the humans included) to let us know he’d like to watch. So, since Netflix took the newer episodes off, we pull up some that we’ve saved…ahem…I won’t say how. 😉 I kinda love that it’s not Elmo and Abby Cadabby-centric. No offense to them, but it’s more watchable this way.

When Hadley watches, enthralled, it’s neat to see it through his eyes; he’s a first-time watcher. For Dave and I, it’s complete nostalgia (and you know how we feel about nostalgia). I’ll shout out, “Ohh! This was my favorite song!!” or Dave will exclaim, “I remember this one!” It’s fun, even if there’s the occasional, “Wow, was that appropriate for us to watch as kids?” moments. The new DVD versions of these shows actually have a warning in them, that they’re not up to today’s standards and shouldn’t be used as a learning tool today…but, seriously, I wouldn’t have known my alphabet, numbers (in English and Spanish), and been able to skip our equivalent of pre-K if not for an incredible babysitter and “Sesame Street.” I’m fine with him watching it.

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As adults watching, though, we start to look into things more. This show’s been on SO long, and we may not have realized it as kids, but there are full-on storylines that are subtly strung throughout the years. Dave even read a behind-the-scenes book about the goings-on, then to now, at the Children’s Television Workshop. It’s neat stuff. And, in a weird way, the more we watch it, the more we see a quiet little soap opera of adult levels developing.

Relationship triangles were a thing. Maria and David were an item from the time that he started in 1971. By 1988, David was on his way out (depending on what you read, he was suffering from stomach cancer, or, according to insiders, severe mental illness and possible drug abuse, dying months after he left the show) and Maria was suddenly in love with the kinder, gentler Luis. I think Dave and I kind of laugh at the push-over that Luis seems to be, but in real life I would imagine that Maria and David’s high-strung, LOUD personalities would probably create for a volatile relationship.

Don’tchya think? Either way, the inter-racial relationship was HUGE for its day, so it’s fun to see a kids’ show, of all things, breaking down these huge barriers. (If it had been a relationship between an African American individual and a white person, though, I’m not sure it would’ve gone over as well.)

Bob and Linda are one of our favorite couples (and characters, separately), but why didn’t they get married? And seeing the ever-patient Bob we think of today losing his $%#& when Gordon suggested changing Woof-Woof’s name to the pup we all know and love, Barkley? He’s still my favorite, but I never thought he raised his voice. Ever! And his reactions to the never-seen-by-adults Snuffleupagus (see? Things WERE different) were downright snarky. Kinda humorous to see, but still.

Oh, and speaking of Snuffy, Dave looked into it and discovered the reason that they finally revealed Snuffy to the adults. Apparently with a rise in child abuse cases, the idea that a child (in this case, Big Bird) telling adults about something important and having the adults blow him off and not believe him sent the wrong message. What a sad thing to think about, but I’m glad that Sesame Street has remained sensitive to the voices of children and is willing to make changes for the better. (Still waiting for a gay character, though. Well. Openly gay. Has that happened yet?)

My favorite part, however, of the entire series has a very personal connection. Dave hasn’t found the episode yet, and I’m not really sure I want him to, but it was when Mr. Hooper died. They re-aired the episode throughout the years (it aired originally in 1983, after the actor who played him actually passed), and I was incredibly lucky that it aired about a month or two after my father passed away in 1986.

I was four, laying on my stomach at my babysitter’s house, as Big Bird came to grips with the loss of his dear friend. Suddenly, all of the emotions I had witnessed and thoughts that hadn’t quite sunk into my little brain made sense. Simultaneously, I was hit with a ton of bricks yet comforted by the knowledge of it all. Finally understanding. All of the puzzle pieces fit, although the puzzle was still very much fractured.

I floated out to the kitchen where our super strict sitter was making lunches, and as she sternly turned around to me, with the confidence of an adult, I asked if my daddy had got into heaven. She was a close, close friend of the family and loved my father, too, so she broke down and grabbed me with the tenderest of hugs. She said yes, and that he loved me very much. I simply nodded, with tears streaming down my face, and rejoined my friends watching the show.

It was an integral moment of my life. I still am not resigned to the idea of heaven, or what happens post-death, but the understanding of the “forever separation” that is death and the fact that it doesn’t diminish the experiences and feelings you shared with the person before the loss was, simply, profound.

Thanks, Big Bird. I’ll never forget that.

On that sullen note, did “Sesame Street” have an impact on your life? Do you have any favorite moments, simple or funny or profound or educational, you’d like to share? Or were you more of an “Electric Company” kid?

Toddler Threads

Dressing a child is an interesting beast. On one hand, all moms who’ve been through the fray know that the clothes don’t last long and aren’t always cheap. Seriously, between the “me do it!” messes the first day they wear that new adorable outfit (which leave you thinking, “Well, great. That won’t be a hand-me-down now.”) and the fact that they grow faster than weeds, we breeze through clothes. Not that I don’t make our little guy wear a favorite novelty shirt until his tummy peeks out underneath. #notsorry Admittedly, he hates retiring his favorite outfits, too. 

On the other hand, isn’t it SO. MUCH. FUN? Kiddie clothes are so darn cute; almost as cute as the kids themselves. And, these days, it’s not just for mommies with little ladies. We mamas with tiny fellas can get in on the action, too.

But, since I’m not into super graphic superhero shirts (done properly, I love a Batman logo or vintage-style Superman shirt) and skulls and sports themes aren’t my bag, Hadman’s style sways in the classic/old school/vintage/hipster territory.

I love seeing the kiddie fashion shows on some of my favorite blogs, but since our guy is in constant motion and isn’t a huge camera fan at the moment, I figured we’d just check out some outfits he’ll be wearing this fall, along with a couple of tips I have for clothing a toddler without breaking the bank.

First things first. What’s autumn without a sweater vest? According to my husband, it’s boring. So, of course, I stock up on miniature sweater vests at the end of the season (I buy a couple of sizes larger, then put them in plastic bins under the crib for later). Mini Dorky Daddy time!

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Oh, and a little secret? The shirt underneath is actually one of our favorite long-sleeve novelty tees. Mix and match, people. No one will know that there’s a graphic tee underneath that adorable vest…well, until he spills gravy-laden turkey down his front at Thanksgiving. Then everyone will find out. And no one will care one bit.

Mmm. Turkey. Gravy. Pie. Black Friday.

Ya lost me. Oh, right. Adorable shirt hiding under preppy vest. 

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Now for some casual cool. This is dressy enough for Christmas (button it up) or church, if you’re full of grace (I’m clearly not), but also can work for a fun play date. For the record, this is totally his dad’s style, too, sans cargoes. Ahem.

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Wanna hit up a chilly late-season farmers’ market? Stock up on those squash, root veggies, and pumpkins, but be sure to bundle up! We always try to keep it comfy (everyone in jeans) and practical. A fleece will do, but we acquired this handmade hooded sweater that just screams leaf peepin’ and apple pickin’. Cozy!

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I’m a jeans girl, so obviously I try to get one nice pair for the Hadman to run into the ground. They’re so versatile I have to have one good better pair.

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Oh, and this is the second time we’ve used this fancy, schmancy shirt. He wore it about a year ago, so when my MIL found it on clearance in a bigger size, we were ecstatic. What better way to quickly and comfortably dress the kid up?! Seriously, I’m thinking ahead, but can’t you envision it on New Years’ Eve??

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These are my simple tips for decking out your little one’s wardrobe.

– Don’t just buy something at the end of the season for the following year because it’s cheap. That’s a huge pet peeve in our household. Sure, it cost $3, but if it’s ugly or the wrong size for the season or we already have a stack of sweatpants for that season, it’s just not worth it. If you LOVE the thing, though, by all means.

– These are toddlers we’re talking about. I’m a pretty practical person in the first place (ahem, some might argue that), so I always think about comfort in my clothes…why wouldn’t I apply that to my little buddy? So, you’d better know that I stock up on pile of sweatpants, tees, and sweatshirts for day-to-day. And it’s not like he doesn’t look cute in those, either.

– Sure, it’s great to play twinsies (especially with Daddy), but for the most part, we think of Had’s interests when we buy him stuff. He’s hilarious, hence the novelty shirts. He loves animals and Sesame Street and is even starting to get more and more into superheroes, so we keep an eye out for shirts with animals (sharks, chomp chomp), the vintage-looking SS ones (Super Grover! And I don’t mean 2.0), and I’m on the hunt for harmless, less dark/super graphic super hero ones. I love seeing the joy in his face over certain clothes, knowing that he’s expressing himself when he picks even a simple striped shirt. Ah, the simple joy of new-found independence.

– Along with comfort, clothes have to be FUN! We currently have a shirt with a hotdog and hamburger running a race, a hotdog with a “help” sign inside the mouth of a happy shark, and we LOVE the mac ‘n cheese BFF shirt. You can’t get away with wearing hilarious stuff and fun patterns for very long before you have to start acting all adulty and crap, so do it while you can!

– As I said earlier, reign in the buying. It’s not like the outfit will last them 5 years; you’ll be lucky to get 4 months out of it. Keep in mind the pieces that you’d like to have: how many t-shirts, jeans, sweats, PJs, etc. This will keep you from going overboard when you see a stack of jeans on sale. Oh, and a great tip I have is to hit up the consignment/thrift stores for some cheap play clothes. You won’t care if they get dirty or torn, and knowing that they get some extra life definitely gets the ol’ pride flowing.

Anyone else clothing a tot? Any great tips? What’s your favorite thing to dress your real-life doll in? 😉