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A Ridiculously Simplified Toddler Activity Bucket

2014 August 29

On Tuesday Leila and I went to our first Spanish class. It was great. We learned the words feliz and triste, which I mainly remember because Leila did a little a craft where she used construction paper cutouts to make a happy (feliz) face and a sad (triste) face on two different paper plates glued together on a popsicle stick. I share because this inspired me to think about maybe getting on Pinterest to find more activities to do together this fall. Then she pulled the construction paper eyes and nose and mouth off her paper plate puppet and proceeded to play with them as if they were the most fascinating toys in the world. And I decided that maybe all this kid needed was some new washable markers and crayons, a bit of construction paper, a glue stick and some toddler-friendly scissors. Since that only took a trip to Target, I decided to add a bit of homemade craftiness to the mix. I added a stop at Michaels and bought felt in every shade of the rainbow. Then I cut it into shapes until my hand started to blister (about halfway through each sheet). Now Leila has more random shapes to continue her amusement, and I don’t have to worry about more marker stains.

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As for actual toddler activities, I highly recommend actually going on Pinterest.

PS Leila’s new markers and glue sticks are from Yoobi. I can’t speak for the product just yet, but I love the mission and I was really excited to see it at Target!

Houston, I Take It All Back

2014 August 27
by Saba

Almost one year ago to the day I wrote something. I am here to take it back.

I once heard someone say that Houston is like a three-legged, flea-infested, stray dog, but it’s the best dog you ever had. And when a friend was considering moving here, I used that exact simile to describe the city. It’s true. I know this may not sound like much of an apology, but here’s the thing. Houston is mangy. And maybe I’m delusional, or maybe it’s the sweet, low 90’s nip of fall in the air this morning, or maybe it’s just that distance makes the hear grow fonder and I spent just enough time away this summer, but dadgummit Houston, I think that is part of what makes this city so stinking great.

I love that Houston isn’t cool. I love that Houston is wonderfully self-deprecating. I love that Mayor Parker loves Houston so much and that when you sit in the Hobby Center during a live taping of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and they ream on Houston’s many glaring flaws, her pride is unwavering. I love that when you walk into a Whole Foods or a Costco or a yoga studio or a church that you’re not always bumping against a group of people that look exactly like each other because that is just too boring. I love that Houston is not perfect, but it is pretty darn diverse. I love that you can find great food and great art and great performances and basically everything one might possibly need in this sprawling metropolis. It just doesn’t sit against particularly breathtaking backdrop.

Houston is gross. But it just makes the many charming patches of the city shine that much brighter. And when I look at it, at just the right angle, particularly at night as I drive in from IAH after a much too long day of travel, and see the skyline…well, it is downright beautiful.

Houston. It’s worth it.

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(And I’m sealing it with a cement heart because I can’t find my one nice photo of the city skyline.)

Notes from Traveling with a Toddler, Lake Edition

2014 August 25
by Saba

This summer, right before school started, we squeezed in a 12-day trip to Keuka Lake. Here are my notes:

- Always remember to bring ID, for everyone. This was Leila’s 6th plane ride. (As I counted out the trips I realized we’re developing a little pattern: Chicago, International (Canada), New York, Chicago, International (Costa Rica), New York…) By this trip I felt pretty overconfident comfortable with airplane travel. Perhaps I was even feeling a bit too at ease because although I remembered all the details to help air travel with a toddler go smoothly (download episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood/Curious George on the iPad, pack the airplane books I bought for such an occasion, tuck away the doctors kit I got from Target’s dollar bin and never had to use on our Chicago trip), I completely forgot to bring the one travel essential – ID. Thankfully we had some significant travel luck, and we made it back to our house despite rush hour traffic (thank you 610), back to the airport, through security, in/out of the restroom with a fairly newly potty-trained toddler and straight onto the plane right as everyone was boarding.

- iPads with downloaded episodes of your toddler’s favorite television shows are awesome. This was Leila’s first trip as a weaned toddler. This was also the first trip we integrated the iPad into her entertainment options. It was great. We try to keep her screen time to one 20-minute episode after nap, but without our former travel distraction we felt it was time to allow a little extra. And so we embraced the exception. We let her watch an episode while we took an extended lunch at an airport Chili’s during our layover, and we let her stay glued to the iPad while we took naps on our final flight into Elmira. It was glorious.

- Less is more fun, except when discussing airplane seats. Then more is way, way, WAY more fun. This was Leila’s first trip where regulations mandated she have her own seat. It was wonderful. She played with her doctor’s toys and I read a book. She watched her iPad (see #2) and I took a nap. Ah, space. It was like being in 1st class (except the seats were exactly the same size and only reclined 1 cm and there was no free alcohol, or fancy lounge).

- I’ve said it before, but packing light is always superior to having more options. We made this trip with 3 carryon suitcases, 1 backpack (to hold the toddler potty), 1 personal bag and a car seat. Even though we were carrying along a DSLR and a toddler life jacket that together took up most of one carryon. I love not having as many options. Inevitably, no matter how little I pack I never wear everything and always wish I’d brought less. I only wish I could figure out the 2-3 outfits I’ll actually be wearing as I pack for the trip.

- Rocks and sticks. If I had let her, Leila would have spent sunup to sundown hunting for the perfect rock/stick combinations. I am living with a simplicity guru.

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I on the other hand get bored more easily, so we also added some blueberry picking

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And boat rides

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And face painting and bounce houses and train rides and cracker tastings (wine for the adults) and a hike to a waterfall and library trips and even some ice cream

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And let naps go by the wayside.

Traveling with a 29-month-old that is weaned and potty-trained is a million times easier than travelling with a 22-month-old. Also, reasonable expectations. Measuring expectations changes everything.

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