25 Toddler & Preschool Advent Activities


I'm excited to try an activity-based advent calendar with E this year. I had thought about it doing it last year but didn't because I hadn't fully recovered from the first year of his life. And I didn't think he would get too much out of it, anyway. He's able to do so much more now and I think he'll really enjoy all of these activities.

Some are things we would be doing anyway (my mom and I always have a cookie baking day, E's school is putting on a combo Christmas pageant/ breakfast with Santa event), some don't require much effort (looking at Christmas lights), some require some prep work on my part. I'd like to get everything scheduled out and purchase any supplies so I can have everything organized and ready to go (hah!). I'm attempting December Daily this year so at the very least the advent calendar will give me a photo and story for each day (I hope!). 


25 Toddler & Preschool Advent Activities

  1. Breakfast with Santa
  2. Bake Christmas cookies
  3. Make reindeer food
  4. Make a bird feeder
  5. Magnetic nativity scene
  6. Decorate a cardboard Christmas tree
  7. Handprint reindeer
  8. Decorate the Christmas tree
  9. Dot sticker Christmas wreath
  10. Hot chocolate date
  11. Santa pancakes for breakfast
  12. Write a letter to Santa
  13. Make a snowglobe
  14. Cheerios Christmas playbook
  15. Felt stacking tree
  16. Washi tape ornament
  17. Visit a live nativity
  18. Look at Christmas lights
  19. Decorate a gingerbread house
  20. Make an advent wreath
  21. Read Christmas books
  22. Listen to Christmas music
  23. Make a cotton ball snowman
  24. Leave out cookies and milk for Santa, and sprinkle reindeer food on the lawn
  25. Watch a Christmas movie

Book Report: October 2015

I feel like it's practically December already, but I didn't want that to stop me from sharing what I read in October! I feel like it was a slow month, reading wise, with nothing terribly remarkable in the stack, but there were a few good titles you might be interested in adding to your To-Be-Read pile. 


Wicked Lies by Lora Leigh: Annie Mayes is a teacher in Loudon, Tennessee. Jazz Lancing is an ex-Navy SEAL determined to win Annie's affection, even though he knows she's lying about her identity. Annie would like nothing more than for Jazz to take her in his arms, but allowing him to get too close could put them both in danger. As steamy romances go, I suppose this fits the bill. The storyline was a little too unrealistic for me, even though I think Leigh does a great job of creating suspense. Not a series I will seek out more titles from.

Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender by Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D., and Frances L. Ilg, M.D.: Forewarned is forearmed, right? I was wanting a book that would walk me through what to expect of E's development over the next year, and I was thrilled when I saw this slim volume sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. I was actually looking for a book like this last year, but apparently I didn't look very hard because this series has been around since the 70s. Ames and Ilg walk through the third year of life, discussing general characteristics of the age, how a 2-year-old relates to other children and the outside world, techniques for dealing with less-than-ideal behaviors, and what the 2-year-old is capable of. There's also a long list of good books and toys for this age group. 

I learned a lot reading this (apparently, 2 1/2 is the age that will really try your patience). There is some advice that seems very outdated (mostly in the 'Stories from Real Life' chapter), but on the whole, 2-year-olds haven't changed much since 1976, so this book is very much still applicable. It's a quick read, too, so I'll definitely be coming back to it in a few months. 

Food Whore by Jessica Tom: Tia Monroe moves to New York City determined to bust into the culinary scene. When an internship goes up in smoke, she's grasping at straws trying to find her way. So when Michael Saltz, a legendary food critic, confides in Tia that he's lost his sense of taste and recruits her to ghostwrite his reviews, she goes for it. But the gig isn't quite as sweet as she was expecting. This was pitched as The Devil Wears Prada meets Kitchen Confidential. I feel like that's a fair comparison, but it's maybe a little more Kitchen Confidential than The Devil Wears Prada, so not being a foodie, I lost interest. Still, it could be a great book for the right reader, so I wanted to include it even though it ended up being a Did Not Finish for me. ARC received from the publisher for review purposes. 

Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food by Megan Kimble: I actually finished this book a couple of months ago, but decided to include it here when I realized I hadn't written about it. Megan Kimble is a 26-year-old grad student who decides to spend a year eating unprocessed food (her rule of thumb for what defines unprocessed is anything that can be done in her kitchen). She bakes bread, makes chocolate, and slaughters a sheep (okay, maybe that last one can't be done in a kitchen). Along the way, she unpacks the current state of our food industry with beautifully wrought comparisons ("If an apple is a neatly wrapped package, then refined sugar is e-mail spam.").

There's a lot of food for thought here, no pun intended. I identified quite a bit with Kimble's relationship to food. Like Kimble, I grew up eating dinner with my family every night. Like Kimble, it was typically a meal prepared by my mom, from scratch. 

I press my mom on the time issue. She was on her feet all day, commanding a classroom full of seventh graders. "Wasn't it hard to work all day and then come home and cook dinner?" She's noncommittal- I can almost hear her shrug. "I don't know. You know, we'd do all the shopping on Sunday, so the food would be there."

I'm surprised at her nonchalance. The fact that my mom cooked dinner every night seems now, in adulthood, like a defining feature of my childhood, and she is literally shrugging it off.

Kimble and her mom go on to discuss how much food has changed in her mother's lifetime. Her mother mentions when bagged salad hit the shelves in the 90s. That part really stuck out to me. I don't remember a time when bagged salad wasn't available, having really only paid attention to the specifics of groceries (prices, availability) since roughly 2001, when I got my first job. I loved being able to go to the store and buy things my mother wouldn't. My senior year of high school, breakfast was often a Philadelphia To Go bagel and a container of cranberry juice (the kind with a lot of sugar, no doubt), eaten sitting on the floor in front of my locker. While my mother clearly remembers a time when processed food was not the norm, I do not, and it absolutely affects my shopping habits. Did you know that pre-grated cheese contains an anti-caking agent? I had no idea. I always grabbed a bag of shredded cheese instead of a block because most of the time I was making something that called for shredded cheese, so why not save a few minutes of meal prep? Not anymore, I'd rather buy a block and grate it at home.

This book is a must-read for any Millenial who cares the tiniest bit about the food they are feeding themselves and their family. While a full-on year unprocessed is probably more than most are willing to tackle. Unprocessed will certainly inspire small, manageable changes in the way you eat. Like grating your own cheese. Copy received from the publisher for review. 

Rising Strong by Brene Brown: I'm not sure what I can say about this that hasn't already been said. Brown's work is required reading for anyone interested in being a better person. Her words often hit close to home. Her latest book deals with what to do after failure, and her advice is applicable for failures small (an argument with a spouse) and large (a business deal gone wrong). The entire book was worth reading for chapter 10 alone, where Brown confronts her insecurities about who she is and where she came from though perhaps it's not as funny if you aren't from Texas yourself:

Well, as it turns out, I've got more in common with Annie Oakley than I do with Annie Hall. I'm a cusser from a long maternal line of cussers. I call the refrigerator the icebox and the countertops drainboards. I grew up hunting deer and shooting skeet. I don't understand whe everyone doesn't use the words tump and fixin' and y'all. They're efficient. (Why waste time saying "turn and dump" when you can just say, "Kids! Be careful! Y'all are fixin' to tump those glasses over.") Besides, y'all is much more gender friendly than you guys.

Pairs nicely with Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark: Plumdog is the diary of Plum, a sweet little whoosell (a whippet mixed with Jack Russell and poodle). She loves playing in the river, rolling in fox poo and going to the park with friends. Her year begins on a positive note, with resolutions to be braver, to catch a cat, and not unstuff new toys immediately. She chronicles her adventures in London and sojourns to the country, as well as her owner Emma's various attempts to thwart her fun. 

Plumdog is gorgeously illustrated (by Emma; you can thank Plum for the words). It's rare to find a graphic novel that will be equally enjoyed by adults and children alike, but this one fits the bill. It's a quick read that would make a great holiday gift for dog lovers of all ages. I received this book from Blogging for Books for review purposes.

7 Things I Learned at MomCom 2015

A couple of Saturdays ago I spent the day at MomCom 2015, a conference that aspires to bring the community together to discuss the social, political, economic and cultural matters of motherhood. The deeper I get into this motherhood gig, the more I find these types of discussions fascinating. 

It was a full day, and I learned a lot. Here are 7 things in particular that have been on my mind since the conference.


1. Half of children in the United States will be raised by a single mother at some point. For black children, this number rises to 70%. It is, without a doubt, a huge social justice issue.

Many know Rabia Chaudry as the immigration lawyer who brought Adnan Syed's case to the attention of Sarah Koenig. The rest is podcasting history. But Chaudry is also a kick-ass speaker concerned with social justice issues-- and a former single mother herself, after leaving her abusive first husband. 

Chaudry spoke passionately about the obstacles facing single mothers- the lack of support, the high cost of childcare, the inability to move forward in life when money is in short supply. The things that most mothers struggle with, only magnified times a thousand.

From the age of 6 to 8, I was a child raised by a single mother. In so many ways, we were very fortunate. There was no regular child support check, but my grandparents were able to pay the rent on a comfortable, safe apartment. My aunt and uncle lived nearby and often helped out with childcare. We had food stamps.  But I know that raising two children alone, even for the briefest amount of time, could not have been easy for my mom. 

2. Many college savings plans can be set up with as little as $15 month.

I'll admit, I wasn't super interested in hearing about college savings plans. For one thing, I'm still paying off my student loans from college. It's hard to think ahead to E being college-age, but as Betty Lochner pointed out, a 9-year-old is halfway to college. Given how quickly the last two years have passed, I feel like I'll have a 9-year-old before I know it, and that's pretty crazy. No one knows better than me how student loans can hold you back. I don't want E to be saddled with the debt that I ended up with (although I'm not sure I would have made different choices; they all got me here), and while he does have a savings account for cash gifts from family, it might be time to start thinking bigger. As Betty noted, the cost of college tuition has risen 8.6% over the last decade-- much faster than inflation. 

3. The pay gap is very real, and women make a median of $154 less than men.

Obviously the fact that men outearn women isn't exactly news to me, but hearing an exact number like that is pretty crazy. Cara Ardis and Courtney Duncan gave a great presentation about the importance of addressing the money messages we grew up with, and how we can reframe the messages we are sending to our kids. I loved hearing that other women had similar experiences to me growing up, and knowing that I'm not the only one who struggles to not buy something for my kid because money isn't an issue (that's still not a good reason for buying something). 

4. My son is a member of the Homeland generation, which will be characterized by their focus on being at home, a close relationship with their parents, and a lack of interest in being out in the world.

Anne Boysen is an Austin-based futurist and her talk on Millenial Moms and Mothering in the 21st Century was fascinating. It was really interesting to find out that E's generation already has a name and defining characteristics (focus on being at home, not as interested in being out in the world). I definitely recommend checking out Anne's blog, especially her generations timeline

5. Perimenopause can be terrifying.

It seems odd to give menopause much thought when I'm still in the thick of my child-bearing years. Laura Cisneros equated her entrance into perimenopause with a bipolar episode that had devastating effects on her life. She stressed the importance of having your hormone levels checked early and often; the hormone cascade that keeps you fertile is also what keep you stable, and knowing that your hormone levels are changing can make a huge difference in how you approach perimenopause. She advocated for arming yourself with info and being aggressive with your healthcare providers. 

The good news is that regular exercise, specifically with weights, throughout life can help lessen the effects of perimenopause when you get to that stage.

6. You are constructing your own motherhood.

A panel of moms spoke about how there is more than one way to be a good mom, and this quote stuck with me. In the age of Pinterest-perfect everything and our practically voyeuristic knowledge of what goes on in other families homes thanks to social media, it can be really, really tough to remember that motherhood can take many different shapes. My motherhood can and should look different from that of my neighbors, regardless of the fact that we are in a similar season of life.

7. There will always be someone who questions the choices you make. Tune them out. 

Wendy Davis was the closing keynote. Politics aside, she's a great speaker and is clearly a motivated and determined woman (though I guess you kind of have to be to attempt an 11-hour filibuster). She stressed the importance of female friendship and support, and the need to not judge other moms (which ties in nicely to the idea of constructing your own motherhood).

MomCom was a day filled with intelligent, passionate moms and possibly the best food I've ever had at a conference (thanks, Westin!). The next MomCom is set for February 18, 2017, and I highly recommend putting it on your calendar now. 

The Miracle Entrepreneur by Ramona L. Clay

One thing I've realized over the last few months is that I really, really like being a work-at-home mom and can't really see myself being "just" a stay-at-home mom. No one knows better than me that being a SAHM is truly hard work, but maintaining a freelance career as well undoubtedly makes me a better mom. For one thing, it keeps my brain from turning to complete mush. It also helps me stay motivated and organized. There's not much I would change about my current situation. (Of course, I say this at the end of a week where I felt really great about my parenting and the work I was churning out...not always the case.)

Without a doubt, I would tell anyone in a SAHM situation to find some sort of part-time gig or side hustle. For many moms, this would be starting their own business, since those tend to be the most flexible. And if that's the path they were interested in exploring, I would hand them The Miracle Entrepreneur by Ramona L. Clay.


The Miracle Entrepreneur is divided into 7 sections: Setting Your Target Goals, Creative Thinking, Introduction To Entrepreneurship, The Business Plan, Financial Management, Record Keeping and Business Resources. Clay provides helpful worksheets and a ton of great business resources. 

The most helpful section in the book, I think, is the list of 20+ businesses you start with $100 (or much less, in some cases). The examples she gives are all great ideas for a mom looking to start a side hustle with not a lot of capital. 

You can check out the author's website and order your copy of The Miracle Entrepreneur here

oh, October

Happy Halloween! Between multiple trips to pumpkin patches, a fall festival, and Halloween parties at preschool and with Stroller Strides, I feel like we've been celebrating Halloween for a month! I'm a little bored with it, to be honest! We'll be trick-or-treating tonight if the weather holds out, and then we can move on to Christmas or whatever holiday the retail industry is trying to get us hyped up about.


Here's what we were up to in October:

  • Before I was really bored with Halloween, I made E a cute little ghost t-shirt using my Silhouette and heat transfer vinyl. Super easy. Not sure why I haven't been whipping out custom tees for every occasion. 
  • I went to my first MOPS meeting. I used to joke about finding a support group for people who think their toddler is trying to kill them, and that's basically what MOPS is. 
  • A friend recently became a yoga instructor and started offering classes in her home. I haven't done yoga regularly since I was pregnant so it's been really great to get back into it.
  • E had more fun stuff on the calendar this month than I did, including a fire station tour. 
  • Many pumpkin spice lattes were consumed.

Some fun links for your perusing pleasure: 

Stitch Fix Review: October 2015

I've been doing Stitch Fix for awhile and thought it was time I shared my box here. Stitch Fix has been working out a lot better for me since they started carrying petite items. Also, now they have shoes! 

This was Fix #11 for me. Full disclosure: I know my stylist IRL and I think that helps contribute to an awesome Fix! She knows my body shape, and since she's also a WAHM with a young child, she totally gets my lifestyle. 

If you're interested in trying Stitch Fix you can get started here.

On to the goodies!

Stitch Fix petites open box October 2015

Just Black Adorra Skinny Jean | $88

Stitch Fix petites Just Black Adorra skinny jean

I have another pair of Just Black jeans (I think the same style) in gray. They fit great, are super comfortable and are made in the US. Can't beat that! I've been asking for another in a different wash so I was thrilled to see these in my box. Verdict: Definitely keeping

Head-to-toe Stitch Fix! Wilco solid quilted vest, Staccato Madrid mixed material knit top, Just Black Adorra skinny jean, BC Footwear Union contrast material booties
Head-to-toe Stitch Fix! Wilco solid quilted vest, Staccato Madrid mixed material knit top, Just Black Adorra skinny jean, BC Footwear Union contrast material booties

Market & Spruce Wilco Solid Quilted Vest | $68

Stitch Fix Wilco solid quilted vest

I'd seen this quilted vest in the Stitch Fix Facebook group and knew I had to request it. I bought a puffer vest on clearance at Gap last year and wore the heck out of it. I hate wearing coats, they're hard to find in petite sizing, and most of the time it's overkill for Texas weather. Vests are the solution to all of this! Verdict: Definitely keeping

Stitch Fix Market & Spruce Wilco solid quilted vest

Staccato Madrid Mixed Material Knit Top | $54

Stitch Fix Madrid mixed material knit top

My stylist suggested pairing this top with the Wilco quilted vest. I like the combo, and in theory I do like this shirt. But it's a regular size, not petite, and oversized. Oversized can easily become overwhelming on a small frame. I think the fact that I do like it with the vest is clouding my judgement on how well it fits, and my husband was no help. Verdict: undecided

Staccato Madrid mixed materials knit top

BC Footwear Union Contrast Material Booties | $90

Stitch Fix BC Footwear Union contrast material booties

(Okay, so the style card really doesn't give you much information, I just thought it was funny!)

My stylist must have read my mind that I was looking for a pair of brown booties for fall. I really like these and they are $40 less expensive than the pair I was thinking about buying. But they might be a tiny bit too big? I have another pair of BC Footwear shoes that fit great and are the same size as the booties, but I definitely don't want to keep a pair of shoes that I'll never wear. Still mulling this over. Verdict: undecided

Stitch Fix BC Footwear Union contrast material booties

Daniel Rainn Heym Pleat Detail Top | $64

Stitch Fix petites Daniel Rainn Heym pleat detail top

I love the color of this, and it fits well (petite sizing). It's probably not something I would pick out on my own but it would be cute with jeans for a casual date night or going to a meeting. I don't have a great cardigan to pair it with, so I'm having a hard time imagining it in my current wardrobe. Verdict: undecided

Stitch Fix petites Daniel Rainn Heym pleat detail top

 If I keep all five items, the price is $253 after the 20% discount, so not too bad. However, I am really torn on the Daniel Rainn top and the Staccato top. Feel free to leave your opinion in the comments!

The Longest Month, or, Everyone Gets a Round of Antibiotics!

Friends. September was a very, very long month.


E's backpack

It started out well enough. E went back to preschool 2 days a week. I love the program we found for him (so much that I joined the board). I love seeing how much he's learning, I love the artwork he brings home (and if I'm being honest, I love the Scholastic book orders, too!). 


We went on a quick trip to the coast after Labor Day. My sister-in-law was attending a conference at Port Royal and generously invited us to tag along. It's hard to say no to a free room at the beach! The weather was iffy, but E and I enjoyed a trip to the aquarium, some time at the resort's splash pad, and, once my husband got into town, maybe the best afternoon we've ever had at the beach (not hot! not crowded! no seaweed!). It was really great.

But then we came home, and my husband almost immediately left for a 12 day trip (12 days!!!) to Europe (why oh why I told him I didn't mind if he went is beyond me). And I suddenly had more freelance work than I knew what to do with (a good problem to have, of course), on top of studying for my group fitness instructor certification. 

I thought I was managing the whole solo-parenting thing pretty well, until I realized that the cold E caught earlier in the month wasn't getting any better, and oh, by the way, I kinda felt like I maybe had a sinus infection myself.

After a trip to Minute Clinic for me and a trip to the pediatrician for E, we were diagnosed with a sinus infection (no surprise) for me, and a double ear infection for E (kid did not act sick at all!). 

IMG_5916 (1)

But it wasn't all doom and gloom! While my husband was galavanting around Europe, E and I attended a Day Out with Thomas in nearby Burnet.


We also went to a fun blogger event sponsored by Hot Dang Burgers at Hat Creek Burger Company, where part of the swag was an incredibly yummy pizza from Bola Pizza. Best frozen pizza ever. 

And now it's October. I'm still buried in work and studying, but at least we're all healthy and my husband is home. Hopefully I'll be back in this space a little more regularly.

Your Daily Brain

If you've ever wondered exactly what your brain is doing as you go about your everyday life, this is the book for you. Your Daily Brain "collects science's best understandings of how to maximize the use of your brain, generally organized by the situations in your day when you're likely to use these skills." 


Your Daily Brain | Marbles the Brain Store with Garth Sundem

Three Rivers Press, 2015

The book is cleverly divided into morning, day, and evening sections, and then further by time (8:15 am, 2 pm, 6:45 pm). Each time entry delves into a common occurrence (picking which radio station to listen to during your morning commute, going to the gym, dealing with squabbling children) and addresses, in plain English, what the best choice is (if current research knows what the best choice is). 

I found the entry on how to know if your relationship will last particularly fascinating; as a child of divorce I've always been curious about what makes some marriages last and others not. Your Daily Brain presents interesting research about the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" that make relationships fall apart (criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt).  Thankfully, I don't recognize any of those is my marriage, but if I did, the author helpfully suggests it might be a good idea to seek help before it's too late. 

Your Daily Brain is written in a super conversational tone: you will understand what the author is explaining, even without a PhD in neuroscience. It's also a slim little volume, a mere 191 pages, easy enough to breeze through in a sitting or two. It makes a great beach or plane read if you're looking for something that's easy to dive into but will still make you feel smarter when you've finished it. 

My one complaint about the book is that it lacks an index to pull discussions on a singular topic (sleep, for instance) together, though there is a detailed table on contents.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

What I Read: July 2015

Books july

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume: oh, man. What can I say about this? It's Judy Blume and it's good. In Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950s, three planes crashed over the course of two months. Naturally, the town was thrown into turmoil, and Blume uses her exceptional storytelling skills to weave a tale about love, loss and family in a way that only she can. I read an interview where Blume said she had thought about including a chart of the characters (because there are many to keep up with, and they are all interconnected), but her husband convinced her not to. Indeed, a chart would have been helpful in keeping track of the various narrators, but discovering how the characters are linked together is also part of the beauty of the book. Highly recommended (in fact, it's not pictured above because I lent my copy to my mom, who reports that she loved it). 

Savor by Shauna Niequist: I've never read a daily devotional before but bought a copy of Savor with a birthday gift card after flipping through it a few times at the store. Each page has a bible verse, a short essay and a question or two to ponder (which would make excellent journaling prompts). It's a little daily dose of positivity.

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin: I tried (and failed) to read this book when it came out. At the time, I was super bummed because I'm always interested in cultivating a better home life. But I just couldn't get into Rubin's voice as an author and quickly abandoned it (fortunately it was a library book, so no money wasted there). But I recently read (and really enjoyed) Rubin's Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, so I decided to go back and give this a shot, now that I'm more familiar with Rubin's style. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was just as hooked on Happier as I was Better (though I think that Better is still, well, better). In Happier at Home, Rubin embarks on a follow-up to her happiness project (which formed the basis of her best-selling book, which is next on my list, of course). She chooses a handful of resolutions to try each month for the duration of the school year, and then reports on the results. What I find interesting about Rubin's books is that very few people would go to the lengths that she does to start and keep numerous resolutions, but anyone could read Happier at Home and find a handful of things they might want to implement in their own lives. It's a great end-of-summer read as everyone gears up for the new school year. 

The Best Medicine by Elizabeth Hayley: One of the common misconceptions people have about librarians is that we only like to read serious literature. Not at all. In fact, classics and literary fiction interest me not at all, and one of my guiltiest pleasures is reading romance novels, the steamier the better. They're light, fluffy, and guaranteed to end well. I grabbed The Best Medicine on a Target run because it fit my romance novel criteria: contemporary and steamy. Grad student Lauren Hastings ends up taking a gig in her mom's office and soon ends up in a friends-with-benefits situation with her boss, Dr. Scott Jacobs. In the end I thought it was just okay, although I do have to award points with the Doogie Howser references. The "I won't let myself fall in love, ever, because of my parents" trope is just a little boring for me, I guess. I'd prefer a more imaginative obstacle to the main characters getting together. This is the first in a new series but I'm not sure I would pick up subsequent titles.

Going off Script by Giuliana Rancic: I was thrilled when I received a copy of Going off Script, because I love Giuliana & Bill and, in general, love dishy celebrity memoirs. Giuliana had an interesting childhood (her family immigrated from Italy when she was young), and those experiences certainly make for great stories. Aspiring celebrity journalists will be riveted by Rancic's career trajectory (spoiler alert: just like everyone else, she stumbled along the way). And every woman can empathize with her longing for a family and the terror she felt with her breast cancer diagnosis. Where the book falls flat, I think, is her cattiness towards other women. I was a little surprised, because this representation of herself didn't really jive with the version of herself from Giuliana & Bill. I mean, she runs Fab-U-Wish, which helps women undergoing breast cancer treatment feel fabulous. I expected a little more positivity and sisterhood, rather than referring to multiple women as "bitches." It was a quick read, but I think there are other, better, celebrity memoirs to jump into if that's what you're looking for. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Paper Towns by John Green: I hadn't read a YA novel in awhile and decided to pick up Paper Towns after seeing the trailer for the movie. This has been a popular book for a long time and I think that's the reason I'd put off reading it (when something is continuously raved about, it becomes less interesting to me). Anyway, I was quickly hooked into Quentin's quest to find his missing neighbor, the beautiful and tragic Margo Roth Spiegelman. Green certainly has a way with drawing realistic teen characters, and in Paper Towns he's crafted an epic story that's part mystery, part romance. The ending got a little existential for my taste, but overall it was a "can't put it down" read.

Tips for Taking a Road Trip with a Toddler

We spent the last week of June in Port Aransas, Texas. It's our favorite little spot on the coast and we're always excited to head down there. My husband grew up vacationing there, and we made the trip a couple of times together before E joined us.


This last trip was E's third time to the beach and it's been interesting to note how our approach to the 4-5 hour drive changes as E gets older. On the first trip, E was about 5 months old. I think we stopped 2 or 3 times so I could nurse him. At 9 months, E joined us at the table when we stopped for lunch, then nursed in the car before we got on the road again. On both trips he was more or less content. He's always done pretty well in the car and usually sleeps for at least part of any long trip.

Outside of our trips to the coast, we don't generally take long road trips (most of our family lives 2 hours away or less), and I was a little nervous for this first long car trip with E as a fully fledged toddler. But I took some time to think about what we'd need and how to keep E happy, and it worked out pretty well.

Here's my three-pronged approach to surviving a long car ride with a toddler:

1. Pack snacks.

More than you think you will need. This was actually a take away from a shorter trip we took, when E wasn't interested in eating lunch at the restaurant and then, of course, was starving when we got in the car. I stick to things that are easy for him to eat and don't pose a choking hazard since I obviously can't get to him very easily. I pack applesauce pouches, Happy Tot Love my Veggies pouches and dry snacks that I mix together for baby tail mix (raisins, cheddar bunnies, yogurt melts, puffs). We've tried half a dozen snack cups but my favorite is the Ubbi Tweat snack container, since it has a lid (helpful for keeping snacks from going stale or spilling everywhere in the diaper bag). I also made sure I had a few snacks for my husband and me, as well as several bottles of water easily accessible (I never travel without water, just in case we end up on the side of the road!).

2. New books and toys.

This isn't ground breaking advice, but it is a little tricky to find things for toddlers this age to do in the car. If he was a bit older I'd have no problem handing him a tablet for a little bit of screen time, but videos aren't super interesting to him yet (not that I'm complaining). I've seen a few ideas on Pinterest for fashioning trays to attach to carseats so baby has a flat surface to play on-- this is such a bad idea and could be super dangerous in the event of an accident. You should never ever attach anything to a car seat that isn't approved by the manufacturer. The good news is that there are plenty of things that toddlers can enjoy playing with in the car seat. 

  • Doodle Pro Elephant Doodler I loved my Magnadoodle as a kid and I'm glad they're still around! This is a toddler-friendly version and E loved it. The chunky pen is perfect and he had no trouble erasing the screen himself.
  • Melissa & Doug Dress-Up Bear I ordered this after realizing I'd waited too long to order the buckle whale that someone recommended to me. E wasn't super interested in this, but it's a great little toy and I think he'll like it in a few months.
  • Indestructibles books E loves books but unfortunately he also likes to mouth them (still). If I let him have a book unsupervised there's a pretty good chance he'll chew it to shreds before I know what's happening. But these books are actually indestructible, so they're perfect for him to look at in the car. I bought two new ones he hadn't seen before. 
  • O Ball Car E picked this out at Target a few days before our trip and it was perfect for playing with in the car. The wheels make a very satisfying rattle sound.
  • Water Wow This didn't actually get played with in the car, but did prove to be a great diversion from climbing on the (glass) coffee table in our condo. We got the vehicle one, but there are several to choose from and I will definitely be buying more. It does make a good car activity, though I'd probably fill the brush up with water prior to getting on the road.

3. Allow time for leg stretching.

I was feeling pretty frustrated that E wouldn't just sit down nicely in his high chair when we stopped for lunch before it occurred to me that he'd been sitting for a couple of hours already and needed to stretch his legs. Fortunately, we'd chosen to stop in downtown Cuero, which appears to have no shortage of large trucks driving down the main street (no doubt thanks to the oil industry)-- heaven for my transportation obsessed little boy. A short walk outside the restaurant and everyone was much better behaved (mama included). Now I know to let him get the wiggles out before we get settled in for lunch. 

We're planning on a repeat performance of our trip to Port A in September, and I'll be sure to let you know what it's like road-tripping with a 21-month-old.

Have any tips for keeping toddlers happy in the car? Please share in the comments.