This past weekend, our family went to Disney World for the day to celebrate Bean’s fourth birthday. Since we are Orlando residents, we are fortunate enough to get to visit the theme parks pretty often. I used to carry a full diaper bag, a snack bag, my purse, the camera bag, and a whole mess of other items with us whenever we went to one. But after a couple years of regular park visits, I have narrowed down exactly what we need to surivive a day at the parks with little ones.
First, I take a large backpack now instead of various bags for different purposes. Everything we have for the day goes into this backpack. This is incredibly helpful because it lightens my load when I’m juggling two little ones. It is also helpful because at most parks, you have to park your stroller while you ride rides. With the one backpack, we can just grab this bag and go and not have to worry about loading and unloading every time we want to park our stroller somewhere.
Now, I even leave my wallet and purse at home so that I don’t have to worry about leaving our backpack somewhere while we go on a ride that won’t allow us to bring our backpack. We just use Chris’s wallet that day, and then there isn’t the hastle of trying to keep an eye on my purse or wallet while we’re on the go.
Inside this backpack are lot of pockets, and that makes it really nice when we’re packing for a full day out somewhere. I divide things up based on how often we’ll use them throughout the day. My cell phone (when it’s not in my pocket) and all our sunglasses go in the outside small pocket because those are things we will use all day.
In the next size pocket, I keep snacks and juice boxes. Most parks now will let you bring these items in, especially if you have little kids. We don’t pack them full lunches or anything, but I do bring little snacks for them to have throughout the day. Make sure that whatever snacks you pack can get hot, especially if you’re visiting during the summer months. Also, I freeze my juice boxes the night before. They are nice and thawed, but still really cold all throughout the next day and it is really refreshing for the kids.
The juice boxes are great to help the kids cool off at various points throughout the day, but primarily what they drink is water. I fill their cups with ice when we leave the house, and it usually has melted into cold water that lasts for the first few hours of the morning. At lunch, we buy everyone bottles of water (I don’t bring them only because I don’t want to carry them around – they are heavy!). We use the water bottles to refresh their sippy cups throughout the afternoon. I keep the sippy cups in the outside pockets of this backpack for easy reach.
In the next pocket size up, I keep my pack of diapers and a pack of clean clothes for both kids. In my diaper pack, I always make sure I have diaper cream because it is so hot and we usually take longer between diaper changes since we are so busy. Gracie is almost out of diapers, though, so this is getting ready to be booted from the backpack. Yay for more space!
I make sure to bring each child a complete change of clothes. (Hint: For girls, you can pack rompers because they take up less space but they are a complete outfit!) This isn’t just for potty accidents, either. Sometimes they might get wet on a water ride, or it might get so hot you just dunk their poor little heads in cold water! Having the extra clothes keeps you from panicking when they get wet or dirty. The kids can go to town because I know I have spare clothes for them.
Also in this larger pocket, I keep a Ziplock bag with two clean, dry washclothes. This is a tip I got from my mom, and it is brilliant! Throughout the day when it gets hot, you can duck into a bathroom and rinse these washclothes down with cold water, and then wipe the kids faces. Then, when you’re done, just throw the wet washcloth into the Ziplock again and you’re good to go. Repeat as necessary for wilting children (and parents!) on hot afternoons.
In the large pocket of the backpack, I keep all the bulkier things or items that we would only need in an emergency. First, I take a little first aid kit. Sea World gave us these awesome little plastic first aid boxes in some advertising packet a few years ago. I have three of them and keep them in my diaper bags. They are the perfect size for a few bandaids and some alcohol swabs. If you don’t have a little kit like this, I have also use those little soap boxes that you get in the travel section of the pharmacy. It keeps things from getting smooshed or lost in a big diaper bag. I also pack a Neosporin spray, and on this particular day I packed Tylenol and some Pepto pills for kids because we were just getting over a stomach bug and I didn’t want to be somewhere and have it rear up again. (Don’t forget your medicine dropper if you have wee ones!)
Also in this pocket, I keep hats for both kids in case their little faces start to look pinkish, and all of our sunscreen. Make sure you put it all in big Ziplock bags so that if the sunscreen leaks, it doesn’t get all over everything.
And that’s it, kids. We are good to go all day with those essentials. What about YOU? What can you not leave home without for a day trip?
The demons have possessed Gracie again. Don’t be fooled by that sweet smile. She’s like those man-eating plants that lure prey to them with their sweet smell. You lean in for a minute and think, “Well, that smells too good to be dangerous…” and then – STHUWMP!- you’ve been sucked up into the deadly petals and life as you know it is over.
That’s what Gracie’s smile is like.
(Don’t look at me like that. Like you’ve never compared your child to a man-eating plant?)
Lately, Gracie has become clingy and whiny again. Everything makes her cry, and she only wants to be held by me. Like, all day long. We had done our best to curb this using some methods from “Raising Your Spirited Child,” and that has gotten us happily through the past few months. But last week, the dragon emerged again. This time, though, Gracie not only cried and pitched temper tantrums, she wanted to cry and pitch temper tantrums IN MY FACE. She wanted to be as close to me as possible. I’m almost positive that she would get back in the womb if she could find the door.
Gracie has always been a mommy’s girl and she’s always been a bit of a cling-on, but this was different.
My mom antennas went up, and I knew something was off. I took her to the doctor yesterday and, sure enough, there was a tiny little issue. I try not to get too specific with medical things about my kids because that’s a line Chris and I have drawn for our family and the bloggity blog. But it was a small thing, nothing major. Just enough to bother her. We didn’t even need a prescription to fix it, but came home with a good home remedy to help her out.
While we were talking with the pediatrician, I asked him about Gracie’s crying issue. I told him that we were letting her cry through some of those periods, and even sending her to her room when she couldn’t get herself calmed down. I love our pediatrician because he has something like 7 or 8 children of his own, all under the age of 16. I would pay a co-pay to see him whether he had been to medical school or not with street cred like that. He laughed when I described Gracie and said that she was exhibiting pretty normal two-year-old and second child behavior.
“No matter how much attention you give her,” he said. “She is going to think it is not enough. That is generally the way with the second child. Especially when they are girls. And when they are two. And when they are cutting two-year-old molars. And when they are sick.”
Then he paused for a minute, looked me in the eye and said, “So, good luck with all that.”
We seem to have entered the Bermuda Triangle of toddlerhood with Gracie, where anything can happen for any possible reason. And sometimes without any reason. Which is good because I was worried that things were getting too calm and orderly around our house anyway…
*palm to forehead*
I’ll tell you, though, that smile might be a killer, but it is worth it all. Gracie lures me in with it on a daily basis, and I willingly walk too close to her, knowing that she is going to swallow me up any minute now. But I can’t help it. She just smells so sweet.
Turns out, nature might know what it’s doing.
So, I have a parenting issue going on right now. It is complex. It is complicated. It is multifaceted. It is perplexing. Such is the social life of an almost four-year-old.
Bean has two “best friends.” One is a legit bestie. He talks about her at home, we hang out with her family, Bean might be in love with her. Her name is Elle and she is lovely. The two of them fight like an old married couple, but it is all very normal, healthy behavior for their age.
And then there is this other kid.
I am fairly certain that Bean is only this dude’s friend because he is being forced to be his friend. True, Bean likes to hang out with him. But from the interactions I have seen, it is more of a “I’m-smiling-because-you-scare-me” kind of friendship. The kid himself is always in Bean’s face, always talking/yelling/screeching in Bean’s face, always putting his hands on Bean’s face. He is just one of those face-talkers. Well, face-yellers. And it drives Bean crazy. I know this because when I am around the two of them, Bean will give me these pleading looks like, “Make him stop, please!”
Now, those are personality traits in a child, and I know more than to judge or throw my mom weight around because of something like that. In the grand scheme of things, those are annoyances and not behavior issues.
But then he crossed the line.
A few weeks ago, we were at a birthday party for one of the kids’ classmates. The other kid was there and so was his mom, and Bean was hanging out with him pretty much all day. This was the first time I had really gotten to see them interact, and it was the first time I noticed this annoying in-Bean’s-face behavior. It was driving me nuts, and I could tell it was bothering Bean, too. But I had never seen them interact for a long period of time before, so I sort of stood back in case this was normal behavior. I was just keeping my eye on things.
I happened to be talking to the kid’s mom for a minute, and when I turned back around, this kid had his hands around Bean’s neck and was shaking Bean. Bean, of course, was crying.
…And that’s when I almost beat that kid up.
I try to be a very polite person who respects other parents and gives the a chance to intervene when their child is misbehaving. But you put your hands around my kid’s neck and we’re going to have some words.
I pushed about 15 kids out of my way in about 15 seconds, and very quickly pulled the kid’s hands off of Bean. Then, as I pulled Bean into my arms to comfort him (he was pretty freaked), I said very nicely, but firmly to the other child, “Michael doesn’t like it when you put your hands around his neck.”
That Monday after the birthday party, I mentioned what happened to Bean’s teachers. I had this terrible fear that they would be on some corner of a playground somewhere and that kid would accidentally strangle Bean. I told the teacher that I would appreciate it if they would watch for any kind of aggressive or overly zealous behavior from that kid directed towards Michael. Even if the kid wasn’t intending to be aggressive in a mean way, I still didn’t want Bean to feel overpowered or uncomfortable – no matter what someone’s intention are.
Weeks have gone by since that birthday party, and Bean has continued to talk about his “best fwend.” He never says anything bad about this child, and seems to really enjoy hanging out with him. But last night we went to science night at the kids’ daycare, and this other kid was there with his mom. I couldn’t help but notice that the kid was still all over Bean. He had his hands all over his face, was kissing his face, and was pushing all these toys and things into his face whenever Bean would try to move on to something else or talk to someone else.
Bean gave me that look again that said, “Help me!” and then I think I made a mistake. I smiled at Bean and said, “It’s okay, Buddy.” And I didn’t do anything about it.
All night I have been thinking about what I said. The truth is that it is NOT alright for a child to be all over Bean. It is NOT alright for Bean to have to put up with behavior that bothers him. It is NOT alright to pretend that something is okay when it clearly is something Bean is uncomfortable with. I don’t want to be the parent who is overly protective or overly involved in my kids friendships. But more importantly than that, I don’t want to be the parent who teaches my children to endure what they are uncomfortable with for the sake of being polite. Because, God forbid, this was a situation where something was inappropriate and uncomfortable, I don’t want Bean to grow up thinking he has to be “okay” with anything that makes him uncomfortable.
This afternoon, I talked to Bean’s teachers again and said that Michael was feeling a bit overwhelmed by this enthusiastic child and he was uncomfortable with someone’s hands in his face or someone kissing his face or shoving toys in his face. I asked that the teachers remind the kids to keep their hands to themselves, and to keep an eye on Bean and this kid to make sure that even though Bean might SAY he was okay, that they help him keep a comfortable distance from any child if he wanted some space.
Then, I came home and talked to Bean. I told him that last night when I said that it was okay for that kid to put his hands all over Bean’s face, I was wrong. And that it wasn’t okay. I explained that when someone is doing something that we don’t like, it is okay to say, “Stop doing that! I don’t like it!” And then we practiced that a few times, which Bean thought was hysterical. Then we talked about how he should tell his teacher if someone kept bothering him after he asked them to stop, and we practiced talking to the teacher. He came in from our chat and walked right up to Chris and announced, “Dad, I don’t have to let people bother me. I can tell them to stop doing that because I don’t like it!”
I’m a pretty laid back person, I think. It takes a lot to rattle me, and I try not to rattle other people. But as a parent, I am learning. I’m learning to speak up for my child and to say, “Hey, this bothers me. Stop doing that. I don’t like it.” I need to learn to say that so I can empower my child to say it, too. My mom told me one time that being polite doesn’t mean you have to be passive. You don’t have to sit there while something goes on that you don’t agree with or that really bothers you. As a parent, I can speak up. And in speaking up, my children learn to speak up for themselves. Isn’t that what we want? We want our children to grow up knowing they have a voice. A voice to speak out, a voice to share, a voice to encourage, but also a voice to set boundaries and to hold their own when they need.
Then again, if I just beat up every kid that bothers him, Bean won’t really need a voice at all.
But I guess that isn’t the point…
This summer I am trying something new, and so far I am really loving it. During the summer, the kids and I can be found either out by the pool or at the splash park. We are water loving fools around my house. Last summer, though, one of the things that held us up the most was having the condense the diaper bag into a pool or beach bag. I was forever leaving sunscreen in my diaper bag and not having it when we went to the pool, or leaving my sunglasses in the pool bag and not having them in my diaper bag, or forgetting to pack things like sunglasses and hats altogether. This year I am trying something new.
First, I changed the type of pool bag I have. I used to carry the traditional fabric oversized beach bag, but I never found one I liked. They were never big enough to hold all my towels, and even the vinyl ones had to be hung out to dry if they got wet. And they ALWAYS got wet. This year I am using a large plastic tote from Old Tyme Pottery. If you don’t have an OTP near you, then I feel sorry for you, but I’m sure you can find something comparable or even the same from Walmart or Target (though I haven’t seen them at my Target). At OTP, this giant doozey of a tote cost $4.99. That’s right. A pool bag for less than $5! I also like this bag because it is lightweight and because it has a flat bottom, so it never spills over in my car.
This year, I decided to keep my pool bag packed and ready to go all the time. Rather than having to pack a pool bag every single day or rather than having to drag a thousand things outside every time we wanted to go out to the pool, I keep my pool bag packed and ready. Here are the things I always have in my pool bag:
1. Hats for the kids to keep the sun off of their face. For wee little ones, you can get hats with UV protection, like Bean has here. But I keep them pretty covered with sunblock, so I opted this year to get Gracie a cowgirl hat instead.
2. Sunglasses for each of the kids. I try to get the kind with UV protection.
3. All kinds of suntan lotion. I have a little of the WaterBabies left, but I’m not crazy about that brand because it never seems to stay on for long and it goes on pretty thick. What I use religiously on the kids is Coppertone Kids Broad Spectrum 50. It sprays the best! You don’t have to rub it in, and it isn’t greasy. I have Banana Boat SPF 15 tanning oil for me, but I use the kids stuff on my face.
4. Goggles. These are new for the kids this year, and so far they love them. In fact, I can’t get them to take them off long enough to even take a picture of them! They use these in the pool, but still like to have them handy at the splash park, mostly because they are still a novelty, I think.
5. Crocs for the kids. These are the BEST summer shoes. They are durable beyond belief, and I love them because they can get wet and never look any different. They don’t shrivel up like those cheap flip flops, do. Plus, they are easier for my kids to wear because they don’t like things between their toes. I also like them because they can be worn with bathing suits in place of flip flops, or even with shorts and t-shirts for playing. Bean has even worn his with khaki shorts and a polo to church. They are a little pricey, but we get one pair at the beginning of the summer and they has until fall. I buy them about half a size too big and use the strap on the back for the first part of the summer. Then when their feet grow into them a little bit, you can flip the flap up and make them backless. This gets me almost two sizes worth of wear out of them.
6. (Not pictured) An extra swim diaper for Gracie, just in case she has an accident in hers while we are out and needs to change.
7. Bubbles. Inevitably, when we are at the splash park, one of my kids wants to stay and one wants to leave. I’ve learned to keep bubbles handy for the one who wants to leave. I can usually convince them to hang out for 15 or 20 minutes longer with bubbles while the other one plays. Plus, bubbles are much easier to use when you’re around water because the kids can spill them and it isn’t the end of the world. They also help make friends when we are out because everyone loves bubbles!
Because this bag stays packed with all our essentials all the time, I can simply toss in beach towels and a snack and we are on our way. For the snack, I keep juice boxes frozen in our freezer, and toss those in with a bag of Goldfish. By the time we have been outside for a while, the juice boxes have melted and they are nice and cold. And the Goldfish we just eat straight out of the bag. I used to pack individual snacks in little Tupperware containers, but that got to be such a time drain. Now, we eat out of the bag. Just. Like. Animals.
The key to keeping it packed and ready to go is cleaning it out when we get home. But since everything stays in the bag, there really isn’t much to do when we get home. I take out the towels and hang them out to dry, clean out any remnants of a snack if we’ve had one while we were out, and then toss any wet clothes we might have collected that day into the dirty clothes hamper. It takes about two minutes. Then, I put the refreshed bag back in our front closet and it’s ready to go for our next outing.
Keeping a pool bag packed has saved us so much time, and a lot of stress, too. It is no longer such an ordeal to go anywhere. In fact, one afternoon after school this week we came home and the kids asked to go to the splash park. All we had to do was put on bathing suits and grab our bag, and we were out the door. Even a school night can become a splash park day now because we have streamlined our system.
Do you hear that?
What’s that noise?
IT’S SUMMERTIME KNOCKING ON MY DOOR!