More Coffee, Less Advice– A Note from a Sleep Deprived Mama

The three week mark is nearing. In a few long nights, it will be almost three weeks of surviving on under 3 hours of sleep a night. That’s right, folks. While my son excels at many things, sleeping has never been one of them. Lately, however, the proverbial shit has hit the fan. Transitioning him from a crib to a toddler bed has proved to be the nightmare I fully expected and this mama is so tired that I almost can’t even function. Yet, I do. Because… parenthood.

After two and a half years of being the proud and heavily caffeinated mom to a poor sleeper, I have heard it all. Everything from “have you tried monster spray (to rid the room of monsters he is not yet afraid of)?” to “if my child slept like that, I would have quit a while ago.” I’m not entirely sure what you mean by quit and it doesn’t sound entirely legal. People are quick to jump in with ideas and suggestions. Especially fellow moms who knows the pain of sleep deprivation. The motive is good. The delivery sounds a lot like judgement to an exhausted mom struggling to make it from one day to the next.

Nearly everyone knows that my adorable bundle of toddler goodness has never been a champ at the at sleeping. Hell, I – honest to god – know newborns who sleep better than he’s ever slept. What most people don’t know is the guilt that lies behind every smile I present and every selfie we take. It’s impossible to lie awake at 2am (for the fifth time that night) with your toddler and not feel like a failure. At least, for me it is.

Yes, I have read the books. I’ve listened to the podcasts. I’ve worked with a few professionals. I’ve read blog after blog about sleep and toddlers. No, none of it has helped. Come midnight, he’s calling my name. Come morning, everyone is tired and cranky and I’m already dreading nap time and inevitable chaos. At secretly hating myself. Because, surely, I have somehow massively failed my child. Therefore, when you chime in with your ideas or exclaim that you’ve never heard of such a thing before, the voices of self doubt get louder.

Instead, try coffee. Simply pat me on the head and offer coffee. Throw in some free childcare and you’ll be my hero in life. Make a conscious effort to resist the urge to remind me that these are the moments and he will only be small for a short period of time. Yes, that’s probably true. But it also doesn’t negate the fact that I’m so tired that every muscle in my body hurts and without coffee I might actually cease to function entirely. It doesn’t offset the hours spent awake every night and does only a little to make the epic tantrums that erupt every single night any less frustrating. Will I look back when he’s 20 and think “god… I really miss that month of being awoken every hour on the hour by him when he was 2.” I doubt it. But I could be wrong, open to that possibility. Right now, however, I’ve been awake since god knows when and there’s no relief in sight. I have no reason to believe tonight will be any different.

I’ve got a new strategy and a whole lot of coffee… but I’ve had both those things before.

So, rather than tell me all about what I could try. Try just being there. Because  many don’t realize  that having a child who doesn’t sleep much at night is rife with a loneliness that comes from spending hours awake at night by yourself (or with an angry tiny human) and wondering why on earth you can’t solve this problem. Coffee, hugs, childcare offers and cake do a whole lot more to soothe the tired than suggestions and advice.

Just a friendly reminder– in the event that you encounter another mama with kids that don’t sleep at ages when they really should be.

And, finally, some crafts we have done recently. Expect blogs with directions and thoughts to come in the next week… or so.

Potty Training’s Unexpected Gift to this Mama… and a host of craft adventures! 

Wrapping up day 3 of potty training with the little one. He’s narrating an argument between his toy car and bird in the bath – which is simply fascinating – and I’m drinking some much needed coffee and updating the blog. Soon, folks, it will be bedtime.

Per usual, I’m reviewing the day, scanning for progress and brainstorming for ways to improve tomorrow. As I review, an odd realization washes over me. Despite being more exhausted than I’ve been in many many moons, potty training for 3 days has been an almost beautiful experience. A beautiful experience that has left me in tears at moments, chatting with near strangers on the internet at night to troubleshoot and praying for naps that span a minimum of 4 hours. But a beautiful experience, none the less.

What, exactly, about spending days on end staring at my naked child, swooping in mid-pee to relocate said child to the potty and cleaning up a world of bodily functions is beautiful? It’s a legit question.

As a SAHM with a house to run and 12 hours to kill in any given day, I’m often scouring the internet for ways to get my two year old to play independently. By no stretch of the imagination do I ignore my child but the dishes need to be done, laundry needs to be attended to, bills need to be paid, emails from my boss need to be answered, floors need to be swept and food needs to be cooked. And, honestly, sometimes the phone rings and mama needs some adult interaction for a moment. The point being, while he’s certainly a well doted on young boy, I’m often encouraging him to play solo or multitasking. On top of that, for both our sanity, we generally leave the house for at least one activity a day. Barring illness, I can’t remember the last time we spent 3 days in the house without venturing to story time or a play date. The last 72 hours have been eye opening for me.

The method I’ve chosen to use involves basically staring at your child and catching them mid pee while offering regular prompts to try to use the potty. Essentially, in order to learn their cues, catch accidents as they happen and help them figure their bodies out, you’re supposed to completely abandon life in order to be constantly looking at your kid. It’s exhausting. It’s mind numbing at times. It’s frustrating. It’s many many things that I expected it would be.

What I didn’t expect was that it would also make for a host of truly beautiful bonding moments between him and I. Thanks to the pressing need to abandon my phone and housework and pay attention to my child exclusively, I have found myself jumping on the bed with my naked two year old, having staring contests that dissolve into peals of laughter, making up stories about our fish and painting with abandon. I’ve watched him interact with his toys (an experience I usually miss out on because I’m tending to housework or enjoying the rare few minutes of no one yelling my name) and was blown away by the beginnings of imaginative play I saw. As he narrated interactions between his trains, I sat back and watched while marveling at his spunk, personality and creativity. I found myself in awe of who he’s becoming and the fact that I get to witness it.

DO NOT MISINTERPRET : I am counting the minutes until we return to the land of those who wear clothes and leave the house on a regular basis. I also am not under any delusion that I can regularly abandon all other tasks to cater to my two year old. Nor do I actually think I should – as a general practice. But… I am incredibly grateful for the chance to be forced into being present and getting to fall in love with my kid all over again this week.

Of course, to pass the time, we crafted. Here’s what we’ve done.

Number Rocket Counting Craft 


Easy as can be and fun, this paper and stickers counting craft was simply intended to kill some time without whipping out the paint. Essentially, I numbered the squares and he stuck the corresponding amount of stickers to the squares. Once that was completed, I taped them to the wall (with the fire at the bottom). He loved the completed rocket. I learned that he truly has no number recognition ability yet and wasted his nap falling into the abyss of Google. All in all, a lovely and simple counting craff.

Materials: 

  • Construction paper in a variety of colors
  • Dot stickers
  • A marker
  • Tape

Directions: 

  • To prep: cut 9 squares and number. Cut a slightly larger triangle to form the top and serve as number 10. Cut out the blast off explosion at the bottom.
  • Give your little one some dot stickers and ask him to identify the number on the square and put the appropriate number of stickers on. Mateo did fabulously at putting the right number of stickers on. Identifying the number still needs work.
  • Tape the wall in ascending order.

Painting with Shaving Cream 


Less of a work of art and more of a sensory experience, this activity’s main purpose was to entertain my little one while giving him the chance to get real dirty (which he loves). I honestly expected a huge mess and was pleasantly surprised by how contained this was. Mateo had never encountered shaving cream before and is rarely allowed to stick his hands in a bucket of foam and let loose so he could hardly contain his excitement. Best of all? It literally couldn’t be easier. Simply fill a bucket with shaving cream (the kind that foams), pour a little paint on top in a fun shape and let your kid go to town. Once the paint has been swirled around in the shaving cream, lay a piece of card stock paper on top of the foam, press slightly and remove. Scrape the foam off and let dry. The result? A lovely abstract painting. I’ll be honest, the joy of this craft is in the process, rather than the end result.

Materials: 

  • 3 cups of foam shaving cream
  • Paint
  • A bucket
  • A piece of white card stock paper

Directions: 

  • Fill the bucket with shaving cream (I used a roasting pan for lack of a large enough bucket). Create a cute shape on top of the foam with paint.
  • Set in front of your little one and demonstrate how they can use their hands and a paint brush to mix the paint and the foam to make fun swirls.
  • Sit back and watch the fun ensue. Mateo literally spent 10 minutes simply dipping his finger in the shaving foam, pulling it out and staring at it with complete fascination. After that, he promptly let loose.
  • Once your little one is done, place a piece of card stock paper on top of the foam and press gently. Remove and scrape the shaving cream from the paper. Let dry.

Hungry Caterpillar Name Craft 

Funny story: I promised we would make this craft yesterday. “Tomorrow we will make a caterpillar.” The result of this promise? Hysteria from his crib at midnight and him sobbing “I want to make a caterpillar.” Adorable unless you’re the one spending hours getting him back to sleep.

Beyond that, this craft was a huge hit. He loved the clasps used to make the pieces of the body mobile and couldn’t get enough of the finished product. Fairly simple to make, this one gets my vote for sure!

Materials: 

  • Paper plates – 5 small ones (depending on the length of your child’s name) and 1 larger plate. Cut the inside circles out.
  • Paint (red and green)
  • Brads (the clasps used to make the caterpillar mobile)
  • Glue
  • Construction paper for the eyes and antennae
  • A hole puncher
  • A sharpie

Directions: 

  • To prep: cut the inside circles from all the plates. Cut out the eyes and antennae from construction paper. Set aside 5 brads.
  • Give your little one the paper plate circles to paint. The head should be red and the body circles should be green.
  • Let dry.
  • Once dry, ask your little guy to glue the eyes and antennae on.
  • Then show them how the brads work. This was mind blowing to Mateo. He was super impressed. Use a hole puncher to create holes in each of the plates and then use the brads to connect the body parts.
  • Use the sharpie to label each body part with a letter of their name.
  • Hang and enjoy.

And, for your enjoyment, here’s what the end of potty training day 3 looked like here. Ain’t for sissies.


Earth Day Recycled Milk Jug Tree 


Happy Earth Day, y’all! 

Obviously, I wanted to craft with the little one to celebrate and open a dialogue about loving the planet we rely on. Pinterest, however, was failing me this time. All of the crafts I saw were slightly beyond him- or would be nothing more than him painting something I labeled “earth” blue and green without any understand of the concept. While some were cute, I really appreciate crafts that allow us to start dialogues about new concepts. Taking my quest to the library, I found a slew of books that were also above his comprehension level. No dice, there either. So I changed my tactic. 

Rather than searching for a craft that would allow me to explain the concept of earth and planets to my two year old, I opted for this adorable plastic bag holder and focused on the idea saving plastic bags instead of throwing them out because it makes the outside messy and our animal friends sick. Bingo! Success! 

This plastic holder was a huge hit! He loved his tree and has spent a ton of time stuffing plastic bags in and pulling them out. Later that night, in the bath, he poured water out of the tub and told me “Teo ‘cycling, mama” when I asked what he was doing. So… minimally the concept of recycling – or the idea that such a word exists – stuck. I’m calling that a win. 


A couple notes: 

  • This is a two part craft. We painted. Then napped (so the tree could grow). Then assembled the tree once it was dry.
  • We painted the tree limbs brown. This is only because I didn’t have brown cardstock paper and didn’t think construction paper would hold up well. 
  • I cut the mouth out of the milk jug after it was painted to avoid him getting distracted and painting the inside of the jug or stopping to our random items in the mouth. 
  • I hot glued all the parts after the craft was complete to ensure they stuck around. Elmers glue didn’t really cut it with plastic and pipe cleaners. 

Materials: 

  • Empty milk or water jug- gallon size
  • Paint- green and brown (if you paint the tree limbs) 
  • Pipe cleaners 
  • Green construction paper 
  • Googly eyes (you could also make eyes out of paper or draw them on with a sharpie) 
  • A Pom Pom for the nose 
  • Glue
  • Scissor

Directions: 

  • To prep: rinse out an old milk or water jug, cut tree limbs out of either brown construction paper or white card stock paper, cut 4 leaves out of green construction paper and cut 2 green pipe cleaners in half to make 4 shorter ones. 
  • Set out green paint and let your little one paint the jug (tree) green. Let dry. 
  • Once dry, use a sharpie to draw a mouth and cut to create an open mouth. Have your little one attach the limbs with glue. They can use elmers glue to begin with. I would advise attaching with hot glue afterwards- as the Elmer’s doesn’t stick too well. 
  • Let them attach eyes and a nose. Add the pipe cleaners to the top of the bottle to create branches and add leaves. 
  • Let your little one fill the jug with plastic bags. 
  • Done! 

Coparenting with Pinterest — And Why I Have #noshame About It 

Over and over again, it happens. I post a craft and field half a dozen compliments about my creative genius. And so, the time has come to come clean (despite the fact that it’s never been a well kept secret). When it comes to crafting, Pinterest and I are in a coparenting relationship and have mastered the art of division of labor. 

90 percent of my craft ideas come from the site– or sites like it. Rarely do I invent my own craft ideas. Often, however, I will combine a few different crafts to create one that I think will most appeal to Mateo or will reduce the chance of meltdowns. Crafts are tweaked to accommodate his personal preferences, his skills and his unique personality. For example, a ring toss activity that involves hollowed paper plates tossed over paper towel rolls sounds perfect. Until I realize they use play dough to adhere the paper towel roll to the ground. Knowing my child, he won’t be able to ignore the play dough long enough to focus on the game. So, that gets tweaked. The original idea, however, still came from vast Pinterest universe. 

Do I feel badly about this? No. 

Do I think it detracts from our crafts? No.

Do I own up to it when an idea is called out as being particularly creative? Yes. 

The honest truth is that I used to feel badly. People used to ask if I came up with my own crafts and I would glance downward and admit that I did not. Then, I realized. Fuck it. Pinterest and I have mastered the key to successful parenting. An effective system for dividing the labor. Pinterest is tasked with idea generation while I’m tasked with execution. 

Listen, parenting is hard enough. Managing the emotions of a small one while keeping a house functioning and remembering to shower every so often is a big enough task. Why add more? Some people use this same argument to explain why they don’t whip out the paints for their kid. And I get that. I’m with you 200 percent. If I wasn’t a stay at home mom with over 10 hours to kill in any given day, we would probably craft a whole lot less. But, it’s either this or play trains 200 more times a day and I fear for my sanity if I choose the latter option. Additionally, it’s one of the only times I see my energizer bunny of a toddler stop moving long enough to really focus without a screen being involved. So, we craft and we’ve grown to love it. 

What I don’t love is the nagging voice in the back of my head that says I’m somehow still falling short because I didn’t come up with the idea on my own. In an ongoing effort to be kinder to myself, remember that the mere fact that I am giving parenting my all means I’m killing it and embrace the Pinterest mom that I am, I’m owning up to this fact publically. 

So. No. Most of the time my ideas come from the hours I spend scouring the internet for craft ideas. The crafts, however, are all us. The early mornings and late nights spent cutting, prepping, and assisting is all me. The painting, gluing and coloring is all him. Division of labor at its finest, if you ask me. 

In short- haters gonna hate. I’m gonna Pinterest and paint. 

Chocolate Cookie Bunny House 

The little one and I are vacationing in Delaware. Given that we are staying with family and not everyone shares my mess tolerance levels, we took today’s crafty activity outdoors. 

Mateo has been looking forward to this bunny house for days. Purchased last week for the express purpose of killing time in between trips the beach and the boardwalk, he’s has to wait patiently and was very ready to get going once we started. The bunny house was nearly as much of a mess as people warned me it would be and Mateo focused like a champ. 

A note about focus. Since his arrival in Delaware, my little one has been a bundle of energy and vaguely unmanageable. Breaking out a craft seemed like a poor idea to my mom but it calmed him quickly. 

This is why we craft. I’ve been blessed with an incredibly active two year old boy. I rarely see him stay in one place for more than 5 minutes at a time. He’s always on the move, climbing the walls or getting himself into some sort of trouble. Crafting, however, brings out a focus and concentration that is simply amazing to witness. He loves all things crafting and I love watching his brain work and seeing him take a break from his non stop lunacy to focus on a task. It’s a win win for all.


We used a ready to make kit from Stew Leonard’s to cut down on the mess factor and make for a more manageable craft. Therefore, instead of directions, I’ll offer some tips. 

  • Inspect the candy ahead of time to avoid meltdowns. I removed the gumballs before he caught wind that they even existed.
  • Only display the parts you will be working with immediately. I hid the candy and blue icing until we were finished with creating the house’s structure.
  • Plan an activity for the 20-25 minutes you’ll need to wait while the icing dries before adding candy. Mateo found this especially troublesome. On my next go round, I would have a fun activity ready to distract him. 
  • Have fun and embrace mishaps. My mom and I had a number of laughs as parts of the house started to droop. Enjoy yourself! If crafting isn’t fun, why bother! 

Paper Plate Turtle — A Collage Activity 

I’ll be honest. This was intended to be a handmade puzzle activity. My goal initially was to trace puzzle pieces and use them as the turtle’s shell. Well, that got old fast and I abandoned ship and opted for a simple collage. 

Despite the last minute change of plans, this was a big hit. Mateo loved the chance to decide which piece should go where and put a significant amount of consideration into the decision. Once the puzzle piece idea was abandoned, the prep was minimal and I glued the turtle parts and the paper plate to the card stock paper ahead of time to allow Mateo to focus on making the collage (and to cut down on mom participation in the process). Mr. Turtle now resides under Mateo’s trampoline because apparently that’s where he likes to sleep. 


Materials:

  • Paper plate
  • Blue card stock paper
  • Green construction paper
  • Colored construction paper to make the shapes for the collage 
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Sharpie marker 

Directions: 

  • To prep: Use green construction paper to cut out the arms, legs, head and tail. Draw toes and fingers on the limbs and add facial features to the head. Cut shapes out of various colors of construction paper. Glue the paper plate and turtle parts to the blue card stock paper. 
  • Let your little one pick and choose which shapes go where to cover the shell. Let them use a glue stick to adhere the shapes to the plate. 
  • The end. Enjoy! 

Easter Crafting : Bunny Hats and Hatching Chicks

IMG_4887.JPG

Despite the fact that the weather seems to be confused, Easter is right around the corner! To get in the spirit, we – of course – crafted. In the first two of what will surely be a host of Easter crafts, we made some rabbit ears to hop around in and painted a hatching chick with our fingers. While both were a huge success, the bunny ears gave Mateo a chance to practice his hopping skills and that was simply adorable. Read on to see what we’ve been up to and stay tuned for some more ideas. This morning included a restock trip to Michaels Craft Supply store, so we are READY for a week of rain!

Bunny Ears Hat 

mateo bunny hat collage

Today was one of those mornings when I was praying to the gods of toddler sleep for a late wakeup. Not only did I get an early wakeup, but he was especially excited about life from the moment his eyes opened. There was no snuggling up with coffee, my toddler and Moana. It was “GO GO GO” from the get go. A whopping 10 minutes into being awake, he asks to “make craft and glue?” While I love crafting, I generally prefer to do so after 9am. Thankfully I had planned on making this adorable hat yesterday and had already cut and prepared the items. So, crafting and coffee it was!

In the end this was a HUGE hit. Since he’s never really made a hat before and the pieces didn’t look like a bunny before being assembled, it took a little warming up and coaxing to get him into it. Once he grasped what was happening here, he was far more excited about the idea and once the hat was complete and he caught wind of himself in the mirror it was GAME OVER for him. He hopped around like a bunny for a solid 20 minutes, showed his hat to the fish, told the fish that hats are for big boys and not fish and then promptly displayed the hat right next to the fish so they could be friends. Be still my heart, be still.

Materials: 

  • White cardstock paper
  • Pink construction paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Pom Poms in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Tape (for the hat)

Directions: 

  • To prep: Cut out two ovals for the rabbit ears. Use white cardstock for these, with smaller ovals cut from pink construction paper for the insides of the ears. Fold a pice of white cardstock paper over lengthwise and cut down the middle to create two rectangular pieces to use for the headband. Cut two small rectangles for the teeth and set out pom poms in dish.
  • Have your little one glue the pink ovals in the center of the larger white ears. Once that’s done, have them glue pom poms around the pink oval to decorate the ears. Mateo and I are running into some glue issues lately. Mainly, he’s fond of eating it and sticking glue nozzles up his nose. So, for this craft, I used a hot glue gun. I applied hot glue dots around the smaller ovals and he placed a pom pom on top after I had let it cool a bit. This was a lot of work (complete with regular reminders that the glue is hot). Ideally this phase will pass quickly.
  • Once done, apply the eyes and teeth to the appropriate part of the headband. Tape the two large rectangles together and measure your child’s head with the paper. Tape where appropriate.
  • Let them try it and let the fun begin!

Here’s a picture of the fishie and the bunny hat bonding.

mateo bunny hat and fish

Hatching Chick Finger Painting 

mateo hatching egg collage

Lemme start by saying Mateo was having a day today. So if you’re perplexed by the lollipop break, that’s why. Sanity reigns supreme in my house. If sanity means you need a lollipop and a craft to hold it together emotionally, a lollipop it is.

I settled on this craft because of his recent love of finger painting. He’s SO over handprints and now loves making dots with his fingers and some paint. Therefore, this seemed ideal. Generally, I would cut all the parts ahead of time and let him glue them each on. Today, however, he was cranky and full of complaints about life. To make our lives easier and get to the fun part, I glued the shell and the chick’s head onto the egg ahead of time and let him focus on finger painting. Happiness ensued (with a small break for some lollipop comfort).

Materials: 

  • Orange, yellow and white cardstock paper
  • Black and orange construction paper
  • Glue
  • Paints

Directions: 

  • To prep: Cut out a large oval from orange cardstock paper. I used a giant serving bowl as a guide for my oval. Trace another oval (the same size) onto white cardstock paper and draw a zig zag line across the center. Cut along that line to create a cracked shell.
  • Glue the egg shell and chick’s face to the oval background.
  • Set out paints and let your little one dip their fingers into the paint to decorate the egg shell.
  • Glue on the eyes and a nose.

mateo hatching egg final