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the newbie: Individual Playtime


By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

June recently inherited a dollhouse from a friend, and she is smitten. She loves the working doors, the ringing phone and the little people who she can move from bed to chair to kitchen. It’s pure 18-month-old bliss!

In fact, I’ve been able to leave her alone in her room while I’m right next door in myown folding laundry or reading or answering a few emails. I can hear her happily buzzing as she talks to the toy dog, as she opens the tiny doll door to let someone in, as she piles everyone into the bathroom all at once (her favorite move, for some reason).

This is the first time she’s truly played on her own, with no interactions from another adult or child. It’s amazing! But it’s also making me feel guilty, like I’m not supposed to spend that time away from her, like I should be there making her doll play more… I don’t know, educational?

Even seeing myself write this, I feel silly. Individual play is good for kids, right? It’s not all about interactive games—a variety of play styles is healthy. So why is there this twinge of guilt at leaving her to her own devices?

Have any other parents experienced this? What do your little ones play on their own?


the newbie: Car Seats


By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

We don’t drive often because we live in a city, but when we do take road trips— to the “big” grocery store, upstate for the weekend, over to Grandma’s house—I would love for it to be a good experience for 17-month-old June.

So far, that’s not happening. We’ve had her seat facing backwards, as recommended, since her first drive. Lately, though, she’s bored and restricted just facing the car seat and a mirror—she wants more action. Because she’s now at the weight where we can face her forward, we did that last weekend for a two- hour drive to see friends.

At first, June loved it! She watched everything go by, asking her favorite question (“What’s that?!”) with glee and wonder. Then she fell asleep for an hour. Bliss. But the last half hour of the drive was… well, bad. She woke up, looked around for five minutes, and proceeded to vomit four times in 60 seconds.

We found a rest stop, used approximately 100 paper towels to clean her up and get her changed, and then kept the windows down and a bag at the ready while finishing our drive.

So… carsickness and the facing-forward change. Has anyone else dealt with this one? Any tips or tricks to offer?


the newbie: So Much Stuff


By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

We have very generous relatives, and since June is the first grandchild on both sides, our 17-month-old did quite well this Christmas. The phrase “made out like a bandit” comes to mind.

While that is awesome in lots of ways, it’s also… overwhelming. Living in a small city apartment means we have to constantly be on top of toys and games and all the little things that come with June’s very existence. So the grocery cart and the little car that she loves? They really need to wait until summer when we can use them in our shared backyard.

I had this grand idea of having a “one in, one out” rule when it came to toys, but now that I’m faced with the reality of it, I’m overwhelmed. Do I toss the little bear she clung to when she was just weeks old? Save the wooden puzzle that I really like but she’s never quite shown interest in?

I’d love to hear how other parents make the cut.

All ideas welcome—we are living in a sea of stuffed animals and singing toddler toys. (Fun, but crowded.)

How do you know when (and where) to donate or pass along your child’s belongings?


the newbie: A New Babysitter


By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

One issue I regularly have is that I have to wait for my husband to get home before I can head out. By the time he gets home, I’m meeting friends for dinner at 8pm or later… and that’s just too close to my bedtime for my liking!

So recently I met a college student who lives nearby and babysits for some of our neighbors. She’s lovely, very sweet and seems good with kids.

But Miss June is not having it.

My 17-month-old cries, screams and holds so tightly to my legs that the babysitter and I both have to work to pry her off. It’s very hard to leave and I find myself worrying about her until my husband gets home and texts me that all is well.

I know that she’s likely in a big ‘separation anxiety’ phase, and maybe it’s just a matter of getting her used to the new babysitter (she has a regular daytime sitter whom she takes to easily). I guess I’d just like some reassurance that it’s okay to leave her now and then with a babysitter. And that this phase will pass.

Is it? Will it? Any tips for making the transition easier?


the newbie: TV Time


By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

I’ve read a lot about how kids under two years old shouldn’t have “screen time,” which I guess means TVs and iPads, etc.

June is almost a year and a half, and she gravitates toward our devices. The phones and the iPad are pretty much game consoles for her, and she loves to watch videos of various performers singing “Old MacDonald.”

The truth is, I feel slightly guilty when she tunes into of a quick video, but I also get tired of singing “E-I-E-I-O” after the 40th time each day.

Still, I’m thinking about introducing one short show a few times a week. I could definitely use a distraction for her sometimes, if only to have a chance to unload the dishwasher without June trying to climb inside it!

Surely “Sesame Street” does no harm, right? What I wonder is: Does this “no screens before age two” wisdom hold for you other parents, or do you let a few TV/video moments sneak in here and there?


the newbie: Toddler Hair

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

I have a confession: I don’t want to cut Baby June’s hair! While many of her friends are still bald, she has a lovely head of wavy brown hair that I just adore. Last weekend, she met her little cousin Clara for the first time, and Clara was obsessed with June’s curls, pulling at them every chance she got!

The thing is, her locks are always falling in her face and they often look more out- of-control than cute. Brushing is tough—and I’ve even seen the start of a baby dreadlock (I combed it out quickly!).

I’ve tried various types of barrettes and headbands, and they all end up as very interesting toys that go in her hands, her mouth… anywhere but on her head. Does anyone have any advice on something to try to tame her mane without losing those sweet curls that hang at the bottom?

If not, I think it’s time for the scissors.

Shopping for My Girl

By Allison Slater Tate, who can also be found blogging at allisonslatertate.com/

When my first baby was a boy, my husband breathed a sigh of relief – not because he didn’t want a girl, but because he was under the (somewhat mistaken) assumption that I would spend less money buying clothes for a baby boy than I would for a baby girl.

I swear I’m not a completely shallow person, but I love me some shopping. I can’t help it. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I don’t drink… much. But shopping is cathartic for me. I try to window shop, or the Internet equivalent, most of the time. I try to be practical. But I admit it: I do love shopping. Since having kids, I love shopping for my kids. My poor, frugal husband has had to accept this fact.

As we proceeded to have baby boy number two and then baby boy number three, he believed he was largely in the clear. As much as I did and still do enjoy shopping for my boys, I was forced to pare down my shopping habit and embrace the concept of hand-me- downs. I mean, I’m not completely ridiculous. Ahem.

Tracy Hougham PhotographyBut then it happened: our last baby, born in April 2012, was a girl. Lucy.

Game on.

My husband’s saving grace is that this baby is my fourth and not my first. I am now at a point in my life when I appreciate less STUFF – less laundry, less clothing, fewer toys. I have six mouths to feed now. We are staring down four college tuitions. I’m ready to be pickier about my shopping habit. I still enjoy shopping just as much, but now I am ready to find things I love and can afford.

[My girl Lucy photographed here by Tracy Hougham Photography. Find more here: tracyhougham.com]

I was familiar with zulily before I had Lucy. I bought a few gifts – I love the personalized plates, for instance – and I had bought the boys several super cute T shirts that stood out from the pack of usual boy clothes fare (stripes, stripes, and a side of stripes). But after Lucy was born, zulily became my playground.

For years, I had pressed my nose against the store windows, both virtual and real, staring longingly at the dresses, the tights, the bows, the little ruffled bottoms and the bloomers and the tulle skirts that only belonged to the girl side of the aisle. I dreamed about tiny ballerinas, fairy gardens, and mary janes. I memorized the names of the girl brands I loved – Baby Nay, Baby Lulu, Jelly the Pug, Trumpette, Mud Pie, Kissy Kissy.

The past six months, I have been a kid in a candy store. I have the sweetest baby girl, and I have had so much fun snuggling her and learning who she is. But I cannot deny that I have also had a ball dressing her. Thanks to zulily, I can afford to buy her some of the special things I used to covet: Hair bows. Smocked bishop dresses. Ruffled floral rompers. Lucy now has quite an impressive closet, stocked in a variety of sizes and colors and styles. I adore every single piece.

I still love baby boy clothes, and I find dressing my boys both a challenge and an adventure. I still hunt for the perfect witty T shirt, sweet corduroys, and fun hoodies for them. But now I have the baby girl I had started to believe I would never have… and the tiny hair bows and the ruffled bloomers never get boring. Neither does the precious baby they adorn.

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Find me on Twitter, @AllisonTate, and Facebook!

Read my latest posts at allisonslatertate.com

the newbie: Late Walkers

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

June is almost 16 months old, and she’s still crawling. She stands up regularly, takes a step or two when encouraged (sometimes), but mainly she thinks the whole walking thing is overrated.

This means a few things for me:

First, her clothes are all insanely dirty. Muddy pants, sloppy sleeves, shoes that look like they’ve been run over by a dump truck. Forget the cute dresses in her closet—they cannot be worn until she’s upright.

Second, I have to handle the “Is she walking yet?” question with finesse. “She’s not,” I say. “But we’re not worried.” Because the thing is, we’re mostly not. She’s a healthy, happy kid with fine muscle control. But lots of people seem to think we should be concerned. Everyone has an anecdote about the kid who walked late, but most people say it with a little gleam of worry in their eye (or maybe I’m projecting).

Third, I’ll admit it: I just want her to stand up on the playground and toddle off with the other kids. And I want to make use of those cute dresses.

Anyone else have a late walker?

the newbie: Volunteering with Kids

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

Our beloved New York City got hit very hard with Hurricane Sandy, but luckily we live on high ground in Brooklyn and our neighborhood was spared the brunt of the storm. We feel so lucky to have power, water and dry floors, and we’re looking for ways to help our neighbors deal with the destruction they’ve faced.

This particular moment has caused me to look for opportunities to volunteer with baby June. Surely there are things we can do together—cleanup in the park, visiting nursing home patients, caring for animals in a shelter. But what I’ve found is that kids aren’t allowed to come with their parents to volunteer. I’ve applied to a few places, asked around, and searched online to no avail.

I will try to find time to help out when she’s with her dad, but does anyone have any tips on how to volunteer with kids in tow? Or do I just have to wait until she’s a little older?

the newbie: Halloween!

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

I know that, at 15 months, June is too young to remember this Halloween. But still, how can we resist dressing her up and taking her door to door?

My husband is getting out of work early on Wednesday, we’re bundling up our baby girl in a strawberry outfit that’s cozy and cute, and we’re collecting candy! (Whether June gets to eat any of it remains to be seen.)

This year, I think we’ll just do some trick-or-treating on our block, but I’d really like to make our family holiday celebrations special starting next year. My mom used to peel grapes so they felt like eyeballs in the dark. And cold cooked spaghetti sure can pass as a bowl of brains when you’re young and impressionable!

Happy Halloween!

Please share: Do you guys have any Halloween traditions that you do with your children? Does your neighborhood have an event? Also: What are your little ones dressing up as this year?