1. Review: Little Passports

    May 17, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    Lorelei receives her highly anticipated mailing from Little Passports.

    Lorelei receives her highly anticipated mailing from Little Passports.

    I was fortunate to be able to travel a lot with my family when I was growing up, so it’s important to me to share those types of experiences with my own kids. My husband, on the other hand, never got to travel very far back then, so he’s excited to do more traveling now.

    The bottom line is that we’re both eager to get out there and get exploring with our monkeys, but it’s hard when the kids are so young (because they’re, you know, monkeys).

    Which is why I was super-excited to be asked to review Little Passports, a subscription service that sends your kids fun, educational travel-related materials every month in the mail. Little Passports currently comes in 3 versions:

    Early Explorers (ages 3-5): Each month has a different theme (such as oceans, landmarks, or music)

    World Edition (ages 6-10): Each month features a different country

    USA Edition (ages 7-12): Each month features two U.S. states

    We were sent the Early Explorers edition, which included a cute little suitcase; a world map; an activity book and trading cards; a letter from our fictitious travel buddies Max, Mia, and dog Toby; and more.

    Lorelei, who is almost 6, was delighted with the whole package, especially the world map we could affix our landmark stickers to (this month’s theme was landmarks). Everything was very informative and high-quality.

    (Plus, hey – real mail in the mail! Increasingly exciting for all ages.)

    While I was sent just one Little Passports mailing for review purposes, Lorelei was already looking forward to receiving next month’s installment (and beyond). The activities in the Early Explorers edition were definitely geared more towards younger kids, so I ordered her a World Edition subscription as an early birthday present.

    Whether you’re real-life family travelers or more couch-bound wanna-be versions, as we currently are, Little Passports is a great gift for the little adventurer in your life.

    Little Passports’ lovely PR folks sent me an Early Explorers package to review and write about on the site. I have received no other compensation and am in no way affiliated with Little Passports. We’re all about editorial integrity here at Mommy Tries.


  2. Crazy Baby Wednesday: 5/11/16

    May 11, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    A boy’s best friend, new millennium version: His stuffed emoji (which has inexplicably been named Jacob).

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  3. No Big Top for You

    May 5, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    20160504_131036 (750x1000)Nicholas and Lorelei have both been looking forward to a long-planned family trip to the circus this coming Saturday – particularly Nicholas, who seems to have a passion for animals and clowns in equal measure (I think he strongly identifies with both groups).

    Unfortunately, we have been dealing with a lot of terrible behavior from Nicholas lately – mean-spirited backtalk, hitting, screaming, tantruming, defiance, and so forth. It’s not surprising, given his age (3 and three-quarters) – but it’s not acceptable, either.

    Things really came to a head a few nights ago, when he was put in a time-out for throwing food around at dinner. His time-out spot is at the foot of our stairs, right in front of our huge canvas print with, ironically enough, the “Family Rules” printed on it.

    (You’ll notice that “Don’t slapshot your dinner across the table like Wayne Gretsky” isn’t explicitly listed; we may need to have an addendum printed up.)

    In any event, we’ve had some issues before with Nicholas getting up from time-out and pounding on the sign, thereby prolonging said time-out. This time, however, he took things one step further by ripping the sign off the wall and slamming it onto the ground, screaming all the while like a rage-fueled baby Hulk.

    The banshee was immediately removed to his bedroom, the sign was repaired and re-hung, and Eric and I quickly came to the joint conclusion that this was not a kid who deserved to go to the circus on Saturday.

    Bubba did not, as you might expect, take the news all that well. But I think it finally hit home for him that there are consequences to his behavior.

    He understands (I think) that we are not going to change our minds on this, no matter how good he is between now and then. And that Lorelei and I will still be going, while he and Daddy will be staying home and not doing anything particularly fun during that time. (Lest we be tempted to cave, Eric has already given the extra tickets to two German co-workers of his, who are excited to a) experience all the uniquely American entertainments this country has to offer and b) meet the little girl with the Teutonic name.)

    Nicholas has been as good as gold since the whole debacle. While I have no illusions that this stretch of delightful behavior will be permanent, I do think it’s good for him to see that we mean business. It’s surprisingly hard, though, to see your kid so disappointed, even when the disappointment is entirely his own doing.

    I’d really love to take him to the circus on Saturday. But I want to raise a good person even more.


  4. Crazy Baby Wednesday: 5/4/16

    May 4, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    Reading time with Cocoa, the newest member of the family (and already Lorelei’s loyal sidekick).

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  5. Crazy Baby Wednesday: 4/27/16

    April 27, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    Have scissors, will snip (chives, that is).

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  6. Crazy Baby Wednesday: 4/20/16

    April 20, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    Lorelei, Daddy, and the back of Nicholas’s head at the Fisher Cats game.

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  7. Parental Jeopardy

    April 14, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    (noun) 1. The precarious and inevitably ill-fated state one enters when one tries to quietly sneak into the kitchen and consume the last brownie.

    (noun) 2. The mistaken belief that a parental infraction, upon being noted by one’s child, will not be brought up again ad infinitum in conversation (See also double jeopardy)

    (noun) 3. The daily state experienced by parents of young children involving a rapid-fire barrage of endless, and often unanswerable, questions by one’s progeny, e.g., What is this song about? Are there bones in your tongue? Why do fire trucks live at the fire station? Are crab apples apples with crabs in them? What do hummingbirds look like? Is 42 less than 100? What makes the wind? What happened to the last brownie?


  8. Crazy Baby Wednesday: 4/13/16

    April 13, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    Little bubba in a little car.

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  9. Guest Post: My Helpful Opposite

    April 11, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    Today’s guest post is courtesy of Jen Altrogge, a wife, mother, and writer. You can find out more about her at her website.

    This is my third year in a row with a kindergartener (that’s right folks, I have a second grader, a first grader, a kindergartener and, guess what! A preschooler as well). When my two oldest, who are very UNlike me, were kindergarteners, they reminded me every day, for weeks, of upcoming events at school. I took this for granted, even found it a little annoying, until this year.

    My third born is a miniature version of myself. This means I get along with her fairly well but we’re doing nothing to help each other. So when Muffins with Moms rolled around this year, I did not know that the reason I had been prepared for this event the two previous years in a row had been the obsessive reminders of my first two daughters.

    And that is how I found myself in the drop off line, noticing all of the parked cars and suddenly thinking, Wait. This is M week…Oh no.

    “Hon, is today Muffins with Moms???”

    Daughter #3, after a brief delay: “Muffins with Moms???”

    Her sisters wouldn’t let me forget it. She had no idea what it was.

    And so I attended Muffins with Moms in my lime green slippers, with severe bedhead and not a speck of makeup on my face. It wasn’t my proudest moment.

    Unlike daugther #3, my oldest, who is turning 8 soon, is essentially my total opposite in almost every way. This, as you can imagine, is an infuriating thing at times. Like when she thinks my way of doing things makes no sense and insists her way is better (because apparently 7 ½ is the new 15??). Or when she cries because I just don’t get her.

    However, due to incidents like the Muffins with Moms debacle, I’m finding that these differences can actually work to my advantage. She’s basically my own little calendar/reminder system.

    See, I’m a laid back, fly by the seat of my pants kind of mom. And I’m kind of disorganized, messy, and forgetful. I’m not worried about germs, I don’t obsess over my kids eating habits and going to the doctor is reserved for actual crises, not head colds. Routine is kind of torture for me, which is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for school, which instills this in my children for me.

    My oldest is a hand-wringer. She’s constantly concerned about everything. She loves to be organized. She’s always trying to come up with plans that will solve my disorganization problems (“Mom, I think if we just did this, it would really help.”). She wants to bring the structure of school into our home life. And she remembers everything.

    A regular conversation for us goes something like:

    Daughter #1: Remember when you said _____, Mom?

    Me: No…I said that??

    Daughter #1: Yeeeeees. (proceeds to repeat entire remembered conversation to me, including context and location).

    So, a few days ago, I had to take her to the doctor. Remember how I said we only go for crises? Well, that’s true unless I’m just exhausted from telling my kid every night that she has growing pains while she insists her legs are broken, and I decide to let the doctor put an end to the conversation.

    As we pulled into the doctor’s office, I noticed that, of course, I had forgotten to get gas, and we were exactly 2 miles from empty. Ugh.

    “Sweetie, can you remind me to get gas when we leave? Like, you really need to remind me.”

    “What happens if we run out of gas, Mom?”

    “We’re stranded and we have to walk to the nearest gas station.”

    “Oooooh, dear. We CANNOT forget to get gas.”

    And oh boy, did we ever NOT forget. In the span of time it took to get her vitals, see the nurse (and be told, BY THE WAY, that it’s just growing pains) and check out, she had reminded me to get gas approximately 352 times (give or take).

    She also managed to tell the nurse a lot of other facts that revealed all sorts of things about our family life. For instance, “we’re going to Disney for spring break but then we won’t go again FOR A LONG TIME, because it costs a lot of money and we have 4 kids and it’s really expensive and we don’t have money.” I have no idea where she heard that, nurse. We’re financially fine, I promise (P.S. Go ahead and click that link. It’s true. There are no coupons for Disney. Ever. It’s expensive. Even for us Floridians).

    Well, the entire staff at the doctor’s office might have been looking at us funny, but at least we weren’t stranded without gas.

    So it turns out that even though having my complete opposite questioning my every action can be somewhat annoying, it has its perks. I’ve resigned myself to letting my oldest keep our house in line and am just going to reap the benefits and call it a day. After all, what good are all of these children if they aren’t showing us how incompetent we really are.


  10. Looking to Fill the Free Time?

    April 7, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

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    I found myself back at the endodontist’s today, getting some stitches removed from the spot where my back molar used to be, and making small talk with one of the assistants there.

    She asked if I had any fun plans for the weekend. “Trying to stay awake past 8:30” didn’t seem like a socially appropriate response, so instead I said, “No, not really – how about you?”

    “Well, I’ve been looking for more ways to fill my free time lately…”

    [At this point my suspicions were firmly confirmed: This young, cute woman is not a parent of small children.]

    “…so I think I might do some of those planter terrarium balls that you hang in your windows. Of course, that will only take an hour or so, so I’ll need to figure out a few other things, too.”

    Lorelei would love that sort of project, I think to myself. This girl has a fun-aunt kind of vibe; maybe she’d like some help. Lorelei’s brand of help would almost certainly extend the project beyond an hour. Heck, I could send Nicholas, too – he would probably destroy everything and double or even triple the project time, not including clean-up…

    I actually said nothing of the sort, of course. But it did get me to thinking about the last time I felt like I had extra free time to fill. I think it was sometime before the Obama Administration.

    Casting my mind back, I could vaguely recall ideas of taking an adult tap class, and even learning shorthand (because, you know, I need yet another way to illegibly remind myself to “buy milk”), but these never came to fruition. And now it will be several more years before I can squeeze in anything extra that involves more time or brainpower than, say, a nightly fluoride rinse. (This may be why I wound up at the endodontist’s in the first place, but that’s a story for another time.)

    As all you parents of small children out there know, your free time – what little scraps of it remain – is readily and fully absorbed by those little monkeys, as if they were magical time Shamwows.

    Yesterday alone, for instance, Eric and I collectively dealt with the following:

    – A Mommy/Lorelei project involving the drawing of many crayoned flowers, to eventually be turned into floral crowns

    – A trip to the playground (where there were, unsurprisingly, several other stir-crazy parent/kid combos there, despite the raw 15-degree windchill)

    – A real-time, on-the-potty request for prunes to help move things along (from Nicholas)

    – An impassioned yet short-lived hypothetical commitment to vegetarianism, by Lorelei, until she realized this would necessarily entail giving up pepperoni and chicken skin

    – Separate requests from Lorelei to become a Girl Scout, have Daddy teach her soccer, have her birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, and for Daddy to turn off the Red Sox game (in the fleeting few minutes he had between returning from work and collapsing into bed)

    – An ongoing to-do repair list that includes a broken Sponge Bob figurine, a barrette that has lost its plastic flower, a well-worn-yet-much-loved pair of holey little-girl leggings, and a broken dryer handle (which isn’t directly kid-related, but for the fact that they necessitate astonishing amounts of laundry)

    – 20 fingernails (10 tiny; 10 mid-size) that needed clipping

    – A talk with Nicholas about the importance of nixing potty talk (except when he is actually on the potty and in need of prunes; see above)

    – Nicholas’s modeling of Lorelei’s nearly-outgrown fuzzy pink sweater, known to us all as “the Muppets sweater,” which Nicholas claimed made him look like “Mrs. Pig.”

    – 4 children’s books read

    – 1 cup of spilled milk (which Nicholas was quick to blame me for, accusing me of overfilling his cup)

    – Numerous hugs and kisses (some of which involved elbows to sensitive body parts and yelling in ears – and mouths – but all well-intentioned)

    And that’s just it. No matter how exhausted or exasperated you get, you’re always ultimately very glad these little guys are around. Even if they do cut into your terrarium ball-making time.

    (And all your other time, too.)