Existential Thought 103 – Showering

Showers before children – 10-30 minutes.
Luxurious. You can shave, wash your hair, scrub yourself into bliss.

Showers after children – What’s that?
You mean that mommy smell of not showering for 3 days isn’t sexy? Hair washing? I think I did that last year!

Montessori Marbled Bowls {DIY Art Project with Your Toddler}

I’ve been inspired with the marble “ring bowls” people have been making with Sculpey clay. I love the marble look of these bowls but I don’t have a purpose for them myself.

Since I have been looking to buy some classic Montessori/Waldorf toys, I thought if there was a way I could do an art project with my toddler, make a Montessori toy, and have something beautiful.

That’s how I came up these Montessori marble bowls with matching string beads.

Score!

I was so impressed with my son who followed the directions from this post. He’s almost three years old and the directions are simple enough to follow. There’s also no mess in coloring the clay or painting (I did the gilded edges myself).

There are several elements of learning your child experiences on top of the fun and satisfaction of making your own toys!
What your toddler learns:
Color sorting
Rolling dough
Making ‘snakes’
Mixing colors – color theory
Baking – adult supervision of course
Stringing beads
Creating something from start to finish

How to make Montessori inspired marbled colored bowls with matching balls

Here’s a video in hyperlapse speed – it’s my first ever video, so be kind!

What you need:
Scupley clay in different colors (affiliate links!)
Large block of sculpey clay in white, 8oz
Knife
Bowls to shape with – they should be oven safe
Gold pen or gold paint to paint the trim
Bamboo skewers to make the holes in the balls

1. With a knife, cut out a large block of white clay.
2. Cut out small blocks of 3-4 color clays. If you look at the video, I cut out a pretty small piece, 1/4in thick. You don’t need much color to give the bowl that beautiful marbled look.

I let the kiddo choose the colors and encouraged him to pick 2-3 similar colors and one contrasting color. We are currently in a phase where everything is “orange” or “green” even though he knows the colors are different. Hahaha!

3. Roll out each block of clay into a snake. Yes, that is the technical term.

4. Combine the snakes with the white clay into a super snake.

5. Roll and twist the super snake. Then twist the snake into a ball and roll it out again. I figured out to get that beautiful marbling effect is to roll out and squish into a ball a few times. If you look at the photo, we only lightly twisted the purple bowl – it has more of a mid-century modern look. You know, if you feel like work with 20th century art styles with your little one.

6. With a rolling pin, roll out the bowl to an 1/8th” thick.

7. Use bowl to trim dough.

8. Fit clay dough into bowl.

9. Bake according to the Sculpey instructions. It will be around 15-20 minutes.

10. Let cool down. You can paint the bowl to seal and gloss or leave it as it.

11. Paint the edges with gold, silver, or nothing at all! Up to you. You can see I haven’t done this yet, but I will!

The bowls are delicate, we already cracked one (but hey, there’s glue), but they are a hit in the house. Our son loves stringing them and cooking with them.

Have a photo of your project? Share it on instagram and tag with #bindisandbottles

Existential Thought 101 – Career

Like so many moms, I have been trying to find myself since having children (almost three years ago). What I want to do, how much I want to work, who I want to be, etc. I’ve run my own company the past few years and am now winding it down because I just don’t have time anymore. I love it as a passion but it’s not a money maker.

Every once in a while I get a contract or short job in digital marketing (my bread and butter) and I love it. The hours are flexible and work is in my scope. But then even the hours I work, i feel stressed for time elsewhere with a 2 y o and 6 month old in tow. Even though my toddler is in daycare full time, I still feel like a hot mess.

I’ve had to learned to do the biggest thing last/this year and focus on myself and my family. I’ve learned to love all the insane moments, the beautiful moments, the awful moments. Even when my son is in full meltdown mode, I know that he is only this small once; and I am his guardian to guide him along the way in this hectic life. It sounds like a bunch of juju, but I want to enjoy these moments and in 20 years, look back at the memories. But I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, or if it even matters.

I also learned how easy my body becomes exhausted from postpartum injury (pelvis) and my asthma. I feel there are days it takes me 8 hours to get a load of laundry done, do the dishes, make dinner, clean toys, take care of baby, pick up toddler. And by 9pm I’m asleep.

My husband is amazing and he does a lot at home. I can’t complain there at all. And he’s totally pro me going to work or staying home – it’s my decision.

I look at the moms in this group and I’m in awe. You are all role models to be reckoned with. Maybe I just need a hug and need to know it’s okay that I don’t work for a couple years. Or maybe I need to get a move on and start working. I don’t know. Or maybe I just need chocolate. Hahaha.

Thanks for reading. ❤

Toys R Us Closing Sale Questions and Answers

It’s the death of an American icon for children – Geoffrey the Giraffe.

Of Toys R Us of course.

I’m not that sad to be honest. Toys R Us have always been an expensive place for toys. Always charging full retail price and managing thousands of “special sales”, it was cheaper to go to Kmart and Sears in my days.

Still, it’s the end of an era. Here’s a quick FAQ on what you need to know about the Toys R Us closing sales.

How big are the discounts?
When the sales first start, they will be 10-20% off retail price. Retail price is the full MSRP which means, even with 20% off, toys will be similarly priced to Target, Walmart, Amazon. Remember, Toys R Us always works off of MSRP, which makes them one of the most expensive toy and baby stores.

Are the deals really that good?
When I visited my local Babies R Us that was part of the first round of 180 stores closing, the deals were all over the board. Diapers, formula, food were not on sale at all. Clothes were 20% off MSRP, totally not worth it. Toys were 10-40% off, some were great deals, others not so much.


This week we’ll see how low the discounting will go.

Will Toys R Us honor gift cards?
Yes, until April 15th. But if you’re smart you’re going to use that gift card right now.

What about the Babies R Us gift registry? Will it still exist?
The registry will exist for a couple more months, but you should look to going over to another baby gift registry ASAP.

Are both Babies R Us and Toys R Us really closing?
Yes. It’s sad. Debt and heavy interest payments dragged the company down. Bain and Co, which was part of the restructuring and leveraged buyout will probably make a killing (as it usually does in LBOs) at the expense of the death of an American icon.


Will price matching be honored? What about coupons and discounts?

No. Once the store enters into liquidation, there will be no price matching. Coupons and discounts will also not work.

That’s because once a store enters into liquidation, it’s run by the courts and has to follow set by the judge. In liquidation, the object is to sell everything off, including the floor, fixtures, and whatever can be moved to pay off debts.

Can I return products?
You can return only if you bought before liquidation began. Once liquidation starts at a store, all sales are final. It doesn’t matter if your toy was broken or was missing pieces, the sale is final.

What will happen to the employees?

They are guaranteed wages until mid-May (about 60 days from now). The 33,000 works will be out of a job as soon as their store closes.

Be nice to the employees if you are shopping during liquidation. Chances are that moral is low and they don’t care. Why should they; they are planning their own funerals. So be courteous.

How do I know if my store is closing?
If you’re in the United States or the UK, your store is closing. Canadian stores seem to be in a mixed bag and may stay open longer as a buyer is found.

Is there anything that can be done to save the store?
MGA Entertainment CEO, Isaac Larian, is pledging $200 million of the $800 million needed to buyout half of the stores. Things get weirder though because he started a GofundMe page to raise the rest of the $800 million.

It’s by far one of the most bizarre things to happen in corporate America: a GoFundMe page to save a for-profit corporation in bankruptcy from hedge fund vulture shareholders.

If you donate any money, you are NOT part of the ownership or shareholder of the new company. You’re just throwing your money to millionaires who want you to finance their block party.

A user on GoFundMe said it best:
“So let me get this right. Billionaires want us to donate money for them to buy toys r us. But if I were to donate $50,000+ I wouldn’t get a share of the business. They just want to keep the stores open so they have a store to sell more if there products. So… I guess they are asking people to donate so they can get richer. They just don’t want to take the risk with there own money so they will use yours instead. Incase the business failed.“

Seriously, don’t donate – save your money.

Best Potty Training Books for Parents & Toddlers

It’s that dreaded moment in parenting. Ranking up there with letting your teenager drive a car, move away and attend college, it is time to potty train.

I have been stressed out about potty training since I was pregnant four years ago. Yes, pregnant! Perhaps the thought of peeing on my carpet or pooping on the floor seriously grosses me out.

We’ve been doing on/off potty introduction to our toddler since he was 2 years old. For a while he was enjoying using the little potty and the regular toilet to pee in. Life happened, and second baby showed up, so the training stop – too much new stuff for a little brain is stressful.

I also had a few yelling matches when my toddler peed on the toys, floor, sofa because he refused to wear a diaper; and then thought it funny to pee on everything.

This time around, we are more serious and calm about what is to happen. To crowdsource answers, I took my question to my Facebook community: What potty training books should we use?

Here are my friend’s favorites along with a few excerpts from Amazon reviewers. Remember, this post contains affiliate links. I make commission from the sale of product through them – they don’t affect your cost at all. It’s a win for everyone!

Potty Training Books for Parents:
Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right

Early-Start Potty Training
“I agree with complaints about it, though. It could be a more in-depth “how to”. The author feels very strongly about this and tends to come off as a bit hostile- likening diapers to starving a baby. Although I agree with the idea of diaper-less babies in theory, it’s not always possible and diapers aren’t hugely damaging. The severity of the author’s position can be off-putting. I agree whole-heartedly with the idea behind EC and wish we had been able to start it from birth, and I still found the author to be a bit heavy handed. Someone who is on the fence or even not convinced may be put off by it.

I found the personal accounts to be the most helpful part. Seeing a variety of descriptions about what this has looked like and how it worked for people was encouraging.”

Once Upon a Potty — Boy
“This book is perhaps a bit graphic to the uninitiated, but then again, so is potty training, especially with inquisitive toddlers. I purchased this to read to my son when he sat on the potty for longer periods of time when he was first potty training, and he loved it. He helped read some of the funny parts–“Was it a hat? No, it wasn’t a hat. Was it a milk bowl for the cat? No, it wasn’t a milk bowl for the cat. . .It was a potty!” and he was fascinated by the straightforward explanations. I was blessed by a child that potty trained early, but this book certainly helped him understand some of the tougher questions of potty training. Cute illustrations, pleasant storyline, all around helpful. I even purchased an additional one for a friend’s son who was not showing any interest in potty training, and he loved it too.

One addition: We personally choose to say “pee” and “poop” at our house, rather than the other descriptors like “pee-pee”, etc. used by this book. In other reviews people seem to really have a gripe with having to change the wording, but I own several other potty training books and even an Elmo DVD, and none of those use “our” wording for all parts and processes, either. I like to personalize books for my son, and, as in this one, I changed not only the “pee”-type words, but also changed the little boy Joshua’s name to my son’s name instead. It’s not a big deal, that’s just how I choose to read books. Also, the tone of this book is pretty tongue-in-cheek funny for the adults reading it, or at the least to me. I got pretty sick of reading the other potty training books we owned, but this one was always welcome.”

Potty Training in 3 Days: The Step-by-Step Plan for a Clean Break from Dirty Diapers

Oh Crap Potty Training from Me to You
This website blog is from certified consultant Jen L’Italien. NOT related to the Oh Crap Book, this blog has great pointers and resources from training to issues.

Potty Training Books for Toddlers:

Lift-the-Flap Very First Questions and Answers: What is Poop?
There is a British version of this book called What is Poo. The only difference is that they use ‘loo’ and ‘nappy’ instead of ‘toilet’ and ‘diaper’. This book is geared towards potty training toddlers and talks about food, digestion, the human body. It’s fun and a lift the flap style book.

Potty
This is a simple but well drawn book from Leslie Patricelli’s board books series. I would reserve this for younger toddlers, under 2 years old, as the older ones may find it a little boring.

Next up will be potty training products you need to get started on this adventure!

Best Montessori/RIE Toys for Babies & Toddlers: 0-4 Years

As you have guessed by now, I love toys. I have a bit of an obsession with toys. This makes it very non-Montessori friendlyL lots of toys – not a minimalistic way of life. But, I do a lot of toy rotation and storage (for later donation).

One of things I have focused on in having in the household are real things (heuristic) and quality toys. Real things meaning scarves/fabrics, tupperware, spoons, and basically anything your baby will steal from your kitchen (because kitchens are awesome). And of course real things from the outside world, stones, pine cones, sticks, water, etc.

Our “quality toys” are usually wooden but we do have a few plastic toys like Duplo, Green Toys and Hess Trucks (my collection from childhood). What’s important to know that if you have a Montessori household, Montessori never advocated for toys – she wanted real materials for children to experience. Of course toys are a medium in which babies and children experience the world, but it’s not mandatory.

However, Montessori/RIE toys are always battery and lights free. It of course doesn’t mean your house should be 100% battery free, but rather the toys you have should stimulate active learning in children. I went through a phrase to try out a few battery toys and bought them on Facebook Marketplace (5 for $15 – score!). I bought them last year when my son was 20 months and mainly used them on a trip abroad. I won’t tell you the company names but they rhyme with StepBog and X-Mech. 😉

Pros: can entertain for long periods which are especially needed on long haul trips.
Cons: make a lot of noise, gimmicky, no learning or real entertainment.

My Hess Trucks on the other hand, are also battery operated, where the truck lights up. I have many great memories from those toys and I love my son playing with them (to be clear, my son sneakily found one of the trucks in a box – these are really for 5 years+ old)

Back to business, if you are looking for making your household less battery operated, these baby to young child toys are perfect. PS – This post contains affiliate links.

Haba Color Fun Play Gym

Wee Gallery Animal Alphabet Cards, High Contrast for Visual Development

Hape Color and Shape Wooden Block Sorter
Age range: 8 months – 2 years
Rainbow colors of nine pegs with 3 distinct basic shapes – triangle, circle, square

Plan Toy Solid Wood Drum
9 months – 3 years old

Ring Stackers
6 months – 12 months – teething, throwing around
12 months – 18 moths – stacking
Wooden Ring Stacker Toy | Fisher Price Self Correcting Ring Stacker | Grimm’s 11 Piece Ring Stacker | Grimm’s Nesting Rainbow Bowl Stackers | Pyramid rocking with Top – this you need to paint and varnish

Hape Roller Derby Wooden Marble Racing Toddler Toy
Age range: 2-3.5 years old
From an Amazon review: “Why I think it’s great: there is just enough color to pull them in and get them playing, but the toy is neutral enough that I don’t feel cluttered by it. The ball ramps are on both sides, so my children can easily play together. Each one had their own side. The developmental benefits of this toy are numerous. What I would change: I wish the little yellow starting platform was a bit bigger. My 22 month old struggled to get the ball started. ”

Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone
Age range: 1-3 years old

Amazing Tracker Ball Maze
Age range: 1-4 years old
It’s large and with a hefty price tag for a child’s toy ($88 on amazon), but it is amazing. Standing nearly two feet tall, the older babies and toddlers will get endless entertainment from it.

Galt Toys Wooden Retro Pop Up Toy
From an Amazon review: “I bought this to replace the original one that I owned over 20 years ago! It is such a perfect toy to have for small children. each of the coloured peg people bob about easily in the holes and are the perfect size for little hands hold easily – it is great for their dexterity! the colours enable early colour recognition and matching. A simple, well made classic toy that I highly recommend having in your child’s first toy box!”

Little Climber Pikler Triange
Age range: 8 months – 4 years old
Foldable for Flat Storage | Includes Climber, Reversible Accessory, and Board Book

Guidecraft Peekaboo Lock Boxes (Set of 6)
Age range: 18 months – 3 years old
Good for fine motor skills, color matching, shape sorting
Amazon review: Wonderful quality, super sturdy and well made. I was a bit sceptical because of the prize, but just like other reviews said, we’ll worth the money. My 2 year 4 month old daughter plays with it every day. The locks are just difficult enough to keep her thinking and exploring, but doable so she doesn’t feel like it’s impossible. So many options with the blocks, the color base to sort the colors, count, stack, etc.”

Grimm’s Stacking Rainbow
21 months – 5 years old

Manhattan Toy Skwish Natural Rattle and Teether Grasping Activity Toy

Natural wood Six Piece Chunky Shape Puzzle |

Stringing Beads
Age Range: 12 months – 3 years old

Pounding Peg Boards
Age Range: 10-18 months
Plan Toys Pounding Bench | Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Pound | Hape Little Pounder
The Hape one has music. All three brands are similar except for sizing and number of pegs.

HABA Palette of Pegs – 32 Piece Wooden Pegging & Arranging Game
Age range: 12 months – 2 years old

Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon

PlanToys Plan Preschool Walk N Roll, Push and Pull

PlanToys Dancing Alligator

Plan Toys Stacking Tree

BeginAgain Cat Family Puzzle
Age range: 2-3 years old
What makes this puzzle great: Kids learn colors and their names. Play with pieces individually, use them as stencils and in storytelling, or complete the children’s puzzle. Each piece has the color name in English on one side and Spanish on the other to build kids’ bilingual language skills. Handcrafted from plantation-grown, sustainable rubberwood. Comes with storage tray.

IKEA Kitchen
18 months – 5 years old
Wood based, simple, no logos, brands, and ‘stuff’ on the kitchen set. You can IKEA hack it as you please. The fabric food, metal pot set, and ceramic tea set are also worthwhile.

Little Partners Learning Tower Kids Adjustable Height Kitchen Step Stool for Toddlers or Any Little Helper

Plan Toys Cone Sorting

Remember, it’s not about living the Montessori way 100% of the time – it’s about fostering independence, exploration, and curiosity about life.

3 Tips to Survive an International Trip with a Toddler and Newborn

That’s right folks, how do you survive traveling with a toddler and newborn across the world? You don’t.

Just kidding! You can travel with babies and toddlers but you need a few tips. And a lot of drinks. Hahaha.

#1 Think positively – This may sound like a bunch of juju, but you are going to make it to the destination. There maybe a lot of crying, screaming, and wondering why you choose to torture yourself, but you and the kids will reach the final destination and hotel in one piece. Take a deep breath and know you are embarking on an experience together – that is priceless.

#2 Entertain & Food
– Depending on the age of your kids, you can provide them with some entertainment. On long distance flights this may mean a lot of toys and creative ideas, short haul flights have it easy. Pack toys and books that your kids like and are light weight. Younger toddlers do well with magnets, stickers, washi tape, and lightweight books. Older toddlers can do sticker books, Duplos, dolls, cars and other imaginative play.

Pack snacks! Lots of good snacks. Don’t bring out the candy and junk food because the last thing you need is a hyperactive toddler. Pack Cheerios (puffs), small sandwich bites, non-juicy fresh fruit like bananas, blueberries, cut apples, rice crackers, cheese sticks, pouches, water bottle and milk.

#3 Give yourself a break – There will be meltdowns. You will cry, the children will cry, everyone will cry. It’s okay. Hang tight. Breathe (see tip #1!). Eat an extra chocolate for yourself. Have a drink. Don’t enforce all the rules you have at home, though please don’t be the parent who puts headphones on and ignores the kids. When you reach your destination, take a hot shower. You deserve it – love yourself.

I hate the cliche that “you can do it!” because traveling across the continent, the Pacific, the Atlantic on a plane with young ones is terrifying. All I can say is, you are not alone.

How Much Does a Newborn Cost?

There are a lot of calculators and articles telling us that babies are expensive. Really expensive. And they are partly correct, babies are expensive; but babies can also be reasonably priced.

I went through and calculated the cost of the first year of having baby. The largest cost will come from medical care, with most of it resting on labor and delivery. After that, formula/food, diapers, one time purchases (stroller, crib), come next.

Here is what I spent (I rounded up to make the numbers digestible) on our first year of having a baby in the Bay Area.

**Medical:**
*Labor and delivery* – if you count this (I do!) – will eat your deductible right up. Mine was $3500.

*Wellness checks* – Baby visits the doctor a LOT the first year but luckily most of these visits are fully covered through employer corporate insurance or Obamacare (or maybe not in the future…).

*Not-wellness checks* – Baby will inevitably get sick. And when sick, visit urgent care if they are open, BEFORE going to the hospital (unless of course the baby has stopped breathing, is bleeding profusely, has something broken, etc…then 911 it is). Urgent care visits are a fraction of the cost of a basic ER visit.
Case in point:
Urgent care: $30
X-ray at urgent care: $90

ER visit: $400
Doctor’s overview at ER: $100

Pediatrician co-pay: $10-30

Let’s assume your baby does at least one of these things throughout the year. That adds up to: $650 PLUS labor/delivery

*Medicine* – Gripe water, tylenol, benadryl, meds add up fast. Let’s call a solid $100 on medicine. And this doesn’t include prescription drugs.

**Housing:**

I don’t know why blogs bother to include the cost of housing in the cost of a child. Duh they take up space. But decreasing their space does not change your housing costs. And it doesn’t change your mortgage. No matter what, your little bloodsucker is taking space. For the sake of simplicity, I’m skipping this.

**Diapers:**

Months 1-2 – 10-12 diapers/day = 12*2*30 = 720 * $.18 diaper = $129.60
Months 3-5 – 6-10 diapers/day = 10*3*30 = 900 * $.18 diaper = $162
Months 6+ – 5-6 diapers/day = 6*7*30 = 1260 * $.18 diaper = $226.8
Wipes: $100
Butt cream: $100 (they’re not expensive, but you’ll end up trying 10 different brands before one works for you. Hahaha)
Total cost for diapers and wipes: ~$2300

Nanny/Daycare:
This is where the numbers diverge. General rule is that if you hire a nanny, they will negate one of your incomes (they cost anywhere from $15-$30/hour), and daycare costs are anything between $500-$2000/month depending on where you live.

I will only say that if you stay at home, please get some help a couple times a week. You need the peace and the quiet and sanity and the ability to regroup.
Total nanny/daycare costs: $1000-$20000/year

**Clothes, toys, and cute things:**

There is SO MUCH you can buy for your adorable alien. Buy everything new, and you’ll run up the registry fast. Mix between new and used (have those friends dump clothing/toy lots), and your costs are faring much better.
Cost: $500-1000
Big ticket items are strollers, crib/dresser/changing table (though please don’t waste $1000+ on a collection), and the car sear.
Strollers: $300-$1200
Car seat: $200-400
crib/dresser/changing table: $300-$1500

Toys and books: Count on this to be a black hole of everything adorable.
Cost: $1000

So what’s the total damage for that first year of life?
**$9000-$12000
or ~$30000 because you require full-time daycare.**

Ready for them to go to college? :O

When You’re So Tired

when you’re so tired, you don’t remember how you got here or where you came from.
when you’re so tired, your wrists are sprained and elbows popped from the bouncing and nursing.
when you’re so tired, you don’t know where your glasses are, but you’re wearing them.
when you’re so tired, you want to close your eyes, but you know you’ll be awaken a few minutes later.
when you’re so tired, you giggle with your little one over anything.
when you’re so tired, you wish someone would wrap you up in a warm, cotton blanket.
when you’re so tired, you play trains one more time.
when you’re so tired, you don’t know what sleep is like anymore.

when you’re so tired, your little one gives you a hug, saying “it’s okay”