Toddler To-do List: Fall 2014

Happy Autumnal Equinox! If you’re in the central time zone like those of us in the Chicagoland, the equinox happens at 9:29 tonight. So since fall is officially upon us, I wanted to share our plans to enjoy the season and keep the toddler entertained over the next few months.

Toddler To-do List Fall 2014 |

 Full disclosure: I totally got the idea to do a list like this from (where else?) Pinterest.Go to a football game. We got a jump on this one when we took Emme to a Northwestern football game in early September. Both my husband and I went to graduate school at Northwestern, so we try to go to at least one game every season. We found out at the last minute that it was Local Heroes Day, and my husband, a police officer, was able to get discounted tickets. We also had the opportunity to go on the field for the national anthem, which was kind of neat. Here Emme is enjoying a snack in the stands and sporting her new hat. I had no idea what to expect from her behavior- and attention span-wise, but she was actually pretty good and seemed to enjoy herself.

Check out a local fall festival. Again, we crossed this one off the list early and attended Oktoberfest in Berwyn. But it rained on and off, so we cut our time at the festival short. Maybe we’ll get to another one in the coming weeks.

Visit a farm with animals and a pumpkin patch. We’re going on a mini-vacation to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin because my husband will be attending a conference there. One of the activities I’m planning while we’re there is a trip to Green Meadow Farms in East Troy, which is about a 20-minute drive from where we’ll be staying. I’ve been wanting to check this farm out ever since I read about it in the Chicago edition of Red Tricycle in July.

Go on a hayride.

Splash at an indoor water park. This wouldn’t typically be on our list, but we’ll be staying at Timber Ridge Lodge in Lake Geneva, which has an indoor water park.

Decorate a pumpkin.

Go to the zoo. We’re planning to go to Boo at the Zoo at Brookfield Zoo.

Dress up for Halloween and trick-or-treat. I have given zero thought to a Halloween costume this year. I should probably get on that.

Have a dance party or two. Because duh.

Explore a new playground. Temperatures are dropping, and soon we’ll be stuck indoors. We want to make the most of the mild weather and visit a few more playgrounds in 2014.

Take fall photos.

Visit an art museum. We’re planning a visit to The Art Institute in Chicago. I was a little skeptical about this outing, but my husband and I did some recon this week, and it’s far more family friendly than I was expecting.

Visit a children’s museum.

Learn about Thanksgiving. Sometimes I underestimate the ability of young children to grasp less concrete concepts, which is dumb and probably partially lazy on my part, but honestly, my first instinct was to wonder if this was necessary. But really, is it ever too early to talk about the meaning of Thanksgiving and how we should be thankful for the good things in our lives? I’m going to start by getting books about Thanksgiving that are age-appropriate. We’ll see if I can come up with anything else.

Transitioning to a Toddler Bed

Emme has typically been a pretty good night sleeper (naps have been another story). She sleeps 11-12 hours, goes down early and relatively easily, and sleeps through the night. We go through phases — some are harder, some are easier — but for about a year now, we’ve laid our little angel in her crib at 6:45 p.m., knowing that 9.9 times out of 10, she’ll sleep peacefully until 6:30 a.m.

Tips for Transitiong to the Toddler Bed

“Nigh nigh Mommy. Nigh nigh Daddy,” she says as we turn off the lights, exit her room, and smugly pat ourselves on the back for another easy, breezy toddler bedtime routine. 

Silly parents.

In August, our barely 2-year-old daughter changed her tune without warning. One night, after a typical bedtime routine at a normal time, we put her down in the crib, and she went ballistic. We calmed her down, and once her hysteria subsided into a mild whine, we made a move to leave the room.

The moment we walked away from the crib, she was hysterical again, begging us not to leave her. Then, she stood up, swung her leg over the crib railing, and hoisted her little body over it.

My husband grabbed her before she fell to the ground.

After three days of attempts to escape the crib, late bedtimes, and makeshift sleeping arrangements, we decided we had no choice but to move her out of the crib and transition to a toddler bed.

Now, I don’t know what we were thinking, but I, a longtime fan of Google who consults the Internet for basically everything, did not so much as type the words “transitioning to a toddler bed” into my browser. We just winged it. We took the mattress out of her crib, put it on the floor, and ta da! Transition to the toddler bed complete. Right?

It kind of seemed like it might be OK at first, until it wasn’t. We went about a week with 10 minutes of protest at bedtime before she would go down. But then, the hysteria started again—more tantrums, more begging mommy and daddy to stay in the room and sleep with her. We tried reasoning with her. We tried explaining to her the concept of being a big kid and the privilege of sleeping in a big kid bed. We tried staying in the room until she fell asleep. But it wasn’t working. This grand experiment was becoming a massive parenting fail.

So, I did what I should have done in the first place, and I searched “transitioning to the toddler bed.” I found this article most helpful, though I read similar advice in several places. Here are my two main takeaways:

  • Most toddlers aren’t ready to transition to the big kid bed until at least two-and-a-half (if not three or three-and-a-half). They have a better chance at “getting it” at that point, which makes sense to me — the cognitive differences I see between Emme and kids who are about six months older than her are pretty significant. She also doesn’t seem interested in being a “big girl” yet (my guess is that a toddler with an older sibling would probably feel differently). And I am A-OK with my baby not being my big girl at this point.
  • Just because a toddler climbs out of the crib doesn’t mean you have to immediately begin transitioning to the toddler bed. This little nugget of information is far less intuitive for me. I mean, truly, at the end of the day, what do you do if your kid can potentially get hurt launching themselves over a crib rail and falling four feet to the floor?

I don’t want to end up in the emergency room with my kid, but after another night of hysteria and refusal to stay in her bed, we decided to put her back in the crib (which I’ve read that you shouldn’t do, but oh well). She immediately seemed less upset, and though she halfheartedly put her leg on top of the rail, she quickly removed it and laid down.

Maybe she just felt more secure in the crib?

Since then, she’s been fine in her crib, but I sense we’re on borrowed time. The switch to the big kid bed is coming, and I’d like to be in front of it this time instead of scrambling.

The first thing I’d like to figure out is what kind of toddler bed we’re going to get. Putting the mattress on the floor was a stopgap; I want something more permanent so we can potentially have it in the room to talk about and get comfortable with before we make the change.

I’m considering three options for transitioning to the toddler bed:

Options for transitioning to a toddler bed

Option 1. Convert her crib.

Pros: We have a Pottery Barn crib and could order the conversion kit online. This seems like the easiest solution to the big kid bed and would probably ease the transition because it would be familiar to her.

Cons: Obviously, there wouldn’t be time to set up the bed and get used to it before Emme had to sleep in it. The switch would have to happen immediately. I also hate to the make the $129 (+ $20 shipping) investment for something that is temporary — potentially even more than a regular toddler bed would be if we decide to have another kid (maybe?) in the near-ish future.

Option 2. A toddler bed.

Pros: I like the idea of having my little girl in a toddler bed that is appropriately sized. The Uptown Toddler Bed from Land of Nod is attractive and low to the ground, which I think means she could sleep in it without guardrails.

Cons: I’m actually not thrilled with the idea of a toddler bed. It’s a $300+ investment for a short-term solution.

Option 3: Buy her a real big girl bed.

Pros: I love the HEMNES Daybed from Ikea. I searched the ‘net for daybed/trundle bed options, and this is by far my favorite. Not only is it reasonably priced at $299, but it also has storage, and you can pull out the trundle to fit a double-bed mattress. This would be a nice option for sleepovers with friends or if we needed extra room for an overnight guest. And the daybed is perfect for cuddling and reading before bedtime and naps. We would also have to buy a mattress for this bed, but this set up would easily work for a decade, if not longer.

Cons: It’s a big bed for a little girl, and Emme may not feel secure in it. Safety-wise, it’s higher off the ground, and the bed frame has an odd shape above the storage drawers, which could be a challenge when adding a guardrail (I actually have zero understanding of how guardrails work).

Right now, I’m torn between options 1 and 3. I think option 1 would be the least painful transition-wise, but option 3 will be a lasting solution. But, wanting option 3 might be more about what mommy prefers rather than what’s best for Emme at this point.

Any advice? Share your tips on transitioning to a toddler bed in the comments.

Creamy Chicken Pasta with Mushrooms & Roasted Red Pepper

Before I launch into this creamy chicken pasta recipe, let me tell you a little secret: In an attempt to find balance, I basically gave up cooking dinner for the entire year after my daughter was born. It’s seemed like a reasonable thing to do at the time: The toddler’s bedtime was super early, so when I would get home at 5 p.m., it was 90-minute race through dinner, bath, books, and bedtime. Taking time to cook a meal for the family seemed kind of impossible and unnecessary.

But now Emme goes to bed at the late hour of 7 p.m. or so, freeing up a solid hour between 5 and 6 p.m. when I can (in theory) cook. It’s been super hard to get back into a habit of actually making meals, but I figure there’s no time like the present to start incorporating family dinner into our routine — you know, once or twice a week… at best.

My point is, I’m trying, and I need easy weeknight dinner recipes to make it happen, and this creamy chicken pasta dish fit the bill.

I came up with the recipe after having leftover ingredients from this Cooking Light recipe, a bag of mushrooms from the farmer’s market, and no polenta. I added chicken for a little protein and roasted red peppers for extra flavor. The creamy chicken pasta was a hit with both the toddler and husband. (And just so we’re clear, by “hit with the toddler,” I mean that her entire dinner did not end up on the floor.)

Creamy chicken pasta with mushrooms and roasted red peppers is an easy weeknight dinner recipe that the whole family (including any picky toddlers) will love!

Creamy Chicken Pasta with Mushrooms & Roasted Red Pepper

Servings: 3-4

6 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1 TBSP olive oil
½ lb chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 ounces cremini mushrooms (or other variety), sliced
2 TBSP Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Peppers, chopped
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 TSP salt
½ cup bottled Alfredo sauce (I used Classico)
¼ cup basil, chopped
3-4 TBSP Fontina cheese, shredded (optional)

  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add chicken. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add mushrooms to skillet. Cook for 2 minutes stirring frequently. Stir in garlic and roasted red peppers and salt. Cover, reduce heat and cook for 2 more minutes. Uncover, stir in Alfredo sauce, basil, and cooked chicken.
  4. Add cooked and drained spaghetti to skillet to coat with sauce, veggies and chicken. Top each serving with 1 TBSP of fontina cheese.

A few tips to make this recipe even easier: You could make this a vegetarian meal and skip the chicken or use leftover, already cooked chicken from earlier in the week. And if you want less chopping, go for the pre-sliced mushrooms.

Add my favorite (super easy, no-chopping required) salad for a legit meal.

A Couch to 10K Training Plan for Busy Moms

A Couch to 10K Training Plan for Busy Moms

Once upon a time, I wrote about running. I regularly trained for and ran half marathons with a marathon or two thrown in for good measure. Lately though, not so much, but I’m hoping to change that with this couch to 10K training plan. 

Some new moms seem to be able to jump right back into training for long distance races, but since having Emme (cough2 years ago-cough), it hasn’t even been on my radar. As a slow runner, even “just a half marathon is a time-intensive endeavor, so training has made its way down the priority list — way down, more like, completely off the list. And, if I’m being honest, I simply haven’t been in the mindset to run long distances.

Yet, I’ve been pretty active since Emme turned one. I prioritize working out because it is my “me time,” and I find that interval training gives me the most bang for my hour-or-less buck. I also typically run or run/walk once or twice a week for 20-30 minutes. And somehow, I’ve managed to finish a handful of 5Ks over the last year, even logging my fastest 5K time in years at 32:13. (I am aware that this sounds 0 percent impressive, but I was pretty happy with myself.)

Lately though, I’ve been wanting to do something a bit longer than a 5K. Not too big, you know, because I have to have enough time in the day to be a mom, take care of myself, work, shower (haha, not really), and sleep. So I’m planning to run the Frank Lloyd Wright 10K on October 19 in Oak Park, and to get ready I’ve put together a three-days-a-week, Couch to 10K training plan that takes into account my schedule and my desire to continue doing a couple of circuit workouts a week.


Couch to 10K Training Plan for Busy Moms

Do you plan on running any races this year? How do you find time to train?

And, if you’re not interested in running, you might want to try this super simple, 25-minute walking workout and check out how other moms make time for fitness.

Hello Friends and Strangers on the Internet

I used to write things for fun. But then I had a kid, and I realized that it would be hard for me to do both at the same time. It is hard for me to have time. So I tried to only do what was important so that it would be easier in my life . That has worked well for me for a while. But now I miss writing, so here I am again with this blog post and we will see how it goes.