After expressing my displeasure about my Summer Infant baby monitor breaking after just a few months and posting the link to my blog on Twitter and writing to them through their website, the company immediately responded. Besides the fact that the monitor broke pretty quickly, I was peeved that you couldn’t buy JUST the monitor to replace a broken one — you had to shell out almost $240 for an entirely new system.
After some back-and-forth, Summer Infant decided to send me a new monitor, despite not having a gift receipt or the box any longer. That’s some great customer service. I had the replacement monitor within a week. A good thing, too, as I couldn’t see our 2-year-old on the screen any longer.
I appreciate the faith they had in me, that my gripe was legitimate (it, of course, was). Of course, this gets them a little bit of good press, too.
It’s officially fall — the leaves turn colors, temperatures drop and Nicole gleefully pulls her boots and sweaters out of storage. Summertime has come and gone, and everybody’s home again.
I’m ready for pumpkin picking, Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving turkey. I’m ready to shop for a fall wardrobe for Miss Emily. But I’m not ready for the “Christmas creep” — the barrage of holiday displays that started showing up in retail stores before the calendar even hit September (Costco, I’m looking at YOU).
Sure, I’m starting to think about what Santa Claus (and Mommy and Daddy) are going to get our little sweet pea for Christmas. I have some gift ideas rolling around my brain, but I haven’t put them to paper yet because I know it’s far too early, despite the link bait and “news” stories popping up all over my social media feeds. Even CNN got in on it, with an ‘early peek at the hottest holiday toys.” Believe me, there’s nothing ‘hot” about a “Tub N Toot” doll, which does exactly what you think it does.
For now, I’ll be content with squeezing in as many trips to the park as possible before the really cold weather sets in, and buying the cutest outerwear and boots I can find for a toddler who will only wear them for a season or two.
Just don’t ask me if I’ve started my Christmas shopping yet — it can wait.
This is no humble brag — it’s a full-out brag: I’m pretty handy. I can put up sheetrock, paint, and fix things in a pinch. I enjoy my home improvement projects (remember Fix-It Friday?), but since becoming a mother, I choose to spend most of my free time with my toddler.
But every once in a while, I get a bug up my butt to start a new project. This time, it was to replace our kitchen’s disgusting sheet linoleum floor. The floor was so dirty, even a steam cleaner with a grout attachment couldn’t get all the dirt out of the crevices on each square. I’ve been wanting to replace the floor for at least two years — I could have sworn I had a blog post about that around here somewhere. But I didn’t want to put in a beautiful new ceramic floor just to have to rip it up when it came time to renovate the kitchen, a project that likely won’t happen until 5-7 years from now.
Already knowing I didn’t want laminate wood floor because the rest of our first level has real wood flooring, I investigated my vinyl flooring options. I’d successfully tiled our back playroom with vinyl tiles when we first moved in, but wasn’t sure it was a look I wanted in the kitchen — 30 years old or not.
One Saturday, I wandered to my local Home Depot and discovered vinyl tile that you can GROUT, and my inner Bob Vila thought it was a fabulous idea. The vinyl tiles are self-stick — just peel off the backing and set them down — so all I needed was some spacers and some pre-mixed grout.
Ripping Up the Old Linoleum
I had an entire week off from work for ‘staycation,’ and the first night, I began tearing up the old sheet linoleum. Unfortunately, there were TWO layers of linoleum to deal with. It took me a day and a half just to remove it, using a 1-inch-wide putty knife and a blow-dryer (to loosen the old adhesive). By the end, my hands felt unusable. This is how it looked at the very, very beginning.
That green layer? That was the clean backer layer — more like a sheet of paper than a board — that I almost destroyed, thinking there was plywood underneath rather than the super-ugly original kitchen tile that showed through at the seam with the wood flooring in the dining room. As I went along, I gently scraped off any extra linoleum paper backing that was left on the backer paper in order to ensure a smooth surface. Eventually, we moved the fridge into the dining room, but to do that, I had to disconnect the water line to the ice maker, which I managed without flooding the joint.
I was going to prep the backer board before beginning to lay the vinyl tile, but decided against it since the surface was very clean and generally level. But I used wall spackle to fill a few holes here, especially to level out the spot where I started in the picture above.
Putting Down Vinyl Tile
This was the easiest part for me — yes, really. I bought 1/8-inch tile spacers and used them to space out the tile as if it were porcelain or ceramic. It was probably harder, as I had to remove the backing paper on each tile and make sure it was straight before laying it down and sticking it to the floor. Cutting around door frames was a pain, but I did a pretty damned good job with just a razor knife and scissors — I found the scissors to be better for complicated cuts.
Grouting Vinyl Tile
Pre-mixed grout made this part less painful. The day after setting down the vinyl tiles, I tackled this portion of the project. Using a 3-inch putty knife, I added grout to the joints, making sure I didn’t get too much on the vinyl tile surface — unlike normal tiling, you don’t cover the entire surface. I then wiped off the excess with a damp sponge, rinsing the sponge after every wipe, and finished the joint with a folded paper towel (apologies to any professional tilers cringing while reading this). Here’s how it looked as I started to grout — I worked on the fridge area first.
My least favorite part of this home improvement project? Trying to keep two cats, a 2-year-old and a hungry husband out of the kitchen for the three days as I worked. But the finished product made it all worthwhile.
Naturally, that’s our perpetually-in-motion toddler, Emily, running around on what she now calls “Mommy’s floor.” The vinyl tile itself was a little darker than I thought it would look in our kitchen, but I think it pulls everything together, especially with our black appliances.
Next on the home improvement agenda? Updating the hardware pulls on the cabinets (think I’ll leave well enough alone with the hinges) and repainting the walls on the opposite side of the kitchen where our table and chairs are. That will be a snap compared to this!
… and I am not pleased about it.
Got this Summer Infant Baby Touch Video Monitor as a gift a few months ago, to replace an older model I’d had for a few years. It completely changed our world. Rather than transmitting a picture of just a portion of our toddler’s room, we could pan in all directions! The ability to talk to her through the handheld monitor portion was by far my favorite feature — I can’t tell you how many times I was able to tell her, “Go back to sleep, it’s too early!” and squeak another hour out of her (even if I was lying).
Now, the monitor is showing THIS:
Not ideal, not ideal at all.
It started in that upper-left corner with the triangle thingy. Then more and more lines branched out in both directions within a week or so, eventually filling the screen like this. The thick vertical bar was the last straw.
Summer Infant does not sell the handheld monitor part separately. You can buy replacement cameras and AC cords and rechargeable batteries, but you can’t get this one piece on its own. It was a gift, so I don’t have a receipt (I’ve checked with the gift giver). The box is long gone.
My choices would be either to buy a brand-new set (anywhere from $190 to $240, depending on the store/sale), or risk buying one from eBay that could have been tampered with or is used and possibly defective.
Because my phone time is limited during their customer service hours this week, I’ve sent a message to Summer Infant’s customer service department through the company’s website. I’m hoping they make it right, because less than six months with a monitor that costs $200 is ludicrous.
If they can’t make this right by offering to replace free of charge (the right thing to do) or at least offering me the chance to buy just this part at a reduced price, then my next baby video monitor will be from another company.
We’ve discovered another joy of parenthood — potty training! It’s been an interesting four weeks since we started potty training our toddler, Emily, who has just hit 2.5 years old.
We started off with great optimism and, of course, the thought of all the money we’d save — no more diapers! Less use of wipes! Buy her some cute underwear, sit her on a potty, and our brilliant child would have it down pat at the end of a 3-day “potty boot camp.” Right? Right?!
After three days of letting her run around in her birthday suit next to the potty chair in her playroom, she wasn’t fully potty trained. Day one went fabulously — no accidents. Days two and three, not so much. She would stand by the TV and just dribble down her leg instead of moving the 3 feet to the potty chair. When she had to do No. 2, she couldn’t figure out where to go. Naturally, these accidents happened in the minute I’d spend grabbing a glass of water or doing a tinkle myself. Otherwise, I practically lived in the playroom with her for those three days.
Emily is amazingly laid-back, but also maddeningly laid-back. The usual tried-and-true toddler enticements have no effect on this child. Promises of cookies or candy or toys went unacknowledged, and let’s not talk about the failed potty sticker chart that’s still pathetically hanging on the wall. A rainbow sticker for a pee and a star sticker for a poop in the potty — sounds like a little girl’s dream, right? I put most of the stickers on the chart by myself, while she ran away to play with a toy.
She got to pick out her own panties, but I may have been more excited about it than she was. She doesn’t mind wearing panties, but absolutely refuses to pull those suckers down — she’ll sit on the potty and do her business through them. She also won’t tell us when she has to go until it’s too late.
Four weeks later, we’re making slow but steady progress. She can stay dry for 2-3 hours at a time before I need to remind her to use the potty, and I still need to take her undies off to help facilitate the process. I realized that we had to change our approach and help her learn to master these new skills. She uses pull-ups when she naps and sleeps at night, because she isn’t ready to sleep dry yet. But I still get a kick out of her every time she successfully uses the potty chair and applauds herself furiously afterward.
It’s likely I’m oversharing, but I can’t stand how yellowed our bed pillows get over time. Normally, I just buy new pillows when they get super-gross. Usually, it’s my husband’s pillow that takes the most abuse, since he could live in the Arctic and still sweat, while I’m still using blankets and comforters despite the sweltering summer temps.
But I came across this easy primer on how to clean pillows and get them looking white again, on One Good Thing By Jillee — she washed two pillows at a time, and the only ingredients used were hot water, 1 cup of laundry detergent, 1 cup of powdered dishwasher detergent (!), 1 cup bleach, and 1/2 cup borax.
With some extra-hot water and a few simple ingredients, her pillows came out amazingly white — check out the pictures. I’m irrationally excited to try it this weekend.
Two-year-olds are not known for their patience. Ours flits from one activity to the next within minutes, and sometimes, seconds. If she wants me to read a book, she’ll bring it over to me, and even snuggle with me on the bed or the couch. But after a few pages, she takes off happily to grab another book, play with another toy, or run into the other room.
So it’s no wonder I’m still afraid to take her to events or activities that charge an admission fee or require a long-term commitment, such as music or tumbling classes. We’ve gone to trial classes in the past, and usually our toddler is off on her own, ignoring the teacher, or wreaking havoc and causing the other kids to start running around WITH her.
So where does that leave us? Mostly, we go to the park when the weather is good, or play in the backyard. But sometimes, I’d like to do other things.
What kind of cheap or free activities can I find in Northern New Jersey? I accidentally discovered that the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange offers $1 admission on Tuesday afternoons if you show up after 2 p.m.; the zoo closes at 4:30 p.m. That’s ideal for me, as I occasionally have a scheduled Tuesday off from work. And that’s a lot better than the usual $11 adult admission ($8 over the age of 2).
There are some businesses that let your kid run around like a loon in their indoor play areas, but since Emily is a young 2-year-old, I’m not comfortable with letting her crawl around in a play structure by herself, and I’m not keen on going in with her. I’ve done it before, but those things were not meant for adults — and I feel pretty ridiculous. Admission at these places can run $15 and up. Plus, if she hits meltdown mode immediately, it’s a waste of time and money.
So what does that leave? Not too many free activities for a toddler with a short attention span. Luckily, she’s never bored with being outside, so that’s my go-to activity for the summer.
Anyone with a highly active toddler have any suggestions?