Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas In Our Home

*Note: This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.com. I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).

     The holiday season is a thrilling time! When you marry and then have children, the opportunity is presented to determine your own family traditions. How will you celebrate the Christmas season? What traditions will you carry over from your upbrining? What traditions will you create to be uniquely yours? If I may, I'd like to share with you our celebration of Christmas in our home.

      Life has changed quite a bit over the last few years. As I flipped through our family's past Christmas cards, I laughed to myself at seeing our card from just three years ago with just David and I, last year a card with our family of three, and then this year our card with our family of four! Each year has presented another opportunity for me to reevaluate and refine our celebration of the season and holiday. 

Focus 
      My heart is for Christmas to be simple yet abundant with a focus steadily on making the most of moments together and creating memories. That is, in fact, our family philosophy for the season/holiday. We decidedly don't celebrate the occasion as a religious occasion. We have also not incorporated the Santa Claus element (we've not denied it, but not emphasized it either. It's moot at this point, and the children are unaware). Similarly, we don't place great emphasis on presents or Christmas Day being about presents (though we do offer gifts on this day). Our goal is to be intentional throughout the month in creating moments and memories together. 

(Advent) Activities
     Eager to celebrate the Christmas season in some way each day, I began this holiday season much like I had our Thanksgiving season by filling in the calendar with an exciting list of possibilities. And, like the previous holiday I quickly discovered that so much activity was not feasible or good for our family at this time. With two very young children, I found myself unable to adequately plan, prepare and orchestrate an extra element in our days. (We're often so busy just taking care of the necessities of life already!). 

     I began to be disappointed with this unmet expectation. Then, after discussing the matter with my wonderful husband, I realized I needed to reevaluate the notion of a daily Christmas Advent. I concluded that it's okay for us to not have a Christmas book to read or an activity to do every day of the season! Traditions are things that are built over time. So, add a couple of books and/or activities each year, instead of trying to do it all at once!

     I made a list of ones that I knew we would be able to easily accomplish as these are just a handful of activities that we've done every year. This year we:

  • selected a Christmas tree and decorated it
  • drove through the local lights display
  • took photos and created a family holiday card
  • shopped for gifts to donate 
  • made Christmas cookies (Chai Spice cookies- yum!)
     We did add a couple of new books and activities:
  • The Littlest Christmas Tree by R. A. Herman
  • Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
  • We made white chocolate peppermint bark for our mail carrier
  • I traced cookie cutters onto a piece of white cardstock paper and Tennyson enjoyed painting in the shapes
  • I created a sorting activity for Tennyson by using bows of different sizes that we already owned ("tot school")
     We also did things like watch lots of Christmas movies and listened to holiday music. Whenever the moment presented itself, we read our (small) collection of Christmas books. At dinner, David and I enjoyed using Christmas conversation cards.

    Simple, yet effective holiday activities! Next year, I hope we can add a couple more books and activities. Perhaps decorating a gingerbread house!


Decorating
       I really simplified decorating this year- as in, I only put up a tree! Unpacking and setting up the rest would have expended more energy and time than I had available. I would have also had to constantly contend with those items being within reach of a curious toddler, and it wasn't worth fussing at my child over. So, we decided to simply put up the Christmas tree, and never even missed the other decorations. (Are they even necessary then? Hmmm). 

     Since we do have very little ones presently, we opted for a little three foot tree. We pushed our end tables together, and used the combined surface to lift the tree even higher out of reach. It worked out perfectly! The small tree was fitting for our small home and budget. We all really enjoyed it!

     I did add one other Christmas element to our home, though I'm not sure I'd call it "decor." It's purpose was just for the simple delight of the children noting how tree lights are simply delightful for a young child. I have a tiny artificial tree from my childhood that I set up on top of a dresser in the children's room. It was just the tree and colored lights. I didn't even put the mini ornaments on it. Tennyson loved it nonetheless! I set it up on a timer to be one when he woke and fell asleep. I adored hearing "tree! on!" coming from the bedroom as he settled down for sleep or his excited face brightening up first thing in the morning when he saw it on. Simple touch, but so delightful!

     I will likely continue to keep decorations simple, though I may add a few additional touches in future years. I'll do like I do activities, though, and add just one piece a year. Perhaps a festive wreath. Perhaps some garland by the entrance stairwell. It doesn't have to be much to bring delight.

     Keeping decorations simple is really pleasant for our budget as we're not buying lots of things for use one time a year. We're also not having to store or display extra items, which can very easy clutter our small home. Lastly, simplicity saves me time and energy. We still thoroughly enjoy the season, even with just a few pieces of decorations!

Gifting
     I desire for our focus during Christmas to not be entirely on presents. It's so very easy to slip down the slope of materialism during this holiday! We have a few family "rules" when it comes to gifting:

  • I shop within a set budget amount for everyone on our list, including our children. (I put money into an envelope each week all year long so that I can purchase Christmas gifts without putting a strain on our finances).
  • The children are not allowed to provide a "want list," even if requested. I don't want my children to come to see Christmas or relatives as a means of getting what they want. That's using the person or occasion for personal gain, and that's unacceptable. So, no specific item may be provided. However, we do allow them (or us) to offer suggestions for areas of interest. This is helpful for family who we see infrequently but wish to send Christmas gifts (and I ask for an interests list for their children as well for the same reason). 
  • For gifts for our children, I prefer to focus on books and toys that are open-ended, classics, educational and high quality. I opt for quality versus quantity. 
  • We budget the same amount for donation gift(s) as we do our own children. I also aim to purchase toys and clothing according to the same standards I have for my own children. The desire is for the children to see that 1) we don't spend so much on ourselves that we're unable to give fully to others and 2) every child or person is equally valuable and deserving. If the case were to come that we would need to spend less for Christmas gifts, then all individuals including our children would receive a smaller amount from the budgeted envelope so that we may maintain the ability to donate fully. It's a very important element of Christmas gifting to me. 
  • David and I don't exchange gifts. "Gifts" isn't the love language for either of us, and so exchanging gifts between ourselves isn't important to either of us. So, we are able to enjoy all other elements of the season without fretting over finding a suitable gift for each other in the midst of everything else. (We both have January birthdays anyways, and do exchange then).
  • We reserve Christmas Day for our own family celebration, including opening gifts from within our family. The children open gifts from extended family on the days Christmas Day. We allow them to open one family's gifts each day, unless there are so many that they need to be spread out to two days so as to not be as overwhelming. 
Conclusion
     This year has probably been one of the best Christmas celebrations. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for me in how I direct our family celebration with the children. I've really enjoyed the simplicity of less- less decorations, less activities, less expectations. In exchange, I enjoyed a Christmas of more- more peace, more fun, more joy. 










Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Baby Items for the First Year: Feeding

This post is a continuation of a "Baby Items for the First Year" series. In it, I'm sharing items that we've found to be essential as well as those that we've not found necessary. Every Mama's list is going to look different based on preferences and lifestyle. The following is simply what we've found useful for our two children. 

We've already covered BATHINGSLEEPING, TRAVELING and so today we'll focus on FEEDING.


*Note: This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.com. I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).  



FEEDING

     Before we begin, I should highlight that I have done a wide variety when it came to feeding each of my babies. Each child has been a different situation, which called for a different response. So, this may not be a complete view of any particular method exclusively. You can read more about our breastfeeding story here


  • Waterproof Sleeved Bib- I purchased several of the standard terrycloth bibs initially, but messes always seemed to make their way to places beyond the bib's coverage. Since the material is absorbent versus waterproof, I was constantly having to wash them in the laundry. I then found a wonderful full size bib that covers all needed areas and simply wipes clean! This particular bib is a bit more pricey, but I've considered it well worth the cost. (It's certainly a great value compared to the cost of stained clothing!). I then got rid of all our other bibs and we just use this one for each child. After use, I simply wipe it down with a wet cloth and hang it on the back of the children's chairs. Occasionally, they need a good cleaning and I'll either wash them with the handwashing dishes or toss it in the laundry, and then back on their chairs to dry. I highly recommend this one bib! (Note: we also use them as art smocks for messy projects).
  • Weighted Flexi Straw Trainer Cup- We have had zero success with sippy cups with a simple spout. Neither of my children have grasped the concept of turning the cup (and their heads) back to get the liquid out of the cup. I also tried offering them a straw cup, but they had difficulty with it too because they couldn't get anything out of it when they'd move and the milk or water would also move away from the straw end in the cup. Then, I found the Munchkin Click Lock Weighted Flexi Straw Trainer Cup, Blue, 7 Ounce! This cup has a flexible straw and weight at the bottom so that regardless of how they moved it would always remain in the liquid. These cups have been amazing. I've even suggested them to friends who had babies who refused to switch from a bottle to a cup, but yet they took to this particular cup! We keep three of these cups in the cabinet: one for milk, one for water, and one to be an extra. 
  • High Chair- I initially borrowed a highchair. I thought the folding feature was fantastic (as well as the fact that it was free to me at the time!). We hated this chair. It had a simple bucket seat that wasn't contoured for little bodies and only a three point buckle, and so the fit was awful. We would have to stuff towels and whatnot around Tennyson for quite a while to keep him properly positioned in the seat. We also constantly tripped over the wide-span of the legs. After use, I discovered that a highchair that folds for easy storage was nonsense, because we were always using it and so it was always out. So, for our second child, I returned the borrowed chair and purchased the Fisher-Price Spacesaver High Chair. It was a rather expensive purchase, but we have thoroughly enjoyed it and feel as though it was money well spent. I liked how it attached to our chairs, which saves us space in our small home. It also has three seat settings (recline, upright, and booster), which allows us to use this one seat from infant to toddler. I highly recommend this chair for a highchair option!
  • Bottles- My babies have both refused a bottle. Once they were comfortable with breastfeeding, they have responded to a bottle as though it was the greatest insult. So, we moved from nursing to the weighted straw cup when it was time to wean Tennyson. Annelise is warming up to the idea of a bottle, and for her we're using the NUK Butterflies Orthodontic Bottle. It's really been a game of trial and error though when introducing a bottle or a cup!
---the following is a list of items I found helpful for breastfeeding ---
  • Breast Pump - Prior to my first baby, I purchased a basic breast pump thinking that it wouldn't see much use because I was going to exclusively breastfeed. Well, that plan along with many others were changed when my baby was born premature. I then needed a high quality breast pump because it would have to establish my milk supply while my baby was in the NICU and really too weak to do so himself. Fortunately, the lactation consultant knew that according to new government regulations all mamas who desire to breastfeed but have babies born with some sort of barrier are issued a high quality breast pump free of charge. I'm so grateful for the pump I received ($425 value at the time!) because I used it constantly. After establishing a supply with the pump, I became dependent on it because my supply was so excessively high (I actually donated milk and fed two babies!). We used that frozen pumped milk for several months after I was no longer allowed to nurse due to expecting my second baby. It was a wonderful resource! I don't know much about pumps due to mine having been provided. I do know that quality makes a difference (though you probably don't need a $425 pump!). I have heard of other insurances covering pumps. I have friends who are teachers and their pumps have been free through insurance. I highly recommend calling your insurance company to learn of any coverage that may be available. 
  • Breastmilk Storage Bags- We went through these like crazy! When I donated milk, she would bring me a box of milk storage bags in exchange for filled bags! haha. I haven't used as many for my second child because I haven't pumped and stored like I did with my first (after being dependent on the pump for every feed for six months, I was not interested in even seeing the pump the second time around! haha). 
  • Disposable Nursing Pads- I tend to have a forceful letdown, and so I don't just leak at those times, I pour. Add an ample milk supply, and I can easily go through a box of 100 disposable nursing pads in a week during the early months when supply is establishing. These boxes cost about $12, so that expense has been significant at times. I tried resuable cloth nursing pads, but they were super bulky and would saturate and wick onto my clothing. So, I just stuck to the disposable ones. Fortunately, at around 5-6 months my supply backs off a bit and I'm able to make one box stretch two or even three weeks. I know some women that don't need nursing pads at all. It just depends on your body. 
  • Nursing Cover- I adore the full coverage of my nursing cover. The wonderful aspect of the poncho style is that no matter what I'm wearing or how wiggly the baby is I'm always covered. Breastfeeding is natural and all about the baby, but I still prefer to maintain full modesty. 
  • Nice to have: 
    • Mesh Food Feeder- These make a perfect tool for soothing teething gums! I fill the pouch with frozen peas or corn, which surround and soothe sore gums better than any other teething tool! When they're thawed and soft, I simply toss the contents, rinse it out and refill! 
    • Reusable Food Pouch- We have used these on occasions such as traveling. These are a fantastic alternative to those pricier pouches found in the store. Simply fill it with the desired food, and you're ready to go without having to fuss over a jar and spoon. We've also used them to transport things like hummus, yogurt, peanut butter etc. when traveling, so they have great use beyond the baby years!
    • Travel plate- Tennyson decided he was ready for real food only at about 11 months, and so anytime we would eat out we would bring along this collapsible plate and offer him bits of our dinner plate onto his. It has been wonderfully convenient!


Things We Didn't Need:
     We've not needed things like terrycloth bibs (as mentioned above), bottle warmer, bottle/cup/pump sterilizer, drying rack, or even a nursing pillow (Boppy). To dry the cups, I simply lay them on the towel that is used for air drying all our handwash dishes. We were told by the NICU that as long as your home environment is clean and the bottles/pump parts are thoroughly washed with warm soapy water after use, they don't have to go through a sterilization process. If there is any question about those conditions, they will then recommend sterilizing feeding items. 
     I have a Boppy, but have rarely used it and found it to take up too much space in our small home. 
      

Up Next:
  • dressing
  • diapering
  • playing
  • healthcare/ grooming



Thursday, December 10, 2015

November 2015 In Our Home

   
A blurry attempt at a family photo. Taking a photo with
 two young children is a bit of a challenge. haha
         November marks the beginning of the holiday season. I was so excited to bring out our "30 Days of Thankfulness" activities, and had such high hopes of going through them with the children. In reality, we did just a few. I feel like I'm so busy taking care of the basics of life with two very young children most days that I just don't have the capacity for an extra something. I was a little disappointed that we didn't do things as planned to celebrate the Thanksgiving season because the heart behind the activities and celebration is very important to me. However, I had to remind myself (yet again) that the children are still very young and life won't always be so demanding.

     David's parents came in town for a visit the weekend before Thanksgiving (they live about 14 hours away). These visits are always difficult in terms of strain of relationship, extra work, and the capacity of our very small home. They chose to stay in a hotel and took care of their own breakfasts during this visit, which made the visit much more pleasant. I enjoy having company, but I grow weary quickly. Nonetheless, I'm glad they got to spend time with David and their grandchildren.
Making yummy pumpkin bread together!

        I don't get to visit with my family as frequently as David does with his, and I know how hard that can be so I'm glad he gets that time with his family. For whatever reason, after they left and the Thanksgiving holiday arrived, that void hit me hard. I ached and cried on Thanksgiving Day to be with my family. I typically am okay with our distance and try to stay connected in other ways. However, the holidays have a way of bringing out a longing for family.
 
     I think the fact that we had nothing special planned for Thanksgiving while everyone else gathered with family was a catalyst to those melancholy feelings. David and I talked about perhaps doing things differently next year. Perhaps next year we'll try to find and invite another family who doesn't have anyone or anywhere to be on Thanksgiving to join us, and our two families can have Thanksgiving together. I consider a divine purpose to this experience. Perhaps the longing in my heart is a call to be the resolution to another's longing. In other words, God desires for me to use my situation to reach out to others. That will be my prayer until next year.

Tot School/ Baby Book Club
       We did still try to fit in some Thanksgiving themed tot school activities, which we also used for this month's meeting of our Baby Book Club. The Baby Book Club went well, but was still a struggle. The idea is for it to be an opportunity for mamas to really engage with their child(ren) in exploring the book and activities. It seems like anytime mamas get together they have the children go play while they chat. I completely understand the need for this social break! However, there is another opportunity for that during the month and the baby book club is to have a different purpose. I talked with David about my frustrations over elements of the gatherings, and my temptation to quit. Then, I considered the children and the fact that without me trying they wouldn't have the opportunity at book+activity exposure, which is something I'm passionate about. If I feel strongly for the matter, then I must persist. I did decide to skip gathering in December. As much as I'd like to plan some Christmas books and activities, I don't want to completely overwhelm myself during such a busy time.

He enjoyed the Thanksgiving dinner
pretend play activity! I love his big smiles!
       For our tot schooling, I only planned a week's worth of activities for us knowing that we would already be busy with the "30 Days of Thankfulness" and Thanksgiving activities. However, the same five activities for the entire month got old, and we ended up getting out of our tot school routine. It's not just a learning opportunity for Tennyson, but a wonderful time for he and I to have one-on-one time. I always miss that time together when we skip it (and I'm sure he does too).  Hopefully, I can find some time and plan some upcoming units.

5 months old & 22 months old! Best friends!
      Life has just been really busy (and, admittingly overwhelming). Caring for two little ones and the home is quite a task! Tennyson is a busy little toddler eager to explore. His speech and language skills improve daily. It's incredible to be able to communicate so well with him! We have daily moments which serve as teaching times for proper behaviors and accepting boundaries. I try to keep that perspective in mind as we work through tantrums. He's learning! Annelise is as sweet as can be. She grins and her entire chubby face transforms. Lately, she has taken an even stronger attachment to Mama. She doesn't like to be apart from me much. It can be difficult to care for another young child, and our home with a child that won't separate well. She also continues to not sleep well. She sleeps in 20 minute increments day and night. We've compromised our preferences for the sake of everyone getting adequate rest (she's currently taking her afternoon nap in the Ergo, for instance). Honestly, many days try my patience. I love my children dearly, but this role of Mama can be so demanding and exhausting at times. So many days have included a momentary cry. I know that certain behaviors are just phases or a need for teaching. But because I'm always "on the job" as a Mama, I encounter those moments over and over and over again.
She rolled from back to belly!

     Mothering well certainly necessitates a dependence on the Lord. I need His wisdom and strength! I haven't been as diligent and/or faithful in reading and/or studying the Bible or praying lately. And, my reliance on faith to push through difficult moments has waned. I'm prayerful for greater time spent in devotion and faithful living.

  
I want to remember so many of the little
moments with the children, but easily forget.
So, I picked up a simple weekly planner
 book, and each day I jot down a
 little something that one of them
did or said. I love having all these little notes!
           I did well at maintaining my daily yoga routine! ....and then I allowed it to slip again. I can definitely tell a difference in my body and mind when I take just 10 minutes a day to pause and stretch. I need to get back to it!

     I'm hopeful to plan some fun Christmas activities for the children for next month. My heart for Christmas for our family is to create it to be a time that is concentrated on meaningful moments together. The key will be for me to orchestrate those activities and moments without being completely overwhelmed. We shall see. Either way, I think it will be a lot of fun this year with Tennyson being nearly two years old! Hard to believe that the year before last we had no children, last year we had one, and this year we have two. Wow, how life changes. :)
   
   


   

    

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

    Thanksgiving brings to mind so many warm memories of the holiday celebration growing up- rising early to watch the parade on tv, selecting the perfect fall outfit, arriving at Grandmom's for a delicious homemade meal and visiting with my family. We all thoroughly enjoyed the food and family time! I wish I could properly relate those sweet moments.

     But, those moments are gone. I haven't been able to attend a family gathering in years. Thanksgiving is just another day, and that saddens me greatly. Not only do I feel the great absence, but so do my children (though they are too young to even know what they're missing). I try to do something out of the ordinary for them on Thanksgiving Day so that the day is at least somewhat special. So, we watch Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and enjoy their eclectic feast of popcorn, jellybeans, toast, and pretzel sticks. I think it's a neat tradition, but it's not the Thanksgiving tradition. 

      I miss my family most this time of year. Christmas is easier now that I have children and can busy myself making memories with them. Thanksgiving is different. Thanksgiving is a time in which families warmly gather together and celebrate the holiday. We will not, though. I wish we were. 

      I try to busy ourselves with 30 Days of Thankfulness Activities and our little Charlie Brown feast as a means of creating memories for our own Thanksgiving celebration as just our family of four. But, on this day my heart keeps returning to the knowledge of that family gathering back home. 

     I hate for this to be such a unpleasant post. It is a heart-felt post, and this is where my heart is currently. Maybe next year will be easier. 

     Regardless of our Thanksgiving Day, I genuinely wish any readers out there enjoy their Thanksgiving Day celebrations. If you're with family and partaking of that delightful feast- lavish it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Baby Items for the First Year: Travel

This post is a continuation of a "Baby Items for the First Year" series. In it, I'm sharing items that we've found to be essential as well as those that we've not found necessary. Every Mama's list is going to look different based on preferences and lifestyle. The following is simply what we've found useful for our two children. 

We've already covered BATHING & SLEEPING and so today we'll focus on sleeping.

*Note: This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.com. I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).  

TRAVELING

  • Car seat + base- I remember looking through the car seats and thinking, "There are so many! How am I suppose to know which one is better than the next?!" It's overwhelming and confusing. I essentially had three criteria: mid-grade (not the cheapest, but not the most expensive), gender neutral in color, able to click into a car base and stroller, good safety ratings. I chose the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat, Tangerine . It's served us very well for both our babies. The ability to simply click it in and out of the base is a really nice feature! (Note: some couples will purchase a base for each vehicle they own, so that either parent can take the baby with him/her. We only have one base, and will just switch cars! Who ever has the children drives the vehicle with the carseats! haha.)
  • Car Mirror- This mirror attaches to the headrest of the backseat and allows you to be able to see him/her. This is tremendously reassuring considering the baby faces away from you in the seat the first year. 
  • Stroller- Again, there are an overwhelming amount of options available! I originally purchased the Graco FastAction Fold Jogger Click Connect Stroller, Tangerine that matched with the car seat. David and I had begun to go for a jog in the evenings before I was pregnant, and so we thought we would continue through the use of a jogging stroller. But in reality, I never jogged with it at all! We just went for daily walks around the neighborhood, which didn't really require a jogger stroller. So, I never quite used it for the intended design purpose. So, if you're committed to jogging, then a jogger is a great option. If not, then I recommend a regular stroller. (Btw, jogging strollers are quite large and was rather cumbersome to maneuver in and out of the car). 
  • Umbrella Stroller - I really enjoyed having a basic umbrella stroller with me for times I just have one child, and he can't walk freely. For example, I brought him with me to my appointments each week during my second pregnancy. I couldn't have a young child on the office floor or touching things in the room (yuck!). Maneuvering a full size stroller in a tight office would have been too much, and so a small umbrella stroller was ideal. I still keep it in the back of the car just in case I'm ever somewhere and we need it. 
  • Diaper bag- I've had a couple of different diaper bags. I originally carried a small sling style backpack diaper bag. It was wonderfully convenient, but I soon needed something a bit larger. I chose the Eddie Bauer Places & Spaces "Diaper" Backpack . I enjoy having the bag on my back, which frees up my arms to carry items or children. The neutral backpack style also allows my husband to carry it. (Take note of that one! Husbands don't mind carrying the diaper bag when it's more like a backpack vs a lady's purse!). And because it's isn't a typical diaper bag, it can easily be used for other purposes beyond baby items! 
  • Baby carriers- I have really enjoyed having a couple of baby carriers. These have really helped me out. I could carry and cuddle the baby while still tending to my other responsibilities, such as the housework. It also kept people from touching the baby when he and she were up against my chest versus in a car seat. I originally had a Moby Wrap , which I really liked for the newborn stage. However, I didn't care for all the wrapping. The length of the material was also a hassle and drug the ground when I was in the process of getting it tied on. I then sold it and purchased a Baby K'tan for our second baby. It's essentially the same idea as the Moby, but much simpler. After about 3-4 months old, I prefer the Ergobaby.The design, in my opinion, allows for a much more comfortable carry. I frequently use a baby carrier when shopping, doing housework, or to calm a baby who just wants to be held or is having trouble falling asleep. 
Things We Didn't Need:
      We actually haven't found a great value in car window shades. The sun always seemed to get into their eyes despite the shade! I think it has a lot to do with the shape of the vehicle windows. I found that I could simply pull the canopy of the carseat up and that would block a lot of light from their faces.
Up Next:
  • dressing
  • diapering
  • playing
  • feeding



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Baby Items for the First Year: Sleeping

   This post is a continuation of a "Baby Items for the First Year" series. In it, I'm sharing items that we've found to be essential as well as those that we've not found necessary. Every Mama's list is going to look different based on preferences and lifestyle. The following is simply what we've found useful for our two children. 

We've already covered BATHING, and so today we'll focus on sleeping.

*Note: This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.com. I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).  

SLEEPING

  • crib
   We chose very basic cribs that will convert to toddler beds. (Considering how Tennyson teethed on the edge of his crib, I'm glad we didn't buy more expensive ones!). I recommend selecting a crib that will convert to a toddler bed. This is a great way to extend the value of the crib purchase.
  • crib mattress
I originally bought a cheaper mattress, but was not satisfied with it. I then bought a better quality one. I don't believe a top of the line mattress is necessary, but I do believe a quality mattress is important for quality rest. Note: always buy a mattress new. 
  • mattress pad x2
I prefer the mattress pad that tucks under the mattress. The one that simply sits on top of the mattress tends to slide around under the sheet. Always a good idea to have two so that there is something to put back on the bed while the other one washes. Note: mattress pads are also helpful for providing a warm barrier between the cold plastic mattress and crib sheet. 
  • crib sheet x2
Again, it's a good idea to have two so that one is always available to be on the bed. 
  • swaddle wrap x2
We've had one baby who wouldn't sleep swaddled and one who will only sleep swaddled! For our swaddled baby, we've loved the ease of the SwaddleMe wraps . We've found just two of these is sufficient. I wash one with the bedsheets, and she uses the other one until the next sheet wash day. 
     This has been such a valuable piece of baby gear! We've used a fancy style and a basic style, and have found the basic one best. It's much easier to store and use, in our opinion. 
   
      We use a pack n' play for two purposes. First, it serves as an initial bed. Our babies sleep in our room until they are able to sleep through the night (I don't care for walking the hallway between rooms throughout the night). We originally had a moses basket bassinet for them, but they would outgrow it before being ready to move into the crib in the other room. A pack n' play accommodates them from newborn through the first year. 

    We also use a pack n' play for a playpen. It's very useful for containing little ones once they are mobile. We have one set up downstairs, and Tennyson has "pack n' play time" after each meal which allows me to clean the kitchen and dining room back up uninterrupted. 

  • pack n' play sheets x2
     We chose a basic monitor. We used it extensively for our first child. For our second, we realized that we could hear her just fine when she woke in our small home! So, we've not used the monitor unless we were going to step outside for a moment while she naps (taking out the mail, taking the trash out etc). (We have a basic monitor just for listening, which serves the purpose. There are times, though, I'd love to have a visual of my toddler going through his songs and dances while he puts himself to sleep! This would be for amusement purposes only, and does not justify the additional cost for me).
  • Nice to have: crib mobile or something for them to look at while in the crib
     We haven't had anything like this for our babies. It just wasn't ever at the top of my list for purchases. There have been many times, though, that they having something to look at once they woke instead of crying would have been nice. 


Things we didn't need: bed bumpers, bedding (other than sheets)
     There has never been a need for crib bumpers. On two occasions, Tennyson managed to get his little feet outside the crib slats but was never hurt or even bothered by it. 

      We've also skipped purchasing any crib bedding besides bed sheets. We've chosen to dress our babies warmly instead of providing a blanket. I prefer the cribs to not have a bedskirt because it's much easier to keep those areas clean if I can see underneath it at all times. 

Up Next: 


  • dressing
  • diapering
  • playing
  • traveling
  • feeding

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Baby Items for the First Year: Bathing

      Having a second baby has helped me to refine my list of baby essentials. There were items I thought we'd need, but then didn't. Conversely, there were also items that I wished I had for our first baby, and so then purchased them for our second baby.

          My goal has been to purchases only what we need. While some items need to be available before the baby is born, most other items can be purchased on an as needed basis. Baby essentials lists look intimidating, but it's important to remember that not everything has to be purchased immediately. For instance, you'll have at least six months before he/she begins eating solid food and so a highchair and feeding accessories can be purchased then. Waiting and letting the child show you what is or isn't needed is a great way to make purchases wisely.

     While it is tempting to purchase every little cute thing for a baby, doing so can very quickly stress one's financial resources as well as available space in the home. I have been very particular about not overwhelming our small space with excess things. Less stuff limits how much I'm having to keep a mobile child out of or clean up afterwards. It also allows for a more spacious and peaceful home for us to spend our days in.

     Every Mama is going to have a differently set of essentials based on lifestyle and preferences. However, it is occasionally helpful to see what others have found useful, especially for first time Mamas. I've been asked to provide an expectant mama a list of items I've found helpful, and so I'll share here on the blog as well. Categories will include: bathing, sleeping, feeding, traveling, health/grooming, diapering, clothing, playing and postpartum care for mama. In addition to the itemized list, I'll provide notes as to items we've really enjoyed and those we could have done without. I've also provided (affiliate) links to any specific items that we use.

 *Note: This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.com. I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).   
 
BATHING


  • wash cloths (2 packs)
 I also used these as small clean-up cloths when a full size burp cloth would've been excessive
  • baby wash
Any brand is fine, but I've really enjoyed the smell of Burt's Bees Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash. Regardless, I prefer a combination shampoo + wash product.
  • Nice to have: baby bathtub* 
Note: I bathed my first baby in the kitchen sink. We made it work, but it was a hassle trying to hold on to an infant with one hand and bathe with the other. I purchased a collapsible bathtub for my second child thinking the folding feature would be nice, but found the tub in general difficult to manage a wiggly infant. It is, however, fantastic for transitioning to to big bathtub or for traveling. I think I would have rather purchased something like The First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe Newborn To Toddler Tub .

Things we didn't need: lotion, baby towels, baby bathrobe
     We still have bottles of baby lotion that we've never used but once or twice. Typically the children want to be dress immediately after a bath, not spend extra time getting cold. They've also never demonstrated dry skin to necessitate lotion (and we live in a rather dry climate!). 
  
      We could've also done without the baby towels. I typically just used our regular towels. I liked that I could fold them in half and that provide extra softness when laying the baby down to diaper or dress. I eventually resold all of the baby towels we had, and haven't missed them. 

     I do like the baby washcloths over regular washcloths, however. The baby washcloths are thinner and smaller which makes them easier to get in between all those chubby rolls! 

     I've also never had a need for a baby bathrobe. I get them dressed as soon as they are finished with a bath. I also dress them after they wake up in the mornings. So, there has never been an occasion to need a bathrobe for them. 

Up Next: 

  • dressing
  • diapering
  • playing
  • traveling
  • sleeping
  • feeding
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