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

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

October 2015 In Our Home

One aspect of where we live that
 I love is how beautiful it is in the fall!
     One of the best things that has happened this past month has been watching Tennyson's continued language development. It's incredible how quickly his vocabulary is expanding! Even if he can't quite articulate an idea, his comprehension is evident. He's become a keen observer of spoken words and is eager to practice the sounds. He readily names objects. It's so neat to watch him work with language!

Enjoying the exploration bin that went
 with the "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" tot
 school unit
       It's also great to have greater communication between us. He's suddenly begun telling us "pee pee diaper." This has taken us completely by surprise as we weren't anticipating him making that connection so soon. So, what's a parent to do but go buy the boy a little potty of his own! I also checked out every potty story book in the public library. We're still not making a big effort to fully potty train him at this point. We'll just allow him to sit on the potty as needed, read lots of potty story books, and allow him to make the transition as he is ready. 

         Another great moment of the past month as been the sweet relationship that continues to flourish between Tennyson and Annelise. These two are so connected. It's incredible. The first thing he says in the morning is "sister." He will bring toys for her to play with, or bring his toys to her and play beside her. If she's upset, he'll go to her and try to put her pacifier (we call it the "stopper" haha) in her mouth. If she's out of sight, then he'll repeatedly say "sister" with great concern and you can't distract or reassure him enough. He loves to be with her. She loves his presence as well. She will watch him where ever he goes, and give him big grins. These two are best friends already, and that is such a joy to my Mama heart. 
Playtime with Daddy is the best!
         The month has also has had it's challenges. We continue to struggle with sleep with Annelise. We thought Tennyson was a poor sleeper as an infant, but his record has been surpassed. We've had days in which she barely sleeps at night and during the day for multiple nights/days. The result is all of us (minus Tennyson who is now at a point of being able to sleep through anything- praise the Lord) have been extremely sleep deprived and had ugly dispositions. We've gone through a list of variables, even with our pediatrician, and can't determine what the issue is or how to resolve it. We seem to cycle through weeks of rest and restlessness beyond normal baby behavior. It's exhausting. It's trying. And discouragingly enough, it's familiar. I'm trying to remind myself that "this too shall pass." Tennyson was a fitful sleeper his first year, but is fantastic now. She will eventually come to a point of greater rest as well. 
We went out for some frozen yogurt to
have some Mama and Tennyson one-on-one
 time.  He took two bites!  It's hard to treat
 a little guy that doesn't care for sweets! 
        In the meanwhile, I'm trying to push on in doing little things to improve our days. I still try to have a "tot school" activity time with Tennyson, though we've skipped quite a few this month. I know the time is good for him in terms of being productively occupied and potentially learning through play. It's also good one-on-one time for he and I, which is something we both really need. 

        I'm also trying my best to take better care of myself through reading or other enjoyable activities, exercise and healthy eating. I'll admit, that I completely fail on that last one. I love sweets! I've also enjoyed using more convenience foods and less homemade than ever before as my time and energy has been directed to calming an overtired baby and being overtired myself. There is grace for the moment. One positive move towards caring for my physical self has been incorporating more exercise. I'm loving using apps on my phone that provide exercises that can be completed in less than ten minutes. I hate exercise, but I can do ten minutes! My favorite has been a beginner yoga app. I've been more consistent with this one than anything else (but even then, I complete it only twice a week at most). I'd like to complete it more often if possible next month. 

She wasn't a fan of wearing a hat...until
 the cold hit her! I think she looks
 like a little cabbage patch kid in it!
      Lastly, my book selection this month was A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. It's been a great read, and one I'll likely keep on my bookshelf. I'd rate it a 4 out of 5. I've been trying to snag a few minutes each morning to read. I try to read ten pages of a book of interest and then a chapter in the Bible. It's a slow progress, but I'm grateful for being able to incorporate it in my life at all. I love the encouragement and wisdom gained from books!

     God has really called me and drawn me closer to Him this month. Through my struggles, he's picked me up and given me strength and wisdom to carry on. He's renewed in my heart my role in being a teacher to these little ones. How I live will either demonstrate or detract from faith in Him. My children will have many influences, but none so impressionable as their home and family. I pray that through the fog and tension of exhaustion and mess, they see me constantly seeking Him and relying on Him for all things. Honestly, many days I don't even see this in me. Yet, He is merciful. God loves me and continues to teach me His ways despite my sin. Every relationship needs time to connect, and as such there is a great need for time spent reading the Bible and in prayer. John 15:4 says, "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." 
He is always full of joy! A great lesson
  he is teaching me.

     Some days, I feel like I have got a handle on this parenting and homemaking role, but other days I feel like a total flop. It can be so easy to fixate on the struggles. But as I look through photos to include in this post, I'm reminded of the many, many sweet moments. Ah, this was a good month. :)
         










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