Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Baby Items for the First Year: Play (gear and toys)

  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 BATHINGSLEEPINGTRAVELINGFEEDING,CLOTHINGDIAPERING, GROOMING AND HEALTHCARE and so today we'll focus on Play (gear and toys).

*Note: This post may contain 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!). 

     We chose a very simplistic approach to toys and play with our children. My desire has been to make quality, classic toys available for play (ie less plastic, no noise or lights). I've also desired for them to have a high degree of interaction in their play with songs, games, stories etc. I don't believe children need a room(s) full of toys to be satisfactorily entertained. We've managed to get by with much less gear and toys than is often portrayed necessary! Below is a list of just a few of our favorites.

  • puppets (homemade)
  • Infant Swinghttps://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2Fir-na.amazon-adsystem.com%2Fe%2Fir%3Ft%3Drevivingh-20%26l%3Das2%26o%3D1%26a%3DB00PTL15D6&container=blogger&gadget=a&rewriteMime=image%2F*
    • As far as infant swings, we've really found this particular swing to be high quality and a reasonable price. It's small in size. It swings and vibrates. The music and nature sounds feature is also lovely. 
    • We did not have this for our first child, but decided to buy one for our second child. It was nice to have, but was only useful for her first six months. The short usage time may not justify the expense. It's definitely a "nice to have" not a "must have" item.
  • Bouncer Bouncy Seathttps://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2Fir-na.amazon-adsystem.com%2Fe%2Fir%3Ft%3Drevivingh-20%26l%3Das2%26o%3D1%26a%3DB00C6DA2CA&container=blogger&gadget=a&rewriteMime=image%2F*- must have! We've loved this seat! (Note: The product link is not to the exact seat we own. It is similar, though in that it does not feature any plastic, noise or lights).
  • Bumbo Floor Seathttps://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2Fir-na.amazon-adsystem.com%2Fe%2Fir%3Ft%3Drevivingh-20%26l%3Das2%26o%3D1%26a%3DB0092NNQ98&container=blogger&gadget=a&rewriteMime=image%2F*- This has been helpful at times. I've often had the children sit in the bumbo seat instead of the highchair to enjoy something simple like a drink cup (versus a full meal)
  • Activity saucer/jumper
    • We borrowed an Exersaucer from a friend to simply give us another option for being able to put the baby down at times (our babies have hated being on the floor). It's the biggest chunk of noisy plastic in our home! Haha. I'm still not a fan of it, but it does serve the purpose (and has been free for us to use). If I was to purchase one of our own, I'd probably choose one that is a little smaller and without all the lights and sounds. It's definitely not a "must have" item (especially for the price! yikes!). It may not even be on my "nice to have" list either. I'm on the fence on activity saucers/jumpers. 
  • Pack N Play Playardhttps://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2Fir-na.amazon-adsystem.com%2Fe%2Fir%3Ft%3Drevivingh-20%26l%3Das2%26o%3D1%26a%3DB004Y9AKZI&container=blogger&gadget=a&rewriteMime=image%2F*- We use these extensively in our home. We have one set up as a bed and one set up as a play area. After each meal, I place one or both children in the pack n' play while I clean up the meal mess. The bottom is filled with foam blocks, and so they are entertained long enough for me to get the dining room and kitchen tidied back up. 
  • Floor Activity Mathttps://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2Fir-na.amazon-adsystem.com%2Fe%2Fir%3Ft%3Drevivingh-20%26l%3Das2%26o%3D1%26a%3DB002DWALTI&container=blogger&gadget=a&rewriteMime=image%2F*- I wished we had had one of these for our babies. Perhaps they would have tolerated floor time play better. If we have a third child, then I will probably purchase one. 
  • Door Jumper-https://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2Fir-na.amazon-adsystem.com%2Fe%2Fir%3Ft%3Drevivingh-20%26l%3Das2%26o%3D1%26a%3DB017ABWGBW&container=blogger&gadget=a&rewriteMime=image%2F* We have really enjoyed our door jumper! This is a "must have" item in my opinion. The children have enjoyed being upright and feeling apart of the commotion of the rest of the family. (Note: These are better suited for wide door frames because the children's heads will collide with narrow door frames. We simply had the children wear a soft hat!)
Other Recommendations:
     The best means of stimulating and playing with our babies have been through the following actions:
  • Read, read, read! I aim to read 10-15 books to the children each day. Each week we visit the public library, and each month I purchase a new book for each of them. Reading is such an important part of our day and our interaction. You can never have enough books!
  • Interaction- My children have never been ones to play in a room full of toys for long periods of time. They have both thoroughly enjoyed a lot of interaction. Since I love books so much, I have enjoyed incorporating book-based activities into our days. I highly recommend resources like: Story S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-r-s® for Infants, Toddlers, and Twoshttps://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2Fir-na.amazon-adsystem.com%2Fe%2Fir%3Ft%3Drevivingh-20%26l%3Das2%26o%3D1%26a%3D0876592744&container=blogger&gadget=a&rewriteMime=image%2F*. This book is filled with great ideas of activities that compliment certain books. Also, songs and rhymes with motions are also excellent means of interaction. We've enjoyed "Hickory, Dickory, Dock," "Head and Shoulders," "Wheels on the Bus" etc. many times!

  • Talking- Babies love to hear the sounds of their family's voices! Even if they can't understand the words, they love being talked to. So, talk to them about everything. Tell them what you're doing and why you're doing it. Tell them about the characteristics of an object. Talk, talk, talk! You don't have to overly-simplify or create cartoon-like words. Allow "baby talk" to be the fluctuation of your voice, not the creation of nonsense words or syntax. A child that hears proper speech is more likely to create proper speech when able. He/she will also have a knowledge of speaking mannerisms (what is appropriate to say and how to say it). Of course, actual speech doesn't occur the first year of life, which is what this series focuses on. However, don't underestimate how great a foundation is being laid even during infancy!
    This completes the series on Baby Items for the First Year! :)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Baby Items for the First Year: Grooming & Healthcare

     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 BATHINGSLEEPINGTRAVELINGFEEDING,CLOTHINGDIAPERING and so today we'll focus on grooming and healthcare.

*Note: This post may contain 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!). 

  • baby q-tips
  • comb & brush
  • baby nail clips
  • bulb syringe- Note: Moisture can get trapped inside of these which facilitates mildew/mold growth (similar to what happens to certain bath toys). Therefore, it's a good idea to purchase a new syringe for each child. 
  • thermometer- For whatever reason, we ended up starting out with all three types of thermometers for our first child. We had the kind that inserts in the ear or glides across the forehead, the pacifier thermometer and a traditional thermometer. We found that the first one was highly inaccurate as you had to get a really good seal between the thermometer and skin, which can be difficult to achieve with a wiggly baby. The second one (pacifier thermometer) was not accepted by either baby at all (one child didn't take a pacifier and the other one has, but neither took the thermometer version). The basic thermometer has proven to be the most accurate and the simplest to use. In all the selection of fancy thermometers, basic is best!
*Most of these items can be purchased in a kit. These are the most useful items in those kits, in my experience. The "deluxe" kits aren't necessary. We purchased items individually.

Up Next:

  • Play (gear and toys)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

January 2016 In Our Home

     One word characterizes January in our home- celebration! Not only have we celebrated multiple birthdays but we've also thoroughly enjoyed simple time spent together. Last month was rather challenging and exhausting, and so a month of calm and joy was welcomed. 
Happy Birthday, dear!
      This month brings much celebration for birthdays. Three out of four of us (poor Annelise is all alone in June) have birthdays in January. (We joked when Tennyson arrived in January versus his due date in March that he simply wanted a January birthday like his parents! haha). We keep birthdays pretty simple in our home with a homemade cake, balloons, a card, gift, and favorite meal. 

     David enjoys craft beers, and so I themed his birthday cake and gift around that interest. I made a beer cake with a beer flavored icing and candied bacon garnish (it was just for him to enjoy and so I made a mini cake). I gifted him a set of beer glasses so that he can enjoy the various types of beer in the appropriate glass.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Tennyson!
      For Tennyson's birthday, we started the day with balloons tied to his seat at the dining table and single present. We made him a simple meal of pasta with sauce. His cake was an apple cake with a caramel buttercream. The apple cake wasn't overly sweet and so I was hoping he would eat it. Nope! The child doesn't care for sweets. We've joked since about how we will just stick a candle in a piece of meat next year because we know he'll eat meat. hahaha! For his gift, we purchased another set of play food and some play pots and pans. He really enjoys playing in the kitchen and pretending to cook, and so we thought he'd enjoy a few more pieces of his own. 

Happy Birthday to me! 
     For my birthday, David really went above and beyond. The day started with a bit of a panic. I got out of the shower to find him still in bed, and incredibly late for work. Then, surprise! He informed me that he took the day off so that I could have some time to myself on my birthday. He also had placed a "shot of chocolate" on my nightstand. It was a little cup filled with mini chocolate chips and Reese cups. My husband knows how I like to start the day! Later, he watched the children for me while I went to Panera for a fun coffee drink and to work on my book. When I returned home, he had made my favorite meal from when I was a child. Afterwards, he presented an amazing homemade cake. It was a peanut butter cake with mini chocolate chips with the most amazing chocolate frosting I've ever tasted. The frosting was garnished with caramel peanuts, drizzled with caramel and chocolate, and lined with mini Reese cups. He perfectly captured my favorite flavors of sweet and salty in a cake. Not to mention, it was absolutely beautiful. For my gift, he gave me two new books- On Writing Well and  Bringing Up Bebe. These books have been on my Amazon wish list for a while, and so I'm excited to begin them soon! 

      I think we all had such wonderfully special birthdays, and felt deeply loved afterwards. That's the point, right? I really enjoyed our simple birthday celebrations!

7 months old!
      The fun in the month didn't end there, though. We also had the delight of two feet of snow! It was the perfect snow. It fell on a Friday night through Saturday morning, and so most people were not needing to travel to work or school through it. It was also a dry snow, and as such the roads cleared easily. Tennyson was so excited about the snow. He would go to the backdoor and say, "Snow! Outside! Come on!" We bundled everyone up and went out to play in it every day. I think Tennyson could have stayed out in it all day if he could. He loved it. We got him a little sled for Christmas and were finally able to see it in action. Unfortunately, the snow was too deep! We had to get a good momentum going for him to not sink, which is really hard to create when you're trying to move fast in knee-high snow! We have some hilarious videos of each of us trying to pull him in the sled. Annelise wasn't as much of a fan of the snow. Mostly, she wasn't a fan of being so bundled up and unable to move. We did get a few smiles out of her though. She enjoyed riding in the sled and being pulled along as we walked down the street. I'm so glad the children finally got to experience snow. I'm not sure who had more fun in it each day- them or their Southern Mama! hahaha. 

24 months old!
     This month was such a bright ray of sunlight breaking through the clouds. It hasn't just been the big moments, though. There have also been little moments and little efforts that have made so much difference. As I discussed last month, I've been trying to make a greater effort to take greater care of myself. I've noted a need to pay greater attention to getting sufficient rest, exercising, and taking a moment to pursue my own interests. 

     My New Year Resolution was to write weekly on the blog and monthly on the book. So far, accomplished! Some weeks have been a challenge to break away to write, but I have so enjoyed being able to do so and being able to continue to fulfill my resolution. Thanks to David's gift, I was also able to write another section in my book. Hooray!

       We've also made big strides in regard to getting sufficient sleep and reducing stress. We've finally been able to move Annelise to a bottle. This has made a huge difference for everyone! She sleeps so much better and is much more content when awake. I'm able to more adequately care for Tennyson and our home. 

      Now that things have calmed down a bit, I feel like I need to get a better handle on managing our home and days. I believe the best way to do so is through the use of our daily schedule. However, it's difficult to just jump into a well-planned and well-organized day. The best way to ensure success is to ease in to establishing the tasks as regular parts of the day. Therefore, I've contemplated and decided to take our daily homemaking schedule and create weekly homemaking challenges. It's always exciting and encouraging to me see little successes, and then also step back to see the progress made on the overall goal(s). This Homemaking Challenge is that for me. So, I'm eager to begin next month!


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Homemaking Challenge #1

Image used with permission per Creative Commons Attributes License.
Copyright belongs to "..Stiina.." Alterations to original image include the addition of
background, dash/line overlay, and text to the right side.
The goal is to complete each task consecutively for an entire week before moving on to the next week. If it takes more than a week to accomplish it, then allow yourself the extra time. The purpose is to accomplish each challenge, regardless of the time required. 

1. Rise and start day by 5:00-5:30 a.m. each morning.

    Ideally my day would start by 5:00 a.m. This time allows our wakings to be stepwise with me waking at 5:00 a.m., Annelise waking at 6:00 a.m., and Tennyson waking at 7:00 a.m. Within this framework, everyone is permitted a little time to self, and time to adjust to or prepare for the new day. There is a drastic difference to how well conducted our day is (and I am personally) when I rise and begin before the rest of the family.

     However, waking at 5:00 a.m. requires me to be in bed and falling asleep by 9:00 p.m. This isn't feasible many nights as it takes just a little longer to fully conclude one day, prepare for the next, and have some time for just my husband and I to be together. I also have a baby who doesn't sleep through the night just yet, and so lose sleep there as well. So, the 5:00 a.m. ideal needs to be extended to 5:30 a.m. on certain occasions. Both rest and rising early are very important, and so the goal is to achieve a balance that is feasible for each person. For me that means rising between 5:00-5:30 a.m.

     To achieve this goal, I suggest a stepwise approach. 
1) Get to bed as early as possible. Certainly no later than 10:00 p.m.
2) Set the alarm earlier each day by 10 minutes. So, if I've been getting up at 6:00 a.m., then the next day I'll set the alarm for 5:50 a.m. The next day will be set for 5:40 a.m. ect. 
3) Continue rising at the desired time for an entire week, and it will become second-nature. 


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Homemaking Challenge

Image used with permission per Creative Commons Attributes License.
Copyright belongs to "..Stiina.."
Alterations to original image include the addition of
background, dash/line overlay, and text to the right side.

     One aspect of treating homemaking as a profession/job is management. A homemaker is a manager of her home and family. This role requires quite a bit of self-discipline and organization. If I'm not leading in managing my home and guiding the children, then they will surely run me. The result is inevitably chaos. 

         I've heard it said many times that life with children is simply a mess- you're a mess, the child(ren) are a mess, the house is a mess, and life in general is a mess. That's just the way is. However, I've yet to be convinced of such sentiment (despite our own experiences with messiness). It feels too much like considering children to be a burden on life instead of a blessing. My heart is for our home to be a peaceful and joyful place. I pray our children will flourish in a family unit in which love is evident and the desire to be together is strong. 

    However, we are familiar with a fair share of messes. We presently reside in a small home. Although the size does have some advantages, one considerable disadvantage is that even a small amount of clutter can very quickly become overwhelming to our space and ourselves. Add two children under two years old to the space, and we encounter those overwhelming occasions on nearly a daily basis. But, children clinging and crying and the house being a mess is just part of the job and part of the season of life, right? Perhaps to some extent, but not necessarily.

     I know that certain habits lead to much more productive and purposeful days. I know that if I wake up before everyone else and prepare myself for the day, then I feel much more positive and motivated towards the day ahead. I know that if I prepare activity rotation for each of the children then they are much more content and less prone to clinging and crying. I know that if I tidy a couple rooms a day and complete one deep cleaning task a day, then the house stays clean and tidy without a massive effort. There are actually many, many little actions throughout the day that make a significant impact. 

       Yet, establishing and abiding by all of these ideals or goals can be a struggle. I need small steps to properly create these little bits into habits which can then be built upon. And so, I've been contemplating conducting a "homemaking challenge." 

     This challenge will be comprised of a weekly task that is to be completed each day of the week. These tasks will be simple things like getting up before the family, getting fully or presentably dressed, making the beds up, setting aside one-on-one time with each child and/or husband, cooking dinner and serving it one time, etc. I'm writing this with myself and my needs in mind, and so not everything will apply to everyone. But, perhaps some will. 

    Perhaps you, too, also need a little boost in achieving greater homemaking habits, and will find this challenge helpful or motivating. If that is the case, then you're welcome to follow along. Leave a comment below each post and let me know you're joining me and/or how you're doing in the challenge. If you feel like others may be encouraged by this challenge, then please feel free to share. 

     Ultimately, the heart behind this challenge is to develop greater homemaking skills (habits!), as well as to learn to manage our home, family, and days with greater purposefulness and productivity. 

     You will find a brief post at the beginning of each week (Mondays, likely) with the current challenge. You will also be able to find a list with links to all challenges at the top of the main blog page. 

Let's do this! Who's with me? :)

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