REVIEW: 4 Family Friendly Craft Books

As a result of some napping miracle, both of my babies fell asleep at the same time and I was able to look over these 4 amazingly-easy, family friendly craft books. I even made it halfway through a project before I heard that sweet sound of babies stirring in their cribs. I am not a crafty person by any means. I obsess over pins I find on Pinterest and dream about the day I can complete all the cute projects on my boards. I feel like there is a lot of pressure for moms, especially SAHMs to be crafty…as if we don’t have anything else to do. I always give it my best shot, but I’m definitely more of an Amazon Prime Mom than a Pinterest Mom. These books definitely make it easy for me to be sneakily crafty and add a little flare to some everyday things, like water bottles, name tags, training plans, etc. Continue reading

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Must-have items for new moms

We have several new and expecting moms following our blog so we want to share with y’all our list of must-have items. These are the kinds of things that you’ll want around as soon as baby gets here. Items 1-8 are Mallory’s must-haves and 9-16 are Claire’s.
1. Baby carrier – I actually have three baby carriers; we like to baby wear in this family! My first child had reflux so it was necessary to wear her constantly to keep her happy and my hands free. The Boba wrap is perfect for keeping baby snug and wrapped tightly to your body. My husband and I prefer to use this carrier if we are wearing the baby around the house. I don’t feel as comfortable going out with this one on because it is not very supportive.

The Boba wrap is perfect for baby wearing around the house.

The Baby Bjorn baby carrier is great for going out. It’s lightweight, easy to put on and supports the baby close to your chest. We recently bought and fell in love with the Ergobaby 3-position carrier for our toddler because you can wear the child on your back like a backpack. If you are only going to get one carrier, I’d highly recommend this one because it will meet all your needs.

Wearing a toddler as a backpack using the Ergobaby carrier makes exploring a new country much easier!

2. Bob jogging stroller – if you like jogging or doing anything outdoorsy, I highly recommend paying the big bucks and investing in a Bob jogging stroller. They are amazing and worth every penny!

3. Oh joy! Diaper bag from Target – this diaper bag is a backpack, has stroller straps, and zips closed. The bag has several pockets and is very deep for lots of storage. I love it and get compliments everywhere I go! Claire’s had 2 diaper bags and doesn’t love either of them. She’s going to go buy one of these bags this week.

4. Love to Dream swaddle UP – this swaddle is fabulous and so easy to use. You just put the baby inside and zip it up. One problem I always had using a blanket to swaddle was that my LO would struggle until her arms were free. With the Love to Dream swaddle the arms are up in a patented wing position. My husband calls it a wingman suit for this reason. The babies look like skydivers. The 50/50 swaddle has zip-off wings to help baby transition out of swaddles. I unzipped one wing at first then after a few nights took off both wings. This made the whole process easy for mom and baby.

Love to Dream swaddle UP a.k.a. Wingman suit

5. Rock n Play Sleeper – these are the best to have in every room (just kidding I just pick mine up and move it into which ever room I am in). Great for bedtime, nap time, daytime and playtime. For me, it comes in handy after nursing. I can lay my LO down without worrying he will spit up because it is the perfect angle.

Big sister coming inside to check on baby brother every 5-minutes

6. Amazon Subscribe and Save – first off, if you don’t already have Amazon Prime membership please crawl out of your cave and get with the program. Amazon saves me so much time and effort. Subscribe and Save is even more amazing because I can create a monthly list of items that will be automatically delivered to me by a certain day. It even works in Japan! This is how I get all our diapers, wipes, diaper trash bags, and most importantly our K-pods.

7. Nose Frida – the grossest, most effective apparatus for extracting snot from a stopped up baby nose. It is somewhat satisfying watching all the baby’s snot fill the tube.

Using the Nose Frida…the patient is not always happy about you sucking snot out of their nose!

8. Tinybeans – best app to keep your family updated with daily photos without sharing your little ones face and life story with the whole World Wide Web. Read Claire’s article to find out why we love Tinybeans so much.

9. Pack n Play w/ Bassinet feature – This is one of the essentials to have ready when baby comes home from the hospital. You’re gonna want your newborn within arm’s reach the first few months, so setting up the pack n play right next to your bed is going to help you catch some z’s. When baby transitions to the crib, you can still keep your pack n play around to contain baby around the house and on trips.

10. My Brestfriend Pillow – This nursing pillow was recommended by the lactation consultant at our hospital. It buckles around your body for extra support and convenience. My love for it has grown since we’ve moved into a two-story house. I just clip it around my waist which gives me two free hands to carry baby (or extra snacks and water) to wherever I want to nurse him.

11. Keekaroo changer – while I was pregnant, I was learning the parenting ropes from a friend and this is the changer she had. At first I was put off by the price, but because you don’t need changing pad covers, it’s basically a wash. Just wipe down and done. I was satisfied by this purchase in the first week we brought our son home: I put him on the changer, took off his diaper and suddenly the Keekaroo was flooded with meconium! We kept trying to put on new diapers, but it just kept coming!

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12. Two-in-One Swing – In my experience I’ve found two camps of moms: The Rock n Players or The Swingers. There are so many (what I call) “baby receptacles,” on the market it’s hard to know what to choose. You’ll definitely want something outside of the bedroom for setting down and soothing your babe. What works best for you is largely dependent on your baby’s personality, but for me, the practicality of the Graco 2-in-1 Swing won me over to the Swinger side. I loved that the swing seat is also a bouncer that can be removed and moved around the house. Such a space-saver!

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Probably the only time I strapped him in…

13. Bamboobies – reusable nursing pads! Yes! I will say, in the beginning, I still ended up using disposable nursing pads because I leaked so much that the reusable pads would just stay wet which is not good for your nips, but once my supply regulates, the reusable are all I really need.

14. White Noise machine – this was one of my “live and learn” purchases. As my first-born got older and more sensitive to his environment, sometimes the smallest creak would startle him awake. I finally got a white noise machine to drown out any startling noises. Today I have one in each of my boys’ rooms which has been especially useful for drowning out the incessant barking of the dogs.

15. Madela hand pump – I don’t pump often, but when I do it’s usually in the middle of the night to relieve engorgement. Getting a good double electric pump is great, but if you’re looking to avoid the whole production of getting connected to your electric pump, a hand pump can be used from the quiet comfort of your bed. Also great for throwing in your diaper bag or suitcase if you’re traveling.

16. Vibrating teether – Teething sucks. I have all kinds of teethers, but found that nothing provided sweet relief quite like the vibrating ones. The only problem with them is that little babies have trouble biting down on them to get them to vibrate. The one linked helped me solve that problem. I can let baby chew on one side and I’m still able to hold down the other side to keep it vibrating.

Stranger Things: My Japanese Birth Experience Part 1

Some husbands are very supportive and hands-on during their wife’s delivery. Not mine. Mine sits back in the shadows taking notes so he can remind me later of how much I cried. He is very loving in that way (hopefully you can read the sarcasm). You may recall his “smell log” from our first child’s birth. Well, he did not disappoint with his thorough account of the events leading up to our son’s birth in the local Japanese hospital.

Taking notes while I receive an IV of antibiotics

 6:32PM

We arrive at the hospital several miles out of town in a run down area. It is Saturday night yet there are few signs of the local population, save those hurrying back to their homes. We wander out of the gravel parking lot down the street until we see a dimly lit alleyway, now to select the correct door. Unable to read kanji we continue checking each door until one pulls open. With it comes the yellow glow of old GE light bulbs and the smell of Florida. Not the salt sea air of spring break but the musky oder of a retirement barely keeping the tenant afloat. There are racks of shoes to the left just inside the entryway, someone has been using the facility.

6:37PM

We step hesitantly, quietly, inching down the hall, the only sounds our own footsteps. The exit signs tell us we’ve gone the wrong way as we explore the first floor. A set of stairs eventually appears, but was it there the first time we passed down the corridor? As we climb up the stairwell there is a faint unidentifiable sound ahead. Cresting the top we look left, then right. The second floor much like the first appeared vacant of any life, only the old cream tile floors, walls of peeling paper and medical equipment long abandoned. We continued our search past the check-in hub, which was devoid of life. Then the noise again, this time closer. As I turned to confront it I only catch a glimpse of a white spectre scurry, or did it float? across the hall from one doorway to another. It was too quick to make out its true form. I rushed to follow, hoping for answers to this mysterious haven. But as I made the turn into the room with the strange bed, giant clock with its gliding hands, and foreign machines I am confronted head on with the creature, “Morris!” it exclaimed bursting from the shadows. Her…Her! accent, was thick…

6:45PM

She was no ghoul, but the on call nurse. Her actions were quick and severe. I was quickly backed into a corner, isolated, as she dashed off, quickly returning with a larger male. Still in disbelief at our discovery I am unable to protest as they tear away my wife to strap her to that strange bed. It is obvious the medical equipment still functions, though archaic it may be. While they focus on her I am able to visually investigate my surroundings. Every item in the room unmistakably has a place, though there are so many instruments in such a small space, that the look is very chaotic. The most disturbing, however, are the three metal pots, each about the size of a human head, with lids that have been locked shut.

7:25PM

After strapping my wife to the bed they leave and shut the door. It is very hot in here and we brought no water and there does not appear to be a tap in our confines. I don’t understand why one of us should be restrained, yet I am free to move about. How would they react if they found I had loosed her bonds? I don’t know how many others are here with us, either as “guests” or those who are holding us here. All I can hear now is the female milling about outside of our room, there has been no indication of the male for sometime. What do they want from us? And why are they heating our room? It is so hot!

8:05PM

They must have gotten what they wanted, they are moving us to another space. The first room must have been some sort of processing facility. This place looks more permanent, there is a bed, and an unusual looking stool. Neither are comfortable, however, when I lie on the bed exhaustion takes hold.

I labored in a Tatami room until I was in active labor

9:00PM

My wife wakes me frantically, they will begin the extraction on her now. We groggily move back to the original room, they’ve brought more of their people. All of them wearing pink smocks circa 1960s America, and masks to hide their identities, though I wonder how many have made it out the exit and back to safety. They are frantically chittering away like a swarm of insects working on a hive, strapping my wife back down to the table.

9:30PM

After half an hour of prodding and examining my wife their elder appeared before us. At this point, through tears and gasps for breath she begs him to end her pain no matter the cost. With a grin he speaks in his guttural language, in what I can only assume was a pleasant surprise that his subject broke so quickly. The chittering from the elder’s subordinates picks up in a deafening crescendo as three of the pink clad females grab my wife by the arms and legs. They contorted her until her spine was exposed and vulnerable. The elder then brought out an immense needle, plunging menacingly as her pain intensifies. I don’t know if that’s when they planted the darkness in her, but it certainly was the beginning of our hell to come.

We had quite the experience. It would be generous to call the place I delivered at a hospital. It was as empty and sweltering hot as my husband described. The OB has been in practice there for nearly 50 years and it definitely showed. Their methods were effective, but they were also very crude.

One of the main reasons I chose this particular place was that they offered an epidural, which is not common in Japan. I am not ashamed to admit that I do not handle pain well. Once I was taken to the delivery room the 200-year old doctor arrived to administer the epidural. He had lots of trouble placing the line, which resulted in several painful punctures along my spine and tenderness around the site for several weeks. It was all for nothing because the dosage was so low it had zero effect on me.

That birth was the most painful experience of my entire life. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy. I was crying, kicking, and begging for it to be over. I thought at one point that I might actually die, especially when the attendant had clearly also had enough and gave me a quick episiotomy, then went elbow-deep inside of me to pull the baby out. There was one nurse beside me the whole time whose only job was to shush me when I got too loud. And not in a kind or nurturing way either. I couldn’t believe it. We were absolutely the only people in this “hospital,” why did I have to be quiet? First, they botch giving me an epidural and then they tell me I’m being too loud as I writhe in pain. WTF?

I have since learned that the Japanese do not believe in pain-relieving drugs during childbirth, or after for that matter. This explains the doctor’s inexperience administering epidurals. It is believed that a mother’s ability to endure the pain demonstrates her strength and responsibility and not experiencing pain hinders the bond between mother and child. Japanese women are also expected to experience labor and birth quietly, explaining why the nurse kept trying to silence me. I have a whole new respect for these women, but I absolutely do not believe that my inability to suffer silently has any bearing on my capabilities as a mother.

 

Giveaway – New Baby Dove

You’re buying into the message they sell. Remember that.

This was part of one of the lessons taught in an advertising class I took for my public relations degree. The prime example used for this lesson was Dove and their “Campaign for Real Beauty.” We examined it as a brand that excels in messaging that reaches beyond their products.

Since taking this class I’ve always viewed Dove with high regard. I’ll gladly reach for their products over other brands. So, when they approached us with a chance to do a giveaway for our readers, I was more than happy to participate!

Now, as a mom, I’m elated to see their messaging hit all the right marks again with Baby Dove. “There are no perfect moms, just real ones.” Check out their commercial:

It’s one of those ads that makes you feel pride in the chaos and uncertainty of motherhood. Furthermore, I love that now I can look to Dove for the full package: something for me, something for my babies.

Want a chance to win a New Baby Dove Rich Moisture package? Hop on over to our Facebook page and join the conversation about #RealMoms there.
A little about Dove’s new products:

babydoverich

Baby Dove Rich Moisture range has been developed for babies with normal to dry skin and goes beyond mildness to actively replenish lost moisture and nutrients into baby’s skin. All products are hypoallergenic and mild with a fragrance specifically developed for delicate baby skin. Available in Tip-to-Toe wash, baby lotion, baby bar, shampoo and baby wipes.

(The baby wipes are my favorite for my own personal use! Nice for freshening up quickly when you’re covered in the dirty sticky sweat of the South.)

babydovesensitive

Baby Dove Sensitive Moisture range has been developed to take extra special care of babies with sensitive skin. It is fragrance free and designed to be kind to dry skin; is hypoallergenic and pH neutral. Available in Tip-to-Toe wash, baby lotion and baby wipes.

Disclaimer: I received samples of this product for my honest review on this blog.

The Southwest Nursery Theme of Your Dreams

Is it possible to be a fan of a new mom? (Some may even call it a mom crush). Well, I’m a fan of new mom, Kayla and after this post I think you will be too!

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Meet Kayla. Her maternity photo shoot is actually like a sneak peek into her nursery theme. “I rented the dress from MamaBump rentals and we took the pictures in Balboa Park Cactus Gardens. The head piece was made by my cousin!”

Seeing as my nursery decor is still just sitting on the nightstand and also lacks originality (woodland creatures w/ random lurking jungle creatures) it doesn’t take much to make me ooh and ahh over anyone’s nursery. But, oh man, am I swooning over Kayla’s nursery! So much care and detail went into the overall creation that I could feasibly make this a series of blog posts about her nursery, but that might be bordering on obsessive. Continue reading

HOOT For Kids

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This Box arrived to me at the perfect time. I had just gotten sick with mastitis, followed by a sinus infection and was trying to rest as best I could with a newborn and toddler (plus it was raining outside). I was feeling guilty about all the hours of screen-time we were racking up and needed an easy way to distract the toddler.

Enter HOOT Box.

What is HOOT Box?

HOOT stands for “Hands-on Occupational Therapy.” This is a subscription service that sends you a box of toys (just once, every 3 months, or every month – you choose) curated by an occupational therapist. Boxes are ideal for newborn to 6 years old. In our HOOT Box we received 3 toys – animal puzzle blocks, a zebra on wheels, and a Green Toys Submarine. Our box came with a list of suggested activities that could be done with each toy and identified what skills each toy would hone.

The box brought so much excitement to our day! Here’s what I loved about it:

  • An Aid for Parents – Sure, it should be pretty easy for parents to figure out how to play with kids toys, but with a list of suggestions from an actual occupational therapist, I felt better equipped to help my child with actual skills. Plus, I admittedly lack a lot of creativity when it comes to my child’s toys. This helps me with my own skills in that department.
  • Break up the Monotony – Again, I was lucky enough to get this at a time where I really couldn’t do much with myself and I needed help engaging my child. But I think this is the perfect thing to order sometime during the summer (or, for military families, maybe during deployment??) as a way of breaking up the monotony of your daily routine. I like the idea of holding onto the package and saving it for a (literal or figurative) rainy day.
  • Watching Your Kid Discover – I really enjoyed just watching my son pull out each toy and start playing with them his own. This was probably the first time he’s said the word “submarine.” I’m not sure he even really knew exactly what a submarine was before. Then I watched him slide the zebra along the submarine. It didn’t take long for him to exclaim, “I wuv my zebra! I wuv my submawine!” It was such a joy to experience something new alongside him.
  • Home Convenience – I’m going to write another post later about my newfound love for subscription services, but trying to go through and leave a toy store or toy aisle can be maddening with a toddler who wants to touch every toy and who ends up sneakily adding random thing to your shopping cart. Getting a HOOT Box means leaving all the extra toys and meltdowns over toys behind.
  • Gift Idea – for the grandparents or friends who ask constantly what your kid wants or who don’t know what would make an age appropriate gift, tell them to gift a HOOT Box!

Disclaimer: I received free samples of this product for my honest review on this blog

 

Preventing and dealing with common heat conditions that occur with children

I was giving my daughter a bath last night and noticed the farmer’s tan developing on her arms and immediately felt bad for not being more careful with her in the sun. Luckily she has olive skin like her father instead of my pale, ginger skin that burns on rainy days. Either way, I don’t want to keep her indoors while the weather is heating up so next time I will just have to be more prepared.

Here are some tips from Babytime! for preventing and coping with common heat conditions your child could suffer from:

The weather is warming up and it is only going to get hotter as spring turns into summer. Taking children, especially babies, outside to enjoy the sunshine and beautiful weather can be an enriching experience, but can have painful and itchy consequences if the proper steps are not taken to prevent heat rash, sun burn and other heat related conditions. Below are some simple tips to enjoy the sun without putting your child, and even yourself, at risk.

Continue reading

Keep Kids Busy Learning Lifesaving Skills

Once upon a time, before I had children I was really into martial arts. My husband and I were members of a Burmese kickboxing gym in Maryland for a while and we both even fought in a few amateur fights. Trust me, it was nothing impressive, but it definitely gave me more confidence in myself and my ability to defend myself if I ever needed to. When we moved to Virginia, I decided to try out Krav Maga with a friend. It was probably the most physical martial arts I have ever done. When they say “fitness with fight” they really mean it. I was in such great shape because of it.

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This was my Facebook post after one of the Krav Maga workouts Ashley and I did!

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Dear Village

Dear Village,

I heard you outside when you mowed my lawn for me this week. That’s twice now since my husband left and has had to spend this month away from us while I was left to care for our toddler and newborn. Maybe you haven’t heard a lot from me lately. I’m, at times, a bit discombobulated trying to adjust to our new normal. I’m not quite sure how to thank you for all that you’ve done for me…

You’ve helped me corral my half naked son running in the street and even let him play in your houses in all that naked glory. You even reassure me about my potty-training failures (hence, all the nakedness).

You probably didn’t realize that when I moved across the country in my third trimester, I had already accepted the fact that our second kid wouldn’t be getting the celebration and preparation that our first did and was I feeling a bit guilty for it. So, the insistence on throwing Baby No. 2 a shower not once, but twice, really touched me more than you know! Seeing so much selflessness for someone you had just met is indescribable.

I also arrived here wondering how my labor might play out and what I would have to do to find care for our first-son. I appreciated your initial offer to watch him when the time came, but was really blown away when, without batting and eye, you took him for an indefinite amount of time.

When we came home from the hospital we were welcomed with decorations and then meals for our family everyday until extended family arrived.

Family, you too are part of our Village. I loved having you all visit from hundreds of miles away to share time with time with these little boys in our new town, but to also help me cook, clean and to distract a busy fun-loving toddler. Having an extra pair of hands (or 2 or 3) turned out to be a necessity, especially as I tried to learn to soothe a fussy, gassy baby. This has been a very different experience compared to the first-time around.

There are so many more things I’m forgetting to address specifically, but every gesture, gift, text, call, or note has meant the world to us. When they say “it takes a village,” now, more than ever, I have felt exactly what it means to have that reliable support system surround us in every possible way. You are our neighbors, family, friends new and old, near and far.  Although it will never be enough, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart. Thank you thank you thank you!

*End Sappy Post*

Oh Yeah, I Remember This… (Labor and Post-partum Thoughts the Second-time Around) 

It’s funny how the second kid kind of becomes an afterthought. Okay, wait, that sounds kinda cruel. Seriously though, I remember being so precious about every little thing with my first pregnancy – I dared not lift a heavy thing, eat or drink a drop of forbidden poison like caffeine and I began studying up for a healthy, efficient labor. When the second kid was on his way, I was still too busy with my first to even remember I was pregnant at times.

Preparation this second time around really only included figuring out how to juggle the toddler whenever the second one decided to come. When he was finally on his way, a few things happened differently, a few things had become second nature, and a few things were of the oh-god-no-wonder-I-blocked-this-feeling-from-memory variety.

Here are a few that fit into the latter category: Continue reading