Review: Baby University

I am a huge advocate for STEM education in my children’s lives. Research has shown that building a foundation for these skills early helps children to be successful in school and in life. I remember attending my first science camp in middle school and falling madly in love with research. This spurred me on to pursue a degree in chemistry. I naturally want my kids to also find science as interesting and exciting as I do. I try to nurture early STEM concepts and skills through daily routines and play. I leave the music and art nurturing to their father. He is more adept in the fine arts than I am.

“STEM” stands for science, technology, engineering and math. STEM
can refer to the subjects individually or one or more working together,
but can also mean a way of doing things that includes solving problems,
asking questions, and exploring the world around us.

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When Mamas are Spread Too Thin

I’ll make this a quick post…

Mallory and I each have a list of things we’d like to write about on this blog. As you may have noticed, we haven’t been keeping up and those lists have been tossed, desperately, aside.

You see, the past few months we have been battling sick children who don’t like to sleep. Some of the time we’ve been sick ourselves and often we are both facing these challenges while our husbands are away.

Just letting the chaos and mess exist for a bit…luckily it can be cute sometimes.

By the time we’ve recovered, we usually just wanted to rest or catch up on this or that. Unfortunately “this or that” rarely ends up being the blog. (Please read on, as this post is not an admittance of defeat, but an attempt to hit the reset button.)

We have been spread much too thin to take-on all of the things we’d like to do. During this time, it’s been helpful to give ourselves permission to half-ass the house work, turn on the tv or tablet a bit more and to vent our woes to each other (after all, misery loves company).

Now that we’re both on our second kid, we find ourselves in a perpetual game of catch-up. But now I think it’s easier for us to admit we can’t do it all. I think we’re able to say, “I need a break,” and make it happen – even if it’s for as little as 5 minutes.

Luckily, being such good friends, we also keep each other accountable. Now that we’ve wallowed in our problems, it’s time to look ahead and give our blog some extra TLC and attention.

Stay with us, friends, and Happy New Year!

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.

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.

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7 MUST-HAVE ITEMS WHEN TRAVELLING WITH AN INFANT/TODDLER

I’m not saying I’m an expert at travelling with an infant/toddler, but I have definitely discovered a few techniques to make life easier on the go and figured out what items are absolutely necessary to have on hand. During this PCS Adventure, my family has been without household goods for 48 days, spent 3 days in airports and on planes, and lived in hotels for 26 days. It has been a learning experience for us all and I think everyone was pushed to their limit at one point during this adventure. We are finally in our new house, but still do not have household goods so we are back to “roughing it” in our own home. I honestly do not think we would have made it this far without the following items: Continue reading

[UPDATED]: SCREEN TIME FOR BABIES

Back in July I wrote an article about screen time for babies and how it is a big “no-no” for children under 2 years of age. As much as I wish I were updating this article with new info about how it is not only good to let your kids watch TV that young, but also recommended for admission into Ivy League schools later in life, sadly I am not. I am here to confess that I am a complete failure at this; my 1 year-old daughter loves watching Baby Einstein videos and they have made the last few weeks more bearable for everyone in this family.

If you have been keeping up with my PCS adventures, then you know that my family has been without household goods for 34 days now. The first week was especially hard because not only did we not have anything in our house, but also my husband was not home to help entertain our LO. That’s when I turned to Baby Einstein and never looked back. I stumbled upon one of the videos on YouTube and played it for her; it magically kept her still and focused for 20 minutes. I then found a whole series of Baby Einstein classics on Amazon Prime and introduced a different one each day while I cleaned and prepped our house for moving out. I even had them saved to my iPhone for her to watch on our 14+ hour plane ride and they truly were a life saver. Now that we are temporarily living in a hotel until a house becomes available, Baby Einstein videos help break up our day and keep things exciting for our LO. Continue reading

My PCS Adventure: Part Two

Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

That’s basically all I have to say about the past couple of weeks. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot I could say, but I don’t want to rant and cry all over this blog today. Instead I’m looking forward to reaching our new destination and beginning a new life. 

Stay tuned for tips and tricks on surviving with a one year old in an empty house and while PCSing. 

6 Ways My Husband is a Better Parent

My husband and I are very competitive. We try to best each other in almost anything and for the most part he usually wins, except in water sports. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason he is terrible at anything related to the water.  When we found out we were having a baby I was very excited. Finally, I thought, something I can beat him at. Surely, I’d be a better parent. I’m nurturing and love taking care of people. He is not nurturing and doesn’t particularly like other people. I was basically made to be the world’s greatest mom. I may be a great mom and he is definitely a great dad, but overall he is hands down a better parent and here is why:

  1. He has not lost a wink of sleep since our daughter was born. Everyone always uses the term “I slept like a baby.” Um, no thanks! Babies sleep horribly. I’d rather sleep like a new dad. Our baby can be screaming in his ear while he is asleep and it will not faze him at all. As I mentioned in a previous post, we encountered a pretty substantial earthquake that shook our whole house and bed and he still did not wake. Some nights when I’m feeling extra resentful, I’ll wake him up and make him get me water or ask him to do some other unnecessary task just so he has to get up and be awake with me. Call me cruel, but I haven’t slept for longer than a 3 hour stretch in over 8 months.

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    “Sleeping like a Daddy”

  2. Speaking of sleep, my husband can somehow lay our daughter down in her crib and she will go right to sleep. No matter what time of day it is. I have seen him unknowingly put her down for a nap, right after she woke up from a nap and she falls right back to sleep! WTF? When I put her to bed, there is at least 5-10 minutes, if not more, protesting before she gives in and falls asleep. He claims it is because she knows her cries have no effect on him.
  3. Our baby’s cries have no effect on him! I have gotten better over time, but it still hurts me deep down in my soul when I have to listen to our daughter cry. Sleep training was the worst. I think it was more painful for me than her. Now we are going through teething and I would do anything in my power to never hear her cry again. No wonder they used to use the sound of babies crying as a torture method. I’m sure it is super effective…unless you are my husband. Just the other day I heard our daughter crying in the nursery for a long time. I knew Daddy was watching her, but after a while I started to get suspicious because she was still crying. I go in there to check on them and he is just sitting in the chair holding her as she howls in his ear.
  4. Our daughter already knows that she can’t get away with stuff around him. If she starts crawling toward an outlet or over to the bookshelf to eat a book, all my husband has to do is clear his throat or say “no” once and she quickly sits back on her butt and redirects like she never intended to go that way in the first place. When I am home with her and tell her “no” she literally laughs at me…hysterically I might add. It is very disconcerting.
  5. He put together matching safari outfits for the two of them for our first family trip to the zoo. Somehow it is just not as cute when I dress my daughter like me. I always feel like the mom from “Mean Girls” and a little bit desperate when I do it…that definitely has not stopped me though. When my husband wears a watching outfit with my daughter it is the cutest, most adorable thing you have ever seen. It literally made all the ladies at the zoo swoon.

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    San Diego Zoo 2016

  6. My husband Bedazzled a jean jacket for our daughter. Let’s start with the fact that he bought a Bedazzler online with the sole purpose of turning a brand new OshKosh B’gosh jean jacket into a more fashionable wardrobe piece for her. He spent days tracing out designs and searching for the perfect rhinestones. I will say I am super jealous of his dedication and craftsmanship. Our baby is lucky I even found the time to go to OshKosh B’gosh in the first place.

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    He added a cigar to make it look more manly

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The most bad ass baby on the block – that is Cthulhu bedazzled on her jacket, not a plain octopus.

So you can see from these examples my husband somehow got this parenting thing figured out way before me. Just wait till she starts walking and talking and we will see who is better then.

Iconic Texas Names for Girls

Unfortunately none of my children will have the privilege of being born in the great state of Texas due to the transitory nature of military life. As a way to represent our Texas home, I’m working on making the middle names of our kids Texas-themed.

Boys names are easy. But when it came to finding a girl’s name that was iconically Texas, my list came up short. All searches for Texas girl names mostly come up with typical Southern names, which I still love, but I wanted something with ACTUAL Texas roots. Luckily, I have access to a large group of ladies who feel as much Texas pride as I do and shared their ideas and real-life examples of Texas names. Continue reading

Screen Time for Babies: If this is wrong then I don’t want to be right

As a FTM I am constantly worried about messing up my kid. I am frequently reminded that I have no clue what I am doing. Should I have taken a test before they allowed me to leave the hospital with a baby?? Probably. I’m trying to follow all the rules. Use the ABCs of sleeping (Alone, on her Back, and in a Crib). Check. Exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months. Check. When introducing solids at 6-months old start with vegetables first so baby doesn’t get hooked on sugar. Check. No screen time for the first two years. Errr, what?? How is that even possible?

For the first two weeks of DD‘s life I really embraced being a couch potato. Those were the good ole days, when she slept for 20 hours a day. As long as she was in my arms or on my chest I could literally be doing anything else and it would not bother her. I basically lived on the couch catching up on all my TV programs. Being a mom was a piece of cake. Then I read an article that said even having the TV on in the background was not good for the baby. OMG what am I going to do all day? Luckily a new, growing baby is a lot of work and left very little room for watching TV.

Nowadays, I try really hard not to turn the TV on in front of DD. She makes too much noise babbling and yelling at us or the screen to enjoy a show anyways. We wait until she is asleep before watching anything. Sometimes the 45 minutes DH and I watch TV before bed is our only alone time. It is a great opportunity to relax and reconnect.  BC we watched a lot of TV together. It was fun discovering a new show with him or re-watching an old favorite. We have spent a lot of money at Best Buy over the years filling our DVD cabinets with our beloved shows. We have even hosted TV show themed parties and movie marathons. Xfinity recently did a study that says TV is the glue to a stronger marriage. I definitely find this to be true, now more than ever. With a baby in the house, it is hard to find time to be a normal couple.

Impact of TV on Relationships-Infographic

Anyone who has ever met my husband knows he does not like to cuddle. So I cherish the time we spend sitting next to each other on the couch sharing a blanket and watching TV. This is our “cuddle” time. TV brings us together and keeps us together. Just the other day we started watching a new show “Rick and Morty,” and DH asked how I like the show. I told him that I thought the show was OK, but what I absolutely love about it is how hard it makes him laugh. He said that made me sound like a serial killer. If liking something that makes someone I love genuinely happy makes me a serial killer then I guess I’m guilty as charged.

So you can see that TV is a big, important part of our lives. I’d like to be able to include our LO in this bonding time, but I seriously don’t want to cause her any developmental harm. I’m not saying I want her plopped in front of the TV, vegging out for hours during the day so I can have “mommy time”, but I’d like to not feel guilty if we have the TV on after lunch and a show captivates her attention for 10 minutes. There are plenty of other things I can feel guilty about as a mom; I don’t need TV to be one of them.

Being the Nervous Nelly that I am, I did a bunch of research on the topic at hand and found some interesting information. At first, I found that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) specifically discourages any passive screen time for children under 2 years old, i.e., plopping kid in front of TV/using TV as a babysitter. “The concern for risk is that some kids who watch a lot of media actually have poor language skills, so there’s a deficit in their language development. We also have concerns about other developmental issues because they’re basically missing out on other developmentally appropriate activities,” says Dr. Ari Brown, the lead author on the American Academy of Pediatrics 2011 policy statement discouraging screen time for babies under 2.

Ummm, no thanks! The 10 minutes of peace and quiet I get while DD watches TV are not worth her missing the boat on language and other communication skills. Apparently just having the TV on in the background, is enough to delay language development. As parents we speak about 940 words per hour when a child is around, but when the TV is on that number drops to 770! Fewer words mean less learning. Yikes! It is not just the number of spoken words that are crucial to a child’s development, but also the exchange of facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language used during conversation. Whenever one party, child or parent, is watching TV, the exchange comes to a halt.

I totally get what the AAP is saying, but I have a hard time believing that parents are able to stick with this recommendation in this day and age. My LO FaceTimes with her Grandparents at least once a week, she loves sitting with her Daddy when he is playing computer games, and I am constantly using my iPhone in front of her to take our daily Tinybeans photos (if you are not sure what Tinybeans is, check out Claire’s post Keeping up with Tinybeans). Basically, we have already failed her as parents. I refuse to accept this fact so early in the game though. I am also super annoyed with the internet for showing the AAP’s 2011 statement first on all the search engines I am using. Have they not revised this in the past 5 years? FaceTime was barely a thing when this statement came out. Come on guys get with the program! Tell me I’m not making my kid dumb!

Bazinga! More recently (2015), the AAP is rethinking their original ban on screen time for children under 2. They are now suggesting it is OK in a controlled situation where the child is still interacting with a parent or a live person on screen. The AAP still doesn’t want kids watching hours of mindless television or YouTube videos, but “the latest neuroscience research shows that the more a digital experience approximates live two-way communication, the more a child younger than 2 will understand and process it,” Brown said. For instance, when a child is sitting and watching a TV program or a video on an iPhone, there’s not a great deal of activity in the brain. But when the child is watching someone they know or even someone they don’t know on a webcam during a video chat, “there’s a whole lot of brain activity going on,” Brown said. Boom! Winning! I feel a 1000 times better now, don’t you?

I am a little disappointed that I wont be sharing an episode of Game of Thrones with my LO anytime soon, but any and all guilt that I felt about letting her watch Baby Signing Time while I wash the dishes is completely gone. I may actually be helping her development with that show! It is currently the only show she watches. I think there is something about the other babies on the screen that intrigues her. I know there are a lot of other well-designed shows out there that teach kids literacy, math, science, problem-solving, and pro-social behavior. Children get more out of these interactive programs like Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street when they answer the characters’ questions. Go, Diego, Go, a spin-off from Dora the Explorer, is one of Claire’s son’s favorite shows. Hopefully she can rest easy tonight knowing that this show is not melting his brain, and conversely has been given several awards stating that it is an outstanding children’s program. Way to go Claire!

So basically TV can cause a lot of developmental harm to your child, but if you use common sense and set limits for screen time you will be doing alright as a parent. Babies’ brains are growing fast and are easily influenced by stimuli. Try to eliminate any and all non-interactive screen time for children under two years old. FaceTime, Skype, and other interactive TV shows are OK, but should be utilized with a parent. If you are unsure about a show your child is watching, check out Common Sense Media which helps families make smart media choices. Hopefully this information is useful for other moms out there and removes some of that “mom guilt” we all tend to put on ourselves.