Friday, July 31, 2015

How to Keep a Teething Baby Clean and Dry

B has been teething for awhile now. And he drools. A lot. His shirts end up soaked and stuck to him. If it's not changed right away, he then ends up with a rash. That's a ton of changes and shirts in one day. To help keep him drool free and dry, I've started putting him in Stylish & Cute baby bandana bibs.
The bandana bibs are gender neutral so baby boys or girls can wear them. One is red with blue stars, one has gender-neutral colored birds, one is white with multi-color polka dots and the last has navy and white stripes with a red star in the center. All the terry backings are white. They are so adorable! Baby B looks so stinking cute wearing them. Case in point:
The Stylish & Cute baby bandanas are made from extremely soft cotton on top of another soft terry cloth layer. The cotton itself is absorbent and the terry backing is even more absorbent so baby B stays dry, rather than getting soaked in drool. The quality of the bibs is good with nice stitching and thick, not cheap, fabrics. They'll hold up well through repeated washings without ending up tearing or fraying like some bibs can. The colors are very rich and pretty.
The bibs are the perfect size, too. Regular bibs can be so big when it comes to teething. Babies can end up crawling on them or getting stuck on things. The bandanas are big enough to collect the drool but small enough that his movements aren't inhibited. Two different snaps let you adjust the size around the neck so it can hang a little looser and lower, or a bit tighter (but not too tight) and higher. Plus, with the snaps they stay in plays rather than flopping forward or falling off like a regular bib when he crawls. It stays up by his neck to collect all the dribbles.
I've been using them to help with B's reflux as well. He tends to spit up after every bottle, even a half hour later, which also soaks his shirt. The bandanas catch all of that so he stays clean and dry. I swap out the bandanas as needed. I end up without a ton less shirt changes daily along with less wash to do each week.
As you can see, the Stylish & Cute bibs make B look stylish and cute. Perfect for super-cute pictures! If you've got drooling or refluxing little ones, I definitely recommend giving these bandana bibs a go.

This post is sponsored by Bloomora and contains affiliate links.
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

"The Fat Kid" Tells All: The College Years (Part 3 in a Series)

This is the third installment in my "The Fat Kid" Tells All series. Be sure to catch up with Part 1: The Formative Years and Part 2: The Teen Years.

the fat kid tells all the college years

I started college at a school a few hours from home. Close enough to go home on the weekends if I wanted while still being far enough away to be on my own. Like many first-year college students, I took way too much advantage of the buffet available at the dining hall. Unlike many, I really couldn't afford to with my weight. Every meal, there was a smorgasbord of main dishes, sides and, of course, desserts to choose from. An ice cream machine and an endless soda fountain of flavors topped off the choices available to hungry students. Unwisely, I indulged in it all. I enjoyed being able to have dessert daily, something I didn't get at home, and subsisted on way too much soda than any human should.

In my dorm room I kept a stash of snacks for in between those way-too-large meals. Microwave popcorn, mac and cheese, chips, more soda, junk and more junk along with some cans of tuna and mayo to make tuna salad. Some days meals I skipped going to the dining hall and just ate the junk in my room.

Obviously, these were far from healthy or waist-line-watching meal choices that I was making. There were healthy options in the dining hall, of course, and there was no need to take advantage of everything offered. I did anyway. Many meals I ate alone because I didn't want anyone to see how much I was actually eating. Around other people, I'd eat less then retreat to my room to partake in the stash there.

I arranged my class schedule to do the least amount of walking possible. One of my biggest fears was not being able to fit in desks in the classes. Some of them were the older style, made when people were smaller in general, especially their girth. I dreaded walking into a classroom and seeing those old-style wooden chairs with the desk arm. They were always a tight fight. Sitting in them was beyond uncomfortable. I always felt like everyone was starring at me when I was crammed in one. Even newer desks were under suspect as to whether or not they'd fit my rotund, plentiful bum. Admittedly, no matter how much weight I lose, my bum is always going to be big proportionally. The same goes for my arms. It was that way even when I'd lost all the weight (that I gained back) in high school. I won the genetic lottery on those two.

My depression kicked in full-force so many days I didn't even go to class. Instead I holed up in my room on the computer and ate. My main focus was getting good grades so I spent much of my time reading textbooks and doing assignments, even though I was skipping class. The college counselors knew I was struggling to get through the depression so had set up an arrangement with my teachers where I was allowed to miss classes without it counting against me, as long as I still did the work.

I've always had a problem with emotional eating. Trying to eat away sadness, depression, stress, worry and celebrating happy times was my norm. I even hid in my room from the few friends I had made, letting the depression and my lack of self-esteem rule my life. My best friend from high school attended a college a few hours away. I'd go out to see him as often as possible and talked to him on the phone often. He understood me better than anyone. When the depression was worst, he would help me through it.

During one of these many visits, I smashed up my knee during a pillow fight. I tripped, slammed it into the metal underside of a bed, landing unceremoniously on it in an OMG-a-leg-should-never-go-that-way angle. My leg and foot didn't face forward when I was standing again for years. I looked like I was doing a permanent half ballet move or something. The doctors said there wasn't much they could do as surgery could actually make my type of injury worse. PT and years of pain it was. I still have problems with that knee, and now the other that spent years compensating for it, today.

I joined a campus religions group as well the second semester of my freshman year. That helped me to feel more connected and to make a few friends. I have great memories from trips the group took. One of the friends helped me through the low times of my depression as she battled those demons as well. Still, I wasn't happy at that college and the major I wanted to pursue (after going through 5 previous ones in one year) wasn't offered.

I decided to transfer to a new school, 5 hours from home, for junior year. Not all my credits would transfer so I started in the summer to stay on track. By this time, I'd packed on 20-plus pounds and realized what I was doing by eating so much. I made two good friends during that summer semester. I focused on losing some of the weight along with doing well in my classes. My goal was to get at least one 4.0 (all A's, the highest I could get) during my college career. The end of that summer semester, I got my first 4.0 and had ditched 10 pounds.

Ten pounds that I quickly gained again the fall semester when the two friends I'd made left school, my classes got hard and I got depressed again. This school offered Burger King as part of their meal plan. I'm loathe to admit how many times I ate there over the years I was at that school.

Continued to focus on my grades, getting 4.0's over and over. I still stayed holed up in my room often, afraid to talk to people and make friends. I worried that because of my weight, and due to my personality, they just wouldn't like me. So I didn't try. Who would want to be friends with me? Fat, ugly and horrible me. I wore clothes that weren't too tight, usually baggy, to try to hide my body. I was self conscious about everything I did, said, ate or wore.

Oddly, when it came to doing well in my classes, I had tons of self confidence.I just had none when it came to thinking the other students, or anyone, would like me. My weight always had me thinking people were starring at me. If I caught they're attention, they'd make rude comments for sure, I thought. So I hid and tried to stay under the radar, except for my grades. One of the upsides of junior year came with my knee. One day while walking, I heard a giant crack and had immense pain. I was afraid to take another step on it. When I did, I discovered that it'd actually cracked back into place. Well, as in place as it can ever been given the damage that's in there.

My senior year I had my own efficiency apartment so cooked for myself rather than having a meal plan. I didn't really use the meal plan anyway as I was too lazy to walk to the dining hall across campus. The microwavable food and unhealthy stuff in my room was my diet. With my own kitchen, I started cooking healthier meals. The portion control still wasn't great, nor was the amount of soda, sweets and chips I ate. But I think it did help me from packing on even more weight at least. I knew it wasn't good and longed to lose weight, yet did nothing about it. I was eating my feelings and avoiding much exercise because of my knee. I could have at least eaten well to try to lose though, knee or not, or done low-impact exercises that wouldn't have aggravated it.

I graduated magna cum laude, summa cum laude in my major, with a degree in journalism with a focus in public relations and concentration in English. Graduation was another time where I feared it due to my weight. The gowns, so large on everyone else, barely fit me. I worried that it would split while I was sitting down or standing up. I spent the few hours like an uncomfortable sausage in the hot gym where the ceremony took place. The scaled told me that I weighed in heavier than ever.. My sites were set on a job using my writing, editing and graphic design skills in Washington, D.C.

Coming up next: "The Fat Kid" Tells All: Work and Marriage

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The SAH Life is Rated a Top 100 Most Influential Parenting Bloggers

I'm so excited to tell you all that The Stay-at-Home Life has made the list of Top 100 Most Influential Parenting Blogs of 2015 by Just Trampolines. You can read the full list here.

It is an honor to be on a list with Baby Center, Scary Mommy and other big names. Even better than that is being recognized for all the hard work I put into the blog and the social media accounts associated with it. Speaking of, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram if you haven't already.

I'm still amazed at how much work a blog really does take. It was easier to take time off when I worked for someone else in an office job than working as a freelancer and blogger for myself. When I first started, I figured it would be fairly easy and not take much time at all. So wrong! I wrote a post a few months back about what I've learned so far blogging (you can read it here) and that really comes in at the top of the list.

None of this would be possible without my totally fab readers! I appreciate all of you who read the blog and follow me on social media SO MUCH. I love reading all your comments (even though I don't always have time to respond to each). Please keep leaving them! While you're at it, if you enjoy what you read on the blog, click on the Vote for Me button at the bottom of this (or any post) once a day. That helps others find the blog via Top Mommy Blogs. Thank you all so much! You rock.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Peekaboo! All Your Child's Pictures Stored for You

As a mom, I take tons of photos of the kids. The problem then becomes having a place to store them all so they're backed up and still in order. I recently became acquainted with Peekaboo Moments, an app for both Android and Apple products, that helps my storage dreams come true.
Peekaboo Moments is an easy, secure way to pull all your photos from old computers and combine them with all the new photos you take. If you're like me, that's a ton of photos all at your finger tips with one free app. All kid photos are so important. Having them backed up is vital to be sure none get lost through unfortunate accidents. With Peekaboo, you can do that and free up space on your phone.

The app stores the photos automatically, or you can drag and drop the files into a web browser to organize them on your Peekaboo timeline. The timeline lets you see all your photos in order, which is great for looking back through the year (or years). The photos are put together on the timeline using the metadata on each photo. Don't worry if your camera saved the date wrong, you can go in and edit manually if needed.

As your kids get older, you can show them how much they've grown and changed. You can even add comments to the photos so you can remember the special moments even better. Because, let's face it, we can't always remember every photo that was taken or all the little details that make the moments special. There are just too many!
Your child get his/her own webpage for you to upload all the photos to. It's all private, except for those you invite to see the photos and comment on them. Invite your family to download the app or login on a computer to add their own photos. You can share the photos on Facebook from Peekaboo as well, along with creating fun time capsules of photos and diaries to save for your kids. Sharing it with them each year on their birthday would make even more Peekaboo moments. If you run into any issues with the app, a team of engineers is available to help you work through it. How many apps can say they offer that? So cool!

Peekaboo works with Mac or PC so it's nice and versatile. If you're worried about saving photos to a cloud, you can backup all your data locally on your own computer as well.
I'm loving how easy it is to download and use the app. Adding in diaries to expand upon the photos is a great feature and makes the app more than just your average photo storage. All the photos are stored securely and the unlimited storage is free. No worries about maxing it out with all the awesomely cute photos you take daily. The pics are easy to search through to find the ones I want to see. With all the photos I take, that comes in handy. (Of course I need 20 shots of the same pose! It's so cute! That, and the kids move so much no two are exactly the same. How can I decide which to delete?!)

Find out more about the app, and get it for free, here.

This post is sponsored by Peekaboo Moments.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Journey with Autism Begins

Through sharing our story and being honest and open, I hope it may help someone else going through similar. In light of that, I want to share more of M2's, and our, story. Starting with the day she was diagnosed as autistic and our journey officially began.
As I mentioned here, she was diagnosed with autism, mild-moderate, just over a month ago. That day was one of the most difficult of my life. We went in for baby B's well-child appointment the day before and took M2 along. While we were there, I told the doctor (they have the same pediatrician) that I'd talked to her early-intervention therapy team. All of them recommended that she get screened for autism, especially the therapist she's known the longest and who knows her the best. I was fully prepared to have to argue with the doctor about the screening, then to have to fight with insurance to get the referral pushed through. When the doctor agreed immediately, I was shocked. When he said that there was an available appointment the next morning if I was willing to drive the hour back out to do it, I was dumbfounded. Rather than waiting another month or more for an appointment, I jumped at the one for the next morning. I figured I should before I chickened out and put it off again, as I'd already done for months fearing what we'd be told.

The developmental pediatrician wanted to see all her assessments from the early-intervention team as that would give him a better picture of what all is going on with her. Those therapists see her weekly in our home so they get a pretty good picture, one a doctor who has never met her might not. I quickly called her coordinator to get her assessments, figuring at 4 p.m. there was no way we'd get them. Amazingly, her coordinator was there and sent them over via email immediately.

A and I decided that taking B along with us to the appointment would just be distracting from M2. Instead, he stayed home with B the next morning while I drove M2 the hour back to her developmental pediatrician appointment. I spend the most time with her and have been coordinating her care, so it just made the most sense for me to take her. At the appointment, the doctor got to see the full M2 as she was bouncing off the walls and doing many of the things we were concerned about. She did not sit still for 30 seconds the entire appointment.
I managed to answer all the doctor's questions while keeping M2 from running out of the place. We spent hours there going over everything. I wasn't sure if we'd get a diagnosis that day. I already knew from A's coworker going through the process with his son that if the doctor had any questions or doubts, there would need to be more appointments, possibly with additional specialists. The developmental pediatrician told me that he had seen enough, plus with her previous evaluations, that he was confident in making a diagnosis then.The moment he said, "diagnosis," I knew I wasn't going to like what he said next.

He said there was no question that she was autistic. As soon as I heard that, my stomach dropped and my heart broke. I started telling him things like, "But sometimes she's fine. This isn't all the time!" and, "But she does XYZ." Anything and everything I said, the doctor simply responded nicely with, "That just proves my diagnosis and that I'm right even more. That's exactly what autism is. There is no way you could be making all this up or have it wrong, it's too obvious."

I wanted to cry at that point. Mind you, I am not a crier at. all. Here my happy little girl is bouncing (literally) all over the room and off the walls, as a doctor tells me she is autistic. A diagnosis that changes her life and ours. Something that won't go away, can't be treated with a pill, and that she will struggle with her entire life.

I asked the doctor where he'd place her on the spectrum. He said that it wasn't too important, it was more important to get her set up with therapy and get her help, but that he'd place her as mild-moderate. As for B, he said he is at a higher risk but that I should already be seeing some signs. The signs B is showing us so far are ones that tipped us off to the fact that something is going on with M2. He's totally different from her so far. Things M2 did as a baby that we excused as being just her, something she'd grow out of (but didn't) or just her showing her independence were really red flags. There were so many that we didn't see until we saw how B is and until M2's behavior started making the autism too obvious to ignore. Still, especially after his head injury soon after birth, we worry that he will have special needs as well.

I spent the rest of the appointment trying not to cry in front of this doctor, and especially not in front of M2. How do you act after a doctor tells you that about your child? If I cried, I'd look hysterical and upset M2. If I acted like I didn't care, I'd seem like an inattentive, uncaring mother. If I acted happy, I'd seem like a nut job. No emotion seemed "right" and I had no idea what to say or do. I went with the "upbeat, we can handle this" attitude, even though I was wondering how in the world we'd make it through and how in the world M2 would over come it.

The doctor explained that we needed to get her set up with therapy and that he'd be sending an overview of his diagnosis. He went over why he'd made the diagnosis, pointing out things that I'd never even noticed or equated with autism. Or even any issue. I think if M2 had been the second child and I'd had more experience with what's "normal," I would have noticed more.
After the doctor ended the appointment, a nurse came in and offered to wheel M2 around the center in a wheelchair while I waited for her pediatrician to come in and talk to me. I so appreciated having a few minutes alone. Hearing that your child has autism is difficult. Very, very difficult. I know that it could be so much worse. But that doesn't take away the hurt of what she and we are going through and will go through. No parent wants to know their child is going to struggle. Right now, we don't even know how much. We don't know when or if she'll really start talking. Speech therapy isn't working. Her delay stems from the autism and so far no techniques are working. She also has sensory, behavior and other issues. We have no idea what is to come.

M2's pediatrician came in and told me that he agreed with the diagnosis. The nurse came back with M2, who was ecstatic that she got to go for a ride. She had absolutely no idea what had been going on or how much had just changed in the instant I'd been told she is autistic. Seeing her so happy and so unaware ripped my heart out even more. She has no idea what is to come in her life or that anything is even wrong. I guess in some ways, that's really a blessing that she doesn't know.

The ride home I called A and spent trying not to cry while driving. I'm happy to have a diagnosis and to know it's not all in my head. On the other hand, I'd really have liked to be told, "Lady, your nuts. Stop doing XYZ and your child will be perfectly fine. Just get your act together." Despite that, and despite the doctor telling me that there's no way I could be making stuff up (and that I did an amazing job handling her during the appointment, he was impressed how well I managed to do so), I still wonder if maybe I'd said or done something differently, he wouldn't have given that diagnosis. It's hard not to second guess everything and to wonder.
Since the diagnosis, I've gotten lots of comments and advice. Some downright upsetting, nasty and unsupportive from people from whom I actually expected the most support. Some way off base as the person simply doesn't understand autism or is a family member who also doesn't want her to struggle. Others very, very helpful. Our family and closest friends are offering the support they can. As you read here, one of M2's godmothers is on the spectrum herself. Her reply when being told of the diagnosis was, "Well, I guess she's really lucky to have me as god mom!" And she is. I know Lindsey is going to help her so much through her journey. None of her family or friends are treating her any differently. Family who initially questioned the diagnosis are on board and supporting her once I explained what was going on better. Her uncle asked me why we'd never told him what was going on sooner, when she was a baby, so he would have known and been able to maybe do something. I told him it was because we honestly didn't even realize it ourselves. I think deep down we wondered, but didn't want it to be true.

We still don't want it to be true. I still hope we'll find out in the future that the doctor was wrong. Daily, though, I see why he's right. I also remind myself often of the best, most supportive, and helpful thing I've been told since she was diagnosed as autistic. As soon as we found out, I told her therapists who'd been waiting to hear. One told me, "Remember, she's still the same awesome little girl who you love so much. Having the diagnosis doesn't change her at all. And it doesn't change how much you love her." And she's right. My little girl is freaking amazing.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

How to Keep Your Home Smelling Awesome

I love to keep the house smelling fresh and sweet. With all the kid mess and three cats, that can be a challenge. Lara Heck recently introduced me to all the awesome options Pink Zebra has to help me have the house smelling awesome.
Pink Zebra's signature product is sprinkles, which are wax melts. There are so many scents to choose from! Over 60, to be exact, in everything from cake batter and cherry blossom to rich teakwood, gentle rain and light my fire. Once you choose your favorites, you can mix them together to create your own personalized recipe and fragrance. The sprinkles are tiny so you can really get creative with your recipes.

To bring out your inner diva style, choose one of the numerous simmer pots, simmering lights or glimmer candles to melt your sprinkles. The simmering lights allow you to pick a shade which sets on a base with a bulb so you have a pretty light. A little bowl sits in the top to melt your sprinkles. With the simmer pots, you pick a cute pot to sit on a warming base. Glimmer candles let you have the fun of building your own candle with sprinkles and a wick. Adorable, classy, whimsical or homey -- there's a style for everyone. Reed diffusers, soaks (oils), lotions and soaps, along with holders for the lotions and soaps, round out the ways Pink Zebra helps you keep your home, and yourself, smelling sweet.
With all the options Pink Zebra offers, you can personalize the perfect gift set. Choose some sprinkles in scents your gift-ee would love (there are three different size containers) and a simmer pot, add in a lotion and soap along with a holder and you have a gift any anyone pre-teen on up would adore.

Lara set me up with a consultant's kit so I could test out the products and see how easy it is to get set up as a consultant. I'm seriously amazed at how much comes in a kit! It is big, too, in a nice carrying box. The kit includes boxes of sprinkles testers so you've got tons of scents to share, full size sprinkles jars and glimmer candles to demo how easy they are to make, simmer pots, a simmer light and shade, forms, catalogs, lotion, a reed diffuser -- everything you need to get yourself started as a consultant. Lara herself is extremely nice, helpful and easy to work with. I'm sure it'd be great to be on her team. If you'd like to become a consultant, visit her page and send her an email.
The products themselves are quality. I'm impressed with them. The shades and simmer pots are thick and well made. The sprinkles are so much fun. I've been melting the same sprinkle combination on and off for about four days now. It's still going and the aroma really fills the house! You can add in as many or as few of the sprinkles as you want. As for personalized recipes, let me just say one thing: amaretto cream coffee buzz. So, so good! It's like smelling a never-ending cup of awesome coffee.
All the scents smell fresh and real as well, rather than the fakey, overly sweet smells you sometimes find with these types of products. The diffuser is great for setting out of the way to add a pretty fragrance to the room. I like to stick them in the bathroom where you always need some extra fresh scent. The lotion smells great and goes on smoothly.
Pink Zebra sprinkles are something you can involve your kids in, too. Let them create their own recipes and pick the simmer light or shade they like best. Lara's daughter used the church shade and snowflake shade on a snow day last winter to create Elsa's castle. M2 loves all the fragrances and has fun going through and sniffing them all. She threw a fit when I finally made her put them away.
Pink Zebra sprinkles are made of Soft Soy which is renewable, sustainable and eco-friendly. That gives you a cleaner burning, more consistent candle with a 30 percent longer burn time and maximum fragrance. Pink Zebra using US-grown soy beans and makes their products in the United States as well. The Soft Soy is mixed with oils to give them 50 percent more fragrance than typical candles. How great is that? To top it off, all products are guaranteed. If you don't like it, Pink Zebra replaces it.

Lara is generously offering a $50 product credit to one The Stay-at-Home Life reader so she can try out all the awesome Pink Zebra products or get a kit to start out as a consultant. Enter below. The contest ends at midnight Monday, July 20, so enter soon! Find out more about Pink Zebra and order some of your own on Lara's Facebook page and website.

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This post is sponsored by Lara Heck at Pink Zebra.

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