Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Top 15 Items for New Parents

Having two kids in two years, a boy and a girl, I've learned what items are
important to have during the first year. These are items that I use, LOVE, and simply couldn't do without as a mom.

1. KinderGlo portable nightlight
These are awesome. You can get different animals and shapes (elephant, dragon, bear, moon, owl, hippo, T-rex, brontosaurus, and angel) that change colors. It's not too bright or too dim, either. The light-up part comes off the charger base so you can move it around the room at night when changing diapers or doing checks. Or, your child can sleep with it closer to the bed when needed. 

2. American Baby mattress cover
The best mattress cover I've found, and I've tried a bunch. It's plush and soft without being too thick, keeps the bed a bit warmer in winter without being hot in summer, is organic, and holds up well. It actually fits over the mattress to cover the whole thing without having that annoying edge where it's the sides rather than the top covering. I recommend line drying, if you can.

3. Davinci Kalani crib
We've had one of these for each kid, plus my sister has one for her two. It's sturdy, look nice, and don't break the bank. Even better, it converts to a toddler bed, day bed, then full-size bed. M2 has jumped up and down on hers endlessly and it still stands without issue.

4. Emily mattress by Davinci
The mattress works perfectly with the Davinci cribs. Without being too pricey, it's good quality with an infant and toddler side.

5. Graco changing table
I know some people say to skip the changing table, but I love it. It's so much easier than bending over a bed or crib, plus it offers extra storage. When B is older, we're going to turn his into a bookcase. The Graco ones are stylish, sturdy, and affordable.

6. Playtex ventaire bottles-- 6 oz. and 9 oz.
I'm not a fan of the glass bottles that are heavy, hard to transport, expensive, and could break. We've used these for both kids, as have a number of family members. The new design has made them even better. Just be sure to hand wash (as you should with all baby items anyway). B has reflux and these bottles work great for him. You can even get a starter gift set.

7. Graco swing and bouncer
The three-in-one swings are AMAZING. Since it plugs in, you don't have to worry about going through tons of batteries. It can be used as a swing, swing and vibrating seat, vibrating/bouncy seat, or just bouncy seat. Really, a four-in-one. M2 and B both have loved it. We've had the same one for both.

8. Graco travel system
I love, love, love our travel system. We got it for M2 and are now using it for B. For me, it's easiest to be able to take the car seat in and out, rather than baby when they're so little. Being able to snap it right into the stroller comes in handy, too. You can also get just the car seat or just a stroller. Graco strollers I found to be the sturdiest, easiest to put up and collapse, easiest to maneuver, and best bang for your buck. Even at 8 months pregnant, I could still easily fold and pick it up. We're using M2's for B now and it still looks brand new.

9. Britax Boulevard convertible car seat
This seat is consistently rated as one of the safest out there. It fits easily in our sedans. M2 finds it really comfy. You can use it for infant all the way up to front facing. If you don't want to have to get an infant seat then convertible, you can just get this one from the start.

10. ERGO baby carrier
I love, love, love our ERGO. It's easy to put on, doesn't hurt by back or shoulders at all, feels supported, and supports baby ergonomically.

11. Medela Lanolin
Lanolin is a must for breast feeding. It's also great for diaper rashes since it's gentle and natural. The Medela brand is my favorite as it's not overly thick and hard to use like many other kinds. It's nice and smooth, ready to use.

12. Huggies Little Snugglers, Pampers Swaddlers, Pampers Baby Dry or Luvs diapers
These are the best diapers for babies. I like the Huggies and Pampers ones equally for wee babies and go by which is cheaper. When baby is crawling, I go for Luvs or Pampers Baby Dry over the others. The Baby Dry ones can take you from newborn to walking. They're equally soft, absorbent, and even have cute characters on them. The wetness indicator lines come in handy with small babies. Start out with some size newborn and some size 1. Amazon subscribe and save combined with Amazon Mom saves you even more on these brands. Check for coupons on the listings as well, there's often the option to clip and save. I have yet to find cheaper in store, even with coupons.

13. Huggies Wipes
So many wipes rip, aren't big enough, wet enough, or thick enough. Huggies are great and you can get them for even cheaper than some store brands when you use Amazon Mom.

14. Baby Oil
Baby oil is perfect for getting the icky cradle cap off of baby. Put some on during bath time, comb over it repeatedly and gently until it comes off, then wash baby's hair twice to get the oil out.

15. Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
We have two of these, one for each kid. Whenever the kids get a cold or cough, the humidifier gets pulled out and put to use. The Crane ones are adorable and fun. They hold enough to run all night, even on high, doesn't leak, has a good out put, isn't huge, and is easy to clean. There are lots of cute ones to pick from -- elephant, tiger, penguin, owl, frog, cow, pig, monkey, duck, panda, Hello Kitty, dragon, hippo, and dog.

Don't forget
Amazon offers a baby registry where you can add items from any store online. It helps keep everything together on one list rather than having to have so many different ones to keep track of (and your gift givers to get confused by). Amazon even offers a completion discount of 10 percent, 15 percent if you have Prime.

Sign up for Amazon Mom for lots of monthly savings on diapers and wipes. Get a free 30 day trial.

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Remembering the Fallen on Memorial Day

So often, people forget what today is about. It's become a day where people get a day off work (if they're lucky), have barbecues, enjoy the pool, take advantage of sales, and look at the day as the start of summer. We hear, "Happy Memorial Day," and see lists on Facebook of people thanking veterans they know.

None of that is really what today is about. It's not the start of summer (that's almost a month away on June 21). It's not a day that is happy. It's not a day for all veterans (that's Veteran's Day).

Memorial Day is about those who died in battle serving and fighting for our country. It's a day in their memory. We stop to remember and honor these brave men and women and recognize their sacrifice. It's a day to reflect and make sure those people are never forgotten.

As you enjoy your time with family, watch parades, having yummy food straight from the grill, sending off beautiful fireworks into the night sky, and diving into a crisp, blue pool, or whatever you may be doing, take a few moments to stop. Think about what the day is truly about.

To all those who have died in battle, we thank you and we remember.

Monday, May 18, 2015

You'll Never Know

Standing at the counter, giving my daughter the last of the milk, poured out of
my own glass because that's all that's left in the house and she MUST have some, I realized something. There are so many little things, like this simple milk sacrifice, that she'll never really know about. So many things I gave up or did, just for her. Just because I love her.

No child knows, or ever fully understands, all their mom does or went through for them. Though, we moms really wish they would. Maybe they'll get it when they're older. Maybe. It's all stuff moms hold inside, memories an feelings that make us the moms we are.

You'll never know how much I wanted you and how afraid I was that you'd never come. How much I struggled monthly when, again, no matter how hard we tried, there was no positive pregnancy test.

You'll never know how stunned I was when the pregnancy test FINALLY was positive. Or how shocked I was with your brother because we weren't even trying, yet there it was, even though I'd been sick as hell the last time I ovulated. The doctor was amazed, too. Your brother seriously wanted to be born. You'll never know that despite being shocked and stunned, I also had already known I was pregnant the moment it happened. I just couldn't believe that in 9 months, there would be you.

You'll never know how scared I was when, at 28 weeks pregnant, the doctor said
you probably had hydrops. Or how relieved I was when the specialist told me, "WTF was the radiologist looking at?! That's skin! You're supposed to have skin! Were they looking at the chubby cheeks? Gee, it can't be normal at all for babies to have chubby cheeks, can it? The radiologists your doctor works with are always messing shit up, freaking people out, then sending them to me for no good reason!"

You'll never know how certain I was about having a girl first then a boy. Long before you even existed, mind you. Call me nuts, but I was right, down to the month you'd both be born.

You'll never know how much that 41 hour induced labor hurt. Seriously, at 37 hours in I was begging the doctor to make it stop after the failed epidural that made it worse. Every single time I pushed, I asked her how many more until it was over. You took your sweet time and wanted it your way, that's for sure. That hasn't changed.

You'll never know how special your name truly is. Or how wonderful the women you were named after were as they died long before you were even born. I'll tell you the stories someday, when you're older, but it won't do them justice. They were amazing, just like you.

You'll never know how much your father and I argued about what name to give you. Your father seriously came up with some "creative" names. I still hope to this day that he wasn't really serious about some of the ones he suggested. He had to have been screwing with me.

You'll never know how much our lives truly changed completely after you were born. From job, less money, and where we lived, to giving up time out alone (what's date night?!), having "special adult time" often, and parting with lazy days in bed, nothing is the same. I changed every aspect of my life for you. And I'd do it again.

You'll never know how I worry about every. little. thing. because I want you to be happy, healthy, and live a long life filled with love.

You'll never know how much your father and I fight because we both want what's best for you. We just sometimes can't agree on how to do that.

You'll never know how absolutely insane you make me sometimes. Seriously, some days I just want to take a month-long vacation. Alone. Far away. Before I rip out all my hair, scream so loud the neighbors think I'm going totally freaking insane, or start speaking parseltounge like Harry Potter. Only, I wouldn't be speaking snake, I'd be spouting gibberish because of the insanity spell you so rudely cast upon me.

You'll never know how I gave you the last slice of cake just because you asked so cutely. I really wanted that cake, too. That cake took me 3 hours to bake from scratch and I love cake. I wouldn't have given it up for anyone else.

You'll never know how much I worry about being a good enough mom or how often I wonder if maybe I really am not all you deserve.

You'll never know how crappy I felt every night we have a bad day. Yes, you were being a total terror, breaking everything, absolutely out of control, but I still feel bad for having yelled.

You'll never know how much I sometimes just don't want to be touched, hung on, climbed on, jabbed, poked, prodded and just want to be alone. Yet, I miss you when you're not around and having you to hug and cuddle is absolutely amazing.

You'll never know how guilty I feel getting new clothes, even when I really need them because my old ones are falling apart or don't fit (yay, weight loss). Why the guilt? Because I feel like I'm taking something away from you by spending on me.​

You'll never know how much I long to hear you say, "I love you."

You'll never know how you make life worth living. The years before you were really just time spent waiting for you. Without you, life would feel empty.​

You'll never know how much you are worth all of this. And more. You'll always be my baby.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Using Glass Roller Bottles for Essential Oils

Essential oils have many uses for many things. I love using the oils for aromatherapy by diffusing and by wear them. One of the downsides to wearing the oils is how messy they can get trying to put them on. I've found that glass roller bottles can make it so much easier (and neater) to do. M2 even loves the bottles.

The latest bottles I've been using are the elegant frosted glass roller bottles by 2pm Essentials (I got to try them at no cost in exchange for this review). The oils I used for the review are this fractionated coconut oil as the carrier oil and this pure lavender oil. The scent seems to help calm her down a bit at night and now I can actually get it on her without a big mess using the roller bottles. She actually asks to put it on! Since they come in a two pack, the next oil mixture I'm going to make is this peppermint oil mixed with the lavender and fractionated coconut oil. Check out the video below for my review of the bottles.

Affiliate links are included in this post. You can find the disclosure and policy here. I received this product at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Your experiences may differ. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

N is for Nest Craft

Rainy days can be difficult for little ones who enjoy nice weather and feel cooped up inside. I am joining 25 other bloggers in the A-Z of Rainy Day Activities  blog hop to give you great ideas of what to do with your kids when the weather is bad. Today, I bring you the letter N.

Lately, M2 has been fascinated with birds. We live in the country, so see lots of birds. She points and says, "brr," whenever a bird flies by her view. We even have two bird nests in the yard right now, one which just hatched. Visiting the baby birds before our daily walks is a must.

When rainy days took over last week, her new obsession gave the the idea to do a nest craft with her. We made a tree, a bird, and a nest for the bird to live in. M2 had lots of fun and is so proud of her craft work. She just had to show it off to her uncles who came to visit.

The craft is also an opening to teach your kids about birds and nests. While we crafted, I told M2 about birds and how they make nests out of pieces of things they find. We have a few bird nests in our yard now, so I told her how the birdies have eggs in the nests, which hatch into baby birdies. You can get more detailed and go more in-depth depending on the age of your child.

School glue
1 piece blue felt (you can get packs or single pieces at the store)
1 piece brown felt
1 piece green foam (you can get packs or single pieces at the store)
Googly eye
Foam stickers of flowers, birds, butterflies--whatever you'd like to include
Medium brown, light brown, and multi-color yarn

Moms can do this part, unless you have older kids who are able to do these steps
Cut yarn into small pieces, roughly 1/2 to 1 inch long
Cut foam into the shape of the top of a tree
Cut blue felt into shape of a bird
Cut brown felt into a nest shape
Cut remaining brown felt into a tree trunk shape

The kids take over here
Glue googly eye and feathers onto the bird
Glue yarn pieces onto the nest
Stick on the stickers where ever
Glue the top of the tree to the trunk
Glue the nest onto the space at the bottom of the tree top and top of the trunk
Glue bird onto the nest

Next up on the blog hop is an obstacle course from Cutting Tiny Bites.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sparkling Cranberry Iced Cake Cocktail

Every now and then, I treat myself to a cocktail. I'm one of those people who likes trying new ones I mix together myself. My latest concoction I made using our SodaStream, iced cake vodka mixed in my Kitchen Classique solid copper mule mug to keep it cool and classy. It's my take on a cosmo. I think the bubbles and the iced cake vodka make it even better.

Sparkling Cranberry Ice Cake Cocktail
1/2 liter Ocean Spray cranberry syrup flavored SodaStream (or sparkling cranberry juice of your choice)
1 shot iced cake vodka (Smirnoff is my top pick)

Make the sparkling juice in the SodaStream
Pour sparkling cranberry juice into a shaker along with one shot of iced cake vodka
Pour into your Kitchen Classique mule mug

Fair warning, your hubby may not enjoy this drink. A tried it but felt it's too sweet and girly for him. I loved it! It's now going to be one of my go-to cocktails.

I like making this cocktail in the Kitchen Classique mule mug because it just makes it more fun. It's a hammered copper mug, which looks really neat. I found the copper even helps to keep the drink cooler, rather than warming it up and turning it gross fast. Always a plus for me as I drink my cocktails slow since I only have about one a month (if that!) The mug also works great for non-alcoholic drinks, like iced tea (one of my favs).

Affiliate links are included in this post. You can find the disclosure and policy here. I received the mug at no charge in exchange for this post.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wherein I Face the Reality of a Special Needs Child

I've been struggling with this post for a few weeks. I think I'm finally ready to finish and publish it. It's only the first article of many as my family starts this journey.

For awhile now, I've avoided saying it. If you don't say it, it's not true, right? The chance that everything will turn around and change still hangs in the ether. As soon as the words are out, it's like a big boulder comes crashing down in the doorway, making it final. Blocking the escape from the truth. At this point, I can't hide from the truth any more. I need to face the reality.

M2 is a special needs child.

It's nothing to be ashamed of at all, yet it is still difficult to admit. As her mom, I don't want her to have to go through this struggle. I've had to fight through so many things in my life (that's a whole other story), I don't want her to have to as well. I also feel guilty saying it, because I know there are so many kids -- and their parents -- who suffer and struggle even more. Even so, it's the truth that she is special needs.

I'm not calling her special needs for her severe speech delay (at 2.5, she's at a 15-month level and hasn't improved at all since starting therapy in Novemeber). Maybe that qualifies, maybe not. I don't know. It's much more than that.

For the past few months, her behavior has gotten out of hand. Really, that's putting it mildly. She's a ticking time bomb. You never know when or if she's going to go off or even WHY she will. Forget trying to put the pieces back together once she does. You're on damage control at that point. When she's good, she's really good, more well-behaved than a toddler usually is. But when she's having trouble, she's like a mini screaming, destroying, tornado taking all out in her wake. There are also some behaviors that are downright dangerous. I'll go into more details in another post, this one is just meant to be an intro.

At first, we thought it was because of the new baby that M2 had gone from a sweet, normal, pretty well behaved kid to being very difficult. Everything spiralled out of control quickly, with no warning.Getting used to B would make it all go away, right? Wrong. She loves B. Absolutely ADORES him. She's not having issues with having a new baby in the house.

Her speech therapist started noticing the behavior and seemed relieved when I brought it up myself about two months ago. We got her evaluated with an early intervention team who determined that she has sensory processing disorder, known as SPD. There may be more, but we need to see more specialists to determine that.

M2 now gets occupational therapy, but so far nothing is working. It tends to be that things don't work at all, or work once and not again. She has a mix of hypo- and hyper-sensitivity, both seeking and avoiding stimulation depending on many factors. There are no patterns or triggers that we've figured out so far. One time, she may try to avoid something -- like loud noises -- another she may run toward it. The fact that she is SO smart makes things more difficult as well.

One of the reasons (beyond hoping it'd go away) I haven't talked about M2's issues and being special needs, other than speech, is because there is so much stigma and misunderstanding around special needs still. Many barriers and walls need to be broken down still in our society. People need to be educated and need to learn to be more accepting of those who go against the grain of what is "normal." I'm hoping sharing our story helps with this.

Another reason for the silence is that most people just don't seem to get it. So many seem to think it's just normal toddler behavior because they aren't around her all the time to see it or don't understand what is or isn't normal. It's not just a two year old being a two year old. Yes, she was fine when you saw her -- that was a good day. What you didn't see was the hell we faced for the two weeks after that.

Others just don't know what to say, or say they went through it with their kids at this age. No, it's not like that. This isn't normal behavior. I would LOVE to just be going through what you did. Some say that maybe I just don't get how a toddler should behave or can't handle it. Um, EXCUSE ME? Obviously, from your statement, YOU don't know how a toddler should behave and trust me, you wouldn't handle it any better than I am.

Even parents of kids who are special needs don't always get it and question me endlessly, challenging me on what we've been told by the pros, seeming to think they know more about the professionals about diagnosis and her issues. Um, no, you don't. Or, they think that people use the label of special needs just to be "cool" or something. You should know, having a special needs kid isn't cool or fun. It's a struggle every day. I've even had some tell me M2 can't possibly have SPD, it has to be something else because her symptoms aren't the same as their kid's. Uh, hello, every kid is different and M2 isn't the norm of being a seeker OR an avoider. She is both.

Don't get me wrong, we've gotten lots of support as well. I have a wonderful group of fellow stay-at-home moms (my mama tribe) who have given me so much advice and support. They are amazing ladies. Some are dealing with similar themselves so know what it's like. Even those that haven't/aren't going through it offer words of comfort and do their best to help how they can. Family members and other friends have reached out as well. Each does what they can to listen and try to make it easier.

Getting M2 the help she needs and getting us the support we need to help her learn to cope is going to be a long, confusing, difficult road. Just in the past month or so since finding out about the SPD, I've been overwhelmed and have learned there's so much more to it, and to getting her help, than I ever thought. It shouldn't be this difficult or take so dang long to get your child help, nor should you go broke to do so. The system needs an overhaul.

I have so much more I could say. Over time, I will. By sharing our journey, I'm hoping that someone else will feel they're not alone in their struggle. If you're a mom of a special needs kid, I would love to hear your story/advice/suggestions. If you're new to this special needs world like I am, maybe we can help each other through it.

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