Thursday, July 31, 2014:

Busy Activities for Busy Boys

 Recently a friend asked me for some ideas on how to keep her toddler engaged.  Before I knew it, I had written a short novel.  Sharing here in the event it can help you too!

Q: I'm always curious what other moms do to keep their little ones stimulated, entertained and engaged throughout the day. What is your secret, especially with two?

A: The dynamic is really different with two.  Outside of logistics and schedule coordinating, having one was harder for me.

1. Everything was new!  Phases would come and throw us for a loop and we'd think, "OMG, will it EVER end?!"  Now with two, when we go through the spill-the-dog-food phase, I think, "oh, right...I remember this with Liam.  Just a few weeks of putting the bowls up high so we don't spill the water...again!!"  It's kind of like running a second marathon- it's still hard, but I'm able to pace myself much better this time around.

2. I always felt like I needed to be engaging with Liam.  Even when he wasn't necessarily asking for my attention I felt like I should be next to him and actively playing.  And when he would "ask" me to play with him, I had a hard time saying, "no".  Now with two, if I was feeding Finn and Liam needed me, I felt like I had an "excuse" to say no and to sit and nurse Finn.

3. And now, at 14 months and almost three years, there are actually times when they want nothing to do with me and simply enjoy "playing" with each other.  So I can actually finish my coffee (sometimes), without sharing or hiding/losing it around the house!


Ok, so that doesn't answer your question, but I just wanted to tell you that being a mom to one is, in many ways, harder than having 2+ It's almost like a hazing ceremony- you just gotta make it through that first "test" ha!! (have you guys read that post- "to the mom with only one child" or something like that??  It's a really good read!).

So the secret to my survival is to spend as much time as possible out of the house.  I lived in an urban area so, with Liam I'd pack a lunch and a picnic blanket, throw Liam in the stroller, and go to the park or the playground and stay out until naptime.  I loved when he would fall asleep in his stroller on the way home.  I'd walk to a nearby cafe and eat lunch in peace!!

Now we bring lunch to the pool or, if I'm feeling adventurous, we might go out for lunch after gymnastics or a trip to the playground.

Even though they are little, it's so good to have at least one or two structured activities- Gymboree, music, etc.  It was also good for me bc it forced me to get out of the house and socialize even if I was exhausted!!

On the days we were stuck inside (or like now, when nap schedules conflict and I can't be out and my 14 month old just wants to explore...), I make sure all lower cabinets are locked aside from one or two and I'll sit him in front of the cabinet and let him pull out every piece of Tupperware we own.  Same thing in the bathroom- we don't have anything dangerous in the lower cabinets, so he will pull out cotton balls, q-tips, brushes, etc.  he makes a mess, but I get a shower!!

Another thing I do with Finn if I'm trying to get dinner done, I put random objects in a muffin tin (see photo attached).  He can easily spend 15 mins playing, "sorting", etc with the pieces.  This is also a really good way for me to enforce the "not in your mouth" command :). But for the most part he just likes to dump things out.

Things that I do with the kids-
  • Mega blocks
  • Puppets
  • Puzzles
  • Drawing ( they are still young but tape some butcher paper to the floor and give him some of those thick crayons- and draw with him too!  I would draw a town or a road and he'd "drive" a toy car through it).  I'd seriously have paper taped down throughout our house, but it was fun.
  • Books are always good
  • "Cook" dinner together- I'll usually give him a bowl and wooden spoon along with small blocks or tiny toys that he can "stir"
  • Recycling- this is one of his favorite things to do- we have a pile of boxes by the back door and he'll just dump out the boxes  (one time I had a metal can in there- ended with a really bad cut...bad mom moment! But milk cartons, plastic bottles, toilet paper roles...he loves it).
  • Tissue busy boxes- both boys LOVE(D) to pull out tissues.  It made me crazy!  But once I got over trying to keep things neat, I'd let them do it until they got bored of it, and then just stuff the tissues back in and use at diaper changes).
  • Empty tissue box busy boxes- we have a few empty boxes of tissues around the house with random toys- Finn loves to put items in and pull them out.  
  • Painting- I'll let Finn finger paint in his high chair.  I also experimented with filling ziplock bags with paint and taping to windows or floor.  Liam didn't love it, but I thought it was a great idea.  Another easy clean up is to let him finger paint in the bath tub. When Liam was still putting everything in his mouth, I let him "finger paint" with chocolate pudding in the bathtub....saw it on Pinterest...eh, not that cool.
  • A fun outdoor activity if he's good on his feet is to go for a "nature" walk- bring a ziplock and pick up leaves and rocks, pinecones.  
  • Water table- even before Finn was really walking, he could pull himself up and splash the toys around
  • I think the trick with boys is keeping them active.  I used to drive myself crazy trying to clean up activities or prevent the kids from climbing the furniture.  Sure, you want them to be safe but once I realized the benefits of "messy" play and climbing, I just kind of went with it and surrendered to the chaos that is now my "mom of two young boys" life.

So the top secret tricks to survival-

1. hire a babysitter for one morning (I have someone come Wednesdays, 8a-1p).  Get out of the house...alone. Or blockade yourself in your room :) I save all my non-kid friendly errands for this day (groceries, post office, etc) and I make it a point to do something for me- a massage, mani/pedi, etc).

2. Find real mom friends.  I know a lot of lovely women who can host a play date like nobody's business!  From adorable toddler-size lox spreads and homemade coffee cake pops.  Seriously, these women AMAZE me!  And I'm grateful that I can call them friends.  But what you really need is that neighbor you can call up and say "hey, I haven't washed my hair in six days, we are now using strictly paper plates because all the dishes are dirty, I have dried God-knows-what across the hardwood floors, but would you want to come over at 3 and stay until my husband gets home so that I don't lose...my...mind?"  The day goes by so much faster w a good mom friend!

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Thursday, July 24, 2014:

The Mother of All Baby Registries!


This is something I put together for my expecting girlfriends.  It made the rounds and I think many of the new-moms-to-be found it very helpful!  Hope it helps you, too!

Some items are good for the newborns.  Other items won't get used until they are a bit older (you know, like when it is impossible to just run out to the store to pick up something you need....so seriously, put it on the registry now).  And finally, some items might not work at all with this kid...but maybe the next one *shrug*.

This is tailored to summer babies as mine were born in June & August.

Oh, and WHAT is UP with this formatting...seriously, I have no idea, and I've run out of "nap time" to edit and fix.  Sorry!

Untraditional Items
Amazon Prime

  • Ok, so you can't technically buy this, but you should, 1,000%, subscribe to this service.  
    • MOM HACK: Download the app.  So at 4am, when a diaper has leaked and you are looking for an extra crib sheet only to realize that they are all (still) in the dirty laundry, you can order more.

Dust Buster 

  • Any hand vacuum will do.  This is perfect for mealtime clean ups and essential for car/car seat cleanliness (I am still amazed how easily an innocent ziploc of Cheerios can evolve into a pulverized mess of car seat dust).

Hand Sanitizer

  • I prefer the soap and water approach, but, even this day and age, there are some people who don't understand that you must wash hands before touching a newborn.   This is great when expecting guests.  It's also good to keep by the changing table since washing hands immediately after a diaper change isn't always an option.  Just make sure it is far enough from any exploring babies.

Acrylic Media Cover

  • I have heard so many stories about toddlers destroying high end media set ups.  This is essential if your TV/cable box is at toddler level.  Even if you think your TV is high enough and away from the toddler danger zone, still get one.   Toddlers like to throw things. A lot.  The cover in the link is perfect for your devices (cable boxes, etc) but you should purchase a larger version for your TV.

Pockets
  • Everything in your new mom wardrobe should have pockets.  Picture this: You finally got your little one to sleep.  She's dozing peacefully on your chest and you exhale into the hour half hour twenty minutes of calm.  After about seven minutes you realize that you are pinned down under the immense weight of your delicate baby- your cell phone is on the coffee table just out of reach and the remote control is on the other arm rest.  So while it's great that your baby is sleeping sweetly on your chest, you're left to sit there and spot the dust bunnies colonizing in the corners of your living room....which you can't do anything about because you have a baby...sleeping. on. your. chest.  And God help your husband if he calls you while the baby is sleeping and your phone is out of reach....you better hope it's on silent!  This recommendation is so "spot on" that it was featured on Mom.me

Ok, now here are the other essentials.  I won't make this part as long....

Coming Home for Baby

  • Cotton Pants & Long Sleeve Onsie (the car seat can get really warm and you don't want any straps rubbing against their new baby skin so avoid dresses or infant gowns)
  • Hat 


Coming Home for You 

  • Something very loose fitting and comfortable.  You are still going to look and feel about three months pregnant!

General
  • Diapers
  • Wipes 
    • MOM HACK: Baby wipes are perfect for cleaning anything from dirty baby bums to dirty microfiber/leather couches.  You can never have too many wipes and they should be positioned strategically throughout your home and car.  *Look for the resealable packaging- those travel well!
  • PLENTY of Aden and Anais swaddle blankets- perfect for our summer babies, I still keep some in my sons' stroller to help block the sun from their legs.  I will also drape these over the stroller if they fall asleep while out.  They are perfect for swaddling in those early months, too.  And they don't get too hot.  
  • 3x Sleep sacks- the ones with the velcro worked best- much easier than doing the traditional swaddle. 
  • Wearable blankets- This is for after the swaddle stage
  • Onsies- a lot of these.  Make sure you put some newborn, 3 month, and beyond on your registry, because they grow so fast and they wear so often 
    • MOM HACK: Keep some of these near your changing table if you aren't using a dresser changing table.  Also, keep a good amount on the sides of your Arms Reach Co-Sleepers or nearby bassinet's so you aren't constantly running back and forth to the nursery when a onsie gets soiled- like at 3am.   
  • Footie PJ's- My son lived in these for the first three six nine months of his life :)  Get PLENTY as we often went through three a day :) And socks during the first few months are a joke!  Good luck keeping those suckers on :) Nonetheless...
  • Socks- I guess it's good to have a few??
  • Baby monitor- I lived in a 2 br/2 bath condo, but I got the motorola video monitor.  I was a nervous FTM, but being able to turn it on and see my son safe and sound was a relief.  I think I would also imagine him crying while I was deliriously sleep deprived.  Rather than getting out of bed to check, I could just look at the monitor.  Also, if you ever travel to a home, it's good to have one.
  • Baby Gates- I really like the white "dream baby" gate. They also have a taller version for the top of your stairs.
  • Outlet covers
  • General babyproofing items- To be honest, I really only used the outlet covers, toilet bowl locks, heavy furniture tethers and lower cabinet magnetic things.
  • Pacifiers (because for about 30 seconds, my son used them...ugh)
  • Pacifier clip (because there is nothing more annoying than losing all six of your pacifiers)
  • Thermometer- good luck trying to take their temperature
  • Humidifier- this one is low maintenance 
  • Nasal Aspirator- We had the Nose Frida- it worked well, but I only really had to use it 2-3 times...
  • Teethers- quite frankly, neither of my children liked the frozen teething toys.  They preferred regular toys like baby keys, rings, etc.
  • Nail Clipper (and if you can clip their nails when they are awake, you win "Mom of the Year" award)
    • MOM HACK- keep nail clippers in the car so if/when your baby falls asleep while out and about, leaving you somewhat trapped in the car until after nap time, you can kill the time by clipping nails...and reading my blog.  I also keep a pair of nail clippers in the pocket (see untraditional items list) of my glider for when they fall asleep on me.
  • Boogie Wipes- I just love the smell of these.  
  • Wet wipes/hand wipes- we have some kind of organic wipes that smell yummy.  I keep a few throughout the diaper bag, my purse, etc.  J&J just came out with these as well.  You won't likely use them for a few months, but worth having "in stock". 
  • Laundry Detergent
    • MOM HACK- I have nothing against popular infant brands.  But I always found the smell to be really strong and wondered if I should be washing all of our clothes in that detergent too?  Instead of breaking the bank by washing the household's laundry in expensive infant brand detergents, I used Tide Free & Clear and washed all of our laundry in that for the first 6 months or so.  
  • Bibs (I am adding because it is a staple, but neither of my kids would tolerate)
  • Burp Cloths (x 1,000).  
    • MOM HACK: I had these on every arm rest in our home, layered on our glider, and stored in areas throughout the house.
  • Bottles/Nipples (I like the dr. browns), if you get a standard size, the bottles actually connect to the breast pump (not important if you don't plan on breastfeeding, but definitely helpful if you plan to- saves you a few steps :)
  • Insulated Bottle tote (we actually got the munchkin bottle holder and still use it now for snacks and drinks if we are going to be out for awhile.  It's like a mini cooler and has two removable ice packs) 
  • Bottle Brush/Nipple brush (if you buy a set of bottles, they usually have these included)
  • Bottle (and accessory) drying wrack
  • Dishwasher Caddy (Dr. Browns has one that coordinates with all of the parts) but after awhile, I just throw the parts in the utensil area.
  • Breast Pump and Accessories- splurge on this!  Nursing can be a challenge so "GO YOU!!" if you are planning on it!  Don't set yourself up for additional struggles.  Go with the best pump that you can buy.  I prefer Medela when it comes to pumping but for...
  • Breast milk storage bags- I liked the Lansinoh bags because they were bigger.  The Medela ones connect to the pump which can be convenient, but the Lansinoh worked better for me... personal preference, I guess. )
    • Something to note: I've been hearing really great things about upcoming Naia Brand pumps.  Keep an eye out for pumps you can fit into your favorite handbag!!
  • Nursing Bra/Nursing Tops - Verdict is still out as to whether you put nursing bras and tops on your registry.  Regardless, these are hands down the best.
  • Nursing Stool- if you get a glider (you should), the nursing stool makes it even more comfortable.  
  • Spoons, bowls, sippy cups, straw cups (nuk sippys are good and they are the only ones that don't leak...a lot.  For straw cups,  I like the "Born Free" brand
  • Infant bathtub...Puj, hands down.   
  • Tub toys and storage (we have the frog thing)- it becomes more important as they get older
  • Kneeling cushion- I still use this when giving L baths...saves your knees!
  • towels and washcloths- Sure, why not...
  • Baby Shampoo/wash (put a bunch on your registry)- Go ahead and splurge on the fancy stuff- I love California Baby.  But you should also get the industrial-size tub of J&J brand because you will use a lot of this as they get older (and you become less concerned about sensitive skin).
  • Baby lotion
  • Brush/Comb
  • Diaper Bag and "portable" diaper bag.  I like Skip Hop as a brand.
  • Diaper Pail- we use the munchkin diaper pail and I like it.  Bottom line, once they reach a certain age, just throw the dirty (poop) diapers in a grocery bag and out with the trash (eventually, there is no way to hide the smell of a dirty diaper in those suckers). 
  • Diaper cream- I really like the blue Desitin.  It has that "baby smell" in my opinion :) I also use a lot of aquaphor
    • MOM HACK: For moms of boys, using a little bit of aquaphor or vaseline can help you "position" your "little man" so that leaks are less frequent (ok, I am blushing as I write this but at the risk of being unclear...put a dab on their scrotum and "stick" their man parts to it- this way urine will go where it's supposed to go, as opposed to out the sides!).
  • Hangers
  • Crib, Crib Mattress, mattress pad and sheets- Boppy has adorable patterns.  And just incase you haven't reached the chapter on bedding, bumpers are not recommended.  
  • Changing Table, Changing Pad and at least 2 changing pad covers.  You know what, go ahead and add a third for good luck.
  • Changing pad cover...covers?  These- they will save you so much laundry during the first few weeks when babies generally prefer to pee outside of their diapers.  Also, note my comments below regarding what to take with you from the hospital.
  • Pack N Play (you might even consider getting 2 and leaving one at local g'parents home)
  • High Chair
  • Bouncer seat (the little vibrating chair thingy)
  • Baby Swing (honestly, a MUST HAVE for my kids...it was the only way I could get things done around the house if they were fussy).
  • Exersaucer
  • Jumper
  • Activity mat
  • Interlocking tiles or foam floor mat.  I recommend the mat over the tiles- the tiles are a PAIN to clean and if you spill something on them, you have to make sure to get under the mat to reach anything that leaked through.  They also ALWAYS look dirty. This time around, we are getting this.  A neighbor of ours had it, and it's perfect for tummy time and playtime.
  • JJ Cole outdoor blanket (it's waterproof and great for outdoor playdates/beach- although, I am sure a regular blanket is fine too!)
  • Random toys (crinkle toys are fun, just get a bunch of random sh*t and you should be good :)
    • MOM HACK: Make sure some toys can attach to the stroller- these straps are great!
  • Soft books, books
  • Batteries...just load up on these suckers
  • Bucket Seat (we have the Graco snug ride.  My first hated it, but I guess it's one of the tough lessons in life...safety first)
  • Base for the car (maybe two bases if you have two cars)
  • Car seat adapter- our Graco would clip into our Uppa Baby and it was really all I used for the first few months if I wasn't using the basinet.
  • Snap and go Stroller- I got this as a hand me down from my sister.  I loved my Uppa Baby so much that I didn't want to use the snap and go, but it really is SO MUCH EASIER if you are using your car to run errands
  • Car seat for when they are older- we have the Britax Round About- it is good and not enormous like some of them, so it works in our cars, especially if you have a tall passenger who needs leg room.  One thing I wish it had, cup holders.  I can't tell you the number of times I am blindly reaching back for a drink that's been dropped.
  • Car mirror (so you can see them while rear facing which they technically should be doing for 2 years.
  • Stroller- I love, love, love our Uppa Baby vista.  Now that we are in the Burbs, it is getting less use, but I just bought the Uppa Baby umbrella stroller.  The Vista is good, but definitely NOT a fold and throw in the car kind of stroller.  It's more for everyday walking use and in our old urban neighborhood, it got a lot of action.  You can also fit up to three kids on this sucker!!
  • Accessories- which ever stroller you choose should have it's own accessory list- I recommend getting a cup holder, a winter bunting thingy for baby, rain/wind cover, mommy hook.  Make sure you get the accessories that match your stroller- it just makes it so much easier (and looks better...which is super important).
  • And I LOVE LOVE LOVE my teutonia hand muff.  Neighbors made fun of me for getting it, but in the dead of winter when they were struggling to get their gloves off to adjust something for their kid, it was great!
  • Baby Carrier- we had the mesh bjorn and, if you are feeling crunchy, I loved our adjustable sling (I think it's called a Hava Sling).  The adjustable one felt more secure to me and I could keep my son really high up (like close enough to kiss the top of his head).  This was a life saver when he just wanted to be held or if I was going out for a walk with the dogs.  I've also heard great things about the ergo baby, but never got one. If you go with the Bjorn, also get this for the colder months.
  • Baby food processor- Beaba- so a friend got this for me and I thought for sure it was a waste.  But our pediatrician recommended feeding my kids whatever we were eating, just steamed and pureed and I used this so much more than I ever would have thought. 

Hospital Bag:

  • Robe
  • Warm socks/slippers
  • Nursing tops
  • Toiletries 


The truth: I wore the hospital gown the entire time.  Things can be, er, messy, and I preferred not to ruin my clothes :)   Instead of packing a bunch of stuff from home, leave as much room in your hospital bag as possible to "borrow" stuff from the hospital.  Take everything but the bed, seriously.  I think I asked for more disposable underwear, pads, baby onsies, baby blankets (remember you might want one for a memory box!), vaseline, disposable waterproof bed liners (great for changing tables!), waterproof mats (at my hospital they had these on the beds, I took two and kept them on my bed for the first two weeks...again, it can be messy :)  
MOM HACK: Save the washable waterproof mats for "air time" (I would lay this over the activity mat and let the boys do some "diaper free" time) and they are great for nighttime potty training, too!

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Monday, July 21, 2014:

I am grateful!!

Ive spent a lot of time today thinking about what I don't have...

1. A career 
2. Balance
3. A life (no, really...)
4. Independence
5. An income
6. Napping children (perhaps if I had this I wouldn't keep thinking about #1-4 and I could just shut up already and watch Ellen!).

I'm not feeling sorry for myself.  These are just objective things that I tend to dwell on when I'm having an "eh" mom day.

The truth is, I have it all.  I honestly have everything I could have ever hoped for.  A great husband that makes me laugh everyday.  Two healthy and adorable (while sometimes unmanageable) boys.  A beautiful home.  Financial security.  And the list goes on.

I feel greedy when I want more.  I feel like I should be content but as I become more and more aware of the whole "YOLO" concept, I become more and more passionate (er, obsessed) with trying to amplify this amazing life I have.

Shouldn't we all think like this?  Shouldn't we all be setting new goals?

My husband is so supportive but sometimes when I'm in an "achievement frenzy", he makes me pause and reminds me of how good we have it.

And I stop. I agree. I am grateful.  I'll make myself some tea. I'll sit down and relax.... 

 And after a half hour goes by, I'll casually duck out to my office to send a few emails and materials because hey, I have the cake, but this girl wants to eat it too!







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Monday, July 14, 2014:

Summer is officially in full swing!  I'm actively weaning my son and SO ready for a good old fashion summer skin facial!  Here's my plan!

1. Topical Resurfacing Treatment- despite our best winter moisturization efforts and the layering of the sunscreen by the pool, the top layer of my skin could probably use some polishing up!  My "go to" is PCA's TCA Peels.  This is a professional treatment so you need to go to a certified esthetician, but it is so worth it.  The smell is strong and the tingly sensation toes the line between itchy and "ok, yeah, that burns" (but in the "hurts so good" kind of way).  NB: make sure you follow your estheticians post-treatment product recommendations like the apr├Ęs peel and Gentle Exfoliant to get the most bang for your buck.

2.  Another option I like is microdermabrasion.  This is a manual resurfacing treatment that should also be done by a professional.  It uses tiny sand particles to slough away dead skin.  The treatment essentially combines sand blasting and a vacuum that sucks away the sand and your dull winter skin!

3.  Hydrate!  I am still obsessing over Obagi's Hydrate.

4. Protect! Use sunscreen (obviously!).


A version of this post originally appeared on April 2014
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Friday, July 11, 2014:

Golf Day!

My husband took the day off.  I arranged for the babysitter.  And now we are minutes from tee time!

I'm not a big golfer but my husband would choose to golf everyday of his life if he could!  Since I know how much he enjoys this sport, I figure if I want to spend anytime with him on the weekends, I better learn how to play!  And what a better way to spend a morning- outside in the sun and fresh air, getting plenty of exercise!

So I'm loading (and layering) on the SPF and hitting the links!
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014:

Never too young to teach good skin care habits!

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Thursday, July 3, 2014:

Happy Mom Day!

It's Thursday....which means it's "mom" day.  As in, "mom's getting a massage" day!

As mothers we run ourselves ragged.  An essential step in any beauty regime is to take time for yourself.  Relax. Decompress. Enjoy!!
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014:

Stay at home baby struggles

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