Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Listmania: How to Survive Two Kids - Life with a Newborn and a Toddler

When I was pregnant with my second child, I spent a lot of time trying to wrap my head around the logistics of parenting two children at two very different stages of life. It's amazing how much a couple years between kids can mean a world of variation in needs, schedules, meals, preferences, abilities...the list goes on and on. I searched the internet trying to find advice from moms who had been there, but found there really was a shortage of practical information that I could put to use. I am starting this post 7 months into my life with two kids, and though I'm sure it is different for everyone, I think I have a perspective that can hopefully help others out there who are wondering how the heck they will get through this part of parenting. Maybe this will help...

Surviving Two Kids - Life with a Newborn and a Toddler

  1. If you still have time before your second child arrives, do some preparation. I'm not talking about setting up the crib - I'm talking about sanity preparation. Start talking to your toddler about the new baby, and include terms like, "patience" and "fragile". 
  2. Get your hands on as many big sibling books that you can find - we found "I'm a Big Sister" (brother version also available), as well as "Waiting For Baby" and "You and Me". These all show what life with a new baby will be like and should help immensely once the baby comes home.
  3. Start stockpiling quiet toys that can be kept in special bins throughout your house. These can be used by your toddler during baby naptimes, nursing sessions, or when Mom just needs 15 minutes of silence (or almost silence anyway). Include items like books to read, crayons and coloring books, or quiet books (here's my version). To make the boxes even more exciting, only let your toddler use them when you need the quiet time.
  4. Keep emergency items all over the place. I have a gallon-size ziploc in my car, my husband's car, and in my way-too-big-to-be-trendy purse. In these bags I have a will-not-be-missed change of clothes for each kid, a diaper for each kid, wipes, a disposable changing pad and a disposable diaper trash bag. At this point I do still use a diaper bag, but it stays in the car and I just pull things from it when I need too.
  5. I always keep the following in my purse: A toddler-applicable snack. Stickers and crayons. An old (hopefully charged) smartphone loaded with whatever is the latest and greatest area of interest. I promise you will get caught somewhere, or need to buy some extra toddler happiness when the baby needs attention while you are running errands. A box of raisins always makes my older daughter happy when I need an extra 20 minutes to get everyone through a doctor appointment.
  6. Solicit your toddler for help with the baby. This has been huge for us, and Bugga loves to feel important. Even at 2.5 she is able to bring me things like a baby blanket, a clean outfit for the baby, etc. if I just ask her. 
  7. Grocery shopping with one kid was a breeze compared to two. In case you didn't learn this the first time around, your baby's car seat DOES NOT go on top of the shopping cart. Ever. And unless you are at Costco, the car seat will likely not fit inside the cart either, especially if you plan on actually shopping for anything, and definitely if your toddler is sitting in the kid seat. This is where the sling/baby carrier serves its purpose. Oh, and don't forget to park right next to the cart return.
  8. Speaking of the baby carrier...that thing will come in handy a lot. I wore it all over the house. So did my husband, as for awhile that was the only place Bella would nap. (We do not miss those days AT. ALL.) I also wore it a lot outside of the house - besides shopping, it allowed me to still keep Bugga enrolled in her gymnastics class. She isn't quite old enough for a non-parented class, but I can't have the baby in the infant seat while Bugga is in class. But the sling was no big deal. And Bugga really needs that gymnastics class for a myriad of reasons, so I am so glad I did not have to suspend that from our schedule.
  9. If your toddler doesn't use a sound machine, I would consider it at this point. My kids both have sound machines which are priceless tools when both at home and traveling. And now that you will have a new baby potentially screaming at all hours, a sound machine can muffle that sound so at least SOMEONE in your house can get some sleep.
  10. Know that this chaotic mess of a life will not last forever. There will be tears of happiness and frustration several times over as you learn to adjust to everything. That first year of your child's life is HARD on a mom. And add a second (or third, or fourth) kid to it, and everything escalates. But your family will evolve into something that works for everyone.
*Note: For some reason I wrote this post and never published it, and I just found it now that my second child is 14 months old. I am happy to say we survived the first year (as you will) and things are definitely easier nowadays that we all know each other much better and have adjusted to life outside the womb. Hang in there!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Easy Non Candy Preschool DIY Valentines

Bugga is having her preschool Valentine's Day Party later this week. Part of me was all,"This is the ULTIMATE PINTEREST OPPORTUNITY" and the rest of me was all, "I'm tired - here, these valentines in the checkout line at Target are adorable."

So I compromised. I used some of my mess-around-on-my-phone time that is part of my nightly detox with my husband as we go through the DVR after the kids are in bed to peruse Pinterest boards. I stored some ideas away in my head, then escaped off to the craft store during weekend nap time to gather the couple of supplies I needed, dedicated a little more than an hour to the design and assembly, and VOILA! Adorable valentines, sans sugary madness. (I'm sure the kids will already get plenty of sugar for their little systems during this party.)

I thought about having Bugga sign her name to the card so it wasn't Obviously Done By Mom but she is still only able to write about 65% of the letters in her name, and certainly not small enough to fit on this card. So ODBM it is.

My supplies:

  • Small bear animals
  • colorful twine
  • hot glue & gun
  • glitter valentine hearts
  • cardstock
  • inkjet printer

My result:

Friday, February 6, 2015

Listmania: What We're Reading (1 Year Old)

Literally drooling over her book!
Bella just REALLY started getting into her books. Her primary way to "play" is to pick a book, come over to you, turn around and sit as close to you (or on you - LOOK OUT MOM HERE I COME style) as possible and get ready for you to read to her. Bella's little hands will touch the pages and point to the pictures, help you turn the page, lift flaps and all the other activities that come with great books for this age.

Here are some of the titles we are currently reading and re-reading:

1.) Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. This book says it has been around for 30 years, but I hadn't heard of it until someone gifted me this book when I was pregnant with my second. My 13-month-old loves opening the flaps to reveal the different animals that the zoo is sending. It's simple so it offers just enough words to provide a story without losing your child's interest.

2.) Peekaboo Kisses by Barney Saltzberg. Both my daughters have loved this book at this age. Both react very enthusiastically by giving each animal big slobbery kisses and hugs as we turn each page. And there's other activities like "squeaking" the mouse and feeling the different "furs" of the animals.

3.) Curious George at the Zoo by H. A. Rey. Another touch-and-feel book with a simple storyline. Bella is already quick to point out where the monkey is hiding in each scene.

4.) Hello, Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam This is a great book from birth until whenever. It's mostly black and white so it's supposed to be great for babies who are just developing their eyesight. My daughter wanted this read to her just about every day (and many many times a day) for about two straight months before she realized there were other books in the world. She likes the sound effects we make for each bug and the shiny parts of the artwork that catch her eye.

5.) Hugs for You by Paula Hannigan. This was a gift from a friend, and both daughters love it. And this one, like Peekaboo Kisses, is also covered with big slobbery kiss marks from both of my girls loving it too much. It's a sweet and simple read.

6.) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Of course. This is indeed a classic we all know plenty about. I don't remember my first daughter getting too into this one, but Bella is currently on a caterpillar obsession. The book encourages her to turn pages on her own with the various size pages. I like that it teaches you that you can eat all sorts of junk food and it will likely make you sick, and that a nice healthy salad (of a leaf) will make you feel all better again. Oh, and that big is beautiful too! Love all the subtle messages in this one.

7.) Slide and Find ABC by PriddyBooks. This isn't so much a story book, but it doesn't stop Bella from carrying it around. It has a built in handle too, so this larger-than-average book is easy to bring with you from room to room. It's obviously educational from an alphabet perspective, and my daughter loves the sliding windows that reveal more pictures.

8.) Tubby by Leslie Patricelli. There are various books with the baby character that are super simple and very cute. I discovered this series right as Bugga was around 2, so I was hesitant to buy these since it starred a baby and I didn't want her to identify with younger behavior. At this point though we also have Huggy Kissy and Fa La La La La and Bella loves the unexpected mild chaos that comes with every story.

9.) Pet the Bear and His Alaskan Friends by Pam Clifton. We obtained this one during the four months we lived in Anchorage, Alaska when Bugga was just under one year old. After looking for a link to this book online and finding only a random option to purchase, I imagine if you are reading this you might not bother pursuing this one. BUT it is cute and is part of our family's story so I am still including it in this list. It has simple and cheerful pictures of Alaskan animals, and some tactile textures for a baby to touch as well. And gives my older daughter a distant memory of her brief time in a unique place.

10.) The Bunny Rabbit Show by Sandra Boynton. I love all the Sandra Boynton books and my older daughter has most of her books. Somehow I missed this one (and after looking for the link I see why - it just came out a few months ago!) so I picked it up for #2. BOTH girls (3-year-old included) love this book, but I am sure that a lot of it has to do with the way you read it: you need to make up a melody for the lyrics of the story. A lot of her books are like this, and I think it adds to the fun of reading it. I also get a kick out of hearing my husband (or anyone else) come up with their own version of the tune.

What are your 1-year-olds reading?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tired of Shady Practices by Big Corporations

I'm sure our parents all think we have it so easy as parents in our current world, where we have all this technology and information to help us raise our children. Yes, the gadgets are a nice plus for sure, but let me tell you what is NOT easier. Buying ANYTHING.

I just got back from the grocery store. From Kroger, which I used to like as a company in general, but I specifically now do not trust the way the one near me is run. Why? This particular trip I found two unrelated items in different but high-traffic areas of the store that had expired a month ago. And both had clearly been handled by staff due to placement of the item and recent "sale" pricing tags. So basically I do not have the tolerance nor the time to shop at this store anymore because they cannot be trusted to put NON-EXPIRED items on their shelves. And I don't have time to waste if I have to double-check their work.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Have you noticed that just about EVERYTHING in the grocery store has a green label now? That used to be an easy way to zero in on organic products, but now that color means nothing. So you have to look even closer and inspect something carefully to be sure it has the USDA Organic label. Let's go back to Kroger for a minute. They have this "new" Simple Truth line. Guess what - all the packaging is green green green. Is it all organic? Nope. They throw around the term "natural" a lot though with all these products which means ZILCH unless they are referring to meat or poultry. You can go to the Simple Truth website and read all about how the FDA "broadly defines" but does not regulate the term, and then some info on their own "policy". 

All those terms in quotes above are probably giving away my suspicion about all this. Why?

Well, there's an organization called the Cornucopia Institute that publishes ratings on ALL organic companies based on particular categories (dairy, eggs, cereal, etc.) and then gives them a 1-5 (low to high) rating. Guess who gets a 1 in all the categories? Kroger's Simple Truth line. And all the other major large brands who don't feel like sharing their resources and therefore do not even participate the Cornucopia's surveys. So wait, you're called "simple truth" and you can't provide that EXACT THING to your consumers? That is SHADY. You are
See those individual milks? That cereal?
They get a 1 out of 5 rating for organic
products. That's what I want to feed my kids,
the organic products with the lowest ratings.

shady if you need to hide your business practices when it comes to the products I put in my children's bodies.

So, if you are unable to share this information with Cornucopia, then why it is you think I should believe a single word on your biased website, I'm not sure.

It is ridiculous that we as parents (or anyone for that matter) cannot trust these major organizations to be honest and truthful about the products they are trying to sell us. 

And sheesh, can you at least make sure the front items in your food displays aren't expired??

As I am trying to get on top of my resolutions for the year and create healthy meals for my entire family to eat together, I am already exhausted by how much planning and research (and drive time to a myriad of grocery stores) that goes into creating a simple, safe, clean meal.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year 2015!

Ahhhh January 1st! A fresh new year! This day feels like the first day of school for me - so much potential for so much NEW.

And yes, I am making resolutions. I know, how lame, but again, I love the POTENTIAL of what I can do in the new year. I do try to be realistic though.

So here are mine:

1.) Have better posture. My back will thank me. This Mom Slouch thing is ridiculous.
2.) Make it a priority for our family to eat dinner together. Dinner will now be at 6:30 every night. If my husband can't make it home in time, he can eat when he does, but I am done cooking and eating after the kids go to bed.
3.) Make it a priority for the entire family to eat the SAME FOOD for dinner. Now that the baby is all about solids, now is the time to feed her everything so she doesn't end up in a pasta rut like her older sister. And I am done being a short order cook. Done.
4.) Limit myself to one soda a week.
5.) Limit myself to one fast food trip a month. This excludes Starbucks and my health-i-fied favorite sandwich at Jimmy John's. I'm trying to be realistic. And fair to myself.

I have some goals for what I want to happen with my diet, my workouts, etc. but those are tired goals so I won't bother sharing those here.

I also wanted to put some cleaning- and organization-related goals on the 'ol resolution list too, but I think those need to be more on the To Do list so they get DONE and then I'll see where I'm at with that plan. A lot to conquer there so I'm worried a resolution of this type might set me up for failure!! 

Anything unique on your list? Did you even make a list? Any New Year rituals you do instead?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness 2014 - Free Printable

I realize I have been away awhile - life is crazy in my house right now with holiday season in full swing, along with the celebration of a 1st and a 3rd birthday. Basically, we are running non-stop right now!

However, I need to make time for this post so I can share with anyone who might need this.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile (anyone? Bueller?) then you might remember my thoughts about the tragic events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. Just knowing someone who has lost a child to something so heartbreaking really struck me and since then I wanted to make an effort every year to honor Olivia Engel, and each of the other 25 lives lost that day.

My older daughter just turned 3 and she is at an age where she can really absorb the concept of kindness and how to share that with other people. Recently I shared with my Facebook and Instagram friends the Random Act of Kindness cards I put together for December. My plan is to involve my children as much as possible when we prepare and share these random acts, and spread some kindness both inside my home and around our community in honor of the Sandy Hook Angels.

Meanwhile, several people have requested the cards I made, so it makes sense to attach them here so anyone can have access to them.

Please print these out, and start sharing the kindness - it can be anything from paying for someone's coffee at Starbucks to cooking someone dinner - be creative!

I hope to post pictures soon of our experiences with this effort, and I'd love to hear how others have used the cards!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Potty Patrol

I was in absolutely no hurry to potty train my older daughter. I have just grown to accept diapers are what they are, and honestly, diapers give me CONTROL. Seriously - I know when and where my toddler will need a diaper change (the baby, she's a little more sporadic). My friends who are parents of newly-toilet trained children are familiar with just about every public bathroom in town. Ew.

I had started collecting articles on what signs you should look for with regards to readiness, and then what to do once the training began.

Here's what these articles taught me:

1. Kids respond well to bribes. (But we knew that.)
2. There are no guaranteed signs of readiness across the board - all kids are different.
3. There are also no guaranteed methods of potty training. 

And this is how it all shook out for us:

Like I said, no rush for this milestone. It crossed my mind that she might be mature enough to handle this at 2 years old, but as I was about to have another baby, I was not about to throw this variable into our lives until I had a clue how I was going to handle two kids in general. A little after my daughter hit 2 1/2 or so, I started slowly collecting the things I thought we would need for the potty training adventure, once it started to make its appearance.

I decided from the get go we would not be dealing with the kid-size toilet. I hear of all these parents who buy these for their children after their 1st birthday and then keep it in the living room, the bedroom, the back of the car, all so the child can get "comfortable" with the concept of using the mini-potty. It's not a stuffed animal - it's a toilet. Not many of us use a toilet next to our sectional. And on top of that, I had zero interest in cleaning that thing out every time my child was successful.

No matter which route you take, your regular routine is still going to be affected, and for that you need STUFF. You will most likely need a potty training seat, as their little rear end will be liable to fall right in for many more years. Along with that is a stool to reach the toilet. I recommend either multiple stools, or make the one you have lightweight so your toddler can move it between the toilet and the sink. Depending on your bathroom, you might also need a faucet extender, a faucet handle extender, and even a light switch extender. AND depending on your house, you might need this setup in each bathroom your child could use when nature calls.

Basically, you need to think about all the steps your child will need to go through to address a bathroom urgency on their own should you be unable to assist in a split second when they have. to. GO.

So I bought a variety of potty seats (there is no easy way to tell which ones will fit the toilets in your house until you bring them home and put them on the seat) and step stools. As I type this we are a month out from our potty training, and we use one potty seat and two stools in two different bathrooms (the main guest half bath and the bathroom between my daughters' rooms). The wood stools are nice, but they are heavy and make a lot of noise. Since my daughter's toilet is on the other side of the wall from my other daughter's crib, I needed to squash all the stool moving in the middle of the night so that bathroom needed TWO STOOLS.

I also bought a folding travel potty seat (with princesses of course), several packages of underwear with Bugga's favorite characters, and even flushable wipes. Then I waited for the signs. That never really came. Her interest in the whole toileting process ebbed and flowed, and she always woke up soaked in the morning because I didn't have the heart to cut off her liquids in the evenings.

Bugga started school two days a week this year where they do not potty train, but maintain whatever you are doing. What they did start doing is sitting Bugga on a toilet three times a day, which I used as my jumping off point.

I created a chart based on the things that motivate my specific child (in Bugga's case, certain shows, apps, and movies, since she only gets these in special situations). Then I declared Labor Day Weekend as our training weekend. Our plan was to have one parent assigned to be with Bugga all day long at all times. She typically would wander around the house playing on her own but that would not work for this. I also had to be tough with my husband that we couldn't just do this in the living room (ahhh the rug!) and simultaneously watch college football as someone was sure to miss crucial signs of nature calling. 

I set up our master bathroom (it's a little over-the-top spacious, but any bathroom should work as children are little) to be All Things Toddler and put in there her easel, her Lego table, and her little play table and chairs with books, puzzles, and coloring.

Then we dove right in! On the first day (Saturday), Bugga wore nothing but a shirt all day (except training pants for naptime) so she'd have easy access to the toilet. Then we took her to it every 15 minutes with a timer, giving her a chance to go. Every time she'd successfully use the toilet she'd get a sticker on her chart (one sticker for pee, three for poop), an animal cracker, and a lot of congratulations. In between trips to the toilet, we continuously offered beverages and salty snacks to give her plenty of opportunity to learn to recognize the signs of needing to go. Her favorite way to pass the time that day was of course by having tea parties with REAL WATER. She couldn't get enough of this special turn of events and it worked just fine for me! At the end of the day, she had successfully peed on the potty well over 20 times - and with no accidents! (No sign of any poop though. And my kid is typically pretty regular...)

On Day Two Bugga got to start wearing her new undies, which she was thrilled with. We also did not confine her to the bathroom all day either and tried to get back into our regular routine. We had a couple accidents that day, which was to be expected at this point. But we still moved successfully through her chart and she spent most of the day in a chair in front of her reward shows anyway. And finally, finally after sitting for a loonnnnngggg time on the toilet on the evening of Day Two, reading books to her and keeping her busy, she finally pooped on her target after avoiding the issue for two days. Okay, and we added the incentive of a new Anna dress-up dress (from Frozen, in case you live under a rock). We did more of the same on Day Three.

The long weekend ended, and we went back to our routine as far as leaving the house for activities, school and errands. Bugga kept on with her chart, having very limited accidents. The poop thing was a bit of a struggle for awhile, as she would clearly need to go but would go back and forth between playing and sitting on the potty...and then eventually have an accident. The good thing is she did not like how this felt, and would cry, so I was optimistic we wouldn't have to deal with too much more of this.

After about a week our process evolved to incorporating "Poop Prizes". At this point, Bugga can pee on the potty successfully whenever she needs to, without any accidents. And if she poops without accident, she gets an animal cracker and to pick from a prize basket filled with more undies, books, Frozen paraphernalia, and puzzles. This method clinched her success and now she goes regularly on her own.

Ugh this was a long post. But potty training requires patience just like reading all of the above. And again, only you know your kid and what motivates him or her. If it doesn't take the first time, you can always wait and try again.