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?