Monday, October 9, 2017

Top 10 Baby Items (Part 1: 0-6months)

My baby turns 1 this week! WOW! How???

I've been looking back at pictures from the year and deciding it was finally time to turn this blog post from a draft of several months into a published piece. Ay yi yi. Well better late than never. Share this with your friends who are new moms or moms-to-be.

I've been sharing my experience with new mom friends as well as my list of must-have items and things not to bother with. I do not claim to be an expert or authority but moms helping other moms by sharing the non-glamorous tips and tricks of their everyday is so valuable I think. So here, in no particular order,  are my Top 10 so-glad-I-had-them baby items for the first 6 months with affiliate links so you can find and buy it right away!

1. Monitor:
Infant Optics DXR-8

When we were working on our registry, I put my husband in charge of researching and choosing our monitor. He read lots of reviews and decided on this one for many reasons which I have listed below. He liked that it did NOT connect to our smart phones. Yes, you read that right. In today's world where everything can connect to your phone, it seems like that would be what we want. We chose to avoid this feature for two reasons. #1: If we used our phone as a monitor than we couldn't use it for anything else. We'd have to leave that app to use other apps which then means we can't hear/see what's going on so that defeats the purpose of a monitor. #2: We didn't a video feed of our baby connected to Wi-Fi which, while password protected, does have the potential to be hacked.

All that being said, we LOVE this monitor. Other reasons we chose it was the ability to pan, zoom, talk via intercom , add another camera, and long battery life. It does sometimes say "loss of signal" when we it is right next to one of our cell phones, but that is very minor as it always come back within seconds. It has a great, clear picture and good volume as well. We use this multiple times each day for naps and bedtime so definitely a must-have in my opinion. Also, the customer service with the company is top-notch! We had the power/sleep/off button on top quit working one day for no apparent reason. We reached out to them, and there were so helpful and efficient. A new unit was shipped to us that next day! The whole process was so easy and fast and seriously some of the best customer service I have dealt with in a long time.

2. Wrap: 
Moby Wrap

Around 5-8 weeks old, Easton had rough evenings. I wouldn't say it was colic but just the class "witching hour". You parents know what I'm talking about, and you soon-to-be parents will find out! We tried several different recommendations of how to soothe him but the Moby wrap was the solution he preferred 90% of the time. I'd just wrap him up and snug and then walk around the house until he calmed down.

I also used this several times for his naps. Until he was about 4months old, he very very rarely would nap in his crib. He wanted to be held or he would nap in his carseat. After a few weeks, I just couldn't stand to have to sit still and do nothing when he napped. So I started wrapping him up and then would be able to be a little more mobile while he slept. It took a little trial-and-error to figure out the trick to wrapping it just right but then I watched a YouTube video and it made so much more sense. Definitely check that out if you are new to using a wrap!

3. Nursing Pillow & Cover
 Boppy Pillow & SlipCover

I know there are several different kinds of nursing pillows out there, but I've only ever used this one and have no reason to try anything else. I like that it can be used in multiple ways: nursing, propping, and tummy time. I love using it for nursing. It's a perfect fit for both of us and saves my arms. Whenever I have to nurse out in public, I wish so badly that I had it with me. Maybe that will be the next mommy/baby gotta-have item...a compact nursing pillow for on-the-go. Someone invent that!

Cover: I recommend having two for when one is dirty and being washed. I originally planned to make one myself, but was running out of time and the patterns and directions I was finding were confusing. So I just ordered from Amazon. I have the Classic Fox and the Classic Windmills, which were both pretty cheap considering how expensive some of them can be. I also like that they are gender neutral.


4. Car Seat Blanket:
J.J. Cole Bundle Me

This item will not be a must-have for everyone. For us, living where we get good, cold winters and having a fall baby, this was a must-have. It's basically like a sleeping bag for the car seat. Since it's not the safest to put a baby in big puffy coat and then buckle into car seat, this is a great solution!

The bottom half goes into the bottom of the seat and has slots for all the straps and buckle to come up through. Then the top zips on with 2 zippers, one on each side. I love the design of two zippers. When we arrive someplace and are indoors, I unzip one side and open it up so he isn't too hot.

5. Activity Mat:
Fisher Price Mobile Gym 

Ever since being 5 weeks, old, he loved this. The top round part has little butterfly-shaped lights that blink red and yellow and it plays music. I love that it offers a quiet volume option. Each of the three legs has 2 fabric rings for hanging toys from which is great so large ones can go above and smaller down below. It also helps him to look in different places and even have a toy when he rolls onto his side. The bottom mat easily detaches from the legs so I can wash it. My baby spits up a lot so it's nice that he at least makes a mess on the mat rather than my carpet.

We got this at a secondhand swap event so ours didn't have the original toy attachments with it. He enjoyed this so much and would spend time on it each day until he really started rolling and scooting all over around 6 months. Now we have it set aside for when families with younger kids come over. When Easton finds it, he loves to use it to stand up and push the buttons on top. He also thinks its fun to knock over now.

6. Memory Keeping:
First Year Calendar

Yes, I have a baby book. No it is not up-to-date. Yes he is my first child and the joke is that they always have a completed baby book even if siblings don't. I still have goals to finish his baby book before the end of 2017....we'll see. At any rate, THIS is awesome! I love jotting down a quick note or two of what happened each day. Then there are several prompts to fill out each month that are a little more general.

My husband gets involved and will say "oh, that needs to go on the calendar!" I also know this will come in really handy when I do work on the baby book because the notes often correlate with the pictures I took that day. I totally plan to do this with my future kids as well. It comes with really cute stickers with milestones and designs and each month has a spot for a picture as well.

7. Breast Pump:
Medela Pump in Style

Even if you plan to stay at home, I highly recommend having a breast pump. You will definitely want some bottles stockpiled in your freezer for date nights, road trips, etc. I have taken this and used in the car a few times and the whole set-up works great. There are so many choices and it can be overwhelming but I am definitely glad that I got an electric AND a dual. So time-efficient to pump both sides at the same time.
Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote

Before you buy one...check with your insurance! A lot of insurance companies will pay 100% for you to get one. If they do, don't even waiver on getting one...get it! If your insurance doesn't cover it, or if it does but you just want to read some reviews and get more specs check it out on Amazon with my link.

8. Pacifier:

At first, my son did not want anything to do with a pacifier. He would "gag" or spit it out so
we gave up. But then he was sucking on his hands so much and I thought maybe he'd like something else to suck on and play with so I tried the WubbaNub. He loved it! He loved to hold and play with the monkey or giraffe and he loved to suck on the pacifier.
WubbaNub Infant Pacifier - Monkey
During his month long attachment to it, he never figured out that the animal and pacifier were two-in-one because he will fling the stuffed animal in play and then freak out because there is nothing in his mouth anymore. So aside from having to constantly replace it in his mouth, I love this. It calms him down, is the perfect size for him to grasp and hold, and went everywhere with us during that month he really liked it. After that, it became a part of nap and bedtime routine. That is the only thing allowed with him in the crib and we don't take it out to play with as toy during the day. We like having the separation and association for sleeping. When we lay him down, we put it in his mouth and it comes out within 2 seconds but it's part of his routine and he likes it. Sometimes he will suck a little or play with it. I'm definitely glad we had this for when he really needed it and am glad he never got super attached as far as when we put it away for good.

9. Sleepsack:
Halo Swaddle

If you haven't heard...the new rule is to put your baby to sleep on their back. The "Back is Best" campaign has seen HUGE decreases in the number of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). If you want more info on SIDS or the campaign or a class, definitely check out this website. They are local to me but still really good information or they can probably help you find something similar in your area if you can't. When we took their free class we received a free Halo swaddle sleepsack in newborn size. We have since got our son a Medium and Large.

The Medium and Large don't have the swaddle part. But the wearable blanket is genius! I also love that they come in different materials for different times of year. We had several other kinds of sleep sacks that were given to us and some were okay but this had the best swaddle as far as keeping his arms in tight. It also is the only one of the ones we've tried that has the range of sizes, materials, and patterns.

From left to right: Micro-fleece, 100% cotton, and muslin

10. Headphones:
Baby Banz
My husband coached high school varsity basketball and Easton and I were at games at least twice a week. You never realize how loud the buzzers and whistles are until you have a sleeping newborn! After one week I quickly got on Amazon and ordered these. We also used them for church during worship.

His age and the timing of basketball season lined up perfectly for us in getting to use these. The month after basketball when we put them on him at church, he had figured out how to pull them off. Babies' ears are much more sensitive than ours so definitely something you want to protect. 

11. Stain-Remover
Fels-Naptha Bar Soap

You guys! This stuff is miraculous! You need this! It's just a few dollars but a must-have for sure! I can't even tell you how many times a day Easton would spit up or how many blow-outs we would have each week. Some days he was in four different outfits from a combination of the two messes. But the number I can tell you with absolute certainty...the number of clothes he ruined from said messes......ZERO!
Not. A. One.
How? Because of this soap!

Here's how I use it. First, rinse the clothing item so that just the stain remains. Rub the bar of soap on to the stain, lather it up. Then hand wash a little bit really rubbing your fingers, palm and even another part of the clothing into the stain. If I had a load of laundry ready to go then, great. But if not, that's okay too. I would let items hang and wait for laundry time. Then if the stain was still visible I would treat with Spray & Wash and voila! When it came out there was no stain to be found! I don't just use this on baby clothes though. I use it on my husband's clothes for greasy, oily food, car grease, etc. I've also used it on my clothes to remove pen, lipstick, etc. It's seriously something you need to have in your laundry room!

Okay I hope you found that helpful! I would love to know what items you consider must-haves for the first 6 months or which of mine you agree with the most or want to buy the most now! Comment below and tell me. I'll share my must-haves for 7-12 months soon.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tips for Traveling with a Baby

I'm not going to pretend to be any sort of expert, and we've only been on 1 flight with our son so far, but I do have a few tips that I thought would be helpful to pass on to others. So here are my 5 tips for traveling with a baby.

#1. Wear them

Yes, you read that correctly. Wear your baby. If you have a wrap, sling, or carrier this is VERY helpful for getting through security and to your gate. I wore my Ergo 360 with him in front and forward facing. I did not have to remove him for security and we went through a separate gate (no detector) and they simply wiped my hands and checked that. It also gave me two free hands so I could be carrying my ID and boarding pass as well as a bag or two so my husband didn't have to be the Sherpa. At least for our son, he is much more content and lasts longer being carried in the carrier than just in my arms.
Here's the carrier and wrap I have:


#2. Borrow BIG baby items at your destination

What do I mean by this? I mean borrow a stroller, car seat, pack & play, high chair, even nursing pillow rather than taking your own. I realize this one is not always feasible due to the nature and location of your trip. But, I'd encourage you to be creative and try to find a way to make this work. Fortunately for us, we were visiting family that was expecting a third baby in another month so they had everything I mentioned above. She picked us up at the airport with the car seat and let us borrow that and the stroller when we drove to visit other friends. This was SUCH a blessing and saved us a lot of hassle checking and carrying those things on the plane. Even if the people you are visiting don't have them, they probably know someone who does. I have found that people are very willing to lend baby items that they are not currently using so don't be afraid to ask.

#3. New toys for travel

This was suggested to us by our pediatrician at the wellness appointment before our trip. I had not even though of this and it was a GREAT help so I highly recommend this tip! I searched and searched online for a fun, interactive, engaging, multi-task, yet quiet toy. I wanted it to be something that would hold his attention for a good length of time but not make noise and drive everyone in the plane bonkers. I searched high and low and found this great option:

The Oombee Cube was great! He enjoyed all the strings and shapes and colors. He pulled and chewed and shook. It made NO noise, didn't have any pieces we had to keep track of, and entertained him! 

This was not the only new toy we had for him. I wanted one toy for the travel there and one for the way back. I made the other toy which is a sensory tag blanket. My mom had all sorts of ribbons and cords and some fun fabric scraps that I was able to gather together and make into another quite, multi-task, engaging toy.

Here's a similar version you can buy however it appears that all the "tags" are the same material just different colors. This is one of the reasons I made mine because I wanted all different textures.

 #4. Don't give the toy to your baby

Wait...what??? I thought #3 was all about a toy for your baby...
Stay with me. I didn't say the baby doesn't get it, I just said don't give it to them.
Still confused?
Okay let me explain.
We have found that with our son, things we give him to play with (aka his toys) he is semi-interested in for a short time. BUT...things that are ours and we don't hand to him he is VERY interested in and wants so badly. So, while I was nursing him during take-off, my husband took the toy and put it in a spot where it was visible but not front-and-center. We paid no attention to it and let Easton totally discover it on his own. It worked! He was curious and eager, proud of himself for finding something new, and so interested.


#5. Don't plan too much and be flexible

Before kids, you could jam-pack every day of a trip with plans to see as many places and people as possible. I would caution you to attempt that with a young kid. You already know from everyday life at home that getting out of the house to go anywhere takes 3x longer. Well be prepared for your child to not sleep as well and be off schedule (especially if you change time zones). Your time will be much more enjoyable if you scale back and have a well-rested happy baby for the adventures you do go on.

What other tips do you have for traveling with a baby? I would love to hear them! And if you try any of mine, I'd love to know how it works out for you! Happy traveling!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Top 10 Books for a Boy's First Year

I don't know if all babies are this way...but our little guys LOVES books. From very early, just a couple weeks old, we started reading books to him. We would lay on the floor next to him and read with the book overhead so he could see the pictures. When we started a bedtime routine, my husband included reading a story to him and still does it for every nap time and bedtime to this day. 

   Now as an 11month old, Easton seeks out books on his own. He has a basket full of books on the floor in his room and another in the living room. A couple times each day you can find him by the basket, usually knocked over, pulling all the books out and then flipping through the pages of them. He will spend several minutes lost in his own little world just looking through the books. In the last month or so he has mastered flaps and is obsessed with playing peek-a-boo with his books. He knows where all the flaps are in books and will open and close them as we read each page. 

He loves books so much that he seeks out even adult books to explore. Once he realizes there are no pictures he loses interest pretty quickly but there have been some bent pages in the process. Something he as recently decided is a fun activity is to pull ALL of the books off the bottom shelf of our bookcase. It's hard to say "no" because we don't want him to think we are saying "no" to books. Definitely don't want to hinder that love.


When we are in the car, we always give him a book and he will be entertained the whole drive looking at the pictures, pointing, and "reading" or babbling about what he sees. He loves to sit on our laps and read books and is very interactive - pointing and turning pages and making sounds.

Easton probably has about 75 books and we have read them all multiple times. Some he likes more than others and some we like more than others. Below are our combined Top 10 favorite books from this first year. I'll share what I love about each one but the #1 thing these all have in common is that neither of us have gotten tired of any of these regardless of how many times we have read them. I know in another year or two he will become strongly attached to some book that may or may not be one that my husband and I particularly like. I hope we can continue to find awesome books like these that we all love and enjoy.

Books are something I will always buy for my kids. I love the learning, imagination and simple enjoyment that can come from them. Someday he may lose interest in books and reading but for now while I have a very eager and interested little bookworm, I am going to do everything I can to encourage and support that love. So here are some of our favorite books in no particular order. I hope you can find enjoyment in reading these with your little ones too.

Little Blue Truck
Oh this book is so adorable! I just put ALL the others from this series on his birthday wish list. When I find an author I like, I often will go after acquiring all their books and Alice Schertle has won me over with this one. Reasons I love this book: The writing is so clever and has a very good rhythm and rhyme so it's fun to read. It teaches animal sounds. The illustrations are cute - I am not in to SUPER cartoon-y looking animations. One of the biggest reasons I love this book though is because it teaches a good life-lesson. So often, kid's books are just words and fluff and low on meaningful content. Not so with this one! I can see how it will be a favorite for several years as he transitions from identifying animals and their sounds to learning about the lesson of kindness and helping others. In my opinion, this is a must-have for any kids' library.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt
This one is fun and reminds me of a camp style "song" in that it's a repetitive chant and even can be call and answer with your kid once they are older. I love to do little hand motions with Easton and make all the funny noises. It's a very fun one to get dramatic and really act everything out.

I'd Know You Anywhere, My Love
This one might be more for me than Easton, but he does love it too. I can tell because he sits through each page and points at the animals. This is another one that is so enjoyable to read aloud because of the song-like rhyme and cadence. I think that makes it fun for kids to listen to as well. The mom appears on each page and is wearing something red each time. Once when we read it, Easton was pointing at the red he saw on several pages. I hadn't even noticed it as a trend until he pointed it out! Basically if the book is cleverly written, sweet and has animals then we are both sold!

Open the Barn Door
Easton loves looking at this one by himself. He very quickly identified where all the flaps were and how to open them. When I read it to him, he even waits for the right time to open the flap and then shuts it before moving to the next page. It's a fun hide-and-seek and teaches animal sounds. Very simple but very entertaining and he often seeks this book out to "read" to himself.

Dear Zoo
Another flap book! This was the first flap book we showed him and so he didn't get it at first but now, like with the one above, he loves playing peek-a-boo with the animals. This book is short and sweet but teaches a little characteristic of each animal. Another great one for him to enjoy on his own.

Digger, Dozer, Dumper
This is the most recent book I have given him. I give him a new book on his monthly "birthdays" and so he got this when he was 11 months old. SUCH a creative book! Oh I can tell it will be a favorite for years to come. The author describes what each truck does very thoroughly in terms little kids can understand and a fun rhyme that is enjoyable to read aloud. There is a little dog that appears on each page and Easton loves to point at him and "woof". Highly recommend this one.

First 100 Words
First 100 Animals
Numbers Colors Shapes
These books are so fun! We use these as our car ride books for him. He stays quite content looking at the many pictures. When my husband reads them at home, if we also own that thing he will go and point to it side by side with the book. Lots of great vocabulary and fun pictures. My only complaint, the First 100 Animals repeats several of the animals across different pages. Example: the Owl is on the Birds and Forest pages.

Dinosaur Dance
This is such a cute silly book! I like to have fun with my voice and actions when reading this one. It teaches colors, dinosaur names, actions and onomatopoeia (sound words). This is a quick read so is great for before a nap as part of our routine.

My First Colors
I saw a friend's video on Facebook of her daughter (9 months older than my son) looking through this book and pointing at things she was asked to locate. I was so impressed by how many items she could identify and it seemed like a great I-Spy type book for learning lots of words. I immediately got on Amazon that same day and purchased it. Easton was very fascinated by this book initially and has since lost a bit of interest in it. I think perhaps since there are SO many random things on each page he doesn't focus like he would a scene in a story book. He has pointed to the basketball and bananas a couple times when I've asked. We will definitely continue to revisit this as he gets a little older. It does have some pretty odd items that would not be in a kid's vocabulary for a long time, such as egg timer haha, but I do love the organization by colors and there's questions to prompt searching and word association.

I'm Going to Give You a Bear Hug
Grandma bought this book for him and it stays at her house. It is SO cute! The little boy looks just like my son with his crazy hair. Again, fun rhyme and cleverly written. I love the little bear that goes with the boy on every page.

I hope this has inspired you and provided some good recommendations of books to buy for your child or as a gift for someone else's kid. And if you have other suggestions of excellent kids' books, I would love to know! Please share in the comments. Happy Reading!

Monday, August 14, 2017

A 5-Date 5-Year Anniversary Celebration

July 14th was our 5th anniversary. The first milestone one. With a 9 month old baby we weren't able to get away and celebrate big. But that's A-OK because we came up with a plan that was just as special as any weekend trip.

Our shirts are from Emerson Grace Boutique! #momlife #dadlife

We started in late June by discussing things that define marriage to us. We individually came up with words that finished the statement "Marriage is..."

Some of our answers were: teamwork, romantic, fun, adventure, family, growth, humor, and love.

We then got creative and thought of dates that could embody each of these words. Finally, we narrowed it down to 5 and scheduled them throughout the month for a fun and festive 5-year anniversary.

Date #1 -- Marriage is Adventure
For this date, we chose to take a drive around the lake near where we live in our '72 Chevy Blazer.

It was a beautiful day but also hot. Thankfully we have automatic AC with our convertible rig.
Such beautiful scenery all around the lake.

This date only cost us the gas to drive for a couple hours.
Date #2 -- Marriage is Romantic

On our actual anniversary, we went out to dinner. We both love sushi and the first time I ever had it was on our honeymoon in Cabo. Nate read reviews and found a great place in a nearby city. We ordered 5 different rolls and it was AH-Mazing! was the most beautiful sushi I've ever had and oh man it was just so good. We would try one roll and go "oh this is our favorite." Then try another and say "mmm, no this one is!" 
Definitely a fun experience and romantic dinner out since it's not something we eat often. What's more romantic than raw seafood!?
Our most expensive of the 5 dates, but hey, it's a our 5 year anniversary so we get to splurge a little!
 He likes my hair straight and I like him clean-shaven so tonight was a win-win for us both! 
Date #3 -- Marriage is Humor

On the same night, we went to an improve comedy show after dinner. We have gone to The Blue Door several times over the past 5 years. It's an inexpensive ($7/ticket) entertaining date night that we enjoy a lot. Tonight was no exception and we also laugh so much.
Date #4 -- Marriage is Fun
 Just north of where we live is the largest theme park in the Pacific Northwest. I used to go here many times during the summers growing up and Nate had been several times in the past as well. Neither of us had been in probably 10 years though so there were several new rides to try out. We realized after ride number one that we are both a lot more sensitive to motion sickness than we used to be! We didn't get sick, just queasy enough to cross a few things off our list without even going on them. Our favorites were the 2 newer waterslides that are for 4-person rafts.

This date was free thanks to a friend who works there. He gets several day tickets each summer and never uses them all so offered a couple to us.
Date #5 -- Marriage is Family
Our final date included our son. We had professional family pictures taken for the first time. We haven't gotten them back yet so this is all I could post for a arranging several different outfit combos to decide which looked best. This is the one I went with by the way.

It was a lot of fun but I'm not very confident that we will get several frame-worthy pictures. For no fault of the photographer...she was awesome! our kid. He is Mr. Serious around new people. He wasn't grouchy or whiny or shy. He just was stone faced and refused to smile in the slightest. So you have him on the one extreme and then Nate and I were over-smiling to try and get him to smile! So I'm sure the dichotomy is hilarious. But that's okay because that's what real life is like right now and we captured it and will love looking back someday saying, "Oh Easton you used to be so stoic in a new situation and dad and I were big goofballs trying to crack you." And yes, I will still pick one to frame and put somewhere in our house. It just may not be a 20x30 canvas on the mantle! haha
This date was also free. The photographer is the mom of one of Nate's former basketball players from the last 7 years. She offered to take family pictures for us once Easton came along and insisted that our money was no good with her because of all that Nate had done for her son. So sweet of her and I cannot wait to see them!
So that's a wrap on our 5-year anniversary celebration. I had a lot of fun with the plan we came up with and think it was a great way to enjoy multiple things that encompass our relationship. Here's to the next 5!!!
What fun anniversary dates have you had? What has been the most memorable? Any great recommendations of cheap or free dates?