Wednesday, August 21, 2013

life with a toddler

This is my reality at the moment.

No stone unturned, no cabinet unemptied.

 "What is Mom doing on the counter?"

About a month ago she decided that wake up time is 6:30 and meals must be served on the hour. Six meal/snacks a day is my max, though, so every 40 minutes or so she stands at the pantry cabinet and screams "Nya nya nya nya!" (a made up word that means I-am-not-content-with-the-current-situation).

We're not in Babyland anymore. I just bought What to Expect the Second Year, and I am cramming every second I get. Usually I just get to sit down, find my page, and- "NYA NYA NYA!"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

TWO parties for TWINS turning TWENTY

My baby sisters turned 20 last week! Our family usually makes a big deal out of birthdays, but for the past three years theirs have been kinda lame. And since they're still living at home (while they're not at college) this'll be one of their last chances to have a party. (You know, before you grow up, move away, and no one every throws you a party again.)

Sooooo, Mom and I threw, not one, but two parties; the second of which was a surprise. Saturday we had all of the family over, and Mom made some delicious Thai food. I just pulled a few simple decorations together to make it fun.

I raided their facebook pics for full-length photos of Grace and Faith together. 
Then I printed them in gray scale, cut them out, and mounted them on card stock. 
Super simple.

Magazine bunting! I made many, many feet of this, and I let the girls take a bunch of it to decorate their rooms at school.

Leftover bunting triangles taped down the table as a runner. 

The food was incredible. Mom made Khao Soi, Fried Rice, Barbecued Pork Lettuce Wraps, Guotie (Potstickers), Sticky Rice, and Nam Prik Ong. Pretty much a smorgasbord of all our favorite Asian dishes. 
(Don't ask me how she's able to prepare six dishes plus sauces and fixings all at once. 
I freak out when I have to make both an entree AND a vegetable.) 
Oh, and she also made a Caramel Brownie Cheesecake and a Berry Trifle. As one does.

The best part about this decor was that it was 100% free! Black and white printouts, card stock, tape, skewers, twine, and an extensive magazine stash. Talk about party planning on a budget!

The next night, we had Grace and Faith's boyfriends kidnap them and bring them back to...


Now, the pictures, of course don't do it justice, (even the high-budget blacklight parties I researched for this didn't have very good pictures) but I'll share them anyway.

 These are in daylight, and before any of the food.

More bunting and face cut-outs! The faces glowed sooo well in the blacklight.
The puffy paint on the bunting was glow in the dark and showed up really well at night.

We set up the Wii outside, projected against the house, and had all of their friends come early wearing neon and white. We surprised them really well, and were just about to start eating when it started raining! We whisked everything inside and set the blacklight stuff up on the family room. Turns out, blacklights work WAY better inside. Outside it just sort of diffused into the air. Plus, we found out that bugs are extremely attracted to them.

We had to throw out a whole batch of punch cause it was full of bugs. 

Once we were settled inside we made the best of it and had a sweet Just Dance party.

So, what do you need to throw a glow-in-the-dark blacklight party? Here's a rundown:

- Get all of your glow sticks from the Dollar Store, don't even look at a party store - total rip off. 
- Those "construction shirts" in the neon yellow-green glow amazingly. Just look at Faith dancing in the picture above. 
- Walmart sells a great fluorescent tube blacklight that's ready to plug in for only $10ish. (Sorry, I can't find it on their site.)
- It's amazing what you can do with a ream of neon paper. 

Happy Birthday, Grace and Faith! Can't believe we're all in our 20s now! And I can't believe Jaina slept the whole time with that party underneath of her!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

my top baby pinterest projects

Alright, let's round out this baby gear review sesh. Hopefully I can think of some grown-up things to write about soon.

 May 2012, the week before our scheduled c-section at 36 weeks. 
I was only 8 months along! Just imagine if they would've let me go full term.

I was on partial bed rest for over three months before I had Jaina, so I had plenty of time to make things. I was so bored, I was even crocheting things, then taking them apart - just for something to do (cuh-RAZY!). I came across lots of Pinterest projects. Some of them worked, some did not. Here are my top three.

3. This Baby Sling by Our Seven Dwarves was so easy, and takes just an afternoon.

Image and tutorial via Our Seven Dwarves.

I love that we've been able to use our sling at every stage of babyhood. When she was a teeny baby it was perfect for her to lie in sideways. Strangers are a lot less likely to come up and touch a baby who's all nestled in mama's bosom. When she was four or so months old she could sit up like the baby in the above picture. And now I just stick her legs through and let her butt sit in it as if she's riding on my hip.

 Three months ago, running errands.

I love that it folds up and can stay in the diaper bag, so it's always there. It's a lot easier to get around with the sling than a stroller. And if she's about to lose it in the grocery store I can switch her from the cart to my hip without much fuss.

2. I use this "Anywhere Chair" by Made By Marzipan all. the. time.

Image and tutorial via Made By Marzipan.

It's perfect for grandma's house or for restaurants that for SOME REASON don't have high chairs.

I used denim for the inside, and found this cute teal/navy zebra print for the outside. I love that it folds up flat, and, again, I can always have it in the diaper bag. No need to bring a booster seat on short trips.

1. But the BEST thing I made for Jaina was this Hooded Car Blanket by The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.

I really didn't want to put a blanket or some kind of snuggly completely over her, and blankets kept falling off. This worked so perfectly. It's just a hooded blanket with slits cut in the back. That way you can lay it in your car seat and pull the straps through. Then you just lay your baby in the seat, strap her up, then wrap her up like a burrito. Plus, you can actually kinda swaddle them in there if they're fussy. This stayed in our car seat from October to March - super useful.

This is one I made for someone a few months ago. Do you like my cheesy set-up?
Card table, comfy chair, and TV. Real classy.

Looks like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could've used a hooded car seat blanekt to wrap up the royal baby. Have you seen how he was strapped in? Yikes. I would've made one for you, Kate! Might I suggest this cute snuggle flannel print from Joann's?

All this talk about babies is making me miss that stage already! Even though she's not walking, this little lady is all toddler. She keeps me busy, and I'm not sure which one of us is the most exhausted and grumpy by the end of the day.

But it is so fun to watch her learn. I can't wait till we can talk to each other!

Monday, August 5, 2013

anything that makes nursing easier is a good thing

I've been assembling my Most-Used Baby Items. Breastfeeding needed it's own category.

Most of my memories of this past year revolve around nursing in some way, so these items were crucial. And, apparently, August 1st-7th is World Breastfeeding Week - perfect timing!

1. Of course you must get a Boppy. 8-12 times a day you'll be assuming the same position for roughly half an hour. Invest in a nursing pillow. Your arms and your back will thank you. Have fun with all of the cool covers they have, and get something that will make you smile every time you see it. The Boppy is for you, so who cares if it matches your baby's room.

2. If you're pumping regularly not having a pumping bustier is NOT an option. I thought my month-long horrible back pain was birth related, but as soon as I switched to hands-free pumping it melted away. And it turned a chore into "Mommy's 15 minutes of alone magazine time." Awesome.

3. These are my nursing pad pick. They're nearly the least expensive, and they don't leave weird crinkle marks through your shirt.

4. Yoga pants are more of a post-partum item than a nursing necessity, but they're very important, so here they are. You will wear these every day, especially if you had a c-section. Kohls are my favorite; they don't stretch out at the knees.

5. I switched a hairband back and forth on my wrists to remember which boob started last. It was simple, and it worked for me.

6. I didn't invest in a lot of actual nursing wear, but I might do so next time. This shirt (in black) from Motherhood was great for days when I would need to nurse in public. I felt great in it, and with the two layers it provided so much coverage I almost didn't need a nursing cover. I would recommend this drape neck style nursing top much more than the cross-over. The cross-overs tend to pull awkwardly across your belly which is NOT a look that any postpartum woman is after.

7. The Nursing Mother's Companion was very helpful, and I consulted it many, many times. I really liked that it just got right down to business and didn't spend a lot of time talking about all of the reasons one should breastfeed. I always knew I would, so I just needed a clear, concise manual. This was it. (If you're planning on pumping long term check out their section on pumps first. She reviews nearly every pump available which would be really helpful before making such a big purchase.)

8. Finally, go out right now and buy 10 of these nursing bra tanks. This link is for Motherhood's version, but nearly any department store carries them.

You might notice that I have no recommendations for nursing bras or nursing covers. That's cause I wasn't 100% satisfied with the ones I had. I made my nursing cover from this tutorial by Little Birdie Secrets, and it turned out really cute. But I'm just not sure how I feel about the covers with the neck strap. It just feels like you're wearing a giant bib. Next time I might try to make one of these from Coterie.

I'm still on the look out for a comfortable nursing bra. Maybe they just don't exist. : /

Stay tuned for my favorite baby Pinterest projects! And my rules for postpartum wear were pretty cool too. ; )

Thursday, August 1, 2013

advice from the vast experience of a one-year mom

Baby girl is thiiiiis close to walking on her own. The baby stage is nearly over! We've had so much fun getting to know this feisty little toddler. Here's a look back at some of my most-used baby items. Hope this helps all you future mamas and papas out there!

1. We are HUGE fans of the Gerber Graduates Rest Easy Spoons. They're shaped more like spatulas, and they have a nice, flat edge, perfect for wiping food off your baby's face. Zach calls it "shaving". ; ) Plus, they have a built in spoon rest so the mouth end doesn't sit on the counter if you have to lay it down for a sec.

2. Our very, very best purchase (well, registry choice) was the Munchkin Nursery Projector & Sound System. She never took a pacifier and never got attached to a blankie or stuffed animal, so this is her comfort item. Anywhere the sound machine is can be home to her. It's crazy, even now, when I'm putting her to bed we'll close the door, turn off the lights, and as soon as I turn on her sound machine she immediately relaxes and lays her head on my shoulder. It's Pavlov's dog at this point, and I am totally okay with that. I am starting to turn the volume down so we can eventually wean her off of it. I don't want her to be the wierdo who shows up to college with her sound machine. ; )

3. She loved to be swaddled, and these little SwaddleMe pods were great. Next time I'll get a few more since she pooped through these on a nightly basis at the beginning. I was not very happy with this kind which were supposed to be for newborns. You couldn't make it any tighter, and she would always wiggle her hands out the top.

4. Bourdreaux's Butt Paste. The hype is real. This stuff is magic.

5. Saline nose drops. She only got two little half-colds all year, but each time these drops worked really well for her. It's scary putting your little one to bed in their own room when their nose is all stuffy. A combination of saline drops, a good humidifier, and a bulb syringe helped clear her out and keep her breathing comfortably all night.

6. I highly recommend having some sort of jumper. We borrowed this Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo, and Jaina loved it. I liked that it functioned as both a jumper and an exersaucer, so we didn't need both. Baby toys are such an assault on the eyes, so I vowed to only ever have one out at a time. Remember this video of Jaina jumping her heart out? She was a big fan.

7. One of my biggest pieces of advice is to put down that frilly dress (or that little man vest) and buy a bunch of sleepers instead. Babies don't go to work or school. Chances are, if you're a stay-at-home-mom, you're not going much of anywhere. There is no need to dress your baby in real clothes every day. I ended up just changing her into a different sleeper every 24 hours. They're cute and cuddly, and you don't have to worry about keeping socks on in the winter. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of fun dressing her up when it's time to go out. I'm just saying you'll get a lot more use out of your sleepers.

8. Ikea's Antilop Highchair = the cheapest highchair in the world! At just $25 with the tray it's a no-brainer. It's not an assault on the eyes, and it's easy to wipe down a bajillion times a day. Also, the legs click off pretty easily so it's not bad to take on vacation and such.

9. The play gym. I was so positive that this was a superfluous item that I refused to register for it. I was gonna set out my grandma's quilt, give her some toys, and she was gonna be just fine. Well, within a few months I was wishing for something, anything, to dangle toys right in her reach so I could wash a dish or put some clothes in the dryer. Zach even set a chair over top of our daughter with some toys hooked to the crossbars for a while (do NOT try this in a home full of other kiddos!). We finally gave in and got one very similar to this Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Gym. It folds up small to take to grandma's, and if you throw a towel over it it's great for shade outside.

10. Bumbos are cute cause you can make your three-month-old sit up in them, but it actually saved us a lot of money cause we were able to use it as her feeding chair for quite a while (instead of an expensive highchair). Again, it wipes down easily and transports well.

11. Finally, SAVE THE BULB SYRINGE FROM THE HOSPITAL. They're the best.

I have a whole separate list of my favorite nursing gear AND a list of my most-used baby Pinterest projects. Tune in next week for those.

None of these companies are sponsoring me in in any way. This is just me dishin' to my girls.