Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Must-have baby gear (things you actually need)

None of this is sponsored. Looking back at shopping for my first (and so far ONLY) baby, I knew nothing. I thought I knew what I would and wouldn't need, but I was way wrong.

One Several of my friends have recently announced that they are expecting. I haven't been bitten by the baby-fever-bug yet, but I did put together this list of what I found the most necessary and why. Everyone has different needs, so keep that in mind. For instance, we have a two-story house and a dog. We live in a cold climate. I breastfed, but I didn't do baby-wearing. Everyone is different. :)

Newborn must-haves (0-3 months)
Rock N Play (or some other portable basinet) - I took Hayden's into the bathroom while I was showering, and he could lay next to the table while we were eating, and then it's what he slept in by the bed. You could also have baby hang out on the floor on a blanket. With a dog, this wasn't viable for our family.
White noise (phone app or an actual machine) - miracle worker for soothing babies. Alternative: Saying "SHHHHH" for a long, long, long time until your tongue is numb and you have spittle flying from your mouth.
Sleep sack - the kind that wrap a baby's arms in so they don't scratch themselves in their sleep (plus, they like being cuddled up tight). You probably won't use these until your baby is about 1-2 months old, but we used ours even when Bubs was itty bitty.
Good swaddling blankets - some people swear by the muslin ones, but they're pretty expensive. Flannel ones are hard to swaddle. We found stretchy blankets like the ones they have at the hospital were pretty inexpensive and stayed wrapped for the longest time.
Night light - so when you're up in the middle of the night, you don't blind yourself and the baby. My phone just didn't cut it as a nightlight. We had one of those nightlights that projects the stars on the ceiling. This was also helpful for changing a diaper in the middle of the night without waking the baby up too much.
?Little bottles and big bottles - even if you breastfeed, the little bottles are nice for when daddy or grandma takes over for you so you can pump/nap. It feels ridiculous to put 2-3 oz. in a 10 oz. bottle. There are lots of mommy debates out there regarding introducing infants to bottles, so this one is on the maybe list. I'm not sure what your philosophy is.
Black and white toys/books - when someone gave me black and white toys as a baby gift I was like, "whaaaaa?" - these were the first toys that caught Hayden's attention because babies see sharp contrasts before they can see colors.
Boppy/nursing pillow - this will save your arms from having to hold baby for hours while nursing/giving bottles. Also good for propping up babies for cute pictures.
Nursing cover - for when visitors are over (also, get lanolin for the girls).
All-in-one carseat/stroller/baby carrier - So you don't have to get baby in/out of the carseat when you're shopping, running errands, actually being social, etc. Depending on when you have your baby, it's also helpful to have something to cover the carseat when you're walking into a store and stuff. In windy climates, blankets don't cut it, so we got a zip-around cover. Note: educate yourself on what is/is not appropriate for car travel. Don't get a cover that you put in the inside of the carseat under the straps. The packaging on these warns that they're not for car use.
?Pack N Play - I have this with a question mark because we didn't use ours frequently. We had the Rock N Play that we used constantly. However, when my aunt started watching Bubs, she used this for taking care of him and loved it.
Baby soap/washcloths and baby towel - Unless you want a dirty baby...Around when Bubs was born, Johnson & Johnson got their license taken away for putting carcinogens in the baby powder/lotion/something like that. I used carters or whatever smells good in the organics section.
Clothes - of course. Stuff for layers, even in summer!
Baby-safe stain fighter and laundry detergent - for all of the yellow poop that will soon be in your life, and in your clothes, and in your baby's clothes, and maybe on the door, the carpet, the dog, etc. Note: dark clothes don't show poop stains :) We really liked dark clothes we got and Bubbs wore them a lot. We felt self-conscious when he was out-and-about in stained clothes and baby poop stains are hard to get out.
Books or something to keep you entertained - for when you are nursing/feeding baby/can't sleep because you want to make sure (s)he's still breathing.
Bibs - Around 3 months, Bubbs started teething, so it was drool-central in our house. If we put a bib on him while he was awake, we didn't have to change his outfit a million times during the day.

Nursing bras, nip coverage, and granny undies - get bras that are comfortable, and something to prevent leakage from showing, and granny undies so you don't ruin your good ones :)
?A GOOD breast pump - I bought a little hand-held one. OMG OUCH! Shell out the couple hundred bucks for a good quality one. Also, avoid buying used off of Craigslist. Even if properly sterilized, the former pumper's milk amoebas are still floating around in there. If you get used, make sure it's from a family member you trust completely.
Meh for Newborns
Baby wearing things - I tried the Moby wrap and we had a Baby Bjorn and there were a couple other baby carriers that I tried and returned. It was pretty difficult to get a baby in the wrap by myself and Bubbs wasn't a big fan of them. I was worried the few times he fell asleep in them that he would suffocate. With that being said, I will probably use one of these for baby #2. They're easy for carrying a baby around while you're doing stuff. 
Baby tub - you won't need this until around 1 month since babies can only get sponge baths with their umbilical cord. You could just as easily give a baby a bath in the sink, though.
Changing table - I know a lot of people who just change their babies on the floor. No chance of baby rolling off anything. However, with a dog, this might be difficult unless you go in a room and shut the door. We used a changing pad until Bubbs was about 6 months old and started trying to roll off the pad. Now, he is exclusively changed on the floor.
Swings - some people swear by them, other parents say their babies hated them. Bubbs was okay with his swing, but he didn't like being left in it and got bored with it after about 5 mins or so.
Burping cloths - this is probably personal preference. I had a friend who just wiped up spit-up with blankets. We used bibs. We didn't really carry around burping cloths. Every now and then, they were handy, and it was nice to have them in the diaper bag.
Stocking up on diapers - I know far too many babies with allergies to certain diaper brands to recommend stocking up on diapers. Don't use your gazillion coupons to buy 20 boxes of Pampers diapers only to find that your baby's bum is on fire whenever you use them. Yikes! The supply of diaper coupons is not limited and you will get more.

4-6 months+ must-haves
Feeding Chair - Andy and I started with a high chair, but we have a small kitchen and it was kind of awkward feeding Bubbs while he wasn't at the table. We sold our high chair and bought a 3-in-one booster seat thing that you strap into chairs. Perfect for when we want to go outside and eat on the patio or go to a friend's house.
Spoons, sippy cups, plates, snack containers - for when they're eating finger foods (10 months+ :)
Night time diapers - We switched to these at night when Bubbs was about 14 months. We change his sheets way less often.
Crib and crib sheets - for sleepy babies :)
Meh for 4-6 months+
Baby puree blender - you don't need a baby bullet or anything special. You can use a blender and it works fine. (And actually, I'm pretty sure the baby bullet has been recalled for containing lead or something like that)
It's been a while, so I might be missing a thing or two, but this should be a pretty good start. Baby stuff is so expensive! Let me know if you have questions on recommendations. Andy and I played around a lot with the things in the stores to make sure we liked them. Nothing sucks worse than buying something expensive, only to realize that you hate it because it's hard to collapse/isn't portable/is the wrong height or what-have-you. This is how I ended up with 3 strollers and why I sold our high chair on craigslist.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Command Center (or our solution to the spot in our house that collects everything that doesn't have a home)

When we were purchasing our home and looking at floor plans, our builder was very proud of the fact that their floor plans were family-friendly and had areas labeled "Tech Zone" or "Prep Zone" where you could charge your devices or prep food or what-have-you.

The problem with our "Tech Zone," which is just a ledge nailed into a small recess in the wall, is that it was too small to hold our laptops and in a very random place. In our open-floor-plan, it's between the basement door and the stairs. We store Rufus's food and water under the little ledge and anything that was in our way on our kitchen island was deposited in our "Tech Zone." So, in all reality, it became a "Random Clutter Zone" with coupons, cookbooks, wallets, glasses, cameras, chargers, spare change, keys, Kleenex. Ugh! It was a mess. (I do consider us blessed to have the shelf already built - some people have to DIY those shelves and ours matches the rest of the trim in the house. So I won't complain about it.)

So I pinned a ton of command centers and we went to work.

To start off, we had to clear off everything. Except my iPad. And the chargers.

Next step? Raid Target. We had an idea of what we wanted to with our laptops. We wanted to store them upright so we could charge them and they wouldn't take up all the room on the ledge. We scoured Amazon.com and office supply store websites. But everyone knows that Target is pretty much awesome, so that's where we ended up. I think we spent around $35 total.

We really lucked out with these file holders. They have holes, presumably to look stylish and sophisticated, that happen to also be the perfect size for screws!

We planned where we wanted everything to go and Andy started drilling and hanging.

I don't think there was a single Pinterest command center that I wanted to duplicate. Every home has different clutter and I think it helps to plan your command center around your clutter. Ours was laptops, papers and coupons.

I'm going to expand on this later by getting a corkboard to hang above the keys and I want to put a dry-erase board on the other side of the stairs so I can write messages and Andy can write "Poop."

Eventually we'll get around to the closet by the front door and our mudroom/laundry room. :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

DIY Canvas Quotes

I love the quotes on canvas that you see on etsy and pinterest all the time. The problem is I'm too much of a DIY-er to buy them (I know, I know, it supports small businesses).

It was about as time-consuming as I expected (probably about 2 hours per sign).

1) Use a nifty font website to create your template. I used Dafont.com and downloaded a bunch of fonts and made my templates in Word.

2) Once you get them juuuuust right, print them off. On the back side (the side that doesn't have the font), shade behind all of the words with pencil. You'll be making a transfer. Looking back, I should have tried using white colored pencil for the transfers I was planning on doing on the green canvases. I could barely make out the pencil.

3) Paint your canvases.

4) I put a book under my canvases during the transfer so that my pencil wouldn't stretch the canvases or leave dents (Game of Thrones is both a good read and a good crafting tool) and traced the letters, pressing down hard, to transfer the lead from the back side of the paper onto the canvas.

5) I used Sharpies to fill in the letters I traced. It was much easier than paint and I had more control. I used silver and gold markers on the green and red canvases. It was pretty easy to tackle a canvas or two while Bubby was napping.

6) Voila!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Travel with a toddler...in a car...for 10 hours...WHAAAAAAAAT?!

When Andy and I decided to travel back to Andy's home town for Christmas, I tried my best to not freak out. I'd traveled with a toddler in a car before. My little brother was 13 years younger than me and my family went on vacation every year. As the oldest, I got "Bobby Duty" and sat next to an 18-month-old for 2 days on our trip out west. I don't remember much of it, which means I probably blocked the experience from my mind. (Okay, I remember a few things, like playing "Bunny foo foo" for hours on end).

We scoured Pinterest for ideas for traveling with a toddler (which ended in many debates - travel at night or during the day? Who sits in the back?)

1. Travel day or night? We traveled during the day. Bubby loves to scoot around his crib at night and I was pretty sure that he would wake up at least once an hour crying, which totally negated Andy's argument that one of us could sleep while the other person drove. It would also make the first day there no fun. We would either be cranky or sleeping. So I...ahem, daytime traveling, won.

2. Seating arrangements? Most of what we read recommended that someone sit in the back, which was a lifesaver unless we were on bumpy freeways and I got carsick. I could trade out Bubby's toys with new ones, rescue ones that fell outside his reach, give him food, water, etc.

3. Speaking of...food? We packed the pouches, which Bubby loves. We also packed some Gerber Graduates cheese puff things, Puffs, cheese chunks and a cheese, ham and tortilla rollup for lunch.

4. Stopping? Probably one of the biggest lifesavers was using night time diapers. Bubby stayed dry the whole trip, which was remarkable considering one of the things he liked to do was drink water because the sippy cup made a whistling noise. We took breaks whenever I felt Bubby needed one, which ended up being about every 3 hours.

5. Entertainment? We raided the dollar section at Target (Bubby picked out a few dog toys - no surprise there - and we got some stickers, an empty lotion bottle, and a few board books) and I put a bunch of his favorite toys in a tub with a lid. It took every ounce of self control to not get out all of his new fun toys right away, but I managed. I waited until he fussed about whatever toy he was playing with before I swapped it out. Hayden LOVES lids on containers, so the biggest entertainers were the lotion bottle and a water bottle I brought. Some other ideas from pinterest that didn't really interest Bubby were magnets on a small cookie sheet and a doodlepad. Kids can be entertained by the strangest things sometimes...like headbands.

6. Naptime? I pretty much broke into a cold sweat when I thought about interfering with Bubby's nap schedule. Nap time for toddlers=sanity time for parents. Luckily, I brought along painter's tape and a light blanket to hang up over the window to help him sleep better. The tape doubled as an entertainment source and the blanket doubled as a bib when Andy forgot to pack paper towels.

Considering Bubby made it 10.5 hours without crying, each way, I considered it a great success! No diaper rash. No frazzled momma. No cranky baby.

Safe travels!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why salt dough ornaments are a tease (and other Christmas happenings)

Pinterest was going overboard with all of the cute salt dough recipes and ornaments on all kinds of pages (Holiday, Kids, DIY, EVERYWHERE!)

It was so easy, the pins promised. It was so cheap, the pins promised. It was so cute, the pins promised.

Bait taken.

Cheap? Sure, when you have most of the supplies on hand.
Cute? The jury's still out.
Easy? I almost abandoned this project three times. It was almost a pinterest fail.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water

Mix all ingredients together.

Easy! Especially when Bubby is helping "cook."

Knead until a ball of dough forms. Bubby played with it for about two minutes before he got bored with dropping pieces of it onto the floor. (I must remember that he is only 15 months old, which means a two-minute attention span is actually an accomplishment.)

Save dough in container for about three days until you summon enough courage to press a toddler's foot into it.

Form two balls out of dough. Pick pieces of dog fur out of dough ball. Press flat.

Press screaming toddler's foot into flattened dough.

Repeat. Give toddler iPhone for two minutes as a thank you.

Poke holes in the top (mechanical pencils without the lead pushed out work nicely).

(There are no pictures of these processes)

Let dry.

For two weeks.

None of the sites I checked mentioned anything about taking two weeks to dry. I set them on a cooling rack. I set them on waxed paper. I flipped them over (and prayed that the footprint would be preserved). I contemplated baking them, but didn't really feel like running my oven at 175 degrees for over an hour for two piddly salt dough ornaments.

On the second day of the drying process, the footprint flattened out and I thought all was lost. However, DO NOT ABANDON HOPE! The footprint will flatten out and then the rest will flatten and you'll be okay.

I finally got around to painting them.

And the painting experience was horrible. Maybe I set my expectations too high. I'm used to painting things like canvas or paper or rocks. Things that are not highly water soluble.

I couldn't figure out why my paint wasn't sticking if I brushed over it more than twice and then I realized that the dough had become wet and softened and was getting all gummy again.

When you paint these buggers, make sure you glob on the paint and dab rather than swipe. Also, don't go over an area more than once.

It dried pretty quickly, and it's kind of a success. One definitely looks better than the other. I think they are very third-grade-holiday-craft-from-art-class-ish. But I like 'em!

String ribbon through the hole and hang on the tree. We aren't cutting a tree this year since we'll be out of town, but you can use your imagination.

We also took our family photo. I was tempted to make it all Pinterest-y, but that's not really our family. We aren't always coordinated and matchy. We aren't always smiley. Rufus jumped into and out of about six takes. Sparkles don't fly in the air around us. There is no bokeh. No cute chalkboard signs.

So this year, it's a good ol' selfie.

My favorites:

The one we are going with:

Saturday, November 9, 2013

DIY Tied Wreath

Our neighbor is a Michigan fan, and every year, he hangs a flag off his front door (and every year, Andy crosses the street to go around his house on our walks). Our neighbor is probably pretty nice (we don't know him very well), but football rivalry blood runs deep in my husband's veins, so sometimes, he takes drastic measures. To show our Buckeye pride, I wanted to make a Buckeye wreath. Normally, Pinterest is my go-to DIY site. However, all of my wreath pins led to Etsy sites where I could buy a wreath for $XX plus shipping, or were dead ends (Oh, 404 Error, how I loathe thee!).

Fine. If Pinterest wasn't going to play nice, I'd wing it.

3 yds of fabric, your choice of colors. I went with red, dark grey, and light grey
1 foam wreath form
pinking shears

1) I'm not big measure-r, so I just started cutting approximately 1-2" strips of fabric and eyeballed the length. I wrapped the first one I cut around the wreath to see what it would look like. Cut to your desired length.
(I'm a naughty crafter and didn't even iron the fabric)

2) Tie strips around wreath form however you want. I'm a bit OCD about patterns, so I went red, light, dark. I thought about doing "rows" of colors, but Andy liked them all mixed together.

3) You can have the knots point any direction you want for different effects.

(Knots facing up, with a few turned back so I can glue something nifty to the corner)

(Knots facing out)

4) I added my Buckeye necklace to the wreath and attached them. (I also bought wooden letters O,S, and U, but thought they took up too much room.)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Do it!

Join a bone marrow registry (or at least think about it). (And make sure you're willing to follow through if you join!)

I just mailed my kit back Monday. Who knows - maybe I can save someone's life :)

If there is ever anyone I know whose life depended on a bone marrow transplant, I hope their match registered.