Showing posts with label Soft Things. Show all posts

Getting Chores Done with a Toddler

I have two facts for you today:
  1. 1. Chores are REALLY hard to get done when kids are awake and generally being kids.

  2. 2. Toddlers LOVE doing what adults are doing.
So let's take advantage of these two facts, get some quality one-on-one time with your kiddo, and teach a bit of responsibility and/or life skills while we're at it.

The way we split up our household duties, I generally have the most Sisyphean of tasks: dishes and laundry. Forget any old gender-normed jokes - anyone doing a family's dishes can safely be called Dishyphus. Anyway, their frequent repetition (and in the case of laundry, spread of the task throughout the day) and extreme similarity from day-to-day makes them great places to solicit some toddler help.

Why have your toddler help? Won't that just make moderately unpleasant tasks unbearably sloowwwwwwwww?

Yes, it will be slow. Of course, just about anything your toddler does is slow, so this isn't really much of a change. But, more importantly, this is a key case of "compared to what?"

Can you empty the dishwasher by yourself in less than an hour? Of course, but do you want to spend your precious time when the children are asleep doing it? Or, more realistically, you can now spend their sleeping time doing the inevitable additional dishes (there are always more dishes), but with a much smaller stack.

And even if it does take an hour to do "together," so what? My daughter pretends in her ever-elaborate toddler ways to do the dishes anyway. Why not at least play together and wind up with some clean real dishes at the end?

Also, of course with practice, they'll need less supervision and be faster. Continuing with the emptying the dishwasher example, we've approached a speed pretty close to having me do it alone, but with all the benefits of having her help too.

How about just playing with your kids? 

So first, who says that play and chores aren't the same thing? But even if I accept the premise, kids and family and chores and everything else live in the real world. Dishes and laundry and grocery shopping and cooking and all the other things have to get done. I'd much rather live in a world where we have a good time doing these things together than have the weight of the list on my shoulders while Trying Very Hard to HAVE FUN and then having a million things to do after bedtime and no time to relax. Less anxious parents are also better parents.

PLUS... the line between play and work is pretty fine for kids of this age. Left entirely to their own devices, kids playact the things they see in their lives. Just today my daughter has, when playing, pretended to cook dinner, wash dishes, bring all her dolls to the bathroom, and have them line up for the potty just like they do at daycare.

And if that wasn't enough convincing (and let's be honest, anyone who knows me knows that I don't understand the concept of "enough convincing"), experts and even science agrees with me. One-on-one time, even when done as a joint project, or smooshed into other activities gets the approval of Dr. Harley Rotbart (of No Regrets Parenting, a book I haven't read, but have heard of) and this New York Times article. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal cites multiple studies, scientists, and experts who find kids who do chores (and start them earlier in life) are more empathetic as well as more able to be self-sufficient.

So let's give this a shot, what kinds of activities do you do? How do keep it useful, safe, sane?

Laundry

From about when she could walk, our daughter was interested in watching and helping with the laundry. Given that it's a long series of small tasks, it's pretty easy to find something for almost any age kid to do for at least part of the cycle.

Sorting

  • * Do they know clothes types? "Put all the socks in this bin," since they're all washed warm anyway.
  • * Do they know their colors? "Help me find all the white shirts and put them in this pile."
  • * Working on shape recognition? Learn the laundry symbols together! "Can you count the dots or lines on this tag?"
  • * Early reader? "Can you find the word 'Warm' or 'Cold'?"
  • * Plus a dive or two into a pile of dirty clothes is admittedly pretty fun, and no grosser than anything else they'll do.

Filling the machines

  • * Living on one floor, with hardwood floors, and with low-friction laundry baskets, our daughter started insisting on dragging the (lighter) hampers to the laundry room on her own before she was two.
  • * She's also found great joy in me turning the hamper on its side, her crawling in, pulling out a few items, and placing them directly into our front-loading washer. It's slow as hell, but my back has also found great joy in this too!
  • * If she can put them in the washer, she can take them out and hand them to me to put in the dryer (stacked way too high for her at this point). My back thanks her again.
  • * Like all modern washers, ours has a multitude of buttons. For now, I do all the setup, but she knows where the start button is and when to press it. She's also getting the hang of the soap dispenser; she's not quite ready to empty soap into it or pour from the bottle (though she offered this morning). Depending on your interface, you may have other buttons or knobs that you can use to match the laundry labels or practice some reading.
  • * While I haven't done this one yet, I remember the first thing my parents had me help with is cleaning the lint trap. I think I'll wait until she stops sucking her fingers before teaching her this one...

Putting away clean clothes

This may be something you only want help for the kids' loads, but it's another great way for them to take some ownership of their lives and to give you a hand.
  • * Sort the clean clothes into what goes into the closet vs. the drawers
  • * Sort own clothes from any applicable siblings
  • * Learn to fold pants
  • * Match socks!
  • * Or even just hand you one item at a time to hang, again helping out your back.
We just lowered the baby's crib, so maybe this back thing is just me...

Dishes

Just because you're doing chores,
doesn't mean you can't wear a fun hat!
Obviously the dishes present more safety challenges than the laundry, but there's still plenty to do. First, and most important, we put her cups and bowls in a bottom drawer of our pantry so that at mealtime, she can get her own things out and help us set the table.

Because of this, our first stage of helping with the dishes was putting away her own clean plates, bowls, and cups (after washing her hands, of course). I'd take them out of the dishwasher and put them somewhere she could reach (first placing them out one at a time, and then later in a stack). Busying herself running back and forth to the pantry one plate at a time bought me lots of time to empty out the rest of the dishwasher.

Next, she's started helping put away all the silverware, which is frequently all I have left after the time she spent putting away her own things. After I first put away all the knives, she sits in one of our high stools and matches forks and spoons from the dishwasher basket to what's in the drawer. As of right now, she still doesn't have much intuition for what goes where, but it's a great opportunity for me to suggest she "run a experiment to see where it fits."

With that under her belt, she became more interested in how things get put into the dishwasher. So now, when I start loading the dishwasher (usually while she's still sorting cutlery), I set aside two piles:
  1. 1. I place all the dirty cutlery (except knives) on the open door of the dishwasher for her to place back into the basket once it's empty and returned to the dishwasher 

  2. 2. Her plates/bowls/cups for her to place where I point to in the dishwasher.  

Other household tasks you can do together

  • * At the grocery store, help steer the cart (this also helps them stay close with a hand on the cart).
  • * Also at the grocery store, carry the box/can/etc. to the cart and place in or hand to another adult. Helping at the grocery store is also a good way to keep little bodies active and little minds from getting bored enough to start causing mischief.
  • * Help set the table for dinner. Even if you don't want her carrying your fine china (you don't), she can place napkins, bring over her own plates and cutlery, and as you trust her more, carry small containers of food or toppings/condiments to the table. 
  • * And as you loyal readers know, they can help cook!

Carrying cheese home from the grocery store

The Caveats

Ok, so, after all that discussion of my amazing help with chores, I have to remind you, this is the real world with a real kid. 
  • * Some days she disrupts my ability to get anything done. She's a toddler, and like all parents, I do some combination of roll with the punches (preferred), fume (acceptable backup plan), and actively get frustrated at her (we all do it sometimes). 
  • * Some days she has no interest in helping and prefers to play by herself while I get some things done. This is obviously fine and the fact she can articulate her preferences and feel confident playing alone is great! 
  • * Some days she will want to help with one step of the process but not others. That's fine too; we're still too young for these to be chores/responsibilities and we're not forcing her to do any of it, so if she wants to help sort but not fill the washing machine, that's great. I got help sorting!
  • * Something will get broken at some point. Life will happen.
Regardless, the final upside to all this is that my child has some basic understanding of what it takes to run a household - clean dishes and clothes don't just appear out of thin air, and neither do groceries or dinner. In our house, they take work. At this age she can help or she can entertain herself while that work happens. Either way, she sees that the world doesn't entirely revolve around her moment-to-moment desires.

And, of course, we get to spend some great one-on-one time that fills her need to feel like a big girl and my need to have clean pants for work.

Bibs for eating out (aka limiting the grossness in your diaper bag)

A couple months in your parenting gig you may feel like you've more or less gotten it together.  In fact you may get so cocky that you start venturing out to eat in places that are not your house.  You may even consider bringing your baby to these places... your baby who may be eating food him/herself by this point.  Woah!

You'll want to be prepared for this and bring along some things to make it easier for both of you -  such as a cup they're used to using at home, a small toy, and of course, a bib. We've covered our favorite bibs on this blog before, but we quickly noticed with our oldest the following sequence of events when eating out:
  1. 1. Bib goes on baby.

  2. 2. Baby smears food all over the bib.

  3. 3. Bib gets folded yucky side in and placed in the diaper bag.
Eons of time pass
  1. 4. Bib gets discovered in the diaper bag after a geologic age has passed.  It is now super gross and has fostered new life.
Having gone through the experience described above several times we hit upon a solution one day when out for breakfast at a local diner. We noticed another family was eating with their toddler but the child had on a disposable bib. I don't know why we'd never seen such a thing, but we immediately accosted the family and interrogated them to soak in their wisdom. Since then we've been keeping a couple of Disposable Bibs by Mighty Clean Baby in our bag (in the interim, Munchkin Disposable Bibs has come out with their own version that we haven't tried yet, but has great reviews).

And we've never again had to reach into our diaper bag only to realize we are touching week old banana that's been smashed into a bib... and we've all lived happily ever after!

First shoes for babies

Babies don't need shoes.  Everyone will tell you that!

"Great!" you'll think, "that's one less thing I need to worry about picking".

Hanging out, eating a Starbucks card... like you do.
Then you'll go merrily about your life... until your baby starts cruising (i.e. standing and walking holding on to something). Suddenly, those adorable footie pants seem like a slippery death device strapped to your baby's feet.

"Lies!" you'll scream in frustration, "babies need shoes!... How in heaven's name to do I pick shoes for a baby?!?!?!"

In all seriousness, this is something I found really stressful because I have often been the victim of uncomfortable shoes in my life and at 8 months, I couldn't exactly ask my daughter which shoes were comfy.

Hanging out, demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of "eating"
Thankfully we found our way to Robeez crib shoes (also available at Zappos) fairly quickly. These shoes are soft and easy to put on.  Best of all, they have a non slip sole that works great on hardwood floors.

The brand makes lots of different designs to fit any taste and they come in a variety of sizes too.  In fact my two and a half year old still uses (a much larger) pair as slippers to be worn inside the house in the winter.


Dressing babies and toddlers for the cold when they go to day care

My kids go to day care.  They both started when they were 12 weeks old and have been attending since with very few interruptions. We picked a day care that really puts a value on the kids spending time each day out doors.  Not only that, but it worked out that the day care is located in Dad's place of work.  This means that their commute to school on transit each day is as long as ours. As a result, for the past 3 years we've had to pick weather gear for them that would:

  1. 1. Withstand the Boston winter - complete with icy temperatures, wind, and snow.
  2. 2. Be as easy to put on and take off as possible.
  3. 3. Be something that travels with the child should their teachers take them on an outing.
Having now done this for 3 years, we have some recommendations. 

Cold Weather Gear for Toddlers

We've already covered high performance boots and socks for toddlers in another post. For coats we've really liked having the Columbia Sets for Toddlers. We've always gotten the coats that came with the firefighter style pants.  These keep the legs warm while staying safety in place with Velcro shoulders, whether the kid is going down the slide or doing the "ants in the pants" dance on the train. The Velcro also allows you to adjust the length of the pants should your tyke have a growth spurt in the middle of winter (these are very generously sized outfits). Additionally, having the pants be separate from the coat (as opposed to something like the Columbia Toddler Dude Suit) makes it possible to have an outfit for an intermediate temperature by being paired with a lighter jacket (pictured). In all, this is a highly practical way to allow toddlers to be outside, come what may.

Cold Weather Gear for Babies

Stroller straps can be placed over the coat
If you're expecting that you'll have a baby who is unlikely to walk before the end of winter, then something that's basically a bag for the baby is the way to go. As we mentioned in our post about the versatile winter blanket, we do not have stroller bunting for our kids.  This is because we need their cold weather gear to go with them and be usable for day care outings, without having to unstrap it from the stroller. With our first, who was born in June, and thus 6-9 months old in her first winter, we made the mistake of getting her the Columbia Sets for Toddlers described above.  This set, while really great for older kids, was kind of a pain to wrestle a baby into.  Not only did we have to stuff her into both parts of the snow suit separately, but we then had to get some boots on her feet as well. So, when planning for my son's arrival, I wanted something easier, especially since I knew I would have to get two kids bundled for any outing.

Straps disappearing inside the coat for a safe buckle
We settled on the 7AM Enfant Doudoune One Piece Infant Snowsuit. This brand makes all kinds of high quality weather gear from stroller bunting, to carseat covers, to carrier covers.  However, the snowsuit, in my opinion, is the best investment because it is one thing that can be used in any of those situations. The suit is essentially a bag with a hood. Unlike a true bag, though, the legs are separate and closed with snaps like a footie.  This means that the baby can both straddle the parent in a carrier as well as be easily strapped into a stroller.  Additionally, no separate mittens are necessary as the sleeves can be made to leave the hands covered or uncovered, as desired. It definitely wins points for ease all around. Just this week, a fellow parent in the day care infant room complimented the ease with which I was able to remove the outerwear from the baby while juggling all of his other possessions.

Best of all, a baby wearing this suit can be placed into a car seat safely.  You've doubtless seen the recommendations against strapping children in puffy coats into car seats because they can easily slip out in accident. However with this snow suit you can put the straps of the car seat inside the coat (thread the crotch strap between the leg snaps and attach to the shoulder straps before zipping up the sides).  This allows you to get away with not having a separate car seat cover, which for a carfree family is nice bonus.

Buying Smart

Thredup Inc.As we mentioned in our post about gender neutral clothing, we tend to buy seasonal gear at the end of the previous year's season.  We lucked out and were able to get the baby snow suit for half the price last spring.  Likewise, by shopping for toddler winter coats in the summer and/or at second-hand stores, we've never paid full price for those either. Since staying warm is one place where skimping on quality is a bad idea, it's always nice to get a good price on something you were going to buy anyway.  Buying high quality clothes second hand, whether at your local thrift shop, or from ThredUp, is always a good idea.  Children grow way too fast to wear out anything well made.



  

Sheets and Things - or - how many layers can your child pee through?

Everybody pees...

But babies and kids have special abilities to pee on (and through) everything. So what is a good parent to do other than be prepared (or, pee-pared... ahem).

Consequently, the method here is to treat your child's sleeping arrangements like the many layers of the earth, all working in concert to protect the inner core, i.e. the mattress.

Wait, Wait, Mr. Earth Science - Isn't this why we use diapers?

Yeah, modern diapers are pretty amazing, aren't they? They swell to many times their original size, super gels absorb even the humidity in the air, and you get a nice snug fit. Alas, every child in every diaper type will have a blowout from time to time. Maybe the diaper wasn't on quite right, maybe they learned to open it, maybe they're too big or too small for the current size, maybe they ate something funny. Whatever the cause, it happens, and when it happens, you don't want to be unprepared.

But even if diapers were perfect, all this pee-proofing is necessary for two more reasons:

  1. 1. It won't always be pee. While diapers may catch other bodily fluids, it'll be no help for spit-up, vomit, nosebleeds, or whatever other foul things may (and will) emanate from your precious angel.

  2. 2. Hard is it may be to believe, someday the child will be learning not to use diapers and when that day (or, indeed, many days) comes, nap time and bedtime are likely to result in a frequent changing of the linens. So if something keeps you sane with your baby also and a toddler, that's a "go for it" in our book.

 The Inner Core - Mattress

So at some point we'll have a big write-up on mattresses, but for what we are discussing here, the key is preventing any liquid from getting INTO the mattress where Very Bad Things can happen (mostly mold, followed closely by breathing problems). And because mattresses are pricey, this is the last thing you want to replace.

Many mattresses out there are waterproof but check and double-check. There are some weasel-words describing, particularly, "natural" mattresses that may mention "protecting against leaks," but don't actually claim to be waterproof.

Because liquids will move to find the lowest point we also recommend finding a mattress without seams.  A seamless mattress doesn't give a place for liquid to pool and also doesn't provide an easy-opening to seep through.

Finally, remember that accidents are going to happen for years and you may find yourself changing the bed at 3am solo, so a lightweight mattress will be your friend.

We went with the Lullaby Earth Healthy Support Crib Mattress because it is waterproof, seamless, and only weighs 7 pounds. 

The Outer Core - Mattress Pad

So the mattress is waterproof, mission accomplished, right? No.

Let's say your kid pees through to the mattress. You strip the bed and wipe the mattress up to the best of your ability. But where does the kid sleep until everything dries? This is doubly an issue if you find yourself needing to disinfect something worse than pee. So, to the rescue is a mattress cover.

The mattress cover, aside from being another layer to absorb and stop whatever is thrown at it, is machine washable. Now the mess you have can be easily stripped from the bed and thrown into the wash (pre-treated with spray, as needed) without much additional thought. This is much better than dealing with a wet mattress.

We bought the American Baby Company Organic Waterproof Natural Quilted Fitted Crib Mattress Pad Cover but no matter what you get, be sure to get more pads than you have mattresses (we own three between the two kids) as this allows the quick change without waiting for the washing machine.

The Mantle - Piddle Pad

And now we get to the first line of defense... the lap/piddle/bassinet pad. These are bits of waterproof fabric you can lay down right under the sheets to sop up most (or all) if your mess. 95% of the time, when we've had to change things, we've only needed to change the sheets and the piddle pad.

Wonderful things about piddle pads:
  1. 1. They come in lots of shapes/sizes so you can put them in whatever orientation makes sense and you can use them for a bassinet, a play yard, a bed, or whatever else you need.  The mattresses in these things often have no waterproofing at all so these babies may very well be your only defense.

  2. 2. You can use them as a changing pad on-the-go or in some other pinch. (We've had a couple instances when ALL of our changing pad covers had been soiled.  We just plopped one of these down and used in the interim).

Consequently, it's worth having a few sets of these handy. We have a few hand-me-downs from other families, but when we needed more, we bought the MyKazoe Waterproof Bassinet Play Yard Pad & Lap Pads.  These are available in a variety of colors/patterns. Note that three pads come in the set.  

The Crust - Sheets

From a waterproofing perspective, these don't matter much. We have a bunch of sheets from Skip Hop.  That said at the moment of this writing they appeared to be discontinued. The reason we bought these is that they were soft the touch and very cute from the side of the crib, even if you didn't have a bumper on (which are no longer recommended).  For the record we also own some Summer Infant Printed Crib Sheets that we use for day care and they are much rougher to the touch.  Given that babies and kids spend a lot of time in their cribs, getting some comfy sheets seems like a good investment.
 



Photo credit: Earth Layers by NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bibs

How you feel about bibs in part depends on what your baby is like.  When my daughter was a baby and the avalanche of clothing gifts descended on our house, many of the outfits included bibs. Since my daughter hardly ever spat up more than a tiny amount, all those bibs sat in a drawer taking up space and being useless.   Then we started solids, the bibs came out, and we realized that most of them were even more useless on the baby than in the drawer. Most novelty bibs that come with outfits are small and not at all waterproof, which means they hardly offer any protection. So, after having to change her clothes every time she ate, I went out and bought some Green Sprouts Waterproof Absorbent Terry Bibs.

These are great for a number of reasons. They have cloth on the outside (both sides, they are reversible) so they feel nice to touch and can be used to wipe the baby's face. But, they have a waterproof lining in the center which means that even if your kid dumps an entire spoonful of soup on herself, her shirt will remain intact.  And, unlike their plastic counterparts, these are machine washable. This means cleaning the bibs is no extra work (you do laundry every other day anyway, right?). The absorptive fabric/waterproof combo also comes in handy for that charming month or two in your baby's life when rivers of drool are constantly coming out of their mouths.

Now I have a second baby who, wonder of wonders, is a totally different child. We haven't started feeding him solids yet. However, we've already had to break out the bibs due to the massive quantity of spit up he produces. And let me tell you, despite the number of novelty bibs in my drawer growing with the number of children, I pretty much always still reach for the green sprouts.


Boy, Girl, or Just Baby - Gender neutral clothing options

If you've spent even 5 seconds in a baby store you may have noticed something disturbing.  All the clothing, from premature baby sizes on up is neatly divided into "boys" and "girls" sections.  What's even weirder about this abrupt line is that eyeing the sections quickly will reveal that girls get one color (pink, with the occasional purple accent thrown in) and boys get all the other colors.  This is so incredibly limiting to both genders, but especially to girls.  There is a lot of science on how adults interact differently with babies and kids if they believe the child to be a boy or a girl (regardless of the truth).  Obviously, we don't "hide" the gender of either of our children (I'm not sure how that would even work). But we do want them to feel free to pick anything off the buffet of options that life has to offer.  You may think that dressing your daughter exclusively in pink isn't a problem as long as you get her blocks to play with (hey! they even make pink ones of those too... gag).  One problem with that, among others, is what happens when she encounters non pink toys and decides that they aren't for her.  It is this subtle segregation of kids by gender role that rubs me very much the wrong way. By the way, if you think "it's always been this way, why make waves?", I'm here to tell this is not true.  Toys are way more gendered now than they were 30 years ago.

Finally, if I haven't convinced you yet of the value of dressing all children in all the colors, then consider the following. Buying more neutral clothing is practical if you want to maximize the number of hand-me downs available for any other children in your future, whether they be yours or those of friends and family.  Finally, here is a great blog post on this whole topic from another mother.

If you're thinking that this is all very noble but highly challenging, then you are correct. For starters, well meaning people in your life will buy you whatever they feel like (especially as new baby presents).  The difficulty increases as you start to leave baby clothing. (At least some baby clothing is less gendered, due to the fact that a portion of people wait until the baby is born to find that out.)  Obviously, it's nearly impossible to control what other people do, but where does one buy clothing for one's own children to balance out the onslaught of frilly pink dresses? Here are some tips and brands we've found that present great options in this dimension (scroll to the end to find out how to make this affordable).

Brands that sell non-gendered clothing 

  • - Zutano: Available directly from their site, as well as on Amazon and Gigglethis brand sells really high quality clothing, with fun designs, that will definitely survive multiple children's antics.

  • - Magnificent Baby: This is a really wonderful brand (see their Amazon store) that sells clothing with magnetic closures (these are particularly awesome when traveling and trying to change a diaper in a bathroom on a moving train or airplane).  It's true that their clothing are all labeled "boy" and "girl," but we can look past this sad state of affairs due to the fact that the actual designs are really adorable and not actually gendered.  

  • - Boden: You may have seen their adult clothing line at Nordstroms or a British high street.  Their children's clothing, however, available here, is particularly excellent.  They sell a single line for babies under 3.  While the mini line (starting at one and a half years) are also divided by gender, most of the pieces are easily appropriate for all kids.  (Note to watch: the "boys" clothing runs a bit bigger so pay attention to the size chart when choosing which size to get).

  • - Polarn O. Pyret: This is a Swedish brand that sells fantastic clothing for active play, including great outerwear.  They even have a line called "uni" that is specifically not targeted.  You can buy it at their site or on Amazon.  Word of caution: their sizes run huuuuuuge because apparently Swedish children are giants in the making so pay careful attention to the size chart.

  • - Gap:  Ok so this one is a bit of a stretch.  Their clothing is most definitely gendered.  That said, their "playroom" line is really appropriate for anyone.  Absolutely a good option, that's obviously easy to find everywhere in America.

  • - Just buying clothing and putting it on your children.  Who said that trucks and flowers are just for half the children?

Oh My God! I just spent a king's ransom dressing my child!

Some of the above brands can absolutely run very expensive.  We are in no way advocating that you spend $24 on a t-shirt that your toddler will grow out in 4 months (or cover in escalator grease... that said, if they do cover it in escalator grease, here are some cleaning tips).  Here are some ways you can buy clothing that fit with your world view without breaking the bank.

  • End of Season Sales - You, as a member of modern society, are aware of how calendars work.  When all the high end brand websites and stores are clearing out their winter clothes, it's time to go to town on sizes that will fit your kid in 6 months.  This is the perfect opportunity to buy winter coats, sweaters, and pants at half off or more.  (Conversely, the end of August is great for buying bathing suits which are also really expensive for kids if they have a built in diaper.)  Sure, storage space at your house is probably at a premium, but this is the kind of thing that can get put in a bin that goes in that impossible to reach corner of your closet.

  • High end children's second hand stores.  Most major metropolitan areas have one (Fancy Pants is an example of one in Boston, The Second Child is great in Chicago).  All the high end brands we described above make clothing that way outlasts one child.  We bought an excellent Boden coat in one for $10.  The coat then went on to another child.  I'm sure that coat originally retailed for at least $50.  Plus, buying high end brands means you can often resell them to these very same stores, thus making back some of your investment (assuming your kid stays away from the escalator grease at least some of the time). If you don't have one of thoes places local, you can always try out threadUP, either to buy (Shop thredUP's Designer Looks Section Now!) or sell (Clean out your Closet with thredUP

  • Amazon Mom sales - Once you've signed up for Amazon Mom, keep an eye out for emails and coupons from Amazon with periodic sales as well as using their advanced search to find deeply discounted items.

This seems like a lot of work... is it worth it?

So I guess this depends on your outlook on life.  This seems worth it to me.  It's really important to me that my children know that they can climb any play ground structure, play with any toy, and try any new thing they want.  I never want either of them to think that their gender has anything to do with those decisions.  Clothing may not seem like a big deal, but it's amazing how small attitude changes affect children.  We let our toddler pick her clothing out every morning.  Some days she picks the fire truck shirt and other days the frilly dress.  Either way, for now, she knows that she can do anything!

The truly versatile winter baby blanket

Whenever I see something advertised as having 20 uses, I assume that at least 19 of them are a terrible idea or a serious stretch.  It's pretty hard to design something that really and truly works well in multiple circumstances.  So when I saw the Kurumi Ket Carrier Cover with Hoodieadvertised as having "5 in 1 uses," I was extremely skeptical.  I was originally looking for a cover to use with a carrier while preparing for the arrival of our son.  This is because when my daughter was a baby, we just tried to carry her inside our coat (see picture on the right).  This really didn't work well and resulted in neither my daughter nor the parent carrying her being particularly warm.  So, I saw that the Kurumi Ket Carrier Cover with Hoodie had good reviews and figured that worst case, we would only use it as a carrier cover and nothing else.


Color me wrong.  So far we have tried this extremely versatile blanket in a number of circumstances with great success.

Nursing on the playground

Nursing Cover

I don't always use a nursing cover for modesty reasons, especially when there is literally no one else around.  I have, however, started to have the experience of needing to nurse outside in less than pleasant weather.  When I only had one child, I would, of course, go somewhere more comfortable in these circumstances.  However, my older kiddo really does need to be able to run around and the younger kiddo isn't exactly patient when it comes to food.  Thus, I have been finding myself nursing on a park bench in all kinds of weather recently.  The Kurumi Ket really does work great as a cold weather nursing cover.  The fleece hood keeps it on the baby without much need to even close the snaps (though I could if I needed to) and I can still see what I'm doing.  Viola - baby and mom are warm.

Stroller Blanket

We never ended up getting one of those foot muffs for the stroller when my daughter was a baby (the Skip Hop Stroll and Go Three-Season Footmuff is a well regarded example).  We pretty much just put her in a warm coat and headed out.  If it was particularly cold we'd throw a blanket on her and if it was windy we'd use our rain cover.  However, for those days when the weather was changing and we ended up relying on the blanket more than planned, it was always a pain to keep it on her and in the stroller.  More often than not, the blanket would fall out at some point during the outing only to be rolled and then stepped on by yours truly.  This is why I totally love the idea of using the Kurumi Ket as a stroller blanket.  The little arms with snaps can attach to the stroller frame so there is no way of losing it.  They recommend attaching it "upside down" with the hood covering the baby's feet - genius!  It's certainly not as warm as a real footmuff but so far it's been working great.


Carrier Cover

Last, but not least, we are also using it as a carrier cover - the item of desire that started this whole thing in the first place.  Here I am, pictured about to embark on a walk with my little bear snuggled comfortably in his carrier, covered by the blanket.  

All around I would give this blanket an enthusiastic thumbs up!  Not only is it truly versatile but for the price it is honestly great value.  I think it's about to join the Mai Tai as a permanent resident of my stroller basket. 

Kicking and screaming to hugging - the saga of pregnancy pillows and Tums

Non-pregnant woman, sleeping peacefully.
When I think about the attitude I had towards pregnancy going into my first one, it's hard not to laugh.  I had this idea that I wasn't going to let pregnancy "change" me.  I was going to go about my life in exactly the same why I had been up to that point, and then eventually a baby was going to come out.  Then I would be the same exact me I had always been but with a cute new accessory.

Haggard pregnant woman, roaming the night, hoping to pass out in exhaustion.
One of the first places the reality of pregnancy really struck was when it came to sleep.  Pregnancy insomnia is a well documented phenomenon (here is a really great blog essay about it).  However, often throughout my pregnancy, even when I felt like I could fall and stay asleep, other things interfered.

Heartburn

Starting early in the first trimester I began to experience intense, fire breathing, life disturbing heartburn.   It would particularly peak any time I made the mistake of lying down.  Many women experience heartburn in their third trimester when the baby becomes big enough to press on the stomach.  Others of us are lucky enough to start with it a lot earlier.  (First trimester heartburn is caused by a hormone called "relaxin".  As the name implies, relaxin is released throughout pregnancy to relax the muscles and make room for the baby to grow.  However, it also has the unpleasant side effect of relaxing the muscles normally involved in keeping your stomach content where it belongs.)

Pass the Tums
Now being the tough cookie that I am, I was determined to just white knuckle my way through the pain rather than "endanger" my precious cargo with medication.  Thankfully, my husband had a clear head and a kind heart and did me the favor of looking up which antacids were safe to take in pregnancy.  This is how we came upon the incredibly safe (and obvious) solution of Tums.  Many of you are hopefully rolling your eyes right about now because who doesn't know about Tums?  However, since then I have spoken to enough pregnant women to know that many of them are suffering needlessly in exactly the same way I was.  Tums consists almost entirely of one simple and safe ingredient - Calcium.  That's right, it's a highly effective way to treat heartburn with a mineral that you're likely not eating enough of anyway.  Try it once and you'll likely be keeping a bottle on your nightstand, in your purse, at your desk at work, and anywhere else you can think of.

Note: If you also have to take iron supplements at some point during your pregnancy, be aware that calcium interferes with iron absorption.  This is unfortunate since iron supplements often exacerbate heartburn.  If you fall into this situation, I recommend taking the iron mid-morning.  That way you have something in your stomach so the iron is less likely to upset it, but you are hopefully far away in time from desperately needing the Tums to get some shut eye (the iron needs a 2-hour window to be absorbed fully).

Musculoskeletal pain 

This is a gift that just keeps on giving in pregnancy.  It is an extremely under-appreciated fact that a woman's spine literally shifts throughout her first pregnancy in order to accommodate the growing uterus (and never fully comes back to its original position).  Couple that with the weight gain, the round ligament pain, and a million other things, back and hip pain are extremely common, especially towards the end.  This can make getting comfortable in bed almost impossible. (I highly recommend prenatal yoga as a way to help your body cope with the changes.)

Many people will recommend that you sleep on your side, place a pillow behind your back, another pillow under your belly, and then another one between your knees to get comfortable.  Frankly those people are crazy because who sleeps perfectly still like that?  I will admit to resisting the pregnancy pillow for a long time because it looked huge and I surely wasn't going to need it and what was I going to do with it when I was no longer pregnant?  Then, somewhere around 6 months I broke down and got myself a Snoogle Total Body Pillow and haven't looked back.

The Snoogle makes sleeping without pain (at first), and later in your pregnancy with less pain, possible.  Also, unlike the pillow construction described above, it allows you to roll over (assuming you are at a point in your pregnancy where you're still able to do that). I will admit that it is quite large (my husband referred to it as "the great barrier Snoogle" when it was in constant use).   However, the Snoogle people undersell it as a purely pregnancy pillow.  It comes with a handy sheet that tells you all the different ways you can use it for more than just sleeping while pregnant. As a frequent sufferer of colds and sinus infections, it has been a convenient way to prop myself up in bed in the years since. We keep it in a storage bin under the bed for easy access when someone is sick.

I still can't sleep

Yeah.... yeah.  Anxiety about your future, the constant need to pee, the kicking from inside, the Braxton Hicks contractions - all of these will keep you awake much more than you previously thought possible.  I wish I had something helpful to say here but I don't.  Nap if you're able during the day or when you get home from work.  If you're passing out in exhaustion at 9pm (only to be maddeningly awake at 4 am) go ahead and go to bed at 9pm.  Maybe 4am can be a zen time for you to read?  In any case, this will all come to an end eventually (though you may continue to go to bed 9 pm because kids are kind of exhausting).  The baby will be born and babies can always be handed off to a partner/friend/mom while you go and pass out in the other room.

    

Jackets - your kid won't wear them, but you'll feel better if you own some

2 year old in styling rain coat.
When I was a teenager I refused to wear a coat on a regular basis, despite the fact that my family lived in the mountains of northern PA and not San Diego.  I had assumed that I would pass on this or some other annoying habit to my children, I just didn't expect it to manifest quite so early.  I am sad to say that we have begun the coat battles already.  (I know you're thinking that I should just let her not wear a coat and wait until she tells me she's cold.  However, she is very stubborn and has literally had her lip turn blue and hasn't asked for a coat.  I'm not waiting until the hypothermia kicks in).

10 month old in raincoat.
Anyway, if you live somewhere it rains periodically, your kid will need a good rain coat.  We've had a really great experience with Hatley Raincoats (Amazon) or Hatley Kids (Zappos).  Not only do they come in all sorts of adorable patterns, but they are super practical as well.  They have a soft terry cloth lining that feels good to the kid and provides some additional warmth for those days when it's raining AND 35 degrees out.  They are generously sized so we have been able to use the same coat for both spring and fall of a given year.  And they have lovely hood (tip: use a hair clip to keep the hood on your child's head if you live in a windy city).

While it's true that they can be pricey, you can often find them at "end of season" sales either in brick and mortar establishments or on Amazon.  Because of the generous sizing, you're likely to be able to guess your kids size (we already have our 3T coat ready for next spring).  Also, many of their designs are quite gender neutral and the coats are quite durable so if you do have multiple kiddos this is a great candidate for hand-me-downs.

Just when I thought you couldn't, you disappoint me even more - Pottery Barn

 Before I was a parent I never gave much thought to which stores catered to us city folks and which targeted the more suburban crowd.  I shopped where I shopped (and frankly not much of anywhere) and never gave it much thought.  Then I had a baby.  Suddenly I had to pick and acquire and receive SO MUCH NEW STUFF.  For being so tiny, babies come with a ton of things, even if you are like me and really try and stick to the practical necessities.  
Adorable 3 piece $20 Carter's FULL costume
When we had our first child, we registered for the things we thought we needed.  The first lesson we learned is that when you have a baby suddenly everyone wants to get you things (this completely shocked me, but frankly since then when my friends have had babies I totally understood other people's impulses).  Some of those gift givers look at your registry and some give you whatever they feel like.  This is how we found ourselves in possession of our very first Pottery Barn Kids gift certificate and I found myself on my very first trip to that store.  It did not go well.  Everything in the store is demarcated by a hard gender line (because girls don't like Star Wars... or something).  Everything is huge.  Everything is expensive.  We looked and looked and ended up walking out with a toy and book, both of which are widely available in any store, because nothing that was specifically PBK in any way appealed to us or would fit into our apartment.

PBK's picture of a $40 half costume
 Fast forward 2 years, and we found ourselves in possession of yet another PBK certificate post the arrival of a second baby.  I looked and looked on their website (not even wanting to waste my time with a trip to the store).  Nothing appealed to me.  Then Halloween rolls around and I thought "A costume!! Sure it's frivolous, but what better way to spend some free money!"  So here's the thing.... When my daughter was a baby we got her a $20 Carter's ladybug costume for Halloween (pictured above, modeled by my daughter).  It consisted of 3 pieces - a 1 piece vest and hood, a shirt, and pants.  It was the pinnacle of cuteness.  
What I actually received from PBK - sigh

I looked at PBK's website and saw this picture of a fish costume.  Ok, so I didn't read very carefully to note that it only came with a hat and a "jumpsuit" (is this a common way to refer to a vest? just say vest damn it!).  But the picture of perfectly matched arms and legs, not to mention the hefty $40 price tag, implied to me that I was about to receive an actual FULL costume.  Instead all I got was this - a vest and a hat.

Pottery Barn, thy name is disappointment, with a hint of fraud.