Trust Your Instincts! Our Preschooler & Pneumonia.

As a parent, is there really anything more concerning than when our children are sick and we don’t know why? It can be frustrating and sometimes terrifying. It’s all the more terrible when you’ve taken your child to several doctors and they give you the same diagnosis, but you just feel deep down that they’re wrong.

This is what happened to me last week. My three year old son, Jude, had a fever Saturday night. We didn’t think much of it.  He’s been catching a lot of illnesses since starting preschool and we just figured this would pass much the same as the others and we may have a sleepless night or two in the meantime. Sunday came along and he was very lethargic and burning up with fever. His temperature went up to 103.5 and we took him to urgent care. The doctor there looked him over and said it was a viral infection. We were to give him Calpol and Nurofen (England’s names for Tylenol and Motrin, respectively) to control the fever as well as make sure he received plenty of liquids and fluids.

He didn’t sleep much at all Sunday night. Monday afternoon we took him to our doctor to get a second opinion because the fever was staying up much more than it was staying down and he was so lethargic. Our doctor gave us the same diagnosis as the urgent care doctor. Monday evening saw Jude sitting on the couch in a daze and vomiting after he tried to eat a baby carrot, the only thing he’d eaten in quite awhile. His temperature was nearing 104 and we were terrified. They have a service here in England called NHS Direct where you can call for non-emergent medical advice. We called them to find out if vomiting would be a normal symptom of his viral infection. They asked us several questions about Jude and his symptoms and then they said they were sending paramedics to us to check him over. They assured us there was no reason to panic, they just wanted to be more safe than sorry and it would be quicker for the paramedics to come to us than for us to go to the hospital.

By the time the paramedics arrived, Jude’s temperature was coming down significantly and he was acting more alert than he had the entire day. The paramedics came in with a camera crew. Apparently they’re training a new paramedic and documenting the experience for a new show that’s to air on BBC3 in the new year. We signed the release to be on the show. Don’t ask me why. I looked awful, our house looked awful, our daughter was in mismatched clothes from having a blowout earlier, and Jude was sat in a diaper on towels on our couch in case he threw up again. That was surreal to say the least, and the very last thing we expected. Our main concern, however, was Jude, and we were thrilled to see him perking up. We thought maybe he was finally coming out of it. The paramedics agreed with the diagnosis of a simple viral infection, but they did offer to take us to the hospital for further evaluation as they are admittedly not pediatricians. Since Jude was perking up considerably at that point, we trusted what they said and stayed home.

Jude slept in our bed Monday night. I should say, he laid in our bed.  There wasn’t much sleep to be had. He couldn’t get comfortable, his fever was back, and he was coughing now as well. Tuesday morning arrived and he was just as miserable as he’d been Monday night. I told Chris that something wasn’t right. I felt sure that if this was a simple viral infection, he’d be showing signs of improvement, not getting worse. I begged him to take him to the ER, which he readily agreed to and off they went. A few hours later, Chris called to tell me that they also think it’s a viral infection, but they’re going to do a chest x-ray to be sure. Then another specialist saw Jude and listened to his chest like all the other doctors had done. However, this one listened to the side of Jude’s chest, just below his armpit, and the other doctors hadn’t done that. He listened there and said right away that it was pneumonia. A chest x-ray confirmed that it was, indeed, pneumonia. They showed us the x-ray, and there, on the right side of his chest, they explained, was a triangular patch of pneumonia.

They admitted him to the hospital for IV antibiotics. Jude was in the hospital from Tuesday until Thursday receiving IV antibiotics. He completed a round of oral antibiotics and is on the mend. His pneumonia is gone, but he may have a cough from it for a couple of weeks. Sadly, he has another viral infection on top of that. Poor kid can’t catch a break.

We had a long, stressful, terrifying week. The point of this post is to say, always trust your maternal instincts! I felt like I was being one of “those” moms who won’t trust anyone’s word on the matter and was too pushy with the doctors, but it turns out, it was a great thing that I was. Don’t be afraid to persist if you feel like something’s not right with your child. After all, we know our children better than anyone else. Better safe than sorry.

MATERNAL-INSTINCTS

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10 Trick or Treat Safety Tips

Halloween-Safety-Tips

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Ok, no it’s not. It’s actually the second most wonderful time of the year, especially if you’re a kid. It’s almost time for Halloween! Which for parents can mean even more stress, work, and worry than usual. But, in the name of fun for our kids we suck it up and deal with it. Unfortunately, we live in a time where there are many worries to consider when allowing our children to roam around and visit random people’s homes at night. The following is a list to help you keep your kids safe while having a great time on trick or treat night:

  1. When selecting a costume, look for one that is brightly colored and isn’t a fall hazard. The costume should fit snuggly and not hang in such a way that tripping could be an issue. Purchase costumes that are flame resistant as well when possible as there’s always the risk of getting too close to a jack o’ lantern. Also, be sure that shoes fit well. As a side note, many parents like to put reflective tape on their kids’ shoes to make it easier for them to be spotted in the dark.
  2. Trick or treat within your neighborhood or a neighborhood where you know some of the people who live there.
  3. Always stay on well lit streets but also carry a flash light just in case and use sidewalks when possible. Remind  children of the rules for crossing a street.
  4. Always accompany young children along the trick or treat route. Even if you are friendly and comfortable with your neighbors, you can never be certain that someone with bad intentions who doesn’t live in the neighborhood isn’t lurking about.
  5. If you feel comfortable with allowing your older child to trick or treat without you, ensure that they go with a buddy and be aware of the route they plan to take and instruct them not to deviate from it.
  6. Review “stranger danger” rules with your kids. Remind them never to follow a stranger to a car or other location for candy or any other reason without first asking your permission.
  7. Remind children of the rules for what to do if they are separated from you or the group. A good plan is to tell them to look for a mother with children to ask for help.
  8. When possible, carry a cell phone or other device as a means of quick communication if necessary.
  9. Only go to homes that look “inviting.” These are homes with porch lights on and usually a friendly face in the doorway.
  10. Establish the rules for candy eating. It’s safest to implement a “no candy till we’re home” rule.  This gives you the opportunity to look through the stash to ensure that all candy is wrapped and hasn’t been tampered with in any way.

Clearly there are dangers to consider when taking the kids trick or treating, but if these simple safety tips are followed, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a delightfully fun outing with your little one. So long as we are prepared and taking preventative measures, then your little ghosts and goblins should have a terrifyingly great time!

10 Tips for Soothing Teething Pain

teething
This week we had a visit from the Tooth Fairy’s nasty older sibling, the Teething Fairy. Melody’s fifth and sixth teeth are coming in and they are absolute beasts. My normally happy, smiling child has turned into a drama queen of the highest order. I’m pretty sure she cried more yesterday than any other time in her 13 months of life combined. She cried so much that by the time she was in bed, I felt myself wanting a drink…And I don’t drink!

With all that in mind, and after a chat with my fellow Three Ladies about their own awful experiences, I’ve decided to share some tips to get through teething. Remember, no matter how awful it is for us as parents, it has got to be worse for the baby. I know how bad it felt when my wisdom teeth came in, so I can only imagine the pain that my otherwise sweet and happy daughter must be feeling to turn her into this crying, screaming mess.

1. Medicine. Check with your pediatrician before using, but Tylenol and Motrin can provide teething relief for baby and can also lower the fever that sometimes comes along with teething. Check the bottle to be sure of what age your child can start having these medicines.

2. Teething tablets. These are made to dissolve under baby’s tongue and provide some relief from teething. A popular brand is Hyland’s teething tablets.

41XPFQX3E9L._SY450_3. Ice. You can wrap it in a wash cloth or you can get a mesh feeder and put ice in that. Whatever you put it in, ice helps immensely because it numbs baby’s gums.

4. Liquid filled teething rings. Stick these in the refrigerator until they get nice and cold, then give them to baby to chew on.

pTRU1-16461404_alternate1_dt5. Teething jewelry. There are necklaces you can buy that are not only stylish for you to wear, but are great for baby to chew on.

6. Cold, hard veggies. If your baby is old enough, let her gnaw on a cold, hard vegetable, such as a carrot.

7. Vibrating teether. My daughter loved this! We found it at Wal-Mart. It’s shaped like a strawberry and has bumps all over it, when baby bites down on it, it vibrates to sooth the gums.

8. Baby Orajel. Baby Orajel works to numb the gums. It doesn’t last too long, but it’s good for some temporary relief and sometimes it might be just enough to help baby get back to sleep.

71no-R8f2dL._SL1500_9. Teething pacifier. Nuby makes these teething pacifiers that have bumps on them for texture and they work to massage baby’s gums while giving them the feeling of a pacifier if they’re used to that. There are different pacifiers depending on which teeth are troubling your baby.

10. Cold, wet washcloth. You can get a washcloth and run it under some cold water, then give it to baby to chew on. You could even stick it in the freezer for a bit to get it even colder.

Hopefully something on this list will help your baby during the teething process. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes nothing helps and you just have to get through it. When you’re at your wits end from listening to a screaming, crying baby all day and you feel like you hate your life in that moment or you’re going to lose your mind, try to think of how your baby must be feeling to make her act in such a way. Comfort her above all else and remember that this, too, shall pass. I promise!

Breastfeeding: My Experience

bfweek

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. I’ve seen many groups in my area planning “latch ons” and Facebook is buzzing with “breast is best” encouragement.  I love the excitement that is surrounding this celebration. So I thought now would be a wonderful time to share my experience with breastfeeding.

Even before I knew for certain I would be a mom, I knew that if I ever was, I would breastfeed my babies. So when I became pregnant with Lillian, my future baby feeding plans involved the baby at the breast. You see, my mother breastfed my siblings and I, so I have her to thank for normalizing this most natural human function.

As I prepared for motherhood, I read books upon books. One of the most valuable to me was “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.” I read it from cover to cover and it answered nearly every question I could come up with. I purchased breast covers, nursing bras, nursing pads, lanolin and just about any other breastfeeding aid under the sun.  As my anticipation to meet my baby grew, so too did my curiosity about what it would be like to feed my baby from my own body.

The moment my daughter was born into this world, she was placed naked on my bare chest and the breast to breast bond with baby was born. We shared skin to skin contact and then soon it was time to begin to nurse. I pulled my baby to my breast, with my mom by my side coaching me from her experience and my mind quickly recalled all I had learned. There was only one problem. I couldn’t get her to wake up! No one had prepared me for this. I had a sleepy baby, who was much more concerned with napping than eating. My wonderful nurses and pediatrician reassured me that as long as I continued to try and offer the breast that eventually, when baby was hungry, she would nurse. They were right!  Eventually she did nurse and I felt better about the uncertainty surrounding this new endeavor.

Each time it was time for her to nurse during those first few days, I felt extremely frustrated and considered giving up more times than I can count. Even though I knew all the holds that were supposed to work and I tried to find a proper latch, each feeding session always resulted in tears for both baby and me. I felt like a failure. Lilly would become agitated in her hunger and then just get too mad to find a proper latch. It was hard work. It was not easy. I did not enjoy it. Not then, anyhow.

As the first couple of weeks went by, we found our rhythm and it wasn’t as difficult anymore, though it certainly wasn’t easy. It was around this time that I discovered that Lillian has a lip tie. Then it all made sense. The reason we were having such difficulty was because she couldn’t open her top lip as much as she needed to in order to find the perfect latch. Of course I didn’t want anything to be wrong with my baby, but it made me feel so much better to know that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Every time she ate, she would nurse a little, pull off, cry, and start the process over again and again. At one month old, I decided I’d try to use a breast pump to extract my milk and feed it to her via a bottle to see what kind of difference that made.  She sucked down the milk through the bottle and was content.  There was no fight. She had my nutritious milk in her belly and there was no fight to get it down her. Once I saw this, I gradually began to pump and feed more and more often. By two months, Lilly was drinking my milk almost solely from a bottle. Pumping and then feeding her, along with all of the other responsibilities of caring for a new baby quickly ran me down.  I exclusively breastfed her until she was three months old. At three months, I decided to introduce formula to supplement a few of her feedings. By three and a half months, I made the difficult decision to switch solely to formula because the demands of pumping and then feeding were wearing me too thin. It was a decision that did not come easy, but I felt satisfied that my milk had gotten her through those most crucial first few months.

That was my breastfeeding experience. If you read it and thought, “That doesn’t really seem that fun,” then you are right. It wasn’t.  It was difficult and it was hard work. I didn’t enjoy it a great deal. So, would I do it again? YES! Even though it wasn’t a walk in the park, it was worth every single tear I shed in frustration. Knowing that my baby drank the milk that was designed specifically for her needs is the most rewarding feeling I have ever known.

When beginning the breastfeeding journey, I think it’s important to go into it with realistic expectations. Know that you might not love it. It might not be the sweet snuggly experience you see on TV. But it might be! Even if it’s not though, it’s still what’s best for baby and its benefits are endless.

When Dad Travels: Surviving the Week Alone

plane

At 3:00 am Saturday morning, Colin woke me to say goodbye as he was walking out the door to head to the airport. Declan had been up through the night at 10:00 and 2:00. I didn’t know it then, but he would be awake for the day at 5:30. This, my friends, is how I began my 141 hour stint of single parentdom. I’ve been lucky so far this year. It’s mid-June and this six day trip to China is the first time Colin has had to travel for work this year. Last year included trips to Norway, Scotland, Canada, Malaysia, Dubai, a couple of trips to both London and Rio de Janeiro, and one three day jaunt to Austin when Declan was only three weeks old. This year has been a cakewalk in comparison. Colin loves his job and so do I. We have a lot more time together in the evenings and on the weekends. He also enjoys the travel. I, however, do not enjoy that part. But then I’m the one who gets to stay home with a three year old and an 8 month old. 🙂  It’s hard work. We have no family nearby to drop in on and our friends live busy lives, too. All of this means that by the time Colin gets home, I’m exhausted and in serious need of some adult conversation. That being said, it is possible to survive and to do so with a smile. Below are some ways to keep on keeping on when you’re all alone with the little ones!

Attitude

If you are like me, you will dread the day for a week in advance. That’s okay. It’s normal. But you should also know that you will survive. You will be busy all day and you will be tired of doing everything that has to be done by yourself. It will not be the most fun time of your life. Accept that. But it will be okay. The sun comes up and the sun sets and once it does it six or seven times, your partner will be home and you can rest. Just set out with the attitude that everything is under control and that you can handle any mishaps and then you will.

Prepare the Children

Once the kids are old enough, let Dad (or Mom if she’s traveling) explain that he’s going away for a few days. This seems like a no-brainer, but when they’re still babies, they don’t really care as long as their primary caregiver is still around. When they start to get a little older, however, they really get it and they don’t want to be blindsided. For Ian, it wasn’t until he was a little over two that he grasped the concept that Daddy was away and that he hadn’t been coming home every day. We made the mistake of not really telling him what was going to happen. Colin told him goodbye, but Ian thought he was just leaving to go to work as usual. After a couple of days without Daddy coming home, Ian was seriously stressed out about it. We quickly learned that he was now old enough to understand what was happening and that we needed to have the conversation so that he would be prepared. No sneaking off during the middle of the night or leaving for a normal workday. For us, the best way to handle it has been to tell Ian that Daddy’s going to be gone for a few days, make sure he understands that he won’t be home for bedtime every night, and then go out for ice cream or something similar to soften the blow…lol. This one is so important. Nothing will make a week at home with the kids more miserable than having one crying and begging for Daddy the whole time.

Clean the House

For me, a big part of Colin leaving is that I need to start with a clean house. It doesn’t have to be spotless, but at least neat. When I’m the one doing all of the meals, laundry, dishes, diapers, naptimes, story times, and bedtimes, there’s little time left to actually clean anything. So I try to make sure it’s picked up and clean before he leaves. Then when he’s gone, I’m just in maintenance mode. The dishes go in the dishwasher and I try to pick up as we go through the day. This way, when the kids finally go to bed, I can relax. I’m not running around trying to pick up and put away and I can put my feet up for some much needed downtime.

Skype

If it is possible, try to Skype or FaceTime with the traveling parent every day; at least a phone call. We have had some situations where this is difficult due to the extreme time differences and conflicting schedules, but it has always been very important for Ian to get to talk to Colin every day. I think for him, it lets him know that Daddy is still around and he is coming back. On the few occasions that we’ve missed a call with Daddy, Ian has really suffered and the day has ended in tears. It is a comfort to him to see his Daddy.

While we’re on the subject of Skype, let me just say that another fantastic way to pass the time is to Skype with family and friends. Let the kids talk to grandparents or other family members. It’s fun for them and it also provides some conversation with someone over the age of three. This is a very big deal in my house and we Skype or FaceTime with someone daily while Daddy is gone. The three of us love each other, but the day is always much more enjoyable if we can bring someone else into it!

Outings

Don’t wear yourself out trying to plan outings every day, but make sure that you don’t stay inside the whole time your spouse is away. I know that sometimes the thought of taking small children on an outing alone can be daunting, especially if there’s more than one. Ian’s at an age where he enjoys running away from me. That’s the best when it’s just me with the two of them. :/ However, it’s important to get out and about. If you sit at home alone the whole time, the walls will close in and everyone will end up cranky. Decide wisely what you are going to do and go do it. This can be something as simple as going for a walk or running errands, but know your children and their tendencies. For me, my boys do pretty well with grocery shopping, so I try to save that for a day when Daddy’s away. It gets us all out of the house and it passes a few hours of the day. I would, however, never take them to the museum, a place where I know Ian would run away from me and I would be left chasing him with Declan on my hip. That’s a trip that is better with two adults around.

Spend Time With Friends

Plan something with friends. For me, this means trying to plan something with a friend who also has children. Whether it’s just dinner, playing at the park, or taking the kids somewhere, it means that I have some time to chat with another adult while the kids are occupied playing. It gives me a chance to relax a bit and it gives the kids a chance to see a smiling face other than my own. Best of all, it breaks up the day and almost always ensures a successful nap or bedtime.

Activities

When it’s just the three of us around, we all tend to get a little bored. After a few days of building castles, forts, and super highways, Ian wants to do something new. At the same time, I need to take care of Declan and get a few things done and it’s just hard to be everywhere all at once. So I have a list of activities that Ian enjoys and if he is starting to get bored (which always means trouble around here), I just pull one out. For example, he loves to take bubble baths in “Mommy and Daddy’s big bath tub.” This is a great activity because I can run the water and get him settled in the bath and then I have some time to put the laundry away or give Declan a bottle. I have to stay nearby and keep checking on him, but I don’t have to be as hands-on. He’ll stay in there for a good hour if I’ll let him, so that’s a big plus. He also loves to finger paint. Again, I just get him started at the kitchen table and I am free to clean, cook, or whatever. It’s a win-win. For a list of fun activities to do with your toddler, click here!

Relax the Rules if Necessary

My final piece of advice is to relax the rules if necessary. Having only one parent at home when they typically have two can be an adjustment for little ones. They sometimes have to wait longer than normal for the attention or help they need and they often just miss Daddy (or Mommy, etc). I have found that it’s best to relax a bit on some things. For example, we don’t sit around and watch TV all day, but I also don’t adhere as strictly to our typical rule of only getting one hour of media time each day. If he gets a few extra minutes during these days, it isn’t going to hurt him. Also, I stick to our routines, but sometimes the schedule is moved up a little. We typically go upstairs to start bath, story, and bedtime at 7:20. When Colin is gone, we still follow the same routine, but we start at 7:00. These things all take longer when it’s just me, and if I started at the normal time, then by the time everyone was ready for bed it would be later than usual and someone would be melting down already. One word of caution, though; get back to normal as soon as Daddy gets home. New habits are easily started and before you know it those rules that were once so important for your household are no more.

So there you go. I am by no means an expert and I’m not sure if any of the actual experts would agree with any of these tips, but they are the things that have helped me survive the long stretches of time when it’s just me and the kids. I hope they help some of you, too. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; single parents of happy, well-adjusted kids deserve a lot of credit. It is hard work! Kudos to all of you! As for me, just 4 ½ more days to go!

15 Things I Wish I’d Been Told (or Listened to) About Buying for Baby

When you’re expecting your first baby (or second, third, etc.) things can be pretty overwhelming. It’s hard to figure out what you need, or to remember what you need if it’s not your first. Everybody will want to give you advice on the best things to buy and the worst things to buy. If you’re having a baby shower, chances are you will receive many of those necessary items from others. Living in England where baby showers are only recently becoming more popular, I didn’t get to have a baby shower for either of my babies and therefore we had to buy a lot of the bigger items ourselves. I’m going to share my list of things I wish I’d been told or wished I’d paid attention to earlier than I did about buying for baby. Hopefully you’ll find this list helpful if you’re about to have a baby yourself.

This is the same kind of booster seat we used for our kids. It's lasted for two of them so far!

This is the same kind of booster seat we used for our kids. It’s lasted for two of them so far!

1. You don’t need a high chair. I live in a house with very limited space. When my first baby arrived, we bought a second hand high chair and it took up a very large bit of floor space in our already cramped dining room. It was in pretty sad shape when Jude grew out of it so we sold it and bought him a booster seat instead. Brand new, it was only about $20 on Amazon. It’s plastic, it has a tray, and it straps to one of our dining room chairs. Space saving and affordable! When Melody came along, I never bothered with the high chair. We fed her in her bouncy seat until she was sitting up on her own, at which point we transitioned our son out of the booster seat, and our daughter into it.

2. Sometimes, store brand is just as good as name brand. Sometimes it’s even better! Diapers are expensive. If you live in a happy little bubble where you think diapers and formula are affordable items for baby, then I am sorry to be the one to burst it, I’d much rather just move into that bubble with you. They are expensive. However, store brand diapers are slightly more affordable than the name brand ones like Pampers and Huggies. You will get a vast amount of opinions if you ask your friends and loved ones what they think of store brand diapers. I’ve found that the only way to truly know how you feel about them is to take the plunge and try them out for yourself. We did that with ASDA (ASDA is England’s Walmart…literally, it says on the sign that it’s part of the Walmart family) brand diapers when Jude was a bit older and we loved them. We loved them more than the Pampers that we had been buying previously and they cost us half the amount we’d been paying for the Pampers.

3. Making your own baby food is not ridiculous, it’s actually quite easy, fun, and cheaper. I hate to say it, but before I had my babies I was one of those people who sat in silent judgment of women who made their own baby food. I thought it was a “hippy” thing to do. I thought, “Why take all that extra time to make your own baby food when you’re already so busy taking care of the baby?” I’ve also always been a trusting sort of person so I assumed they wouldn’t sell baby food that was harmful to babies. I started making my own baby food for my second baby. Not only is making your own food super easy, it’s much cheaper than buying store bought, it’s healthier because there aren’t any unknown additives, and it makes you feel good to know that you’re doing the best you can for your baby. I tend to do a mix of store bought (for those busier times in life when I don’t have the time to make my own) and homemade. It’s saved us a lot of money.

4. Most large purchases can wait until after baby is here. Most new parents get caught up in the whirlwind of anxiety about having everything ready in the weeks and months before baby arrives. You know what? Most of that stuff can wait! The baby is not going to need a high chair, jumperoo, baby gates, certain toys, a crib (if they’re sleeping in your room to begin with), or many other items immediately. If you’re breast feeding, you don’t need a pump immediately either. If you’re not sure which things can wait, ask your friends or loved ones who’ve had babies, research the internet, you can even feel free to comment here and ask us. The list of items you really need in the beginning is pretty basic; diapers, formula (if you’re formula feeding), clothes, wipes, etc.

5. Don’t buy a lot of the same type of bottle until you know whether baby likes it. Sometimes those little new people are picky. They may have a harder time getting used to a certain kind of bottle nipple and sometimes they may refuse to drink from it. I’m here to tell you that they’re pretty much the rule makers in those early days so if they don’t like a certain kind of bottle, you’re going to have to get a different kind. This can be pretty bothersome if you’ve already forked out money on a certain kind that you’d heard great things about. Resist the temptation to buy a bunch of the same and try one out first.

6. Unless you know you’re the type of person that will lose them frequently, you do not need a lot of pacifiers. Jude only used 3 pacifiers in the year and a half that he had a pacifier. He used one for many months until the nipple started to wear down and we gave him a new one. He used the new one until we lost it at the beach, and then he used the third one until we took his pacifier away permanently. My daughter didn’t even use a pacifier, she was a thumb sucker from the very beginning. Pacifiers aren’t that costly, but when you have a baby, every little bit helps. I’d suggest only buying two to begin with, that way you have one and you have a backup in case you lose that one. Also, what I said about bottles in number 5 can be said about pacifiers; your baby may not take to the kind you picked out. I know there are a lot of cute ones for sale, but honestly, you won’t care so much what it looks like in the end, you’ll just care about the job it does.

7. Google that expensive item you’re wanting to buy and see if somewhere else sells it cheaper. Okay, I admit, I didn’t need to be told this one, I did it on my own from the very beginning. I just want to suggest it to others who may not think to do it. I found a crib that I really liked at Babies R Us and I found it at an independent online retailer for $45 cheaper AND it came with a mattress, which wasn’t the case at Babies R Us. It doesn’t have to just be cribs you do that with, try it with any item you’re buying that’s on the pricey side. You could save yourself a lot of money!

We always buy our baby wipes in bulk to save money.

We always buy our baby wipes in bulk to save money.

8. Buy in bulk. If it’s something that you know you’ll be using a lot of, buy it in bulk and save yourself some money. Before buying, make sure that you’re actually getting a better deal by doing it that way. Obviously, check out the expiration date if it’s formula that you’re buying. We save quite a bit on diapers by buying multiple packs at a time because our local store has a two for less deal most of the time.

9. You don’t need to buy a lot of clothes or shoes in the beginning. If there is one thing that people love to buy pregnant women, it’s baby clothes! Who doesn’t love shopping for baby clothes? They’re cute, tiny, and adorable. If you have a circle of friends or family that you know are going to be getting you gifts, don’t bother buying clothes yourself until you see what they give you. We received more than enough great clothes for both of our babies. I didn’t have to buy clothes for Melody until she was about 9 months old and then I bought a lot of second hand clothes. Also, in the beginning, you tend to just leave them in sleepers and gowns because it’s easy and comfy. Shoes are not something that babies need when they’re tiny. They just aren’t. Now, if you think they’re adorable and you can’t resist getting some for them, then go for it. Shoes aren’t really a necessity until the baby starts standing and then trying to walk.

10. Don’t buy a humidifier until or unless you need to. Our son very rarely got sick. There have been two instances where we needed a humidifier for him and he was past the age of 1 when they occurred. We bought one that plugs into the wall and looks like one of those Glade plug in air fresheners. It was much cheaper than buying a regular humidifier and we felt like it did the same kind of job. Also? A steamy shower can work wonders. When our daughter was sick I put her in her bouncy seat in the bathroom, shut the door, turned the shower on as hot as it would go, and sat down with her while she played with her toys in the steam. Equally effective.

11. Just because everybody else thinks it’s great, doesn’t mean it’s for you. With my son, I never had a baby monitor. We live in a tiny house and I didn’t need one. I heard him whenever he cried, so it wasn’t a problem. I got one with our daughter just because I wanted to be able to hear her or my son as soon as they started crying so that they wouldn’t wake each other up. I never had a wipes warmer and I have it on good authority from one of my fellow Three Ladies that they’re not that great. Just because she didn’t like it, doesn’t mean you won’t, but she’d heard from many people how wonderful they were and she found that they actually dried out the wipes and were pretty pointless. Just a couple of the many examples of baby gadgets that are out there now. You don’t need every single one. Do your research and decide whether you really think you need or want it before you buy it.

12. Cloth diapers can make excellent, cheap burp cloths. You can buy some pretty cheap cloth diapers at places such as Walmart or Target and they work just as well for burp cloths as, and can be more affordable than, actual burp cloths.

13. You don’t need a changing table. I never had one, I couldn’t afford it, and I don’t feel like I suffered in the slightest. Would a changing table be handy? Absolutely. If you want it and can afford it, go for it! We used a plastic changing pad on our bed for middle of the night changes and we used it on the floor or the foot stool for daytime changes. Easy peasy.

14. If you plan on having more than one baby, opt for the sturdier stroller, even if it costs more money. Kids can be rough on a stroller. Coming from someone who does a lot of traveling, so can airports! If you want a stroller that’s going to be strong enough to last for your first and second (or more) child, shell out for the better model. Better to pay a little bit more the first time than to have to pay for a second stroller somewhere down the line. You can also find a good used one if you look hard enough. I saved a ton of money by buying a second hand tandem stroller when we had our daughter and it’s in excellent condition.

15. Birth announcements are cheaper online. You can buy personalized birth announcements at places like Etsy, Ebay, and even photo printing websites such as Shutterfly. Now, for a shameless promotion for yours truly, I also create custom designs for birth announcements, birthdays, and every other type of event you need an invitation or announcement for. You can find me on Facebook at Rayford Printables and Etsy (all of my designs are found at Facebook, just a select few are listed on Etsy). I do custom requests as well, just send me a message on Facebook or an email at RayfordPrintables@Gmail.com and we’ll work something out together.

A collage of several announcements/invitations I  have made at Rayford Printables.

A collage of several announcements/invitations I have made at Rayford Printables.

While there are probably way more things I could come up with if I thought hard enough, those were the things I found would have saved me the most money when I had my babies. I hope they save you money as well!

Media Time Meltdowns

tv

“I hate it when people let the TV babysit their children.”  “Can you believe they let their kids just sit in front of the television all day?!”  We’ve all heard these comments.  To be honest, before I had children of my own, I thought the same things from time to time.  I don’t think I was ever brash enough to say them out loud, but the thoughts crossed my mind.  And now I have children.  In the mornings, all I want is 15 minutes of peace and quiet to get my life-saving cup of coffee and make some form of breakfast for everyone.  The reality is, Dinosaur Train and Sid the Science Kid have more than once given me enough time to feed a baby, change a diaper, get a shower and dress for the day.  I will never again judge a parent for allowing their child to sit in front of a TV!

That being said, over the past few months, I had noticed that Ian wanted more and more media time every day.  By media time, I’m not just talking about the TV, but also iPads, smart phones, computers, etc.  Everything he wanted to watch was educational and age appropriate.  I mean, he just turned three and he knows quite a bit about the digestive system (thanks to Sid the Science Kid), can name quite a few dinosaurs (thanks to Dinosaur Train), and recognizes a lot of his letters (Super WHY!).  But still, as a parent, I knew this wasn’t a good thing and I was growing more and more uncomfortable with the amount of media time he was getting each day.  We knew we had to make a change.  So today, I thought I’d share our media time “fix” with you; just in case you are facing the same problem and are looking for ideas.  J

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under two should have no media time and children over two should have no more than two hours a day.  Studies have also shown that there is a link between too much media time and attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.  It isn’t hard to see why.  Even at Ian’s young age, he would sometimes rather just sit in front of the television or play a game on the iPad than go outside and play.  I can remember being similarly aggravated with my mom as a child when she would make me go outside for some fresh air and exercise.  I get it now.

So with all of this knowledge, we came to the conclusion that it was time to start limiting media time in our house.  When we were at Ian’s three year check-up, the doctor mentioned media time and we started really reinforcing that with Ian, reminding him that his doctor said in order to grow and be strong and healthy, we couldn’t watch too much TV.  Then we started setting the timer on my iPhone.  After discovering that the sound of the timer going off really stressed him out, I let him choose which sound he wanted and he gets an hour of media time every day.  If he wants to watch TV or play with the iPad, he is allowed to do so, as long as the timer hasn’t gone off.  When he asks to watch Caillou or to play on the iPad, we turn it on and start the timer.  There is little begging and crying.  I never have to decide whether to allow him to watch, because the timer is in control, not me.  When he finishes a show and wants to watch something else, I ask him if he really wants to continue watching or if he wants to save the rest of his media time for later.  I just remind him that if he uses it all now, there won’t be any more for later.  Shockingly, the majority of the time, he will tell me that he wants to save the rest for later.  I just pause the timer and start it back up the next time.   Once he hears that timer after his hour has accumulated, he understands that there is no more media time for the day.

The first few days were a little rough.  He understood the concept, but most definitely didn’t want to abide by it.  I found that if I gave him a two minute warning in advance, he did much better when the timer went off.  I also tried to be sure to have something else to do to make the transition easier for him.  When I knew it was going to go off, I would have the sprinkler ready outside or have the finger paints out for some craft time.  Now when the timer goes off, he looks at me to make sure I’ve noticed and waits for me to turn the television off or put the iPad away.  I’ve been very positively surprised by the results of this change.  I like the background noise that the TV used to offer, so now there is always music.  I’ll catch Ian singing along while he’s building a Lego castle or coloring.  I often hear him talking to his stuffed animals in the playroom and we’ve had extra trains and forts set up in the living room lately.  We’re also reading a lot more during the day now, instead of just at bedtime.  Every household has different rules and different things they are comfortable with, but if you are concerned about the amount of media time your children are getting, I urge you to give this a try.  The transition really was not as difficult as I had feared and we are all enjoying our days playing without the constant conflict surrounding the television.

Potty Training Doesn’t Have to be a Nightmare

Have you ever imagined yourself sitting in a bathroom for minutes upon minutes, chanting, “You can do it, you can do it, wee-wee on the potty, wee-wee on the potty!!”? You haven’t? Are you a new parent, soon to be parent, or simply wish to someday be a parent? If you answered yes to any form of the last question, then prepare yourself for the bathroom chanting. It will come, I promise you. You will do almost anything to encourage your child that the potty is their friend. If you’re lucky, it will all go very smoothly. If you’re one of the unlucky, you may have a more difficult time. I’m one of the unlucky and I’m going to take a minute to share my story. Maybe you can learn something from it, maybe you’ll get a laugh at it, or maybe it’ll just make you feel better to hear that you’re not the only one having a difficult time with this important lesson.
potty-trainingI became a mom for the first time almost three years ago in June of 2010. Potty training was so far on the horizon it wasn’t even a concern. We had to tackle all the other hurdles first such as sleeping through the night, taking away the pacifier, learning to speak, starting solid foods, switching from bottle to sippy cup, and all those other milestones babies and toddlers hit before the potty becomes a concern. Sometimes as Jude was getting older, I felt like maybe I should be preparing more for the potty training stage. I didn’t though. Honestly, I don’t think preparation would have helped me.

My first mistake in attempting to potty train Jude was deciding to do it on the spur of the moment. You may be thinking that was really stupid of me. You’d be right. Want to know something I did that was even more stupid? I started on a day that we were both suffering from a cold and he had just woken up from his nap. For weeks Jude had been sitting on our toilet with the lid down and telling us when he needed a diaper change. I felt pretty confident that he was ready to use the potty like a big boy when these things started happening.

One afternoon when I went upstairs to get Jude after his nap I noticed that his diaper was still dry. He had been sleeping for a little over two hours at that point and he never woke up dry so I was sure he’d need to pee pretty soon. I stripped him of his pants and his diaper, brought his potty in the living room, gave him a cup full of juice, and explained to him that when he needed to wee he needed to sit on the potty. We had taken some time before this to explain the potty to Jude, he’d even been sitting on it with his clothes on, so weeing on the potty was not a foreign concept. After I explained all that to him, I asked him to tell me what he was supposed to do when he needed to wee and he happily told me. After two hours (Yes, two hours!! Plus the two hour nap and the cup of juice. I was coming to find out that this kid had a bladder the size of England!), he finally started to pee. He was nowhere near the potty when this happened, but I was fully prepared for a mess and to do all I could to show him how excited I was that he was peeing and that it didn’t matter if it went on the floor. I never got the opportunity to show him either of those things. As soon as the pee hit his leg he went into a meltdown of epic proportions. I can say that I have never seen him have as big of a meltdown over anything else before or since. I danced, I cheered, I gave him a treat, I caught the rest of his pee in the potty, I cleaned up the mess with a huge smile on my face and sang a song while I did it. None of that mattered. After 30 minutes of a nonstop meltdown I am ashamed to say that my patience ran out, my smile vanished, and I told him much too loudly that he needed to calm down. I’m afraid that the moment I lost my patience was the moment I lost the ability to potty train him that day and, as it turned out, for many days and months after that. My son is very particular in his routines and he’s very tidy. I should have considered these things before I started that day, but I’m so used to them that they slipped my mind. He was heartbroken that he’d “made a mess” on the floor. In fact, when his daddy got home from work that night, the first thing Jude did was point to the spot on the floor where the pee had gone and announce, “I made a mess, Daddy!”

Jude's reward chart. Every time he used the potty, he got to put a sticker here. In the end he became more focused on the rewards and less focused on actually using the potty.

Jude’s reward chart. Every time he used the potty, he got to put a sticker here. In the end he became more focused on the rewards and less focused on actually using the potty.

About two months after the first attempt we made a brand new attempt with both myself and Chris present. It started out ugly, it progressed to him using the potty 20 times in a row, and then it turned ugly again. He would pee a little, force himself to stop, we’d flush what he’d done down the big toilet, and he’d promptly announce he needed to go again. This was his tactic to get the prizes that we promised he could have each time he used the potty and we gave him a prize each time until they were all gone. I think we overdid it on the rewards. He got to put a sticker on a chart, he got an M&M, and he got a wrapped toy (we had bought a few packs of small animal figurines that we had planned to give him anyway). Once the presents were gone, he went into meltdown mode again and refused to sit on the potty. We managed to end that attempt on a positive note so he would hopefully not be scarred for life and always be in diapers.

After that last time we vowed to let him tell us when he was ready. We nicely and calmly ask him almost every day if he wants to use his potty. If he says no, we let it go. There’s no rush. He’s not even three years old. The biggest hurdle for me was realizing that just because other people may have a child who is more advanced than mine in some areas, it doesn’t mean that I or my child are failures. Every child learns at his own pace and Jude is no exception to this rule. Jude started walking at the very young age of 8 months old, but it took him longer than most kids to learn to talk and use the potty. That’s fine. I’ve seen him figure things out in his own time and I had to trust that this would be no different.

Jude, happily playing with all the animals he got as "potty rewards" the day after our second potty training attempt.

Jude, happily playing with all the animals he got as “potty rewards” the day after our second potty training attempt.

I was right! Our last potty training attempt was in January this year. In March, after noticing that Jude pees nearly every time he is in the bath, I started holding the potty in front of him while he stood in the bath and he peed in that instead. He loved it! Then in April, Jude told me he wanted to use the potty after his nap. After his nap I reminded him that he had said he wanted to use the potty. He said he didn’t want to use the potty anymore, and I told him that if he tried to use the potty I would give him a marshmallow. He was thrilled with that idea and happily peed in his potty. He’s done that a few times since then. I don’t rush him. If he says he doesn’t want to try, I back off. He’ll do it when he’s ready and in the meantime, I’ll let him enjoy being a kid and I’ll keep changing his dirty diapers.

Some tips:

1. Patience is key!! If you know that you’re the type of person who has a short fuse, do not attempt to potty train when you’re by yourself. Wait until your spouse, your best friend, your mother, or whoever else you use as a support system is there to help you.

2. Find a potty training technique that works for you. There are tons out there. If you see those that promise results in three days, do not count on it!! You may see results in three days, or you may have a child who’s not quite ready to master the potty in three days. Don’t sweat it.

3. Don’t overdo it on the rewards. Rewards for using the potty or trying to use the potty are a great idea, but if you overdo it like we did in the beginning, it could end up doing nothing more than overwhelming your child.

4. Dance, sing, high five, cheer, CELEBRATE! Whenever they pee or poop in the potty, even if it’s a minuscule amount. They love it and they’ll want more. Jude is so proud of himself when he uses the potty, I let him call and tell his daddy (if he’s at work) and his grandparents about it right away.

5. If you have a son and you’ve been trying to potty train him sitting down, try letting him stand. I resisted this for awhile because I thought it would be too difficult for him and there’d be even more mess, plus I knew it would be another big step when it came time for him to learn to poop in the potty. Turns out, he is so much more receptive to standing while he pees that it’s making the whole process much smoother. We’ll deal with pooping when the time comes.

6. Patience again. Not just patience with your child when you feel like taking them by the shoulders and shaking them until the pee comes out, but patience with the entire process. If you or your child are overly stressed out with potty training, then maybe it’s not the right time. Take a step back and reevaluate. If you need to wait a little longer, who cares? I promise you it is not the end of the world and it will get better.

Jude is not fully potty trained yet. He hasn’t used the potty more than once in a day yet and he’s not using it every day, but I know that he will when he’s ready. When I’m having my doubts, I just remember that he’s shown me he’ll do it in his own time. He’s come leaps and bounds from our first attempt. Good luck with your own potty training adventures!

15 Must Haves for Baby

As a first time parent there are almost a zillion questions to wonder about; Do I have what it takes to be a parent? Can I really function on no sleep? What will I need to care for a newborn? You can literally drive yourself crazy with anticipation and worry. However, one of the things I always hear people say, is, “Do you have everything you need for the baby?” Well, I’m here to tell you if you’ve got food, shelter, clothing, diapers, and lots of love, then you do have everything you NEED to take care of a new baby. I know you might be thinking, “Wait, you’ll need a swing for sure!” or, “There’s no way I could have made it without my high chair.” Honestly, I feel that way too, but in reality those are the things that make caring for a baby easier, not doable. Children have grown up since the beginning of time without having those things.  With that being said, there are plenty of items on the market that make parenting in today’s world much easier.  As baby begins to grow and especially when she becomes mobile, you’ll find yourself “needing” more items to care for her. I’ve compiled a list of my “Must Haves” for baby. Again, I want to reiterate that these are the things I’ve found most useful in my experience. They are not requirements; you can raise your baby just as well without them.

        Gowns – These make the zillion diaper changes you do a day much easier. Lift the gown up, change the diaper, lower gown. Voila!

        Sleepers that zip up – These are especially appreciated when baby decides she wants to flip over mid clothing change. Just zip up and you’re done. It’s not nearly as easy with sleepers that button down.

        A swing – My swing was literally a life saver for me. In the first few months, it was the only way I could get anything done. If I needed to make dinner, the swing could keep her happy and usually rock her right to sleep in no time.

        Teething tablets – I will forever swear by Hyland’s teething tablets. When Lilly is having a lot of pain with her teeth, three tablets dissolved under her tongue will turn our whole world around.

teething tab

        Hooded towels – I love being able to wrap my freshly clean baby in a hooded towel to dry. The convenience of the hood is that it keeps baby warmer.

        Jumperoo – These are the way to go for a baby who loves to stand but still needs assistance. Lilly’s jumperoo provides endless entertainment for her.

        Gripe Water- This stuff is miracle liquid in a bottle for a baby with a gassy stomach.  Also, it’s like a magic potion for hiccups. It takes those suckers right away!

        Boudreaux’s butt paste – Butt paste puts Desitin to shame in my opinion. One use of the butt paste and diaper rash is almost completely cleared.

butt paste

        A good breast pump for breastfeeding Moms – This is one of those things you don’t want to go cheap on.  Cheap breast pumps just do not work. This is obviously not a must have item if you are planning to feed solely from the breast, but if you ever wish to pump your milk and feed it via bottle, you’ll be glad to have a nice one of these.

        Swaddle Me’s – Newborn babies prefer to be wrapped up tight as that’s what they’re used to from their time spent in the womb. Swaddle Me’s make swaddling a billion times easier. They take away the aggravation of baby coming unwrapped and the blanket being balled up. If your baby doesn’t prefer to be swaddled, then sleep sacks are the way to go. They allow baby to move about freely, but take away the risk of suffocation from a blanket.

swaddleme1

        White onesies and socks – I think white onesies and socks are a necessity because they go with everything!  Lilly has a drawer full of multicolored socks and onesies that she’s never worn because they just didn’t match anything.

        A nice car seat – This is the main item that I suggest not going for the cheapest thing you can find on. You’ll need a seat that fully supports baby’s head. Be sure to check out ratings before making this purchase.

        Saline drops and a cool mist Humidifier- Your baby will get sick. Despite your best efforts, it’s going to happen eventually. They will get a cold and you won’t believe they’re capable of producing so much mucus. Unfortunately, there is not a single cold medicine that’s safe for a baby under two. So your pediatrician will tell you to use saline drops as needed in the baby’s nose and suction out the mucus with an aspirator and to leave a humidifier running at night in baby’s room. When that time comes, you’ll be glad to already have these things on hand.

        A Blender- If you’re going to make your own baby food, then you’ll need a good blender to do so. I have the Baby Bullet and personally, love it.

        A large diaper bag- You’ll need a bag large enough to take the whole house with you. Ok, not literally, but close. You’ll need one large enough for plenty of diapers, wipes, bottles, toys, snacks, medicines, a change of clothes, etc.

Again, these are just the things that have proven to be very important to me. Many parents stress out about having everything just perfect for the baby’s arrival. I’m guilty of that too, but honestly if you’ve got the basic necessities and a whole lot of love to give, your baby will thrive.

Asked & Answered: How I Stopped Arguing With My Toddler.

I love my two year old son, Jude, to pieces. However, like most two year olds, he can stress me out to the point of wanting to tear my hair out some days. Jude is almost three and as he gets older he gets better and better at the fine art of arguing. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter what the subject is, he just loves to argue.

I’d find myself playing a game of “yes” and “no” ping pong with him over everything from nap time to coming home from a day of fun. I’m sure if you’ve ever been around a toddler you know what I’m talking about. I love that he’s becoming more assertive and sure of himself, but sometimes I just need him to give it a rest and stop trying to negotiate with me.

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I came across this article that claimed I could put an end to his negotiating with three simple words: Asked and Answered. I read the article and I thought “Yeah right! There’s no way that will work for Jude.” I was dead wrong. One day, soon after reading the article, I told Jude that in a few minutes it would be nap time. He replied with, “No, don’t want to go to bed!” I told him that was too bad because it was almost nap time, and he just kept telling me he didn’t want to take a nap. Then I remembered the asked and answered approach. I was skeptical, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to try. The next time he told me he didn’t want to have a nap, I said, “Jude, you already asked me that and I already answered no. Asked and answered. Okay?” Much to my surprise, Jude said, “Okay, Mummy.” And I didn’t hear another negative word about nap time that day.

I’m not going to delude myself into thinking that this will work for the rest of his life, but it’s been working great for me lately. The first time I used the technique I gave him the explanation of what it meant, the second time and each time since, all I had to say was, “Asked and answered.” Whatever the argument is about, every time I say those words to him he stops arguing and replies with, “Okay, Mummy.”

Are you as skeptical as I was? Try it out with your little one! Even if it doesn’t work for you, what’s the harm in trying?