Finally! What You ACTUALLY Need For A New Baby.

BabyList

Can I tell you a little secret? It’s absolutely amazing and I am so over the moon about it that I just might burst. Okay, are you ready?

I’m going to be an auntie!!!

Jon’s sister, Stefanie, is expecting her first precious bundle of joy (AKA my new niece/nephew and cousin to my babies) and I could not be more thrilled! I am so excited to walk alongside my dear sister-in-law as she prepares for this wonderful new journey.

Motherhood comes with many things: Love, joy, peace, patience…nausea, heartburn, stretch marks…and GIFTS!!! So, so many gifts. But how do you know which baby items are heroes…and which ones are zeroes? Well, my friends, you have come to the right place. After 3 kids I have zoned in on which baby items you should “Buy, buy, baby!”, and to which ones you should just say “Bye bye, Baby”. Read on for my how-to guide on filling your own (practical) baby registry!

Must Have
(Seriously, buy these things. You are going to use these things every day for the next few years, so buy stuff that you really love. They will basically be like your third arm so you want the best there is, right?)

  • Carseat: They literally will not let you take your baby home from the hospital unless you have a carseat that passes their safety check. Buy one that is easy to install in your car and that fits in the stroller you want to use. Also, just in general make sure you like the way it looks because you’re going to see it approximately all of your waking moments for the next 2 years.
  • Crib: Eventually you will want your own bed, so that means baby must have their own bed. Buy one that is safe and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
  • Portable Crib: This is one of those things that I didn’t think I would need that often, but it turns out I use all the time. When we go to grandparents’ houses or playdates or vacations or move and have to live in temporary housing for a month or two we always need a portable crib. You don’t need a particularly fancy portable crib, but it should be lightweight and not take up a ton of space when it’s folded up. Don’t worry about getting one with a bassinet or little toys hanging off the railing–as long as it will fit in your trunk and you can carry it one hand while you balance the baby in her carseat on the other hand, you’re golden.
  • Stroller: Oh my goodness, buy the best stroller your money can buy. You will use this thing every day, so you’d better love it. If you run, buy a jogging stroller. If you like space saving items, buy a Snap ‘n Go for your car seat and an umbrella stroller for when they’re older. If you like cute things, buy a cute stroller that makes you go “ooooooohhhhhhh” just because it’s so adorable. If you think you’ll have another baby in the not-so-distant future, buy a stroller that can be converted to a double. If you like all of those things, buy all of those strollers (I did).
    *P.S. If you live somewhere rainy (I’m looking at you, Seattle.) buy a rain cover to go with your stroller. Trust me, you’ll want to be able to get out of your house even if the weather isn’t cooperating.
  • Baby Carrier/Sling: Some babies love to be held, and some moms just need to use their hands while holding their babies. There are oodles of baby carrier options, and you may want to try out a few before you settle on one (word to the wise: Just because you like a particular baby carrier does not mean your baby will like the same carrier). I have an Ergo that I have used for 7 years with 3 kids and it’s literally falling apart at the seams because I use it so much. Some people love their Moby wraps (How on earth do they put those things on?! I feel like I’d need to go back and get a Master’s Degree–or at least a Girl Scout badge–just to tie that thing on!). Some people love their Beco Gemini or their fancy-schmancy Tula…ya know, just get what you like.
  • Diapers and wipes: Babies poop. All the time. When Jacob was born we went through 110 diapers in the first week alone. Whether you decide to use cloth or disposable diapers, stock up ahead of time to save yourself some last minute runs to the drug store in the middle of the night when you’re already sleep-deprived and in super-good moods (I’m pretty sure that’s NEVER happened to us).
  • Diaper rash cream: Because babies poop. All the time. I like Butt Paste (yes, that’s its real name) and Vitamin A + D ointment (this stuff is also great for chafing if you’re running a marathon, btw.)
  • Snot sucker: Babies get stuffy noses and, unless you can teach a 2-month old how to blow politely into a tissue, you’re going to need a way to get those boogies out. This thing seems gross but it’s really not (even though Jon STILL refuses to be in the same room as me when I’m using it), but I assure you it is 100% necessary. Just buy it and try not to think about what you’re doing when you’re using it.
  • Nail Clippers: While I fully support using these early formative years to teach the value of a decent manicure, there’s another important reason why nail clippers are a new-baby essential. Your baby may seem all sweet and cuddly and innocent, but they aren’t always all that they seem. One night you will put your soft little baby to bed, and the next morning you will pick them up to discover that they have grown razor-sharp death talons at the ends of their fingers. Baby fingernails are sharper than steel, and they WILL cut you. I have the flesh wounds to prove it. Buy a pair of nail clippers that you can grip easily (because squirmy, angry babies will think you’re trying to cut their literal fingers off their hands when you go to use the nail clippers).
    *Pro tip: When your baby is small enough to not use her MMA skills to ward you off, just use your teeth to bite off those little finger nails. It’s a little gross, but not nearly as gross as most of the things you’ll do now that you’re a new mom. Mommy Nail Biting tends to be safer for all involved parties, and those soft little baby fingernails are tricky to get with traditional nail clippers.
  • Basic clothing: Turns out babies really don’t need that much in terms of clothing. A few onesies, a few sets of footie pajamas…maybe a couple of cute outfits if you’re feeling put together enough to leave your house. You should also buy a few sleep sacks because apparently blankets can cause serious harm to thrashing-in-the-night infants.  Other than that, though, you really don’t need to buy any clothing. Chances are your baby will outgrow or spit-upon any clothing you do buy them, anyway. Find some good deals at garage sales (or, better yet, bum baby clothes off your friends with kids a bit older than yours who are already trying to get rid of all their old baby clothes to make room for all the other kid crap they’ve acquired).
  • Baby feeding supplies: Dude, your kid has to eat. This is baby survival 101. If you’re breastfeeding (or thinking about breastfeeding, or once tried breastfeeding, or may possibly potentially probably try breastfeeding in the future), you probably qualify for a free breast pump through your insurance company–just call them and ask. No matter how you choose to feed your baby, however, you’ll also want some bottles for those times when you want to throw your baby at a sitter and get out of the house for a few hours alone. There are approximately 10.7 billion brands and styles of bottles available, however, so may the odds of selecting the perfect bottle that your baby will actually use be ever in your favor.
  • High chair: You have to have a safe place to put your child that is not your own lap during meals. How else will you ever eat? Eating is super important. You must have a place to offload the child. I have a cheap-o space saver high chair that you strap on to a regular chair and it does the trick.
  • Plastic bibs: Forget those cutesy cloth bibs. Buy something heavy duty and easy to rinse off in the kitchen sink because these things get DIRTY. I have used these Björn bibs for all of my kids and I swear by them.
  • Nursing pads: Fact: Your postpartum boobs will leak. Buy some disposable pads if you don’t want extra laundry (me) or some reusable ones (if you’re less lazy and more environmentally conscious).
  • Nursing clothing: See above ^. You don’t necessarily need nursing-specific clothing from a maternity store, but some v-neck or button down shirts with a sports bra (if you’re less endowed) or a nursing bra (if you’re more endowed) will do the trick.
  • Maxi pads: While we’re being truthful here, this one is super important. Your boobs won’t be the only thing…ahem…secreting extra fluids after childbirth. You need some heavy-duty maxi pads at home. We’re talking the Extra-super-all-night-MAXI maxi pads. Buy a few boxes and just stash them in your bathroom until you come home from the hospital. You’re welcome.
  • Mommy Undies: And, while we’re being super SUPER truthful here, buy yourself some granny panties. Buy them bigger than you think you’ll need (if you were a size 4 pre-baby…well, you won’t be any more. Sorry, the truth hurts.), and make sure they’re comfy. Again, you can thank me later.
  • Water bottles: If you are nursing a baby you will be thirsty. All. The. Time. I literally stash water bottles in every room of my house when I am nursing and I have Jon on-call to refill them. *Sidenote* Buy the kind that won’t spill if you bump them in a delirious state in the middle of the night.
  • Caffeine: There, I said it. New mom, you will be addicted to caffeine. This is a fact. Embrace it. And the 20 pounds that come with it.
  • Help: Please, friend, start looking for help now. Grandparents, friends, neighbors, babysitters, that nice elderly lady from the checkout line at the grocery store. I cannot stress this enough: you need a support network. You NEED people to help you when you’re in the trenches. Parenting is not something you can do alone, so start building that web of help now. Trust me.

Nice To Have
(Now that we’ve gotten through the absolutely necessary basics, here are a few extras that can fill out your registry. These things are good, but you can absolutely get by without them. You may use these things a lot…or you or your baby may hate them and you’ll want to throw them away after the first use. My advice? Bum some of these things off friends, find good deals at consignment sales or garage sales, or shop on Craigslist. A dollar saved is a dollar you can spend on your baby’s college fund. Or wine. Both are equally necessary to modern child rearing.)

  • Diaper bag: Yes, you do need to have somewhere to stash a few baby basics when you leave the house. A larger purse or backpack (or gallon-size Ziploc bag) will work, but you can choose a cute diaper bag if you’d prefer. Just make sure it is durable, easy to clean, and super easy to carry (I prefer backpack straps or messenger styles).
  • Swaddle blankets: I buy the ones with Velcro because I can not for the life of me figure out how to mummify a squirmy baby.
  • Nursing cover: Because modesty. A blanket or  extra sweatshirt works just fine, but nursing covers are cute and convenient and make you feel like less of an exhibitionist in public.
  • Rocking chair or glider: You will spend many, many hours up with your baby in the middle of the night. Choose a chair for your nursery that is comfortable…maybe even comfortable enough to fall asleep in.
  • Changing table and changing pads: You can literally change your baby’s diaper anywhere: On the floor of your car, in the middle of a public restroom, on the grass in a park. You just might be more comfortable at home if you have a proper changing table (which, by the way, could be the top of a dresser or a guest bed). You may also want an extra changing pad to keep wherever you do your main “living” if it’s not on the same floor of your house as where baby sleeps.
  • Diaper pail: Any ordinary garbage can will work, but I really like this diaper pail because it uses regular old garbage bags that I can buy for approximately .002 cents/bag at Costco (forget the Diaper Genie…that thing will make you broke faster than a stock market crash!) and it keeps the stink mostly contained.
  • Baby swing: Some babies hate the swing, and some babies live in them. My oldest son practically lived in his swing for the first few months and I owe every moment of sleep that I actually got during those weeks to that precious piece of equipment. My youngest hated her swing and would scream any time I put her in it. Go figure. See if you can borrow a swing at first to see how your baby reacts–and if they like it, buy your own!
  • Rock ‘n Play: They didn’t have these when my first baby was born, but by baby #3 the rock ‘n play had established itself as a mommy necessity. It’s basically a sling that baby can sit in or sleep in, and it keeps them slightly upright which babies seem to prefer over being flat on their backs. As a bonus, you can keep this right by your bedside or easily move it throughout the day so baby can nap near you. Like the baby swing, this thing can be a lifesaver for mommies with babies who don’t want to sleep in their crib!
  • Baby bouncer: Sometimes it’s just nice to have a place to put your baby while you’re cooking dinner or taking a shower (haha! This one is a joke, because you won’t actually have time to take a shower!), and most babies seem pretty happy in a bouncer.
  • Baby monitor: If you are a super sound sleeper or if you sleep far away from baby’s bedroom, it might give you peace of mind to have a baby monitor. You do NOT need a $400 video monitor that you can watch remotely with an app. Just the cheap-o one that beeps when your baby is screaming super loud will do just fine. In all honesty, though, by kid #3 I turned off the baby monitor and just relished in the momentary semi-silence while I tried to sleep.
  • Pacifiers: Some people swear by the binkie, but my kids never liked them. I have to warn you, though: pacifiers are a bit of a rabbit hole. If your kid likes them, you’ll end up having to play “Binkie Fairy” with them when they’re 2 years old and don’t want to give them up. You have been warned.
  • Baby bathtub: The kitchen sink does just fine until they can fit in the regular tub. Showers with Daddy are also favorable.
  • Baby toys: Seriously, though. My baby’s favorite toys are empty cardboard boxes and the dirty socks that are strewn about my house. If you want to buy your very own num-num Giraffe or super organic green learning toys, go for it. Just know that your little prince(ss) will nearly always go for your germ-infested car keys instead.
  • Baby Safety Gear: Yes, we want our babies to be safe. Obviously.  Do we need to buy all of the available safety products to keep them safe? Not necessarily. After 3 kids we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually more important to keep our stuff safe from our babies than to keep our babies safe from our stuff. So, we put a gate around our giant TV and a lock on our liquor cabinet. See? Everyone’s safe.
  • Smart Phone: Because you’ll be up at night…a lot. And you may need to keep up with celebrity gossip and Instagram feeds. Life goes on even when you have a baby, you know.

Totally Unnecessary
(Just save us all some trouble and don’t waste your hard-earned maternity leave money on these things)

  • Wipe warmer: How cold do baby wipes get when they’re sitting in your presumably already-warm house? Suck it up, Kid. If cold wipes are the worst that life has dished out to you, you’ve got it pretty good.
  • Peepee teepee: This is an absurd little contraption to put on top of baby boys’ little…peepees…so they won’t…pee pee….on you while you’re changing their diaper. Guess what? Little boys will always pee pee on you, even if you have absurd little contraptions getting in the way of proper diaper changes. Just buy yourself some goggles and call it good.
  • Shopping cart cover: You really do not need to schlep extra stuff with you every time you leave your car. Plus, shopping carts aren’t that dirty anyway (Well, not compared to how dirty your baby already is if they’re rolling around on the floor and licking every single thing within their reach.). If you’re really worried about shopping sanitation, wipe down the cart with a baby wipe and put a blanket down on the seat. Done.
  • Tiny baby shoes: Newsflash: Babies don’t walk! Don’t buy those adorable size 0 TOMS, even if they’re sparkly and soooooo cute. They’re still $40 and your baby won’t wear them or care about them. I promise. Go to the Nordstrom’s cafe and buy yourself a mimosa instead.
  • Cutesy baby stuff in general: I bought my first baby a 0-3 month old bath robe. It came with slippers. It was soooooo cute! But guess how many times he wore the cute robe and slippers? Zero. Zero times. Do you know why? Because 0-3 month olds don’t wear robes and slippers. They just don’t. Even if they’re super cute.
  • Baby-specific versions of items that  you already have: Do you already have towels? Wash cloths? Combs? Then you don’t need baby towels, baby wash cloths, or baby combs. Turns out babies are just smaller humans who can use the same thins bigger humans use (for the most part). No rush to go out and buy a smaller version of something you already have so your baby can outgrow it before they even get to use it.

Now it’s your turn–Chime in here in the comments if you have any zero or hero baby products!

From The Mouths of Babes

img_9747This week as I was putting our house back together after Christmas, I came across one of my all-time favorite books. It’s a small journal that my sister gave me a few years ago from her travels in Thailand (lucky duck). On the cover of the journal there is a gray elephant decked out in colorful jewels and draped with a red blanket, an elephant fit for a king. The real treasure, however, lies within the book.

When you open the journal to the first page, I have written “From The Mouths of Babes: Funny Things Kids Say and Do”. The following pages are filled with funny (at least, funny to me) quotes and memories from the important little ones in my life: my own children, my nephew, even some of my former students.

As I was re-reading the quotes in this journal I was reminded of how precious this time with littles is–this time when the most innocent words can be misconstrued, and when you realize that common knowledge isn’t so common after all. It all makes for some hilarious tidbits, and lucky for my children, I WROTE THEM ALL DOWN. And now, my friends, I will share some of these gems with you:

December 21, 2012
David (age 2), looking at his picture Bible: “Mommy, I found Jesus!”
Mommy: “What is he doing?”
David: “Playing in the water!” (it was the story of Jesus Baptizing John the Baptist)

May 2, 2013
Mommy : “I’m thinking of a treat, see if you can guess what it is. It’s something you eat that is brown and sweet. It starts with the “ch” sound.”
David (age 2 1/2): “Jellyfish!”

May 2, 2013
David (age 2 1/2), crying hysterically: “I want my fingernail off my finger!”

July 30, 2013
Mommy: “David, can you think of an animal that is covered in wool?”
David (age 2 1/2): “A WOLF!”

November 28, 2013 (Thanksgiving)
Mommy: “David, what are you thankful for?”
David (age 3): “Balls. And beer.”

September 11, 2014
David (almost 4): “I’m touching my butt!”
Mommy: “That’s a yucky word. Try saying “tushy” instead.”
David: “I’m tushy my butt!”

December 2, 2014
David (age 4): “Mom, where are you from?”
Mommy: “Washington.”
David: “No.”
Mommy: “California?”
David: “No.”
Mommy: “Seattle? Ireland? Arizona? Ireland? America?”
David: “No, I think you’re from Heaven.”

December 3, 2014
Jacob (age 2): “Sorry, Daddy.”
Daddy: “Why?”
Jacob hits Daddy in the face
Jacob: “For hitting you.”

December 6, 2014
Jacob (age 2), pointing to a very tall water fountain: “Is that a water mountain?”

January 13, 2016
David (age 4): “Mom, thank you for this yummy treat!”
(The “treat” was a plate full of lettuce leaves.)

April 3, 2015
David (age 4), with pirate face paint on, talking to a lady in the park: “Hi, I’m David!”
Lady: “Hi! I like your face paint. I’m jealous!”
David: “Hi, Jealous!”

April 8, 2015
Jacob (age 2 1/2), having found his first ever snail: “Mom, I’m holding a sticky seashell, and it smells like chicken.”

April 10, 2015
Mommy, pointing to a letter “M”: “Jacob, do you know what letter this is?”
Jacob (age 2 1/2): “McDonalds!”

April 19, 2015
David (age 4 1/2): “Do wildflowers growl and bite?”

August 20, 2015
David (age 4 /12), playing with a rubber band that just snapped his hand: “Ow! That rubber band just got me in the nuts!”

November 10, 2015
Jacob (age 3): “Mom–stop singing. I can’t hear my ears.”

December 10, 2016
Jacob (age 4): “Mom, I love you so much that I’m going to toot!” (proceeds to toot in my face)

Awwww…aren’t they just PRECIOUS?! My take-away from this exercise:  I need to teach my children phonics more often than we go out for fast food, I should feed my family lettuce more often, and my children have a long way to go in learning the ins and outs of their own anatomy.

May your days be full of laughter and so much love that you have to toot.

 

First Baby vs. Third Baby

I’ve been in this mommy gig for almost 6 years now (but don’t even get me STARTED on how my BABY is about to turn 6. SIX! No. Nuh-uh. Nope. I refuse to acknowledge that these babies of mine will soon outgrow me in wit and height, and I will cry IF I WANT TO.). A lot has changed in those six years–the age and size of my child(ren), the availability of new and improved baby paraphernalia, the fact that my doctor now advises feeding peanut butter to babies. We’ve gone from a family with just one baby, to a family with three children aged 5 and younger. The most notable change over the years, however, would have to be with myself.

I don’t know if I’ve become more wise over the years or if I’ve just given up, but the fact is, I do things differently now. Like, really differently. From my first baby six years ago to our third baby right now, my parenting style has…ahem…shifted. You can see this shift in basically every aspect of my parenting (or lack thereof). For example:

Healthy Eating
First baby:
I literally baked his first-birthday cake from the dirt of the earth. It was made from  stone-ground whole wheat flour, home-made applesauce (cooked from the apples I picked myself. Off an actual tree.), and organic angel kisses. Nothing but the most pure, natural ingredients for my little sunshine.

Third Baby:
I’m pretty sure she just ate an Oreo that had been wedged under the couch since before her conception. She is 7 months old.

Sleep Training:
First baby:
I read Happiest Baby On The Block cover to cover and I implemented the 5 S’s of “calming the fussies” like a BOSS. Happiest baby on the block? Check!

Third baby:
What? There’s a baby crying? Ah, no baby ever died from crying…right???

And while we’re on the topic of sleeping…

Naps:
First Baby:
All naps must be done in a crib, with baby sleeping flat on his back. Play soothing white noise in the background and minimize distractions. And, of course, while baby is sleeping I should work on getting some shut eye as well–after all, good mommies sleep when the baby sleeps!

Third Baby:
I forget that there even is a crib at home, because we’re never at home. Between preschool drop-off, kindergarten drop-off, grocery shopping, errands, exercise, preschool pick-up, and kindergarten pick-up there is exactly zero chance of this baby taking a nap in a crib. Carseats, strollers, baby carriers, a blanket on the grass, and my weary arms make excellent napping spots. Mommy hasn’t slept in 6 years, so we’re just gonna roll with it.

Mom’s fashion:
First baby:
Oh my goodness! My pre-pregnancy size-tiny jeans are snug! Oh, the despair and the agony! At least my perfectly styled hair with fresh highlights still looks cute!

Third bay:
I don’t even know what size I am any more because I refuse to look at those blasted numbers printed on the tags inside my pants. If they fit and I’m comfortable, that’s all that matters. I’ve named my muffin top “Frank”, and I’ve decided to make peace with him so we can be friends. I dress Frank in yoga pants and flowy tops most mornings, and we can all move on with our lives in harmony. And this is nothing to say of my shoes that have also grown with each baby that I’ve pushed out of my body.

My hair is worn in one of two fashionable styles: Top Knot or Low Knot, well out of the way of grabby baby fingers. My hair is tinged with gorgeous gray strands that I earned while chasing my boys across busy parking lots and rescuing them from precarious perches.

Public Breastfeeding
First Baby:
Hold on! Let me grab one of my four nursing covers and slip away to a private room where I can nurse in privacy and modesty.

Third Baby:
I’m already late for kindergarten pick-up, so I just whip it out in the Target parking lot. Privacy has been a myth since my toddler learned how to open the bathroom door, and I’ve already lost my modesty in a birthing suite three times. So, ya know, whatever, Bro.

Bathing:
First Baby:
Every-other-day bathing is ideal so you can practice proper hygiene without drying out baby’s skin. Between baths, make sure to dab at exposed skin with a warm, damp towel infused with essential oils and good chakra.

Third baby:
We went swimming in a public pool over the weekend. That should count for at least a week, right?

Receiving Unsolicited Advice
First baby:
Wow! What powerful insight. You’ve done this before, so you probably know what’s best. After all, what do I know–I’m just a new mom. Maybe I should just implement each piece of conflicting advice I get from a complete stranger who doesn’t know me, my situation, or my baby.

Third baby:
(Smiles and nods her head while rage boils from the deepest core of her being and smoke bellows out her ears)

Bodily functions
First baby:
Baby spits up on you and immediate panic sets in. You change your entire outfit, and that of the baby before setting about disinfecting all exposed areas.

Third baby:
Baby spits up on you and you wipe it off your shoulder with the end of your ponytail. The dog laps up any spillage that made its way to the floor. Eh, good enough.

Time Management
First baby:
WAH!!! I don’t have time for ANYTHING any more! Having a baby is hard work! How am I supposed to get ANYTHING done with a BABY?!?!

Third baby:
I only have the baby today?! Halelujah, sweet Jesus! I have a whole hour to get stuff done…hmmm…what should we do? I know! Let’s go get our nails done, do our monthly Costco shopping trip, get an oil change, and run a half-marathon. Piece of cake! (Oooh! Maybe we should get some cake, too…)

Date Night:
First baby:
Date night is important. We’ll call on our army of local family and same-life-stage friends to help babysit so we can get out at least once a week for some alone time to recharge and reconnect.

Third baby:
Nobody wants to babysit two crazy boys and a baby. Not even if you pay them. We are in the “Netflix and a bottle of wine on the couch after bedtime, but try not to fall asleep before the end of the movie” stage of life. And I’m okay with that, because I can’t stay awake past 9 PM anyway.

Dressing The Baby
First baby (a boy):
Pajamas every day. That should do it.

Third baby (a girl):
I spend tens of minutes that I don’t have each morning styling the fluffliest, furliest, adorable-est frock and bow combination for this sweet flower baby. Tutu? Check. Tights that look like ballet slippers? Check. Sparkly tiara? Check. Now, let’s create an excuse for an outing so we can parade the baby in public.

A Mother’s Love
First baby:
I love you more than the breath of life itself. I would not even hesitate to lay in front of a barreling train for you. In fact, I’ll even watch 3 episodes of Caillou in a row with you just to see you smile. Sacrifice, baby. I’d give it all for you.

Third baby:
I love you more than the breath of life itself. I would not even hesitate to lay in front of a barreling train for you. In fact, I’ll even watch 3 episodes of Caillou in a row with you just to see you smile. Sacrifice, baby. I’d give it all for you.

Some things change (okay, MOST things change), but the important ones will always remain the same. To each of my babies: I cherish you, I’m for you, I love you. And that, my friends is one thing that will never ever ever change.

Starry Eyed

 

2016-07-03-starry-mops-logo

You may have noticed that things have gone kind of quiet on here lately…for a whole month, to be exact. Life has been BUSY. In the last month, both boys celebrated their first day of school (all the “WOOHOO”s!), which is a whole thing. Getting kids early to bed, and early to rise every day with a hearty breakfast in their tummies and a healthy lunch in their backpacks is no joke. And while the kids have been celebrating their first days in their new adventures, I have been busy preparing for a first day of my own. Today all of my efforts came together and the adventure finally began!

But before I tell you about the new adventure, let’s rewind a bit.

About 2 years ago, shortly after we moved to California, I joined a group at our church called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). I’d heard of MOPS for years (in fact, my Mother-in-law was one of the founding leaders of MOPS International back in the early 80’s), and I had several friends in MOPS groups, but it just never worked out for me to attend a group of my own. Once we were in California, however, I knew that I needed to find a place for me. A place where I could connect with other moms AND get a break from my (darling) children (who were completely overwhelming to me at the time).

MOPS has totally filled that space in my life. As soon as I joined the group at our church I started meeting new mom friends and getting connected. It was love at first sight. For the past 2 years, MOPS has been the thing I most look forward to every week. It’s been a total game-changer, and I’m so glad I finally decided to be a part of it.

Now, fast forward a bit. Shortly after I started attending my MOPS group, I was asked to step into leadership. But not just any role, the main role. Like, be in charge of the whole group. I’d only been in the group for about 2 months, so I was honored that they would even ask me…but  I had to say no. This was right when we were considering homeschooling the boys for the following year, and I knew that I couldn’t lead both my boys and the MOPS group well. I declined, but I told them to think of me again in the future if they needed more leaders.

Fast forward another year, and the opportunity came up again to take over leading the group. Hannah had just been born and I was sensing that homeschool wouldn’t be the right fit for our family the following year. If we didn’t homeschool, I knew that I would have the time and energy to pour into MOPS and I could give a leadership role the attention it deserved. The timing was right this time, so I said yes! The next few weeks were a blur of learning as much as I could from the standing coordinator before she handed the reigns completely over to me. By the end of May, the transition was complete and I found myself suddenly in charge.

Over the summer I planned leadership retreats, tracked down about a dozen community leaders to come speak at our group, worked with the church staff to plan and execute publicity and marketing materials, and tried to learn as many of the behind-the-scenes details as I could. There are, as it turns out, a LOT of behind the scenes details that go in to running a ministry.

Everything was coming together beautifully. Then, about 3 weeks ago, tragedy struck. Our ministry leader and my mentor, Dee, suddenly passed away. Dee was a huge advocate of MOPS, and she had a great love and passion for our group. Her passing was a shock to me and to everyone in our church and community who knew and loved her. At her memorial service a couple of weeks ago, hundreds of people filled the room to share funny stories and precious memories of this incredible woman. Dee will be greatly missed by me and by her MOPS family.

But even in the face of tragedy, today came.

Today was our first official meeting of the year, and it was amazing. We had about 50 moms at our first meeting, and as I was walking around the room everyone seemed to be having fun and connecting well with one another. We had a huge breakfast spread and there was enough coffee for everyone. Win, win, win.

My team worked so hard to make the room welcoming and gorgeous (thank goodness for them, because I still haven’t even figured out how to hang up pictures in my house!). I was so busy running around that I didn’t get many photos, but here are a few photos of the room before the moms arrived this morning:

img_6486 img_6488

img_6489

Everything ran smoothly, and I am so grateful. Grateful for the incredible moms that I get to travel with on this grand adventure, grateful for God’s provision, and grateful for the calling to leadership.

This morning I gave a brief talk at the group to introduce myself and the MOPS International theme for the year, “We Are The Starry Eyed”. It went something like this:

MOPS Welcome Talk 2016: We Are The Starry Eyed

Like all of you, my family is very important to me. I love my family more than life itself, and I will do anything for them. Well, almost anything. There is one thing, however, that I have sworn off until my kids move out: housecleaning.

Not too long ago, before I decided to boycott housecleaning, I decided to vacuum my house. Now, you have to understand that even before I quit housecleaning, I did it very rarely. Like, only when the filth and the general level of broken health codes required that I do something.

Unfortunately, we had reached that point, and the cleaning simply had to be done. Between a dog, two boys who spend most of their waking hours tromping through the woods, and a baby who is learning the fine art of “self-feeding”, our house had reached a new level of disgusting. Even I couldn’t ignore the mess any longer.

So, when the stars aligned and I had both a napping baby AND two boys happily playing Legos in their room at the SAME TIME, I seized my opportunity. I quietly slipped upstairs so the happily playing boys wouldn’t realize I was trying to be productive (A mom’s productivity is, of course, the quickest way to make her children need her). I took out my vaccuum and I spent 20 minutes attempting to remove the layers of filth that had accumulated in the month or so since I’d last braved housecleaning.

When I finished vacuuming upstairs, I proudly surveyed the work I’d accomplished. As I was patting myself on the back, however, I realized something. It was quiet. TOO quiet.

Every mom knows that TOO quiet is the second most-feared sound, next to the terrifying high-decibel scream that follows the silent scream when your baby gets hurt.

I took a deep breath and headed downstairs to the boys’ room, bracing myself for what I would find. When I tried to open their bedroom door, however, it wouldn’t budge. I finally pushed my way through and discovered the source of the barrier: clothes. Lots of clothes. Piles of clothes. In fact, strewn across the floor was every single piece of clothing our family owns (P.S. We own too many clothes). Clothing from every dresser and every closet and every shelf was piled in the center of their room. Forget that I had just spent an hour folding laundry and putting it away that morning. Now, we had MOUNT LAUNDRY…and it was about as tall as Mount Everest.

But we were just getting started. I walked down the hallway to put the vacuum away in the laundry room. When I entered the laundry room, I was greeted with pure chaos. The boys had emptied our craft bin and “decorated” the entire room with streamers and stickers and paper cutouts and scrapbooking decor. It looked like someone had taken a Hobby Lobby and shook it out all over the room. It was, the boys declared, a party.

And just when I thought I’d seen enough, I looked down and saw the dog’s water dish. Where there should have been clean drinking water, there was a yellow puddle. I didn’t even need to ask the boys, because I already knew. They had been using the dish as target practice–PEE target practice. And, in all honesty, I was quite impressed they were able to aim and hit such a small target with such accuracy. That takes mad skills.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or scream or just pass out right then and there. So, I decided to take some age-old advice: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Since this was a PARTY according to them, we had our party. We put on the party hats that were lying on the laundry room floor and we finished hanging the streamers over the door. We jumped in the pile of clothes like it was a giant leaf pile.

And then we got to work. We dumped out the dog dish and disinfected the living daylights out of it. The boys learned how to fold socks and pants and shirts. The party is still up in the laundry room, because it’s actually kind of cute and it makes laundry day a little bit more fun.

I made a conscious decision that day– one that didn’t come naturally, but that was necessary in that moment (for my sanity and the physical safety of my children). I decided to embrace the mess. Because, in the end, isn’t that what life is like?

There are times in life when everything seems to be going well, but then–BAM!–some MESS happens. The drawers of your life are emptied out into a giant pile in the middle of the room, and you can’t even see around the mess.

A tragedy strikes your family. You long for another baby, but it’s just not happening. Your husband leaves town for business right as your toddler contracts a double ear infection. Your housing situation falls through. Loved ones pass away, and you are reminded of the fragility of life. We see injustice in the world, and it breaks our very hearts. You’re having an “I Quit” day and you just want your mommy, but Mom lives a thousand miles away. You yearn for a better tomorrow while just struggling to get through today. Motherhood is full of dark times. There is pain. There is sorrow. There is despair. Darkness comes in many different forms, and we all face it at one time or another.

But there is hope! Even in the darkness, we can find the light of hope. This year at MOPS we will be joining together as friends and comrades to support each other on the front lines of motherhood. Through both the light and the dark–no matter what we are going through, whether it’s a “dark” struggle or a “light” joy, we are in this together. Because together? Together we are stronger. And together, we are The Starry Eyed.

Starry Eyed means looking for the light, even when darkness is enveloping. It is an opportunity to hope recklessly and to witness God’s presence guiding things seen and unseen, comfortable and uncomfortable. Starry Eyed means running wildly toward hope when it seems that all else has been lost. Starry Eyed means finding the wonder in the mundane (Can I get an “Amen” for endless piles of laundry and dishes?!). Starry eyed means finding comfort in the kindness of friends and strangers alike. Because this journey of motherhood? It can be rocky and confusing and downright scary. But as the Starry Eyed, we find our hope and wonder and kindness together–and we find refuge.

Psalm 139:12 says, “Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”

When we are going through the dark times of life–the chaos and the mess–we can find our refuge in God. We can choose to live courageously in both the light and the darkness, because He’s GOT this. We can perform significant acts of kindness that will send ripples of light out into the world. We can open our eyes to wonder, and choose hope over fear. We can move forward courageously, because we are the Starry Eyed.

When we reflect back over our lives, this year is going to stand out. It will be the year that we decided to live fully by both sunlight and moonlight. It will be the year that we embraced the beautiful mess that is motherhood. And the best part is, we will experience it all together.

So, thank you. Thank you for joining us on this journey at MOPS this year. YOU are important, and we are so glad you’re here. This will be a year where we will be stretched to challenge ourselves as individuals and as mothers. It will be a year that we will create new friendships and deepen old relationships. It will be a year when we will laugh and cry (and laugh and cry some more…because we’re moms, and that’s what we do best). It will be a year of learning to embrace both the dark and the light, because…

we are the Starry Eyed.

 

Dear Kindergartener

  
Dear Son (Who Is Now A Kindergartener),

For the past 5 1/2 years I have alternated between dreading this day and pleading for it to arrive: your first day of kindergarten. And now it is here. The day I had been anticipating and wondering about and preparing you for and praying over is actually really truly happening. Tomorrow is the big day. In the morning you will wake up a new person, a Big Kid Kindergartener. Not my baby or my toddler or my preschooler, but my school kid. And I couldn’t be more proud.

You are an amazing person. Did you know that? God has created you to be uniquely you, and you are utterly and perfectly who He wants you to be. He made you to be loving and passionate and feisty and strong. He made you with Big Feelings. He gave you a deep desire to fiercely protect the underdog. He made you to be curious and creative. He made you to run and jump and climb like an American Ninja Warrior. He made you silly. There is no other you, and you are wonderful.

The world is full of incredible people and incredible moments, but it can also be harsh. So, when the world starts to tell you that you isn’t good or isn’t good enough, remember how amazing you are. Keep your head up like the warrior that you are, and be confident in the you that God has created. Up until now you’ve been under the shelter of my wing, but now it’s time for you to spread your own wings. As you venture out into the world, you will become more and more independent each day. Carry on strong as you make your own mark in the world, because I can’t wait to see what that mark will look like!

So when you wake up tomorrow morning (probably tired) and you refuse to eat your breakfast (because you hate eating in the morning), I hope you are at least a little bit excited. Excited to meet your teacher and classmates and new friends on the playground. Excited to find your seat at the table and sit in circle time (it will be a lot of sitting…just try to enjoy the rest).  Excited to play in the science corner and the art table and the dramatic play center. Excited to learn more about reading and numbers and telling your own stories. Excited to listen respectfully and take turns and be a good sport. Excited, most of all, for the grand adventure you’re about to begin. Because this year? This year is the beginning of one of the greatest journeys of your life.

Enjoy the ride, my not-so-little boy.  I am so very proud of you and I am 100% for you. Be kind, be happy, be attentive. Sometimes (if the teacher isn’t looking) be really super silly. Be you. Because you is amazing, and

I.

Love.

You.

XOXOXOX,
Mommy

P.S. If you see me tomorrow morning and my face is extra watery, just know that it’s a common condition that all kindergarten mommies undergo on the first day of school. It’s a love leak. It will likely reoccur during many of your milestones, including but not limited to: Any and every graduation (kindergarten, High School, College, Masters Degree, PhD, Doctorate, etc.), losing your first tooth, winning a participation trophy in Little League, every time you give me flowers,  getting your drivers’ license, seeing you in a tux on prom night, whenever those dang Facebook Memories pop up and I see you as a baby, and your wedding.

 

10 Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom

11999062_10101459520865540_8476582905123875094_n

This week I read a hilarious post over at Scary Mommy called 20 Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom (disclaimer: the linked post contains language a shade more colorful than my own). Before I even read the article I was giving mental high-fives to the author because…amen, sister. I felt like I could write my own “Signs I’m Too Tired To Mom”. So I did.

With the joys of summer (full-time kids is intense) and a husband who is working on an increasingly more demanding project at work and an infant and a dog who has both a broken tooth and a Urniary Tract Infection (Lord help us all), I’m finding that I, too, am tired. Not like *yawn* “I’m sleepy, let’s go take a nap” tired. More like “just wake me up when they’re teenagers and ready to do their own laundry and cook their own dinner” tired.

And here’s the proof:

  1. Story time under false pretenses
    Let’s read a book, kids! Oh, wait…what’s that? There’s a movie version of that exact book (or at least a movie in a similar genre/theme/category as said book)? And it’s available on Netflix? Hold up, this is real world learning. Text-to-film connection or something. Let’s start the streaming (and excuse me for the next 74 minutes while I lock myself in my bedroom…)
  2. I encourage “independence”
    Yes, you can make your own breakfast (a spoonful of peanut butter topped with chocolate chips). Yes, please dress yourselves (no underwear, backward pants, inside out shirt). Yes, you may play quietly in your own room (dump out every toy box and empty every game box into a mountain of toy shrapnel in the center of the room). You’re on your own, kids.
  3. I can’t find my sunglasses
    They aren’t in the car. They aren’t in my bag. They aren’t in any place where a reasonable human being would put them. I blame the kids and/or dog for hiding them and while I contemplate appropriate punishment I happen to walk by a mirror. And then I find them. On top of my own head.
  4. Time warp
    Dinner is served at 4:30 and we’re wrapping up the bedtime routine by 6. What’s that you say, dear children? Why is it still light outside? Because of the tilt of the Earth… and the end of Mommy’s rope has officially been reached. Goodnight.
  5. Cooking takes on new meanings
    If I have warmed something up–whether by oven, stove, or microwave–that counts as cooking. Actually taking raw ingredients and transforming them into edible fare is a totally different ballgame, and we just don’t go there now. Frozen chicken nuggets? Not anymore–I cooked them (at 425 for 9-11 minutes). Marie Callender’s chicken pot pie? Tastes just like homemade (vent the packaging and microwave for 5-7 minutes).
  6. Nightly routines
    …now consist of tucking in the kids and promptly passing out on the couch with a bowl of popcorn on my lap.
  7. I go to the gym
    …but not to work out. They had me at “90 minutes of free childcare”.

4. I lose track of things. Like counting in order.

9. Bath time
My kids love bath time, and they’re happy to stay in the tub for a good 20 minutes.                That’s the time equivalent of 16 games of Chutes and Ladders. Added bonus: bath                  time = contained children, contained children = contained mess. Added, added                        bonus: they come out smelling better than they did going in. Win, win, win.

10. Early riser
This is counter-intuitive, but waking up early actually helps me counter-balance the            perpetual tiredness. You see, I know that once the wee ones awaken, there’s no                      stopping this train wreck. So I’ve started setting an alarm and waking up before                      everyone else in the house (and, as it happens, before the sun itself makes                                an appearance) just so I can have 2 minutes of peace before the crazy begins. If that’s            not absolutely insane, I don’t know what is.

I could keep going on and on and on…but I’m just too tired to keep writing. Good luck, moms, and good night.

DIY Rice-Dyed Easter Eggs

IMG_1461

I’m always on the lookout for creative takes on old favorites. So, when my friend over at Silicon Valley Toddler posted this idea for coloring Easter eggs with rice, I was intrigued! We decided to try it out and–WOW!–what a fun activity with absolutely gorgeous results. This method is a relatively mess-free way for toddlers and preschoolers to get in on the Easter egg-dying action (no spilled cups of egg dye #ftw). Read on for the how-to.

What you need:

– Hard boiled eggs (Easy-peasy directions: arrange eggs in the bottom of a large pot so they have a little room to dance around–old eggs that have been sitting in your fridge for a week or two are best. Finding old things in my fridge is never a problem, so this works quite well for me. Cover the eggs with about an inch of cold water and spalsh some vinegar in the pot for a bit of Voodoo magic (actually, it will just help keep the yolks sunshiney-yellow instead of that nasty gray center you get sometimes). Put the pot on the stove and bring just to a boil. Turn off the stove, cover the pot, and keep the pot on the warm burner for 12 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Transfer the cooled eggs back to their egg carton and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Done and done.)
– Dry rice–a few cups of cheap rice will do
– Liquid food coloring (we went through one whole box of food coloring when we dyed 1-dozen eggs)
– Plastic containers with lids (My mama taught me to never throw away a used margarine or lunch meat container. If your mama taught you the same, use a few of these instead of your fancy Tupperware.)

What you do:

Place a handful of rice in each container (make sure the container is deep enough for the egg to move around with the lid on).  Add a hard boiled egg to the container and several drops of food coloring.

 

Put the lid on your container and shake it to your little heart’s content!

IMG_1443

If you want a mulit-colored marble-ized effect, go for it. This is your egg, no judging here. Just move the egg to a second rice container with another color of food coloring.

Once you’re satisfied with your creation, remove the egg, brush off the rice, and leave ’em to dry completely.

IMG_1448

 

What gorgeous little speckled creations!

IMG_1464

A few notes:
*This project is best done outside. Or inside, over a drop cloth with an extra dose of patience.
*If the color starts to wear out, just add a few more drops of food coloring to the rice.
* Your fingers will get a little (and by a little, I mean a LOT) messy when you touch the wet eggs. If you don’t like rainbow hands, just wear disposable gloves. Keep wet wipes or a hose nearby for your kids, because we all know they’ll be little balls of tie-dye magic by the end of this project despite your best efforts for cleanliness.
* Have some extra plastic Easter eggs lying around your house? Make your own noise makers (as if your children don’t already fit the bill): Fill a few plastic eggs with a bit of the dry rice and tape or hot-glue the egg shut. Shake, shake, shake–you have your own little maracas!
* Save the rice! After you’re done dyeing eggs, spread out the colored rice on cookie sheets to air dry. Store the dyed and dried rice in an airtight container (that’s fancy language for a Ziploc baggie) for future art projects. We’re going to make these cactus next week in preparation for our upcoming vacation to the desert.
IMG_1465