Thursday, June 28, 2012

Audrey - 18 months


You are now a year and a half old! Completely unbelievable to me! The time goes by much too quickly and, at the same time, it seems like you have always been in our lives.

This month you helped plant the garden. You are such a good little helper in anything Mama asks you to do. You are eager and anxious to lend a helping hand. Everyday, you grab me by the hand and we have to go over to check on our plants. You eat raspberries off the raspberry bushes and point out the "baby" yellow squash that have started to grow.

We are pretty sure you are allergic to strawberries, but when we went to pick some at a local farm, you were such a good girl and didn't try to eat any. It's a total bummer that you're allergic because you love them, but you make up for it with all the other fruits you eat. You LOVE fruit! Blueberries (blue), bananas (nonas), mango, peaches, apples, doesn't matter to you! You love them all!

You have become quite a little Mommy to your baby dolls this month too. GG (your great gramma) bought you a little dolly highchair, and you love to put your babies in it and feed them with a spoon. You also have a little cradle that Papa (your great grampa) made you. We put it next to your crib, and you have to tuck your baby in and kiss her goodnight before you will take a nap or go to sleep for the night. Right now, all your babies are named "Auuu-ree."

Your vocabulary continues to expand at the speed of light, and you use more than 60 different words now (Mama started a list because she was curious.) You also continue to try to repeat anything we say. When we're reading some of your favorite books (for the gazillionth time!) or singing songs, you jump right in with some of the words. Even though I know you aren't actually reading, it still makes my heart leap with pride! You love to sing the alphabet and can pick out the letter "A" from words. You also understand that your name starts with the letter "A." 

You continue to love animals. You know the sounds that the dog, cat, duck, horse, cow, sheep and pig all make. You chase birds around the yard and intently watch ants on the ground. You yell "ta-ta" at the squirrels when they eat your raspberries, but you do it with a big smile!

You now go pee-pee on the potty anywhere from 2-5 times a day. You still don't really understand to tell Mama before you have to go, but if Mama puts you on the toilet and you do have to go, you will.

You love to run around and play with other kids, but it is when you play by yourself that you impress me with your imagination, curiosity, and love of the outdoors! As soon as you walk out the door there is always a stick or a rock in your hand! You also love the water! It doesn't matter what the temperature is, you want to be splashing in it!

You are opinionated, stubborn, brave, and sweet as pie all at the same time. You are exhausting, frustrating, challenging and completely precious, and I wouldn't change a thing!

I love you "much" sweetheart!

**Edit 7/6/12** You had your 18 month check-up today. You weighed 28 pounds, 5 ounces putting you in the 95th percentile. As I expected, you grew SO tall since your last visit. You are now 34 1/4 inches tall, putting you completely off the percentile chart! You're going to be a tall girl my dear! You also finished all your main childhood vaccinations and won't need any others until you get some boosters at 4 years old. The doctor continues to be impressed with how advanced you are for your age and you don't have to go back to see her until you're 2!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Oh, baby! Hospital bag

When I was pregnant with Audrey, my husband and I took a childbirth class. While most of the class was about things I already knew, I was still glad we took the class. My hubby said he actually learned a lot. And there were 3 things taught in our class that really I really did benefit from: 1) what to expect from the hospital I would be delivering at (policies, what would be available to me, and how they did things mostly); 2) positions to help with labor pain; and 3) what you REALLY need to pack in your hospital bag.

There are lots of lists out there about what to pack in your hospital bag, but you honestly don't need most of it! These are my thoughts on what you should and shouldn't pack. My suggestion is to have it packed by 35 or 36 weeks.

If you don't get it packed and you happen to go into labor, there is just one thing you should grab on your way out the door: YOUR CAMERA! Someone can always go home and grab you anything else you may need, but you can't go back and get photos of those first precious moments.

But you won't have to worry about that, because your bag will be packed and I'm going to help you with the list right now!

Must haves:

  • Chapstick!
  • You're going to be doing a lot of breathing through your mouth, plus hospitals tend to be dry in general, so trust me on this! You will use it more than anything else you bring. 
  • Hair elastics or headbands
  • You're hot, you're sweating and you're in pain. The last thing you want is your hair in your face or sticking to your neck. I put elastics in just about every pocket of my hospital bag so that it would be extremely easy for my hubby to find one when I needed it!
  • Loose shoes to leave the hospital in
  • Audrey was born during a snow storm, so I wore boots to the hospital. With all the fluids redistributing in my body after I gave birth, I was really swollen and couldn't get the boots on to get home. I had to send my hubby home to get some looser shoes that I could get my feet into.
  • Nursing pads
  • You don't know exactly when your milk will come in. It may be while you're in the hospital or it may be when you get home. Bring a few with you just in case. It will save you from being a leaking mess!
  • Comfortable nursing bra
  • Remember that when your milk comes in, "the girls" are going to be a lot bigger!
  • 2 Comfortable nightgowns or PJ pants and tank tops that are easy to nurse in
  • Remember that there is always the possibility of an emergency c-section too. So if you opt for pants, make sure the waistband is stretchy, loose and low, just in case.
  • Some kind of open sweater or robe
  • Whether it's winter, or summer with A.C., hospitals can be chilly. You want layers so you're prepared for any temperature.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste (if you want your own)
  • They'll have some there for you, but some people are particular.
  • Travel bottles of your shampoo, face wash, soap and lotion (if you are particular)
  • Again, they'll have some for you, but some people like only certain brands. I brought my own toothbrush, face wash and face lotion, but used their shampoo, soap, body lotion, toothpaste.
  • Flip flops for the shower
  • Yeah, I said it. I don't care that it's a hospital and the shower should be clean. You don't know what's on that shower floor.
  • A comfortable outfit to go home in
  • I went home in the same yoga pants, nursing tank and sweater I wore while in the hospital, plus my winter jacket. You don't need to dress to impress, you're just going home. And remember that you won't be back to your pre-pregnancy body just yet, so bring maternity clothes.
  • Big, comfortable underwear that you don't care about ruining
  • Everyone I've talked to has different feelings about the disposable mesh underwear the hospital gives to you. I thought they were super comfy and took a bunch home with me, including the super pads, ice packs, and squirt bottles they provided too. If you think you'll prefer your own, bring some. If not, you can always send someone to get some for you if you want them.
If you want to stay connected through technology:
  • Laptop
  • To post baby's first photo to Facebook or email friends and family!
  • Cell phone
  • To make all those phone calls announcing the birth of your precious new bundle of joy!
  • Cell phone charger
  • And, of course, your camera and/or video camera! (But you already knew that,  right?! Because that's going to be the first thing you grab!)
Don't bother with: 
  • Breast pump
  • If you're planning to breast feed, you should be trying to actually nurse as much as possible. If, for some reason, you need a breast pump, the hospital should have one for you to use. Don't bother bringing yours, it will just take up space.
  • Your favorite slippers
  • You don't want to walk around the germy hospital floors in your favorite slippers, then take them home to walk all over the floors of your home that your baby will soon be crawling on. Buy a cheap pair that you can just throw away later or wear those slipper-socks that have tread on the bottom. You can buy them, but they should have them in the hospital too. Then you can just wash them or throw them away. 
  • Your Boppy pillow
  • For the same reason as your slippers. You don't want hospital germs all over something baby will be laying on all the time at home. There will be pillows at the hospital to help you nurse while you're there. 
  • Nipple cream, vitamins, or medications (unless your doctor tells you otherwise)
  • Your nurses at the hospital will provide you with everything you need. In fact, take some of their nipple cream home with you too.
It's up to you:

  • Your make-up bag
  • You're going to be glowing and won't need it, but if it makes you a little more comfortable for all the pictures that will be taken of you and your baby, then I say bring it.
  • Your pillow
  • They will obviously have pillows at the hospital, but if you have to have your pillow, bring it! Whatever makes you more comfortable! Just be sure to put a dark or crazy colored pillow case on it instead of white, so it doesn't get mixed up with hospital pillows and linens.
  • Entertainment
  • Some people bring their iPod, puzzle books, and even movies to watch on their computer. I walked the halls of the maternity ward almost the entire time I was in labor, so I didn't need any of these things. It is up to you. 
For baby:

  • An outfit to go home in
  • You might want to bring one newborn sized outfit and one 0-3 months sized outfit, just so you're sure you have something that fits depending on the size of your baby. But you really don't need anything else. The hospital will have diapers, vaseline, bulb syringes, wipes, receiving blankets and little shirts for baby to wear, so don't waste the space bringing any of them. In fact, one of my nurses encouraged me to pack everything left in baby's drawer at the end of our stay and bring it home.
  • A blanket (especially for a winter baby)
  • We had the cutest little fleece one-piece outfit for Audrey to wear over her clothes when we headed home from the hospital. When we went to leave, they made us take it off of her when they checked her car seat. We didn't realize it then, but you aren't supposed to have bulky coats or snowsuits on in a car seat because then you can't pull the straps tight enough. Luckily, they had some hospital volunteers who knit blankets and hats for the newborns, so we had something to put on her head and cover her up with.
Dad's bag (Yes, I think Dad should have his own bag. You have enough stuff to put in yours.):

  •  Some kind of pajamas to sleep in, if he's staying overnight with you, including a t-shirt. (The nurses don't want to see you shirtless and in your boxers, guys!)
  • Clean set of clothes
  • Snacks
  • Mom may not be able to eat after a certain point, but Dad might get hungry. And you don't want to be stuck in the cafeteria line when it's time to push!
  • List of people and phone numbers to call to announce baby's arrival

You'll also need your insurance card and admission paperwork, if you don't pre-register. Most hospitals will let you pre-register though, and I highly recommend it! Then when you get there, in labor, all you have to do is give them your name and everything else will be taken care of.

Those are my suggestions! I don't think you really don't need much else. For all the moms out there: Is there anything I left out that you had to have in the hospital?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oh, baby! Registering

So many people I know are expecting a baby, including some of my very best friends! Some have asked for advice on certain things and I thought it would be smart to do a couple baby centered advice posts. That way it's all written down and I can just direct them to a post. This, of course, is just what worked for us, as all advice is! Take what you want, leave what you don't!

Today's post is going to be on what to register for. In my opinion, you should register! Baby will need so many things and people want to buy your baby things. Most people want to buy you what you want and like to have the direction. If they don't want to buy off the registry, they don't have to, but it's there if they do!

These are some suggestions and tips for tackling your registry.

Must haves:

  • At least 4 sheets and 2 waterproof mattress pads for both the crib and bassinet
  • Sometimes baby's diaper will leak or they may spit up a few times in the same night. You want to have a few so you don't have to start a load of laundry in the middle of the night.
  • At least 2 or 3 changing pad covers
  • In the beginning, babies seem to like to pee as soon as you take their diaper off! So this is along the same lines as the multiple sheets.
  • A rectal thermometer
  • As uncomfortable as it can make Mom and Dad, it doesn't really bother baby much. And it is the most accurate way to get a temperature in a small baby, which can be important. Those ear thermometers seem great, but they aren't very accurate and tend to be too big for teeny, tiny ears.
  • My husband and I both swore by this! Audrey is 18 months old and we're still using it. Certain carriers let baby hang from their hips, which isn't good for them. The Ergo allows baby to sit on their bum, along with distributing weight properly for Mom or Dad.
  • Sleepsacks and nightgowns or sleepers with zippers instead of snaps
  • PJs with snaps can be a royal pain in the you-know-what at 1am when you just want to change and feed baby as quickly as possible and go back to sleep. 
  • Sound machine
  • Audrey had a teddy bear that played womb sounds that she used every night for the first 6 months of her life. Then we switched to a sound machine that has different sound options and a projector. 
  • Great for tummy time and even after when baby is starting to move around.
  • Most babies love to bounce. These are great for a quick trip to the bathroom (by yourself!) or to let baby entertain herself for a little bit.
  • I thought this would be a waste of money, but it was a godsend! Press a button and you don't have to remember how long it's been since you changed a diaper, fed baby, or how long they've slept. 

  • A comfortable rocking chair or glider with foot stool
  • You'll be glad you have it for all those middle of the night feedings!
  • Video monitor
  • This is one thing I wish I registered for but didn't. I just got a regular audio monitor, but ended up buying a video monitor after the fact. It's great for peace of mind with ity-bitties and for knowing what rambunctious toddlers are doing without having to go into the room. 
  • These are great for putting on your bed or the couch for a quick diaper change or right on top of the crib sheet in the area of the diaper for occasional leaks. 
  • I didn't want to give Audrey a pacifier. I made sure they didn't give her one in the hospital because I was so nervous it would mess with our nursing. But the nurse I had suggested Nuk brand if I changed my mind because they are closest in shape to Mom's nipple. After a week or so, we had 2 days of almost constant crying and I sent my husband out to buy a pacifier! Our pediatrician said they're fine and there is actually research that shows they help them learn to self-soothe.
  • Some kind of trash can with step-operated lid specifically for diapers and wipes
  • The lid keeps the smell in, the separate can for just diapers and wipes keeps your regular trash can from stinking to high heaven, and the foot petal is useful for the parent who doesn't happen to have 3 hands!
The obvious things (or maybe not so obvious):
  • Crib, bassinet, changing table, dresser etc.
  • Changing pad
  • Boppy pillow and at least 2 covers
  • Bathtub
  • Towels and washcloths
  • Bedding and nursery decor
  • You don't have to go the bedding set route if you don't want. The comforter type blanket that comes with it is pretty much useless. We didn't use the bumper at first, but Audrey moves around a lot in her sleep now, so it saves us bumped heads and limbs pinched in crib bars. We use everything else, but you can totally get away with just buying the things you want separately.
  • Highchair
  • You'll need it sooner than you think. Give someone else the opportunity to buy it for you! 
  • Diapers (if you're doing cloth or if you want a certain brand of disposables)
  • Diaper bag
  • Stroller
  • We got a 3-wheel jogging stroller with real tires instead of plastic. I don't jog with it, but I find it's much easier to maneuver and is a much smoother ride for her on our walks. 
  • Infant car seat and convertible car seat
  • Again, you'll need the convertible car seat before too long. Audrey was about 8 or 9 months when we switched her to hers. Give someone the opportunity to buy it for you and you might not have to get it yourself when the time comes.
  • Swing and/or bouncy seat
  • This is one of those things you don't really know until the baby gets here. Audrey absolutely hated the swing! Some babies love them! The bouncy seat was amazing though. She loves hers!
  • Pack 'n Play and Pack 'n Play sheet (if you plan on travelling a lot, to stay overnight with the new grandparents perhaps)
  • We have a hand-me-down, but have never used it because my parents bought an actual crib for their house. Other parents I know swear by theirs.
  • Humidifier (if you don't own one already)
  • Safety products (outlets covers, cabinets locks etc.)
  • Burp cloths (good old tri-fold cloth diapers work GREAT)
  • A few soft, fuzzy blankets, especially for winter babies (don't go overboard though. we have some we never even used.)
  • Baby soap and lotion (if you want a specific brand)
Don't bother registering for:
  • A wipe warmer
  • My mom bought us one and I hated it. It dries the wipes out. Such a waste!
  • Too many of anything (bottles, swaddles, pacifiers etc.) before you know what baby likes
  • I wanted to swaddle so badly. I got like 6 or 7 swaddles at my shower. I think I only opened one. Audrey absolutely hated being swaddled. I have friends that got lots of one kind of bottle and it took 4 or 5 different brands for them to find one baby liked. So don't go overboard on any one thing. Wait to see what your baby likes.
  • Clothes
  • Everyone likes to buy baby clothes. They're adorable! You can't help it! So you'll get lots of clothes, don't bother registering for them!

Well, those are my suggestions! Every family's needs are different, but I hope it's helpful! Please feel free to comment with anything I might have forgotten!

*All links are to products we own and use. I was not in any way compensated by the companies or asked to review their products.*

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Strawberry Jam & Ice Cream Topping

Last year, my attempt at making pectin-free strawberry jam was a complete failure. It never set up. Luckily, my husband still thought it was delicious and used it as an ice cream topping! So when we picked our strawberries this year, I was instructed to make some more ice cream topping on top of my attempt at another jam recipe. Both came out DELICIOUS, so I thought I'd share my recipes with you.

I don't remember where I found this recipe last year, but it was supposedly for jam and you didn't need pectin. Two years in a row, it's made a fabulous strawberry ice cream topping instead!

Strawberry Ice Cream Topping
4 cups mashed strawberries
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Mix strawberries, sugar and lemon juice together. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Turn heat to high and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until mixture reaches 220 degrees.

Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch head space. Boil jars 10 minutes to process.

This year, I decided to just go ahead and use pectin, but I wanted a low sugar recipe because so many recipes out there have so much sugar in them! I picked up some of Ball's Real Fruit Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin or pretty much used the measurements under the label, with a little tweaking. (These quantities made about 10 1/2 jars.)

Low-Sugar Strawberry Jam

7 cups mashed strawberries
1 2/3 cups water
7 1/2 tablespoons Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin
2 1/2 cups sugar

Combine mashed strawberries and water. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar and return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. 

Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch head space. Boil jars 10 minutes to process.

It's thick and delicious and not overly sweet! Perfection!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

My husband is an amazing father. He loves his little girl so much and he tries to make the little time he has with her as special as he can. Audrey and I are so incredibly blessed to have him in our lives. Unfortunately, he has to work all day today, but Audrey and I made him a special gift that I hope makes up for it!

Audrey wasn't exactly cooperative during our photo shoot! She absolutely refused to hold the letters, so I had to enlist the help of a flower plot for them to lean against. Luckily, the flowers also kept her attention and worked double duty for us! Overall, I was really happy with the final product, and Dada loved it when we gave it to him a little early last night!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Strawberry Picking 2012

It's not quite summer yet, but the weather has been beautiful here lately! Audrey loves to be outside so, as a result, we've been enjoying a lot of sunshine and fresh air! That also means that Mama has spent much less time on the computer and my blog has been the biggest victim. But not today! We went strawberry picking on Monday, so I have to share some photos!

Daddy showing Audrey how to pick the strawberries.

Putting the strawberries into Audrey's special bucket!

She hates having her hands dirty.

Dumping her little bucket of strawberries into Dada's big bucket!

Yum! Yum!

My sister and nephew picking, too!

Mama's little helper.

Mimi and her grandbabies.

 My beautiful little family 

Blake and Audrey with our 28 pounds of strawberries!
All 28 pounds are gone already, and what we did with them will be in an upcoming post! But we had a lot of fun picking them and Audrey was such a good girl. She would fill her little bucket and run to Dada to empty it. She didn't squish any and stayed right with us the whole time. I was worried about bringing her because we're pretty sure she's allergic to strawberries. I thought it would be so mean to tell her no if she wanted to eat one, but she didn't even try! I'm looking forward to blueberry and raspberry picking so she can have a little more fun and actually get to eat some!