Packing Lists and 3 Tips for a Stress-less Family Beach Vacation

Packing Lists and 3 Tips for a Stress-less Family Beach Vacation

What to plan for and how to pack for a successful journey and stay at the beach

By: Jaymee Castle, Maternity Consultant in Knoxville, TN

Summer memory making season is upon us!  In the Castle household, we’re actively counting down to our annual beach vacation.   A friend of mine once told me to think of these trips as “memory making adventures”.  I love the sound of that but as it turns out, I’m not an adventurer at heart.  I like to create packing & to do lists and plans and then really enjoy it when things go according to those plans.  I also recently read that when babies are born so are mothers.  And as a mother I’ve learned that I can attempt to plan things down to the finest detail and can still rest assured that every day will be an adventure. 

I’ve embraced these memory making journeys and am grateful to have the opportunity to share in them with my little family.  In this post I’ll share some of my “three kid tested” tips for what to pack and how to set up for smooth travel (by air or car!) to the beach so you can snap photos like these and let those memories last a lifetime! 

Tip 1:  Make a List! (It’s never to early to start)

This is a pretty obvious first tip, but the timing of the list making is what I’ve refined over the last few years.  I start making my list of what to pack to the beach several months in advance.  I find that this helps me to look forward to the trip and to feel as prepared as can be when it comes time to pack!

In my planner (this could also be a memo in your phone, but yes I still use a paper planner), at the start of the year, I create a space to write down my vacation packing lists.  All the usual essentials are covered, but a couple years back I started adding ideas for fun stuff to pack in the carry on.  I take note the inexpensive little toys that my kids have begged for that I say “no” to over and over because “who needs more trinkets?”.  Kids on airplanes or in carseats for hours on end need trinkets, that’s who!   I’ll usually also start to purchase these and tuck them away in my closet.  I’ll hold on to things until the kids are asleep the night before we leave and then I’ll tuck a few surprises in their backpack (aka their carry ons) that they can find along the way.   This is a simple way to create fun sanity saving surprises for them along the way.

For the “what to pack in the suitcase” section, I note kids sizes – I write down their clothes and shoe sizes so that I can buy things like new flip flops or swimsuits and warm weather clothes when I catch them on sale with less risk of an ill fit.  Then I also have a count of how many of each type of item we need to pack that’s edited for access to laundry amenities on the trip.  More details on all of the above in the list templates I’m including below!

Tip 2:  Plan to Pre-Pack

This is so Type A and is not a joking matter.  I start to plan the packing experience a couple weeks ahead of our vacation.  So, knowing our beach vacation is 4th of July week each year, I start pre-planning for packing everyone in mid June.  I think about cargo space (cargo box on top of the car or checking bags at the airport?), I envision the lodging at our destination (kids sharing rooms? space to unpack or living out of suitcases) and I think about who is lugging all the bags to/from each point along the way.  

Once I know the count of suitcases or overnight bags I want to take for my family, I set those aside in my room and then block out chunks of time when kids are sleeping or out of the house to gather what goes in the suitcase for each kiddo.  During that hour of time, I grab an empty laundry basket and fill it with all the items from the list for one kid at a time.  I let my kids choose their one favorite outfit (this is usually some crazy mismatched situation that may or may not be appropriate for the weather) and the rest is up to me.

Carry ons are the last to be packed.  I plan time to do this together with the kids and always try to suggest things that I know are fun but that won’t be heartbreaking to lose (example:  a mix of old legos to free build with while waiting for a flight for my son; but definitely not the most prized mini-figure that he spent his tooth fairy money on and waited by the mailbox to receive).  Then once they’re in bed I tuck the little surprise items in various pockets along with a new coloring book or sketch pad, colored pencils and some treats such as their favorite snack and candy. 

Tip 3:  Pack Your Bags and Go!

My goal is always to be packed at the 24 hour  prior to departure mark.  My kids bags are usually packed by this time and mine never are (probably never will be).  I limit myself to only one extra outfit or item that isn’t on the packing list for my kids because the list works well for us.  It limits my overpacking tendencies and it results in a mix of choices without getting overwhelming at the same time. This is me being my most adventurous best self!

Now, for the best part of this post and without further ado, here are – the lists!

The List – What to pack in the Carry On (the kids backpacks and my mom tote which doubles as beach bag when we arrive)

This is applicable for travel by any mode of transportation in our family because I try hard not to have to dig into any suitcase while we’re en route to our final destination.  The answer to this “what to pack” question used to look a lot like a “what to pack in the diaper bag” lists that are out there.  But now that my youngest is hitting preschool age and can handle her own backpack, the list has evolved and is as follows:

  • Necessities:
    • Wipes – and a small zip top sandwich size bag of diaper wipes for each person.  These are always used whether it be for actual intended purpose of cleaning hands or for some fun game my kids call “let’s clean the airplane seat”
    • Small hand sanitizer (for school aged kids) – so I can give the mom stare and demand they clean their hands after the “let’s clean the plane” game but before “let’s eat all our snacks” portion of the trip
    • Small First Aid Kit (I prefer them to all have bandaids, alcohol wipes and neosporin in their bag so we can respond quickly to devastating hang nails or scraped knees)
    • Extra Diapers/Underwear and Full Change of Clothes – this is pretty self explanatory and again is always used.  We’ve had car and plane trips where for one reason or the other at least one child has used the full change of clothes.  This becomes more important if you’re checking bags and risk lost luggage!
    • Empty drink container – in the airport this is an easy way to refill water for all family members.  In the car, especially with preschool aged milk drinkers, it’s helpful to have a clean empty cup on hand for worn out travelers begging for milk as they’re running on fumes.
    • An index card with parents names and contact info that the child is aware of in the event you become separated during travel.  This feels more important in busy airports but also is good information to leave in their backpacks year round.  It can double as a “travel game” if you’re up for helping your angels practice memorizing your name and phone number – since young kids are tasked with this early in elementary school. 
    • At least one “it’s healthy enough and you know your kid will eat it” snack
    • A book – this should be something your kiddos can enjoy alone or when being read to during delays in the airport or while stuck in traffic
    • A coloring book or sketch pad – I prefer some blank paper in the mix for when the suggestion of coloring lands as a form of punishment to squirrelly kids.  Tic Tac Toe never gets old (to kids anyway) 
    • The tablets and portable video game devices.  Try to make them wait but if things get hairy you’re going to be kicking yourself if you made “screen free travel” mandate from the comfort of home.
    • Favorite comfort item (lovie blankets or small stuffed animal or babydoll – my max is one item that we have to track like it’s on the most wanted list during the entire trip)
  • The Fun Stuff (some of my go to items for the surprise items I like to stow away in their various backpack pockets when they’re asleep dreaming of vacation)
    • Skittles and Ring Pops – two categories of candy that all my kids like.  It’s critical that everyone has the same quantity and type of treat so as not to be punished for your good deed
    • New chapstick or lipgloss – something simple that they get so excited about!
    • A new pair of sunglasses – our favorite store with the big red logo currently has the cutest sunglasses in their dollar bin for $1-$3 a pair!
    • New goggles to get them even more fired up for the beach – try not to lose before you see the ocean!
    • Temporary tattoos – these don’t fit my preferred aesthetic for vacation but they score highly in the “keeping kids occupied” & “wait your turn” categories so they make the cut
  • Slinky or Koosh Ball – tell your kids stories of the glory days while they look at you like you’re from outer space because you were so easily amused by something that seems so foreign to their little technology loving minds
    • A small stuffy if your kids love plush toys
    • A hot wheels car to race their boredom away
  • Bonus Section!  A few of the new items I’m excited about for my kids this year
  • Travel Spirograph sets for my big kids (this is an idea stolen from the parents of spirograph-engrossed children seated at a table next to us during a particularly crazy dinner out on vacation last year)
  • Go! Interactive Travel Journals also for my big kids
  • Travel Spot It – I’ll also keep this in my bag to enjoy during those long waits for tables and meals at busy restaurants
    • Wooden Lacing Cheese Toy and I Spy from A-Z for my toddler/early preschooler (what is the category for a 2.5 year old that seems 6 some days but also still says “I your baby!”?)

The List – What to pack in the Suitcase (for the kids)

This is my time and three kids later tested list of what to pack to make sure you’ve got what you need and also that you don’t become overwhelmed with choices when you make it to the beach (or the mountains or wherever you’re headed).  I focus on the quantities and types of what to bring per child and make specific choices as I pack so that I can use same check list for each child each year.

  • Underwear x6
  • Socks x2 (more if a trip to any destination but the beach)
  • Diapers if needed (enough for two days then buy a small pack when you arrive)
  • Wipes x1 pack
  • Pajamas x3 sets
  • “Nice” shorts or skirt x1
  • “Nice” shirt x2
  • Comfy shorts x2
  • Leggings or Sweatpants x1
  • Dresses x2 (one play and one dressier)
  • Tee shirts x2
  • Swimsuits x3
  • Rash guard x2
  • Flip Flops
  • Dressier Sandals (optional – but my girls consider a must have)
  • Tennis Shoes (wear these on the plane or in the car to free up space in suitcase)
  • Water Shoes (my kiddos love wearing to/from the beach and I love that they’re easy to hose off)
  • One outfit of the kid’s choosing so they don’t fight all the other choices (and yes, let them wear this outfit out in public without any objection)
  • Travel sound machine for everyone’s sake
  • Daily Toiletries & Sunscreen – sealed and unopened and in luggage to be checked because it’s cheaper at home than at the beach!
  • Hair Accessories (a must have for the girls – try to limit the qty and bring things that can get wet)
  • Floaties – we once dedicated a whole suitcase to our puddle jumpers (and more spare diapers to fill empty space).  We’re down to one kid in a puddle jumper now and it’s worth bringing along from home vs. buying there
  • All the chargers for all the devices (adults pack your phone charger in your carryon)

   

Peace of Mind Initiative™ from Your Milk Shoppe

Peace of Mind Initiative™ from Your Milk Shoppe

By: Kimmie Johnson and Amber Michels

What is the Peace of Mind Initiative™?

The Peace of Mind Initiative™ is a campaign that was created by moms, for moms. It is a program that supports both the expectant mother and her employer during this most crucial and transformational time in life: preparing for motherhood.

We’ve been in her shoes, and we know how overwhelming and all-consuming it can feel to prepare for life with a baby. We also know just how hard it can be to remain present in other areas of life right now; work is oftentimes first to take the hit. By partnering with corporations at the Benefits + Wellness level, we are able to collectively offer the support moms/dads-to-be deserve to confidently rock this next chapter, all-the-while promoting talent retention and strengthening the ties of the employer/employee relationship.

In our research, we found that most employers have the desire to offer an additional layer of support to their employees during this time, but more often than not do not have the tools (or the time) to do so. Our comprehensive program is turn-key, but can also be scaled to fit specific needs of the company. Essentially, this program is moldable to fill in the gaps.

The Peace of Mind Initiative™ program covers a wide variety of topics, including: baby planning; preparing for life postpartum and the 4th trimester; infant calming techniques and safe sleep practices based on the Happiest Baby on the Block methodology; preparing for maternity leave and rocking the eventual return to work transition, when it’s time; determining childcare options; building support teams and finding your village, and more. We also have a robust list of local and nationwide resources to help new parents with everything from breastfeeding support and sleep training to family counseling and nutrition… and truly everything in between. As an added bonus, all of our individual services come with a discount for any employee of a corporate partner.

Since the beginning of YMS, we’ve always wanted to play a role in the motherhood journey of women in the workforce. We’ve been developing this program for over two years, and we are thrilled to have finally launched!

Additonal Details and Benefits of the Peace of Mind Initiative™:

Employee benefits

  • Receive support during {arguably} the biggest transition in her life
  • Personalized plan for a confident shift into this new role
  • Increased appreciation for the employer/employee relationship
  • Pride in work/home life justice (because “balance” is a farce, let’s be honest)
  • Continued career progression

Employer benefits

  • Retain female talent; keeping women at the table
  • Maintain personnel investment
  • Value-add to attract female talent of childbearing years
  • Higher productivity
  • Happy employees, happy customers
  • Effect change and a cultural shift within the workplace

“43% of highly qualified women with children are leaving careers or off-ramping for a period of time. A strong company can’t afford to lose this amount of talent when mothers feel like their workplace doesn’t support their return to work.”

-Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

If you know of a company that might benefit from this program, or would like more information, please email info@yourmilkshoppe.com. We are excited to explore this opportunity to work together to support your new mamas and moms-to-be!

-Amber and Kimmie, Co-founders of Your Milk Shoppe

Laura’s Gear Guide: the multi-functional list

Laura’s Gear Guide: the multi-functional list

By: Laura Solem, YMS Maternity Consultant in Atlanta, GA

Products, products, products. There are so many baby products on the market and more joining everyday that it can be a full time job just looking at them. For new parents, everything from diaper changing to feedings can be overwhelming. Deciding which products to use and ones that work best for you and your baby can be impossible. I am here to help you weed through all of the products and highlight a few of my favorites. I want to give you a few products each month that I think are really amazing and will help keep you and your baby happy! This month most of the products happen to be multi functional which can be invaluable to new parents.

The Fisher-Price Rock-N-Play Sleeper is an inclined rocker seat for your baby. It can be a lifesaver and a space saver all in one. With its ability to fold up lengthwise it can be a great napper during the day or a place to keep your baby in motion and nearby when you need a break. The Rock-N-Play Sleeper is also great to use with a baby with reflux issues. It helps keep them in an inclined position and can potentially help reduce the amount they spit up. Here are some features of both the Auto Rock-N-Play and the Basic Rock-N-Play

Auto Rock ‘n Play Deluxe

  • Two auto-rock settings: 30 minutes or 6 hours of hands-free rocking
  • 12 musical tunes and 3 soothing sound effects
  • Comfy incline helps baby sleep
  • Sleeper & playtime seat in one
  • Deluxe fabrics & a plush newborn insert (DELUXE Only)
  • Secure, three-point restraint
  • Easy to clean design with machine washable insert & pad
  • Includes AC adapter that plugs into the wall – no batteries needed!

Basic Rock ‘n Play Deluxe

  • Nighttime sleeper & playtime seat in one
  • Comfy, supportive incline
  • Rocks head-to-toe with a gentle push
  • Switch on calming vibrations to help soothe baby
  • Deluxe fabrics, breathable mesh sides & , plush, machine-washable newborn insert with head support (DELUXE Only)
  • Secure three-point restraint
  • Requires 1 D battery

The Graco Pack ‘n Play Playard Snuggle Suite is great because although you might not need a pack ‘n play right now, this version comes with a removable baby bouncer and a bassinet changer to use right out of the gate with your newborn. it’s great if your house has two stories and you do not want to be going up and down all day to change the baby. Also it has compartments for your diapers and accessories. While it might not be the most space-saving option it can definitely serve as a time saver in those first few months. Both the bouncer and bassinet/changer are removable so when the time comes you can just use the pack’n play for all of your traveling needs. It also comes with a fold-and-carry case with handle making it great to travel with and also keeps out germs if you have to take it on a plane. The bouncer seat comes with three sleeping positions for newborn, infant and toddler. It also plays music and nature sounds to help soothe your little one.

Another amazing product that is fairly new to the market is the Doona Infant Car Seat/Stroller. It does come with a higher than normal price tag but for people on the go they claim it is a must have! The Doona is a car seat and a stroller all in one.  The wheels fold and it becomes an infant car seat in an instant and can be used with or without a base.  When you’re ready to get out of the car with your little one simply take the seat out of the car and unfold the wheels. Its innovation allows you to seamlessly move your baby from the house to the car to any errand you need to run without ever moving the baby. The Doona comes with 1 base and can be complemented with a variety of accessories to ensure that you are ready for anything while on the go. Accessories include several attachable diaper bag options, a snap-on storage case, a travel bag, rain cover, sunshade, insect net, vehicle seat protector, wheel covers and additional bases for easy installation in more than one vehicle. It’s easy to see why this car seat/ stroller is becoming a bestseller! It’s both easy and convenient.

Pumping can be an overwhelming activity for a mama with a newborn baby. Finding the right breast pump can be crucial when breastfeeding. The Willow wearable Breast Pump is the first of its kind. It is cordless, quiet and, discreet. This portable breast pump makes it possible to pump on the go. Just put it in your nursing bra and with a few steps you’re ready. It also syncs with a mobile app and comes with a personal coach which you can reach via text anytime! This amazing new innovation into breast pumps makes it possible to live outside of a cord when it comes to pumping.

Products can make a new parents life immensely easier. But with all the new products hitting the market every day it can be overwhelming to figure out which ones will work for you or even ones that your baby will like. Hopefully this series of product recommendations will help all new mamas out there find what works best for them and for their baby. If you have any questions about these products or anything baby related please reach out to us at Your Milk Shoppe! We are here to make your life easier!

xoxo,

Laura

For the Soon-to-be Mama of Two

For the Soon-to-be Mama of Two

by: Kimmie Johnson

This is for the moms getting ready to bring baby #2 into the world. How you doing, mama? Feeling nervous? Totally ready? Somewhere in between? Well, I’m here to tell you that wherever you are, it’s ALL GOOD. You’ve likely received a million tidbits of advice <read: warnings> about how much harder it’s going to be with two little ones in the mix. Not all that encouraging, right? And if you currently have a toddler? “Forget it. Good luck!” Well, I have a TRUTH BOMB and it’s coming in hot: those naysayers — they’re wrong. With two in the mix, will it be more work? Absolutely. Is it doable? Of course. Is it worth it? One million times over.

First things first, we are in the trust tree here: how did you feel when you saw the pink pair of lines for a second time? Had you been trying for a while or was this a huge surprise? I was in the latter camp. I’ve {with a thankful heart} never faced fertility issues, and while I do not take that for granted for a single second, we had never really “family planned” up to that point. So I remember exactly how I felt, and it was… conflicted. The initial feeling was pure elation: are we truly being blessed with TWO kids?! My dream come true, what a gift. But then, I started thinking through the reality of what two children would look like, and that’s when the fear crept in. How were we going to do this? How would I do this?

At the time we lived in Chicago in a 3rd floor walkup, (also with two dogs, mind you) so honestly — it was a logisical nightmare, and as a planner, I panicked. It sounded impossible. Sam was a busy 17-month old… quickly doing the math, realized we would have a busier 2-year old and a newborn. YMS was going gangbusters, my husband was traveling literally all the time, and we were 300 miles away from our closest family. I was terrified. So when that third test showed the words “pregnant” (you know you never trust just one, or the +/- for that matter) — I just sat and cried. And cried. From happy tears to “oh shit” tears. Scared but laughing tears. All the feels. But once that shook, those feelings of fear slowly started to fizzle and I’m happy to report we’re still here! So, I wanted to share some encouragement and truths from my experience of having two bambinos in our family with the hope that it will help you feel less nervous about adding a freshie to yours.

You will become a master of time management. You will quickly become the most efficient you’ve ever been with your time. There’s not an abundance of it, so you become incredibly protective over it. You learn that all of the things you are saying “yes” to, means you are inevitably saying no to something (or someone) else. Your yes’s become increasingly more personal and your tank in turn is refueling with each yes… and each no! As a business owner, mom of two, and someone who equally craves spending time with loved ones -and- time alone, this truth really threw me.

You will have enough energy to hold it down. Sometimes by a fraying thread, or the skin of your damn teeth, but you will do it. Because we’re moms and that’s what we do. Plus, the sleep deprivation isn’t AS much of a shock to the system the second time around. (It’s still insanity, don’t get me wrong, but you know you’ll get through it because you’ve already bossed it once before.) It’s amazing how when you’re in a tough season, you just put your head down and get through it. Often times it isn’t until you’re on the other side of that mountain that you lift your head and realize just how high you climbed. When the newborn fog lifts, you will have appreciation for what a badass you are and everything you just conquered, and you will feel very proud.

You will love your second as much as your first. Your love will not feel the same, but the intensity will. Your heart truly doubles… it’s inexplicable, but it just does. I wondered how I could ever love another child as much as I loved Sam. He was my ride-or-die, my main squeeze. And he still is, but she is, too. And most days, if I’m being really honest, they’re sidestepping me for each other… sooo….

They will be best friends. Maybe not at first, and maybe not forever, but there will be a period in time where they will be thick as theives and your mama heart will feel like it might literally combust into a million pieces. We found out on a Friday that we were being induced that following Monday. I remember rocking Sam to sleep on Sunday night, taking a little longer than usual. Humming a few extra songs, smelling his hot sleep-breath on my shoulder, soaking him in. Once he was finally sound asleep in his crib, the hubs and I just held each other watching over him. (Which sounds way creeper than it was, promise.) We couldn’t imagine how differently life was going to look for him when he woke up. Without us there, and with a sister he hadn’t yet met. And we couldn’t quite imagine how differently life was going to look for us when he wasn’t our one and only anymore. Fast forward to today, and I can’t even picture life without her… and neither can he, he knows no different. There is nothing in the world that brightens up my soul quite like hearing Sam yell “HEY QUINNNAYYY!!!” and her respond with an overzealous happy breakdance.

Your eldest will seemingly turn into a teenager overnight. This one really tripped me up. Do you ever have those mornings where your kiddo’s pajamas are a little smaller than the night before and you think: you literally grew over night?? Well, multiply that times infinity. Your oldest will get SO BIG in the time you’re away giving birth. Their vocabulary, energy levels, independence and just sheer size become so much more pronounced when compared to a tiny newborn. For me, this was shellshocking. Our start with baby #2 was a little different than most, and definitely not what we anticipated. Quinn was re-hospitalized for a week after being home for just 2 days, so for me this gap in time with Sam was glaring. He would come to visit us in the hospital every day, and each time I got to squeeze that little nugget, he seemed ten years older and like a totally new person. Once we were finally home together as a family of four, I felt like I barely knew this big boy. That both broke my heart and filled it back up at the exact same time — motherhood is funny like that.

Your relationship with your first might take a hit, but don’t worry, it will return. The normal divide and conquer is pretty obvious once you make the shift from zone defense to man-to-man: mom gets the baby, dad and whoever else is available tackle the big kid. With that arrangement, it’s normal for you to feel removed from your first baby. Creating special dates for just the two of you can help to reconnect. For us, once I was recovered, post-dinner park dates and ice cream on Thursdays were a Mom-and-Sam only thing. For you, it might be making sure you’re the one who drops off at school or singing only the song you sing at bedtime. Whatever it is, know that it doesn’t need to be extravagant to be important, and you will back to business as usual before you know it.

Just because you didn’t have PPD or PPA the first time around doesn’t mean you’re immune this time. Likewise, just because you experienced it the first time around, doesn’t mean you will this time. I had a healthy pregnancy and postpartum period with Sam, but fought some very tough, heavy postpartum battles with Quinn. I wasn’t expecting it, but I knew what to look out for which is what helped me keep my head above water. Keep an eye and be honest with yourself, and your partner. Since you’ve been through this period before, you might recognize if you feel differently. If anything feels off, please confide in someone. Always know, we are only a call away if you ever, ever need it.

Self-care has never been more important. We preach preach preach self care for all moms. You have GOT to make yourself a priority every once in a while. Put your mask on first. It’s easy to feel completely absorbed and consumed in this time, but you have to take time to do the things that make you feel like YOU. It’s a must. Non-negotiable. And if you need someone to kick your butt, we’re happy to do it. 🙂

Babywearing is life. Even if you didn’t wear your first baby, it will become one of your greatest survival tools the second time around. Having the option of both hands free while baby is safe and with you is everything. If you don’t have a carrier, now would be the time to get one. If you need help selecting, give us a shout or visit your local BabyWearing International chapter for more information. They have educators to assist in safe fit, the different types and styles, and often have a library where you can rent before you buy. Super wonderful resource!

You got this, Mama. We’re cheering for you!

XO,

Kimmie

Amber’s 0-6 Months Baby Musts

Amber’s 0-6 Months Baby Musts


Let me tell you something mamas- the thought of bringing a second child into the mix was way more daunting than when he arrived, and we brought him home. I can confidently say that I am speaking for every mom when I say, the stress leading up to this transition is about being able to love both as much as they deserve, and give them the attention that they need, all while sneaking in some self-care for yourself. News flash: it is all possible, you just need to make conscious efforts to do all these things, but if they don’t always “get done”, then please just give yourself some grace, and say, “Eff it, tomorrow is a new day, the end”, and move on, sister.

Ok, on to the important stuff: all the “things” baby related that got me through the first six months of baby J’s life. It’s funny, being in the Mommy and Baby industry, I see and hear about all the newest gadgets, the magical items that will get your baby to sleep and eat successfully. When it comes down to it, your baby will be who they will be, from the minute they are earth side, and you must adapt and do the best you can. For example: baby J is the best eater and sleeper, he’s been that way from day one. When my daughter was born, she was the opposite, and it wrecked my mom world for the first year-because I thought I was doing something wrong, that I was not a great mom. Every kid is different, and that means what you will need to do for them daily will be different, too. That’s just the way it is.

Our Morning Routine: its been very easy and doesn’t require a lot of extra work. I’ve relied heavily on the Como Tomo bottle for feeds as my son has really taken to it and because of it, has very little tummy aches. The formula that I began using in month three is Holle, and I am obsessed with it. It’s a German brand, and every ingredient is super transparent, unlike many brands in the U.S. My Baby Brezza Formula Pro was a Black Friday purchase, and I’ve not looked back since…it is an absolute time and life saver. It blends the formula perfectly, at a temp that is best for the baby’s tummy. Once J is fed and happy, I put him in the Baby Bjorn Bouncer so that I can hang with both him and his sister, and some days, keep him contained while I get her ready for school. Not only is it super functional, it’s lightweight and easy to carry around.

Our Afternoon Routine: naps are obviously a thing in this season. I’ve really loved relying on the SNOO, and the Dockatot. If you look these items up, you’ll find many different opinions on whether to use them and why. Trust your judgement, mom, and do whatever works for you and baby. Julian responded well to being swaddled and loved the extra support of the Dockatot when we travelled. I’ve already completely transitioned him out of both, and it was super easy. Again, every baby is different, and I have no idea how yours will respond. When we do tummy time, I put him on a sheep skin mat with the Finn and Emma Play Gym above him. I absolutely love the simplicity of this play gym. If you haven’t gathered, I am drawn to very neutral, simple, easy to tote around baby gear in general. I am not a fan of a lot of bells and whistles, and I don’t like loud colors- they give me hives. As far as other toys/activities, I’ve been drawn to the black and white books with the cut-paper art, perfect for staring at. Some of my favs: “Baby Animals Black and White”, “Look, Look”, and “Spots and Dots”. I also love placing a mirror next to him, so that he can focus on his own face.

Our Bedtime Routine: I’m a huge fan of routines at night, especially. I do think it helps children to go to bed easier. With that said, I’ve got a lot of go-to’s that I rely on. I use essential oils to set a tone at night, and the one I always choose is lavender. Who knows, it may only chill me out, but nonetheless, it’s a steady friend that comes through in our household. When I am bathing Julian, I use all things Mustela. I love this brand, the simplicity of the ingredients, and not to mention, the smell. I found great towels and washcloths for Julian that are super soft and have stayed in great condition after washing them multiple times. The brand is SMITCO and all products are hypoallergenic, organic and great for sensitive skin. The baby tub that has been my lifesaver is Angelcare Baby Bath Support. It is made in a way that supports your baby from the very first bath into the many months ahead. For the nightlight, I have always used Hatch Baby Rest Night Light because it not only has different color options for the light, but also white noise. You can operate the device from your phone, and any time I can find a product with that feature, I buy it. When I swaddle baby J at night, I use the Halo Velcro swaddles. They have always worked well for us, and they’re super affordable. I’ve just begun working on transitioning my son out of the swaddle and I use the brand Woolino. Again, this brand has been a staple in our home as it is well made, lightweight, and grows with your baby.

Honorable Mentions:

Diapers – Pampers Pure

Wipes- WaterWipes Sensitive Baby

Butt Paste- Boudreaux’s

Nasal bulb- the one from the hospital (stock up on this one) and The Nose Frieda

Baby Monitor- Nanit or Summer Infant

Stroller – Uppababy Vista

Car seat – Uppababy or Britax

Pack N Play – Nuna

Diaper pail- Ubbi

Newborn Monitor- Owlet (love, love, love this)

Baby Carrier- Solly Baby Wrap

Baby blankets- Aiden and Anais

Some Nights

Some Nights

by Abby Gibson

One of the most common cravings parents with small children have is the need for more sleep. I am TOTALLY in that group of people. Every time I go to bed, I just lie awake thinking through my checklist for the next morning–that has constantly been tweaked to achieve minimal prep time to get out the door and hopefully be on time to work–which later dominoes into a bunch of unnecessary futuristic scenarios about the next 10 years of my son’s life. He’s 2. Now granted, I’m a high school teacher constantly hearing about all of the new ways my son can do whatever he wants on the Internet without my knowledge, thinking about what college he’ll go to, how to handle heartbreak, balancing his time between me and his dad’s family, or if he’ll still love reading. Every mom I’ve talked to has played some of those clips in her mind at some point. While all of these mental gymnastics are happening, there’s another part of my brain attempting to open a whole filing cabinet full of work-related files I need to be considering for the next few months. So…. what’s the one thing I’m not doing that actually NEEDS to be happening? F***ing sleep. It’s always the one feeling I want to give into all day, but I easily push aside after getting in the coziest position in bed.

While absentmindedly listening to a song that has nothing to do with parenting, the words seemed to hit all the high notes of a mom’s thought process.

“Some nights, I say, “F*** it all!” Stare at the calendar

Waiting for catastrophes, imagining they’d scare me

Oh my God! Have you listened to me lately?

Lately, I’ve been going crazy

And some nights I pray a sign is gonna come to me

But usually, I’m just trying to get some sleep.”

-(“Some Nights Intro” by Fun.)

While you read that and drank your large cup of caffeine, did you feel like someone was writing the anthem for parenting?

If I could write another verse to the anthem, I would dedicate it to the extra responsibilities that single parents have. As a single parent, I don’t have that partner to join in on the “chorus” about the countless hours spent rocking our son to sleep every night for months or to lean on and confide in whenever my mind takes over and makes me think I’ve been going crazy. Nor can I share the struggles of trying to perfectly fit together all the scheduling for daycare, visits to his dad’s, Mama and son time, doctor’s appointments, work commitments, seeing my own family, etc. Juggling all of those different aspects is enough to make anyone dizzy! So, whenever I feel that rush coming on, I usually go to Instagram to watch some soothing cookie decorating or calligraphy videos like everybody else. Yet in that moment when I need to disconnect from that overwhelming feeling like I’m failing to be enough for my son, I continually scroll past a lot of wonderful mamas and families happily living their lives. Families that have both parents living with their kiddos.

Which is awesome!

I always want to celebrate the triumphs of parents because we so rarely have an extra cheering section.

But, what about me?

I’m looking around at the full sink, the floor cluttered with toys, and a pile of wrinkled laundry I keep forgetting to fold. This is so not Instagram worthy. There’s no 5 o’clock that comes when I can expect my partner to come home and help me clean up the proof of my son’s fun-filled day. It’s just me. And my checklist.

Since he can’t fully communicate, I’m always questioning whether or not we really are close: “Will he miss me?” “Does he know I’m not there?” “Does he think I left him?” I know these are questions all parents think about at one point or another, but I think it’s intensified whenever you share your child with someone else who isn’t with you. There’s an extra weight of “fear” when I can’t receive that verbal validation from my son yet.

When all of that collides and I start to feel rundown and like there’s too much to do in one day, my son comes up to me and says, “Need hug?” This small request reminds me of the incredible bond we share. Since I’m a single primary parent, my son and I spend tons of time together. During all this time I’ve noticed how well we understand each other. His mimicking of my mannerisms helps him better understand me while he’s trying to communicate. It also lets him see my emotions. Of course, he’s only 2 and doesn’t recognize that. But when he’s sick and I’m worrying about him going to his dad’s, I sit and stroke his cheek hoping he won’t think I’ve abandoned him when he needs me. Or I wonder if he’ll even recognize I’m not there! At that moment, I stopped rubbing his cheek (mostly because my arm fell asleep) and he looked at me, picked up my hand, and put it back on his face. If I really pay attention, he’s always showing me, in his own way, that we have developed a close bond of understanding.

Keeping a human alive is no easy task. God knows keeping a small human alive AND happy AND nutritionally fed all at the same time is damn near impossible. But add the constant worry that if I do something wrong, I’m going to be called out by his dad and you’ve got a guaranteed ticket to “Crazytown.” So, what keeps me from being a permanent resident there? The wonderful army of women I have on my side. I have friends and family I can call and talk to, be mad with, and be hurt with. I am held up by those people who know me well and can give me that support whenever I need it most.

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