A Carseat Wish

Some days you buckle and tighten the carseat straps in seconds as your child contentedly smiles up at you. Other days the straps and buckles are more like a Rubik’s Cube than restraining devices, twisting and misaligning with each effort. Certain days your child  contorts and flails making carseat buckling an olympic contact sport; facepainting a hyperactive octopus would be easier. Then there are the days you get stuck trying to get out of your own carseat.

#2 stuck exiting his carseat

#2 stuck exiting his carseat

May your carseat straps stay untwisted, your toddlers amenable to buckling, and your carseat exits unimpeded today, my friends!

 

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Sippy Cup and Bribery Tip

Out and about without a spill-proof cup? Looking for a bribe that will secure you a semi-sane errand but won’t inundate you with mom guilt? Good 2 Grow Juice Waters!

With loveably recognizable cartoon character tops, a closeable sports bottle style spill-proof spout, high availability (everywhere from Target to Rite Aid, gas stations to grocery stores), a wallet-friendly price, and a reasonable nutritional content, these juices and juice waters are great.

Instead of packing sippy cups for a family trip, we buy a couple of these juices to entice the kids to behave like human offspring through the destination grocery run. Once the juice bribes have been earned and consumed, we wash and refill the containers with water as we would a standard sippy cup for the remainder of the vacation.

Once emptied, scrub the containers as you would a baby bottle or toss them on the top rack of the dishwasher to reuse and refill them. (Don’t hold onto them for too long though, as thorough crevice cleansing is problematic.)

Note: As with all foods you provide your children, be a conscientious caretaker and look into the juice bottle when you remove the foil safety cover. Even take a quality control taste if you’re so inclined. There are rumors that some people have found mold and such inside purchased juices but, full disclosure, I’ve found odd things in pre-packaged items I’ve purchased for my own consumption. So I’m not leading a boycot. If it looks off, toss or exchange it; if it looks fine, enjoy it!

Scared of Being a Boy Mom

When I found out #2 was a boy I was simultaneously terrified and sad. I wasn’t ungrateful for my child. I was mourning a life vision and fearing a new life long challenge. But people don’t admit these things, so I tried to hide my inner turmoil.

I had always understood girls, I had already birthed and begun parenting one daughter, I came from a predominantly female and matriarchal extended family… boys were unfamiliar territory. I had always envisioned having daughters. I hadn’t really considered having a son. Of course I knew it could happen, I just hadn’t banked on it. My life expectation had shifted, I was sad at my dismantled vision and felt wholly unprepared for my impending undertaking.

I knew my fear and mourning were natural, but I felt immense guilt for experiencing the emotions. I wanted to hide my feelings to protect my son from assumed and projected eventual hurt. I would never want my child to feel lesser, unloved, or unwanted; each of my children is a precious and unique gift. However, my gratitude didn’t dismiss my worry of being unfit or my mourning of a broken dream.

20-weeks pregnant with #2, my anatomy scan neared. My mind circled on the baby being a girl. As if sheer thought could solidify my intention. I knew in my heart that the baby inside was a boy, but I was so fearful of my perceived incompetence as a “boy mom” that I willed and wished otherwise. I would repeat the girl name we’d chosen over and over in my head. I wore pink to the anatomy scan. I said a quick prayer in the waiting room. Though I felt — I knew — this baby was a boy.

Just minutes in, there it was on the screen: #2’s manhood in full spread-eagle glory. There was no doubt, #2 was a boy. My heart raced. I choked up. Not in regret, but in fear.

I seriously doubted my ability to parent a boy, to connect with a boy. I adored the pink and the ruffles, the outfits and the sass of girls. I loved the wide open field of options to girls: be a tomboy, be a girlie-girl, be a science enthusiast, or a theater buff… society allowed for it all. Boys, though, their socially accepted fields of interest were narrowed and dangerous prejudice provided steep fences between sanctioned and unapproved interests. That scared me.

And so, I grew rounder and #2 grew larger. 17.5 weeks later, he made his debut. He looked exactly like my husband: nearly black hair, almond shaped eyes, and pointed features. He was precious. He was calm. He was perfect. He was healthy. I could not possibly love him more.

Days turned into months and #2 grew. He lengthened and pudged, transforming into a fair-skinned, round-featured infant with thick black eyelashes and big, crystal blue eyes. He was cuddly and playful, easy-going and a great sleeper. He was the opposite of my needy, assertive, headstrong, sleep-challenged daughter.

#2 turned 2… the tantrums ensued. They never reached the 30-minute screaming fests #1 waged. He didn’t have the stamina, the focus, the stubbornness. He was open to relenting. He also caused a whole new type of mischievous mayhem than #1 had ever attempted. Gates were obstacle courses, air vents were portals of mystery, toilet paper rolls were activity centers, mud puddles were for sitting, and his genitalia was his own personal fascinating, ever-present amusement. The world was to be deconstructed to be understood, limits were to be repeatedly tested to be accepted.

Months turned into years and #2 became a preschooler. Unlike my fashionista daughter, he didn’t care what clothes he wore; mostly he just preferred to go pantless. Best friends with his big sister, enthralled by princesses and mermaids, fascinated by airplanes and helicopters, #2 didn’t fit a standard mold. I learned each day from him. He saw the world differently from me. He opened my eyes. He made me laugh every single day.

Now, I look at my silly, sweet, professional-little-brother son and think how perfectly it all worked out. I am so glad someone much smarter than me is running the show. I am happily a boy mom, though I still have much to learn.

 

Healthy, Dairy-free Packable Kid-friendly Lunch

Hummus dippers are a hit around here. The kids, Hubs, and I all love them. Heavy on the veggies and light on fat, it’s a healthy packable option.

You can use whatever raw veggies you like best. Sugar snap peas, broccoli, fennel, green beans, asparagus, romaine leaves, mushrooms, and radishes are fun. The kids were anti-bell-peppers because… I have no idea why. A unicorn farted and the wind changed… your guess is as good as mine. So we did cucumber, carrot, and cherry tomatoes alongside the grilled chicken and Doctor Kracker Seeded Spelt Crispbreads. You could easily substitute pita chips or pita bread for the crispbreads. Triscuits and Wasa crackers are tasty too.

Here’s how you throw together this easy, healthy, portable lunch:

Hummus Dippers

Hummus Dippers

HUMMUS DIPPERS

Ingredients

– Grilled chicken strips (we used homemade from a large batch of chicken breasts we grilled, sliced, and froze, but packaged grilled chicken strips are also an option)

– Carrot sticks

– Cucumber slices

– Cherry tomatoes

– Dairy-free whole grain crackers/crispbreads

– Hummus (Sabra makes individual to-go portions but we just scooped from the tub this time)

Directions

– Place the chicken and veggies into a sealable container.

– Pack the crackers separately to avoid sogginess.

– Scoop hummus into an individual portion size container or throw in a prepackaged individual serving of hummus.

– Add a beverage, a freezer pack, and a side of fruit for a healthy, portable lunch.

Family Beach Trip Tips

Trial and error, research, and tips from fellow moms have taught me — a mom of three under 5 — what to do and not to do when preparing for a family beach trip. These are my highlights.

1) Only use swim diapers for swimming: swim diapers’ sole function is to keep solids in. That means, zero liquid absorption. Want a bright red diaper rash and urine everywhere? Then, pop your baby in a swim diaper for a beach day or for a poolside afternoon. If that sore and messy scenario doesn’t sound appealing, stick to standard diapers and simply make a quick change into a swim diaper if/when submersion is in baby’s immediate plans. Then, change right back into a standard diaper once baby is beached.

2) Baby powder: baby powder is magical pain-free sand removal fairy dust. Sprinkle it on your sandy self, your beach-crusted baby, or your textured toddler and easily brush off the sand without a scratch. It is a beach bag must.

3) Babywear: don’t bring a stroller to the shoreline and don’t try to simultaneously carry the baby as well as half of your beach plot down the dunes. (I’ve done this… I do not recommend.) Instead, wear that baby so you have two free hands and can nurse easily (and discreetly) in public. Brief baby naps are a breeze in the carrier too. Got more than one kid to wrangle seaside? How could you not babywear? Bonus: if you’re feeling a tad skittish about debuting your post-baby belly, instant camouflage!

4) Have a pottying game plan: don’t enter into beach time unprepared for the inevitable. Figure out ahead of time what you plan to do about restroom requirements, especially if no public facilities are within potty-dancing distance. If you’re pregnant or have a toilet-training toddler, this is particularly poignant. And don’t just think #1… poop happens!

5) Laundry bags are beach-friendly: use a mesh laundry hamper liner/bag to carry sandy beach toys. The perforated material allows sand to stay on the beach instead of in the toy sack.

6) Hooded beach towels are multipurpose: I love these cost-effective hooded kids towels from Bed Bath and Beyond. They stay in place and dry quickly in the sun. Use them as a towel, a cover-up, an escape from unwanted sun, or an impromptu blanket if a chill strikes… they’re great.

7) Pack food and lots of water: this is the time to plan ahead. Kids and adults, alike, become ravenous when seaside. Pack snacks, fruit, water (lots of water, especially if you’re breastfeeding), and water-dense veggies. Skip the tasty chips and savory pretzels in favor of hydrating — as opposed to salty — fare. Hydration is key.

8) Sunscreen and bugspray: just bring them. You never know when you’ll need an extra dose of SPF or when a land breeze will make insect repellent a must. Sunscreen face sticks are fantastic for avoiding stinging eyes, plus: portable!

9) Petroleum jelly: Aquaphor, Vaseline, whatever you prefer, pack it. Chapped lips, irritated baby bum, withered cuticles, dry skin patch… a travel size container of skin lubricating petroleum jelly is all you need to stay comfy.

10) Make it a vacation for you too: vacations are notorious for being extra work for parents, especially stay-at-home guardians. Plan ahead and be sure to make the vacation feel like a reprieve for you too. Don’t strive for perfection, just fun. Don’t expect complete relaxation, just a slower pace. Don’t envision seamless bonding, just togetherness. Whether it’s a naptime coffee on the balcony, a glass of wine after bedtime stories, an early morning run, or time off from dinner duty, find a way to allow yourself a break. You deserve it. This is your vacation too.

 

Mom-friendly Swimwear Search

Swimsuit season is upon us! If you’re like me, breastfeeding has increased your bust size beyond reason. It’s like puberty all over again, navigating how to dress this new body type. And swimsuit shopping when you have multiple motherhood-related variables to factor into your swimwear quest… it’s five o’clock somewhere, right?

I searched various websites and stores for bra-sized swimwear that fit my measurements, allowed for nursing access, and existed in that non-matronly yet not uncomfortably revealing middle ground. That’s when I remembered Bare Necessities. I love Bare Necessities for undergarments and now I’ve found success with swimwear too.

For my newly large cup yet small band size, the brand Pour Moi offered attractive, supportive, comfortable, and wearable swim separates that allowed for nursing access. I particularly liked this brand because the underwire is widely curved so it doesn’t put unwanted pressure on my milk ducts. There are also non-halter options, which I like since — though I adore the look of them — halters hurt my neck and make me cranky.

Some of my similarly proportioned friends enjoy Panache swimwear too. I found the underwire too narrowly curved for my nursing needs, but not everyone is as clog-prone as I am. Both brands are available on Bare Necessities’ website.

Amazon is also an option, with free returns and faster shipping (unlike Bare Necessities.) The selection of bra size swim separates was more limited though. If you’re within a more standard sizing range, Amazon may be your best bet.

In previous years, when I existed in a standard bra size, I easily found great suits at Macys. I was able to try them on and buy them right there in the store. Now, though, that is no longer a feasible option because shopping with three kids is stressful — and bathing suit shopping doesn’t need any additional negativity tacked on to it — and my size would be pretty darn hard to find in a department store.

Good luck, mamas! I wish you the best in your swimwear search. Throw on that suit, silence your mind, and enjoy your summer. You deserve it!

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Beach Trips Then and Now

“This will be your last relaxing vacation for at least a decade. Enjoy sitting now!” A mom wrangling three young children on the beach once told me as I sunned my 34-weeks round self on a pre-first-baby vacation. I smiled, thinking that Hubs and I were excited for just that eventuality.

As young beach-going adults, Hubs and I would wake up late, go out to a lazy breakfast, get dressed for the beach, walk to the seaside with a towel over our shoulder and drink in our hand, and find our sandy spot as young families made their naptime exodus.

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Enter a caption

Hubs would get restless after a while, but witnessing the antics of children on the beach was enough entertainment to satisfy us both. We loved watching their wobbly trudges through soggy sand, reveled in their youthful fascination with the surf, and speculated about how we’d address hypothetical tantrums. “Beach trips will be so much fun when we have kids,” we’d say imagining sand-dusted baby rolls and seaside castle-building.

After a few hours on the beach, we’d head back to the house, shower, nap, get an afternoon coffee, relax, wander through town, and go out for the evening. Now, a decade and three kids later, our beach trips are much different.

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#3 wakes at 6:15, I lumber downstairs with him to pump while trying not to wake the entire house with his pack-and-play protests, #1 awakes around 7:30am and eats her breakfast while watching a show on the Kindle, #3 plays in the tub while I get ready for the day, then #2 awakes by 8:00am to eat. By 9:15am our cooler is packed and we’re lotioning up for the beach.

Seaside, we unload ourselves from the minivan. With #3 strapped to my chest, #1 and #2 hold my hands as I walk ahead of Hubs who pushes the fully loaded beach cart stacked with beach chairs, a foldable tent, beach toys, the cooler, the diaper bag, and towels. Our herd sets up camp near the ocean and there our morning of wrangling and digging, refereeing and shell-hunting, laughing and eating begins. Sitting happens in 2-3 minute increments. Lounging is a distant memory. Boredom is a forgotten sentiment.

Around midday, #2 and #3 begin to melt. It’s naptime and time to head back. We fold, stack, and pack our beach plot into the cart. We trudge to the minivan, the beach clinging to our sweaty, SPF’ed skin. “Get in you car seats. I’ll check your buckling.” I call to #1 and #2 as they scramble into the van while Hubs loads the trunk and I harness #3 into his car seat.

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As we pull out of our parking space, our former selves walk past us, towel over their shoulder and drink in their hand. By the time they hit the sand, we are home. Exactly where we always wanted to be.

Kid-friendly Packable Dairy-free Lunch

With summer unofficially starting for some, packable lunches for kids and adults alike are a must. Road trips, beach vacations, playdates, camps, outdoor concerts, picnics… summer is full of meal-packing opportunities, (especially if you’re dairy-free.) Here is one of our favorite packable meals:

DECONSTRUCTED FAJITA DIPPERS 

Deconstructed Fajita Dippers

Deconstructed Fajita Dippers

Ingredients

-Grilled chicken strips (ours were homemade… we had made a big batch of grilled chicken breast, sliced up the extra, and froze it, but the pre-made packaged strips are also an option)

-Bell pepper strips

-Cherry tomatoes

-UTZ Multigrain Tortillas (or your favorite dairy-free tortilla chips)

-Guacamole (I used Wholly Guacamole Classic Minis, but homemade guac is a great option too)

Directions

Place the chicken, peppers, and tomatoes into a sealable container.

Pack the chips separately.

Either toss in a prepackaged individual serving of guacamole or scoop the desired amount of your own guacamole into a small container.

Include a beverage, an ice pack, and a side of fruit for an easy packable lunch.

Is Having Three Kids That Hard?

“How is it having three kids?” It’s a question people usually ask as they attempt to camouflage their shock (and occasional muted horror) upon learning I have three kids under 5. Honestly, it has its moments — many of them… daily — but it truly is not as anxious and stressful a time as the life-bending, mind-spinning, beautiful upheaval of having your first child. It’s also not as ego-shredding as the inevitable chaos and calamity of shifting to having two children.

With your third child, very little is new. Diaper rash: been there. Growth spurts and potty-training: lived it. Weird, fun, and loathsome phases: check! It’s all familiar. You know all of the run-of-the-mill childhood viruses — Roseola, Coxsackie, Fifth’s Disease — and can generally tell the difference between allergies, teething, and a cold. Though, by your third child, noses are like butts: you wipe others’ more frequently than your own on a daily basis.

By the time you have the third kid, it takes a lot to rile you. Baby licks a trashcan: immune system boost! Baby refuses baby food: temporary cost savings… you know he won’t go to college exclusively breast/formula fed. Baby gnaws on the toy that the kid with the nasal deluge just licked: ehh, you’ve got a Nose FrIda and saline spray. Baby is slow to walk: score… a temporary reprieve from the eventual mayhem. Baby pops a dried leaf in his mouth: ruffage! 

With the third child you’ve learned that child development and parenting books are generalizations, not Bibles or fodder for competition. You’ve perfected your response to unsavory unsolicited parenting commentaries. You’ve realized babies are heartier than you’d suspect. You’ve mastered the death glare and become immune to the public tantrum. Essentially, your give-a-shit has been lowered mightily to a nice, comfy level.

You’re calmer and more knowledgeable, harried and constantly covered in someone else’s bodily functions, but you’re cool with it. Chaos is your comfort zone.

You know that everything — every phase, stage, achievement, and struggle — is temporary. You learn to savor the good and trust that the bad will be but a memory in due time.

Having three kids is challenging but it has its perks. I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or a solid night of uninterrupted sleep.)

 

 

 

In a World of Killer Vegetables

In a world in which even frozen vegetables could kill us, I say choose your battles and keep it moving. We’re guaranteed to seem reckless, overprotective, uneducated, paranoid, lazy, over-achieving, or misguided to someone no matter what we do. There will be studies and articles and blogs and soothsayers that will oppose our every step. So, go with your gut and do your best.

Wearing sunscreen can be lethal, but not wearing sunscreen is also deadly. You should get daily doses of vitamin-D through unprotected time in the sun, but the sun is a cancer-causing fireball of death.

Mosquitoes are hazardous, yet bugspray is poisonous. And don’t even consider pesticides… SAVE THE BEES! Weed-killers are for Earth-haters but the “wild meadow” look has yet to be sanctioned by the HOA. Plastic is toxic but glass is toddler-unfriendly (and dowright hazardous to us accident-prone folks.) Tampons can kill you, yet pads are anything but “green” and menstrual cups are downright unsanitary. Whatever you do, though, don’t you dare go free-bleeding! “Breast is best” or is “formula fairest”? No matter what, hide your nipples and cover that cleavage because boobs are for porn and Victoria’s Secret ads only.

Screw it!

I’ll just be over here in a deadly sun spot wearing my Earth-hating disposable nursing pads and coating myself in the last of my poisonous spray-on sunscreen (because it was on clearance, dammit!), as I maniacally eat my lysteria-soaked frozen vegetables out of a reusable cancer-causing plastic container while swatting at murderous mosquitoes and dodging allergenic endangered bees in my weed-adorned yard. Thanks!