Summer’s Here: Out-the-Door Organization

Summer is here! Trade backpacks for pool bags, school shoes for sandals. Here’s how you can swap your mudroom door organization from school daze to summer cinch in a snap.

Remember how we transformed the back of a door into an easy exit station for back-to-school (project details here)? Do a few switches to transform those same hooks for the summer season of pools and splash pads, playgrounds and playdates.

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School Daze

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Summer Cinch

Swap backpacks for pool bags. I got these kid-friendly sacks in Target’s deal bins. Each kid has their own, which contains a towel, goggles, flip-flops, a flotation device (if needed), and pool toys with our surname written on them in permanent marker. Bonus: less for me to wrangle as anything in their bag is their responsibility!

Switch the school shoes with bump toe athletic sandals (we love the Osh Kosh brand as they’ve lasted us just as long as the KEEN varieties but at half the cost, especially if you scout deals on Amazon or Zulily.) Toe coverage, sole grip, safe for water, easy on and off, and — as any laundry overloaded parent who’d love to minimize their house exiting routine by even one article of clothing can celebrate — NO SOCKS REQUIRED! From hiking to errands, biking riding to creek splashing, playgrounds to splash pads, these are a win.

Hang your own pool bag where gym shoes once rested, and you’re set! What’s in my pool bag? Sunscreens, bug spray, two towels (because one of my minions inevitably steals mine and gets it inexplicably drenched), lip balm, cheap sunglasses (the only kind I buy since I shred or lose mine by summer’s end and I just can’t handle even the tiniest scratch on a lens), water, and snacks for the kids.

Helpful additions: 1) Adhere one hook per person beside the door for winter coats or spring jackets, as I did. Just use the same damage-free hooks utilized for the rest of the project. 2) Heavy backpack? I swapped my eldest’s backpack hook with a heavy duty option. 3) Hang up the foldable stool using a damage-free hook.

Summer just got a little easier. Go soak it in!

 

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10 Pros and Cons of Having Close-in-Age Kids

I had 3 kids in under 4 years. My three kids were so close in age that I didn’t have a single menstrual cycle for 5 years (win!!) Of course, I also didn’t have a full REM sleep cycle for about that long. As with anything in life, there are pros and cons to having closely spaced pregnancies.

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1) Pro: Shared interests. Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, Disney pricesses, kid concerts, indoor playgrounds… when your herd is close-in-age they share the same interests. Not only does this often make their bond stronger (at least in the young years), but this makes everything from playdates to day trips, birthday gifts to vacation planning a bit easier.

Con: Everyone’s a Spitfire. When your whole crew is in tantrum territory life is a minefield. Meals out are a gamble. Religious services are treacherous. Art museums are off limits. Grocery shopping is a three-ring circus. Travel is stressful. Needless to say, you quickly learn the law of 2/3: only 2/3 of your family will be happy at any given time. The extra fun part: the pleased vs. displeased campers can (and will) change without notice.

2) Pro: No Sleep. Once you get past the first indescribably torturous month of sheer sleepless exhaustion of your first baby, things get easier. You learn how to cope with less sleep than you ever imagined possible. (Seriously, you will laugh at how you could’ve ever claimed to feel “exhausted” pre-kids.) Once you get REM sleep it’s harder to live without it. This means it’s far easier to just be tired and stay tired than to taste the addictive drug of REM sleep only to have it ripped away from you. The sleeplessness of subsequent newborns isn’t nearly as painful as it was the first time around when you’re already running on empty.

Con: No Sleep. That’s right, it’s both a pro and a con! When all of your littles are little, so is your sleep accrual. Rising feeling well-rested is a thing of the past and (seemingly unforeseeable) distant future. You may go to bed early to make up for some of the lost Zs, but you have no control over your sleep pattern.

Pro: Diapers Days. When you’re already used to buying and changing diapers, adding another bundle’s bum to the mix isn’t a big deal. Same goes for scheduling around nap routines, carrying a hefty diaper bag, being accustomed to a easy-care-only wardrobe, having a baby-/toddler-proofed home, expecting tantrums, potty-training, and owning kid-safe dinnerware.  You’re already in that phase, so might as well keep it rolling.

Con: Diaper Debt. Diapers add up… and so do wipes. It gets pricey shielding the world (and your home) from multiple incontinent kiddos. Having multiple kids in the same helpless life stage can be challenging — buckling and unbuckling multiple car seats at every destination, putting on multiple tiny socks and shoes, putting on and taking off multiple coats, wiping multiple noses (and butts) all day every day, bringing EVERYONE into the public bathroom with you, bathing multiple kids, keeping multiple mini-humans safe in public — is exhausting and expensive. If you’re formula-feeding on top of all of this… OUCH! And if you’re shelling out for daycare… my deepest condolences to your wallet.

3) Pro: Gear Reuse. When you have your litter close together, the gear is easily reusable. And, if you do what we did and have your babies in just the right timeframe, you can even reuse the carseat and base for all of them before it expires. Win!

Con: Primary Color Pile-up. When all of your kids are young, the amount of toys and gear and primary colors overwhelms your home. Every corner houses kid items. Your bathroom is a bath toy menagerie. Your family room looks like a daycare center. To the minimalist, it’s unsettling at best, anxiety-inducing at worst. It’s a temporary phase but it’s a long one.

4) Pro: Nipples of Steel. Breastfeeding calluses the nipples. If you have your kids close in age, you can maintain that teat toughness much to your benefit. The more you pump and the longer you nurse, the easier it is adjusting to a subsequent newborn latch. Every nursing relationship is different and no matter how many kids you latch on, breastfeeding each baby has a learning curve. However, the soreness that you experienced with your first nursling is unlikely to happen if there’s little to no break between your weaned and breastfed babes.

Con: Milk Machine Malaise. After a while, you just want your body back. You want to be able to put on a shirt without considering boob accessibility.  You want to go out without considering nursing/pumping requirements or calculating engorgment. You want to sleep on your belly. You want to be able to take OTC medicine without worrying if it’s breastfeeding-compatible. Basically, as beautiful and beneficial and bonding as breastfeeding is, it gets old after a while (especially if you’ve been nursing a toddler.)

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5) Pro: Mom Identity. When you are in the trenches of motherhood, the role consumes you in the most rewarding, exhausting, fulfilling way. When you have raised baby after baby — one after the other — into toddlerhood and early childhood, you are unwaveringly secure in your maternal identity. Nothing else in your life — no other role, responsibility, title, or achievement — can come close to the one that demands every shred of you every waking and sleeping second of every day. When you have multiple wholly dependant offspring, your personal identity is: “Mom.”

Con: Lost in Mommyland. When you’ve been in the mommy trenches for years in a row, you forget who you were — who you are — beyond that role. Time simultaneously stands still and rushes by when you have baby after baby. You must focus moment-to-moment to survive but, once the babies all grow older and your focus can grow broader, you can feel lost.

6) Pro: Love Abounds. When you have multiple close-in-age kids, they often adore one another and you while they are young. Hugs, cuddles, kisses… every day is filled with genuine affection. Your arms, mind, washing machine, and life are full, but so is your heart.

Con: Marriage Bombardment. You and your children may share embraces and pledges of love daily, but you and your spouse will be permanently adrift if you don’t take heed. Each child demands attention. Each child deserves affection. Each child owns a piece of your heart. But your spouse does too. However, your significant other is further down the list than he/she used to be. Every additional child increases that distance between you in every conceivable way. Whereas it once was just the two of you bound to one another in love and fealty, now you’re bookends spaced further apart by each child you have together. If you are not careful to maintain your bond and make time, love, and space for each other, you won’t last. Children are a beautiful gift that can snuff out even the brightest marital flame, if you allow it.

7) Pro: Friend Finding. Mom friends for you, buddies for your babes… the (wholly necessary) search is an easier undertaking when your kids are closely spaced. It’s hard for moms with kids who are in vastly different age brackets to relate or spend time together. A 9-year-old doesn’t want to hang with a 6-month-old, so playdates are out. And no matter how exciting Baby’s first bite of solid food may be to the mom in the trenches, a middle school mom is going to have a hard time mustering passable enthusiasm when she’s eyeing tween social media melodrama and looming PSATs.

Con: Babies Steal Time. It wasn’t until I had my third child and had a brief moment of clarity that I realized babies don’t slow down or preserve time, they steal it. Your first baby seems to develop so slowly in comparison to your second and practically backwards in comparison to your third. Each subsequent child develops faster than the last but, what’s terrifying and sad: you lose 1-2 years of each pre-existing child’s childhood with each new baby. In other words, I “lost” 2-4 years of my first child’s toddlerhood and early childhood because of babies #2 and #3, and I lost 1-2 years of my middle child’s toddlerhood due to baby #3. Why? Because while you’re focusing on your newborn — as nature demands in order for the infant to survive — you lose sight of your older child(ren.) They seem automatically older and more capable to you in comparison to the newborn. As such, they require less of your mental attention. Not until the baby gains a bit of mobility are you able to return your focus to your other children. One day, you see your youngest at the same adorable age your older children once were and realize, with aching sadness, that you missed that stage… that those memories are faded in a hazy fog of newborn sleeplessness and rollercoaster hormones. That it was stolen time. Witnessing your youngest is your only window to what you missed.

8) Pro: On-trend Bump. If you have your kids close together, your maternity, postpartum, and nursing wardrobes won’t have a chance to go out of style. Sweet!

Con: Fashion Fatigue. By the time you pull that once-loved maternity top from the storage bin for the third time, it turns your stomach (not fun when you’re already fighting morning sickness.)

9) Pro: Pick-up Sync-up. When your kids are close-in-age, at some point their school schedules will sync beautifully. They’ll, for some time, attend the same school and have one another as a familiar in-school support too. Same pick-up and drop-off times = win!

Con: Sick Time Sinkhole. When your littles are all little at the same time, so are their immune systems. That means your paid-time-off pool is going to take a hit. Sharing is caring, and kids really like to share their germs (with one another and you.) If you and/or your significant other don’t have a rough plan for navigating repeated unexpected days off and midday pediatrician visits, get on it. Kids get sick and it’s generally at 2AM the night before a big meeting. It’s all about timing!

10) Pro: Rip off the Band-Aid. When you have your lot in a brief timeframe, you limit the pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, naptimes, and tantrums stage to a single block of time. You don’t exit the life season just to re-enter it again with one foot in two worlds; you are simply in it (really in those trenches) until you’re not.

Con: When It’s over, It’s Over. One day you’ll realize you’re exiting the deep infant-toddler trench. You’ll recognize the lessening stress and the availability of both of your arms. You can breathe! You’ll also realize that it’s almost over and there’s no going back. No more parent-and-me classes. No more middle-of-the-night cuddles. No more blissful sleeping baby on your shoulder. No more library story times. No more preschool parties. The door has closed, another has opened. What is ahead is beautiful but so was what is behind.

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This list of pros and cons could go on infinitely. But what really matters is what feels right to you, handling what life has handed you, and finding genuine happiness in your own life. Because, after all, we can really control very little in life, but seeking to find joy in whatever our circumstances is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and others.

Taking the Aversion Out of Bottle-Aversion: Step-by-Step Bottle (Re)Introduction

A return to work, a medical procedure, visits at Grandma’s, date nights, a shred of autonomy… there are countless reasons why a breastfeeding parent would need to introduce (or re-introduce) Baby to bottle. The problem: bottle-aversion is not uncommon and, man, it’s a pain!

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Two of my three children were bottle-averse. Like any sleep-deprived, anxious mom, there were times I worried and wondered if they’d ever accept a bottle. But, in time, they did accept the bottle. All it took was a step-by-step process of introduction. This same method has worked like a charm for friends, fellow pumping moms, and milk recipients with whom I’ve shared this.

If you have tried (re)introducing the bottle to your baby but it’s just not working, take a few steps back, regroup, talk yourself off of the anxiety ledge, then see if this process works for your bottle-averse babe. It’s worth a shot!

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STEP 1: CALL IN BACK-UP.

What you’ll need:

– A caregiver who is not the breastfeeder

What you’ll do:

Ideally the non-nursing parent or another caregiver would be the one to introduce Baby to bottle. Mom and her much-preferred breast buffet should not even be in the home during the introduction. Mom can go for a mini-stroll, nap in the car, sit on the front stoop… just not immediately available. Babies are smarter than we give them credit for. Heck, if someone handed you a plate of reheated leftovers while holding a tray of freshly made food, which would you pick?

Take the fresh meal out of the equation and make the leftovers (aka: pumped breastmilk) the only option. Of course if another caregiver is not available, the following steps can absolutely be employed by the breastfeeding parent; it just might require a bit more stamina.

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STEP 2: PUMP IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz freshly expressed breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

When introducing the bottle to Baby, start with just 1oz of freshly pumped breast milk (we’re talking milk that is still at body temperature.) Limiting the introductory amount to 1oz lessens possible waste, because any pumping mom knows crying over spilled breast milk is totally acceptable. While pumping, submerge the bottle nipple in a mug of warm (not hot) water. This will help make the bottle nipple more like the warm, supple human nipple as opposed to a cool, rubbery manmade nipple. Just before feeding Baby the 1oz, remove the bottle nipple from the warming mug and dip the warmed nipple tip into the expressed breast milk. The fresh milk on the warm bottle nipple acts as a “MILK IN HERE!!” flashing arrow sign for Baby. Then try calmly feeding Baby the bottle. If it doesn’t work, relax. Redirect Baby’s attention briefly and give it another attempt or two, but never make the process stressful or unpleasant for Baby. We want this to be a comfortable, cozy, enticing experience.

Once your baby has grown to accept the freshly expressed milk in a bottle, move to step 3.

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STEP 3: CHILL IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz refrigerated breast milk (no more than a day old)

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

Repeat the same process of warming and dipping the bottle nipple as noted above, but this time add 1oz of warmed, previously refrigerated expressed breast milk (aim for no more than a day old so that milk is still somewhat fresh.)

This transition may take a bit of patience, but keep at it. Be sure to maintain the goal of a positive, peaceful introduction though.

Once Baby accepts previously refrigerated breast milk in a bottle, move to step 4

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STEP 4: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

Now that Baby has begun tolerating previously refrigerated milk, it’s time to try previously frozen milk. Pour 1oz of thawed, warmed, previously frozen breast milk into a bottle. Repeat the same bottle nipple warming and dipping from steps 2 and 3. Then, just as before, introduce the bottle to Baby in a comfortable, calm, peaceful manner.

This may take a few attempts. That’s ok. Be patient.

Once previously frozen milk is a go, move on to step 5.

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STEP 5: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. WARM IT. DON’T DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

What you’ll do:

Since Baby now accepts frozen bottled breast milk, let’s take things up a notch. Let’s ditch the nipple dipping and see if Baby still goes for the milk.

Just as in step 4, you will thaw, warm, and bottle 1oz of previously frozen breast milk. WARM the bottle nipple in the mug of warm water but do not dip the nipple tip in the milk before serving Baby.

In all likelihood, this should be an easy test by comparison since, by now, Baby is aware that bottle nipples like lactating nipples are milk portals.

Once this step is successfully accomplished, move to step 6.

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STEP 6: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. SERVE IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

What you’ll do:

So by now Baby will take any kind of breast milk provided: straight from the tap, fresh and bottled, previously frozen and bottled. Now let’s see if we can ditch the nipple warming.

Thaw, warm, and bottle 1oz of previously frozen breast milk as you have in prior steps. Now, without any bottle nipple prep, see if Baby accepts the bottle. This should be a low-key endeavor, especially if dropping the nipple dipping was an easy undertaking.

Once this has been accomplished, move to step 7.

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STEP 7: TAKE A BOW!

Seriously. You did it!! Go you! Your baby is now able to gain sustenance from human and faux nipples. Congrats!