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Happy 1st Birthday!

March 9, 2012

My baby boy turned 1!

With the newborn, infant, and now baby stages behind him, he is officially a toddler. When my older son passed this milestone, I cried. This time, I’m thrilled! I have less to mourn in the year past and much more to anticipate in this next season. Walking, talking, further engaging with me, his dad & brother, his peers. No more diapers.. I can’t wait!

Here he is on the morning of this milestone achievement with his (pink) pacifier and transitional object “Bear.” His morning ritual begins by tossing both items back into the crib right on cue when I say “say bye-bye to your pacifier and bear” and then gives me a high five. Sometimes he gets a little choked up, but still follows through as if something internal, above and beyond my nudging, is motivating him.

I opened his birthday gift ahead of time so it was ready for action at breakfast. Actually because it was too awkward to wrap, but taking it out of the box proved a good choice. His 3-year-old brother soon took ownership so thankfully he is still easily distracted by just about anything.

He went helmet-free for his big day, and loved it!

Here is the birthday boy enjoying his favorite finger food – spicy black beans!

Chocolate frosting, YUM!

Happy 1st Birthday Sweet T!

10 Tips to Prepare Your Toddler for a New Baby

February 17, 2012

So you’re having another baby. Whether it was a thoughtful decision founded in the confidence you’ve amassed from raising one little person to toddlerhood or simply the result of too much wine, you will soon be the parent of two small children. Yikes. I’m mean, yeah! Congratulations! However you arrived here, transitioning to two warrants preparation. Not to the degree that baby number one required, you likely possess most of the necessary gear and drive the standard issue SUV. The most important task this time around is preparing your one & only for his role as a big brother. Here is what I did, what I didn’t do but woefully regret, and why priming your little one for her new sibling is worth the effort!

What to do

#1 Be well on his way to 100% potty trained

#2 Transition into a regular bed, but not yours..

#3 Streamline the bedtime routine

#4 Foster independent play

#5 Set-up child accessible snacks & drinks

#6 Practice independent hand washing & teeth brushing

#7 Teach the “flip flop” method & invest in Velcro shoes

#8 Role play with a baby doll

#9 Read I’m a Big Brother type books

#10 Engage her in the preparations

#11 Fill up his reserves with unconditional love

Where to buy

For today’s list, I shopped at and Target. For more of where I like to shop for baby, check out Where to buy.

Why to do it

The goal here is creating a reasonably self-reliant toddler to free up your time to care for a new baby.

1. Whatever your ideal potty training method, it’s just plain easier to have only one diaper wearer per household. Potty training is a messy and often time-consuming undertaking, best tackled months before new baby arrives. Regression upon arrival is common. I hear. I waited until my baby was 3 months old to get serious about potty training his big brother. My then 2 ½ yr. old toddler had been using his potty chair and wearing pull-ups for a year when changing a particularly unpleasant pull-up became the last. My no turning back approach elicited screams of fury from my son, but we stuck to underwear, and he was fully potty trained weeks later.
Set up the bathroom so your child can maneuver unassisted, including a non-skid step stool at the toilet or a freestanding potty chair, another step stool at the sink, and an easy to push soap dispenser.

2. Some parents like the safety and confinement afforded by keeping their toddler in a crib as long as possible. I prefer not to have someone yelling at me at 6:30am. But do enjoy awakening to a sweet little guy crawling into my bed each morning. I also did not want to own another crib. My toddler transferred to a regular bed with safety rails at 22 months, 4 months prior to the birth of his brother. He made the switch after spending a week in a hotel bed and weeks after helping me decorate his big boy bedroom.
Like potty training, the no turning back approach worked best for us. Include your child in setting up his new bed. Celebrate the milestone, mindfully detaching it from his future sibling so he does not feel displaced, i.e., kicked out of his crib for the new guy.

3. Cut the fat from your child’s bedtime routine. Toddlers are adept at extending and adding to their nightly rituals. Stick to the basics and help your child fall asleep on her own if she doesn’t already. You may have time now to indulge her, but very shortly will not.

4. Cultivate an environment for independent play. It’s healthy for you & your child, and will soon become a necessity. This article from Redbook magazine offers some practical tips.

5. Set up a child accessible drawer or shelf with healthy snacks, cups, bowls, and silverware. My son takes great pride in preparing his own snack, and even though he can’t pour his drink from the refrigerator yet, just handing me the cup is helpful while I’m holding baby.

6. Insist on hand washing before eating, after using the bathroom, etc. Newborns immune systems are not fully developed and toddlers are germ magnets. My son got the picture from reading Germs Are Not for Sharing. Tooth brushing was a battle until we started “taking turns,” he gets a turn and then I finish up at least once a day.  Using a 2 minute sand timer is an entertaining way to keep them brushing or handwashing for a full 2 minutes.  Place a cup at the sink so your child can access a drink of water at anytime.

7. My son learned the “flip-flop” method of putting on his jacket in preschool. Place the jacket, lining side face up, on the floor and stand with your feet at the neck. Bend over and place your arms as far as you can into the sleeves and “flip” the jacket over your head, pushing your arms through the end of the sleeves. Voilà! What a help it is for him to put on his own jacket and Velcro shoes. Organize your child’s dresser so that underwear, socks, and pajamas are also accessible without your assistance.

8. Purchase a baby doll with a diaper, bottle, and pacifier if you plan to use those items with your baby. Teach your child to take care of “his” baby, in particular how to address a crying baby’s needs and the importance of being gentle.

9. Read your toddler stories about her significant role as big sister. Replace the characters names with her and her future sibling’s names or relate the people in the book to other families she knows with young children. We read What a Good Big Brother! many, many times.

10. Include your little one in any tangible preparations for the new baby. Choose clothing and toys together, and enlist his help in setting up the nursery. My son really enjoyed going through his old items and deciding which ones to share with his future brother. He would ultimately be sharing them all.., but seemed to develop a sense of ownership and responsibility for his new sibling by having a hand in the planning. This also afforded many opportunities to talk about what I did to ready for his arrival. And who doesn’t like to hear about themselves?

11. Seize these last few months to fill your only child with unconditional love and reinforce her irreplaceable position in your family. Explain and consider practicing your family’s new routine prior to the arrival of her sibling. Mom walking around like a zombie, the house a disaster, only one roll of toilet paper left, no milk to drink..It’ll be fun!

What about you

Management consultant Patrick Lencioni reinforces the idea of creating a family action plan prior to the arrival of a new baby in his book The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family. The takeaway point for me was his resolve over which projects NOT to take on at this phase in life. If it wouldn’t simplify his family’s imminent new routine, he tabled the task. His personal example involved holding off on landscaping his front lawn. It was a daily eyesore to him, but he recognized – or perhaps his wife kindly educated him – that a yard with curb appeal wasn’t going to ease the chaos of caring for impending baby number four. But finishing the kitchen remodel would.

I tend to give essential and non-essential tasks equal priority. Like staying up an extra 2 hours sewing two buttons onto a sweater I will only ever wear again because I wasted all that time sewing on those two darn buttons! I’m exhausted the following day and minor tasks appear daunting. Sleep deprivation is a primary trait of parents with small children. Take any and all steps to mitigate it by being mindful of how you allocate your time even before baby is born.

Temper any aspirations of perfect parenting. Even if you take credit for your darling toddler’s behavior and achievements – dismiss the misguided idea that applying the same techniques to your next child will result in the same perfect specimen. It won’t, and you won’t have the time anyway. I’m just coming out from under a cloud of guilt on this issue as I see my now 11-month old contentedly hitting his developmental milestones without the same level of mothering intensity I applied to his 3-year old brother.  (He looks to his big brother instead of me for entertainment and modeling how to play & manipulate his environment.)  It really provides me a freedom to do the best I can & enjoy parenting my two sweet little boys.

Happy Birthday, Baby!

January 16, 2012

My sweet baby boy is three years old today!

I have looked ahead to this day since his birth, believing with much anticipation that I just had to give my best until he passed this significant developmental milestone. And then I could ease up on the intentional, every moment is a lesson style of parenting. It’s tiring! But he dashed my hopes today at each turn. My normally kind-hearted, articulate 2 year old boy put on quite a show for his 3rd birthday.

He’s been telling me for weeks that when he turns three and is a big boy, he’ll eat carrots, broccoli and applesauce. Bet you’re wondering what he’s eaten up until now since we’re vegetarian. He happily gobbled down a serving of oversalted edamame and we moved on to the carrots, steamed and doused in butter & brown sugar. He took a mouse sized bite, mashed it up into three miniscule pieces, spit them on the floor, jumped out of his chair screaming, and turned on the piteous tears after stepping barefoot into his cast-off carrots. He continued his performance by marching upstairs and hitting his 10 month old brother on the head with plastic hangers. And the final scene involved him informing me that if he couldn’t have his daddy put him to bed, then he’d rather have no one because he didn’t like me and he didn’t love me. 

 The food spitting and hitting resulted in time-out numbers 1 and 2 of his big day. Those were two of many moments today when I wondered, sometimes aloud, what irreversible damage I’ve caused in these first three critical years. I am agonizingly aware of several situations I’ve handled poorly, but what are the lasting impacts?

And what about my attempts at the good stuff? Placing my career on hold to stay home, the I love you no matter what’s & I’m so sorry’s, the affection, encouraging words, quality time, the sheer quantity of time, bedtime stories, prayers, songs, games, museums, musicals, walks, parks, play dates, structured play, free play, mom and tot classes, summer camp, preschool, sunday school, swim lessons, music classes, tumbling, soccer, open gym… Was it too much, not enough? I don’t know the answer.

So I will continue in my efforts to love him unconditionally and treasure him as a gift from God.  And revisit it all again after his 4th birthday.

Happy Birthday, I love you baby boy!

Top 10 Essentials for Baby’s Diaper Changing Station

January 2, 2012

Diaper changing is the least glamorous and most repetitive task of caring for your baby. You will change baby’s diaper approximately 8,000 times over the course of 3 years! (98% of children are potty trained by the age of 3)

(11 diapers x (3 months x 30 days/month)) + (9 diapers x (3 months 30 days/month)) + (7 diapers x (30 months x 30 days/month)) = 8,100 diaper changes over 3 years

The primary location for all of this fun is baby’s diaper changing station. A baby’s diaper changing table essentially functions as a parents’ “home-work station” during the diapering years. Since you will spend insurmountable time here wrestling your sweet baby into a clean diaper, it’s worth the effort to properly configure. So here is what to buy, where to find it, and why these items create a convenient diaper changing station for both you and baby. Followed by a list of diapering products to stock it!

What to buy

#1 Long Dresser w/Removal Changer/Topper

#2 Simmons Contour Changing Pad w/ Fabric Cover

#3 Changing Pad Covers

#4 Boppy Changing Pad Liners

#5 Boon Stash Organizer

#6 Medium Storage Basket/Bin

#7 Diaper Dekor Plus Disposal Pail

#8 Mirror

#9 Family Photo

#10 Handheld Toys

Where to buy

For the items in today’s list, I shopped at, Babies R Us,, The Land of Nod, Pottery Barn Kids, Restoration Hardware Baby & Child, and buybuy Baby (Bed Bath & Beyond). For more about where I like to shop for all things baby, check out Where to buy.

Why to buy

#1 Use a long low profile dresser with a removal changer/topper instead of a traditional changing table. It is far more practical to keep baby’s essential items next to her on the same level (or above) and in clear view versus tucked away in a basket below. Baskets on open shelves look cute, but are like putting your hand in those holes at nature centers where you’re supposed to guess whether it’s rabbit or fox fur. Do you really want to play this game in the middle of the night? The only items that needn’t be displayed are baby’s diapers; put those in the top drawer. The first photo shows a small dresser with the removable top, but subsequent photos depict the long dresser I’m describing. If you buy a separate top for use with an existing dresser, confirm that the two may be securely attached via screws and metals tabs on the back of the dresser. And make sure the removable top has felt on the underside to prevent scratching the dresser’s surface for future use.

#2 Consider a non-vinyl ergonomically contoured changing pad. Otherwise keep an eye out for tears in the pad’s vinyl surface and swap as needed. I just replaced my non-toxic but vinyl pad with the Simmons Kids Beautyrest Beginnings Contour Pad with Fabric Cover.

#3 Read the fine print to ensure the changing pad covers fit the pad. It’s just like buying fitted sheets for your own mattress. Buy a minimum of three covers. I have covers from Boppy, The Land of Nod, Pottery Barn Kids, and Restoration Hardware Baby & Child and like them all.

#4 Waterproof liners for baby’s changing pad are a must. I was skeptical at first, why cover a cover with another cover? But diaper changing is a messy business and these are much easier to remove and replace with an undiapered baby on the changing table than the entire cover. Preserve the waterproof material by air drying. Oddly the liners that come with the covers as a set are better quality.

#5 Yes, the Boon Stash is yet another piece of plastic baby gear, but I love it.  If it’s aesthetically not for you, use shallow shelves out of baby’s reach to store items.  If you live in an earthquake zone, do not hang anything above baby’s changing table, crib, or rocking chair!

#6 Maintain one medium basket/bin on dresser to hold tissues, wipes, and hand sanitizer – see list below. Include burp cloths too, space permitting.

#7 For disposal diapers, the three most popular pails are the Diaper Dekor Plus, Platex Diaper Genie, Baby Trend Diaper Champ – with the Munchkin Arm & Hammer also in the running. None of them satisfy all of the diaper disposal” issues” – odor control, hands-free, brand exclusive bags, minimal plastic waste, minimal gross factor – squishing a full diaper through a tight opening..ugh. I use the Diaper Dekor because it’s hands-free with a foot pedal – important with a wriggling baby on the changing table, and may be emptied at any time without wasting a full bag. It does not truly contain odor and requires special refill bags. A trash can with a foot pedal like this one from simplehuman would also work.

#8 Hang a mirror on a adjacent wall where baby can see himself while seated. He won’t recognize himself for months, but will still be thrilled to smile and coo at his new ‘friend!’

#9 Entertain baby with a picture of his favorite people, his family! Hang a black and white family photo above baby. Newborns cannot distinguish color and are drawn to black and white images. Again, if you live in an earthquake zone, do not hang anything above baby’s changing table, crib, or rocking chair.

#10 Rotate special toys at baby’s changing station. You will rely on these distractions to change a squirming baby. My son typically stays occupied with anything that makes noise, and in times of desperation, I break out finger puppets.

Once you’re diaper changing station is all set up, fill it up!

#1 Diapers – Huggies Pure & Natural or Earth’s Best

#2 Wipes – Huggies Natural Care Baby Wipes, Fragrance-Free or Earth’s Best

#3 Method Squeaky Green Diaper Cream or Desitin Rapid Relief Creamy Ointment – Method as needed, Desitin for a serious diaper rash

#4 Baby Powder – cornstarch, NO talc! – an as needed moisture barrier to prevent diaper rash

#5 Earth’s Best Organic Everyday Lavender Lotion

#6 Baby Clippers

#7 Nasal Aspirator – choose a soft vs. stiff one

#8 Little Noses Saline Spray/Drops – use with aspirator

#9 Johnson’s Safety Swabs (Q-tips) – great for ears and noses

#10 Braun Thermoscan Ear Thermometer – IRT3020 or IRT4520

#11 Comb/Brush

#12 Tissues

#1 Huggies Pure & Natural diapers do not leak. However, after searching for diapers Not Tested on Animals at, I am switching to Earth’s Best TenderCare Chlorine Free Diapers. Of the diapers produced without animal testing, Earth’s Best received the best parent reviews on If you purchase diapers on, check out their Subscribe and Save program – it’s less expensive than Target.

Items #2-15 are self-explanatory.

Enjoy the diapering years with your little one..once he’s out of diapers, he’s not a baby anymore!

Top 10 Baby Bath Time Essentials

December 6, 2011

Splish splash, let’s take a bath!  Bath time is a central component of a relaxing bedtime routine.  It signals the transition from an event filled day to a restful night’s sleep.  And it’s just plain fun!  Here’s what you need, where to buy it, and why these essentials best equip you and your baby to fully enjoy bath time!

What to buy

#1 The First Years Infant to Toddler Bath Tub with Sling 

#1 Safety 1st Inflatable Tub

#1 Safety 1st Bath Tub Seat

#2 Aden + Anais Large Muslin Wash Cloths

#3 Plush Hooded Towels

#4 Earth’s Best by Jason Organic 2-in-1 Shampoo & Body Wash, Lavender

#5 Boon Spout Cover

#6 Sassy Squirt Toys

#7 Munchkin Shampoo Hair Rinser

#8 Munchkin White HOT Safety Duck

#9 Mesh Toy Holder

#10 3-in-1 Sit, Stand and Store Tub Side Seat

#11 No Slip Tub Mat

Where to buy

For the items in today’s list, I shopped at,,, Buy Buy Baby, and Target.  For more about where I like to shop for all things baby, check out Where to buy.

Why to buy

Of course babies don’t need a daily rigorous washing, but as a believer in the benefits of a predictable routine, I bathe my children nightly.  (Read item #2 under Why it’s so important in 5 Practical Tips to Finding Contentment as a Stay-at-Home Mom for more on this idea.)  Most importantly, do not leave baby unattended in the bath under any circumstance.  This means being within arm’s reach at all times.  Gather everything you might possibly need to attend to baby before placing her in the tub.  If you forget the shampoo, skip washing baby’s hair and just enjoy more splash time.

#1 Choose a sturdy inclined tub with a removable mesh liner for use during the first few weeks – this keeps baby’s belly out of the water while the umbilical cord heals.  If you already have a tub without the mesh sling, line it with a foam insert or folded up bath towels.  Remove the sling when the umbilical cord is fully healed. It is easiest on you to stand and bathe baby in her tub on a countertop or in the sink.  And fun for baby to see herself in the mirror.  She won’t recognize her own reflection for several months, but will still be amused by her cute bath time playmate.  If you don’t have the counter or sink space, place the infant tub inside a regular bath tub.  Do not fill the full size tub with water and ensure the drain is open to prevent the baby tub from turning into a dangerous tipsy boat.  Flip over to dry after each use and clean regularly to prevent mold and mildew.  While I used The First Years Infant to Toddler Tub with Sling successfully with both children in the infant stage, I did not continue with it once they could sit upright.

#1 Transition to the inflatable tub once baby sits up unassisted.  It reminds me of a backyard kiddie pool and your little one will love the additional room to kick and splash.  This is when baby really begins to enjoy bath toys too.  The inflatable tub is great for travel, and I used it with my oldest son even when he’d outgrown it for convenience sake.

#1 Use a bath seat with caution.  (search “baby bath seat deaths” online or read this article first) My first son easily moved into the full size bath tub after outgrowing the inflatable one without a seat.  He was about 12 months and fully mobile.  I am using a Safety 1st seat with my second son, 8 months old, because I’m bathing both boys together and can’t keep a hand on him at all times.  While I appreciate its usefulness, I worry that I may succumb to the false sense of security it provides.  Bath seats have a very short life span (sitting upright unassisted – pulling up) and are entirely unnecessary with one child.

#2 Choose large wash cloths made of a soft fabric like muslin.  Unlike even the expensive terry loop cotton wash cloths, muslin grows softer after several washings.  Dip in the warm bath water and place over baby’s belly and on top of her head in the infant tub to keep her little body warm.  Repeat as necessary to prevent the opposite effect.  Place warm wash cloths on baby’s back once she is sitting upright in the tub.  During the umbilical cord healing sponge bath stage, keep baby’s body warm with a small receiving blanket or towel and only uncover each section as you wash it.

#3 Use a plush cotton hooded towel against your infant’s delicate skin.  Keep baby’s head covered until his hair is completely dry.

#4 Choose a mildly scented or fragrance-free combination shampoo/body wash.  Lavender and chamomile are naturally relaxing aromatherapies.  And are nice for you too this time of day!  Whatever you decide upon, consider using the same scent lotion too.  Read product ingredients and select washes and lotions with minimal to no chemical ingredients.  I also only buy those not tested on animals.  (I aspire to California Baby, but it’s just too expensive.)  Be observant of baby’s skin, looking out for any adverse reactions to product ingredients.

#5 Once you are bathing baby in the full size tub, be sure to use a spout cover to protect baby’s head.  Wash it as needed to combat mold.

#6 Plastic squirt toys provide ample bath time entertainment the first year and beyond.  Unfortunately they also are prone to mold and bacteria.  I’ve bought several brands of soft plastic bath toys and have not found any that do not eventually grow mold.  Check toys frequently and in detail as mold grows inside the squirt toys as evidenced by a black ring around the “squirt” opening.  Dry them off after each use and wash regularly.  Once mold appears, it does not wash off in the dishwasher or by hand with the harshest of chemicals.   I throw toys out at the first signs of mold.  Especially since they spend so much time in a teething baby’s mouth, gross!   If this is just too disgusting for you, stick with hard plastic toys as this article suggests.  My boys both enjoy these stackable duck cups.

#7 A shampoo rinser keeps soap out of baby’s eyes.  There is no such thing as tear-free formula.  This also breeds mold so dry it out thoroughly after each use. 

#8 Use the HOT duck as an additional gauge for the water temperature.  What feels good to you, may be scalding to your little one.  Fill the tub before sitting baby inside; do not run water with baby in the tub to prevent accidentally burning baby’s skin.

#9 The mesh toy holder allows air to circulate through wet toys after bath time.  I’m completely freaked out by mold; can you tell?

#10 This combination storage bin/seat/step stool is great for storing everything for the bath except wet toys.  The product description says it allows for air circulation, but not enough.  The height is adjustable by flipping the lid, making for a convenient bath side adult seat.  My toddler also uses it as a step stool to reach the bathroom sink.   

#11 Use a non-slip bath mat once baby is bathing in the full size tub.  I have not found “the one” – natural rubber, machine washable, and mold proof!  So I just buy inexpensive ones, hang them up to dry after each use, and replace them after I can’t thoroughly clean them any longer. 

5 Practical Tips to Finding Contentment as a Stay-at-Home Mom

November 28, 2011

If you’ve already signed up for the role of stay-at-home mom, please read on.  If you’re on the fence, proceed knowing my intent is neither to convince nor deter you from choosing full time child rearing over a career.

I am committed to my decision to stay at home, really.  But I wrestle with finding contentment in the actual day to night to day job.  Being thankful that I can stay home and actually enjoying laundry, dishes, and rounds of CandyLand are NOT the same.  Here’s what you need to cultivate contentment, where to find support, and why seeking out this often elusive mindset is so important as a stay-at-home mom!

What you need

#1 A New Perspective

#2 A Routine

#3 Help

#4 Relationships

#5 Short & Long Term Goals

Where to find support

If only there existed a store that sold all of the above.  In the meantime, check out these practical resources in your pursuit of contentment – Mothers of Preschoolers (, MOMS,, Gymboree Play & Music, your local community center, place of worship, gym or exercise studio…with onsite childcare.

And if you are truly struggling, these articles may provide some guidance –

Happiness as a Stay-at-Home Mom

Preventing Burnout

A Christian perspective Teaching Values: Contentment

My favorite guilt absolver! All Joy and No Fun – Why Parents Hate Parenting

Why it’s so important

Initially I entitled this post, 10 Tips for Finding Joy as a Stay-at-Home Mom.  Then I dropped it to 5, and ultimately amended the objective from Joy to Contentment.  Joy just sounds too peppy to be a realistic goal.  Maybe it should be How to Not be Completely Overwhelmed and Miserable as a Stay-at-Home Mom.  But I’m shooting for contentment.  My definition in this context is:  Satisfaction motivated by the knowledge that I am doing what’s best for my family.  Not circumstantial happiness, but a static inner peace.

#1  Gain a new perspective.  Specifically into your view of success and of how you establish your identity.   I took great pride in my career and very often struggle with being “just a mom.”  It requires me to take the long view each and every day, reminding myself that this is a temporary sacrifice of my profitable skills, not a diminishment of my talents.  And the greater your aspirations in the work force, the more you have to surrender.   Nobody’s one true calling is emptying the dishwasher.  Instead, see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to intimately know and influence the lives of the most important individuals in your life.  Keeping in mind you have little control over the outcome..

#2 This is my favorite step.  I thrive on rule and order and was ecstatic to learn that children actually benefit from routine.  Knowing their schedule allows kids to anticipate what’s next, providing them a sense of security.  A routine, tempered with flexibility, will reign in the chaos that easily engulfs a home.  Otherwise you may find yourself in a constant state of annoyance, viewing your kids merely as little interrupters to your agenda.  Multi-tasking is a bit of a myth with little ones.  I attempt it unsuccessfully every day!  But am happiest when I focus my complete attention on my children, and save “my stuff” for time alone.  So get organized and build in the necessary time to meet your own physical, emotional, spiritual, & intellectual needs.

#3 Solicit help.  From your spouse, other family members, friends, hired help if you’re able.  No rewards are handed out for martyr-style mothering.  And you won’t be able to accomplish #2 A Routine as effectively without help.  My insightful OB/GYN said it best: “Women CAN do it all, just not all at the same time.”  Her words gave me such freedom to disregard any ideals of being a supermom and just focus on the most important aspects of my job as they come.

#4 Do the work to stay connected to other adults.  Your spouse, other moms, pre-baby friends, couples.  Schedule regular date nights and girls’ nights.  Join a playgroup/moms group, book club, alumni club, running group, dinner club, volunteer group, whatever you need to maintain adult relationships.  And don’t just talk about your kids…it gets boring.

#5 Set short & long term personal goals; revise them as needed.  Perhaps motherhood is as fulfilling as you’d dreamed and you don’t need any other short term goals.  I do.  Right now they are small and simple.  Lose weight and write this blog.  You will always be a mother, but your role as a stay-at-home mom ultimately comes to an end.  There will be a next phase of your life and it’s exciting to think about what it could entail.

I hope something here motivates you in your search for contentment, at least until the microwave beeps and dinner is served.

Top 10 Essentials for a Road Trip with Your Baby & Toddler

November 23, 2011

Road trip! What used to be spur of the moment fun, now requires a bit more planning and a lot more gear. I reluctantly parted with my convertible for a more family & 4-seasons friendly vehicle – and used , car reviews by and for moms, as a resource in choosing my current ride. Now that we live driving versus flying distances from our families, we’re really racking up the freeway miles. Here’s what makes our trips survivable, sometimes even enjoyable. Once the car is packed with these items, you too will be well equipped for a road trip, family-style!

What to pack

#1 Infant Car Seat – Graco Infant SnugRide & Base

#1 Convertible Car Seat – Britax Roundabout 55

#1 Harness to Booster Car Seat – Britax Frontier 85

#2 Travel Tray

#3 Sun Shield

#4 Soft Cooler

#5 CamelBak 0.4-Liter Kids Bottle

#6 Munchkin Snack Catchers

#7 Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus or Kalencom Quick Change Kit

#8 Toys & Books

#9 Kids Music

#10 Favorite stuffed animal or blanket

#11 Tablet

Where to buy

For the items in today’s list, I shopped at,,, Target, my local grocery and our toy room. One Step Ahead carries inventive baby gear for traveling and other kid adventures. For more about where I like to shop for all things baby, check out Where to buy.

Why to buy

Timing is everything. If your child normally falls asleep in the car, plan to leave just before nap time. And if your trip culminates at a particular destination versus along a scenic journey, take the “red eye” and drive during the night after the typical bedtime routine. Otherwise, prepare to transform yourself into a one man variety show for hours of nonstop entertainment!

Build in an additional 15-20 minutes for every 2 hours of driving for potty breaks, diaper changes, and feeding. Don’t skip that last exit for 50 miles because your newly potty trained toddler says he doesn’t need to go. Anticipate that he will change his mind and stop. The potential messes and meltdowns are not worth arriving early, or even on time.

Pack everything you might need to attend to your child in small organized bags within arm’s reach. Remember there is no flight attendant button to ring for a blanket. Do the same for your more self-sufficient toddler.

#1 Transport infants in the rear-facing Graco Infant SnugRide with base. Use a car mirror like the SafeFit Jumbo Mirror to see baby while driving. Transition to the Britax Roundabout or Marathon once baby outgrows his infant seat. The Roundabout fits more easily in a coach airplane seat. Add the Kiddopotamus Deluxe PiddlePad Waterproof Seat Liner for newly potty trained toddlers. Next move your child to the Britax Frontier 85 Combination Harness to Booster. I so wanted to use the Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL for its narrow frame, 5-point harness up to 80lbs, and fold flat ability. Unfortunately, safety issues (2011) related to their highly touted Super Latch deterred me. While I do use seat protectors under my car seats, some car seat manufacturers void their warranty with use.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the center rear seat is the safest place for a child. Data exists to support that both the right and left rear seats are the second safest position. Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible per the seat manufacturer’s instructions. I agree that the second safest seat is behind the driver who will subconsciously protect his side of the vehicle, when possible, in a crash. With an infant and toddler, I sat the rear-facing infant car seat in the middle with the forward facing convertible seat behind the driver. Now we have transitioned to a rear-facing convertible seat behind the driver and harness-to-booster style seat behind the passenger because the latter is too wide to fit adjacent to the former.

#2 This tray is a great play and snack surface with mesh pockets around the perimeter for toys and drinks. Anything to facilitate self-sufficiency in your toddler helps.

#3 I don’t have a good product suggestion for sun shades. My vehicle has them built in and my husband’s has dark tinted windows. The two styles we tried in past vehicles didn’t work well – the Eddie Bauer Cling SunShade and Munchkin White Hot Safety Safety Sunblock Shade (rolls up). Gauze breatheable blankets do the trick over an infant car seat as long as they don’t obstruct the driver’s view. A hat or kids sunglasses perhaps?

#4 Choose a soft cooler to accommodate sliced fruit, portable yogurt sticks, string cheese, pureed pouches, a thermos to refill your toddler’s sippy cup and to store baby’s bottles. I like the coolers at L.L. Bean and a soft versus hard one is easier to pack.

#5 These cups don’t leak. Juice boxes are a mess; they are just too tempting to squeeze and watch the liquid fly through the air.

#6 Mindless eating passes the time. Bring boxes of your toddler’s favorite dried fruits and crackers to refill their snack cups. Fill the snack cups by hand instead of pouring the crackers straight from the box so you don’t end up with the tiny broken crumbs at the bottom. I use a large zip top tote with lots of inner pockets for transporting all the dry goods and empty eating/drinking utensils. See Top 10 Essentials for Feeding Baby on the Go for more tips on feeding baby.

#7 This potty works as a stand-alone potty chair with any plastic shopping bag as well as reusable toilet seat cover. Great for side of the road emergencies and gas station restrooms. Pack a spare outfit, more diapers and wipes than you think you’ll need, hand sanitizer, and a few plastic shopping bags for trash, wet clothes, and for use with the potty seat.

#8 Choose a bag with a zipper or snaps, something that can close to prevent spills. Make sure it’s not too big or heavy for your toddler to manage and place it within her reach. Fill it with a small Etch-A-Sketch, crayons, paper, Matchbox cars, trains, dolls or figurines, and books. A child’s atlas if age appropriate. Keep a few “surprises” with you to give her when the mood sours. Nothing with sound.

#9 Load up with kids music and “books on tape.”

#10 This is critical. Don’t forget his favorite stuffed animal or security blanket.

#11 I purposely purchased a vehicle without video screens…arrogantly thinking my kids were going to be happy looking out the window and listening along to NPR..ha! We have since caved and bring a tablet (i.e., iPad) loaded with our toddler’s favorite videos. Headphones aren’t recommended for little ones.

And once you’ve reached your destination..congratulations! But remember there’s still the return trip..