Archives for August 2013

12-24 Month Recommended Books

The girls are still really into books, and I love it! I’m a huge advocate of reading to children so to see them fall in love with books makes me so happy. E has been really into books for as long as I can remember (she will sit by herself pulling down books and “reading” them for 20+ minutes at a time multiple times a day) but within the past few months M has been pulling books off the shelf unprompted more frequently. 
Here’s some info on books we keep coming back to over the past few months.
Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson, has been a favorite of mine for years. Somehow, I never knew it was part of a eight book set about Bear and his friends. I am so glad I spotted the other titles from this series on Amazon. Bear Snores On is about Bear’s friends joining him in his den while he hibernates and Bear Wants More is about a very hungry Bear after he wakes up from hibernating all winter long. Each book uses clever little rhymes and has a good flow to it. The girls love to finish off the sentences for me. The illustrations are wonderful as well. Most (if not all) of the titles in this set come in both board book format (great for younger children and toddlers) and regular hardcover formats (great for older children who aren’t likely to be as rough on books). I’m looking forward to tracking down more of the books from this series to see if the girls enjoy them as much as they do these two.
Jamberry, by Bruce Degan, is about a boy and a bear going on an adventure through Berryland. We borrowed and returned it from the library a solid month or two ago and E actually started recently saying some of the phrases each time we chose fruit for their breakfast, so we picked it back up from the library. It’s catchy and fun to read. We have it in the board book format, but it comes in hardcover and paperback as well. 
Teny Tiny Toes, by Todd tarpley, is another we borrowed and returned from the library a month or two ago. The girls seemingly forgot about it after we returned it but starting two weeks or so later when we were choosing books to read together they started to request it day after day. Luckily we tracked it back down at the library. The book is about how much a baby is loved and how they grow and are able to do different things as they get bigger. Each page rhymes and has a nice flow to it. The illustrations are super cute as well. They’re done by the author and illustrator of the much beloved Arthur books.
Nothing-To-Do Puppy, by Cyndy Szekeres is one book from a set of what I think is 9 books (I couldn’t find an exact number). I’m more of a fan of the set rather than a particular book in the set if that makes sense. The girls seem to not have a preference for one book from the set over another as well. Each book centers on one main character (such as the Puppy) but involves a group of other characters that appear in each book (cat, mouse, duck, bunny, etc). Each character has their own book. M in particular seems to really enjoy these books and chooses them more frequently than any others. They aren’t as catchy as the other books I’ve listed, but they’re still cute and involve real situations such as boredom, moving, dinner, etc. All at an age and developmentally appropriate level for toddlers.


I’m still here!

I haven’t posted in just shy of two weeks, but I promise I’m still here! The girls went away on vacation for a week, and prior to that and since they’ve been back we’ve been doing things I’ve already covered on here. 
We’ve been coloring, going to the park, building block towers, reading books, playing with the Little People zoo and princess castle, drawing with chalk, etc. Today we had one last hurrah with the water table. It may be the last time we’re able to use it since the weather is starting to cool down. Tomorrow we have a library play date planned with another set of twins. 
I have a few things planned for the near future which I’ll hopefully be posting about soon.


The Mall Play Area

I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the mall’s play area. The girls absolutely love it and I usually do, but sometimes not everyone follows the rules which can take away a bit from the experience. We’ve gone 3 or 4 times now and the girls are always enthusiastic about playing on the different little sculpture type climbers they have there. However, there’s no employees working it, so it’s sort of a parent or caregiver run kind of deal. 
The downside to that is that there’s not always parents in there that read the rules and have the children in their care follow them. Shoes need to be off and I’ve seen them on a few kids – not a huge deal. Also, you’re not supposed to have kids taller than 42″ in the play area. Another rule not always followed, again typically not a huge deal if the kids are being monitored. Last week we went and had to deal with an older man who had 6 children in his care. Most, if not all, of them were well over the height requirement and were running around playing tag. He asked them not to run one time because there were little kids in the play area, but then got too absorbed into his phone to ask them again. The girls and I ended up hanging out on one climber at a safe distance until they left. 
(Taken after the older kids left)
The other young kids that were there pretty much did the same thing. A few of the kids that were in the man’s care overtook a climber that one little girl was playing on. They were sliding into her and jumping in front of her to slide down. The little girl’s mom stepped in and repeatedly asked the kids if her daughter could have a turn. She must have asked 6 or 7 times before the kids moved to another area and her daughter got a turn. It made me kind of sad that because these children were playing where they weren’t supposed to be, and more so because they weren’t being watched, other kids weren’t able to enjoy the play area like they should be able to. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if they were actually being monitored. On the bright side, problems like these will be mostly avoided once school starts back up in a few weeks. 
I do like that it’s a safe environment – play structure wise- for the girls and other kids. The floor is carpeted, but bouncy at the same time. Similar to the floor at the gymnastics center we visited. The walls around it are made of vinyl mats, again much like you would use for gymnastics. They also have a mirror and a few other toys embedded into the walls. It’s also kept clean. It also provides a nice social experience for the girls. They get to interact with kids their age, younger, and older depending on the day.
E enjoying a chat with a new friend.
Overall, we’ll be coming back regularly (especially because they have children’s events each Tuesday morning) and hopefully since kids will be back in school soon we won’t have the same problems again. Check out your local mall to see if they have a play area for children. Many malls across the US are adding these in.


Something I’m Loving

I just have to make a post dedicated strictly to how much I absolutely love my ring slings. I’ve been looking into babywearing for a while now, in particular since I got my Ergo and saw not only how much the girls enjoyed it but also how much easier it’s made my life, especially when the girls weren’t walking as well as they are now. 
While at Tot Swap (a huge consignment event here where you find amazing prices on children’s items that are typically in really good condition), I found a pouch sling and a ring sling. I used both of them with the girls over the next few days. I liked the pouch sling (this one to be exact), but it’s not adjustable and not as comfortable as the ring sling. I definitely liked the ring sling more. They’re adjustable and I felt like I could get a better seat for the girls in it. I purchased it for all of $6. That said, it definitely wasn’t one of the better quality slings. It was really thin, and not that soft, but it did it’s job. I wasn’t in love with it. The girls were okay with it, but not enthusiastic about being it. They also never asked to go in it. 
On a whim, I purchased a wrap conversion ring sling from an online swap. These are made from woven wraps. Here is a good article on what a woven wrap is. Ring slings are sized, usually based on your shirt size. Here is a good article about sizing.
My Natibaby Brezo wrap conversion ring sling
Not only is my ring sling going to last through the girls, and any kiddos I care for beyond them, but it should also last through my future kids as well. Since wraps and ring slings last for so long (provided you take good care of them), if I decide I want a different one, I can sell it on the swap and recoup some (if not all) the money I spent on it. Pretty great if you ask me. 
When I received my ring sling, I instantly fell in love. It really didn’t even compare to the one I had purchased at the Tot Swap. The colors in it are gorgeous, it’s super soft, and easy to use. Since I had picked it out, I obviously expected to really like it. I didn’t expect the girls to love it as much as they do. We’ve used it multiple times since I received it. Close to, if not every day as a matter of fact. E has been pretty attached to me recently. Her favorite place to want me to hold her seems to be in the kitchen, which is pretty hard to do when I need both hands to get breakfast or lunch ready for them. This is when I really fell in love with the sling. Instead of having a toddler yelling and crying at me because I can’t hold her, I’m able to hold a happy toddler, prepare a meal (with both hands!), and talk to her about what I’m doing as I do it. 
It’s also been so easy to use (easier than the Ergo!) for short trips – library, mall play space, Target, etc. I can pop the girls in and out of it as I need to. They’ve even asked to go in it while just playing at their house. I think they really like how secure they feel in it all wrapped up and close to me. If you’re thinking about possibly babywearing or just want something to make your life a little bit easier, I definitely recommend a wrap conversion ring sling. 
M in a front carry


It’s official!

It’s official. I’m a real blog now! Feel free to change your bookmarks to
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A Few Of My Favorite Things (Baby edition)

This is part two. Click here for part one!
So now you know my favorite (and recommended) basics – diapers, bottles, pacifiers, and blankets. Here’s a few more of my favorites that aren’t absolutely necessary to have but may come in handy!
First thing that I think is sort of a necessity, but you definitely could do without, is a stroller. I have the Graco Dynamo Lite stroller. Now that the girls are creeping up on being two (I still can’t believe it!) I mainly use this stroller for longer outings – zoo, aquarium, those sorts of things. I typically carry one of the girls in my Ergo when using this, so I don’t need a double stroller. I had a few “must haves” when choosing a stroller – cup holder for me, cup holder and tray for the girls, 5 point harness, a good weight limit (this holds 50 pounds) and a big storage basket underneath. This has all of the above. The only thing that I don’t love about it is that the girls sit a little further back from the tray than I’d prefer. They don’t seem to mind though. This stroller is light weight, easy to push (trust me – I pushed it for 5+ hours at the zoo), and easy (one handed) to fold up. It is also compatible with all Graco infant car seats. {You can find it much cheaper than the $130 Amazon has it listed for by the way!}
As I said before, I use my Ergo carrier regularly. This is the one I’ve found best for longer outings but I’ve also used it when getting both girls and a big bag of books into the library. The girls love it (E loves being carried in front, M loves being on my back) and it’s extremely comfortable for me even when using it for an extended period of time (like the aforementioned 5+ hour zoo trip). It holds up to 45 lbs. Although I’ve never needed it before, you can purchase an insert to use with young infants (you typically only need it until the baby is 4 to 6 months old). They also come in enough colors (and patterns) to suit everyone! Here is a good article on why to find an ergonomically correct carrier (such as the Ergo) as opposed to the “Baby Bjorn” types. Retail price is around $100 but you can find it on sale frequently.
Children are also frequent eaters. In fact, they get about 27% of their daily calories from snacks. Snacks are a necessity, especially in older babies and toddlers. One of my favorite things just for this are snack catchers (or snack traps as they’re sometimes called). I prefer the Munchkin brand. These are great for little hands to pull out just enough for a good bite. They also help prevent spills (although crumbs can fall out) when tipped over. I purchased a set of two for the girls (that we use for afternoon snack since we’re usually home for that), and also keep a set in my car since the girls tend to ask for a mid-morning snack when we’re out of the house (I keep a container of puffs and crunchies in my car just for these times!) and for longer trips if we won’t be home for afternoon snack. If you have a little Houdini who can get the lid off anything, they even have a special locking snack catcher just for them!
As you get into those later months of a baby’s first year, you’ll be starting them on a sippy cup. I have always had success with starting with Take & Toss sippys. I don’t think I have ever seen a child not take it. Not saying every child is absolutely going to be willing to use this, I’m just saying in my experience all the children I’ve taken care of have willingly drank from this sippy cup. I know they suggest starting with a soft spout (which these are not) but again, this is personal experience. They come in many colors and even with different character images on them. The lids are leak proof if hand washed, but they will start to leak if you put them in the dishwasher. These are pretty cheap (around $4 for a pack of 6, 7oz cups) so you can recycle them and purchase new ones without shedding tears over the price if they begin to leak.
That’s all for now! Maybe one day there will be a part three 😉


A Few of My Favorite Things (Baby edition)

Everyone knows that when you have a baby you end up with a lot of stuff. After years of taking care of babies, I have a pretty good grasp on what works and what doesn’t. This is going to be the first of a two part post. Check back Wednesday for the second part!
First up – diapers. I absolutely love cloth diapers. I’ve used them before with children and will absolutely be using them for my future kiddos. These cloth diapers aren’t your grandparent’s cloth diapers. They are so simple to use. I’ll be doing a much more in depth post on them in the near future that I will link here once it’s up but for now, just know I prefer the one size pocket style. Fuzzibunz is my favorite brand.  
If you’re not as enthusiastic about cloth diapers as I am, I really like Earth’s Best Chlorine Free Diapers. I’ve also heard good things about The Honest Company’s Diapers although I’ve never used them on a child myself. 
              Source                                          Source
Next up is bottles. I fully stand behind and encourage breast feeding, but for various reasons it isn’t always possible. Plus,  even when you are breastfeeding, sometimes you want to let someone else feed your baby. I have two favorites for this category. First are the Dr. Brown’s bottles. These do have quite a few (easy to clean) parts to them, but I’ve fed several babies using these bottles (in fact, these are the ones I’ve most frequently used)  and never had any issues. They come in the regular clear plastic as well as in pink and blue plastic. They are also available in glass (with a protective silicone sleeve). My second favorite are the Playtex Nurser Drop-Ins. These are super easy to clean, and you can squeeze the air out of the drop-in liner which prevents air in baby’s belly. However, I have had a few of these get melted bottoms (not affecting use at all) in a bottle warmer. 
                              Source                                      Source
Third is pacifiers. I (and many of the babies that I’ve taken care of) really like the Gumdrop pacifier by The First Years as well as the Soothie Pacifier by Phillips. To me, they’re both essentially the same thing except the Gumdrop pacifier doesn’t cover the baby’s nose.
                          Source                                      Source
The last thing I’m going to talk about for part one is swaddle blankets. I like using the Aden and Anais swaddle blankets. These blankets are made of muslin which softens a bit more each time you wash it. The material also allows air to move more freely through it which lessens overheating. They’re also really large which means you can use them for multiple other things like nursing covers and stroller or car seat covers.
Be sure to check back on Wednesday to see a few more of my favorite things!


Gymnastics Time!

As the girls get older, they (as all children do) want to do more. I’ve been looking for ways and places where they can be more independent and be more physical – climbing, swinging, jumping, etc. Enter a local gymnastics facility {Because it’s a local place, I’m not going to name it for privacy reasons, but there’s plenty of places like it around the US} We went for the first time last week, and let me just say, the girls were in absolute heaven. The price is pretty reasonable – $5 for those under 1 3/4 (not sure why they don’t just say under 2) and $10 for 1 3/4 and up. I think this is like the bounce house where if you bring a child older than 2, you get someone under 2 in for free. Maybe. I have to double check that for future trips!
At first when we were looking through the glass as we took our shoes off, M didn’t want me more than half a foot away from her. It was pretty crowded since school is out, so that’s probably why. Once we got inside and I told her she could go on the trampoline it was an entirely different story. E was the same way. They basically wanted nothing to do with me. For a few days prior to that, they had been pretty attached to me, so it was a welcome change – not that I mind them wanting my attention frequently by any means, but it was a nice change of pace for them to show their independence. 
Of course I stayed with them and helped if needed, but for the most part they didn’t want my help climbing or jumping at all. They wanted to do everything on their own (except the rings and practice bars which they had to have my help or they couldn’t reach) We explored the trampoline, foam pit, balance beam, vault (which to them was more just something to climb), rings, and practice bars. I think there was a tie between the practice bar and the foam pit as far as favorites go. I do still hear “trampo-leeeeeene” pretty regularly {and randomly} though. The girls loved jumping into the foam pit. Who wouldn’t want to jump into a pit full of soft foam where it’s practically impossible for you to get hurt? Not only was jumping in fun, but it also challenged the girls muscles when they were crawling around in it since it makes it harder to move.
E exploring the foam pit!

The floor on the entire gym floor (at least from what I saw) is padded. The girls fell multiple times (just from getting their legs tangled up when running around and climbing on things) and popped right back up each time. Not to say that them falling was a good thing, but I’m glad the floor was padded and it gave them a chance to practice how to catch themselves when falling in a safe space.
Here is what going to a gymnastics facility can do for your child:

To find a place for you – google “Gymnastics facilities in (put your city and state here)” and then find one with an open gym time. Call ahead to see if there are age restrictions if you have a child under 2!