Saturday, June 30, 2012

How to Reclaim Your Social Life After You Have a Baby

Our lifestyle changed in a lot of ways when my husband and I became parents, but one aspect that changed in particular was our social life. People stopped by to see the baby, but we could no longer easily spend late nights out, travel to visit out-of-town friends, or say yes to last-minute plans. As time has gone on, though, we've figured out some ways to reclaim our social life, even though we have an infant.

Don't be afraid to let others watch the baby
My daughter was a mere three weeks old the first time we left her with my parents-in-law for an evening. As we pulled out of the driveway, I couldn't stop the tears from flowing, but we ended up having a great time at a holiday party, and the baby was perfect. It's important to get out as adults every once in a while, and we've found there are people lining up at the door to take our kid off our hands for a few hours.

Make friends with other young families
Since the baby came along, it can be somewhat difficult to maintain friendships with single people or couples without kids. We're not as flexible when it comes to timing or location of plans, and the baby can be a bit of a distraction when trying to talk. Making friends with other young families makes socialization easier. Even if we don't get in a lot of quality conversation due to distractions, at least we understand the chaos, and when the kids are older, they'll be able to run off together and play while we have some adult conversation. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

4th of July Party Supplies for Kids

If you're hosting a 4th of July party and inviting kids to attend, there are several ways you can make the day extra special for them and take the burden of providing entertainment off your guests. Consider these food, drink, and entertainment ideas while preparing for a 4th of July party to remember.

Red, white, and blue snacks
Kids will love to fill their plates with 4th of July themed snacks. Consider investing in a stash of bomb pops, making Jell-O Jigglers in patriotic colors and shapes, or whipping up some mini-tarts with strawberries and blueberries.

Drinks kids enjoy
While your friends are enjoying their "adult beverages," kids will need something to keep them hydrated as well. Lemonade, juice boxes, or a nice red punch should do the trick.

A place to splash
If it's a hot 4th of July day, set up a sprinkler or kiddie pool for kids to keep cool and stay entertained. Having a supply of beach towels and kids' sunblock on hand would be icing on the cake for your guests. Remind them to bring swimsuits!

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

7 Ideas for Your Baby Photo Shoot

My husband and I worked with For His Glory Photography in Columbus, Ohio for our daughter's six-month photo shoot. Before we embarked on our photography journey, I scoured the Internet, looking for examples of other photos that I'd like to replicate. Now, it's my turn to add to the collection! Here are some photos that might give you inspiration for your own baby photo shoot.

1. The Comically-Overdressed Pose

Tutus, headbands, and pearls, oh my! There is just something so precious about a baby smiling up at you from a pile of lace and pearls. Our photographer provided the tutu and beads (shown in photo #2), so you might want to check and see what yours has on hand. A suit, tie, and bowler hat would be the perfect alternative for a boy.

2. The Always-Something-in-the-Mouth Pose

My baby has something in her mouth 90% of the time, so of course it should be captured in her six-month photos. It shouldn't be hard to capture. In fact, we were going for the Comically-Overdressed Pose in this shot, but the baby had other plans when we placed pearls around her neck.


3. The Diaper-Only Photo

A baby sitting around in nothing but a diaper is, in my opinion, the definition of cute. My baby's kind of skinny, but I love seeing the roley-poley babies in diapers-only photos. For us, we got to show off her off-the-charts length and our adorable cloth diapers.

4. The Smushy-Kiss Photo

This one was my photographer's idea, and I think it's priceless. We were instructed to kiss her cheeks, one on each side, but to smush her face in with the force of the kiss. I think we succeeded. I think her puzzled expression is the icing on the cake.

5. The Flying Baby Pose

My husband and I each managed to take a turn during the course of our photo shoot doing the "flying baby" with our daughter. The photographer caught me in the "landing kiss," while my husband has her hoisted up. I think it would have been even greater to capture while she was in the air.

 6. The Tub Pose

I happened across this pose in my pre-photo-shoot Internet search and was hooked. Especially since my baby is obsessed with bathtime, this couldn't be a more perfect picture. Best yet, my photographer had the amazing idea to blow bubbles at her while she was sitting in the tub!

7. The Classic Family Pose

Of course, no photo shoot is complete without gathering mom, dad, and baby in a traditional family portrait. We sat in front of some rose bushes and managed to all smile at the camera at just the right moment.

For more baby photography ideas and advice, read How To Get the Most Out of Your Baby Photography Shoot.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

4 Reasons to Invest in a Large Cloth Diaper Stash

One of the mistakes cloth-diapering parents sometimes make when starting out is not having enough cloth diapers on hand. I have more than 30 diapers in my collection, or "stash" as it is often called, plus two wet bags, four pail liners, 45 cloth wipes, and some extra inserts. Although it may seem like an unnecessary investment at first - especially if one of the purposes of cloth diapering is to save money - having a large cloth diaper stash can pay off over time.

Less wear and tear

The more diapers I have, the less wear and tear each sees from use and from going through the wash. Closures and elastic hold up better, and diapers remain looking newer longer. This means they retain their resale value better and are more likely to hold up for the next baby and perhaps even another after that.

Change more frequently

Because of my sizable cloth diaper stash, I'm not afraid to change my baby's diaper every couple of hours, keeping her clean and dry. I know I have enough diapers to cover me until the next wash, so I am not tempted to leave her in a wet diaper longer than necessary. I also have plenty to stash in diaper bags and even send to the babysitter as backups in case of an emergency.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Disposable Diapers Stink! (And Other Reasons I Prefer Cloth)

My husband and I recently took a 10-day trip to visit my family. Because our cloth diapers would have taken up a lot of room in the car and we didn't want to have to use my parents' washer and dryer to clean them, we opted to use disposable diapers for the week. By the end of the week, I was dying to get home and wrap my baby back up in her cloth diapers! Here are five reasons why this was the case.

The stink of disposable diapers 

I can't tell you how many times my husband and I would sniff the air, look at each other, and ask, "Did she poop?" But it seemed like most of the times we checked her, we'd find out that she was clean. We are used to diapers that have no perfumes or chemicals in them, so when she has a dirty diaper, all we smell is, well, what she put in there. On the other hand, disposable diapers have this chemical perfume smell to them that gets especially strong when mixed with urine. Because of this, her diaper always smelled dirty to us, even when she had only peed. The worst part was that people who are used to disposable diapers didn't even notice the scent and sometimes even commented that the wet diaper smelled good.

The artificial ingredients in disposable diapers 

It's always nice to know that the only thing touching my baby's bottom when I put her in a cloth diaper is all-natural fibers. When I put her in disposable diapers, she is wearing something made of plastic, paper, glue, perfumes, and chemicals such as petrolatum. Some of the chemicals used in disposable diapers have been linked to allergic reactions, hormonal problems, and even cancer. My mom always comments about how rash-free my baby's bottom always looks. I think that should be the rule, not the exception.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Father's Day Tribute: Why I Appreciate My Dad

My husband and I joke that Father's Day is just another moneymaker for Hallmark - an excuse to be manipulated by store signs, advertisements, and sales to spend cash on a guy who would probably prefer we saved it anyway. But on the positive side, Father's Day does give me an excuse to express all the reasons I appreciate the man to whom I owe my life but barely ever pay a phone call.

Dad, I appreciate your patience. From reading the same books with me night after night to teaching me how to drive when I could barely keep four wheels on the ground around corners, you've always been patient with me. You've taught me that great parents learn to savor every moment with their kids, and they use mistakes as teachable moments rather than excuses to fly off the handle.

Dad, I appreciate your sense of humor. Dry as they may be, your jokes always have me in stitches. I appreciate how you find humor in the little things in life, the collection of Joke-a-Day calendar pages you share with me when I come home, and the way in which funny sayings from the past always seem to resurface with new life when you're around. You even know how to laugh at yourself - and that skill, I've learned, can get a person through most anything.

Dad, I appreciate our car rides. I can't count the number of hours we've spent together in a car, but they are hours I treasure. I'll never forget the 45-minute ride to my summer job when you played me a recorded abstinence-before-marriage sermon (to which I wish I'd paid more attention at the time) or the talks we've had as you've gone out of your way to pick me up from college or from the airport. I never have to worry that we'll run out of things to talk about - mostly because you're truly interested in everything that has to do with my life.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How We Survived a Long Drive With Our Infant

I was excited that the date of departure from our home in Ohio for my parents' house in Upstate New York was nearly upon us, but a part of me was filled with anxiety. We would be driving 500 miles with our six-month-old daughter who hates being relegated to her car seat for long periods of time. In the end, I knew we would eventually get there, but the question was how many stops we'd have to make and how many tears would be shed along the way.

I'm happy to report that the trip actually took only one hour longer than it would have if it were just my husband and myself. We only had to stop twice, and our baby was a pretty happy camper for the majority of the drive. If you're planning to make a long drive with your baby in the near future, here are four tips that might help the trip go a little more smoothly.

Time it right. There is no doubt about it: the best-behaved traveling baby is a sleeping one. We considered leaving at our daughter's bedtime so that she'd sleep for the entire drive and we would only have to make the one stop for gas we were accustomed to. In the end, we scrapped the idea because I was too nervous about driving while we were tired, although I've heard it's worked well for plenty of other folks. Instead, we got up early and were on the road by 5am. Our daughter woke up for a few minutes when we got her out of her crib and put her in the car, but she was able to go back to sleep until her usual wake-up time. She then took short naps after spending an hour or two awake at a time, and in total spent over a third of our trip asleep.

Sit in the back. An excellent way to minimize crying on a long drive is to place an adult or older child in charge of entertaining the baby in the backseat. I sat in the back with our daughter for the duration of the trip so that I could play with, talk to, comfort, and even feed her while we were on the road. I'm sure she missed being able to wiggle and roll, but it ultimately wasn't a much different day for her than sitting on the floor and playing with me between naps. I'm fairly certain that whenever our baby cries in the car, it's largely due to feeling lonely. With company in the back, she only cried a couple of times when she got overtired and just needed to nap.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

How I've Changed Since Becoming a Parent

I knew when I found out I was pregnant that my life was going to change drastically, but I guess I'd always thought about the changes that would be made to my lifestyle. I knew I'd be tired, stressed, worried, and, well, responsible for the life of another human being. What I didn't anticipate was how drastically aspects of my inner self would change as a result of becoming a parent. I can name six ways in which this is already happening after only six short months of being a mom. 

I'm more sensitive to tragedies involving kids.
I used to hear about tragedies striking children, and of course I cared, but it was in sort of a detached way. Now, I feel these stories right down to my core. I can picture my child in the same situation, and it is an utterly gut-wrenching experience. I can put myself in the place of the parents and try to glimpse an iota of what they must be feeling, and an iota is often all I can take.

I can function on less sleep.
I used to believe I needed at least nine hours of sleep in order to optimally function the next day. When our newborn came along, I was absolutely amazed that I wasn't passing out in the middle of lunch every day. Even when I returned to work, I was up several times a night with the baby, but I still functioned quite well in the office. Now I don't mind getting up early anymore, and when my baby has a rough night, I'm not all that worse for the wear the next day. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tips for New Formula Feeding Moms

One of the many aspects of parenting that it took a little time to navigate was feeding my baby infant formula. I had a lot of questions about how to prepare it and how much to feed her, but these were easily answered by my doctor or a quick Internet search. What I had to learn on the fly were ways to make formula feeding efficient and functional in my life. Here are some tips for moms who are just starting to feed their babies infant formula.

Use a generic brand

When I first started feeding formula to my baby, it was a hard sell for me to even consider using a generic brand. We'd been given Similac in the hospital, so I didn't want to change things up, and I was also under the impression that because the bigger brands were more expensive, they were somehow better. What I learned is that all infant formula of the same type is essentially equal - it's just that some companies spend more money on packaging and marketing than others, raising the retail price. It took a few days for our daughter to get used to the generic brand we chose, but she ended up seeming to like the taste, digesting it well, and continuing to grow like a weed. We're saving about $80 each month on formula, and my doctor said at our last appointment that she was glad we switched and that she recommends that all parents do so.

Make it ahead of time

If I'm being candid, it is a bit of a pain to make a bottle of formula. I have to get the level of water exactly right, measure the powder correctly, and then shake it thoroughly enough to get the clumps out. Instead of making each individual bottle separately, my husband and I now make a big batch ahead of time. It's good for 24 hours in the refrigerator, so we use a blender bottle to make the amount she will consume in that time. This makes things easier for our childcare provider, as we simply send the pre-made formula each morning rather than asking her to make each bottle up on her own. It also keeps us from inevitably putting more formula in a bottle than we intend, since the addition of powder raises the water line higher than it was before it was mixed.

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