To the Little Boy with the Cystic Hygroma

This is your heart beat.

A slow steady rhythm marked by flickering white light.

This is the pulse of life.

An erratic fast then slow but pushing on relentlessly.

In the rush of everything, everyone, and everywhere I need to be,

I listen for the thumping in your chest

That sets my steps

And Moves me on despite the setbacks and lacking self-confidence.

I listen for the next beat with bated breath.

Keep beating though the journey is long.

Keep beating though the slog is hard.

Keep beating to guide me where I can hold you in my arms

and become the one who leads you beyond.

Bed-Sharing: Not For You to Judge and Not For the Faint of Heart

My daughter has been co-sleeping since she was born.

I was ashamed of this at one time but choose not to be now. I know the safety concerns, the doctor recommendations, all of that. But still, I prefer to co-sleep, though we are, at 16 months old, trying to transition our daughter to her bed.

Why did I start co-sleeping? I suppose for the same reason other parents who co-sleep do it, we’re exhausted, and our babies refuse to sleep alone.

I tried. God knows I tried not co-sleeping. This was not our default decision. We had a nursery set up; we had the baby monitor, we had the crib with only a fitted sheet, a mobile, a nightlight. It was a nursery built for safety and sweet dreams, but our daughter had other opinions.

We then tried a bassinet in the same room but not in the same bed as us. This was also a flat out FAIL. No matter what we tried, and we tried multiple methods for soothing a baby to sleep, she would wake up again and again. To this day she is not a great sleeper, naps are short and sporadic and she usually only sleeps about 9 hours a night. I have spoken to her pediatrician about this but her development is on track, so there is no reason to be concerned.

The only place she felt confident and comfortable to sleep was next to me.

Perhaps I should have prefaced this post with this, but I exclusively breastfed my daughter since birth. Starting out I had to feed her consistently, at least every half hour to an hour. She gained weight well, but I felt like she was nursing nonstop for at least the first six months of her life. Obviously, this further complicated my sleeping habits and arrangements at night.

We tried for about three weeks to adjust our daughter to be able to sleep in her bassinet beside the bed, at the very least, without success before we gave up and began full-time co-sleeping.

The difference in the amount she slept, not to mention how much extra rest I got, was substantial.

I was devastated, but I didn’t know how else to handle the situation.

Two weeks later my husband, National Guard, deployed to the Middle East and would be gone for nearly a year.

Two weeks after that I started a new, full-time job as a Reference Librarian and Instructor at a community college.

I was exhausted all the time from solo-parenting, from working all day, then mom-ing all night. I was also suffering from post-partum depression which I still struggle with, and I was utterly overwhelmed. Co-sleeping and taking away at least one problem was probably the only thing that saved my sanity at the time. I got more sleep, able to just turn over and nurse my daughter back to sleep during her frequent night feedings. Co-sleeping also allowed me peace of mind when I was home alone all those months that in case of an emergency in the night I had ready access to my daughter.

Now, co-sleeping is not for everybody, and it requires some significant adjustments to how you sleep, from getting used to not using blankets, to understanding that you will probably not be able to sleep deeply. I am a naturally light sleeper, and I don’t tend to roll around a lot during my sleep, most nights I would fall asleep in one position and wake up in that same position. This was to my benefit when I came to terms with the fact that I would be co-sleeping. One of the few benefits of my husband deploying during this time is that there were not two adults co-sleeping with an infant, reducing the risk that arises from more bodies in a bed, though my husband is also a lighter sleeper and often slept on his back all night. Neither my husband or myself are overweight which is another factor which raises the risk of SIDS while co-sleeping with parents. Breastfeeding further reduces the risk of SIDS.

We don’t smoke. Our home’s air quality is good. We didn’t have pets at the time. We used a humidifier. We used a pacifier. We even bought a co-sleeper that can be placed directly in the bed which was useful for traveling when we didn’t want to lug her whole Pack ‘N Play w/bassinet attachment. But still didn’t provide the comfort level our daughter demanded when sleeping at night.

I read articles, I studied sleep training methods, but I could not change my daughter’s sleeping preference. Many of the articles I read which were published by major parenting sites like The Bump, WhattoExpect, and Parenting were starkly against bed sharing. But I know many people in the real world who were forced into an identical sleeping arrangement. It is almost like this secret club, shamed into isolation by more successful parents who managed to establish “safer” sleeping habits.

But a 2013 study by Colson, et al. shows that the percentage of co-sleeping parents has risen from 6% in 1993 to 13.5% in 2010, and at least 45% of parents admitted to sharing a bed with their infant “at least some of the time.” It happens, there are situations where it is just something parents do.

Whatever your preference for your child, where the intentions are obviously not malicious, where the parents are not going to bed drunk or high, or in other ways neglecting their child, you should reserve your contrary judgment of the parents who do share a bed with their infants. Bed sharing was a common practice at one point in time; my great grandparents shared a bed with their children when beds were a commodity, and many families were forced to share one bed.

There are obviously other considerations that must be taken into account when discussing infant sleep arrangements like sleeping position, does the infant sleep on their back, side, or stomach? My daughter usually slept on her back in my bed but would roll onto her side the few times she slept in the bassinet or crib.

I feel like there is a lot of online judgment towards bed-sharing parents, like most online bullying, there is a trend towards increased anonymous criticism vs. in-person criticizing. When faced with actual human beings who you can see love their child, want the best for their child, and work their butts off for their child, it is easier to, if not relate, at least sympathize.

I am not posting this to endorse or encourage bed-sharing. I am merely telling my story as a mom who bed-shared and presenting a narrative that I feel is needed in the conversation surrounding infant sleep arrangements. I hope my story makes somebody else out there who bed-shares feel unashamed, supported, and a little less lonely.

Do you bed-share? Share your story in the comments!

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What I Want You To Remember

You won’t remember the hours I spent rocking you.
You won’t remember the way I worried that you weren’t eating enough.
You won’t remember the time I spent baking and decorating your birthday cakes.
You won’t remember the tears I cried when you were sick.
You won’t remember the sleepless nights.
You won’t remember the pain I felt when breastfeeding.
You won’t remember the bedtime arguments.
You won’t remember any of that.
 
It isn’t your job to remember the work, the fears, the struggles of early parenthood.
I’m not doing my job if I place that stress on your tiny shoulders.
The things I want for you, the things I want you to remember, are only good.
 
I want you to remember the warmth of my chest under your cheek.
I want you to remember the lullabies that soothed you to sleep.
I want you to remember the taste of those birthday cakes on your tongue.
I want you to remember the tears of happiness that only you could inspire.
I want you to remember you were worth every sleepless night.
I want you to remember that your health meant more to me than my comfort.
I want you to remember the bedtime stories that taught you to dream.
I want you to remember that you were safe and loved.
 
I want you to remember we are your home wherever you roam.
 

Baby Basics: Products I Swear By

If you are a new mama, the myriad options for baby basics can be overwhelming, and babies are expensive so it can be terribly tempting to just grab the cheapest option and run. Not all baby products are created equal. We went through several frustrating periods of trial and error of testing different products to see if our daughter would have some kind of skin reaction, especially to diapers, diaper cream, and soap.
Some babies may not have any issues with the products that caused our daughter’s skin rashes, but there was a definite difference when we found just the right one for her.
Here are my favorite baby basics.

Pampers Swaddlers to this day (my daughter currently wears a size 5 diaper) is our favorite brand of diaper to use. We have the least amount of leaks from this, and we have tried several other brands in comparison including Huggies and the Pampers Cruisers.
The primary concern was definitely leakage. The Huggies Little Snugglers were the worst for leaking, they pretty much did this every time she wore them. For newborn poop, this was a big no-no. We attempted the Pampers Cruisers, and they worked okay, except at night. Ten hours was just too much for the Cruisers to hold and after two nights of waking up soaked, we gave up on those as well. The Swaddlers are consistently quality diapers, they rarely leak, and they are comfortable, no thigh rubbing, no rashes. You can subscribe and receive a regular delivery of diapers based on the frequency you choose, saving you the multiple store-runs having a baby in diapers usually requires. You can find some really helpful charts that estimate how many diapers in each size you need to figure out a delivery frequency that works for you, and it is super easy to go into your subscriptions and change as needed.
Just as important for preventing diaper rashes as the diaper, we only wavered from the Pampers Sensitive wipes once when the husband accidentally bought the wrong kind. My daughter’s butt promptly broke out after one use, and we couldn’t even bring ourselves to finish the pack, let alone the box. These are super gentle and have a very light scent.
We use baby wipes for almost every kind of cleanup imaginable from cleaning the butt to wiping hands after eating, you will find that you literally CANNOT leave the house without baby wipes. Pro-tip: Always have a backup pack in the diaper bag. Poop explosions, vomit, milk/juice spills all require a lot of wipes to clean up.
Next up, Aveeno Wash & Shampoo. This works wonders on my daughter’s sensitive skin. Its Pediatrician Recommended, made from oat extract, and works as body wash AND shampoo. You have the option to subscribe on Amazon to receive regular shipments of this product, we used about one bottle every two months when my daughter was a newborn, and now we go through a bottle a month. Subscribing can save you 5-15% on price (depending on how many Amazon subscriptions you have, the more you subscribe, the more you save) and also save you the hassle of thinking about it when you run out.
You will find you think about the health of your baby’s skin nearly constantly. Is it too dry? Is that a rash? Why is her scalp so flaky?! Desitin is another excellent product for preventing and then treating diaper rash. The Rapid Relief works best for daily use while the Maximum Strength is most useful for treating existing rashes. Buy one in the tub to use at home and buy a tube for on-the-go use. Trust. You will appreciate the convenience of both. This is definitely another instance where you will use this product for so long it might serve you well to subscribe to the product on Amazon, though the tubs last a little longer than the tube and can be ordered less frequently, depending on how often you take your little one out. But if you are buying the product anyway, why not get the discount and get them delivered regularly?
Here is a product you may not have anticipated as a baby basic but I use cornstarch in place of baby powder. You might have heard about the concern of a  link between baby powder use and cervical cancer. In 2016, a jury awarded a monetary judgment in favor of a woman who claimed using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder caused her cervical cancer. Medical studies have not reached a conclusive decision as to whether or not there is a link. The problem ingredient is talc, which is a mineral mined from rocks, technically natural but can cause irritation. I am not one to mess with risk, even when it may be small. I don’t feel like I want to take the chance on my daughter’s health if there is an alternative that may be safer and achieves the same end. Cornstarch dries the bottom as quickly as baby powder. Cornstarch also makes an excellent dry shampoo, is cheap, and can be bought at most grocery stores.
Finally, another baby product you will need to buy very frequently (if you are not breastfeeding) is baby formula. I breastfed my LO until she was ten months old before I started having production issues. Her doctor advised me to switch to a soy-based formula as it would be easier to supplement with the breastmilk without getting a baby hooked on the formula so that she would refuse the breastmilk I was able to produce. The soy formula was horrible, and my daughter hated it. She refused to drink it, and I was still not making nearly enough milk to satisfy her. So I switched to this formula, and it was like night and day. She took to this like a fly to honey AND would still nurse from me when I needed her to. At ten months we were able to move towards weaning and supplemented with the formula until she was a year old and able to switch to whole milk. She had no digestive issues with the switch and seemed to respond as well to this formula as my breastmilk regarding weight gain and immune health.
And those are my favorite basic baby products. Those are also the things that will drain your bank account at the end of every week so I highly suggest coupon clipping, Pampers has a great rewards program that allows you to accrue points. In addition to coupons, Amazon’s subscribe & save option is also a good way to save some money and is available on many baby products like diapers, formula, wipes, food, snacks, etc.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

13 Mommy Facebook Pages You Need to Follow

Let’s face it, our Facebook timelines have taken a serious dive. I know mine has dissolved into a near constant state of fear, anger, and frustration. But there are still some bright spots on the platform, a few pages that the shadows have not overtaken.
And if you are new to this whole parenting thing like me, you are probably aching for some relating. I found some pretty awesome mommy Facebook pages you need to be following for advice, for support, and for some good old fashioned making fun of our crazy lives.
These ladies share uncensored Mom truths, hilarious memes, relevant topical stories from the news, magazines, other social media platforms, etc., recipes, accessible fashion advice, DIY, and even survival gardening.
Moms really can do it all and these Facebook pages show that the proof of that is in the content, served up homemade or from the microwave, no judgement.
Here are some of my favorite Facebook pages that brighten up my timeline.

  1. Scary Mommy
  2. The Drunk Mom
  3. Diary of a Mom
  4. The Typical Mom
  5. Hot Mess Mom
  6. CafeMom
  7. The Winey Moms (Disparaging remarks about people who receive government assistance proliferated this page after my recommendation. Steer away, I ended up blocking them there was so much hate.)
  8. Insane in the Mom-Brain
  9. The Survival Mom
  10. The Mom Edit
  11. The Mom Life Uncensored
  12. The Mom Truthbomb
  13. The Mom Life

Most of these ladies blog on a separate website so make sure you drop in on those and give them a follow, let them brighten up your inbox too! What else are you getting in there, another coupon for 10% off at a store you will never shop in again? (Looking at you Forever 21!)
And don’t forget to give A Bookish Mama a like and a follow if you want to see more posts like this!

Updated: 04/24/2018

Working Mom: What I Learned About Self-Care From A Year of Solo-Parenting A Newborn While Working Full-Time

I was 38 weeks pregnant when I was called in to interview for my dream job. Well, dream job in my career field, at least. I had applied on a whim and at the urging of a relative of my husband’s who called my attention to the job posting. I never thought as a new graduate with less than a year’s work experience I would get the position.
Even though I had an interview, I didn’t think I would get it. But then I had a second interview, with a side of more doubts. Everyone was amiable and professional, even when confronted unexpectedly with my enormous belly poorly hidden under a suit jacket that would not button.
Then I got a letter offering me the job, my first salaried position WITH benefits! At 41 weeks pregnant with my first child, faced with the impending 9-month deployment of my husband overseas the next month. I accepted, of course.
I was working at a public library part-time, just shy of full-time. The workload was smaller, I had been a library assistant/page. I mainly worked circulation and assisted the children’s librarian with programming. But I had few responsibilities where I had to make substantial decisions. That changed drastically when I accepted my new job as a Reference Librarian and Information Literacy Instructor. My new position required commitment beyond your typical 9-5. As part of my job, I had to engage with the community and contribute to my institution beyond the doors of the library. This means my job would follow me home from time to time.
At home, I (eventually…finally!) had a newborn. And a newborn who developed colic around 6 weeks old, just in time to send Daddy off to the Middle East. I began solo parenting the same time I started my new job.
I’m not going to lie.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
Parenting still is. Being a mom is incredibly rewarding but utterly exhausting, even with my husband home again to share the responsibility.
But going to work 5 days a week, then coming home to a colicky baby who needed to be breastfed once every hour, then also trying to find time to eat, clean, and sleep presented me with an extreme challenge.
How could I find a way to balance all these things?
How could I be happy when I was overworked, overwrought, and over it?
For a long time during my husband’s deployment, I could not find any kind of balance. I felt rushed, stressed, scared, and alone.
I want to pause here to applaud single parents. Bless you. I have so much RESPECT for you.
All day, every day, 24 hours, 7 days a week, I was wound up. I would go from breastfeeding to making my meals to breastfeeding to changing a diaper to comforting a screaming baby to breastfeeding to changing a diaper to cleaning to working to pumping to working from home to breastfeeding to changing a diaper to grocery shopping, etc. There was no minute in a day for me, for self-care, for my mental health.
I suffer from post-partum depression. Lucky for me, my OB anticipated this as she was aware of my husband’s upcoming departure. I was prescribed Zoloft which I am still taking and probably will need for the rest of my life. But even with the medication and medical support the depression would creep in and pull me under. I had to find some time for myself in the midst of this challenging period of my life.
Keeping a calendar was a life saver. Whether that is your phone, a planner, a desk calendar, keep track of your schedule. Besides your child(ren)’s regular check-ups, keep track of your own appointments, and make sure you carve time into that schedule for some time for yourself.
Hire a babysitter (and try to shake that guilt for spending time away from your kids when you aren’t at work), see a movie, get a haircut, a manicure, or visit a friend. You gave birth, that is not a life-sentence for isolation or imprisonment.
Children are meant to enrich your life not limit it. We make that decision ourselves.
Bullet journaling may help you to keep track of not only your schedule but your self-care. There are tons of fantastic templates out there for bullet journaling things like keeping track of the books you read, the movies you see, personal goals you want to set for yourself like starting a side business, pursuing a hobby, etc. I tried bullet journaling myself for a few months, and it was definitely a fun way of keeping track of everything.
Another way of alleviating the pressure of parenting and balancing your other obligations is to trust other people. My mom is my full-time babysitter, she watches my daughter every day I am at work which is incredibly reassuring. I know my mom, I trust my mom. I don’t have to worry that she is not going to care for my baby the exact same way I would because I learned how to be a mom from her. And she did a damn excellent job as a single working mother herself.
But what about when I needed a babysitter outside of my workday? It seemed excessive to ask my mom when she already watched my child 40 hours a week, and she works nights and weekends besides. (Seriously, my mama is a superhero.)
I had to learn to let other people help me. This included my husband’s family, his sister, and mother who are fantastic people and raised beautiful babies themselves. I had to trust the people who had genuine intentions of helping me out and caring for my daughter as profoundly as I do.
I never considered myself controlling until I became a mother. And I don’t necessarily think that having a controlling impulse as a parent is a bad thing. But there have to be limits to that, for your own sake. Allowing my sister-in-law to take my daughter to a picnic, giving myself a couple of hours of “me” time was just one example of how I needed to unclench and let people help me.
Besides allowing others to babysit your child, you have to be able to accept that you cannot do everything, and then, you cannot do everything well. I hate feeling weak. I hate when I fail at something. I am a perfectionist (see the controlling impulse above). There are going to be days when there are dirty dishes left in the sink, and when you don’t finish that report at work, and when you know your baby needs a bath but you skip it anyway, and when you know you need a bath but you skip it anyway.
It is okay to fall short of your own expectations.
Mama, you are doing your best.
Part of the process of parenting is just persevering through the difficult times. But don’t forget to appreciate those times for the joy and beauty they bring to your life as well. I went on auto-pilot a lot during this period and as a result there are some points I just can’t remember. Take time to pause, study your child’s face, and embrace the chaos for the blessing it is.
I think the most profound lesson from this past year of my life is seeing how much I could endure. I learned I could be independent, I learned I could be strong, emotionally and physically. I learned there is value in me apart from my role as a wife and a mother.
I had never known those things about myself before.
Somewhere in my head cold ramblings I hope you find some comfort, advice, and community. Remember, to fill the cups of others you must first fill your own.

The Ultimate Baby Cheat Sheet

My daughter is about 16 months old. As our first child, we had a lot of buying to do to get ready for her arrival. We had a baby shower of course but ended up buying most of the more significant items ourselves, except the crib which my coworkers at my old job bought for us as a gift WITH a crib mattress (they were seriously the most amazing people in the world, and I miss them every day).
The cost of preparing for a baby can be enormous, especially when confronted with all these lists of what baby should have. I scoured these lists on Pinterest for months. I made my own lists, I made Amazon wishlists AND baby registries. I wanted to be prepared for anything and everything this unknown nugget would throw at me, especially as my husband was preparing for an overseas deployment a month after my due date. Anything that would make my life easier as I solo parented a newborn was a must have.
As a result, we ended up buying many things it turned out we didn’t need/would never use. I realize every baby is different and for some the items we ended up wasting money on could have been useful. However, I think our experience was pretty standard. Some of the things we didn’t use because she had zero interest in the item, like a cosleeper bassinet. Some products I honestly forgot I had bought and got by fine without.
The items I did use were used heavily and were actual life-savers. This post is dedicated to those beautiful objects that sometimes made parenting a breeze. Or at least made me not want to rip my hair out as badly.
I will link all the items to Amazon for easy reference to what they are and an estimate of cost. Of course, you can buy these from your retailer of choice if you decide you need them.
Boppy

Version 2
Usually passed out like this post feeding.

Easily my favorite baby product and the thing I used the most. A boppy is a nursing pillow that fits around your waist. It is technically a nursing pillow but is useful for bottle feeding as it allows you free use of one hand at least. I breastfed, so the boppy allowed me to have both hands free (once Little Bit had learned to latch and stay latched correctly). Once she got older, we would prop her in this to help her strengthen her neck, and she learned to actually sit up using this pillow. My mom would even lay her in it for naps, and it was convenient for stuffy noses. The only caveat is that you need to invest in multiple covers. I had one, and the regular milk dribblings meant a lot of washing and not having a cover for the pillow itself which I needed during washings as well. I’d say a minimum of two but three might be better if you can swing it.
 
Bottle Sanitizer (if you don’t have a dishwasher with the sanitize option)
My apartment did not come equipped with a dishwasher, so a bottle sanitizer was a must for us initially as I did not want to boil water constantly. There are several variations of bottle sanitizers including some you can put in the microwave but we went with a plug-in appliance that sanitized in less than 5 minutes. It worked great and was definitely much easier to use than more traditional methods. However, once we moved into our house with a dishwasher with sanitize functions, we no longer needed this appliance.
Diaper Genie
I have heard people bashing the Diaper Genie, that is was an overpriced garbage can, for years before I got pregnant and so was a little hesitant about this purchase, but it honestly makes a huge difference in odor. Where there are babies there is excessive amounts of poop. And that poop just progressively gets stinkier and stinkier as baby progresses from milk to solids (I have also heard formula fed babies have smellier poops than breastfed babies). The Diaper Genie shuts these odors in and includes a charcoal filter for additional smell protection. Your nose and the noses of your house guests will thank you. We bought two, by the way. You will need to purchase refills for the bags and the charcoal filters, but you can buy these in multi-packs.
Cloth Diapers for Burp Cloths
We did not choose to use cloth diapers over disposable diapers for our daughter. I really wanted to but in the end was too intimidated to
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She loved playing with the clothes too.

try. However, I got these flat fold cloth diapers to use for affordable burp cloths, and they were invaluable. They are simple cloth squares you can prop under baby’s cheek while feeding to catch dribbles, the keep nearby for spit up, for the use of general spills while unable to move to grab an actual towel, etc. They are super cheap to buy in bulk, and you can bleach the crap out of them, literally. Burp cloths with cute designs are way marked up for their purpose and not nearly big enough anyway. I had some burp clothes I had received as a gift at my baby shower, and they were suitable for one use before they were ready for the laundry. Not nearly as absorbent as the cloth diaper either.
 
Glider Rocker
This was a more significant purchase as a piece of furniture but also definitely worth the cost. There is only so much manual rocking a human being can do, even my National Guard hubby who lifts. A rocker is a huge help, and a glider rocker has the smoothness necessary for undisturbed soothing and near effortless transition from sitting to standing. They usually pair with a footstool which you will use, and you will be glad you bought both. We did not buy the glider linked above but bought ours from Walmart, and it has held up excellently and still gets some use today. Also, our kitty (RIP) peed on the cushion, and it came clean easily.
Pack ‘N Play w/Diaper Changing Station and Bassinet
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Bonus: You get pictures like this which are priceless.

I can’t recall the exact brand we have, but it looks very similar to the one linked above. We got massively lucky on this one, and our uncle found a gently used Pack ‘N Play with the diaper changing station and the bassinet insert (but not the little newborn bassinet on top) and gave it to us as a gift. Yard sales, by the way, are fantastic places to find baby stuff as babies grow so fast they don’t use anything long enough to really destroy it. But we used this thing regularly, the diaper changing station especially for quick changes in the living room where we kept this thing erected permanently for quick baby drops when I needed to have my hands free. I also would take it outside and let baby play in it safely while still getting fresh air during the summer.
 
Baby Gym
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The monkey was definitely her favorite.

This item gets a little less use just because the amount of time it is safe for baby to play with is so short. It is best for newborn to right before they start to crawl. After that, they start tugging it down on them or just crawling away to inspect more exciting things.  But my baby rolled over for the first time on this, and she absolutely adored the little toys that attached to it (and which un-attach for extended play options once the gym itself is no longer usable). I included it because you can purchase these at a reasonably low cost, no doubt you can find multitudes of them used in yard sales or at Goodwill.
 
Shag Rug or Rug Pad
So, as my baby was learning to sit up, crawl, and walk she was constantly falling like every other baby. The tumbles I could not prevent, but we had hardwood floors in the house. We needed to provide padding to diminish injuries, especially for her soft noggin. I ended up buying a shag rug for the thick pile AND a rug pad which resulted in the cushiest flooring I have ever felt. It is impossible for Little Bit to hurt herself when she falls on this rug and is super comfy just for floor play, especially for people like me who had hip problems during pregnancy. There is an upfront cost investment for this but entirely worth it. The rug pad also helps protect my hardwood floors and keeps the rug on top from moving which are additional perks. You could probably buy a rug with a smaller pile, and still be just as insulated, no doubt our setup is slight overkill.
Baby Sleepers
So. Many. Sleepers. I preferred these Carter’s terry cloth sleepers, but you can buy plain cotton ones as well. Honestly, this and onesies are all my baby wore as she spent most of the beginning of her life sleeping. Even when I took her out, she was usually dressed in a sleeper, though she was born in November, so the cold weather was a factor. Honestly, cute (often overpriced) newborn outfits that look like adult clothing is a money racket in my opinion. I bought my daughter some cute outfits, but they never seemed as comfy and would disrupt her sleep sometimes. A coming home outfit and special occasion clothes are really all you need besides sleepers and onesies in the beginning.
Onesies
Besides sleepers, I kept my baby dressed in onesies. On a couple of super cold nights in our old drafty apartment, she would wear both. But onesies are great basics and accessible to both put on and remove (you can roll them down over the shoulders and pull off from the bottom). They come in a million and one patterns and colors and are usually made of cotton.
Baby BathtubIMG_2945
Another baby object I have heard people say is overrated is the infant tub which sits in your regular tub. I found mine incredibly useful and much more comfortable than the sink. For one, the bathtub is ergonomically shaped for the baby to lean back on and support their heads. In the sink, without any additional support, you are using your own hand/arm (you will still need to keep one hand on the baby in an infant tub, at least until they can support their own head). But the tub also comes with a little hammock for newborns which was super useful and could be thrown in the washer afterward. The bathtub I use has three different options for baby to use, the hammock, a side sans hammock for newborns, and an infant side, all with varying angles as the baby develops. It saved water and offered additional support for baby. I bought mine for $5 at a Peddler’s Mall.
Baby Carrier
Finally, a product I found absolutely invaluable was a baby carrier. This particular one is a front carrier and is not meant for newborns. I think they recommend only using this product on infants 8 weeks and up as newborns cannot support their heads well. I attempted to use a Moby wrap, but my daughter hated the constriction of the wrap. The carrier allowed her hands and feet freedom, and she was able to use my boobs as a pillow. While solo-parenting this was the only way I was able to grocery shop as I couldn’t fit my food and her car seat in the shopping cart. This carrier felt comfortable on my back even after an hour of use, and the straps are adjustable. The carrier can be used up to 32 pounds, about the weight of my daughter now at 16 months.
Jumperoo
 
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Buttons and babies go together like PB&J.

Another of my favorite products, my daughter absolutely adored her jumperoo. Doctors advise against baby walkers so we bought this as an alternative for individual play and building leg strength. it has three height settings so it lasts quite a while (unless you have an early walker) and has a variety of entertaining toys. My daughter could spend hours in her Jumperoo bouncing and playing with the toys and listening to the music. Worth the investment and the space it takes up for sure. If you can find it gently used all the better! We had to buy ours new though.
 
 
 
Baby Swing
Baby swing barely made this list. Honestly, they are not worth buying brand new. Look for a nice, gently used one (always check for recalls when buying products used and always register new products for recall alerts). My sister-in-law found ours at a yard sale in excellent condition for about $20. They cannot be used for a long time, babies shouldn’t sleep in them. If they fall asleep you will need to move the baby to a safer sleep environment. And the weight and height limit is low, my daughter grew out of hers by about 4 months. But it did help with soothing some of my daughter’s colic symptoms which were bad from the time she turned 6 weeks to 3 months. Baby swings also take a lot of batteries and drain them quickly which can get expensive.
 


 
Besides diapers, diaper cream, formula, bottles, baby soap, etc. these were the most useful items in the beginning. Though I received a crib as a gift it got very little use and still is not used as baby cosleeps and has since birth. This is more common for breastfeeding mothers to do as they need to be fed more often and you get more sleep. Your comfort level for cosleeping is your own business, FYI. I never had a problem with my daughter and was always highly alert to her position on the bed. Also, solo parenting is terrifying and having her next to me in case of an emergency was very comforting.
I could easily raise another baby on just the items above, which don’t get me wrong, is still a house full. So save money and time and stick with the things that work.

Dirty Clothes: The Benefits of Letting Kids Play Outside

I can remember going outside to play immediately after breakfast as a child and not coming back indoors until right before bedtime. Yes, we often ate lunch and dinner outdoors during the warm months. We didn’t have air conditioning in the tiny farmhouse my grandparents lived in, and I was partially raised in. The inside was not nearly as cool as outside under the shade of our apple tree or giant flowering bushes. Nor could a fan replace the feeling of the breeze pulling my hair back from my face as I sped down a hill on my bike, standing, butt hiked in the air, racing my siblings and cousins.

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My daughter took a tumble on a warm January day

Granted I was raised in the country, down a holler, where all my neighbors were related to me. I was able to spend all day home with my grandparents who didn’t work while my single mom worked a full-time job. And we had a solid half acre of play space not counting the hillside was sported a mile long (est.) dirt road up to the family cemetery which we frequently hiked.
We played video games and watched TV, and I loved to read, so we spent our fair share of time indoors even in the 90s-00s. But we got dirty every single day. I still have scars on my knees from all the spills I took on my bike or falling while running foot races. I always had dirt under my nails. We climbed trees. We rolled in the grass. We jumped through sprinklers. We engaged with nature, and I believe we are all better adults for it.

A Love of Nature

First and foremost, I think having a childhood where playtime and outside were so intertwined has lent me a healthy respect for nature I carry to this day. Having splashed in and swum in our little creek that ran behind our house, I know the importance of having clean natural water sources. My grandmother, aunt, and uncle were ardent flower lovers, and we had multiple flower beds to weed as part of our chores. Our grandfather farmed and we were able to supplement our food sources with the vegetables we grew. As a result of that we learned to appreciate the process of planting and watching things grow, and caring for them and reaping the benefits of that attention and work. We determined the role of bugs in growing plants as well and learned to not fear them for their more creepy crawly properties.

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Getting back up to try this again!

Exercise

Secondly, we got so much exercise. Childhood obesity is a real problem. The CDC reports that 1 in 5 school age children and teens is obese. That number has more than tripled since the 1970’s. Obesity is not only the result of a lack of exercise. Nutrition and genetics can play significant factors in a child’s propensity to obesity as well. But the fact remains that leading an active lifestyle can reduce and prevent obesity in most individuals. There are barriers for children leading an active lifestyle. Unlike my siblings and me, many children lack a safe space to play outdoors. Children living in urban or highly populated areas may require more supervision. All the stories of abducted children and the pictures of them are enough to make most parents lock their kids in a closet just to keep them safe from strangers. Public parks and state parks with hiking trails can be beneficial to people who lack the outdoor space. Another solution is for schools to reintroduce recess, specifically outdoor unstructured play as a required part of the school day. According to an article by Ginsburg, Committee on Communicationsand the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, a survey conducted in 1989 found that 96% of kindergarten classes had a recess period. Ten years later that number dropped to 70%.
I was lucky as a child that in addition to having a home life that supported such outdoor playtime, my elementary school also had a decent outside playground adjacent to a wooded area and away from private homes or commercial businesses that might attract strangers. The woods behind the school had also been set up as a sort of conservation education center where trees and plants were labeled with their Latin names and a path clearly marked.

Developmental Advantages

Third, there are many documented developmental advantages to outdoor play including improved motor and sensory development, confidence building, and cognitive development and may even have behavioral benefits for children with ADD.

Improved Immune System

Finally, for my list, playing in the dirt may enhance the immune system not to mention the added benefits of getting things like Vitamin D from sunshine. Factors like improved hygiene and more time spent indoors seem to have caused allergy rates to rise dramatically and allowing children to be exposed to natural elements like soil, plants, and pollen can help diminish the risk of developing allergies. There is a distinction in playing the dirt and playing in dirt that may be tainted with industrial waste, human waste, or other harmful bacteria harboring sites. This Forbes article suggests visiting National Parks which are protected from industrial and commercial dumping, clear-cutting, and/or mining.

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Her smile says it all. She loves playing outside!

Kids can be cleaned, their clothes can be washed, or replaced depending on the severity of staining. But childhoods cannot be changed or replaced. And the health benefits are there and shouldn’t be ignored.

An open letter to my husband on Mother's Day,

I know there is a day set aside for fathers especially but I wanted to take this Mother’s Day and thank my husband. First and foremost I want to thank him for the gorgeous little girl who shares half of his DNA. It takes two to tango after all. 😉
Second, I want to thank him for supporting me throughout my pregnancy, for every back rub, ice cream run, every night you cooked dinner, and reading to my bump when it was barely a bump. I know it is hard for men to realize their role as a father while their partner is pregnant but you cared, you engaged, you became a father when I showed you the plus sign on that test.
Third, for not backing down in the delivery room. You held my leg and you got in there and watched our daughter be born. Your strength is the reason I got through labor, the reason I found it in myself to dig deep and push.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, I want to thank you for the way you support my ability to parent. Our situation is somewhat unique. Your deployment means I am solo parenting and you have to be away for nearly the entire first year of our daughter’s life.
But do not doubt that you have a significant impact on her life at the moment. Because of you I find the strength to get up at 6 am after 4 hours of sleep (rarely all at once). Because of you I am able to present my kindest, most patient self when our daughter is difficult. Because of you she and I will never want for comfort and security. Because of you, I understand I must fill my cup before I have anything to give to our child.
Giving birth may have made me a mother, but you make me a good one.
I love you.

I Needed You Today

Today was hard. I wish every letter or poem I wrote to you could be full of encouragement and hope for the day you come home and most days I do feel those things. But not today. Today I cried. Today I broke down. Today I was weak. Today I needed you.
Our daughter is teething and the rice cereal the doctor recommended gave her gas. She fought sleep, she refused to breastfeed, I felt like a failure of a mother. I thought, if only you were home, maybe something you would have done could have helped her.
I always believed you would be a better parent than me. And now you are thousands of miles away, the more nurturing of the two of us, and I am the one solo parenting. I don’t know what I’m doing but I do it because there is no alternative. Our daughter needs me to forge on. So I push past the tears, the stress, the doubt, the loneliness and I find myself at the close of yet another day without you by my side.
I am tired today. My back aches from rocking her for hours. My head is pounding from the screaming. And my heart is heavy with the awakened ache for my partner, my help mate, my refuge.
Today I failed you, this deployment, and our daughter. But tomorrow is a new day and I will try, try, and try to do better, to be the strong woman you both need me to be. Because I know a strong support system at home can keep you safe.
I miss you a thousand times over. I just can’t wait until you are home again.
A Soldier’s Wife