0

Homemade Sensory Bags and Sensory Bottles

Sorry guys it’s been awhile since my last post. Work, baby, and family have recently taken the entirety of my attention! Most recently things have actually settled down and I’ve had some free time at night to browse (my obsession) Pinterest. I have come across several ideas for making your own sensory toys and I thought I’d give it a go. I sometimes look back and laugh at all the really fun and interesting things that I have pinned and think….there is no way I’m ever going to have time to put together a Mickey Mouse fondant cake or get my hair to look like a Victoria’s Secret model. But recently I did have about 30 minutes to spare and made some really cool sensory bottles for Mason. With the help of my dear, wonderful husband it literally took 30 minutes to put together 4 sensory bags and 3 sensory bottles. And the best part was that it cost about 15 bucks! You might even have a lot of these items just laying around! Here is the shopping list gals and pals:

3 plastic bottles
3 heavy duty freezer bags
Duct tape (they have some really fun designs now!)
Popcorn Kernals or quinoa or rice!
Toothpicks
Fuzzy colorful craft balls
Big bottle of baby oil
Food coloring
2 big bottles of CHEAP clear hair gel (ya know that stuff that will turn your hair to rock)
Glitter and/or confetti
Anything colorful to put in sensory bags that is not too sharp that would puncture the bag and possibly educational!
Super Glue

Sensory Bottles

image

Make sure your bottles are completely clean and dry!

For a glitter bottle: Put glitter and confetti in bottle. Add water to top of bottle. Put a little super glue on inside cap of bottle and screw on cap very tightly! Viola! Easy Peasy!
For sound bottle: Place popcorn/rice/quinoa in bottle and add color fuzz balls and toothpicks! Dab Superglue on inside of cap prior to screwing on cap! Babies like to make lots of noise so test your bottle out while you’re making them! Preferably not at nap time haha!
-To make colored rice: Place rice in shallow pan add 1 tsp of vinegar and several drops of food dye. Mix rice mixture and lay rice flat on pan. Allow to air dry for about 30 minutes.

Sensory Bags

image
image
image
Lava oil bags:
Pour 1/2 of baby oil bottle contents into zip lock bag. Add several 5-10 drops of food dye in bag. Slowly add water to bag. As you add water mix contents with your hand on outside of bag. Once water “blobs” are desired size stop adding water. It does not take a lot of water so be careful!

Gel “Squish” bags: Add entire contents of gel container in zip lock bag. Add colorful objects like animals, number blocks, and alphabet beads to bag. Zip up bag and you’re done!

I would HIGHLY suggest reinforcing all side of your sensory bags with duct tape. The most difficult part of this whole thing was duct taping the bags. This is where my lovely husband stepped in. Also a side note on the oil bags. Get a really heavy duty zip lock bag. The oil seeped OUT of my porous bags and got all over my comforter so I ended up throwing those out.
image
As always always supervise your children when playing with sensory bags/bottles and any toy. Mason has a tendency to put the bags in his mouth and I have to stop him. But mostly he likes to sit on the bags and shake the bottles! Have fun ya’ll!!
image

2

A Working Mother’s Guilt

imageI had to return to work just 8 weeks after Mason was born. I had major anxiety, as I’m sure most mothers do, when having to return to work. For our family it was not a question whether I could or could not return to work. I have mountains of student loans to pay off and we are trying to save up to buy a house. Not going back to work was not a viable option for us.

Prior to going back to work I thought, “How in the world am I going to manage getting to work on time with a baby!”. I was already exhausted from multiple night feedings and I hadn’t even returned to work yet. Mason was still getting up at least twice a night at two months old, how was I going to breastfeed, get ready and be presentable, and be out the door in time?!

However, in between my pangs of guilt I also felt excitement to return to work. To return to adult conversation and having some freedom outside of our home by myself. To return to doing something that I loved and something that I felt was a part of me and defined me. I am a physical therapist. It took me 7 years to get my doctorate and I am not only proud of what I do but I love what I do. I have a powerful bond with my patients as I am there when they are at their lowest and I am part of their journey as they find their footing in the world again.

I also work because I feel that being a full time mom makes me a better mom. Every minute with Mason I cherish. I can not afford to take for granted a single minute that I have with my little one. He is only this little once. He will only want to be held and loved on for so long. From the minute he wakes up, to the time I put him down I have to soak up every laugh and every gummy smile.

Being at work for me is my “me time”. On the drive from one patient to the next, I find time to belt out to my favorite Britney song or call my best friend. Or just contemplate in perfect silence along the foothills of Kentucky on what activities our family will get into this weekend. At work, I get to have adult conversations and get a break from having one sided conversations with Dora, Peppa, and Mickey.

Being a working mom is a constant juggle. While I’m at work, I am constantly thinking of home and of Mason and if he took his nap today and how he is doing with teething today. But while I’m at home, I constantly wondering if my patients are okay, what doctors I need to call in the morning, and what paperwork I need to get done tonight. It’s a constant juggle between calling and taking care of patients with feeding Mason those peas he hates and entertaining my little monkey until bedtime. My life consists of not only having to juggle baby but juggle my married life. I am not only a mother but a wife as well. I never understood when people said there wasn’t enough time in the day until I was a working mother and wife. There will never be enough time in the day to get everything done but as long as my son and husband are happy and healthy, the rest will fall into place.

Do I still worry that Mason’s teachers or babysitter will know him better than I do? Yes I do, but even though my time with my sweet boy is limited I want it to be meaningful. I want to be an example for my son that hard work pays off. I want to show him that it can pay off if you are dedicated to your studies and education. That it is possible to find a career that will better your life and, if you’re lucky, impact someone else’s life.

Do I think that I would be happier if I didn’t work? No. Less hectic and crazy…yes. My patients and my career are a part of who I am as well as being a mother and wife. I hope that an older Mason will look back on the days when he was young and think back on his young(er) working mother who took care of the him and the household and think, “My mom really did it all and loved me all the same.” But until then I’ll continue to kiss and sing him goodnight and hug him every morning. I will thank God every day that I am a working mother who was blessed with a precious baby boy.

image

 

2

Hidden Benefits of Being a Parent

image

You’ll have those days when you are exhausted, disheveled, and covered in God knows what and you think, “Man, If I didn’t have kids I could just lay around, curse like a sailor and drink like one too” But there are some hidden perks of being a parent.

1) All ABOARD! Its summer time and it’s travel season. Flights are booked and every available seat on the plane is taken. Getting through security might have been a nightmare with your 10 bags, the removal of everyone’s shoes, and the dirty looks you got because your child is wailing and you are taking entirely too long to get through TSA. Don’t fret my dear. Some airlines are now letting families with small children to board first. Those that I know who allow this are Southwest, Delta, jetBLue, Alaska, and Virgin. And for you pond hoppers, some international airlines such as Emirates, British, Singapore, and Virgin Atlantic will provide child entertainment, meals, formula, and diapers! And to be honest, letting us families board first is a great idea because I know that my son would be trying to grab everyone’s hair all the way from the first class to coach.

2) Strollers have the right away
Shopping with a baby can be a challenge. You have to time everything just right with the last feeding, nap time, diaper change, etc. In those crowded malls it can be difficult to negotiate between all the kiosks, shoppers, and people trying to get you to buy some Dead Sea lotion and salt scrub for your hands. Thank god you have your giant stroller travel system with car seat carrier and under basket to lead the way. Can’t find a good route through the crowds? I say make your own…

3) I’m sorry to leave so early but the baby…..
Okay we have all been there. We are stuck talking to what’s her name at Kroger and can not find an appropriate escape route. Thank god for that darling baby that HAS to get home for a nap…or something….

4) Complete Strangers are genuinely nice to you
You’re struggling with that non-handicap door at the mall with your giant stroller, shopping bags, and all the while you’re juggling your iphone and venti latte. I want to say Thank you to all the complete strangers who stop and hold the doors open while my son is having an apocalyptic melt down because I can’t find Sophie the Giraffe in time.

5) Baby Weight
Okay, so I have been doing really good lately with the diet and working out thing….if you don’t count tonight’s bowl of butter pecan. But somehow with working full time, housework, and taking care of Mason (and blogging my Husband would like to add). I have been using my last reserve energy to drag my butt to the gym. I have lost most of my baby weight but there is still a few pounds to shed and you know what? Most everyone is really supportive and understanding of my post baby weight plight. I don’t know how long this will last but everyone seems super supportive and says things like “you just had a baby your body needs time to rest and recover!” I hate to tell them but Mason is 6 months old and that bowl of butter pecan wasn’t really necessary….or was it??…..

6) Time Management
Before my son was born I would seriously take almost all day to clean and do laundry. Not because I was slow or lazy but I just wasn’t in a hurry. Nowadays nap time is crucial. In a one hour nap time, I can shower, get ready, vacuum, do laundry, and tidy up all the baby toys that have been thrown around the house. After baby you learn to prioritize what has to be done right now and what can wait. There are a few things on the list that are always a priority….like showering…and having a cup of coffee…coffee is definitely on the priority list….

7) You’re a Hero without the cape
I have those days when I am completely and utterly worn out from work. I get home and there he is with his gummy smile and kicking his legs so feverishly because he is excited to see me. Right now I am his whole world and he is mine. There are days that I wonder what life would be like if we didn’t have our precious boy. You think about all the activities and events you are missing out on. But in reality, we would be missing out on so much more without him. I am blessed with giggles and smiles in the morning and hugs and snuggles at night. So the last not so hidden benefit of being a parent is that you are someone’s super hero. So soak up the crocodile tears and kiss the boo boos momma because you are super momma (or daddy!) to a very lucky little baby. You are able to juggle play dates, work full-time, keep the house up, make dinner, tell a bedtime story, and banish all the bed bugs and monsters before passing out and doing it again the next day. You go mom and dad…its all a bit exhausting but that gummy grin and sweet baby laugh makes it all worth it.

 

0

Finding Swimsuit Serenity

We are summer people. My husband is an avid surfer and I am his beach bunny. My husband knew how to swim before he could even walk. When we found out Mason’s due date we were excited because that would mean that Mason would be getting to the age he could splash around in the water with us and introduce him the beach lifestyle.

One of the first things I did this summer was go out and buy Mason a cute little lobster swimming trunks and all the beach/pool baby paraphernalia I could get my hands on. The next step was a bit trickier. What in God’s name was I going to wear? I seriously have about 15 bathing suits in my closet stuffed into an old suitcase. I think all but one are two pieces. I tried them on eagerly at the start of the summer and one word came to mind….WHOMP WHOMP. I am nearly down to my pre-baby weight but when I had tried on those little bikinis it looked like a sad rendition of a Picasso-like version of what things used to be. Most of my baby weight is gone but things weren’t were they used to be. Everything looks just a little sad to put it mildly.

So my bathing suit shopping game plan was to go to the largest department store in our area and scour the racks. Since we are currently living in western KY my bathing suit selection is limited but I thought Dilliard’s might be the best place to start. I pinterested and online browsed various stores ahead of time but had a hard time balancing being a mom but also not wanting to be a frump poolside. Was I going to have to prepare myself to wearing the skirted bottom, floral printed, tankini wearing mom suit? Bathing suit shopping pre-baby was bad enough I didn’t know if a compromise was even possible.

So Mason and I arrived at Dilliard’s at the optimal time between his last feeding and morning nap so I could have maximum time in bathing suit hell. The sales lady was awesome and helped me pick up seriously 40 different bathing suits. I had monokinis, one pieces, two pieces, tankinis you name it. I had bathing suits draped all over Mason’s stroller as I mentally prepared myself for the actual trying on of the dreaded swimsuits.

The actual trying on process was dreadful. My “milk duds” were out of control and I had a hard time concealing my C-section scar and new mom pooch. During the process I would peep with one eye open and assess the damage. Crying was almost in short order and I was quickly running out of options. I thought the monokinis would be a good compromise but it was quite humorous. I had “baggage” coming out of all those damn openings.

A little knock from the sales lady came as my unknown salvation. She had a new style that just arrived. She told me that the new style this season ladies is high waisted bikinis. Celebs of all sizes including Taylor Swift, Serena Williams, and Kim Kardashian were sporting this retro style. The sales lady said that she had just received the shipment and most of the available bottoms were already being reserved for customers. It was love at first sight with its ruching and touch of sexy sass. To complete the look the sales lady brought me a under-wired triangle top that brought the girls up up up! Things were sucked in, covered up and lifted up!

I recommend this style to all you new moms out there. The suit style is complimentary on various body types, conceals those problem areas in a post-baby body, but has a trendy, sexy edge to it. In conclusion, I am a 20-something new mom and I’m not ready to turn in my bikini just yet. Don’t be afraid ladies. There is a swim suit for you out there that will compliment your new body. This body is not the body you used to have but it is beautiful. It made a beautiful little human and has the battle scars to show it. So grab a Marg and meet me at the beach you hot momma because you deserve it!

image

 

Bikini Bottoms by Gianni Binni

Bilini Top by Kenneth Cole

0

Sleep is for amateurs

imageHello tired momma and papa. I know that you have already searched pinterest, google, and the entire how-to infant section at Barnes and Nobles and still your baby is NOT SLEEPING. I’ve blocked out most of those early sleepless days but I do remember being so tired that when I actually did laid down to sleep my whole body would convulse because my body was in sleep deprivation mode. You don’t think that you can do it for one more day but you do and then do it the next day, and the day after that. I remember my friends and family telling, “It’ll only last the first four or five months and he’ll start sleeping better!” FOUR OR FIVE MONTHS?! I thought to myself there is no way I can physically make it that long. I swear we tried everything from Babywise to routines to gripe water to sound machines in every possible combination possible.

Here are some things that helped us get Mason to sleep through the night. Every baby is different and these tips might not help but hey its definitely worth a shot.

1) Routine! We do the same thing night after night. Yes our social life is limited to only those activities that fall before 5pm but sweet sweet slumber is worth it. My husband and I think that establishing a bedtime routine was the number one thing that helped Mason sleep through the night. Our schedule is as follows: Bottle around 3-4, Bath at 5pm, quiet play/reading with mom and dad, and then down to bed when he started showing tired signs around 6-7 pm. We change him into a nighttime diaper and dream feed him around 8-9pm and then STRAIGHT TO BED. He wakes up around 6-630 am! Woohoo! I hate to tell you but the first couple of nights that your little one sleeps through you probably will not. You have trained your body to wake up every few hours and its a hard habit to break. I also checked incessantly every couple hours those first couple of night to make sure Mason was still breathing because I could not believe that we had actually made it!

2) Late to bed does not necessarily mean late to rise! Yes you heard right. Making your infant stay up during the day when they are tired is a certain recipe for an overly tired cranky baby. And an overly tired baby is a terror. Babies who are overly tired have a hard time self-soothing and are usually so grumpy that have a hard time going down to nap or sleep.The days that Mason gets good naps during the day he usually has a great nights sleep. Also, he tends to be a happier baby with lots of coos and laughs to go along with that. Now with that said, I do try to limit his afternoon nap and not let it go after 4 or 5 so we can get him to bed at a reasonable hour.

3) Establishing day and night rhythms
Oh how cozy it is all warm and dark in the womb until suddenly and violently your baby has to come out to the real world! Mason had major day/night reversal issues for the first week or so after he was born. If you baby kicks a lot at night there is a good chance that is his awake period and that will continue out of the womb as well. During the day we would open all the blinds and would try to engage mason with stimulating activity and talking. At night we would close the blinds and dim the lights and started our bedtime routine. In less than a week the issue corrected itself!

4) Cry it out?
Beware! Controversial topic ahead! There are tons of books on sleeping and getting your baby to sleep through the night and various techniques on how to get your baby to sleep through the night. I’ll admit it I bought the babywise book. At four weeks I tried to get Mason on the strict babywise schedule of Eat, Activity, Sleep, You time and it be blunt it didn’t work for me at all. I might get the first couple of hours on schedule and then the whole day would be off and then the next and so on. I also tried the cry it out method but I was right there along with him definitely crying it out. However what did work for me as stated before was a bedtime routine and once he was around 3 months when I knew for certain he was tired I would lay him down. If he cried I started letting him cry for about 5 min then go in and shoosh him and pat/pick him up if his screams sounded like they originated from the bowels of hell. Then lay him back down and keep going in at 5,10,15 min increments. As he got older I increased the time slowly. This method for me seemed to work however an infant below 2-3 months of age is not neurologically capable of self-soothing and the cry it out method will not work.

5) Sound machine
We were skeptical at first but many friends told us that they thought that the white noise of the sound machine helped get their little ones asleep. At this point I would have spent a small fortune to get him to sleep. I broke down at Wal-mart one day and said what the hell. And don’t you know the damn thing worked. Now it didn’t get him to sleep through the night but it was helping him to sleep and stay asleep longer. Amen to that!

6) Know your babies sleep signs!
This is key. Like I said before an overly tired baby and if your baby is already crying its too late. When Mason is tired he usually likes to rub his head on things, rub his eyes, yawn, his arm and legs movements tend to get jerkier, and he tends to become less engaged in activity. There are some good videos on YouTube on sleep signs for babies.

7) Cluster feeding hell
Your nipples are sore from your little one constantly wanting to eat for short bouts of time and every time your baby eats she falls asleep! Sleep and feedings are intimately related in infancy however when feeding your infant try to tickle your babies feet, shake their legs, and talk to your baby and try to keep them awake during feedings for a full belly and hopefully longer nap!

8) Earlier transition to crib

Mason started sleeping in his crib around 1.5 months old. He was outgrowing his bedside bassinet but it also helped with his sleeping to be in his own bed in his own room. For one, I wasn’t waking up every time he’d make the smallest peep and a lot of time if he did wake up he would soothe himself back to sleep by the time I got up to get him. I think sleeping separately helped him with self soothing and independence in his own bed. However, I know many parents choose to co-sleep and that is an individual family decision.

9) Utilize your partner!

Welcome to mommyhood Dairy Queen! Even if you are breastfeeding take help if your partner or family and take a night off. Make bottles ahead of time or pump if you need to and take a break. Sometimes you do everything right and you baby will still wake up screaming and you’re going to need a break Momma.

Good Luck all you exhausted mommas and papas out there! Keep your hopes up because one night your little one WILL fall asleep and sleep through the night. Mason one night when he was around 3.5-4 months just all of a sudden started sleeping through the night and has ever since. My husband and I like to think we had some part in that but I think Mason is the real mastermind behind all of it.

0

Pre-baby vs Post-baby Life…Sh*t just got real

Image

Pre-baby Hair: I have my highlight and color appointment booked 6 months in advance. Nothing gets between me and this perfectly coifed mane

Post-baby Hair: No that’s not mousse that’s spit-up….from yesterday

Pre-baby bathing: I think I’m going to take a bath and read a book while sipping some wine
Post-baby bathing: Includes either showering with the monitor next to the shower or with said baby in bassinet outside of shower. Peek-a-boo with the shower curtain is a must. Damn it I forgot to shave an entire leg.

Pre-baby Saturday Nights: My heels and I are getting drinks at last call while contemplating what’s next on agenda!
Post-baby Saturday night: My slippers and I are up making a bottle. What’s next on the agenda? A 3am Feeding…..

Pre-baby Drinking: Shots!Shots!Shots!
Post-baby Drinking: The only thing I’m binging on is Netflix marathons. How many episodes of House of Cards can I watch before the baby wakes up again?

Pre-baby accessorizing: My whole outfit is perfectly accessorized from my Jack Rogers to my Lilly croakies
Post-baby accessorizing: What can I wear with my Baby Bjorn without dying from a heat stroke

Pre-baby working out: I have to train every day for that half marathon this fall!
Post-baby working out: I’ve been up since 3am when this kid goes down for a nap I’m running straight to bed

Pre-baby TV line-up: I’m up on the latest world news and have Orange is the New black and True Blood recording as we speak
Post-baby TV line-up: I can’t get that damn “Hot Diggity Dog” song out of my head from Mickey Mouse club house marathon this morning

Pre-baby restaurant problems: You get upset when a crying baby is interrupting happy hour before your enjoy your dinner
Post-baby restaurant problems: You can’t believe it when the restaurant you’re at does not have car seat slings

Pre-baby Parties: Cocktail parties in that little black dress you bought yesterday. All that running is paying off!
Post-baby Parties: You’re invited to every kid’s birthday party from here to kingdom come. It’s funny when someone announces they smell poop and every mother at the party grabs their child for the “sniff and peek test”

Pre-baby Pinterest pins: You pin everything you can find on beauty, hair, workouts and cute appetizers for your next cocktail party!
Post-baby Pinterest pins: Search all of Pinterest for any information on how to get your kid to sleep through the night….and really we wont limit it to Pinterest or blogs. You’ve already researched the internet in entirety.

Pre-baby Life: Perfection is key from your west elm apartment to your perfectly manicured nails
Post-baby Life: You realize there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. So you can’t sweat the small stuff because there is literally not enough time in the day to worry about everything. And though there are a lot of stressors that come with family life there are also a lot more sweet moments. Enjoy each and every day because they grow up so fast!

0

My dirty little secret

imageOnce my husband had returned from deployment we were not “not trying” to get pregnant. We were both in our late twenties and had been married for three years and most of our friends were either pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Just a few weeks after zach’s return from Afghanistan we found out we were pregnant. I was elated at first.

But here is my secret…after the novelty of pregnancy wore off I had some major reservations and apprehension about having a baby. What the hell did we know about babies? Not a damn thing. I never even babysat! Zach had just returned from a 9 month deployment and we were still trying to get aquainted after a long, hard deployment. The extent of my baby knowledge stemmed from what I learned in physcial therapy school. So I could tell you by what month does baby walk, crawl, roll and all the gross motor milestones but ask me to change a diaper or make a bottle?! Everyone kept telling me, “your mommy instinct will just kick in”. But what if it didn’t?!

You do not need to hang out with me long to know that I am as laid back as it comes. This laid back “type B” personality is a blessing and a curse. Not much ruffles my feathers but my laid back personality usually results in procrastination and passiveness. I had enough difficulty keeping up with my own appointments and responsibilities, how was I supposed to be a primary caregiver to something so fragile and helpless.

Another apprehension was losing control of my body and body image. I had worked three long years to lose over 50 pounds. I was finally at a place were I felt pretty again. I knew that stretch marks, excess weight, and hormonal changes were a likely possibility in my near future. And as vain as it sounds it was truth.

This was my secret. Behind the smiles and words of excitement I was utterly terrified. No one wanted to hear that. If I would bring up any apprehension most people would either ignore or dismiss my reservations. Was I ready to give up most of my social life? Was I ready for sleepless nights? And what about my career and work life? Would the stress of a baby affect my marriage?

So speed up the clock and Mason is here. I am still utterly terrified but there is something different as well. I have never felt so much love in my life. I would look at Mason and I could feel my heart swell. I have never felt such a pull to protect and love something so much in my life. I found myself  watching him sleep in utter disblief that he is mine and how how perfect he is. I was so completely exhausted from labor but I did not want to miss one sweet breath from my little one. And the strange thing I feel like I’ve been waiting for him my whole life. Like fate had been preparing me for the moment of becoming his mom. All the pieces fell into place just like everyone had said they would. I still didn’t know how to change a diaper or how to breastfeed or make a bottle but as a family we would figure it out. Mason would look at me with his big brown eyes and know that I would love him forever and we’d be okay.

Life is different know. My bedtime is usually closer to 8:30pm rather than 1:30am. I find more enjoyment buying baby clothes than buying dresses, shoes, and purses for myself. My saturday nights consist of Mason’s bath at 5 followed by bedtime stories, kisses goodnight, and watching some red box movie with Zach while I sip on some wine before I pass out. My priorities have changed and where I used to be #1 someone more special and deserving has taken my place. Things have not changed in that fact as I’m still learning as I go but I’m not scared anymore. I know that God has blessed me with privelage of being Mason’s mom. I might not know it all but I know what matters most and he calls me mom.

image