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Going Dairy-Free for My Baby: Guest Post from Vanessa

by Dawn on March 30, 2009
category: 0 – 1 year (baby),Feeding,Guest Posts

Vanessa is the mother of two children, a boy and a girl. I’ve known her for 8 years and I find her fascinating, talented, and devoted to everything she loves. You can catch more of her stories on motherhood at It’s Called Guilt.

“I’d do anything for my kids!” We repeat this motherhood mantra over and over. For some of us, it’ll mean giving up a much-needed vacation so Junior can go to soccer camp. For others, it’ll be piano lessons instead of a plasma TV. Whatever the sacrifice, we’re glad to do it…mostly.

My turn at sacrificing came in December when my daughter was just three months old. Our little one had had troubles from early on. She continued to plateau on her weight even after we remedied tongue-tie, colic, and an oversupply of breastmilk. One poopy diaper revealed the harsh truth: baby girl is allergic to milk (and possibly soy) protein. The pediatrician came in with the news and my alternatives — put baby on formula or start a dairy-free, soy-free diet.

My first reaction was, “Okay! Bring on the formula!” But the more I thought about it, the more the mantra replayed itself in my mind. I knew I had to give this new meal plan a try. That first day I hunted around my house, looking for something, ANYTHING I could eat. I didn’t come up with much.

But for the last three months, I’ve devoted myself to learning about “hidden dairy” ingredients, finding new recipes, and investigating every morsel of food that touches my lips. I can’t say it’s been easy. I have dreams about accidentally ingesting ‘contaminated’ bread. I go to restaurants only to learn I can order a garden salad with no croutons and oil & vinegar for dressing, or else mandarin orange slices. That’s all.

I miss cheesecake. And ice cream. And getting to eat whatever I want without thinking about it. But I’ve learned discipline through it all. I don’t think I ever could have done this just for me. But for my baby? That’s another story altogether.

By Christmas everyone said she was a different baby. Gone were the days of one hour fine, one hour in pain, one hour of sleep, and repeat. Her smile now lasts throughout the day. That’s the silver lining in all of this. That and the weight that’s just sliding off. Hey – it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

How have allergies affected your family? Have there been other sacrifices you’ve had to make as a mom?

Entertaining Your Pre-Schooler: Guest Post from Kristi D.

by Dawn on March 23, 2009
category: 3 – 5 years (preschooler),Fun time & Toys,Guest Posts

tmckristi-d.JPG Kristi is the mom of three wonderful children and a personal trainer to strong, beautiful women and one reluctant husband.   

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The preschool age is one of my favorite stages.  Children 3 ½   – 5 ½  are eager to learn, have a blast while learning, don’t think they know more than you (unlike my 7 year old), and say some of the funniest things while learning and playing.  Children this age love to be entertained and kept busy.  I searched for some simple ways to keep my 4 ½  year old entertained after my son was born.  I also used these ideas during my pregnancy when I was feeling like a beached whale and not like a mom with enough energy to chase my 4 year old around the park.

Water Fun 

Rain boots proved to be one of the best gifts my daughter received for her 5th birthday.  It wasn’t my idea - she actually requested them herself.  When we get rain, she can’t wait to put on her pink cat rain boots and go splash in the puddles.  If it doesn’t rain often in your area, another idea would be to make your own rain with a hose.

One of my daughter’s favorite activities is playing with toys in the bathroom sink.  This requires more supervision than I previously expected – I found that out the hard way after daddy had been watching the kids.  I came home to find Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, and the rest of the DP Barbie gang with Windex (“hairspray”) in their hair.

Art

I have never met a child who didn’t enjoy art projects.  The main issue I have is my daughter raiding the arts and crafts cabinet and leaving everything in a complete disaster. She comes up with some interesting creations, like pom-poms glued to craft foam with red glitter glue.  If the mess doesn’t irritate you, allowing your child to do their crafts from their own craft box can be a fun idea.

A great craft to do together is finger painting. It’s super messy, but if the weather is nice you can always take the paint outdoors.

If your child is old enough, buy a white board and dry erase markers.  My kids love to sit and doodle on their white board.  It can also be a helpful tool in teaching them numbers, letters, writing, and reading.

Technology

Computer games, music on an iPod or CD, TV shows and DVDs designed for pre-k ages are all fun in moderation.  I find that these are the most addicting forms of entertainment.  When my kids are grounded from their favorite TV shows or games, they get really cranky.  Growing up, all we had was “Sesame Street”.  Our kids are fortunate to have a wide variety of technology to help them learn.

Imagination

Has your child ever told you, “Not right now, Mom, I’m using my imagination”?  I thought it was hilarious the first time my son told me that.  Encourage your little one to use their imagination often.  Providing an array of dress up clothes is one of the easiest ways to spark their imagination and keep them busy.  You will both have a good laugh in the process!

Playing outside is a great outlet for children.  Sidewalk chalk, kid-sized garden tools, sandboxes, ride-on toys and balls comprise our outdoor collection.  I often hear jaguars, monkeys, and aliens playing in our back yard.
  
What are some of the things you do to keep your preschooler entertained?  What captivates their attention?

Finding Simplicity: Guest Post by Jennifer C.

by Dawn on March 20, 2009
category: Guest Posts,Practical Tips

Jennifer is wife to a sweet, Midwestern man and mom to 3 boys and one girl (ages 7, 5, 4, and 4 months).  When she’s not folding yet another load of laundry, she’s driving a minivan, fixing meals her kids won’t eat, snuggling with the baby, and wishing for a few glorious moments in her craft room.  You can read more about her life on her blog Beauty Instead of Ashes.

Webster defines simplicity as “the state of being simple, uncomplicated.”  As I read this definition I immediately think, “Can a mom of young children ever get to this state?”   With little kids running around, life often times seem the exact opposite: complicated.  Although achieving simplicity in my home often seems as unlikely as me climbing Mt. Everest, it is still something that I strive for.  I have been a mother for a little over seven years now, and in the last couple of years I have really begun to understand that “less is more.”  I have searched for ways to simplify my home, and I have come across some really great ideas that I have tweaked to fit my family’s needs.   These are very practical, low or no-cost ideas that I hope you might find useful as well:

1. Simplifying school paperwork.
This year, three of my four kids are in school.  My oldest is in first grade, and my second and third are in preschool.  At the beginning of the year I was literally drowning in school paperwork.  It would all end up in a pile on the counter, and eventually I would go through it.  It was a mess that I hated to see on my countertop and I knew I needed to find a better system.  Clipboards have saved my life from being overtaken by paper!

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I saw these on another blog and immediately knew they were what I was looking for.  All I did was buy one clipboard per child (about two bucks each).  I painted them, added a couple coats of Mod Podge, attached some ribbon and hung them on my refrigerator with 3mm hooks.  Now when school papers come home, I immediately toss what I don’t need and hang up what I do on the clipboard.  I also use them to display the kids’ artwork.  I originally saw them hanging above a desk area, but the refrigerator made more sense for me.  I used paint, but you could also Mod Podge scrapbook paper.  These clipboards can be used for any household paperwork.  It is a truly simple idea that has been a tremendous help!

2. Simplifying the bedmaking routine.
Miss Manners may not approve of this one, but I am a fan of only using the fitted sheet on my kids’ beds.  This all began a few years ago when I wanted my oldest to learn how to make his bed.  He could do just about everything, but he always had a hard time smoothing out the top sheet.  A light bulb went off one day when I asked myself why we even needed the top sheet?  So, we took it off.  Making his bed became so much simpler!  I took the top sheets off of all the kids’ beds.  I will eventually put them back on when they are old enough and able to smooth and tuck in the top sheet, but for now this has definitely helped to make the morning routine simpler!

3. Simplifying your cleaning.
How?  With one simple product: white vinegar.  Some of you may already know the many uses of vinegar, but I just learned about this in the last year.  You can clean so many things with vinegar, and a large container costs less than $2.50!  Here are a few ways to use vinegar:

  • As a fabric softener:  1/4 cup in your rinse cycle softens your clothes and gets rid of any unpleasant odors.  If your towels have started to have that yucky, mildew smell, vinegar will take care of it.  Everyone always asks, “But will my clothes smell like vinegar?”  No, vinegar is odorless when it dries. 
  • As a glass and surface cleaner:  Equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle make a great cleaner.  Vinegar does a much better job than a store-bought glass cleaner for a fraction of the cost. 
  • As a hard water remover:  If your coffee pot is running slow, it is probably hard water buildup.  Run equal parts water and vinegar through the pot, and the hard water buildup will disappear.  Spray straight vinegar onto tile or any other surface with hard water build up.  Let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe with a sponge.
  • As a carpet cleaner:  I use the same spray bottle of vinegar that I use to clean glass to spot clean my carpets.  You avoid the problem of dirt sticking to the soap based carpet cleaning product which just causes another stain to appear.

These are just a few things that have helped me in my quest towards simplicity.  I am still searching for good ideas to help simplify the toys.  Do you have any to share?  I would love to hear them.  Happy simplifying!

My Boys Share a Room and Love It! A Guest Post from Jennifer S.

dsc03312-1.JPG Jennifer is a stay-at-home mom to two great boys: Bailey (age 6) and Riley (age 5), and wife to her wonderful husband of 10 years.  She enjoys scrapbooking, reading, going to her discipleship group, and endlessly discussing Star Wars with her children.

When my family moved to a new city 3 years ago, we lived in a 2-bedroom apartment for six months.  We had no choice but to have our 3 1/2 year old and 20-month old sons share a room.  It worked out fine at first, but after a few weeks, they realized, “Hey, we are in a room together with our bed and crib very close to each other.  Let’s party all night!”  This culminated with our son climbing out of his crib for the first time at 23 months and making a regular habit out of it.  My husband and I ended up taking turns sitting in their room at night, trying to make sure they did not interact with one another.  This often took awhile and cut into our own time together at night.  We were very excited to finally move into our house and give each boy his own room.

brroom.jpg After we had been in the house for about 18 months, my oldest son was sick with strep throat one night.  My youngest son, then 3, wanted to sleep in the room with my sick, older child.  We pulled out the trundle under my 5-year old’s bed.  They ended up sleeping that way for a week before we finally asked the two of them if they wanted to share a room.  We got an enthusiastic “yes!” from both of them.  It has been 16 months now, and our arrangement is still working great. 

Some of the things we love about our children sharing a room are:

  • They are so darn cute together!  We have caught them many mornings scrunched together in one bed playing their hand-held games or reading books.  Often times at night, we hear them talking softly to each other before they fall asleep.  My hope is that this will start them on the road to a lasting friendship and brotherhood.  I know many grown-up people who have a hostile relationship or no relationship at all with their siblings.  It saddens me to think of my children’s relationship turning out this way.
  • It has helped them be more considerate to each other.  They are also more willing to compromise.  If one of them gets hurt, is crying, or needs something after we have put them to bed, the other one will come get us and make sure we attend to the distraught.  Most nights, they will fight over who gets to sit by the spout in the tub if we are bathing them together.  I was shocked the other night to see my youngest sit against the back of the tub and say, “You can sit by the water tonight and I can sit there tomorrow,” to which my older son nodded his head and hugged his brother.  And one day last week, my youngest was playing with a toy that his older brother got for Christmas.  My older son saw this, and instead of snatching it away with a subsequent physical fight, said, “That’s okay, Riley.  You can have it.”  He actually gave it to him to keep!
  • We now have an extra bedroom to use as a playroom.  Their toys are in the back of the house and the clutter is contained for the most part.  They like having a space where they can set up their superheroes on the ground and they can leave them up to play with the next day.  We just shut the door and they come back to it in the morning.

My boys have definitely gotten along better in the past 16 months.  I don’t know if this is from sharing a room or the fact that they are just getting older, or both.  Someday they may decide that they need or want their own space again, and that will be fine.  But for now, I see bunk beds in our future – and the argument over who will get to sleep on the top bunk!

Do your children share a room?  Does this improve their relationship or make it more challenging? 

6 MORE Truths about Pregnancy & Motherhood that Nobody Tells You: Guest Post from Homemaker Barbi

by Dawn on March 17, 2009
category: Cool websites,Guest Posts,Inspiration,Pregnancy

Danelle “Barbi” Ice is a problogger and the founder/editor of HomemakerBarbi.com, an online Home & How-To magazine with free resources specializing in homemaking, parenting, frugal living, and family life.  If you liked this article, visit Homemaker Barbi!

preggyshirt.jpg New moms wonder about a lot of things as they experience pregnancy, from losing baby weight to pregnant body image.  What you’re most curious about – the weird, funny questions and deep, dark feelings – are what we’re not afraid to talk about.  If you missed yesterday’s 6 truths about pregnancy and motherhood, go read it first.

Below, we’re giving you 6 more truths you don’t have to wonder about anymore!

1.  It’s okay to wear your maternity clothes before you need them just so people will know you’re pregnant.  It’s completely normal to wish you were showing the day you find out the news!  Before you start to show, you walk around feeling different and pregnant, but to the rest of the world you look exactly the same.  If you’re excited for your new maternity clothes and really want people to know your news, by all means – pack away your pre-pregnancy clothes and go maternity now.

2.  Pregnancy tees with funny sayings are A-OK!  Celebrities are wearing them these days, even dads are wearing them.  Shirts that have funny pictures and sayings about pregnancy are all the rage.  2chix.com has “Bun in the oven”, “What’s kickin?”, “It’s a girl”, “Pregzilla”, “You had me at epidural”, and the list goes on and on.  More and more moms want to show off their pregnancies with baby bump t-shirts that advertise the joyous news.  Will you get weird looks and comments from some childless people?  Yes, but who cares!  Enjoy your pregnancy any way you want to – these shirts are a definite “Do”!

3.  Be balanced about baby talk or risk burning out others.  While some husbands and relatives will be just as consumed with thinking about and talking about the baby as you are, keep a balance.  The baby is in you, growing, moving, changing your habits, and with you everywhere you go, every minute.  It’s natural that your thinking will be focused on baby-related talk much of the time.

Please keep this in mind: your husband, friends, and family members are excited about the baby too, but they still love the pre-pregnancy you as well.  It doesn’t have to be baby talk 24/7!  Every once in a while, it’s okay to call up girlfriends and chat about this week’s episode of Lost.  Have a romantic dinner date with your hubby in which you talk about dreams, stories, and interests not centered on the baby.  You can still be the woman he fell in love with, dreams about, and lusts after too – not shifted into the role of mommy and baby-maker 100% of the time!

4.  Breastfeeding is not for every mom.  If you can’t breastfeed, don’t feel guilty.  If you don’t want to, don’t feel bad.  Own your decision and do not listen to unsolicited recommendations from your friends or family.  The decision to breastfeed or not is yours alone; it’s your body and only you have to feel comfortable with what you do.

5.  Not every woman adjusts to motherhood quickly after her first baby is born.  Some women shift into “mommy mode” during pregnancy.  However, others may still not be used to their new role for several months after giving birth.  Give it time and don’t feel bad if it doesn’t come to you naturally right away.  Your new role is a major life change, and it will grow on you with time and experience, so don’t worry!

6.  It is natural to be proud of your pregnant body one minute, and self-conscious the next.  If you’re 7 months pregnant, feel as big as a house (I did), and uncomfortable, it’s hard to feel beautiful and attractive 100% of the time.  Your thoughts may vary wildly, from proud and wanting to show off that baby bump to wishing for your skinny pre-pregnancy body back.

When I was pregnant, I could walk through a store feeling big and proud, until I saw a beautiful (non-pregnant) woman walk by, wearing a stylish (non-maternity) outfit.  Instantly, I’d have a desperate longing for my regular body back, I’d feel large and un-pretty, and feel a little out of place.

While not enjoyable, this body image flip-flop is completely normal!  Your body image in your mind is the picture of how you envision yourself.  For most of us, that picture is how we’ve looked for most of our lives, not the way we look now that we’re pregnant.  It can be hard for the brain to reconcile the discrepancy between those two images during pregnancy.  Focus on the end result: a beautiful baby, an addition to your family, and your non-pregnant body back when it’s all said and done!

If you liked the 12 pregnancy truths, be sure to subscribe to Homemaker Barbi’s RSS feed and The Mom Crowd’s RSS feed for more articles about motherhood!

Photo courtesy of stock.exchange. 

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