That Time I Got My Kid High (On Accident, Y’all)

I hate croup.

I hate it.

Seriously. It’s scary. It’s scary to have it (I get adult croup sometimes, and it’s awful, especially paired up with my asthma), and it’s scary to watch someone else endure it.

But it’s terrifying to watch your child wheeze for breath, especially when you don’t KNOW that’s what it is.

Jo has been miserable with tonsillitis for about two weeks now, and the doctor confirmed it was not strep last week, so we were just pushing through with ibuprofen and frozen GoGurts.

So last night, when I was working on sorting through our pictures from our Disney trip in May and heard a cry from upstairs, followed by gagging and barking sounds, I RAN up to her room.

She was wheezing and gagging, and I thought maybe her tonsils were so swollen that it was causing this. Scared me half to death.

First I grabbed my nebulizer and gave her an albuterol breathing treatment. I didn’t want to get in the car without knowing she could breathe on our drive.

Then I grabbed our stuff and went straight to CHOA (at Egleston) in Atlanta. There was no way I could go back to sleep unaware if she’d be breathing, and since I had given her an adult dosage of albuterol (whoops), the girl was wide awake and…well…high as kite.

I was not prepared, you guys. Now that I’ve gotten past the scare, I cannot quit laughing.

I’ve taken albuterol, and all it has ever done (ya know, besides SAVE MY LIFE) is make me jittery and a little shakey. I have never before experienced what Jo did. But then, I pretty much always take an amount that’s appropriate for my size.

And, as it turns out, when you take a grown up dose at 5 years old, it can have all kinds of wacko side effects. Thankfully, it just made her hyper and chatty. And hilarious.

She spoke in her hoarse voice ALL THE WAY to Atlanta.

Here is a sample:

Jo: Mom, what IS that? Are those fireworks??

Me: There are no fireworks tonight, baby.

Jo: But what are THOSE?

Me: Those? The lights in front of us?

Jo: Yeah!

Me: Those are tail lights from cars and traffic lights.

Jo: Whoooaa, they’re so beautiful!

Jo: But what are THOSE lights?? The purple ones?

Me: Um…there are no purple lights, Jo.

Jo: Yes, there are! There, through the trees, see?

Me: (Looks at trees. See white lights.) I just see white lights from buildings.

Jo: No! It’s purple! LOOK! There’s some!

Me: (looks again. Nope. Realizes suspicion that child is totally high is correct and also that I caused it. Decides to hold onto memory as “something to laugh about later” because, whatever, she’s BREATHING now, and better a little temporary high and ALIVE than wheezing, amiright?)

Me: Sure, Jo. I see the “purple lights.” That’s a McDonald’s. It’s a restaurant.

Jo: (Satisfied. Moves on to next topic about cars and how she can’t believe anyone else is on the road that late (it’s 1AM at this point) and starts making up stories about the people around us.)

~15 minutes of non-stop five year old, medicated discussion later~

Jo: I wonder why I can’t quit talking! (then continues talking)

Just so you know, I did tell every nurse we saw and the doctor (and even the lady at the front desk) that she was “kinda high” on albuterol, and none of THEM hauled me off to the cop in the waiting room, so lest you question my parenting skills, let me say this:

  1. I don’t condone getting your kid high for entertainment.
  2. I do condone giving your child life-saving medication if they need it, even if it has some coo-coo side effects.
  3. I don’t think you’re a bad parent for finding something to laugh about when you’re scared out of your mind racing your precious child to the hospital, unsure of if they have croup or something more serious like asthma or a tonsillectomy ahead of them.
  4. Even the doctor and nurses laughed.

Now that the disclaimer has been covered, feel free to laugh (and not call the authorities on me). That stuff was bananas. The child saw purple lights that weren’t there and said tail lights were “whoa, so beautiful” like a female Keanu Reeves, for crying out loud. HA. Oh Josey.

Waiting to see a doctor. The Pigment app is great for kids her age when you need to pass the time!

All said and done, I am beyond grateful it was such a small issue and not serious. Even before we saw the doctor, she looked SO much better.

And we were back home and in bed by 5:50AM.

Next up, I’ll get to find out what nonsense comes out of MY mouth when trying to do the things and make the words on such little sleep. If you see me, and I sound a little bonkers, feel free to pour some coffee down my throat and send me on my way.

~Meghan

Parents of Strong-Willed Children, Welcome to Your Support Group

Today was a very long day for our very strong willed threenager.

(Side note: she was born strong willed. Being a threenager is in ADDITION to that, not the cause of it, lest you simply dismiss this post because she is “being three.”)

There was back talk and toy throwing and disobedience and discipline. It is hard. I love having fun with my kids, and I hate when that fun comes to an end because I have to handle behavior issues- especially when it’s the same thing again and again.

But that wasn’t all there was today. There were tears and apologies. There was her little voice explaining, “I just got so FWUSTWATED!” There were hugs and forgiveness and kisses and reminders that I love her “so much, all the time, forever and always, no matter what.” And that the only reason I discipline is BECAUSE I care- because if I wasn’t interested in her having a good life, I would just let her do whatever she wanted. And there were snuggles and “mama, can I sit in your lap” and reading book after book before bed. And bedtime is where I am the last face she sees at the end of the day as I cuddle her close and hear her prayers, her favorite things about the day, her voice saying “Mama, can I talk to you?” when she has one more thing to discuss, seeing her big blue eyes, and her still sucking her thumb and snuggling her panda. I get to take in her sweet face as I blow her one last kiss from the door and whisper one more “I love you, sweet dreams!” before I shut the door on my way to her big sister’s room to do the same sweet bedtime routine again.

Parenting a strong willed child is kind of like moving a mountain one shovelful at a time. It’s monumental and time consuming and exhausting, and sometimes you wonder if you’re even getting anywhere with all of that effort.

But that isn’t all it is.

It’s also love. Pure love. I marvel at her the way one marvels at a storm on an ocean- strong and fierce and overwhelming at times, but you don’t cease to love the ocean just because it isn’t always calm- you simply learn to navigate the storms. And I have found that her strong will means mine has to be even stronger, or I would be knocked over by the force of her. So I have become strong in new ways. I have to- because that’s what she needs in me. And there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her. She is worth it.

I’m as tired and as happy as I look, y’all. That is to say, a lot of both, when I get to pause for snuggles!

My husband looked at me tonight after we got the girls in bed and said, “today about killed me. I know you do this all the time. But it was so hard with her today.” I just said, “I know.” Because I do. But I also know we aren’t the only ones who can feel overwhelmed and like the only people we know dealing with this.

So for all you other parents of strong willed kids, when you are frustrated and feel like you are getting no where, when you feel like everyone is judging you and secretly worry that maybe they’re right about your parenting skills, when you simply don’t know what else to do because you’re already giving 100%….just hold on. Keep shoveling the mountain of strong willed behavior, bit by bit. Weather the storm. Whatever metaphor works for you- go with it. It’s ok to say it’s hard. To sweat or cry or scream into a pillow. You aren’t alone here.

And YOU were chosen for this child for a reason. They needed your fierce love and dedication. There is a reason they weren’t born to judgy-McJudgers over there giving you side eye. Hold your head up mom or dad- that parent couldn’t HANDLE your daily challenges. They either have forgotten what it’s like to be in your shoes or never had the experience of raising a force of nature in 3t form, so their opinion is about as valuable as dirt. We aren’t here to put on a show for anyone else’s approval anyway- we’re just over here, doing our level best by our kids. And some days that means a normal shopping trip where nothing goes wrong (because you now know to bribe them with slushies the minute you enter Target), and other days it means hugging the kid you spanked with one arm and the kid who took a Barbie to the face with the other (not to get specific or anything).

I remind myself (all the time, like a mantra) that this phase won’t last forever. It really won’t. So I’ll share the encouragement I have soaked up from mamas with grown kids:

Don’t give up on doing the hard work of teaching them while they are young and capable of being shaped– even if it feels like you’re chipping away at a mountain or simply trying to stay afloat in your own life, wondering how such a sweet toddler can turn your whole day on its head without a moment’s notice.

If we give it all we’ve got now, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to see them use that iron will to do something incredible or stand for something amazing in the future.

It’s usually the people who don’t back down who get things accomplished in this world, after all.

For now though, I’ll settle for less back talk, more hugs, and a glass of wine.

-Meghan

Dry Falls

A year or two ago, my sweet in-laws bought a little cabin in Dillard, Georgia, and we’ve all enjoyed visiting the mountains since.

Last weekend, we drove up to the cabin, and we decided to visit a waterfall the next day. Oddly enough, it was named Dry Falls.

We were hoping to go behind the falls, but the path was fenced off. At first, the girls were disappointed, especially Jo, but then they discovered rocks to throw, mud to splash in, and boulders to climb!

They also enjoyed taking some pictures, like mama.

It figures that Piper’s going to choose to be more like Daddy. Full on Daddy’s Girl Mode these days!

And, of course, everything is more fun with grandparents! MeMac even wore the homemade necklace Josey gave her for Valentine’s Day!

Overall, it was a wonderful, wet and muddy day! Dry Falls did not earn its name at all!

Thank you, MeMac and Popey for such a fun weekend!
~Meghan

Gallery Wall For The Design Commitment Phobes.

Taking a break from the series on recommended baby registry items, I wanted to share one thing that has changed in our house lately.

Turtle, Not Hare.

I am always a litte jealous of people who move into a house and make it look just like a home in a week. Their boxes are unpacked and frames on the walls, dishes washed and put away, and everything looking like it’s been there for a year.

That is not me.

Since we moved, I have put up very few items on the walls in our home. It isn’t that I don’t want to make our house reflect our personalities, but it’s that I am very PICKY about things that go up. Like a turtle that wins the race, I take my sweet time. Granted, it doesn’t make me feel like the winner. But it’s how I function.

Why? Because I don’t like punching holes in the wall unless I KNOW I want something there, and I want to do it right so that I don’t drive myself crazy with regretting how it looks or worry about it falling down on our kids.

I hate hanging curtains or pictures. I want it done perfectly, and perfect picture or curtain hanging is not something I have not mastered.

So what tends to happen is that I leave my walls blank for a while until I find several things that I really love and know I can commit to putting on my walls, then I call Lanier Mitchell, a sweet man from my hometown, who hangs curtains and artwork for a living, and I pay him to hang it all for me. He makes it look easy instead of like the pain in the rear it is when I do it.

So let’s get to it.

For years, I have looked at gallery walls online. I’ve pinned photos and tried to decide what my favorite layout would be. I’ve wondered where in my house I could possibly cover a wall in photos without having them knocked askew and smudged by dogs and children non-stop.

Then, we moved, and I started trying to figure this out again in a new house.

So when I saw this picture ledge from Ikea, I felt like I could put as many picture frames up high on a row or two of those as I could on entire wall with a gallery layout:

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The one I liked the most is the Mosslanda picture ledge from Ikea for only $10-$15 depending on the length.  You can see them here. 

This is a great item for people like me who want to put something up but not be stuck with a layout which they cannot change and that riddles their wall with holes.

Print what you want to preserve.

^That sentiment is one that my wedding photographer says a lot, and I agree with her. We live in an age where so many of our pictures are digital and stay that way. Tom and I have not been great about printing out or ordering pictures, and we tend to just let our shared pictures scroll on the television via Apple TV like a screensaver. I wanted more than that.

I love the idea of displaying both current photos and old family pictures of my grandparents and Tom’s when they were young. My grandparents and all but one of Tom’s have passed away, and being able to see their images and talk about them is something that matters to us. We want our girls to feel like they knew these wonderful people they missed out on and to know how fortunate they are to know the ones they have met.

And it happened. As soon as I brought the pictures, in, Piper asked me “who is that??” while pointing to a high school picture of my Papa. I told her, “he’s your Papa’s dad. MY Papa.” Her response? “I wish he could hold me.” Me too, baby girl.

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I also want to be able to show pictures of our little family.

So I ended up collecting frames for over a year. All different styles so it would look more organically collected (as it was) than as a set. Most were from consignment sales for a few dollars. I decided to paint them all white.

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And guess what? Turns out that even 3 cans of spray paint was not enough to cover them all without having some of the color underneath show through. Oh joy. I get to take some back down and repaint later.

So if you do this, I’d suggest a ridiculous amount of spray paint or simply using chalk paint instead. (Ignore the non-frame objects at the bottom of the picture. I’ll explain those in a later post.)

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I was going to let it dry overnight, but rain rolled in, so I brought them inside around 1AM, when I finished up what I was doing (which was wrapping 14 Christmas presents and an enormous birthday present).

But I am a night owl with a serious problem of staying up late when there is something crafty or pretty to work on. Instead of going to sleep, I started cleaning the frames up, reassembling them with mats, deciding which pictures go in which frames, and before I knew it, it was past 5AM. Because who needs sleep when you have two small children to care for all day? Oops.

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A short 4 and a half hours after I shared that picture, Mr. Lanier showed up to help us get some stuff on the walls, including my ledges. The wall was not perfectly flat, so the ledges don’t line up seamlessly. Because I know how good at his job he is, I could accept that without frustration. If it was me doing it, I would have kept trying uselessly to fix it until I had such an enormous hole in the wall, it wouldn’t hold the ledge at all. Ahh, the joy of giving the worst jobs to a pro.

So here is what it looked like when we got done (it may be a tad dark because I didn’t turn the hall light on, and it was cloudy outside, blocking some of the natural light):

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It’s not completely finished- there are some pictures that don’t properly fit their frames, some frames that need replacement glass, and I still don’t have any old pictures of Tom’s grandparents, so I will have to add more frames later when I do.

But that’s the great thing about this. I can change it, move things around, swap out pictures easily, update as the girls grow, even rotate pictures to go with the seasons. I’m considering the idea of draping it with a long, fresh cedar garland next Christmas. Can’t do that with a normal gallery wall! (Well, not without using more stuff to hold the garland.)

I love that these ledges are deep enough to hold multiple frames in the same space. Overlapping them is a look I like, and I’ve moved things around a bit since I took those pictures- it has frames 3 deep in some places now.

So was it expensive?

I hate the way money gets in the way of pretty. If resources were unlimited, I would go to town. But the reality is that we have bills and college to save for and want to pay off our mortgage, so sometimes (most times) decorating comes in low on the list. All the different pieces of a design project can add up. This project was fairly budget friendly though.

 I used 3 cans of spray paint, frames I already had and ones I bought consigned, 2 long ikea ledges, 4 short ikea ledges, and pictures that I got for free or on sale at Shutterfly (they had tons of freebies this fall, leaving me to only pay for shipping),  one picture that was given to me, and canvases I bought at canvaspeople.com on massive sales (they have those a lot). Other than what I paid to have the shelves installed, everything you’re looking at here totaled under $150.

That’s a lot of bang for a little buck, and it gave a big dose of personality to our house. It’s in the hallway off the foyer, which means that when you open our front door, you see this double row of mixed frames filled with pictures old and new.

Finding ways to get spaces that I like without killing the budget has become a must-do thing for me.

My family (the one I grew up in, not the one I’m raising) is a little weird this way: We all love a good deal and cannot keep it to ourselves. My mom likes to get a good deal and not tell you how much she saved, but my dad is the opposite- telling you how much he saved on what you wanted and received from him is almost as good as giving the gift itself. And my siblings and I fall somewhere in the middle.

I get so excited over a good deal, it’s kind of hard to not share the savings victory, even with the gift recipient. I have learned to not do that for most people (thanks, Mom!), though my sister and I pretty much always blab our savings to each other. (This blog lets me do a lifestyle version of that for my house!)

All that to say that my mom (and HGTV) taught me this pearl of wisdom- find out where you can save and where you can splurge- mix those items tastefully, and voila- it all comes off looking more expensive than it was.

If you can get cheap frames and paint them to look like you want, inexpensive but sturdy ledges on the cheap from ikea, and free or 90% off regular price pictures accumulated over a year, then you have successfully cut the cost of this project to about a third of what it would cost otherwise, which means you can splurge a little by having someone who gets everything just right come hang it all on the walls.

Trust me on this one- find good things for cheap, and put a little work into them so you can save your money for the things/services that never go on sale but that you desperately want. I’ve used this save/splurge mentality for Jo and Piper’s nurseries, big girl rooms for Jo and for Pipes, birthday parties, holidays, and more. It’s just a way of life now.

I’ve found that having a budget pushes me to be more creative. I have to find ways to mix what I’ve got and what I can make with what I purchase to create the beauty I want to see in my home in an affordable way. And I’m always prouder of something that stretches me that way than of something I can just buy.

Worth the wait.

Like I said, it took me a year to get here. Collecting inexpensive frames that I liked the look of took time. Other consignment shoppers would bypass a frame with potential in its pretty details because it was the wrong color or due to the boring or cheesy artwork inside it. I would pay a few bucks for it, rip the artwork out, pop out the mat, and spray the frame and mat a matching shade of white.

It also took time to acquire all the photos at a low cost. Freebies pop up on occassion, sales run all the time. I prefer free, of course, but sometimes a really great sale is also a good way to go.

End Result

It makes me so happy. Seriously, it’s hard for me to explain how much joy it gives me to FINALLY get a gallery wall after years of wanting one. And after a year of living in this house, we finally have some walls with personality! YES.

What do you think? Are you a picture ledge person or a gallery wall fan? I think they’re both beautiful, but I definitely love the flexibility these shelves gave me!

~Meghan

Baby Favorites Revisted (Months 1 and 2)

Back when I was a new mommy, I had other first time mama friends who were pregnant asking me what items I would recommend for them to add to their registry. I happily blogged about it, but now, with two kids and almost 5 years of motherhood under my belt, I feel better equipped to answer that question.

Years ago, I would break it up into what I used most during Jo’s first few months. I’m going to do a series of posts revisiting what I said then and revising it with what I would change or keep the same. I’ll link to the new items, and no, I don’t get any kick backs from this. I just can finally quit worrying that some old post is misguiding pregnant moms I’m friends with who’ve seen what I said back in the day.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on what I recommended for baby’s first and second months:

Diapering

  1. Diapers

Back then, I said Pampers Swaddlers.

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Verdict: Yes, I still recommend these. They worked well for both of our girls, and we stuck with Pampers during the day and Huggies for nighttime diapers once the girls got big enough to need a heavy duty diaper for all-night sleep.

They are more expensive than cheaper brands, but Piper had an allergic reaction to Target brand diapers, and I use Amazon Prime (free shipping), Amazon Subscribe and Save (5% off), and Amazon Mom (another 15% off) to get free shipping and 20% off my diapers and wipes every time.

2. Diaper Pail

Back then, I recommended the Safety First Easy Saver Diaper Pail.

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I liked it because it could use regular trash bags. At first, I thought it did a good job as a diaper pail because it was easy and because newborn diapers aren’t so stinky. But then your baby isn’t a newborn anymore, and this pail didn’t smell so great.

Verdict: I no longer recommend that but instead recommend the Munchkin Arm & Hammer diaper pail.

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(buy it here)

I’ve tried the ever popular diaper genie too, and it literally broke in under 6 months for me, and I hated the bags. The Munchkin pail was my 3rd pail and became my favorite with bags that were easier to use. I bought it with Josey and still use it with 2 and half year old Piper.

Here are the bags:

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(buy them here)

3. Diaper Bag

Back then, I recommended the Timi & Leslie Hannah bag.

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Verdict: I still recommend Timi & Leslie bags. Actually, this is currently the bag I am using, and people still think it’s a fancy pants bag because it has held up well and is huge and pretty. When I go to a smaller bag for diaper-free outings, I throw the smaller bag into whatever purse I’m switching to and am basically good to go.

I love that the compartments are able to keep a ton of stuff organized and the outside is basically waterproof and wipes clean easily. This bag has held up amazingly well and was worth the money. It was also less expensive than a designer bag like Coach or Louis Vuitton or Michael Kors in a comparable size.

The Hannah bag is discontinued, but their site has lots of beautiful options to pick from. Personally, I am loving the:

Dawn bag in caramel.

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The Marcelle bag in copper/saddle.

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And (my fave) the Rachel bag in caramel.

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Aren’t they pretty? And all $170 or less.

What about wipe warmers?

I never have used a diaper warmer. My sister did and loved it, and I didn’t and didn’t feel it affected my diapering experience other than to feel like I had one less item to keep clean. So that is going to be a personal preference item.

Nursing/Pumps (male readers, seriously, just skip reading 1 and 2.)

  1. Nursing Bras.

Back then, I said:

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Verdict: I don’t have anything against that bra, per se, but I have better suggestions long term. This one is good especially for your first week or two with your first baby since you don’t know how busty you’ll be when nursing and may want to wait to buy more expensive bras. But it has no padding and is ugly.

So long term, I recommend around the house and out on walks or at the park with baby to use a sports clip down bra with built in padding, like this one.

For regular outings, I suggest you get your regular bra in a larger size to accommodate your newly functional ta-tas. You already know you like that bra, and you can just push it down under your boob while you nurse.

For sleep, nursing nightgowns or nursing tanks paired with pj bottoms make life easier for middle of the night feedings and can still make you feel prettier than a junky old t-shirt (which, I admit, I still like to sleep in). Nursing tanks are also great under another top or cardigan for easy feeding while keeping your post baby torso covered up.

2. Nursing Pads.

Back then, I said:

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Verdict: I still prefer cloth pads to the plastic backed ones. You can get more air to your girls, and that means less chance of mastitis.

3. Nursing Pillows

Back then I said I like both the My Breast Friend Pillow and the Boppy Pillow.

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Verdict: I think they are both good options if you want some support while nursing. I probably used the pillows more with Jo than with Piper.

I think the Boppy is probably more versitile for use as a baby prop when baby is learning to sit up, or a prop under the armpits when baby is doing tummy time, especially for a baby with reflux.

The My Breast Friend is best for someone who nurses in places where the pillow is likely to get away from you if it isn’t wrapped around your back.

4. Breast Pump

Back then, I said I was using the Ameda Purely Yours Pump.

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Verdict: I now recommend the Medela Pump In Style. 

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(Find it here.)

As you can see, it comes in a bag, so that makes it easy to take with you if you need to, as many working or traveling moms do. It also comes with a cooler especially for transporting that liquid gold.

I pumped far more with Piper as I overproduced milk for the first several months. This was a great pump for me, and I do recommend it.

I should also mention that many insurance companies will buy or help buy breast pumps now, so you should look into that option when purchasing a pump. You may have to buy from a medical distributor to make it qualify, so check with your insurance company first.

5. Bottles

I didn’t post about this back then because I mostly nursed, but I did use some bottles when I used that pumped breastmilk (or the occassional formula for Piper since I had limited supply in the last couple of months nursing her), and the bottles I really loved were the Dr. Browns bottles.

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(find them here.)

They cut down on air swallowed during feedings, which means less gassy babies, and less fussiness. They also come in glass, in case you’re hoping to go plastic-free.

Bathtime

  1. Bathtub

Back then, I recommended the Fisher Price Ocean Wonders Deluxe Tub.

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Verdict: This tub was great for both of my girls. I found it easy to use and clean, secure on my kitchen sink or in the bathtub, and it easily hung to dry on a shower curtain rod.

2. Bath accessories

Back then, I recommended the Munchkin Shampoo Rinser.

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Verdict: I still recommend this for babies. Since it’s soft, not slippery, and holds plenty of water for a little one, it makes it easy to rinse the baby without hurting them with a hard, slippery cup. But once they get to be big babies, especially girls with long hair, I recommend using a big, cheap plastic pitcher. It holds way more water than a regular big cup, which makes it easier to rinse long hair or growing bodies clean.

3. Towels

Back then, I recommended hooded towels.

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Verdict: I still think they are cute and functional and love them. I wish it was more common for big kids too because the ones I’ve found for bigger kids are expensive, and my kids love them.

Naps and Bedtime

  1. Baby Blankets

Back then, the Halo brand was my favorite sleep blanket for babies. They also had an easy swaddler (shown below) for newborns.

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Verdict: After using these for both my girls, I still highly recommend them for crib use. They are safe for babies because they can’t kick these up onto their faces, and they are so easy to use and wash easily.

My girls wore these until about one and half years of age. A little less for Piper because she was a hot mess and kept trying to take them off and getting stuck with one arm out of them. I decided then to switch her to a regular blanket.

When you need a soft swaddle blanket or just something to throw over the straps when the baby  is strapped into a car seat or into a baby swing or vibrating seat, I really loved these Munchkin 100% Bamboo blankets:

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(Find them here.)

I was given some as a gift for Piper, and I loved them and ended up buying even more. They are less expensive than the Aden + Anais brand that is so popular, and these Munchkin sheets are SO soft- and get softer the more you wash them, and they’re a nice big size. They’re also light, so you aren’t making them sweat wearing it.

Now that my girls aren’t babies, they love to wrap their baby dolls in them, and I keep washing them so I have a clean baby blanket to offer friends who visit with their own little ones. I wouldn’t be surprised if some baby grows us to use them as a lovey, because they are that soft and are also beautiful!

2. Monitor

Back then, I recommended the Summer Infant Complete Coverage Video Monitoring System.

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Verdict: This worked great for us, but I recommend a newer system that connects to your devices via wi-fi and allows 2-way communication. That way, you can rotate the way the camera is facing with your device, zoom, and check on baby from anywhere. You can also speak to baby, which is especially useful when you’re trying to teach a toddler to stay down for nap when you convert from crib to toddler bed (or regular bed).

Travel

  1. Car Seat

Back then, I recommended the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat with base.

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Verdict: I loved this carseat. It held up well to a lot of use from both girls, and when we were done, it was still in good enough shape to give to some friends who had taken on foster parenting and needed an infant carrier. Highly recommend it!

2. Stroller

Back then, I recommended the B.O.B. Revolution SE.

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Verdict: This is an amazing stroller.

Tom used to run with this all the time, and I would regularly go on walks. It had an attachment for our Chicco Keyfit 30, and then when Jo was big enough, we let her sit in the seat. She was comfortable, and the ride was smooth. This stroller swivels on a dime, it was easy to navigate rough terrain or in a mall. We loved it.

Once we had Piper, we bought the Phil & Ted Navigator Stroller with a second seat. I bought this one because it was as narrow as a single stroller, allowing me to still navigate narrow areas without a double wide stroller to contend with.

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They have discontinued the Navigator and basically sell the same thing under the name “sport.”

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(Find it here.)

See? Basically the exact same thing with a new name.

The pro of this is that it still easily goes over most terrain with those wheels, the second seat is removable, and it is very slim compared to most double jogging strollers.

The cons are that it has not the greatest view for the kid in the back, it seems like for heavier kids (like my tall girls) the weight allowance is going to limit how old they can be riding (they would probably ride longer in the double B.O.B stroller where weight is more widely distributed, and the view would be improved too), and the extension at the bottom is more likely to hit your legs when jogging and annoy the kid in the back when you hang a bag from the handle.

So why did I pick that one? Because I am not a runner, and Jo likes to walk. I mostly would put her in the bottom seat in parking lots and in the mall where I needed to move faster. When we went to the greenway on walks, I would let her walk too, and I would have the second seat on just in case she fell and hurt herself or got tired (neither is uncommon on walks with little kids). It fit my lifestyle, but if I was a runner, I would have gotten the B.O.B. duallie.

3. Car Seat Cover

Back then, I recommended the JJ Cole Car Seat Cover.

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Verdict: While this is good for winter climates, in Georgia, there are more practical car seat covers. I recommend these car seat canopy covers that come in varieties for any taste. You can block wind with it as well as germy hands and faces that can’t resist baby otherwise.

Miscellaneous

  1. Pacifier

Back then, I recommended the Wubbanub.

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Verdict: These things are awesome. Josey loved them. But as she got older, she still wanted the plush animal, and the paci was for infants. I was finding myself sewing new pacifiers on that were age appropriate. So I bought Piper the Nookums Paci Plushies Panda:

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(Find it and a bunch of other animal here.)

They are great because you can easily swap out the pacifier from the ring for the right size as baby grows. Of course, Piper was a thumb sucker with no interest in pacis, just my luck, but she did happen to love looping her finger through the paci holder (sans paci), and she would hold it while she sucked her thumb.

She ended up being more attached to her panda than Jo was to any of her Wubs, and she still has to have it to sleep.

2. Baby Seat

Back then I recommended the Fisher Price Infant to Toddler Rocker.

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Verdict: Loved this seat and do recommend it still. In fact, I bought a second one when we had Piper.

We never used a swing because I was afraid the girls would not be able to sleep without one if we started, but we did have this vibrating baby rocker. And we had a baby with reflux- Pipes had to be upright for weeks when she was born. It was a big help when I needed to set her down for a minute to get showered or use the bathroom (anyone with a reflux riddled newborn knows the one place that baby wants to be constantly is on you).

I had one for upstairs and one for downstairs because that is how much I used it with her. Jo used it plenty, but she had no reflux issues, so laying her in the pack n play or crib was also an option early on. Piper couldn’t sleep unless she was upright.

Speaking of reflux, I wish I had tried the Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘n Play Sleeper.

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(Find it here.)

I didn’t find out about this until Piper was well adjusted to her medicine, but the friends who told me about it swore that it was the only thing that made their reflux babies sleep other than mama’s chest. I can’t pass up the chance to share that info, because if you think newborns and recovering from birth is exhausting (and it is!),  you will find a new meaning for the word when you have a newborn with reflux. And if I can help another mama get some sleep, I am all about it.

3. Play Mat

Back then, I recommended the Infantino Vintage Twist and Fold Activity Gym.

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Verdict: This is a yes. Josey loved it. Piper used it less thanks to the reflux, but she did like it when she used it. The thing is, tiny babies can’t do much, so this gives them some stimulation and something to look at and reach for and kick at. It’s good for them! I also like that this one is gender neutral so you can keep it through all your children.

And that FINALLY wraps up my revised review of baby items I recommended in 2012 for babies in months 1 and 2.  I hope this helps any new moms out there picking things for their registry with no clue where to start. I will be going back to revise my recommendations for the other blog posts I did for babies months 3-4 and 5-6 later, so check back!

And for any of you moms who bought things I recommended back in the day but don’t recommend now…sorry. I didn’t know what I didn’t know! Hopefully you’ve sorted it out since then!

~Meghan

Begin Again. Again.

Once upon a time, I blogged regularly. Then I had a kid, and it tapered off to nothing. Then I thought about blogging again but had another kid instead.

Eventually I decided that I could finally pick it up again, and I even wrote a post saying that I was going to start blogging again. That was in September 2015. I managed a few posts.

Guess what happened the next month? We bought a house.

It was half an hour from where we lived at the time, and I had a 3 year old and a 1 year old, and in one month I was packing our entire lives up, driving back and forth to ensure the sellers followed through on the terms (Yes, you do have to take that tree out- it is dead. No, you can’t convince me it probably won’t fall on the house because I have eyes and can see it leaning.), handling all the contractors (painters, movers, cleaners), and then doing the same thing for the house we were selling starting the day after we moved. Then put our previous home on the market and closed that sale within a month.

Then I got to experience unpacking an entire house with a 1 year old and 3 year old, and honestly, I was just freaking tired. There are still boxes that need to be unpacked. It is true.

But here I am, finding that I have *almost* kept my word to keep blogging about a hundred times…yet didn’t because I didn’t even know where to begin.

I felt like I should at least have before and after pictures to show of the “amazing transformation” I have done in the new house. But I can’t do that yet. Partly because I am still working on making it pretty and have practically refused to put anything on the walls yet because I don’t want to put holes into the wall until I know exactly what I want there, and partly because I didn’t think to take a before picture of our carpet to show how much cleaner it was before the McFarlin girls were unleashed on it, and let’s be honest, probably the most amazing thing that I’ve done to this home is watch the kids ruin the floors in record speed.

Seriously. It survived 20 years and about 6 kids from 2 different families before us, but one year with Jo and Pipes (and ok- some of it is my fault too because I saw someone using activated charcoal mixed with honey as a beauty ingredient and had to try it, and turns out that that stuff runs and does not come out of beige carpet so easily) and BAM- this house has never been so “lived in” before. Tom and I are looking into new flooring as a Christmas present to one another. Hello, adulthood.

So yeah. I didn’t have any pictures to show my hard work off, and I didn’t know how to be like “Hey, y’all. I moved. A year ago. It’s been busy.”

Turns out, that’s pretty much exactly what this blog post is. We moved. Life has been busy. I miss blogging. I miss feeling connected to the friends and family that used to follow along.

So I’m beginning again. Again.

~Meghan

ps- I have no plans to have another child or to move again anytime soon, so here’s hoping it sticks this time! *fingers crossed*

Beyond Understanding

I have thought of a thousand ways to start this post over the last year. None of them worked.

Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is just no good way to talk about anyone grieving the loss of a child. It is utter heartbreak, and words don’t do it justice.

How do you explain the soul-crushing pain, the mother who knows there is no hope, the father with tears in his eyes? How do you make someone understand the fact that from here on out, no family picture will be complete- someone always missing? How?

You can’t.

It’s especially hard to make anyone understand that grief in a culture where babies are not even valued as they should be, where people fight to have the right to let them go. How do you make someone understand the depth of longing we have for our babies, before they even enter this world?

You just can’t do it with words, sometimes.

I have lived this nightmare- both my own and that of others. A miscarriage of my own, but early on, so many don’t understand why it hurts. But it ripped off my blinders to the grief of that kind of loss. I TRULY did NOT understand the pain before I walked that road.

And it has taught me to tread lightly in the wake of others’ grief. It has also taught me the beauty of walking that dark road with someone. Because I needed other women who had been there to hold me up as I went through the loss, the making it public, the missing that baby every Christmas season when it should have had a birthday.

And so many women stood beside me. Phone calls and emails and blog comments to let me know they had stood where I stood, and survived and so would I. That my words were like an echo to them of their own exact thoughts.

And a few women said things without understanding- words that cut like a knife. They just couldn’t keep their opinions to themselves and cut my heart to ribbons with their thoughtlessness.

This has made me wary. Made me realize I too have likely hurt others out of my ignorance before I had felt this pain. Empty words and phrases that probably only made me feel better in a moment of someone else’s loss.

So I sit here, a year gone by, trying to carefully, thoughtfully gather the words and set the stage to talk about Ella.

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And I find the words still won’t come. There’s no nice and neat way to wrap up and introduce a story about grief because it doesn’t stop.

But I do feel I owe it to her. Partially because Ella had a big brother, Finn, whose story was the same. But it happened before I had gone down my own road of loss, and I most certainly said some of those phrases I now know were empty and unhelpful.

So here goes.

My friends Elizabeth and Austin have two beautiful boys, Will, and Emmett.

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I used to nanny Will. He’s six now.

When he was a baby, they got pregnant again, with Finn. I was excited for them! Another baby.

And at the 12 week check up, they got some horrible news. Finn was not going to make it. His lymphatic fluid was not draining properly. It would result in his death with very little chance of survival, and no surgery could fix this.

Elizabeth is a nurse in a pediatric private practice. With her growing belly, surrounded by babies, she faced the constant onslaught of questions about her pregnancy, and daily had to politely get through the conversations, knowing her pregnancy would end in grief. (Let me pause here to implore you never ask a woman about her pregnancy if she doesn’t bring it up herself- you never know what she is facing.)

One morning, I showed up to take care of Will, and I found Betty, Elizabeth’s mom, and JD, Elizabeth’s stepdad, there with them. They couldn’t find Finn’s heartbeat. The doctors confirmed- he was gone.

I offered to take some pictures of her belly for her. I will never forget furiously thinking to myself, “You will NOT cry and make this harder on her” as I took a picture of her swollen belly next to the Christmas tree- next to an ornament that said “Baby’s First Christmas.”

I still think about it every time I decorate a tree.

They left for the hospital, and I walked outside to the cool air, called Tom, and broke down crying. I had never been so close to the loss of a child. I had never seen it up close like this. It was worse than I had thought it would be.

They were told that they would probably never see this issue again. There were no genetic anomalies. It was a fluke.

At this point, a few months later, I got pregnant and had a miscarriage. I began to see that some of the things I had said to Elizabeth concerning her deep loss were probably useless and empty things.

The longer you carry and know your child, the deeper your attachment, and therefore, the deeper your pain if you lose your baby. And I lost my baby early. I cannot fathom loss at 5 months, at birth, or after. Somehow, she let me call her and cry to her about all I was feeling. She never compared, never made me feel like mine was not what it was- a lost child.

Not long after, I got pregnant with Josey, Will was turning two and about to start preschool, I was very nauseated, and we all decided it was a good time for me to exit nannying for them as I would be a stay at home mom in a few months anyway.

Then, they got pregnant again. They had Emmett, a healthy baby boy. He’s 3 now. The doctors seemed to be right- Finn’s condition had been a fluke.

Elizabeth and Austin got pregnant again. This time, they wanted to have a girl. They were excited and hopeful.

Austin contacted me to say he wanted to surprise Elizabeth with a gift of a photo session. He wanted to hire me to give her a maternity session and newborn session. I was excited to do it.

But then, at twelve weeks, the doctors gave them those crushing words that the same thing that happened to Finn was happening to their fourth child. And that this time it was happening more rapidly. And also, yes, they were having a girl.

The doctors must have been wrong after all. Not a fluke. Just a rare issue that little is known about, with no obvious markers to show it might happen again.

I don’t know how to describe to you how Austin and Elizabeth handled it. They were more open this time, telling the world what they were facing, asking for prayer.

They grieved, they cried, they asked for a miracle. They let it all in- the pain, the slim hope, the friends who wanted to love on them.

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It became more obvious that Ella- named after her mother and grandmother- was not going to make it after all.

I called Elizabeth and told her of the gift Austin wanted to give her. He had never mentioned it, she told me. I told her I wanted it to be my gift to them- a maternity session while Ella lived inside her.

When I got to Betty and JD’s lakehouse that morning, I sat with Austin, took one look into his eyes, and promptly started to cry. I cannot look at a man fighting back tears and hold it together, no matter how unfair that is to them.

We talked about all they were going through. I told him how it doesn’t seem right that the same couple should have to endure this twice.

He told me how it hurts every bit as much this time around, but that there is more peace this time. More searching for God in the grief. Letting themselves grieve all along was better than waiting.

And how some friends were even coming to see that there was a kind of inexplicable peace they were showing even in the midst of the deep, deep pain. Why? How could they get up in the morning and face the day? It opened doors to discuss God and what it means to face the worst this world offers when you know that there is a promise of something better and more to come- a life after this world.

Or, as the bible calls it, a peace that surpasses understanding. It doesn’t soften your pain. The pain of loss is sharp and cruel- the very nature of living in this world is knowing you’ll encounter it eventually. We all understand and dread this. We prefer not to think of it until we have to, until the day it comes to our door.

But this peace is what trumps understanding. It makes no sense to a watching world. And honestly, it makes no sense to us either. How can we face another day? How can we be kind when we want to lash out? How can we put one foot in front of the other and do it without becoming bitter?

Do we feel anger? Yes.

Do we hurt? Yes.

Are we just feeling less pain? No.

But is there something different? Yes. Joy, even when we lack happiness in the moment. Peace given to us like a gift- the quiet reassurance that in the face of this pain, this is not the end after all.

We know this peace comes from God, but it’s mysterious because it’s so unnatural. Peace in death is usually only meant for the one we lose, not those left behind. It truly leaves you in awe when you see it.

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A grieving family. A mother, holding her daughter and granddaughter. “Sorrow and love flow mingled down.” My camera and I stood witness to that truth playing out.

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This time, I let the tears spring to my eyes.

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I looked at these faces- faces of friends I have known for years, who understand grief and held onto a future promise, and I knew there just weren’t words to do it justice.

But that day, halfway through the session, Elizabeth gave me permission to share not just their pictures but even their story. She said if it could help someone else, she wanted it out there, where others could see it.

It’s been a year since Ella went home to heaven. For a year, I have sat on this. I wondered how to say it. How to describe the beauty they displayed in the face of loss and pain and heartbreak.

I finally realized there are just no words that can- you just have to say it in all your fumbling ways, guaranteed to fall short, and pray that it accomplishes what you hoped for anyway.

That someone out there will read this and feel understood in their grief.

That someone out there will have an answer to the otherworldly peace they see some Christians display in loss and have understanding for the first time.

That some Christians would understand that having peace doesn’t mean you can’t feel pain and anger and admit that this is more than you can take and that you need help- whether it’s the help of a friend, a church, or a professional.

That wherever you are, when you see someone dealing with loss, you tread lightly, not knowing what words will help and what words will hurt. But also, that you don’t distance yourself from those who are walking a dark road. Walk it with them. I promise it will hurt, but I also promise there is a beauty- a refining that happens- when you choose to grieve with someone through their loss.

And that if you have lost a child, you are not forgotten in your grief. Let someone in- let someone walk through the grief with you. This is too heavy to face alone.

And to sweet Elizabeth, Austin, Will, and Emmett- I hope these words soothe and comfort rather than make the pain worse. You aren’t forgotten in your pain; Finn and Ella will never be forgotten either because you allowed others to care for them and grieve them. We loved them, and we love you.

~Meghan

Have a Weird Halloween.

I bet in a million years you would not guess who my three-year-old wants to be for Halloween this year.

Go ahead. Try.

It’s not cute. It’s not typical. It’s a character I bet most of you haven’t even heard of before now.

Before I tell you, I’ll let you know what we were going to do, right up until three days ago, when she got this new idea cemented in her mind.

We were going to all dress up in the same theme with Peter Pan as inspiration. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me (after an episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates): Josey, do you want to be Peter Pan for Halloween? And Piper could be Tinkerbell?

Josey: YES!

Me: And Daddy could be Captain Hook.

Josey: YES!

Me: And who would I be? Oh, I could go as Wendy Darling.

Josey: No, mom, you should be a pumpkin.

Me: (stares at Josey for a half minute) You want our family to be Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, and a pumpkin….?

Josey: Yes!

Me: No way! I am not going to be the only one who isn’t part of the theme. I want to be Wendy. I don’t want to be a pumpkin.

Josey: Okay mommy, you can be a witch!

Me: NO! (at this point, Tom and I are both laughing) Why would I be a witch?? There is no witch in Peter Pan! I’m gonna be Wendy!

Josey: No, mommy!

And so on it went, with us finding no exact reason she wanted to change things up on me. Finally I just said I was going to be Wendy and not anything else, and she let it go.

Piper already has a Tinkerbell costume (Free! yes!), Josey was going to be Peter Pan (and I was going to make her a Halloween costume for the first time), and Tom and I were going to have to find costumes for ourselves.

Until this week.

So I’m betting you still haven’t guessed what character she switched over to wanting to be on Halloween. I sure as heck didn’t see it coming.

She wants to be a frustrated, headless scarecrow by the name of “No Noggin” from a Curious George special called: “Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest.”

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(source)

Tell me, what adorable three year old girl is obsessed with nightmares and wants to dress up as something creepy for Halloween?

Mine. Apparently.

I blame her father. He’s the one who was watching The Walking Dead with her in the room when she was 9 months old, until he noticed she was growling along with the walkers.

So here’s No Noggin.

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(source)

Did I forget to say that since he lost his head, he gets mad that other people can easily wear hats, so he kicks their hats off as they go by trick-or-treating?

I already had a conversation telling her that if we pull this outfit together, she can’t go around kicking at anyone on Halloween (or ever).

In the movie, George dresses up as No Noggin too, and he peeks out the front of a shirt. So Josey now also wants a “peep hole” to look out of in her costume.

George

(source)

And I have to find a way to make this outfit stay put on my busy, social toddler who is going to be going nuts collecting candy in a costume that no one is going to understand.

Perfect.

But I’m up for a good fashion challenge. And I do like a kid who can march to her own drum, so No Noggin it is.

Now we just have to start over for the rest of us. Maybe Tom can be The Man With The Yellow Hat, Piper can be a monkey like George, and I can be…I guess…a pumpkin. *sigh*

~Meghan

Took a Little Break. For a Year and a Half.

Gosh.

The last time I blogged, I was (very) pregnant. That child is now 17 months old and rolling around in her crib doing a horrible job napping.

I’ve missed blogging, but I don’t regret the break. I can’t count the number of times over the last year and a half that I have thought, “wish I could blog about this, but I have too much to catch up on that blog before I could even get to this.” So I didn’t.

I’ve decided I’ll catch up when I want. I’ll go back and write about things I feel like writing about (a story about birthing a 9+lb baby without drugs! Get excited!…..annnnd there goes all the male readership for my blog). And I won’t stress about getting it all in chronological order. That’s just too much.

Once upon a time, I blogged daily. Then I had kids.

Then I blogged a few times a week.

Then I had two kids.

*crickets*

I’m not sure this is going to work. I’ve spent a week asking myself, “is this really worth it? I have two tiny kids who need a lot of me in every way, and do I really need to add another thing?”

But I do miss it. I like feeling connected to people from home and others online.

I also like chronicling my life’s story. Honestly, when else in history has it been so easy to tell your own story and have it saved for future generations? One day my kids or grandkids may read this and think, “Wow, she was just a real person with real thoughts and was my age once. Weird.”

Seems worth it.

But this time, I’m going to put no demands on myself. No weekly minimum of blog posts going out. No order in which the story must unfold. I give not one flip how many people click the link to my site. This is for me. But if you want to join in, I’d love to have you.

So here we go. Again.

~Meghan

Piper’s Nursery

Well, it’s true. Your first baby gets the royal treatment before they arrive. Your second baby gets what you have time to give towards planning. And your others, heaven help them. Who knows how you find the time to plan their rooms or anything else?

With Josey, I spent MONTHS thinking about, planning, looking up, and driving out to look at things for her nursery. Even before we knew the gender, I knew I wanted it to be gray because that’s a neutral I could work towards a boy or a girl, and I knew that kids would be sharing that room one day. I had a boy nursery pinboard and a girl nursery pinboard on pinterest. I had the time to think this way.

This time? I have thought about it. I waited to start thinking about it until I knew we were having a girl, though. Then, I thought and thought and stressed myself out because I knew things I wanted to do but didn’t have a lot of time. I mean, there were holidays and birthdays and every day life slowing me down from my nursery plans.

I would literally lie awake at night thinking about how I was going to manage to take my thoughts and ideas and turn them into reality in my limited time before she arrived. I wanted to do a coral and white nursery with gold and mint tied in. I loved seeing all those colors together in fashion.

White Coral Mint Gold

(source)

I wasn’t sure when I would have time to make that work in a nursery. But it happened. Thank goodness! The nursery is completely done. Let me show you how it looked before.

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It was a workout room, then we moved the workout equipment into the guest room, which we had turned into Tom’s office. We’d moved the guest room into this room, but then we knew it would be the nursery, so we started taking the bed apart to send to my parents’ house and moving baby items into this room.

Basically, it was a junk room for a few months. Here it is now:

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Continue reading Piper’s Nursery