Moving sucks, but I am thankful anyway

There has been a lot going on recently, attributing to my hiatus from blogging for awhile.  The biggest thing is that we moved from Southern California to the Sacramento area.  Moving sucks, as anyone that has ever moved (which is probably everyone) can relate.  We had been discussing the move for awhile, and I thought I was ready for it.  I mean, I was terribly sad to leave our friends and family, but excited for a new adventure and great job opportunity for Jared.  Unfortunately, the move date was up in the air for so long that all of a sudden it was hurry up and move.  I think we had less than two weeks by the time we found out Jared’s actual start date.  Plus, in the middle of that was a wedding that we went up to Seattle for (yay Tom and Summer!) the weekend just prior to our move.  It was a fabulous wedding, and we are so happy we went to share the day with them and our family and friends.  The timing of the move, however, wasn’t the best. 

We were so unprepared and behind in packing that the stress level was high.  Thankfully, we have the best families who came to help us out.  My mom flew down from Seattle for about 24 hours to help us pack.  My Auntie Karen drove up from San Diego and picked up my mom.  The two of them packed up nearly our entire kitchen and dining room.  Erik and Emily came over several evenings after work and helped with wall pictures and the TVs, among other things.  My dad then flew down to help pack the truck and drive one of our cars up here.  My in-laws were able to borrow a friend’s trailer and drove it down to our house, packed up it and the truck, and then drove up here and then back home all in the same weekend.  Jared’s Uncle Jeffy drove over for the day to help unload.  Everyone really pitched in to help, and I can’t tell you how much we appreciate it.  I am so thankful to have you all in our lives.

Now that we are here, it has taken me a little while to fully accept it.  What doesn’t help is our crazy rental house that is opposite in every way from our previous home.  There are some great things like the space and the yard, but the house just hasn’t been updated and I’m having to deal with broken drawers, ants, and weird smells.  I’ll go into detail in a future post titled New House: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  Also, Rylan really had a hard time adjusting, which was unexpected.  On the plus side, I really like the area, and we are having fun exploring and trying out new places.  Also, I knew I’d go crazy sitting in the house with Rylan and a bunch of boxes all day, so I found several different things to join, including a local moms playgroup, a MOPS group at a local church, and a parent education preschool  (since I was so sad to leave Horizon Hills).  While it’s hard not to compare to the things and friends we left behind, things are starting to settle in, and I am finally starting to feel the peace and feeling that we are going to be happy here.  We still have a ways to go, but I am looking forward to settling into a routine, blogging more, finally getting back to working on my website, and most importantly, making memories with my family.

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Think Outside the Plastic

If you walk through the aisles of toys at your local toy store or giant retailer, it is easy to get lost in the world of bright-colored plastic contraptions with buttons, lights, and music.  I admit that we have our fair share of fun, plastic toys at our house, but I wanted to share that there are also some really great wooden, fabric, or handmade toys that your child is sure to love.  These types of toys encourage interaction, foster imagination, and a lot of times will hold a child’s attention for longer than press-the-button plastic toys. I also like supporting companies that are committed to developing safe, non-toxic, and educational toys for our little ones.

Plan Toys and Haba are two of my favorite brands as they make beautiful wood toys that are colorful yet non-toxic.  They are well-made, but can be a little pricey.  Melissa & Doug also makes a lot of wood toys (as well as fabric toys and puzzles) that are a bit less expensive.  The Plan Toys Cone Sorting toy , Haba First Blocks, and Melissa & Doug Stacking Train are a few of the wooden toys that we have in our toy box that Rylan loves. 

You don’t have to purchase from a major toy brand, however.  I have found some beautifully crafted handmade toys on Etsy.  I love to support small business owners, especially when they are local.  Manzanita Kids sells handmade toys designed to nurture creative play.  We have the Organic Wave Toy and Stacking Puzzle.  So far, Rylan enjoys putting the pieces in and taking them out.  I like that it is the kind of toy that will grow with him.  We also have a handmade wooden airplane and a rocket made by MM54Creations .  These toys are solid with no stains, screws, hinges.  They are really well made as they have already survived quite a beating on our hardwood floors.  Playing “rocket” or “airplane” with Daddy is now a favorite pastime.  

Etsy also has some really cool handmade memory and color matching games.  For Rylan’s first birthday, I ordered him a customized quiet book (you guessed it…from Etsy- did I mention I love that site?) Playsilks are also great for creative play as they can “be” anything from a blanket to a cape.  There are also so many creative DIY ideas on Pinterest, such as play kitchens from cardboard boxes (they can be absolutely beautiful) and make your own playdough.

Do you have a favorite wooden or handmade toy?  Or a favorite DIY toy or idea?  Please share!

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Art and Literature for Babies

Rylan appears to be more focused on learning new words than learning to walk.  Over this past week, his vocabulary has increased tremendously.  He is learning at least a word if not two or three each day.  Today he said milk, mouth, and teeth.  Milk and mouth sound the same (“muh”), but he definitely uses them properly.  He now says: spoon, bath, nose, eyes, bye-bye, penguin (Jared was so excited because this is the only word so far he has said to Jared first), doggie, kitty cat, pop (as in pop the bubble), pear (he now distinguishes it from the apple), peas, sock, Sig (the name of his blanket), and button.  There are probably others that I am forgetting.  As far as walking, he just does not seem interested. 

Perhaps all these words mean that he is going to take after his English major daddy and be more into theater and drama than playing sports.  Either way, we want to bring him up to be at least aware of, if not appreciative of literature, as well as art.  I have gained a great appreciation for art through many hours spent in museums on our wonderful family trips.  Impressionism holds a special place in my heart because of our trip to France during my senior year of high school.  The trip was over spring break, and during the break, our English writing assignment was to review a piece of art: it could be a song, a painting, or a play.  The joke was that I had to go all the way to Paris to find something to write about.  Well, instead of mindlessly walking through the museums, I looked at every piece as if it was the one I was going to write about.  It really peaked my curiosity, and my writing assignment actually became fun. I have been interested in art ever since.  I absolutely loved Pierre Auguste Renior’s work and ended up choosing Bal du Moulin de la Galette for my writing assignment. 

Ok, so where is the part about Art and Literature for Babies?  Well, I recently stumbled upon a Pinterest pin with a picture of four BabyLitTM books: Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice.  I looked it up on Amazon, and they are counting board books for babies with a famous literature piece as the theme.  Cool, right?  When searching on Amazon for these BabyLit books, a few other options came up, including a board books about famous artists, most of them impressionists. 

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I thought these books look like a really neat way to introduce art and literature to infants.  Since Rylan is so into books, I couldn’t resist.  There are a number of great options, but I ended up choosing: Pride and Prejudice (one of Jared’s favorites), Sharing with Renoir (as Renoir is my favorite), and Make Van Gogh’s Bed (a “Touch the Art” book).   What is really neat about the art books is that they describe each work of art at the end of the book in case you aren’t familiar with them.  I think these books would make an awesome and unique gift.  I am so excited to give these to Rylan in his Easter basket on Sunday!

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The Honest Diapers Bundle Review

Despite the product name just calling for a corny opener, (think “In my HONEST opinion” or “Honestly, I believe”) I thought that the Honest Diapers Bundle would be a good topic for a review.  Honest is a fairly new company that sells diapers and household products bundles through monthly subscriptions.  You can choose either bundle or both, and are shipped a predetermined amount of product each month.  One of the biggest selling points is the eco-friendliness.  Per the company website, the diapers are made out of, “100% non-toxic, chlorine-free, sustainable, and plant-based materials- ensuring your baby is safe and not exposed to any harsh or synthetic chemicals.”  Another main draw is the convenience.   Since the bundles are shipped right to your door at regular intervals, you don’t have to worry about running to the store or even getting on the computer to re-order diapers and wipes.  Lastly, the diapers come in really cute designs.

We are pretty satisfied with our Earth’s Best diapers and Babyganics wipes that we purchase through Amazon Mom’s subscribe and save option, but I am always up for trying something new.  I ordered the free trial, which only cost $4.99 for shipping (I ordered the household product trial as well, but haven’t used the samples yet).  The package came really quickly and included seven diapers and a pack of ten wipes.  He had fun playing with the packaging, and I was immediately drawn to the cuteness of the diapers.  I couldn’t wait to get Rylan into one of them.

To me, these diapers seem very similar to Earth’s Best.  The size, shape, and feel are very similar.  If you haven’t used Earth’s Best diapers before, they may seem a little papery.  We have used Earth’s Best from the beginning, so it is what we are used to (and now prefer), but I just wanted to bring it up in case you aren’t familiar with them.  After using the trial pack, I can say that I am very pleased with how these diapers hold up.  I did not have any problems with them, no major leaks or rashes, but I can’t say that I noticed a difference (either way) between them and Earth’s Best.

I have to say that the wipes that come with this bundle aren’t my favorite.  They worked just fine and had a light, pleasant scent.  However, we really like the thickness of the Babyganics brand wipes, and are used to that.  Therefore, the Honest wipes seemed a little thin.  They also were a little hard to get out of the pack (I don’t know if this would be different with the non-trial size pack), but they could always be transferred to another container. Overall, not bad, but not great.

After I tested the performance, I got on the computer and did a few calculations to figure out how the prices compare.  The Honest Diapers bundle is $79.95 per month for a predetermined amount of diapers (this depends on the size you choose).  Currently, the promotion is that if you sign up, you get a free month’s supply (four packs of 80 count wipes) for the lifetime of your membership.  So, diapers and wipes would essentially be $80 per month. I pulled up our Amazon order history and figured out that the Earth’s Best diapers come to 27 cents per diaper and a little over 3 cents per wipe.  If I multiply these costs by the amount of diapers (216) and wipes (320) in the size 3 bundle, my total comes to $56.20.

If price wasn’t an issue, I think I would choose Honest over Earth’s Best, even though I wasn’t thrilled with the wipes.   I like that the website explicitly says, “Honest Diapers Do NOT Contain: chlorine, perfume, phthalates, lotions, optical brighteners, PVC, heavy metals, and organotins (MBT, DBT, TBT).”  The Earth’s Best website just says, “Made with fewer petrochemicals, Latex-free, dye- free, perfume-free.”   Also, the Honest Diapers are just so darn cute.  I know this may sound silly, but I’m up for anything that makes diaper changing a little more fun.  However, the Amazon mom program coupled with subscribe and save for Earth’s Best diapers and Babyganics wipes costs us a little over $23 dollars less per month than if we did the Honest Diapers bundle.  So, in this case, the cuteness doesn’t justify the extra cost, and we will be sticking with Earth’s Best diapers…that is until I can ever get up the (nerve, motivation, determination?) to try cloth diapers.

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My First Citrus Lane Box

I found out about Citrus Lane last month from a blog post about different monthly shipment services.   If you haven’t heard of it yet, you can purchase an individual box or subscription to receive a box full of mystery goodies and coupons specifically chosen for your child based on age (newborn to age three).  My initial reaction was that it sounded cool, but I didn’t really need it, and probably wouldn’t use most of the stuff anyway.  I’m very picky when it comes to baby items.  After looking at the website and seeing different pictures and posts about what was in some of the recent boxes, I realized that the things in the boxes were things that I have bought or would buy anyway.  I love the Skip Hop stacking ducks, and Green Toys, Haba, and Plan Toys brand toys that were in the previous month’s boxes.  We also love Happy Baby, Plum Organics, and Ella’s Kitchen brand baby food and snacks, so I thought I might as well give it a try.

Well, I received my first box yesterday, and I was so excited to open it.  This month’s theme was “Dining Out With Kids”.  Here is what was in the box:

Itzy Ritzy Snack Happened:  This is a reusable snack bag with a waterproof, PVC-free lining.  I have a few reusable snack bags that I got a few years ago, and unfortunately don’t actually use them that much.  However, I do like that this one has a zipper and is machine-washable.  Now that I am always toting around snacks wherever I go with Rylan, this one actually has a chance of being used quite often. 

ZoLi Sumo Snack Stacker:  If I’m being honest, I was ever so slightly bummed when I saw this in the box.  It has nothing to do with the product- this thing is awesome.  The reason is that I JUST bought this less than 2 weeks ago!  I kind of had a feeling it might be in the box when I saw this month’s theme, but we were going on vacation, so I went searching Amazon for things to make my life easier.  And that it does.  This dishwasher safe, BPA and phthalate-free container has three individual sections to keep different snacks.  I used it every day on our vacation, and I’m sure I will continue to use it a lot.  It is so nice to be able to pull one thing out of your bag and have three different snacks.  I used it for cereal, cheese-kale rice puffed snacks, and yogurt melts.  For an idea of what it can hold, it fit a whole bag of Happy Tot yogurt melts with room for more.  While I was slightly bummed that I didn’t get something new, this is a great addition to this box.  I’m sure I’ll be able to use two.

Ella’s Kitchen Ella’s 2:  There was one each of Chicken Casserole and Chicken Sweetcorn Mash.  These are great and could not have come at a better time.  Rylan only has four teeth, and therefore does not chew very well yet.  He spits out bits of meat, so I have been still spoon feeding him meat purees for dinner.  However, he has been majorly teething for the past couple days and is spitting out everything that isn’t super soft or sucked by him out of a pouch.  So, meat purees in a pouch=happy mommy and mostly happy baby (he was still super fussy before bedtime last night poor guy).

NurturMe All Natural Baby Food:  I have seen these before but haven’t tried them.  It is fruits and vegetables quick-dried to retain nutrients.  You can mix them with water, breastmilk or formula, or “hide” it in something else like a smoothie.  We got peas and apples.  Sounds cool…I’ll give it a try, probably in a smoothie because, like I said before, Rylan’s not into spoon feeding right now.

Weleda Almond Soothing Facial Lotion and Weleda Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion:  I bought the Weleda baby calendula lotion for Rylan a few months ago and wasn’t really impressed.  It was too thin and watery, plus it was a 4 on the Skin Deep website- not the worst, but there are so many better baby products.  These lotions, however, are better, both ranking a 2.  I’m pretty loyal to my Neal’s Yard Remedies skin care products, but I’m always up for trying something new, particularly when it’s travel size!

Overall, this is a great box.  I am a harsh critic, and this box definitely passes with flying colors.  It would have been just a bit more exciting had I not just bought the ZoLi snack stacker, but oh well.  I guess I should stop buying things myself.  I can’t wait for next month! 

Check it out for yourself by clicking Here. If you use this link I get a credit, which I would really appreciate.  If you sign up for a year, you get two months free!

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Rylan Update

Rylan is 1!  He has been 1 for a couple weeks now, really, but I still can’t get over it.  He is thriving and learning new things every day.  At his 12 month checkup, he weighed exactly 18 pounds (8th percentile) and was 29 inches in length (25th percentile).  He is still on the small end, but looks and acts healthy, so that is what matters.  He isn’t walking on his own yet, but loves moving around the house with his little push toy.  He is definitely what you would call an “early talker, late walker”.  He started saying actual words around 10 months, and his favorite word is “apple”.  Everything is “apple”.  Any piece of round fruit…apple!  When you open the refrigerator…apple!  It’s really cute.  The words he says on a regular basis are:  Tucker, mama, dada, blueberry, puff, ball, balloon, bubble, bye-bye, bird, Ashley (his babysitter), four animal noises (moo, woof woof, oink oink and roar), his latest word: hi, and of course, apple.  He can say a few others like banana and pear, but they haven’t stuck yet- a pear is still an apple according to Rylan.  And they don’t always sound like the real word- for example, Tucker is “er-er” and balloon is “baaoooo”.   I apologize if this is too detailed.  I’m a bad mommy that hasn’t written any of this down in his baby book, so at least it is written somewhere!

In my last post, available here, I talked about Rylan’s dairy and soy allergies.  About a week ago, at the direction of the pediatrician, we went ahead and tried cow’s milk.  Rylan seemed to be fine with my eating some dairy/soy products, and he was ok with yogurt (which we tried a few weeks before that), so cow’s milk was the next step.  He had no problem drinking milk, which was great, as I know sometimes kids reject it.  However, he developed a rash on his body that I wasn’t sure was related or not.  He has had pink, dry cheeks and dry skin for awhile, but he got this sandpaper like pinkish rash all over his arms, legs, and torso.  So, we took him to a pediatrician that specializes in allergies, and it turns out….NO DAIRY OR SOY ALLERGIES!  The doctor said that it is quite common for infants to have a dairy allergy, but they often outgrow it by 6 or 9 months.  Dairy may be a trigger for dry skin/eczema for Rylan (hence the rash), but it doesn’t appear to be a true allergy.  He said, of course, the best test for allergies is parents’ observation, so we will continue to monitor him, but, we have been continuing to give him milk and his rash is going away.  We’ll just have to see how this one plays out.

Lastly, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that has supported us over the past year.  From your fun visits and generous gifts to listening ears and words of advice, we appreciate having you in our lives.  We have had our ups and downs like any new parents do, but overall, we are thoroughly enjoying the ride!

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8 months and counting

When it comes to pregnancy, delivery, and raising children, everyone has their share of joys and challenges.  I was so very blessed to have a smooth and enjoyable pregnancy and a relatively “easy” birthing experience.  Rylan tolerated labor like a champ and came out healthy at 6 pounds 13.5 oz.  

Our major challenge began when we came home and Rylan went through episodes of pain and screaming after each feeding.  Call it colic, gas, or whatever… he was hurting.  I was encouraged to try cutting out dairy products as dairy is the leading cause of allergies and sensitivities in babies.  I first cut out the major things like milk and ice-cream, but kept eating small amounts of cheese and products made with dairy.  When that didn’t make much of a difference, I cut all dairy out completely.  Completely.  That meant no yogurt or cottage cheese which were my lunchtime staples.  No protein shakes (at least the pre-made kind).  No pizza.  No baked goods with dairy products- think about everything that has butter in it.  As hard as it was for me, I immediately saw a big difference in Rylan. 

He was feeling noticeably better, although still not great, so I tried the second leading allergy and sensitivity-causing ingredient: soy.  I was surprised to find out that many if not most babies that have milk sensitivities also have soy sensitivities.  This sounded odd to me because soy has become today’s popular alternative to milk.  I could leave the soy milk just fine, but was disheartened when I found out just how many things are made with soy.  Breads. Hot dogs. Sauces. Pretty much any prepackaged meal (we used to love Trader Joe’s frozen section). Even chocolate!! After I cut out all dairy and soy, Rylan started to thrive.  He started gaining weight at a normal rate, and the screaming after feeding stopped.  He was so much happier, so I just continued on with the modified diet.

While it definitely wasn’t easy, 8 months has actually flown by, and Rylan is doing so well.  He is still small for his age as he didn’t gain weight properly in the beginning, but he is learning and growing every day. There have been ups (discovering coconut milk ice-cream and gluten-free chocolate zucchini muffins that also happen to be dairy and soy free) and downs (going out to dinner is difficult and our grocery bill has definitely gone up), but overall, it hasn’t been bad.  There are actually a lot of great alternatives out there (hello rice milk and almond milk).  I get so excited when I find out about something new that I can actually have.  We’ve cooked more meals from scratch rather than relying on pre-made or take-out.  I’ve also learned a lot about health and nutrition in my quest to find out about food sensitivities and allergy-free recipes.  True, I am looking forward to the day when I can order pizza with cheese on it, but I’ve already been doing this for 8 months…what’s a few more?

I’m not sure what to expect when we do -to quote the pediatric gastroenterologist- “challenge” Rylan with dairy and soy products, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.  Right now, I am just so blessed to have a wonderful, healthy, happy little boy.  I know that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, so as much as I am hoping that Rylan grows out of these sensitivities, we’ll deal with whatever new challenges life brings.   Just remind me to come back and read this post when that day comes….

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