Thursday, March 31, 2011

10 More Random Tips for Moms

If you're a mom, you're busy. Here are 10 more random tips I've found to make life a little easier, whether it's saving some time or money or just making things better. I hope you find them helpful too!

1.) It's Spring and time to ensure your little one is protected from the sun. Using the constant spray sunscreen all over and the sunscreen stick on your child's face is sure to make your morning routine, day at the zoo and/or afternoon at the park less complicated. Although you'll get less sunscreen for your money with the spray and stick options you'll save yourself time and energy without having to have a wrestling match and a big mess to clean up. Also, our pediatrician shared another tip; he says the name brands and generic sunscreens work the same. So buy the spray and stick, but buy the least expensive or the brand that's on sale. Oh, and while you're protecting your child don't forget you need sunscreen too.

2.) If you're a parent-to-be and shopping for a nursery you might be tempted to go all out and buy spectacular, matching baby bedding. Try to resist the urge. I read Baby Bargains, a great resource that warned me, but unfortunately I didn't heed the advice. Don't get me wrong it was beautiful, but it ended up in the closet much sooner that I'd like to admit. The reality is you can't use the quilt on a baby, you have to untie and remove the entire bumper when you change the crib sheet, not to mention as soon as your baby rolls over and begins to move the bumper becomes a hazard. If I had a do over I'd pick some really awesome crib sheets, save some money and call it a day.

3.) While you're saving money on the bedding, you can splurge on the SwaddleDesigns Ultimate Receiving Blanket. My baby received one as a gift, and she loved it from the very beginning. We actually bought another one so she now has one for home and one for school. We did initially use the blanket for swaddling, but even though she was over that very soon, the size is great, it's super cozy and it gets softer after each wash. It's a winner.

4.) Looking for a money and a time saver? Try using your hair conditioner in place of a shaving cream or gel. It works fantastically, and one bottle lasts so much longer. You can buy a Suave Conditioner for a little over one dollar. Be sure to give this trick a try!

5.) If you know about LUNA Bars you should keep them stashed everywhere; if you haven't, run to the grocery store right now. Each bar has 9-10 grams of protein and 3-5 grams of fiber, and these are great for an on-the-go breakfast or snack. My favorite flavor is Nuts Over Chocolate, and my daughter is a huge fan of these too.

6.) If your family is into music like mine, constant repeats of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep get old pretty fast. Don't get me wrong; there's a time and a place, but check out Rockabye Baby Music for renditions of classic rock tunes. They've taken legends like The Beatles, ACDC, Bob Marley, Aerosmith, etc. and turned them into fantastic lullabies. These tunes make the whole family happy, and that's pretty special.

7.) If you hate to iron as much as I do check out Downey Wrinkle Releaser. If you don't mind to make an extra stop at Dollar General they make a version that's just as good for about one-fourth of the price of Downey's. All you have to do is give you clothes a mist, and the wrinkles will smooth right out. It's obviously not going to put a crease into anything, but creases and pleats are out anyway, so you'll be good to go. It works like magic!

8.) Try Burt's Bee Diaper Ointment for the hands down best of the best diaper cream ever.
9.) Tis the season for pollen, allergies, colds and coughs. Pick up some Vicks Baby Rub (or traditional Vicks VapoRub if your child is two or older). Many people have forgotten about this old-fashioned treatment, but when my daughter is coughing and restless I rub it all over her chest and back, and it works wonders to soothe and comfort her.

10.) Boogie Wipes can save you and your child from a complete meltdown in public. These saline wipes are gentle on little noses and their mildly pleasant scent can hypnotize (not really, but they do work really well) your kids into thinking they actually enjoy having their noses wiped. Brilliant! Plus it's a mommy created and mommy run business. Click on the link above to join the Boogie Bunch and get a $0.50 off coupon (good through Dec. 31, 2011) emailed to you.

These are just a few things that have worked for me. I'd love to hear what tricks make life happier at your house.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Birth Story and How I Missed My Opportunity for an Epidural

Last week I received a letter from my OBGN explaining he's moving to Charleston. I agree it's a great city, but still. Doesn't Dr. M have an obligation to me since I'm surely one of his favorite patients? I understand he's super busy, but a form letter, really? It just feels so impersonal after he's been so, ahem, up close and personal. The sad news of his departure did cause me to remember the happy details of the day I became a mommy.

My sweet baby was due on Christmas Day in 2008. We were convinced she'd arrive early, but we were mistaken. I remember waddling into work on December 26, somewhat disgruntled that I wasn't snuggling my newborn. That night my semi-OCD/hyper personality kicked into high gear. I cooked dinner and began taking down Christmas decorations like a mad woman. My husband just followed my lead and worked like crazy too. Smart man. After our decorations were wrapped and stored for the next year I finally sat down to rest. And then it happened. It was almost midnight, and my water broke, but not in a large gush like it happens in the movies. It was just a trickle so I wasn't fully convinced. A friend of mine had been mistaken once and was turned away at the hospital because she'd actually just peed on herself. (The horror, I know!) I vowed that would never happen to me.

God bless Google. After a little research I was pretty sure it was amniotic fluid. So I showered and shaved (of course) and we were on our way. The car ride was strangely uneventful, not at all like I’d imagined. I wasn't having contractions so we leisurely made our way across town and debated whether or not this was really happening.

My husband had expected to pull up to the front of the hospital and wheel me inside. Instead, we simply parked and walked in normally. In my mind I should’ve already needed those breathing techniques I'd practiced for months, but, nope. Nothing. The triage nurse confirmed my water had broken, and I was admitted. Hooray! We were ecstatic we'd soon meet our baby girl. The emotions were overwhelming; we were elated and a little shocked it was finally time. It felt surreal and at some point I remember us becoming almost giddy. I was nervous about the unknown, and my husband was worried about how I would respond to the unknown. In case you don’t know, I’m a little bit of a planner. I like to think I fly by the seat of my pants, but I’m only kidding myself. When Dr. M walked in we were both relieved.

It was about 2:00 a.m., and he suggested we rest. In hindsight that would have been an awesome idea, but the thought of sleeping was laughable. He also offered the epidural at any time, but I declined. I was very afraid of being stuck in the bed, unable to move around. In my mind my labor included walking the hallways, eating ice chips and bouncing on a birthing ball for at least a little while. And I honestly still felt nothing.

Dr. M came in a few times to check on us. He's so laid back and funny (a lot like my husband); I'm pretty sure that's what makes him so charming. He has a knack for making you feel at ease; nothing really gets him rattled, or if it does he doesn’t show it. When my contractions started they were immediately pretty hard. By about 6:45 a.m. they were quite intense. I’d been told it would take an hour to feel the effects of the epidural after the initial request, so I decided I'd be in trouble if I waited much longer.

Do you have any idea what 7:00 a.m. is for most hospitals? Shift change. (That’s something they should’ve discussed in those birthing classes I dragged us to.) I buzzed, and the new nurse assured me she’d be in soon. I thought I'd feel better if I stood up, but I immediately felt a lot of pressure. I put my fear of pooping on the table while pushing on the backburner and became terrified I was going to pee all over the floor. As politely as possible I asked for the nurse again. I hadn’t met this nurse yet, and I didn’t want to get on her bad list so soon, but I knew I couldn't wait either. I did what I had to do and began to pull the monitors off myself so I could get to the bathroom. It’s pretty amazing how fast that gets their attention; they came running.

I immediately felt better after what must have been the greatest pee of my entire life, and I knew I'd be okay. I was able to smile again and get back to the bed. I’d progressed to 8cm and was fully effaced. Dr. M called for the anesthesiologist asap and waited with us. Surprisingly, I felt okay. The contractions were still coming consistently, but after relieving the pressure from my bladder I could definitely deal. We talked and joked, and we officially met our new Labor and Delivery Nurse P. She was fantastic and encouraged me to try to have the baby naturally. I laughed at the idea. That was not my plan. Within 10 minutes a nice looking gentleman pushed the epidural cart into our room. Ahhhh, I was ready to feel nothing, but Dr. M. wanted to check once more. He then broke the news to me that in those few minutes I'd dilated fully, and it was too late. I remember his words perfectly, "Amy," he said slowly and calmly, "I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you're not going to be getting an epidural today."

I'm not entirely sure what I said or how I looked (My husband refuses to give me specifics.), but I do know (via confirmation from LD Nurse P) that I had about a 30 to 45 second out-of-body freaking out period before I got my game face on. LD Nurse P was incredible, and although we’d just met her, we loved her immediately. Neither Dr. M or LD Nurse P ever left our room. I'd like to think it's because we were their coolest patients, but I suppose they knew our baby was coming super quickly.

I'll give my husband mad props too. He was uncharacteristically directing people (It's true a ton of people show up, and it's true you won't care.) to get me cool washcloths and encouraging like a coach of the year but not in a cheesy/condescending way. I always knew he was a great catch!

I remember Dr. M kidding me about how much longer it would take and that strangely put me at ease. I think he told me I’d only have a few more hours of pushing. Sarcasm is a way of life for my family, so his joking made an unfamiliar and scary situation seem reasonable and doable. I also remember him chilling out in the rocking chair while I was working overtime on no sleep to perform a miracle. But I found this bizarrely amusing at the time and remember calling him a slacker. I actually only pushed for about 45 minutes, although it felt much longer than that. I was extremely fortunate; the best way I can describe my experience is crazy intense and difficult, but not one of freakish, intolerable pain. My sweet Ellie came into this world looking beautifully perfect and bright-eyed.

My husband was so infatuated with being a brand new daddy and the awe of our gorgeous child I recall the nurse having to tell him it was time to take pictures. He was, and is, one proud father. Please say a little prayer that she never fully learns just how much she has him wrapped around her finger. And it's been like that from the very first breath she took.

While I was getting stitches (lovely) Dr. M's cell phone rang. He'd stayed late to help make us a family. His ringtone, ACDC's Thunderstruck, was the first song my daughter ever heard, just another reason to love him.

Having a baby is such a powerful and amazing experience, and it's even more special when you can share it with people as wonderful as Dr. M and LD Nurse P. Knoxville's loss of Dr. M is definitely Charleston's gain. I can't imagine him not being there if we decide to become more than the three musketeers, but I'm sure it would be fine. We may just have to track down LD Nurse P. Either way, we’ll always cherish our wonderful memories of Ellie's birth, even though it was nothing like we’d planned.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

10 Random Tips and Tricks Every Mom (and Dad) Should Know

I've compiled the most random list ever of tips and tricks which will make your life as a parent or soon to be parent or someone who just knows parents who need help, easier. Some of these have been shared with me and others I've learned the hard way. So, sit back, relax and take in this top 10 list. You'll want to share with everyone you know... or at least those who you like.

In no particular order, here goes:

1.) You don't even have to have a child to benefit from this gem. It's called SUDS - a specialty product, and I truly believe with this product, one old toothbrush and a little elbow grease (as my mom likes to say :) I could clean up the world. This all-purpose cleaner is a miracle! It gets stains out of clothes and rugs amazingly, and it's water-based with no ammonia, harsh chemicals or fumes. It's a little pricey so I use it only for laundry or carpet emergencies, but the list of options this stuff will clean goes on and on and includes bathrooms, grills, woodwork and glass to name only a few.  I buy it locally in Knoxville, Tennessee, at The White Balloon at the Gallery Shopping Center, 7240 Kingston Pike. I've also seen it at Smart Toys and Books in Knoxville.  There's a number on the actual product if you'd like to go old-school and order by phone with your VISA or Mastercard; it's 1-800-551-7837(SUDS). Plus,  I found it available online here, but I've never shopped from this site. Whatever or however, just make sure you stock up on SUDS. You won't be disappointed.

2.) As your child gets older, he or she is going to get bigger. And bigger and bigger and bigger. And it'll happen fast! While 10 to 15 to 20+ pounds doesn't feel so heavy, it is. It's especially a back killer when you're constantly leaning over, picking up, carrying around, putting down and repeating about 17 trillion times each day. Learn to squeeze your butt checks together when picking up your child. I know it seems silly, but I promise you it'll save your lower back. Seriously. I'm still not sure why or how it works, but it's true. And I know this from experience. I credit Dr. Cole from Hosenfeld Chiropractic with this tip. It's gold I tell you!

3.) Okay, if you have an infant who is hmmm, let's say less than chilled out and relaxed like your husband, and more high-strung, type A personality like yourself (or vice versa) you may want to give running the vacuum cleaner for a while a try to see if it calms your child. I know. I thought the same thing when I first heard it, but when you're truly hanging onto the edge of your last strand of sanity you'll try anything. If it works run like the wind to open iTunes and spend $9.99 so you too can have one solid hour's worth of vacuuming called, Colic Sweep Vacuum Cleaner White Noise. It sounds ridiculous, but it works. Plus, you won't wear out your own vacuum, and you can take it with you when you travel. Win-win! Mad props to whoever possessed the sheer genius to record and market this. I'm jealous.

4.) Looking for summer shoes for your kid? Look no further. Check out KEEN Kids Newport H2. They're $50 and worth every cent. I can't imagine you not loving these for spring and summer. Your child can wear them with or without socks, they're waterproof, comfy and super durable. Did I mention they're rated a perfect five stars after 105 customer reviews? These are a must have; they're really the only summer shoes your child needs.

5.) If you're using formula, plan to eventually use formula or know anyone who is using formula go directly to Babies R Us and pick up the Munchkin BPA Free Formula Mixer or just order it here. It's portable, works well and is very inexpensive at just over $5. Go ahead and pick up two so you can leave one in your diaper bag.

6.) If you're baby's still wearing diapers (like mine, sigh) go for the Diaper Champ instead of the Diaper Genie. With the Diaper Champ you can use your regular garbage bags instead of having to buy special refills, plus it's about $5 less.

7.) Just say NO to the wipes warmer! Picture this. You've used those warm wipes on your sweet baby's bottom for the first few weeks of her life. It's time to get out of the house to get some fresh air and of course show off your beautiful child. Unfortunately, that warmer isn't portable. So you get brave enough to take your baby out in public where you want her to prove herself to be the perfect baby you know she is. When she needs a diaper change you pull out a freezing cold wipe. You touch this frigid wipe to your pride and joy, and I guarantee she will show herself, and not so much in a positive way. Although I was warned I still had to learn this one the hard way, my friends. I hope you won't have to.

8.) There's only one chair you'll ever need for your child. It grows with him and allows him to be right at the table with the rest of the family from the very beginning. It's the Stokke. It's the bomb. And you need one.

9.) Looking for an app for your toddler? Check out First Words. They're fabulous, and your child will love them and learn letter recognition and beginner words. It's very cool and worthy.

10.) If you're looking for inspiration or hope or a smile, I urge you to spend a little time with StoryPeople.  These guys are brilliant and sweet and funny and passionate, and they just flat get it right. It won't be time wasted. Here's one of my many favorites: "this is a dress-up box for the future & it's filled with stuff like courage & love & play because they're the only things that are any use at all when you get right down to it."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

If I Had A Million Dollars

If the love of money is really the root of evil then I could join the cast of Wicked.

Okay, so I’m probably not that bad, but lately I’ve wasted entirely too much time and energy being envious of what others have and do instead of just being thankful. It's not that I expect uber-extravagant things like a huge diamond or a yacht, but I can't help feeling worthy of more. I'd like to enjoy more vacations and regularly scheduled massages and mani/pedis. My daughter deserves the best of the best of everything. My house should be cleaned by someone other than me. I'd prefer to do more shopping at Pottery Barn and less at Target and not feel guilty when I splurge on hair products from the salon. I'd like to sweat from personal training sessions. And why can't I have a fancy soaker tub and granite counter tops? I suppose wanting more is the greedy American way, but that’s no excuse. 

I’ve had this ridiculous sense of entitlement; it’s definitely not the way I was raised, nor is it the way I want my daughter to be brought up. The truth is I'm very lucky. My needs are all met as well as a lot of my wants. I have the love of a good man, and my daughter is the smartest and most beautiful little girl on the planet. My parents and in-laws are alive and well; they’re also still married and love each other very much. My incredible sister, brother-in-law and niece are loads of fun. Most importantly, we all have our health. And that’s where I credit my job for providing wake up calls to shake me out of occasional pity parties like this.

During my workday it’s not uncommon for me to get a good dose of reality. I hear about patients struggling to meet basic needs because they’re trying to pay health care bills. Very recently, I was leaving for lunch with M., a colleague and friend, and we stopped to greet a gentleman who'd just walked into our office. He was a very tall, handsome, well-put-together man in his mid-40s. He shared that his wife was having a difficult time emotionally dealing with her disease, and he was concerned he wasn’t doing enough to help her. He proudly showed us a picture of the two of them; both had bald heads. He struggled to keep from breaking down, and so did we. The love he had for his wife combined with the pain he felt because he couldn’t fix things seeped from him. 

I can’t keep from thinking about this man and his beautiful wife whom I’ve never met. And given the recent disaster in Japan I'm embarrassed for having so many unnecessary desires. Why do I want more for my already privileged two-year-old? Would you like to know what's most important to her? She loves bubbles and play-doh and paint. She loves helping me cook and dancing around the living room. She loves going outside to explore and collecting treasures like sticks and leaves and rocks. She loves to slide and eat popsicles. I'm extremely fortunate she's such a happy, healthy child. And it’s my job to teach her just how blessed we are…with exactly what we already have.

“If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can't buy.” Proverb