All posts by bronwenshea11@gmail.com

DIY Sleepy-time Lotion

We all know that parents need all the help they can get when trying to get their kids to sleep. It has seriously been the biggest struggle getting my sweet girl to sleep on a consistent schedule (particularly when I started expecting her to go to sleep on her own) from day one. There is always some sort of obstacle: just wanting to cuddle the heck out of your perfect newborn, gas, over-tiredness, not tired enough, teething, the “I want to practice crawling RIGHT NOW” thing, teething again (always really), hungry baby, thirsty baby, and hungry again baby. That being said, I really feel like we’ve started to get things figured out over here. I try so hard to stick to a routine and a schedule. See my post about our bedtime routine to see what things have worked for us that way. In that post I talked about my homemade sleepy-time lotion, and now I’m going to tell you how to make some!! (Hint: its ridiculously easy)

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Ingredients:

-1 cup coconut oil

-15-20 drops lavender essential oil

Directions:

Begin with your coconut oil in a medium mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, mix the coconut oil until whipped and little fluffy. Add your desired amount of lavender oil and mixed until combined. Then spoon your lotion into a jar and store it in a cool place (not as cold as the refrigerator, just cool) otherwise your rub will lose its form and melt. Apply at bedtime for a super-relaxed, yummy-smelling baby (or you!) Note: The lotion will melt as you apply it so start with just a little. It goes a long way!

 

Bedtime With Cora

I posted a couple of weeks ago about our supposed “sleep nirvana” that we had reached after doing some sleep training with Cora. Nirvana is definitely not where we are at but there is a night and day difference between how Cora sleeps now and how she slept a month ago. She is putting herself to sleep for naps and bedtime with no stress and no tears, she sleeps through the night, and she wakes up happy! So guess who else is sleeping… ME! Sometimes… Josh and I have developed a habit of staying up super late because we hoard our “just us” time like my mother hoards See’s Candies. BUT, on the nights that we are responsible and go to bed at a reasonable hour, it’s now totally worth it because we can keep sleeping until morning instead of waking up an hour later to a distraught baby. Life is wonderful! Sleep is super important guys… but that’s a whole other post. Though we went through a lot of trial and error, frustration, and experimentation trying to get Cora to sleep better and feel more comfortable in her own bed (Co-sleepers anonymous member over here), I attribute a large part of our final success to our bedtime ritual. Cora was ready to sleep on her own a long time ago but because she was so used to sleeping with us (not to mention being on my hip ever moment of every day), when we put her in her crib and left the room, she kind of panicked. Or maybe she was just ticked… Regardless, I know that the reason she does so well now is because we take those 15-30 minutes before her bedtime to do a few things as a family, the same things every night, to make her feel comfortable, loved, and of course, sleepy. It’s made a world of difference for Cora. Our nightly activities not only are great ways for us to spend time together, but they have become cues to her that it is about time to go to sleep. We’ve actually been having to rush through the tail end of our ritual lately because she’s been winding down and getting sleepy right at the beginning! So if you think you’re kiddo is ready to go to sleep and stay asleep on their own but things aren’t working, read the rest of this post and try to dial in your bedtime routine. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent its that babies thrive with structure and consistency bundled up with a heck-ton of love! So give it a try. I’m going to make this simple and just write out what our nightly routine with Cora is. Here goes:

6:30- Right after dinner, I nurse Cora for the last time of the evening.

6:45- Cora gets in the tub and plays for 10-15 minutes. Then I get her all washed up.

7:00- Dad gets Cora out of the tub while I get her pjs ready, bedroom blinds closed, and pick up any stray toys. Then we lotion her up, get her dressed, comb her hair, and brush her teeth. We also always use my homemade sleepy-time lotion or put diluted lavender on the bottom of her feet.

7:05- We turn her white noise machine on, kneel/cuddle for family prayer, and Daddy says goodnight. I then read her one story and say a “personal prayer” while she cuddles with her lovey and favorite blanket.  After a song or two I tell her that her Daddy and I love her, that we’ll be here if she needs us, and lay her in bed. Then I walk out and shut the door. And she goes right to sleep!

That’s it! We don’t do a ton and everything is super simple but I know that Cora feels comfortable with the consistency and that it’s working for us. Bedtime routines don’t have to be hours long or have to be anything grand. Just take those last few minutes to love on your kiddo before you put them down for the night. I know I’ll never regret these times because Cora has been such a busy-body lately those cuddles right before bed are all I ever get!

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you guys do for your bedtime routines or what has worked for your family.

Hint: I do the same routine for naps I just skip the bath and all the shenanigans with Dad.

Fit Mom Attempts

Over the last 9 months since Cora’s birth, I have been through quite the range of emotions regarding my body. I’ve felt total awe, disgust, pride, embarrassment, anger, and love. Not very much of the love, though… And I desperately want to work on that! When Cora was first born, I loved my body for producing her almost as much as I loved her. Now, I mostly try to hide my body from sight (my sight and the sight of others). I miss loving my body! So, to combat these feelings I’ve had to get going with some positive change, I started 21 Day Fix this morning! I don’t plan on doing the program forever, or drinking Shakeology forever (cause that stuff is pricey!) but I think it is going to be just the kickstart I need to change my attitudes and habits and get me where I want to go. I’ll let you know how I feel about it at the end of the 21 days. Have any of you tried 21 Day Fix? How did you like it?

How to Stay “In Love” Once You Have a Baby

Today is mine and Josh’s second anniversary! As the day has been approaching, a lot of things have been on my mind: how two years is such a short time but also so long, how lucky I am to have married such a wonderful man, how we have already brought the most beautiful life into the world and how she brings us the most happiness, how many adventures we still have ahead of us, and… how tired we both are! Life is busy. Wonderful, but busy and exhausting. We have been blessed with so many opportunities and chances to work, and we sure take a lot of time to play. Looking back at the time when we were engaged, it’s laughable that we ever thought we were busy or tired! Planning a wedding is nothing compared to the every day life of work, school, maintaining a home, raising a child, and being a partner in marriage. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I wonder if I have put too much time into all those other things and let the most important thing to me become my last priority; saving it for those few seconds at night right after I brush my teeth and right before we both begin to snore.  Granted, our motivation for all of our work and such is each other and our family. But I want Josh to come first! He came first in the beginning, before new jobs and school, before a kid, before the reality of buying diapers and paying for cars and a house. He’s also the one that’s here to stay. In thirty or so years, it’s going to be just us again. How awkward is that going to be if through all the chaos of life we’ve fallen out of love and hardly know each other? How can we stay in love and keep each other as our number one while still living our every day lives, and giving our sweet girl (and other children to come) the love and attention they deserve? Here are a few things that I have worked out and have been practicing, and please share other ways that you know to stay in touch with your spouse!

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  1.  Say thank you for the things that he/she does for you, big and small. Not only will it mean a lot to them, but you’ll start to feel more grateful and notice more of the things that they do for you.
  2. When he/she gets home, stop what you are doing for a hello and a hug. If you take a pause from the dishes or playing with the kids to welcome them home, they’ll remember that you love them and that after everything, they’re your number one.
  3.  Find little ways, out of the ordinary, to show them you love them, like leaving a note in their work pants, or making their favorite meal (or ordering it…)
  4. Go to bed at the same time as your spouse every night. If you both get things done for the evening and wait up for each other when necessary, it will mean a lot to have a few minute alone together before you go to sleep.
  5. Have a weekly date night! Josh and I are in the habit of this, but we are also in the habit of date night becoming falling asleep while watching a movie in bed…. BUT, when we take the time for a real, planned-ahead-of-time date, even if it’s just games and pizza, we keep falling more in love every day, and remember our times together before kids, lots of bills, and being full-blown grown ups.

My Thoughts On “Sleep Training”

If the last three months of your life have been anything like mine, you’re probably looking at your screen through blood-shot eyes that are underlain with enormous, purple bags. You probably haven’t gotten more than a few hours of straight sleep in weeks, and those hours of “sleep” have most likely been on the recliner (or worse, the floor) of your child’s bedroom.

I have been putting off “sleep training” Cora for months for a few reasons. First, I’m a wuss and hate to hear her cry, and refuse to do so when it’s my fault. Second, I didn’t want to force anything when I knew she already wasn’t feeling well and we are still having a daily struggle with major digestive issues that no one can seem to find the answer to. Third, I wasn’t ready to give up my precious time with my sweet infant when she still liked to cuddle (Really, I’m still not). BUT, despite all of these items being continually true, my wish to mother my baby through the night was impeding my ability to mother her during the day. I have literally had days where, once finally in bed, I cannot remember what I did that day, what I wore, or what I ate. I felt like that if I was even being an acceptable mother, I was unaware of it. I was living in a fog. I needed some flipping sleep. After this realization, and a few more stubborn sleepless nights that would hopefully give a bit more time to get Cora’s tummy under control, I decided to attempt some version of sleep training (again).

My biggest holdback with sleep training, really, was that I always want Cora to know that I love her and am here for her, whenever and wherever but I felt like “sleep training” as I knew it would conflict with that goal and require me to  leave her in her crib for hours on end and create some catastrophic psychological issues down the road. Though, I have been told repeatedly that that is false. Though that method is the solution for some people, I couldn’t do it.  I really did want Cora to learn to sleep on her own and to feel comfortable in her bed without me, but I didn’t want her to feel totally abandoned either… After talking to a good friend and fellow new mom who told me what she had been doing with her daughter, I found a compromise. The goal was to do my usual bedtime routine, tell Cora that I love her and put her in bed, and leave for only one minute. After a minute of crying, I went in and reassured her however I felt was necessary. I sang, held her hand, rubbed her back, and even picked her up when she wouldn’t otherwise stop crying. I would stay in her room for thirty seconds, then leave again, this time waiting two minutes. I continued this, alternating comforting her then leaving for increasing amounts of time, until we reached five minutes of crying. I knew that this was an amount that we could both handle. After that, I went into her room and held her hand and sang to her until she fell asleep. We did the same thing for both of her naps the next day but only ever got up to one minute of crying. By that second night, she was falling asleep on her own without a tear and last night she slept completely through the night!

I want to say that this “method” is a miracle-worker but I know that it isn’t. I think that the key to our success this time around, (this most definitely was not our first attempt) was that Cora and I were both actually ready. I had read about this “being ready” bologna a few times before and never understood it. I thought maybe it just meant that both of us were sufficiently sleep-deprived but it turns out the opposite is true for a baby… My advice to anyone who has wondered at this same question is to take a guess and try to sleep train now. For me, more than one or two nights of hysterics was too much and meant I needed to wait a while longer. For others, a week or more may be the limit. You pick an amount of time, try it out, and if it doesn’t work, try again later. Sleep is just around the corner! Or a few… but you’ll get there.

 

Gardening for Newbies

I posted two weeks ago that I am starting a garden this spring! I also posted that I knew next-to-nothing about gardening and that I had a huge project ahead of me. I’m probably not the only aspiring gardener out there so I thought I’d share what I’ve been learning. And I’ll continue to update this post as I learn more both from my research and my own mistakes (and hopefully successes!) in my garden here.

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Steps to having a beautiful (and fruitful) garden:

  1. MAKE A PLAN!!! I cannot stress this enough. You have to know what kind of space you’re working with and what things you want to plant before you do any of the hard labor. Each type of plant requires different spacing, amount of light, or does particularly well next to other plants. In addition, some plants are better put in the ground after being started in a greenhouse or planter instead of being planted straight from seed (tomatoes are really hard to grow from seed, so those in particular I recommend buying plants). If you are starting from seed, you can see much of this information printed on the back of the packet as well as how long the seed takes to mature. Depending on where you live, you may be able to plant your garden sooner than later. Be sure to look up when the last freeze generally is in your area and plan around that. Bottom line: measure the space where you want to plant,
  2. Prepare the ground! The soil, if it could even be called soil, in the plot for my garden is especially terrible and I’m having to put a lot of time into this one. Begin by removing any rocks and weeds from the area you want to plant. If there are a lot of weeds, I recommend skimming off the very top layer of soil with a squared-off shovel and getting rid of it so the weeds are less likely to return and be a pest for you later. Once the rocks and weeds are gone, use a rake to turn the soil. Do this multiple times, adding in a conditioner (I was told Azomite, a trace mineral powder, is great) and maybe a top soil if you think the ground you’re working with is especially lacking in nutrients. If nothing has been done with your chosen area in some time and the ground is particularly hard, you may need to use a sprinkler to wet the ground before this step just to loosen things up.
  3. Plant!! Like I mentioned before, some plants take longer to mature than others, and some plants have a harder time surviving the cold. So make sure you pay attention,  if you’re planting seeds, to plant at the right time. It takes a lot of coordination and planning.  My recommendation, if this is your first garden, to buy all of your plants already started at your local nursery (or IFA, Home Depot, or even Walmart) and plant them all at once. This will make your life so much easier and, most likely, make your garden more successful.
  4. Water, weed, and repeat. This will be most of the rest of your life as far as your garden goes. Your little plants will require a lot of care and attention, but if you do a little bit every day, it will be much more manageable.
  5. HARVEST!! This is the most exciting part! Once your little garden starts producing, add harvesting to your watering/weeding routine and enjoy the fruits of your labor! Make sure you stay on top of this… If you don’t, you’ll have giant zucchini and mushy tomatoes.

Final tips: Make sure you have good tools, especially in the beginning when you really have to work the ground to get it ready. Take a class!  A lot of nurseries or farming stores host free classes that teach you what to plant and when, how to plot out your garden, and how to keep your plants healthy. Plant marigolds around the edges of your garden and in between your rows; they are great for keeping away bugs!

Like I said, I’ll keep updating this post as I learn more and I hope you’ll let me know in the comments how your own gardens are going!

How to Know if You Have the BEST Pediatrician

We found out that our pediatrician is moving last month and though I am totally crushed, I (initially) completely under-reacted. Here’s why: I first found out at Cora’s 6 month well-checkup and the nurse just casually mentioned it as I was trying to undress Cora to be weighed and avoid getting spit up on. It was simply thrown in there amongst “How’s Cora today? Is she still just taking —-? How’s she sleeping? Do you want to schedule your next appointment today?” She also asked, “Is there another doctor here you would like to switch to or do you want Cora’s records sent somewhere else?” I immediately answered with the name of another doctor in the office (one who had seen Cora when she was in the hospital and who I’d spoken to on the phone when Dr. W was unavailable). I hardly thought about it. It was just another answer to one of the nurse’s many “routine” questions. Even after Cora’s exam, when Dr. W asked if the nurse had mentioned to us that she was moving, I nonchalantly just said, “Yes”.

I know that this lack of reaction was only due to being distracted by the stress of the appointment and trying to remember all the things the doctor and I had discussed while wrangling a tired, squirming baby. And I know this because I most definitely reacted later. After Mr. F and I got Cora in bed that night and I was telling him about our day, it hit me. I panicked! Thoughts like “But Dr. W knowsCora!!… She actually cares!… She can’t leave! She’s the only doctor who doesn’t think I’m paranoid! What if our next doctor is a jerk?… Maybe we should just move to Michigan too…” were running through my head. I actually know our new doctor is an excellent physician and will take great care of Cora, but we are going to miss Dr. W so much!! She has been so good to us and has gone above and beyond to make sure Cora has been as healthy and happy as possible. There is also just something about knowing that your child’s doctor has known them since day one that makes you feel safe… Anyhow, I’ve started to feel really terrible for my complete lack of reaction at the office that day. Dr. W really has been excellent and has gone WAY out of her way to take care of my sweet girl and I feel like a simple “WHAT?! NO! you can’t leave!!!!” along with a slough of tears would have at least shown her we appreciated her… But in all seriousness, I wish that I would have taken a moment to really thank this wonderful woman for all that she has done for my daughter and I before she left. If you have an amazing pediatrician you should thank them now, before you find out they’re moving and it doesn’t even register until it’s way too late.pediatrician

Here are some things that I saw in Dr. W that I thought made her great, and things that will let you know if you have the best pediatrician (second to Dr. W)

  1. She greeted and interacted with both me and my daughter! It may seem silly for me to have expected this considering my daughter is only 6 months old and often oblivious to her surroundings, but I think this is essential to a good pediatrician. You aren’t there for you and neither is the doctor! You’re there for your kid and their doctor is {hopefully} going to interact with them and develop a relationship with them so that they feel more comfortable and cared for in what can sometimes be a scary environment.
  2. She took the time to answer all of my questions (and ask if I had any). As a new mom, I was quite overwhelmed by all of the things I had to remember about caring for my newborn baby but Dr. W was so helpful and so patient with my two million questions. This is so so so important! You are absolutely going to have questions, I imagine even if you’re a seasoned mom of six, and you need to feel comfortable asking them.
  3. She called to check on us!!! This obviously is not practical or needed all of the time. However, a couple of weeks after an appointment where Dr. W and I discussed some issues with baby Cora that were worrying me, a call from her to check on us meant the world! It was so comforting to know that she was not only giving meaningful and thought-out advice in the office, but she thought about us when we weren’t there.
  4. She genuinely loved my baby. I think every doctor has a few patients who they love in particular, or who are special to them, but I think a mark of an excellent doctor is that they genuinely love all of their patients! Dr. W treated Cora and I both with what I believe to be genuine love from the very beginning. We first met her when she visited Cora in the hospital and I could tell in that moment that she had a love for both me and my new baby. I could also feel at our last appointment (even amidst my lack of emotional response to her leaving) that she was sad to be leaving and was going to miss us.
  5. She remembered what we had discussed and how Cora had been doing at her last appointment. Yes, I know doctors take notes and probably review old ones quickly before each appointment but Dr. W went beyond that and the best pediatricians do. She would always bring up previous conversations that we had had and ask how things were going. Not only did she remember Cora’s reflux but that we had planned to go on a certain trip or that I had gotten a speeding ticket before our last appointment. Every time she recalled something from before, it reaffirmed to me that she really listened to the things I said and that Cora’s care meant more to her than just keeping someone alive and getting a check.
  6. This one is big… she listened to (and cared about) my personal wishes and goals as a parent!!! This is major!!!! Here’s an example of how Dr. W did this: Because of Cora’s extensive list of possible allergies and all of the foods I was having to cut out of my own diet while breastfeeding, Dr. W suggested maybe switching her to a hypoallergenic formula. I had, and still have, the goal to breastfeed for at least a year and expressed that to Dr. W. And she dropped it! Forever! Instead of bringing up the formula over and over, which sometimes would have probably been a better choice for us, she helped me find solutions and suggest ideas to help make breastfeeding work. Because that’s what I wanted. Because I’m the mom! How amazing it was to feel validated and supported! Dr. W could evaluate Cora’s health and provide for her in ways that I couldn’t (because I didn’t go to ten years of school!) but I always felt like she did that within the bounds of what I felt comfortable with.

Even though I’m totally sad Dr. W is leaving, I am so grateful that we got her while we did. Have any of you had awesome, amazing pediatricians? How did you pick them? (we got really lucky with Dr. W) What things about them really made them great? Tell me all about it!

A Garden!!

I’m planting a garden!! My husband keeps reminding me that I’m in for way more work than I think, but I am thrilled about the idea. I do already feel like my days are running away from me and that I never accomplish everything that I want to in a day. However, I think that if I add more things that I love to do, I’ll be more motivated to get things like mopping and laundry done quicker! And I so want more excuses to spend time outside. Cora and I go walking every morning, and I imagine that as it gets warmer, we will start hiking more regularly and going to the lake (at which point I may wish I never started this project…) but for now I feel like we are mostly stuck inside all day. You can only walk to the grocery store and back so many times in a day. And I know this is going to be so good for me and be so much fun! I have already been so energized by the idea and have been ecstatic when plotting out my rows of vegetables and my little flower bed. Thus far, the friendly guys at our local IFA have been very helpful in remedying the fact that I know next to nothing about gardening. I now know that if I were to have planted this early in the year, all of my plants would have frozen and died and I would have to had to start all over. I am the kind of person that when I get an idea in my head, I want to do it NOW and complete the entire project ASAP. In that regard, gardening is going to be a very good lesson of patience for me. Not only can I not plant until almost a month from now, but once I do plant, all I will have for quite some time is little lumps of freshly turned dirt with seeds only I know about inside. Immediate gratification is not achieved when gardening…

However, I am looking forward to the pride I will feel when I {hopefully} can stand in my yard and enjoy the scene of brightly colored dahlias and marigolds amongst my home-grown produce! Because there is nothing better than a fresh tomato warmed by the sun straight out of your own back yard!

Life-saving Apps (and tech) for New Moms

I’m going to start this post by sharing something personal about myself.

I am a hypocrite!

I have a vivid memory of myself, from a year or two ago, ranting about how technology is taking over the world and ruining our lives… bla bla bla. Maybe it is. In fact, I think it is in a lot of ways… But here I am now, typing out a post on my blog about how iPhone apps and other technology has totally saved my sanity as a new mom.  And a few of these things really have! So here they are!!

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Baby Tracker

Baby Tracker is most definitely my number one app as a new mom! With this app, you can track feedings, diapers, sleep, growth, medications, and even vaccinations. It makes it so easy to keep track of all the little details that your exhausted brain really just doesn’t have room to remember anymore. When I first brought Cora home from the hospital, I could hardly remember my name, let alone what side I started nursing on last. This app saved me. Especially now that we are working out allergies and feeding issues, it has been a great help as I have needed to really keep track of Cora’s diapers and other reaction symptoms. Another thing that I really like about this app is that you can record pumping and keep track of your milk stash but you can also track formula feeds. It works for any feeding situation! Bonus: It is available for Android and Apple and they finally made a companion app for the Apple Watch!!!!

What to Expect

This app is a given. Not only does it bring up articles relevant to your baby’s current developmental stage, but it is linked to a great community of other moms where I have found tons of validation and support! The app also has an integrated photo journal, monthly writing prompts, and is an awesome app for pregnancy.

Cloud Baby Monitor

It took me a while to find this one, but I am so glad I did. Mr. F and I had been battling for a while about whether or not to buy a baby monitor. Our house is tiny so we can hear Cora no matter where we are in the house so it seemed silly to spend the money, but I can’t count the number of times I impulsively went in to check on Cora, when she was sleeping peacefully, and woke her up. Cloud Baby Monitor has totally put my mind at ease because I can peek at my baby whenever I want and she can sleep in peace.

 Rain, Rain

All I can say about this app, Rain, Rain is this: I wish I had known the value of white noise to a baby’s sleep from the beginning. Like I said, our house is tiny and Cora sleeps so much better when she’s got  something to drown out the noise of me doing dishes. I actually use an actual white noise machine in her bedroom now (I wanted my iPad back) but this app makes it really convenient to bring white noise with us when we’re traveling or on the go.

Audible 

If you are a stay at home mom, and especially if this is your first baby, this app will be particularly useful. Though the app is free, the actual books require an Audible subscription which I have found to be well worth it. When Cora is awake and my house is full of squeals, giggles, and laughs I hardly remember that I am the only adult around. But, when Cora goes down for a nap, and everything is eerily quiet, Audible is my best friend. I’ve listened to a few books that I hardly remember the name of the main character but it is just so nice to have voices in the background to keep me company until Mr. F comes home.

After-light

Everybody needs a good photo-editing app, especially when you’ve got a new face at home to document. After-light is my favorite because it’s so simple! It let’s you edit brightness, contrast, etc. when you really want to but has some great go-to filters as well.

The Owlet

The last bit of tech that has saved me since being a mom isn’t an app (it comes with a companion app) but it has been so essential to my sanity that I felt I had to include it. The Owlet monitor keeps an eye on your baby’s vitals (breathing and heart rate) while they are sleeping and lets you know if there are any problems. This tech comes with a high price tag but it is so worth it!!! I waited until Cora was almost three months old to buy the Owlet and I wish I had had it the night we came home from the hospital. Of course, I am going to be sleeping with one eye open until all of my kids are out of the house and “sleep” just isn’t the same. BUT, this monitor has made it so I can rest a little easier and know when my sweet girl really needs my help.

I hope you find some of these apps helpful! They certainly have saved my bacon a few times. When Cora’s doctor asks, “how many wet diapers has she had today?”, I am set (both because I’ve got it recorded on Baby Tracker and because I’ve actually gotten some sleep thanks to the Owlet)!

What apps and baby tech have saved you as a mom?