Educational Gifts for Pre-Schoolers

Drake is at a wonderful age for learning. I have always leaned toward educational toys, but now that he is going to school and picking up things left and right as well as expressing an interest in certain topics (animals), I have been trying to look at toys tailored to meet his growing interests. This is a small list of items I have been eyeing for Drake for now and a little later as he grows.

1) Maps - Drake has this map puzzle of the United States given to him by his aunt and uncle after Juliet was born. He has pretty much mastered making it himself and he surprised us when we told him we were going to Disneyworld this summer in Florida, and he said it was the one that had the rockets on his puzzle. Before our road trip we did the puzzle and showed him all the states we would be going through and pointed them out to him as we hit them on our drive down. Drake has also started to get a broader idea of countries because he understands animals live in different areas of the world. In line with that I am eyeing this puzzle map of the world with animals on them. When he gets a bit older I would love to get him a globe as well. The electronic ones seem to be very pricey, so I'm going to hold off a few more years until Drake is more ready.

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Little Stroller's Orange Big Boy Bedroom

When Little Stroller moved to his big new bedroom this summer, he enthusiastically requested an orange room with "choo-choo flags." I planned to reuse as much as possible from his navy & white nursery since I had spent so much time sewing before his arrival, so we decided on a navy, orange & white color scheme. There's really only one orange fan in this house, so rather than paint the entire room a blinding orange, I decided on an orange ceiling. Judging from his reaction, it was just what he envisioned!

However, the crisp orange ceiling (Benjamin Moore Sweet Orange - not too bright, but not flesh colored) made the walls look a bit dingy and too pale. I hadn't planned to repaint the walls, especially in the middle of my second trimester, so I just went one shade darker than their previous color from "Seafoam" to "Ocean Air." Going just one shade darker meant I only had to roll on one coat and still got great coverage using a high quality paint.

Sewing "choo-choo flags," which is Little S speak for the pennant flags hanging over the lap pool we frequented this summer, proved to be a much bigger project. Little S and I chose about a dozen different navy or orange fabrics from both my fabric stash and online and bought 1/2 yard of each. I made a cardstock triangle template that would maximize the number of flags from each piece of fabric and got to work cutting. And sewing. And turning. Then I made a gazillion miles of bias tape from a couple of yards of navy polka dot fabric from my stash. Then I sewed some more. And over two months later we had choochoo flags long enough to span the entire perimeter of Little S's orange bedroom. They were the crowning touch, tying everything together. I call them his choo-choo flag crown molding. We love them.

Come check out Little S's big orange bedroom!

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On Kangaroo Care In The NICU And Being Your Own Advocate


After sharing the story of Iris's sudden birth at 30 weeks, in discussion about my adjustment to life in the NICU, I was told by many that I'd have to "be my own advocate." Well that will be no problem I thought! What I didn't expect was that "being my own advocate" would mean being reduced to an uncontrollable onslaught of tears as I asserted my right to hold my completely stable, healthy, albeit 3 lb daughter while nurses tried to take her away from me so that she could spend even more time in her isolate.

First of all, for anyone not familiar with the term kangaroo care, it's also referred to as skin to skin care. You hold your bare chested baby against your own bare chest in an upright position between your breasts. Current research has proven this simple method of care maintains the baby's body temperature, facilitates bonding and breastfeeding, increases the mother's milk production, and can even increase weight gain and alertness. It is proven to be a safe alternative to isolates for stable low birthweight infants and is recommended by developmental care specialists who, "insist that parents should be at the center of the NICU, allowed at their babies' side twenty-four hours a day, and treated by medical staff not as guests but as the primary caregivers for their babies." Our NICU claims to encourage this widespread method of care.

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The search for better lactogenic cookies

Why do lactation cookies suck every last drop of moisture from your mouth? Have you ever had a zinc lozenge do that? Lactation cookies are so much worse. Oh, and they come out of the oven the very same pale shade of beige that they entered the oven with. Never a good sign. They often crumble apart at the very thought of touching them. You know the kind - oatmeal, a bit of honey and cinnamon, some peanut butter or tahini? No eggs for binding, no butter, no oil, no flour. Perhaps they would be good sprinkled all over ice cream, graham cracker style, or stirred into yogurt, like granola. Or smothered with banana and topped with whipping cream. Or put back in the oven with a layer of nutella and broiled with a marshmallow on top. I'm really reaching here. Why must all lactation cookies be either like gooey uncooked batter mounds, or cause acute xerostomia? There has to be a better way.

If you want to eat something sweet and tasty and loaded with sesame seeds, I say go out and buy some halva instead. It's a little dry, but flaky, almost creamy, and satisfying. I met a mom of an 8 week old recently that wants to up her supply, and I'm intent on whipping up some tasty things for her. I'm no baker, but I think tried and true recipes can be tweaked to be more lactogenic. I even question why honey is used in many lactation cookies and not molasses, which is a galactogogue. And sometimes the good old old brewer's yeast is missing, too.

So get out your recipes for your favorite cookies, your favorite muffins, and see what you can come up with. Here's what I've learned can be added or substituted into recipes. Great galactogogues are listed here in red. Even if you're not nursing, a lot of these are very healthy, nutritious things to add to your baking arsenal. I tried some of these substitutions for my go-to banana bread recipe, and it was still tasty, and even more moist.


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Pipsticks Monthly Sticker Subscription

I'd been looking for a good sticker book for the kids for a while when Maureen (a fellow Brooklyn mom and sticker lover) at Pipsticks contacted me about her new monthly sticker subscription service. I was excited to give it a try because like most kids, Charlie and Olive love stickers, and it's a perfect indoor activity for the winter months spent indoors ahead. Collecting stickers was also one of my all-time favorite childhood hobbies (I still have my Sanrio Ahirunopekkle sticker book from over two decades ago), so I was really looking forward to introducing it to the kids.

How it works is you sign up for a plan -- either 1, 6, or 12 months for $15/month -- and they arrive in this fun package with at least 15 sheets of curated stickers, paper, and a pre-stamped postcard. My favorite were the puffy bunnies.

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Reinventing Me-Time

Before Little Oats was born, I needed healthy doses of time alone. My anxiety disorder meant that being around people completely overwhelmed me, and working in a busy clinic left me worn out by the end of the day. Every night after dinner, I would crash on the couch and just get lost in a book, some blogs, or a bunch of TV shows. Cleaning got done on the weekends (after I slept in and lounged around for several hours), and the grocery shopping typically happened on Mr. O’s day off. I needed time and space to regroup, and I liked the chunks of ‘me time’ that were so often available.

Now that I have a 15 month old running around, the idea of ‘me time’ has changed a great deal. I don’t mean in the cliche ‘running to Target alone is a vacation’ sort of way; I mean it honestly. I mourned the loss of my nights laying on the couch, leaving dishes to pile up until the next morning. I didn’t manage to get through an entire book until Little Oats was at least 8 months old, something I couldn’t imagine pre-baby. Free time seems like such a silly thing to mourn, but it was an actual process for me.

I got really depressed when I thought about how long it would be until I could take an entire Saturday morning to sit in a cafe and write. I was completely overwhelmed thinking about the fact that I had to come home from a busy day of work, and KEEP GOING. Dishes, laundry, cleaning - these were no longer Saturday chores, because Saturdays were as busy (or busier) than any other day of the week. I truly struggled with a sense of entitlement; didn’t I DESERVE to sleep in until 10 if I wanted to? I fought these feelings for several months. I grew resentful of my situation (not of my baby), and longed for a vacation from my life.

And one day, after a long discussion with Mr. O, I realized something. I still had free time; it just looked different than it did before. Everything else post-baby was different, why would this be an exception? I realized that pre-Little Oats, I was lazy, and my tendency post-baby was to be lazy as well. But that just doesn’t work when you’ve got a little person relying on you to do things. There was now more to do in less time - I had to get more efficient if I expected to have any ‘me time’ left over.

So, how have I managed to eke out some ‘me time’ in the midst of a busy life? Here’s a little glimpse:

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Figuring Out Sleep When Adding a 2nd Child to the Family

Amongst all the worries that ran through my head when we decided to add a 2nd child to the family, the one that really kept me up at night was probably the issue of sleep! As parents, we all know how sacred sleep is, and how hard it can be to come by, especially those grueling first four months. I thought I'd never get to nap again, and I worried how I was going to sleep train with a toddler in the next room over. I thought for sure that my oldest would wake up at every peep, and that I'd be dealing with multiple middle-of-the-night wake ups from not one, but two children. Luckily, none of my fears came to fruition.

Once we brought Baby Jaren home, we had him sleep in our room for the first few weeks. We alternated between letting him sleep in the rock 'n play and the arms reach co-sleeper. This worked out fine for us except for the fact that watching Mr. Heels snore peacefully away while I nursed for every night feeding made me want to kick him (not literally, but you know what I mean right?). Sure, he helped with middle of the night diaper changes and swaddles, but he had this magical ability to just knock right out again while I was left for another hour on my own nursing the babe. By the 4 week mark, I was ready to transition the baby into his own room. I thought we would all be more sane this way. I'd rather trek down the hall to nurse the baby than torture myself by watching my sweetly sleeping husband every night. Plus, I thought we'd all sleep better without the little baby sounds waking us up at every turn.

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