Today I'm going to share with you why I am such an avid fan of the Medela Pump In Style double electric breast-pump.  If any of you ladies is having a baby soon, I seriously recommend that you check it out.  This pump is super easy to use, very easy to clean, and has amazing suction.  It even comes in a sleek and convenient carrying case.

And this is why I love it so much:

I've always envied women who produce milk over-abundantly.  I hear women speak about leaking and engorgement and just get jealous.  I'm sure it's not fun, but before I had kids I very much wanted to exclusively breast-feed my kids.  I pictured having the same round, chubby, happy babies my sister had.  Unfortunately, I didn't realize that some of the women in my family simply have a genetic predisposition to, well, dryness.  Dry mouths, dry eyes (I can no longer wear contacts) and, unfortunately, difficulty producing milk.  My sister, apparently skipped that gene.  I didn't. 

Not only did I have issues with milk production, but I had extensive healing to do after my first baby's birth.  I could sit, could barely stand, and was on a lot of meds.  The meds made the baby sleepy, his latch was bad, I got sore and bled.  The pain was so bad I'd lie in bed and sob when I heard him cry for food.  I had a constant stream of La Leche leaders parading through my house showing me how to hold him, when to latch, how to rock him - it was exhausting.  So hubby and I decided to get a pump.  We reasoned that maybe I could pump the milk, then feed him with a bottle, which was easier to latch onto.  But, we didn't do our research.  We let our wallets guide us and bought a Medela Swing single electric pump because it was the cheapest one we could find.  It's probably fine for some women - but it was NOT what I needed.  It had terrible suction and only pumped one side at a time.  So after 30 minutes of pumping, I had maybe an ounce of milk to show for it.  Since I'd been warned of the evils of formula by numerous people, I just kept at the pumping and the nursing and the crying.  And soon my sweet baby boy dwindled from this adorable chubby thing:
To this 5 lb 10 oz waif of a child:
It absolutely breaks my heart to look at these pictures.  I cannot believe that I was so dazed and stressed and out of it that I didn't see how frail my poor sweet child was getting.  Fortunately, several people I loved intervened and finally convinced me to put him on formula.  I started to heal, and eventually we were able to resurrect the nursing relationship to the point that he was only fed formula for half of his meals.  I am thankful to say that by week 4 he was up to a healthy weight and has been healthy and happy ever since.  However, I truly believe that we are still reaping some emotional consequences from those early weeks of deprivation.

Because I was terrified of this happening again (and knowing how I struggled to make milk), I made sure to have a double pump for my second child.  However, I still bought the cheapest pump I could find.  It only worked half the time, and when it did, it's suction was awful.  Fortunately, nursing went much more smoothly with my second, but I still found instances where I really needed to be able to pump.  I am so blessed to have a best friend who heard my complaints and shipped off her own Medela Pump In Style (yes, I used sterilized replacement parts - no ick there) so I could try it.  I was hooked instantly!  Instead of the paltry 1 oz I got with the other pumps, I had almost 4 oz in about 15 minutes!  I was delighted!  When nursing was too painful, I could pump.  If baby's sleep didn't match up with nursing time, I could pump.  If I needed to leave baby with a sitter, I could pump.  Baby #2 still got some formula, but my supplementing was just minimal. 

I really do wonder how different things would have been with my first baby if I'd had a proper pump.  Perhaps he wouldn't have lost so much weight.  Perhaps he could have drunk less formula.  Perhaps he wouldn't have quite the same emotional high-needs now that he does.  Who knows.  Either way, that's my loooooooong way of saying that the Medela Pump In Style is an amazing product and if you're planning to pump, that's the way to go!

NOTE: Please do not hear me to disparage formula.  Due to medical reasons, my daughter was exclusively formula fed, and she is a happy, healthy baby.  However, I did prefer to feed my kids breast-milk if I was able.  I am VERY sensitive about wanting women to feel no shame about the method of feeding they decide is best for their family.  I simply wanted to make this information available for those who wish to breastfeed and pump.
 
 
There's a growing controversy over the safety of crib bumpers for babies.  Traditional pillow-like bumpers not only pose a suffocation hazard for babies, but once a baby is mobile enough to need the bumpers, they can be used as an aid for climbing out of the crib.  For this reason, we initially decided to forgo bumpers entirely for our first baby.  However, as soon as he learned to crawl, he was continually getting his poor tiny legs stuck in the crib slats.  He was very squirmy in his crib, and loved to stand at the end and shout for Mommy when he woke up.  But 5 times out of 6, he'd get his knee wedged in the crib rails so badly that I often had to use baby oil to get him out. 

Finally, we found the Breathable Baby crib shield. These bumpers are made of mesh, so baby won't smother.  And, they wrap all the way around the top rails of the crib, so baby can't use them as a step (and it prevents chewing on the top of the crib rails).  These bumpers are sturdy (they've held up through three babies) and washable (we've had poopy incidents) and are easy to install.  Best of all, these bumpers now come in several stylish shades and patterns to match almost any nursery. 

If you've got a squirmy baby and are worried about safety, I highly recommend giving this site a look. 
 
 
When I was a kid, I loved when my school would set us up with pen-pals.  I think most of the kids I wrote to were in Russia, and I just adored learning about the lives of other people from other cultures.  I also found receiving a letter in the mail to be the ultimate childhood delight.  I guess I've never quite grown out of it.  While I appreciate the convenience and speed of email, I'm still the adult who peeks out the window every hour or two to see if the little flag on my mailbox has gone down.

And this, I suppose, is why I love Postcrossing so much.  This website facilitates postcard exchanges between people all over the globe.  Once you sign up for an account, you are eligible to receive the profile to whom you will send a postcard.  Profiles contain a little information about the recipient (their occupations, likes and dislikes, etc) and what they are looking for in a postcard (both in terms of picture on the front and also content on the back).  Once you send your postcard, you are elibible to receive one from someone else.  You can have 5 postcards in transit at once, so if you were conscientious, you could be receiving fun snail-mail frequently!  So far I've received notes from Russia, Belarus, England and The Czech Republic.  The postcards are always beautiful and I love learning about the cultures.

Not only is Postcrossing fun, but it can be a good learning tool.  The site attempts to assure that you do not receive a card from the same country twice (you can opt out of this feature), and you are able to request specific information from the sender, so you could potentially conduct research through the mail.  I sent a postcard to one profile requesting information on how our country treats our elderly.  I also received a postcard from an elementary school class in England who wanted to know what sorts of celebrations take place in our country.  How special for that class to be able to learn first-hand about other cultures!  While most of the communications are simply one-way notes, there is an option to exchange address information to become more permanent pen-pals with someone whose card you particularly enjoyed. 

I've started a little notebook for collecting all of my beautiful cards (and their equally beautiful stamps) so that I can look back at them in time and see all the interesting new places I've discovered.  And when I know I might have a card waiting for my in the mailbox, well, I wait all the more impatiently for that mail truck to come. 
 

SIL: Pajama Time

11/07/2011

 
It's getting cold out there.  We finally broke down and turned our heat on about a week ago.  Brrrrr.  And when it's cold out, all I want to do is throw on some cozy flannel pajamas and snuggle down under cozy flannel sheets.  And where do I go for cozy flannels?  Target!  I've been a HUGE fan of Nick and Nora flannel pajamas for years now.  Not only do they fit me just right (I'm really short, but the pants don't drag), but they are super duper soft and stand up to a lot of washing.  I've had other brands of pajamas fall apart on me quickly - the buttons fell off or stopped staying buttoned, the edges frayed, they faded quickly, etc.  But all of my Nick and Nora pajamas have held up to constant wear and washing and still look awesome.  And they come in so many cute prints!  I just bought this pair of pink and blue reindeer pajamas and I also have a pair of purple owl jammies from last season.  They have everything from sock monkeys to puppy dogs to playful paisley - something for everyone.  They even sell separates and nightgowns for those who aren't a fan of the thick coat-set type.  So if you're facing the winter weather and need some new pajamas to get you through, head over to Target and check these out (and don't forget to test out the flannel sheet sets while you're there - holiday prints run around $30 for a King set - amazing!).  Stay toa
 
 
Our littlest baby is almost a whole year old already! Oh my. Which made me think back on what were my favorite newborn items. I know a lot of you have (or will soon have) a tiny new baby of your own, so here are my recommendations:

Parents of Invention Ultimate Wrap - fantastic baby wrap! It's lightweight and comfortable to wear and you can carry baby in so many different positions. This has been my babies' favorite sling to ride in. A little bit of a learning curve in the beginning, but once you have it down, it's really quite simple and convenient. And it has a great pocket on the front for storing keys, a phone, pacifiers, etc.

Kiddopotamus' Swaddleme blankets - no-brainer swaddling blankets so easy to use even a sleep deprived new parent can't screw up. They hold baby securely and have a convenient flap for diaper changes. They helped my baby sleep soundly in no time.

Playtex Drop-ins bottles - the silicone nipples are just the right shape to use while breastfeeding and the bottle itself is easy for even tiny babies to grip. It's super easy to clean (I even washed the disposable liners to be more 'eco-friendly') and holds up really well to being tossed around. We've tried a few other brands, but this is by far our favorite. Oh, and no leaks!

Burt's Bees Baby Bee baby wash - smells so sweet and is so gentle on baby's skin. Has never given our kids a rash like some washes have and doesn't sting their eyes at all. And is mostly all natural.

The First Years Close and Secure Sleeper - if you're going to co-sleep, this is a great option. It keeps baby in the bed and close at hand for convenient nursing, but reduces the danger of rolling on baby or baby getting caught in the sheets. Nice hard sides to protect baby, comfy mattress inside. Works really well until baby learns to roll.

Fisher Price papasan chair - very comfy shape and well padded. Also has vibrate and music settings. This was our younger two's favorite place to sit and watch the action around them, and they even took many naps there. Keeps baby upright which is great for colds or reflux. Calmed our baby like magic.

Those are my top recommendations - what products did you love the most for your baby?
 
 
Pretty much every year for Christmas and/or my birthday, my wishlist is topped with Fuzzy Socks.  I'm very cold natured and in winter I need a nice, thick, warm pair of socks to keep my icy toes from freezing right off.  So every fall I unwrap several pairs of footwear - and every spring I wind up tossing them in the scrap pile.  Why?  While nice warm socks are cozy, they aren't very durable.  At least, not the super-soft chenille sort that are all the rage these days.  But my days of tossing socks like tissues just might be over!

I'd forgotten that I have an 'in' with the sock industry, who had seen my Facebook complaints and knew my birthday is upcoming.  My sock drawer is now stocked with these babies:
Cute, right?  Not only are they stylish, but they are super high quality!  These socks from DeFeet are thick, warm and sturdy!  They even have a little extra padding in the toes, which is comfy and will protect against the big toe's propensity to make a run for it and bust right through (which happens on, well, most of my socks).  They are a little pricey, but considering that you won't have to replace your entire stash every year, you'll really save in the end.

DeFeet offers socks in 35 different styles!  The Woolie Boolie socks would be great for wearing outside while shoveling snow or ice skating.  The Aireators are more breatheable for every day wear.  The Levitator is great for runners and cyclists.  There are even lines for skiiers, kids and hikers.  With a sock for every occasion - what's not to love!  I'm sure I'll still have socks at the top of my list - but just because there are so many styles to choose from, not because they've worn out.

Note:  I was not directly compensated for this post.  I simply loved my gift so much, I felt I needed to share.
 
 
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    We are big fans of Sandra Boynton in our house.  (Ok, correction, the kids and I are big fans - hubby thinks she's too 'cutesy' - but we have a whole stack of Berenstain Bears for him).  Not only is she a prolific writer, but her characters are engaging, her rhymes are catchy and fun, and her books are the perfect size (and sturdiness) for tiny hands.  The Going To Bed Book was a bedtime staple for my kids for a long long while.  They loved to see other kids going through the same bedtime routines they did.  The books have helped my kids learn colors, opposites, routines and animals, among other skills.  AND she doesn't just write books.  You may have read my post about how much I love her family calendar.  It is the one thing I depend upon to keep me organized and to get us where we're going on time.  Oh, and did I mention her music cds?
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    Her adorable stories and rhymes have been set to music and performed by some incredibly talented, incredibly famous people (think Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, Scott Bakula - please tell me I'm not the only Star-Trek-watching mama out there...).  If you're into more contemporary tunes, check out Dog Train featuring the likes of Hootie and the Blowfish, Five for Fighting and 'Weird Al' Yancovich. 
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    Our very favorite cd is Grunt: Pigorian Chant- an entire album of calm, soothing chants sung in - what else - pig latin.  If you're not paying strict attention, you just might miss the "e-i-e-i-os" and think you were listening to the real thing!  I love how much it calms down my kiddos before bedtime - and the included book of 'translations' is pretty hilarious as well. 
    My kids' Christmas lists are still full of her books and cds and we're adding to our collection regularly.  They were great 'on the potty' reading for my oldest and we even have a scrub-able Sandra Boynton book to take in the bath!  Her books and music are all, without a doubt, stuff I love.
 
 
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    Have I mentioned that I love love love my double stroller?  Because I do.  The last couple of days I've been without it (why?  because I'm just that distracted and totally forgot to put it back in the trunk of the van *sigh*).  And let me tell you, it's been harrowing. 
    When I don't have my stroller, I have to carry the not-yet-walking baby in my arms, hold one toddler by the hand while he holds his brother with his free hand, and balance any bags/purses/misc items on my shoulder and pray they don't slip.  At the doctor's office I couldn't put baby down for a second because I didn't want her getting germs all over.  Which made for interesting juggling when I had to retrieve items from my purse, help big brothers get their stickers and put away the chairs we'd dragged over to the tv.  At the store I had to chase two wild kiddos and return all the merchandise they were tossing willy-nilly into the cart.  At the library and the park I'm still not sure how I got all the kids and the books and the shovels and everything else out of and into the car.  Whew.
    My Graco Duo Glider double stroller makes my life infinitely easier.  It has two cushy seats for my younger kids to sit in.  Both seats have umbrellas to keep the sun out of their eyes.  The back seat even reclines and accommodates a Graco car seat which is perfect for smaller babies.  And with the snack-tray attached to the front seat the stroller has room for two bottles or sippy cups, two snacks, and a copious amounts of diapers, purses, changes of clothes, library books, groceries, toys, trash or whatever else we need to stash in the roomy basket beneath.  My boys fight over who gets to ride in the front (baby always has the back) and who has to *groan* walk everywhere.  I have a feeling that once she takes her first steps, baby is getting the boot. 
    Not only is the stroller comfy and roomy, but it handles amazing well.  It can take gravel and curbs without too much jostling, it folds up quickly and easily (though I've yet to master the one-handed fold), and it's light enough that even I can hoist it into my van.  Truthfully, it doesn't take up much more space that my single stroller did, and it fits through tight store aisles easily. 
    I fully admit that I'm nuts to attempt to go anywhere with all three of my kids in tow.  But sometimes it's just necessary, and when it is, I am eternally grateful for my awesome double stroller that helps me keep my kids safe and my hands free so I can get in, get out, and get it all done!
 
 
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    When I was in high school, a friend of mine confessed that she shaved with a man's razor.  I remember thinking it was a little weird, wondering how it was really different from the little pink Bic's I was using.  I had lots of little band-aids for all the nicks I got, and my shave only lasted 24 hours max, but I thought that was normal.
    Then I joined Vocalpoints and they sent me a free Gillette Fusion ProGlide razor.  I was out of my little pink Bics so I gave it a try (nope, didn't pass it on to hubby).  I am hooked!  I'll confess, I haven't tried all those fancy lady shavers out there - but I don't really want to.  This thing works like a dream.  Each cartridge has 4 sharp blades in it and an aloe strip that doesn't crumble even after repeated uses.  I have never had a closer, smoother, longer lasting shave in my life.  Not only does my shave now last almost 2 days, but I haven't cut myself once with this razor.  And the blades last almost 3 times as long as my little pink lady razors (a good thing, since the razor itself runs about $9 and the refills are $15 for a 4-pack). 
    Yes, it's a little pricey, but in my opinion, as someone who hates to shave, this razor is totally worth it!  And I like that with the refill packs I'm throwing out less plastic and less packaging.  I may never return to my cheap little razors again!  I highly recommend the ProGlide, but I'm also curious - are there any girly razors that you just love?  What's so great about them and how much do they cost?  Let us know!
 

SIL: Babylegs

09/12/2011

 
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We have a crawler in our house.  She desperately wants to walk, but she's just not there yet.  However, she crawls like the wind and rarely stops to sit.  At home, on the carpet, it's not a big deal.  But as much as baby loves to crawl, she loves to be outside.  And grass and concrete can do evil things to sweet, soft baby knees.  Therefore, I am addicted to babylegs.  In the summer, my kids live in onesies.  They're easy to wash, easy to put on, and nice and cool (it gets hot hot hot here).  So I keep a pair (or two) of babylegs in my purse and I'm ready for an impromptu trip to the park or a playdate at an uncarpeted home.  I've even lent my babylegs to other babies so they didn't have to miss out on the fun.  They also come in handy at stores and restaurants that are unexpectedly cold.  Or as an extra layer under pants and dresses when the weather turns chilly.  And the best part is - you don't have to remove them for diaper changes!  I've even been known to slip a pair on my own arms when I'm chilly and without a jacket.  There are so many uses for babylegs that I definitely stock up any time there's a sale.  There are several different manufacturers of baby legwarmers - even tutorials online of how to make your own!  I don't spend a lot on baby accessories, but these are one item I am more than willing to shell out a little money for.  My baby's sweet knees are scratch-free, and they look super stylish, too!
 
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