Gear Guide for the New Mom

When we got married, I was so excited to register. We went to Pottery Barn & Bed Bath & Beyond and got our little gun and went nuts. Everything was pretty straight forward- plates, pillows, platters and silverware. But when we got pregnant for the first time with Ginger, I remember getting online, going to babiesRus and thinking, “What the heck IS all this stuff?!”  Thankfully, a friend forwarded me an email that 7 or 8 different moms had replied to, in which they all chimed in about what they did and did not need with their two cents on the best baby stuff out there. This is my version of that email to you.

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SnugRider Stroller- Let’s start with the most important: the stroller. I have two strollers that I have used a TON. The first a base that my Graco SnugRider Carseat snaps into. It is extremely lightweight and easy to use. Baby Trend has a similar one called Snap N Go- not the one I have, but same idea. You don’t even have to take your baby out of their carseat- just (literally) snap and go. I recommend looking on Craigslist before you buy it new for $80 (I got mine for $15) but either way, trust me- you will like this.

This is the base for the Graco SnugRider. Super light weight and easy to collapse.
This is the base for the Graco SnugRider. Super light weight & easy to collapse and your car seat snaps right on top.

Phil & Ted’s Stroller- I am extremely passionate about the Phil & Ted’s double stroller. This is for when your baby outgrows the infant car seat. I HIGHLY recommend getting it from the start. The doubles kit is detachable, so you can use it for just one child. It is narrow and streamlined and pretty lightweight. The major downfall is that it’s expensive, like very expensive. I got mine used off the Denver Craigslist one summer for $200.

The Phil & Teds with doubles kit attached.
The Phil & Teds with doubles kit attached.

Car Seat- I got the Graco Snugride because I liked the stroller concept (see above). But it truly has been a great car seat, 3 (soon to be 4) kids later.

The Woombie- I swear by the Woombie (ie: Baby Straight Jacket) and prefer it hands down to any swaddle. There is no extra fabric that can cover their face to cause suffocation because it zips. I’ve worried with every child that they would have a hard time sleeping without it and so far, no problems. The Swaddle Pod also works.

Sweet Pearl in her woombie.
Sweet Pearl in her woombie.

Glider- I didn’t skimp on my glider. In fact, it was the group gift from two different showers. Five years later, I still LOVE it. So many sweet memories. I couldn’t find the exact one, but this a similar style in a different color. Funny how a simple chair can hold such special memories, especially late night ones.

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My glider.

Bidet- Yes, I said bidet on a baby gear post. But if you had one, you would put it on here too, I promise you. Long story short, my parents have one & gave us a high end one for our wedding (HA!) complete with a remote control. It rinses you with warm water (my parents have a seat warmer and built in dryer as well).  For mamas who are adopting, some of this may not apply, but listen to me- you still need this. And you never knew it was a need until now. For the rest of us moms, this is your at home “sitz bath“. At the hospital, they will give you a little squirt bottle and a portable bidet to keep your bottom sanitary after all the trauma you’ve endured. Coming home to this convenience after having a baby is… wonderful. It is also great for just keeping you clean down there on a regular basis and well, honestly after sex. So there you have it. You do need an outlet in your bathroom near the toilet and though I can’t personally vouch for this one, I know they sell them for cheap ($26) on amazon and it has 1000 reviews, so apparently I’m not alone. Just think about it.

By bidet, I’m talking about a toilet seat attachment that fastens on… and then changes your life. Forever.

The Right Coffee Table- And by the right coffee table I mean the right toy box. Having a giant chest for a table allows our family room to double as a playroom by day, but turn back to a quiet living space at night. This was probably the best $200 we’ve spent yet.

Nebraska Furniture Mart Coffee Table. This continues to be a life saver.
Nebraska Furniture Mart Coffee Table. This continues to be a life saver.

Pack N Play- Don’t be an idiot like me and buy the heaviest one you can find just because the pattern looks like gucci. I want to kill myself every time we take a trip, which is constantly. Consider these lightweight options: Phil & Ted’s Traveller (still $100 cheaper than the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib) or the more affordable option, but works better for kids around 3 yrs- The Pea Pod.

The Phil & Ted's Traveller. Weighs 5 pounds, not 100 like mine.
The Phil & Ted’s Traveller. Weighs 5 pounds, not 100 like mine.

Swing/ Bouncy Seat- My first swing was huge and took up a ton of space. When Pearl was born, I got a Fisher Price swing/vibrating bouncy seat combo. I really like it. It doesn’t go side to side, but other than that, I love.

Fisher Price Space Saver Swing & Bouncy Seat
Fisher Price Space Saver Swing & Bouncy Seat

Breast Pump- Some friends of ours got us the Medela Pump in Style Advanced (double electric). It’s nice. If you have a friend who has one, you can also consider buying new tubing and using theirs. This is also convenient for long car trips if you have a car outlet adapter.

Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump.
Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump.

High Chair- Again, I like small & streamlined, so I’ve liked the Fisher Price Space Saver  because it reclines. But June is 8 months and I’ve switched her to the Fisher Price Booster Seat. These are also obviously great for traveling. If you don’t want to do a space saver, but still like small, try Ikea’s cool looking Antilop chair.

Fisher Price Booster Seat High Chair.
Fisher Price Booster Seat High Chair.

Baby Carrier- I liked the Moby for the closeness, but it did get hot in the summer. I’ve heard a lot of people rave about the Ergo, that they love the back support. And I really like the way that looks. It is pricey, so we opted for the Moby.

The Moby Wrap.
The Moby Wrap.

Diaper Bag- The key to a good diaper bag is this: POCKETS. Especially side pockets, but just lots of pockets in general. I got mine 4 1/2 years ago so it’s no longer available, but I’ll post a pic so you get the general idea. It’s the Fossil Key Per Coated Canvas Utility Tote. I like that it stands up and I can put my coffee mug on one side and a bottle on the other. I keep 2 different sized diapers in the pockets in the front. It has a ton of room and 4 large pockets on the inside as well. I tried a couple other ones before this that just didn’t work and haven’t seen anything like it since. If you’ve found one you love, post in the comments.

Fossil Key Per Coated Canvas Utility Tote.
Fossil Key Per Coated Canvas Utility Tote.

Cloth Diapers- They’re not as weird as you think- they go on & velcro just like real diapers. But you do have to be willing to get your hands a little dirty. We did bumGenius diapers with our first two. We registered for 25, which was plenty and just used disposable wipes. I loved doing cloth diapers and highly recommend them. I just chose to stop doing them for a while because they are a big time commitment and I couldn’t keep up with so many little ones at once. But if you are able to get them as gifts and even use them for your first couple children, it’s a major money saver (especially if you have an HE washing machine) not to mention it’s awesome not throwing all those diapers away. Speaking of diapers, no one ever told me about cloth SWIM DIAPERS! I just discovered them a year ago. I will never buy swim diapers again!

Cloth Diapers
Cloth Diapers

Diaper Cream- You’re not supposed to use diaper cream with cloth because it can strip the absorbency of the inserts, however… when I needed to, I used Beudreauxs Butt Paste. 

Crib Sheets- You’ll need 2, maybe 3. Make sure they fit the mattress. I have a couple that are annoyingly small and I get int a fight with them every time I have to put them on.

Small Thermal Cooler Bag For bottles & breast milk. The hospital gave us one for free & it was nice to have.

Other- 3 Changing pad covers, Bathtub & support insert, Bobby Pillow, 1-2 padded pack n play sheets, car seat head support, playmat, exersaucer, bumbo, burp bloths (at least 7 or 8 if not more), binkys(?), Bassinet & sheets (something easy to borrow), Dr Brown’s Slow Flow bottles (glass or plastic), bibs, baby spoons, sippys….

What I didn’t need:

Diaper genie- No. I recommend a small trash can for pee diapers and keeping plastic bags in a drawer ready for poopy diapers that you can put in the garage.

Changing table- You really don’t need one. Just a dresser that you can put a changing pad on and you’re good.

Sheet savers, lap pad & waterproof pads- I’m not even sure what these are & you don’t need them.

Crib soother- our kids used sound machines instead.

Car mirror- I always wanted this to work, but it never really did for me.

Jumperoo- I know some people swear by these, but I just used our exersaucer.

Wipe warmer- Seemed a little high maintenance but what do I know.

JJ Bundle Me- EVERYONE told me I needed this. And again, I wanted to use it a lot more than I did. But they’re kind of a pain to get on and off and a blanket works just as well.

Video Baby Monitor- I know people who couldn’t live without these, but I got freaked out by a segment I saw on Good Morning America about hackers who could see into your baby’s room and sometimes even talk to your baby. Needless to say, I didn’t get one.

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On a not-so-side note, this stuff adds up. In Columbia, we have a Facebook group called Como Moms Exchange were 2,000 moms buy & sell used stuff. It’s like an ongoing garage sale, except I can see if we have mutual friends. And because of it, my girls have a Barbie Jeep, two bikes, scooters, and lots of other fun things. Check & see if your town has one & if not, consider starting a group yourself.

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What Baby gear do you have that you have loved? Do you have a diaper bag you love?

Over the Moon: Nursery Rhyme Birthday Party

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I know birthday parties can sometimes be overwhelming for Mom. But for me, I look at it as an opportunity to have a creative outlet, which I don’t always make time for. When Pearl turned one, we did a “Girls in Pearls, Guys in Ties” theme and it was so much fun, I started thinking in themes. Ginger & Pearl’s birthdays are only a few weeks apart, so I decided to save on food & make things easy on myself by combining both their parties into one. And since these little years won’t last forever, I thought it’d be fun to do something with nursery rhymes. The food was fun to do because it was so easy to find corresponding nursery rhymes to “match.” I used google image to make some labels on my computer & printed them off for everything including water(!) Here are some pics:

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Roast Beef Sandwiches: Three Little Pigs
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Veggies: Mary, Mary Quite Contrary
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Candlesticks: Jack Be Nimble
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Water: Jack & Jill ran up the Hill
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Wine: Old Mother Hubbard
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Nursery Rhyme Food

We ordered our Mother Goose cake from Kathleen Gardner, who runs a local place called Tartelette. It far exceeded any expectations I had! And our amazing friend Maria made the cupcakes, which were phenomenal!

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Mother Goose Cake by Tartelette
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Mother Goose Cake
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Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star & Cow Jumping Over the Moon Cupcakes by Maria’s Kitchen
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Cupcakes
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Pearl was Over the Moon for her cupcake!

I also made (& froze) some cookies ahead of time. I’d never made royal icing before, so for an amateur, I was super pleased with how they turned out. For the tutorial I used, click here.

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Humpty Dumpty & Cow Jumping Over the Moon cookies

Most of the decorations were made from old plywood we had. My husband put his jigsaw to use and helped me with the shape and then I used the kids’ paint to create a Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose, Clock tower and Cow Jumping over the Moon.

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The Cow Jumped Over the Moon
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The Mouse Ran Up the Clock
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Humpty Dumpty & Mother Goose

Games: We played “Pin the Tale on the Black Sheep” with cotton balls and had a Humpty Dumpty Piñata. Ginger & Pearl actually helped make this- it was fairly simple to do and they LOVED being involved.

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Pin the Tale on the Black Sheep

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The piñata!

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Lastly, the favors I kept super simple. To keep costs low, I used construction paper & a stapler and leftover candy from the piñata to make little Humpty Dumpty treats.

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Homemade Humpty Dumpty favors.

Finally, I also made a wooden Dish Ran Away with the Spoon Photo Prop (could’ve also been used for a bean bag toss).

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Me & my Pearl with the photo prop.

Overall, it was a blast… and such a sweet & memorable theme these two.

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Happy Birthday, Ginger & Pearl!

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What was a memorable birthday theme you had growing up?

Preschool at Home: 10 tips

Let me begin by saying that I went to preschool when I was two. I think it’s a great thing. We just aren’t doing it. And it’s not that we plan on homeschooling- we don’t. In fact, at this point, feel pretty called & compelled by the vision to be involved in public schools. For us, it’s a couple things. For one, there’s the cost of sending 4 kids to preschool in a 6 year time span- it can be expensive. And more importantly, for me- I figure, they have the rest of their lives to be in school, but I have a short window where I have all day to invest in their little hearts & minds. And I’m up for it. Obviously though, I also want Ginger to be prepared for kindergarten in a year. So, for anyone out there who may be in a similar boat as us, or for the mom who is just looking for a few ideas for how to be intentional with young ones, here are a few tips & thoughts:

  • Use abcjesuslovesme.com. I’m sure there are other good websites out there, but this is truly amazing. There are so many things I love about this website. For one, it’s free. But for two, I love the balance between spiritual input and otherwise. I love that it not only gives me a Bible story connected with life skills (this week Abraham & Sarah: patience), but they are also learning letters and numbers and shapes & patterns & fine and gross motor skills.abcjesuslovesme.jpg
  • Plan in Advance. I’m not talking weeks ahead, but I think it’s helpful at the start of every week, to get online, print off all you need & at least scan what’s ahead.
  • Do it From Your Phone. I have wireless printing from my iPhone, so I just pull the website up on my phone and print off the week’s objectives. I’m also able to print her tracing paper & any necessary worksheets from my phone, which just makes everything so easy. Next, I pull up my library’s website & (again, from my phone!) put a hold on all the books for that month I need. That way, I can either take the girls and they’re all ready for us at the front desk, or I can have my husband stop and get them on his way home.
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I print these worksheets from my phone. Left: Coloring worksheet from Abraham & Sarah lesson, Right: Tracing paper. Right now we’re working on L’s, F’s, E’s & the #4.
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I copy & paste the titles of the books right into my library’s website, click HOLD & wahlah. Ready for pick up.
  • Don’t Feel Like You Have to Do it All. I’m not even sure if you could- there’s so much on here. I just do a few days a week, so I pick my favorite crafts that seem doable. Or sometimes I’ll go in spurts. We did a ton this winter and spring, but now that it’s summer, we’re at the pool a lot. We’re still working through the lessons, but it’s not the focus right now.
  • Be Resourceful. Initially you will want to get a bunch of basic stuff for crafts (paint, glue, pipe cleaners, glitter, etc). I have a bin full. But then you can start saving random things like toilet & paper towel rolls, egg cartons and oatmeal containers. A friend of mine once gave me a big bag full of those bright colored tops from those fruit & veggie sqeezables, saying she thought I could find a use for them. Sure enough, in the few weeks before Easter, several of the lessons included crafts involving caterpillars & butterflies for spring and to go along with the idea of Jesus’ resurrection (it was a bit of a stretch, but it worked). One of the fine motor activities involved lacing & it hit me- why not use some twine & have them lace those tops to make a Very Hungry Caterpillar?! It turned out awesome!
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The Very Hungry Caterpillar hanging from our rafters 🙂 We also made caterpillars from old egg cartons & butterflies using their feet and a paper towel roll.
  • Use a Flannel Graph. Anyone out there remember these? Think 1970’s Sunday school classroom for the 4’s & 5’s. Apparently, they’re making a comeback. Or at least in my house. Abcjesuslovesme.com suggests using one alongside each lesson (I’m guessing most people don’t) so my mother-in-law happened to have one from years ago she gave us. Kids always feel more engaged with the story & learn better with props. It’s just a fact.
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Ginger, using the Jesus Story Book Bible and our flannelgraph to understand the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-45).
  • Create a Messy Space. We have a small amount of unfinished storage space in our house that I’ve turned into our “craft room.” We have a kids table & chairs, all our art supplies & I laid down a tarp as well. The amazing thing about this space is that I never have to worry glitter or play dough crumbs (which I loathe) or messy hands. I keep a change of clothes for each of them down there and a box of wipes & paper towels to wipe their hands off before we come back upstairs. It takes away the barrier for me of not wanting to make a mess. If you don’t have a space like this, maybe just get a tarp you can set down or do whatever you need to so you can relax while your kids create. Kids also love it when you display they’re art because it shows you’re proud of them & what they’ve made. I hang up what they make (from church, too) on the walls, so it’s literally their art gallery.
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Our unfinished storage space turned into their craft room… and art gallery.
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If you don’t have an unfinished space you can use, put a towel down. Just LET THEM MAKE A MESS!!!!
  • Use Appletv. For Christmas, my parents got us appletv. We didn’t have a smart tv, so for $99, you can attach this little black box to the back of your tv and it becomes wireless. What I like about appletv as opposed to a general smart tv (besides the fact that I can scroll my pictures to music as a screensaver), is that it syncs to your iphone- so you can do something called “mirroring” where you put your phone’s screen up on your tv. How is this related? There are amazing apps you can download on your phone- abcjesusloves.com recommends www.starfall.com  (amazing) and I also really like abcmouse.com. Ginger (4) and Pearl (2) can be sitting next to each other on the couch and while Ginger is learning how to read, Pearl can easily watch and listen easily on the tv. Technology after all, is not of the devil; it’s a good thing in moderation. Kids today grow up knowing how to use an iphone before learning how to talk.
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    Learning to read with Starfall.com
  • It Takes a Village. This goes back to not feeling like you have to do it all. There are always occasions each month where we have babysitters, whether for small group or other ministry functions. During the school year, I have a babysitter that comes regularly and it dawned on me- why not have her read some of our library books with them or read a Bible story?
  •  Keep Perspective. You’ve heard it 1000 times, but it’s true: This is a short season. Your labor is not in vain. Get as much of God & His Word into their little minds and hearts now while they are young and impressionable. You can’t control whether or not they walk with God in the future, but you can set them up for success and till the soil of the hearts now. Plus, littles love any hands on time with you they can get. And like I said before, don’t feel like you have to do it all. Being hard on yourself or overly rigid or strict will lead to burnout. Give yourself grace and keep the bigger picture in mind. With God’s help, you can do it.

Wholesome Baby Food

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June (8 months) helping me make pear puree.

There have been so many things that have surprised me about myself since becoming a mom. One of those things is how much I’ve enjoyed making the kids’ baby food. I’m no health nut by any means, but it’s nice to know exactly what’s going in their little bodies. Not to mention, it saves a lot of money in pre packaged baby food- and it’s super easy.

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I freeze all my baby food in ice cube trays & keep it anywhere from 1-3 months.

I highly recommend a website called www.wholesomebabyfood.com. I have used this site a TON over the last five years and it continues to be an amazing resource. There’s info on how to prepare food, allergies, age appropriate food charts by month (when to introduce what)… and honestly any question I’ve ever had about food for my littles has pretty much been answered on this website. I like to do a ton at once as you can see. This morning, I did pears, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, acorn squash & peas. (The broccoli & peas were frozen- another way to save a bit). All in all, it only took a couple hours & I have tons of food now in my freezer!

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Pearl helping me with the acorn squash.

If you have older kids & can’t think of how you’d have time to do something like this, let them help!! Above, Pearl is helping me take the seeds out of these acorn squashes. Then we poured a little olive oil & salt on them and roasted them for a mid morning snack. At times it’s overwhelming having so many littles at home, but they LOVE being involved and helping in the kitchen any chance they get!!

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I like to do it all at once, make a big mess and be done for a while.

If you’re thinking about trying your hand at making your own baby food, don’t be intimidated- if I can do it, you can do it! good luck & enjoy!

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What motivates or intimates you about making your own baby food?

Service is Not my Forte.

When I was in college, my mentor Jane gave me some feedback: “You’re good at a lot of things, but service is not your forte.” Ouch. Ever heard the phrase, “Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy”? Yep, it’s true.  I have had to learn the hard way what Tim Keller describes as the freedom of self-forgetfulness.  It’s that certain upside-downness to the Kingdom of God: “He who finds his life will lose it and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

I used to sit across the table from Jane in a Starbucks with my Bible learning these things. Nowadays, my discipleship comes in the form of three little ones demanding my time & attention, stripping away any last shred of patience and the will to act like I have it together. When my kids are throwing temper tantrums in public or I’m covered (literally covered) in poop, it seems impossible that I could have any pride left. And yet, there it is again. So I am mindful that my children and current circumstances have become my teachers and disciplers. And while the lessons have become more humbling and exposing, I see it as a good thing. Instead of allowing myself to be crushed under the standards of trying to be that perfect mom, I drink deeply and daily of the grace of God. Believe me, I need it.

Me holding my little teachers/ disciplers.
Me holding my little teachers/ disciplers.

As my kids grow and become more aware of my flaws, I don’t feel the pressure to try to hide or defend my shortcomings. I say to them, “There’s only one Jesus and I’m not Him. I need Him just as much as you do and all the rest of us.” Rejecting the urge to self-defend or self-deny, I put myself in a vulnerable place. A place where I must refuse the Momguilt and at the risk of repeating myself- embrace the grace.

[Side-note: I define Momguilt as shame felt over failure to be all things to all people at all times. When you’re working, you feel like you should be playing/spending time with your kids. When you’re focusing on your kids, you feel guilty that you should be cooking or cleaning your house. And so on & so on. I remind myself that I am finite and have limitations, therefore I cannot be all things to my kids or anyone else.]

Speaking of embracing the grace, I will be doing lots of more of that in the coming months. Current snapshot: It’s a Saturday morning. My 8 month old Juney, is sleeping and Ginger (4) & Pearl (2) are fighting while they watch Dora. And we found out a week ago that we are cooking a fourth. Ummm, what are we thinking??!?!? People tell me I’m crazy and honestly I agree- HA! What better time to start a blog, right? 😉

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What’s a lesson you’ve learned from caring for a little one?

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