Tuesday, July 30, 2013

these are a few of my favorite {baby} things: PART TWO

Last November, I wrote about six of our favorite baby products.  Pretty soon after I wrote that post, I started thinking of items I'd forgotten to mention so since that time I've been meaning to write a follow up post.  Now that baby is about to turn one (!), I am finally getting around to it.

I love to read reviews - please tell me I'm not alone in this!  We rarely, rarely buy something on a whim.  Usually I've researched the different options carefully or gotten suggestions from other people.  That's why I like writing reviews.  Please note that I am receiving NO compensation from any company for writing about these products.  These are simply the products that we love and I'm writing about them because I think you'll love them too.  Bear with me on the pictures...most of them were iPhone pictures that were taken for the picture, not specifically to showcase these product.  :)

1. Britax B-Ready Stroller

We cannot say enough good things about our stroller.  We would buy it again in a heartbeat!  My favorite part is that the seat is very easily switched from facing the world, to facing the parent.  I love that Hadden can face us in his stroller!  We also liked that we bought one stroller that could be a single stroller, a double stroller, a jogging stroller (not perfect, but it definitely works) AND be a travel system with baby's carseat.  The wheels are big and sturdy, so they go over all the bumpy sidewalks in our neighborhood.  The price tag is a bit intimidating, but the past two years Amazon has been running a special (for most of the month of July, I believe) where the stroller is discounted AND you get a stroller accessory for free.  We chose a free 2nd seat so now we can go places with friends and we won't have to buy a new stroller if/when we have a second baby (no plans in the future, so don't go spreading rumors!)

2. Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner

As mentioned in the previous post of recommendations, we cloth diaper using BumGenuis Freetime AIO diapers.  What I didn't mention is the pail liner that goes along with them.  We have two of the Planet Wise Pail Liners and use them with a metal trashcan (like this one).  It works great!  When it's time to wash the diapers, I take the whole bag out and empty it in the washer.  If you plan on cloth diapering, you should give these a try!

3.  Real Nappies Diaper Liners (biodegradable and earth-friendly!)

For all the people who think cloth diapering is the most disgusting thing you've ever heard of, here's the secret.  Use liners!  We use Real Nappies and find them to work very well.  I'm not going to go into details, but here's the basic idea: you just lay a liner on top of the clean diaper before you put it on.  When it's time to change the diaper, the liner goes into the toilet while the diaper goes into the diaper pail.  Easy peasy.

4.  Stacker Set

My sister bought this Green Toys My First Stacker as little gift for Hadden's birthday, but gave it to him early.  I have been SO surprised at how much he likes it!  He concentrates exceptionally hard on getting those pieces together and although he is still far from mastering it, I like seeing how he's using his brain.  Over the past month we've practiced stacking large to small, small to large and by color.  We also learned that if you spin the pieces on a smooth surface, they spin like tops - this will buy you an extra five minutes of "happy".  :)  An added plus of this lovely toy is that it is made in the United States and made of recycled materials.

5.  Books!

 The picture above was when I ran into a store to pick up a new book for Hadden and came out with seven books instead!  If you can't tell, we love books around here!  It's the one thing that we'll never have enough of.  We are pretty picky about everything the books he has, but thankfully there are many, many wonderful children's books to choose from.  Some of our current favorites are:

6.  Car Mirror

This was one of those things that I didn't think to register for, but someone bought me anyways, and I sure am glad they did!  We were given the Prince Lionhart mirror.  It's so much easier to check on baby and put his soother back in with one of these!  Plus, Hadden loves looking at himself in the mirror.  He was much happier with someone to look at on our drives! :)  I like that the Prince Lionhart has two clips on the bottom where you can hang toys.

7.  Ikea Highchair, tray and cushion

We bought the Ikea Antilop highchair and tray and the Barnslig cushion.  If you have the luxury of living near an Ikea, you can go get all three of these items for a whopping total of $30.  Unfortunately we don't live near an Ikea so we bought each piece separately (they aren't all sold online) and ended up paying much more than that in shipping costs.  However, it was still cheaper than the majority of the highchairs out there.  I love that it is compact and is aesthetically pleasing while still being practical.

This is a very, very simple design and I love it.  It is easy to put together and I've read that other people even take it on car trips because it's so easy to disassemble.  Because it's so utilitarian, it is easy to clean - there aren't many places for food to get stuck.  We spray it with a water/vinegar mixture and wipe it down with a cloth and it stays very clean.  The cushion goes into the laundry (along with whatever else I'm washing) every so often and it's held up very well.  The one complaint I have read about this highchair is that it is very hard to get the tray off.  We put the tray on the day we received it and haven't taken it off since which has worked out fine for us.

8. Security Blanket

When I decided to get Hadden a "lovey", I chose a Aden + Anais Muslin Security Blanket.  The muslin is soft and breathable, but what Hadden really loved was the silk edge.  It came in a pack of two, which is perfect because everyone and their mother tells you to make sure you have two of whatever item your child decides to love.  We have one for the crib and one for the diaper bag, but he likes to carry them around (usually he carries them around in his teeth - silly boy!).  They wash well which is a major plus.  We bought them from Target for less than half of the price on Amazon.

9. Secure-A-Toy

This was another thing that wasn't on my registry, but was a great baby gift!  We have used Secure-A-Toy for his soother and for toys.  Last month when we took a long road trip, I could easily turn around and attach a toy for him to play with.  When he was bored with it, I could pull it back and attach a new toy.

10.  Raffi DVDs

We love Raffi.  There's no way around it.  I could write a whole post (or four) on all the things we love about him, but I'll try to keep it brief.  :)  We have a DVD containing three Raffi concerts filmed between 1984-1993.  It is hilarious to see the outfits and hairstyles from the 80's, but Raffi's songs and his kind, respectful demeanor are timeless.  My sister said it like this: "He seemed so genuine and respectful.  We had noticed in watching the Wiggles, Barney, and other similar children’s musicians, that they all seemed to pander to the crowd.  With Raffi there was true respect and joy."

These are the only shows that Hadden watches, but he loves them (at this point we only watch the first two...the Broadway one is a bit too old for him)!  He knows all the songs and we usually sing along to them.  He gets excited when he hears the music.  It's been a fun way for our family to connect because Caleb and I have watched these so many times that we have it memorized - even the speaking parts!  We sing the songs in the car and at home and love seeing Hadden connect to music at this young age.

Hope that you find some new favorite products from this list!  :)

**as stated above, I get NO compensation from any company for recommending these products.  These are simply the brands that we use and would recommend to others based on our experience.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


My junior and senior years in college, I was an RA which meant I was in charge of a hall of about 24 girls.  On Thursday nights, all six RAs for our building would meet in our RD's apartment - I have so many memories from that time!  It changed a bit week to week depending on what we had to discuss, but one part that we almost always made time for was our highlights/lowlights (sometimes we called them our roses and our thorns).

The first time I heard someone say highlights/lowlights I though they were talking about getting their hair highlighted!  :)  But it's actually a way to share the BEST and WORST part of your week (or day, depending on how often you share it).

Highlights/Lowlights are something we plan on using in our family.  Most days I ask Caleb about his day this way.  And when Hadden is bigger (i.e. talking!), we want to do the same.  My goal is to live intentionally and this is one way to do that.

Here's why I like this method:

1) It fosters communication. 
   If you ask, "How was your day?", it's easy for the person to respond with a one word answer.  These are conversation starters.

2) It makes time for reflection
  In college, there were times when I rushed into the RA meeting at the last minute and hadn't had time to process the day yet.  But when it was my turn to share my highlight/lowlight, I had to take a moment to think.  Was my lowlight cramming for a test at the last minute?  Hm. Maybe next time I should start studying sooner!

3)  It leads to intentional conversation
   When Caleb tells me his "lowlight", it correlates with what is stressful or difficult in his life.  When I know his stressors, I can better understand him and help to reduce those if possible.  Conversely, if his "highlight" is going for a run, I can make a note that the next time he is stressed, perhaps I should make sure he gets time to go out and run.
  At our RA meetings, it was a way to really understand the other girls and to hear what was going on in their lives beyond simply "hey, how are you?".  It was a way to both rejoice and mourn with each other as sisters in Christ.

This is one of those easy-peasy things to incorporate into your life, whether it be with your spouse, children, friends, small group or whatever.  But I hope that it will foster good conversations if you choose to give it a try!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

our favorite summer recipes

At the end of April, I shared about our summer produce challenge where we decided to eat primarily vegetables for lunch.  We've done surprisingly well.  Obviously, when we were on our very long trip we didn't follow this plan...it's kinda hard to eat this way when you're either grabbing fast food on the road or eating at other people's houses.

Today I thought I'd share some of our favorite salads.  These are the foods that we haven't been able to get enough of this summer!

1)  Shauna Niequist's Watermelon Feta Salad

2)  Corn, Avocado, Tomato, Feta, Cucumber & Red Onion with a Cilantro Vinaigrette

3)  Spinach Strawberry Salad with Candied Pecans, Feta and Raspberry Poppyseed Dressing

If you can get your hands on Shauna Niequest's book Bread and Wine, I'd also recommend her play on mexican street corn (Elotes) - grilled corn, feta, lime, a touch of mayonnaise (i'm typing this from memory so i'm probably forgetting something).  It's really good!  Sometimes we use it as a main dish, but it's also good as a side to steak or grilled chicken.

One more "recipe" that comes from my sister.  We eat this almost every week.  Sometimes as a main dish.  Sometimes as a side.  Sometimes as a topping for mexican food.  Just mix corn, black beans, red onion, cilantro and lime juice.  Add a little salt and pepper and store in the fridge.  It lasts for a few days so we usually make a big amount and eat it several times.

Hope you find a new recipe and give it a try!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

currently reading: Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me

"A memoir...of sorts."  That's the subtitle to Ian Morgan Cron's latest book (the first I've read of his) and it really does sum up the book perfectly.  The book was utterly engaging - Cron is a fantastic writer.  I read this book in about 24 hours because I kept wanting to pick it up whenever I had free time.

Cron tells the story of growing up in a strict Irish Catholic family, going to parochial school and living with an unstable alcoholic father.  At the age of 16, Cron was told that his father worked for the CIA, which came as a great surprise.  Cron writes about his own addictions throughout high school, college and young married life and how he eventually entered ministry.  He now works as an Episcopal priest.

What I loved about this "memoir of sorts" is that was easy to read.  It felt like reading fiction.  I would be reading along, laughing at some description, enjoying the book and then all of a sudden there would be a sentence that would hit me because of its truth and honesty.  He has a unique way of writing about Christianity, but it was refreshing and contemplative.  Each character, as well as each event, is vividly described.  As much as it was beautiful to read about his reverence and respect for his first communion, it was painful to read the way his father treated him.

At the beginning of the book, Cron explains that he is retelling all these events with a few changes.  But he reminds his readers that all stories are colored by the view of the person telling them.  He wrote: "This is a record of my life as I remember it - but more importantly, as I felt it."  That description is gold.  

**This book was sent to me from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

the FIVE gift rule

In my quest to be an intentional parent, I came across the four gift rule on Pinterest:

I love it!  Such a good way to fight the materialism we often see in America and give intentional gifts to our children.  

However, I had one addition to this list.  Each year for Christmas (and perhaps for his birthday too), we want to give Hadden a small amount of money that he gets to donate to an important cause of his choice.  This way we're teaching him to give to others even as he is receiving gifts.  Since we don't have a lot of money, we won't be giving him very much to donate.  But I think it's good for him to learn to give what little he has and to pick an organization that means something to him.

At this point he's still a baby so he won't be choosing for a couple years.  But I've got a few ideas of where we could donate money in his honor, like our local zoo where we love going as a family.  Or a local food pantry because as I look at my baby boy, I can't imagine the agony a mother must feel when she can't afford food for her children and has to watch them go hungry.

Is this all a bit idealist of me?  Will my son someday complain because his friends get more gifts than he does?  Probably.  :)  But my husband and I are doing what we think is very best for our son and I hope that one day he sees that.
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