Baby Love: Mama's favorite baby items!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This post has been a long time coming, so forgive me for how delayed it is. I've had it drafted up for months now but haven't had the time, energy, or motivation to finish and get it published on the blog until now. These three tiny humans I care for have been getting in my way!

I wanted to share a few of my favorite baby items with everyone. No, I'm not new to this whole mom thing, but I am relatively new to the whole baby thing again. I mean, we have an age gap here of 10 and 6 years people. Things certainly have changed since the last time I had a baby, and I wanted to fill you in on some of my "new" favorite baby things this time around. I'm not rich and this isn't a sponsored post (I wasn't given any of these baby products to review). I had to purchase them all, which means they are pretty affordable. If you're looking for fancy, teched-out, extravagant baby items this is not the place to find them. Sorry- just real, practical baby stuff here! I'm going to try my best to not get all preachy and holier-than-thou when it comes to parenting tips and tricks because I hate when people do that to me. I know that everyone has their own beliefs and opinions when it comes to caring for their babies. I'm just trying to pass on a little friendly advice from one mom to another :) 

These are in no particular order, so let's just get started. (None of the links I'm providing to these products are affiliate links- just linking to the site or store from which I purchased them). 

Ergo Baby Carrier- $119.99 at Target. OK, total newbie here when it comes to baby wearing. When Ayden and Lily were little I didn't have one of these. Actually, I did, but it was a lot different. I'm not going to name any names or brands, but a lot of older styles baby carriers do not position the baby ergonomically correct and are often referred to as "crotch danglers." That's bad, and can actually cause harm to your baby (back, spine, & hips). I won't lecture here, but I love my Ergo because it's comfortable and safe for both myself and Harper. Plus, it can be used for a front or back carry, along with a hip carry too. The straps are super padded and it even has a little hood on it for baby too so she is protected from the sun, rain, and wind. I use my Ergo for shopping and I love to wear Harper around the house when I have chores to do or when she just need some extra love and cuddling. She loves the Ergo too! I've been told you can even nurse while wearing this thing, but I've yet to master that technique. Some other great options similar to this brand are Tula and Beco.

Moby Wrap- $44.99 at Target. Before I got my Ergo I was all about the Moby Wrap. The Moby is awesome for baby wearing too and is very versatile. I felt super comfortable putting Harper in it even as a newborn (they say 8+ pounds I believe). The Moby is super soft and stretchy and can be wrapped up in a number of different ways for different holds and carry positions. I used this more around 0-4 months and then switched to the Ergo. The Moby is great to wear your baby around the house, but I found it a little difficult to get it on and wrapped correctly when trying to carry her in public (like at the grocery store). 

Fisher-Price My Little SnugaMonkey Swing- $159.99 at Target. This swing is awesome. Seriously, a life saver for us! Harper has acid reflux and has had a hard time laying totally flat to sleep. She also loves movement (especially side to side motions) so this swing was a must for us. At $160 though it was a huge splurge for us. I have never before in my life spent that much on a baby swing! Let me tell you though, it was totally worth every penny. The number one selling point for us was that you can adjust the direction it swings- either front to back like a traditional swing, or you can turn it and it will go side to side. It can also lean completely back to a fully reclined position or can be propped up to more of a sitting position. It's super soft and plush so it's really comfortable for baby, and it has 6 different speeds on it. It also plays music and soothing sound and has a cute little monkey mobile for baby to look at. Oh, the best part? It can be plugged in! That's right- no batteries. Well, it has the option to use batteries, but for at home daily use it has the power cord, which is a huge money saver (and no more dead batteries!) If your baby is a swing lover like my little Harper then this swing would be perfect for you.

NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator- $15.49 at Target. This one is very new on my must-have list. The NoseFrida, AKA Snot Sucker, looks and sounds like it would be totally disgusting, but you know what? It works! Harper just had her first cold and has been super congested and stuffed up. I can never get those traditional nose sucker bulb thingies to do much of anything, so when my sister-in-law suggested this to me I sent my husband to Target immediately. It's got a tube with a disposable filter that goes from the little snot collector to your mouth (yep- to your mouth!) and you literally suck the snot out of your baby's nose. I know it sounds gross, but as moms we do all kinds of gross stuff, right? The snot isn't going to go into your mouth. I repeat, the snot is not going to go into your mouth. Everyone has asked me me, you're not going to be eating baby boogers. I found that using a baby nasal spray like Little Remedies Sterile Saline Nasal Mist first helps a lot. I do 1 or 2 quick little sprays up each nostril and then vacuum them out with the NoseFrida and voila!  My baby can breath through her nose again and can now sleep peacefully. I so wish I had one of these when my other kids were younger. Life changing! Get yourself a snot sucker. And spend $3.99 on the 20 pack of extra disposable filters...because, ew. 

Philips Avent single electric breast pump- $119.99 on I love this breast pump. The only thing that would make it better was if I would have gotten the double, but alas, a single will work (especially if you're cheap like me. The double was $199). My insurance got me another brand of pump and I absolutely hated it. It was uncomfortable and it hurt, even after my boobs had toughened up and were used to being devoured by a very hungry baby. Pumping shouldn't hurt. Out of desperation my husband (once again) ran out the retrieve me a pump and came back with this one. We didn't have $300+ to spend on a pump and this one was a great value for the price. It has 3 different speed settings and it has a soft, unique massage cushion to help stimulate milk flow. I am able to produce a lot of excess milk...I'm talking a LOT. The first few months I was having to pump 3-4 times every 24 hours just to relieve myself from being engorged or from getting clogs. I used (and still use) this pump a lot and it's done a great job. With just this little single pump I'm able to get a full 6oz in about 10 minutes. Plus, it's small, lightweight, and has the option to be battery powered for traveling. Oh, and it has a 2 year warranty, which means I'm pretty much covered for my entire breastfeeding duration. If you need a good quality pump that doesn't break the bank this one is a great option! Again, I just wish I would have gotten the double one, but a single will definitely work too.

Aden + Anais bamboo swaddle blankets- $45 for a 3 pack on I fell in love with these adorable bamboo blankets 2 summers ago when my niece was about 6 months old, so it was no surprise when my sister showed up with two of them for me at the hospital when Harper was born. These lightweight blankets are 47x47 inches and are the perfect size for swaddling, and they get softer each time you wash them. I used these all the time when Harper was first born, even in the middle of summer in the middle of a heatwave. They are so lightweight and breathable that I was still able to swaddle her without overheating her. Even if your baby doesn't like being swaddled, they make perfect receiving blankets and double as a great nursing cover. 

Summer Infant SwaddleMe- $22.72 for a 2 pack on This thing was a lifesaver for me when Harper learned how to bust out of the blanket-swaddle method. The SwaddleMe has a little pouch that the legs go into and then the arms are secured with "wings" that velcro over each other, holding them securely in place. It even has a little slit in the back that allows harness straps to fit through- meaning baby can be swaddled and still be secured safely in a swing or bouncer. I loved the SwaddleMe, until Harper (AKA Baby Houdini) learned how to break out of that one too. Which leads me to the next item...

Swaddle Me Strap- $32.50 on OK, I just realized this is the third swaddle item on my list. Can you tell Harper loves to be swaddled? Actually, she's 7 months old now & still prefers to be swaddled for all of her sleeping. She will not sleep without her arms being swaddled, but she was too big to fit into the SwaddleMe blanket. The problem was that she was at the point where she could seriously break out of any swaddle in about 5 seconds flat (I watched her do it in two quick, fluid-like motions. The girl had a method!) After scouring the internet for an escape-proof swaddler I found the Swaddle Strap. I was not excited about paying $32.50 for this little strap thingy that is basically a glorified straight jacket for my baby. I thought it was too much. But this thing is actually amazing! We've been using it for 7 weeks now and I think she's only managed to free one arm on about five different occasions. She is crazy good at busting out! But the Swaddle Strap makes it very, very difficult- almost impossible. I love that it keeps her legs out because she loves to kick in her sleep. Just having her arms swaddled allows her the freedom to move her legs more, but not wake herself up by moving her arms. 

Cozy Cover- $17.89 on If you have a little one in an infant seat during the winter months or in a cold climate you will definitely want to add this to your registry list. The Cozy Cover is sooooo convenient when it's cold and you're taking your baby with you. Trying to keep a little baby warm in a car seat with a blanket over her doesn't work well- the blanket is always being kicked off, falls off, drags on the ground, or gets pulled up over baby's face. The Cozy Cover eliminates the need for a blanket. It fits over the car seat (kind of like a shower cap), is fleece lined, and zips completely up and just leaves her little face peeking out. Everywhere I go I get people asking me where I got this nifty little cover because they think it's so ingenious...and it is! I'm actually going to be really sad when I have to switch her to a convertible car seat here soon because she won't be able snuggle up in her Cozy Cover. And if your car seat hooks on to a stroller like mine does it's also perfect for walks outside with baby even when it's chilly outside. Here's a tip too- check baby consignment stores for these. I have a great little shop right by my house and they had like 20 of these things! I got a pink one in perfect condition for $2. Two dollars, ya'll. 

So there you go. I'm sure I could go on with more of my favorites (Harper is pretty particular- ask anyone who's been around her for more than a couple of hours). If it weren't for all of these products I've mentioned I don't know what I would do!

What are some of your must-have baby items?
Any other suggestions for things I shouldn't be living without?

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Quick and Easy DIY teacher (or anyone) gift!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Are you ever in need a of a cute, quick, and easy little gift for someone? Maybe a teacher, a friend, a neighbor, or co-worker? My kids were addressing their valentines for their classmates today when my daughter announced "I love my teacher. Can I give her a special Valentine's Day present?" Normally I'd scoff and say "No way, give her a little valentine and call it good!" But instead, thinking of my trusty Silhouette Cameo I've been having so much fun playing with lately, I replied "Sure, why not?" 

I went downstairs to my craft room and rifled around through some of the blanks and fun little treasures I've been hoarding collecting for inexpensive projects. That's when I spotted these cute little metal buckets I picked up from Target for $1 each. At the time I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but now I was thinking I wanted to put her teacher's name on it and fill it with some candy I may already have stashed on my nightstand. I had all the materials on hand - the bucket, vinyl, and transfer paper, plus my Silhouette. 

The first thing I needed to do was to figure out how big I wanted to make the name. I used my sewing tape measure and estimated that 3 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches looked to be about the perfect size to fit on one side of the bucket. In my Silhouette Studio software I used this free font and sized it accordingly, using the grid lines on the mat on screen. After double checking the spelling, size, and placement on the mat, I was ready to cut some vinyl.

Since I was just cutting small letters there was no need to use an entire sheet of vinyl for this project. I was able to find a perfect little scrap piece that was leftover from an earlier project in my scrap drawer. I love using up my scraps! I try not to waste anything. I stuck the little piece of vinyl on the mat, lined the mat up to my Silhouette, and selected "load mat" on the screen of the machine itself.

Now, before I could cut, I needed to adjust my cut settings. I clicked on the "cut" icon on the top right of my screen. Then I selected "vinyl," which opens up and expands the cut menu even further by using the right-most scroll bar (some people miss the right scroll bar, so I made sure to point it out in the photo. It can get confusing!) I had to adjust the preset cut settings slightly for the brand of vinyl I use. These were my settings: blade at a 2, I lowered the speed to a 5, and I kept the thickness at the recommended 9. I swear, on my machine this is the perfect setting for vinyl. It cuts like butter and leaves the backing still intact. This is what they call a kiss cut, and this is what you want for cutting vinyl. You want the blade to be just deep enough to cut the vinyl without cutting through the backing. Every machine is different though, and depending on the brand of vinyl and the sharpness of your blade you may need to adjust yours accordingly. When in doubt, do a test cut. If I scrolled down all the way in the cut settings you would see a "test cut" button at the very bottom on the right hand side of the screen. This button will save you from a lot of wasted material! Always do a test cut if you are unsure of your cut settings! I know my machine though, so I made my cut selections and then hit "send to Silhouette." That's when the magic happens.

When it was done cutting, I hit "enter" on the Silhouette to unload my mat. This is what my mat looked like after cutting. Perfect!

Now comes my favorite part- weeding! Weeding is removing the excess vinyl from the design. In this case it would be the insides of the hearts and letters, and then the excess white around the letters. I used my handy dandy hook tool to get all of the little tiny pieces out. This part is so fun to me. Maybe I'm crazy and I know some people find this part tedious, but it's so satisfying for me to pull the pieces up and really see my beautiful design come to life! Sometimes when weeding super small designs it can really strain your eyes though. Grab a lamp and make sure you weed in good lighting. 

Now, here's a tip: before I peeled up all of the extra white vinyl around my lettering I made sure to use my scissors and trim off the excess so as not to waste it. There was still a good chunk of un-cut vinyl leftover around my design and I'd hate to peel it up and throw it in the garbage! I cut it down and here's what I was left with. Ta-da! 

See how many scraps of vinyl I've saved? These really come in handy for other projects later on and then I don't have to cut into a brand new piece of vinyl. My scrap drawer is full of little usable pieces that some people (gasp!) just throw away! That's like throwing away vinyl, and vinyl isn't cheap.

Now that my design was all weeded and ready to go, I was almost ready to place it on the bucket. Now, should I peel up each individual letter and just stick it on there? No way. That would be crazy talk. Here is where I introduce you to the magic of transfer paper, which is going to allow me to pick up the entire design at once and place it perfectly on the surface of whatever it is I'm decorating.

To transfer my design the first thing I did was cut a piece of transfer paper big enough to completely fit over my lettering. Next, I peeled up the transfer paper like a sticker and carefully placed it directly on top of my weeded design. Then I used my Silhouette scraper to press firmly, or burnish, my design. You really want to make sure to press down all of the little corners so the transfer paper can pick up the design off of its backing. Then, starting at one of the corners, I carefully peeled up the transfer paper and lifted my vinyl up. My design successfully peeled up and the sticky backing of the vinyl was revealed. Now it was ready to be stuck all at once. So cool! Transfer paper is amazing, and I love this one because the grid lines really help when you're trying to get something perfectly straight.

Before I just stuck this on the bucket I made sure to wipe the surface with some alcohol and a paper towel. This removes any dirt and oil that may have been on the bucket's surface from handling it, which could result in the vinyl not sticking well or peeling up. You want to make sure the surface is clean and dry before you lay the vinyl down. After carefully deciding on where I wanted the lettering to be positioned, I laid the vinyl down as straight as I could get it. You kind of only have one shot with this so I just went for it. Luckily, I got it on there pretty straight. Next, I pressed down firmly over the transfer paper, making sure to smooth down every little corner of the vinyl and making sure that the entire thing was securely stuck onto the bucket. Then, beginning at one corner, I slowly pulled the transfer paper up and the letters stuck to the bucket. If some of the vinyl had started to pull up with the transfer paper I would have simply stopped and laid the paper back down over it, using my fingers to go over it again firmly before trying to peel it up again. Sometimes you have to do that. This one stuck perfectly though, thanks to the super clean surface and super sticky, high quality vinyl.

Isn't it cute?! And so easy. All it needed was some candy. I know Mrs. Rabold (who is about 8 months pregnant and about to start her maternity leave) is going to love it! I mean, who wouldn't love a cute little bucket full of chocolate? Lily is so excited to give it to her too. She really loves her teacher and she's already got tons of suggestions for what she should use the bucket for after the chocolate is gone (how cute would it look on her desk with some pencils in it or something?!) 

All in all, this was a really quick and easy (and cheap!) gift. From start to finish it only took me about 15 minutes, and that was because I was stopping to take pictures. The bucket was $1, the amount of vinyl I used was merely pennies when I broke it down, and the candy I had on hand. Plus, it works for everyone and for pretty much any occasion- Valentine's Day, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, Teacher Appreciation Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparent's Day, Halloween, get the point! The dollar section at Target is great for finding little buckets, bins, tubs, cups, etc, and Dollar Tree is amazing for all of those as well as glass dishes, mugs, bottles, and so on. Stick a little vinyl on them to personalize and jazz them up and you've got a cute little gift that is sure to please anyone.

Who's day would you love to brighten with this?
Happy crafting!

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She's back!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hello blog land!

It's kind of crazy to me that it's been almost two months since my last blog. Two months?! And before my last update it had been 25 days. I'm sorry for the hiatus. Life just gets crazy sometimes and I felt like a break and a little "reset" was in order. Mommyhood with three kids is much more hectic than I thought it would be, and it's taken me a little extra time to adjust and find my groove again. Harper is 6 months old now and I feel like I'm just settling into a real routine.

I thought baby number 3 would definitely be a challenge, but at the same time I thought it would be easier with my two older kids in school all day. Wrong! Sure, it's really nice being home alone with Harper during school hours, but having two school age children means we have a schedule we must adhere to. We have to get up on time, get ready, and be out the door to drop the kids off at school every morning (even if I was up all night with Harper). We've got school pick up, after school snacks, after school activities, dinner, homework, bath/shower, bedtime routines, and reading every night on top of the baby duties. Plus, we just added Lego Robotics Club for Ayden after school twice a week and we are looking into putting her in Girl Scouts. We're about to get even more hectic! The last time I had a baby I only had a 3 1/2 year old. Back then we didn't have much going on- no school, no scheduled activities, no daycare, no work, nothing. If I was up all night with a screaming baby or nursing every 2 hours we could just sleep later and adjust our day accordingly. Now, not so much. That alarm goes off and I have to get up and get everyone moving. To say I'm exhausted is an understatement. By the time all three kids are settled into bed every night I'm ready for bed myself. Most nights I feel like I'm asleep before my head even hits the pillow.

The last six months really have flown by. It makes me sad because Harper is already moving out of that tiny baby phase. She's so big now- 17 pounds and completely healthy and very chubby and squishy. Lately we've been referring to her as "Da Chub." I know...we're weird. Anywho, Harper can roll over and sit up on her own and she has not one, but two little baby teeth already. I'm not even sure when those little suckers popped up. I was changing her the other day and saw something, so I felt around on her gums and sure enough, she had two teeth already completely through! I guess when you have three kids it takes a little extra time to notice little things like that. I had a bit of mom guilt when I noticed her big ol' chompers. Was I a bad mom because I didn't even realize my sweet baby was cutting her first two teeth? Was she uncomfortable or in pain? I hadn't given her any teething tablets, cold wash cloths, frozen chew toys,  baby Tylenol or anything. I felt so bad that she may have been hurting and oblivious Mommy over here didn't even notice. After feeling bad for a few minutes I realized that she really hadn't been acting differently though, besides a little extra drool and her wanting to chew on everything, but babies drool and love to put things in their mouth, right? Sigh. Mom guilt is the worst sometimes.

So, where do I stand now? I feel like my head is finally above water again. I'm figuring this whole 3 kids thing out. I'm not perfect, and some days are a bigger struggle than others, but I am learning to juggle it all. It's time for me to get back to doing some of the things I enjoy for myself. I can't just be mom all the time. If you follow me on social media (namely Facebook & Instagram) you know that I've been getting back into my crafting groove just the last few weeks. I made a lot of hand made Christmas gifts for family and friends, and I recently finished up a gorgeous little gray and yellow baby quilt for an expecting mom friend. It feels great to just sit down in my craft room for a few hours at night and get my creative juices going. I have to make time for myself and do the things I enjoy doing because it's one of my only outlets for stress. Sewing and quilting is so calming for me. I can just zone out and focus on the stitches and the tension just melts away. Plus, I just love making things for people! I need to make that "me time" a priority on a regular basis from now on.

Quick little Valentine's Day project.

Had to make a little custom onesie for my little Khaleesi. If ya know, ya know.

And of course, one for myself!

Where does that leave time for blogging? I'm not really sure. I'm definitely ready to get back to it though, so I'm going to try to squeeze in a few posts here and there when I can without missing out on my precious baby and family time. I miss blogging. It's been a great way for myself to document my children's lives and share them with my friends and family. In more recent years it's also been a lot of fun doing things like tutorials and how-tos when it comes to things beauty and craft related. I'm really looking forward to sharing some more gel nail stuff with you all (since my gel nail posts are my most-viewed blog posts). I'd also like to start doing some more tutorials on things I've been making with my Silhouette and my sewing machine lately. Again, if you follow me you've probably seen some of the fun things I've been coming up with. I'd totally be down for sharing some tips and tricks and show you my own crazy methods for some of the crafty things I'm planning.

That being said, I'd better wrap this up, as I've used up all of Harper's much-too-short nap time to write this. Here's to hoping that I can start posting on a more regular basis! 

Thanks for still reading and not giving up on me :) 

What would you like to see more of on Lulu & Sweet Pea?

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