Monday, October 20, 2014

5 Baby Products I Couldn't Live Without

There are so many different mothering styles, and I am a big believer in finding whatever style is right for you.  Don't try to be another type of mother; be you!  That's the reason God gave you the babies He did - because they needed you and all your specific traits and idiosyncrasies.

It took me precisely one year and one week of motherhood to figure this out.  I always thought I wasn't organized enough as a mother.  Other moms had their babies on schedules, and had textbook Babywise babies, or still others were working moms and seemed to somehow do it all.  Meanwhile, I didn't work outside the home and still couldn't manage to keep the house clean.  I heard a lot of moms almost brag about how tough they were as moms; that if their kid fell down, they didn't really coddle them for fear of babying them too much, or they had no problem letting their kids "cry it out".  As a new and completely insecure mother, I thought I must be babying Ellery too much.  Part of my personality is nurturing (hello, I would rescue every shelter animal if I could), and as a mother I was very nurturing.  Hearing people talk about how tough they were made me think I was doing something wrong.

Then at one year and one week old, Ellery had her seizure and I stopped caring if other moms thought I was too soft.  I stopped comparing myself to those moms, and realized that I was the perfect mama for Ellery, just as I was.  That doesn't mean I don't have room to grow, or that I always make the best decisions for Ellery.  It just means that I finally found my confidence as a mother.  I realized that what we went through was tough, but I survived, and that God gave me the tools I needed to mother her through that scary time.  And I realized that when you watch your one year-old have a seizure, you quickly realize that being tough isn't all it's cracked up to be, and you nurture and comfort your scared baby as much as possible.

Wow...that was a really long tangent that sort of came out of nowhere.  Here I meant to talk about alternative necessities for moms of little ones, and somehow ended up with the above paragraphs.  Sorry.  All that was meant to say that my style as a mom is more the baby-wearing, cloth-diapering, essential-oil using style.  (You can say I'm a hippie, but trust me, I've known some hippies and I'm not nearly hard core enough to be a hippie.)  Below are some really great products I've loved as a mama, that fit my style, and that aren't necessarily things you'd normally find on baby registries.  If you find yourself as the same sort of mother, or if you're pregnant and have no idea what type of mother you'll be (like I was!) then hopefully these can be good ideas for you!

1. Essential Oils

I didn't start using essential oils with Ellery right away, but once my friend Marci told me how well they worked with her little boy, I tried them and have never gone back.  As most of you know, Ellery was not a good sleeper at all, so we started using Lavender on the bottoms of her feet, and got increasingly longer naps and nighttime sleep as a result.  I recently started using Cedarwood instead of Lavender and am getting even better results!  You can also diffuse these oils into the nursery, which I intend to try once I buy a diffuser.  We've also used Onguard, which helps keep illness at bay.  Once we took Ellery to visit Marci's family, and she developed a cold right when we got to their house.  Naturally, I felt horrible that I'd unknowingly brought my sick baby around her baby.  Ellery played with Caleb and slobbered all over his toys, but still Caleb didn't get sick!  In fact he didn't even get a cold or fever at all during his first year!  That's when I really got into using Onguard, because Marci faithfully used it on Caleb and it clearly worked.  Clove has been extremely helpful on Ellery's gums when she's teething, and Melaluca is great for diaper rashes!  (Especially if you cloth diaper and can't use diaper cream.)  Melaluca and Clove are also great for little cuts and scrapes on little ones (or, in Ellery's case, minor cat scratches).  And as a mother, I've been loving Balance, which totally helps mellow out my crazy hormones.  I just put a little bit on the bottoms of my feet and behind my ears and somehow the little things that normally send me into a frenzy aren't that big of a deal!  I highly recommend essential oils to mothers of little ones.  We use doTERRA, but I've also heard good things about Young Living.  But whatever you do, don't buy the cheap ones at the health store - get good, quality oils, because that makes all the difference!  (If you're interested in trying out oils, comment below and I can get you some.)

2. Baby Babble

This DVD has been a lifesaver.  It was developed by two pediatric speech pathologists, whose job it is to help toddlers learn to speak.  The DVD teaches babies simple sign language and words, and even has parent tutorials to show parents what they can do at home to help their kids with their speech.

I really don't like Ellery watching television, so for most of her first year, she never watched it.  Every now and then when I really needed her to just sit still, I'd let her watch a little bit of this DVD.  It quickly became obvious that she loved it.  In my first trimester of this pregnancy, when we were also packing and preparing to move, I was desperate for time to just rest or get some packing done, and Ellery watched more of this than I intended.  I started feeling guilty for letting her watch it once a day, but then suddenly realized her vocabulary started to explode.  She started mimicking mine and Sam's words, and surprising me by knowing words I didn't teach her.  I realized that I had Baby Babble to thank, and felt so much better about letting her watch it.  Rather than sitting her in front of mindless entertainment, she was being educated, and I was able to get us moved, without feeling guilty.  I highly, highly, highly recommend the Baby Babble DVDs for all mothers, regardless of your parenting style!

3. Baby Carriers

This is one you probably will find on baby registries, but I wanted to talk about a few carriers in particular.  First, the Moby.  The Moby did not work for me.  But!  It worked for Sam.  Unfortunately, the Moby ties around your waist right around where my cesarean scar is, so when I tried carrying Ellery in the beginning, it was too painful after my surgery.  Not to mention, she was born in late May, so carrying her got really hot.  I'd be sweating and she'd be sweating and we'd both be crying when I used the Moby.  But for some reason, when Sam used it, she loved it and went right to sleep.  We eventually got an Ergo, which both Sam and I loved and used a ton.  I'd walk Ellery around the neighborhood in it, and Sam would use it to get her to sleep when we weren't home to put her in her crib.  It wasn't painful on our backs or shoulders, and was fairly easy to use.  It is more expensive than the Moby, but we easily got our money's worth.

Ellery wasn't a big fan of strollers, so baby carriers were huge for us.  Not to mention, it's much easier to navigate while wearing your baby, rather than trying to push a big stroller around.  Studies also show that babies who are worn are generally happier and cry less.  In her first year, when Ellery was particularly fussy, I'd put her in the Ergo and she'd calm right down.  It's so important for bonding with Daddy, too!  I'm a big believer in the importance of human contact, and I love this easy way of connecting with my baby while also having my hands free to do things around the house.

With Abel, I'm hoping to try the Sakura Bloom ring sling.  You can use it from newborn all the way up through toddler years, and you can even breastfeed in it.  It doesn't tie around the waist like the Moby, so I'm hoping I'll be able to use it right away, even if I have another c-section.  I've heard lots of great things about this sling, so hopefully I'll be able to use it and review it once Abel is born.

4. Baby Moccasins 

I love baby moccasins.  They are the only shoes Ellery will consistently keep on her feet without trying to take them off once we get in the car, or while we are walking in the middle of the grocery store.  I didn't put Ellery in shoes until she could walk, except for soft booties to keep her feet warm.  Once she started walking, we got some moccasins from an Instagram shop and have loved them!  There are tons of shops to try, but we have used Littlelookershop and Mybeautifulittleshop moccasins and both are great.  They run about $30-40 per pair, depending on the size and style.  You could always buy Freshly Picked moccasins, but I'm kind of a cheap skate and couldn't justify spending $60+ on baby shoes, especially because you get the same product from other shops for half the price.  I know for some people it's more about the status symbol, but I don't care much about that.  (Neither does Ellery.)  Also, I'm pretty sure Sam would have a heart attack if I spent that kind of money on Ellery's shoes, or if I spent that much on a pair of shoes for myself!  Seriously, we're cheap.  Anyway, once your baby starts walking, baby moccs are fabulous!

5. Baby Led Weaning

This isn't really a product, but more of a trend.  We didn't start this with Ellery right away, but I found some information about it on Pinterest, tried it, and loved it.  We will definitely be doing Baby Led Weaning right from the start with Abel.  Basically it just means you skip the whole baby food phase.  No purees, just regular food.  Typically babies start eating solids around 4-6 months, and at that age most of their nutrients and calories are coming from breast milk or formula, so feeding isn't so much about them getting enough food as it is about experimenting with eating.

I'm just a fan because BLW was so much easier.  At first I was making all of Ellery's food in our Vitamix, which wasn't a ton of work, but still extra work with a baby.  Once we started BLW, I'd fix the same thing for Ellery as I fixed for me and Sam.  If we were having chicken curry with potatoes, so was Ellery.  If we were having tacos, so was Ellery.  (Or rather, she was having taco ingredients, like black beans, olives, and avocados.)  The idea behind BLW is that babies learn to chew first, rather than simply learning to swallow, like with pureed baby food.  In this way, it helps babies learn that they need to chew first, which reduces the chances of choking.  (If a baby is used to swallowing purees, then is suddenly given a cracker, he might try to swallow it and start to choke.)  You can give your six month-old baby any (healthy) soft, small piece of food, and they can learn to feed themselves.  If you can easily squish the food between your thumb and forefinger, the baby can easily mash it with his gums.  In the beginning, Ellery's favorites were avocado, black beans, and bananas.

Babies also learn how much they need to eat, and learn to regulate their hunger that way.  Rather than stopping once the baby food jar is empty, they stop eating when they're full.  It also helps them learn to eat flavorful foods right from the beginning, which can help them be less picky eaters later on.  As I said, Ellery ate exactly what Sam and I ate, and I was just careful not to use too much salt.  It even helped me fix healthier meals for Sam and me, since I wanted to be sure Ellery was eating as healthfully as possible.

BLW is much cheaper because you're not buying additional baby food, you're just sharing your meals with your baby.  You also don't have to worry about spoon-feeding your baby, which allows you to sit and enjoy your meal along with baby.  It gives you some free hands and baby learns confidence as she realizes she can feed herself!  Win win.  Of course, some things still need to be fed, like yogurt or cottage cheese.  But for us, the experience with BLW was a great one!  For more information and ideas, click here.

Okay, so this post became much longer than I intended - sorry!  It's just something I've been thinking about as I'm trying to compile a list of things I'll need for Abel.  I remember how overwhelming it was to register was when I was pregnant with Ellery, so I thought I'd put together a list of things that have been invaluable to me!  Things that aren't necessarily on everyone's radar.  Hope this was helpful to some new or soon-to-be mamas!

Saturday, October 18, 2014






We have been home from vacation since around midnight on Tuesday, but I'm finally getting around to writing.  I have finished all the unpacking, laundry, and restocking of our refrigerator, so I'm ready to resume normal life again after having been gone for a week.  Vacations are wonderful, but is anyone else ever thankful to get back on a normal routine again?  Or rather, is anyone else ever thankful to get their child back on a normal sleeping routine again?

We loved our visit to California - loved, loved, loved it.  I'll write more about it in some upcoming posts, but for now I'll just talk about what's most "present" on my mind as I sit here on the couch with two sleeping cats at 3 in the morning.  Pregnancy.  Because right now it's a little hard to forget that I'm pregnant.

I have a very active little dude hanging out with me 24/7 right now.  Now, tell me something.  Does every ultrasound technician mention how active the baby is?  Because during Ellery's ultrasound, they kept saying that she was a total mover, and that has proven to be true outside the womb as well.  The tech said the same thing about Abel - that he was moving so much it was hard to get the measurements she needed.  I'm sort of hoping this is merely a blanket statement said to all moms, because if it turns out I have two active babies, I'm going to be a little tired.  Also I will think God has a sense of humor, if He gave two very active people to a mostly lazy mom.

It's interesting being pregnant the second time around.  During my first pregnancy, everything was (obviously) so new.  And I didn't know if anything was normal, and didn't know what to expect.  This time, I sort of thought I knew what to expect.  For the first two trimesters, everything was basically the same as when I was pregnant with Ellery.  I felt pretty much the same, except that my symptoms weren't as strong.  Since breaking into third trimester territory, I've noticed some differences.

Number one: heartburn.  Never had it before in my life until the last three weeks of pregnancy with Ellery.  Little dude has decided to give me heart burn for the entire last trimester.  Thanks, buddy.  Number two: sciatica.  This lower back pain is sort of kicking my butt, and I feel like I'm already beginning to waddle out of pain, rather than necessity.  Or maybe not waddle, but definitely limp.  Fun.  And finally, the way I carry him.  I generally carry my babies in my ribs, since I have little to no torso space.  I'm still carrying this little guy pretty high, but also all over.  Ellery was all in my belly, but Abel is changing my body composition all over.  I know this because of how all my maternity clothes are fitting.  Here's the problem, is that I thought girls were supposed to be harder to carry than boys.  Like, I thought it was girls who stole their mom's beauty, and made the mama super uncomfortable.  That's why, when I found out this was a boy, I was thinking maybe my pregnancy would progress a little easier than my first, but that hasn't been the case.  This hasn't been a pleasant surprise.  I blame all the people who've said it's harder to carry girls.  They're all filthy liars.  Way to get my hopes up, jerks.  (Sorry, that's my tired, hungry, 3am self talking.)

Having said that, it really has been a fairly smooth, easy pregnancy.  I'm not meaning to complain; this is just how I'm feeling.  And this is my reminder that no pregnancy is typical, and each pregnancy is different, even in the same woman.

The wonderful thing is that this time, it's flying by.  On Wednesday at my doctor's appointment, she said, "See you in two weeks!" and I said, "Already?!  So...I'm having this baby soon."  Which is always a delight when you are in the third trimester and not as comfortable as you'd like.  I am in no rush, however, as I'm trying to simply soak up my time with only my girl.  Life is going to change dramatically for the Swenson clan come December, and I know things will get chaotic for a while.  Looking forward to it, but in no rush.

And now we've come to the end of this very pointless blog, in which I rambled about growing a human.  I wish I could promise that the rest of these October blogs will be more poetic and insightful, but the truth is they might be more more of my pointless thoughts.  So if you unfollow this blog, no hard feelings, 'kay?

Goodnight!

Friday, October 10, 2014

here i am

Hi friends!  You've probably been wondering why I haven't been updating my blog every day like I said I would.  (All three of you reading, ha.)  The truth is, we spent Tuesday and Wednesday traveling, and I didn't have access to a computer.  And now that we're here at my parents', spending time with family, I actually want to be present in each moment and enjoy this time.  So...I might still blog a few times over the next few days, but spending time with family is a bit more important to me.  I'll do an extra week in November to make up for missing days this week...how's that sound?

Meanwhile, hope everyone else is having a spectacular week!

Monday, October 6, 2014

i'm not one of those people who loves being busy

The husband, baby girl, and I are headed down to California tomorrow.  We are probably meeting little Abel the day after Christmas, which means I won't be able to travel down to see my family for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  So we decided to make one last trip to see my side of the family before the little mister is born, since we'll be missing out on the holidays with them, and celebrate my dad's 60th birthday while we're at it.  (I know, who can believe my dad is almost 60?  He's shaping up to be a cute old man, though he still has about ten years or so before I'll consider him "old".  And you know I love a cute old man.)  We also get to go to a wedding for some friends from Petaluma, which we are very excited about.  We love our Petaluma people, so we love when they get married and give us a chance to go see them all.  And every time we go, it makes us want to move back - it happened with Adam and Elise's wedding, and Devan and Hannah's.  After Craig and Hannah's wedding we did move back.  Apparently that was a fabulous wedding. ;)  We're also squeezing in a visit with James and Monica, two of our favorite people.  They were there throughout mine and Sam's entire relationship, and even filmed our engagement.  We can't wait to hang out!

So ahead of us we have eight days of fun, family, and friends.  Why is it that getting ready for vacation in itself makes one need a vacation?

Today wasn't terrible.  It was actually a pretty good day, overall.  It's just that I had a ton to do to prepare for our trip.  Errands to run, a house to clean, and bags to be packed.  I don't think I sat down once all day, except when reading to Ellery before her nap.  And I have a lovely pain in my lower back that is making it exceedingly difficult to walk.  (Oh what I wouldn't give to be able to twist around and pop my back.  As soon as this kid is outta me, I'm doing it.)  On top of that, when Sam got home he unknowingly dragged in some tar on his shoes.  So I quickly googled how to clean that up, and now I think the carpet is saved.  I still have packing to do, and dishes to wash, and I desperately need a shower before we leave early tomorrow morning.  Basically, this vacation is more than welcome.

I kept wondering today how you're supposed to live in and appreciate the present when you feel overwhelmingly busy.  When you don't even have time to sit still or think about anything other than your unending to-do list.  And I don't really have an answer, to be honest.  All I can say is that I tried to let things roll off my back (my stupid, messed up back), and tried to see the great things about today.  I took pictures of my sweet little one whenever she did something cute or funny, and hugged her when she cried.  I prayed for Sam while I ironed his work shirts, and thanked God when Ellery behaved during our trip to Target.

Don't get me wrong - I was no where near perfect in my attitude today.  I grumbled when I found the tar on the carpet, and got frustrated when Ellery climbed outside through the cat door for the fifth time in a row.  But I found that trying to remember that this day is fleeting and would eventually end really helped me keep things in perspective.  I tried to remember how blessed I am to have been given another day with my sweet family.  I reminded myself that tomorrow Ellery will be a little bit older than she is today, so I wanted to savor this day with her.  I thanked God that we have the opportunity to go on vacation this week.

What do you do when you're crazy busy?  How do you handle the stress and still enjoy the day, without wishing it would simply end?  Anyone have any tips or tricks?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Good and Bad

As a mother, the hardest thing about living in the present is accepting the good things along with the bad.  I often wished for Ellery to hurry and get through a phase, but then once it was gone, I missed it and wished I could get the time back.  The newborn phase was really hard for me, and I remember feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and praying for the day she was 3 months old.  And now as I look back at photos of that time, all I can think about is the sweet scent of her tiny head, and the way her body snuggled up so perfectly to mine, how completely smitten I was with my new baby.  One of my friends once told me that at the end of weddings she's always jealous of the bride and groom because she knows how sweet and fun their honeymoon will be.  And I feel the same for brand new parents; it's a sweet honeymoon of getting to know the little person who you've been waiting nine months to meet.  I get a little jealous whenever I hear that someone just had a baby, knowing what a precious sliver of time that is.  I know not everyone has that experience, but for us, the first 3 weeks were absolute bliss.

This whole lesson of accepting the good along with the bad in order to fully appreciate the present doesn't just apply to motherhood.  When I was engaged, I was so excited to marry Sam that I impatiently counted the days until our wedding, trying to stay busy in order to make the time pass more quickly.  Looking back, I realize what a fun time of life that was.  I was living with one of my best friends in my favorite area ever (um, Sonoma county), surrounded by great friends and people.  I was in love and planning my wedding.  Life seemed pretty carefree - going out on dates with my fiance, having dance parties and pomegranate martinis with Bree in our apartment, going to French restaurants in San Francisco, numerous Giants games, and lots of late nights at Volpi's.  And yet all I wanted was to be married.  Then once we got married, our circumstances were pretty rough.  Being married was fun, but we moved away from our beloved Petaluma, away from our group of friends, and we both had jobs we didn't like, with schedules that made it so we hardly saw each other.  I wish I had appreciated that engagement period far more than I did, because once the time arrived that I'd been wishing and wishing for, it was much harder than I thought it would be.

I had so much fun becoming a mother that I couldn't wait to have another baby.  I was ecstatic when we found out we were pregnant, and loved the idea of Ellery having a sibling so close in age.  And, as many pregnant women do, I wished that the first trimester would hurry and fly by so I'd get my energy back and feel a little more "safe" in the pregnancy.  Now that I'm starting my third trimester, I just want to stop time.  I know how overwhelming it will be having two children, and it's finally hitting me how hard life is about to become.  I know it will be wonderful, but there are also so many things about this time of life I'm going to miss.  I'm going to miss being able to give Ellery my full attention, and I'm going to miss being able to easily leave the house.  This pregnancy is simply moving too fast for my taste, and even though I wished it would hurry in the beginning, now I'm wishing it would slow down.

I've learned that I want to cherish each day and each stage of life, no matter what that means.  There are good things and bad things in every day, and to wish away a certain season is unwise.  It's funny how many people are wishing and wishing for fall weather up here in Oregon, when I know that pretty soon, everyone will be wishing away all the gray days and rain.  Come next May, everyone will be more than ready for the beautiful, sunny days, and yet few people seem satisfied with the extra sun and warmth we are getting right now.  But the truth is, we don't appreciate the summer as much without those gray days, at least not up here.  And I'm even learning to appreciate the rain, especially as so many of my loved ones are currently enduring a terrible drought.

For me, properly living in the present involves being thankful for each moment.  It means living gratefully in each day, welcoming whatever may come.  So for now, that's what I'm practicing.  Because honestly, the past wasn't as good or bad as I remember, and the future doesn't necessarily mean things will be better or worse than they are now.  The future will bring it's own set of problems and wonderful times, so for now I'll just focus on today.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Some Inspiration

I'm feeling a little dry today, and don't have a lot of time to do a free write and figure out what to say about being present.  So I thought I'd simply include some things that have inspired me with this blog series.  All images found via Pinterest.







Unplugged

*I wrote this yesterday and completely forgot to publish it.  So we'll have two blogs tonight.*

Today was about trying to unplug.  It's really hard to live in the moment when my head is down, staring at my phone.

I remember back before I had kids, when I noticed that lots of stay-at-home moms were on Facebook a lot.  I admit I judged them, wondering if that's what they did all day.  But once I had Ellery, I realized that whether you're nursing, or rocking a baby to sleep, it's nice to have something to look at while you're just sitting there.  I don't have Facebook anymore, but I spend my fair share of time looking at Instagram, blogs, Pinterest, and googling the best stroller.  (Speaking of which, I have no idea what stroller to get.  Do I get a double stroller?  Or a nice single?  Should I get one that goes with my car seat?  Help, moms.)

Usually I justify my time spent on my phone.  I'm looking up ideas for dinner on Pinterest so that I can plan our meals.  That makes me a good stay-at-home mom, right?  Or I'm researching different ways I can incorporate Montessori at home.  Or I'm reading blogs about how to be a better mom.  A lot of times I'm even reading devotionals or my Bible on my phone.  No one can fault me there, right?

But where I feel convicted is when I'm busy on my phone when I should be spending time with my daughter.  Now I want to be clear that I am in no way making a judgment about anyone else.  I'm not trying to tell others to spend less time on their phones or their computers or watching television.  If you are comfortable with the balance you've set with those things, fabulous.  But I'm not.

I think it's fine when Ellery has occupied herself with something, and I don't want to interrupt her playtime.  Or, of course, whenever she's sleeping.  But it's when I'm on my phone and realize she's looking at me expectantly, waiting for me to finish so that she can have my attention again, that I feel terrible.  I don't want her to remember her mother as someone who was always more interested in her phone than in her.

And how much do I miss when I'm on my phone?  Ellery is pretty independent and plays well on her own, but there are times I simply watch her pretend to read to her animals, or play with her blocks, and I'm fascinated.  She has such a great imagination and such a sweet nature, and I love having a front row seat to watch her grow.  Lately I've been trying to memorize the way her little voice sounds, filled with inflection while she babbles to her animals.  And the way her hair curls at the base of her neck.  Or the way her eyes light up when she carefully stacks blocks on top of one another.  It's not only a matter of Ellery missing out on a present mother; it's a matter of me missing out on special memories of my firstborn.  I've only been a mother for sixteen months, but I can say without a doubt that time goes way too fast.  And I'll never get these days back, when Ellery wants to play ring-around-the-rosies with me, and can fit through the cat door.

So for me, I want to make it a point to unplug more often.  All the things I can look at on my phone are good things; there's nothing wrong with them.  But good things in excess can be bad.  And I just want to find a better balance of taking time for myself to look at things that interest me, and focusing on being a good, present mother.