Archive for the ‘Us’ Category

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Surprise!

January 30, 2013

Guess what, loyal readers? This blog is MOVING!

It’s time for a new look, a new web address, and a new name.

That’s right, folks! Change your reader settings, subscribe to email updates, and/or get notifications from the Facebook page to stay linked to the new NateandRachael.com.

Before you check out anything else, you should read the story of the new name. You can find it here: Nothing if Not Intentional.

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Thanks for moving with us!

(As of 1/30/13, Godaddy was having problems with their servers. Apologizes in advance if the site is slow!)

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The Woombie–Giveaway!

January 23, 2013

In just a few weeks, our not-so-little baby will be six months old. Six months! Fellow mamas, I know you know how bittersweet this milestone could be for me. Six months is when babies start sitting up. Six months is when babies rock back and forth on their hands and knees to let you know that they are dangerously close to crawling. Six months means solid foods and a fading bald spot. Six-month-old babies mimic “words” and are vocal about their likes and dislikes. Six months is, in my mind, when babies officially graduate from newborn to baby.

And when we hit the six month mark, I’ll be sad. I may cry. Because these past six months have been precious,  sweet, calm, and dare I say it?…fun.

Compare that to our first six months with our older daughter. As I’ve already mentioned, she was not an “easy” newborn. One mistake I think we made with our oldest is that we didn’t swaddle her long enough. That is not a mistake we’re in danger of repeating this time! This baby is still swaddled (loosely, I’ve read all about hip dysplasia) every night. And now that we have this new baby swaddle she’s in it for her long nap every. single. day.

Here’s what I honestly think of our Woombie (Convertible, Mega Baby):

Pros:

It’s foolproof. When it comes to swaddling, I’m a complete fool. But even I can’t mess this up. And that, I believe, is the Woombie’s greatest strength. Lay the baby down, zip it up, done!

It helps the baby sleep. For reasons I cannot explain, our baby has regularly taken a three-hour afternoon nap since she was about 2.5 months old. Unfortunately, all of the credit doesn’t go to Woombie. If it did, can you imagine how fast their swaddles would sell? Parents everywhere would be begging for one! But our sweet, sleepy baby slept that long even before the Woombie. HOWEVER, this swaddle sack has reduced the number of times the baby has pulled out her paci and woken herself up. And I think it helps her sleep more soundly. Like all swaddles, it certainly reduces the startle reflex.

Our Convertible Woombie converts to a regular sleep sack. Now that she’s older, our baby likes to have a toy or lovey in her hand. The Woombie allows for that.

Woombie makes sizes that fit bigger and older babies. This is a big deal to me! Ours is the 20-25 pound Mega Baby size. No, our six month old isn’t quite that big, but I think the extra room is mostly in the length. Additionally, when we kept her arms in the swaddle, there was enough stretch and give for her to hold her own hands, a self-soothing habit she enjoyed.

Because they make sizes that fit older babies, the convertible option has use far beyond the normal age of a commercial swaddle blanket. Lots of moms use sleep sacks instead of blankets until their babies are toddlers. The “Convertible Leggies” option is also good for older babies.

There’s no velcro! Velcro can come undone, and my baby can wiggle out of a velcro swaddle. Also, time will take its toll on velcro, but the zipper on the Woombie isn’t going to wear out like the velcro on other swaddle blankets.

The two-way zipper allows for easy diaper changes. Since our baby is older (and FINALLY needs fewer diaper changes!), this isn’t an issue for us. But it is a handy feature.

There’s enough room for her hips and legs to move. Again, this helps with hip dysplasia.

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The Woombie and our curly-haired, sleeping baby.

Cons:

It’s looser than some of the other swaddles. If you want a tight swaddle, consider one of the other Woombie products, not the convertible swaddle (check out the Houdini).

It’s not exactly pretty: I hate to say it, but it looks like a baby straight jacket. (For the record, it’s definitely NOT a straight jacket. As Woombie explains, it needs to be snug to imitate the womb.  Plus it’s made with four-way, stretchy fabric. This allows the baby to move naturally.) However, because we use it for every afternoon nap, family, friends, and strangers had plenty of opportunities to give us odd looks and comments during Christmastime and on vacation. People just aren’t used to seeing a baby zipped up. But, parents, is that a deal breaker? If it helps your baby sleep, do you care how it looks? Absolutely not! Bring on the comments and stares!

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Final verdict? It helps my baby sleep and makes my mommy job easier. Of course I love it! And if you win the one that Woombie has offered to send one lucky winner, I hope you will, too!

Want to win a Woombie?

Click on over to the giveaway link and enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway.

(It’s easy! I promise!)

By commenting, you agree to the official rules. Giveaway ends on Monday, January 28 at 3:00 p.m. EST. 
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Don’t Get the Puppy

January 15, 2013

Young Couples Everywhere,

Here’s a bit of unsolicited advice: don’t get the puppy.

Even if that two-pound bundle of cuteness is on sale. Even if you discover it’s hypoallergenic.

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Don’t get the puppy. 

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Because if you do get the puppy, that little puppy will become your child. She’ll go with you everywhere.

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Literally, everywhere–church, weddings, walmart, football games, and on airplane rides.

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You’ll buy puppy sweaters and special puppy chew toys. You’ll go to puppy class, and you’ll teach her tricks. You’ll brag to everyone that she is the smartest, most-talented dog ever. She jumps through hoops! She puts her toys away! She dances! She’s probably even smarter than Lassie.

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You’ll take her on long walks, and you’ll watch the Dog Whisperer. You won’t mind when she eats a whole package of birth control pills or chews through a leash. She’s just a puppy, after all.

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Eventually that puppy will get older. You’ll still love her, because she’s your dog daughter. But you start to notice how inconvenient she is. You’ll still travel (because you swore a dog wouldn’t hold you back), but it’s a pain to find someone to watch your (usually) sweet schnoodle pup.

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You’ll get annoyed when she has accidents. You’ll look for ways to get her to stop barking and to stop eating poop. She’s no longer a puppy. Shouldn’t she have outgrown those bad habits by now?

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And then, if you’re like most couples, one day you’ll decide a dog daughter is not enough.

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You start to want a real daughter.

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And one day that daughter will be born, and you’ll wonder how the dog will do. Will she like the baby? Will she growl? Will she bite?

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But then you realize it’s not the dog’s behavior around the baby that bothers you. It’s that the dog eats Kleenexes out of the trash, licks the lotion off your legs, and barks at all the visitors. And every day she needs silly, inconvenient things like walks and dog food.

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Gradually, the dog will stop going with you everywhere. Not because you don’t love her (although you may begin to doubt your love), but because you just don’t have enough hands or energy to manage hauling around a dog and a baby. 

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A few months later, you’ll come home with a second baby. And you’ll struggle to even find a picture with the dog, because the dog gets even less attention now that there are two babies. The dog is no longer important.

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And one day your dog may escape the house and disappear for awhile, and (to your surprise) your first feeling is relief. (One less thing to take care of.) And then guilt. (She was/is your dog daughter.) And then sadness. (Because deep down you believe there is something good about kids growing up around a dog. They learn to love animals and have fewer allergies.)

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But, still. This parenting thing is hard. Maybe there’s a compromise? Your husband takes the dog to work and tries to convince his coworkers they need an office dog. And it seems to be working.

Until one day your two-year-old cries as daddy and dog are leaving and says, “No, Daddy! You can’t take Sofi. I miss her.”

And that’s when you realize…she’s no longer your dog.  Although it will be a few years before they can walk/feed/care for her, the dog belongs to your kids. You can’t (ever) get rid of her.  Because she’s part of the family. Your babies love her unconditionally. They need you to keep her. They don’t know life without her.

So young couples, make it easy on yourselves. Don’t get the puppy.

Or do.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Survival Mode–Cold and Flu Season

January 8, 2013

All families have seasons when they’re surviving rather than thriving. Sometimes it’s because of something tragic, but let’s not go there today.

Today let’s talk about the everyday life kind of things that kick us into survival mode: weekends when Mom shivers and shakes on the couch. Nights when Daddy brings the toddler to the guest bed with him because that’s the only way to get her to stop crying and coughing, and it takes the tot four hours to fall back to sleep. Afternoons when the five-month-old worries her parents with her raspy cough. Mornings when the two-year-old screams and cries, “Go, Mommy! Go! I don’t want to see you! Daddy! Dada? Daddy! I. WANT. MY. DADDY!” But Daddy’s not there because he goes to work so that Mommy can be there on days when her kids wake up tired and sick and want nothing more than their mommy… daddy?

Sigh.

Yep, the worst cold ever has hit our family, and we’re simply trying to survive. What does that look like for us?

1.) We put relationships ahead of tasks. Actually, “relationships over tasks” is a family motto. But it becomes even more important when we’re sick. The laundry baskets are overflowing. The counter has crumbs. The house is filled with post-holiday, post-vacation chaos. And a poopy pair of the baby’s pajamas may have been thrown on the hallway floor this morning. (Both girls were crying! My head was about to explode!) But that’s okay. Because giving myself permission to ignore those things helped me to feel calm when I picked my screaming toddler up out of bed and rocked and held her (which, unfortunately, did not stop the screaming. I told you it was bad around here.)

2) We accept help. I was about to turn to freezer food when my parents offered to give us a meal for the second time in one day. And then the next day I texted them to ask them to take the toddler for a few hours so we could rest. Shameless or smart? You decide.

3) We avoid our (young) friends. As desperately as I’d like to have the distraction of my toddler’s friends, it’s so not cool to expose them to our nastiness. Granted, the girls haven’t had a fever (yet?!), but from the first day of symptoms, we avoided places with little people–like church and play dates with friends–until we’re officially on the mend.

4) We make exceptions. From the moment she opened her eyes this morning, the toddler cried. And screamed. And wailed. After thirty tortuous minutes, she asked to go back to bed with her “bobby” (her word for pacifier). Are we trying to lose the paci for good? Yep. Has it been almost a year since she’s had a morning nap? Yep. Is today a day for exceptions? Yep.

5) We try natural remedies. Dang it, people! I want some NyQuil! I’m so sick of the pressure and congestion. But I’m nursing, and I can’t take those kinds of drugs. And, ultimately, that’s okay, because I’m certain that nursing has protected the baby from the worst of the cold. And really, this cold is likely caused by a virus and what can you do for a virus? Treat the symptoms. So the toddler gets warm water with honey and lemon juice. (Does it help the cough? Maybe?) I’ve tried a heating pad, a bag of frozen peas on my forehead, vapor rub (with caution since it’s not approved for babies and the baby is on my chest when she eats), nasal spray, Breathe Right strips, and even tylenol and ibuprofen. I didn’t need any medicine for my delivery or postpartum recovery, but the pressure is too much! What else would you recommend?

6) We choose convenience. While I believe good nutrition helps keep us all healthy, I just had a protein bar and a can of diet coke for breakfast. True story. The toddler will probably get a frozen waffle (which is, honestly, not that unusual). For lunch, we’ll do leftovers–cut up cantaloupe, yogurt, oatmeal (yes, we have leftover oatmeal.). Anything somewhat healthy that we can pull out of the fridge or freezer. Desperate times, people, desperate times.

7) We look on the bright side. (And use clichés! Clichés are allowed in survival mode.) The toddler’s extra nap gave me extra play time with the baby and a free moment to take care of those poopy pajamas. And since both girls were asleep this morning, I had time for some much-needed, therapeutic blogging.

8) We pray. Am I proud of the fact that I don’t pray as much when I’m healthy as I do when our family is sick? Absolutely not. But there’s nothing  like sickness and weakness to remind me of my need for God.

I wanted to come up with a nice, even list of ten tips But that’s just not going to happen. Because we’re in survival mode. But, hey! The toddler is awake after her morning nap, and SHE’S HAPPY! Are we on the mend? Let’s hope!

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Traveling with Two: SeaWorld, San Diego

January 4, 2013

I’m a travel optimist. Nothing will stop me from having a good trip. Not even a stomach bug, a coughing toddler, an infant growth spurt, a three-hour time difference, or  an impending blizzard–all challenges we faced on our first cross-country trip with two little ones.

Was I phased when our normally happy baby was fussy on the plane? You bet. Did I wish for death when my guts were trying to explode before the captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign? Perhaps. Was I frustrated when my babies melted down during dinner because it felt like midnight to their little internal clocks? Of course.

On the other hand, how fun was it to watch my toddler wave to and clap for dolphins, birds, and whales? Will it ever get old to hear her tell people that she saw “animals SPLASH”?! Or to watch her waddle like a penguin? Or to hear her ask to “ride the fish” (kiddie roller coaster) again and again? Or to see the baby smilingly happily as her daddy talked to her and pointed out animals from the comfort of her Baby Bjorn?

And it was pretty cool to see an arctic wolf casually walking around the San Diego Zoo. And it was pretty nice to pass the babies off to Mamaw and Papaw when the girls woke up early. And I loved having a beach instead of a back yard.

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See? Like I said–travel optimist!

As we were preparing for our trip, I had trouble finding travel tips for San Diego with a toddler and a baby, so I’ll write a few of my own. Keep in mind that our oldest is just over two and the baby is five months.

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Get the pass. 

This trip was a Christmas gift from my parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!), and we knew the whole family (including my brother, a college student) would like the San Diego Zoo. Nate’s Christmas gift to me and the girls was to add SeaWorld into the mix. He purchased a pass that allowed us unlimited visits to SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, and the Safari Park for seven consecutive days. This allowed us to come and go as we pleased. We went “home” for lunch and naps. We went back to the parks multiple days. Bonus: purchasing through ebates gives you cashback (ours was 2.5%)! If you haven’t signed up for ebates yet, I’ll send you my referral link. It’ll be a good deal for you and for me.

Prepare Your Kids

Did you know there is a live Shamu cam and penguin cam you can watch online? How fun is that?! The live feeds helped prepare and excite our little one for the animals she was going to see. And as I’m typing this, I have the penguin cam open. I’m watching the trainer feed the penguins. Cute!

Even if you’re not going to Sea World any time soon, this is a fun at-home activity.

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Winter

A lot of Sea World reviews bemoan the heat and lack of shade. With a December trip, the weather was quite nice. It was in the sixties during the day. The So Cal folks wore scarves and gloves. We wore short sleeves and sunglasses.

One evening it rained. We brought our stroller cover, but mostly went to the indoor or covered exhibits (polar bear, penguins, manta rays, etc) when it rained. Bonus: the lines were short and the park felt empty!

There was also a special Christmas exhibit. We visited the reindeer but decided to pass on the sledding area. We get enough snowy goodness here in the Midwest, why spend our vacation time in a man-made snow rink? Sorry, SeaWorld. We came to California to escape the snow.

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This kiddie area was a hit with the tot and Uncle Wade. I worried that introducing a kiddie roller coaster at bedtime would be disastrous,  but our girl loved “flying” with her daddy on Elmo’s Flying Fish ride. The uncle used the toddler as an excuse to spend twenty minutes climbing through a somewhat complex rope course. In the summer, it appears as though there’s a little splash park.  There are also a few other spinning rides for kids and parents with strong stomachs.

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There’s a school of thought (which I totally understand) that suggests waiting until your kids are old enough to remember before seeking out (and paying for) big adventures and experiences. While it’s true that our two-year-old won’t have any actual memories from this trip, the experiences were valuable. She learned that an otter can be taught to wave, and whales can splash.  Dolphins jump really high, and sometimes people get to ride on their backs.  Sea lions growl like her dog (“Mommy, when I pick up Sofi, she growl too”), and Santa Claus is just as scary in California as he was back home in Indiana. All of that from the famously fun SeaWorld shows.

(For the record, the dolphin show was my favorite. The sea lion Christmas show was funny. We missed the domestic pets show. The whale show was okay. But it’s SeaWorld–you have to see the whales.)

Know Before You Go

The official SeaWorld policy is no outside food or drinks. However, all bags are searched at the entrance  and there was no objection to our snacks and water bottles. Parking was $15 per day. However, one evening we had my parents drop us off at the gate so we didn’t have to pay to park.

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Conclusion: the adults, the two-year-old, and the baby all enjoyed the fun of our winter trip to SeaWorld. If and when you go, I hope you do, too!

Next up: stories from the world-famous zoo!

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Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2012

It seems a little old school to write a Christmas letter. After all, if you really wanted to know about our year, you could see the highlights on the blog or facebook timeline. But I like writing! And you must be mildly curious about how our year has gone if you’ve made it this far. So why not post an official update?

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The first half of 2012 included a few trips (cruise with my family, Florida with Nate’s family, Arizona with Nate’s work), playing with toddlers in the church nursery, hosting a small group, and spending lots of time focused on our first born. The turning point and highlight of our year was the arrival of our second daughter in July. With a birth weight of 9lbs 13oz, we never would have guessed she’d spend her first week of life in the NICU. But, sadly, the doctor’s suspected a lung infection and ordered a week’s worth of antibiotics. Since then, she’s given us a few scares (a small heart murmur and an iris cyst), but overall she’s healthy and whole. With lots of dark, curly hair, dark eyes, and an incredibly happy disposition, she’s nothing like her sister was at birth!

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Six weeks after our baby was born, our big girl turned two. They say that two is terrible. And, yes, we experience our fair share of whining, tantrums, and self-centered bossiness. On the other hand, we also have lots of giggling, dancing, singing, and snuggling. Our two-year-old is empathetic, teachable, smart, polite, joyful, and outgoing. We often get comments about how advanced she is verbally. Nate’s typical response is something like, “Have you met her parents? They talk a lot too.”

Several people have asked for an update on Daniel and Guatemala. We recently learned that our main connection to him (his former social worker) is moving back to the states.  However, we have a lead on a connection in his hometown who might be able to visit him, transfer money for his tuition, and keep us connected. Please pray that something works out soon! We hope to make a trip there with both girls next year.

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Nate continues to manage our apartments, fly a few times a week, and do real estate development/IT work for a local IHOP franchisee. We eat lunch together (most days), and he’s (usually) home before the girls wake up from their naps. He’s been known to take on diapers, laundry, baths, bedtime books, and nighttime prayers. He’s also exceptionally patient and capable when it comes to potty training. What can I say? He’s an amazing guy!

I have thoroughly embraced my SAHM job. However, I think “Stay-At-Home Mom” is a misnomer. We rarely stay home! We find something to do almost every day–play dates, the children’s museum, toddler science time, church open gym, walks, parks, errands. I’ve been blogging (obviously). I take and edit lots of pictures (also obvious?). It’s stereotypical. And that’s okay. Because when you have a newborn and a young toddler, some semblance of normal is welcome.

Our parents (and Nate’s grandparents) live nearby and provide us with babysitting for our weekly date nights. We’re still not sure who enjoys this time more—the parents, grandparents, or babies. Wade (my brother) and his fiancé (!) are in Terre Haute, too. Christy (Nate’s sister), Chris, and Claire are in Indy but come to Terre Haute often. Our girls are lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful family!

No update would be complete without mention of our friends. You definitely deserve credit and thanks for helping to make 2012 a wonderful year for our family. Thank you for your continued willingness to love, challenge, help, and encourage us!

Merry Christmas!

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Cooking with Kids at Christmas–Molasses Crinkle (Gingerbread) Cookies

December 21, 2012

It’s the last weekend for pre-Christmas baking! One Christmas goal for this year was to make gingerbread cookies. But we don’t do well with the waiting for the cookie dough to chill. (When it comes to baking, we’re instant gratification people.) So we made molasses crinkle cookies which, like real gingerbread, call for a good deal of ginger and molasses. So they count, right?

Here’s the recipe we use with ZERO better-for-you changes. It’s Christmas!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter or margarine softened
  • 2 tbs oil
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla (or more if your little one is helping you pour)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • extra sugar for rolling

When it comes to spices, all of our measurements are approximate. I let the little one spoon and pour.

Directions:

  1. Oven to 350.
  2. Combine ingredients. (I know the original recipe said to mix dry and wet ingredients separately, but we don’t bother with two bowls. Time is of the essence, and we REALLY don’t need one more thing to clean.)
  3. Roll dough into 1-1 1/2″ balls in sugar to coat. Place about 2″ apart on a greased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 12-14 minutes.
  5. Eat, store, make some more.

I let the toddler taste the molasses cup. I thought she’d hate it, but she licked it clean. And SHE reminded ME not to eat the batter once we added eggs: “No eat it! Make me sick. Make my belly hurt.”

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“Gingerbread” cookies done. Now on to the salt dough ornaments!