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Parenting

What To Put In Your Baby’s Christmas Stocking

What could make the holidays more magical than having a new baby? I know when I was a first-time Mom I was so eager to start our family’s holiday traditions right away! Even though the little bundle of joy most likely won’t open a single present on his first Christmas, we still want to play Santa and fill baby’s Christmas stocking. The only question is, with what?

No parent wants to waste money or fill their house with junk, so stick with gifts that are practical. Even if it’s something the baby won’t need for another 6 months, it is still better than buying something useless. Here are my go-to items for filling a baby’s Christmas stocking.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click one of the product links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

baby's Christmas stocking

Toothbrush and baby toothpaste

My big kids always get new toothbrushes in their stocking, so why can’t baby get one too? Even if he doesn’t have any teeth yet, eventually he’ll need this.

Wardrobe basics

Has your dryer eaten most of the baby’s little socks? Need to replace some stained white onesies? Throw them in the stocking! Even some PJs or an outfit in the next size up can be rolled up to fit.


Utensils

Baby spoons, toddler forks, sippie cups, bibs… all things you can never have enough of.


Snacks

We refer to these little puffs as “baby crack” because all our babies have been obsessed with them. Santa knows!

Toys

Keep baby entertained with a couple new infant toys, like these fun little maracas he can shake to his heart’s content.

Pro Tip: Take toys out of the packaging before you put them in the stocking. It will create more space for other gifts and save time on Christmas morning.

Board books

You can always start reading to your baby, no matter how young. Start or add to their book collection with some classic titles.

Pacifiers/Teethers

If your baby is a “binky kid”, you will mysteriously lose about 100 of these a month. Stock up at Christmas so you won’t run out at a most inconvenient time!

Or, if they are out of the sucking stage and on to chewing, go for a great teether.

Christmas Ornament

For my third child’s first Christmas, someone gave us this handprint keepsake ornament. You make a mold of your child’s handprint and then it hardens and you can hang it on your tree. Every year when I pull it out I marvel at how tiny her hand used to be!

Are you also looking for bigger gift ideas for your baby’s first Christmas?

Roundups of my favorite toys for every age can be found here:

Best Toys for 6 month olds

Best Toys for 1 year olds

Best Toys for 2 year olds

Why You Need a “Right Now” Bucket List

why you need a "right now" bucket list

So my practical, finance-obsessed 65 year old Dad did this last week:

It was such an out of character move for him that left my siblings and I scratching our heads. Growing up all he preached and lived was providing for his family and living below his means. Now he was out buying expensive toys just because.

He told us he decided it was finally “bucket list” time. My Dad worked hard his whole life and once he retired, he shifted his mindset to do what makes him happy.

I am genuinely delighted to see my Dad treat himself and enjoy the fruits of his labor. At the same time, it makes me wonder why he had to wait so long. Did he really need to sacrifice as much as he did all these years? Maybe he could have made a few more trips to Fenway Park (his number one happy place) when we were little instead of making it a rare treat?

Maybe what he needed then was a “right now” bucket list.

The 40th birthday “right now” bucket list

Just one day after the great car splurge, I went out to brunch with a couple of my Mommy friends. One of my friends, Lisa, had just celebrated her 40th birthday without a party or any gifts from her husband. We were all set and ready to feel sorry for her, until she told us that she did something even better.

She wrote down 40 things that she’s been wanting to do but hasn’t. (As a Mom aren’t there always “more important” things to spend your time and money on besides yourself?) But this time, plot twist! She actually went and did them.

It started with the simple act of paying someone else to do something she hates. In this case, it was cleaning her car. I’ve seen Lisa’s car in all it’s disgusting glory and let me tell you, that was a wonderful gift to herself! Then there was a take out meal on a night when she totally could have cooked but just didn’t feel like it.

The grand finale was a trip to Boston (by herself, can you imagine the luxury?!) to go visit her friend from college where they went to a famous pastry shop and indulged in 18 decadent desserts.

you need a bucket list in your 30s
18 of these bad boys? Yes please!

Why Now?

None of the things on her 40th birthday bucket list were outside of her means or impossible to orchestrate. They were simply things that she’d been denying herself permission to do.

Whether we are in our 20s, 30s, 40s (or beyond), as Moms we have a tendency to put ourselves last. If we go out alone, we feel guilty for the time missed with our children. If we spend money on ourselves, we think of what else we could have spent it on that would benefit our families.

But all this Mommy-martyrdom isn’t healthy. It’s the reason so many Moms feel like they’ve lost their identity. The Washington Post article Mommy, the Martyr warns:

While mothers certainly sacrifice and go to great lengths to care for our children, that doesn’t mean that those sacrifices don’t come with potential consequences such as hidden resentments, failed marriages, poor self-care, and lost friendships.

Moms need to put their own needs back into the rotation. A “right now” bucket list is a great place to start.

All it takes is giving yourself permission.

My “Right Now” Bucket List

  1. Take a one on one trip with each of my children (I’ll be checking one of these off next week!)
  2. Spend a night in the swanky hotel right down the street from my house just to have 24 hours of peace and relaxation.
  3. Hire someone to organize my closets.
  4. Let my kids play hooky from school for a day and stay in our pajamas watching movies all day.
  5. When my husband needs to work late, pay a babysitter for two hours just to get out of doing bedtime by myself.
  6. Tour a local winery with my girlfriends.
  7. Get tickets to a Broadway show and spend the day in NYC.
  8. Buy some bath bombs and take an hour long bath in the clawfoot tub I have that I have never bathed in.
  9. Go to a concert with my husband and party like there won’t be kids the next morning.
  10. Have a picnic on the beach and don’t leave until the sun goes down.

It’s a start.

Maybe some of these won’t actually be for “right now”. It could be 10 years before I get to them, if at all. But the point is I wrote them down. Just that simple act turned them into something real. A hope, a goal, something to look forward to.

I hope you’ll at least write down yours too.

 

Tell me, what is one thing you’d put on your “right now” bucket list?

 

Why I’m Only Bringing One Of My Kids to Disney World

Two weeks from today, my oldest child (nine year old Tiana) and I will be headed to the most magical place on earth! My other three kids will be staying home with Daddy.

Why am I only bringing one of my kids to Disney? Because I only like this kid and can’t stand those other ones.

Just kidding.

Here are the real reasons 😄

bring one kid to disney

With 4 kids, it is rare to have one on one time.

Yes, I know, I wrote a post about how great it is to have a large family. On the whole I think it’s a great gift to my children to give them a bunch of siblings. But just like any family size, there are negatives too.

Like how they don’t even get to eat a whole apple because inevitably after getting two bites in, some sibling will cry that they want it too and we end up slicing it and sharing it.

And, it’s really hard to get one on one time with Mom or Dad.

We know individual time is important, it’s just hard to work into the schedule of activities, homework, birthday parties, housework, etc, etc, etc. Oh and Mom and Dad like to have date nights too.

So yeah, I’m sure Tiana doesn’t get as much one on one attention as most kids do. Being alone with Mom for three days will be a pretty huge deal for her.

There’s always been a baby in our family.

When I stopped to think about it, I realized my oldest has really never *not* had a baby in her life. She was a mere 16 months old when Zari was born, and then every few years after that she’s gained a new sibling. So there has never really been a time in her life without babies.

bring one kid to disney
Tiana became a big sister at only 16 months

Because our family has been stuck in this eternal baby stage, there have been limitations on what we can do. With the exception of Christmas Eve, our kids have never stayed out anywhere past 7pm. We almost never go places that aren’t baby-friendly, like plays, movies, trampoline parks, and pottery painting. If we do take her to one of these places, it is for her special one on one “date” which doesn’t happen too often. So Tiana doesn’t get to do a ton of older kid activities.

She has her own interests and I want something to be all about her.

Ever since she heard about Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party, Tiana wanted to be there! She has a fascination with villains and all things creepy. Her siblings on the other hand have an intense fear of creepy things (especially Zari), which is why we’ve never gone to WDW at Halloween before.

Tiana also is my only kiddo that likes thrill rides, so a one on one trip means we’ll be doing ALL the fast rides this trip! Everest, Rockin Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror will all be firsts for her on this trip and she could not be more excited.

It will be a total change of pace for Tiana to have this time that’s all about HER. Not having to balance her wishes with everyone else’s. She picked the itinerary, the rides, the restaurants we’re going to eat at, and the shows she wants to see. When she feels like ice cream, we’ll eat an ice cream. If she wants to swim, we’ll swim. Kind of the like the concept of “Yes Day“.

This kid helps out a lot, and she deserves something special.

As the oldest child, Tiana is the one who most often gets asked to “keep an eye on the baby for a minute” or “go grab me the box of wipes”. I realize she is a child so we try not to ask too much of her, but when we do need a hand she is quick to help.

bring one kid to Disney
A truly loving (and helpful) big sister!

She is not a kid that’s overly entitled or expects to get something in return for helping out. She’s just a good kid and I want to reward her with something special that she’ll really love.

We could use the bonding.

My relationship with Tiana hasn’t always been as effortless and solid as it has with my other children. She came to us at a year and a half old, and attachment doesn’t always come easily when adopting a child past infancy. (If you’re interested in our adoption story, I’ve written about it here.)

I’m happy to report that our relationship has grown much stronger through the years and is pretty solid at this point. But I still feel like, of all the kids, Tiana would benefit the most from a little extra bonding.

I wish I had a chance to take a trip like this with my Mom.

Having lost my Mom when I was 20, I’m always aware of how short life is. I have a few special memories with her from my childhood that I think about often. I never did get to take a trip with just me and my Mom, but if I had I know I’d be looking at the pictures and reminiscing about it during the tough days when I really miss her.

It is super important to me that I make memories like this with my kids that they can hold onto for life, no matter how long we have together. I don’t want to wait until they are adults to do special things with my kids, because who knows if we’ll ever have that time.

Next year she’ll be a tween, then she’ll be a teen.

I hate thinking this way, but at 9 years old, my time to enjoy Tiana as a kid is dwindling! Next year she will be a “tween”, a thought that overjoys her and terrifies me. While I am a big believer that any age is a great age for Disney, quite honestly I think 8-9 is the perfect age.

At her age, there is still plenty of magic for Tiana. She is still a true believer in all the unbelievable wonders. She loves the characters and wants to meet them and talk to them. I know in my heart of hearts that this is the last trip she’ll be a “believer”.

bring one kid to Disney
Meeting Princess Tiana was a magical moment for this Disney fan!

I also know there’s a good chance my daughter won’t want to spend time with me in a few years. Right now at 9, she still thinks Mom and Dad are cool and wants to be with us all the time. Soon we know the pendulum will swing and she’ll want to be with peers instead of us.

The other kids will have their turn.

Right now it’s Tiana’s turn, but each of my kids will get a one on one trip with Mom when they’re 8 or 9. They understand this, and it helps them to not feel slighted. Their trip can be Disney if that’s what they choose, or somewhere else depending on their interests.

I’m ok with them having to wait for their turn. It’s a nice lesson in delayed gratification and patience. They’ll also enjoy their special Daddy time while we’re away too.

Those are the reasons why I chose to bring one kid to Disney! I’m sure many will still not agree with my decision. What do you think? Would you take just one of your children on a special trip?

5 Times When Parenting is Torture For Introverts

parenting for introverts

Growing up as an introvert, there were plenty of times I wished for a hole to open up in the floor for me to crawl into. My birthday? Sure, I liked a party, but having all my friends sing to me and watch me open presents was bordering on traumatic for me.

One of my earliest childhood memories involves being tortured by my own shyness. I was in preschool and a musician had come to visit our class. He sang a song that went around to each child making a rhyme with their name. As I realized that it would eventually come around to me, I waited in horror while counting the number of children I had before me. By the time he sang “willaby, wallaby Waitlin, and elephant sat on Caitlin”, I thought I would just about die from humiliation.

In school I hated any project I had to do that involved speaking in front of the class. I also hated group projects where the group members were assigned, forcing me to talk with people I didn’t know.

parenting for introverts

While growing older in some ways forced me out of my shell, my natural temperament has always been to keep my distance from people I don’t know well and to uphold a measure of privacy.

Then, motherhood came a knocking.

With it, a barrage of unwanted attention from family, acquaintances, and strangers alike. Here are 5 times parenting was pure torture for me as an introvert.

1. Late pregnancy

Why is it that common societal norms of politeness and personal space go out the window when a woman is growing a child?

Suddenly, people who would never give me more physical contact than a handshake now think it’s ok to touch, grab, even rub my belly. The exact place where I’m feeling the most protective and vulnerable! Who decided that’s ok to do?

Then there’s the comments. Pointing out parts of my body that are changing, as if I’m not acutely aware of them myself. Making comments about how big or not big I am, picking me apart like I’m a piece of livestock for sale.

By the end of pregnancy I dreaded ever leaving my house because I felt like I made a scene everywhere I went. The icing on the cake was a grocery store cashier who asked me how far along I was. When I replied “38 weeks”, she came back with “better have someone else do your shopping for you, you look like you’re about to break your water right here in the store!” So sorry my big pregnant existence is stressful for you!

2. After giving birth

The torture doesn’t stop for introverts once the pregnancy is over. Actually, it’s only the beginning.

After you give birth, everyone wants to know the story of your hoo-ha. There is no such thing as privacy when birth is involved. “C-section or vaginal? Did you need stitches? DID YOU RIP ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO YOUR BUTT???”

Or another classic: “Did you poop when you were pushing? No? Oh you probably did but you just didn’t know it.”

Not long after all vagina and excrement-related questions cease, it will move to your breasts.

“How is breastfeeding going? Are your nipples cracked? You know you’re supposed to pull on them and toughen them up before giving birth.”

If you ever felt like you had privacy and dignity, kiss it goodbye because that’s all over now!

3. The toddler stage

Nothing is more attention-grabbing than an adorable, loud, and mobile toddler. From the young toddler wrecking displays in the grocery aisle, to the older toddler demanding an answer to “WHY IS THAT LADY SO FAT?” they are constantly drawing attention to themselves in public. And all that attention quickly turns to Mom.

Then there are the dreaded toddler activities. As much as my homebody self would love to stay home with my little ones, my toddlers were way too active and had to be kept busy. But at that age they are too little to do activities their own, which means I have to join in. Sitting in a circle of parents singing itsy-bitsy spider finger plays is exactly the type of thing I find humiliating.

4. Birthday parties, sports games, and school pickups

Pretty much anytime there’s a group of parents standing around waiting, I’m going to be awkward. It comes from being forced to stand near a group of people that I only know as “Ella’s mom” or “Probably Jacob’s Dad”. I might know who they are, but I don’t know them enough to have a meaningful conversation with them. And I’m an absolute nightmare at small talk. I either over-share or can’t come up with a thing to say.

Since I avoid small talk, people perceive me as being cold at best, or snobby at worst.

parenting for introverts

5. Parent-teacher conferences

Even when my kid has the kindest and most personable teacher, I dread parent-teacher conferences. This person knows my child well, which feels like the equivalent of knowing the contents of my underwear drawer or medicine cabinet. I’m fully aware that they know quite a bit about me, but I don’t know exactly what they know. This state of vulnerability makes me uneasy.

Another part of the awkwardness involves my children not following the rules. Inevitably, the teacher is going to tell me about times my child misbehaved. I never know the correct response to this. “I’m sorry”“He also doesn’t listen at home“??

My last parent-teacher conference went something like this:

Teacher: Your child only seems to put effort into classwork when he decides it’s interesting to him.

Me: Yes, it can be difficult to get him motivated.

Teacher: Do you have any ideas of how to keep him engaged?

Me: Umm.. you could try to make your lessons more interesting? *facepalm*

Other difficulties with parenting for introverts

Introverts need a certain amount of alone time every day to center themselves. Small children need alone time approximately never. And for me, with 6 of us living under the same roof, there is no such thing as alone time.

parenting for introverts

Children are also curious and inquisitive. Parents are constantly barraged with questions, sometimes the same ones over and over. Unlike some people, *cough* my husband *cough cough*, I don’t tune them out and not answer their questions. I reply to every last one. By the end of the day I feel like I have not stopped talking for the last twelve hours. It’s exhausting for anyone, but especially for introverts who need quiet to reflect.

Lastly, your love for your children will compel you to do things you absolutely hate. Starting in preschool, my children’s school has invited parents to surprise their child’s class on a random day by coming in to read a book, aka the “mystery reader”. I would be happy to help the class in a way (seriously ANY other way) that doesn’t involve 20 children and three teachers listening to me read out loud. But my oldest child gets so excited at the thought of me coming in to her class and surprising her, I feel guilted into doing it every year.

My children are still young, so I’m sure there is more torture on the horizon for this introverted mom!

Are YOU an introvert parent? What has been a struggle for you?

Leave a comment (under the post title!)

4 Tricks to Try When Your Kid Is Waking Up Too Early

Only when you’re a parent do you realize what true fatigue really feels like. As soon as one sleep problem is solved, it seems like a new one pops up. If you are dealing with kids waking too early (like 5 AM early), know that this is usually a temporary problem. I have some tried-and-true tactics to help your kids start sleeping later.

kids waking too early

First of all let me just say this has nothing to do with color-changing clocks or teaching kids what time they can get out of bed. I don’t know whose kids look at the clock and follow the laid out rules before jumping out of bed, but mine definitely don’t. They don’t even listen to me most of the time. They sure as hell aren’t going to listen to an inanimate plastic object.

How early is too early?

If your little one wakes up between 6 and 7 but you’re just an eternal optimist wishing they’d sleep past 8, that’s most likely unrealistic. It is normal and age-appropriate for small children to wake up in the 6s. It’s only a problem that needs fixing if 1.) it’s breaking the pattern of their normal sleep habits and 2.) they seem tired/cranky during the day.

Most parents have experienced a change in their child’s sleep pattern that suddenly has them waking up *too* early. It comes on suddenly and the child is clearly sleep-deprived and cranky during the day, but they are unable to reset their schedule.

For example, my youngest son was sleeping from 7:30 pm to 6:30 am every day for almost a year. Out of nowhere he started waking up at 5. Some mornings it was 5:30, other mornings it was 4:30 😱 These were not night-wakings, he was completely awake and looking to start his day. There was no amount of shushing or patting that would get him back to sleep. Later that morning and throughout the day however, he was irritable and fussy.

Luckily we’d been to this rodeo before with our other children and had some tricks to try.

1. Re-evaluate the nap schedule

The schedule that was working before is no longer working, so it’s time to figure out why. A good starting point is to look at a chart of sleep/wake times by age and figure out what their total sleep should be for their age.

Age# of napsMax wake timeTotal sleep
6-12 months23-4 hours14-15 hours
12-18 monthsdrops to 15 hours13-14 hours
18 months-3 years15-6 hours12-13 hours
3-5 yearsdrops to 0 (or changes to "quiet hour")6-7 hours if still napping, 12-13 hours if no nap11-12 hours
6-10 years013-1410-11 hours

Depending on their age and sleep needs, it may be necessary to change the nap in one of these ways:

A. Change the nap schedule from two naps/day to 1 nap/day (typically between 12-18 months of age)

B. “Cap” the nap at a certain time to ensure it doesn’t interfere with bedtime (for example, end all naps by 3pm to make sure there is the correct amount of wake time before bedtime), or

C. Eliminate the nap altogether (typically done at age 3-4)

In the case of our little 5 am wake up call, looking at the chart I was able to see that at his age (16 months) is when he needs to go down from two naps a day to one. Too much nap time sleep was interfering with his night time sleep.

2. Eliminate over-tiredness

This is critical! IGNORE the barrage of well-meaning advice-givers who tell you that keeping the kid up later will make them sleep later. This is almost never the case.

Even though it’s counter-intuitive, a child who is kept awake for too long and goes to bed overtired will just wake up EARLIER.

The pediatric sleep consultants at WeeBeeDreaming explain it well:

“Well-rested children accept sleep more readily, sleep better, and sleep longer than overtired ones.

When babies are overtired, the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ is secreted and cortisol keeps us awake (it’s the same hormone that would be released into your body if you were in a situation where you were trying to save your own life – the ‘flight or fight response’).  Ensuring that babies do not reach this overtired state is pivotal to ensure a good night’s sleep.”

Avoid over tiredness by sticking with an early but age-appropriate bedtime. Between 6pm and 8pm is what aligns with most children’s natural sleep rhythms.

Another trick to determine the correct bedtime? Take the time your child needs to be awake for school or daycare, and calculate based on their total sleep needs (see table above) to figure out what time they need to be in bed. For example, if your non-napping 4 year old wakes up at 7am, a bedtime between 7 and 8 pm will ensure an optimal 11-12 hours of sleep.

3. Check the room for sleep disruptors

Does the sun shine through your child’s blinds, waking them when it rises? Are they hearing a garbage truck making its way through your neighborhood?

Simple solutions can be your best friend here.

Room-darkening shades and a white noise machine are simple ways to solve these problems.

These are just like the blackout shades we have in Elle’s room:

And all four of my kids sleep with one of these bad boys:

4. Purposely disturb their sleep cycle

If you’ve checked the previous three off your list and still have an early bird on your hands, it’s time to break out this trick.

Sometime in the night when they are in a deep sleep (it can be when you go to bed yourself), go on in and rouse them a bit.

It doesn’t need to be a full wake up, but just move the child enough to disrupt their sleep cycle. Change their position, give them a kiss, make sure they move around a little bit and then leave them to drift back off to sleep.

This small act can be enough to alter their sleep pattern and change their wake up time. Even if it’s half a sleep cycle, that’s an extra 22 minutes of sleep in the wee hours of the am!

If your little one is up before the sun, I hope one of these tricks works for you!

After all, parenting is hard enough even with a good night’s sleep!