New Parents: Don’t Make Life More Difficult Than It Needs to Be

There is no formula or instruction manual for successful parenting. You can arm yourself with the latest expert advice for new parents, keep up with the trends and establish a routine based on evidence-based research, but you will still find yourself figuring out much of this parenting thing as you go along. Make life as simple as possible during this time of transition and avoid some of the things that can cause unnecessary hurdles for new parents.

Advice for new parents

Parenting Advice from Others

Everyone’s journey is different. What works for one mother may not work for another, so remember that most advice you’ll receive — unless it’s coming from a doctor or expert — is just an opinion.

The internet is flooded with information about parenting, much of which is conflicting or controversial. Don’t forfeit your own judgement. Look within before turning to Google. Use your parental instincts and consult your pediatrician when you have a health-related matter.

Spit-ups, Drool & Other Messes

Babies are going to get dirty, and that can be difficult for new parents to accept at first. Babies spittle, dribble, vomit and poop, and there will be stains on your clothes and baby’s to prove it. Don’t panic when you see a little dirt under baby’s nails or some dog hair stuck to baby’s clothes. All you can do is your best to keep baby clean.

A few simple tips can also help keep baby grime-free:

  • Always keep extra clean clothes on hand. If you don’t have time to do the laundry each week, consider hiring a laundry service so baby never runs out of clean clothes.
  • Snap on a bib during the extra drooly times; bibs are not just for meal times. If you’re concerned about the harsh material rubbing on baby’s face and neck for too long, find super-soft bibs and burp cloths at SwaddleDesigns.
  • Freshen baby between baths with the occasional sponge bath on extra messy days.
  • Keep a stash of natural baby wipes in the most-used rooms of your home to quickly clean up spills, sticky fingers and spit-ups as they happen. We like these from Seventh Generation.

Relationship with Your Spouse

Many new parents lose sight of their spouse when the new baby arrives. Mom is undergoing hormone changes, getting less sleep and trying to master breastfeeding, and Dad may be wondering when he’ll get his wife back.

Make a point to spend quality time together. Talk to one another and listen. Exhaustion does strange things to people, so rely on friends and relatives to help out so you can get sleep and time together.

Make time for intimacy as well. If Mom’s body is ready and willing, get into the habit of rekindling your attraction whenever possible.

Keep in mind the following tips to maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse:

  • Plan a standing date night every week.
  • Be flexible.
  • Find balance.
  • Talk to each other every day.
  • Get out of the house together.
  • Be co-parents.
  • Establish an outside support system.
  • Schedule couple time.
  • Develop a sense of humor.

Being a parent will change your life, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Follow your parenting instincts, get some sleep and love your husband — you’re in for the most enjoyable roller coaster ride life has to offer!

24ffed1a4b282ef17c92ad374370c91cc4f2a2fa4fb8958b08

Before Baby: Make These Safety Upgrades to Your Vehicle

From the moment you found out you were pregnant, you began to see your home in a different light. Those innocuous outlets are now sinister places that must be covered up, your huge flatscreen TV you and your hubby were so excited to buy may potentially topple over and…. well, you get the point.

Make these vehicle safety upgrades before baby comes

While paying attention to safety issues inside the home is a natural and normal part of preparing for a new baby, it’s also a good idea to consider the very vehicle that will bring you and your precious new bundle of joy home from the hospital. Sure, your car, SUV or truck probably came with some standard safety features like a variety of airbags and anti-lock brakes, but chances are good that you can add some additional aftermarket items to boost its safety even more.

If time and budget allow, prior to the arrival of your new baby, you might want to consider adding some or all of the following to your vehicle:

Forward-Collision Warning System

A cool aftermarket safety item that performed well during testing is called the Mobileye 560. The camera, which you can purchase from the Mobileye website for around $850, mounts behind your rear-view mirror and monitors the road in front of you as you drive. With its speaker system and display screen, Mobileye will give you both visual and sound warnings if you start to drift out of your lane, if you are tailgating the car in front of you, or if a person steps out in the road in front of you. If you feel that some of the Mobileye’s functions are not necessary for your particular driving needs, you have the option to turn it off. For new, sleep-deprived parents, this nifty piece of technology can help keep you alert and safe on the road.

New, Safer Tires

If it’s been some time since you got new tires, you should definitely think about getting all four replaced before the baby arrives. Even if your tires are looking pretty good, it’s still a wise investment to upgrade to a set of tires that are especially safe and adept at handling all sorts of road conditions. BF Goodrich Touring Tires can handle just about any type of driving with safety and ease. The performance tires do well on both wet and dry roads, which means that no matter what the weather is up to when you head out to run errands with your baby, your tires will respond and hug the road. As a bonus, these tires are quiet, which means your sleeping baby will stay that way as you drive around town.

A Backup Camera

If your car did not come equipped with a backup camera, you might want to have one installed prior to going into labor. The OpenRoad QuickVu is a good option. Throw your car into reverse, the device will show you a screen of what is right behind your vehicle. Trail Ridge Tech sells a nice wireless model for about $300 that you can install in less than 10 minutes. The unit will show you if a stroller, bike, ball, car or pedestrian is behind your car.

Family Fun: How to Make a Movie Together

According to Samsung, 2.5 billion people around the world own a digital camera. Put your camera to good use and switch your setting from taking still shots to video. Put your camera to good use and get the kids involved to make a family movie together. Consider a documentary or montage of your year, or something more ambitious like an action-packed feature-length film starring mom, dad, the kids, and even the family pets.

how to make a movie with your family

Here are some ideas on how to start your next family film:

Make It Look Professioniol

Making a movie for fun on your smartphone is a great idea, but there are ways to make your family movie look professional. Pick-up a DSLR camera, borrow one from a friend, or rent one for a day. A DSLR camera can take snapshots while also filming your family movie. They typically have larger sensors for a bigger depth of field and a more cinematic look than a traditional camcorder or smartphone. Stabilize your camera on a table or use a rig to keep it steady to avoid your images from going in and out of focus.

Think about some of your favorite feature-length films. Was it the location, costumes, or props that compelled you to keep watching? Get out old Halloween costumes for a frightful scene, or shoot on an old bridge over a creek for a reflective scene. Write up a script, but encourage kids to improvise as they see fit to bring some spontaneity and emotion to your masterpiece.

Get Creative

Add titles, graphics, and transitions like wipes and dissolves to your footage. Most computers come with installed video editing software, like Apple’s iMovie. Take your film to the next level by incorporating stock footage. Choose stock video footage from a website like Shutterstock to add to your holiday video, such as footage of fresh snow falling over a Christmas tree, an animated dancing Santa, reindeer prancing in front of a moon, or a family opening gifts. Use it as an opener to your film or dream sequence to really add a punch of professional pizzazz.

Conduct Interviews

Take your film to documentary heights by interviewing members of the family. Ask questions about their favorite family memories or ask them to recall their favorite things about a lost relative or pet. Discuss each family members’ dreams and ambitions as a live recording of where you and your family were in history. Keep adding to the film every year with the same questions and watch your film evolve into a family archive. Watch what answers change and which ones stay the same, and discuss the new developments with your kids.

Choose a Fun Soundtrack

A film isn’t complete without a fun soundtrack. Pick an adventurous tune when the kids are swinging from the monkey bars and racing into the tree house. Choose a tune that’s mysterious and dark during a tense scene where the kids discover a monster in the cellar. Or pick something happy and light for a montage of your family adventures for the year.

Four Websites For Teens

Websites for Teens

Being a work-at-home-mom can be an immensely rewarding experience. In addition to avoiding a daily commute through rush hour traffic, you can often adjust your schedule so you to drive your kids to school, attend their school events, and be there when they return back home.

As you probably know quite well, teens usually figure your WAHM status really doesn’t apply to them when they are home, and you will be at their beck and call to help them with anything and everything they need. While you certainly want to be there for them whenever you can, there will be times when your kids will have to take the proverbial bull by the horns and handle certain tasks alone. The following websites for teens are ideal and can help keep them ahead of the curve while giving you the time you need to meet your next deadline:

Driving-Tests.org

If your teenage son or daughter is dying to get a learners permit and wants you to quiz him or her on the rules of the road right in the middle of a huge work project you are trying to finish, use Driving-Tests.org for help. The website allows young drivers-to-be to take permit practice tests online and check out their knowledge and skills before heading to the DMV for the real thing. The site includes practice tests for every state in the country, and it’s so easy to navigate teens can take the practice exams on their own.

SchoolFamily.com

When it comes to food, teens are notorious for being bottomless pits. They are also notorious for expecting their sainted mother to drop everything she is doing to fix them a snack. In order to boost your teen’s cooking knowledge and skills and fill their tummies while you are trying to get your work done, ask them to check out SchoolFamily.com. The site is filled with simple recipes and cooking instructions that are ideal for cooking novices. For example, the peanut butter and jelly toaster tarts feature just three ingredients, and the easy-to-follow instructions will get your teen on the road to independence. Of course, cooking skills are something teens will need as they get older, and this user-friendly website will definitely help them get on their way.

Coursera.org

For teens who enjoy learning, Coursera.org offers a wide variety of online courses for free. The site features over 400 classes that are designed by top schools, and teens can attend “class” on their own schedule, like when they are home from school for a holiday weekend and you are working in the home office. For example, if your teen is interested in nutrition and eating healthily, Coursera offers a course called “Nutrition, Health and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights.” Teens can watch video lectures, take interactive quizzes and connect online with other teens and their instructors. Coursera also offers peer assessments, which will allow your teen to review and provide feedback for other students’ work. By taking some online classes at Coursera, it can help teens boost their learning and skills with topics that interests them.

CodeAcademy.com

Teens who enjoy anything and everything to do with computers and websites are sure to enjoy CodeAcademy.com, where they can learn how to code interactively for free. In addition to teaching them skills they can use right now on their own computers and the family website, teens who are knowledgeable in coding will have a leg up when they start applying for jobs in the IT market. Maybe one day your teen can help you in your work by upgrading your business website or helping with computer glitches.

5 Ways to Toddler-Proof Your iPhone

The most recent data from Pew Research indicates 58 percent of Americans over age 18 have a smartphone, and according to the T-Mobile website, at least 209 million of them are using lightning-fast 4G LTE connections. All that speed and power, and you’re still being foiled by a 4-year-old? If you’ve experienced cracked screens, missing apps and unexpected Apple store purchases one too many times, it’s time to take action and toddler-proof your iPhone. It’s easy to put your phone on lock-down when you don’t want curious little fingers tapping away on your device.

How to toddler-proof your iPhone

Invest in a Sturdy iPhone Case

An internally restricted iPhone won’t do you any good if the damage happens on the outside. A sturdy phone case makes a world of difference, particularly when your iPhone is in the hands of a toddler. According to Lifehacker, not all iPhone cases are equal. Otterbox, for instance, creates high-impact cases made of hard polycarbonate with soft silicone corner bumpers. For a sleeker look, Case Mate offers full-body, military-grade protective cases. If these cases are tough enough to withstand combat, then you know they’ll hold up against a tantrum.

Use the iOS Restriction System

The iOS Restriction System is the easiest way to restrict and customize access on an iPhone, iPod or iPad. To begin, go to Settings > General > Restrictions to set a four-digit PIN number. This passcode locks down various iPhone features you don’t want your child to access or change, says Tech Radar. For instance, these restrictions can keep your child from using Safari, making in-app purchases or logging onto iTunes. The pin also keeps toddlers from accidentally deleting or installing apps on your phone.

Turn Your iPhone into a Fun Phone

Obviously, there are instances when you don’t want your children using your iPhone. And guess what? There’s an app for that. If handing a locked phone to your fussing toddler no longer keeps them entertained, turn it into a pretend iPhone. BabyCenter’s PhonyPhone free app keeps children from accidentally making a real phone call with a faux number pad that teaches numbers and colors while playing music. The oversized screen is perfect for small fingers that are eager to place a pretend phone call.

Enable Guided Access

This nifty feature in the iOS 6 software update limits your toddler’s access to a single app. Enable it by going to your phone’s settings, visiting General > Accessibility > Guided Access. Turning this option on lets iOS know if it should recognize touch or motion based input and if its sleep/wake and volume buttons work, states TIME Magazine. To fully set up, launch the desired app, triple-click the Home button and enter your passcode. And there you have it, you’ve set up a virtual play space for your curious tech-savvy tot.

Turn Multitasking Gestures Off

The clumsy fine motor skills of a 2- or 3-year old mean they may inadvertently swipe or pinch out of an app. Fix this problem by going to General in Settings and turning Multitasking Gestures off. These gestures allow older iPhone users to use four fingers to swipe between apps or five fingers to “grab” the screen and get back to Home, explains Gigaom. Install easy to use apps designed for young children, like Baby Piano and I Hear Ewe to it easier for toddlers to manipulate an iPhone’s touch screen.

The Truth About Invisalign for Teens

This post was sponsored by the folks at Invisalign, but all opinions and genuine interest are my own! (I’m saving my pennies to get them for myself!)

 

I went to the Blogher blogging conference this summer, and I had the chance to speak with several great companies. One of them, Invisalign, hosted a daytime cocktail party and invited a local-to-California orthodontist to come speak about what Invisalign had to offer as an alternative to traditional metal braces, not just for adults, but pre-teens and teens as well.

Most of us have heard of the clear plastic teeth-straightening devices, but I didn’t, and maybe you don’t, know the specifics of how they work, why they work, and who makes great candidates for the system. In fact, I learned how and why Invisalign for teens is an effective, popular option.

A lot of moms at the party were concerned about the fact that, like a retainer, you remove the nearly-invisable plastic Invisalign aligners when you eat (it’s recommended that you where them 21 hours every day). They weren’t sure if their tweens and teens would be responsible enough to not lose them.

But, the orthodontist had a couple of good points: one is that you change sets every two weeks, so if you lose one close to that two week mark, you’re probably fine to go ahead and start using the next set. Two, when you get the sets from your orthodontist, you get extras…six free replacement aligners.

And you get several sets at a time, so every two weeks, you change to the next set without having to go back to the orthodontist for an adjustment. The moms that were at the party whose kids had been wearing Invisalign said that they didn’t have any trouble with their teens losing or forgetting to wear the aligners, however. And I believe it…my 7 and 8 year olds recently got glasses, and they been good already about remembering to wear them. I think that when kids know how important something is, they really step up to the plate, given the chance. And they learn to be more responsible in the process.

Not every orthodontist recommends or uses Invisalign regularly, but you can get online and find one close to you that does if you’re interested in a consultation or learning more.

Invisalign for teens: Invisalign compared to braces

Here are some myths about Invisalign and the truth behind them:

Myth: I won’t be able to tell if my child is wearing Invisalign often enough for it to be effective.

Setting it Straight:  Invisalign Teen aligners are made with small blue dots, officially called compliance indicators, that gradually fade as aligners are worn. It’s a quick visual check for parents and teens to confirm they wearing aligners long enough to get results. In fact, clinical data from orthodontists confirms that teens wear their aligners an average of 21 hours per day, just as recommended.

Myth: If my child loses their aligners, it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg to replace.

Setting it Straight: We know kids lose things, even their aligners! That’s why you get up to six FREE replacement aligners with Invisalign Teen.

Myth: After Invisalign Teen, my child’s teeth may revert back to their original position.

Setting it Straight:  Studies show that without retainers straight teeth can gradually shift back towards their initial position. This is a common occurrence with all orthodontic treatment including braces, but is one that can easily be overcome. Ask your doctor. about Vivera retainers from the makers of Invisalign.

Myth: I don’t need to take my child to see an orthodontist until they are a teenager.

Setting it Straight: The American Association of Orthodontics recommends taking children for their first orthodontic check-up no later than age 7.  The American Dental Association says this is because, “Your child’s dentist can spot problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth early on, while the primary teeth are present.”

Myth: Invisalign takes longer to complete than braces.

Setting it Straight: The length of Invisalign treatment is comparable to braces. The average Invisalign journey averages about 12 months for adults. The length of treatment time for teens may vary depending on the severity of the case and can only be determined by a doctor.

Myth: If my child’s dentist or orthodontist recommends braces over Invisalign, I should trust their opinion.

Not all orthodontists specialize in Invisalign Teen. Visit www.invisalign.com and select “find a doctor” to locate experienced Invisalign and Invisalign Teen doctors in your area. If you are told your teen is not an Invisalign candidate, it may be worth getting a second opinion from more than one orthodontist. Doing so may help ensure that you have all the information you need to make an educated decision.

Myth: Braces work better than Invisalign.

Setting it Straight:  Invisalign Teen was developed with leading orthodontists to correct the most common teeth straightening issues – from severe cases to more minor, cosmetic adjustments.  Invisalign Teen’s clear aligners are removable and can straighten teeth without a mouth full of metal and all the disruption and sacrifice that comes with it.  With Invisalign, teens look better and feel more confident than they ever could in traditional braces.

Myth: We can’t afford Invisalign.

Setting it Straight:  Invisalign Teen is covered by many dental insurance policies just like traditional braces — up to 50% of the cost may be covered by insurance. Even if dental insurance doesn’t apply, many doctors will help parents find options to make straightening their child’s teeth more affordable. Many offer flexible and affordable monthly finance plans that can be as low as $99 per month.

Invisalign Teen clear aligners straighten teeth without traditional wires and brackets giving teens the confidence to live life to the fullest while improving their smile.  Visit the Invisalign website for more information.

You can find out a ton of information on the Invisalign website, including FAQs, finding a doctor in your area, how it works, and if you or your teen would be a good candidate for the system.

And check out the Infographic here!

Also, make sure you enter the sweepstakes to win an Invisalign system for yourself or your teen! (Ends Oct. 1, 2014)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Have your kids had an orthodontic consultation yet? Have you ever considered Invisalign for them (or yourself)? 

The truth about Invisalign for teens

 

Back to School Morning Routines

This year, I’ll have three kids in school and one staying home (he’s three). Last year, the third school-aged kid was in morning preschool, so she still had to be up and ready and out of the house with the older two.

Honestly, I panicked. How was I going to get them all out of the house on time?! At least two of them are not morning people, that’s for sure.

But, we were able to get into a routine, and made it through the last school year without ever being late. And to me, that’s a HUGE accomplishment.

Here’s an example of how we handle back to school morning routines (what works for us):

The biggest thing that I do is prepare as much as possible the night before (or even the weekend before). I make all of the school lunches the Sunday before the school week (check out how HERE). I also sort school clothes into piles the weekend before, by days. So, each stack will have a complete outfit for each child, and I have at least three (if not five) stacks ready to go for the week.

back to school: morning routines

I also gather breakfast the night before…if I’m going to make scrambled eggs, I scramble them in a container, put a lid on and put them in the fridge, so all I have to do is pour them in the pan in the morning. I make muffins, waffles, and even pancakes ahead of time and freeze them, so in the morning, I can pop them in the microwave to reheat and serve them. My kids use cups with lids and straws, so I’m able to fill up their cups the night before with milk and stick them in the fridge.

Homework is done the day before (read about after-school routines here), and backpacks hang on hooks next to the front door.

In the morning, all I have to do is heat up breakfast and lay out the outfits. There is no TV on in the morning (unless they finish getting ready in plenty of time), because my kids just get too distracted.

I wake them up about 45 minutes before we need to leave…they eat breakfast first thing while I take a shower, then they get dressed, get their shoes on, brush their teeth, and grab their lunch boxes and backpacks and we head out the door.

Getting it all gathered and prepared beforehand makes our mornings go so much more smoothly, and saves me a lot of stress on school mornings.

What is your biggest morning routine tip? Please share!

Back to school- morning routines

Be sure to follow my Pinterest boards for lunch ideas, organizational tips, and so much more!

Back To School: After School Routines

I can’t believe it’s that time of year again….BACK TO SCHOOL. One of the hardest things for our family (other than the dreaded transition from summer schedule to school schedule) is getting the kids into an after school routine that allows them time to eat, play, relax, AND get their homework done.

After school routines

Sometimes, you can use the same after school routine from year to year, but kids will probably grow out of it as their homework assignments change and grow, their sleep needs change, they become teenagers. And in the very beginning, that first year of school, everything is new and you just don’t know what will work.

Leigh Ann Torres of Genie in a Blog is the mom of three girls (twins and a little sister). Last year, she went through a tough tranisitional period in which she had to figure out what kind of after school routine was going to work for her twin kindergartners.

She finally did….here’s a bit of what she had to say: We’ve gone through a great many phases of change from the start of kindergarten until now. At the beginning of the school year, they were so, so, SO tired when they got home, they didn’t know what to do with themselves. I didn’t know what to do with them. Sometimes their tired translated into them being too rowdy, which always resulted in someone getting hurt. Sometimes it translated into them wanting to do nothing but stare blankly at the TV. Playing was too hard, eating a snack was too laborious, and don’t even ASK us to flush the toilet, Mom. We’ve had a hard day of coloring and ABCs.

To find out what finally worked out for her girls, READ MORE HERE.

When do your kids go back? Do you have a good after school routine already in place, or will you be doing trial and error to find a new one this year?

Popping the Perfect Family Movie Night Popcorn

In our family, we have a weekly “pizza and popcorn” night. We make homemade (gluten free) pizza and pop a bag (or two) of popcorn. They go perfectly together, and we go through so much of both that I shed a few tears when I accidentally burn a bag of the popcorn.

But get this….there’s a new APP for your PHONE that tells you exactly when your bag of popcorn is perfectly popped, so you never waste a bag. Because let’s face it, nobody eats burned popcorn except maybe me…the mom (always making sacrifices for the family, right?).

Isn’t technology fantastic?! Instead of standing by the microwave and counting between pops (how many seconds is it?) you can turn the Perfect Pop app on and enjoy the movie. When it tells you that the popcorn is perfectly popped, take it out.

Pop Secret Perfect Pop App

Pair our favorite weekly meal with a new movie from the library, and everybody’s happy. I’m happy because the popcorn came out perfectly so I don’t have to make another bag and try to salvage burned popcorn for myself.

Pop Secret Perfect Pop app

The kids are happy because they get to watch a different movie, eat in the living room, and stay up a little later before the weekend.

Pop Secret Perfect Pop app

You can download the Perfect Pop app for free and try it yourself. It’s a fun way to make sure your popcorn is PERFECT. I guarantee the kids will love it, too.

Pop Secret Perfect Pop App

The Perfect Pop app is available for free at the App Store, for iPhone 5+ with iOS 7+.


Thanks to Pop Secret for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

Tips for Finding a Daycare Provider

Selecting a daycare provider is one of the hardest things a parent will ever do, regardless of the reason for why you are doing it. Some of us have to work for financial reasons (like me) or because we know our mental health would never hold up to staying home (like me) or just because we enjoy working (like me).

Tips for Finding a Daycare Provider

Whatever your reason, here are some tips for selecting a daycare provider:

 

  1.  Know what you want… All daycare providers are different. Some are strict, some are relaxed, some have a learning focused environment, some of them focus on play. It is important to have an idea of what type of environment you want for your children before you start your research. One of the reasons I fell in love with my first daycare was because when I did a tour the infant room teacher was sitting on the floor with babies crawling all over her while she loved and hugged on them. That’s what I wanted for my baby.

 

  1.  Know where they are… I did a Google search for daycare centers for the town where I live and where I work. I looked at all of the neighborhoods to see what centers would be convenient for me and ruled out areas that I knew would not work. (Let’s be real. All towns have at least one bad neighborhood.) This allowed me to cut down my list of potential centers.

 

  1.  Know the law… In Texas all of the regulations are posted on the internet. Go to your state licensing agency and read the rules and regulations before you schedule a tour at potential centers. That way when you walk in you will be able to spot if they are doing anything blatantly against the rules, like not having enough people assigned per age group.

 

  1.  Know where they stand… Texas also posts all reviews online so that you can find the deficiencies for all of the schools that interest you. Do be aware that the auditors that go into these locations are super, super picky and will write up tiny things and make them sound really bad. So while this can be good information, read it with a judgmental eye.

 

  1.  Know what your friends know… Ask everyone you know every question you can think of. No question is too large or small. You can learn more by asking people you trust than you ever will through any other method.

 

  1.  Know when it is time to move… One center may not always fit your needs. In the beginning I loved the center we where we were. As my daughter got older her needs changed, and also management changed. I was not happy with things for awhile. It took me a long time to make a decision about moving my children. Some of the workers there were like family. They rocked my babies to sleep, potty trained them, taught them their ABC’s… But still. There comes a time when you have to listen to your heart. When that time comes you need to be sure to follow your intuition.

 

Do you have any tips for finding a daycare provider?

Jennifer Williams is a full-time working  mom of two kids. You can find her at her blog and Facebook.