When I Didn’t Get Pregnant – But Then I Did!

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My Journey to Jack

I have three children, so you might assume that it’s easy for me to get pregnant.  However, that has been untrue more than true.  With my first daughter, I was diagnosed with unexplained secondary infertility.  My second daughter was easy.  My son was a long, arduous road filled with lots of disappointment, tears, and trips to a reproductive endocrinologist.

After a year of wanting a third baby, I had exhausted my options for getting pregnant without medical intervention (charting, tests, digital tests, digital monitors, herbal supplements, IMG_6276exercise, diet, you name it).  After extensive testing by the fertility doctors, I was once again diagnosed with unexplained secondary infertility – which basically meant every test they could run came back perfectly normal but I couldn’t get pregnant.  My options were laid out from least to most invasive (and expensive as our insurance has zero infertility coverage).  Needless to say, it wasn’t appealing.  But we wanted a baby more than we disliked our treatment options. I wish that there had been an at-home option like the new FDA-approved The Stork OTC kit that I could have tried, but there wasn’t anything on the market back then (you ladies are so lucky now – all you have to do is go to Target to pick one up!).

At the fertility clinic, months and months went by, filled with prescriptions, injections, treatments, and more and more testing.  It was emotionally, physically, and financially draining.  But we persisted.  And finally, at the end of October 2016, I was finally pregnant!!!  I couldn’t believe it when I saw that first positive test.  In fact, I was so shocked that I didn’t tell my husband.  Instead, I waited to take another the following morning.  I still couldn’t believe that line, so I text a picture to one of my best friends, asking if I was seeing things.  She thought it was positive as well, so I went off to the lab for an HCG draw.  I still hadn’t told my husband, as I wanted to be 10,000% positive that I really was pregnant.  When I got those first, beautiful HCG numbers back, I decided I needed to devise the perfect plan to let him know we were finally, finally, having that baby we’d wanted so desperately.

My estimated due date was our wedding anniversary, July 19, 2017.  So I wanted to weave that into the big reveal.  We’d also just moved back to LA full time and I had been telling him we needed to return to the restaurant we ate at the night we got engaged (word to the wise, if you are in LA and haven’t eaten at Angelini Osteria, make a reservation right now).  Thus, I thought it would be perfect to make a reservation there and reveal that rather than planning to have a wedding on July 19th, we would be having a baby.

With my girls in tow, I went to our favorite bakery and ordered a cake that said “Will you be my Daddy? July 19, 2017”, then ran it to the restaurant and let the staff know to bring it out as an unannounced surprise when we were done with dinner. (If you scroll back through my IMG_4422Instagram, it was the day I took a picture of my girls with the Banksy street art around the corner from Angelini’s) We had a great dinner that night, talking about how much had happened in our life together since our first meal at Angelini’s.  We were debating dessert when the waiters came out with a cake, singing Happy Birthday, and set it in front of my husband.  He was about to let them know they had the wrong table when he read what was on the cake.  He then freaked with happiness and joy.  It was such a wonderful conclusion to our hard journey of trying for Baby #3 (and you can check out my video I sneaked of him for the big reveal)!

I’ll never know why I didn’t get pregnant on my own, but I really wish there had been an intermediate step available to me to try.  Something between ovulation tests and full on clinical treatments that left me exhausted and sad.  That’s why I jumped at the chance to partner with  Mums the Word Network and The Stork OTC to share my story with you and help build awareness that now there IS an intermediate step for women struggling to get pregnant that doesn’t involve clinics and great expense and fun things like having dye shot into your uterus for imaging/testing to qualify for any of the clinic’s treatments.  AND The Stork OTC has a success rate of up to 20%!  When you compare that to IUI’s success rate of 16-21%, you can see why I’m so excited to see this product hit the market!

If your attempts to chart and use ovulation tests are failing you, you can head to select Target stores nationwide and grab The Stork OTC from the family planning aisle, right next to all of those ovulation tests you’ve been buying every month.  If you’d like to find out more about Stork and connect with me, I will be a panelist for the Twitter Party chat on August 17th at 8-9:00pm EST.  Jump on with the hashtag #TTCwithStorkOTC And hustle out to Target between now and August 19, 2017 to take advantage of the special buy one, get one 50% off promotion!  Or, if you prefer to shop from the comfort of your own home, you can get 25% off the Stork OTC Single Device at the Stork OTC Online Store through the end of August.

 

 

I wish you success and ease in your Road to Baby and want to remind you that you are not alone.  Infertility is often a silent struggle women go through, but there are a lot of us who’ve been in your shoes or are presently going through it right now.  If you ever need a listening ear, just shoot me an email or DM.  You don’t need to go through this alone!

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This is a sponsored conversation from Mums the Word Network and The Stork OTC. All opinions are ALWAYS my own.

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How to Travel with Kids by Plane

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With all of the ridiculous articles and shares floating around the interwebs about families who preemptively hand out goody bags to other passengers on a plane lest the other adults not act like adults if their children might act like children, it’s no wonder that the idea of flying with small kids is enough to strike fear into the hearts of parents far and wide.  But I’m here to tell you that you can rest easy.  We have been flying since my oldest was 11 weeks old and, not only have we never had a terrible experience with other passengers, we’ve become pretty excellent at making the whole process pretty seamless.  Here’s the lowdown on how we travel:

Car Seats!

First off, buy yourself a lightweight car seat for travel.  Your baby should have his or her own seat for maximum safety and the car seat will also provide an excellent, familiar place to nap.

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Rolling through the airport in Austin, TX

Luggage checking or even gate checking a car seat can cause serious, invisible damage to the integrity of your seat and endanger your child in a crash.  If your baby is still in the infant car seat (by the way, my favorite is the Cybex Aton), read up on your manual before leaving so you know how to safely install it without the base.  You heard that right: you do NOT need the base for your infant car seat – leave that heavy sucker at home!  If your baby is out of the infant seat or your child is up to age 5, pick up an Evenflo Sureride DLX for under $100 and one of these travel backpacks so that you can haul this lightweight seat through the airport on your back.  You will look ridiculous, but your life will be easy.  (Besides, when we became parents, we started accepting we would not always look cool, yes?)  Alternatively, you can grab a GoGo Kidz to wheel your car seat (and baby if safely buckled in) through the airport.  I’ve used both setups and personally prefer the backpack, but ymmv.

 

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At the airport in Dublin

Strollers!

Next, choose a lightweight stroller that is suitable to your destination.  This means if you are going somewhere with cobblestone streets, poor sidewalks, or other rough terrain, do not bring your umbrella stroller.  For these destinations you will want air tires or air tire equivalents.  My very favorite stroller for tackling European streets is the Micralite Fastfold Super-lite.  It isn’t available in the US, but if you plan ahead and stalk Craigslist, chances are you’ll find one.  If you need a double, you can take one of the Micralites that is rebranded as the Joovy Toofold with the second seat. The Toofold is what I used on our most recent trip to Italy.

Checking out the residents at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
Checking out the residents at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

 

If your destination doesn’t need beefy tires, go with one of the smallest, lightest strollers on the market, the Mountain Buggy Nano.  This stroller fits into an overhead bin on the plane, is easy to carry up and down stairs at train stations without lifts, reclines well for comfy naps, has a decent canopy, and has a shockingly large basket.  This is what I took to Denmark, Sweden, and Germany with great success.

Another excellent travel option is the Babyzen YOYO.  This small, light weight stroller also folds compactly enough to carry on-board and store in the overhead bin (I really can’t stress how fantastic this is – especially on international flights where gate checked strollers do not reappear at connection gates or for arrivals where the jetway will be unbearably hot or cold while you’re waiting for your stroller to be carried up).  The YOYO is a sexy, nimble stroller that packs an excellent suspension, an adjustable recline and leg rest, and an ample basket into its 13lb self.  It is also compatible with car seat adapters.  The YOYO also functions just as nicely as an everyday stroller that won’t take up your whole trunk.

Entertainment!

Now that you have your gear and are on your way, you need to keep the little people entertained.  This is easier than you think.  If you have a young toddler, simple tasks work well.  Bring a pack of kleenex and show your baby how to shred them up.  This task alone is lots of fun!  Once the shredding is losing its luster, take the shreds and demonstrate stuffing them into a TP roll (easy to pack in your purse) or a flat tissue box.  You will be amazed by how much time can be spent packing and unpacking the roll or box.  And this game isn’t just fun for little ones!  My 6 year old still enjoys shredding tissue/paper towels/paper and packing them into something; she now calls this process making nests.

My kids have always had a lot of fun searching through the seatback magazines for pictures of babies, mommies, daddies, pets, etc.  It’s novel for them and a freebie in case you find yourself without an activity (or access to one during takeoff or landing).

Lots of people suggest bringing stickers for kids to play with.  Let me just warn you that removing 4,000 stickers from every nook and cranny of an airplane is not a job you want to be doing.  Instead, do like the Danish carrier SAS does and provide a cling sticker activity set.  With these, your kid can arrange and rearrange stickers to their heart’s content on big scenes and then take their set with them on your actual trip to provide further entertainment.

Another obvious activity is coloring.  But a collection of crayons that constantly roll off the tray table and disappear down the aisle is not a relaxing time.  Instead, bring a set of triangular crayons that refuse to roll away.  And rather than a coloring book, do a google image search for coloring pages in a variety of your kid’s favorite themes to print out.  This way, you will also have blank pages on the back of each image to get creative.  If you have a child age 3+, another great activity is to print out letter and number tracing pages, which are perfect for the bright colors of crayons.

Pretend play is another easy go-to on a plane with a set of mini figurines.  Your child’s little friends will have a wonderful time exploring the airplane, playing with one another, visiting the coloring pages, hiding in the kleenex, etc.  They’re also an easy thing to toss in your purse for peaceful meals out.

If you’ve exhausted your various distractions, it’s time to pull out the big guns: the phone or tablet loaded with movies, tv shows, and apps that don’t necessarily need sound to be fun.  Did you know that you can download Prime eligible movies and tv shows to watch offline?  This is the perfect option to keep media content costs down while keeping the novelty factor high (I reload our tablets with brand new stuff before any long travel day)!  Here are some of the apps that we’ve found to be particularly valuable over the years: Elmo ABC’s (not available for iphone, just ipad and totally worth the purchase price), Tozzle (puzzles that animate once completed – another app worth every penny), PlayHome, Color Dots by Ellie’s Games (this one is great for even very young toddlers), Toddler Alphabet Game and Toddler Counting both by iTot, Toca Tailor Fairy Tales by Toca Boca, Paint My Wings by Toca Boca, Hooked on Phones Learn to Read (an outstanding app for your new reader), Sprout’s Good Night Star, Kids Doodle by Bejoy Mobile, ZOOLA Animals by INBAL Tal, Sight Words by CFC s.r.o., Dogs*** / Wolf** / Cats** / Cat!! / Dogs** / Horse! / etc all by Namaste Power Store, My Zoo Animals by wonderkind GmbH, The Stories of Bertie by The Story Mouse, Animal Fun by Brian Pfeil, Millie Was Here by Megapops, Twinkle Little Star by Tiger Stripes LLC, and the classic favorite Angry Birds.

Between your little arsenal of activities, media/app content, naps/sleeping, meals, and staring out the window, your flight will go by in a flash! (and PS: remember to feed/nurse/give a pacifier to kids too young to yawn automatically during takeoff/landing to keep their ears from hurting)

Happy travels!

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How to Travel with Kids By Car

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If you need to get to your destination by car, fear not.  I have been driving up and down the length of California since my oldest was 11 weeks old.  Sometimes solo.  The secret to driving with little kids is to assume you are never going to go longer than 2-3 hours without an extended break.  And start your trip so that your nap schedule will fall within the early portion or middle of the trip to further break things up.  So your 6 hour trip might look like this with a younger, twice a day napper (see the bottom section for preschool and elementary ages):

Babies and Young Toddlers

Leave home by 9am (don’t start things out in the thick of rush hour)

10am it’s nap time and baby nods off to the white noise of the car/the sound machine app on your phone/whichever music you are now sick of but baby loves (for my oldest it was Enya, cranked way up)

Baby sleeps until 11 or 11:30.  A younger baby likely needs a stop to be changed and fed, but an older one may tolerate a bit more driving and get you through until lunch time…

Stop for lunch and walking around to see new things

12:30 back in the car

2pm baby is nodding off for afternoon nap

3:30/4pm baby wakes up and needs to be fed and changed but you’re likely already at your destination! If not, take another 30 minutes to get out and see some new things, then it’s back in the car until dinner/your destination (driving from 9-3:30 this way gives you 6 hours on the road)

 

Older Toddlers and School Kids

If your kid is not a baby, you’ll need fun things to pass the time.  Pack a little bag with car-appropriate toys (remember the risk of hard, heavy objects becoming projectiles – if you don’t want it thrown at your head, don’t give it to your kid lest it fly at them or you during a crash).  My kids are often happy with a few figurines to play pretend with for the first hour or so of the drive.  Then we can gain another 30 minutes to an hour by playing our Super Champion Quiz game (ask each kid a knowledge question at their level and the first one to earn 5 points is the winner of that round).  If nobody has to stop for the bathroom by then, I hand out an easy snack like string cheese, give each kid an iphone with free downloads from Amazon Prime (did you know you can download Prime shows to watch while offline?) or a selection of their favorite movies while wearing volume-limiting children’s headphones.  Then it’s a stop for lunch and the bathroom, back to the car for a new round of the Super Champion Quiz game, new toys, then my oldest gets to quietly watch something else while the youngest naps.  After that it’s a choose your own adventure until we arrive at our destination.

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What’s the Foonf? And Why You Need One

Clek Foonf

When I originally set out to buy a convertible car seat for my very tall baby (she was 98% for height at 6 months and rapidly outgrowing her infant seat), I knew very little about the height limits on car seats, how old the typical child is when they hit those limits (since height limits are often hit more quickly than the much-advertised weight limits), or about the insane safety benefits of “extended rear facing”.  The only thing on my radar was buying a seat with all of the available safety bells and whistles.  Thus, I happily bought a Britax Advocate and figured it would last me until I needed to move her into a high back booster (HBB).  Wrong!  When she was nearing 3, she was also nearing the top of her Advocate.  The easy solution would have been to flip her to forward facing, but I had since learned about the medical science advocating for children to be kept rear facing for as long as possible (4+ being ideal) and did not want to put a toddler lacking cervical ossification forward facing for the sake of saving the purchase price of a new car seat. Cue Search For A New Car Seat!

The Foonf provides plenty of legroom even for extra tall kids to rear face until 4+
The Foonf provides plenty of legroom even for extra tall kids to rear face until 4+

Armed with my new information, I set out to learn about the seats that have both the tallest rear facing height limits and the latest safety innovations.  I first ordered a Diono seat, but it was a difficult install in my Prius and ate up nearly all of the front passenger legroom (even with its angle adjuster).  At the time, the Clek Foonf was the only other seat that would accommodate a very tall child rear facing until 4, so I ordered it and crossed my fingers.  I was not prepared for the love affair I would have with this seat!

When it arrived, I was shocked by its substantial weight (this is not a seat you’re going to be switching from car to car and you’re really only going to travel with it if you’re a masochist or very strong).  It’s not a scientific statement, but the heft of this seat makes you certain that it will do a great job of protecting your child in an accident.  I was also taken by its fabrics.  My daughter selected Snowberry, which is a vibrant pink with a faint purple undertone.  Like most of the Foonf options, this is one of Clek’s Crypton fabrics that resist stains and spills.  It is also a Green Guard Certified fabric. It also shockingly provides the most legroom for the front passengers of any seat I’ve used! The install was also very easy (I dare say the belt install is even easier than the LATCH rear-facing) and the forward-facing rigid LATCH could not be simpler. Add all of these points to the fact that it will allow for THREE car seats to be installed in the same row, and you can understand why this seat is a winner.

Fastforward to almost 4 years later and we now own THREE Foonfs! I still love this seat for its safety features, comfort for my kids, tall height limit (neither of my girls flipped to forward-facing until after age 4 and baby boy due this summer will follow in their footsteps), and even for its fun factor. My kids love the Foonf, too. The seat is a large investment, but I would happily shell out again for one (but I don’t have to due to the NINE year period before the seats expire – I’m just switching out fabrics). The Foonf is worth every penny!

If you simply can’t stomach the price of the Foonf or you want a seat that sits lower, Clek also makes the Fllo at a lower price point with very similar safety features. It is a wonderful option as well!

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Gifts They’ll Love: Cabbage Patch Kids Baby So Real

Cabbage Patch Kids Baby So Real will be our big birthday surprise gift.

My Little will be turning 4 in just a few short weeks, so this means I am beginning the mama scramble of finding her a few things that will thrill her beautiful little kid heart.  Her list is simple, she’d like an Ariel costume and a [nearly sold out] Palace Pets Beauty and Bliss set (thank goodness for Amazon!), but I’d also like to surprise her with something she’ll flip for.  Enter the Cabbage Patch Kids Baby So Real.

Baby So Real has so many features and they're all delivered in an excellent way.
Baby So Real has so many features and they’re all delivered in an excellent way.

I absolutely adored my Cabbage Patch Kids when I was growing up, but hadn’t thought about them in recent years.  That is, until I saw a tutorial video featuring my best friend from college.  “Oh, fun,” I thought.  “This will be like a little vicarious walk down memory lane.”  So I hit play.  In the video, she demonstrates all of the interactive features of this new Cabbage Patch Kid that is oh-so-nostalgically perfect but also so incredibly new and fresh!  I generally stay away from electronic toys because, frankly, I find them annoying, but this doll manages to hit it out of the park!  Her features are seemingly endless: she plays games like peek-a-boo, is ticklish, can feel unwell, drinks and eats, interacts during diaper changes… the list goes on and on.  She also has large, expressive LED eyes in addition to her adorable voice and connects via Bluetooth to an interactive app.  Honestly, what didn’t they think of?

Watching this doll in action made me wish to be a little girl again as I would have surely done nearly anything to have such a fun, cute, and incredible toy!  It’s the type of toy you’d see a commercial for and then pester your parents to within an inch of their sanity for.  I honestly can’t think of another electronic or interactive toy on the market that has done such a good job marrying technology with play.  The price point on this doll is in the neighborhood of the American Girls dolls I had been perusing, but I think my little girl will be so much more fascinated by this dolly at this age (and I anticipate my 6 year old desperately asking Santa for one at Christmas).  I’m ordering one for Little tonight (with my own money – this post is not sponsored in any way – and another for my oldest because, mark my words, this will be one of the hot toys this season!).  Check back with me the second week of October for a full review on how the birthday Baby So Real goes over.  I almost can’t stand having to wait to give it to her!

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Amatrice

Amatriciana

If you’ve never been to the small towns of Italy you would not understand the deep, profound sadness I have for the people of Amatrice, Saletta, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto in the wake of this devastating earthquake.  My family has spent year after year crisscrossing the Italian countrysides, mountains, and beaches.  We are diehard fans of the little towns, the hamlets, the villages.  We plan our trips not around what big cities we would like to see, but which tiny ones we have to experience.

For people from a country that always bemoans the disappearance of the “social tribe”, being in these places is just magical.  The sense of community among the residents is jaw dropping.  Everyone knows everyone and their families going back hundreds of years, if not more.  But what is even more astounding is how freely these very special people share their love of one another and their towns with outsiders.  You are immediately welcomed into their social tribe and you feel their love.  Yes, their love.   They don’t welcome you because they’ve decided they like you, they welcome you because their hearts embraced yours as soon as you said ciao.  This is how my kids have come to have “aunties” and “cousins” and even an Honorary Gramps sprinkled throughout Italy and how we’ve been invited home for lunch by complete strangers.  It’s the love.

So as I sit here tonight, still trying to process how so many of these magical, special towns with the best people humankind has to offer have been destroyed, all I can think to do is share the love of Amatrice with one of our favorite family recipes.  We sat down to share it tonight as we keep Lazio in our prayers, and I hope that you will do the same.  And please consider donating to the disaster relief funds of La Stampa (specify your gift is for “Fund 597 Earthquake in Central Italy” or “Fondo 597 Terremoto Centro Italia”) or The Italian Red Cross.

Amatriciana / Sugo / all’Amatriciana

This is the namesake dish of Amatrice.  Traditionally made with guanciale (pork jowel) I sub a thick, high-quality applewood smoked bacon.  And I omit the red pepper flakes since the Hunt’s Sauce (I use for ease) has had a bit of a kick to it lately and my kids don’t like spicy food.

Olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot, very finely shredded (optional, but I prefer my sauce with it)

1 package thick bacon cut into short strips or guanciale

1 Tetra pack (33.5oz) of Hunt’s Sauce (you can make your own using San Marzano tomatoes, but this is easiest)

Pinch of red pepper flakes (if you like heat)

1 lb Spaghetti (this is the traditional way but Bucatini is used in Rome and Renne Rigate stands up nicely to this sauce and doesn’t require cutting for littles)

Pecorino Romano, freshly grated

 

In a heavy bottomed pan, add olive oil, onions, and carrot (if using) and cook until softened.

In a skillet, brown the bacon (not until crispy) and then transfer the bacon and a good portion of the grease to your big pan.

Add the entire package of Hunt’s Sauce to the pan (and red pepper if using) and give everything a good stir.  Put the lid on and set your stove to simmer.  Leave the sauce as long as you can (but it is still delicious after only waiting for the pasta to cook).

Cook your pasta until it is a bit more firm than al dente, then drain it and add the pasta into the sauce’s pan.  Give it a good stir, put the lid back on, and check for doneness after 2 minutes or so.

Serve piping hot with a generous helping of Pecorino.

 

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LOVE! When Your Kid Needs a Boost: Kaboost

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The battle of the highchair options is long and arduous.  You have a little baby, finally select a chair, and think the war has been won.  But oh no, my friend, that is just the first time you get the privilege of buying a highchair you think will get you through early childhood.  Because after you realize that the first one is too big or too hard to clean, you’ll buy another.  And then your little darling will grow more and clearly be too big for the chair, but too little for a standard chair.  You’ll trudge back to the store at this point to look for a booster seat, probably cursing yourself for not springing for that fancy Tripp Trapp from the get-go (more on that in a later post).  But let me solve so very many of your future problems (or maybe it’s your current problem because your kid is now 2+) with one simple word: KABOOST.  (and by the way, I see Kaboost as a great option as soon as you trust your child to sit in a chair without being strapped in – for my kids that happened at about 18 months)41vRsGSsNEL

Kaboost is a product that is so ingenious, so revolutionary, and so simple that you will immediately mourn the fact that you didn’t come up with it and launch the company yourself.  It is a plastic gizmo that is somewhat reminiscent of a 4-limbed octopus or a cute little video game guy.  Depending on which side you face up, it will boost your pre-existing kitchen chair that matches your kitchen perfectly between 3.75″ and 4.5″ (the standard height options of traditional booster seats) and it will do so without screaming Hey look at this booster seat we have right here that matches nothing!  AND it allows you to adequately scoot your kid up to the table (thereby saving you so many laundry headaches because food will drop to the table rather than a lap).

To use it, you decide how much boost your kid needs (my tall 6 year old uses the shorter side while my very tall 3.5 year old is still quite happy with the taller side), place it under your chair and start parking the chair legs into each “arm”.  Fresh out of the box, the arms are a bit stiff, but you’ll get everything straightened out in no time flat and those strong springs are what hold the Kaboost firmly to your chair’s legs.

You’re probably wondering if the Kaboost fits round/square/squoval legs, and I’m happy to report that it fits all of them!  I know because I ordered Kaboosts for my kitchen table, my dining room table, and for my mother-in-law’s table.  If your chairs are black, you’re also probably wondering if you should go bold and order green or try to make the brown work.  I can assure you it is a very dark brown that plays equally as nicely with espresso as it does with black chair legs.

Go ahead and order a Kaboost (or three, like I did) today and solve your highchair needs past the baby-baby stage.  I think you’ll be ridiculously happy, just like I am!

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Dinner: Beef Bourguignon

What's for dinner?

It never fails: my family expects to eat every night…  And since I’m not the most proficient cook, coming up with ideas for yet another meal that has a prayer of going over well with everyone in the family can be a true challenge.  Especially considering that my kids have opposing taste profiles, yet both share equally high bars for the quality of their meals.  Talk about Mom Stress!  I’ve managed to find a few recipes that have been universal hits and aren’t too challenging for my lack of skills, so I want to pass them along.

The first is the French classic found in Ina Garten’s Beef Bourguinon.  Fear not!  This dish sounds much more elaborate than it actually is, but it is still downright delicious.  It’s also one of those blissful meals that can be prepped and put in the oven during afternoon nap, then magically comes out at dinner time as a pot full of deliciousness.

First, you’ll need to gather your ingredients and a good French/Dutch oven. I originally bought the Kirkland enameled version as I was afraid I wouldn’t use it often enough to justify the Le Creuset price, but it turns out it is my very favorite piece of cooking ware and I should have sprung for the real deal from the getgo! Now that you have an expensive pot, you can start saving some money with your gourmet meals made at home! (For this recipe, I buy the cubed steak/stew meat at Costco, then pare it down to roughly 1″ cubes and have a $10 bottle of brandy from Trader Joe’s in lieu of cognac)

Next, you toss your cut ingredients into your hot pan of oil, one by one, to brown/sear/soften them. You also get to throw in 1/2c of cognac or brandy and light it on fire to make the carrots heavenly (PLEASE do not burn yourself or your house – use a stick lighter and bring the flame only *near* the top edge of your pot – that is enough to ignite the alcohol). Once all of that is taken care of, you add them back to the pot and you in a bottle of Pinot Noir and some beef stock.  Tuck that big pot of delicious smells into your oven for an hour and fifteen minutes and, voila!, dinner!  Oh, and don’t worry about omitting things if they’re not favorites in your house.  My kids refuse to eat anything that has mushrooms or visible onions, so I just make it without mushrooms or the pearl onions (the sliced ones aren’t noticeable).  It’s still excellent.

I know you’re now telling yourself that you can just skip that whole sourdough bread part… But I’ve tried this dinner with and without serving it over the piece of lightly toasted sourdough and let me just say RUN TO THE MARKET NOW AND BUY THE BREAD!  It takes a dinner that is really very good into “How many servings can I take before I explode?” territory.

So there you have it, a delicious dinner that looks like you slaved away when, in actuality, it’s totally manageable!  I’ll be back with more crowd-pleasing dinners and would love to know what’s always a hit in your house!

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My Cot – Because Barf Happens

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Having just gone through seemingly endless amount of sickness with my family, I was reminded of one of my favorite things: the Regalo My Cot Portable Toddler Bed.  This awesome little cot folds up into a cylindrical bag to store tidily away in a closet until you need it, then easily expands to its full size with just a tug.

Now, you can certainly use this bed for a night away at grandma’s, but where it really makes a difference in your life is when your kid has a tummy bug.  Putting a sick kid back into their bedroom and praying they don’t lose their barf bucket or can make it all the way back to the bathroom when disaster next strikes… that’s stressful for everyone involved (and your carpeting… and their bed).  Instead, you can grab this little bed, set it up in the bathroom, throw down a few layers of towels for just in case, and have your little in close proximity to the toilet until they’re feeling better.

I started using the bed this way a few years ago after my oldest tried to insist she sleep on the bathroom floor, and she now reminds me every time her tummy feels funny that I should probably go put her little bed in the hall bathroom, just in case.  (She’s 6 now, and still fits on it just fine)81s1T-o76uL._SL1500_

We’ve also used the bed for an impromptu overnight and recommend pairing it with a small egg crate foam for additional comfort.  The twin size is obviously large for it, but I just fold it in half, plop it on the cot, then throw a blanket over that in lieu of a bottom sheet.  You could of course cut it to size, but I’m lazy.

Grab one of these cots for less than $25 in pink or blue and prepare for the icky times.

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The Best Thing You’ve Never Heard Of: NoseFrida

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Every time someone I know gets pregnant for the first time, they ask me, “What is an absolute must-have that isn’t on all of the lists?”.  My mind could spin through endless wonderful items, but my first answer is always easy and immediate: the NoseFrida.

What the heck is the NoseFrida?  To put it simply, it’s a booger sucker.  I know, I know.  What has life done to me that I can actually be excited about a booger sucker?  Don’t you worry, friends! After having a baby, you’ll be right here with me, rejoicing in the gift that this booger sucker is for all babies…

Because when that teeny, tiny nose of your little human gets stuffed up for the first time, you’ll be desperate to clear it.  And if you reach for that stupid blue bulb aspirator the hospital sent you home with, you will soon find out how ineffective it is.  You’ll also find out just how strong and evasive a tiny baby who does not want you swooping in for another nostril sucking can be.  The potential bacteria-factory ickiness brewing in that bulb you can’t open up and properly clean out is a whole other Oprah!

Never fear though, because the NoseFrida is here to save the day.  Instead of being limited to the far-too-quick and far-too-weak suction of a bulb, the NoseFrida is powered by your lungs.  Thus, the suction can be as strong and as long as your lungs can manage.  (If you’re thinking you can stop right here because you would never get that close to boogers, brace yourself because parenting will put you much closer to a lot of gross things and boogers are near the bottom of the list – so just keep reading)    The NoseFrida also does not enter the tip of the nostril like the bulb and thus isn’t as distressing to the baby – and is also easier to perform sneak attacks with when necessary.  The design of the NoseFrida also allows you to completely take it apart for a proper cleaning (and the filter that stands between your air and the collection chamber is disposable).

I’ve had a NoseFrida since my oldest’s first cold and have never looked back.  I even pack it when traveling just in case someone gets a cold.  It’s efficacy and cleanliness just can’t be beat and it makes my kids feel so much better.  That makes it invaluable in my book!  Go ahead and grab one for your house (get the one with additional filters so you’re never without and add a can of saline nasal mist while you’re at it) and you’ll have everything you need to battle stuffed up little noses.

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