Children

Flu Season Tips

FluSeason

We are in the middle of flu season and since I just read an article that states that 1 in 10 American deaths have been caused by the flu this season, I thought I’d share some tips that have been helpful for our family.  Although nothing is a cure-all, I believe these things, at the very least, help to minimize cold/flu symptoms when we do fall under the weather.  (Disclaimer:  Since I am not a medical professional, you should only try these ideas if they are compatible with your doctor’s recommendations.)

(1)  Yogurt–Since giving my kids yogurt on a daily basis, I have noticed a significant change in the number of times they get colds/flus.  Yogurt helps to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut, which is where many (if not most) illnesses start to form in your body. Foods don’t make you indestructible but they are a good preventative measure against illness and help strengthen your immune system.  For those who can’t get your kids to eat yogurt, look for drinkable options at the grocery store and mix them into your kids’ milk with breakfast.

(2)  Soup–Same reason as (1).  Chicken soup really does work.  Wonderful alternatives are miso soup and bone broth.

(3)  Essential Oils–My favorite oils during flu season are eucalyptus and peppermint.  In addition to deterring bugs/mosquitoes during the spring/summer, these oils also have anti-viral/bacterial properties and make great bathroom air fresheners, aromatherapy, vapor rubs, etc.  The oils also have a calming effect.

(4)  Air CirculationStagnant air leads to illnesses spreading at rapid rates so make sure your home is well-ventilated and there is ample air circulation.  For us, we always keep our ceiling fans and air purifiers on high.  And, when the weather and air quality are nice outside, we’ll also open our windows.

(5)  Don’t Touch Your Face–This has always been hard for me to do but I find that it really does make a difference.  Your eyes, nose, and mouth are prime entry points for viruses and bacteria.  Parents, remind your kids about this, too!

(6)  Avoid Crowds in Tight Spaces–Places where many people are gathered in tight areas should be avoided during flu season for obvious reasons.  Such places include subways, buses, planes, trains, etc.

(7)  Hot baths and Showers–Take a hot bath and/or shower at night before bedtime.  Not only is it relaxing, but it also washes away all the dirt, grime, allergens, pollutants, cold/flu viruses/bacteria that are on your person (everything that settles on your hair and skin as you’re out and about during the day).

(8)  Stay Home–We don’t live in a bubble but because we have small children, I try to be mindful of when and where we take them during flu season.  Do we really want to go to a birthday party where half the kids have snotty noses and are coughing every two minutes?  No, thanks (our kids have their entire lives to socialize)!

(9)  Wash Clothes and Linens in Hot Water and Dry in High Heat–This is a big one.  Many of us don’t realize how dirty our clothes, towels, and bed linens are, especially during flu season.  In college, I discovered that not everyone uses a fresh/clean towel with each bath/shower and that some people reuse their towels (mind blown).  No offense to those of you who reuse your towels but during flu season, changing towels after each use is a must.  In our home, we also change our bed linens every week.  Wash everything in hot water (rinse cold; this, of course, does not apply to delicate items). It doesn’t matter how much detergent you use (a little goes a long way) but the water must be HOT.  After washing, dry everything in high heat.  Studies show that drying your items in high heat will help rid your clothes of lingering viruses and bacteria.

(10)  WASH YOUR HANDS–And oldie but goodie rule of thumb.  According to the CDC, 80% of diseases are spread by hands 😨.  If you dislike dry hands from washing, stock up on lotions, creams, and oils (take your pick).  Parents, repeat this mantra to your kids over and over.  It’s far better than getting yourself or others sick!

Mommy Time Savers

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Happy and Healthy New Year!  As a new mommy of two, I’ve learned quite a lot this past year and my favorite thing to ask myself has been, “How will this save me time (and energy)?”  So, in the spirit of new year’s resolutions, here are my top mommy time savers:

(1)  Electric Pressure Cooker–This thing is amazing and I don’t know what I would ever do without it.  I use it primarily for meats, stews, and soups.  A dish that would ordinarily take at least a couple hours to make with my standing at the stove (what mother has time for that?) now takes an hour with my not even being in the kitchen.  I just toss everything into the pot, push a button, and go about my day.

(2)  Rice Cooker–I adore my rice cooker and use it just about every day.  Many people don’t realize that you can do quite a lot with a good rice cooker.  Not only do I use it to make rice, I also use it to steam vegetables (as a matter of fact, since I use it primarily to cook our veggies, I often call it “the steamer”).  And, like the electric pressure cooker, you set the timer and you’re free as a bird.

(3)  Grocery Delivery Service–Depending on where you live, delivery fees can range from reasonable to pricey.  It all comes down to how much your time is worth.  Being parents of a 2-year-old and 6-month-old, Derrick and I rely heavily on this service.  Sure, we’ll occasionally do the shop ourselves (if we forget to add on a few items to our weekly delivery) but we have the same reaction after every trip:  “Geez, that took a whole hour?” (if one of us goes to the store) or “We are NOT going to forget to put this on the list next week!” (if the entire family goes–and, yes, it takes longer for us to get the kids ready to go out than the time we spend at the grocery store)

(4)  Product Subscriptions–If you use any skincare products, I highly recommend this.  Many online stores offer a subscription service where they’ll send your products to you at regular intervals.  This not only saves you time but helps you to avoid the annoying situation of being in the shower and realizing all of a sudden that you’re out of your favorite facial scrub.

(5)  USPS Package Pickup–Because we do most of our non-grocery-related shopping online, we also make quite a few returns via mail.  If you’re like us, here’s a tip:  you’re eligible for free USPS pickup service if you’re mailing at least one Priority Mail package.  Just schedule your pickup online at www.usps.com.

(6)  Multiple Stations–Our home has two levels and when we brought our baby girl home, we decided that we needed at least one diaper changing station on each level to save us the hassle of running up and down the stairs with every diaper change (and if you’re parents of two or multiples under the age of 2, you understand the value of this).  So, we converted one of our loveseats into a changing station complete with a diaper pad, a month’s supply of diapers/wipes/baby powder, and a diaper pail.  To protect the loveseat, we draped it with flat bed sheet (but you can also use a sofa slip cover).  The key takeaway here is to have at least a couple “stations” for something you do often during the course of the day easily accessible to you (because minutes add up to hours and hours add up to days!).

(7)  One Size Ahead–If you have small children, you know that shopping ahead can save you the aggravation of impulse buying and/or having your child(ren) go without something for a certain period of time (and when you have kids, two days without gloves in the winter can seem like an eternity!).  This is why I always try to buy at least one size ahead for my children.  And it’s a great system.

(8)  Cook in Bulk and Freeze–This is quite common and self-explanatory.

(9)  No Holiday Cards–Before we had kids, I was the stationery queen.  Cards for everyone and for every occasion.  No more.  Other than handwritten thank-you and sympathy notes, we now use e-mail and social media to send birthday/congratulatory/holiday greetings via e-cards.

Hope you’ve found these tips to be useful–please feel free to share this post to anyone and everyone who would find it helpful!

Traveling with Baby Must-Haves (International)

Our trip to Tokyo was fantastic.  With that said, we did learn a lot in terms of what to pack for future international trips.  Domestic travel with a baby is easier (traveling with a baby is never EASY) because you can almost always stop by a local Target at your destination to pick up any items you didn’t pack and/or forgot to pack.  Unless you are traveling to see family and/or friends (which usually makes it easier to access baby items as things will probably be ready for you upon your arrival), international travel (especially if your destination is one where you don’t speak the language) can be tough on finding the right baby supplies for your little one.  Here are my must-haves for international travel:

(1)  Cell Phone Case with an Attached Clip–A cell phone case with an attached clip may not seem very useful when you’re at home but when traveling with a baby, anything that can facilitate being hands-free is a winner.  Since I usually don’t wear outfits with pockets, my case allowed me to attach the phone onto the stroller (and that’s how I carried my phone during the entire trip).  Having the clip also made my phone very accessible for taking photos and pulling up any necessary apps (like currency converter, Google Maps, etc.).

(2)  Travel Stroller–Unless I am mistaken, the only travel stroller on the market that is able to be compacted into a carry-on small enough to fit into plane overhead compartments is the Babyzen YOYO Travel Stroller.  This was a LIFESAVER.  Light enough to be carried with one hand and yet sturdy enough to hold a child of up to 50 pounds.  Many people would argue that it’s easier to check a stroller with your other large pieces of luggage rather than lug it around as a carry-on.  I would agree with that if you have a non-stop flight, are traveling extremely light, and are unafraid of your luggage getting lost during transit.  Since I prefer to have one layover per flight (easier to grab a bite to eat, use the restrooms, stretch your legs, etc.) and have had my luggage lost a couple times during previous trips, I was unwilling to risk any mishaps by checking our stroller.  Plus, it felt great to be able to put Max in it right way after holding him during our entire flight (each way).

(3)  Organized Diaper Bag–I’ve tried several diaper bags and, by far, the Skip Hop “Chelsea” Diaper Bag is the best for traveling.  With the usual baby stuff compartments, this bag also has two zippered compartments (one small and one large–perfect for things like your wallet, house keys, passport, flight itinerary, etc.).  An added bonus: handles AND a crossbody strap.  Need I say more?

(4)  Baby Toiletries–In general, diapers and baby powder/cream are easily accessible in most places (especially if you’re traveling to another developed country) via full service drugstores (ones that have pharmacies).  So, packing just enough of these items (plus a few extras) for the flight should be enough until you reach your destination.  However, for things like baby shampoo, baby soap and/or body wash, it’s best to pack more than you’ll need for the entire trip.  This will minimize your baby having any allergic reactions to other cleansing products.  Plus, using (and smelling) familiar products will likely be a comfort to him/her in an unfamiliar environment.

(5)  Double Amount of Formula and/or Baby Food–If you’re breastfeeding, you can cross this off your list.  I initially wanted to pack just enough baby food for our flight but after doing some research on Japanese brand formulas and packaged baby food, I discovered that a couple brands had recalls due to radiation contamination.  That was enough for us to pack enough formula and baby food for the entire trip.  Packing your own ensures that your little one will avoid any food allergies.  For travel, I’m a big fan of packaged food brands like Plum Organics and Ella’s Kitchen (as they’re disposable, easy to feed, and don’t spoil as easily as homemade food).

(6)  Pacifiers–Max does not use pacifiers on a regular basis because I’m afraid they’ll make his teeth come in crooked.  However, pacifiers work wonders on a plane!  They serve two purposes:  help to calm your baby and lessen the pain in his/her ears during flight.  Enough said.

(7)  Washable Toys–Bring several toys that are easy to pack and easily wiped and/or rinsed clean.  This one’s self-explanatory.

(8)  Baby Wipes–You can never have enough baby wipes.  Ever.

(9)  Anti-bacterial Surface Wipes–These wipes come in handy for wiping down public changing tables, toilet seats, airplane seats/headrests/tray tables, etc.  You get the idea.

(10)  Extra Change of Clothes–Self-explanatory

(11)  Inflatable Baby TubThis was also a lifesaver during our trip.  In addition, be sure to pack a plastic cup to use as a rinsing cup.

(12)  Tissues–What would you do without them?

And last, but certainly not least, a kid-friendly hotel.  What does that mean?  That means that your hotel must, at bare minimum, be able to provide a safe and clean crib.

Labor & Delivery Tips

motherandbaby

Maxwell was born last Tuesday, 12/30, at 6:50PM.  I never thought I would experience a love that rivaled that of the one I feel for D.  It is quite a powerful thing.

My labor was a difficult one.  My water broke on Monday, 12/29, at 2:30AM and we didn’t go to the hospital until about thirteen hours later.  Pumped with enough drugs to be a walking pharmacy (Pitocin, epidural, penicillin–just to name a few), I finally consented to having an emergency C-section after three and a half hours of pushing as I was unable to get Maxwell though my pelvic bone.  Tears of joy streamed down my face when I heard his first cries.

Up to that day, I’ve read countless blogs and received lots of advice from friends on labor/delivery/hospital tips.  With that said, I thought I would offer tips from my own experience to help others:

(1)  Pack light–This is contrary to what many advise but I found that we actually overpacked my labor and delivery bag. My suggestion would be to bring the following:  two sets of clothes for you and your partner, one set of going home clothes for the baby, a small space heater (hospitals are notorious for thermostat breakdowns), phone and charger, disposable/shower shoes for you and your partner, one set of travel-sized toiletries,  wallet, driver’s licenses/IDs, and a case of bottled water.  Everything else (including newborn diapers, swaddle blankets, burp clothes, sanitary pads, and disposable underwear) is provided by the hospital.  Our hospital even had free room service so hot food was always available on demand.

(2)  Drink lots of fluids–Hence, the case of bottled water.  In my case, I was pumped with so many drugs that I needed to flush my system out.  Drinking lots of fluids (staying hydrated also helps with your milk coming in as well as keeping headaches at bay).

(3)  Leave the diapers, take the pads and underwear–A couple friends recommended that I take as many newborn diapers from the hospital as I could as they would add to our collection at home.  I discovered that this did not bode well for us as Maxwell outgrew his hospital diapers just a couple days of our discharge (and there were leaks galore).  Luckily, I also brought home from the hospital medical-grade sanitary pads and disposable gauze underwear (should have brought home more) which continue to be LIFESAVERS.  Both save on time and effort on laundry and provide more than adequate coverage.

(4)   Don’t skip meals but eat light–Nausea and pain may deter you from having three square meals a day but force yourself to eat light (having something in your stomach also helps curb the nausea while providing some nutrition for your body and, if you’re breast-feeding, your baby).

(5)  Don’t stress over your new body weight/image–In the coming weeks, you will shed lots of weight and inches just by having given birth, going to the bathroom, and moving around (and improving circulation and digestion).  It took you nine months to gain all the baby weight.  Give yourself nine months to lose it all (you may even surprise yourself).  I say this because women (and men) who rush and/or lose lots of weight during a short period of time do damage to their bodies (both internally and externally).  In other words, you don’t want to wreak havoc on your organs, digestion, metabolism, and, at the same time, have lots of loose skin to show for it.

(6)  It’s the little things–Do little things that make yourself feel pretty.  Indulge in your favorite perfume, shampoo, aromatherapy, etc.  Get a manicure/pedicure.  Style your hair.  Sometimes, it’s all about the small things in life.

Noodle & Boo Vs. Mustela

mustela

I am just about done with gathering all of the baby stuff in preparation of my due date (Christmas Day).  In doing so, I’ve had to compare two lines of baby toiletry lines:  Noodle & Boo and Mustela.  Both lines rinse off well.  Both lines are supposed to be hypoallergenic.  However, both also have very distinct fragrances.

Noodle & Boo smells quite sweet–I would describe the scent as “very sweet almond oil.”  “Sweet” is the operative word here.  Perfect for girls but not so much for boys (in my opinion).  Mustela (although I believe almond oil is one of the ingredients) smells “cleaner” and less fruity/sweet.  So, I’ve decided to stick with Mustela and, so far, my favorites are the Mustela Cleansing Fluid for Newborns and Mustela Baby Lotion.  I like them so much that I’ve started to use them myself (especially the lotion).

The Baker’s Daughter

cupcakegirl

There once lived a girl whose father was a baker.  She had her pick of the most delicious cakes in the world.  She ate and ate and ate.

Then one day, there was word in town about thieves stealing cakes.  So, the girl ate and ate and ate until she floated up in the sky.  She then took her father’s hand and gathered all of his cakes.  Together, they flew away to the neighboring towns and warned the other bakers.

After visiting nine towns, the girl and her father flew home.  Just in time for dinner and dessert.  There, they found waiting for them all of the bakers from the other towns with their best cakes in celebration of their safety and the return of the girl and her father.  The girl ate and ate and ate as she had her pick of the most delicious cakes in the world.

Hunger Games

hungry

So, I haven’t been as good with my new year’s resolutions as I wanted to be (no surprise there).  What started out as a fantastic get-my-butt-to-the-gym-and-eat-healthy-at-all-times regimen has now turned into a do-I-really-have-to-workout-today-and-what’s-one-more-slice-of-cake struggle.

That plus the fact that I have baby fever.  I look around and just about everyone my age is having and/or have had kids.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want kids just to “get on the bandwagon” or because “it’s time”.  I want kids because my mind, body, and soul are telling me, “This is what you are meant to do.  This is going to be your biggest contribution to society”.  It’s gotten bad.  Really bad.  I’m looking at maternity clothes, baby stuff, and even children’s educational programs.  I know, I’m going a bit batty.

Now that I’ve had lunch, I have a mad dash to go to the post office, update my fashion blog, blast out e-mails to promote this event I’m co-hosting in DC, go to the bank, and run a few other errands–all before rush hour which starts at 3PM in these parts.  More updates later.  Ciao.