Score Free Stuff From Influenster!

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you’ve likely seen me post about some of the awesome free stuff I’ve received from Influenster. If you haven’t yet checked out Influenster, you should do so right away!

Influenster is a community of consumers who share their opinions of products and experiences. Anyone who is active on social media can participate on Influenster to earn VoxBoxes. VoxBoxes contain full-size product samples—anything from cosmetics to toiletries to snacks— for recipients to test and review. All you have to do is sign up, complete a profile, and link your social media accounts, and you’re well on your way. You can then boost your chances of scoring VoxBoxes by engaging on the site—reviewing products, answering questions, etc. You can spend as much or as little time on the site as you want, so it’s a great way for busy moms to score some free stuff.

I’ve been active on Influenster for less than a year and have spent an average of only a few minutes a day on the site. Even with that minimal time commitment, I’ve earned four VoxBoxes so far—a Mary Kay cosmetics one, a beach-themed one containing products like after-sun lotion and waterproof mascara, a Victoria’s Secret box that included a sports bra and leggings, and, most recently, the Moda VoxBox.

I really loved my Moda VoxBox! It contained a wide variety of amazing products. Here’s what I got:

VoxBox

  1. Puffs SoftPack: The new Puffs SoftPack has a flexible wrapper instead of a destructible cardboard box. My SoftPack has really come in handy for me because my allergies have been terrible here in Northern Virginia, and I can easily toss it in my diaper bag alongside the baby wipes. Plus, the wrapper has a really fun design!
  2. resource Natural Spring Water: I had never heard of this water until a big ol’ bottle arrived in my VoxBox. Resource is a sustainably sourced, 100-percent natural spring water with naturally occurring electrolytes for a clean, refreshing taste. I guzzled that bottle down during a late work night, and it really kept me going!
  3. Hair Food Moisture Hair Mask: I’ve only used this brand new product a couple of times so far, but it made my hair feel really soft, smooth, and shiny—like I just came out of the hair salon. Plus, the honey and apricot oil smelled really luxurious!
  4. Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa: This was my favorite product in the VoxBox! I love Christmastime, so I really enjoyed curling up on the couch and drinking this cocoa out of my Santa mug. I buy the original Swiss Miss every winter, but I really liked the Simply Cocoa. It tasted richer than the original, and it contains only five ingredients—sugar, cocoa, nonfat milk, salt, and natural flavor. Yum!
  5. JERGENS Ultra Healing Extra Dry Skin Moisturizer: Now that I’m living back in a wintry climate (ugh), I once again have to contend with dry, cracked skin on my hands and elbows. Eczema cream is super pricey, so I was thrilled to receive this product in my VoxBox. It’s been working great! It contains Vitamins C, E, and B5 and keeps my skin smoother longer.
  6. Rimmel London Scandaleyes Rockin’ Curves Mascara: This mascara is awesome! It goes on smoothly, it doesn’t clump, and it really makes my eyes pop. The curved brush makes it easy to coat every lash.
  7. Rimmel London Moisture Renew Lipstick and Lip Liner: Since I don’t wear lipstick (I’m more of a lip-gloss girl), I have to admit that I only tried this out in my bathroom. But the color was rich, and the transparent lip liner made it easy to quickly apply the lipstick without getting it all over the place. It seems perfect for busy moms in a hurry!

I just got an email informing me that I have another VoxBox on the way—the Frosty VoxBox—and it also looks like it’s going to be a good one. It contains an EcoTools Hair Brush, McCormick Gourmet Thyme, and more.

Get in on the action and give Influenster a try! Let me know how you like it!

*I received the above products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Unique Holiday Cards on Minted

The holiday season is upon us, bringing with it an endless to-do list of gift buying and wrapping, decorating, baking, and more. One of those to-do’s is sending holiday cards.

I am always looking for great ways to show off photos of my kids on our cards. That’s why I was excited to find Minted’s new collection of photo holiday cards. It includes some of the most fun and unique designs around, whether you’re going for elegant, funny, quirky, or anything in between. Just look at this luggage tag-shaped card:

Luggage tag

If you’ve got little mischief-makers like my twins, this hilarious design would be perfect:

Wreck the Halls

You can eliminate the need for a Christmas letter with this design (which also helps military families like my own announce where they are currently living):

Fun Facts

Or if you had a Christmas baby, you can send a holiday card and birth announcement in one:

Birth announcement

And though it’s not part of the new collection, this Minted comic-book card is simply awesome for comic book fans or families with little superheroes in training:

Comics

Seriously, there are so many cool holiday-card options at various price points on Minted, but I don’t have time to show all of my favorites here on the blog. If you haven’t yet chosen and sent your holiday cards, check out Minted’s new Christmas card collection. Many of the designs have express service available, so you still have time to get them out before the new year.

 

Our Not-So-New Addition

And now, for the better-late-than-never announcement of the century: On September 5, 2014—exactly three months ago today—our precious, beautiful baby daughter was born. Lily Joanne Walters came into the world at 2:08 PM in Torrance, California. She weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces, measured 20 inches long, and had a full head of dark, curly hair. She completely transformed life as we know it. Here she is at only about an hour old—our first photo together:

Lily and Mommy

Lily at 1 hour old

And here she is at five days old, already rocking the frilly clothing and accessories. This photo was taken by the incredibly talented Sigal Ineno of Milan Photography during Lily’s newborn photo shoot. She was sleeping comfortably on Daddy’s Army uniform:

Lily newborn retouched

Lily at 5 days old

 

Lily was fortunate enough to spend her first month of life in sunny Torrance, California. She spent time at the beach, went to Johnnie’s Pastrami and In N out Burger, and got to know many of our west coast friends. She continued to grow at lightning speed!

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Lily at 1 month old

 

By the time Lily turned two months old, we were already living at our new home in Northern Virginia. She conquered the cross-country drive like a rock star, visiting friends and family and spending several nights in hotels along the way. She enjoyed her first Halloween, dressing as an owl to go trick or treating with her big brothers. She proved to be a laid-back and adaptable baby who loved to eat, sleep, and stare at Matt and Nate. She barely seemed to notice the upheaval and the house full of boxes! At her two-month appointment, our big girl weighed 12 pounds, 14 ounces and was 24 inches long—80th percentile for weight and 90th for height!

2 months closeup

Lily at 2 months old

 

And now, here we are. Precious Lily is three months old, and we are all more in love with her than ever. Lily’s fun-loving personality and happy demeanor is really shining through. She coos and babbles constantly, squeals with delight when she sees a familiar face, laughs out loud when we play with her, and smiles so big it looks like her giant cheeks will explode. She is already sleeping 11 to 12 hours at night and is generally napping twice a day for one to two hours at a time. She is very strong, holding her head up for long periods of time and turning it back and forth to check out her surroundings. She is starting to show a lot of interest in books and toys. And she still loves to eat, which may explain why her 3-6 month clothing is fitting her quite nicely. :-)

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Lily at 3 months old

Lily has had quite an exciting third month. We went to New York for her first Thanksgiving, where she met many more of her family members. Again, she handled the long drive there and back like a rock star. When we returned, she officially moved into her new nursery and made a smooth transition to her “big-girl crib.” I can’t wait to share photos of the nursery with you all!

Matt and Nate are continuing to thrive and relishing their roles as big brothers. They started preschool exactly one month ago and they absolutely love it. They go three days a week, but wish they could go every day.

Life is chaotic, to say the least, and likely will be for a long time. Keith is settling into his new job, and I officially started working again two weeks ago. We are also very busy getting the new house set up and preparing for the holidays. We are all slowly adjusting to life in NOVA. We miss Southern California terribly, but we are looking forward to new adventures here at our new home, and to our first Christmas as a family of five!

 

 

 

100% Natural Sunscreen for Babies and Kids

Having lived in sunny Southern California for the past year, we’ve gone through our fair share of sunscreen. I have to admit that due to the high price tag, I haven’t tried using any natural, chemical-free sunscreens on the twins. I’ve simply bought giant bottles of whatever children’s sunscreen happens to be on sale, in SPF 50 or 70, and slathered it on the boys before every outing. They’ve stayed sunburn-free, so it’s been working great. But in the back of my mind, I’ve wondered how much harm the chemicals in the sunscreen were inflicting on the boys.

So when I was given the chance to try out MelanSol Natural Baby Sunscreen SPF 30—a certified 100% natural, toxin-free sunscreen for kids that protects, conditions, and hydrates the skin—for this blog, I jumped at it. A 3.4-oz. bottle retails for $24.99 at puresunscreen.com and for $29.99 on Amazon.com, so I was curious to see what difference paying so much money would make.

MelanSol

First, the facts:

  • MelanSol is non-toxic and contains no chemicals.
  • It is the only natural sunscreen that uses a high-concentration blend of bio-active antioxidants. These antioxidants boost a child’s ability to neutralize free radical damage that is responsible for sunburn, early skin aging, and skin cancer later in life.
  • It is the only natural sunscreen that does not irritate the eyes.
  • It absorbs and starts protecting the moment it’s applied, allowing for immediate fun in the sun—no need to wait 30 minutes after applying.
  • It offers broad spectrum protection, safely reflecting 97 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
  • It is water resistant for up to 40 minutes.
  • It is gluten free and BPA free.
  • It’s manufactured in the U.S.

That all sounds absolutely wonderful, but how well would the product actually work? I couldn’t wait to try it.

The first time I used MelanSol on the twins was for a morning play date in our sunny backyard, where the kids would be splashing around at the water table and playing with squirt guns. When I opened the bottle, I was a bit taken aback. Since I’d only ever used traditional sunscreen, the non-greasy formula surprised me. It felt more like moisturizer than sunscreen. It had no scent, and it was also a beige color—sort of like makeup. I thought for sure that I’d have to apply tons of it on the boys for it to even be effective.

But I was wrong—a little bit truly goes a long way! I didn’t need to apply a lot at all, and the fact that it rubbed in super quickly was a lifesaver with two squirmy 3-year-olds. My boys also tend to look in every direction except at me when I’m applying sunscreen to their faces, which a couple of times has caused me to accidentally put some too close to their eyes. It happened again while applying the MelanSol, but the sunscreen never ran into their eyes (and if it did, it didn’t bother them).

I was a bit concerned that the SPF was only 30, since I’ve only ever applied higher SPFs on the boys. But after two full hours of outdoor play, they were burn free! I was also thrilled that I didn’t have to bathe them right away—their skin wasn’t ashy or sticky like it usually gets from sunscreen. They also didn’t smell like sunscreen.

I now fully understand the difference between all-natural sunscreen and traditional sunscreen for kids, and it sure is nice to not have to worry about chemicals going into the kids’ bodies. I just wish it weren’t so darn expensive. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for!

If you want to try MelanSol for yourself, click here to order a free sample. Then come back and let me know what you think!

 

Baseball Fanatics!

If you didn’t yet know that baseball is a religion in our house, allow me to share this photo of the twins, taken this past weekend:

LA baseball fans

Yup, this is typical attire when we’re at home. And each morning at breakfast, the boys love to “read” the box scores in the Los Angeles Times, during which they correctly identify every team’s logo. They’ll go down the list and squeal, “That’s the Detroit Tigers!” or “Look, the Baltimore Orioles!”

So my discovery of Fanatics, a leading online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise, could not have come at a better time. Unlike most sports retailers, the site carries a wide selection of apparel and accessories for kids. (Most stores carry a lot of infant clothing and shirts for bigger kids, but very few items in sizes 2T to 4T.) Keith was also excited to see the huge variety of MLB hats—many of which are hard to find in stores—to add to his collection.

I also happened to find Fanatics just before my family experienced our greatest baseball memory thus far. On Sunday, August 17, we went to a Dodgers vs. Brewers game at Dodger Stadium. Despite the fact that the Dodgers lost 7-2—and that it was a boiling 90 degrees outside—it turned out to be our greatest baseball memory as a family thus far. The boys have been to several MLB games already, but this particular game felt extra special. Maybe it’s because we’ll be moving out of Southern California in less than two months. Maybe it’s because our baby girl will be here in 2 1/2 weeks and these outings as a foursome will be soon be ending. Maybe it’s because both of the boys’ beloved LA teams, the Dodgers and the Angels, are in first place.

But the main reason this game was so magical? It was the first one the boys didn’t spend begging for souvenirs and concessions, making us walk back and forth through the stadium, and/or pretending they had to go to the bathroom 800 times just so they could get up. This time, they were actually captivated by the game. They sat still until nearly the end and really paid attention. They clapped along with the crowd. They yelled, “Let’s go, Dodgers!” They pointed out everything on the field. (“There’s the dugout!” “There’s the umpire!”) They asked Keith questions about the players. It was truly the stuff that family baseball memories are made of.

Dodgers bobblehead

The real highlight of the outing, though, came on the drive home. The boys sat in the backseat wearing their new Dodgers souvenir batting helmets, chatting happily about how much fun the game was. Then, without a hint of irony, Matt said, “I’m going to play for the Dodgers when I’m a grown-up.”

So there you have it, folks. Write this date down: On August 17, 2014, Matthew Daniel Walters declared to the world that he is going to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I can just envision the LA Times story in 2034: “At just 3 years old, rookie Dodgers shortstop Matt Walters already knew he would one day play for the boys in blue. His twin, Angels catcher Nate Walters, took a bit longer to choose his path in life.” Wouldn’t that be amazing?

When you get a moment, check out the Fanatics website. There is something for every fan, no matter what sport you follow!

And P.S.: Yes, we are a house divided. Keith is a huge Angels fan, and I have retained my loyalty to the Mets. But while Matt and Nate love both LA teams, they often have a real LA rivalry going. Matt, who is obsessed with Clayton Kershaw, favors the Dodgers. Nate, who idolizes Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, leans toward the Angels. A freeway World Series would be pretty awesome!

What’s your favorite family baseball memory? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Most Bad-Ass Lullabies Ever!

We’ve taken many music classes with the twins, and despite the fact that many of the teachers have Disney-worthy voices, they’ve always insisted that “babies like their mommies’ and daddies’ voices best.”

Yeah, not my babies. I have a singing voice not even my own kids can love. Sometimes when I start singing along to a song in the car, they’ll yell, “Don’t sing, Mommy!!!”

But the boys do love music, and they can even appreciate good music when they hear it. The other day, Nate started singing Brian Wilson’s “California Role” under his breath, much to Keith’s delight. When we listen to a top 40 station, the boys will shout, “That’s Katy Perry!” or “I love John Legend!”

Still, Keith and I are definitely subjected to our fair share of kid music. After 30 minutes or so in the car, the boys will start whining, “We want to hear our music!” Then we’ll have to listen to Parachute Express or Greg and Steve for the gazillionth time, until we’re ready to blow our brains out. And the Toddler Tunes channel on cable seems to have not updated its playlist since Matt and Nate were babies.

So when Keith and I discovered Rockabye Baby, we were instantly hooked. Rockabye Baby takes the rock music parents love and transforms it into instrumental lullabies. The company has put out more than 50 albums to date, giving the lullaby treatment to artists including the Beatles, U2, Coldplay, and David Bowie. Babies and kids love the music because it’s beautiful and soothing, and parents love it even more because it includes recognizable songs from their favorite bands. No more listening to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Hush, Little Baby” over and over again at nap time and bedtime!

For parents who want a little more variety, Rockabye Baby recently put out its first compilation album and mini picture book. The album, called “Good Baby, Bad Baby,” features 13 lullaby versions of pop hits, including Beyonce’s “Halo,” Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie,” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” According to Rockabye Baby, the album “is sure to make for a smooth bedtime regardless if your baby is as good as gold or bad to the bone.”

Good Baby, Bad BabyRockabye Baby sent me a digital copy of the album to review, and I have to say—I love it! I felt the company found really unique and interesting ways to “lullaby-ify” the songs. I was also pleasantly surprised by the more unexpected inclusions, like Radiohead’s “Creep” and Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” both of which are amazing.

Matt and Nate listened to the songs with me while playing. They really enjoyed the album as well, but Matt asked a few times, “Where are the words?” (All of the lullabies are lyric-free.) That just proves the music is best for what it was intended for—nap time and bedtime, when kids are trying to drift off to sleep.

The boys did get very excited when they heard the lullaby version of their favorite pop song—Pharrell’s “Happy.” When the first notes started to play, they both stopped what they were doing. A look of recognition crossed both of the boys’ faces at about the same time and they started shouting, “It’s ‘Happy!’ It’s ‘Happy!’”

And like Matt and Nate, I think “Happy” is the best song on the album. I was a bit mystified by the inclusion of Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’.” (Really, could you get more inappropriate for little ones?) But as I said, none of the songs include lyrics, so it was included more for the tune and for parents to enjoy.

In short, I am really thrilled to have this album now that my baby girl will be here in less than a month. I plan to purchase more Rockabye albums prior to our cross-country drive to our new home in Virginia in October, because I think the songs will help all of the kids nap—and Keith and I will really enjoy listening to them. Let’s just hope they don’t also put the driver to sleep!

Check out this YouTube clip of the Rockabye version of Pharrell’s “Happy.” It’s awesome, right?

Rockabye Baby CDs are available for purchase at http://www.rockabyebabymusic.com/music, or you can download the albums on iTunes. Here’s to long naps and restful nights for you and your little ones!

 

5 Things to Do Before Baby Arrives

In just a few days, I’ll be 35 weeks pregnant with my baby girl. That means there are less than five weeks to go until my scheduled C-section. In true Type A fashion, I’ve spent a ton of time making frenzied preparations for her arrival. The twins, after all, were born at 36 weeks, so I’m well aware of the potential of delivering early! Read any parenting blog, website, or magazine and you’ll find lists of things you should do before your baby arrives—things like taking an infant CPR class, updating your will, choosing your baby’s pediatrician, decorating the nursery, packing your hospital bag, etc. These are all excellent and important tips, and I certainly recommend doing them. But I also have some tips of my own for things you can do before you welcome your little one. You may not see these hints on many other lists—and the world certainly wouldn’t end if you don’t do them—but I promise you they’ll make your life easier in those chaotic, sleep-deprived months after baby comes home.

1. Choose your birth announcements—and pre-address the envelopes. One of my favorite sites from which to order high-quality birth announcements, invitations, and cards is Tiny Prints. And the site offers a really convenient service: You can pre-order your announcements and have the envelopes shipped to you ahead of time to stamp and address before the baby arrives. Once he or she is born, all you’ll have to do is fill in the blanks and add photos, stuff the cards into the envelopes, and mail them off! I chose my daughter’s birth announcements from Tiny Prints back in May. I’m glad I did, because it wasn’t a quick process—I had hundreds of options to choose from. But I finally found the perfect announcement, and the envelopes are already stamped, addressed, and ready to be stuffed!

2. Schedule and plan a newborn photography session. Newborn photos are not everyone’s “thing.” But if they are your thing and you don’t get them done, you’ll always regret it. I never got fancy newborn studio pictures taken of the boys because Keith was set to deploy right after their birth, so scheduling a session was the last thing on my mind. But then when I’d see gorgeous professional photos of my friends’ newborns, it would bug me that I didn’t have any of my own kids.  So this time, I’m ready. Luckily, we already have a photographer we work with here in Los Angeles who happens to take gorgeous newborn photos that fit our style. Her name is Sigal Ineno of Sigal Ineno Photography, and we highly recommend her! But if you don’t know a photographer, start looking for one well before your due date. Good newborn photographers can get booked up months in advance, so you’ll want to make sure they have you on their schedule. To find a photographer, Google newborn photographers in your area and check out their online galleries to see if you like their work. Check review sites like Yelp or local message boards. Ask friends and neighbors if they have any recommendations. Once you find a photographer with availability, he or she will make note of your due date and block off some time for your session around that date. Photographers generally like to take newborn pictures four days to two weeks after birth. Sigal told me to contact her ASAP when I’m heading to the hospital so that she can lock in a time one week after the baby is born. Once your session is booked, look at newborn photos online to get ideas of poses you’d like to capture, any special items you’d want in the pictures, outfits and/or accessories you want your baby to wear, etc. Have all of those things ready for the shoot once the big day comes!

3. Create baby registries—and add the basics to them. Even if this is not your first pregnancy and you weren’t planning to start a registry, you should create one at multiple stores. That’s because nearly every retailer that carries baby items—including Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, Pottery Barn Kids, and Target—will give you a percentage (usually 10 to 15 percent) off any items remaining on your registry for one day towards the end of or after your pregnancy. That includes essentials like diapers, wipes, toiletries, formula, etc. So start a registry at each store and add the items you’ll need to them. When the time comes to go shopping, you can compare prices and stock up on the things you’ll need at a discount!

4. Schedule other necessary appointments. When your whole world revolves around your pregnancy, it’s easy to neglect the rest of your health. But it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself during pregnancy. So before you give birth, go for your annual skin cancer screening with your dermatologist. Get a dental checkup and a teeth cleaning. Schedule any other regular medical visits you usually make. The days and weeks leading up to pregnancy are also a great time to do the things you’ll have little time for with a new baby. Go for that fabulous haircut. Get a manicure and pedicure. Get your eyebrows waxed or threaded. You get the picture!

5. Get your older children very involved from the beginning. Even though they were only 2 1/2 when I got pregnant, Keith and I started talking  with Matt and Nate about the baby very early on. We made sure they knew how exciting it would be to have a new baby. We bought them shirts on Etsy that said “I’m going to be a big brother,” and snapped a photo of them wearing the shirts to announce the pregnancy on social media. We bought some great books about becoming a big brother that we’ve read to them often. (Two of our favorites are Joanna Cole’s “I’m A Big Brother” and Mercer Mayer’s “The New Baby”.) We’ve had the boys talk to their sister in my belly, discussed with them how my belly is growing (according to Nate, it’s “so much fat”), allowed them to feel her kicks, etc. We’ve let them talk freely about their baby sister to anyone who will listen. As a result, the boys’ initial indifference about having a new baby has switched to pure excitement. They do not stop talking about “their” baby, and lately they’ve been acting out new-baby scenarios with their action figures. The other day, Batman was crying like a baby as his “Mommy,” Green Lantern, rocked him to sleep. It takes so much stress away to know the boys are excited and ready for their sister to arrive!

Family Pregnancy Studio Session - July 2014 (Photo by Daniel Marino, http://danmarinophoto.com)

My brother, Dan Marino of Marino Photography (danmarinophotography.com), took this photo as part of a maternity shoot in July. The boys could not stop lovin’ on my belly!

 

I’d love to hear from other moms: What are your best tips for things to do before baby arrives? Share them here!

Coming Up: New Baby, New Crib!

Summer is often a busy time for military families because it’s PCS (permanent change of station) season, AKA moving season. But this year has been especially crazed for us, as we happen to have, ahem, a few things going on. Where to even begin? Here we go:

1) The twins turned 3 on June 19, and their birthday party was two days later. We decided to have the party at our own home this year. That meant weeks of preparation and lots of cleanup, but it turned out to be so much fun. The boys chose a superhero theme, so we had all the kids (about a dozen) decorate their own capes. We also gave each child a felt mask. And, Superman himself flew in to entertain the kids! He was incredible, and Matt and Nate could not have been more thrilled. They still tell everyone all about how the real Superman came to their party. If you live in the Los Angeles area and want to hire a character for your next party, we highly recommend Wishing Well Entertainment. You and your kiddos will not be disappointed!

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2) We flew to New York a week later to visit family. It was the boys’ ninth round-trip flight, but their first since last November, and I have to say—flying with 3-year-olds was way easier than flying with 2-year-olds! We didn’t need a huge bag stuffed with toys with which to entertain them on the flight. All they needed were iPads, a few books, and some crayons, and they were good to go. They even walked through security on their own! The trip lasted nearly two weeks, and we had a great time catching up with family and friends.

3) Two days after we arrived in New York, Keith and I drove down to Virginia (the boys stayed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house) to look for the new home we will move into in late October. Since our 5-year anniversary was coming up on July 18, we decided to treat it like a mini anniversary trip/babymoon and stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City. It was fabulous! We managed to look at about a dozen homes in the three days we were there, which was pretty tiring with me being nearly seven months pregnant in the heat and humidity. But, it did lead to the next big thing that happened:

4) We bought a house!!! It’s in an awesome, family-friendly community in Northern Virginia, and it is the perfect home for our growing family. There is a huge, grassy backyard with a big deck and a basketball hoop, a large basement, five bedrooms, and lots of space. The best part is that it’s move-in ready, which is crucial since we’ll be moving in with a 7-week-old baby. Keith’s commute to the Pentagon will be pretty easy, too. As sad as we’ll be to leave California, we’re really excited to move into our new home!

New house

Our new home!

5) Back in New York, my best friend from high school, Christine, threw me a surprise mini baby shower (also called a “sprinkle”). About a dozen of my closest ladies attended, and it was so wonderful. I received a ton of adorable baby clothes for the little princess, and I just can’t wait to dress her up!

Thing have not slowed down since we arrived back in California on July 8. My days and evenings have been consumed with preparations for the baby and the move. I spent two days straight researching and contacting preschools in our new neighborhood to see if I could find a good one that happened to have two openings this close to the new school year. It really was like searching for a needle in a haystack. However, I did find one that I think will be a great fit for the boys. They will start in November and they’ll be going Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 am to 1 pm. It’s exciting and nerve-racking, but I know they will love it!

I’ve also spent a lot of time researching doctors in the new area, since the baby and I will both need follow-up care as soon we arrive. The kids and I are on Tricare Standard, which means we can select our own physicians. However, depending on where you live, it can be hard to find good doctors who accept Tricare. I’ve had to rely solely on Internet research and reviews from patients, but I finally found a pediatrician for the kids and a doctor for me who I believe will be good fits.

Things are not likely to slow down for us until well after the move. Today marks 33 weeks of pregnancy for me. I have a C-section scheduled for September 5, which means the baby will be here in only six weeks (or less)! Eeeeeek!

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Me at 32 weeks pregnant with baby girl!

The boys have started a weekly two-hour drop-off class at Gymboree called School Skills, which we’re hoping will help ease their transition to “real” preschool. They love the class so far! They’ll also continue to take weekly gymnastics classes at My Gym. Nate is now fully potty trained—even at night—but Matt is still struggling with the process. We’re trying not to push him too hard, but with preschool starting in a little more than three months, we’re feeling the pressure.

And then there’s the big move, which will begin October 15 if the baby gets the all-clear. Yes, we are driving cross-country with two 3-year-olds and a 6-week-old baby in a Toyota 4Runner with no third row. Yes, we are a tad bit crazy. But we are used to these “adventures” of Army life. After all, this will be the boys’ fourth home in their fourth city and they’re only 3 years old! So please think of us over these next few months, and I’ll continue to keep you all updated on the blog!

Ditch the Diaper Bag with the Quint Carryall!

One day when the twins had just turned 2, I was at a playgroup with some mom friends and their sons. The moms chatted as the kids played, and naturally, the topic veered toward how frazzled and unorganized we all felt as mothers of toddlers. Then one of the ladies turned to me and said something I’ll never forget.

“Jen, I admire you,” she said. “You’ve really managed to maintain your identity since having kids.”

Well, I certainly didn’t feel that way, so I thought she was crazy. But then the other moms chimed in and agreed with her.

“You still carry around your cute purses,” one said. “The rest of us put all our whole lives into our diaper bags.”

“Yes!” agreed another. “I don’t remember the last time I carried a purse!”

I thought about their statements all the way home. The thing was, I was constantly lamenting to Keith about how I hadn’t had time to switch my purse in over a year and how filthy and unorganized it was inside. But the girls were right. Despite lugging around an ugly, behemoth twin diaper bag, I always did have my oversize purse on the other shoulder. It had never even occurred to me to put my personal items in the diaper bag. The diaper bag was the twins’ space, and my purse was mine.

Now, as I prepare to welcome my third baby in just seven weeks, I’m hoping to travel much lighter for shorter, everyday outings. The twins don’t need much anymore, and I’ll have to tote around only half the amount of stuff for one baby. But does traveling lighter mean I’ll finally have to ditch the purse and carry only a small diaper bag?

It may have, had I not learned of an amazing new product by QuintEssential Mommy, a brand new company created by two San Francisco moms. It’s called the Quint Carryall, and it can instantly turn any large purse or tote into a diaper bag.

Quint

The Quint Carryall is a lightweight, zippered pouch made of 100 percent cotton. There are seven pockets of various sizes around the perimeter, perfect for small items like hand sanitizer, pacifiers, diaper-cream tubes, etc. The roomy nylon interior is water resistant. It has one large pocket for diapers and wipes, a zippered pocket, and two elastic pockets meant to hold bottles or cups. There’s enough space inside to stash a change of clothes, a burp cloth, and even a small toy or board book.

Quint inside

Once the Quint Carryall is loaded up, you simply zip it closed and drop it into your large handbag. Everything you need for baby is there in one organized, removable place, leaving your purse’s pockets free for your own items. No more rummaging through a bottomless pit for your keys, a diaper, or a wayward pacifier!

The Quint Carryall retails for $44.99 and is machine washable. It comes in several fashionable and gorgeous patterns. Jenny Hong and Kopal Goonetileke, the co-founders of Quintessential Mommy, sent me the Noe Valley pattern (seen above) to review, and I just love it. I can’t wait to try it out when the baby comes. What a great excuse to go shopping for a new oversize purse!

QuintEssential Mommy also makes several other pretty and functional products for moms. There’s the Quint Diaper Clutch, the Quint Mini Pad, and the Quint Wet/Dry Bag. All of these items can be used on their own or inside the Quint Carryall. And they are all cute enough to keep using for your own stuff once your kids are older!

If you’re a mom like me who wants to meet your kids’ needs, stay organized, and still retain your own sense of style, visit quintessentialmommy.com to check out all of the company’s great products and to buy one for yourself. You’ll be glad you did! (P.S.: They also make great gifts!)

Prenatal Beverages for Moms-to-Be!

I have been asked countless times whether this pregnancy has been easier than the last since there is only one baby this time. And that would certainly make sense, wouldn’t it? But at nearly 32 weeks pregnant, I can say with authority that it has not been easier. Maybe the old wives’ tale is true—maybe baby girls really do wreak havoc on your body!

To be fair, it hasn’t been a bad pregnancy at all. I have been able to remain pretty active throughout, and I am still sleeping decently. My morning sickness was limited to short bursts of nausea that usually went away when I ate something.

With the twins, however, I experienced no nausea whatsoever. I am also way more tired this time around. (I even spent the entire day in bed on three separate occasions after taking on too much and overdoing it.) And, my tummy has been a lot more—ahem—sensitive throughout this pregnancy. It seems like any little thing will upset my stomach. And one of those things has been my prenatal vitamin.

Prenatal vitamins are awesome for so many reasons. They supersize your immune system, make your hair and nails thick and healthy, and ensure your baby gets all of his or her essential nutrients. But they can also have some pretty unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, gas, stomach cramps, etc.

When I was pregnant with Matt and Nate, prenatal vitamins never bothered me. But throughout this pregnancy, they’ve often left me with several of those unpleasant symptoms. I’m OK when I take them at night and soon after eating. But with 3-year-old twins to chase, a part-time job, and a cross-country move to prepare for, sometimes I forget. Plus, the huge pills can be hard to swallow.

Many pregnant women experience much worse side effects from their prenatal vitamins. This has sparked the creation of several new beverages for expecting moms that ensure they get all of the essential vitamins and minerals their babies need. And through my job, I’ve gotten to try three of them.

Bump Water, which I reviewed for Baby Gizmo, is a new line of all-natural drinks that are packed with many of the same vitamins found in prenatals. Each 16-ounce bottle includes 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamins A, D, E, and more. Bump Water also contains the full recommended daily allowance of folic acid. Research shows that folic acid is an essential part of healthy fetal development, both before and during pregnancy, by helping to prevent major birth defects of the brain, spine, and spinal cord. 

Bump Water

Bump Water comes in five flavors—cranberry ginger, strawberry lemonade, pomegranate mixed berry, lemonade, and lemon lime. There are flat flavors and sparkling ones.

I tried two flavors—the 10-calorie sparkling cranberry ginger and the 100-calorie sparkling lemonade. They tasted like flavored water. I enjoyed both, but the lemonade was especially tasty. I had no stomach problems with the Bump Water. In fact, the fizz may have actually helped settle my tummy a bit. But since I am not generally a fan of sparkling beverages, I think I would have enjoyed the flat flavors much more.

Next, I tried Premama, which comes in powder form. Premama is a drinkable prenatal vitamin created by leading OB/GYNs. You can mix the powder with water or juice, or into your food. Premama is packed with 11+ vitamins and minerals, including folic acid and DHA, which supports fetal brain and eye development.

Premama

Premama comes in three varieties—the unflavored Premama Essentials, the citrus-flavored Premama Plus with DHA, and the orange-flavored Premama Complete with extra DHA. I mixed them all into 8-oz. glasses of water. However, Premama Essentials is meant to be mixed with food or juice—and I can see why. Though the powder is not flavored, I kept imagining I could taste it in my water, and it bugged me. While the other two tasted better, they didn’t give the water as much of a flavor as I would have liked. They therefore took longer for me to drink, allowing the powder to settle on the bottom of the glass a bit. But Premama didn’t upset my stomach at all, and it was so much better than swallowing a pill!

Finally, I got to sample three bottles of Bundle Organics. Bundle Organics is the first line of organic prenatal juices specifically for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. Made with organic fruits and veggies, the juices are fully pasteurized and not raw-pressed. They also include key nutrients recommended for pregnant moms and their developing babies, including vitamin D, calcium, Omega-3, and folic acid. They come in three flavors—Dark Berry/Veggie, Kale/Apple/Lemon/Ginger, and Orange/Carrot/Berry/Ginger.

bundle-organics

Bundle Organics juices are not as vitamin-packed as Bump Water or Premama. However, they are not meant to be a replacement for prenatal vitamins—just a yummy and convenient way to get added nutrients and stay hydrated. And, they are really delicious! I drank mine cold, straight from the fridge, and had no problem downing them because they tasted so great. I felt really refreshed afterward, and I was happy to get the big dose of fruits and vegetables.

Overall, I think any of these products would be wonderful for pregnant women who are having a rough time with prenatal vitamins, or simply those who want to get added vitamins and nutrients. But before using any of them as a replacement for your prenatal vitamin, be sure to talk to your OB/GYN!

 

 

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