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!

IMG_9072

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!

IMG_7001

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!

 

 

First Pregnancy vs. Second Pregnancy

Today I am exactly 27 weeks pregnant, which according to many experts (including the American Pregnancy Association) marks the beginning of my third trimester. WHAAAAT? When did THAT happen? This pregnancy has seriously flown by. That’s probably because it’s my second one, and I’m so focused on caring for the twins, I barely have time to think about being pregnant. We’ve also been running around like crazy trying to soak up every bit of Southern California before our upcoming move to the Washington, DC area in October. Add to that list working, trying to get this blog active again, and prepping for the move, and it’s no wonder this final stretch of pregnancy has snuck up on me.

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27 weeks pregnant!

 

 

So, that brings me here—more than six months into the pregnancy and writing only my second blog post about it. Seriously—in the past six months, I’ve only had time to write about this pregnancy twice. In contrast, I wrote 18 posts about my pregnancy with Matt and Nate. But then I also had time to nap when I was pregnant with them, so…

But that’s only one of the differences between this, my second pregnancy, and my first pregnancy with the twins. Here are some of the others:

1st pregnancy: I took my prenatal vitamins religiously, at around the same time each day.
2nd pregnancy: When’s the last time I took the vitamin? I think it was yesterday morning. Or maybe it was the day before. Shoot, I’d better go take one now. 

1st pregnancy: We painstakingly pored through baby-name books and websites, making comprehensive lists of boy and girl names we liked. By week 14, we had two first names and two middle names picked out for each gender.
2nd pregnancy: Questions of, “Have you chosen a name yet?” are usually met with blank stares and the panicked realization that, oh yeah, we actually have to name this child.

1st pregnancy: We knew exactly when all of our doctor appointments were.
2nd pregnancy: We’ll be sitting at dinner when it suddenly hits me that we haven’t seen the doctor in a while. “We just went, like, last week!” Keith will respond between bites of food. Then I’ll check my smartphone calendar and realize that we actually went four weeks ago and our next appointment is tomorrow at 9 a.m. Crap! Hope the nanny is free to watch the boys.

1st pregnancy: I followed every diet rule in the book—no soft cheeses, no lunch meat, etc.—and then panicked if I accidentally consumed a forbidden food.
2nd pregnancy: I’ve been known to shove entire slices of salami into my mouth in a ravenous fury, and I honestly don’t even remember the full list of food no-no’s. We had dinner at an Indian restaurant with a friend a couple of months ago who is pregnant for the first time (with twins), and she made sure to ask the waitress if the cheese in the saag paneer was pasteurized. It hadn’t even occurred to me to ask that question.

1st pregnancy: I bought a pregnancy journal and carefully filled it out each week throughout the pregnancy.
2nd pregnancy: I ordered a pregnancy journal in a melodramatic panic a couple of weeks ago because I don’t want my daughter to find Matt and Nate’s journal years from now and ask why she doesn’t have one. Now I’m going through it and struggling to figure out exactly how I felt each week, what I was doing, etc. Half the stuff I write in it probably won’t even be accurate. Oops.

1st pregnancy: Keith took photos of my growing belly on the same day each week—and I probably overshared them on social media.
2nd pregnancy: I’ve had several friends ask me, “Where are all the belly shots?” Ummm, I have some, but they were taken on the most random days, and I don’t even think I’ve sent any to my mother. Sorry, Mom.

1st pregnancy: Babies R Us was our second home. We were there about four times a week, including Friday nights.
2nd pregnancy: I think I’ve been in Babies R Us twice since learning I was pregnant, and that was to buy Pull-Ups for Matt.

1st pregnancy: We researched the heck out of baby gear, looking at user reviews and safety ratings.
2nd pregnancy: The boys’ old Exersaucer, swing, and bouncy seats are somewhere in the black hole that is our garage. We should probably dig them out at some point. Soon.

I could go on and on, but the more I list, the more guilty I feel about the lack of attention I’ve been paying to this baby. I mean, she won’t even have a nursery for her first two months of life! (Since we’re moving when she is only six weeks old, she will just sleep in our room until we get to the new house.)

But for everything that’s different about this pregnancy, there’s a lot that is the same. We love this baby girl just as much as we loved Matt and Nate when they were in my belly. Though we aren’t as consumed with preparation for her arrival, we—and our entire extended family—are just as excited to welcome her into her lives. Keith has made it to every single doctor appointment, just as he did the first time around, and he still makes time every night to talk to my belly.

Also, there are some things I’ve been more involved in than I was with the boys’ pregnancy. I managed to spend three entire afternoons (that I was supposed to be working) researching baby-girl nursery decor. And trust me, when we buy our new home, I am pulling out all the stops. This girl is gonna be living in style! (Crystal chandelier, anyone?) I’ve also been excitedly stocking up on things I never thought I’d get excited about, like flowery headbands and tutus.

Besides that, this baby girl has something Matt and Nate did not—the love and excitement of two older siblings who can’t wait to meet her! Last night, as I was lying on the couch with my burgeoning belly exposed, the boys climbed up on either side of me and said, “Hi, Baby! I love you!” Then they started rubbing and kissing my belly. It was truly priceless.

I am still feeling great and have lots of energy. There is a ton to do in these waning weeks of pregnancy, but I’ll try my best to do better at keeping you all updated. Oh, and Matt and Nate turn 3 next week. Time to get back to planning their big superhero birthday bash!

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These little superheroes turn 3 next week!

 

The Los Angeles Kings Northrop Grumman Hero of the Game

Several months ago I wrote about the Los Angeles Dodgers and the great support they show for our military. Today I want to tell you about another professional sports organization that supports our military—the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings! At each home game, the Kings honor one local member of the military as the Northrop Grumman Hero of the Game. The honoree and his or her guests (up to three guests for regular-season games and one for playoff games) receive amazing seats in the 100 level of STAPLES Center, as well as dinner at the exclusive Lexus Club before the game. The servicemember is honored at center ice during the National Anthem and on the big screen at his or her seat later in the game.

My husband, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Keith Walters, had the honor of being the Hero of the Game for game 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals between the Kings and my beloved team, the New York Rangers. It was a truly memorable experience, and we are so thankful to the Kings and their fans for their hospitality and kindness. I want to say a special “thank you” to Jonathan Anderson, the Kings’ Community and Alumni Relations Assistant, for coordinating the Hero of the Game program and for welcoming us so warmly!

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The Kings’ Hero of the Game—and my everyday hero—near the Wayne Gretzky statue in front of STAPLES Center!

Jonathan had us meet him outside STAPLES Center near the Wayne Gretzky statue. (For a hockey fan, that alone was super cool!) He escorted us into the Lexus Club, where we were welcomed just as warmly as the celebrities probably are. We enjoyed a delicious buffet-style spread of seafood, sushi, meats, salads, desserts, and more.

Since Keith was already wearing his dress blues, several regular club members came over to chat with us and to offer to buy us drinks. It was very kind of them, but a bummer when you’re 6 months pregnant! Keith also did not want to drink while representing the Army in uniform, so we had to politely decline.

The best part of our Lexus Club experience was when former hockey great and longtime Kings player Luc Robitaille—now the president of business operations for the Kings—came over to introduce himself and to thank Keith for his service. He told us proudly that he is now a U.S. citizen and that he really appreciates the military. What a classy and sweet guy, and a huge honor for us to meet him!

Jonathan met us about an hour later and took us down to the concourse from which Keith would enter the ice. I got to hang out there for a great view of the ice during the National Anthem. The announcer welcomed Keith and thanked him for his service, and he got to stand next to The Tenors and salute the flag as they sang the National Anthem. On his way off the ice, he got to shake Wayne Gretzky’s hand. (Gretzky dropped the ceremonial first puck of the game.)

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Keith as Hero of the Game!

The best part? Keith’s introduction and the anthem were actually televised on NBC, so all of our friends and family got to see it! Our nanny had the twins watch it and videotaped their reactions, which were priceless. The boys have since had me play it for them about 300 times. Matt likes to pretend he is the announcer by using his mini hockey stick as a microphone and saying, “Introducing … DADDY! The greatest hero in the world!” What a great reminder that for all the sacrifices military kids make, they are so lucky because they get to have real heroes as their daddies and/or mommies.

We then got settled into our seats, which were incredible—12 rows from the ice! We sat in the same section as Larry David and Gretzky himself. Will Ferrell was in the section next to us. Most of the fans surrounding us were season-ticket holders who all knew each other, but they were happy to chat with us throughout the game and really made us feel at home.

Kings game

Keith was honored on the big screen about 15 minutes into the first period. Nearly everyone in the arena stood up to applaud him. In fact, it was so loud in there we could barely hear the announcer reading Keith’s bio. What an incredible feeling! I stood beside Keith and made it to onto the screen myself, much to my six-months-pregnant dismay. They also put us on the kiss cam in the second period. I totally didn’t see that coming, although I certainly should have!

And let’s not forget the game itself: It was a really exciting one, with both teams playing hard. The game went into overtime, and the Kings won 3 to 2 only a few minutes into it. But despite the loss for my Rangers, it was such a fun and extremely memorable evening. I was so proud to see all the fans stopping to talk to Keith, to thank him for his service, and even to take a photo with him. I know so many great servicemembers who deserve to be honored, but I think Keith truly represents them and the U.S. Army well.

So, thank you again to the Los Angeles Kings for being such a classy organization that truly supports our men and women in uniform. It means so much to military families!

To nominate a servicemember to be the Northrop Grumman Hero of the Game at a 2014-15 Kings game, click here!

GIVEAWAY: Win a Photo Canvas From CVS Photo!

We all know how much I love to take pictures of my kids—don’t we all? Unfortunately, all too often our photos languish on our smartphones or our cameras’ memory cards, only to be discovered months later. And even when we do remember to upload pictures onto our computers, what then? How can we beautifully and creatively display our photos so that we can truly enjoy them?

Enter CVS Photo, which offers many creative options for displaying beloved photos—wood or metal photo panels, easel art, and—my personal favorite—canvas prints. I just love canvases because they make any photo look like a piece of art and they look awesome on any wall. Plus, you don’t have to worry about framing them!

CVS Photo has lots of great photo gifts, too. They range from classic gifts like photo books, calendars, and mugs to unique items like ornaments, coasters, and phone and tablet cases.

The best part is, you don’t have to pay shipping fees if you live near a CVS (and with locations in 45 states and DC, you probably do)—most CVS Photo items are available for free pickup at your local store. Many are even available for free same-day pickup! So if you’ve been, ahem, slacking on a Father’s Day gift (it’s June 15), you’re in luck!

And you can be even luckier. CVS Photo is giving one Double Duty Twins reader a free photo canvas worth up to $99.99! To win, just “like” Double Duty Twins on Facebook and leave a comment under the contest post letting me know which CVS Photo item you’d buy for your dad or hubby for Father’s Day. If you’re not on Facebook, just leave a comment below this post on the blog! I will email the winner a code good for one free photo canvas.

“Like” and leave your comment by 7:00 AM Eastern Time on Thursday, June 12. I’ll announce the winner here and on Facebook that morning and send you a code right away with which to redeem your free photo canvas at CVSphoto.com.

Thank you for entering, and good luck!

UPDATE: The winner of the free photo canvas from CVS Photo is Natalie Yarbrough! Thank you to all who entered, and congratulations to Natalie. Please check back for more exciting giveaways to come!

 

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