I can’t remember the last time I bought myself anything. With three little ones, I never have time to shop. When I do manage to drag the kids to the mall, it’s nearly impossible to browse the racks in peace.
Moms Sara Peak and Whitney Nordmoe had the same problem. So they created a way for busy parents (and busy everyone) to shop in the easiest manner imaginable—via text message! They started Dean & Grace, a shopping club that allows you to buy unique and high-quality kids’ and adults’ clothing, accessories, jewelry, and more via text. And it’s totally free to join.
Here’s how it works: Click here to fill out a quick style quiz that will tell Dean & Grace what kind of items you’re interested in buying. You can also text “Join DG” to 76000, and you’ll receive the signup link via text. Once that’s done, you’ll get a text whenever an item you may like is for sale. If you want it, reply “WANT.” And that’s it—it’s yours! How much easier than that can you get?
Shipping is always free at Dean & Grace, and the items are unique and high-quality. You also won’t get bombarded with text messages: The amount you receive is based on inventory and the number of categories you signed up for. (If you sign up for just one style—say, boy playwear—you can expect about one text per week.) And you can opt out of receiving texts at any time by replying “STOP.”
I signed up two days ago for clothing for the boys and Lily and got my first text today. It was for this awesome kids’ “Free to Be Me” shirt from Blue Eyes and Bare Feet Designs, selling for $18. How cool is it?
I’m pretty excited to be a member of Dean & Grace and to have access to this unique and convenient way of shopping. Visit deanandgrace.com/#!style/ctdl to give it a try yourself. If you put “Jennifer W.” in the “Referred By” line, I’ll get credit and you’ll get good karma. It’s a win-win!
Happy shopping! If you get anything cool from Dean & Grace, let me know, and I’ll be sure to do the same!
Like so many others, I’ve suffered from seasonal allergies since I was a kid. When we were getting ready to move to Northern Virginia, many people warned me that my allergies would likely be worse here. They were right. And unfortunately, Matt and Lily seem to have gotten hit pretty hard, too.
Couple that with the boys starting preschool and catching every cold under the sun (and then passing it to Lily), there’s been a lot of stuffy, runny noses in this house.
Luckily, I’ve amassed a powerful trifecta for dealing with congestion in my kids and helping them breathe easier. Here are my three favorite products:
Boogie Mist. When the kids are really stuffy, I spray this gentle, non-medicated saline mist up their noses to help thin out thick mucus. It comes in fresh, grape, or unscented formulas. We prefer the unscented.
NoseFrida Snotsucker nasal aspirator. This thing is not nearly as gross as it sounds, and I’m telling you—it works wonders. It allows you to suck the snot right out of your kids’ noses using a mouthpiece attached to a long tube. A filter in the tube prevents any mucus from getting in your mouth, keeping things completely hygienic. Trust me—I have a weak stomach and I use this all the time. It helps the kids breathe better when they’re sick and keeps them from walking around with snot dripping out of their noses. Matt and Nate are getting bigger now, but even they ask me to “suction” them when they’re really congested.
Boogie Wipes. You know when kids’ noses run and they get that crusty snot all around their nostrils? Boogie Wipes contain saline that helps dissolve that mucus and makes it easier to clean it up. They also contain aloe, chamomile, and Vitamin E to help soothe and moisturize the skin. That means no more red, irritated noses. Like Boogie Mist, Boogie Wipes come in grape and fresh scent or unscented. We prefer unscented. They come in handy little packs of 10, 30, or 45 to toss in your diaper bag, or you can get a large canister of 90 to keep at home.
Luckily, the kids have been snot-free this month, so we haven’t had much use for these products. But they’re ready and waiting if and when they are needed.
To learn more about Boogie Mist and Boogie wipes, and to get a money-saving coupon, click here.
We are thick into the days of blazing sun and 90-degree weather here in Northern Virginia, so I find myself chasing the kids around the house daily to apply sunscreen to them before we go out. That typically leaves me little time to lather myself up with sunscreen, a task I’ve been trying hard to streamline.
Enter the new NO–AD Sport Body & Face Sunscreen Stick, which looks and glides on like deodorant. Since receiving it in the mail a couple of weeks ago to review, I’ve been applying it onto my face before outdoor activities, and I love it! It’s really lightweight and it goes on clear, which means I don’t have to spend a ton of time rubbing it in to get rid of all the white. And it’s SPF 50, offering great protection against UVA and UVB rays.
I was a bit worried that the product would make my skin break out, but so far, so good. And it doesn’t have that strong smell that most other sunscreens have.
But here’s my favorite place to use the sunscreen stick—my scalp! I am just not a hat person in my everyday life, and I’ve been wanting to protect my scalp where my hair parts without getting greasy sunscreen all over my hair. Now I just swipe the sunscreen stick over it and it’s been working great.
I’ve written before about what a huge fan I am of NO-AD products, and this one is no exception. It’s so easy to toss into my purse or diaper bag on the way out the door without taking up too much space. I highly recommend it!
June 2015 is ICP Awareness Month. ICP stands for Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy. It’s a rare and serious liver disorder that occurs during pregnancy. If untreated, it carries a 15 percent chance of stillbirth.
I was diagnosed with ICP when I was pregnant with Lily. To help spread awareness of this scary condition during ICP Awareness Month, here is my story.
When I was 37 weeks pregnant with Lily, I began to get really itchy. Not just mosquito-bite itchy. The kind of itchy where I wanted to claw my skin off. My arms, my belly, the palms of my hands, and the soles of my feet would go through bouts of sudden itching, with no accompanying rash. Since it happened to coincide with a particularly brutal heat wave in Southern California, I figured it was just late-pregnancy heat sensitivity.
On Friday, August 29, I went in for my last check-up before my C-section, which was scheduled for the following Friday. I hadn’t been itchy that morning and was feeling great. Consumed with excitement about my last week of pregnancy, I gave my doctor a big hug and told her I’d see her in the operating room in a week.
Later that morning, I took Matt and Nate to their My Gym class. I was standing with a couple of mom friends and, without realizing it, scratching my arms and palms. One of my friends asked if I was OK.
“Ya know, I’ve been really itchy lately. It must be some weird late-pregnancy symptom,” I said.
“Hmm…I never experienced that,” she replied.
My other friend hadn’t, either. That’s when I began to wonder if maybe something else was going on.
The rest of the day passed with the itching coming and going. We had a nice family dinner out, then went into the boys’ room to start their bedtime routine. As we sat on the floor and read books, my soles suddenly got so itchy that I had to stand up and start rubbing them on the carpet. Then my palms started to itch.
“You know, I’m gonna jump online and Google my itching,” I told Keith. “I just want to make sure this is a normal pregnancy symptom.”
Keith always discourages me from Googling symptoms because I can be a bit of a hypochondriac, but even he was curious about the itching. So as he finished putting the boys to bed, I went into the office and started to research.
What I read terrified me. It turned out that my itching was not a typical pregnancy symptom. It was, however, a major symptom of Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy, which most often begins in the third trimester of pregnancy. Here is a list of the most common symptoms:
Itching all over—often more severe on palms and soles—without a rash present. The itching can be constant or recurring and is often worse at night.
Dark urine and/or pale stools
Other symptoms may include:
Right upper quadrant pain
Loss of appetite
More About ICP ICP affects the normal flow of bile. Bile acids are chemicals in the bile of the liver that help with digestion. With ICP the bile flow begins to slow down, causing the bile acids to build up in the blood. ICP is associated with an increased risk of stillbirth, preterm labor, fetal distress, respiratory distress, maternal hemorrhaging and meconium passage in utero.
But it’s very rare. Overall, ICP affects only 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 U.S. pregnancies. In the past, it was thought to be a benign condition. For those reasons, some health care providers are not fully aware of the possible risks ICP carries or of the most up-to-date treatments.
Proper treatment of ICP generally includes medication, weekly blood tests and monitoring, and delivery of the baby at 37 weeks gestation.
My Diagnosis Once I showed Keith the information I’d found, he was concerned enough to place a call to my doctor, (who was, of course, heading out of town for the long Labor Day weekend). He left a message with the answering service and she called him back quickly. As soon as he told her my symptoms, she advised us to go into the hospital right away to get tested.
Of course, we lived thousands of miles away from family, but one of our wonderful friends (also a mom of young twins) was able to come over to stay with the boys. We headed to the hospital at around 10 pm to begin a long night of monitoring and testing.
I was hooked up to a fetal heart monitor to make sure Lily was OK. I got a special ultrasound. Most important, I got two important blood tests—a Fractionated Bile Acid Test and a Liver Function Test. The Bile Acid Test measures the level of bile acids in the blood, while the Liver Function Test measures liver enzymes.
When we got the results of my Liver Function Test a few hours later, they showed that my liver enzymes were, in fact, elevated. Unfortunately, the Bile Acid Test had to be sent to a lab and would take several days to come back, so they couldn’t definitively diagnose me with ICP.
We returned home around 2 am, exhausted and scared, with orders to closely monitor Lily’s kick counts and to return to the hospital on Sunday for the same round of monitoring and blood tests. We dropped the boys off at a friend’s house on Sunday and went back in. The fetal monitoring and ultrasound went well, but my liver enzymes were still elevated. Unfortunately, my bile acid results still had not come in.
That meant back to the hospital we went on Tuesday for more monitors and tests. At least my parents were in town by then to stay with the boys, but it wasn’t exactly how we’d envisioned the last week of pregnancy going.
I was at the beach with my family the next afternoon—two days before the scheduled C-section—when my doctor called to say my test results had finally come in: I did, indeed, have Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy. I panicked, fully prepared to head right into the hospital to have Lily. But she had consulted with a maternal fetal medicine specialist, and they both felt that my bile acid levels were not high enough to require delivery right at that moment. They felt the benefits of carrying Lily the full 39 weeks outweighed the risks at that point.
Keith and I went in the next day for more monitoring, and all looked good. The next day—after a frightening and stressful week—I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, 8 lb.-4 oz. baby girl.
As scary as our experience was, it was nothing compared to what most women with ICP go through. ICP is typically diagnosed earlier in the third trimester—sometimes even before that. That means most women with ICP experience weeks of intense itching (often to the point that it disrupts their sleep) and other symptoms, weekly blood tests, a huge amount of fear and stress, and an early delivery—and, in rare cases, worse.
I’m not trying to scare anyone unnecessarily, as itching during pregnancy is usually nothing to worry about. But if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, I urge you to read up on Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy. If you experience intense itching with no rash present—especially if it’s on your palms and/or soles—call your doctor. Even if it turns out to be nothing, it’s better to be safe and get it checked out!
If you know a LEGO and/or building fanatic ages 6 and up, you need to know about Brick Loot. Created last year by 10-year-old Parker Krex (then 9), Brick Loot is a monthly box subscription that sends subscribers four to eight of the newest—and coolest—brick and building products each month. Though BrickLoot‘s partners include some of the biggest names in the toy industry—OYO Sports, Nanoblocks, and BrickForge, to name a few—the contents include unique items you won’t find at big-name toy stores. In the voice of Cousin Eddie in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,“ “it’s the gift that keeps on giving!”
The company recently sent me its May box to review. Though the twins are not yet 4, they are just starting to dabble with “big-kid” LEGO bricks, so they got super excited when the blue Brick Loot box arrived!
Here’s what was inside:
Check out all of that awesome loot! Nate, who seems to have inherited his grandpa’s watch obsession, immediately claimed the Brick Watch and proudly wore it around the house the rest of the day (despite it being about three sizes too big on him). And Matt was thrilled to see the custom Vermin Man minifigure.
The Mostaix Mosaic Art Kit was super cool, and challenging even for me! The kit consists of a plastic grid and tiny, colored plastic brick tiles of different shapes. Using the included picture—in this case, a fish—as a guide, you have to snap the tiles onto the grid to make the picture (no glue or ironing necessary). The tiles were too small for the boys to handle easily, so I put together the mosaic myself. It took about an hour and a half. The boys now have it hanging in their playroom, and I felt a sense of satisfaction at having finished it—a win-win! There are many different Mostaix kits to choose from and you can reuse the tiles to create your own pictures, so they really do provide hours of entertainment.
The box also came with a Mosaic Brick Kit—including bricks of various colors, shapes, and sizes—and base plates with which to create your own mosaic. Brick Loot asked builders to take photos of their mosaics and upload them to the company’s Facebook page for a chance to win a free 3-month subscription to Brick Loot. The boys were instead content to build their own creations with the pieces. Nate made a “chemical fortress” for the enclosed minifigure and Matt made a school. I was really happy to see them being creative and using their imaginations.
Plus, it gave me time to put together the final set that came in the box—”Wing Warriors.”
The “Wing Warriors” set allows you to build a plane three different ways with the included bricks and instructions. I was challenged enough building it one way, so I just left it at that. My only complaint is that the bricks didn’t stay together very well, so the minute each boy touched the plane to inspect it, it fell apart. But again, Matt and Nate are under the recommended age minimum for the box, so an older kid with gentler hands might not have as much of a problem.
Overall, the boys and I had a blast playing with our Brick Loot box on a rainy day. I definitely plan to buy them a subscription when they’re older if their interest in building continues. The prices aren’t bad, either—$27 for one month, $25 per month for three months, and $23 per month for six months. The hours of quiet fun your kids will have—and the surprise of seeing what’s in their box each month—is well worth it. Plus, I am all about supporting a kid entrepreneur!
Let me know if you decide to give Brick Loot a try, and be sure to tell me what you think! Happy building!
I recently wrote a story for Care.com about pool safety for kids. During my interview with Connie Harvey, director of Aquatics Centennial Initiatives for the American Red Cross, we discussed how child drownings can actually happen more easily when there are a lot of adults present than when only one grown-up is there. That’s because it’s so easy for us to get distracted when we’re in a large group. We also tend to get a bit more complacent: We figure that with so many people watching the kids, we don’t need to watch them quite as closely.
A few days ago, on Memorial Day, I learned that this does not only apply to drowning. We were at a Mets game with some family. Our group included nine adults and four kids. We had 12 seats across a row (Lily didn’t need her own ticket/seat since she is under 2), which means the people sitting at each end of the row had no idea what was going on at the other end.
After the seventh inning stretch, I got up to use the restroom. Keith, the boys, and I were sitting smack in the middle of the 12 seats. My brother and uncle were at the two seats on the aisle. My parents and cousins were all the way at the other end with Lily.
I asked the twins repeatedly if either of them needed the restroom. Of course, they both insisted they didn’t. So I went alone and rushed up the stairs so as not to block anyone’s view. Keith slid down closer to my parents with Nate.
Matt immediately decided that he did, in fact, need the restroom and decided to follow me up the stairs. My brother and uncle saw me right in front of him and assumed I knew he was behind me—but I didn’t. The poor thing couldn’t catch up to me.
I stood in a short line to use the ladies’ room, washed my hands, and returned to the seats. It took about seven to 10 minutes. When I got back, I noticed that Keith and the boys were gone. I slid down the row and asked my mom where they were, and she replied, “I think Keith took them to the bathroom.”
I was sitting there for about five minutes when my phone rang. It was Keith, sounding confused and a bit panicked. “Did you take Matt to the bathroom with you?” he asked.
In that instant, my heart stopped. “No—I thought you did!” I replied.
“I didn’t,” he answered. “But I just found him with two security guards.”
As it turned out, Keith had taken Nate to the restroom, then decided to buy bottles of water. While in line, he happened to look up and saw two guards carrying a crying little boy.
I wonder what happened to that poor boy, he thought. Then he realized that poor boy was Matt.
“Excuse me! Excuse me!” he called out. “That’s my son!”
Matt looked up and yelled, “Daddy!”
The security guards were very friendly. They told Keith they had found Matt alone and crying and asked him if he was lost. When he said yes, they told him they would help him find his mommy. The poor thing was so scared that he readily let one of the burly men scoop him up.
How scary to think about the panic we’d have gone through if Keith hadn’t happened to look up and see Matt at that moment. Only when he returned to the seats without Matt would any of us have realized he was missing. And that’s because we all assumed someone else had him.
We were all pretty rattled by the experience, but—as evidenced by this picture—Matt got over it pretty quickly:
But since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about my conversation with Connie. I know without a doubt that if only Keith and I had been at the game with the kids, we never would have lost Matt. He would have been right next to us the whole time. But with a long row of 12 seats and so many adults around, it was easy to lose track of who had him.
So here are the lessons I learned from this scary experience:
Be extra watchful of your kids when at a party or in a large group. Don’t assume someone else is watching them.
When walking away from your child, verbally hand him off to another adult. I walked away and left Matt with eight other grown-ups, but never said directly to any of them that they were now in charge of him.
Teach your kids never to leave the adult(s) they are with without their permission. Matt didn’t realize he was doing anything wrong by following me, but if he had asked my uncle or brother if he could go with me first, they likely would have realized I didn’t know he was coming.
And now, we’re trying to figure out exactly what to tell the boys to do if either of them ever gets lost again. When we asked Matt how he knew it was safe to go with those security guards, he replied, “They said they would find my mommy.” That means anyone could have told him that and he would have gone with them, whether they were police officers or kidnappers. It’s such a scary thought.
I once read an article in a parenting magazine in which an expert advised teaching kids that if they are lost and can’t find a police officer, they should look for a mommy with a child. That’s because at 3 and 4 years old—or even older—it can be hard for a kid to determine what is an official uniform. A mother with a kid has a very low probability of being a predator and could help a lost child alert the proper authorities (in this case, the security guards). She’d also likely stay with the child until he finds his family.
I’d like to think that in Matt’s case, he did recognize that the two men were security guards (they wore the same burgundy shirts and black pants as the plethora of other guards at Citi Field and probably wore name tags) and felt safe with them. But if we were in a different setting—say, at the beach—knowing who to go with would not have been as easy.
In any case, I am very thankful to the kind security guards at Citi Field for taking care of Matt, and grateful that everything turned out OK. Hopefully this post will help prevent other kids from getting lost as we head into the season of crowded beaches, fairs, sporting events, and more.
Do you have any other tips on what to do—and what to teach kids to do—if a child gets lost? Leave a comment here and share. It could help a lot of families!
Know a young tractor fan? He or she will love the new “Casey & Friends” book series published by Octane Press. The books give kids a glimpse into life on a farm and the machines of modern agriculture. They are geared toward kids ages 4 to 8, but I think even younger tractor buffs would enjoy them. The author—educator and national curriculum writer Holly Dufek—joined Pixar “Cars” artist Paul Nunn to help kids make the connection with farm equipment and the food they eat.
We received a copy of the second book in the series, “Big Tractors with Casey & Friends,” to review. The book was released last month. We also received a CASE IH Magnum 370 CVT tractor toy.
Matt and Nate have never shown great interest in tractors specifically, but they’ve always been big fans of vehicles in general. They both got really excited when they saw the toy tractor. They did the typical routine—fought over it, had it taken away, and finally agreed to take turns playing with it. Luckily it seems to be really well made, so it stood up to the yanking quite nicely!
Then we settled in to read the book. The boys were drawn in by the real photos of iconic red CASE IH tractors and the descriptions of the tractors’ parts. A cast of cartoon characters, led by a little girl named Casey, explains all of the tractors’ jobs and how they work. Each page has a sidebar with fun farming facts.
And now, here’s the fun part—giveaway time! Octane Press is celebrating the launch of the “Casey & Friends” series by giving a copy of “Big Tractors with Casey & Friends” and a CASE IH Magnum 370 CVT tractor toy to one lucky Double Duty Twins reader and a special kid in his or her life.
The contest is open to all U.S. residents. To enter, like Double Duty Twins on Facebook or follow the blog on Instagram at @jmwalters718. Then leave a comment here OR on the Double Duty Twins Facebook or Instagram pages telling me who you’d like to win the book and toy for. I’ll choose a winner at random on May 31.
UPDATE: The winner of the book and tractor toy is Amanda Evey! Thank you to all who entered, and congratulations to Amanda. Please check back for more exciting giveaways to come!