Incase you are looking for some fresh inventory at your house to help keep the little ones busy and happy, here are our (Nolan — 4 year old boy and Max + Maeve — 2 year old boy/girl twins) current obsessions (ALL from… you guessed it… AMAZON!!!):
Three Wheel Scooter // So we don’t have this exact one, but we have one just like it that our friend gave us awhile back. Nolan is SUPER into it lately… more than ever. Max hops on it too, but Nolan has been cruising on it! I think the three wheels and the lean to steer makes it fun and easy to (safely) go fast.
Reward Chart // Desperate times call for desperate measures and I will give any potential solution a whirl. We have been keeping this simple with only a few tasks that include “Sleeping Until My Clock Turns Green” “No Whining” and “Listen to Mom/Dad/Nana” LOL.
6 in 1 Fun Pack of Cards // These are HOT HOT HOT and Nolan asks to play multiple times a day. Miller has been teaching him each game and its wild to watch him pick up the concept and get really into them. Our faves are Slap Jack and Memory — and he’s getting really good.
MAX + MAEVE
DYSON Cordless Vacuum Toy // These were what we got the twins for their second birthday and they are obsessed with them! Nolan is too actually, so its been a lot of fun setting timers for rotating two vacuums between the three of them 😉 OH AND we had the other Dyson kids vacuum but its in storage – this one is a MUCH BETTER CHOICE than that one because you have to actively hold the button on the handle for the vacuum sound and so it doesn’t just stay on when they drop it and move on to the next thing.
Cash Register Toy // Such a classic! Nolan and the twins love playing pretend cash register. They have a ball with the scanner and money and credit cards.
Kiddie Table and Chairs // I have no idea why we did not have a mini table and chairs in our old house, but now living with Nana we realize how helpful it is to have for eating/coloring/playing etc. Highly recommend!
Twin Doll Umbrella Stroller // This is another fan favorite around here! We like pushing it around the house and up and down the driveway! Its cute and not too big and super lightweight.
Fully Loaded Purse // My sister in law got this for Maeve for Christmas and everyone is still playing with it. The hottest ticket items are the pretend Smartphone and the lip stick tube 😉
AND that is all I have for now! Working on getting back on my blog game while we #stayathome because I have been majorly slacking. As always, reach out on Instagram @kitty.mills if you need a thing!
Winter is here to stay and we would hate for the little ones in our lives to be uncomfortable in the cold! I am sharing a few of our favorite toddler winter essentials for your own kids and/or gifts for the mini humans you know and love! CLICK ANY PINK WRITING for links! As always, thank you for following along and do not hesitate to reach out with questions/shares/comments!!!
WIDGEON COAT. You have probably seen and/or heard of these cute and functional heavy fleece winter jacket but more than a few of moms have asked me about Max and Maeve’s coats (blue Widgeon for Max and Pink for Maeve) so felt the need to share the intel for those who are still in the dark. What do I like? The velcro fasteners are a GAME-CHANGER. Putting a coat on my children is an uphill battle, so it is key to be able to pop in the arms, pull the front closed, slap the Velcro together on the shoulder area and BOOM! FINISHED! Snaps and Zippers add more steps than necessary! Additionally, the weight of the jacket is warm and cozy without being a huge puffer that essentially eats a toddler up in bulk. It has a nice oversized HOOD for the stubborn littles who refuse a hat but might not notice a looser, pulled up hood as much. And they are just SO adorable and come in a variety of colors. Fancy moms throw a monogram on the center for the cherry on top touch! They run VERY LARGE – Maeve is 20 months and the 12 months fits her perfectly. You can roll the sleeves and let them grow into it so it lasts for more than a season, but be aware of sizing gap!
NURSERY SPACE HEATER – If your gut reaction to reading the words “space heater” is DANGER, I get it. I felt the same way. However, this time last year I was keeping myself awake on freezing cold nights wondering if the twins were shivering in their cribs since they couldn’t have blankets (choking hazard). My girlfriend/childrens’ product guru, Marianne, suggested a Vornadobaby Tempa Nursery Heater as she had recently bought one to address the same issues with her littles! Here is the product description from the site: The Tempa is like no other heater – built with the needs of parents and baby in mind. Tempa provides gentle yet effective vortex heat circulation that maintains a comfortable temperature. Effective heat circulation means the heater can be placed anywhere in the room and still keep baby comfortable. Two fan settings – “continuous” provides air constant circulation, while “auto” only runs the fan when actively warming the room. Safety is essential in the nursery, so Tempa has been designed to stay cool to the touch. Tempa has concealed cord management built right into the base with a stretchable cover that keeps the cord out of harm’s way and securely grips to the floor. Its unique tamper resistant controls keep children from turning Tempa on without parents’ knowledge and turns off automatically if tipped over. The smooth exterior features no sharp edges, no pinch points and an extra stable base.
WIRELESS THERMOMETER – Along that same nursery temperature wavelength… DO NOT BELIEVE THE TEMPERATURE THAT A BABY MONITOR DISPLAYS!!! The anxiety ridden text messages my friends and I have sent to each other the first few nights our babies have been in their cribs are almost comical to look back on. In the dead of summer/winter, do not be alarmed if your monitor registers a very warm or very cool temperature – as it is NOT always accurate. I love this little gadget to help give parents an accurate temperature reading in a child’s room. You can mount it near your child’s crib/bed or just place on a changing table/dresser, download the app on your phone (very easy instructions), and then you can check in on the actual temperature in the room without going in to feel it and risk waking a sleeping angel!
HATS – A cute winter hat serves both fashion and function! Last year I snagged these for all three kids at the recommendation of another amazing mama who has the same dynamic (toddler + twins) and had them on her cute kiddos! They held up great and still fit this year. This link takes you to a variety of colors and your choice between the “fur” or “wool” pom pom! Enjoy!
As an expecting mom, you see a lot of your OB/GYN during the months leading up to the big delivery date. The amount of information you take in during that time is astounding. Between the beginning phases of the dos/donts, ultrasounds, blood work galore, what to worry, and not worry about, tracking movements, potential signs of labor, when to call, when not call… the list is lengthy! I can’t say I remember everything that my doctor — who I (and ALL my of friends who also see her, literally 7 of us) am obsessed with (Dr. Hunter at GBMC 😍) — told me throughout my pregnancies, but one conversation that we had when I was pregnant with Nolan truly sticks out. I was asking her what she thought was the hardest part about being a mom (of 3), and without hesitating she said, “Childcare.” I nodded my head and gave her a confident “OH. I KNOW!!” when in reality I. HAD. NO. IDEA.
I THOUGHT I had a pretty good grasp on the whole childcare concept as my only job before the age of 22 was babysitter/nanny and my family and friends who had kids before me briefed me a good bit about the complexities of leaving your children in the hands of other human beings for periods of time. Looking back all I can say is: L. O. L. You think you know, but until you experience the thick, never ending layers of emotion surrounding the care of your child by someone other than you/your partner, you have no idea. GRANTED, I am not the most relaxed person in the world/have high expectations/want my children to be as happy and safe as possible, but I think a universal mom truth is that childcare is an emotional process for all parties involved.
SO, a brief little overview of our childcare situation (for anyone interested) followed by the things I tell myself and my friends when they begin to venture down the black hole of “I CAN’T LEAVE MY BABIES!!!”
OUR CHILDCARE BREAKDOWN
Monday-Friday 7:30 am – 5:30 pm THE BALL FAMILY DAYCAREaka an “in-home daycare”. From what I can gather in talking to friends who live all over the country, in-home daycares are more common to our region than other areas. An in-home daycare is when a licensed daycare provider watches a certain number of children of various ages (regulated by law as to how many and of which ages) in their own home. The daycare must follow certain rules and regulations and is subject to regular visits and coursework to keep the license intact. SO… Follow me on this one… its the year 2013 and my sister Anne is pregnant with her first child. She asks her sister-in-law Julia if the woman, Ann, who watches Brennan, Julia’s son, would potentially be interested in watching her soon-to-be born son too! Ann does not have a spot for Jackson, but has a close friend who lives around the corner, Jill aka Momo, who has been running a daycare for over 30 years. Anne meets Momo, they hit it off, and Jackson starts at Momo’s as a 3-month-old! Aunt Kiki (ME!!!) stalks Jackson and regularly picks up at Momo’s and develops a relationship with the baby whisperer/shining soul/incredible human being. 2015 rolls around and I am pregnant myself and share the news with Momo who reminds me there is one place and one place only where Baby Miller will be spending his days while I was teaching – MOMO’S!!! Nolan starts at 3-months with his big cousin Jackson and a few other kids and we realize that we are the luckiest parents in the world to have found someone who loves our son like her own, provides us with advice and guidance and comfort, and keeps us laughing. Momo was literally the best. She was another mother figure to us and more of a grandmother to our kids than a childcare provider. Imagine overnight date nights and spoiling them rotten all while teaching them how to be kind, happy little humans. It was so much fun telling our friends and family that we were not only pregnant with one baby the second time around but TWO #twins, but Momo was one of the first people we told and her reaction was THE. BEST. She cried and told me that in her 30+ years of watching children, she NEVER had twins in her care and she has ALWAYS wanted them. She was OVER THE MOON and her excitement became contagious and helped put some of our nerves at ease. In September 2017, Miller had to go to Florida for work with 8+ suitcases of parts for Costco’s in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island and I decided to go with him to help. Momo kept Nolan overnight that week because her house was home to him and she of course offered immediaelty. In retrospect, I am always so thankful for that special time they had and the stories she told me the next day about their one-on-one time because just two days later Momo had a massive brain aneurysm and died. It was truly one of the most shocking, devastating losses of my life, and I have lived through some pretty horrific tragedies. We were picking up the pieces after this loss and also trying to figure out what our day-to-day childcare plan would look like now that our rock was no longer with us. Enter Colleen – Momo’s daughter-in-law who is married to Momo’s only son and was a full time EMT at the time of her death. Colleen’s longer shifts allowed for longer stretches off and she was around the house helping Momo during many of those days so the kids knew and loved her. Colleen decided that she would quit her job to take over the daycare so that all of “Momo’s kids” could stay at the house that was more like a home away from home to them. The other kids are all school-aged now and the squad is comprised of only my kids and my sister’s kids. We feel SO LUCKY that these cousins get to spend each day together in their happy place. Its incredible knowing that they are loved beyond measure and enjoying being babies/kids before the structure and demands of school really pick up. They also ADORE Momo’s husband, “Pop” and her son, Brian. I could not imagine our full-time childcare scenario any other way, but of course I have friends who have nannies or use a formal daycare center who are equally as happy. The key is exploring all options and figuring out what feels like the best fit for you!
NIGHTS & WEEKENDS. As you likely know, I left teaching in 2017 and I am a full-time realtor 🙂 which means that nights and weekends are fair game in terms of work hours. Miller is a rockstar and true partner in parenting and handles our babes the majority of the time that I have to work outside of standard business hours. **HOWEVER** he travels 1-2 nights a week and happens to have a deep rooted passion for coaching Varsity Basketball 4+ months of the year, so things can get a little sticky for us! If Colleen can’t keep them for us, we explore the following options…
–OUR MOMS step in as often as we ask them to but full disclosure, with 3 kids ages 3 and under, ITS A TALL ORDER FOR OURSELVES, let alone an outsider. They are fully willing and capable but during this current season of life, it feels like a big ask to have one of our moms do dinner/bath/bedtime with all three, so we try not to ask for that most of the time.
–NAPP APP. If you live in Baltimore and are still reading my saga and have not heard of NAPP… stop. Go to the App Store. Download NAPP. And join the NAPP network. NAPP is a network of vetted sitters (think a local, higher quality version of Care.com) who can either be booked On-Demand through the app (you can see which sitters are available NOW or that same day) or at a later date/time by posting a “gig” that sitters can respond to as interested in and you can select the sitter of your choice. All sitter selections have pictures and profiles that provide experience/passion/reviews. It is seriously a god send and one of my favorite features is the fact that they have sitters at THE BEACH (Ocean City, MD/Fenwick/Dewey/Rehoboth). I know the founders (two boss babes) personally and I could not be more impressed by the community they are building. THANK YOU Katie and Claire!!!
–OUR NETWORK. OMG we have the best friends/family/friends of friends/kids of friends who have taken amazing care of our babies while we are doing our thing outside of being Mom and Dad.
NOW, HOW TO HANDLE the feelings and emotions associated with leaving your child with someone other than yourself… start with a DEEP BREATH. I feel you. The anxiety I felt as my maternity leave quickly came to a close in March 2016 was SO REAL and I was already extremely close and familiar with the person I was leaving Nolan with once I went back to work… SO if you are feeling those things, I SEE YOU!!! OR if you have decided not to go back and will be staying at home with your baby, those emotions and feelings are pretty damn real too. The funny thing about Mom DNA is that NO MATTER WHAT PATH YOU CHOOSE, you feel a degree of guilt/regret/curiosity as a result. Is this the right choice? Am I being selfish? Selfless? What do other people think? Is my child happy? Is this worth it? The list of questions go on and on and on and circulate around your head like a ferris wheel. And I am strictly talking about childcare for the purpose of going to WORK.
SO let’s venture down the path of childcare for PLEASURE – date nights, weddings, bachelorettes, self-care, working out, traveling… the emotions are NEXT. LEVEL. I’ll start by recognizing the prep work that goes into leaving… my 3 page note including diagrams of the pantry/dressers/sound machine controls/monitor directions etc. Laying out the correct diaper/PJs/pacis/lovies for bed time. Food. Drinks. Bottles. By the time I have completed the “pre-work” I am truly questioning whether its worth me even leaving to go to ___________. Thats where Miller comes in with the tough love and realistic reminder that its not rocket science, I am over reacting and over thinking things, and our kids are more than likely in better hands with the childcare provider than if they were with us.
One of my BFFs was texting me in the air on her way to California for her best friend’s wedding and was feeling ALL OF THE THINGS about leaving her kids for close to a week. My responses:
This is so good for everyone involved – you will get to spend some time nourishing your other roles like wife, friend, daughter etc!!!! Which are just as fulfilling and important as being a MOM! AND your boys will build that emotional intelligence and flexibility in a varied setting.
The boys will definitely be getting more love and attention than if you were at home juggling all of your usual tasks. Truly. I know we want to keep them as comfortable as possible and avoid shaking it up at all for fear of rocking the boat BUT that actually is not good for them or for us! Like it truly is great for them to see that they are flexible and can hang in various scenarios!!! They are safe and loved and they’ll be GREAT!!
For some reason what Sam Ponder said when she was talking about balancing a wildly successful and demanding career and being a mom to three tiny humans and a wife and a daughter and a friend… she said I commit to being 100% of whatever role I’m playing at that moment. So… when I’m home and I am MOM. When I’m at work I am an ESPN anchor/analyst/host. When I’m with girlfriends, I’m there. When I’m with my just my husband, I am present as a wife. ETC!!! Your identity is not limited to one role.
You work your ass off as mom and at work and now you’re gonna have some solid fun and laugh/dance/drink/eat because that’s what life is about. BALANCE!!!!!!! And we have these babes FOREVER. EVERYDAY. FOREVER. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint!! Getting away for 5 minutes or 5 days is totally allowed. Leaving doesn’t mean you love you kids any less but it’s so good for us as parents and people and it is great for our kids as well.
**This is one still very amateur mom’s take on childcare. As it is with everything, you have to do what makes you feel good at the end of the day, but just know that this mom feels the guilt/anxiety/satisfaction/fulfillment side effect of letting other people help me with my kids. YOU GOT THIS! XO!
I commonly catch myself referring to the first few months with both Nolan and then Max + Maeve as the TRENCHES. I actually do adore so many aspects of the small baby phase (i.e. cuddles, cruising around with a sleeping babe in an infant seat, watching the rapid development, etc!) BUT the two things that tend to outshine the amazingness of a fresh baby head for me are 1. SLEEP DEPRIVATION and 2. FEEDING ANXIETY. Honestly, you could almost lump these two into one overarching issue because the lack of sleep only heightens the already natural anxiety moms have about ensuring this new tiny human is thriving in the feeding department. For me, when the overtired fog starts to clear, I feel so much less stressed about production/nursing/formula/pumping/gas/reflux/spit up/latching… OMG the worry list goes on for DAYS… and I am able to gain perspective that the ONLY thing that matters is that I am feeding my children to the best of my ability in a way that is keeping us as happy and healthy (mentally and physically) as possible.
I will save my own baby feeding story for another day because my sorority sister, Kayla, (see above picture of us from 2009) has written hers and it covers all the bases fully! Kayla and I lived in the ADPi house together with 8 other girls during my junior and senior year at Charleston. Fast forward 9 years and we have 7 children between the two of us! WILD. Its been fun keeping up with the chaos of one another’s lives across states through social media and we definitely compare mom notes and war stories 😉 Kayla just started a blog called Hallelujah + Amen which you should definitely pop over to check out. In the meantime, she is guest posting on one of the most talked about new mom topics: Boob, bottle or both?! Without further ado…
Boob, bottle, or both?
I have had 4 kids in 4 years. Yes, you read that right. This means I have 4 children under 4. So, pause right now, take some time, and say a prayer for my sanity and me. Thank you, now let’s proceed.
I am a mom to a 3 year old, Parker, an 18 month old, Gray, and 4 month old boy/girl twins, Charlee & Crew. And while I’m not pro at this mom thing, I would say I’m pretty seasoned in my experience. From singleton pregnancies to multiples, I’ve been around the pregnancy block if ya know what I mean. Having kids does a lot to your body and mental state, and mine is no exception. These little munchkins have left me with extra weight I’m desperately trying to lose, postpartum hair loss which I wish would stop, some stretch marks which will stay with me forever, and a lot of weight on my shoulders as I stay at home with them and I’m responsible for their well being day in and day out. Would I change it for the world? No, not one bit, but as you can imagine, it’s hectic around these parts.
With every pregnancy, I’ve learned a little bit more about motherhood. As a first time mom with Parker, I was an anxious helicopter mom, with Gray, I let back a little but still didn’t ask for help or leave him until he was 8 months old, and now with the twins, I have someone over at least once a week if not more so I can get out of the house BY MYSELF (self care y’all, so important) and I left them to go out of town when they were 3 months old.
So, each pregnancy has been different and each way I have raised them has been different … and this includes how I have fed them. CUE DRAMATIC DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN.
YES, that’s right. I’m talking about feeding babies. Let’s preface this by saying I absolutely believe FED IS BEST. And what I mean by that is that I could care less how you feed your babies as long as they are being fed. You can nurse them, you can supplement, or you could never let them take one suckle from your boob. Just feed your baby.
I do believe there are extreme benefits to being breastfed of course, I’ve seen it first hand as I nursed Parker until she was a year old and then was able to provide pumped milk for her until she was 15 months old. I was proud that I nurtured my 6lb 14oz baby girl for a whole year and I was all she needed. I watched as my milk changed colors as she got sick and how breastmilk literally became the answer for anything and everything. Baby sick? Breastmilk changes to give them the antibodies they need. Baby acne? Put some breastmilk on it. Weird rash? Breastmilk. Don’t have creamer? Just squirt some breastmilk in your coffee.
Okay, okay. Totally kidding about the last one, but hey, if you’ve done it, I’m only kind of judging you.
While I do believe that breastfeeding helped me bond with Parker, it’s not the only way I bonded with her. I mean, Parker has always been a daddy’s girl. Her bond with her dad is STRONG and his nipples are absolutely useless. Again, while there were crazy benefits of breastfeeding, like never being able to forget your boobs at home, there were also some things that were hard. Trying to keep your milk supply constant, especially while working, and pumping are stressful. Feeding in public was SO stressful to me. And I’m not saying this is everyone’s experience, but it’s mine and there were definitely things that were difficult for me. I suffered from postpartum anxiety after Parker was born and that meant that I was anxious all the time when she was around others or without me. She rarely was watched by other people and I was home, EVERY NIGHT, at 8pm so I could nurse her to sleep, because I didn’t think anyone else could put her to bed like I could. When I look back on that year, did I really miss anything SUPER important to be home every night? No, but it was taxing on my mental state. But, we made it to a year, and thankfully it wasn’t too hard, except for the time I got mastitis and I was very close to cutting my nipples off.
So, fast forward to January of 2018 when Gray was born and there was no doubt in my mind I was going to breastfeed him. I was a total pro, right? Wrong! With Gray, I could never fully correct his latch and when he fed it hurt up until the time I stopped nursing him. In the beginning he was feeding for 30 minutes at a time and seemed to be doing good. He was happy and sleeping well, so I thought everything was going just peachy. I went in for his 4 month check up and he was off the charts in height, but in weight, he was super low. Like so low that he hadn’t gained any weight from his last check up. Now, that was concerning. So, I had to go back in for weight checks and he still was not gaining any weight by 6 months. That’s when the doctor talked about supplementing.
Give my baby formula? What? But I breastfed my first born for a year? I know how to do this, I’ve done this before. I felt like a failure. And when I look back, I know I shouldn’t have, but I did. After a long discussion with my husband, I decided if I was going to give him formula, it would be all or nothing. I didn’t want to sit and nurse Gray for 30 min. and then have to give him a bottle on top of that. It wasn’t fair to Parker who had to just sit there and watch me or TV while I was doing that, and also, my mental state just could not handle it anymore. I was also getting clogged ducts all the time and still at 6 months my nips were raw and blistered. I know TMI, but nursing him was so hard on my body and that is NOT normal. If I was a first time mom, maybe I would think that it was, but this was my second baby and I knew in my gut, something was not right. I was also in the midst of postpartum depression and I just needed help, and in this case, it was help feeding my baby. So, I did it, I gave him a bottle of formula, and ya know what? He took it like a champ and guzzled that sucker down. He started gaining weight, got some cute baby rolls, and was still the happy little guy he always was. Formula did what my body wasn’t doing for him and the world didn’t stop. Imagine that?
And then boom, fast forward again to April 2019 when my sweet little surprise twins were born. Finding out I was pregnant with twins was CRAZY to say the least and I knew I was going to have to surrender all my pride and ask for help. And thank heavens I got over that, because I needed help and still do. Two babies plus two other ones to take care of is a lot. Right off the bat, I decided for the well being of my exploding brain that breastfeeding was just not going to be an option. Now, I know plenty of twin moms who have nursed their babies whether it was for the first month or first year, and man oh man, do I give them MAJOR props. But for me, breastfeeding just wasn’t going to happen. I remember them putting Crew and Charlee on my chest after they were born and they started the “crawl” toward my boobs and I was like NOPE, someone grab me a bottle STAT. I felt like a new mom all over again because this was so new to me. How do I know if they’ve eaten enough or too much? Do I feed them every 2-3 hours like breast fed babies? Is this formula the right one for them? And while all those questions worried me, you know what I realized? You just figure it out. You do. Just like when I had Parker or navigated switching with Gray. You just figure it out. You trust your mama gut and you go with it. The twins are now 4 months old and they are they sweetest babies. They are happy and healthy and don’t care that they never got the boob. And do I think they’ll grow up crying to me about how they were never breastfed and tell me I’m the worst mom ever? No, they’ll probably use it as ammunition against the other two and make fun of them for one time being attached to my boob.
So, my point is, no matter how you feed your baby, do what feels right to you. Whether you breastfeed for 1 day, a week, or a year, or you stick a bottle in their mouth the first sign of sucking, IT WILL BE JUST FINE. The way you feed your baby does not make you a good or bad mom, remember that. All my babies have been fed different ways, all 4 are happy and healthy, and all 4 have unique and wonderful personalities, and that’s not because of what they eat, that’s because of a little DNA and a whole lot of love.