Noobie Box Review

Time for another baby box review! The next baby box I tried after the Babylist baby box was the Noobie Box. These can be found at https://www.noobiebox.com. They do have other box options including subscription boxes – I chose to only get the free pregnancy edition Noobie Box, which cost $6.95 shipping. I truly enjoyed this box and feel that the shipping cost was worth it for new moms (or dads!). I’ll include some pictures of everything I received!

I love the samples that came in this box! The MAM bottle and paci is my absolute favorite. The Aquaphor tube and the Purell spray will be GREAT for baby’s diaper bag, and the little Cuties box of five diapers will absolutely be used! Overall, I’d say the Noobie Box is well worth the shipping cost. If you get one, let me know how your items compare!

Hello Baby Box by Babylist Review

Now that I’ve finally shared the news (we are expecting another baby boy!) I can start sharing reviews of the cool free and inexpensive baby stuff I’ve come across. Since this will be my husband’s and my second child together but third child in our family (full time stepdaughter, wild child two-year-old), everything I can get for free or cheap is very, very welcome. A family of five + a husky starts to get expensive!

Today’s review is going to be about the Babylist Hello Baby Box. I earned this by starting my baby registry through Babylist, and only had to pay $4.95 shipping for the box. Babylist is a very cool registry service, and if you haven’t checked it out, you definitely should! You’re able to add registry items from Babylist itself, Amazon, Target, Etsy, Buy Buy Baby, and more. All from one site! The consolidation makes creating a registry SO simple, which is what a busy mom like me needs.

The box came within a few days, and although it’s not the cheapest baby box I’ve found, I’d say it’s definitely worth the shipping cost! I’ll include some pictures of what I received in my Hello Baby Box in January 2019.

Parenthood is a trip! (Not a trap 😂)
The box comes with a nice little guide you can peruse as you build your registry!
The first gift inside was a paci and a couple of breast milk bags! I haven’t decided yet whether baby will be breast or formula fed, but I love being prepared for both options.

Better picture of the cute little pacifier!

Two Huggies diapers with a coupon for design-it-yourself diapers was next.

Sample newborn baby wash and lotion by Noodle & Boo. I’ve never tried the brand before but love samples!

A Velcro-adjustable bib by Green Sprouts. This came with a coupon as well!

Lanisoh nursing pad samples. It seems that these sample pads come in EVERY free bag and box anymore. Even my doctor’s office gave me some! These will come in handy if I decide to breastfeed baby.

20 free cards for us to put in our baby shower invitations.

My FAVORITE part of the Hello Baby Box was this adorable little Pampers bag! It’s high quality and will be great for the diaper bag. It came with a sample package of six wipes, a Pampers Swaddlers diaper, and coupons.

More breast milk storage bags!

This adorable “paci-pouch” was at the bottom of the box. I can definitely see us using this if baby ends up taking a paci. It helps keep pacis out of the bottom of a purse, diaper bag, pocket, etc.

Overall, I really enjoyed this baby box! I think it came with a lot that moms-to-be and new moms will actually use. If you want to check out the Hello Baby Box for yourself, just head over to http://www.babylist.com and start your registry!

Stay tuned for my next review…The Noobie Box!

Why Stepparent Love is a Different Kind of Love: A Letter to my Stepdaughter

When my husband and I found out we were expecting, he had one main fear – that I wouldn’t love his then six-year-old (my stepdaughter) as if she was my own. I wouldn’t love her “the same” as I loved my son.

And he was right, I wouldn’t.

To him, this meant that I would love her less. That there would be an enormous disconnect between siblings and that I would treat them differently. But what he didn’t understand, what one cannot possibly understand until they are raising another woman’s daughter alongside their own flesh and blood, is that stepparent love is not a lesser love. Stepparent love is a different love.

And so, my dear stepdaughter, I’ll try to explain it to you in a way that you may one day read and understand.

When we first became a family, you already had six years of life behind you. I didn’t witness your first steps, I didn’t feed you your first solids, or give you your first bath. I didn’t cry when you were born, and I didn’t get to hug your daddy and admire what a beautiful little baby you were in the hospital room after having you cut from my body during an emergency c-section.

But more importantly, you weren’t raised to tell me you love me. You weren’t raised to respect me as your parent, or to treat me as a mother, or to hug me goodnight, or to miss me when I wasn’t there, just as I didn’t get my first practice tucking you in until you were six-years-old. And while these may be reasons my love for you is different than the love I have for your brother, they are the very things that make our relationship even more special.

You CHOSE to love me. You picked me, and I picked you. When you tell me you love me, you mean it. Because you don’t have to love me. When I tell you I love you, it’s not because I saw you take your first breath or feel you kick and grow within me for nine months. My love for you was not instilled in me. It’s because I’ve gotten to know you, because we’ve shared nearly three years of life together growing as a family, and I truly love you and the person that you are.

Without you, your daddy wouldn’t be the man I love and married. You changed him, long before I ever came along. Long before your brother was even a sparkle in our eyes. Watching him raise you has been an honor and a blessing, and is undoubtedly part of the reason I fell in love with him.

Without you, your brother wouldn’t squeal with happiness every afternoon when it’s time for school to let out. I’d know nothing about Five Nights at Freddy’s, or Minecraft, or how to unconditionally love another woman’s child. My son wouldn’t have a funny, witty, creative and helpful big sister to learn from and admire.

Without you, our family wouldn’t be a family.

And so, my dear stepdaughter, my love for you may be different, but it’s no less of a love. I may never be your mother, but I will ALWAYS be your stepmother, and that’s a pretty important role to fill. I will continue to watch you grow and thrive, to support you in your every endeavor, to cheer you on in any sport or hobby you wish to pursue, and to be there for you any and every time you need me. I will tuck you in at night, I will bring you one more sip of water when you can’t sleep, I will brush the tangles out of your hair when you need help, and I will hold you when you need a little extra love. You are special, and you are mine…and I would choose you over and over again.

Copyright Rae of Light Photography Works

5 Things to Expect as the Parent of a Preemie

When my son was born at 28 weeks gestation, my husband and I were completely unprepared. Being a first time mother and having a perfectly healthy pregnancy up until the day my water broke (in the middle of the psychiatric hospital where I worked), we had not planned for a situation in which my son would spend his first seven weeks post-birth in the NICU, away from his family and unable to be held at all for the first four days out of the womb. Staring at my 2 pound, 14 ounce son through a glass Isolette was terrifying, and resources for the emotional and mental support of parents who were in our position seemed limited.

Now, 19 months into our experience, we are still reminded every day that our son came into this world three months early, mentally unready and physically unprepared. We have been very fortunate with our son’s health, and we can do nothing but give thanks that our miracle child survived. But as we approach his second birthday, I look back on some of the things we have experienced throughout this adventure.

1. Fear. The NICU is a scary place. There are continuously beeping monitors, humming computers, staff racing against the clock to save tiny, medically fragile newborns, parents crying, families sleeping, and a bond with other parents and the staff keeping your child alive that is unparalleled to any you will find outside of those NICU walls. But as much as you yearn to take your child home with you, as much as you prepare to take on the responsibility of caring for your premature child just as well as those trained professionals did, nothing compares to the fear you feel those first few nights (or weeks) at home with your preemie. With no computer screens to reassure you that your child’s heart rate is within normal limits and that his oxygen rates are stable once you leave the security of the NICU, you begin obsessively checking on your preemie every time he closes his eyes. You become hypervigilant in your respiration counting and you listen for the smallest sound of a steady breathing as your preemie sleeps in his bassinet next to your bed at night, just so you can keep him within eyesight at all times. Eventually the fear lessens, and you find yourself (and your preemie!) sleeping for longer stretches of time, but as much relief as I felt the day we “graduated” from the NICU, the fear multiplied tenfold as soon as we arrived home.

2. Therapy. Not the kind that involves a well-intentioned third party listener who has mastered the reassuring head nod and offers a slightly uncomfortable couch to sit on (although you may need that too!). Life with a preemie is full of everything from weekly physical therapy to monthly home visits with an early intervention case manager.  Nearly two years into our Preemie Experience, our son’s therapies have only increased as he has aged and as his prematurity has become more evident the further and further he falls behind his peers. Our normal week consists of feeding therapy on Mondays, physical therapy on Tuesdays, monthly meetings with an early intervention case manager, and for a while, we also had occupational therapy on Thursdays. Our son has special shoe inserts to help support his ankles, and at 19 months old he is still unable to walk. So we continue therapy. Therapy eventually becomes a way of life, and as tiring as it can be, you begin to find a community within the walls of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center waiting room. Each week, you see the same children with their supportive and loving families. You see kids of all ages, with all disabilities, delays, special needs and reasons for being at the center, and you start to feel at home there. Within those walls there is no judgment, no questions about why your toddler is unable to walk, or why he is wearing special shoes. It becomes a home and a safe haven, much like the NICU once was. And for that, you are grateful.

3. Comments from strangers, friends, and well-meaning family. “Wow,  he’s small for his age!” the woman at Kroger will tell you. “Is he running yet?” the cashier will ponder. “I bet it’s tiring chasing after him! Is he walking? Talking?” For the first few months home, you will be eager to share your story with anyone and everyone who will listen. You will excitedly tell the man on the sidewalk about all that your son has been through. LOOK AT MY MIRACLE CHILD! you will want to shout. Eventually, as you fall into your normal routine and your child’s prematurity simply becomes your new way of life, the well-meaning comments from others become tiring. Even the most thoughtful and supportive friends will say things like, “You’ll regret wishing he’d start walking when you’re chasing him everywhere!” All you can think of when you hear comments like that is the hours of physical therapy your son has endured, the tears streaming down his face as his feet were fitted for special shoes, the frustration you witness in his eyes every time he tries and fails to take a step. You think of the times you cried on your husband’s shoulder as your baby missed yet another milestone, and as you watch your friends’ kids meet and exceed each and every milestone they face. But then you look down at your smiling preemie’s face, full of hope and love and simply needing your support, and you realize that it doesn’t matter WHEN he reaches any milestones. All that matters is that your child is happy, healthy, and hopeful…and suddenly no one else’s comments matter.

4. Doubt about your ability to endure another pregnancy. As a woman who’s body gave up on her first pregnancy after only 28 weeks for reasons unknown to any OB specialists, there is an intense fear of going through another pregnancy that will result in another premature child, or worse. I think about how much we would love another child, how strong our family bond has become since going through my son’s prematurity experience, and the depth of the love I have for my son. I see others with their newborns and long for another baby. But as strongly as I feel about wanting another child, I feel equally selfish and guilty for wanting to potentially put myself, my family, and another child through that Preemie Experience once more. I feel like I don’t deserve to try again, because my body was not capable of carrying my first child to term. I feel scared and afraid to tell people that I would love to have another child, another sibling for my son and stepdaughter, because I put myself at risk for their judgment and their curiosity as to why I would wish that upon myself and my family. “Do you really think that’s a good idea? After all you’ve been through?” I’ve been asked (those well-meaning friends…). And I begin to doubt my desires and ability to carry another child to term. At the end of the day, however, it will be a decision between my husband, myself, and my doctor, and regardless of what we decide, our family will continue to be full of nothing but love and support for one another and our children.

5. Love and gratitude. The love you feel for your own child is unlike any other love in the world, but when you have a child who was born too soon, a child who doctors told you may have breathing problems, severe handicaps, or may not even survive, it’s hard to feel anything but gratitude. The nights can be long and tiring (we are currently battling 18-month sleep regression), but looking down at my son’s smiling face each morning while he stands in his crib reaching for mommy is nothing but a blessing. Our son has taught us the meaning of strength and perseverance, and we watch him grow and achieve new milestones (no matter how small!) while cheering him on each and every day.

Having a premature child is something you can never fully prepare for mentally, physically, or emotionally. Preemie parenting is full of setbacks, obstacles, celebrations, frustrations, support and resources you never knew existed…and so, so much love.

19 months ago, our son was born too soon and abruptly taken away from us at only 2 pounds, 14 ounces. He was intubated and taken to his first home, a glass box safe within the NICU walls.

Today, that child is my hero.

Date Night

As I clean the macaroni and cheese off the floor, my shorts, and my toddler for the 12th time in as many days, all I can think about is a date night. I dream of dressing up in my fanciest outfit, heading to the nicest restaurant in town with no screaming children in tow and spending one-on-one quality time with my husband. I picture us holding hands across the table, staring romantically into each other’s eyes, kindling our love, and talking about things other than my son’s latest poop size and my stepdaughter’s swim lessons. It’s probably the most common recurring fantasy I have since I joined the ranks of the best (mediocre?) in motherhood a mere two years ago.

Planning a date night has proven to be much more difficult than Cosmopolitan made me believe as a naive teenager, mentally planning and preparing for my future with the man of my dreams. Work schedules, kid schedules, childcare issues and sheer exhaustion have rendered date nights a thing of the past. But still, I dream.

Is this what parenthood is?

When do we get time off?

Typically, we go a few months casually mentioning date nights yet never planning them. My off time is spent taking care of the kids while my husband works, and our nights consist of helping with homework assignments and giving baby baths. My desire and need for time off grows by the day but I try to contain it, knowing that the logistics of planning a date night and acquiring childcare is a near impossibility. I envy the coworkers who get to have meals with my husband at work, child-free and undivided. At some point in the whirling chaos of our lives, several months, toddler tantrums, fights with the eight-year-old over technology time and spaghetti dinners later, we both realize it’s a necessity.

“Let’s have a date night Friday,” Josh will say, and I’ll breathe a sigh of relief. We’ll contact family and friends and find anyone available to babysit our chaos and subsequently beg them to relieve us, even if just for a few hours.

When Date Night finally comes, I’ll search my closet frantically for date appropriate attire. I’ll realize nothing fits anymore since having my son (18 months ago) and vow to clean out my closet and stop dreaming that I will one day wear a size 6 again. I’ll resort to dressing up in my fanciest mom jeans and least ravioli-stained top, and we’ll head out to the nicest budget-friendly restaurant we can think of with no screaming children in tow. I’ll spend one-on-one, quality time with my husband. We’ll hold hands across the table, romantically stare into each other’s eyes, and realize that it doesn’t matter what we talk about, because we are in it together, no matter where we are. We’ll pay the check, and get home just before nine so that we can still kiss the kids goodnight and tuck them in. We’ll lay down and finish the Netflix movie we started the night before, while drifting off to sleep.

A perfect date night.

And the cycle begins again.

Hug Me, Mommy

Hug me, mommy,

Please just hold me tight each time I cry.

I know you’re tired and I’m sorry.

Maybe one more lullaby?

 

Guide me, daddy.

Show me how to know the right from wrong.

No one’s taught me yet,

I haven’t been here very long.

 

Lead me, mommy.

Please, I just want you to hold my hand.

I know I’m very little,

But I’m trying to understand.

 

Show me, daddy.

I want to grow up big and strong like you.

But I won’t know how to act,

If you don’t show me what to do.

 

Teach me, mommy.

Please just have some patience as I learn.

I don’t know very much quite yet,

I just now got my turn.

 

Love me, daddy.

I know I’m small but I’ve got a mighty heart.

And though you may not see it yet,

I’ve loved you from the start.

 

Help me, mommy.

I need you to help me learn and play and grow,

I know that it may take a while,

But there’s so much I want to know.

 

Protect me, daddy.

Keep me safe. I trust your arms the most.

And when I’m feeling scared at night,

Please hold me to you close.

 

Please remember that I’m little,

I have a long, long way to go.

And it won’t be long before

I won’t be little anymore.

 

 

Mom Guilt

Am I doing enough?

This question races through my mind daily, from sun up to sun down.

Am I doing enough for my preemie son? Am I doing enough for my stepdaughter? Am I doing enough for my husband?

Am I doing enough for myself?

After my husband and I got married, we decided that I would take a part time position at work in order to be home more with the kids and avoid so many days of childcare needs. I would work one to two days each week, primarily on weekends, and would therefore be available to pick up my stepdaughter from school, take my son to each and every therapy and doctor appointment, and keep up with the grocery shopping and the day to day needs of the house. I had visions of a freshly cleaned home each day, neatly folded laundry, and me, the perfect little housewife, learning (mastering, even) a recipe or two to feed the family for dinner after taking a walk in the park and maybe stopping for ice cream on the way home.

The joke is on me, I guess. And perhaps my husband, too.

As my son gets older and more mobile, his firecracker personality shines brighter and brighter. Simply keeping him alive is a full time job. My husband sometimes comes home to a house messier than it was the day before, me still wearing my pajamas and immediately defending (unprovoked) all the reasons why nothing has gotten done.

As if he doesn’t know that our son is fully capable of tearing down an entire shelf of DVDs, shattering a floor lamp and spilling juice across the rug in record time if we dare look away to even pour ourselves a drink (not that it’s ever happened…)

Still, I feel guilty. Am I doing enough?

Some days, I can’t handle another Minecraft story from my stepdaughter, or another breakdown of the latest DanTDM YouTube video, or another minute of watching Mario bounce across the Nintendo Switch screen. Sometimes, I zone out into a world of blog posts and Facebook while she continues on, wanting me to understand and love Minecraft and British blue-haired video gamers as much as she does. Those few zoned out minutes help me re-center and refocus, helping me hopefully be able to give myself more fully to my kids and my husband at a later time, even if it’s just by minutes. Then we enjoy dinner together and talk about her day at school.

But still, I feel guilty. Am I doing enough?

Sometimes, my husband gets home from a long work day, tired and worn out. I ask how his day was, and he usually asks what I did that day. Sometimes, the only answer I can give him is, “We watched Bubble Guppies and I paid a medical bill.”

And I feel guilty. Am I doing enough?

Nap time usually comes with its own private dose of daily mom-guilt. It’s the one hour a day where I can (could?) clean the house, catch up on laundry, take a shower, eat lunch, and breathe. But some days, all I can bring myself to do when Aaron naps is lie down and watch Netflix and take a nap of my own.

And I feel guilty. Am I doing enough?

I want to be everything my family needs me to be. I want to be the best mom to Aaron that I can be, the best stepmom that Adelia could ever imagine, and the best wife Josh could ever want. But some days, the most I can do is get up, keep the kids alive, tuck them in that night and tell them I love them, and do it all again the next day. Some days, we don’t even leave the house. And that’s okay. Motherhood isn’t always perfect. It’s not always organic snacks, homemade crafts, fun Pinterest activities and cloth diapers. Some days, it’s simply being there for your family. It’s talking about your day. Snuggling on the couch. Watching funny YouTube videos. And nicknaming the laundry pile “The Mountain.”

Eventually, The Mountain will be washed and neatly folded. Eventually, the toys will be picked up, books will be put away, and there won’t be a sink full of dishes. Eventually, my husband will come home to a perfectly cleaned house and a home cooked dinner, and we will sit down together at the dinner table. The toddler won’t scream and fight about sitting in his high chair, and handfuls of food won’t end up on the floor, only to be quickly licked up by the dog. But that day is not today.

And that’s okay.

As my son snuggles up close to me during his bedtime bottle, contented and peaceful, and my stepdaughter hugs me goodnight and tells me she loves me, I realize my mom guilt is unfounded. The family movie nights, the random unplanned trips to Pelican Snoball, the trips to the grocery store together, the time spent talking about our days, it’s all enough. The days when I’m tired and can only exert enough energy to just be there, it is enough. What my family needs is ME.

I am doing enough.