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

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.

So This is One and a Half

When Aaron was born via emergency c-section at 28 weeks, each hour, each moment, each second that he survived and thrived in the NICU was a miracle. Every day, we held his tiny fingers and gazed at his tiny toes behind the heavy plastic walls of the isolette. We counted the days until he could come home and join the family, while simultaneously being scared to death about taking care of his tiny, fragile body without the ever-present monitors beeping through the night and the dim computer lights casting a glow over the tiny room that was his home for his seven week NICU stay. When he finally did come home, Josh and I rotated shifts through the nights, making sure he was still breathing, still moving, or simply fighting our own sleep to tend to the tiny cries from a five pound body as he suffered through gastric reflux and colic and a bout of bronchiolitis within the first few months of his homecoming. The nights were long and tiring. We argued and we cried and we had more love in our hearts for our tiny fighter than we even knew what to do with.

At some point we blinked, and our tiny little NICU graduate is now an energetic almost 18-month old. Full of energy, full of spunk, more tiring than ever but more loved than he could ever know.

One and a half is rambunctious.

One and a half is mommy and daddy trying to reach into a tiny mouth full of razor sharp baby teeth to make sure whatever he’s munching on is safe for human consumption, or at the very least incapable of choking him.

One and a half is laughing at toots.

One and a half is making sure the dog gets extra portions each night as mountains of spaghetti noodles and carrots go flying by the handful over the edge of the high chair.

One and a half is strong-willed.

One and a half is thinking sissy is the funniest person in the world, especially while she’s playing Just Dance on the Nintendo Switch.

One and a half is curious in the most wonderful way.

One and a half is learning to find his voice in a loud and sometimes overwhelming world.

One and a half is loving daddy more on Tuesday, but crying for mommy on Wednesday.

One and a half is funny.

One and a half is making sure anything within an arm’s reach finds its way to floor level, including shoes, remote controls, DVDs, and diapers.

One and a half is sharing toys, only to want them back immediately.

One and a half is splashing and kicking in the tub with a look of fascination in his eyes as he smiles up at mommy.

One and a half is sippy cups during the day but one last bottle at night while falling asleep in mommy’s arms in great-grandma’s old rocking chair.

Two will be fun. Four may be better.

But I know one thing…I’m going to miss one and a half.