Tuesday, October 7, 2008

a few of my favorite things

Marianna will be three next month, which means several wonderful years of parenthood are already under my belt. Over that time I've kept my radar on the lookout for little tips, ideas, tricks of the trade, if you will, that I've seen or heard about that might work for our family. One thing is for sure: I wasn't inherently wired with all the creativity, know how, and genius it takes to be a great mom. But I quickly found out that no one is. Just as in the case of recipes, it's okay to borrow and trade parenting tips! In fact, my life would be a whole lot harder if I hadn't.

I'm dedicating this post to highlighting a few things that make my life as a parent a whole lot happier!

I'll start with my most recent discoveries involving the baby items that have WORKED big time for Adrienne.

First item on the list is this lovely swaddling blanket by swaddledesigns. My sister-in-law picked this up for me right before we brought Adrienne home, and she hasn't slept a night without it. Let me tell you, this thing has been a miracle worker. I wrap Adrienne up at bedtime, and she is almost instantaneously out. She sleeps cozy as a bug all night. I also discovered that it was the best cure for fussy moments. A good wrap in her blanket did more than any amount of rocking, strolling, patting, or any other soothing method I could think of! I recommend this for every new mom.

Another thing I got this time around was a baby sling. Mine is a hot sling, and while I don't use it on a daily basis, it's been extremely practical for some outings. Anytime when a stroller isn't necessary, the sling has been a great, comfortable way to carry Adrienne around, and now that she's old enough to sit up, she likes it even better.

This next one is for both girls. Someone several years ago told me about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, which is a non-profit dedicated to increasing literacy. Basically, you can sign your children up, and at no cost, you receive one hardback book a month until the child is five years old. We have literally built Marianna's library in this way, and the books she gets from this are among her very favorites. I just signed Adrienne up, and theoretically, she will get a different set of books. It's really a neat idea, and it's one of Marianna's highlights to go out to the mailbox and pull out her new book.

I had heard amazing reports about a Leap Frog DVD called The Letter Factory, so when Marianna was 18 months old I got it. This DVD goes through the alphabet and teaches the sounds for each letter. Marianna loved it immediately, and by 20 months old, she could go through all 26 letter and their sounds. It's really an amazing teaching tool, and what this DVD did in an entertaining way in just 8 weeks would have taken me months.

Going along with this electronic theme, I have found our little portable DVD player that we got last year for $50.00 to be a life saver. Our car doesn't have a built in player, so this has been perfect for any long car trips! Also, I've found that if I know I'm going to be in a place where Marianna needs to stay quiet for awhile, whether I'm going to a meeting or something else that isn't kid friendly, we just pack this DVD player, and she is quietly entertained. So as it turns out, it's portability makes it better for us than a permanent one.

Something that is a very important part of each day is craft time. Marianna love to express herself with art, and so I've found some items that are excellent and come with less mess. First of all are the Crayola Twistables, crayons that don't have paper that will inevitably be torn or eaten off! They are a little pricier than the regular crayons, but worth every penny. I've also discovered that Marianna enjoys watercolors just as much as the messier versions of paint. Everything washes out, and she can stay busier for an hour easily. And they're cheap! It's hard to go wrong with Crayola, and I learned the tough way that permanent staining items don't mean more fun--just more mess.

Recently I've discovered the benefits of an old fashioned timer. Instead of telling Marianna that she must immediately stop doing something (whether it be color, dress up, do puzzles, or whatever) I have started setting a timer to tell her how much time she has left. This has been especially effective at bed time! She has time to gear up, and then when the timer goes on, she is a whole lot more ready than when I just lay it on her.

Something that I love doing is saving money on the expensive clothes I see in catalogs or clothes shows by sewing them myself. I've discovered that pants and dresses like these are super easy to make, and besides saving big bucks, sewing comes with the added benefit of a sense of achievement of being able to do it yourself! I still buy the basics, but as time allows, I try and make 5-10 outfits each season. Most of my patterns come from the Children's Corner, and I can promise you that everything I do requires a very low skill level! It doesn't have to be hard to be cute.

I have a friend who just recently recommended a book for Marianna called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I was skeptical. But Marianna started showing interest in the beginnings of reading, so I thought it couldn't hurt to try. When I got it I was instantly puzzled by the lack of brightly colored graphics usually found in preschool books, but we pushed through a few pages anyway. It only took one lesson for me to be very interested in the approach, and now, already 8 lessons into it, I think it's really a great starting place for teaching her how to read. I expect some of it to get beyond her ability, but already she can sound out a few two and three letter words, so in my book, it's a winner.

Last, but certainly not least among the sanity savers in the list, is Oxi Clean. Up until last week, I wasn't sold on any particular spot cleaner--I indiscriminately sprayed all variety of cleaners on my stains and hoped they would come out in the end. Then my friend told me about Oxi Clean. Of course I knew the name, but I had never given it a try. I tested it on an item that spray and wash wasn't able to handle, and when Adrienne's outfit came out clean, I became a believer.

These are definitely some of my favorite things. I'd love to hear yours!


asplashofsunshine said...

Gotta love Crayola! What is childhood without Crayola! A little funny thing I noticed, I think you meant to say "increasing" literacy for the Dolly Parton series. Oops, haaa!

The girls are absolutely GORGEOUS and look so happy. Have fun with your favorite things... I'll have to check into a few of them that I do not know too much about. Take care.

Angie said...

ha! that makes a big difference =) thanks for letting me know.

Connie said...

What a fun post. I use oxyclean all the time, but never have used it as a direct stain treater (didn't even realize you could), only as an additive. I think I've learned something HUGE here! We've used Teach Your Child to Read with all our kids. LOVE that book!

Adam & Amy Wilson said...

Angie, this is so great! I love posts like this- very helpful and inspiring. I was going to ask you some of your tricks after seeing Marianna's amazing reading skills with our last visit. Thanks for sharing.

The Reiboldts said...

What brand of patterns do you recommend for sewing? I am just getting into sewing outfits for my little girl and love recommendations for other mothers. Also where do you recommend buying fabric? Chain stores or locals?

Mandi said...

You have a really great list of must haves for every mom! Our foster son really liked his swaddling blanket by swaddledesigns (his was the green one with brown circles)...it worked miracles for calming him when he was fussy and helping him to sleep better. Eventually we had to upgrade to the Miracle Blanket to keep him swaddled through the night. (: I also purchased a Hotsling when he was three weeks old and wanted to be held A LOT! He is 8 months old and still likes the hip carry position.

My other favorite items are:
- white noise sound machine
- Ultimate Crib Sheets
- Wubbanub Pacifier
- Praise Baby DVDs

Kenzie said...


You are awesome! Deacon and I LOVE to read books together and he has a great memory so I think he will do pretty well learning to read... However, I have several friends that have the Letter Factory DVD and we don't have it... until recently, I'd never even heard of it. I am DEFINITELY going to get that for Deacon for his 3rd birthday since it is so highly recommended. Next in line would be the book.

Thanks girl!
Love ya,

Angie said...

i went back and put a link to the brand of patterns I've been using, but really, I think if it looks similar the pattern is probably similar.

I also love what Mandi said about the white noise machine! We wouldn't survive with a power outage b/c that's a must. I'll have to check into that pacifier b/c I haven't heard of it before.

Judy said...

Great idea about the timer. I never thought of that.

Laurin said...

What a fun post, angie! of course you know we love the blanket and the sling around here : ). we finally got savannah a dvd player for the trip to my parents~it did make the trip MUCH more pleasant!

Emily said...

Hi Angie,
I have 3 little boys, 4, 2 & 3 months & I ordered the Leap Frog Letter Factory. We are planning on Home-schooling our kids & I am always looking for good ideas on helping them learn to read. I'm excited to get started! I'm also going to look for the book about teaching them to read in 100 easy lessons. I think that sounds wonderful! The thought of teaching reading to one of my little "balls of energy" is a bit stressful! Hopefully these will help! Thanks for sharing! BTW, the girls are beautiful! I love seeing new pictures of them.
Thanks again,
Emily in Mississippi

Laurie said...

Wow Angie,

Things sure have come a long way since my twin boys were born 37 years ago!!! But all these things sure make being a Gramma so easy. Oh yeah, Oxi Clean, I sure could have used it back then. I make a paste with it for those really tough stains and let it sit. Amazing stuff. I love reading all the comments from all you young mommies. Kids are the best people in the whole world. I love you and love seeing the girls doing so good. Hope your week is great!

Love, Laurie in Ca.

KrazyMom said...

Great items! Another one that my my daycare children can't live without is an aquadoodle mat. It is great to let them "draw" with just water! Set it out in the sun when done and they can begin again in just a few minutes! Hullabaloo is another great activity. The kids LOVE Cranium Hullabaloo and they are learning their colors / shapes while playing it.

We also have an infant here for daycare that used the swaddle blankets. I thought it was a life saver too as he would sleep so well in it. However, the other day he somehow rolled himself over in it, but couldn't get his hands free to roll back. Yikes! Just wanted to make you aware just in case. We are now trying to break his "swaddle addiction" which hasn't been any too easy.

Jena Baker said...

Angie--Great post! I love to hear about things that work good for other moms. My one recommendation is the diaper rash cream we couldn't have lived with out. It is resinol and it can be bought over the counter but Wal-Mart keeps this behind the pharmacy desk. You have to ask for it. Thanks for sharing some great suggestions.

Wray Family said...

I got so excited when I read about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (thought it would be a great "gift" for the 1-yr-old I care for)......only to find out it is only available in limited areas (no where near our home in Va. Beach) :( Loved your ideas though!!

Thanks, Susan

leslianne said...

i loved this post! i sure miss you guys and can't wait to see you at Thanksgiving!

Julie said...

Thanks so much for sharing all of these items with us! So neat!

Nick and Rachel said...

I vote for a carpet cleaner called Spot Shot. How would I live without Spot Shot?

Megan said...

Hi Angie and Nathan,
You don't know me at all, my name is Megan. I found your blog from the youtube video about Poppy. I was looking at some videos (started with 99 balloons about Elliot) because of our dear friends' little baby. She is 10 days old today, but has a rough road ahead because she only has 1/3 of her brain and is also dealing with Hydrocephalus. They don't know the cause yet, so it's not Trisomy 18. Your story is amazing and I just praise God that there are people like you who are praising Him through rough times. I read the beginning posts about little Poppy and smiled and cried with you. I pray that Poppy continues to touch lives and bring people closer to Jesus. Thanks for sharing!

Cathy said...

thank you so much! I just wanted to pop in and see those precious smiles on your beautiful girls.

Kim (marygracesummons.blogspot.com) said...

Hi Angie,
Wanted you to know that I am thinking of you and Poppy Joy today! I also love all your favorite things. All the leap frog videos are great. The next level reading one is good (the word factory I think it's called) and the Math factory. Both my girls have loved them!
Love ya,

Emily said...

Just thinking of you and Poppy Joy today. And I loved reading of your favorite things, too. Hope and I are using that reading book, too! :)

Kirsten said...

Thinking of you and praying for you today.


Just Me said...

Remembering Poppy Joy tonight. Loved your "favorite things" and all the cute photos of your girls.