Posts Tagged ‘favorite things’

Favorite Things: Coronavirus Edition

My asthma has been flaring up, likely from anxiety about spread of COVID-19. There are moments I have to remind myself that I have no fever or other symptoms, and the people in my direct contact are indeed safe.

The pandemic has caused many of us return to the things we tried to give up for lent: nail biting, screen time or alcohol. (My finger nails are a hot mess!) Our house has had a few tensions like any one else’s, but we haven’t gotten it all wrong.

Wes and I have been practicing gratitude by sharing each night for the last year or so one thing in which we’re grateful. Recently his answers have brought me to tears and laughter, and it occurred to me that I haven’t shared a “favorite things” post in a while.

Here’s a few random things that we enjoy and use, and perhaps one of them may bring a needed smile to your face, too.


<<Newest Discoveries>>

We discovered this funny app a few weeks ago. You post on an imaginary social platform, and thousands of bots “like” and comment with ridiculous replies. It has made us giggle and scratch our heads! (Fair warning, though, I haven’t yet found a language filter.)

UNICEF Kids Power Band
Wes mentioned that he misses going to his specials during the school closure – particularly Dance & Drama, where his classmates complete group exercises to “unlock” opportunities to send high-protein food packets to malnourished children through UNICEF. It sounded cool to me, too, and I researched their family fitness program, snagged a couple activity trackers on eBay, and now we’re competing against each other for highest number of daily steps. In a week, we’ve been active enough to “earn” a dozen therapeutic food packets sent to kids who need it most.

Loog Guitar
Wes received a 3-string acoustic guitar by Loog for Christmas, but he’s been intimidated to try it until now. It helps kids learn fingering and strumming in a simpler way than with a standard 6-string guitar, and the company makes chord flash cards and a cool app to keep players engaged. For at-home “Music Class,” he is slowly learning how to play, though he says it hurts his fingers. (I remember those days!) It’s been fun to have an excuse to dust off my old guitar and play with him, too.

Practicing A minor

There are hundreds of homeschooling resources available and many lists of suggested activities floating around. We’re excited about Wesley’s upcoming virtual classes on Outschool – PokéPlants: An Introduction to Plants (and Fungi) using Pokémon! and Zelda and World Mythology. Depending on how these go, we may sign up for a few more during the next six weeks.


<<Baby Favorites>>

Cloth Diapers
We’re a part-time cloth diapering family, but now that we’re at home for the foreseeable future, the diapers are getting even more use. I used a variety of cloth diapers for Wesley’s first year and wrote a blog post on the experience, and this time around, we opted for cheaper ones. I’ve been really pleased with Best Bottom Diapers (similar to the more expensive GroVia) for their simple button inserts and reusable cover. We also have a handful of Alva Baby pocket diapers (bought on Amazon), and they’re just as good as the more expensive brands.

One more suggestion: invest in some Rockin Green detergent, and add Bac Out for eliminating the ammonia stinkies! I pour in about 1/4 cup in the pre-wash cycle.

Baby Signing Time
Still love this series a second time around, and nearly 10 years later! Maisie appreciates that we know what she’s referring to and can communicate effectively with us. While she does babble and “talk” quite often around us, she only says between 10-20 words. However, she can sign more than 50.

The songs are generally catchy and minimally annoying, and even Wes likes to watch one of the four 20-minute episodes with Maisie. We never did get much further than Rachel and the TreeSchoolers, which is another quality educational program from this company, though I know Signing Time is well-known and popular.

Signing “water” while in the bathtub

When Wes was a toddler, we didn’t worry about him falling down the stairs, because the only steps were to the basement, blocked by a door. He also wasn’t interested in moving from Point A to Point B, unlike Maisie, who has already boinked her head more times than we can count.

In this house, we have a prominent staircase with a bannister on one side and a wall with crown molding at railing height on the other. It has made for a challenge in finding the right baby gate to keep Maisie downstairs. I finally found it, though: a removable, retractable gate that can attach at an angle. It’s pricey at $120 – and accessories may be required to attach like on our stairwell. But with all the perks included, so far it’s worth the cost.

OneKid Road Coat
During Maisie’s first winter, my mom got her a unique snow suit with an inner zipper that accommodates a seat belt harness in a much safer way than a regular snow suit or coat. This winter she used a second-hand coat found at a consignment sale, and once washed, the stuffing from the arms gathered in the shoulders and made her look truly beefy. It’s been such a pain to strap her in the car, and I’m sure it’s not safe.

I recently purchased a “transition coat” for less chilly weather from OneKid, the same company as the cool snow suit with the same inner zipper. Granted, we haven’t been traveling in the car too much lately, but getting her in and out has been a huge improvement over her bulky winter coat. I like it so well that she now has a down-filled version for next winter!

Notice the rad unicorn design!


<<Current Necessities>>

Moodstruck Lip Exfoliator
Cold weather may be heading out, but my skin is still so very dry, including my poor chapped lips. This Younique purchase was a splurge, but it’s one of the best things I’ve tried. You don’t know how much you needed a lip exfoliator, seriously.

AYR Saline Nasal Gel
Ugh, crusty noses are the worst. My mom introduced me to this stuff a few seasons ago, and it’s great for the kids as well as my own allergies. If you have dry skin around the nose, or it’s stuffy or runny, try it and be impressed.

Cetaphil DailyAdvance Lotion
Speaking of dry skin, I’ve been washing my hands so often throughout the day that they’re in bad shape. One of my friends asked for lotion suggestions on a Twitter feed, and I mentioned Cetaphil’s line of products. I figure it’s good enough to mention here, too, because it’s become a necessity around our house.

DIY Lysol Imitators
I’ve made my own floor cleaner since my weird MRSA infection last summer because I had trouble finding products that could kill the bacteria. Given the current demand for cleaning products, I’ve been making additional batches of disinfectants. Here are my recipes for floor cleaner and household spray.

Disinfectant Floor Cleaner:
– 1-2 gallon(s) hot water
– 1 cup white vinegar
– 1 cup rubbing alcohol (optional)
– 1 tsp blue dish soap (optional)
– 10 drops tea tree oil
– 10 drops sweet orange oil

Disinfectant Household Spray:
In a 16 oz glass spray bottle, combine (and shake):
– 12 oz rubbing alcohol (or nearly to the top of the bottle)
– 1/2 tsp hydrogen peroxide
– 30 drops tea tree oil
– 15 drops each of oils: eucalyptus, lavender, lemon


We’ve found that spending at least 15 minutes outside each day, regardless of the weather, has also brightened our moods. Today was nice enough to take a family bike ride around the neighborhood – and we were far from the only ones with the idea.

I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

Stay safe, healthy and smart out there!

Posted: March 25th, 2020
Categories: Leah
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Enter Sandman

Exit light | Enter night
Take my hand |We’re off to never-never land

Dreaded Sleep. Everyone I live with is terrible at it. She may be cute as a peach, but Maisie is the worst at night, and daytime naps are a gamble. Wesley has “a scary imagination,” in his own words, which keeps him from resting peacefully. Some nights he’s up for two hours trying to settle himself into slumber. Steven is the lightest sleeper you’ve ever known, startling at any noise (ahem, my snores) and tossing around.

Every night I pray for stamina and endurance and to not get annoyed. I’ve adapted enough that either I 1) drift off quickly (and have one ear open) or 2) function enough on adrenaline to get by. But lately I feel like my life is spent trying to get these three people to sleep, and I’ve tried SO MANY PRODUCTS to survive aid us.

The Natural Baby Sleep Solution (fascinating and pretty accurate)
The Wonder Weeks (just as helpful as with Wesley!)

Angel Dear lovies (Wes named his “Didi” and so naturally that’s what Maisie will call hers)
Cloud B Twilight Turtle (Wes still sleeps with it at night)
Weighted blanket (A perfect Christmas present! Seems to work well!)
Nested Bean Zen Classic weighted swaddle
Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit (it’s helping, a little)

DreamTents bed tent (makes him feel cozy and safe)
Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Soother (seems to be more distracting than soothing)
Marpac Dohm sound machine (hands down the best)

RMO Counting Sheep essential oil roller (if nothing else, he smells good)
Lavender essential oil in a difuser
Nuby Soothing teething tablets
Melatonin (so far, this has helped Wes tremendously, but I am cautious about its regular use)

This list looks crazy long. While some things work for a time, the one thing that works every time is, well, time. And proximity. That is, every family member sleeps if they’re physically touching me.

We’re trying a secondary self-soothing technique for Maisie, since I can’t handle another night of crying-it-out. (Steven wins all the awards for his stubbornness. It’s because of ME that we’re even in this mess!) It involves fading – staying right by her side as she falls asleep and slowly moving further away each night. I haven’t yet made it past the crib because she loves holding my hand and trying to grab the hair that falls as I lean into her crib.

My aching back and nearly-numb limbs get a good stretch as I make my way back to our bedroom throughout the night – sometimes as many as four times.

And then there’s sweet Wesley, who hates to be alone, fears the dark and works himself up over strange outside noises. Steven helps get him ready for bed, and I’ll pop in to say goodnight after Maisie’s stable. Some nights it’s thirty minutes before I can calm her down, and I’ll later find Wes with a book and a flashlight.

“Mama, can you stay with me?”

He prefers that I crawl into his bed tent with his comforting lights and weighted blanket and stuffed animal friends and pray and talk until he gets drowsy. Some of the best conversations happen under that tent! I used to get so upset over his dependence; I now (usually) cherish this time.

After I’ve comforted the two kids, there’s hardly an evening left for me to enjoy. Many nights I don’t have the right attitude and grumble over the sacrifice. I sigh and complain and throw the bedcovers to the side. I pray with desperation and plead, “PLEEEEEEASE let us sleep tonight!”

Instead my focus should be praying for discernment. I recently heard a speaker share a few best practices for mothers. Turn my worries into prayers. “What do I do now?” becomes “Show me how to _____ “

This season will pass. Someday. My kids will likely never know how their concerned mother worried over their sleeping habits. I hope they only know how well we loved them.

[With wisdom and understanding] 24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. -Proverbs 3:24

Posted: February 27th, 2019
Categories: Leah
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Comments: 2 Comments.

Confessions from an Aging Off-Brand Consumer

tasteeosI’m one of those people who buys things on sale, uses coupons and frequently purchases store brand items to save some money. This is one of the things that drives Steven most nuts because he has a specific preference on many items. Throughout our marriage, I’ve learned it’s best to go ahead and buy the $4 box of Cheerios, but I still skimp on products that only I use.

The ironic thing here is that I’m an advertising graduate in a marketing and communications career. You’d think I would be highly brand loyal, but with the exception of make-up and soda, I’m all over the place.

However, the last several appointments to the dentist, eye doctor and hair salon have led me to make major changes, including brand non-loyalty. I realize I’m not old, but man, I’m starting to feel oldER based on the scolding I’ve received in the last few months. And everyone asked me what products I was using.

“Your teeth are fine, but you have gingivitis pretty bad. If you don’t change your dental hygiene, you could lose your teeth in a few decades or less.”

I guess I’ve always known that I could treat my gums better, but this was a wake-up call. I ditched my 6-month-old toothbrush and bought an electronic Sonicare 2 Series with plaque control. I’ve liked it so well that I bought the kids’ version for Wes (and it has an app, of course!). Twice daily I use dentist-recommended POH dental floss and follow up with Listerine mouthwash, which replaced my Target brand substitutes.

“Your corneas are pitted along the bottoms of both eyes. It’s reverseable, but if you don’t change your habits…this is how people lose their eyes.”

I was floored. I’ve never had eye health issues other than needing contacts/glasses. I started to blame it on my 2-month delayed appointment and I made my contacts last that much longer, but this new eye doc quizzed me well. How long do you wear your contacts? How much screen time in a day? How long do you use the same contact lens case? She asked these AFTER she noted my pitted eyes, and then firmly told me to change what I was doing.

Did you know that you’re supposed to use a different contact case every two months? I’m also guilty for keeping solution in the case for far too long. I swapped out my off-brand solution for her recommended BioTrue and now regularly insert Refresh Tears eye drops to keep my eyes moist until they heal.

“Yeah…your hair could be healthier.” (This was the nicest of the recent “fear tactics” by far.)

I don’t often get my hair cut, but I’ve had an unusual amount of breakage that I’ve never attributed to less-frequent trims. I blame it on last fall’s Atlanta escapades, where I lost my toiletries and had to use hotel products that possibly ruined my hair. Possibly my hair was already ruined?

This week I started a hair repair strategy with Argan oil – replacing my drugstore, whatever’s-on-sale shampoo. It involves a hair mask procedure, which tacks on an additional 10 minutes, but until I chop off several inches later this year, my fingers are crossed that it will help. I’m using nothing fancy here, just something I found on Amazon, but again…hopeful. I also pulled out some (rare, in the cabinet name-brand) products I haven’t used in a while – Kenra Blow-Dry Spray and Silkening Gloss.

Never have I felt dirtier and more embarrassed. Each doctor/specialist assured me that my hygiene wasn’t bad, per se; rather my body has been able to tolerate a lot over the years, and now, well, it can’t. Next month is another birthday, and I’ve got to get my body into shape by changing not just the routine, but the things I use. Did you SEE all the name brands above?!

Steven jokes that my time spent getting ready in the morning and before bed has more than doubled, but I’m really trying to make good, healthy choices before things get out of control. This extends into other areas of my life, too, as I leave my early 30s and enter mid 30s. Somehow that slight age difference seems older, scarier and more permanent.

My hope is that next appointments will be full of praise, but I’ll probably still buy off-brand cotton balls and bandages and the occasional “Tastee-Os” to offset the cost of my new splurges.

Do you have experience with any must-have product I need to try?

Posted: April 10th, 2016
Categories: Leah
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Favorite Things: Wes Edition

Few words but many smiles

I still haven’t taken his Month 8 photos, so instead, here’s a list of The Favorite Things of Wes.

Food – This kid eats a lot. Well, I guess I don’t really know for certain, but he seems to eat more than the other kids his age. This isn’t saying much because the 2 little people his age that we see most often are teeny tiny girls somewhere between the 15-25th percentiles. A typical day includes: 8 oz bottle for breakfast, smaller bottle mid-morning, with a few snacks in between. 4-6 oz of solid, pureed food for lunch, followed by another bottle. Then a late afternoon or evening bottle comes before a dinner of another 4-6 oz of pureed food.

I really like making his food. I’ll order specific veggies and fruits from our Green B.E.A.N. home delivery service and plan out my Sunday afternoon of food-making. I skip making apple sauce and just buy a huge jar of natural stuff at the store, but man, I love scooping out the tender flesh and juices of squash and sweet potatoes, steaming greens, pears and coming up with interesting combinations. He’ll pretty much eat it all – given it’s got some sweetness to it.

  • Bananas – STELLAR
  • Apple sauce – Love it, like whoa
  • Pears – It’s sweet, so therefore, he’ll eat it.
  • Green beans – Yes.
  • Broccoli – Amazingly, positive.
  • Squash – Meh. Only good when “hidden” within others.

I use a Ninja food processor and loooooove it. It’s fast, easy to clean and only has one button (on the top!). We make smoothies with it, and I’ve also been treating myself to “ice cream” (frozen banana + peanut butter + cocoa) on these unseasonably warm nights.

Then, I freeze the food in one-ounze cube silicone trays, pop them out into freezer bags the next day and store them in my deep freeze, all labeled and ready to go. It’s super fun to pick out the menu for the day.

Baby Mum-Mum – We recently rediscovered these rice husk crackers. Meaning, I had bought them and Wes wasn’t ready for them and it was a waste of his time, but now he squeals at the sight of the bag. They’re great. Fast-dissolving, I don’t worry about him choking on these things, and he loves to grasp it. I usually have to fight off the dogs when he’s eating one, however. And I love hearing that sweet little noise of cracker scraping against his bottom teeth. He feels like hot stuff when he eats one of these babies.

Vtech Baby’s Learning Laptop – This was a Christmas present from Pa & Nana. If he sees it across the room, he grunts until you bring it to him. With the lights, sounds and music, who could resist pounding it?

Ambi Twin Rattle – Another Christmas present, but from Grandma and Grandpa. I find myself playing with this addictive & captivating gear toy.

OBall – Easily picked up and thrown by little hands, Wes can’t get enough of this ball. We can spend 10 or more minutes rolling it back and forth. You can see the excitement he feels as his arms and legs spread wide and his hands open and close quickly. Can’t go wrong with an Oball or two!

Taggie Blanket – This small blanket is quickly becoming Wes’ lovie. He instantly relaxes and sports sleepy eye when he grabs it. The little silky tags around the sides find their way into his mouth, in his grasp and over his face. It’s a perfect size, and it probably should be washed.

Homedics Soundspa Projector – Once all snuggled in his jammies, tucked into his crib with his lovie, Wes enjoys a light show on the ceiling as he falls asleep. I did a lot of research on baby projectors, and this one seems to be the best in most categories: price, timer, movement and interchangeability. He cranes his neck to see the display even before he’s lying in his crib, so I know he likes watching the jumping sheep fly across his ceiling. We’ll be taking this with us when we travel this summer.

My kid has good taste.

Posted: March 27th, 2012
Categories: Leah
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Comments: 2 Comments.

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