New Baby in the House: 5 Must-Haves for Your Older Child

I became a mom for the second time about a year ago. My take-two crack at motherhood was a lot different from the first one: I knew what to expect this time around. I also knew the baby products that I did and didn’t need (crucial: diapers, and lots of them; not so much: diaper wipes warmer).

I didn’t know, though, that I needed to invest in some products for another member of the family: my older child, who was 3 when her younger sister arrived on the scene. As it turns out, I spent more time and $$ buying items for my older child rather than my newborn baby, who made do with many of her big sister’s hand-me-downs.

These things helped Numero Uno adjust to life with a sibling. Here you go, second-time moms and dads: five must-haves for your older child once baby comes home.

1. Easy-to-open snacks. The first few weeks after giving birth, you’ll have about two minutes tops to feed your older child breakfast (Cheerios), lunch (more Cheerios), and dinner (hmm…Cheerios?). And she’ll need snacks throughout the day, too.

I found it helpful to keep a variety of easy-to-open snacks, in easy-to-reach shelves in the pantry and refrigerator, handy for my 3-year-old. Think a box of crackers, a bag of Craisins, cheese sticks, and prewashed containers of fruit. This way, you’ll be able to feed and rock the baby to sleep without being interrupted (“Mom!”) to help slice an apple.

2. Activities for home. It can be hard to take your older child to their once-beloved library story time, swim lesson and gymnastics class with a baby in tow, especially in the first month. So plan some home-based activities to keep your kiddo entertained, but more simply at home.

Some examples: My older daughter can play for a long time with figurines such as Calico Critters and the cast from “Doc McStuffins,” setting up scenes and making up stories for them.

She also loves getting dressed up and acting out stories herself. Stores from Barnes & Noble to Party City sell great dress-up gear, for boys and girls alike, that can double as Halloween costumes come fall.

One more idea: a parachute like this one. There are so many things kids can do with a parachute.

New Baby in the House

3. An activity for outside the home. All that being said, it’s nice to have one activity outside the home that’s just for your older child, so that he/she feels special. Since my baby was born, my older daughter has been taking a dance class, which she’s grown to love. She feels special getting outfitted in her tights, leotard and bun, knowing that Mommy and Baby are taking her to something that’s “just for her.” 

4. DVD’s. Because there will be times when you’ll need to know your kiddo won’t run to the nursery just when the baby’s about to fall asleep. You’ll need a tried-and-true “babysitter” that will keep your child’s attention for an extended period of time. Common Sense Media has this great online resource of age-appropriate movie lists. I especially love the section entitled “TV and Movies That Promote Empathy.”

5. Bubble bath. A lot of times, I needed to give my older daughter a bath while holding my baby. In the beginning, Daughter No. 1 pouted because I wasn’t giving her my undivided attention.

Bubble bath, such as this one, helps with this problem. I can quickly wash my older daughter, and then give her some time to play with the bubbles while chilling on the bathroom floor with my baby and counting down to the moment I can enjoy a glass of bubbly myself.

Good luck, moms and dads!

Photo credit: StockSnap.io

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books, available on Amazon.com. Writing at its most heartfelt.

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Parenting Solo for a Week: 9 Tips

Since Baby G was born, my hubby has traveled out of town for work a few times. A night here, three nights there. Recently, though, he was away for a week. Seven days alone with both our girls, ages 4 years old and 7 months—I had to pump myself up for the, ahem, adventure.

Parenting solo, when you’re used to a partner’s help, can be challenging. Here’s what I did to help make our “girls’ adventure” fun for Little G and Baby G, and as smooth as possible for me. I hope these tips come in handy, friends, should you ever need them.

1. Plan a morning activity. Our whole day seems to go so much better when we get out of the house in the a.m., compared to hanging out in our PJ’s. These past few mornings, we took a walk, took Little G to dance class, played with friends, fed the ducks at The Pearl, and checked out DVD’s (plus some books, of course!) at the library. After an active morning, we’re all glad to have a more laid-back afternoon at home before getting ready for dinner.

2. Eat simple meals, and/or eat out. At home, I made turkey and cheese sandwiches, tacos, and chicken salad for Little G and me. We also enjoyed some fine dining at Lenny’s Subs, Bakery Lorraine, and Freddy’s Frozen Custard. Baby G, meanwhile, loves pureed peas and pears—“the green stuff,” as Little G and I like to say. To save time, I bought these purees at HEB rather than making them homemade, which I did for Little G. Second child problems, right? Fortunately, Baby G doesn’t seem to be suffering. 🙂

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3. Stock up your house beforehand.
Do a grocery store run and buy extra of everything essential. In my case: easy nonperishable snacks (granola bars and purees galore), paper towels, and diapers.

4. Aim for an early bedtime. I’ve been lucky (knock on wood!) that lately, Little G has been sleeping from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and Baby G from about 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. I try to discourage a lot of daytime R&R so that everyone is ready to turn in earlier rather than later (because I sure am!).

5. Surround yourself with good company. As much as I enjoy playing “Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff” with my daughters 500 times a week, it is *so wonderful* to have other adults to talk with. I’m very thankful for the good friends my girls and I were able to catch up with this past week. We even hosted a Sunday brunch at our house. And if by “Sunday brunch” we’re talking about my ordering pizza from Papa John’s and our friends’ bringing over salad and dessert…then yes, we sure did. 🙂

6. Enlist help. You can’t do everything yourself 24/7 for a week. You will need a break. Grandparents and neighborhood babysitters make for great “help.” I was only too happy to pay the sweet high school sophomore across the street to take my place as Kristoff in “Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff” while I savored a hot cup of coffee alone.

7. Take everything one day at a time. It can be overwhelming to think of seven days all at once. So just think of one day at a time, and move through that day as gracefully and positively as possible.

8. Be kind to yourself. For example, forgive yourself for any moments when you may become impatient with your children. And respect yourself enough to choose taking a shower over folding another load of laundry.

9. Don’t obsess about your house. It’s OK if it’s messy. I also try to minimize the amount of cleanup we need to do. For example, Little G and I use paper plates instead of regular dinnerware so that I can simply throw them out rather than loading, running, and unloading the dishwasher. Eco-friendly? Maybe not, but we’re in survival mode here.

Good luck, friends!

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books, available on Amazon.com. Writing at its most heartfelt.

Baking With Kids: 9 Tips

Baking is one of Little G and my favorite things to do together. Maybe you and your children enjoy it, too. Or maybe you’ve never tried it before. But if you have some extra flour and sugar left over from your holiday baking … and your kids have a few more days of winter break, too … then give it a try. Here are nine tips to help you along, especially if your kids measure in at three feet or shorter. 🙂

1.) Pick an easy recipe. Little G and I love this one for Orange Dark Chocolate Blossoms, which my Mom passed along to us. Nine ingredients—that’s what I’m talking about!

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2.) Know that things might get messy—and that’s OK. As Harriet van Horne said, “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

3.) Also know that everything will take longer: prep, cleanup, everything. That’s OK, too. P.S.: Don’t hurry to preheat the oven anytime soon.

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4.) Enjoy your time together, you and your child. No need to rush through mixing the butter, flour, and sugar. Chat; laugh; steal a dark chocolate kiss or two from the ingredients list.

5.) At the same time, make sure your child doesn’t eat too many of the ingredients. (Yes, I speak from experience, friends!)

6.) Give your kiddo a job, maybe even a few jobs. For our Orange Dark Chocolate Blossoms, Little G’s main job is to unwrap the 40 dark chocolate kisses. She also likes to stir the dough using a wooden spoon, and roll the dough into circle-shaped cookies-to-be.

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7.) Use this time together to teach—about kitchen safety, for example. “The oven is hot, Little G, so you need to stay right there while Mommy puts the cookies in.” Another worthy lesson: “Mommy’s mommy made these cookies every Christmas, and now we’re making them, too. We’re carrying on a family tradition. Those are important.”

8.) Baking with kids is a wonderful mommy-and-me activity, for any season. It encourages conversation. It teaches skills. And it makes your house smell homey.

9.) Most of all, baking with your kids creates memories. I’m no Cake Boss, but I love baking with Little G, and I’m excited for us to make cookies (and memories) with her little sister one day, too. Happy baking, friends.

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What Are Your Family Traditions?

8_What Are Your Family TraditionsAll the ladies in my family love Michael Strahan. Not for his football prowess, of course, but for his friendly, easy-on-the-eyes morning-talk-show presence. And I especially love this quote he once shared: “I have the best memories as a kid eating ice cream. It was a family tradition that I had with my father. It was nice.”

Many family traditions involve food, it seems. I myself remember, as a child, stopping by a local ice cream shop called Curly Creme with my mom, two brothers, and sister. Curly Creme specialized in soft ice cream, and operated during the summer only. Throughout my childhood, my summer vacations included weekly cones of chocolate-vanilla “twist” custard from this homegrown institution. I can almost—almost—still taste that rich two-in-one flavor.

Beyond encounters with ice cream ( 🙂 ), family traditions include customs both big and small, from multigenerational holiday getaways to Saturday-morning basketball games in the driveway.

These days, Little G and I have fallen into a cozy Sunday-afternoon mother-daughter tradition that I love, and that I hope Little G loves, too. After we get home from church and have lunch with my hubby, we give him some time to himself (yesterday he watched his beloved Texans play the Jaguars) while we head over to one of my favorite local coffee shops.

Our mother-daughter date includes hot chocolate for me and a chocolate-chip cookie for Little G. We make ourselves comfortable at a table for two, and I bring along a coloring book and crayons in case we feel creative. A lot of the time, though, we simply enjoy hanging out together—people watching, listening to the overhead music, and flipping through the various magazines on hand.

I stumbled across this article, “Creating a Positive Family Culture: The Importance of Establishing Family Traditions.” The article notes, “Traditions, when done right, lend a certain magic, spirit, and texture to our everyday lives.”

At first glance, there may not seem to be much magical about chocolate-chip cookies from a coffee shop. But maybe the magic lives in the experience—of carving out time together, of being in communion with each other. The article also notes that “through regular family dinners or activities, the centrality of familial solidarity is instilled.”

What do you think, friends? What are your family traditions? What makes them magical?