Quick Tip: Use a Messy Shirt

Did you know that vitamins stain? Well, more specifically, did you know that if your child is eating a vitamin and drools it all over her shirt to be funny, that vitamin stain isn’t going anywhere? (Even if it’s a chemically-food-dye-free vitamin!)

I was pretty bummed when I figured that out, especially because I thought this shirt was super cute before Frosty turned orange.

But, orange Frosty reminded me of one of my mom-tricks that has saved me loads of laundry (and prevented even more stained shirts) these past few messy-toddler-filled years:

Turn an old, stained shirt into a “messy shirt.”

We use messy shirts for art projects and while eating messy foods. When a bib won’t cut it (like when we ate pizza for dinner last night), I just throw a messy shirt on over the girls’ clothes before we start painting or eating. The shirts are great because they cover anywhere food might end up (notice the pizza sauce all over Beach Baby’s sleeves!). When they’re done making a mess, I throw the messy shirt in the laundry with their other (still clean) clothes and I don’t have to worry about removing stains because that’s what the shirt is for!

Vitamins for Kids

When Beach Girl was about 18 months old, her pediatrician recommended I start her on a multivitamin.  I had no idea what to buy except that he recommended we avoid gummy vitamins. (They can get stuck in kids’ teeth and lead to cavities… obviously, not the outcome I’m hoping to get from my children’s multivitamin.)  So, I went to Target and bought what I took as a kid – Flintstones vitamins.  The pictures of Barney, Fred, and friends brought back sweet memories. I loved taking my vitamin as a kid!

But once I got home and opened the package, I realized my beloved cartoon characters probably weren’t naturally pink, orange, and purple.  Sure enough, the vitamins contained artificial food dyes – Red #40, Yellow #6, and Blue #2.  These dyes give me migraines and vertigo and I’ve read about the harmful effects these dyes can have on kids’ behavior (and seen the effects in my own kids when they’ve had a colored treat…).  I definitely didn’t want to give my kids vitamins with these dyes in them! But, I also didn’t know what to get that wasn’t gummy or artificially colored.

After I posted about my supplements, I got a couple questions about what supplements I give my kids so thought I’d share them with you. (Thanks for your questions!) Don’t worry, my vitamin plan for my kids is much less intense than mine was. I only give them two things: a multivitamin and a Vitamin D supplement.

vitamins for kids

Multivitamin: Since our pediatrician recommended we avoid gummy vitamins and I’m determined to avoid food dyes, our options were very limited.  We use Trader Joe’s Children’s Chewable Vitamins. They’re $5 for 100 tablets at our store, their dyes are plant-derived, the supplement amounts look good enough to me, and they apparently taste delicious.  Months later, Beach Girl still gets excited to see what color and animal of vitamin she gets every night.

Vitamin D: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 IU of Vitamin D daily for all breastfed babies. In spite of the AAP recommendation, it’s a pretty controversial supplement; many sources I respect (including Kelly Mom) argue children can get enough Vitamin D simply from a few minutes of sunlight a day.  Since I’m seriously Vitamin D deficient and Beach Girl has had respiratory issues (which some sources have linked to Vitamin D deficiency, like this one from the WHO), I’ve decided this is an especially important supplement for us.

Until a few months ago, the only form of Vitamin D supplement we had tried was Enfamil’s D-Vi-Sol.  I was pretty skeptical of it because, well, it tastes terrible and I wasn’t thrilled about the ingredients.  I didn’t like the idea that the only thing my children were ingesting besides breast milk during their first 6 months of life was a daily supplement filled with things like glycerin (which sometimes is derived from petroleum), artificial flavors (which can often include saccharin or aspartame), and artificial caramel color.  Plus, that stuff is expensive – it’s $10 for 50 doses!

A few months ago, though, I spent some time researching a less expensive and, um, less nasty alternative and found Carlson For Kids Liquid Vitamin D3 Drops.  I never thought I’d say this about a vitamin, but I love these drops.  The only ingredients are Vitamin D3 and fractionated coconut oil.  And, get this, the recommended 400IU of Vitamin D comes from one tiny drop (which made me realize just how much other junk must be in the Enfamil drops that it takes 1 mL of drops to get the one drop worth of Vitamin D). A bottle of the Carlson for Kids drops costs $14 and contains 365 drops – enough for a year! I just add it to my kids’ yogurt or other food and since it’s completely tasteless, they get their supplement without any fuss. I wish I could take all my supplements so easily… one tiny, tasteless drop in my food sounds a lot better than a pill!

So, there you have it: our straight-forward, dye-free, and either delicious or tasteless supplements for children.  And that’s everything I know about multivitamins for kids!

Planning for Mom’s Sick Days

mom's sick days

Remember sick days as a kid? I got to stay home from school, sleep when I wanted and watch TV when I wanted… All while my parents brought me food and drinks whenever I wanted. My first sick day as a mom felt like a rude awakening — What do you mean I have to get out of bed and keep doing almost everything I normally do even though I’m sick?

I spent almost all of last weekend lying on the couch or in bed, sick.  While being sick was miserable, taking sick days was fabulous.  I think this is the first time since becoming a mom that I’ve been sick and able to really rest. This time, I didn’t have a baby who was still nursing around the clock and Beach Dad was able to be home the whole time. It was wonderful to get some time off and to be brought all my food, drinks, and medicines.

As moms, it’s so hard to actually take sick days.  Babies still need to nurse, diapers still need to be changed, children still need to eat, and rides still need to be given.  Often, we can push and push through our sicknesses for so long that we make ourselves even sicker or just deal with that lingering sore throat for weeks on end when we probably could have just rested for a day or two and kicked it.

Even though we can rarely take a day completely off for sickness, we can make our sick days much easier for ourselves with a little planning.  While I got sick too early in the season to have prepared this time, last weekend was a good reminder of why I normally try to plan for sick days.  And now, I’m certainly inspired to do some prep work for our sick days that are sure to come later in the season!

Here are my tips for planning ahead for those inevitable sick days:

  • Buy medicines.  Heading to the pharmacy while I’m sick is one of my very least favorite things.  Check your medicine cabinet and make sure that you’re well-stocked with cough medicine, cough drops, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, saline spray, cold medicine, nausea medicine, and whatever else you may need.  Make sure you have medicines for everyone in your family. While you’re at it, consider stocking up on kleenex too!

[If you live near a Rite Aid, they have awesome deals on more natural/homeopathic medicines for 2 weeks around this time of year.  These medicines are generally safe for pregnant/nursing moms and I’ve found them to be surprisingly effective. You can get a number of medicines, cough drops, and more nearly free with their rewards program.  I’ll post on my Facebook page when they’re on sale.  Or, if you see the sales starting, please let us all know too!]

  • Stock your pantry. Make sure you have ginger ale, gatorade, and crackers on hand.  Grab some easy food for your kids too.  You won’t want to be shopping while you’re sick!
  • Freeze some soup.  When Beach Girl was a month old, I got a terrible stomach bug and one of my friends brought me soup from her freezer that she keeps on hand for when she gets sick.  I thought it was a brilliant idea and one of the most wonderful things anyone has ever done for me. Since then, I try to make soup and freeze it every Fall, just in case, and it’s been a huge blessing when I’ve gotten sick.  I’ll post my favorite chicken soup recipe soon.  And, if you want to freeze some extra, you’ll also have the chance to make a sick mom’s day later on this season!
  • Set aside a few toys.  While TV is a totally suitable option for sick days, I’d like to buy myself as much time lying on the couch as possible, so am planning to also have some toys in reserve that I can pull out as a special treat for my kids when mom’s sick.  I’m going to grab a few of their toys that they haven’t played with in awhile and box them up in my closet for sick days, but I also have a few ideas for sick day activities that they can easily do while I’m resting nearby.  Some of my favorites include: musical instruments, the game with the wipes boxactivity bags, and some of the tips for how to entertain a toddler while nursing a baby.

So, now that you’re prepped for the bug your kids are going to bring home from a play date in a few weeks, here’s one last tip (which I’m saying to myself as much as to anyone else!): When you start getting that “oh no, I’m going to be sick tomorrow” feeling, REST as much as possible. Ignore everything that doesn’t absolutely have to get done and give yourself a break. The world won’t end if you don’t do the laundry this week and your kids will be fine even if they watch an extra hour or two (…or three) of TV today. Plus, if you’ve planned ahead, you’ve got shopping, dinner, and entertainment covered! Which, actually, is probably more than I can say for myself on a healthy day…

Do you have any ideas for planning ahead for mom’s sick days?

Supplements for Moms

supplements and vitamins for moms

I’ve been pregnant and/or nursing for nearly 4 years now. All this growing and feeding babies has worn my body out a bit!  A few months ago, I was feeling especially tired and like my body was running on empty.  I felt like my exhaustion stemmed from more than simply lack of sleep and began to wonder if, even though I eat a (mostly) healthy diet, my body was missing some important nutrients.  I already was taking a supplement for Vitamin D because blood test results had showed I had incredibly low levels.  But, I wondered if maybe there were other nutrients my body was lacking.

My dad is a doctor, so I gave him a call and told him what my standard prenatal vitamin included, asking him if I should be taking more than that.  He seemed appalled at how few supplements I had been taking and gave me his recommendations for several more.  He encouraged me that these increased amounts of each supplement would help restore my energy and my nutritional reserves.

At first, I balked at the high cost of the supplements and the idea of having to take so many pills each day, but I figured I’d give anything a try if it meant feeling less exhausted.  Since I started taking these supplements, I have had a substantial increase in my energy and general feeling of well-being. For me, they’ve definitely been worth it (although, I still don’t enjoy taking so many pills each day)!

Since I know many moms who have struggled with this feeling of low energy and a few of my friends have benefited from taking these extra supplements as well, I thought I’d share his recommendations with y’all.  Of course, these supplements meet my needs as a post-pregnant and breastfeeding mom and they came to me recommended by a doctor, but you’ll still want to check with your doctor for what you should be taking.  My own Vitamin D intake, in particular, is likely to be higher than what you need because my levels were so low initially.

Here are the amounts of essential supplements he recommended (and in parenthesis, I’ve included what my old One A Day prenatal vitamin was providing for comparison):

  • 2,000 IU of Vitamin D (One A Day prenatal: 400 IU)
  • 2 grams (yes, grams!) of Calcium (One A Day prenatal: 300 mg)
  • 500 mg magnesium (One A Day prenatal: 50 mg)
  • 50-100 mg CoQ10 – I’d never heard of taking this before, but it is supposed to help with energy levels! (One A Day prenatal doesn’t have any)
  • 2400 mg + of Fish Oil
  • 800 mcg of Folic Acid (One A Day prenatal: 800 mcg – the only vitamin that matched up!)
  • 324 mg of ferrous gluconate to provide 65 mg of Iron (One A Day prenatal: 28 mg of Iron)
  • Vitamin B Complex – should contain at least 100mcg of B12 (One A Day prenatal: 8 mcg!)

As you can see, my One A Day prenatal vitamin was barely providing me with the supplements my body needs.  In fact, since I was so behind on my supplements and had been pregnant/breastfeeding for an extended period, my dad recommended that I try to restore my levels by doubling his recommended doses of Calcium and Iron for the first month.  After a month, I began taking the doses I listed above.

In addition to the realization that my One A Day prenatal vitamin was not providing me with as much supplement as I needed, I also realized that it was making me sicker.

After I struggled with migraines and vertigo for over 2 years, I discovered that food dyes are one of the key triggers for my symptoms and have been trying to avoid them in foods.  (In researching the effects of food dyes, I also discovered a lot of other not-so-great things about them, so would probably try to avoid them anyway!)

I never would have expected that my vitamin would contain something like food dyes, but sure enough, my One A Day prenatal vitamin did and so do many, many other supplements. Each day that I took my One A Day prenatal, I was contributing to my migraines and vertigo. When I realized this, I stopped taking the supplements and noticed an improvement in my symptoms within only 3 days!

As I researched the various supplements that I needed to purchase based off “Dr. Dad’s list”, I had a hard time finding vitamins and supplements that were affordable and didn’t contain food dyes.

I did a lot of research to find the vitamins and supplements that meet my requirements for low additives and low(ish) price and thought I’d share my findings with you here.  All of the supplements I bought came in fairly large bottles because it’s much cheaper. (Just so you know, if you buy through these links, you’ll be helping to support stayatbeachmom.com, but, as always, I only vouch for the products that I can truly stand behind.)

Here are the vitamins that I take daily in order to meet roughly the amounts of each supplement that “Dr. Dad” recommended above:

I bought the larger sizes of these because the price per pill works out to be much lower; some of these bottles will last me up to a year.

So that I don’t have to open 7 pill bottles every night, I fill two weekly pill organizers every two weeks and then just take the pills from each day’s spot.

I hope that this encourages you to talk with your doctor and take a look at your own supplemental needs and that these supplements maybe will give you the energy boost you need to care for your family and yourself well! I really have noticed a serious difference in my energy level and overall feeling of health while on these supplements and hope the same might be true for you.

Do you have any other tips for maintaining your energy? Or, have you tried any supplements that either worked well for you or ended up making you sicker than you would have been without them? I was so surprised that my old prenatal vitamin included food dyes!

How to Make a Smoothie Deliciously Healthy

how to make a smoothie that is kid-friendly and delicious

So, I’m going to level with you.  One of my least favorite things about feeding finger foods to my baby is that I sometimes feel like I spend hours of my day with a cutting board and knife, chopping all kinds of food into little baby pieces.  Enter one of my favorite healthy treats: a smoothie.  Just add the ingredients to the blender, calm your children’s fears that nothing bad will happen from the loud, loud noise (and tell your toddler that, no, we can’t go buy a “quiet” blender), blend it for a couple minutes, and voila! You now have a delicious healthy meal that works for moms, toddlers, and babies alike.

Then, I discovered something else.  You can actually sneak in those taboo vegetables that a toddler isn’t interested in touching with a 10 foot pole, and they’ll never be the wiser. I can honestly say both my kids regularly eat spinach without complaint.  Do they know they’re eating it? Well, no.  But, they’re eating it nonetheless.  And, when they go through picky stages, I can just smile and say, “Okay. That’s fine. I’m not going to battle with you over it. Want another popsicle?”

Popsicle?! Yes, y’all, it gets even better.  Sometimes, I freeze my smoothies in popsicle molds so that – as an extra special treat – my children can eat 3 servings of spinach, kale, blueberries, banana, and peaches.  And, they think I’m a super fun mom to boot!

As I make my smoothies (and popsicles), I tend to just mix whatever I think sounds good together, but I’ll include a couple sample recipes below to get you started.

how to make a smoothie that is kid-friendly and healthy

First, though, comes the art of making a sneakily healthy smoothie.  There are 4 main ingredient categories:

  • Vegetables. I use anything from spinach or kale to carrots or broccoli.  How much you add will depend on how sensitive your children are to the vegetables’ taste and color; I’d recommend starting small and increasing it as their taste buds accustom to the flavor.
    If your children are especially wary of anything green, you’ll want to start by adding only the veggies to the blender. Blend that until it is in teeny tiny pieces before you add anything else.  By the time you blend in other ingredients, they’ll hardly see a trace of green.  If they’re really opposed to greens, make sure to add blueberries, strawberries, or another darkly colored fruit to hide the green flecks.
  • Yogurt.  I use whole milk plain yogurt because I want my kids to have the good fats and probiotics without the added sugar that comes with most flavored yogurt.  The added fruit makes the smoothies sweet enough, so I start with the healthiest yogurt base possible.
  • Fruits.  This is the fun part and what most kids will actually want to see going into their smoothies.  You can even let your kids choose what they want (and add it in themselves).  Sometimes, I get out all our frozen and fresh fruits and let Beach Girl add in what she’d like.  Really, nearly any combinations and proportions work well and it’s fun to experiment with all different flavor combinations. To make it easiest (and cheapest), I use almost entirely frozen fruit.
  • Water.  This is just to help make the smoothie easier to blend and to drink through a straw.  I usually add a little bit in the blender and then extra into their sippy cups so that their smoothies are more runny and easier to drink than mine.  You also could add fruit juice, but with the high concentration of sugar in juice (even if it’s pure fruit juice), I’d rather just add water.

To help you get started, here are two of our recent favorite combinations (Disclaimer: I don’t really measure these anymore; I just eyeball it and go with personal preference.  But, I think these proportions should be yummy!):

Avocado-Pineapple-Mango-Orange: 

1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup pineapple
3/4 cup mango
1 whole orange, peeled and checked for any seeds
1 – 1 1/2 cups yogurt
Water, added as needed to make it blend well

Spinach-Strawberry-Blueberry-Banana:

1 handful of spinach
1 cup of strawberries
3/4 cup blueberries
2 bananas
1 – 1 1/2 cups yogurt
Water, as needed to make it blend well

Do you have any favorite green smoothie recipes or other ways to help your kids eat their vegetables? I’d love to hear them!

And for My Next Trick…

Last night, while I was cooking dinner, Beach Girl decided to decorate the longest wall in our house (and the one I just decorated with a gallery wall!).  She took an orange crayon and drew one long line along the full length and then “wrote her name” extra large in one spot.  We whipped out the Magic Eraser and I was reminded of how it really is one of my favorite parenting secrets.  Of course, I wasn’t thrilled that she colored on the wall, and she knew we weren’t pleased with her, but the Magic Eraser made the whole ordeal much more pleasant than having to whip out paint and a brush would have.  And, the Magic Eraser is easy enough that she could clean up most of her drawing herself before dinner was served!

In case you’re not familiar with the Magic Eraser, it does just what its name implies… it magically erases! I have no idea what is actually going on chemically (and maybe I don’t want to!), but it really does seem magic.  You simply get it wet, rub it on the surface (it doesn’t even require much elbow grease), and the spot is almost always gone.  As a mom of little ones, it’s pretty much indispensable.

Here are my favorite jobs for the Magic Eraser:

  • Get rid of crayon markings (and whatever else) from walls.
  • Remove scuffs from shoes.
  • Get food stains off of our white table or countertops.
  • Clean chalkboards or dry erase boards.  We had a dry erase board that was completely stained, but the Magic Eraser fixed it in a matter of seconds.
  • Erase stains in the bathtub or along grout in the bathroom or kitchen.

Do you have any tips for how to use the Magic Eraser?  Ever had a mini-Monet on your wall?

Stay tuned for more on that gallery wall next time!

Just so you know, if you buy magic erasers through the link above, you’ll be helping to support stayatbeachmom.com.  As always, I only vouch for products I really love.

Tips for Buying Infant Pajamas

Tips for Buying Pajamas that Last
A couple nights ago, Beach Baby woke up at 3:45 in the morning because her diaper had leaked.  My poor husband changed her diaper and then fumbled in the dark (as she screamed and tried to crawl away) to change her pajamas… only to find that she had outgrown them, so he had to get her dressed yet again.  I realized it’s probably time I clean out the girls’ pajama bins so that only the clothes that fit them are in there.

While rotating out their pajamas, I realized that some fit much longer than others, and that I have certain favorites among all their pajamas. Here are my thoughts on what makes a good set of pajamas:

Zippers: When babies are around 6-9 months old, they start to roll over and try to escape diaper changes. Whenever I quickly zip up Beach Baby’s pajamas, I’m thankful to not be snapping 8 different snaps while she tries to escape.

Zippers are also easier for toddlers learning how to dress themselves. Beach Girl has just started figuring out snaps, but has been zipping for months.

No buttons. While they’re often super cute, I tend to avoid buttons, because they’re more difficult to fasten on a squirmy baby and the skill of buttoning is among the hardest for a toddler learning to dress herself.

Footless pajamas. This prolongs the amount of time the pajamas can be worn. Both my girls have consistently outgrown the length of their footed pajamas long before the width of them, and Beach Girl has one set of footless pajamas (pictured above, made by absorba) that has fit her for the last 15 months with room to grow…although, they are pretty comfortably capris at this point!

Another advantage to the footless pajamas is that if they start trying to remove their diapers while alone, I can more easily turn their pajamas around. Have you heard this trick? If you put their pajamas on backward, they can’t access their diapers to paint with poop! (Fortunately, I haven’t experienced this particular joy of parenting yet!)  If their pajamas already don’t have feet, I can turn the pajamas around without having to cut off the footies.

Cotton: I much, much prefer cotton to polyester.  I like the feel better, cotton gives more flexibility for seasons, and I like dressing my baby in a natural fabric like cotton.  Since babies don’t match their growing to store sizes (which don’t even match each other!), it’s hard to predict what size will fit which season. Many pajamas have fit my babies for up to 6 months, so it’s nice to have the flexibility that cotton offers.  I’d rather bundle them up with a cotton or fleece swaddler or sleep sack during winter than have a bunch of pajamas that fit but are too warm for summer.

Organic: if I were going to buy only some organic clothes, I’d buy organic cotton pajamas because they spend more time in them than in regular clothes and wear them more often. Organic pajamas offer more bang for my buck.

I haven’t decided yet if I prefer one piece sleepers or two piece pajama sets. Sleepers cover their stomachs, which is especially useful before they’re old enough for blankets. On the other hand, a separate shirt and pants makes diaper changes faster and eases middle of the night potty runs.

Lastly, not all pajamas are sized consistently, even if they’re made by the same company. While cleaning out Beach baby’s pajamas, I noticed that she had a Carter’s 3 month sized sleeper that was at least an inch or two longer than a Carter’s 6 month sized sleeper.

Do you have any tips for buying pajamas? Ever had to clean up painted poop? Any chance I’ll be so lucky to avoid that forever?