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Must-Have Parenting Items that I Can’t Live Without

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Must-Have Parenting Items | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please refer to my Legal Policies and Terms of Use. The opinions here are entirely my own.

Let’s face it. As a mother of multiples, I’ve tried practically every toy, gadget, something or other out there on the planet. Survival of the fittest is the name of the game and you need the right tools to get through the day. My must-have parenting items that I can’t live without are the tried and true gems I go back to day in and day out after crashing and burning with some other items that just didn’t fit the bill.

Must-Have Parenting Items | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide

THE TOP TEN

Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper | Amazon Prime | Facebook Resale Groups | First Years Sound for Silence Deluxe Sound Machine

Ninja Blender | Playtex Fridge To Go Tote | OxiClean Baby | FarFaria Children’s Books for iPad | iKea Portable Potty | Parking Pal

HONORABLE MENTION

Dole Fruit Squish ‘Ems | PBS Sprout | Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag

1. Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper: I buy this for every single friend or family member I know that is having a baby. This single-handedly was the #1 absolute must-have for the twins. They slept in these next to our bed for the first 3 months of their lives. I had peace knowing they were close, strapped in, inclined to help with their crazy reflux (serious exorcist-style) and I could reach over and soothe them without getting out of bed. Fold it up, bring it downstairs and they’re chillin’ while I’m feeding one or doing chores. LOVED THIS. Honestly, I’m not sure how we would have survived without it.

2. Amazon Prime: Another must-have with multiples. Getting out of the house with the both of them…well, let’s just say it took awhile before we could handle it. As in, just last week I took them to the pet store alone. With no stroller. And they’ve just turned 3. Ha. This membership pays for itself QUICKLY. Between larger items shipping for free and Subscribe & Save diaper and wipe scheduled deliveries, I just can’t say enough as to how pivotal this service was (and still is) to our survival as parents of twins. Amazon Mom is also a hot new way to save big on all things kiddo/baby related. Thank the Lord for Amazon!

3.  Facebook Resale Groups: I talked about this in detail in Using Your Resources: How to Resell Your Used Items and Buy Second Hand. It’s my go-to resources for when I need clothing or other home items, and my local group has become a wonderful hot spot to sell the items i’m ready to get rid of. Thank the Lord for modern technology and the ability to connect with other parents to trade/sell/buy and all else. My kids wear practically nothing brand new, they are none the wiser and our pocketbooks are much happier.

4. First Years Sound for Silence Deluxe Sound Machine: You all know I have a husband, a very loud teenager who tramples up the stairs like an elephant parade and a stubborn barking bull dog. Needless to say, the sound machine is still in use. It doesn’t totally drown out the crazy, but it muffles it enough for the boys to sleep peacefully. They also love the blue night light and we often turn it to music for mini dance parties in the room. We even brought it with us when we traveled so they had a piece of home to help them sleep in new surroundings.

5. Ninja Blender: This is mommy’s luxury item. That gets used almost entirely for the kids. We are in a major veggie famine. If they see it, they won’t eat it. Cue the smoothie machine. Spinach, carrots, all kinds of veggie goodness have met their match here and have gone down tiny throats with a smile. I’m always on the hunt for new smoother recipes and the Ninja really pulverizes everything. It’s loud as heck and the boys trembled a bit the first time we gave it a go, but the smoothness of the finish has curtailed the “I don’t like these specks!” that I got with my old blender.

6. Playtex Fridge To Go Tote: This little gem got a shout out in How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child’s Cues, but it’s so awesome that it deserves another nod. Gets used EVERY. DAY. I pack their snack and milk in it each morning and when I pick them up from day care, I have it ready and waiting for them in the car. It’s helped curb tantrums and also comes in handy for long drives, trips to the park or a long wait at the doctor’s. At night, pop it back in the freezer and it’s ready for the next day.

7. OxiClean Baby: One word. Reflux. Both boys had it. BAD. We went through tubs and tubs of OxiClean Baby constantly during their first year of life. It was one of the only things that really got the smell and nasty grossness of constant spit up out of their clothes (and mine). I could always tell when we had been out and a load went through without it. The stains were still there and the clothes were dingy and icky.

8. FarFaria Children’s Books for iPad: I reviewed this product about a month ago HERE, and it’s still going strong. It’s become a night time staple in our bedtime routine and the boys just can’t get enough of the stories. Some have songs or animal noises, and their very favorite book shows them all kinds of trucks and they just love repeating their names. From a parent’s perspective, it is magical to see them get excited about a story and pretty darn cute to hear them try to say “excavator” and “knuckle boom loader.” A very small investment for a very big pay out.

9. iKea Portable Potty: Potty training is a nightmare for a million different reasons (Have you read Potty Training: How to Graduate from Rewards to Real Life?). Add multiples and super-expensive training potties to the mix, and I’ve got a panic attack on my hands. These iKea potties are a dream! There’s not much to them, which is awesome because there really doesn’t need to be and it doesn’t set the expectation that the “big boy potty” should sing them songs and blink flashing lights. That also means easy to clean, which is a major mommy win. Couple that with the bottom dollar price tag and we were able to purchase 4 of them, two for upstairs and two for downstairs, so no constant running around to make sure we had one at the ready for those “gotta go” moments.

10. Parking Pal: With twins, this has been a major must-have win. Someone is always waiting while the other one is getting strapped in or taken out of the car. Once we learned to walk, it was always a risk that somebody would take off running or wander into the wrong area. The Parking Pal allows me to know the one waiting is safely by my side, still and not going anywhere. They both love taking turns fitting their hands onto the hand print and I always have them identify the ABC letters they know while they wait. Great peace of mind!

11. Dole Fruit Squish ‘Ems: These guys are a major save in a pinch. They fit great in the daily cooler, they are shelf-stable, so can also be stashed in a backpack, and they even have ones with veggies mixed in now, which gives me another boost for my veggie-famine dudes. No mess, easy open, great flavor. The boys love them! They find their way into lunches, snacks and are especially well-loved when someone isn’t feeling well and doesn’t really want to eat. They’ll always suck these down, especially cool, because it soothes their throat.

12. PBS Sprout: This is our go-to station when it is time to sit quietly and relax for a bit or when mommy needs a few minutes to get ready for work. Their favorite show is Super Why and I love that they are practicing letter recognition and problem-solving when they watch it. Most of the programs are educational in nature, be it learning life lessons or school-related, and the simple, clean fun is a welcome relief in today’s world.

13. Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag: Two words. STROLLER STRAPS. The connecting straps on this bag are genius. Having items at the ready and not having to strong arm a diaper bag into the bottom area of a stroller were the major wins for this item. We were able to fit a ton of stuff in it, with lots of pockets and ways to stay organized, but hands down, the ability to have it strapped and hung on the back of the stroller really saved the day for us.

Any must-have parenting items in your life? Be sure to share! 

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Sonya

    August 1, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    I really want a Ninja, but I’m so scared that I will cut my finger off with the blade. Those blades look so sharp (my mom has one) and I’m afraid of sharp object. My parenting must haves are Britax car seats, PBS Kids, and More.Starfall.com.

    • Katy Blevins

      August 5, 2014 at 9:31 am

      Admittedly, my daughter (13) has cut herself on the blades already. They are super, super sharp. But once it happened once, it never happened again. We are all super careful now. Starfall is awesome! We have the ABC app on my phone.

  2. Nicole @ Or Whatever You Do

    August 10, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing with the Merry Monday Linky Party!

  3. April

    August 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Yes, I don’t know if they are must-haves, but I know that I DO have most of these items. I didn’t have any of them with my first two children! This is a great list. Thanks for sharing. Pinning!

    Your co-host from Creative Style Linkup ~~April~~

    • Katy Blevins

      August 12, 2014 at 9:32 am

      Thanks for pinning! It’s funny, I didn’t know most of them even existed when I was raising my stepdaughter. Oh the joys of modern technology!

  4. Rebekah @survivingtoddlerhood

    August 14, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Awesome list! I can imagine that the Amazon membership would be very helpful for myself even though I wasn’t blesses with multiples as you were. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing another great post with us in the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Party!

  5. Erlene

    October 20, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Your list brought back some memories. One of my must haves for when my kids were babies was a carry sling. So much easier to do things with a fussy baby when they are tucked away and your hands are free.

  6. Kristen

    January 28, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    YES! The sound machine is a godsend and I buy them for all new parents. GREAT list!

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Schedule One-On-One Time With Your Child

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Now that I am almost 2 years into living on my own (holy cow?! for real?!), it occurred to me that my twins were never, ever, getting any one-on-one time with me. When I was married, solo time wasn’t especially frequent, but I did make an effort to split them up to make sure they got to go on an errand with Mom or run to the hardware store with Dad every now and again. Now that it’s just me, it’s always the three of us, together wherever we go, all day, every day.

As a mother of multiples, I know full well that individual time with a parent is hugely important to their emotional wellness. They are intrinsically born into a life of sharing and existing in the presence of their siblings. From the moment of conception, they are two.

They are taught early on to be patient and wait their turn purely out of necessity and routine. Decision-making is always a team effort and line leader/who goes first almost always sparks opportunities for frustration. One-on-one time allows them much needed independence, a chance to share and enjoy their individual interests, and develop their own voice.

So I instated Mommy Date Night. Here’s how I did (do) it.

  • Connected with their favorite babysitter. I knew I had to bring in the “big dogs” if I was going to convince one of them to stay behind without a massive meltdown, so I reached out to their very favorite babysitter. I knew she would understand the challenge and would go above and beyond to make sure the one left behind was just as excited to have one-on-one time with her. We set a recurring night and a set price to help my budget. She started to gather ideas for fun projects that would captivate them quickly.
  • Researched local free and/or family-friendly low cost options. We all know life as a single mom does not come with an endless supply of moolah, so I wanted to keep our evenings out as low cost as possible, especially since child care was already involved. I checked with friends and hopped onto city websites to see what was out there. Here are a few ideas I stumbled upon:
    • (The Obvious) Playgrounds
    • Beach/Nature Walks
    • Library
    • Pet Store
    • Pottery Painting (with free studio fee coupons)
    • Milkshakes or Ice Cream
    • Picnics
    • Museums
  • Let them take the lead and make the decisions. This is by far their favorite part. I usually have three available options in hand. I let them select our final destination. They also get to choose every song we listen to in the car. When we take a walk, they pick the direction. When we go to the library, they pick the books. It’s their time, their way. They feel like little princes.
  • Ask lots of questions. I have learned more about my sons in the past 4 weeks of doing our Mommy Dates than I have in the past year. When we’re out and about, we talk. A lot. I’ve actually noticed they chitter chatter much more when it’s just the two of us. They have stuff to say! I ask about their favorite colors, favorite animals, what they want to be when they grow up, what they love most about their family…anything to spark a conversation. We’ve talked about fears, dreams and monsters. They are more grateful and hold my hand tighter and cuddle closer.

I know I originally began these Mommy Dates for them. They needed that one-on-one time desperately. I’m realizing now that I needed it too. Monday nights have become the highlight of my week. Stress immediately dissipates and I bask in the amazingness of my kids. I am being reminded of those unbelievable, most tender moments of being a parent, watching your children explore the world. It is the perfect therapy for the busy working mom.

There is nothing better than hearing your child say “Mommy, you know what? It’s Monday! That means it’s Mommy Date Day. And it’s my turn!” or “Mommy, I love this day. I love my time with you. Thank you, Mommy.”

 

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Purposeful Parenting

The Corporate Captive: An Update on My Transition to Work At Home Life

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I’m about six months into my transition from full time corporate work to a new, full time work at home routine. I’ve been busily focusing my energies on Modern Femme™ Movement and our upcoming May convention (join us!), also expanding my services with The Hampton Roads Creative, which will soon transition to a special new project that I’ll share with you very soon!

I’d love to tell you that this transition has been an easy one and that I’ve got a perfect routine now, am the epitome of self-care and wellness, but…well, that would be a lie. Truth be told, I’ve been facing some pretty big demons during this season of my life. I didn’t even recognize them at first, until the tell tale signs of stress and anxiety reared their ugly heads.

I never realized how much ten years of corporate work impacted how my brain approaches the work day. I never realized how much I intrinsically measured my worth by how many hours I was working each day. Suddenly, with this new found freedom to set my own schedule, I encountered guilt and an unfair expectation that I still needed to fill the hours of 8AM – 5PM with full time work.

Why did I feel guilty? I think there was (is) a part of me that feels like I need to prove or legitimize my decision to leave the steady paycheck of the corporate world. As a single mom, that leap of faith put not just my finances at risk, but the lives of my children. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, and I see now that I’m wearing the guilt of that decision unjustly. I rationalized my transition to full time entrepreneurship by acknowledging that I had way too much work to do and needed those hours to focus my energies on my business. That part was true…but not quite as literally as I began to take it. Suddenly, if I did not work every second of 8AM – 5PM, I felt like I was slacking off, not working hard enough, and that my departure from my corporate job was no longer justified because I now had “free time.” Free time to do laundry, go grocery shopping, clean the house, go to the gym, run errands. Somehow those didn’t qualify as worthy work-related tasks.

I found myself in the same cycle I was in as a corporate captive. The alarm would go off extra early, I’d rush the kids to daycare, work like crazy until 5:15PM, race to get them from daycare and then come home with grumpy kids to plan a later dinner and a soon-to-follow bedtime. Then back to the grind, just for extra measure, to prove I was busy. Prove to whom? Myself?

It wasn’t until Somer (and a few other trusted members of my Modern Femme™ tribe) called me out on my captivity that I realized I wasn’t being fair to myself (or to my kids or boyfriend). I needed to hear that self-care is part of my job as a mom and that grocery shopping, resting, going to the gym, running errands, cleaning, prepping for dinner, laundry…those were all worthy tasks I was completing during the day so that I had more time with my kids at night and on the weekends. Wasn’t that why I made the leap to work from home full time? To remove the burden of the corporate schedule, pressure to perform and anxious accessibility that never let me “turn off” and focus on my family? Wasn’t that decision a life-changing move? And yet, here I was…in the same cycle as I was before. Just sitting in my home office instead of a business one.

That realization prompted me to make some pretty hefty changes. I’d be lying if I said I have this all figured out now and life’s a breeze. Nope. I’m still struggling to wrap my head around this and shed the guilty conscious. But I’m getting better.

I now have a no phone, computer, social media rule after 5PM and on weekends. NONE. Nada. Off. Cold turkey. Let me tell you – that’s not easy. But once you do it, it’s incredibly liberating. You know when I felt true (deserved!) guilt? When I told my kids I was shutting off my phones and they looked at me with shock and excitement that they had me all to themselves. Oh what love and special moments I had been missing out on! They were missing me still! I did not make the decision to dive into my business full time so that my family could continue to struggle for quality time. No. I made that decision so that I could take my life back and freely pour myself into my kids and my passions.

If I’ve learned anything from this transition, it’s to be grateful for the community of women I have had the opportunity to build as my support system in all of these big life changes. Placing those women in a trusted position of accountability has enabled me to recognize errors in judgement and when I’m veering off course. Their gentle nudges back towards that which is most important to me, my family, have been truly invaluable. I’m still a work in progress. But I’m free. And I’m surrounded by people that love me, celebrate my decision to follow my heart and my dreams, and continue to challenge me to hold true to why I made that first leap of faith.

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Purposeful Parenting

Year-End Money Tips for Working Moms and Female Entrepreneurs

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Money Tips for Working Moms

I don’t know about you but the end of the year brings two thoughts…well, three thoughts for me. One, CHRISTMAS!!!!! Two, fresh start on January 1st! And three, holy cow, what’s my money situation? Taxes are coming.

A big, big thank you to Kristen Robinson, SVP of Women and Young Investors at Fidelity Investments for taking the time to develop these year-end money tips for working moms and female entrepreneurs!

Money Tips for Working Moms

2 Tips for Female Business Owners / Entrepreneurs:

Keep Your Future in Mind with the Right Retirement Account for Your Needs

  • Look into the different plans available to business owners, such as a 401(k) for Small Business, a self-employed 401(k), SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA.  You may need to appoint a plan administrator- someone who takes care of administrative responsibilities and ensures the plan is operating according to the Plan Document.  Learn more about these different types of accounts here.  
  • Contribute to your account. The deadline for depositing employer profit-sharing contributions for the current calendar year is generally the business’ tax-filing deadline, plus extensions (for unincorporated businesses, this date is usually April 15 of the following year, plus any extensions).

Business Succession

  • If you own a business, have you considered how best to plan for the future?  If you plan to keep it in the family, consider creating a structure that makes it easier to transfer the business’s assets to other family members, such as a family limited partnership or a family limited liability company.
  • There are many options; your attorney or tax adviser can help you select one that is appropriate for you in light of your specific situation.

4 Tips for Single Moms:

Get Involved in Your Family’s Finances

  • It’s important to have a full picture of the family financial situation. At minimum, know what accounts you have and with whom. That includes banks and investing accounts, life insurance, mortgages, and loans. Having a handle on this information is an important foundation as you plan for the future, and can bring greater peace of mind.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes! Yes! Yes! I am still getting a grip on my finances after the divorce. I realize now how little I knew before and how problematic that can be.)

Money Tips for Working Moms

Save for Retirement

    • Retirement is not a destination but a journey, and it’s never too early – or too late – to start putting away savings for the future.  Along the way, there are myriad opportunities to get off the path—and back on it.  And at virtually any turn in the road, there are possibilities to speed up your progress.
      • Make it a goal to save 15% or more of your income each year. If that’s not reachable today, make sure to make it a priority to carve out what you can. Even smaller amounts will add up over time.
      • Aim to have no more than 50% of your take-home pay go toward your “must-have” expenses.

Try to Save Three to Six Months of Essential Expenses in an Emergency Fund.

Look for Growth Potential from your Investments

  • Knowing your financial personality can help you determine the right mix of stocks, bonds and short-term investments that match how comfortable you are with risk, and have the growth potential to meet your life’s needs, be that when you want to retire or when you want to send kids to college.
  • If you’re not sure where to start, read up online, or reach out to a professional.  There’s never a fee to come into Fidelity to talk to a financial planner, but we do recommend you reevaluate twice a year. Just like you take care of your physical health by visiting the doctor and dentist, think of this as taking care of your financial health, which is vitally important as well.

Protect your Legacy

  • In order to ensure that what you’ve accumulated is distributed to your children, family and causes you care about most, it is important to name beneficiaries and create a will and health care proxy. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to think about the ‘what it’s,’ but it’s important to be prepared for the unknown. Do you really want someone else making these decisions for you?

 

 

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