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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
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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 Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child’s Cues

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How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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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. 
How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child's Cues - Infographic

Duh, duh, duh….the dreaded meltdown. With one kid, this can bring the strongest mommy to her knees. With multiples, well…the word “epic” takes on a completely new meaning. In the worst possible way.

My system certainly isn’t perfect, and my kids give new meaning to the word tantrum (I have one that goes “no bones, limp baby, immovable and impossible to catch” and one that goes “cement block that weighs a bazillion pounds and can’t be bended, lifted and/or manipulated in any fashion,” with both adding crazy decibel, ear-splitting screams to boot). At some point in the insanity, I learned to anticipate the meltdown.
My husband and I can spot a meltdown coming from a mile away. We’ll give the other that “It’s time to go. Stat. Grab the kids and sprint. NOW. Forget your shoes! Leave them! Run!” look and as the rest of the human race looks on in bewildered dismay, we quickly head for the hills before things get ugly. I think we have our exit down to about 46 seconds these days (58 if I get to grab my shoes).
On a day-to-day basis, I’ve developed a couple of tricks that stave off most meltdowns. IF I’m paying attention. This is where the understanding your child’s cues part comes in to play. You have to catch the cue before it’s too late. “Practice makes perfect” is the phrase of the day here. Or is “trial through fire” more resonant? In any event, here are my go to lifesavers:

1. Mini Baby Blanket with Attachment Loop – Cold is the enemy. Nothing brings on the whine, which brings on the frustration, which brings on the ultimate refusal to act like a normal human being like frigid weather. I was lugging around blankets to tuck the kids in to their car seats (Remember to avoid bulky coats when strapping kiddos in!) and they were getting tossed, dropped, forgotten, you name it. Then I realized my mother-in-law had given us these super cute sensory blankets with a loop that could attach to a stroller and the light bulb went off. I strapped both blankets to the side of each car seat (they are small and hang to the side if unused, so unobtrusive and the loop is short and sweet, so no wrapping around anything else) and they’re always there when I need them. The link above is one of many Etsy shops that make these small wonders, and ours are even sports themed, so the husband is happy.
2. Baby Sign Language – I admit to being one of those people that eye-rolled the idea of baby sign language when I was pregnant. Never gave it a second thought until my kids starting screaming for reasons that I couldn’t seem to identify. A friend suggested I take a jab at it, and purely out of desperation, I did, still with a bit of attitude and skepticism. And then the boys started signing back. HALLELUJAH! We did only the basics – “More, All Done, Hungry, Please, Thank You” – and that opened up whole new worlds for us in communication. Not only were they excited to sign and overjoyed that I knew what the heck was going on, but I was immensely relieved and didn’t feel like Failure Parent of the Century. Big win. I eat my humble pie proudly. I was an idiot to think this was lame.
3. Snacks at the Ready – Baby Cooler – If cold is the enemy, hunger is the Antichrist. I’d say a good 50% of the time, the boys’ tantrums stem from being hungry. We’re usually in transition to our next meal when the tank slips below E. Low fuel = channeling Satan. And the perfect timing for this special little stream of insanity was pick up from day care. The kids were tired and spent and ready for dinner. Like, 5 minutes before I got there. The first words I heard daily were “Mommy! I need my milk! Hungry!” They were whining, crying, going all sorts of Apocalyptic on me because the last thing they wanted was to be strapped into their car seats for the ride home. They wanted to be teleported straight to the dinner table. I got tired of this daily warfare, especially at the end of my own long day at work, so I started packing snacks and milk in this convenient little cooler (which as an aside, a friend gave me with the promise that it would be one of the most handy baby items I received – she was right). It gets stashed in the community kitchen at work and I grab it on my way out the door each evening. Every morning, I repack and head off knowing that I’ve crossed one tantrum off the list for that day. Yay me.Insert random cuteness here…I mean seriously, people, how can these children have meltdowns that rival the End of Days?

Photos Courtesy of Somer Anne Photography

Moral of the story? A little organization and forethought can go a long way. Considering WHY my kids were throwing tantrums and then exploring what I could do to prevent them before they started has saved me a million tears. Like I said, it’s not a perfect system. But every little bit helps.

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child’s Cues

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How to Speak the Right Language | Understanding Your Children's Cues
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Every day I pick up my children from day care to hear “They are such great kids! They had a blast today and are some of the best listeners we’ve ever had. They’re so well-behaved!” Yay, Mama win! And then we go home and they act like total demon-infested, hell-raising psychos and won’t listen to a word I say. Weekends can be brutal and I sometimes find myself praising Jesus that I decided to keep working and not stay-at-home.

What was I doing wrong? Who were these little hellions and where were those
sweet kids from day care?
Purposeful Parenting - How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child's Cues Purposeful Parenting - How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child's Cues

Best Thing I Ever Did: I went to pick the kids up one day and they were enjoying themselves, so I decided to just sit and watch for a bit and let them play. Funny thing happened. I started listening to how the day care teachers communicated with my children and how they responded. And the light bulb went off. I don’t know how to speak the language my kids understand.

I started listening harder. And then I came back the next day and did it again. Now, every time I drop off or pick up, I listen. How are they talking to my kids? What are they saying? How are the kids responding? And then I mimick it at home.

Major win!!! My kids are starting to see an extension of their daily routine back into the home and it’s making sense. I say certain words they’re used to hearing and like magic, they listen. Not every time (which I suspect also happens at day care), but the majority of time. Major improvement. We are starting to speak the same language.

Sometimes I forget (or refuse to admit) that I am not my children’s primary care provider. For those of us that work outside the home, most often our kids spend the majority of their time somewhere other than with us. Sometimes, being reminded of that hurts. A lot. But truth is, they develop routines, cues and references that we’re not familiar with. We need to learn the language they are used to hearing every day so that we can communicate our needs in a way they understand. I need to speak my children’s language.

Phrase Adjustments that Worked for Me: 

  • “Walk away please” instead of “No!” or “Don’t Touch!” 
  • “Are you using your listening ears?” instead of “Listen to me!”
  • “I’m going to go to work for awhile, but Mommies always come back!” instead of “Say bye to Mommy. I have to go to work.” 

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Emily Speaks

11 Alternatives to Self Harm: Emily Speaks

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Alternatives to Self Harm | Emily Speaks | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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If you’re just connecting with the Emily Speaks series, be sure to check out her first post, Cyber Bullying and Self-Harm, to catch up. Today, Emily will be sharing 11 alternatives to self harm to help those hurting to make healthier choices to cope with emotional struggles. 

11 Alternatives to Self-Harm: Emily Speaks


I know it can be hard not to self-harm if you’re being bullied, but you need to try to think of other ways to deal with the pain. Cutting leaves angry scars on your body. You should try to deal with your hurt in other ways. Here are 11 good examples that will hopefully help you out a little bit.

1. Try talking to somebody about what’s going on so that you can get it out of your system.

2. Go outside where nobody is around and just scream as loud as you can for as long as you want.


3. Take a rubber band and keep it on your wrist so whenever you feel like cutting you can just take that rubber band and snap it on your wrist (softly – not to where it harms you).


4. Get an old teddy bear or stuffed animal that you don’t want and take your anger out on that.


5. Go on a jog or go out and ride your bike or long board or whatever you have and just ride around to calm yourself down.


6. Go hang out with your friend(s) and get your mind off things that would make you want to cut or do anything else to harm yourself.

7. Sleep it out and take a long nap and see how you’re feeling when you wake up.


8. Go hang out with your family and just relax.


9. Listen to some music.


10. Read a book.


11. Get an art journal and draw out your feelings. You can paint, draw pictures, even just scribble hard.

These are some of the ways that I stop myself from cutting, because I do still think about it when things get rough. When that happens, I try to do these instead and it helps. It does! You need to do anything that would take your mind off of any bad thoughts you are having and make you want to hurt yourself. This might not be the best list of ideas, but if you take a chance and try them out, they might end up working for you. You’re not only helping yourself, but you’re helping everyone else around you by making a better choice to not self-harm. 

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