Family

New motherhood can turn a person into a product junkie. With my oldest daughter, there was a lot of trial and error. I was a first-time mom and was learning by experience. Plus my daughter had a sensitive stomach and sensitive skin. If I could go back and do it over, I would breastfeed her for longer than 2 days — and that may have solved both problems. Since I didn’t know the value of nursing, though, we spent months trying to find the right formula, the right products to use on her skin, the right laundry detergent, etc.

That was fun. Not really. But it was expensive. So when I found out about Walmart’s new Baby Box service, the first thing I thought was how much time and money I could’ve saved trying a variety of baby products without having to fully commit right away.

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So what is Walmart‘s Baby Box? Well, given that each stage of pregnancy and new parenthood comes with different needs, you can receive samples of products sold at Walmart (or Walmart.com) that are relevant to your stage of pregnancy or your baby’s age. The best part? All you pay is shipping & handling, just $5, to get products that make sense when you need them delivered to your home. Think of is as your favorite beauty box (or hair or food), just for you and baby.

To get started, when you subscribe, you’ll have to share your current stage, based on your baby’s due or birth date: 2nd Trimester, 3rd Trimester, infant, baby or toddler.

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I received the 2nd trimester box just so I could see what the Baby Box could deliver. Here’s what I got:

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I’m glad to see that breastfeeding was given a presence in this box.  I actually use both those Lasinoh products already, so that was a great surprise. While I may not use the other products, since my baby is older, I will happily pass them on to a friend who is expecting soon.

I’m also crossing my fingers that Walmart plans to include samples of the natural products they carry, like Shea Moisture, Seventh Generations and Burt’s Bees baby products, since there are a lot of parents like myself who are either very particular about the products they use for themselves and baby, or who could benefit from a low-cost introduction to these awesome, eco-friendly brands.

So what do you think? If you’re expecting or have a baby at home, would you try the baby box? Would you give it as a gift to a friend with a baby?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

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I love breastfeeding. Really I do. Baby Juliza and I have been at it for almost 10 months now with no sign of stopping soon. I can honestly say that it has been one of my best experiences as a mother. So what’s the problem? Well…this nursing relationship has left baby Juliza really, really attached to me — day AND night.

This was completely understandable when all of her meals literally came from my body, especially since she started refusing a bottle altogether when she was about 4 months old. However, how that she’s a bit older and trying new foods, I knew it was finally time to loosen the chokehold reins, just a smidge. When Walmart asked me to try their USA Kids sippy cups, I thought I’d take the opportunity to try getting her to drink from something other than me.

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Why Do I Like These Cups?

There are a couple of features of USA Kids’ cups that make this green mama happy:

1. They’re made in the U.S.

Outside of plastic and stainless steel, there aren’t many materials from which sippy cups can be made. If I’m going to go with plastic, I’m thankful that these are made in the U.S. (hence the brand name), where safety standards can be carefully monitored and jobs can stay here where they are needed.

2. They’re BPA-free.

I also need any new plastics I bring into my home to be Bisphenol A (BPA)-free. The problem is that BPA can leach into food and drinks from containers and cause health problems in animals, and possibly people. Because I have no desire to make my baby a science experiment, this is a genuine deal-breaker for me. So I’m thankful that these USA Kids cups do not contain BPA.

3. They’re recyclable.

Not all plastic can be recycled, so this is a pretty sweet feature. It means these cups don’t have to end up in the landfill once they are no longer useful to us (though I’d probably try to reuse first).

Of course, this particular product test isn’t as much about me as it is about Juliza. So how did it go? Check out this video.

If you couldn’t watch the video, let’s just say she was tentative at first. I pumped and gave her some breast milk in one of the cups. She has used a soft-nipple cup a few times, so cups with a hard spout are still very new to her. I’m glad to say, though, that after a while, she got the hang of using the USA Kids cup.

She didn’t drink very much milk from it, in part because the source (ie. my boobies) were just inches away from her head. But the fact that she drank any at all gives me hope that if I will soon be able to leave the house alone for more than a few hours, and she’ll be able to drink pumped milk from a cup. As much as a really dislike pumping, it will absolutely be worth it if I can gain a little freedom and detach Juliza from me for a bit.

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Anyway, while she was hesitant to drink my milk from the sippy cup, she had absolutely no problem drinking water or juice from it. No problem at all. She was only too happy to have a bit of control with those fluids.

Speaking of which, the best part of these cups — aside from the cute designs — is the “No-Leak” valve.

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In addition to the cap, there’s a plastic piece that goes inside the cover, which creates a nice seal. This means that Juliza can turn the cup over or even hold it upside down without any spillage. Given that she hasn’t had much practice with a bottle, this is a good thing, because she’s been turning the cup over a lot as she learns to use it.

So what’s my takeaway? Well, the cups are cute and work well. So I think $10.94 for a 4-pack is more than worth the autonomy I’ll be gaining. I bet you’ll feel the same.

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Baby Juliza: Month 9

Wasn’t I just pregnant? Like yesterday or something? I was, right? And yet somehow, the child who was in my belly is now a 9-month-old crawling, standing, biting machine!

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My hubby and I thought this photo was the most accurate representation of how mischievous she is these days. And here’s another to show how increasingly difficult it is to get a photo of the child while she’s sitting still.

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I have entirely too many photos of her in various versions of this position from this month’s photo shoot. She’s crawling like a bullet, and will sit still only for food or when she’s really sleepy.

And speaking of sleep, we’re facing issues with that too. This time last year, I was feeling karate chops and kicks in my belly, trying to get a comfortable night’s sleep. Now, I’m still feeling those chops and kicks, trying to get a comfortable night’s sleep, but that’s because Juliza often refuses to sleep in her own bed. My hubby and I are left fighting for what little space is left in our bed. And in our bed, she sleeps like a champ. A beautiful, angelic, torturous champ.

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#babyjuliza is even more beautiful when she's asleep. 😁 Playing around with a few new camera apps on my iPhone6. Loving it so far. #POMELOcamera

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We’re working on it, and I think a lot of the issues stem from the fact that she’s teething again — cutting her two top front teeth this time. Still, I hope we work it out soon, because as much as I love snuggling with my jellybean and I have no problem nursing her at bedtime, mama really can’t function very well after too many nights of crappy sleep.

She’s been doing better of late, so let’s hope the trend continues.

In other news, she’s standing up on her own really well! She’s even taken a couple of tiny steps, though she promptly fell on her butt.

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She's getting her balance down! She does this all the time, and I try so hard to get her on video, but she's usually not having it. I don't think she noticed I was doing it this time. She's also taken a couple of steps. #mamaisnotready #babyjuliza @rfahrenhyt

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I’m excited that she’s progressing really well, but I don’t know that I’m ready for a walker. As it is, I spend half the day chasing my speedy little crawler to every corner of the house, and we’ve had to get creative about boxing her into a smaller area. I can’t even go to the bathroom without being followed. When she starts walking, all bets are off.

As it is, her newfound ability to pull herself into a standing position often leads to unexpected results — though those results sometimes lead to really great photo ops:

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Someone found her reflection in the mirror! #babyjuliza

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The crazy thing is that even as she works toward all this newfound independence, she’s simultaneously become really clingy. Like scream every time I walk out of the room, clingy. Or cry because she can see me, but not touch me, clingy. I may be going slightly crazy as a result. As fortunate as I know we are to work from home and have JuJu with us all day every day, that also means she has little to no interaction with other people on a regular basis. My mom, sister and nieces came over the other day, and she barely even let them touch her.

Like many other things about babies, I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that this is a phase, and she’ll find her way out of it eventually. Still, once we finally get her to take milk from a sippy cup, we may put her in day care at least half-day so she can get some social interaction with folks other than us.

My baby is growing up, and I’m trying to heed the advice to enjoy this while it lasts. Because Ja’Naya is proof that Juliza will be a baby today and a big girl tomorrow.

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This time Juliza has her sister’s footsteps to follow. Ja’Naya takes her big sister role seriously, and it makes my heart soar daily to see how much they love each other.

Until next month…

Baby Juliza: Month 8

I’m a little late with this month’s photo and post, mostly because I’ve just need to relax a bit and I haven’t been in the sharing mood for the past few weeks. But I actually really love this ritual of taking Juliza’s photo in the same place every month. It’s really nice to be able to look at all of them and see how much she’s changed in this short time.

So with that, here’s my 8-month-old big girl!

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You may have noticed those two teeth right there in front. Well yes, they’re in, and amazingly enough, she hasn’t bitten me yet. This is what I was most worried about with our continued breastfeeding, but it hasn’t been a problem thus far. And JuJu is only too happy to show off her teeth with big, cheesy smiles. My child smiles with her whole face, right down to the wrinkled nose and squinted eyes. And I can’t help but smile back at her. Every. Time. It’s irresistible.

In new developments, Juliza is crawling. She still seems to prefer rolling across the room — and I’m still in shock at how fast she does that — but she can crawl and will do it when she feels like it. At the moment, her favorite activity is pulling herself into a standing position when she gets a good grip on any and everything, from the sofa cushions to mommy’s hair or daddy’s face. Whatever works.

And standing up usually leads to this:

She loves to walk, with help, of course. And she also loves to dance. Thanks to mom and dad, that usually happens to the beat of reggae or soca. You may want to turn down the volume before you watch this one:

My island baby already knows what life is about :)

We’re just a few short months away from her first birthday, and I’m already getting wistful about it. But at least I’ll always have these posts to look back upon with fondness. I just wish I had done the same with my older daughter…

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August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and there have been events going on all month long to help promote and normalize breastfeeding. This week — August 25-31 — is Black Breastfeeding Week.

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Sounds innocuous enough, right? A week to encourage black moms to nurse their babies. I even wrote a post for Black Breastfeeding Week when I was pregnant last year and planning to nurse. In fact, though I knew I wanted to try nursing with baby Juliza, this event is what helped cement in my mind that I really needed to breastfeed. That it was important and life-saving and necessary. Reading stories from other black women who felt the same offered a type of solidarity that was genuinely encouraging.

Well, unfortunately, there are a lot of women — specifically white women — who have taken offense to this. Who insist that black breastfeeding week is racist, that it only serves to divide the breastfeeding community and that it’s exclusionary. Who insist that if there were a “white breastfeeding week”, we’d all be up in arms.

Well, here’s the thing. The breastfeeding community is already divided. The numbers tell us that. White women are statistically a lot more likely to breastfeed than black women. They are also more likely to continue extended breastfeeding beyond 6 months or a year. The result? The rates of infant mortality and low birthweight in the African American community are higher.

The point is that it’s super important that we all work to encourage more black moms to nurse — for our health and the health of our babies. This isn’t about excluding anyone. White women who have a problem with this, I’m going to address the rest of this post directly to you:

It’s really sad when breastfeeding advocates can’t see the importance of speaking to women where they are — even if that means targeting their race.

If you feel excluded from this week, imagine how moms of color feel in every other conversation about breastfeeding. Realistically, the face of breastfeeding in this country is white. It always has been. When you walk into a La Leche League group, chances are most, if not all, of the members and the leader are white. The lactation consultant at your hospital or birthing center? Probably white. The posters in the WIC office, magazine ads or commercials about breastfeeding? Probably feature white women.

So if you want to go there, “white” breastfeeding week is every week.

And images like this one, featuring black women feeding our beautiful brown babies the way nature intended, are rarely included in breastfeeding advocacy:

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Yet, you get to assume that when white women are featured and included, that everyone is included and invited to the conversation. That may be true in intent, but it’s rarely true in execution or outcome. And that’s called white privilege.

The whole point of Black Breastfeeding Week is to show black moms that we breastfeed too, and that there is nothing wrong with it. To combat the perception that breastfeeding is just something that white women do. Because unless we actively seek out other black breastfeeding moms, it can certainly look that way. To combat a culture that would tell us to “take that baby off your titty” or question if you’re only breastfeeding because you can’t afford formula. To combat a culture that would call you a sexual deviant for breastfeeding a toddler or tell you you’re going to make your son gay by breastfeeding him. To encourage women who may never have seen anyone in their family or larger community breastfeed, ever.

And yes, breastfeeding moms of all races face some of these issues. But can you imagine if your whole family — whole community — was largely ignorant about the benefits and necessity of breastfeeding? If even your doctor and nurses assumed you didn’t plan to breastfeed and pushed formula on you simply because of your race?

This matters. It matters to see women who look like us proving that breastfeeding is OK. That it’s natural and normal and beautiful and life-saving, no matter what anyone else might say. It matters to have people who understand your experience as a black woman saying these things to you.

Please, spare me the crap about how “talking about race encourages racism,” or how we’re the ones who are “making things about race” because that makes no sense. Race is a factor, whether we talk about it or not. Your whiteness allows you to ignore that fact because it’s not something you have to deal with on a daily basis. Contrary to what you’d like to believe, talking about it attempts to make the issue less taboo so we can actually FACE our racial differences instead of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending they don’t exist.

But Lord, if I had a dollar for every time a white person said “talking about race just breeds racism”, I’d be rich. The only way we’ll get past racism is to talk about it in real, honest terms and actually LISTEN to each other. Negating the experience of a person of color just because you can’t relate is a glaring example of white privilege.

If you take offense to that, I strongly suggest you look inside yourself about why. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about you. Period. If you call yourself a breastfeeding advocate and you can’t be an ally and support black moms in our breastfeeding efforts, however we choose to do so, then just stay out of the conversation, because your bigotry is not welcome.

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That time of year has come again: Back to school. I fully admit that I’m one of those parents who looks forward to it — probably because I work from home. Entertaining kids all summer while you’re all cooped up in the house for most of the day is — well — challenging. And with back to school season comes shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. For their basic school supplies, but also snacks, and new clothes and shoes that actually fit, among other things.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of our back to school experience. First up: Shopping for school supplies.

I know there are some people who love this part. Me? Notsomuch.

My daughter went back to school last week, and before that was the tax-free shopping weekend that comes around every year about this time. Would it have been more cost-effective to shop then? Absolutely. But you couldn’t have gotten me in a store for any reason, because I knew they’d be packed and crazy. Instead, we waited until just after the sale to get our shopping done.

One great thing about shopping at Walmart for school supplies is that lists for all the schools in the area can usually be found front and center. This was especially necessary this year, since my daughter started a new school less than 2 weeks after we moved, so we really had no idea what she’d need.

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As it turns out, in addition to your typical supplies like glue sticks and notebook paper, she also needed classroom supplies, like tissue, paper towel, baby wipes and sandwich bags. All-encompassing lists like this make shopping at Walmart worth it, because I can get all of it in one place.

Thankfully, we had some of her other supplies on hand, thanks to my stockpiling throughout the year. If we’d also had to buy binders, markers, scissors, pencils, flash drives and more, that would’ve made this a costlier endeavor. As it was, even with some snacks added for good measure, we came in just under $35. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Of course, my daughter had to get all that stuff to school. Luckily, her aunt gifted her a really nice backpack for Christmas last year, and it’s still in great shape.

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Once we got all the supplies, the excitement for school really ramped up. My baby couldn’t wait to walk out the door on the first day of school.

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How is it that she’s already in fourth grade? Where did my baby go?

Anyway, I’m just glad the year has started smoothly. Soon, I’ll share some back to school style, for boys and girls, and crafts with you.

Has school started yet in your neck of the woods? Are you and your kids excited?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

When Walmart asked me to share my morning routine, I wasn’t sure how to approach it at first. Because routines are — well — routine. Boring. Rote. By definition. But life is never really boring, is it? And those routines are the things we remember when the years have passed us by. I can still remember the sweet smell of the bathroom when I took morning showers after my mom as a little girl and how stressful it was in high school whenever we broke routine and I had to ride the city bus to school.

In hopes that my kids will remember our morning routines fondly, here’s a play-by-play of just what we do when we wake up, and the products that help us do it. A “Morning in the Life”, if you will.

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6:40 a.m.  |  Baby Juliza is awake. I am thankful for the video baby monitor gifted to us by my friend Linsey, because I can see that she’s chatting to herself contentedly in her crib and there’s no need to rush.

6:43 a.m.  |  Ja’Naya wakes me up. You read that right. For the past few years, my oldest daughter has set her alarm, and she gets herself out of bed and starts to get ready. She usually comes to get me after she gets out of the bathroom, if I’m not already awake. When she walks out, I lay in bed for a few minutes checking my email and scrolling through Facebook.

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6:47 a.m.  |  I go to Juliza’s room to find she and Ja’Naya playing. That’s what big sisters are for, right? Early morning play dates. Right?
6:49 a.m.  |  This is usually when I’d feed the baby, but she woke up at 2:30 a.m. for a rare middle-of-the-night feeding, so she’s not hungry yet. I change her diaper instead, and head downstairs with both girls to make breakfast.
6:55 a.m.  |  I set Juliza up in the living room with her sister so I can cook. Some mornings, Ja’Naya actually makes breakfast for herself if I’m still with the baby. What can I say? The child is very independent.

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6:58 a.m.  |  I stop to clean the kitchen. Cleaning isn’t my favorite task, but see…there’s this thing. I can’t bring myself to cook if the kitchen isn’t clean. So I’ll always stop to wipe things off, load the dishwasher, etc. before I start to cook. I can’t help myself. This is why we like to keep Clorox wipes on hand, though. For quick cleanups like this one. I prefer Seventh Generation wipes, or even Clorox Greenworks, but those can be hard to find.
7:08 a.m.  |  Back to breakfast. I’m making scrambled eggs for the whole family.

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7:15 a.m.  |   The eggs are done, so I put a waffle in the toaster for Ja’Naya. I keep saying that I’ll make them from scratch one day, but that day isn’t today. When we do buy pre-made, we love Vans frozen waffles, and blueberry is her favorite.

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7:17 a.m.  |  Ja’Naya comes into the kitchen to prepare her water bottle and snack for school. We keep relatively healthy ready-to-go snacks on hand, like Quaker chewy granola bars and Mott’s chewy fruit & vegetable snacks.

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7:20 a.m.  |  Ja’Naya sits down to eat, and I remember to give her a Disney gummy vitamin. She’d been taking them religiously last school year, but when we ran out, I kept forgetting to pick up a new bottle. I didn’t forget this time, and the bottle was just $3.

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7:22 a.m.  |  Juliza and I head upstairs to wake up Daddy. Even his sleepy face is handsome. I know it will be a while before either of us gets to eat, but at least the eggs are made. We can add toast and fruit when we’re ready.

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7:27 a.m.  |  Remember how I said Juliza wasn’t hungry when we first woke up? Well, that’s changed, so we head into her room to nurse. This quiet corner is our favorite spot.
7:39 a.m.  |  Juliza is “done”. Alas this is a trick she’s played many times before. She’s just distracted and looking around every time someone walks by the door. She keeps coming back back for more.

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7:43 a.m.  |  She’s actually done this time. Just in time too, because it’s about time for Ja’Naya to head out to the very nearby bus stop, so we go downstairs to see her out.
7:52 a.m.  |  The bus arrives.
7:53 a.m.  |  The bus leaves. I never realized until now that there’s literally a one-minute window for the kids in our neighborhood to catch the bus.

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7:56 a.m.  |  Juliza, Daddy and I sit in bed for a bit — until she spits up. Now, I have to change the sheets. I put her on the floor with her toys.
8:10 a.m.  |  Since she’s playing happily and Daddy is with her, I go run a load of laundry and do some quick decluttering in the living room and our bedroom.
8:45 a.m.  |  I take a break to check email from my phone.
8:52 a.m.  |  Time to change JuJu out of her pajamas, because she spit up again.
9:00 a.m.  |  We head downstairs to find Daddy sweeping the kitchen, so we play for a bit while we wait for him. Because neither Daddy nor I have eaten breakfast yet.
9:11 a.m.  |  Juliza is starting to get fussy and I know that means it’s almost nap time.

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9:27 a.m.  |  Hubby and I finally get to eat breakfast. He was sweet enough to add some turkey sausage to my plate because he knows they’re my favorite. He may or may not also have added some grapes, and I may or may not have eaten them before I remembered to take this photo. We eat in the living room while I bounce Juliza on my shoulder since she’s sleepy and cranky. Of course, she forgot she was sleepy as soon as she spotted my plate. So I shared a few tiny pieces of egg with her. The girl likes to eat.
9:40 a.m.  |  I hand a still-sleepy Juliza to my hubby so I can put our breakfast plates in the dishwasher and run a load.
9:45 a.m.  |  She falls asleep on his shoulder, and he goes upstairs to put her in her crib.
9:47 a.m.  |  Finally, hubby and I sit at our respective computers. Time to officially start our work day.

As I documented this, I realized how fortunate we are. The combination of two parents who work from home + one school-aged child really make our mornings a lot less stressful than they could be. Remind me of that in a few months when the baby is a lot more active and I have to feed her more than just breast milk.

So, what are mornings like at your house?

Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links have been used.

Baby Juliza: Month 7

Baby’s first year out of the womb is pretty amazing to witness. It seems like one day, all they can do is eat, sleep and poop. And maybe blink at you a bit. Then the next day, they’re sitting up, bouncing, crawling, talking, eating food, and generally growing up way too fast.

We’ve hit the 7-month mark, and I’m just captivated by the little person Juliza is becoming.

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Will you look at that face (and those eyelashes!)? It brightens every single day, and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. Even when she scratches herself in the face because her nails act like I’m feeding her MiracleGro. In fact, her whole growth pattern, nails included, would indicate we’re feeding her some kind of super food.

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My tiny, 6lb. 12oz. newborn is no more. I’m a little misty-eyed about how fast this is all happening, but I’m more excited about how far she has come.

She’s still sitting up like a champ, for extended periods of time, and she rarely falls over any more. She also seems to enjoy putting her hands on the floor in front of her, then flopping over onto her belly. And she’s become very proficient at scooting backward once in that position. It won’t be long before she starts crawling.

A mobile baby. That’ll be really easy to handle, right? *Sarcasm*

Another major development is that she’s learned how to clap. Like full on applause. I caught a little of it in this video, but she’ll usually do it for a lot longer.

Clapping aside though, the biggest development since last month is that she’s talking! Not quite in full words yet, but let her have this win, ok? I was ready to disown her because in spite of the lovely, fun labor it took to get her into this world, she still stabbed me in the back and said “dada” first. And she even has the nerve to be smug about it.

Relax people. I know “dada” is easier to say. And I’m kidding about disowning her. Sort of.

But she also says “nana” and even “ny ny”, which is one of her big sister Ja’Naya’s many nicknames. Juliza will repeat sounds for you when you say them over and over and again. Yet, “mama” remains elusive.

I guess I can take solace in the fact that I’m her favorite source of comfort at the moment. This may only be because I’m also her favorite (read: only) source of milk, but I won’t be picky.

She’s cutting a couple of teeth, which means my comforting powers have been tested quite a bit over the past few weeks, but at least she hasn’t bitten me. Let’s just hope it stays that way.

Until next month…