A Backpack Built to Last a Toddler

Our little bubble world pops next week. Jack returns to preschool two days a week. He’s expressed his reluctance lately, but that’s a whole entirely separate blog post. As I packed my lunch, poured the coffee and lugged out my breast pump this morning, I realized next week I’ll start packing double time.

As I eased back to work, my Mom’s been manning the kids three days a week. But, next week we start our regular schedule, which means packing up Jack’s lunch, diapers, wipes, extra clothes, extra underwear, nap blanket & sheet, coat, boots, snow pants, hat and mittens for daycare. If I miss anything, I get a note. And yes, the kids go outside every day. Even in the snow.

Kelty packpack similiar to Jack's
(Photo from Kelty)
Last winter was his first in daycare, and I realized most parents packed all the toddler/preschool nonsense in Meijer bags. I didn’t want to get lost in the mix, so we needed something different. On a regular trip to Target, my husband – perusing the outdoor section as always – discovered a Kelty adult backpack on sale for $20. Kelty packs are typically $60 - $200, so we basically stole it. Now I’m not saying all kids need a Kelty. But the price was right, and the brand was durable. Built to last a toddler.

Now a year later, I’ve realized how ah-mazing the backpack is. Jack uses the backpack when he sleeps over at his Nonna’s house. Goes on vacation. Long car rides. Day trips. Or basically any activity that includes leaving the house.

It’s trendy. Has multiple pockets. Tough. And seriously the perfect bag for the little person with so much to carry.


A Twist on Date Night

I can’t remember the last time the hubs and I had dinner out. My birthday in August maybe? And now a nuts-o toddler and nursing baby sure remove romance from any date night. Desperate to keep the family alive – and Jack’s mind off my return to work – I was inspired to have a family “Date Night In” tonight.

First, create the ambiance. All of us are half Italian. So, little Italy it was. I collected all the candles from our house for the centerpiece. Pulled out Jack’s roll paper and covered the table. Added crayons for doodling. Perfetto! Just 15 minutes of prep and we were on a date.

 Second, the menu. I’d been wanting to try Bertolli’s Frozen Meal Soups, so what better than our family date night? I picked up a bag of Tomato Florentine & Tortellini with Chicken while at Target shopping with Ella today. That way I had time to enjoy a bit of coloring by candlelight with my boys while soup cooked on the stove.

It was delish. Tasted so fresh. And seriously filling.

Third, and finally, enjoy. Jack melted some crayon. Justin took his coloring a little too seriously. Ella smiled at the atmosphere. And I couldn’t stop snapping photos, anxious to catch the first of many “Family Date Night Ins.”

Next up, we visit Germany. The other half of our ancestry.


This post was inspired by Bertolli, who compensated me to participate in the Weeknight Meal Special Challenge. Check out Bertolli on Facebook or Twitter.
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Why Mess With a Good Swing

Next week I return to work. Which translates to my real life homecoming. No more living in a never-ending fairy tale. The good life will now resume in the evenings and Friday through Monday. Welcome back chaotic mornings. Travel coffee mug. And, daycare germs.

In my return to work preparation, I’ve been noting Ella’s unregulated schedule for our nanny, also known as my Mom. She’ll be watching El two days a week, Jack one day. As a baby, Jack was very particular about life. He liked to be put to sleep a certain way. Hated the bottle. Loved being held. And preferred the comfort of routine.

Ella is the world's opposite.

At seven weeks old, she’s surprisingly on somewhat of a routine. Wakeful mornings. Long afternoon nap. Playful evenings. And heavy sleep-filled nights. She took to a bottle of breast milk without a hiccup. Will sleep anywhere. Loves smiling. Prefers her fist as entertainment. And rarely sheds tears.

Today, my Mom asked about Ella’s particulars. I sifted my brain. She really has none that I’ve noticed. Probably because she’s the second child and has adapted to the demanding needs of her two-year-old brother. One thing I know for sure is she absolutely loves to nap in the swing. Hands down.

Jack hated it as a baby. Only spending time swinging when I took showers. Ella spends all naps there. Which equals a good part of her day. While she sleeps in the pack-and-play in our room at night, she usually ends up sleeping anywhere during the day. Lately I’ve been trying to have her nap in her crib, but found she sleeps more peacefully and longer in the swing. Regardless of Jack’s screeching, ball-throwing or table-jumping activities surrounding her. She sleeps.

So I concluded, why mess with a good swing? She sleeps there perfectly during the day. Why change? As a second-time Mom, I've learned to not mess with a baby unless there are real tears.

Ella snoozing in the swing. 


Staying Sane

I know I’ve been severely slacking here. It’s not the only thing lacking my attention. Aside from daily laundry, cleaning, nursing, toddler meltdowns and overwhelming amount of diaper changes – life is flowing and the kids are happy.

I’ve heard it millions. The change from one to two little ones is huge. That’s an understatement. You have one set of eyes. And two kids. There’s no warm up here. Just game on.

I was thinking of writing about the regulated chaos of my daily life. Juggling a newborn and toddler. Instead, I thought of something more useful. The tiny things that have kept me sane. More relaxed. And able to enjoy this ever-so-short time with my babies.

So here it is. Some things that have kept the hair on my head. My eyes open. And my husband smiling at me. Well, most days.

1. Coffee. I’ve referenced my requirement for coffee before, but with the addition of Ella come night nursings and lack of sleep. I can’t complain. Ella’s slept at night since she was born. Sleeps in four-hour chunks. And only wakes to quickly eat. I know. I thank God daily. But, I’m still loosing sleep and now have two littles to occupy. Which means I need coffee to run.

2. Minus One.  Whenever possible, I leave a kid at home with Justin or a grandparent when it’s grocery shopping or errand time. Although Jack has stood tall with his newfound freedom in the world, it’s just so much easier to pack up one.  Dress one. Unload one. Carry one. And so on.

3.  Get Fresh. I still shower every day and apply at least the bare essentials of make up. My husband laughs, “Who are you going to see today? Getting pretty for the UPS guy.” But, putting on fresh sweatpants and mascara makes me feel fresh and accomplished. Which equals sound me and, therefore, happy kids. So, I try to shower before Justin leaves for work or at naptime. Making sure to leave room for a handful of minutes to just stand in hot water silence.

4. Play Time. The dishes can wait. The laundry won’t burn. So everyday I make sure to get on the floor and play with Jack. Yesterday we built a zoo of blocks for all the small spiders, snakes, dragons and animals he has.  Today we cooked rubber bands in his kitchen. One day, my Mom watched sleeping Ella while Jack and I built a snowman out front. My favorite is coloring. Amazing how rejuvenating crayons and books can be.

5. Read Anything. I love to read. And lately I’ve realized it’s not only my adult books, but also magazines, blogs, news and even children’s books. I’ll read at night after Jack’s asleep and Ella’s nursing. Jack and I’ve also gotten lost for an hour reading his books. I never thought it could be so relaxing. 

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