It's in the Bag. The be...bag.

I can’t remember the last time I cluttered a purse with nonsense. Now-a-days, it’s the diaper bag that’s full of it. Gum wrappers. Lip gloss. Tweezers. Multiple pens. Crinkled receipts. And, lost pennies. 

With a baby and preschooler, I’m usually handcuffed to a diaper bag. But lately, as Ella approaches one and potty training Jack is a faint memory, I’ve dusted off my prized collection of purses. My tiny handbags of heaven. It’s my addiction. While most women like shoes, I prefer purses. (Although a sharp pair of stilettos wouldn’t make me frown.)

The need for a bulky diaper bag has diminished for short trips. Grocery store outings, trips downtown or fall clothes shopping now means smaller bags. Handbags. Well, not the itsy-bitsy Coach clutch. Rather the Kenneth Cole sack. But, still an improvement. And, much more my style.

I recently connected with Rhonda of be…bag, an Etsy shop featuring handmade quilted handbags, exclusively designed by her. Rarely are two alike. The best part is that a portion of every sale goes to charity. And, each bag has an “inspiration” card inside. Inspiring purse lovers to be the best and give back to someone else.

My be…bag joins us everywhere. The shoulder strap ensures contents don’t scatter when I quickly snatch a fallen pacifier. Or chase Jack out of the candy isle. The vintage-like fabric is right up my style. Unique. Timeless. And, the handywork is unreal. So durable. And, beautifully crafted.

Holds a few diapers, keys, wallet and snack perfectly. 

Here’s a little more on Rhonda and be…bag. A few things that make me admire her style – and bags – even more:

“I love flip-flops with brightly colored toenails. I sew barefoot and flip-flops easily accommodate this. I come from a long line of sewing people & treasure a quilt of my great-grandmothers, sewn from scraps of her handmade dresses. I'm a self-taught sewer and a mom-taught quilter. Combining a love of quilting, an obsession with handbags, & a desire to help others, bebag was born. A beautiful bag on your arm means you're helping others. Part of the brand has always been to give a percentage of each sale to charities that help others ‘be’ all that they can be. It's all being inspired and inspiring others.
Ella loves the be...bag too.
Like my be…bag? Get one from her Etsy store here, find her on Facebook here or follow her on Twitter here. 


Combating the Most Common Illness Among Youngsters. Starting at the Gums.

In the past month, Ella has taken to solid foods and sippy cups like a devoted Olympic gold medallist. It wasn’t easy. But, the road to victory never is. Razzed yogurt. Splattered formula. Mushed blueberries. And, protesting squeals. Much more of a mess at this age than her older brother was. But, my goal to kick the bottle by her first birthday is just three months away. So, “Operation Bottle Bye Bye” is in overdrive.

I refuse to be the parent with a three-year-old drinking juice from a bottle. Not only because preschoolers are completely capable of drinking from cups, but mainly due to the very serious risk of tooth decay and bottle mouth.

Bottle mouth? More common than parents think. It’s when a baby/toddler keeps a bottle with soda, sugary drinks juice, milk or formula in his or her mouth a lot during the day (i.e. overnight bottle nursing, frequent sipping).  The liquid ferments around the teeth and leads to enamel damage. Eventually tooth decay.

At least 4 million preschoolers suffer from tooth decay.  Four million. It’s an increase of more than 600,000 kids in the last decade, according to Parenting.com.

A March 2012 NY Times article stated that the number of preschoolers requiring extensive dental work is on the rise. “Dentists nationwide say they are seeing more preschoolers at all income levels with 6 to 10 cavities. The level of decay, they added, is so severe, that they often recommend using general anesthesia because young children are unlikely to sit through such extensive procedures.”

Still not convinced? The LA Times reported that more than 50 percent of children will have some tooth decay by age 5 and oral infection is the No. 1 chronic disease in kids.

Yikes. Just picturing my little Jack. Almost three. His tiny feet not nearly reaching the dentist chair edge. Small cubby hand clutching my fingers as the dentist shifts a mask over his mouth.  We have a dentist appointment Friday. Glad he brushes his teeth every day and we only let him sip water. Juice only at meals. It’s the addiction to sticky candy that worries me…

But, what most parents don’t know is the risks. Tooth decay is mainly caused by bacteria. Germs. Not by the lack of brushing or flossing. And, it’s more common among young children than any other chronic illness.

Here’s a few leading causes of tooth decay:
- Eating a high-sugar diet (that includes all those processed and frozen foods!)
- Eating sticky candy (Jack is totally guilty)
- Eating frequent sweets or snacks
- Drinking beverages with sugar between meals

Leading causes of bottle mouth:
- Drinking sweetened beverages from the bottle
- Too many bottles after child’s first birthday (even milk in a bottle after 14 months can cause decay)
- Going to bed with a bottle

A few tips to curve tooth decay in kids:
- Choose tap water, not bottled water. Bottled water doesn't contain fluoride, which protects against cavities.
- Visit the dentist or have the pediatrician do an oral exam by age 1.
-  Fight the battle to brush teeth. Start early (as soon as the first tooth appears) and get in the habit of doing it twice a day.
- Cut down on snacks, especially with sugary foods (like raisins).
- If baby is placed to sleep with a bottle, use water and nothing else.
- Wean baby of the bottle by age 1, 14 months at the latest.
- Discuss a fluoride supplement with a dentist or pediatrician for children older than six months.
- Keep your mouth clean. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics Dentistry (AAPD) found that in 71 percent of cases, the mother transmitted cavity-causing bacteria to infants even before teeth erupted.
- Break the pacifier addiction. The AAPD states the earlier it’s stopped, the less chance it will lead to orthodontic problems.
- Limit the drinks. Aside from juice, breastmilk and formula can also coat the teeth and lead to tooth decay. Don’t let your child walk around with a sippy cup or bottle all day.
- Wipe your baby’s gums – even if there are not teeth – with a damp washcloth after feedings.
- Brush your child’s teeth for at least 30 seconds after breakfast and before bed.
- Start using fluorinated toothpaste at 2 years old. Begin flossing when two of his or her teeth are touching.

Other resources:


Two Kids. One Vacation. It Happens.

Just four springs ago, Justin and I sipped frozen margaritas and lazily soaked up the Caribbean during our honeymoon in St. Maarten.  Almost daily, we watched two parents with two toddlers fluster their way through vacation.

“Let’s never bring our kids on vacations like this,” we promised each other.
“How un-relaxing,” we cooed as one boy whined through each day at the pool.
His mother pressed lips and brisk moves. At the time, life with kids seemed more like work than a vacation.  

Fast forward to Fourth of July 2012. The Caribbean never visited since, despite vows to jet set yearly. Two kids under three. A modified travel plan that includes historical and natural wonder destinations. And a July holiday annual family vacation to my Dad's cabin in northern Michigan.

Lately, life with two kids is flowing easier. Justin and I have found our groove. And Jack has found independence and fun in being “big.” Odd as it sounds, we’re much more relaxed with two little ones to tote around. I know, strange.

As our five-day vacay to the cabin approached, I vowed the trip would go just as smoothly as life has been. Carefree. Fun. And memory-filled.

And, it sure was.

We let go of the schedule. Took naps. Let the sun warm our skin. Made sand ramps for trucks. Shopped local. Ate fresh fish. Fed the birds. Stayed up late. Roasted marshmallows. Ate whenever. Watched Justin blow off fireworks. And, actually relaxed.

The trick to keeping everyone’s cool on vacation? Keep your cool. Don’t set expectations high. Never let a mishap ruin the fun (because there will be with two unpredictable littles). And, literally go with the flow.

My Dad's cabin on Lake Huron

Brother love.

Ella and her favorite snack.

My water shoes. Rocks galore.
Jack and Nonnie S. making a Fourth of July cheesecake.

They didn't catch anything. But, still a cute site to see.

"Daddy, can I hold it?"
Mom can four-wheel too.
Best buds. Jack and Papa feeding the gulls.

Ella was napping. 

Here are some other tips to staying sane on vacation:

- Designate which parent is on which kid at all times.

- Let each other enjoy alone time (I went shopping one morning, Justin went four-wheeling one afternoon).

- Pack light, only the necessities. Let the kids enjoy the sights. There’s no need for the bouncer. There are plenty of new sights to look at.

- Travel with company (we brought grandparents. Great entertainment).

- Drink early. You’re still parenting, but on vacation. Just don’t get drunk.

- Give yourself an extra hour to do anything. Maybe two.

- Plan out activities for rain or shine in advance. But, don’t plan too many and don’t worry if you don’t cover it all.

- Don’t dress up.

- Don’t bring a book.

- Only plan sightseeing that’s age-appropriate (we biked Mackinac Island with Jack, left Ella at the cabin for quality Nonnie and Papa time).

- Take turns with your significant other (I sunbathed while Justin swam with the kids).

- Most of all, leave the schedule at home. It is the kids’ vacation too!

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