They See Us Strollin’: Stroller Recommendations

We own an embarrassing amount of strollers, and our mudroom is pretty much just a designated stroller parking zone. We have strollers that fit one baby, two babies, three babies, entire football teams…all kinds of strollers. And whenever people message me asking for recommendations, my choice is always going to depend on a lot of factors–mostly, “How many babies are going to be riding in it?”. We use three different strollers the most, and depending on how many babies you need to fit–here’s my totally unsponsored (seriously, but if one of these companies wants to send me a free stroller for this…well, my mudroom has some extra room…just kidding…) list of Must Have Strollers:

1. Best Stroller for One: My Babiie Catwalk Collection

It seriously does not get cooler than this gold and dalmatian print stroller. As soon as I saw that they were finally being sold in America, I jumped on the bandwagon. I mostly picked this one out online just for the unique print; so when it arrived, I was unexpectedly blown away at the steering and ease of movement on this thing! I have never had a stroller that was so easy to maneuver or so lightweight. It comes with a chic little rain cover, too, which has been super useful. The sunshade is massive, the frame is a lightweight aluminum, and the handles are ergonomic and height adjustable, which is a feature that most of our strollers don’t have. We definitely get a lot of questions about this one when we’re out, since the design is extremely eye-catching. And because it’s our smallest stroller, it stays in the car for any last minute trips we take.

2. Best Stroller for Two: J is for Jeep Side x Side

I used to be one of those moms that gave a little bit of unnecessary side-eye to the women with the giant double strollers, pushing everyone out of the way when they walk in doorways and taking up half the aisle in the grocery store with their beast of a baby-wagon. I vowed a long time ago to never be a mom that carried that much “gear”, but then I had a hundred kids…and my side-eye quickly stopped. We used to have a Sit N Stand as our double stroller, and I could not stand that thing–cheaply made, completely wrong fit for babies close in age, and too bulky for the concept. I needed something that could accommodate the times that Lela and Luna were both napping while we were out, so I broke down and started using a side by side stroller. I AM HOOKED.

This thing pushes so smoothly on all terrains that sometimes I catch myself accidentally jogging because of how well it flows down the street. The girls absolutely love the recline of the seats, the adjustable footrests, and the “roller coaster bars” that keep them secure. I do not like that it doesn’t have snack trays and drink holders built-in, but we bought some add-ons on Amazon and attached those.

It fits really well in the back of our SUV, and out of all of our strollers, this one is definitely the easiest double-seater to fold and unfold. I think the price point is amazing given the features, and I would definitely go so far to say that I love it more than the pricier all-terrain strollers we own. Plus, it fits in doorways so smoothly that you don’t need an entire staff to help you get into a building. That’s a win to me!

3. Best Stroller for Three: Joovy Big Caboose

This thing is a beast. A BEAST. Like, sometimes I feel like I’m pushing a clown car full of babies when we leave the house, and people always have their jokes ready, “You need a motor on that thing!” “I think you need a license to drive that!” and the good ole favorite, “You’ve got your hands full!” (even though technically my hands are pretty empty when they’re all in the stroller…just saying). I have a love/hate relationship with my Joovy, but I have to recommend it just because it is literally the only stroller we could find that could accommodate two toddler seats and an attached infant seat and an infinite combination of versatility as the grow: you can do two infant seats and a bench, two infant seats and a third seat attachment for a toddler, three toddler seats, two toddler seats and a bench, and so on. Basically, if you’ve got a lot of back-to-back babies, this thing was designed for you in mind, unlike the other multiple strollers that were made for real twins and triplets…not Irish Twins and Triplets. πŸ™‚

But, compared to the other two on the list, it’s pretty dang hard to steer and the front veers slightly to one side when you’re pushing. That’s to be expected for such a large stroller, but it’s enough to pretty much exhaust me after a couple of blocks of walking through the neighborhood…so Tom pushes this one most of the time. For the price, though, you really can’t complain–I got mine on sale, and even with the extra purchase of the third row seat that we attached, it was still wayyyyyyy cheaper than every other stroller for multiples on the market. Kind of makes the hard steering worth it.

It also fits easily in doorways, and I honestly don’t have a hard time turning corners with it. It has cup holders, reclining seats, adjustable footrests, huge sun shades, etc. I’ve heard from a lot of people that it’s too large to fit in the back of their cars, which I could see being an issue–we have a Honda Pilot and a Honda CR-V, though, and it fits great in both. We also are flying with it for the first time in October, and after a few calls to our airline just to double-check, we found out that, even though it is massive, it still meets the requirements to be gate checked like a regular stroller (just make sure you take off whatever extra attachments you’ve added–extra cupholders, organizers, etc).

 

So, I don’t have a stroller recommendation that fits more than three very young children–but Tom and I joke a lot about one day needing to buy one of those giant 8-seater strollers that they use at daycares. Maybe one day, but not today, Tom. Not today.

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Hurricane Baby

As I snuggled the girls to sleep last night, the last words Lela whispered were, “A big storm is coming”. She seemed so blindly excited by the maps they kept flashing on the TV, completely naive of the fact that “the pickle” she was tracking all day was actually a Category Four hurricane barreling through the Atlantic Ocean…heading directly to our house on the North Carolina coast. I wish I could see this entire scenario from those naive two-year-old eyes, and not the eyes of a 40-week pregnant lady with three tiny kids, two rabbits, a cat, and a dog to protect–the eyes of a woman now packing rain boots and flashlights in her hospital bag, preparing to deliver a baby right as this storm hits us.

Growing up on the coast of SC, I’m no stranger to hurricanes, flooding, or evacuations–I knew from an early age that survival supplies should always be on hand and your evacuation route should be mapped out at all times. But, as I heard more and more frightful weather reports by the hour yesterday, I had some massive anxiety take over in the face of all of the unknowns: Am I going to have to birth this baby on an Interstate while evacuating? Am I going to have to have him at home? Or in a flooded hospital without power? What about Tom and Lennox and Lela and Luna Darling? Do they evacuate without me? My normal optimism had been thrown out the window.

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday where I unashamedly cried to be induced ahead of the storm so I could evacuate with Tom and the kids. My doctor actually tried finding every medical reason under the sun to humor that request for me (they don’t do “elective inductions” before 41 weeks, which normally I would think is amazing)–but after the longest ultrasound ever, it was concluded that Baby Four is almost eight pounds, strong/regular heart beat, plenty of amniotic fluid, and there is literally no reason under the sun to induce before I hit 41 weeks…which is Friday…when the storm is literally making landfall.

Because I had EXTREMELY RAPID deliveries of Lela and Luna, my doctor and I agreed that it would be much safer to wait the week out at the hospital (no matter the condition), instead of running the risk of going into rapid labor and hemorrhaging in gridlock evacuation traffic. So, as of this morning, our plan is to ride out the hurricane in the local hospital as a family, while we wait for our smallest arrival. Once he is finally earthside, we have months worth of food already on hand at home, plenty of survival supplies, and we are fully prepared for the worst case scenario of losing power/phone signal/Internet for weeks or months with a newborn baby and three other very young children. It’s scary to think about, but we even have a tiny boat to bring him home from the hospital in, if the waters get too high to drive the two miles back to our house. The maps of the winds and storm surge directly on our town aren’t OVERLY frightening, and I feel extraordinarily lucky to be married to Tom, who not only knows a great deal about weather from being a Navy Pilot…he is also trained in every survival situation under the sun, hurricanes included.

Today, we are testing the walkie-talkies to see if we can get a clear signal from the hospital to the house, for if we do have to split up and the phone towers could be down. We are filtering gallons and gallons of water, making sure all supplies are on the second floor away from flood waters, covering the windows, and checking the reports as this beast inches closer and closer to our home. I am trying to find my hope again, in the face of the insanity, and I am staying calm for the sake of my babies.

I do fear for the East Coast–for every other mother in my situation, for every family facing the unknown of a storm this size, for every one wondering if they should panic or brush it off. Without question, Hurricane Florence has already made a huge impact on our family, and I’m so anxious to see where that impact will stop and what damage will be done. Please keep the people of the Carolinas in your thoughts as this catastrophic hurricane changes all of our lives.


Back To School 2018

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Growing up, I remember being so nervous for the first day of school–I would lay out my back to school outfits months in advance, spend all summer studying, and practice waking up at 6 every single morning before the “big day”. My darling son obviously did not inherit my Type A personality.

“Are you nervous for your first day?”

“Not really…”

“But it’s a new school!!”

“It’s whatever.”

Ok, kid, I hear you. Honestly, I think I was way more nervous sending Lennox off to his first day than I’ve ever been in my life. We had him in a public school for kindergarten, but because of our move to North Carolina, we ended up choosing homeschooling for just a few school years until we got established in the area. So, here we were on Monday–his first big “back-to-school day” at a brick and mortar school, TWO YEARS ahead of other kids his age. That’s right: when he tested into public school in the area, they bumped my baby into THIRD GRADE. My tiny son was now walking the same halls and taking standardized tests and eating lunch with BIG KIDS! But he thought it was “whatever”, so I tried to play it cool, too.

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The only thing that seemed to remotely excite him was back to school shopping, so I tried to hype that up as much as I could. We got the supply list a few weeks in advance, and I swear we looked at over 6,000 bookbags before he finally settled on a Minecraft one with a matching lunchbox attached…the most “third grade boy” thing I’ve ever seen. We loaded it full of the requested composition books, copy paper, highlighters, etc, and we added the supplies that I know the classroom really needs: hand sanitizer, tissues, and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.

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Because we’re welcoming Baby Leif into the family ANY DAY NOW (yikes!!), keeping the germs to a minimum are at the top of our minds–this includes in Lennox’s new classroom. I’m proud to partner with his teacher in helping to keep a clean space for him to learn – at home and at school – , and I’m also proud to partner with Clorox to do the same. What’s great about using Clorox are all the good things that come after, including more sweet moments and an all-around healthier, happier home for my family. Also, Clorox supports DonorsChoose.org, which allows teachers across America to create projects and request resources that students need in their classrooms. You can make a donation directly on the site OR just shop Clorox products in the store–for every $5 spent on qualifying Clorox products, you earn a $1 reward and The Clorox Company will donate $1 to classrooms in need through the DonorsChoose.org website!

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So, flash forward now to the actual first day of school. I had it all planned out–I would wake up an hour before the girls, wake Lennox up thirty minutes before the bus came, make waffles, wait on the porch in the glorious cool breeze for the school bus to pick up my baby and whisk him away to the best day ever. Hahahahahahaha. The girls woke up at 4 AM ready to party, Lennox woke up very upset by the commotion shortly after, our dog ate the last of the waffles, and the school bus was thirty minutes early so we MISSED IT because we weren’t out there waiting yet! Seriously, we missed the bus on the first day!! Mom fail.

But trying to stay positive and calm on this big day for Lennox’s sake, I told the kids that we were just using this as an opportunity to get familiar with the new drop off line. When we pulled up to the school, Lennox dared me to yell out the window that I loved him or get out of the car. So, silently, from the car windows, I watched my sweet, tiny boy head into a three- story building, carrying his supplies and ready to have the best year ever. And, as he walked away, I silently resisted the strong urge to yell out the window, “DON’T LEAVE ME ALONE WITH YOUR CRAZY SISTERS!!! COME BACK!!!”

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To learn more about what Clorox is doing to help teachers and others prepare for back to school, visit CloroxforSchools.com. Happy Back to School Season, y’all!

This post is sponsored by Clorox.

 


Incredibundles Instagram Giveaway

There’s a super exciting giveaway going on over on my Instagram page for THREE MONTHS OF FREE DIAPERS from Incredibundles! How amazing is that, y’all?? As a mom of three under two, I feel like the diapers are N-E-V-E-R-E-N-D-I-N-G, and I’m so happy to be working with this awesome subscription service to help make one parent’s life a little easier for three months. I mean, let’s be real–not only is it three months of free diapers of your choice…it’s three months of free diapers delivered right to your door when you need them! No need to drag the babies to the store anymore.

Aside from the giveaway, Incredibundles subscriptions (both diapers and wipes!) make the perfect baby gift for all parents, in general. Through their site, you’re able to purchase a 3-month, 6-month, 9-month, or 12-month subscription for the recipient of your choice–the recipient is then able to choose whatever size, brand, or type of diaper they need, which is completely unique to the site!

Every subscription comes with an “announcement package” that is absolutely adorable. It contains an adorable plush teddy bear, a few diapers wrapped in ribbon, and a certificate containing the activation code for the subscription. It’s all packaged in a keepsake box that actually snaps shut (my kids have assembled and unassembled this thing about a thousand times already, and it’s still holding strong!). The package can either be delivered to the purchaser (so you can hand deliver to a baby shower or hospital, etc) or directly to the recipient.

Activating the subscription is a super easy process. When we received our announcement package, I immediately was able to set up an account on the Incredibundles site, head to account settings, and enter the activation code that was printed on the back of the shipped certificate. I received an email confirmation, and VOILA–diaper and wipes subscriptions were active!

Also, if you bundle the diaper subscription with a wipe subscription, you can get thirty percent off your order. And trust me, you can never have too many diapers OR wipes. Head over to my Instagram to enter the giveaway!


Lela and Luna’s Nursery Tour

When Tom and I purchased our 101-year-old Victorian last year, we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. Prior to this house, we already owned a good deal of investment properties that we had fixed up and rented out, so we weren’t strangers to renovation, but this one was definitely THE oldest and THE neediest out of our projects. We’re talking: caved in ceilings, rusted out showers, no working appliances, huge cracks in walls, a flooded basement, BATS. It took vision, hard work, and design, but we’re finally at the point (other than one little downstairs bathroom) where this three-story, ancient home in the middle of nowhere is my Dream House. And, of course, my favorite room is Lela and Luna’s nursery.

We recently upgraded both girls from cribs to twin size beds (usually with rails and bumpers on them!), and the transition has been amazing for both the girls and the room. These are the Monterey Farmhouse Bed from Delta Children, which absolutely blew away my expectations, even with a super easy assembly. (You can always use code CBCHATMAN on the entire Delta website for 15 percent off any purchase, too! They’re hands-down my favorite company that I partner with.) The changing table we bought off Craigslist, spray painted white, and stocked with different storage baskets from Target to hold diapers, wipes, and some extra clothing storage in the striped bins. I sewed all of the bedding from fabric at Hobby Lobby, and the metal car was actually another amazing Craigslist score or I would definitely link that.

The focal piece is definitely the chandelier with the medallion, which I hand-painted in bed one night while I was nine months pregnant with Luna! The actual chandelier looks incredibly expensive because of the medallion, but it is SUPER affordable at less than $200 and chic as heck. Shop here. The ceiling is painted with white paint mixed with glitter, and it looks like you’re staring up at stars when you lay in there at night (major props to my husband for that idea!).

The rocking chair that I included in my “registry must-haves” from yesterday’s post is actually from Amazon. I don’t know if I would recommend this EXACT model because it tilts forward a little more than I like, but I definitely recommend plush rockers over nursery gliders–they are way more comfy, and they transition well into “big girl room” furniture. The nightstand next to the chair was actually from the side of the road–we hand painted it white, added crystal knobs, and re-lined the drawers to hold burp cloths, blankets, and nursing supplies.

The shelves above the rocker are different styles from the thrift store. We painted each shelf with the same white paint as the side table, and then we covered them with some of our favorite family memories–our wedding pictures, little figurines from travels, and of course, this fabulous unicorn head that I ordered from Etsy and used gold-leaf paint to turn the horn sparkly.

And well, what girl room would be complete without an obnoxious amount of bows? I actually made the bow holder out of an old frame from our shed, window screening, and tiny clips bought at the hobby store. There are four pieces of gold chain ribbon hanging directly from the frame to hold ribbon bows, as well.

The girls have a decent sized walk-in closet in the room where we keep all of their clothes, and the majority of their toys are kept in our downstairs playroom to minimize clutter in here and to keep it a peaceful place for them to sleep. I highly recommend keeping toys out of your toddler’s sleeping space, if possible–nothing is worse than laying them down at night while they try to wrestle out of bed to play with whatever toy catches their eye. Keep it simple.

The actual room color is “Ice Rink” from Behr, and I absolutely love it for either a girl nursery OR a boy nursery. It’s actually the wall that’s used in the background of all of my weekly letterboard pictures, if you recognized it! Paired with the pink and white accents of the girls’ room, it definitely looks super feminine, while also being a great color to transition with them as they get older. We never planned on this being our “forever home” when we purchased it for renovation, but we’ve definitely fallen in love with it so much that I see us being here for a long, long time.


Mamalogues

It’s been six years since I made my first baby registry, and it seems like just yesterday. I remember staying up all night for weeks, desperately browsing the Target website, comparing the products to whatever mom blog recommendations I could find from whatever random Google search I would make. I would read reviews for hours, panic about every detail, and massively overspend on making sure I had ten of every gadget and gizmo that any mom recommended to me. Being a new mom is hard, y’all!

So, flash forward to the fourth time around. Other than a few small purchases, we already had everything on hand that needed to welcome our sweet Leif into the world soon, and I feel calm and ready to bond with our newest addition. This is why I’m so proud to partner with Philip’s Avent as part of their “Mamalogues” series to share my Top Five Registry Must-Haves with you guys!

  1. Philips Avent Natural Bottles: Breastfeeding my babies will always be one of the greatest experiences of my life–there are no words to describe the bond you feel while feeding your baby from your body for the first time. But, after weeks of feeding that precious baby every hour and being the only one to be able to come to the milk rescue when they cry, you learn pretty fast that Dad needs to get in on the feeding action, too. Once I establish a healthy milk supply a few weeks after labor, I start pumping into bottles so Tom can share with the nighttime feedings. It helps him create a bond with our newborn, and it helps me sleep. Win/win. But not all bottles are created equal. We have used Philips Avent bottles since 2011, and I would never recommend any other brand. They are leak-proof (trust me, you don’t want a bottle that will spill your liquid gold), have a natural shaped nipple, and most importantly, the wide base top allows for super easy cleaning.
  2. Swaddle Blankets: I love a good swaddle blanket, and I promise that your baby will absolutely love them, too. A firmly wrapped swaddle helps your baby feels safe, secure, and loved in those first few months outside of the womb, and in my experience, it will definitely help your baby sleep more soundly at night, which helps everyone! We love muslin swaddle blankets for looser swaddles, and I keep jersey knit swaddlers on hand for a more firm, supportive swaddle on those extra-fussy days.
  3. Video Baby Monitor: We never had a baby monitor until our THIRD baby, and oh my goodness, what a game changer. With our first two babies, I was such a helicopter mom that I would stand over their bassinets while they slept, scared to turn my head, and unwilling to trust that a monitor would actually let me know if the baby was crying. Yeah, I was a hot mess. With Luna, we finally splurged on a nice video monitor where I was able to go downstairs while she was napping in her crib, and I could still see every move she made in her sleep and know when she was waking up.
  4. Baby Wrap Carrier: I admittedly own an embarrassing amount of baby carriers. And they each are perfect for different stages of development. For the first few months of your baby’s life, there is NOTHING more wonderful than a wrap carrier to keep baby close to your chest, provide a cover for nursing, and give you free hands to get things done. Wrap carriers provide plenty of support for chest carrying a brand new baby, and you will feel at peace, knowing your brand new creation is so close by.
  5. Rocking Chair: There is something so precious and delicate about the first days of your newborn’s life, and you really want to soak in every second in a calm, peaceful environment. Our rocking chair has been invaluable for quiet bonding sessions during feedings, night wakes, and throughout the day. As your baby grows, your rocking chair transitions into a spot to read books with them and snuggle on the slow days.
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Nothing beats baby snuggles in the rocking chair

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Top Five Roundup


I Am A Velcro Mom

We’re literally stuck like velcro. AT ALL TIMES.

It has rained pretty much nonstop here all summer. On days that it doesn’t rain, the forecast still says rain, and it’s been nearly impossible to make outdoor plans lately. So, if we want to get the kids out of the house for a little bit, we have two local options: weekly library story time or the indoor playground at Chik-Fil-A (we live in a really small town). Now, I had a bizarre childhood, and I never got to play at fast food restaurant playgrounds; so I don’t really know the etiquette that parents are supposed to follow in these places. Do you sit in the room with your kids? Do you let them run loose? Do you give them a book of matches and tell them to burn the place down? I don’t really know.

But this Saturday, on another super rainy day, we broke down and went to Chik-Fil-A to get out of the house. All three of the kids immediately took off on the playground equipment, totally unaware who was watching them or what we were doing. Tom and I still sat down in the glass room where they were playing, and even though that room was full of a dozen other kids, we were the only parents. I was a little confused by this ratio, so I asked Tom where the adults were, and he said, out of the greatest of intentions:

“Probably enjoying their lunch, not breathing down their kids’ necks”

Ouch. Totally true. I sat there on a hard plastic bench for over an HOUR, watching my children’s every single move. But they never needed me, they never came over, they never acknowledged my existence, and they probably would’ve wanted me to eat some dang waffle fries in peace and leave them the heck alone. But I couldn’t.

I am a helicopter parent. I am actually so much of one that my husband calls me “Velcro Mom” because I’m so stuck to the kids at all times. If my children are in our playroom, I’m sitting in the floor with them. If they take a nap, I seldom even leave the room. When I’m at work, they’re at the daycare center literally next door to my office that has cameras on them at all times. And if we’re near anything remotely dangerous (bodies of water, stoves, cars, animals, ANYTHING!!) I’m watching everything like a mama hawk, ready to pounce and rescue my babies at moments notice. I’m making myself out to sound crazy, but it’s all true–I struggle with giving them space, and I work on it daily as we all grow.

My husband is the opposite–when he’s alone with the kids, I inevitably come home to all three babies in a mud puddle outside, playing with bugs and whatever random not-toy-things they can find in the yard, while he gardens OUTSIDE of the fence. He always has his eyes on them, but he gives them the space they need to grow and develop on their own, which I have learned to totally respect…while spying on them through our baby monitor connected to my phone. No shame.

Co-parenting with someone who has a completely different parenting style than me has been eye-opening. I see the relationship that Tom has been able to develop with our children by giving them room to breathe, and I admire it–some days, I wish I could be the “cool” parent, instead of “neck-breather” parent, but it takes BOTH of us to balance out this family and manage the chaos. Kids can’t live in mud puddles, but they also can’t live in bubbles.

And so, here’s the thing: being a helicopter mom isn’t a bad thing. No, my kids didn’t need me at the Chik-Fil-A this time, but another child got stuck in the equipment and was screaming for his mother, who was no where to be found. And is it a bad thing that she wasn’t there? Not at all. Because I was there to help, while sitting on that hard bench breathing down every single kid’s neck. It takes all kinds of parents to make the world go round, and I don’t blame her one bit for wanting to let her crazy kid loose for an hour while she regained her sanity.

It takes a village, y’all–a village of velcro moms and live-and-learn moms and fun moms and serious moms and moms who wanna eat nuggets in peace and moms who oddly get joy from having ketchup thrown at them 24/7. We’re all in this together, and as long as you don’t judge me from outside of the glass at the Chik-Fil-A, I’m never going to judge you from inside of it. Now, excuse me while I go stare at my baby monitor like the crazy mom that I am. πŸ™‚