Tips for Picky Toddlers

It is no secret that A1 is a picky eater. All toddlers are. As much as I may gripe about it, I’ve had my successes with feeding her as well. Here are some methods we’ve used that worked well for us:

1. Make a face. No, with your food, pas avec le visage. Tonight, I made a smiley face using grapes, carrots, and blueberries. Score!
2. Mix it up. I initially thought that A1 would have her certain staples, and she does—to a certain point. Rotating the foods she does like goes a long way, an increases our chances for success.
3. Use operant conditioning, toddler style. We don’t go entirely B.F. Skinner on our kid, but we do tell her, “If you eat, then you get more bible (songs). No food, no bible.” We’ve only used this when she won’t touch ANYTHING on her plate.
4. Specify a number of bites. This works for kids who can count. A1 knows what “Take two bites of strawberries” means. After you do this, walk away. If the child takes a few bites, victory!
5. Imitation is the best form of flattery. Eat the things your toddler eats (unless it’s stage 2 Gerber chicken—gross!). If she drinks milk, you drink milk. If you want her to eat carrots, YOU eat carrots. If you hate carrots, pick something else.
6. Don’t give up hope. This should be number one. The kid will eat something.
7. Give them only the choices on their plate. You are not a short order cook. I used to do this. You have enough meals to make and enough people to feed. They need to understand that what’s on the plate will not change—unless it’s consumed.


Mama J’s Travel Tips For Two Under 2/Two Little Ones (LOs)

Some trips are more necessary than others, and some special occasions require that you haul your small fries on short notice. Here’s how I roll when I travel:

Mama J’s Essentials (Like a boss!)

1. Wipes. If it’s in the Mama J bag, it’s the Huggies travel-sized variety. Less is more, and compact storage is in demand.
2. Diapers/training pants/underwear for PT toddlers. Keep the greatest amount in your big diaper bag, and then replenish your quick trips bag (QTB) as you go.
3. Extra clothes, all types. Pack an outfit for warm weather for each child, then include pants and sweatshirts for easy layering. In winter, choose only tee shirts and long sleeve tees/hoodies for this, since your go-to bottoms will be pants. This way, you can strip your kid down indoors. Remove winter coats immediately upon entering buildings. Keep gloves/mittens in coat pockets or diaper bag (DB) compartments. Socks for all seasons.
4. Small snacks. Use sandwich bags and plastic storage containers. Use sippy cups or sports bottles for toddlers.
5. Small toys. Mini board books, Fisher-Price electronic books, rattles for infants, tug toys, rattle/teether combos, etc. When else fails, sing songs, use your smartphone, or just be silly.
6. Pacifiers for “binky babies”. Pacifier keepers if you are outdoors.
7. A small bottle of travel head-to-toe J&J body wash and lotion.
8. Travel diaper rash cream. I like Desitin or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.
9. Orajel. ‘Nuff said.
10. Bibs and eating utensils. Vital Baby makes a nice bowl with a lid and insert for a spoon, which is great for babies. Wash it out and use a fork, and it will work for toddlers.
11. Baby food in sandwich bags, so it doesn’t leak.
12. Sunblock.
13. Insect repellent for children 6 months and older if you will be at a park or other outdoor venue for a long period of time. Skintastic is great.
14. Baby food jars and toddler food. Gerber or Beech Nut squeeze packs work well. Beech Nut Steamies are great for toddlers.


Placating the Teething Baby

There are all sorts of ways to soothe a teething baby. Some of these, you may have seen; others, maybe not. Here’s what I’ve done:

1. Use frozen BM or baby food. Breast milk is easy to freeze, and most EBFing moms have had to save EBM. I use Vital Baby brand pots, which have a flexible bottom that allows you to quickly extract the frozen block of chosen food. Baby food only lasts so many days (2-3 usually), and this is a great way to save it. I use one ounce cubes, and hold it up for A2 to gnaw. When I use either for teething, I wait for it to melt while I give it to the baby, and then stick it in one of Munchkin’s mesh bags.
2. Orajel. I don’t care what anyone says. This is the stuff that works. I tried Hyland’s, and was disappointed. A1 was, too.
3. Tylenol for extreme pain.
4. Cold teethers. I refrigerate them. Frozen ones give the small fries too much of a brain freeze.
5. Popsicles for toddlers. Any of the fruit variety will do. It’s a bonus if they’re yogurt pops, which kids love.
6. A sippy cup with freezing cold water. A handful of ice is good enough, plus it will keep it cold when it melts. I recommend this for 6 months and up.


Sizzlin’ Steak Fajitas

Yum! These are great. I took the recipe from Cooks.com. They have all kinds of goodies.

1-2 bottom round steaks (they are BOGO at Giant Eagle this week if you are in PA, OH, or WV)
1/2 C A1 Steak Sauce
1/2 C picante sauce (I used Pace, medium)
A pack of flour tortillas (6-8 will suffice. I’m a celiac, so I used Rudi’s GF tortillas, and Daddy J got the regular ones).
1 onion
1 green pepper
1/4 stick of butter
Sour cream (optional)

Slice your steak thin. Put the picante sauce and A1 in a bowl. Mix it together and add the meal. Marinate for two hours.

Julienne your onion and pepper. Get a skillet and put the butter in, separating it into pats for quick melting. Set the burner to medium. When it melts, switch it to low, and throw in your veggies. Let them cook until translucent. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set them in a bowl. After that, add your marinated meat and cook it until slightly tender and brown. This won’t take long. Be sure to watch the time; the meat can get tough if you’re not careful.

Mix your veggies, meat and sauce together. Spoon them into your tortilla. Serves 2-4. Enjoy!


Must-Haves For First-Time and Expectant Moms

A2 was born six months ago, so I wanted a fresh topic for all of you. Dads, you can pass this along for your wives (they will thank you later).

1. Morning sickness relief. This can vary. Peanut butter worked when I had A1. Ginger ale is fabulous, and worked for me both times. The best product I recommend? B-Natals. Sour apple or green flavored, they are B-vitamin packed lozenges (they taste like Jolly Ranchers) that get rid of that queasy feeling in your stomach.
2. Bubble baths. I don’t care how far along you are. This is a must for a variety of reasons. My biggest ones were pelvic girdle syndrome and back pain.
3. A body pillow. Your whole self will thank you, for sure. It doesn’t have to be Boppy brand or anything else expensive. I just bought one at Walmart, and was all set.
4. A prenatal massage. I wish I would have done this the first time around! It will take your back straight out of hell. Make sure your masseuse (or masseur) specializes in prenatal massage. According to my masseuse, doing traditional massage (lying on your stomach) before the second trimester can cause miscarriage. I had mine done at 36 weeks. Good deal.

After delivery:

1. Benzocaine. If the hospital gives you this spray for an episiotomy or a tear, take it. Just don’t spray it into the vagina. If you do this by accident, wash it out immediately.
2. Tucks pads. If you run out at the hospital, get the huge container of 100 or so at the drug store. They are great.
3. If you breastfeed, get a Boppy or My Brest Friend pillow. Save your back. Don’t be a martyr and put up with the pain while you nurse. It sucks if you do.
4. Tea bags for FTM, EBF moms. Your nipples will thank you. Make sure it’s caffeinated tea. The end.
5. Bio-Oil. This stuff works. I am still using it.
6. Lansinoh nipple cream. It goes on thick.
7. Breast shells. Medela and Ameda make nice ones. Ask your LC.
8. The Fisher Price Soothe ‘N’ Glow Seahorse. Such a cute little thing! A definite throwback to Glow Worms (again, showing my age here). A1 still loves hers. You can choose from pink and blue.

I’m sure there are more, but those are the biggest items I can remember. What do you guys recommend?


From Mama J’s Kitchen to Yours

As I blog right now, I am making my lunch and cleaning up from the recipe I’m going to share with you. It is to die for. The As are napping, I’m in a wedding on Saturday, and A1’s second birthday party is on Sunday. It’s all out bang-out time.

Four years ago, right after Daddy J and I were married, we got out first iPhones (3G, of course). We perused the free apps in the App Store, and I found this gem: the McCormick app. (*sings* Flavor it up with McCormick!) I added a recipe for crock pot ribs to my favorites list. There is a specific pack of spices you can buy, and, might I add, the other ingredients are cheap.

The packet is McCormick BBQ Pulled Pork seasoning. I am using it for the intended dish this time, shredded pork shoulder/Boston butt roast. It is amazing. Here is the recipe.

BBQ Crock Pot Pulled Pork

3 1/2 lb. pork shoulder roast (that is the maximum one packet will allow. If you have more than that or your roast won’t fit in a 3 qt. crock, then slice it in half after thawing).

In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup of ketchup, 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 brown sugar, and one packet of seasoning. Insert your roast into the crock pot, and pour the contents over it. Cook on low for eight hours. Shred immediately with two forks, making tearing motions until the meat comes apart in thin strands. Enjoy!


Kid-Friendly Insect Repellents

We’ve lived in our house for three years, and now that A1 is old enough to eat table food, we’ve had our first ,second, and third ant infestation. Don’t get me wrong, I am a practice entomologist who has studied insects since the age of seven. I even got the Bug Bottle and the Bug Book—thanks, Reading Rainbow! (There—now I’ve dated myself.) I love saturniid moths, mole crickets, beetles, and a few other very helpful, fascinating insects. Ants are interesting. They are extremely social, considering that most insect brains aren’t nearly as complex. Unfortunately, they are a pain in the ass when they enter your home repeatedly.

Ever the technologist, I Googled “kid friendly ways to kill ants” and came up with some positive results. I’d like to share those with you.

1. Cinnamon. Yes, the sticks you put in your cider, and the powder you mix with sugar/butter on your toast. This actually works. During the first infestation, the little bastards colony moved to our pantry. The one that contained my baked goods. This included extra walnuts for my banana bread that were reduced to bits. Thanks, arthropod assholes. I sprinkled some cinnamon around the doors and in the cabinet (after we removed a ton of food). They have never returned to that location.
2. One part vinegar, one part water. The old school cleaning solution wins again: ants abhor the smell of vinegar. Put this mixture in a spray bottle. Spray your baseboards, doorways, window sills, outside perimeter, and any area with anthills. In fact, you can also spray straight vinegar onto them—it will kill the entire colony.
3. Lemon juice. How does this work? Ants make chemical trails to tell the rest of the colony where to find food. Lemon juice throws the workers off my erasing ant trails. It’s a citric pied piper. You can spray it (like the vinegar) or squeeze a wedge into a crack where they are coming in. Nothing to see here, guys!
4. Set out a few cucumber slices. According to thiswebsite, bitter ones work best.
5. Cayenne pepper. Apparently they aren’t a fan of this, either.
6. Chalk. They will not cross the line, and the fossilized sea creatures used to make it serve as a natural repellent.
7. Use a night light. The light patterns will change their foraging patterns, making it easier to put out bait (like the methods suggested above).

That’s all I’ve got for now? Other than borax and diatomaceous earth, do you have any ideas? Cheers!


More Money Saving Tips From Mama J!

So, I left off with a discussion about some of my sweet couponing tips. There are a few other things I do. I’m sure you might read these and think to yourself, “Yeah, I’ve done these before.” That’s ok. It means you’re on the right track.

1. Shop clearance. Kids clothes are the BEST clearance items you can get. You can also get great children’s shoes and baby care items (like a toothbrush) when they are (as I like to call it) “red tagged.”
2. Look for bins. Giant Eagle (PA and Ohio residents) has a bin with discontinued items. Is it something you need? Is it something you like for a great price? Nab it!
3. Repurpose things in your home you haven’t used. I accidentally bought Suave conditioner instead of shampoo for Daddy J. Did you know you can use conditioner as a shaving cream? That will save you some coin.
4. Only coupon for what you actually need. Some people (just like the TLC show) are extreme couponers and buy crazy amounts of items they don’t need. Don’t do that—it is excessive, and you’ll have random junk sitting around your house. Bulk up on the useful stuff. Deodorant, diapers, wipes, lotion, hand soap, toilet paper, canned goods, the list goes on and on.
5. Get a chest freezer, then shop for two weeks worth of food. Buy value packs of meat, especially if they are BOGO. You can separate them prior to freezing. Date the freezer bags and divide them into portions.
6. Freeze anything extra. Got baby food that’s about to expire? Freeze it. This will save you on the next batch if you don’t have time to make fresh food (it sounds like a great idea, but I’m not sure if I have the time).
7. Make bulk portions of food and freeze. I make spaghetti from scratch. All you need is diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and water. You can add sausage (loose or encased) or meatballs to the mix as well. It is tasty. Freeze it in Tupperware containers or freezer bags.
8. Keep an inventory of all the frozen food. My dad does this on paper. This way, you know what’s there and will not waste anything.

Well, I’m exhausted, and I’m off to bed. Happy saving!


The Fine Art of Couponing

Two years ago, after A1 was born, I decided to enter the wonderful world of couponing. We didn’t have a subscription to our local paper at the time, so I’d go to the store and buy the Sunday paper. There are days (especially now) that I don’t always have time to do this, so I started printing out coupons and perusing weekly fliers for deals.

Now that I’ve had plenty of practice, I’ve become quite the deal sealer and stealer. I’m in Pennsylvania, so I won’t mention the private stores I use (and one is a mom and pop, so it’s only in our city).

Here are my tips and tricks for saving some coin with coupons:

1. Get a weekend newspaper subscription. Getting a daily paper for a family on a single income is expensive. Even a six-month subscription is $75 here. The weekend subscription we have is a deal—three months for $25. An intern came to our house and offered this to us. Inquire in your neighborhood.
2. Buy the Sunday papers at the store. Buy at least three of them. Some of the neighboring Ohio publications are available, too.
3. Print coupons. My favorite coupon blog is Coupon Divas. It will teach you how to coupon, how to organize, give weekly match-ups (which allows you to align coupons with great deals, like BOGO items). It will also give you deal scenarios, store coupon policies, info about freebies (you heard it—free stuff), and much more. She even has links to the most popular sites to from which to print. They are also independent sites, and print the fliers you receive in the paper or your mailbox. These include:
4. Price match. Walmart is famous for this. Do it to your full advantage. Use fliers from private, independent stores and match those deals with Walmart prices. There are a few caveats, and the cashier will inform you of these. One of which is that the original (savings) price of a BOGO item, for example, must be listed in the flier you use. So, it will say, “A $4 savings!” If Walmart is offering the item at $2 BOGO, you just pocketed the extra two bucks. Use a self-scan register, and you can watch those savings go right down.
5. Get booklets from incentives programs. One of the most notorious is Pamper’s Gifts to Grow. I got a coupon booklet AND a free potty seat for A1 because of this. Proctor and Gamble (P&G) is including them in packages of diapers and training pants as well. Buy $12 packs of wipes (several—20-30, I will give a total after shopping day) save $25 on more diapers, wipes, and other household items. Sounds good to me.

Keep an eye out for more couponing tips!


Baby Gear Talk

Every mom has their own go-to products and methods. I’m no different (duh!). I was talking to my therapist, who is due today. She is expecting her second child. When she told me I’m an inspiration to her and that I should start a blog, I was surprised. I thought I’d start this site off by talking about some of the things that keep me sane on a good day.

First of all, we all travel with our kids. We go to the store, we go to the bank, we go to the pediatrician, we go to grandma’s house (sometimes grudgingly, in my case), and so on. We go—all the time.

Here is my top ten must-haves for mothers of two, especially two under 2:

1. Two diaper bags—one large, one small. What I really mean when I say this is one average-sized one (you know, the opposite of a rollaway suitcase) and a small tote. The latter I will illustrate. I only spent $9.99 on it, and it’s a life saver.

Small bags are for quick trips, like running to the store for cereal and bagels. All you need are diapers (in my case, size 3 Swaddlers and size 5 Huggies Slip-Ons), a change of clothes for the baby (since A2 spits up all the time), a burp cloth, and travel changer (containing wipes and the aforementioned diapers. I will elaborate shortly). Why the small bag? Let me be honest—it’s a pain in the ass to tote my giant sparkly Kalencom bag around all the time. When A1 was an infant, I used to over pack the thing to the point where it couldn’t close. Don’t do this. It will freak you out and overwhelm you. Trust me. Plus, if you didn’t get a chance to organize with the first kid, you will with the second. It’s mandatory. I don’t mean to scare you. You can do it. Save Le Grand Sac for longer trips, like family visits. Chances are, all the crap you lug in there will be necessary. Strategy (or, as I once heard someone say, strategery—it may have been George H.W. Bush) is required with some types of bags.
2. A travel changer. I got one of these at my shower. They are great. Why? Because you will discover some establishments forget that parents don’t change diapers in mid-air. We were visiting my parents, who live in the Outer Banks. On the way there, we stopped in Fauquier, Virginia, at a gas station. The bathroom was—I kid you not—at least 3×3. My feet were pressed up against the toilet and I had A1 underneath the sink. I could barely fit. It was a nightmare. I put her on the travel changer, and voila! there’s a place for her. Secondly, some places do have a changing table, but it’s gross. So dirty and germy-looking, you wouldn’t put your child on it. Finally, it holds your wipes and diapers. You can’t beat that with a stick, especially if there aren’t many small pockets in your diaper bag to start!
2. The Pack ‘N’ Play. People (like me) on BabyCenter (or BBC…get ready for the acronyms!) refer to this as a PnP, and obviously they are quite nice. Haha! We also use ours as a makeshift baby gate for A1, so she doesn’t take off and run into the kitchen. It can triple as toy storage as well (although it’s not the greatest form of organization). If you get the bassinet feature and actually get to use it, that’s a bonus. Both kids started rolling by the time I got close to evening considering it, so maybe when A2 is sleeping at the family reunion this summer (under my watchful eye, of course), I will give it a shot.