Expressions of a Cluttered Mom

What I've learned since becoming a mom

2016: My One Word Resolution

January 8, 2016
Jenn Clutter

Happy 2016 my bloggy friends! Is anyone else in sheer disbelief that Y2K was 16 years ago? How about the fact that ‘N Sync made their debut 21 years ago? Wow I don’t know why I just documented that, now I really feel OLD. Holy cow, so the One Word resolution idea seems to have taken flight over the last year and so many people are making new years resolutions with their one word to live by in the new year. Well, since I’m so ahead of the trends (insert sarcasm here) I’m going to introduce my second annual One Word resolution for the new year.

2015 was a horrible, earth-shattering, life altering, exciting year. When I reflect on how many crazy life changes I’ve had, I don’t know how I’ve managed to keep my head on straight… IS my head on straight? You can be the judge. Throughout the year I’ve really tried to focus on digging deep in to the Word and strengthening my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I’ve chipped away at progress, but would, by no means, brag about the short strides I’ve made. One thing that 2015 taught me is that I am not in control of this crazy life. I make my own decisions, yes. But the pilot of this plane isn’t me. I don’t call the shots, and that is truly a good thing whether I choose to see it that way or not. Whether I kick and scream or willingly submit, God’s plan for my life will trump any desire of my flawed, selfish heart.

I just finished reading an amazing novel called Anything by Jennie Allen and it was such a lesson in what it looks like to Trust God and truly hand him the reigns on your life. What kinds of exciting, life changing, fantastic things could He do if we just completely gave him control? Being that I’m such a planner by nature that is a scary thought to me. To acknowledge that my plans are always plan B and that plan A never fails, so you never need a plan B – now that’s my scary place.

So without further adieu, my word for the new year: Trust. I need more of this in all areas of my life so I’m going to allow God to take this as far and wide and crazy as he can. But at the end of 2016 I want to say that I’ve learned how to trust God more with my life and with “my” plans. Whatever that means for me, may I trust Him instead of resisting His will for my life.

It’s funny that I think he started putting this word in to my head in June when we first visited a church in our soon-to-be new home of Atlanta. We toured the nursery and the woman touring us around told us how that week the kids were learning about Abraham and how he had been asked by God to move his family and Abraham trusted God and moved. If that wasn’t a timely message directly from God to our family, I don’t know what it was. Moving to Atlanta wasn’t easy, it still isn’t easy… but what if in 2016 I learn how to trust God with it even if it is only a few more months here? I love to think about how that would change my life for the better.

Psalm 37:5-6 says “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” That verse seems like reason enough to learn how to trust Him better, so that’s what my hope and desire is for this 2016. I realize this could make my roller coaster a little bit longer, the depths a little bit deeper and the peaks a little bit higher… and I can’t even say that I’m truly “ready” for that yet. But with my hearts desire, here’s my life, Lord. Now, help me learn how to truly give you the reigns.

I hope you have a word for the new year. Feel free to share it with me! I would love to hear it and partner with you as we see where 2016 takes us!

 

 

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

6 Must Have Products for Traveling with a Baby

December 15, 2015
Jenn Clutter

Chloe just completed her 21st flight in under 15 months… I know what you’re thinking, that’s more than some people have flown in their whole lifetime. We’ve bought nearly every product on the market for travel and only needed a few essentials to get us from Point A to Point B those 21 times. Whether you’re traveling with a baby or a toddler, these are some products that have made our lives much easier navigating the airlines with our little one.

Here are the 6 Must Have Products for Traveling with a Baby:

1.Baby leg warmers: These make diaper changes SO much easier because you don’t have to take them off to change a diaper. This is the easiest no hassle way to change baby’s diaper anywhere, including the tiny changing tables in airplane bathrooms. Affiliate link: Wrapables Colorful Baby Leg Warmers, Chevron Gray and White,Chevron Gray and White,12 x 3.5 inches

2. J.L. Childress Gate Check Bag For Standard and Double Strollers: This is a must as I mentioned in my previous post, Baby’s First Year: Top 12 Products for the First 12 Months (embedded link). It keeps baby’s stroller and/or car seat clean, and it also helps make sure you don’t lose any pieces.  Plus, it makes your stroller the easiest to find when you’re picking it up from the gate check.

3. Munchkin Arm and Hammer Diaper Bag Dispenser: Chances are, baby is going to poop en route to your final destination. These bags make sure you and fellow travelers don’t have to smell it en route to the garbage. These bags mask any smell and they are super sturdy so you don’t need to run to a garbage can the minute you get the stinky diaper off your baby.

4. Hand Sanitizer: You can’t keep yours and baby’s hands clean enough when you’re traveling through airports and on airplanes. Make sure you have easy access to hand sanitizer or hand sanitizing wipes (Affiliate link: Babyganics Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizing Wipes) when you’re on the go. The best kinds for baby are fragrance-free and alcohol free like in this affiliate link: BabyGanics Alchohol Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer. Like the link, make sure any liquid sanitizer is 3oz size or less!

5. Pacifier: As I mentioned in 8 Tips for Traveling with an Infantbaby might have a hard time equalizing the pressure on take off and landing. One way to help this is a pacifier or a bottle. You can also nurse baby — anything that will help them swallow will help make sure take off and landing don’t hurt their little ears.

6. Boppy Travel Pillow: If you are going to nurse while traveling I highly recommend this easy-to-transport nursing pillow. It folds up and has a strap so you can carry it like a bag. It also has a little pocket in the front big enough for a small burp cloth. It’s not as firm as a regular nursing pillow, which is how it can fold up for easy transport, but it does the trick to give the extra padding and comfort for baby and mom.

BONUS TIP: I highly recommend TSA Precheck – it’s a quick 10-15 minute process you can schedule either before you travel or while you’re sitting at the airport and it allows you a MUCH easier time getting through security. It’s incredible how much stuff you need when traveling with a baby/toddler. TSA Precheck takes a lot of the hassle out of security. You still get your stuff scanned but you’ll have fewer restrictions which makes the security process quicker and easier!
Hope these tips help as you’re traveling! Comment below if you have other products you’ve found to be essential when traveling with your little one! We would love to hear from you.
Disclosures

6 Toddler Travel Tips

November 20, 2015
Jenn Clutter

The holidays are around the corner… I mean, seriously. Thanksgiving is next week. How did that happen? Anyways… traveling during the holidays can be super stressful. You’re more likely to have flight delays, security takes an eternity and you’re battling swarms of crabby people in the airports. This combo makes traveling during the holidays super stressful and unappealing. You know what else can be stressful? Having a toddler. That’s right, I said it. My 14 month old is the greatest gift from God but let’s face it, that innocent little baby we had a year ago is no more. A toddler has opinions, and likes to be moving and exploring. They have no problem telling your whole flight their opinion about being constrained to your lap for what may seem like the longest flight you’ve been on in your entire life. After 19 flights in 12 months, my toddler is no stranger to airports and flying, so there are things we’ve learned about this process that can definitely help you in your upcoming holiday travels. So here they are — our 6 Toddler Travel Tips:

  1. Timing is Everything: Does your toddler have a fussy time? Does your toddler have a nap schedule? Knowing your child’s schedule and when would be best for them to travel can ultimately make or break your travel experience. As often as we can, we travel during my daughter’s nap time, hoping she will nap for at least 30 minutes of the flight time. I also try to schedule a meal in that time if at all possible because food occupies hungry toddlers like MAGIC. Small finger foods that take a little while for them to eat are the best because every second your toddler spends unoccupied is a second that they are BORED which means stress for mom and dad.
  2. Booking Seats: My lovely sister-in-law reminded me of how important this was when she traveled with her 8 month old to come visit us in Atlanta. It was his first flight and they did everything right. They even boarded last so baby would have the least amount of on-board time. But they forgot one thing. They had booked the first row behind first class for the extra leg room. Sounds awesome right? Wrong. That row has no carry on bag storage since there’s no seat in front of you, which means your diaper bag AKA your LIFELINE is in an overhead bin… and since they boarded last, the only available overhead bin space was several rows behind them. Learn from this mistake before you make it. Book a seat where you can have your bags under the seat in front of you, or plan ahead so you can snag the overhead bin above your seat.
  3. Airplane Seat Layouts: Make them work for you! I’m no aircraft expert but one thing I’ve learned is that there are many different kinds of airplane layouts, there are airplanes that have 2 seat rows and 3 seat rows. So here’s my tip: if you can, check out your aircraft before you book your flight and if at all possible find an aircraft that allows your family to have a row to yourself.  If I’m traveling alone with my toddler, I book a two-seat row whenever possible. I also book the two-seat row when I’m traveling with my husband and we’re not buying my toddler a seat. Some airplanes only have rows with 3 seats. For that, see my advice for booking seats in my previous post 8 Tips for Traveling with an Infant.
  4. Boarding Procedures: Know your airlines boarding procedures BEFORE you get to the airport. Do they have family boarding? When do they call for family boarding? Every airline we’ve traveled does have family boarding, but they all handle this process differently. They also all disclose this information on their web sites. So investigate before you take off. Knowing your airline’s boarding procedures beforehand will take out the guesswork at the busy, hectic airport.
  5. Less IS More: Spending as little time on the airplane as you can will help you. The second you board that airplane, your toddler is constrained to your lap or his/her seat. So, unless you need to board early (if you don’t have a seat, or need an overhead bin near your seat) wait out the line and board last. It’ll also give your nearby fellow passengers a chance to get comfy… you know, for that exciting surprise they know is coming when you toddle down that aisle with your mini-me.
  6. Nothing New: Traveling is not a time to experiment with your toddlers likes and dislikes. Stick to what you know works. DON’T, I repeat, DO NOT try new foods, new toys, new clothes, new anything. Travel with what you know they like and you’ll thank yourself later.

Hopefully these 6 tips help you out in the upcoming weeks of busy holiday travel. If they relieve an ounce of stress, the time you took to read this post will have been worth it. Last but not least, an essential reminder: Don’t stress. I know you’re rolling your eyes at that because what isn’t stressful about traveling during the holidays with a toddler? But seriously, holidays are a time to be with family, enjoy and celebrate. Don’t let your travel experience ruin that for you or make it not worth the trip to see loved ones. You’ll make it through that airplane ride, I promise. Whether it’s rough or easy (thanks to my tips), guaranteed you’ll arrive to your destination with a little bit of courage and a whole lot of perspective. Later on when you’ve made it to wherever you’re headed (and maybe after a glass or two of wine) you’ll tell your travel story feeling like one heck of a super mom for braving the chaos and traveling with a toddler.

Coming in December: Products You NEED When Traveling with a Toddler
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Baby’s First Year: Top 12 Products for the First 12 Months

November 3, 2015
Jenn Clutter

There are so many products out there for baby, it can be overwhelming. I felt so conflicted over so many of them, I feel like we bought nearly every product at every store we registered at. Since hindsight is 20/20, and Chloe is now 1-year-old, I am realizing now that we didn’t need half of what we bought. So, I wanted to share my Baby’s First Year: Top 12 Products for the First 12 Months. These are products that we definitely got our money’s worth by purchasing. I’ve included the links (embedded in the photos) in case you are interested in purchasing any of these,but mostly I just hope this helps any soon-to-be moms or new moms out there just trying to get a grip on the massive amount of products on the market for Baby’s First Year.

1. Universal Pacifier Clip Paci Holder Teether Clip Soothie Pacy
There are so many reasons why this pacifier clip is better than most of the others on the market, but the main reason is, you can clip it securely with one hand. No one ever told me when you became a mom you forfeit use of one of your hands, but it’s true. The easy clip is safe and secure – this pacifier clip was exponentially better than the others we bought (and we bought MANY different kinds :))

2. Aquascale 3 in 1 Digital Scale, Water Thermometer, and Infant Tub
There aren’t words for how much I loved our infant bathtub, but the fact that Chloe is 13 months and we still use it is reason enough. The insert seat for infants is so much better than others on the market. It actually provides a secure seat for them to rest their bum on, so you can (with caution) have both of your hands free to bathe baby. The scale is pretty accurate (better than most others we tried) and the temperature gauge is right on the money. When baby can sit up, you just remove the seat insert and there is plenty of room for them to splash around this little tub without having a whole bathtub to roam. It’s a quicker, safer method of bathing for as long as they fit in to it.

3. aden + anais Classic Muslin Swaddle Blanket
After buying multitudes of different swaddles and blankets, these are genuinely the best ones out there. They are softer and larger than other swaddles (the real ones are 47”x47” – make sure to check the size before you purchase because they make copycat versions for the Target brand and other stores that are only 44”x44”). Once you get the hang of swaddling, these are the easiest swaddle blankets to use. Plus, because they are lightweight they are GREAT for nursing in public, using to canopy over baby’s car seat, and for toddler’s first night-time blanket. We resisted buying these for so long because they are more expensive, but we could have saved a lot of money if we just started with these in the first place. 4. Huggies Clutch ‘n’ Clean Refillable Wipes
This is the best portable wipes container I’ve used. It’s a space saver, easy to refill, lightweight and keeps your wipes moist longer. Ps. This comes FREE in the bulk boxes of wipes sold at Costco… Enough said.
5. Bright Starts Lots of Links Accessory
These are a must for baby’s first year. They can link together, link to car seats, link to play mats, and they can link your cabinets closed for baby proofing your house. The list of usages for these is endless. You won’t regret spending $5 on these.
6. JJ Cole 2-In-1 Mirror
This car seat mirror is awesome because the mirror is clear, the strap to secure it to your seat is straightforward and it doubles as an iPad holder!! Do you know that this can save you hundreds of dollars because you will never need to install a TV in to your car to keep the kids occupied on long car trips? I love this thing and it has saved us in the last year of traveling hours upon hours in the car during our move to Atlanta.

7. myBaby Soundspa Lullaby Sound Machine and ProjectorI’m a huge advocate of helping baby sleep with white noise. It’s worked like a charm for us and helped us get our little one sleeping through the night more efficiently and effectively. I’m also a huge advocate of cost savings where you can and this product does that. It’s not the best sound machine on the market I’m sure, but ours has been cranking away for 13 months now and Chloe has slept through the night no problem. Also – it doubles as a projector which has been a plus for us when we’re traveling and forget to pack a nightlight!

8. Comforter Toy Crumble Bear While I’m on the subject of sleep, here’s another one of my favorite products: a comfort bear. This was essential to helping cue baby when teaching her it was time to nap or go to bed. When she could fully lift her head (around 6 months old or so) we introduced this little bear to her for sleeping and I can’t even begin to tell you how much she loves this bear now. Not only does it cue her it’s time to sleep, but it’s helped her napping and it’s helped her stay entertained in her crib after she wakes up so we don’t need to rush in to get her the second her eyes open. Also, if you sleep with the bear for a while it takes on your scent which is also a comfort for baby in the beginning.  I’d highly recommend getting one of these or a similar product. Ps. This one is gender neutral!

9. BABYBJORN Baby Carrier Original
Anyone who has met me has probably seen me (or Tim) carrying Chloe in her Baby Bjorn. It’s comfortable, secure, easy to put on and best of all it’s easy to wash! You can face baby inward in the beginning and then as soon as they are ready you can turn them around and let them see the world facing outwards. There are many carriers on the market, but for baby’s first year, I absolutely loved the Baby Bjorn!

10. J.L. Childress Gate Check Bag For Standard and Double Strollers
We’ve traveled a lot this past year… A. Lot. So I’ve learned a few tricks to help make traveling with baby a smoother process. This bag is for when you gate check your stroller and/or car seat. It keeps just about any size stroller clean (trust me, they get DIRTY when they are gate checked), it helps you carry the stroller off the jetway, it makes your stroller easily identifiable and it ensures you don’t lose any pieces. It’s totally worth the $18 just in the fact that it keeps your stroller clean! It’s durable and ours has lasted 18 flights with minimal damage to the bag, aside from absorbing all the dirt that would have gotten on our stroller without it! LOVE this product!
11. BEABA Babycook Classic
I know I just wrote a whole blog post about how much I love my Beaba Babycook, which is why I couldn’t leave it off my favorite’s list. Feel free to read my post: Homemade Baby Food for more about why I love this product!

12: Tiny TOMS
Ok this I saved the best for last. I could be a spokesperson for TOMS with how many times I’ve recommended Tiny TOMS to my mom friends. Everyone adores how cute these shoes are, but the reason I love them is because they are easy to slip on, and the flex bottoms are perfect for new walkers. They provide the support to keep baby feet supported, but they are flexible so they bend and confirm to baby’s newly walking feet. I’ve bought countless pairs of baby shoes (ask my credit card company) and these are BY FAR my favorite. We have already pre-ordered the next size up. These come in a variety of colors and sizes (they start at size 2 which, by my comparisons, is similar to a size 1 in other brand shoes). I’m obsessed with Tiny TOMS!
Hope this list helps you moms and dads just starting out and trying to weed out the necessary products from the unnecessary. Being a new parent is already a very steep learning curve, so hopefully one, two or all of these products helps make the first year a little bit easier for you!

Disclosures

Baby’s First Year: 9 Habits I’m Glad We’ve Established

October 27, 2015
Jenn Clutter

I’m certainly not a self-proclaimed expert on being a mom, I promise. I’m a first-time mom, full-time mom, with 1 baby girl, and I’m just figuring this whole parenthood thing out as I go. I have things I’m proud of and things I chalk up to huge learning and growing processes. I’ve definitely been frustrated over the past year but I’ve also been quite proud of Chloe, and of myself as I learn how to be a mom. Seriously, why haven’t the experts created a manual yet? Today I’m going to discuss a few things I’m proud of. Not to be conceited or pretend like I know it all because as already stated, I definitely don’t know it all. But if nothing else, this will serve as a letter to my future self for any future children God may choose me to mother. Here are the 9 habits I’m glad we’ve established in Chloe’s first year on this earth.

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1. To Read: No, she’s not a baby genius and she can’t actually read, but I have taught to her like books. Or maybe that is just her personality and I was just the facilitator of putting the book in her hands. But the repetition of reading time with Chloe has her enjoying this time and asking for it regularly. This has definitely come in handy already as we begin potty training and I know it will be a positive thing for her later in life.
2. Appropriate Pacifier Use: If I allowed Chloe to have a pacifier 24 hours a day, she would always have that thing in her mouth. I know there are medical reasons why we should quit the pacifier (or some studies say to never use them) but for Chloe, we use a pacifier – so the judgers out there can deal. In the past several months it’s been my goal to teach her that the pacifier is for sleeping (and the occasional other usage with teething and the dreaded Sunday church nursery). I know this is good for a multitude of reasons but the one I’m the most happy about is the expressions I get to hear from her open mouth and the beautiful little noises that invoke her creativity and imagination hard at work.
3. Meal Times: I’ve set meal times with Chloe, mostly so she doesn’t snack all day. Meal times are when she sits in the high chair and eats healthy food to fuel her day. Since setting meal times, she knows when to expect food and she knows what to expect when the meal time prep begins. I’m not saying I don’t allow her to snack. She gets snack time in between, but meal times have allowed us structure to our day and it’s rarely a fight or debate over where or when it’s time to eat.
4. Bedtime Routine: We started this super young because Chloe never napped so I knew it was important she slept well at night. BathTime
For us, this routine is consistent bath time, followed by me nursing her, and then singing a few songs before putting her down awake. It wasn’t always easy but 12 months of repetition with this and she’s got it down. She rarely ever fusses about bed time now and she’s known since only a couple of months of age what it means when we turn on her bath water. Consistency is key.
5. The Song Jesus Loves Me, Means Nap Time: Nap time is the epitome of my first year frustrations. I’ve been in tears several times over why my baby wouldn’t nap when she clearly needed to. It seemed that all my friends had babies who napped and they were able to take showers, go to the bathroom and eat food throughout the day. How I longed to go to the bathroom by myself and eat lunch! After 12 months of repetition singing “Jesus Loves Me” as I walk her to her room for nap time, she now knows, for better or worse, that when mommy sings that song she’s going to bed. Chloe is in a phase of napping well these days for the first time in a year, and while I know everything is a phase, I’m happy that she knows Jesus loves her (especially when she naps for mommy).
6. To Say Please: We started teaching sign language to Chloe pretty young, mostly because I was always amazed at how quickly she could learn new things. We started with “more” and “all done” before teaching her the sign language for “please”. She’s created her own version of each of these words: “More” looks like time out, and for “please” she just rubs her belly… it’s darling, I can’t lie. Now I catch her doing the sign language for please all the time. I know I will thank myself for this later, but for now it’s a really stinkin’ cute way to watch her develop manners.
IMG_5656.2015-08-01_2312527. To Play By Herself: I’m a religious Good Morning America watcher and I’m pretty sure at least monthly there is a story about why kids should learn to entertain themselves, so I know this is a good one in some people’s opinions (level of expertise unknown). I can say with confidence that Chloe learning to play by herself has positive benefits for her and for me. I can get things done and she gets to exercise her imagination. After the short period of time where she plays like this, she always has new and creative ideas and I always applaud them in amazement that a 13 month old can think like that already. These periods of play time give her freedom to explore and develop her own understandings about the world… and they give mommy needed time to address my endless list, as well as a whole new appreciation for what a miracle she truly is when she shows me what she’s done with her play time.
8. To Play with Other Kids: Ok so I know this one is important. I’m in a wonderful moms group and I’ve enrolled Chloe in other2015-10-02_160037550_E1506_iOSoutside activities that allow her play time with other kids. A budget-friendly way to do this is to take your kid to a park on a sunny day – wow this is birth control on steroids some days, but it’s honestly amazing watching little kids learn to interact with other little people their size. The more interaction she has with other kids, the better she gets at it and the social skills are essential building blocks in life. I truly believe the younger the better on this one.
9. To Embrace Who She Is: You might be rolling your eyes at this one since she’s only 13 months, but I can honestly say that laughing at her when she does something silly, clapping for her when she’s done something she’s proud of, and helping her deal with her (genetically-passed-down) frustration has taught her to better express herself. She’s learned to clap for herself when she’s proud even when no one is around, she dances when no one is watching, and she laughs at herself all the time. I hope I can always help Chloe embrace who she is as she grows from Baby to Toddler to Kid to Adult. This will be one marker that I’ve done something right even without access to the Motherhood Manual.

Homemade Baby Food: Why I Made the Switch & the Best Blends

October 20, 2015
Jenn Clutter

When I first got pregnant with Chloe people asked me if I was going to make my own baby food for her. I never really thought about it. To me, it seemed to be the same amount of work as cloth diapers and hand-made baby clothes. I’m not Suzy homemaker or Amish so I actually never dreamed of making my own baby food. I just assumed that it would be time-consuming, pricey and demanding. Well, Chloe is 13 months now and I’m totally kicking myself because I just now jumped on the homemade baby food bandwagon.

I had always purchased baby food purees thinking how simple it was to go to the store, buy a few containers and throw them out when she was done. It was virtually no clean up and minimal effort… until she turned 1. I’m not sure if you’ve experienced the moment when your little one learns she’s a toddler now but just wait for it, its distinct and you can’t miss it. It’s when they learn they have opinions and they want you to know they have their OWN opinions. It’s the brink of “toddler-dom” when babies communicate to you that your life as you once knew it is over. Now they have likes and dislikes and now they make sure you understand that. It was at this specific time point (9 days in to her turning 1-year-old) that Chloe started to explain to me between flavors she was going to eat and what she was not going to eat. Suddenly I could only buy a few select flavors (nothing with vegetables) and with the amount she was eating, I had to go to the grocery store for this almost weekly. I tried all the mom tricks to get her to eat her veggies: I tried mixing the flavors, mixing veggies with yogurt, mixing everything with banana (her favorite food)… I could never pull a fast one on Chloe – she ALWAYS knew… After all, she is a toddler now. This constant battle led to frustrating meal times for her and myself. I wanted her to eat healthy, well-balanced meals but I didn’t want to fight her and make her hate meal times.

I started to look in to making my own food so I could determine the balance of fruit and veggies in each serving. The more I looked in to it, the more I started to realize how much money I could save and how much healthier I could get her to eat if I made the food myself. So, I broke down and bought a Beaba Babycook (buying last year’s model with a coupon this only cost me about $75) and about $40 worth of fresh organic produce. In a little over 1 hour I created almost 3 weeks of healthy, tasty food for Chloe. I experimented with different flavors and discovered that she actually likes my homemade baby food so much BETTER than any of the purchased purees – Now I’m actually having a hard time getting her to eat up our leftover stock of purchased purees! While it may seem time-consuming, complicated and demanding making your own purees I’m here to tell you I once thought that was the case myself, and now I’m a total believer in homemade baby food. Little Chloe, who before would only eat bananas and sweet potatoes, is now eating spinach, carrots, squash, zucchini and pretty much every fruit I’ve given her.

While I’m still learning and experimenting I wanted to share the blends I’ve found have gone over the best with Chloe who has tried all of these flavors separately before (so I know she doesn’t have food allergies to any of these things). Also, the nurse in me feels compelled to remind you to only introduce 1 new flavor at a time and wait 4 days before introducing another new food to make sure baby doesn’t have allergies.

Baby Food Blends Sure to Satisfy:
Sweet potatoes & plums
Avocado & banana (This one is really good for the little ones, packed with nutrients and can be pureed really thin)
Strawberry, blueberry, yogurt (The yogurt helps the seedy strawberries slide down a little easier – I like to use traditional greek yogurt or Stonyfield yoBaby Organic)
Spinach, zucchini, apple
Pear, spinach, zucchini
Squash & pears
Peach, mango, spinach
Sweet potato, carrot, spinach, yogurt
Sweet potato, apple, plum
Strawberry, apple, spinach
Apples & Pears
Carrot, apple, spinach, yogurt
Pumpkin & plums

The Beaba Babycook does the steaming and pureeing all in one so after you chop your fruits and veggies, the rest of the work is quick and efficient. I like to leave the skins on since they are packed with nutrients and Chloe can’t even notice the difference. Make sure to look up storing guidelines but most purees can be stored frozen for up to 3-6 months! Lastly, the more liquid you add, the more pureed the meal so as they get a little older you may want to add less liquid and puree for less time to thicken up the food. I like to add a little bit of milk because Chloe doesn’t like to drink plain milk.

Hope this helps any of you parents who are having the same debate I was! Making the switch to homemade baby food has been an incredible change for our family… and No, I don’t work for Beaba Babycook, but yes, I LOVE it!

6 Positive Marriage Changes After Having a Baby

October 6, 2015
Jenn Clutter

There are way more than 6 ways my marriage has changed for the better since having our daughter, but these are the ones I think pretty much every couple can relate to after bringing home your bundle of joy. It’s the reflection of these changes that helps convict my heart and appreciate the loving relationship that I’ve been overwhelmingly blessed with. For me, having a baby was the first point where I truly realized I love my husband more than I ever thought I could when we said our “I Do’s”. While some might choose to focus on their different parenting styles, the daily bickering, and the struggle over who gets the next diaper change, I’d like to share the amazing positive changes that I didn’t realize would take place until we embarked upon our journey in to parenthood.
1. Teamwork
It honestly came as a shock to me how our world turned upside down once we had our daughter. Some might say im a bit Type A when it comes to… Well, pretty much everything. So when I started to get a sense of how much laundry a 6lb human can produce, I’m not gonna lie, I started to panic. Learning how to breastfeed for the first time is truly a 2 man job. Clearly I’m the only one with the “goods” but if I didn’t have my husband around to get me a glass of water, a burp rag, my nursing pillow, a Chapstick and any other last-minute request I had, I might have lost my mind. Learning the many new skills required for having a baby is tough but having a spouse go through it with you makes it seem so much easier. We’ve created quite a balancing act with the addition of Chloe and the teamwork aspect of our relationship continues to grow.
2. Appreciation
I think there is a kick in the balls shocking sensation after a man sees his wife have a baby. Like a “woah, I can’t believe she just did that” feeling that changes everything in a marriage. Similarly, there is just something about over-hearing your husband try to get your baby to laugh at 4am because she decided she’s not tired any more and you couldn’t get out of bed. The way that my husband truly adores my daughter has raised my appreciation for him to a level I never knew existed.
3. Forgiveness
“I’m really sorry for my short fit of rage at our 2am feeding.”
“No worries, I’m really sorry for screaming in to my pillow for 5 minutes straight when she woke up again at 330”
Sound familiar? The learning as you go while sleep-deprived can really bring out an ugly side to any one. This is where forgiveness steps in. You forgive and forget and try to tackle the next night with a little more grace and a little less muttering under your breath. It’s developing the skill of forgiveness that truly makes you feel invincible as a couple.
4. Time
Since most of the time my husband and I spend together is spent attending to Chloe, we’ve learned to really cherish the time we have to ourselves. I can see now how pre-baby it was so easy to take our time together for granted. While we would be “together” in the same living space we would spend a lot of time on our phones or mindlessly watching tv. Now that we have a baby we spend our time together more wisely, chatting about our days or reading a couples devotional and praying before bed. It’s truly a blessing spending our time together growing as a couple.
5. Humor
No matter how funny you think your baby is, no one will truly appreciate it like your significant other. We’re the only ones who truly think she’s the cutest baby in the entire world even when she’s pooping out her outfit for the 3rd time that day, or screaming in her crib because you say it’s nap time and she says it’s play time. The inside jokes that only we understand are the special sauce to our marriage. Every one has their own special sauce and it just can’t be duplicated. Allowing these frustrating moments to become your special sauce is where you find the true blessing in this amazing gift of kids.
6. Patience
They didn’t write in the baby manual that after you bring your newborn home you can NEVER AGAIN leave the house in under an hour. Not to mention that the first 20 times you leave the house with baby you will do so with a trunk full of supplies you might need while you are out. Honestly one of the best parts about being a sleep-deprived new mom is the God-given (like it or not) patience. You can be the least patient person in the world (an award I’ve already given myself) but there’s something about that sweet little perfect face that gives you the patience you need when you have finally loaded up the car and got baby in the car seat, only to realize that it took you so long to get ready to leave, now it’s time to eat again. That’s when I look at my husband so glad we’re in this thing together.

How to Create a Magical 1st Birthday Party

September 28, 2015
Jenn Clutter

Chloe just turned 1 and I just can’t believe it! Amidst the phases of sleeplessness and first experiences (for you and baby), the first birthday is a reminder of just how fast this whole parenting thing is going to go by. It’s only fitting to throw a memorable first birthday to celebrate making it through the first year and cherishing the moments on the swiftly moving journey. When I decided to throw Chloe a 1st birthday bash, I didn’t quite know where to start so hopefully these tips will help jump-start your imagination so you, too, can create a magical experience for your little one’s first birthday. Chloe's 1st birthday-5

  1. Decide on a Theme: I wanted our theme to be meaningful because we’ve had a roller coaster of a year. With all of Chloe’s travels this year, I decided our theme should relate to that. I decided on a hot air balloon theme intertwined in “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss. This was my Dad’s favorite book, who we lost to cancer earlier this year. It was the perfect theme in that it was fun and sentimental at the same time.
  2. Decorations (That Won’t Break the Bank): I realized quickly how expensive the “1st birthday party” industry can be. Seriously, is that even a thing? It is. From decorations to gift bags, I could see the dollar signs adding up. So I decided to find ways to cost save. I realized that although I’m not super crafty, I could fairly easily make many of the party decorations. With a quick run to the craft store, I purchased some glue sticks, card stock, rope and clothespins. With those basic crafts, I created most of Chloe’s party decorations.
  3. Gift Bags: Do you know how amazing the Target dollar section is? I didn’t until I started shopping for Chloe’s birthday party. I found all of the gift bag contents in the dollar section and was able to create inexpensive, adorable gift bags for all of the kid party attendees.Chloe's 1st birthday-7
  4. Guest Book: We used the book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” from our theme and had all of our guests sign it. Babies won’t remember their first party, and many of the gifts will be toys they only use for a short period of time. The guest book is a great way to capture the moment so they get a glimpse in to their first birthday party.
  5. Capture the Memories: You definitely will want photos to remember this special day. It might have been the best gift we received at Chloe’s party when a friend offered to be our photographer for the day. We didn’t have to worry about taking photos, we simply got to enjoy being with Chloe on her birthday. I would highly recommend having a friend or family member take photos for you, and make sure to pay it forward if you have photography skills!

First birthday parties are definitely more for the parents than they are for the kiddo, but these tips made Chloe’s day so special so use them and share them! Hope your day is as memorable and special as ours was!

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3 Key Ingredients to Being a Great Mom

August 14, 2015
Jenn Clutter

We’ve had a busy start to the year. 2015 has been a bit of a whirlwind for our family. I thought having a baby would be, by far, the biggest change the past year would bring. Throw in a cross-country move and excessive travel, and I’m finding myself getting out of the shower wondering if I washed my hair. Through all of the chaos, life changes and 11 quick months of motherhood, I’ve noticed some characteristics in some moms around me that I hope, one day, others will find in me. While I haven’t by any means mastered these yet, by God’s grace and with a little help from my friends, I’m working on attaining these 3 key ingredients to being a great mom.

1. Sense of Humor: I am in constant of the reminder not to take life too seriously. I’ve been in tears some days feeling like I’m not a good enough mom. Yesterday was one of those days for me. I had done the laundry, dinner was prepped, Jack was walked, Chloe was napped (WHAT?!?! Yes you heard me, NAPPED!). I was feeling like Super Mom! I always hear about theIMG_5870 moms that work 3 jobs, have 4 kids, are signing a book deal while traveling overseas to help the needy… yeah, I felt I was just one large (but do-able) step away from that. Except that in my feeble attempt to master our new electric stove top, I ended up burning half of the carrots, and almost ruining the rest of our dinner. While it certainly isn’t the first time I’ve burnt something in the kitchen, my feeling of Super Mom quickly turned into a feeling of inadequacy. Book deal mom wouldn’t have burnt her daughter’s carrots, I thought. As we fed Chloe the carrots that I worked so hard to salvage, she took one bite, shook her head NO, and then mashed a few in her hand before throwing the rest on the floor for the dog. 1 Peter 1:6 says, “Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead.”  I know I have so much to be joyful and hopeful for – yet sometimes I fail to see the big picture. I’m finding that in order to embrace life as a mom it requires me to laugh more and worry less. Sometimes this means laughing at myself, sometimes it’s my circumstances, but I’m learning that a sense of humor is a key ingredient to being a mom.

IMG_56842. Mercy: This one has played a big role for me in this season of change in my life. I do feel as though this one will also become more and more real for me as Chloe gets older. People are flawed; even with the best intentions we all have let each other down at times. Luke 6:36 states “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” As a mom, I feel that I need to set an example for Chloe on how to be merciful, especially when people don’t necessarily deserve it. Since I know don’t deserve the grace that I’m given daily by my Father, I should show mercy to those who aren’t deserving of it.

3. Patience: Does anybody inherently have this? It’s a fruit of the spirit for a good reason – we need help attaining it! I’d consider myself one of the least patient people I know, if I’m being honest. James 1:2-4 says this: “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” I’m definitely learning as I continue on my journey as a mom that many times, the blessings are in the waiting. Some times I need to take a step back and embrace the moments that I’m rushing through, remembering that God doeIMG_5706s amazing things in His timing.

While I might be half-showered, exhausted, and my dinner burning on the stove, I truly feel so blessed. Through this crazy journey of motherhood, God is fine-tuning my character. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, constant in prayer” Romans 12:12. I know I can’t do it all by myself – but with a lot of grace and many prayers, I’m developing some traits I never knew this mom could have.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

August 6, 2015
Jenn Clutter

So much has happened since my last post. We’ve experienced loss, countless airplane rides, and a cross-country move. Needless to say, I haven’t had much time to write.

In complete honesty, this post is one I’ve dreaded writing for months. Mostly because the primary reason why the break in posts has been so long is one I am still currently trying to face in my reality. Shortly after my last post, my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was a horrifying experience living through the days and weeks of January through March – It was one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. His battle was gruesome and short, though the days we spent together fighting it felt despairingly long. He passed away in March: a reality that I don’t know if I even believe yet.

Shortly after, my amazing and hard-working husband was asked to move for a year to help with a company integration. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that we couldn’t pass up. After commuting back and forth to Atlanta for about 3.5 months, we finally found a home in Atlanta and made the move to Georgia a couple of weeks ago.

As I’m sure any one would, I feel like I’ve just been on a crazy roller coaster. The extremes of emotions that have flooded over me makes this a clear turning point in my life: one I know I will never forget. I’m sure my next several posts will discuss many things I’ve learned in all of this, including the challenges in motherhood, but there’s a verse that I am compelled to share with you all that has taken on a whole new meaning in the roller coaster of a life that I’ve lived the last several months. Philippians 4:6-7 is a verse that I’ve heard many, many times before. It always seemed nice but I never knew how real the application could be until I went through these life changing events.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

I’ve experienced this peace. It’s not a positive attitude, hopeful thinking, or a nice way to sugar coat the hardships I’ve been through. There is an overwhelming peace that literally “transcends understanding”. This peace has given me assurance and an overwhelming faith. It has allowed me to grow in all of this chaos and in the mucky waters we’ve had to tread. In moments of utter despair, I physically got to feel God’s presence: in hospital rooms, hospice meetings, funerals, airplane delays and sheer loneliness. How AMAZING!!! I am totally changed from the woman, wife, mom, daughter and friend that I was before. My life has been changed by the power of His grace and the peace that this verse talks about. Thank you, if you are one of the friends God sent to me in loneliness. Thank you if you were one of the thousands of prayers prayed for my family and I. If you ever want to hear more details about my experience, feel free to reach out to me. I love sharing my new testimony.

 

Broken Hallelujah – The Afters

I can barely stand right now.
Everything is crashing down,
And I wonder where You are.

I try to find the words to pray.
I don’t always know what to say,
But You’re the one that can hear my heart.

Even though I don’t know what your plan is,
I know You’re making beauty from these ashes.

I’ve seen joy and I’ve seen pain.
On my knees, I call Your name.
Here’s my broken hallelujah.

With nothing left to hold onto,
I raise these empty hands to You.
Here’s my broken hallelujah.

You know the things that have brought me here.
You know the story of every tear.
‘Cause You’ve been here from the very start.

Even though I don’t know what your plan is,
I know You’re making beauty from these ashes.

I’ve seen joy and I’ve seen pain.
On my knees, I call Your name.
Here’s my broken hallelujah.

With nothing left to hold onto,
I raise these empty hands to You.
Here’s my broken hallelujah.

When all is taken away, don’t let my heart be changed.
Let me always sing Hallelujah
When I feel afraid, don’t let my hope be erased
Let me always sing Hallelujah.
Let me always sing Hallelujah.

I will always sing
I will always sing
Here’s my broken hallelujah.

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