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Keep It Simple: Creative Parenting Solutions Using What We Already Have

May 01, 2012

It seems like more and more families are looking to keep it simple when it comes to what they register for or buy themselves to use with their families. It was the same for my husband and me; we registered for children's books to build our family library and then some essential items like swaddles and cloth diapers, but otherwise we kept it pretty minimal. In fact, some items that we have had around the house for years have been the most useful after our son's birth. Here are five handy items that have done double duty during our first 16 months together as a family.

1. Thermos: In the last three months of my pregnancy, I would regularly wake about 3:00 am and my stomach would want tea. It was a sleepy battle some mornings, when my stomach wanted tea, but the rest of me was not interested in crawling out from under the warm down comforter to put on the kettle. At some point during one of my nesty cleaning binges, I rediscovered my old thermos. From then on my predawn tea cravings were tended to while I kept warm under the blankets. Just before tucking in for the night, I would brew some organic chamomile tea to keep next to the bed, then I could take sips of something hot that would also help me fall back asleep. On most mornings it was just the thing I needed, unless my very crowded bladder had plans of its own.

2. Headlamp: During the first few months of your little's life, when you are changing more nighttime diapers (or other nighttime care item if you are EC-ing) than you can believe possible, a head lamp can be your best friend. My husband and I really wanted to avoid what we called, "the hard wake up," which meant that even when we were dog-tired, we could not fall back to sleep after being woken up. The headlamp let us take quick, stealthy peeks at our son without fully waking him, or ourselves, in the process. And if we did need to change him, we would keep the main lights off in the house and just pop on the headlamp to get the job done. Ever seen a Nascar pit team get to work during a race? Well, we may have not gotten it down to seconds, we did get pretty darn fast with the diaper and then back into bed. If you are in the market for a new headlamp, I recommend something that has a red light on it, and a diffuser is nice too. The red light is bright enough to do the trick and is easy on everyone's barely awake eyes, including the baby's.

3. Mesh Bags: We have a whole slew of mesh drawstring bags around our house and garage. My husband uses them to organize our cords, adapters and other electronics that we take with us when we are traveling. We also use them to store and transport odd bits of camping gear. With the addition of tiny colorful socks to our laundry this past year, these mesh bags got called up for a new duty as a sock wrangler. We put all of our son's socks, along with other smaller items like hats and mittens, into a mesh bag before tossing the whole thing into the washer. And because the bags are mesh, the socks wash up perfectly and can go directly into the dryer too, keeping everything together in one place. From dirty to clean without a single missing sock is some serious momma-loving magic.

4. Plastic Kitchen Funnel: This is a multitasking item that my son discovered when rummaging through the kitchen cupboards as I made dinner. The funnel then made it into the bathtub--where so many things around our house now find themselves--and this is where it's served it's best purpose yet, as a happy-face hair rinser. My toddler does not mind if some water gets in his eyes when we are rising out the shampoo, but using a funnel helps to eliminate it completely by directing the water where you want it to go, and avoiding the ears and face where many little ones would prefer not to be splashed. The funnel works like a charm and makes rinsing a quick and tear-free job.

5. Cold Clothes for Teething: Teething can be tough work for our little ones. Some children get fevers and diarrhea, and some even experience pain that radiates into their faces and inner ears. My son's first molars are coming in right now and offering him something safe to comfort and soothe his discomfort is important to me. While some kids want chewy things to work against those puffy tooth buds, my son initiated using harder items to soothe his teething pain. So in taking his lead, I have found that homemade teething clothes work great for him. As I did for myself during my pregnancy, I begin by brewing a cup of organic chamomile tea. After the tea cools, I soak clean, soft clothes in the tea and put them in the freezer to firm up. After a few hours, they are ready to be offered to your child to gum on and to help cool inflamed gums.