Ever since I read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry in third or fourth grade, I have devoured books about the World War II era. I find something about the time period so hauntingly beautiful. While there were so many awful things happening throughout Eastern Europe during the war, there was also so much humanity, resilience, and strength of human spirit. That's probably why I enjoyed The German Midwife so much.
The book takes place in Germany in 1944. Anke, a prisoner in the camps, does what she can to keep her pregnant campmates and their newborns alive.
But when the Reich notices Anke's work, she is silently whisked away from camp and given a task more dangerous than being in a camp. Anke is assigned to be the midwife of Eva, a woman who is pregnant with the Führer’s child. Her family is threatened if she doesn't complete this task, so what is there to do?
The book weaves through Anke's story, bringing in a few kind characters to help Anke along this impossible journey, and reminding us that good and evil are not always black and white, and that gray areas do exist. Will Anke deliver this baby and keep it safe, furthering the cause of the Reich she so detests? Or will she sacrifice this child to help fix a broken world?
The German Midwife is a solidly told, well-written read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and if World War II novels are something you enjoy, then I think this is something you will enjoy as well. I honestly couldn't put the book down and even sacrificed a good night's rest to read a couple more chapters (a decision I really regretted when the kids woke up at 5:45 am).
This post had been sponsored by JOHNSON’S®. All opinions are my own.
My word for the year this year has been to Simplify. While it’s not always at the forefront of my mind, I find myself making subconscious decisions all the time that help to simplify my life. One of those decisions was to start bathing the kids together.
With both of my kids, there are a few things that have always stayed consistent through their bath time routine. For one thing, bath time almost always comes after dinner. But as their needs change, the routine is adjusted and the products we use change. When Chloe was tiny, I would bathe her alone in a baby bathtub, but as she got older and sturdier, I started to bathe her with Caleb. I want bath time to be as easy as possible, so they go in at the same time, get washed up with the same products, and they come out at the same time.
Once they started bathing together, we made the switch to JOHNSON’S® Head-to-Toe Wash & Shampoo. This is something else that has helped me to simplify. It’s one product that works for everything from - you guessed it - their heads down to their toes. Head-To-Toe® Wash and Shampoo is an ultra-mild, gentle cleanser that is safe for a baby’s sensitive skin (and eyes). It’s also free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and dyes, which was a big part of JOHNSON’S® renewed commitment to Choose Gentle. The pump bottle makes it easy for me to get the product out and onto the kids without having to pick up a slippery bottle, and the kids love to use it on themselves - even Chloe holds out her hand so I can put some in it and then she scrubs her belly.
JOHNSON’S® Head-to-Toe Wash & Shampoo really streamlines the bath time process, and when you’re in the middle of the crazy evening hours, one less step counts for a lot! Because it is such a great multi-purpose product, when we go on vacation, I make sure we always buy a bottle and we can all use it all over (including Mom & Dad)!
Another product that we have added into our routine, especially with all the drying activities of summer like swimming and sweating, is JOHNSON’S® Baby Lotion. Their classic baby lotion is now made with coconut oil, and it keeps delicate skin soft, smooth and feeling healthy. Baby’s skin is nourished for 24 hours with this mild formula. It has the classic smell we all know and love but it has no parabens, phthalates or dyes. I keep this on Chloe’s changing table and after her bath, I make sure to apply some. The best part about it is that is absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave any unwanted residue, so my hands aren’t slippery or greasy afterwards (because it doesn’t leave a residue, this is actually what I use on myself, too!).
The great thing about these products is that they are really affordable, and you can find them anywhere, including online at Target.com or Walmart.com
When Chloe was born, we used our Doona stroller, and that was basically all she used until after she turned one. Once we knew she needed something bigger, I did a little research and found that the Zoe XL1 was a fan favorite. I mentioned it to my parents, and they ordered it for Chloe as a gift for her first birthday.
While Chloe was in her infant seat, Caleb never asked to sit in the stroller. But the minute we switched over to the Zoe, every time we sat Chloe in the stroller, Caleb would tell us he was tired. We ended up carrying Chloe and pushing Caleb in the stroller - not exactly convenient, nor the point of having a stroller for her.
Since we loved the Zoe XL1 so much, I reached out to them to find out if we could work together. They ended up sending us the XL2 double stroller in exchange for my honest review, and I'm so happy they did! Having a double stroller has been so much easier - I don't know why I fought getting a double stroller so much at the beginning! I think it might be because I feared I wouldn't fit through a lot of spaces with it, but after using it for the last couple of weeks, I have been able to fit through doorways that I definitely never would have anticipated fitting through (including the ones at home!).
A lot of the things I loved about the Zoe XL1 are still relevant with the XL2. Living in the sunshine state, one of my absolute favorite things about these strollers is the canopy. Of every single compact stroller I have seen, the Zoe is the only one whose canopy extends so far down. It has a basic two panel canopy, but it can be expanded as it has two hidden panels - one that's folded in, and another that can be zipped up when it's not in use - totaling FOUR canopies with UPF 50. The canopies are independent of one another, so if one of the kids is napping and the other is paying attention to whatever we are doing, one canopy can be up and one can be down.
A couple of other things I love are how maneuverable it is, and how easy it is to open and close. The XL1 I can open and close one-handed. The double requires both hands, but it is still very easy to open and close. It is a Disney-approved double stroller, and it comes in at 19 pounds, so it can be gate checked with most major airlines.
I also love that each seat reclines, has a 5 point harness, and has an adjustable footrest. The stroller comes with a parent cupholder, child cup and snack holders, and a double belly bar. Have more than two kids? The XL2 can be turned into a triple or a quad stroller with the purchase of their tandems!
I also worried that with the kids size differences, the ride would be "off," but I haven't found that at all. Caleb has napped in there, which means it's comfortable enough for him, and when he does decide he wants to walk, I'm okay pushing Chloe by herself, too. There is tons of storage space underneath, and it made our trip to the zoo last week so much more tolerable since I was able to keep them contained when I needed to!
They also have some accessories that you can purchase, including a half belly bar, an organizer console, rain cover, and a storage bag/backpack for traveling.
The awesome people at Zoe were kind enough to set us up with a 10% off promo code, too! Use "jenise10" for your 10% discount, through June 30, 2019!
When I say that this double stroller has everything I was looking for in a double, I'm not kidding. I have a video review up on my stories highlights on Instagram, so you can check it all out in action on there.
One thing you might consider a drawback if your babies are tiny - you cannot put an infant seat on this. I figure it's worth mentioning!
Let me know what you think! And if you end up with a Zoe stroller, tag me when you post pictures of your kids in it, I'd love to see!
I have always been very forthcoming about my journey with breastfeeding and how hard it can be at first.
Not too long ago, I was out with some friends, and the topic of extended breastfeeding came up. I am someone who has breastfed for an extended amount of time with both of my children. With Caleb, I went to 21 months, and Chloe is 15 months and still nursing. I came into the conversation late, so I didn't really have time to interject or give my two cents. But when I started paying attention to the conversation, they were basically making fun of another mom for breastfeeding her almost two-year-old child.
Aside from coming in to the conversation late, I was too floored to interject. It's 2019, and we are STILL criticizing other moms for choices that they are making for their family? I honestly wanted to say "What the actual f**k is happening here?"
Who is that mom hurting by feeding her almost 2 year old? Honestly, nobody. Plus, there is no set age for when a mom needs to stop nursing her child. Again, HER child. Not yours, not mine. If a mom wants to breastfeed for two weeks, two months, twelve months, or two years, it's NONE OF OUR BUSINESS.
But the more I thought about it, the more upset I got. Finally I realized that getting upset wouldn't get me anywhere, but educating others about extended breastfeeding might. Anytime I mention to anyone that Chloe still nurses at 15 months, I get a variation of comments, ranging from, "Wow, what a sacrifice," to "Oh my goodness you're my hero." I honestly don't even think about it most days, it's just something we do. You go to your refrigerator in the morning and pour your kids a cup of cow's milk or almond milk or oat milk, and I nurse mine (only Chloe - even I would admit that Caleb, at 4.5 years old, is a little too old to nurse for my taste).
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding along with introducing appropriate complementary foods for 1 year or longer. WHO also recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years of age or longer.
But considering that fewer than 35% of infants in the US in 2018 were breastfed to 12 months (according to the CDC), there are a large majority of women out there who have no idea what an extended nursing relationship looks like.
Breastfeeding at 15 months looks VERY different than it does 6 months. So if you're one of the women who nursed up until 6 months, then you are probably imagining that the nursing relationship looks the same at 15 months as it did at 4 or 5 or 6 months. But that couldn't be further from the truth! The same way that babies consume less formula once they start eating solids, they begin to consume less breastmilk, too.
Up until 6 months, breastmilk is still their only source of nutrition, and Chloe, for example, nursed every two hours during the day until we introduced solids. After 6 months, solids are introduced, and by the time a baby turns one, they should be getting the majority of their nutrition from solid foods. When she was 12 months, Chloe's feeding schedule looked something like this:
This is still what it looks like today. She nurses as soon as she wakes and right before she goes down for bed. I rarely have to nurse in public anymore, and she has been introduced to cow's milk and she takes it just fine. In the event that Eddie and I have a date night or I have an event, she just gets a cup of regular milk. I don't pump anymore (although I might express if I miss a night feeding and a morning feeding), I don't get engorged, and I don't leak anymore.
Some other myths include that I must get bitten often, because Chloe has a mouth full of teeth. Well, she's had teeth for a while, and has she tried to bite, yes. But I pull her off the breast and cut her off for the session, and she knows better. It doesn't happen as often as people seem to think it might.
Why do I still nurse? Easy - because it's still convenient, and she still asks for it. When it stops being beneficial for either or both of us, that is when we will stop. With Caleb it was 21 months, and while I do have a cutoff of 2 years in mind, I wouldn't be upset if she chose to wean earlier. The nursing relationship is something that is so special, so personal, and so dynamic. It looks so different for everyone.
Whether you choose to pursue an extended breastfeeding relationship or not is nobody's decision but your own. And ladies, again - it's 2019. Lay off the criticism of other moms for doing what they feel is right for their families. Just because it's not the way you did it, doesn't mean it's wrong.
Seriously, with all the love in the world,
P.S. This is not to make you feel bad if you didn't nurse at all, or if you nursed for 2 weeks, or a month, or 6 months, or however long you did or did not nurse. The amount of time you nurse does not make you a good mom. Feeding your child, and being the best mom YOU can be, makes you a good mom.
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*This post contains affiliate links and gifted products. All opinions are my own.
Summer is here, whether you're ready or not! Memorial Day weekend is behind us, kids are wrapping up the school year, the days are getting longer, and the beach is calling your name, right? But before you hit the beach, there are a couple of things you should make sure you have with you. I've compiled my top 5 items for a day at the beach. These work whether you have kids or not - they're really just essential beach items to keep you comfortable and safe in the sun!
If you take nothing else with you to the beach, take sunscreen. Melanoma is becoming more and more prevalent, and it's so scary. There's a big debate going on about chemical vs. physical sunscreens, and what you need to know is that chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and then release them from the skin, while physical sunscreen literally acts as a physical barrier to UV rays. This article has a good breakdown, and it says that at the end of the day, as long as you are using something that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and use the product correctly (which means reapplying often), then you should be fine. For the kids, I really love using Blue Lizard sunscreen, and I actually use it on myself, too. My skin is really sensitive to the sun and I have found it to be what protects my skin the best.
2. A Towel ft. Tesalate
Any towel will do, but Tesalate sent me this sand-free towel for a review and it has come in so handy! First of all, this "Mojito" design is gorgeous. Secondly, Tesalate towels are made with AbsorbLite™ fabric. They rapidly dry compared to regular ones, while still being able to absorb a lot of water. It's also compact and light, and folds to about a quarter of the size of a regular beach towel. It's perfect not just for the beach, but also for yoga, picnics, and any outdoor activities. And even when it's wet, the sand comes right off of it.
3. A Beach Bag ft. Tingueli
I have been through dozens of beach bags, and this is the first one that I can say is truly functional and does everything I need it to do. The Tingueli beach bag was also sent to me in exchange for my review. It is large and the main compartment comfortably holds 2 full sized beach towels and multiple hats, a book or magazine, baby wipes, and diapers for Chloe. The bottom of the bag is a leak-proof cooler compartment, where you can store drinks and snacks along with ice or ice packs to keep everything cold. It has several pockets on the outside, as well as an inner compartment and a zippered pocket on the outside for things like cell phones and keys. It's truly such a functional beach bag, and at a really great price point!
Your skin needs protection, but so do your eyes! Sunglasses are a necessity for me - otherwise I'm squinting, which in turn creates wrinkles. So bring sunglasses along. We've got really cute ones for Caleb that the kind people from Toucca Kids sent for him. They've got UVA and UVB protection, they are polarized, and they're shatter and scratch resistant. Plus they look really cute, too!
5. A Hat
We all bring hats to the beach in our family, but it's especially important to me for the littlest ones. Chloe won't leave sunglasses on, so the hats helps shield her eyes from the sun, as well as protecting her head, her face, her ears, and her neck. The one Chloe is wearing here was a gift and I'm not sure where it's from, but I've linked another great option here.
Those are my top 5 items to take to the beach, but we definitely don't JUST take five items with us. What else do we take? Here's an extended list...
What did I miss? What are your must-have beach items? Let me know!
And get ready to enjoy the sunshine!