Bruises, Bows, and the Beach Part 1: The Goods and The Gear

Let me just start by saying, if anyone ever tells you that going to the beach with babies and/or toddlers is easy, they are certifiably crazy. Like before I had kids, I would dream of taking my future angelic kids to the beach – parking my butt in my beach chair with a book and some snacks so I can supervise my kids frolicking happily in the waves in front of me. (If I happen to spot this at the beach, I sit in awe and jealousy of this family wondering when it will be my turn? Never.) This is so absurdly far from the truth, and while I’ll say it takes a whole ton of sh*t and a whole ton of planning to get our little family to the beach, I still love my beach days, and the kids do too (most of the time). They just aren’t anything like the storybooks say they’ll be. This two-part series will outline for you what it takes to “enjoy” a beach day with a baby and two toddlers, including the goods and the gear, and the help.

I feel like I should itemize what we pack to bring to the beach in terms of goods and gear. And I’ll preface this by saying we have a lake we frequent often as well as my in-laws’ Cape house, and in both situations we walk to get to the beach. I’ve linked items to the actual product where possible! Thank you Amazon!

  • PATIENCE. Lots of it. Like more than any other time.
  • NO EXPECTATIONS. Some days you last an hour and others you last the whole day. Some days the kids are entertained and others they whine and cry the whole time. If you don’t have expectations, then you won’t be disappointed.
  • WILLINGNESS TO GET SANDY. In your unabashed pre-kid life, you could go to the beach and avoid any grain of sand on any of your things. With kids, you need to expect it. All over you, all over them (yes they will eat it and you won’t be able to stop it), and all over your sh*t. Learn to accept it.
  • HELP. You need all the help you can get. I’ll have a separate post devoted to this entirely.
  • ADULT BEVERAGES. Whether it’s coffee or booze or seltzer water, it is an essential item.
  • Beach wagon or beach buggy. The beach buggy we used to use broke, and the wagon has held up much stronger.
  • Beach tent. It needs to be easy to put up AND easy to take down. I went through a bunch at first that were like trying to put together origami when trying to put them away before I found this one.
  • Beach umbrella. Since baby’s skin is so sensitive, we need portable shade. So we always bring the umbrella in addition to the tent. This year especially we discovered how amazing it is to put it right on the water line. Helps us supervise with baby in tow, but also provides much needed relief on really hot days to be able to sit with your butt in the water.
  • Kid beach chairs. This may sound excessive, but it honestly helps SO much. If the kids want a snack, they have to sit in their chair. It helps us avoid sandy snacks and dropped food. And the baby beach chairs trap the baby so you don’t have to worry about chasing them around. LOL. We love the Summer Pop ‘N Sit chair for babies, and the big kid version too.
  • Adult beach chairs. You can’t go wrong with the Tommy Bahama backpack chairs because you can still carry them if they don’t fit in the wagon. They also have a cup holder, cell phone pocket, and built-in cooler.
  • Sand toys in an easy open, easy close sand toy bag. So the kids can carry them if needed, and help to clean up at the end of the day. For the bruises, I especially recommend buckets, nets, and shovels, so they can catch anything and everything nasty and gross.
  • Cooler. For adult beverages and kid cold snacks, but mostly adult beverages. My mother-in-law came across this awesome Tommy Bahama zipperless cooler bag at Marshall’s.
  • Snack bag. Pack all the snacks. And pack easy tupperware or kid containers so they aren’t sticking their sandy hands into bags of chips or boxes of cheez-its. We just use a re-useable shopping bag. Easy enough.
  • Water bottles for the kids. Ones with the pop up mouth pieces so they can be closed to avoid sand. We like the Yeti ones and Hydroflask ones because they keep water icy cold. A little pricey but worth the investment.
  • Beach towels. I ditched the beach blanket a long time ago because toddlers don’t understand the idea of keeping sand off the blanket or not walking across it. Towels are a lot easier to keep in a bag and only take it out when you need it. I’m a big fan of the Pottery Barn Kids towels – personalized (so the kids don’t argue over which one they want) but also really thick and high quality. Another worthwhile splurge. I also bought cheap ones on Amazon to send to camp with Luca so he doesn’t lose any of the good ones!
  • Extra change of clothes for every kid because inevitably, “Mommy, I’m sandyyyyy!” or “Mommy, I’m colddddd!”.
  • Diaper bag. Still need all things baby, even at the beach.
  • Portable white noise machine, in case the little needs a little extra help taking a nap on the go.
  • Swim diapers. Honestly, I just keep the whole package in our beach bag now. Too many experiences with blow outs or leaky pee to only pack 1 or 2 extras. Need the whole package, all the time.
  • Water shoes. You’ll thank me later for this one because your kid will no longer be able to say “Mommy can you carry me?” (hot sand, rocky sea floor, seaweed in the water…).
  • Puddle jumpers. SO much controversy here. Lots of media coverage lately due to the false sense of safety they provide kids when around water. Here’s how I see it though. I have 3 kids, that at any time, can all go in 3 different directions. I NEED something that can give me a little extra comfort when I’m trying to supervise them all around water. It holds them upright very well. But, holding a child vertical in the water is essentially holding them in the drowning position, so we still do swimming lessons and spend plenty of closely supervised time NOT in our puddle jumpers so they can get comfortable in water without anything helping them.
  • Koozies. I almost started buying non-alcoholic slim-can seltzers JUST so I could use my BruMate. But then I realized people would probably assume I jumped on the booze-wagon at 9am by myself at the beach with 3 kids and….yeah, that wouldn’t go over well. BUT, we all know what happens when you crack your seltzer (alcoholic or not). Immediately, every kid needs your help doing 25,000 different things. So when you come back to that seltzer 3 hours later, you better believe you still want it cold! Invest in a quality koozy, BruMate or not.
  • Sunscreen. Kid sunscreen and adult sunscreen. We use Beach Bum/Baby Bum or Babyganics.
  • Hats for every kid. I don’t put sunscreen in their hair, and I still don’t put sunscreen on Tessa’s face yet. So they know the rule is: out of the water, hats on.
  • Beach shoes. Easy on, easy off, and ones that are still comfortable with sand in them. We have our Natives and our sharky shoes that we got from Stitch Fix but are kind of like these Amazon ones.
  • Boogie boards. They love to float on them and pretend to surf, even though neither boy has figured out how to actually boogie board yet. I think we got ours from the seasonal aisle at Stop and Shop.
  • Portable, wireless speaker. Music makes everything better.
  • Candy and gummies. BRIBES. Whatever you need to bribe them to: get out of the water, change their diaper, let the hermit crabs go, take a picture, eat lunch, sit still on the towel….I could go on and on.

I’m probably forgetting a bajillion things. Moral of the story: we pack our house and more to go to the beach. But who doesn’t?

Diva Baby or Quarantine Baby…That is the question.

I didn’t really have a good image to go with this post, so I took it all the way back to one of her newborn photos. We’ve stuck with our fabulous wedding photographer through all of our kids, and she’s amazing…easy going and relatable, and simple and candid with her work, which is completely my style. Check her out at her facebook page, Jennifer Langdon Photography, by clicking the photo above. Side note: we have also used (and will continue to use) a close friend who started her own photog business a few years back, Jen Morrissey Photography (linked her website at the end of the post). It’s SUCH a good idea to have a few photographers in your back pocket, that way you can change up styles as needed so photos never feel stale!

Tessa was born in early January, meaning she got here just in time to avoid the nightmares of labor and delivery during COVID, but also just in time to spend most of her infancy in quarantine at home. I know every baby is different so I’m trying not to fall into the trap of comparing her to the boys. But there are some serious differences between the boys (who were very similar as babies) and Tessa that really make me wonder if this is just your typical girl baby or if these are legitimate symptoms of being a quarantine baby. Call to action for all the girl moms and/or quarantine baby moms out there: Curious to hear your thoughts on this stuff so be sure to take my poll at the end!

The bottle. The freaking dreaded bottle. I never experienced this nightmare with the boys, but now that I have, I have complete and utter respect and empathy for anyone who has also experienced this. She wouldn’t take a bottle when we started trying around 3 or 4 weeks after we established breastfeeding. I worked my tush off daily for a good 6-8 weeks by trying one bottle a day for 2 hours at a time so that she’d be ready to transition to my mom’s care once I went back to work for the end of the school year. For those two hours that we’d try each day, she’d fight it with every ounce in her body, and let me tell you, seeing that little teeny body with all that fight in it was both heart wrenching and impressive at the same time. We tried every bottle imaginable, from Dr. Brown’s to Comotomo to Olababy to Brezza. I’d go to Target and pull any brand bottle off the end cap displays to try. We tried all different temperatures from room temp to warm to hot to cold. LOL, cold. Finally after two months she just took to it one day with Nuk Natural Flow bottles (thanks Target end cap!). And she took it like a champ…for like two weeks. And just as spontaneously as she started, she decided she had enough and just plain stopped. She’s smart too, rather than wasting energy and fighting it, she’d just play with it in her mouth, spit it out, or blow raspberries with it, or just go to sleep to get out of having to take it. And because by this point daycares were closed and schools were closed, I didn’t have to send her to my mom. Flash forward to today; now school’s out for summer and we are still unsuccessfully trying (every other day because I just don’t have the energy to try every day). So, quarantine baby or diva baby?

The attachment to mommy/fear of others. I know, I know. This one is nothing to complain about. I actually love everything about this one. But Luca and Dominic were such independent infants, I wasn’t used to having my little bow need me, and only me (ok, sometimes dad too) 24/7. In fact, I remember two summers ago, I’d find a shady spot in the grass at the splash pad and lay Dominic down on a towel while I went towards the water to keep an eye on Luca, and I would literally watch him from 20 yards away (bad mom?!) and he’d be totally content for hours. Tessa not so much. Once we started to come out of house arrest softly (aka quarantine) and start to socialize (practicing social distancing, of course) with immediate family like grandparents and siblings, I was blindsided. My happy, cuddly, relaxed baby girl was now uncomfortable in new places. If it wasn’t our house or our yard, she’d tear up and panic. And I’m the type that needs to make it out of the house and stay busy to maintain my sanity, so I was so used to just toting the boys around with me as we did things when I was on maternity leave with them. And now, as we have furthered our social circle to close friends and family, anytime someone else is holding Tessa, and I’m in sight, she whines and cries. The one time I went to finally get a haircut and color (alone time!!!!) and left all the kids, including Tessa, with Gammy, she screamed and cried unless my mom showed her to her brothers to remind her she was with people she knew. Another time I left her with Nana so Mike and I could run to the grocery store, and she apparently screamed her lungs out once she realized I was gone. With that being said, I’ve had no problem being selfish and keeping her all to myself, but I am a little worried for if and when she ever starts daycare…no bottle AND stranger danger?! Poor Miss Darcy (shout out to our most amazing childcare provider!!)!! So, quarantine baby or diva baby?

Image Links:

Jennifer Langdon Photography

Jen Morrissey Photography

Aden + Anais 3-Pack Silky Soft Swaddling Cloths

Flower crown and other newborn photo props

My Top 5 for Her

I’m pretty delicate and traditional when it comes to my style for Tessa. I like girly, muted colors, but also love anything with fruit or floral patterns. Lemons, strawberries, and purple wildflowers are no brainers for my purchasing habits! I’m also a big fan of anything muslin or crinkle cotton. This age is perfection because I get to have all the fashion fun. I know in a few short years (months?!), she’ll start calling the shots for her own outfits. Bring on alllll the princess dresses. But until then, I’ll have my cake and eat it too. Here are my top 5 brands/stores for all things Bows:

  1. Little Poppy Co.: BOWS. Bows, bows, bows, and more BOWS! The most common question I get asked from family and friends is “Where do I get her bows?” This is answer #1. Little Poppy Co. is a subscription service where you get three bows monthly, and they are THEMED for the month or season. How perfect is that? These bows have provided me with endless options and I’m obsessed. The bows are often more delicate; more like ribbon bows with a stretchy nylon band. They come in different sizes based on your preference for baby, and they come in either headband or clip options. There are also monthly add-ons you can choose to purchase for extra $$$. You have three different purchase options, including monthly, 6 months at a time, or 12 months at a time. The 6 month and 12 month options are a one-time purchase and slightly cheaper, whereas the monthly option can be canceled at any time.
  2. SpearmintLOVE: This is answer #2 to the bows question. The best part about this site is the bows AND clothes for babies and kids. I get most of the larger, oversized bows here (though they do sell and I have gotten the delicate ones too). They are super comfy and super stretchy, especially if you stick with the ones that are actually SpearmintLOVE brand. They have other great brands too, like Baby Bling Bows and L’ovedbaby. We’re big fans of the clothes here too. I love all things ruffle-butt, so their ruffle sleepers are pristine. I’ve also gotten a lot of summer bubbles in crinkle cotton or muslin here too.
  3. L’ovedbaby: Absolutely worth the splurge! Especially if your taste in all things girl is similar to mine. I love the vintage inspiration to most of their collections. Their onesies were staples in the newborn stage for all our kids, and as Tessa has gotten older I’ve become scarily addicted to three of their collections: the Organic Cotton Muslin collection, The Vintage Collection, and the Organic Cotton Pointelle collection. Their bows are adorable too, and we have a few of them, but Tessa’s got a BIG noggin so they tend to be too small on her.
  4. Burt’s Bees Baby: Started with their pjs for all my kids, and I was in heaven when the loose fit ones came out for smaller sizes – no more fighting to get her feet through the tight ankle bands. Best part about their pjs is they get super comfy with time. The more washes, the softer. I’ve also graduated past their pjs, and have gotten a bunch of their clothes to have on hand for more casual outfits. Their 2020 family jammies just came out for pre-order yesterday. I’m loving the Reindeer and O Christmas Tree patterns this year!
  5. H&M: If there’s a single clothing store that I’d have to use to describe my style for Tessa, it’d be this one. They’ve got lots of options and update stock and style often…but if you just scroll through and look at their “Baby Girls 4m-4y” tab you’ll get a great sense for my preferred styles and colors on Tessa. Affordability never hurt anyone either.

First honorable mention goes out to Gap/Old Navy because of their sheer inventory and easy access to staples. I NEVER buy anything full price from these places because they run such great sales so often. And when you don’t feel bad about the price you paid for something, you don’t feel bad when your baby inevitably stains it with poop, food, or dirt. Second honorable mention goes out to Nordstrom because of their selection of other fun brands and styles. There are other pricier brands that I like to splurge on sometimes, and the first place I usually check is Nordstrom. The Nordy Club (rewards program) has substantial enough rewards that it makes it very worthwhile to check here for a certain brand or item first before going directly to the brand’s site.

**Please note, I am NOT employed by the mentioned companies and brands, I’m simply a mom on the internet sharing her opinion.

My bow

I was convinced number 3 would be our third boy. Utterly convinced. Partly because I’m a glass-half-empty kind of person when it comes to certain things. I don’t like to get my hopes up. I prefer this so that I can be pleasantly surprised when life does go my way.

So when we were looking at the genetic testing results, and my husband pointed out, “Look at the thingy, look at the thingy!!!” while jumping up and down ecstatically, I was confused. What thingy? It took me a good 30 seconds to realize he was referring to the gender/sex symbol for female…you know the little stick figure head and body with just arms? And then we had to read it 30934809 times just to be sure our eyes saw it right.

I dreamed of having a mini my whole life, and knowing my husband and I had agreed 3 was our magic number, I had kind of prepared myself for another boy so that my gender disappointment (real thing..look it up!) would be minimal. (DON’T GET ME WRONG! WE WOULD HAVE LOVED A BOY, TOO.)

She literally is my bow. She was the perfect little gift to complete our family, wrapped up and delivered at just the right time.

Side note. I’m also actually obsessed with bows for two reasons:

  1. They’re cute and can make (or break!) an outfit. I usually have one guilty shopping pleasure with all my kids – Dominic had something like 62 pairs of sweatpants in size 6-9 months…don’t ask me why sweatpants were my thing with him. My guilty shopping pleasure with Tessa? BOWS. I’m pretty sure she has over 100. Maybe I’ll count one of these days. And I really hope Mike isn’t reading this post.
  2. I’ve gotten scoffed at before when I talk about my bow obsession – mostly because others sometimes see it as representative of a traditional girly girl. But I believe a girl can wear a bow AND be a strong, compassionate, and independent woman. (And if she doesn’t want to wear a bow at age 2 or 20, she doesn’t have to.)

My family

So by now you’ve heard about the two bruises and the bow in my life. And let me tell you they are my everything. But there are two other members of my family that you probably won’t hear as much about (on here anyway). My husband’s name is Mike and usually he thinks I’m all things corny, but surprisingly he’s been super supportive of my foray into blogging. So much so he even offered to pay half of my domain fees…he knows I’m a teacher coming off maternity leave surviving off a balloon check in the middle of summer.

Then there’s the dog…you know…the family member who starts off as your baby when you’re newly married but six years later turns into, Brady..who? whenever someone asks “Hey, how’s Brady doing?” Between toddler-tail-tugs and baby-bops, our not-so-little puggle Brady gets the short end of the stick most days, but he’s as loyal and loving as ever. At the end of the day, he completes our family…after all, he’s been here since the beginning.