11 Staples to Always Have on Hand for Your Hungry Toddler

Oh the toddler years have immersed here in the Hodges household. I’ve got an almost 1 1/2 year old who is cutting all of his bottom teeth and going through a growth spurt at the same time. Then on the other end I’ve got an extremely sassy and independent 2 year old who LOVES the word “no”. They definitely keep me occupied and very entertained. Having toddlers in and of itself is exhausting. But oh yeah! You gotta feed them too. And let me tell ya….I have never seen two tiny little humans eat so much food in my life. If I just laid out all the food we have in the house out in front of them, they would never stop eating. Seriously. Their stomach is probably the size of both my fists put together. How do they eat SO MUCH?!

In my short 2 1/2 years of being a momma I have compiled this “must have” list of snacks and other items that I make sure to stock up on every time I go to the grocery store.

This. List. Is. Everything.

If you always have these items in your pantry/fridge you’re mom of the year sister!

1. Gummies [fruit snacks]

Yes, I put this as #1 for a reason. Literally every morning when Paislee wakes up she asks for gummies. No joke. Every morning y’all [Don’t worry, I don’t let her have gummies for breakfast]. These are essential for any outing we go on. I usually pack like a whole handful for a trip to the grocery or doctor’s office. They’re also a good desert or treat I give them throughout the day. Typically, I buy the big box of Motts at Costco or Walmart because there’s so many and they last us a long time!

2. Goldfish Crackers

My son absolutely loves goldfish. They are the perfect snack. These are great for outings too. I will also add that these little snack cups are so useful!

I just fill that puppy up with some goldfish and we are good to go! And personally, I like to buy the big carton of them instead of the 12 pack. Then I can pour however much I know the kids will eat without wasting any!

3. Mac n Cheese

Lately, this has become my kids’ favorite lunch. I probably make a box of Mac n cheese a least 3 times a week. So I always make sure I’m fully stocked! And most grocery stores usually have really fun-themed noodles and such. My daughter is really into the Trolls ones right now. When I can splurge a little I like to get the organic Annie’s Mac n cheese too. They have white cheddar ones that are delicious! [as you can tell I might have a bowl or two myself ;)]

4. Good ole’ PB & J

Peanut butter and jelly is the bees knees. It’s easy, fast and most kids love it. It’s great for packing lunches and I like to cut my kid’s sandwiches up in cute shapes sometimes. If you make the food fun, most likely your kids will eat it! Always good to have this on hand for sure!!

5. Yogurt

Okay so you have a toddler or toddlers….this one is messy. But it’s a healthy snack and [shocker] my kids love it. And I love it because I can give it to them for any meal. Any time of the day. I like to mix fruit in it sometimes or use it for smoothies. Or I like to freeze it sometimes and make popsicles. My daughter loves popsicles. The possibilities are endless. I usually get a tub of it and I like the on-the-go ones as well. So great for them to have on a sunny day!

6. Fruit

This is a general one but I ALWAYS have some kind of fruit on hand. My kids favorites are bananas [my son usually has one for breakfast every morning], apples, strawberries, grapes and those little “cuties”. And again, great for any meal. And such a healthy snack. Fruit can be expensive sometimes so I like to stock up when they’re on sale. Or Costco usually has really fresh fruit for a great price. AND you get a boat load of it. Win-win.

7. Chicken Nuggets

This is another biggie y’all. These are the perfect go-to for lunch or dinner if you are on a time crunch or just don’t have the energy to cook. I buy these from Costco or the commissary usually. But I think any grocery store has them.

I will go to town on these chicken nuggets. So good. And you get a ton. I’m all about value size-in it! And dinos are my favorite thing. There’s no harm in playing with your food if they’re in cute little dinosaur shapes right?!

8. Breakfast Bars

We’ve got nutri-gran bars for days in this house. When we’ve got some extra moola I like to buy the big box of z-bars at Costco. They’ve got lots of protein and other good nutrients for the kids in them and they’ve got more hearty flavors!

9. String Cheese

Are you starting to catch on that most of these little foods are all great to-go snackies? If I can’t ever find a side to go with their chicken nuggets or PB and J, my go-to is always string cheese. A great staple to have in your kitchen!

10. Applesauce

We probably buy more applesauce than we do milk….and we buy A LOT of milk. And I’m not picky about what kind I buy. Most of the time I get the go-go squeeze because they have an assorted flavor pack that my kids like. But I also have been buying the Dole packs too. My daughter likes the look of them I think more than anything. But they’re good and are great paired with some string cheese!!

11. Juice

So this isn’t food, I know. But i always dilute it with some water and switch it out with their milk during the day. They would probably drink an entire gallon of milk in a day if I let them. So it’s always nice to give them a little change and flavor other than milk. I also use it to make popsicles. Y’all I wasn’t kidding when I said my daughter loves popsicles. She’s obsessed. Just for the occasion, I bought this popsicle tray for a whopping $1 at Walmart. And it’s the best dollar I ever spent y’all.

AND another plus…these are magic for teething babies. Mine are currently munching on them as we speak…

Just my food for thought 😉

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The Littlest Warrior: An Inspiring NICU Story

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I feel like the word “Warrior” is an understatement for this little guy. I want to share with y’all a very precious story to my heart, starring this hunk. It’s a difficult part of my life to re-live, but it’s also a time in my life when my faith was tested and made stronger in God.

Heads up…this post my be a little longer than most. But I will make it worth your read 🙂

Almost two years ago, my baby girl and I were getting ready to welcome Lola (my momma) to Cali as she was coming to visit us for the weekend. My husband was out in the field and wouldn’t be back until later in the evening. I had been feeling extremely tired the few days prior and had noticed that I was a few days late. Five to be exact. And I’m never late. [I’m a pretty predictable woman, in every way.] Two very evident signs I had when I found out I was pregnant the first time. Now, we were in no way ‘trying’ to have another baby. Paislee was only 7 months old. We were just starting to get the hang of this whole thing. I guess most of the time babies aren’t planned. In our case we were actively trying NOT to have another baby…yet. I had gone to the doctor months before and had an IUD put in. [I won’t go into the details of that….google it haha.] So back to this beautiful day in March…I was feeling tired and anxious. I thought, “There is no way I could be pregnant.” I took my girl on a walk to the corner store up the street. Bought a test, and walked back home. I took it immediately. They say the best time to take a test is in the morning, but I couldn’t wait. I mean, if you’re pregnant, you’re pregnant right?! Sure enough, I was pregnant. I had so much anxiety in that moment. WE HAD A 7 MONTH OLD. We were going to have two babies under 2 years old. So many thoughts were racing through my head. Then worry set in. I had this foreign device in my body [the IUD] that was supposed to prevent babies from growing inside me. Now I had a baby growing inside me and that thing was still there! I had to go to the doctor and get this thing out ASAP! I collected myself and went to pick up my momma from the airport. At this point I hadn’t told anyone that I was pregnant. I wanted to wait and tell my husband once he got home. This was not a texting matter. My mom could sense my worry as soon as she got in the car. I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I had to tell someone. She did what any momma would do, she reassured me it would all be alright. Fast-forward to later that night when my husband got home. Now, I did not give him this news in an exciting or sweet way. I was worried and needed to get to the hospital soon. So we get to the ER and they get us checked in and taken back pretty fast due to the urgency of the matter. The doctors were pretty shocked but reassured us that this is not the first time this has happened and they would monitor us closely and do everything they can to help us. A big risk of pregnancy with an IUD is an ectopic pregnancy. Basically, this is where the egg gets fertilized in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus. This can be very deadly for momma and baby. After an ultrasound the doctors ruled that out for us. Thank goodness! It’s funny as I look back at it now because my husband and I were so worried about having two kids. We weren’t ready. But in that moment when we realized our baby was okay, we were so relieved. so, long story short, the doctors were not able to remove my IUD. They had me see a specialty doctor throughout my entire pregnancy. Baby was okay, and was not in any danger with the device. The doctors said they would just remove it during the delivery. Okay…I can deal with that.

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Sadly, these are about the best “belly” pics I got during this pregnancy. I planned on getting maternity pictures taken, but our little Noah had a different plan!

The morning it all came about…chilly morning in September. I woke up at 5:30 like I did every morning to get ready for work. My sheets were soaked. I thought I had peed myself. Or that something awful was happening. I look down and it looks like someone dumped a bucket of water everywhere. What the heck? I was only 27 weeks along. Is my water really breaking? Surely not. It was like a human waterfall y’all. Yeah this was happening. I call my husband, who was in the field again. He has GREAT timing with these things right?! So I immediately call the essentials…my mom and mother-in-law. I tell my sister [who was living with us at the time] that a friend of mine was coming to pick me up and take me to the hospital so she needed to stay back with our daughter.

We get to L&D and the nurse acted like I was crazy for insinuating that my water had in fact broken. I’m pretty sure it’s evident when your water breaks?! Moving on…so they had me admitted and gave me the steroids to help with the development of his lungs and other meds to help keep me from going into labor. After being there for a few hours, my husband was able to get there. Huge breath of relieve to have my person there with me. The hospital we were in was not properly equipped with a NICU and antepartum unit, so we were transferred to another hospital about 40 minutes away.

We were in the antepartum unit for about 2 weeks before the doctors decided to deliver. they wanted to try and get me to 32-34 weeks for the baby’s lungs to fully develop and for higher survival rates. We had an amazing support system here and had friends and guys from my husband’s shop some to visit us during our stay. Which made it a little more tolerable.

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The day before Bubba’s birthday was definitely an eventful one. and incredibly painful I might add. We had been doing good the past two weeks, but I had begun to have contractions that were getting closer together and extremely painful. I was full-fledged in pre-term labor. The doctors had me on some antibiotics, but my body had formed an infection called chorioamnionitis, or chorio. It was very serious and our little guy had to come out ASAP. He was delivered by c-section at 1:54 a.m. on September 21st. Weighing a wopping 3 pounds 3 ounces. A beautiful baby boy, Noah. The surgery went smoothly. Oh and they got my IUD out after looking for it for at least 30 minutes. It was lodged in my right ovary, people. OUCH. But our baby boy was finally here. I got to see him for maybe 2 seconds before they had to take him away to the NICU and get him admitted.

I’m sorry if these pictures seem a little scary for you. But this was our life for the next 3 months. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to see my little baby like this. It was 2 or 3 days before we were even able to hold him.

 

It was such a long road. With many obstacles. I mean seriously…if this little guy can overcome the things he overcame, anyone can do anything. First it was getting him to gain weight and eat on his own. He had a feeding tube for about the first month or so before we started breastfeeding. Once he started to that, he began to gain some weight. Once he gained more weight and was able to keep his body temperature up, he graduated to an open crib! BIG leaps! His biggest battle in the NICU was getting those lungs working on their own. He was on oxygen for the greater part of his stay. He kept having what the doctors and nurses called “events”. They were basically periods of time when he would stop breathing all together. They can be paired with feeding a lot of the time but what kept him in for so long was the fact that his events were apnea events. Where he would stop breathing while laying in a stationary position. Needless to say, it was a scary thing to watch as a momma. We ended up staying a week past his original due date because theres a universal rule that they had in our NICU. He had to go 5 full days without having any events in order to be discharged. Let me tell you how much of a tease that is. There were at least two times where he would go 4 days, no events. And on the 5th day, we would come in to feed him and he the nurses told us he had an event. Talk about an emotional roller coaster. But then he did it! His beautiful, working lungs lasted 5 full days! We were so thrilled! The night before you take your NICU baby home, they offer a room for you to stay in. It’s right down the hall from the NICU in case anything were to go wrong, and it gives us parents a little piece of mind before we take our baby home. He’s been hooked up to all kinds of wires and tubes since the day he was born…of course I want to stay in the room!

 

THEN WE GOT TO TAKE HIM HOME!! After 79 long days…we got to bring him home. I could never put into words the way we felt on this day. Even more of an emotional roller coaster. But our boy was going home and we were all going to be under the same roof! What a blessing! So many times I asked God why my baby. And so many times I blamed myself for the prematurity of it all. I was under so much stress at work and I still think that was part of the reason why my water broke so early on.

I really want to emphasize the worry that comes along with a preemie. The hospitalization is just the beginning. After you bring them home it can sometimes get even worse. Not having the reassurance of the monitors, nurses and wires all around. I watched Noah’s teeny little body turn pale white then gray far too many times in the NICU. I guess I couldn’t blame myself for checking on him every 30 minutes to make sure he was still breathing. Then being overly paranoid about developmental milestones. Which was a big one for me. Wondering if your baby will ever catch up. The trauma from that experience just as a momma still affects me today, almost 2 years later. I have such a special place on my heart for any parent that goes through this as we did.

God and prayer were my saving grace during this time of our lives. Without it, I would have gone downhill fast. But thank goodness for those things. For they brought me this healthy boy today…

 

My baby. My ninja. My warrior. My Noah