Diaper Bag Essentials for the First Time Mom

Even though it’s only been a little more than four years since I had my first baby, it’s a little difficult to remember what it was like before his arrival. I’m so in “mom-mode” 24/7 that I honestly can barely remember life as a non-mom. But one thing I do remember is panicking before our first few outings, positive that I would forget to put something super essential in his diaper bag. 

It can be a lot of pressure to get out of the house with every single thing you might possibly need, no matter the circumstance that may happen to arise – I mean, what if you forget something you really, really NEED?!?

Well mamas, I have good news for you: babies aren’t near as complicated as you may have been led to believe. As a mama of two, I can tell you that my personal diaper bag “essentials” have gone down in number over the years. So today, I’m going to share what I truly consider to be non-negotiable items that you should have in your diaper bag at all times. As long as you’ve got these things covered, you’ll be just fine – promise.

Diaper Bag Essentials | Haven Gray {the blog}

  • Extra Diapers & Wipes

Number one most important thing that you should double and triple check for before you leave the house, absolutely. And when I say extra, I mean several extra. You will be amazed at how often you will be changing diapers, especially in the first few months. If your wipes are getting low – throw in another pack. There is no way to predict a blow out diaper, and if you’re low on wipes when one happens to occur, you will live to regret it. 

  • Change of Clothes

At least one full change of clothes is a must, so have an extra onesie, pants, and socks at a minimum. The amount of extra clothing depends on the baby. With my first born, I always had three or four extra changes in his bag because he was the king of blowout diapers – something I’m sure he will love that I shared with the internet in his older years. With my second, I just make sure I’ve got one, and to be honest he usually grows out of them before they get used. You’ll know within a couple of weeks what kind of baby you’ve got (and good luck to you if you’ve got the first kind I mentioned). 

  • Pacifier

Oh, the horror of being stuck somewhere without a pacifier. Again, this depends on the baby, but I would say it’s a safe bet that most babies will want the comfort of a paci when they’re out and about in their early days. They have cute little pacifier carrying cases to keep them nice and clean, but a ziplock baggy should do the trick as well. 

  • Hand Sanitizer/Wipes

Especially as a first time mom, you are likely going to be obsessed with germs for awhile. I sanitized everything that came near my first born for probably his first year of life. It’s amazing how disgusting everything you touch becomes when you think about then touching your sweet, innocent little baby. Stay stocked up here for your own sanity. 

  • Diaper Rash Cream

You never know when a diaper rash is going to pop up. I swear, one diaper change things look perfect, then the next you’re dealing with a sad looking little rash. Even though my boys haven’t really had many diaper rash issues, I always keep this on hand. My favorite is Dr. Smith’s Diaper Rash Ointment. Within a diaper change or two this stuff has always cleared up any redness we’ve had going on. 

  • Changing Pad

Nothing’s worse than being out in public, about to use the diaper changing station in a public restroom and realizing you don’t have a changing pad. This has happened to me, and laying your baby down without a layer of cleanliness between them and the table is not ideal. I’ve actually gone so far as to line the table with paper towels, but obviously that didn’t work so well. So keep a changing pad in your bag at all times – it’s even a good idea to have an extra for when you wash your everyday one, just in case.

  • Blanket

While this may be obvious in the winter months, I like to keep at least a thin receiving blanket or muslin swaddle blanket in our bags even throughout the summer. On windy days it’s nice to have something to cover baby up, and you never know when you’ll be somewhere with AC that is just a little too cold. 

  • Toys

For the first couple of months your little one will likely sleep through most outings, but once they come out of their newborn cocoon they will begin to demand entertainment. There are so many great toys out there that attach to carseats so you don’t have to worry about them falling onto dirty floors or out of their reach in the car. I always keep a couple extras in the diaper bag as well. 

  • Snacks & Sippy Cups

This won’t be necessary for a few months, but once your baby is snacking and sipping on water, you will need to be ready at all times. Hangry babies and toddlers are zero fun, so keep a bag of healthy snacks with you during every outing, no matter how brief, to be on the safe side. 

There you have it! There are maybe a million other things that you can include in your diaper bag, but to save space (and your shoulders because diaper bags get heavy!) these basic items will get you through just about any situation that should come up. You’ve got this, mamas! 

Finding the Beauty in Motherhood

Finding the Beauty in MotherhoodI think it is slightly hilarious that I felt led to start a blog and then I felt led to stop writing. That God is a tricky guy sometimes. I’m feeling the itch to get back here, so maybe that means something is coming. We all know I clearly have no idea.

However, I wanted to come back, at least for today, and take a second to recognize Mother’s Day. Because for some reason this Mother’s Day weekend, I’m having alllllll the feelings. I think a lot of it is because of the season that I just went through, that I’m pretty sure occurred so that I could learn to enjoy and embrace every aspect of motherhood. Before I went through my little journey of refinement, of stepping away and stepping back, of looking deep inside myself at all the yuck, before coming out on the other side, motherhood wasn’t the blessing to me that it should have been.

It felt all-consuming, and not in a good way. It felt overwhelming. It felt suffocating. It felt like it was slowly stealing away every bit of identity outside of “mama”, every bit of Celeste, that it could. I didn’t see the joy, the beauty, the insanely chaotic, hilarious, pure happiness that I can now find in the every day. I felt burdened. I felt held back. I wasn’t near as happy as I wanted to be, especially since I knew how lucky I truly was.

Of course I loved my boys more than life itself, but I couldn’t feel all of the other beautiful feelings that go along with the love. I was too overwhelmed by it all, by my desire for more more more, more things that were for me and didn’t include them. I wanted something, anything, just for me, but they consumed me. I was drowning, even though I didn’t realize it.

But then I went on a really hard, painful, exhausting, uncomfortable journey of pulling back from EVERYTHING except for being a mama. I did not want to, but God made it crystal clear that I had to. I fought it, I tried to rationalize my way out of it, but he said nope. Let it go. Let it allllll go. So I did.

After two months of walking through that, I’m on the other side. I don’t know what’s next for me, but I do know that everything about motherhood has changed for me.

I see the beauty. I see the joy. I FEEL it down to my very core. I crawl on the floor like a dinosaur, I tickle bellies, I cuddle in bed, I rock to sleep, I read stories, I blow bubbles, I race, I give endless kisses and hugs, I praise and shower them with words of affirmation, I listen, I look, I study baby faces and chubby hands that are quickly turning into little boy hands, I answer endless questions, I watch sleeping boys and kiss their closed eyes. Of course I’ve always done all of these things, but it’s different now. I feel every beautiful bit of the love I have for these boys, and I feel it down deep into my soul. I LOVE them. I LOVE being their mama. I breathe it in, cherish it, try to capture it, because it’s fleeting. They’re growing, they’re so big, they’re so funny and smart, and where are my babies? How is it going so fast? How can I keep all of these beautiful memories inside my head and my heart forever?

Motherhood is different now. It’s the same, as in I’ve always loved and cherished my boys, but it’s different in the fact that now it is everything to me. I may still have hopes and dreams and aspirations, but THIS is where it’s at. I’m so thankful that God made me pause and dig down and find the joy in the mundane every day, because without that breaking down, I would have missed it. I would have MISSED all of this. And I can’t imagine missing a moment.

So Happy Mother’s Day mamas. We have the most amazing, wonderful, blessed job in the entire world. We have the honor and privilege of shaping our babies into human beings. We get the sticky kisses and the “I love you so much Mommy”s and the suffocating hugs and the knowledge that we are, for a few short years, their entire world. So even though I’m exhausted, even though I deal with more tantrums than any human should ever have to, even though my one year old won’t sleep and my four year old whines endlessly, even though I would kill for a shower without someone banging on the door or to sit down for a meal that is still warm – I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the entire world.

Staying Organized With Small Children

Organization is an area I’ve always struggled with. I have A LOT of stuff – my husband thinks I’m a hoarder, although I think I’m pretty good about tossing stuff I don’t need anymore – so I always feel like my house is cluttered, no matter how “picked up” it may be. I feel like I spend 90% of my time cleaning and straightening up, but somehow things always feel a little out of order. It’s like I just can’t get organized enough.

Now that we’ve got two little guys running around the place, staying clean and organized has become a much bigger challenge. Especially now that Gavin is mobile – his speciality is taking items from one room and moving them to a drawer, cabinet, or hidden corner in another room. I found Grayson’s shoe that had been missing for a week in Gavin’s blanket drawer yesterday, so needless to say, there’s only so much that can be done. All this to say – mamas, I understand the struggle. So today I’m sharing my favorite ways to stay organized – or as close to organized as we can manage – with small kids.

Staying Organized With Small Children | Haven Gray {The Blog}

  • Establish Routines

The older Grayson gets, the more I implement this one family-wide. I’ve done this a bit for myself, obviously – we have a morning “routine” on preschool days or any other time we need to be up and out of the house quickly that we pretty much always stick with, and if we stray too far from this routine, things get a little chaotic.

I’ve also started working on an after school routine with Grayson – take off your shoes and take them to your shoe basket in your room, take out lunch from backpack and empty the container, hang your backpack on the hook in your room. It takes a lot of prodding and reminding, but I’m hoping the more “routine” it becomes, the better things will go.

We also do a nightly clean up of the living room (most nights). We have the boys gather allllll the toys that have been strung out from the kitchen to the back door and put them all in the basket. If there are things that obviously go in the playroom or in their bedrooms, then I make a pile and make it a game “I bet you can’t take five things to your bedroom all at once!” or “I bet I get the laundry folded before you can get all these toys to the playroom!”. Grayson is HIGHLY motivated by any type of competition, so he will do anything if he thinks he can win.

  • Everything Has a Place

Literally everything in our house has a place that it belongs (although some days I’m convinced I’m the only one who knows this). Now, I mentioned Gavin’s new favorite game of “take this thing and put it in the LAST place it should go”, so not much is actually in its place these days, but in theory this works. We have a million books, and they go one of three places: the bookshelf in either the playroom, Grayson’s room, or Gavin’s room. We have one small basket for toys in the living room. Aside from that, toys need to be in the playroom or in the toy box in either boys room. Even in the playroom I have a system for how I like things to be organized, but that happens typically about once a week when I go in and spend about half an hour putting everything back in its place, and the rest of the time it’s mass chaos in there.

  • Baskets Baskets Baskets! 

You probably noticed above that I mentioned a shoe basket and a toy basket – we have so many baskets in our house you guys. In the front room there’s a basket where I collect all things husband related – his mail, his random things that he leaves around the house, etc. In the kitchen, each boy has their own snack basket that I keep in the pantry stocked with their favorite snacks. In the living room we have the toy basket and a little basket-like container for the 500 remotes. In their bedrooms, shoe baskets, book baskets, toy baskets, etc. In my bedroom, I’ve got a basket for magazines and a random catch-all for my stuff like I have for the husband. In our bathroom, a basket for all the lotions and potions that we had to move up and out of Gavin’s reach. In our closet, I have a basket for clutches, our medicine is in two baskets, there’s a basket for my sandals – seriously, I could go on. And don’t EVEN get me started on the playroom.

This should give you an idea of just how highly I value a good basket. If all else fails, buy a basket and give that thing you can’t find a place for its very own place! And a major plus is that they’re a cute way to stay organized. Win-win!

  • Plan Ahead

I already went into more detail about this in my post 5 Things That Make My Days Less Stressful, but planning ahead is huge for staying on top of things when you’re responsible for not only yourself but little ones as well. One of the most important things I do (when I’m being a good organized responsible mommy) is get ready for the next day the night before. Plan outfits, pack lunch, stock the diaper bag (and the snack bags inside) – basically ensure that all we have to do is get up and get ourselves ready and we can head out the door.

Another huge thing for our family is our family calendar. I bought this big dry erase calendar at Target, and the husband hung it on the inside of our pantry door. Every month I fill out my personal planner and then put all of the important activities on this calendar where he and I can both see it. This helps SO MUCH when it comes to he or I planning date nights, meeting up with our friends, his work dinners, weekend activities – before we plan anything, we know we can see our entire schedule here at a glance so we don’t double-book ourselves.

  • Let It Go

This may be the most important thing on the list, and the one I have the hardest time with. When you’ve done all you can do and things are still a hot mess around your house, it’s time to let it go. Just for awhile – maybe just until bedtime or until the next day. But sometimes I will do all I can to keep the house picked up and organized, literally all day long, and still by the time Daddy walks in the door it looks like a bomb went off. All you mamas know that by dinner time you are usually DONE, so the last thing I want to do is clean up another mess. Like I mentioned above, we usually have them pick up the main areas before bed, but some nights that is just a dent in the chaos. So sometimes I really just have to let it go and say I’ll tackle it in the morning. As long as I know the basic organization is taken care of – hence everything having a place and all my many baskets – I know the actual cleaning up won’t be that big of a deal once I’ve gotten a fresh start the next day.

If you’re someone who thrives on staying organized and in control (I can maybe relate), having children can be a super frustrating challenge sometimes – I mean, why do they LOVE to cause so much destruction? Can’t they see how much nicer life would be if everything were just neat and tidy all the time?!? But, we know that the odds of them coming around to our way of thinking are not likely to happen anytime before their 18th birthday, so we can only do so much. Take care of the basic organization around your house, and let the rest go. I promise this is the healthiest approach for maintaining your sanity.

4 Great Places to Shop for the Mama on a Budget

Transitioning into a “Mom” wardrobe over the last few years has been a little confusing for me at times. Although I wear a lot of things similar to what I’ve been wearing for years, there are also some things that I’ve figured out really just don’t work when you have children – or probably after you enter into your late 20s, if we’re being honest. Some of the stores that I shopped at frequently in my early to mid-20s just weren’t cutting it anymore. When your husband is telling you to stop buying such cheap clothes, you know there’s a problem.

My issue is that I’m super frugal when it comes to clothing – if I can get 5 things for $100, I’d much rather do that than buy one more expensive item for the same price. But something I’ve learned is that sometimes it really is worth spending a bit more to get quality clothing that will last rather than blowing through $200 at Forever21 for clothes that most likely won’t last more than a couple of washes.

Luckily, I’ve found several stores that satisfy my cheap side while also providing me with higher quality clothing. My husband still can’t understand why I won’t just spend the money to buy “nicer” things, but what can I say? I need to feel like I’m getting a good deal when I shop. So I’m sharing my four favorite stores where I know I can always find a good deal on clothing that is appropriate for the stage of life that I’m in.

4 Great Places to Shop for the Mama on a Budget | Haven Gray {the blog}

  • Loft

I haven’t been a Loft fan for very long, but now that I’ve discovered it I’m sure to stop in every time I visit the local mall. I always thought it was for “older” women, but guess what? I’m pretty sure I’m officially “older”. I love Loft because their clothes are super classic while still being on trend. They have a lot of great solid pieces, which are so essential to have, and they also always have a great selection of cozy sweaters – which I already discussed my adoration of. The best thing about Loft is that although their prices aren’t necessarily budget-friendly, they always have great sales going on. They also have a large clearance section in the back – at least at the location I visit – and it’s organized by color, which makes me so happy in the nerdiest way.

  • Old Navy

OK, I don’t know if you’ve been in an Old Navy in the last few years, but they have really stepped up their game. When I was in college Old Navy was one of the only clothing stores we had in the town where I went to school and I was always so disappointed with their selection. I went in randomly a few years ago on a whim – quite possibly to look for clothes for Grayson when he was a baby – and I was so pleasantly surprised! All of my favorite skinny jeans are from Old Navy, and I have so many great sweaters and cardigans from here, too. They have a pretty nice selection of jewelry, and their athletic wear is some of my favorite that I’ve found. Also? Sales like crazy.

  • H&M

I really, really love H&M because it is reminiscent of my Forever21 days but I don’t feel ridiculous shopping there. Lots of super trendy, affordable clothing, but higher quality and most of it is slightly more mature than my former favorite. Basically, I’m not embarrassed to shop in here while pushing my double stroller, but you can tell some of the “cool” kids still frequent this place. I find a lot of cute sweaters, flannels, fun tops, and sometimes pants here. They also have a surprisingly nice selection of underthings, and super cute accessories that seem to be pretty decent quality.

  • Nordstrom

Now, I will preface this by saying I don’t shop in every section of Nordstrom. Designer things? Not for me – unless we’re talking handbags, and that’s where my baby daddy comes in handy. I find the one section of the store that is actually affordable in my frugal little mind and stick to it – I’m pretty sure it’s “technically” the juniors section. I’ve never seen a sign to prove it, but that’s my feeling. I have found so many great pieces for $50 and under. Several tops, sweaters, and even a few cute casual dresses. They also have a good selection of affordable accessories mixed in with this particular section of the store. So if you’re thinking Nordstrom is totally unaffordable if you’re sticking to a budget, I’m here to tell you that’s not always the case.

There are so many other great places that I love to shop, but these four are the stores that I go to every time I go shopping, without fail. It’s almost a guarantee that I’ll find something that I just really have to have in each of these stores every time I step foot inside. Which may be somewhat of a blessing and a curse.

OK, now it’s your turn – where are your favorite places to shop for clothing? I’m always looking for new stores to try out!