Finding the perfect diaper bag is like finding the perfect pair of shoes. It has to be equal parts fashion, function and comfort. My closet is full of beautiful shoes, but only a very small percentage of them don’t do a number on my feet. Similarly, I have a couple pairs of comfortable shoes for long wedding days when I’m on my feet for hours. But the last thing I’d call them would be “cute.” See? Perfection is hard to come by. I went through several bags when Liam was born to find the right one that suited our lifestyle. Now as a mom of two, I feel like I needed to reevaluate my diaper bag collection to make sure it works for having both a newborn and a toddler. And I think I’m on the right track. Let me tell you all about my new Lily Jade diaper bag!
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I have to admit – I squealed when I opened the box. You see, I’ve been eyeing this bag (the Elizabeth) from Lily Jade for as long as I can remember. In this exact color. So you can imagine my excitement when I opened up the box and there she was. I’ve been on such a boho/indie/camel color kick lately. Which once I’m done decorating Caleb’s nursery, I think you’ll totally agree with me. But basically, I’ve been wanting to decorate my life with camel-colored accessories. It’s such a rich color and this diaper bag didn’t disappoint. It’s current, yet timeless. Meaning it shouldn’t go out of style no matter how many years we have babies around here.

It’s such a unique color that I’ve been stopped several times by people commenting on how pretty it is. And then they’re shocked to find out that it’s actually a diaper bag and not a purse.

Speaking of which, one of the things I love about my Lily Jade Diaper bag is that there’s an insert inside that’s removable. So when you’re not using it as a diaper bag, you can, in fact, use it as a purse.
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But with the insert, there’s a ton of space in this bad boy. There are 12, yes TWELVE, pockets in this removable organizer. I’ve been trying to keep it crumb-free as long as I can. But with as much goldfish and other snacks Liam consumes, that’s probably not realistic long-term. But that’s okay, because this insert is machine washable. Win!

We cloth diapered with Liam and it was hard to find a bag that gave us room for both diapers and his milk and bottles. I’m still on the fence about whether we’ll cloth diaper Caleb – I can barely keep up with our laundry as it is. But what I really like about the Lily Jade diaper bag is that it’s super roomy. There’s plenty of space for cloth or disposable diapers and everything else you need.

I plan to do another blog post at some point with a better look at exactly what I keep in my diaper bag. Mostly because I’m still getting used to carting around two kiddos and don’t feel like I have a routine yet. But at the moment, here’s a quick run down of what I have in the organizer and inside pockets:

diapers
wipes
Bottle for Caleb (or more than one if we’re going to be out for more than a couple hours)
wallet
keys
cellphone
tons of snacks for Liam
changing pad (which comes included with the diaper bag)
burp cloths
change of clothes for Caleb
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Depending on what we’re doing while we’re out, I’ve actually started putting my camera (a bulky dSLR) in the middle of the organizer. It’s safe as long as I’ve got the diaper bag zipped up and we’re not knocking the bag around. And it sure beats carting around a second bag or worrying about hitting the camera on something while I’m wrangling a toddler.

In addition to the space inside our Lily Jade diaper bag, there are several pockets on the outside too. I use the two pockets on the ends for water and bottles. Usually I have a water for Liam in one and then either a bottle for Caleb or my own water in the other.
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There are also four large pockets on the outside that have a magnetic closure. So they fit extra things you may want access to and you don’t have to worry about things falling out.
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The only thing that doesn’t fit in its bag that I wish could is the small cooler I pack Caleb’s milk in. We’ve been blessed enough to be giving him donor milk at the moment. We’re so thankful for the dozen or so women who have all played a role in allowing us to do so. But logistically, it does make things more difficult. I ran into the same issue when Liam was a baby (if you don’t remember, I exclusively pumped for him). But because Liam was a fall baby, I could easily toss a bottle of milk or two in my bag and know that it would stay cold because of the colder temperatures. I can’t do the same in this summer heat.

Honestly, though, I don’t know that I could actually find a diaper bag that would allow me to carry the cooler too. What I’ve found that works is only taking milk in the diaper bag if I know for sure we’ll use it in the next hour. Just so that it doesn’t get too warm. And I’ll leave the cooler in the car where I can access it when I need it. So far, it’s a system that has worked without too much inconvenience. Once late fall hits around here, I’ll probably go back to carrying more milk in the diaper bag.

I’ve decided that there’s no single right way to wear a diaper bag. I actually find myself carting it around several different ways, so versatility was also something important to me. When I just had Liam, I liked using a cross body strap because it allowed me to chase after him a little easier. But now that I wear Caleb in a baby carrier, cross body obviously doesn’t work. Our Lily Jade diaper bag can be worn several different ways.

It comes with at long cross body strap, so you can either wear it messenger-style or rethread it to wear the bag as a backpack.
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Or you can wear it on your shoulder with the shoulder straps. My personal preference a lot of the time is to actually wear it on my shoulder but with the longer strap. Mostly because it’s summer and so hot and humid out. If I’m already wearing a mini baby-heater on my front, I don’t love the idea of carrying my diaper bag so close to my body. The longer strap gives me a little more distance, if that makes sense.
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I also like that the longer strap makes it possible to throw over our jogging stroller for times when I don’t want to carry it at all. I’m going to be sad when we finally break out the double jogging stroller and I can no longer do that. But for now, it’s great.
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If you’re not a fan of the camel color like I am, Lily Jade has this particular diaper bag in seven other colors. Of course, they have several other diaper bag styles too if you’re looking for something different. You can see them all on their website or check them out on Instagram or Facebook.

I saw that Lily Jade currently has their diaper bags on sale. If you’ve been thinking about getting one, now might be the right time!
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Disclosure: I received this product as part of a partnership with Lily Jade. All words and opinions are completely my own. 

Liam was my swaddle baby. His startle reflex was so strong that we went from a swaddle to a sleep sack until he was well over a year old. He just couldn’t fall stay asleep without one. Caleb, on the other hand, is turning out to be our super laid back baby. He’s able to sleep any time, anywhere. Other than his reflux, he sleeps really well. And because of this, I’m really enjoying trying out different swaddles and sleep sacks out there. For reference for (hopefully) future babies. And for all of you, since many of you have asked what kinds of swaddles we like. I’ll be discussing a few of them in the coming weeks, so feel free to give me your input and let me know which ones your baby loves too! Today, though, I want to introduce you to the Ollie Swaddle from The Ollie World.
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Here’s how it works (don’t worry, the Ollie Swaddle comes with picture directions on the box too):

1. Take the cutest baby ever and put him in the center of the swaddle.
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2. Tuck his left arm down and fold over the swaddle.
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3. Put his other arm down and fold over the remaining side of the swaddle. Use the velcro to ensure a snug fit. Make sure the Ollie is pulled across just below the shoulders.
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4. Wrap the elastic loop around the bottom of the Ollie, directly under the baby’s feet.
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See? Easy peasy.

Okay, so now that you see how it works, let’s get down to the details.

The Ollie Swaddle is known as the “smarter swaddle.” Now, it’s not actually teaching Caleb anything like a foreign language while he sleeps. Though that would be pretty cool. But it was designed and created with more intention than some of the other swaddles on the market. Because it’s designed to help babies get the rest they need, their minds are able to process and learn everything to hit the next milestone. The Ollie Swaddle is much, much more than just a piece of fabric to wrap your baby in. I appreciate the fact that a lot of thought when into its design and I think that’s why I like it so much.

While many swaddles out there are made out of cotton or a general poly blend, the Ollie Swaddle is made from custom moisture-wicking material. This helps keep your baby cooler and reduced the risk of overheating. I find that temperature regulation in our bedroom is especially hard to maintain in the summer. Since Liam was born in the fall, he never seemed to mind the extra layers of fabric. But with Caleb, I want to make sure he’s warm enough without being too hot.

Not only that, but it helps draw the baby’s sweat away from his skin. Because babies are mini heaters, I swear. So the moisture wicking fabric can help reduce heat/sweat rashes too. And so far, the velcro seems to be holding up pretty well, even after washes.

If you can’t tell, Caleb’s a fan.
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As you can see from the photos above, the large velcro pieces and the elastic loop give you a lot of options for sizing. So you can really custom fit the Ollie Swaddle to fit your baby’s size, whether they’re a newborn or a few months old. Once your baby starts rolling over, you can either stop using it or use it as a transition swaddle. To do that, all you have to do is leave one or both arms out so that your baby can safely move about.

The elastic loop also makes diaper changes easier. You just unloop it and then change the diaper through the bottom of the swaddle. Some of the other swaddles around are more like sacks. So you have to take off the entire thing in order to access the diaper. For some babies, this could wake them up more than you’d like in the middle of the night. It also means that you don’t have to deal with buttons or zipper while you’re only half awake too.

And as a bonus, the Ollie Swaddle comes with its own laundry bag. This is great because I usually use up all my delicate bags for all our handmade clothes from our favorite shops. Plus, when you put the Ollie in its bag, you don’t have to worry about the velcro getting stuck to anything else in the wash.
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It currently comes in three different colors – sky, stone and lavender. The one you see pictured here with Caleb is the stone.

Cost-wise, it is definitely one of the pricer swaddles out there. It costs $59, but shipping is free. Considering, though, that you don’t have to purchase this in multiple sizes as your baby grows, it’s actually a pretty good deal.
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The Ollie Swaddle is sold online through The Ollie World website. You can even get 10% off by clicking here. Make sure you follow along on Instagram for giveaways and photos of other adorable babies using the Ollie Swaddle. And if you’re currently pregnant and tag them in your pregnancy announcements and gender reveals on Facebook, they try to share a few every Monday!
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Disclosure: I received this product as part of a partnership with The Ollie World. All words and opinions are completely my own. 

 

I wish I could say that I loved grocery shopping. But I don’t. And it’s only gotten harder with kids. When Liam was a baby, I wore him for nearly every grocery store trip. So shopping with a baby wasn’t too far off from my pre-baby existence. But now with two littles (and this summer heat), I’ve discovered that there’s not one single way I like to shop. “Easiest” is now relative depending on the weather, my toddler’s mood and how humid it is outside. Clearly I’m a mess, so I need all the help I can get. Enter Cart Mama. I’ve even used it while shopping without any kids at all – that’s how helpful it is. Make sure you read to the end – I’m partnering with Cart Mama to give away one of these. I promise – it will make you’re life so much easier!cart-mama-review-grocery-shopping-11

I could tell you how easy it is to set up the Cart Mama. But let me show you first:

I love that my sweet husband is nice enough to humor me. He’s a good sport about being in front of the camera for me.

So as you can see, the Cart Mama is super easy to install. Once you get everyone settled in the cart, you can easily attach it to the side. And because it goes along the side of the cart and has adjustable straps, you can attach it to any kind of shopping cart. So whether it’s Target, Whole Foods, Meijer or even the home improvement store….it should fit!

I also like that it’s super fast to install. All you have to do is attach the straps using the D rings. There’s three total – one on each top side and one in the middle. There’s also a strap on the middle right side of the Cart Mama. This helps keep it from flapping around when you’re using it.
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The Cart Mama has two large pockets that fit a ton of groceries. We took it on a big shopping trip and it fit most things we purchased, minus some larger items. I like that because there are two pockets, you can easily split up your items how you’d like. So I can put produce in one pocket and everything else in the other. You do have to be a little more mindful as far as which items are on top, so you don’t crush anything delicate. But since you’d have to do that when putting things in the cart anyway, it’s not a big deal. It holds up to 30 pounds, so you can really fit a lot in there. There’s also a smaller pocket at the front where you can put your keys, cell phone and any extras like coupons.
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Because it hangs on the side of the cart, it also makes it easy for Liam to help me shop. I don’t normally like to let him out of the cart (he’s a runner), but he’s also a pretty helpful kid. Generally, if I can give him a task, he’s more than happy to help me. He thought it was fun getting things and putting them in the pockets.
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If it gets dirty at all (especially since sometimes things from the grocery store are sticky or leak), the Cart Mama is machine washable. Woo! It’s recommend to wash it on a gentle or delicate cycle. I pretty much wash all our things that way anyway, so it’s easy enough for me to just toss it in with everything else. And then you hang it to dry.

I think that one of the most unique things about Cart Mama is that you don’t ever outgrow it. It still allows you to shop with your babies and kids, but it can be used for years and years. It comes in three different print options (the one we have is the “Jake”) and costs $59.99. A small price to pay for something you won’t grow out of, in my opinion.

It can also cut down on your use of plastic bags! Once we were done checking out, Jamie just put the Cart Mama, filled with all our purchases, in the back of the car. Since it’s so large and the weight is distributed, it was easy enough to carry it into the house to unpack there. Jamie hates how many grocery bags we typically come home with, so he thinks this is a great benefit.

The best thing about Cart Mama? You don’t even need to have a baby with you to use it. Or even be a mama.

Say you’re having company and are shopping to feed a crowd. Or you shop for someone else regularly to help out a family member or an elderly neighbor. Sometimes I even use it when I’m purchasing things for my business. Because CartMama has separate compartments, it’s easy to separate items by category or split up everything into different purchases. This way, you don’t have to sort through everything in the checkout line.

As for cons, it’s hard for me to find any. I guess my only caution would be to remind you that using the Cart Mama changes the width of your cart. So you do have to be a little more mindful when navigating down busy or skinny aisles.
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You can find and order any of the three print options over on Cart Mama’s website. They’re also on Instagram and Facebook.

Let me know if you get one! Stop back by and tell me how you like it.

Want to win one of these babies for yourself? I’ve teamed up with Cart Mama to give away one to a lucky reader. Just head over to the giveaway image on my Instagram page at @LITTLEFIREBRIGADE to find out how to enter. For an extra entry, leave a comment here on the blog and tell me which print you’d choose if you won (don’t forget to leave your Instagram name!).

The giveaway will run until midnight EST on July 9th, 2017. A winner will be chosen randomly using random.org and announced on Instagram within 48 hours of the giveaway end. Open to U.S. residents only.
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Disclosure: I received these items from Cart Mama to try out in exchange for this review. All words and opinions are completely my own. 

  • Haley

    Genius! I’ve learned quickly what a challenge shopping with two can be! Every Mama needs this! I love the Jake print!
    – @mj_andpReplyCancel

  • Haley Pervinkler

    Genius! I’ve learned quickly what a challenge shopping with two can be! Every Mama needs this! I love the Jake print!
    – @mj_andpReplyCancel

I’m so thankful to be parenting in an era where we have access to so much research, information and technology. Babies by nature don’t need lots of things. But many of the “extras” sure are nice to have. Like baby monitors. We actually talked about only buying an audio monitor for Liam. But then we caved and I bought one with video. And I’ll never go back. These things are amazing. The one we had with Liam is a few years old and has needed some replacement parts, so we were on the look out for something new. I recently teamed up with Babysense to try out not only their video monitor but also their infant movement monitor. And there are so many things to like about them! If you’re in the market for a new baby monitor, definitely keep reading:
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Babysense Video Baby Monitor

My absolute favorite thing about the Babysense video baby monitor is how small and compact it is. Our previous monitor was quite a bit bulkier by comparison. We travel often and take our baby monitor with us whenever we travel overnight. It was always difficult to find the space for the last monitor. But the Babysense monitor is so much smaller, making it easier to pack. The original box it comes in is fairly compact as well. We’ve traveled twice now with the Babysense monitor. It was simple enough to repack it in its original box and then toss it into the suitcase.

But aside from its size, there are a ton of features on this thing:

It has a 2.4-inch high definition color LCD screen. So the screen’s not as big as some others, but it’s definitely large enough to view what you need to. I could go either way on a color screen, but I do like that it’s high definition. I feel like the picture is much clearer when you use the 2x zoom feature compared to other video monitors. You can have the screen on all the time if you want. But you can also opt to turn it off manually without shutting off the entire unit. Or you can select the ECO sound activated mode, which turns off the parent unit until the camera detects sounds in the room. And it saves battery life too.
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The secure and private connection makes it both hack and interference free. The camera has a long range up to 900 feet. We have a two-story house with a finished basement. So far, we haven’t had any issues with the connection anywhere in the house. Another favorite feature of ours is the two-way talk-back ability. We use this all the time. I find it especially helpful when I’m doing something with Caleb and need something from Jamie. If I know he’s near the monitor, I’ll say something and then he can talk back to me through the camera. I also love the auto infrared night vision feature. As soon as the room is a certain darkness level, the camera automatically switches to this. And I was surprised at how clear the night vision is.

At first, I was a little disappointed that this camera didn’t have a digital pan/tilt feature. Then I read the manual. Turns out, it does! See? It really does pay to read all the paperwork.
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Other features include:

  • The ability to add additional cameras
  • Adjustable brightness and volume
  • Room temperature monitoring
  • Sound activated LED indicator (so you can see that your baby’s making noise, even if you have the volume turned down)
  • Pre-programmed lullabies you can play through the camera
  • Alarm/Timer setting
  • Low battery and out-of-range warnings
  • Built-in support stand

Caleb is only 2.5 months old, so obviously we haven’t been using the camera for that long. But we really like it so far and have used it quite a bit.
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Babysense 5s Infant Movement Monitor

A movement monitor was something else we thought we didn’t really need. We never purchased one with Liam. He slept in our room with us for months and we never felt like it was something we needed to invest in. But like I keep saying, every baby is so different.

I haven’t shared this on social media or the blog at all yet, but when Caleb was just a few weeks old, we ended up taking him into the emergency room. Jamie and I had spent several days talking about how concerned we thought we should be over some breathing episodes he had. A couple times a day he’d have loud, fast and labored-sounding breathing. He never stopped breathing or turned blue – he wasn’t even upset – but it just sounded bad. And then one day he had an episode when his clothes were off and we noticed some pretty extreme chest retractions. So Jamie took him into the ER to get checked out. Long story short, he’s okay. It was probably from still having some fluid in his lungs (his labor and delivery was really short) and most of his breathing issues have subsided, thank goodness.

But breathing issues are scary. I mean, it’s stressful enough having a newborn in general – checking to see if you can see them breathing when you feel like you haven’t heard them stir in a while. Even more nerve wracking when your baby has some known breathing issues.

That’s why I’m really loving our Babysense 5s Infant Movement Monitor. It’s constantly monitoring Caleb’s micro-movements as he sleeps so I don’t have to stand next to the crib the entire time he’s napping. Because its sensing micro-movements, it doesn’t matter if your baby is really wiggly or not.

The infant movement monitor comes with two sensor pads. If you have a young baby, you only need to use one of the pads. You place it underneath the mattress where you’ll eventually put your baby to sleep. If you have an older baby that is crawling, you can use both sensor pads under the mattress.
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The sensor pads then connect to the control unit using a hook that slides between the crib and the mattress. This way, you can easily hide any excess cord and there’s nothing for baby to pull on.
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If your baby is moving and breathing just fine, you’ll see a little blue light flash periodically on the control unit. But if the sensor pads don’t pick up any movement for 20 seconds, or if it detects a slowed number of movements per minute, the system flashes a red light and sounds and alarm. The alarm is pretty loud on its own, but especially audible if you’re using it with a video or audio monitor as well.
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The system also doesn’t reset itself. So once the alarm goes off, it has to be physically stopped by someone turning the monitor off. Even if the baby starts moving again. I really like this feature, because sleep apnea is one of the concerns we had when Caleb was having his breathing episodes. If something like that was really happening, I’d like to know that there’s a possible issue we should address with his pediatrician.

As parents, we can’t possibly keep our eyes on our babies 24/7. We try. But it’s just not reasonable. Because at some point, we need to be able to sleep and take care of ourselves too. And if we have other littles in the house, well, they need looked after too. So that’s why companies like Babysense are there to help us fill in the gap. To be our eyes and ears when we can’t be there.

And because the whole thing is battery-operated, you can have your crib anywhere in the nursery you want. Or even travel with the monitor.
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The company also has a Petite Clip Baby Movement monitor that looks like a great product too. Especially for parents who want an extra level of monitoring for their baby.

Both the Babysense video and infant movement monitors can be purchased online through Amazon. The company’s website has a ton of great information about each product, including answers to frequently asked customer questions. They’re also on Instagram and Facebook.
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Disclosure: I received these products as part of a partnership with Babysense, LLC. All words and opinions are completely my own. 

My mom was in town for a few weeks this month. When we were driving by the local lake, we noticed an ambulance and water rescue crew near the water. My mom expressed her hope that everyone was okay. But the knowledge I have from being a firefighter’s wife (Jamie has some water rescue experience) told me that was probably not the case. And they weren’t. Guys, water safety needs to be taken seriously. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a little water or a large body of it; whether you’re 2 years old or 35; whether you know how to swim well or not….water doesn’t care about all that. It’s so important to practice water safety habits regularly regardless of your experience level. This will keep you – and everyone around you – as safe as possible.

An article in the Columbus Dispatch earlier this month highlighted some startling statistics. In May alone, SEVEN people drowned in central Ohio. Only two of those were young children. Another was a teen and three others were kayakers. One of them was even wearing a life jacket. So you can see, water safety is something everyone needs to be aware of. Especially since we’re in the middle of summer where water activities are so common.
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So what can we do?

We can be aware that water safety is an ongoing issue. And remind others about the importance of water safety. We can practice good water safety habits ourselves so we can be an example to our kids.

It’s important for us to teach them not to give into peer pressure, especially when the other kids are being unsafe or doing something beyond his or her ability level.

And we must give our kids all the tools and knowledge they need to stay safe in the event that they or someone nearby gets into trouble in the water. Even the most basic of swim skills, like floating on your back, can be helpful.
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One of the things I love about Goldfish Swim School is that my priority for Liam – water safety – is their priority too. The teachers there aren’t just teaching our little ones how to have fun in the water. Or how to be around it without tears. Or turn our kids into the next Michael Phelps. Though those things are very good. But their #1 focus is to make sure our kids are safe. As a mom, I definitely couldn’t ask for anything more. Do you agree?
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This post is part of our partnership with Goldfish Swim School. As always, all the photos, words and opinions in this blog are completely my own.