Location: Dayton, Ohio
Kids: Colby (11), Reeve (3), Dex (1)
Married to her husband Jason for 13 years, Shana Anderson is a military wife and proud mother of three boys. Her middle son, Reeve, has Down syndrome, which inspired her to start Reeve’s Tees–a Down syndrome awareness t-shirt company. Reeve’s Tees make the Homies with Extra Chromies® brand of shirts which provides meaningful work opportunities to adults with Down syndrome. You can learn more about her ventures at www.reevestees.com and www.homieswithextrachromies.com. Follow along on Instagram at @reevestees or on Facebook.
- After having kids, what product can you not live without?
- Purses that you can wear over the shoulder and baby-wearing devices — I need my hands!
- A notebook. I used to remember everything in my head, but now I need to write everything down. Some days I don’t even recognize the notes that I took because my memory has gotten so bad!
- Lastly, several cheap blow-up mattresses. On rainy days they serve as “bouncy castle alternatives” in the basement, and on other days, we use them for sleepovers, or building forts, etc.
- What was the best kid-friendly vacation or day trip you’ve been on recently?
Our kids are 10 years apart, so it is hard to find an activity that fits everyone. The best day trips are hands-on museums that have a variety of activities for all ages. The babies can run around, and my older son can get into the science displays.
We recently flew to Minneapolis to take the kids to Mall of America, and that was a great multi-age trip! There’s an aquarium in the basement, Lego land, and an entire amusement park with rides in the middle–not to mention some shopping!
- What is a parent hack that you’ve discovered?
My little ones love playing with water, and they often overflow the bathroom sinks if we turn our backs for too long. I spent $15 on a sprayer for weeds (empty with no chemicals). I fill it with water and pump it for them and let them shoot it into the open dishwasher. Saves us from overflowing the bathroom!
- What are your kids’ favorite books right now?
Colby (11) loves many different series of Minecraft Books. I believe he likes reading the books more than playing the game! Reeve (3) loves “Mr. Brown Can Moo” by Dr. Seuss. Dex (1) likes to rip pages out of books, so he only gets to read thick cardboard books that he can’t shred! He likes any books that have touch-and-feel features.
- What is the your child’s favorite activity right now?
Colby plays piano. He started when he was 4, then he wanted to quit from age 6-8 (but his mean mom wouldn’t let him). He started getting really into it once he started playing classical pieces. He plays beautifully now. I don’t know if it is his “favorite” activity (he might like Minecraft more), but he plays piano each day on his own initiative – which makes me so happy.
Reeve loves playing any kind of game that involves a paddle and a ball. He will go get two paddles and a ball, then he will hand a paddle to me, and then I know it is time to play!
Dex loves to color …everything! My sofa, curtains, floors, etc. have many of his finest art projects. We will cherish these keepsakes.
- What’s a really useful product that you don’t see on a lot of registries?
For those who want to try breastfeeding, I always recommend nipple shields, nipple pads, nipple gel packs, nipple cream, and any/all products that can get you through those first weeks!
All those cute baby outfits, Nose Fridas, and convertible strollers are great for registries – but those first few days, your nipples will need relief! Register for every nipple product available – you may not need them, but if you do, you will be sooo glad that you have them!
- Do you love your stroller and/or baby carrier, and would you recommend it?
To be honest, I don’t know what brand of stroller that I currently have – all that I can tell you is that it is a side-by-side stroller. If you have two little ones who are the same size, side-by-side works so much better than front-and-back. It is the perfect width for both Reeve and Dex, and it fits through doors just fine, which was my original concern.
I love many different carriers, but my favorites are the Baby Bjorn for airplane trips (quick snaps) and the Baby K’Tan. The Baby K’Tan was recommended to me when I had Reeve. If you have never held a baby with Down syndrome, you will notice right away that they are very floppy (hypotonia). The Baby K’Tan was built to support their hips. It works great for all babies, but specifically works well for babies who need extra support.
- What is your kid’s favorite toy right now?
Believe it or not, my kid’s favorite toys are items that Colby makes for them out of cardboard and recycled trash! Colby is a little engineer, and he does a great job of converting old milk jugs, bottles, paper towel rolls, etc. into toys for his brothers. They definitely spend more hours each week playing with these homemade recycled trash toys than anything that I’ve bought for them!
The one purchased toy that all three of my kids have absolutely loved is the Rolli Pop. It can be hard to find, but it is my go-to birthday gift for 2-3 year-olds because all kids love it so much.
- What is something about having kids that you didn’t expect you would love?
Time off. Prior to kids, I worked crazy hours – it wasn’t uncommon for me to work 12-hour days each day of the week. I liked the pressure, deadlines, responsibilities, and it actually stressed me out to NOT work.
I’ve changed so much since then. I now only work a few days each week. The other days, I homeschool Colby and spend time with “the babies” (Reeve & Dex). I like being home, and I like being “done” with work.
- What advice would you give to first-time moms?
I will always do my best to prepare them for breastfeeding if they plan to try it. Breastfeeding was a total shock for me, and I wish that someone had told me how difficult and painful it would be so I didn’t feel like “something must be wrong!” I now, quite assertively, tell new moms to be patient and prepare for some frustration – breastfeeding does not come naturally to most people.
I also tell them about Roseola because all three of my kids had it as babies, and the fevers (sometimes 106 degrees with seizures) are terrifying if you don’t know what Roseola is.
If they are looking for childcare, I recommend the Au Pair program (where someone from another country moves in with you to help with your children). Many people do not know what an Au Pair is, but it can be a great option for families who need full-time care.
I give them travel tips that I’ve learned along the way: Most hotels have Pack-and-Plays that you can borrow, so if you don’t mind the germs, you can leave yours at home. Do not bother trying to install an “airplane approved” car seat on your flight – I have always regretted it each time I did.
For special needs moms, I don’t give them too much advice. But I do really try to listen. It is a unique journey for everybody, and they will feel quite alone at first. I love connecting with these moms because I can relate to the wild ride of emotions that they are experiencing. Luckily, I had some really great moms who were there for me when I had Reeve.
Lastly, I’d say to any new mom: Other than what I wrote above, I know nothing more than you do. So tell me what you learn as you go!