Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Baby Items for the First Year: Diapering

This post is a continuation of a "Baby Items for the First Year" series. In it, I'm sharing items that we've found to be essential as well as those that we've not found necessary. Every Mama's list is going to look different based on preferences and lifestyle. The following is simply what we've found useful for our two children. 

We've already covered BATHINGSLEEPINGTRAVELINGFEEDING, CLOTHING and so today we'll focus on DRESSING.


*Note: This post may contain an affiliate link to Amazon.com. I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!). 


DIAPERING

      There are two methods for diapering: disposable and cloth. We have had experience with both methods, and so have a general idea of the needs for each. 

Cloth:

     The following items are based on our experience, and may not be your individual preferences as there are many, many different types of cloth diapers. 

     For additional information on selecting cloth diapers, I recommend reading the following blog post by Corner of Joy- "My Ideal Cloth Diaper Stashes for $100, $350, and $600" , "My Cloth Diaper Stash and Cloth Diaper Favorites", and "Everything You Need to Know to Cloth Diaper from Newborn to Toddler". Amy does a wonderful job at describing cloth diapering in easy to understand terms. I've really enjoyed reading her posts and using them as a guide.  


  • 24 diapers per child- 
    • newborn size x24- Newborn diapers may or may not be worth the investment. It depends on how big the baby is at birth or how fast he/she grows. I purchased Lil Joey 2 Pack All-In-One Cloth Diaper for my second child, and she wore them for just two weeks before moving up to the one size AIO. I ended up reselling them to purchase other items.
    • one size x24- Desiring to keep cloth diapering as simple as possible, I purchased a set of BumGenius Freetime All in One Cloth Diaper. Unfortunately, we have had numerous problems with them and no longer use them. (See my note regarding detergents below!).
    • night- We used HappyEndings "Night, Night" Charcoal Bamboo AIO Diaper for nighttime. It's super bulky but worked wonderfully, even for my heavy wetter.
  • Pail Liners x2- At least two bags is helpful so that one can be in use while the other ones dry
  • Diaper pail- We used a regular trash can with lid.
  • Cloth Wipes- 30 ct.
  • Cloth wipe solution + spray bottle- I've done a wet storage and dry storage method, and liked the dry storage the best. I dilute the solution and keep it in the spray bottle. When needed, I just sprayed the wipe until moist.
  • Cloth diaper detergent- I've used a variety of diaper detergents: Bumgenius, Charlie's Soap and Rockin Green. Unfortunately, I learned a hard lesson in cloth diaper detergents. I noticed the PUL of our diapers no longer being waterproof. I contacted the manufacturer, and was informed that they've had multiple reports of the same issue after use of Rockin Green detergent. So, our entire stash was ruined and now worthless due to a detergent that clearly states is safe for cloth diapers. When it comes to detergents, I highly recommend contacting the diaper manufacturer to ask if they are aware of any issues with any detergents.
Disposables:
      After the demise of our cloth diapers, I began using disposable products. I pains me to buy and throw away these items. However, it also pains me to have hundreds of dollars in cloth diapers that are now worthless, or spend hundreds more replacing our stash. So, for the time being we're using disposables. 
  • Diapers
    • newborn- Huggies Little Snugglers Diapers
      • These were the diapers we first used while in the NICU with Tennyson. They were the most trim and provided the best fit. They are more expensive than other brands, but it was a cost I was okay with considering we didn't use them long.
    • Larger sizes-Luvs Ultra Leakguards Diapers
      • These are the least expensive (not including store brand) and yet the highest quality. Tennyson would wet through everything, even as an infant. Then, we switched to Luvs and we've not had a problem since.
  • Wipes- Huggies Natural Care Baby Wipes
    • These were the wipes we first used while in the NICU. We tried other brands, but encountered some being more paper-like than cloth-like and others being rather soapy. These have been perfectly balanced in material and consistency. 
  • Diaper pail-
    • I purchased a couple of Diaper Genie pails on consignment. I've come to not like these pails one bit. They're large (ie smelly with that many diapers) and depend on expensive bag refills. I recommend something smaller and able to be used with regular trash bags, such as this one by Baby Trend.. Fortunately, I paid very little for both of our pails and may replace them in the future. 
  • Travel Diaper Disposal Bags- These are are lovely token of common courtesy when needing to dispose of a stinky diaper when out of the house (especially while at someone else's home!). 
Both methods- changing pad x2. 
  • Our diaper bag came with one pad. I sewed another one for use in other rooms in our home besides the one with the changing table.


Up Next:
  • playing
  • healthcare/ grooming

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Baby Items for the First Year: Clothing

     This post is a continuation of a "Baby Items for the First Year" series. In it, I'm sharing items that we've found to be essential as well as those that we've not found necessary. Every Mama's list is going to look different based on preferences and lifestyle. The following is simply what we've found useful for our two children. 

We've already covered BATHINGSLEEPINGTRAVELING, FEEDING and so today we'll focus on DRESSING.


*Note: This post may contain an affiliate link to Amazon.com. I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).  I am not an affiliate with Children's Place, Target, or eBay. I simply mention these stores as places we frequently enjoy.


DRESSING
      When it comes to clothing, a child's needs are not that great. It's tempting to purchase those amazingly cute outfits offered and advertised by brands and/or stores. I like for my children to have nice, put together outfits after all. However, babies will go through clothing rapidly the first year. I've found that the wisest means of providing clothing for my children are by 1) shopping secondhand and 2) limiting quantity. Though there is some flexibility for genders, occasions and seasons, I typically aim to have the following items per size for each of my children:

    • pajamas x3
    • Toddler Boys' Just One You™ Made by Carter's® Pajama Set Zen Red
      Image source: Target
      • I discovered with my first child that pajamas were best purchased new. I would purchase some secondhand only to discover they were shrunk too much and would be too short quickly. I also didn't feel like I saved a tremendous amount, as purchasing from the store typically runs about $4 a pair (I shop sales!).
      • Initially, I purchase the packages of Gerber sleep/play outfits. These are about $12 for three pairs in the store. When length becomes an issue, we  then switch to two piece pajamas. These can be much more expensive (closer to $12 per set). I've purchased some secondhand and I've also purchased some on sale in the store (Target is my favorite place to find quality two piece pajamas). 
    • white onsie undershirts- one pack of short sleeves & one pack of long sleeves
    • socks- 6 pairs
      • for babies up to 9 months, I purchase one pack of white Gerber socks per size. 
      • for babies 9 months+, I purchase socks from Children's Place. I typically purchase a variety of white, gray, black, navy, brown (plus pink for Annelise). 
      • When I had my first child, I purchased a wide variety of brands and colors of socks. I always ended up not having an appropriate size or color though! So, I decided to simplify quite a bit. I now purchase only one type of sock for the early months, and then when they fit the smallest size I begin purchasing socks only from Children's Place. This brand is the best that I've found so far. They are also the only ones that carry basic colors (like those mentioned above).
    • light jacket x1- This is usually a knit material. 
    • warmer fleece jacket x1
    • warm winter coat
    • mittens and snowboots (Although new snowboots are typically more expensive than I typically pay for shoes, they are so very hard to find and so simply easier to purchase online). 
    • shoes- I stick to the basic colors and styles for shoes such as sneakers, boots, casual brown shoes, casual black shoes, white Keds for Annelise, Crocs or other type of sandal. I do not purchase character shoes. I also do not purchase shoes that can only be worn with certain colors or styles of clothing. I prefer for shoes to be able to match a wide variety of clothing and occasions, which insures the best purchasing value.
      • I purchase most of their shoes at a consignment store. If I can't find what I'm looking for there, then I'll look on Ebay. I've found wonderful quality sneakers for them there!
    • sweaters x1-2- These may be pull over sweaters or zip-up sweaters in a basic color or pattern so that they easily match the rest of the clothing.
    • outfits x8- I aim for only eight outfits per child. I wash laundry frequently enough that eight outfits is sufficient. Although the quantities of each is flexible, the following is a basic outline per child:
      • Tennyson:
        • pants/shorts x8- blue jean pants/shorts, khaki pants/shorts, printed shorts, overalls, athletic pant
        • shirts x 8- mixture of prints, solids, button-up, and knit
      • Annelise:
        • dresses sets x6- A dress set includes a shirt if necessary (such as with sleeveless jumpers) and leggings or tights. 
        • skirts/pants/shorts x2- typically khaki or denim
        • shirts x2- matches the skirt/pant/shorts options
    • snowsuit x1- each child also has a snowsuit. Quality snowsuits can be very expensive, but I feel they're worth the investment especially since we live in an area that receives a lot of snow each year. I have found some suits on consignment. Ebay is also an excellent place to purchase snow suits at a great price! 
Dresses for Annelise-
These are all either Gap, Children's Place, Gymboree or Carters brand, and were purchased at a consignment store for only  $13 total. Several of them are brand new and still have the tags on them! Add a couple pairs of pants/shorts/skirts and tops and this size is complete. :)
     Shopping secondhand and limiting clothing options really simplifies purchasing and storing clothing. When I go shopping, I have my list in mind as to what everyone needs, and we then just check off the list as we find the items. Any items I don't find are purchased on eBay or new from the store. If I'm purchasing from the store, I try to find the item on sale. However, I don't have a lot of time to sit and watch for sales, so I do purchase items full price. I typically don't have to purchase too many items full price, and so it's still affordable. 

    
Things We Didn't Need:
       We don't do holiday outfits, as these can only be worn for a sort period of time and may not be appropriate for the next child. We also don't do "church outfits." Instead, I dress the children in a manner in which everyday attire is also appropriate for church or other occasions. I also don't purchase shirts or other clothing items with graphics or writing. Instead, I opt for simple stripes, plaids, or solids. In general, I aim to get the greatest wear out of clothing and for that clothing to be quite nice in quality. As such, I generally stick to finding classic pieces that mimic adult styles (ie. khaki pants and button up shirts are a frequent outfit of choice for Tennyson. Annelise often wears simple dresses with leggings or tights underneath). 


Up Next:
  • diapering
  • playing
  • healthcare/ grooming

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Years Resolution 2016



     The tradition of setting a resolution for New Year is an exciting occasion for a goal-setter like myself. I typically establish way more than I can feasibly accomplish. There are simply so many areas and activities I want to explore- homesteading/homemaking skills, financial goals like decreasing debt and increasing savings, book reading, Bible reading/study, more dates with my husband, greater hospitality, greater development of my personal self, tot school with Tennyson, greater home management, more time spent writing on a couple of different mediums etc etc.! I know that in this time in life with two very young children, if I attempted to set a goal for each area I'd likely find myself unable to accomplish them and becoming discouraged. And so, my plan for this year is to simply pick one. Pick just one that I can focus on, develop, and enjoy. 

     I'm certain that I'll accomplish activities in a variety of areas over the course of the year, and those accomplishments will simply be a bonus to my main goal. My intent for this year's resolution is to have one area in particular that I can focus on without causing myself to be overwhelmed, discouraged or lacking in joy. 

    In order to determine this one area to be my main goal, or resolution for the year,  I asked myself: Which one speaks the most to me presently and why? After feeling as though I have neglected myself the last few months, I felt it important to choose something that reconnected and reaffirmed me. Writing accomplishes that for me. Therefore, my resolution for 2016 will be focused on writing:

       1) Write a blog post to be published every Wednesday
       2) Write a new chapter in my book every quarter (approx. 4 months)


     Like I already mentioned, writing has been a means of reconnecting and reaffirming me personally, my homemaking story, and our family life. This blog page isn't about gaining affirmation, attention or audience. (Though, I've enjoyed interacting with those of you who have chosen to follow along!). It's about discovering and determining what works or doesn't work for our family. It's about the highs and lows of life, marriage and parenting our young children. It's about celebrating the small victories. It's about stretching and growing personally and spiritually. It's about learning and practicing the art of homemaking. It's about our story. (I have to remind myself these truths when the comparison bug bites!). I thoroughly enjoy going back and reading past posts. My heart delights in reliving those moments, and is reassured of our successes and joys. Blogging here has been such an enjoyable experience so far, and I'd like to see more of an effort spent on adding posts in the coming year.

     Another medium for writing that is available to me is a book project. Did you know I had a book project in progress? It's been in progress for years actually. I've been very particular about it's content and the quality of writing. I've also had less time to work on it since having children. Nonetheless, I still believe in the idea and wish to see it completed. I believe there is a need for rediscovering homemaking skills of the past. I believe we'd be less fried and frenzied in our attempt to manage our home, children, and ourselves within this role. I believe there is a gross lack of education and practice regarding homemaking. I consider myself- I, like most, was raised to attend college and work a career. My education didn't include the domestic aspect of life, and so when I entered that realm it became apparent that I wasn't well prepared. My story isn't uncommon as I've encountered numerous others within my generation who also don't have a solid grasp of homemaking skills. Others who buy only certain packages of meat because the rest are foreign. Others who cook by opening multiple packages of products. Others who struggle to maintain a tidy home. Others who feel stressed and exhausted by the demand of home life. I believe there is a need to rediscover this lost art. 


      Beyond that purpose for the book, writing it further would be a wonderful encouragement to simply finish something I've started. I have a long history of neglecting to finish what I start. I'd like to see this one pursuit be finished. Finishing it will be a challenging task, and I'm aware of that. It's been a slow process so far as I analyze (and then over-analyze) every word written. I want it to be something of quality. I want it to be something that I, and you, can pick up and read again with a sense of satisfaction each time. I enjoy the content that is currently completed! I'm eager to see more pages filled in! 

      And so, my resolution for 2016 has been determined and the "whys" established. The harder part now is the "how?" With two very young children and a home to manage, I don't have much free time. The best plan will likely involve several approaches. I may try to take 10-15 minutes early in the morning. I may try to wake really early one morning a week. I may utilize the time when I have an occasional "mother's helper." I may take an hour once a month for a "writing retreat." David and I have talked a little bit about investing in a laptop computer so that working on it could be more accessible (our only computer is a desktop and is tucked away in an alcove in our bedroom. It's not in a convenient location and so doesn't get used as much). Time and access to a computer are definitely hurdles in accomplishing this goal. 

      This is something that I feel is important to me personally, however. I feel that it's important to have at least one area in which mama can focus on mama. Mama needs it for her own growth. The children also need to see Mama as a person with interests as well (and perhaps be inspired by her pursuit to pursue their own interests!). I trust that the details for accomplishing this goal will work out in time. So far, I've been able to maintain a weekly blog post for the last few weeks! Hopefully, much more to come! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

December 2015 In Our Home

Haba My First Games are fantastic introductions
 to games for young ones! It's so fun to begin
 playing games as a family!
    December in our home has been a bit of a challenge. Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Day is "peak season" at David's job, which means he works even more during the week and also goes in again on Saturdays. The holiday season is a stressful and exhausting time of year for certain industries!

     The children and I certainly miss his presence at home! I also miss having an extra set of hands with the children. Fortunately, God answered a prayer in leading a woman in our church to come regularly to lend a hand caring for the children or the housework. This has been huge as we don't have family or anyone nearby and rarely get a break. I could feel a weight immediately lift from my being. I have desperately needed this offering for quite a while to simply breathe.

The one sweet we've found that
he enjoys- ice cream!
      Caring for the home and two young children, especially one who struggles with the basics of properly eating and sleeping, has been more of a challenge than I ever imagined. Depression has crept into my soul as I've felt increasingly overwhelmed with the constant demand by someone or something.

     And so, through the struggle I've determined that some changes must be made. The first of which is to begin utilizing the offering of this sweet lady in being my "mother's helper". There are tasks that simply cannot be completed with two very young children underfoot, and her assistance would allow me to maintain those tasks better. Or, have a moment to myself.

     Another change is going to be to exercise greater self care. I've come to the realization of just how neglectful I've been of myself. I believe that properly managing the home and children requires a degree of self-sacrifice. However, I also believe you can't continuously pour yourself out, without ever refilling because eventually you'll reach the bottom and have nothing left to offer. That's where I've found myself. I've found myself dismissing self-care. Dismissing personal interests. Dismissing all those aspects that make me me.  If I'm ever going to teach my children to be confident and sure of who they are, I ought to know and show those entities in my own life. It's important for children to see that mom is a person too. I think this struggle is part of the precarious balance necessary in being a stay at home mama. It's so easy to be so consumed by the role and duties that you neglect yourself. Yet, it's the knowing and certainty of oneself that contributes significantly to the role and tasks. And so, I've determined to choose one area of self that I will focus on in the upcoming year.

This girl is no longer content at all
to be laid on the floor. She only wants to
sit or stand! She's growing up fast!
    This brings me to another matter of contemplation this month- my presence in the home and to the children. Tennyson has matured so much lately. It's absolutely incredible to watch him transform from a baby at the first of the year to a little boy by the end. He's becoming so much more self aware. With that comes the necessity to teach proper behaviors and attitudes. It's evident that these things are sourced from two places: what he learns from others (namely, David and I) and what he assimilates and creates on his own. As this has all developed I've become struck anew with how important the quality of my presence is on his development. Am I fully present or am I distracted? (A distracted Mama will not have the heart of her child!). Am I graceful with my words regarding others or situations? Or, am I teaching him to be critical and...well, less than loving? Am I handling challenges with calm and patience? Or, am I being reactive? What choices am I making and how are they impacting him as he is learning from me? 

      I'll be fully honest by saying the days are trying. To maintain a pleasant demeanor while caring for a small home that is well lived in, a busy toddler and a fussy baby feels like a lofty goal. Annelise continues to struggle with the basics of properly eating and sleeping. We've determined the difficulties to likely be attributed by the fact that she has always eaten in "snack" portions and consequently only catnapped day and night. We suspect she's getting enough nourishment to grow and not be hungry, but not enough to be fully satiated. This contributes to increased fussiness when awake and inability to sleep well (which adds more fussiness). Though we were assured that she being tongue-tied wouldn't be an issue, we believe that she might have had to work extra hard to maintain a latch and would therefore take in only as much as she needed to not be hungry at the time.
He's suddenly become interested and
attached to stuffed animals. "Monkey"
 is his best pal. He gets so excited
when he sees it. haha

    Consequently, she eats frequently but in very small amounts each time. We believe the poor eating pattern has contributed to a poor sleeping pattern. (She naps only 20 minutes at a time during the day and sleeps only in 2-3 hour increments at night). These patterns have been present for the last six months. The demand and exhaustion has been too great on me, and contributed significantly to feelings of depression. So, we've decided to transition her to a bottle (breastmilk for now, and then formula when the freezer is empty). This, again, has been a tremendous weight lifted from me. Hopefully, she'll learn to eat "meals" and sleep longer soon. We're all needing some rest at this point.

      In the midst of struggles, we enjoyed some wonderful moments of holiday celebration! I was particularly excited about Christmas this year. A child's first Christmas is special, but the subsequent Christmases become really fun as the child is able to more fully participate. We did several fun activities throughout the season. (You can read more about how we celebrate Christmas in our home Here). Tennyson really enjoyed pulling a chair to the counter to help make cookies. (He was actually more pleased with playing in the flour than the cookie dough! This is where his disinterest in sweets is really helpful! haha). He now associates the oven or baking tray with "cookies!" Haha. Another favorite of his this Christmas was the Christmas tree lights. If the lights were off, we were sure to quickly hear, "tree on" in that sweet little voice. I put up a small tree in the children's room, and he thoroughly enjoyed the "tree on" as he went to sleep and woke up each day. We did a couple of "tot school" activities, but decided not to add too much more to an already overwhelming time. In fact, that was the approach to advent activities this year. I came to the conclusion of adding one or two activities each year instead of trying to do twenty five all at once. Stree-free is the way to be! All in all, we had a wonderful Christmas season as a family.
Oh the fun we'll have building with Legos!
(Let's play a game with this picture-
What doesn't belong? ....
an ONION in the living room.
Oh, toddlers and their treasures. haha!)

      After so many stressful and exhausting weeks, David took a week off of work for a "staycation." It was actually the first time we've had that much time together..perhaps, ever! We normally spend all our vacation days traveling to visit with family. Simply staying home, being together, and even getting some projects completed was fantastic. It was absolutely wonderful to reconnect with David. I know I and the children will miss him greatly when the workweek resumes. It certainly gives us motivation to work hard so that we can one day be in a position to start our own family business.

      Next month brings New Year Resolution(s) and birthdays for three out of four of us in our family. Tennyson will turn 2 years old and I'll turn...30. On to the next month!







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