Thursday, March 29, 2012

Give It All Away

My love language is gift giving. I love looking around in my home or in a store for things I can give to others. (I especially love giving to other givers because they are the most surprised that they are receiving something.)  In this time of poor-dom, I've found myself giving more than ever. Couponing, cloth diapers, and selling Premier Jewelry have allowed us to use our savings to create things or "clean house" and give our often un-used items away to others. It's so much fun!

I write this not to say "hey! look at me! I give stuff! I'm like Mother freakin' Theresa!" Even though I give things, I'm still pretty selfish.  If I'm not invited to a party or if I feel left out in any way, I get bitter and disgruntled. The Bible tells us that we aren't made for this world and that we are destined for Heaven. I'd still like to have a few pit stops at a few fun get togethers on Earth before I meet Jesus face to face. But really - God's the one that gives me value, not others. He's the one that invited me into the community of believers. He's the one that allows me to be at the best party of all - Heaven.

Speaking of Heaven, did you know that you can't bring anything with you? Not even your cat! If I haven't used it in a year, I'm probably not going to use it again. It either goes into a box for Goodwill or into a bag to give to someone I know.

My mom brain took over after the first few sentences and disheveled any potential for an organized concept for this post. So the moral of the story is: Giving stuff away doesn't make you a better person, but it helps other people feel better and do better.

Even though I'm not a fan of the Beatles, this is a great conclusion to my giant brain fart about giving:

And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

5 months

I know every mom says it, but really - where did the time go?

Joanna is super fun instead of a super blob. This has been the best month so far. She's giggly and happy and still pretty immobile. It doesn't get more convenient than this!

Our pudgy bugaroo-bagoo-bagoo is now approximately 19 pounds.  I don't know the circumference of her head or the length of her body but I know its definitely bigger. This is the first time I've been able to keep her in the same outfits for two months in a row!! That is monumental! The clothes fit her differently but they FIT! She is still in 12 month outfits with an occasional 9 month onesie. Her diapers even fit differently. I've had to readjust the rise on some of them back to the middle setting. Looks like we won't need to fully re-stock our diapers for a while. Phew.

Check out the right arm rolls!
Joanna is getting much better at tummy time. We've made rolling over into a game and she loves it.

She's eating solids 1-2 times a day. Usually the food is made by me but sometimes I'm lazy and I give her Gerber rice or oatmeal.

She sleeps 12 hours each night - she goes to bed between 7 and 8 and wakes up between 7:30 and 8:00 each morning. She slowly wakes up by giving herself a pep talk and discussing her plans for world domination. She even enunciates the punctuation a la Victor Borge. (I guess all of that classical music is seeping through?)

Her diapers are more and less smelly. The morning diapers smell like a rare combination of grape fruit and ammonia. Her daily gifts are easily disposed of into the toilet without much intervention. Cloth diapers = amazing. Still no blowouts and leaks are rare. Leaks are almost always a fault of myself and not the cloth diaper. With her growth, it took a while to realize the rise needed to be smaller instead of making the width larger.

We are so blessed with our abnormally happy and low maintenance baby. I've seen what normal is supposed to be. I've seen what difficult babies can do. We are blessed. I sing "Where Did We Go Right?" at least once a day.

Tight squeeze on the chair

Monday, March 26, 2012

10 servings for $.67

I bought the biggest sweet potato I could find for $0.67

After just 10 minutes to peel, slice, steam, and blend said potato, I now have 10 baby jar portions of sweet potato for my sweet potato.

I can't even buy one jar of organic baby food for $.67! 

Rather than keep a running tally of how much money I'm saving by making her food, I may just do a comparison like this to demonstrate the potential for others to save. After all, I did have to shell out another $40 for a Magic Bullet because our Baby Bullet blades are now rendered useless. I think we should have purchased the Magic Bullet in the first place and bought the Baby Bullet accessories. The Magic Bullet has more "grown up" attachments and a really fun recipe book - AND - it's $10 cheaper than the Baby Bullet. I still think the Baby Bullet accessories are worth it though. Lesson learned.

Unsolicited Advice

Don't worry, I'm here to help.

I have one child that is almost 5 months old so I'm now able to give unsolicited advice for all of your questions. (I was actually qualified as soon as I began carrying a fetus). Not only does my experience allow me to help with potty training and discipline conundrums, but I can also help with how to deal with troubled teens and how to give "the talk".

Do you have an ailing great aunt? No problem - I'm an aunt now so I can help!

Do you need advice on your dissertation topic? I took a writing class in college - allow me!

Not sure what to do about the fading spark now that your children are all grown up? I've been married almost 5 years - I'm an expert!

That's right folks. I'm like a college freshman during their first Summer back home: I know too much for my own good and am chomping at the bit to enrich the world with my awesomeness.

Sincerely and humbly,
Every first time pregnant woman and/or parent

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cloth Diapers: Week Twenty

20 weeks of cloth!

In addition to liking cloth diapers, I dislike disposables. Before this point I was indifferent to them. Now I really dislike them.

Why? I'm currently watching my friend's adorable 22 week old (just one week apart from Joanna) and they are roughly the same size. He's longer but weighs less so they balance out each other. I love this kid. He's more active than Joanna and is almost as adorable.

Here's the diaper diary:

Dropped off at 7:30
Diaper change at 9 - apparently I waited too long because pee was on his stomach but not back.  Changed outfit into one of Joanna's.
Diaper change at 10:45 - heavy diaper but no leaking. Yay!
Diaper change at 11:20 - diarrhea. Nothing on his stomach but plenty on his back. Gross. Another wardrobe change. Joanna's onesie stained. (Note to self: don't put one of your favorite onesie's on another child unless you are willing to give it to them.)

I put a cloth diaper on him at 11:20. Now he's sound asleep.

For the remaining 6 hours, he only went through 3 cloth diapers. In the same 6 hours, he would have needed 5 disposables.

Therefore, my new calculation is 3:5.

I considered reconfiguring my calculations after speaking with some of my disposable-using friends that are very coupon / savings savvy and find great deals. They end up spending $10-$20 a week, depending on where they live, what brand they purchase, and how old their child is. However, after today's findings of a 3:5 ratio when compared to a baby the same age and roughly the same size of Joanna, and for the sake of Joanna's college fund, I'm sticking with $20 a week.

So we're adding another $40 in savings:

Total Personal Investment: $190
Savings To Date: $354
Return On Investment: + $164

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gratuitous Giggles

Moving? With an Infant?

Sooo.. we're thinking about moving. Not just "Hey, I think we should think about moving!". We're at the "Where do we want to move? Do we want a commute? What kind of job(s) do we want?".

I think we've arrived at the decision that moving closer to our parents would be wonderful and ideal.  Being closer to parents means two things:
  1. Free babysitting
  2. Free ego boosts as we are constantly reminded of how beautiful our genetic offspring is. 
Moving closer to D.C. also means our cost of living will be tripled (at least). Fortunately, the jobs pay double to triple than their Lynchburg counterparts. If we maintain our low-cost lifestyle, I think we won't have to live in a one bedroom apartment above a bowling alley.

I'll be working when we move and I'm looking forward to it! I've arrived at the conclusion that I enjoy working. Staying home with my beautiful daughter is wonderful and I'm thankful I had this time to spend with her.  But I really miss working.  I know a part of me will miss staying home with her, but I know my love for her isn't measured in the hours I spend at home: it's measured in smiles and poop (hers of course).

I've received a formal job offer to be a Registrar, Professor, and curriculum developer somewhere that I can't announce - the  board officially approves (or disapproves) me on the 22nd. Jonathan is still looking for a job. May/June will likely be the timeframe. Stay tuned :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Daddy's Cheeks and Mommy's Furrow

Every day I'm reminded by others that my sweet baby girl looks like my handsome husband. I know I shouldn't be offended but I am. Girls should look like their mommies and boys should look like their daddies. Just like all dogs are boys and all cats are girls.

Joanna in utero at 38 weeks next to Mommy at 3 months

Cheeks and Biceps
Super Joanna at 20 weeks and Daddy at 25 years
A nurse told me that little girls look like their dads when they're young so that the guy knows they're the father. 

From Mommy:
  • Size (weight and height)
  • Crazy long toes
  • Giant ears
  • Her face when crying or pooping
  • Eye color

From Daddy
  • Eye shape
  • Adorable cheeks
  • Great smile
  • Cute lips

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Health Update

So I was thinking..

We've developed the technology and the tools to fly to the moon.

We've developed the technology and the medicine to immunize people from polio, German measles, and a myriad of other diseases.

We've developed the internet.

Yet we still don't have a cure for saggy stomachs after giving birth? I mean c'mon! Women have giving birth since forever. You'd think by now there would be a pill that could either magically shrink a uterus to its normal size in 5-7 days or would eliminate the excess skin created by giant bowling ball sumo babies.

In other news, I'm in the best shape of my life. My arms have never been stronger. My waist is teeny tiny but  my spare tire is now an empty potato sack. With the right undergarments, I feel like my pre-prego self - but who wants to wear a girdle while cleaning oatmeal from a child's ear? Not I said Mama Bear. Not I.

This photo was the best I could come up with that shows my slimmer figure. My bigger prego pants are falling off of me on a regular basis, yet normal pants don't fit over the potato sack. Dresses are much more flattering/forgiving/fort-like. I'll post a prettier picture after I get dolled up this Saturday. There's no point in shaving my legs on Tuesday when I'm planning to do it on Friday.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Baby Bullet: Week Two

Joanna has tried rice cereal, oatmeal, bananas, and avocados. On a scale of horrible to awesome, here is how we think she would rate them:

Avocados : What is this crap?
Rice Cereal : Keep it comin', ma.
Oatmeal : I see what you did there and I appreciate your efforts.

This week we tackled food that required more preparation: sweet potatoes and pears. Firstly, I washed and peeled the potato and Jonathan sliced it into two inch slices for the Baby Bullet Steamer.

One sweet potato yields 10 servings (which is really 8 Joanna sized servings). We put 6 servings into the fridge containers and filled 2 compartments of the freezer tray. We then steamed and blended a pear for the remaining 4 compartments of the freezer tray. (We can use the steamer to defrost the frozen food cubes.) Refrigerated food stays good for 3 days and frozen food for 30 days. We will definitely go through all of the food faster than 30 days.

I was proud of us for making 12 meals for the next 6 days! So proud in fact that I wanted to give Joanna her dinner at her late afternoon feeding instead of waiting later. So off we went into the wild orange yonder:

She didn't seem to like it as much as we thought she would, but she also didn't seem to dislike it. I think she was just excited to eat. 

When we finished feeding her, she acted like she wanted more but seemed content when we did our "all done" announcement and hand signal. She even unintentionally wiped her own mouth. How considerate!

The verdict on sweet potatoes? Somewhere between bananas and avocados.

Today we created 12 meals for less than $1. I filled the containers with more food than before since Joanna can easily eat more than the average 4.5 month old. My new calculation is 3 containers = 1 jar of food, so our 12 meals = 4 jars of baby food = $2 saved.  Last week I made 8 servings of bananas and 4 of avocados. Joanna only had 2 of the avocado servings, so I'll just consider it 10 total servings of baby food. 10 meals = 3.5[ish] jars of baby food = $1.75 saved.

Initial Investment: $50
Savings to date: $4.75
Return on Investment: -$46.25

By the way, do NOT put your Baby Bullet plastic parts into a dish washer or steamer. They will shrink. I was being a good mom and put the blade and their compartments into the steamer to make sure they were very clean. Now they are clean and too small to use. Awesome. We will soon be spending $40 on a Magic Bullet so we can make our own smoothies, etc as well as blend baby's food. Good thing we can use our Discover Card cash back rewards on Amazon so it won't cost us any money! 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cloth Diapers: Week Eighteen

Not much to report besides my love of cloth diapers. Joanna's bum is still a genius and I can still report zero blowouts. We haven't made a new purchase of diapers or CD accessories. We did give two to my sister-in-law for little Micah to use when he joins us in April. I'm excited that Joanna will have a cousin in cloth!

I haven't been figuring wipes into our savings because moms with disposables use disposable wipes as well. However, I'm now officially adjusting the savings to $20 a week based on a friend's disposable diaper purchases. Her child is close in age and size to Joanna so I'm using them as a control.  (Wow, my mom would be so proud that I'm using a Science term!) They go through about 1 big pack a week so if they purchased their diapers without coupons, they spend $20 a week. 

So with 4 weeks in CD at $20 savings each week, we add $80 to our savings and return on investment:

Total Personal Investment: $190
Savings To Date: $314
Return On Investment: + $124

On a money saving note, we're still saving money each week even with using formula. Without CDing, it would be more difficult to afford quality formula for Joanna. Thanks to our CD savings and coupons from dear friends, we're only spending $15 a week on formula. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Vaccinate: A Song For Both Sides

I'm thankful for mature friends from various backgrounds that hold different viewpoints. This is for you:

To the tune of "Let It Be"

(If you don't vaccinate, replace the V word with "Let it be")

When my child is very tiny and approaching 2 months old.
The time has come and I will vaccinate.

Two more months go by and now another round goes in her thigh.

Ooooh Vaccinate, vaccinate! Vaccinate, vaccinate!
I want her to be healthy so I vaccina-ATE!

And now I'm singing (to the tune of Bon Jovi's 'It's My Life'), "This is a song for the vaccinated..". I think mommy needs a play date.

In all seriousness, I make it known that I am very pro-vaccines. I think they are important and necessary to maintain a nation of healthy children and adults. Unvaccinated children can infect children that are too young to be vaccinated, children unable to get vaccinated, and adults whose vaccinations have worn off or were never vaccinated in the first place. No thank you. The other side is that vaccinated children can have a higher likelihood of food allergies, etc. After researching and forming a well-educated perspective, I'm okay with the possible repercussions of vaccinations because I feel the good far outweighs the bad.

I have friends that don't vaccinate their children. I still love them but I'm not bringing a too-young-to-be-fully-vaccinated child over for a play date. When Joanna is fully "shot-up" and protected, I will gladly let our young children giggle and drool together.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My babysitter R2D2

My active and very social 4 month old loves her R2D2 plush. It's flat with tiny hand-sized grippers and has beanies inside to give it some weight.

This had me thinking: who would have thought that one of the most snarky and rude sci fi characters would make a great companion for my young, impressionable child? Gosh, he sure is cute.

I was tempted to write a post from the point of view of R2, but the entire thing would end up getting bleeped. In its place, enjoy this meme:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Baby Bullet: Week One

I want to keep track of our saved money like I am with cloth diapers:

A jar of baby food is about $.50 each (ish). At this point, she is eating maybe 1/4 of a jar at each meal. I'm going to be conservative and use a [4 servings = 1 jar] calculation until she eats more often. I'm not going to subtract the cost of fruits and veggies because that's super complicated because we eat the food, too. It also varies if you want to buy organic or not. For the sake of illustration, I'll break down this week:

Week one: Bananas 
1 banana = 4 servings

I purchased a bunch of bananas for around $1.50 (7 bananas). If I used all of the bananas for baby food, I could make 28 servings.  I would have spent $7 on the same amount of jarred food that I can make for only $1.50. 

The Baby Bullet was a gift so our personal investment is $0. The system can be bought in its entirety for $100, or just the standard set for $50. Coupons are everywhere for Bed Bath and Beyond so you can easily pay less for the standard set. I'm going to label the initial investment as $50 to make it a realistic representation for those interested in purchasing this product.

Initial Investment: $50
Savings this week: $2
Return on Investment: -$48

Something I quickly learned is that you should start off with their usual bottle first so they aren't cranky while eating. It also keeps them happy and helps them not rush.

And now its time for the cuteness:

I gave her 6oz of formula and all of
her bananas and she still wanted more!
She LOVES  bananas!
(PS - I've been making myself a banana smoothie for breakfast each morning using the Bullet with just two bananas and a cup of skim milk. It's fast, easy, super healthy, and o so yummy.) 

More Products You'll Use

To all of you new moms and dads to be: here are some great products you'll use daily. They are also good low-cost items for your penny pinching friends to purchase for you if you're in need of things for your registry.

  • Bottle Brush - even if you don't want to pump or use bottles, you'll still love having a bottle brush. It gets into those hard to reach places where bacteria love to throw parties. 
  • Drying Rack - it may seem silly, but having a separate drying rack for all baby related items is very handy (and more sanitary.)
  • I love this photo so much
    I wanted to use it again
  • Pacifier Clip - You will lose pacifiers. Your baby will lose many pacifiers. You will drop pacifiers on restaurant floors and in parking lots. Use this clip. 
  • Spoons - We didn't stock up on these and now we're "paying" the price. Register for spoons. Many many spoons. 
  • Health Kit - there are so many options when it comes to grooming or health kits. I recommend registering for a really fancy one so you can have all of the accessories you could ever need or want (thermometer, nail clippers, brush, etc).
    • You will need a good brush and comb even if they don't have hair.
  • Travel Booster Seat - JoJo is outgrowing her carseat so we're currently researching booster seat options for non-car use. Rather than have her sit in an often used and often not cleaned restaurant booster seat, we want to bring our own if possible.
    • We also have a seat cover that we use in shopping carts that can work in booster seats, too.  I like the seat pictured below because it has a cushion if we'll be in one place for more than 20 minutes. 
Travel Booster Seat
What products do you love?