Big Brother Kit

My nephew is going to be a big brother sometime between now and the end of July.  I was sending this cute hair clip organizer with headbands and clips and a cute little outfit for the baby but what about him???

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I thought he could use a ‘big brother kit’.  Going from an only child to an oldest child can be hard and mom and dad can be distracted so a few things to keep him entertained and let him feel like he is helping couldn’t hurt right.

Here is what I put in the kit:

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  • A note on the outside about being a big brother and about the kit – there are things for him and things for the baby
  • A crayola color puzzel
  • Felt coloring pages
  • A truck
  • A cookie monster cup and a cup with a funny straw
  • Little sponge capsules that ‘grow’ into shapes in water
  • A book for him to show his little sister
  • A snuggle blankie for him to give his sister when she is sad
  • and a handful of other fun things

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Since they live out of state it can be hard to be involved and the help or involvement we can provide is limited to what USPS can help us with.  If he were just a little older and lived close enough I would have loved to add in ‘coupons’ for an ice-cream date, a sleep over, a pizza party, or a trip to his favorite park/play place.

I also think it would be great to be able to provide mom and dad with some useful things like a ‘coupon’ or two for grocery shopping or trip to the store for baby supplies, a home cooked meal with child care in the other room so mom and dad can sit down and enjoy dinner together, a few freezer meals, and a ‘new mommy spa’ kit.  The spa kit probably wouldn’t be as nice as it sounds as this would likely include things like epsom salts and the like for recovery from labor/delivery.

New babies are a fun and exciting event to celebrate –  what do you like to do to help new parents out or make a new big brother or sister feel included?

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Potty training baby (toddler) A – DIY training pants

This weekend saw the start of something I was not ready for – potty training.  It has been in the back of my head that we need to do it eventually and I bought a potty ring for our little girl because she liked to be in the bathroom whenever anyone is going potty and I thought since she was interested I would set her on it now and then just so it was a normal thing when the time came.

Slowly she has been telling me the time is coming.  When she is in the bathtub and needs to use the potty she lets us know and recently she will go into the bathroom either to go potty in her diaper or after words to put the potty ring on the ‘big girl potty’.  She doesn’t seem to be bother as much just yet by being wet but I assume we’ll get there.  Anyway, at 4 months shy of her second birthday and at her signal we got some ‘big girl undies’ and put her in them for most of the day yesterday and so far all day today … she is actually napping in a pair right now.

I didn’t realize how expensive those things really are – $7.99 for 2 pairs???? And they are a little loud because they are lined with plastic.  Anyway quickly realized we need more than just one pack of 2 but wow that cost!  So I decided I could do that myself.

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It took about an hour to prep three training pants and sew one of them.  To be fair, I probably made things harder on myself by not pinning them first.  Also I am fairly new to sewing (I bought my first sewing machine in November this past year) so I struggle just a little more than someone more experienced.  The best part of this project?  The materials only cost me about $5.50 for three training pants.

Here is what you need:

  • Diaper covers (I am using 6 – 12 month covers that were given to me for her shower and I just never used – you could use ones you used in the past or ones that came with little dresses and you just won’t use, without the diaper under them they will probably fit just fine)
  • 1/2 yard of baby terry cloth (usually used to make baby towels)
  • 1/4 yard of baby flannel (think flannel receiving blankets)

I guess if you have baby towels and receiving blankets you won’t use in the future, you could always use those.  There are fabrics you can buy specifically for making cloth diapers but my research showed flannel and terry cloth to be some of the more absorbent materials and the price was right – besides I didn’t want it to be too much like a diaper because then what’s the difference?  Even commercial training pants get wet through and make a bit of a mess – for me the idea is to minimize it and to allow the wet to be near her skin so she gets the discomfort.

The first thing you will do is cut the terry cloth.  I doubled it up for a little extra absorbency. I put the smooth back of the first piece face up and then layered the second piece on top with the smooth side face up.

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Next you’ll want to cut and fold the flannel.  I just added a nice folded strip to the inside as extra absorbency, the avoidance of puddles is my main concern.

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I first folded the flannel by putting the short ends together:

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I then folded the long sides together:

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And then I sewed the ends in place so the extra padding wouldn’t move around when being worn.

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I then rolled all of the edges and sewed them to make the ends nice, neat and finished.  Probably not necessary but it made me feel better.

Finally I fit the insert into the diaper cover with the flannel facing the inside of the diaper cover and the textured side of the terry cloth face up.  I turned the diaper cover inside out to make this easier.  I sewed around all the edges of the insert to attach the insert to the diaper cover.  Just be careful because you are working with layer of material – I sewed the diaper cover together at one point and had to redo some of the work I had done.

I am not sure the cost savings from a time perspective actually makes sense with this project like it did with the laundry soap but it gave me the chance to keep a little extra money in my pocket, use some diaper covers that were no longer getting used, and a little extra sewing practice.  I am not sure I would actually make the insert cover as much of the diaper cover for the next two only because its a little excessive – the insert covers the whole cover at this point.

Saving time by saving money – Laundry Soap

IMG_1094Previously I posted my homemade laundry soap but I revamped it and have started thinking about spending a little differently.  I have regularly been asked if homemade soap is worth the time and energy and if it works.

I recently purchased 2 containers of Tide and was shocked by the cost!  I ended up returning it because the gift I was putting it in was already packed full and the basket couldn’t hold another thing.  But this purchase prompted me to look at the actual cost of my soap vs. the commercially prepared soaps on the market.

Here is what I learned:

1.) The median income in America right now is $16.87 per hour gross.  That isn’t even enough money in an hour to buy 5 gallons of laundry detergent using gross income, for sure not enough after taxes and everything else comes out of that check.

2.) The leading name brand soap will cost you about 16.36 minutes per gallon (gross pay) if you are making the median wage in the US.  For the same 1 gallon of homemade soap you are spending 3.46 minutes after figuring cost of supplies and the time spent (about 15 minutes).

So what do you need for laundry soap DIY?

  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1/2 cup Oxiclean
  • 1 cup Super Washing Soda
  • 1 bar of soap (I have seen soap such as fels naphtha, ivory, and zote but I like to use a bar of Dr. Bronner’s)
  • A 5 gallon pail with lid
  • Soap container for dispensing
  • Stove top
  • Grater
  • Pan
  • Water

Each batch of soap will work out to approximately $5.49, this gets approximately 10 gallons of soap.  The cost can be decreased greatly by using one of the less expensive bars of soap and taking advantage of discounts, sales, and clearance.  Even though it costs just a little more I like the Dr. Bronner’s bar because it is a little more eco friendly than the average bar and comes in different scents.

The first time you make the soap you can expect to put in an initial investment of about $20 depending on the container you choose to use for dispensing and the soap you choose to use.  The good news is that the boxes of Borax, Washing Soda, and Oxiclean will last through several loads.  I was able to find everything at Wal-Mart minus the Dr. Bronner’s brand soap but they had every other brand listed.

The longest part of the process is the first step and after that it is pretty straight forward:

Step One:

Grate the bar of soap – a hand held cheese grater works just fine.  I have also used a food processor in the past.

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Step Two:

Add water to the pan and heat until melted.

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Step Three:

Dissolve each powered in hot water and add to the 5 gallon pail – if you don’t do this the powders will clump together and leave chunks in your soap.

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Step Four:

Pour the melted soap and water mixture into the bucket with the dissolved powders.

Step Five:

Add the remaining hot water.

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Step Six:

Mix and cover for the night.  In the morning your soap is ready to be used.  Mix well before transferring into the dispensing container.  The soap will form a sort of separation of gel and water, just make sure to mix it.  In the dispensing container mix 1/2 soap solution with 1/2 water.  The 5 gallon pail that was made will yield 10 gallons of soap.

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I picked up this cute container from Wal-Mart for $8.96 and it holds 1 gallon.  I use the soap just like I would commercial soap and I use a measuring cup from an old commercial container.  The soap can separate in the container so give it a good stir or shake now and then if needed.

I haven’t bought commercial soap for my family for probably two years now – the time (and money) saved is worth the 15 minutes every 7 or so months.  One thing I have noticed?  I can smell commercial laundry soap on individuals clothing, the scent is almost too strong and drives me crazy if my daughter’s clothes are washed at a family members house.

*for a review on using Zote instead of Bronner’s, see this more recent post*

DIY Progress – Kitchen

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So after about a 2 – 3 months without a dishwasher I finally received the new one on Friday!!! I was all set to roll up my sleeves and get into handy woman mode – but then I found that my old dishwasher was hardwired into my dumb electrical box.  I ended up having to hire out the work 😦 but my family knows a lot of different people and I was able to hire someone at a better rate – a someone who did both the electric and the plumbing work instead of needing both an electrician AND a plumber.

So after a $100 (about a $250 savings from hiring with the dishwasher dealer) and two hours I have a pretty new dishwasher.  To be fair, this is not my choice of appliance.  I love the stainless steel look and would LOVE to have stainless appliances but we are keeping in mind that we would like to leave this house sometime soon(ish) and all the other appliances are white … so here we are.

Next up in the kitchen is painting over this ‘lovely’ shade of red and installing backsplash (hopefully).  I asked the man who took care of the dishwasher if he would be able to pull forward our electric boxes when we did the backsplash and he pointed out that we probably need to change the outlets to have the circuit breaker on them due to the proximity to the sink … good to know.

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Of course I would also LOVE to get rid of that impressively blah, ugly flooring but I am not sure that would really be as big of a make it/break it part of the deal as refinishing the original hardwood in the living room and bedrooms, installing drain tile and refinishing the basement.

Why we co-sleep

Our daughter co-sleeps most nights and has since she was about 21 weeks old. Of course we have been cautioned against it and yes, I do know the risks but I also know the risks of not getting enough (or any) sleep. Our pediatrician has warned of the dangers and suggested methods to ‘fix this’ so many times I am surprised she doesn’t look like a Smurf. She has gone from ‘let her cry it out’ to ‘I think you should consider bringing her to a sleep clinic. I love our pediatrician but is she nuts?

I like to think I am fairly self-aware. I know that my choice to co-sleep my daughter is just as much about me and my comfort as it is her. I am a little tired of all the looks, warnings, and openly scorning remarks that people readily give when they hear that our daughter sleeps in our bed. Is it ideal? Maybe not. Does it have risks? Of course but so does breathing, giving birth, driving a car, sleep in a room as an infant away from your parents (Maybe you already knew this but it is a recommendation to have your infant sleep in your room to prevent SIDS).

I didn’t intend to be ‘one of those parents’. I never thought my tiny baby would sleep in my bed, and I certainly thought that I would avoid the drama that goes with trying to break the habit. But my daughter had other plans. From the day she turned 6 weeks old until we changed our schedule for me to go back to work, she was an amazing sleeper. 9+ hours in her crib on her own every night. But I went back to work and she decided she needed to nurse all night EVERY night. And trying to be a good mom and follow my child’s lead, I got up with her – until I NEEDED to sleep. So I would do side lying nursing so I could sleep while she ate. For a while my husband would get up and put her back to bed but eventually that wasn’t enough for her.

We co-sleep because:

  • It works for our family
  • I am a better mom when I sleep
  • I sleep better when my daughter feels, safe, secure, and connected
  • The majority of the rest of the world follows this model – can they all be wrong?
  • We get precious moments every morning – sometimes she wakes me up by rubbing my back, giving me kisses, or she just lights up with a huge smile when I see her and say good morning.

Do I think this is right for everyone? Heck no. Do I recommend it? If it is best for your family, you bet I do. I just wish we could be less divided as a society on this issue and provide support and unbiased facts. So often we hear about how dangerous it is to co-sleep … what if you smoother your baby? I would love to see the numbers nationwide and worldwide. Anecdotally, out of the 4 health care providers I have spoken with only one of them had a child under their medical care fall victim to smothering as a result of co-sleeping, and that provider was a pediatrician for about 20 years. I would speculate the risk to be no greater than that of a SIDS issue.

So to the mom who co-sleeps, enjoy the precious mornings, middle of the night snuggles, and happy smiles for as long as you can. It isn’t easy for your relationship with your spouse, but (especially the early years) sometimes it is about survival.

And to the mom who has a child happily snoozing in the next room. Enjoy the quiet and the time you get after your child goes to bed and before you turn in for the night. Take the time to decompress and keep doing what works for you.

And finally to the healthcare provider, I think it is time to start treating our patients and their families in a holistic fashion. Please provide me with the facts, the risks, the benefits, and the support to make decisions for myself and my family. Parenting is all about trade off and the sleep co-sleeping allows me to get protects my mental health and prevents me from have a breakdown, excessive yelling, and protected me from postpartum depression or even the standard ‘baby blues’ in the start of this journey.

Keeping cool

So as part of the basement mess we are trying to cut cost elsewhere.  Nothing like a fairly sizable unplanned bill to make you reevaluate and renegotiate the budget just a little.  One of the biggest ways to do that we are focusing on is to reduce our use of the air conditioning.  Bonus – it is better for our environment too.  I have read a lot of tips but don’t seem to be able to implement them very well.  One person claimed that her house was always 20 degrees cooler than outside.  I get that there are some potential differences we can’t control for – like plaster walls, shading, how cool it gets at night, number of windows in the house, – but I am struggling to keep it even 5 degrees cooler in my home.  

So far the number one thing that I have found to make a difference wasn’t even mentioned in anything I read and that is blowing the cool air from by basement up the stairs.  This keeps our living room quite cool when we use it.  I just wish it wasn’t going to take until sometime well after September to enjoy our basement – I better get some built in drying racks as part of this packaged deal.

Three things I learned this week – and it is only Wednesday

This week has been CRAZY.  

Crunch time for my online distance learning class and I find that I have yet again let myself down.  I didn’t learn the things I wanted to, I am pushing through to get it all done, my home and my daughter have both received less of my time than they should, my husband has been lucky to get a hello,  don’t really have a great circle of women to lean on right now for these weeks, and the list goes on and on and on.

So I thought it would be centering to share the three things I learned this week.  Unfortunately most of these are lessons learned twice over by now.

1.)  I am getting way too old for this shit.  

So here is the thing – I can’t pinpoint what it is I want to do with my life or find any conviction to say ‘yes this is what I want my life to look like’.  Without that focus I lack the ability to make changes that get me closer to that goal.

2.)  Something HAS to change.  

Refere back to number 1.  The fact is I am not getting younger.  I don’t mind the hard work, the learning, or the whatever else comes my way but for crying out loud I have been dividing my attention in 15 different directions for too long.  It would be nice to be able to focus.

3.)  My life requires some serious prioritization – AKA my parents were right.

As long as I can remember I have had this insane drive to over schedule myself at ALL times.  My dad always used to tell me you can’t do everything.  I would argue that I was doing ‘everything’ so he started changing his comment to ‘you can’t give everything 100%’.  It pains me to admit – but he is right!

What are your tips for keeping cool under pressure and taking a step back to reprioritize?