Category Archives: Family

The Ultimate Sensory Toybox

Lately I’ve been noticing a trend in parenting.

We’re convinced that our children aren’t getting enough “sensory play”, so we manufacture opportunities to feel a new texture, hear a new sound or absorb a new odor–yeah, I said absorb a new odor.

You know you’ve made the essential oil play dough.

Me too.

With Sparkles.

We’ve all seen the Pinterest boards. We’ve all made the busy bags, paint squishy thingy-dealys, and pop bottles full of beans. The’re fun. And they’re super handy for the plane ride, or for seriously inclement weather, or for preschool rooms where a dozen sets of fingers must be kept out of mischief.  They have serious applications in occupational therapy.

While they definitely have their places, and may be very important for kiddos who struggle with various sensory disorders, it’s been slowly dawning on me that for most kids these things are almost completely unnecessary (I say almost because there will always be waiting rooms and airplane rides).

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But how will you make sure your child is adequately stimulated, you ask?

Friends, I’m here to tell you, there’s something better out there.

You know, OUT THERE.

Where there is no electrical outlet for your glue gun.

If we all just let (or even force) our children outside in good weather, AND in bad weather, with and without shoes, coats, hats and toys, EVERY SINGLE DAY, I promise they will get all the sensory stimulus they need.  They will even learn some stuff.  They will learn how much water makes a mud which will squish sloppily through the fingers. Maple leaves smash into a delightful green slime.  Water from a hose laying in the sun is HOT!  Falling on the rocks can hurt.  Balancing on a slippery log, or steep porch rail requires concentration.  Twigs from the cherry tree are bitter.

Who needs a playhouse?

When they are new at playing in the actual world, it may take practice and getting used to, but before long the little tykes run, jump, climb, squish, smash, sniff, and build until their little sensory banks are full.

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Then they come in the house (hosing them off before you let them in is optional) and probably take a nap.  Do you know what that means?

YOU can take a nap too!  

You don’t have to seize the opportunity to bedazzle a rain stick for them, because they went out and heard, felt, tasted the actual rain.

Am I saying you should toss your busy bags?

NO!  Like I said before, they have their place.

But let’s also not attempt to do the job of nature with any number of clever doodads.

It’s just too sad.

Getting Out Of The River

Hold on, it’s a wordy one!

One of the things I mentioned in my last post about letting go of things that are no longer working for us, was bringing our girls home for the upcoming school year.

My long-time readers , all three of you, (Hey Paul, Lisa, Denise, how are you? ) already know that Homeschooling has been on my heart for about a million years. Honestly, before we even had our first kid, I was trying to dream up a way to convince Nate that it was a good way to go.

He had some reservations, because he’s a good Dad, and naturally didn’t want anyone turning his kids into “those weird homeschoolers”.  Also he knows me, and if we’re honest I will have be very diligent against laziness. You know the stereotype where homeschoolers wear pajamas all day? That’s a thing because of people like me.

Then there was the argument that we both attended public schools and turned out fine. Which is true, and our kids would probably turn out fine if we left them in school, too. In fact, our school is a very good one, as public schools go. The kids even like it, so why rock the boat?

For me, the ultimate reason is that I want to raise my own children, and from day one, sending them to school felt like shared custody.

I want to let them sleep in because we stayed up to see the Aurora Borealis, but they’re not ill, and we didn’t plan ahead, so that’s an unexcused absence.

I want them to learn at their own pace, but that’s disruptive to their class.

I want them to have mental energy for gardening, nature walks, Bible study, and really great literature.  As things stand now, they just don’t have much left at the end of the day.  I know how I felt after a long day in the classroom, and it’s not hard to understand why they want to stare mindlessly at screens when they get home.   Of course there are great days when the sun shines down from heaven, and angels sing, and we all still have something left after homework, so we go for a walk or visit neighbors, but more often than not, we just lump.  I have nothing against a relaxed evening mind you, in fact, I prefer them.  I just wish there were time for all the things.

As it turns out there is; it’s between eight and three.

When I was working in the school one thing that bothered me was the amount of what I called shuffle time.  Time students spent  being shuffled from one place to the next,  one activity to the next, inside, outside, lunch, gym, music.  All noble and necessary, but so inefficient.  They did the best they could, of course, everything just takes so much longer with thirty kids.  It drove me crazy, and added up to a lot of time when kids are at school, but not actually in the classroom.  Not that every moment has to be spent at a desk to be useful, I’m a firm believer that not all learning takes place in the classroom.  I’d also argue, however, that anything they need to learn from standing in a line, silently walking from place to place, can be accomplished by the end of kindergarten.

The point is; we can get our “sit down” work done in a fraction of the time they’d be away at school, and have the rest of the day for the rest of the things.  Does anyone else hear that Chorus of Angels?

And then there was the lice. . .

And the common core. . .

And the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  .  .

And a couple hundred conversations where my husband said, “They just need to. . .”

And I replied, “Yes.  But they aren’t going to.  This is the way it is.”

And the stark realization that we were swimming against the current, when what we needed to do was get out of the river.

So that’s what we’re doing.

 

 

Letting Go

As I started the new year, I had one major goal in mind: Getting Dressed.

I’m only half joking.

For the past year or so I’ve pretty well been living in the same crusty clothes, because I’m not going anywhere, and let’s face it, someone is going to snot on me.    From a purely laundry-logistics point of view it makes perfect sense to not get dressed.

Unfortunately it lends to also not doing other things, like uh, leaving the house, or showering, and let me tell you, things can start to stagnate.  When one hops out of bed and gets dressed right away, she is ready to face whatever the day has to offer.  Sunshine beckoning a walk?  Ready.  Friends heading to the library?  Ready.  Need to run to the grocery?  Ready.  UPS man at the door?   You get the idea.

Getting dressed is a pretty good resolution, so I’m keeping it.

Lately however, I’ve been slowly coming around to something bigger, something that could seriously change the direction of daily life, long term goals, and maybe even this blog.

I tend to hold onto things.  I hold onto tupperware lids, I hold onto old jeans, I hold onto big ideas.  I hold onto physical clutter, mental clutter, emotional clutter, despite the fact that they all bog me down and ultimately make me unproductive.  So this year, in addition to getting dressed, I’m going to work on letting go of things that no longer work for me.

Some examples of things I’ll be working on:

  • de-clutter closets
  • get rid of unused kitchen stuff
  • keep an ongoing Goodwill box by the back door
  • not plant foods in my garden that my family won’t eat
  • use disposable diapers for night and travel
  •  bring the kids home for the upcoming school year
  • butchering and replacing layed-out hens
  • replace/enlarge chicken run
  • evaluate weather I really want to keep blogging
  • not comparing our life/ garden/ ideas to yours
  • quit extracurricular activities we don’t enjoy

I’ll keep you posted!

Unwelcome Critters! The unofficial scoop on head lice.

Let me start this post with a rant.

We are farmish people. We like critters. We consider a certain amount of dirt good for our health. We like the idea of our kids digging in the mud. You can tell by looking at us. We are almost never totally put-together and spiffy. But there is one little line I just have to draw when it comes to filth.

Head lice.

I hate those guys.

They are constantly going around in our kids school, and we’ve caught them more than once.

Naturally, we treat our heads, wash all of our clothes and bedding, vacuum all the rugs and furniture, comb, comb, comb for nits, and repeat. It’s a lot of work, taking all the necessary steps. It’s exhausting for me, painful for the kids, and absolute murder on the drain field, not to mention the pocket book.

When we’re sure we are lice free, we re-enter society. We send our kids back to school, where they pick up a fresh case and bring it back home.

AAARRRGH!

Okay, it’s not that they bring it right back. It’s usually a while before we make the fatal mistake of forgetting the anti-lice detangling spray, but It’s maddening. It’s embarrassing. It makes me itch just thinking of it.

Most schools have abandoned the “No Nit Policy” citing information such as this.

So we’re just supposed to be OK with our kids getting lice on a semi-regular schedule? I’m not.

In case you’re new to the wonderful world of cooties, here’s the scoop.  This is not the official scoop, which I happen to think is part of the problem, but the real dirt.  This is what I’ve learned through our own experiences and by talking with other moms.

  • Your children may complain of itching for several weeks before you can visually see that they have lice.  This has been true both times my kids have had it.  They started itching, and I checked, and re-checked,  but saw no evidence of lice, then one day BAM, full scale visible-to-the-naked-eye infestation.  GROSS
  • Your child may not itch at all…ever.  You may just stumble upon the grisly discovery when you decided to do a french braid.  GROSS!
  • When another parent lets you in on the news that there is lice going around (because your school probably won’t) you’ll do a check, naturally.  But again, you may not see any lice or nits.  They are very hard to see, especially in the early stages of an infestation.  I’ve had parents tell me that they never would have seen the lice or nits if it hadn’t been for using the comb “just in case”  Here’s what they look like by the way.
  • You may see red dots, but no lice or nits, and think to yourself, oh no wonder Junior is itchy, he has a nasty rash.  News Flash: that nasty rash is lice bites.  Sorry.
  • Whichever treatment you use, the comb is KING!  The plastic ones are just okay, the metal one is the one you want.  (not an affiliate, but maybe I should be.)Since the majority of the OTC treatments do not kill nits, you will need to do several nit-checks with the comb after your initial treatment.  I’ve taken to doing them every single time I wash my kids hair.
  • Sitting outside in the bright sun is your best hope for seeing the nits.  Yes, that’s right.  You’re going to have to go out on the front porch and let all the neighbors watch you nit-pick your kids head.  HOORAY!
  • Don’t forget, we now have super-lice!  That’s right, many of the lice in our communities are now resistant to treatment. Please refer to “The comb is KING”.   HOORAY!

I’m well aware that this is something most families with school aged children will deal with at least once, but I’m pretty annoyed at the frequency with which it’s happening in our neighborhood.  I feel that the treat and return policy is a major player here, and could very well be responsible for Super Lice.  It makes perfect sense that if you can’t return your child to school, and get back to work yourself, until your child is nit-free that you will be extra vigilant and make darn sure you’ve gotten every one of the buggers.  On the other hand if you can treat your kid and get back to school and work the next day, it’s very easy to get swept back into being a busy parent, and forget the subsequent nit-checks.  Now you have the most resistant nit hatching into a new stronger louse.  I agree with the folks at the National Pediculosis Association;   a couple years of this and it’s easy to see why we now have Super Lice.  GROSS.

Please people, when the cooties come to town, whatever your school’s policy, I’m begging you to check, treat, and make darn sure your kids are lice and nit free before you send them back to school, daycare, sports and church.

Thank you.

What have I missed, Mamas?  Please feel free to add your advice in the comments.

Holy Cow, There’s a Baby Coming Soon, We Gotta Get Busy!!

Just in case any of you were under the silly misconception that we “Have It All Together” around here, I’ll spend this week sharing the things I’d still like to accomplish before the baby comes, which I feel will be soon.

Some are things that are directly related to bringing home a baby, and others are regular housekeeping, and turning of the seasons projects which we’d like to take care of before we’re outnumbered.

Here’s what I’m up to today:

AM:

General tidying of the house

Start some laundry (work on this all day–try to get in a few loads)

Start making space for the crib in the girls room.

Monday PM:

Go around the yard with a wagon, picking up garbage (we had a party over the weekend, plus we have kids and it’s always windy here, so if anything is left out it gets blown all around)

Start a pile for a dump run.

Also there is Camp Fire tonight, and the usual meals, and getting ready for tomorrow to be done.  I usually babysit a neighborhood kid or two in the afternoons, which is why I try to do the outside stuff then.  They love to play outside, as they should, and I want to let them soak up the sun while we have sun to soak up.

See you tomorrow for a progress report and a new to-do list!

 

Packing The Hospital Bag!!

It’s hard to believe that it is week 35 already, but here we are! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’m starting to get that “I don’t think I can get much bigger” feeling.

Unfortunately, we all know that’s not true.  I can, and probably will, get bigger. Baby Hazel with be making her appearance sooner or later though, and since her big sisters both came in the 37th week, it’s time to get the hospital bag ready to go.

We tend to be light packers, as if packing light will ensure us a short hospital stay.

So what’s in my bag, you ask?

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Bath Towel
  • Flip Flops for the shower
  • Moisturizer
  • A fresh set of contacts
  • Contact solution
  • Eyeglasses/case
  • Hair brush
  • Hair elastics
  • Undies
  • Robe
  • Yoga pants
  • Nursing top
  • Nursing bra
  • Pads
  • Jammies for Baby Hazel
  • Going home outfit and hat for Baby Hazel
  • Camera

What are your Must Haves for a planned hospital stay?

Since one big sister has expressed an interest in coming with us to the hospital to welcome baby to the world, we’ll pack a bag for her too.  We want her to have some comfort items in case things drag on longer than we expect.

Both prior labors and deliveries were 5-ish hours, start to finish, so that’s what we’re praying for this time too.  If only these things could just be predictable!

Alas, they cannot so we’ll be packing a Big-sis bag too.

  • New coloring book
  • New crayons
  • A chapter book
  • ipad and charger
  • Snacks
  • Water bottle
  • Small blanket
  • Cash and change for cafeteria or vending machine purchases

She’ll also have her own support person (Daddy has to stay with me) in case it’s too much for her or she just gets restless and wants to leave.  Have you had your older children in the delivery room, and if so what do you recommend we bring or do for her?

I’m having lots of contractions whenever I’m on my feet, which is often.  I also feel tired, but very motivated, so I may just be pushing myself too hard to get loose ends tied up before baby comes.  Nothing major, mind you, just little trivial matters like, oh, say cleaning the entire house, setting up the crib, organizing baby clothes, shopping for last minute stuff, like a car seat.  No big deal.  I’m sure I can make it all happen as long as she isn’t any earlier than her sisters were.

Hubby has been home with me for the past week, which has been a tremendous help.   I’ve had him running things up and down stairs, as well as getting the girls on the bus in the mornings.  It’s nice to be able to settle down for a cup of tea as soon as the “Get Out The Door Rush” is over.

Between lots of rain, and lots of contractions I’m woefully behind on getting the garden cleaned up and put to bed for fall.  That may be one for the Honey-Do list.

All in all, I have to admit I’m getting pretty antsy over here!

Baby On A Budget: Diapers

If you’ve been following Baby On A Budget, you know that we were surprised this spring to find out that we have baby #3 on the way, and that since I quit my “serious” job last fall, we need to keep the baby related expenses to a minimum this time.

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In the first two parts of the series I shared a little on how we’ve taken care of our baby gear and clothing needs very economically.

Now we move onto what is, for many families, a large and ongoing cost associated with having a baby.  Diapering.  Ah, the joys of motherhood!

There are three main choices when it comes to diapering your baby, disposable, cloth or hybrid.

You can all-out disposable diaper, and I’ll never judge you for it.  It is by far the most popular way to diaper for most parents today.  We mostly used “‘sposies” with our first two kids, even though in my heart of hearts I wanted to be a cloth diaper mama.  More about that later.  If you do choose to disposable diaper your baby, plan on spending around $40/month for a budget diaper.  We loved Kirkland Signature from Costco, and Up and Up from target.  There was a time when I loved Luvs, but the quality declined to the point I couldn’t justify the savings any more.  I did some internet research today and was surprised to see that diaper prices haven’t really increased since we had our last baby nearly six years ago.  At least something is holding steady!  If you choose to go the ‘sposie route, you’ll probably also buy wipes, at around $20 for a two or three month supply, and you may or may not need to upgrade your garbage service.  We typically use the smallest can available from Waste Management, but had to upgrade while we were disposable diapering our girls.  The cost of upgrading will vary by your location.   Assuming you choose to disposable diaper, using an economy brand, you’ll spend around $1620 to diaper each child for three years, not counting the cost of added garbage service.

Another option is to cloth diaper, and it’s what I plan to do with this newest baby.  The cost of getting started in cloth diapering is, for many, a little off-putting.  If you go with brand new, name brand, all-in-one or pocket diapers you’ll spend between $15-$25,  PER DIAPER (EEEK!) and you’ll need about 24-36 diapers depending on how often you want to do diaper laundry.  A brand new basic diaper and cover system will cost more like $140, and should be almost all you need from 8-30lbs.  I’d add a set of newborn sized covers and prefolds, for around $42 because in my experience the “infant” sized diapers and covers are way too big for a newborn, and the longer you use the adorable, trim, tiny and (no denying) convenient newborn sposies, the harder it will be to make the transition to cloth.

Last of all there is the hybrid route, or as some call it the “gateway diaper”.  The hybrid has a washable, reusable diaper cover, much like you would use with cloth diapers, and a “flushable”, biodegradable insert.  The start up cost for these diapers is similar to that of cloth diapering, new or used, respectively. Unfortunately you also have the ongoing cost, which is similar to disposables, and they may or may not actually be flushable depending on your system.  These downfalls are why many call these “gateway” diapers.  People get tired of buying the inserts and start using cloth inserts, or they get tired of unclogging their toilets, and start tossing them into the trash, and then figure since they’re tossing them anyway, they might as well save themselves the laundry and go full ‘sposie.

Our cloth diaper stash is a combination of (barely used) leftover prefolds and Bummis Super Whisper Wraps from our last baby, some prefolds from a local second hand store, a ton of receiving blankets we had around and from thrift stores, and a couple of good ebay/facebook purchases of 4 newborn sized covers and 4 one-size pocket diapers.  I also recently cut up a bunch of stained and worn out cotton tee shirts into newborn sized flats, and upcycled wool diaper covers out of a sweater I had gotten at a yard sale and ended up never wearing .  I’ll let you know how well those work.  🙂

Not counting what I spent on the diapers left over from our previous baby, (It was 6 years ago, I can’t remember what they cost!) I spent $54 on the above stash which, very likely, would have covered our needs.  Then I saw another great deal that I couldn’t pass up on a Facebook group!  For another $50, I scored 10 brand new, still-in-the-package, Fuzzi Bunz perfect sized pocket diapers!  Those of you who follow cloth diapering know that was a steal.

What about the cost of all that extra washing?  Good Question.  I make my own laundry detergent and have stocked up on extra supplies to continue doing that for around $20. That’s more than double what I spend on a typical 6 month supply of my homemade laundry detergent.  Depending on where you live, the cost of extra water, and electricity to run the washer and dryer may make cloth diapering cost prohibitive.  We are thankful to have a well, and some of the nation’s least expensive electricity, so for us it makes sense.  You’ll have to do the math to see if it works for you.

Grand Total for diapering (unless I find another impossible-to-pass-up steal): $124  (plus the cost of doing an extra 2-3 wash loads per week…I’ll let you know after we see a power bill with the diaper loads included.)

Now that we have our poop catching situation in hand we’ll move onto poop making.

That’s right, come back next time and we’ll dig into how to feed your little guy without incurring an entire new grocery budget.  (Most of you probably already know the short answer, right?!)

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This post will be shared at The Homestead Barn Hop, The Homemaking Link-up, What You Wish Wednesday, and Simple Life Sunday.  Links go live throughout the week.

External links in this post are NOT affiliate links, just wanted to give examples of available choices.  

 

 

Baby On A Budget: Clothing

Welcome Back for the second installment of my Baby On a Budget Series: Clothing! If you missed the first installment of this series you can find it below.

Baby On A Budget: Gear

When we left off I had most of the gear I need for the new baby. I had spent $46 dollars, and budgeted $200 for a car seat. Since I have a few months to keep looking before the baby arrives, I’m holding out hope that I can find the perfect used car seat, but keeping that $200 budgeted in case I have to purchase one new.  ***Update*** I’ve discovered that a less expensive, but also highly rated car seat actually measures better for my car and costs $100 less brand new!  HOORAY!  Still keeping my eyes open for a good used one, but for now I can budget that extra hund-o somewhere else.

For now I’ve moved onto clothing our sweet little sugar bean.

Everyone knows how hard it is to resist the adorable little pink and blue outfits at the clothing stores. They are so precious. Go ahead and let yourself buy one or two. Get a “going home from the hospital” or “first Christmas” outfit. After that, reign yourself in and think long and hard about what your baby actually needs on a daily basis.

Let me tell you up front, in case you didn’t already know, babies grow FAST! That means good quality and gently worn baby clothes can be had for next to nothing if you’ll only take the time to look.

A winter baby with a stay at home mom (who actually intends to do a lot of staying home) will be perfectly happy in onesies and sleep-and-play outfits.  Let the Grandmas and Aunties have their fun by buying a few cutesy things to dress baby in for outings.

I’ve been thrift-shopping for several warm rompers, some onesies and a few pairs of cozy pajamas in a couple sizes.  It’s so easy to go overboard and buy, buy, buy all those adorable little outfits.  Rest assured though, when you have a baby (especially a girl) bags and boxes of adorable and barely used clothes appear on your doorstep, as if by magic, at regular intervals.   Keep what you can use, and bless another family with the rest.

If some weird twist of fate leaves you bereft in the Magic Clothes Fairy department, don’t despair.  You can still find plenty of great deals.  If there is a lack of good thrift and consignment stores in your area, take a quick look at Craigslist.

A craigslist/baby and kids search of the term “LOT” today yielded me a full page of baby clothing lots ranging in price from $10-$100.  Of course one would have to narrow the list to the appropriate gender, season and size for the baby in question, but the savings are definitely out there to be had, particularly if you start looking long before you’re in need, and take your time.  It’s totally okay to be extra choosy when buying used.

Another great option is yard sales.  Baby clothes are often priced at fifty cents or a quarter at yard sales.   I’ve mentioned before that I don’t frequent yard sales very much, because I don’t live near where they tend to take place.  When there is one in my neck of the woods, I always try to stop by, especially if they’ve advertised baby and kid items.

Here’s the thrift store newborn layette so far:

WP_20140828_009I’ve spent $26.42 on clothes, about half came from my all day thrifting trip a couple weeks back, and the rest came from local thrift stores.  This includes some wipes, and receiving blankets that I plan to turn into newborn sized flats and more wipes. The prefolds and diaper covers you see were part of the original $46 from part one.  I’m keeping my eyes open for  a few more sleep and play outfits since we’re going to be cloth diapering, and I expect to have a few leaks, complete with resulting extra outfit changes, until I figure out which diaper/fold/cover combo works for our (typically skinny) newborns.

Now, because we’ve been thrifty, patient and willing to accept the generosity of our friends and family we are nearly ready to bring our baby home.  Next on the list of things we need to think about for our baby is diapering.  Stop by next week to see how we plan to keep our baby clean and dry without breaking the bank.

Total so far: $72.42.

 

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Sharing at The Homestead Barn Hop, Simple Life Sunday, What You Wish Wednesday, and The Homemaking Link-up.  Links go live throughout the week.

 

Settling Into a Homemaking Routine

With the “Lazy Days of Summer” winding down, and school starting soon, I’ve been making an effort to switch myself from “Summer Break” mode to “Full Time Homemaker” mode.

Although I’ve technically been keeping house since I first moved in with my husband, I’ve never really been a homemaker. I’m the kind of person who has a hard time juggling responsibilities. I’ve always managed, but there is always one thing that will take priority and get my “Best Effort” while everything else gets whatever is left over. When I had an outside job that always got my best effort, and my family and home got nursed along, one laundry load and meal at a time. I was acutely aware that my family was getting the leftovers and I had a lot of guilt over it.

Now that I’m a full time homemaker, I’m making an effort to settle into a routine to help me keep things running smoothly as well as allow plenty of time for loving on my family.

I have time to cook now, so my loved ones shouldn’t have to eat take-out three times a week. We enjoy take-out once in a while, mind you, but I’m making a real effort not to rely on it. I also don’t want to start relying on expensive (and sorry, but kind of gross) school breakfasts and lunches, when I can provide as good or better nutrition for less by taking a few minutes a day to make breakfast and help the kids pack lunches.

Since I’m no longer making a serious financial contribution, I also feel it’s my job to make sure it’s easier for my husband to go out and earn our living. We all fall down sometimes, but my goals are that he is greeted by a reasonably neat, welcoming home after work, that he has a good meal to eat at night, and that he has plenty of clean clothes in the morning. He should not have to worry about the bills AND whether or not he has clean socks.  (I can hear my feminist friends shouting “But you worried about clean socks AND earning a living when you worked!”, which is true.  But if he’d been home while I was working I would have appreciated a home cooked meal and full dresser drawers, so that’s what I’m trying to do for him.  I guess clean socks are my Love Language 😉  )

While my routine is still very much a work-in-progress, here are some resources I’ve been using to help me get things ironed out.

Meal Plans:

I’ve been trying to make a meal plan based loosely on the themed one at Blissful and Domestic.  I use a wipe-off weekly meal planner which I’ve customized with a good old Sharpie.  This week it looks like this:

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I already had my week half planned when I found the theme idea, which is why some of the meals don’t match the theme.  I like the idea of a go-to menu, but thought my family would scoff at the same seven dinners week after week.  I like that this one offers a framework with some flexibility.  I tweaked it to work better for our eating habits, and probably will many more times.  Since I don’t plan lunches, I’ll probably end up using that column for a working grocery list throughout the week.

Chore Charts:
I’ve been using this one from A Bowl Full of Lemons for myself, and even though I don’t always get to everything on the list, it has helped me get a handle on the daily mess.

I also took a few minutes to think about the things I nag the kids about each day and made a chore chart for them. It’s not as pretty and Pinterest-y as some I’ve seen, but it works for us. I divided the chores into three time slots. These are not limited to personal care chores. I think it’s important for kid’s confidence and sense of responsibility to take care of things that benefit the household, not just themselves.

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Their chores are as follows.

Morning:
Feed and water cat, dog, chickens, and rabbits. Chickens and rabbits generally only need topped off and refreshed every few days, but the kids need to check each day.

Afternoon:
Gather Eggs
Tidy Up The Living Room (so Daddy doesn’t have to come home to our mess)
Water Flower Pots (Free Pass on rainy days!)

Evening
Pick up toys from downstairs.
Get dirty clothes into the wash.  (A Bowl Full of Lemons recommends running a complete load first thing, but I prefer to start the day with an open and empty washer and just toss things in as the day rolls along.  I do my regular washes on cold, so I don’t worry about separating stuff.  It all just goes right in and gets washed and dried after the evening chores and kitchen clean up.)
Pick up paper clutter.  (Are my kids the only ones who leave trails of confetti behind them? No matter how beautiful or precious a piece of their artwork was when they made it at 3:00, if it’s on the floor at bedtime, I’m putting it in the trash.  Having Paper Clutter Patrol on the chore chart greatly reduces the frequency that I find masterpieces on the floor at bedtime.)

I’m also toying with the idea of having them take turns being Mom’s Helper after Baby Hazel is here, and doing little things for me throughout the day. I’m not looking for a slave here, just someone to run and fetch a fresh diaper, or grab me a glass of water when I realize I’m dying of thirst just after I get the baby settled and latched to nurse.

So far the kids are responding really well to the chore chart and taking great pride in putting a check mark next to each completed chore.  I LOVE that I don’t have to remind them ten thousand times what they need to do each day.  I simply announce “Morning Chores!” for instance, in as cheerful a voice as I can muster, (it’s morning after all) and they hop to it. It’s changing our lives!

I haven’t quite figured out where and how lawn and garden chores fit in, and I’ll admit that the lawn and garden have suffered for it.  I’ve just been watering, doing only the most demanding weeding, and harvesting when we go out to play.  I haven’t mowed in ages. The grass doesn’t need it so much, but the weeds on the perimeter of the property are getting out of hand.  Lovely isn’t it, how all the hose-dragging I do to water the lawn barely keeps the grass alive, yet the weeds are thriving?  The neighbors probably hate us.

I also have a few bigger projects/goals that I’ll need to find time for soon:

Create a kids closet and organization scheme in the laundry room, so that toys can move into the girls’ bedroom closet.

Clean and rearrange the girls’ room to make room for Baby Hazel.

Set up the crib/baby corner in the girls’ room.

Pre-wash/re-fluff my cloth diaper stash.

As much as I wish I wasn’t sending the girls out to public school this year, I do realize that when they are at school is likely when I’ll be able to devote a big chunk of time to getting all these things done.

Do you have a routine that works for you?  Do you include a time slot in your daily or weekly schedule for big projects or just take time for those as you find it?

If you’ve blogged about your routine feel free to share a link in the comments!

This post may be shared at: The Homestead Barn Hop, The Homemaking Link Up, What You Wish Wednesday, and Simple Life Sunday. Links go live throughout the week.

Baby On A Budget: Gear

Welcome to the first post in my new series, Baby On A Budget. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As many of you know, last fall I left my “serious” job for one that paid a lot less, but allowed me a TON more time with my kiddos. It was great.

Then this spring we discovered that we have another sweet blessing on the way. With the smaller paycheck, it just wouldn’t have made sense to pay for daycare after the baby comes, so I’ve now left that job to be a full-time stay at home mommy, which is WONDERFUL, but not terribly lucrative. While I never was a big spender in the baby department, it’s especially important this round that we keep the baby related expenses to a minimum.

The first thing that many of us start doing when there is a baby on the way is to plan our “Dream Nursery”. I must admit that those designer nurseries in the catalogs are absolutely adorable. But let’s get one thing straight right now. Those perfectly coordinated, brand new, designer and name brand nursery sets are for Mom. The baby doesn’t give a hoot where he sleeps so long as he is loved, fed and cozy. I’d add that he should absolutely be safe as well, but at his age, he doesn’t care much about that. Good thing he has a mommy who can take care of that detail for him.

While there is nothing wrong with spending a lot on your baby if you can and want to, I’d like to demonstrate that it is entirely unnecessary to spend a fortune, and in fact very easy to find everything your bundle of joy needs at a fraction of the cost of just that brand new coordinated designer nursery.

Now then, let’s try to sort out the difference between needs and wants.  First, I think it’s important to recognize that household rhythms, parenting styles, and even babies are different for every family.  So you very well may need something that I would find myself rarely using.  Keeping that in mind, I’m going to run down a list of commonly purchased baby gear and whether it’s worth buying based on the way my family works.  

  • Crib: Most Americans would agree that a crib falls into the Need category.  What many don’t realize is that you may not need it right away. I kept my most recent baby in her bassinet next to my bed, and only used the crib for occasional napping until she was around 5 months old.  Our oldest, on the other hand, slept in her crib (with forays into my bed for night nursing) from day one.
  • Bassinet:  While I did use one for 5 months, I’d put this in the want category, as long as you have a crib or another safe place for your baby to sleep.  It is a very convenient item to have though.
  • Changing table: Nice to have one with a strap once baby learns that she can escape mid-diaper change. Unless you plan to keep it in the living room, you probably won’t use it much.  Not a need.
  • Play pen: Not a need, but can be useful for travel, or if your baby’s room isn’t on the main floor and you want to keep an eye on him while he naps.
  • Stroller: Only a need if you anticipate that you’ll be doing a lot of walking longer distances than you can comfortably carry your baby and the stuff you bring with you when you go.
  • Car Seat: Unless you absolutely never ride in a car this is a need.
  • Baby Swing: Not a need.  But can be a very worth your money if you have a baby who likes to swing.  It can save your sanity and buy you precious moments to get things done.
  • Bouncy Chair:  Not a need.  But again, can buy you moments if your baby likes it.
  • Baby Bath: Not a need.  Your baby will be perfectly happy to be washed in the sink, or in the regular tub with you.
  • Diaper Bag: If you ever leave the house you will need something to carry a few things for the baby.  It doesn’t have to be an actual diaper bag, however.  A backpack, an old overnight bag, or even a grocery bag will work in a pinch.  My mother-in-law actually preferred to toss a couple diapers, wipes and onesies into a grocery bag rather than carry the giant, stuffed to the gills, HEAVY diaper bag I had for my older girls.
  • Diaper genie: Not a need.  Seriously, just take out the trash when it gets stinky.
  • Wipes warmer:  I’ve heard babies like warm wipes, but I’ve successfully raised two through the diaper stage without ever owning one.  Not a need.
  • Baby Monitor:  How big is your house?  I can hear practically everything in our smallish 1915 farm house.  I did however use one with a receiver that I could clip on my belt to go out and do yard work while the baby napped.  It was nice to have, but not a need.
  • High Chair:  My oldest never had one until she was almost a year old.  If it is a Need in your eyes, it can be put off for at least 5 or 6 moths after the baby is born.

This list could go on and on.  Bottom line is that you don’t have to buy or use every gadget that has been invented and marketed to you.  Think about your lifestyle, choose the items you think will be useful to you, and leave the rest on the shelf.

Once you’ve decided what you do want to have, don’t run out to the big box store, or for goodness sake, a baby boutique and get everything brand new.  While it may seem unfair to your precious bundle to make him sleep on a used mattress, or ride in a used stroller, think about what you plan to do with that item after your baby outgrows it.  You’ll probably use it for your next baby.  So used is good enough for your second baby, but not the first? Babies just don’t put much wear and tear on these things.  They can easily last for several babies worth of use.  I’ve actually gotten some nice used items, ran them through both of my kids, and sold them for the same price I paid.  I felt like I won the lottery!

So where do you find it if you aren’t getting it at the baby gear store?

  • Friends and Family:  When you announce that you are expecting, you’ll likely get many offers of hand-me-downs from friends.  If the items are in good, safe working order, and gender neutral, take them!  If you end up with something that works better for you later, you can always ask your friend if she would like her item back, or if she would rather you pass it on.  This is, by far, how I’ve gotten most of my baby gear for all of my babies.  If you don’t have a large family, or are new in town and haven’t made a lot of friends yet, you may have to rely more on the other methods, but can still get most of what you need very inexpensively.
  • Yard Sales:  If you live in a populated area or near a nice neighborhood, yard sales can be a gold mine.  Since I live about a 30 minute drive from our nearest large town, I only go to yard sales if they advertise an item I’ve been looking for, and happen to fall on one of my “town days”.
  • Thrift and consignment stores:  While you’ll have to do some digging, thrift stores can hide many good treasures and usually at great prices.  Consignment stores will have the treasures pre-sorted and on display, but you can expect to pay a little more.
  • Internet Sales sites:  I used to use craigslist.com quite a bit, but lately have found that buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook usually have more of what I’m looking for and usually closer to home.  Take a look at what’s available in your area.  Often when a family is “done” having babies they will sell everything either in a lot or by the piece.  (I put “done” in quotes, because I sold and gave away all my baby gear about a year ago and here I am looking for all that gear again 😉 )  Just to give you an idea of what is available in our area, today I looked at Craigslist and saw a crib with a mattress for $75, a swing for $20, a carseat for $50, and a changing table for $45.  Those were just a few items from the first half of the page.  Often if an item isn’t selling fast enough, the seller will take offers.

I started gathering items for our new baby about two months ago, and so far I’ve spent $46.  All I still need to get in the “Gear” department is a car seat, and maybe I’ll eventually pick up a high chair or booster seat.  I intend to be extra picky about the car seat I buy, for obvious safety reasons, and also because it needs to fit between the two older kids in the back seat of the car I already own.  I’m prepared to spend a little more or possibly buy a new one, which I’ll keep in good shape and resell when I’m “done” with it.  If I have to get the one I’ve had my eye on new, I’ll spend about $200.

Assuming I buy a new car seat, that’ll total about $250 so far.

Let’s have a look at some popular nurseries online.

You can get this one which includes a crib (no mattress), changing table, and a dresser for around $300.

This one, on the other hand will run you closer to $1400. Even if you get the “budget” option you’ve already paid more for just a crib, dresser, and changing table (still no mattress or bedding, or the cute little teddy bear that you know you’ll want to prop up on the dresser top), than I’ve paid for a crib, a crib mattress, a bassinet, a baby bouncer, two strollers, a play pen, a Bumbo seat, a Boppy pillow, a dozen newborn prefolds, 4 newborn diaper covers, and a car seat (assuming I have to buy it new) .  There’s a good chance I’m forgetting something I have already gotten and stashed away for later too.

The baby will also need some clothes before she arrives in December, so I’ll be doing some shopping in the next few months.  I’ll share what I find and how much I spend in Baby On A Budget: Clothes, coming up soon.

Again, if you have a lot of extra money and want to spend a lot on your baby, that is okay. I’d just hate to have new moms and dads out there wringing their hands wondering how to afford everything the baby will “need”. Rest assured, your new baby doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune if you are thoughtful, creative, and patient.

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Sharing at The Homestead Barn Hop,  Raising Homemakers, What You Wish Wednesday and Simple Life Sunday.