Thursday, September 25, 2014

What Does A New Mom Need? A Post About Coming Home Gifts.

What do you get a friend who just had a baby?  They need a survival kit!  Seriously, the wounds are still fresh from my last son.  Any offering is definitely appreciated.  I sincerely mean it when I say, "It's the thought that counts" when it comes to gift-giving in general.  Even if you aren't actually buying something or sending money, there is something really nice and comforting about the simple act of taking the time to call to congratulate someone or to send a card in the mail when life's big moments happen.  I think it has to do with a person feeling like they belong to a sense of community or family. 

My youngest boys are 17 months apart and we don't have any family here. We don't know a whole lot of people so here, so there were no baby showers or casserole trains.  However, we did receive some gifts in the mail and some monetary gifts, for which I am SO appreciative.  Those things are indeed nice, especially if it's your first child.  However, in the wee hours of the night and during those sleepless early days of exhaustion what I really needed couldn't be bought at Target.

Even if you don't know a person that well, take the time to call her or send an email to see how they're holding up.  Being in a place far from home, it was comforting when friends and family would call or someone would send me a message online but I still felt kind of lonely not knowing too many people here.  It can be really isolating as a mom stuck in the house all day anywhere, let alone in a new place. I
t was nice to know someone was thinking about me and my family.  

That being said, what tops a phone call?  A small token, from one mother to another, acknowledging the difficulties faced in those early days.  New moms don't always feel like it's okay to let go.  It's okay for them to be exhausted.  It's okay for them to cry and to be unsure.  It's okay to just start crying out of the blue because you are so happy to be holding this baby.  It's okay to ask visitors to wait before coming over.  It's okay for your house to be messy and one of the most important things- It's okay to ask for help and to accept help from those who want to give it to you.  It's a joyful time but it is also a time filled with lots of emotions and I truly think that it does indeed take a village to raise a child.  

If you are so inclined to want to give something to a new mom home with baby, here are a few ideas that I would suggest.  Some of the items could be put in a "care package" for a "special delivery".  I'm going to try to list them in my own preference for importance.

Number One: House Cleaning

Because who has time to clean showers now?  Seriously, this is not something that I would be able to spend money on as a regular thing, but if someone purchased this service for me, I would definitely be so thankful.  When there is a new baby, all attention and focus is on caring for the baby. There is really no time for cleaning house and a messy house just adds stress to a new mom.  This is definitely a gift that will be appreciated. You may want to give the gift before the baby comes as mom might want to use it before baby's arrival to keep minimal interruptions after baby comes.

As far as cost goes, I've seen deals on Groupon or Living Social for companies in my area significantly reducing the cost of these services.  Watch for these to come up.  For example, I just snagged 2 hours of cleaning for $50.  If you are short on cash, another idea might be to clean her house yourself.  She will probably never want to take you up on that offer so you may have to coordinate this with her significant other on how to do that.

Number Two:  Food (because she is going to be ravenous)

Something to Drink/Snacks

I'm going to list this one first because honestly this is the area that did me in.  I would be upstairs, nursing the baby and I would be SO thirsty and/or SO hungry.  I would also get so unreasonable upset at my husband because I thought he should KNOW that I'm hungry and thirsty and bring me something.  You know how we think they're supposed to read our brain waves. 

My favorite snacks were KIND bars and coconut water.  I did order these once through Amazon but they are so expensive....would have been a great gift. 


Another idea, especially for nursing moms is a nice water bottle.  Women need to drink lots of water when they are nursing and it's easy to forget.  This might encourage moms to get in the habit of filling one of these up and leaving at their nursing station.

Frozen Meals

There is no time to think about what to cook for dinner after the baby comes home.  Before my son was born I tried my best to stock my freezer with meals that could be popped in the oven.  I had a decent amount of meals, but we went through them pretty fast.  If you are preparing frozen meals, be sure to check with mom on any dietary restrictions she may have and you may also want to avoid foods that are typically avoided while nursing so as not to upset the baby if mom is nursing.  Also remember to write down the meal and instructions on the packaging so mom and dad don't have to guess how to cook the meal.

Homemade Meals and/or Finger Foods

If you want to bring something fresh, I would say that's okay too.  One thing that I would suggest would be anything that mom can eat with one hand.  There will not be many hours in the day where mom will be without baby.  It seems to me that by the time I would get the baby to sleep and then down for a nap, he would be up again and ready to nurse.  Mom is going to need food that can be eaten with one hand.  One suggestion might be a sandwich, fruit, or vegetable tray....dessert tray optional.

Gift Certificate for Grocery To Go or Delivery Service

Many grocery store chains now offer online ordering and curb side pick up.  If this is something available in your area, a month or two paid in advance may be welcomed by the family.

Grocery delivery is something else to consider.  I know that may larger cities have this now.  Where I'm at there is also a service that specializes in local and organic foods.  Again, this is not something that I would be able to justify as a regular thing, but something that would be fun and definitely helpful to have.

Gift certificates for restaurants that offer healthy options for delivery or take out might be another option to consider.

Offer to Take Older Children

I was so blessed to have my mother in law here to help me after the new baby arrived.  Her main role was to take care of my toddler.  There was no way I was up to the task of chasing him around and it was so nice to know that his needs were being met as our family adjusted to the new baby.  

If a mom you know just had a new baby, offer to take her other children as a play date or take them to the park for a couple of hours.  You may offer to pick up or take older children to their extra curricular activities.  Make sure you make it as easy for mom as possible.  

Number Three:  Care Package

Now you can add some of the above items to a care package if you want but a nice welcome home gift might be to combine some of the following small items in a basket:

Water Bottle
Swaddling Blanket
Bottle of Wine
Gift Certificates (maybe to one of the above ideas)
Hand and Face Wipes
Lip Gloss 
Facial Moisturizer
Nipple Cream (appreciated if she's breastfeeding)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wordy Wednesday Week 7: Surviving the Shutdown. Going from One Income to No Income.

On the news I have heard that something like over 400,000 government workers are out of work because of the shutdown and guess who is included in that number!?!  

We have been living on just my husband's income for two years now.  When we moved we made the decision that I would stay home with the oldest and we would try to have a baby.  We have always been extremely frugal and we are good savers, so we had some cushion to make the necessary transitions between moves and life changes.  This took us about 10 years to achieve though and happened because we were always conscious about where are money went.

Since we were already very careful about the ways in which we spent our money, the transition to one income was honestly not that dramatic for us.  I think we are getting ready for some drama though because going from one breadwinner to NO breadwinner overnight (right after we bought a house) is going to be a pretty pretty challenge. 

I am probably going to be blasted by this but the reality is, this may be a wake up call to a lot of people that might have needed it.  For far too long we've been a society that lives in excess.  Too many people don't think that they've made it in the world until they have an enormous house, a huge gas guzzling car, designer duds for their children, European summer get my point.  

If you make the money to live a materialistic lifestyle, I guess it's your decision to do so.  It's an extremely subjective determination that really varies by each person.  Honestly, if someone from a second world country looked at my life they would probably say I lived lavishly.  You know what?  They would be right!

We need to not take what we have for granted. If you have a safe place to live, food to eat and a family that you love, you have the makings of a good life.  Let's be thankful for what we have and work towards providing a future for our children that teaches them to value relationships and not things. 

In the midst of this shutdown, many people are going to be hit hard.  Many people are already being hit so hard and are so far gone in debt, they may never recover. What we need to do now is support one another with kindness and compassion.  I believe it's the first step in getting ourselves out of this black hole of self-absorption that has darkened our country.  

Tips for surviving on limited incomes:

1.  Take a close look at your grocery bill.  This is a large part of a monthly budget and honestly it should be.  Since we are a lacto-vegetarian family, we already save tons of money not buying meats. We do spend a lot of money on quality fruits and vegetables because it's important to me what we put in our bodies.  

Here are a few tips and how we save money on groceries:
  • Consider at least a partial vegetarian lifestyle.
  • We don't always buy organic but I do try to buy what's in season and on sale. 
  •  Avoid waste by planning a menu. 
  • Use coupons whenever you can. 

2.  Eating out should be a special treat.  Listen, I like to go out to dinner and have someone cater to me for a change just like anyone else.  The problem is, when you are on a limited income this kind of mentality can get you into trouble before you know it.  

Sure, you can go to your local fast junk food place and feed your family of four for $10, but do you really want to put that garbage in your family's body on a regular basis?  Even the step up mid-scale restaurants use garbage preservatives and frozen foods in their dishes and you pay them probably about $50 to poison you and your family.  When you eat at home you are not only saving money but you are in most cases eating healthier foods by controlling what you eat.

Of course we need to be treated sometimes.  As a busy mom, we all deserve it.  Here a few ideas: 
  • Compile a list of affordable local restaurants that use fresh foods.
  • Take turns hosting a dinner party at a friends house each week.
  • Consider becoming a mystery shopper to supplement lunches and dinners.

3. Leave your credit cards at home. If you have your credit card on you, you might be more likely to make that purchase immediately.  If it's a big purchase, sit on it a day to make sure it is still something that makes sense to buy.

4.  Save up cash for purchases.   When you do this it does two things.  It allows you time to consider the purchase to make sure that it's justified and it helps you develop patience which we all need in the grand scheme of things.

Just a tip.  I save up cash in the bank for purchases but still use my card to buy things.  That way, I never carry a balance but I still reap the credit card cash back rewards.  Just make sure that you have the money to pay the bill first. 

4.  Cut out unnecessary spending.  You know what is unnecessary, don't make this complicated.  Don't spend money on "treats" for yourself everyday on things you are capable of doing yourself.  Do you need a $20 a week budget for coffee?  Is it necessary to get a $50 mani/pedi every week while you are out of money or is it something you can do on your own for awhile?  Believe it or not....cable is a luxury.

5.  Embrace the bartering and online sales world. Living frugally is not always easy and can take some creativity at times.  There is also a great reliance on other people that comes when it comes to spending less money.  It's sort of becoming old-school in a lot of ways, like a village.  Anyway, here are some "village" resources that you can use:
  • Barter your services with friends. Babysit their kids and have them mow your lawn.  Bake their child's birthday cake and let your friend make a pot of chilli for your family.  You get the idea.
  • Sign up for your local freecycle group and get emails from people in your community giving away their unneeded goods.  I promise you that you will be surprised at what other people give up.  
  • Craigslist is another local option for buying and selling.  Check out Craigslist for gently used items before you buy them in the stores.  Also, downsize your life here.  I've made over $1000 this year so far by simply selling our unused items.  It should be your first option for selling before putting the goods on Ebay since you don't have to give anyone a cut.
  • Ebay and Amazon are other options for selling off your easily mailable items.  I have made a good chunk of money doing this.  Not enough to live off of, but enough to supplement our life.
How has this shutdown effected your family?  Anyone else have any hints for surviving on a limited income?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wordy Wednesday Week 6: Letting Go

To me this poem speaks not of the cycles of nature but of the great tensions of life.  Let me explain.  It seems like every week I'm contemplating what to do with my teenager.  This week again I am really wondering if it's finally time to let go and just let him go live with his dad.  I feel unappreciated and definitely disrespected.  The truth is too, I am beginning to resent him.  I have another child too but I spend an exorbitant amount of time wrestling with my oldest. How can a mother say that about her child?

He has always been one to throw a fit when he's told to do something that he doesn't want to do.  It's beginning to be a little more than a fit.  This morning we had a tussle.  After repeatedly telling him to get out of bed, he came downstairs and acted like he was punching me in the face.  I slapped him.  He was not given his phone because his dad and I decided it should stay home instead of leaving the house to get lost again.

These two things obviously upset him and our morning consisted of this plus him grabbing my finger and bending it back, cursing at me, throwing pens, pencils, and his backpack at me, refusing to take his medicine, threatening to call the police and telling me that he wasn't going to come home after school today.  It's 9:30 and I'm exhausted already.

There are a lot of things I can claim to have done wrong.  Maybe there was a better way of waking him up and obviously slapping him in the face set him off too.  What does he think though is going to happen when you catch someone out of the blue and pretend to punch them?

The words today come from a poem that I found back in the spring when I was first starting to really contemplate the idea of letting him go live with his dad.  I guess there can be a lot of different interpretations for this poem. If you look at it literally, it's definitely a beautiful and peaceful poem about nature that vividly describes the changing seasons.  For me personally though, I saw it as a metaphor on life.

Having shared custody between two families is an extremely complicated process.  Magnified if the two families do not see eye to eye on any issues relating to the rearing of the child.  Of course who this is most detrimental on is the child.

I am definitely not perfect in my child rearing abilities and I know I have made mistakes.  Unfortunately my mistakes are always put on display because I am the one who is the "bad guy".  I'm the one that pays the bills, I'm the one that deals with school and homework, I'm the one that organizes activities to keep my son out of trouble, I'm the one that plays the role of the adult and I'm the one that is constantly criticized for my decisions by both my child and my ex. 

I guess what I'm saying is, I wonder if now I've done all that I can do.  I know that my son is only 13 years old and still has much to learn from the adults in his life but it seems like it may be time for me to accept that I have given him all that I can these last 13 years and it's time for his dad to get it a shot and for my son to start making his own choices and facing his own consequences without mom "bailing him out".

The poem speaks to me as a metaphor on life's seasons and the trees are not just trees, but a symbol of humans "dressing" and "undressing" as they prepare for different stages of life.  Right now, my son and I seem to be going through a season of birth and rebirth.  My son is becoming a young man whether I like it or not.  He is changing from my little baby boy to becoming his own person.  I've prepared him the best I can to go out and make his own decisions and unfortunately we are at a point where he is no longer listening to what I have to say.  Maybe it would be wise for me to take a step back and face the reality of winter while hoping for another spring. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wordy Wednesday Week 5: The Death of Me


It's really hard to feel like an effective parent when you have a child that is at a point where you tell them to do something and their response is flat out defiance. I'm trying to ignore the negative behaviors and have no reactions only logical consequences but damn it's hard.

For a specific example, let's go to this morning. I told my 13 year old that he is grounded today and tomorrow for his disrespect and defiance and he is also not going to the school's dance on Friday if he does not find his missing agenda/planner. His response, “You are not the boss of me” and “I will do what I want” and then he walks out the door to be with his friends. Now granted, he came back in about five minutes later, but still just that fact that he is doing this is getting my blood boiling. So anyway, I'm not going to kill him I am going to remember the following the next time he's pushing my buttons and/or during the next argument.

Tips for Dealing with Your Teen
  1. Focus on the behavior, not the person.
    I'm trying to really focus on these negative disrespectful behaviors as things that need to change. My goal is to tie these negative behaviors to logical consequences and stick to them. I also need to try to have something positive to say about him every day, although I'm embarrassed to say, it's been hard.

  2. Remember what the argument is about....filter out the trivial.
    I notice that arguments can quickly escalate, especially when people lose their cool. My job is to not lose my own temper and focus at the task at hand. Since a lot of my son's issues involve him not taking time to think about the outcomes of his action, me role modeling calm behavior is that much more important.

  3. Be prepared for the low blows. Don't allow the words to hurt.
    Yikes! How many times am I going to hear “You are a horrible mother”, “You need to take a lesson from X's parents on how to be a good mom”, “You never care about anything I want”? Or my favorite one lately is, “You are not my mother. I'm going to call you Jen (my first name)”.

  4. Good parents aren't born. They are a work in progress.
    Okay that makes me feel better.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wordy Wednesday- Week 4: Why Being Kind is Better Than Being Right

We all want to be right, but sometimes really, what's the point?  Is the point to prove that you have some wit about you?  Is the point to prove that you are a really cool person?  Are you trying to establish yourself as a leader at work or at home?  Is there a power struggle going on with someone that you don't want to admit?

I think that the need to always be right stems from a lot of different reasons and if we're not careful can be come a habit and an unfortunate trait of character.  However, giving up this need to always be right can be an important lesson that may not only mend current and future relationships but can also bring your own mind at ease and bring you peace.

The thing that gets in the way is our ego.  For some reason we feel that if we do not prove that we're right and "win" the argument we are less of a person or a weak parent.  Of course I'm not saying that we should forget our values and simply approve of everything anyone says or does.  That would lead to a weak character and a boring conversationalist, not to mention a very wishy washy parent. 

It's tough because pretty much any parenting book is going to tell you that you should never let your kids know what you don't know.  Never let them know if you are indecisive, Stand your ground or they will walk all over you, and on and on.  It's tough having to pretend like you have all of the answers.

This week the quote on top is going on our fridge.  My teenager thinks that he has to argue whether the sky is blue everyday, refuse to eat, and in general just create conflicts to assert that he is indeed becoming an independent young man.  In other words, he is trying to "engage" us.  My hope for him this week is that he will read the words and chill out a bit with the whole charade.

My husband and I have another task.  Our task is to not turn a blind eye to these behaviors, but rather try to really listen to what is going on underneath these actions.  I think that what is really underneath these blatant shows of disrespect is a boy crying out for some attention and some guidance on navigating his feelings and insecurities.  It's his job to challenge our authority.  It is our job to understand this without taking it personally and find ways to teach respect and discipline without losing our cool. 

This week, I choose kindness and I will choose to really listen to what my son is trying to tell me, however convoluted it may be.  This week I will choose to slow down and listen to what my baby is telling me with his cries.  This week I will choose to slow down and be in the moment when my husband is telling me about his day.  This week if there is conflict, I will choose to listen and model kindness in order to hear what my family is really trying to say. 
" The more you listen the more you will hear." ~Steven Farmer. #life #mindful #wisdom

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sustainablebabyish Organic Bamboo Fleece Diaper- FAVORITE at Night!

Words cannot express how much I love these diapers, no really!

This is my first go around with cloth diapers.  With my older son, I just never considered it.  This time around I spent a lot of time researching websites and blogs to educate myself on the ins and outs of cloth diapering and finding out which types of diapers people on the Web recommended.  One brand that came up numerous times was Sustainablebabyish or SLOOMB.  Although they are expensive, people LOVE them. And guess what?  I do to!

As most mothers do, I had a nesting stage before my son was born.  I might be a bit of a strange bird because my nesting consisted of hours of research into finding the best diapers for my stash and then the best prices for those diapers.  I am definitely not above buying used diapers and a good chunk of my stash was purchased used off of Craigslist.  In fact, it's kind of funny to admit that I actually drove 3.5 hours away, from Virginia to Delaware to buy a selling her amazing stash for $200.  Here is a little about what was in that stash:

1/2 Package Rockin' Green Cloth Diaper Detergent
1 Trash Can
1 Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner
1 Prince Lionheart Premium Wipe Warmer
3 Prince Lionheart Ever-Fresh Replacement Pillows
12 Little Comfort One Size Bamboo Cloth Diaper
4 Organic Caboose, Plush Wool Diaper Covers
1 M Polyester Cover
1 M Interlock Woolybums Diaper Cover
Loveybums Wool Jersey Diaper Cover With Snaps
 1 Lovey Bums Wool Cover
12 Disana Cloth/knitted Diapers 100% Organic Cotton Nappys
40 Cloth Wipes
3 Snappi Cloth Diaper Fasteners
12 Small Green Mountain Diaper Prefolds
1 Flip Diaper OS Cover
1 Wee Huggers Diaper Cover
3 Organic Lovey Bums Fitted Diapers
Numerous Organic Cotton and Hemp Doublers


2 Sustainablebabyish Organic Bamboo Fleece Fitted Cloth Diapers

Is there anyone else besides me that thinks I got an amazing deal or am I really bonkers?  At the time I didn't know much about the different diapers and didn't realize how good of a deal I was getting.  If I still had that woman's contact information I think I might have made her my best friend and sent her some more money.  But I digress...more about these awesome diapers.

Now, I do have links for you to purchase these diapers if you so choose in this post.  However, I would not recommend all of the diapers above.  The Little Comforts are one sized and convenient but I find that they really don't hold poo in that well.  The Disana Tie Nappies are beautiful, but once my son was able to roll and wiggle during diaper changes I found that these diapers were not really that practical.  I do still use these diapers, I just wouldn't say I love them as much.

I do highly recommend the Sustainablebabyish Organic Bamboo Fleece Fitted Cloth Diaper though.  I only have two that fit right now and that is the only thing I put my son in at night.  Which of course means that I have to do laundry every other day no matter what.

There are a couple of things to know about these diapers though.

1. They will shrink! The tags on the ones that I purchased used say they are mediums.  The rise measures at 13" and they still fit him at 19 lbs, although they are getting a little small.  You can see from the chart below how much of a shrinkage we're talking about.

Size Chart:

With this information, I thought it would be best to purchase more in the large size so I am not always so locked into doing laundry every other day.  However, when they came I was a bit shocked by how much bigger they were than my old ones.  The new ones also looked and felt nothing like the old ones that I love so much.  The new diapers measured 18" upon arrival but after just one wash they were 16".

The larges are a bit big on us now but I don't think it will be long before they fit him just right.  He's approximately 20 lbs in these pictures.  I'm also guessing they may shrink after a few more prepping washes.

2.  They are pretty stiff.  The stiffness is not really too much of a factor for me, just because I am so amazed by the absorbency of these bad boys and the stiffness does not irritate my son at all. It is true what you read, these will almost stand up on their own in the mornings.  Some people say that Ecover works for them for softening them up but I've never tried it.

I think that the reason people mention the stiffness is because it is such a huge transformation from the buttery soft diaper it once was.  When the diaper arrived it was super soft, the softness fabric I think I've ever came across.  Comparing the new large one to my much loved possibly mediums it really is hard to believe it's the same diaper.  It's hard to tell from the pictures but if I had to make a comparison to help you I would say that over time the diapers are as stiff and as hard as a....well slipper maybe and when they are new they are as soft as a bag of cotton balls.

That's not a very good sell I guess, comparing the diaper to a shoe.  BUT I'm telling you I've never been happier with any night-time set-up.  We go 12 hours straight and in the morning the diaper sometimes doesn't even feel wet, the sheets are dry and most importantly my son is dry and rash free.

The diapers come in lots of fun color choices.  When I bought my new ones the natural was all that was in stock.  I'm thinking that it might have been because it was during a time when Kelly's Closet was having a free diaper with purchase sale.

Available Colors:

Peacoat (Dark Navy)
Peacoat (Dark Navy)

Even with these issues, I have yet to find another diaper that fits as well and absorbs as well.  They are very well made and judging from the used one I have, they hold up extremely well.

If you are struggling with finding a diaper to stand up to long nights and leave your baby dry and rash free in the morning, try these diapers!  I'll admit they do carry a hefty price tag but if you check your local Craigslist or Ebay you might get lucky.  You'll probably also notice that they guys hold their value and you can sell them yourself or you may consider selling them to one of the online diaper vendors that buy back used diapers.  If you look at this piece along with the most important part, THESE diapers work fantastically you will see that these diapers are well worth the investment.  Buy these diapers! I promise you won't regret it.  If you do, let me know and I will buy yours off of you.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I Love Words...Wordy Wednesday Week Three

Our words carry power.

This quote is so very powerful I find it pretty difficult to add anything to it.  This week we have really been frustrated with my older son saying rude and obnoxious things.  It really seems like anything that comes out of his mouth is either an argument or some critique of our character.  I know that we are supposed to ignore it to a certain extent and trust that this is a stage in normal teenage development, but it gets to be difficult sometimes. 

Unfortunately though, I know that I myself am also guilty of saying things that I've later regretted too so I guess it can be a "stage" that can continue into adulthood if you're not careful.  But this week I will remember that my words as mom have everlasting power.

One of the problems kids with ADHD have is that they tend to say whatever is on their mind at that moment and don't think about what kind of consequences lie on the other side of their comments.  Lots of times the comments are funny and witty, sometimes their enormously insightful, often without intent they are rude and hurtful.

You see, it is an issue with impulse control.  In a conversation, most people are able to evaluate the situation, read the other person for cues, think of consequences, and evaluate the situation again before they speak.  A lot of people can't do this and say immediately whatever is on their mind without thinking of the consequences.  Of course this can be a great personality trait.  These people are courageous and take chances in life, or they get punched in the face.  I'm hoping for great things.

Impulse control is going to start with me.  Without accepting the negative behavior, I have to remember that his words more often than not are coming from a place of frustration.  It's my job to help him find the words that he's searching for.  He's looking at me and the other adults in his life to model what it looks like to be compassionate, to listen to others, to think before you speak and to look before you leap.  Kind words are going to start with me.  Wish me luck.