Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Baby furniture: M4M Revisited

This month's M4M: Revisited guest poster is Hillary and surprisingly enough, she's not a momma yet! She's writing about parenthood prep: getting your life ready for kiddos. It's what she's passionate about and I'm so glad to be featuring her here today. 

Choosing a Baby Crib: Fashion and Function

What to Expect When You’re Expecting, barely cracks the surface when it comes to preparing for motherhood for the first time. Besides the obvious emotional (and, ahem, physical changes), only a few first time mothers know just what a makeover their home is going to need! Making a smooth transition into your new lifestyle is definitely dependent on organization, and the choices you make now, can help save you time down the road. From the kitchen to the nursery, there are endless renovations to consider, all while trying to remain stylish and still being functional. Preparing for motherhood can be hectic, but it definitely doesn’t need to be chaos! Here are a few things to consider when getting ready for your new baby.

Think Big Picture

First, having a vision (or at least an idea!) is important. If you start making baby purchases randomly, you could end up with a weird mix of mismatched odds and ends, or inadvertently double up on items, when you could have gone for an all in one version. Check online nursery furniture stores such as Bambi Baby for options on as many dual purpose items as you can. One of the more major purchases that marks the passage into new motherhood, is your first child’s crib. A baby crib that doubles as storage can not only save space, it can help save your sanity. It may seem like a trivial detail now, but knowing that your changing table is tucked so conveniently close by can be a lifesaver when juggling diapers for an early morning change. If you play it right, the baby crib, furniture and accessories you choose now may carry you through to baby number two, or three, and one day, even help a friend in need.

Don’t Stress an Exact Match

Matching finishes can be a battle, but once you embrace your design concept, things begin to fall into place. Don’t be nervous if all that great and functional furniture you’ve picked doesn’t match exactly; try to think more in terms of a color palette, with a range of two or three colors in similar shades. Look for some direction on the web, and make sure you choose something that you really like, despite whether or not it is trendy. Finally, though is it no afterthought, make sure to check Consumer Reports for safety ratings of potential baby crib purchases. The most attractive baby crib in the world on sale means nothing if the crib itself is not safe and nontoxic. But don’t worry, preparing for motherhood can be fun and flexible, if you have the right plan, and know where to turn for help!

Hillary is looking to start a young family with her husband in the next year. She loves to learn about their new adventure of parenthood and family life. When she's not reading up on motherhood and family life, Hillary loves to bake, be active, and watch movies! Follow Hillary on Twitter: @HillaryFarr.

Monday, July 29, 2013

When your child is sick...

So my little guy had his first ugly stomach virus + fever this past weekend. He's had a couple minor colds and pink eye in the past, but this was a level up from what we'd walked through previously. He saw the pediatrician today and I think he's on his way to healthy once again. After (almost) weathering Isaac's first substantial illness this past weekend, I've learned a few things about what happens when your child is sick:

  • You watch a lot of Veggie Tales. Or ______ (insert kid's show/movie here). I thought I was doing good by finding a Veggie Tales movie on Amazon Prime that was a compilation of silly songs, since Isaac likes music. What's more entertaining than cartoon vegetables singing songs about cheeseburgers, water buffaloes, and bubble wrap? It certainly held his attention... and after multiple viewings, my brain is constantly stuck on at least one tune. I mean, where HAVE all the staplers gone?
  • Your heart fills with dread at the first sounds of awakening from a nap or bedtime sleep. Increase the dread tenfold if it arrives well before the typical wake time. It's hard enough to occupy baby's awake time when he isn't feeling well, so sleep deprivation, fever, and diarrhea make for exceptionally long days and a clingy, cranky boy. Sometimes you just need lots of couch time and Veggie Tales.
  • By some incredible feat of magic or sheer strength, my child has the ability to shoot diarrhea out the side of his diaper while leaving the diaper itself relatively untouched. 
  • Sometimes it's perfectly ok to walk around in pajamas all day while your kid rocks a diaper. Aint nobody got time for showers. Or real clothes. 
  • My child is more resilient than I'll ever be. His ability to crack a smile in the midst of nastyvirusland kind of amazes me, mostly because if I had a 101.9 degree fever and intractable diarrhea, I'd be the grouchiest, whiniest, most pathetic person on earth. I'd still trade places with him. 
  • Carseats are washable. See also: shoots diarrhea out the side of the diaper while keeping the diaper itself clean. 
  • Pedialyte tastes gross and sometimes you have to trick your kid into drinking it. Same goes for grape flavored Tylenol. Note to self: the straw method beat out the hide-it-in-a-bottle method. 
  • Showers of cuddles and kisses accompany lots of hand washing and fervent prayers to keep this mama healthy and virus-free. No amount of diarrhea could keep me from being close to my baby. I think that's one of those primary qualities of unconditional love: maintaining physical touch despite diarrhea. 
  • There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing your child feel miserable and not being able to take the yucky away.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Frugal Friday

The first (and potentially only) edition of Frugal Friday is here today! Not only do I believe that as  Christians, my husband and I are called to be good stewards of the money we have, but also, we just don't have a lot to be frivolous with! Hence, we have learned how to be more frugal in our everyday lives to stretch a dollar a bit further. Some people think we're crazy to drive old cars... sometimes I also think we're crazy, but hey-- they're paid for. Some people think we're nuts to live without cable half of each year, but we save so much money. We work hard, we spend wisely, we live comfortably. For that I am thankful.

Today's tip is less of a frugal choice and more of a surprise. It's homemade baby food. Let me explain further. When Isaac was born, I chose to exclusively breastfeed him for the first six months. This should come as no surprise considering I've become like a one-woman soapbox on breastfeeding. Enough already! One day, I had to start thinking about solid foods. How they would work into our current feedings and eventually overtake feedings as his primary source of nutrition. To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to solids at all. The trouble. The mess. The cost. But yeah, okay, one day my son had to become a table-food-eating member of the family. I might love breastfeeding, but you won't find me nursing a preschooler. Then also, because I'm an overprotective first-time mother, I like to know what my child is ingesting, which is the primary reason I originally chose to make my baby's food purees. I had the time, I had the resources without needing to buy extra equipment, and it just seemed easy enough. Initially, my choice had no bearing on cost of homemade food versus cost of jarred food.

So I did it. I've made nearly all of Isaac's food. With the exception of rice cereal, prunes, applesauce, and now ritz crackers, the remainder of his intake has been food that I've steamed, blended and spooned up to him. And it was just as easy as I'd anticipated it would be. Then, the real surprise came about: it was also ridiculously cheap. Like slap-your-mama cheap. I had no idea it was going to be so very cost effective. Because I was buying mostly organic products, I assumed that the overall cost would be higher than jarred food. I wrote off the difference in cost, believing that eating whole foods are healthier than processed foods. Imagine my surprise when I started analyzing the costs more carefully and realized I was saving beaucoup bucks. To prove my point, I took a field trip to our closest grocery store. For the sake of good blogging, I put my pride aside and looked like a total creeper taking pictures of vegetables on scales, price stickers, and jars of baby food. In the sake of full disclosure, I shopped at the local HEB and paid no regard to items on sale, nor did I use coupons. I used prices from the Gerber brand of jarred baby food (non organic, 4oz servings). It's neither the cheapest nor the most expensive, but seemed to be a "middle of the road" price. The fruits, veggies, and entrees were chosen simply because they are well-loved at our house.

Lets do a little comparing, shall we?

Gerber Price per Jar: $0.63
Homemade Price per Serving: $0.09

The cost per bag of Earthbound Farms Organic Carrots is $1.27. Technically, the entire bag would likely make more than 14 servings of carrot puree, but for today's purposes, 14 servings was my estimate. The math equals out to NINE cents per serving if you get 2 weeks' worth of carrots from a single bag. Or you could buy 2 jars of Gerber Carrots for the same price.

Sweet Potatoes
Gerber Price per Jar: $0.63
Homemade price per serving: $0.16

The cost per Potato is approximately $0.78. Using 3 sweet potatoes, I can easily get 14 servings of baby food. (Do you think 14 is an arbitrary number? Here's where I got it: First, each food tray has 14 spaces for food and like being able to make 2 trays' worth of food each time I steam & puree an item, which equals 28 cubes of food. Typically, I give Isaac two cubes at each feeding and no more than one serving of the same veggie on the same day. That means, I have two week's worth/14 days of sweet potatoes or carrots or whatever else I choose to make. Make a little more sense now?). Three sweet potatoes at $0.78 a piece comes to about $2.34, which when divided up into 14 servings takes us to a grand total of 16 cents per serving. To buy 14 servings of Gerber Sweet Potatoes, it'd cost you $8.82. 

Blueberries & Peaches
Gerber Price per Jar of Peaches: $0.63
Homemade Price per Serving: $0.53

I couldn't specifically find a combo jar of peaches and blueberries, so I went with the price of just peaches. Isaac loves the combo of blueberries and peaches with his rice cereal in the morning for breakfast, which is one bag of frozen wild organic blueberries and 2 bags of frozen organic peaches. This easily makes 16 servings or more, considering some mornings I only give one cube instead of the typical two. However, to keep things moving, I went with 16 servings from the cost of the fruit, which totaled $0.53 per serving. This isn't quite as much of a disparity between the prepared food and fresh food, mostly because frozen wild organic blueberries aren't cheap. But as I said, I usually get more life out of our "breakfast" foods since I typically add rice cereal to the fruit, needing only 1 cube instead of two. I wouldn't be surprised if the actual price per serving was much lower. Regardless, you get the point. 

Gerber Price per Jar: $0.63
Homemade Price per Serving: $0.40

Pears are one of Isaac's favorites, so I make them often. To make the ubiquitous 14 servings of pear puree, I need about 4 pears, which at $1.87/lb comes to about $5.61 total cost for the pears. Divide that up over 14 servings and once again there's a pretty significant savings. Consider the fact that I typically mix 1 cube of pears (instead of the 2 cubes that constitute my "serving size") with a few spoonfuls of applesauce and the pears go even further, which means more savings.

Chicken & Rice
Gerber price per Jar of "meat entree": $0.98
Homemade Price per Serving: $0.22

So maybe you're ready to move past fruits and veggies and onto the more substantial meals. Just because you're adding in pricier ingredients (i.e. protein), doesn't mean you can't still save money. It should be noted that even though the price of jarred meat is higher than the price of jarred fruits and veggies, the serving size is almost half (2.5oz for the meat, 4 oz for the fruits & veggies). The price for a pound of ground chicken (non organic) is $2.85, add in the approximate $0.20 for a cup of brown rice and divide it out over 14 servings (Seriously, it easily makes more than 14 servings!) and you're spooning up homemade chicken and rice to your little peanut for a whopping TWENTY TWO CENTS. Don't forget, my "serving sizes" are approximately 4 oz, which is almost double what comes in the Gerber jars. Savings galore!

So you see, making baby food is super cheap, even when buying "pricey" organic ingredients. It can become fun to mix and match foods once your little one is accustomed to a variety of solids. Isaac's favorite combo was chicken and rice plus sweet potato. It is so easy to pop in a frozen cube of chicken with a frozen cube of potato, warm it up, and spoon it up. The cooking, pureeing and portioning process is kind of time-consuming and definitely messy, but it's a small price to pay for savings on the other side.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nine Months

Today, you are 39 weeks old, which means 39 weeks ago I was 39 weeks pregnant and in labor with you! You've been outside for as long as you were inside. It's amazing to think of how much you've grown and changed over the last 9 months. It also takes me back to the day I realized I was pregnant, which seems so very long ago. To imagine my little boy was once a single-celled fertilized egg is absolutely miraculous. A miracle of life indeed.

This month was kind of a doozy for both of us. Your dada was away at 2 youth camps and we stayed home for the 2 weeks he was gone. We played and had fun, but I was exhausted and never more happy to see your dad come home. I am so thankful that your daddy loves you and takes such good care of you.

Your tooth count is officially SIX now. In true Isaac fashion, the two you added this past month came in at the same time, which made for a cranky, clingy day or two. To be honest, you have handled all of your teeth incredibly well and for that I am grateful. With new teeth come new foods! I started giving you various table foods this month, with wishy-washy success. Some items were easily chewed & swallowed (i.e. Ritz crackers and strawberries), where others were gagged and barfed up (i.e. puffs and goldfish). You're in the process of perfecting that fine pincer grasp, but interestingly enough, it seems like you do best eating your foods off of a fork or spoon. You've totally gotten the hang of drinking from a sippy cup, a straw, and even sometimes straight from the side of a regular cup.

You still aren't crawling, cruising, scooting, or walking. Nowadays, if you want something close by, you'll roll over to get it. It's pretty funny, and despite not having the crawling thing down, you are still resourceful. I'm pretty certain the other 9 month old babies are crawling and cruising circles around you, but I try not to worry and know that you'll be mobile in your own time. In previous months, having a toy out of arm's reach didn't phase you, but these days it frustrates you, so maybe a little motivation will get you moving forward soon enough. Until then, I enjoy being able to keep you wrangled in one spot.

You weigh 22 pounds and 8 ounces (75th percentile), and you are 29 inches long (80th percentile)!! You're wearing size 3 diapers. 12 month clothes fit you better than I'd like them to. You're still nursing 4 times a day (upon waking, 11am, 3pm, and at bedtime) and eating 2 solid meals plus a snack or two throughout the day. You're reluctantly taking 2 naps but always happy to go to bed and sleep from 7pm to 7am. I don't know if you'll ever go down peacefully for your naps, since rocking, co-napping, and crib napping all lead to the same fuss-fest.

Mom & Dad love you to pieces little buddy! You bring so much light and laughter into each and every day. We are so fortunate to be your parents.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Musings

It's been a jumbled few days here at home. Here's a ridiculously random assortment of what's mulling around in my head this Monday morning.
  1. I'm going to have a NINE month old this week. That means he's been out of my tummy as long as he was in my tummy. On thursday, he'll be exactly 39 weeks old. I was pregnant for 39 weeks. What a weird thought. I guess I ought to start thinking about a birthday party. Maybe monsters?... you know, since his birthday is only a few days shy of halloween and all. I'd definitely be open to some one year old birthday party suggestions. Wow, just typing one year old seems bizarre. Almost like typing that i'll be thirty in less than a year. 
  2. My nearly-nine-month-old had a doozy of a week last week - hence the lack of bloggage. Seriously short (or nonexistent) naps plus no relief equalled one tired mama at the end of the day. I was never so happy to have my husband home after a long two weeks at camp. I'm also totally jealous that he got to spend the week hearing David Nasser and worshipping with Kristian Stanfill. Yes please. This year ended up being a total wash with youth camps and myself. I was really legitimately disappointed to be staying home, but it was both too soon to leave Isaac with someone for a week and not really worth taking him along. Maybe next year...
  3. Apparently I'm not the only person who's lost the PW magic. Lots of you told me that you're no longer her target demographic. My new must-read superblog is definitely The Small Things Blog. Maybe it's our shared appreciation for beauty products?? Kate, you should check out my L&D series [shameless plug].
  4. I only thought that curdled milk spit ups were the grossest. If only I had realized that solid foods become spit up too... which are mixed with curdled milk. Seriously disgusting. Thank goodness we have dark couches. I'm more than ready to be done with this phase. 
  5. I've got a few posts in the works for this week, including a Frugal Friday first. That'd be a great new series, except I really only have one money-saving idea worth blogging about. And considering I've made a plethora of purchases recently, I probably don't really qualify to be doling out thrifty advice. Plus there's a lot of math involved. And we all know I don't do math.  
  6. It's my dad's birthday! Happy Birthday Dad!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Midweek Confessions

It's been a while since I participated in E's midweek confessions, but I've got a real doozy for you this week. Let's spill the beans...

I think i'm over Pioneer Woman.

Go & retrieve your smelling salts, put your head between your knees and take some nice deep breaths. This one might be bigger than the "I don't like Downton Abbey confession." I know it's a total shocker. I used to be such a fan, but times they are a'changin. Nothing catastrophic or Earth-shattering has occurred to drive me away from her blog, it's just been a gradual overall decrease in interest.

I remember reading her blog back in like 2007 with only about a few thousand other people. I was a hipster like that. Back in those days, her confessions were Black Heels to Tractor Wheels (be still my heart),  her recipes were of cinnamon rolls (be still my thighs), and her giveaways were actually win-able.

Nowadays she has a show on food network, a half dozen cookbooks, and a whole team of extra writers to fill her site with content. I find myself wondering when she has time for her family. I dont really connect with her confessions anymore. The most recent recipe posted is for jalapeƱo quesadillas, which, (I'm sorry because this is going to sound ugly) is no culinary mystery. A recent giveaway garnered over 50,000 entries. I might have a better shot at winning the Pick 3 than winning a Le Creuset courtesy of PW.

All in all, I think the Pioneer Woman has gotten so big that she's no longer relatable to me. I certainly wish her all the best. I'll always treasure my autographed cookbook. Her cinnamon rolls, chicken spaghetti, and apple dumplings will forever be at the forefront of my recipe repertoire... even if her link is no longer in my bookmarks.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Vlog-O-Hollic: Episode 2

Here goes with Vlog #2. As a side note, none of these reviews (including the first) are sponsored. All these opinions are my own and I have not been compensated in any way.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Nursery

It isn't a surprise to me that I haven't featured Isaac's nursery on the blog yet. It's always been in the corners of my brain as a "must-do" blog post. But then, somehow the last 8 months have snuck by because, I've either been waiting on an element for the room, or the carpet isn't vacuumed into perfect carpet triangles, or the room has been occupied by a sleeping baby. Fast forward to today and you can see that I'm still waiting on random items to complete the look of the room and there are no carpet triangles. Regardless, I'm proud to show off my little guy's domain.

A typical morning: playing with toys on the floor. 
Our baby's gender was a surprise at delivery, but that didn't keep me from having a boy's room. I wasn't happy settling on a gender neutral room, so we simply decorated in phases. Prior to the delivery, we picked out furniture, girl bedding, boy bedding and a paint color that would compliment either bedding. The room was painted and the furniture was put up before my due date. Later, we ordered the bedding and remaining room items after we learned our kiddo was indeed a little boy. Since then, the room has come together piece by piece into a space that is both equal parts serene and playful. I wanted something that was sweet but boyish, fun, not too old looking and not too "themed." I'm really pleased with the way things came together despite having an essentially empty, blue room to start with. It hopefully serves as an example that things don't have to be completely in order prior to baby -- besides, he didn't sleep in his room until he was almost 7 weeks old, which gave us plenty of time to tie bumpers and hang curtains.

The Details: Wall Color: Raindrop by Sherwin Williams. Bedding, Pillow, Quilt: Pottery Barn Kids. Crib, Changing Table, Dresser: JC Penney. Glider: Hayneedle. Wall Art: Handmade by Laura. Curtains: Land of nod. Books: Varied. Wall Frames: HomeGoods. Book holder: Gift from a friend (modeled after this). Framed Print: Etsy (frame from Hobby Lobby). Basket: World Market. Blankets: Homemade gifts. Table frame: Mud-pie. Decal: Etsy. Mirror: Kirklands (then spray painted). Letters: Etsy. Baskets: Target. Lamp: Marshall's. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Watching too much TV.

It's that time of year again.

Well, it's been that time of year again. You know, that time where we put our cable on hold and live without for a few months. Don't be fooled, we do the Hulu thing. We also have Amazon Prime, which is pretty similar to Netflix from what I've been told. So we aren't totally devoid of television. I do happen to miss HGTV and Duck Dynasty though.

To be perfectly honest, when the cable is turned on, I am really not all that big of a tv watcher. I don't particularly care for reality tv, nor do I latch onto shows with the same basic formula each week (i.e. House. I mean, every episode was: crazy symptom patient then wrong diagnosis then wrong treatment then crazy symptom patient gets worse then lightbulb moment then right treatment then patient lives. Every week. Yawn.) Because of this, I don't have a plethora of shows that I follow routinely and for the most part, I end up settling for the same old junk.Why is it that you can have hundreds of channels and yet nothing on is worth watching?

Interestingly enough, somehow when the cable turns off, my interest in following tv shows increases exponentially. Everybody wants what they can't have, right? Until cable makes it grand reappearance in the fall with the NFL preseason, I spend my time working through a few good shows during nap time and after Isaac goes to bed. Here's what I've watched-slash-am-watching:

The Mindy Project. The couple of shows I do typically watch in the fall are New Girl and Raising Hope. The Mindy Project airs the same night, so I would see the lead in each week and was always intrigued, but never actually tuned in. Enter Hulu time and I laughed my way through the entire first season. Maybe I wasn't feeling the whole "Mindy dates a pastor" storyline, well, mostly because I don't really think that pastors get drunk and sleep around. Regardless, the show is a hoot.

Parenthood. Wow. How did I miss this gem for 4 seasons?? This show is a roller coaster. It drove Jordan crazy and he called it my "night time soap opera," which I considered an insult. I clung to every hanging storyline. I sympathized with the conflicts, knowing one day I might walk through something similar. It's just real life played out on a tv show. It'll make you laugh. It'll make you cry. It'll make you hug your family. I think I watched all 4 seasons (between Amazon Prime and Hulu) in like a week. Probably more like a month actually, but it felt like it was over in a week and I'm really looking forward to the next season. It is so good.

Suits. This is my current conquest, which is funny because I never go for dramatic shows about law. Most of the law and cop shows (lets just lump them into the same category, eh?) follow that same boring formula: the week repeat. Crazy crime committed, look for the wrong perp, lightbulb moment, find the right perp, justice is served. While Suits has its share of legalrepeaterdrama, (as in, there's always some really tough case with an obscure and overlooked detail that breaks the whole thing wide open and the good guy wins) it's also got some fun little story lines. Plus the main character guys aren't so hard to look at. Needless to say, I got sucked into this show and have almost made it through the first season. I don't know what it's "rated" when it comes on USA, but the Amazon Prime version has a few questionable words thrown in here and there. Despite the occasional bad word, it's smart and witty without taking itself TOO seriously.

What shows do YOU watch? 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Books & Reading

One of my favorite things to do each day is read to my son. From the very beginning, story time was part of our night time routine. Looking back, it was almost comical reading to him between his bath and bedtime feeding because bath time made him absolutely furious. I was always trying to read each page as quickly as possible over his screaming. Thankfully, this nightly meltdown during story time didn't last long. Now, he's a captive audience and we not only read before bed, but throughout the day as well.

I love to read and I hope that one day Isaac will also enjoy reading. I have visions in my mind of climbing into bed before he goes to sleep and reading through chapter books together when he gets a few years older. I haven't ever read Harry Potter or the Chronicles of Narnia, so I would be doubly excited to both experience it the first time for myself AND see Isaac's reaction. These days, we're still trying to maintain an attention span past about 8 cardboard pages though, so it'll be a while before we get to those other books!

Here's a list of our current favorites:

What are YOUR favorite baby-friendly books?

PS: HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to my loveylove. Celebrating 7 awesome years of marriage today!!!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July! Wishing everyone a day filled with grilled food, watermelon, beach-slash-pool time, family get togethers, and of course fireworks! Our plans include wiping a little nose, lots of naps and movies on the couch, and maybe some tylenol thrown in there for good measure. My little Mister is getting sicky... poor kid. We don't usually make grandiose plans for the fourth anyway. #liveinabeachtown #touristtakeover #dontgotowalmart

As a sidenote, many apologies for the lack of blog over the last several days. It's time for my almost monthly "why do I even do this anyway" whine-fest. Between bloggywriter's block and feeling uncertain about so many things (should I keep things more private? should I write more about everyday life and less about frivolous things? will I ever have a good hair AND a good makeup day again so that I can do another vlog? and on and on...), I just can't come up with much of anything to put down.

Bear with me, this too shall pass.
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