Friday, December 19, 2014

The Cutest Christmas Photos EVER

I love getting Aisley's photos done professionally, but quite frankly, with her smiles being as rare as they are, I feel like its a waste of money that we just don't have right now.  Even with the nicest photographer EVER, we never got through a session without a meltdown, and never got a single smile.
So for Christmas, I'm doing her photos myself, and here's how you can too:

1. Be realistic- Aisley is particular about her sleep.  She would not sleep here or there.  She would sleep in a box or with a fox.  Not in a house or with a mouse.  As much as I'd like to catch her snoozing with Santa or cuddled up by the fireplace, I know it won't work, and I know it'll be a waste of my time and a huge frustration to try.  As tired as she gets, no photoshoot naps for Aisley.


2.  Use what you have-  I bought NOTHING for these pictures.  I used a soft couch blanket, an extra strand of light, a few extra ornaments, and our actual presents and tree.  Its great to use stockings as well.


3. Pinterest is a godsend- I'm pretty creative, but why not put a few heads together?  Pinterest is full of ideas you can do yourself.  I even have a whole board dedicated to Aisley photography here.  I even did a couple (sort-of) look-a-likes.

4.  Break it up- One of the biggest advantages of DIYing your photos is that you can set up, set your camera up, and leave it.  Its easy to take a break, get the kiddo a snack, or put the beebs down for a nap mid way through.  If I'm being honest, Aisley's Christmas "session" took about three days...because things like this kept happening.

Really, kid?  Tape??

5.  Know your lighting- I prefer to use tons of natural light.  I HATE my cameras flash, and I'm not willing to shell out the big bucks for a new one, so I simply shoot next to one of the two convenient WALLS of sliding glass doors in our house.  All of the pictures are cropped in to have more of a "backdrop" look, but in actuality, its just in a corner of the living room.

6.  Know your camera basics-  For Christmas pictures, I like to use a low aperture to give the Christmas tree lights a nice, soft glow.  I usually photograph a jumpy, roll-y baby, so my shutter speed is always pretty fast.  Then, I adjust the ISO as low as I can to reduce as much graininess as I can without getting too dark of an image.  From there, I fiddle here and adjust there taking a few pictures in between, until I get something I'm happy (enough) with.  To me, using decent manual settings are always better than "auto" mode.  I use this camera, and while its not a professional grade camera, its a great and inexpensive option for what I use it for, and I really recommend it.  There's even a version that includes Adobe Lightroom, which is what I usually use for editing.  Right now, its even cheaper than the version I have here.

7.  Lightroom is easier than Photoshop-  I always start in Lightroom, usually up my exposure and contrast a touch, fiddle with my colors, and add a little noise reduction, among other things.  It can make photos look great with no filter.  But that being said.....


8.  Filters are your friends-  I'm not a professional.  I know that.  I don't expect my photos to look professional.  However, on those almost-perfect shots, I might as well throw in a nice filter or black and white tone to make it look just a touch more finished than it really may be.

9. Remember to just make memories-  Sure, you can find the exact same pose over and over in magazines and all over the internet...but is that really YOUR child?  I much prefer the pictures that leave the ordinary behind, and let my daughter's unique personality come through.

These. Eyebrows.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Doing Christmas on a Budget-

How we're doing Christmas magic on a believable budget-

Those who know us know that our financial situation has changed, and in a BIG way.  We realized that even with it being Aisley's first Christmas, we needed to budget ourselves to really make it work. We wanted to fill her world with magic and our memories with joy, but without going overboard or bankrupt.

Those who don't know me should know, I tend to be a little more of a baby minimalist.  I just dont think that kids really need alot of blaring and bleeping plastic pieces of crap.  The more they have, the more get left in a corner un-played with.  My kid thinks this too.  Her favorite thing for the longest time was a king size sharpie.  Seriously.  She didn't want anything else.  So when it comes to holidays, I don't want to go overboard.  I saw something on Pinterest where parents were encouraged to buy their children one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing they wear, and one thing they read.  That's it.  Four gifts.  While I'll definitely go past this and also get one thing she'll watch, and a pair of pajamas on Christmas (in addition to what she gets to wear), it's not a bad concept.  I've doubled this while she's so small, and might continue to do so.  Her wear for the year is $6, so why not get her two?

Two things she wants:

This year, Aisley has asked for mama....and bacon.  No such luck, little girl, no such luck.  Instead, we've picked her two toys that are great for her developmental age, one catered to gross motor skills, and the other to fine motor skills.

B Kids Roll Around Shape Sorter- $11
          Aisley is at a perfect age to put things into and take things out of a container.  She's a little young to do the shapes perfectly, but she'll grow into it nicely, and in the mean time, it rattles and can be manipulated in five or six other ways around the outside.  I bought this on Zulily on a great sale.  Its comparable to other shape sorters in price, but once again, offers many more options than the classic hammer-the-block-in-the-hole.
Fisher Price 3-in-1 Elephant- $23
          I picked this up at a phenomenal price at Target.  I used a $5 off coupon from Fisher Price, as well as a 25% off coupon from Target that made this an unbeatable deal.  For now, she can sit on or next to it and play with it, and later, she'll be able to bounce on it, push it as a walker, or ride on it. 

Two things she needs:

EasyPouch Independence - $9 
          Aisley loves pouches.  She looooves them.  She loves that she can feed herself and suck the food out at her own pace.  She also loves to squeeze the living daylights out of them until they make a mess everywhere.  Enter EasyPouch.  Aisley can now feed herself again.  Mommy's happy.  Baby's happy.  Need=met.

Melissa & Doug Grasping Toy-  $7
          Aisley needs all kinds of crap like this.  Yes, I said it.  Crap.  This is the kind of thing she'll carry around forever and happily sit with in her car seat.  It's great to manipulate with her little hands, not to mention natural wood and colorful.  She likes little things she can take with her.  It's exactly why she loved that sharpie for so long.  It was just her size.

  Two Things She'll wear:

I picked her out 2 rompers in size 12 months for $6 each.  Why?  I like rompers.  Romper + Shoes = Full outfit.  Not Onesie + pants + socks + sweater + redo it all each diaper change.  Busy mamas don't have time for that.  She has all the clothes in the size she's in, so I picked 12 month clothes that'll fit just in time for late spring (she's always a couple months behind in sizes).  Besides.  They're adorable.  

Two things she'll read:

Baby Signs - $4
          We sign with Aisley. She has all the classic books, so we love to integrate signing in with this cute board book.  There shouldn't be a book for babies that's made of regular paper.  Just Saying.

          This is a trick.  Aisley hates reading books, but loves eating them.  Trick's on her because this book is vinyl.  It's meant to be wet.  She can literally chew on it all day and nothing will happen.  Bonus: the fish change color in warm bathwater.  I'm setting her up to read books and drink wine in the tub in her adult life, but if that's wrong, then I don't want to be right.

So that's a well rounded Christmas for a baby, all for $70.  So where did the other $30 go?  To the normal Christmas Traditions.  Pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve (that I scored for $2.80-seriously), an outfit to wear on Christmas (that I scored for $7.44), and stocking stuffers.  For Aisley, it was a few Ella's kitchen pouches, some fruit, some travel size lotions, and her favorite snack puffs-its a perfect baby-friendly version of what we always had as kids!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What's to Come

Yes.  I'm slacking.  No, I'm not posting every week.  Bottom line, we aren't busy now, and I don't feel like I have much to say.  Bottom line, I'm not currently a military wife, a domestic aficionado, or even that snarky these days.  Hell, maybe I'll just take this week to update the site.  Maybe I'll take next week to update on what we're going to do with our lives, because people keep asking, and we keep having a hard time answering.  Maybe I'll find a profound end-all explanation.  Maybe.  I'm full of maybes.
I'm hoping to revamp starting in December with tons of decorating and DIY posts as we settle into our new home and create a new space for ourselves and for Aisley (Hint: Nursery remodel!)  I'm also toying around with the idea of a few videos here and there.  I'm welcoming opinions and ideas at this point.  We also have some big travel plans in the works, and Aisley's first plane ride coming up, so I'm sure there will be at least one panicked post about how even though we try SO hard to be baby minimalists, my daughter just has too much crap.  Probably a second panicked post about how the whole plane isn't big enough for all her crap, and then a final post about how it all somehow turned out.  Shocker.  Me?  Panic?  Never.

But on to this week.
What are we doing this week?  We're house sitting and dog sitting for my dad.  #Glamlife, right?  The leasing agent keeps coming to show people the house.  She inevitably shows up late, if at all, or reschedules.  This woman is not the brightest crayon in the box.  In the mean time, it pushes us out of the house with 2 big dogs and a my Nissan Rogue.  Seriously.  Check the photos from this post.  Its not THAT big.  Lucky for us, there's a great dog park about 15 minutes away, and a Petco just up the street from that.  UNlucky for us, it's rained, the dog park is muddy, and Petco isn't that fun with two dogs AND a baby.  We're running a zone defense with those three.  Ryry has finally risen to the occasion, and it seems he's just now applying the training he's had all along.  My dad's dog?  He's old, he doesn't care, and there's a treat bar over by the checkouts that he's DETERMINED to get to.  I don't know whether to thank God for the friendly employees or curse them for thinking he's so sweet and tossing treats to him here and there.

On the Aisley front, we're so thankful that she's FINALLY taken to baby food.  However, because we've been faux-busy so much, she's eaten more Ella's Kitchen than Beth's kitchen, and she now refuses spoons in favor of pouches.  I think it gives her the independence to feed herself, and lets her get only as much as she wants in her mouth at a time.  I gave in.  I finally just bought the most adorable Squooshi set.  For now, we just use the cute smaller lion and bird ones, but I'm sure we'll get on to using the bigger ones, and I'm really excited about the valved drinking lids once I trust her not to squeeze and explode the whole pouch.  This way, she gets the pouches she wants, and I can fill them with any organic food I want, or even fill them with jarred food that's literally half the cost of the pouches.  She's also taken to organic cereal in addition to the organic puffs and of course, the mum mums that introduced her to feeding herself.
Lunch in a laundry basket.  Its the freedom of pouches.  

Beyond that, she's TALKING.  Not babbling, talking.  Her word of the month?  "Mamamamamama."  Wakes up in the middle of the night?  "Mamamama"  Hungry?  "Mamamamama"  Bumped her head?  "MAMAMAMAMA"  Daddy has her?  "Mamama"  Chillin on the floor?  "Babagada"  She's clearly learned who I am.  It's hindered her signing a little, but that's okay.  I'm sure she'll still take to it.
She's also resolved that she will crawl.  Now.  It will not be a low crawl.  She WILL be on her hands and knees.  It's pretty cute, but not working out so well.  We'll let everyone know when she stops falling on her face.  In the meantime, she can scootch forward on her butt at least 8 feet, and she's made herself quite the gymnast to get things without crawling.
Exhibit A:

Yeah.  That's my girl.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Blessing in Disguise + A Peek Into Aisley's Day

Over and over I've had to tell people about our situation with Giordy's ETS, and over and over I've heard the same sentiments.  They're all along the same lines of shocked apologies and statements of what "bad timing" this is, mixed in with well wishes and some golden advice. But honestly, there will never be a "good" time to lose a job you want. We're just choosing to see it as a good thing.
The Army gave my husband 45 days of paid leave, and it has been the biggest gift.

It's given us time to be a family. 

I don't think I've ever, in the entire length of our relationship, spent this much time with my husband. We have never had the opportunity to spend so much time to relax, with no agenda of being back on post before the end of block leave. We were always rushing around to try to visit four families in four different states in the mere 28 days a year we had to do whatever we wanted. Now, we've spent time with my parents with no agenda at all. None. We even managed to expand our scant wardrobes, and even bought...wait for it......jackets. If that isn't a wonderful farewell to Fort Irwin, I don't know what is. We didn't even have to make an entire day out of shopping or rush around like crazy people, because there are stores near here. Weird. I know.

It's let Aisley know her daddy. 

In the nicest way possible, Aisley has never been a daddy's girl. (Have hope, sweetheart, she's still little). He just wasn't physically able to spend enough time with her when he was always rushing off to work and out to the field. Now, we are equal parents.
Aisley wakes up in the morning with her daddy, and they go downstairs to play on the floor with her dogs toys while they all watch Mickey Mouse.
I make her breakfast and we switch off feeding her and making our own breakfasts and coffee once she's done playing.  (Note that her dog always, always lurks in the corner of photos)
She takes a nap and we go about our day. We have more time to enrich her life together. We take her new places daily. There
are new places to go daily. Throughout the day she's so much happier. She has more opportunities to be on the floor exploring things for herself, because she doesn't always have to be where I am. She has the opportunity to choose her daddy.
We've even taken her shooting. Twice. And she LOVED it. (In this family...we start them young)

It's strengthened our marriage. 

We were concerned. We had a huge concern that when the stress and uncertainty hit our relationship, that it would take a serious toll. While it's still possible, and probable once our schedules start to conflict, for now, it's made us as strong as ever. Why? I'm not sure. For one, every night is "date night."  We never have homework or extra things to do after work or anything to get up for in the morning. If we want to lay on the couch and watch a movie, we do. It's the little things in a marriage that matter. Besides that, I think it's validated our faith in each other. While we've always trusted each other, this is proof. We've never had such a need to be supportive of one another, and as a result, we've risen to the occasion and were more trusting and supportive than ever. If I'm being fully honest, I don't understand or love Giordy's top job pursuit or overall plan. But it works, and it's what he wants...and because of that I'm nothing but supportive. 

It's broadened our horizons. 

At the risk of sounding like fresh 18-year-olds, we can do whatever we want.  Whatever.  We.  Want.  We thought we would be spending this time being told where to move and Giordy would be assigned a new job at a new unit.  I thought my job or lack thereof would be dependent on childcare options and what kind of jobs were available.  Instead, we can go anywhere.  Either or both of us could rise to be the breadwinner.  It's to be determined who will stay home with Aisley or if she'll be in daycare.  We're forming a picture of how it will go, but for the first time ever, it's entirely up to us.

Our time in transition is a gift, not a burden.  I'm hoping that people will begin to see how great this can be for us.  We know we'll be okay.  We know we're going to make something great of our lives.  What we do in the meantime is a blessing for our family.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Why an ETS is infinitely more heartbreaking than a PCS

I knew I was leaving Fort Irwin.  Re-enlistment or not, we had to go.  Since the birth of my daughter, I've been looking forward to our PCS.  That was the next major stepping stone...the next thing to check off on my life-long obsession with lists.  We knew where ever we went, it would be a better place.  We knew wherever we went, we couldn't be any further from civilization than we were in Fort Irwin.
So why was it that I found myself driving out of the gate teary-eyed?  What changed when it was an ETS move rather than a PCS?
I knew I was going to be upset leaving my neighborhood.  This had become my new family.  We had laughed together, cried together, endured natural disaster, our fair share of drama, and even had a hand in raising each other's children.  Now, I'll be with my own flesh and blood, but somehow, it doesn't seem the same.  I know that I may not be moving into the type of neighborhood where everyone knows each other, knows what everyone's spouse does, and where everyone throws their kids into the street while the adults all gather on someone's front porch.  No more USO events, no more meeting up with friends for events at Army field, no more Tuesday play groups, and no more splash park meetups every day in between.  I'm losing my built in "village."
When we were planning a PCS, we figured we would move out of one neighborhood like this, and into a very similar one.  I would lose one village, but gain another where we could sit around by the wash basin and scrub out our clothes before hanging them to dry (figuratively, of course).  We would be in the same lifestyle.  We would have stability.  Some other girl may love the freedom that this brings, but a girl like me thrives on stability.
With a PCS move, all these thing are a given.  A few moves later, you start running into people you know again, and you end up with a tightly woven network of support and love with some people you've known forever, and others who you've just met, but are somehow equally as close.
With an ETS, you're open to the whole world.  You can go anywhere, you can do anything.  Its as exhilarating as it is terrifying.  It needs a big caution sticker: "Experiences may vary."  I'll have my family, but I'm mourning the loss of the social life that I have now, and the friends and sense of community that my daughter would have grown up with.  I'm mourning the loss of job security and housing security.  I'm mourning the loss of my ability to stay home with my daughter.  She's my whole world, and I physically don't know how I could possibly leave her.
Our ETS is heartbreaking for me.  We didn't just lose a house and our neighbors, we lost our stability.  We lost a way of life.
As much as I put a negative spin on this, I have no option but to make the best of it. So I packed my bags, said goodbye to my closest friends in my driveway, took my baby and my dog, and drove away without shedding a single tear until I crossed the gate. I said goodbye to post, goodbye to the gate, and goodbye to the tanks, all while saying hello to something that just may be much better.
Welcome? More like goodbye......

Monday, September 22, 2014

My 5 Favorites-Baby Gear

As soon as you become pregnant, you're bombarded with conflict. Buy this, don't buy that. Babies are simple and don't need much, but also expensive enough to bankrupt you. You want to give your baby the best, but you don't want to spoil them. What to do?  Here are my 5 favorites for babies under 6 months old:

"Deluxe" Pack N Play

We chose to use a Pack N Play from day 1 rather than a bassinet.  While a bassinet is completely outgrown by 3 months, a pack n play serves multiple purposes, and can be used much into toddler-hood.  While there ARE other (read:cheaper) Pack N Plays, we loved this one for a lot of reasons.  The changing table is great for those newborn midnight diaper changes.  They were just too gross for the bed, and no one wants to walk to the nursery 4 times a night.  The "napper" was great.  Aisley slept SO well in it, and she stayed in it until she was about 4 months old.  And my favorite: the shelves.  No matter how "minimalist" you are, babies still have a bunch of stuff.  We keep extra diapers, wipes, pajamas, blankets, and an extra binky handy in our room.  'Cause hey, you never know when you'll need it.  And of course, they remove so you can lower the mattress for a standing baby/toddler.  I know these aren't cheap.  But when you offset the bassinet cost and know that you already have somewhere for your kid to sleep while traveling-its worth it!

The "intermediate" stage of our PNP and A's microfleece SwaddleMe

Summer Infant SwaddleMes...ALL of them

We didn't start with the newborn "pods" and we wish we had!  We had a skinny mini that busted out of swaddles like it was her full-time job.  We learned a pretty nifty trick to swaddle her during the day, but at night, nothing beat the swaddleme.  She still doesn't sleep without one to this day.  I'm so glad that summer infant makes these up to toddler size, because honestly, she'll still be in one as long as she wants to be....even if I have to have one custom made for her when she's 9.  If she still likes it, she still gets is, because sleep matters.  Side note, we liked the microfleece best when she was still swaddled with her arms in, even if it meant swaddling her naked so she didn't get too hot.  There was less stretch to the fabric, so the little magician was stuck in it.  

MAM Pacifiers

When I was pregnant, someone told me that the MAM binkies were most loved by breastfed babies.  I can't for the life of me remember who told me, but I owe that person my sanity.  The lactation consultants preached, "no pacifier until 4 weeks old.  You don't want to confuse the baby."  And 24 hours later, I didn't care.  Aisley needs a binky.  End of story.  Thanks to this binky, shaped like no other one I've seen, we had NO nipple confusion.  We started with the classic MAM, but quickly moved to the MAM start when we saw how much the regular one swallowed up her face at first.  I took a gamble out of desperation and picked up the MAM Air for 6+ plus at around 5 months, and its even better.  The design is great for babies this age.  It gave her so much more control to loop her fingers through the sides and manipulate it.  MAM Air turned her binkies into soothers and toys.

Hospital Aisley with her giant MAM Trends binky

Giant Muslin Blankets

Some people swear by the aden + anais blankets, but I really prefer the price point of the identical Hudson Baby brand muslin blankets.  These were the blankets that facilitated our crazy swaddle.  We resorted to a method that looked like it came straight from the biblical era.  It took a little practice, and these were the ONLY blankets we could accomplish it with.  On vacation, we wet them and draped them over her while hiking.  Otherwise, I don't think she would have been able to tolerate the heat.  This blanket is SO multi-purpose.  Shade, blanket, desperation nursing cover (on the rare occasion I use one), and the best thing for Aisley to play with eat.  


Baby Jogger City Versa

I've mentioned this before, but I just love it so much.  A friend and I joke that we should be paid by Baby Jogger (but really we probably should be).  Why?  Because everywhere we go, we refer more and more business back to them.  Their customer service is amazing, their products are phenomenal as well, and i just can't stop telling everyone.  This stroller is great.  It folds easily, grows with your child, isn't heavy, and is (apparently) comfortable as can be.  I had another stroller for the first two months of Aisley's life, and I used it twice.  I use this one almost daily.  I love all the accessories for it too.  It can be expanded to hold any carseat, has multiple trays, interchangeable wheels, the works.....
Yes, I know, I'm nerding out over a stroller.  Get over it, its that good.
Yep.  It's THIS comfy

And that's it!  Those are the best things Aisley has owned thus far.  Stay tuned for her favorite toys and more!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Life Changes

“We can't be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don't have something better.”

I've been struggling with how to address this for quite some time.  I still don't how to say what's going on.  I feel like in my mind there's a stigma behind what I have to say.  Like somehow Giordy & I failed as adults.  On the other hand, I feel like I'm lying by keeping my mouth shut.  Old friends ask how we are, and I respond "fine" like there's not a single concern on my mind.  But we've been forced out of the pond. 

A few months ago, Giordy was preparing for reenlistment.  He had his slot from retention, had all the recommendations he needed, and was just waiting on a signature.  The signature was just supposed to be a formality.  We had no idea that Giordy was about to not only be denied a signature, but treated like a contemptible and incompetent soldier, by someone who hadn't worked hand-in-hand with him enough to even know.  He was denied on false grounds, and after we took all recourse, he was still denied.  And just like that, his career was over.  Anyone in the military knows that it's the norm to start preparing to leave the service one year in advance.  One year.  We had 47 days.  47 days to clear housing, clear post, find out how to move our own things, find a place to live.  And now, we have 26 days.  

Moving forward, everything changes.  For someone like me, someone who thrives on normalcy and stability, panic ensues.  Every minute of every day, my mind is racing with different plans.  I can no longer stay home with Aisley, no longer strut my domestic prowess while basking in financial stability, I can no longer slave over time consuming, made-from-scratch organic food for my husband and daughter.   Houses, jobs, moving trucks.  When I have a conversation, I'm barely there.  

But then I stop.....

In ten years, where will we be?  Back in the pond?  Or will we be in the  ocean with a big house and a white picket fence?  Even if we can just tread water, we'll be together.  Isn't that all that matters?  I have to choose to believe there is something better for us out there.  I have to believe there is a world where my husband and I learn our own choreographed dance between our children, our jobs, and each other.  A beautiful dance where my daughter grows up seeing her daddy every day.  Giordy and I are stubborn.  At times, it hurts our marriage.  But now is our chance.  This is our chance to use that, and see what going through "failure" will bring us to.  

We're entering a world where nothing is set in front of us.  But in this same world, we both have the opportunity to persist, and to achieve each of our deepest goals and dreams that wouldn't be possible otherwise-and with a little work, that's just what we'll do.  

Bear with me.  If you see me on the street and I don't say hello, know that the back of my mind has taken over the foreground.  If you send a text, and I don't reply, know I'm up to my elbows in moving boxes, bank statements, and lease paperwork.  And if I don't blog for a few weeks, know I'm busy going out and trying to accomplish my dreams.  :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

How I saved $237 at Babies R Us!!!+ A Review on a Graco "Clone"

Mommas, take note, now through Sept 13th, you can score BIG at Babies R Us.

I bought a great infant seat for Aisley.  I love it.  Unfortunately, I don't love the 2nd base for it, which really makes it only effective in ONE car.  I thought about dropping $80 to buy another "premium" base, but when Graco came out with a new deal, I decided to purchase her convertible instead.  Here's a few tidbits on why I love this Graco Convertible carseat.   Graco makes this seat in different trims (Size4Me 65, MySize 65, Headwise, and Fit4Me 65).  Basically they are all the same shell, with different connecters and fabric.  I love the fabrics on the Size4Me, but went with the MySize just for this epic deal at Babies R Us.

          -Its feature filled, and easy-to-use.  You can adjust this seat with it already installed.  It installs with either a LATCH connecter, or a seatbelt in just a minute or so.  When I took it out to my car, to "test install" it, I turned around to give the floor model back to the sales guy and was promptly greeted with "Already?  You're done?" Yep.  In and out in under 2 minutes.
         -It fits.  It fits small cars, cars with weird reclines, and best of all, it fits MY car.  It takes up less room in my car than her infant carrier, and still will take up less room with the headrest extended.
         -Its comfortable.  I cant vouch for this myself (because we all know my ass wont fit) but Aisley says it all-by saying nothing at all.  She's a carseat SCREAMER.  Carseat?  No f-ing thank you.  Since I moved her into this seat we haven't heard a peep.  She still fights being PUT in it, but once secured she just chills and tries to eat her toes.  She's happy enough in this seat that we can use it for fun:

          -Its long-lasting.  This is currently the highest height limit seat for rear-facing on the market.  Diono has the highest weight limit, but since most kids out grow seats by height first, the height limit is also very important (especially with the genetics Aisley got from her daddy).  Seriously.  She only has this much room to grow:

Disclaimer: This is not a safe way to restrain a child in the car and is NOT recommended in this post.  Seriously guys.  This is my living room.

So how did I do it then?  Here's a breakdown of how to score BIG on this seat.  Using one coupon, two promotional deals, and one mail-in-rebate.  

Here's what I scored for $200 at BRU in addition to this car seat.  

I used a 20% off coupon (which can be found on Snip Snap) on the carseat, and got 15% off my entire purchase by applying for the BRU store card, that I was told I was not required to keep or use(though I've heard different stories from different cashiers).  Here are the retail values and out of pocket cost for my entire receipt.

Graco MySize 65 in Tidalwave- Retail $179.99
After 20% off one item (coupon) and 15% off purchase- paid $122.39

4 pack long sleeve onesies- Retail $26 
15% off- paid $22.10

Carter's Striped Dress and Sweater- Retail $24
BOGO with onesies- paid $0!

Carter's Pajamas- Retail $18 
15% off- paid $15.30

Carter's Pajamas- Retail $18
BOGO with other pajamas- Paid $0!

Carter's Vest Set- Retail $30
BRU Sale for $18, Plus 15%off- Paid $15.29

Carter's Cardigan Set- Retail $30
BRU Sale for $18, Plus 15%off- Paid $15.29

MAM binkies- Retail $5.99
15% off- Paid $5.09

Koala Wipe Off Bib- Retail $4.99
15% off- Paid $4.24

Boogie Wipes (because I was .30 short of the promotion)- Retail $1.49
15% off- Paid $1.24

And the GEM that made this worth a second trip out of town in one weekend:

Motorola MBP421 Video monitor- Retail $99.99
With a $200 purchase- Paid $0!

Bonus: Now through the end of October, Graco has a $25 mail in rebate for all car seats and travel systems over $200.  Which makes the final cost of this premium carseat under $100.  Add that to my saved cash, and I saved a total of $262!  (Or spent a total of $175 pre-tax)  Yep.  I bought all this crap for less than the retail price of the seat.  I wouldn't have had an issue paying the retail price for it (eventuallly), which means all the free stuff is just an added bonus.  
Guess who's gonna have the safest and best-dressed baby this winter......

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How I lost the Baby weight part 3: Avoiding the Gym

Personally, I am not friends with the gym.  I'm just not.  I can hike all day, go for a run outside, or do yoga for hours, but ask me to go to the gym, and you'll receive some major hemming and hawing.  Luckily for me (but not so luckily for my body image) Aisley was on my side.  "Oh, mom needs to go the gym?  Looks like its time to spectacularly spit up everything I've eaten and then cry because I'm hungry.  Going to spin class?  Looks like I just fell asleep ON your boob, mom."  I really did try to workout, but when your baby will allow no one else to watch her?  Time to get creative.    I was consistently between 135-140 pounds (eek.  I'm like 5' 3" on a good day) when I plateaued out.  I stayed there for ages.  That was it.  Goodbye, weight melting off, goodbye uterus shrinking, goodbye losing extra fluid.  I had to actually lose weight now, I couldn't go to the gym, and I've always been leery of fads or drastic lifestyles.   We really wanted to transition to an organic and paleo diet, but didn't want to dive into something we couldn't maintain.  So what did I do?  I made ONE change.  One simple change to see how much weight that ONE change would cut.  I would wait, and watch for the next plateau, and then make one more change.

1. Drinks and snacks.  The first thing I did to reduce calorie (and CHEMICAL) intake was to cut out all processed drinks and snacks.  All of them.  All of the chips, candy, and cookies, along with soda, energy drinks, and pretty much all juice got nixed.  We replaced chips with crunchy vegetables, and other snacks with nuts, seeds, trail mix, and fruit.  I'll grab a real food Larabar over a snickers any day.  They just taste BETTER(I'm looking at you, coconut cream pie and cashew cookie).  We replaced juice with water(except for chia juice) energy drinks with regular coffee, and soda with coconut water and tea.  Everyone thinks this is the hardest thing, but a small amount of discipline here lost me the most weight out of anything.

2. Desserts.  We like ice cream.  Who doesn't?  I lost 5 lbs simply by switching out chemical-laden ice cream for coconut milk mixed with milk or pumpkin and honey.  Slightly more prep work, but worth it.  We haven't missed the sweets, and its been over 2 months.  I finally did have a killer chocolate craving that was satiated by some honey and cacao chocolate chip cookies.  They were bomb, and sugar content aside, still all-natural.

3. "Quick" Dinners-AKA anything prepackaged or pre-seasoned.  This is the next thing we cut out.  If we need something fast to eat, we now make a quick soup from Bob's Red Mill, stir fry up some veggies and chicken, throw together some black beans with a high-quality salsa, and we frequently use microwave pouches of quinoa that are perfect in a pinch.

For me, these 3 changes got me through 3 plateaus, and lost me 2 pounds per week.  The coolest thing about clean eating is that it gives you what you need.  My husband has eaten the same food as I have (but admittedly more of it) and actually gained a little much-needed weight.  I can't imagine how well I would have done if I had been able to go to the gym in addition to this.  So what now?  I'm back to my prepregnancy weight, but I'd still like to lose another 10 lbs, if not 15.  It still remains to be seen if this is just another plateau or if I will HAVE to work out to lose more weight.  Admittedly, for now, we only follow these eating habits at home.  If we're out, there's much more flex(seriously, a girl's gotta EAT).  But for now, we're working to replace sauces and dressings with natural alternatives, replacing more and more dairy with non-dairy alternatives, and trying to reduce the amount of time we spend eating out of home.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How I lost the Baby Weight Part 2: The first weeks (or months)

When I had Aisley, due to complications, I was given over 17 lbs of IV fluid.  I left the hospital heavier than I had walked into it at 42 weeks pregnant.  I had such fat cankles that I was unable to walk up and down stairs, I looked 7 months pregnant, and even with my baby finally home, I was devastated.  I heard about the girls that are back in their skinny jeans weeks later, and I hated them.  Realism isn't on the favorable side of postpartum women.  Here are the steps I took to losing weight in the first weeks.  For me, this "few weeks" was closer to 2-3 months.  Why?  I have an exhausting baby.
  1. Relax- You get home from the hospital, and no doubt cringe at every mirror.  Give up the stress.  Sit on the couch with your baby, and make sure there are no mirrors visible from your favorite nap spot.  I really needed time to recover from a semi-traumatic birth and to bond with A.  I did this for at least 2 months, and still lost around 25 lbs.  Seventeen pounds of fluid and 5 more of god knows what.  All I did during this first 2 months to lose weight was.....
  2. Breastfeed- Whether or not breastfeeding actually helps weight loss, I was determined to do it for Aisley's health.  I feel strongly about breastfeeding (read more here) so I did it.  And for the sake of this post, lets say it helped.  After all, while eating crappy and laying around, I still lost 22 lbs.
  3. Don't get discouraged at plateaus-After the initial 25 lbs, I plateaued out every. five. pounds.  It was so irritating to be doing so well for a couple weeks only to spend a couple weeks where the scale would not budge.  Instead, make a small change at each one.  
During this initial bonding time, I chose NOT to worry about my weight, and instead bond with my new baby (and let's be honest: I slept.) The first few weeks are easy.  Everything is new and exciting.  Uteruses slowly retreat to their proper position while they realize that there are ENOUGH babies right now, and (if breastfeeding) you can live guilt-free about "one more bite" of dessert.  

I truly think that if I had stressed myself about my body and tried to whip myself back into shape I would have experienced mommy burnout and eaten take out every night for two weeks.  I think if I hadn't gotten the extra sleep, that my metabolism would have held onto my fat stores like a lifeboat.  And I think I had to have done something right, because I shrank fairly quickly, even if I held onto a fair amount of weight, and yes, even if loose clothing and disguising tops became my best friends.  I felt good.  I took time to bond with my baby.  We took naps together, stared at each other, and had a strong start to breastfeeding that's still going on without a hitch.  And it made me a better mom.

Let's take a nice look at what "recovery time" did for my worn-out-just-had-a-baby-body, because like I said....we're being honest with ourselves.  I DID pic the pictures with more flattering angles, but I also Instagrammed pictures the first 4 weeks postpartum.  I figure thats the borderline between bravery and embarrassment.

1 week

This is how I "worked" on weight loss at first-in a maternity top and my husband's gym shorts...because that's literally all that fit.  

Only 1 week postpartum!  I'd like to thank this dress A LOT.  

2 weeks

2 weeks PP, and now only looking 4 months pregnant!  BONUS, I left the house with no shame and still in maternity clothes:

3 weeks

3 weeks, and extreme bravery

1 month

4 weeks, and my birthday!  I was HAPPY with how I looked!