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.