Baby Must-Haves (3-6 Months)

>> 5.30.2012

Uhm. Ada's 6.5 months old.


When we last visited this topic, Baby Must-Haves (0-3 Months), I certainly had A LOT to write. Still do, but I think I'll keep my piece pretty basic this time around. Top two or three in each category.


GLAD WE BOUGHT:

a.) Cloth Wipes
b.) Breathable Bumper
c.) Pacifiers

a.) We wrote all about it already, but now after using cloth wipes for over a month, we're smitten. It's just so much easier at wash time. b.) Ada has this habit of flailing around while she sleeps and often gets caught with an arm or leg outside the crib. So, we bought one of those breathable bumpers. Safe and problem solved! c.) It took us a while to find the right kind (MAM), but we are thankful Ada took to a pacifier. She only uses it to ease down at nap times. But it's enabled us to help Ada help herself fall asleep without so much rocking, etc. Usually once she's fallen asleep, I take it out of her mouth after a minute or so.


THANKFUL TO HAVE BORROWED/ACQUIRED:

a.) Basic Bottles
b.) Lansinoh Bags. Lots of 'em.

a.) The manual breast pump (Harmony) my friend Erin gave me came with some very basic bottles. Strangely enough, they are Ada's favorite and the only she'll drink from. Weird, eh? b.) My friend Lindsey had a bunch of breast milk storage bags left over from her little one. I used to use Medela, but I love the Lansinoh so much more. Almost running out.


HAVE, BUT HAVEN'T USED:

a.) Crib Soother
b.) Wipe Warmer
c.) Baby plates, bowls, etc.

a.) In complete desperation we went out and bought one of those musical contraptions you strap to the crib that is supposed to help ease baby into sleep. Did not work at all. She likes it alright, but doesn't do its job. I took it off the crib because it kept falling down, too. b.) I mentioned this on the last list. I thought we might use the wipe warmer when we started using cloth wipes. But we just use a plastic container for that. Plus, Ada seems to like the cool solution now that it's hot outside. c.) I imagine we'll use them eventually, but between giving Ada chunks of real food, mixing cereal in little bowls we already had, and the occasional jar of food -- we haven't needed any baby-specific stuff. Well, except a couple tiny spoons.


DON'T HAVE, BUT HAVEN'T NEEDED:

a.) Baby Food Maker
b.) Video Monitor

a.) (Image Credit)I eyed them at the store when I was pregnant. But making baby food is as simple as this: Steam fruit/veggies. Puree in food processor that we already have. Serve. b.) I know it was on our last list, but I said at one point that I wanted a video monitor. Now that Ada is sleeping in her room full-time, I have changed my mind back. There's really no need.


WISH WE INVESTED IN:

a.) Different High Chair
b.) BOB Handlebar Console
c.) Another Car Seat Base

a.) Ours is working out well, so there aren't any problems. But for Baby-Led Weaning, it's easier if the baby can sit right up to the dinner table versus having his/her own tray. This basic high chair from Ikea is temping at only $20 . . . but I think we'll stick with what we already have. b.) (Image Credit) Sure, I can stash water underneath the stroller, but it'd be much easier if we ordered the console. That's what gift cards are for, I guess! c.) Maybe I'm just lazy, but switching cars is annoying when we have to take out the base and put it in the other vehicle.


GREAT GIFTS WE'VE RECEIVED:

a.) Doorway Jumper
b.) Go-Pod
c.) Jogging Stroller
d.) Beco carrier

a.) As I mentioned in our FAQ Video, Ada is in love with her doorway jumper (this one). Whenever she's cranky, it's a usual first try for something to snap her out of it. Usually works like a charm. Plus, when I'm taking a shower, it's nice to pop on the bathroom door to keep her occupied for a few minutes. b.) Stephen's mom gave Ada her Go-Pod, pictured above. It's a fantastic alternative to this gigantic plastic monsters you see in most homes. Folds away quickly, too! Plus, you can attach any toy you want to it with links. c.) We don't have to go into too much detail because we write about it all the time (Here, here, and here, for example). But we use the jogging stroller (BOB Revolution SE) m.u.l.t.i.p.l.e times daily. d.) Same goes with our Beco carrier. We take it everywhere and use it at least once a day.


HOUSEHOLD ITEMS, REPURPOSED:

a.) Towels
b.) Quilts
c.) Plastic Lunch Containers

a.) We've found even more uses for towels these past several months. We use them to prop Ada in the BOB. We use them underneath us for nighttime feedings (laying down). And even outdoors as a makeshift blanket. b.) All our quilts have become throw rugs as Ada has started crawling. I hate when she bangs her head on the floor when she topples over, so I have laid several on the floor in the family room leading to the dining area (where we spend most of our time). c.) We use 'em for storing cloth wipes and homemade solution.


THINGS WE'VE ALREADY RETIRED

a.) Boppy Pillow at 3 months
b.) Swing at 4 months
c.) Swaddle at 5 months
d.) Pack 'n Play at 6 months

Do you have any items to add or take away from these lists? Just leave a comment or email us at writingchapterthree [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Little Swimmer

>> 5.27.2012


Ada's first swim! We bought a tiny kid pool for our backyard today. The water was too cold at first, her teeth chattered and she look stressed. Plan B: We filled half of the pool with cold water from the hose and the other half with hot water from the kitchen sink until it resembled what she dips in during bath time. Once she was warm, she kicked and splashed around like, for lack of a better simile, a fish. Mission accomplished.

On a related note, I'd love suggestions for reusable swim diapers. We bought some disposables because I know they are required at a swim class I want to sign Ada up for. Otherwise, what do you all use? I've heard a dedicated cloth diaper cover works wonders.

(FYI: We got her bathing suit at a thrift store for $2. Her swim cap was a Gap clearance find with an extra 40% off. Yup -- the $5 rule in effect! It' sized 18-24 months, so it's a bit loose this year and should fit well next year. Score!)

PS: Grammie and Grandpa were around for the fun. My dad snapped this pic of us. Living in the moment? OK. Busted. I need to do better.


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The Sleep Situation: Update

>> 5.25.2012

She used to sleep anywhere. We'd take what we could get.

Worked for us.
Worked for her.
Win-win.


Then, when Ada was around 3 months old, we had outlined how we wanted to transition her to her crib ASAP. It seemed like the "right" thing to do. What everyone else was doing, too.


Yeah. Go ahead and laugh. O-u-t-l-i-n-e-d? As we've found out (and you've told us), outlining anything when you have a baby is ridiculous. You do whatever works on any given day. Or any given hour, for that matter.


Fast forward two months. To the last time we talked about sleep. Ada had just hit that 19-week sleep regression and we decided to swaddle her again. And that worked for a good while.

If you'll remember, due to Ada's reflux issues, we had her sleeping in this kind of arrangement. Inside a inclined rocker, swaddled tight. She'd hardly budge all night and sleep there all cozy and warm.


A couple weeks after we started swaddling her again, she became much more mobile. Like incredibly so. Overnight. She'd toss and turn in her swaddle all night long. To the point where it didn't seem safe anymore. I'd picture her inch-worming her way out of her chair at night. And though it never happened, it made it difficult for me to sleep.

So, around when Ada was 5-1/2 months, we changed up our evening routine. We used to eat dinner, read a book, and do a bath . . . then return downstairs, swaddle, and Ada would sleep on the couch while we watched TV.


The switch? I'd nurse Ada to sleep. Until she was absolutely out of it. Then I'd transfer her to her crib for those hours between around 7:30 PM and 10:30 PM. Surprisingly, we had no problem at all with this change of location. Plus, we didn't have to be super quiet anymore. We could actually TALK to each other. It was glorious.

We started doing that AND, more difficult, now, having Ada nap in her crib as well. The napping thing was hard. Ada's nursing schedule isn't, well, a schedule at all. So, I can't exactly get her to doze as deeply as I'd like. It took a few weeks to learn to rock and sway her in the right way, but we got into a rhythm.


I'll admit there is some crying that goes on. Ada doesn't fall asleep well on her own. Not that we expect her to. In no way do we "cry it out" . . . but I do let her fuss and, yes, OK cry (am I a horrible mom? I don't think so) for around 5 minutes before I go in for another round of coddling. Usually it takes just one fit for her to get out enough of her energy. I stick the pacifier in, and we're golden.

After a month of these crib experiences, we decided to take the plunge last week. We went upstairs like we usually do around 10:30 PM. We woke Ada for her night feed and then we put her to sleep in her crib.

And . . .
She . . .
Slept . . .
Until . . .
6AM!


I suppose I should mention that we don't do this sleeping thing by the book. So, I don't advise you necessarily do what we do. You need to chat with your pediatrician about what is best for your baby. Ada WILL NOT sleep on her back. AT all. Instead, she sleeps on her stomach. And she likes to be put down that way, too.

After several weeks of watching her like a hawk during naps, I feel comfortable leaving her that way. Plus, her pediatrician said there's little we can do at this point because babies are flipping and flopping like crazy.

Co-sleeping is another term I've tossed out before. I think I mentioned it in our Q and A video a couple weeks ago.


Yes. The last piece of our sleep puzzle: We do co-sleep. Sometimes. Usually after Ada's middle-of-the-night feed, so around 3AM or 4AM until she gets up around 7AM or 8AM. I feel much more comfortable sharing our bed occasionally now that she's bigger and stronger, though we have been doing it for several months. I'm also a very light sleeper, which is why we might change this practice soon.

So, that's where we are right now.

7:30PM to 10:30PM: Ada sleeps in her crib while we hang out downstairs
11:00PM to 6:00AM (Ideal night): Ada sleeps in her crib
11:00PM to 3:00AM (Normal night): Ada sleeps in her crib
3:00AM to 7:00AM (Normal night): Ada sleeps with me

Who knows where we'll be in a month! What does your sleep situation look like these days? And does it change as often as ours does?

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More Solids for Ada

>> 5.23.2012

We've continued introducing Ada to solids using the Baby-Led Weaning approach. It's so funny to watch her annihilate a banana, rip into a piece of asparagus, or smash unsuspecting avocado flesh.


As much as I enjoy the mess and Ada's enthusiasm, very little actually makes it into her tummy. Which is fine, since breastmilk is still her primary source of nutrition and will be for a long time to come.

Tonight we did some more traditional spoon-feeding for a change.


We had tried Ada on a big sprig of asparagus last week. She gummed it (or, rather, toothed it with her one tooth that has since become TWO!) and didn't have any adverse reactions. So, tonight I decided to get creative: One apple and three asparagus sprigs steamed and then pureed with about a teaspoon of water. Makes enough for two meals.

At first, she wasn't so sure about the texture/flavor (though the asparagus hid itself well -- the mixture really just tastes like unsweetened applesauce).


We took a short break and then started again. She warmed up a bit.



After a few minutes more, she couldn't get enough of the stuff!


Chomping and chattering away . . .


Overall, I think our mixed approach is working well. We often give Ada a banana, for example. A big chunk of it. We mash/puree the rest. We let her play for a long while and give her ample time to feed herself. Then, we spoon her some to get the taste-buds going. I imagine we'll change what we're doing -- like with everything else -- over time. For now, it's working for us. And her.

She's sure learning a lot. I love all the little faces she makes at mealtime each night.


Of course, I'd love to feed her all organic food, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary. Or in our budget, for that matter. Reading this Mayo Clinic Q and A helped me feel better about what we're doing.

Our CSA share is going to start soon and run for 20 weeks, so we'll have plenty of organic eats during the summer and fall months. But I'm wondering how you all feel about committing to organics for baby. Of course, in an ideal world, I'd like to provide the very best I can. But I still think I'm doing just that. Who knows!

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Salted Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

>> 5.22.2012

Late Sunday morning.
Skipped long runs.
80 degrees.
Ada's napping.
Stephen's mowing the lawn.


And, yes, that's a manual mower. Tough work. Anyway, Stephen joked that I should bring him a snack like Ree always does for her husband -- we've been watching back episodes of the Pioneer Woman cooking show (would you believe I've never read her blog?).

Snack, he says? Sure. So, I did just that.

But not before taking some time for myself. Showering, getting dressed up, and painting my nails to match one of my mother's day gifts: A new pair of saltwaters (in orange).


Glorious.

You can imagine the thought behind this recipe was much more in my favor than in Stephen's. But knowing he doesn't like to "waste calories" on desserts, I made these cookie dough bites sans sugar and oil. Then popped 'em in the freezer to ward off the hot sun.


SALTED PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE DOUGH BITES

What you'll need . . .
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (homemade, sans the sugar -- it's easy! here's how)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped peanuts, unsalted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt for sprinkling

Method . . .

#1: Cream together the peanut butter, maple syrup, almond milk, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Then add in the flax meal and stir around again.
#2: Whisk together the flour, oats, and salt. Then add to the wet mixture.
#3: Fold in chopped peanuts. Then roll teaspoon to tablespoon-sized balls and sprinkle with salt.
#4: Refrigerate for up to three days. Or freeze for three months. Don't try baking.

As far as cookie dough goes, not too shabby. Tastes great, but is also relatively healthy. No butter, oil, eggs, or sugar. And I imagine you can replace the wheat flour with your favorite gluten-free variety, too.

What's your favorite easy-to-make afternoon snack?

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The SAHM Decision: Budget and Sacrifice

>> 5.21.2012

First, I wanted to thank you for all your words of support with our decision for me to stay home with Ada. When I left work in November, it wasn't the original plan. But as we approached the sixth month of my extended maternity leave, which was to end in June, my mind had been made up.

But that doesn't mean the decision was quite this easy.


As expected, I have received a lot of questions about how we came to our choice. Both financially and career-wise. The answers will definitely necessitate more than one post. I also feel like I need to write 10,000 disclaimers because staying home versus working is a touchy subject. To put it simply: There's no right or wrong way to raise a family. All the choices we have made are what works for our situation/family.

Today I'm going to focus more on the basics as they relate to money.

Before I found out I was pregnant, I used to think about staying at home and what it might be like. My mother stayed home with me. Stephen's mom stayed home with him. It's what we both know. For us, it would never, ever be possible, or so I thought.

Though our cars are both paid off, we have a modest mortgage, and we have no credit card debt -- our $800 student loans take a gigantic chunk out of our already tight budget. Financially, we just couldn't swing life with children on a teacher's salary alone.


Then Ada came. I kept running the numbers over and over and over again. I must have created at least 100 different budget scenarios in Excel. An ideal, everything-we-could-ever-want-and-more budget. Wasn't going to happen. An extremely scaled back, cutting-cable-and-absolutely-all-extras-including-weekend-fun budget. It was entirely too restrictive, and I couldn't see us being able to stick to it in reality. Then a budget that fell sort of in the middle. I tooled with it, and after a while . . . it started to make sense.

When dreaming up budgets, you have to make sure not to leave anything out. That pesky Netflix charge, though under $10, still adds up. So, if you're working on your own path to being a SAHM, consider the following fixed expenses:
  • Rent or Mortgage/Escrow 
  • Utilities 
  • Health Insurance 
  • Student Loans 
  • Car Loans 
  • Credit Card Payments 
  • Car Insurance 
  • Set Retirement Contributions 
  • Whatever else you must pay each month
And the many variable expenses. (This is where you can get creative!)
  • Groceries 
  • Baby costs (food, clothing, toys, etc.)
  • Entertainment 
  • Clothing 
  • Travel 
  • Cable/Internet 
  • Gas/Car Repair 
  • Pet Care 
  • Hobbies (Like Running -- shoes really do add up!) 
  • Misc. Household (cleaning supplies, etc.) 
  • Whatever else you find yourself spending extra on each month
It's helpful to track your expenses for several months to see exactly where your money is going. It can be incredibly eye-opening. We found that the majority of charges on our debit card were food-related purchases. Just lazy trips, too -- when we already had tons of food at home. We also spent a lot of "mad money" when we were feeling bored and just went shopping on weekends.

I created a worst-case scenario budget, too. You never know what might happen, so it's always good to know as low as you can absolutely go. In ours, I cut entertainment out, cable out, and certainly our allowances, which I'll get to in a moment.

I used some of the following resources to help:

Baby Center: Can you afford to stay at home?
Parents: SAHM Calculator
About.com: How to Save Money as a SAHM
Money Under 30: The Cost of Having a Baby


So, I guess what I'm getting at is that the first step in my decision was doing the work, crunching the numbers, and learning about AND accepting the (many) sacrifices entailed. For us, going to one income involves a lot of reducing, reusing, and recycling.

Here's what I mean . . .
  • We've reduced our previously out-of-control grocery budget to $50 to $60 a week. It may not sound like a lot -- and, it isn't. So, we can't eat all the exotic and fun thing we used to. Tough. We don't go hungry either. I do, however, cook most everything from ultra-scratch.
  • We've reduced our never-kept-track-of weekend/entertainment budget to whatever is left after we buy groceries subtracted from $100. Thankfully, we like our cooking more than going out. We're outdoor enthusiasts and, most times, nature is free. And going to the movies in the AM hours is cheap, cheap, cheap! 
  • We are reusing old clothes we had considered getting rid of because we can't go out and buy all new. We may be in last season's duds, but style really isn't our thing anyway. We use money from birthdays and holidays to get extras.
  • We're reusing other people's stuff by buying a lot of Ada's clothing at thrift stores. And to be honest, thrifted baby clothes, for the most part, are in excellent shape. I feel like we get compliments on her outfits all the time! 
  • We are also cycling through old linens and other home items we had grown tired of. We can't just go out to Target/Home Goods and buy comforters, pillows, and home decor on a whim anymore. We're finding that stuff doesn't really matter much anyway.
  • We don't have budget for travel beyond going on family trips (which are great!) and camping. This summer's big hoorah is a three-day camping music festival. Wish us luck with that one!
I think you can see that we're living tight. "Being able" to stay home isn't always what you'd think. I used to assume that most SAHMs were wealthy with lots of expendable income. There's a fair number of 'em out there, and I'm jealous, but I hope I am showing you that the stereotype isn't always the case.

For us, it's involved a huge mindset shift from having and wanting a lot to having and wanting less. It's freeing in a way, but sometimes difficult because a lot of the world around us doesn't live like we now do. Even after all this paring down, at the end of the month, we are lucky if we have $50 left. Yikes!


We worked hard during my pregnancy to cut back and save up 9 months of expenses so that we're covered in case of emergency. Surprisingly, we've already had several instances where that money has come in handy. (Like an unexpected $4,000 engine repair on Stephen's car.)

In our budget, I tried my best to over-estimate costs, leaving wiggle room for things to not go perfectly. I mean, when does life really go as planned? I definitely left us ample room for what we might spend on healthcare deductibles if we're all sick in a month and all need medicine and doctor visits. But that doesn't happen every month.

I even gave us each a $50 allowance. Yes. An allowance, like the kind you give a 10-year-old. On good months, we can spend this money any way we want. On tight months, this is an extra $150 that can go toward unexpected expenses.


It's not what I entirely expected, but I treat staying home like a true job. Probably the hardest job I've ever had. And I really do mean that. Before I had Ada, I used to have delusions about staying home being this blissful, relaxing activity. FUN was the main word that would come to mind. I'd picture days spent strolling in the sun, napping and playing together in the backyard. There's a fair share of that, but -- overall -- it's really tough, demanding work. (And I can completely relate to this recent article from Huff Parents about the SAHM and depression link.)

And though things like breastfeeding, cloth diapering and wipes, and from-scratch baby food are trends in the blog-world . . . for us, they are necessity. Absolute necessity. No pressure there. (Sarcasm.)

BUT IS STAYING HOME FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE?

I suppose I should mention that for a long time, I didn't think staying home was "financially responsible" as we raise our family. In fact, I read many, many threads in forums online with people sharing that exact idea. But then I realized all the benefits to staying home. Despite the crazy ups and downs, I do get to spend all my time raising my child, which is more rewarding than my previous employment was to me.

If you have the opportunity, I would suggest taking a longer unpaid maternity leave and seeing if your budget actually works in practice. It's how we ultimately decided to take the plunge. Plus, if I stay home now, it doesn't mean I'm staying home forever. In fact, when Ada is a year old, I am going to actively pursue freelancing work (I have a degree in Writing and have done some in the past) or other flexible part-time employment where childcare might not be necessary.

This post is getting incredibly long. As you can see, I do have a lot to write on the matter -- and I will be writing more. If you have any specific questions you'd like us to answer, we'd be happy to field them. Just leave a comment or email us at writingchapterthree [at] gmail [dot] com.

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