>> 7.30.2012

After my (29th) birthday on Saturday, we packed up and headed to the shore. Ada drove through her first city (Philadelphia). And it's Ada's first time to the ocean. So far, she's loving it. Kicks in the waves and laughs at the seagulls. (PS: We're so glad we brought our Go-Pod with us, though -- babies' grabby hands and sand DO NOT mix.)

By now, she's a pro at sleeping in the Pack n' Play. A little hard for her to wind down, but she snoozes most of the night. We take a lot of walking naps, too. Anyone have tips for getting little ones to nap on vacation? She's so excited and taking in everything!

Trying to get a few more things done during her second nap of the day. For more trip photos, follow us on Instagram (@neverhomemaker)!

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Tornado Thursday

>> 7.26.2012

Anyone else have severe weather today? I hope you're all safe. We were rocked this afternoon by a thunderstorm and tornado warning. A tornado touch down an hour or so to the West of us; not sure yet if the same thing happened here. But my parents are still without power and have seen lots of downed trees.

I'm sort of I've always been a weather dork and had been monitoring the situation for the last couple days. Actually, the annual Women's Distance Festival 5K was slated for tonight, so I was primarily wondering about race conditions. (It was rescheduled.) Anyway, I was doing some chores . . . saw the warning, freaked out, and immediately ran around to gather quilts.

In my frenzy -- because a tornado warning, of course, means that the funnel cloud will touch down directly over our house -- I thought if there was indeed a tornado and stuff was flying around, we could cover our heads. Or something like that.

We headed to the basement as we heard the thunder rolling in the hills around town. We huddled beneath the staircase. Ada was so cranky. We couldn't figure out why. Crying. Fussing. Whining. I wanted her to be quiet so I could hear what was going on. We got her to play for a bit in her Go-Pod.

I checked the weather online. Posted this photo to Instagram. Connected with some of my local friends on FB to assess the situation. Then a light bulb moment: It's 5PM. ADA IS H.U.N.G.R.Y. So, right as the super cell was rolling over our house, I sat there. Breastfeeding.

And now I can say, like the Postal Service, I have breastfed during the rain, sleet, snow . . . and a tornado.

On a positive note, I bought all of Ada's holiday presents for the next couple years today on I found the deal while doing my job this morning. 30% off eco-friendly toys w/code PLAYTIME until tomorrow -- I got lots of Melissa and Doug kitchen stuff.

Just thought I'd share. I ended up getting like $75 off total. A friend mentioned that has great deals on that stuff, too -- but with the coupon, the items I bought came in a dollar or two less than even that!

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First Word?

>> 7.25.2012

Alright. I want to start this off by saying, like with most things, I have no idea what I'm talking about. Which is why I am posting this question to you all today: When do/did you count a word as your baby's first word?

When I ask friends and family members, I get mixed responses ranging from counting anything intelligible at all to when the baby repeats the word and associate meaning in some way, etc.

Ada said "mama" a lot during the week leading up to Mother's Day, for example. Especially when she was tired and hungry. It seemed on the surface to have meaning to my own mother and even my grandmother. But did I count it? No. Did I desperately wish it had meaning? Yes!

But I know better. She's been uttering strings of syllables, not limited to "mama" and "dada" and "baba" and gaga" for a while . . . and this week "nana" has been a new favorite.

Then this happened:

Just like with the standing video, this was the first time she did this whole repetition thing. Blew my mind. But ever since, I'd say about 80% of the time, she will repeat "dada" even if she's in the middle of another conversation. As for meaning: She's looking directly at Stephen when she says it in the video. She seems to associate him with the word.

So, the question remains: Did Ada say her first word? And is she working on another? "Mama" has been falling off her tongue like crazy these days. Always when she needs me -- however, she won't repeat it in isolation. Another fledgling is "kitties" but it sounds more like "ktttttsssssssss" . . . she only says it when the cats are around.

According to my mom, I had a vocabulary of over 100 words by age 1 and could even string together primitive, two-word sentences. I find that difficult to believe -- sorry, mom -- but at the same time, not entirely out of the question. I'm a skeptic by nature.

I am compelled to believe her when I consider the truth: I always did get in trouble in school for talking.

When do/did you count a word as your baby's first word? Is this one ready for me to ink into the memory books?

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GrassRoots 2012

>> 7.24.2012

The last time I went to GrassRoots Music Fest, four fabulous days packed with music and dance in Trumansburg, NY, was after my junior year of college. Back in 2004. That was eight lllooonnnggg years ago.

Permit me to share a couple embarrassing photos.

When Ada was born, it wasn't exactly automatic that she'd be going. Instead, I found myself chatting with my college friend Rachael -- she's the one in the photo above, and her son Oliver is 7.5 months -- one chilly day during winter . . . and we just decided it would be fun to camp with the babes.

And it was. Though, this time around, I wasn't all about baring my midriff. We arrived early on Thursday morning to sit in line for a few hours before we could set up our campsite. That was something I didn't think about -- the waiting. But it ended up being fine.

We set up chairs. Nursed under covers. Napped in slings. Took turns running to/from a nearby coffee shop for drinks and bathroom breaks.

Camp setup took maybe an hour. We were surprised to see so many people arrived before we did. With a baby, you can't exactly be diehard and get there at the crack of dawn. Thankfully, we settled in an area nestled between some nice families. Though, we did end up also being next to a pack of college boys who were treating the festival as a lost weekend of sorts. But I'll get into that later.

I don't want to go into excruciating detail about what we did, what we ate, etc. I'll share some photos and a brief summary instead.

The first 24 hours we were there, it rained. It was chilly. And that weather wasn't forecasted when we packed. So, Friday morning, Stephen and I took a quick trip off site to get supplies. A couple hoodies. And a pair of cheap rain boots for me. At least my Hunter obsession is quelled. I only spent $20 and I love them.

Anyway, the trip allowed Ada to nap in the car. And that began a theme. Ada had trouble napping with all the music. It played from noon till 2AM and sometimes longer. All her naps had to be taken while we walked her in her stroller or sling. We even took her on a family run Saturday morning, making it a 7-miler so we'd get in at least an hour of snoozing.

Strangely, Ada slept at night very well despite all the people and sounds. The college guys who were staying near us were getting pretty wasted. I sort of forgot about that whole aspect of festival-going. Don't ask me how. Anyway, it wasn't ideal -- and we had a rude awakening one of the mornings when the ring-leader returned to the campsite at 5AM still drunk from the night before. But overall, it was OK.

Sleeping arrangements we had determined before camping included Ada sleeping in her Pack 'n Play. Which she did for the portion of her night-sleep from around 8PM till 11PM. After that, we had her sleeping with us. Mostly because it was colder than I expected. And also because she was nursing more frequently while we were there (perhaps hydration and emotional needs).

It was weird sleeping with her again -- a rare treat, really. She can't settle enough to share the bed these days. It's been months. So, that also means that I was extremely uncomfortable sleeping with her, just physical and also because I couldn't stop worrying about making sure I did things as safely as possible.

We didn't get to see as many of the bands as we necessarily wanted to see. However, the key was keeping expectations low for that going in. I think we saw maybe two full sets the whole time we were there. We're hoping to go back next year -- and we met several families with babies a year or so older who were able to do a lot more than they had the year before.

I am planning to go into detail with some tips and best practices, as well as stuff we did wrong in another post or two. What I can tell you is this: We had so much fun. It was easier than expected. There were certainly challenges, but nothing unmanageable.

Have you taken your little one to a festival? Or camping? What was your experience? What did you learn?

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Hippie Baby and DIY

>> 7.23.2012

We returned home from our camping adventure/music festival extraordinaire yesterday. I'm going to write an entire post about how camping went (it unexpectedly rained the first 24 hours!), what we did to make the festival comfortable for baby (her earphones worked great!), and more.

It's official: Ada is now a hippie-child. And we'll certainly be trekking to more festivals in the near future. We may even go to another one -- in my hometown, featuring bluegrass -- later this summer.

Today, I've been entirely spent from sleeping outdoors, walking all day long, packing/unpacking/laundry, etc. So, I'm going to share with you some awesome things I found while mindlessly wandering the internets this morning.

Now that Ada is nearing her first birthday, I have visions of dollhouses and play-kitchens dancing around my head. Here are some of my favorite things I'd like to recreate in the near future:

I love this idea, from Land of Nod, to convert a bookcase into a playhouse! Just a couple colorful pieces of "wallpaper" and you're set! Way less labor intensive than other projects I've come across.

Along the same theme, it'd be cool to paint these wooden dolls to make family members. You can buy a family of 3 already done up for $50+ -- but this unfinished bunch is under $10!

Who doesn't love a play kitchen? I had one, and it was one of my favorite toys as a tot. There are some great projects out there. I like this one because it's simple, earthy looking, and it was a mere $30!

I desperately want to find some time to learn to sew better. These toddler harem pants made from upcycled shirt sleeves are too adorable. And they look simple enough for even the novice, like me!

Diana (Frontyard Foodie) knows I'm slightly obsessed with these reusable "paper" towels. I would love to make my own version at some point -- we go through tea towels and, yes, paper towels like crazy over here.

There are tons more. Like, I think I am going to do an entire post devoted to playhouses -- tents, teepees, and pop-ups. There are so many adorable projects and options! I would love to come up with something unique for Ada -- but it seems with Pinterest, EVERYTHING has been done.

What are some of your favorite DIY projects for babies/children? I'd love to pour over some more of them!

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Wish Us Luck!

>> 7.18.2012

The babe is sleeping for her last night indoors until Sunday. Car is packed, and I'm surprised all the doors are actually closing. House and cat sitters are set with instructions on how to store our CSA (thank you!). New white noise machine is purchased after discovering the current one is broken/won't run on batteries. That would have been a disaster.

Or not. We'll never know or want to experiment, for that matter.

We've got infant noise reduction headphones. A tent big enough for a family of 8. Tarps, quilts, toys, sippy cups, and more. Probably 100 onesies of assorted sleeve lengths.

I'm sure I'll have many stories to share when we return.

(((PS: I'm so terribly behind on emails/comments. If you've written to me in the past week, I have read your notes. I cherish them. I will write soon.)))

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Ada: 8 Months

>> 7.17.2012

This last month may have been one of the craziest we've had so far. The term "crazy" is used for things that are pretty tame these days, but I'd consider this whole first year pretty insane. Everything happens so fast and just when I got used to the idea of crawling, she started pulling to stand. Then cruising.

Then standing for a split-second on her own. Please excuse my exasperation. Stephen's been telling me that she does this for a few days now, but I hadn't seen it myself.

Otherwise, you can find her climbing.

We're trying our best. I think we have her back . . . but sometimes she falls forward faster than we can catch her. She gets bumps. And, this week -- she got her first bruise. Right on her forehead, poor thing!

No new teeth to report. That gives us the grand total of 5.

I guess I don't think it's strange that she has so many, but whenever we're out and about, people comment that she has SO MANY teeth. Like they are viewing freak-show or something.

She's just a daddy's girl; Stephen had loads of chompers early in life, too.

(I can't remember if I already shared this photo of how much Ada looks like Stephen. Sorry if it's a repeat!)

At 8 months, Ada is breastfeeding a total of 6 times a day. And I posted a photo of my Chewbeads necklace because if I don't want her fingers poking and pinching at me the whole time, grabbing the glasses off my face, etc., I need to keep her occupied by playing with it!

Her BF schedule goes something like this: At wake time, every 3 hours after that, then at bedtime. We've kept the dream-feed. It's interesting, but if she wakes up an hour early, she usually regulates herself by waiting a 4-hour stretch between the middle-of-the-day feedings.

Somehow, we're always back on schedule for a BF session around 5:30 PM and then at bedtime two hours later.

Ada's daily food consumption is the following:
  • 1/2 jar of fruit with 1-1/2 tablespoons oat cereal mixed in (for iron) 
  • Snacks of a few Cheerios or Happy Baby Puffs (Greens or Reds) 
  • Some steamed veggies in chunks, maybe 1 tablespoon (mostly for practice)
  • 1 jar of veggies 
We have also started giving her an occasional piece of whole grain toast cut into fingers. Last night she ever tasted her first piece of cheese. This month, we're hoping to introduce her to a bit more dairy (cheese, yogurt, etc. -- not milk) and even tofu/beans.

I have written before that I was most frustrated by not knowing how much to increase her food by and when. If you have a similar question in your mind, I can't help. But I can tell you that somehow you just know. They act like they want FOOD, not breastmilk. Still, we're keeping her primary nutrition source mama until her first birthday.

Sleep these days has been going well. Though I am nervous with our upcoming camping trip that it's all going to change. I'll be sure to report back on that. But normally she goes to bed at 7:30 PM, we do a true dream-feed at 11 PM (we don't change her diaper anymore, which I'll write about soon w/ nighttime cloth diapering), and she wakes around 7 to 7:30 AM. She occasionally wakes up earlier, but has been putting herself back to sleep.

Naps are still starting about an hour after she wakes for the day -- usually between 1 and 2 hours. Then two hours after she wakes, another one of the similar length. She requires a cat-nap some days, and not on other days. There have been a few days recently where she's been a horrible napper, however. I feel like the pattern is changing.

But everything about this girl is changing.

I think that's an overall observation I'm finally having now that we're into this parenting thing an entire 8 months. Every time Ada deviates from the "norm" I think it's an indication that EVERYTHING is going to change. Like if there's a night where she wakes, I think all night will be like that. Or if she eats poorly, I think ALL feedings forever will be like that.

It's never been the case. She get back on track. And I need to calm down. Getting much better at it. That's for sure.

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10 Ways to Start Fresh

>> 7.16.2012

I can think of countless times when I've done something or felt a certain way and just wanted to start over. I'm sure everyone can relate in one way or another. With exercise, diet (I always use this word in the basic sense, way-of-eating, not calorie-restricting), and even being a mom.

Really, it happens to me a couple times a week.

I was particularly thinking about do-overs this weekend when I had a mini-mental breakdown after missing my group run, eating several cookies for breakfast, and becoming extremely frustrated after Ada skipped a couple naps. Thing is, I can get myself all in a tizzy, ruining myself for the rest of the day unless I do something about it in the moment.

Here are 10 ways I start fresh in 5 minutes or less.

#1: Drink a glass of water. Especially when I've been eating poorly, drinking a glass of water feels cleansing. Sometimes I tell myself I'll start eating better "tomorrow" -- but with a tall, pure glass of water, I can start immediately.

#2: Walk around the block. Or jog as fast as you can. If I'm feeling frustrated, sometimes all I need is some fresh air and exertion to set me straight again. I use this method often, even sometimes at 9 pm at night.

#3: Take a shower. Again, water washes everything away. Especially stress. The white noise helps switch off my mind, too. Depending on how I'm feeling -- or the season -- I'll choose hot or cold water.

#4: Browse Pinterest. Sometimes I get so caught up in the creativity of others, I forget why I was so freaked out to begin with. Bonus if you can find a quick craft or tip to make/do before your 5 minutes is up.

#5: Stroll down memory lane. This one works well if you're having relationship problems. Get your partner and bring up lots of old photos from the beginning of your relationship either in a photo album or on your computer. You'll be laughing in no time.

#6: Do a cartwheel. Or strike a (yoga) pose. For me, if I do some sort of random acrobatic, it can usually snap me out of a funk -- whether I just don't feel like exercising or I'm stressed to the max.

#7: Change your clothes. This is for if I'm having one of those "fat days" that we all get. I hate those. Truth is, we all get bloated from time to time, that's what yoga pants and loose t-shirts are for. Lululemon has made a fortune on it.

#8: Scream (into a pillow). This one might sound a bit intense. But there have been times, particularly when Ada wouldn't breastfeed, when I'd get so worked up . . . the only thing that helped was screaming at the top of my lungs into a pillow. You can do this sans-pillow, too. But I find I can let loose if I don't think the neighbors will call the cops.

#9: Listen to your favorite song. Or watch a funny video, like the Winnebago Man (you may want to make sure the little ones leave the room if you watch that one!). Just something to escape and laugh.

#10: Close your eyes. Taking a nap, or even just getting horizontal for a few minutes, can help recharge your batteries. If you have trouble relaxing, try visualization instead. Turn the lights low, think of something positive, and breathe in/out.

Seriously, when this photo of the two of us in our first month of dating stops making us laugh, then we'll know our marriage is really in trouble!

How do you start fresh after frustration or funk? It seems I need these tips more and more these days! (And speaking of being snapped out of a funk, thank you so much for the kind comments and emails regarding the organic grocery post. I will respond soon!)

PS: Some of you new moms might appreciate one of the deals today over at Wise Bread -- the Angel Care 3-in-1 Video Monitor is being offered at for 10% off and FREE Super Saver Shipping.

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Organics: Responding to Reader Comments

>> 7.12.2012

I have decided to break up the organic grocery haul experience into two three posts. We got so many responses, I felt it was worth taking time to highlight the hottest topics and suggestions.

I was interested to discover that many of you passionately buy all organic everything. A few of you favor the "dirty dozen" . . . and the method splits and splits from there with dairy, egg, meat, etc.

(Tonight's dinner: Delicious!)

#1: Many, many of you mentioned joining a local co-op/buying at mom and pop natural grocers or digging deeper at the farmers market. I think this is an excellent suggestion . . . for most people. When we lived in Ithaca, we shopped often at the local co-op and found the prices comparable/less expensive than Wegmans. The farmers market was awesome and often overwhelming!

a.) Where we live now, the natural food stores are extremely expensive with little selection. I have no idea why. But we tried out a new one a couple weeks ago, and I'd say most of what we normally buy was at least $1 or more expensive. Needless to say, we were quite disappointed.

b.) The farmers markets, though, are something I haven't explored much. I know they aren't quite as plentiful -- but I blame my ignorance on their accessibility. Whereas in Ithaca we could easily walk/bike . . . here, we have hop on busy highways, which isn't as inviting.

#2: The "Dirty Dozen" came up over and over again. It looks like a lot of you follow them as a guide. I know I've linked to it before, but for those of you who are unfamiliar -- the "dirty dozen" includes foods that are particularly covered in pesticide residue.

a.) Since we found out that we'd go way over our budget with all organic, I think buying the following ingredients at a premium is a good start and worth the added cost. (The ingredients in bold are the ones we use almost every week.)

Sweet Bell Peppers 

b.) The other stuff, we'll likely continue to buy conventional, unless it comes with our CSA.

Sweet Corn (frozen) 
Sweet Peas (frozen) 
Kiwi Fruit 

#3: According to a few of you, store-brand organics can be a good buy AND easier on the budget. I found this to be true in my experiment, too. Unfortunately, Wegmans doesn't offer a wide range of store-brand organic foods, but I do see the number increasing (slowly). Out of this week's trip, the peanut butter, jam, tofu, and eggs were all produced by Wegmans.

And one reader mentioned something I hadn't thought about because I'm not used to shopping sales (because most of what we usually buy is store-brand anyway and rarely on much of a sale): Stock up when prices are low. Freeze, freeze, freeze! Great tip.

#4: On the other hand, some of you mentioned that buying bulk and avoiding packaged foods is better. I agree completely that this helps! We regularly buy all our oats, couscous, quinoa, rice, and other dry goods in bulk. But I think we could do better -- adding flour, cereal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, etc. to this list.

Furthermore, the issue of dry beans versus canned came up. We've had dry beans in our pantry for over a year that we have yet to hydrate. They are a great, lower cost option and help avoid the whole BPA issue entirely. I've definitely noted that we need to get on this, soon. I've already bookmarked a few pages about how to cook them in the crock pot.

#5: Regarding dairy, we don't drink milk. However, several of you mentioned that organic milk can often last up to 3 weeks! I just thought it was worth sharing in case anyone else is on the fence in that area. Sounds awesome and perhaps worth the higher price tag.

As far as cheese/yogurt goes, if we were to continue buying all organic, I think we would need to limit our diary consumption significantly, which I'm not prepared to do while I'm breastfeeding. $6 for a small package of cheese is three times what we normally pay -- but the reason for the extra $$$ is certainly compelling.

#6: Which brings me to values. Several of you noted that buying organic -- and more importantly LOCAL -- is the ethical thing to do. It supports farmers with living wage. It supports better environmental and humane farming practices. And I wholeheartedly agree.

We do the best we can within our means to support local farming, which is one reason we invested in the CSA this year. I got a couple emails, one of them rather nasty, about how with "everything else we seem to spend money on," we could allocate more to feed our family the "best" foods. Again, an issue over values. I'll touch more on this in a moment.

#7: Overall, I felt good because many of you said we did well with our prices. That our haul mimicked what you're used to spending/getting. But then I felt bad because for us, this price point isn't going to be sustainable. Though in our next post, I will show you what I am planning to do to our weekly list to sneak in more organic/local foods.

I'm always looking to improve on our budget and the foods we consume -- they are two of the most important things to us right now. I'd like to stay close to our $60 sweet spot, but I could see allocating another $10 to $15 if we cut it out somewhere else.

#8: (This is only a message to a select few:) I guess what surprises me most is some of the negative comments/(mostly) emails we received. I want to make a general statement because I'd rather not get terribly defensive about specifics. Only Stephen and I know our budget situation.

The truth is: We don't have other money hiding around to add to our weekly food purchases. We don't buy lots of clothes, go out to eat, take vacations, or live life lavishly by any means. For us, it isn't a matter of values . . . it's a matter of balance. When I was working full-time, yes. I think we could have done better in this area of food. But there are plenty of people in the world who can't spend hundreds of dollars each week on groceries. Plenty.

We're just trying to make it work for our current circumstances. And right now, we have decided that I will be Ada's primary caregiver, which entails sacrifice that I don't feel is selfish by any means (OK. One specific was the suggestion that I should go back to work so we can stop trying to penny-pinch at the expense of my daughter's health -- that one got to me, folks!).

I ask that you please don't judge us so harshly. I know I'm posting publicly and, therefore, opening our lives for debate -- but I'm hoping to help others with their own search for balance. That's all.

Sigh. Haha. That last point got a little long and emotional. Collecting myself now. The next post about this topic will be more of the analysis of the actual things we bought, how much more they cost than the conventional items, and what we are planning to do to achieve the balance I've written about.

This post got rather long -- and fast. If I forgot anything you mentioned or have more questions, please keep 'em coming. I've been having trouble balancing the blogs with my new gig, but it's getting better everyday!

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