Monday, February 24, 2014

Tasting the Rainbow...or not

As you are well aware, I have a toddler who is incredibly busy and likes to destroy things.  She is, after all, your typical toddler.

A little while ago, I posted about some easy sensory activities that we have tried with great success in the past.  Knowing, then, that my little one likes to make messes (and I like to justify my Zulily purchases), I decided to expand our play into something fun, full of learning and that could easily be cleaned up (and/or digested....knowing my daughter).

Browsing on Instagram, I saw a picture that a friend had posted of her daughter playing with colored rice.  BINGO!  I knew what our next activity would be.

I searched the web for various recipes/instructions on how to make "rainbow rice" and more or less, the instructions were all the same.  If you're one to enjoy dying Easter eggs, the concept is pretty much the same.

For the record, my Easter eggs have NEVER looked like this....


Going off of the recipes I found, and tweaking them just a bit to fit our needs (such as using vinegar rather than alcohol to dye them--because I have a toddler....and everything goes into her mouth), here's how to make the colored rice:

Rainbow Rice (AKA: Your kid can totally eat this and you won't have to call poison control rice)

Ingredients

2 cups white rice
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1-2 teaspoons food coloring
drop of peppermint oil

Directions

Measure out the rice into a ziplock bag (make sure it's the large freezer ones so you don't have spillage).  In a small dish, combine the food coloring and the vinegar.  I wanted my colors to be super bright, so I used a good amount of food coloring.  It's not an exact science, so play with it until you're happy with the color.

I added peppermint oil as well to help with the vinegar smell.  This is optional.

Pour the vinegar and food coloring and oil mixture into the ziplock bag and seal it.  Knead to mix well.

Now, if my daughter was older, having her mix it could actually be a fun part of the activity.  Unfortunately, my daughter just likes to destroy things, so this was a mommy project for now.

When the mix is well combined with the rice, lay it flat on a cookie sheet to dry.  I used wax paper underneath to help with any mess.

As you can see, I ran out of cookie sheets. 

Repeat for however many colors you want to have.

I let the rice dry for about 3 hours on our counter.  If you need it faster, you can always put it in the oven for a bit, but I don't trust my non-cooking but using the oven skills, so I let the air handle the hard stuff.  Once it's dry, you can store it in an air tight container (we use a rubbermaid tin).

We mixed ours together right away, but this activity could be a great way to introduce colors to kids.  Talking about texture, color, shading, etc is a really great way to incorporate learning into this kind of playtime activity.  Experiment with letting your children mix the colors, or if they're older, let them do the food coloring part of creating the rice.  Seriously, the possibilities are only limited by patience (and trust me, mine wasn't very long for this one...hence why my daughter was napping during the creation of this activity)


So, what did the toddler think?
Rainbow rice is such a fun activity, because you can make it as messy or as big as you want it to be.  We kept it pretty contained in our mini sensory table since it was raining and we didn't' want to be outside, but you could definitely take this outside for more messy fun!

The rice feels really cool against your skin, and it can be a great thing to talk about with your child as they play. 

We buried things in the rice, and then I asked E to find them.  It's fun for them to dig and find things! If your child is younger and just starting to learn about object permanence, this can also be a great activity to do in a mixing bowl or something similar.
Pouring the rice with measuring cups can also be a fun way to play.

My favorite part about this activity for my daughter was how it helped with her pincer grasp.  She's had a pretty good one, but it's a great way for them to really build some dexterity.

The best part?  If she ate it, there's nothing in the rice that would be concerning to me about her ingesting.  The vinegar still lingered a bit, so the taste wasn't too appetizing for her anyway.

This is an awesome activity for a rainy day (or if you don't have a sandbox)!

My toddler gave it two thumbs and foot up!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Butternut Squash and Carrot Cream Soup

I have a confession: I don't bake or cook nearly as much as I did before I became a mommy.  Perhaps it's because I spend so much of my time cleaning up after our small tornado, that the thought of cleaning up a mess of my own making isn't as appealing as I'd like it to be.
Perhaps it's because a nap trumps browsing Pinterest for fancy dinners.
Perhaps it's because I've learned that my daughter and husband are perfectly content eating whatever concoction of chicken I've thrown together for that evening.

But it's safe to say that I also want to keep our recipes varied and healthy.  Lately, my goal has been to eat more vegetables.  So, when I went to our local grocery store, I loaded up on veggies galore, not knowing for sure what to do with all of them, but darn it, I had veggies in my cart, so I looked like a health nut.  Winning.

And just like a New Years Resolution, those veggies sat unused last week....and the rot clock was ticking.

I managed to throw most of them in a chili, but there was this giant butternut squash that looked very forlorn in our fruit and vegetable basket and I decided to tackle the task of figuring out a recipe that would use it before it went bad that we would actually eat.
Crock pots were also a plus.

So, a-googling I went.  Nothing sounded particularly tasty, and then I stumbled upon this recipe for a butternut squash soup.  I tweaked it a bit and here is what I came up with:

Butternut Squash and Carrot Cream Soup

Ingredients

2 tablespoons margarine
1 large onion, chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
5-6 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup water
2 cups chicken broth
dried marjoram, to taste
dried parsley, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 1/2 packages (approx 10-12 ounces) cream cheese

Directions

1. Chop your onion
I have a confession, I hate chopping onion

A dear friend gave us the "Chop Wizard" as a wedding gift.

Best. Gift. Ever.

2. In a pan, melt the margarine and saute the chopped onion until cooked
Note: Use a bigger pan than I did.....

3. While the onion was cooking, I went to peeling and chopping my butternut squash


mmmm, butternut squash.
But seriously, have you ever peeled one of these suckers? Not as easy as I thought it'd be....

Poor, naked butternut squash....

I made my cubes about 1 inch each

4. Repeat with the carrots
5. Mix everything except the cream cheese in a large crockpot/slow cooker
I promise it's tasty....

Now comes the hard part

6. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours
or....if you're like me, you have a "OH CRAP" moment and realize you started dinner at 1....so on high for 4 hours is okay too

 7. After your waiting period, divide the crock pot concoction up into thirds and blend each third in the blender until smooth.  Once you're done with each, pour back into the crock pot.

Note: It's HOT so be careful!

This is me not making a mess in my kitchen...

You can see the blended mixture in the purple bowl

8.  Stir in the cream cheese.  I used two packages because I like things particularly creamy and artery-clogging
mmmmm, cheese....

9. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes to one hour.  Beat together with a whisk to make sure all lumps are out

oh hi, pink KitchenAid

10.  Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.  Serve with crackers or toasted cibatta bread.

See? You can eat your veggies and enjoy it!

Friday, February 7, 2014

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

As a parent to a toddler (first of all, wow that feels strange to see in print), my mind is constantly running with trying to find activities that are easy to put together quickly that will hold E's attention for more than a nanosecond.  Often, I feel like most of my days are spent chasing my small tornado and begging her for the umpteenth time not to play in the dog's water bowl.

Pinterest has some wonderful ideas and if I had more time in my day, I'd gladly spend my time perusing it for brilliant ideas that could put me in the race for mother of the year.

Alas, my one-year-old has other ideas.

So what's a mother to do?

Earlier this week, I was particularly frustrated with E's fascination with our dog's water bowl.  No matter what I did, short of moving it to the counter top, she would find it and splash with delight, regardless if Meshka was using it at the moment or not.

Exhibit A

So what's a parent to do?  I certainly don't want my child playing in a puppy-infested water pool, but I also recognize that she is learning about the environment around her and want to facilitate that as best as I can, even with limited resources.

As I stood there pondering what options I had (the bowl had been moved to the counter at this point), I had an "ah ha" moment.  I looked down at my large mixing bowl (I was making these tasty snacks) and realized that if I couldn't beat her curiosity, I should facilitate it!

I grabbed another large bowl, put a towel down on our tile floor and placed several kitchen items in the bowl.
Note, if you don't have kids yet, allow me to let you in on a little secret: you don't need fancy toys.  Measuring cups, wooden spoons and tupperware containers are just as entertaining as the store-bought stuff.

At this point, little miss curiosity decided to meander in to see what mommy was up to.  I started pouring water into the bowl and she looked at me as if to say, "Seriously, lady? You've been telling me for months not to play in the water bowl and now I can play in the water bowl?"
I think I confused her toddler brain there for a moment.

It took some splashing on my part before she realized that, in fact, she could splash away happily without the "stop that" coming from mom.


I used this play time to talk with her about wet and dry, stirring and pouring.  She was particularly fond of the spoon and spent most of her time playing with that.
After about 15 minutes of this type of play, I grabbed some ice cubes for her to touch, feel (talked about hot, warm and cold) and swish around in the lukewarm water as well.  She wasn't a big fan of the ice cubes until she realized she could toss them onto the floor and our dog would chase them (our dog has a few bolts loose, apparently).

A few days later, I decided that water play was such a success, that we needed to do it again.  Even though we live down south, it's been particularly cold lately, but the great thing about water play is that you can really do it anywhere, just adapt your bowl, or dish to the size of space you have available.
You can always put baby in the bathtub with a bowl so there's less worry about clean up.

We have this awesome mini water/sensory table that I got on Zulily that I was able to pull out from the garage for additional water play.  Same concept as before:

This time, Everly had fun getting wet and she blew bubbles into the water.

The great thing about water play is the versatility in it.  I am a firm believer that children learn through play and that simple things like splashing in the water can do so much for brain and motor development.  If you're looking for a great activity for a stuck in the rut kind of day (let's face it, all moms hit that point sometimes), this is a great and relatively easy to clean way to keep your kids busy for a little bit, while also opening the opportunity for interaction and learning.


And, let's just be honest, these  faces make any mess that is created worth it.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Blue Dress

I've mulled over this blog post for a couple of days for several reasons.  I am fairly private about some things, especially when it comes to my husband's career.  I don't like pulling the pity card nor do I think that complaining about frustrations is very fruitful.
To write this post, I have to delve into those areas I tend to keep to myself.

I love my husband.  He loves his career.  I love that he loves his career.
I don't always like what he has to do in his career--this applies, of course, to the deployments that take him so very far away from our family.
Now, with that said, I fully and completely support him in what the Lord has called him to do.  He is following his heart and where the Lord has lead him and it is my duty and delight to support him in that.

But, being honest, sometimes it stinks.

I have, in essence, been a single mother for the past six months.  I am blessed that I am currently nearby family, so I at least have that help available most days if I need it.  But, for all intents and purposes, I am a single mom.  I work full-time.  I volunteer several places.  I try to stay social.  I do my best to keep my house clean and running smoothly.
and sometimes, it gets very, very hard.

Comparing this deployment to our last one would be like trying to compare apples and oranges.  We were childless and had been married less than 4 months when he left last time.  We lived in a one bedroom apartment.  I worked in a job I didn't particularly care for.  I was also a full time student.
That one was hard, but we learned a lot through the process.

This deployment, if we do want to compare, has been leaps and bounds easier.  These last six months have flown by, mostly in part due to our adorable daughter.  Most days, I feel like I've blinked and the time has disappeared.
But, it's also been harder in different respects.  A child changes everything.
My husband is doing significantly more things during this particular tour.  We are blessed if we get a phone call once every two weeks.  Skype has been unreliable, and I could probably count the times we've gotten it to work on my fingers and toes.
But I also felt more prepared this time around.  I have consciously chosen to cherish the moments.  I don't dwell on the sadness that, on some days, threatens to overwhelm me.  I actively chose joy and rely on the Lord to be my strength and husband.

But there are times  when I just want to give up.  There are times when I get tired.
and I'm not one to ask for help or pity.

Most military spouses aren't looking for handouts or attention or "poor you".  We are happy to stand by our military husbands and wives without much fanfare.
As a wife who is called to support her husband, I gladly do this on a day to day basis.

This is why the story I'm about to tell you matters so much.

This past week, I was burnt out.  My daughter hadn't been sleeping.  I hadn't heard from my husband in a couple of weeks.  Work was busy.  I was tired.  I felt, for a lack of a better word, invisible.  Usually, I am good at hiding it, but it had been a trying few days and I was exhausted of fighting it anymore.
On Wednesday this week, my mom was watching my daughter while I was at work and needed to keep her late, so I decided to go look for a homecoming dress for my husband's return that is going to be here soon.  While I have lost a lot of the baby weight, none of my old, cute dresses fit very well and I wanted to feel pretty for when he returned.  I decided to take the extra couple of hours for myself and do some shopping.

I went to several stores and couldn't find anything that I liked (or that fit).  I finally found some dresses I liked at JCPenny's so I went to try them on.  Again, nothing fit, nothing stuck out to me, but I kept trying.
Finally, I found a light blue one I "kind of" liked.  I went out to where the three way mirror was in the hallway and was checking my image to see if this was "the one".
An older woman and her daughter (who was about my age) were also in the dressing room so I asked them if I could have their opinion on my dress.
The mom asked what the occasion was so I told her.
The daughter peeked her head out of the dressing room and said, "Oh no, you need to look sassy.  That dress isn't sassy".
I laughed and explained that I had a baby recently so I wasn't feeling very "sassy".  The two women smiled and said they would help me find a dress that was perfect.

We spent 15 minutes having me try on different dresses.  We talked and I found out the daughter was pregnant with twins!  We conversed about babies, pregnancy and twins, and they asked about my little family as well.
Finally, we found THE dress.  It was dark blue and very much my style.  I felt good, they loved it, and we all agreed my husband would like it. I thanked them over and over for taking time out of their busy evening to help me find the perfect outfit to welcome my husband home in....and they went on their way.

I got dressed, browsed a bit more and then headed up to the register.  The two women were four people ahead of me in line and already checking out.
The mother waved at me and said, "Would you come here for a moment?"
I walked toward them, not sure why she wanted me to come up there.
She took the dress out of my hands before I could say anything and said, "We're paying for this."

Knee-jerk reaction. "No! You don't have to do that! Really!"

She smiled, placed her hand on my shoulder, and looked me in the eyes, "Yes. We do.  People so often forget about the spouses left behind.  Supporting our troops goes beyond those overseas.  Let us thank you and your family in this way."

I didn't know what to say.  My eyes started welling up with tears.  The daughter was already crying.  I could see the mom getting misty eyed too.

"No, really, it's okay", I said.

The dress was already bagged up, the mom had swiped her card.

"Let this be our thank you," she said.  "Really, it's the least we can do".

I was sobbing, "You have no idea how much this blesses me," I said.

The daughter looked at me and smiled, "You blessed us tonight."

The transaction ended.  They handed me my bag and gave me one last hug.  I tried to thank them again and they wouldn't let me.
"People need to tell you thank you," they said.

Then they left.
I stood at my car and wept.  God had sent those women to me, of that I am fully convinced.  They were shopping for maternity clothes the same night I chose to look for my homecoming dress because God knew that I felt forgotten.  He knew I was tired.  He knew I felt lonely.
And through that blue dress, He reminded me that I'm not alone and that it's okay to admit to hard days and that, even when it's hard, there are people in the world who support us and who can show us love.

My blue dress is hanging in our closet where I can see it until the day K comes home.  I never asked for someone to pay for my dress.  I would never expect a thank you or recognition for our life that we live.
but by someone blessing me in that way I'm reminded that we aren't forgotten.

I wish I knew the names of those two women.  They appeared in my life right when I needed it.

Next time you meet a military spouse or family member, please thank them.  We would never, ever, ask for that....
but you never know if they would need to hear it that day.

I will never forget what happened this week and it is my hope that I can one day run into these women again so that I can thank them and let them know that the Lord used them that day to brighten the tired heart of a young military wife.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Carry Them: A Babywearing Primer


Back when I found out I was pregnant, it never crossed my mind that there were other ways to transport babies other than a stroller, car seat or parents’ arms.  When creating my registry, a friend told me to put a Moby on my list, but I honestly had no idea how to use it, or even when I’d make use of this stretchy jersey material (and thinking to myself the whole time, how in the world does it even work?).

When we found out my husband was going to be deploying shortly after the birth of our daughter, it sent me into panic mode.  How was I going to get things done?  What if baby needed to be held all the time? How was I going to manage snuggles while also keeping up with the house solo?

Then I remembered that silly long piece of fabric I received as a shower gift.

I distinctly remember the first time I used that wrap.  I followed the instructions in the booklet as well as I could and was pretty proud of myself when I managed to create something that looked similar to what they had shown.

               


Looking back, it was not the best wrap job ever, but it was a step into this wonderful world that I enjoy and enjoy sharing with other parents now.

E was born in January, so we weren’t outside, but I had two main complaints about my Moby wrap:

1.       It was HOT

2.       It was SO long and hard to wrap while running errands

Then I met M.  M is a certified baby wearing educator that helps lead our local BabyWearing International group.  I talked to her briefly about my concerns and she offered to help me learn other ways to carry my baby that would work best for our lifestyle.

I went to one meeting and I was hooked.

M let me borrow her ring sling, a much shorter piece of fabric that creates a “pouch” of sorts for the baby to sit in that is ideal for quick shopping trips or an itty bitty newborn.  Within 4 days, I had gone out and bought one of my own.

                

I began to see the benefits of wearing E.  She was always pleasant.  I was able to accomplish tasks with my hands free while still holding her.  I didn’t have to lug around her giant car seat.  It was all too good to be true.

But it got better.

I had seen pictures of M wearing babies on her back.  Who knew this was possible?!  So I asked her to show me how to do it.  M said that I would need to use a woven wrap instead of my Moby, since it is not considered safe to do a back carry with a woven wrap.  I made my very first woven purchase (a lovely Didymos Indio Lilac) on a local Facebook sale page and then we got together and M taught me an easy to learn back carry when E was just shy of 3 months old.




And it still got better.

I joined a Facebook group where other mamas who wore their babies would talk and swap helpful tips or hints.  There were so many other ways to carry the babies, so many types of wraps and carriers, so many options.  So many choices!

It was overwhelming!

I began inviting my friends who were interested in wearing to the Facebook Swap Page and soon realized that the lingo that I had become accustomed to was not as colloquial as I had originally thought.  My fear was that all the terms and options would eventually turn off my friends to wearing, which is the opposite effect than what I would have liked.

So, knowing this, I have created a very basic primer of all the things I wish I had known when I started babywearing.  This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it will hopefully be helpful to those of you who might be interested in entering into the world of babywearing.  Please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert or an educator, I am only speaking from what I have learned in my own research and experience.

Ready?

Stretchy Wraps





Brands: Moby, Boba (Sleepy Wrap), Wrapsody (Gypsymama)


These wraps are long pieces of jersey fabric that you wrap around your body in various ways to create “pouches” of sorts where baby can sit.  These can be used for hip and front carries and should never be used for a back carry
              *Wrapsody is the exception to this rule

These are great for when baby is a newborn and still in the “squishy” phase.  These wraps are also considered the “gateway” carriers into the world of wearing as they are readily available at most major retailers.  Another plus to these carries is that they are truly one size fits all and can accommodate a variety of body shapes and sizes.

While they are often touted as being good up to 20+ pounds, many users find that it becomes uncomfortable and not as supportive after about 15 pounds.  Other complaints I have heard (and experienced) is how hot these particular fabrics can be.  The Moby and Boba wraps are not going to be very comfortable during hot weather.

I personally own a Moby and will definitely hang onto it for future babies, but we are not currently using it now that E is 15 pounds and we prefer to do back carries.

Ring Slings (RS)





Brands: Maya Wrap, SweetPea, Psling, Sleeping Baby Productions (SBP)


These are shorter pieces of fabric that are looped through two rings that create a pouch for baby.  One side of the sling is over your shoulder and the other comes down around your arm.  You can easily adjust the tightness of the fabric around baby by pulling on the fabric through the rings.  Ring Slings (RS) come in a variety of fabrics, lengths and thickness and can be used with babies and toddlers of all sizes.

Ring slings are my preferred carrier for newborns.  In my own experience, these are by far the easiest carrier to nurse in, and the tail of the sling is a handy cover for if you’re out in public and want to cover while nursing.  Ring slings have very little learning curve as well, which makes them a great option for people just starting out.

As far as price points, it varies on the carrier.  The Maya wrap is easily found in baby boutiques and online for around $65-$70 new.  This is one that I own and I have found them easy to break in and use.  They don’t get as hot as the Moby and are much easier to throw in the car and use for shopping trips and quick ups and downs.

Ring slings can also go for significantly more.  When you get into wrap conversion ring slings (WCRS), which are woven wraps (see below) that have been professionally turned into a ring sling, the price will often be more—anywhere from $85-$150+ depending on the fabric.  There are several converters that are reputable, but the one I’ve heard of most is SleepingBaby Productions (SBP).  I have used a WCRS before and I find them even more comfortable and easier to use than my Maya.

You can also make your own RS, but it is important to ensure you are using a quality fabric (Osnaburg is the one typically recommended—you can pick it up at a Jo Ann’s fabric or similar store for fairly cheap).  If making your own, it is also important to get your rings from a reputable seller.  Sling Rings are tested up to something like 300 pounds and will not break.  Do not use plastic or crafting rings if you plan to make your own ring sling.

Personally, I own two ring slings (one Maya and one SweetPea).  I love them, but haven’t reached for them much lately as E and I prefer wrapping for now.  I have heard that as baby becomes more mobile that RS are great for quick ups and downs.  A good friend of mine still uses her RS for her 18 month old, so these will last you quite a while.

Woven Wraps





Brands: Girasol (Gira), Kokadi (KKD), Oscha, Natibaby (Nati), Didymos (Didy), Easycare, Ellaroo, Lenny Lamb (LL), Dolcino, Vatanai (Vat), Hoppediz (Hopp), Little Frog


Wovens are made by a variety of retailers/manufacturers and run the gamut of price and materials.  Similar to the stretchy wraps above, these are long pieces of fabric that you wrap around you and baby to secure them to your body.  Unlike the stretchy wraps, these come in a variety of sizes which can be used for different carries, depending on length.

The most common size woven to start with is a 6.  Much like the stretchy wraps, these are also one size fits all, although depending on the size of the wearer, they may not be able to do all carries with one particular size (for example, my base size is actually a 5, but I can do pretty much every carry with a 5 or 6).

Depending on the manufacturer, the size of the wrap will be listed differently:

                         Size 2=2.7 meters
                         Size 3=3.1 meters
                         Size 4=3.6 meters
                         Size 5=4.2 meters
                      Size 6=4.6 meters
                        Size 7=5.2 meters
                      Size 8=5.6 meters

Sizes 2 & 3 are considered “shorty wraps”

Sizes 4-6 are generally considered mid-length

Sizes 7 & 8 are considered long wraps

The beauty of wovens is in their versatility.  I can do front, hip and back carries (as well as tandem carries) with a woven.

                

Wovens come in a variety of fabrics, patterns and weaves.  You will often hear discussion of the woven’s “weft”, which is reference to the horizontal thread that runs through the fabric.  The color of this thread determines how a wrap may look.  Fabrics can be cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, silk, alpaca, gauze or a mixture of these fabrics.

Weaves also play a part.  For example, Girasol has a particular weave called a Diamond Weave (DW) which is known for being much cooler and more supportive than other weaves.  Didymos Indios are another example of a specific weave.

Just like going shopping at the store, most wovens are not one size fits all.  Much of it comes down to personal preference, budget and needs.  I also have several sizes and prints that I use for different things.  For example, I don’t use my 100% cotton wrap to mow the lawn, I use my 100% linen one, as linen is much cooler and more supportive than cotton.  Not everyone is going to like a particular brand or weave, and that’s perfectly fine as well.

Woven wraps have the longest “shelf life” that I’ve seen.  There are pictures circulating around the web that have mothers wearing their husbands just to show that they can be supportive up until it is comfortable for the wearer.  It is not uncommon to see a 3 or 4 year old being worn in a woven wrap.

Price points run very differently with wovens.  Some work at home mom (WAHM) vendors like WrapNap Fairy sell them new anywhere from $45 and up (I have a Wrap Nap Fairy one and love it) and others that are Hard to Find/Highly Sought After (HTF/HSA) can go for upwards of $300 or more.  I have even seen some go for well over $1500!  Like the ring sling, you can also make your own wrap using the Osnaburg fabrics.  There are many tutorials on YouTube how to do this.

I own 6 wovens: 2 Easycare, 1 Girasol, 1 Wrap Nap Fairy, 1 Didymos and 1 Kokadi.  I really do like all of them and haven’t found a specific preference.  I use different sizes for different carries and have a “beater” wrap that I don’t mind getting dirty.  All of mine except for 2 were bought used, which I highly recommend doing so you don’t need to break in your wrap.  You can also save some money by buying used (usually).

Another perk of wovens is that they keep their value even with use.  It isn’t uncommon for people to sell their wovens at 75%-90% retail value.  This sometimes helps with the sticker shock you might experience.

Right now, wovens are my favorite and we use ours daily.  Babywearing Faith on Youtube has some awesome tutorials if you are wanting to learn how to wrap using a woven. 

Soft Structured Carriers (SSC)





Brands: Ergo, Boba 3G, Beco, Kinderpack (KP), Tula, Action Baby Carrier (ABC)


Soft structured carriers are perhaps the most user friendly of the babywearing carriers.  These already have the seat for your baby and all you have to do is set baby in the seat and buckle the carrier onto you.  You can do front and back carries and some hip carries with these as well.  My sister has claimed our SSC as “hers” since it’s so easy to use and they’re usually padded, making them very comfortable for both baby and the wearer.

I most often use our SSC for long periods of wear (zoo trips, hikes, etc).

Most SSCs come with a hood that you can snap over baby if they fall asleep or if it’s particularly sunny.  If they don’t come with one, it’s usually easy to find one to buy separately.  These are also great because they can come in so many patterns (mine is a pink design, perfect for my princess!)

Soft structured carriers are not one size fits all.  If you can find one to try before you buy it, I’d recommend that, as each carrier fits a bit differently and it comes down to preference (for example, I don’t care for how the Ergo fits me, but the Boba 3G fits me great).  Some carriers can have waist extenders to accommodate for plus sized wearers. 

You also have to watch how the carrier fits baby.  The base of the carrier should go knee to knee* and the child should not be falling out of the top.  Some brands (Tula and Kinderpack for sure) have standard and toddler sizes to aid in getting a proper fit for your baby/toddler.  Boba 3G carriers also come with stirrups that a child with longer legs can put their feet in for comfort.  Fit does matter and will play a role in how comfortable wearing is for you.

                *A word on Bjorns/Infantino carriers:

These carriers are not classified under the SSC category.  Most babywearing educators will discourage the use of these carriers as they are not ergonomically correct (knee to knee support).  Whereas the weight is supported in a sitting position in most SSCs, in the Bjorn type carriers, the weight is supported with the pelvis/groin.  Most wearers complain that these carriers are not comfortable and much of it has to do with the weight distribution.  These carriers aren’t awful, but, for the same price, you would be able to find a carrier that would be much more comfortable for both you and for baby.

                **A word on facing baby out in a SSC:

While, in theory, it would be great to face baby out in a SSC (like what is encouraged with the Bjorn type carriers), there are several reasons not to do so, especially for long periods of time.  This article does a great job of explaining why.

Price wise, SSCs are going to cost around $120 new, but you can often find them used for less than $80.  A word of caution, especially with Ergos: there are a lot of knock offs on the market, and while they might be safe, they are not guaranteed in their structure/stitching/integrity of the fabric.  If you buy an Ergo, please call the company directly to confirm its authenticity.

I have one SSC (Boba 3G) that I really like.  As I said above, my sister has claimed it as “her” carrier because of its ease of use and how cute it is.

Mei Tais





Brands: BabyHawk, Bamberoo


Mei Tais (pronounced May-Tie) are the best of the wrap world and soft structure world rolled into one.  They are a hybrid of these two and come with a structured seat for baby and then straps you wrap instead of buckle.  Straps can be padded or unpadded and a variety of designs are available.  I have personally never used a Mei Tai, but I have heard nothing but good things about them.

You can do front, back and hip carries with a Mei Tai.

Price wise, you can get a quality mei tai at Target for around $30 and the price can go up from there.  Conversions will cost a great deal more and are often custom, adding to the cost.

Wrap Conversions (WC): Wrap Conversions are when a wrap is given to a reputable manufacturer and they are then converted into a mei tai (or ring sling or SSC).  Conversions can come with full buckles (FB), half buckles (HB) and can be made from wraps (WCMT) or even a well-made tablecloth (TCMT)

Cost of these conversions can range anywhere from $100+ which is why you might see a conversion going for more than $300+ on a selling page.  You factor in the original cost of the wrap plus the cost of conversion.

As I said above, I have not personally used a Mei Tai, but I have many friends who swear by theirs.  These work great for both babies and toddlers and are easy enough to use for people who like the support of wrapping but want the ease of a SSC.

Are you confused yet?

Yes, there are lots of options out there and it can be hard to weed through what you want and what will work best for your needs.  I highly recommend finding a Babywearing group or a Babywearing International Group in your area.  Experienced wearers and educators can then help you narrow down your choices.  Paxbaby.com also has a resource that can help you find a good carrier for your needs.


So you want to give it a try?


There are several places to buy.  If you want to buy used, I recommend going through the Facebook Swap Page.  There are several “rules” pinned to the top of the page, so please read through them.  They also have an acronym list pinned that will help you as you learn to navigate the swap.

You can also buy carriers online at these websites:
                             Paxbaby
                          Heart-Hugs
                          MarsupialMamas
                             PurpleElm Baby
                             Risaroo
I have also gone directly to the manufacturer and bought from them (just prepare for a long shipment length from this direction, as most of these are European companies).

If you’re on the Swap, below are some terms you will come across:
                FSO: For Sale Only
                FTO: For Trade Only
                FSOT: For Sale or Trade
                BNWT: Brand new with tags
                ISO: In Search of
                DISO: Dream/Desperate In Search of
                MMARO: Make me a reasonable offer
                PP: PayPal
                PPD: Postage Paid Domestic
                PM: Private/Personal Message

 One, final word on cost.  As you begin your search for the right carrier for your family, you may face some sticker shock.  Yes, some of these can get very pricey.  I had a difficult time with that at first.  It was hard for me to understand why a mama would drop $300+ on a "piece of fabric".  As I got more into the community, it became much clearer why these are pricer than what we would normally think to pay.
These are quality products and created to last.  They are designed to be comfortable for the wearer and the wearee.
Many of these wraps are hand woven or limited edition.
These keep their resale value.
now, with that said, spending lots of money isn't a requirement to babywear.  It is very possible to do on a budget.  While I personally haven't spent several hundreds of dollars on a wrap, I know several people who have.  Do what works for your family and budget.

Ultimately, think of it like people who collect purses or coins or designer items.  At its roots, many mamas really just like having these wraps as well, many self proclaiming that they "collect" them in a similar manner. 
Cost should never keep you from wearing.  There are many affordable options available so that you can enjoy having your baby close to you.
It’s a wide, diverse world of wearing.  I will do my best to update with some hints/tricks/carries/reviews in the future, but hopefully this gives you a good starting place so that you can come to enjoy babywearing as much as E and I have!  Let me know if there's a topic I missed or something you want to see in the future.  Thank you for allowing me to share my love of wearing with you!




Merry Wearing!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Parenting doesn't come with a manual

I have a confession to make:

This parenting thing? I really have no clue what I'm doing.  You want to be humbled? Become a mom.
I've always been the person with the answers, the person who can do it herself, miss "has everything together".
Then I became a mom.

Parenthood doesn't come with a manual.

I promise not to get on my soapbox, as we all have opinions, but one thing I want to mention is that part of parenting is learning what works for you.  The reason there are so many child rearing books out there is because there hasn't been one method that suddenly works for every single child.  Part of the adventure in parenting is discovering what works for your child.
With that said, I have my way of doing things as a mom.  Others may do it differently.  Neither is more right or wrong than the other.
It's just what works.

Because, let's be honest, half the time we are pseudo-zombies just trying to function in polite society.  On those occasions when we discover that "VOILA" this works for my child, we're going to hold onto that and go with it....
....even though we know it will change within a week or two.

So this parenting thing?  I have no clue what I'm doing
but it's completely and utterly awesome.
and humbling. seriously humbling.

E is now 15 weeks old and, as you can probably guess from my lack of blogging, taking up most of my spare time.  She is an absolute joy and probably the easiest baby on the planet....and no, I'm not just saying that because I'm her mom and I'm biased...I worked childcare for years, she really is an easy baby.



We are still exclusively breastfeeding minus the pumped milk she gets when I'm at work.  I am incredibly proud of the fact we've made it this far already.  My hope it to make it to at least one year so each day is one step closer to that.  I could get all birth nerd mushy gushy here since I'm a bit obsessed with all things pregnancy/birth/nursing related, but, I'll spare you the sordid details for now.  Just know I'm cherishing every moment that the Lord allows us to continue that part of our relationship.

E now smiles like crazy, laughs out loud (lols?), rolls both directions and reaches for things that she wants.
She is a terrible napper.
Can't win them all, I guess.

She is wearing 3-6 month clothing and doesn't appear to be slowing down in her growth anytime soon.  I'm really looking forward to her 4 month appointment at the end of this month to find out just how big our little miss has gotten.  She's not as rollie pollie as some babies, but she definitely has some chunk on her.
Goodness, I love marshmallow babies.

I have the best alarm clock in the world considering E likes to wake me up by laughing (or punching me in the face, if she's managed to wake me at that magical hour when my zombie self somehow decides that putting her in bed with me will grant me a few extra moments of sleep instead of feeding her and putting her back in her crib).  She is a morning person.
Mommy is not a morning person.
Daddy is a morning person when coffee is involved.
guess who is going to take over mornings when he returns from his deployment?

Each day brings new and exciting adventures.  I can hardly fathom that I am watching the cognitive, emotional, physical and even spiritual development of a tiny human being.  When they say that each day is different, they're completely right.  It's incredible.

The dignified me is long gone.  I will spend an hour making funny noises, dancing like a monkey or blowing raspberries with my mouth if it will garner me a chuckle from little miss.
I haven't worn my hair down since E's newborn pictures.
I put makeup on for the first time when I went back to work.
I'm still in my fat pants.
and it's so awesome.

It's incredible to me how priorities change so much after you become a mom.  I absolutely love my job, but when the hour hits that I get to go pick up my daughter, you better believe that I hustle myself out of there as quickly as I can just so I can hold her.
Even though I know I should put her down for bed earlier, I keep her up until 8:30 or 9, just so I can get a few extra snuggles.

It's not about dressing "cool" or having my hair done perfectly anymore.  It's about what's quick, easy and makes me look somewhat capable of functioning in polite society.   It's learning to laugh at myself when I can't find my cell phone when I'm having a conversation with someone on the other line.  Laughing when I walk into a door frame because I am attempting to entertain a 3 month old while simultaneously getting ready for work.
and it's awesome.

In the past 3 or so months, I have continued to learn and grow in so many incredible ways.  I have learned to suck up my pride and ask for help when I need it.  With K deployed, I had to come to a point of realizing that, while I'd like to think it's possible, I'm just not superwoman, and there was no way I'd be able to take care of mowing.
so I called the squadron and they will be helping with that until he returns.
There have been nights where E won't stop crying and I call my mom or sister crying right along with her just because I need someone to tell me that it's okay.
It's definitely not the easiest thing I've ever done.
I'm stubborn.
Parenting is helping to change that.

Words cannot describe how much I with my husband could be here to enjoy every up and down that this journey has brought.  I try my hardest to send multiple pictures/videos to him per day.  Update him on all the new and exciting things going on with our daughter.  Letting him know that we really are doing okay without him.
but that doesn't mean I haven't cried wishing with my whole heart he could walk this path with us right now.
I cried the first time E smiled because he wasn't able to see it.
I cried the first time I heard her laugh because it was so beautiful that trying to video record it just couldn't convey how beautiful the sound was.
I've cried during 3am feedings when the stress, pressure, anxiety and overwhelming responsibility I have pressing on me constantly is too much to bear.
but I have also learned to lean on the Lord because He is molding us in beautiful ways during this time.

Parenting is a beautiful, scary, overwhelmingly awesome journey.  I can honestly say I have loved every up and down of this adventure so far.  Words cannot describe the love I have for our daughter or the joy that she has brought into my life.

It'd be great if parenthood had a manual, but, then again, I think that would take some of the fun out of it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Becoming a mommy

Today our beautiful daughter is 5 weeks old.
How is it that 6 weeks ago I had never met this tiny human, but today, can't imagine a world without her?  Our sweet, precious E, who has changed every aspect of my life for the better, is already a month old.
The time goes too quickly.

Photo Courtesy of Cherished: Portraits by Michelle
(
http://www.cherishedportraitsbymichelle.com/)

Ten months ago, I became a mother.  We conceived a tiny life.  I grew her in my belly.  Nourished her, protected her, prayed for her.  Loved her.
Five weeks ago, I became a mommy.

I came face to face with this little person who I had grown to love and know over nine months.  I fell in love with her in a new way.
While absolutely terrified about being capable of caring for her, there was nothing in the world that mattered as much as our daughter in that moment.  K and I were (and are) so in love with E.  We were parents, we were responsible for her entire being.
The car ride home from the hospital was one of the scariest of my life.

Little E in her carseat for our ride home from the hospital.  I still can't get over how teeny tiny she was.

But in five weeks time, I have come to understand what it means to be a mother and, even more important, what it means to be a mommy.
Being a mother has allowed me to meet my daughter's needs.  I am able to care for her, change her, clothe her, feed her.  I am able to tell when her cries are cries of hunger or hold me.  I have learned her routine and do my best to keep consistency in our household.
Being a mommy has allowed me to joyfully wake with my daughter late at night when she decides that 3:30am is a wonderful time for a party.  It lets me find no greater joy than simply staring at my daughter's face for hours on end.  It has caused me to go through multiple SD camera cards filled with pictures of my princess. 
It has shown me a whole new kind of love that I never could have fathomed.

A very wise person once told me, "Kim, you will never be a perfect mom, but God has made you the perfect mom for E".
I hold to that truth every day.  I pray that God equips me to be the mother that E needs.  Not the mother of the year, not the June Cleaver mother, not the crunchy mother, not the working mother, not the helicopter mother, not the permissive mother.
Just E's mother.

People are right when they say that you just know what to do when you have a child.  I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to care for her, to know what she needs and to meet those needs.  Yet something just clicked the moment I met her.
I'm not perfect.  There are still days I have no clue what she wants or needs.  I still get flustered and frustrated.  There are still moments when the only thing I know to do is cry.
But in all of that is a love I can't explain.  This sweet, precious life...this gift....is ours.  How blessed we are!

So...what has happened in the last 5 weeks?



E was 8 pounds 4 ounces when she was born.  I weighed her yesterday and we are up to 11 pounds.  As her Auntie Kylie has said, she will be a marshmallow baby!  We're quite thrilled.

She is officially out of newborn sizes.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry a little when I packed those away.  Time goes so quickly.  I feel like it was yesterday she was still in my belly.

We are cloth diapering and loving it.  I can't get over how easy it is and how much money we are saving.  Right now we use mostly prefolds, but once she's a bit bigger, we're going to move to pocket diapers.  I might have a slight problem as our stash is growing larger than what we probably need.  My excuse is that I need to try different kinds of diapers to know exactly what I want to use (or that's what I tell my husband).


I have discovered the joys of babywearing.  E loves being snuggled up close and I love having my hands free.  I'm partial to my Maya ring sling, but have found several carriers that I like.  This might turn into a similar problem like the cloth diapers...


My wonderful sister has spent lots of time with us in the last 5 weeks.  I am so blessed to have her so close right now and enjoy every moment she is able to spare us.  There really isn't anything that compares to a sister.  She has been such a big help and it's great spending the whole day with your best friend!


E is a champion sleeper (you realize that now I've said this, she is going to stop, right?).  She usually only wakes up once per night and sleeps great in her cradle.  I look forward to the mornings though when we get our breakfast in bed snuggles.


Some big news in our family appeared shortly after we arrived home from the hospital.  We will be moving to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas at the end of this year.  These orders were a bit unexpected, but we are so looking forward to the new adventure.  Because of the knowledge that I won't get a white Christmas this year, I'm not even complaining about the snow we've gotten this week!  I'm nervous, excited and all sorts of in between about the move, but know that God is having us go there for a reason!  What a fun thing to look forward to!

In the last 5 weeks I have also fallen in love with my husband all over again.  I've seen a whole new side to him that I never even imagined existed and, let me tell you, there is nothing more attractive than a man who loves being a daddy.  I have realized how blessed I am to have him in my life and appreciate him so much more.  I really hit the husband jackpot with him!

Sorry ladies, he's taken.

Photo courtesy of Cherished: Portraits by Michelle
(
http://www.cherishedportraitsbymichelle.com/)

Even with everything going on with our sweet little E, we've started yet another chapter in our family's book.  K deployed one week ago, just a few days shy of E's one month birthday.  We miss him terribly but know he will be home in time.  I'm looking at it as an excuse to lose this baby weight and as a free pass to decorate and organize the house as I please (as well as paint our little one's toes without anyone laughing at me)..

Our last family photo for a few months

To be frank, I'm doing much better this deployment than I did for the last one.  I feel like this one snuck up on us with the flurry of having a baby and being pregnant and all.  In all honesty, I tried not to think about it because it would just make me sad.  I'm doing my best not to focus on what K is going to miss during his time away, but instead focusing on all of the exciting things he will get to come home to.  E will be crawling, sitting up, be cutting her teeth, have a little personality, be able to play....what wonderful things for us to look forward to sharing together!
I miss my husband though.  I'd be lying if I said this is easy.  Thankfully, I am blessed to have wonderful friends and family around to help out when things become too much, but no one replaces my husband.  I don't like going to bed alone.  I don't like how quiet the house is.  I miss him teasing me.  I miss his kisses.  I want to share in E's cuteness with him.  She smiled for the first time 3 days after he left.  I cried.

But, truthfully, it's not all bad.  I have spent a lot of time praying about this deployment, asking God to give me the strength to handle it with grace, peace and sanity.  He, as always, has been gracious and given me far beyond that.  I've had several sweet people ask me how I'm doing and seem surprised when I honestly reply that I'm doing just fine.  Yes, I miss him.  Yes, sometimes I'm sad.  But life is too short to dwell on it.  Instead, I give my energy to our daughter, to preserving each moment for my husband in pictures and videos and phone calls.  Cherishing each special second for the both of us.


My role has changed so much in five weeks.  My role as a wife, as an employee, as a friend, as a daughter, as a sister...they have all evolved and will continue to do so as time goes on.

In five weeks, I have learned to love in a whole new way.  I have learned to appreciate my husband on a whole new level.  I have learned to cherish each moment of every day.  I have realized how blessed I am in friendships.  I have gained a new confidence in myself.  I have a deeper trust in the Lord.

and, above all, I have started to learn what it means to be E's mommy

and there is nothing else I'd rather do.  There's no other place I'd rather be.