Who has time to cut coupons?

Raising a baby is an expensive endeavor! While we try to be responsible shoppers and search for good deals, there are always those moments when you need a specific item and end up paying full price for it. I have the best intentions of clipping coupons, saving sale offers and other promotions, only to forget them all in a pinch. That said, there are some pretty handy tools out there for helping you to save a little money!  Here are a few that I’ve found that involve a minimal amount of fuss/clipping/remembering that will save you a few $$ that will make your checkbook a little happier at the end of the month!

  • Amazon Mom: Members receive free two day shipping, 20% off diapers and wipes and various other discounts throughout the year.
  • Ebates: Simply by using their site to initiate an online purchase, you get access to additional discounts and cash back on your purchases. They’ll send you a check or gift card from your merchant of choice!
  • Retailmenot: Check here before finalizing any online purchase. Just type in the website and any current offers/promotions will be displayed along with the code you need to enter at checkout!
  • Groupon & Living Social: Local deals in your area from vacations and family outings to store discounts and gift ideas. I’ll admit I don’t use them often but they’re great for ideas on a rainy day or a last minute idea.
  • Gilte, Totsy & Zulily: Deals on stuff for moms, kids and more. Great for finding an expensive item at a huge discount!

Happy Shopping!

Toys to grow on and teaching babies to play nice.

It’s mind boggling to think six months have already gone by. I have a lot of trouble visualizing how much Lena has changed over those months and the precious videos and pictures from the early days hardly do her justice. Be that as it may, she’s growing by leaps and bounds! All of a sudden she has a distinct personality and shows definite preferences for certain toys and games. It has been so much fun watching her puzzle things out for herself as she explores her new abilities and learns more about the world around her.

She is also beginning to really enjoy interacting with other people, children and animals. This brings on a whole new adventure in teaching her to be gentle and using her “inside voice”. Even though she’s so little, there is no doubt that she understands our reactions and has begun to change her own behaviors based upon that feedback. When a shrill scream is responded to with a hushed voice or gentle “shhh”, she quickly changes her own voice to match. Our next big challenge is teaching her to be gentle. She adores our cat and my parents’ dog and while the pup may withstand a bit of roughhousing, the cat has a tendency to run and hide. Adelena follows their every move and shrieks with laughter when she gets her fingers licked. She’s very good at petting the cat but usually resorts to grabbing a handful of fur after a few pets. By encouraging her with repetitive comments of “gentle” and “nice”, along with a gentle loosening of her fingers…she might eventually catch on! She’s extremely receptive to the gentle coaching and although she still repeats the more enthusiastic behavior, I’m confident she’s making progress. Patience is the name of the game!

Here are a few toys we couldn’t live without:

  • Play gym – Any and all of these have provided countless hours of fun and amusement. Even now that she’s getting a bit big for it, she’ll pinwheel her way around and sometimes even manage to set her animals loose. The only major down side is when she manages to get herself wedged against one of the arms so it keeps her from continuing on her little journey.
  • Jumper – We have a rather tall baby so I can’t stress enough how useful this has been. She began to fit into it around three and a half months, but really got interested around four months. She’s only on the second of five possible height settings which is a huge relief to us considering she’s on the top setting of most exersaucers. You can easily change up the toys as often as you like and she gets a great vantage point from which to interact with anyone in the room.
  • Floor mat – We stole this idea from friends and it’s been incredibly useful! We only have a crawls space, with hardwood floors and throw rugs so it adds another layer of protection in the winter. Now that Lena can push herself around her play area a little, we don’t have to worry about her coming into contact with our carpets. The wipeable surface is also a huge bonus for those teething and spit up moments.
  • Simple,Small Toys – Anything that she can manipulate or chew on (particularly with a variety of surfaces) have had huge success. They don’t have to be complex or noisy. The most important characteristics so far have been color, texture and something to interact with (small wooden beads that slide along a string, a flexible ring of multi-textured surfaces, a tiny rattle that fits her hand perfectly, etc.).
Always adapting…the art of modifying a highchair.

Always adapting…the art of modifying a highchair.

Now that Lena has started eating solid foods, there’s a been a scramble to dig up or buy all the accoutrements that are necessary to manage this new endeavor. In our infinite wisdom (and total lack of space) we opted not to buy a highchair since we had absolutely nowhere to put it. My husband’s aunt kindly loaned us their traditional wooden highchair that was much smaller than its modern counterparts and we were very happy for this addition. We prepared for the fact that we wouldn’t be able to use the highchair until Lena was sitting up and thought we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.Our lovely wooden highchair.

Cut to the present day…

Lena has taken to solid foods with a vengeance and is absurdly happy whenever there is a colorful spoon traveling toward her mouth. She proves this point again and again by exhibiting the same open-mouthed grasping as a baby chick and humming a contented ‘mmm’ sound all the while. Any pauses in the spoon’s trajectory are met with squawks of protest until she is satisfied the last mouthful has been scraped from her bowl.

A dear friend had kindly loaned us a bouncy chair which was pinch hitting for the highchair until Lena was good and ready to upgrade to a sitting position. At the very least, we thought we’d be able to sub in her Bebe pod (similar to a Bumbo seat). Well, our bouncy chair loan expired and we were forced to consider our options. The Bebe pod was a good one…except for the fact that our child’s love of food had landed us with a 20 pound baby at the tender age of five months. She was quickly learning muscle control but her efforts in the Bebe pod might lead some to suspect we were spiking her milk.

My crafty husband devised a plan! He quickly realized the Bebe pod could be strapped into the wooden highchair, lending Lena the added support she needed to remain upright. Eureka!

Our highchair with the Bebe pod.

If needed, we can even tuck a pillow behind her for added support. The relatively small size of the highchair is ideal as it hugs the Bebe pod and allows the baby to hang on to the arms or tray. The modified highchair takes up much less room than most of the more modern, reclining highchairs. Lo and behold…Lena actually prefers sitting upright while eating and has managed to create a good deal less mess while she’s at it.

Finding creative solutions is the name of the game with parenting as we’re quickly coming to realize. My next step will be recovering the original seat cushions so that we’re ready to transition again once she’s sitting up on her own.

For now, we’ll count this as one of our small victories toward raising a baby on a budget!

Sling vs. Carrier

From the early days of my pregnancy I’ve had friends recommend various ways to carry the baby for a variety of purposes. Baby wearing had been a tradition for hundreds of years and definitely has its practical and emotional advantages.

There is a lot to be said about having one or both hands free while keeping baby close to you throughout the day. There is no doubt that for some babes, they feel comfort in the proximity and are more at ease. After all, they just spent nine months being carried around, it only stands to reason. The freedom it grants parents is great, especially in those early days when the baby won’t settle easily…or you just can’t stand to put baby down. Slings and carriers also give you the freedom to go places strollers might be unwieldy and keep from exposing your newborn to too much unwanted physical contact. Here are a few I’ve used so far:

Peanut Shell sling: I got this on the recommendation of a friend and loved the simplicity of it. It’s essentially a wide length of fabric sewn into a circle. You double it over upon itself and nestle baby inside as it rests across your back and shoulders. While my baby was very small this worked perfectly. A few weeks in, my baby decided she was a bit claustrophobic inside and due to my height and wider than average shoulders, the space inside was minimal at best. Sadly, I don’t think this is a great option for us any longer but I’ll continue to try the other wearing positions as she get older.

Balboa baby sling: I bought this sling for my husband as he is also tall and has broad shoulders. There was no hope of the peanut shell fitting him! The balboa sling is adjustable but much thinner and less sturdy than the pea it shell. It is much easier to slip the baby in and out of as it doesn’t fit very snuggly But rather handmade from a well padded strap across the shoulders. This definitely not a practical solution for us beyond household use but it’s been a lifesaver in getting the baby to sleep during her fussy periods. The high sides allow you to block out light while keeping baby close at hand.

Baby bjorn: I borrowed this from a friend and can definitely see the appeal. It is very simple to use, adjusts easily for comfort and the baby is securely held but still able to look around. After a long hike however, my back and shoulders were aching. The weight is definitely distributed to those two areas and takes its toll after a while. The baby is also supported by a strap through their legs and don’t “sit” in this carrier. This made me a little nervous about long hikes.

ERGObaby: I finally managed to try this out recently. Having tried the bjorn, I was drawn to this because of the way it supports the baby in a seated position and distributes the weight to your hips. The shoulder straps are well padded and are very comfortable once fastened. The one negative I’ve found so far is clasping the back straps together myself. With an infant, I hesitate to do it while supporting the baby’s head. This carrier also appeals because of the various ways it can be worn in front, back and side positions. I look forward to trying these out as Adelena gets bigger! Since she’s still rather small we’ve been enjoying the front position and I just position her legs to one side rather than separating them so she’s nice and comfy.

Items we couldn’t live without.

Leaving the hospital after the baby was born was both incredibly exciting and incredibly nerve-wracking. Having a team of medical professionals around for any tiny question that might come up is a rather comforting experience. However, I knew I wouldn’t miss the noise and frequent interruptions and couldn’t wait to be in my own space again. Once home, we quickly realized how valuable all that help was though there were a few products we were extremely fortunate to have and helped make our lives much easier and a bit less stressful.

  1. Angelcare Monitor – This is an amazing device. We have the audio version, which is more than sufficient in our tiny house. It’s a monitor that also has a panel that fits under the crib (or cradle/bassinet) mattress which alerts you if the baby stops moving for more than 15 seconds. As I’m sure many new parents can attest, one of our biggest fears was that something might happen during the night while we’re sleeping and we would have no idea. The peace of mind this monitor affords is fantastic. We tested it ourselves before the baby arrived and it’s amazingly responsive even under a thick crib mattress. Like many new parents, the first few nights home we had the baby sleeping in a cradle in our room. The baby did fine…but we barely slept a wink. A few days and a hurricane later, we moved the baby into her crib. Having the monitor made this transition much easier and we’ve been sleeping much sounder ever since! One minor problem we had was that the monitor creates some white noise/static when activated by the baby’s noises. As a result, I was waking up for every minor grunt and groan if the monitor picked it up. Eventually I realized you could turn the volume down slightly which eliminated the static and now I only wake when the baby is fussing or crying to the point where I’d want to check on her.
  2. SwaddleMe Sleep Sacks – During the first week or two, we used the hospital blankets and receiving blankets to swaddle our daughter at night. She definitely loved the swaddle and slept much better having it. We perfected the folding and tucking but this turned night feedings and changings into quite a production and the baby quickly learned how to free her arms. Once she was free, she’d wake more frequently and not sleep as well as she might have. My cousin had given us some of the SwaddleMe sacks and once we pulled them out, this changed everything. The velcro tabs make changing a breeze and you can cinch the sack quite snugly to avoid little hands and arms from wriggling free.
  3. Cloth Diapers/Burp Cloths – There are a whole slew of burp cloths out there but nothing stands up like these do. They’re large and very absorbent. Once the baby started spitting up quite frequently, these were invaluable. We still go through about 8-10 per day but I can’t imagine what my laundry pile would be like without them! There are a few varieties with varying weights of material. I prefer the thicker, padded variety as they’re softer to the touch and seem to be the most absorbent.
  4. Boppy Pillow – This is great for breastfeeding and bottle feeding. At the beginning, I’d settle the baby right on top while feeding which worked great. Now that she’s a bit bigger, I can prop it under my arm and elbow on whichever side she’s nursing from. Our baby was also a bit gassy so after feeding, she’d get uncomfortable if we put her down flat right away. We quickly learned that the Boppy kept her at enough of an incline when we placed her inside the U shape with her head well supported on the cushion. This is also a great position for awake time as she can look around easily. I would definitely not leave her unattended as the baby can wriggle around and eventually slide down into the center of pillow. However, it’s great for those times when you need your hands free but can keep a constant eye on the baby!
  5. Medela breast pump – Being able to nurse is an amazing bonding experience and has been very rewarding for me. There are times though when you need the freedom of giving a bottle. This bump has been very easy to use and has made life much easier. We decided early on that we wanted to give our baby a bottle a day so that she’d get used to it and this has worked very well for us. My husband has a chance to bond with her every night and I manage to get a few consecutive hours of sleep. It has also made it possible for us to visit family or run errands without worrying about finding a place to feed the baby. It has a battery pack for pumping on the go and a cooler bag for storing and transporting milk. There’s even enough room in the bag for a few extra items like a nursing cover, extra bottles etc. They have some other handy products as well, such as microwaveable sterilizing bags, lanolin, milk storage bags and more.
Those are our main finds so far, more to come as Adelena keeps growing!

The Great Debate.

At some point during their pregnancy, every first time mom considers the question of meds vs. no meds. For some, this is a very simple decision. For others (like me!), it can be a long drawn-out brawl and it’s never clear who the victor might be.  I’ve been fortunate with my pregnancy thus far and have had no indications of possible complications. Until I hear otherwise, I’m going with the assumption that I will have a vaginal birth rather than a c-section. Obviously this can change up to the last minute, but the more prepared I can be for the marathon of labor the better off I’ll be (at least in my own head).

For my own reference, I’ve used various methods to become better informed and I’m sure I still have a long way to go.

  • Talk to friends and relatives: Everyone’s experience is different and everyone’s threshold for pain can vary widely. I found it was really encouraging (for both sides of the debate) to hash it out with friends and relatives about their own birth stories. The thing to remember is, there’s no right or wrong answer. You have to do what you are comfortable with and what is best for you and your baby.
  • Read up on the risks and benefits: There are tons of books and websites out there chock full of useful information. Remember though, take everything with a grain of salt. Those who are dedicated to their belief system can be almost fanatical in their opinions. While your source may contain lots of great information, there are bound to be some misleading facts and/or comments thrown in as well.
  • Write out a birth plan: This may sound a little silly at first, but it may just force you to consider some of the things you’ve been avoiding.  Even if it’s just for your own reference, having all these details in one place can be reassuring and may even help you make some decisions you’ve been putting off.
  • Attend the nerdy birth classes: Most hospitals offer these and some are more up to date than others. We attended a breastfeeding class along with LaMaze and are signed up for baby CPR. The LaMaze class, while a bit outdated in some respects, was definitely helpful in informing my husband and reinforcing much of the information I’ve learned over the past few months. We’re going to need all the help we can get, so having a few other tactics available to us definitely made the class worthwhile. It may be a bit of a drag at the time, but what’s 8 hours when you consider the new life that will soon be in your hands?

Regardless of your decision, I firmly believe it’s worth reading up on a natural birth. As women, our lives have been completely overrun with information on how NOT to get pregnant. Now, wonder of all wonders, we’ve managed to accomplish the impossible and are patiently awaiting the newest addition to our family. Due to the wealth of information available, this is both a happy and terrifying experience. You are completely inundated with advice and information that is usually well-meaning, but not always well-researched. As a mother-to-be, it’s now our job to sift through the facts, rumors and outright untruths until we manage to eek out a semblance of understanding about this incredible process.

Use the resources available to you and definitely consult your doctors and midwives. Even among medical professionals, there are many schools of thought and finding the right balance for you is important.

Here are a few resources I found useful:


Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

Dona International

Google search “epidural vs. natural” for pure opinion based info


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