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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Seven Months Old!

That's no typo. My tiny preemie cuddle bug is seven months old! We won't have an update on his stats until his weight check on Thursday, but we're thinking chunky thoughts. Maybe its my hopeful side, but he feels heavier and bigger to me. Whenever I pick him up, its like there's more there. I'm hoping all the oatmeal, fruits, and veggies he's been devouring over the past month have put on at least a pound. I'll post an update after his appointment!

This month, aside from really getting into solid food, Charlie has gotten better at baby chatter, sitting better when supported (read - doesn't immediately fall over), found his feet, tried a sippy cup, and has developed a love for being outside. Laying out a blanket with some toys on the grass in the shade is a sure fire way to get a chill baby. My little nature boy. We're going to set up his baby pool tomorrow and try that out. Hopefully, he's a fan of water because its looking like its going to be a very hot summer.

Another upcoming first isn't an exciting one, but necessary none the less. Next Wednesday, Charlie is scheduled for an outpatient surgical procedure to correct his moderate hypospadias. He should be in and out in a matter of hours and will be allowed home by the afternoon. The tough part is going to be not being able to feed him after midnight and trying not to be worried about the anesthesia. Despite living in a rural area, there is a great outpatient surgical center nearby that has a pediatric anesthesiologist and urologist. Seriously, how lucky are we? His urologist has assured us that though he'll be cranky the first 24 hours, he'll be back to normal shortly after that and heal up quickly. In the grand scheme of things, this is very minor and routine, but I'm a Momma; I can't help but worry! I know everything will be alright and once the surgery is done, poor Jeff can stop telling Charlie, "I'm sorry buddy - we'll get this thing fixed soon!" during every diaper change. :-P

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Clone-a-Bib (in 20 minutes)

I really like making bibs - they're quick, easy, take very little fabric, and customized ones make great gifts. Yes, you really can do this in about 20 minutes. Maybe not the very first time, but once you make one, they'll fly by! I really find the hardest part to be picking a fabric!

Firstly, take a bib that you'd like to clone and trace it on your fabric. Be sure to trace it about about 1/2" larger around the edges for a seam allowance. That way, when you sew it, it'll be the same size as the bib you're copying. If you trace it exactly, it'll be 1/2" smaller all around. Here is your chance to make any adjustments you'd like as you make this "pattern." Want it to be longer? Wider? Bigger neck hole? Give it wings over the shoulders? Just draw it in! To trace it, you can use almost anything - pencil, chalk, sharpie, etc. The line is going to be inside the bib, so you won't see it anyway. I used a blue quilting marker that I had on hand. It shows up really bright and actually disappears with water. Nifty. Do this on both pieces of fabric you're using for your bib.

Guess what's next! Cut out both pieces of fabric. I used terrycloth as a backing for my cherry bib so it could soak up any baby juices it may encounter. You can use fleece (which is water resistant), flannel (which is soft), or even just matching/coordinating cotton on the back. Whatever you want.

Next, with right sides facing each other, sew around the edges with a 1/2" seam (remember how you left all that extra space when tracing?), leaving an opening to turn it inside right. Here's a "learned the hard way" tip: leave the opening somewhere on the bib that isn't curved. Trying to recreate that curve perfectly while finishing the seam is nearly impossible and it just ends up looking messy. With this bib, I left the opening along the bottom.

With the bib still inside out, snip into the curves being careful not to cut the stitching. This will allow the fabric to bend and lay flat when its turned right. With all your nice snips, finally turn the bib inside right.

After you've turned it inside right iron it flat, turning in the opening flaps so it all aligns with the edge of the bib. With a coordinating thread, sew around the bib close to the edge. This will close up the turning hole and strengthen the bib. You can do a straight or decorative stitch - its up to you.

 The last step for your clone-a-bib is to add the velcro closure. You can purchase velcro in black or white and in various widths. For this, one inch wide velcro works just fine. You have two options with placing the velcro - you can just put two little pieces that connect and close the bib or you can put a small tab on one side and a longer strip on the other. The second option allows the bib to grow with the baby.

Either way you decide, place the velcro where you want it and sew it into place with a zig zag stitch. Its important to get a strong seam since it will be tugged on over and over as the bib is used. After you place the velcro, you're done! The bib can be worn, drooled on, spit up on, and abused as normal.

Out of Town = No Spring Cleaning

Aw, boo. I'm out of town this weekend at a conference in the booming metropolis of Macomb, IL, so it looks like there'll be no spring cleaning for me! Too bad, huh?

Instead, I offer you a tutorial (that I will post a little later) on how to clone a bib in 20 minutes.

For now, I leave you with a cute kid rockin' his custom tie dye from our friends Bonnye and baby Althea and his awesome new stocking cap from Calea and baby Ezra!

(Calea has an Etsy shop if you're interested in some really beautiful hand knit hats, beanies, and flowered headbands. Let me know!)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Money Mondays

Okay, to be honest, I probably won't write about money every Monday, but I'm feeling alliterative this afternoon. Money. Lately, Jeff and I have been trying to figure out how to make our little money turn into big money and thanks to advice from financially sound friends and a little planning, I think we are on our way.

For some reason, most of my generation is fine with being in debt. We own it - its just a way of life. Starting out at 23, fresh out of college owing $30K? That's not bad at all! To our parents and grandparents generations, however, we are lunatics for accepting such a financial fate. When I graduated, I started paying $215.16 a month and knew that it was just going to be part of my life to pay that each month for the next 20 years. When all was said and done, I would have paid back the $30K I owed and another $20K in interest. That's right, $20,000 in interest alone. I was okay with that. WTF was wrong with me? How is that possibly okay?!

Jeff also has $30K in loans, so together we are a veritable financial nightmare. Could it be worse? Totally. We were fortunate to go to relatively inexpensive public school, get grants and loans, and assistantships in graduate school. All that aside, $60K is still ridiculous.

Well, we're done paying minimum and are ready to tackle this debt (as well as the rest we owe on our car) little by little. Our goal is to be debt free in the next five years. That means we'd have to pay $12,000 a year towards loans (plus interest, but I don't want to do that crazy math) to meet our goal. If we're both employed and watch our budget, why isn't that possible? Especially if we're not paying for housing? We would save tens of thousands of dollars in interest this way. I can't even imagine what we'd do with all that money.

We made up a list of things that we're already doing to cut costs. Some of them are:
  1. Cloth diaper, breast feed, and make our own baby food. Huge savings right there.
  2. Use grocery store points to save on gas.
  3. Clip coupons, subscribe to coupon blogs, and look for sales.
  4. Shop consignment and accept hand me downs.
  5. Sell (or donate) things we don't need anymore.
  6. Cancel subscriptions we don't use. Netflix DVDs, I'm talkin' about you.
  7. Get cell phones that don't need data plans.
  8. Buy produce from the farmer's market and local farms.
  9. Use cloth towels instead of paper towels.
  10. Make gifts instead of buying them.
  11. I cut Jeff's hair instead of him going out to get it cut. Over the last 5 years, that's a ton of savings.
  12. Sharing one car.
  13. Set up automatic bill payments to get a lower interest rate.
  14. Borrow books from the library instead of always buying new.

And a list of things we need to get better at in order to further save money:
  1. Stop eating out so much. I love to eat out, but need to reign it in for a while.
  2. Don't use credit cards. We each have two and use them responsibly, but don't really *need* to.
  3. Drive less. Everything around here is accessible by a bike, which we both have, or the bus.
  4. Order less from online. Its too easy to just buy something we want. Damn you one-click check out!
  5. Be better about not wasting food. I'm terrible at checking expiration dates. Oops!
  6. Keep up with my check book. If I knew how much money I had, I wouldn't spend as much!
Will we be debt free in five years? I have no idea, but this plan is more than we had before. Step one is for someone around here to hire the fabulous middle school teacher I'm married to. With two full time incomes, we can rule the world!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spring Cleaning Saturday Returns!

I've spent the last 2 years trying my hardest to make our little 2 bedroom apartment look and feel like a house. Truth is, its not a house - its a smallish apartment. Its a pretty typical set up; 1/3 of the apartment was the kitchen and living room, 1/3 was the spare bedroom and a bathroom, and 1/3 was the master "suite" (bedroom, closet, and bathroom). The spare room became the sewing/office room and eventually the craft/office/nursery when Charlie came along. Our bedroom just had normal bedroom type stuff in it - nothing special.

Yes ladies, this is where all the magic happens.
After spending the last several months only sewing during the small pockets of time when Charlie wasn't sleeping in his room/the sewing room, I realized that we had sacrificed functionality for how a house *should* look. Our moderately furnished bedroom, which as I mentioned is 1/3 of the entire apartment, was hardly used meanwhile Charlie's room was so crammed with stuff that his toys and various baby receptacles overflowed into the already cluttered living room. What is wrong with this picture?

I think I was concerned with how a sewing table would look in a bedroom. *gasp!* How dare I! Its not like we're hosting dinner parties or over night guests all the time. I don't know why I thought it was such a foreign idea at first. So, we moved around a few pieces of bedroom furniture and put the craft table in our bedroom. There is still a bunch of open space in the room and now I can sew whenever I want. Plus, Charlie's room is now an actual child's room and not filled with choking and stabbing hazards. His toys are in there (and not all over the living room) and we can even store his stroller in there instead of near the front door.

Functionality > Commonality. Always.

And yes, that's a fresh stack of fabric for loveys and bibs to be made and sent out to my favorite Mommas. <3

Selective Hearing FTW

Things Charlie will sleep right through...

The vacuum, the car door slamming, a loud sneeze, dropping a glass on the kitchen floor, the food processor, washing machine, and dish washer, loud restaurants, my sewing machine, turning on the light in his room and putting away clothes, and thunderstorms.

Things that will immediately rip him out of a dead sleep...

The sound of me turning on the shower, putting a fork to my mouth, or walking to the bathroom, the sound of my pump turning on, the last 5 minutes of a television show or movie, my head hitting a pillow, and my butt hitting a chair.

Ladies and gentlemen, selectively super sonic baby hearing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Yum! Real food!

A few weeks ago, we started Charlie on solid food as a supplement to breast milk and I couldn't ask for it to be going any better. We're really hoping it helps him pack on some weight since he's still quite the peanut at only 12.5 lbs. He has another weight check on June 2nd, so hopefully solids have made a difference.

As with everything baby related, I did a lot of reading up on introducing solids, what, how much and when and as with everything baby related, found incredibly conflicting views on what babies *should* eat. I saw everything from starting cereal at 3 months to nothing until 6 months to give them whatever they want, whenever they want. Enough craziness to confuse the crap out of you. Because of Charlie's preemie-ness, we waited until 5 1/2 months to start and began with something simple - oatmeal. I decided to skip rice cereal all together because its pretty darn gross and has little to no nutritional value. Even as a practice food, oatmeal just had more oomph to it. Shortly after, we started him on sweet potatoes, which he loved. Every few days, we incorporated a new taste for him to try. At this point, he's up to sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, squash, bananas, apples, pears, and mango. His favorite is still the sweet potatoes with mango being a close second.

Once we established what he liked, I was pretty much done buying prepackaged baby food. C'mon...$1 for 4 ounces of food in a non-recyclable plastic tub? And that's the sale price! Instead we broke out our handy dandy baby food making supplies and made our own. Yes, apparently my iPod is a baby food making supply. As for a food processor, we have the Kid Co. baby food processor, but any food processor or really even a fork will do.

With $6 in veggies and fruits from Kroger and the farmer's market, I made 2 weeks worth of organic baby food. Can't beat it! At this stage of the game, the "recipe" for baby food is pretty simple. Steam/boil/bake veggies and fruits, then mash. As baby gets older though, there are some really great recipes to help them develop a non-picky palate. Of all the websites I found, I really loved Wholesome Baby Foods. Its no nonsense, nonjudgmental approach to feeding your kid was very appealing. If you haven't noticed, finding anything parenting related that is not judgmental is nearly impossible, so this was quite a find.

Once the fruits and veggies are cooked and mashed, I put the puree into ice cube trays to freeze.

We bought these ice cube trays by Oxo that are rounded on the bottom. No twisting and cracking needed - just poke one side of the cube and it pops out. Once the food cubes were set, I put them into zip top bags, labeled them, and put them in the freezer. Between the 150 oz. of breast milk and now frozen baby food, Charlie is quickly taking over our small freezer.

Each day, Charlie gets 1/4 cup of oatmeal and two fruit cubes for breakfast and two veggies cubes and two fruit cubes for dinner. We put the cubes into these little bowls the night before and put them in the fridge. Since they have a two wells and a good lid, they're perfect for defrosting and serving. So far its been a pretty smooth system. Since its best for breast milk to continue to be his main source of nutrition, we only feed him solids after breast feeding. Regardless of all the boobie juice, however, he still happily wolfs down whatever we give him.

Once the summer comes, I'm absolutely psyched to throw Charlie in the Beco and visit the local pick your own farms. Doesn't get anymore hippie than that. ;-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Well, still no laptop.

If anyone even still checks this, I apologize for being MIA. My laptop has been in HP's possession for the past 2 weeks and I got it back in the mail today, only to find out that it is STILL broken. I haven't been able to do much without it and its seriously getting annoying to use Jeff's mac. *sigh*

As soon as I get it back and can upload pictures again, I'll share updates from the March for Babies walk, a few new craft projects, our new financial mission, and hopefully some news about whether we are moving or not. A lot, huh?

For now, I can share some pictures from Easter that I was able to upload.

In his first Easter basket, Charlie got a Snoopy book, a bathing suit, new socks, and candy (for Mom & Dad, of course). He was excited - mostly because he has no idea how lame socks and a bathing suit are.

We didn't have time to dye eggs on Saturday, so we waited until Sunday morning. Charlie wanted nothing to do with the cold, wet egg I put on his high chair tray, so he took a nap instead.

It was such a nice day that we decided to check out the local park. Despite looking ridiculously tiny in it, Charlie really enjoyed the swings. The grass? Not so much.

And this picture got thrown in for good measure because well, its freaking adorable. <3

Like I said, more to come when my computer gets its life figured out. I have lots of good ideas, just no computer to really blog on right now. :-(