Monday, October 12, 2015

Christmas (Cards) In October

My stay at home mom job has made me really focus on how I can be responsible with every penny coming in and out of our house. One of the most recent ways I've done this is by getting our Christmas cards together in October. That's CRAZY early to me. But, there are lots of holiday card coupon codes out in the beginning of October, so this was the chance I needed to save some money. Now, I know I could be thriftier and not send out Christmas cards. But I don't think you should give up everything that gives you joy for the sake of money. So there.
None of these images were the one I chose. For this to be as inexpensive as I hoped I had to do it myself. So I chose a sunny (but much colder than I wanted) day. While Lila was down for her first nap I hauled stuff up from the basement and prepped her wardrobe. I used the little trees I put on my doorstep, 2 blankets, 1 piece of big fabric, a few ornaments, our Christmas stockings, and a cardboard document box. I had a total of two outfits, both purchased from Once Upon a Child and Gap Outlet while I was pregnant:
It was really windy, and leaves were falling. So I waited to decorate until Lila woke up so there weren't fall leaves in the Christmas trees! I wanted to use the red fence as the backdrop which is why I decided to do the pictures outside. I did set up Lila's playpen on the screened porch with toys. When Lila woke up I put her in her first outfit and put her in her playpen while I scurried around and set up:
Not so impressive from far back:
Obviously I didn't pick this shot! This gives you an idea of what the backdrop looks like:
 This was no easy photo shoot. The wind and chill gave her a red nose and brought out inner rage. After a while I got my winning shot though! Once that was done I started shopping and comparing cards.
I've gotten my last several cards from Paper Culture. I love that they plant a tree whenever you order something from them and the overall look of their cards. I also would use their address and mail service so I never had to address or stamp a card. Wow having unlimited money was nice! 

So here are the price breakdowns for 40 cards on premium card stock. I found 3 sites with cards I liked:
Paper Culture: $144.99 pre-discount. There is currently a 25% off offer putting the cards at $108.74
Shutterfly: $91.60 pre-discount. There is currently a $20 off offer, free shipping on orders over $39, and a 1 free card offer putting the cards at $56.00
Snapfish: $64.00 with coupon codes found on the site putting my order at $30.95 WITH shipping!

Obviously I went with Snapfish for the win! Just a quick tip for all of my fellow cheapskates!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sensory Play For Small People

I'm happy to say Lila is still TV free! It's not easy to keep a kid media free, but it's been fun to help grow her imagination and senses. I thought I'd share a few things you can do with a baby under 1.

- I call this "clean finger painting." We did this when Lila was about 5 months old. We were having bad thunderstorms and were under a tornado watch. So I grabbed a ziplock freezer bag and we hung out in the basement. I put some paint on a piece of paper and sealed it in the bag.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
 I simply let Lila squish away and then removed the paper and set it flat to dry.
- My mom made Lila a quiet book. I wasn't sure when she would enjoy it since I remember loving mine when I was 5 or 6. She already loves playing with the buttons and strings on the pages. 
Non toxic, washable, finger painting. This isn't for the OCD mom. I threw down a drop cloth over the kitchen tile and laid out paper and the paint and just let Lila roll and crawl. She was so surprised by how it felt and that she was allowed to touch it!

 We've done this twice now and she's been thrilled. I put her in a disposable diaper before we start and I fill up the bathtub with hot water. By the time she is done it's cooled off and I can toss her right in. 
 -I let her sit in the grass and eat it. I encourage her to touch pretty much everything. I won't let her make a meal out of weeds but I also do think that keeping her away from germs and mess isn't the kind of parent I want to be. 
 I filled up a big bowl with a few cups of rice and let her play away. I put the rice back in the container when it was done and tossed the little bit that found its way onto the floor. 

 I let her explore lots of food textures since we're doing baby led weaning. I tend to strip her down as much as possible to keep her clothes from being ruined while she's doing this!  

So there are a few ideas for things to do with someone 4-8 months old!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bigger Baby Stuff Review

I wrote a pretty in-depth post a while back reviewing baby gear. I'm back again with a bigger (older) baby stuff review.

The Stroller: Chicco Liteway Plus
When I first reviewed the stroller, it was only holding Lila's infant seat. Now she sits in it facing forward like a big girl and loves it. I have a love/hate relationship with this stroller. If it wasn't my only stroller it would be only love. 
Pro: It's super lightweight, doesn't take up a lot of space in my trunk, reclines nice and low for strolling naps, etc. She seems comfy in it.
Con: The wheels. I wondered about this in my original review and my wondering was right. The front wheels don't swivel very easily anymore and don't handle good sized cracks in sidewalks. The basket is  also really small. 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

The Wagon: Radio Flyer All-Terrain Cargo Wagon
Our alternate ride is this awesome wagon. It was a gently used gift from a family friend. I strapped Chris's belt to it as a makeshift seatbelt for Lila and it's perfect for stopping at the farm stand close to our house or to roll our feeble old dog around. 
Rating: 5 Stars

Baby bathtub- Stokke Flex Bath
 Lila outgrew her Puj tub a while ago the bathtub seemed too mammoth for her so I ordered this little tub. I was so excited that it's portable, folds flat, and was nice and small. I use it on the bathroom or kitchen counters and fill it with a pitcher. I just slide it over a sink and pull the plug to drain it.

Pro: Fun for Lila to teethe on, collapsable, and small.
Con: Really expensive substitute for a kitchen sink. I fell for a gimmick. (If I didn't have a bathtub or a usable sink I would 100% recommend it!)

Rating: 3 Stars

Better choice- The kitchen sink or Patrull Bathtub Mat from Ikea

The little lady has 2 adorable bottom teeth so far so now we're on to teethers. 
She's a classic and Lila really likes her. Especially when she was smaller, before she cut her teeth.
Bendable Banana Baby Toothbrush:
This is the winner in our household. Lila loves this thing. I attached a pacifier clip to it and I clip it to her shirt when we go grocery shopping to keep her distracted and from chomping on the cart (too much)! It has lots of chewing variety too, so she loves it. 
Silicone Teething Necklace:
This is a close second to the banana. I really knew I was leaping into the mom world if I got mom jewelry, but it was necessary! I actually love the look of this necklace and Lila grabs it ALL the time. I especially wear it grocery shopping and nursing. It's important to have her attention at both! 

Vibrating Teether:
I picked this gem up at Target, at the recommendation of another mom that had just been through teething. It's hard plastic on the handle, the berries are silicone, and it vibrates if she bites the berries. She likes it but it's not our go-to. 
Amber Teething Necklace:
Some people think it's a scam, others don't. I was indifferent but figured I'd try anything to help with her pain. This is actually Lila's second necklace. I became a believer after I washed her first one in the washer on accident. I put it back on and drooling and rage ensued. I bought a new necklace and the drooling went away and the joy came back. So I'm a believer! She doesn't sleep with it on though, and that seems just fine. 

Highchair- Ikea Antilop 
Lila's cheap-o highchair is one of my favorite purchases. We use it without the tray so Lila can "help" cook
She also loves to be at table level for her reading (!) and to eat at the table with us
And the tray is really easy to hose off. I highly recommend the insert to help prop the baby up a bit. We still use it daily and I take it out only when I anticipate Lila is going to make a crazy mess and I don't feel like doing laundry. I talk more about it in this post
Rating: 5 Stars

Diapers: BumGenius, Flip, Kawaii, and Honest
I've branched out in my cloth diapering. I still primarily use BumGenius all in ones. Lila's at a point where she has almost graduated to the next rise and I'm having issues with sizing. She is a tummy sleeper and I'm having leaks on her stomach after a long nap, and side leaks occasionally. I'm hoping it's temporary while we figure out how to adjust the size as she grows. They're easy to wash and still look 100% perfect. I've picked up a few more during a seconds sale too.  
I also got a few Kawaii pocket diapers. I LOVE them and the fit! I also am a big fan of my Flips.
 We are still using Honest diapers at night. Lila outgrew the only bundle we ordered when we were only half way through it. I was wowed by Honest's customer service when they did a free, fast, exchange for the next size up for us. With Lila belly sleeping, and sleeping a 10 hour stretch, they do leak overnight though. I use a cloth diaper cover over them to keep this from happening. Once we finish them up I'll probably convert to cloth overnight. I do keep disposables in my diaper bag for when she is being babysat to reduce the caregiver's learning curve.

Baby Carrier: Ergo
I am THRILLED to have bought an Ergo! I think it's so comfortable now that Lila's heavier. 
I pop the hood up and walk when she is beyond tired and needs a nap. Chris loves to wear it too. This was definitely worth the hunt and waiting  and watching on eBay. 
Rating: 5 Stars

Mesh Crib Bumpers:
Lila started getting trapped limbs so I busted out the mesh bumpers I'd registered for. 
I'm a minimilist, so I kept them off as long as possible. I didn't mind the look once I got it up though. Unfortunately, they seemed to just be something Lila would use to prop her legs up when she put them through the bars! She was also using them to pull herself up. I ended up using them for a couple of weeks and then packed them away. To me it was more important for Lila to learn how to get her limbs back out of the bars when possible. 
Rating: 3 Stars

Infantino Squeeze Station:
 I did a hybrid of baby led weaning and some purees
I've ended up not using many of the purees since Lila seems to like grabbing the food herself. But, they were crazy easy to use and the things like applesauce are great for traveling. I'm almost through all of the pouches that I made but do plan making more apple sauces for us to use out and about and banana oatmeal to speed up my mornings.
Rating: 5 Stars

Playpen: Journey Bee Play Yard:
I had my heart set on the Baby Bjorn travel crib or the Lotus travel crib. Unfortunately, neither got snatched off of my registry and I lost a few eBay auctions. I wasn't willing to lay down hundreds of dollars for something I didn't plan on using Then I found this guy for 1/3 of the price. 

Pros: Lightweight, super easy set up and take down, flat package make storing it under a bed easy. Seems strong. I like the two dark sides. It makes putting a baby to sleep easier since they can't track you from all 4 sides. Lila seems to like it.  
Cons: The velcro sheet sticks to itself, making it nearly impossible to apply smoothly. The storage bag/shape is tall and awkward with the strap placement. Walking with it on your shoulder isn't really an option. I wanted something with a small footprint. The inside is the size I pictured but the outside fans out really far to add stability. I wouldn't order it again based on that. 
Rating: 3 Stars

I started with a couple of Skip Hop tuck away bibs that were adorable. Unfortunately they couldn't stand up to wet and her shirts would be all wet after eating and drinking. I think these are more for baby cereal and foods that we fast forwarded past.
4 Stars if you use baby food

Baby Bjorn Soft Bib:
I am in love with these things. They catch everything and tighten nicely to keep things from leaking. I was able to get a two pack as part of an open box special on Amazon. 
Rating: 5 Stars

Baby Gate: Munchkin Easy-Close Metal Safety Gate:
I'm so glad we got this one! I also found it as part of an open box special on Amazon and got it for about $10 less than normal.

Pro: Easy to install, holds up great to pressure, slamming, etc. You can lock it so it only swings in, out, or not at all.
Con: The bar at the bottom makes me afraid of tripping and falling to my death.

So that's the latest update on baby stuff in our house!
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