We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers. - I Thessalonians 1:2

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Bjorn's, Boba's, and Moby's-- Oh My!

I wasn't much of a baby-wearer with Cate. We had a knock-off Baby Bjorn style carrier that we used on a few occasions when pushing a stroller wasn't convenient...like when going through the conservatory, as pictured below.
I also had a sling for Cate. Like the carrier above, it also hurt my back and neck after about a half hour of use.
Really, we never had much need to wear Cate. We have sidewalks and our stroller maneuvered over every crack and bump just fine. We didn't go too many places that weren't stroller-friendly. We only had few occasions when we needed our hands-free, but Cate wanted to be close. Cate was most content perched in her Bumbo or Papasan seat on the counter or table (squarely in the middle, she never came close to falling so no judging). When she got older, she was happy to play in her exersaucer while I cooked or cleaned or did things around the house. I'd just pull the exersaucer into whichever room I was in.

But necessity is the mother of invention. When you have a three-year-old and an infant, baby-wearing becomes so much more necessary. I knew that the sling and the carrier we used with Cate weren't options. So I got a Moby-wrap. I love it! It's super-secure and let's Brennan be super-close to me.
I even got Cate a mini-Moby for her dolls and stuffed animals. It was part of her big sister present that I gave her at the hospital. She loves it.
I will admit though, that the Moby isn't always practical. Bending over to help Cate while Brennan is in it can be tricky. And after an hour or so, my neck and back hurt a little, though not nearly as much as with the previous two carriers. Plus, until you get the hang of how to tie it on, it can seem cumbersome and annoying to put on.

Enter the Boba. My in-real-life friend, Tricia, whom I've known since high school, turned me onto the Zulily site. The site runs special deals on name-brand baby and kids clothes and products. She had just ordered the Boba from Zulily and saved $40. Boba's normally run around $100, an amount I was not willing to pay, but $60 seemed reasonable.

The Boba has much better back support and some other features that I found helpful like stirrups (when Brennan gets bigger) to keep baby's hips aligned properly (a problem many carriers have), and a rain/sun hood to pull over baby's head when you don't want it exposed. We tried the Boba out at the zoo yesterday. Brennan snuggled right up against me, I tucked a blanket behind his head for a little extra support, and we were off. My neck and back didn't hurt at all after our 2 hour trek to see all of the animals. And I had my hands free to interact with Cate (who wanted nothing to do with the stroller and had energy to burn, so I was happy to let her walk around).
One of us (yes, my husband is a proud baby-wearing daddy) wears Brennan at least once a day. We've decided the Moby is the most practical around the house, when we don't need our hands free for more than an hour or so. The Boba is great when we're out and about and/or when we need our hands free for two or more hours. I think Cate would agree-- she loves that we have our hands available to play games, color, play at the park, and to hold her hands.

I know, I know...some might say I'm going more "granola" or "natural" with all of the baby-wearing and cloth-diapering we've been doing around here lately. But I'm one of those mama's that doesn't subscribe to any parenting philosophy-- we're pretty much all over the parenting spectrum (we don't co-sleep, I didn't make all of Cate's baby food-- just some, I didn't get upset when the doctors had me supplement breast milk with formula while Brennan and I were still in the hospital, we play with plastic toys, I let Cate watch about a half hour of TV each day). We simply do what's best for our kids. We know them best and we know what works. It wasn't what we needed in order to do the best thing for Cate when she was our one and only, but at this stage in our parenting lives, baby-wearing works best.

~Melody :-)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Does This Diaper Make My Butt Look Big?

Maybe a little bit. But that's because it's a cloth diaper. We briefly experimented with cloth diapers for Cate when she was about 4 or so months old. I liked them, but knew school would be starting back up in a couple of months and wasn't sure how a sitter would react to cloth diapers. Plus, in the end, cloth diapers aren't necessarily better for the environment. Instead of rotting in a land fill like a disposable, cloth diapers just take quite a bit of water to wash. So rot in a landfill or use a lot of water? Pick your poison. In fact, in the research I did, if you want to go eco-friendly for diapering, g-Diapers are the way to go (reusable shell, flushable liner). But they're not easy on the wallet.

When we decided that I'd take an extended maternity leave with Brennan, we knew we'd need to find some ways to cut costs. With a little more research and a lot of encouragement from Eric, we went ahead and decided to cloth diaper Brennan. There are a lot of other benefits to cloth diapering, as we discovered in our research. Possible earlier potty-training and less diaper rash (due to there not being chemicals in cloth diapers like there are in disposables) are just two of them.

There are a ton of cloth diapers out there. We went with the Cotton Babies line-- Bum Genius, Flips, and Econobums. Our current stash consists of 5 Bum Genius One Size 3.0's, 2 boxes worth of Flip diapers (each box contains 2 shells and 6 inserts), and 2 boxes of Econobums (each box contains 3 shells and 12 inserts). All of the inserts and shells are interchangeable (you can use a Flip shell with an Econobum insert). This has been plenty. So far, the Flips are my favorite, but the Econobums are the most absorbent. We really only use the Bum Genius diapers when we're out because they can be pre-assembled (put the liner in before use) and because once the diaper is used, it's used-- no part of it is reusable. With the Flips and the Econobums, you can reuse the shells as long as your baby hasn't blown out his/her diaper. The Bum Genius diapers are also great for church, because they're easy for the nursery volunteers to change. They just put the used one in our wet bag and put on a new, pre-assembled one.

This stash has proved to be more than enough for us and cost us about $300. The shells are all adjustable, so the diapers will grow with Brennan. We made life easier for ourselves and got a diaper sprayer, which cost us $50. This little guy has made cleaning out Brennan's dirty diapers a breeze. We rinse off the poop over the toilet and put the diaper straight into the pail (which we keep in the bathroom). We bought two wet bags for the diaper pail (one stays in the pail while the other is in the wash) and two portable wet bags to keep in the diaper bag. Our total to get started in cloth diapering was right around $400. But considering that we've spent well over $1500 on disposables for Cate in the last three years (she's pretty much potty-trained, only wearing diapers at night now), we're saving quite a bit.

Brennan did wear disposables for the first three weeks or so of his life as the cloth diapers were way too big for him. We had a lot of generous friends buy us disposables as baby gifts and they came in handy those first three weeks and will continue to come in handy when we travel to visit family. Now though, they fit him just fine and he's cloth diapered 24/7. Changing a cloth diaper is just as quick as changing a disposable and it only takes an extra minute to rinse out the dirty diapers. And despite having a slightly bulkier rear, Brennan's clothes fit just fine.
As far as washing is concerned, we dump all the dirties and the wet bag that holds them into the wash. We do a cold rinse cycle first and then a hot wash cycle with cold rinse. In the hot wash cycle I use a homemade detergent (1/4 cup) and a cap-full of Tide Stain-Release. The shells line dry and the diapers go in the dryer (though in the summer I'll probably go old school and just dry them in the sunshine on a rack in the back yard to save on energy costs). I usually do two loads of diapers a week. Not bad if you ask me.

I'm no expert and am still figuring stuff out, but to be perfectly honest, this is way easier than I thought and is a great way to save money. I have nothing against disposables seeing as I put Cate in them for 3 years. But I think if I would've known it was going to be this easy, I would've done it with Cate too.

~Melody :-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2 Months

It's hard to believe that our little man is two months old today. It's crazy to see just how much he's grown and changed in the last two months. He coos and babbles quite a bit and is pretty much a happy, mellow baby. In fact, at his dedication on Sunday (which I'll post about soon), our pastor prayed over him and specifically prayed that he would be a man of peace. Brennan is truly a peaceful baby and I hope that his calm demeanor follows him throughout his life.

In the last two months, Cate has grown exponentially in her role as big sister. On the rare occasions when Brennan does fuss, she is quick to get to his side and sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to him. She likes to "read" books to him too and besides calling him "Little Pirate," she also calls him "Squeaky." I love her pet names for him.

~Melody :-)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Off the Cell Phone

The lack of posting last week? Mostly due to the GORGEOUS spring-like weather we had here. We went to the park three out of the five days last week. Cate decided she liked the big-girl swing (all pictures from the phone since I'm a slacker and am lucky to get out of the house with my kids and the stuff they need, let alone the camera).
Brennan decided he liked the sunshine. Mommy decided she is in LOVE with our double-stroller. It's easy to push with one or two hands, turns on a dime, fits through a standard doorway (important for getting into our local coffee shop), and keeps the kids safe.
(Stroller picture is actually from two weeks ago when it was only in the low-40's-- we almost hit 70 this past week)

On Saturday we walked not only to the coffee shop, but to a family festival at the preschool Cate will attend next year. I love that her school is within walking distance. She'll attend three mornings/week. She had a blast playing games and doing crafts at the festival and seems to like the idea of going to school.
She just doesn't understand that it's still 7 months away as she asked me if she could go now since she's three. She asked to go to school back in the fall when she would drop off/pick up my friend's daughters from school since my friend watched her. I told her she couldn't go until she was 3. So I guess that's why she thinks she should go now. I hope she still wants to go to school when she's 13. If she's anything like her Mommy, she'll always like school.

~Melody :-)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dancin' Fool

Cate started dance class last Wednesday! I can't believe how big my little girl is getting. The class is an hour long beginner ballet/tap class and is full of little girls. The dance instructor and two high school dance team members that lead the class are wonderful.
Cate did excellent for the first half-hour. The second half-hour she kept coming out to the waiting room every 5ish minutes to make sure I was still there (only a curtain separates the studio from the parent waiting area). The instructor said this was normal and that for a first class as a three-year-old, Cate did really well. I also wasn't too surprised she kept coming to check for me as this is the first non-Mommy-and-me class she's done. Luckily, my friend's two daughters are also in the class. One is a year older than Cate and the other is in kindergarten. They helped corral her back into the studio and were so encouraging. I'm so thankful Cate has such good friends! And speaking of being a big girl-- Cate is in full potty-training mode now. She peed once last night on the potty and that was the worst of it (she screamed and cried and held it until she couldn't anymore). After one accident this morning, she peed on the potty again after lunch and kept her pull-up dry. No tears this time. We've still got a long way to go, but I'm so proud of her and feel like we're over a major hurdle since she no longer screams about putting her pee in the potty.

A great dance class and peeing on the potty in the same week makes this mama happy!

~Melody :-)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Handmade Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day! My goal this year was to make my three sweethearts gifts for Valentine's Day. For Brennan, a handmade sensory blanket made with minky fabric, robot fabric, and ribbon. It's small enough to fold up into the diaper bag and take on the go, but big enough that he can lay his head and arms on it to have some tummy time (with another blanket underneath it since it's not big enough to fit his whole body.
For Cate, a small orange sock monkey. Eric got me this book and kit for Christmas. When I opened it, Cate said, "You can make that for me right Mommy?" Of course, Cate. You can hand sew any of the creatures in the book, but I used the sewing machine when I could to make it go faster. And when attaching body parts, I used thick embroidery floss to give him more of the handmade Frankenstein-ish look. Warning-- if you buy the kit, they don't include nearly enough stuffing. Good thing I had some here at home.
For Eric, it was this hat that I finished a few weeks ago. I gave it to him early since we hit a cold spell. Good thing too since this week the temperatures are going to be in the 50's and we might even hit 60 by Friday! So I also got him volume one of a comic book series he's been wanting to read, Strangers in Paradise, and some new vinyl from our favorite local record store-- Over the Rhine's "The Long Surrender" and a Steve Martin banjo album (did you know he played banjo-- he's quite good). "The Long Surrender" marks the first time I've purchased a new release album on record before purchasing it on CD or iTunes.
Happy Valentine's Day! The two kiddos are sporting their Valentine's Day shirts, from Target of course.
~Melody :-)

Art Class Redux

Back in this post, I briefly mentioned that art class had started back up again. But since we're purchasing the sessions as we go instead of paying for the entire series up front, we weren't aware of the cancellation that day. Cate and I ended up painting pottery instead and she chose an owl bank. We finally got around to picking him up. He turned out to be quite cute.
We did make it to art class last week and today (hooray for getting the kiddos dressed and out of the house to get there on time since Eric has had to staff Team in Training workouts the last several Saturday mornings). Last week's class was all about Charley Harper (a personal favorite). After looking at several of his paintings in a book, the teacher chose one to focus on.
And the kids made copycat prints using paper, glue, toothpicks, and a marker. And even though Harper's didn't have googly eyes, Cate LOVES those things and had to use them in her picture.
This week the focus was on making special pieces for Valentine's Day. Cate did both projects all by herself! She even told me not to help her. The first project was making a heart wand (the class was all girls today). Cate squirted glue on the heart and then put crumpled tissue paper on it before gluing the whole thing to a stick.
The next project involved painting an entire piece of paper red...
...gluing silver tissue paper hearts and feathers to it (the wet paint acted as glue)...
...and the finished project looked like this:
We actually have been doing some Valentine crafting around home as well. I stole this idea from a friend's blog. It was a great excuse to use up some odds and ends of yarn I had around the house. Using a cornstarch/water glue, yarn, and heart-shaped cookie cutters, we made some cute heart decorations.
Now that they've hardened, my plan is to tie ribbons through them to hang them from different windows around the house.
Cate was also hard at work making some Valentines to mail and give to friends and family. I found cute sticker kits at Target and after stickering the Valentines...
...she drew inside of them. They're now in the mail, off to friends and family all over the country.
Happy Weekend!

~Melody :-)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tummy Time

Brennan loves to be on his tummy. And Cate loves to help with Brennan. So it should come as no surprise that tummy time is a perfect opportunity to allow Cate and Brennan to "play" together.
She loves to shake rattles for him and show him his black and white book and flashcards.At her three-year checkup yesterday, Cate weighed in at 34.5 pounds and is 37.5 inches tall. She's a growing girl. And you know those little people she likes to draw? The ones that look like this?
Apparently that's a skill that they expect a five-year-old to have. According to our pediatrician, children should be able to draw one body part for each year of age. So a typical three year old can typically draw a person with three body parts. But Cate's people have legs, arms, eyes, mouths, noses, and hair. Maybe we have a budding artist on our hands.

~Melody :-)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Big 3

Yesterday my sweet girl turned three. I still can't believe it's already been three years since I first held her in my arms, sang her "Happy Birthday" for the first time, and listened to her first coos and cries. The three years I spent in middle school (6th-8th grade) seemed to take forever. The three years from Cate's birth to now have flown by.

Brennan and I spent Friday night wrapping some presents while Eric cleaned the house and ran out to get balloons to tie to Cate's chair (now a yearly tradition).
Cate was quick to unwrap the presents the next morning. This year she seemed to really "get" that it was her birthday. When she woke up the first thing she said was, "I'm three today. I get to open presents." We let her open all of our presents first thing in the morning.Bitty Baby, a new Wall-E game for her V-Tech V-Smile (she can only play it when I feed Brennan or change his diaper-- it's a wonderful distraction for her), some Little Einsteins preschool workbooks (for Mommy and Cate to do together during the day-- you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but she's still going to be a teacher), and some new storybooks were all met with smiles and delight. Bitty Baby was promptly named Baby Annie (Annie after Cate's favorite Little Einstein character).
Later in the afternoon, it was party time.With a lot of help from my awesome husband, we managed to pull off a pretty decent party for a three-year old given that we're running on a little less sleep than usual (Brennan's usually up twice at night) and that our house has been a disaster for the last 6 weeks. Okay, I'm probably being overly dramatic about how messy the house was, but let's just say that it was worse than usual. Once all the kids arrived, we started with a pull-string pinata in the basement.
Next, we headed upstairs to sing "Happy Birthday." To keep the kids busy, I had them each decorate their own cupcakes. I just put some frosting, "writing icing" tubes, and sprinkles out on the table and let them go to town while the adults enjoyed their cake and ice cream.
Cate just wanted chocolate frosting and sprinkles. Her smile says it all.Miss Cate opened presents after that and was reminded of just how loved she is by everyone who came. New clothes, swimsuits, toys, and games now crowd her room and our living room. I have no pictures of her opening her presents since I was trying to write down who gave her what-- I'm a huge believer in thank-you notes and teaching gratitude to my children. Cate and I will be spending some time over the next couple of weeks "writing" (aka "Mommy writes and Cate colors") thank-you notes.

We ended the day with dinner with family here at our house and then going to the 9th annual Super Bowl of Preaching at our church. Seriously. It's for real. You can check out this link. Or watch part of it here (not great quality).

It was a great day of celebration for all of us. But definitely exhausting for this momma. I still can't get over how much Cate has grown physically and mentally in 3 years. She's memorized several books that she likes to "read" to her stuffed animals, she can recognize all of her letters, spell her name, counts like a champ, recognizes music pieces and sings several songs, traces letters like a pro, understands game rules when she plays them, has a vivid imagination, controls the mouse well as she navigates the PBS Kids website, asks to pray with us each night, and loves people with her whole heart. I love my sweet girl and I'm so proud of the young lady she's becoming. Tomorrow she goes for her 3-year check up. I can't wait to see how tall she's gotten.

Happy 3rd Birthday Cate!

~Melody :-)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How Can It Be...

...that my sweet girl is already 3!

As if the preschool confirmation we got in the mail this week (along with the amount we owe for the first tuition installment) wasn't enough to remind me just how big my girl is getting...she had to go and turn 3 today. I can't believe it's already been 3 years since I met the tiny baby that made me a mommy.

She woke up to pancakes, balloons on her chair at the table, and presents-- a tradition in our family. Her party is later this afternoon. More to come in a longer post later.

For now, happy birthday sweet girl. Enjoy it! You remind Mommy and Daddy each day how to live life with joy, excitement, perseverance, and humility.

~Melody :-)

PS...Go check out this poem my Aunt wrote (originally for my first Mother's Day, but appropriate for today).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Not Just Another Manic Monday

I'm not one of those "I hate Mondays" kind of people. While I love my weekends, you wouldn't often find me mourning the return of my alarm clock on Mondays. Yes, there are those occasional weeks that I dread for one reason or another, but for the most part, Mondays are just another day (whether teaching or being at home with my kids). Yesterday, the only thing I was dreading was the weather forecast for the week, which called for an ice storm and more cold temperatures. I am ready for the playground people! However, my gloomy weather outlook brightened when I finished this yesterday (while both kiddos slept for a bit...praise God):
It was my first attempt at a hat. I made it for Eric and was going to wait until Valentine's Day to give it to him, but with the weather forecast being what it is, I decided yesterday was as good a day as any to give it to him. Happy Last Day of January Hubby. Spring is coming!
I pretty much rocked the circular and double-pointed needles. Not as scary as I thought. I might have to make one for myself since it fit so well.
And one for my sweet girl, who wore Daddy's hat until he got home from work and we gave it to him.
And we won't leave out this sweet man. Okay, so maybe this should be my goal for this year. They're all gettin' hats for Christmas! As if that wasn't a good enough way to brighten my day (and boost my knitting ego), these arrived in the mail in those wonderful orange Shutterfly boxes.
I was inspired by this blogger, whom I don't know in real life but enjoy reading her blog...she's an inspiration. She makes a digital scrapbook for each of her daughters for each year of their life. I am not a scrapbooker. It takes too much time that I just don't have. I have successfully made one scrapbook in my life. It chronicles my first 5K through my marathon and ends with the first race I did post-partum with Cate. It was easy because my race numbers took up most of the page. Throw in a picture, a card with my finish time, and some stickers, and a page was complete.

So I decided to start doing the Shutterfly/digital scrapbook thing for my kiddos. I've done small photobooks before, like the Hilton Head one above. But I've never done the big 12 x 12 size. I started with Cate's 3rd year book (celebrating this past year of her life). It's more of a photobook at this point. I know there are all kinds of digital scrapbook tools out there that I can use in with Photoshop Elements on my computer, but I haven't figured them out yet. I did two of the pages in Photoshop for her book this year. The rest are all Shutterfly layouts. After Saturday's birthday bash, I'll start her fourth year book. And get Brennan's first year book going. The great thing about Shutterfly is that I can leave the books sitting as projects all year and then just click order the week before their birthdays. I plan to do Cate's first and second year books as I have time. Thankfully, I have this blog to help me remember everything we did those years and every milestone she hit. So one night this week, Eric and I will curl up with Cate's 3rd year book and a glass of wine and celebrate another successful (in our opinion) year of parenting.

And last, but not least, these books also arrived in the mail yesterday.
That Robert Frost childrens' book makes my English teacher heart happy. In high school, our church did "prayer partners." An adult member of the congregation was paired with a high school student in the youth group to pray for them and encourage them throughout the school year. One year, my friend's mother was paired with me. I've kept in touch, exchanging Christmas cards and sending birth announcements. And being the sweet, wonderful, woman she is (and one I can only hope to be like as I raise my kids), she sent these books to Brennan. Not leaving Cate out though, she wrote an amazingly sweet note asking Cate to help Brennan look at his new books and then to read them to him once he could understand.

My heart was so full yesterday from all of this...accomplishments, reminders, and encouragement. My cup is overflowing and carrying me with high spirits, hope, and a smile into today. It also didn't hurt that because of the aforementioned weather, Eric had a delay today and got to stay home just a smidge longer with us this morning.

Happy Tuesday!

~Melody :-)