PHANEROO \fan-er-o-oo\Greek: to manifest in word or deed.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thrift Store Fashion

One of my favorite memories from college was going thrift shopping with BJ at local thrift stores such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and AmVets. Sometimes we found nothing on these adventures, and sometimes we racked up. Back in my college days I worked about 20-30 hours per week waiting tables to earn enough money to pay for college tuition, books, car payment ($175/mo), and gas. I lived at home with my parents which saved me from having to pay room/board and meals. I went the entire 4.5 years to school without acquiring student loans. Yay for me! But after all those expenses on a server's income, I had very little left over for clothing, shoes, and accessories. And since I was a young college girl, afterall, clothing, shoes and accessories were still a necessity. On top of it, I hadn't completely snagged my husband yet. BJ and I were just dating so I still had to be on my best behavior and look cute.

The only way I could afford to go clothing shopping was to buy things on the clearance rack at Walmart (not so fun) or find unique stuff at thrift stores (much more fun and creative). On our thrift store outings, I remember finding cute, comfy, broken-in Levi jeans (I was in college from 1994-1998). I also found some funky jackets and coats in plaid tweed. One of my best finds was a like-new Kelty backpack which I used all through college to haul my 500-pound textbooks. Occasionally, I would find cute tops, skirts, dresses, shorts, purses, etc. It always brought me joy to load up a grocery bag or two with fun finds for only $10. Just a few years ago BJ finally tossed out a pair of pants he purchased while thrifting. The pants were definitely worn out by then, but it was one of his favorite pairs to wear around the house. Honestly he would probably still have those pants if he hadn't have lost 50 pounds and could still wear them.

I miss my thrifting days. It's difficult to do thrift shopping with little ones because it requires patience as you dig through racks and racks of clothes and stuff. And you have to keep an open mind about what you hope to find. You probably cannot go with a shopping list. I akin thrift shopping to oil painting - you know what end result you are trying to acheive, but you may not get there without being open-minded and creative. And then in the end what you acheive may be quite different than what you imagined but you feel good about it when it all comes together. And, you can be assured it will be a one-of-a-kind. For instance, you may head out trying to find a floral skirt or dress, but instead you find a cute jacket that inspires you to go searching for some vintage jewelry and accessories to make it work with a shirt and pair of pants you already own. The end result is fabulous but totally different than your original plan.

Recently I've heard a lot about re-styling, re-purposing, re-using, re-ducing, and re-cycling to be a better steward of our environment. I'm not against being a good steward, but back in the days when I did thrifting, there wasn't a lot of media chatter about "going green." Now thrifting seems to be a political statement. For me thrifting is about getting stuff for cheap and knowing that I am helping some charities in the meantime. One day I hope to do more thrift shopping. I like the creativity it unlocks in my head.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Two Things I Am Looking Forward To

I am looking forward to Spring and to being out of maternity clothes. I've spotted a few clothing pieces and accessories that gets me excited about Spring and wearing normal clothes:

Lands End Canvas: Hooded Cardigan

Lands End Canvas: Heritage Chino

Lands End Canvas: Heritage Ballet Flat

Dooney & Bourke: Large Nina

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Mother of Invention... necessity. In the past few weeks I've invented a couple of new routines around here. It has come out of necessity.

Do we want to eat dinner? Yes. Can it get made after 4:30 p.m.? No. For some reason the hours between naptime ending and bedtime beginning - around 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. - can be complete disasters. It has taken me a full year to figure this out. The disaster hours are fairly consistent. I dread those hours. Kids are hyper, hungry, temperamental, getting tired, bored, etc. And then the thought of trying to make dinner, sit down together as a family, and actually enjoy it is frustrating...for a lack of a better word. So my new plan has been instigated: start making dinner soon after breakfast. I know that sounds weird to begin making dinner at 9 a.m. but it is working for us. My mom gave me this really cool cookbook about 3 years ago and I'm just now using it. Stupid me for waiting so long! Mothers really do know best - so listen to your mom! The cookbook is the Busy Woman's Slow Cooker Cookbook. Most of the recipes call for only 5-6 ingredients that you throw into the slow cooker, set to low or medium heat, cook for 8-10 hours, and then enjoy by dinnertime. So far I've experimented with vegetable beef soup, sweet and sour pork, and a few others that I cannot recall at this exact moment. What's really cool about this cookbook are the number of options. There are at least 5 recipes just for meatloaf. So if you like southwestern flavors, there's a meatloaf recipe for that; and, if you like traditional, there are 2-3 versions for that. There are several versions of chicken and rice soup, chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup, etc. I like the versatility because most of the time I can come up with something from my pantry that will closely resemble a recipe (or combination of recipes) in this cookbook.

Another struggle in our home...Do we like cleanliness and tidiness? Yes. Can we achieve it? Not without everyone pulling their own weight. So to help resolve the problem with clutter, I have purchased each child a green bag (you know, those sturdy reusable grocery bags). I purchased these green bags at Toys R Us for $1.29 because each one has a fun design on the outside: a monster truck for Schaeffer, a dinosaur for Lily, and a lion for Griffin. At the end of each day before beginning bedtime each child takes a bag and collects up toys, clothes, dirty socks, etc. and takes the bag to his/her room to be emptied into their proper places. We've just started this new routine so I'm curious to see how well it works in the long run. Tonight everyone was very excited about going on a "hunt" for their toys and clothes and stuffing their bags full. It was a complete miracle to see our living room, hallway, and kitchen clutter free with minimal effort on my part. It was a beautiful thing. I sure hope this routine sticks.

I came across this really awesome blog, Smockity Frocks. It is geared toward sharing practical ideas for large families. I've already found some great ideas there that I want to try in our home.

Also, I would love to hear from you, my dearest readers, about anything that you've invented out of necessity. It can be related to your routine at home, or something you've made to save money or because you couldn't find in stores, or something you recycled or used in a different way to better meet your needs. Please share your inventions in the comments section.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Why do we have 4 children?"

I have been thinking about this clip from the Cosby Show for a while now. It really cracks me up! And now it is especially funny since I can totally relate. My favorite part, toward the end of this clip, is when Claire asks Cliff (Cosby), "Cliff, why do we have 4 children?" I love Cosby's response! If you get sucked into this episode and want to watch the rest you can search YouTube for Bill Cosby Show The Pilot part 2 and part 3. The rest of this episode includes Cosby's "economics lesson" given to Theo (hilarious), and when Cosby tries to teach his girls how to knock on their bedroom door before entering (another hilarious part). Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Full Schedule

2011 has just begun, but our family calendar is quickly filling up. I guess when you have three kids and one on the way, your calendar takes shape around their needs. We've juggled a bunch of doctor appointments recently. Lily has had several appointments with the orthopaedic surgeon for her broken arm. She got her cast off yesterday! Whoo-hoo! She will return in three weeks for one last follow-up appointment and x-rays to ensure all is healing well. I've had an OB appointment every 2 weeks, now every week, to check on little Charlotte. Griffin cracked a front tooth so I've scheduled him a dentist appointment for next week to make sure it doesn't need to be capped or filled. Lily will go to a follow-up appointment later this month with her opthamologist to check on the progress of her eyes. She has been complaining of not seeing well and she is back to sitting a foot away from the TV in order to see it. Schaeffer had been complaining of pain in his ear, but I took a proactive approach at home and used some antibiotic drops in his ears that were prescribed by his ENT. He hasn't complained of the pain since. I'm hoping we've escaped another doctor visit on that one. And now Lily is exhibiting some learning issues with reading and writing. She is doing great with school. I am so proud of her and the progress she has made. But her teacher has commented about some issues she is struggling with that is beyond what the other children are struggling with right now. And, of course, I see the same issues at home on her homeschool days. Her school work is very fast-paced and each week she is learning new things that builds upon learned skills from previous weeks. We don't want her to fall behind, especially at such a critical time when she is learning to read. She is making up some serious ground with her vision correction so we don't want another issue to get in her way. I was able to discuss some of her issues with her past speech therapist, Dee, and Dee will be talking to an occupational therapist to see if she needs to be evaluated. Meantime I will discuss it with our pediatrician and we will see what is recommended, if anything, at this point. It might just be a wait-and-see type of thing. Oh, and did I mention that Griffin still has speech therapy every 2 weeks? He has made major progess in the past 5 months and I expect he'll be discharged from speech therapy in a few weeks once he gets re-evaluated to check on his progress so far. Whew!

We are facing a pretty full schedule in January and February and I don't expect things to slow down for the rest of the year...I need to put on some comfy shoes and be ready to keep up.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Charlotte Gray Getting Closer Every Day

I had a 36 week OB appointment today (I'm technically 35 weeks 5 days)! We are getting closer to Charlotte's arrival. I'm so EXCITED! I am now 1 cm dilated (and I think still 50% effaced, but I forgot to ask). Dr. B set a date to induce when I'm 39 weeks on Feb. 3 if she is not here before then. He didn't really give me an option on that, perhaps because my diabetes is getting tougher to control and because my blood pressure has begun to rise. I tend to do this at the end of my pregnancies. My bp today was 160/100 at a second reading which was higher than the first one. Yikes!! Luckily it went back to normal (128/72) after "relaxing" on my left side on one of the lovely examining tables for about 10 minutes.

The ultrasound revealed that Charlotte has lots of hair. Because we got a good look at the back of her noggin, we could see it floating around her head in the amniotic fluid. She may have thick hair like me and Lily. Unfortunately we got no face shots since she had her back turned to us the whole time today. Her measurements were perfect. She's in the 69th percentile at 6 lbs 9 oz which means she isn't growing too big too fast despite my diabetes. Although, it could mean she will be my biggest baby yet. Griff had been my largest at 6 lbs 14 oz. Dr. B said Charlotte may end up being around 7 1/2 lbs if she holds tight until Feb. 3. I think that will be just fine...and it could explain why my pelvic bones feel like they are splitting in two.

I will now begin seeing Dr. B every week until she is born. Meantime we will just wait until labor begins and pray for an easy delivery and a healthy little girl. Yay!!

Cloth Dipes 101

Now that I've had one month of experience with cloth diapering, I've learned a lot that I wanted to share for anyone out there who might be thinking about going this route with their baby.

1. It's not nearly as intimidating as I had imagined and the extra laundry is not as daunting as I had thought. I do about 1-2 extra loads - small/medium sized - per week. That's really nothing compared to the amount of laundry a 5 person family generates. Caring for the cloth diapers is not a big deal either. I've gone the cheapest route (Gpant covers for about $12.00/each and Walmart prefolds for $0.85 each) and it works just fine.

2. Cloth diapers don't leak. We have not had a single leak or blowout since using cloth on Griffin, and he's 20 months old and can generate a lot of waste through the night.

3. Swishing out the solid waste into the toilet is not nearly as gross as I had imagined it would've been. In fact, it's nothing compared to changing a nasty, squishy disposable diaper from a 3-year old. (Note: Schaeffer is now potty-trained!!). And for some reason the poopie diapers don't stink as bad in the cloth dipes.

4. A wet diaper pale contains the smell much better than a dry pale. Note: An exclusively breastfed baby's poop does not stink at all so a dry pale will work just fine for Charlotte in the first year. But for Griffin, I half fill a pale - an 8 gallon garbage can with a pop-up lid and handles that I bought at Walmart - with water and add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar. This keeps the pale from stinking. In fact, for the first 2-3 days the pale has no smell at all unless you hold your head over the open bucket. On the 3rd day I carry the pale to the laundry room, dump all the contents into the washer, do a rinse/spin cycle, and then a wash cycle (thanks, Mom, for the washing advice). Dipes come out clean and fresh.

5. I change diapers about as frequently as I did with disposables. Griffin gets his diaper changed about 4-5 times per day. We have not had to change this schedule since using cloth.

6. It's just as easy to do cloth diaper changes away from home as it is at home. I have a "clean" bag which holds the clean diapers, and a "dirty" bag which holds the, well, you know. When I get home I dump the dirty stuff into the pale. For Charlotte, I purchased a wet bag (hers is pink) that has an outer mesh pocket to hold the clean stuff. I may order one for Griff too since it will eliminate having so many bags to pack into the diaper bag. And then I can get them embroidered with their names - how cute would that be?!

7. The type of laundry detergent you use on the cloth dipes can make a difference if you have a baby with sensitive skin. Griffin's eczema on his backside and hips has completely cleared up, but I noticed he started developing irritation on his "under-carriage." After a little bit of research I learned that some detergents contain enzymes which are added to break down sweat, urine, and other bodily juices. This would normally be a good thing to get clothes cleaner except for sensitive skin babies. The enzymes are not fully rinsed off the diapers and when the baby pee's or poo's, the enzymes attack the waste on the baby's skin causing rash and irritation. All three detergents that I had in my laundry room - Tide Free, Dreft, and Walmart's Great Value Lavendar detergent - list enzymes in their ingredients. And most free & clear detergents contain optical brighteners which also lingers on the diapers causing irritation to sensitive skin. But, alas, I found this nifty website that has rated a bunch of detergent brands for use on cloth diapers. I found a very inexpensive brand, sold at Walmart and grocery stores, that works perfectly and received the highest score of 4 stars: Arm & Hammer Essentials (Mountain Rain scent is very clean smelling).

8. We will save big bucks! I did the math calculating the cost of the disposable diapers we normally had used and we will save about $1400-$1500 per year on diapers for Griffin and Charlotte combined. You can't deny those numbers! My initial investment in the cloth diapers and accessories was around $300 total for Griff's and Charlotte's. We will see an ROI in about 3 months.

9. The cloth diapers are really cute. Bonus! Griff looks super cute running around in his diapered bottom with his bright orange, red or green diaper cover. I bet Charlotte will look sweet wearing her pink ones and a matching crocheted hat (thanks to Aunt Heather).

To summarize, I should've done this sooner starting with Lily when she was a newborn. But, in my defense, with the first baby there are already so many overwhelming changes in the home that adding worries over diapers may have sent me over the edge. Disposables were probably the best choice for this new mom. Now I am much more confident and more relaxed about experimenting with different things. I hope this information helps a new or experienced mom out there somewhere.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Enough About Me

I think I've written enough about myself lately. I get sort of sick of hearing about myself and need a good distraction. That's when I get online and try to find some cool, funky, groovy, blogs with really cool style that I wish I had possessed. I'm too much of a traditional, conventional, practical kinda gal to branch out into my really artistic side (it's in there somewhere but I shove it back down into its rightful place). Anyway, like I said, enough about me. Here are two blogs that I enjoy because they mix the old and the new in a cool sleek sorta way.

Restyled Home

Door Sixteen

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Pressure is Mounting

The pressure is mounting, and I mean that literally. Boy am I feeling some pressure lately! The contractions continue to be frequent all day and all night. I feel like I've been in labor for four months now. Exhausting! Tomorrow, Wednesday, I get to stop taking the medications which have slowed down and weakened the contractions. And then we get to wait and see what happens. I am 35 weeks tomorrow and Dr. B would not go to any great lengths to stop labor at this point. I've fought this preterm labor jive long and hard, and I hope Charlotte holds on until at least 36 weeks but its now time to set the contractions free and see what progress occurs.

As of last week I was 50% effaced and not yet dilated. I would have to guess that things have changed this week. I have been taking my meds around the clock and it has been somewhat effective. But the contractions have not stopped over the past 3 weeks as they had about 4 weeks ago when I actually experienced a bit of relief. The contractions have noticeably picked up and are steady. Last night I had them every 10-12 minutes for 3 hours before they tapered off and I was then able to sleep...after 3 a.m. Like I said - exhausting!

Preterm labor is physically and mentally exhausting. As the word denotes, "labor" is just that. As the contractions get closer, like every 10 minutes, I begin getting hot and sometimes sweat as if I'm doing a workout even when I'm relaxing in bed. My body gets tired and some of my muscles get weak and sore. I notice my upper leg muscles begin to weaken and get shaky making it difficult to stand for a period of time. My back aches and my neck muscles get tense from the stress.

When I was first diagnosed with preterm labor around 22 weeks, each contraction was scary. I knew the baby's chance of survival would be slim. When I hit 30 weeks I was more at ease but still concerned about her being born too early. And now here I am at 35 weeks. I've been given permission to stop taking medication, but I've had a difficult time relaxing because I'm still trying to accept the fact that the contractions are now okay. Contractions like this, and being 50% effaced, are somewhat normal at 35 weeks. So now I'm trying to breath and relax through each one, remembering that it is good, important, and necessary. This week I've found myself trying to be more busy so that I'm not focused on each labor pain. Again, it is so mentally taxing. And then I wonder if I'll notice when it's time to head to the hospital. My biggest clue would be my water breaking. But as for these contractions, they have made themselves so much at home with me that I'm not sure I'll even notice when they pick up. Dr. B would have me call him when they get 5 minutes apart. I've learned to hate clocks! I've spent way too many hours the past four months checking the clock and wondering if today would be the day. Tonight and tomorrow, and possibly the next few weeks will be more of the same -- waiting, wondering, checking the clock.