Monday, November 30, 2015

Nursery Tour

A question I've been getting a lot is "What are you doing to the nursery?"  Not a lot, as far as decorating goes, but lots of furniture changes!  Here's a photo tour, so you can see for yourselves.

When you walk in the door, you're greeted with both a Pack'n'Play (with bassinet) and a crib.  The Pack'n'Play will be moving (to our bedroom for the first couple weeks, and then to various locations around the house), but for now it makes sense to just keep it all in here.

The Pack'n'Play is also currently the storage location for Baby's already-massive stuffed animal collection, and a few other things:

(I LOVE that happy polar bear!)

To the right of those is the closet, which got a little bit of a makeover.  The top two shelves are still for paper products and cleaning supplies, but now we have a few of Baby's things hanging up, too.

Including what will be her diaper bag once she's old enough to carry her own bag.

Down below is my collection of baskets, an extra Pack'n'Play (we have been super blessed!), and bathtime stuff.  I'm really glad the bathtime stuff fit in here, since we don't have a lot of extra room in the bathroom.

To the left of the crib is the window and the rocking chair (the chair does have a cushion, too, it's just currently being cleaned).

I also did a quick update to the curtains so that they'll be easy to open and close.  They were just tied open before, but now they have actual ties.  "Actual ties" being a loose term that I'm currently applying to a piece of yarn with some knots in it. :)  Not exactly elegant, but functional.  And easy to replace later if I feel like it.

The other side of the room is still a craft room.  Yes, I should not have these things out in Baby's room when she's no longer a baby, but she's not going to be getting out of her crib on her own for a while, and I see no reason to try to reconfigure everything at once.  And yes, it's kind of a mess.

This part still needs organizing, as the top of the 12-cube organizer will probably be partially emptied to hold wipes/diapers.  In the corner, I have some bags of larger size baby clothes, all sorted and folded and ready to go in the dresser when she outgrows the size currently in there.

If you kept going left from the dresser, you'd be back at the door, so that's a full circle tour.

And now you get to peek inside the dresser!

The top drawer holds newborn-size disposable diapers, disposable wipes, and the one-size cloth diapers (that we'll use once Baby is big enough for them).  

I used various baskets and cardboard boxes to make really fancy drawer dividers. :)  In the middle drawer are onesies, sweatshirts, pants, sleepers, and sleep sacks.  We also have an entire box of hats (she has 15!) and socks.

The bottom drawer holds burp cloths, extra sheets, swaddlers, and blankets.

I am very aware that every time Baby grows this whole system will need to be redone.  I am okay with that.  I am also aware that my cloth diaper stash will probably not stay in rainbow order, and I'm also okay with that.

Now, I've seen a lot of blog posts about people's nurseries and what it cost to decorate them, so I thought I'd throw in my two cents here, also.  First of all, we've been very blessed and have very generous families.  The crib is the same one my little siblings used when they were babies.  We bought a new mattress for it, but the sheets were gifts from family.  We were given two Pack'n'Plays, and sheets to go with them.  The dresser is also a hand-me-down from my parents, and I used stuff I had around the house to organize it.  We were given tons of clothes from friends and family.

What did we purchase?  Most of the diapers, the changing table pad, the crib mattress, a few blankets (from Salvation Army), and the rocking chair (at a garage sale).  (We did purchase other things, like a car seat and stuff, but I'm focusing on the nursery today.)

Now, even if you don't have friends and family give you things, I think some of the principles still apply.  I saw one Pinterest nursery where the writer raved about the amazing deal she got on a dresser - only $300!  I can't even imagine spending $300 on a little dresser!  I guess I understand not having the energy to browse thrift stores, consignment shops, garage sales, and/or Craigslist, but I also feel like if you could score a dresser for $50 that just needed a little love, it would be totally worth it.

I get some things have to be purchased new, or at least fairly new, because of newer health/safety standards, but you should still be able to find good deals on these things.  They are used for such a short period of time that it seems wasteful to spend a lot of money on them. (Yes, you will continue to use a dresser for a long time, unlike a crib, but there are also not a lot of health/safety regulations applying to dressers.)  And all it takes to refresh some of these items is a good cleaning.

Okay, well, that turned into a rant/ramble.  You're welcome? :)

Love and Yellow Walls,
Leah Joy

Friday, November 27, 2015

Cloth Diapering: Why We're Doing It

Happy Black Friday!  Today is Baby's due date, and since I'm pre-writing this post, I can't even tell you if we've had baby yet or not.  Today, I'm here to talk about cloth diapers. 

After doing a lot of research, like seriously, a lot of research, and then some more research, we followed up with doing some more research.  Finally, we decided that cloth diapering is right for our family.  When people find out, I get three main reactions: "You'll get so sick of the laundry," "I don't have the time to do that," or "WHY?"

I'm here today to tell you why, and also address people's primary concerns.  First up, why:
1. Baby's Skin.  Our baby is genetically predisposed to have sensitive skin, and cloth is much nicer on sensitive skin than disposable.  While cloth-diapered babies can still get diaper rash, it's less common, and when they do, it's less likely to be from the actual diaper (and more likely to be from sickness or something they ate).  
2. Budget.  Caleb would tell you this is the only reason we're cloth diapering.  If you don't believe that it's cheaper, do a quick Google search.  Even using the most expensive cloth diapers is cheaper overall than using the cheapest disposables.  We find this highly motivating.
3. Environment.  I've got to admit, I'm not the most environmentally-concerned person, and if it weren't for reasons 1 and 2, I'd probably just use disposables.  However, it's a bonus that by being cheap and nice to my baby's skin, I also get to be a good steward of God's creation.
4. THEY ARE SO CUTE.  This was not one of my original reasons, but after having a box of 17 adorable diapers come in the mail, I'm about dying of cuteness.  Yes, the cuteness of my baby's poop catchers. :)

Above is when they first came in the mail.  Below is the stash all lined up in the dresser.

A lot of people have concerns about cloth diapering, and I will address those here:

1. "My kid will go to daycare and they don't allow cloth diapers."  Okay, if your kid has to go to daycare, then yeah, you probably can't cloth diaper.  End of story.
2. "I live in a region that is often drought-stricken and can't justify using that much water for laundry."  This is also a legitimate factor, but one that doesn't apply here in the Great Lakes region.
3. "We don't have a washer in our house and have to go to a laundromat."  Again, this is very legitimate.  I probably wouldn't want to cloth diaper if we had to leave the house to do laundry, either.
4. "Cloth diapers are so much work to put on- and all those pins."  Okay, 20 years ago, this was so true, but cloth diapers have come a long way since then.  There are some varieties that are as easy to put on as disposables.
5. "I don't have the time to do that," or "That's too much laundry."  As stated in number 3, there are some varieties that are as easy to put on as disposables.  Cloth diapers only add 1 load of laundry every few days, which doesn't seem to me like it will take a lot of time.  But I also don't hate doing laundry, so this could feel like torture if you hate laundry.

Now, my intentions here are not at all to shame you if you've chosen disposable diapers for your family.  I'm just saying why we chose them, in spite of some valid arguments against them.

And now some more cute pictures.  I pre-washed all the diapers and was pleased to note that our 24 diaper collection (including a wet bag) fits very nicely on our drying rack.  Plus they look so clean and fresh!  (Yes, I am aware that part may not last.)

We have a wet bag hanging in the nursery for collecting the diapers.  The plan is to just take the whole thing to the washer and empty it in.  (The wet bag will get washed every time, too.)

Aren't these monkeys just the cutest?!

Love and Snaps,
Leah Joy

P.S. At some point, I will certainly update you all on how this adventure is going.

P.P.S. We are planning on using newborn-size disposables until Baby is big enough to fit into the one-size cloth diapers.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Maternity "Essentials" - For the Cheap, Practical Woman of Simple Tastes

When I first got pregnant, I read a lot of blog posts about what items are essential.  Now, nearly 9 months later, I find that concept highly amusing, and yet here I am writing my own version.  It's amusing to me because everyone is different.  You may even have vastly different experiences from one pregnancy to the next.  Every woman is different and every baby is different, so every pregnancy is different.  Therefore, it's a bit silly to say something is essential to every pregnancy, other than like, food and clothing.  (Which would be a true blog post, but a very unhelpful one.)

So, here is my input into the vast world of maternity essentials.

Category 1: Clothing

First of all, think about your sense of style.  If you're like me, you don't have one, so this part is really quick and easy.  Second, realize that this will probably not change.  So many people told me that I'd just want to wear dresses and leggings all the time, but I've never felt comfortable in dresses and leggings.  If I didn't feel comfortable in something when I was cute and tiny (so, like, in high school), I'm not going to feel comfortable wearing it while rapidly increasing in size.

Now, in my following list, I'm assuming you can do laundry about once a week, and that your sense of style is like mine.  (If it's not, keep looking; you're sure to find another blog post that meets your standards more closely.)

  1.  Shirts, 6-7 per season.  In the summer, I had 2 XL men's t-shirts and 5 maternity t-shirts. For fall, I have 3 maternity shirts that are 3/4 length sleeve and 3 maternity shirts that are long-sleeved.  I can also supplement with my short-sleeve shirts by combining them with cardigans or sweatshirts.  I find I'm warm enough that I don't even need to be able to button or zip up my sweaters.
    When it comes to brands/styles, they are all so different.  I'd recommend going to a store and trying on different brands to see how they fit you.  I ended up owning 4 shirts in the same style (two different sleeve lengths, three different sizes, and four different colors) just because I found they fit me really well.  I have a long torso, and all my research into "what should long-torsoed pregnant women wear?" led me to two options: tunic-style tops or adding extra layers with long tank tops.  This shirt, though, is still long enough to cover my belly.
  2. Shorts/Pants, 1-2 per season (2 is really best).  I only own one pair of maternity shorts and one pair of maternity jeans.  I'd really recommend owning at least two of each, as this makes laundry day easier.  (I also own one pair of maternity dress pants, and I wear either these or Caleb's sweatpants for laundry day.)
    For shorts, I had a pair with the wide elastic under-belly band.  This was okay since I was wearing shorts earlier in my pregnancy, but since I have a long torso, it wouldn't have been sufficient coverage for me during the later months.
    For jeans, I have a pair of jeans by Motherhood Maternity with a navy full-belly panel.  I really like that panel.  I know some women prefer it in a lighter color, but I like that when my shirt gets scrunched up (or is just too short), the navy blends in with the jeans (and doesn't look like my belly is hanging out).
  3. Comfy clothes - for pajamas and lounging.  Most of my pre-pregnancy lounge clothes were already over-sized, so these still mostly fit me.
    I also have been stealing some of Caleb's clothes.  I would like to hypothesize that the real reason most women are attracted to men who are larger than themselves is not, in fact, because they feel a larger man could protect them better.  No, I believe it is our natural instinct to know that their clothes will fit us and be more comfortable than anything else when we're 8 months pregnant.
  4. Sweatshirt/Jacket/Coat (depending on season) that can fit over your growing belly.
  5. One dress outfit appropriate for weddings/funerals/similar functions - I didn't read this on any other list I looked at, and even though I only needed this a few times, I still needed it!  It was really nice to not have to do extra shopping in a hurry because I had a funeral the next day.
You may also need work appropriate clothes, but I had to leave my job before my pre-pregnancy clothes stopped fitting, so this wasn't a need for me.

That's it.  Supplement with things from your pre-pregnancy wardrobe.  Cardigans will still fit, even if you can't button them up.  Scarves and jewelry are one-size fits all.  Socks and shoes should still fit you, unless you have a lot of swelling.

There are a lot of other items that other women would list as essential.  Here are my reasons why I didn't find them essential:
  1. Belly Band - If you don't know what this is, look it up.  I tried one on and found it too tight and uncomfortable.  Many women like them.  Try one and see for yourself.
  2. Maternity Undergarments - I figured I'm going to need new undergarments for nursing/post-pregnancy anyway; I may as well stretch out what I have now.  You may find yourself needing new ones if you grow a lot.
  3. Maternity leggings - Again, I'm not really a leggings/dresses person.
  4. New shoes - My feet didn't grow or swell too much, so I didn't need new shoes.  My old ones were already very comfortable.
  5. Little black dress - I don't think I need to explain to you why I didn't find this essential.
To finish off the clothing category, here's where I found everything: garage sales, thrift stores, consignment shops, and my husband's closet.  If you have a maternity consignment shop in your area, that will probably be one of your best bets.  Around here, we have a store called Little Posh that sells baby and maternity items on consignment.  It is a really nice store and I found a lot of items there. As much as I love thrift stores like Salvation Army and Goodwill, it can be a lot harder to find quality maternity items there.  You'll pay a few more dollars per item at a consignment shop, but the clothes will be a lot nicer.  I also just discovered that Burlington Coat Factory has a maternity section.  I didn't spend a lot of time checking it out (because there's no point this far in my pregnancy), but I did notice that the shirts were priced around $6-8, which is incredibly reasonable.

A lot of people will shop new, but if I can't justify paying $20 for a new shirt that will fit me until I wear it out, I certainly can't justify paying $20 for a new shirt that will only fit me for 9 months.  (I will say, though, that if you can't find maternity jeans anywhere else, buying these new is probably worth the investment, especially if you wear jeans every day like I do.)

Also, a lot of women find they can borrow maternity clothes from their friends.  If you can do this, I'd highly recommend it.  This was not an option for me, however, as all of my friends who have been pregnant before were either pregnant again at the same time or are five inches shorter than I am.

Category 2: Food

Obviously, you should be trying to eat healthfully. There are a million resources out there for your general diet.  I'm not even going to get into cravings here, because everyone is different.

A lot of people recommend Preggie Pops for morning sickness.  I was given a box so I tried them.  While they tasted good, they didn't make me feel any less nauseated.  This doesn't mean they won't work for you, though, because many women swear by them.

When I had morning sickness and couldn't keep many things down, my greatest resource was Edy's Outshine Fruit and Veggie Bars.  They do have added sugar, but they're also made from fruit and vegetable juice.  I found these super great on days when I felt like nothing else would stay down. Popsicles in general have always been soothing to my stomach, plus they're a decent way to help stay hydrated when water tastes horrible.  I also felt like I was at least getting a little bit of my fruit and vegetable requirements.  There were days when I had 5-6 of these.

Category 3: Gear

Most people talk about what gear a baby requires, not the pregnant woman, but I'm including this category solely for The Snoogle.  A stupid name, yes, but a product that saved my sleep.  I can't say this is essential for every woman, but I found it to be so.  We purchased one early in my pregnancy, and I'm so glad we did.  Being an insomniac, I figured I'd need any help I could sleeping, and this pillow has definitely been worth the $60.  One of my biggest concerns (other than the price!) was that it wouldn't be long enough for a tall, long-torsoed person, but it fits me just fine.

Some people will say that you can accomplish the same things the Snoogle does by just using a lot of smaller, less-expensive pillows.  This is very true, but I roll over at least a dozen times a night, and not having to rearrange 6 pillows is very nice.  If you can get into one position, fall asleep, and stay there until morning, you can certainly manage without the Snoogle.

I liked it when we first got it, but as I got bigger and bigger, I found it more and more helpful.

And that wraps up my list of essentials.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.  I may have left out some things, too.

Love and Not-Leggings,
Leah Joy

Friday, November 6, 2015

So, What Ever Happened to the 5 Monthly Goals Thing?

You guys may or may not remember this project of mine:

It was a modified New Year's Resolution - designed to make me healthier, more well-read, and more adept at sewing.  It was a really great idea, and I still did a lot of good things, but I also got pregnant, which changed my plans a lot.

I'll summarize what I did get done here, and then give a more general life update below.

1. New Meal/Side Dish - Every month, I intended to try a new non-dessert/snack recipe.  Whether it went well or not, I'd count the effort.  I made smashed potatoes (more of a fail than a keeper), pizza pockets (keeper, plus it's also something my brother likes in his school lunches), and chicken pot pi(e) (very good!).  Those three were all featured here, so you've seen them.  After that, I had morning sickness and didn't feel up to trying new things.  And when that got better, I had completely forgotten about this project.  And when I remembered again, I was too tired to try new things.  But, I did get two good recipes out of this particular goal, so I think it's still a win.

2. Health Goal - At first, I made pretty good progress by losing 7 pounds.  Then I got pregnant, and my only goal was to take good care of myself and our baby.  I've tried to stay mildly active and I've eaten mostly healthfully.  Despite gaining more weight than is usually recommended, I still feel like I've done a good job here.  I don't feel like I eat more than I'm hungry for and when I want a snack, I make healthy choices.  Now is not the time to be concerned about losing weight, so I'm not.

3. Sewing Project - I've probably done the most here, although I got off to the slowest start.  I made the plastic bag holder, a picnic bowl cover, and my perfect purse.  I've also made a few nursing covers (more on them later), plus I'm working on a quilt for our baby.  I've also mended a few pairs of pants and sheets, which I think totally counts.  Finally, I've also sewn several Christmas presents; these will all be shared here eventually, but I can't let you in on them yet!

4. House Project - Where to even start with this one?  Because of our almost-move, we did a ton of projects really quickly.  I had also already done several.  This year, we've: re-organized the kitchen cupboards, cleared stuff out to donate to my sister's garage sale, painted the fireplace, re-organized my bookshelves (twice), organized the yellow room (twice, and approaching a third), touched up paint all over our house, painted our entryway, painted our other 'front door', painted the floors in our basement and breezeway, mulched our front gardens, trimmed our front 'landscaping', finished our backyard cinder block garden, and I'm sure there are several other things I'm forgetting.  We didn't do all of those things by ourselves; we had a lot of help!  (However, they still got done, so I'm still counting them.)

5. Book Challenge - My goal was to read a book each month that had either been on my To-Read list for a really long time and I just kept putting it off OR a book that I wouldn't normally read (i.e. a biography).  I managed to actually keep doing this one throughout the year so far.  Here is how I would rate them:

A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
March by Geraldine Brooks
Longbourn by Jo Baker

Okay, but Not Great:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (very predictable)

Nothing Daunted by Gloria Repp (a biography recommended by Chloe)
God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew (another biography recommended by Chloe)
The Great Typo Hunt by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

If you have any questions about why I feel the way I do about these books, feel free to ask me.  I have a lot of opinions. :)

Now that we're all up-to-date on the 5 Monthly Goals project, I feel that I can officially retire that project for 2015.  Maybe I'll come back to it next year or in a few years, but I'm done for this year.

Now, in my last life update, I mentioned having a lot of free time.  One month later, and that feels like a joke.  I'm due in 3 weeks and still have so much to do.  Plus, since I'm 37 weeks pregnant, I get tired very easily, limiting the amount I can actually accomplish in a day.  I'm sure if I had more energy, I wouldn't feel so overwhelmed by my to-do list.  Then again, if I had more energy, I wouldn't be 37 weeks pregnant and my to-do list would be very different.  

So, I'm taking it one day and one thing at a time.  And some days, I have to ban myself from doing anything productive the rest of the day.  Even if it doesn't feel tiring (like sewing), it usually is, and I need to use my energy wisely, and not steal it from tomorrow.  Let's just hope baby stays comfortable in her current abode until all the essentials are ready for her.

My sister and my friend threw a baby shower for me a few weeks ago, which was really lovely, actually. Only one person felt the need to share her horror stories, and with polite but non-committal commentary, they were quickly over.  Everyone was very generous and gave us beautiful gifts (although I think the bear suit is my favorite of all).  The games were fun (we played Name the Baby Animal!) and the food was beautiful and delicious.

This weekend is the Michigan Competing Band Association State Finals in Detroit.  Chloe and Jacob's school's marching band (of which they are both members) is currently ranked 5th in their flight, so we're all crossing the state to attend and cheer them on.

And that's about all.

Love and Yarn,
Leah Joy