Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A day in the life

Our crew
I keep reading all these posts about life with a newborn {note: strong language in that link}, life with twins, life with triplets, life with a toddler... So here's a day in my life: a husband on rotating shiftwork {his shift changes each week}, homeschooling a kindergartner, 3-year old twins, an infant, and a dog and cat.

4:00 am
Baby #4 wakes up for first feeding; feed laying down in bed

5:00 am
Put baby #4 back in bassinet and go back to sleep

6:30 am
Hear toddlers fighting in bathroom. Break up the fight over who gets to use the sink first and send them back to their room. Turn on Keurig. Clean the catbox, sweep the laundry room.

6:45 am
Brush teeth, hair, make first cup of coffee, grab my laptop and start writing at the kitchen table. Send toddlers back to bed multiple times. "Is it 7:30 yet?" No, no, no... back to bed!

7:00 am
Have all three boys sit on their beds until 7:30 {when they can come out of their room} due to wrestling. Give oldest a rag for his bloody nose.

7:15 am
Get baby #4 who has started fussing. Change diaper. Feed. Try to type with one hand while sitting at the kitchen table nursing.

Waiting for breakfast

7:30 am
"It seben firty, Momma. Mom! Mom! It seben firty." The day has begun. Put baby #4 in high chair. Start breakfast for older three boys. Make second cup of coffee.

7:45 am
Finish feeding baby #4. Try to finish my thought before closing my laptop. Wait, where was I? What was I writing about? Stare at cursor... Okay, I'll think on it and finish this later. Make myself a bowl of granola in almond milk. Set it on kitchen counter and promptly forget about it. Start first load of laundry.

8:00 am
Tidy up kitchen, sit at table with boys and discuss what we are doing today, how everybody slept, etc. Let dog out roughly 1 million times.

8:15 am
Get myself ready for the day.

8:45 am
Have boys come back to the table and put their breakfast dishes in the sink. Help toddlers put on their costumes {I don't know how many times a day I fasten up the back of a superhero costume}. Give permission to our oldest to go ride his bike in our driveway. Clean kitchen.

9:00 am
Move laundry. Start homeschooling kindergarten with our oldest. Start crafts with our toddlers.

9:30 am
Have toddlers clean up their crafts. Have oldest put away his homeschooling supplies. Change baby out of his now drool-soaked onsie.

Always an adventure

10:00 am
Leave the house for homeschooling co-op class/piano lesson/speech therapy/park trip/errands... whatever it is we are doing that day.

10:30 am
Prepare to sit and wait with three children. Two three-year olds and an infant for homeschool co-op or piano lessons {crayons and markers, Uno Moo, singing together, feed baby}; six-year old, three-year old, and an infant for speech {reading with our kindergartner, feed baby}. Bring my latest read, if I have free time or children are occupied {ha! ha!}.

11:30 am
Head home for lunch.

12:00 pm
Walk in the door with hungry children. Baby #4 acting hungry, though I just fed him. Have oldest bounce baby while I make lunch.

12:15 pm
Put lunch on the table for boys. Feed baby who eats for two seconds and then falls asleep at the breast. Put him down for nap in swing. Sit at table with boys to eat my lunch.

12:30 pm
Manage to eat three bites and drink a glass of sweet tea before I realize I didn't move the next load of laundry. And there is that bowl of granola from this morning... maybe I should sweep the kitchen while I'm up too...

12:45 pm
Decide that I should clean a bathroom or two before we finish up the rest of our homeschooling for the day. Our oldest wants to help. Have him vacuum the carpets. Toddlers want to help. Have one dust and have the other clean the bathtub.

1:00 pm
Does the baby really want to eat again? Okay, well, I did get two bathrooms clean. Man, I really should sweep the rest of the house as well...

1:30 pm
Finish feeding baby who actually ate this time. Start sweeping floors and tell oldest we will do school at 1:45 pm. He goes outside to ride his bike. I tell the toddlers they need to go potty and start getting ready for nap.

1:45 pm
Tuck toddlers in for nap.

1:50 pm
Start the rest of our homeschool lessons for the day with our kindergartner.

2:30 pm
Finish homeschooling our oldest. Have him clean up the schoolroom while I move the laundry and unload the dishwasher. And where did all these dishes come from in the sink?

2:45 pm
Oldest goes outside to play. I eat a snack. Have I eaten anything else today? You know what would go well with this snack... a cup of coffee... maybe iced coffee... Brew a cup and pour it over ice with a splash of milk.

3:00 pm
A toddler comes out of his room from nap. "I have to go potty." Send him back to bed after potty. Sit down and try to write again. Where was I....?

3:30 pm
Really in the groove of writing. Busted out a blog post as well. Feeling the creativity flow... "Mom, I need new underwear..." Toddler up from nap. Wet his bed. Start a new load of laundry.

Blogging during snacktime

3:45 pm
Settle toddler at table with snack. Omigosh! Is that the time? Wake up the baby to feed. Other toddler wakes up while I'm feeding {thankfully no bed-wetting accident}. Wants a snack as well. Baby #4 is starving and doesn't want to stop eating. Put him in Tula. Make toddler a snack. Oldest comes inside and wants a snack. All the boys at the table with a snack; baby #4 in Tula nursing. Time to start dinner.

4:15 pm
Put baby #4 in high chair at table. Oldest wants to help with dinner. Toddlers pull out markers and paper, draw at table. Make dinner with our oldest.

My helpers

4:45 pm
Dinner in oven. All the boys ask if we are having cookies. They all want to help make cookies. Have them help make cookie dough while dinner bakes. Put made dough in fridge to bake cookies after dinner.

5:30 pm
Move laundry. Pull dinner out of oven. Have kids clean up markers, wash hands, and set table. Make drinks and tidy kitchen a little while they do this. Put baby #4 in bouncy seat by table.

5:45 pm
Sit down at the table for dinner. Of course baby #4 wants to feed as soon as I sit down to eat.

6:30 pm
Clean up kitchen while boys clean up playroom {aka wrestle in their bedroom}.

6:45 pm
Help boys finish cleaning up the playroom and their bedroom. Get everyone started on baths.

7:00 pm
Baths, pajamas, pick out stories, get asthmatic toddler started on nebulizer treatment, brush other toddler's teeth, have oldest brush teeth. Settle on couch with toddler doing nebulizer treatment and read stories.

7:30 pm
Brush last todder's teeth. Find all blankets, lovies, pillows, toys, whatevers, the children feel they need to sleep with that night. Make toddler's bed that had the accident.

7:45 pm
Say prayers and give kisses to all the children. Yes, I'll leave the door cracked. Yes, Daddy will give you kisses when he gets home. Yes, I'm going to be right out there if you need something. Yes, you can get out of bed if you have to go potty. Give each "one more kiss" and then really leave the room because baby #4 started fussing.

7:50 pm
Feed baby #4 on my bed next to the enormous pile of laundry that I had thrown on there all day long.

8:15 pm
Fold laundry.

8:40 pm
Put away towels, baby things {clothes, diapers, wipes}, and my laundry. Put husband's laundry on the ottoman in his closet. Put the boys' laundry in their laundry basket {there is the small chance my husband will put this laundry away when it starts overflowing... I tend just to pull their clothes out of it for the next day}. Put the toddlers' outfits for the next day {underwear, pants, shirt} on the floor next to their beds. Close their door if they are all asleep. If someone is still awake, give them a kiss and tell them to go to bed.

9:00 pm
Flip through the mail. Take a shower.

9:30 pm
Get the baby ready for bed. Curl up in bed with a book and feed the baby laying down in bed.

10:00 pm
Put the baby in his bassinet. Attempt to read another chapter... just one more chapter...

10:07 pm
Turn out the light. Remember we never made the cookies. Sigh. Tomorrow we'll make the cookies...

And then, of course, we have the times with rotating shiftwork that hubby is home in the middle of the day sleeping:


Never a dull moment! I always wonder what people mean when they ask me what I "do" all day as a stay-at-home mom... ;)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tula love

Wearing my semi wrap conversion
At the risk of sounding like a crazy Tula lady, I decided to write a blog post on Tulas. A friend of mine was asking me about Tulas the other day and when I started explaining the different kinds {canvas, wrap conversions} and about the stockings and buy/sell/trade pages, I realized there is a lot of information to take in and that I must, indeed, sound like a crazy Tula lady. So here it goes....

{In this blog post, I am only going to discuss the Tula buckle carriers, not the ring slings or woven wraps.}

First of all, you are probably wondering what a Tula is. It is an ergonomical baby carrier, along the same lines as a Boba or an Ergo; all three of these are also in the same price point. I really like this blog post by the Happy Hippie Homemaker that explains the differences between the three, "Ergo vs Boba vs Tula carrier comparison." The blog post is biased towards Tulas, but it still does a good job showing the differences between each carrier. Why did I choose Tula? I needed a carrier that would be easy on my back and that would work well for our long babies. Tula sounded like the best option for those reasons. On top of that, I loved the pattern varieties. If I'm going to wear a baby, it might as well be in a fashionable carrier that matches my wardrobe! ;)

I'm not going to talk about Bobas or Ergos anymore, just Tulas. There are two different sizes of Tulas, standard and toddler. This is what the Tula website says on the sizing for a standard Tula:
• From 15 - 45 lbs
• Can be used for newborns 8 lbs+ if used with the Tula Infant Insert
 This is what the Tula website says on the sizing for the a toddler Tula:
TULA Toddler Carrier is design to wear children from about 18 months (and/or about 25 pounds) to 4+ year old. We typically recommend not using the Toddler size Tula until your child reaches 32 inches or taller. 
There are, however, many different types of Tulas. These come in the two different sizes, standard and toddler:
  1. Canvas
  2. Semi wrap conversion
  3. Half wrap conversion
  4. Full wrap conversion
You are like, whoa, whoa, whoa... What is a wrap conversion? Tula has a blog and they posted this guide, "What's the difference between canvas, semi, half, and full Tulas?" That guide shows the differences between the types of Tulas much better than I could. {If you looked at that blog post and are now wondering what a woven wrap is, check out this blog post buy Where in the World is Erin? called, "The Weird and Wonderful World of Woven Wraps."}

If you are wondering about price, canvas Tulas are much less expensive than a wrap conversion. Wrap conversions tend to come in far more beautiful colors and designs, though there are still a lot of pretty canvas prints {I have a canvas Tula that I love!}. Why are wrap conversions so much more expensive? Because you are paying for the price of the Tula plus the price of the wrap conversion that adorns your Tula. You are also buying a limited quantity product. There are often only a handful {and maybe only one!} of any given wrap conversion, whether it be semi, half, or full.

But do they work the same? Yes, they do work the same. I have a semi wrap conversion and a canvas Tula. I don't notice much of a difference between the two. There is a lot of debate on Tula boards whether wrap conversions give more support or not. I sometimes think that the semi wrap conversion does give more structure and support, but then I wear my canvas and it is so easy to wear and I think it is just as supportive... I know that isn't a very good answer, so go back to the straight answer: they do work the same. :)

Why would you buy a wrap conversion over a canvas if they work the same? Basically because they are beautiful. There are some gorgeous drool-worthy wrap conversions. I would absolutely love to own the entire collection! I love that Tula makes ergonomical baby wearing beautiful.

So now you are thinking, yes, I'm ready. I know which kind of Tula I want to buy, let's go buy it! Well... there's a few tips and tricks to buying a Tula.

The website has several canvas Tulas always in stock. Check out these links for "standard Tula" and "toddler Tula." Tula will often release new prints for canvas, probably about every month or so. If they sell out of a popular print, they will have a restocking for those prints fairly often. On the other hand, they often switch up their inventory, so if there is a canvas print you love, it might be a good idea to snatch it up in case they stop carrying it. The best way to find out about new prints and canvas stockings is on Tula's Facebook page.

Wrap conversions are a different story. If you notice on their webpage when you scroll over the "Shop" tab, the wrap conversion link says, "Wrap conversions-- sold out." If you click on that link, you will see pages and pages of beautiful wrap conversions, none of which are in stock. Wrap conversions are stocked in, basically, a flash sale style. A fairly small selection of wrap conversions {a mix between semi, half, and full wrap conversions in standard and toddler sizes} gets stocked on the Tula webpage every two weeks, mostly on Sundays. On Friday and Saturday, Tula will post previews of the stocking on their Facebook page. The stocking may include only what is on those previews or it may include even more beautiful wrap conversions. Shortly before the stocking goes live, Tula posts the wrap conversions on their webpage. Instead of the tab that says "Wrap conversions-- sold out" under "Shop," there are two new links: "Wrap conversions standard" and "Wrap conversions toddler." My mom and I got online for a stocking one time and watched all the wrap conversions sell out in twenty minutes, standard and toddler. When the link goes live for purchasing, the Tulas go fast.

All right, you are thinking. I'm ready for a stocking! But the link went live and you didn't score. Now how do you get a wrap conversion? Or a no longer carried canvas?

My best tip is Facebook. If you look up local baby wearing buy/sell/trade pages to you, you may find a Tula pop up on there. There is also a huge Tula buy/sell/trade page that is very active and has strict page guidelines.

If you go on those pages, you'll notice that most of those wrap conversions are being sold well over retail prices, some of them nowhere near retail prices. Why is that? Because a lot of those wrap conversions are very hard to find. As I said before, some of them are the one and only and some are made with beautiful and also hard to find woven wraps. If you are looking to score a wrap conversion near retail on the buy/sell/trade Facebook page, my best tip is turn on all notifications for the group and stalk it. It may take time, but there are good deals and wrap conversions sold near retail. They are snatched up fast so be vigilant {and Pay Pal ready}. Keep stalking the buy/sell/trade pages and you definitely can score a wrap conversion for close to retail.

As for scoring a canvas on a buy/sell/trade page, I'd be wary about paying over retail unless it is a print you have to have. You might have your reasons for paying over retail for a canvas Tula, but it probably won't hold its value at over retail. The only exception, obviously, being an out of print canvas, but, even then, I would be hesitant to pay much over retail for even that.

Well, Facebook buy/sell/trade pages aren't for me, you might be thinking. Where can I buy these in store? Wrap conversions you will most likely not be able to buy in a store outside of a Tula stocking. There are *few* wrap conversions sold anywhere else and most of those are up for giveaways or drawings or chance to buys... Not just walking in to a store and seeing a lovely half wrap conversion and thinking, "My, I'll buy that one..." There are a lot of stores that carry canvas Tulas, especially local baby boutiques. If you are on the Facebook page Tula Love, there is a whole document in the Files section called, "Tula Retailers." {That link will not work for you unless you are a member of the group Tula Love.}

Note: Tula Love also has several other useful files, like tips for scoring in a stocking and deciphering the acronyms on the buy/sell/trade pages and tips on whether you need a standard or toddler size for your child.

Now that you have found your Tula and bought your Tula, what else do you need? My recommendation is to wait on buying the infant insert. There is a chance you will not need it, even with a newborn. Our baby #4 was a large baby and very long. I was able just to tuck his legs into the Tula and carry him that way. When he was finally too long to wear that way, a friend recommended rolling a blanket under his bottom. This picture of putting a blanket under the newborn is shared on the baby wearing pages:


There is also a world of accessories you can add to your Tula: suck pads, drool pads, hoodies... You can get your Tula customized, such as this site, "Pimp my carrier" or at PaxBaby. My recommendation, again, wait. You may want suck pads; you may not. Wait until you decide if you need them/want them. Another tip: if you are concerned about the resale value of your Tula, a customized Tula will probably not sell for what you paid to customize it. Still want a customized Tula? Consider a cover to pull over yours without affecting the resale value. Want everyone to know how much you love your Tula? Maybe you need a Tula decal.

Why is everyone so crazy about Tula? I don't consider myself a hardcore babywearer. I like baby wearing because it lets me keep up with my older three children without pushing a stroller {even our fabulous Baby Jogger City Select}. It gives me the freedom to do things around the house without having to balance a baby as well. I homeschool, clean house, make dinner, and write while putting our Tula to work. I even went to a painting class with my girlfriends while wearing baby #4 in our Tula. I don't always wear baby #4. I put our baby products to good use-- our swing, bouncey seat, high chair, and stroller-- but there are times when he just wants up, especially since with three older siblings he's already caught two colds. As for the Tula love, I don't know, but I got it too. I always give a shout out to someone I see wearing a Tula. They are pretty carriers. I was over the moon when I scored our semi wrap conversion. I think Tula has magic dust, like Disney, and so it is easy to obsess. :)


Celebrating International Babywearing Week with my dad and his pup
Tula love starts early
Do you have any Tula tips to share? Or a baby carrier that you love? How has baby wearing made your life easier?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Long night



Having four children does not equate to being up four times as much in the night. I'm always telling my first time mom friends who are worried about ever sleeping again, "You will sleep again. The newborn phase is a phase." When your sleep is interrupted it feels like it will last that way forever, which it doesn't. It can feel like children will forever wake you and so I try to reassure my friends that their kids will sleep, it won't last forever, and-- hey, see?-- my kids sleep great.

Last night was not one of those nights.

6:30 pm

Since my hubby has weird hours right now with the Navy, the kids and I went to a friend's house for dinner. Before we left, I had put the children in pajamas so I wouldn't have to wrestle them by myself into pajamas when they were tired and excited from doing something different. I felt very proud of my cleverness when we got home around 6:30 pm and let the boys watch The Croods while our asthmatic toddler did his meds and I tidied the house while chatting on the phone with my sister. I then brushed the toddlers' teeth and had our oldest read them bedtime stories while I finished up in the kitchen.

7:30 pm

I was feeling pretty good about all that we had accomplished in the short amount of time before bedtime, when I saw our asthmatic toddler's face flushed and he was laying with his head back on the couch. I felt his head and he was burning up. I started working to bring the fever down and tried not to stress. I got the humidifier going and put them to bed, saying extra prayers with each of them.

8:00-9:00 pm

I was pretty stressed about our toddler's fever. He tends to catch colds and they become much bigger problems for him than his brothers. Like every other parent to an asthmatic, I'm concerned over the enterovirus. I sat outside his room and listened to him cough and toss and turn before he fell asleep {where he continued to cough and toss and turn}. At the end of an hour-- from the time I had given him Tylenol-- I took his temperature again and it had gone down 2 degrees. I felt myself relax some. I said a prayer over him again and finally went to take a shower.

9:30-10:30 pm

I got the baby ready for my bed and my hubby came home. We chatted about our days and then we went to bed. I told him the kids were going to have a rough night. Three of our four children are congested and have coughs-- our asthmatic having a pretty intense cough with a wheeze yesterday {wheeze alleviated by Albuterol every time yesterday and breathing eased after treatment}. I fed the baby who was a little irritated because of his congestion and then put him down for the night, sitting in his swing where he would be more elevated than his bassinet. Then I said another prayer for all our boys that they would sleep safe and be watched over all night.

3:00 am

The baby woke up at 3:00 am. I did the math real quick-- 4 and a half hours of sleep. I figured it would take an hour to feed him then I would sleep from 4 am to 6 am giving me another 2 hours of sleep. I fed the baby and put him back to bed at 4 am, just as planned. The only concern: I could hear our asthmatic toddler coughing a little on the other side of the house-- not too bad-- but I was worried about how much longer he would sleep.

4:15 am

My husband's alarm went off. Loudly. At 4:15 am. I know he tried to get out of bed to stop it and I know he was tired from his weird hours, but... husband, come on, a loud alarm at 4:15 am that I know you are considering hitting snooze on? No... He got up and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. His razor. The shower. The baby who was barely back in bed started stirring. I gave him his pacifier. I rolled over and tried to sleep through the noise in the bathroom.

4:30 am

My husband is asking me something. What is he saying? "Would you mind taking care of him?" "Who? What?" Our asthmatic toddler was standing next to my husband coughing. "What's wrong?" "He had an accident." I do the math on that: changing sheets {15 minutes}, bath {10 minutes}, putting toddler back to bed {5 minutes}, starting laundry {5 minutes}... nope, not going to happen. "I've been up since 3... Can you take him?" "Okay." I pull a pillow over my head and go back to sleep.

5:30 am

"I coughing." I open my eyes to see our asthmatic toddler standing by my bed. "Baby, close my door and get in bed." "Okay, momma." I roll over to make room for him in bed, only to hear the door close and his feet pitter-patter back across the house. Maybe he thought I was saying go back to bed... I feel bad. I get out of bed and turn on the Keurig as I cross through the kitchen. I open up the boys' bedroom door to see... 2 boys sleeping in their bunkbed and the twin bed empty. Where is our asthmatic toddler? Why does it smell slightly of pee in their room? I open the playroom door and there he is, sleeping on the nap bed. He looks like he might be falling asleep... I close the door. It clicks. He overflowed his Pull-Up and so my husband just put him to bed on the nap bed in the playroom instead of changing the bedding since he was pressed for time before work. Not wanting to wake up the 2 sleeping boys in there, I make a mental note to change the bedding later. I go to the kitchen and make coffee.

5:45 am

I hear the two boys left in the bedroom yelling their brother's name. Several things run through my head-- why are they awake at this time? Why are they yelling at this time? I don't want them waking the baby... I finish brushing my teeth and hurry to their room, understanding that it is probably confusing to wake up to find your brother missing. I open the bedroom door and the smell of pee hits me in the face. What?! Why so strong?! So I investigate. The other toddler in there is naked, the hamper full of pee soaked pajamas. It all comes rushing back-- my cleverness at putting them in pajamas before we went to my friend's house for dinner-- I didn't change them from underwear to Pull-Ups before bed! They aren't potty trained through the night! Ugh, mom fail. I pull off all the bedding on all the beds. I help the toddler in there get dressed. I shake my head at my forgetfulness. I get laundry started. I drink my coffee.

6:00 am

"I coughing." Our asthmatic toddler stands in the doorway of the family room. I feel his head and he's not warm. I listen to his chest; he's not wheezing. He's congested and breathing harder than normal. His cough doesn't sound the best, but he might possibly, maybe sound better than yesterday? I have him sit on the couch. I fold the clothes I put on our drying rack last night. I pull out my computer. I've started really making an effort to write every morning, at least busting out a page or 2. I open my book and stare at the blinking cursor. All I can think about is the pee soaked bedding, our toddler coughing on the couch behind me. I wonder how long it takes caffeine to metabolize {answer after Google search: about 15 minutes}.

7:00 am

Fast forward an hour. I fed all the kids early; they have all already finished breakfast. I don't normally let them come out of their bedroom before 7:30 am, making breakfast usually around 7:45/8:00 am. I'm sitting at our kitchen table with the baby babbling at his Wubbanub, our 6-year old playing some sort of loud handheld game in the family room {does it not have volume control?!}, one of our 3-year olds asking me quite possibly every question he could ever think of ever, and our asthmatic toddler walking around coughing and blowing his nose while dropping a deck of cards around the kitchen, one card at a time. I'm on my second load of laundry and second cup of coffee. I've unloaded the dishwasher. The kids are {mostly} dressed.

And now it is time to feed the baby. A toddler wants to color and is getting out his crayons and paper; the other toddler apparently feels the need to tattle on him for this... The day is officially underway.

How often do you have nights like this?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Upcoming PCS

Our 2-year olds wrestling on a hotel room couch last PCS ;)

I wrote a blog post before titled, "PCSing tips from a Navy wife and mother of three." We have a PCS coming up in the next couple months and so I wanted to write another blog post about how we start preparing several months before an upcoming PCS.

Move Notebook

The most important aspect to a smooth PCS is organizing all your paperwork which is why the move notebook is so important. I wrote a blog post called "Write it all down" where I explain how I organize our move notebook. The other day I spent the morning getting our move notebook ready for our next move: throwing out and filing paperwork from our last PCS, printing off new note taking pages, adding sections for our new kitten and baby #4. Move notebook: ready.

Donating HHG

The next step {and one you can never start too early-- seriously} is going through your household goods (HHG). One of the difficult aspects of being a Navy family is you never know where your next PCS will be. We will find out roughly 2 weeks before we PCS where we are going. I don't want to donate our winter coats because 1.) I don't know where our next move will be and 2.) I don't know where we are going after that. When we lived in Hawaii, our hall closet was stuffed with winter jackets from living in New Hampshire/Maine. Our storage unit in North Carolina was lined with boogie boards from Hawaii, that we then used here in South Carolina. I know everyone manages their HHG differently, but, man, I hate rebuying things every time we PCS. So, while keeping in mind that while we might not need our boogie boards/swim suits or scarves/winter coats at our next PCS, I still follow a few rules when combing through our HHG:
  • When you last lived in that climate, did you actually use those items?
    I just went through my closet and found a whole bin of hideous scarves and hats. I never wore them in New Hampshire, I never wore them on the cold days in North Carolina, and I definitely don't plan on wearing them in the future. Some things that never were in style will definitely never be in style again. If you find beach toys that you never took to the beach when you lived 10 minutes from it, get rid of them.
  • Follow the rules of fashion: if you haven't worn them in 2 seasons, out they go.
    If you have gone through 2 seasons with your fall wardrobe and haven't pulled out an entire drawer of sweaters, pare them down. If you have skipped over certain items for 2 seasons, you will never wear that item again. If you need help going through your closet with a critical eye, I highly recommend Tim Gunn's Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style. Tim Gunn has all the answers.
  • Most important question: how easy is that item to replace?
    Being a moving military family, this is the most important question to me when looking at an item and weighing whether it should stay or go. I don't like donating items that I immediately need to replace when arriving from a PCS (moving is expensive enough already without creating expenses). My husband hates one of the end tables in our family room. I agree with him that it isn't a quality piece of furniture. However, I do not want to move to our next house missing end tables; I need somewhere to put my coffee. That is an item that I would keep and replace... eventually {probably never-- haha!}. Our winter jackets also fall in that category. My husband and I both have very nice winter jackets; our children's winter jackets have all only seen a season or two, meaning our younger sons have quality hand-me-down jackets. It would cost more for me to throw them all out then keep them and hand them down to our younger children. Several things that didn't make the cut: surplus outdoor toys, a large quantity of toys from our playroom, a whole bin of spare picture frames, cookbooks that I rarely-- if ever-- use, etc.
Going through your HHG is something that takes time. We did spend the couple weeks after baby #4 was born going through every drawer and closet in our house, tossing out the junk, organizing all our paper files. That was very productive, but, since then, we have gone through even more stuff. We keep a donate box in our garage so that we can continuously add to it. Yesterday alone I found literally 20 pounds of things to donate in our office, a room that we have already combed through. I look at it this way: when you first walk into a room like our playroom, it is hard to discern what we truly need to keep. The first wave is the most obvious for removing junk. The second wave is when we start picking through and really organizing. The third wave we can go through with a fine tooth comb and eliminate almost all of the junk.

Use up your liquids
 
This is a really helpful blog post on PCSing, "Army Wife Network: PCS Guide." It states:
Be aware that most moving companies will not transport candles, batteries, live plants, and liquids.  They will however pack non-perishables.  If you have any of these items you will have to make other arrangements to get them to your new home or give them away.
Sounds simple enough, but take a close look at how many liquids you have in your home, starting in the kitchen: oils, condiments, vinegars, alcohol, dressings, jars of pickled products, etc. Move to the bathroom: lotions, hair products, shave products, bath and body products, etc. Move to the garage: paint, finishes, aerosol cans, gas, cleaning products, etc. This is obviously not a process that you should start the week before you pack out.

Some people get really frustrated that those items won't be packed out. I agree.. It is hard to throw those all away each and every time you move. On the flip side, how would you feel PCSing from Hawaii and having your household goods packed in a crate with someone else's household goods and one of their boxes exploded, leaking 409 all over your couch for 2 months? Or a bottle of olive oil saturating a box of books? When we left Hawaii, one of our movers left a bag of individually wrapped chocolates on our couch. 3 months later when our couch was delivered to North Carolina in July, we had an epic mess on our hand that literally coated our small living room in our apartment. (The chocolate had coated the couch and the paper that the couch was wrapped in, spreading all over the carpet, the couch cushions... It was a mess.) So I understand why these items aren't moved. I also am excited when some of these items accidentally do get packed and survive in one piece-- "Score! A box of household cleaners that I don't need to go out and buy!"

I 100% agree with passing out things you can't move to your friends-- freezer items, cleaning products, hair products, any and everything. I believe in paying it forward. I believe in donating things you don't need anymore or can't use. I also believe in cutting down on waste and using what you own. It is still so frustrating throwing out so much waste every time we move. No matter what we pass out to friends, we still end up with waste each and every time. Some moves it can't be helped. We found out we were moving in 2 months when we left Hawaii, fast forwarding our move date by over a year. My husband was underway while I was setting up our move and we had a lot of ducks to get in a row for the STA-21 program. I'm not sure we used up much of our perishables before we moved. I remember boxes of cleaning products I handed out and throwing away so much food, even after passing out so much food.

Here are my tips on using up your liquids:
  • Take inventory
    What items do you own that actually cannot be moved? Check your freezer. Check your pantry. Check your bathrooms. Check your garage. Figure out what you have and what you need to use up. Write a list if it helps. Figure out how to use up the cleaning products you own and, if you run out before your PCS, buy multi-purpose cleaning products that will be easier to consume before your move date. Make meals that use your perishables.
  • Start early
    I have found that, for our family, the last month before we move is not a good time for us to use up our products. We are busy cleaning. Our friends want to go out to eat with us. I am spending time setting up the move, confirming dates, refiguring everything when I get a call that the pack out is moved by a week or two, etc. That last month never goes as planned and our freezer suffers for it. Plan early-- start 3 months ahead truly consuming what you already own. Make it a goal. With 3 months before you move, pull out those perishable items from your pantry that must be consumed-- condiments, dressings, etc-- and get creative. In your bathrooms, set out the liquids that cannot move and start using them! Make a point of using these things.
  • Figure out what you won't use
    Despite our best efforts, there will still be things that we will not use. For instance, my husband has lots of finishes and paints in our garage. He will not be completing any more woodworking projects before we move. I have lots of shampoos and conditioners that I will most likely not use. Make a game plan for those items. Since I plan on visiting my parents, I know that I can bring our unopened condiments, bath and body products, etc, to their house and I know what will get used there. For the other things, we plan on passing those things off to our friends, especially in the last month when it is obvious we will not be using them. A big note is do not wait to hand it all out the week before you PCS. As well-meaning as people are, everyone is busy. You may have a free afternoon to hand out your household cleaners and bath and beauty products, but your friend has school pick up/drop off and doctor's appointments. Don't wait until the last minute when your only option is to throw it away.
Make reservations
 
I'm not sure how well it comes across in my blog, but I'm a planner. I like making lists, schedules, keeping notes, hanging reminders. I like having a game plan. PCSing can be really hard because moving plans are contingent on all the other parts of the move: the pack out date, when HHG are picked up, etc. If you have a moment, I'll take you on a little walk through my over-planning mind.
  • Set up the outgoing hotel:

    I am a huge fan of booking directly through companies. I never use third party sites, such as Travelocity or Kayak or whatever. My favorite hotel companies for PCSing are Marriot and Hyatt {both have military rates}. As soon as I have an idea of when we might possibly have a good chance of maybe PCSing, I book our hotel. Why? Because I familiarize myself with the hotel's cancellation policy. Marriot and Hyatt give you 24 hours before your check-in time to cancel a reservation.

    How do I make this work for me? Let's say that I think we are PCSing at the end of November (which we aren't). I would go on the computer now, compare rates, book an outgoing hotel reservation for 2 weeks at the hotel of my choice, and then continue to monitor hotel prices. When PCSing with pets and children, sometimes it costs far less to stay at a hotel that does not accept pets and board the animals than it does to stay at a hotel with a pet deposit and a pet fee each night; sometimes it isn't. It also takes some planning to figure out if it would be more convenient to board the animals or keep them with us-- where is the pet boarder located in relation to our hotel and home? How much will it cost to board our pet? What is the pet fee/pet deposit at our hotel?

    I also like to call local military hotels, such as Navy Lodge or any hotels on base. Many of those hotels have deposits that you pay when you make the reservation, but they also usually have a similar cancellation policy as the larger chain hotels. I like to check out those hotels because they are usually less expensive, generally centrally located, and often pet friendly. The downside to the military hotels is that they are quite often just hotel rooms whereas with a Residence Inn I can get a 2-bedroom suite that comfortably accommodates the whole family or a Hyatt Place room with somewhat divided spaces that works well for a short stay.

    And here is why I never use third party sites: as the move gets closer, I adjust our reservation when our dates become firmer. I never cut down the length of our stay. I always make sure to make our reservation at least 2-3 days past when I think I will need it. {When PCSing with a family, don't make it more difficult by setting it up so you have to change rooms in the middle of a hotel stay.} I carefully mark my calendar as to where I have made reservations and the cancellation dates. This makes it much easier for me to guarantee lower fares, comfortable accommodations during a PCS, and a convenient location {I like an included breakfast, lunch and dinner within walking distance, and centrally located to the other aspects of our move}. With third party sites, they often do not allow cancellations or adjusting the stay. It is often very difficult to do this as well, resulting in long phone calls through automated systems (my nemesis).

    It is much easier to book our outgoing hotel in advance. I generally have to wait until the month before our PCS to book our incoming hotel. We do not like to stay at our home once our pack out begins because it is often dangerous keeping track of the kids with moving boxes, etc. Our outgoing hotel begins the day of our pack out and ends when we leave town, usually right after our final walk through. {I love when we can book our final walk through in the evening the night before we check out of our hotel-- that is perfect PCS timing.} The incoming hotel is contingent on when we are actually moving to our next duty station-- when our household goods will be delivered, my husband's report date, etc. That I have to wait on until we have a firmer idea of when things will take place, but I book that as soon as we have an inkling as well.
 
HANG IN THERE

 
I hear a lot as we get ready to move that "it will all work out." We had a really crappy situation when PCSing from North Carolina to South Carolina (read "Living on borrowed time"), but it worked out. It always does. It's stressful to not know where the next move is or when exactly we are moving or being able to look up housing at our next place {my fingers are itching to start searching Zillow}. For now I'm content channeling my energy into these tasks. Eventually the  move will hit and I'll earn more PCSing gray hairs. For now there is no stress-- no dates to keep track of, nothing broken in a move, no overbooked hotels, no missing POAs, no housing wait lists... Just a looming move.
 
What are your pre-PCSing tips? How do you get ready for an upcoming PCS?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Mommy courage


One of my good friends is doing MOPS this year and has been talking to  me about their theme: being brave as a mother. I can think of several times as a mother that I have had to be braver than I thought I could be, the first coming to mind when one of our son's was in the PICU for 4 days with RSV and there was nothing else the doctors could do for him. Since then there have been other things: asthma flare ups, injuries, sickness, late nights, solo parenting... Then there have been other times where the lines aren't as clear and I'm praying and praying that I'm making the right choice: disciplining a 6-year old {very different than disciplining 2 and 3 year olds}, disciplining 3 children, speaking up for my parenting choices to others when I'd prefer to stay silent... Last night was a new one for me: having the courage to enjoy the holiday.

It has been 4 years since my husband has been on a submarine-- 3 years of college and now going through the officer pipeline. When we first moved to North Carolina for him to start college, I was so jealous of his time. After coming from a fast attack submarine, I wasn't accustomed to him being around much. I tried to soak in every weekend, every weeknight, every time he could go to lunch with us... I wanted to do everything together and I felt panicked when our plans separated us or when we had too many plans in a weekend, even if we were doing them together. We are both homebodies and I felt like we should be home together, making the most of it.

My husband is the sweetest person I know and so loving. He eventually had a little chat with me about how much time we have together with the STA-21 program and that it is okay to enjoy life, doing things together or apart. I slowly relaxed {slowly}. I still sometimes would feel that panicked feeling in my chest if I was at a Bible Study and he was at home doing nothing {my husband is HOME and I am NOT THERE-- what am I doing here???}. By the time we left North Carolina, doing things separately wasn't a big deal. He started power school and golfed, did wood working; I hung out with girlfriends, worked on my writing. Of course I still have issues when we are too busy-- I know our children want to spend time with both of us together and, since quality time is my love language, I love when we do things as a family.

I suppose the foreshadowing for last night's feelings happened last week when I sat down to figure out our Thanksgiving plans. With shiftwork, I didn't want to be struggling to make Thanksgiving dinner with children underfoot only for him to eat and leave at odd hours. I kept thinking that I wanted to do something more than eating take out or a casserole because it might be our "last Thanksgiving together for awhile." That thought just kept bouncing around in my head. I found a recommended restaurant with traditional Thanksgiving fare that would give us the holiday feel without me stressing over a ginormous meal for just our family. I wanted him to enjoy this Thanksgiving because next year... where will he be next year? On a submarine. Home? Deployed? Underway? We don't know. We don't even know where we will be living next year.

Last night we were getting ready to go trick or treating. My husband was tired from shiftwork. Our children were over excited about a holiday-- dressing up, something new, general excitement. I was a little stressed because one of our boys-- the one who tends to randomly projectile vomit when over excited or after eating junk food-- wasn't eating his dinner and I didn't want him binging on candy later without "real food" in his stomach. The baby needed to be fed. All 3 older boys were covered in dirt and sand from head to foot after playing outside before dinner and I needed to give them baths before costumes. It was a busy start to the holiday, but one to be expected with 4 children. My poor husband-- who is genuinely tired from shiftwork-- pulls me aside and says he doesn't want to trick or treat long because he really wants to go to bed early. The panic hit my chest, "We have to trick or treat! We need to do this with the boys. They want to do it with you. We are going to do it as a family." He says he knows, but he doesn't want to be out all night. {Funny conversation in hindsight-- we set out with a 6-year old who falls asleep standing up at 8 pm, two 3-year olds who hadn't napped, an infant who wanted to eat, and my husband who is on rotating shiftwork.} We agreed to hit a few houses in our neighborhood, coming home in time for the kids' bedtime.

I kept thinking as we were trick or treating, "Enjoy this night. Next year you'll be doing this alone. Next year-- if he's home-- he'll be on 3 section duty days, but he'll probably be underway or deployed. If we're lucky he'll be home on shiftwork. Make the most of tonight." Thinking like that is so paralyzing. I knew I wanted us to stick together-- no breaking off and trick or treating with neighbors. We are doing this together, dammit. I felt that panic hitting my chest. Should I let our oldest go trick or treat with his friends? I mean, that is part of normal life, right? But he's only 6-years old, it's fine if we tell him no and have him go with us. I know my husband wanted to do this with all his boys, so it is good we said no, right? Ugh. Yes? No? Panic rising again-- he won't be home next year! Enjoy this year!

For me, this became a courageous parenting moment. I realized that my fears that we wouldn't be together next year {the unknown future} were taking over my ability to enjoy and live in this moment {the present}. And while I wasn't walking around telling our children, "You must enjoy this time with your father. He will probably be underway next Halloween," I wasn't exactly letting them spread their wings and just be. I had expectations of the evening that I wanted met. How is that fun for a kid? Trying to fit into a box his mom has made for the day? While I was thinking all that, I also realized that I don't want to teach my children to think this way. I don't want to train them to have those panicked feelings of making the most, clinging on so tight that they can't see what is in front of them. I know they will have struggles as military children, but why should I compound that by teaching them new things to be afraid of? To dread? Teaching them to regret how they spent a holiday-- time they spent-- before they've even had a chance to experience the day? My love language is quality time. Regret and anxiety are not quality time.

Remember Finding Nemo? Marlin tells Dory regarding his son Nemo, "I promised I'd never let anything happen to him." Dory replies, "Hmm, that's a funny thing to promise... you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little [Nemo]."

And as I write this blog post, we are watching The Croods. Eep says to her father, "You have to stop worrying about us." Her father replies, "It's my job to worry! We have to follow the rules." Eep goes on to say, "The rules don't work out here." Eep's father interjects, "The rules kept us alive!" to which Eep replies, "That wasn't living! That was just... not dying."

Last night when it looked like our night was going to go downhill before 7 pm-- fussy baby, cold family, tired husband-- I felt myself getting upset, "This isn't how I want tonight to go!" But when does life ever happen exactly how we want it to? I took a deep breath and let it go. I let go of my expectations for the evening, the panic that we have to make the most of tonight because of the unknowns of next Halloween, the desire for tonight to be perfect. When I did that, the evening was perfect. The boys sprinted from house to house (we were glad that we stuck together as a family in the end). We dropped the stroller off and held the baby, warming up my husband and actually putting the fussy baby to sleep. We ended up back home before 7:30 pm, letting the boys eat some of their Halloween candy while passing out candy to the last few trick or treaters. The kids were in bed on time; my husband was in bed before 8:30 pm. It all ended up working out and even I enjoyed myself once I let go, once I stopped clinging to everything so tight.


I curled up next to my hubby with my book last night as I fed our baby happy. Who knows where we will be living next Halloween or if my husband will be home. I do know that if he's underway, he'll be thinking of this Halloween and how our boys kept taking off as fast as their legs could carry them from house to house. How we had a hard time keeping track of our Captain America and Buzz Lightyear, but our Big Al {Alabama Crimson Tide's elephant mascot} was easy to spot. How baby #4 calmed as soon as he was picked up by his daddy and promptly fell asleep on his shoulder. How my husband spent the rest of the evening with one hand free, the other holding the baby, but how all the baby needed right then was his daddy. How the boys screamed with delight when we told them they could eat all the candy they wanted last night and how they compared and shared all their treats-- without us asking. How they fell asleep not 10 minutes after we put them to bed. Who could ask for a better Halloween?


Now, while it took a lot of courage to let go on Halloween, it was fairly easy to remember with all the Elsa's wandering the neighborhood. I will have a much harder time when Thanksgiving and Christmas come around. Hopefully I can breathe in, breathe out, and enjoy those days for what they are as well.

Do you find it hard to live in the present as a military family?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

From 3 to 4




What has changed for us now that we have 4 kids?

1. My mom is always right.

Don't tell my mom that. And maybe not always, but... yeah, my mom is always right. While I'm close to my mom anyways, I find myself calling her more and more to find out exactly what I should do, not get her advice and consider it, but, "Hey, Momma, what would you do? Tell me everything." My hubby isn't home for everything and I love having my mom by my side {even from a distance}.

2. Always looks on the bright side of life.

Life is busy and messy and, well, sometimes not fun at all. While every week is pretty much one thing after another, this week was one of those weeks where it was one.thing.after.another. I psyched the kids up for a day and a half to go to the pumpkin patch with our homeschool group...and then our van broke down and was out of commission for 2 days. Because I was sick last week, I had rescheduled everything to this week; I had to then re-reschedule everything to next week because of our van issues. Our cat was spayed-- sat in traffic to drop her off and pick her up, and then dealt with 4 kids at the vet to pick her up (that is about as much fun as it sounds). I had to take our baby to urgent care (he's fine) and his cold has kept me up for the past 5 nights, not to mention he's somehow managed to reintroduce a night feed we had previously dropped. My husband was dealing with a shift change through all of this at prototype. We ran over a nail after getting our van back from the shop and it took 3 hours at Costco to get it repaired; the kids screamed and fussed and fought the whole time we were there. My husband and one of our toddlers both dislocated a finger this week. Our other toddler had a speech therapy assessment and his stutter is worse than I thought and now I need to work a weekly speech appointment into our calendar. And we've been finding time for an hour and a half of homeschool each day through all this... Life is just messy. Being a Monty Python fan, I've had this song stuck in my head all week: 
"If life seems jolly rotten 
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing...
Always look on the bright side of life..."
Sometimes you just gotta look at the bright side of life.
 
3. Nothing will ever go as planned.
 
I'm not saying things went as planned before-- they didn't. But now it is a toss up. I take the kids to the park and one is throwing sand in his brother's face while another is climbing the play structure and another is crying -- or -- they all go and play happily -- or -- two of the boys play happily and two fuss and cry. Last night we planned on going to a fall festival. It became apparent about twenty minutes before we needed to leave that it just wasn't in the cards for us last night. We made the smart call and didn't push it-- better to have our plans fly out the window than have a super stressful time getting everyone dressed and ready to go only to come home to a messy house with hungry children.
 
4. Nothing will ever go as planned.
 
Yeah, it is on there twice just to really drive home the point that nothing ever goes as planned. Ten minutes before it is time to go out the door, the toddlers who were fully dressed are now naked and claiming they need to use the restroom, even though they already did. The baby poops and needs a diaper change. The dog needs to go out. The doorbell rings and wakes up my husband who needs to sleep due to shiftwork. The kitten goes missing. I mean, nothing ever goes as planned. I try-- and I often do-- get to places on time, but inevitably something happens. On the flip side,  I am constantly surprised and pleased with how well our boys handle various situations. We just did weeks of road tripping and visiting friends and family. Our boys did amazing! I was blown away by how well they did. It gave me so much confidence that we can handle traveling and this Navy life.
 
 
 
5. 4 isn't that different from 3...
 
We never had 2 kids, so I'm not sure how that goes. But I did have 3 kids. There was no strapping on the baby and following after the older sibling or my husband supervising one and me the other. There was no holding both my children's hands as we crossed the parking lot (2 kids, 2 hands). There was no standing near one on the playground and keeping an eye on the other. We jumped straight from have a "one and only" to zone defense. Managing 2 babies at the playground while our toddler played to watching 2 toddlers and keeping an eye on our preschooler to now having a kindergartner, 2 toddlers, and an infant. Thankfully now I have my Tula and am pretty good at keeping up. It is also nice that this time we have a baby and toddler twins {instead of toddler and infant twins like last time}, so I can wear the baby and hold our toddlers' hands; our oldest is very good about keeping close. Still playing zone defense though.
 
 
6. ..except for the times when it is very different.
 
Baby #4 is the best baby we've had. I totally relate to Horney Mom's blog post. But, yeah, there are times where the baby is crying to be fed, the toddlers are at each other's throats, our kindergartner fell off his bike, the dog is trying to sneak all the food off the table (and throw it up later)... Or the other day when one of our toddlers was stung by a bee while I was out shopping. I had to carry him back to the car while I held the other toddler's hand, baby #4 strapped in the Tula, my oldest keeping close and carrying all my purchases. Also, when my husband and I split up the kids, we view keeping 1 or 2 kids very differently than we used to. Now he says, "Yeah, I'll take our 6-year old and a 3-year old to the barber shop," when 4 years ago I can't imagine either of us thinking hair cuts would be a great time to spend a little individual time with 1 or 2 of the kids (or that staying home with 2 would be somewhat of a "break").
 
7. Different strokes for different folks.
 
You know what moms of 4 know? That every child is different and every time in your life is different and it is A-Okay to be different-- and not just doing things differently each time, but doing things differently than other families. What works for your family might not work for another family. What works with one baby might not work with the next. What came easy with one baby might not come easy with the next. Having identical twins also is a good lesson in that-- what works for one doesn't always work for the other. Husband underway? Take it easy. Rough night? Have cookies for breakfast. It's okay. We know that it all works out. Just because you are taking some shortcuts now (maybe even a lot of shortcuts) doesn't mean that you will later. Seasons of your life.
 
8. It really is just a phase.
 
Speaking of seasons of your life, we also know that it really is just a phase. Your toddler refuses to eat anything, like a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. He will eat again. Your baby is up all night. You will sleep again. Your 3-year old throws fits all the time. He won't behave that way forever. Doesn't always make the phases we are going through easier to manage, but it does help keep it in perspective. We've gone through those phases before, we know to expect them and have the foresight to anticipate their arrival, and then we have the patience to let them ride. I've found that because of this I'm able to enjoy myself a lot more with our boys-- even with our 6-year old who goes through each stage first. I've seen how quickly these rough infant and toddlers phases pass and it helps me focus on the good aspects of each phase instead of dwelling on the bad.
 
9. No mommy judgment.
 
I'm sure you've seen these types of blogs posted before: "10 Signs You're a Parent to 3 Kids" or "Things Moms of Four Kids Do." Yeah, if you've read those, you know we aren't judging you. If your kid walks into my legs as he's looking the other way at the mall, I honestly don't mind. No need to apologize when you interrupt my shopping trip to ask what kind of stroller or baby carrier I have. I've been there; I did my research when making baby purchases as well. Within reason, I understand when kids start getting too rough on the playground and I definitely understand temper tantrums. I've been there. We've done on demand schedules and strict schedules with our kids-- I get it. I get when you need to cancel last minute or when you are running late. I've had "those kinda days" as well. It happens. I have spent hours crying in the bathroom too. I have laughed at the ridiculous things my kids have said. I have been embarrassed, under prepared, caught off guard, tired, exhausted, deflated, over joyed, fulfilled, content, heart broken, irritated, and more by motherhood. I've held my baby for the first time and felt my heart run over. I've watched my baby labor to breathe. I've seen ultrasounds with no heartbeats. I've carried flailing children out of stores and restaurants. I've walked stolen merchandise back into shops. I've repeated myself all day every day and still felt like I wasn't heard. I've prayed from early in the morning to late at night and still felt like I wasn't enough or couldn't do it. So I get it. When you want to talk to me about how your one baby isn't napping or how hard you have it with your two children, and then apologize because "I must think you are ridiculous," I don't. I understand. I'm looking to make the same "mommy connections" as you. I want friends just as bad as you do and I too want to be supported and feel like someone else "gets it."
 
10. Let it slide.
 
While I'm sure we still make our lives more complicated than they need to be, we do have the experience to let some things go. We don't force toddlers to eat when it is pointless and we have the benefit of not stressing about it either. We don't get our panties in a knot over every cold. We expect a certain level of craziness everywhere we go, so toddlers banging spoons on tables or the occasional drink spilling doesn't stress us out. We put far more emphasis on growing independence than doing it perfect, such as having children dress themselves and actively participate in household chores. We've {somewhat} learned that some behaviors are far better to ride out until they go away on their own instead of fussing and fighting over them. I've also found that when I'm talking to my mom about a discipline issue that I'm struggling with and she says, "Oh, it will work out," I'm able to let it go. My mom always tells me to pick my battles and we're finding that we are better able to decipher which battles are worth picking and which battles are just a massive waste of energy for us.
 
All our babies
How have things changed for you the more children you've had? Do you have 4 kids? What would you add to this list?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cloth diapering an infant {BumGenius Elementals and Freetimes}

I need a break from housecleaning, so blogging it is. :) We have officially switched from covers and prefolds with baby #4 to our BumGenius Elementals and Freetimes. I decided to stick to all-in-one cloth diapers. Without getting in to a world of details, there are a lot of ways that you can cloth diaper. The most popular way is a pocket style diaper where you stuff a pocket inside a cover with absorbent inserts, such as the BumGenius 4.0. There are also systems like the Grovia Hybrids or Flip covers and inserts.... It just all felt like a lot. I have heard great things about those systems and people love them. I just really love the idea of all-in-ones; they work just like disposables.

While we do own 2 Freetime diapers, we mainly use Elementals. For our 4-month old, we have 9 Elemental diapers (11 diapers total and I'm going to buy Stellar and Jolly when they are released in December... only because I love their colors-- haha!). For nights we are still using Thirsties fitted diapers (now in size 2) and a Flip cover. I have 2 Thirsties fitted diapers and 1 Flip cover.

BumGenius Elementals

So what does an Elemental diaper look like? This is BumGenius's Elemental print Martin. The Elemental diaper has 2 layers of organic cotton attached inside a Flip cover. There is no stuffing in inserts or putting a cover over type. It is an all-in-one system and basically works like a disposable-- you take the whole thing off for each change (as compared to covers and prefolds). I love organic cotton. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is so absorbent and I've had no issues with it on baby #4's skin. These are my favorite diapers. Why do I own Freetimes? Because Elemental diapers take a lot longer to hang dry-- almost a day and a half if you do not put them in the dryer at all. I usually let them do one run in the dryer so they come out damp, then I let them hang dry in the sun. This cuts down the drying time to about half a day.
 


 
BumGenius Freetimes
 
What does a Freetime diaper look like? This is BumGenius's Freetime print Sassy. The Freetime diaper has attached inserts that you fold over each other to put on the diaper; it doesn't matter which one you put down first-- works the same either way. The Freetimes are also an all-in-one system-- no stuffing of inserts, no putting on covers. They also work a lot like disposables-- you change the whole diaper at each diaper change.

 
 
 
The top of the insert is a sueded material that pulls moisture down towards the microfiber underneath the insert. Because of these microfiber inserts, the diaper dries super fast after washing. If I take it out of the washer in the morning, it will be dry by the afternoon without any time in the dryer. I keep 2 Freetimes because of how quickly they dry. I don't want to get stuck without diapers!!!
 
 
On the outside, the Elemental and the Freetime looks a lot the same. Another reason why I favor Elementals over Freetimes is that they do not have a "fluffy butt" like Freetimes do, especially on our 4-month old. I feel like it might be less "fluffy" when he gets older, but, for now, Elementals are a much trimmer fit.
 
 
 
Adjustable size
 
BumGenius advertises on their diapers that they work from 7 to 35 lbs. They have a fancy snap system on the front to adjust to your baby's size. The gal at my favorite local store said that covers and prefolds work a little better for the newborn stage, that these are a little bulky for the newborn babies. After comparing covers and prefolds with the all-in-ones, I agree.
{Check out my blog post: "Week 2 of cloth-diapering a newborn."}
 
 
 
The snaps on the front of the Elementals and Freetimes are the same. This is how I snap up the diapers for our 15-pound 4-month old. These are the snaps that I snap up to adjust the diaper to his size. Once I have them snapped, I do not unsnap them for washing or anything. They stay snapped, so this is a one-time thing-- no complicated snapping at each diaper change.
 
 
I snap the very bottom snap up to the top snap to make it smaller to fit him and do the same all along the row. This is the diaper with the first snap snapped up....
 
 
...the second snap snapped up...
 
 
...and the third snap snapped up.
 
 
And that is how I adjust each new diaper that I buy for baby #4. As I said, I only do this once. The diaper stays snapped up for the washing and wearing. To fasten the diaper on our baby, our baby doesn't need the flaps brought all the way across. I leave 2 snaps in the middle. I love how adjustable the diaper is to the baby's size making a personal, no-leak fit. This is a picture of how I snap the diaper to fit our baby during wear.
 
 
Diapering an Elemental
 
Now that we have gone over the differences between Elemental and Freetime all-in-ones, I'll show you why I love all-in-one diapers. They are so easy to change and work essentially like a disposable diaper. Starting with the Elemental {my favorite}, I lay the diaper on the changing table, the side with the closure snaps goes in the back.
 
 
I bring the front of the diaper up and snap one side close. I count up 4 snaps on each side.
 
 
I snap the other side closed, counting 4 snaps on this side too. This leaves 2 snaps in the middle, just like I pictured above, which is how the diaper best fits our baby.
 
 
Just like with other cloth diapers, it is important that the inserts are tucked into the cover. Since the insert is what absorbs all the moisture, if it is poking out, it will saturate baby's clothing.
 
 
I just do a check to make sure the inserts are all tucked in. Rarely does an insert poke out when I put on the diaper-- they are very easy to put on-- but I like to check to make sure.
 
 
I am still using the exact same wipe system as I did with covers and prefolds-- cloth wipes at home and disposable wipes out of the house. To see pictures of how I use our wipes, check out my blog post "Week 2 of cloth-diapering a newborn." To change the Elemental diaper, I change as usual then throw the entire soiled diaper and cloth wipes in the diaper pail.
 
 
Diapering a Freetime
 
To put a Freetime diaper on, I fold the inserts into the diaper as pictured above {where I show what a Freetime diaper looks like}. It does not matter which insert is on top or bottom when you fold them into the diaper. I lay the diaper on the changing table with the snaps in the back.
 
 
 
I fold the front of the front of the diaper up...
 
 
...count 4 snaps on one side and snap closed...
 
 
...then count 4 snaps on the other side and snap closed. This leaves 2 snaps in the middle which is how the diaper best fits our baby. Just like with the other diapers, it is important to check and make sure the inserts are all tucked inside the diaper.
 
 
To change the diaper, I throw the entire soiled diaper in the diaper pail.
 
 
Baby #4 is still exclusively breastfed. As I talked about in "Cloth diapering a newborn {logistics}," breastmilk stool is water soluble. I throw the entire soiled diaper in our diaper pail without rinsing. This brings me to my next topic: laundry.
 
Laundry: washing Elementals and Freetimes
 
I wash our diapers first thing in the morning, right after I change his night diaper. I know many people that wash their diapers at the end of the day, but, for us, it works best to do our diaper load first thing in the morning. That way, right after breakfast, the diapers have washed and I can hang them to dry. When I change our baby, I throw his clothing laundry into our diaper pail as well. I wash our Planet Wise pail liner roughly every other day or as needed.
 
I put the contents of our diaper pail in the washer and run a rinse cycle. After that cycle has run, if the load is sparse, I throw in our toddlers' clothes hamper contents as well. Then I wash the diapers on heavy duty, which is a hot cycle, with our cloth diaper detergent.
 
I have heard that detergents leave a build up in your washer and can affect absorbency for cloth diapering. I do use a cloth diaper detergent when washing a load of diapers. For our regular household laundry sans diapers, I use our homemade laundry detergent. I have read conflicting information as to whether Borax is cloth diaper safe or not. However, because of the other ingredients, I do not worry about this detergent building up in our washer and affecting the absorbency of our cloth diapers.
 
 
Side note: If you read my blog post "Homemade household cleaners," you know that we have switched to all homemade and biodegradable household cleaners. The cloth diaper detergent is the only household cleaner that I buy. Since bleach is not biodegradable, I have not used it on my diapers yet. I know that we have only recently switched to Elementals and Freetimes and that baby #4 is only 4-months old and exclusively breastfed... I'm not sure if/when or why I would pour bleach in with our diapers. I figure if we start having problems with absorbency {or maybe bleach is for a smell in the cloth diapers?} I'll start troubleshooting our wash routine. For now, I make sure to give our diapers a lot of sun time to kill any bacteria that may be on the diapers which hasn't been a problem for us here in South Carolina-- lots of sunshine!
 
 
BumGenius prints on their tag that Elemental diapers are safe to go in the dryer. I'm a little skeptical on drying the all-in-ones, but for the sake of expediency, I do throw the entire load into the dryer, pulling out the Freetimes. I run the Elementals in the dryer once. The rest of the load dries fine, but the Elementals are never dry after one pass through the dryer. With them slightly damp, I hang them on our drying rack.
 
This is how I hang dry our Freetimes. This way...
 
 
...or this way.
 
 
This is how I hang dry our Elementals.
 
 
As breastfeeding mommas know, breastmilk stool stains. I like to sun bleach our diapers on sunny days regardless of whether they are stained or not {kills any bacteria on the diapers}. If I have a stained diaper, I position it so it can absorb the most rays possible. Every breastmilk stool stain that I've had on our Elemental diapers has come out with just a few good hours in the sun.
 
 
Laundry: prepping Elementals and Freetimes
 
While we are on the subject of laundry, I'll discuss prepping the diapers. Prepping the Thirsties fitted diapers, the Flip covers, and the Freetimes is easy-- wash once. I just throw the new diapers in with a load of our regular household laundry. Prepping the Elemental diapers is a little different because their inserts are made with organic cotton. When you wash the organic cotton, it will release its natural oils. If these oils get on your other synthetic diaper fabrics, like microfiber, they will make them unabsorbent-- not cool for a diaper. I wash our Elemental diapers 5-7 times before wear. If I only wash the diaper 5 times before I put it on our baby, I make sure to change that diaper about an hour after he's worn it. Organic cotton becomes more absorbent the more it is washed. Before the diaper has been washed 7 times on high heat, I make sure to wash it separately from our Thirsties fitted diaper and our Freetimes. Since we have 6 people in our house, finding loads of laundry isn't a challenge for us. I keep the new diaper in the laundry room and throw it in when I do a load of laundry for our boys or when I'm washing a load of diapers without any of the aforementioned types. After I have washed an Elemental diaper 7 times, I throw all our diapers-- Elementals, Freetimes, Thirsties fitted, and Flip covers-- in our diaper pail after changing and wash them all together as I described previously. I cannot emphasize enough how much more absorbent organic cotton is than other types of materials. I love it. Since I don't know the science behind why organic cotton is that much more absorbent, it stands as a magical mystery to me.
 
Overnights
 
Our night diaper routine is exactly the same as described in "Cloth diapering a newborn {logistics}." I have pictures in that blog post of the Thirsties fitted diaper and the Flip cover. The only difference now is that we have a Thirsties size 2 fitted diaper instead of a size 1.
 
Out and about with cloth diapers
 
In "Week 2 of cloth-diapering a newborn," I discuss getting out of the house with cloth diapers. The only difference to that routine is that now I make sure I have 2 clean all-in-ones with me for normal excursions with the kids. If I'm going to be out of the house for a longer amount of time, I might pack 3. I also like to put baby #4 in a fresh diaper before we leave the house.
 
Available prints
 
And now for an adorable cloth diaper picture. :)
 
Baby #4 in Marie
Here are the prints available in Elementals, Freetimes, and Flip covers. My favorites are Hummingbird, Sassy, and Martin. Our boys always pick out Spence {aka "pirate booty"} for baby #4, which we have in Elemental and Freetime. For some of the older out of stock prints, like the Chelsea Perry Artist Prints or Jules, check out Facebook BumGenius buy/sell/trade pages.
 
To view all my posts on cloth diapering baby #4, check out my Popular Posts tab and scroll down to "Kimber's Posts on Cloth Diapering."
 
Do you cloth diaper? What would you add to this post? I love to hear from you!