Saturday, July 25, 2015

2:45am Parenting

Ryan and I took a pretty great pre-marital counseling class when we were newly engaged.

We watched a few videos and read multiple books on our own, filled out a lot of really great worksheets asking us about our hopes and dreams for marriage, why we want to marry this person, etc., and we took an awesome personality test that would help us determine which areas might cause a little strife in the future. We also went to an actual class on top of all that and heard quite a few great stories, tips, etc.

I think a really good pre-marital counseling exercise might be to sit and really imagine yourself parenting with this other person. Maybe a good question would be, “Can you see yourself parenting at 2:45am with this man?”

Is this the person you want holding your thigh when you give birth to your child? Is this the person you want watching your baby when you go out for a doctor’s appointment or errand by yourself? Is this the person you want to troubleshoot with, to sigh with as you try to figure out why in the world he’s STILL crying or why in the world she’s STILL awake?

Can you see yourself parenting at 2:45 with this person?

Can you see yourself whispering in the dark, “Maybe he needs a new diaper” or “Something’s wrong… she’s not breathing right,” and can you see him whispering back, “How can I help?”

When you’re up rocking your gassy/sniffly/feverish/teething baby, when you’re hanging out in a steamy bathroom with a croupy baby at 2:45am, is this the person you want coming to your rescue? Is this the person you trust to come in and say, “Go get some sleep. I’ll take a turn.”

Is this the person you want whispering, “Calm down… don’t forget he’s still your little boy,” when you feel like your toddler might actually make your head explode?

Is this the person you want to discuss discipline and sleep training and vaccines with? The person you want to tag-team with when you’re both sick with Norovirus and have a ten-month-old to entertain? The person you want in charge of your babies if you should, God forbid, end your time here earlier than you always imagined?

I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else. I can’t imagine anyone else knowing exactly what I need to hear when I’m crying right along with my baby at 2:45am, can’t imagine anyone else snuggling my babies so sweetly it makes my heart ache, can’t imagine anyone else’s opinion about their lives and their futures being anywhere near as important to me.

We had planned NOT to have children when we first got married so I never pictured these things when we were dating or engaged. I sometimes picture things now though, picture raising little kids and pre-teens and teenagers together, picture telling each other about a phone call or a lunch date we had with our adult children. And I like what I see.

This is the person I want to plan family vacations with, the person I want to jump in and rescue me when one of my teenagers is making me think my head might actually explode. The person I want to whisper my new-driver worries to, the person I want to size up new boyfriends/girlfriends with, the person I want to parent with at 2:45am.

I would gladly re-marry this guy again and again and again. 

---

Quick reminder! This blog’s name has changed! From now on, please access it using www.skbellblog.blogspot.com! You can get to it this way for a few more days, but www.skbellblog.blogspot.com will eventually be the only way to get to it!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Babywearing: Woven Wraps

My baby girl is the sweetest and most patient baby we have ever seen. It’s just nuts! She’ll sit or lie on her own and just calmly observe the action for a pretty darn long time, at least as far as babies go. And that’s wonderful, but it also makes me feel bad.

While our boy wanted to see the world and explore from the get-go, our daughter is very laid-back and would be happy to just be told about the world while sitting in our laps. She is always happiest when she’s being held.

I liked babywearing a lot with the toddler, but I like it even more with this baby in tow. She is content to hang out on my back while I do dishes, on my chest while I put away laundry or walk her big brother to the park.

I was using my Moby wrap a lot again (no buckles or straps to bother my sensitive skin in this heat, semi light-weight, easier on my back) and was feeling like it’s definitely my favorite carrier. I like our buckle carriers but I love the Moby.

And then I tried a woven wrap.

I love it so, so much! It’s wrapped, like the Moby, but there are a lot of different carries you can do with it since it’s not a stretchy material. Not being stretchy also means I can use it for a long time, even when she’s a toddler, unlike the Moby which I’ve been told many times only works up to about 12lbs if you plan to use it for other children.

It’s also extremely light-weight, which is perfect during these hot summer months.
(Mexican Tliltik Black with blue stripes) 
If you are interested in trying one for yourself (I truly can’t recommend it enough), check out this shop (Etsy, so you’re supporting a small business and a family!) and their very competitive prices. Use the code 10OFFWRAP at the end for an additional 10% off!

I also found this awesome list of woven wrap carries complete with photo diagram for people like me who can't watch YouTube at home.

Have you ever tried a woven wrap? What’s your favorite style of baby carrier? 

---
Quick reminder! This blog’s name has changed! From now on, please access it using www.skbellblog.blogspot.com! You can get to it this way for a few more days, but www.skbellblog.blogspot.com will eventually be the only way to get to it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Family Fun on a Bare Bones Budget

First and foremost, a little business! This blog’s name has changed! From now on, please access it using www.skbellblog.blogspot.com! You can get to it this way for a few more days, but www.skbellblog.blogspot.com will eventually be the only way to get to it!

---

I set aside $3 from Ryan’s last paycheck for our activity fund because that’s where we’re at right now. And since I already know for a fact that a lot of you are in the same boat, I thought I’d share some of our favorite free/super cheap family activities.

Share an ice cream. A lot of places serve way too much ice cream as it is, so find a place that serves it cheap and share! Or, if there’s a great sale/coupon, get it from the store and get creative at home.

Walk downtown. We have lived in quite a few places and we have had really great downtown areas in all but one. If you pick the right day/time, just walking around downtown can be a really awesome experience. We happen to enjoy going into stores and looking around with no intention of purchasing anything, but sometimes there are events going on down there which means plenty of entertainment.

Get outside. Hike. Nature walk. Sled. Splash around in a lake/creek/river/stream. Camp. Blow bubbles. Ride bikes.  Whatever. Just get outside. Kids, especially, love it. Our son will spend a few minutes playing with a plastic toy but hours playing with rocks/sticks/pine cones.

Play with toy boats in the kiddie pool. We don’t have a water table but we do have a kiddie pool. Sometimes I fill it up a little bit and throw in a few toy boats, a measuring cup, and a rubber duck. Voila! Water table!

Library. Ryan and I are a hair obsessed with the library. The kids and I go once a week but we often end up going as a family one evening or weekend day each week too. We all enjoy the free books/music/DVDs, Ryan and I jump online and get a few things done, and the toddler loves to play with the toys our current library has in the children’s section. Sometimes a library has no infectious diseases toys, which I prefer, and then he just enjoys browsing the children’s books/CDs/DVDs, and especially likes to climb into big arm chairs and look at his books like a precious and tiny imposter grown-up. All of our libraries have always had story time and all kinds of other events—movie nights, workshops, etc.

Visit a zoo/aquarium/children’s museum. Last year Ryan’s mom got us a zoo membership for Christmas which was absolutely wonderful. We only got to go twice before we moved, but the particular membership she got us is valid at quite a few zoos all over the country so we’ve still used it a handful of times while traveling. It has already paid for itself 1.5 times and it doesn’t even expire until December! If you have something like this in your town you should definitely consider asking for a membership for Christmas or your child’s birthday… and also keep your eyes peeled for free days! They’re typically pretty crowded but they’re also, you know, FREE. (Another good gift request might be a bus pass, if that makes it more possible for you to go enjoy other free things!)

Hang out at the park. The other day I packed up a simple lunch and then the kids and I took a stroller walk down to a nearby park. I sent Ryan a text message and told him to meet us there instead of at home on his lunch break. While we were waiting for him, the toddler and I got to be amazed as a six-point buck came bounding down the busy street, ran right through the park, and kept going. We ate lunch and enjoyed the fresh air, then our boy even got to go down the slide with Daddy before he went back to work. We also have a park in town with a splash pad which is a great option in the summer time!

Play sports. My dad played on the church softball team for a while when I was a kid and I have a lot of fond memories of that. He was having fun playing and we were having fun cheering him on, watching the game, hanging out with our church friends, etc. I think a lot of churches and companies still offer softball leagues so it’s definitely something to look into. You can also grab a few friends/family members and start a tradition of basketball, touch football (or real football if you’s crazy), kickball, volleyball, disc golf, dodgeball (so fun!), whatever you’re into. I put together a few dodgeball games in college, in the tennis courts at a park near my apartment. They didn’t have great turnout but they were still a lot of fun!

Make things. Ryan is really into woodworking. He doesn’t always have the time for it, but when he does, it’s a really fun thing for him. Sometimes this means a weekend naptime activity for him, but sometimes this means I sit with the baby out there while he works and the toddler plays (supervised) with (safe) tools. I like to sew, so sometimes the toddler will pick out a fabric from my stash (mostly purchased from thrift stores, gift cards, or awesome coupons) and make something I found online or in a library book. I also enjoy loom knitting, and since I found a huge bag of mostly unused cross-stitch supplies at a yard sale the other day (we were just walking by on our way to the park and it was lying on the ground out front!) for a dollar, I’m about to start learning that. (I’m super excited to make us a cross-stitch family portrait! But I’ll probably start with just Ryan and I since we aren’t done having children yet) { http://www.marthastewart.com/857131/cross-stitch-family-portrait }. The toddler also very much enjoys coloring and we sometimes pull out the craft box and work on gifts for the grandparents like bookmarks, hand/footprint art, etc.

Trade. Make friends with other frugal people and then trade things with them. Trade board games or DVDs for a weekend, trade clothes instead of shopping, trade babysitting duty so you can go on a cheap/free date.

Picnic. In your backyard, in your kitchen floor, at a park, in the woods.

Loiter. We have a great entertainment store near our house. We spend way too much time there. Ryan and I use the Internet there, the toddler loves to play with a train table they have set up for kids, and we’re all fans of browsing the book shelves. They also accept trade so this is where we trade in books/CDs/DVDs/video games for new ones, especially when we find coupons. Other favorite places to loiter: Barnes & Noble or any bookstore, Cabela’s, Sportsman’s, any craft/fabric store, thrift stores IF you have the willpower to not buy any old thing.

Walk your neighborhood! This is a great way to make new friends. I mean, I’m speculating, but if you’re not introverted to a fault it’s probably a great way to make new friends.

Save gift cards! We try not to let gift cards burn a hole in our pockets too much. We kept all of our dining out gift cards to use as baby meals but when we get one to a bookstore, we save ‘em. It’s really easy for us both to fall in love with a book and use up the gift card, but instead we try to be mindful of our purchases and check the library first unless it’s a book we know we’ll reference again and again AND have had on our list for a while. No impulse buys! Barnes & Noble makes for hours of fun for this little family. There’s a coffee shop which we occasionally treat ourselves to, though not often, and we all enjoy browsing the books, CDs and DVDs. The little guy also loves playing with the train and Lego tables most of them seem to offer, and of course begging us for all the toys we refuse to buy.

Movie in the woods… Ryan and I once enjoyed a date night of pizza, and a free Redbox DVD on our laptop in the bed of our truck up on Casper Mountain. This could be a lot of fun for little ones too.

Cook. In our house, I do the cooking. It’s just what works. But sometimes it’s nice to make it a family affair. Especially if you’re grilling!

Local events. I only get online once or twice most weeks, but I still try to keep a decent watch on our city’s and church’s upcoming events. There is also a maternity/baby store within walking distance from my house so I try to watch for fun playgroups and things they offer as well.

Host something! This is way outside my comfort zone so I have never done it even though I am constantly talking about doing it, but consider hosting a group of friends with more gas money than you ;] Start a mom-friendly (no big deal if los ninos are screeching in the background) book club or Bible study, plan a weekly stroller walk/jog or workout DVD session with nearby friends, have a monthly potluck with a few family friends.

Once upon a time I would have said to walk the mall. We do still do this a lot in the wintertime so we can still move our bodies even when it’s too chilly outside for the youngsters… but if we can handle the weather, I prefer to avoid this option. I find that we leave thinking about things we want to save up for rather than feeling like we’ve had a great time.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Family Portrait

"Mom, Dad, Bay-dee, Me."
Weekend library trips. Dinnertime devotionals. Alaska DVDs. Hiking with someone small strapped to your body. Bedtime stories on the couch. Family-focused small business ventures. Mail. Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Animal and nature documentaries. Road trip snacks. Living room dance parties. Park trips. Veggie Tales. Picnics. Kickball in the backyard. Pepperoni and spinach pizza. Snuggles. Spontaneous mini adventures. Paper airplanes. Breakfast for dinner. 
This is our family. This is everything I love.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Healthy Kid Food: Date Bars

So you’ve probably read about them a million times on here, but we’re huge fans of Larabars. They are a perfectly healthy snack for adults and toddlers, and everybody in between. (Also check out Kit’s Organics, and That’s It bars if you’re nut-free). Larabars are dates mixed with miscellaneous dried fruits and nuts. (My favorites: Peanut butter chocolate chip, Coconut chocolate chip, Pumpkin Spice) (Ryan’s favorites: Snickerdoodle, Peanut butter cookie, coconut cream pie) (Toddler’s favorites: Chocolate chip cookie dough, blueberry muffin, carrot cake)

We recently had a few $1 off four Cliff bar coupons via Mambo Sprouts, which worked out nicely since Kit’s Organics (made by Cliff bar) were $1 each at the store. But. That’s still $3 for four bars. That was already extravagant to us, but especially now that we’re on our new bare bones budget.

I made our own fakeout Larabars in the past and we both loved them, but prepping the dates in the food processor was a chore. (My food processer is cracked and makes a big mess… but it might have been a chore any ways?) So the last time I made these was before we had children.

But now our new health food store has macerated organic dates! For the same dang price as no-one-did-the-work-for-you-yet dates!

Chocolate chip thief
 So when the baby was taking her first morning nap, the toddler and I headed into the kitchen to scan our options and put together some date bars of our own. We created these using the ingredients in our pantry and all three of us loved them.

Macerated (or food processed) dates, sesame seeds, shredded coconut, walnuts, Enjoy Life mini chocolate chip. Mix it all together with your hands (very sticky), spread it out, slice it as desired, done. I baked ours at 200 for 30 minutes but that’s optional.




We also recently used the dates, sesame seeds, coconut and mashed banana to make the simple and healthy cookies in the Weelicious cookbook. I was actually HAPPY to give my kid a cookie every few days because it just meant more fruit in his diet =]

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Favorites: 5 and 26 Months

Inspired by filling out my own little list o favorites recently, I thought I’d come up with 10 questions to re-evaluate every few months. Not only because it will be a fun thing for us to look back on, but also because it might spark some ideas for others with little ones. I’m linking everything I can just in case you’re very interested, and some will be affiliate links. Enjoy!

1. Favorite color
5-month-old: Unknown
26-month-old: “Um, hmmm, mmm, brown. Yeah. Black. Yeah. Redddd. Lellow. Yeah.”

2. Favorite food
5-month-old: breastmilk
26-month-old: “Umm, hmm, waffles peanut butter.”

3. Favorite book
5-month-old: Seems to really like being read to but doesn’t respond more to any specific book yet.
26-month old: “Ummmm, well, Arthur.”

4. Favorite TV show/ movie?
5-month-old: N/A
26-month-old: “Um, hmmm, uh, Ho-Ho-Ho.”

5. Favorite animal?
5-month-old: N/A
26-month-old: “ROOOOOOAAAARRRRR!” (“Bears?”) “Yep.”

6. Favorite fun thing to do with family
5-month-old: Definitely likes to be outside, whether in the stroller or in our arms/a carrier. She also loves Peek-a-Boo and having her tummy tickled.
26-month-old: “Hmmm. Eat.” (What else do you like to do as a family?) “Hmmm. Mmmm. Uh. Park.”

7. Favorite fun thing to do alone
5-month-old: She likes to suck on her toes, bite her baby doll’s hat, and army crawl/inchworm around in front of a mirror (I bought one at the Dollar Tree recently specifically for setting in front of her while she plays)
26-month-old: “Oh, color!”



8. Favorite shirt
5-month-old: N/A
26-month-old: “Truck. REDDDDD.”

9. Favorite word
5-month-old: gargle-y GUH sound
26-month-old: “Hmmm. Hmmm. REDDDDDD!”

10. Favorite toy
5-month-old: Her most-played with toys are the baby doll I made, a crinkly rattle thing, a wooden Penguin rattle, a soft raccoon rattle. No obvious favorite at the moment, though I of course tell myself it’s her baby doll every chance I get.
26-month-old: “Truck.”


Also, picked a cloth diaper winner! 

Congrats Valerie! I will be e-mailing you shortly. 
=]