In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cutting the Cord on Cable




Cut the Cord
Last night, my husband and I were talking about how we've gone an entire year without cable.  He asked me if I missed it, and we were both able to honestly say we don't miss it all! 

We were never huge TV people. We certainly didn't come home from work and have the television on from the time we came home until the time we went to bed. I actually never had cable until I got married at the age of 25! Growing up in the sticks, we didn't have a cable provider.  When I got my own place in my early 20's, I only paid for the necessities, and cable is not a necessity! 

I wanted my husband to cut cable for years and switch to streaming television, but the one thing that always made him hesitate was sports.  He didn't know if he could live without ESPN, but guess what....he can!  He can still keep up with his beloved sports news from the internet, and most of the important sporting events are aired on local TV channels.  And to be honest, now that we have kids, ESPN wouldn't be on our television all the time like it was before the twins were born anyway.

Even though I had encouraged cord cutting early on in our marriage, I admit that I had a hard time letting it go.  For the first time in my life I was watching more TV than ever, as I was at a point in my life where I spent much of my day nursing babies and then having them sleep in my arms for hours at a time.  Thanks to Netflix, I endured that time in my life without cable!

Save Money  
There was one reason we cut cable.  Basically, we wanted to save money.  When the twins were born, we had some financial adjustments to make, as went from a two income family to a one income family.  When looking over the budget, one of the easiest ways to cut back on money was to cut cable.  Cable had become a comfortable habit for us.  My husband had his sports, and I had my HGTV and world news, but was that comfort really worth $1,800 a year? We didn't think so, so we decided to do something about it.

Lose the Cable, Keep the internet
Our internet and cable bill was $150 a month for a basic cable package with HD an DVR, provided through our local cable company. With the same local company we dropped the cable and kept the internet, and now we only pay $50 a month for internet.  That's a savings of $100 a month!  As a stay-at-home mom, that $50 a month provides me all of the media entertainment I need.  It allows me to 1) keep up with my blog on my home computer, 2) keep up with social media on the iPad and 3) keep me and my babies entertained with movies and television series through streaming devises.  Before we were paying $1,800 a year for cable.  Now we pay $600 a year for internet and $108 a year for Netflix.  We have an annual savings of $1,092 by cutting the cord on cable!

The Wonderful World of Streaming 
We bought antennas for all of our televisions once we cut cable, so we could get local TV.  However, if we were going to go without cable, we really did not want to only have a few local television channels as our only options for TV.  That's why we invested in streaming devices for our televisions.   A streaming device is a one time investment, usually around $100, in the form of a box or stick that plugs into your TV and allows you stream the internet from your TV.  We initially invested in the Amazon Fire box, which we like a lot, for our bedroom television, because I pretty much lived in our bedroom the first few months after the twins were born.  When we decided to get a streaming device for the living room, we went with Apple TV, just so we could compare the two.  They both pretty much do the same thing, with the exception of a few different apps.  Apple TV is nice if you want it to sync it up with your iPad or iPhone.  Here is a really good article if you are trying to figure out which streaming device is best for you:  7 Best TV Streaming Devices.

Invest in a Streaming Service
When you make a one time investment in a streaming device, you can then make inexpensive monthly investments for streaming services. Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime are the most popular streaming services.  Currently we only pay for Netflix.  Our Netflix bill is only $8.99 a month.  Even if we wanted the top three providers mentioned above, we still would be paying a small fraction of what our previous cable bill was. Because we have both Amazon Fire and Apple TV streaming devices, we have access to other apps from those devices and don't feel like we need any other entertainment providers for the time being.  However, if Netflix isn't enough for you, the following article has some good information in it:  10 Best online TV Streaming Services.  I mainly use Netflix for cartoons for the kids.  While we don't get the Disney Channel or Nick Jr, we do get plenty of cartoons that keep the boys entertained during their TV time. Overall, I have been very happy about our decision over the past year, as we ventured out and cut the cord on cable!



Saturday, May 23, 2015

Everything You Need to Know about Breastfeeding Twins



Breastfeeding Multiples is one of the things I find people to be curious about when they realize I have twins.  Of course, no one comes right out and ask about it --- unless you are a parent of twins....they sort of get a pass to ask about anything twin related, as there is a weird bond between all parents of multiples --- but I find that most people are curious about it.  If you breastfeed, you know that one baby can be demanding on your time and energy, so I think people are just naturally curious about the body's ability to breastfeed more than one baby.

It's been several months since I've had to breastfeed my babies, but I'll try to remember back to those crazy first few months.  My boys were born at 37 weeks and didn't have to spend any time in NICU.  Breastfeeding premature multiples in the NICU brings a whole other element to breastfeeding multiples, which I will not be covering in this post, as I have no experience with it.  In this post, I plan to cover all the basics of breastfeeding twins, as well as some of the personal things I had to deal with when breastfeeding my twins.  For me, breastfeeding did not go as I had hoped it would, but I learned to adapt and do the best I could with what I had to offer.

My Breastfeeding Plan:  I knew I wanted to breastfeed, rather than use formula.  After all, we're taught that breast is best!  Aside from the health benefits for the babies, breastfeeding was much more cost-effective compared to buying outrageously priced formula for two babies....not to mention, breastfeeding is one of the body's natural ways of losing the baby weight.  I had planned on breastfeeding for at least six months.  My style of parenting is not attachment parenting, so I knew I was not going to breastfeed past one year.  I was also ok with stopping after six months, if I found that it was too exhausting for me to breastfeed two babies all of the time.  I also had planned on pumping in advance when I could, so my husband could help me feed when he was home.  

My Body's Breastfeeding Plan:  My body's plan was to have a very low milk supply, forcing me to supplement with formula from the get-go, and  completely drying up after five months.  This was a complete surprise for me and was hormone related.  Apparently, the same hormonal imbalance that caused our fertility issues, also had an impact on my milk supply.  Prior to this experience, I would have never thought that I wouldn't be able to have enough milk for my babies.




What to expect in the hospital:  
  • No Privacy:  Not that you're too concerned with privacy right after having a baby.  I mean for heaven's sake, you just had your legs spread for who knows how many doctors and nurses to see as you pushed a cantaloupe...or TWO cantaloupes...out of your body! Once the babies are born, instead of showing hospital staff your backside, your showing off what's under your blouse!  You can expect nurses, lactation specialist and even the pediatrician to be checking your breasts ALL THE TIME to make sure baby is latching, sucking properly and getting enough to eat! Ok, so they are really just checking your breastfeeding technique, but still! Seriously, I think the only time I had my robe closed those first 48 hours was when I was sleeping or when we had a visitor!  Speaking of which, other than immediate family, I told people to visit me at home, not in the hospital!  I get that people want to see a new baby....BUT as a new mom, you are tired, hurting, feel gross and have your breasts exposed constantly, so it is possible that you  may not want a bunch a visitors coming to see you just after giving birth.
  • Latching:  One of the most important things that nurses and lactation specialist are looking for is latching.  It's their job to make sure your babies are latching and getting enough to eat.  For me, Baby A was a pretty good latcher, but Baby B took some work those first few weeks.  Once I got him latched, he would eat really well, but I had a hard time getting him to latch on my own for awhile.  He has a high pallet, and just struggled with getting started.   It's easy to get frustrated when a baby won't latch, but try not to get too frustrated and remember that breastfeeding is new to both you and your baby.  At home, my husband would often help with latching, especially during those night time feedings when you are waking up a baby to eat. In the hospital, the nurses were constantly helping me, which kind of goes back to that privacy thing - there's nothing quite like having a bunch of people you don't know grabbing your boob and trying to stick it in your baby's mouth;).  
  • Suckling:  I might have had some latching issues in the beginning, but both of my boys figured out how to suck without any problems!  I wasn't sure how easy it would be for them, since they were born a few weeks early.  To my surprise, they came out of the womb, via an unplanned c-section, and knew exactly what to do the moment they were put on the breast after birth.  It was such a beautiful thing seeing how natural it is for a baby to know exactly how to eat from his Mama with out being told "how" to do it.  Their natural instincts just took over!
  • Colostrum:  It takes a day or so for your milk to come in.  Your body will produce colostrum as nutrients for a newborn until your milk comes in.  My milk took 9 DAYS TO COME IN, which is not normal!!! I tried everything with my lactation specialist, but my milk was just slow to come in.  The colostrum wasn't enough nutrients for my babies, and they were losing too much weight after 48 hrs.  As a result, the doctors had me supplement with formula after two days.  They had the babies take two ounces of formula, every other feeding, but still had me pumping (for breast stimulation) during their formula feedings.
  • Lactation Specialist:  The lactation specialists are your friends....let them help you!  I even called mine several times when I got home and made a few follow-up appointments, as I really struggled with low supply.


What to expect when you get home:
  • Breastfeeding is a Full Time Job:  Because my babies weren't getting too much from me....and because I needed breast stimulation from their sucking, in hopes that it would help my supply.....my lactation specialist wanted each baby on the breast for at least 30 minutes per feeding, even if they were just pacifying....and then in between feedings, I needed to schedule in some pumping.  Newborns feed every two-three hours.  With each baby getting eight feedings a day, I was literally breastfeeding for eight hours a day.  Combine that with all of the other new mom of twins stuff, and I was exhausted those first few days....weeks....and months!
  • Figuring out your breastfeeding twins method:  Do whatever is easiest and comfortable for you, whether that is feeding tandem or feeding separately.  In the hospital the nurses will try to get you to feed tandem.  They will have you feed your babies "football style".  I had no problem with that position, as far as comfort goes.  My issue was that I had one bad latcher, so for me tandem feeding was never something I got used to.  I preferred to feed separately, especially since I was supplementing with formula in a bottle.  For me, I would put one baby on my breast to feed, and prop the other one up in a boppy and give him a bottle simultaneously.  The one breastfeeding would always take longer to eat, but once he was finished, I would burp them both and then switch them, always making sure I let the boys alternate breasts with each feedings.  One of my breast got a little more milk, so if one boy fed from my right breast, he would feed from my left breast at the next feeding. 
  • Pumping in advance:  I exclusively had the boys on my breasts for feedings the first month or two, but I was getting a little "sad" never having a moment to myself, as breastfeeding for eight hours a day was taking a toll on me.  Somewhere around the third month I decided to try pumping in advance. Basically, I would start their 5am feed with all formula and no breast milk, and I would pump and reserve my milk from that feeding session.  At the next feed I would take my reserved milk and put it in a bottle with their formula supplement.  I would do this all day, until we got to the night time feed where they would not get any formula, but rather they would get the reserved breast milk pumped from the previous feed, plus I would put them on the breast for 30 minutes each, as this was part of our nightly Mommy/baby bonding routine.  Middle of the night feedings were also on the breast.  While I breastfed one baby at night, my husband would feed the other baby their formula supplement from the bottle, and then we would switch.  So basically, by pumping in advance, I could bottle feed in the day and breastfeed at night.  Giving the boys a bottle during the day was so much easier on me.  For one, I knew exactly how much they were getting during the day.  Secondly, they took a bottle in less than five minutes, so it was much faster.
  • Feeding Schedule:  I for one will never understand how people do on demand feeding, especially with twins.  For me, a schedule works best.  Which means, yes, we woke our boys up at night to eat, but after several weeks of perfecting night time feedings, we had it down to only being awake for 20-30 minutes with each feed.  In the beginning we even adapted our feeding schedule to work with my husband's work schedule.  We were doing 5am, 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm, 11pm and 2am feedings all day, so he could be home for half of the feedings with me and so we were only doing one "middle of the night" feed.  In order to get on a schedule that worked for our family, we would just adjust feeding times by 30 minutes here or 30 minutes there.  Of course, as the babies grew, feeding times stretched and new schedules were adapted.
  • Sore breasts:  To be honest, I never really had this problem.  My breasts never got full enough for me to feel like I had to feed a baby or had to pump to get milk out of me.  I remember being able to feel the milk come in some, but I never felt or looked painfully engorged.
  • Cracked nipples:  Cracked nipples I definitely had!  When you have a baby on boob for eight hours a day, your nipples will be hurting.  Thank goodness for nipple cream.
  • Keep an eye out for mastitis:  I never had it, but I've had friends who have had to deal with it.  It's very painful and can be serious, so make sure that you are aware of the conditions. 
Nursing Supplies:  Below are a few things you'll want to make sure you have if you plan on nursing your babies.
  • Breast Pump:  Check with your insurance before purchasing a pump, as some insurance companies will cover the cost of a pump.  You really are going to want to invest in a hospital grade breast pump if you plan on pumping at all.  My sister-in-law gave us her Madela Pump in Style, and it was a great breast pump!  
  • Storage System:  If you plan on pumping and freezing, you'll want to invest in breast milk bags for the freezer.  I never had enough milk to freeze.  However, I did use the Madela storage system for holding my pumped milk for the next feeding.
  • Twin Nursing Pillow:  I did not use a nursing pillow, although I have had moms of twins tell me that was the only way they could nurse two babies at the same time.  Specifically look for twin nursing pillows like this one from My Breast Friend. I just used regular pillows to prop the boys up around me, and that worked fine for me.
  • Breast Pads:  There's nothing worse than leaking milk through your shirt.  You'll want to put breast pads on your grocery list after the babies are born.  I found that off brands worked just fine.
  • Nipple Cream:  God bless nipple cream!  I used the common Lansinoh brand.  There are all different kinds to choose from.  I've heard coconut oil is a good natural cream to put on sore nipple too, although I have not tried it.
  • Breast Cold Packs:  Because I never had to deal with painful engorgement, I never used my cold packs.  But normal breastfeeding moms tell me these are wonderful;)
  • Nursing Bras:   I got all of my nursing bras from Target.  You really do need to try them on before buying.  I bought mine while I was near the end of my pregnancy and used the "buy one cup size bigger than what fits for when your milk comes in" policy.  My favorite bras were these night time bras. I LOVED these! I wore them all the time!
  • Nursing Shirts:  I didn't worry about what kind of shirt I was wearing at home.  It's when I was out in public I had to think about what kind of shirt I was wearing that would be easy to breastfeed in.
  • Nursing Cover:  I get that breastfeeding is beautiful and natural, but that doesn't mean that I have to pop my boobs out for all to see while breastfeeding in public.  There are times when I had to breastfeed with people around, but there was no reason why I couldn't use a nursing cover.  I put this cover from Target on my registry. 
  • Bottles: If you do pump in advance, you will want to find which bottles work for you.  We had several Avent and Similac bottles before the boys were born, but discovered that the Dr. Brown's Colic bottles were the ones for us.  
  • Bottle Warmer:  I bought two bottle warmers, but I rarely used them.  I had moms tell me to keep them on my night stand and swear they were the best thing for night time feedings.  My boys started taking formula room temperature in the hospital, so that's how they liked their bottles.
  • Lamp Dimmer: This might sound silly, but we invested in one of these for when we brought the babies home, and I LOVED it!  The boys stayed in a twin bassinet by our bed the first few months, and when they woke to be fed, we didn't have to turn on a bright lamp to see.  We were able to barely dim the lamp on my nightstand just enough for us to see. Keeping the lighting in the room low made it easier for everyone to go back to sleep.

Low Milk Supply:  I was barely getting an ounce of milk from each breast every 2-3 hours, prior to trying herbal supplements.  Herbal supplements increased my supply, but not by much.  I finally used the prescription my doctor gave me, and was able to get my supply close to 2-3 ounces of milk from each breast every 3-4 hours.  That's the most I ever got, and around five months postpartum, I dried up completely.  If you are struggling with low milk supply, here are few things you can do to help.
  • Lactation Specialist:  Talk to your lactation specialist and see what is recommend.
  • Pumping for Breast Stimulation: Pumping in between feeds will provide breast stimulation and is supposed to help increase milk supply.
  • Supplement with Formula:  It's not the end of the world if you have to supplement with formula!!!  As long as your baby is getting appropriate nutrients, that's all that matters!  You are a good mom either way! Whether you feed your baby breast milk or formula doesn't reflect on how good of a mother you are.  I know it's hard, especially if you really wanted to exclusively breastfeed.  You will feel like your body is failing you....and if you struggled with getting pregnant, you know that feeling all too well.  Keep in mind that how you choose to feed your baby doesn't really matter in the long run.
  • Use other moms volunteer breast milk:  I had a few moms volunteer to give me some of their extra milk if I wanted to avoid formula completely, but I was ok with supplementing with formula instead.
  • Water, water, water:  Be sure you are getting enough water to have a healthy milk supply.
  • Foods for Breastfeeding: Here is a list of foods that are supposed to help with lactation.
  • Mother's Milk:  This is a herbal tea commonly used to aid with breast milk supply.  I bought mine from GNC.
  • Fenugreek: This the most commonly used herbal capsule supplement for an increase of milk supply.  I bought mine from GNC .
  • Other Herbal Supplements:  Here is a list of other herbs that are supposed to aid with lactation.
  • Prescription Hormones:  As a last resort, I took a drug called Reglan around one month postpartum to help with my milk supply.  It turns out that it is not completely uncommon for women who struggle with fertility to also struggle with breast milk supply.  My situation was ruled as a hormonal issue, so I went ahead and tried the medication.  One of the side effects is depression, so I really did not want to take this medicine unless it was a last resort to continue my attempts at breastfeeding.  I was told to watch my moods carefully once I started taking it, and if I felt sad or moody, I was to stop taking it immediately.  For me, I did not get depressed, and this medicine was the only thing that gave me enough milk supply to continue nursing.  Without, I would have probably had to stop before my boys were two months old, as I was just not producing enough milk to make it worth all of the time and energy I was putting in to trying to breastfeed twins.
Weaning your babies:
  • My milk supply decreased around five months, once my menstrual cycles returned, and a few weeks later I was dried up completely.  My boys were really easy to wean from the breast, because they were used to taking bottles during the day.  I actually think that I will use both breast and bottles with future children, as it helped with weaning.  It wasn't a huge ordeal to take them off of the breast when I had no milk left for them.  Plus, they weren't getting much from me anyway, so they were preferring the bottle to the breast towards the end. 
  • I think it was harder on me than it was on the boys when I had to stop breastfeeding. I never planned on nursing toddlers, but I wasn't quite ready to give up the bonding time with my boys by five months. If I would have known it was my last time breastfeeding when it was my actual last time to breastfeed, I certainly would have cherished those few moments a little bit longer. 
  • Switching over to formula all of the time was also a big expense financially.  At our peak, we were going through two of the large Up and Up sensitive formulas a week, and that lasted until the boys turned one.  So we were spending $50-60 on formula every week.  Thank goodness my boys were able to use the Target off brand by five months, which was cheaper and gave us more formula than the Similac brand.  Otherwise,  would have been going through three Similac cans a week, so that would have been close to $90 a week.  In the beginning, one of my boys had a sensitive digestive system and could only use the Similac Sensitive for the first few months, but once he started solids, he was able to use the off brand without spitting it up.









Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Baby Food Making 101 - Making and Freezing Quick and Easy Purees for your Baby



My twins are over one year old now, so I haven't made baby food in several months.  I remember telling myself that I was going to blog about my experience with making our baby food "some day", so I made sure to take a few pictures for future use.  So here I am six months later, finally getting around to blogging about my experience!  In this blog post, I will try to tackle the most common questions people asked me when wanting to know about how I made purees for the twins.  Whether you choose to make your own baby food or not doesn't really matter.  As long as your baby is getting proper nutrients, then you are feeding your baby is just fine!

Question:  When did you start feeding your twins purees?

Answer:  My boys actually started purees really young.   We did purees during the ages of 4.5 to 9 months old. I know some will say to wait until six months for baby food.  Some will say, including my pediatrician, that four months is ok. Some will say don't do purees at all, just do BLW (baby led weaning) at six months. Both of  my boys struggled with constipation from their formula, especially once my breast milk dried up right around the time they were five months old.  I hated giving them prune juice or suppositories, so my pediatrician said to start them on pureed fruits and vegis.  It solved all of our constipation issues, so it was the right choice for us!

Note:  I'm not going to "go there" too much in this post, but BLW (baby led weaning) is not and never will be for me.  There are too many unnecessary choking hazards, aside from the fact that most pediatricians would never recommend it.  My boys started with appropriate soft, bite-sized table food at nine months and by twelve months they were eating what we adults eat just fine....no BLW necessary to make them good table food eaters!


Question:  Why did you choose to make your own  baby food?
Answer:  A lot of choices that I make are based upon saving money, but making our own baby food was really more about me knowing what I was putting in my kids' bodies, more so than how much it cost.  We did occasionally use store-bought baby food.  We actually started out with it, just to get the boys used to purees. We also kept it in the diaper bag, as it was easy to travel with.  And I really did love those pouches of baby food for spoon-free feedings when we were out and about.  Oh and I always used the store-bought bananas mixed in with the oatmeal cereal.  I tried smashing up my own bananas with the oatmeal, but for some reason, my little guys would not eat it that way.  For the most part though, I made baby food purees for the boys, and found that it was actually very easy.  

Question:  How much did you feed your twins?

Answer:  Of course, the amount of purees that I gave them varied from when they were four/five months to when they were nine months.  When I first introduced purees, I would let them share one "cube" of a vegi and one "cube" of a fruit for lunch and dinner.  They then worked up to getting one fruit and vegi of their own.  By the time they were nine months old, they were each eating two cubes of fruit and two cubes of vegis for lunch and dinner.  Fruits and vegetable were addition to the oatmeal cereal (I chose oatmeal over rice cereal for nutritional reasons) and bananas they ate at breakfast and bed time.  .

Question: How did you make your own baby food?

Answer:
  1. Cook or steam vegetables / thaw any frozen fruits
  2. Puree 
  3. Scoop into trays
  4. Freeze 
  5. Keep stored in trays or pop the cubes out and store in air tight containers
  6. Thaw when ready to serve 
Note: I kept all of my frozen pureed vegis in one container and all of my frozen pureed fruits in another container.


Question:  How often did you have to make your own baby food?
Answer:  I chose to make a bunch of purees at one time and freeze them for future use. I could usually get about two weeks out of my purees before needing to make them again. This made things so much easier.  I'm a mom of twins, and I didn't always have time to throw food in a blender for my kiddos.  Being able to go to the freezer and warm up lunch and dinner in minutes was priceless!   As far as giving my kids frozen produce  instead of fresh....well, I know many will say that fresh is best, but I say frozen is still a better choice than store bought.    

Note: just so you know, unsweetened applesauce from the jar is a perfectly fine quick and easy substitute to give a baby if your frozen cubes run out before you get a chance to make more and you don't have any store-bought food on hand.

Questions: How did you thaw your baby food?
Answer:  I  used the microwave to warm their food, which some will say is a no-no.  I never let it get too hot, so I say it's fine.  With the fruits, I just let them thaw enough to stir, and I still served those cold.  The vegis I warmed up a little longer, so they could be served warm.  If you are completely against using a microwave, you can put your frozen pureed cubes in a small container with a lid, let it thaw in the refrigerator before serving and warm the the entire container in a bowl of hot water (similar to how you would warm a bottle). 


Question:  What do I need to make my own baby food?
Answer:  There are a few things you will need if you plan on making your own baby food.  The first thing I needed was something to store the purees in for freezing.  I purchased four of these two pack munchkin baby food storage trays from Walmart.  They are a little over $5 a piece, so there is some initial investment to making your own baby food.  If you know you are going to be making your baby food, these are great to add to your baby registry.  Because I only invest in eight trays, I would make all of my vegis in one day and freeze them over night, and then do the same with the fruits the following day.  I prepped all of the food on the weekends, while Daddy was home to occupy the boys for me. 

Note: One would think ice cube trays would be ideal for this, but no any ol' ice cube tray is going to work for baby food making.  It is very important to buy BPA free trays, as infants are most susceptible to this chemical found in many of our plastics, which is why I recommend buying trays that  specifically for baby food making. 


Next, I needed something to puree my fruits and vegetables.  I initially tried a regular kitchen blender, but I found that it didn't get the food "pureed" enough.  Then I remembered I had a NutriBullet that I had purchased a few years ago for making perfect smoothies and juices.  I found that this was awesome for pureeing baby food aswell! 

Note:  You can buy the Baby Bullet Food System, which is specifically for baby food making.  Even if I didn't have the NutriBullet prior my baby food making experience, I would have purchased the NutriBullet over the the Baby Bullet for making baby food, if my only option was to pay full price for either one.  Baby's only need purees for a few months, so the NutriBullet is a better investment, as I can get more use out of it in the long run.


The best part of about the NutriBullet is that it was easy!  All I had to do was thaw and/or cook my produce, add a little water if  needed, and thirty seconds later I had perfect purees ready to be scooped into my trays.  The NutriBullet retails for around $100, but even without the babies, it is one of my most used kitchen appliances.




Question: What kinds of purees did you make for your babies?
Answer:  I did both savory and sweet mixes for the boys.  For my savory mixes, I basically just used frozen vegis and seasoned them with herbs and spices. I didn't use any salt, as the babies didn' t need the sodium.  The above picture shows how I seasoned my vegis.  I figure that I like vegis with a bit of flavor, so I wasn't going to give my kids flavorless vegis.  Just be sure to look up what herbs and spices are safe for infants before experimenting! 

Note: Add water to the purees to adjust the thickness.  In the beginning, I wanted the puree pretty thin, like the store-bought babyfood.  By the end, I was serving the food more like a the thickness of mashed potatoes.  Also, the mixed vegis don't puree that well. They are pretty chunky, due to the corn and lima beans, so I didn't start those until they could handle thicker purees.


I had a little bit of fun with my sweet mixes!  My boys loved the fruit combinations!  Even now that my boys are bigger, I will still mix up some of these combos and add plain greek yogurt, making a great protein packed smoothies for the boys to drink out of a straw cup!


I found that adding a banana to thawed mixed berries cut the tartness of the berries, and adding an avocado added  protein and a smooth texture!


Surprisingly, this little mango carrot mix was a favorite of both boys!  Not too sweet and too tart, but just right for their taste buds!


I added diced peaches to a thawed bag of tropical mixed fruit, simply to get more volume and fill more trays.


Question:  Did you ever puree fresh food for the boys, or did you always use the frozen purees?
Answer: Yes, my babies loved my green smoothies that I would make for myself (one apple, one pear, one banana, some pineapple chunks and a bunch of spinach).  I'd make this a couple times a week for me in my NutriBullet, and then reserve some for their lunch when I made it.  Just be sure to omit the spinach for the baby.  I read somewhere that infants weren't supposed to have spinach. 

Question:  How well did your boys eat the homemade baby food?
Answer:  Both boys loved all of the fruit combos!  Aaron loved all of the vegis, sweet potatoes being a favorite and mixed vegis the least favorite.  Ethan hated all things green, but he still does even now that they are in solid form.  He loved all things orange, and still does!  Both boys hated green beans pureed, and after tasting them I understand why.  I just stopped making them, because they did ok with the peas.  If it helps any, one of Aaron's favorite food is fresh green beans now.  He eats them like candy!


Question:  Where did you shop for your ingredients?
Answer: I bought most of my vegis frozen, buying organic when available, and I usually shopped at Trader Joe's or Target.  All frozen vegetable were cooked prior to being pureed.  I always bought sweet potatoes fresh, and found that buying them in the steamable bag from Target was really easy.  Sometimes I bought my butternut squash this way too, but other times it was cheaper to buy it frozen. I bought all of my frozen fruit from Trader Joe's, as it was a little bit cheaper than the average grocery store.


Question: Does it cost less to make your own baby food?
Answer: You know I like to save money, but I really wasn't saving too much by making our own baby food.  We saved about 50% when it was all said and done.  Produce, in general, is expensive, even when trying to save money by buying frozen instead of fresh.  But when I would have spending $20-30 on baby food each week (depending on how much they were eating), paying $10-$15 each week on all of my ingredients is still a nice savings.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Consignment Shopping Mama



If you've kept up with my blog for any length of time, you know I'm a thrifty girl.  I like a good bargain!  I love Goodwill and garage sales!  My mama raised me this way.  I often think that even if I were a millionaire, I would still shop from my beloved thrift shops. 

I'm not a millionaire though, so when we found out we were having twins, I began to do my research on kids resale clothing options.  I would much rather buy gently used baby clothes for a fraction of the price, than pay high prices for one outfit, times two in my case, that a baby will outgrow in a few months!

I knew about Once Upon A Child (which I think is priced a bit high for resale items) and a few other local resale shops.  And then there is always garage sales, but I wasn't pregnant during garage sale season. And of course, there is Goodwill, but honestly I don't have much luck with children's clothes at Goodwill.  The only thing I have consistently found at Goodwill are sleepers.  

Two new resale options that I learned about when I became pregnant were Facebook resale groups and children's seasonal consignment sales.  For me personally, children's consignment sales have been a huge financial blessing for this mom of multiples!

Seasonal consignment sales are where parents come together in one place and sell their children's items.  I have several different consignment sales in my area.  These sales take place in the spring and in the fall.  You can find everything kid-related at these sales.  Equipment, furniture, toys, clothes, feeding supplies, cloth diapers, maternity clothes, Halloween costumes and more!  Sellers tag their items, so they choose the prices.  A portion of their sales goes to the consignment organization, but in return they are getting hundreds of buyers to come out and look at their items.  Buyers have to deal with crowds and long lines, but in return they are getting thousands of gently used kid items to look through in one place at reduced prices.  I try to only buy things that are about 75% or more off the estimated retail price.  My rule of thumb is that if I can buy it brand new from a Target clearance rack, than it is priced too high for a resale item.  Most sales are 3-4 days, but some are only one day.  A lot of the sales have a half off day on the last day, where any marked tags are reduced 50%.  Most sales take credit cards, but there are a few that are cash only.  So yeah, I have come to LOVE consignment sale season!

If you get nothing else from this post, get this next piece of information.  I found a website that list consignment sale information for each state.  If you are interested in consignment sales, save THIS LINK  in your files somewhere.  I keep it on the home page on my computer and on my ipad.  Information to the sales get updated every season.  Dates, times and links to all info can be found through the above link.

Ok, so now that I've shared that important bit of information, I'm going to share my experiences with consignment sales, and if you are local to Indy, I'll share the sales that are my favorite.  (Forgive me for the pictures.  These are just cell phone pics that I took on each shopping day.  I never planned on using them for the blog, so they are grainy for sure!)


One of my first real consignment shopping experiences was at the Southside Parents of Multiples spring sale, just before I had the twins.  It was there that I learned this consignment sale stuff was serious business. I arrived at 7:45am, and to my surprise found a line of a few hundred serious shopper waiting outside in the cold.  We're talking people with huge shopping bags and little red wagons waiting in line to get their deals!  It was like Black Friday for the consignment shopping mamas!

Did I mention I was 36 weeks pregnant with twins at the time.  Large, swollen, dilated and contracting the entire time, I think I was secretly hoping that going to that sale would put me into active labor.  But nope.  I would still have to wait one more week before my little guys would arrive.

Anyway, back to the sale.  This is a one day Saturday sale from 8-2.  I did not realize at the time that I could have gotten in to shop early at 7am, since I was a parent of multiples. I really didn't need too much that particular season, because we had quite a bit of newborn clothes from our baby showers.  I just went to check out the sale.....see if I could find any good deals....and walk around so I could maybe go into labor.  When I was able to find everything in the above picture, all 3mo clothes, for less than $20.....well, that's when I knew I was going to be one of those serious consignment shopping mamas.

The boys were born the following week.  They kept me a little occupied the rest of the spring consignment season, but I knew that when the fall season came around, I was going to be ready to shop.

{ FB status *** This is what $55 of clothes looks like.  We managed to find all this at the SSPOM fall sale:
8 sleepers (6mo), 3 sleepers (9Mo),  12 (6 pairs) matching shirts (6&9mo),  4 outfits (9mo), w pairs of matching jeans (6-9mo), 4 pairs of matching pants (9mo), 6 (3 pairs) matching/spring summer outfits (12mo), 11 bibs, Matching Carter Fuzzy Bear coats, 2 winter hats. }
When the fall consignment season came around, I put all of the sales in my calendar, and made an effort to go to as many as I could, so I could figure out which ones were worth my time in the future.  My season starts out with the the Southside Parents of Multiples Sale, and this time I knew I could shop early.  This sale is my personal favorite consignment sale.  It's a huge sale with tons of inventory, and the prices are usually great!  Best of all, I can find matching twin outfits for my boys for a fraction of the cost. Parents of multiples can shop an hour early at this sale if you show a picture of you with your multiples.  Volunteer workers and members of the Twins Club (south side or north side) can shop the night before, which I am seriously considering doing next fall. For this particular fall sale (seen in the above pic), my baby shower clothes had just about run out.   I was looking for six months worth of clothes (sizes 6-12 months), preferably matching or coordinating pieces for two twin boys.  I had great luck at the sale! I think one of my greatest finds from that sale was their Carter fuzzy bear winter coats for only $2.50 a piece! 


{FB *** Here are my finds from the half off day at Indy Kids Consignment sale this morning.  I spent $60 today, which means every article of clothing averaged out to be less than $1.25 a piece.  16 long sleeved onesies (6-9 & 9-12 mo), 4 sweater vest (6-9 mo),  2 button up long sleeved dress shirts, 3 sleepers, (9M) 2 pant/shirt outfits (9M), 3 one piece outfits (9M), 10 pairs of pants (6-9 mo & 9M), 2 jean overalls (9M), 2 knitted winter hats}
Another sale that I really like is the Indy Kids Sale in Noblesville.  This is a three day sale, but I've learned that showing up at this sale when the doors open on the last day (half off day), is the way to get the best deals, as my FB status from that day suggest.


I also go to the Kids Closet Connection sale, because it is really close to home.  This sale is smaller and less organized, but I've found a few things that have made it worth my time. The biggest tip I can give for this sale is to get there as soon as they open and get your shopping done as soon as you can.  The lines are not long, but they are slow.  Waiting in a slow line with two babies is not fun! 

Even though the line is slow, I only spent $20 on all of these clothes, so it was worth it!
Even better is when I find matching outfits from two separate sales!  That always makes the trip worth it!

Another sale that I always hit up is the Northside Twins and Multiples Sale.  Don't be fooled....it's not as good as the Southside sale, but it is still worth my time. This is a one day sale, but parents of multiple can shop the night before.  

What I don't like about this sale, is that it is set up garage sale style, and sellers only accept cash at each booth.  This makes it really hard to find sizes, as you have to go around to each seller to see what they have.  Equipment is sold in a separate room, and credit cards are accepted at the equipment room.  

What I like about this sale is that it is another opportunity for me to find matching twin items.  A twenty dollar bill paid for all the items on the above picture.  The Halloween onesies alone, that I paid $1 a piece for, were worth my time at this sale.  Plus I found those rubber puzzle mats for $3....SCORE! AND they give out free formula for twin moms....can we say WORTH IT!!!  The cost of the formula was worth more than the $20 that I spent on clothes.  Other items that I have scored from my different seasons of going to this sale are matching boppy loungers, compact travel strollers and booster seats for the kitchen table.



One of the best sales is always last on my calendar.  Whale of a Sale Indy South has great reduced prices on half off day.  I think the prices for this  southside sale are way better than the Whale of a Sale Indy. I was able to finish my shopping season and get the following for less than $30: 8 onesies, 4 sets of pjs,4 2pc outfits, 2 sleepers and 2 pairs of pants.

When it was all said and done, my fall consignment season was a success!  I spent around $175, but I bought six months worth of clothes for two growing babies....AND most everything was matching or coordinating. I went to a lot of sales that season, but the above sales were my favorite and will be the ones I'm sticking with for future seasons!


{ FB status: 6 12mo 2 pc pajama sets, 2 18mo 2 pc pajama sets, 6 pairs of 12 mo pants, 3 pairs 12 mo shorts, 6 pairs 18 mo shorts, 4 12mo 3pc outfits, 4 12mo 2pc outfits, 4 12mo shirts, 3 12mo 1pc overalls, 2 12mo 1 pc outfits, 2 12mo t-shirts, 4 18mo onesies, 4 18mo shirt, 3 18 mo 1pc short outfits, 2 18 mo pc pant outfits, 2 18mo bib overalls, 2 18mo long sleeved shirts, 2 18mo Colts outfits, 2 colts hats, 2 18mo fall jackets }
I just finished up the spring consignment season, and by the time the spring sales rolled around, I felt like a consignment shopping pro!  I literally found just about everything that I needed for the boys at the first sale, my favorite sale....the Southside Parents of Multiples Sale.  That is 95 articles of clothing and a $2 potty chair for a grand total of $98!


And yes, one year later, I found myself being one of the crazy shoppers bringing a stroller to haul all of my finds in.  
For the record, the double snap and go stroller frame that we used when the babies were in infant carriers, has now become a great shopping cart for consignment sale!
{ FB **** I posted my ginormous haul from the SSPOM sale earlier. Here is my much smaller, but priced just as good, haul from the Indy Kids Sale. So thankful for all of our finds! $28 for the following: 5 18mo t shirts, 4 18mo onesies, 5 12mo one pc outfits, 2 12mo tshirts, 3 12mo onesies,4 12mo shirt/short pajama sets }
When I combined what I found at the SSPOM sale with what I found at the half off Indy Kids sale, in addition to what the boys got for their birthday, I was pretty much set for the next six months! 


One last little bit of info.  While consignment sales are in the fall and spring, there is a holiday sale in December that is mostly toys.  We bought the boys Christmas and birthday toys from the Whale of a Sale Holiday Event.  I plan on shopping this sale again for Christmas.

So that's it.  That's my experience with seasonal consignment sales, and let me tell you.....this mom of multiples could not be more happy that I have so many great sales to choose from, particularly two sales that are organized by twin clubs!  I can't promise that you'll find good deals or the items you are looking for if you try consignment sale shopping.  Even I get a little dissapointed at some of the sales, but I never know what I can find if I don't go out and try!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cloth Diapering for Beginners - A Mom of Twins' Experience about Cloth Diapering for the First Time


Cloth diapering has definitely become a trend in recent years.  As my Mama says, cloth diapering is not like it used to be!  No more safety pins and prefolds!  Well I guess, those still exist, but all of my cloth diapering friends are keeping up with times by keeping things easy, modern and fashionable!

There are a few reasons why parents choose cloth diapers.  Some choose cloth over disposable in an effort to be more green and environmentally friendly.  Others choose cloth to save money.  Some think that the cloth diapers you can buy these days are just so darn cute!  As for this mom of twins, I wanted to save money.  Saving the planet one diaper at a time was just a bonus.  

I don't know about you, but when I first started looking into cloth diapering, I was overwhelmed.  There were so many different kinds of diapers out there, and everyone had a different opinion about them. 

Would I want pocket diapers? 

What about snap verses velcro? 

What kind of liners are the most absorbent

Where is the best place to buy cloth diapers? 

How many do I need to buy for twins? 

What about the laundry....can I even keep up with it? 

Hopefully this post will help answer some of those questions for you.

To start, let me just say that I did not use cloth diapers right away.  Because I was a first time mom, and particularly a first time mom of twins, I chose not to use cloth diapers until my twins turned six months old.  

I waited until six months, because I knew I was going to be overwhelmed just trying to keep two kids alive those first few months!  Can I tell you a secret.....twins get easier right around the six month mark.  Other moms of twins shared this secret with me when I was pregnant, and it is so true!  I'm not saying twins are easy at six months....I'm just saying it's a little easier.  They start sleeping better....well, sort of.  They start sitting up and entertaining themselves.  A solid routine is usually set into place.  Breastfeeding is finished or winding down....or at least it was for me.  

So for me personally, I wanted to wait for things to get a little easier before I made the transition to cloth diapers.  I also wanted to wait, because I selfishly knew that baby poo would be a little easier to clean once we started introducing solids.  And I didn't want to have to buy the newborn cloth diapers AND the one size diapers.  I only wanted to buy one set of  diapers, and I figured the boys would be big enough for the one size diapers by six months, and then continue to wear them until it was time to start potty training.

I wasn't worried too much about our disposable diaper expenses those first few months.  I knew we'd have plenty of disposables to get by the first six months, because we had our diaper stash!  My last post shared tips for stockpiling diapers during pregnancy.  And even though we were switching to cloth, we would still need disposable.  While you technically can invest in wet bags and use cloth all the time, I choose to not mess with the cloth when we are out in public.  I keep the disposable in my diaper bag, and put the boys in disposables any time we leave the house.  We also use disposables on our boys at night, as most cloth diapering moms that I know do.  Cloth diapers tend to leak overnight.

Now to the actual cloth diapers!  I chose to buy the Alva pocket diapers for one reason.....the cost!  Let's get real here, one cloth diaper alone can cost upwards of $20! Cloth diapering is a huge initial investment.  Yes it pays for for itself, but I really did not want to pay $20 a diaper, especially since I wasn't 100% sure cloth diapers were going to work for us until we actually tried them.  Yes, you can find diapers used from consignment sales, and there are even cloth diapering Facebook pages you can join.  In my research, the most affordable place to buy them was still from alvababy.com.  And to be honest, they have the cutest patterns!  I stumbled on this website while researching cloth diapers one night and was thrilled to discover that I could buy diapers through a China wholesale website for only $6 a piece.  I admit I was skeptical at first, but after placing my first order, I was pleasantly surprised.

Ok, so a few things about the diapers I purchase.  Number one, I wouldn't normally promote buying products out of the country, but in this case these diapers have actually worked great for us, and they have adorable patterns!  Number two, I've seen mixed reviews from people who have bought from this site, but most have been pretty good.  Number three, we only ordered a few the first time to see if they worked.  Once I realized they were going to work for us, I ordered more.

They do take a few weeks to come in, but for the cost of the diapers, it is worth the wait.  I ordered 20 diapers total, as I knew my boys went through about 10 diapers a dayWe wash the diapers every day, because I do not want soiled diapers sitting in a pail for more than 24 hours.  I have never ran out of diapers using this method.  I also try to change my boys every two hours.  As soon as I realize they are wet, I change them.  I don't like them to sit in a wet diaper, so maybe that's why I haven't had any problems with leaks.  

Here is a closeup of one of the diapers.  The alva diaper is a pocket diaper.  They come with liners that can be inserted into the diaper.  The liner never touches the baby's skin.  These are also snap diapers, not velcro, which I love.  The snaps can be adjusted to fit any baby's size.  These diapers are also really easy to clean.  Poo comes off of these diapers with ease.  After eight months of use, I do not have one stain on any of my diapers!

I think my favorite thing about the alva diapers are the adorable patterns!  They have gender specific patterns, but I tried to only order gender neutral patterns, just in case we have a little girl in our future.

There are few things you will need other than diapers, if you plan on trying cloth.  You will definitely want some sort of diaper pail.  I was actually surprised to find that cloth diapering was not as stinky as I expected it to be, but I would still recommend a pail with a lid.

I went with a Dekor diaper pail, which can be used for disposable or cloth, but I only use it for cloth.  I found my diaper pail through a local Facebook garage sale/resale page. I think they retail for around $40, but I paid $10 for this one.

Another item you might want to invest in if you are planning on using cloth diapers is a reusable diaper pail liner.  We didn't invest in this right away.  After going through a trash bag every night, we finally decided it was worth the investment a few weeks into our cloth diapering experience.  I bought mine from Amazon for $13.  I got it on sale, and it appears as though it is no longer in stock.  Here is a similar one in stock with a different pattern than what I bought.

I would recommend this liner to someone trying cloth as long as it fit their diaper pail.  This liner fits my pail really well.  The elastic top is easy to take on and off of the diaper pail, and I haven't had any problems washing the liner with the diapers.

I would also recommend the dekor diaper pail.  The diapers go in the pail with ease, by simply pressing my foot on the step to lift the lid.  The pail keeps the diaper smell contained.  It is also easy to take out and reload the liner, due to the door in the front of the pail.

Another item you definitely want to put on your "to buy" list if you plan on using cloth is a diaper sprayer or a handheld bidet!  Seriously, I don't think I would use cloth without it.  The purpose of the sprayer is to clean off those poopy diapers!  Now that the boys are bigger, I actually don't even have to use the sprayer for every BM, but once in a while I am still BEYOND GRATEFUL I invested in this sprayer.  It makes cleaning diapers really easy.  Just spray the poo right into the toilet, and you're done!

We purchased this sprayer through Amazon.  We got it on sale for $35.  Matt said it was easy to install.  Once you figure out the right water pressure, which I recommend doing before you clean a diaper, it is really easy to use.  I also like that it came with a device to hang on the wall.

The last item you will want for cloth diapering is a drying rack.  We do a load of diapers every night after we put the boys to bed.  It has just become a part of our nightly routine.  After the boys go down, I pick up the living room and Matt starts a load of diapers (always making sure the setting is on small load so it gets done faster).  As far as detergent goes, you can't use most detergent on cloth diaper liners, nor can you use any fabric softener, as it can mess with the absorbency of the liners over time.  I use a combination of borax and washing soda with a few drops of essential oils.  I have not had any problems with stains AT ALL, nor have I had any problems with odors AT ALL!  Once the wash is finished, I go down and hang the diapers on the drying rack and put the liners in the dryer, usually on a timed 40 minute setting to make sure they get all the way dry.

The following morning, I throw all of the liners and diapers in the diaper pail liner that was washed with the diapers and carry everything upstairs to be folded and put away.

Part of my morning routine is going downstairs first thing in the morning to get a cup of coffee and to grab the diapers from the laundry room.  While the boys are eating breakfast, I usually put the liners in the diapers and stack the diapers in the cloth diaper basket, so we are ready to go for another day! I think a routine is important, especially for a mom of twins.  If you plan on keeping up with cloth diapering, having a routine to keep the diapers washed and ready to be used is very helpful.

Overall, I have grown to love cloth diapers!  I'm going on eight months of consistently using cloth diapers when when we are home during the day, and I have to say that I HEART CLOTH DIAPERING!!!  I'm so glad I decided to make the investment and switch to cloth when the twins turned six months old.  

Our initial investment was a couple hundred bucks, which is what we would be spending each month for disposables, so I'd say cloth diapering has been worth the investment!  I would definitely recommend cloth diapering to any mom who stays home with their little ones and wants to save money in the long run!