31 October 2015

31 Days and Happy Halloween!

Today is the end of the 31 Days campaign! And I finished everything on my to do list! I now have seven freezer meals and two frozen pizzas,

a new ring sling,

tons of washed and folded newborn clothes and blankets,

newborn fleece car bunting,

fancy Burt's Bees diaper rash cream and Shea Moisture wash and lotion (the newbies get pampered, once they get older they get econo-sized Johnsons : )

nursing pads and lotion, a heatable and chillable set of gel pads that is supposed to help plugged ducts and mastitis (I got mastitis three times in nine months with Eleanor), tons of diapers for all three kids, all the baptismal arrangements I can make pre-birth, wardrobes for the girls until the spring, and a fully cleaned out and reorganized apartment.

A pretty successful October, I'd say.

I am 36.5 weeks pregnant and all signs point to birth in about 1.5-2 weeks. The baby has dropped, I've been getting a ton of Braxton Hicks contractions every day, plus a few other "labor is coming soon" signs. I'm ready to be done.

The sickness that has taken my entire family hostage hit me on Wednesday. I fully succumbed and have been racked with the nastiest cold of the year (for us), which I think is wildly unfair considering I'm that big! Matt also threw out his back from coughing, which means I've been doing the heavy lifting around here, literally and figuratively until yesterday when he finally got in to see his doctor. This has been an incredibly difficult and draining week.

The entire family being sick has meant that the girls missed all the Halloween parties they were invited to this week. I made their costumes ($7.50 a piece!) and yet they just hung in the closet. After a week stuck inside, we were all going stir crazy, so Matt and I decided we'd take the girls up to the local mall, which offered indoor trick-or-treating this evening before bedtime. The girls were very excited to be black cats.

So excited, in fact, that Abigail kept her ears on the entire time! She usually hates stuff touching her, but she actually kept the ears on and held her little bucket the entire time. She voluntarily held my hand, never tried to bolt, and actually didn't get overwhelmed by the crowd. She did phenomenally well.

Eleanor, on the other hand, sobbed when we didn't let her eat her candy right away, kept pulling away from Matt, and had to be carried kicking and crying out of the mall.

Over all, the evening was worth it. We only stayed about 30 minutes (mine and the girls' walking time limit), and we didn't touch anyone or any product, so we didn't risk getting anyone else sick.

I put serious effort into my Halloween costume this year. Matt hates dressing up, but I convinced him to join me in the festivities by promising we could be something he liked. After much research online, I stumbled across this idea of a maternity costume:

Here is a picture of me that I hijacked from a friend who took it at her Halloween party:

Here are two hints: It's Star Wars and Matt was Darth Vader. I'll reveal the answer in my next blog post, and I'll also post photos of me during each month of this pregnancy.

28 October 2015

The Cold at Bay

Thankfully the pending cold I felt on Monday evening paused at the "about to take over your life" stage and I have just been spending the last few days with a tickle in my throat and slight congestion. The girls and Matt are still both crazy sick and I have been pouring out my limited supply of energy on runny noses and short tempers and keeping everyone hydrated. I'm praying that either this cold/flu miraculously never hits me or I get it soon, as I really, really don't want to be in labor while sick. It really would be miraculous if I didn't get sick - I can't remember the last time Abigail brought home a cold that I didn't catch.

We have spent much, much time watching movies. IE, Frozen. Matt did convince the girls to watch Mary Poppins once, which used to be Abigail's favorite movie before Frozen.

I haven't made any substantial progress on my remaining three 31 Days goals. (I know, I only have until Saturday!)

-I hope to make my fourth and final freezer meal tomorrow
-I am waiting for a certain sale at Target before I buy the diapers. They periodically offer a $15 gift card if you buy two econo-size boxes of diapers. This week's sale is only a $10 gift card. This goal probably won't happen by the end of the campaign.
-I finally started the ball rolling on the baptismal plans! Nothing concrete, but at least I finally made some calls.

Since the preparations for baby have been winding down and my huge belly has me craving the couch, I have been doing lots of reading and crocheting. My new year's resolution was to read 24 books this year. So far I've read 20 books, a monthly magazine (National Geographic), and published a book! Although I might not be able to make 24 books since this baby is due in the next 2-4 weeks, I've got two more on my shelf I want to read before the year is up.

In terms of recent crochet projects, I made another girls' shall (fits 2-4 year olds). I've been on a shall kick lately and my girls and I already have two shalls each, so I gave this one away to a friend - all she had to pay was shipping.

I also made this doily. I've been itching to do a little lace work. I found a free pattern online and I already had the hook size and correct yarn. I made it to sit underneath our centerpiece on the kitchen table. It was fun and quick to make, but definitely not for beginners.

I have two more projects up my sleeve: an afghan using a new stitch called Tunisian (I've done one baby blanket in Tunisian before) and a pair of slippers a friend custom ordered. I'm headed to the craft store this evening for a little me-time - the only time I've left the house since Sunday was to take the trash out. I'm looking forward to my brief break and hoping Matt is well enough to hold down the fort for an hour or so!

26 October 2015

The Dread Before the Cold

It started late Friday night - the cold, maybe flu. It was Abigail, of course. The congestion, runny nose, gunky eyes, coughing, fever. I spent all day Saturday helping her blow her nose and trying to keep her and Eleanor separated. By Sunday afternoon, Eleanor was down. By Sunday night, even Matt was sunk. That was quite shocking. Matt rarely gets sick. He spent the night sneezing and coughing, but I thought for sure he was still going in to work. Matt rarely gets sick, but when he does, he never misses work. He misses work because I'm sick, but he never misses work because he's sick. The last time Matt stayed home from work was over the summer - he had the stomach flu and went to work anyway. We were still sharing one car and I was in the area when he called me about something else. I could here it in his voice: the dead-tired, can't think straight voice of one who should be at home in bed. Or in the bathroom, as the stomach flu usually demands. I begged, then half-ordered Matt to get in the car. So when he turned off the alarm in the wee hours of the morning, I knew we were done for.

I woke up this morning feeling fine - well, 35 weeks pregnant, but at least not sick - and knew it was only a matter of time. I frantically did the dishes, the laundry, the cloth diapers, made a large dinner before noon (large enough so we'd have ample leftovers), and ran to Meijer to get extra medicine, cough drops, and every natural immune booster I trust.

I didn't know when it was coming, but I knew it was coming. And sure enough, as the afternoon crept into the evening, I could feel it in the back of my throat. By the time we settled on to the couch after the girls went to bed, I confirmed to Matt that I, too, was biting the dust.

This seems way more intense than a regular cold, which has me thinking it might be the flu. Is the flu going around yet? Has it hit mid-Michigan? Do I really want to know the answer to that?

The only things left on my 31 Days todo list are:

-Make my fourth and final freezer meal (for which I have all the ingredients)
-Stock up on diapers for the girls (I already have newborn disposables, but I wanted to buy an econo-sized box in the girls' sizes so I can slack on laundry during my "laying in" period)
-Plan the baptism (we've already asked the Godparents, but I haven't even called the church yet!)

And this week, I will be 36 weeks pregnant and sick with something that includes fever and chills. Because apparently we go big around here.

22 October 2015

31 Days - The Little Projects

I'm three weeks into the 31 Days Campaign, and I'm excited to find that almost everything on my to do list is checked off. Preparing for this baby has involved a lot more work than preparing for Eleanor, but like I mentioned on day one, I really want to create a "laying in" period for myself, so I am doing extra things now that will hopefully buy more time off postpartum.

This past week, I have really been focusing on knocking out the various projects on my to do list. Like...

1. Heading to a used kids' clothing store to fill in the gaps in the girls' winter wardrobes. Aside from Christmas dresses, the girls shouldn't need any new clothes or shoes until they outgrow their current sizes. Since Abigail grows at a snail's pace and Eleanor just moved into 18-month clothing, I should be safe until the spring.

She looks so good in neon yellow skinny jeans. How a pale blonde pulls off yellow so well, I'll never know.
2. Finding, washing, and putting away the missing blankets
3. Securing a boy's coming home outfit

I now have one week's worth of baby girl and baby boy clothing washed, folded, and put away. If we have a girl, we'll get our newborn girl clothing tote out of storage. If we have a boy, I'll just keep doing laundry until I'm healed enough to venture out to a used kids' clothing store. I personally love Once Upon a Child (there is one about 30 minutes away) and am crossing my fingers that they'll still have winter newborn clothing for sale in November/December!

4. Getting some fleece newborn sleep sacks
5. Getting some newborn carseat bunting

Both my girls were six or seven months old by the time snow started falling, so I have no serious, cold weather, little baby gear. I picked out a few gender neutral items that I will be able to reuse with any future winter babies. Snuggly fleece baby prints are way fun to buy.

6. Making plans for the girls while I'm in the hospital

I asked my sister-in-law - who lives 10 minutes from my apartment - to watch my girls when I give birth and she very lovingly and excitedly agreed. She watched Abigail when I had Eleanor as well. We chatted about some of the details, although I'll wait to actually pack up their bag until I'm in labor.

When we lived in Chicago, Abigail's speech therapist recommended I put together a photo album of pictures of Abigail and verbs. Abigail walking, Abigail smiling, Abigail drinking. That sort of thing. Since I had extra space in the album, I threw in pictures of family, the cat, her blanket, and her favorite toys. Fastforward to last year. I had a feeling that Abigail would find comfort in the photos while she was at her aunt's house overnight, so I threw it in her duffle. I was right. My sister-in-law reported that Abigail kept it with her almost constantly and it soothed many tears. I figure, it'll probably be helpful this time around, even with Eleanor by her side, so I ordered new prints from Shutterfly with a coupon code that made them practically free, bought a new album for $6 at my local superstore, and created a new, updated photobook for the girls' stay with their aunt (and uncle and six cousins).

7. While I'm waiting until I'm in labor to pack my bag too, I did buy an armload of travel-sized toiletries from my local superstore. I can never remember what the hospital provides and what I'm expected to bring, so I just bought everything (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, that sorta thing). Whether you have an emergency c-section or a smooth and easy VBAC, there is nothing like a good shower the morning after labor and delivery. Anyway, so I guess my hospital bag is half-packed.

8. Finishing a project I mentioned in the clean out post to help de-clutter the crammed diaper changing table. The lotions/ointments/oils were blocking my cloth diaper stash...

...so I crocheted a little hanging-thing with pouches to store the goods. It hangs on the side of the changer - easy reach for parents, but out of the way of kids. I used scrap yarn and the project took two days.

9. Finish buying stuff off my "registry." When I found out I was pregnant, I started a registry on Amazon just for my own use. Some things I just didn't want to forget - like more changing pad covers, diaper rash cream, and crib sheets. But other items were things I spent time and energy researching - the specific humidifier I liked best, the portable nightlight with the best reviews and battery life. Lastly, I added things I wanted to try out - like an actual baby bathtub. Anyway, when I'd find these items on sale at various stores, I'd pick them up, but now that we're reaching the end of the pregnancy, I just ordered what remained off Amazon. Next week will feel like Christmas as all the packages arrive.

10. Cooking. All three of my crockpot meals are in freezer bags and ready to go. Two of my four frozen meals are cooked, labeled, and waiting in the freezer.

It's supposed to be "wild rice and beef." The pie on the right is a chicken pot pie - homemade expect for the crust.

A pot roast and taco soup just waiting to be dumped in a crockpot.

A stash of frozen pizzas bought on sale with a coupon. Two of them will be eaten before the baby comes, leaving me with three.

19 October 2015

31 Days - Freezing Dinners

Baby prep just wouldn't be baby prep without some serious meal planning! I did no meal planning with Abigail and very little meal planning with Eleanor, but thankfully family and friends filled in the gaps by bringing us ample dinners. While I do anticipate a few people bringing us some meals (I'm hoping for a week's worth!), since this is my third baby and I'm all cozily settled into my apartment for the winter, I figure I should probably dedicate some effort to filling up my freezer with pre-cooked meals.

Right now I am 34 weeks pregnant. With both girls, I gave birth at 38 weeks and my doctor doesn't think I'll make my due date this time either. So that puts birth in the second week of November. Since spending lots of time on my feet the week before I deliver a baby is low on the list of things I enjoy, I want to have my freezer filled by the end of October.

Over the past two weeks, I've been doing lots of cooking with stuff in our freezer to empty it out and lots of brainstorming about what kinds of dishes I want to fill in the empty space. I then planned to eat those same meals over the course of the next two weeks. Each time I make dinner, I'll just double the recipe and freeze half.

Since I have this rather small apartment fridge and no space for even a small chest freezer, I have to be judicious about what I put in it.

Here is my list of pre-cooked meals I'll be making in the coming weeks. Each of these dishes will provide two day's worth of dinners:
-Chicken pot pie
-Shepherd's pie (I'd say my chicken pot pie and shepherd's pie are restaurant quality. I asked Matt this morning for verification and he responded, "Oh yeah - without a doubt.")
-Taco casserole
-Cheesy beef and rice casserole

In addition, I'll prep three slow cooker meals. I'll put all the ingredients I need in gallon-sized Ziplock bags so I just dump a bag in and turn on the slow cooker. Each of these should provide two day's worth of dinners too:
-Chili (my chili is one of my favorite dishes!)
-Pot roast
-Taco soup

That's a total of seven meals times two dinners, giving me 14 nights worth of food. If I can get a week's worth from family and friends, with a few just-in-case frozen pizzas, I'll have three weeks worth of dinners!

In order to make things easier for the budget, I'll be halving all the meat and supplementing with beans. For example, the cheesy beef and rice casserole calls for one pound of beef. If I'm doubling the recipe, that'd be two pounds. Instead, I'll sub in one pound of black beans. So each dish will have a half pound of beef and a half pound of beans. I do this all the time and my family doesn't mind. When I'm feeling super frugal, I'll start with dry beans, which are so cheap, the budget barely even notices I bought them. When I'm feeling super pregnant - which I happen to be feeling now - I use canned beans. Even at $.85/1lb can, it's still significantly cheaper than meat.

I also bought a few disposable tins to store and cook the meals. The less postpartum dishes, the better.

Once I finish all my dinner prep, I envision making burritos and quesadillas, wrapping them up in individual servings, and stashing them in the freezer for microwavable lunches. I think somewhere in my over-ambitious brain, I'd also love to make and freeze some waffles and pancakes. But energy levels plus freezer space are ensuring that I take things one meal at a time. First up? Dinner. I'll post updates as my freezer begins to fill.

15 October 2015

31 Days - Carriers

I love baby wearing. It fits in fabulously with our lifestyle, and it's something I personally really enjoy doing. Before I had Abigail, this post probably would have contained some spiel about how baby wearing is essential for "drawing babies and mommies closer together" - but in my "about to have a third kid" wisdom, I know that baby wearing and great mother-child relationships can be totally mutually exclusive. This post is about my experience with different carriers and the new carrier purchase I made in preparation for baby #3.

December 2012 - Abigail was 19 months old.

The Moby Wrap
July 2012 - Abigail was 14 months old.
I bought a black Moby Wrap when I was pregnant with Abigail. They were/are really popular and I liked the "natural/organic" feel that the wraps have. I tried using it periodically throughout Abigail's first six months, but I never really got the hang of it. I had a hard time getting the fit right, the knots tight, and despite scores of Youtube videos and practicing in front of a mirror, I had a heck of a time getting it on. Just after that photo was taken, I gave up and sold the Moby to a resale kids shop.

The Non-Stretchy Wrap
I made one myself in early 2013, but only wore it a few times before trading it.
By the time Abigail was a year and a half, we were living in Chicago and I really wanted a carrier I could wear on my back (like a backpack). I heard that non-stretchy wraps worked well for back carries, so I bought some fabric and used the dimensions of a Moby Wrap to make my own. I have no idea what I was thinking since I never like the Moby. After a few tries wearing it, I traded it to a friend.

The B'jorn knock off
Matt rocking the Jeep in August 2012 - Abigail was 15 months old
In between the two wraps, I borrowed a B'jorn from a sister-in-law for a weekend and liked it enough to buy a knock off (a Jeep brand) at a used kid's store. But I found that it caused a decent amount of back pain during long-term wear and I couldn't wear it on my back, so I sold it back to the used kids' store after only a few months.

(I heard later about the hip controversy with B'jorn-style carriers and now I would not consider one for the hip issues alone).

The Pocket Sling
November 2012 - Abigail was 18 months old.
After the Moby Wrap, I decided to try out a pocket sling. I bought one of The Peanut Shell's super basic pocket slings off Craigslist for somewhere around $10 (I can't remember exactly how much it was). I LOVED it.

I just took this picture today! I couldn't find one of me wearing one of the girls in it.
I also can't remember exactly when I bought it - when Abigail was somewhere between 6-10 months, I think - but I remember she was old enough to hold up her own head and support her torso herself when I carried her.

I wore Abigail in the sling quite a bit, but found that the very basic nature of it (meaning no padding at all) made anything other than short-term wear painful for my shoulders and neck. I knew The Peanut Shell appeared on Zulily periodically, so I made a point to check them out daily until the sling of my dreams (the Heirloom line retailed for $90 a pop) made an appearance at 50% off.

November 2012 - Abigail was 18 months old.
February 2015 - Eleanor was 9 months old.
I retired the original pink sling to the trunk of my car to serve as an emergency carrier. My green Peanut Shell is very soft, has a much more comfortable strap, and has a small pocket for a cell phone or keys. I love the pocket sling for when I need to get the kids in-and-out often (like if we're clothes shopping), for when the kids are sick, when they're snuggly/tired/clingy but I need to get stuff done (I wore Eleanor a lot when I was making dinner before I got pregnant again), and if I will be sitting when I wear them.

A sick Abigail in November of 2012 - 18 months old. 
A sick Eleanor in February 2015 - 9 months old. 
When Eleanor was five months old and I had kidney surgery, we brought her with us to the hospital (so I could still breastfeed) and Matt wore her extensively in this sling. Strollers do not fit well in hospital settings and Eleanor way preferred to snuggle with a person than a car seat (she's a clingy girl). He said it was pretty helpful - he had two hands free, it was easy to sit with in the waiting room, and she could nap as desired.

October 2014 - Eleanor was 6 months old.
Despite my love of the sling, I had two issues with it: I could not wear it as a back carrier and all-day wear (like trips downtown in Chicago) still caused neck and shoulder pain.

The Ergo

A friend recommend the Ergo to me and I was most attracted to the back carry abilities of it. Ergos are a bit on the pricy side, but I really hated buying used carriers in the past. I wear mine extensively, I sweat in them, and the girls chew on the straps. I really prefer something no one else's germs have been on. When I was just in the sampling stage, buying used made a lot of sense, but once I found one I really liked, I would buy it new. I had a hard time finding used Ergos and I had a good feeling about it, so I bought one brand new without trying it out first. We were living in Chicago, and the Ergo really had a trial by fire. Spoiler alert: I fell in love with the Ergo too.

January 2015 - Eleanor is 8 months old.
Matt rocking the Ergo in April 2013 - Abigail is 23 months old.
August 2013 - Abigail is 2 years, 3 months old. I was pregnant with Eleanor, but did not yet know it!
I use the Ergo almost extensively for it's back carry abilities. I find it totally comfortable for all-day wear with both Eleanor and Abigail, and I've mastered the ability to load kids in a back carry, even if we're out and about.

July 2014 - Two months postpartum! Abigail is 3 years, 2 months old.
The Ergo has a hood too, which you can use to block the rain or keep a kid's head in place when they're napping. I wore the Ergo a lot for traveling in Chicago with Abigail and I wore it almost daily with Eleanor between 2-5 months. She would take her morning nap in it every single day while I did the dishes and cleaned up the apartment.

December 2012 - Abigail was 19 months old.
The Ergo and the pocket sling are a perfectly complementary: the sling's downfalls and the Ergo's downsides are opposites. The Ergo is not ideal if you'll be taking kids in and out a lot (the sling is super easy!) and I find it very difficult to sit comfortably in (sitting with the sling is very easy). The sling is not ideal for long-term wear (the Ergo is!) and the sling can not do a back carry (the Ergo can).

* * * * *

What's missing?
While the sling technically says it can be used as an outward-facing front carrier, I was never able to master that carry.
The little cards that came with the heirloom sling.
The outward-facing front carry is also only good until 6 months, at which point, neither of my carriers can be outward-facing. I personally don't really care about outward facing - it's not a position I miss when I'm wearing, but I can imagine it would bother some.

I cannot double carry. I prefer the sling on my hip, so I can't comfortably wear the Ergo either in the front or the back. I've tried it, but I can't last very long before something starts hurting.
November 2014 - Abigail is 3 1/2 years old and Eleanor is 6 months old.
I would really like to be able to double carry Eleanor and this baby. Abigail doesn't really want to be carried (or pushed in the stroller) anymore, she much prefers to walk, but Eleanor often wants to be carried and prefers the carrier to the stroller. I haven't worn her much since getting pregnant and not at all since I hit the third trimester. I feel pretty guilty about that. Anyway, yes, the ability to double carry is desirable.

Newborn Carries
My mom gifted me with the Ergo's newborn insert when I was pregnant with Eleanor, which allows you to wear a newborn in the Ergo. I had no problem with it, but Eleanor hated the newborn snuggler.

May 2014 - Eleanor was 13 days old.
As I study the picture now, I realize that it fits around the baby much like a swaddle and Eleanor hated being swaddled. Maybe that's why she didn't like it? Either way, I did not get much use out of the Ergo until Eleanor was holding up her own head. The newborn insert came with a cushy block that went under the baby's bottom to hold them up high enough in the Ergo and we did use that regularly until she was big enough to peak out without it. She was totally fine with the Ergo as long as she wasn't in the snuggler.

While technically the pocket sling can be worn from birth, there are certain precautions you have to take and I never felt comfortable wearing a newborn Eleanor in a sling. I tried it a few times and she loved it, but I never felt confident she was safe, so we quickly abandoned it.
June 2014 - Eleanor was one month old.

The New Purchase

After much research (I found this website really helpful - I don't get credit for you clicking on the link, it's just a mom-to-mom tip), I decided I wanted to go with a ring sling in plum (the color in the picture). Apparently they are really nice for inward facing newborn carries (like the woman in the picture is doing). I definitely believe it because the thing that makes me most uncomfortable with a newborn in the pocket sling is my inability to tighten the loose fabric for a more secure fit. Plus, being able to do a front carry will allow me to do a back carry with the Ergo - thus letting me double carry. I just ordered it this past weekend and am very excited for its arrival!

I am also a big fan of this Kozy in the lovely pink and gray chevron:
It's front carry abilities and soft straps would allow me to double wear it with the Ergo. But it won't work for brand new babies, and I ultimately decided that I wanted the newborn feature of the ring sling. Maybe in the spring I might get the Kozy; on one hand, we plan to have more kids and I love baby wearing, so I know I'll get use out of it, but on the other hand, carriers are not exactly cheap, so there is wisdom in not turning them into collector's items.

Okay, so now I've got the carrier situation figured out, but I've never found a satisfactory solution to wintertime baby wearing. While this was a major problem in Chicago, I don't envision that being the same in Michigan. But either way, I'd like to be able to go outside while wearing a kid.

In the past, I've just put my coat and the baby's coat on separately and then inserted them into the carrier. This is not very comfortable, plus I can't take anyone's coat off when we are inside or on a warm train.

And my maternity coat is not bit enough to wear over the Ergo during a front carry. So this summer, I made this:

A hand-knit, over-sized shall. It has a large head opening to fit over both me and the baby. It's made holding three strands of yarn together - two of which are pure wool.

Cat and I starting the new project in April of 2015.
I would not be surprised if this shall could take the place of a winter coat.

I do have a lighter option too, one that I hadn't really planned on getting.

It's a maternity/nursing tunic shirt. It's very lightweight, soft, and definitely large enough with a deep enough zipper opening to accommodate a carrier. The problem is that it was very expensive, and I impulse/revenge bought it from Zulily the night the house I really wanted sold to someone else. I was mad at Matt and the Realtor and the homeowners and it was stupid and petty. I immediately regretted buying it and dreaded it's arrival, but it's not returnable. I actually do like it and am determined to get some use out of it so as to make up for its purchase.