Thirty, Flirty and Thriving

This month I turned 30.

Oh. my. gosh. That sounds so old.

But wait it’s not that bad.

The one lesson I’ve had to learn and learn over the years is this:

Events happen when they are supposed to. Things have a way of working themselves out.

It’s a lesson that is phrased differently depending on secular or spiritual context but ultimately it is:

Trust God’s timing. He has a Plan.

In our teens and twenties, we often set a bunch of self-defining goals—goals like “I’m going to graduate.” “I’m going to get a job.” “I’m going to get married.” so we begin to measure our success in life by achievements. These goals are often perceived as hurdles we need to jump over to get to some kind of promised land, some state of ultimate-happiness.

We imagined for ourselves a life of events, when in actuality, there are a few major events and then the rest of our lives is kind of living with our choices and hopefully being happy with those choices and their consequences.

I’ve achieved most of my goals in life so far (Except for the one about speaking five languages. What was I thinking? I barely speak English!) but most of them did not happen when I thought they were “supposed to.”

Now that I’ve the big three-o, I feel like there is little to “achieve” because I’ve made it to adulthood and wifehood and motherhood. What next? Well, I still have a few goals left but mostly, I’m just enjoying the young adult life for what it is: good health, relatively low stress with just one child (compared to multiple children), and a sense of the fact that we’re still kind of cool, good-looking and tech-savvy. We’re still the current and up-and-coming version.

I like this phase.

In a way, this phase is really good for me as a mother and for Baby.

He was a textbook baby from the start but then a year ago, I expected him to eat real people food as most one-year olds do. But he only had eight teeth so he hated “real food” and for a whole year, I had to feed him pureed food, i.e. baby food. And I hated it!

I thought to myself, “I have failed. This is not supposed to be happening! This baby supposed to be able to eat.”

But the fact of the matter is he wasn’t ready.

Nothing I could do was going to change that.

We started slow with crackers and teddy grahams, things that turned mushy quickly. And we worked from there.

The day he ate bread, I think I cried.

Now that Baby is 2, he eats like a champion but he still has his moments. Is he a picky eater, despite all my attempts to give him veggies? Duh! Of course.

Is he still learning? Yes! Is he making progress? Yeah!

So why was I creating this stupid timetable for him, only to stress the both of us out? And for nothing.

Obviously, there are milestones that, if not reached, should require medical attention. But normal, healthy kids grow up when they are supposed to, when they ready. We can encourage, love, and motivate, but they learn and grow when they are ready.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that life happens when it’s supposed to. And yet, we as adults, easily forget. We are impatient with ourselves and demand progress or achievement when it’s not ready or not optimal.

Turning 30 forces me to slow down and focus on family and motherhood. I have the next eighteen years to raise my son and I will never “graduate” from being a mother. So it’s almost like time does not exist anymore. Timelines, deadlines, etc. are only created in our minds. I have to let things run their natural and proper course and I’m learning to enjoy the fruits of my labors from my younger days.

I look back and now know that I often stressed out for 30 years over nothing. Things happened the way they were supposed and I guess there’s enough evidence in my life now to support this theory. I got to where I needed to be for 2015; I’ve made it to where I dreamed I’d be as a little girl. And it is awesome.

Work hard and do all you can to achieve the happiness you want but know this: in life, God will give us plenty of unexpected surprises. We may not love them all. But we can still choose to be happy. And things will work out.

Baby Food Pouches

Baby food pouches are convenient to use on-the-go. And they provide more variety for your baby’s diet than just eating jars of baby food or mashed sweet potatoes. Most pouches (but not all) use organic ingredients which is an added bonus:

happybaby

The Happy Baby line from Happy Family is my favorite. There is a good variety from 1st stage to toddler and snacks for older kids. I have seen a lot of promotions for this brand: I just saw a recent local sale at BuyBuyBaby ($10 for 10, must buy 10), coupons are available via Facebook and deals appear on Target Cartwheel or Target Baby mobile coupons often. Prices range from $1.39  and up depending on the stage of food.

worldbaby_pcr_large

Plum Organics has a wide line of products too. Coupons are uncommon but sometimes you will see this brand on sale at Target but generally they are $1.49 each and up. They have recently added some Stage 2 pouches called “world baby” that have unique ethnic flavors. The best deal I found for Plum Organics is at Kroger. They had printed Catalina coupons when combined with a Buy 6 Save $X, each pouch came out to about $0.75 wyb 6.

sproutsSprouts has a lot of variety but not as much as Happy Baby; their prices are comparable. I have really liked the 3rd stage foods because I was initially not impressed with the 2nd stage: most pouches from the 2nd stage and some of the toddler purees are really runny or watery compared to other brands we tried. Some Wal-Mart locations have some selection of the Sprout brand. I have seen and used coupons via coupons.com ($1 off three). I like that their Stage 3 has a lot of veggie and meat only to give Baby a taste/liking for veggies; most pouches rely on fruits to mask the taste of vegetables. Price is about $1.59 and up. gerber

Gerber Organic is widely available at Wal-Mart and Target and is relatively affordable (about $1.37) but currently I’ve only seen and tried 2nd stage pouches but there is a good variety to choose from. When Baby first started 2nd stage foods, we had a lot of Gerber Organic in our pantry. Some coupons are available via coupons.com and Target Baby mobile coupons.

earthsbestEarth’s Best has some variety but can be difficult to find; there are only 7 to choose from at our local Wal-Mart; stores carry more jars than pouches, but we only tried pouches for this post. Prices are average; if you buy a pack of 12 from Target.com that’s the best scenario without coupons (about $1.29 each). Baby seemed to really enjoy all of the four pouches we were able to try from Target. We used a Target mobile coupon when we bought them, but I haven’t seen a manufacturer’s coupon for this brand yet.

ellaskitchenElla’s Best can be difficult to find and is generally much more pricey ($2 average) than the others listed; many mass retailers only stock one or two kinds of pouches of each stage. We tried the chick-chick Chicken with vegetables and rice (Stage 2) and Baby loved it. I love that these pouches are a little bigger than other brands but at the same time, this means sometimes if given as a snack (as opposed to a meal) Baby doesn’t finish a whole one when we’re out and the rest is thrown away. Stage 2 has 4.5 ounces, Stage 3 has 6.7 ounces.

Moneysaver Tip: If you plan to use pouches of baby food often, shop sales and use newspaper coupons, coupons.com, and sign up for mobile coupons. Try to pay less than a dollar per pouch. Pay less for 1st stage foods than 2nd or 3rd stage foods.

Fisher Price SpaceSaver Deluxe High Chair Review

UPDATE APRIL 2015: Buy Buy Baby carries a new design of the deluxe for $69.99 MSRP. It looks like it is one of their exclusive products. The chair still appears on the Fisher Price website, so it looks like they will continue to make this model.  For those of you not near a Buy Buy Baby location, you may want to still try the Graco Swivi via Amazon.

UPDATE JAN 2015: The Deluxe version of the SpaceSaver is very difficult to find now. The last retailer I saw carry the seat was Buy Buy Baby, on clearance at the end of 2014. Try the Graco Swivi Seat 3-in-1 Booster Seat. It is $69.99 MSRP but it has a lot of great features that the SpaceSaver has and more. I haven’t tried the seat personally but it has excellent reviews on Amazon.

There is no doubt, our baby loves to eat so he has spent a lot of time in his booster high chair seat. We have tried or used these Fisher Price models (from best to worst):

  1. SpaceSaver Deluxe High Chair (Buy Buy Baby)
  2. SpaceSaver High Chair
  3. Healthy Care Deluxe Booster
  4. Healthy Care Booster Seat

23484440627830pWe definitely wanted a booster-style chair in our house. Our kitchen is tight and we like being able to use the booster on the folding chairs we’ve had since SG’s poor-student years. The SpaceSaver is a much better seat than the Healthy Care Booster. Though the Healthy Care Booster is lighter, smaller and less expensive, it is also the chair your baby will grow out of faster. If you are on a very tight budget, the Healthy Care Deluxe is a great option (red/beige and other color options are available). Skip the non-deluxe version–it’s way too small. At seven month, Baby’s fatty thighs were squished in the chair so I knew I needed to return it for a bigger chair. P0278_d_1 If you can spend a bit more and you want to get your money’s worth, I’d suggest paying the extra money to get the SpaceSaver—the regular seat is about $60, the deluxe is about $70 (check BuyBuyBaby, the deluxe was on Amazon at the time of publishing this post but for more than MSRP. Boo!). Why SpaceSaver beats Healthy Care:

  • the SpaceSaver is deeper and has a more supportive, higher back (extremely helpful for babies with big heads)
  • the SpaceSaver has a removable cloth covering making it more comfortable; covering is also machine washable
  • the dishwasher-safe tray is wider (but it also can’t fit in the dishwasher–this is the one negative about this chair) than Healthy Care’s tray, Healthy Care’s tray can fit entirely in a dishwasher

I personally like the SpaceSaver Deluxe because its straps are made out of a wipeable material. It is the strap area, closest to your baby’s mouth, that gets a lot of contact from the mess on his face. I have really liked that feature and I think it’s worth the extra money.

The non-deluxe model has been redesigned in 2014 and is still widely available, however, I don’t like it as much as the deluxe. It’s still an adequate chair with a good price tag, but there are some drawbacks: You lose one of the cupholders in place of a ring/handle. Its tray seems smaller than the original. The base is also different; the seat has an adjuster now but the entire seat just feels flimsy and not sturdy. My mom bought one of these chairs from Amazon Warehouse at a good price, but it’s best as a chair at grandma’s with occasional use; I wouldn’t trade it for my SpaceSaver Deluxe. The non-deluxe has a lot of cute patterns; the deluxe only comes in one or two patterns (kind of lame) but you might be able to buy a different design (cover only) as a backup to the original. We have just used the one cover (pear design below) and machine-wash it at night, hang it to dry and in the morning, it’s ready for more mess!

The SpaceSaver Deluxe also has a tray insert the non-deluxe does not have, which Baby has recently learned to lift up (annoying) but it was a really nice feature when he was younger, allowing me to have two feeding surfaces if I needed. X7330-spacesaver-high-chair-d-1This is a great chair I recommend to all new moms but it is hard to find and therefore getting more expensive to buy online. UPDATE: Baby has used this chair for 15 26 months! It’s still going strong.

Baby Spoons and Bibs

beabaspoons1Béaba First Stage Soft Spoons ($20, pack of 4):

Pros:

  • they are completely silicone–no metal or hard edges — this is especially useful when Baby is teething and needs something to chew on while on the high chair. He loves to grab these and chew on them.
  • they have a good soup-spoon shape — this is really important for babies first starting Stage 1 foods or when their cereal is still really runny. The key is to find the right portion amount, the amount the spoons can hold without spillage. With practice, you’ll find they can hold a lot.

One (sad) true story:

One day, one of my OXO Tot feeding spoons (see review below) fell out of the utensil holder in the dishwasher and its white handle melted at the bottom of the dishwasher. My Beaba spoons were in the dishwasher and completely absorbed the nasty plastic smell of the melted handle.

I couldn’t bear to use them anymore, so I had to buy a second pair (…another $20 bucks). I had to have them because I still love them; I could not stand to just use the OXO tot spoons; the Beaba handle is so much more comfortable.

Cons

  • they stain and trust me, this will drive the perfectionist mom in you to go nuts.  Even with my second set, I rinse them almost right after using them, but they are still yellow. (Just give up.)
  • they are silicone so they also absorb dishwasher smells – I recommend handwashing them. You can wash them in the dishwasher (I did with my first set), but I just prefer not to anymore.
  • they are expensive, but there are more expensive spoons out there. The Spuni First Stage Soft Spoons caught my attention the last time I was on Amazon, so I will try them out for Baby #2 and see if it’s worth the money.

Note: They have new colors out now. And I kind of hate them (the pastel pink is now a red-violet color). The colors shouldn’t matter to me so much, but they do. They’re perfect girl colors though. When I needed to replace the first set no major online retailer had the older version so I had to go to Buy Buy Baby (whose coupons, of course, exclude Beaba products) to find my original set because I’m OCD like that.

It’s hard to find a discounted set, but I’d recommend using Pottery Barn Kids (PBK) if you can locate a coupon or registry completion code. Their coupons do not exclude Beaba products (for now). I used a PBK $10 off coupon from the holidays on a set of spoons that I plan to gift to a new mom or relative.

oxototspoonOxo Tot On-the-Go Feeding Spoon ($4.99 for one):

We also have the Oxo Tot Feeding Spoons that come in a set of two, so these have become our diaper bag spoons. When one is dirty, it’s easy to switch them out.

Pros:

  • These are less expensive than the Beaba spoons
  • The inside of the spoon is made up of metal, making a firm spoon, which is great for cutting up foods like bananas or avocados (two of Baby’s favorite foods) but this also means these are not the best teething items.

Cons

  • they have hard plastic handles (which I learned can melt in the dishwasher if they accidentally fall to the heating coil in the washer; just be careful or handwash as I do now; I don’t want to repeat the (sad) true story ever again)
  • I wish they would just sell the cases!
  • The spoon is curved so that excess runny food can fall off the spoon easily if you are not careful. The Beaba spoon is rounder so it holds liquid better. But by the time your baby is on Stage 3 foods, this won’t matter so much. It just takes time and practice to get right.

feedingbibscartersCarter’s 3-pack Feeding Bibs (not the teething bibs, $20 MSRP for 3 (wait for a sale and use coupons!)

I wish I had these when Baby first started solids.

We had the smaller Carter’s teething bibs with velcro closure and only seven months after using them daily, the velcro does not work anymore, so they are going into the trash. I absolutely hate when money goes to waste like that. Carter’s is usually my go-to brand, but not for their teething bibs.

We were also gifted Tommee Tippee Explora bibs. These are roll-able, durable (silicone) bibs, which seem like a great idea especially for self-feeding babies, but they are too tight and stiff in the neck for my baby with a big head and neck and therefore I can’t recommend these unless your baby has a small head and is +7 months.

This Carter’s set is a bigger size than the teething bibs; they have snaps and have a lined 3-layer construction. They can stain (as they are cotton interlock material not vinyl) but with regular washes, they’ve held up better than I expected. We bought two packs for $22 after tax. (There was a sale and I showed the sales associate a coupon on my phone and she accepted it! Don’t shop the store without coupons!)

Tips for the right bib:

  • snap closure (it’s worth it, I promise)
  • durable — lined or waterproof
  • soft and comfortable

There are plenty of vinyl-like bibs (waterproof) but none I’ve seen with snaps. I guess velcro is more cost-effective to manufacture but does not last.

I feel the Carter’s teething bibs meet all requirements.

Boppy Luxe Pillow Review

boppyluxeUPDATE: This item has been discontinued! Bummer! Try Boppy Heirloom pillows available at Babies R Us. They do not have the pockets, but will have more structure with the piping.

Nursing pillows are kind of a luxury; if you have a c-section though like I did, they are a must-have. The pillow really helps to keep pressure off your incision. Our mothers did not have these pillows–they wish they did.

Some moms like My Brest Friend – this type velcros around you and I kind of wish I had one just to know the difference between the two. I can’t say how they compare. I know the Boppy does slide around. But I like that it’s super easy to “put on” for night feedings.

I bought a Boppy on sale at Kids.Woot! for about $30 shipped. And it’s not just any Boppy. It is a Boppy Luxe Pillow  (“My Little Lamb,” yellow/white with lambs).

I took my pillow to the hospital and all the nurses commented on how they had never seen a Boppy like it and that it was better than the regular Boppy slipcover. And it is better!

  1. It is made of minky fabric which is really soft and more plush than the regular polyester-blend slipcover, which is kind of harsh. It does get warm though.
  2. It has three side pockets in the slipcover that are a great place to put your cell phone, chapstick or treat 🙂
  3. It has piping around the pillow that gives it structure. The regular Boppy cover just flops.

Baby is in love with this pillow. Right now he semi-crawls and finds this pillow to stroke it on the sides and on the lamb applique. It’s adorable to watch.

My version is discontinued (pictured above) but there is a newer version. For some reason, the old version is listed on Amazon for $119. (Yeah, not happening.)

The newer version is $40 (as of this post) at Walmart.com and I hope it’s of the same quality. It has two lambs instead of one:

littlelambboppypillow

Go to a baby stuff store and look at the Boppy and My Brest Friend. Consider your body type and which you would prefer.

If you choose Boppy, I recommend getting one with PIPING for added structure; some of the Luxe models have this feature others do not, so do your research (check out Boppy Luxe Hoot Owl, Ladybug, Elephant Garden OR Boppy Heirloom Fox or Gray Whale pictured below). I think it’s worth the extra price. Remember, piping!

boppyfox boppyheirloom

Moneysaver Tip: Sites like Zulily and Kids.Woot and Sellout.Woot are good sources for discounted baby products but the selection varies from week to week. Just be careful–they get very addicting. 95% of the goods are really unnecessary/overpriced–it’s all about the hunt for the real deal!

Breastfeeding Must-Haves

This post is for expecting moms planning to breastfeed.

The information in this post is one of the main reasons for the existence of this blog. (a must read!)

I know this is probably TMI for dads, but for the moms, I really want to share some things to have if you plan to breastfeed.

Keep reading for my story and some recommended products to have on hand:

Continue reading

Formula Samples

Moneysaver Tip: Sign up for free formula samples, coupons and formula checks. I think every expecting mom should sign up for free formula samples. (Websites are below; some OB-GYN offices also can help you sign up. )

Why?

Even if you plan to breastfeed (which is the best way to feed your baby for the first year) and you may never use the coupons/checks, formula samples will come in handy in these ways:

  • Some mothers just have a truly hard time breastfeeding. I’m not making up excuses for those who just give up, but some really have a hard time. Formula has come a long way and is a good alternative. Do all you can to breastfeed but know that there are other options for you if you cannot. The most important thing is to feed the baby.
  • Formula should be a part of your food storage supply. (I am a huge believer in food storage.) Let’s plan for the worst case scenario: let’s say you were hospitalized and could not feed your baby. Formula samples will help Dad or Grandma or Aunt to feed baby while you cannot. Formula is expensive and even one free can of formula will give them time to look for a sale when the existing supply runs out. *I got a full-size canister of Similac Advance that retails for $24.
  • Formula can be donated to women and children’s shelters. This is a great way to help out babies in need in your community. I have saved the Similac brand for Baby (because we supplemented with Similac at the hospital) in case of an emergency and donated the other brands to a domestic violence shelter for women and kids.

Links:

Similac StrongMoms®

Enfamil Family Beginnings®

Gerber Generation Kit