First Holiday Season with a Little & the Goal of Less Stuff

It is mid November. Or in our family calendar, the middle of “cake season”. It kicks off with the State Fair gluttony in September, followed quickly by my birthday then Matt’s (hence the cake…lots of birthday cake to eat!), Thanksgiving and Christmas. So much food! And then we always mange to plan a poorly time beach (ie: swimsuit!) vacation for early in the new year. Good motivation to work out I suppose!

This year is our first embarking on the holidays as a family of three. Having a little along really makes every routine, tradition and timing of it all go up for consideration. Naps! Gifts! Time in the car! With both our families living within two hours of us holidays look quite different from how I grew up. We are adjusting our routine to equitably squeeze everyone in while maintaining a sense of balance…or at least that is the goal!

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I have been inspired by some blog posts and stories online about establishing traditions that don’t revolve so much around gifts and a huge Christmas morning. Our little family has been pulling away from acquiring random stuff for some time now. I will admit that I still fall prey to new things (thank you Amazon for making it WAY too easy to get find anything and everything), but I have made a conscious effort in the past two years to a) stop going to stores just to browse and b) getting rid of random stuff in our house.

The first was hard. I drive a lot for work and would have 15 minutes to kill before going to a meeting. Why not pop into Goodwill (I love seeing what “treasures” there are), Marshalls, World Market etc even just to look? The consequence was that I can always find something I like. Even if it is just dish towels. Now with baby clothes the temptation is even greater! And when thrifting etc everything is so cheap and easy to justify. But I came to the realization that this was just an impulse waste of time and money.

So I just have stopped going in. I have even caught myself pulling into the parking lot, and then turning around. If you don’t look, you don’t buy. Period. I spend that extra 15 minutes calling a friend, catching up on my emails, or journaling in the car. And the amount of time, money and stuff I have saved adds up. Which allows me to justify investing in higher quality items of the things that we really do need or want.

Now to purging: this house remodel has been so helpful in helping us really see what we use and what we don’t. All (and by this I mean probably 90%) of our belongings are being stored in the extra bedroom. For two years now. And we have not missed it. We have seriously paired down the random kitchen items, knick knacks, magazines, books, etc that just took up space. We still need to purge our closets and shoe collection, but it really frees up so much physical and metal space to have fewer things in our house. And when we officially move back in, we will be very intentional about what we keep and what gets rehomed.

All that leads me to the holidays. And gifts. We have been thinking hard about how we want to establish traditions with Oakleigh from the start, and expectations around Santa gifts and stockings and all the different Christmases we attend. We have not come to any decisions yet (any suggestions out there? I am all ears!!!) but do like some of the ideas around the 4 gift system from parents, asking for experiences (or specific items rather than random stuff or toys), and this out there idea about a rainy day gift closet. All of these align with our family values of meaningful quality over quantity, and getting back to a life with less stuff. And taking time to pick (both in the making of wish lists and in the giving of) meaningful gifts that will be appreciated for the long haul.

I remember a fun childhood with tons of gifts on Christmas morning, but every year, it is really just one or two gifts that I can still remember. These were the highlight and were something I treasure to recall. My porcelain doll. Tiny tea set. Set of coral encyclopedias. A red hooded pea coat. That single gift from my great-grandmother every year that I knew was super special. And I remember the afternoon outing that we would do as a family. Sailing, or taking a walk. That is the part of Christmas that means the most in my memory, and we would like to focus our time and energy in making that our holiday priority.

This seems to be a common theme. When discussing with a friend the other day, a random woman came up to us and joined our conversation. She was having trouble navigating similar expectations with her daughter and grandkids. She was unsure how to ask what they would want to receive so she would be sure to pick things they wanted and would use. It was fun to have this conversation from multiple generations of perspectives!

Giving gifts and the generosity that comes with it is so touching and appreciated. And I know that everyone loves to spoil a baby! We had a great moment with my grandparents last week when my grandma was inspired to buy Oakleigh some new cloth diaper covers. This offer was SUPER appreciated and she asked some good questions ahead of time to make sure they were “right”. I was able to share with her information about what we used, and what we are needing next. It gave her the ability to help out, and we did not end up with random cloth diapers that we may not have used! Win win!

And with that, we embark on the 2017 holiday season! Wishing you and yours a time of restful, meaningful memories with your loved ones and families!

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Our Life with Cloth Diapers

After we committed to cloth on day 9 of Oakleigh’s life, we have never once looked back or regretted our decision. Cloth is so so easy once you have a routine…and the avoided waste…unbelievable. We have done a week long vacation, multiple overnight trips, and had success 100% in cloth. It took a little planning, and bringing along our own laundry soap, but I am happy to report that is working!

After researching all the options (and there are a TON of them!) we opted for the simple, basic diapering approach of prefolds and covers. We liked that these diapers were a natural fiber (100% cotton), uncomplicated, space efficient and just easy. The website greenmountiandiapers.com was a huge source of information and was where we ended up purchasing our diapers as well.

Two months before Oakleigh arrived, I ordered diapers and covers, and started the prep process. You have to wash these natural fiber diapers 7-9 times to get their absorbency optimized, so I was happy I had done the prep work ahead of her birth! Our first attempt with prefolds was not very skilled, and we were happy we had the workhorses as backup. Look how cute and tiny she was!

We started with:

  • 2 dozen newborn Cloth-eez prefolds (orange)
  • 4 newborn workhorse diapers (these are basically Cloth-eez prefolds that have been modified with elastic for a fitted diaper…we learned these are great in the car and for overnight)
  • 2 dozen cloth wipes (we just use plain water and these to wipe)
  • 4 covers (1 blueberry brand newborn size, the rest were size 1 Thirsties covers)
  • 1 dozen small prefolds (yellow)

This pretty much got us through the first two months. Around the two month mark the diapers were getting pretty small and we sized up to the smalls (yellow) and added another dozen prefolds and 10 workhorses in that size. We knew we were doing lots of overnight trips at this point and the extra workhorses were worth it to keep blowouts to a minimum on long car rides. The newborn cover no longer fits but the other Size 1s will still be going for a few more months.

Note on covers: we love the Thirsties covers! We also trued a Romperooz cover but it leaked where the tag was sewn onto the bum. The only issue we have had with Thirsties is staining on the inner leg gusset from poop. Most of the Thirsties covers have white elastic piping on the legs and this is a poor design from a user perspective. So when we ordered two more we opted for a designs with colored piping and these are now our go tos.

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Our wash routine is every other day (ideal) but we can stretch it to 3 days with this size stash. We wash on hot with biokleen liquid detergent, add an extra rinse cycle and dry for two cycles in the dryer. Zero problems with smell and they are squeaky clean every time! (this was a primary driver of us choosing natural cotton diapers rather than synthetic)

A sale prompted me to buy our next set, mediums. She is going through fewer diapers per day, and so I opted for 2 dozen medium prefolds (was seriously considering just one but decided we preferred the ability to stretch our laundry days), 6 workhorses and a dozen doublers. I am curious about adding Cloth-eez doublers for nighttime to hold her longer as she is sleeping longer stretches. I have heard good things and figured it was worth trying. Building this stash has been a bit of an investment, but the costs are up front, and we only seen a minimal bump in our utility bills from the extra loads of laundry. Plus we plan to use it on more than one kiddo, and as a friend said, we will have rags and cloths for life!

Have questions about our experience? I am happy to share! Cloth diapering has been a huge win for our family (and the planet) and I would love to get more families onboard.

***Our #1 resource with great information and products (no sponsorship…just a hardy recommendation from our experience!): www.greenmountiandiapers.com

Week 13: Transition Back to Work

Holy cow…our little Oak is already 13 weeks old! We have had some great adventures (first trip to grandparents, week at the WA coast), survived the first 8 weeks of her life without a functional kitchen (!), harvested nearly 100 pounds of tomatoes from the garden, attended two weddings, cleaned up the remodel multiple times, and had countless afternoons filled with tears, smiles, and everything in between. So where are we now?

This is a big transition period for our little family. I am back at work and Matt is home full time juggling baby and remodel. We have tweaked our routine daily and are still settling on what works the best. So far nothing has been missed, everyone is getting a decent amount of sleep, and we are generally pretty happy. The 5:30 alarm clock has been a shock to my system after three months of sleeping as long as Oakleigh and I wanted to, but we have developed a good bedtime routine where we are all (usually) in bed by 9:00. We set up our guest room and cleaned the main floor bathroom so I have space to get ready in and let the rest of the house sleep. I get up, shower, dress, pump and then get out the door.

We also have been focusing our energy on SPECIFIC projects and steps for getting the house wrapped up. Generally speaking, we are at finishes: trim, paint and tile. Huge right? Countertops are on, demo is done, the heavy “construction” is behind us. We did a massive dump run a few weeks back that gave us a TON of floorspace back, as well as a sense of normalcy that things are getting done. On Saturday morning, Matt and I sat down to talk through each remaining step to totally get the kitchen done. We don’t have time to waste repeating steps or doing the same thing multiple times, so this plan helps us focus. We are also calling in some backup from grandmas to watch Oakleigh so we can tag team the house.

Speaking of our little love, she is AMAZING. We are totally smitten with her, and love watching her grow and change everyday. Her main tricks these days are looking at her right hand/arm (she has not figured out she has a left one yet…), ahh—goo coos, big gummy grins and lots of feet kicking. She loves to look at trees and the cats, and standing is WAY cooler than sitting or laying down. This lady has places to go! (ahem…remodel needs to get done before the moving is actually happening!!!)

Going back to work has been hard…and good…and a lot of logistics. I am beyond grateful that Matt can be home to take care of Oakleigh. He has the best time just being daddy. And I enjoy my job and feel very supported and appreciated with my returning role. Early mornings, pumping, milk management, more pumping, not forgetting stuff, reengaging my work brain, pumping, catching the ferry on time, and still more pumping are just the pieces that will take some time to adjust to. And I miss my baby! It feels pretty unnatural to be away from her, and I try not to dwell on it or I will end up in tears. Again…so grateful she is home with Matt! I am also only commuting 3 days per week so I still get far more time with her than many working moms do!

Every day is just so different. But those gummy grins make every single hard moment worth it.

Our First Week(ish) As Three

We were home from the birth center by 10:00 the evening of our little Oakleigh’s birth, and faced the reality of settling in as a family of three. Since she arrived 12 days early, the house and closet nursery in our room was not really in the status where we anticipated it being when she came home, but oh well…it would just have to work!

Her space was clean and tidy, with a bassinet, changing table, set up ready to go…but we also had piles of laundry to fold, random packages and packaging stuffed into corners, the shower needed to be scrubbed…and that was just our room! Upstairs the kitchen was in full on demo mid-remodel, with no sink or stove. And piles of dirty dishes that we had not yet gotten to (easy to procrastinate on those when the bathtub is how you are washing them…ugh!). But that was home and we were in it as a family of three.

The first night we had the go ahead from our midwife to just let her sleep till she woke up hungry. Thank goodness, because I was totally exhausted. Having only slept for maybe 45 minutes the night prior to her birth I really needed sleep. Matt needed sleep too, but was more alert and kept checking on her throughout the night. Being so new, she was moving a lot of fluid through her system still and he did not want her to choke.

By morning we were slightly more rested and started our first real day of our first week. Waking her up to eat every two hours (midwife’s instructions for the first two weeks), changing diapers, Matt making sure we were fed, and trying to rest as much as possible. Our midwife Shari came by later that afternoon for her first house visit, weighed little Oakleigh (she lost 10oz) and gave us some instructions to get her some sunshine to help with a blush of jaundice. Then we were back on our own.

A rollercoaster of hormones, sleep deprivation, and a learning curve gave us some really high highs and some really low lows, but we slowly figured out a system that worked. We decided that it was pointless for both Matt and I to lose so much sleep, so he would sleep through the night while I tended to Oakleigh. This would give him more energy to take care of us throughout the day while I could rest. By day 5 he was back to the remodel!

By the end of the first week she and I had breastfeeding down. I feel super lucky because I know that is not everyone’s experience. Feeding every two hours during the day (and every three at night) has become our routine…except of course when she decides it is time to cluster feed! A few times there have been 3 hours straight when I am nursing this little piggy! Those get really exhausting.

My dream of being at the lake for the 4th of July, huge belly in a swimsuit, well, that did not happen. Instead we had a picnic dinner in the back yard followed by a night of diapers and boobies…and could not have been more happy.

This little girl is truly an easy baby so far. She sleeps easily and in her bassinet, giving us space to catch up on our sleep. She eats well and has helped my milk come in…and is fattening up and growing! Her sharky jammies are already too small! Pretty sure today is her last day to be in them (12 days old). We also mastered cloth diapers! We went through a package and a half of disposables, and came to the point where we either needed to buy more, or suck it up and try the cloth stash that I had washed and folded a few weeks prior. So we gave it a go and have not looked back!

Daddy loves to sing songs to her, making up lyrics to all sorts of tunes. And a favorite way to calm her down is listing off all the things that she will get to try someday. Flavors of ice cream, fruits, dairy products, Italian dishes…you name it. She is super cuddly and adorable and we are so so in love.

Grandparents have visited, and helped get the house back on track and in order. Dishes are done, the kitchen is making progress, grass is mowed, and we have our new grill finally put together! Friends and family have been delivering us food which is so so appreciated, particularly when we have limited cooking capacity right now!

And now we have made it to her due date! July 11…oh little Oakleigh Elaine, we are so happy that we have had you in our arms these past 12 days already!

34 Weeks Pregnant without a Kitchen

And the remodel journey continues…

Today I hit 34 weeks in my pregnancy with our little Grain. Belly is big and sleeping is not great. This week baby found that he/she gets a few extra inches by stretching feet into my ribcage at night. It is painful!!! As if it were not already hard enough to roll over or get up to pee every hour! Luckily as soon as I am up the pain is gone and I can generally go about my day, with a slight waddle of course.

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nearly 34 weeks pregnant, prepping the garden!

For the long Memorial Day weekend we took a break and played!

Ha, just kidding. We do not feel like we have time for a break right now. Although a day at the lake sounded perfect with 80 temps, we remind ourselves how good it will feel to have the house back, but to get there we have to keep plugging along. So we did.

It took a day and a half to empty the kitchen and remove cabinet doors/hinges. Then we paused and took a day to seriously get the garden started for the season. Matt broadforked the areas where we pulled out the overgrown winter garden while I prepped for and planted beans, zucchini, squash and zinnias. We moved some kale starts, and prepped a bed for corn. The garden looks SO much more under control, at least for the house facing half. We will need to get more space cleared for 60ish tomato plants, but that is likely a few weeks out. They are happy on the deck for the moment.

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garden prep day

After killing ourselves in the sun and garden (oh boy did an Epsom salt bath feel good on this pregnant body!) we slept like rocks. Good thing, because Monday was full too. Matt bottled hard cider in the morning, I planted corn, and then we started on the kitchen demo.

Demo on the kitchen counters and backsplash have been a looming milestone for months now. The final really messy piece of this remodel…and a time critical one since it means a stretch of living without a kitchen. It is also an unknown of how easy (or hard) the removal of these old materials would be…while preserving the sink, appliances, and cabinets.

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kitchen ready for demo!

I am happy to report that the counter tops came off easier than we were expecting, and the backerboard and plywood under the old granite tile is in great shape! That will be a time/cost saver. Taking out the sink was not an easy task. It was a) grouted in place (ugh!!!) and b) the plumbing is soldered copper that is tucked way up behind the sink where we cannot disconnect it. This will require cutting and more rebuilding when we go to put the sink back. Figuring that out took more time that we anticipated, but this week Matt should have a whole lot done! We are anxious to see how the rest of it goes.

So yes, we are living without a kitchen, 6 weeks away from our little Grain’s due date. Luckily the sunny weather has made evenings on the deck a perfect retreat from the chaos of the house, and Matt and I are riding the happy wave of progress, sunshine and excitement of our growing family.

Thoughts on Baby “Stuff”

Now that we are expecting a little bundle of joy, there are SO.MANY.THINGS.

I am bombarded by ads on facebook and Instagram and Amazon…you need ALL THE THINGS! Paired with that are the opinions, both current and past from moms, friends, family, coworkers, you name it, on all the stuff you NEED.

And, by the way, none of these lists are the same.

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What are we to do?

Thankfully, we have some time (babies come with that built in ramp time thank goodness…our house is far from ready for a third person!) to research, talk to people and build a list of what will work best for us.

Before we started looking at individual things, Matt and I talked a lot about our lifestyle and how we envision raising a kiddo. Disclaimer: this is what we envision…and are totally 100% aware that some if not all of this will change when the real thing is happening. Please don’t judge.

We talk extensively about priorities, and filters for choosing “stuff” for our baby:

  1. Multi-age or purpose. Can it be used for more than just 1 event or age?
  2. Minimal # of things. We don’t have space to store extra.
  3. Well made. That will last for 2 kids and then resell or pass on
  4. Secondhand when appropriate.
  5. Related to secondhand…safety. This is a big one. Does it meet current guidelines and recommendations.
  6. Nontoxic (I could write pages on this…) particularly for sleeping surfaces, bedding and clothes.

First thing you do when you have a baby? Bring them home.

We are currently a single vehicle family driving a mini cooper. It has been pretty incredible to build up a farm and do a MAJOR remodel with just this vehicle, and we are enjoying only having one car. I typically commute to work on public transportation, and then take the car to the mainland 1 or 2 days per week for work and combine all our major errands on those trips. What does this mean for us as a family of three? Well, a few things.

First, the mini is tight for us to get out and do big trips just the two of us. This means for visiting family, surfing, hiking we will want a larger vehicle. So we are exploring options to add to our family fleet. Winners at the moment are a Subaru or minivan. We know we eventually want two kids, so that is part of the equation.

Second, I do most of the errands while on the mainland. Matt rarely drives unless we are going somewhere together. Matt, Mr. at-home-Daddy, does not envision that this will change for him much once baby is here, mostly staying at home base unless they are out for fun on the island. Those trips are all pretty short. For our longer haul trips to see family etc, we will have both of us plus baby. This really impacts our need for things like strollers and carseats that easily come in and out of the car.

Like most baby gear, carseats were an abstract concept that I had not given much thought. I knew I would choose a super safe model, but then came the other decisions: toxicity (a theme I am personally really interested in), mobility, and options for infant vs. convertible etc. I did not even know those were considerations!

Then how do carseats mesh with your stroller plan? Oh boy, don’t even get me started on this one. We have been learning a lot about babywearing vs. stroller culture, and based on our travel patterns, access to walkable spaces (living on a rural island is pretty different than a city or neighborhood with sidewalks), errand routines and personal preferences (and after doing lots of reading and talking with others) are very much leaning towards no infant stroller (gasp! I know this causes horror for some to think about) or infant carrying carseat, and opting instead for a convertible car seat and babywearing initially. We will add a stroller later on when baby is heavier (or we decide we need some wheels) when they are past the infant stage and can handle an upright setup.

I am excited to try out our local chapter of the babywearing library where you can check out different carriers/wraps/slings for a month to give them a try! Matt is excited about this option too because it meets one of our other primary goals of reducing demand for new things (and needs…lets be real here, our house is small and we have no garage to store “extra” stuff).

We started building a registry with these ideas in mind so that I can research things, make a decision, and then move on. New products come out all the time (like the new Willow breast pump!? OMG this thing sounds cool and comes out this spring). I am scouring our local secondhand sources for baby gear and already scored some primo things for WAY discounted: primarily a set of cloth diapers, a Bjorn bouncer and Deuter hiking backpack carrier. Win!

Our nursery will be more kid focused than “baby”, with a gender neutral surf/beach theme in teal/orange/white and other bright pops of color. Get some years out of the effort we are going to put into it (not to mention that it will need new flooring and a window before we have a baby in it). It is a huge room, nearly 14×20, and we plan to have it has the kids room for two until one is older and wants their own space upstairs.

For Christmas I got a sewing machine, and I am excited to start sewing simple baby clothes with secondhand fabrics. My best friend sent me some patterns for baby pants that she made out of old mens sweaters! For our little summer baby I am looking at easy 1 piece romper patterns, and have an idea for making them out of secondhand shirts. Stay tuned!

Well those are my current thoughts. I know these are likely to evolve over time, and I will probably look back and laugh at my “pre-mommy” naive vision of how we operate as a family of three. But we really are trying to think through OUR lifestyle, parenting goals, and space limitations before making purchases. Besides, we know that regardless of how much stuff we have, our baby really only needs food, shelter and love to grow. The rest is really just convenience.

A Family of Three

It felt like a long haul to get here. When we started playing with the idea of starting a family, one of my concerns was how well my body would adjust to being off of birth control. I had been on it for years, primarily to regulate a very irregular and abnormal cycle. Something that seemed mundane was now very impactful on my ability to have children. After months of pill free LONG cycles (we are talking 90+ days here) I started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist to see what was going on. After a long string of tests, frustration, and not many answers, my irregular cycles did not seem to have a cause. My RE was convinced I was not ovulating, and told us it would be really hard for us to conceive naturally.

That was really hard to hear.

But we pressed on, and decided to just see how things went. No doctors, no pressure. We even started talking about kids differently. Using “if” vs “when” took some getting used to, but it helped ease the stress.

We took a fantastic surf road trip all the way to Big Sur. Then gallivanted around Quebec eating more wine, pate and soft cheese than a pregnant woman could even look at.

Then we came home and got back to life. My 30th birthday was bittersweet. I had always imagined having my first kiddo by 30 and clearly that was not in the cards.

The following Friday I was going to a big fancy gala for work. An event that would include lots of drinking, so I figured it would be better safe than sorry to take a pregnancy test. I got up, and first thing in the morning I opened my very last cheapo test, took it and set it on the back of the toilet to read, waited for the second line, reported the negative to Matt, and then hopped in the shower. Oh well, I guess the open bar would at least be an option.

No more than two minutes later, Matt got up. I was showering away and hear, “ummm, so…there’s a second line…!” I was in disbelief. The pregnancy test was POSITIVE!

We decided to wait till the next morning to take a second test, and that one registered immediately. It was clear: we were pregnant, and did it all on our own!

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I am thrilled to report that we have made it into the second trimester, and little baby seems to be happily snuggled in and growing. We are expecting to celebrate his or her (it will be a surprise!) arrival in early July!

Till then, the house remodel is full speed ahead, we are focused on eating well and spending quality time as a family of two, before we welcome family member number three!

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