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Our family can't get enough of the Berenstain Bears.  We read the books, we watch the cartoon, we even play with the decades-old Happy Meal toys.  Not only are Daddy and I nostalgic about the beloved books we grew up with, but our kids are downright crazy about this lovable bear family.  My husband has even wistfully mentioned that he wished we could all move to Bear Country and live down a sunny dirt road. 

The pictures are cheerful and the stories are engaging, but what I love most about these books is their ability to teach a lesson without seeming pedantic.  Instead of feeling like they've just 'learned something' my kids come away laughing at the silly antics of Papa Bear or the temper tantrums thrown by the kids.  But days later I'll catch them saying things like "we shouldn't bite our nails, it's a bad habit" or "we need to be polite or we'll have to do extra chores."  As young as they are, the get it and because they learned from the Bear family instead of from their own Mama and Papa, they are much more likely to incorporate those ideas into their own lives.

We hardly miss a bedtime without reading at least one of these books - and with 0ver 30 years worth of stories to choose from, we haven't grown tired of them yet!  Don't forget to check out the Berenstain Bears' Almanac, Nature Guide and Science Fair to add a little dose of academics to your day as well!  I have a feeling these bears will be handed down to the next generation some day - and maybe many more to come.
 
 
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My favorite thing this week:  Sandra Boynton's Mom's Family Calendar.  If you're a busy mom like me (and what mom isn't?) then this calendar is perfect for keeping your life in order.  Not only does it come with a drop-down pocket for storing notes, papers, pens, spare change - whatever - but it also has slots for recording appointments for up to 5 family members!  No more cramming a very full day's worth of appointments into one tiny square.  As a bonus you even get a magnetic phone-number chart so you can keep all those important emergency numbers on your fridge.  AND the calendar includes over 500 special stickers to decorate your pages and mark birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, etc.  Every month is decorated with colorful scenes full of Sandra Boynton characters taking part in seasonal activities.   And with 15 months of calendars, you can be sure not to forget any upcoming appointments for a long time to come.  I love my calendar - it keeps me sane and on time.  I've even given them as gifts to great acclaim.  The only thing it doesn't do is synch with my iphone.  But seeing as I don't have an iphone (have I mentioned that I'm technologically in the stone age these days?), that's a-ok with me :)
 

New Format Friday

8/26/2011

 
I mentioned when I moved to this new site that Friday posts would be dedicated to deals and giveaways.  I'd like to change things up a little and make Fridays a little more 'anything goes.'  So from now on, I'll be varying my Friday posts.  Some might indeed be about good deals and giveaways.  I'm also planning to add interviews with some of my favorite vendors, articles I've found particularly poignant, opportunities for you to give back, and maybe a story or two from my own life now and then. 

I'll kick off this Friday with a fun giveaway:
The Shine Project is teaching us all to 'pay it forward' and raising money for kids in the process.  This website is giving away three of her Shine Project necklaces - a great daily reminder for us all to give back.

And on a less serious note, we've been holding our tri-annual garage sale this weekend.  So here are a few tips on how to be a bad garage sale customer:

1) When sorting through piles, toss everything aside in a big jumble and then walk away.  Return nothing to hangers and certainly don't refold clothes. 
2) Haggle prices down to nearly nothing.  Then pay for $2.50 worth of items with a $20 bill. 
3) Talk loudly about what terrible shape the items are in/how ugly the clothes are.  Then buy a large armful of them.
4) Park in front of the mailbox/trash can then look annoyed when the mailman/garbageman walks around your car to reach them. 
 
 
A brand new, super healthy favorite in our house - this juice is all fruit and no additives - and pretty cheap!

Apple Grape Juice

4 gala apples
2 cups black grapes

Wash fruit and quarter apples.  Run all through juicer.  Do not strain. 
 
 
I feel like I've been struggling with materialism lately.  Not only 'wanting more stuff' but also 'making more money.'  Maybe I feel like I don't contribute enough since I'm 'just' a stay-at-home-mom.  Or maybe I want to justify some of the things I do buy (though I'm trying to be frugal).  Or maybe it's just how easy Pinterest has made bookmarking my every desire.  But I've found myself making more and more lists of things to buy and to make and to sell.  I'm devoting more and more time to tossing together crafts to sell.  I'm taking bigger chunks of naptime to freelance write for pennies an article.  Somehow it makes me feel like I'm 'contributing.'  But I'm not.  I'm neglecting my priorities in an attempt to make money that I don't need - and doing things not for the love of doing, but for the want of money. 

And as for those wish-lists, well.... We're having a garage sale this weekend.  A LOT of work has gone into preparing this garage sale.  And what is the number one item we have to sell?  Toys.  Some that have almost never been played with.  Some that are only a couple of months old.  Some that I've been hoarding in boxes for most of my life.  My kids have their set of 'favorites' plus a couple of backup boxes I rotate in when they get really bored.  And even then I often find them playing with bowls and spoons from the kitchen, making trains out of the dining room chairs, or simply jumping on the bed.  So why do I make elaborate Christmas lists?  Why ask for toys they'll probably never play with or books they'll tear to pieces?  I should be filling the list with things they'll need, like winter sweaters or a spare water bottle.  And then I should be thinking very carefully about quality gifts - not quantity of gifts.  I'm thinking of shopping after-Halloween sales to make them a costume box.  I want to help foster their imaginations and they have great fun changing identities as quickly as they can change hats.  They'll get months of fun out a few dollars worth of gifts if I can fill their stockings with imaginative play.

All that money I'll save on my (hopefully) diminishing materialism I can start throwing at all the 'great causes' I've been coming across lately.  The famine crisis in Africa.  Child trafficking syndicates in India.  Operation Christmas Child, our three sponsored children, friends who are going through a rough patch, foster children in America, people without food.  The needs I see every day that touch my heart are having to do a great battle with the wants I come across every hour.  Oh, that's cute, my kids might like that.  For a day.  Oh, I like that, I might wear it.  For a week.  Oh, that looks yummy, I could eat that.  And get fat. 

So here's my plan of action:
1) Stop the sensory overload.  I need to be careful what shops I frequent (online and brick-and-mortar), what blogs I read and how long I spend on Pinterest.  I'm vowing to turn the computer off in the morning, and leave it off till nap time.  This will give me more time to lavish on my sweet babies, and reduce the amount of 'stuff' I will see and subsequently want.
2) Ask myself "Can I make it?" and "Is it worth it?"  When I really want something, I'll ask myself if I can make it myself instead of spending top dollar to buy it.  Either way, I'll examine whether that item is really worth the time I would spend to make it, or the money I would spend to buy it.  Odds are, it's really not.
3) Only create what I love.  I started my online shop to sell the crafts I made in my spare time.  I love crafting, it's relaxing and a nice outlet.  But lately I've been feeling pressured to build up an inventory so I can really start marketing.  Why?  I don't need the money.  If stuff sits in my online store for ages (or indefinitely), what does it matter?  I enjoyed the process, and that was the point.  With three tiny kids, I have a full time job.  I don't need to be adding manufacturing to my job description.  So, I will craft when I have the inspiration and motivation (and time!) and if it sells - awesome.  And if not - no big deal. 
4) Find ways to give back.  If I see a cause that I feel passionately about, I will redirect resources to help out.  If it means eating stew and rice and beans for a week so we can send some money - great.  If it means leaving the kids with Daddy for a night so I can help babysit for a friend who needs it - great.  If it means spending a little more time on my knees in prayer - even better.  And if it means giving up some of the stuff stuff stuff that is eating away at my life - win win win win. 

So that's my plan.  Now I'd love to hear from you.  What do you struggle with most when it comes to materialism?  Do you have any special tips for staying focused on priorities and clearing the clutter (mental and physical) out of your lives?  Any additional thoughts?  Feel free to keep me accountable on this - I know I'm going to need it.
 
 
When our oldest child was born, we didn't really give much thought to which diapers we would use.  We were given several bags at our shower and discovered that, on our skinny baby, Huggies leaked out the sides like crazy, Luvs exploded if we tried an all-nighter, and Pampers were just right.  However, not long after our second was born (and our first was still in diapers) Pampers changed their formula.  Whatever new chemicals they added started to irritate our babies' bottoms like crazy.  At that point I sat down and thought very hard about what I wanted to do with my diapering dilema.  Here are the diapers that I finally chose:

1) Bumgenius 3.0 - For baby #2 and #3 I ordered a bunch of Bumgenius 3.0 cloth diapers.  I decided that cloth diapering was not only more eco-friendly, but most importantly, the soft cotton interiors are gentle on my babies and are chemical-free.  There is a considerable amount more work involved with cloth diapers.  They need to be rinsed out after poops (please please buy a diaper sprayer if you're planning to cloth diaper - it makes a world of difference) and then the liner must be pulled out and all pieces must be pre-washed, washed, double rinsed, dried, folded and stuffed.   *Whew*  Also, there's a hefty up-front cost.  Not only did I have to buy the diapers themselves, but also a diaper pail (I use a plain pedal-lid trash can), diaper pail liner, diaper sprayer, wetbags (so I can cloth diaper while I'm out) and pail deodorizers (because I'm notorious for putting off laundry till I'm on my last diaper).  I saved a little money by buying my diapers and accessories at Cotton Babies while they were having a sale.  Even so, my 30 diapers cost almost $400.  However, if you Google "inexpensive cloth diapers" you'll be on the road to discovering myriad sites that offer deals on diapers.  Keep your eyes peeled and you'll find something great.  I chose the Bumgenius 3.0 because there was a good sale, they are easy to assemble and are applied just like a disposable diaper, and the velcro (rather than snaps) were a better fit for my skinny kids.  However, after a little more than a year, some of the velcro is starting to get weak or pull away from the diaper.  If you're a decent seamstress, though, it's not a big deal to mend or replace.  Overall, I've been very happy with our cloth diapering experience and in the long run, it's saved us a LOT of money.  We figured that we'd recoup our cost in 10 months by not buying disposables (or nearly as many anyway) and with two babies in cloth diapers, we'll get much more than 10 months worth of wear out of them.

2) Seventh Generation disposables - Because our children can't wear cloth diapers in the nursery at church, and we don't use cloth when we're using diaper cream, we also keep on hand a supply of disposable diapers.  Seventh Generation so far has been the sturdiest and mildest of all the 'natural' diapers we've used.  The Kroger brand and Earth's Best diapers are so stiff that they rub sores on our kids' skin.  Seventh generation is soft and flexible, but also super absorbent.  They've even survived a brief stint in the pool.  However, these diapers are also very expensive. 

3) Huggies Pure & Natural - so to compromise our stinginess with our desire to protect our babies' skin, we've been using Huggies natural diapers lately.  These diapers are super soft and super absorbent and while I'm still dubious as to how 'natural' they really are, they certainly don't bother the kids' bottoms like most 'name brand' diapers do.  They fit both my skinny toddler and my chubby baby without leaking and they even have the convenient "yellow turns blue when wet" strip so I know when baby needs a change.  And as a plus, they all come with codes for the Huggies Enjoy the Ride program so we can ear 'free stuff' w

These are my top 3 diaper recommendations.  If you're interested in cloth diapering, you can search for cloth diaper 'trial packs' that will send you 1 of up to 7 different types of cloth diapers to try out until you find just the right style for your little one.  Many even offer a refund if you return the trial diapers to purchase a new set of your choice.  So if you're looking to be gentle on baby's bottom without a huge mess to clean up, give these diapers a try!
 
 
If your kids are like mine and go through 'veggie strikes,' here's an easy way to sneak a few more servings of veggies into their diets.  Reposting this recipe from my recipe blog.

Sneaky Veggie Meatloaf Surprise

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 slices bread, crumbled
2 eggs
3 tbsp milk
1/4 cup green pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup carrot, finely shredded
1/4 cup broccoli florets, stems removed
dash salt and pepper
dash thyme
generous dash rosemary, marjoram, and savory
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 slices cheddar or colby jack cheese

Combine all ingredients except cheese. Mix well. Oil a loaf pan and fill with half the meatloaf mixture. Place cheese slices in the middle of the loaf. Top with remaining mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.


 

The Old Site

8/18/2011

 
This site is a continuation of my old blog which is located at:  http://babystuffilove.blogspot.com/

I am slowly moving that content over to the archive sections of this page, but with 3 kids, it might take me a while.  If you'd like to see the older content, please feel free to visit the old site.  Thanks!

 
 
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Continuing on the train theme, this week's Book Of The Week is Crossing by Philip Booth and Bagram Ibatoulline.  The simple but clever rhymes in the book keep the story flowing and the pictures are breathtakingly beautiful.  This book portrays a train crossing through an absolutely picturesque 1950s town.  The details are stunning, and the descriptions of the cars as they pass will teach the readers (adults and kids alike) a thing or two about the parts of a train. It's already become a favorite in our household!

 
 
As I said in the previous post, our family minivan is in the shop.  Since we can't keep three rambunctious little kids stuck in the house for two weeks, we got a rental.  Unfortunately, the rental place didn't have any vans available, so they gave us their next biggest car - the Kia Sorento.  At first glance it looked great.  It seemed roomy and even had a third row, which I thought would be perfect for getting in all our seats.  Not so.  I don't love it.

After we'd dropped off the van and started to get settled into the Kia, we realized that the car seat situation was going to be a nightmare.  That fabulous third row I was so excited about has no back harness attachments - meaning no forward-facing seats can fit (a booster might, but our kids aren't that big yet).  And, the third row is much too close to the second row for a rear facing seat to fit (I also can't imagine anyone over the age of 12 squeezing their legs in there).  So we were forced to mash all 3 seats into the middle row, which we did - barely.  My 3 year old is so close to the door that he can easily unlock and open it - something he fortunately proved to us before we left the parking lot.  And we're really quite nervous about what would happen to one of our babies if we were hit side-on.  The doors just barely shut and touch the seat when closed.  And we had to do some car seat juggling to figure out which seats would fit where with only 2 LATCH capable slots.  Whew.  And despite the fact that we have the front seats pushed as far back as we can (without crushing little legs), we both feel as though we're sitting right up on the dashboard when we're driving. 

However, with the third row folded down, there's tons of room in the back to store gear.  And the car does handle pretty well.  And the man at the dealership assured me that it gets fantastic MPG for an SUV.  So - if you have 2 or fewer kids and don't need to drive around extra adults, this might be a great car for you.  But as for our 5 person family - it's just a little too close for comfort.

 
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