The Strategic Homemaker

learning to follow the Father, care for the clan, and redeem the resources


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Second Children and Things that Don’t Belong on Christmas Trees

We got to spend Christmas with this new addition:

5-IMG_7647 4-IMG_7700A pretty blessed Christmas, I’d say.

I noticed some differences between my experience preparing for and having the second kid as opposed to the first.

First child:

–7 hour labor

–Nursery ready weeks in advance

–I read 5ish parenting/newborn care books while pregnant.

–no pacifier given until at least 2 weeks old

Second child:

–1.5 hour labor (Any hospital more than 10 minutes away has been ruled out for future kids.)

–what nursery?

–I reviewed a breastfeeding website a week before due date and skimmed through the hospital discharge instructions before leaving.

–given a pacifier the first day home.

Finally, this was our Christmas tree this year. Try to spot items that don’t belong on Christmas trees, including, but not limited to, a half-eaten candy cane, baby doll juice cup, a cut piece of a paper towel roll, and a Clifford keychain.

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Merry Christmas from us to all of you! Best wishes for a new year in which you “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God!”

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Family Reunions and Another Room Wallpaperless

August has already been a big month for us. My great-grandmother had her 100th birthday party, hence a family reunion, and we got to see TSH’s family for a few days on the same trip.

Here’s a five-generation pic. The lady in the center is the birthday lady.

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And here’s a family pic from TSH’s side. We’ve added 4 kids since the last family picture: IMG_7466

While we were with all of them, we did a silly string gender reveal on the baby (Verdict–silly string is always fun, but it appeared white at first and only turned BLUE after a minute and gathering it all together, so it was a bit anticlimactic, and everyone guessed we were having a caucasian baby. )

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Then we celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary.  TSH’s pick was to go golfing at an 18-hole pitch and putt.  I was skeptical, given this was about my 3rd golfing experience ever, but I ended up deciding that I really like pitch and putt golfing, although I seriously need to watch some YouTube videos demonstrating correct form :). My pick was The Melting Pot, so that’s coming up soon. Of course, we also got six Dunkin Donuts for breakfast on the day of. We are low-key around here, folks, but we were really happy to have been blessed with six wonderful years together.

Anyway, with these big excursions happening this month, I’ve been trying to refrain from spending money on the house and do some free projects–of which there are plenty. They just require a lot of labor. Below is one. We got the half-bath/laundry room stripped and painted with leftover paint from the dining room. Eventually we need to frost that window straight ahead, as it allows us to creepily watch our neighbors in their pool, or them to see our heads as we utilize the facilities. Awkward. Soon I will get some frosting film, but for now we’ve just been keeping the blinds closed.

Before:

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Next up–organizing the office and more wallpaper stripping…

P.S. I apologize for any inappropriate ads that may appear. WordPress suddenly decided to show their own ads without asking me first. TSH is working on switching everything over to another domain name, but until then, I don’t have any control over what you see. Sorry!


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My Favorite Family Picture

Ever since my most recent miscarriage, I wanted a family picture that represented our whole family, both here and with Jesus. I had tried to get it before Christmas, but TSH got swamped with deadlines, and after Christmas it got really cold. Right before we left Blacksburg, however, my friend Leah did a photoshoot for us.

IMG_9966-84 IMG_9959-81 IMG_9928-77 IMG_9922-76 IMG_9854-68 IMG_9835-60 IMG_9802-52 IMG_9767-40 IMG_9648-14First, these make me think that Leah is an awesome photographer, and I’m really thankful to her for 1) being an amazing person and friend the past five years, and 2) for taking these when she knew she would not get even close to fairly compensated for her work because we were broke.

And secondly, they make me think that I have the best-looking husband and cutest daughter ever.

But this post is not about those pictures. It is about this picture:

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This one is special because everyone in our family is represented: my necklace (from my sis-in-law) represents baby #1, PG is baby #2, the teddy bear (from another sis-in-law) represents baby #3.

It’s getting printed as soon as we move into a house.

And there’s actually another person represented in the pictures. Baby #4 is 14.5 weeks today, and had a nice fast heartbeat yesterday! We’re hoping for a snuggly little Christmas present this December 🙂 .

I have been at peace. Not because I’m confident the baby will be fine. I’m not. I don’t have any promises of that, and in fact, in John 16:33, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

but I’m confident in what Matthew 7:9-11 says:

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

And Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Sometimes “good things” doesn’t mean happy things. Maybe more than we want to admit, it means really, really hard things in the present, but if you are a child of God, you can trust Him that his plan is good and cast your cares on Him.

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7

The family picture above reminds me of this. This life is not the end of the story, but the end of the story is coming, and it will be good. When I look at the picture above, I look forward to the end of the story, and if you trust Christ as your righteousness, you can too.

What keeps you reminded of the end of the story?


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Hot Air Balloon Baby Mobile

I’ve mentioned here and here and here, that I like giving baby mobiles as gifts. Just before we left Virginia, I finished up the hanging balloons for a mobile for a baby boy we’d get to meet on the trek to New England.

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I used this girl’s pattern for the balloons, but that girl was too skilled for me. She sewed circles on the bottoms of her hot air balloons, but I couldn’t figure out how to get that to work. I just left them open and capped it with a felt basket, so no one could see anyway. I also had to start sewing the pieces from the top of the balloon, if I wanted them to line up at all at the end.

I made the baskets by just cutting out felt, folding it into a basket shape, pinning it, and stitching with embroidery floss in a backstitch–um, my only hand stitch. See here:

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I then sewed the baskets to the balloons by using one long loose piece of embroidery floss and just knotting it inside the basket. I also tied a knot in a long satin ribbon and stitched the knot to the top. You may be able to see better here:

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Have you given any fun baby gifts lately?


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Fabric Frugality

What do you do when your mom gives you a worn, stained, flannel sheet set?

Make it into cloth wipes, of course!  With cloth wipes retailing for more than 2 dollars a piece here, and a person needing about 36 or so, these can make a nice and free-to-you gift for someone planning to cloth diaper. Also, using cloth wipes  saves you about $100 a year according to them, so, I estimate if you make them for free, you save about $170/ year. Besides, if you’re cloth diapering anyway, cloth wipes are more convenient, as you can just throw them into the same pail as the cloth diapers.

You cut the sheet into 6″ x 8″ rectangles. This size is not only good for wiping, but it fits into a commercial plastic wipes container when folded in half, and then you can fold them so the next one pulls out the top each time, like with a box of kleenex. Someone already made a video on how to do this: here.

A rotary cutter and cutting mat make this really easy, but if you have to use the scissors, it is okay. These are just cloth wipes. No need to be precise. Here’s my giant stack of rectangles:

Then you just zigzag stitch around the edge with whatever color thread you want. This keeps the wipe from fraying since it will get washed ~100 times/ year.

Now, typically I like my wipes one-ply, because you can conform them to the shape of your hand or a baby’s bottom better, but this sheet was extremely threadbare, and so it worked much better doubled up. In this case, if your wipes aren’t precisely the same size, you just stitch around the inner edge, and cut the excess off later. Here they are finished:

To use, you fill a spray bottle with ~3 cups water, 1-2 pumps baby wash, and a squirt of baby oil. Then before you use a wipe, shake the bottle and spray the wipe. Since they don’t have alcohol in them, they aren’t too cold, and oh so soft. They are like wipes for the wealthy, man!

Anyway, don’t throw away your flannel sheets! make someone some wipes!

I personally don’t need any more, as mine are still going strong (which I made my this same method more than a year ago), but I was able to give a set of twelve to a pregnant new neighbor planning to cloth diaper, who was really excited and is having us over for dinner tomorrow. (See what cloth wipes can get you? Just kidding :)) Even if someone doesn’t use cloth diapers, I have found it handy to have some cloths at meal times for wiping faces and hands. Let me know if you have any questions, and I hope you find this useful!


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My Ideal Baby Registry (for the first year)

Two things this strategic homemaker wants to be about is saving money, and blessing people with gifts. Hopefully this post will help with both.

I made this list around when my daughter turned one to help some friends looking forward to having children. These are the things I used during my one year of  baby experience, and my suggestions on whether to register for the item, make, or borrow.  My list will obviously not be the exact same as anyone else’s, but hopefully it can give you a good starting point, and help out people trying to figure out what gifts to give.

I put the diaper section last. I really like cloth diapers; I have found them not to be much of an inconvenience, and to prevent blowouts an estimated 4 out of 5 times. They are also saving us probably $600 a year, even with a coin-operated washer. Anyway, I know they are not for everyone, and I  would not recommend them if you go to the laundromat, or already do laundry 24/7, so you can skip that section if you make it that far. Without further ado…

Sleeping:

1 crib (New US regulations came out July a year ago, so if you are a stickler about that sort of thing, you will need a new one.)

2-3 crib sheets

~3 Swaddle wraps or sleep sack (We had Summer Infant swaddle wraps, but PG grew out of them really soon, so if you want your kid tightly bound, you might need something that is more One Size Fits All. Sleep sacks are good for keeping them warm, but not bound. Some kids sleep better bound, some unbound. Tough to say ahead of time.)

1 breathable bumper (I only needed this about one month, between when she started rolling, and when she could control her limbs a bit better, so I deem it optional.)

1 baby monitor (A fancy one is not necessary, but this is good to be able to hear them crying, especially if you live in a larger or two-story house.)

Tag blanket—make it–PG’s aunt made her this, and it is her snuggly. She wouldn’t hold it up for a pic, but here it is in her bed:

Bathing:

Little bath tub (I know a lot of people wash their babies in the sink, but I really appreciated the little hard plastic tub.)

Baby bath soap with press-down top, so you can access it with one hand

On the go:

1 Ergo baby carrier with infant insert (This carrier can be used in front, on your hip, and on your back when they are bigger—They are expensive, though, so you want to try to get one used, gifted to you, or on a discount. I got mine off babysteals.com for $70.)

1 pack and play (We use this when we travel, or when we want to stay out at someone else’s house after PG’s bedtime, and it’s good to put other kids down who come to your house. My friends went in together to buy it off my registry. Yay!)

1 all-terrain stroller and infant carseat that clicks into stroller (We used Baby Trends and it has worked well so far. The main cons with this stroller: the sun-shade is not the best, and you can’t carry very heavy objects in the storage area. I.e. this does not work very well as your grocery store shopping cart, but I’m not sure if others do.)

diaper bag (One that hooks to the stroller is especially nice.)

grocery cart seat cover— if you have a sewing machine, these are easy to make from the online tutorial here.

Feeding:

Nursing cover (I haven’t used these particular tutorials here, here, and here, but they don’t look hard.)

Breast gel pads

Nursing pads

3-4 cheap plastic bottles with slow-flow nipples (I know there are tons of fancy bottles, and some kids may need them, but I would suggest you try the cheap kind first. Also, we never moved away from the slow-flow nipples.)

1 Boppy (used from about 2-5 months)

nursing bras (Four are probably good if you do laundry at least 2x/week)

nursing tanks (Although spaghetti strap tanks with shelf [one size larger than normal] worked well for me, and held the pump on better)

bottle brush

1 booster seat with tray—used from 6+ months (or high chair if you are short on chairs)

milk storage bags

If you will be working, then you’ll need a Medela double breast pump (I have talked to several people, and this brand works the best–I waited until I had a 20% off coupon from Target and got this one. At the end of your registry, you’ll get 10% off anything left on your registry, so at least get that discount.)

If you will not be working, a single breast pump should be sufficient, and they cost much less than the doubles.

ice cube trays with lids (We made most of PG’s baby food and froze it in cubes.)

baby spoons

sippy cups or small plastic cups (These IKEA ones work well and are easy to wash, but you have to help the kid hold it, or they will dump water all over themselves).

Clothes etc.:

I would suggest not registering for many clothes, blankets, towels, or bibs because people tended to buy them of their own accord.  Also, cheap second-hand clothes are pretty available. If you are lucky, you can find a steady person to get hand-me-downs from. But also, Craigslist, garage sales, and thrift stores have  a plethora of baby clothes. However, these things I would register for:

–winter bunting if it is cold where you live (These are more expensive–although I have seen them at Once Upon a Child.)

–some onesies

–bib with large pocket (most of the ones people got us were good for drool, also good, but not for the serious food mess)

–socks that stay on (old Navy worked well for us)

–some shoes—not for when they are small, but once they start walking—so 9-12 months or 12+ months

Playing

1 infant seat/rocker –used from 0-3 months

1 Bumbo—used from 4-7 months

Teething ring or Sophie the giraffe—(we did not have Sophie, but at someone else’s house, PG did really like it.)

mobile and some soft toys (You can make these easily. I’ll describe how in a later blog post.) Our mobile looks like this (Please forgive the bare walls. We rent, and I don’t claim to have a design blog.):

if you can borrow or get secondhand or gifted, the following are nice (The particular kid may not like one, or may LOVE one—no telling): playmat, swing, johnny jump up, or exersaucer.

Diapers:

8 diaper covers and 36 prefolds (We used Flip covers, which have pros and cons. Pros: one size, so we won’t have to buy more, and they work pretty well. Cons: the prefold slipped around inside when she was small, and once she slept through the night they didn’t absorb enough. I did try some of the fancier diapers [Bumgenius, Fuzzibuns, and Grovia,] but preferred the covers and prefolds, because we can use a wet bucket [which we needed because the dry pail was stinking when we tried to go more than two days without washing], and the Fuzzibunz leaked. )

36 6”x8” flannel cloth wipes—this size fits in a plastic wipes container well. These are easy to make. Basically just zigzag stitch around the edge. Here are mine:

1 spray bottle (fill with 4 cups water, 1 T baby soap, 1 t baby oil for wipes spray)

1-5 gallon bucket with lid (or tall kitchen trash can with lid and 2 pail liners)

Changing pad and cover (both totally optional, but they were nice). Used from about 0-8 months.

1 potty seat (used from 5+ months when I got my daughter to do #2 on the potty. Definitely worth it.)

Charlie’s laundry soap (All Free and Clear will work fine also, but it leaves a bit more residue, so you might need to strip occasionally.)

1 package of each size disposable diapers (I used them the first few weeks, at night once she slept through the night, and on trips.)

some disposable wipes (I used/use these the first few weeks, for really messy jobs, on trips, in the diaper bag, and for cleaning the bathroom)

butt paste—If she had a rash, I’d either put a cloth wipe between the paste and cloth diaper, then wash the wipe separately from diapers, or put paste on at night with the disposable.)

Woo-Hoo! You made it to the end. Now go register or buy someone a gift!  If you already have a kid, how would you change the list?