Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Judah's New Born Shoot

We've been super blessed to know and be friends with some stellar photographers - one of them being the AMAZING Kimberly Bee. I love Kim. I know when I schedule a shoot with her, we're going to do something fun...and just possibly illegal. We've sent Jeff carrying a couch into the middle of someone's cotton field, trespassed on what we thought was abandoned as our shoot approached, I wondered what fun we would get up to this time!

Well, since our shoot was during the 120 degree August heat wave, we had a last minute location switch to...our house! Okay...well...turns out that we have a fantastic tree in our backyard. It's a fig tree and it's (much to our neighbors dismay) VERY overgrown. So combine that with Kim's creative eye and wha-la! Naked newborn, balancing in a fig tree in 120 degree heat.

Of course, it wouldn't be a newborn shoot without getting some of the more traditional baby poses so we have those too. And of course, the attempted shot of all the kids. So here you go! Here are some of the photos from Judah's newborn shoot.

I loved this monkey set the minute I saw it - mainly because his dad is well known for some mad climbing skills. So, we now have our little monkey in training.

For more information on Kim, check out her blog - Bumble and Bloom


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Judah-man: 1 month well-check (a week late...)

Well, as probably most people know, Judah is home! He was able to come home a little over two weeks ago and has been doing really well. Praise God!

Today he is 5 and a half weeks old - he will be 6 weeks old on Friday. That's just crazy. He weighs in at 6 lbs 5 oz and is 19 inches in length. He had his one month well check with his ped (delayed because of when he was released from the NICU) and is overall doing wonderfully.

He eats like a champ. Since he's a preemie, he gets preemie formula added to my milk to create a high calorie, high calcium+vitamins+minerals combination. It's been nice (and different) to bottle feed a baby. The pro's are that anyone can feed him (woohoo!) but the cons are many :(

My poor little mommy heart so wants to nurse this little boy. I do nurse him twice a day right now which consists of him latching for about 20 min and somewhat eating. He's super spoiled by the bottle and can totally tell he's going to be a lazy eater when it comes to breastfeeding. On top of that, I found out today that his pediatrician recommends preemies to be on high-cal feedings until they reach a normal growth curve - usually around 6 months of age. With where Judah is at right now, it will be at least that or longer of hi-cal bottle feedings while mommy pumps. The thought of continuing in this pattern for another 5 months brings tears to my eyes.

Please pray for me as I battle and pray over this. I know that Judah's health is fully in God's hands and that however we get through this, He will provide us the strength to do so. Even if that means finishing out my supply and going from there. Judah is strong and healthy and we praise and give all the glory to God for that.

To all my formula-feeding mommy friends, I know that formula is not the end of the world. I know that you get strong healthy babies who were fed exclusively formula. I love you ladies and I fully support your decision. However, as a mommy who nursed her last two babies almost exclusively, this is so hard. BMilk is best. And the antibodies for a preemie going into (and through) RSV season can make a huge, HUGE difference. Lord, please give me strength.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Updates: Judah, Sophia and Abbi

To make my life easier I'm posting the latest on all of our health issues.


Is doing great. He's eating 45ml every 3 hours and has been taking some (or all) of each feeding from a bottle. He's been moved to a crib for a little over a week now and they have adjusted him to just being swaddled and laid on his back to sleep without the additional "comfort" items. He still has his feeding tube and that will remain until he is eating at least 70% of each feeding from a bottle consistently. It could possibly come out over the weekend.

He has been having a lot of "brady's", short for bradycardia, which is a drop in his heart rate. It's totally normal for preemies and I've gotten used to him having them. But - he has to be without them for several days before he can come home.


A little history: Sophi has had a limp for about 3 weeks now. It first started following several days of a low-grade fever and it was initially diagnosed as a viral joint infection. After two weeks of waiting it out, she had made very little forward progress so her ped sent her for new x-rays and blood work. Her blood work revealed only small signs of infection - but nothing that would explain her limp. Her ped then referred her to an pediatric orthopedic who we saw today.

The pediatric orthopedic thinks that she has injured the joint, and that we are dealing with inflammation, not infection. They are still watching her for signs of valley fever but since she is improving incrementally each day, there is no reason to suspect infection unless she gets worse again. Hello large doses of advil.


I think the hardest thing for me to balance is my desire to be in the NICU with Judah and getting the rest my body needs to recover. I think I would actually get more rest if he were home, even though right now I can do 4-5 hour stretches of sleep which I won't be able to do once he's home. However, I don't have the option right now to "just take the baby to bed" with me and sleep when they sleep. Add in there all of Sophia's dr's appointments, Maddi's 6th birthday on Thursday, and getting Maddi and Izzi ready to start school next week. Yikes...not much rest for this very tired mama who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat.

They prepared me for it to take 1-3 months to recover from the Valley Fever and that didn't take into account recovering from having a baby as well. Honestly, I don't even feel like I just had a baby, I really feel like I have Valley Fever. I can't pinpoint specific symptoms other than the extreme tiredness - my respiratory pneumonia feels much better overall but still has it's moments (especially with the heat/humidity).

How to pray for us:

* Praise! Always we are praising God. For his provision during this time, for the large number of people who have and are helping our family get through it, for another day we get to bring Him glory. And for new opportunities - I never thought I would have hours to sit and chat with NICU nurses and now I do. Since they try to keep the nurses consistent I've gotten to know a few of them.

* Continued healing for myself and Sophia. That I could find moments to rest.

* Patience and endurance for Jeff when he feels like he's doing all the work (cause he pretty much is).

* That Judah would continue to improve each day. I'm anxious to have him home but want him fully healthy before he is so if that means longer in the NICU, then I'm ok with that.

Thank you everyone for your prayers, love and support. We are truly blessed by each one of you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Judah: First Bath

We were able to give Judah his first bath today. I thought after three kids I knew how to bathe a baby but we've entered a whole new world. We were instructed by a NICU massage therapist that works with each of the babies on how to give him a swaddle bath. It takes both of us to bathe him - one to hold and support him while the other washes him. It was wonderful having Jeff come today to give him his first bath.

Pre Bath:

Jeff held, I washed

Tiny Little Foot

Judah stayed calm and enjoyed it.

Post bath. The paci gives you an idea of how small he is :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Judah: 1 week old

One Week Old Today
(33 and 6/7 weeks in NICU terms)

Here is an update on Judah now that he is one week old:

* He had his IV nutritional support removed and is taking a full feeding (a little over an ounce) of breastmilk every 3 hours. He is tolerating them well - there are no residuals or left overs in his tummy and he only has occasional reflux. He eats through a feeding tube to his stomach.

* He has been weaning down on his oxygen support and is no longer using an oxygen supplement - he just has an airflow at room pressure through a nasal cannula. This will continue to wean down over the next several days.

* He is becoming more alert and learning his schedule. This is important because he needs to learn to recognize when he his hungry. He takes a pacifier really well. Hopefully I will be able to start working with him on breastfeeding in this next week. This one will take time but it's great that he's started showing the early signs of being able to drink from a nipple (either bottle or breast).

* He has lost 5 oz and currently weighs 3lbs 14 oz. This is normal for all babies and still within the 10% tolerance for birth weight loss so Dr's are not concerned.

* He has started to maintain some of his own body temperature which means we can bring in clothes for him to get him used to wearing something. It also means that he is moving towards being out of the incubator.

* He started physical therapy today! Who knew?

What to Pray For:

* He has been having apnea episodes. At 1 day old they gave him a caffeine starter that helps with the apnea for 5 days and now that it has worn off, he is having issues again. They gave him another starter today and will put him on a maintenance dose to wean him off. Please pray that his little body matures out of the apnea episodes.

* That I can balance life between the girls and some normalcy at home, our marriage (we're not having any problems other than busyness and exhaustion so we don't see each other!), and spending time at the NICU with Judah.

A lot of you have asked when Judah will come home. And THAT is the question! He looks like such a normal baby (plus the oxy and feeding tubes) in all his pictures! He's actually quite small though so it's misleading. The nurses will tell you to expect him home by his due date (Aug 27th) but most NICU babies that do really well go home between 37 and 38 weeks. We are hoping to have Judah home mid-August.

Judah: Birth Story

Jeff and I have a running joke that I like to get sick on his birthday. After having a nasty mastitis on his birthday last year (we had to drive home from vacation in the middle of the night I was so sick), we really didn't think anything would top that. Little did we know...

I had been having increasing shortness of breath for the last few weeks. I didn't notice it getting worse and assumed - its 120 degrees out, I'm 8 months pregnant, and I'm chasing around three kids. Who wouldn't have shortness of breath? On the night of Jeff's birthday, I started having a sharp pain when breathing in my right lung. I tried using an albuterol inhaler and it did nothing. I took a hot shower and went to bed thinking I would have my dr check it out at my 32 week OB check the next morning.

By the next morning (Wednesday) I was really short on breath - like couldn't talk short. The Dr's assumed I had a blood clot in my lung and sent me straight to the hospital to get checked out. I had no other symptoms - just shortness of breath and sharp pain in my right lung. A quick catscan (it's amazing how speedy hospitals can do things at times and how painfully slow at others!) revealed a pneumonia in my right lung. What? I have no fever, my blood cell counts were all NORMAL (including white), my ox levels were normal. How did I have pneumonia?

Several large jugs of blood and 24 hours of waiting revealed that I have Valley Fever. Most Phx natives have it - it's a fungus that is just part of the air we breathe. What you don't know about Valley Fever is that it can rear it's ugly head when it feels like it. It's possible for Valley Fever to lie dormant in your system for years and never experience any symptoms - or assume you have a small virus and you recover. It can show up anywhere in your body. Shortness of breath and unbelievable tiredness are the most common symptoms, but it can also be a pneumonia (like me!), a rash, a joint infection, an eye infection, any other kind of infection and a meningitis (grows in your spinal column). Apparently for me, now was the time for Valley Fever to rear it's ugly head. (And no, this was not a bi-product from the Haboob. With the stage I was at it had been growing for 6-8 weeks).

Ok, back to the story. Yay! Diagnosis - Valley what? The good thing about VF is that it's very treatable. The bad thing is that it TAKES FOREVER. My Infections Disease Dr said that it's slow growing so it's slow going. The Dr's plan was to get my breathing stabilized and wean me off oxygen (by this point I had dropped to 86% and pregnant women should be above 97%) and send me home to recover. Brilliant plan - I am for it! And that worked...for about 24 hours.

Thursday night, just when I was starting to feel much more relaxed (thank you Vicodin) and like I could finally rest, I went into labor. Contractions were 3 min apart and I dilated to 3 cm in about an hour. Yep, baby is coming - no FFN needed. There was only one drug the dr's could give me to stop labor so they gave it a shot - and it worked. Woohoo! I was settling back down, contractions were slowing, it was great. Then I got up to go pee. And WOOSH, my vitals crashed (did I mention it's 1am Friday morning at this point?). My blood pressure was at 58/20, pulse 160 and oxy levels in the 70's (while being given oxygen).

We learned about a new button in the hospital at this point in time - it's called a rapid response. Within 30 seconds there were 15 different doctors all in my room WITH their equipment working to stabilize me. They put me on a cpap machine - which forces air into your lungs (and more commonly used with newborns) so I wouldn't have to transfer to the ICU - though that was the next step if I didn't stabilize. Praise God that I did! Within a couple hours on cpap my oxy levels were better but my breathing, pulse and blood pressure were still not good. You know your in bad shape when your nurse remarks that 80/40 is a great blood pressure!

Around 2am my Perinatalogist (high risk pregnancy dr) came in and made the call to re-induce my labor...that they had just stopped. They had to wait until I was a little more stable and I had labor stopping drugs in my system so we had to let those wear off a little. Around 5 am they began the process of induction, I was hooked up to petocin and they broke my water. It took quite a while for my body to respond to the petocin (probably due to the labor stopping meds) but it finally did and I went from 4cm to pushing in only about 30 min. I delivered wearing the cpap mask. That was fun.

At 10:58 am on Friday July 8th - Judah Russell was born. He weighed 4lbs 4 oz and was 17.5 inches long. Judah means "praise God" or "give thanks to God". I had picked the name prior to delivering or any of this craziness. Even while I was in labor, we were still going back and forth between three different names when Jeff told me that I should name him. Looking back, I don't think any other name could be more perfect.

Even through this chaos - a huge tornado has completely turn our lives and schedules upside-down and sideways - we praise God. No one asks for a preemie - it is one of the most emotionally and physically exhausting things a mother can go through, especially when there are three other kids at home all wanting and needing your attention. But I feel God's presence walking me through it. Through my recovery, through Judah's, and as our family finds a new balance, we find our peace and our strength in God.

Thank you to our family - who put their lives on hold this last week to be there for us and for the girls. And thank you to our Desert Breeze family. We couldn't ask for a better church community and the support you're giving us is truly an example of why God designed the church.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A mommy's confession

Today was a hard day. Seriously, I quit as a mom. I reached the point of being beyond done with my children. After the girls were finally in bed (an hour after bedtime) I sat down at the computer to just veg. Check facebook, have {several} conversations via text, and just let this day roll off me.

My plan after the girls went to bed was to study the book of Acts. It's what we're studying as a church right now on Sunday's and my women's small group is going through an in-depth study of the book. But as I started to decompress at the computer, I felt God calling me in a different direction...

As I updated my facebook status and saw that I was not the only mommy who had a rough day, I began to think about why I had handled it so poorly. Both with my words and actions. Sure, I can chalk it up to "I'm just human - I am" and "we all have bad days - we do" and "tomorrow's a new day - it is", but what does that teach me about how I handled TODAY. How do I make it so that tomorrow is different? What can I LEARN from today about God, and who He has made me as a mommy?"

I have an amazing mentor in my life - Darcy Kimmel - and at one point I asked her, what verse do you recommend for those days where you're just DONE as a mom. She recommended Ephesians 4:32 "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ok, I thought, well...I could see teaching that one TO your kids, but how does that help me when I just want to cry "UNCLE!". If you've heard the name Kimmel, it's probably in association with their ministry - Family Matters. Her hubby Tim has authored numerous parenting and life-living books including Grace Based Parenting.

So, as I sat here at my computer, a random thought {hello God} popped into my head, I'm going to do a word study on "grace". I know the word, I've experienced the word, I can recite tons of scripture using the word. But, I thought, do I LIVE the word. Today, did I show my kids grace??

I immediately say, well, yes, I did!! They got warnings, they got time-outs, they got spanked, they got hugs - all of which were deserved and needed. All of those show my kids grace. Then, in my word study, I came across this verse:

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:6.

Uh-oh. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are days (like today) where God just wants to shake me and scream at me and say "WHAT ARE YOU DOING??!?!?!?" But he doesn't. With His never-ending patience, He says come here, find comfort, rest, let ME renew you, let ME give you strength. That's HIS grace. And I totally failed to do that with my girls today. Instead of being a comforting, restful, patience-filled mommy, I was on edge and snappy - all day.

I find it WAY easier to show grace in my actions, than my words so this verse has hit me hard! I also find that my words are often more grace-filled for others than they are for my kids. So, I have no choice but to go to bed saying this:

"Lord, I praise you for today. For the trials that were brought, because they showed me more of YOU. You're grace is amazing, not only in action but in word. Thank you for bringing me into your arms and lovingly showing me how to be a better mommy to these beautiful children. I pray you continue to remind me of Your graceful words and that I can be a messenger of them to these precious gifts. Amen."

I know I will fail at this. But I know that God gives me endless mercies and the grace to try again tomorrow. As long as I remember to keep coming back to Him...because it's not something I can do on my own.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Grocery Deals: Coupon Clipping Service?

If you've watched the show "Extreme Couponing", you've probably heard mention of a coupon clipping service. I've heard (known) about them for a few years now, ever since I started with the Grocery Game back when Izzi was an infant. But, I've never thought that I would actually use one.

Well, that's recently changed! My friend Erin posted the following about how she gets her coupons: Fast and Cheap Way to get Coupons While I agree that is certainly one way to get your coupons, and for sure, on weeks where the Sunday paper doesn't have ANY it certainly saves you :). But I just couldn't see myself using a clipping service as my sole coupon delivery method for two main reasons:

First, I love being hands on. I need to flip through and look at everything because if there's a good coupon, I might just change brands or try something new. Plus, what if I MISS something because I didn't click a link...OR it's sold out at the clipping service (yes this happens frequently)! Second, I only pay $1/week for the Sunday and Wednesday paper to be delivered to my front door. You can get this by just searching for newspaper deals online. AZ Republic ALWAYS has a renewal code for the $1/week subscription. So as long as I clip 2 coupons each week, it's more than paid for itself already.

BUT! I have started using the clipping services to get some coupons. For example, this past Sunday had a Soy Milk coupon for $1 off one carton. This is huge for us as we go through 1-2 cartons a week (Jeff and Maddi both drink it). The best part about the coupon is that it doesn't expire until 12/31/2011. Hello!!!! Wonderful. So, I ordered 45 copies of this coupon from a clipping service. Which means $45 off what I am ALREADY spending. I don't have to "store" or "stock pile", every week when I go to buy Soy Milk, I grab my coupons. Oh~ and the 45 coupons cost me $5.00 total after shipping. So, even after the cost of ordering them, I will still save $40 ~ on something I buy coupon or not!

So, I think it's valid for you to know that even if you aren't into creating a stock pile or a grocery store in your garage, you can still gain from the use of a clipping service to get some extra coupons and savings on items you already use in your house. If you see a coupon that you would love to have more of - go ahead, and give it a try ;)

Here are the two services that I've used:
The Coupon Master (slightly less expensive and no handling fee)
The Coupon Clippers

Have you ever used a Coupon Clipping Service? If so, is there one you can recommend?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mom Tips: Summer Sleeping

So, I don't want to brag...but I have GREAT sleepers. Don't get me wrong, the first year is ALWAYS rough, but after that, my kids are just great sleepers. I read post after post from moms who have trouble getting their little ones to nap, sleep through the night, or are even up at the crack of dawn (which is 5am here in AZ!). So that got me thinking...

First of all, for all curious readers, here is just how much my girls sleep: Maddi 7:30pm - 7am (age recommendation is 10-12 hrs); Izzi 8pm-7am and 2-4:30pm nap (age recommendation is 12-14 hrs) and Sophia 8pm - 8am and 1:30-4:30 nap (age recommendation is 13-16 hrs).

As I was putting Sophia down for her nap just now, there were two key things I could think of that help my girls sleep like they do.

1: Consistency. Yep, it sucks. It's annoying...but it works. We don't stick to the above sleep schedule minute for minute (I'm so not a "schedule" mommy). Last night we had a family movie night so Maddi and Izzi went to bed at 9. BUT - we don't change it up every day and keep them on a consistent sleep routine 90% of the time. We also have bible study every Friday night in which the girls don't go to bed until after 10 usually. But because we've built up a consistent sleep pattern in them, it doesn't throw them off to have one day (nap) or night be different and they swing back into their great sleeping behavior.

2: Black Out. If you know me, you know I love black out. I think that this is because I can't sleep with light blaring in my windows. I wake up consistently every day when the sun hits rise - usually around 5:15. No wonder kids do as well - with one exception...I go back to sleep. Also, when I talk black out, I mean black out...not a black out curtain.

The problem with a simple black out curtain is that it still lets light in. This is a HUGE issue when the sun starts rising before 5am. I've noticed that any slight change in the wee morning hours wakes a baby/toddler at the end of their sleep cycle. And for me, I'm just not a 5am kinda girl (who am I kidding, I'm not a 7am kinda girl...).

So, I came up with a wonderful solution. My old "cheap" solution was nixed pretty quickly by the HOA - what I call WT BlackOut - which was aluminum foil on the windows. Ugly - yes. But sun reflective (cooling) and 100% light block was a huge win. Anyway, as I said, HOA sunk that ship. So, my next "cheap" solution has worked wonderfully and the HOA can't say a peep. I used black upholstery vinyl - the window just looks like a room with the light off. I tacked it over the window opening then hung my curtains over it. It works a-mazingly. And at 2pm nap time - we have pitch-black rooms as if it were the dead of night. Plus, I have 5am sleepers!

So that's all the tips I have - not much, huh? But at this point, I haven't really needed anymore :)

I love hearing what other mom have learned! What are your tricks to getting your kids to sleep solidly? Any other solutions to the wee ones learning to sleep through the early summer hours you can share with all us mommies out here??

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Grocery Uber Deals - May 25th - 31st

So most of you know I don't "Extreme" coupon, but I do coupon and ad match to save money for our family. Since I've taken the time this morning to get our grocery list together, ad and coupon match, I thought I would post some of the uber deals that are available right now. I only shop at Frys.

**Note - coupons all came out of a Sunday paper. If you don't clip, start now :)

French's Mustard - On Sale $1.49 minus $0.30 coupon (quadruped to $1) = $0.49
Pepperage Farm Cookies - On Sale 3/$5. Buy 2 and use $1 off 2 coupon = $1.17 each
Bar S Franks - On Sale $0.67. Buy 2 and use $1 off 2 coupon = $0.17 each

The next group is all deals clipped from Yesterday's Wednesday Safeway add PLUS Sunday paper coupons. I use them all at Fry's still because I hate going to 8 million stores:

Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs - $0.99 each. Buy 2 and use $1 off 2 coupon = $0.50 each
Wish Bone Salad Dressing - $1.19 minus $0.50 off 1 coupon (doubled to $1 off) = $0.19
Heinz Ketchup - $1.69 minus $0.50 off 1 coupon (doubled to $1 off) = $0.69
Glad Ware Containers - $1.99 each. Buy 2 and use $1 off 2 coupon = $1.50 each

These are all items we use in this house. The over supply of hot dogs I will freeze. I will also use a $10 off a $50 purchase coupon from Fresh and Easy to save even more on the things that aren't uber deals.

Also, here is a tool I love: It's a complete coupon database of pretty much all grocery coupons that are available right now and Frys takes them all. I usually take my grocery list and search the database for any additional coupons that I can print based on what I am already going to buy.

This isn't extreme couponing - but I usually save 60-70% off the grocery bill. If you don't coupon and just shop with a VIP card, savings are on average 25-35% so this really does add up when you do it every other week :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mom Tips: Grocery Shopping with Kid(s)

So I recently had a friend post about a grocery trip gone wrong as she tackled the fits and fussies of her 15M old little girl. I found myself caught between feeling so much sympathy for her and laughing out loud because I have been there oh-so many times. EVERY mom has.

Since I have a bunch of mommy-followers who are new to this process, I thought I would jot down some of the things that I have learned that have helped make grocery shopping trips successful. Ok, probably not successful, but at least manageable.

1. Make a list. Organize that list by aisle/area of the store. Bring the list INTO the store with you - and a pen. If you have older kids, they can be the list markers. If they are too little for that, they can color on your list - or eat it, depending. Yes, this may negate making a list in the first place.

2. Avoid the cart with the car on the front. It ALWAYS ends up in a battle. They want in, they want out, they want in and to punch their sister. Then sister is crying and wants out. It adds endless mommy frustration and at least 30min to each trip. Plus, they are hard to steer. Kids should either walk or ride in the cart and be weighted down by food. If taking the second option, make sure to get eggs and bread last...

3. Bring a bribe. In our case this is usually lollipops (dum dums). When they are just "learning" the patience to shop, this is something I give them as soon as they get fidgety. The older kids have to earn it - and it has upgraded to a blowpop or ring pop. It only takes one time for them to leave the store un-rewarded (ok, maybe 3 times) for them to learn that it pays to behave - especially when everyone has a lollipop BUT them. Including you eating theirs.

4. Don't go when they are tired or hungry. Does this really require explanation?

5. Don't be afraid to discipline. This is just a rule of life with kids. And yes, discipline starts at age 1, not age 3. If you wait to age 3 or older to start to discipline and set boundaries with your kids, I'm afraid to tell you that you will have "those kids". A small smack on the hand or sharp verbal scolding is all it takes. The longer you wait to set boundaries for good behavior, the harder and more rebellious kids will be. I could probably write a book - nevermind, there are hundreds out there that have - so read one of those. Or let me know if you want a suggestion... ALSO, this tip is completely null and void if you violated tip 4. Their melt-down is now your punishment :)

This is just a small sampling of what I've learned in the last 6 years. Now it's your turn. What has helped you survive grocery shopping with small kids??

I love hearing how others survive or just to commiserate with me so I know I'm not alone! Oh and no Karis Murray, Wal-Mart at midnight doesn't count...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cyber-Debates - whats your take?

As a stay at home mommy, I've found myself inundated in the cyber-world. Between the 8 billion blogs and the increasingly annoying Facebook, I've found that I've replaced my social circle for a cyber one. Part of this was done out of necessity - I'm a VERY social being and having many young kids just makes it hard to get out with others, and part because it WAS fun. I loved being able to reconnect with people I haven't seen or talked to in many years! And...why call someone for advice, I can just read the millions of different opinions about it on blogs. Hello google!

But recently I've felt this cyber-world becoming heavy on my heart. I think there are several reasons for this. First, it doesn't really connect you with others. It's a pseudo-connection. I've taken face-to-face time and replaced it FB statuses and messaging, soo unfulfilling and find I still want face-to-face time!

Second, I don't feel like its edifying to the body. This one hurts me hard {conviction!} and also presents itself in many different forms. EVERYONE is opinionated. Everyone. Your FB status or blog post can be dissected, analyzed and either agreed with or refuted in the matter of minutes. I've seen this most on mommy blogs - my favorite example is this one from a close friend who was just being funny and ended up with quite the debate on her hands (and yes, I contributed- oof!).

But I also see it in the blogs of many fellow believers. And it just makes me ache. And I wonder, can a debate about non-essentials be edifying to the body?? Can we openly debate an issue while still showing love to one another and WITHOUT continuing to make true Christianity look like a three-ring circus.

I think this really this ties back into number one above. When we remove the face from our communication, it allows us to be more, dare I say harsh?, than we would be if we were face to face. I know when I read a blog that I don't agree with, my initial reaction is to "flame" the person with the correct view. I don't have to see them or talk to them - I can just say what's on my mind in whatever manner I feel like. Ouch. And talk about being left feeling more prideful and burdened than if I had said nothing at all!

I've had several people say that there needs to be a "sarcastic" font. This is probably true, but then we would also need an "I'm speaking in love" font along with a handful of others that represent emotions and tones that can only be deciphered when speaking to each other in person.

The truth is that there will be things out there people say, write and do that you won't agree with. I for one am tired of the "I do it right, you do it wrong" arguments. The world isn't black and white. When we treat it as such, we lose the opportunity to be examples of Matther 22:39 - "And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

I've {recently} made it one of my purposes to try to live this out. I want to respect how others do things and what they think, because I want others to respect me in return. When I read something I don't agree with, I've stopped myself from writing any initial thoughts and responses. Instead, I ask myself "could I say this to their face if they were standing in front of me". If the answer is "no", then I know I shouldn't reply with anything. If the answer is "yes EXCEPT they may misunderstand me", then I also don't respond.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good debate. And if you know Jeff and I even a little, you know we love a good intellectual argument. And I know I will still fail in my communication. I'm prideful. I think that my beliefs are the best, the way I mother - the most correct. But thankfully! God is slowly breaking down my pride and replacing it with His love.

So I ask - can debates {on mommy choices, biblical non-essentials, etc.} be done respectfully and in love in the cyber-world we now live in? What's been your experience?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Silly Baby

I'm not sure what was going through her mind, and really I shouldn't even ask because she was very happily entertaining herself, but Sophia was rolling on the floor playing with a handful of zip-ties for about 20 min. Of course, I had to grab the camera. She was having way to much fun. So, here's a quick sequence :)

Any chance you could guess that she's teething? At least I think she's still cute with her tongue hanging out!

Oh, and as soon as I grabbed the camera, Izzi had to join in the fun!

Always the model :)


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Clothing for three little girls...part 4 (Shopping)

Christmas 2010 - Coordinated (NOT matchy-matchy) Gymboree Velour Dresses

So...this is the last post that I'm going to do for a while on kids clothing. Feel free to ask questions at any time though - I am always happy to share what I do and what I've learned.

I've been asked a bunch in the last week for tips on how to shop with reselling in mind. The biggest answer to that question comes in learning to not think like a buyer but as a seller. You begin to view clothes as an investment as opposed to a necessary budget line item. Once you think like that, you begin to approach clothing with the idea of reselling.

Not all clothes will resell. The ability to resell clothes is directly dependent on brand, condition and even size. It is much easier to sell size 2T and up than it is to sell infant clothes. This is purely based on quantity. When kids reach and pass 2T, clothes get worn for longer which means they get worn out. Infant clothes are in abundance. They get worn for short periods of time or some not even at all. When you go to resale stores, this is why you always see them in abundance. Good condition name brand older sizes are hard to come by so they sell great.

So, here's how I personally shop with reselling in mind: I choose to stick to the name brand stores - Gymboree is my most popular, then TCP, Old Navy and Gap. Naartjie is a personal favorite but I don't make it up there often. Then I have a handful of boutique/Nordstroms brands that I watch for - Baby Nay, Baby Lulu, Jenna and Jesse, Lavendar Alley and Little Angel Club. I also watch for Nortstroms blowouts and Nordstroms Rack sales. I have also picked up these same brands at used clothing stores, like Hissyfits, because once they are worn, they will resell for about the same price (a little less).

The general rule for pricing your clothes for resale is 30% of the ORIGINAL price, not the price you pay. So when you shop the sale racks, keep this in mind. This holds true for most every brand - the only exceptions I would list are TCP, Old Navy, Target and Carters. The reason being is that they are in abundance. EVERY mom shops there. So when you got to resale or consignment sales, they are the most popular brand. So I price those lower - 20%-25% of the original value. But hands down, Gymboree, Gap and Boutique/Nordstroms brands are absolutely the easiest and quickest to resell and you make the most money back.

Another tip for shopping with reselling in mind is to think about what YOU would pay for the item if it were used. If you weren't in the actual store and instead were at a used clothing store, what would you be willing to pay to get the item. Then compare that with the price your are paying for it new to see if it's worth it. If there's a large difference (more than a couple dollars) it's probably not worth the investment unless it's SOOO cute, you just can't leave it behind.

Here are some more tips for getting the most for your money: (see the start of the list here)
~ Never pay full price. Period. Even if you have a coupon, always match your coupon to sale items.
~ Earn rewards, then spend them**. Gymboree, Naartjie, Justice, Kohls all offer rewards for shopping. They are only earnable during certain windows and only spendable during certain windows. Most will save you 50% (for example, $25 off a $50 purchase) and Kohls earns you 20% off your next purchase ($10 earned for every $50 spent).
~ Couple rewards with sale prices. Sometimes you can even join coupons WITH rewards for additional savings. Gymboree doesn't allow this, but most others do. BEWARE, don't spend more than the reward (see below)!
~ Shop in Outfits. This one might sound crazy to some of you, but yes, I shop in outfits. This is because they resell for MUCH more. Single items you have to price fairly low. If the shopper doesn't have something to match it, they won't buy it unless it's a deal. So, I shop in outfits to resell in outfits and increase profit by at least $3 over single items.
~ Beware of huge advertised sales. Did I just say that? Yep. Here's why - the stores goal to get you in is to advertise "huge sales". But "Huge Sale" doesn't necessarily mean the best prices and usually prices are a little higher than any other day. For example, one would think Black Friday would be huge for savings. Actually, this isn't true. Stores do a handful of "get you in the door deals" and almost everything else is more expensive. You can actually find BETTER savings shopping two weekends prior to Black Friday, than on it or after.
~ Beware of Outlets. I love the outlets, don't get me wrong, and we all know I shop there. BUT again, beware of falling for less than stellar deals because it's an "outlet". For example, Gymboree Outlet only offers a very occasional coupon. Because their prices are only slightly lower (about 20%) than a regular Gymboree, you can actually find BETTER deals at Gymboree than the outlet. Gap operates in the same fashion. {also, Gymboree and Gap outlets carry identical clothing lines - the outlets are delayed by exactly one year which can be helpful in matching kids when you have sizing changes}


**Here is an example of a typical Gymboree experience (with reselling in mind) - I usually repeat this about twice a year depending on needs.

~ In March, I purchased $105.27 in clothes from Gymboree for our trip to Cali. I purchased 14 items total averaging $7.52/item. This was done by buying sale items and using a 30% off coupon. This purchase earned me a $50 gymbuck good off a $100 purchase (50% off).

~ Last Week when the Gymbucks became redeemable, I purchased 10 items for $54.90 averaging $5.49/item. My total pre-gymbucks was 109.80 so you see the great savings you can earn. (I quickly added up what I would price these items for when I resell them (probably next spring or the one after) and it would be about $40. That's means that these 10 items new from Gymboree will cost me less than $15 in the end.)

~ If you average the two trips it comes out to $6.67/item. Most items purchased were either size 4T or girls 5 (so they weren't cheap baby clearance items). When you compare that to stores like Kohls and Target where you average $5/item you can begin to see why I choose to shop at Gymboree. ADD into that the fact that Gymboree resells for $2-$3/item MORE than Target and Kohls then it begins to make complete budget sense. You will actually save MORE money shopping and reselling clothes from Gymboree than from Target or Kohls.


So those are my clothing tips. I often get comments on how cute my girls are always dressed and I think to myself, but I don't spend that much on clothes - anyone can do what I do. It takes time, energy, coordination, self-control and shopping more often than most like, but anyone can do it.

Did I miss anything? If you have a tip or trick that has helped you save money on clothes PLEASE share with the rest of us :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Clothing for three little girls...part 3 (Consignment)

If you've followed my last couple post, you know that I am ever questing to find a way to recycle my kids clothing - with the hope of getting to the point where all of my clothing budget for new sizes is funded by the selling of old sizes. I don't sell everything (we couldn't survive without hand-me-downs), but instead have become strategic about what I purchase and when I purchase it. Combining hand-me-downs and reselling, I'm almost to the point where all the new clothes I buy is funded by the selling of our few old ones.

The method that has gotten me there? Consignment Sales. They're on the rise in the valley of the sun appearing in churches and temporary store locations twice a year. They give you the absolute best bang for your buck. Here's how they work:

I'm using Kids Closet Connection as my example - but all pretty much work the same way, including Rhea Lana's and PVMOM.

1. Sellers sign up for sale - date and location are preset by the managing company.
2. Sellers enter items into the managing company's database. Sellers set their own prices. (TIP: price a little high then offer 50% off on the last day of the sale)
3. Sellers print tags created from the database and attach to items.
4. Sellers drop off items at sale location the day prior to the sale.
5. *optional* Sellers can pick up their unsold items post-sale. Otherwise items will be donated.
6. Sellers will receive a check via USPS withing 10 business days of the sale closing.

There are two reasons why you get the most for your items by selling this way. First, you price your items either the same or slightly under what you would see them on sale for at a consignment or used clothing store. This is about 30% of original value. Second, you keep 70%-80% of the sale price. Consignment/Resale stores offer - at MOST - 50%. Most of the time it's lower or store credit. And garage sales, well can you say $0.50-$1 per item?

The other nice thing (at least to me...) is that I do this twice a year. That's it. Every fall or spring I pull out my bins from the previous year and begin sorting into three piles: sell, donate, and hand-down. If you're more organized than I am, you can do this before storing at the end of each season but I'm not quite there yet and find I often change my mind :) I love not having to constantly drop of loads at local consignment shops and *try* to wait patiently for them to sell. This is all over with in one weekend and I have a check in hand a few days later. Can you say wonderful??

Wonderful. :)

Here's the link to the sales I participate in: There's also great information on this site about consigning in general.

I've been getting lots of questions about what sells best and what to buy with reselling in mind. I promise my NEXT post I will discuss that!! If you can't wait, check out the comments section from part 2 to see a brief resale pricing guide by brand.

Thanks for all the support and love!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Clothing for three little girls...part 2 (saving $$)

Easter 2010 - Gymboree Coordinated (ok, this is matchy-matchy) Sets.

Shopping!! I love the word... and most times the action. This, of course, solely depends on the presence, absence or behavior of the girls.

When Maddi was a solo child, I pretty much shopped at Target and Kohls for her clothes with the very occasional Old Navy/Gap/Gymboree/TCP thrown in. I would shop consignment stores and Kid to Kid and try to find the best "deals" on items. As she grew out of sizes, I began saving EVERYTHING in bins labeled by size and season in case baby #2 was also a girl. Well, she was. So, as I pulled out and sorted through Maddi's old clothes to create a closet for Isabelle, I decided to take the clothes I knew I wouldn't "reuse" to a kids store and sell them. Well, imagine my surprise when they took about half the items and said they could donate the rest! What? These are perfectly good clothes - just the wrong size/season for us!! I was so annoyed.

Have you ever experienced that??

So, I went home and started reserching. What kinds of clothes resell then? If I can't get something back out of the clothes I buy, then are they worth spending good money on? Or do we just wear them out completely and then donate? That seems like a waste of money - especially when kids continually need new clothes! There's got to be a way to recycle clothes and keep kids clothing costs low!

If you've ever shopped for used clothes, you, probably like myself, look for brand and condition. You (and I) want good brands (they hold up the best!) in good condition. SO it makes sense that those are the only clothes that resale/consignment shops would want! Also, same at garage sales. I have always noticed that my name brand stuff is immediately gone and the lower quality sits to the end to be donated. So, that must mean that if I want to resell my girls clothes, they need to be brand name and in good condition. Great. I don't have the $$ for brand name! Or do I???

Our clothing budget was about $90/month or $30/child/month. Give or take what each child may "need" in a given season. So I came up with the rules for every shopping trip I go on:

Rules for Shopping:
1. Never shop without a sale.
2. Never shop without a coupon.
3. Shop ahead. Once your kids hit the Toddler sizes (2T, 3T etc), you can pretty much guarantee that they will wear both a winter and summer wardrobe in that size.
4. Shop often. If I am consistently picking up things, I don't EVER end up with a budget busting trip because suddenly my child grew and needs pants and I have none.

Here's what I found - if you stick to those rules, you can buy name brand clothes for little money - even less than what you would pay for a used item at a resale shop and you're getting it brand new! Here's an example:

Gymboree - ALWAYS has off season clearances, they just might not be on the floor! If you ask a sales associate, they will bring out whatever they have in back for a given size. I purchased the following outfit for Sophia from Gymboree at PV Mall in December (summer size 18-24M, she was wearing size 6-12M at the time):

*Short sleeve Onesie with embroydered lion and flowers: Originally $14.75, on Clearance $2.99
*Lion and flower print cotton capri pants: Originally $12.75, on Clearance $4.99

Add on an additional 30% off for their "Circle of Friends" event and I paid $5.58 for a $27.50 outfit. That's over 80% savings!

Then, I will resell this outfit next spring at a consignment sale for $6. I will take home $4.20 of that meaning that this outfit cost only $1.38. And did I mention it's Gymboree?!?!

Here's a boy example from just THIS week at Old Navy:

*One long sleeve baseball style shirt with dinosaur and matching blue cotton cargo pants: Originally $12.50, on Clearance $4.49

Add an additional 30% off for their current clearance sale and that brought it down to $3.14. Add an additional 20% off printed coupon and final price was $2.52, again, over 80% savings. It will resell for $4 in a fall consignment sale with my take home being $2.80. That means I will MAKE $0.30 on this outfit AFTER it's been worn by our son.

SO, I realize (for those of you working mommies) that this takes time and dedication. And you're right it does. It takes planning and research on sales and couponing - and it takes time to shop, storing bins of various sizes and seasons, so this might not be a solution for you. But for us, I strongly feel that part of my job in staying home is to SAVE us money - however I can. This process has helped us sooo much - especially having three (soon to be 4) kids now!

In my previous post I said that at the last sale, I made over $400. That's over 4 months of clothing budget for us. Considering I participate in the sale every 6 months, our clothing (and shoe) budget is down to under $300 a YEAR or less than $25 a month for all 3, soon to be 4 kids. And they constantly have new name brand clothes to wear. AND I can get them their "coordinating" sets.

This has been a WIN in this house. Plus I love the game of seeing just how much I can save.


If you want any of my tips for shopping sales and matching coupons please just ask - I am here to help save mama's money in any way I can!

**Also, I want to note that we also share, donate and hand-down clothes. Because I've become increasingly good at bargain shopping, I'm able to only have to resell a handfull of the girls clothes to meet our budget for the following 6 months :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Clothing for three little girls...part 1

So I sat down to write a post on Consignemnt sales and how to get the most bang for your buck with reselling your kids clothes and I realized that there is a lot more information to what I do than just the reselling. So I give you part 1 (the background) of how we clothe our three girls on a limited budget.

Raising three girls on a tight budget has definitely led to some creativity when it comes to clothing. This especially started coming into play as we added each additional girl to the mix. Clothing girls is waayyy different than clothing boys. First, there is the sheer number of things that girls wear. You have tops, bottoms, capri's, shorts, skirts, dresses, jammas, nightgowns and shoes to match each (did I forget to mention hair accessories?). Second, there is a ridiculously large selection. Third, it's harder (and more expensive) to coordinate girls without them being too matchy-matchy. This third point has become a major budget point in this house.

You see, for some reason, Jeff is actually more picky about their clothing than I am. I am perfectly happy to hand down clothes, and we definitely do, but there are still those outfits that become each child's favorite and fit them uniquely. Also, Jeff loves when I dress the girls super "cute" and he likes them coordinated (again, not matchy matchy) - whenever we're going somewhere out of the ordinary and often for church on Sundays. Yikes!

So, just how do I coordinate three girls across multiple clothing sizes and seasons?? Especially when they don't change sizes together. All it takes is one of them changing a size and the whole coordinated set is thrown out the window. Well, the solution I've come up with is Consignment Sales. No, not shopping them (though I do shop them) - SELLING at them!

There is a new awesome trend in the selling of baby items. I used to rely on Kid to Kid or HissyFits or Hopscotch resale shops to sell my kids stuff. Or if I gathered enough of it together I had a garage sale. But I was ALWAYS disappointed in how much I made. Really, I only get to keep 40% WHEN it sells? Or I get 50% store credit? Or even better - $0.50-$1.00 per item at a garage sale? There's got to be a better way! So, I started selling on my girls clothes on eBay. While I was much happier with the amount of money I was making on the clothes, the time it took to take pictures, create auctions, manage auctions, answer questions, ship just became a headache and more time than I could dedicate.

THEN I discovered bi-annual consignment sales. These are sales that are hosted by an organization and take place in the Fall (for winter clothes) and the Spring (for summer clothes). All you do is put your clothes on hangers, enter them in the sales database, print and safety pin their (auto-created) tags to the clothes and drop them off the day before the sale. That's it! You get to set your own prices AND you keep 70%. Plus if you're a net-worker and you refer a friend to sell, you keep 80%!

At the last sale I participated in, I was able to make over $400. It was sooo exciting and so worth it.

Wanna do the same? Stay tuned for part 2 and how to shop with reselling in mind

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Blog? What Blog?

Yes, I am a blogger failure.

BUT! I try yet again. Here we go. I think there are two reasons for my blogging failure - first, I post too much on FaceBook. Second, our family is not that interesting. So I've decided that instead of just blogging about the family, what the kids are doing, etc., I'm going to blog about things that strike me. Whether it be mommy tips or lessons learned, what God is teaching us, or just a good place to rant, I hope to keep this updated more often...and put LESS on my FB :)