Monday, August 30, 2010

Sleep Training: 5 ways to make it easier

6 weeks old
Every two to three weeks, my son's sleeping patterns change.  This was to be expected, so I didn't sweat it much.  After about 2 months, a general sleeping pattern emerged in which he slept from roughly 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM with about 3-4 hungry wake ups on average.  By the time he was 4 months, he was sleeping from 8:30 PM to 6:00 AM, sometimes through the night but sometimes with as many as 5 wake ups.  This was nice because it gave me a little time to work before I went to bed, and he took enough naps during the day that I could take a nap as well.  

At close to 6 months, however, a distressing change in his sleeping habits began to take shape.  He went from a nap every hour and a half or so (often very short) to 2-3 naps a day.  And he started going to sleep at night later and later.  He also started sleeping in later, so that wasn't bad at first.  

By his 7th month (today!), he got to a point where he took only 2 naps a day and sometimes didn't go down for the night until almost midnight.  This cut out all my pre-bedtime chore time, and I had to do as much as possible during his naps and while he was distracted by his toys.  Because he still wakes up a few times in the middle of the night, the later mornings aren't enough to make up for it.  The changes I'd been toying with in my head concerning my approach to his sleep routine were now too much to ignore.

Parenting books that mention sleep training say to put the baby down and comfort them every five minutes if they cry until they fall asleep.  I'd mentioned sleep training to my mom before, and she was always strongly against it.  I was worried about it not going well and the time or two that I tried it didn't go as planned.  Desperate for a reprieve, I decided to give it another shot.

When he woke up from his afternoon around 3:45 PM, I kept him up for the rest of day and too distracted to attempt the cat nap he's been wanting to take lately around 7:00 PM.  I waited until I knew he was very sleepy and would have a hard time fighting it as he usually does.   I tried giving him a bottle around 8:30 to get him in a bed time mood, but he didn't want it.  At 9:30 PM, he was still going strong, but I knew he was ready for bed.  I tried his bottle again, but he still didn't want it, so I sat with him in a quiet and dimly lit room for about 5 minutes.  Then I put him in his crib.

He was not thrilled about being put down, but he didn't cry so I left.  I turned the baby monitor on and gathered some crafty items to get ready to hunker down for the crying I just knew would ensue.  Then I waited.  Nothing.  A little whine here and there, but no crying.  After about 5 minutes, he got a little fussy but still no crying.  Then there was silence.  He was in bed before 10:00 PM and didn't require an hour's worth of holding and playing and soothing to sleep.

I have theory on why it worked so well this time when the one or two times prior ended up with me having to give up and pick him up until he decided to fall asleep.  This is what I did.

1) I didn't let him have any extraneous naps after 4:00 PM.
2) He was well-fed prior to falling asleep with a hearty dinner around 6:00 PM followed up by a generous serving of milk (he drank about 8 ounces) when he was ready for it.
3) At 8:00 PM, he had a bath (his first sitting up bath!).
4) Exercise:  After his bath, he played for about 15 minutes and actively rolled around in a generous play area.  When the 8:30 attempt at bed time failed, I let him have more activity time culminating in a 30 minute play session to his favorite Baby Faith video, which he prefers to Baby Einstein.
5) When we got serious about bed time, I took him to a quiet, dark room and snuggled with him for about 10 minutes to calm him down.

After that, he went out with minimal fuss.  I'm hoping for a repeat tonight.  With a little luck, I'll have good news about an encore performance tomorrow.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


So I'm checking out's new sister site is more mom-oriented and sells personal hygiene products, paper goods, laundry detergents, household cleaners, and other things like that. I was poking around to see if there was anything I needed that I would actually buy from them regularly.  I mean with the promotion that you get 15% cashback on all future diaper purchases for the next 6 months with a $25 purchase from, what did I have to lose, right?

So I do a search for Venus razors because the whole epilator ritual is too time consuming since I had the baby.  One of the categories that comes up is for vibrators.  Why,, why?!?!  What do self-pleasuring devices honestly have to do with soap and household cleaners?  Who was the marketing strategist that came up with that one?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Adventures with Mei Tai

Getting sleepy
My son is heavy and I have a bad back, so I've been experimenting with baby-wearing. My first foray into the world of baby-wearing mommies was with a homemade Mei Tai.  A Mei Tai is an Asian style baby carrier that is typically worn on the front but can be worn on the back.  Long straps allow the wearer to criss cross them in the back for better support and distribution of weight.  The waist strap also helps take the weight off the shoulders and back by placing it across the hips.

Mei Tais are very simple to make a there are a host of tutorials and instructions available on the web.  I looked at a few and combined a lot of the features I liked best in the simplest Mei Tai styles.  It's basically a rectangle (roughly 16x20 inches) with very long straps (60" on mine) made of double, triple, or even quadruple layers of some sort of durable but soft fabric with minimal stretch (I used a suit weight silk that I bought before I was pregnant but never used) and double or triple seams with high quality thread every where for strength.  If you are very short, slender, or do use wrapping styles that require going around the waist or back twice, you can get away with shorter straps.

I'm not sure if it's my bad back, but it wasn't as comfortable as I had hoped it would be.  I will try making one more in the near future and seeing if any of the modifications I have in mind help. I would definitely recommend making very wide shoulder straps (6" or more) and padding with an internal layer of quilt batting or thick fleece.  My straps are about 5" and cut into my shoulders after a few minutes.  I did put some padding in the main body to make it more comfy for my son, but he doesn't seem to notice it.  I think I will use a cushier material for the seat pad in my next Mei Tai.  Also, if you think you'll be using it a lot or have a baby who falls asleep easily, I would say to try one of the patterns that includes a sleeper hood.

Mom's verdict:  It is nice to have my hands free for a change.  If I rest his bottom on a table or counter top while I'm doing a quick chore, I don't have to worry about him making a sudden movement and falling or hurting himself in some way.  It's also very useful for quick in-and-out trips to the store because I don't need to worry about the stroller or getting a cart for him to sit in when I'm only purchasing one or two items.  Some features I would like in my next Mei Tai are a utility pocket for keys and such when out on a walk, a detachable hood, wider padded shoulder straps, and a seat cushion for the baby.

Baby's verdict:  He's hot natured and sometimes gets a bit over heated even though it's made out of silk and cotton.  He's also in a wiggly stage and gets tired of being in it when he's in an active mood.  When he's tired, he has no problem falling asleep in it but would probably stay asleep longer with a hood for keeping his head positioned.  He would prefer a higher seat that allows him to nuzzle my shoulder.

Making one and using it has given me a much clearer idea of what my unique needs and wants are in a carrier, so I have some interesting plans for my next Mei Tai.  When I finish it, I'll be putting up the pattern so you can make your own if you like what you see!

For anyone making a Mei Tai for the first time, here's a tip:  this project will take much longer than you think it will for just being a rectangle with straps.  It took about 4 hours of sewing not including the cutting and prepping.  The double stitching and reinforcing take a long time.  I didn't believe it when I read others saying it, but the straps truly are the most time consuming part of the project.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: Watch for Falling Prices

The clearance deals I mentioned a couple weeks ago at WalMart are even lower!  Summer clothes prices are falling to make room for back to school and fall inventory.  Rompers by Carters are as low as $3, Faded Glory Organic 3-piece sets (sleeveless onesie, t-shirt, shorts) are $3, and Garanimals single pieces (shorts, shirts pants) are as low as $1.  Some styles of summer shoes are also 50% off or greater.

At Sears get an additional 30-50% off clearanced infant, toddler, and children's clothing.  They also offer price matching on items if you find it cheaper elsewhere.

If you live in a hot climate where you'll get a few more months of use out of warm weather attire or want to stock up for next year, this is the perfect time!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Safety 1st OnSide Air Convertible Car Seat Review

For those who've followed my blog and seen all my car seat entries, you know the woes I've been having finding one that fits my car and my big boy.  He had a 6 month baby well checkup a few days ago, and he's 20 lbs. 9 oz. and 28 1/4".  So he's above average in weight and very above average in height.  Because of this, I need a seat that can handle a bigger child and still have room to grow.  I drive a 2000 Toyota Corolla so I needed it to be compact.  I had almost decided on the Combi Coccoro because it's made in Japan and designed to fit in smaller spaces and then I found a new car seat that came out this summer by Safety 1st.  It's the OnSide Air convertible car seat, the only car seat under $100 that can handle 5-40 pounds rear-facing.  I scoured the internet for information without much luck and saw on the web forums that many people had called Dorel, the company that manufactures Safety 1st products, didn't have much information available to curious car seat enthusiasts.  It was impossible to even find the car seat dimensions online.  Despite this, I took a chance and drove an hour and a half to Savannah, the closest place with a store that had it in stock.  I had to see it for myself.

Comfy but narrow and notice how little head 
room there is for future growth.
Aesthetics, Comforts, and Features

Many have commented that the stock photos of the OnSide Air make it look like the Cosco Scenera.  I have to agree that I wasn't a fan of the look presented.  In person, however, I was pleasantly surprised.  I think you can probably tell from my photo that it looks much better with higher quality fabric. The cover is so plush that it feels stuffed with memory foam.

The cover is also easily removable because it is elasticized the entire way around like a bed sheet without any of those annoying or hard to release hooks or catches.  You do need to undo the shoulder harness to get it completely off, but that's not difficult.  It is generously sized so that it doesn't pop off in tight spots.

I will say that the harness webbing isn't very thick, so it does twist if you're not careful.  The chest clip also isn't the most substantial feeling plastic and is much flimsier compared to the chest clip on the Chicco KeyFit this seat is meant to replace.  It may be because it's new, but the chest clip and buckle don't come undone as quickly as I would like.  It does not come equipped with harness covers, so I would highly recommend that purchase.  I got these cute, cuddly monkey covers for $4.50 at WalMart.

Other features include a removable cup holder, which didn't attach securely enough to be functional for me.  The OnSide Air Converitble Car Seat is one of the products by Safety 1st that incorporates Air Protect technology.  Air Protect reduces side impact by releasing a burst of air from special chambers in order to reduce the force of collision.  The OnSide Air focuses on the child's head, but Safety 1st offers choices in the Complete Air line that features full body Air Protect side impact protection.  The Complete Air seats start at $180, so the OnSide air is an affordable alternative that focuses on the most vulnerable part of a child's body during side impact collisions.

Adjustability and Fit

The seat features 4 harness slots and 3 crotch strap slots for adjustments as your child grows.  This is where it has something in common with the Scenera.  The harness slot heights are the same with a top height of about 15 inches, and the same placement of the crotch strap slots.  Many parents have lamented that their children outgrow the Scenera by height before they reach the weight limit, so this may be an issue for tall babies like my son.  At 6 months and 28.25" tall, however, my son is using the 2nd harness slot from the bottom so he has two more slots to grow with.  He is also using the middle crotch strap slot.

At 11" across, it is a somewhat narrow seat, so the OnSide Air may not be the best solution if you have a heavier or older child.  For smaller or slimmer babies, this is perfect since it doesn't totally swallow the child.  Because of it's narrower seat and well-padded cover, this is a more realistic choice for parents wishing to start with a convertible car seat for newborns.  I think the recline is deep enough for a newborn to sleep comfortably, especially with a head positioning pillow.

Adjusting the harness was about the same as any other harness system I've used.  The adjustable crotch strap, however, was more difficult.  It's held in place by a metal retainer that you have to twist and push through the slot in order to remove the strap.  For safety's sake, it's a tight fight getting the retainer to pass through the slot so it does take time and brute force (for me anyway) to get it through.  Then you have to do it again to put it back in the correct position.

This seat also features a 2 position recline.  It was easy to figure out and switch between the two.

Fits in my 2000 Corolla with seats extended and reclined 
for up to 6'2" tall driver.  It also is slim enough that you could 
fit up to 3 of them or 2 additional passengers on either side.
Small Car Compatibility

The OnSide Air does fit in my small Toyota Corolla with the front seats extended comfortably for me (5'7") and my brother (6'2").  This is the largest amount of space a car seat could take, however, and still be comfortable in front.  As far the width of the seat, it's perfect for a family that frequently rides at full capacity.  I tried the Evenflo Tribute 5, and it extended into my lap when I sat next to it.  The OnSide Air didn't encroach on my space.  I wouldn't want to ride long distances in this setup though.

Even though the edge goes over my chair, it doesn't
interfere with my shoulder or arm.  I can live with it.

This car seat is lightweight and easy to carry and position.  My car is a pre-LATCH model, so I had to do a seatbelt installation.  It wasn't difficult.  The belt paths are clearly labelled for front and rear-facing modes.  The car seat cover is easy to peel back if necessary to thread the seat belt through the path, but I personally didn't need to because the opening was big enough for me to feel my way through.  Aligning the seat was pretty straight forward.  There is a guide that must be level with the ground.  It's not as accurate is the bubble levels, but it gets the job done.

The seat is at the proper recline when the edge of the sticker
is parallel with the ground.

The biggest concern for me with the installation was the fact that my lap and shoulder belt make the seat slant when tightened down as much as necessary to keep the wiggle to 1" or less.  You can tell in the picture of my shoulder and also in the one that shows my son how the car seat tilts up to the left side.  It's because the shoulder part of the belt pulls the seat up while the side with the buckle pulls the side down.  I think part of the issue is that my back seat has a pretty big slant even in the center.  Another part of the issue is that the way the car seat is designed leaves a big space under the front which I had to fill with towels in order to stabilize the vertical wobble.  But I've had this problem to a certain extent with every car seat I've put in my car.  With some car seats, I've been able to fix the slant issue by stuffing a towel in front of the car seat.  That didn't work, however, with the OnSide Air.  In my car, I acheived the most level installation by tightening the seat belt as much as I needed and then stuffing the gaps between the car seat and the backseat with towels afterward.  I needed one on the front and back of the seat as pictured above.

Belt paths are clearly marked:


I love the fact that I can potentially have extended rear-facing to 40 lbs, the softness and comfort of the seat cover, the ease of removal of the seat cover, and the price.  There isn't another car seat I've encountered that gives you so much for $100 or less.  It's softer than a lot of more expensive car seats.  It's nice that you can switch to forward-facing if you child outgrows the 40" or 40 lb. limits for rear-facing.  This seat allows forward-facing passengers up to 43" and 40 lbs.  I don't consider the fact that it has the same weight limit for front and back to necessarily be a downfall.  It's what keeps the seat compact, and it allows the child to stay rear-facing for longer than the 35 pound limit on most convertible seat covers in this size and price range.  I also liked that the recline was bigger than other similar car seats.

I'm not such a big fan of the fact that it doesn't come with harness covers, probably won't keep up with my child's growth by height, and that it requires towels to fill the gaps between it and the seat when the belts are properly tightened.

Overall, however, I recommend this car seat to anyone with a compact car or who regularly rides with a full load, especially if the vehicle is latch-equipped.  I also think this is a great option for newborn use because of it's more compact size and 7" harness slot and substantial recline.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

DDT 8 -- How to Make Prefolds for Free!

There are many items around your home that can be repurposed or recycled to make diapers before you throw them away.  Using a serger or a reinforced zig zag stitch, you can have a sizable collection of prefold diapers using items you may have thought had outlived their use.

Items that make great diapers:

Flannel or cotton knit pajamas
Fleece blankets
Fleece pullovers
Hand towels
Bath towels
Soft woven cotton fabrics like well-worn, lightweight twill
Just about anything soft, absorbent, 80% or more cotton big enough for a diaper

What to do:

For lighter weight fabrics like flannel or t-shirts, I've had the best results using 2-3 layers and sewing a soaker pad in between them made of a doubled layer cut from an old towel or fleece.  Another approach is to use 2 layers with 4-6 soaker layers of t-shirt material or flannel.

For heavier fabrics, like towel weight material or fleece, I've found that 1-2 layers with a 1 layer soaker is sufficient.

Cut the fabric for the size you need (measurements below).  Position outside layers with the wrong sides facing inside.  The soaker should be about 1/3 the width of your diaper, centered and positioned as the middle layer.

Using a straight stitch, sew through all layers of the diaper down both sides of the soaker pad lengthwise.  Go around the outer edge of the diaper with a serger or reinforced zig zag stitch.  Trim loose threads.  You're done!


Preemie (up to 7 lbs)
9.5" x 13"
3" x 13" soaker

Newborn (4-9 lbs)
9.5" x 14"
3" x 14" soaker

Infant (7-15 lbs)
12" x 16"
4" x 16" soaker

Regular (13-35 lbs)
14.5" x 21"
4.5" x 21" soaker

Toddler (25+ lbs)
17" x 23"
5" x 23" soaker

*These are the standard dimensions of the most common prefold sizes.  The weights are very flexible.  My 20 pound 6 month old can still use preemie size prefolds, but they are low-rise and not absorbent enough for sleeping or napping unless they are doubled in a heavy duty cover.  When my son was in the suggested weight range for infant prefolds, I had to fold down the front up to 6 inches to make it fit inside the cover, which added a lot of bulk to the front.  I still have need 3-4 inches of front fold when I use infant size.  Even the preemie size had to be folded down 1-2 inches until he was about 4-5 months old.  I recommend using the preemie or newborn dimensions for most babies under 15 pounds for a slimmer fit and a lower rise.  In fact, I would suggest shortening the diaper to 12" for babies under 10 pounds if you are trying to achieve a more custom fit.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: Back to School Savings for Parents

If you are a mom or a dad taking classes this fall, you may still be trying to find some or all of your text books for the term.  If that's you, check out  This is the website (formerly known as that got me through my college days.  I saved literally hundreds of dollars every semester by searching for my textbooks on this website.  It pulls results from over 50 online bookstores and lists them from cheapest to most expensive including shipping.  Happy book hunting!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DDT7 -- Strip Odors from Cloth Diapers (and other clothes)

Let's face it.  We want cloth diapering to be all roses and sunshine because it's better for the earth and better for the baby.  We even tell our non-cloth-diapering friends that we never have problems with odors in our cloth diapers.  But it happens to the best of us...sometimes our cloth diapers get funky and not in a good way!

In my effort to make sure that the least possible amount of irritants touch my baby's most sensitive skin, I've learned how to strip diapers naturally, organically, and inexpensively.  For those times when high heat, double and triple rinses, and sun drying don't kill the diaper smell, here's my method.

Prewash with hot water, 3/4 cup of white vinegar, and 1/4 cup baking soda.  You may use more or less depending on the soil level and size of the load.  You have enough of everything if the water fizzes even just a little.  Wash as usual afterward.

It also works great on socks and other odor-prone clothing like work clothes and underwear, but be careful because it can cause some fading, especially when you sun dry after using this method. To strip cloth diapers organically, use organic baking soda and vinegar.

Organic vinegar is easily found in most major grocery stores.  Baking soda (here comes a chemistry lesson), even though it is made of carbon (the main property of organic compounds), can technically never be "organic" because of it's chemical makeup and the type of bonds required to hold it together.  From the standpoint of green living and using naturally derived products, baking soda is not really organic either because it requires a multi-step chemical process involving heat and exposure to other chemicals to create it.  It is however made from naturally occurring compounds and requires no synthetic materials for the reactions from which it derived.  That being said, the most "natural" and healthy baking soda, especially if you intend to ingest it, is aluminum free.  Bob's Red Mill makes an aluminum free baking soda and Frontier also sells an aluminum free baking soda.  Both are sold in one-pound packages.

Why does the baking soda and vinegar solution work at stripping odors?  This is another chemistry lesson, but this one is easy to digest.  Stinky diaper syndrome is caused by bacteria and and spoiling or deteriorating micro residues from waste (imagine a microscopic septic tank or garbage dump in the fibers--or don't because that's gross).  Baking soda, an alkaline salt, chemically neutralizes odors.  Vinegar, an acid, kills bacteria.  The reaction created by combining them (aka the fizz), blasts and eats away dirt and residue (think of what happens when you put a rusty penny in vinegar and baking soda).  This solves both the odor causing problems.

Here's to fresh smelling diapers and all your other smellier than average laundry!

photo credit:  by gesinek, stock.exchng,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cool Mom's Final Word on Car Seats

I've been researching safety seats for a while because he hit 18 lbs at 4.5 months, and I was like, "Ok...time to figure out what to do next..."  The whole car seat issue just fills me with righteous indignation at the way manufacturer's capitalize on parents' legal obligation to meet minimum safety standards by requiring you to buy 3-5 safety seats to get them through the 80 pound mark required by many states.

At best, the median weight for 1 year old boys is 23 pounds, so the "standard" infant car seat, which stops at 22 pounds won't even get you through a year if you have a boy.  If you're one of those people who want to buy a travel system, about 75% of them come with 22 lb seats but 35+ lb strollers.  The highest weight I've seen on a travel system car seat is 30 lbs.

Next there's the law.  Just about every state I know of goes by the NHTSA guidelines for infants which is 22 lbs AND 1 year in a rear-facing seat with a 5-point harness.  Many states like Virginia strictly go by the NHTSA height and weight requirements for older children regardless of age: 40 pounds before switching to a booster (age 4 suggested), and 80 lbs AND 4'9" (age 8 suggested) before going to a plain seat belt.  I would hate to be a 4'5" 12 year old in Virginia.  Georgia is more lenient.  They require all children six and under to be in a restraint "appropriate for their weight and height".

The first reason to for these guidelines is physiological.  Even though an child is a certain height or weight, they are still at a certain stage of development based on their age.  Infants and toddlers have fragile bones.  Their skulls aren't fully hardened until around age 3, which is why rear facing car seats are the safest for as long as you can do it as they greatly diminish the force of impact (a physics lesson in and of itself) and a large part of what protects your internal organs during heavy impact is toned and developed musculature.  Infants and small children obviously don't have that.  

The next reason has to do with physics but I'll forgo the lesson here as well.  It is recommended that infants and toddlers under 40 pounds be restrained with a 5-point harness because a properly fitted 5-point harness diffuses the impact across the rib cage rather than across the abdomen and pelvis as a 3-point harness or lap and shoulder belt would.  The largest reason for child injuries and fatalities in car accidents is not the actual impact, but injuries caused by an ill-fitting harness or putting too small of a child in a 3-point or adult seat belt.  Common injuries include pelvic fractures and abdominal strictures.

Now we have cost versus value versus convenience.  

Since child product manufacturers want to rape parents for all they're worth, most people end up needing to upgrade their infant car seats when their child is between 5-9 months unless they got a 30-pound car seat.  That means you need a rear-facing car seat that can transition to forward facing in order to get the most "value".  This is known as a convertible car seat.  You can try to be smart and get a convertible car seat for a newborn since most of them claim to be good starting with 5 pounds, but a car seat that can accommodate a 40+ pound toddler ends up swallowing newborns without lots of extra accessories to ensure proper fit and support.  The good news is that you can get a 40-pound convertible car seat for $35-40 (Cosco Scenera Convertible Car Seat).  Pay a little more, and you can get the Evenflo Tribute for $60 which accommodates a taller child.  For even more ($70-100), you can get something in Evenflo's Titan series which has a maximum weight limit of 50 pounds, but is strangely a slightly shorter car seat than the Tribute.  It is supposedly good for children up to 50" tall, but I've read many reviews from parents saying that their children outgrew the Titan car seats in the 30 something inch range.  For costing 2x or more than the least expensive convertible car seat, I think it better last as long as it's supposed to.  You can pay up to $150 for a low-mid price range convertible car seat, but the max weight is 65 pounds on these and they are HUGE--not great if you have a small vehicle or frequently ride with passengers.  For the $150-250 price range you can get a convertible or 3-in-1 car seat that turns has a booster mode for children up to 100 pounds.  Most of these are huge as well--the bigger the kid, the bigger the seat.  

Want to know how much a forward-facing only seat costs?  The least expensive toddler seat appropriate for 1 year olds that I've found is the Cosco high back booster, which is forward-facing for 22-40 pounds and a belt-positioning booster seat for 40-80 pounds.  It costs $49 even at  That will get you through even the strictest state requirements.

If you don't have special needs, the least expensive way to go is to get a cheap convertible car seat, then a forward facing seat when they outgrow it, and a $15-20 backless booster afterward if they need it.  If your convertible car seat allows you to go straight to a booster mode, you can get a high back booster for little kids for as low as $30.  But this route requires up to 4 separate seats, which isn't convenient and carbon footprint decreasing and all of that.  If I wasn't constantly having to spend money elsewhere, I'd spend more upfront and get the most compact convertible car seat with the highest weight capacity I could find rather than having to buy so many additional seats.  During my car seat search, my favorite has been the Recaro ProSERIES because they're compact, have a high maximum weight capacity, and are made in the USA as opposed to China where all the other car seats are made.  They also seem to be the safest because they have really high standards and put their focus on safety and convenience and ease of use as far as making height adjustments.

If you're curious about which car seat I got, I picked the Evenflo Tribute.  I was strapped for cash and had to put aside my preferences and ideals so that my little man would have something ride in.  The features are pretty good:  high user ratings, two position recline, latch equipped (safest and easiest way to install a car seat, compatible with most cars manufactured from 2002 on), body and head pillows, fold down cup holder, and able to withstand about twice the impact as the minimum federal crash safety standards.  I wish it had a higher weight and height limit, but my son should be about a year and a half before he reaches 40 pounds because babies and toddlers slow down a lot with the weight gain from 6 months on.  At that point, I'll have more flexibility in choosing the style of car seat , and maybe I can afford the one I like then.

My car seat will come in between 8/12-8/17.  I'll tell you all about it when it comes!

I hope this helps some people in their car seat search.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: How to be a full-time Work at Home Mom (even if you're single)

This isn't my typical Thrifty Thursday kind of post, but it ties in, and I think this is a topic many moms will find interesting as studies have shown that most women want to either cut back hours or be at home full-time once they become mothers.  In many cases, single moms have a greater need to be at home because of the high cost of day care and sitters and the fact that the father is often unable or unwilling to participate in the daily care of his child(ren).  Many single mothers find themselves ineligible for government assistance because they meet or exceed the minimum income requirements, which is around $24,000 in Georgia for a mother with one child (so take that Phyllis Schlafley!).  This, however, creates a paradox.  You can't afford child care expenses if you work, but you can't afford everything else if you don't work.

As a woman who unexpectedly found herself a single mother living 250 miles away from her child's father, I've discovered that the best way to be a stay at home mom is to plan your career with that goal in mind.  Choosing a well-paying field with flexible work options is the path that will lead to most satisfying work at home mom opportunities.  It is also very hard to transition into full-time self-employment AFTER you become a mom because your time and attention are pulled so many different ways.  If you don't or can't plan ahead, you may have to settle for a less than ideal job but to me that was a small sacrifice in order to actually be the person raising my child rather than a day care employee getting paid $10 and hour to baby sit my son and 15 other kids.

Even if you have to suddenly change all your career plans, it is possible, however, with time, dedication, perserverence, and patience to successfully make a living wage and actually thrive from self-employment even as a single parent.  In the past few months, I've been piecing together bits of freelance work and self-employment opportunities in an effort to figure out the best fit for me in my current geographic location. 

In no particular order, these are the best opportunities I've found for any moms who are already stay at home moms and would like to make some extra money or moms who want to transition into full-time work at home status.  I'm even working on a few of them.  That's part of the beauty of work for yourself:  you don't have to limit yourself to just one thing.

Private Instructor

Depending on your background, there are a number of subjects in which you can offer tutoring.  If you have a music background, you can give private lessons from your home. Rates for these services range from $15-80 for a 30 minute session depending on where you live, your experience, the difficulty level of the material, and the instrument being taught if you are giving music lessons.  For those who have trouble finding help with child care during normal business hours, this is a good scheduling opportunity since most of the appointments needed will be after school and work hours.

Personal Trainer

For the fitness buffs out there, being a personal trainer can be a fun and lucrative way to make some extra money.  Certification is relatively inexpensive and easy to get if you are interested in specializing in a specific fitness activity such as yoga or pilates.  Classes may be taught from your home or you can schedule private sessions.  For reference, the personal trainers I know charge $50-100 for the initial meeting and assessment and then $35-60 for subsequent sessions.

Child Care

If you're anything like me, you already know several families with children who need child care ranging from ocassional nights out to full-time care while the parents are at work. The average cost of daycare in Georgia is about $135/week for infants and toddlers and $115/week for preschoolers.  Even government subsidized child care can be in the $75/week range.  You can offer child care services to people who already know and trust you.  The benefits are that you can choose who to accept since you already know the child(ren) and have a good idea of whether or not you can handle them in addition to your own and you will also feel comfortable and certain of disciplinary boundaries.  Having a mix of ages isn't necessarily a bad thing.  The older children can help with small tasks like getting their little sister's diapers or throwing away their juice boxes so that you don't have to do it all.  Build a good repoire with the families you work with, and you may be needing extra help to handle the business demand before you know it.

House/Pet Sitting

This isn't something you can necessarily count on as a full-time opportunity, but it's an easy way to make some extra money once or twice a month, especially if you know a lot of people who travel or can be referred by trusted associates.  In many cases, you don't necessarily have to stay the whole time but can come once or twice a day to check the house and take care of the animals.  Either way, you're at liberty to take your child with you.  If your son or daughter is old enough, they can even help out and might enjoy the change of scenery and/or furry friends.


Start your own maid service for great flexibility with scheduling and a casual enough setting to bring your child when you have to.  Use a carrier like a Mei Tai to keep your baby close but your hands free and a gated play yard to keep your little one in a contained area while your work.  Worried about fumes and exposure to harsh chemicals?  Use green cleaning products to avoid the harmful side effects of conventional cleaners, and advertise your services as ecofriendly.  Depending on the size of the home and other factors such as messy pets or ceiling height tiles in the shower, typical charges range from $40-100+ per cleaning.  Clients usually request ongoing weekly or bimonthly services.  If a home requires a lot of extra work for the first cleaning, you may assess a higher rate for the first cleaning.  Once word gets around, you might be able to gain a commercial account or two such as a church or local business.

Freelance Writing

Being a freelance writer has never been as romantic a job as it may seem.  Today's freelance writer is even less so.  In addition to ghostwriting, editting, and other technical writing jobs, the internet provides a huge venue for those wanting to make extra money by writing.  The business model for many freelance writers involves supplementing more creative work with ad revenue driven online writing.  There are several ways of generating commercially driven income including pay per click ad space and receiving a cut on sales originating from your work.  Build enough of a portfolio with your personal work, and you may eventually land a paid writing position for a web-based company.  This option takes the longest to develop but is the ultimate in flexibility, time available to your children, and income potential.  This doesn't happen for everyone, but there are real live bloggers who make millions from the traffic to their websites.  Their readership is obviously much larger than what the average online writer ever achieves.  I believe most online content writers can realistically expect to achieve a minimum of $1000/month with high quality, consistent output over time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

DDT6 -- The Scoop on Poop

I know the biggest turn off to cloth diapering is probably the poop factor.  The fact of the matter is that your baby may not even poop as often or as copiously as you imagine.  In addition to your infant or toddler's age, diet (down to the brand of milk) will also affect the quantity, consistency, and frequency of the bowel movements.

The Good News

While it is ideal for a newborn to poop 4-8 times a day, it is not uncommon for it to be quite less.  The nurses at the hospital told me that any decent size "mark" could be considered a bowel movement.  Once my son got into a routine, he only had 1-2 dirty diapers a day and often went up to 3 days at a time between poops.  This is normal and should not be thought of as constipation unless it is coming out hard and/or dry.  Breastfed babies can go up to a week without pooping because breast milk is so perfectly made for an infant's digestive system that almost 100% of it can be absorbed with no waste material.  Even formula fed babies can go up to 3 days between bowel movements without concern, and there are a handful of formulas that compare with the digestibility of breast milk.

More Good News

As your infant ages, the consistent of the bowel movements will change and become easier and easier to remove from the diaper.  If you are blessed with a little bundle of joy who happens to be a prolific pooper, the frequency will also decrease to about 4 times a day at 4 months and down to one time a day by 6-8 months.  In many cases, this could happen sooner.  My son has been making well-formed stools since around 4 months.  It might be hard at first to deal with, but it does get better!

The Bad News

Newborn poop is very sticky and can have an almost liquid-like texture.  This will make it messy to prewash out of the diapers until they start having more solid bowel movements at about 4 months.  If you have to, the good old fashioned washing in a basin works, but it's not the most palatable way to deal with poopy diapers.  The easiest way is with a sprayer (even later on).  It knocks off the poop without mashing it into the cloth for the least amount of residue on the diaper.  You don't have to get an official diaper sprayer.  If you have a mud room with a shower stall or a sink with a built in sprayer, that will save you money and the trouble of installing an extra gadget.  Once you rinse it, wring out as much water as you can and put in the diaper bucket until you're ready to launder.

So there you have it.  That's the scoop on poop.  It's not as scary as it seems, so get to it!

Monday, August 2, 2010

6-month Firsts

First time eating carrots

For me, the first 6 months of motherhood were a trial and error period of parenting theory testing and boundary setting.  There were so many questions.  How much could I reasonably expect to do alone as a single mother?  How concerned should I be about when and how to start introducing new foods?  Is sterilization of every little thing a major issue? 

He learned how to sit by himself right before his 6 month birthday!

What I learned is that everything isn't as life or death as experts and family members may make it seem.  It turns out I can do pretty much everything on my own.  I may not sleep as much, and I may not do it in as timely a fashion as I would prefer, but if I have to, I can.  When it comes to foods, your baby will let you know in many different ways when he or she is ready for new things.  As far as sterilization goes, he hasn't died yet even though I don't always fully sterilize his bottles and eating utensils or worry about every toy that touches the floor.  In fact, he hasn't been sick at all since he's been born.  Here's an interesting tip for breast feeding mothers:  your body puts antibodies in the milk which are made specifically for the pathogens you encounter, many of which will come from your child due to the constant contact.  So if you nurse, you can worry even less about germs.

In light of the way things have turned out, I've become more laid back and less worried.  So last weekend, we did all sorts of things I've never done or tried to avoid including a sort of a day trip with my son all by myself against my mother's advice.  Please, Mom, don't have a heart attack when you read about everything we did.

First time riding with a friend

1.  Let him touch one of my dog's puppies.  He seemed to think it was like one of his stuffed animals.  I washed his hands after.
2.  Stopped freaking out every time my son rolls off his play mat onto the bare floor.
3.  Let him occasionally sit and play on the floor.
4.  Let my son ride in a WalMart shopping cart, but with a blanket to cover the seat.  He very much enjoyed sitting up and looking around like a big boy, but he wasn't a big fan of the bumpy pavement.
5.  Didn't try to comfort him every single time he got fussy in the car.  As long as he's not hungry or wet, it turns out he can pacify himself most of the time if I don't jump in right away.  The sound of my voice as background noise (like on the cell phone) but not actually talking to him seemed to be soothing.  Actually talking to him made him cry more.  Saving the best toys for last instead of giving them all right away also seemed to help.  I figure you've got nothing to bargain with if you give him his favorite the first time he fusses.
6.  Let him eat baby food from a not freshly sterilized spoon.
7.  Let him touch a client's dog.
8.  Let said dog lick his hand.  This made him giggle.
9.  Took him with me to a chiropractic appointment.  He loved the bench in the dressing room because it made impressive sounds when he kicked his feet on it.
10.  Didn't take my bagel away immediately when he grabbed it and decided to use it as a chew toy.   He thinks he needs to sample everything he sees me eating or drinking.
11.  Took him to Books-A-Million and fed him sweet potatoes on one of the coffee shop tables.
12.  Didn't tell him to stop when he chewed another baby's toes.  After all, he chews his own toes all the time.
13.   Bought gas with him in the car.  I usually let someone else do it or wait until I'm by myself because I didn't want to have an upset baby during an extra stop.  I set the pump on autopilot, played with Davie while it filled up, then put him back in his seat when I was all done.  He fussed when I put him back, but he got over it and ended up falling asleep.