Author Archives: Karen

Metta Mom: Learning self-care, compassion, and loving-kindness

meditatingIn Buddhism, there is a meditation practice called metta or loving-kindness. According to the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, “Metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is a method of developing compassion. It comes from the Buddhist tradition, but it can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation; loving-kindness meditation is essentially about cultivating love.”

Since I began practicing mindfulness and meditation and learning more about the philosophies surrounding its practice, metta has resonated with me particularly. It is my favorite meditation practice, and I think it can be particularly useful for women — especially moms.

Compassion comes naturally to most of us. We care for our children, our spouses, our parents, our friends, our co-workers, our nieces and nephews, our neighbors, even strangers. Metta is not a difficult concept for women. But when you spend a lot of time with women — as most women do — you will hear a common complaint: we spend all this time taking care of other people, but we all wish we were better at taking care of ourselves.

Self-care can mean a lot of things. It can be as simple as taking a minute in a chaotic day to just slow down and breathe. It can mean eating well, exercising more, getting enough sleep. It can mean making time for the things that make you feel happy and calm and centered.

In metta practice, we first focus all of our love and kindness and compassion on ourselves. We must learn to be gentle, kind, and accepting of ourselves before we can learn to generate those feelings for others. It’s like adjusting your own oxygen mask before helping others. I think most women could benefit from a reminder to love ourselves as much as we love others.

For the next few weeks, I will be posting here about some of the things I’ve been learning in my own metta practice. I will be writing about self-care, kindness, and compassionate living. How can we be kinder to ourselves, each other, our kids, our spouses, and the world? How can we be more mindful of the present moment, and help our kids learn to do the same? How can we be happier, calmer, and more fulfilled through these practices?

I am testing these ideas here in the hopes of starting a new project, but I know many of my frugal living readers can benefit from these concepts, too. I hope that you will follow along and chime in!

Photo by Take Back Your Health Conference courtesy of Creative Commons license.

Does having kids destroy your marriage?

Yesterday, this terribly sad editorial about a writer who blames having children for the destruction of her marriage popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. I made the mistake of reading the comments, which were split between people calling this couple terrible and selfish, and child-free people using it to justify their life choices.  After reading it, though, my first thought was this: perhaps their perfect pre-kids marriage wasn’t as perfect as she believed.

I am the first person to admit, if you don’t want kids more than you want to sleep, they are not for you. But she wanted them! Not just one, but three (and then surprise! she got four). And then she blamed the challenges the kids brought to her marriage on its destruction.

The kids aren’t the problem, though. Kids do challenge a marriage, but it’s only because kids come with built-in adversity. Being responsible for another human is stressful, and sharing that responsibility with another person adds stress to the relationship. Every marriage will eventually be tested, but when you have kids, you’re essentially signing up for an endurance trial for yourself and your marriage. I don’t know, maybe there are child-free couples who make it through marriage without adversity. I doubt it. I suspect if this couple had decided not to have children, they eventually would have encountered a challenge great enough to break them. You either get through those challenges together, or you fall apart.

From my personal perspective, it’s hard to know whether the incredibly easy years of my marriage were easy because we didn’t have kids yet or because we were young and the relationship was relatively new. We’d only been married two years when Judah was born. The only really hard months of our marriage so far were the ones that followed the birth of each of our kids. And yes, it was much harder after Noah than it was after Judah. We were tired. We were stressed. We were emotionally drained. There is little time to take care of yourself, let alone worry about another person. You put your head down, and you go into survival mode. And as everyone will tell you, it’s totally normal. Adding a human to your family is tremendously stressful, and even the strongest marriages take a temporary hit with that kind of stress. We bickered more. We kissed less. And for those few months, everything seemed harder. But never once did I think my life would be easier without my husband. I reminded myself daily that this was hard, period. It wasn’t hard because of him or because there was something wrong with our relationship. In fact, even on the hardest days, I recognized that even the bad days were better with him in them.

I think the difference between the couples who make it and the ones who don’t is that they eventually put their heads up and realize they’re neglecting the most important relationship in their lives. For me, it happened when each of my kids was about 4-6 months old. I woke up from the sleep-deprived induced haze, and I realized that if I didn’t start putting in that effort again those weeks could turn into months, and months into years, and eventually I wouldn’t recognize my previously loving, devoted marriage. The trick is keeping that temporary adversity from becoming a permanent problem. And make no mistake, if you love your spouse and want your marriage to last, he or she has to be the most important person in your life. Collectively, you will always put the kids first, so individually, you have to put your spouse first.

Will your marriage ever be the same after kids? No, but it’s not your marriage that changes. It’s your life. YOU change. Your circumstances change. Your marriage can either adapt or fall apart. You can’t blame the children, though. That’s a cop out. It wasn’t the kids that damaged this marriage; it was the adversity.

Cheap (or free!) summer activities for kids

swingingOh, summer. I have made no secret about the fact that it’s not my personal favorite time of year. Southern Indiana turns into a swamp in July. But I am determined to make the most of summer this year, so I’ve spent some time compiling a list of activities to fill up our schedule without draining my wallet.

Here are some of the ways we’ll be keeping busy this summer:

Discounted or free kids’ movies

Judah has never been to a theater. He really wasn’t ready to sit for that long before his brother was born, and I wasn’t about to take a newborn to a movie theater even for a matinee. Many theater chains are offering second-run morning movies during the weekdays in the summer, and it seems like a perfect opportunity to introduce a preschooler to the movie theater. At a buck or two per ticket, the risk of leaving in the middle of the movie with a restless kid isn’t so intimidating. Check with your local theater, but here are some nationwide programs:

Kids Bowl Free

Sign up to get two free bowling games per kid, per day all summer long at select bowling centers with this program. Age ranges vary, but some go up to 15 years old. You’ll still have to pay for shoe rental and adult games. Find a participating bowling center in your area and get more information at Kids Bowl Free.

Summer reading programs

Reading is free AND educational, and most libraries have a ton of programs and story hours available for free — not to mention thousands of free books and movies available for hours of entertainment for both kids and parents.

You can also participate in these reading programs for fun incentives.

  • Pizza Hut’s Book-It Summer Reading Program offers prizes for kids in grades K-6 who meet summer reading goals.
  • Barnes and Noble is giving away free books to kids in grades 1-6 who read 8 books this summer.
  • My personal favorite bookstore Half Price Books has an awesome summer reading program — track 300 minutes of reading with your child each month in June and July, and submit your reading log to get $5 in gift certificates each month. All kids under age 14 are eligible, so you can even track minutes with a newborn and use the gift card to build your baby’s library!
  • The “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” program offers fun incentives through local libraries and an iPhone app that allows you to track your reading progress for your preschooler.

Many bookstores also offer free story hours if you’re looking for some air conditioned fun, so be sure to check their events calendars for more information.

Take a hike

Early mornings and evenings are a great time to get out into nature for a walk or a hike before it gets too hot. This hiking trail database lists trails by state to help you find a state park or recreational trail near you. The American Heart Association also has a handy tool for finding paved walking tracks if the great wilderness isn’t your thing.

Kids Eat Free deals

If you’re going out to eat, you might as well get a free meal for your kids. Money Saving Mom has a great master list of kids eat free deals updated regularly to help you find a deal for most weekdays.

What are you up to with your kids this summer? Share your ideas in the comments!

On Mother’s Day

mothers dayToday I am thankful for my boys. Being a mom is the hardest and easiest thing I have ever done. Loving these boys feels as natural as breathing, but the sleepless nights, the worry, the days when my patience is low and they’re being particularly challenging — those parts of motherhood don’t always come so easily.

I’m thankful to these boys for forgiving me so quickly when I make mistakes, and loving me in spite of my flaws. I’m thankful for Judah, who tells me I’m beautiful with absolute sincerity even on my worst days and frequently says, “You’re the best mama I ever saw in my whooooole life.” I’m thankful for Noah, who looks at me like I’m the world and the sun and the moon and everything in between because my love was the very first love he ever knew.

We talk a lot about the sacrifices of motherhood, but we rarely mention where mothers find the strength to give so much of themselves — it’s because of all the strength and unconditional love that our kids give to us. So thank you, sweet boys. I promise to keep trying my very hardest to be worthy of the love and trust you give to me so freely.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas and the aunts and the big sisters and the nannies and the teachers and any woman who has ever made a difference in the life of a child. The children you love and support and teach appreciate all that you do for them, whether they tell you so or not, and the world is a better place because of you.

And a special shout out to my mom, who taught me to always listen to my instincts; be confident in my choices; never stop learning and growing; and most importantly, to love fearlessly.

On encouraging each other

I don’t have to tell you that parenting is hard work. Especially parenting small children. When you’re toting two small kids around on a sub-zero, snowy day, tasks that would maybe be a minor inconvenience on your own become monumental, exhausting hard work.

Case in point: a trip to a doctor’s office. Before I had children, it was annoying to sit in a waiting room for up to an hour waiting for my name to be called. But there was no work involved. It was just inconvenient. Now with a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old, it might as well be the Olympics of parenting.

The first event? Getting everyone dressed and out the door. What was once complicated with just a preschooler is now nearly impossible. Change the baby’s diaper, dress the baby, feed the baby, feed the 3-year-old, dress the 3-year-old, remind the 3-year-old to go potty, bundle the 3-year-old up, change the baby’s diaper again (of COURSE he chooses this moment to poop). By the time I’ve managed to do all of this, it’s time to feed the baby again, and while I’m sitting in the chair doing that, the 3-year-old takes off his shoes and coat and sometimes even his pants, and the whole process starts over again.

If you manage to make it out the door and to the appointment on time, you now have to face the next event: filling out the stack of paperwork they hand you at the reception desk with no consideration for how you’re going to manage it while keeping the 3-year-old entertained and holding the 4-month-old in your lap. Ten pages later (including a medical history that no one reads and insurance information that they already have on file after copying your insurance card), after juggling the clip board and pen and baby in your hands while stopping every 30 second to remind the 3-year-old not to drag the waiting room chairs across the room and please use your inside voice and don’t block the entry door, and “Don’t go back there, it’s not our turn yet!”, they finally call you back.

Now the main event: a room full of shiny, expensive objects and drawers and cabinets and the trash can full of who knows what germs and those damn rolling stools that every 3-year-old is just dying to use as a skateboard so he can crack open his head on the floor. It was hard enough keeping Judah entertained without getting into anything at the doctor’s office when it was just the two of us. Trying to keep him out of trouble with his brother in my lap is pretty much impossible.

This was my experience yesterday at an appointment for Judah with an ENT to look into a minor allergy-related concern that his pediatrician had at his annual check-up. It wasn’t even a particularly bad day. In fact, Judah was being pretty well behaved all things considered. He sat next to me in the waiting room, and we made silly faces at his brother, and I quizzed him on opposites, and we talked about dinosaurs. After a night of interrupted sleep with the sleep-regressing 4-month-old, what I really wanted was to zone out, stare into space as we waited or even close my eyes and catch a few minutes of rest. But I needed not only to be awake, but to keep Judah entertained and Noah happy and avoid disturbing the waiting room full of child-free adults.

By the time I made it to the check-out desk to schedule a follow-up appointment, we’d been in the office for about two hours. Noah had been awake the whole time, and I could tell it was close to time to feed him again. I was waiting in line not looking forward to bundling the kids back up, schlepping them through the icy, cold parking lot, and buckling them into car seats to finally get them home.

I was next in line when an older woman approached me. She said hello to Judah and peeked at Noah in his car seat. “You have two beautiful boys,” she said. I thanked her.

Then she put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I was in the waiting room with you, and I just wanted to tell you, you are one hell of a good mom. Your boys are lucky.” And she smiled, and walked away.

As parents, we’re used to putting in long hours of exhausting work. We love our kids, and the reward for all of our hard work is watching them grow and thrive. There is no question that they’re worth it. But sometimes it’s nice to hear a kind word from a stranger and know that someone else has noticed how hard you’re working to take care of these tiny people. She took 10 seconds out of her day to stop and say something nice to an exhausted mom of young kids, and it made such a huge impact on my day. I’m so grateful for her kindness.

I’m determined to pay it forward. I want to make someone’s day the way this stranger made mine. I want to pay attention to the other parents around me, and notice what they’re doing right. It’s easy to judge other parents, but wouldn’t it be nice if we spent more time encouraging each other?

I’d like to try.

How much is convenience worth to you?

Dollar billsI am allergic to paying for shipping. At least that’s how it feels when I get to the checkout page for an item I want to buy online, see the shipping charge, and back out at the last minute.

Shipping feels like such a wasteful way to spend money to me. If I can purchase the item for the same or close to the same price in a store without paying extra for shipping, I will do it — even if it’s inconvenient for me.

But I know everyone doesn’t feel this way. You could make a pretty compelling argument that $7 is worth the convenience of having the items shipped right to your door. Kacie at Sense to Save has been experimenting with grocery delivery. So far she’s been able to get free shipping for her groceries, but I know there are people out there who would rather pay that fee to have groceries delivered to their doors rather than trudge out themselves. Obviously, grocery shopping is a much more labor-intensive endeavor than picking up a few things at a store, so I can see how this could be a fee worth paying. Grocery delivery isn’t available in my area, unfortunately, but there are weeks when paying an extra 10 bucks to save the time it takes to shop for food would be worth it to me.

There are two factors I consider when I decide whether it’s worth it to pay an upcharge for convenience — time saved and percent markup. For example, if I’m paying a $10 markup to have $100 worth of groceries delivered to my door, I’m paying an extra 10% to save 2 hours of time. Depending on what’s going on that week, it might be worth it to me.

But usually the shipping charges are a much higher percentage for less time saved. For instance, yesterday I was shopping a sale at a clothing store, and the shipping charge was $7 for my $25 order. That’s a 28% markup, and it would likely take me 15 minutes to pick up the items in the store since I knew exactly what I wanted. Even though it was inconvenient to head out with my 3-year-old and 2-month-old, I couldn’t bring myself to pay that $7 in shipping. It may “only” be $7, but if I spent $5-$10 on shipping every time I made a purchase, it would add up astronomically.

I will also pay more for merchandise than I planned just to avoid shipping charges. If I have to buy $50 of merchandise to get free shipping, but I only have $35 of items in my cart, I will add $15 more in merchandise to avoid the shipping charge. I’d rather pay $50 for merchandise than $42 for $35 in merchandise plus a $7 shipping charge.

The only time I pay shipping is if I can’t get the item in a store or the online price is so good that even if I pay shipping, the total cost is still less than I’d pay in store.

There are lots of other situations where I won’t pay a convenience fee. I paid my water bill in person every month for two years to avoid a $3 convenience fee (I live just a few blocks from my city’s utilities office). Thankfully, they finally began offering auto-debit with no fee, so I don’t have to remember to go to the office every month on the 15th. I will drive all the way across town to find an ATM that doesn’t charge a fee when I need cash. I never have pizza delivered and always opt to pick it up myself to avoid the $2 delivery charge plus tip to the driver.

How do you feel about paying for convenience? Is it worth the money to you?

Photo credit

Breast pumps are covered by insurance with no copays! (If you’re willing to do some work.)

When I was pregnant with Judah, I planned to be a 100% stay-at-home mom, so I didn’t invest in an expensive breast pump. It turned out I didn’t need one. I only pumped a handful of times, so a $300 pump would have been overkill.

However, for full-time working moms who want to breastfeed, an expensive double-electric pump is essential if you’re going to have any chance at successfully breastfeeding. That’s why the Affordable Care Act included provisions that require health insurance companies to cover breast pumps and other necessary breastfeeding supplies (and lactation consultant services!) at no cost to the insured (read: no copay). Woo hoo, right?

Well, not so fast.

I will be home full-time for the first 4 months with this baby. After that, I’ll go back to a part-time teaching schedule. As of right now, my schedule will have me on campus two hours a day, three days a week. We’re fortunate that my husband’s teaching schedule is flexible, so he’s able to stay home with the kids while I’m on campus teaching. I didn’t start teaching until after Judah stopped breastfeeding, but this time, I’d like to make sure there are bottles on hand in case baby is hungry when I’m gone. Hopefully, as long as I nurse before I go, the baby won’t need to nurse again until I’m home. But you never know! Since I’ll be away from this baby more than I was Judah, I decided to redeem my 100% covered breast pump.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it sounds.

Breast pumps are sold at most big box retailers. Depending on the model and features, double-electric pumps range from $150-$400. Like all products, some are more efficient and easier to use than others. Some come with fancy features to make things more convenient for moms.

When I heard about the ACA provision, I assumed I’d be able to purchase a pump in a retail store and submit my claim for reimbursement. Wouldn’t that be so simple? That’s not how it works. At all.

First, you have to obtain a prescription for a breast pump from your OB or midwife. My midwife wrote the prescription at my last appointment, and she told me that she’d written it specifically for a double-electric pump. Apparently, if the prescription doesn’t specify “double-electric pump,” insurance companies can insist on only covering inefficient manual pumps, which are not sufficient for moms who will be pumping daily.

Once you have your prescription, you need to contact your insurance company to find an in-network durable medical equipment supplier. But here’s the catch: when I searched for a list of in-network DME suppliers in my area, I found a very short list. I called every one of them. Not a single one offered breast pumps. So I was confused.

I absolutely despise calling my insurance company (I’m always on hold forever, and they are rarely helpful). So my first call was to a lactation consultant at the hospital where I plan to deliver. My hospital is working toward baby-friendly certification, and they have an awesome lactation center that rents and sells breast pumps. I wondered if I’d be able to purchase a pump from them and be reimbursed, since they’re an in-network hospital. Unfortunately, according to the lactation consultant, they will not bill my insurance company directly, but she said I might be able to purchase it there and submit a claim for reimbursement. I’d need to call my insurance company to be sure.

After three different calls, I was given three different answers: maybe, if they’re in-network; yes, because they’re in-network; and finally, no, it would not be reimbursed because even though they’re in-network, they’re not an official DME supplier.

Since there are no DME suppliers in my area who offer breast pumps, the insurance company gave me a list of mail order DMEs that are in-network. I will need to fax or mail them my prescription and insurance information, and they will ship me a pump.

Here comes the second catch: their selection is very limited, almost always out of stock and on back-order (so order early if you can!), and their options are the bare bones models. I will be able to get a double-electric pump that will be sufficient for my needs, but it won’t include any of the extras I would get with a retail pump. I suppose I’m not surprised that’s the case, but I’m disappointed that breastfeeding moms who want to take advantage of this will be so limited in their options.

The earliest my insurance company will allow me to order the pump is 30 days before my due date. Some insurance companies won’t fulfill breast pump prescriptions until after the baby is born, so check with your in-network DME early to see if you can get a head start on the paperwork and order the pump as soon as your insurance company allows. Cross your fingers that there will be pumps in stock, and you won’t have a 6-8 week wait like I will.

I was incredibly frustrated, but I’m sharing my experience to let other moms know that it can be done. If you have a specific pump in mind, and the extra money to spend on it, you might want to go ahead and make the purchase on your own. Unfortunately, I suspect that’s part of why insurance companies have made the process so complicated — they hope women will just purchase a pump out-of-pocket so they can get the exact model they want before the baby arrives without all the hassle. If funds are limited, or you’re insisting that your insurance company honor the requirement on principle (I pay a lot of money in insurance premiums! If the law says they have to cover my breast pump, they’re going to cover it, dang it!), be prepared to do some research, be aware of your rights, and get the ball rolling early.

Have any of you received a breast pump from your insurance company? What was the process like for you?

Preparing for baby 2

I’m now 29 weeks pregnant, and officially into the third trimester. In the beginning of my pregnancy, everyone told me I would be amazed at how different pregnancy would be the second time. That hasn’t really been the case for me. I’m struggling with the same aches and pains, nausea, and extreme exhaustion (only this time, I’m anemic, too. Ugh.)

The only big difference for me this time? The time and energy I have to devote to preparing for baby. I wasn’t working for most of my pregnancy with Judah. For half of my pregnancy, Tony was in the process of job hunting, so he wasn’t working either, so I didn’t even really have to take care of myself! I napped, relaxed, and researched baby stuff on the Internet all day while Tony waited on me. Sigh. Those were the days.

This time, Tony is gone most of the day, and I’m doing the very physical (and exhausting) work of caring for our active, strong-willed 2-year-old. I’ve continued to teach part-time through most of the pregnancy, and I will do so (online) right up until the baby is born and beyond. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t really had time to think about nesting. There’s no chance I’m getting any cleaning or organizing done while Judah is awake, and I’m face planting on my bed within 10 minutes of his bedtime

Now that I’m in the third trimester, the urge to nest has hit me hard. I look around my house, and all I see are to-do lists. I have plenty of plans — but energy and time and motivation are still limited. I’m trying to be realistic about what I can get done.

Preschool is starting in early August for Judah, so I will have three mornings a week to catch up as long as my pregnancy continues to be free of complication (fingers crossed!). For now, I’m trying to prioritize what needs to get done.

Clothes

The great thing about a second child who is the same gender as the first with a relatively close birthday (Judah was born in late November; his brother is due in late September) is that we have a ton of clothes that will likely fit him. I saved everything that was in good shape. We won’t need to buy any clothes, but I do have to get the newborn and 0-3 months clothes out of storage, make sure they’re clean and ready to go, and revamp our clothing storage system. I want to replace Judah’s huge dresser with two smaller ones, stain treat and store the clothing Judah has outgrown (he still has winter stuff in his drawers — eep), and of course, stock baby brother’s drawers with hand-me-downs.

Sleeping Arrangements

arm's reach cosleeperI will be using the same Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper bassinet that Judah slept in for the first 6 months. Our house is a 3-bedroom, and I’d like to keep a guest room available for family for as long as possible, so I’m resisting the urge to turn our guest room into a full-blown nursery. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to do in there. I will set up a crib, but I’ll probably just leave the guest bed in there, too, since baby won’t need the room all night for another 6 months. It’s been a while since we had visitors, so the room has become an embarrassing depository for old toys and things that don’t have another place. I need to clear it out, clean out the closet (which has served as random storage since we moved in), and make the room functional as both a place to store the baby things and a guest room. We also need to buy a new crib since Judah’s was manufactured before the crib regulations changed, and he pretty much destroyed it by chewing on it (teething rails are on my to-buy list this time).

Diapers

We’ll be cloth diapering for at least the first 12 months again. The beauty of cloth diapering is that pretty much everything can be reused. My diapers are clean and ready to go. I couldn’t resist buying some new covers when Cotton Babies had a seconds sale (50% off for diaper covers with minor imperfections!) So we’re hopefully all set. See this post for more information on my cloth diaper recommendations.

Car seat

britax b-safeThis is the biggest purchase we need to make, and I’m dragging my feet about it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get an infant seat carrier or skip straight to a convertible car seat. We had the Chicco KeyFit 30 infant seat for Judah, and I loved it, but it’s so pricey! I can’t reuse that seat because it was involved in a minor car accident, and the manufacturer says their seats are unsafe after any collision, so we’ll need a new seat for this baby. I also didn’t need the high weight limit, because Judah moved into the convertible at 9 months and well under 20 pounds. Even as small as he was, I didn’t use the seat as a carrier for longer than a few weeks, because the whole thing was just too heavy and I preferred my Baby K’Tan and later my Ergobaby carrier. Even in the winter, I just jumped in the backseat, secured him in the carrier, and wrapped us both up in my old maternity coat. It was so much easier than hauling that giant seat around.

It sounds like I’m sold on the convertible, but even though newborns technically will fit in those giant seats, I just feel like the snug fit of the infant seat is a safer bet when they’re tiny. So I’m leaning toward getting a more affordable, no frills infant seat and upgrading to the fancy convertible I want when he’s 9-12 months. Unfortunately, I’m not thrilled with the bare bones safety and usability ratings on most of the economy infant seats, so I’m leaning toward a middle-of-the-pack seat with excellent safety ratings that’s short on extra features (the Britax B-Safe seat, which currently sells for about $135). It’s about $50 less expensive than the KeyFit with similar safety and ease-of-use ratings.

britax marathon 70 g3Eventually, I’ll move him into the Britax Marathon 70 G3. Judah has the Britax Roundabout 55, which is a great seat for the price, and I love it. My only big complaint is that the entire seat has to be uninstalled and the straps have to be completely removed to adjust them or wash the seat cover. This is a huge pain if you have a really messy kid (or one who gags and pukes a lot, ahem). The Marathon is similar with a few extra features and upgrades, and an easy-to-remove cover and no rethread harness adjustments. (Like the Roundabout, it will allow baby to rear-face up to 40 pounds, which is very important now that rear-facing is recommended to at least 2 years old! We just turned Judah forward-facing at 2 years and 8 months, and we plan on rear facing as long as possible with his brother, too.)

I’m also considering a few new purchases for items I used heavily with Judah that were given to me secondhand. Most notably, I’d like to replace the swing that was given to me by my sister. It’s a 5- or 6-yearold Graco Cradle n Swing that has been used by four babies including Judah. It’s powered by an AC adapter instead of millions of batteries, so replacing it won’t be cheap, but with so little to buy, I think it might be a good investment. Plus I’ll be able to resell it for a good price when the baby outgrows it.

Beyond that, I just need to clean, clean, clean and organize. I usually run a pretty tight ship when it comes to tidiness, but I’m a crappy housekeeper when I’m pregnant. A lot of clutter and messiness has built up over the past 7 months (almost a year if you include my last pregnancy and miscarriage recovery). Plus, our 1970s ranch is small with very little storage. It’s going to take some serious purging and Tetris-style reorganizing to fit a whole new person and all his stuff into this house.

How did you prepare for your second (or third or fourth) baby?

*All product links are Amazon Associates links, which means I earn a small commission if you purchase a product after following my link.

All photos courtesy of Amazon.com.

Potty training: the Final Frontier. Or something.

This is the last post I will write about my child’s toilet habits. I promise. (Well, my first child anyway.)

Since I was only a few days into the potty training adventure when I wrote my step-by-step breakdown of our potty training boot camp adaptation, I wanted to share a quick update. I fully expected the whole thing to go completely off the rails a few days later and result in 6 months of training despite our early success.

That hasn’t happened. In fact, the opposite is true.

Last weekend marked three weeks since we stopped using diapers. And aside from night time and exactly one play date, we have been diaper and Pull-Up free ever since. It took about two weeks for him to finally (FINALLY) go #2 in the potty, and he hasn’t looked back. I honestly don’t remember the last time he had an accident (maybe a week ago?) Aside from some help cleaning up occasionally (ahem), he has been using the potty completely independently at home. About a week into the process, he started preferring the big toilet with a child seat over his Elmo potty. He’s able to climb on and off on his own with just a step stool, so I’m not even cleaning up a potty seat anymore. YAY YAY YAY.

This past weekend, we took our first diaper-free road trip to visit my husband’s family. I considered a Pull-Up for the 3-hour drive, but ultimately decided that I didn’t like the idea of setting that precedent. I didn’t want him to think it was okay to pee in his pants in his car seat. Instead, I put a dish towel under him, brought some changes of clothes, and stopped a few times to let him use the bathroom. He stayed completely dry on both the trip there and back.

I was also concerned that he’d be too distracted playing with his grandparents to remember to stop and go potty. Nope! He didn’t have a single accident.

The most surprising thing of all? He wakes up with a dry Pull-Up every single morning. We’re about halfway through the only box we’ve ever purchased, and I’m pretty sure we won’t need to buy another. I’m continuing to use them at night as an insurance policy, but when these are gone, I think I’ll try putting him to bed in underpants and hoping for the best. We do have a waterproof mattress cover as extra protection, so worst case scenario is lots of sheet washing. (This definitely varies kid-to-kid, though, and I advocate doctors’ advice not to rush or push night-time training. Some kids don’t master it until age 4 or 5, and that’s completely normal.)

I’m pretty sure we’re closing the book on the potty training chapter with this one. I cannot believe how easy it ended up being, and I’m relieved beyond words that it’s done and over with a full three months before his baby brother is due to arrive. I don’t think I could have gotten it done this quickly and painlessly while also nursing and caring for a newborn.

It hasn’t been sunshine and roses. Those two weeks before he finally pooped in the potty were rough. Public restrooms are a NIGHTMARE. I was so glad that he wasn’t afraid to use public toilets in the beginning, but now I wish he were afraid, because then he wouldn’t insist on running around the germ-infested room touching ev.er.y.thing. Sigh. But I’m not changing diapers anymore, so I’m willing to work on the rest.

I’m absolutely a believer in the straight-to-underpants approach, and the intensive 3-day potty training method. It worked like a charm for us, and Judah is only two-and-a-half. Only you can decide if this is the right approach for your toddler, but I would definitely say that if you’ve been struggling with months of on-again/off-again potty training success, this is worth trying!