Baby, Tips

Best Budget Baby Gifts

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Looking back at my baby shower over two years ago, there are certain items that I am so grateful I got. These were items that I didn’t register for, but wish I had. That said, ALWAYS LOOK AT THE REGISTRY. The registry is king for baby showers. It represents the true desires of the mother-to-be’s heart. Please respect that and get something off of the list (with luck, they’ll have some of the items listed below on their list!). That said, if you don’t have access to the registry or the only items left are out of your price range, here are a few ideas:

  • Children’s Books. A good friend of mine got Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Numbers Colors Shapes for my baby shower and we still read them! They have been a great gift. I feel that you can hardly ever go wrong with children’s books.
  • Bow Ties. We got several bow ties at our son’s baby shower, and we have used them all (and still use them). If we ever have a girl, I’m planning on registering for lots and lots of bows to help off set all of the gender neutral baby clothes we’ve kept.
  • Burp Cloths. Babies spit up a lot, and I never felt like we had too many burp clothes. We received several beautiful handmade burp cloths, and used all of them.
  • Bibs. There was a several month stretch where my son wore bibs every waking hour. He drooled so much. We would go through all of our bibs within a few days. Having cute bibs (especially patterned ones that were less likely to show stains) was nice because half the time people couldn’t even see what my son was wearing underneath.
  • Baby Toiletries. One of my friends gave us a basket which included infant tylenol, diaper rash ointment, gas relief drops, baby shampoo, and baby body wash. It was incredible. We went months before we had to purchase any of those items for ourselves.

The best thing about these items is that many of them are gender neutral (instead of bow ties, you can do bows). These can be great gifts especially if the mother-to-be has chosen not to reveal the baby’s gender.

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Budgeting

The 8 Phases of a Spending Freeze

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As mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I decided that we would go on a week-long spending freeze every month this year. We go a whole week without shopping—at the store and online. We pick the week randomly, usually deciding a day or two beforehand. This helps keep us on our toes, and also helps us avoid weeks when we know we will have to spend money.  Now that we’ve gotten six spending freezes under our belts, we’ve started to notice that each spending freeze goes through the following phases.

Day 1: The Confident Phase

“I’m totally nailing this spending freeze. We got everything we needed yesterday and we are set for the week! This is going to be so easy.”

Day 2: The “Oh Well” Phase

“Rats, we forgot to pick up more _____. Oh well. Good thing we’re only going on a spending freeze for a week. I’m sure we’ll get by without it.”

Day 3: The “I Just Found a Great Deal!” Phase

“Hey honey, we just got the weekly ads in the mail and look at what they have on sale! We should get _____! … Oh yeah. We’re on a spending freeze.”

Day 4: The Failed Spontaneous Phase

“Let’s be spontaneous and go to _____! … Oh wait. We’re on a spending freeze.”

Day 5: The Turning Down Friend/Salesman Phase

“Oh, I’d love to come to a lunch date with you, but we’re on a spending freeze. Care to meet up at a park?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, but we’re on a spending freeze right now. Maybe we can buy your product later.”

Day 6: The Countdown Phase

“Just two days left. Just two days left.”

Day 7: The List-Making Phase

“Okay, so what have we run out of so far? Let’s make a list so I can pick up everything tomorrow.”

Day 8: The Spending Phase

“Thank goodness it’s over! Let’s go to ALL THE STORES.”

 

By far the hardest part of the spending freeze is breaking our habit of going to the store for every little thing. We get so used to spending money nearly every day that it can be hard to adjust. But it’s really been worth it! It has helped us keep our spending in check and reevaluate what is really important to us.

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Favorite Books, Reading, recommended reads

5 Ways to Find Books Your Children Will Love

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It only takes my son a few pages to decide whether or not he likes a picture book. If he likes it, we keep on reading. If he doesn’t, the book gets pushed out of my hands as he proclaims, “I don’t yike it!” Once a book has been “unliked,” I hardly ever can crack it open again for a second chance. There can be many reasons why he doesn’t like a book: he isn’t in the mood to read, he doesn’t like the pictures, or the reading level is too high for him. Thankfully I’ve still be able to read quite a bit with him, and today I’ll be sharing my tips with you! This post will mostly be geared towards finding picture books your children will love, although some of the suggestions can apply to chapter books as well.

1. Pick a Subject Your Child Likes and Explore

What toys does your child play with the most? What TV shows do they like to watch? Chances are if you find a book that relates to the toys they play with or the shows they watch, they’ll end up liking it. For my son, I know I’m safe if I get a book that has dogs, construction vehicles, or is a retelling of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ You can browse by subject at your library, or simply skim the shelves for titles and cover art that match your child’s interests. Usually I pick several shelves to look at each time we go to the library, changing it up every time so I can be exposed to new authors and illustrators. I’ve found dozens of books this way.

2. Ask a Librarian

Extra points if the librarian you ask is one that does Story Time! I always get books my son likes from Story Time. I know if he’s sat through it once, he can sit through it again. These librarians know what children’s books are most popular. They also will be able to guide you to authors or series that your child may like. They also have an extensive knowledge on searching the library databases. A few months ago, I could not figure out how to search for books with songs (you know, like nursery rhymes or classic kids songs like “Old MacDonald”) but within a few minutes one of our librarians printed out two pages of books in that category.

3. Binge Read Authors and Illustrators

Once you find a book your child likes, look up every book that author or illustrator has done. If they liked one book, they’re likely to enjoy the others. Children’s book authors are more prolific than chapter book authors, and so this should lead you to several–perhaps dozens–of books your child will enjoy. It is especially helpful to research illustrators because often they collaborate with several different authors. Pictures are really important to young kids, so if you find an illustrator they like, they probably won’t notice that the author changed.

4. Introduce Books from Your Childhood

If you remember a picture book you read as a kid, chances are it was an excellent one. Look it up and try it out! Your kids are more likely to be excited about reading it if you exclaim about how much you loved that book when you were little. And it’s much more fun to read aloud when you know you will like the book as well. We’ve already started doing this with several series, like Berenstain Bears, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and What Mommies Do Best.

5. Try Again

Your child will still come across books they don’t like. The important thing to emphasize  is that there are still books they can love to read, and you will help find them! We always have a few books from our weekly library haul that never make the cut. By figuring out why my son doesn’t like them, I’m able to troubleshoot so it doesn’t happen again. If he isn’t in the mood, I try reading the book later. If he doesn’t like the pictures, I try to avoid that illustrator in the future. If the reading level is too high, I make a mental note to try the books again when he’s older.

If you are still looking for books your kids will love, check out our Recommended Reads posts! We post about our favorite picture books, chapter books, and young adult books at the end of every month.

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Favorite Books, Reading

Teaching Kids to Love Books

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Not to brag, but my son loves books. He may not be able to read them yet, but he loves them. While I realize that some children are more naturally drawn to books than others, I’d like to offer some tips of ways to teach your kids to love books.

Read to Them

Schedule a time to read to your children at least once a day. Make it part of your routine! Like many other summer reading challenges, I encourage you to read 30 minutes a day to your kids! I know attention spans can be short, so consider breaking up the reading times. In our schedule, we read after breakfast, before our son’s nap, and before bedtime. This means we only have to do 10 minutes at a time, although often it goes longer than that. And once your child learns how to read, don’t stop reading to them! My mom would often read to us even in our teens, just to get us hooked on a book she knew we would love. Often she would tell us, “I’ll just read the first two chapters, and if you don’t like it, we can return it.” Inevitably she would finish reading and we would fight over who would get the book next so we could finish it.

Go to the Library Often

I recommend going to the library once a week. I remember as a child we would go to the library and load up on books for the week. It’s the best way to be able to cycle through books so you can keep your child engaged in reading. Be sure to let your kids help pick some of the books they will read that week. Sure, you may end up with some books that you don’t like as much, but you may end up finding some treasures. (Stay tuned for next week when I discuss “Ways to Find Books Your Children Will Love”). If it’s hard to make time for the library, I highly encourage reserving books online and making use of library book drop-offs. This means you only have to make a 5-10 minute trip to the library to drop off past books and pick up the books you have on hold.

Attend Story Time

I am constantly learning how to be a more engaging reader through our library’s story time. Each librarian has their own way of adding expression and voice to the book they are reading. Often this encourages children to be more engaged in the books. I’ve learned how to look for places in books where I can engage my son in the story (making animal noises, pointing out different details in pictures, saying a repetitive phrase). Kids love to feel involved, especially when they can’t read on their own yet.

Reorganize Your Books

This is a tip I got from a friend, who wrote a beautiful blog post on how she decided to organize her books. I’ll just include this quote about the results: “Though I didn’t add a single new book during this clean-up process, it was as if my kids were seeing them all anew. They spent the rest of the day exclaiming over books they thought were lost and enjoying entire collections or author groups.”

Get New Books

There’s just something exciting about getting a new book. The book lover that I am would much rather my son get a new book as a gift than a new toy to junk up our house. Because of this, we have a separate Amazon Wishlist just of children’s books. If you can’t afford to buy new books all the time, consider shopping at your library’s book sales. We found some great classics at our local library sale this year.

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Library Book Sale Haul

You can also see if your area is part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, where your child can receive a free, age-appropriate book once a month from the time they are born until they are 5!

Happy Reading!

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Book Review, Favorite Books, recommended reads

Recommended Reads May 2017

Welcome to Recommended Reads! We’ll be doing a blog post once a month of our favorite picks for picture books, chapter books, and young adult books. If you follow us on Goodreads, you’ve probably already seen these pop up.

Picture Books

This month’s picture book author and illustrator is Mark Teague. He has written a variety of books, and here are the ones we’ve loved so far:

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf- I loved this retelling of the classic fairytale, because I don’t like that the wolf is always forced to be bad.  Once the wolf’s hunger issues are solved, it turns out he’s not so bad after all.

Funny Farm and Firehouse- Edward (a dog) learns more about how farms and firehouses function as he visits each one. The best parts of these two books are the illustrations. It is incredible how lifelike these dogs seem.

The Sky is Falling- a retelling of Chicken Little, where she is set up by a wolf but outsmarts him in an unexpected way.

Pigsty- Have a kid with a messy room? In Miss Piggle-Wiggle fashion, this book explores what would happen if pigs actually moved into a room because it was so messy.

Chapter Book

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One of my favorite books is Lawn Boy by Gary Paulson. Written for children in grade school, Lawn Boy focuses on a 12 year old who decides to start his own lawn mowing business. Along the way, he learns about profits and expenditures, investments, and capitalism. I loved how this book wove these topics around a story that was relatable and fun.

 

Young Adult Books

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The Bartimaeus Series by Johnathan Stroud is set in a fictional world that reimagines what London would be like if magicians ruled Parliament through the help of djinnis (genies). The main djinn is Bartimaeus, who despite being a slave is clever and resourceful. This series focuses on redemption as secondary character, Nathaniel, who pursues fame and fortune at the expense of djinnis and many others. The best part of the books is exploring the new worlds (reimagined London and the world of djinnis) and learning how they interact.

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation

Traveling

How to Create a Family-Friendly Guest Room

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After traveling to multiple homes with a baby or toddler, I feel the need to share the things I love to see in a guest bedroom.

  1. A Trash Can- It seems like I always have things to throw away (tissues, wrappers, etc), and it’s nice to have a trash can in the room that we are staying in.
  2. A Tissue Box- whether there’s tears from a long road trip or just the standard runny nose, it’s nice to have a tissue box on hand in your room.
  3. An Empty Chest of Drawers- On our last family trip, it was so nice to tuck our bags away and unpack all of our clothes so we felt more at home.
  4. Blackout Curtains- Even if your child isn’t used to sleeping with blackout curtains like mine, it never hurts to have a darker room at bedtime. Even temporary blackout curtains can make a huge difference.
  5. Easily Accessible Linens- You never know what kids may do to a bed. It’s always nice to know where linens can be found if there is an incident in the middle of the night.
  6. A Pack-n-Play- Not having to bring one of these along is so nice! It’s also better than co-sleeping (unless you are used to that).

What things do you love to see in a guest bedroom?

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Jobs

Four Benefits of a Side Hustle

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If you haven’t seen a theme in our last few posts, it’s that all moms, especially Stay-At-Home Moms (SAHMs) need to take time for themselves. One of the ways in which a SAHM can do this is through a side hustle. Simply put, a side hustle is “a way to make some extra cash that allows you flexibility to pursue what you’re most interested in. It can also be your true passion – a chance to delve into fashion, travel or whatever it is you care about the most without quitting your day job.”

As I perused my “Friends” list on Facebook, I saw a wide variety of side hustles that my fellow SAHMs were doing. Here’s just a glimpse of what I saw.

  • Consultants: LuLaRoe, LipSense, Younique, MaryKay, Usborne Books, Beach Body, Plunder Design, Scentsy, Avon, Young Living Essential Oils, Matilda Jane
  • Bloggers: Mostly mommy and lifestyle blogs, but one of my friends has a budgeting blog
  • Etsy Shops: Kid’s Clothing, Handmade Jewelry, Handmade Cards, Artwork, Digital Downloads, Shoes
  • Small Business Owners, such as Photographers

From Sales to Blogging to Boutiques, these women are expanding their horizons and developing their talents- directly from their home. And what do they get from all of this? Here are the four main benefits a SAHM gets from a side hustle.

1- Social Support.  As fulfilling as it is to be a SAHM, it’s not enough. Often, SAHMs need more interaction with adults, more validation, and more variety than they get just through their kids. Side hustles are a crucial way to provide such a network of support. Side Hustles mean interacting with ADULTS, whether online, at a conference, or through in-person consultations.

2- Experience. Even if you don’t make a lot of money in your side hustle, you gain so much experience! One of my bucket list items a few years ago was to open an Etsy Earring Shop. While I was only able to break even with my investment, I learned so much through the process. I consider the experience I gained running a small business far more valuable than the money I made. I was so grateful for the insight it gave me into other businesses. By doing a side hustle, you learn things about the market you are in, about yourself, and about your potential. I found out I didn’t really like trying to do all the marketing for my Etsy business, and it was easier for me just to go to a craft fair for a day.

3- Education. If you want to do a side hustle right, you have to get more education. I’m not necessarily talking about taking more college classes. I’m talking about online webinars, email courses, or training with someone in the same field. As a blogger, I’ve attended webinars on growing a blog, received email courses on growing a Business Instagram account, and joined a Facebook group for Small Business Owners. All of these things provided me with a targeted education to succeed.  So if you are looking to grow your side hustle, look online! There are so many resources available to you. And as a bonus, they’ll add to your resume while you still are a SAHM.

4- Finance. It never hurts to have an extra income! I know a lot of women who are quite successful in their side-hustles. But I also know an equal amount of women who choose to make less for their own flexibility.

Even if my side hustles only lasted a short while, I’m grateful for the benefits I’ve gained from them.

Do you have a side hustle?

Why I Needed a Mom Vacation