Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Upcycled Baby Hats

Fall is finally here, and the weather has been getting cooler. I love this time of year because it's cool enough to go outside without sweating buckets, but just cold enough to break out the sweaters.  The littlest minion, although he is very cute, is quite bald and his little head can get cold.

See- very bald!

I found a great pattern online for the Sweet Pea Pilot Cap that I thought was just adorable. Being both thrifty and crafty, I decided to make a few out of my older boys' outgrown t-shirts. We have just recently gone through all of their clothes and gotten rid of any outgrown or worn out clothing, so I have quite a bit to choose from. I have 5 trash bags of clothes in my basement now waiting for a trip to the thrift store! I took a few shirts that had holes or stains on them and made these:

He loves his hats, and seems so happy to have a warm head!

While I was cutting apart the shirts to make hats, I decided to use the sleeves from a long-sleeved shirt to make some pants. I didn't use a pattern for these, I just used a pair of pants we already had as a guide. Here was the result:

So far, I've made 5 hats in a couple different sizes and 2 pairs of pants. The best part? It cost me absolutely nothing to make all of them because I used stuff we already had. Yay for free baby clothes!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Weekend Fun

This past weekend we decided to take a break from reality and visit our favorite local amusement park, Canobie Lake Park. We like to go every summer as a family, and this year Val received tickets as a birthday present from Nana (thanks Wanda!). The kids all had an absolute blast!

Since it's nearly fall already, the park was celebrating Octoberfest. They had a small petting zoo with goats and sheep for the kids to feed.

They got to fill some sand-art pumpkins

And pose in lederhosen.

There was even a nice garden that we all wanted to steal veggies from ;)

After playing with the animals the kids went on as many rides as possible.

We did take a break for food

And some of us even took a nap

If the kids misbehaved, we locked them up in the stocks

Though most of the time they were proper ladies and gentlemen... sort of.

Even the baby had a good time looking at all the exciting rides with shiny, blinking lights!

We were having so much fun that we stayed until the moon was shining, and the park closed for the evening.
(none of us were brave enough to try THAT ride though!)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Keeping Baby Frugal Part 2 - Our Biggest Money Savers

Those of you with kids already know that the biggest expenses with little babies is not the big-ticket items such as cribs or car seats. The largest amount of money is actually spent feeding and clothing those tiny bodies. The cost of diapers, formula, baby food, and clothes can easily add up to thousands of dollars for the first year alone! Here is where we end up saving the most by making smart choices and being a little creative.

Feeding Baby

Formula can easily cost over $100 a month for the first year. I'm too cheap for that! My solution? BOOBS!!! They're not (just) a man's plaything- they are milk bags. I have been fortunate enough to breastfeed all 4 of my children, and we have all benefited from it. They get nutritious breast milk, I get decreased breast cancer risk, and we all get to save money. Though honestly, I really enjoy breastfeeding simply because I get to cuddle with my little ones while they are still little :o) It makes it easier for me to be lazy too! There's no bottles to clean, nothing to sterilize, no formula to mix, and nothing to heat up in the middle of the night. All I have to do is lift my shirt and stuff my boob in baby's mouth- much easier. I was even able to get an electric breast pump through my health insurance company at no cost to me. I realize that breastfeeding may not work for every family, but it works great for us!

Every time I walk down the baby isle at the grocery store I am amazed at how expensive those tiny jars of baby food are. I mean, what are they made of to warrant such a high price tag? Unicorns??? (not that I would want to feed my child pureed unicorns, mind you) And have you ever tasted them? They don't even taste remotely similar to the food on the label. Some of them are just plain GROSS! I swear the pureed chicken baby food smells just like cat food. We save money here by making our own baby food. It's very simple - just puree some fruits or veggies with a blender and voila, you have baby food. You can even puree whatever the family is eating so you don't have to cook anything extra. It freezes easily in ice cube trays, so I like to make a large batch at once and freeze for later to save time. I really like knowing exactly what is in my baby's food, and it tastes so much better than the jarred stuff.

Babies poop. A LOT! Newborns can go through a dozen or more diapers per day, and they can get crazy expensive. Disposable diapers can cost over a thousand dollars by the time your little one learns to use the potty, not including baby wipes. This is where we save a HUGE chunk of change by using cloth diapers. These aren't like the diapers your grandma used- these are just as easy as disposables now. Our favorite kind of cloth diapers are "pocket diapers" that have a waterproof outer to keep baby's clothes dry, a soft fleece inside that keeps baby's bum dry, and an absorbent insert that you stuff it with to catch everything that comes out of baby's hiney. We recently discovered a cloth diaper company in China named Alva Baby that makes really inexpensive diapers that are just as good as many other brands. We bought some of their one-size-fits-most diapers, and hope to keep using them until the minion is potty trained. I will admit that we did slpurge a bit on some custom embroidered diapers from ChunkabuTT Creations because we're dorks and found it necessary to plaster that fact on our child's bum.

We also use cloth wipes that I made from an old flannel bed sheet that was given to me. I was able to make 40 double-sided wipes that are 8" x 8" and fit nicely in a regular baby wipes box. I even found a video for folding the wipes so they pop up in a wipes container. Yay for more free handmade stuff!

Our total cost for all our diapers and wipes is less than $300 total. Much better that those pricey disposables!


For the first few years of a child's life they grow amazingly fast. So fast that they will outgrow nearly all their clothes before they even become slightly worn out. Because of this I have a hard time dropping $20 on one pair of jammies that my baby will wear maybe 5 times before outgrowing them. For this minion, about 95% of his clothing came from 2 places- the thrift store and a children's resale shop. I usually spend no more than $5 for a complete outfit, and the clothing is all in fantastic shape because it was barely worn. The cheapest clothing is from the thrift shop. I buy whatever is on sale for half off and have a frequent shopper's discount card, so most things cost $1 or less. The children's resale shop is slightly more expensive, but all of their stuff is name-brands in excellent shape. Another good place to get clothing is yard sales, but we weren't able to go to many this past summer. As an added bonus, when the minion has outgrown his clothes yet again I can sell the good stuff to the resale shop and make back some of the money spent (though the money usually goes towards clothing in the next size). If you're not interested in buying clothing used, then check out the clearance rack at your favorite store. I can often score brand new clothing for less than $5!

Tip: when buying used clothing, always look at it carefully in the store to check for stains and holes. It's not worth buying something that is stained or falling apart, and many thrift shops and resale stores do not allow you to return items.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Keeping Baby Frugal Part 1 - Baby's Room

Now that our new little one is here, I figured I'd share some of the ways we stay frugal when it comes to having a baby. Just like many of you out there, our family isn't made of money, so I try to save whenever and wherever I can. But let's face it- babies are EXPENSIVE!!! All those toys, tiny clothes, diapers, cribs, and stuff that goes along with having a little one can cost big $$$, and it all adds up fast if you're not careful.

A lot of families save on baby gear by passing it down to younger siblings when they come along. This is a wonderful way to save on big ticket items such as cribs, clothing, and furniture! Unfortunately for us, this couldn't happen with this baby. We have moved since Thing 3 was born and had gotten rid of most of the baby stuff to make room in our crowded house. Even if we had saved some things, safety standards had changed pretty drastically in that time, so many things would have to be replaced anyway (namely the crib and car seat). We basically had to start completely from scratch with this baby, just as we did with our first. This time though, I had learned a few tips and tricks that saved us loads of $$$

Let's start off with the baby's bedroom. Here is where you can easily spend thousands of dollars buying cribs, changing tables, furniture, decorations, and cute themed bedding. We managed to spend only a few hundred dollars for everything, and most of it was purchased brand new. Many items were handmade to not only save money, but also give us a custom look that we couldn't find in any baby shop. Here's a little breakdown of what we spent in the baby's bedroom:


This is a must-have item in my opinion. Baby needs somewhere safe to sleep! This is also where a huge chunk of cash can be spent. Cribs can range in price from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars, depending on which one you get. That's right folks, they cost just as much as a full-sized bed for an adult. Add to that the cost of a crib mattress, and you're wallet is pretty empty. Safety standards for cribs have changed drastically in the past few years, so we weren't comfortable purchasing a used crib. We saved money here by shopping around for the best price and combining sales and coupons to make it even cheaper. The best price we found was on sale online at Babies R Us. We just happen to be on their mailing list and received a coupon for 20% off any item that we combined with hubby's employee discount. The original cost of the crib was $200, plus shipping of course which was another $20. Pretty inexpensive compared to most cribs out there. The mattress we chose cost $60, so we're in for a grand total of about $280 so far. What did we end up paying? After the coupon and discount we ended up paying just under $200 for everything, so it was like we got the mattress for free. This crib can also convert to a toddler bed and a full-sized headboard and footboard, so we can avoid paying for those down the road. Once we are done with the crib we plan on selling it and making back some of the money we spent.


Dressers can cost even more than a crib, if you can believe it. We got lucky here and had a dresser in the basement that belonged to Thing 3. Huzzah for hand-me-downs! It was really banged up from some serious abuse from the boys, so it needed to be refinished and repaired. The total cost of paint and materials to refinish it was about $50. Originally, this dresser would have cost around $300-$400, so we saved a big chunk of change with this. Our dresser also doubles as a changing table, so we were able to skip buying that completely. The changing pad on top was purchased for $5 at a yard sale.

Rocking Chair

Here was our biggest splurge in the baby's room. For midnight feedings, a glider rocker is a necessary item to me. Not so much for the baby, but more for my comfort. I spend countless hours nursing my babies in the middle of the night, so having a comfortable place to sit is important. I wanted a glider that was solid wood with nice soft cushions and an ottoman so I could put my feet up and relax while nursing at 3am. This is an item that I was OK buying used, as long as it was in good condition. We weren't able to find anything locally unfortunately, so we ended up purchasing new. Again I shopped around for the best deal and ended up purchasing online from Amazon.com. The price for this was $230, thankfully with free shipping. That's right people, I spent more on the rocking chair than I did on the crib or dresser. Consider this though- some glider rockers can cost $1000 for just the rocker, no ottoman! I'm hoping to get lots of use from this chair, and I'm sure it will be useful for many years after baby is done nursing.

Bedding & Accessories

Many parents really go crazy purchasing themed bedding and accessories to make the baby's nursery ultra cutesy. There are so many options for crib blankets, curtains, crib bumpers, sheets, mobiles- you name it, and all in adorable themes with cute animals or pretty flowers on them. I'm not a cutesy kind of gal, so it was easy to skip all these in the store and just make my own. I found loads of tutorials online and ended up sewing the crib sheets, changing pad covers, curtains, and baby quilt myself in funky black and red fabrics. The crib sheets were made from some red flannel sheets that I scored for free (my favorite price) using a tutorial on the Prudent Baby website. The changing pad covers were made from the same sheets using this tutorial, with a few modifications. The curtains were made using fabric leftovers in my stash and extra squares from the quilt, so they were basically free. I knit the area rug using yarn from my stash that a friend had given me and this free pattern, so again it cost me nothing. We skipped the crib bumper, both to save money and because they can be a potential safety hazard. The only bedding I paid for was the materials used to make the quilt. I had some fabric in my stash already and the rest I purchased with coupons, so it only cost about $20. That's it- just $20 for a custom bedding set!

The rainbow butterfly mobile was also made super cheap. Thing 1 just happened to have origami paper in her room, so I used a few sheets of that along with a wire ring from a broken tomato cage and some scrap yarn to make an origami butterfly mobile for FREE. I found the instructions for the origami butterfly here.

For those of you keeping a tally, we spent about $500 total for all our nursery furniture and accessories. Could we have saved more? Possibly. Still, I'm quite happy with what we have, and it was a lot of fun making everything :o)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Not all pregnancies are perfect

    As I'm sure all of you know by now, I am currently expecting our 4th minion- a little boy due in May. Those closest to me also know that while we are VERY excited to have a new addition to our family, being pregnant is NOT an easy task for me. Along with the typical complaints of pregnancy, such as fatigue, morning sickness, and being incredibly rotund, I suffer from a medical condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This condition is defined as excessive nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, and is NOT your typical morning sickness that comes with pregnancy hormones. With normal morning sickness (which is inappropriately named IMO, as it can be at any time of the day), nausea and vomiting happen, but are not constant, and you are able to eat and drink enough to maintain health. Hyperemesis gravidarum- or HG for short- is constant and much more severe. It can cause severe dehydration, vitamin and mineral defincies, malnutrition, and excessive weight loss. In more extreme cases, it can also cause miscarriage, organ failure, and even be fatal. Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre, may have died as a result of this condition. I have suffered from HG during all 4 of my pregnancies, and have required treatments including anti-nausea medication, IV fluids, and hospitalization to treat dehydration and malnutrition. I have been very fortunate that I have never miscarried or had any other pregnancy complications besides HG, but it is still very difficult to deal with at times.

     For this pregnancy, and the previous 2, the only treatment I have needed is to take an anti-nausea medication called Zofran. This drug is commonly used for cancer patients that experience nausea and vomiting as a side effect to chemotherapy, but is also effective for those with HG. Although it really helps to reduce my nausea and vomiting, it does not eliminate it completely, so I still feel constantly nauseous and vomit occasionally. The Zofran controls it enough that I am able to keep down food and fluids so I can stay healthy. I did lose weight with this pregnancy, as I did with all of them, but it was not severe enough to warrant treatment for malnutrition (at least not this time). Although I am currently 5 months pregnant, I weigh the same as I did before I got pregnant because I lost weight in the first trimester that I have now regained. In a typical pregnancy, a woman would gain 25-35 pounds, yet I haven't technically gained anything.
     The hardest part of having HG for me is not the constant nausea or the vomiting- it's the inability to function normally. When I'm feeling my worst, I am unable to stand for long without vomiting, so I spend a lot of time sitting down or lying on the couch. Now while it may sound great to have an excuse to be lazy, I get very discouraged that I'm not able to take care of my kids, my house, or even myself. The kids still need to be fed, the dishes still need to be cleaned, and the laundry still needs to be washed. Life does not stop because I have HG, it just becomes more difficult. My kids have all been very understanding that mommy can't do all the same things, and they even help out around the house more than before. My hubby has also been amazingly helpful with taking care of the kids when I'm unable to, doing odd chores, and even "cooking" dinner (a.k.a. ordering takeout). Hubs has even taken care of me when I was tethered to an IV pole and unable to move much by bringing me a bowl to throw up in and even taking care of the vomit afterwards. That man deserves an award! Without the help and support of my family, I have no doubt the house would be in shambles and I would be a nervous wreck. My friends have also been wonderfully understanding when I disappear for weeks on end due to being plastered to the couch, or start whining about feeling crappy yet again. Seriously, y'all are awesome for putting up with me ;o)

So what exactly was the point of this blog post? Was it for me to whine about my crappy pregnancy? No. Was it to brag about my awesome family and friends? Maybe. Mostly I'm hoping that this post will help educate people just a little about Hyperemesis Gravidarum and bring more awareness to it. Only a very small percentage (about 2%) of women are affected by it, and it's very commonly brushed off as typical morning sickness by those that are not experiencing it themselves. HG has recently gotten in the spotlight a bit when Kate Middleton was diagnosed with it and hospitalized. My heart goes out to her and all other women suffering from it because I've been there, I'm currently there, and I completely understand just how hard it can be. I used to be depressed about the fact that I didn't get to have a "typical" pregnancy, but I realized that no matter how much it sucks, this is my experience in life. I am OK with having HG during all my pregnancies because in the end I have beautifully healthy children that make my life so much brighter (and crazier).