Savvy Discovery #3-Living Rich With Coupons

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

If you live in the United States, chances are by now you’ve heard of that infamous blonde, curly-haired, spirited seven year old pageant queen from Georgia, her larger than life mother, and the rest of the clan. Of the many interesting habits that makes this family nearly irresistible to watch, the sassy matriarch’s obsession with extreme couponing is proof positive that saving money is more about diligence than formal financial education.

I have wanted to try my hand at extreme couponing for some time, but I had no idea where to start. Since I discovered this concept of saving money while I was still a single, I lacked the motivation to be that frugal with my funds. I shared space with several other single women, so I had no place to stockpile goods, even if I had been able to obtain them for free. Besides, I was still in love with Whole Foods, and I gladly frittered away paychecks on overpriced organics in order to avoid cooking while feeling like I was doing my health a favor. Even after getting married the idea of couponing remained on the back burner of my mind because with just two of us, I still did not see a real need to save copious amounts of money (though I did give up my daily Whole Foods habit). Now with our growing family and plans to finally purchase a home during the next 1-3 years, I realize that it is never a bad idea to save as much money as possible.

I finally decided that I will dive head first into extreme couponing this month thanks to the influence of a former roommate. She has also gotten married and had a baby in the past four years since we lived together, and she made connections with a few women in her community who are avid coupon fans. One of her friends even teaches a course to low income women on how to coupon. When I discovered this, I contacted roommate’s friend and asked if she would be willing to share her couponing presentation with me. Now, thanks to the generosity of a stranger, I am ready to begin my journey to spending less and having more.

As I scanned over her documents, I saw a website that caught my eye. Living Rich With Coupons is essentially a course on Extreme Couponing 101, complete with a massive coupon database, glossary, and recipes. In order to take full advantage of couponing, one must be willing to invest a bit of time in order to rank with the extreme couponing elite. Meal planning, coupon gathering, scanning for weekly sales, verifying coupon policies, careful calculations, and organization are all the various components that add up to success in the couponing game. However, if savings on groceries and household goods upwards of tens of thousands of dollars per year is your goal, it is certainly worthwhile.

I have penciled in a couple hours of meal planning and coupon strategizing next Sunday. If this all works out, we might be in our dream home sooner than we imagined!

Good luck to everyone else who plans to begin their own couponing adventure and happy savings!

Savvy Discovery #3-Living Rich With Coupons

Savvy Recommendation #2-Baby K’tan

Tags

, , , ,

In honor of International Baby Wearing Week, I would like to present the Baby K’tan. As I have mentioned before, I am a mommy to-be (just a few short weeks until I can drop that second part); therefore, I cannot give a review on the product just yet. However, I have found that even most of the seasoned baby wearers I know have never heard of this product.

Baby K'tan!

I feel confident in self-proclamation as a “savvy” mama, because I put a boat-load of hours into research. Naturally, since I have been won over by the idea of baby wearing, not only from what I have read, but what I have observed amongst friends and acquaintances, I want to make the best choice in selecting a carrier that works for the needs of my family. To that end, I have consulted a variety of sources to learn more about my options. I have yet to meet a baby wearer who is anything short of passionate about the type of carrier he or she presently uses. The good news is there is a carrier in existence that suits the needs of anyone. The bad news is it becomes a bit of a challenge to weed through the plethora of information and opinions in order to figure out how to make one’s first foray into baby wearing.

I have come to the conclusion that a wrap-style carrier is best for newborns and small babies, not only because of the snug fit that mimics the close quarters of the uterus, but also for the 2-in-1 functionality of a hands-free breast feeding apparatus that also provides coverage. I originally considered one of the most popular fabric wraps on the market, but quickly became turned off by stories of loose ends of fabric dragging on the ground (gross!), the steep learning curve experienced by some in regards to putting it on correctly, and reports of the length of time it takes to utilize this type of wrap. In reality, I suppose these obstacles are not as great as they seem, since this type of wrap carrier is very popular. As a new mommy, getting into the groove of caring for my baby will be enough to keep me busy without adding the additional task of learning how to tango with a baby carrier.

My hope in using a wrap carrier was revived when I came across the Baby K’tan. Unlike other wraps, the Baby K’tan consists of two rings of fabric held together by a smaller ring of fabric in such a way that combines the benefits of a sling and a wrap into one, easy to use product.

There is an additional sash available for extra support, extra coverage, or as a storage bag when the K’tan is not in use.

Pouch/sash and owner's manual

Both hubby and I have practiced putting on and taking off the Baby K’tan with a potato-sack “baby”, and it could not have been easier! It will be a bit different with a wiggly newborn, but confidence in using the wrap is half the battle.

Once my angel has arrived, I will be sure to do a photo shoot to demonstrate the ease of wearing the baby k’tan. In the meanwhile, there are several instructional pictures and videos on their website demonstrating the various positions that can be used to carry one’s child, according to his or her age and weight.

Special thanks to my husband, a.k.a. Savvy Vanilla Papa, for channeling his former life as a model for the sake of this post. Too bad my photography skills aren’t quite up to par! I’ll have to work on capturing his image in a more flattering manner for future posts.

International Baby Wearing Week is here!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today begins International Baby Wearing Week! From October 8th-14th join Baby Wearing International in celebrating the parents and caregivers who engage in this beneficial practice. Baby wearing is exactly what it sounds like: carrying a baby or young child on one’s body through the utilization of a cloth baby carrier. Baby carrying is a practice found all over the world, and may be done using such carriers as mei tais, wraps, slings, pouches, soft structured carriers, and numerous other types that vary according to local customs and practical needs.

While holding a baby in one’s arms works just as well to provide comfort to a child, it becomes rather tiring after a short period of time! Also, the use of one’s arms limits activity to only holding that child. Employing a carrier not only distributes the weight of the child evenly onto the body of the adult caregiver, it enables the wearer to accomplish many typical day-to-day tasks while still enjoying the close contact that both babies and their caregivers need to strengthen the bond between them.

Though I have had a marginal awareness of the practice of baby wearing, it was not until recently that I began to realize that this is a practice I wanted to integrate into my parenting and caregiving. I always envisioned some “foreign” mother in a developing nation wearing a baby, not because of the inherent value of doing so, but because of the lack of pack-and-plays, bouncy chairs, cribs, and other inanimate babysitters. In retrospect, it was a bit of an ignorant and perhaps even arrogant view on my part. Now that I have my own little one on the way, I am working hard to educate myself on how to integrate baby wearing into my daily life, especially during breastfeeding sessions.

I wish I had understood how useful baby wearing is a few years ago when my nephew was born. I remember trekking half way across the country to see my sister’s  twins just a week after they were born, excited to spend my vacation with not one but two adorable little babies. The babies were-and still are-extremely cute, but I experienced something far short of a vacation that first trip. Both of my sister’s children were ill their first couple of weeks out of the womb, but my nephew seemed to crave what we mistakenly thought was an inordinate amount of time being held in order to cope. His sister went to sleep in a bassinet just fine, but my nephew needed to be in someone’s arms nearly 24/7. My first night there, I recall lying in bed next to my sister and my brother-in-law sleepily passing around my nephew every 30 minutes or so. We simply could not put him down without him wailing like crazy, so the three of us adults attempted to get sleep in shifts while enabling him to receive the comfort he needed to rest and recover. The sleepless nights, and days, continued throughout my entire stay. This was not entirely unexpected since, after all, they were newborns. However, I returned to work desperately in need of another week off to catch up on all the sleep I’d missed!

If I had to do it all over again, I would have given my sister’s family a baby carrier or two to help reduce some of the stress of having to choose between holding a sick baby and getting some work done around the house. I do not mean to suggest that a carrier would have been a panacea, but it certainly would have made things a bit easier on everyone.

Baby Wearing International is full of useful information for parents and caregivers who are interested in how baby wearing can benefit the children in their lives. If baby wearing advocacy interests you, consider becoming a Volunteer Babywearing Educator and joining-or starting-a chapter near you!

 

 

Keeping the Fire Burning

Tags

, , , , , ,

Since childhood, I have always heard it said that a good reader is a good writer, and vice versa. My desire to blog is fueled in part by my love affair with scouring the internet for amateur writers like myself who are skilled at captivating others with their depictions of their individual slices of life. In order to keep up with my favs, I receive notifications via email of the latest posts from each blogger. I am fairly picky about which blogs I choose to subscribe to, because I don’t need clutter in my inbox, nor do I need clutter in my thinking.

Two weeks ago, I experienced a serious case of subscriber’s remorse when I woke up to an email linking to an article from a community blog and author that will go unnamed (I am not in the business of starting feuds, and I plan to keep it that way) advising women on guaranteed ways to get out of sex. As I read the blurb contained in the email, my brows furrowed and my jaw hung open. Hoping the post was written in jest, I quickly clicked the link in order to read the article in its entirety. To my disappointment, the writer was very serious as she gave readers her advice on how to short circuit the advances of their husbands, which she ironically suggests will strengthen the relationship.

Call me backwards, but I am a firm believer that no matter how equal men and women claim to be, there are fundamental differences in our needs. Exceptions may exist, but for the majority of men and women in the world, connecting sexually and verbal intimacy are two of the greatest needs within a relationship, respectively. A woman instructing other women how to short change their husbands of sex is as preposterous as a man instructing men on how to avoid meaningful conversation. It’s cruel and it’s a surefire way to destroy intimacy within a marriage.

In preparation for my response to the article that set off my anger, I began to compile a list of all the surefire ways, in my opinion, that keep a marriage hot and steamy.

Alas, I am no sexpert.

What works for one couple may prove to be a wet blanket for another. However, there is one guiding principle that I believe to be timeless and universal. You might have heard it referred to as The Golden Rule. Many people claim that it originated in Judaism, as it is documented in the Torah, but there is some version of this philosophy in several other cultures around the world. Sharing that fact is by no means meant to detract from people of faith, as I have strong faith in G-d myself. Rather, it is to buttress the point that this is something all people can and should do.

So, what is the Golden Rule? In short, it is to do to someone else what you would want them to do to you. Another way of thinking about it is not doing to someone else what you would not want them to do to you.

Now, what does this have to do with intimacy in a marriage? It’s about focusing on service to your spouse, rather than selfishly expecting him or her to fulfill your desires constantly. When we enter a marriage for the sake of what another person can do for us, we have already embarked upon the path of failure. Many couples quickly discover this truth early on in marriage, when things are the stormiest. However, all is not lost! With maturity and a change of attitude, any couple can choose to take the path of generosity, love, honesty,and reciprocity. When love and respect are the ends, rather than just the means, within a marriage, greater intimacy will follow. Of course, that doesn’t mean reading a book here and there for a little extra “help” isn’t necessary, but without the deeper spiritual connection, you won’t get very far.

Just Doula It!

Tags

, , ,

In times past, it was common in cultures worldwide for communities of women who were trained and experienced in childbirth, forming a  tight-knit support system around childbearing women before, during, and after birth. Industrialized societies have seen a steady decrease of this once standard expression of sisterhood in the culture of women, but the tide is beginning to turn back toward the traditional.

The doula, or “woman who helps”, is a non-medically trained professional who provides emotional support to the woman and her partner during childbirth, and may offer services such as lactation consultation and other postpartum care. Services vary depending on the source of the doulas training, her personal birth philosophy, and the needs of the family being assisted, but many women and men consider doulas to be an invaluable part of the birth team whether the birth takes place at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital.

The Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association, better known as CAPPA, is a great resource for finding out more about doulas and whether or not a doula might be right for your family.

One of the barriers that has prevented more families from hiring a doula is the financial aspect. Let’s face it:babies cost money from the moment they are conceived until they are old enough to get a job and fly the coop. However, as of October 2009, certified doulas are now eligible to be covered under certain types of insurance depending on the state. Read CAPPA’s note on the subject here. Even if your insurance company will not cover the services of a doula, many doulas charge reasonable rates and are more than willing to work out a payment plan that works for your situation. With or without a doula, births can and do happen successfully according to the wishes of the parents, but having the calming presence of an experienced labor advocate is like sprinkles on ice cream. Who doesn’t love sprinkles?!

Oh baby!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

I don’t know any person in the world who would disagree with the sentiment that pregnancy is a miracle. The imminent approach of the delivery of our child and the addition “parents” to our current marital curriculum vitae of  lovers-bestfriends-partners-playmates is becoming a weighty and wonderful reality with each passing day, and each gasp-inducing kick in the cervix.

Perhaps the greatest revelation I am having about pregnancy is how hard the media in this country have worked, through sensationalized and misleading films, television episodes, and articles, to brainwash our society into believing that bringing forth new life is unnatural, painful, and inconvenient. Babies are something to be dealt with by a team of surgeons-whether under the leadership of the abortionist or the obstetrician-rather than an invitation to participate in an ongoing creative miracle with the Almighty. Religious dogma aside, a woman’s body is simply designed to continue the human race, designed to literally birth hope for a brighter future.

The good news is that women-and the men who love them-are waking up to the beauty and the power of birth and are embracing more intrinsic approaches during both the prenatal and postpartum periods. Many medical professionals are beginning to realize that modern practices should support rather than hinder the parental instincts possessed by our species. Organizations which empower childbearing women and their partners through education and support services are growing by the year. Dedicated professionals are ready and willing to help women from all walks of life to realize their best birth, postpartum, and parenting experiences.

Sadly, there is still a gap between the various ethnic groups in this country as it concerns empowered choice regarding such topics as natural childbirth, labor support services, breastfeeding, and attachment parenting. A “perfect” parent is the parent who does what is best for his or her child, but a person’s ability to choose is dependent upon the information he or she possesses.

For that reason, this blog will always strive to highlight resources that appeal to interested individuals from the points of view of women who come from various racial and cultural backgrounds. It is important for women to see other women with faces like theirs, so to speak, to instill the confidence that proactive parenting decisions and lifestyle choices are the right of every woman.

I would like to highlight a few excellent blogs written by woman of African and Latin heritage who promote natural parenting practices such as breastfeeding and baby wearing. Not all of these women are “crunchy” per se, but each one makes decisions that promote the optimum health of their families.

Happy learning!

Savvy Discovery #2-Gojee

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Whew!

Ever have one of those days that feels like it’s over just as soon as it has begun? Well, that’s how my week has been. Anyone who thinks SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Moms) sit around all day watching the latest soaps and eating sweets is sorely mistaken. I’m busier now than I ever was when I worked 16 hours per day outside of the home.

Having such a busy schedule requires extreme discipline in order to keep up with the demands of the home. One of the essential needs of the family is, of course, meal preparation. In my home, I cook 99% of the time because I’m usually the one who is home long enough to do it (though hubby definitely can throw down in the kitchen, which is much appreciated). To bring some order to our lives, my husband and I devised a meal schedule that functions as a daily guide for me so that I don’t constantly have to ask him “So…what do you want for dinner?” It’s not something that is set in stone, rather it helps me when a case of culinary induced brain fog is upon me.

Even with our schedule, sometimes I can get into a cooking funk. Being of partial Jamaican heritage, I began eating curry practically out of the womb, and I love it so much that I am sure I could eat it every day! However, there’s only so many times in a month that I can serve the same curry dishes before it gets boring for everyone else. That is why I am so excited about one of my greatest finds to date, Gojee.

Gojee is a database of food and beverage recipes collected from blogs and sites all around the web. It’s a FREE service that provides recipes according to the parameters entered into the system. Are you a vegetarian? In the mood for salmon? Need to make something that will use up that last quart of milk before it goes bad? No problem. Gojee is packed with delicious recipes ranging from simple homestyle goodness to exotic treats that meet the needs of your family.

I’ve been using Gojee for about a year now, and it has saved my tail plenty-a-night. It has also introduced hubby and me to some new flavors that we would probably never have considered otherwise. If I had to rate the site, it’s definitely a 10 out of 10.

Do yourself a favor and try Gojee tonight. You won’t regret it!

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

My sister is the mother of an adorable set of 4 year old twins. Though the pregnancy created a lot of stress on her petite 5’1 frame, the one event she complains about the most to this day is not the stretch marks, the weight gain, nor the fatigue, but the time she had to take the oral glucose tolerance test.

I have heard horror stories about this test from so many women over the past few years, that a shiver of dread ran down my spine when my OB announced at my last appointment that I needed to have it done last week. Though I was really nervous about the consequences of failing it (having to take the 3 hour version with 4 draws of blood rather than one and perhaps being diagnosed with gestational diabetes), I decided to suck it up for the baby’s sake. I would do anything for the health of my child.

I finally got around to taking it this week on Monday. The taste was actually much better than I was expecting (I have a sweet tooth that is pretty extreme, to say the least). I actually felt great for the first 15 minutes after consuming it, and I wondered what all the fuss was about. Just as I found myself feeling superior to all the wussy moms who had complained to me about the OGTT, the worst wave of gut-churning nausea I’ve ever experienced in my life set in…and lasted all the way until 2 a.m. the next morning (for a total of 16 hours, in case you are curious).

After trolling around the internet reading about the experiences of other women who became severely ill after the test, I became convinced I had gestational diabetes. I started to beat myself up thinking I had let down both myself and my unborn child by letting my diet slip so badly over the past month and a half.

I finally received a phone call yesterday evening from my OB’s office with my results. To my surprise, I do not have gestational diabetes! This is truly a miracle, because lately I have been known to chug insane amounts of jarritos just to make it through the day. I have been incredibly exhausted, which I have mentioned during my last two visits to my doctor. His response was that every pregnancy is different, and the fact that I am constantly worn out may be normal for me. Perhaps I should have explained in more detail what I meant when I said “exhausted”. I don’t know anyone who naps three times a day in addition to 12 hour sleep-a-thons. I have had more headaches in the past couple of months than I have had in my entire life prior to pregnancy, and my appetite is smaller than that of my darling twin nephew and niece combined.

No matter that my doctor could not seem to pin point the cause of my recent state of health because the blood work done during the OGTT revealed the cause of my problems. I have low levels of both iron and blood platelets. I could kick myself because when I switched over to the gummy pre-natals, which are totally delicious and so much better than the horse pills doled out at the pharmacy, I remember reading that they contained no iron to prevent accidental poisoning in the event that a child mistook them for candy. I made a mental note to go buy some iron pills, but I guess it got lost somewhere along with the rest of my good intentions and myriad uncompleted tasks (this must be the infamous pregnancy brain I have heard so much about). The great news is my condition can be corrected pretty easily, and more importantly, baby is fine and growing like a weed!

I’m really looking forward to getting my energy back. When I first began to experience these symptoms, it caused quite a bit of friction between hubby and I. He was not shy at all about wondering whether I had just become lazy (the nerve!). As my symptoms became more apparent, he got in touch with his empathy bone, and began to lay off. He’s been quite drained as of late, too, which also may have something to do with his sudden change of heart. I’m going to suggest that he get some blood work, too.

My first order of business once my health is back to its optimum state is to resume a regular exercise routine. I make attempts to do it now, but my extreme lack of energy has really reduced my ability to move comfortably for long periods of time. I’m not sure how long it will take for my iron levels to increase, but I hope it happens soon. I am done with being a couch potato.

Savvy Review #1-Carter’s Laguna Twill Duffle

Tags

, , , , ,

When people find out a woman is pregnant, there’s an irresistible desire to inundate her with advice, whether it is wanted or not. For me, this has been one aspect of pregnancy that has been particularly annoying, especially whenever someone has perceived my decision to ignore their advice as some sort of personal offense. However, I have received some advice that has proven to be invaluable.

One thing I have read and heard time and again from seasoned mamas is to make sure to choose a diaper bag I really like, because it will become my new purse. I’m not the most stylish person in the world, but I have my own sense of fashion, and I receive compliments regularly.

One of my greatest fears post marriage, and soon, post baby, is that I will give in to the temptation to stop trying to care for myself like so many other women I have seen. By the way, before I sound too judgmental, I understand that caring for a home and family is hard work. However, it is my opinion that it is so important for a woman’s self esteem and for the health of her marriage to continue to do what it takes to stay healthy, feel good, and look her best. As the adage goes, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Do yourself a favor, ladies. Get a pedicure and put on your cutest outfit, even if you’re just going grocery shopping, and even if your pudgy 6 month old is bound to spit up all over you at some point. You’ll be glad you made the effort.

But, I digress.

I have taken the purse-cum-diaper bag advice to heart, and I have found a number of super cute bags that look like purses more than anything else (including this little number from Coach). While I would love to spend a few hundred on a quality bag, I prefer to get a little more bang for my buck these days, especially since so many of those bucks are going toward my little angel. So, I did a little hunting to find a bargain priced bag to start off with until I can convince hubby that I need something a bit pricier in my life.

Introducing Carter’s Laguna Twill Duffle in Black:

Image

I LOVE this bag! Not only is it reasonably priced, it is infinitely better than those tacky pastel colored, cartoon character bags. I just wouldn’t be able to hold my head up high wearing a bag plastered with embroidered patches depicting America’s favorite theme-park characters.

This bag is made of 100% polyester and lined with 100% nylon. The exterior is a chic basic black with white stitching while the interior is a striking black-and-white raindrop geometric print. It has 13 SPACIOUS pockets including 4 in the front, 2 side pockets perfect for bottles, and 4 other exterior pockets.

Image

The main compartment zips open to reveal a zip storage attachment bag, two mesh pockets for bottles, and an additional zipped pocket that is just right for fitting a wallet, keys, and other accessories for mom.

Image

The best part is the matching changing pad that makes attending to baby a snap. I always got the creeps thinking about changing my baby on one of those horrid public bathroom tables. A changing pad like this puts an extra layer of protection between your little one and the germ-ridden public changing stations.

Image

The average price I’ve seen for this bag brand new is about $35. I’m sure a more bargain minded-mama could find it for even less.

Purchase here:

Carter’s Lauguna Twill Duffle – Black

I love how functional this bag is-pockets have always been my friend. Of course, I will have to do a follow up to this review when I’ve actually been carrying it around for awhile, but I love it already and it’ll be in my bag rotation long after my baby no longer needs diapers.