January 21, 2014

Affiliate Links

I started blogging a couple of years ago, more for my own therapy than anything else. As a first time parent I researched everything to death and figured I may as well document my findings, and any other associated trial and error. I though my friends and family having kiddos might one day find some value in the notes and maybe have their own advice to add.

Around every corner of the blogging world a blogger is encouraged to 'monetize' her blog. "Hey, you are putting forth some effort, get rewarded! You may even make a career out of this." So, on another recon mission I did a quick search to see if it would be worth all the trouble. Turns out there are several different ways to monetize. Many center around different ways to add in those ads you see in the peripheral banners of a page. I find these distracting, and frankly a turnoff when I browse others' pages. I felt like though they might bring in some cash for my posts, they would ultimately cheapen posts that I was mainly writing for myself anyway. Then I stumbled upon the affiliate link option.

Many vendors offer a way to add a special code to the end of a web link so that when readers click on this link, the browser makes a note of who sent them. If those readers end up making a purchase during that browsing session, the refer-er gets a small portion of the sale (usually about ~5% or so).

I particularly like this option because I have total control over the things I endorse. I can choose to share as many or as few as I want, and I personally choose to only share things that I have tried myself, and can personally recommend, or in which I have a genuine interest.

That said, some of the vendors I am 'affiliated' with include SweetBottoms Baby Boutique, Diaper Junction, Stitch Fix, and Amazon. This means that if you click on a link I have shared in a post, you may ultimately be adding to my affiliate account that I may use towards purchasing giveaway items (one day for you!!) or items for my own personal use.

*** This post contains affiliate links ***

January 5, 2014

I heart All-in-Two Diapers

Recently, I contributed to Padded Tush Stats' series, If I could Cloth Diaper All Over Again. In it, I said that I would build a cloth diaper 'stash' of many types of diapers, but if I had to pick just one type it would be All In Two Diapers.
Every week that goes by with Baby Sister this has become even more true, and for a few reasons:

   1. They are so easy for daycare-bag packing! When I transfer the dirty diapers from the day to the diaper pail, many of the covers can be aired out and as new insert can be snapped right in. And I don’t have to do yet another trip up and down the stairs.

   2. They travel well. When we head out for a morning, I toss one extra insert and one complete diaper (cover+insert) and we are set. One drawback to cloth diapers can be that they take up a lot of space in a diaper bag. Even when you master packing the essentials in your diaper bag, you still have to have DIAPERS. And you gotta admit, those ‘sposies are rather compact. Enter the AI2. Save space.

    3. The patterns are cute! I’m not afraid to admit (anymore) that one reason I really have stuck with cloth diapering is because they are so dang cute. And both Grovia and Softbums make really cute patterns (think flowers and chevron!!).

     4. They give you options! Not only are AI2's my favorite type of diaper, I think they are also the best way to get started with cloth. If you decide cloth isn't for you, you can just use the shell as a swim diaper. Also most AI2's are hybrids, which means you can use a disposable insert, which lots of folks find easier for travel. And remember, if you run short on the specific inserts for your diaper type, you can always use the shell as you would any other diaper cover and mix-n-match.

** This post contains affiliate links to Diaper Junction**

November 2, 2013

Stitch Fix: My First Fix

It finally arrived!! My first 'fix' from StitchFix!

I know, I know: this is a mommy blog, right? Well, it's specifically a working mommy blog and I am pretty sure this is exactly what every working mommy needs in her life! Anyone else out there totally run out of time to go shopping for herself? Or if you get the time you are too intimidated to try on things outside your comfort zone? Or 'true' size? After taking a year off from my 'regular' wardrobe to be pregnant (and then newly post-pregnant in the 4th trimester), I've rather lost touch with what's 'in style' and what might address this new body of mine. Enter StitchFix.
The concept is basically that someone else does all that work for you. And they even send you cards with little pictures to show you how to wear each piece! You fill out a questionnaire with info about your sizes, and preferences for style and even price range. Then you request a fix. You could opt to do this monthly, or as needed. You may want to try sooner rather than later, because the time to receive a fix has already increased from 4 weeks to 6 weeks! They send a box, you try everything on. Keep what you like. Send the rest back for free. They charge a $20 styling fee, but its applied towards anything you decide to keep. AND if you keep all 5 pieces you get an extra 25% off everything.
So now to the real question: What did I think?
Well, my husband and I are invited to a wedding in a couple weeks. The first we've been to in, literally, years, and it's at the same location we got married ourselves. Needless to say, I am overjoyed for a chance to dress up and be grownups AND relive my own wedding (and actually get to eat the food and drink the drinks!). And I want to look like my best possible self doing so!
I signed right up for the fix, and specifically requested some help on what to wear to this wedding.
The questionnaire seemed spot on, asking all the right questions, and even letting me choose between photos of outfits to indicate things I liked or didn't like.
My fix was scheduled to arrive on Halloween, and it did exactly that. Which meant I had to wait past taking the kids trick-or-treating and getting everything packed for school and work the next day before I could try it all on (but truth be told I snuck into the bathroom to open the box and sneak a peek at the style cards even before all that).

The box is wrapped up like a gift from a friend, with a personal note tucked in it. The note has a sheet of all the style cards for the entire box (and each piece has a card attached as well). See that cute pattern peeking out? I was already excited. This is not a pattern I would ever pick out myself, but seeing that someone else thought I was worthy of wearing it was exciting already!

So on with the pieces!

Piece #1: Minerva Geo Print Peplum Blouse
That cute pattern was still cute all the way out of the box. However the cut wasn't for me. The waist on this was just not in the right place for me. Higher or lower would be much better. Not to mention that it was SUPER snug on my upper arms (a bit of a bummer since this is a trouble spot for me). I had to get my husband to help me out of it :(
Verdict: RETURN

Piece #2:Crosby Floral & Dot Print Tie-Neck Blouse
I was really excited about this one. And I really wanted to keep it. Except, again it was too tight in the upper arms. There would be no reaching of any kind in this. And again I needed assistance being extracted. Boo.
Verdict: RETURN

Piece #3: Carrie Polka Dot Fit & Flare Dress
I loved the material on this dress, and the subtle print (sorry, its hard to see in this photo). But again, the waistline wasn't quite right. Or maybe it was more the darts that were there added width to an area I didn't want to be any wider?
This might've worked for the wedding, were it to fit better.. and if the pairing suggestions had a dressy suggestion with some warmer options? Perhaps piece #5 was hoping to go with this? I don't really thing so.
Verdict: RETURN

Piece #4: Aaliyah Velvet Zig-Zag Fit & Flare Dress
Eek. This thing was downright obscene in my opinion. Waaaay too short. And kind of cheap feeling, in a stretchy flock-patterned fabric. Just no.
Verdict: RETURN

Piece #5: Abrianna Longlsleeve Knit Cardigan

I have always wanted to love cardigans, but never seemed to get it quite right. This one fits the bill. It doesn't have pockets where I don't need them, or end too high or too low on me, and add interest or bulk where I don't need it, and its a high quality fabric. And it's a bold color, one that I would never otherwise have picked!! Not too bad even paired with my trick-or-treating skeleton shirt :)
Verdict: KEEP

Now the true test: Did I wear it the next day? No. But I really wanted to!! It was 'game day' Friday which means I HAVE to wear something orange and the red was not only rival colors, but would clash with anything orange... I think, right? It's hanging right at the edge of my closet for now - just waiting to be worn!! I decided to staple the style card to the tag that was safety-pinned to the garment, and loop it around my hanger for a quick at-a-glance for rushed work-day mornings!

The four other pieces going back are already in the the mail (you have 3 days to return what you don't want in a prepaid envelope). I just threw them in and sealed the top, and asked my husband to drop in a post office box near his work (it was too big to fit IN our tiny mailbox... especially because I forgot to squeeze out the air first... and I don't have a post office box near my office).

Admittedly, I am bummed that I didn't get something new and wonderful for this upcoming wedding. I really really wanted this to be my answer. (Taking suggestions on what to wear to an afternoon, outdoor, Fall wedding, please!!) However, I still turned right around and placed my feedback so my stylist could learn a little more what would work for me. I also updated my profile to include my favorite body feature - at my stylist's request.

Also, I forgot to mention that StitchFix offers a $25 referral credit, which really is genius marketing for them. If you want to use my link, please click here!

September 3, 2013

If I could cloth diaper all over again...

As a part of their series "If I could cloth diaper all over again..." Padded Tush Stats has invited me to share with you my thoughts!

First, let me give you a little insight into my life. I am a mother of two (an amazing three year old boy and an adorable 6 month old girl), and married to my fantastic husband/best friend for 7 years. We've been cloth diapering since our son was 3 months old (my idea, but hubby is gracious enough to go along with it as long as I do the washing). We both work full time (40+ hrs) outside the home. Both of our kids attend a childcare center while we work our 9-5's.

Given our situation and experience with all kinds of diapers over the years here's what I would do if I could cloth diaper all over again:

1. I would stick with disposables for the first 6 weeks to few months. I prefer one-size AI2's and AIO's (more on that later) and those didn't generally fit either baby until they were almost 10 lbs. Also, as a new mom (especially as a first time mom) I didn't need another new thing to put pressure on myself about. The points about needing to figure out something new or having laundry to wash are debatable (because disposable diapers were new to me, too, and my son generated plenty of laundry from blowouts in disposables).
   What I really did: this. I wanted to do a cloth diaper trial, but more towards the end of my maternity leave when I was feeling settled (and recovered from stitches!) and ready to take on a little experiment. So in the meantime we used the diapers from the hospital and the diapers gifted to us from our baby shower. And then some more diapers :) We emptied that diaper genie 2-3 times a week!

2. I would do a diaper trial. I'd look around for a trial that appealed to me (like those from Modern Cloth, Jillian's Drawers, and Kissed By the Moon) while I was still pregnant, and contact them to set up a trial for when baby approached 10 lbs. but also (hopefully) I'd still be home on my maternity leave to get acquainted with the process. I would get enough diapers to really try this full time (24 or more diapers, to get me through two days before doing laundry).
   What I really did: a mini cloth diaper trial. I was fortunate enough to live a short drive from the then-home-based Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique. Beth helped me choose a small sample of diapers to cover the basic types (prefold+cover, pocket, AIO) but I was only willing to fork out the cash for 4 diapers. Most diaper trial state up front that you get all or most of your money back at the end of the trial, so there is really no risk even in the event that you find you don't like cloth diapering at all. It's key to note that you really need a pretty full 'stash' of diapers to get a feel for the real diapering process. I only had 4, so that only got me through half a day, and then I felt like I was wasting water and energy(even with a small load) to wash those four diapers and get them dry to use again. And it seemed like I couldn't really fall in love with one type or another because of how infrequently I used them. Luckily I was still hooked on cloth and decided to move forward with it.

3. Stock up on your favorites. But not too much. After the diaper trial, I would look for upcoming sales or discount deals to get 20-24 diapers (many stores offer store credit and discounts from their trials). You'll need this many to keep on with the routine you developed from your trial. I stress favoriteS because you and your partner may like different types of diapers - get both if you don't want to have to change all the diapers. You may like one type for at home, another for out and about and still another for naps and nighttime. Get a small variety.
   What I really did: added a few here and there when there were deals ands sales. At one point I did buy 10 of the same diaper through a website with a pretty good deal. They were our favorites for a while, but I am finding that with baby number two they aren't (or at least right now they aren't...).

4. Know ahead of time that you WILL want more. It just happens. Your second baby is a girl, so you need more pink and feminine prints! Baby is now walking or having solid poops, so a style you used to like now isn't the best choice. A new diaper or print comes out that you just HAVE to try or need for a special event or holiday. Figure out where to sell off or trade in or donate your least favorites.
   What I really did: slowly add to my initial collection of 4 diapers. Painstakingly slow. It is hard to pony up that much money all at once, but retrospectively, I knew I was going to use cloth, and could do the math to justify it. I still add here or there, but have promised my husband I will only do so if they are free... from winning a contest or using store rewards points).

5. Get a few 'extras'. Get some CJ's butter in your favorite scent (Irish Tweed for a boy, and I am still deciding my favorite for a girl - probably lavender). Get a few wetbags (see below for my picks). Cut up a receiving blanket to make 16+ cloth wipes (we dont' send these to school, so this is plenty for evenings and weekends). Get at least one swim diaper for each size, but buy these as you go, since you won't know how big your baby will be each summer. My favorites are the bummis swimmi and the Little Bee Co Aqua Bee. But even a spare diaper cover works, too (just beware that chlorine may wear on the PUL, and ocean water may discolor anything white!)
   What I really did: pretty much this. I went with only one medium wetbag and one pail liner until my second baby was born, but now I have a couple more. I still use one for water day at school for my toddler or to keep a spare set of clothes in the car for my mostly-potty-trained toddler.

Maybe you were expecting me to say, "I would buy x diaper" so then you could go buy it. OK, then. After having tried more than 13 different types of diapers, I feel like I do have some favorites. If it were up to just me, I would probably buy 10-12 Softbum Echo's or Grovia AI2's with 15-20 or so extra inserts (so 25-32 total inserts). And I would be done with diapers (unless I found I had a heavy wetter, in which case I'd add a few bamboo inserts for nighttime. Also I would get two Planetwise medium wet/dry bags, and one large hanging wet/dry bag (ours hangs just right off one of the bedposts on the crib, near the changing table). I'd also cut up a receiving blanket to make some cloth wipes (I did finally do this about 6 months ago - but I could have been saving tons of $$ if I'd done this sooner!)

If you are asking my husband, he would just as easily use disposable, but if he had to choose a cloth diaper, he likes the TotsBots EasyFits the best. He doesn't like to mess with matching pieces together, and likes that he knows how to easily add an insert to it for nighttime.

And if I was a SAHM (and/or only used cloth at home) I'd go with prefolds and covers. They were intimidating to me at first, but now I find them really simple (read about them here). And they are cheap! I recommend everyone keep at least three prefolds and one cover around... just to have.

If you want to more about what diapers I send to daycare see this post: Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom: What I send to Daycare.

** This post contains affiliate links **j

Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom: What to Send to Daycare?

Thanks for asking, " What kind of diapers do you send to daycare?"

I have all kinds of diapers, but only so many total, so I eventually have to send whatever I have on hand. However, when they are all clean and I can choose here is what I like to pack in baby's bag:

1. AI2's - these are my favorite diaper to use, period, at the moment, but I really like them for daycare because at school they function as an AIO (see #2), but at home, I can just snap out in the inners and snap in new ones. Boom. Ready to go for the next day. [This is for wet diapers. Poop diapers usually require that the cover be washed, too]

2. AIO's -  these are all one piece and function most like a regular disposable diaper. I feel like this makes the transition for my baby's caregivers easier (the are changing lots of other disposables over the course of the day) and there is nothing to get lost or confused. They are also easy for me on the back end to just toss in the wetbag at home or wash.

3. Pockets - I send these when all the other options are dirty. I think pockets are bulky for daytime and kind of a pain. At home, I prefer a prefold/cover combo to pockets. But I think they are easier than prefolds at daycare, so occasionally I'll send these.
my favorites: little bee co (love their mission!), Rumparooz

What else I send:

cloth-safe diaper cream - i only send a sample-sized jar. my kids don't seem to use much, and i am sure to give her a good slather in the morning with her first diaper. I can easily refill the small jar from my bigger one at home. But I think its fine to send whatever kind you prefer (spray, etc.) as long as its cloth safe. I like CJ's BUTTer (especially in the Irish Tweed scent!).

a wet bag - actually we send a medium sized wet/dry bag that seems to hold 4 or 5 diapers. We take it home each day with the dirties and send it back the next day with clean-ies. We have two of these in rotation (and 1 large bag at home to collect all the diapers until wash day). I like the ones from Planet Wise.

back up disposable diapers - I think this serves three purposes. a) there are extra special days where my baby goes through more than the 6 diapers I send (especially when teething!) and these are easy to just keep at school so I can make sure most of my diapers are in regular rotation. b) the kids get to do special art projects sometimes and school, and usually are only in a diaper or have on a smock. event though the materials are usually washable, I'd rather risk a 'sposie just in case. But also c) I think it lets the teachers know I am not THAT crazy (no offense to anyone that disagrees with me!) that I think disposable diapers are the devil (however the disposables I do send are eco-friendly... (and these Honest diapers are SUPER cute).

* when baby starts having solid bowel movements, you may choose to use disposable diaper liners (I like the smaller version of these TweedleBugs brand). If so, I recommend you pre-line the diapers you send with them. The goal is to make this process as easy as possible on the caregivers as we want their attention on the right things (safety, etc of all babies in the room).

What I DON'T send:
prefolds/flats + covers (unless I put one on as the first diaper of the day at home. Beware of the snappi though. We've been skipping it lately, but I know it can be tricky for those who aren't familiar with it, and I have seen little cuts occur with them). As I said, I really like to use these at home, but I don't think they are a good fit for daycare.

regular diaper cream. NOT EVER. Unless you have a really bad diaper rash or your doctor has prescribed it (in which case you are using disposables along with it), just don't even go there and let there be confusion about what to use with your cloth diapers. Regular diaper cream can ruin cloth.

Side note, some feedback from the occasional "grandma-care" is that she prefers velcro diapers because the snaps are harder for her to work with and hurt her hands.

A great cloth-diapers-in-daycare resource: http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/daycare/tip-sheet.php

j* this post contains affiliate links *

May 16, 2013

Cloth Diapers: Going Simple

photo credit Diaper Junction

If you are interested in cloth diapers because you want to save money above all other reasons, then think prefolds. Prefolds are pretty much the least expensive way to cloth diaper ($1-2 per diaper + a few covers that start around $11 each). Though you will need a couple of sizes to cover your baby from birth to potty training, you can still get everything you need to diaper your child for 3+ years for less than a couple of packages of disposables. If you are only cloth diapering part time, this is still a great option to save $$, too.

So what do you need?

1. Prefold Diapers - before I started cloth diapering, I knew these as burp cloths, but really they are the 'old school' diapers you see on baby posters. Some good options are Thirsties Cloth Diapers -hemp prefolds, or the very inexpensive but effective Indian Prefolds.  For full time diapering you probably need 20-30 of these, depending on how often your baby 'goes' and how often you want to do laundry.

photo credit Diaper Junction
2. Diaper Covers - Thirsties Diapers makes two great options - either a sized cover, or the Duo Wrap, where two sizes will cover your baby's diapering lifetime. There are lots of cute patterns and options out there to choose from, so check out Blueberry and can be very inexpensive, like Econobum,  For full time diapering at home you probably need 3-5 of these in each size, depending on how often you do laundry, or how often baby poops. Covers can be reused several times between pee diapers, but need to be washed after poop gets on them.

3. Snappi (optional) - the snappi replaces the need for pins in this 'old fashioned' way of diapering. It works like the gripper on an Ace bandage to hold together your folded diaper. I say this is optional, because I often forgo the snappi and fold the diaper Angel Wing style and just lay or tuck it into the cover. You probably only need one or two of these for full time diapering.

THAT'S IT. That is really all you need.
... Of course it is easy to go crazy with a collection of covers, and maybe you will get a few accessories (like a wetbag for storing dirty diapers, detergent specific for cloth diapers, cloth diaper safe diaper cream, to name a few)

I admit that I don't send these to daycare (I am so grateful that our teachers are willing to cloth diaper, that I want to minimize any potential intimidation), but I frequently turn to these myself at home. They take up very little space when packing the diaper back for a whole day out - and we seem to always have some handy. That big stack of burp cloths? Those can double as a diaper in a pinch, too (after all, that's what they really are...).


May 13, 2013

One Hot Mama Challenge - Month 1 Week 4

Week 4: New Normalcy

Also I am sort of ignoring the fact that I have 1.5 weeks left of being home with my baby on our own little time schedule. I need to get cracking on a little mommy makeover and jump back into the real working world!

My workout schedule for all three months!
Hubby and I still haven't had our date night, but I know its because I am not ready to leave my new baby with a sitter. I think as we get closer to her starting daycare, I want to practice with her taking a bottle, so I'll make this my homework to schedule a date and kill two birds with one stone... or rather make an excuse to take care of myself (and my awesome husband)...

This section of the book talks a lot about cementing routines (y'know the NEW/revised ones), and now this really is key for me. I'll have to be out the door, and at work at a reasonable time, so we'll have much less flexibility on weekdays. Now is the time to practice!

I've been getting up at a 'real' time and trying to get dressed and made up (I still can't bring myself to dry my hair...) before the kids are up (Baby Sister is getting more predictable). Then hubby and I tag-team preparing breakfast and getting the kids dressed in whatever way is needed so we can all have breakfast together before we head out to school/work.

We are still packing lunches and school/work bags at night after the kids' bedtime routines, during after-dinner cleanup. This is the time we get to catch up with each other on our own days and plans and dreams (the deeper stuff that's not really needed to be discussed in front of M) and even enjoy a beer or glass of wine. After that is done we can settle in with a TV show (we got rid of cable around the time M was born because we didn't really have time for it anymore! And I don't miss it one bit! ...Except for ExerciseTV...).

Another routine I am nervous about it preparing dinner. When I worked, hubby was on pick-up-from-school duty, and I would head home to start dinner. It was usually done 15 minutes or so after they got home. Since I've been on my maternity leave, I've had it ready and waiting when they walked in (which has really helped stave off the "I need a snack" requests). Hopefully we can still go back to the old routine with few hiccups.

Lastly, I seemed to have lost the time to snack since I've been home. Or maybe I've just been confined to the choices at the house (rather than the admin's candy dish!) so I feel like I've stuck to the foods I really want to eat. Hopefully this has conditioned me to be resistant out in the real world. Fingers crossed!!

****Question: What is the biggest change you noticed between your new normal, and your old normal? How are you making it work for you? ****

Check out some of the Freebies from Erin's website (especially the "Revive your Mama Mojo" checklist)

Find the other One Hot Mama posts here.