Baby Money: How to pay for your new baby $$$

One of the most stressful parts of adding a person to your family, is figuring out how to pay for that person. They’re not exactly contributing to your household income (slackers). Most couples are faced with the choice- does one person stay home or do we hand our paychecks directly over to daycare? It is very easy to understand why many parents decide to become a single-income family. One month of daycare is just shy of our mortgage. I feel nauseous just writing that.

IMG_5258

That’s my baby being the biggest boy at his daycare.

It didn’t make sense financially for either of us to stay home, but even more significant it didn’t make sense for us emotionally. I definitely wish it was something we could have felt was a real option, but when it comes down to it both of us really like our jobs. It was important to us to keep them. That didn’t stop me from being an emotional wreck going back to work. I also periodically re-lose my mind over being a working mom and all the guilt that comes with it. But that’s parenting no matter what you’re work situation is.

I’d love to tell you about how we saved and prepared for all our new costs in advance but…not really. Here’s what we had to tackle and how we handled it.

//Medical// First you have to birth a baby and that’ll cost you. Then they’re going to get sick and you’re going to have co-pays for the pediatrician ALL THE TIME. I was very lucky that a previous employer I had a Health Savings Account. Through employer funding and my contributions I had almost $6,000 saved by the time Haines came along. When our non-medicated birth delivered by a midwife was only a little over $1000 I was so excited that we had more we could use later. But only two weeks later we were back in the hospital for twelve days. Thank goodness we had those extra funds. Even with a healthy baby, you never know what could happen. Now, I make sure to fund a Medical Flexible Spending Account each year to get the tax savings on our inevitable medical costs.

//Childcare// If you are a dual-income family, chances are someone is watching that baby part of the day. I liked the daycare route for several reasons. I wanted Haines to learn good social skills and  having some structure and routine around his day will be helpful when he transitions into school. I felt like daycare could provide more of that. It also seemed to be the most cost effective option (barely). I put the maximum into a Dependent Care Account which isn’t nearly enough. This part is painful. There’s no denying it.

//Diapers// We chose to cloth diaper via a diaper service for the first year. It cost about $80 a month, which was gifted to us. This is definitely the easiest way to cloth diaper- we loved it! But it’s not the most cost effective. Currently we do a mix of washing our own diapers and disposable. We’ve always had leak issues with cloth at night and when we travel we bring disposables. Still using cloth keeps our diaper costs down as well as our environmental impact.

//Formula// Obviously if you can breastfeed throughout the first year, you can avoid buying formula. That’s not always possible. We had to buy formula for 5 months which probably cost around $320. And that’s buying it at Costco. Now, daycares are required to provide formula so we could have saved by using their formula. But at around the same time a chemical, GenX, was found in our local water system. I wasn’t okay with our local daycare mixing the formula with tap water so we brought our own.

//Food// Haines ate pureed food for less than 2 months. He is not a fan of having people feed him. We made all of his food to keep costs low. I think it’s a little much to buy a special blender for baby food- I mean it’s just a tiny blender but we were gifted a freezer tray for baby food and I’m a huge fan. Now I freeze chicken stock in it.

Now he’ll eat most (like 60%) of the things we make for dinner but we keep certain staples on hand for him at all times: fruit canned in its own juice, applesauce (most often homemade and frozen), frozen veggies (corn, green beans, lima beans, peas) and either Chex or Kix.

//Clothes// Most of Haines’ clothes are gifts. I try not to buy much for him and as he’s the only grandson in our family, people are very generous! Anything we have to buy is from second hand kid clothing shops and semi-annual consignment sales. We probably spent around $50 last year on his clothes. I bought one pair of Target pajamas, two pairs of shoes, 5 pairs of shorts, 3-4 pairs of pants and a couple sweatshirts. Once he outgrows something it goes into a bag underneath his crib. Hypothetical baby number two and/or friends with babies will benefit!

IMG_4307

One of our best second-hand finds!

//Toys// With very few exceptions, we don’t buy toys. We have plenty from hand-me-downs and gifts. We have purchased 1 second hand wooden train set and 1 activity walker from Fisher Price. We’re going to keep this up as long as possible by saying yes to hand-me-downs whenever they come!

IMG_5036

//Baby bullshit// One person’s baby bullshit is another’s must have item. You know what yours is. I won’t call you out.

Paying for babies isn’t for the birds. Someone once told me that babies are cheap when they’re little. I call baby bullshit.

I’ve also been told that when it comes to babies the money always just seems to work out. It did for us, but it has almost entirely been through the generosity of others. Maybe that and a little luck. So the amounts here may seem small to you (if you have a child) or they may seem enormous (if you don’t). But it worked out. And it was worth it.

Medical $7,500
Childcare $7,020
Diapers $15/ month in disposables, plus free cloth diapering
Formula $320
Food insi
Clothes $50
Toys $50
Bullshit $30
Advertisements

The Year of Tiny Adventures

Now we’re in 2018. It’s a brand new year and we’ll encounter brand new challenges that will be tougher and easier than keeping a baby safe and well from birth to 12 months. (So I hear.)

I’ve started to have a little more time to breathe now and it seems like my brain waves are firing a little faster (no guarantees). Tempted as always to create unrealistic goals for the new year, I’ve settled on a single idea.

(Okay, I’m lying. I have a lot of resolutions but I’m trying to ignore them. I want to just have a theme for my year instead of a lot of lofty goals that are unrealistic to set.)

I want to have more adventures, but to do so I need to see the adventure in everyday things. Haines is 13 months and I work on someone else’s schedule. Hiking Machu Pichu or snorkeling foreign seas aren’t in my near future. It can be hard to appreciate adventures in baby world. Haines primarily finds fun in eating leaves and other tidbits he finds on the ground. But to grow him and me we have to get out of the house.

Welcome 2018: The Year of Tiny Adventures

My goal is to explore Wilmington in a way that keeps me outside and interacting with others. These are the two things that maintain my sanity. That and the occasional baby break but sometimes that’s not an option.

January’s adventures include:

A trip to the Fort Fisher Aquarium– big news, we’re members now! Haines got a membership for his birthday and we plan to take advantage. His attention only held for about 30 of the 60 minutes we were there but I consider that a win.

IMG_5278IMG_5282

Wilmington Coffee Crawl– I don’t actually drink coffee but I like coffee shops and anything involving strolling a baby around downtown. I hope the weather holds out!

Also, I started using Peanut which I’m super intimidated by. Has anyone tried this? It’s like Tinder but it’s for Moms and is just to make friends. Wish me luck!

So, here we go- a little attitude change, a little planning and a lot of (tiny) adventures!

 

How to Handle the Scariest Part of Baby Life AKA How to Clip Your Infant’s Fingernails

I’m not exaggerating when I say handling your baby’s nails is the worst. It’s terrifying to do but also painful to avoid. It seems to take about 15 minutes for my baby’s nails to go from freshly filed to talons of death. For several weeks this summer I’ve had a scab on my nose where some little dude took a chunk out. And by “several weeks” I mean it happened several times.

IMG_3133

The only safe hands are covered hands. (How was my baby ever this little??)

What’s worse is when he does it to himself. More than once we’ve gone to the crib to find a baby whose attacked himself in the night. Haines gets over these things in a flash but it’s normally the last straw for me. I’ve put it off  until all I can think about when I see Haines is his demon claws.

At this point it’s time to use my demon claw survival techniques.

  1. Keep nail files in every room. I have one on the end table in the living room, one in the bathroom and one in the nursery. There’s also one in his diaper bag. Haines will only tolerate a nail or two being filed at a time but I do that over the course of a day or two I can knock out a lot.
  2. Attack nails during nap time. When HEB was an itty bitty and he would fall asleep feeding on the Boppy I could easily get a hand done at a time. Now that he’s bigger he falls asleep in his carseat a couple times a week on the way home from daycare. This is the best time to knock out several nails at once.
  3. Focus on filing, not clipping. Clipping is more likely to wake them up if you’re doing during a nap and also doesn’t get rid of the dagger aspect. Filing gives your face maximum protection.
  4. If you have a ticklish baby, and I do, toenails are a particular struggle. The moment that clipper or my hands near his tootsies he starts to wiggle and wake up. I’ve found though that if I use a burp cloth to hold onto his foot, I can get some damage done.
  5. If all else fails just tape socks to his hands. Right? Nope, just me then…
IMG_4527

Next step, teaching this bunny to stop biting me with these chompers.

June: A Time for Balance and Reflection

This month has been a total whirlwind. It’s been pretty stressful and incredibly wonderful.

June has brought:

The realization that I can’t do everything.

I ended up having a wee little breakdown at work somewhere around the time my managers realized they’d given me too much to be responsible for. I’m working on delegating things more proactively and prioritizing more appropriately. Some things will just have to wait.

Similarly at home, I’m attempting to be a bit more relaxed about things. Contrary to my family’s beliefs our messy, often dirty home does bother me but by the time the baby goes to sleep it is hard for me to care. To be honest, it’s hard for me to remember. In the evenings I often think, what is it I said I was going to take care of tonight? I can’t remember it until way later. (Dear sleep, please come back.) I’m at the point now where I’m behind on birthday gifts, thank you’s, letters, cleaning, yard work, meal prep. The list goes on. In fact, I don’t think it’ll ever stop so I’m trying not to stress about it.

Adventures with baby

HEB turned 6 months on June 14th and every day it seems he has learned something new. This month he has found his voice and babbles or makes noises nonstop. He’s also found his tongue which is always sticking out now. We’ve started to introduce food and he’s on the verge of crawling. Our house is desperately in need of baby proofing!

IMG_3826

Nectarines should be worn as well as eaten.

Haines also took his first flights this month. We traveled two weekends in a row by plane which was totally stressful and honestly not that bad. He slept at least 50% of the time as it’s hard for him to resist a snooze in any mode of transportation. We were prepared the rest of the time with toys and our best funny voices. I don’t think any passengers hated us.

IMG_3749

We survived the Atlanta airport!

Quality family time

We don’t see any of our family nearly enough. Our closest family member lives only 4 hours away but we haven’t visited in over a year. Our other parents and siblings all reside in other states or countries so our visits definitely aren’t frequent. This month we got in two visits though which made June a pretty awesome month.

Father’s Day weekend Haines and I traveled with my mom, sister and her girls to Oklahoma for a long weekend. The newest member of our family got to meet my aunt and uncle on my mom’s side as well as several of our cousins. We were celebrating the life of my grandfather who passed away in October. It would have been his 99th birthday that weekend! While a sad occasion, I loved hearing the stories about PopPop- some familiar, some new to me. Our family is hardly ever all in one place so it was hard not to feel overjoyed at the chance to be with everyone.

Last weekend all three of us flew to Florida to be with Mum-Mum (Tyler’s mom). Unfortunately our reason for gathering was another sad one as Mum-Mum’s husband passed away a few weeks ago. He was truly a unique soul and I got to learn so much more about him during his celebration of life. We chatted with friends and family and saw so many great photos of Eric through the years! Just as the weekend before, the feeling of being together dominated. We hadn’t seen Tyler’s mom or his brother and girlfriend (BFF extraordinaire Natalie)  in several months and the reunion was much needed!

IMG_3790

 Time for reflection

We spent a significant portion of the month with family celebrating loved ones we can no longer be with. There is an obvious silver lining to this. We were reminded how important those individuals were and are to our lives as well as how grateful we are to have wonderful people in our lives. I have a healthy, growing son, a supportive husband, incredible friends all across the world, and a loving family from my parents to my siblings to the cousins, aunts and uncles I don’t often get to see. We’re a lucky bunch!

img_3794.jpg

Camping with Babies

One of the number one things I looked forward to in moving back to North Carolina was camping. In Austin we camped every month that Tyler was in town, but one of the things we’ve done the least since moving back has been…camping. In the two years we’ve lived in Wilmington, we’ve camped 4 times. To our credit it’s been in 4 different places.

We went with friends to Croatan National Forest two Easter weekends ago. After we got Clara we took her to a small island accessible by boat only. In September of last year, around the end of the second trimester I took Clara to join friends to camp at Neuse State Park.

IMG_2038_2IMG_0636IMG_2082IMG_2093

Camping while pregnant was… not as bad as anticipated. Drinking a beer around the campfire is one of my favorite parts of camping so abstaining did take a bit of the fun out. I laid on both sleeping pads for extra cushion and by some sort of magical force I only had to get up once in the night to pee. I wasn’t far enough long that my walking was affected so it was pretty fun!

This past weekend I took the next step in camping- camping with a baby. Natalie was in town and we took Haines and Clara to Carolina Beach State Park along with friends. It was a very busy weekend at the park but with the exception of one truck full of yelling partygoers the campsites were relatively quiet. We walked the nature trails, played games, roasted s’mores and journeyed to the neighboring brewery. You really can’t beat a state park next to a brewery. So this trip I got to drink beer around a campfire and at a bar. Major improvement on the previous camping experience. IMG_3269

Even though everyone chipped in helping with Clara and Haines, camping with both a 4 month old and an easily excited dog is stressful. Clara was somewhat well behaved which isn’t saying much. Other dogs typically hate her and this trip was no different. Haines didn’t mind being outdoors all the time. He also tolerates being carried in the front pack better than I tolerate carrying him.

As it turns out he does not tolerate sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag very well. This is fair as many adult humans do not either. I made him a palate out of blankets and swaddled him in a muslin blanket inside a thin sleeping bag that also had a hood. He wore a knit hat which also didn’t help with the sleep issue. I had intended to pack his fleece sleep sack but failed to remember it.

I ended up feeding him 4 times during the night which is on par with the feeding schedule he had during his newborn nights. This was partly because I could never find his pacifier in the tent when I needed it. But a boob I could find so we went with that. He only woke the campsite up once around 3 am so that’s pretty good, right?

IMG_3279

In case you can’t tell that’s two friends, one dog and a baby. 

IMG_3274

Those two beautiful hours that Haines slept.

IMG_3271

Wrapped up against the morning chill!

Next time we camp I will:

  • Figure out another sleeping option for him (suggestions welcome!)
  • Stuff 10 pacifiers in my pillowcase so I can pull them out throughout the night
  • Bring along a chair/seat for Haines so I don’t have to hold him the whole time
  • Also put the flashlight in there so when I run out of pacifiers I can find more

I also am going to be on the lookout for another baby carrying device. I love the free aspect of our hand-me-down Chico carrier but it doesn’t fit me well and it hurts my back. Time to do some research on different options because the hiking and camping won’t be stopping!

 

Hear Our Voice: Standing Together

Yesterday thousands of women across the world gathered together and stood as one. Some marched for reproductive rights, some marched for equal pay, some for justice, environmental protections, education, LGBT rights, some in solidarity, some to just be heard. These are just a few. Many (most?) also marched against the new administration.

I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about the march. This may be as surprising to you as it was to me. I didn’t vote for Trump. You probably already guessed this. The number of concerns I have about him cannot be listed. I don’t need to because you already know them all. Even if you don’t agree, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard what concerns others have. But I am a person that is driven by hope. The anger and fear and negativity that is the obvious response to the election does not fire me up. I do not feel emboldened as so many of my friends do. I feel crushed under the weight of it.

Once I would have felt differently. I would written endless letters to newspapers and congressmen. I would have confronted strangers and annoyed friends. The same person who was once an outraged college freshman, flabbergasted that Bush had won a second term, is now much quieter. Is this the result being tired from pregnancy and a newborn? Is it related to having a partner who is more conservative than me? Or is it the unavoidable stream of negativity that is my Facebook feed, my NPR station, my morning news?

I haven’t been able to find hope in places in the external sources I’m used to. Instead I’ve had to pull away in order to see the good. This didn’t start with Trump’s presidential campaign, but long before. I can’t discuss a lot of national issues I should be familiar with for this reason.

When I first heard about the march, I was hesitant about unifying against the Trump administration. I don’t want to spend my time being against anything and anyone. Even if that’s how I feel, I want to work towards good. I want to build bridges. My extra energy, the energy I have after nursing and caring for a newborn, after my marriage, after myself, after work, after caring for the relationships that are important to me- that’s the energy I wants to spend working towards something.

 

The Women’s March gave me that. In a time where our country feels isolated, women across the globe in 55 different countries, stood up for us from New Zealand to Kenya to South Korea. Even Antartica rallied. In a time where our country is angry at Washington D.C., women flocked there with over 500,000 people in attendance. In a time where our country is not just divided but fractured/shattered/broken, marches were held in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

We need community. We need to remember why we love our friends and neighbors. That we loved them between election years and why. We need to work together to build up those that need it- those that haven’t been served well enough in the past, those that we fear will be mistreated or forgotten in the next four years, those that need us and we need them.

OUR MISSION

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.

HEAR OUR VOICE.  -womensmarch.com

Yesterday I rallied with men, women and children in Wilmington, NC. I felt proud, inspired and encouraged to be with them and to hear their voices. It was the reminder I needed that change is attainable and we can all make a difference.

img_2585img_2592img_2593

Reflection: Growing Pains

2016 might be the most hated year ever. (It’s hard to say though since I’ve only been around for the last 30. Surely the years of the black plague top this.) Despite that I’ve heard many writers online say that while as a whole 2016 was the worst, personally it was a great year. For me, I would describe it as a positive year but overall it was a year of growth.

First off, I literally grew a person. It’s not often you get to use “literally” correctly but I really did. I have the traumatic childbirth memories to prove it (plus a baby).  Growing baby Haines was challenging in unexpected and totally predictable ways. The physical parts are trying- the fatigue, feeling physically weak, being sore in the third trimester, the discomfort of your organs moving to new places in the first. I hated having to slow down my lifestyle and feeling like I couldn’t do the things I enjoyed. Having those few months of discomfort and living in a body in which I felt little control taught me to be more aware and have empathy for those who deal with these issues on a daily basis.

I was surprised to find the social aspect challenging. While I loved discussing pregnancy and parenting with friends, answering overly personal questions to total strangers was frustrating and monotonous. And it didn’t help that many of my friendships have always included a shared love of beer. When one of your favorite social activities is visiting breweries and you’re pregnant, you’ve just damaged your social life.

img_1636

My last drinks before we knew about Haines.

Emotionally I struggled with bridging from a pre-pregnancy lifestyle to parenthood. As brain mushed from hormones so did my desire to be creative or try new things. My interest in the world narrowed severely as our little household began to feel like more than I could handle. Even now I have a hard wrapping my brain around all that is going on. Then again, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Second, I became a parent here in the last few weeks of the year. Childbirth followed by a taking a 2 week old to the ER were growing pains that I don’t need to repeat for quite some time. (Of course now baby Haines is teaching me how to handle his first cough/cold which I’m also not pleased to learn about.)  As an unexpected consequence of becoming a parent I’ve also learned that this little guy gives me strength I wouldn’t expect. No, I don’t sleep through the night now but surprisingly, it’s okay. Our trip to the hospital was terrifying, but also, it was okay. As long as Haines is here with us, everything seems doable. Even when it’s terrible.

img_2550

Professionally, I also evolved. For the first time I was in a position where I was speaking with high-level executives professionally on a regular basis. After years of experiencing anxiety with public speaking, I became my company’s Toastmasters club president, an organization dedicated to my top fear. It is with that same new confidence that I forged relationships and created programs that I’m proud of. It is also what allows me to feel comfortable taking 12 weeks leave to be with Haines. Thank goodness for that.

I expect 2017 to also be a year of growing pains… and perhaps every year going forward. We are still learning to get through the day and before I know it I will have to learn how to go back to work. I don’t have any resolutions for 2017 but I hope to learn about balance, who I am as a mother and a partner and my son.

img_0260

Photo credit: Zachary Sprague