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So, before I get into some pretty long-winded thoughts, I’d like to give you a friendly reminder that there is currently a Happy Maps giveaway happening here on This Tiny Blue House. Feel free to enter for a chance to win your very own personalized Happy Map if you haven’t already! Good luck to everyone who has already entered!


Recently, Mer and I sat down to watch a Hemingway documentary on Netflix called Papa. Have you seen it? It really is an interesting window into Hemingway’s life so if you haven’t seen it I would recommend you watch it. Mer isn’t much of a reader and although he knew who Hemingway was he really didn’t know much about him so he was especially interested in watching.  When we got to the part about Hemingway’s 6-word novel (the famous: For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn) – Mer and I just looked at each other with a blank stare and understood perfectly well what the statement was insinuating.

Or, did we?

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What ensued was an interesting conversation about time, perspective and circumstance.

Clearly, we both assumed that there was a dead child involved. But, were our assumptions based on our own experiences of time, perspective and circumstance or is there some universal understanding that when a pair of unworn baby shoes are sold there is a deceased child involved?

When I was a kid my father would tell me that everyone had “cobwebs in their closet” and that “some were thicker” but ultimately everyone had them. I think the conversation started when I broke down crying after my parents separated. It was the late 80’s and by cultural standards at that time I was ashamed of my home life. He told me not to worry about it because everyone had dusty cobwebs hidden in the very back of their closet.

Okay, back to what I was getting at here.

It’s really quite amazing how our own experiences have shaped the way we perceive things around us. Before our losses, I doubt we would have made such a heartbreaking assumption about such a potentially simple statement. We likely may have arrived at it eventually but it would probably not have been our first conclusion. Years ago, my brain would likely have wandered to ideas that the child outgrew the shoes before getting the chance to wear them or perhaps the child had more than one pair rendering this pair unnecessary or that poverty was at the root of the decision to sell them. I doubt though that my brain would have instinctively led me down the path of dead babies.

But, now it does. And, it  highlights that perceptions are altered based on circumstances that are unique to each and every one of us. Our story really dictates how we perceive the world around us doesn’t it?

To the parents who have lost children, that 6 word-novel could mean that a child died. A miscarriage, a still birth, infant loss – the possibilities are endless.

While to some it could be an example of poverty.

To others it could be interpreted as necessity – selling a child’s baby shoes to feed a habit, to turn the lights back on, to buy food, to fuel the car to get to a job interview, to make some extra cash to purchase medication. The possibilities are truly endless.

I suppose then that our individual perceptions of what that statement truly means is fueled by who we are, where we come from and what our  lives look like both past and present.

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Interpreting blog posts functions quite the same way I think. When I write something it comes from my perspective – an anxious repeat loss mom who is acutely aware of what it means to be poor, move up the socioeconomic ladder only to find herself in heaps and heaps of consumer debt years later. But, to those who don’t have those same set of cobwebs, my opinions and beliefs could potentially be misinterpreted ya know?

Perhaps, when I make a blanket statement like “I’m jealous of other women’s pregnancies” it might make me appear to be vile, envious and shallow. But, to those know me, know my story, know my struggle- I might get a little leniency.

The reality behind that statement is that getting my baby here safely was horribly difficult.  Does my statement now become less terrible? Does the meaning somehow change? Does my own circumstance change the intention?

Blog posts, and writing in general is tricky. Often times I catch myself reading and re-reading my posts because I know what baggage comes with my writing but most of the time you the reader don’t. Clearly, there are certain aspects of my life that I’ve shared and if you’ve been reading for a little while you’ll know that I mean no harm by statements like the one above but to a new reader who doesn’t necessarily understand my history that statement might be interpreted completely differently.

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As I’m growing this here blog I’m realizing more and more how perspective and circumstance influence both what I read and what I write. I’ve read countless blog posts from women who are “over” their pregnancies. From their perspectives it’s an innocent claim that likely has no intention of piercing through a loss mom like me. From my perspective, that claim makes me cringe because well you know – some women would give absolutely anything – make a deal with the devil even to bring a healthy full-term baby into the world. Perspective and circumstance.

This applies to everything really. Discussions on minimalism, vegetarianism, veganism, politics, opinions, beliefs, religion on so on and so on.

Essentially, anytime we put something out there we are opting to have our words which are inspired and peppered by our own perspectives interpreted by people and their unique worldview right?

How much effect do you think perspective has on interpretation of blog posts and writing in general?

What are your thoughts and interpretation of  Hemingways 6 word-novel?

 

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At one point I had over 3000 images of Margs on my iPhone.  I had no idea how many I’d accumulated until one day I was faced with a storage problem that wouldn’t allow me to snap any new photos.

You see, weeks after Margs was born I realized I had hardly any photos of her with me. There were a ton of pictures of Mer and Margs but only a handful of pictures of me with my little girl. (Sadly, I don’t think I have any photos with her from when she was actually born) What ensued was a hormone raged argument meltdown initiated by me accusing Mer of not wanting to digitally document my relationship with Margs. Although I admit this was completely blown out of proportion (I blame the post partum hormones and the start of my post partum depression) the reality was that Mer just didn’t think to take photos of our growing little girl. Once I calmed down, I explained to Mer that it was extremely important to me that Margs grow up with photos of us with her at every stage of her life. Since then, my dear husband snaps photos on the regular and now, we’re faced with thousands of photos creating a sea of digital clutter that can get very overwhelming.

Mer and I have decided that once a year we’d look through the photos we’ve taken and go print the images at our local photo print shop (this will actually be part of her yearly birthday presents). Digital photos are awesome but I cannot tell you how disappointing it is to try and find photos from a certain event, holiday or get together only to find out that they’ve been deleted or lost somewhere within the folders of the computer. So, when it came to dealing with the zillions of photos we take of her we had to come up with a system because we did not want to lose any along the way. Printing them helps reduce  the volume but because we opt to print the “best” photos there are often a bunch of really awesome ones that don’t make the cut and I cannot bring myself to trash them.

Instead of deleting them we’ve decided to email them to Margs.

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One of my recent emails contained an image of Margs with a fleet of rubber ducks explaining how the only way to get her to sit in the bath long enough to get bathed is to throw in 2 dozen rubber duckies.

Yup, my 14 month old has her own gmail address and she gets emails from me, her father and her bubbie on the regular.

I try to email her daily. Sometimes the emails are short, other times long. Most days, they include the photos I’ve snapped of her with a summary of what we’ve done that day and a description of any relevant news stories that I think are important (history buff in me) with a brief explanation of why I’ve included them for her.

We don’t open or read her email (other than to check that the emails were making their way through in the beginning). Our goal is to continue emailing her regularly to accumulate her digital story so that she can read and appreciate them at her own speed when she’s older.

Although I think technology can be extremely scary when it comes to children. I do think if used carefully it can be a wonderful resource. In our case, we’re using it to create a time stamped life story for our little girl that she can read when she’s old enough.

We haven’t decided when we’ll give her the password. 16, 18? We’ll see how it goes. (Hopefully gmail will still be around by then) But for now, we’re having an absolute blast sending her little notes and watching her inbox grow.

How do you deal with photo clutter in your house?

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The week just flew by. It seems that as soon as Monday rolls around life is on fast forward as we cruise through the week to Friday right? We’re pretty much on a fixed schedule around these parts when it comes to day to day life which although kinda boring helps keep me stay organized and top of Margs’ needs and all the household stuff that needs doing. Mer has been up earlier than usual these days (thank you winter snowpocalyse) to head to work and is usually arriving very late into the evening thanks to traffic and snow mayhem so I’ve been sorta parenting solo all week.

On that note, I found it really helpful to talk about my highs & lows last week so I decided that I’d make this a recurring series on This Tiny Blue House. I really enjoyed sharing both my ups and downs with you fine folks but more importantly I loved reading yours.

So here we go – installment two!

Highs

[1] Valentine’s day was literally amazing. I woke up at 7am to find baby missing from her cot. I stomped down the stairs (my hips and feet are still messed up from bed rest) to find Mer and Margs sleeping on the couch. I promptly woke him up and told him he was going to be late for work (Mer is a sleepy sleepy guy – not a morning person at all) when he kindly informed me that he took the day off to be home with me and baby for the fine consumer holiday we call Valentine’s day.  So, not only did I get to sleep in but I got to take a nap late afternoon and lounge around with my 2 favorite people. It’s all about simple pleasures folks!

[2] Sleep training is working (most nights) and by consequence my sleep habits are improving too! Margs  usually only wakes up one time per night (a bottle of water and a back rub usually helps her fall back asleep promptly) but spends the entire night in her cot. This is such a game changer for us. Not only do we get to sleep in the same bed again but we’re both getting far better sleep. We’re just crossing our fingers that she doesn’t revert back to wanting to co-sleep.

[3] Mer surprised me with a Valentine’s day gift this year. At first I sorta looked at him strangely when he appeared with this red bag with hearts shmeared all over it. When I opened it I found this Weekly Planner and the coolest oversized mug. So, although we never buy gifts he decided to break the rules and buy me an agenda so I could have a place to keep track of all my blog post ideas (I suppose he was fed up of finding scraps of paper everywhere). The mug is precious and he bought it to replace my giant mug that we had to retire recently after our cat nose bumped it right off the counter.

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* I love love love this Weekly Planner. First, it’s huge which means there is tons of space to brainstorm, doodle and jot down ideas. Second, it’s super cheap as far as planners go – Mer told me that he had looked at a few at Walmart and Staples and that they were all in the price range of 20-30$. At roughly 8$ this is totally worth the money especially if you combine it with another item or two to score free shipping.

Lows

[1] Snow. Folks, it has snowed so so much over the last week. On Monday we got 30 cm of snow – the wet heavy kind that makes shoveling really hard. Then, on Wednesday we got another 20 or so centimeters making the grand total somewhere in the ballpark of 50 cm. It’s enough now, my body seriously cannot handle shoveling any more snow. We’re also stuck putting it on our property because this suburb doesn’t pick up snow – there’s honestly no room left on our front lawn. If you come driving down our street you cannot even see our front door – that’s how much snow has accumulated. We’re starting to get a little nervous about the spring thaw – flooding is a huge concern for us right now because this much snow is going to create a ton of water.

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[2] Locking myself out of my fucking house, not one but TWICE this week. So this house has a fancy key pad on the front door which means that I don’t have to worry about forgetting my keys (one of my recurring bad habits). Well, wouldn’t you know that the key pad refuses to work in -10 degree weather or colder. The first time we thought it was the batteries so we swapped them out – then it happened again. Needless to say I’m going to make it a point to bring my keys with me from now on. Thankfully, Mer was on his way home both times so Margs and I weren’t stuck outside in the cold for too too long.

[3] Dirty laundry. We’ve been dealing with blow outs pretty much all week. The extra bottle of water at night time means that Margs’ diapers are extra wet in the morning. I’ve been washing sheets, blankets and her cot mattress protector basically every single day this week. I’ll take it though – if it means she’ll sleep through the night in her cot and not in our bed, I’ll just deal. Eventually we’re hoping she wont need the extra bottle which will reduce her output at night time. There’s no way I’m waking my baby to change her in the middle of the night and risking having to put her back to sleep.

What are your highs and lows for this fine week of February 13th?

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Morning! How was your weekend?

Ours was quiet but we did manage to get outside and enjoy some fresh air despite this terrible cold snap we’re under. Late Friday I ended up running to my dentist because I broke a premolar almost to the gum line . Talk about karma. I’d just posted about having an emergency fund and issues popping up when you least expect it and then bam the tooth broke and I found myself sitting in the big chair getting prepped for a crown. There goes our January budget (FYI, Mer’s insurance covers 80% of preventative dental but anything restorative is at 50%. So, I’m looking at approximately 1000$ out of pocket to fix my tooth). To be fair, I knew this day would come because I’d had a temporary fix done to this tooth last March when it broke the first time. I was told it should only last approximately one month but I was able to stretch it to 8. I’ll be heading back to have a permanent crown placed at the end of January and hopefully apart from my routine cleaning (approximately 36$ after 80% insurance coverage) I wont be spending any more money at the dentist in 2017.

I’d also like to apologize to anyone subscribed to my blog who has been getting spammed by weird zero content posts. I was playing around with the theme last week and it looks like my blog somehow was sending out “temporary posts for theme detection”. I’m so sorry if your reader or inbox got spammed as a result of my indecisiveness. I’m pretty new to all this so I had no idea that you’d get alerted to all the changes I was making. Thank you to a dear reader who alerted me to the problem last Thursday! I think I’ve finally settled on a theme that works (I don’t love it but also refuse to pay money to buy a theme when there are so many perfectly acceptable free options).

So, let’s talk about saving money

If you missed my first post about how we save a couple of bucks in TTBH you can find it right here. In a nutshell, I told you guys that we buy used whenever we can, sell whatever we don’t need/use anymore, stockpile essentials, clip coupons and grow our own produce to lower our monthly and yearly costs. All these things helped us pay off $21000 in credit card debt and build up a sizeable down payment to buy our first home.

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Margs new pre-loved shoes. Shes still wears them daily.

Today, I wanted to share the methods we use to keep tabs on our spending when it comes to providing for Margs. Kids are expensive – more expensive than we ever imagined and so we took to finding frugal ways to provide for her pretty early on. Above and beyond the immediate necessities: diapers, food, clothing and medical/dental care we had to think ahead about how we’d eventually help fund her education so saving money right now is a huge priority for us. The following list is a few things that we’ve come up with that work for us and help us add to her education fund regularly without necessarily compromising her day to day life. We don’t feel that being frugal with regards to baby care is about deprivation – instead, we strongly believe that we can still provide a great lifestyle for our kiddo without spending a fortune.

Making Baby Food

You can save a ton by making your own baby food. In the early days when we were first starting experimenting with solids I’d make large batches of things like squash, sweet potato, carrots, fruit compotes and soups and blend them in a baby bullet. A blender or food processor would probably work just as well though. This Magic Bullet Baby Bullet Baby Care System was on sale last spring and I had a coupon so I couldn’t pass up the deal. Best decision ever because I made all of Margs’ food myself and ended up saving a ton.

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My lovely bullet which I ended up selling for 20$ when we no longer needed it.

My only qualm about the bullet is the lack of freezer storage options that comes with the system. The set I bought included one silicone freezer tray which simply was not enough to freeze the food I’d make. When I’d make baby food I’d make sure to make enough to last me at least a month and unfortunately the tray only accommodates 6 freezer portions at a time. At first I’d freeze, pop them out, freeze another batch and so on and so on until all the food was frozen but this became really annoying and time consuming and some batches ended up taking about 3 days to freeze. I got really lucky in early summer when I managed to stumble across 2 more silicone trays for 50 cents each at a garage sale. A Baby Bullet Storage Completer Kit is available through Amazon if you can’t score them second hand. I was beyond excited because freezing 18 at a time was going to make things far more efficient in my kitchen. Sadly 18 wasn’t even  enough and eventually I stopped using them altogether and turned to muffin tins instead. It made freezing portions far easier and it also allowed me to control each portion size as her appetite grew.

Not all diapers are priced or made equally

.. and we use this to our advantage.

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When Margs’ was first born we experimented with different diaper brands to try and find one that provided enough absorbancy at a fair price.

We figured out pretty quickly that our best bet was to go with a combo of Parent’s Choice (Walmart store brand) and Huggies Little Movers

On average, I change about 10 dirty diapers a day. Of those 10 diapers we use Parents Choice brand during the day (9ish diapers) because although far less absorbent than big brands like Huggies they do the job perfectly well. I change her so often that a day time diaper is rarely soaked and so I can hardly tell the difference that she’s not wearing a designer diaper.

Nighttime is a completely different story. In the early days, Margs would wake once or twice throughout the night for a feed which included a diaper change so using the cheaper diapers worked just fine. As she got older and started sleeping through the night and drinking more throughout the day she started producing more urine and the cheaper diapers started to fail us. We’d have blow outs and pee stained sheets night after night. That’s when we decided to buy more absorbent diapers by Huggies and use one as a night time diaper. So far, it’s working out quite well and we’ve been blow out free since making the switch.

Now for a little frugal math

Daily diaper usage costs – combination method: (0.14 x 9) + (1 x 0.24) = $1.50 per day = 547.50 yearly

Potential diaper usage costs – designer diapers only: 0.24 x 10 = $2.40 = $876 yearly

Potential savings: 876.00 -547.50 = $328.50

So, if my kiddo is in diapers until the age of 3 that’s a savings of $985.50 which is a heck of a lot of money I’d literally be throwing in the garbage.

*Note: cloth diapering is far more inexpensive and it’s by far the cheapest choice. I was just so overwhelmed with motherhood that washing poop stained diapers just wouldn’t have worked for me. Chapeau to those ladies & gents who do it though!

Clipping/Printing coupons

There are coupons available for just about any and all baby products. When we need to buy diapers, wipes, soap and formula I hunt down a coupon to save a little cash. If you’re feeding your baby any Enfamil formula product they have an awesome program where they periodically send you coupons by mail. The coupons include savings for formula in addition to Fisher Price products. I’ve actually used one of Margs’ coupons to buy a birthday gift for a friends son.

These are the websites I use the most. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a coupon for Parent’s Choice Diapers.

Money savings tip: when I use coupons and rebates I pretend that I’ve paid the original amount. I then transfer however much I’ve saved directly into our savings account. It’s never a huge amount because I’m not an extreme couponer but every little bit helps. Some months I’m able to add about 60$ of padding to our savings just by transferring out “coupon” money.

Bartering baby stuff

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My kiddo loved her jumperoo- boing, boing.

After moving, I joined a local play group where I met a wonderful woman who showed me the ins and outs of frugal motherhood. I will be forever grateful to her for suggesting I find barter buddies. Basically, I’ve found a few other moms with children Margs’ age who barter their toys with me. I met these ladies at a baby playgroup and an afternoon kiddo reading hour hosted for free by our local library. Trading toys helps keep Margs entertained because she’s basically playing with new stuff every few months and this keeps our costs next to nothing. I’ve traded a Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo for a Graco Walker and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’ve also traded a few toys that she’s outgrown to a mom for a second convertible car seat (she had older children who had outgrown it.).

In addition to having barter buddies who I keep in touch with via email, I also periodically barter through online garage sales in my area or on Craigslist. Not everyone is open to an exchange but asking kindly wont hurt. I’ve been able to trade a few items this way as well. Namely, Margs’ snowsuit was obtained by trading a bunting bag she used as an infant in her carrier – again I was dealing with a mom who had an older child and an infant so the trade was mutually beneficial.

I’ve also bartered at the consignment shop. Sometimes I’ll have an item that Margs no longer needs and head over looking for something specific and ask if a trade would be accepted that day. More often than not, the owner is more than happy to trade with me assuming the exchange is fair. My latest trade was 5 warm winter footie PJs for a diaper genie that we were given but never used. This way I don’t touch my consignment balance and avoid having to wait for my items to sell to earn store credit.

Cycling her toys

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A recent photo of her toys after I'd purged out half.

Margs is easily distracted and she’s also not always easily amused. I keep her toy collection to a minimum and find that she’ll easily get bored if the rotation of toys is always the same. As a result, I cycle out her toys and keep some stashed in her closet where she doesn’t have access to them. Every couple of weeks I trade them out and they are brand new and super exciting again. This kiddo likes to keep things fresh!

I’ve also started planning ahead and bartering and swapping out toys that she no longer plays with to accumulate toys that she’ll enjoy playing with as she grows. I was on the hunt for wooden puzzles for months after seeing how incredibly pricey they were at both Toys R Us, Walmart and online. Luckily a couple weeks back one of the ladies in my barter group had a set of 5 wooden puzzles up for grabs and we came to a mutual agreement. 5 puzzles for a gift basket of Bed Bath and Beyond products I kindly received as a housewarming present from a relative but cannot use because of my sensitive skin.

So there you have it folks. This is what we’re currently doing to save and stash away a little extra cash for our little girl.

What money saving tips do you use in your house?

Ever bartered with someone to get something you needed? If so, tell me about your swap!

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Have you read Kon Mari? I’m sure most people who get here from visiting the #minimalism tag will know all about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. If not, the book basically describes Kon Mari’s method of tidying which is built on the premise that items that bring you joy remain while all the rest are discarded. It’s essentially a how-to guide for decluttering and organizing your home.

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I first read it last year while on bed rest – I enjoyed it the first time around but didn’t necessarily agree with many of her beliefs (more about that another day, maybe.) Anyway, while sorting some books recently I came across it again and decided to give it a second read (ha! take that Kon Mari!).

This time, I read it and felt far more inspired and connected to her words. I still don’t really agree with some of her beliefs. Namely, her notions about objects of sentimental value, collections and photos.   But, I felt far more in touch with what she was saying and sort of had a lightbulb moment.

Maybe, just maybe I’ve been quasi Kon Maring my home and life without really knowing I was doing it. Maybe, just maybe her method allowed me to regain some control over my life – maybe, it’s helped me close a very dark chapter in my life.

Here’s what nearly through me off my chair.

“ when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too”

I find it ironic that my need to simplify really peaked after Margs was born. I find it even more ironic that I’ve been feeling my best physically and emotionally since I’ve minimized the stuff in my life. Could it be that I’ve somehow managed to finally put the past behind me? Is it possible that Kon Mari subconsciously inspired me to declutter my life so that I could finally accept my heartbreak and move through the final stages of my grief?

I’ll never get over losing my babies. I’ll never forget nor will I every fully stop grieving for the future I should have had with them- perhaps though, I’ve minimized my life as a way to bring joy back into my life and finally find the peace I’ve been searching for for so long.

These last few months have involved holding, touching and looking at things that reminded me of my lost babies. One day it was a pair of maternity jeans I wore with the twins. Another it was a sonogram photo of our second set of lost twins. I’ve handled candle holders used for vigils to honor these lost little ones. I’ve been faced with dried flowers from their funerals and hospital bracelets from my numerous surgeries.

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Maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally faced my past.

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