6 Tips for Seeing the Zoo through Toddler Eyes

As a Montessori Homeschooling household, my family decided a zoo membership was a good investment.  For our local Detroit zoo, we would only have to go three times to make the membership pay for itself.  We go to the zoo at least once a month, however, in the summer time, I try to go once a week.  It’s not long day trips when you have toddlers, but short sprints, lasting 2-3 hours tops.  Since we go the zoo so often, and because I go at my children’s pace, I have had the time to notice that many parents visit the zoo with their own agenda and time table rather than their child’s agenda or time table.  Here are six recommendations to try on your next zoo trip, to see the zoo through your toddler’s eyes.

Leave the stroller at home

I was amazed the last time I went to the zoo how many BIG kids were in strollers.  Literally, no one I saw with a five or younger child was out of a stroller.  I had Miss Monster (2 years old) and Little Shark (12 months old) and no stroller or carry case.  Now, I may be a little crazy because Little Shark isn’t walking by herself yet, but that was the point.  I wanted her to build those muscles and walk holding my hand.  If I had a carry case or stroller, I thought I might be tempted to give in.  But for kids that are capable of walking, they should be walking.  It is good exercise, it helps them set the pace (rather than you setting the pace of the stroller), and gives them a better perspective of everything around them.

Little Shark and Miss Monster observing the geese and llamas

Don’t plan to see it all; only 2-4 animals exhibits

Since you left the stroller at home, and since you plan to be there only for 2-3 hours, there is no way for you to see the whole zoo.  Plan to see 2-4 animals exhibits and you can add from there if need be.  Some days, I will ask my children what animals they would like to see at the zoo.  They may tell me one or two animals, and then I look on my map what other exhibits are close by that we will probably see.  It’s important that your plan be 2-4 animal exhibits that are close to each other.  If they are on opposite sides of the zoo, you might as well be trying to see the whole zoo again.

Some days I plan our visits according to what we have been learning about at home.  Last fall, Miss Monster was learning animal names at 20 months.  She had TOOBS Safari Animals and had cards she was matching them to.  I found the printable for this activity from this Montessori blog: In Our Pond.  Once she was able to match the animals, I took the cards and the toys to the zoo with us, four at a time, and we visited the animals.  It was amazing seeing her connect the dots between the 2D pictures, the toy figurine, to the real animal in front of her.  Our zoo has a farm section so we did the same thing when learning about farm animals.  Couple weeks ago, at our Library Storytime, the Librarian read a story about polar bears.  Miss Monster talked all day about that story, so we rented a couple more books about polar bears and then visited them in the zoo.  Having a plan to see animals that you are learning about at home is a great way to reinforce learning and vocabulary.

The girls before entering the "Arctic Circle" Exhibit

Have a plan, but follow your child & his/her pace

While I always have a plan when I set out in the car to the zoo, I never feel the need to stick to it.  Maybe when we arrive, Miss Monster sees a picture of a giraffe on the garage can and wants to see those instead of the penguins.  Since we are walking, I always follow my child’s pace and interest.  This is not to say that I don’t lead, because I am the one who knows where the farm animals are, but while we are going there, if Miss Monster wants to watch the llamas for a bit first, then we stop.

The last time I was at the zoo, I was surprised at how quickly parents may rush a child through an exhibit.  We were seeing the polar bears and the female bear was pacing back and forth, in and out of view from our viewing platform.  Miss Monster was happily playing with a stick and would excitedly look up and wave to the polar bear every time she came back into view and would continue playing with the stick once she exited from view.  Little Shark was playing with dried grass on the pavement.  We stayed there for a forty minutes because Miss Monster never tired of waving hello to the female polar bear when she came back into view.  During that half an hour, parents would come with their children, stay two to five minutes, and continue on.

Little Shark wanted to spend time playing with dried grass and Miss Monster kept herself busy watching the Polar Bear pace

The benefit to staying at a single exhibit for a long period of time is that your child has the opportunity to observe the actions of the animals over time.  It’s a rare occasion that you wander up to an exhibit and the lion decides to roar or the male goose decides to showcase its dominance or the llama spits, but you improve your chances of seeing these actions the longer you wait at an exhibit.

Last month we went to the zoo and I had planned to see the kangaroos.  The Detroit Zoo has a cool exhibit where you actually get to walk through the kangaroo exhibit and depending on the day, you can get pretty close to them.  I thought Miss Monster would love this as we just read a book about kangaroos.  The hard part is that the exhibit is at the back of the park, so we have to walk past a lot of possible distractions.  But we got there!  Or, we got 6 feet away from the entrance of the exhibit, and Miss Monster spotted her favorite animal exhibit: ducks.  Miss Monster LOVES ducks, she always has, and here she spotted a duck exhibit.  Except it wasn’t really.  It was a garden that had a fence around it, but to Miss Monster, it looked like all the other animal exhibits: an animal, with a fence around it.  The duck was quacking, which was fascinating to both girls so we stood and watched—I was still hopefully that we’d get to the kangaroos eventually.  We watched and watched and watched; for fifteen minutes we watched the duck quack.  Then, the most amazing thing happened: the duck flew out of the exhibit!  Miss Monster shrieked in a mix of fear and delight, at which point, she wanted to follow the duck and I realized we weren’t seeing the kangaroos today.  So we followed the duck, all the way back to the zoo’s pond and it joined the other ducks.  Upon leaving, Miss Monster found a zookeeper and reported that the duck had escaped it’s enclosure but was in the pond if they needed it.  While it happened six weeks ago, Miss Monster still likes to tell people the story about the duck who escaped its zoo exhibit.

The duck that escaped the zoo enclosure

It’s not always about the animals

For toddlers and preschoolers, the zoo has many things to learn about, not just the animals.  Let learning take place, in whatever capacity holds your child’s interest at the moment.  While on the viewing platform for the gorillas, Miss Monster has collected and organized sticks.  Little Shark was interested in picking up tiny rocks.  Neither really seemed to have any interest in the large monkey’s that were sitting around very still behind them.

One of my favorite memories at the zoo is when Miss Monster had just learned to walk and we went to the aviary.  There are chains that hang down in front of the doors so that the birds cannot fly out when you leave.  Miss Monster was thrilled to run back and forth and back and forth between the chains.  See the video below.

(Insert video of Miss Monster & chains)

Go in all weather

Since you have a membership, go in all types of weather.  Go in the winter time and see the indoor exhibits.   We love to see the penguins, butterflies, and aviary during the cold months.  On days that it’s a bit cooler and maybe a bit drizzly are great days to see the big African mammals because they LOVE to be active on these days.  I went on a dreary day, because I had no plan b for the bad weather.  It ended up being one of the best zoo days because all the large animals that are usually laying around sleeping in the hot sun were up and moving and playing.  Little Shark, who was 8 months at the time, was able to see the animals and track their movements, when normally I would point to a stationary animal and there would be no sign of recognition of identifying anything in the exhibit.  Of course the zoo is a great place to be on sunny, warm days, but don’t count it out on the cold days either.

Talk to the Zookeepers

My last insider tip is to talk to the insiders.  Since Miss Monster loves birds, I talked to the zookeepers and found out when the feeding time is in the aviary.  We have on several occasions been able to be there when the birds are being feed, which is really cool because all the birds that usually stay high in the canopy, will fly down to eat.  There’s lots of movement and sounds and birds, more so than at the other times of the day.  One time, the zoo keeper even showed Miss Monster the food and let her throw some out to the birds.  The farm zookeeper let us know when the chicken eggs were scheduled to hatch so that we could go see the eggs the week before and the week after, which was almost as cool as being able to see the eggs hatch live.  Talk to the zoo keepers and they can tell you some people cool facts and help your kids experience the zoo to its fullest.

Learning what birds eat

Seeing the zoo through your toddlers eyes can be a radically different change of pace; it was for my husband who loves to see everything and read every sign.  But I find it to be more relaxing to go at a slower pace and my children are able to absorb more meaningful learning experiences when they set the pace.  Try it, and let me know how it goes!

How Mary is Revealed in 3 Types in Old Testament

The Holy Family: Mary, Joseph, & Jesus

In High School, I loved meeting my friend’s parents.  Really, this still holds true today.  I feel like my friend’s behaviors, gestures, common phrases used, beliefs, and personality suddenly made a lot more sense when I meet their mom and dad.  I could know my friend better by getting to know his/her parents and if it was a good friend of mine, I wanted to know their parents and have their parents know me.  I love getting to know parents so much that I attended a football game with my husband’s family, while he was deployed (and we were just recently dating at the time).  I had only met his parents twice previously, so attending a three hour football game with my boyfriend’s family (and much of his extended family was there too) without my boyfriend, seemed crazy to some of my friends, but I love meeting parents.

On the flip side, I love having my friends meet my parents.  My parents are very generous and often offered to take my friends camping or out to dinner.  I love having my friends come along to these outings because I think my parents are pretty cool people and I want my friends to know them like I do.  My father is very silly, which is where I get a lot of my silliness, but he’s very shy too, so you only see his silliness upon getting to know him.  Meanwhile, I not only look exactly like my mother, but I feel like I have her personality on many accounts too.  So by getting to know my parents, you are getting to know me.  On the rare occasion when a friend wants nothing to do with my parents, it hurts and it will cause a rift in our friendship.

Meanwhile, I have lived in my Protestant bubble where I have accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and best friend.  I love that by knowing Jesus, I know the Father, for after all, Jesus tells us this precisely in John 14:7.  It’s that same parent-child bond, where you can learn about one by learning more about the other.  But just as all of us have a father and a mother, so does Jesus.  But most of my life, I have done almost nothing to get to know Jesus’ mother.  For some reason, us, Protestants, do not want to know Mary well.  We think she’s cool and brave for having said “yes” to the Angel Gabrielle’s announcement about being the one to bring the savior into the world, but outside of the naivety story, Mary rarely gets talked about.  She never gets her own sermon, we don’t name our churches after her, and we rarely write books about her.  In my 30-minute web search, I only found 4 books about Mary written by Protestants, but I found 365 books about her written by Catholics—these were only the ones being sold from Cokesbury, I’m sure there are more.  I feel like my whole life I have been picking Jesus up to go to a movie with me, staying in my car and honking our horn to let him know I am out front. I smile and wave to Mary, standing on the porch, as we pull out of the driveway, but I don’t invite her over for dinner.  As Protestants, we don’t want to know Mary as personally as we know her son.

But I wonder how this makes Jesus feel?  After all, Mary is the one who nursed him as a babe, who sang him to sleep, who taught him his first words and how to walk, who encouraged him throughout his childhood and teenage years, who saw him through his whole ministry and all the way to the cross.  Just like getting to know my mother, you will learn more about me, by getting to know Mary, she will teach you more about Jesus.  Mary is the fulfillment of three types in the Old Testament: Eve, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Queen Mother.  She has five supernatural characteristics that describe her: she is the mother of God, she is sinless, she is a virgin, she is in Heaven, body and soul, and she is a mother to us all.  Finally, she has three roles in the church today: to be Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.  Today, I will cover the Old Testament Types.  You can read my blog posts about 5 Characteristics of Mary and Mary's 3 Roles in the Church today.  These insights come from Scott Hann’s Book Hail Holy Queen and Mark Miravalle’s Book Meet your Mother (or Love Her More), both Catholic books on Mary, because if we are going to learn about Mary, we should learn from the ones who have been getting to know her the longest.

Note: I will be quoting these two books throughout this post.  Scott Hann’s page numbers go from (0-150), while Miravalle’s go from (170-700) because I was using the Kindle version on my phone.  Therefore, I do not always say the author but you can tell who it is by the page numbers.  If you would like to learn more, I provide links for these books at the bottom.

Mary is foreshadowed and revealed in the Old Testament

Hann defines a Biblical Type to be “a real person, place, or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows something greater in the New Testament” (23).  It’s important to note that the Old Testament type really existed or happened, not just a metaphor to accomplish a point.  It’s the beauty of the Bible showing that the New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old is revealed in the New, and each story has layers upon layers of meaning and purpose, for “God writes history like men write words, and that He is an author of supremely subtle artistry and meticulous craft” (89).  There are biblical types all over the Old Testament foreshadowing the savior to come, but there are also three that foreshadow his mother: Eve, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Davidic Queen Mother.

Mary as the New Eve

Paul is the one who points out that Adam is a type foreshadowing Jesus.  He states that with the first Adam, death entered humanity, while in the last Adam, death was overcome and eternity promised to mankind (1 Corinthians 15: 22, 45).  As Adam had Eve by his side, Eve foreshadows Mary for they both were virgins when Eve “conceived the word of the serpent, while Mary conceived the word of God” (38).  Eve led Adam to the tree, to commit his first evil act in the garden; while Mary led Jesus to perform his first miracle at the wedding of Cana.  Twice, Jesus addresses his mother as “woman” in Scripture, at the wedding of Cana and while hanging on the cross, which is the name that Adam gave to Eve upon her creation.  Lastly, God himself foreshadows Mary when he curses the serpent and promises to put “enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed” (Genesis 3:15).

Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant

The foreshadowing of Mary is depicted in the Ark of the Covenant.  The ark was the most Holy possession of ancient Israel because it represented the protection and power of God.  The first ark contained the Ten Commandments, written by God into stone, while Mary contained the word of God in flesh.  The first ark contained Mana to remind Israel of the bread from heaven that saved them in the wilderness; Mary contained the bread of Life for “all who eat of it will have eternal life” (John 6:51).  The Ark of the Covenant held Aaron’s Rod, the first ancestral priest; while Mary held the divine person of the eternal priest (61).  Scott Hann details in his book a fascinating parallel of how Luke’s gospel of Mary receiving her the news from the Angel Gabriel and then traveling to see her cousin, how this storyline parallels the description of when David brings the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem in the book of Samuel.  I won’t go through all the details here, but it’s worth a read.  Finally, and most compellingly, when John talks in Revelation 11:19, he describes that the Heavenly temple opens and within it is the Ark of the Covenant, which had been missing for centuries.  He proceeds to describe a woman, who is the ark and who is Mary.

Mary as the New Queen Mother

The final type is found in the Davidic Kingdom.  In 2 Samuel 7, God promised David that from his family line would come a king that would reign forever, which is why Matthew provides the ancestry that follows David’s descendents to Mary.  The Davidic Kingdom which foreshadowed God’s Kingdom had a very specific structure, which Hann points out was “neither incidental nor accidental” but monumental in God’s plan (76).  In the Davidic kingdom, you had a king and a queen, but the queen was the mother of the king, not the wife, as many kings had many wives.  The Queen Mother represented the royal succession as she was the wife of the previous king and the mother of the present king.  She also held a distinguished role, which is portrayed in 1 Kings 2:19, where the Queen Mother, Bathsheba, approaches her son in order to speak behalf of someone in the kingdom.  Solomon, the King, rises and bows to greet Bathsheba.  Anyone else—even the King’s wives—would bow before the King, while he remains seated, but here the King provides this honorable greeting to his mother.  He then places a seat for her at his right hand—the highest place of authority under the King—and asks “what is it you request—for I shall not refuse you” (1 Kings 2:20).  As Jesus is the descendent of David and the King of Kings, Mary is then the Queen Mother in His Kingdom.  Just as Solomon’s power and authority were not threatened by his Mother’s role in the Kingdom as an advocate and could bow to her while remaining the monarch, Jesus pays respect to Mary and welcomes her into his Kingdom to be an advocate for us.

I hope I was able to present Mary in a way that provides a deeper desire to get to know the Mother of Jesus, to invite her over for dinner and hear her thoughts and opinions.  To learn more about Mary, read my blog posts: 5 Characteristics of Mary and Mary's 3 roles in the Church.  If this has sparked an interest for you, I recommend reading the two books that I have summarized here.  I will also be reading 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Michael Gaitley.  I will be starting on June 13, 2018, so that I can consecrate myself to Mary (if I so choose) on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, on July 16.  If you would like to accompany me on this Bible Study, I would love the company.  You can pick up any of the three books below using my affiliate links, which do not add any additional charge to your order but provide a small commission to me.  You can read more about that on my disclosure page.

 

 

Photography Challenge: Low Light Shooting

This photography challenge tries to capture scenes in low-light situations, specifically within churches.  The number one place this scenario would occur is when you are shooting on scene at a wedding.  While I have little interest in becoming a wedding photographer, I have always enjoyed baptisms.  Maybe you have always felt a desire to photograph spelunkers.  I highly recommend learning to shoot in low-light scenarios first because it has really helped me understand how the three manual settings (ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) work together.  Whatever low-light situation you find yourself in, here are some tips to capturing the shot.

For this photography challenge, I read and implemented the tips found in Scott Kelby’s Photography Book, Part 1 and 2, the chapters on Wedding Photography.  While I borrowed both these books from my library, if your library doesn’t carry these books or there’s a two year wait period them, you can buy either one on Amazon using the link below, which is my affiliate link that adds no additional cost to you.  Learn more about this on my disclosure page.

 

For this photography challenge, capture:

  • Scene in low-light
  • Side lighted portraits

As I mentioned in last week’s photography update, I practiced getting low-light pictures and they kept coming out blurry.  My problem was that I was still shooting in aperture priority mode because I was too self conscious to shoot in manual mode.  In low light situations, you need to be able to shoot in manual mode.  Following the tips for low light below and it will go smoothly, even if its your first time.

Shooting in low light

First, you should pick your lens carefully.  You want to shoot with a fast wide lens so that you can let more light in.  This means a lens that has a low f-stop number, like f/1.4 or 4/1.8.  Capturing a picture at a low f-stop number is desirable over cranking up the ISO, which causes noise in the picture.  However, depending on how dark the low-light situation is, you may have to crank up the ISO regardless.

In order to get enough light for your pictures, you may have to increase your ISO.  You do not want to increase it too high or else it will create noise for your image.  How to tell what your ISO should be, aim the camera at the low-light scene and press your shutter button down halfway.  In your viewfinder, you will see what your shutter speed will be.  You want your shutter speed to be at 1/60 of a second or higher; therefore, if its lower crank up your ISO until you see your shutter speed hit 1/60 at least.  You may increase it to 800 or as high as 1600, depending on the quality of your camera.

These are the raw images I took with no editing on Photoshop yet.

Miss Monster was a little worried about singing in front of the congregation during her first performance on Mother's Day

Miss Monster sitting in front of the Baptismal Font at our church

Find the Perfect Window

When photographing a wedding, you need to capture the formal portraits: pictures of the bride and groom.  For this, there may be the perfect spot with the perfect lighting; this perfect lighting is most likely going to be a large window, preferably a north facing window so that the light is not direct.  For those photographing a baptism or First Communion, capturing pictures of the parents, child, and any Godparents would be great for this lighting.  Position your subject to the side of the window 6-8 feet away, so that they are side lighted.  If you have an assistant, they (or a tripod) could hold a reflector on the dark side of your subject to light both sides of the face.

Side lighting from a nearby high window

Here I was trying to position the camera in a way to side light my daughter from the large window.  It wasn't the ideal location that I describe in this challenge, but I ran out of time before mass started to find a different location.  I plan to go back and take more pictures and could update the pictures here when that happens.

Chase the rainbow

In this image, the sunlight started to beam through the stain glass windows and it created this cool rainbow effect with my camera.  A fun image to capture, though, no promises I could recreate it.

Shooting Outside Afterwards

The main thing that helped solidify shooting in manual mode was to immediately upon taking shoots in these churches was to then take photos outside in the sunlight.  Without changing the settings, the picture becomes completely white (over exposed).  I first lowered the ISO as low as I could, then increased the shutter speed since my daughter's move quickly and I need a quick shutter speed to make sure their movement doesn't blur.  Then I could adjust the aperture depending on the depth that I wanted to capture.  Having done these two days, shooting first in low light then immediately in sunlight, really helped me understand and feel more confident about shooting in manual mode.

Capturing a Goose Family at my Mother's Day Brunch

Little Shark playing in the yard before dinner time

Practice, Practice, Practice
While I feel more confident in the my ability to take crisp pictures in low-light situations, I do need to improve on being able to get the perfect composition and positioning of the subjects.  In order to accomplish this, I am looking for families who'd like professional photos taken at an upcoming Baptism or First Communion.  If you live in the Greater-Detroit or Greater-Grand Rapids metropolises and would like me to attend a baptism, feel free to contact me directly.   I would be happy to attend, take photos, and provide the digital copies to you, free of charge.

Never buy these 9 Baby Items New

When I was pregnant with Miss Monster, I could not stop reading about becoming a mom.  I was the youngest in my family and, while I had babysat in grade school, I had never babysat a baby.  I had never changed a diaper before and I had no idea how to decipher what a child who couldn’t talk wanted.  So I read and read and read.  I must have read every “Baby Registry Must Have” blog posts that I found on Pinterest.  There is some really good information out there, but what I realized is, no matter how much you read, you will never know what kind of mother you are going to be, until you are a mother.  Because of this, I bought a lot of things I never used.

Opening up gifts at my shower

I’m not here to write another blog post about what you should buy, because you may use it, you may not.  I am just gonna tell you the two things you must be NEW and nine things that I think are a waste of money if you buy them new, opposed to excellent used condition.  This way, you can save money and if you don’t use it, you didn’t pay full price and you can sell it to the next person who might give it a try.  Before we begin, I just want to let you know that there are a few affiliate links in this post, which I earn a commission on.  They are all things I use and love and clicking the link won’t add any additional cost to your purchase.  Now, let’s take a look.

There are only two things I would recommend that you always buy new.

Car seat: Always Buy New

All car seats have an expiration date.  This is because the plastic that they are made out of gets fragile over time, especially when exposed to heat and cold, as it is inside a car.  In additional, car seats are good for only one accident.  If a car gets into an accident, even if the car seat looks exactly the same, you are not able to determine if it has become compromised.  When regarding the safety of your child’s life, I would recommend never buying a used car seat because it might have expired, and even if it hasn’t, you can’t be certain if it’s crash-free.

    • Car seat that attaches to a stroller: since you are already buying a stroller, I recommend buying one that attaches to a stroller. This was an amazing feature to be able to keep my sleeping newborn asleep as I transitioned her from the car to the stroller so that I could go shopping or running with her asleep.  Below is the newer version of the one I have.

  • No need for multiple bases: people recommend buying 2-3 bases, one for each parents’ car and then a nanny/grandma car. All car seats are able to be fastened into a car using just the seat belt without the need for a base.  While the base makes it more convenient because it’s faster, it’s not a requirement to place the child into the car.  I survived with only one base and using the seat belts anytime we were in a different car.

Crib/Cosleeper: Do Your Research or Buy New

Once again, this has everything to do with your child’s life or death safety.  There are many cribs that have been recalled over the years because of safety issues with the design.  It is very possible to get a crib for a fraction of the cost buying new.  I often see cribs that were $500 new selling for $50-150.  The catch is that it is rarely listed by its manufacturer’s name.  I wouldn’t buy a crib that I wasn’t 100% certain I knew what kind of crib it was and if there have been any recalls on.  That said, I knew I was going to co-sleep with my second child, and I wanted the Arms Reach Co-Sleeper.  Since it was a very specific item, I was able to find the exact one, second hand for $50, originally $200.  It did take 7 months of waiting and being patient for it to come up, so if you want to go this route, be patient.  The one I have is linked below, if you’re not as patient.

 

Those are the only two things you need to buy new.  The rest of your list contains things that you could find used, but might be nicer to have new. But in my opinion, the following 12 items are all things that you should not buy new.

  1. Pack-n-Play

As a Montessori mom, I never used mine.  I preferred to make sure my house was baby proof rather than confine my child’s movement in a playpen.  But many mothers love these.  They are a nice option for a bassinet for when you are having the baby nearby for the first few months.  I used mine for this reason for my first born and then opted to sell it and get a co-sleeper instead when pregnant with my second.  If you decide that you want one, don’t buy it new.  They sell out of the store for $75-150 depending on the model; however, most ones you buy used are selling for $20-50, with accessories, such as crib sheets included.  These are sturdy items that do not wear down easily so buying used with have no impact on the quality of the product and many are used for only a few months before resell anyways.

  1. Baby Swings

My children never liked their baby swing, although, I keep it around just in case a future child will.  I am jealous about the stories I hear of moms putting their awake baby into a swing, turning it on, and the child falling asleep and staying asleep for hours.  As magical as this seems, there’s still no reason to buy these new.  Depending on the model and how fancy the gadgets, baby swings can be anywhere from $50 to all the way to $200 or more.  But the resell market is saturated with these because once again, every mother dreams of having a baby that will magically fall asleep in a swing.  With so many swings for sale, the resell value plummets and often you can buy these for $30-60.  As long as it’s in working condition, there’s no reason why to not buy used.

  1. Baby Carrier(s)

I could not have survived motherhood without my baby carrier.  My first child would not sleep unless she was being carried or in a carry case (being in my arms, rocking in a chair didn’t count either).  Then, I would not have been able to keep up with my first child once my second was born, if I could not have placed my newborn in a carry case.  It is so helpful to be able to use both arms and have your child safely secured to your body.  You can do chores or play with another child or even work out.  I love babywearing.  That said, carry cases are sturdy and can stand the test of time as long as they have no tears.  I spent $160 for my Ergobaby Carry Case with Infant Insert and it is worth the money.  But, when I decided to purchase a second one, so I could keep one in the house and one in the car, I found the exact same carry case used for $20 used in perfect condition.  I also purchased a Baby Bjorn Carry Case, originally priced at $65 for $5.  The BabyBjorn ended up being a perfect fit for my newborn, where the Ergobaby was a lot of fabric that interrupted her sleep; however, the BabyBjorn only worked until my baby reached 15 lbs and then caused baby pain because the weight was all on my shoulders, whereas I can still wear my 2 year old on my back with my Ergobaby with no pain.  I mention this because if you are gonna be buying used baby carriers, you may want to experiment with a couple to see which one works best for your baby, at what age, for your body type.  Anything you don’t like, you can just resell.

  1. High Chair

Literally, everyone has a high chair, so they are extremely cheap to buy used.  Even the fancy ones that have only been used a couple times by the couple that decided to buy three high chairs because they did not know which one they would like best (trust me, this happens).  I recommend buying a wood one, because they are by far the easiest to clean and seem to be the most durable.  As a Montessori household, I also recommend buying a high chair that the child can climb in and out of, in which you wouldn’t need to strap your child in.  The one we use is linked below.  These are pretty trendy, so you can usually find them used; however, they are usually selling for higher than the other ones.  For instance, the one below is $370, often you see them reselling for $150, whereas you can get a normal wood high chair for $30.  I lucked out and was able to score two Stokke Tripp Trapp seats for $40 each.  Deals are out there, you just need to know what you are looking for and be patient.

 

  1. Baby Bath

A baby bath is helpful for your birth born because they are so tiny that it seems silly to fill up a large bath tub.  I used a baby bath until my daughter was 6 months.  I then transitioned to the big bath, not because she outgrew her tub but because I didn’t want her to be scared of the big tub but I could have kept using it much longer.  When my second daughter came around, it never got used because I was already filling up the bath so I just put them in the tub together.  I did use the insert, which is a reclined seat that goes the baby tub to support the newborn.  I used the insert in the big bath, which worked great.  When buying a baby bath, I would buy it used but be picky.  Find one that you can use for your newborn, but also has an insert that you can use in your own tub as well.  I got my baby bath for $5.  I also got a baby bath seat for $5 as well.  This was a good purchase for when my second child was sitting well but I was washing both girls at the same time so I wanted to make sure she had support in case my eldest tried to tackle her or she just lost ab control on her own.

  1. Baby Clothes

By far the item I buy used most often is baby clothes, especially newborn clothes.  Newborns are only that small for a month maybe.  Some of my friends have had babies born that come out too big for newborn clothes.  But moms (and grandmas and aunts and friends) who are so excited for the pregnant bellies LOVE buying those cute, tiny clothes.  You can often find NEW, NEVER WORN clothes selling for 50 cents-$2.  I have found designer dresses used for flower girl weddings—worn once—that were originally $60-100 selling for $5-10.  Yes, it is a lot of fun to buy baby clothes, so I graciously accept presents from friends who have bought clothes for my kids.  But trust me, it is just as much fun buying tiny clothes at a Mom-2-Mom sale for $1 as it is buying them for $18 at Target.

  1. Nursing Clothes*

Nursing clothes are very expensive.  There are not that many companies that make attractive nursing clothes and less who make high quality pieces.  But once a mother is no longer nursing, she has no need for high quality, attractive nursing clothes.  (Even the most attractive pieces are not ones I plan to wear daily with no nursing children).  With scarcity high, you would think the resell market would also be high, but demand is low since only nursing women are interested in these.  So, if you can find used nursing clothes, you can usually get them for $5 a shirt.  This is a steal, as most shirts are around $60 each.   I put an asterisk on this one because while it’s best to buy used, sometimes you’re not that lucky to find high quality pieces in your size.  I have bought nursing clothes used, but my favorite nursing pieces are ones I bought new.  That said, I could not have survived with only new items because my budget would not have afforded buying all new and my children spat up too much for me to not have additional pieces to change into each day.

  1. Play Mat

Play mats, or jungle gyms, or tummy time blankets are something that are found everywhere.  Depending on the model, these cost anywhere from $60-100 new but when you buy them used, it’s $10-25.  As a Montessori mom, I used the Montessori mobiles or black-and-white pictures to engage my newborn.  The jungle gym came in handy when my baby started trying to reach and grasp items.  I used it without the sounds or lights, in replace of making my own grasping mobile.  These can be great additions to your home for entertainment and development of gross and motor functions, but there’s no reason to buy them new.

  1. Glider/Rocker

Finally, I would recommend in investing money into a good glider or rocking chair.  Rocking is the best way to soothe a child to sleep, and I love my memories of feeding my baby in the glider.  I bought mine used for $50 at a garage sale.  As common furniture items of people with and without children, glider and rocking chairs are easily found used and as long as they appear in good condition, are just as good as buying new for a fraction of the cost.

 

There you have it, my list of 9 things to never buy new and 2 things to always buy new.  These opinions are based upon my experiences--selling and buying used--using Craigslist, OfferUp mobile app, LetGo mobile app, Facebook Marketplace, Facebook Mom Swap Groups, Mom-2-Mom Sales, popular consignment stores (like Once Upon A Child), Garage Sales, and Thrift Stores in the Metro Detroit area.  These figures may be different depending on your location.  When meeting someone online about a purchase, always be smart and meet in a public place.

Comment below with some amazing deals you have found used!

Finding the Holy Spirit at the Three Crosses

The Mountain TOP Logo: found at www.mountain-top.org

Wacky Wednesday is a Mountain TOP tradition.  Every summer, for one week, St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church sent its high school youth group to Mountain TOP (which stands for Tennessee Outreach Project) and Wacky Wednesday is a looked forward to tradition.  In the morning, staff surprises all the campers with their craziest outfits during breakfast.  Campers are then encouraged outdo the staff for dinner.  Campers could use what they brought with them or hit up a local dollar store if they were able to get all the work done on their mission site that day.  I always brought a Pirate Custom, 'cause I was a cool kid.

After dinner, there were many additional fun activities outside the norm.  There was a dance party in the field or guitar playing and singing in the cavern.  There was always a long line for 9 square as competition in the game was fierce.  Wacky Wednesday always had a special art project one could participate in or cards to be played.  Pack the evening with activities because Wednesday was the day most campers get a little homesick, that was the theory.

I never got homesick.  My parents have been sending me to weeklong Christian camps since grade school.  I loved them.  But as I was heading over to the dance party, I saw a long line of kids at the pay phone and decided to just call home real quick to let my parents know how much I loved them and appreciated that they send me to camp every summer.

My work site team on my final year at Mountain TOP

I placed 50 cents into the slot and dial the only phone number that I still have memorized.  My dad picked up the phone because my mom was having a late night at work.  I intended for a quick hello, say my thanks, and an I-love-you-good-bye but my dad, who at the time, wasn’t the most talkative person on the phone, had a lot to say after my “how are you, daddy?”  He told my brother who was at a boarding school that specialized in at-risk teens had been acting up and would not be allowed to send me letters anymore.  He told me that my mom’s hospital had decided to merge with a bigger one and my mom was going to lose her job.  He finished with that my grandmother’s cancer was back, and after several years of battling it, she decided to stop receiving treatment.  When I asked what that meant, he told me blatantly, that she would die soon.

I remember hanging up the phone and walking through camp is slow motion.  It seemed that everyone was dancing or laughing or running around me in real time, but I was on a different plane.  I moved through camp in a fog, with no destination in mind, trying to wrap my head around the news.  I ended up at the worship area.  It’s a field, surrounded by forest, with logs as pews that face three crosses.  I sat down hoping the quiet would soothe me.  But it wasn’t quiet at all.  There were the loudest crickets I had ever heard and frogs croaking and some night birds chirping and buzzing of insects.  The roar of the forest seemed louder than high way near house back home.  And that’s when it all sunk in and I cried.

I cried that ugly cry, where you are weeping uncontrollably and can’t catch your breath.  It was the kind of cry that hurts your lungs and makes your shoulders shake.  Tears soaked my face and dripped off my chin unto my bare knees.  My hands gripped onto the log so that I would stay upright for fear of just falling on the ground into a fetal position.  I cried and cried and cried—until it stopped, my crying stopped.

I didn’t stop crying, it stopped.  I remember it so distinctly because I was in the middle of a sob when it stopped.  It stopped and the noise did too.  It was so quiet around me, I couldn’t hear a thing.  I remember opening my eyes hesitantly, and raising my head slowly, in fear that my Lord and Savior would be literally standing in front of me.  I saw the three crosses and a thought came into my head, “it will be alright.”  I wiped my eyes, I got up from the log, and I left that worship area forever changed.

I was born, baptized, and confirmed a United Methodist Christian.  I grew up reading Dr. Seuss alongside Children’s Picture Bibles.  We had CDs that played on car rides about GT and the Halo Express, where kids would embark on every day adventures and learn the righteous path.  I went to Sunday School and weekday Children’s Church.  I knew about and loved Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

That Wacky Wednesday night, I felt the Holy Spirit for the first time in my life.  I came back changed and took on more leadership roles at my church.  The biggest change was that I was more aware of where the Holy Spirit was calling me to be.  The Lord’s never since quieted the night’s sky for me, so I myself became more quiet in order to listen for the Lord.  He’s lead me to take a gap year before college in the city of Detroit, to pursue urban planning, to become a Youth Group Director, and to marry my husband.  Each of these has a great story where I can point and say “that was the Holy Spirit.”  Nowadays, the Holy Spirit is gentle movements in my heart leading me in the best ways to raise my children.  It’s less showy than quieting the whole night sky, but just as personal and comforting as it was all those years ago.

Mother’s Day Post for the Motherless

Happy Mother's Day!!

As I write this post, Miss Monster is laying in my arms napping (Little Shark is out shopping with her dad).  It's peaceful here and she looks like an angel lying silently with her eyes closed.  Things I can predict about Mother’s Day tomorrow, I will probably wake up with two girls in my bed.  My husband has to work, so I will take the girls to church and Miss Monster will sing in the children’s choir.  Whether she sings or not will be a surprise, but I’m predicting that she at least shows off some of her dance moves.  My parents will come and take us out for a brunch at the boat club.  And I will feel extremely blessed, as I do, every day being a mom.

I loved Mother’s Day when I was a child.  It was traditionally spent up at Silver Lake, Michigan.  My parents owned a seasonal camp site.  Mother's Day weekend is the weekend they would pick to go up and un-winterize the camper.  It was always the first time going to Silver Lake and that meant summer was coming.  But even more than that, I loved trying to make Mother’s Day special.

I always had some Mother’s day gift that I had created at school.  Unlike most of my art projects that I would proudly show off the minute I came home, this creation stayed hidden until Mother’s Day.  It was so hard to keep it hidden and not let off any hints of the prize that was going to be given.  I remember many years, I would make my mom breakfast in bed at the camper.  My younger self prepared cereal with the milk poured.  I am sure that by the time my mom received it, the cereal had already gone soggy.  My older self prepared scrambled eggs over the stove.  I like to think that as the older I got, the sneakier I got and the better the meal became.  But truth be told, I have never been a good cook and you can only be so quiet in a camper.  Regardless, my mom always played along, staying in her bed with her eyes closed until I came to her bedside.  She always seemed thrilled by the gift of breakfast and the art creation.  When I reflected upon these experiences in college, I remember thinking that my mother must have the best acting skills ever to have seemed so thrilled by some beads on string and soggy cereal.  Now that I am a mother, I realize that it doesn’t matter what the gift is, there is no greater joy than the love your children bestow upon you, no acting required.

As this Mother’s Day slowly arrives, my mind and heart have often drifted to contemplate the children without mothers.  The children whose mothers are absent from their lives and they live with their fathers.  Or children in the foster care system that have no mothers or fathers.  How this approaching day must ache at their hearts.  Maybe that’s naïve to say, as every day is hard when you’re living in foster care.  So as we celebrate the joy in our hearts this Mother’s Day, I would like to ask you to pause for a moment to pray for the Motherless Children.  Pray for their safety; pray that the Lord watches over them; pray that they may find a home with a mother who will love them.  And after you finish your prayer, contemplate how God may be calling you to answer your prayer.  I am featuring six blog posts this week that can help direct you to an answer.  Read them—they are all short posts—and listen to hear if, this Mother’s Day, the Holy Spirit is calling you in a special way to find a mother for the Motherless.

HeatherMargiotta.com – The One Epidemic The Church Is Ignoring

It would only take seven percent of all the Christians adopting one child to end the world epidemic of motherless children.  Read blogger Heather Margiotta’s post about why this is an epidemic and why we need to respond as Christians.

LovingTheWoundedChild.com – 7 Ways the Church can Support Adoptive and Foster Families

Adopting and fostering is hard work and not everyone has been blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit for this particular calling.  However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do to help those children.  Read blogger Lindsey Zitzmann discuss the ways that you can help those families who are fostering or adopting.

FiveThings.life – Mother’s Day Inspiring Mom Highlight: Angela Tinter

This blog post is a short interview between blogger Jess and Angela Tinter.  Angela has five children, one biological and four adopted.  She experienced mothering five children under four years old and has some great advice for mothers and anyone considering adoption.

TryingToBuildAFamily – 10 Things We’ve Gained Since Becoming Foster Parents

Meet bloggers Josh and Trish who share in a humorous way the things they’ve gained since becoming foster parents.  If you enjoy this post, I recommend checking out the others they have posted on their site; they include many of the ins-and-outs of being foster parents, all truth spiced with humor.

IWantThemToRemember.com – Preparing for the Unexpected

Adoption is hard for many reason, one being that there can be any number of things occur that you just can’t plan for.  For myself, as a planner, that’s terrifying to me.  Blogger, Marsha Hays , discusses the ways you can prepare for the unexpected.

AngelPenn.com – Adopting the Father’s Heart for Adoption

Naomi Quick beautifully writes a devotional about adopting God’s heart for adoption.  If you are considering fostering or adoption, considering reading this post and using it as a prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Thanks for reading and praying with me.  I pray that you have a lovely and blessed Mother’s Day!

Photoshop Challenge – Editing Videos

Happy Photography Friday!!!  This week, I am focusing back on Adobe Photoshop, but an area that you may not be even aware that Photo Shop does: editing videos.  This week, for my blog post: 8 Tips for Working Out with Young Children, I filmed, edited, and posted a video of myself working out around my daughters.  I will be walking you through the steps I took to editing the video.

Most of the tips I implemented, I learned from Scott Kelby’s How Do I Do That In Photoshop?  There are many additional tips to video editing that I did not need, but may be of interest to you.  If so, definitely check the book out at your local library.  However, if there’s a 10 year wait list, you can also order the book through Amazon using my affiliate link below.  In addition, there’s a link to Adobe Photoshop as well.  I received a small commission through both these links but they will not add any additional cost to your order.

To begin, (1) open your video the same way you would open an image: go to File, click Open, then find your video file.  As soon as your video opens, Photoshop will automatically open the movie editing tool bar.  This is where you will do the majority of your editing from.

To add (2) additional videos, click the film strip, click Add Media, then find the next video file.  There are two ways to (3) arrange your clips.  You can (3a) click and drag along the video timeline; the video clips read from left to right, so whatever clips on the left will play first.  Or you can (3b) click and drag using the layers panel; the video clips read from bottom to top, so whatever is on the bottom will play first.  To (4) control the speed of your video, each video clip will have a triangle in a box at the right of the file.  Click that and a box will pop up where you can either slow down your video or speed it up.

When (5) navigating around your video, there are a couple tools to make it easier.  At the bottom of your video editing tool box, there is a (5a) zoom in/out timeline tool.  If you move the needle to the left, the time intervals get larger, such as in the (5b) picture, it counts by 2 minutes.  If you move the needle to the right, the time intervals get smaller, for instance, you could count by 5 seconds.  When you have many long video clips, moving the needle to the left helps you see the bigger picture of your video.  When you need to focus on timing of text appearing or trimming the clips, moving the needle to the right helps you get to the right moment.  The (5c) blue scroll bar will help you move around within your video.  To (6) trim your clips, hover your curser over the beginning or end of the clip and it will transform into a capital E with an arrow going through it.  Click and drag it in the direction that you want to trim your clip.  To (7) add transitions between your clips, click the black and white rectangle, and a box will box up with your transition options, and the duration the transition will last.

To (8) add background music, click on the music note, click New Audio File and find your file.  When you click the audio icon to the left of the music note, it will allow you to control the volume of your music and fading in or out. To (9) add words to your video, click on the Text icon from your tools bar, similar to when you are editing images.  Click where you’d like to place the text on your screen and type away.  Then, if it didn’t automatically, drag your (9b) text layer into a separate video group.  If you don’t do this step, the text will appear below your image and you won’t see it.  You can (9c) lengthen or shorten the amount of time your text appears the same way you do for your video clips.  You can also move the text around your video by clicking and dragging where you want it to go.  Note: when I was trying to get a screen shot for this, I couldn’t figure out why my text wasn’t showing up on screen.  It wasn’t until I was adding these numbers that I realized the visual was turned off (the eye to the left of the layer in the layers panel).  Oops.

Finally, to (10) save your video go to File, Export, Render video.  It will pull up a Render Video tool box, where you can name your video and then pick where to save it on your computer.  Presents (the tool bar next to Format) give you common options of where you would render your video to, such as YouTube or Vimeo.  Then click Render.  My video took 20 minutes to render.  The longer the video or the additional special features, the longer the time.

Those are the steps I took to editing my video.  But there is so much more that you can do for editing videos in Photoshop.  For more information, check out the book listed above.  Some examples that Kelby goes over are:

  • Add photos to videos
  • Add filter effects to movie
  • Make movie black and white
  • Fade in or out
  • Split clip into two parts
  • Apply filter to whole movie
  • Add movement to still pictures

That’s it!  Hope you enjoyed this short tutorial.  Get out there and get creating!

8 Tips For Working Out With Young Children

When you have young kids, it can be a struggle to find time to do the things you want to, like read a book or scrapbook.  So, of course, it will be hard to find the time to do the things you don’t want to do but have to do, like laundry, wash dishes, or work out.  I fell in love with the Montessori philosophy because you do these activities around your kids, either engaging them in the activity or allowing them to free play around you.  I got my day back and finding the time to do things became easier.  Today, I am going to focus on how to work out around your young children.

Disclaimer: These are 8 tips to help motivate you to work out around your children, but this post is about inspiration, not medical advice.  I am not a doctor and any workout plan should be discussed with your doctor prior to starting.

  1. Plan an Exercise Routine and Commit

It is harder to work out around your young children than to work out without them, but it doesn’t have to be hard.  The number one thing that allowed me to work out around my kids is to change my mindset and commit to working out.  The next thing that helped me commit was to make a workout schedule.  I have a schedule for a six-day workout routine that was planned by my husband (certified as an ACE Personal Trainer—please consult a doctor or your own personal trainer for your own routine to fit your needs).  Using this schedule, I was able to plan my workouts around which days the girls went to Library Story Time and which days we went to the park.  Knowing if there were certain times we had to be places, I placed my shorter workouts on those days and longer workouts on days that had a flexible time table.  But by having a schedule, I knew after breakfast, what I was doing without thinking about it.  This dramatically increased my success rate in working out than if I were to wake up without a plan and just go with whatever caught my fancy on Pinterest or YouTube or go running with no objective in mind.

  1. Do It Consistently

Young children, especially toddlers and babies, thrive off of a schedule.  It allows them to feel safe and confident when they can predict the next activity of the day.  I created a six-day workout schedule because it provided the most consistent routine for my daughters to expect.  They know that after breakfast, we go upstairs and work out.  When I would try to work out inconsistently, there was much more pull back or objections from my toddler who wanted to go outside or go to the park or read books.  So find whatever consistently looks like for you.  For me, it was six days of working out, with a rest day.  On my rest day, I plan an outing, like going to the zoo, which distracted the girls from the lack of working out.  For you, it might be every other day or three days in a row with four days off.  Whatever it is, do it consistently, and preferably, consistently with the days of the week too.

Story:  It’s now been four months that I have been consistently working out.  Last week, I was slow to get up from the breakfast table after finishing my bowl.  I knew I was going to work out, but I think I was trying to delay it.  Miss Monster noticed my empty bowl and stated “mommy all done!  No more cereal!  I want to go upstairs.”  I was not expecting this request so I asked “you want to go upstairs?  Why?”  “mommy works out!”  So by working out consistently, you not only eliminate objections from toddlers, but they hold you accountable!

  1. Prepare the Area for Free Play

While you are working out, your young children will be playing around you.  Make sure there is enough play items to keep them entertained during your whole workout.  I chose to work out upstairs, where my daughter’s can play in their rooms or come into the room I am in and play music on their CD player or with the musical instruments.  This gives them enough options to keep them occupied for the time.  Having music around is a great idea because often, my exercise moves can look like dance moves.  My daughters will dance around me or give me bells to ring or maracas to shake while I am doing jumping jacks or high knees.  You can and should engage with your kids as you are working out.  Talk with them and encourage them as you continue to work out.  Miss Monster learned how to count to 12 because I would count out loud for her as I did sets of 12; she often will count my sets for me now.

  1. Allow For “Special Rules” During Your Work Out Time

As a Montessori household, I try to establish the rule that we play with one item at time.  When we are done, we put it back on the shelf where it goes before taking out a new item.  (While established, I don’t expect it to be followed every time until the child reaches 3 years old).  However, while mommy is working out, I inform the girls that this rule is on hold.  They can play with anything and not put it away right away.  In addition, normally we try to only eat snacks at the table; however, while mommy is working out, snacks can be had anywhere.  These rule changes allow for happier children and provide better odds for me completing my workout.  For instance, if Miss Monster suddenly realized she was hungry during the middle of my workout, I pause and go retrieve something from the kitchen for her and let her finish it while I continue working out, rather than having her eat at the table and trying to resume my workout twenty minutes later when she is done.  Both girls know the special rules only apply for when mommy is working out.

  1. Plan a 30 Minute Work Out and Expect For It To Take an Hour

Always plan for interruptions.  Just because you are working out with your kids, isn’t a reason to ignore them.  If you do, they will begin to resent your workout time and maybe working out in general.  But especially with young kids, I always answer when they cry.  Any exercise or YouTube video can be paused.  Little Shark has just recently stopped nursing during the day, but it wasn’t too long ago, that I would stop in the middle of my workout to nurse her, once, twice, once even thrice, before I finished my workout.  Miss Monster will often ask for food during and I will have to get a snack for her.  (Preparing the environment for common interruptions, such as snacks, can help with this too).  While Miss Monster can pee by herself, when she poops, she still asks for a book to be read, and so I pause for potty breaks.  All the interruptions are not the most effective strategy for working out, but it’s still better than not working out at all.  When setting up my workout routine, I asked my husband to plan 30 minute work outs, and then I planned for them to take an hour.  This way, when I am interrupted, I am not anger or frustrated or rushed because I need to finish my workout routine in time to get the girls to Storytime on time.  And if I am not interrupted, the extra time is nice to read a few books before our next activity.

Side note: Most of my work outs are planned by my husband.  Occasionally, I watch a YouTube video.  This violates my no-screen time policy, but is a “special rule” for working out.  Plus, I find my kids don’t want to watch the work out video anyways.

  1. Be Aware Of Your Children

When working out around children, you have to be aware of where they are and what they are doing so that everyone stays safe.  I will often have a yoga floor mat where I plan to do my exercises; however, if Miss Monster decides to read books upon it, I will improvise.  When using weights, I make sure to keep them on the floor (once Little Shark pulled one off the coach and it nearly dropped on her toe) and I am aware of where Little Shark is at all times.  Miss Monster is fast, and while I am aware of where she is, I can’t always predict her movements.  There have been times where she runs out and gets knocked with a weight that I am using.  I use smooth, slow movements (because that it what builds muscle anyways) so there’s never any harm done, but a hurt ego.  (Case and point, the video shows an example of such an encounter).  I am aware of where my kids are and sometimes I will have to hold a pose longer while an infant crawls under my push up or a toddler runs past my dumbbell swing.

  1. Involve Your Child In Age Appropriate Ways

What I love most about working out around my children is seeing Miss Monster try some of the moves herself.  When I am doing a plank or a down dog, she will mimic what I am doing.  When I am stretching on one foot, she will often try this as well.  It’s creating great gross motor skills in her, as well as, building a foundation for working out in her future.

  1. Enjoy This Time With Your Kids

Like everything you do, enjoy this time with your kids.  They will do some really silly things while you are working out that become great stories to tell later that night at dinner.  Remember that children will grow up and things will change, so hold on to these memories.  I hope I never forget lifting weights while babywearing a sleeping Little Shark or doing push-ups while listening to The Wiggles and seeing my daughter jump and sway around me.

Benefits of Working Out Around Your Child for Your Child

Now that I covered HOW to work out around your children, there’s two big reasons WHY you should work out around your children.

  • Learn free play

Young children need to have time for free play.  If you don’t provide them daily time to entertain themselves, they will not learn how to do it and will be dependent on you (or worse, TV or video screens) for their entertainment.  This creates a loss in imagination but also a drain on you.

  • Modeling the importance of fitness

Child obesity is a huge problem in our country and parents need to encourage their children to engage in active play.  But if you do not model fitness for your children, they will not see the importance of it.  Children learn by watching you.  Even if they are not doing the exercises you are doing, by playing nearby and seeing the important that fitness takes part in your life, will instill an importance for fitness in theirs.

These are my tips for working out around children but I would love to hear if you have additional tips to add!  It is harder to work out around kids than by yourself, but it doesn’t have to be hard!  Check out the video below to see my real life example of working out around Miss Monster (27 months) and Little Shark (12 months).

Laundering Cloth Diapers

A reader mentioned that she loved my post, Diaper Free By 18 Months: Part One, because she had been considering cloth diapers for a while now.  The main thing stopping her is what I am sure stops most people: the laundry.  So this post is for you, the busy mom who already has enough laundry on her hands, to show that laundering your cloth diapers is really simple.

As a disclaimer, this post does contain affiliate links that may provide me a commission at no additional cost to you.  However, all the products are used and loved in my household.  Learn more about it on my Disclosure page.

Preparing the Home

Every home needs to be prepared for diaper changes, regardless of what diapers you use.  You need a changing table, diaper pal, and area for miscellaneous items (wipes, diaper cream).  When you exclusively use cloth, what you prepare the home with changes only vaguely.

My simple diaper changing station for Little Shark's bedroom

The diaper pail that I have fallen in love with is Diaper Dekor.  It is one of the few pails out there that provides a cloth option.  I definitely recommend having two bags per pail, because while one bag is in the wash, you can instantly swap out the bag.  The Diaper Dekor does a great job eliminating odors; I never notice a smell unless the bag is overflowing and one of the doors isn’t closing correctly.  It has a two door system, which I think helps keep the smells contained, but also keeps small hands out.  There is a lock feature on the second door, which has been helpful for my curious Little Shark, and the first door opens with a foot pedal for convenience during the diaper change.  I recommend one at each spot you change diapers.  At my house, we have a spot upstairs and downstairs, since running upstairs with a 14 month old and newborn each time, wasn’t a desirable option.

If you’re using cloth diapers, cloth wipes add no extra time commitment, save you money, and ease diaper rash.  Both my daughter’s rarely ever had diaper rash, except for when we used disposable diaper wipes.  There are many people to sell cloth wipes on Etsy, such as this store, SweetBobbins, but I just made my own using old bedsheets, using this tutorial from Alisa-Marie.  In addition to the tutorial, at the bottom of Alisa-Marie's tutorial she lists the diaper wipe solution that I use.  I keep my solution is a squirt bottle, such as the one below, and add the solution to the wipe during the diaper change, but Amanda Hearn, from TheEcoFriendlyFamily, walks you through the possible options for using cloth wipes here.

Finally, the number one life saver when cloth diapering is a Diaper Sprayer.  A what?!  This amazing gadget, is much like the sprayer next to your kitchen sink; however, it links to your toilet so you can spray the poop off your diapers with high water pressure.  If you’re not cloth diapering yet, this won’t seem as revolutionary, but just wait.  You will be able to spray the diapers in seconds, rather than soaking them and then using your hands to rub and rinse the poop away.  The diaper sprayer found in my house is Bumworks.  It was easy to hook up, hasn’t ever leaked in the 2 ½ years of using it, and works great.  If you’re using a sprayer, I would also recommend a shield.  I don’t use this as I am just careful, but there have been times when spraying that water or poop can shoot back at you as a result of the direction you’re pointing the water and the shape of the toilet bowl behind the diaper.

Now that you know what you need, what do you do?

First Stage: Newborns

Personally, I used disposable diapers for the first week of my daughter’s lives.  During that first week, meconium is being released.  This poop is black and tar-like and extremely hard to remove from cloth.  I found it stained heavily.  Since it only lasts the first couple of days, I opted to use disposables during this time.  If you decide to cloth diaper, I am sure you can follow the same process as found in the third stage.

Second Stage: Exclusively Breastfed Babies

Exclusively breastfed babies are the easiest!  As long as the infant has only ever been introduced to breast milk, the bacterium in the gut is producing stools that are completely water-soluble.  This means, you do NOT have to do anything prior to throwing your diapers into the wash.  I repeat, you do not have to rinse the poop out of the diapers!  Now, if the thought of that grosses you out, you can still rinse your diapers.  It’s up to you.

Third Stage: Washing Diapers Post-Introduction of Solids or Formula

Now that the poop has changed (regardless on if it looks different or not), you will have to rinse your diapers once solids or formula is introduced.  There are two methods to rinsing diapers.

  • You could rinse the diaper immediately, and then put the diaper into the pail. Some positives to this are that it will cut down on any odors, it will reduce the risk of staining, and it will make for a quicker laundry day.  The negative side is that it is one more step in your diaper changing process and you might not want to leave your baby to rinse out the diaper immediately.  I never did.
  • You place the soiled diaper into the pail and rinse them all out on laundry day at the same time. The positive to this is time: as soon as your baby is changed, you carry on with your day.  In my experience, leaving all of the diapers to be rinsed on laundry day did not cause any staining or extra odors (due to the pail I used).  It does make for an additional step prior to throwing the diapers into the wash.  You have to reach into your bag to pull out the diapers the diapers that need to be rinsed and sort them from the ones that are just wet.

I have a small bathroom, but I can rinse my cloth diapers just fine in the space

Washing Your Diapers

Now that your diapers have been rinsed, you place them into your washing machine.  I always wash with hot water, a double rinse to make sure everything is rinsed well.  I use Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent (for diapers and clothes) for the first six months, at least, to make sure my newborn’s sensitive skin doesn’t have any reactions to harsher cleaning chemicals.  I never use fabric softener or bleach on my diapers.  If you have a water-efficient washing machine, you may have to add two towels, pre-soaked in water, to add weight to the diapers to make sure enough water is used to get them clean.

 

Drying Your Diapers

Any material that is waterproof (covers, All-In-One diapers, Pocket Diapers, insert pouches) should NOT go in the dryer.  It will damage the waterproof abilities and your diapers will become less effective in keeping your baby’s clothing dry.  These should be hung on a line to air dry.  Anything else can be placed in a dryer, such as, your pre-fold, flat, or insert diapers.

Final Tips

That’s all there is to washing cloth diapers.  The rinsing process adds about 10-20 minutes developing on how many diapers need to be rinsed.  Diapers should be washed every 3-4 days so that the urine doesn’t start to break down into ammonia and start to eat through your diapers.  I tend to do diapers on normal laundry days: the first day when I wash my daughter’s clothes, the second day when I wash my husband and my clothes.  Therefore, it’s only one extra load on a normal day that I’m doing laundry anyways.  Once you get into the habit, it’s really quite simple and easy.  Plus, it gives you that little extra motivation for having a child whose potty trained at 18 months.

5 Things I Learned From 3 Weeks Without a Photography Challenge

I promised you a Photo Friday, where every Friday, I post a Photography Challenge or a Photo Shop Challenge to help you learn photograph along with me.  I had a great first two weeks, and then there was silence… 3 weeks (counting today) of no Photography Challenges.  Here’s why and what I have learned.

  • Creating the challenges takes time

I thought that I could read a chapter from one of my library books, take some notes, head outside with my daughters, implement the notes I took, come back to do some quick edits, and have a photography challenge with wow worthy photos ready for you in an afternoon’s time.  I guess when I write it all out like that it seems ridiculous.  Just reading the chapter and trying to understand the vocabulary and the techniques the author is writing about takes time.  Then trying to create a unique challenge, implementing their advice, without plagiarizing, takes time too.  While I hope to get to the skill level where I can create a photo challenge or photo shop challenge every week for you, right now, I am not there yet.  And that’s okay, because I am learning every week, and I hope you are too.

  • I need more than one afternoon to shoot

In that single afternoon of work ideal that I described above, it includes a single field trip to implement the new tips I learned and then BOOM, great photos.  While, to get the images that I am trying to accomplish, will not always happen the first time I try.  I need to bring my camera everywhere so that I can be taking photos constantly and implementing the tips multiple times and eventually the image I am trying to achieve will come.  I need to take impromptu photos, as well as, plan 2-3 photoshoots each week to work on my skills.  Just because I know the theory doesn’t mean I will be able to implement it into reality instantly.

  • Equipment matters

I am reading advice from many different portrait photographers.  Different photographers have different tactics and use different equipment to get a desired look.  As a beginner photographer, I do not have access to a bunch of different lenses or strobes or backgrounds.  So, as I learn what one photographer did to create an image, I need to translate that to how I might create a similar image using the equipment that I do have.  This also takes time, but it also means that I might not recreate the image perfectly because of the different equipment.

  • Toddlers aren’t always the best models

Sadly, my toddlers might not be the best models.  When I was trying my hardest at taking low-light photos and capturing the light in the church, my images kept coming up blurry.  I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong until I realized, it might just be because my little one isn’t staying still.  Since I want to photograph toddlers, they are the best at realizing what challenges I will come across with on the job.  I will continue to take pictures of them, but I should also explore other avenues (read: find other subjects to take pictures of) in order to try out the skill set that I am looking to implement.

  • Becoming a great photographer takes time

I knew I wouldn’t become a professional grade photographer overnight, but I think I secretly hoped I would.  Wouldn’t that be cool?  If I just had the touch and I could get these amazing images, right off the bat, without even trying too hard?  But that’s not how it works for anyone, so I will press on and accept that I have a long road ahead of me to learn all that I can.  But along that journey comes fun and laughter and memories captured on film and on this blog.

Good news?  I have two photography challenges typed up, so hopefully I can post one next Friday with some good images along with it.  So stay tuned!  In the meantime, check out some of my failed attempts below:

My attempt at low light portrait -- it kept coming out blurry from my daughter's movements

The only image that didn't come out blurry in my low-light scenario... but I can't say I captured my daughter's best side

Words cannot express how much Little Shark's expression makes me laugh in this photo--a natural model

This one seems like a good photo, until you take into account that I was trying for bokeh--that blurry, dreamy background effect

So many lessons learned, at least her joy is still conveyed!

Hope you got a laugh out of some of those!  Have a great week and keep shooting!