June 09, 2015

The FreeBirth of Arabella

February 13th 2015-

Subzero temperature day.The ground coated in a white,fluffy blanket of fresh snow.
Not the kind of day I would wish to leave my house,especially not heavily pregnant.
I am far past the day which most women assume their baby would arrive,but having gone to 41+1 with my previous baby,I wasn't really in uncharted territory.
I felt good,I felt ready.I felt capable,peaceful,intuitive.
Babies come when babies are ready,and my baby decided that approximately 41+4 was the right time.



6am-
I awaken to a contraction.
Knowing that it could very well just be a random contraction,I wait for it to go away and I try to rest in bed a bit longer before my children can't possibly wait any longer for breakfast.
I continue to have contractions every 10-15 minutes through the next two hours...really short contractions,but also very real contractions.

9:30am-
My husband calls on his break and I inform him that my contractions have not picked up,but seem to have spaced out since the kids got up,so IF I were to have a baby that day labor likely would not pick up again until later in the day.
I called my mom to inform her as well,since she would probably be helping with the kids if I happened to start laboring down during the day.

10am
I decide to cut my oldest boys hair,as he has been asking for a few weeks,and what better way to help pass the time.
I begin to put on my apron,when a huge contraction comes crashing in.I grasp my door knob,amazed at the strength of the rush.
"Caleb,mommy can't cut your hair right now...please keep an eye on your siblings for a few moments"
I lose all sense of calm for just a brief few seconds and text my husband:
"I think maybe you should come home...I'm serious"
A shower was what I needed,so I took a hot shower...The hot water pounding on my back felt incredible.

My husband arrived home and took over most of the childcare duties while I rested.

12noon-
Go figure,my contractions had spaced out again and were much more tolerable.
I felt whipped.I had no energy,so upon the suggestion from my fellow freebirthers,I had a snack of protein,fruit,and dates for energy.
It was a special moment:I sat with my (still) youngest,my daughter,eating dates and having the occasional contraction.

3:30pm-
My contractions are picking back up a bit.I'm still not ready to call it (labor),but I am hibernating in my bedroom as if it is really my time.
I read a few affirmations and go into my primal mindset.
I am ready.My room is my safe haven.I don't need much to birth a baby,but I have all I need.
I tell my baby:
"I am ready to meet you baby"

4:30pm-
I call it.

"This is it"

It's not going away until my baby is in my arms.
It's Friday,so that means two of my children are to stay the night with my parents and I don't want my husband to leave,so I call my mom to come get the boys.
We start to fill the birth pool.








5:15pm-
My mother arrives and at this point,I am needing to really focus during my contractions.
I feel like my baby could be born very soon,so I ask her to take the boys back to her house and then come to help with our younger three so Matt can attend to me if I need him.
I lean in the doorway between my bedroom and the bathroom,staring at the door frame through each contraction.
"This is my baby being born"

6:00pm-
I am not aware of the rest of the world or even much of the happenings in my own house.
The birth hormones are making me so very sleepy between contractions,yet so aware of my body and baby.
I get in the birth pool and allow the water to cradle me as I rest my head on the inflated edge,dreaming of my baby,watching the visuals in my head of life coming forth.
I nod off,dozing in and out between contractions.

I decide to take a hot shower,as my instincts are to be more upright.

7:35pm-
After a soothing shower,I go back to my bedroom.
Matt has put Marlena in bed and I hear the faint sounds of my mom reading to Payton and Jacobi in the living room.
I start to feel like counter pressure is helpful,so Matt begins tending to my need during contractions.
As with my last labor,I lean over/into the birth ball while I stand next to my bed.
I start repeating an affirmation in my head during every contraction as I breathe:

"In peace,out tension"






It helped,so it ended up being my main affirmation during the entire labor.

8:15pm-
I tell Matt that I think he should put the boys to bed.
While he is getting them tucked in,I have several contractions and I have to brace my hands on the wall or in the doorway.I breathe deeply,slowly,with great intent.Consciously sending oxygen to my baby and my body.
I pray and ask God to help me continue to have such a peaceful labor and birth.

Matt comes in my room and says that the boys are in bed.

Upon hearing that,my body kicked into gear.Contractions became much more regular and intensified.
I felt tired between contractions-even dozed off through many of them.
A contraction would start to wake me,and I had to move as swiftly as a pregnant woman can,standing up and leaning over something while Matt would press on my back and hips.
A few times,I took too long to fully wake up and I just couldn't stand up once the contraction was coming on.Matt would hold my hand and we would acknowledge "Waited too long"
Matt brought me a piece of cheese to help energize my body.I fell asleep eating it!

8:45-
Matt seems tired from doing counter pressure,and I want to save his energy in case I need it later on in labor.
I decide to take another hot shower to manage my contractions.
I would turn the water super hot for the length of the rush,then fairly cool between contractions so my body could cool down.
My water hadn't broken and there was no visible bloody show.
I experienced a blissful contraction,one that must have been chuck full of oxytocin.
I felt so good being upright,standing and bracing against the shower wall.






"I could have this baby right here in the shower,standing up"

It sounded like a wonderful plan.I felt very flexible in regards to how I would give birth.

There was a lot of pressure.
I talked to baby a lot:
"Baby come out,come on baby"

I decided to get out of the shower and use the potty-and finally I had some bloody show/mucous plug.I think I actually squealed.






9:25pm-
Matt comes in the steamy bathroom where I am leaning over our changing table.
I feel a ton of pressure and a hallowing feeling in my cervix.

"I could have this baby right here" I think to myself.

Matt asks if I want to get in the birth pool,as it seems like one or both of us must have thought baby was coming very soon.
I tossed the idea around in my head and decided that maybe I did want a waterbirth.
Matt added more hot water to the pool and I sank into a deep kneel,leaning my upper body against the side of the pool.
My contractions were coming about two minutes apart,and after one of them I said "There shouldn't be more than maybe 20 more.I can do that" (I don't know where that thought came from,but I had to say it out loud)

9:35pm-
After a few contractions and Matt applying counter pressure,I felt a fullness in my birth canal.

"Hmm,maybe a few little pushes" I thought.

I pushed a little bit and I felt the "baby" coming down.
I pushed a little more,a little more and....

"Splush!!!"
My water bag.
It was my water bag-the amniotic sac.

"My water just broke" I declared.

I started to feel shaky all over like I always do during transition.
I knew I would be birthing my baby any minute.How exciting.How powerful!
The rushes were coming one after another and I felt so much pressure.

I decided to give in to the feeling to push.

After a couple little nudges from my own pushing,my uterus moved baby down.





9:40pm-
Baby was coming fast!

"I'm pushing,baby is coming" I said to Matt,while groaning.

"Ma,she's pushing!" Matt said,loud enough for my mom to hear from the living room.

I push a little more-one push,two pushes,three pushes..baby crowns.

I am still in a deep squatted kneel,and I feel my baby crowning.

I put my hand down and feel my baby-

Soft,wrinkly,vernix-coated hair.

"Are you OK?What are you doing?" Matt asks.

(He later tells me: "I was pressing on your back,watching behind you for a baby to come out!")

"Fine"

I feel baby's head touch the bottom of the pool,so I lift myself up a bit to give enough room for baby's body to be born.
I pant as baby's head and shoulders are born,never taking my hand off of my baby's smooth,cheesy head.
It's incredible.

I am catching my baby!!


9:45pm-
Baby glides out of my body and I grasp baby and bring baby up to my chest.
"Wow,you are so tiny" I think to myself.
I lean back into the side of the pool,cradling this tiny,cheesy baby.
I'm in awe.I did it.I just gave birth.
It had gone so quickly once things got intense.

Baby starts gurgling and pinking up right away,looking right into my eyes.

"Is it a boy or a girl" asks Matt
I feel around.I even look.

"I can't tell!" I say in confusion.
Matt moves baby's legs and looks:

"It's a girl!We have another little girl!"




I gasp in disbelief that I actually have a second daughter.

She starts to cry that hardy,newborn cry and starts rooting for the breast.
We start nursing right away.Perfect latch.
Matt brings a towel as I look baby over,processing this amazing thing that just occurred.

"Do you have a name picked out for her?" my mom asks.

"Arabella..we don't know her middle name yet"

My mom and Matt make a few phone calls and I sit with baby.

"She is beautiful" I think to myself.

I notice some bleeding is happening,that I feel cold,and baby is not happy either.
I also notice that I have some good cramping and pressure occurring,indicating that the placenta is ready to be birthed.
My mom leaves after congratulating me and informing me that I did a wonderful job.

Matt helps me out of the birth pool and sets my good ol' roasting pan on the floor next to the birth pool.
I squat down and proclaim sarcastically:

"This is gonna be attractive"

After I birth the placenta,we lay baby down and see that the cord is flat and white and since cord cutting was our choice of action,we tied it off with the special braided embroidery string I had made in preparation.
Matt weighs Arabella:

"She's 8 lbs 6oz"

I had guessed she might be smaller than my last two babies who were 8 lbs 8 oz at birth.

I chose to hold off on measuring her length and head circumference,as I was both tired and hungry!







"I am starving!Please make me some food!"

Matt makes me "Egg on a bagel" and I devour it immediately!

"Another please!" I beg.

As I wait for more food,I open the towel we are wrapped in...Meconium!

"She pooped!"

Matt holds Arabella as I go to clean up a bit and put on a postpartum pad.
I feel great.
I have an Oxytocin high so big,I smile and contently soak up all the good feelings.

Knowing that I will likely experience intense postpartum after pains,I take a couple of Motrin and a good amount of AfterEase tincture.
I snuggle up with this tiny new being.

I breathe her in,smelling her fresh little head.
She still has vernix in her crevices and it's caked in her hair and ears.




Birth is incredible.
It's intoxicating.Life altering.

It's about connection.Believing in that which you cannot see.
It's about faith and love.

It's pure,raw,primal.

It can hurt.It can be sweaty.Intense full body work.

It's the beginning of such a beautiful blessing of the relationship of mother and child.

I thank God for birth....for which it has changed me and impacted my mothering,my life,and how I feel about all things.





June 12, 2014

A special announcement

This family of seven can hardly wait!
In early 2015,we'll be a family of EIGHT!!










June 03, 2014

Offended by Default

Judging: We use the term to avoid truth,discomforts,feelings of unhappiness or guilt.

If you have never had someone call you judgmental,you have likely never spoken out about your opinions or beliefs on much of anything,at least not where anyone can hear or read about them.

Let me give a run-down of what it looks like in the mommy world:

If you breastfeed,by default you are judging women who cannot or choose not.
If you wear your baby,you judge the stroller pusher;cloth diaper,shame the sposie user;bedshare,cribs are evil.
You get the picture.
And if you actually give reasons or facts for why (you feel) what you choose is healthier,safer,or more appropriate,this just adds to the level of condemnation/judgment people perceive.

Terming every opposing statement as "judgmental" is severely flawed and closes up any opportunity to reasses /address our own perceptions.


A friend said something today on a post regarding breastfeeding,and I feel it's appropriate to share:

"Choices have consequences. If you cannot deal honestly with yourself about those choices without backlashing on others, then it really means you probably aren't comfortable with them. So much of what we say and do is really deep within ourselves"-Shannon M

There is generally a lot of research,thought-and often *admitting* to mistakes-involved in the process of critical thinking (the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing,synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion) to determine what is healthy,safe,or appropriate,AND those who do so are more content when everyone else is doing or saying something different.

"Judgment is not based on logic, but on emotional and conditioned reactivity that does not care one iota about rationality or perspective."


Often those perceiving the judgment are DEFAULTING to being offended.
They don't think critically when making/evaluating their decisions/and new information,OR they push responsibility for their unhappiness in their choices off on people who make choices unlike theirs or even merely for sharing information.

Everyone has-or will-experience feeling judged at some point in their life...but once you are at peace with your own choices,not only is it irrelevant what others say or feel,but a waste of your emotional and psychological well-being to be disturbed by it.

STOP EXPECTING PACIFICATION.
It won't benefit you.

Identifying every opposing view as "judgmental" and thus feeling the need to defend your position,shows a lack of self-acceptance.


If it doesn't serve you:MOVE ON.
Outwardly addressing every situation that you perceive as judging simply because it doesn't align with your methods of living is self-destructive:
  1. Because you don't need to rationalize your choices to anyone
  2. Because it's unhealthy to feel the need to do so and you will drown in the attempt
  3. Because you can't think critically if you default to being offended-


"EAT THE FISH,SPIT OUT THE BONES"


Feeling judged occurs when we internalize the perceived judgment rather than letting it go.
Process it,evaluate it,assess,do something or LET IT GO.


One more thing:
FACTS DON'T JUDGE


Facts seem to unsettle folks into feeling they are inferior.

When facts are stated and you feel judged,it's time to ask yourself "What makes me feel this way?"
If we can't approach opposing information with reason,we might do best to avoid approaching it at all until we have sorted through our discomfort with our own choices and views.
You own your feelings and choose what to do with them.
Blaming people or information is not conducive to being happy.

"To let go is to give yourself permission to feel and be okay with yourself as you are, without the complications of the intellect or the demands of action."


March 21, 2014

Dear mama,Having it all together is overrated.

Moms of four or more children seem to have a reputation for being either saintly or insane.



The gang


I have received emails from moms of 2,or 3-sometimes more-children,asking me how I do it-"How do you stay sane?"

I've been accused of "Having it all together"


At times that feels like a compliment....other times it seems absurdly comical!

I try not to allow my bad days to define how I portray my life as a mama to five children,but there are times when I think "I want to have it all together like *that* mom"

It's really laughable....no mother has it "all together"-

"Oh no,that's not true" you say?
Because *apparently* you have it all together-and this post isn't for you.


Well,as a mama to five little ones,I don't "Have it all together"

Sure,I have days where things fall into place with hard work-
The children are visibly clean,they actually have pants on,they will eat what is put in front of them without a squabble from one or more of them,AND they are getting along.
My hair gets brushed,I have on clothes that are actually clean,and I'm ready to go at a moments notice.
The kitchen is clean,laundry caught up,dishes washed and put away.
The trash is taken out,the bathrooms freshened up,the children's rooms tidy.
The floor is vacuumed,furniture polished,and the food is prepared.
The baby is fed,clean,and content.
Even the dog is smiling.

The world is beautiful.Everything is perfect.

But even when all of these *important* things are accomplished,it doesn't guarantee sanity.

Sometimes,sanity comes in another form-what DIDN'T happen:
The juice didn't get dumped on the floor,poop didn't get tracked through the house,the keys to the car didn't get thrown in the toilet.
A window didn't get stuck open in a rainstorm,a bottle of 150 pills didn't accidentally get strewn all over the floor,the toaster didn't catch on fire.

It's important to have a good sense of humor,since for me,it's more common that poop gets tracked on my kitchen floor than it is for my kitchen floor to be spotless!

Striving for purely productive days full of perfection everyday can get exhausting,frustrating,and it doesn't always lead to accomplishing all that you desire.

When it looks like a mother has it all together,it's usually one of two things:
1.) She is showing her "highlight reel" and is actually just as stressed as you are
2.) She is showing her sanity.

Option 2 leads to the question,"how does she keep her sanity?"
She finds balance.

I have known some stressed out mama's in my life (even been one many times!) and if they could remember that striving for perfection as a mother can lead to insanity,they would certainly be striving for balance instead!

Plan ahead-
Laying out clothes,showering the night before,cooking extra.
Prioritize-
Make a list (in your head if needed) of what things really NEED to be done,then feel accomplished when those things are checked off.
Delegate-
Ask for help on things that *need* to be done.

Choose your battles,because it's not worth turning a battle into a war over something frivolous.

Be kind to yourself,it's a great lesson for your children to learn how to:

FORGIVE. 
Forgive the messy house and everything that didn't go smoothly.
CRY.
Because sometimes it's a relief to cry.
LAUGH.
Because someday you will anyway,why not now?

Being a mother.It's amazing,challenging,fun,dirty work.

You have to find balance or you will never be sane!!

And sanity is so much better than "Having it all together"



Relax.Have a cup of tea,mama


*I have so much I want to say on this topic,but more in a future post!


February 16, 2014

The Problem with Attachment Parenting





Attachment parenting:
Often portrayed as though it is some sort of trend-and those who follow this "trend",as folks who walk around with a checklist,swiftly marking off boxes:



  • Natural birth "Check"
  • Breastfeeding on demand "Check"
  • Co-sleeping "Check"
  • Babywearing "Check"


And so forth.




This type of thinking runs along side and extends to what some folks define as "Crunchy" or "Granola"-people who cloth diaper,homebirth,use all natural products,homeschool etc.

Maybe it seems a bit unorthodox coming from a person who writes a blog with the word "Crunchy" in the title,but try to humor me.
In parenting,it seems that some people see raising a child as a list of do's and don'ts-if only it were that simple!

*I don't want to jump off the boat and say that some things aren't healthier in general-because some things really ARE healthier-and I believe that it's important to keep that in mind when making choices and setting goals for our families.

Because all families are unique-and of course all babies and children are different-the idea of trying to manage some "ideal" is unrealistic.
For example,I had never heard of Attachment Parenting when I had my first baby....BUT,I did find that listening to and following my baby's cues made our life a lot easier.

I have learned a lot along the way-and at the expense of my first few kids (wince.shudder) I have a list of a lot of things that I would do differently if I had the chance-but for the most part,there was never a desire to complete a checklist because I had no idea what would be on such a list.

I didn't know that bedsharing was "a thing"
I was also unaware that tending to your baby's cries was "a thing"

What I did know was that my baby trusted me to respond to his needs,somehow figuring out what made him feel safe and cared for.







Labeling parenting practices in a blanket term like "Attachment Parenting" suggests the idea that it's all or nothing and that adhering to these things makes for a happy,healthy baby.
This isn't ALWAYS the case-for example:


  • Bedsharing until age three might not be the preference of every baby-so far,much to my dismay,none of mine desired it after the first year.
  • Not every baby will breastfeed until age two-so far none of mine have past 14 months,despite my attempts to help them do so.
  • Not every baby loves to be carried in a sling-I have known several mothers who are very disappointed to discover that their baby hates to be worn.


This is just a short list of things-off the top of my head-which would make following the AP "trend" disrespectful to the baby/child,let alone often impossible,not to mention that every situation has different circumstances.



Now,don't get me wrong,I have nothing against the idea behind Attachment Parenting-I love how it has helped "define" (if you will) and bring to light a more natural method of raising kids,a more "biologically friendly" practice.
However,it's "X.Y.Z" appearance really just sets parents up with expectations that aren't always met by their unique situations,nor by babies with their own agenda's.
Again,I'm not saying that we can't strive for what we feel is the best and I'm certainly not saying to lower our vision of ideal.

What I'm trying to get at is this:
Parenting goes a lot smoother if we just learn to listen to two things:
  1. Our babies cues
  2. Our instincts






SO.....


  • We can learn and see that there are benefits to wearing our babies-we can give it a chance and it just might be the best thing ever.
  • We can bring baby to bed-responsibly and in a safe environment-knowing that babies regulate best next to mama and see how long that works for baby.
  • We can hold off on introducing solids because we know that long term breastfeeding and babies healthy tummy benefits from mama's milk offered often.
And so on and so forth.

I'm one of those sappy animal lovers,and I just love to watch how they keep in contact with their babies,instinctively-because they don't have books or websites telling them to-giving birth to,feeding,sleeping near,and caring for their baby in such a way that shows it's just NATURAL to them.


  • Our babies are actually very intelligent and they will show us what they need when *they* are ready *IF* we are willing to listen.
  • And we will provide best for our children's needs *IF* we reprogram our culturally conditioned minds to heed to our instincts.
  • We will create trusting,loving,and respectful relationships with our children,which in turn will assist them in becoming kind,emotionally mature,independent adults *IF* we become attuned to the emotional needs of our species that for many years has been deemed unnecessary to our existence.


I appreciate the term Attachment Parenting-it encompasses many practices that are healthy,gentle,and baby/child friendly,but can't we just call it what it really should be? 

Instinctual Parenting.

*Because babies aren't cookie-cutter and nothing is one size fits all.


Educating ourselves,listening to our babies,and following our instincts is the very best we can do,not following a "trend" or checklist.


Here is a cute video,just because this post wouldn't be complete without some animal and baby induced OXYTOCIN!



February 12, 2014

How do You Afford Them?

"I want another baby,but......"




*If I could get a nickle for every time I have had someone ask me "How do you afford so many children?" or "We would love to have a large family,but we just can't afford it"  I would be able to raise two families*


The economy isn't at it's best,but it has historically been worse.
I find it sad that people are so heavily burdened financially that they feel having more children is unattainable.
There is a chance that with some financial modifications,it wouldn't seem so daunting to have another child to provide for

I have already addressed some of the financial aspects in two previous posts which you can find here and here....this time,I will dig a little deeper into where money goes/how we save and how the children have very little to do with it.


Keep in mind that I am still learning-some tricks I learned long ago from growing up in a frugal household,yet other things I have just discovered in the past few months.
Remember,some of these things may not apply to you or you don't find doable for your family...this is just what has worked for our family.
We have made our share of mistakes and received our share of ups and downs,but we keep learning-we are human-there is always room for improvement!

*Above all of these tips and tricks,I have faith in God to provide and sustain,so that impacts my outlook substantially.







GROCERIES:

I wrote more specifically about groceries in  "What's in my kitchen that feeds a family of 6 for $450 a month" (I still only spend roughly $500 or less during an average month-it's rough to estimate when buying bulk foods that last a long time!)

Bulk Foods
I shop at Sam's Club and buy what I can in bulk-keeping in mind that larger volumes of food may not get eaten immediately,so I am careful about buying perishable foods from Sam's.
Things like canned goods,frozen foods,boxed goods are best purchased in larger quantities because they will withstand longer shelf life.

Produce
I try to purchase IN season fruits and vegetables as much as possible since they are cheaper during those times...Apples/Oranges/Potatoes are generally cheaper September-February,whereas Strawberries/Melons/Asparagus tend to be lower cost during the spring and summer months.
I do my best to only buy what we will eat and make it priority to consume it all quickly as to not waste any!

Keeping it around
I can and freeze many fruits and veggies in different forms in order to keep costs down.
We freeze corn/blueberries/strawberries and can green beans/tomatoes/spaghetti sauce/kosher pickles/apple sauce.

This year I hope to learn how to freeze peppers/onions/squashes for stir-fries in the winter months.
It's a bit of work,but really worth it in the end for home preserved food.

Making it stretch
Don't buy more than you will use.Freeze leftovers if they might not get eaten.Only make what will be consumed.Buy what will get you the most for your dollar....Sorry,Cheetos don't make the list of getting the most volume for your pennies.
Keep that in mind.






Household items:


Cleaning products
I make my own!!
I use vinegar,baking soda,occasional hydrogen peroxide,water,and essential oils-in various mixtures to create cheap and SAFE household cleaners.
I have ditched all chemical cleaners and air fresheners-no more toxins-and I don't need to buy them anymore!
*I haven't yet made the laundry detergent,but I'm working on it!

Pet supplies
This can get tricky since we have a horse for a dog.No,we don't have a horse,just a dog the SIZE of a horse!
I buy his dog food at Sam's club,so I save over what I would pay for a smaller amount at a regular supermarket and he gets a few of the leftovers with his food.
*I am interested in a raw meat diet for our dog (he's a rottweiler) so if anyone is knowledgeable,comment telling me more!

Various linens
I buy washcloths/dish towels/bath towels all brand new,but on sale-and I save the old ones for rags.
When possible,I buy bedding at the second hand store.
*The children use waterproof mattress covers and a pillow and blanket-this way their bed is protected and soft,yet if they have accidents we aren't stuck washing a full load of bedding.


Paper products
Reduce.Reuse.Recycle.
We rarely use any paper products outside of toilet paper-and a few Kleenex during cold season.
I cloth diaper 95% of the time and we just switched to cloth wipes for baby!
The disposable diapers I keep around are purchased at Sam's club or store brand.
We don't use paper towels very often,just rags (old dish towels etc) or a wash cloth.
I get the trash bags at Sam's club and we try to repurpose boxes/dog food bags to put our garbage in.
*This year I hope to put in our own vegetable garden and begin composting.





Cash Flow aka BILL$:



Housing
We pay a mortgage.
And for the size of house we are living in,the mortgage isn't much more than most people pay for a house half the size.
It's well insulated and has dual furnaces-one upstairs and one in the basement which heats the main floor as well.
*My father was raised in a family of 7 children+ mom&dad in a dinky little house,less than 1500 sq feet.


Utilities
Honestly,most people have to pay this whether they have none or a dozen children.
We have well water-so other than the pump running,no water bill.
We have electric...I try to do lots of cooking/baking at once to cut back on electricity going to oven use.We try to live in the dark-but because electric is outrageous and it has little to do with the children.
We have gas heat-and we wear warm clothes and do our best to keep the heat around 70-71 degrees.
*Our hope is to switch to an outdoor wood burner stove and do away with gas heat all together.



Entertainment
Again,something most people decide on with or without children.
My husband prefers to have basic television so he can watch the news and holiday programs-as well as occasional sports.
We have a basic Internet/cable package (I mean B A S I C) through Comcast-and we have Netflix.
We did away with our home phone service due to continued increase in monthly bills and opted for cell phones-one for hubby and one for me to have.
Our cell phones are NO contract and through Metro PCS.
*We have heard of very low cost home phone service-I will update as I know more,OR feel free to comment if you've heard of it!


Debt
Yes.We have debt
Even outside of our mortgage we have debt.
A car payment
BAD IDEA. (to which I will follow up on with a blog post in the near future)
Credit cards
It started with the idea that we needed to have an established credit score to buy a home.
So we each signed up for a credit card.
Then we *needed* a dryer,so we got another credit card.
Then a few offers came for credit cards,so we tried "just to see if we'd get approved"....and we did.
Then an injury/surgery/time off work.Those credit cards were used for groceries.
I'm not going to hide from the bad choices we have made-like many Americans who are in debt,it starts with a small snowflake and rolls into a giant bolder of snow and before you know it,"Kirsplosh!" You find yourself in the middle of the ocean of debt as a giant Iceberg.
DISCLAIMER: Our children didn't make our debt.Our bad decisions made our debts.





Personal care:

Clothes
I have a blog post about this HERE.
We buy mostly used/gently used clothes or clearance clothing."Buy Used,Save the Difference"
And we are NOT ashamed...I think it's rather clever.
Clothing is rated as one of the top costs to having kids-next to housing and food,but it's really unnecessary to pay outrageous prices to clothe your family.I save any clothes that make it through each baby/child for the next child to wear.
Thankfully,I didn't grow up feeling pressure to dress a certain way or in name brand clothing.With my children being homeschooled,I doubt they will care either.
*And if they do,they are free to earn money to put towards more expensive clothing if they deem it necessary for them to have it.







Misc
Haircuts/styling-
The children and hubby receive haircuts at home by me...over the years I have gotten fairly good at it and they don't complain about how it appears.
I am blessed to have a good friend who is a talented hairstylist,so we get together about 3-4 times each year and she puts some highlights in and trims my hair.
*the money we save by doing haircuts at home MORE than pays for my hairstylist visits

Birthing babies-
That happens at home!
*And  really doesn't cost anything.

Feeding babies-
I exclusively breastfeed,followed by babyled weaning-which is generally when they just eat whatever we are eating,so no expensive baby foods!

Reusable products-
I use washable cloth diapers,nursing pads,and wipes.I also use mama cloth/feminine cup.

Health care-
We pay for health insurance through hubby's work,but have been fortunate to not really need to see a doctor.
We try to take good care of ourselves and treat/prevent at home.






Extra

Eating out-
A few times a month we do get pizza or take out for the kids,but we've experienced periods in our life where we looked back at where the money went and realized "Fast food" SIGH.
It's not good for you,let alone even $20 per meal adds up!

Date night-
Hubby and I make it a priority to have at LEAST two nights a month to just relax and spend time together.Usually we try to go out for dinner,but sometimes we stay in and have take out.We are blessed to have a close friend who babysits for a small fee-but I highly recommend if this isn't an option that you trade babysitting with another family!

Toys-
Kids really don't need much to be happy....too many toys and they just get overwhelmed or the toys get ignored.
Our children probably have too many and I find myself sorting through them on a regular basis to "thin them down"
The quality of toys has become very disappointing,so we are settled on the "less is more,quality is better than quantity" mentality.

Technology-
Again,quality has become a concern when we spend our money on something that only lasts a few months.
Is an iPad really necessary?A new cell phone when the old one works just fine?
I believe we all have wants and desires for "nice" things,but happiness isn't in *things*
We have gone through our share of electronics-most haven't lasted-and I feel that we won't be investing our money in much-other than maybe a nice camera down the road (though the one I currently have does the job)

Gear-
All baby gear rolls downhill.
Cribs,car seats (provided they aren't expired and haven't been involved in accidents),swings,bathtubs-all get reused.


Repairs-
We are learning to do our own-hubby is fairly skilled at plumbing and auto repairs,and we do all of our own home repairs that are within our skill level.
We ask for help and advice from friends and family who are experienced in areas that we need to learn in-education doesn't have to be bought or even sought in a formal setting-it can be learned through those that are willing to share their knowledge,and often through trial and error.









To sum it all up....

Kids really aren't the expensive part of raising a family
Lifestyle choices are.


  • You don't need a car that entails a monthly payment-you CHOOSE it.
  • You don't need high end brand new clothing-you CHOOSE it.
  • You don't need an ultimate satellite package-you CHOOSE it.
  • You don't need that speaker system in your car-you CHOOSE it.
  • You don't need pre-packaged pre-made meals-you CHOOSE them.
  • You don't need a new TV-you CHOOSE to buy it.
  • You don't need credit cards,data service on your cell phone,to eat out every night....you make those choices...


And those are your choices to make-just like we've made ours.

It was our choice to have credit cards.
It was our choice to have a car payment,to eat out 3 times last week,to buy that thing that we didn't need.

Money.We need some to live,but I think it's unfortunate that we choose to need *things* to live.

I hear all the time,other women pouring their hearts out about how they have a deep desire to have another child,but they *can't afford it*


We all make decisions,and I can tell you that in many cases MONEY isn't what stops people from having more children.Unrealistic ideals or just plain preferences is what stops people from adding to their family.

Better choices about money goes a LONG way towards providing security for your family.
Every little bit counts.

It's about deciding what you really want.

I am willing to learn to be more self sufficient,more frugally minded.
I trust God to guide me towards making the best choices and providing for our family.


*Final note:
I am not an accountant and I am well aware that not all financial situations are equal.
I have been at the bottom of the bank and barely afloat at times in my life....in general,most people do with more than they need-and that is their choice.If adding to their family is what they would love to do,there are ways to do it.
And sometimes,you're just done having children....it's not my place to question what you feel is best for your family.



Links:

Debt

http://www.daveramsey.com/home/
Also,check out Youtube for videos!

Frugal living
http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/


Grocery budget
http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/tacklegrocerybudget.htm

Budget printables
https://www.daveramsey.com/tools/budget-forms/


DIY natural cleaners
http://www.abowlfulloflemons.net/category/daily-cleaning-101

Cloth diapers
http://www.moreorlesscrunchy.com/search/label/cloth%20diapers

Preserving
http://www.freshpreserving.com/home.aspx

Again,check YouTube for many tutorials and DIY tricks!

Clothing a Large Family on a Budget





People have this misconception that it costs a lot to clothe children-and depending on your resources and what you have access to,it really doesn't need to be that expensive.

Between hand me downs from siblings or friends,buying bulk lots off of sites like Ebay/Craigslist/local groups on Facebook,shopping clearance racks,and buying second hand,you can make your money go a LONG way.







My shopping tips:


Socks/underwear
I always buy these new-but,I buy them when they are on sale,even if it's a size ahead-and I buy several packages.
With lots of busy children,socks get worn out,socks go missing,and the ones that last through one child can be passed to the next!

Shoes/boots
I never buy new winter boots-unless I happen to catch them on *super* clearance.
Winter boots start at $24 a pair brand new-but my mother and I both keep our eyes out at the second hand stores for gently used winter boots-WHERE we get them for less than $7 per pair.

As for shoes/sandals,I try to get them on clearance,but am not opposed to buying used in good condition.My boys have always gone through shoes really quickly,so a barely worn pair will get as much use as a brand new pair!

Coats/winter wear
Again,I buy nice used condition.
The local Salvation Army has great deals if you pick through-and if brand names are a concern,they often get those in too!
I can buy a nice used winter coat for less than $9,whereas a new coat in the store is upwards of $35 or more.
Hats and gloves are plentiful at second hand stores-a 99 cent hat vs a $6 hat?
My children don't mind...they are always excited to get a new winter hat and they are aware that there is nothing wrong with gently used goods.

Outfits
For the most part I buy these in *barely worn* condition at places like Goodwill,Salvation Army,and-my new favorite store-Once Upon a Child.
I buy the lower cost things in the best condition...I tend to buy boys clothing in plentiful amounts because I know that between our four boys SOMEONE will wear it!








My extra tips:


Buy used,Save the difference
I love finding really good deals.I primarily buy the kids' clothes and most of mine at second hand stores,and several of my husbands shirts too.


Fill in the gaps by shopping new/sale when possible
I buy hubby's jeans brand new,but only because men's pants are harder to find in specific sizes,and I often purchase a few items for the kids and I that I maybe couldn't track down in the gently used stores.


Buy ahead on sale
I buy the clearance items and guesstimate what sizes the kids will be in for the next season,again considering that a pair of jean 75% off is worth it knowing that someone will eventually wear it!
I try to wait on cute items that I *can't live without* until they have a 40% off sale at least,that way I still get it in season,but don't pay full price! (Kmart is known for 40% off sales on In-season clothing)


Buy layer-able clothes
This works really well with my baby girl,but it could with boys too.
Tee-shirts for boys can work in cooler months layered over a long sleeve shirt or under a sweatshirt jacket.
I can still put shorter sleeved/sleeveless dresses on Marlena if I have a few *neutral* long sleeve onesies or shirts...I buy in white/grey/black/pink/purple and those will usually match dresses or little short sleeve shirts on cooler days,so she gets more wear out of her wardrobe.
I also buy more skirts and dresses for her,so leggings work well under those to keep her legs warm,as well as BabyLegs and tights.


Hair accessories
Nobody warned me how fun it is to accessorize little girls....so I wasn't prepared for oohing and ahhing over 1000's of styles.
I have found that making my own is cheapest,as well as buying bulk lots of headbands/flowers off of Ebay or Amazon.


Hand me downs
When one child outgrows it,if it's still wearable,save it for the next child!
Even if it's not in pristine condition,it can still be play-wear!
I store all the clothing in storage totes separated by size.I have SO many baby clothes newborn-3T and most in really great condition still!
Look for deals online
Stores like Kmart,Walmart,Target and other retailers have sales too,as well as free shipping if you spend a certain amount.

Craigslist is where other mothers go to sell off the clothes that their kids have outgrown.
Ebay is also a good place to score a large lot of clothing.I bought four cute dresses for less than $10 with shipping.
There are often local groups on Facebook where parents list their kids outgrown clothes.

Comfy lounge clothes can count as pajamas
My children don't mind wearing either the clothes they wore that day (provided they didn't get too soiled!) or just comfy parts of their wardrobe-like sweat pants-as pajamas.
I don't complain since it saves on laundry *laugh*


My cheap hauls comparisons (in like-new condition) to normal retail prices:


Carters infant 2 piece PJ's 
Used $4.42 for two pairs vs RV $18 (on sale!) for two pairs

Disney Pixar Cars shoes size 10
Used $2.50 vs RV $16.99+

Infant girls size 12 month holiday dress
Used $4.00 vs RV $24.99+

Baseball cap (youth)
Used 99 cents vs RV $9.99


Boys dress shoes
Used $3.00 vs RV $12.99





I spent a little more on Marlena's clothes at first...because I've never had a girl!
Now I buy gently used (you usually can't even tell they were worn) and she has a beautiful wardrobe
 for a fraction of what normal retail would have cost!



*A thought about buying used clothing: Some people aren't comfortable buying used...and that's their prerogative.However,if you consider that the first time you wear and wash something,it's USED.
If you buy from a retailer,chances are what you buy has been TRIED ON.



Again,it's personal preference,but I think buying used is a smart and thrifty thing to do!



And that is how we dress without it costing a fortune!