To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? That is a question?

Ok… this one is personal for me. Breastfeeding. I absolutely love the idea of breastfeeding. The actual actions and process is a whole other story. Because of many different issues, I was never able to breastfeed either of my children. It’s one thing I’m still sad about. But why?

DISCLAIMER: There are many ways to feed your baby – I completely support all types of feeding! Some are due to medical issues, some are because of personal choice. I am just sharing my personal story. You do you, mama! Your baby is fed, well cared for and growing, so you are doing it right! The type of food that goes in them doesn’t have to come directly from your body and doesn’t necessarily go in to their mouths. I have always supported women’s rights to take care of their child how they see best. So please do not take this as me disavowing anything other than breastfeeding. It is far from it. This is just my personal story and hopes with my children.

So, why did I get sad when I couldn’t breastfeed my children…. Disappointment. In the hospital with my first, the pediatrician made it very clear his stance on breastfeeding to me. We had to formula feed her in the hospital because my supply was being stubborn and she was crying incessantly. He was so adamant that I do not continue bottle feeding my girl or I would never be able to breastfeed. This stuck with me. And in my vulnerable state, it really made me feel like a failure. I remember the second he left just sobbing, full on sobbing because I was failing my child already. Thankfully we had great nurses and they comforted me and let me know I was doing everything right.

My babes both had tongue ties and lip ties. My first wasn’t diagnosed until 6 weeks. It was corrected at 10 weeks and by then she loved her bottle. We tried for four months to breastfeed. By the end of our attempts she had such a strong nipple aversion that anytime she even got close she screamed! I was devastated! I was already suffering from postpartum depression and this just sent me in to a downward spiral of self-loathing and self-hatred. I would regularly think: How could I screw this up? It’s supposed to be completely natural. How am I such a failure at something that’s supposed to be easy? And the even more unreasonable… Why does my baby hate me? She won’t even come near me without screaming.

It was hard! I had started pumping early on and had a decent supply by this point. I decided to pump from then on out. There were early mornings I would be pumping alone in the dark and just crying. Just crying at the connection I was missing out on with my little girl. Eventually, with some time and support from my husband, I was able to accept our circumstances. I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed her, but I was at least providing her with my breastmilk.

20180916_074331Pumping is hard! I typically had to pump longer since I wasn’t breastfeeding. I would usually pump for about 30 mins. As I wanted more sleep, I cut back how many times I pumped in a day and increased my time to 45 mins per pump. The “let-down” wouldn’t happen until about the 10 min mark (sometimes later) and because of my infrequent pumps, I had to make sure it was all out to avoid blockages. It was an involved process. Don’t think that women who pump just sit there. If this is their only form of extraction, it was a lot of mental preparation, physical massage and warmth. We couldn’t just lay back, because the liquid would be working against gravity to get in the bottles, so we have to lean forward – not comfortable.

The bonus to pumping, especially when I was able to sleep 8 hours between pumps, is that my husband could do night feeds while I slept! Or he could feed her during the day, or whenever I was too tired, or just needed some me-time. It was good for him too. He was able to connect with her while feeding her. I pumped for 11 months and with my oversupply, she was fed breastmilk exclusively for one year. After that she had formula, but was mainly eating solids and other drinks.

Cry Breastmilk Meme

Then my son came. I thought, this is it! This is my chance to finally breastfeed. He latched ok, but after the first feed, he would start unlatching within a minute of latching on. He would not stay on for longer. Noticing this, and with my previous experience, I brought my pump with me to the hospital and started pumping. I still tried to breastfeed him, worked with the specialist at the hospital, and just couldn’t do anything. He lost a lot of weight for a newborn. The pediatrician almost didn’t let us leave the hospital, but since he knew we were going to our provider the next day, he let us go. He had a much more prominent tongue tie and with his major weight loss, we got him in for a revision right away. It didn’t seem to help his latching on and off. We saw a few IBCLCs and they noted that he wasn’t sucking as hard as he should.

20181002_142832If you have read any of my other posts, you would know that we discovered he had hypotonia (low tone). This affects every aspect of his body, including his mouth, jaw and neck muscles. After about 2 months of attempting, and failing for different reasons, we resorted to the bottle and me pumping again. Another disappointment. I wasn’t devastated like the first time, but I was still saddened to know that this wasn’t going to happen. We also knew he was my last (due to my age and health). It was bittersweet. This time around, I didn’t pump nearly as long, stopping at 8 months. After my over supply wore out, we used formula.

When you set it up in your mind how you want something to go and then it doesn’t go that way at all, you can be heart-broken. And I was! This was a personal goal I had and failed. But looking back, I’m so happy I was able to pump. This gave family members and close people in our life a chance to also feed our babes from a young age.

I salute all those mama’s out there who are able to breastfeed. I salute all the mama’s out there are are not breastfeeding, for whatever reason! Having a child and caring for that child is difficult. There’s so much information out there and it contradicts itself over and over again. Us mamas have to do the best we can with the information we’re given. This includes how to handle breastfeeding or not breastfeeding our child. DO NOT let anyone tell you that the way you’re choosing to feed your child is wrong!

Pregnancy after 35…

I had the luxury of getting a lovely little stamp (well typed and printed) on all of my pregnancy records: Advanced Maternal Age. If turning 35 isn’t enough about starting to feel that uphill climb, you are now considered “at risk” just because you hit that 35 mark.

Old PregnantNow, I had other risk factors that were much more serious than just my age. I was considered obese and also have hypertension (high blood pressure). Those items, I would think, should be much more at the forefront of someone’s records than “Advanced Maternal Age”. Perfectly healthy women, with no previous issues, still get this stamp of “disapproval” from our lovely medical community.

Please do not misunderstand my words. I loved my OB/GYN. She supported me through miscarriages, first birth (with HBP) and my second birth (with the AMA). She was amazingly supportive throughout the whole thing and only once mentioned the age thing early during the pregnancy.

First, why do we get this tag anyway? This is not a science article, so do not expect a lot of references to specific studies; however, here’s what I’ve learned when trying to find out how my age could affect my pregnancy.

We get this tag because there are certain risk factors that increase as we age. This is generally true, but when pregnant, more so. Ladies, if you’ve been pregnant, you know. If you haven’t been pregnant, you understand. Pregnancy is HARD. It’s truly the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever endured in my life. (No, I haven’t climbed Mt. Everest.) Then add to that our naturally aging bodies. It’s a lot for our system to handle. Sometimes, it’s too much.

Some of the most common complications with AMA pregnancies are (you may have guessed from the above):

  • High Blood Pressure. This can be a result of preeclamsia – a form of high blood pressure only found during pregnancy.
  • Gestational Diabetes. I had this with my second (after I turned 35).
  • Genetic abnormalities. This can include Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome).

There are other factors, but when my OB talked to me about it, these were the three big ones she brought up – maybe because they were the ones to most likely affect me, but ultimately they did in one pregnancy or another. Due to my other conditions (HBP and Gestational Diabetes), I also saw a perinatal doctor. These are the docs who deal with the realities of high risk pregnancies on a daily basis. Either the baby has high risk factors or the mother, as in my case. When I worked with my perinatal doc, he explained more to me about the AMA risk factors. However, his big three were the above mentioned.

Because of my early miscarriage, we did the early genetic screening on all my pregnancies (including the miscarriage – before knowing). My first screening came back that the baby had Down Syndrome. We found this out the day we also found out she passed. (A whole other blog on that…) It was most likely the heart not developing properly, which is common with babies who have Down Syndrome. However, with that we knew every time after that we would be getting the genetic testing.

This is something that is recommended for women over the age of 35. I highly recommend it for everyone woman! There are many reasons, but for me the research in early genetic testing is critical. It can help doctors determine possible reasons for miscarriages (much like my first) that they may otherwise not know. This testing is not free, but it is affordable. The testing is also very general. It is not like a micro array test where they look through each gene. This is just a general overview making sure there’s no missing or too many genes. They can also let you know the sex of the baby (if you wish to know early).  Best part, they only take blood from the mother! No invasive needle poking in to the womb.

Having HBP and Gestational Diabetes with my second pregnancy forced me to eat very specific foods and be aware what I was eating and when. I learned that pregnant women release a hormone that is part of the cause for the Gestational Diabetes (it inhibits insulin production, increasing glucose levels in the body). This hormone is released in a way that your body has had the hardest time to lower your insulin levels while you’re sleeping. This is part of the reason they give you those icky sugar drinks in the morning. Bleh!

While the process of pricking myself four times a day and taking my blood pressure twice a day was not what I would call fun, I did enjoy the science of it. I enjoyed seeing my numbers come through and thinking about what it was that I ate to cause that number. I enjoyed recording the data and then discussing it in my meetings with the docs. I really learned a lot when I asked questions related to my specific eating habits and how they affected my pregnant body.

I have had HBP since my mid 20’s.

Swollen Pregnancy Feet

A side effect of HBP & Pregnancy – Swollen Feet. Only flip-flops fit them.

So I knew going in with all my pregnancies I would be “at risk” from the start. This, for me, meant more, like a lot more, doctor’s visits. In the end, I went to the doctor’s office twice a week for the last 6 weeks of my pregnancies. And I visited the perinatal doc every two weeks. This is tough to do when you’re working on top of that! You also get more ultrasounds – this is a nice thought. Where Gestational Diabetes can cause the baby to get extremely large in the womb, the opposite happens with HBP. The babies are undersized and underweight. This is why I got more ultrasounds. They wanted to track baby’s progress to make sure she (and then he) were developing within the norm.

My first baby, no problem. She was developing perfectly. I also did a lot during pregnancy on my own to eat right and exercise when I could. I didn’t gain weight until the very end and only gained 15 lbs total. I brag, because that didn’t happen with my second!

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36 Weeks Pregnant with #2

With my second, he was a monster baby. I gained almost 30 lbs total and that was still with me eating well. The scans always said his stomach size was over the 99% percentile… how can one be OVER the 99% percentile? His head size was also quite large. Don’t worry though, it ended up that he was just super crammed in my little belly. He came out 8 lbs 7 oz and 21.5″ long. So sometimes those ultrasounds are not as accurate as we’d like to think. Just know they’re a gauge, not a deciding piece of data.

So, why do I discuss all these things? Mainly to say that pregnancy, no matter what age, is a risk. It is putting a woman’s body through extreme circumstances. As we naturally age, our body doesn’t rebound and recover the way it once did. This means we naturally take on more risks. So add to that a pregnancy, one of the most extreme things a human body can do – MAKE ANOTHER HUMAN – and it’s understandable why this stamp goes on all of those medical forms. I was the walking, breathing, living embodiment of 3 of those risk factors. Some were not the direct cause of my age, but they certainly never got better either.

So, although the thought of seeing that on a form can sting, know that it’s for the best. It means your doctors want to take special care of you and your little human(s). They want you to get the absolute best care you can receive and want to make sure that the life growing inside you is healthy and safe.

It also means you need to be ready. You need to be aware that you may inherit these risk factors, for a time, so you can bring a life into this world. Do what you can ahead of time: get regular check-ups, manage your diet and exercise when possible. And do what you can early on: don’t eat for two, do continue to work-out lightly and see your doctor regularly. This can help make those risks minor. And if you do happen to get the AMA-related diagnosis, you can always make the best of it by learning how you can be the healthiest person for your baby.

AzEIP – Advocating for your child! (for families who live in Arizona & my personal story)

If you live in Arizona and have a little one with special needs, you need to know about AzEIP and Raising Special Kids. If you have a good pediatrician, they should have already directed you to these programs. If you have not been directed, you may want to at least inform your pediatrician of these programs.  These are critical components to helping your child become the best person they can be from an early age.

secrets-to-raising-a-happy-babyAzEIP:

So, what is AzEIP? AzEIP stands for Arizona Early Intervention Program. From their website: AzEIP is a “statewide interagency system of services and supports for families of infants and toddlers, birth to three years of age, with disabilities or delays.” There are so many great things about this program, but the most prominent is that it’s FREE to families if your child qualifies.

So, what is considered a disability or delay? Well, areas of Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Speech, Feeding and Cognitive Development are just a few main ones. If you suspect or your child’s pediatrician suspects your little one has a delay in any of these areas, you can file for an evaluation.  You do NOT need your pediatrician to do this. This is important. You, as the parent or guardian, can request the evaluation, even if your pediatrician does not. You can advocate for your child! I love this.

The referral:

A pediatrician only sees your little one for a very short snip of time. You see and know that baby much more intimately. You’ve spent sleepless nights, been through exploding diapers, and spit-ups galore with your little one. You fill out an “Ages and Stages” form at the doctor’s starting around 9 months. This doesn’t encapsulate the whole picture. Depending on your working status and general care, you may not even be able to fill out the form as completely as you’d like. This is OKAY. This is just to give your pediatrician a snapshot in to your child’s development. But, if you feel that this is not catching the things you’re seeing, you need to do a couple things.  First, talk to the pediatrician. DO NOT wait for them to notice these things – more likely they will not. Let them know what you observe on a daily basis with your babe. It helps him or her get a better picture when you’re communicating (and advocating) for your child. Second, fill out the AzEIP referral form. Though your pediatrician may not be terribly concerned, if you still are, fill out this referral. The pediatrician should not be offended that you did this and should support your decision as a parent or guardian.

My kids have a great pediatrician. She has the mindset of “better safe than sorry”. She recommended I refer my daughter at 9 months and my son around when he was about the same age. She explained the process to me and the likely outcomes for both. She helped me find the website and start the application process (we did my daughter’s referral right in the exam room).

hi-doctor-baby-852-cp-is-8colThe outcomes:

  • My daughter did not qualify for AzEIP care. Though she wasn’t crawling well, she was moving. Because AzEIP has a threshold requirement, she did not meet that threshold. And, with a little more time and patience, she learned to walk (16 months old). She’s almost three and no one would even know that she was a little behind the curve in this area.
  • My son did qualify, in multiple areas. When he was evaluated, he was not sitting up on his own, he was doing this “inch worm” type crawl to move and they noticed – as his pediatrician did – the hypotonia. He qualified in his gross motor skills (PT/OT), fine motor skills (OT) and feeding (Feeding therapy).

What to expect at the evaluation:

Well, the best thing is that they come to you! They will come to your house to do the evaluation. They like to observe your little one in their own environment, but also try to make it as convenient as possible for the parent or guardian. Typically, there’s 2 rounds. The first round, the service coordinator will come and do a general evaluation of your child. They will also just talk to you about your observations and get your insurance information. The program is free to families, but they still do charge your insurance for their part. This means that AzEIP will absorb anything insurance does not pay so you pay nothing. If the service coordinator determines that a more in-depth evaluation should be performed, they will schedule a second visit with you.  This visit will usually include a therapist (or two) to evaluate your child more closely. Depending on what you tell the service coordinator, she’ll do her best to match you with the proper therapist so the evaluation is as efficient as possible. Due to their busy schedules, plan on a waiting period of about 2-3 weeks between evaluations. This is mainly due to linking all the correct people on the same day to meet with you and your child. At the second evaluation, the therapists will work with your child directly while you talk to them about your child’s overall development. This usually lasts anywhere from 30 mins to an hour, depending on what they need to check.  The have a chart they use to identify the markers of delayed development. There are 2 ways to qualify: below a certain threshold in one specific category (threshold depends on the category), or a combined score of 70 pts or less.

(Between the time that it took from the first eval to the second eval, my daughter began to crawl. This was the main reason she did not qualify at the second eval. So sometimes it just takes patience for your child to develop at their own pace.)

What to expect after the evaluation:

If your child was declined services, it may still be prudent to follow up with therapies elsewhere. The only difference now is that you will have to pay your co-pay/deductible out of pocket.

If your child was offered services, the therapists and service coordinator will go over the services for your child. They will also set-up a plan of action for the next 3 to 6 months depending on need. At the end of the allotted time, they will most likely set-up a time to do a re-evaluation to determine new goals and services.

(A good example of this is with my son. He initially qualified for physical therapy only. After his first re-eval 6 months later, he qualified for physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.)

babiesonthemove-57Being present:

These in-home sessions require a parent or guardian to be there for the initial meeting. Depending on the actual service provider, they may allow you to sign off on another family member or sitter/nanny. Mine did not – they required me there each time. These sessions can work around your schedule, as needed. Because I worked part-time in the mornings, I could schedule my meetings in the afternoons. Once I became a SAHM, I had the freedom to schedule when therapy best suited my son.

It’s important you’re paying attention to what the therapist is doing, saying and coaching. They only see your child once a week, or possibly less.  You are the one that will need to do these therapies each day. It’s tedious and sometimes difficult, especially if you have a second (or third) child in the midst. It’s critical to their development to listen to these therapists. They have special training and coaching techniques to help you best help your child.

Your child will likely resist the therapy. He or she is used to doing things a certain way, and let’s face it: Therapy is hard! It’s building muscles and developing connections that weren’t there already. Your little one is used to the way they currently do things – it’s easy. Now he or she is being introduced to something that isn’t easy, possibly hurts a little and definitely is not comfortable. If your little one is not vocal or does not use speech, your baby will likely show you distress through: Crying, screaming, resisting, trying to get away, seeking comfort – either from you or a favorite binky. You need to know that this is normal and okay.

The best way to prepare your child is to make sure he or she is well rested.  The worst thing you can do is schedule an appointment right when you know it’s nap time! If you are not doing feeding therapy, then make sure your babe has eaten enough to not be hungry. Also, you should make sure he or she has a fresh, clean diaper before the therapist begins working. Eliminate your child’s excuses to cry – this way if little one does cry, it’s specifically due to the training. sad-baby-si-770x513Though he or she cries a little due to discomfort, it’s okay! It takes a lot to retrain poor habits: just imagine if that cannot be communicated well. Imagine the confusion, distress and down right frustration. Now imagine you couldn’t communicate back! Your only way to say you didn’t like what was happening was to cry. It does get better! After regular therapies, your child will begin to be used to what’s going on around him or her and not be so distressed.

Know our goals:

You will set goals with your service coordinator and therapists about what improvements you would “reasonably” like to see in the next few months. These items may not be huge milestones. I remember one for my son was just to, while standing, side-step along the couch. That was it! It seems so easy and little, but depending on your child’s need, it could be life-changing.

Baby crawling indoors smilingAlso, you need to set and know your own personal goals. Not with your child’s development, but your expectations as your child’s caregiver. You will not be perfect about following up on therapy every day. You will not be perfect about providing the perfect environment for your child to develop new skills. It’s not feasible to think you can do it all. And best part – NO ONE is expecting you to! You need to be the BEST caregiver you can be for your little one. You do not need to be the PERFECT caregiver – they don’t exist! Note the difference – do your best, not what’s considered perfect.

At the end of all of this, there is no gold star, participation ribbon or trophy to be won. There’s no crowd of people applauding at the accomplishments (well, maybe grandma and grandpa). There is just you, your child, and your family. Remember that this is why you started this whole process. You wanted to be the best advocate for your child! Don’t lose heart, don’t let set-backs be disappointments, and just do the best you can each day. You are rockin’ this parenting thing!

 

“Of Course” – Hearing this phrase from a 2 1/2 year old makes me laugh

20190330_081327 (2)Do your kids have cute phrases they use? REAL phrases that they use correctly, you would just never imagine this little human using it? I do! She’s a talker and has been since about 6 months old.

She picks up on words very quickly and understands their meaning just as quickly. She uses full sentences and can even verbalize “why” she was doing something. Granted, the “why” is, many times, a two-and-a-half year old reason, but it’s great to hear her use words this way.

She speaks in full sentences, but my husband and I are the only two people on the planet who can fully understand her.  She has some words that make no sense.  We have no clue where she even got the name she came up with other than she made it up! Our favorite by far is “crannits”. You heard me “crannits”. For about a week, we couldn’t figure out what she was talking about.  She would get so upset with us when she would ask for her crannits and we didn’t follow through.

Back story: The week prior to this, my husband and I had our guest bathroom fixed.  The floor had some water damage and we had some boards replaced. My husband then bought the click-lock flooring to use and installed the flooring himself. He used the tile spacers to help him from getting too close to the wall. He had to buy the hammer and other tools to get the job done. After the job was done, we cleaned up the tools and took them to the garage.  This is when the crannits requests began.

CrannitsSo, after about a week of hunting all over the house for these crannits, we figured out her request. She was asking for the tile spacers! She called them crannits. What a fantastic name! We now all call them crannits. We hope it catches on.

This is our little girl. If she doesn’t know the name of something, she’ll make one up. Many times, when she makes a request of me… OK, let’s admit it… a demand… I reply with, “Sure, baby” or “Of Course” or “Yes sweety”. She has related these phrases with an act of affirming love from me.

So when I ask her “Will you do blah blah blah?”, more often than not she responds with “Of course”. It’s a perky little reply with determination to help mommy with her request. Many times it’s things like, can you get the wipes for me (because your brother has a dirty diaper and I didn’t smell it)? Or could you put your plate in the sink? Nothing major, just little things.

Then there’s the half breath “Of course” after she’s crying and I ask her if she wants to do something. This could be from “Do you want to go to bed?” or “Do you want mommy to give you a hug?” or (my favorite) “Do you want mommy to hold you?”

20190304_122946 (2)Every time she says this, it makes my heart giggle – yes, even in the sad moments. I giggle at the fact that she uses it so well. I giggle at the fact that there may be better phrases or words for that particular situation, but she still goes to her old stand-by “Of course”. She says it so matter-of-fact. Many times she’s saying it before I finish my question.

I hope she never gives up on this phrase. I love how she uses it. I love all the words she knows and is continuing to learn. I’m amazed by her vocabulary and ability to put these words in to full sentences.

Sports – the costs of “doing business”

Our oldest (turned 14 this summer) has been involved in sports since she was 9. Why? Because all the experts out there tell us that if kids are involved in sports they become a more well-rounded individual. We wanted her to have an experience where she had to work with a team and not just for herself. However, she doesn’t really have that competitive spirit. She likes to win, but is not driven to do so. She likes making friends and socializing more.

We gave her some options for a sport she could try and she landed on soccer. I personally hate soccer and always have. I tried to steer her towards softball (I played at her age) or volleyball (I played in school), but no. Soccer was what she wanted to try.

Ok, so soccer. What the heck are the rules for soccer? Something about kicking the ball and not ever using your hands. I never understood this, like I think it was just a way to make kicking the ball around harder if one could not just bend over and pick it up. Then there’s all these rules about who goes where and does stuff. That was my experience. My husband’s was similar, so we were jumping in together.

The time costs:Looking at watch

The time involved in carting her to practices, games, meets, etc. is daunting. I don’t know how some families do it. I tip my hat to the single moms and dads, the working families and all those that have so little time, but find time to do these things for their kids.

What I do know is that it takes a toll. I’m tired of the practices and going to and from to get her. I’m tired of all the games. My car is tired of all these things too! Time is magnified in our family because of having two littles under the age of 3. We have to work around nap schedules, bedtimes and meals. There’s so much to manage our time, it’s become insane.

The saying “time is money” may be true, but “time is sanity” I think works better in my family. Sports is a big part of that whole time thing.

The actual costs:

Soccer moneySo there are actual costs to this stuff. Yeah, I know, it’s like we can’t just let our kids play an organized sport for free and stuff. There’s usually a sign-up fee, then families have to purchase a ball, cleats, shin guards, socks and shorts. Sometimes, team shirts are included in the sign-up fee, how nice. With her growing body, each season she participates is costly. I know for other sports, this cost can be even higher!

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Receiving “Most Improved Swimmer” medal her first year of competitive swimming.

She also became interested in swimming last year. You would think a swimsuit, cap and goggles would be all she needs. NOPE! These items must be team suits and caps. Then there’s the pool fee and the fees to participate in the meets. Even with this being offered through the school, it still costs a pretty penny.

I’m truly grateful we can provide this to our daughter. She has gained so much life experience. I remember around her second or third season of soccer, she was just goofing off most of the season.  So much so that the other girls didn’t want to play with her anymore because she wasn’t trying when she played. This really got to her. She realized that it wasn’t all about being a goof and joking with her friends, there was real work that was involved.

This brings me to my next point…

The REAL costs:

Aside from all the time costs and the dollar costs, there’s something more that we’ve noticed with her. She’s learning about responsibility, integrity, teamwork and sportsmanship. She’s learning that it’s not all about her. The cost for her is that she has to give up her teen (and pre-teen) selfishness to work with the team. The cost for her is that she has to accept that she’ll make mistakes and the team may be mad at her, but it will eventually be okay. The cost for her is that she has to step outside her comfort zone and leads and guides many of the newer kids. The cost for us… sitting back and watching our little girl grow in to a well-rounded young lady.

20190812_203111 (2)And that is what she is growing in to with grace and dignity. Sure she has her teen moments: her angst, her eye-rolls, her pffs at our comments. But she also understands the importance of working towards a goal, failing and not giving up, and working with individuals to reach a common goal, even if they annoy her.

Think about it: this is exactly what us adults do every day. We have to work with people we don’t like and have no say in whether they stay or go. We all have to work for a common goal. And most importantly, we have times we make mistakes or just completely screw up, but we don’t give up and we learn. We have a team to back us up and know that this is just a moment in time.

So, bring on the new soccer cleats, balls, shin guards, socks and shorts. Bring on the new team swimsuits and caps. Bring on all the start-up fees. Bring on the trotting all over creation to get her where she needs to be. And bring on the early mornings and late nights. Because at the end of all this, she’s going to be how the experts say “well-rounded” and successful in this thing called life!

Isn’t that where we all would like to be?

Consignment Events – Getting rid of the clutter!

Ever feel like you’re in a never-ending battle with kids’ toys. I know I do! I pick up toys more times in a day than I can count.  Then there’s laundry! I feel like my kids have more clothes than me!

Clutter-CleanI am in no way an organizer when it comes to my kids stuff.  If you ever see my house like this picture, I would call the police because someone broke in and cleaned up! Though I don’t think I’d press charges, but rather hire them to clean more. This is just not my personality.  Ironically, I do like things orderly, but I don’t like cleaning up after other people.  Even if those other people are tiny versions of me running around.

Because I struggle with the cleaning, I tend to get frustrated when things aren’t clean. It’s a never ending cycle. So what’s a mom to do? After a year of consignment shopping, I finally decided to get my feet wet with consigning items myself. I know there are many blogs out there telling you how to consign items, what to price them, etc etc.  I’m going to have those notes too.  However, I want to take you on my magical consignment journey first! It’s like rainbows and unicorns without all that rainbows and unicorn stuff.

My first time consigning, ever, I consigned about 50 items total.  Nothing to really brag about, but again, I was just getting my feet wet. I did mostly clothes, with a few other items. My sales sucked.  Like I literally got a $12 check after all was said and done. $12 dollars?! The amount of work I did for those 50 items and only $12. It was depressing to say the least.

So like you, I did more research in to this consignment event sales thing. I realized that I need to really have 100+ items, but ideally 200+ items, especially if they’re clothes. I need to try to sell big ticket items, like strollers, rocking chairs, cribs, etc. if I want to see the big bucks come through.

So I made notes, and started combing my house.  I realized that we only really use 1 stroller, not the three we had.  So I marked the other two to consign. I also had a lot more clothes to purge this time around and was much more aware of my pricing. I also marked ALL of my clothing items to go half-price on that sale day. Score babyAnd you may have guessed it, but my sales did much better. I was consigning through Kid’s Closet Connection and they had three events in town. I consigned for two of the events and made over $250 – that’s after the consignment fees and franchise commissions. I was able to pay for all the items I purchased at the events with the money I made from the events!

BIG SCORE! After that, I was sold. It was so exhilarating to know all that hard work paid off.

So now I’m in my 2nd year of consigning. It’s tough to get organized, sort, clean, etc, but I know the payout is real. It makes the work worth it, especially when I just bought six months worth of items including clothes, shoes, games, toys and books that I didn’t end up paying a dime for after all was said and done. So here are some of my tips and tricks.

BE PREPARED! (I always think of Jeremy Irons as Scar from the Lion King singing this…) It’s so true. Do not wait until the last minute to try to consign items. Keep tabs on the event you wish to consign with. Know the dates like when the consigners can sign up, when databases are open and dates that consigners are required to drop off their clothes.

  • As your kids grow out of clothes between sales, put the smaller clothes aside. Even better – buy clear plastic bins to store them.
  • Same with toys, as your kids grow out of toys or you notice they just don’t play with certain ones (or your hate for a certain toy has reached the point of wanting to take a flame torch to it), store them away early so the kids won’t miss them by the time you’re ready to sell them.
  • Determine your need of bigger items, like strollers, car seats, etc. If you do not need them anymore because kids grew out of them, store them in a spot you can get to them later.
  • Things to buy in preparation for the next steps:
    • Hangers – lots and lots of hangers. I recommend kid hangers for kid clothes as adult hangers will stretch them. You can typically find lots on Facebook, Craigslist, etc for cheap or free.
    • Safety pins – BIG ONES – I have found larger safety pins are easier to use than the smaller ones. Amazon sells them for cheap or you can find them at your local Walmart in the sewing section.
    • Packing tape – you will need this for any plastic toys that you can’t use a safety pin.
    • Spare Batteries – toys must work! They must have working batteries. Make sure you have those AAA and AA’s on hand.
    • Tagging Gun – this is handy for clothes, but not a necessary item. Pins do the trick just fine. Tagging guns are just quicker (for me at least).
    • Washi Tape/Duct Tape – This is to flag your hangers. Some consignment companies will pull all your items for you, most will not. The tape helps you find your items without having to dig to deep. Washi tape is easier to use, but I find duct tape sticks better – to each their own.
    • Plastic Bins/Clothes Rack/Table – these are all nice to have but not necessary. A table to work at is nice. It’s easy to stand or sit at and clean, tag, organize, etc. You can spread out, which is important. Clothes rack is nice since you have to hang a lot of clothes and don’t just want them to get dirty again. Plastic bins to store items between events and use for odd-shaped items during the prep.

Sort, Organize and Clean. It’s critical that you really look at and sort your items. Is this resell-able? I always ask myself: Would I purchase this as it looks now? If the answer is no, determine if you could clean it to make it look better. If not, consider donating it instead. This is especially true of clothes.

  • Sort and organize items in to age groups and gender groups if necessary.  Clothes – this is easy, look at the tag. Toys, this can be a bit tricky. Google is my friend if the toy does not say age ranges. Many times the box does, but that’s long gone by this point. Bigger items will have manufacturer info. ALWAYS LOOK THIS UP. It is illegal to resell expired or recalled items (and just plain irresponsible).
  • Cleaning is such an important part of this process. The Magic Eraser is your friend! Make sure clothes are clean and nicely hung (more below). Make sure toys are wiped down and no grubby hand marks are anywhere to be seen. Bigger items need a good wipe down too. I go so far as to wash the wheels on strollers so they look more appealing to a buyer.
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This is my actual consignment corner! You can see the clothes are hung, items are under the table and stuff is in bins. It’s organized for me! Set-up a place you can work without interruptions.

A note (long sermon) on clothes. Clothes are what everyone is selling at these events. When you realize that most kids only wear their clothes from 0-24 months for about 3 months at a time, you can see how these can really flood the consignment market. Also, unless your pre-teen or teen grew up on consignment/thrift stores, they will probably not be to eager to buy or wear clothes from this kind of event – thus teen clothing is typically the hardest to sell. Be discerning about what you consign in clothes. Most consignment companies do not allow you to sell clothes that are missing buttons, zippers or have any kinds of holes. As a seller, you should also be a little responsible and realize that this will be going on someone else’s child – have some integrity!

  • Fels Naptha Bar Soap – this is amazing for organic stains like poo.  So many stories come to mind that start with… Well, “baby” blew out of their diaper again…
  • Shout (or other products) – for oil and food stains really helps.
  • Bleach for whites – yes, it really does work.
  • Steam your clothes! It’s important to do a quick steam on them.  I don’t have a steamer (something on my list), but I do have a friend who has one. I borrow her steamer when I need to get those stubborn wrinkles out.  Otherwise, iron the really bad ones. Wrinkles will hinder clothes sales. Make sure your clothes stand out.
  • Hang your clothes in an appealing way.  Do not leave buttons unbuttoned or collars out. Make sure shirt and pant hems are down (and stay down with an iron).
  • Bundle your clothes! You can usually garner better sales if you create an outfit from your items. Try not to sell pieces individually. I sell onesies in a set of 3 usually. I try to link nicer shirts with jeans or slacks. I also try to pair items that just look nice together – like a NFL onesie top with a team color pant. You can usually get a little more bang for your buck if you just take a minute to put these together.
  • Don’t sell winter clothes for an upcoming summer and vise versa! Some consignment events will not let you sell swimwear in their fall event or Halloween outfits in their spring event. Que Sera Sera. But as a seller, you should also be aware of this even if there are no restrictions. Most of the time, these items WON’T SELL and you’ve wasted your time and a little money to prep this item for it’s doom.
  • Sew popped hems or missing/loose buttons. This is sewing 101. Most people can sew a quick button on or a popped hem – if you don’t know, ask a friend to help. Even if this doesn’t look perfect tailored professional, it’s now sell-able.
  • Be careful about pinning.  Don’t pull or tug too hard when pinning or you can make a much larger hole in the clothes.  Try to stay in the hems or on the actual interior tags if possible.

Ticketing/Pricing. OK, you’ve done all your organizing and are now ready to enter info into the consignment database. The database will typically have a place for an Item Description, Price, Size, “discount” – half price day, and “donate” – which means the item at the end of the event is donated to the organization they’re working with. This is a nice option if you want to just do one and done!

  • Ticketing is important. It needs to be seen. If there are bar codes, they need to be legible. If it has color, it needs to be printed in color. Every event franchisee has different rules. You must make sure you follow their rules or they will not put your items on the floor.
    • I worked with one event that the tickets were quite easy. You printed on your printer on card stock paper. There were 8 to a page and you just cut it out and pinned or taped it on your item.
    • Another event required I buy specific sized slung white blank tickets, then printed the actual item label on mailer label paper and wrapped it on these blank tickets. It’s a hassle, but it helps the cashiers when they’re at the check-out.
    • Rules are rules.  If you want to sell, you play by the rules!
    • Include a DETAILED description of the item. Sometimes, items lose their ticket, either by accident or intent. In either case, it’s important your ticket has a detailed description of the item. “Brown teddy bear” is a horrible description. “TY Baby Brown Teddy Bear with Blue Eyes” is a much better description. Just find something unique about that item, and make sure that is listed in the description.
  • Pricing. Part of ticketing is pricing. You want to make sure your items garner you as much moolah as possible, but you don’t want them to not sell at all. It’s totally a balance. Clothes, even if you spent $100, sell for cheap. I have yet to price any clothing item over $10. I typically stay below $5 unless it’s a nice outfit or name-brand item. Some franchises will say their items sell for 60-90% less than retail. This can help you get an idea on your bigger items. This means that you should be selling items for about 40% all the way down to 10% of their retail price. This may seem low, but remember, you USED this item already.  Even if you only used it once, it’s now USED. Much like a car – it’s retail value plummets the minute it’s out of the box. I sold my Grayco Stroller and Car Seat system for $60. It was originally $140. But here’s the key – I SOLD IT. Someone realized this was a steal for them so they bought it. I used it for maybe 3 months and would have loved to sell it for more. But I knew that if I wanted this item to really sell, I needed to keep it lower.
    • Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Offer-up and other websites like this are a great comparison tool for items you’re unsure about.
    • Look up the original item on Amazon or the manufacturer’s website to compare actual retail price.
    • If your item is missing components that are not essential to the item function, depending on the organization it can be sold, but remember you want to make it cheap-cheap.  Someone else might be selling the same thing with all its components.  This is especially true of items like floor gyms that have all those dangley things that can come off, barbie toys with a missing shoe, or toy kitchen sets with missing pots and pans.

It’s great when you make that first sale and it continues through the event. Getting that money at the end of it all makes the work so worth it!

Girl with Money

It’s always good to just get your feet wet before you really dive in.  Pick a few high ticket items that you think have a good chance of selling and prep them. Invite friends to help you too! This shows you the true power of friendship – someone who is willing to come over and help you tag 200+ items! Just make it a positive experience. Know that this is a way to help you pay for needed items for your kids while also purging those items collecting dust.

Couch time makes my heart smile

My precious angel girl. She’s so perfect to me in every way. Though I know she’s hardly perfect, she just lights up my face with her personality. She’s feisty, independent yet also very empathetic and thoughtful.20190118_152408

One thing she is not is an early riser. Can I get an Amen?! This was absolutely wonderful for my night-owl husband and me. She would go to bed around 7 pm, and be in bed until at least 7 am. Yes! Twelve plus solid hours of sleeping.  No middle of the night wake-ups, no early morning “are you up yet”, our lives were golden.

Then we got the sledgehammer with my son. He thinks, “The sun might start coming up, so I’m just going to get up now.  Don’t want to waste that daylight!” He’s usually up by 5:30 am.

Our morning routine usually looks like this (note, I am NOT a morning person, so this is just how I interpret the morning while wishing I was still asleep):

  • Get the hell-creature of early morning perkiness up and feed him before he wails his banshee cry of hunger.
  • Oops! Didn’t change that pee-faucet catcher early enough, so now it’s leaked on his freshly worn onesie. Guess he’s going topless.
  • *hears the start of the banshee wail* Oh yeah, chair, food! *makes coffee*
  • Shovels 10 tons of food in to this miniature daddy creature (I don’t know where he packs it all). *takes a sip of coffee – still too hot*
  • The creature is now starting to resemble a baby boy, though he’s not too cute yet.
  • He gets a wipe-down, and is now free to roam.
  • OH CRAP! Forgot to close the baby gate to the kitchen, this baby has now knocked over the dog’s water and is trying to eat the dog food. Eww!
  • Get the dog food out of baby’s mouth. Clean the baby, clean the floor. Change the diaper – yeah! that’s what it’s called – again.
  • He now smiles his wide mouth, ear-to-ear smile.  He’s starting to look like my cute baby boy now! I smile back.
  • Allow him to roam again, this time with the kitchen gated off.
  • Go to the kitchen and make my breakfast – oh no! where did I sit that coffee down?!
  • *gets coffee and takes sip – too cold* I dump the cold coffee and start over.
  • *takes sip of new coffee – too hot, but still chug it* I shovel my breakfast as my sweet-sweet boy stands up and tries to grab it from me. I literally have to eat with my plate above my head or in another room.
  • Thank the heavens! He’s almost ready for his morning nap. Oh crap – forgot about that toddler of mine.
  • I look on the viewer, and sure enough, she’s awake, just laying on her bed.
  • Get toddler up, change her diaper ASAP and get her breakfast ready.
  • Now it’s definitely time for baby to go down for morning nap (about 8:30 am).
  • Toddler pushes her food around, maybe takes 2 bites and insists she’s done.  She then sits in her chair another 30 mins, because I am busy getting baby ready for bed (and let’s just face it, she needs to eat more than 2 bites!).
  • Baby goes down! He’s out for at least 2 hours.
  • Go back down stairs and force feed my toddler. I bargain with this child, because her will is much stronger than mine this early in the morning.
  • She’s finally “finished”!
  • I set her free to roam and she heads straight to the couch. Gets a pillow and blanket and asks to watch something on the TV.

I give this all to you to get to this point in my day. This is my joy moment. I love when she just wants to lay on the couch, many times lay on me as well, and “wake up”. We usually watch some show on our Roku, or a movie, but it’s our time. It’s just her and me sitting together, cuddling, talking, and eventually playing.

It’s almost as if she knows I need a break. Our little guy, I love him so much, is such an early riser. He’s so energetic when he wakes, and I just can’t keep up in the morning. It’s as though she feels this and knows – or so I’d like to think that.

I really believe she’s just like her daddy. They take a while to really get revving in the morning. Usually, they like to lay in bed for a good 30 minutes. Then they’ll have a small breakfast and just do something relaxing for another 30 minutes.20190613_083807

I know these moments won’t last forever, though there is a part of me that wishes they would. I know it’s fleeting, and I soak it up. There will be a day she will hide in her room, listening to her music with ear buds and not want to be around us any more than humanly possible. So I hold on to this time. This is our calm time, our quiet time, our cuddle time. It’s my joy time!