Thursday, April 29, 2010

How having a baby can actually HELP you save money and go easier on the environment.

Here's something you may not hear that often: For me, living frugally has actually been easier with a baby!

"How is this possible?," you may ask: "Everyone is always going on about how much babies cost! Layettes, strollers, baby clothes, nurseries, more mouths to feed, etc.!"

It's simple: We don't have any time to spend money. And we rarely leave the house.

Also, we made some really cheap parenting choices. For example, cosleeping: Who needs a nursery? Who needs a crib, even? (We do have a crib that was handed down to us - it works great as a dog bed.) I mean, cosleeping even saves money on warm fleece sleepers! Now, this wasn't exactly a "parenting choice" - it was more Joseph Roscoe's choice. Newborn Joe just expected to sleep in bed with me, next to a breast (you just never know when you might want a little warm milk, right?). And he protested loudly when we attempted to arrange things otherwise. And, well ... what can I say? What Joe wants, Joe gets.

Or, breastfeeding: It's great for your baby, and breastmilk provides perfect nutrition, and bonding, yada yada yada, you've heard it all before. But it's also super convenient, great for the environment (no packaging!), nearly free, and helps you lose your baby weight while eating buttermilk pancakes for dinner! It's like, win, win, win, win. (For the record: So worth the early struggles, and I had me some early struggles.)

We love second-hand and hand-me-down stuff in this house. Our stroller and (unused) crib were both hand-me-downs, and they work great (as mentioned, the latter works great as a dog bed). Second-hand baby clothes are totally the way to go. Fancy baby clothes (think teeny button-down shirt and baby sweater vest) seem irresistably cute, until your baby pukes all over them, smears curried sweet potato on them, and then crawls through the mud in them - all before 10 a.m. (and that's assuming the outfit survived the morning poop). Plus they grow out of them in a nanosecond. Yeah, I got over expensive baby clothes, and quick. (Of course, Joe looks cute in everything, right? He would, in fact, look cute in a paper bag. Might need to try that.)

But mostly, the "Babies are Costly" theory fails to take into account all of the money you can save by never leaving the house. Restaurants? Once the child is mobile, the pain-in-the-ass factor starts to far outweigh the someone-else-is-cooking-and-cleaning factor. Movies? Concerts? Bars? Even if we could stay awake past 9:30 p.m., babysitting is not that cheap. Shopping? Grocery shopping is a production these days. Clothing shopping is just not happening.

Which is okay, because I've decided that really, I only need one pair of jeans (or maybe two), as long as that pair is really cute.

Someone, please check my pulse!

So I have been taking Joe on strolls around the lake, going to the park, taking my lunch to work, going to the library (revolutionary!), and staying home to make casseroles and loaves of bread from scratch. Steve and I drink beer from bottles (although I do miss ordering a cold pint now and then), and we wear the same beat-up, snot-smeared clothes forever and ever. And we tell ourselves that this is frugal and environmentally sound, rather than just, you know, dull. And here's the real secret: It's not dull at all. It's a ton of fun. I mean, have you seen how cute this child is?

 (Here's Joe with a genuine sock monkey, made by yours truly. And as you can see, we have spent a little money on baby gates.)

P.S. What was that you just said? "College?" I'm sorry, I can't quite hear you - I have curried sweet potato in my ear.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A year ago today.

This is what I looked like a year ago today (or thereabouts):

I remember this time well. My due date was still a week or so away, but I was ready. My back hurt. A lot. My hips creaked and popped when I walked. I stumbled and fell frequently (much to the alarm of onlookers, who would rush to the aid of the clumsy, enormously pregnant woman).

I was excited and anxious. I couldn't wait to meet this baby! I had outgrown my maternity clothes.

I couldn't sleep. I couldn't get comfortable. The sound of my hips creaking woke me up. Every baby kick left me winded and breathless. So I stayed up late every night reading excellent memoirs about frightening mothers on our reclining couch. (Two rules for life: (1) Never go to the grocery store when you are hungry; and (2) Never go to the La-Z-Boy outlet when you are very pregnant.)

Patience is not my forté. Nor is bearing discomfort quietly (sorry, Steve!). My mom jokes about how she is a member of the "Bitch and Moan School of Enlightenment." Okay, she might have said, "We are members," mother and daughter. Whining was, and continues to be, my favorite coping mechanism. It is not generally mentioned in the natural childbirth literature as a coping skill in labor, but I relied heavily on it then as well.

(Actually, it is mentioned in the natural childbirth literature. The great Ina May Gaskin says: "If you can't be a hero, you can at least be funny while being a chicken." Words to live by.)

I was convinced that I was going to be pregnant forever. I admit, I was somewhat unclear on the details, but I was pretty convinced that this baby would stay in there for years, and I would have to give birth to a school-aged child, or worse, a hundred pound teenager, and - yikes - that really would be unpleasant!

When my mother told me that "totally losing your mind" is a sign of impending labor, it actually cheered me up. Quite a bit! I was like, "Well, I definitely have that sign!"

I ate. A lot. I took long walks (and stumbled and fell). And I waited.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Major milestones for Joe!

Just in the past week or so, Baby Boy Joseph has learned to wave hello and goodbye, taken his first steps, made the baby signs for "more" and "milk," and learned to back down steps rather than dive head-first off of them. He has also learned to climb on top of our living room side-tables, but that is more of a "major problem" than a "major accomplishment." This, in the midst of an evil head cold that just refuses to quit. No amount of snot can slow this kid down! (His parents, on the other hand, are a different story. "Pop two Sudafed" has been added to my regular morning routine, right after "brush teeth.")

P.S. That's Doc Watson's "Dill Pickle Rag" in the background. Pickle Watch '010 continues!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Essential tools for the post-apocalyptic pioneer woman.

Check out Survival Seeds! It's like urban homesteading meets the Book of Revelation! I would love to get my hands on this 81 page manual:

Now, obviously, I'm taking the predictions of impending end-times, food shortages, and bare grocery shelves with a grain of salt, but I have to say, I love the idea of taking control of my own food supply. I love the idea of growing open-pollinated, non-hybrid varieties of vegetables, and gathering seeds for next year's crops (not that I have done this, but I love the idea of doing this).

The best part about Survival Seeds is that, according to this website, you can actually bury these seeds in their waterproof "seed bank" for up to twenty years, and they will still germinate!! If this is true, it is so cool. Is it $149 worth of cool? Maybe not, but it's cool.

And if all hell does break loose, why not grow your own veggies? I hear land will be pretty plentiful post-apocalypse. Look for me in a vacant lot, where I will be growing heirloom tomatoes and - sure, why not? - some "Rossa Bianca" eggplants. Can you think of a better end-time activity?

Victory Gardens? Survival Gardens? Crisis Gardens? ... Fun! Sign me up! But does vegetable gardening always have to be motivated by the end of the world as we know it?

I guess it is nice to feel that your gardening is very important, and could help win a war, save the human race, or help your family survive until the second coming. Otherwise it could easily be confused with just playing in the dirt.

So maybe just get started on it now. Because you never know when you might need some delicious home-grown vegetables.

 (Thanks to Stand and Deliver, for exposing me to this delightfully paranoid movement.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just when I begin to feel like a halfway decent (if not super) mother ...

Joe catches the evil head cold of death. And then, Steve and I both catch it as well. And then Rebecca catches it. And my world sinks into despair and doom.

I vaguely remember a time when, if I caught a bad cold or flu (which happened once or maybe twice per year), I would (1) call in sick to work; (2) lay on the couch, cradling a box of Kleenex in one arm and the remote in the other; (3) watch marathon episodes of Sex in the City, or Real Housewives of Orange County, or B-rated teenage girl movies, or something else wonderfully embarrassing and terrible; and (4) take multiple naps; while (5) Steve and Rebecca nursed me back to health, bringing me steaming mugs of Gypsy Cold Care tea and calling me "poor baby."

Post-baby, things look pretty different. Here's what a sick day looks like now: (1) Joe sucks on another baby's toys, catches his fifth mega-virus in six months, thoroughly coats every surface in the house with saliva and snot, and the rest of the household succumbs to the plague a couple days later; (2) I don't bother calling in sick to work, because, seriously, a day in the office sounds way more restful than staying at home with a snotty, fussy baby; (3) I come home early anyway, because I'm too sick to focus my snot-encrusted eyeballs on my computer monitor; (4) once home, I try to lay on the couch and watch bad television, while Snotty Joe has a fun time dropping beer bottles and matches into the toilet and eating dog kibble off the floor; (5) my husband, equally sick, eyes me resentfully as he carries Joe out of the bathroom for the third time in a half hour; (6) no one calls me "poor baby" and no one makes me tea; (7) I blow my nose on whatever I can find, including spare cloth diapers and dirty baby clothes; (8) Joe cries for his mommy; and (9) Steve and I cry for our mommies.

Repeat this process approximately once a month.

Thursday, April 8, 2010