Monday, January 31, 2011

Top 10 Parenting Must-Haves

I am sure you moms out there remember the drill: you're 20 weeks pregnant with your first kid (or waiting to bring your adopted baby to his "forever-home"), and you have it on the DL that some friends are planning a baby shower for you. So you grab your husband and jump into your (probably clean-ish, since you don't have kids) car, and head out to the local Babies-r-us or Target. You grab a registry gun (while your husband checks his email on his phone) and! 'Cause it's your first baby-- and of COURSE you need all that stuff that Babies-r-us recommends. A swing that records your own voice singing lullabies, rocks six different directions, and shoots beams of light across the ceiling? Check. Some new-fangled electronic crib monitor that sets off your smoke-detectors and simultaneously calls the fire department and the pediatrician if your baby ceases movement for 3.5 seconds? Check. A convenient hand-held Itzbeen timer that lets you record when you last fed your baby, when she last had a bowel movement, what her daily horoscope is, and a handy feature that randomly picks her lucky lottery numbers. Check check check.

Things are usually different with your second kid. And as we await the birth of Girl #3, I can already see where this one is headed. The thing is, I hate baby gak. I HATE it. (I mean, unless it's really cool... but it's usually not.) It clutters up my house, is usually done in tacky primary colors-- or, if you're a bit more "progressive", pink and brown. You spend $9394857495 on it (or assume that your friends should, when they throw you a shower), use it approximately 3 times each (until you realize that all your baby wants is a boob, a clean diaper, and you) and then sell it all at a yard sale for $2. In my very humble opinion, it's largely a brilliant marketing move on the part of baby-gak makers; they convince you that you need this stuff, and if you don't have it, your neighbor will probably call CPS on you.

That said, there are definitely some essentials that have made my parenting experience a much saner and more pleasant journey. So, in the spirit of preventing you from putting that Itzbeen timer on your registry, I bring you my Top 10 Parenting Essentials. Don't leave your postpartum period without them.

1) 7th Generation Lemongrass/Thyme disinfecting spray. Kids are gross. And this yummy smelling cleaner almost makes you forget that you are cleaning up petrified kid puke from the plastic base of the carseat. Almost.
2) Dishwasher. This is a new-ish one for me, since we never had one until we bought our house 6 months ago. Seriously, it changes my life. Throw one of those little jelly-looking tabs in it, fire it up, and git 'er done.
3) A good sling/soft structured carrier/wrap/mei tai. Different parents prefer different types, but whether it's an Ergo or a Storchenwiege (or both), it's the best piece of baby gak I have ever purchased (a good carrier is pretty pricey-- but a) I buy them used and b) if you're not buying the crazy seizure-inducing swing and the 17 speed baby bouncer, you're actually saving money in the long run.)
4) booze Diet Dr. Pepper (for me, not the kids). Since I have been pregnant for 3 out of the last four years, and breastfeeding straight through the last four, the booze is low on the list. But Diet Dr. Pepper. Yum-stinkin'-O. As my dad would say, it's like little angels dancing on my tongue. Yeah, yeah, I know... caffeine, artificial sweetener- not so good. But so far not associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, so I am feeling pretty good about this choice.
5) Yummy Earth lollipops. I'm not disillusioned here. I know that organic evaporated cane juice= sugar. But somehow when it's made organically with beet juice and "other natural flavors", I feel like I am making a more righteous choice. I distribute them pretty much indiscriminately at our house. And I mean, how can you say no to flavors like "pomegranate pucker" and "tooberry blueberry"? You can't. Case in point.
6) Lunchables. Which leads me to a less-righteous choice, one which I hesitated to include out of fear of the backlash. But I am just gonna lay it all out there. Ok, my kids have MAYBE had these 3 times; it's not like it's an everyday occurrence. I am not gonna lie, though-- there are times as a parent that I plan very, very poorly. And I find myself at Target at 8 pm and I haven't fed my kids dinner. Yes, I understand that it's processed cheese food and congealed pig fat "turkey" slices-- and it probably can't qualify as dinner. So shoot me. The few times I have bought them, they saved me from meltdowns of epic proportions, and for that, I am eternally grateful to congealed pig fat and processed cheese food.
7) Bumgenius cloth diapers. I am a big fan of both the organic all-in-ones and the Flip covers with prefolds. GREAT diapers, and way cuter than disposables. (Oh, yeah, and they don't fill up the landfills like the plastic trays that Lunchables are packaged in. I figure they cancel each other out.)
8) Bank drive-through. I used to work at a bank, and felt righteous indignation at the frazzled moms in their dirty minivans who came through the drive-through with 17 different transactions. The only difference with me is that I usually try to take as many detours through the DT as possible, breaking up my transaction into 17 separate trips. 'Cause I've caught on to the fact that, not only does it get me out of the house, but my kids get a lollipop each time through. This, in turn, buys me approximately four minutes of peace and quiet. Which to me, is vastly worth it.
9) Burts Bees Baby Buttermilk lotion. This stuff smells divine. And here's the thing: my kids don't get bathed all that often. (Again, spirit of complete candor here...) The first-born used to get bathed at least once a day, far more often if she happened to pee-out of her diaper or spit up her breakfast. Now we've adopted a more laissez-faire, "Little House on the Prairie"/once-a-week approach... minus filling up a tin tub in the kitchen with buckets of melted snow. I have found that if you smear some baby buttermilk on those dirty little chillins' and pat down their hair, they are pretty much good as new.
10) Nap-time. Seriously, does anything else need to be said about this? If I could go back in time, I would skip the Itzbeen and swing and register for 2636463436437 of these bad-boys. And never once feel a moment of buyer's remorse.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Even though we ain't got money...

So I know it's not just us. Nobody has money in January. In many cases, it's because we've overspent on Christmas gifts or spent a small fortune traveling to exotic locale for the holidays. In our case, it's neither. Although I would commit murder to be in an exotic locale right about now.

It's our first winter as homeowners, and predictably-- there are expenses that we underestimated, didn't expect, or didn't plan well for. And as any do-it-yourself-er could attest to, home renovations always end up costing more than you anticipated. Especially when that home renovation project involves turning an old, musty garage into an awesomely adorable abode. Crazy how that works. And there are always things that need to be fixed or tweaked or replaced; I spent a portion of yesterday, during our snowstorm-going from room to room- identifying new places where our ceiling was leaking. And then in true melodramatic, stir-crazy, wacko-pregnant-hormone fashion, I began thinking about all the other things that need to be done... and about how the oil man just came and left us some oil and a huge bill... and about how we'll need to fix the clutch/heat/radio in my car, oh, wait! get a new car so that when the new baby is born, I can fit all my kids in it. And my heart immediately began to give way to fear. "Lord, what will we do? How will we pay for these things? What else can I cut out of our budget? Lord, what will we do??"

Let me first say-- I think we live fairly frugally. We don't eat out, I am trying to learn to be better with coupons, we cloth diaper, we almost always buy used clothing or get hand-me-downs from generous people in our lives. We don't have a fancy car, we keep the heat at 62; we're typically not reckless with money. And while we are feeling the "pinch" right now more so than in other times in our lives, we are, by God's grace, not behind on anything-- and have always been able to pay our obligations on time. These financial issues are what my missionary sister calls "first-world problems."

But none of that is the point, because there are always things that we could do better, always ways that we could be wiser stewards of our money. It's not the point, because God is not so concerned with my finances as He is with my heart. And the moment that my heart began to fear, I began to accuse the character of God: "You have not been good. You have not been faithful, You have not kept Your promises." WHAT?! Let's quickly pass over all the material stuff-- you know, a house, job, clothes, food-- "little" things that I somehow feel God "owes" me, and consider this: my soul has been purchased with the blood of a spotless Savior. The deepest need I have, the only one of eternal importance-- has been secured at the expense of Another. What arrogance-- that I can accuse God of not providing for me! That I can accuse Him of not being good! What a wretch I am.

Today, as the girls were napping, I was painting a closet and enjoying having a few quiet, kid-free moments. As I was cutting in the trim, I was reminded of the Scripture, "Your Heavenly Father knows that you need them." You remember the story, right? Jesus is teaching on a mountainside, to a people probably well familiar with poverty, and He cautions them to not be like people who don't know God-- who run after food and drink and clothing as though their lives depended on it. He reminded them, "your Heavenly Father know that you need it." I immediately saw my sin and began weeping into my paint. God met my deepest need in sending a Savior, and yet He still concerns Himself about the minutia and lilliputians that can seem so pressing to me. In addition, He gave me a wise husband who works unfathomably hard for our family; and even though I know he sometimes doesn't feel it, He gives my husband wisdom to lead our family with shrewdness and purposefulness.

I look at the heating oil bill; He knows that I need it. I look at my growing daughter and think of spring clothes for her; He knows that I need it. I look at my little car and my growing family; He knows that I need it. I look at our leaking ceiling; He knows that I need it. I look at the state of my soul, lost in sin without a thought of God; He knew that I needed it, and send His Son so that I could be reconciled to Him. May my soul be quiet and still before my God; He is, by His very character, faithful. My God is for me. I have nothing to fear.