Signing Time

Before I ever had kids I knew I wanted to use sign language with my babies.  I’d heard so many great things about babies who couldn’t talk yet but who could communicate with others via signing.  Plus I figured learning signs as well as learning to speak had to be good for cognitive development.

I have a little bit of a background in sign language.  We had a deaf interpreter at our church growing up, I had attended a few sign language classes, and we also learned several sign language songs at church camp when I was younger.  So I knew the alphabet, numbers, some basic words, and some songs.

We started using signs with Hudson before he turned one (I really don’t remember when exactly we started) and right around 12 months he started signing back.  Until he was 16 months though we only did milk, more, eat, all done, drink, diaper, and bath.  Those were all very useful but as he got older I wanted to start using more.  The problem was, *I* didn’t really know lots more (or at least, not the types of words that would be helpful to teach him).

I figured surely YouTube would have some videos for kids that we could watch.  The only thing we had ever tried before was the Baby Einstein signing video and to be totally honest it was super boring.  Neither Hudson or I cared a bit about it.  But after a little searching I hit pay dirt with this video.

It’s about an hour long and has signing instruction as well as songs.  We watched it a few times times – I learned several new signs, immediately started using them with Hudson, and within a few days he was signing them as well.

I did some investigating and found out that this video was actually a compilation of songs and clips from several different sign language videos in the Signing Time series.  Signing Time is a company that makes sign language videos for babies up through preschoolers.  Usually the dvds have a theme like “farm animals” or “colors” or “our day”.  I checked at our local library and they had quite a few of the dvds so we went one day and I picked several for us to try.

signing time[source]

(You can also check out their other free videos on YouTube here)

Every time we watched a new dvd I would watch it through with Hudson.  Thanks to the repetition and catchy songs usually by the time we finished watching it I had picked up most of the signs.  Then I’d start using them with him in our day to day life or while we read a book about animals or however it seemed appropriate.  Usually within a couple of days he had picked up on the ones that we used frequently.

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I get comments all the time from people who are interested in Hudson’s sign language and want to know how we taught him.  Honestly it’s just like “teaching” him how to talk – we talk to him, use descriptive words, etc. and eventually he has picked up on words.  With signing we both say and sign the words and again, he just picks up on the signs in his own time.  The catch that is most of us already know how to talk, but we don’t know signs.  That’s where having dvds like this comes in handy!

This was a perfect way for me to learn the signs so that I could start using them with Hudson!  I do not think that he would have picked up on the signs if I’d just plopped him down in front of the dvd (an older child might but I don’t think he would have) but us watching together, me learning the signs, and then implementing them in our lives really helped him pick them up quickly.  In about two weeks he had gone from 5 or so signs to 30 or so.  Michael also quickly picked up the signs, either from watching the dvds with us or just seeing me use them with Hudson.

The most useful ones right now have been food signs.  For a long time he could tell us he wanted to eat or that he wanted more, but now that he can tell us what he wants to eat it eliminates a lot of frustration.

It has been truly remarkable how much better Hudson can communicate with us now.  He is talking more as well as signing but the majority of his communication is via sign language.

If you have been thinking about using sign language with your baby or even your older kids, I recommend watching that YouTube video I linked and checking to see if your library has any of the signing time dvds.  You can also purchase the dvds individually or as sets from their website, but I haven’t done that yet.  So far we’ve just been checking them out from the library but I would love to own them all someday!

Hudson’s 17 month update

We’re already halfway to 18 months now so I’m a bit behind, but here’s what Hudson was up to last month (and a very eventful month it was!).

growth

I totally forgot to weigh/measure so we’ll just wait and see next month, but I’d assume he’s about the same weight and maybe a bit taller.  Still in 18 month clothes, although a few of his outfits have gotten too small.  We also had to loosen up his cloth diapers one snap.

I know everyone said he looked *just* like Michael from the time he was born, but I think he looks more and more like him as he gets older.  In fact, when I look back at his pictures from several months ago I actually see quite a bit of myself in him.  When I look at pictures now though it’s alllllll Michael.

I found this old picture of Michael flipping through a scrapbook one day and was blown away by how similar they look – I had to make a side-by-side comparison to show it off.  Twinsies for sure.

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At the end of last month he had one molar and part of a second.  Now that second one has popped all the way through and a third one followed right behind it.  The last molar from this “set” hasn’t come through yet but I think it’s on it’s way soon based on how he’s been acting.

communication

Hudson’s communication has absolutely skyrocketed this month!  He has added a ton of words both to his speech and his signing.

In addition to the words he could already say, he now says “go go!”, bubbles, ball, car, mama, dada, arf arf (when asked what a dog says), quack, duck, egg, cat, meow, shoes, cracker, moo, eyes.  That brings him up to 21 words.

And in addition to the signs he already knew, this month he learned: banana, apple, please, no, cracker, water, pear, shoes, grapes, hat, cheese, paci, wash hands, pajamas, book/read, amen, horse, sleep, eggs, clean up, down, ball, pray, peach, car.  That brings him up to a total of 32 signs, I think.

A lot of the time when we tell him “no no” we say it and sign it and then he will yell “nononono” back at us while signing it because he’s mad that we told him no.  It’s so funny to see but of course isn’t good at all that he’s doing that so I laugh inside but don’t let him know that I think it’s funny (that happens a lot – it is so hard to keep a straight face sometimes when he’s doing something that he shouldn’t be doing)

I’m going to do a whole separate post later talking about the tools that we used to help him (and us) learn so much sign language so quickly so be watching for that, but I just have to say that is has helped SO much for him to be able to communicate with us!  I feel like a lot of his frustrations we dealt with in the past have gone away since he can more easily tell us what he wants.  It is amazing how quickly he picked up the signs and started using them correctly.  And I’m thrilled that he’s started talking more too!

food

He still loves a variety of food.  We were at church camp for a week this month and that exposed him to a bunch of different foods that he’s never tried.  The aforementioned sign language skills have helped out a ton in him being able to tell us not only that he wanted to eat but also *what* he wanted to eat.

He is really good at using a fork but we haven’t practiced using a spoon very much yet.  Spoon-worthy food are of course much more messy and I just don’t want to deal with the clean up so most of the time if it requires a spoon (soup, yogurt, etc.) then I feed it to him.  We’ll start working on that…eventually ;).  I did let him try out a spoon with some yogurt one day but he mostly just dipped the tip in the yogurt, he doesn’t understand how to scoop yet.
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Our super big news this month is that Hudson is completely weaned now!  I wrote a whole post talking about that and how we weaned if you want to read the details.

Sleep

A nice change from so many of the previous month is that sleep is really pretty good now.  He sleeps 10-11 hours at night and unless his teeth are bothering him he sleeps soundly.  He’s still in our bed and he’s a total bed hog.

He takes one nap a day, usually after lunch.  Typically he sleeps about 2 hours, sometimes longer if he’s really tired.  I can lay him down for a nap and leave the room to do things but he does usually wake up several times so I have to run back in there and settle him back down.  Since I’ve been pregnant I’ve started using his nap time to either lay down with him and take a nap myself or just lay there and rest or read a book.

Several time recently he hasn’t even needed me to rock him to get him to sleep for his nap.  I’ll just be holding him in my lap and look down and he’s fallen asleep.  That is very out of character for him!

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Just to be clear he did NOT climb up here and fall asleep on his own (I may faint if that ever happens) – he fell asleep in my lap and I laid him down on the couch and he stayed asleep for a bit.
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new skills

While we were at church camp Hudson learned all kinds of new things.  He had climbed on a few things before but now can climb up in the recliner, on the couch, on the church pew, on boxes…he climbs on all kinds of things!

He climbed all over our suitcases and bins while we were trying to unpack from camp!

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One afternoon I found him up on the pew just hanging out eating a cracker (he looooooves crackers – he calls everything a cracker: chips, cookies, french fries, actual crackers and he’ll shout “cacka cacka” while signing it at the same time.  It’s adorable)
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He also has learned how to turn lights on and off so he’ll climb up on our pew and flip the light switch over and over.

2015-06-23_18.27.45 copyHe can get down off the bed with assistance.  If I turn him around and help him get his legs dangling off the bed he can slide down (he doesn’t like it…I think the big drop scares him) but he doesn’t seem to remember how to do it on his own without my help.

One of his favorite songs is “This Little Christian Light of Mine” and he knows to blow on his finger or my finger when we get to that part of the song.

adventures

Like I’ve mentioned before we went to church camp this month and Hudson had an absolute blast.  I thought it was going to be hard but honestly church camp was easier this time with a toddler than it was last time (when he was 8 months, I believe).  I think the fact that he was able to run and play made him much happier, plus I didn’t have to hold him all that time.

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He looked so big sitting here beside us at chapel!  That didn’t last long – he’d much rather play in the mulch during chapel ;).
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Mmmm Ningxia Red.

2015-06-17_07.51.47 copyI thought this Kiddie Car Wash was the coolest thing ever!  One of the men at church built it for the kids to use at camp.  Hudson was not a fan (duh, water) but the other kids loved it.  How fun would this be for a summer birthday party?2015-06-17_11.45.24 copyI tried to be very diligent about keeping a hat on Hudson, especially since he is so fair and his hair is so sparse so lots of scalp shows through.  We went outside one day and I forgot to grab his hat; I didn’t have to time run in and get it before my class started so I just used a bandana.  He’s cracking me up looking like a little biker dude.

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Speaking of fair skin, my poor little guy got pretty burnt at camp.  I tried to be so careful about putting lots of sunscreen on but it must not have worked (or I didn’t apply enough).  His face didn’t get burnt thanks to the hats (I know it looks super red here but that’s what he looks like anytime he goes outside and gets hot – it goes away once he cools down) and his legs were fine but his arms got toasty.  He had a nice little farmer’s tan and then the day that he wore this sleeveless outfit his poor shoulders got burnt too.2015-06-18_13.46.41 copy2015-06-18_13.46.48 copyBeautiful rainbow
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We had fireworks at camp one night and Hudson did not like them but he didn’t freak out like I thought he might.  He clung to me pretty hard and whimpered some but was much calmer than when he sees, say, a cat.  In fact, after he got over the initial fear then he just fell asleep while we watched them.

And of course our other big news from this month, and the next big adventure for our family, is that Hudson is going to be a big brother!

big brother baby announcementI love these pictures because they look so ironic – announcing that he’s going to be a big brother and looking not a bit happy.  But in reality obviously he has no idea what that even means and he was just crying because he wanted to go outside and I was trying to get a picture of him.  Ha! 2015-06-05_16.40.18 copy2015-06-05_16.40.07 copy

other firsts

Nearly all of Hudson’s “firsts” this month were injury-related.  He is definitely becoming an active little boy and with that come lots of bumps and scrapes.

He got his first blister and as a result his first bandaid for a boo boo (he’s had bandaids at the doctor’s office but never at home for an injury).  He was fascinated by his blister and kept pointing at it and poking it.  He was not a fan of the bandaid and cried when I put it on.

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He had his first scraped knees when he fell on the concrete at church camp and his first splinters when I let him walk on our deck without shoes (I won’t do that again!  I bet he got 20 splinters in 5 minutes and it took Michael forever to get them all out).  He also had his first bloody nose although I have no idea what caused it.  He woke up one morning at church camp with it bleeding (a small amount, not anything crazy) and the only thing that I can figure is the fact that it was absolutely freezing in our room in the lodge at camp so maybe that or dry air or something made it bleed.

other stuff

He’s completely over the shoe issue.  We don’t wear the Robeez at all anymore and he’s fine in tennis shoes, sandals, crocs, whatever.

He went through a thing early in the month where he was chewing on/eating everything.  I caught him taking bites out of magazines and receipts and multiple times putting money in his mouth.  He seems to be over that now (or maybe we’ve just moved everything out of his reach).

He also went through a phase for a few weeks where he wouldn’t give very many if any kisses.  He’s always been pretty affectionate so that was odd but now he’s back to giving all kinds of big smoochy kisses.

I know this one is blurry but it’s such a cute poochy lip kiss picture.

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I’m not sure how much of this is toddlerhood in general and how much is just Hudson’s personality but he seems to have a bit of a temper sometimes.  Thankfully he doesn’t hit or bite often (he does it some but not much) but if you tell him no or take something away or anything else that he doesn’t want to do he will pitch a fit (shout at you, drop dramatically to the ground) and occasionally will even bite the couch or table – you can see his mind working like “I want to bite something but I know I can’t bite Mommy so I’ll bite the closest piece of furniture”.  Thankfully this is not a frequent occurrence and hopefully just a phase!

He is in to everything that isn’t locked – cabinets, drawers, you name it.  I have to watch him like a hawk.

2015-05-29_07.53.23 copyHe loves to pretend to drink out of a cup.  These are actually the “feet” for a rooster from an animal nesting toy but he uses it like a cup (and I think it looks like those little cups of tea you get at Japanese restaurants).2015-05-30_15.02.24 copyHudson loves to be outside.  He’d play outside all day if I’d let him!
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He also loves to read or be read to.  It melts my heart to see him looking at a book.2015-05-31_07.24.13 copy

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He fell asleep on a bike ride with daddy and woke up with some pretty amazing helmet hair!
2015-06-02_18.41.57 copyFuture jouster, perhaps?
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It is so cute (and also amazing and scary) at how much kids pick up.  As soon as he gets down from a meal if he’s made a mess we grab a broom to sweep it up.  He runs and gets his broom too to come help.  We usually set him down and brush crumbs off him onto the floor before we sweep so now when we set him down he automatically brushes himself off, even if he doesn’t have any crumbs.  He certainly knows our routine.
2015-06-04_19.29.41 copyYou might not have noticed but we aren’t too big on clothes around here ;).  2015-06-05_15.25.57 copy

Hudson loves bubbles.  It’s one of his favorite words to say and he has so much fun chasing them.  The bubbles in the long skinny tube with the elongated wand are by far the best, in case you wondered (I buy ours at Kroger).2015-06-06_19.17.53 copy2015-06-06_19.29.58 copy

Selfies with mommy.2015-06-07_16.04.36 copyTrying on bathing suits before camp.2015-06-09_10.13.52 copyHis amber teething necklace completes the surfer boy look for sure!2015-06-09_10.18.00 copyLooking so big in his ball cap.
2015-06-11_09.11.56 copyCrazy morning hair.2015-06-13_07.45.29 copyPlaying in the toy room at my chiropractor’s office.
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My sweet, sweet boy.  I just love him to pieces and it’s so fun watching him grow and change!

the ending of our breastfeeding journey

It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around this completely, but our breastfeeding journey has come to an end.  Yep, Hudson is now fully weaned!

When Hudson turned 16 months he was still nursing twice a day – when we first woke up and then before bed at night.  Up until now we’d been dropping one feeding session every month or more so I was very surprised that we dropped those last two within one month (by the time he was 17 months he was weaned).  I didn’t really do anything special to wean him but since I’ve had people asking “how” I did it, here’s kind of what happened:

I was not sure how to go about dropping these last two feedings.  I figured that the night time feeding would be last to go but I didn’t know how to go about dropping the morning one.  Typically we woke up and before we even got out of bed he was signing for milk so we’d breastfeed first and then do breakfast.

But it so happened that for several days in a row Hudson decided to wake up much earlier than normal – before Michael had left for work.  After a day or two of him doing that I realized this might be a great opportunity to see how he’d do dropping a feeding.  So Michael would get him out of bed when he (Hudson) woke up and I would continue to sleep (that was a nice bonus).   Michael would feed him breakfast and then bring him back to me before he left for work.

That worked really well!  There was a day or maybe two that later in the day (midmorning/lunchtime) Hudson would kind of remember that he hadn’t had his milk and ask for it so we’d nurse when he asked, but then after that he totally quit asking all together.

I figured it would take a month or two before he’d be ready to drop that last feeding but a few weeks later we went to church camp and he completely weaned himself!  Sunday night (our first night there) I got him all ready for bed – bath, pjs on, etc.  We have very little cell service in general at our camp and none at all in the lodge where I was staying, so I took Hudson up to the porch so I could check my phone before we went to bed.  I sat down in a rocking chair and started rocking while I checked my phone and within five minutes he was passed out.  No nursing at all!

I took him to our bed and laid him down, expecting that he would wake up at some point during the night and want to breastfeed, but he never did.  He slept all night long!  And you know what, he never once asked for milk again.  I wasn’t sure if it was a fluke or not, but the next night I got him ready for bed and took him up to the porch to try rocking again.  That wasn’t working so I passed him off to Michael so I could go shower and when I got back up there after my shower, Hudson was fast asleep.  Again, I put him to bed and that was that.  The rest of the week was similar – he went to bed easily every night without needing milk.

When we got home from camp I thought he might get back into a routine and want milk again but he didn’t seem to notice.  He still uses his sign for milk occasionally but when he does that he just wants me to hold him and he doesn’t actually want to nurse.

The thought had crossed my mind that I wondered if camp might help him to finally wean, but I was still surprised that he did it so easily and quickly and on his own.  It was obvious that he was ready.  I think that my milk had dropped, if not disappeared completely, when I got pregnant (I had noticed he was not really drinking anything when he nursed, just using me more like a pacifier) so I think that helped him to wean more easily.

I’m not sure what my “approach” to weaning would be considered – I didn’t cut him off completely at a certain set time but I also didn’t just go until he did it himself.  I guess I gently guided him along the weaning process.  Part of that was because he wasn’t one that asked to have milk outside of his “normal” set times and so I thought that he was doing it more from routine than necessarily from a want or need for it.  And part was because even though I totally support extended breastfeeding, I didn’t want to keep going indefinitely.

Through the whole weaning process I used distractions and change in our day to day routine to help drop each feedings.  Things like traveling worked especially well since I knew he’d be busy with other things.  That worked great for us and each time we dropped a feeding it was no big deal because he was occupied with stuff.  And of course, if he asked for milk we’d still nurse, but really he didn’t ask much and it would only take a few days before we’d have our new routine with one less feeding.  It was a very slow process – dropping one feeding every month or two (up until these last two all in one month) and I think that kept it from being too traumatic for either of us.

breastfeeding

Emotionally, it wasn’t as hard as I expected.  Part of me was very ready to be done – being pregnant again I know that the whole breastfeeding experience will start over again in a few months and it will be nice to have a little bit of time without breastfeeding.  But at the same time, we worked HARD to breastfeed.  It was a huge battle that I am so proud to have overcome, and seeing the end of it is bittersweet in many ways.  I miss that connection and bond.  But, I think the fact that he weaned during church camp was a blessing to both of us because I was busy and distracted as well so I didn’t dwell on it.  Part of me wishes I had known that Saturday, June 13 would be our very last nursing session so I could have savored it, but then part of me is glad I didn’t know so that I didn’t get all sad about it.

So here’s to almost 17 months of breastfeeding my sweet boy.  I am so glad that we made it this far!

Hudson has an announcement…

big brother baby announcement(thanks Cassie at Ginger Snap Photography for the picture!)

Baby #2 coming January/February of 2016!!

I’ve been extra silent here on the blog (sadly not that unusual ever since Hudson was born) and on my blog’s Facebook page for the past month – it’s hard to have a secret and not tell so I just haven’t posted much in general!  We found out our exciting news on June 1 so I’ve been keeping it in since then.  I’m 9 weeks along now and we had our first doctor’s appointment today.  Everything looks great!  Heart rate of 172, developing as he/she should.

My estimated due day is February 1.  Hudson’s birthday is January 23 so they’ll be right at 2 years apart, give or take a few days.  We are of course so thrilled about this baby but I’m also a bit nervous too.  In a strange way I’m more nervous than I was with Hudson.  With him I had very few expectations…now that I’ve had one baby I know what it’s like and how hard it is at the beginning plus I’ll have a two year old on top of a newborn.  But millions have done this before me and survived so I’m sure I’ll be just fine :).

big brother t shirt

So far this pregnancy has been very similar to when I was pregnant with Hudson: mild nausea off and on all day long, same cravings (sour and salty), little desire for sweets, and same aversions (basically the smell of anything in the whole wide world but).  I feel like I’ve had more energy this time around which is good since I have a toddler to care for and can’t lay on the couch all day (although we’ve done our fair share of laying on the couch watching Daniel Tiger).  With Hudson I think my nausea was gone by week 11 or 12, so hopefully I’ll just have another two or three weeks of that part.

Here we go on our next adventure!

Money Mondays – is a MLM right for you?

week 6 tips on joining an MLM

Welcome back to the next installment in our Money Mondays series!  Today we’re going to be talking all about multi-level marketing, or MLMs (or direct sales, or network marketing… I hear the terms used interchangeably).  I mentioned a few weeks ago when we talked about how to increase your income if you find yourself having more budget expenses than you have money that I would do a separate post all about MLMs/direct sales/network marketing.

(fyi the answer to my graphic above is no…pyramid schemes are illegal anyway…)

If you’ve been reading along with the series you know that when Hudson was born last year I quit my job to stay home with him and so that took us from two incomes to one.  Right about that same time I also joined Young Living essential oils as a wholesale customer (a distributor) strictly so that I could get oils at the discount.  However I kept telling all my friends about how much I loved the oils and *they* were getting interested and wanted to try them for themselves and their families.  I started to see the potential for this as a business – I could share my love of oils with people and then also make some money.  I thought even if I only made enough to cover our own oils and Young Living product costs each month that would be have been super helpful for our budget and if I made more that would be amazing!  After being involved with Young Living as a business for the last year and a half I really think MLMs can be a fantastic way for people to earn some extra money.

Prior to this I had no experience with multi-level marketing.  I have lots of friends who are involved in various companies and I’ve purchased products from them but I had never been in one or really knew how they worked.  I wasn’t anti-MLM or anything – I thought it was fine for others but didn’t think it was something that I would want to do.

This post is NOT to convince you that MLMs are awesome.  I’m not trying to change your mind or persuade you if you already hate network marketing.  Instead I’m going to give you some of my tips, or things to ask yourself, if you are thinking about joining one of these companies, as well as try to give you a general overview from several popular companies.

First up, lets answer the questions: Is a MLM right for me and if so, which one?

5 questions to help you decide if a mlm is for you

Some questions to ask yourself:

1.  Do I want to do this as a hobby (i.e. just for a little bit of extra money and/or on a short-term basis) or as a business (i.e. I want to earn enough to quit a job or make as much as I was making in my other job or something along those lines, basically a serious paycheck)?

Deciding what your goals are (or what you think your goals are, because of course they can always change) will help you determine which company you want to join.  If you want to do this casually for a little extra money then you can go with most any company that floats your boat.  If you’re one of the ones who wants to really pursue this as a second income, a replacement income, make big bucks, etc. then you need to think more critically about which company you join.

My first goal with my Young Living business was to make enough each month to cover our monthly oil and Young Living purchases.  I make more than enough for that now and my next goal is to earn as much with my Young Living business as I did in my previous job (as a teacher and librarian).  I am not there yet but can see the potential and think I will eventually get there.

2.  Do I love the product?  

Listen, if you don’t love a product you don’t need to try to sell it.  I always said I could never “sell” anything but once I saw the difference essential oils were making for myself, my family, and others I couldn’t not tell others and encourage them to try for themselves.  It took me finding a product that I really loved and believed in to make it where I could actually feel comfortable “selling”.

Sure, you can sell something that you don’t love or believe in, and some people could sell anything in the world and make you want to buy it, but for most of us it is going to show through to the people around us whether we really are passionate about a product or if we’re just trying to make a buck.

Another question to ask to go along with this is “Would I recommend this product or talk about this product even if I didn’t get any money in return?”.  Would you be recommending your bags or makeup or oils or exercise routine or whatever just like you would tell someone your favorite restaurant or brand of clothes or brand of cereal or medicine?  If the answer is yes then that’s a plus for the company.  If it’s a no then maybe you should look for something else that you actually recommend.

I would tell people about Young Living essential oils and strongly encourage them to try them even if I did not make a penny off that.  That’s how much I love them and believe in them.

3.  Who is my target audience?

If you are wanting to do this as a hobby or for just a short amount of time, this question is not that important to you.  But if you are wanting to do this long term, you need to think about how sustainable that is.  Is the company or product you are thinking about selling something that will only appeal to a small percentage of people?  Is it something that you yourself will outgrow (say 5-10 years from now would you still need or use this product or is it for a certain age range only)?  Is this a product that lots of people want or need and I can see myself using this for the rest of my life, sharing it with people of all ages and situations?

4. Do I like people?

I’m being a bit facetious here but seriously, being part of an MLM requires you to get out and talk to people – doing parties, teaching classes, vendor events, sharing about your product.  People do this at different degrees and levels as far as what works with their lifestyle and personality (and that’s the beauty of this business!) but if in general you do not like to be around people or talk to people then succeeding in this business will be difficult for you.

5. Am I self motivated?

MLMs have a lot of autonomy.  One reason why I love my Young Living business is because I set my hours, I decide how much or how little I work, I work around family and Hudson and church and all kinds of things.  However, you do have to be organized and motivated.  If you say “Oh I’d love to be one of those who makes $1,000 a month, or $5,000 a month, or $15,000 a month” (yep, I know people personally who makes these figures!) then you actually have to do something.  You can’t just sit around and wait for the money to roll in because despite what some people tell you, it doesn’t work that way.

Owning your own business also comes with having to keep up with paper work, making sure you properly report and file your taxes, keeping good documentation, etc.  If you are not naturally organized (or are not self-motivated enough to get organized) then that will be a struggle for you.

So there are five big questions to get you started.  Of course there are some other things that you might want to think about but those are the main five, in my opinion, to help you decide if you should even be in an MLM to begin with and then if so, which one.

Some other things you might want to consider if they are important to you:
– Is my area/church/school/friend group already overrun with consultants/distributors of a certain company?
– What are the ethics of the company?
– Does the company focus more on their actual product and how great it is or are they all about the money side of things and how much you can make?
– Do I have to keep stock at my home or are things done online?
– How much does it cost to join?
– How much to do I have to sell or spend a month?
– Realistically, what should I expect to earn?

Also, if you are considering an MLM I recommend the book The Four Year Career – it’s a super short read but really helps you to understand what network marketing is, how it works, and why it’s a good source of income.  And it’s cheap.

In preparation for this post I created a survey and asked my Facebook friends who were involved in various MLMs to fill it out.  I wanted to get an overview of some of the popular companies.  I got responses from Young Living (essential oils), Mary Kay (makeup), Jamberry (nail wraps), Pampered Chef (kitchen gadgets), Norwex (cleaning supplies), Arbonne (makeup), Younique (make up), Origami Owl (necklaces), Pure Romance (“relationship enhancing” items), Rodan and Fields (skin care), Paparazzi Jewelry (jewelry), and Thirty One Gifts (bags and purses).

Once I started wading through the responses I realized that the companies are all so different and it was hard to figure out how I was going to condense that information and share it with you!  But here’s a generalization (if you want more information about a specific company let me know and I can share what info I was given and I can hook you up with a rep as well if you need one).

What do you have to do to be a distributor/representative/consultant and how much does it cost to get started?

Most everyone said to be a distributor they either had to purchase a starter kit of some sort and/or have a wholesale membership.

The starter kits ranged from $45 to $995 (and funnily enough…that was the same company that had both the lowest and highest kits – Rodan and Fields apparently has a lot of sign up options in a wide variety of price ranges).

There were also a few where if you were already a customer of the company then it was only $20 or so to become a distributor (Arbonne) or if you sold a certain amount within your first so many days then you got your kit free (Norwex).  Some companies had multiple kit options and the larger your kit the more items you got (either for you personally to use or as inventory if it is a company where you keep inventory).

Most of the starter kits were $99-$200, so I think it’s a safe assumption to say that’s probably what you should expect to spend to join an MLM.

How much do you have sell and/or buy each month to stay active and/or earn commissions?  What happens if you miss a month (don’t sell or purchase enough)?

I didn’t realize when I asked this just how confusing all the answers were going to be!  Ha!  Some companies run on quarters or yearly versus monthly and there was a wide variety of answers.

What I did learn across the board is that with most of the companies if you don’t sell or purchase one month it’s not a big deal – you probably won’t earn your commissions but there are no penalties (as long as you meet your quarterly/yearly totals if applicable).  That is how Young Living is (if you choose not to purchase your monthly amount there is no penalty, you just won’t earn your commissions) and it’s good to hear that other companies are like that too.  That way if life gets crazy or finances are tight you can take a break and then pick it up later.

Briefly explain the compensation structure of your company.

Whyyyyyy did I even ask this question?  Ha!  Reality is that there is no brief way to explain the comp plan of most companies.  Unfortunately (for me while trying to wade through all the responses) there are lots of “if this then this” and “you earn this on that level” and so on.

Based on the responses, the earnings ranged from 10%-50% on products that people buy directly from you and then a different (smaller) percentage when you sign other distributors up under you and they make sales as well.

I recommend checking with Google or an active consultant for the specific company(ies) you are considering and take a closer look at their compensation structures that way.

What are the pros of being a distributor/consultant/rep for your company?

Some of the common responses were:
– setting your own hours
– helping other people
– earning trips
– getting bonuses
– being able to do your work online
– having a flexible side job in addition to a full time job
– making friends/the camaraderie of the company
– getting free/discounted products

What are the cons of being a distributor/consultant/rep for your company?

Some of the responses included:
– saturation of consultations (lots of people already sell that product)
– taking more time than anticipated to support your team
– making new contacts if you are an introvert
– having to be self-motivated
– the bad reputations that MLMs/direct sales sometimes have
– people being turned off by the prices of products
– cost of maintaining a website
– customers unhappy with products breaking
– feeling pushed by upline to sell/work more than you want to

The bottom line is: you’ll find good things and bad, positive and negative, about each company.  You’ll find many consultants (like the ones who answered my survey) who adore their product and company as well as others who hated it and quit.  There will be some people who do this full time and make big bucks and many others who do this part time and earn a little extra spending money.

My best advice if you want to join an MLM is to pick a product that you love.  You will definitely have the most success selling something that you enjoy that that you truly think others will want/need too.  It’s also good to sign up with someone you are friends with or who you know will offer you lots of support since that’s the person you’ll be working the most closely with during your direct sales journey.

Of course I would be happy to talk to you about Young Living if you are interested in trying essential oils and/or being a distributor.  I also have the contact information for all the ladies who filled out my survey so if you want me to pass that on to you so you can get in touch with a certain consultant let me know.

Are you involved with any sort of MLM/direct sales/network marketing?  Anything you would like to add to what the survey takers mentioned above?

(Also, this is the last Money Monday I had planned.  If you have a specific topic you’d like me to address let me know, otherwise this is the end.  It’s been fun!)

southwest chicken salad

southwest chicken salad

I love all things taco and I love a good chicken salad so when I got the hair brained idea to try making a taco-ish chicken salad I figured “why not?” (I very rarely make up my own dishes…I mostly use other recipes that I’ve found or been given)

It turned out really yummy and is super easy to make, plus it’s perfect to serve on a hot summer day!

southwest chicken salad ingredientsWhat you need: chicken, corn, black beans, cheese, sour cream, avocado, lime, and (not pictured) taco seasoning.

southwest chicken salad instructionsWhat you do: Mix it all up.

Seriously.  Almost no prep work!  Other than cooking the chicken you’re just mixing a whole bunch of ingredients together.

Recipe:

– 5 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I use a package of 3 chicken breasts and that makes 5 cups, give or take)
– 1 can corn, drained
– 1 can black beans, rinsed
– 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
– 2 avocados, mashed
– 1/2 lime, juiced (or more if you prefer more of a lime flavor, I just use a little to keep the avocado from browning so quickly)
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 TBSP taco seasoning (we make our own using this recipe)

Instructions:

Cook and shred your chicken (I cook my chicken breasts in a crock pot on high for about 4 hours then shred either with a fork for bigger pieces or in my stand mixer for more finely shredded chicken).  Combine chicken with all other ingredients and mix well.

This can be served on a sandwich, with crackers, with chips, on a tortilla, a pita, eaten by itself, topping a salad, or many other ways.  I like the crunch of the tortilla chips so that’s my preferred way of eating it.

This makes a LOT of chicken salad!  It’s perfect to take to a gathering or if you are having guests over but it might be a bit much for one person to eat up by themselves.  I have not tried freezing it to see if you could freeze half for later but I think it would probably freeze nicely.

For those counting calories a 1/2 cup serving is 267 calories.

Hudson’s 16 month update

Every month I marvel at how much Hudson changes and all the new things he does – this month is no different!

growth

Hudson weighs 25 pounds and is 32 inches tall.  He wears 18 month clothes.  We no longer put him in sleepers with the feet because he couldn’t walk well in them so he wears little pj sets instead.  I think they are so cute!

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teeth

Well this has been an interesting month, teething-wise.  One morning toward the beginning of the month Hudson woke up with a fever.  It got higher as the day went on (up to 102.7, his highest fever yet), he was very fussy, and his diapers were very runny.  I thought he was sick (obviously) so we stayed home from church, cancelled appointments, etc.

By the next day the fever had gone down and he was relatively back to normal, although still a bit fussy/clingy.  A few days later I was putting some teething cream on his gums and low and behold my finger bumped into a molar!  Now the odd “sickness” made sense…it was from teething!

The reason I never expected a molar is because up to that point he had four teeth on the top and three on the bottom.  I’ve always been told that teeth come in pairs so I was waiting for that fourth bottom tooth to come shortly after #3.  I couldn’t see bottom tooth #4 trying to poke through and of course the molars weren’t even on my radar so I never suspected teething.

But apparently some kids can and do get their teeth “out of order”.  He actually got both top molars (or more accurately, both top molars started coming through…one isn’t quite finished yet) before he got that fourth tooth on the bottom.  I was starting to worry that he had some weird missing tooth thing and it wasn’t going to ever come through but it finally did.

Alllllll that to say, we ended the month with 9.5 teeth (one molar is all the way through but the other is only halfway through).

communication

Hudson still isn’t talking that much (not words that we can understand, at least).  His absolute favorite word is still “fish” and he uses it correctly.  He loves the fish on our ceiling (from the white noise machine/projector) and he knows where all the fish are in his books.  His favorite books are the ones with fish and he’ll go get the book, flip the pages until he finds the fish, and then point and say “ish, ish” over and over.  It’s adorable!

He also says “hi” and “bye” (and uses them correctly) and will repeat “no no” when we say it to him.  He started saying “uh oh” (it sounds like ah-ah) – he repeats it when we say it but also says it after he throws something (purposefully) on the floor.  Obviously we need to work on clarifying when things are actually “uh ohs” ;).

Those are really the only understandable words he uses.  There have been times that I’ve *thought* he was trying to repeat things I’ve said but it’s hard to tell.

He is still using all his signs and using them correctly (except for “eat”…he used to do that one all the time but recently quit doing “eat” and uses “more” to mean both eat and more).  It is so helpful for him to be able to tell us what he wants!  Up to this point we have only been doing basic signs/words (eat, more, drink, milk, diaper, bath, all done) but are going to start working on others now.

Another new thing this month is that he started reaching for us to pick him up in this really adorable way.  He will bring me a book and then make the “pick me up!” and it’s just so sweet…and of course I pick him up and we read!

He is also in this stage where he wants to know what everything is.  He points at everything and makes a noise (sounds kind of like “this?”) asking what it is.  So we spend much of our day identifying objects.

food

Hudson is still a great eater.  A few weeks ago he ate a whole ribeye by himself!  He currently likes berries (blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries) best.  I do NOT love the resulting diapers from those though!  We have a strawberry patch in our garden and in the evenings we’ll go out with Michael while he works in the garden and Hudson eats the strawberries right off the vine.  He loves them!

He does not seem to like cow’s milk or juice.  We have tried giving him both and he refuses to drink them.  Thankfully he drinks lots of water so I’m not concerned about dehydration, I’m just surprised that he won’t drink anything else yet (I thought all kids loved juice!).

We bought a patio set for our deck this month and have been enjoying eating many of our meals outside.

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Hudson loves to play peek-a-boo.  Which is pretty cute until he does it while his hands are covered with spaghetti sauce…

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He has learned how to suck on his applesauce packets instead of us having to squeeze it into a spoon and feed him.  That makes feeding him on the go much more convenient!

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He nurses twice a day – in the morning after he wakes up and at night before bed.

sleep

Welllllll…read the big long saga above about teething and that might clue you in to how our sleep has been this month.

It has not been awful.  Many nights are good – he goes to bed around 8 pm and sleeps until 8 am.  But we did have a week or so where he refused to go to sleep until 10/11pm and then lots of nights where he has been very restless.

This BIG news this month is that I am no longer holding him for naps!  We started off the month with me still holding him but I started laying him down for naps in our bed and he has done really well.  He usually wakes up at least once a nap and I have to run in there and lay down next to him to get him back to sleep.  He sleeps longer and better if I’m next to him so lots of days I use that time to read or blog or work on oily things, but some days I clean, do laundry, wash dishes, etc.  It is SOOOOO nice to not be trapped in a chair holding him for several hours.

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He takes one nap, usually in the afternoon.  He was napping from 11 to 1 or 2 and it was such an odd schedule because it was too early to eat lunch before nap but then by the time he woke up we were having a crazy late lunch.  Now I’ve got him to where he eats lunch first then goes down for an afternoon nap.  He usually sleeps 2-3 hours.

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He’s still a total bed hog.  He also does not like to have covers on him!  If we put the covers on him at all, even just on his legs, he will kick and thrash until he gets them off.  He sleeps in between us now and that makes for some difficult maneuvering for us to be covered while keeping them off him!  Ha!

We finally took his co-sleeper down this month (the pack n play-type thing that was by our bed).  He hadn’t slept in it in months but we hadn’t gotten around to taking it down until just now.  After 15 months of having it and/or the Rock n Play next to our bed it’s weird to have nothing there!

Hudson always wakes up in a good mood and most of the time he wakes up super quickly. Occasionally he will take his time waking up and lay there for a bit but most of the time he wakes up, immediately sits straight up, and says “hi!”.

new skills

Climbing!

He had only climbed on one or two things prior to this month but now he’s up and down all the time (on small stuff, he still hasn’t learned how to climb up on a kitchen chair or couch or anything).

One afternoon I was sitting at the kitchen table and he was playing in the living room/foyer.  I heard him making some whimpering noises and after a minute I got up to check on him and see what was wrong.  I rounded the corner and saw that he had gotten up on a box that had been delivered earlier that day and could not get down!  Of course like a bad mom awesome blogger I grabbed my phone to take a picture and document the moment.  I really didn’t think he would try to get down but of course right at that moment he decided to try and ended up doing a full summersault off the box onto the floor.  I felt terrible!  But thankfully he wasn’t seriously hurt, just a bump.

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Then just a few hours later that same day he got up on a case of water bottles and couldn’t get down.  Did I learn my lesson the first time and help him instead of taking a picture?  Why, no!  But at least this time I got him off before he fell…and still got the picture!

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Now he can get up and down.  He also learned how to climb on and off of his riding toys and his rocking horse.

Another new “skill” (if you want to call it that) is “shushing”.  I didn’t realize he had learned to mimic that until one day in church when another parent somewhere else in the auditorium shushed their child (loudly enough that we could hear it) and Hudson looked at me, put his finger to his lips, and said “shhhhhh!”.  It was hilarious!  Now if we shush him he does it back.

He laughs a lot.  Sometimes he’ll genuinely laugh (like when we tickle him or play peek a boo) and sometimes he’ll do this hilarious fake laugh (like if he hears someone else laughing).  What a ham!

dislikes

He’s still terrified of most all animals.  We went over to our neighbor’s yard to chat one afternoon and Hudson freaked when he spotted their dog.  I think his screaming actually scared the poor dog and she didn’t want to have anything to do with us!

He did get to see a bunny rabbit for the first time at our friends’ house and after he got over the initial wariness he seemed to like it (as long as it kept a good distance).  I sure hope he gets over this soon.  I really want to take him to the zoo but am afraid to spend the money and then him be terrified of all the animals!  Too bad we don’t have an aquarium nearby so we can go look at all the “ish” (although I’m not sure that he would even like them in real life!).

One animal he isn’t afraid of are birds – he loves to stand at our window (and now that he can climb he likes to climb up on a case of water and look out the window) and watch the birds at our feeder.  The bird feeder and the new patio set have been great purchases – we have really enjoyed both of them!

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adventures

After being pretty adverse to all things outdoors (snow, leaves, grass, outside in general) Hudson is finally not afraid of outside.  And not only is he not afraid…he loves it!

We try to get out every day if possible.  I got a FitBit recently that has really motivated me to start walking so I can earn my daily steps so we have started going for walks around the neighborhood most days.  Several times though Hudson has fallen asleep while we were strolling (like at 5 pm) and that did not bode well for getting him to bed on time!

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He also seems to have inherited (from my side of the family) skin that gets super red and blotchy.  I promise he is not sun burned in the picture below, nor was it very hot outside (and he was just sitting, not running around), but his face just gets super red.  2015-05-07_11.50.44

He likes to sit on me while I stretch after our walks – he thinks it’s hilarious!

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We have gone to the park several times to play and he has a ball.  As clingy as he can be at home I’m surprised at how independent he is when we go outside or to a park to play.

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This particular park had lots of mulch and he had so much fun playing in the mulch…and putting it in his hair!  He has a total mess by the time we got home!
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We also got a wagon that Hudson really likes.  I thought he might be afraid since he would feel a little off balance sitting up in the wagon and being pulled but he has loved it from day one and usually cries when I take him out.  If only I could get him to wear a hat – no shade in the wagon like there is in the stroller and with his pale skin (and sparse hair) I’m going to have to keep lots of sunscreen on him this summer!

We went to Lexington and that is the first time we’ve travelled a long distance since Christmas, I think.  Hudson did pretty well.  On the way down there he fell asleep (we left at nap time hoping he would sleep) but only slept about 30 minutes.  I had hurt my back and was barely able to move, much less hand him things and keep him occupied and I had to sit in the front for my back and his show ended (whhhhyyyy doesn’t the Amazon app have autoplay!?!) while we were stuck in Lexington traffic and couldn’t get back there to start another so the last 30 minutes or so was a scream-fest.  But the rest was fine and the ride home went smoothly too.

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other stuff

Good news on the shoe front!  We are no longer only wearing leather, Robeez-type shoes.  As much as he freaked and refused to wear any other types of shoes am I so relieved that we have finally gotten past that.

I didn’t care all that much until we started going out to play a lot.  The grass is often wet from dew or rain and the wetness was ruining his little leather shoes.  I really wanted him to wear something else when we went out to play so I started putting Crocs on him at first.  I figured that even though they were bigger and more structured at least they were not as heavy as other shoes.  He did not like them very much but didn’t cry every time so I kept putting them on and eventually he got used to them.

My other trick was when I would get him dressed to go somewhere (usually church) I would put his (non-Robeez) shoes on and carry him straight to the car.  Somehow by getting used to the shoes while sitting in his carseat on the way he didn’t seem to mind walking in them once we got there.  If I set him down on the floor as soon as I put the shoes on he would have a fit and refuse to walk but by easing him in to it we got to wear he would wear them without a fuss!  Yay!

I still put him in the leather shoes most of the time if I know we’re going to be inside because he does a much better job walking with them on (and they hurt much less if he starts kicking his leg and hits me!).

Of course on this day I had clearly lost my mind and put him in two different shoes (and didn’t notice until we were almost through at the first store on our long list of errands).  Not only did I not intend to put the monkey shoe on but it’s also not even on the correct foot.  Mommy brain!

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Something else new and unusual is how attached Hudson has gotten to Michael.  He has always loved his daddy, of course, but mommy is the one he usually wants most of the time.  Not so anymore!  He wants Michael to hold him bunches when he’s home.

Oh and one Sunday morning at church Michael was an usher and during the second song the ushers walk down the aisle and collect the attendance cards.  Michael was coming down the aisle toward our pew and then turned to go back to the back of the church.  I guess Hudson thought he was coming to sit with us and then when he didn’t he got SO upset!  He started bawling!  Everyone around us was cracking up and thankfully we were singing so you couldn’t hear him too much over the singing but it was so out of character for him that I was shocked!

And one last thing I have to mention is that we made it 16 months without him falling off any beds but that streak has sadly ended.  He fell off our bed twice this month!  Both times I was in the bed with him and it happened so fast that I couldn’t catch him in time.  He wasn’t hurt either time (although the second time his head narrowly missed a sharp corner – whew!) but it scared him (and me!).  Obviously he’s not very good at understanding the bed boundaries yet so I have to keep a closer eye on him because he’s so quick!

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It is so weird to think back to last summer – Hudson wasn’t even sitting up on his own and when we would go to playdates or the park he just laid on a blanket while the other kids played.  Now he’s running all over the place and having a big ol’ time.  My baby is not a baby anymore!  He’s definitely an active toddler covered in dirt and bruises and a farmer’s tan.

 

easy (and effective!) homemade deodorant

You know when you search for something for months and months, or maybe even years, and you finally find it?  Isn’t that just the best feeling?

Well that’s how I’m feeling right now about deodorant.  Yes, DEODORANT.  I know, weird.

My quest for a natural deodorant started about a year and a half ago.  I was careful about what I put in my body but I hadn’t given a thought to what I put ON my body until I read an article about the dangers of deodorant/antiperspirants.  It basically said that if you switching NOTHING else in your beauty routine you should at least find a natural deodorant.  (I believe that article was this one and then this is another great post as well about why you should ditch the deodorant)

That got my wheels turning and I started thinking about the fact that I was about to have a baby that I was planning to breastfeed and who would quite frequently be in very close proximity to my armpits.  I decided to find a better option.

The problem was…well, I’m stinky.  Sorry but that’s the truth.  Over the past year and a half I have tried ten (that I can remember off the top of my head) different deodorants and NONE of them have worked.  It’s funny because I really don’t sweat that much so the fact that I no longer use an antiperspirant isn’t a big deal but for whatever reason natural deodorants just did not work for my body odor.

I’ve tried:

– Primal Pit Paste (2 different scents, both made my armpits break out)

– Tom’s (didn’t help the smell, not as natural as I first thought anyway)

– Young Living’s deodorant (both scents, neither eliminated the odor)

– Thieves toothpaste (sounds weird but a lot of people in my oils group use it as deodorant with smashing success but it just made me itch and again, didn’t help with the smell)

– Thieves spray (another one that people in my group suggest, but didn’t work for the smell)

– Plain coconut oil mixed with essential oils

– Just essential oils rubbed into my armpits

– Homemade spray deodorant (witch hazel and essential oils…again yet another that did not help the smell)

Really the only thing I didn’t try that lots of people recommend is that crystal deodorant thing.  But otherwise I’ve exhausted a pretty big list.

After allllll those deodorants (and I gave them all a fair try, most of them I used the whole entire stick/container because I hate throwing things out) I still hadn’t found something.  Within a few hours my armpits just stunk.  None of my shirts could be worn more than once in between washings because they stunk.  And really, even when I was using the hard-core stuff (Secret Platinum Protection) there was still an odd smell.  Not b.o. necessarily, but just a yucky deodorant-y smell that I didn’t like.

So a few weeks ago I finally decided to make my own stick deodorant.  I scoured Pinterest and finally settled on this recipe.  I had all the ingredients at home except beeswax so I asked a beekeeper friend from church for some and then I was all set.  I considered several combinations of oils but decided to keep it very simple and use lavender and tea tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) because of how good they are botha for skin and for eliminating the bacteria that causes body odor.

DIY homemade deodorant recipe

Making the deodorant took seriously all of five minutes.  I used an old deodorant container that was empty (they also sell them on Amazon if you don’t have an empty one sitting around).  I melted the beeswax and coconut oil in my makeshift double boiler (aka a glass bowl partially submerged in a pot of boiling water), added the baking soda and cornstarch, stirred it up, added the essential oils, stirred some more, poured it in the container, and let it sit in the fridge until it hardened.

I didn’t expect much.  I figured I’d either break out in a rash or it wouldn’t help the smell at all.  But I put it on and off we went.

Let me just shout it from the rooftops that IT WORKS!  I was BLOWN away!

I am not kidding, for the first few days of using this deodorant I sniffed my armpits multiple times a day because I just couldn’t believe it.

There was NO smell at all.  I mean, nothing.  No stink and not even a perfume-y smell.  It literally smelled like nothing.  Occasionally when I sniff I get a whiff of coconut but that’s it.  And the same with my shirts.  I would sniff the armpits after I took it off to put it in the hamper and you couldn’t even tell that I’d worn it all day!  And I put it to the test too…I went for a long walk outside every day, most days were 80+ degrees, and I sweated a lot but still no stink.

The day after I made my deodorant I taught an online class for my oils team about natural skincare and reducing toxins in your home.  I mentioned that I was trying a new deodorant recipe but I wasn’t ready to definitively say if it worked for me until I’d tried it for a bit longer.  Apparently there are quite a few people in the same boat as me because I’ve had several tell me they are waiting to hear an update.  So here it is folks, this stuff rocks ;).  I’ve been using it for about two weeks now and it is amazing!  No rash, no stink.

The recipe I used says that the beeswax helps it not to melt in the summer heat but I haven’t put that to the test yet.  Also, for what it’s worth, I found this article about how to balance your ph if your deodorant gives you a rash so I’ll be keeping this one in my back pocket in case it happens again.

The deodorant is in a stick form but it’s not quite the same consistency as a “normal” stick deodorant.  It glides on nicely but leaves some white residue that I just rub in with my fingers.  That is definitely not a deal breaker for me considering how wonderfully it works but I thought I’d mention it.

And there you go, ladies and gents.  My year and a half long quest to banish my stinky pits is over!  Hooray!

(local folks, I had a bit of extra deodorant that didn’t fit into my deodorant stick but I saved it in a container so if you’d like to try some before you make your own let me know and I’ll bring you a bit to sample)

Money Mondays – 5 tips for saving money on groceries

week 5 saving money on groceries

You have lots of budget categories that are fairly set in stone and the amount isn’t going to change much (like your bills), but one category where you usually can cut back is your grocery budget.

When we first talked about budgeting I mentioned that different people have different priorities.  For us, eating fresh food, organic when possible, local, etc. is important to us and so our grocery budget is larger than some.  It’s also difficult to do all the crazy couponing and such when you eat few processed foods but you can still do several things that will help you spend less and save money.

To be very honest I do not save nearly as much on our groceries as I could.  In fact, some of these things I’m going to share with you today I do not do consistently (so I need to take my own advice) but I know they are possible and work if you put the effort in to them.  This post has a bit of “do as I say but not as I do” ;).

5 tips for saving on groceries while still buying lots of whole, natural foods

Ok so five ways to save on your groceries

1.  Plan meals around sales – Funny that this is my #1 thing on my list because I don’t actually do this.  I know that I should, but it’s just really hard for me to look at the sales and then figure out what to eat based on what’s on sale.

However, this is a good way to save money – look at the ads for your grocery store and see what’s on sale, then plan what you’re going to eat that week using the sale items.

2.  Use coupons – Even if you eat lots of fresh produce you can still coupon.  Maybe not as much as some might, but still enough to make a difference.  Kroger is our main grocery store and they frequently send us coupons for things like $5 off a deli purchase, $3 off a produce purchase, etc. where it doesn’t have to be brand-specific or something boxed.

I usually can find coupons for paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, diapers, wipes, laundry detergent, etc. plus other things that we buy like crackers, cereal, bread, etc.

Some people hard-core coupon and I did that for a brief time several years ago but it was too much for me to keep up with.  I did learn that combining coupons with sales (wait until an item is on sale and then use coupons when you buy) is the best way to get rock-bottom prices.  If you want to learn more about couponing I highly recommend checking out southernsavers.com – she teaches you all about how to coupon.  Very helpful!

3.  Go meatless – Meat is usually one of the most expensive components of your meal (that and cheese…boy we love us some cheese!) so trying to eat a meatless meal or two each week will really help.  Things like potato soup, pancakes, rice and beans, and vegetable soup are good options.

4. Use grocery apps – There are several smart phone apps that you can download where you can get money back for buying certain items.  It’s like couponing but after the fact…so you purchase the item, scan it in to your app to prove that you bought it, and then they give you money back.  Once you get a certain amount in your account (usually a minimum of $10) then they pay you (some are checks, some via paypal, some in gift cards, etc.)

I love these apps because very often I have a store coupon for an item AND I can get money back on that same item via an app so I basically save twice on the item.  Very cool.

The ones I use are Ibotta, Checkout51, and Saving Star.  Ibotta is definitely the best of those three so if you’re only going to try one I recommend that one.  All three often have some more natural or obscure brands (not just the same old ones that are in the newspaper coupons every week) and what I love most about Ibotta is the fact that they also have very generic guidelines…like an amount back on peanut butter in general (no specific brand), or milk, or eggs, or bread, etc.  That way you can get whatever brand you prefer and still earn money back.

(screenshots from the Ibotta app)

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I also recently learned about an app called Receipt Hog where all you do is take pictures of your receipts (no scanning barcodes of specific items) and that allows you to earn points – when you accumulate enough points they pay you via PayPal.  I just downloaded that one this week so I haven’t experienced it a lot but it has good reviews and sounds very easy so I’m going to give it a try!  If you sign up and need a referral code, mine is drit5295 (I don’t know if that gets me points or you extra points or what…but if it asks feel free to use it ;) )

5.  Stock up – Stock up on things while they are on sale and/or you have a coupon.  Things that are nonperishable are easy because they won’t go bad but you can also stock up on perishables and freeze them or go ahead and use them to cook meals and then freeze the whole meal ready to go.

Last week when I went to the grocery I had a $5 off $15 purchase of meat.  The chicken that we buy also happened to be on sale so I went ahead and bought 2 packs of chicken breast to take advantage of the sale and my coupon and put them in the freezer to be used at a later date.

So there are my five tips.

Now let me quickly walk you through my grocery process from start to finish.  I know I could spend hours and hours trying to find the best deals, shopping at several stores, matching coupons, hunting down extra savings, etc. but that’s not my thing and I’m not willing to do tons and tons of work.  So I have a system that takes me about 30-45 minutes of prep before the trip and then maybe 5 minutes of work after the trip.

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1.  I make my grocery list first.  I sit down and decide what meals we want that week, look at what ingredients we need to purchase, check on other items we need for snacks, breakfasts, lunches, etc.

This is 100% contrary to what I told you in step 1 of my five tips because I make my list before I look at the sales.  But like I said, I know it would be better to do it the other way, I just haven’t wrapped my head around doing that quite yet.

2.  Pull up the Kroger ad and southernsavers.com and check out the Kroger sales to see if any of our staples are on sale this week.  If so, add those to my list.

3.  Look for paper coupons.  We do not get a newspaper so most of my coupons are either the ones Kroger mails us (which are usually fantastic since they use your Kroger Card data to tailor the coupons to you) or I check out coupons.com and print off coupons for items we use.

4.  Then I pull up the Kroger coupon app and go through the digital coupons and select any for items I’m buying.  I always do digital second because at our Kroger they will double paper coupons under $0.50 but not digital, however the digital coupon gets applied first.  So say I have a $0.50 off Tide digital coupon and a paper one, I’d rather use the paper one because it doubles to be $1.00 and I don’t load the digital one to my card because the system would use that one first and then not let me use my paper one (unless I was buying 2 things of Tide…then I could use both – one for each).

5.  After I’ve got my coupons I open my shopping apps (Ibotta, Checkout51, and Saving Star).  I look at each of those to see if any of my items get money back this week.  If so, I make a note on my grocery list (you can see in the picture about where I have IB, C51, or SS written out to the side).  This has been hugely helpful because when I get home from the grocery I can just look at the notes on my list to see what items need to be scanned for which apps.

6.  Ok whew!  Time to actually go to the grocery!

7.  At the check out I give them my coupons but other than that most of the “work” (besides the actual shopping of course!) is all done in advance.

8.  When I get home I unload all the groceries from the bags and scan/upload items and receipts to all my apps before I put the groceries away.  I found that if I tried to wait and do it later then receipts would get lost or I’d forget to ever do it so I just make sure and do it immediately.

And that’s that!  My grocery shopping routine.  It’s not particularly glamorous or mind-blowing but it does help us save some on our groceries and every little bit helps!

(Here’s another post I wrote that might be helpful: 10 tips for eating real food on a budget)

Your turn!  What tips do you have for saving money on groceries? 

Hudson’s 15 month update

Fifteen months!  Such a big boy!

growth

Hudson had his 15 month doctor’s appointment yesterday and he measured to be 24 pounds and 31 inches tall.  His weight has barely changed over the last several months but he’s grown quite a bit taller – long and lean, losing those sweet baby rolls!

He’s in 18 month clothes, although they are a little big (thankfully now that it’s summer he can wear shorts where the length variation isn’t as obvious as pants).  Size 5 disposables, largest rise and 4 snaps in the middle in his cloth diapers (he’s been in that same size for months and months!).

He now has seven teeth – four on the top and three on the bottom.  His hair is so curly and crazy.  People comment on it all the time!  Sometimes it’s like a big puffy frizz and he looks like a crazy professor and sometimes there are tons of little ringlets.  I don’t really do anything to style it except comb through the tangles after his bath.  I just let it do it’s thing and I think it’s always adorable :).

Side note: Hudson hated the doctor visit yesterday.  The very first thing we do before we even go to a room is to get weighed and he freaked as soon as I laid him down on the weighing table thing.  He cried about getting his head measured, his height, his temperature (on his head), looking in his ears, everything.  It was not a pleasant experience.

food

Hudson loovvvveeesss to eat.  For the most part he is a really good eater.  Fruit is definitely his favorite – it’s the first thing he eats off his plate and he always signs for “more”.

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It’s gotten to where we can’t eat anything in front of him if we aren’t willing to give it to him (i.e. something unhealthy or messy that we don’t want him to have) because if he sees that we have something he doesn’t have he will cry and pitch a fit about it.

One night we were eating fish and had cut up some lemons to squeeze lemon juice on them.  He was crying and crying and pointing at the table and we offered him everything on the table and none of it made him happy.  Finally we gave him a lemon wedge and apparently that was what he wanted because he quit crying and happily chewed on it.  He did the same thing with sour cream a few days later and wanted to just eat straight sour cream.  So strange.

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Hudson loves to put food in his hair.  Which is so annoying because it gets all stuck down in his curls and it’s just gross.  This is what happens when I look away for a bit…he smears avocado tuna all over the place.  Eww.

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Michael shared a bit of his strawberry kefir with Hudson one afternoon and Hudson loved it – he ended up drinking most of Michael’s glass!  IMG_8756

Kefir mustache!IMG_8760
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We’re still nursing about three times a day (right after Hudson wakes up, in the afternoon, and before bed).  There have been a few days he has only nursed twice (morning and night) so I think we’re on our way to transitioning to just 2 times a day.

sleep

Pretty good actually. (I know!  Amazing.)  He’s been going to bed around 8pm and sleeping until around 8am with one nap during the day (around lunchtime).  We still have our nights full of multiple wake ups or taking forever to go to sleep, but overall it’s been much better than the past few months.  He’s still in our bed at night and I hold him for his naps.

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communication

Strangely he quit saying his one word (bye) that he used to say all the time and for a while wasn’t using any words (I mean, he “talks” constantly, but there weren’t any we could actually understand) but toward the end of the month he learned a new word (fish, which sounds like “ish”).  We have a white noise machine with a projector that projects fish onto the ceiling and he loves them.  He’s started pointing at the ceiling and saying “ish! ish!”.  Of course he also says “ish” for other things…but we can definitely tell when he’s talking about the fish.

He very consistently uses his sign language though and learned one new sign this month (drink).  And like I said, he babbles all.the.time. so I think it won’t be long before he starts talking up a storm!

firsts

One first this month was his very first kids meal!  Yep, now that he’s eating so much we can’t share a regular adult meal with him because there isn’t enough food for us and him!  After no eating out for a month (because of Whole30) we celebrated and went to eat at Moe’s and got Hudson his own meal (the chips come with it automatically but we just gave him the burrito to eat).

We’ve also eaten at KFC a few times and there he actually gets an adult meal (chicken breast and sides).  Whew!  Our wallet is feeling the effects of buying three adult meals instead of just two!

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Now that the weather is warming up we got a bike trailer so we could ride together as a family.  Problem is, Hudson HATED it!  Well actually he hates his helmet.  The first time we went out he cried and cried.

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The second time (and other subsequent rides) have been better.  We gave him some books and toys and so he rides fairly happily now (although he usually keeps on hand on his helmet at all times…he just really does not like it!).IMG_8553

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dislikes

Well, he’s a toddler so there are a LOT of things that he dislikes (diaper changes, bed time, being told “no”, etc.) but there are two in particular that he reallllllly dislikes.  One is animals.  He is so terrified of most animals, but especially cats and dogs.  When he spots one, especially if it comes close, the scream he lets out is one of pure terror.  I hate seeing him afraid and wish I could figure out how to help him but have yet to come up with a great solution.

The second are shoes.  Yep.  The only shoes he will wear are the leather-soled Robeez.  He actually has quite a few other cute little shoes but when I put them on his reaction is this.  In fact, he usually drops down to the floor and refuses to walk if he has shoes on (will crawl instead).  So for now we just wear those Robeez everywhere and will continue to work on wearing regular shoes.

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Oh and one other thing, I’m sad to report, is that Hudson has started hating the carseat again.  We did so well for several months thanks to Daniel Tiger, but recently even that hasn’t been enough.  Thankfully he isn’t screaming like he did before, but he is crying more and pitching big ‘ol fits when it’s time to get in the carseat.  Sigh.

adventures

Now that the weather is warm we’ve been trying to get outside more.  At first Hudson hated that (remember how he hates snow, leaves, and grass?) but now has come to love it and in fact cries when it’s time to go back inside.

This was our first day out once it got warm.  Please note the shoes he has on – this is the one and only day he has tolerated shoes other than his Robeez!  Too bad it only lasted one day!  We went to the park with friends from church and at first he was verrrry nervous, cried if I put him down, wouldn’t play, etc.  But I just sat on the ground with him and gradually after a while he started walking around.  And then he took off and toddled all over the playground and had a blast!  He doesn’t like to put his hands down on the ground though so if he falls/sits down then he’ll just sit there until I come to help him back up.

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On Easter we went home to visit family.  Hudson got to participate in the Easter egg hunt this year (last year he was only 2 months old!) and I was afraid he wouldn’t like it because of the grass but he got right out there and walked around.  He only wanted to pick up one egg…once he got one he was content to just play with that!  Ha!  IMG_8623IMG_8624

I don’t have any pictures, but we went to Lads to Leaders in Nashville, TN for one day to support the kids from our church.  We had never been so it was a really fun experience.  Hudson did great for being dragged all over Opryland Hotel all day and of course he loved getting to play with the big kids :).

We also participated in an event called the Great Cloth Diaper Change, a day every year where people across the world get together in groups and you all change your child’s diaper at the same time.  They try to break a record for most cloth diapers changed but also use it as a way to teach people about cloth diapering.  We missed out last year because of another conflict so I was very excited to get to go this year!  It was fun and although I don’t have any pictures of the event I did snap one of this cool wet bag we got as a goodie bag – I love the symbols for babywearing, cloth diapering, and breastfeeding!
IMG_8829Michael had to travel out of town again this month.  We intended to go with him but the closer we got to the trip the more I dreaded trying to travel with an active toddler.  So long story short we decided to sit this trip out and we headed to my mom’s house instead.  Hudson had a rough week (turns out he was teething) – very fussy and did not sleep well.  So I’m glad we didn’t end up going out of town and staying in a hotel with Mr. Fussypants!

Watching an old favorite of mine – Wee Sing in Sillyville.IMG_8859Stirring a bowl fill of chip clips – one of his favorite “toys”.
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We went to do some shopping in Nashville one day so that mom could entertain Hudson while I shopped (it is SO hard to shop with a little one!).  He really liked the car at Shoe Carnival :).IMG_8900

Like I said though, he was having a rough week and did not enjoy our trip.  He usually does fine in his stroller but he was not having any of it at the mall so on my back he went.  Poor fussy, sleepy boy.

IMG_8898Hudson and I went one day to visit my friend Anne’s classroom and I read a story to her kindergarteners. Hudson had a ball checking out all the cool things in Miss Anne’s room!
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other stuff

We got a free newspaper in our mailbox one day and it provided hours of entertainment!  Hudson loved it when we stacked it up and then he would unstack and throw the papers everywhere.  He also liked to use his broom/mop to push them around the floor.

It’s the simple things!

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He still loves to sit and look at books but something new this month is that now he actually tolerates being read to.  Before he wanted to turn the pages really fast and got impatient after just a minute or two of reading but now he sits and listens, and actually he has started bringing us books and asking us to read to him.  It’s adorable!  (He actually brings you the book, hands it to you, and then holds his hands up in this cute gesture that he uses to indicate “hold me”.  Heart melter.)
IMG_8468Speaking of books….after removing one of my books from him for the millionth time and him having a big fit about it I just removed all the books from the shelf that were not his (i.e. the ones that could be torn up) and moved them upstairs out of reach.  Now he has full access to the bookshelf and it only contains his books so he can get any without restriction.

IMG_8459How adorable is this suit??  Oh he’s just soooo cute!  On months that there is a 5th Sunday the young men at church lead the evening service and it has become somewhat of a tradition that all the men wear bowties on the 5th Sunday.  So of course Hudson had to join in too :).IMG_8491My boys in their bow ties.IMG_8496

He rocked a more casual bowtie look for evening serviceIMG_8510His cleaning supplies are still his favorite toys.IMG_8559IMG_8685He also likes to stand at the windows and look out.  We bought a birdfeeder and hung it right outside the kitchen window so he can watch the birds while he eats or plays.  He really likes it (surprising since he’s afraid of so many other animals, but apparently birds are not scary to him).IMG_8660IMG_8662

It’s amazing how much he watches, soaks up, and mimics.  He was trying to hard to put his pants on!  He also “brushes” his hair with his comb, tries to put his amber teething necklace around his ankle at bedtime, takes oil bottles and mimics rubbing the oil on his feet, and more.  A good reminder that they’re always watching!IMG_8767

Oh how I love my little guy!  Even though sometimes I miss him being a teeny tiny baby, I just love him at this curious, funny toddler stage!  He makes me laugh all the time and he’s so active.  I’m really looking forward to the summer this year – I think we’re going to have so much more fun then we did just sitting around last year with a itty bitty baby!