Sunday, January 27, 2013

Creating a Routine or Schedule for your 4-6 month old

Creating a Routine or Schedule for your 4-6 month old:

Gently get your life back and create a routine that both you and baby can live with!


After our little Squishy Face was born in August, my carefully planned routines took a nosedive off a cliff and took my sanity along with it. That was also when I realized that I may have been harboring some deeply hidden control freak tendencies. Those first few weeks were a combination of sheer amazing and horrendous that only a new mom can understand. But then, little by little, it got better. I noticed he had a pattern even if the times weren’t the same, he followed a predictable pattern of eat, diaper, sleep, diaper, eat, diaper, play. I found that if I timed things right, I could do what needed to be done and use his natural patterns to help me.


At around 4 and a half months, we decided to put our little boy, who ate and slept on demand, had never slept in his crib and napped wherever he happened to be playing at the moment, on a schedule.  We didn’t use cry it out, or baby wise, or any method of “training”. We simply came up with a schedule based on research of the sleep and feeding requirements of his age, that worked for our hours and implemented it. If he cried for a bottle before his “time” for a bottle, we tried to distract him, if it didn’t work- we fed him the bottle and adjusted the schedule for the rest of the day. Within a week, he adjusted beautifully to the schedule and was asleep during naps within 10 minutes, rarely cried for a bottle, and sleeps through the night with only one wake up. Since he’s in day care for 6 hours, 3-4 days per week, the schedule during those hours aren’t as easy to adjust to since they aren’t constantly reinforced but it’s clearly going in the right direction.


I was able to fit my daily chores around his schedule and then both of us can get used to our routine. Since my days off rotate constantly, it was important to me that the routine didn’t change with whether I was working or not. When I’m off, I keep Michael home with me, but the times and activities are the same regardless of whether I’m off.



This is an example of the schedule that works for us: Use 0 as whatever time you normally wake up, then add the hours as shown. For example, if you wake up at 6am- then 0 is 6am: Wake up and Get Ready.  1.5 hrs: Nap 1.5 Hours and Chores is 7:30am (1.5 hours after your wake up time).  3hrs: Feeding is 9am (3 hours after wake up time).



0 hours: Wake Up and Get Ready

Squishy wakes up, gets changed and gets a 6 oz bottle. I switch the laundry while he watches the mobile, and put those clothes away. I give him a bath and dress him. He comes into the bathroom with me while I bathe, dress, and get ready for the day. We keep a few toys next to the bathtub in the master bath and I lay him on the fluffy rug in there.


1:30 Hours: Nap 1.5 Hours; Chores

 I bring Squishy down, change his diaper, and lay him in the pack and play with the music on and the lights off for a 1.5 hour nap. I make breakfast and eat. I make boxed lunches for Jon and I (since Jon goes in early and I work in the afternoon, I make Jon’s lunch now for tomorrow), I make dinner (which I’ll eat at 12pm before work, and Jon will eat tonight) and put it in the fridge. I straighten up the middle level of the house (which is my level, Jon handles the top and bottom levels), Switch the laundry and put away (usually his cloth diapers for this load). I clean the kitty litter box every day (which makes it a really easy chore! If I miss just two days, it’s my least favorite chore). If it’s scheduled, I make a menu plan for the week and leave Jon the list to take to the grocery store). I’m usually done with my chores right around 10:30am. Depending on my mood, I’ll either relax on the couch and read , or I’ll “pick a spot” and spend ten minutes decorating, organizing, or cleaning a random spot in the house.


3 hours: Feeding – Baby Food and 6 oz bottle

I grab his baby food from the fridge, and heat it for about 4 seconds. I make his bottle and warm it. I wake him up and talk to him/ play with him for a few minutes (so I’m not shoveling apples into a sleepy groggy baby), then sit him in the bumbo and feed him as much baby food as he wants. Then he switches to the bottle and finishes eating. I clean him up (and more often than not- clean me up), change his diaper, and pack the bottles and diapers up for day care (If I’m working that day). If I’m working, Michael gets dropped off at day care, I stop by the gym on my way home and run through my 20 minute work out, come home and eat my “dinner” at lunch. Then I go get ready for work.


If I’m off that day, then I bundle up Squishy and put him in the stroller, we head out running (well as close to running as I’ve gotten post baby-maybe a fast yet awkward jog). If I get bored with my neighborhood (this frequently happens), then I take him to the mansion communities, or the parks, or outdoor shopping centers. When we get back, We do baby yoga (instructions can be found here) or I do exercises and then help him mimic me. Then we alternate working on new skills and “relaxed play”. I’ll interact with him, read him books, or help him practice rolling over or sitting up for a few minutes, then let him lay and chew on his hand for a while (his favorite!), or bounce in his bouncer. While he’s doing relaxed play, I can take a few minutes and tackle anything extra I need to get done (or go back to reading on the couch!) The key to a happy routine to me is to expect his naps to be “my time” and awake time to be “his time”. If I happen to have a few minutes to get something done during “his time”, then great!, but I make sure that anything that needs to be done is done during nap times.



6 hours: Nap- 1.5 Hours

If I’m off, than I change him, and put him down in the pack and play with the music on and the lights off. I do my fly lady mission for the day (15 minutes), spend about 30 minutes on my weekly chores (cleaning out the fridge, and cleaning the bathrooms), then I read, blog, work on craft projects, anything I want (lately I bake massive amounts of yeast bread).


7.5 hours: Feeding- 6oz bottle and Errands

If I’m off, then I feed him 6 oz, change his diaper, and tackle any errands we have (normally the library or the post office since Jon’s been doing the grocery shopping lately), as he gets older and more alert, I’d like to start going to locals sights- butterfly gardens, and battlefields, petting zoos etc. I figure there’s more for him to see in this world than his pack and play and my living room J. Lately I’ve been using this time to read up on child development and research.



10 hours: Nap- 1 Hour

If I’m off, I change him, and put him down for a nap in pack and play for an hour. We eat dinner, then I lay on the couch and do nothing. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day. If I get really motivated, then I might play on pinterest for the hour.


11 hours: Feeding- 6 oz bottle and quiet play.

If I’m off, I feed him a 6 oz bottle, change his diaper and cuddle him, or read him a book, or Jon will play the guitar for him. I try not to get him involved in anything super rambunctious since we’re approaching bed time.


12.5 hours: Bedtime and Laundry

I change his diaper, put him in his warm Pj’s, and put him in his crib for bed. I turn on the sleep sheep to “Rain” and turn the lights off. I go and wash his cloth diapers for the day, which takes about ten minutes. By the time I come back in to check on him he’s usually passed out. I cover him with a thin blanket and go hang out with my awesome husband.


15 hours:  Dream Feed

If he has a diaper rash, we wake him up, change him, and feed him a 6 oz bottle. If he doesn’t have diaper rash, we “dream feed him”, which means we leave him in the crib asleep with the lights off and we carefully put the nipple of the bottle near his mouth. He sucks in the nipple and drinks naturally without waking up. We have him drink anywhere from 4 to 6 oz and then sneak back out.



16  hours: Our Bedtime



19 hours: Night Feed

 He usually wakes up between 3am and 6 am hungry. On the advice from the pediatrician, we feed him if I have to work the next day, so I can be back in bed in 30 minutes. If I’m off the next day, I cuddle him, or rock him, and then put him back to bed, he may be up in another hour to get a bottle, but it helps in the eventual goal of sleeping through the night without waking. When I first get up to feed him, I switch the diapers in the laundry so they are drying. When he’s had his bottle and I’ve changed him and put him back down, I can take the diapers out and leave them to be folded in the am.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Making Your Own Spaghetti Sauce from Scratch - freezable, cheap, and tastes better than jarred!

Making Your Own Spaghetti Sauce from Scratch - freezable, cheap, and tastes better than jarred!

28 oz Crushed Tomatoes

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons Rosemary

2 Cloves Garlic

2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste



Simmer ingredients in a large pot for at least 15 minutes. I usually simmer mine for 30 minutes. Let cool. While sauce is cooling, label quart freezer bags with date and ingredients. Label the expiration date as 6 months from the day you made it. When sauce is cooled, pour into quart freezer bags and lay on a flat surface in freezer until partially frozen. Then transfer flat bags to large gallon sized freezer bags (I’m a fan of double wrapping for the freezer). Defrost in the fridge the night before needed.


Sauce is good for 6 months in the freezer.


Feel free to double or triple the recipe for batch cooking.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Short Term Salary Replacement Ideas


Recently, when we had our first child, I had to be unpaid during family and medical leave for about 6 weeks. Since we had plenty of time to plan for it, it wasn’t as traumatic as one might expect. However, why lose that money if you don’t need to? We used the opportunity to declutter the house of things we no longer use, need, or want.


I went through the house, room by room with Ebay’s iPhone app. I used the app to scan the barcodes on anything I didn’t want anymore and could complete listings in less than two minutes!  I scheduled each listing to run for 7 days, and to start on Sunday at 10pm (statistically the highest bidding time). I would choose priority mail shipping only, so that when I brought my packages to the post office, I wouldn’t have to wait in line and I could use automated postage machine. There are size requirements for using the automated machine, so if your packages are large, you’ll have to wait in line.


During the week that items are active, I would take my bag of shipping supplies around to each room and box up things when I had a few moments. I would stick a post it note on the box labeling its contents. In my schedule book, I would add “address ebay packages” for Monday after all sales have been made, and “Post Office- mail ebay packages” for Tuesday.


Some examples of things we sold:

DVD’s- especially Blue Ray

Clothing- sold in “lots” of similar sizes, types, and brands.

Crafting supplies.

Hobby Gear- Metal Detector, Radio Equipment, Random Gear from past hobbies.


If you have something that’s particularly large that can’t be sold on ebay (or isn’t worth it when you consider shipping costs), consider selling on Craigslist. BBQ Grill, Coffee Table, Bunk Beds that are no longer wanted? List it on craigslist, include a picture and it will sell in a few days. Always consider safety when selling on Craigslist. If you’re buying on Craigslist and it sounds like a deal too good to be true, it probably is. If someone’s selling a 2011 Taurus in perfect condition for 3,000 dollars cash only, I would be suspicious. Remember, you can always dictate the meeting location, I would suggest meeting them in the parking lot of the local police station. If it’s something where they are coming to your home to pick up a very large object, ensure that you have plenty of people at home and that you have a way to defend yourself if necessary. Pepper spray costs about $10.00 and can easily be stored in your pants pocket. We use Craigslist all the time, so my intention isn’t to scare you away from it, just to advise you that Craigslist is riskier than Ebay and to consider ways to minimize that risk or realize that Craigslist isn’t for you.

On a final note- Consider the way Ebay can work for you in future purchases. We needed a 12 oz stock pot for soap making. I wanted to pick it up that day, but the few I could find locally were extremely expensive. I lucked out at Khols and found a set of 2 (12 oz and 16 oz) on clearance for $35, down from $90. I purchased them, but I didn’t need the 16oz pot, so I listed it on Ebay where it sold for $43. This paid for the cost of both Pots and shipping, giving me my pot for free. I’m a big fan of freeJ


In the end, by selling on ebay, we made about $1,800 over two weeks for about 6 hours of work total. Not bad considering all we did was declutter!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Whole Foods Version of 15 minute meals!

15 Minute Meals: Whole Foods Version

1. Canadian Bacon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich: Throw a skillet over medium heat. Spray skillet with cooking spray (or oil). Heat each side of bacon on medium for two minutes, and lay on paper towel to drain (this is instructions for Canadian bacon sold in the US only- Canadian bacon sold in the US is only sold pre cooked, In Canada, it’s sold uncooked and would require longer cooking times). Break an egg into the pan from the bacon (yay! Less dishes!) and fry as desired. I’m lazy so I normally just scrambleJ While egg is cooking, throw two slices of toast in the toaster. When they pop up, layer with bacon, add eggs, and top with any cheese you have available. Cheddar? Mozzarella? Monterey? Swiss? All delicious. I’m convinced any cheese makes this better.


2. Shrimp Tossed Pasta: This one came from my mom and sister. I couldn’t try it out because the idea of eating seafood makes me gag… But I grew up watching them devour this stuff so it must be good. Boil water in a pot.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a separate pan and heat shrimp over medium heat until pink and curled. Add 2 cans of minced clams with the juice and heat. While shrimp is cooking, add pasta to boiling water and cook as directed (8-11 minutes). Drain Pasta, toss with shrimp/clams/ oil mixture. Enjoy! (Or gag if you’re me).


3. Turkey Rueben Sandwiches: This is a great way to use up leftover turkey! You may also be able to buy “off the bone turkey” from your local deli (Wegmans has it- but really, Wegmans has everything), which is just carved turkey slices.  Add turkey to Rye Bread, pile on sauerkraut, drizzle on Russian dressing and top with swiss cheese. Broil under low heat for about 1 minute if you’d like it to be melted and warm.


Variation- Every winter Wegmans sells a cranberry orange spread that I mix with mayonnaise that tastes amazing! You can just add it to any turkey sandwich- It’s pretty delicious.


4. Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken: If you spend one of your days off grilling up a pack of chicken breasts – you can freeze the chicken breast (I wrap in waxed paper, and then seal in a freezer bag, removing all air.) When you need one- microwave for about 2 minutes or heat in a skillet.  For Caesar Salad, I chop up romaine lettuce, heat the chicken and slice up, lay the chicken on top, add random extras that I have around – black olives, feta or parmesan cheese, diced cucumbers etc. Then drizzle with Greek dressing.


5. Chicken Salad on Pitas: If you spend one of your days off grilling up a pack of chicken breasts – you can freeze the chicken breast (I wrap in waxed paper, and then seal in a freezer bag, removing all air.) When you need one- microwave for about 2 minutes or heat in a skillet.  For Chicken Salad, heat chicken, then dice up and mix with mayonnaise (add mayonnaise until it reaches the desired consistency, then add a little mustard (any type you have is fine), salt, and pepper. You can also use up any extra leftovers you have around- Dice up and add carrots, celery, onion, green pepper, or even apples (though I wouldn’t add apples to the onion!)


6. Home Made Sloppy Joe’s: I’m actually not a fan of canned Sloppy Joe’s, so it was clearly divine intervention when I was trying to use up some extra ground beef and found this recipe. Since I had all of the ingredients, I cooked it up and OH MY GOSH!!! Amazing!! Since it’s not my recipe, I’ll include the link here, but it took less than 15minutes to make.


7. Quesadillas: Heat ground beef with taco seasoning over medium heat until brown. In a pan over medium heat, grease a pan, lay down flour tortilla, add ground beef, top with cheese, and add another tortilla. Heat for about three minutes and then flip. Heat for another three minutes. Since all of your ingredients are already cooked, you’re just melting them and crisping the tortilla. 


8. Easiest Chili Ever: Heat ground beef in a covered pot over medium heat- stir often to break up and brown all sides. Add a can of tomato soup (or tomato paste and diced tomatoes- you really can’t mess this up), and a can of kidney (red) beans. That is a very basic mild chili recipe. You can eat it just like that, or add anything you want. Have extra onions from yesterday’s recipe? Dice them up and throw them in! You can add corn, olives, green pepper, spices, chilis, carrots etc. Again, you can’t screw this up… Experiment a little. I simmer the chili for 15 minutes, and then serve it with a hunk of cheddar cheese and bread.


10. Broiled Steak: This seems to be my favorite lately. Heat your oven to a low broil and move your oven rack to the highest or next to highest level. Take any steak (This works best for well done lovers if it’s thin cut – if it’s a thick cut, don’t stress you can just reduce the oven heat to 350 and shut the door after broiling, cook it another 5-10 minutes and your in well done territory) and lay on your broiling pan. Add spices or a salt and pepper rub if you would like, then broil with the door propped open an inch or two for 2 minutes per side. Take it out and slice through it- too pink? Broil in the same way for another two minutes per side. Enjoy!

11. Greek Pasta Salad: Boil shell pasta as directed. While pasta is cooking, slice up fresh basil, carrots, green pepper, and red onion. Dice up pepperoni. Drain pasta and mix with veggies and pepperoni. Add feta cheese (I buy Mediterranean feta cheese with sundried tomatoes and spices. Toss with Greek dressing and serve.

Free Breakfast at Chickfila on Wednesdays in January in the Washington Dc Metro Area/ Charlotte, NC/ and Select California Locations


Free Breakfast at Chickfila!


Head over to to reserve a free breakfast entrée at participating Washington DC Metro, Charlotte NC, and California locations. It takes about 2 minutes to fill out the application, you choose your date (January 23rd or January 30th), your time slot and your menu item. It emails you an invitation to print out. Bring that invitation to Chickfila during your time slot and ta da! Free breakfastJ


Bonus points, because that will motivate me to get out and get my oil changed that day!