Baby Toting

Last weekend, my husband and I carried the girls all over town. We bypassed the stroller in favor of a Kelty Backpack and an Ergo. This was arguably the most active weekend I’ve participated in since before giving birth, and it was a blast! We trekked up a local, hilly trail on the cool Sunday morning and enjoyed perfect hiking weather. Audrey and Hannah absolutely loved navigating the path with us from their high viewpoints. They exchanged glances along the path as we stopped, and happily took in the scenery while bobbing along in their carriers.

The girls checked each other out as we stopped on the path.I was amazed at Audrey’s intense concentration at the beginning of the trail. She stayed awake for longer than I expected and eagerly looked around at me and the trees. Hannah is no stranger to the path and loves it when her Dad totes her around. She’ll mumble to herself and make comments about the scenery. The end of the path is rough and hazardous, but we both took our time with the precious cargo and made it down without incident. I love hiking with my husband because he always takes the time to show me the safest path. It’s impressive that he can harness his playful side while he’s carrying our daughter. Generally he bounds down the mountain side without fear. I know he can’t wait to show her how to get in and out of a challenge on the trail when she starts walking on her own.
After the hike, we headed to town for Victory Brewing Company’s Fall Fest. It was awesome to walk through the streets and support all the local businesses. Downingtown is really headed in the right direction and there are so many people working to turn it into a thriving community for the next generation. I’m truly inspired by our friend Autumn who spearheads many of the events with the local Rotary club. Not only are the festivals fun to attend, but they’re also raising money for well-deserved causes. I can’t wait to see what they have planned next.

Did I mention that we toted the girls for this, too? We breezed through the crowds and connected with our kids in the sea of people. It was easy to talk to Hannah and nice to see her reactions as she observed the surroundings. She loved seeing dogs and greeted them with her wolfy, “Awwwooooo.” When we approached the band I could tell she was nervous, but I reassured her about the loud noise. She quickly ‘changed her tune’ and made the sign for music to show that she was entertained.

There were several mothers wearing babies and one other Dad sported a Kelty carrier as well. It was nice to see a larger than average portion of the public keeping their little ones at arm’s reach. I’m not sure my body will agree tomorrow, but I feel great now after a long day being close with my family.

2012 Holiday Gift Guide Submissions

Eco Incognito is currently accepting requests from brands interested in being featured on the “Merry Christmas, Baby” gift list. Submissions may include, but are not limited to, toys, clothes, educational activities, and places of interest for the 0-2 age group. Email for more information. Thank you for your interest!

Defining My Consumer Style

Last year I set an ambitious goal; to save more money than I would have made working full time. I left my job as a photo studio producer to become a Full Time Mom because I absolutely wanted to devote myself to my daughter for her first year. As soon as I “aced” my second pregnancy test, I knew I needed to stay in this job for as long as possible. Now that we have two girls, I’m going to save as much money as I can for my family. It’s my way of ensuring my happiness and respecting my husband’s hard work at bringing home the bacon.

At first I wanted to start couponing, but there is so much waste to that nonsense that it can’t become my life plan. Granted, I’m going to use coupons, but I’m not going to devote more than 2 hours at the store at a given time and I’m certainly not going to bring home items that we won’t ever use. I’m also peeved by the notion that you’ll save more by buying smaller items. Smaller items = more packaging and more waste. You’re talking to someone who’s cloth diapering here, so I’m not about to fill up the landfill space that I’m saving! Basically, couponing wasn’t going to become my overall life mantra so I checked out the other side of the spectrum.

Initially I avoided going green because I thought everything cost more. When I think about what I’ve learned in the last year, I realize how naive I was. Yes, some of the products cost more but many of them are reusable or concentrated so the value is greater. I’ve gone from being skeptical of anything green to a borderline hippie. My husband is keeping tabs on me to make sure I don’t take things too far and he’s a great sounding board for some of the hairbrained ideas I find online.

If I’m not an extreme couponer or a barefoot treehugger, but I dabble in a few of both practices, where does that leave me? I call it a Conscientious Consumer. I’ve set my priorities to help guide me through the decisions I’m making about everything from the food we eat to the cleaning products I use:

  1. Health of my family
  2. Cost
  3. Environmental impact
  4. Time/Effort involved

With all this in mind, how are the finances stacking up? Pretty well so far! Since we would have spent 3/4 of my income on daycare, fuel, tolls, and taxes I was left with a small amount to cut from our regular monthly expenses.  I did this by menu planning based on grocery sales and using lots of quirky household tricks to cut costs. This ended up being the most costly year of our life because we paid for a home birth out of pocket, bought a home and completed some huge home renovations, but we’re using debt in a manageable way and doing our best to make responsible choices that match our income.

Ever since quitting my job I started getting fortunes from the Chinese restaurant about my great wealth and growing fortune. They seem to be true because I look at my family and know that I am rich in love.

All Signs Point to More

Hannah and I are both learning sign language as we go. A few months ago the local library hosted an introductory class about using signs with babies that was full of great information. Since then, I’ve used the internet to find the signs that we incorporate into our daily life. I try to make it as simple as possible for both of us by only introducing one new sign at a time. I know that she could learn more, but my head is already spinning from all the work two babies can create so I’m taking it easy on myself.

The class setting is nice because you’ll learn songs and get demonstrations of how to sign while you read certain books. If you’re interested in signing with your baby, but aren’t able to attend classes, it’s very easy to do on your own. You can find a video of almost every sign with a quick google search (i.e. ASL sign for Apple.) Another option is to borrow a book from the library of popular baby signs. There are even Apps for the iPhone or iPad to help categorize the signs that you’ll use the most with your baby. I would recommend teaching “all done,” “more,” and “night night.” From that point, the sky is the limit to what you and your baby will find interesting. Try animal names, types of food, colors, and signs for family members. Babies can start to recognize that you are signing when they are as young as 6 months. Early learners may start to sign back by 9 months. Depending on how frequently you use the word, toddlers can learn to use signs in a matter of days.

The two most important things I learned in class were to always say the word as I sign it and to keep my signs consistent. That means that when she starts to make a sign, I should continue to do it the correct way even if it looks cuter her way. She recognizes quite a few of my signs, but she understands so many words that sign language is really more of a way for her to communicate to me. Sometimes her signs are very clear, but other times I have to pay close attention to her hand motions to pick them up. For instance, she uses the sign for “more” to indicate almost anything. She’ll ask for food, toys, to move somewhere else, or when she sees Grandma (since Grandma brings food a lot.)

To read more about how I’m using sign language with Hannah, check out A Sign of Success.

Cooties x 4

Rules for surviving a cold that strikes the whole family at once:

1. Ignore all the rules.

We are currently winding down a bout with a nasty cold that hit us all within a matter of hours. I remember wondering whether or not you can breastfeed a sick baby in a La Leche League meeting, so I figured I ought to assemble some details on how to care for two little ones and a whiny husband while blowing through every tissue in the house. I should have seen this coming considering we spent the majority of the summer cooped up in the house between bed rest and birth, only to return to activities in the midst of back-to-school/cold/flu season. Once we all fell under the weather, I assumed the role of Dr. Mom to a T, with the requisite bathrobe and all. (Note: bathrobes have deep pockets for tissues.)

Audrey’s Care Regimen

The littlest one in the house needed lots of contact with Mama (as usual.) It’s important for her to get breastmilk because my body quickly develops antibodies to the virus and will pass them on to her to help fight it off. However, the stuffy nose was causing her to spit up lots of milk, so I kept the laundry going full time for clean sheets and pjs. Using cloth diapers comes in handy at times like these because I have plenty of absorbent cotton handy for cleanup. I tried my best to nurse her upright and to pay close attention to the timer on my watch to space her meals so that I wouldn’t overfeed her. Most importantly, I pumped once a day so that I wouldn’t get backed up, my supply wouldn’t go down, and she wouldn’t have trouble latching on during a waterfall of milk. After two days my supply did decrease as I suspected, so I read her cues and offered her more time to feed while switch nursing. During the day I changed her diaper after meals and gave her a little time to stretch out and “play” with her sister. Then I bundled her back up and rocked her to sleep. At night she slept in my bed so I could easily feed her and we could get back to sleep immediately. I always try to keep the lights low or off starting at 7 PM so that she knows it’s nighttime. I think the sleeping beauty will feel better in no time.

Hannah’s Care Regimen

My little bundle of energy needed lots of rest and fluids. To make it easy on her, I gave her all bottles instead of sippy cups to ensure that she’d get enough to drink. I also let her fall asleep with a bottle of water since I put her to bed a little early each night. During the day, I offered her meals and snacks a little earlier than usual or else gave her a bottle of milk while I prepared them. A few times I added my pumped milk to her bottle since she could benefit from that as well. We read books each day (which I need to towel off with cleaning spray) and played with toys together (that need to go through the wash cycle.) I showed her how to wipe her nose and kept a cloth wipe available for her to do it on her own. Most of the time I’d ask to wipe her “boogs” and then do it for her. Since she’s so independent and loves to move around, we took her for walks in the stroller so that she wouldn’t over-exert herself. I even caved and had my husband put on a movie for the family to sit down and watch so that we could all relax before bedtime.

Hanky How-To

Flannel makes soft, reusable hankies. You can cut a receiving blanket, pajama bottoms, or plaid shirt into squares or rectangles. Keep a basket for soiled wipes near the washing machine and throw them in for two cycles. Quick wash on cold, then hot wash with a little soap.

Tomorrow is a new day and I hope we’ll all greet it with renewed energy.

I’m Positive You’ll Like this Savings Tip!

This post is rated PG: Pretty Girlie. It contains an Eco Friendly tip for my female audience.

Did you know that there is a simpler, cheaper, and environmentally friendly way to take a pregnancy test? Two years I found out how much pregnancy tests cost during the joyful stage of trying to conceive our first baby. I was working at the time, so the $9 for a 3 pack didn’t phase our budget much. Still, I was happy to heed the advice not to buy very many tests. We were lucky to get pregnant very quickly and only needed two tests anyway.

If I had known then what I know now, I probably would have taken a test every day. Talk about peace of mind! You can buy the same test strips used at doctor’s offices. It costs as little as $5 for 25 tests. The instructions are clear and easy to understand (not pages long!) You’re obviously saving money at only 20 cents per test, too. The best part is, there is less plastic, cardboard, and paper waste compared to the drug store’s alternative.

Next time you’re in the market for a pregnancy test, buy them at

Baby Nursing Incognito

Second time Moms tend to have an easier time nursing their babies. Having experience can make the process much easier early on. I’m not sure there’s a way to instill this confidence in a first time Mom, but there is one thing that every first time Mother should hear. In fact, I wish I had heard it more often.

It’s ok to feed your baby wherever, whenever, and however you want to.

There’s no right or wrong way to nurse your baby, but there are some stealthy ways to nurse incognito. My favorite way to do this is to wear a stretchy knit top over a nursing tank. You simply unhook the tank, then pull down the flap so baby can access the boob while you lift up your top shirt. You’ll get coverage from belly to cleavage without having to wear a cover. If you are having success with breastfeeding incognito, don’t throw out your nursing cover just yet. You can repurpose it as a mat for diaper changes.

Early on, I was able to wear Audrey in the k’tan sideways and nurse her. Now that she’s getting bigger it’s a little tougher to position her correctly so I’m looking forward to figuring it out in the Ergo when we swap to that carrier. Did you know that you can search YouTube for advice on how to wear and nurse your baby in all the different carriers? That’s where I’m headed for information!