Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why I Am a Kick Count Advocate

Happy Tuesday!  I meant to get this post up at the end of last week, but it was pretty busy and it just didn't happen.  So, here it is on Tuesday!

If you've read here for any length of time, you know that my pregnancies are not easy.  Since we unexpectedly lost our first child at 38 weeks, pregnancy has never been the same for me.  Pregnancy after a loss is hard  - there's really no way around it.

Fortunately for me, my doctors have rallied around me and been super supportive.  In subsequent pregnancies, I have seen by my normal doctor, but also a maternal fetal medicine specialist {which is just a fancy name for a high-risk obstetrician}.

Starting at 32 weeks, I see the MFM specialist for a weekly biophysical profile, where they measure the health of the baby.  Needless to say, these weekly appointments have been very helpful in relieving some of my fears of another full-term loss.      

In addition to the weekly monitoring, one of the things they encourage me to do is daily kick counts.  And at the end of each appointment, they always ask me the same question, "How are baby's movements at home?"  

What exactly are kick counts?
A kick count is exactly what it sounds like - counting the number of baby's movements.  Doctors may differ regarding the specifics, but the idea is that Mom should feel a certain number of movements within a given period of time.  My physicians recommend I do them twice a day and that I should feel 10 movements within an hour.

**I am absolutely, positively not a medical professional, so please consult your doctor if you have questions about what kick counts are, when to start them, how to do them, and how often to perform them.

With that being said, I am a BIG proponent of kick counts.  Certainly my medical history plays a role in that, but I still think there are valid reasons for doing them even if you don't struggle with anxiety during pregnancy or have never had a loss.

Here's why I think every expectant mother should do kick counts, regardless of whether you are high-risk.

1.  Mom is the best fetal monitor there is
While weekly monitoring is great, not everyone has that option.  And even if weekly monitoring was offered to every expectant mother from 32 weeks on, Mom is still the only 24/7 fetal monitor there is.  While this could be a little scary and put a lot of pressure on Mom to be paying very close attention, performing kick counts can help Mom to have a "method" for keeping track of how much baby is moving.

2.  Allows Mom to learn baby's movements
Doing daily kick counts allows Mom to learn baby's movements.  Mom will likely discover when baby is most active or how baby responds to certain foods Mom eats.  When Mom has learned baby's movements, it's easier to determine if/when there is a change in them.  A change in the movements might not mean anything, but if Mom notices a change in the number of movements, then it could be a sign of distress.      

3.  Forces Mom to stop twice a day to concentrate on baby's movements
I don't know about other women, but it became even more challenging to keep a check on baby's movements once we had other children at home.  My kids are constantly on the go, which means I'm constantly on the go, making it harder to pay close attention to baby's movements.  That might sound bad, but sometimes it's hard to remember that last time baby moved when I'm so busy keeping up with my kids.  Kick counts force me to stop my activity and focus on baby's movements.    

4.  It's better to be safe than sorry!
I know that kick counts do not mean unexpected, traumatic losses will cease to happen.  I do believe that God is sovereign and that some tragedies are unavoidable, however, kick counts are just another way to alert Mom to any possible fetal distress.  They are not foolproof and I don't want to suggest that they are, but they are just another option for alerting Mom to possible fetal distress.  The worst that can happen is that you suspect a lack of movement, go to your doctor to get checked out, and then get told that all is well.  Better to be safe than sorry!

I am not a medical expert.  I'm just a mother who believes in the benefits of performing daily kick counts.  I did not perform them with my first baby {whom we lost} and while I do not blame myself or feel like I was the cause of his stillbirth, I do think I could have been more aware of movements or lack thereof along the way.  There's really no harm in them, and they are a great excuse to kick your feet up twice a day!  What expectant mother doesn't like that idea?  :-)

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Did you perform kick counts during your pregnancies?

Linking up with:
Cindy for Made By You Monday
Sarah for Homemade Mondays
Kristi for Inspiration Monday
Kelly for Whimsy Wednesdays
Rachel for Wednesday Whatsits

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Consignor Secrets {ways to save time & money when preparing}

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of consignment sales.  It's consignment sale season here where I live in Virginia and I've been doing some shopping for the kids {the women's sales are coming up too}, but this has been my first year to actually sell my own items.

I've only got experience with one sale and the host has made it pretty easy to navigate these new waters, but I thought it would be fun to talk about how to make preparing to consign a little easier.  While I don't have all my earnings yet, I'm really excited about the thought of getting at least some money back!

I opted to start with consigning some of Savannah's clothes.  It may sound silly, but I couldn't bring myself to start off with her newborn/infant items this time, and since it is my first time doing this, I opted to pick her 2T clothing.  I figured I'll sell more sizes next time once I've learned the ropes a little bit.

How does it work for consignors?

If you are a total newbie to the concept of consigning clothes, here's a basic rundown of how it works with many consignment sales.  These might not apply to all types of sales, so definitely check the websites for any sales that you are interested in participating in.

- The people running the sale usually require a consignor fee.  You pay this no matter how many items you plan to consign and it is essentially your "entry fee."

- The consignor usually gets a percentage of their total sales and the host of the sale gets the rest.  Since they are providing the location, staffing {which are usually volunteers}, and marketing of the sale, it makes sense that they get a cut of your sales.  In our area, most of the consignors get around 70-80% of their total sales.

- Consignors are responsible for pricing and hanging their items.  You can decide whether you want your items to be included in the discount days that generally happen at the end of the sale.

- You can also decide whether you want your items to be donated at the end of the sale.  The choice is yours!  You might not ever want to see the items again once they've left your home.

- Consignors typically get to shop before the sale is open to the general public, so it's a great way to get first dibs on the best items.

I know a lot of people who have had great luck with consigning.  I know some people who do it every single season and they use the money to help with their clothing budget for the current season.  I think this is especially true for children's clothing, when kids are constantly outgrowing clothes.

Preparing to Consign

If you're interested in giving this a try, I've got some ideas for how to save time and money when you are preparing to consign your own items.

1.  Prepare your items in stages
I would definitely recommend you prepare all your items in stages.  It can get a little chaotic in your home when you are trying to decide what to sell and then going through the stages of getting all the items tagged and ready for the sale.  Here are some basic stages that might help you keep your sanity while you are prepping your items.

- Choose your items
- Wash or spot clean clothing/disinfect toys or gear
- Enter all your items {with prices and descriptions} into the tagging system your host uses
- Print all your tags
- Attach tags and hang items

2.  Have a generic price list for the pieces you are selling {tops, dresses, pants, outfits, etc.}
Pricing and entering your items in the tagging system can be very time consuming, so having a generic price list will help keep you from analyzing each and every item.  You won't have to think about base prices for each and every item, which should help speed things up.

You can and should increase or lower those prices based on the condition of the item or depending on the brand, but this price list will give you a baseline or starting point when you are pricing each item.  For example, I priced many of the long-sleeved shirts at $2 a piece.  If it was a specialty shirt {like for Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas themed}, then I may have increased the price just a little bit.

3.  Collect supplies all year round
You will need some supplies in order to prepare your items for the sale.

Here's a list of supplies you will likely need depending on what you are selling.
- hangers
- safety pins or ribbon {unless you have a tagging gun}
- Ziploc bags
- packing tape
- paper {possibly cardstock depending on host requirements}
- printer/ink
- scissors

In order to save money {you're trying to make money, remember?}, try your best to collect these items throughout the year.  Consider using a small tote so you can store these supplies in one place and be ready when consignment season rolls around again.

4.  Print your tags at the library or some public printer
You will save money on ink and lots of time by printing your tags on a public printer.  You may have to pay a little bit for each page you print, but I can almost guarantee you will save more money by not using up all your ink from your personal printer.  Also, it will take a lot less time to use one of the nice laser printers.

When I was preparing for this consignment sale, it was a little overwhelming at first, but I eventually got into a bit of a groove.  I'm looking forward to seeing how things go with this first sale.  I tried my best to price my items and present them well so they will actually sell, but we'll see.  I may be back afterwards to share some of my successes and/or failures!  :-)

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What ideas do you have to help a new consignor? 

Linking up with:
Sarah for Homemade Mondays
Kristi for Inspiration Monday
Kathy for Titus 2 Tuesday
Rachel for Wednesday Whatsits
Allison for Handmade Hangout
Wendy for Frugal Friday
Cheryl for I'm Lovin It
Six Sisters for Strut Your Stuff Saturday

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Teacher's Salary Series: Ways to Stretch Your Clothing Budget

Welcome back to another week of The Teacher's Salary series. Feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email if you have any suggestions for future topics.

Click HERE to see links to some of my previous posts from this series.

I know I've been talking a lot about clothing budgets lately, but today I wanted to come full circle by sharing some ideas on how to save money on clothing.  Once you realize you need to have a clothing budget and work on determining what it should be, then it's time to get out there and stick to it!  The good news is that no matter how small your clothing budget is, there are lots of ways to save.

1.  Buy used
Before I quit work to stay home with my kids, the thought of buying used clothes never occurred to me.  I'll be the first to admit that my preference will always be for buying clothes with the tags on, but I have realized that you can find some amazing prices on used clothing.  

Consignment sales are a great place to find gently used clothing for very good prices.  I shop consignment quite a bit for my children, but have started to visit some women's consignment sales for myself as well.  You have to dig and sometimes they can be overwhelming, but you can find some great brands at fantastic prices if you are patient. 

Thrift stores are another option for used clothes.   In my experience, not every thrift store is created equal.  Some thrift stores are poorly organized and tend to have outdated styles, but there are some that have really nice brands and current trends.  It may take some time to see which thrift stores are worth your time, but they are a great option.

Yard sales can also be a great place to find clothes for pennies on the dollar.  Since the selection at yard sales will be all over the place, you are likely to find things at totally random times.  Just keep your eyes peeled all year round and you can snag up some great items at great prices.

I don't have personal experience with ThredUp, but I'm hearing great things about them.  They are an online consignment store where you can buy and sell used clothing.  From what a friend has shared with me, you can find some great deals on high-end clothes and they offer free returns if you purchase through their mobile app.  Once I'm out of maternity clothes, I'm definitely going to check them out!

"The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her"

2.  Buy new clothes strategically
I posted about this specific topic a few weeks ago, so I won't repeat everything again today.  But, the truth is that you can find some great deals on new clothing if you keep your eyes peeled on sales and shop at the end of the seasons.  Check out my full post HERE for more specifics on how to snag new items for much less than sticker price!
3.  Stick to the basics
I'm starting to realize that we Americans have way too many clothes!  If the size of the closet in my 1940's house is any indication, then we have a lot more clothes than previous generations.  While there is nothing wrong with buying clothes if you can afford them, I'm convinced that we need a lot less than what we actually think.  

If your clothing budget is limited or you just want to simplify your purchasing, make a list of some wardrobe staples for each season {which may be based on your specific clothing needs} and make sure you stick to those items first and foremost when you are shopping.  You might start with basic items in basic colors and then consider using accessories {like jewelry or scarves that can often be cheaper} to add some more excitement or a pop of color.  Once you have the essentials, then you can always add some special pieces as your budget allows.       

You might find that your problem isn't that you don't have enough clothes, but that you need some new ways to wear what you already have.  Pinterest has been a huge inspiration to me!  Try to think outside the box and find new combinations with the items you already own.     

4.  Clean out your closet periodically
It's a great idea to routinely go through your closet and pull out items that you are no longer wearing.  If you could use the extra cash, then sell them and use the money for things you actually need.  It's a great way to keep your closet under control and to help you fund your clothing budget!

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What ideas do you have for stretching your clothing budget?

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