Thursday, August 27, 2015

Kid Update!

ND Chic reminded me that I haven't done any updates on Pickle's health in a while, so I figured I'd do a general kid update, since that's where all my time is going.

Pickle is amazing. She still has her feeding tube, and is basically still dependent on it - but we have been doing weekly feeding therapy since January and are seeing huge strides. In recent weeks, we've managed to eliminate a quarter of what she gets by tube, as she's made gains with oral eating. She's also been weaned off all of her reflux meds, and is able to take by mouth medications that we used to have to give by tube (liquid vitamins and the odd ibuprofen/acetaminophen dose).

It's hard to guess whether she's close to actually losing the tube. She has mastered purees, but still stores a lot of food in her cheek and doesn't swallow it (this is common with toddlers, but typical kids still swallow some food because food cures hunger, and that's a connection Pickle's body has not yet made). Her feeding therapist works on desensitizing Pickle's lips, cheeks, and tongue and especially her gag reflex. They try all kinds of weird combinations of foods to challenge her with textures (lately it's been ritz cracker crumbs mixed in yogurt, blech).

The fascinating part to me is that Pickle and Baby Bear were briefly at the exact same stage with eating - but Baby Bear has now surpassed his big sister. If you've ever started an infant on solids, you know about the tongue thrust reflex and how their gag reflex is super close to the front of their tongue but gradually moves back as they put toys and food in their mouths. Because his instincts were not interrupted, Baby Bear managed to reduce his own gag reflex, learned to swallow mushed/chewed food instead of just liquid, is now capable of eating most table foods, and is working on his pincer grasp. Because Pickle's instincts told her that eating hurt, she still needs our help to reduce that gag reflex and learn to swallow anything that's not totally smooth.

At any rate, the therapy is definitely helping (and is covered by insurance, thankfully) so we are working on challenging Pickle more and more with how much she eats by mouth. In a way I'm in no rush to lose the tube, because she is getting awesome nutrition through it (I still make all her food in our blender, or sometimes use a commercial product called Real Food Blends - she hasn't had formula in over 18 months). Keeping her focused on eating by mouth is a challenge, because she gets bored with it way before she's eaten enough calories to sustain her, so it's nice to not have to worry about it.

At the same time, I think that for us losing the tube will be a lot like potty training: she's not going to do it until I force the issue. For potty training, I picked a day, warned her for about a week, and then threw all her remaining diapers away (into a box for Baby Bear to use when he grows into them). We had several messy days, but there was no going back to diapers for her, and so she has learned to use the potty, even at night. With the tube, I'll have to craft a plan with her medical team and then just...stop feeding her and let her body figure out how to regulate itself. This is much higher stakes than potty training, so we'll have to have a limit for weight loss and dehydration and be willing to step in if necessary, but I sort of see it needing to be an all-or-nothing thing. It's down the road, but I'm not sure how far.

In other news, she has handled several colds with no problem (sometimes we do rescue breathing medications, but we haven't had to actually go in to the pediatrician), she is meeting or exceeding most developmental goals for her actual age, and she's obsessed with construction equipment. Baby Bear is a good-sized almost-9-month-old, sleeps mostly through the night, has a bunch of teeth, and is army-crawling around the house. They are lovely siblings to each other and drive me up the wall every day.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Capsule wardrobes for toddlers

It's getting close to consignment sale time, so I'm making my lists of what to buy. For the first time, I am not rounding out a bunch of hand-me-downs - I think I have maybe three things for Pickle for this winter. Conveniently, she is growing into a new size as the seasons change, and (sorry, I have to brag here for a second): she is growing into the right size for her age! I know that age and size aren't super correlated, but this is a child who was in size twelve months at her second birthday, so I am thrilled to be looking for size 3T pants a few weeks before she turns 3. Yay! (She's still tiny - around 1% on the growth chart - but hey, she's on the chart!)

Anyway, since the majority of her clothing has come from hand-me-downs, we've had situations where we are way lopsided on tops or bottoms, or have lots of different things that don't match each other. I like the idea of a capsule wardrobe (a limited number of pieces, where almost everything can be mixed and matched) and am trying to mimic the idea for the kids going forward. It's a little tricky with kids, since so much of their clothing is sold in sets, and also they go through so many costume changes a day sometimes, but here's what I'm thinking:

For a 3-year-old:
* a complete week's worth of clothing (7 pants + 7 tops, 7 pr underwear + 7 pr socks) plus a few extra in case of potty accidents or exuberant outdoor play. Plus an extra outfit for the diaper bag and one for the car. So, 12 pieces of each of those items.
* a couple hoodies or pull-over sweaters
* one nice outfit (we don't have many occasions for this kind of thing - maybe one or two weddings a year)
* 3-5 pajama sets or soft clothing that work as pajamas (I seem chronically understocked on pajamas). No more one-piece pajamas once potty training starts!
* rain coat
* winter coat
* hat, scarf, gloves (warm and maybe waterproof)
* winter boots
* sneakers
* snow suit? Not sure what kind of mileage we will get out of it this year (last year she wore it once and was not happy about it - but this year is a new year, after all!)

For a 9-month-old:
* two complete weeks' worth of clothing (combination of onesies, shirts, pants, and one-piece outfits), assuming 1.5 outfit changes a day plus the diaper bag and car bag.
* 8 million infant socks
* a couple hoodies
* one nice outfit
* 7 one-piece footy pajamas
* 2 sleep sacks
* soft shoes with grippy soles or something boot-like to cover the gap between sock and pants for when outside
* winter coat
* hat and gloves
* snow suit?

We already have two or three tubs of clothing for Baby Bear that were handed down to us, so I won't need to buy nearly as much for him - maybe nothing but socks. Still, it helps to have an end goal in mind, rather than just taking inventory.

I think in addition to taking their estimated sizes this year, I will also take some measurements (shoulders, waist, length of shirts & pants) and a drawing of their feet. Both kids are slim for their height, and every single pair of pants I bought Pickle last spring was too wide at the waist and too short in the legs. Measuring would help with that. I'm also going to try to make items mix-and-matchable, or maybe just pick a couple of colors for each kid and stick with those when picking out clothes. One hard and fast rule: no "Princess", "Diva", or "Flirt" type stuff for Pickle, and no sports-themed stuff for Baby Bear. I try to avoid name-brand logos and sayings in general, preferring simple designs or at most cute animals.

I am also looking for other basic stuff at the consignment sale: toddler cups/bowls/silverware, bibs (we never used them with Pickle, but Baby Bear is gonna need some!), diapers (disposable and swim), sunglasses, high chair covers, the perfect diaper bag (I will find it two days before I never need to carry a diaper bag again), and books.

It seems like so much stuff, when listed out like this, but just the other day I changed Pickle's pants four times (potty training is fun!) and Baby Bear three times (starting solids is fun!) so I don't think it's an unreasonable list. If I could just get their clothes to respectively mix and match, I wouldn't even have to fold anything - just dump it all in the right drawer and call it a day!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Comparison: Consignment Stores vs. Consignment Sales

I have a TON of stuff for the upcoming consignment sale, and I was a little overwhelmed at how much work it's going to be to hang, list, and tag everything. So I figured I'd take some things to a local consignment store, where the only work I have to do is make sure that the items are clean and in saleable condition. If I could make a similar return, it seemed like a win-win - especially since I can drop off at the store anytime, whereas the sale only happens twice a year (so I have to store stuff, which can be a pain - right now for example, I have two unusable closets plus a stack of big items in the basement). I ran over there last night to test out my theory.

Well, there is a pretty clear winner! Somewhat to my surprise: the consignment SALES - even factoring in the time it takes to get stuff ready.

I took two bags plus a few bigger items to the consignment store, but they only took seven items and I made a whopping.....$6.

Yeah.

Here's why I think the consignment sales are a better option.

1. The store's website claims that they take all seasons all the time. Turns out, that's not true, at least at my local store, so more than half my stuff they wouldn't even look at - even things like short-sleeved onesies, which, yes, have short sleeves, but are worn in the winter under other clothes. The consignment sale site is extremely clear on what they take and what they don't each season (and they DO take short-sleeved onesies in the winter, since people buy them!), so I know which clothes to ignore until the appropriate season rolls around.

2. The store didn't take any of my larger items - a bathtub, an Ergo insert, and a bottle warmer - even though, again, their website says they take baby equipment "of all types". All my stuff is in great shape and will definitely sell at the consignment sale. The sales person told me they don't take tubs at all, or "electronic equipment" (even though there are tons of electronic toys, so...) and that they don't take baby carriers, even though there was a whole wall of Baby Bjorns (but no Ergos). So...their policy is not clear at all, and the point goes to the sale for clarity.

3. The store has a rule about clothing - infant clothes must be either one piece full clothing (like footy pajamas) or two-piece sets (onesie and pants). They won't take individual pieces like pants or onesies, and they won't pair identical things like two pairs of pants or several onesies. The consignment sale has no such rule, although for little baby clothes, most people match up several like items (three pairs of pants or whatever) to hit the minimum $3 tag rule. Once again, this clothing rule was not listed anywhere on the store's website or on the handout they gave me listing their guidelines.

4. At the store, there's basically one person looking at all my items and deciding whether to buy them. At the sale, there's one person checking to make sure I've followed the rules (minimum $3 price, hung and tagged correctly, no stains or tears, etc) but every shopper is a potential buyer so as long as my stuff is in good shape, I have a way better chance of selling more stuff to more people than to fewer. So far, I've always sold about 75% of the things I bring to a consignment sale (the rest is donated to a non-profit, and I get a receipt for my taxes).

5. Lastly, the pricing at the store is not as favorable as the sales. They claimed to offer me 50% of what they plan to price the item, but I'm not sure this is accurate. For example, I had a pair of boots still in great shape that would have sold for at least $5 at the consignment sale (netting me 60%, or $3), and they gave me $0.90 for them, which indicates they plan to list them at $1.80. But I browsed their shoe bin while I was waiting, and there were no shoes that cheap - the cheapest I saw was $4.50 and a similar boot was for sale at $10. So. I think there's something pretty wonky with their pricing/payment scheme, and I have no control over the pricing and can't prove that they'll price them higher than what they say (I guess I could go back in a few days with my receipt and see what the boots are priced at if they're still there...).

So, my feeling at this point is that sorting and storing stuff for the consignment store is a complete crapshoot - it's a pain to lug everything out there and come home with most of it again. I asked for clarification and wrote down a bunch of notes, but I feel like it's also up to each employee's discretion as to what they'll take and what they won't. Between that and what I feel like are low-ball payments, I don't think it's worth my time to take more stuff to the consignment store. It might be easier to take loads of stuff to the store and then drop off whatever they don't take at a thrift store, and it would certainly get the stuff out of my house faster - but I would be irritated about the payout I received in exchange.

The sales are a lot of work, yes. A TON of work, if I do it all at once. What I've been trying to do this time as my kids outgrow things is to get them into perfect sale condition, keep them sorted by season, hang them as I go, and tag them in small batches when I have a little free time (if I take small enough chunks, I can even do it while the kids are occupying themselves in the same room). My dollar per hour return is almost certainly not even minimum wage - but so far I've managed to make more money selling outgrown clothes than I've spent on the next season's clothes, and that's a pretty good marker as well. It's also something I'm certain I couldn't manage to do at the consignment store, and that's the final answer for me.