It is hard to believe that three weeks ago it was snowing here. It was around 60 degrees this afternoon with plentiful sunshine. Cadence's friend Katie came over to play for the afternoon and we decided to pack all four kids up in the van for a trip to the Greenville Zoo.

First, we stopped at Moe's for lunch. We chowed down on tacos, burritos, chips and cheese dip before heading downtown. When we arrived at the Cleveland Park area I realized that everyone else in Greenville County had the same idea that we did. The place was packed!

We finally found a parking spot and headed towards to the zoo. The line to get in was about 50 yards long. We decided to let the kids play on the playground instead. If you haven't checked out Cleveland Park's new playground, definitely visit it. It and Kid's Planet in Greer are my favorite playgrounds.

After an hour or so the line going into the zoo died down so we went in. The kids had a great time checking out all of the animals and doing silly poses for pictures along the way. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home, so you are forced to check out my cell phone pictures.

Since I promised to talk about our budget-friendly activities, here is the break-down on today's activity. Thanks to coupons for lunch (from the Attractions book) and a membership to the Greenville Zoo, our lunch and afternoon out with 2 adults, 3 kids and a baby cost under $30.

Blog Facelift - Welcome to the Kind-of-Crunchy Hall~Smith Family!

I went several weeks without making an entry, and now I've made three in the last few days! Anyway, my last entry on Must-Have Baby Items made me think. I have tons of baby and parenting related tricks floating around in my head - most of which involve budget parenting. So going forward, I will still continue to blog about events going in in our family; however, I'm going to add in the little tricks that I have learned along my journey of becoming a budget-conscious, "crunchy" mom.

What is "crunchy" parenting, you ask? "Crunchy" refers to granola - something natural. The more "crunchy" the parent, the more natural they are. For example, an extremely "crunchy" parent may not vaccinate their children, may home school and probably buys only organic products. We are moderately "crunchy." We make baby food, breast feed, baby wear and vaccinate on a modified schedule. We buy organic when we can, but do everything on a budget.

Be prepared for more blogging on topics relating to how we keep save money everyday by being the Kind-of-Crunchy Hall-Smith Family!

My "Must-Have" Baby Items

When Cadence and Gabriel were little there was only one baby item that I absolutely could not live without:

The Original Nojo Babysling by Dr. Sears

All three of my children have ridden around in the same gray ring sling until they were a year or so old. With Cadence and Gabriel though, my must-have list ended there.

With William however, I have discovered four other must-haves that I didn't discover with Cadence and Gabriel - a few of which could even contend with the Nojo sling for my number one favorite baby item. They are as follows:

Cloth Diapers and accessories

If you would have told me three or four years ago that I would fall in love with cloth diapers, I would have laughed at you and then made some disgusted face at the thought of washing some of the diapers that I had seen my older daughter and son produce. However, when I was pregnant with William I decided to research the whole cloth diapering thing. I got passed the "ick factor" and began thinking about how much money I had spent on diapers for Cadence and Gabriel and how much space those disposable diapers were now occupying in a landfill (and will continue to occupy for hundreds of years).

I bought six Katydid and one Kawaii pocket diapers on Craigslist. My stash had officially begun. I also purchased four bumGenius 4.0 diapers using Target gift cards we had been given when Liam was born. I then began comparing different brands and styles of diapers to decide which would be best for us. We fell in love with the concept of Best Bottom diapers. They have an outer shell with snap in liners. If your baby pees, you just change out the liner. If the baby poops, you change the whole thing. This means that they take up less space in your washing machine than traditional cloth diapers and, since you can use them more than once, they are very cost effective.

We currently have six Best Bottom diapers and about 20 liners. We wash diapers every 3 days or so, hang dry them, and use our pocket diapers on laundry day and to supplement our stash as needed.

In addition to the cloth diapers, we have cloth wipes that we bought from Handmade Burps on Etsy that we adore and a diaper sprayer by bumGenius. That will come in handy when William begins to eat homemade baby food in a few months. We also make our diaper wipe solution and keep it stored in a spray bottle.

With our self-sustaining diaper stash, I can't help but smile every time I pass a mom at Walmart with a box of diapers and a huge pack of wipes. I'm so glad that I don't have to do that anymore.

Infant Carrier Cover

Made by Barlow Baby, an at home business created by a friend of mine from my pregnancy board, Williams carrier cover has quickly become a must-have item. It remains strapped to our carrier. We flip it behind him when we are driving and cover him up when we are taking the carrier from the car to our destination. It protects him from the rain, wind or bright sun. We love it!

Nursing accessories

For some reason breastfeeding never worked out with Cadence and Gabriel. I had a terrible experience in the hospital with Cadence and with Gabriel I really think that the stress factor created by the sudden end to my marriage impacted my supply. With William though, it is going great! It was hard in the beginning. He was a month old before he latched. That meant that until then I went though the vicious cycle of trying to get him to latch; feeding him from a bottle, finger feeder or cup; and, pumping every 2-3 hours around the clock. I barely did anything else. Chris was so supportive. He wasn't going to let me give up and he is the reason that I am still nursing.

In the first few weeks, the best accessories for me were my Medela Symphony pump from the hospital and my Medela contact shield.

Now my favorite items are my nursing cover, which is an Udder Cover but I bought for $2 at a consignment shop and my Lansinoh storage bags. I've tried the Medela bags too, but I'm not a fan. Accessories aside, I am just happy that nursing worked for me this time. Passing the formula section at Walmart is much like passing the diaper section - I smile to myself and am so glad that I don't have to stop.


Last, but not least, I love William's BabyLegs! They are not leg warmers (boys don't wear leg warmers). They are waist-less, crotch-less pants! Ok, they are leg warmers... But they are adorable and oh so practical! William can wear a onesie without the need for pants over top. This makes diaper changes a breeze!

At $12.00 a pair, they may seem expensive. However, their website usually has some available on clearance and often runs ridiculously awesome sales on clearance items. Recently, they had all of their winter items 75% off, which meant $75 worth of BabyLegs for $18.75. Don't mind if I do! Also, Natural Baby in downtown Greenville also carries BabyLegs. I found some Christmas patterns there on clearance the other day for $3.25 a pair.

There is another great place for on sale BabyLegs: I bought William a pair of "Ode to Canada" BabyLegs from that site a few weeks ago.

Here is William modeling one of our favorite pairs of Babylegs. The soccer prints that Charlie and Elizabeth gave him for Christmas:

So, for now, those are my most favorite baby items.... for now. :) I am currently waiting for some really cute crocheted items that I traded for some disposable diapers, a baby wrap and some formula that I no longer need thanks to the above-mentioned items. I will probably do a separate entry on them. I'm also beginning to make and deep-freeze William's baby food so cheap ice cube trays are quickly working their way up on my must-have list. Again, that will probably be a separate entry though.


This post is dedicated to Jackee and Sydney. I have been a slack little blogger. I apologize. ;)

A few weeks ago we got some snow. Actually, for South Carolina, we got a LOT of snow.

It was the type of snow that emptied every grocery store of bread, milk and eggs for miles around. I don't understand why people down here all insist upon making french toast when it snows, but to each his own.

Needless to say, we were home bound for a few days. The big kids and Chris had a great time playing outside and building snow forts.

William and I hung out inside most of the day. When the older kids came in, I make them some snow cream. Now, for some reason, I did not hear about snow cream until I moved to the south. It would have been much more handy to have known about this delightful treat when I still lived in Canada but c'est la vie.

The night before the snow fell, I placed two large bowls on the table on our back patio. In the morning they were overflowing with freshly fallen snow.

I scooped some of the snow into a large bowl and added cream, vanilla and sugar. The result was the best vanilla ice cream EVER.

School was closed Monday - Thursday of that week. Friday was a teacher workday (scheduled at the beginning of the year) and Monday was a holiday. By the end of their unscheduled break, the kids were definitely ready to go back to school.

My thoughts upon dropping the kids off on Tuesday are best described as follows:

Just a quick update

First of all, thank you to all of you that have called over the last few days to check on Chris. It is so wonderful to witness the outpouring of concern from our friends and family. I picked up Skye's remains from the vet's office the other day. The box is beautiful. It is dark wood with carved flowers all over the top. As I took the box and Skye's collar upstairs the other night, her collar jingled, and Blue barked quietly. She knew that sound and acknowledged it. It was a very sad yet sweet moment.

In happier news, Liam is two months old today. I can't believe it. He is going to the doctor tomorrow for his check up and his first shots. A few weeks ago, we made the decision to switch the kids over from their pediatrician's office to the family doctor that delivered Liam. We really love Dr. Stafford and think it is a better fit. He supports our decision to follow Dr. Sears Alternative Vaccination Schedule for Liam and that was very important to us. I am anxious to see how much Liam weighs and how long he is. The "little" guy is already wearing 6-9 month clothes!

I will update again after the doctor's appointment.

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....
~Author Unknown~

Skye, Chris's Great Dane of thirteen years, passed away yesterday. About a week ago she started acting like she wasn't feeling well. She had a day where she became a bit lethargic and wouldn't eat, but then she got over it. She played in the snow with Blue and hung out in front of the fireplace in the evenings with us. She seemed herself and we were convinced she had a stomach bug or ate something. Then Friday she stopped eating again and on Saturday she stopped standing. Chris carried her to the back yard on Sunday and let her lay in the sun. He spent a good deal of the afternoon outside with her. Sunday night we put her in front of the fireplace to sleep. She would pick up her head but not make any effort to stand. We took her to the vet's office yesterday morning and made the difficult decision to let her go. Chris, Cadence and I stayed with her until the end.

We are having her cremated and plan to bury her on our hill under a dogwood tree.

Shout out to my fellow bloggers

I wanted to give a quick shout out to my fellow bloggers. Sometimes people grow apart. Whether it be because of our busy lives; great distances between us; or, events that have happened through the course of our relationships, sometimes it happens. Blogging, for me, has been a way to share our family's day-to-day activities with those we don't see as much or at all. In the same sense, I truly enjoy reading the blogs of my family members, friends and even past friends. Perhaps someday life will slow down and become simple enough for us to maintain normal, non-internet based relationships. Until then, blog on! :)

Getting into the routine

We are adjusting to life with me back to work and Liam in daycare. Our schedule is a bit crazy but it works. If you've tried reaching me over the past week, I promise I'm not ignoring you. We just have a lot going on.

Here is what our work day routine should look like. Unfortunately, we are usually running behind a bit, especially in the mornings.:

5:30a.m. - Wake & feed Liam (if he's hungry) then shower, pack up diapers in the laundry room and toss in a load of laundry (or move to dryer if washed last night).

6:00am - Wake up older kids.

6:30am - Threaten older kids with their lives if they do not hurry up and get their clothes on! Make breakfast for older kids, pack van for work/day care (this includes cloth diapers, wet bag, pump, frozen breast milk, lunch, laptop and work I took home last night). Empty dishwasher.

7:00am - See hubby off. Nuke coffee that I haven't had a chance to drink yet (hubz makes it for me every morning). Throw dinner in the crock pot or thaw out frozen casserole or other frozen items I need for dinner that night. Grab breakfast for myself.

7:15am - Out the door! Drop boys off to daycare and daughter off to school.

8am-2:00pm - At office (eat lunch at desk)

2:30pm - Pick daughter up from school and boys from daycare

3:30pm - Put pumped milk from work in the freezer. Move laundry over to dryer (if washed this morning). Throw diapers in the wash on pre-wash cycle. Homework time with daughter then feed Liam.

4:30pm - Start wash cycle on diapers. Work from home if kids are entertained. Otherwise, entertain kids unless it is Wednesday. If Wednesday, pack kids up in van to go to church dinner & youth group.

5:00pm - Cook dinner (all nights except Wednesday and every other Monday. If every other Monday, pack kids up in van and go to friends' house for dinner.)

6:15pm - Eat.

7:00pm - Run dishwasher. Feed Liam. On Thursday - Go to gym and drop kids of in nursery (On Tuesday, move dinner up to 5:15pm and go to gym at 6:00pm). If Monday or Friday, play with kiddos then start baths.

7:30pm - Baths, story, prayers & get kiddos ready for bed.

8:00pm - Big kids to bed.

8:15pm - Get laundry from dryer and fold. Hang diapers in washer. Pack daughter's lunch, set out clothes for all kids

9:00pm - Feed Liam then log into work.

10:30pm - Finish work then get ready for bed.

11pm - Bedtime! :)

If Liam is up a little earlier than 5:30 a.m. to eat than I stay up and log into work since there isn't any point in going back to bed. We spend the weekends when we have all of the kids doing fun family activities. The weekends when the big kids go to their Nanny & Papa's house are spent catching up on the housework and laundry that didn't get finished during the week.

Dear William

Dear William,

Mommy loves you very much. Tomorrow she is going to pack you up in your carseat and take you on a short drive. We'll go to a place with lots of other babies. You'll meet some very nice ladies and then... Mommy will have to go. I don't know why this is so much harder this time. Maybe because I know you are my last little baby. Maybe it's because I thought I had lost you a few hours before you were born. Either way, driving away tomorrow will be extremely difficult. Please know that I love you and I'm doing this out of that love. I'll be driving away tomorrow so that you can live in a decent house in a good school district. I'm doing it so you can have everything you need and some things that you just want. I'm doing it so you can go to college without worrying about massive amounts of debt. I'm doing it for you, your brother and your sister. Please don't be mad at me for it now or later in life. I promise I'm doing the best that I can.


Happy New Year's

We wanted to do something special with the kids for New Year's Eve. They aren't old enough to take out and I really didn't want to shoot of fireworks in the cold so we had a New Year's Eve party at home. I purchased some Christmas party plates, cups and a tablecloth that were on clearance and set them up in the kitchen.

I made a roast, mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli and cauliflower . The kids (even Cadence) ate it like champs!

For dessert we had a brownie with white chocolate cream cheese icing. After meeting with Cadence's doctor last week, I am now hiding good food in things that she loves to eat (as well as still making her eat healthy foods such as the broccoli/cauliflower mix). The brownie contained a cup of pureed carrots and spinach. No one noticed.

While we ate our brownies, we all talked about our favorite things that happened in 2010 and we made a list.

We also talked about things that we were looking forward to in the next year and made another list. My personal favorite was Gabriel's "banana pants," whatever that is.

After we finished up at the table, I fed Liam while Chris cleaned up the kitchen. Then we set up Twister in the play room because no party is complete without Twister!

Chris picked up champagne and sparkling grape juice so we could toast the new year at midnight, but we didn't make it that far. The big kids were starting to get irritable and Liam fell asleep around 10pm so it was hard for me to stay up (I'm a firm believer in sleeping when baby sleeps). We all went to bed around 11pm and rang the new year in from dreamland.

We hope that all of you had an amazing year and wish you nothing but the very best in 2011!!!