An Exciting Announcement

Massimo and I are humbled and excited to announce the two passion projects we have been creating for the last several months, and hope to complete this year. These projects were born out of grief and pain, but it is our hope to redeem the trauma we have experienced, and build something beautiful and new out of it.

In the wake of losing our brother Johnny last year, Massimo and I needed an outlet to process our overwhelming grief. We searched for something to do, maybe something which might help us heal. Being creative was the best way we found to cope with and recover from the years of struggle with his drug addiction, and the trauma of Johnny’s death. It was also the most appropriate way we could find to honor Johnny’s life, as he was, deeply, a Creator.

Massimo starting writing music. He is working on an entire album of prog-rock songs to tell the true story of Johnny’s life and struggle. He is writing it with Gabe and Luke Chase, two incredibly talented men with whom Massimo and Johnny played music often over the years. Johnny’s bass playing in this new music is sorely missed, but what they are creating out of this pain is amazing.

I cannot say enough about how important (and Good) this album is, but also how hard it is to listen to. I feel in my heart – as do they – that this music simply must be shared, no matter how difficult it is to confront.

For my part, I began to write. I am working on a book which will seek to tell the true story of the deadly Opioid Epidemic. I want to tell our story, as well as the story of this nation: the how, why, and what of this tragedy.

The story often told (that this is all Big Pharma’s fault) is a simply part of the real story. This crisis was caused by more than the pharmaceutical industry: it was formed by the unprecedented meeting of numerous factors at a particular place and time. I also hope to share how we have been healing personally, and how I feel the country may be able to stop the crisis entirely.

I share these passion projects with you for a few reasons:

First, I ask for your encouragement. If you have the chance, encourage us to see these projects to completion. We both have plenty of other things fighting for our attention and time, and these things can seem impossible to complete at times. But we both feel that God has called us to use our particular creative gifts to make something truthful and real out of this awfulness.

Second, I need your help.

While the men are almost ready to start recording music, my book is still in the beginning stages of being written. What I need right now are stories and interviews. I want to pull as many points of view and personal experience as possible for this book, particularly from those personally affected by the opioid crisis, and those trying to treat and/or prevent drug addiction (teachers, social workers, doctors, police officers, school administrators, volunteers, etc.). I am focusing my story on East Haddam and the surrounding region, but I want to hear from anyone who wants to contribute.

If you are interested in submitted a message or story for the book, or if you would like to volunteer to be interviewed, please email me at barbideborah@gmail.com, or send me a Facebook message.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this exciting announcement, and thank you in advance for your support and encouragement. The album and book started as means for our personal processing and recovery, but we have realized that sharing these things with the world may help the millions of people out there dealing with the very same pain we have felt. We greatly appreciate your help in making these projects happen.

love, D. E. Barbi Bee and Massimo

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Days of Grief

I have spent the last 364 days becoming an expert in grief.

I never knew grief before like I know him now. Grief and grieving were obscure, abstract, therapist-terms that had little to no application in my life. Until my brother-in-law died, one year ago tonight. Then we became very close.

I always heard things like, “You have to let yourself grieve,” and wondered how grief could possibly be a choice. There were a lot of things people said about death and grief that did not make any sense until Johnny died. Now I know that grief – both the act of entering into it and the method by which it is experienced – are, indeed, choices.

Now, when someone says to me, “I had to let myself grieve this,” I nod in absolute empathy. I know what that choice feels like.

One of the things people said that I did not understand until I experienced it was: “The firsts are hard. The first year, the first Christmas, the first birthday.” I presumed they were correct, and of course, they were. But it turns out to be more nuanced that just “hard,” and that it what I want to help you understand today.

Some things, I have found, are harder in the anticipation, than in the actual event. The entire week leading up to Father’s Day, Johnny’s Birthday, Thanksgiving: these were cloudy and foggy at best. I cried often. I dreaded the uncontrollable approach of these days, knowing full-well that I would think of nothing but missing our Johnny on these days, even more than most other days. I could hardly focus. I became irritable and impatient. I had bad dreams and sleepless nights which did nothing to ease the pit in my stomach and the haze in my brain.

But then, as if there were some mercy in the world, after all, the day actually came. And, like the last page in, “There’s a Monster at the End of This Book,” the days themselves were not quite as grim as the days leading up to it. I was depressed and upset, of course. But all the anxious anguish leading up to a particular day on the calendar was replaced with solace and contemplative somberness on the actual date. It was never as bad as leading up to it. It was as if everything I had worked up in my head was replaced with the eventual, timely acceptance of what actually happened.

There were the other kinds of days, as well: Mother’s Day, Katie’s graduation day, Theodore’s Birthday, and Christmas. These days, I was hardly prepared for the emotion which struck me. Sometimes I was too busy preparing for the event, or distracting myself with nervous excitement. The days and weeks leading up to it were mostly chaotic and rushed. Then the moment arrived, and a deluge of despair descended all at once.

It hardly seems fair, since it is impossible to anticipate which holidays will give me which feeling. And, neither is better or easier than the other. Either way, I am wrestling my demons and feelings, while simultaneously attempting to live in the moment, enjoy the little things, and make my toddler’s young life as full of joy and Goodness as possible. I fail at all of these things, either way.

So many days I have spent on grief, and so many nights. This process has been exhausting.

I am reminded of the parable of the builders in Matthew 7. Jesus told his disciples that anyone who hears his words and puts them into practice is like a wise man, who builds his house on a rock. “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

Jesus warns, though, that everyone who hears his words and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man, who builds his house on sand. “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27).

Grief has beat on my house this year. The wind screamed, and the waters filled the basement and pelted the window. The earth became soggy and sank around me. But I felt as though we have been huddled in the center of our home, waiting out the storm on top of our rock. My Massimo, my Theodore, and I have waited and wailed. But our house has not fallen. The following is the rock we have found as our foundation:

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 1Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21).

Now spring is coming again, and the year of firsts is over. The skies are clearing and the trees are blooming. Tomorrow will will re-live last year’s April 26, in which the storm began and we swarmed to the safe space.

Grief is never leaving us, nor will this knowledge thereof. But I welcome the year of seconds, then thirds, then fourths. Yes, each year we get farther away from the last time we heard and touched and saw our Johnny. But, with each year, we also get closer to our sweet reunion with him, as well as the freedom from these days of grief.

Baby Names I Love, But Won’t Be Using

I love reading baby name idea lists. Even before I was pregnant, and now that I am not pregnant, there is something about the hunt for the perfect name that is very exciting and frustrating and adventurous for me. Finding a name is exactly the creative, practical, high-stakes kind of challenge that totally peaks my interest. And the fact that there are practically limitless options means that every list can contain new ideas, and maybe even the ideal.

FYI, I am not pregnant. This is not an announcement. But maybe you are pregnant/adopting a puppy/raising a sassy succulent and are looked for the *perfect* title for your new addition (Congratulations on the new houseplant, by the way).

Or, you are like me and just love looking at these lists. So here, I will magnanimously share a few names from my favorites list.

Here is how I define my taste in baby names: classic, old-fashioned, not trendy, meaningful, and longer (generally three-plus syllables). 

My one and only child is named Theodore Antonio.

(For the record, these have been veto-ed by my husband, so barring a shift in magnetic north, we won’t be using these.)

BOYS

Samuel

Means “heard of God/asked of God.” Ranked #21 in the United States, 2017.

This is a very strong name, without bringing to mind a former emperor or viking chief. I love the story in the Bible of Samuel’s birth. I almost got my husband to approve this name because of Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain a.k.a. his favorite). But he is not a fan or the nickname “Sam,” and this name is a little high on the trending charts for my taste. But it is still a kicking name and I totally see why it is high on the favorites list.

Raphael

Means “God has healed.” Ranked #519 in the United States, 2017.

Obviously, this heralds back to my pre-Massimo days when my plan was to have four boys and name them after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Shockingly, he did not approve of this plan. But this name is still beautiful, artistic, and mysterious. I love the cute nickname “Raph.”

Jules

Means “youthful.” Not ranked in the United States, 2017.

I used to have Jude on my list, but then some awesome friends stole it for their son and now it’s dead to me (lol, just kidding, shout out to John and Meyesa for the best two kids on the planet with the cutest names!). I found Jules as a similar version, but less common. You will probably like this name if you also like Julian. Also, I hoped to win over my husband by reminding him of how must he loves Jules Verne, but he did not go for it.

Clifford/Clive

Means “a steep cliff.” Not ranked in the United States, 2017.

So the meaning on this is not as deep, but, this name is on my list because it was C. S. Lewis’s first name and his writing has made a significant impact on my life. I also think these names are perfectly old-fashioned and not common at all. I love that it can be more laid-back and casual (“Cliff”), or high-class (Clive”), and I value versatility a lot.

Christian

Means “follower of Christ.” Ranked #52 in the United States, 2017.

I have a cousin named Christian and I have always loved it. Just *saying* this name is a beautiful experience, and many sounds are preserved in the cute nickname “Chris.” I like Christopher as well, but Christian is more meaningful for me, as it symbolizes my faith and what I want my family to stand for. Massimo, on the other hand, hates names that are also things (like colors, flowers, objects, places, etc.), so this is a no-go for him. You can see how limited I am….

GIRLS

Carmen

Means “poem” or “song.” Ranked #405 in the United States, 2017.

Who else saw Spy Kids back in their formative years and instantly knew Carmen was the most boss lady name there could be? And you were right. This name even has that Spanish flare I am apparently really in to, which makes it sound even more boss, and I think it is fiercely strong, while also being stunningly feminine.

Miranda

Means “marvelous.” Ranked #344 in the United States, 2017.

When I was in college choir, we sang this breathtaking song about the rose of Mary being chosen to carry the Son of God. The song included repeated long, swooping Latin phrases in which we all sang: “Res miranda,” which means “marvelous thing,” and I thought how beautiful “Miranda” sounded rising from the choir. This word was claimed as a name by Shakespeare.

Hattie/Haddie

Means “home ruler.” Ranked #480 in the United States, 2017.

This is technically a nickname for “Harriet,” but I like the nickname more than the full name, and nick names can be names (*cough* tell Massimo that) We came up with this name when we saw True Grit. Massimo and I had so much admiration for Mattie Ross, we started trying to find names that would remind us of her. Mattie, Hattie, and Addy were all in the running. I still love Hattie the best.

Cassidy

Means “curly-haired.” Ranked #327 in the United States, 2017.

I love this name: it is a little tough, and reminds me of a girl from the country with true grit, who doesn’t mess around with foolish dilly-dally. I also think it is just beautiful, and I simply love everything this name makes me think of, including a girl named Cassidy from my church where I grew up, who is pretty much a boss lady herself (shout out!).

Junia/June/Jane

Mean “youth” (not ranked in the U.S., 2017), “young” (#244 in the U.S., 2017), and “God is gracious” (#282 in the U.S., 2017).

A moment on this progression: I love all these names, and technically Junia and June are versions of the same name, while Jane is a female version of “John,” but it all started with Junia. Junia was the name of a female apostle in the early church (see Romans 16:7), whose female-ness was so offensive to early church leaders, they added an “s” at the end of her name in the Bible to make her a boy. (Check out The Junia Project for more information.) Being a co-laborer and apostle in the early church is just about as admirable as a woman can be, so I fell in love with the name.

Notwithstanding, “Junia” is a little more unusual than my husband would usually go for, so I thought of anglicizing it slightly, to June.

But of course, you remember the thing Massimo has about names that are also things….

So, I thought of shifting it one more time, this time adding a nod to Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, to Jane.

And of course, Jane, John, Jonathan, and Theodore all have the same meaning and the same base Hebrew name. So basically, if I named a daughter Jane, I would be giving her the same name as my son. But I love all these names.

How to Save the World and Save Money at the Same Time

When we talk about “going green,” I tend to get a little squeamish, as I associate the policies and movement as inevitably taking my “green” dollar bills far, far away. It can cost a lot of money to invest in waste reduction and clean energy production.

But I also know it is important.

So far, we have only found one inhabitable planet in the known universe, and it’s the one we are clouding with dirty gasses and filling with garbage. In 2013, the average American produced 4.4 pounds of waste per day, and recycled or composted 1.51 pounds of this waste.In general, 52% of the waste we don’t recycle or compost ends up in a landfill! A landfill.

With the fate of our home planet at stake, but also with a tight (and tightening) household budget, what is a girl to do? Can I help reduce my environmental impact while also saving money? Yes, I can! And you can, too! 

With the five suggestions below, you can not only help save the planet, but you can also save money, save time, and simplify your life!

Below are five small, creative things we have done in our household to try to reduce our waste production, improve our health, and attempt to reduce overall pollution caused by the things we need and use in our daily lives. If you feel like being a frugal superhero in 2019 – then read on to find new, unique changes you can make to help save the environment and save money at the same time.

1. Stop buying paper towels.

It wasn’t until we moved into our own home, when we actually had to haul our own trash to the transfer station, that we realized how much waste we produced. We were only three people! And one of those people only pooped! Why did we have so much garbage?

We stopped buying paper plates, plastic silverware, paper napkins, and paper towels. Now, there are three times when we think we miss paper towels (and even then, just a little bit): 1. when we fry foods, 2. when we have company over, and 3. for some woodworking/craft projects. We can and do purchase the occasional roll for these specific purposes, but as a daily practice, we don’t use them. It saves us significant time and money, because we don’t have to constantly re-stock our paper goods!

What do we use instead? We use cloth napkins at the dinner table. For most spills and drying tasks, we love these $0.79 IKEA dish towels. They are 100% cotton and do a great job. We wash them a million times, and they do get stained eventually, but for the price, we really don’t care.

We also use these reusable cleaning cloths from Dollar Tree to clean up more filthy messes. $1.00 for a 12 pack, and you can use them for about 6 months. How can you beat that?

2.  Recycle and compost everything you can.

These made a huge difference in our waste reduction. Any inexpensive garbage bin can serve as your recycling container. Post a simple reminder list of what can and cannot be recycled nearby, and keep it available – right next to your kitchen garbage can, preferably. This is key: if it is easy to access and visible, you are more likely to use it.

[Psst, he have moved our recycling to just inside the garage door because our toddler likes to take the bottles and cans from it. We have to work a little harder to remember to recycle, but it is not too bad.]

Composting is new to us, but has helped us start to make nutritious, rich soil for our garden. We made a big composting container out of recycled wood pallets in the backyard, and keep a counter-top container to collect every day scraps. Again, it is key to keep your small compost container accessible: it should be in plain sight at all times. We use this super-affordable bucket with a handle and lid from IKEA to hold our food scrapes until we can bring them outside to the yard. While you are preparing a meal, bring it over to your work area so you can put food scraps straight in. Compost tea, coffee, egg shells and cartons, newspaper, and fruit and vegetable scraps. Don’t compost meat or dairy products. When you bring your small container outside, dump it in the big bin and layer on top grass cuttings or leaves from the yard. Easy easy!!

In the spring, you can use your compost to fertilize your garden and grow beautiful flowers, vegetables, and herbs. This will save you money and improve your health during the entire growing season!

3. Cancel your subscription services.

I am not just talking about magazines, although you should definitely get rid of those as well to reduce paper consumption. I would also take a look at beauty subscription boxes and meal kit delivery services. These products contain a ton of extra packaging, which look nice when you open the package, but are really nothing more than plastic waste!

Also, those tiny bottles of shampoos and sample-sized soaps contain a high ratio of plastic packaging when compared to the amount of product they contain. And delivered meal kits generally have all their ingredients individually wrapped, and then wrapped again n groups for each recipe, and then again to stay cold during shipping.

Plus, the price-per-volume makes them far more expensive than buying products yourself in normal or large value-sized containers.

Finally, beauty and personal care subscription boxes are often designed to get you to try new products. If you don’t like the product, what do you do? Hopefully you can find a friend who wants it, but it can end up being tossed or sitting in the back of your cabinet until it is eventually tossed.

These subscriptions are a pass for us because they cost way too much in both up-front cash and long-term environmental impact.

4. Replace your household cleaners with DIY products.

In our first apartment, we used the regular old cleaning products, the ones we had always seen: sprays, gels, powders, wipes, etc. There were a million of them, and when I knelt down to clean our small apartment bathroom, they would make me dizzy! Read the bottles and they all caution to use the product in a well-ventilated area and to wear gloves, avoid contact with skin, etc. We decided the traditional cleaning products were too dangerous to ourselves, and could be even worse for the waste (and later drinking) water in our world.

We switched to DIY household cleaning products, and not only has it saved us a ton of money, but it is healthier for our family, as well. I don’t have to worry about skin and breathing issues if I do not rinse thoroughly, accidentally ingesting products, or my toddler getting into our cleaners (we still keep them locked up and inaccesible, but it’s less worrisome).

Plus, it helps protect the environment by reducing pollution in our waterways, reducing the plastic the goes into making the bottles for the dozen cleaning products we would have, and reducing air pollution by eliminating the transportation of gallons and gallons of water.

Most people already know how bad it is for the environment to buy bottled water – not only because it depletes natural springs, but also because of the emissions produced in bottling and shipping that water all around the world, when we have it available straight from our faucet! Many products in your house list water as one of the first ingredients. It is just another form of bottled water! So we cut those out as well.

What do we use instead? You can make every cleaning product under the sun with just a few ingredients, spray bottles from the dollar store, and water from your tap. We generally use some combination of bleach, white vinegar, and castile soap for all our surface cleaning and disinfecting. We spend less than $15.00 per year on all our household cleaning products! And they are effective, better for the environment, and don’t give me a headache!

5. Simplify your beauty routine.

5Just like cleaning products, many personal hygiene and beauty products contain water as the first ingredient. Don’t buy water!

Instead of body wash, use bar soap. Instead of bottled shampoo, use naked bar shampoo. Ditch fully-disposable razors in favor of a reusable handle. Instead of tossing your entire toothbrush, use an electric handle and disposable heads (or bamboo toothbrushes). I don’t use waterproof makeup so all my makeup can be removed with some water and a reusable cleaning cloth (I cut up a microfiber cloth into 2 inch-by-2 inch squares).

Wives, reduce the overall number of products you purchase (and cut down on the pink tax you are paying) by sharing products with your husband. We use unscented lotions and shaving cream, because many times the only difference between the men’s and women’s version is the scent. Plus, since the men’s unscented version is generally cheaper and/or comes in larger packages, we are reducing packaging and cost by buying a bigger container.

What about you? Have you found inexpensive or money-saving ways to help reduce your negative environmental impact?

On 2018

I am currently recovering from a month-long sinus infection, which caused me to leave the office early on Friday and head home to rest. While at home, I took my convalescence as an opportunity to re-watch Disney’s 2015 animated feature Inside Out. (**Spoilers ahead; just stop here and go watch it. You won’t regret it.**)

Inside Out is one of those movies you can watch a dozen times, and each time you will realize something new. This time, I particularly related to the incidents when Sadness touches old memories and core memories, and they change color from yellow (Joy), to blue (Sadness). At the end of the movie, all the core memories have changed from solid, bright yellow, to a swirl of colors. Memories which were once pure joy, have now become more complicated and contain many layers of meaningful feelings.

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Looking back at 2018, nothing has ever seemed so real to me. The year was not pure sadness, depression, or anger. I shared countless laugh-filled days with my family and particularly my ever-learning and growing son. We heard Theodore’s first words, saw his first steps, and celebrated his first birthday. Our house became a home in this, our first year there, as we improved, decorated, renovated, pruned, and grew its beauty. The photo files on my camera are stocked with shot after shot of smiles and love and also meaningless moments that nonetheless were part of my year, and represented the good parts, at that.

The year was not pure joy, either. I’ll admit, to prepare to write this post, I looked through my photo folder and tried to remember what happened the first quarter of the year. The year before April 13 seems like a lifetime ago, and certainly lived by entirely different people.

But I looked, and sure enough there were pictures of things: playing games with family, petting dogs, upgrading and decorating our home, feeding Theo his first foods, planting seeds, and clearing many feet of snow. These things all happened, but even these memories have a different color over them. They are no longer what they were, they have been tainted. Not just yellow, they are colored in a swirl of yellow, blue, and purple.

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I have been putting it off as long as I can. I usually try to use a word or two to describe the year’s events, the overall feeling I have of the past 365 days. I have been searching and pushing down this word, trying to find another. But the word isn’t going anywhere, so I’ll just admit it so we can move on.

To describe 2018 in one word – the word that will not leave me – I have to say death. Death was everywhere this year. Other years have been stressful, or challenging, but this year the inhuman Death seemed to be waiting around every corner.

[Note: I was considering whether Death was a male or female, and I realized I did not imagine Death as a person at all. After all, how can Death, the end of physical life itself, be alive? It would have to be a god, and you know I’m not okay with that. So I think Death is a force, or a characteristic. It is like light or shadows or sleep or gravity. It is something non-human. Calling it a person would give it too much power, I think. And it does not need any more power than it already has.]

I attended more funerals this year than I ever have (six). I can provide a list to you of six drug-related deaths that impacted me this year. And I can name four other people I knew of who died sudden, unexpected deaths, though I was not able to attend their funerals.

Of course, the deaths of my Grandmother, brother-in-law, and Grandfather stand out among the rest. I think if this whole year was just all the other deaths and funerals, it would not have impacted me the way this year has. After losing these family members, the pain of other losses only magnified. When I heard of another family burying their loved one, my heart broke – again. I was instantly in their shoes, carrying the same lump in their throat, wiping the same tears from their eyes. I knew the pain they were going through, and it made the other losses all the more difficult to hear.

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Although I have been riding the wheels of grief, sometimes, I am right back at anger again. I wrongly accuse God of doing something we didn’t deserve this year. I get jealous that God gets to spend his days with Johnny and we don’t. I think, “How on earth could this be a good thing? Who would ever, ever write this into the Plan?”

And it’s all wrong, I know. I know the answers. The answers are that we don’t deserve anything, not even one single day. The answer is God is always with all of us, and we’ll see Johnny again someday. The answer is that the only Good thing is God sacrificing His own son so that we could be saved from eternal death. The answer is that God does not love to watch us suffer, but He’s bigger and how dare we expect to have the inside scoop on all his plans?

I know the answers. But my feelings are still there and they take some time to work through and a whole lot of Grace.

I was thinking on Sunday, as our Church members were sharing things God has taught them or brought them through this year, that maybe one reason for all this is empathy and compassion. If I never went through what we have gone through, we wouldn’t have the empathy to help someone else going through it. I know this is important because every time I meet another person who is affected by an addict or has lost an addict, I feel a small sense of peace and understanding. We don’t even have to say anything to each other, we just kind of feel a little safer knowing the other person gets it, in a small way. Now, with this chapter in my story, I know Death a lot better than I ever have. I also know Grief and Denial and Anger and Faith. We have all spent a lot of time together, and have swirled some new colors into my memories and thoughts.

I am almost done with this long post, I promise. But I want you to know that there is a second word for 2018. It is not all Death. The other word is hope.

After Johnny died, people asked me how to pray for me. I told them to pray that I would have hope. At the time, I felt completely hopeless in the fight against drugs. I felt like no one could survive being an addict for long, and I should be considered a fool for even being surprised at Johnny’s overdose death. The bird inside my soul stopped singing. It even seemed to have left altogether.

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And slowly, Hope began to make her way into my heart. It started small at first. But there were several moments I can think of when it distinctly grew. One was when I read a sorrowful story about a fellow IUGR mom who lost her baby. It was a heart-breaking story to read, but somehow, in the midst of it, I had an overwhelming (certainly not from me) sense of peace and hope. I remember thinking perfectly clearly, “This woman is going to be okay. She and her husband will be very upset for a while, and that’s fine. And then someday they will try again and have a healthy baby and this pain will get a little less over time. She’s going to live.” I used to hear stories like her’s and think, “How could anyone survive something like that? I don’t know what I would do!” But now I know. I had been through previously unimaginable things, and yet I have survived. I know what the next day will feel like, and then weeks later, and months later, and I know she will survive. I have hope.

Another moment was when a very good friend at church told us that our bad dreams and inability to sleep was a spiritual issue. He rebuked it and we prayed against it, and suddenly we could sleep again. After months of bad sleep and fear of going to bed, we had hope in a good night’s rest again.

Another was in church listening to a sermon about the Lord’s prayer, when I heard very clearly that the Lord wants to pull us from our sin (deliver us from evil), but that we have to be willing to accept the help and stay away from the temptations. I was strongly convicted that I needed to allow myself to get through the sadness and anger and resist the temptation to wallow in these dark places. I resolved to allow myself to get close to God and that I could cry in church. After months of feeling distant and distracted at church, I could finally hear and feel again. I had hope in feeling close to God once more.

I could tell you countless stories like this, stories of moments in the last eight months where I started to breath again, and hear singing again, and smile again. I will simply tell you that in the desert, in the middle of the mad midnight moment, there is only one thing that remained. God gave me Hope. After that, the other two things could flow: Faith, and Love. And from these three things, all else is built.

I hope you have a very happy new year, and that 2019 brings you these three things and more. God bless you.

***By the way, this post happens to be my 100th on this blog and that is pretty crazy to me! I want to say thank you to everyone who has looked at this little blog, read the posts, and left comments and likes. It means so, so much to me that you guys care to spend a few minutes of your day listening to my ramblings. I look forward to 100 more posts in the future!***

UPDATED Christmas “Do Good” Gift Guide

A couple of years ago, I published my first Christmas “Do Good” Shopping Guide (check it out here), which aimed to provide a comprehensive, wide-ranging list of gift ideas, to not only satisfy the recipient, but also give a little extra to a community or charity in need.

This year, it is updated and improved with ten all-new ideas for Christmas gifts and shops to help you not only provide the perfect gift, but also do a little good at the same time!

All of the stores and items on this list are either charitable by design, or come from small, hard-working shops, which naturally help support local communities.

Take a break from browsing all the Black Friday deal previews, and check out this list, so you can not only do well this Holiday season, but also do good.

1. Cuddle + Kind

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This company proudly hopes to donate 1 million meals to children in need every year through its sales model, via clearly disclosed and well-respected local organizations. Their stuffed animals and dolls are hand-knit by artisans in Peru, and the sale of each doll serves to provide 10 meals to a child in need. Sales of their gorgeous, original prints provide 5 meals to a child in need. These unique dolls are sure to delight any young child, and promote a very worthy cause, as well!

2. Sevenly

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This is one of the most well-recognized “give back” brands out there. Sevenly makes a pledge of $7 per purchase in its 7-Day Campaigns and 7% for its cause-themed Collections to selected non-profits. Their selection has grown over the years to include not just t-shirts and sweatshirts, but also blankets, bags, and baby onesies! On the website, you can shop by cause, so you can find something for the recipient of your gift that will be near and dear to his heart.

3. Out of Print

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I challenge you to find an online store stocked with more fun and nerdy products for bibliophiles. You can’t. They have everything from an “East Egg-West Egg” Great Gatsby necklace to “The Pokey Little Puppy” onesies. They even list their products by author, genre, or title of book. On top of getting great products, Out of Print donates a portion of their sales to provide books to communities in need and promote literacy programs around the world.

4. Discovery Maps

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Whenever you travel to an unfamiliar part of the country, you probably pick up one of these Discovery Maps to help you find local restaurants, sites, and shops. But have you ever looked at the Discovery Map for your own area? The Discovery Maps website offers a list of all the states and locations for which there are maps, and provides an interactive method of hunting down unique gift shops and locally-made goods. Take a look at the map for your own area and you may stumble upon the perfect gift, all while supporting local businesses!

5. Luke’s Toy Factory

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These are some of the most innovative toys I have seen in a long time. They are incredibly simple, but do so much good! Each truck comes in pieces, so the child gets to assemble their toy (think 3D puzzle). Plus, the pieces can be used together to create new, unique designs (think Lego). They are even good for the environment because they use wood shavings from furniture makers to reduce their plastic by 30%. AND they are 100% sourced and manufactured in the USA. Luke’s Toy Factory isheadquartered in Connecticut.

6. Uncle Goose Blocks

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I know you have seen wooden blocks before (arguably a must-have for every child). But have you seen wooden blocks made in the good old U. S. of A.? Have you seen wooden blocks which can be used to build the periodic table of elements? I am enraptured by the vast variety of blocks Uncle Goose offers: American Sign Language, nursery rhymes, planets, constellations, Hebrew, and it goes on and on! If there is a wooden block set that you have never seen, you will find it here!

7. Congolese Home Decor for Mwana Villages

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Mwana Villages is my favorite thing. Mwana Villages takes in orphaned and vulnerable children to their loving refuge, and provides resources, tuition, and priceless education to parents to help them keep and regain their children. Their goal is to end the orphan crisis, preserve families, and provide loving homes to children in need. You can find beautiful home decor items straight from Congo on their Etsy shop, in which 100% of proceeds will go directly to their valuable work there. You can also purchase jewelry from Holland&Birch, which is donating 20% of the line’s proceeds to Mwana Villages.

8. Yoobi

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Yoobi offers a wide range of brightly-colored stationary sets, backpacks, and arts and crafts supplies for the budding writer and DIY-er in your life. The best part is, Yoobi is a committed partner of the Kids in Need Foundation, which provides precious school supplies to underprivileged communities throughout the country. For every product sold, Yoobi donates a product through the program, building their “classroom packs,” which contain enough supplies for 30 precious students!

9. Your Friendly Local Brand Ambassador

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Most of us know a friendly face who hustles, maybe even a few jobs, to provide for herself and her family. One of these good women is Jocelyn Brown, who works hard selling beautiful jewelry from Premier Designs. It used to be that you had to attend a house party to support your friends’ independent businesses as local brand ambassadors. Now, though, things are a lot easier; you can usually purchase from them 24/7 online! Do yourself a favor and review the wide range of products Jocelyn is selling and you will LOVE the designs! When you purchase from her, you will not only get personal service and great products, you will also help support a young boss lady who happens to be killing it.

10. AmazonSmile

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If you have never heard of AmazonSmile. allow me to tell you about the EASIEST way to donate money to your favorite charity. When you sign up for AmazonSmile (free), and shop through the AmazonSmile website (looks exactly the same as regular Amazon, but has “Smile” at the top), Amazon will donate 0.5% of your qualified purchases to a charity of your choice. It is all free. All simple. And 100% your choice about where Amazon sends its donation. It is a small portion, but with all the shopping I do at Christmas, it can certainly make a difference! I have set my current charity to His Mansion Ministries, a free Christian residential program offering hope and redemption to recovering addicts.

Happy Holiday Shopping! I hope this list helps you feel inspired, knowing that your gifts can please even more than the person opening the package this season!

-D. E. Barbi Bee

Why We Follow a 3 Gift Rule at Christmas

For years, as husband and wife with no kids, we simply budgeted for Christmas. A small portion for each person on our list, and slightly more for each other.

We greatly enjoyed our quiet Christmas mornings alone, before heading off to spend time with both of our families. We made the small number of gifts stretch by wrapping all our stocking stuffers and opening them one at a time. Even if they were just the required ornament (sometimes handmade), candy, and lip balm.

And somehow, no matter the budget, we always seemed to get about the same number of gifts for each other. Last year it was exactly the same – three – and they even fit in similar “categories:” a book, something to keep us warm, etc.

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Before too long, our family became threeAnd, although just four months at his first Christmas, we had to decide what we would do for our son’s Christmas gift traditions. It did not seem logical to spend the same amount of money on him as we did on each other. We could get him a box of tissues and he would be elated! At the same time, we did not want to overwhelm him with a vast number of gifts. I don’t care if he gets more gifts than us, but opening presents for hours is incredibly overwhelming for a child, and years from now, could make him spoiled with entitlement.

In my considering these things, we came across the four gift rule for Christmas presents. You may have heard of it as a way to get unique, useful gifts for your children without going overboard. It doesn’t focus so much on money, as it does on the number of gifts. Certainly, you don’t need to spend the same amount on your toddler as you do for your teenager.

The idea is that each child gets four gifts only, one from each category:

  1. Something they want.
  2. Something they need.
  3. Something to wear.
  4. Something to read.

(You can think of it like the “Something old, something new,” many brides still recite as a fun tradition.)

In pondering this framework in our own family, two ideas struck us. First, we wouldn’t want to wait until Christmas to get our son something he needed. Certainly, many examples would be either small (i.e. socks), such that he wound hardly call it a “gift,” or be very big (i.e. a laptop), which would be so exciting they hardly even feel like a boring old “need,” so much as a great big “want!” Thus, if there was one thing I wouldn’t mind dropping from this list, it would be the “need” item.

Second, if we do drop one item, that would leave just three gifts on the list: what could be better!? We already happen to get each other three things for Christmas, so it seemed like a very reasonable number of gifts. Plus, the fewer gifts, the nicer all of them (or at least one of them) could be.

So we made our own three gift rule for Christmas Presents:

  1. Something they want.
  2. Something to wear.
  3. Something to read.

Last year, although he was completely unaware of the ceremony of it all, it was fun practice to get him three gifts. Since he was just an infant, he was fully stocked on things to wear, so we gave extra books instead. We got Theodore bath toys (want), and three small board books (read). In his stocking, he got baby paper, teething toys, and an ornament.

This year, we have not quite nailed down his list, but this is a good sampling of what could be:

  1. Something they want: a toddler-size table and chairs
  2. Something to wear: slippers
  3. Something to read: My First 100 Words Lift-the-Flap20171225_133324

In his stocking, Theodore will probably get getting a few of his favorite things, such as: play-doh, crayons, bubbles, animal figurines, play food, and an ornament. (If you are looking for shopping ideas, check out the Dollar Tree, which is probably where I will get all of these things.)

By keeping ourselves under control in the number of gifts we can give him, it forces us, naturally, to be more thoughtful in the type of gifts we give him. So, instead of just adding in “one more” small toy (“But it was on SALE!”), I am forced to consider carefully which toys will go the longest, in terms of his interest, and thus be the most useful. Open-ended and high-quality toys will, by default, be the picks most often.

Plus, Theo is less likely to be overwhelmed on Christmas, and every other day of the year! Research shows kids do a lot better with fewer toys around. It allows them to be more creative and actually play more. Not only do I have less toys to clean up and store, but Theodore will get more use out of the toys he has. A win-win!

With Christmas coming up at lighting-fast pace (it gets faster every year, doesn’t it?), consider whether your family should adopt a “number” rule when it comes to toys and gifts. This applies not only to parents (who have just as difficult a time not spoiling their kids as anyone), but grandparents and aunts and uncles, too! And these principals can also easily be followed at birthdays and in Easter baskets, as well. When we have the choice, we will choose quality over quantity, every time.

How do you decide how much or how many gifts to get your child at Christmas? What about your spouse or significant other?

-D. E. Barbi Bee

What’s in our Shoe Box: Operation Christmas Child 2018

I have not packed a shoe box in probably a decade or more, but when I was in high school I spent several seasons helping collect shoe boxes, packaging them into shipping containers, and transferring the precious cargo to the next collection station.

For those of you that have no idea what I am talking about, I am describing an annual missions project called Operation Christmas Child. It is an outreach program of the Christian mission organization Samaritan’s Purse, which collects thousands of shoe boxes full of small gifts and necessities, and provides them to children in need around the world, as a tool to help local missionaries and churches share the gospel with children at Christmas.

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Despite my being absent from the project for many years, this year I felt nearly uncontrollably compelled to build a box. Perhaps it was out of honor for my late Grandma and Grandpa, who were certainly big fans of Samaritan’s Purse and the shoe box gifts. Perhaps it was thinking that there was a little boy somewhere in the world who may not know that he is loved and wanted, and, as a mother, I would do anything to make sure he knew. Perhaps it was thinking of my late brother-in-law, Johnny, and realizing I would not be buying him a Christmas present this year, the shoe box serving as a worthy surrogate.

Whatever the reason, I eagerly collected my supplies and got to work. Below is a list of what we packed and why.

Listen up! Operation Christmas Child happens every year, so if you are reading this after collection week in 2018, no worries, you can gather supplies as you see them all year for next time. But if it is 2018, collection week ends this year on November 19. You can check out the Operation Christmas Child website to find a drop-off location.

We built a box for a boy, aged 10 to 14 years. I picked this age group because many people pack boxes with their kids, building boxes for a child his or her own age. I figured there may be fewer 14 year old boys willing to participate, so there may be a shortage for this demographic.

First, I asked Massimo what he would want. He was, after all, a 10 to 14 year old boy at one point. “A digital watch,” he said. “To tell time, and use as a stop watch for running. I would have loved that.” Perfect! One child’s digital watch was ordered from Amazon. This was the most expensive item for the box, intended to be the “wow” item.

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Next, of course, some school supplies. A trip to Dollar General and the Dollar Tree are prefect stops for this category. I picked up a pencil case, a pencil sharpener, a small pack of crayons, and two notebooks. From my own stash, I collected (all brand-new) two pens, and six of my favorite pencils: Ticonderoga. I also had a ruler that was the perfect size for the pouch, so I threw that in as well. This little boy will be well-prepared for school, drawing, or playing games.

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We can’t not put in some more fun items. I found a blue recorder I was able to take apart to fit in the standard box. I printed off a few fingering charts and song sheets so he could get started on his own musical instrument. Then, a package of sports felt stickers and a zebra figurine for some extra excitement.

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Finally, a few personal care items. I threw in a three-pack of socks, a Superman “magic towel,” and a multi-pack of toothbrushes. Samaritan’s Purse has some important rules about not including food, medicine, or liquid items, so these are safe options.

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And of course, a personal noteI used my happiest stationary to write a short note, conveying our love and hopes for this little boy. Merry Christmas, child of God!

When we make our $9.00 donation (to cover shipping costs) online, we will be able to track our shoe box around the world to its recipient!

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I am humbled at the opportunity to give a gift to a child in need somewhere in the world, and hope and pray that this small gift helps demonstrate to that same child the real reason for Christmas: the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

What about you? Have you ever packed a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child? What went in your box this year?

-D. E. Barbi Bee

Review: Hits and Misses in Hearth & Hand with Magnolia Holiday 2018 Collection

Like most twenty-something middle-class American females, I am a Chip & Joanna fan, and, naturally, was thrilled when they teamed up to offer an exclusive Target line. Now heading into its second year, we have seen the collection grow and form into its “sweet spot,” develop its signature look, and already pour it’s style onto other Target collections.

The new Hearth & Hand with Magnolia Holiday 2018 Collection has arrived and, having spent enough hours in-store and online, I will now grace you with my favorites and not so favorites from the speckled and evergreen-silhouetted styles of (obviously) Joanna Gaines.

By the way, if you want more unique – albeit slightly pricier – gift and decor selections for the holiday season, you can buy directly from the Magnolia Market online. 

THE FAVORITES

There are many things to ooh and ahh over in the Gaines’ simple, classic designs, but the five below are, in my opinion, stand-outs as practical, and generally crowd-pleasing. These would make great gifts or additions to your own holiday decor.

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You can’t go wrong with their soy candles. With some products, quality is irrelevant. But candles are one item in which you cannot simply go the cheapest route. These candles burn beautifully, so there is no fussing with the wick, nor wasting wax. Their smells are heavenly, and they come in charming re-usable containers. On top of that, the price is highly competitive, especially for a soy candle. They have tons of designs, mostly priced comfortably at $12.99. Feel free to give one of these to every one on your gift list.
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Hearth & Hand finally released toys everyone will want. They have always had a few toy offerings, but this year, their new kitchen line is going to be a hit. Their play kitchens are simply and stylish – to the extent you will not mind if they are out in the open, adjacent to your real kitchen. You can certainly get cheaper play kitchens elsewhere, but there is nothing upsetting about their prices. Their slicing play food and pot and pan set look practical and durable – in other words, made to make both parents and kids happy.

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This advent calendar is nearly perfect. This is a stand-out piece among the collection, in my opinion. It is a precious re-usable advent calendar with sliding bobs to help your family count down to Christmas. It has clean lines to blend easily in your decor, but bright color to add a festive touch. The design is reminiscent of an old washboard, which suits the collections’ farmhouse roots. I much prefer this unique design to their canvas advent calendar, and it is probably my favorite iteration of the new pine-silhouette motif. If this was sold wood, it would be 100% perfect. As-is, the wood-composite material is my only complaint. Adorable.

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These stunning ornaments are unbelievably detailed. When I saw these being un-boxed and placed on the shelves (I happen to be at Target on October 31, one day before the collection launched), I literally did a double-take. What are those? They looked as though the doors would open and tiny fairies would exit through them any moment. They are just too perfect. 100% wood, gorgeously decorated, and $17.99? Can it get any better? Skip the farm house and barn play sets, and get the mini versions for your tree or mantle instead.

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Cute, festive, and useful. These bowls stay true to the heart of Magnolia style: simple, understated, and with that flea-market-find touch of quirk. While I would not set a whole table with Hearth & Hand malformed dinner plates, I think a touch of the hand-made style here and there is a perfect application. They remind me of the measuring cups many people love (though I find, for actual measuring, they are impractical), but with a holiday season spin. These would make great candy dishes, appetizer bowls, prep bowls, or containers for sauces and toppings. I can see these mini bowls being used over and over, year after year, and they would make a great gift for anyone on your list (or for yourself).

THE LESS FAVORITES

I do hate to be negative, especially when someone attaches their name, face, and family all over a brand. But not everything is perfect art, and the following are a few items I would say you do not need to put in your Target shopping cart.

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I don’t understand the plumbobs. This is a recurring theme in the holiday collection, and I simply don’t understand. Cute? Sure. Is the quality there? Probably. But there is nothing “Christmas” about an old carpenter’s tool. This reminds me of a sea-side cottage more than a ski resort. It’s a pass for me.

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I can’t get over how unnecessary this toy barn play set is. This, along with the doll farm house, are some of the most expensive items in the collection. This one offends me even more than the $150.00 farm house because this one comes with wooden animal figurines which are not only choking hazards, but they look about as animal-like as animal crackers. They should have skipped the animals altogether and knocked $20.00 off the price. I just find this toy entirely unnecessary. There are thousands of toy barns on the market, including some all-wood models for half the price, which actually come with painted, recognizable animals.

GUEST_c9f14475-295a-454e-af5a-5c6e8c594986.jpgSome short-cuts were taken with this serving kettle. I generally like most of the serve ware in the Hearth & Hand line, so I was surprised by the lack of finishing touches on this beverage server. The ivory, lidded stoneware kettle seems like the perfect addition to a holiday collection, but the printed plaid design is disappointing. It is prone to chips and flakes, as you will see if you pick one up in the store. If this was a textured, sweater-like design, or even the signature “X” pattern, it would be adorable. But the simple print looks and feels cheap. The vessel is also, overall, small.
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Nothing wrong in particular, but this set is too much. This is an intentionally slightly misshapen stoneware plate and mug. It is white and has two words stamped on it. That’s it. It comes in an enormous gift-set box, which I am sure will impress when someone opens it, but it is too big and costs too much. It is a cute idea, if your family has a tradition of setting out milk and cookies for Santa. But both items should be smaller (the plate is the big enough for a dozen cookies) and the whole set should be $12-$15. Period.

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Maybe if you are into creepy Christmas decor? This canvas wall tapestry is supposed to be a centerpiece in your entryway, I suppose. But it is both too abstract and foreboding. The enormous piece of “natural” fabric measures three feet by two feet, and slightly resembles Slender Man’s fat sister emerging from the fog. There are no pictures to inspire how to style this piece, and it is not hard to imagine why. What do you do with this movie poster? Do yourself and your guests a favor, and hang your kid’s drawings instead.

What did you like from the Magnolia line for Target? What are your favorites?

Sample Gender-Neutral Capsule Wardrobe for IUGR/Preemie Babies

I am fascinated by the idea of a capsule wardrobe for babies and kids. It seems like the perfect plan for a person who is constantly growing out of his or her clothes: it reduces the number of overall pieces, and, if the various wardrobes for each size coordinate, you can maximize use of every item during transitional sizes.

A capsule wardrobe is the minimalist concept of having a “core” set of items that can generally all coordinate together and are thoughtfully suited to your particular daily needs. The neutral basics can be made unique with a few accessories or stand-out statement pieces. Some of its proponents have an ideal number of pieces (seven, thirty-three, thirty-seven). But, for babies, the number is not as significant as the efficiency. Baby clothes are small, so thirty-five pieces will take up hardly any more space than twenty-five pieces. Additionally, babies grow quickly, their needs change quickly in different environments and moods, and they tend to make messes and need multiple outfit changes per day.

This wardrobe I designed to meet the following criteria:

  1. Gender-Neutral: When I was pregnant with Theodore, we chose not to find out our baby’s gender until he was born. We felt it was a fun surprise, and we liked the challenge of finding unisex clothes that could work for this baby, and any subsequent babies, no matter the gender. Neutral wardrobes help maximize efficiency of your baby clothes, especially since your baby will grow out of these tiny ones very quickly! You can always supplement with more feminine or masculine accessories and statement pieces, but this capsule wardrobe on its own can work for a boy or a girl.
  2. Designed for premature and/or IUGR babies: When I was 31 weeks pregnant, we found out our baby was not growing properly, and later discovered it was because his placenta was not growing properly. We ended up having him at 37 weeks gestation, and he weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces. He spent 6 days in the NICU, and wore preemie sized clothes until he was about one month old. It is surprisingly difficult to find preemie clothes that look cute, and if your baby is in the NICU, you need to keep in mind accommodations for wires, tubes, and sensors. This wardrobe is not for 8-pound, overdue babies; it was made from my experience in the NICU, and with a very tiny, generally cold newborn at home.
  3. Made for mild/transitional weather: Our son was born at the end of summer/beginning of fall. His first few months of life, the weather continued to get increasingly cold. These clothes are exactly the type of things we needed, and anyone would need, during those transitional seasons. They allow for easy layering, and are not heavy-weight or bulky.
  4. Cost-conscious: There are some AMAZINGLY cute brands out there that produce ADORABLE clothes (I’m looking at you, Rylee + Cru, and anything on Spearmint Love). BUT, I personally can’t go out and spend that kind of money of something my baby will wear for a few weeks maximum. Plus, these boutique brands generally don’t include preemie sizes in their collections. I tried to keep these prices in the $10.00-$20.00 range, and only a few of them are outside (some more and some less). Plus, a lot of these brands tend to have coupons or sales. There is one boutique line on here, and it is very cost-efficient and designs specifically for preemies.

With those guidelines in mind, let’s jump into the wardrobe!

Here is a list of everything included in this gender-neutral capsule wardrobe for preemie/IUGR newborn babies (click this link to see the whole wardrobe on Pinterest):

Body Suits: 12 short-sleeve, 1 long-sleeve
Shirts: 5 long-sleeve
Pants: 3 footed, 3 regular
10 one-piece sleep ‘n’ plays
1 cardigan
1 sweatshirt (zip-up)
6 hats
2 pairs crib shoes
1 Cotton sleep sack
12 pairs socks

Body Suits: There are many more short-sleeve than long-sleeve because the short-sleeve ones are really great for layering. You can pretty much put a short-sleeve onesie/bodysuit under any of these outfits to additional warmth and comfort. There are two side-snap onesies, which are great for the NICU (lines and wires can poke through the snaps), and allow you to avoid pulling anything over your newborn’s head, which they hate and can be very difficult with a floppy newborn.

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a420ba7d4d8470fbe4196d105f87b54f.jpge41e9c4cf546f38b084bde49739c3e73.jpgShirts: These are excellent for layering, and are light cotton, so there is no extra bulk getting in the way. My baby loved to be swaddled in the those early weeks, so putting him in a bulky sweater and then swaddling him was not really practical. These side-snap shirts are what the nurses put on him in the NICU whenever his body temperature was a little low. You can even roll up the sleeves if they are too big. These shirts also have little pockets that flip over your baby’s hands if they are prone to getting cold or scratching themselves.

**Random note on swaddling: my son was too small for the specialized “swaddle” blankets that come with snaps and velcro and all sorts of gadgets. They could never get tight enough for our little warrior. We used plain old receiving blankets and muslin swaddles to keep him bundled up and they worked great for us.**

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Pants: I loved pants with feet attached because there were no socks to worry about, and the pants never rolled up and exposed Theo’s legs to the cold air. I also included footless pants for those warmer days, or to accommodate foot sensors in the NICU. These are all light-weight cotton as well. Remember, in those early days, your child isn’t crawling or walking, so light pants won’t get stained with dirt at that point. If he has a leaky diaper and makes a mess, castile soap, applied directly and rubbed in when it was still wet, always removed the stains for us.

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10 Sleep ‘n’ plays: These are essentially the most comfortable / only thing a baby wants to wear. They can work as pajamas, they can work as a day-time outfit. Layer them with a body suit and they are extra cozy. One of these is made of thermal material, the others are regular cotton. Some of these are zip-up, and some are snaps. Some have feet and others don’t. A word on sizing: my son was the weight of a preemie, but was 18 inches long. Most preemie clothes fit 17-inch babies. Accordingly, while he was swimming in newborn size outfits, his legs were too long for preemie outfits. We cut the feet off his outfits to allow him to wear them, but that explains why the footless outfits may be better, depending on your baby’s measurements.

**Note re: baby gowns. We loved the idea of a simple, no-fasteners’ article that could just be slipped up to change a diaper. The problem was, the gowns were no good for car rides (you can’t fasten the car seat between it’s legs), so you could only use them in the house. Also, they offered very little in thermal protection, and the ones we got were too big for our itty newborn. We did use them when he was in 0-3 month sizes, but when was very little, they just slid off his shoulders.

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3b57348b38d24acdf50846a763f2d2ef.jpgcdae3dc0c003048b01c6ee29978d62e11.jpgf81244538d2befd1efa25880b4cd5351.jpg

00accbcda15106308e40a2f97b51f7fb.jpg52cc7dc8abdd65d1395272d787ee0f411-e1538578254761.jpg5925fac3eeea57d8c3bec82ca192e6fc1.jpg1 Cardigan: There is not really much in the realm of “cute” or “dressy” preemie sized clothes. But if there is a nice occasion (baptism, dedication, wedding) and you think your baby maybe should wear something other than essentially pajamas, here is a sweet, warm, neutral outfit that could work. Plus, the quilted style can layer nicely with other items in cold weather.

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1 Zip-up Sweatshirt: Enough, with the layers, already! No, I won’t. A light-weight cotton sweatshirt helps add that all-important warmth without too much bulk, again. And the zipper makes it easy to come on and off. I had one very similar to this for Theodore and I think he wore it for about four months. A very useful item for us!5e1d77dbd2aeb8836065319d09d71695.jpg
6 Hats: My dear little one was totally bald for the first 10 months or so, and was very cold on top of it. He wore a hat almost every day in the winter, and even to bed, to help him stay warm. Some of the sets above come with hats, and here are a couple of others. Hat sizes are really weird, so you will need several to switch between as his or her head size changes.

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2 Pairs Crib Shoes: These fleece booties are the best! I was so, so sad when my baby grew out of them. Shoes at this age are not for protecting feet from the ground or providing stability: they are to help keep socks on and keep the baby’s feet warm. These velcro shoes are incredibly warm and stay on like glue! The smaller cotton booties are for less chilly weather and are basically slippers for your baby. So sweet!

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1 Cotton Sleep Sack: As I said above, our baby was too small for the specialized velcro “swaddles,” so we wrapped him tightly him with regular swaddle blankets. If your baby doesn’t like being swaddled, or gets too hot, I recommend sleep sacks. They are safe and when your baby starts moving around, she won’t kick them off!

83598c10180fad3ad293fd0562296c05.jpg12 Pairs Socks: Colored and patterned socks are super cute, but do you know the only thing worse than sitting around pairing grown-up socks? Sitting around pairing up tiny, doll-size socks! And if you are missing one, you might as well throw away the other one! That’s why I love having a multi-pack of all white socks. These are a great, low-cost option that, in my experience, actually stay on the baby’s feet. They are thin and stretchy.

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There you have it! 56 total items, at an average price of $8.20 per item, creating literally dozens of outfits! And by no means does everyone need all of these things to have a highly-functional newborn capsule wardrobe! To further extend the use of this wardrobe, and depending on your particular circumstances, it may be prudent to purchase some things in preemie size, and some in newborn size. Also, Burt’s Bees clothes tend to run a little smaller than Carter’s. I hope this helps you get excited about getting tiny clothes for your tiny miracle! Having or expecting a premature baby can be very stressful, but having a few cute clothes on your little warrior to look forward to can help, even if it’s just a little.

– D. E. Barbi Bee

 

P.S. Eventually your preemie will grow up, so I also made a Pinterest Board Capsule Wardrobe for a 12-month old boy in the fall/winter months. Check it out here!