Monday, March 30, 2009
Julia bites. her sister. often. This is a problem. We checked this book out from the library recently in order to address the issue. The book has simple dialogue and reiterates that "teeth are not for biting" several times over in the book. One page says "Ouch! Biting hurts." and a child is crying; Julia seemed to get the idea. After reading the book once with her, she was reading it herself and saying "biting, no no" while shaking her head no. The book offers alternatives to biting - "get a hug from a grownup, chew a chewy toy, take a cold drink", etc. It also talks about what to do if you are bitten (don't bite back, talk to a grownup) which is nice because Lucy was of course right beside me while I was reading this book to Julia and was able to identify with that page. I was happy that it told her what to do also (go hug a grownup as opposed to screaming and hitting her sister). I wouldn't necessarily recommend buying this book if you don't have biting issues, you wouldn't want to plant any ideas in anyone's head; but its been very helpful for us! There are other titles in the series including "hands are not for hitting", "germs are not for sharing", "feet are not for kicking", and more. They are all sturdy board books with nice colorful illustrations. In fact, I think we'll check out the germs book next....
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wool works wonderfully with cloth diapers! At first wool can seem intimidating, but it is actually quite easy to care for and use. Wool is naturally antibacterial and can be used several times over before washing. It is breathable, but very resistant to leaking. Many mothers find wool to be a great solution for night time diapering or over a pocket diaper when out and about just to catch those occasional leaks. Once you get started you'll be hooked; I get so many compliments on my girls' cute woolies! Here are a few tips and links to get you started.
Options: a "soaker" is a diaper cover that is worn under clothing (or with babylegs), a "skirtie" is a skirt/ soaker combination that works as the diaper cover, "longies" are pants, and "shorties" are shorts made of wool... my DH laughs at the "ie" on the end of everything, but hey, I didn't make up the names. Wool can be crocheted or knitted from 100% wool yarn, sewn out of a wool sweater, or purchased.
Washing: Wool needs to be hand washed, but it can go quite some time between washings. Fill a small basin with lukewarm water. (You don't want to use your sink because the lanolin can clog your pipes.) Pour in a small amount of wool wash or gently rub a wool wash bar to suds the water a bit. Place your wool in the water (being sure its not too warm or cold or it will shock the wool and shrink it), and gently swirl it a bit. If you have any stains you can rub a wool wash bar on the stain itself. Otherwise just let the wool soak for a while (20 minutes to a couple hours) so that it absorbs the lanolin. Rinse the wool with lukewarm water and then roll it in a towel and squeeze it to dry. Lay the wool out flat until dry.
Lanolizing: if you're having trouble with your wool leaking, you may want to lanolize it. I don't find this to be necessary very often though. You can melt a pea sized amount of lanolin in a cup of hot water and add that to your washing basin of lukewarm water, being sure that the lanolin is melted and the water is not too hot when you add the wool and soak as above. I've found the lanolin to be a bit clumpy when I do this and prefer to use liquid lanolin instead. If you're using the liquid, just add it in when you wash every now and then. You can also spray lanolin right on your wool to help waterproof it when needed. Here is a recipe for making the spray.
Abbys Lane sells wool wash products- you can use either the wool wash bar or the liquid for general washing and then either the liquid lanolin or the spray lanolin for lanolizing. I love Abby's Lane and they have free shipping on all orders, which is great. I've personally found a wool wash bar to last quite a long time. You can also use Eucalan wool wash, which some people have been able to find locally or in a yarn shop.
Llamajama has some cute wool longies and things, here is a collection of short articles on wool to get you started.
Katrina has developed an amazingly easy (and free) pattern for wool soakers and longies- check here and look on the right side under "links" for the actual pattern. You can use wool interlock (which can be expensive to buy) or cut up a wool sweater.
This is my favorite crocheting pattern. I use the Morning Glory longies pattern and just shorten the legs to make shorties.
If you'd like to purchase some wool, Disana wool is very soft. Swaddlebees wool has snaps on the side so you can adjust the fit. Remember that wool can be pricey, but you only need a few pieces that will last you a long time.
Just a side note here- if you order from Abby's Lane as a first time customer mention my name and email address and I'll receive a small credit for referring you. Thanks! Let me know if you have any more questions about wool.
(Christy - mercy589 (at) yahoo (dot) com)
Monday, March 23, 2009
Around here its almost springtime, the sun is peeking out and slowly warming things up. Its time for me to purchase some sunscreen to have on hand for the year. Even though we're not even close to the scorching heat of summer yet, my girls are fair skinned and need protection from the sun even now, especially since they've been inside all winter. Last year I used Badger sunscreen and was happy with it. I checked the cosmetics database and read through the top rated sunscreens and also read about Badger sunscreen on their own website. I was pleased with all the information they have on their website regarding their sunscreen and felt like I was able to make an informed decision.
If you've never used the cosmetics database, its a wonderful resource! From a quote on their front page "Due to gaping loopholes in federal law, companies can put virtually any ingredient into personal care products. Even worse, the government does not require pre-market safety tests for any of them." The Environmental Working Group has created this database of products and ingredients and rated them according to safety. You can go to their website and search practically any personal care product - makeup, deodorant, shampoo, and more. Take a moment and look up the products that you use on a regular basis, you may be surprised at how many chemicals you are exposing yourself to. The great thing is that you can use this database to start making safer choices for your family.
Over the past year we've switched many of the products we use and I'll be sharing those with you in the coming weeks. We're currently remodeling our bathroom and my plan is to put only safe, healthy products back in my cupboards once we're done. I have a fun post in mind regarding this, coming up soon.
Note: There are a couple great posts here and here on why to limit sunscreen use. I only use sunscreen when we are going to be outside for a long time (and then I don't reapply it) or in the early spring/ summer because my girls are both fair skinned and need time to adjust to being out in the sun. Otherwise we just keep the sunscreen with us when we head out for the day and if we've been out too long and start to feel the need we apply a small amount.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Passionate Homemaking has a great article up about cloth diapering and the benefits. I won't repost that all here other than to say that cloth is better for your budget and better for your baby's health as well. I've been cloth diapering since Lucy was 8 months old and have really enjoyed it. I'm just going to post my favorite cloth diapering items along with a getting started list for fun.
One of my favorite places to shop is Abby's Lane, they have free shipping on every order and wonderful customer service. They have a yahoo email list that you can join to find a 5% discount code mentioned in their periodic update emails. Stephanie is great about answering any questions you might have and helping you figure out what will work for you and your baby. If you are a new customer to Abby's Lane, let them know I referred you by placing my name and email address in the comments box.
(Christy christy.vw (at) gmail (dot) com)
Alright, so here are some of my favorite cloth diapering items - and all you'd really need to get started if you're new to this. This isn't an inclusive list of everything out there, just my top picks.
Bumgenius One Size pocket diapers - these are definitely my favorites! I've seen pictures of them fitting on tiny little babies and they snap open further to fit all the way up to potty training. I love the stretchy sides and have always had a good fit with these on both my girls. You can customize the absorbancy of these diapers by adding an extra insert. Pocket diapers are super easy for Dad and Grandma to use and my favorite to keep in the diaper bag for going out. Add to that the fact that this diaper comes in pink (and other cute colors) and I'm sold!
Add a BabyKicks Hemparoo insert for night time. I use this insert along with the microfiber insert in my Bumgenius overnight and we're all set. Hemp is very absorbant and doesn't add too much bulk to the diaper.
If you're still having trouble with leaks at night, pull on a wool cover and its practically bulletproof! Disana wool is soft and easy to care for once you learn how. I'll do a separate post on wool one of these days. Wool pants are so much fun as well.
If you're on a tight budget, or just want to have extra back up diapers around, try prefolds. Prefolds are a workhorse diaper, they will last forever and are great to have on hand. I use a snappi (much easier than pins!) and a Thirsties cover. Thirsties covers are the best of any I've tried. They are nice and trim fitting, but have lots of room in them for the diaper. The leg gussets are great at keeping leaks in, and the bright variety of colors makes me want to buy them all. I keep my prefolds around just so I can use Thirsties covers I like them so much.
Did you know snappis come in a toddler size? I recommend having a few on hand for when those prefolds get a bit snug but you aren't quite ready for a bigger size yet. The toddler snappi is just a tad bigger and can help you get lots more life out of your prefolds. I was so happy when I finally found out these existed!
What about accessories? There are a few things that will make cloth diapering easier for you -
2 pail liners - when one is full, I carry the diapers to the wash and dump the pail liner inside out into the washing machine right along with the diapers. I highly recommend having a second one for when the first is in the wash. I have Swaddlebees and like them ok, but they've gone up in price so I'd probably try a wahmies instead. I have a large kitchen trash can from Meijers that I use along with my pail liner to hold the dirty diapers.
1-2 wet bags - this is a liner zippered pouch to put dirty diapers in when you are out and about, definitely a necessity
diaper sprayer - this hooks right to your toilet and is great for spraying off poopy diapers, especially when babies start eating solid foods and have that yucky sticky poop that doesn't want to come off the diaper. I highly recommend buying one of these.
cloth wipes - using cloth wipes is easy when you're already using cloth diapers. Just spray on some diaper spray or water and toss the wipe in your diaper pail when you're done. We like the Kissaluvs diaper potion spray.
detergent- I use Purex Free and Clear, for a complete list of detergents and which ones are safe, see this page. I hang my covers and pockets on a drying rack in the basement and they are dry overnight. Its something like this but I purchased it at WalMart.
Here is a list of Q and A that might be helpful for someone just getting started.
Thats all for now! Who knew there could be so much to say about diapering? ;)
Monday, March 16, 2009
Until recently I hadn't planned out meals day by day. I would make a list of meals that we wanted to eat, buy the ingredients, and keep that list on the fridge. Problem was, some meals would need fresh ingredients that would go bad before we got to that meal or something would need to be thawed out and I wouldn't do that in enough time. Some friends of mine were using Google calendar to meal plan and encouraged me to give it a try. I'm hooked!
I love using Google calendar and having meals all planned out for several reasons. Probably the biggest benefit is that I've done the work of figuring out what to eat for dinner ahead of time. I don't have to stare at my list trying to figure out which meal to make, which meal needed that onion that is going bad, etc. I like the feature that allows you to simply click on a meal and drag it over to another day if plans happen to change. I type in leftover days once or twice a week since we are a small family and usually have extras. I'm also using the calendar to plan out my other baking - bread, granola bars, bagels, and other things that aren't necessarily dinner, but need to be planned. Knowing what we are eating for dinner ahead of time also allows me to create better meals. If I know what we are having I can make fresh tortillas, put some cinnamon raisin bread in the bread machine, or be sure we have a fresh salad on hand. Using Google calendar has been a great tool to use in feeding my family healthy meals and organizing my day a bit more.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
For quite a while I knew that I wanted to feed my family healthier foods, but I wasn't quite sure how or even why. I came across this book and it really gave me the information I needed to start making some changes! Dr Sears gives plenty of info on why certain foods are healthy, why to avoid certain foods, how to read labels, "top ten" lists of healthy foods to feed your family- including ideas of how to start. For example, he talks about how healthy blueberries are and what they do for your body and then he suggests several ways to start including them in your diet- putting them on oatmeal, in yogurt, in a smoothie (that he gives the recipe for), etc. I really appreciated all the practical tips along with the nutritional info that really motivated me to want to change our eating habits.
Probably the biggest change that I made after reading this book is implementing his guidelines and avoiding the "Terrible Three" - high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and artificial colors. I took several trips to the grocery store and lots of label reading and frustration but once I figured out which products were "safe" to buy it wasn't quite so much work. Did you know that most bread, even whole wheat bread, has high fructose corn syrup in it? I couldn't believe how many things had unhealthy ingredients in them once I really started looking!
I actually need to go back and re-read this book, there is so much information in it that I'm sure I could absorb more of it. I've found this to be a valuable resource to have on my bookshelf! I've used several of the recipes at the back of the book and loved them.
If you really want to know how crazy I am.... I went through the book and typed out several of the lists Dr Sears has in there, things like "Top Twelve Superfoods" "The Terrible Threes to Avoid" "Ten Nutritional Changes Every Family Must Make" etc, and then I laminated them and stuck them to my refrigerator! I'm determined to feed my family healthy foods and this is one way to help me remember and focus on specific steps I need to take. I love my family and want to keep us all healthy and whole!
(These are some of the key points/ info from the first few chapters. I glued them to colored paper and laminated them, then stuck them up with blue sticky putty. I need to go through a few more chapters and type up some more things to replace these with since they've been up a while.)
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Our sprouts were finally ready yesterday. The girls were so excited to eat them! I gave them a few final rinses and then set them out on a plate to dry for most of the day before they went in the refrigerator. I also dried them with a paper towel a bit so that they wouldn't get moldy. I was surprised that we got so many sprouts, my little jar was stuffed full. We had them in a tortilla wrap with meat and cheese for lunch and then on a salad for dinner. There are plenty left over if anyone wants to come over and have a sprout sandwich. ;)
If you're still not convinced, here is a link to the specific nutrients in different types of sprouts. My little alfalfa sprouts have vitamins A, B, C, E, K, minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, as much carotene as carrots, chlorophyl, and protein!
Friday, March 13, 2009
This is the coolest little invention! Its a ceramic crock that keeps butter fresh without having to refrigerate it. I am making more of my own homemade bread and having soft butter to spread on it is wonderful. For a picture of how it works, click here. You have to change the water every few days, but thats easy to do any time you are using it. I haven't tried yet, but I want to mix in some maple syrup or some herbs and make flavored butter. Maybe I need to get a few more butter bells....
Thursday, March 12, 2009
My sprouts have been busy sprouting away! Lucy and Julia are keeping watch and are actually excited to eat them when they are done. This is super easy. I switched the lid to the one with slightly larger size holes so that the hulls could be rinsed away. I decided to dump the sprouts into a bowl and try this method to be sure all the hulls came out. (scroll down for the bowl method) If you scroll down on that page you'll also find a section on the left called Sprouting Specifics with links on rinsing, draining, storing, etc. Its not hard. ;) I plan to try and get them a bit more sun tomorrow to green them up and then they are going to make their way into our salad tomorrow night I hope. I'll let you know how that goes.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
We made smoothies tonight. The girls love them and I've decided that we need to have a weekly smoothie night. I can put just about anything in that blender along with some fruit and it will get eaten. Here is my basic recipe, along with some optional add ins.
2 cups orange juice
6 frozen strawberries
handful of frozen blueberries
a handful of spinach
flaxseed (ground in a coffee grinder we have just for grinding flax seed)
carrot or carrot juice
other fruit- frozen peaches, mango chunks, whatever you can find!
we sometimes use rice milk instead of orange juice for the liquid
I'm guessing on the amount for the orange juice, you need a good amount to start out with and enough to keep everything from getting stuck. You may need to add more towards the end depending on your blender. I start with the orange juice and add one thing at a time blending after each addition. Tonight I added in spinach and lecithin granules and you couldn't taste it at all.
It wouldn't by my blog if I didn't warn you about BPA in your blender. We have this model with the glass container and it works well. (Well, I'm not sure which exact model we have, but its a glass beehive Oster blender.) ZRecommends posted an article and did some research on blenders and food processors. If you have a blender that you suspect has BPA, until you can replace it be sure not to put hot liquids in it, and hand wash it rather than using a dishwasher.
Smoothies are something both my girls enjoy and I'm happy about how nutritious they are! What else have you added to smoothies successfully?
Flexible plastic is one of the worst types out there- pthalates, lead, and all kinds of other toxins are added in order to keep it flexible. After reading this article on how nasty PVC/ Vinyl is, I decided to replace our bibs. I simply traced a large bib that I liked and made a pattern. Placing two pieces of cotton right sides together, I sewed around the edges leaving an opening on one side. After clipping the seams and turning the bib right side out, I topstitched the whole thing being sure to catch the opening and sew it closed. I have this snap setter that I got at Field's and used it to put a snap on (no more velcro chains in the wash!). If my short description doesn't make sense I can post a photo tutorial next time I make a bib, just let me know. I've been very happy with these bibs, they are thin and fold up nicely to tuck in the diaper bag and I haven't had any trouble with them leaking through onto my girl's shirts. I love eliminating plastic and my girls love their homemade bibs! Lucy just asked my for an Elmo bib, so I'll have to check for Elmo fabric next time I'm at the store.
The other item in the photo is a boo-boo bag. I had a re-usable ice pack that we kept in the freezer for bumps and bruises until it started to leak and I realized it was made of yucky flexible plastic and goodness knows what was inside of it. I sewed a small bag out of cotton and filled it about 3/4 full with rice. I keep it in the freezer in a ziploc bag and my girls love that Dora and Boots can help their bumps and bruises feel better. This could also be put in the microwave and used as a heat pack. Another easy way to get toxins out of my home!
Monday, March 9, 2009
Sprouts are good for you! I'm trying my hand at sprouting some alfalfa and will share the results here. I bought a set of plastic lids designed to go on a wide mouth mason jar and some alfalfa seeds. Here is a photo of day 1.
The instructions came with the lids and didn't seem hard to follow. I soaked the seeds all day in warm water and then rinsed them in cool water and left them sort of upside down to drain. If I'm doing this right, all you do is rinse them twice a day until they are ready to eat. I'm planning to put them on salads and maybe sneak a few in sandwiches.
The Nourishing Gourmet on the benefits of sprouting
Sprouting Seeds how to
More info on sprouting
I've been using mineral makeup for over a year now and wouldn't go back! After learning about all the chemicals that are in makeup, and the fact that there aren't any regulations on what can or can't be in makeup- I switched. If you want to read more about this, go to ewg.org and type in makeup and read a few of the articles that come up. Mineral makeup does seem to be the new fad though, so I wouldn't trust just anything out there. You want to find something with as few ingredients as possible. I've been using Everyday Minerals and love it. They have a free sample kit that you can order (you do pay a minimal amount for shipping, but you get a good amount of sample to try) and seem to be reasonably priced.
I just found out about an offer from Physicians Formula for a rebate on some of their new organic line, thanks to Lindsay. Click on rebates on the right. There is an offer for mineral makeup as well as for mascara. I'm interested in trying the mascara since I've been going without for some time now, due to not finding a natural alternative. You do have to find the product in a store with a "Try Me Free" label on it. I've checked two stores and didn't find the mascara labeled but did come across the mineral makeup with the label at Walgreens. I'm not sure about all the ingredients in it, I don't really know what they all are, but I'm guessing its at least a step in the right direction.
Stay tuned for more about the health and beauty products we use! I've totally revamped our bathroom cupboards this past year after finding out about ewg.org and reading about how bad some of the ingredients are in common shampoo, conditioner, etc. I feel much better about the natural alternatives we've found and now use.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Around here, if someone starts getting sick we have a few things that we immediately resort to in order to keep ourselves healthy and boost our immune systems. I recently typed this out to keep in my home organization binder so I can use it as an easy reference tool. I feel much better doing these things rather than dosing my girls up on medicines that mask symptoms or antibiotics that upset their stomachs. Quickly resorting to Tylenol and antibiotics takes away the body's chance to strengthen itself and fight the sickness. Lots of rest and love, along with supporting the body's natural defense systems in these simple ways, is what we rely on to pull us through. Of course there is also the importance of good everyday nutrition so that our bodies are able to fight off a bug when it hits. (Don't hesitate to give your doctor a call if you feel that you or your child is seriously ill or dehydrated!)
lots of fluids-
make juice popsicles
get out straws or special cups, anything that will encourage drinking more
serve strictly healthy foods-
no sugar or desserts
make chicken soup with stock and lots of garlic
fresh bread with dipping sauce (minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil)
take multi-vitamins (prenatals for mom, multi for dad)
Echinacea for mom and dad - 3xs a day
Sambucol for the girls - 2xs a day
Vitamin C- high doses several times a day-
Airborne for dad- 3xs a day
chewable tablets for the girls and mom
wash hands often
wash bed sheets and hand towels
clean surfaces and doorknobs
for a cough-
steam treatments in bathroom, clapping chest and back to loosen mucous
spoonful of honey at night
Vicks Baby rub at night
for a runny nose-
saline solution and nasal aspirators often throughout the day
Boiron cold care kit includes tablets for fever, runny nose, and thick nasal discharge
I do not treat a fever unless its during the night and the child is too restless.
belladonna homeopathic remedy (try this first before Tylenol)
upset tummy, diarrhea, or antibiotics-
probiotics powder for the girls and pills for mom and dad (these are refrigerated)- once or twice a day for two weeks
bumps and bruises-
arnica tablets for a serious bruise or fall
arnica massage oil for backaches or bruises
calendula ointment for scrapes
breastmilk in the ear
use earscope to check ears
amber teething necklace
Hyland's teething tablets
Check askdrsears.com for more specific information on dehydration, etc.
We also have the book Naturally Healthy Babies and Children that we reference when needed.
I feel like I don't have a great teething remedy, my girls don't respond much to the Hyland's tablets. They also struggle with sleeping through the night when they are little. I'm currently trying a calcium/ magnesium supplement before bed to see if it helps them. Any other ideas?
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Lucy is 3 1/2 and loves learning. She asks to do projects often and enjoys workbooks and being busy. Over the past year I've been compiling some preschool resources to use with her. We have several bookshelves full of books, one big shelf in her room and another in the living room with only board books on it. (Julia isn't very gentle with books yet.) Many of the toys we have are educational in some way or another. We limit battery operated toys or leave them out of toys like Little People sets that don't necessarily need the batteries in them to be played with. (My girls have no idea that their castle and farm make noises.) I published a list on amazon of some preschool toys and games that we enjoy.
We also use My Father's World preschool; they have a fantastic idea booklet that comes with their preschool package and offers some challenging and fun ideas. Handwriting Without Tears looks great, I bought the workbook and teachers book but haven't started using it yet. I still want to make the wooden pieces that they use to form letters- in the teachers book they give you a pattern. We've also done Before Five In a Row along with lapbooking from here.
I hope some of this is inspiring to you! Right now our focus is on having fun and developing a love of learning. We do lots of art projects, reading books, and playdates with friends. We will plant a garden this summer and enjoy things like going to the farmer's market or library story time. I love just being with my two girls and enjoying life with them. I am planning to use My Father's World Kindergarten either this fall or January when Lucy will be 4 1/2.
*I* bought plastic for my cupboards, gulp. We had trouble with moths in our pantry cupboards and since then I've been looking high and low for safe containers to put flour, sugar, and other staples in. After considering my options, I finally bought lock and lock plastic which I feel is relatively safe. Its made of polypropylene (much safer than polycarbonate) and has a silicone seal. They offer a lifetime warranty on the product and I'm pleased with the sturdiness of it. Its air and water tight, so I don't think my little moth friends will be getting in nor out of these containers. They state that its dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe, but mine will not be put in the dishwasher or microwave.
Meijer had these on sale last week 20% off and I finally figured out that a 16.3 cup lock and lock is the size that will hold a 5lb bag of flour/ sugar/ etc. They sold these in a package of 3- the 16.3 cup container with two smaller ones inside. I purchased enough of these sets to put sugar, whole wheat flour, bread flour, and a few other things in the large ones and used the smaller ones for rice, quinoa, barley, etc. I bought a long container to keep noodles in, and a large container to hold bread that I make in my bread machine. I used my label maker to put labels on things, but these containers are also very see through, which is great for seeing how much sugar or flour I have left.
Overall I'm happy with the new organization of my cupboards and am happy that the moths are now under control. We had one infestation where we had to throw away quite a bit of food and while I was putting things in my new containers I found that they had started coming back again, but I think I finally have them beat. It did cost a bit to purchase the containers, but was worth it. The moths can eat through plastic bags (like the bag rice comes in or a plastic ziploc bag) but they can't get through solid plastic containers like these.
Note- I had considered glass containers, but couldn't find anything with a seal. If you can find canning jars with a wide mouth in larger gallon or 1/2 gallon sizes, you can use these white plastic lids. I thought these jars would be too heavy and large for my small pantry, but it may be a good option for someone.