Monday, November 30, 2009

Math (Muffin) Tin Monday



Muffin Tin Monday is always something to look forward to around here. There wasn't a theme today so I stole an idea from someone, but I'm not sure who. Each week I click through the links posted and get lots of great ideas; if this was your idea - Thanks!

I filled a tin with snacks - craisins, frozen blueberries, cheese pieces, pretzels, ducks, and marshmallows for a special treat. The girls had to roll a die and then choose that number of snacks from one of the tins. It was good counting practice and even Julia did very well with it. They stayed interested in this and took turning rolling the die and snacking until the tin was almost cleaned out. (Of course the marshmallows disappeared first.) I'd been looking for fun math ideas to add to our homeschooling days, and this was a great one. Check out Her Cup Overfloweth for more Muffin Tin Monday fun.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

More About Lead, Safe Jewelry, and a Giveaway


I'm currently running a series of posts about Toxins In Toys. In my latest post, we talked about lead - where its found and more. I am subscribed to a recall email list and one of the things that I see recalled frequently because of lead is children's jewelry. Most of it is off brand jewelry that I wouldn't consider safe anyway, but the recalls do include some brand names such as American Girl, and Reebok. The Reebok bracelet was actually recalled because a four year old boy swallowed the heart shaped charm and then died of lead poisoning. The CDC has a report on the incident here. Here is a list of children's jewelry recalls.

As a mom of two little girls who love to dress up and be pretty, I'm definitely concerned about this issue. My girls do not have metal jewelry right now. Aside from the lead issue, I would also be concerned about charms coming off and posing a choking hazard to the new baby or little ones that visit our household. They do each have a special amber necklace that they can wear when they want to. They get so many compliments on their necklaces when they are wearing them, and the necklaces are a safe option for many reasons.

Amber is interesting in that it is not actually a stone, it is a fossilized tree resin, and has been used historically as a remedy for many ailments. When wearing a piece of amber jewelry, your skin warms the amber and it releases trace amounts of succinic acid which your body absorbs. Amber is credited for pain relief, restoring energy, strengthening the body's immune system, and more. You can read more about the benefits here. Personally, I'm undecided on how effective wearing amber is, but it certainly can't hurt. Its a natural substance, and looks great besides!


Inspired by Finn is a great little shop that sells amber jewelry. They sent us an amber necklace and bracelet for review. Here is a picture of Lucy with the necklace on:


We chose the light mix round bead necklace in 13 inches. The lighter colors are supposed to have more of the succinic acid. The string the necklace is made of is designed to stretch or even break if necessary. Each piece of amber is individually double knotted on the strand so that if the necklace does break you won't have little pieces flying everywhere. Lucy is very proud of her amber necklace and I can tell she feels very pretty when she's wearing it.

The bracelet that we received was for my mother in law. She has constant pain in her arms, neck, and shoulders from arthritis and other spinal problems. I asked her to wear the bracelet for a couple of weeks and let me know what she thought.


She said that the bracelet was somewhat helpful. She felt that it helped with the pain, although it was hard to tell. On a day where she did something strenuous and was in more pain, the bracelet didn't do much, but it did seem to help with everyday low level pain management. She's been wearing it every time I see her lately, so I it must be helping.

Its definitely interesting to read about the benefits of amber. I love these necklaces as a safe option for children's (and mommy!) jewelry. (Note: due to CPSIA regulations, the jewelry is recommended for ages 3 and up.) Inspired by Finn sells amber necklaces in adult and youth sizes, earrings, and more. As a side note, they have a huge selection of baby legs at a great price. (I have this organic wool pair for the new baby and they are so soft and nice.)

Inspired by Finn is offering one reader a necklace! If you'd like to enter the giveaway leave a comment on this post including your email address. The winner will be able to choose any necklace smaller than 16 inches. If you can't wait and would like to do some holiday shopping, you can use the code "blog" for 20% off. For extra entries, you can blog about this giveaway and leave the link in a comment, become a follower of my blog (or say that you already are), or both. The giveaway will close on December 11 at midnight.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned for more on toy safety, toys reviews, and giveaways coming up soon.

**The giveaway is now closed. Random.org chose comment #13. Thanks for your interest!**

Saturday, November 28, 2009

KidBean.com Product Review and Giveaway


This month I've been posting about Toxins In Toys and talking about some of the choices our family is making regarding toys. With our switch to natural safe toys, we've found some wonderful toy companies that have great high quality products. One of the stores that I've been impressed with is KidBean. They thoroughly research every company and product they sell, and will even tell you why they don't carry certain products. Here is a quote from their about us page:

"You can find natural, organic, earth-friendly children's products, like wooden toys and organic cotton baby clothes at hundreds of online retailers and an increasing number of local stores. However, you may notice that most of these products are made overseas from foreign components (such as organic cotton clothing made in India from Indian-grown organic cotton or wooden toys made in China or Germany). Were the workers who made them treated fairly? Which organic certification do they have (GOTS, CU, or..?)? What is the impact of their packaging? Are all the ingredients really safe?"

I love the questions they are asking! KidBean is a vegan company and very concerned about being green in every way they can. Just looking at the list of green things that they do at their office is inspiring. Also inspiring is the story of how the company started - a passionate mom wanting to stay home with her new baby girl, determined to start a business that sold earth-friendly, labor-friendly, vegan products. Today they are a thriving business with well over 750 products in numerous categories.

KidBean's toy selection consists of all wooden toys made here in the US. They focus on simple, open-ended toys that feed your child's imagination. The toys are all guaranteed to be lead free. Lucy and Julia had the chance to review the Uncle Goose Antics Ant Blocks recently.


Uncle Goose blocks are handcrafted in Michigan from basswood. They use child safe non-toxic ink on the blocks. The Antics Ant Blocks set has 16 blocks with ant trails, a queen ant and her eggs, little ant hill entrances, and even a spider. We are going to be studying ants as part of our My Father's World homeschool curriculum in a few weeks, so I thought this would be a fun set to have. I like the open-endedness of being able to create unique ant trails each time. It was actually not as challenging as I thought it would be since all of the pieces fit together in any way. Ross did point out that the ants were headed in certain directions and Lucy and I had them crashing into each other because we hadn't noticed that detail.


The girls both enjoyed playing with the blocks. Julia pointed to a couple of ants and said "maybe these are the friends and these are the mommy and daddy." In the photo she's yelling something about her king falling off the steps. Lucy had fun making a trail of ants running away from the spider and into one of the ant hill openings. The blocks are a nice big size - 1 3/4". We also received a sturdy canvas drawstring bag perfect for storing the blocks in. I'm not sure why, but they actually liked putting the blocks away in the bag - they normally don't do well cleaning up. Lucy and Julia give this toy two thumbs up for sure. The next morning after we had been playing with the blocks, Julia went straight to the closet and pulled them out again.

KidBean is giving away one set of Uncle Goose Blocks, your choice! (excluding the wagon) Uncle Goose makes a great selection of blocks including many other languages, bugs, and more. Visit KidBean and tell me what set you would choose. While you're there, check out their other great categories - bedding, clothing, diapers, and more. Leave a comment on this post being sure to include your email address. I'll close the giveaway on Dec 11 at midnight and use random.org to select a winner.

**The giveaway is now closed and a winner has been contacted. Thanks for your interest!**

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bosch Mixer Review



After saving my money from a couple of birthdays and Christmases and anything in between, I finally got a Bosch mixer! My old mixer wasn't great, and with being interested in baking my own bread and making more things from scratch, I really wanted a nice mixer. I've had it for awhile now and have made a few different things with it, so I wanted to share my thoughts.

I debated for a while between getting a KitchenAid mixer or the Bosch mixer. I first read about the Bosch mixer on blogs where people were making their own bread (and often grinding their own wheat as well!). The more I read, I kept running into rave reviews of the Bosch mixer. Looking up reviews on the KitchenAid mixer, I discovered that many people seem to have problems with it leaking oil or the motor burning up, especially when trying to mix larger batches of bread dough. I asked some mom friends on a private message board I belong to and several of them said that yes, their KitchenAid leaked oil (from the top, down into the mixing bowl). I didn't find as many reviews on the Bosch mixer, but the ones I did read were very favorable. The reviews all seemed to agree that the Bosch was a workhorse, lasts forever, and performed well.

This comparison chart (Bosch vs KitchenAid) from Everything Kitchens eventually helped me decide on the Bosch. The Bosch mixer has an 800 watt motor, while the KitchenAid's top mixer is only 575 watts. Bosch has a better warranty, but also weighs less and has a smaller profile which is better for my tiny kitchen. The bowl is a bit bigger, and the Bosch mixer does better at mixing bread dough. The prices are actually similar when you compare KitchenAid's top model to the Bosch mixer. I did discover after some research that the Bosch blender attachment is made of polycarbonate and therefore contains BPA. The blender attachment is optional and I will not be purchasing it unless they make it of some other material. The mixing bowl is polypropylene, a safe plastic, or you can purchase a stainless steel mixing bowl. I think the clear plastic lid may be polycarbonate, but the food doesn't really touch that part.

When I set out to purchase the Bosch mixer, Everything Kitchens ended up sending me the mixer and Nutrimill grain mill at a discount for reviewing them on my blog. Of course I enjoy chatting about things that I've researched and use in my home, and I thought you'd like hearing about my adventures with the mixer and grain mill. I'm definitely not an expert bread baker (or even cookie baker!) yet, but I'm having fun trying.


The mixer is short enough that it fits under my low counters, but I do have to pull it out each time I want to use it. There are suction cups on the bottom of the mixer (because its so powerful it can fling itself right off your counter without these I guess!), so I have to un-suction it every time I want to pull it out for use. I'd love to have more counter space so as to not have to move it every time, but that's just an issue with my small kitchen. I am able to store all of the attachments inside the mixing bowl, which is nice.

The Bosch mixer comes with a dough hook and french whisks. I also purchased the cookie paddles and the batter/ cookie whips, which are similar to the wire whips that come with the mixer, but they are a bit stronger for thicker batters. The whips and whisks are for pourable batters, and the cookie paddles and dough hook are for thicker doughs. All of the pieces, bowl, lid, etc, attach by turning them one direction or another until they click. I still get confused about which way I'm supposed to turn each piece, but overall its not very complicated to set up and use. There are also all kinds of different attachments you can buy for the mixer.

The Bosch is a bit different in the way that it mixes - the paddles or whisks fit down inside of the bowl and spin around, rather than coming up over the top like a KitchenAid. Here is a picture looking down into the mixer. I like this set up because one you put the lid on it completely covers the top and keeps in all of the flour dust when you turn it on.


I'm still working on finding a good bread recipe that we like, but the dough hook really does seem to do a great job at mixing and kneading the dough. I can put in all of the ingredients, leave the mixer to knead the dough for a certain amount of time, let the dough rise, then shape and bake the loaves. I don't find it to be any harder than using my bread machine, and I get better results. My bread machine seemed to make the bread crust a bit too dark for us, and then you get the weird shaped loaf too. With the Bosch mixer I can also make larger batches of bread dough at once. I have to try making bread a few more times with the Bosch, but I'm thinking of sending my bread machine the way of Craigslist, along with my old mixer.


I purchased the Bosch mixer and Nutrimill from Everything Kitchens and was very happy with their customer service. I received my items within just a few days of ordering them. They have a huge selection of all kinds of kitchen products, and have great prices. They told me that the listed prices for the Bosch and Nutrimill are from the manufacturers, but if you call and request a discount, the sales people are authorized to give you one. Another cool thing about Everything Kitchens is that they donate 1% of their proceeds to World Vision, an international humanitarian aid organization. I would definitely recommend purchasing through this website for their great customer service, focus on customer satisfaction, and their best price guarantee. You can read more about Everything Kitchens here, or visit their real live store in Springfield, MO.

The Bosch mixer comes with a great little cookbook and I'm still experimenting with different recipes - overall I'm happy with my new mixer! I'm going to be posting a review of the Nutrimill grain mill in the near future. I was interested in the grain mill not only to be able to grind my own fresh grain, but also to be able to use other lighter whole grains like spelt and white wheat. Check back soon for more about that. Feel free to email Santa Claus a link to this blog post if you're wanting to add these to your Christmas list.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday - Thankfulness




This morning Lucy asked me what day it was. When I said "Monday", both girls shouted "Muffin Tin Monday!!". Oh no! I quickly checked the theme, foods your child is thankful for, and decided I could probably pull something together. I didn't really have a choice, the girls knew it was Monday. ;) We had yogurt, graham cracker sticks, apples, peanut butter, and mandarin oranges. I read them the book "My Thanksgiving Prayer" by Crystal Bouman, and we used our mealtime prayer cards to say Thank You to God for our food.


For more Muffin Tin Monday ideas, check out Michelle's blog. The upcoming themes are pretty easy and fun holiday related ones, so if you've never tried out Muffin Tin Monday, jump right in! (Although if your kids are old enough to know which day is Monday, you may be in trouble once you start.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Newborn Cloth Diapering


I'm completely obsessed lately with preparations for the new baby! I have several running lists - things to buy, things to sew, things to do, and more. Thankfully, with this being our third baby, preparations really are not too extensive. My list includes hauling things up from the basement and washing them, stocking the freezer with meals, and some organizing tasks. I think I'm stressing a bit because Christmas is so close to my due date and I want to have everything done and be able to relax and enjoy the holidays with my girls. My husband has been a good sport and puts up with my nesting quite well. I think I'm finally done with my cloth diaper preparations. Here is a bit about what we'll be using for newborn cloth diapering...

I started cloth diapering when Lucy was 8 months old, and then with Julia we purchased more of a newborn stash and started from the beginning. I'm using most of what we already have, and adding in a few things here and there that I think will work well.

Diapers:


25 Kissaluvs fitteds size 0 - We purchased these to use with Julia. They come highly recommended as a newborn diaper, but I kind of have mixed feelings about them. They didn't seem very absorbent, even with a doubler added in, and were outgrown fairly soon as they have a small rise. They are soo cute though and its nice to use a fitted diaper with a newborn because it helps contain the messy breastfed poops. We're going to try them out again with this baby since we already have them. We bought them from the Kissaluvs outlet store as "seconds", but didn't have any problems with them. If you join their email list, they will tell you when they are stocking the outlet store.

24 Cloth-eez prefolds - We have prefolds, and have used them in the past, but they were always too big and bulky. This time I bought some that are specially sized for newborns. Its hard to tell in the picture, but they are wide and short, it looks like they will be a good fit. I like having prefolds around as back up diapers in case I haven't done the laundry quickly enough. Prefolds are the cheapest diapering option out there, and are pretty absorbent and durable. Green Mountain Diapers sells small sizes that aren't available elsewhere, and even sells them in organic cotton. I bought a dozen of the orange edge newborn size and a dozen of the yellow edge small size. If the Kissaluvs end up not working well for us again, I may get another dozen of each size of these.


Mother-ease Sandy's - I haven't tried Sandy's fitted diapers, but am going to be reviewing a set once the baby comes. We enjoyed the training pants I reviewed, and am looking forward to trying out a small Sandy's diaper and diaper cover. I'm guessing these may be a bit big at the newborn stage, but should last for a while after that since they have a big size range. Mother-ease offers a great introductory package that allows you to try a fitted diaper, cover, and liner for a discounted price.


Covers:
I use both plastic diaper covers and wool. I love the wool covers, but the PUL is useful for underneath onesies and other outfits that don't work well with wool.


Thirsties - These are probably my favorite covers. I like that they are nice and thin, but I don't get leaks out through the legs. They have a double elastic feature called a gusset that helps stop leaking. I find that they have a large range of fit since the velcro tabs can be crossed over each other. The velcro does wear out over time, but mine are all still useable after being used for Julia. I have some just a couple XS and then several S. We don't know if the baby is a boy or girl, so I did buy a yellow XS since my two XS were pink. I'm sure the baby will eventually end up in a few pink diapers even if its a boy, but at least we have the yellow one for photos. ;)


Wool - My newborn wool includes a couple pair of longies that I crocheted from the Morning Glory Ladybugz pattern, a small Aristocrat (our favorite wool soaker for night because its so thick), a crocheted soaker, a Stacinator wool cover, and a crocheted sleep sack. I'd still like to get some Aristocrat longies, and maybe make some recycled longies and another sleep sack from wool sweaters. I do have a few more crocheted longies that are girly colors, so I have those tucked away in my "maybe" box. Wool is nice and breathable, and really not too hard to care for. I posted a bit about wool for cloth diapering here.


Pockets:
I mainly use pocket diapers with Julia right now. I like the stay dry effect of the microfleece or suedecloth on the inside and they are nice and absorbent. I don't like them as well for the newborn stage because you don't need as much absorbency and they don't hold the watery poops as well. I'm sure we'll use them from time to time though, and will probably reach for these more at night when I want the baby to stay dry for longer periods of time.


BumGenius 3.0 One Size - We like these diapers and like the fit of them. I like that they are one size and can be adjusted as the baby grows. Julia fits well in these right now and I've heard that they work well even on newborns. I'm not very happy with the wear on these though. The velcro is not very sticky anymore and the elastic is shot on most of them. My list of things to do includes trying to fix these. I do have a couple new ones because they were so inexpensive using this diapers.com code.

Fuzzi Bunz - I have some medium Fuzzi Bunz that I purchased used when I started cloth diapering Lucy and they have lasted through Julia as well. The elastic does need to be replaced, but the snaps are all fine. They seem to have lasted really well. The medium size has fit both of my girls from about 6 months until potty training, so they've gotten lots of use. I bought a couple size smalls since I like these so much and will also be reviewing one of the new one size Fuzzi Bunz. I'm interested to see how that fits on the newborn compared to the one size BumGenius.

Accessories:
These are all things that we already have, but if you're just starting out cloth diapering you may want to think about getting some of these items.
hemp inserts - Babykicks Joey Bunz are nice for adding more absorbency at night
2 pail liners - I like the Planet Wise brand.
wet bag - at least one for the diaper bag
2-3 snappis - these are for use with prefolds
cloth wipes and solution
diaper sprayer - best for older babies, breastfed baby poop just goes in the pail
wool wash - Eucalan is nice
pail - plastic kitchen pail with flip top lid from Meijer

As a side note, I linked some of the items in this post to Abby's Lane, our favorite cloth diapering store. They have free shipping on everything all the time and give you a code for 5% off if you join their yahoo group (purple button at the bottom of the home page). If you end up ordering something mention my name and email address (Christy - christy.vw@gmailDOTcom) in the comments box and I'll get a small referral credit. Thanks!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gro Baby Bio Soakers Review


A while ago, The Natural Baby Company sent out kits for bloggers to review including a Gro Baby shell and a package of their new bio soakers. I had never used the Gro Baby system before, and was interested in trying it out. Here are my thoughts:

Pros:
Overall, I think the Gro Baby concept is great! There are times (traveling, didn't wash diapers soon enough, going out for a whole day) when we use disposables because its more convenient. I could see using something like this while traveling because you would only have to wash the shell. It could be hand washed and hung dry. A system like this is still easy to use, but more environmentally friendly and safer for baby. The inserts only contain 3 grams of SAP gel compared to the 10-20 grams in disposables. They are actually compostable - I don't think there are any disposables that can claim that.

We liked the trim fit of the diaper, it is comparable to a disposable diaper and not nearly as bulky as most cloth diapers. The outer shell that we received was a bright orange which both girls thought was great. I also like that the shell is one size and can snap down to be quite small. Even though it is trim, the soaker did not leak and held everything in well enough.

Cost:
A box of 50 soakers costs $20 plus shipping, making the soakers 40 cents each. We buy Pampers when we use disposable diapers. These run about 28 cents each and are one of the more expensive disposables. The cost of the Gro Baby bio soakers is a bit much in my opinion.

Cons:
The shell left red marks on Julia no matter how loosely I put it on. I tried several different times, but she ended up with quite a few red marks at her waist and legs. The mesh inner of the shell also left a sort of mesh print on her tummy somehow. We found the soakers to be very sticky, almost too sticky as they left a residue on the shell that I couldn't get off.

I really wanted to like this system, but for the above reasons I don't think its something we will reach for often. I was interested in trying out the organic cotton soakers, but I think that the shell would still leave red marks on Julia. We do appreciate being given the chance to try these out. I'm sure its a great option for others, just didn't work quite right for us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Toxins In Toys: Lead



This month I'm doing a series of posts called Toxins In Toys where I will be talking about toxins including lead, phthalates, BPA and more. I will also include some reviews and giveaways from our favorite safe toy stores. With Christmas approaching, its especially important to take a moment to think about the safety of toys that your children are playing with and the new things that you bring into your home.

Everyone knows that lead is a huge safety concern. Children are routinely screened for lead poisoning, and most people are aware of the dangers. Lead poisoning can cause developmental delays, poor attention span, weight loss, anemia, and more. When thinking of lead poisoning, old paint, lead pipes, and soil contamination come to mind - but what about your child's favorite Thomas the train engine or plastic Dora figure? There have been literally millions of toys recalled lately for lead issues. I'm glad they are being recalled, but is every toy out there being tested? How many toys do I have in my home that could have lead in them? What if I have a toy that is recalled? I'm left with a $5 voucher for a new toy, and a child with lead in his or her system. At the bottom of the recall notices you can read "What to do if you have a recalled toy - take the toy immediately away from your child and contact such and such company for a replacement." Really? That's all?

Recently researchers have realized that even low levels of lead can have significant effects on children. The "safe" level today is much lower than it was in the past, and recent studies have shown that there is no safe dose of lead, it is highly toxic to the body. Lead exposure is of greatest concern when children are young enough that they are putting toys in their mouths. Even an older children can ingest lead by handling a toy and then putting his hands to his mouth to eat something.


There are two types of lead - surface lead and embedded lead. Surface lead for toys is regulated by the Consumer Products Safety Commission at no more than 600 parts per million. There are no regulations for non toy products however. Embedded lead is injected into plastic or vinyl as a stabilizer and at this point I am unclear as to whether or not that is regulated with the new CPSIA laws. Lead can be found painted on wood, fabric, and plastic, or injected into plastic and vinyl. Yellow and red colors are the most likely to have lead added to them as it makes the colors brighter.

Mega Blocks are one example of embedded lead - the yellow blocks were found to have lead in them. There was some controversy about the type of testing done and the blocks have not been recalled. You can read an article about this here.


Here is a good article about lead in toys from Sara's Toy Box.

Check the CPSC website for recalls and subscribe to their email list to be notified about recalls as the occur.

Healthy Stuff has tested toys, you can search their database to see if a toy you are looking for has been tested.

What struck me in looking through the recall notices is that these are toys I would buy and could easily have in my home. In later posts I will talk more about what our family has chosen to do in response to this information. In general though, we tend towards toys that are made of natural substances and from safe reputable companies. Hopefully this gets you started thinking about the toys in your home. Keep reading for more about toxins in toys.

(Note: the Dora and Elmo toys pictured in this post have both been recalled.)

Nighttime Cloth Diapering - Includes Giveaway



If you read my cloth training pants reviews, you'll know that Julia is working on potty training. She is making progress, but still wets heavily at night. We have tried several different cloth diaper solutions, and most recently were using a disposable with a wool cover over top because she was even leaking through the disposable! I got tired of buying disposable diapers and went searching for a good nighttime cloth diapering option. One diaper that I saw recommended over and over again was the Very Baby Simply Nights by Tallulah Baby.

Tallulah Baby is run by a grandmother, granddaughter, aunt team all working together. LaVon sews the diapers, Jessica owns and operates the website, and Suzanne helps out with answering email questions and shipping orders. Tallulah is a nickname that LaVon had for Jessica when she was little, and ended up being a perfect name for the website. Tallulah Baby sells a full line of pocket diapers, fitteds, all in ones, covers, and more.

We were graciously given a Simply Nights cloth diaper to review. There are a few different options when ordering - we chose bamboo fabric with an extra doubler, stay dry microfleece, and front snaps. I had never used a bamboo diaper before, and am impressed with how soft it is, even after being washed several times. Julia calls this her soft diaper (she also really likes the giraffe on the front). The microfleece lining is wonderful, it covers the soaker pad and entire diaper, including the wings and everything, so that baby really stays dry. We chose a Medium- Long and it fits well with some room to grow. (Julia is 2 years old and weighs about 22 lbs.)


The diaper is constructed with the soaker part being two different layers (plus the booster is a third layer if you choose that) so that you have the body of the diaper, and snapped on top is a two part soaker. I really like this set up because it allows the diaper to wash well and dry quickly. Here is photo of the layers:


The most recent setup we've been using was a disposable with a wool cover over top. It held Julia's super pee, but I got tired of paying for disposables. As for other cloth diapering options, we tried a pocket diaper with an added hemp doubler inside. I used a BumGenius One Size pocket diaper and added a Babykicks Joey Bunz hemp insert, plus two microfiber inserts, and then we even tried a wool cover over top of that. I don't think Julia leaked through this, but she got red and irritated from wearing it all night. I think that the PUL of the pocket diaper just held in the wetness too much. She hasn't had problems with the Simply Nights fitted diaper and the wool, there's just a bit more breathability that helps. We have also tried a Happy Hempy fitted diaper stuffed with hemp and microfiber, again with the wool cover. That set up works too, but Julia totally waddles in that because the diaper is so thick.

The Very Baby Simply Nights is my favorite night time diaper setup because its breathable, but absorbent enough to last the night, soft, and not too thick through the legs. In the picture above, you can see that it gaps a bit at the legs, and I was worried about it leaking. We haven't had any trouble, and I think the gap is just because the soakers inside are so thick. The bamboo is so soft though that even though its very thick, its squishy enough that Julia doesn't have to waddle when she wears it. Overall we like the fit of this diaper very much.

If you'd like to try one on your own child, Tallulah Baby is giving one person a Simply Nights diaper in bamboo with microfleece lining and front snaps. The winner will be able to choose the size. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post being sure to include your email address. For another entry, blog about the giveaway and leave me a link in a comment. The giveaway will close on December 2nd at midnight, and I will use random.org to choose the winner. Thanks for stopping by!

**This giveaway is now closed and a winner has been contacted. Thanks for the interest.**

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sign Language Flash Cards - Product Review




As part of our homeschooling, the girls have been learning sign language. Both Lucy (4) and Julia (2) seem to pick it up really quickly and enjoy signing. They often ask me "Mom, what's the sign for.." (macaroni, cup, dog, anything they can think of). If I quiz them on signs we have learned I'm always surprised at what they both remember. So far, our sign language curriculum has consisted of watching Signing Times dvds. We recently had the chance to review some flash cards that I think are wonderful and even have some lesson ideas that we are going to start using.

Sign Babies flash cards were created by a mom, Nancy Cadjan, who discovered baby sign language and started signing with her own child. She began teaching her son at 8 months old, and by 14 months he had picked up over 40 signs. Then at 16 months, he began to speak all of the words that he knew how to sign! Nancy tried and tested several different signing programs and soon realized the need for quality printed materials to help parents and babies learn to sign. She has a Master's Degree is Rhetoric and English, and years of experience teaching both adults and children. She is also a certified Sign2Me Presenter. You can read more of her story here.


Sign Babies Flash Cards are sturdy 4x6 cards with a picture on one side of the card, and the sign shown on the other side along with a hint to help you remember the sign. Nancy suggests putting the flash cards in a photo album so that the child can page through and practice signs, or as an easy reference tool for yourself. The only photo album I could find that had clear pages (so the flash card would show on both sides) were the cheap 84 cent photo albums at WalMart. These only hold 12 flash cards, so I bought a small file box to keep the rest of our set in. I'm planning to change out the flash cards once the girls are ready to learn new signs. Lucy and Julia enjoy paging through their sign book and practicing the signs. We even took it to church and Lucy had fun looking at it while sitting quietly.


The flash cards are sturdy and well made. The pictures are easy to understand and make the signs simple and easy to remember. Each set of flash cards has a good variety of signs and includes basic useful words. We have the full six sets, and I can see that we will be using these as a valuable resource for quite some time. Nancy has written a set of lesson plans to go along with the Sign Babies Flash Cards sets 1-4. Each lesson is designed to teach 6-10 signs, and only lasts 10-15 minutes. The lesson plans are simple ideas such as reading and signing a particular book or singing a certain song that goes along with the signs being taught. I love that the lessons are quick and easy to incorporate into our homeschooling day.

If you are interested in purchasing the flash cards, all six sets are on sale, $15 off, for a limited time. Nancy has offered us a discount code good for 15% off (use the code "WORD" at checkout). She will also give away the lesson plans for free to anyone who uses this code to order. The Sign Babies website has some great articles worth looking through, including information on getting started, signing with older children, FAQs, and more. You can also browse their selection of DVDs, books, and more. This board book looks adorable and might have to make its way into Julia's Christmas stocking this year.

Aren't they adorable?

video

See here for more homeschool curriculum reviews.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Lazy Saturday

Lucy doing schoolwork because she just can't stand to not do it on Saturdays.

Daddy and Julia reading books together.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Father's World K - Apple Unit

If you're following our My Father's World Kindergarten adventures, I've been posting our activities weekly. I'm going to be switching to simply posting about each unit after we complete it. MFW K has six days in each unit, so we don't end up doing an entire unit each week. This way you will be able to see all of the ideas we used for each unit in one post rather than having it broken up at times between weeks. We enjoy the six day schedule because then we aren't pressured to finish a unit each week and can occasionally add in a day or two where we need it without throwing off the schedule.

We completed our apple unit last week and enjoyed lots of fun apple activities. We had already taken a trip to an apple orchard and started reading apple books because they tied in with our leaf unit as well. Most of what we did was straight from the teacher's manual, I only added in a few things:

Apple pie - paint glue on a paper plate, sprinkle with cinnamon and add paper punched apples. These are hanging in the hallway and make our house smell nice.

Making applesauce - Lucy used this little knife to help me chop up apples to make applesauce. She hadn't used a knife before and did well with it. The knife is dull, so it was a good one to start out with. I had never made applesauce before! I just piled the chopped apples in a pan and added a bit of water and cooked until they were mushy and then used my potato masher to mash them up. It was a bit chunky, but we all enjoyed it.

I also had an apple felt poem that the girls played with, and an apple song that we sang:

Apple Up High (sing to "Twinkle Little Star")
Apple, apple, way up high
I can reach you if I try.
Climb a ladder,
Hold on tight.
Pick you quickly
Take a bite.

Five red apples, hanging on a tree
The juiciest apples you ever did see
The wind came by and gave an angry frown
And one little apple came tumbling down.
(repeat - Four red apples, etc)

I have a collection of felt stories and it works well to store them in file folders in a file box:


Books we read:

How Do Apples Grow by Betsy Maestro - good info book

The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

“A New House” in Grasshopper on the Road by Arnold Lobel

A Year Round Tree by Susan Blackaby (about an apple tree)

A Tree Is A Plant by Clyde Robert Bulla (about an apple tree)

A Day at the Apple Orchard by Megan Faulkner and Adam Krawesky

The Story of Johnny Appleseed by Aliki


I don't want to type out the whole teacher's manual for copyright reasons but we are enjoying our lessons and I'll keep sharing fun things that I add in myself. We are also learning sign language and having a blast with that. I will be reviewing some sign language flash cards soon so check back for that.