Saturday, December 31, 2011

Homeschool Update - Preschool

During the Christmas break, I've been spending some time thinking about our homeschool plans and what I need to change next semester.  There are things we started out doing that just weren't working, things we added in along the way, and other things I want to add.  Here are my thoughts on Julia, age 4:
(Next I will post about what Lucy, age 6, is doing including a review of Beyond Little Hearts For His Glory.)

We started out planning to use Learn Your Letters Learn To Serve and The Reading Lesson.

Although I really like the ideas and thoughts behind Learn Your Letters Learn To Serve, (Click here to view more details) I think I just really need things spelled out for me on a daily basis.  I have a hard time looking at a weeks worth of activities and deciding what we are going to do, what to leave out, and when to fit it all in.  *I* am definitely the problem here, the curriculum is great and is chock full of fun ideas.  It will stay on my shelf as fun reference book to use when we need extra activities.  To be brutally honest, we only ever did letter "A" and part of "B".  Plenty of other learning occurred around here, it just wasn't from this book.

The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons
I will post a more complete review of this program eventually.  Julia enjoys doing a couple pages every now and then and is learning to read!  I am planning to use this on a more regular basis next semester.  So far we are only at the beginning of the book, which is fine for her age.  She is asking to do more now though.  I like the simplicity of the book and the fact that we can take it at our own pace.

My First Book Of Cutting (Kumon Workbooks)
I picked this book up several months ago as something fun for Julia.  She enjoys doing a page or two at a time, and it serves as something to keep her occupied while Lucy is busy with math or handwriting.  I've seen her cutting skills improve just over the couple of months we've used this.  I have a pasting book that we will use next semester too.

Shirley's Prepackaged Crafts
Click the link above for my full review.  Julia really likes her box of crafts and asks to do a craft often.  These are right on her level.  We alternate between a craft or her cutting workbook while Lucy is busy.  I have the January box already and am looking forward to letting her get started with it!

Little Hands To Heaven
This is similar to Learn Your Letters Learn To Serve, but I think it will work better for me because of the layout.  I'm planing to start this with Julia in a couple of weeks.  We are not loving the devotional book in Lucy's curriculum, so I think having the exposure to simple Bible stories on a regular basis again will be good for all of the girls.  The basic math introduction, letter learning, and other activities will be a good fit for her now also.

Fat Brain Toys Inchimals
I bought these this fall and haven't pulled them out to use yet.  Julia loves to pretend and these look like she will have a lot of fun with them.  We have plenty of other resources that we can pull out as she shows interest too.  (A fully stocked art cupboard, millions of books to read, preschool idea books and plenty more.)

Julia listens to ALL of our read aloud books: Lucy's learn to read books, storytime books, and history books.  I wouldn't dare read Lucy a lesson without Julia!  She is almost always first to answer the comprehension questions too.  Any art projects or Bible study, she often chooses to do with us.  I am planning to add in Spanish and some science that she will participate in as well.  With the above books I think we will have a good balance of family learning and work that is right on her level.

Okay, what do you think?  Do you have a preschooler?  How is it going?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Easy Christmas Treats

Lucy and Julia enjoy helping me make these simple Christmas treats.  They are certainly not healthy, but make a fun easy treat for Christmas parties.

Pretzel Kisses

bag of waffle style pretzels
bag of chocolate kisses (regular, carmel filled, mint, etc) or Rollos
bag of m and ms

Cover a baking sheet with pretzels.  Top each one with a chocolate kiss.  Bake at 275 for 3-4 minutes, just enough to melt the chocolate.  While they are hot, press one m and m into each.  Yum!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Cookie Tips and a Recipe

My best tip for baking roll out Christmas cookies?  Invite someone over to help!  Last year we made our cookies at a playdate.  This year Grandma and Grandpa came over to help with the long process of rolling, cutting, and baking join in the fun.

The girls loved rolling out the dough and using cookie cutters.  Esther put each cookie in her hand and had to show it to everyone before putting it on the tray.  They all worked very hard and are so proud of their creations.

Tip #2: We will probably frost a few of them just for fun, but we enjoy eating these unfrosted for the most part.  They store well in the freezer that way and we just grab a few out at a time to eat.

Tip #3: If you enjoy soft chewy cookies, roll the dough a bit thick and use large cookie cutters.  It helps the process go faster that way as well.  ;)

Tip #4: Give some away!  We sent a bag full of cookies home with Grandpa and Grandma and still have plenty left over to enjoy.

Tip #5: Use soft white wheat flour to make these whole wheat, yet still light and tasty:

Roll Out Sugar Cookies

1 1/3 cup butter
2 cups sugar
Cream together.

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbs milk
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Beat in ingredients.  Chill overnight, roll, cut, and bake at 325 for 8-10 minutes.

linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!  Here is a little update on our busy growing family:
Lucy: 6, loves coloring, drawing, and her ballet class.  She enjoys being homeschooled and does especially well at reading and handwriting.  Lucy is a wonderful big sister and can often be found reading to the little ones or helping them with something.
Julia: 4, has a very caring heart and loves to make people laugh.  She is learning to read and enjoys crafts.  Playing Barbies, listening to stories, and imaginative pretend play are some of her favorite things.  Julia is often our entertainment at the dinner table and loves coming up with silly things to say.
Esther: almost 2, loves her sisters “Dewey” and “Woocy”.  She is always giving hugs and loves to snuggle.  She is quite a content little girl and enjoys playing with baby dolls or Playmobil.  She talks very well for her age and loves to laugh and be silly.  Esther is usually tagging right along with whatever her sisters are doing. 
Baby: due March 23.  Gender will be a surprise.  :)
Christy: loves being a mommy.  She enjoys baking, trying new recipes, and of course blogging.  Teaching the girls and being home with them keep her plenty busy as well.
Ross: is a producer for a film company in the area.  Work keeps him busy, but a certain three little girls have him wrapped around their pinky fingers and always run to greet him with big hugs when he gets home.
We hope this finds you well and wish you all the best in the new year!
The Vande Waas

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tex-Mex Chicken Appetizers

We ate these tasty little appetizers for lunch today because I wanted to test out the recipe before bringing them to a couple of holiday events.  I enjoyed these once at a Pampered Chef party but had never made them myself.  The recipe is easy enough to mix up and has a delicious flavor.  Ross' only suggestion was to add a slice of jalapeno pepper to the top.  I think they are perfect as is.  They are different enough than your average party food that I think they will be a success!

Tex-Mex Chicken Appetizers

1 loaf canape French bread*
Slice into about 20 slices and arrange on a baking stone.

1 10 oz can chunk white chicken, drained and flaked**
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup mayonaise
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well.  Using a medium scoop or spoon, place one scoop on each slice of bread and gently smash it down.

2-3 plum tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Top each slice of bread/ chicken mixture with one slice of tomato.  Sprinkle cheese over tops.

2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes until bread starts to brown and cheese is melted.  Sprinkle with cilantro.  Serve warm.

*I found canape bread already sliced at the grocery store.  This is basically just a small loaf of bread about 2-3" across.
**I used a pouch of chicken that was 7 oz, figuring it was probably equal to 10 oz since you don't have to drain it?  You can also use 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken.
***I left off the cilantro because I didn't have any on hand.

What is your favorite holiday party food?  Let me know if you give these a try!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Toy Garden (Review and Giveaway!)

I always enjoy browsing A Toy Garden for unique natural toys that my girls will love.  They have a huge selection of interesting items that I end up looking at for hours.  Seriously... stocking stuffers, dolls and gnomes, travel toys, and more.

We recently got to review some absolutely gorgeous toys - the small tractor and trailer and the farm animals boxed set.  Esther especially enjoys these and has played with them quite a bit.  Both sets are made of hardwood and beautifully finished.

I love that the animals are made of different colored wood; it adds character and fun to the set.  If you've ever priced wooden animals, $24.95 is a really good deal for eight pieces.  These are perfectly sized for little hands to play with.  Esther likes to fit them all into the trailer.  (Sometimes the cow drives, watch out then!)  The animals do have some thin parts to them (legs, etc), but they are very sturdy.

The tractor and trailer is expertly made and will definitely be an heirloom toy!  The trailer attaches easily to the tractor, and can pull quite a load of animals at once.  ;)  The peg person comes out of the tractor for play.  Both of these sets would make wonderful Christmas gifts for any little person.  I love toys like this and feel so much better about spending money on them rather than plastic junk that will not last.

I'm so excited to announce that A Toy Garden is giving away a Small Tractor and Trailer set to one of you!  To win, do any of the following and leave a separate comment for each entry (for a total of four possible entries).  Be sure to include your email address so that I have a way to contact you.

- follow or email subscribe to One Little Word She Knew
- share about this giveaway on your blog/ Facebook/ or some other way
- like A Toy Garden on Facebook
- subscribe to A Toy Garden's email list (at the top of their home page)

If you're interested in purchasing the small tractor and trailer set, go ahead and do that now.  If you are the lucky winner, A Toy Garden will gladly refund your purchase price.  The giveaway will close on December 21 at midnight.  Many thanks to A Toy Garden for this fun holiday giveaway!

*Now Closed.  Congrats to Domestic Diva!*

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Felt Card Table Playhouse Tutorial

I started the super secret sewing project last night!  (a felt card table playhouse for Esther's birthday)  Since several of you were interested, I decided to take photos as I go and post them as a sort of tutorial.  I am not including exact measurements for each piece, but I thought it would be helpful to show how I put it together.  I'll update this post each night as I work on it.  There are some FAQs and tips on Jill's website as well.  Let me know if you decide to attempt this and how it turns out!

First I drew out my pattern, deciding on colors and where I wanted to place everything.  (Ross vetoed the pink heart door in case we have a boy next.  I obliged since making a square window is much easier.)

My mother in law had a card table for me to use.  I think its a fairly standard size - 34 inches x 34 inches on top and 28 inches high.

I purchased my felt at Field's Fabric.  It comes in 72" length and cost $6.97 a yard.  My total was about $50, although I think I will end up with extra.  Here is what I got:

1 1/2 yards brown
2 yards blue
1 yard white
1/2 yard red
1/4 yard black
1/2 yard light green
1/4 yard orange
1 yard of a mesh fabric

I already had plenty of colored thread.  (Gutermann thread works best; its nice and strong.)  I also already had large pieces of green, dark blue, and small colored sheets of felt on hand.

To start, cut each of the four side pieces.  I added an inch to each side, so my brown top piece will be 36x36 and each blue wall piece is 29x35 or so.  It was difficult to get each piece exactly straight, but I can fix that a bit when I sew them all together at the end.

Lay out the front panel, and get started!  I cut my door out of dark blue and just laid it on top and cut it to the size I wanted.  DO NOT cut the wall panel yet, just sew the door on.  (I used dark blue thread for the main thread and a light blue for the bobbin so that the seams wouldn't show badly on the inside.)

To make a window in the door, cut a hole through both layers of felt.

Cut a piece of mesh bigger than the hole and slip it in between the layers.

You can sew the mesh to the blue first, but I cut my white trim and pinned it on, sewing all the layers at once.  I ended up sewing several lines through the trim because I wasn't catching the light blue back with the first seam.  (Again, white thread on top and light blue for the bobbin.)

For the mailbox, you have to look closely, but there is a red pocket where mail can be delivered.  I sewed the pocket and back of the mailbox on first.  The lid to the mailbox was then sewn across the bottom and has velcro holding it on.  The other half of the velcro was sewn on above the pocket.  (In other words, the velcro doesn't just stick to the felt, I did sew on the other piece of velcro once I could tell where it needed to go.)

I knew that my girls would want a doorknob inside, so this is how I accomplished that.  I cut the circle for the front knob and then placed a big black piece of felt behind it, sewing all of it on at once.  I then went back and cut around the doorknob piece on the back, making it into a nice circle as well.

After adding a bush, my front panel is almost complete!  (I tried putting flowers on the bush, but they ended up looking like spiders.)  The light blue felt needs to be reinforced on the back at the top where the door hangs because it pulls on the background a little too much.  I haven't figured that out yet...

Okay. that's it for now.  Check back in the next couple of days for more...

(Nevermind!  This pregnant mama was too tired to sew and figure out posting a tutorial too.  You can see the finished playhouse here, and of course feel free to ask me any questions if you decide to attempt this!)  :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


a trip to Illinois for Thanksgiving to be with family and celebrate my Grandpa's life and passing

secret sewing projects: (a superhero cape for a special little boy!)

another secret sewing project that I am so excited about!  (for Esther's birthday)

snuggles and books

playing games

and so much more!
What's keeping you busy this December?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

It was pure torture to wait long enough to take a picture of this cupcake before biting into it!  Pumpkin cupcakes are one of our favorite fall treats.  The cream cheese frosting on top is amazing.  I'm actually not a big fan of pumpkin pie or fall spiced treats, but this only has cinnamon in it and tastes light and cakey.  I even baked my own pumpkins for the first time ever and used the puree for these!

Pumpkin Cupcakes (makes 24)

1 cup oil (I used olive oil.  You could probably try melted butter or coconut oil as well.)
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin
4 eggs
Cream together.

2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
Add to creamed mixture and stir well.  Scoop into 24 full muffin cups and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Frost when cool.

8 oz cream cheese
1 stick butter (let both soften)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Mix well and frost cupcakes.

I usually make the frosting and store it in the refrigerator, frosting the cupcakes as we are ready to eat them.  These can also be made into pumpkin bars by pouring the batter into a large baking pan and cooking it that way - sort of like a large sheet cake.  Yum!

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Recipe Book

My recipe book has evolved over the years.  It started out as a box.  There were index cards crammed in there of all shapes and sizes.  Cards that people gave me and recipes I wanted to try, along with of course our family favorites.  Meal planning was difficult: picture dozens of cards scattered all over my table.  Then there were all of the recipes I was printing off the internet that just weren't index card size.

I moved up to a three ring binder and page protectors.  With different categories (breads, dinners, soups, etc), I would slip recipes in the page protectors under the correct section.  That too soon became overcrowded, so I set out to get things under control.

One weekend I typed all of my recipes into the computer.  I selected only recipes that we had tried and I knew my family enjoyed.  I typed each recipe in the same format, in a way that is easy for me to read and follow as I am cooking.  (Like this recipe where I list ingredients and instructions for those ingredients, and under that more ingredients and instructions for those, instead of all the ingredients at the top.)  I got the idea from the book Simply In Season, and love having my recipes typed that way.

I still have categories (breads, breakfasts, side dishes, soups and sandwiches, dinners, and desserts).  Recipes that I want to try go in a pocket in the front.  If we try them and like them, I type them into the recipe book and print out that page to add.  Sometimes I will try recipes a couple times or tweak them a bit before I type them in.  I've also gone through and purged my book of "junky recipes" a couple times.  The recipes in my book are healthy foods that I feel good about serving my family.  

I love having my recipes all neatly typed up!  My book is simple to use.  Meal planning is much easier when I can flip through our tried and true favorites and then select one or two new recipes from the front pocket.  Having everything on the computer allows me to easily print off a recipe for a friend or email it.  I also plan to print off copies of our family recipe book for all of my children when they are old enough.  Its fun to add to my book and watch it grow - that finally perfected salsa recipe, the whole wheat crackers that turned out well, and so on.

What does your recipe book look like?  Does it need an overhaul?

linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesday

Friday, November 18, 2011

Homemade Sauerkraut

We love homemade sauerkraut!  Its crunchy and pickly and sooo good for you, plus its easy to do.  The kids helped me make a batch last night (hence the dark photos...).

Slice a whole organic cabbage and put it in a large bowl.  Sprinkle 1 Tbs salt over top and mix well.  Find some kids to help you mash and pound the cabbage.  (We used a meat tenderizer tool.)

After a while the cabbage and salt will start to produce a bit of juice.  Pack the cabbage tightly into one or two canning jars.  I used a fairly large cabbage this time and got one large jar and one small one.  You do want to cram it in there as tightly as possible, packing it down as you go.

Press the cabbage down firmly enough that the juice rises and covers the top.  If you need to, you can add a bit of filtered water with a pinch of salt stirred in.  (I never have though.)  Cover your jars loosely and leave them on the counter for 3 days.  I check mine again the next morning and press it all down, being sure the liquid is still covering the top.

After three days, close the lids tightly and store in the refrigerator.  Leave your sauerkraut alone for 1-3 months to allow the flavor to develop.  Serving a bit of sauerkraut along with your meals is a great way to add some healthy bacteria to your diet.  Yum!  This is also a huge money saver - a small jar of raw sauerkraut is $10 at the health food store, but cabbage is fairly inexpensive.  Try it and let me know how it goes!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Christmas Shopping?

Is anyone else Christmas shopping yet?  I'm actually almost done buying for my girls.  I love finding deals and planning out their lists.  Although they may come up with a few things that they want, for the most part I do the list making.  Thankfully we do not watch television, so they are oblivious as to what the hot toy of the season is.  With one, almost two little readers in the house, I am going to have to post this via a secret link.  I'll add more to that list if I think of anything else, but that's about it.  I'd love to hear what's on your children's Christmas list too!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Toxic Toys: Fisher-Price Little People

Fisher Price Little People scare me.  We used to have a ton of them and they are adorable.  However, they are made with a soft plastic (PVC?) which could contain phthalates, or other nasty chemicals.  Mattel, the parent company to Fisher Price does not have a great track record as far as safety goes.  They've had numerous recalls for lead paint and more.

I called Fisher-Price and asked them about what Little People are made of.  They were very vague and could not tell me anything other than the fact that Little People could contain PVC.  I asked several questions and could not get any more information than that.  If you look at the Healthy Toys test results, all Little People soft plastic parts test high for Chlorine, indicating PVC.  PVC is one of the worst types of plastic out there.  After rereading this article, I became convinced that Little People had to go.

Now, this was extremely hard to do.  When I was pregnant with Lucy, we bought the entire set of Little People castle and add on figures just because we thought it was so cute and wanted her to have it.  I had collected Little People from garage sales and had asked for them for Christmas.  We had Noah's ark, the barn, castle, birthday set, van, playground, and more.  Lucy and Julia spent hours playing with their Little People.  I felt bad getting rid of them, and I didn't do it right away.  It took me quite a while to come to this decision.

I started by trying to keep them away from Esther and out of her mouth.  When that didn't work, I told the girls that we had to put them in the basement because they weren't safe for Esther to play with.  I searched high and low for a replacement that I thought would be safe and just as fun for them.  We had some wooden toy dolls and animals, but the girls weren't as impressed with those.  After researching their safety, I was debating between adding some Lego Duplo sets to our collection, or getting some Playmobil 123.  We ended up buying Esther a big Duplo zoo set for her birthday last year, and right after that found a Playmobil 123 set at a garage sale.

Both Duplo and Playmobil are made of sturdy ABS plastic.  I still do not let them go in a baby's mouth, but I feel much better about my children handling and playing with these.  Both the Duplos and the Playmobil 123 have had many hours of use.  After a while, the girls agreed to let me sell the Little People on Craigslist so that they could buy more Playmobil and Duplo sets.  Esther has a big tub of Playmobil 123 that she calls "pay-mo" and gets out at least once a day.  She is getting a couple more sets for Christmas and her birthday.

Our toys are not all completely toxin free, but this was one that had bothered me for quite some time and I just had to do something about.  Especially because Little People so often find their way into a child's mouth, and because they are so toxic, and because they are meant for younger children to play with, they had to go.  We do have other toys that I am not thrilled about, and honestly, we do still have the Little People Thanksgiving and Christmas sets.  I bring those out seasonally and keep them up high on a table where Esther cannot reach them.  I would love to replace those too if I found something suitable.

With the holiday season coming up, are you keeping toy safety in mind?  I have a couple of reviews and giveaways from some great toy companies coming up, so stay tuned!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Easy Dinner Idea: Pepper Chicken and Quinoa

This recipe is extremely easy.  It doesn't take much time to throw together and yet is still completely healthy.

Slice an onion and 2-3 red, orange, or yellow peppers and place them in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  (Slice the onions thinly so they cook through.)

Cut 2-3 thawed chicken breasts in half and lay over the onion and peppers.  Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is done.

Top with slices of mozzarella cheese and broil for a minute or two just to brown the cheese.

I usually serve this with quinoa, which is also fast and easy.  Once I get the chicken in the oven, I have just enough time to get the quinoa cooking and have it all ready at about the same time.

Saute in a bit of oil or butter:
1/2 cup chopped onion
minced garlic clove

1 cup quinoa (Rinse well unless the package says it is already rinsed.)
2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 small carrot, grated (optional)

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.  Quinoa much more forgiving than rice; it doesn't get sticky or gooey and has a great flavor.  Quinoa is high in protein, calcium, and more.  If you've never tried it, go for it!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Diaper Bag Deal

I've been looking at diaper bags, as I'll need a bigger one once I'm carrying cloth diapers and odds and ends for four children on a daily basis.  I ended up finding a great deal on a Land's End bag tonight and wanted to share.  Using the code given here, I got 25% off and free shipping, making this diaper bag only $15.89!  Its not technically a diaper bag, but I think it will work nicely.  I have a huge one that I got for Christmas once; it is well made and a very sturdy canvas.  I debated getting a bright pink one, but that color was twice as much.  I really like the brown and think it will work well.  Snag one quick if you're interested, I'm not sure how long the deal lasts.  (I'm not an affiliate, just sharing the deal.)  :)

Sorry, you'll have to squint to see the picture, this is the only size I can get to load!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Favorite Baby Things

Continuing the baby theme this week, here are some of my absolute favorite things for baby (and mom).  While there are plenty of baby things that we do not need or use, I do enjoy having quality items that are well made and make life easier.  In no particular order:

- floppy seat - I remember debating for a long time about buying this because of the high price.  It is totally worth it!  We keep our floppy seat in the car and use it almost every time we go in to the grocery store, and when eating out too.  I'm not a huge germaphobe, but this is a must have!  (I've seen other cart covers that do not cover the whole cart area, this one does.)

- washable breast pads - I have tried and leaked through plenty of reusable nursing pads.  These are awesome, even for those early days, and do not leak at all.  I have several pairs and would never use anything else.  They are also much softer than paper disposable pads.

- Earth Mama Angel Baby - These are must haves: natural stretch oil, mama bottom balm, new mama bottom spray, and natural nipple butter (sooo much softer than lanolin!).  Their hand to toe body wash is very nice as well.  All of their products are rated 0 in the Skin Deep database, which is awesome.

- aden + anais swaddling blankets - Once you've used one of these, other receiving blankets seem like a joke in comparison.  These are lightweight, huge, and very multipurpose.  I recommend having several so that you don't run out before laundry day.  (Again, a bit of a high price tag, but definitely worth it.)

Bravado body silk nursing bra - I've tried plenty of nursing bras and these are hands down my favorite.  I wear them all the time and they are very comfortable and well made.

- Mommy Necklace - Total must have!  A nursing necklace is awesome for keeping baby focused on nursing and for stopping little pinching fiddling hands.  Mommy Necklaces are well made and come in plenty of different designs.

- cloth diapers - This could be a whole separate post, but we really like using cloth diapers.  My favorite are the BumGenius One Size snap pocket diapers.

- soft shoes - I keep my kids in bare feet for as long as possible.  Robeez are great for beginning walkers, or even just for keeping socks on in the cold winter months.  I've tried other brands, but Robeez seem to work best for us.

- baby carriers - Having a baby carrier in general is a must have, especially with older children to care for.  My favorites are a ring sling for the newborn stage, and then I use an Ergo and a homemade mei tai once they are a bit older.

- burp cloths - I made some by taking a cotton prefold and sewing a layer of flannel down the middle (a real one, not a cheapy one from the store).  These are the best burp cloths ever, so absorbent and cute!  There is a picture of one here.

Hmm, that's all I can think of for now.  What are your favorite baby items?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Does A Baby Not Need?

In my "Baby Needs" post yesterday I mentioned that there are many baby products that for various reasons we don't use.  Of course, this list, like my other one, is highly subjective.  Don't feel bad if you do use all or even some of the things on this list.  In a consumer driven world filled with baby registry lists and advertisements for all sorts of things, its just a good challenge to think about what you don't need and how to live simply.  I'm sure your list would be different.

- crib, bumpers, sheets, crib mattress, co sleeper, snuggle nest, pack n play: Our babies sleep with us until about age two when they move up to a toddler bed.  We simply add a bed rail to our bed and clear away any blankets and pillows from the baby.  I love sleeping next to my babies, and its certainly handy for those night time feedings!

- disposables: diapers, breast pads, diaper genie and liners: Using cloth diapers and washable breast pads saves us from having to buy numerous disposable products.  I do find that disposable wipes come in handy, but I'm planning to experiment with making my own.

- bottles, formula, bottle liners, bottle brushes, bottle warmers, pump: Breastfeeding has been extremely challenging for me in the beginning, but I'm thankful that with some good help and perseverance we've succeeded.  I keep my babies with me all the time, so I do not even have to worry about pumping and all that goes along with that either.

- changing table, changing pad, changing pad cover: If I had plenty of space in my home I suppose I wouldn't mind having a changing table.  As it is, we are in a small two bedroom house with soon to be four kids.  We gave away our changing table in favor of just using a mat on the floor or bed.  It works perfectly and I don't have to worry about the baby falling off of anything.

- play gym, toys, toys, and more toys: I have a simple basket filled with a few mostly safe toys that I've collected over time.  We purposely choose things that do not have flashing lights and music.  In fact, a simple blanket on the floor works better than a play gym with plastic toys hanging in baby's face.  There are three big sisters around here who will happily keep baby entertained!

- baby food, baby food mills, blenders, and packaged baby snacks: I do make a bit of baby food, but usually just mashing up whatever is on our plates works best.  I've tried baby food mills, but really, a fork works.

I often talk myself out of buying something by reading reviews on the product.  I also think about what toxins I might be bringing into my home or exposing my baby to if I purchase the product.  What type of plastic is it made of?  Where is it made?  Does it really work like I think it will?  How sturdy is it?  Is there a more natural choice?  Many times we are better off with less.

What about you?  Are there common baby things do you find yourself not needing?

Monday, November 7, 2011

What Does A 4th Baby Need?

As you might already know, I'm an obsessive list maker.  I always have a notebook handy with several lists going at once: grocery lists, Christmas gift ideas, blog post ideas, things on my to do list, crafts to make, and so on.  Of course I've had my "Baby Shopping" list going for quite some time now, and I'm sure I will still add to it.

There are plenty of baby gadgets that we've had over the years and have gotten rid of.  Our house is small and our path of natural living and attachment parenting has led us toward less stuff.  Maybe I'll write that post later; "Things Baby Doesn't Need".  Of course needs and wants are all individual, so everyone's list would be a little different.  I am also a big believer in purchasing quality items that will last, as well as researching the heck out of everything I purchase.

- car seat: I had a Graco infant seat that all three girls used, but it is expired now.  Looking at safety ratings along with toxicity ratings, I think we'll get a Chicco Keyfit 30 in Cubes or Limonata.

- swing: I just bought this one on Craigslist: Bright Starts Cotton Tale Portable Swing  We've had various swings in the past and got rid of them because they were too big or some other reason.  I really liked having a small portable swing for Esther, and this one looks plush and cozy.  I will probably get rid of the bouncy seat that we have and just use this.

- rocking chair: I am still searching Craigslist for a good rocking recliner or glider.  Ours is terribly loud and would never soothe a baby to sleep!  We do have an exercise ball that is great for bouncing a baby to sleep on.

- sling: I am thinking of getting this sling.  I've tried many different carriers and a ring sling is my favorite for newborns.  The one I currently have is too long for me and has very heavy rings on it.  With having three other little ones to chase, I figure a good sling is pretty important!

- Bravado bra: This one is my favorite style.  I want the pink ice color, just because.  :)

- Undercover Mama: and I need a pink one of these.

- diaper bag: I'm drooling over these, especially the Madi bag.  My current diaper bag is a bit too small for four kids and baby in cloth diapers, so I'll need something bigger like this.

- nursing pillow:  A Boppy did not work for me at all.  I just came across this pillow though and it looks interesting.  I'd love to try it out.

- bath seat:  We didn't use a baby bath tub at all for Esther.  I'm sure we could get by without one again, but it was rather hard to hang on to her and took both Ross and I to give her a bath.  This bath seat looks like its a good size (not too big), and is made of "safe" plastic in the USA.  The price isn't bad either.

- growth chart:  Once we know baby's gender (after the birth!), we will get one of these growth charts.  The girls each have their own.  I sometimes forget to use them, but they are cute and will make fun keepsakes for the kids.

If we have a boy, we'll need clothes! and a soft plushy blanket (not pink!).

Ok, so these aren't really needs, aside from the car seat.  This list also doesn't include the things that we already have and love (my washable breast pads, aden + anais swaddling blankets, Earth Mama Angel Baby stuff...).  But that's another list.... maybe tomorrow.