Friday, July 30, 2010

Make at Home: Hair Bows

Making your own hair bows and clips for your children is so simple and frugal!  My daughter has never been very happy to wear a hair accessory for more than a few minutes and even used to pull them out of other little girl's hair as a baby!  Now that she is two and has more hair to hold them, she will wear a clip or bow for an hour or more if she forgets it is in.  She loves to hold them and can't see them when they are on her head I guess.  For this reason, I have not wanted to spend much on cute little bows that will be pulled out and possibly lost.  In two years I have only purchased 5 clips and bows for her and we are now down to 2.  With her hair in a growing out stage it was time to do something! 

So I ordered Alligator Clipsonline (my local beauty supply store did not have what I was looking for) and went to my favorite fabric store for ribbon.  I purchased a small bag full of ribbon for around $20 and the box of 80 clips was about $13 shipped.  Despite my desire to keep chemicals out of our home, I did break down and purchase fray check when I realized that the non toxic glue I planned to treat the ends with would not securely keep the ribbons from fraying. Fray Check cost me roughly $3 at a local craft store and Amazon also has it.  (I got rid of all my nail polish a few years ago or I would have used clear nail polish instead.)  With these supplies and a hot glue gun I can make dozens of hair bows to coordinate with her outfits.  The bows and clips I have purchased in the past ranged from $3 to $5 so it really is a significant savings over purchasing them pre-made.  So far they have all been simple embellished clips but I hope to make some actual bows soon! 

This was a great mommy craft that I enjoyed one afternoon during nap time.  I ended up with 7 new bows and a holder for the wall!  To make a simple bow display just cut two pieces of ribbon to your desired length.  Treat the ends with clear nail polish or Fray Checkand hot glue one over the other.  Sew a simple loop on the back for hanging by a nail and you are finished!  This keeps your bows out to be enjoyed and easily accessed.  Audrey loves her new bows and holder and I had fun making them!

Children's Book Review: Counting In the Garden by Kim Parker

Lately Audrey's favorite book has been Counting In The Garden
by Kim Parker.  It is such a cheerful, fun book that helps children learn their numbers.  Kim is an amazing artist and her work is so beautiful!  Each page is rich with creative, colorful flowers and lovely animals and insects to count. 

Whenever we read it (which is like 5 times a day) Audrey points her finger and wants me to trace each number with it.  This book really makes learning fun and it is so beautiful!  I was thinking of buying a second one to frame some of the pages for our kid's rooms.  It seems the book may not be in print anymore but is still available through Amazon.
I also found that many of the pages from the book are available as prints to be framed.  For more of Kim's beautiful work check out her gallery.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Keeping a Healthy Snack Close at Hand

Isn't food in Summer wonderful!  I have been in awe lately of all the fabulous produce we get every week from our farmer's market, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and even our own garden.  It feels so good to eat such perfectly ripe foods just moments or days after they are harvested.  With a fridge full of delicious fruit I decided to start keeping a fruit bowl on the counter every day to encourage us to eat more of it.  I know it is helping us eat healthier snacks by keeping us out of the pantry.  We all could use a little more fresh in our diet and this has really helped!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cloth Diapering- Easier Than You Might Think!

Audrey at Two Months Wearing Fuzzi Bunz!
I love cloth diapering!  I have been diapering Audrey in cloth since she outgrew newborn disposables.  We do use disposables for times when we run out of cloth, when she is in a nursery or when carrying around dirty cloth diapers would be inconvenient.  I imagine she is in her cloth diapers 85-95% of the time. 

Like many new moms, I was very interested in cloth diapering but was afraid it would be a mistake.  I was afraid it would be so gross that I would regret spending so much up front for my diapering system.  I knew once I invested a lot in diapers there was no going back!  I was also unsure about their performance- I was not interested in spending a lot on leaky diapers!  My fears were put to rest however when we took the plunge and tried Fuzzi Bunz pocket diapers.  I spent hours reading and comparing all the available options and found Fuzzi Bunz to be the best fit for us.  They are pricey (I paid between $18 and $20 per diaper) but with proper care, certainly pay for themselves over time.  Fuzzi Bunz were similar in price to other pocket diapers and all in ones (AIO).  They are far more expensive then classic prefolds that are used with diaper covers, but for the convenience and comfort to baby I think the pocket diapers are worth the extra cash.  I have since tried an AIO diaper and another brand of pocket diapers, both of which I was unhappy with.  My daughter refuses to wear the particular AIO I purchased as it is rougher against her skin than the fleece of the Fuzzi Bunz.  The other pocket diaper I tried is acceptable, but the proportions make it not fit as well as Fuzzi Bunz.

Pocket diapers are made of two layers between which you insert the absorbent pad (or pads) that will determine how much the diaper will hold.  The customization is great!  For smaller children who wet less at a time, the single liner or insert is perfect.  For overnight use you can add a doubler or soaker pad to hold more moisture.  Now that my daughter is 2, I find that the single insert is not enough and I use two inserts or an insert with a doubler around the clock.  This does make for a bulkier diaper, but I don't think she minds.  Each diaper comes with one insert and doublers are sold separately.  Of all the doublers I have tried, I love my hemp ones (BabyKicks Hemparoo Joey Bunz) the most because they are very absorbent.

Fuzzi Bunz are made with a soft fleece layer on top (against baby's skin) that rarely stains and helps to keep baby a little drier.  They have snaps rather than Velcro which is nice during laundering and the snaps are harder for little hands to open- a huge plus!  When I purchased them, the one size fits all option was not available so I purchased smalls and now Audrey is wearing mediums.  I did buy one of the one size diapers recently and really like it.  It has elastic in the leg that can be easily adjusted for a snug or loose fit.  I can't imagine this diaper on a tiny newborn, but I am sure it will continue to fit my daughter until she is no longer wearing diapers.  If I had it to do over, I would probably still have purchased the smalls and then the one size diapers once she outgrew the smalls.

One problem I have encountered is the elastic not standing up to so much washing and wear.  I found a tutorial online showing how to replace the elastic.  It was a pain to do, but will add a not of use to my diapers.  Compared to spending $18 or more per diaper again, I can spend a few hours replacing the elastic! 

Another thing I love about cloth diapering is using cloth wipes!  They are so thick and so much cheaper than disposable wipes.  Also I use half as many cloth wipes getting her really clean than I do with disposables.  I found the thicker terry cloth wipes to be the best.  I simply wet a handful of wipes with tap water and store them in a wipes warmer.  I found no need to make a cleaning solution to soak them in.  I sometimes will add a few drops of tea tree oil to the wipes (making sure it is diluted with the water).  When I feel she needs a little more than just the wet wipes I will use a diaper spray such as California Baby to get her extra clean.  I use a large trash can with a lid that can be operated with a foot pedal.  Inside the can I use a cloth diapering pail liner that I take out and wash with each diaper load. 

Washing cloth diapers isn't that bad.  I find that if you don't have too many diapers you will wash more often and the smell will not get as strong.  When Audrey was little I remember being pleasantly surprised at how her diapers did not smell that bad.  Especially for exclusively breastfed babies this is true.  Now that she is older, the ammonia smell is pretty tough but I think it is still worth it.  I would strongly recommend using disposable gloves for processing your diapers!  I don't separate the liners from the pockets when I am changing diapers so wearing gloves to do it as I put them in the washer is a big help.  I add all my diapers and wipes to the load and run a prewash cycle with no soap before adding the pail liner to the main wash.  I use Charley's Soap because it doesn't have any fragrances or garbage that we try to avoid in laundry detergent and it leaves no residue to irritate baby's delicate skin.  It is also very economical and concentrated.  So after the prewash, I run a heavy wash cycle on hot with vinegar in place of fabric softener and a second rinse at the end. 

To dry them I throw my diapers, wipes and liner in the dryer and run them on low heat for about 20 minutes.  Then I take out the diapers (usually almost dry at this point) and the liner and dry the inserts and doublers a little longer.  Usually the doublers will still be damp so I hang them to finish drying.  I store everything in a large basket in the bathroom (where I change diapers) and sort them into smaller baskets when I have a minute.  It really is convenient and not throwing so much away just feels good.
One of my biggest fears about cloth diapering was what to do with poop!  I didn't want to get a toilet sprayer attachment- that just seemed so messy and gross.  When Audrey was not on solids yet, the poop would simply wash away in the laundry.  Once she got older I started changing her in the bathroom (more convenient for practicing early potty training or elimination communication) where I could dump any solids into the toilet.  Now that she is 2, she is pooping in her diaper less and using the toilet more and when she does mess up and use her diaper it is usually easy to just plop it in the toilet.  The poop aspect of cloth diapering is not pleasant but for me it was not a deal breaker.  Also, it is your child's poop and as a mom God gives you a special grace to deal with it!

To determine the number of cloth diapers to purchase count (or estimate) how many diapers you use within a 24 hour period.  Then determine how often you want to wash and give yourself a cushion to allow for the washing and drying time.  We started out using 12 diapers and then felt the need to add 6 more.  Eighteen was certainly enough for our frequency of washing.  To determine the number of wipes to buy estimate how many wipes you use at each change and multiply that by how many changes you will need between washings.  You really never can have too many cloth wipes as they can be used for household cleaning as well as for diaper changes.  While my daughter is on the toilet I will often grab a wipe to clean the mirror or wipe down the counter and just toss it in the diaper pail when finished.  Cloth wipes are so economical and are such a step up from disposable ones!

Websites selling cloth diapers abound!  I have found that larger sites such as Kelly's Closet are a one stop shop, often offering free shipping with a minimum order.  They also carry all the accessories you will need such as doublers, diaper pail liners, etc and even cloth products for mommies too!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"I really need to nurse, Mama!"

Marguerite Gerard, The Breastfeeding Mother

While rocking my daughter this afternoon before her nap she hit me with, "I really need to nurse, Mama!"  It struck me as funny considering most people don't even consider nursing into toddlerhood, when a child can express themselves so clearly!  Yes, I am still nursing my 2 year old.  Nursing a two year old is so different from nursing a baby! She no longer nestles comfortably in my arms but rather lays across my lap or beside me in bed. She is not still for long but it is nice that I can now tell her how to adjust her latch when it gets uncomfortable.

Nursing while pregnant has created some changes to our nursing relationship, mostly the tenderness I have been experiencing and also the decrease in milk production.  But I am so glad to still have those special moments of closeness with her.  She is so very independent now and our occasional nursing times together are special.  Some days she is distracted and forgets to nurse all day and others she "needs" to nurse quite a few times.  I am thankful to be able to comfort her in this way and knowing that my milk is still a source of excellent nutrition is a plus. 

When I first found out I was pregnant with baby number two, I made a list of things to do to get Audrey ready for this next phase of life.  At the top of the list was weaning and potty training.  I have since put that list aside.  I no longer have the desire to wean.  Who knows what her nursing will look like 4 months from now, that is if she is even still interested in nursing.  Children change so quickly!  I just want to go with the flow and offer her what she needs from me at each stage of life. I don't want to miss out on something special just because it isn't a cultural norm.

I don't know any other moms who have nursed their children well into the third year of life (I am certain they are out there!).  I know extended breastfeeding is not for everyone, but I wish our culture would embrace breastfeeding as an important part of childhood.  I think the nursing relationship between mother and child should not be limited to a given period of time but rather allowed to persist as long as mother and baby are benefiting.  Not everyone has success with breastfeeding and not everyone's lifestyle would allow for extended breastfeeding, but for those who are able it can be such a blessing!  It saddens me to see how convenience oriented our society has become.  Aren't our children worth going the extra mile and giving them access to such a perfect food for as long as they would like it?

Something Worth Pondering: Forgiveness

"Forgiveness is releasing the captive and realizing the captive was you." - RT Kendall

Forgiveness is such a powerful force.  True forgiveness causes even the most ungodly person to gasp in amazement.  When we give ourselves the gift of forgiving others our own bitterness and anger is lifted and we receive a sense of freedom. 

As Christians we have been forgiven of so much.  In light of all that God has forgiven us of, should we not be quick to extend forgiveness to others who have hurt, taken advantage of or offended us?  In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a parable of an unmerciful servant who owed a debt he could not pay.  The merciful master forgave his debt even though it was equivalent to millions of dollars.  The servant came across another servant who owed him a much smaller amount.  Instead of remembering the mercy he had been shown, he demanded that the other servant pay him in full.  When the master heard of this he turned the unmerciful servant over to the torturers.  What a powerful picture of what we must look like to God when we hold grudges against people.  Is there anyone that you need to forgive in order to walk in freedom?  Forgiveness does not mean that what someone has done was ok.  It only sets you free from the burden of unforgiveness.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Easy Composting

When we moved to our new home in December, my sweet husband built a stacking compost bin into which we had been happily discarding our kitchen scraps and yard clippings.  Our compost was coming along nicely and was getting quite full when the flood hit!  We live in Nashville and were hit by a record breaking flood at the beginning of May.  Though our home suffered very little damage (we are so very grateful!), our compost bin was almost completely washed away.  Only the bottom tier remained after a river flowed over our entire back yard for 24 hours.  Discouraged by our loss of 3/4 of our compost, we stopped our usual collection of kitchen scraps in order to wait until a new compost bin could be built.  Weeds began to pop up in the bin and as they grew we realized they were mostly not weeds but rather tomatoes, potatoes, and a vine we think is a squash plant.  I had started my garden from seed weeks before the flood, but the plants coming out of the compost bin were healthier and much bigger than my seedlings that had been given far more care and had more time to grow.  I was amazed at how much the richness of the soil impacted the plants. 

Now I am more passionate about our composting than ever!  I am always looking for things to add to the pile.  I hope to have lots of mature compost to spread over our entire garden next year.  Composting is so easy!  If you have the space there is no reason to not do it.  I always thought it would smell and attract undesirable animals or bugs but this has not been our experience.  There is no odor whatsoever (unless you are turning the pile, then you will notice the smell of things breaking down).  And other than the cost of the bin, the collection container and tool used to turn the pile it is absolutely free.  I have been using a composting pailwith a charcoal filter in our kitchen to collect scraps each day.  I am so happy with it!  It has no odor and it a convenient way to transport things to the compost pile.

Tips for composting successfully:
  • compost plant material and egg shells only, avoid meat, dairy and bones as these will attract unwanted critters
  • keep a pile of grass clippings or other yard waste beside the bin and cover each addition of food scraps with it in order to cut down on flies
  • pile can be in a bin or standing alone, make sure it gets plenty of sun and stays slightly moist.  Turn the pile every few weeks to allow air to circulate
  • the smaller the pieces added to the pile, the quicker they will break down.  Smashing egg shells and cutting up citrus rinds will help them to decompose more quickly.
  • I found a good resource with more detailed info here.