6.02.2010

One Year of Cloth Diapering and the Return of Baby Wearing

Anyone who has read my blog for any extended period of time knows that I began the great adventure of cloth diapering in March of 2009. The following post is basically a book, so consider yourself forewarned! :)

I never thought I'd be one of those cloth diapering mamas, but as I met new people through a local moms group, I met several ladies who chose to cloth diaper their children. Thanks to the generosity of a few friends, I had the opportunity to try out some various cloth diapers before opting to take the plunge. I had the best and worst experiences during this trial phase, so I believed I knew what I was up against when we made our first BumGenius 3.0 order.

Many of my readers inquired about how cloth diapering was going and did I still like it a few months later, etc. So, after about 14 months of cloth diapering here is the long and short of my experience...

I read that just because one type of cloth diaper works for one child, that doesn't mean it will work for another. This was the case for us. We bought about 18 or so BumGenius 3.0 diapers and I really liked them as they pretty much functioned the same as a 'sposie.

The BG3.0s have pretty much always worked great for Patrick. But, around the time Erin started walking, her legs thinned down a bit and we started having regular leak issues that always originated from the legs. We opted to purchase some Indian and Chinese prefolds, snappis, and some diaper covers.

We chose Bummis Super Brite and Thirsties covers because of the gussets around the legs. I wasn't as happy with the Bummis covers as I was with the Thirsties covers because the elastic in the gussets tended to wear out more quickly. The Thirsties covers have been great. I bought size mediums originally. Sometime since I first started using prefolds, Thirsties came out with adjustable size covers - we have 3 of the size two covers and I have been very happy with the results. We never really used the sizing option, though, as both my children were toddlers and pretty much were big enough for the largest size setting.

Cloth diapering at night never worked well for us. Either the kids would soak right through the diaper, or the ammonia would cause their little bums to be red by morning. We tried using extra covers to minimize leakage and this did sometimes work, but it was really the red, raw skin that kept us from continuing to use them at nights. Also, in my experience, a leak from a cloth diaper is MUCH easier to deal with than pee-gel from a disposable diaper explosion.

For the most part, I really enjoy using the prefolds, though I try to wait until after the kids have pooed before using them. Dumping poo out of a BG3.0 is much easier than dumping it out of a prefold. I do have flushable poo liners, but don't use them much because it seems that the kids never go when I do use them, so they end up wasted.

The biggest down-side to using prefolds is that Erin's skin is super sensitive to being right up against the wet diaper. BG3.0s have a great suede cloth barrier between the microfiber insert which helps to keep the skin dry. Prefolds don't have this. I have used old pieces of fleece between the prefold and Erin's skin and it does help (this is also a good substitute for a poo liner!), but she still tends to get red. I have tried stripping the diapers, using as much lotion/diaper balm as I dare (using a fleece barrier to protect the diaper) and it still doesn't make much difference.

Erin also tends to get red marks where the gussets on the covers touch her skin. Sometimes it almost looks like she has gotten a small blister where the cover has rubbed her skin. Due to the skin issues she has had, we mostly use disposables on her now. I may use anywhere from 0-3 cloth diapers on her per day, but generally find that to preserve healthy skin, I need to follow the use of a cloth diaper with a disposable. Many people find that their children have less rashes and skin issues by using cloth, but this has not been the case for Erin.

Patrick still does very well with cloth. He is a tall child, but he is also pretty slender, so the BG3.0s still fit him pretty well. They are getting a little small, but we intend to begin potty learning in a few weeks, so this isn't a big deal. He also generally does just fine with prefolds and diaper covers. We do use disposables for him at nights due to similar ammonia issues as mentioned above.

All in all, I love using cloth diapers and if the Lord blesses us with another child (no, I am NOT pregnant!), I will use cloth again.

As my "baby" is now 2, I find that I have a strong desire to be intentional about physically nurturing her and encouraging her to participate in daily around the house activities. She absolutely loves to help with the laundry or to unload the dishwasher. Some days this provides a wonderful teaching moment whereas other days I just need to get the job done. I recently began to look into returning to baby wearing.

In the past, I have used three different kinds of baby carriers. With Patrick, we used a Baby Bjorn (Daniel was usually the one that used this) and I used a Maya Wrap. I liked the Baby Bjorn because of the even weight distribution. The reason I did not continue using it was because I got pregnant again when Patrick was 4 months old and a growing belly doesn't work too well with that particular carrier.

I liked the Maya Wrap for about the first 3-4 months of Patrick's life, but found that I often had horrible knots in my shoulder when I was done. Having recently done quite a bit of research on the use of ring slings, I now realize that I did not have the sling or Patrick positioned properly because if the sling and baby are positioned well, both mom and baby should be comfortable.

Before Erin was born, I bought a Moby Wrap. I think I used this for about 4-5 months. This wrap was good because it more evenly distributed the weight over both shoulders. I used the Moby a lot during the first few months of Erin's life - especially when I went to the grocery store or to church. But, I did find that the Moby was a bit of a hassle to get on properly and it tended to stretch out as it was worn, which meant I needed to regularly adjust or tighten it during use. Also, if I didn't get the wrap on correctly the first time, I needed to start over completely. If you have a fussy baby and another young toddler running around, this is not ideal. So, I stopped using it.

I have recently met a lady at my moms group who is a baby wearing educator and who makes different types of baby carriers. I began to look at the carriers she made and to do my own independent research to see how practical it might be to resume baby wearing with a 2 year old. I believed this would be an excellent to encourage Erin to participate in various around the house activities without getting in the way. I pulled back out my old Moby Wrap and liked it because of the even weight distribution, but once again found that it stretched way too much to be worn for any extended period of time. I also found that I needed to lean forward a bit just to feel balanced. This is not good for my back or for Erin.

The local lady who makes carriers includes Mei Tai carriers in her collection. After doing some research, I decided to get one and give it a shot. It functionsvery similarly to a Moby wrap, but does not stretch as much. I received my custom Mei Tai about 2 1/2 weeks ago and wish I had gotten one a LONG time ago. Erin had a little difficulty adjusting to riding on my back as she does like to run around and come along side whatever I'm doing independently, but through open communication and telling her in advance that she will be riding on my back, she has learned to enjoy the Mei Tai.

I can't even begin to explain how much easier having this carrier has made my daily life. I generally never took the kids out on a walk or ventured out by myself with them both because pushing a 50-60lb double stroller is just too much for me. Patrick loves to walk, but I was not willing to go on a walk with a 2 year old and a 3 year old walking as well - what if they both bolted different directions at the same time?! This was not something I was willing to risk. Now, by using the Mei Tai, I can put Erin on my back (if the carrier is on properly, she is incredibly light and easy to carry) and hold Patrick's hand to go on walks. Or, I can wear Erin and push Patrick in the umbrella stroller.

Because of my fantastic experience with the Mei Tai, I also investigated the ring slings made by the same lady. Her slings have a beautiful fanned pleating around the rings which better provides even weight distribution - this is the biggest difference in her slings and the Maya Wrap I had with Patrick. I also watched quite a few youtube videos to find out the proper mechanics of carrying a toddler in a ring sling.

Long story short, I purchased a Duiponi silk ring sling on Monday. We're still adjusting to this sling, but I used it last night at Chic Fil A while we waited in line and it worked beautifully! Erin loves being so close and really enjoys being held (one of the many benefits of baby wearing). I did use this sling for the 2nd half of a long walk this morning - I used the MT for the first 1/2 - and it is not as comfortable or as easy as the Mei Tai is, especially if you're pushing a stroller, but it is ideal for short uses - like walking from the car across a parking log, or for leisurely strolls. This is also great for around the house use.

I say all that to say, even if your "baby" is a toddler, and you are interested in the art of baby wearing, do some research and go for it. Most carriers can hold children up to 35lbs. If done properly, I'm confident you won't regret it!

3.15.2010

Popcorn

If you're like many people I know, you at least enjoy a good bowl of popcorn every now and again. The biggest down-side standard microwave or stove-top cooked popcorn is that you add a lot of unnecessary calories by cooking it in oil or butter.

I love air-popped pop corn with butter spray, salt and some extra seasoning on top - ranch dressing powder, chili powder, omit the salt and use garlic salt... there is SO much you can do to make a fantastic bit of popcorn without adding a lot of fat and unnecessary calories.

The only thing I don't like about traditional air-poppers is that they can sometimes make quite a mess - particularly if/when a kernel that has already landed in the bowl decides to pop... it is like a volcano of popcorn.

I recently read that you can air-pop popcorn in the microwave by putting 3ish tablespoons of plain popcorn into a brown paper lunch bag. Seal it with tape and throw in the microwave as though it was a store-bought variety.

I opted to try the above microwave-air popped method (and seasoned with butter-spray, salt and ranch powder) this afternoon and was quite pleased with the results. I do have a high-power microwave and bits of the popcorn were a little over-cooked, though not burned. Next time, I'll lower the power setting to 80% or so. Just stand next to the microwave and listen - once there is a 2 second pause after you hear a "pop", you know the popcorn is done.

It is well worth the experiment to enjoy a low-calorie, flavorful, (not to mention) filling afternoon snack. :)

3.01.2010

Red and Green Cabbage Slaw

Here is a very easy, inexpensive, filling, not to mention - healthy! - recipe.

All measurements are approximate. Adjust to your personal taste.

2 cups chopped red cabbage
2-3 cups chopped green cabbage
2-3 T sour cream
1-2t apple cider vinegar
garlic salt, to taste
ranch salad dressing mix - to taste

Add chopped cabbages to large bowl or container with lid. You can either add the sauce ingredients to the bowl with the cabbage or mix the sour cream, vinegar, garlic salt and ranch powder together in a small separate bowl and then pour over the shredded cabbage. Toss the ingredients together - or just put the lid on and give it a good shake.

Perks of this recipe include:
cost effective - I paid less than $3 for both cabbages and only used about 1/3 of each. I had sour cream, garlic salt and ranch powder on hand.

low calorie - cabbage is low in calories. Using sour cream rather than mayo reduces calories.

tasty - simply adding garlic salt and ranch powder give this a bold flavor without adding calories

filling - cabbage is dense and relatively high in dietary fiber which makes it a very filling food.

Enjoy!

2.26.2010

Fabric Bucket Giveaway!

Check out this giveaway at the thirtyoneeighteen blog.

I have quite a few items made by Kim and LOVE all of them. :) Definitely worth checking out her store. :)

2.12.2010

Ergo Baby Carrier Giveaway

I just saw this giveaway and thought I'd share for others to have the opportunity to enter!

http://clotheslinecontentment.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/my-first-giveaway/

1.18.2010

*Relatively* Easy Homemade Skincare

Happy 2010 everyone!

It seems like I say this with each and every post, but life is crazy with a nearly 3 year old and a nearly 2 year old and I find that between homemaking, spending time with family and friends, 2 weekly Bible studies and church, I don't have a lot of extra time for blogging. My goal for this year is to post at least once per month. Also, while I do still plan on posting family photos, etc. here, I am going to try and re-direct the blog to practical, homemaking tips.

So, in honor of my goal, today's post is about my newly-learned skill of lotion-making.

In an effort to come up with a slightly more creative homemade Christmas gifts list, I opted to learn about lotion-making shortly prior to the holidays.

After my first (and thankfully only) completely botched batch my thought was, "this is way more complicated than I thought it would be!"

After a few moderately to largely successful batches, my thought was, "this is easier than it looks!"

In all actuality, making lotion isn't much different than cooking. For me, this both a challenge and a help. It is a challenge because I almost never follow recipes exactly (I'm more a cook by taste person) and am nearly always "tweaking" the recipe to my personal taste. Following a lotion recipe, is a help because once I find a combination I really like, I stick to it batch after batch, knowing it will turn out correctly.

You need 4 primary ingredients to make lotion:

water
oil
emulsifier
preservative

Water - Most sources suggest that distilled water should be used. As I consider myself to be in the "experimental phase", I use water either directly from the tap or filtered water as I don't want to spend any more money than absolutely necessary. What can I say - I'm frugal like that! LOL I have also brewed plain green tea and have substituted this for the water. You can do this with other herbs, if you like. The key is to keep things as clean as possible. Standard lotions can be up to 70% water.

Oil - This is probably my favorite ingredient of lotion-making. There are so many great oils out there that accomplish so many different purposes that it can be difficult to choose. For the reasons mentioned above, I try to never spend more than $6/lb of liquid oil, but generally use olive, canola or soybean (vegetable) oil purchased from Walmart. As I am always looking to improve a revise my recipes (see note above about cooking :-p), I like to make oil substitutions a LOT. For example, if a lotion recipe calls for 8 oz of liquid oil, I might use 4 oz olive oil, 2oz coconut oil (a semi-solid up to 76*F), and 2oz shea butter (a solid). This gives me a total of 8 oz oil, but will notably thicken/harden the lotion because I've substituted 4oz solid and semi-solid oils for 4oz liquid oil. Making substitutions such as these can drastically change the feel of the lotion - it can be "tacky", "heavy" or "oily". There are additives that can minimize this, but if you want to keep it simple, use a recipe that calls for a higher % water.

Emulsifier - Emulsify basically means to bind two things which cannot otherwise be bound - oil and water, for example. Without an emulsifier, a lotion will separate. I use a wax designed for this purpose.

Preservative - If you are planning on making a large batch of lotion or a batch that you cannot use up within a week or less, you must use a preservative. Un-preserved lotions can be breeding grounds for mold, fungus, yeast and bacteria. The preservative I use only requires 1/2-1%/batch. Because lotions require preservatives, there is no such thing as an "All-Natural" lotion.

To make lotions, you must weigh your ingredients. Measuring them by the cup or tablespoon, etc, can actually throw off the % and it can cause a ruined batch of lotion. I use a food scale that can weigh down to the gram to measure my ingredients.

I just recently bought two 8oz pyrex measuring cups that will be used only for lotion-making. This way, I minimize the risk of cross-contamination. In one measuring cup, weigh out the desired % of emulsifying wax - I use 3-5%, per the instructions for my wax. I do also use an additive/hardener called stearic acid because I tend to prefer a thicker lotion. (You could use use beeswax to accomplish a similar purpose.) I measure the correct % of SA and add that to the cup containing the emulsifying wax. Using a double boiler system (I use crude system of a small/med pot that came with a steamer basket and place the cup of ingredients in the steamer), heat and melt the wax/acid.

In a 2nd cup, weigh out the correct % of oil - I use anywhere between 10 and 25%. This % includes all oils and butters. It is suggested that these oils be heated to "melting point" using a double boiler, too. However, because my system isn't perfected, I sometimes heat the oil in the microwave 1-2 minutes at a time on 30-40% power until everything has melted, but has not boiled. It is very important that the emulsifier and the oils finish melting around the same time (hence why this can be tricky).

The water or herbal blend must be hot before you mix all your ingredients. I typically pull out my tea-kettle for this and heat the water to a boil just prior to my waxes and oils fully melting. Again, measure out the weight of the water, not the volume - 10oz of water might not actually be 1 1/4C water! Once heated, pour into a separate cup.

Depending on the kind of preservative you use, the addition can occur at different times in the process. My preservative says to add it to the oils prior to emulsification. Generally, this is 1-2 grams for the 12oz batches I make. I'll pour this into the hot oil cup before I emulsify everything.

I'll stress again, the emulsifier, the hot water and the oils must all finish heating within a few minutes of each other to maximize the effectiveness of the binding/mixing process. Once all three ingredients are heated, pour water and oil - or, pending instructions, the oil and the emulsifier - into a mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer - or a good power mixer (such as the Kitchen Aid stand mixer), begin mixing ingredients on a medium-high speed.

Add the third cup - either the water or the emulsifier, contingent upon your recipe - while continuing to mix the other two ingredients. Immediately, your batch should turn white as the oil/water are beginning to bind. Mix for at least 5 minutes to maximize that everything has bound properly. Sometimes, I will stop and scrape the sides, but otherwise, keep mixing for the full 5 minutes. During the mixing process, foam can appear at the top of the lotion. If this happens, I'll slow the speed on the mixer, but will not stop the process. Generally any foam will minimize by the time the blending process is complete.

If you are going to add any fragrance or essential oils to your lotion (make sure to not exceed the recommended skin-safe %!) do so once the 5 minutes of mixing is complete. Mix the lotion on med-high once more, just long enough to ensure the oil has been well blended into the mix. Pour quickly to containers and cap. Packaging your lotion while it is still warm is important to prevent the essential oil or fragrance oil from evaporating.

This process might sound tricky, but once you've done it a few times, it really isn't so hard. I've begun to really enjoy making my own lotion and it is very rewarding to use it for myself or my kids.

I'll save this topic for a later post, but if you are opposed to using skincare containing a preservative, you can make an all-natural skincare balm, but this will contain oils, butters and powders... The all-natural variety will leave a heavy oil or tacky residue on your skin while it is absorbed, but this is not necessarily a problem. Seriously, plain old olive oil is one of the best moisturizers I've ever used, but sometimes it isn't the most convenient option.