Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Reuse It: Water Bottles

If you must get your water from little plastic bottles, why not make something useful out of them when your done! Here are instructions I posted previously for making shaker bottles for your infant and toddler to explore.

The link above goes to my original post, nearly two years old, about shaker bottles. I wanted to revisit them for this week's Weekend Reuse It, because now Evie is enjoying them just as much as Jonah did! Even Jonah still enjoys playing with them, and it is one toy that they can share.

If you'd like to stop using those plastic water bottles, check out the reusable stainless steel water bottles at Rainforest Bottles. I like the cute design of these earth friendly bottles. Or if you'd like one that can hold hot as well as cold, you might be interested in the hydroflask.

**Neither of these companies have given me compensation, I am simply pointing people to companies that I know make fashionable and good quality reusable water bottles.**

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Frenzy of Fabulous Folds: Feb. 7-11th

A lot of my readers and a few of my friends who are just starting out with cloth diapers, have been emailing me and sending me messages with questions about prefolds.

So I have decided to tackle everyone's questions all at once. Prefolds are often pushed out of the limelight by the newer fancy pants diapers. But the truth is, prefolds are not only the most economical choice of cloth diaper, but they are also the most versatile.

During the Frenzy, I will include a demo video of folding or pinning techniques each day. I will answer my readers' questions, and highlight the advantages of using a prefold system.

What burning questions do you have about prefolds? What would you like to see during the Frenzy of Fabulous Folds? Please post your questions and suggestions here in the form of a comment!

Monday, January 24, 2011

More Ways to Clean: Distilled White Vinegar

The next cleaning agent that I'm going to look at is white vinegar. White vinegar has antifungal properties, cleans glass without streaking, softens hard water, and is great for attacking offensive odors. Here are some of the ways that I use white vinegar:

Bathroom Cleaner: Because it is antifungal, and a water softener, I use mostly vinegar in my bathroom. I put distilled white vinegar into a spray bottle and use it to tackle the hard water stains in the shower and on faucets. Sometimes the corners of the tub, or around the drains of the sink and tub, develop a reddish color ring. This is a kind of mold. Vinegar not only takes this film away but a spray down once a week keeps it away. It also works well in the toilet.

Cleaning Mirrors: I use the same spray bottle to spray vinegar on my mirrors, and wipe them with a microfiber towel for a streak free shine.

Rinse Aid: White vinegar is a great rinse aid for the dishwasher. It softens hard water, and is streak free on glass. I just add it as I would Jet Dry or another rinse aid, to the well in the dishwasher.

Laundry: Hard water is not so good for cloth diapers, or for any clothing. Add 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar to your rinse cycle to soften the water to prevent buildup on your clothes and cloth diapers.

Diaper Wipe Solution: I prefer to use our cloth wipes by wetting them and keeping them in a diaper warmer or other wipes container, so they are ready to go when I need them. Unfortunately, this means creating a damp, dark, warm place. A haven for mold! I add a teaspoon of white vinegar to my wipes solution to battle this. It has also helped take care of a yeast infection when Jonah was a baby.

Cleaning Drains: There is a shower in our basement that no one uses. It's a little creepy, and we have no use for an extra shower. Because no one uses it, sometimes the drain gets stale and septic can be smelled in the house. To take care of this, I boil about a quart of water and pour the water down the drain followed by a generous amount of vinegar. The smell disappears!

Fighting lingering odors: When we first moved into this house, the rugs had just been cleaned. Damp rugs equaled a musty smell throughout. If something is burned in the kitchen, or if you have some other gross smell in your house, boil a quart of water and a cup of white vinegar. Your house will smell like vinegar for a few hours, but it gets rid of the smell that would have lingered longer!

Cleaning the Coffee Maker: Again with the damp, warm, and dark place. Another haven for mold and hard water stains! About once a month, I fill the coffee pot to the 4 cup line and add a cup of vinegar. I pour this mixture into the water well of the coffee pot and run it as if I were making a cup of coffee (with no filter or grounds!)

Cleaning Rust: Soak the rusted item in vinegar for several hours, sometimes over night. Sometimes if I don't get to wash cookie cutters or cookie sheets right away, they might get a bit of rust on them. Using vinegar on them cleans it right up without using harsh chemicals on your cooking utensils. You can also use this method to clean rusty tools or bolts

Remove Chewing Gum: I was taught this trick by my friends' mom when I was growing up and we got some gum on the carpet while goofing around. Use an ice cube to harden the gum and pick off as much as you can using a dull butter knife or spatula. Pour vinegar over the remaining gum, very generously. You want to saturate it. The vinegar will dissolve the gum and you can use a damp cloth to pick it up!

Keep Flowers Fresh: Those packages of flower food that come with each bunch of flowers is dangerous for my children and pet. If it is a liquid, Jonah will drink it. We've all seen our toddlers drinking their bath water, or taking drinks from random glasses. Well guess what: a vase looks like a glass full of water. Even though it makes sense to us adults not to drink that water, it makes sense to a toddler to try it! Or if the vase gets knocked over by a rogue football, there's a puddle of water on the floor for my dog to lap up before I can utter the words "leave it." Why use a poisonous powder to keep flowers fresh? Keep everyon safe, and your flowers looking cheery and sunny, by adding two tablespoons of vinegar to your vase.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekend Reuse It

Need a bucket? Go to your local supermarket and ask the bakery counter if you can have some of their icing buckets. The icing they use comes in large buckets, which they typically toss in the garbage. If you ask nicely, they will probably give them to you. Just wash it out, and you have a food grade bucket with a handle and a lid.

I have a friend who uses these buckets to store a week's worth of bread dough. It is food grade, and it has a nice lid, so it works well for food storage.

We use it to hold compostables until I can venture out to the compost pile. We just put our scraps into the bucket and cover it with the lid, then on warmer days when the snow is melted, I carry them and empty them in the larger pile that is across our yard. You could use them to make a small vermicompost bin as well.

Here are instructions to use buckets to haul things on your bike:

You could use them to make planters when the weather warms up (you'll need to drill some holes in the bottom or put gravel in them for drainage.) Some people are handy and can make them into sub irrigated planters.

On the same gardening thread, they could be used as rain water barrels to collect the rain to water your garden and plants.

Or you could also use them as cleaning buckets. Why spend $5 on a bucket when you can get one for free and save it from taking up space in the landfills?

Banana Bites

Bananas are a great finger food for Eve because she can very easily mash them up with her gums. But it can be kind of hard for her to pick them up off of the tray because they get so slippery! Here is a great way to make bananas, and any other slippery soft diced fruit (like peaches or avocados) easy for your little one to pick up.


In a food processor, grind up about 1/4 to1/2 cup cheerios, until it is a fine powder. You could mash them in a zip loc bag, but for a baby you want to make sure the cereal is consistently ground to a powder and the food processor ensures that. Dice the bananas into chunks that she can manage. I usually slice half of a banana three times down one side, roll it over 90 degrees and slice three times lengthwise again, then slice it across, into little cubes. Place the ground cheerios and banana chunks in a zip loc bag and shake until the bananas are coated, or place the ground cheerios in a bowl and roll each banana chunk until it is covered. You might need to moisten the bananas a little with some water or fruit juice for the cereal to stick better.

The cereal helps to give the fruit some traction, so Baby can easily manipulate it into her mouth!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy Birthday A. A. Milne

Today, January 18th, is the birthday of A. A. Milne. He is most notable for creating the beloved children's stories about a boy and his bear- a bear stuffed with fluff and a mischievous taste for honey. Christopher Robin and Whinnie the Pooh will always have a special place on nursery book shelves, but people hardly seem to delve into A. A. Milne's other wonderful pieces of literature. To celebrate the birthday and life of this wonderful author, I wanted to share a poem that he wrote. It was always one of my favorites while growing up; I have fond memories of listening to my children's librarian Mrs. B reciting it. Now, I enjoy sharing it with Jonah before nap and during other quiet times.

Halfway Down

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn't any
other stair
quite like
i'm not at the bottom,
i'm not at the top;
so this is the stair
I always

Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up
And it isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery,
It isn't in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn't really
It's somewhere else
(picture taken from

Thursday, January 13, 2011

7 things to do with Breastmilk

Because Evelyn won't take a bottle, and because I've been pumping since she was three weeks old, I am finding an overabundance of frosty milk in my freezer. The milk that I pumped in our early sleep deprived newborn days is about to expire, not to mention I need room in my freezer! So I thought I'd offer these ideas for what to do with extra breastmilk. I saved the most important one as the last item on the list!

1. Use it as coffee creamer- breast milk makes wonderful cream for your coffee or tea. It hasn't been processed, so it has all of its creamy fat (what makes cream so nice in the first place) and it is naturally sweet so you don't really need to add extra sweetener!

2. Make french toast- for baby or for yourself, french toast made with breast milk is tres yummy. If you're making for baby, use just the egg yolk (whites can cause allergic reactions.) I usually use two or three ounces of milk and one egg yolk per piece of bread. Lightly beat the yolk into the milk with a fork. You can add cinnamon if you wish. submerge each piece of bread into the mixture and cook in a pan over medium to low heat. Flip when the bottom is golden brown and cook until both sides are golden.

3. Do a yummy science experiment- (replace the milk in the recipe with breastmilk!) 

5. Replace antibiotics- Some people claim that you can use a drop of breastmilk to treat ear infections, pink eye, and to clear stuffy nasal passages. I have had success in using it for ear infections and stuffy noses but thankfully have not had the chance to try it out on pink eye (hoping I never will!) To do this, simply us a dropper to place one or two drops of breastmilk in the infected ear, nose, or eye.

7. DONATE IT- this is the one I want to stress the most. There are babies who need breastmilk. If you are fortunate enough to be a woman that has extra milk stock piled in her freezer, please consider donating it responsibly. Find a milk bank that accepts donations near you, or visit one of the websites below. (mostly for moms in the michigan/ohio area)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Baby Art

With this post, I am going to introduce you to the mantra: It can be cleaned.

The high chair, the floor, the art smock, the clothes, the face, the hands. It CAN be cleaned!

A lot of parents that I talk to, won't introduce art time with their infants "because it's so messy!" When Jonah and I hosted a playgroup for infants and young toddlers ages 0-2, it was well attended but only a couple of the parents let their children participate in the art project I had planned. Even when someone was inviting them- please make a mess of my house, I will clean the tile and trays and shelves- they still said "that's too messy."

When I worked in daycare, the parents would often tell me "I'm glad you do so many activities with the kids. I'm not brave enough to tackle that mess in *my* house." I wanted to ask them if it looked like my nursery had just had ten kids painting in it (most often the answer would have been no. I kept a tidy room!)

The truth is, it isn't that messy. It takes about five minutes to set up, five minutes to clean up. A couple of rags and some water do the trick nicely. Art, such as finger painting, offers your infant a sensory experience, and it also provides a bit of fun for you (if you let it!)  Not to mention the end product really brightens up the kitchen when hung on the fridge.

I decided that since we brought the high chair back from Grandma and Grandpa's house, it was time that Evie created her first fingerpaint masterpiece. I set the paints in front of her and used the first three colors that she grabbed (pink, blue, and orange.) I like to use crayola paints, because all of their products are washable and non-toxic. I also like to mix just a small drop of Dawn into any paint that I use, because if it does get on clothes, it comes out easier.

I used an old tee-shirt to cover up her clothing, poured some paint directly onto some white printer paper, and let her at it. We started with the pink...

Then we added the orange...

Then finally the blue...

Now that wasn't so messy was it????? But just remember....

it CAN be cleaned! And it was worth it!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Little Foodie: Finger food and Gourmet Purees

We think that Evelyn is going to be following in her mother's footsteps on the course to being a foodie. Last month, we introduced her (earlier than we had anticipated) to her first purees. Now, just a short four weeks later she is showing desire for finger foods. When the family is at the table eating, she watches our every move. Her eyes flitting from our forks to our mouths, her little jaw chewing simultaneously with ours.

On Friday, I wanted to bake some cookies but wasn't sure if I had all of the ingredients. With Evie in arms, I pulled items out of the cabinets. Coming to the chocolate chips, I popped a couple in my mouth (naughty mama!) Evie's gums, almost like a reflex, began that tell-tale up and down motion. Drool flowed from her mouth. She moved her face in closer to mine until our noses were just barely brushing, and the look in her eyes said "I am going to take that food out of your mouth."

That's it, this little girl is getting some cereal puffs!

I was amazed as I watched her go, in just one trial of finger foods, from fist grabbing to the pincer grasp. After exploring them for a minute or two, she began popping them in her mouth as if she were a seasoned pro at this food stuff.
Of course she still loves a good meal of purees. Here is one of her favorites that we introduced to her as a holiday treat. We used the apples that I made for her in the fall; after I made the sauces from the fruit I used an ice cube tray to freeze individual cubes. Each cube is one ounce of puree. I have also included the instructions for Oatmeal cereal, because the "recipe" calls for it!

Oatmeal cereal:
Scoop rolled oats (not instant!) into your blender or food processor. Blend until you have a fine powder. If your infant is older and accustomed to textured foods you can blend the oats to a coarser texture. In a small sauce pan, bring about 1/4 cup of water to a simmer and stir in the blended oats. You'll have to experiment with the amount of water to the amount of oats you use. I haven't been able to pin down a good ratio. Simmer the cereal for a minute or two, until the cereal is a good consistency for your baby, and the oats are a soft mushy texture. I like to add some breastmilk during the last thirty or so seconds of cooking. I don't recommend adding formula (it doesn't cook the same as breastmilk)

Apple Crisp:
2 cubes apple puree
2 Tbl oatmeal cereal (measure dry, then cook)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash of grated vanilla bean (do not use vanilla extract in baby's purees!)

*note about spices: introduce your baby to only one spice at a time. This will help to get your baby used to having spices and avoid tummy aches. And will also give you an idea of how baby's digestive system reacts to spices without overloading it. Keep in mind that extracts contain high amounts of alcohol, and should only be used in baked or highly cooked dishes, as the alcohol will cook out in those instances.

Thaw out the cubes of apple puree and heat until it is room temperature. The oatmeal will add some heat, and you don't want baby's food to be hot. It should barely be above room temp when serving. Add the spices to the puree and stir until well combined. Cook the oatmeal and add it to the puree, stirring until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Here's to Enjoying the Simple Things in 2011

Adios 2010! Sayonara. or as Jonah would say (tries to say) See ya later alligator, after while crocodile!

I am breathing a sigh of relief that 2010 is over. It's over, we have regrouped, and are ready to face 2011 and whatever it might throw at us. I am thankful for every minute I am given on this green and blue rock hurtling around the sun, but let's face it: 2010 was pretty crappy for my family. There were wonderful, amazing, life changing moments as well though. So I wanted to take a moment to look at what 2010 did for my family. I think it's important to reflect on all of the things that have happened in the past year- to smile at the happy moments, and learn from the not-so-happy moments.

We began our new year with a sneak peek of the little person who would be joining our family. We found out that she was a very healthy little bean. It felt more "real" that we were going to soon be a family of four. We tentatively named her Evelyn Clare on the way home from the ultrasound.

Soon Jonah and I ventured to a place we had never visited before- Arizona. It was a nice escape from the snow and cold weather of Ohio.
A few weeks later, we took a rather chilly vacation to Florida. Although it was too cold to swim in the ocean, I felt very much at home and relaxed on the beach. It was warmer here in Ohio that week than it was in Florida, but we still had a wonderful family vacation, and on the last day of our stay it finally warmed up enough to take a dip in the pool! I was really grateful for the chance to visit my grandparents, and Jonah finally began to walk for sustained distances on this trip as well!

Around this time, we enrolled Jonah in the county's Early Intervention program for infants and toddlers who are showing cognitive and physical delays. We started seeing a speech, occupational, and physical therapist, and in late march we began the arduous process of Jonah's casts. As awful as this seemed at the time, I can thankfully say that this was the best thing we ever did for our son. He began walking full-time. Walking, running, jumping. With his feet seemingly "fixed" he began talking and problem solving. Once we got the casts and orthopedics figured out, he was a completely different child.

As the weather warmed, so did our anticipation of baby Evelyn. Spring began to close onto summer, and along with this anticipation of the new baby came anxiety over Jonah's still lagging development. He was diagnosed with Autism and given several bloodtests to shed further light on what might be causing all of his health and development issues.

Just weeks later, we multiplied the love in our house. Little Evelyn Clare was born at home on June 5th, my mother's birthday. We welcomed a healthy little girl into our hearts and family.

One of the "milestones" that parents often look forward to is baby's first visit to the doctor. This visit tells them that baby is healthy, everything is working, and everyone is healthy. Evie's first visit to Dr. T did set our minds at ease about our little girl. She was completely perfect, and one hundred and one percent in good health. However, the doctor had just received Jonah's results from the blood tests, and they showed that he is missing about 40 genes on his 22nd chromosome.
It is a genetic syndrome called 22q Deletion, and can cause many health problems and cognitive delays. While this was a scary diagnosis, because it is so finite and absolute, it also was a relief. Suddenly everything fit. Everything was explained.

And we started the maze of doctors. I'm glad that we are able to keep an eye on systems and symptoms that commonly pop up with 22q, but we have been exhausted with exams, doctor's visits, road trips to clinics, and tests. We have decided that Evelyn, although she is perfectly healthy and shows no signs of having the genetic deletion, is most likely going to be our last child. Which is an extremely difficult pill for me to swallow

In the last weeks of August, Daryl lost his job. This was scary for me in the moment. But now I realize that it allowed us to move on and get to the next step in our lives. We had enough saved that Daryl was able to stay home with me, Jonah, and the new baby. Our family bonded.

We enjoyed this time, but we knew we had to do something for money before our savings ran out. Daryl found a job in Cleveland. Our family that had grown so close, was separated. We celebrated Jonah's second birthday, and Daryl was able to come back to Toledo for the party.

This was really hard for me, and for the kids. But in the meantime, I learned to make time for myself. A special way to clear my head. I picked back up an old hobby of mine- running. I ran my first 5k race just a couple weeks before we moved the entire family back to Cleveland. It was the annual Komen's Race For the Cure Although I had to walk about a quarter of the race, this was a huge accomplishment for me, and a proud moment in 2010. I reached my sponsorship goal of raising $200 for the cause, and just last week I reached my goal of being able to run 5K in a half hour.
The same weekend as the race, we looked at a house for rent. We were enamored almost immediately with the quaint house sitting on two acres of pine tree speckled land. It seemed to have everything we needed, everything we dreamed of having in a home.

The rest of the year has remained somewhat uneventful, which we are dearly thankful for. We moved into the house, continued with Jonah's doctor's appointments and therapies. Evelyn has been growing, learning and thriving. And Daryl and I continue to support eachother in this crazy partnership called parenthood.

We are hoping that 2011 remains as uneventful as the last couple months of 2010. We are looking forward to starting to home school Jonah with a preschool curriculum this year, even if it is only part time while he goes to a specialized or co-op preschool part time. We are looking forward to seeing Evie walk, hearing her say her first words, and her first birthday party. We are looking forward to trips to the zoo, planting our garden, and playing basketball in our driveway. We are looking forward to enjoying the simple things. Cheers to 2011.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lemony Clean

A few months ago, a friend and I were talking about how many people waste money on tons of cleaning solutions. Advertising is a very powerful thing. Walking down the cleaning chemical aisle, you suddenly believe that you need a chemical to clean the bathtub, one to clean the bathroom sink and then a different one for the kitchen sink, one to clean the mirrors, one to clean the floors (of course all different if you have more than one type of floor- tile, laminate, etc,) the toilet gets its own cleaner, there's one for mold, one for bacteria, one for "extreme fungus" (I'm not kidding, I found it in the closet when we moved into this house!) All of these cleaning chemicals take up so much space, and they cost a lot of money! It just seems like somewhat of a waste.

Not to mention the safety concerns over having these chemicals in my house with a toddler who is into everything, a baby who can suddenly move and get into everything, and a doggy who is always asking for trouble.

So I'd like to take some time every once in a while to feature natural cleaning components that most people already have right in their kitchen and don't even realize it. The first one that I'm going to look at, happens to be my favorite. Lemon. Lemon tends to be my all purpose cleaner. I like to buy the large bottles of lemon juice in bulk because it is much cheaper, and ensures that I don't run out of my favorite cleaning agent. I'd like to highlight a few of the uses I've found for it!

Cleaning counters, table, and stovetop: I put straight lemon juice into a spray bottle and sprinkle surfaces very lightly with baking soda (a small amount will do, you don't need to cover the whole surface. If you use too much, it will be difficult to wipe away and then your surfaces will feel gritty) Spray the juice onto the counters generously, and use a damp rag to wipe into the surface. Use water and a rag to wipe the solution away. I love giving my surfaces a quick scrub this way before we have company, even if they aren't particularly dirty. It gives the house that nice "clean" lemon scent. Smells much better than lemon-scented cleaners!

Microwave: Microwaves can get really gross. And who wants to use potentially harmful chemicals in a place that we cook our foods? I love this method of cleaning the microwave. It works even better than commercial cleaners, and has absolutely no harmful chemicals. Slice a lemon in half along the equator and place directly in the microwave, cut side up, and cook for about 10-15 seconds (might be more or less depending on your microwave) This actually loosens the stuck-on food particles in the microwave! When it's done, use the lemon half to scrub the walls of the microwave. Then, use a wet rag to wipe the microwave out. Don't forget to use a bit of the lemon to disinfect the handle on the door, and the buttons!

Garbage Disposal: Cut a lemon into wedges, then cut the wedges into thirds once a weak, drop a couple of the lemon chunks down the empty disposal and run it, to disinfect and keep it smelling fresh. Store the chunks in a covered container in the fridge until you use them. I use a washed yogurt container to store them.

Laundry Freshener and Stain Removal (especially of the diaper variety): Because we use a natural laundry detergent that does not contain any disinfecting agents or perfumes, I like to add about 1/4 cup of lemon juice to the final rinse on our laundry. It makes everything come out of the wash smelling wonderfully clean, and adds an antibacterial component to our wash. I add a little more to heavy loads such as towels and diapers. When there is a stain in an item, I treat the stain by pouring lemon juice directly onto it and then rub a little bit of detergent into it. The stain washes right out. With our diapers, I pour the juice directly onto the stain on the diaper and then place the diaper out in the sun for a few hours. Voila, you couldn't tell that diaper had ever been pooped on! When you do this though, you need to rewash the diapers to make sure the lemon juice is no longer on the diaper (and then your baby's skin!)

Crayon Removal: This is my new favorite. Jonah loves to color. He is like Harold and the Purple Crayon. If he finds a crayon, he will color on whatever surface he can find! To remove the crayon from tile floor, the fridge, our wooden cabinets, and a few painted surfaces, I mixed baking soda and lemon juice in a small bowl to make kind of a foamy paste. I used a damp rag to scrub the crayon with the paste, and it came off with very little effort. I would recommend testing this on an inconspicuous area of the painted surface, first, to make sure it doesn't strip your paint. I haven't had any problems with it, but I could see how the acidic lemon juice might remove paint along with the crayon.