Monday, February 21, 2011

Simple Coordination Activity

Sometimes the activities that toddlers enjoy the most, involve simple items that can be found around the house. This morning I had planned to do an activity with Jonah to work on his coordination. All we used was a clean plastic mayonnaise jar, and some clothespins.

The activity started out as planned. I placed the jar on the floor, and showed Jonah how to stand with the jar between my feet. Then I dropped the clothespins into the jar. It sounds like a very simple game, but Jonah was thrilled. He stood over the jar and attempted to drop each clothespin into the opening of the jar.  Some of them made their target, and others bounced off the side.

When he got bored of that game, I showed him how to squeeze the clothespins to open them, and stick them to the rim of the jar.

Once again, it amazed me how one little movement that adults take for granted, can take a toddler so much thought and planning. Jonah worked on this task for quite a while.

After he managed to get a few of the clothespins onto the rim of the jar, I put the clothespins away except for three, and we dropped them into the jar as we counted them.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Funny Valentine

Yes, I am the type of mom that draws hearts in my kids' hot cereal with chocolate syrup on Valentine's day. And I'm probably going to continue to be that type of mom even when they are teenagers and roll their eyes at me. How do I know? Because that's not even my kid's breakfast bowl; it's mine. Jonah's bowl is green and plastic, and it had a chocolate heart too.

I think it's important to do something special for those that we love. It's important to take time out, to let our loved ones know that they mean so much to us, that we're willing to take the time to make something special just for them, while thinking of them.

That is why we had a special Valentine's day. We finished breakfast, and I read one of Jonah's favorite books: I Love You More Than Rainbows by Susan E Crites. Jonah calls this book "Rainbows." He loves it, and makes references to it quite a bit.

Then I told Jonah that we were going to the zoo, and he insisted on reading the book where Curious George goes to the zoo and feeds all of the animals. After our books, we got dressed in our red outfits- Evie even had hearts on her onesie, because I told you I'm just that kind of mom- and went to the zoo. Yes, the zoo, in the middle of February.
The Cleveland Zoo has a wonderful indoor exhibit called The Rainforest. One step inside, and you forget about the cold Ohio weather instantly. Within seconds we had shed our winter coats, blankets, and sweaters to enjoy the warm humidity. If you are in the area, I highly recommend The Rainforest as a cabin fever buster. Not only is it warm, but this is the best time of year to enjoy it! Besides a couple of school groups, and a few homeschoolers here and there, the place is empty. Wonderful for taking toddlers or babies.

We saw some pretty amazing creatures and plant life. Jonah got to touch a snake, which he was still talking about at bedtime. He called it a "baby snake" even though it was full grown. I guess it was a smallish snake, so he dubbed it a baby. He also really liked the frogs. We spent quite a while looking at them and saying "ribbit!"
We ate lunch, which was of course heart shaped. Cutting a sandwich into a heart was actually much easier than I thought it would be. I simply cut the bottom corners off at an angle that brought the cuts to a point, then cut a wedge out of the rounded top, in the middle. The bread was already kind of heart shaped when I looked at it, I just had to polish it up a bit! I ate the scraps as a snack later, wouldn't want to waste perfectly good sandwich!
Starting around lunch time, Jonah started asking where the crocodile is. He wanted to see a crocodile. Jonah see crocodile, where crocodile, crocodile in there now.... I said more than a few prayers that there was at least one crocodile in the Cleveland zoo.. or at least something that I could pass off as a crocodile.
We were in luck! I am not sure if you can tell in this photograph, but that is a crocodile's foot just above Jonah's head. The crocodile was swimming and you could go under his exhibit to see him move through the water. Jonah was ecstatic. This really surprised me, because Jonah has NEVER shown interest in crocodiles! I didn't even know that he knew what one was until he began asking to see one! He also surprised me by naming the koalas, which to my knowledge he has never seen. I think he watches too much Go Diego Go, but then another voice is telling me that logically if he is learning about these things from that show, and is learning to talk about them, then maybe it's not such a bad thing that I let him watch it while I make lunch!

On the way home, we stopped and picked up some things to decorate sugar cookies, for dessert, and a special card for Daddy. Jonah picked one out that had a dog on it and that was for dads, and I picked a sappy lovey dovey one out for my husband. When we came home, Jonah drew a picture inside his card using red, pink, and purple crayons. He said it was a valentine's rainbow for Dada. He loves drawing rainbows- more on that later! Then Daryl came home with a heart shaped balloon for each of the kids and a card for me. It was a wonderful family valentine's evening! I hope every valentine's day is like this- well at least until the kids are old enough to date, then they might have different ideas of what Valentine's day activities should occur!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Frenzy of Fabulous Folds Videos: Bikini Twist and Jelly Roll Folds

Due to our roof leaking from all of the recent ice we've gotten, the frenzy of fabulous folds has been a bit neglected. So to make up, I've doubled up on today's videos.

The first fold I'm showing you today is called a bikini twist. It's probably the second most common fold that I encounter from other cloth diapering mamas. A lot of parents with chubby babies use this fold because it fits a bit nicer around the thighs and between the legs. Moms who use this fold tell me that they don't have as much of a problem with pants not fitting over the diaper. I used it with Jonah on occasion because the bulk of the diaper ended up right in his "pee zone" offering more absorbency where I needed it.

The other fold I'm going to show you, is very similar to the angel wings fold that I've already shared. The difference is, you roll the sides in rather than folding them. The rolling action gives it the name the "Jelly Roll" fold. This offers a bit more of a barrier to keep messes contained,and it also offers a bit more absorbency in the front compared to the angel wings fold. The only reason I don't prefer this over the angel wings, is that it's much harder to accomplish with a baby who is on the move!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Prepping Your Prefolds

When you first get your prefolds, they will be large and somewhat thin, unless you have bought them used. Brand new prefolds need to be "prepped" before you can use them. They need to be pilled up, to give them absorbency and to make them shrink to the proper size. This is easy to do; you simply use your washing machine!

If you bought bleached, or "white" prefolds, you don't need to wash them as many times as if you bought unbleached. This is because the unbleached prefolds still have some of the natural oils in the fabric that need to be washed away, otherwise the oils will interfere with the absorbency of the diaper. Bleached diapers should be washed 5-7 times before using, and ubleached should be washed around 9.

Some websites advise drying the diapers after every wash, because the dryer helps pil and shrink the fabric. However I have found this to be a bit excessive, so I wash three times with hot water, then dry, I repeat this until I have reached the proper number of washings. So unbleached prefolds that should be washed around 9 times, get dried a total of three times.I use just a tiny bit of detergent with each wash.

I know some people wash their prefolds many more times than this when prepping. When I first start using a batch of prefolds, I simply change the baby's diaper more frequently. As I use the diapers longer, the more they get washed and the more absorbent they become.

The video for today is how to use and "angel wings" fold. This is the fold that I use with almost every change, and have since Jonah came home from the hospital. I have found it to be the most convenient and comprehensible. Even my husband Daryl seems to prefer putting diapers on this way!  I have noticed that it seems to be the most used diaper fold out there.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Buying your Prefolds, and Video: Securing with a Snappi

Before I start getting in depth with this post, let me first say please, please, put down the package of Gerber prefolds that you picked up at Target, Babies R Us, or Wal-mart. While these are labeled as "diapers" and they look like any other prefold, they are really only good as spit up cloths and dust rags. The reason is because of what's in them. For some "only-God-knows-why" reason, Gerber makes their prefolds stuffed with polyfill rather than absorbent cotton. Pollyfill is a non-absorbent (worse than non-absorbent, it is water repelling!) polyester "stuffing" type material. Think about what you used in your junior high home-ec class to stuff that pillow; that was most likely polyfill. Good for teddybears, car upholstry, and cheap home-ec projects, crappy for diapers.

You want to make sure you buy prefolds that are 100% absorbent material. Cotton will be the most common and budget-friendly material that you find, but you could also find hemp or bamboo prefolds as well. I have used all three and honestly have not noticed a difference in absorbency or performence. The bamboo is a little softer, and the hemp feels a little heavier/more dense, but all three work about the same. You also want to make sure that you are buying Diaper Service Quality (DSQ) prefolds. This is just to make sure they meet a high quality standard, even if you are not planning on using a diaper service to launder them.

If you decide to go with cotton, you need to choose white or unbleached. The white (bleached) have had natural oils stripped away from them using chemicals, and are a bright white. Unbleached are a natural brownish-color. You do have to wash unbleached diapers a bit more while "prepping" them for use, to wash out their natural oils. I have personally noticed that my unbleached cotton prefolds are softer than my bleached cotton prefolds. If I buy bleached, I try to make sure that the fabric was processed with a peroxide bath, not chlorine. This is for ecological as well as skin-health reasons. Chlorine bleaching makes a mess in our environment, and I'd rather not have the remnants of the process sitting next to my baby's delicate parts.

My two top picks for prefold diapers are Green Mountain Diapers, who sell Cloth-eez prefolds, and Cottonbabies Econobums. Neither of these companies have given me compensation, nor am I affiliated with them in any way aside from using their products on a daily (hourly?) basis.

Green Mountain Diapers have been my go-to since Jonah was a little bean growing inside of me. They offer several sized prefolds, all of them color coded so that if you need more, you don't have to remember what size you bought, just the color. My babies have both spent the majority of their lives (okay, so Evie that would be her whole life) in the red edged, or 15.5"x18.5" Even though these are their "medium" size, they are easily folded to fit newborns, and I just expand the folds as they grow. Admittedly, I do not have huge babies, Evie weighing in at just 15 lbs at 8 months. Jonah was 23 lbs and about 18 months when we sized up to the brown edged.

I also like that Green Mountain Diapers uses a peroxide bath to bleach their diapers, rather than chlorine. I like their price and quality, as well as their customer service.

Cottonbabies Econobum is relatively new. I do not own any, because they were not around when I was buying my prefolds. However I do have experience with them through children I've babysat and my friends' children. The first time that I picked one up and held it in my hand, my first thoughts were that they do not seem as "heavy duty" as the Green Mountain Diapers. They are much lighter, and I'm wondering what their condition will be years and years down the line. Two things I like about these diapers: their price, and the company. The full kit includes 12 prefolds, three one size covers, and a wetbag for $48.95. They can be found at Babies R Us,which means you can use one of their wonderful coupons that they always mail out, to make them even cheaper. The company, Cottonbabies, is always trying to improve their design and product. I've had wonderful customer service from them, and they really seem to listen to what their consumer base needs and wants. If I had to buy an entire diaper "stash" all over again, I would definitely get one of these boxes!

One thing you will want to make sure to pick up with any prefold order, no matter where you purchase from, is a snappi. A snappi is a great way to secure a diaper without needing to learn how to pin while holding down a squirmy baby. I've tried pins before, and while my diapers looked beautiful on my practice baby dolls, I could never get the same result on my twisty turny rolling spinning babies. I love my snappis! Here is a quick video demonstrating how to fasten one. Please excuse my fumbling around; I gave the camera man a day off!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let the Frenzy Begin!

This week is my Frenzy of Fabulous Folds! Every day, I will explore different aspects of prefold cloth diapers, and every post will include a video that demonstrates folding and securing the diapers.

To start out the Frenzy, I would like to talk about the pros of choosing a prefold diapering system, as compared to other cloth diapering systems. One of the biggest questions that has been presented to me is "why choose prefolds when there are fancier, more convenient styles of cloth diapers on the market?"

The most prominent answer is cost. If you are cloth diapering to save money, prefolds will certainly help you achieve this. If you buy your diapers individually, rather than in a startup kit, you would probably want to start out with 24 prefolds and three covers. 2 dozen prefolds would average about $70, and the covers about $30. So your initial investment would be $100. While it's true that you do have to size up as your baby grows (buy a bigger size) there are many covers on the market that grow with the baby- they snap up and down to fit babies of varying ages. I also do not size up as often as other prefold users, because I start out with slightly larger diapers and fold them to fit the baby. Evie is eight months old now, and still wearing the same diapers we put on her when she was first born. Jonah didn't need new diapers until he was about 18 months old, when we ordered toddler sized prefolds. While one size pockets and all in one diapers grow with the baby, they are $15-$20 each. Even if you conservatively buy only 20 diapers, that is $300 if you go with the cheapest option, and you would most likely need to do laundry every day.

The second reason you might choose to use prefolds is durability. The pockets that we bought for Jonah are nearing their lifespan. The elastic in the legs is stretched, the hook and loop closures (generic term for velcro) are not holding as well, and the inserts are not as absorbent as when we first started using them. On the other hand, I have prefolds that I put on my children, that my mother used for her children! These diapers last a long time!

Someone might choose prefolds because they are easier to care for. They are much more forgiving in the wash, which is one reason why I think they are more durable.

And finally, one of the biggest reasons that I like prefolds, is because they are so versatile. You can fold it to fit your baby exactly. You can fold it to hold poop in, or to be extra absorbent in the front or the back. You can fold the same diaper to fit two different sized children. You can pin it or snappi it, leave it covered or uncovered (to know right when your baby has gone potty, and to give their personal parts some air circulation!)

But aren't you sacrificing convenience?

Perhaps, however here is a great way to fold prefolds if you are short on time, have a wiggly baby, or are new to folding diapers. This is the way that my mom used prefolds. It is easy, no pins needed, and absorbs really well. It is not as trim as other ways of folding, and the diaper might shift a bit because it isn't as secure as a pinned fold. However, it does its job.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

5 things to do with a snowed in toddler

The roads outside are icy. The snow is still falling. Daddy's going to be home late from work. The kids are driving us batty! What are we supposed to do with our toddlers when we're snowed in? Here are a few ideas.

1. Have a pajama dance party: Stay in your warm PJ's, crank the music up, and bust out your best moves. Break out your music instruments, kazoos, shakers, and noise makers and play along with the music as you dance.

2. Play in the snow (inside!): Fill a large baking dish or plastic tub with snow. If you live anywhere in the midwest at the present moment, you probably don't even have to step a foot outside to reach enough snow to put in your pan! Place the pan on a tiled area, and have towels handy. Provide spoons, toy cars, measuring cups, and other fun objects for your child to bury, dig, drive, and build in the snow!

3. Read snowy books online: Visit TumbleBooks for illustrated interactive books online. Do a search on the website for "snow" and many weather relevant stories will come up for you to enjoy with your child. Many libraries now have the option of downloading books or have audio books on their website. Ask your librarian, or go to your local library's website!

4. Bake cookies: Let your little one scoop and pour ingredients into the mixer. Count the number of "scoops" of sugar, flour, etc you put in. Describe how you are cracking the egg, and what you are doing. Give your child a small dallop of cookie dough to touch and manipulate (their hands can be washed, remember!) talk to them about how gooey it is.

5. Corn meal shapes: spread a thin layer of corn meal, bread crumbs, flour, corn starch, or even their favorite flavor of pudding (remember, their hands can be washed!!!!) on the bottom of a baking sheet. You want to use the kind that has a rim around the entire sheet. Use your fingers to draw shapes, squiggles, letters, and pictures in the pan. It can be smoothed out and reused as many times as your toddler wants!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Baby Food Recipe: Peaches & Fruit Smoothie

2 cubes peaches, thawed
1 cube apricots, thawed
1/4 ripe banana
about 1 oz breastmilk (or for older infants a spoonful of plain yogurt, formula will also do)

Use a fork to mash the banana with the milk/formula/yogurt until it is smooth and creamy. Add the apricots and peaches and mix with the fork until well blended. if it is too runny, add more banana, oatmeal, or rice cereal to thicken.

To make the apricots and peaches, I put about 1/2 inch water into a glass baking dish. After thoroughly washing, I sliced eight of each fruit in half, removed the pit, and placed cut side down in the dish, baking one variety at a time. You can remove the skins if you are concerned about pesticides and chemicals.I baked in the oven at 350 F for about 15 minutes, or until the fruit was tender. I then put the fruit in the blender and blended on high until smooth, adding the cooking water as needed.

To store, I spooned the pureed fruit into ice cube trays, covered with foil, and froze over night. I removed the cubes and placed into freezer bags, and they will keep in the freezer for 3-6 months depending on the type of freezer you use. Each cube is about 1 oz on most ice cube trays!