Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Sweetie Pea,

You are 16 months old now. So why are you suddenly sleeping like a newborn? There's no need to be up 5 times at night and wake Mommy for the day at 4:30 am. You've done this a bunch of nights in a row now, so don't go thinking this is our new normal. Mommy has to work. Mommy needs sleep. Please, please have mercy on Mommy. She's fried.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ode to Sheep

Oh fluffy sheep, with your wool so warm
and water repellent to weather the storm
of gallons of pee throughout the long night
if I could hug you and kiss you, I think I just might!

You see Sweets used to wake with jammies so wet
his diapers were leaky (and not comfy, I'll bet!)
But then you gave us your wool and your lanolin
to make bulletproof diaper covers - win!

And now Sweetie wakes with a gleam in his eye
that says to me "Mommy, my jammies are dry!"

What no one told me about cloth diapering was how challenging overnight diapering can be. I had been using one of our pocket diapers stuffed with 2 microfiber inserts at night, and it worked for awhile, until it was no longer holding up to 11 hours of toddler pee and Sweets was waking up at 4 am with wet pajamas. I can't have that. So I hit up the cloth diaper boards and my local cloth diaper store and the suggestion everywhere was wool, wool, WOOL. Wool is apparently a super fiber and can hold something crazy like 60% of its weight in moisture before it feels wet to the touch. And it's naturally antimicrobial too, so it can go weeks between washes without retaining odors. Initially, I was fearful, thinking wool would require a ton of complicated care. But I did my research and talked to a bunch of wool-loving mamas and it's really pretty simple. The best advice I was given was "don't fear the wool!" and that mama was right. How can you be afraid of this?

Wool is used as a diaper cover, not a diaper itself, so it does require something underneath it. The wonderful owner of my local CD store recommended the Thirsties Duo Fab Fitted diaper for overnight and I am totally in love with it, not only because it is soft, squishy and adorable (see below), but because it absorbs tons of wetness.

Thirsties Duo Fab Fitted Diaper Size 2, Ocean Blue

Its unique channel design allows me to stuff it with an additional hemp insert for overnight. That's a fluffy booty!

I initially tried the Fab Fitted with a Thirsties Duo diaper cover and it still resulted in wet pjs! So I asked my incredibly talented friend Liz of Grey Poodle Designs if she would knit me a wool soaker and she graciously agreed. I sent her a picture of a wool cover pattern that I liked along with Sweetie Pea's measurements and she whipped this up in no time! 

Here is Sweets' new soaker over his fitted diaper. It's so soft and stretchy! And it is bullet.proof. No more wet jams! When he wakes up, the inside of the soaker is ever so slightly damp. I toss it over my shower curtain rod and it dries right up for me to use again that night. Liz did an amazing job! Oh, and please excuse my ridiculous outfit...I grab the first comfy pair of pants and fuzzy socks that my hands touch when I get home from work ;)

The rear view.

I love that it conforms to Sweets' body with no velcro or snaps to dig into him anywhere.

Thank you sheep, and thank you Liz. We love dry jams!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey Day Recap

What a busy week it's been! Thankfully I didn't host Thanksgiving (and will gracefully be able to avoid that task for the duration of time that we live in this tiny house) but there always seems to be holiday prep, doesn't there? For me, it's mostly been starting my Christmas shopping and getting ready to decorate the house. Last year I was like a walking zombie at Christmas time. I had just gone back to work after maternity leave and my kid was sleeping like .007637 minutes a night. I managed to get up a few measley decorations, but we didn't put up a tree, and I was so unenthused about shopping. So my goal is to make up for it this year, now that Sweets is at a super fun age for Christmas (and we've got the sleep and working mom thing mostly figured out).

BUT, before all things Christmas come all things Turkey. Here's a little review of our Turkey Day with Hubs' family:

The day started with Tom the Blue Heron paying us a visit. He comes around periodically to hunt frogs in our creek, and he is so named because one day Sweets and I were watching him out the window and I asked him what the heron's name was and Sweets said "Tom!" I suspect this was because Thomas the Train was on TV at the time ;) Tom is awesome, we love it when he stops by!

Then we headed over to GiGi's house (Hubs' grandma) for the day. How grown-up does Sweetie Pea look in his baby argyle? I could squish him he looked so cute.

While the ladies worked in the kitchen, Sweets mingled with the menfolk and read some books with Uncle B.

And then...the moment I had been waiting for! Sweetie Pea's first Thanksgiving dinner! I had visions of him cramming his little mouth with turkey and mashed potatoes and maybe even cranberry sauce. And what do you think he ate? This?

Ha ha ha. No.

He ate this:

Yeah, turkey dinner FAIL. He wouldn't touch any of it. Oh well. Maybe next year.

And then we shook off our turkey comas to take this family picture in honor of Hubs' amazing cousin E, who was home for the holiday on leave from the United States Naval Academy. Go E!

Sweets was already in bed. He had a big day!

Onward to Christmas - I can't wait!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

California Baby {Product Review}

Being the obsessive planner that I am, one thing that I never really gave much thought to as I prepared for Sweetie Pea's arrival was what kind of bath and body products I would use on him. I simply figured I'd use Johnson and Johnson like the rest of the planet. And after all, I did post here about my love of the J & J Bedtime Bath products. But recently I have read several disturbing articles describing how Johnson and Johnson baby wash contains known carcinogens, and that the company has been reprimanded by the FDA more than once for this. Thanks alot, Johnson and Johnson. I trusted you when you marketed your products as safe and gentle for my child. Anyway, it goes without saying that I no longer use their baby wash. I was given a California Baby Calming gift set as a shower gift, and I used it up quickly when Sweets was a newborn, because I really liked it. The only reason I didn't continue using it at the time was that it was higher-priced and harder to find that it's less natural counterparts. But so be it! I don't have a problem paying a bit more and searching a bit harder to find a safe, natural product to use on my sweet baby.

California Baby products were developed by a mom who wanted something gentle and safe to use on her own baby. She literally began mixing things in her kitchen, started cold-calling various chemists to help her develop her formula, and now her line of natural baby-care products has erupted into shampoos, washes, lotions and bubble baths that are recommended by pediatricians, dermatologists and other mamas. My first experience with California Baby was their signature item, the Calming Shampoo and Body Wash:
I truly love this product. It has a fresh, earthy, lavender fragrance, and since it's what I used on Sweets when he was brand new, using it always takes me back to those first weeks of his little life. It's tear-free of course, and I suds him up from head to toe every night. It lathers well and rinses clean and it has never dried out his skin or caused any irritation. I have been known to use it on myself when I'm out of body wash (and also when I'm not ;). Many of the Calming products happen to be available at Target, which is great. I like the large 19 oz size of this body wash, which I've found at Buy Buy Baby, and I love that I can use one of their 20% off coupons on it. Best of all, it's free of all the nasty un-pronounceables you find in so many other products! 

Inspired by my love of the Calming Body Wash, I decided to branch out when California Baby launched their new holiday line. I purchased their Holiday Cheer bubble bath, which is infused with a scrumptious blend of orange, lavender and vanilla essential oils:
Yum.Eeee. This bubble bath smells so light and fresh, produces tons of fluffy bubbles, and they include a bubble wand in the container which is so much fun! I let Sweets try this out first, but after I put him to bed that night I definitely ran myself a Holiday Cheer bubble bath and it was blissful. I sank into that tub with my Parents magazine and emerged smelling all fruity and flowery and relaxed. The only drawback is that as far as I can tell, the Holiday Cheer products are only available on the California Baby website. But the container is quite generously-sized, so I know I won't need to purchase another until at least next winter. Sweets loved this bubble bath too! 

Since I'm a sucker for free shipping promotions, I also purchased the Colds and Flu survival kit, since I have a feeling it's going to be a loooong winter on the illness front. Luckily we haven't had to bust it out yet, but I am actually looking forward to trying it when the time comes. The kit includes California Baby's Colds and Flu bubble bath, massage oil, and spritzer spray, all of which are enhanced with essential oils of Douglas Fir and Eucalyptus. I'll keep you posted!

I was not provided with any of the above products for review purposes, I purchased them for our own use. These opinions are strictly mine and I am in no way affiliated with California Baby.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The best thing about cold weather...

...is cold weather comfort food! Not that I don't love an entire meal cooked on the grill under the summer sun, but there is something to be said for your winter classics, in this case, chicken noodle soup and apple crisp. Now. I'm not normally a chicken noodle soup kind of gal. I don't know exactly why, it's just never really been my cup of tea. But then I saw this recipe in Good Housekeeping and it looked so good, I just had to try it. Bonus: the leftovers turned into chicken pot pie the next night - score!
This soup required me to purchase two things I've never bought before: fennel and bone-in chicken. Seriously, I've never bought chicken with the bones in it before. And I was skeptical about the fennel, because I don't like anise, but it sort of melted into the broth and you couldn't pick out the flavor. The other thing about this soup that I loved is that it simmers all day in the crockpot, which makes it so flavorful and tender. It has all kinds of yummy things in it that made it very complex-tasting, not bland. It was definitely reminiscent of......pot. Ha! Now you think I'm crazy. Or irresponsible. Or both. Let me explain. My extended family has this tradition - on Labor Day weekend we all get together at my aunt and uncle's cabin and they put chicken and veggies and herbs and spices into a cast-iron pot and cook it over an open fire all day. We call it simply Pot - not The Pot or A Pot or Our Pot, just Pot. And this soup made me think of it and all it's deliciousness (I think it's the dill). It was awesome and hearty and Hubs said it was the best chicken soup he's ever had. For what it's worth, Sweets did not agree ;) Anyway, instead of typing all 3 of these recipes out, I opted to link to them if you're interested in trying them out. 

So to make this delicious chicken soup, head on over to: Good Housekeeping's Chicken Soup

As if the soup wasn't fantastic enough, it's two-for-one recipe - LOVE. Cook it once, eat it twice. The pot pie assembled so quickly and easily that I threw it together in the time it took Hubs to give Sweetie Pea his bath. I made it the same night I made the soup, so the next night (a busy Monday), all I had to do when I got home from work was toss it in the oven, and voila! A hot meal. We found it a bit bland as it was, but a shake of garlic salt was all it needed to make it super tasty. 

And what's a great meal without a great dessert? My friend DMC raved about this Butterscotch Apple Crisp recipe from The Neelys. And she was right to. It is...OMG. I almost have no words (because my mouth is full of apple crisp). Amazing. And so easy! It calls for a garnish of butter pecan ice cream, but we didn't have any, so I used whipped cream instead. All 3 of us polished off our respective bowls and I *may* have gone back for seconds ;)

Please pardon these mediocre pictures. All my natural light is long gone by dinner time these days!

Do yourself a favor and make this apple crisp: The Neely's Butterscotch Apple Crisp

Happy Autumn!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cool Rider

Sweets got the Fisher Price Stride to Ride Dino for his first birthday back in August and he's had a ball with it ever since. First he learned to push it, which really helped his walking skills take off. Now that he's such a big walking man, he has learned to ride the dino, which thrills Hubs. He thinks it bodes well for motorcycle racing and snowmobile riding in the future ;) This video is from the night Sweets figured out the logistics (kinda) of taking Dino for a spin.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A different kind of education

Part of my job as a school counselor in my large, urban district is to coordinate my school's attendance procedures, which often means trying to track down students who are chronically truant or have never even set foot in the building. It can be a daunting task, to say the least. But this week, it has been a humbling and very educational experience that I haven't been able to stop thinking about.

After being unable to reach a handful of students via phone and in writing, a colleague of mine and I decided to hop in the car and do some home visits. It's lucky for me that my coworker is a formidable-looking African-American man who himself grew up in the district we work for because let's face it, I'm the whitest white girl you ever met and we were headed to some of the city's worst neighborhoods. And I totally wasn't prepared for what we encountered. I've been in this district for six years now and in that time I've worked with hundreds of kids. But I've never been to any of their homes. One afternoon of knocking on doors has given me a completely new perspective on what they're dealing with every day. We encountered a landlord who had just evicted the family we were looking for and could care less where they were or if they were safe. We stood on porches with the smells of stale cigarette smoke, moth balls or bleach wafting out to us. We saw moldy, rotted wood floors that children play on, and talked to a teenager whose parent was no longer even living in his home. We drove down streets our students use to walk to school, streets where dealers stepped off the curb to approach our car, but ended up thinking better of it ("the only reason they didn't come up here is because you're in the car," my coworker explained, "and i'm wearing a tie. They probably think we're cops.") Upon glimpsing our last stop, an apartment building in what may be the city's most dangerous neighborhood, my colleague struggled with not wanting to take me in with him, but not wanting to leave me in the car, either. And this is where our students live. How can we expect them to focus on school sometimes?

My mama heart is also aching for these mothers. Every day, they send their children out the door into this environment. These are the homes they bring their new babies to live in. I can't imagine what they think and feel every day. And even though we don't love our little house, it made me so grateful for what we have, and for what Sweetie Pea will have growing up.

What a moving and profound couple of hours.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

SWHFT$: Grocery Shopping

Today I am linking up with Shannon over at Baby Shmizz to discuss a subject near and dear to my heart: the grocery budget. Shannon has a weekly blog hop called She Works Hard for the Money that's all about the things we do to save some dough and even put a little in our pockets from time to time. I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to blog about one of the biggest things I do to save our family money. If you know me in real life, you probably know that I have a very strict grocery budget of $80 per week for our family of 3. I have often been asked "how do you DO that?" So today I'm going to tell you :)

First let me discuss the evolution of that $80 figure. My mom has always been great at saving money and scoring deals. When my brother and I were living at home, she could feed our family of 4 on $80 a week! No lie. Her approach was simple: she built her grocery list around the sale flyer each week, cut coupons, and avoided pricey or impulse buys. So when I moved into my studio apartment after graduating from grad school, I decided (rather arbitrarily) that my grocery budget would be $40 a week. I figured if my mom could feed 4 people on $80, I could feed lil' ole me on $40. It worked great for me, even without clipping coupons or even looking at the sale ad. Fast forward a few years: I'm now married to Hubs (who can EAT) and the $40 per week grocery budget isn't cutting it anymore. So, logically, I doubled it. And that's how I arrived at that number, and I haven't budged from it ever since. Here's how I keep the grocery budget in check, even with the addition of Sweetie Pea (who's eating more and more every day!):

  • I always, always, always, without fail, plan a weekly menu before going shopping. If I know what I'm going to serve each day, there's no last minute running to the grocery store and overspending. 
  • I plan for leftovers at least 2 nights a week. In addition to saving money, this strategy is wonderful because it means I'm not cooking every night. Two nights a week I make a meal that will feed us the next night as well. 
  • When I make a soup or stew, I double the recipe and freeze the extra. A few weeks down the road, I can pull it out of the freezer for a fast, cheap meal (maybe add a salad or rolls). 
  • Beans are our friend! We don't eat a lot of meat in our house, which saves us a ton of money. Plus we really like black, kidney and cannellini beans, and lentils. They are tasty and super healthy!
  • One night a week, we eat cheap. That means Annie's organic mac and cheese, grilled cheese and sweet potato fries, or tuna pita pockets. It's amazing how far that cheap meal will stretch the grocery money.
  • I clip coupons from the Sunday circular, and I try to combine them with them a sale item whenever I can. It is so satisfying to get something like deodorant for 89 cents or less.
  • I just say no to expensive items. I used to be able to include things like Hubs' overpriced razor refills or my Bumble and Bumble shampoo on the weekly grocery list, but when Sweets came along I needed that money to go further, so I booted them off the list. Sorry Hubs.
  • I always shop with a calculator. You can call me a dork if you want, but my trusty calculator keeps me from blowing the budget. If I see that I'm getting close to my limit, I remove some items that can wait until next week. 
  • I breastfed and we cloth diaper. Not having to buy formula and diapers saves us like a jillion dollars. For reals.
I hope this is helpful! For me, it's become kind of like a game I play when I hit the grocery store every weekend. Alright, now I'm officially a dork. I'm ok with it.