Friday, December 31, 2010

How to Launder Cloth Diapers

First, the question that weighs heavily on the mind of anyone considering cloth diapers:

What do I do with the poop?

If your baby receives ONLY breastmilk - no solids and no formula - the diapers can go straight into the diaper pail (and subsequently the washing machine) as is. It's okay. Promise.

If your baby eats anything other than breastmilk, you'll need to get as much poo poo in the potty as possible before the diapers make it into the washer.Do so as soon as possible to minimize staining. Getting the poop out can be done in three ways:

  • A diaper sprayer - For the days when the poop is still not quite solid, a diaper sprayer is handy. It hooks up to the toilet. It's easy to make a poopy mess with a diaper sprayer, so remember EASY DOES IT. The package says it can also be used as a bidet. Just in case you've always wanted a bidet.
  • Swishing it around in the potty - I think this is yucky. I got a diaper sprayer so I could avoid it. Let's not talk about it anymore.
  • Shaking it off into the potty - Since the poop has become solid, this is what we do. It's as simple as letting it roll into the bowl. No biggie.
Now that you've got poop off your mind (or maybe not. If you still have poop questions, send 'em my way), here are instructions for both top and front loading machines. If you have a top-loading machine, hooray for you. I've used both during my diapering career and prefer the top-loading. If you have a front-loading, that's okay, too. It'll work just fine.

Top-Loading Instructions:
1. Empty your diaper pail into the washing machine, being sure to turn your pail liner inside out.
2. Run a cold soak cycle.
3. Run a hot cycle with a cold rinse. Add your detergent at this point. As I've said before, I prefer a detergent specifically for diapers, like Tiny Bubbles. DO NOT add fabric softener. If you do, you'll be so stinkin' sorry. Also, no bleach.
4. The diapers should be good to go into the dryer at this point. If you feel you must, run another cold rinse.
5. Diaper covers need to be hung up. All prefolds, liners, doublers, etc. go into the dryer.

Front-Loading Instructions:
1. Empty the diaper pail into the washing machine, being sure to turn your pail liner inside out.
2. Run a cold rinse cycle.
3. Add detergent. Again, I recommend a diaper detergent. NO FABRIC SOFTENER. No bleach, either. If your washer has an extra rinse setting, push that button. If it doesn't, you'll need to do an extra rinse after the wash cycle.
4. Run a hot cycle with a cold rinse.
5. See Step 3 about further rinsing.
6. Diaper covers need to be hung up. All prefolds, liners, doublers, etc. go into the dryer.

Now back to poop. It stains. Even if you spray if off as soon as you change the diaper. Not to worry, though, friends. Enter the handy dandy clothesline. If you leave your stained diapers out in the sun, the poop stains will bleach out. Yes, it's that easy. You can actually dry your diapers on the clothesline any ol' time to save energy on drying, but I'll be honest with you. I've done the drying on the clothesline thing exactly once because it's pretty much impossible to make it outside with two babies safely, let alone keep them occupied while I hang one million diapers, lug everything/everyone back into the house, keep checking for dryness... you get the picture. But I bet it would be easier with one. Maybe even a nice little escape from the house.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Christmas Aftermath

I always start out the Christmas season with lots of enthusiasm... putting up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, decking my halls, planning my contributions to gatherings, wrapping the gifts just so, grinning like a fool in the middle of a department store when they play a holiday song from my high school band days. Then about a week before Christmas, I'm just over it. When the hubby brings home a gift that needs wrapping, I'm slinging gift bags around and wondering if one that's only a little birthday-oriented would pass, flipping the radio off because I CANNOT handle one more pop tartlet's histrionic wailing (Really, Christina Aguilera? You're THAT passionate about everybody being home for Christmas?), and avoiding most public spaces because I think we all know that there's a definite point at which pleasantly contagious holiday cheer turns to something akin to road rage.

So now that Christmas celebrations are over, I'm ready to move on with life.

But thanks to our very generous family (and I really am grateful - do NOT read any sarcasm into that), we have a lot. A LOT. of new toys. The facts:

1. Most of these toys have to make it back our apartment 1,400 miles away... somehow. The easy part will be stuffing some of them into the suitcases. The frugalista part of me is pained by the idea of shipping some of them, but that will have to be part of the toy evacuation plan as well. And then we'll leave some behind that they're a little too young for that can be brought in small installments with visiting family.

2. We're not set up for this many toys at the apartment. Some organization is in order. I'm now in the market for the cheapest, easiest-to-stuff-in-a-moving-van toy storage system.

3. I think it might be the Itso system at Target. It's a cube system with available fabric bins and doors, which is essential since I like to hide mess. I know that the toys will be in a big pile, but I don't want to have to LOOK at the pile.

Do you have a genius toy organization system or know of one? It would please me so.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tips For Traveling With Babies (And A Dog): Air Travel

I'm writing this based on my recent and harrowing experience of flying with two infants and a dog. It was a tough day, and by the end of it, I was about as tired as I've ever been, but we survived. Flying with two babies wouldn't be too bad. Flying with a dog wouldn't be too bad. Flying with one baby and one dog wouldn't be too bad (given that two adults were also flying). But I think these tips would come in handy in any of those scenarios.

1. Be kind to older children, for they may entertain your babies.

2. Smile at the flight attendants. Laugh at their jokes. They are the people who bring you spoons and extra water and who hold your babies when you're trying to dig your way out of the pile of stuff on your lap.

3. Sedate the dog. Unless you have the world's most well-behaved pooch, it's just what has to be done.

4. Don't bring any carry-on luggage. You've got to understand that this is coming from a woman who spent an entire week in Paris with only a carry-on. I have never, never, never checked luggage before this trip, but given that we also had two babies, a double stroller, a diaper bag, and a dog to lug around, we would have needed to grow extra arms to deal with any carry-ons in the airport. And trying to scoot down the aisles of the plane with that list of stuff (minus the stroller, which is checked at the gate) was miserable enough. Please, please, whatever you do, don't bring any carry-ons.

5. Bring the stroller and the car seats. Check with your airline, but as far as I know, the stroller and car seats always count as luggage freebies. The stroller can be used at the airport and gets checked at the gate. Then - voila! - it's waiting for you when you get off the plane. 

6. Wait until everyone else has gotten off the plane before you try to get up. Just cool your jets. Ha. Ha.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tips For Traveling With Babies: The Hotel Room

Sleeping Arrangements: Personally, I don't think it's worth it to waste car space on bringing your own pack and play(s). Most hotels have them on the premises, and you can call the hotel when you book your room to reserve them. If you find yourself in a spot where there aren't any portable cribs available, co-sleeping is the way to go. We get a room with two beds, and each take a baby to bed with us. While I've been comfortable co-sleeping since they were tiny, my husband was afraid he'd roll on top of somebody when they were younger. Moms have a co-sleeping instinct that dads don't. If you have a little little one, take this into consideration.

Where to Play: This will only work up to a certain mobility point, but we've had success with creating a ghetto playpen of sorts. We put a sleeping bag down on the floor (a large blanket would work just as well) and surround it with a wall of all of the crap we have to travel with - case of diapers, suitcases, cooler, etc. Sort of like this:

See the stain in the corner? I didn't when we were staying there. Ewwww!

The Bath: I've seen 20/20 episodes that make me fear for my children's tushies should I put them in the tub bare-bottomed. Instead, we get some extra towels and put one down on the bottom of the tub like a bath mat.

Where to Eat: When eating in high chairs at a restaurant or outside on a picnic blanket isn't possible, spread some hotel towels out and do the best you can on the bed. At the hotel's breakfast buffet, be sure to snag extra disposable spoons and bowls for baby feeding purposes. You can do dishes some other dang time.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Little Man

My little guy has gotten really, REALLY good at pulling himself up on the furniture and climbing the stairs (Hello, house full of baby gates). What with the crawling and cruising, you can't keep this little guy still. But every now and then, I get a glimpse of this:

And I know that that sweet state is the standard I'm always going to carry around with me, because regardless of where he goes or what he does, I know that at a fundamental level, that's who he is.

I see how curious my little man is about his daddy. How he watches his every move with already idolizing eyes. I know that he'll always love me, but every day he's becoming less and less my boy.

Does he already find it strange that when he does crawl in my lap, I bury my nose deep in his neck to find what's left of that intoxicating baby smell? Doubtless, he doesn't understand that I'm trying desperately to savor this blink-and-you'll miss it time in both our lives.
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Cloth Diaper Breakdown

Prefolds - Prefolds are the cheapest way to go. The trade-off is that there's some more folding and fastening involved than with other types of diapers. Prefolds are perfect for little babies since they stay pretty still during diaper changes (when you're having to do that folding and fastening) and because they generally fit newborns better than other diapers. If you decide to use prefolds, a few things to keep in mind:
  • Be sure to buy Chinese or Indian prefolds, which put the Gerber ones to shame.
  • Buy Snappis to fasten them. Don't use pins. Pins are why people think they hate cloth diapers. Well, one reason.
  • You'll need to get covers for them. Thirsties are great.
Pocket - Pocket diapers consist of a shell that has a, well, pocket that you stuff an insert into. The beauty of the pocket diaper is that you've got a lot of control over just how absorbent the diaper is. For example, if you're overnight diapering, you can put a big ol' insert in - or maybe even two inserts. Pro: Easy to adapt to different situations. Con: They have to be reassembled every time you do the laundry.

All-In-One (AIO) - These are the priciest of the cloth diapering options, but still waaaay cheaper than disposables. If you find a daycare that will accept cloth diapers, AIOs are usually what they require. AIOs pretty much work like disposables except that they have to be laundered. Pros: Convenience, easiest to teach to family members and babysitters. Cons: Cost, Can't alter absorbency much

One-Size - The idea here is that the one diaper should work from the newborn days through potty training days. However, I'd say the newborn who fits a one-size is rare. After the newborn days, though, a one-size can work for a long time. Pro: Cheaper than fitteds in the long run. Con: Less exact fit than fitted diapers.

Fitted - If you choose fitted diapers, you'll have to buy several sizes over the course of your diapering career. Pro: Exact fit. Con: More expensive in the long run than one-size diapers.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baby Foodie First Birthday Cupcakes

For their first birthday, I want the babies to have a treat, but I'm also not ready to turn them loose on the sugar. Given our family's history of diabetes (my great grandmother had her foot amputated!) and my own insulin resistance, I want to withhold the really sugary stuff for as long as possible. Here's my solution. The cake part gets much of its flavor and sweetness from bananas, a familiar flavor for most babies. The frosting is made of cream cheese. Not to toot my own horn, but these are goooood - not too sweet, but with a rich flavor.

Baby Foodie First Birthday Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 block of cream cheese
1/4 c cane sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
2/3 c cane sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
3 large, ripe bananas
2 eggs
3/4 c milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Take cream cheese out of the fridge to soften and preheat oven to 350..
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
3. Mash the bananas in another mixing bowl.
4. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla, and whisk until combined.
5. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together until a batter is formed.
6. Fill muffin tins about 3/4 full (ETA: Don't forget the cupcake papers!).
7. Bake at 350 for 20ish minutes, depending on your oven's particular type of crazy.
8. When cream cheese has softened, mix with the sugar and vanilla.
9. Frost when cupcakes have cooled.
10. Ta da!
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tips For Traveling With Babies: The Car

1. First, the obvious: Try your best to do the driving during the normal nap times.

2. What was once trash is now treasure. When you finish with your bottled water, hand the bottle back to Baby. Even better, leave a little bit of water for Baby to slosh around. Make sure that lid is on TIGHT.

3. If you're driving for more than three hours or so, give Baby a break from the car seat, even if you would otherwise push through. Look for a rest stop with a grassy knoll, and put down a blanket for Baby. If it's too chilly, stop at a retail establishment and wear Baby around the joint.

4. Make your meals picnics. Either pack a meal or stop somewhere and send one of the adults in for carry-out. We like Cracker Barrel because A)We're Southern, B) You can get their vegetable plate for a reasonable price (What? Healthy carry-out?!), and C) There's usually a grassy area somewhere around the parking lot for spreading out the blanket.

5. Get Baby out of that car seat as much as possible. If you stop for gas, out of the seat. If you stop to pee, out of the seat.

6. Do you have a mirror on the back of the seat Baby sits in? If not, how do you survive? You MUST have a mirror on the back of the seat.

7. With twins, we like to rotate the car toys at every stop. Keeps it fresh.

8. NEVER, NO MATTER WHAT plan on driving more than about 5 1/2 hours in a day. You'd be a fool to even try any more. A sorry, sorry fool facing the biggest meltdown EVER.

Any reader tips? What's the longest trip you've ever made by car with Baby? What's your baby's driving time limit?
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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Snapshots of Cute Stuff 12/4/10

One of my big goals for this week was to take the Christmas card photo. I had a good plan: matching pajamas in front of the blazing fireplace, wrapped gifts framing the scene. Then when I went to take the photo, there just wasn't enough light to go without a flash, and no way was I using a flash for this photo. So I went to Plan B: matching pajamas in the glider in the nursery, holding a wrapped gift to trick them into being still-ish. There was *almost* enough light, but, as my friend Mandy will tell you, two babies in a chair are not easy to photograph. Seventy frames later, this is the best of the bunch. We're moving onto Plan C.

We started the Read Aloud Advent Calendar. Veda got to choose first.

Linus picked a good one the next day. Don't you love the Llama Llama books?!

Linus is newly cruising, and it turns out that gift wrap bows are the perfect motivation.

With the weather being so nice, we were happy to return to the park. They've grown to love swinging even more.

Imagine the giggles. Melt...

We had our first shoe fitting this week. These are the adorable results:

This has been Snapshots of Cute Stuff.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Best Baby Registry Ever: Cloth Diapers Edition

Daytime Diapers - There are several types of cloth diapers and many, many brands of cloth diapers. It's way too much to get into in this post. Therefore, I'll do a post later next week on types of cloth diapers. Promise. Whatever you choose, plan on having enough to make it through at least two days before you have to do laundry.

Overnight Diapers - If you choose to do cloth diapers for overnight, you need to change the diaper each time Baby wakes. You're going to need something with more absorbancy, so go with a pocket diaper (Don't worry. I'll explain what pocket diaper means in that post next week.), a good insert, and a liner. Now for some mommy-to-mommy honesty... Do you like changing diapers in the middle of the night? No? Then use disposables just for nighttime. You don't have to change them each time Baby wakes, and that makes it easier for both of you to get back to sleep.

Wipes - Choose some nice, soft flannel wipes. I like these by Punkin Butt. Weird confession: I enjoy folding the wipes when they come out of the laundry. It's relaxing in an odd sort of way.

Wipes Warmer - This Prince Lionheart model works great with cloth wipes. Also be sure to register for the "Everfresh Replacement Pillows".

Wipes Solution - I love, love, love Washy Wafers Wipes Solution. They're little wafers that dissolve in warm water. For convenience I keep a measuring cup and spoon for mixing on my changing table. When you've got it mixed up, you just pour it over the wipes in your wipes warmer.

Diaper Pail - All you need is a tall garbage can with a flip-top lid. That's it.

Pail Liner - You'll need two of these so that you'll have a spare to line the pail with while you're doing diaper laundry.

Pail Powder - Pail powder is optional and gets sprinkled in the pail to help cover up any lovely smells that might escape. There are some recipes on the web for making your own, but I'm too intimidated by essential oils to attempt it. Perhaps you're braver than I. We use the Rockin' Green powder, partly because I love that they name their scents after bands that I loved in high school. For example, Smashing Watermelons.

Wet Bag - If you're adament about having a wet bag for your diaper bag, I've used these, and they're great - and very cute. My problem is that I always forget to put them back in the diaper bag (which I keep in the car) when I take them out of the laundry. If this sounds like something you might do, Munchkin/Arm & Hammer make a fine little product that dispenses little bags. Target sells it, although I couldn't locate it on their website. It's very similar to a doggie pick-up bag dispenser. Also good for holding spit-up casualties.

Diaper-Area Ointment - Cloth-diapered babies tend to get less diaper rash, so my babies are still using the same Magic Stick that we started out with. The beauty of this product is that it's hands-free. Because a person should only have to touch so much butt. If you're a twin mommy or twin mommy-to-be, you'll need one per butt. Note: Don't use regular diaper ointment creams because they can build up on your diapers, which could lead to them repelling stuff, which is the last thing you need your diapers to do.

Detergent - Some people do okay with the regular detergent they wash all of their laundry in. Not my kids. The rashes looked rather painful. I've used both Tiny Bubbles and the Bumgenius detergents, and both work great. They're specifically designed for cloth diapers, so they don't contain any fragrances or anything that will build up on your diapers that would cause you to have to strip them. The not having to strip them thing might be reason enough alone to go with a cloth diaper detergent.

And now I feel the need to write a post about cloth diaper laundry...
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December Challenge: Holiday Survival and Thrival

When you're a mommy, time tends to fly by and things have a way of sneaking up on you in a whole new sort of way. Case in point - it's December. What?!

Last week I decided to sit down and make a list of all of the traditions I want to establish for our new little family. It's a pretty long list, so here's a portion of it to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

1. See A Christmas Carol
2. See The Nutcracker
3. Go to a parade
4. See Santa
5. Advent calendar
6. Annual video of kids
7. Wrapping gifts for family members with kids
8. Read Aloud Advent Calendar
9. Make a gingerbread house
10. Donate old toys
11. Watch Rudolph, Charlie Brown, The Grinch, and Frosty
12. Watch It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and National Lampoon's

Whew! It's all great stuff, right? Some of this stuff will have to wait until we're a little older, but you get the picture.

Then there are all the chores and errands associated with the holidays, so I made a To Do list.

Uh oh.

That's a lot of stuff. A lot. And I don't move around all free and willy nilly like I used to.

So I printed out a calendar and started plugging my stuff into it. I now have a calendar with every day filled out with a tradition(s) and/or chore(s) to accomplish. As things happen, I'm checking them off. Sometimes things happen ahead of schedule (gifts bought today - yippee!), and some have to be reshuffled (not enough light to take the Christmas card picture today- boo!), but the calendar helps me feel like I can get it all done.

Now let's talk about the fun stuff.

In search of some ideas for great traditions to establish with the kids, I bought Family Fun Magazine's Christmas issue. It is SO worth it. I got several great ideas, but my favorite one is the Read Aloud Advent Calendar (#8 above). I'm working on building their library of Christmas and Winter-themed books. Eventually we'll have 24. I'll wrap them all up, they'll get to unwrap one for each day in December, and then we'll read the book together. How fun is that?! I'm also planning to make one of the books an activity or coloring book each year... well, not this year... but later.

What about you, readers? What holiday tradition are you super excited about sharing with your little ones this year?
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