Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wool: The Big Change

Our first soaker, made by my awesome friend!
We've been cloth diapering for quite some time now and always used PUL covers. I have no ill-will towards said covers. That said, I still wanted to try something new and more natural. I've been interested in wool soakers for a while because Amy at Anktangle raves about them. But something kept me from taking the plunge. Maybe it was the cost or the perceived extra care. Or just a different system. I have sort of an issue with using different systems when it comes to cloth diapering. I want everything to be the same every time. So I stayed away.
But then I remembered my trusty friend who knits and crochets. Surely she would make me one on the cheap (or as a gift!) to try out before diving in! Low and behold, she agreed and had it done within the week. I got it. I loved it. I had no idea what to do with it. So I went searching on Amy's blog and found instructions on lanolizing Lydia's new cover. Super simple, I couldn't believe it! So I went to work lanolizing the soaker and laid it out to dry. The lanolizing itself is so quick and easy, I sort of feel silly that I was nervous about it. The hard part is the wait because it does take a while to dry. I REALLY wanted to cram my tiny baby into it!
Finally, the hour had come. I put her prefold on like I always do and then the soaker. SO CUTE! I was so apprehensive - it was hard to imagine that this cute little knitted nicker would actually stay dry. I kept feeling her little tushy, making sure she wasn't leaking. I may have been extra gun shy because she had leaked on me earlier in the day through a PUL cover. To my surprise and happiness, NO LEAKING! I'm still a little in shock. I wasn't a believer enough to leave her in the soaker overnight, however. We bed share and I just knew I'd be up at 3AM, changing sheets while my wet baby and groggy husband stood by. Since then, though, we've used the soaker all day and all night on a few occasions. I'm converted! I absolutely love our soaker! I'm also going to have my friend make a few for our two year old to slip on at night. Though she's pretty good about using the potty during waking hours, night time is a different story. And with her refusal to wear diapers, a soaker might be up her alley. And mine. Because changing wet sheets and a wet toddler in the middle of the night is less than exciting.

Lydia sporting her soaker
Thinking of making the switch? Here are some fun facts I have learned that might persuade you:
  • Wool is 100% natural and renewable (as if you needed me to tell you that).
  • Wool is super breathable.  
  • A soaker will absorb liquid AND repel liquid at the same time.It's magic.
  • Great for all seasons - keeping baby cool in summer, warm in winter. Again with the magic.
Here are some awesome resources should you require further convincing:
Amy at Anktangle's Lanolizing Instructional.
Amy also has an awesome shop where she sells her soakers and other awesome tidbits.
That Mama Gretchen hosted 'Wool Week' last year and has some great posts from all the wool greats.
Hobo Mama shares and breaks down wool myths.

The Artful Mama shares how she up-cycles wool sweaters and how she travels with wool

Friday, September 7, 2012

Paperless House

Paperless house. It's true! Over the past year, we've gone completely paperless here. It was intimidating at first, to be honest. But now, it's a way of life. It's hard to do things the 'old way' - even if it's at someone else's house. For example: using paper plates. Silly, but so weird to do! Here are the ways we've gotten around paper in our house:
Diaper stash
  1. Disposable Diapers: This was the first thing we ever changed. And not for the fact that we were going through diapers at the speed of light. But because they were cheap. We're cheap. Easy to make the change. We started four years ago with Esther, but weren't super committed. It got better with Abigail. And now, at a month old, Lydia has never worn a disposable diaper. We're pretty proud of that! After more research we've found that disposables contain chemicals that we really don't want on our baby's skin or to put into the environment. Those weren't intentional reasons - just bonus reasons! Score! We've used a few different types and brands and settled on the absolute cheapest way to go: prefolds and covers. We like Flip covers because they're adjustable and durable. Some people use a wide variety of diapers, but I just wanted a nice, streamlined process.
  2. Disposable Baby Wipes: This took me a while, too, really out of shear laziness. I thought it wasn't a big deal and blah blah blah. But really, if you're going to cloth diaper, you should definitely cloth wipe. It's silly to have to put the soiled cloth diaper into one receptacle and the wipes into another. Why not streamline? I have several friends who make their own wipes, which is awesome and easy. I just went to Toys R Us and bought cheap wash cloths (did you read I'm lazy?). They do the trick! I use water in a spray bottle when they're super little and add a few drops of tea tree oil when they're older (simply to protect that tiny newbie skin. And really, with an exclusively breast fed baby, you won't need more than water anyway). 
  3. Paper Plates: Definitely the easiest change. Just stopped buying them. That simple. Last year for Christmas, we received Correlle dishes - they don't take up a lot of space and are super easy to wash. Perfect solution for us. They're also chip and break resistant, which is great with kids. I have broken one plate - I dropped it on the tile floor. And my sister-in-law's cats have broken a large number of them, which is hilarious, but maybe for another post. For us, they work out great. 
  4. Paper Napkins: This one took us a while. We don't use napkins a ton, but definitely find the need on
    Cloth napkins
    occasion. I recently made up 10 or so cloth napkins out of cheap cotton. Now, I wanted the corners to look professional - mitered corners. It took my pregnant brain forever to figure this out and even required the help of the husband to accomplish. Very impressive, fancy corners. Very impressive. Regardless, I did it and they don't look like a dumpster find, so I'm happy. I think we actually use them more than we did paper napkins. I know for sure the girls do because of the novelty - apparently wiping your face a bajillion times with a cloth napkin during a meal is amazing. Who knew? 
  5. Paper Towels: It took us a long time to nix the paper towels. They're just so convenient!! And we were sort of addicted, using them for everything from spills, to household cleaning, to wiping out the cast iron pans, to cleaning off little faces. So easy! But alas, we have discontinued use and moved to rags. We have some specific rags for food stuffs - wiping out pans and whatnot. And specific rags for cleaning. They work pretty well, sometimes even better! 
  6. Cotton Balls: A silly little simple thing that we really don't use often in our home, but still a very easy change to make. I just took an old cotton shirt and cut it up into nice little squares (I didn't even finish the edges). So easy to use and they take up no space to store. (well, SOME, but not a lot). I mostly use them for cleaning off eye makeup. I have a little mesh laundry bag that I throw them into for cleaning lest the sock monster steal them.
  7. Toilet Paper: OK. This is a big one. I know what you're thinking. You're completely grossed out and are reaching for the mouse to navigate away from this has-to-be-fiction story. I was once you. I read an entire Facebook thread on this idea, judging each individual person for how revolting it was. And then, for whatever reason, it clicked. If I'm using cloth wipes for my babies and toddlers, why switch to paper when they are using the toilet? Seemed a little backwards. So, I bought a fistful of wipes off my friend to use for our new family cloth adventure. They're two-ply and flannel. And fun prints, which makes bathroom time so much more entertaining. After a little trial run, I was convinced and so were my girls. I made up some more to bulk our stash up and we haven't looked back. I actually had to defuse a giant tantrum from the two year old because we ran out of family cloth and had to use toilet paper. Yipes. I keep the wipes on the back of the toilet in a cute little basket and have a little
    Mama cloth and family cloth
    re-purposed trash can for the used wipes. I wash them with our cloth diapers, usually, since I'm doing that laundry more frequently than our general clothing. I imagine once we're done with diapers, I might bulk our stash up again so that we can go longer periods between washings. This method works well for us. I will reiterate that we do still purchase toilet paper, the husband is not sold on family cloth which is fine, plus I would never expect a guest to be subject to our crazy crunchiness. BUT the toilet paper purchases are infrequent at best.
  8. Feminine Products: Again, calm down. I've had all the same thoughts you have, just hear me out! It never occurred to me to use anything else than paper products during my cycle. I suppose I didn't even know there was another option, probably also didn't care. Again, I read through a Facebook thread, in complete disgust at the thought. But then started to do some research as recommended by said thread and found out the amount of chemicals that are in these disposable products. More complete disgust. I decided to give the 'green' method a try and low and behold, I'm a believer. I'm a big fan of the Diva Cup - easy to use and comfortable to wear. Of course, you can't make use of this product post partum, so I used cloth pads. Take a deep breath and read on. It took me a while to come around to the idea of using cloth. I just really thought it would be uncomfortable. I was wrong, oh so wrong. I hate paper pads in general, but these were different. And awesome. I could not be more happy with my decision to use mama cloth while post partum (I haven't used a paper product at all!). I feel way more comfortable. If you're interested in researching your options, Hobo Mama gives a great and extensive overview at the Natural Parents Network. It's a great place to at least start, but it is what convinced me to take the plunge. The mama cloth I love are Moms Crafts 4 U - they're inexpensive, handmade by a mama and well made! Full disclosure, I haven't tried anything else, but I'm not willing to now that I've found my mama cloth soul mate.
Do you find ways to navigate life without paper products? What do you find helpful? 

My bestie's paper free, too! Check out Adrienne's post on their paperless house! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Breastfeeding and Supplementation

Photo courtesy of
Sugar Snap Photography
I was bound and determined to breastfeed Lydia. After not-so-great experiences with Esther and Abigail, I armed myself with as much knowledge as I could and attended La Leche League meetings. Then Lydia came and we were, seemingly, doing great! You can read more about my plan of action and our first mishaps here. At her 10 day appointment, she had lost a pound. Her doctor was optimistic, though. She was doing everything else she should be, just lost a little weight. We'd recheck in a week. Same weight. We'd recheck in a week. Gained an ounce. So at three and a half weeks, she was still 15 ounces below her birth weight. Although her doctor remained optimistic and supportive, I felt like we needed to add a little something to her diet. I wasn't comfortable with her loss. My concerns were supported by my lactation consultant and my midwife. My midwife reminded me that my first priority needs to be feeding my baby, no matter what that looks like.

My husband and I were pretty against using formula. Esther and Abigail had both been on formula which resulted in CONSTANT spitting up, no matter what we tried. Abigail was also extremely fussy until we switched her to raw goat's milk (another post for another time!) We also have some nutritional concerns - you may have recently read an article about the flora being different between breast milk and formula, which protects infants from illness and disease. This is just one concern among many. Our big girls are totally fine and healthy after drinking formula, but why continue to do the same thing when you've found a new solution?

Abigail loving on Lydia
Photo courtesy of
Sugar Snap Photography
Which brings me to my point. We're supplementing with human milk. I'm blessed enough to have a sweet friend who is well educated in the realm of milk sharing. She started to gather donated milk when she got pregnant as her milk dried up for her current little nursling. She schooled me on the informal banks as well as proper storage and preparation. She shared her struggles with having to drive a good distance for a tiny little stash to get them through a day or two as well as the amazing donors who had provided an abundance. Then, the unthinkable happened: she offered me 200 oz of the milk she had worked so hard for! So after we found out that Lydia had only gained an ounce, we went over to her house to collect. I was overwhelmed! I just couldn't believe her kindness! The same day, I got an offer from another friend who's baby is a few days younger than Lydia offering to pump for her! Again, absolutely blown away!

While I was discouraged at first, I keep reminding myself that the most important thing is that I feed my baby - just as my midwife said. I'm blessed beyond belief that God has provided two wonderful mothers who are so willing to donate to Lydia. It is important to me to keep her at breast for as long as she wants to be, so I've ordered a Lact-Aid Nursing Trainer System that should be arriving any day now. We've been supplementing her with bottles of her donor milk in the mean time. So, we stared nursing during World Breastfeeding Week and started supplementing during World Milksharing Week!! I'm excited to see her gain some weight!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Husbands Make Wine

The elderberries are tied in the cheese cloth
No, I don't have more than one husband. We are blessed enough to have a 'couple friend' - a couple that we both love both of them, if that makes sense. Marcus and Adrienne are huge blessings (and sometimes voices of reason!) in our lives, as well as their sweet son, Burkley. We agree on a lot of different things, from our shared faith in God to the way we raise our families. It's wonderful to have someone like minded to talk to and bounce ideas off of. Our children adore each other, too, which makes things easier! We spend a lot of time together in different ways - the wives and babies will take field trips to the zoo, museum, pool, park or just hang out at one of our homes; every now and again, the wives get to go out for coffee or to the fabric store; the husbands go to shows, out for coffee or beer, ride bikes and (new to the rotation) make wine; and, of course, we get our families together for dinner, park outings, and ice cream.  We've talked about getting out of the house without kids, but it's just a theory at this point. Really with Lydia's arrival and Baby C's pending arrival in March/April, that may not happen for quite some time!

Anyway, more to the point of this post: the husbands make wine. I'm not sure how it started, but it did. Unfortunately, it started with butchering my lilac bushes. Inexplicably, this took place at night, with flash lights. I'm not sure what my neighbors thought. So, obviously, the first batch was lilac wine. That's been racked into wine bottles (recycled!) and will be ready in about four months. The current wine project is elderberry. They're trying to do their projects as cheaply as possible and with what they can find. The lilacs were free and now so are the elderberries. Marcus works with a guy who has quite a few elderberry bushes on his property that he doesn't utilize. He welcomed Marcus to make use of them. So he, Adrienne and Burkley went to his farm one morning and made the harvest. The berries made their way to our house (where the wine making occurs) and we all spent some time picking each tiny berry from the stems, careful to not get any green, poisonous ones. Our eldest daughter even helped! And the husbands got to their task of sanitizing their equipment and adding the proper ingredients to their concoction: elderberries, sugar, enzymes, yeast, and whatnot. For this specific wine, it had to be stirred everyday for two weeks. Every time Jared opened it, the aroma filled the house - thankfully it smelled great! It's now sitting in the basement, fermenting away!

I realized I hadn't gotten any pictures of this process! Luckily, they had to rack the wine this last weekend and I got some fun action shots of the process and the testing. Enjoy!

Sanitizing the carboy
Fitting the airlock

Jared: a little taste
Marcus: a little sniff

Letting the berries drip the rest of the goodness!
Sorry it's a little blurry!