Friday, May 31, 2013

Mmm. Granola

We are granola freaks around here.  Well, I am actually.  The kids put up with it when there's nothing else around.  I eat it with yogurt, kefir, milk, ice cream, as trail mix, whatever!  Love it, love it, love it.  And it's so easy to make, I don't know why people would want to buy it.  Hmmm, maybe I should start SELLING mine!  Anyway, sidetracked.  I've tried out different recipes over the years, tweaking them until I've found my favorite.  And I may still tweak it again.  And, of course, sometimes it's just nice to have a different flavor or variety.  As with so many other recipes, I like a basic formula that I can adjust to my mood.  You can easily use a different nut, type of oil, or use maple flavor instead of vanilla extract. Today, I'll share the recipe I  made this morning.


Excuse me while I rescue my 16 month old daughter from the bunk bed.  She literally climbed the ladder herself and then, when she saw me, she climbed back down.  This is just plain scary! But look how pleased she is with herself!



Anyway, here's the recipe.

Granola

Preheat oven to 275F
Combine in a large bowl:
6 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup pecans
2/3 cup coconut
2 Tbsp ground flax, optional

In a medium saucepan combine and heat to a simmer:
2-3 Tbsp real maple syrup
2 Tbsp molasses
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Drizzle the liquid mixture over the oat mixture and stir well to combine.  Place on two large ungreased baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes.  Stir then bake an additional 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir in 2/3 cup raisins.  I just put mine back into the bowl I used earlier.  Allow to cool completely then store in airtight container. 

Mmmm.  If you want to make this a trail mix, add in some dried bananas, sunflower seeds, coated chocolate candies, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and/or peanuts.  So good!  We took it with us on our camp out with some peanuts and chocolate covered raisins mixed in. :D


Last chance for my giveaway!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My weekend away


My darling husband knows me very well. Some days he's fairly clueless, like many men we love, but when it came to celebrating 6 years together, he did remarkable.  His plan was to surprise me with a weekend away at the beach, camping.  It didn't come out exactly that way, but it was pretty close.  He arranged for my parents to watch our 3 girls ages 16 months to almost 5 years and then took me deep into the quiet Mark Twain National Forest.  We camped at this camping "resort," which basically means it's slightly pampered camping.  You could pay for the cabins, which we don't consider camping, or you could camp in the field with a fire pit, picnic table, and free firewood.  A quick walk away is a covered pavilion with washing sink, next to the bathroom and shower house.  Another quick walk brings you to the trading post, stocked with such necessities as sunglasses, bug spray, lighters, water shoes, and medicines.  They even have small packages of cornmeal, oil, and flour if you forgot food. And of course ice and candy bars. ;)  It was a true vacation for us, since we usually camp as primitively as possible: digging latrines, searching for firewood, and eating whatever camp-worthy food we could manage.
Our "pampered campsite"

Do you like our tent?  We were so geeked-out over finding a canvas tent with attached floors, zippered windows, and a true double door at a yard sale.  We got it for a STEAL of only $15!  These things retail at over a thousand.  It needs a little love, but it's still excellent and huge. It sleeps 8 and is tall enough for my 6'1" Boy Scout to stand up and can still reach his arms up.  We hate changing clothes in a 4' tall tent!

We loved just sitting in those chairs and listening to nothing but birds, watching squirrels going through the woods, and taking in all of God's beauty.

The view from our tent door
Don't you love that sweet trail there?  There were so many squirrels, birds, and lizards making use of the area and we just had to explore. And this picnic table was great.  We're excited about bringing our kids on another day to enjoy the fun here. There was also a playground, volleyball net, and horseshoes game set up, but I neglected to take pictures.

My Boy Scout carving a "chicken stick."
On a previous camping trip, the Boy Scout brought a cornish hen to rotisserie.  It was EPIC, apparently, and he wanted to share his joy with me. We started with a hike to find just the right sticks: two for the stand and one to hold the chickens.  Then he had to shave off the bark.
In your best imitation of Crocodile Dundee, say "Now, THAT's a knife."

Put the chickens on the stick and rotate, as needed, about every 15 minutes.  We seasoned these with salt and pepper and played various games while waiting for them to finish cooking.  Remember: you shouldn't walk away from your fire, even if it's in a fire pit. Just before they were done, we poured some buffalo wing marinade over one.  It was awesome.  I'd post a picture of the completed chickens, but it was rather dark and they were so amazingly tasty that I couldn't bring myself to take a picture.  Suffice it to say, they lived up to the legend and we will TOTALLY bring hens on every camp out our family does.
Rotisserie chickens
The next morning, we got our adventure on!  We went for a walk down to the "Bat Cave," then since the owners gave us permission to go off trail wherever we liked, we went on an adventure.  We climbed up passed the cave and explored.  It didn't take long before we were going nearly vertical so we decided to travel back down.  We found some fun rocks to pose on and then took a little stroll back to our campsite.
Our morning hike/adventure

Next, we went to play in the river and discovered we had floated passed this very place the last few years.  Don't let that calm-looking water fool you.  This river has some strong current!  We couldn't walk upstream, so we tried different paths and ended walking through the woods to explore other parts of the water.  When we got to the "island" in the middle of the river, we found deer tracks in the stream running through there.  So very cool.  And so was the WATER!  It was COLD!  After a little while we got used to it, or maybe our legs went numb.  It's a hard choice, but it was still nice to hear the bubbling stream and listen to the bird calls.  There was one in particular who was quite loud, but I couldn't get a good shot of him.
Showing off at the river.
If you're looking for a little getaway, whether you enjoy "roughing it" or prefer cabin camping, we highly recommend "Lost Cabins Resort."  They also rent canoes and tubes for float trips.  They have some that only take a couple hours to float, or you can go for a few days. We weren't in the mood for a float trip, so we passed this time, but maybe next time we'll rent the family sized one!

Playing around with CollageItPro.

Don't forget about our giveaway. It ends tomorrow night at midnight!

Monday, May 27, 2013

My CollageItPro Review

I had a good time putting together these collages with  my new CollageItPro software. It's really simple to drop in a bunch of pictures and allow the randomizer to place them around the collage.  I'm AWFUL at making collages, by the way.  Once things are where you like them, you can easily crop/adjust photos, switch out position, and customize frame and background. It's a pretty simple program.  The free edition is good to get an idea of whether it will work for you, but you quickly realize you'll need to upgrade or find a different program.  With the Pro, it really opens up the possibilities.  There are several layout options. You can adjust the number of pictures to add.  It has easy sharing capability to social media.  One thing I think is missing is an ability to add text, but I suppose you could export and use a web-based program like PicMonkey to do that.  One advantage of this program over PicMonkey, by the way, is that you have more options for picture lay out and cropping without having to save each individual edited picture.

So, do I like it?  Yes!  Will I continue using this program in the future?  Of course.  Would I pay $19.90 for the upgrade?  Probably not.  But the good news is, you can still get one of 20 (12 windows, 8 mac) codes for a FREE upgrade.  Enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway.  The giveaway is ending soon!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 7: What did I learn?

Day 7: What did I learn/How did it go?

Final day in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.

Here's what I've learned so far, in no particular order.

  • I was surprised to know that I had PLENTY of flat diapers for daily hand washing: 28 diapers, 6 covers, and 3 pockets!  I'm going to make a bundle of flats, covers, soap, and a camp washer for emergencies and when we go camping.  It's one less thing I'll have to gather for those occasions and it's so low-stress knowing I can totally do this with 2 covers and 8 or so flats.
  • Flats are way more absorbent than they look.  Just because it's only one layer of fabric doesn't mean you only have that one layer between baby's bottom and the world.  Depending on the fold you could have 8-12 layers of fabric just in one flat.  Then you can add a pad-folded flat as a doubler and that's even more!
  • Washing by hand took a lot less work and time than I thought it would, but experimenting with the right amount of soap and soaking times was a little frustrating.
  • You can't trust the weather!  I had expected to line dry everything all week long, with few exceptions.  But I had to learn to roll with the punches and let things dry overnight hanging from curtain rods, hangers, and chairs since it stormed half the week.
  • If you over stuff a pocket diaper, it's much more likely to leak.
  • There are DOZENS of ways to fold a flat and each is good in it's own way.  There is no one RIGHT way to fold it and very few wrong ways.  So long as all the cloth is stuffed into the cover (or you're a really observant parent) it's probably a fine way to do flats.
  • I actually like flats. More than some of my other diapers.
  • Once you've used flat diapers for a week, you start evaluating all the cloth in your house for diaper potential.  I look at my towels, dish cloths, and clothing differently now.  During this challenge, I added two blankets and a t-shirt to my stash. This has put my husband on alert!
  • My daughter is a diaper escape artist.  Snappis were not a barrier to her curiosity.  Covers were, however.
  • When hand washing, a "wet bucket" was almost indispensable.  You probably could get away without using it if you washed as soon as a "dirty" happened, but if you've got diaper laundry, you probably also have children who need watched and sometimes it's just not convenient to wash right then.  Especially not for as long as is needed without soaking.  So I change my stance on the dry vs wet bucket controversy from "absolutely not" to a "yes with cautions."  I put my laundry right into the wash bucket which stays in the bath tub, except when people are bathing. While it's possible someone could still get in there and cause mischief or drown, I also keep the lid on the bucket that is nearly adult-proof and that helps me feel safer about it.  I still don't let kids play in the bathroom, and I'm in there washing diapers at least twice a day, so I know it's not always full of water.  I'm cautious about it.  When I go back to using my washing machine and dryer I will stop using a "wet bucket."
  • When hand washing in a camp washer, less really is more.  Wipes, 2-4 diapers, and a cover wash just fine.  Don't even try to do 5+ diapers because you'll be rinsing FOREVER.  They don't get as clean in your usual cycle, so you'll end up washing them again.  And again.  It's way better to plan on washing twice a day.  That way it takes 10 minutes from first rinse to hanging up.  And it's a good excuse to visit the sunshine. ;)
  • If I didn't have a washing machine, I could totally wash my diapers every day in my camp washer.  But I'd rather spend all day at the laundrymat than try to hand wash and dry the mountains of clothes these kids wear!
  • Every time I turn on the water to wash diapers, my littlest daughter chases me down asking for a "tubby."  Every time I go outside to hang up or take down diapers, my bigger girls chase me down and want to play outside.  Maybe we need to play outside more often.  (That was several things I learned, but they're a bit connected, you know.)
The important point, here, is that this is POSSIBLE.  It's not roses and I MUCH prefer using my washing machine.  But if I had an emergency, I am confident I could hand wash and line dry as long as I had to.  If I was in extreme economic trouble or without a washing machine, I would be content knowing that I was doing what I could and that I didn't have to worry about buying more diapers.  I would probably be looking around to "evaluate things for diaper potential" when I got behind on washing.  And that's okay.  Because so many things can be used as a flat.  You could probably get your entire stash at a yard sale or thrift store (minus the covers unless you're super lucky!) for $10.  If you knew what to look for.  We need to spread the word that this is a viable solution!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 6: Babysitters and Outings

Day 6: Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry

This challenge could have brought some interesting issues for babysitters and outings, so I wanted to share my experience planning for and adapting to them.

Babysitters

I'm blessed to have some great flexible babysitters and to only need a sitter once or twice a week.  During this challenge, I had to be away from my girls for a prenatal visit with a client.  This sitter is great.  My kids adore her and her kids.  They always have a great time.  Plus, she's cloth diapered her kids in the past and has been following me on this challenge and knew to expect this.  Even still, I wanted things set up and easy, so I stuffed pad-folded flats in my pocket diapers and was ready to go. My little lady woke up wet from a nap just before my friend was expected to arrive, so I changed her to a clean diaper and gave a tour of the bathroom and a quick overview of my diapering routine.  I showed her where the diapers were kept and where to put the wet/dirty diapers. No problem.  Then I found I wasn't actually gone long enough for a diaper change to be needed, so that was even better.  :) The kids had a great time and knowing everyone was safe and happy meant I could focus my attention on my client.

Outings

Normally, I reserve my AIOs for outings and babysitters because they're so simple and require no skill except the ability to snap the snaps.  For this challenge, I packed two diaper bag-folded flats and a cover and one pocket diaper with pad-folded flat insert into my diaper bag/wet bag.  This arrangement was fine, except that I didn't do a good enough job stacking the flats so they would keep their shape and ended up having to refold at a diaper change. Not a huge deal for me, but the Boy Scout (my husband) probably wouldn't have loved it if he were the one doing the change and dealing with the tangled flats. In the future I'll either clothespin the flats in place or only bring pad-folds. Also, I was warned that using flats in a pocket diaper might mean leaks, but this was not my experience.  I would think a heavier wetter would have a problem and we never did pockets overnight, so maybe that's the difference?

I still have two days to go (counting today), and it's important to realize we all learn as we go. So far I haven't had any poo diapers while on the go, but I do have a homemade double pocket wet bag for my clean and dirty diapers that works nicely.  I usually keep a disposable shopping bag in it, too, in case of extra smelly diapers that may have to wait a bit for a wash pail.
Some day I may give a tutorial on how I made this, but for now you'll have to be satisfied with inspiration to make your own and probably make it better. I've learned a few things since putting this one together. The white side is the PUL layer of this material I got from Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon.  That made it about $6.50 a yard and I used a bit less than that to make this bag!  The white-lined pocket is for the wet/dirty diapers and the white/flower-lined pocket is for the clean.  I despise sewing in zippers, so this just closes with hook and loop, but it works nicely for a usual day outing.  It has been used for an entire day out but that's when I augment with shopping bags for the poo diapers to keep a handle on the stink.  Since it's PUL, I wash it with my diapers as needed.

What about you?  Did you expect any special challenges you had to plan for?  Or did you come upon a challenge that you WISH you'd planned for?

Tomorrow is the last day of the challenge! I'll certainly keep flats in rotation with my diapers, but I won't be hand washing except in emergencies and while camping.

Day 1: Why I took the Challenge
Day 2: How did I prepare?
Day 3: Dealing with Overnights
Day 4: How am I doing with hand washing?
Day 5: What's working? What's not?

Day 7: What did I learn?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 5: What's working for me?


Day 5 of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry

To those of you who have starting following or reading along since the flats challenge, welcome! It's an honor to have you here and I'm so excited to share future posts with you.

So, let's talk about what's working for me, and what's not.  I'm still perfecting which folds work best with which diapers. I located a couple receiving blankets to add to my stash, so that makes for more things to play with!  The t-shirt flats work very well in the t-shirt fold and the pad fold. Most of the other folds simply don't work with them because of their shape.  They might work on newborns, though since they would fold down smaller.  The receiving blankets work with the kite fold, airplane fold, origami fold, and another fold I may have invented.  I'll have to research around to see for sure! What I do is take my square flat (or make my rectangle into a square) and fold corner to corner to make a triangle.  Then I do a sort of accordion fold across the crotch area, so it's like a combination of the origami and the triangle fold. Then fold up the tip a little to adjust the rise, or not.  Then fold into your diaper.  And bring in the wings.  I do better with pictures, so try to follow along here.

This fold is especially nice for those flats that are just not quite the right size for the other more complex folds.  In the picture above, I took a very large, but very thin, receiving blanket and folded into quarters to do this fold.  But I also have a flat that's too small to do anything but a pad fold, or this fold.  The absorbency is as good as most folds, but it doesn't form a "poop pocket," so beware of that. And because of the padding fold, it can't be just pinned on.  The waist would fall off.  So, there are drawbacks, but I like that it has padding where it's needed and I already use my covers all the time anyway.

The covers have been working fine since I bought them years ago.  I love that they are one size, so they can fit my newborns up to my potty-learners.  For other families with bigger potty-learners or smaller newborns, they may not work the whole diapering time, but they sure last a long time. The camp style washer works great to agitate.  The jury is still out on how the dish soap is working.  Other bloggers suggested using it exclusively and I'm just not sure how well it cleans the poop diapers.  I may try my regular detergent again on the next wash and report back to you.  Line drying is working beautifully.  Inside drying takes considerably longer unless there's a fan blowing right on them, but they still usually dry by morning.  Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised how much I really like flats.  They're so adaptable to needs, which, to me, is a major bonus.  A decent flat could be used as a blanket, nursing cover, burp rag, or diaper.  And that diaper could be adjusted to fit a newborn, toddler, or potty-learner, with or without a cover.  It could probably be used for other things I've not noticed yet.  I'm so glad I took this challenge!

Being on the computer most of the day everyday to edit photos, ask and answer questions on the facebook group, write blog posts, edit blog posts, comment on various blogs and so forth is NOT working well for me.  I did much better with posting a couple of times a week and sometimes even scheduling a posting ahead of time.  This meant I was able to spend more time with my kids and budget my internet time a little better.  The house is not in order, meals are barely getting cooked, school is a little behind.  But on the flip side, I've enjoyed seeing more people visit my blog, reading more comments, and I'm learning a lot, so I recognize this as a good thing. I need to learn to roll with what I get, I guess. ;)  Oh, and schedule better.  Maybe only write posts during nap time or set a timer for an hour while the kids play quietly or work on school work alone.

In other news, I feel like I've spent a lot of time looking at many of these views: wash bucket, line dry, change diaper, line dry, new fold, wash bucket, so I figured I take a moment to play with my new CollageItPro software.  Would you like to win a code for a free upgrade?  There are many different layouts, changeable options, you can crop pictures to fit, or just dump in and randomly re-order your pictures.  It's a nice, easy way to make a quick collage, if you want.  Or if you put a little more time into it, you can get a great customized collage, too.  Enter here:  a Rafflecopter giveaway .  There are low entries and TWENTY (12 windows, 8 mac) winners! Giveaway ends May 31 and winners will be selected June 1.



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 4: How am I doing with Handwashing?

Day 4: How am I doing with handwashing?

 Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry

We're on to the fourth day of the challenge.  It's actually become just a touch boring.  Using flats is very simple.  It's very much like using prefolds, but in some ways it's way better.  I've been handwashing in my camp-style washer about twice a day.  I'm still working out the kinks on using soap, but so far it looks like poop diapers need to agitate immediately then soak in detergent and baking soda.  I haven't timed the soaking.  I just set them in the bucket to soak and go about my day.  After an hour or two, I may have another diaper to toss in, too.  Then I do my usual, agitate 1 minute and drain.  Add hot water and soap, then agitate 5-10 minutes and drain.  Then one or two more rinse cycles.  I twist the wet flats to  get out the excess moisture then hang in the sun, if I can, or in the laundry room if I have to.  Within 3 hours they're dry, sometimes faster if the wind and sun are just right.

Yesterday I had to get inventive since I had my regular clothes laundry drying in the beautiful day, too. They still dry, though it would be faster if they were hanging on the line.  Luckily, I have more than enough flats and covers clean and available.

And, bonus, I got my hubby to help out with washing when I was out one day. :D
A special note I will add is that I decided to handwash the AIOs and microfiber inserts that were stinking up my diaper pail and it was a LOT of work.  They smelled awful and I think it's the microfiber.  I washed them many times and when I thought I finally got them clean, I decided to just toss them in the dryer since they have so many extra layers and we've had some humidity.  When they came out, they STILL smelled.  That's a real puzzler for me!

Tune in tomorrow to find out what's working for me and what's not.
Day 1: Why I took the Challenge
Day 2: How did I prepare?
Day 3: Dealing with Overnights

Day 5: What's working? What's not?
Day 6: Babysitter/Outings
Day 7: What did I learn?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 3:Overnights

Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry

Day 3: Overnights

Let's be honest.  When I first started this challenge, I was SURE that we would need some serious overnight help.  I was determined to use just flats, though, so the first night I put two padfolded flats into her cover and put her in her wool longies, expecting a mess to clean up in the morning.  Ms. K is 16 months old but on the small end for her age, but I really thought she was a pretty heavy wetter at night.  When she woke up in the morning, she wanted to eat instead of a change. I'm a pretty easy going mom, so I let her, but I didn't want to push things too far so made her get a change after that.  I was surprised!  She had wet the first flat, but the second was only barely touched.  Although it was certainly time to be changed, the first wasn't even completely soaked.  I was amazed.  I didn't realize just how absorbent these flats could be. So then I thought, "Well, maybe today was a fluke.  Tomorrow it'll be heavier."  The second night I put her in one t-shirt flat using the "t-shirt fold."  I expected this would get soaked through.  Nope!  To my surprise, she woke up with a normal wet and the shirt wasn't fully soaked.  Maybe if she were older and a heavier wetter, I might need 2 but I would be surprised if she needed 3, even as an older toddler.

I just can't get over how doable this is.  I wash the diapers twice a day in a bucket in my bath tub.  It takes me ten minutes, tops.  They dry on the line or hanging in my house. They're wonderful, soft, and absorbent.  

And look how cute!  I made this diaper from an Angry Birds shirt.  It matches her face at this moment.  She was not thrilled with being a model, much less being out of my arms!


Many people have great success using a Snappi and no cover when at home, but as you can see here, my little escape artist is far too interested in this thing within her reach.  Within seconds of this picture, she was crawling away from the diaper.

What about you?  What have you tried for overnights?  Have you tried flats?  If not, why not?

Day 1: Why I took the Challenge
Day 2: How did I prepare?

Day 4: How am I doing with hand washing?
Day 5: What's working? What's not?
Day 6: Babysitter/Outings
Day 7: What did I learn?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 2: How did I prepare?

Day 2 of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.


Well, I've already told you a little about how I got ready for this challenge, but I'll give you a few more details.

Camp-style washer and clothes line

This is my camp washer without the lid on the first wash of
the challenge yesterday.  Doing well so far.
I made my camp-style washer about a year ago.  We are of the "prepper" mind-set, so we like to have back up options for catastrophes.  I got my bucket and lid for free from Walmart bakery.  I know some of them still give them free.  Others charge $1-3.  Either way, it's still cheaper than buying one from Lowe's or wherever.  I drilled a 1 1/2" hole in
the lid for my new, clean plunger handle to go through.  That was a year ago, so I don't recall the price, but I believe it was about $5.  I drilled 1/2" holes in the plunger to let the water flow more easily through it. I use the same laundry soap I've been making for a while.  You'll use a LOT less in this camp washer.  Start with about a teaspoon and see if you need more or less. Start of my preparations was testing out the washing and drying time, as well as the effectiveness of the washer.  It's pretty awesome. My clothes line came with my house.  It's just a simple line, but it works.  The clothespins were about $1.
Total cost: about $5
One of my t-shirt flats. One layer of fabric.
This is the back of the flat.

Flat diaper supply

I already had one cotton hemp flat that came with some pocket diapers I bought and a few Gerber bird's eye flats I bought before I knew anything about cloth.  I went through a pile of shirts I was going to donate or throw away and decided I could get great use out of it.  Simply cut the shirt along the sides so you have a front piece and a back piece.  You can remove the sleeves if you want, but I find they add absorbency right where Ms. K needs it.  Plus they make the wings extra long, so you can actually just tie them on instead of using a Snappi or Boingo.  So I now have 20 flats. A friend gave me 2 Snappis.  Another is loaning me a couple Boingos. Total cost: about $2

Covers

I already had my one-size Econobum covers I've been
using for years.  I dug out my pocket diapers for the baby sitter.  I decided not to use wool for this challenge.  I just love my Econobums! I bought them from Cotton Babies for about $4 per cover.  The pocket diapers I got used for $3 (including the insert).  I also have an Alva pocket diaper I got through a co-op for about $4. I saw no reason to limit my cover supply for this challenge.  I'm sure I could get away with using 5 or less, but I didn't reduce my current supply. Total cost: $30

Total cost of my supplies: $37 including what I purchased in the past
Total cost to do this challenge: FREE!



Can you see now how this would be completely doable for someone in diaper need?  For about the cost of a month's supply of diapers (or LESS), you could have more than enough flats, covers, and washer to get by.

Day 1: Why I took the Challenge

Day 3: Dealing with Overnights
Day 4: How am I doing with hand washing?
Day 5: What's working? What's not?
Day 6: Babysitter/Outings
Day 7: What did I learn?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 1: Why did I take the Challenge?

Day 1 of the Flats Challenge

Boy, I sure love a challenge!  Taking on a good challenge is what usually helps me overcome some fear or hiccup. So, I'm doing the Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  I was AFRAID of using flats!  But given this challenge, I thought, "Hey, I can do anything for a WEEK!"  And, like doing cloth in the first place, if I hate it, I'm not out anything, and if I love it, I'll use it!"

What is this challenge? For one whole week, you use only flat diapers (a single piece of material, usually about 32" square, folded into a diaper) and some sort of cover.  You also have to hand wash them.  Part of this challenge is bringing awareness to those in diaper need that this is a viable option instead of reusing disposables or going without food or other necessities.  Handwashing takes about 10 minutes and flats are the cheapest option out there.  Plus, flats line dry SO fast!  On a decent sunny day, they're dry in 2 hours tops.  I haven't tried drying inside yet, but with the storms due all week, I may have to get inventive!


Day 2: How did I prepare?
Day 3: Dealing with Overnights
Day 4: How am I doing with hand washing?
Day 5: What's working? What's not?
Day 6: Babysitter/Outings
Day 7: What did I learn?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

An Invitation to Come Unto Him

At April 2013 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Henry B. Eyring spoke to my soul.  (Read his full talk here.)    Here's a gem for you to consider for your life.

President Eyring started by sharing his experience with drawing near to the Savior.  In the Doctrine and Covenants 88:63, Christ says, "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."  This direction is echoed through the Holy Bible.  Like President Eyring, I have "experienced the joy of coming closer to the Savior and of His coming closer to me most often through simple acts of obedience to the commandments." He shares some of His sweet experiences, but may I share mine? I have learned through experience that when we pray for answers and are in the right places at the right times, God is able to so sweetly give us those answers.  Among other things, I've been seeking ways to come closer to my Savior.  I started by reading the scriptures on a more regular basis, pondering the words I read, and praying for more guidance.  I must say that so many times when I question came into my mind, the answer was found so quickly in the Scriptures.  I would pour out my gratitude to my Father in Heaven for those sweet and simple answers.  Then came Conference.  I've said before how much we love watching General Conference. And it remains true.  I had a prayer in my heart throughout the session that I would feel the Spirit working in me and help me find my answers.  And every single talk, I felt the Spirit burning within me!  Telling me that what these men said is true.  I felt guided to record these feelings of revelation, to start working on certain areas, to focus on particular doctrines or actions in my life.  These last 2 months I have felt so near my Savior.  I've had setbacks, of course, but I have been making strides in my life again.  And I'm sharing with my children my excitement for my Savior and His Gospel.
stock photo source

Back to President Eyring.  He tells us we "are under covenant both to lift up those in need and to be witnesses of the Savior as long as we live.  We will be able to do it without fail only as we feel love for the Savior and His love for us.  As we are faithful to the promises we have made [at baptism], we will feel our love for Him.  It will increase because we will feel His power and His drawing near to us in His service." I can testify that this is happening for me.  I had been feeling overwhelmed by so many things.  And while some things are still difficult, I feel lifted up. I feel encouraged to serve my friends, neighbors, family, and strangers.  I feel the love of my Savior more as I draw closer to Him in prayer and in scripture study.  I feel His love growing as I also feel Him drawing nearer to me.  I see more purpose in my life and less drudgery in the everyday simple things.  What is a mother but a servant to her family?  After Christ washed the feet of His disciples, a task normally left to servants, He said
Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.  If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 3: 13-17)
What a blessing we have to serve God's little ones in this way!  What an expression of love and service.  It may sometimes feel a drudgery or unrewarding.  But we are helping to raise God's children.  This is not something that happens in a day or even a year.  It requires a lifetime of daily service, one tiny step at a time.

President Eyring continues:
My promise to you who pray and serve the Lord cannot be that you will have every blessing you may wish for yourself and your family.  But I can promise you that the Savior will draw close to you and bless you and your family with what is best.  You will have the comfort of His love and feel the answer of His drawing closer as you reach out your arms in giving service to others.  As you bind up the wounds of those in need and offer the cleansing of His Atonement to those who sorrow in sin, the Lord's power will sustain you.  His arms are outstretched with yours to succor and bless the children of our Heavenly Father, including those in your family....There is a glorious homecoming prepared for us.  We will then see fulfilled the promise of the Lord we have loved.  It is He who welcomes us into eternal life with Him and our Heavenly Father.
I bear testimony that our Savior knows our needs before we can even express them.  He is anxiously waiting to bless us.  When we draw near to Him in prayer, in faith, and in service, He pours out blessings upon us.  I know that when we are obedient to His commandments, we are blessed with so much more than temporal blessings.  If the fullness of joy that is promised us in the eternities is anything like the fleeting times of joy I feel during this life, it only makes me more anxious to serve Him, in whatever way or place.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Let's talk about Pitocin

As some of you know, I'm studying to be a midwife.  I want women to have their babies where they feel the safest and most comfortable, with the people they want in attendance (or none at all), and when the baby is ready to arrive.  My first two children were born in the hospital, mostly because I thought I "had no other choice."  I didn't like what was done there and most people would think they were really good labors.  My first was actually not too bad.  Not what I wanted, but for a hospital birth it was pretty good.  For my second, I felt bullied, betrayed, and tortured. I'm not kidding.  Good thing my labors are fast or it could have been so much worse. I will admit that each experience had their good and bad, but when I talk/think about my bad experience, baby number 2 is where I go.

Birth Story of my Second Daughter

I was induced, even though I didn't want to be, after a botched up amniocentesis (which I still can't get out of my mind was botched on purpose), and "punished" for wanting no epidural.  I'd done my research and didn't want one, nor did I want the amnio, but that's another story.  I felt I needed the induction, only because the doctor botched the amnio and I was worried about my baby.  Without that, I would have gone home and waited it out. I don't fault people who choose or need either for various reasons, but I didn't want them.  The on-call doctor insisted I would need an epidural.  I held my ground.  And I'm pretty sure her form of punishment was the steady increase in my pitocin.  If I'd known better, I would have insisted on learning my Bishop's score and requesting a new non-stress test (although I'm certain baby was a bit stressed by this time!) to evaluate whether it was really necessary to induce right then.


If the labor was the only problem I had with the induction, maybe I could have healed from this experience faster.  My daughter is 3 1/2 years old and I still have major emotional issues about it.  I'm doing better every year about it, but I feel I have a mild form of PTSD from the experience.  And I'm sure it contributed to my postpartum depression.  I did better than with my first, only because I knew to expect it and knew how to overcome it.  And I had great friends who took REALLY good care of me.  But I had trouble bonding with this child. At first, I chocked it up to her being a different baby and every baby has different needs. And I remembered that with my first hospital-born baby, I kept wondering when this kid's parents would come get her.  I was breastfeeding her, bathing her, changing her, rocking her, loving her, and yet somehow she didn't feel like mine until she was around 2 months old.  I've since learned for myself that it had to do with the way the hospital treated her like she was THEIRS and not MINE.  So, I thought, maybe this was just my way of falling in love with my 2nd baby.  It would take some time.  And it did.  I couldn't understand her.  I didn't understand her cues.  I felt like she cried ALL the time.  I wondered if she had "colic." While she did have yeast problems that added to her fussiness, I just couldn't bond with her.  Breastfeeding was painful because of the thrush and I admit I resented that a bit.  When she made achievements and developments, I was happy, but not the same way as with my first.  It BOTHERED me that I didn't connect with her the same way.  I knew I had postpartum depression with her, but I dealt with that so much better than before.  But I still just couldn't understand my daughter: why she did what she did, why I sometimes felt so angry, and why I just couldn't bond with her.  Of course, I love my girls!  All of them!  But my bonding was just not right.  I didn't feel connected with her the way I thought I was supposed to.  I couldn't understand her cries.  I didn't know what she wanted when she cried in different ways.  I felt like an awful mother that I didn't understand my baby! And then I made the mistake of reading about it online where there are some really supportive people and where there are people who say things like, "Well that's just dumb.  Any good mom would know that without having to read this article."  Yeah, that really hurt.  I must not be a good mom, then, I thought.

Trying to Understand and Process My Experience

Then, various experiences happened that made we wonder if she was in the autism spectrum.  She's not, don't worry, but I wondered because I started to realize she and I both had relationship problems.  Then, I wondered if other moms who had been induced had similar feelings.  And how on earth could I get them to share that information with me?!  Who wants to admit that they can't bond with their child when everything around you tells you that you're supposed to be completely in AWE of your baby?  So, this thought stuck with me.  I found a few friends who began to accept my thinking, especially some who had also been induced against their better judgment.  Often these moms had children in the autism spectrum (which from my understanding makes building relationships difficult) or were considered high needs or were diagnosed ADD/ADHD or had some form of learning disability.  I often wondered if there was some correlation.  I'm still waiting for research to catch up with me.  I don't have a Ph.D. so I can't do the research myself, and I realize that all this so far is just anecdotal. But when people would ask my opinion of induction by pitocin, I would add that opinion to my set of reasons I don't like it.  I don't recommend it for any reason, least of them being "baby in distress."  Wisdom tells us if a baby is already distressed, you don't want to put him in MORE distress unless, of course, you needed an excuse to have/give a c-section.

And before anyone starts thinking I don't use doctors for ANYTHING, let me tell you.  I am so incredibly grateful for modern medicine.  Western medicine is THE BEST at dealing with acute, medical crises, and accidents.  If a surgery is necessary, I'm grateful I live in a country that has some of the best surgeons in the world.  If I'm in a major car accident, please take me to the hospital.  But birth in general isn't a medical emergency.  Some women need a c-section.  It's rare to be an actual need, but when it is, I'm so grateful we have surgeons who can help.  In those cases, they often save the lives of mother and child, making the 6 extra weeks of recovery worth it, I suppose.

My Break-through Arrives

Back on topic.  I had trouble bonding with my second daughter until she was about 2 years old.  And, miracle of miracles, do you know what also happened when she was 2 years old?  I had my third daughter.  At home. In my bed.  With my husband, midwife, and mother-in-law in attendance.  My daughters were watching a movie with their Pappy.  I was able to do anything I needed.  No one thought I needed an IV, or a fetal heart monitor, or continuous blood pressure cuff.  No one stopped me if I wanted to move.  Everyone helped me when I asked for it.  I felt completely and totally supported and safe.  I didn't feel self-conscious or weird asking my father-in-law and husband to give me a priesthood blessing (a priesthood ordinance of prayer, blessing, healing, and comfort) just before I went into transition.  No one insisted I have a cervical exam to check my progress.  And I'm convinced it would have slowed me down to be forced on my back so someone could make a clinical decision about my progress when I was so obviously working things out on my own.

And why was I suddenly able to bond with my daughter?  I truly and honestly believe it's because I finally had the appropriate balance and flow of natural hormones, including oxytocin.  There is a major difference in the way artificial oxytocin (brand named Pitocin) and natural oxytocin acts on the body. Oxytocin is the same hormone released when you fall in love, when you kiss or hug or orgasm, when you deliver a baby, and when you breastfeed.  It is a natural hormone whose purpose is to help you build a loving relationship with your spouse and children.  It is a defense mechanism for your baby.  When you are so desperately in love with your baby, you become the she-bear you were born to be.  You will defend that tiny bundle with every part of you.  You understand their needs better because you have bonded and understood this baby.  So with this major flow of natural oxytocin I fell in love with my new baby and I fell in deeper love all over again with my bigger girls.


ACOG's New Position

Now let's fast forward to today.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is the leading authority in the United States on medical management of pregnancy, labor, and birth.  Rarely, I agree with them, sometimes I despise them and sometimes I wish they'd look at the research before making a statement.  Today, I'm a little more satisfied with them.  They released this report discussing a research study that finds adverse effects of pitocin on the newborn.  Always before it had been about the mother and any risks or benefits to her.  Now they've finally accepted that it can have serious effects on the neonate (I added the bold for emphasis,):
Researchers found that induction and augmentation of labor with oxytocin was an independent risk factor for unexpected admission to the NICU lasting more than 24 hours for full-term infants. Augmentation also correlated with Apgar scores of fewer than seven at five minutes. 

To clarify, use of Pitocin in labor greatly increased the rate of admission to the NICU, when it wasn't previously expected due to other risk factors.  AND, using Pitocin to speed up labor (augment) correlated to more babies having a tougher time transitioning to life on dry land.  Despite the seriousness of the report, researchers made this confusing conclusion:
 The analysis suggests that oxytocin use may not be as safe as once thought and that proper indications for its use should be documented for further study. “However, we don’t want to discourage the use of Pitocin, but simply want a more systematic and conscientious approach to the indications for its use,” Dr. Tsimis said.

So they say that artificial "oxytocin use may not be as safe as once thought," but "we don't want to discourage the use of Pitocin."  I'm confused.  I thought ACOG's work focused mainly on
  • Serving as a strong advocate for quality health care for women.
  • Maintaining the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education for its members.
  • Promoting patient education and stimulating patient understanding of and involvement in medical care.
  • Increasing awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women's health care. (This was taken directly from the ACOG website.)

I'd say they managed to "increase awareness" and "promote patient education" but aren't doing so well in the other areas.  It's an improvement, though, I suppose.  And gives women more ammunition when being lead to an unnecessary induction.

Disclosure:  I am not your healthcare provider.  This information is here to inform you of my experience and ACOG's own research.  I suggest you do your research and make your choices about your body and your baby's body, then discuss it with your healthcare provider, whether an obstetrician, family doctor, nurse midwife, professional midwife, other midwife, or who ever you choose to attend you in labor.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Overcoming Diaper Need

I've really been thinking about this challenge and how it truly brings awareness about diaper need.  Did you know "1 in 3 families in America struggle to afford diapers for their children"? source One-third of those families cut back on other necessities, like food, in order to purchase them.  Some have even reported drying out and reusing disposable diapers or even simply dumping the poos and reusing them!  Disposable diapers are only intended as one-time use.  They were intended to be changed 8-12 times per day for newborns and down to about 4-8 times per day as children grow.  Some of these families are forced to use only one diaper per day for their children!  That's disgusting.  Consider the health consequences of that!  

There are diaper banks across the US and world that help supply families with diapers.  With the economic state of the world right now, though, there are even more people in need and fewer resources to share, so while some get assistance, others are still struggling along.  Some have found alternative ways to help, like my local cloth diaper bank "Cover Your Bum."  They loan a supply of cloth diapers for a few months so you can save to buy your own supply.  What a blessing!  And did you know that cloth diapers hold their value better than your car?  You can often sell them used for much more than half your purchase price.

Our family started using cloth with our 2nd daughter. She was about 9 months old and going through about 2 value sized boxes of diapers per month.  I had been wanting to cloth diaper for some time, but my husband was leery of various aspects of it.  Finally, while working on our budget I came up with an idea.  We were spending about $30 per month on diapers, plus more on wipes.  My idea was to spend $30 on a beginner supply of cloth diapers and covers and use them for an entire month.  If we hated them, we weren't out any money and could return to disposables.  If we LOVED them, we would be saving about $400 per year (after I learned to use cloth wipes)!  So we did.  I made my own prefold diapers, purchased econobum one-size covers with a small supply of prefolds, and went to work.  It was a little tough of  a transition since there is a learning curve, but we were blessed to have a good washing machine and dryer and the ability to hang our clothes on the clothes line outside.  I had been making my own laundry detergent for some time and decided to use that.  We do occasionally still use a disposable when the kids stay with the grandparents, but I love our cloth.


After trying out the camp washer with my homemade t-shirt flats, I really believe anyone who is struggling but is willing to put forth a little effort can pull themselves out of this pit of diaper need.  You could wash a day's worth of flats in about 10 minutes and they dry quicker than other materials.  In ideal conditions it can take as little as 1 hour, but for us it took about 4 hours out in the sunshine.  Many have reported drying indoors with a fan running under them made it much faster.  I haven't practiced a lot yet, but next week is the challenge!  I'll get a lot of practice in!  And I've already been using my flats.  I really love how versatile they are.  Given a little time, you can find so many different folds to try, the simplest being  a simple tri-fold.  Just take your flat and fold in half. 

Fold over the uneven edges.
 Fold into thirds, width-wise.
 Fold the rest of the way over.  Tuck it in your cover and put it on baby.

With this set-up of the simple trifold, you can easily make the folds I made in my previous tutorial about prefolds. You could fan out one end and put that on baby's bottom and attach with boingos or snappis or pins.  You could twist it in the middle.  Then there are more complicated folds that put more absorbent layers  where they're most needed.  Go the dirtydiaperlaundry.com, click on cloth diapers and you'll find a wealth of information.  She even has videos on youtube show you how to do many folds, make your own camp-style washer, and make your own t-shirt diapers.  Let's do this!



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