Friday, May 23, 2014

Learning as we go...cloth diapers!

In my last post from Learning as We Go I talked about some of the things we did differently with our third child.  We really rocked the boat in all aspects of parenting and one of those is the way we diaper.

I NEVER thought I would use cloth diapers, let alone enjoy using them.  But after potty training my daughter, and washing out countless pairs of My Little Pony panties, I started to wonder if it wasn't such a big deal. So, of course, I took to the internet and started to do some research.

I found several great blogs devoted to nothing but cloth diapers. I found sites that sold nothing but cloth diapers. I found You Tube videos detailing the ins and outs of cloth diapers. There was so much information to sort through.  Pockets, flats, prefolds, all-in-ones, covers, wet bags. There was so much to learn!

After reading through everything I finally decided that this was something I could do.  Now it was time to convince my husband.  I thought this would be difficult but in an effort to appease the large pregnant woman sleeping in his bed he agreed right off the bat.

So I started to build my stash. I bought a diaper here and there, taking advantage of sales and getting as many free diapers as I could (thank you, Kelly's Closet).  Before I knew it I had a good collection of adorable, fluffy cloth diapers.

When Charlotte arrived, we started with the cloth diapers as soon as we came home from the hospital.  It took a while to find our groove and decide what worked best for us, but before long we were slapping cloth on that little booty like it was nothing.

So what are the benefits of using cloth?

  • Cost! We spent about $300 on our cloth diaper stash.  We didn't spend all that money at once but, rather, spread it out over the course of several months. We were also lucky enough to get some hand-me-downs from a friend which made a big difference. It's estimated that from birth to potty training, a family can spend around $2000 on disposable diapers. Since the diapers we bought will last through potty training, we saved $1700. That's HUGE!!
  • Environmental impact.  I read recently that a disposable diaper takes up to 550 years to decompose and that Americans use 18 billion disposable diapers a year.  Blech! I always felt guilty when I would drag that trash bag full of dirty diapers out to the garbage.  It's nice to know that I'm no longer contributing to that waste.
  • Baby's Safety.  Did you know that disposable diapers contain chemicals like dioxin (a highly toxic carcinogen), xylene and ethylbenzene (neuro- and respiratory toxins), styrene (a suspected carcinogen and respiratory toxin), and ispropylene (a suspected neurotoxin)?  And these chemicals go right up against your sweet baby's skin.  I feel much better have pure cotton up against my baby's bum!
  • The cute factor.  Today's cloth diapers come in limitless colors and patterns.  I love that I don't have to worry about diaper covers when Charlotte wears a dress...I just find a matching diaper! And who can resist that big fluffy bottom?
Of all the changes we've made with baby number 3, I think the switch to cloth diapers is the best decision we've made.  I always thought cloth diapering would be a lot of work and, quite frankly, gross. But nothing could be further from the truth.  Today's cloth diapers make it easy (and I actually think our disposable diaper pail smelled worse than our cloth diaper pail).

So to all my friends and readers who are about to have a baby, I suggest you do some research.  Read a blog, watch a video on You Tube, talk to a friend.  You may just find that cloth diapering is easier than you thought!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Learning as we go

5 months ago we added our third child to our family.  You would think that by the third time around, I would be a pro at this whole parenting thing.  But in many ways this feels like my first time around the block.  I guess you could say that it’s because this is my third child that I’m doing things differently. I’ve learned from the first two experiences and I know what practices I liked and which ones I wanted to change.  So I’m starting a once a month series on parenting to share with you all the things I’ve learned (and am still learning) about navigating this crazy time in our lives.

*Disclaimer: This post is not meant to advocate breast over bottle. While I do believe breast is best for baby and mom, I also know that everyone’s circumstance is different. I fed two babies on formula for 9+ months and they have grown to be smart, beautiful children. This is more a comentary on how I finally learned how to achieve one of my parenting goals.

When I was pregnant with Zach, our oldest, I did everything by the book...literally.  I read baby books and articles online. It was pretty much all I had to go on.  So when he was born, I let the nurses keep him in the nursery so I could rest, I fed him on a strict schedule of every three hours.  I nursed him for 15 minutes on one side and 15 on the other. I put him in his crib in his nursery so that my husband and I could get the rest we needed and to encourage him to sleep through the night as soon as possible.  By the time Zach was three months old, my supply was all but gone, we were finished breast feeding and he was on formula.  

Apparently I didn’t learn much from that experience. When my daughter, Alice, was born I did the same thing.  I nursed her every three hours, she was sleeping through the night by 6 weeks and by three months we were done breast feeding. I was really bummed.  I felt like I had failed her.

When I found out I was pregnant with Charlotte, I was determined to breastfeed for a whole year.  I went to the books again but this time I made a point of reading everything that was the complete opposite of what I had done before.  I read about attachment parenting, co-sleeping and feeding on demand.  It all seemed to make so much sense! Why had I not heard of these things before?

From the moment Charlotte was born it’s been a completely different journey.  Even though I had a c-section (my third) we were able to have skin to skin contact right away. I held her for about 30 minutes as they finished my surgery. Never during my hospital stay did a nurse urge me to send her to the nursery so that I could get some rest or to give her a pacifier to help her stop crying. The nurses smiled when they found me nursing her almost every time they came into the room. One nurse even gave me a wink when she found me sleeping with my newborn baby in my hospital bed with me (“I’m a big supporter of co-sleeping” she told me).

Since we came home I’ve continued to nurse Charlotte on demand. She sleeps in bed with me for most of the night. At five months she still wakes me to eat 2-3 times a night but I sleep wonderfully.  I wear her around the house and anytime we are out. You would think all of this would be exhausting but it actually makes life so much easier. I have this wonderfully happy baby and she’s happy because her needs are being met to the fullest. And because she is happy, I am happy!

Sometimes I think back to my experiences with the first two and wish I knew then what I know now.  But the journey of being a parent is one of constant learning and evolving.  No doubt there will come a time down the road when I’ll have no clue what I’m doing.  But I’ll figure out a way and push on. Because that’s what we do as parents. We do our very best for our kids and rest assured that, no matter what choices we make, they are loved and that is the greatest gift we can give them.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Chewy Chocolate Cookie

In the past, I've harped on the benefits of clean eating.  And while I love eating whole-foods, I also have a major sweet tooth.  I feel like a good compromise is to make my sweet treats at home! They may have refined sugar in them, but they are also lacking in a lot of chemicals you find in store-bought treats. Plus, my kids LOVE to help whenever I bake (that is, lick the spatula…)!

One of my favorite sweets are these delicious chewy chocolate cookies.  They are super simple to whip up and they are positively delicious! Plus, it’s a pretty good bet that I always have the ingredients on hand in my baking cupboard.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

1 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
10 tbsp (1 stick plus 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
sugar for dusting

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat to combine.  Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients mixing until combined.  Place the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a flattened disk. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Shape the chilled dough into 1 inch balls.  Roll each ball in sugar and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake 10-12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

My kids go NUTS for these cookies. They are especially good served warm with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Do you let your kids help in the kitchen? What's your favorite thing to make together?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Whole-Wheat Banana Pancakes

When my family first started our clean eating diet, it was a big adjustment.  We tried our best to take baby steps, but there were a lot of foods that were staples in our diets that were highly processed. A big part of our success was finding alternatives to these staples that we enjoyed just as much. I found that the best way to make sure that what we were eating was unprocessed was to make foods from scratch in my own kitchen.

Now, my kids LOVED Eggo waffles and pancakes.  They ate them every morning for breakfast.  Did you know that, in addition to preservatives,  Eggo waffles have Yellow food dye in them? I can’t understand why a waffle would need food coloring. So I went to 100 Days of Real Food for help. I found a bunch of breakfast alternatives but our favorite quickly became whole-wheat banana pancakes.  

These pancakes are made with all natural ingredients like whole-wheat flour, and fresh bananas.  And unlike other made-from-scratch pancake recipes, they contain much less butter and don’t call for any refined white sugar (instead, honey is used).  

When topping these pancakes, be sure to use real maple syrup. And don’t trust what the label tells you! if you check the list of ingredients, it should list only one ingredient: 100% pure maple syrup.  Otherwise you are likely to be covering your pancakes in high fructose corn syrup!

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

2 cups whole-wheat flour (I use King Arthur brand, which can be found in the baking aisle)
2 tsp baking powder
1 ½  tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ¾ cups milk
1 tbsp honey
2 ripe bananas (the browner the better!), mashed
maple syrup

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine the butter, eggs, milk and honey.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (a few lumps are ok). Stir in the mashed bananas.  Butter a griddle or saute pan.  Add the batter using a ladle.  Once the pancakes start to bubble around the edges, flip and cook on the other side.  Serve with 100% pure maple syrup.  

These pancakes are also delicious with peanut butter! I make a big batch on Saturday and keep the leftovers in the fridge for the rest of the week.  We just pop one in the toaster and it’s ready!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Valentine's Day Craft

I'l admit, I've never been much of a decorator.  Our house doesn't have a ton of accents.  We don't have shelves filled with pictures and nik naks. The only time I've ever changed what sits on our mantle was for Christmas and I always put the same thing up, year after year.

And then I joined Pintrest.  Ah, Pintrest...the giant vortex that sucks you into a land of ideas for parties you will never throw, fashion you will never own, home improvement ideas that will never be implemented and pictures of kitchens that you will never occupy (and of course the occasional picture of Ryan Gosling).

I'll admit, I try to only pin things that I think I'll try.  But even I have crafts, recipes and outfit ideas pinned that I'll never use. However, Pintrest has led me to "up" the way I decorate.  And for the first time ever, I have decorated my mantle for Valentine's Day!

I saw a pin the other day for these lovely rose balls.  You can see the tutorial on how to make them here. Now I'm all about decor that is cheap, and let's face it, what's cheaper than crepe paper? So I set out to make some crepe paper flower balls.

I started out by cutting strips of tissue paper.  Then I folded each strip in half lengthwise, and twisted it into a rosette. Amy at The Idea Room even has a video showing how to twist the rosettes up!

Then I used hot glue to affix each rosette to a styrofoam ball.  And let me tell you, I used a LOT of glue!

The end result was an adorable rose ball.  I made three and placed them on wrought iron candle holders that usually occupy our mantle.

While I was at Hobby Lobby picking up supplies to make the rose balls, I also got some cardboard letters. I got an L, V, and E as well as a heart shaped box.  I painted all the letters red and used the lid of the box for the O to spell out "LOVE" in the center of the mantle.

I added some Valentine's Day garland to the glass hurricane I already had on the mantle and, behold! A beautiful Valentine's Day Mantle! And it was all done on the cheap which makes my husband happy!

How has Pinterest inspired you lately? Have you been inspired to decorate for holidays that you typically wouldn't decorate for?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Healthy weight loss?

On Tuesday, the NBC show The Biggest Loser crowned it's 15th weight-loss champion.  But the internet and social media immediately lit up with comments about the winner's drastic weight loss.

Rachel Frederickson, a former swimmer, came to the Bigger Loser Ranch weighing 260 pounds.  Right from the start she showed herself as a fierce competitor on the show. I'll admit, I had her pegged as the winner from the first episode. Week after week, she shed the pounds and worked hard to stay on the show. By the time she was named as a finalist, and sent home to continue her weight loss on her own until the finale, she looked like the athlete she used to be.

(Rachel talks with host Alison Sweeney after winning a triathalon)

On Tuesday, Rachel weighed in at 105 pounds.  Over the course of 7 months, she lost a total of 155 pounds or 59.62% of her total body weight.  At 5 foot 5 inches, that put her BMI at 17.5 (anything under 18.5 is considered underweight by the National Institute of Health).  She looked extremely thin and even the trainers and other contestants couldn't hide the look of shock and concern from their faces.

The Biggest Loser has often been brought under attack over the way their contestants loose weight. Many argue that such significant weight loss over such a short period of time is bad for the body.  In my experience, this kind of weight loss usually leads to temporary results.  There are so many fad diets out there that claim to help you achieve your weight loss goals in a matter of weeks.  But the best weight loss is slow and steady. 

It can't be denied that the $250,000 cash prize had a part in Rachel's weight loss. My hope is that she can now get back up to a healthy weight and stay fit and strong.

Are you looking to loose weight? The best way is to eat healthy, whole foods, exercise regularly and build lean muscle buy lifting weights.  Check out my weight loss story here.

What are your thoughts on Rachel's drastic transformation?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Valentine's Day snacks and treats

Over the past year and a half my family has cleaned up our diets and striven to eat healthy, whole foods.  I'll admit, we're not perfect.  I love to bake which means there is often cookies or cake in our house, and I cave now and then on the occasional processed treat for my kids (Cheetos, anyone?).  But whenever possible, we try to stick to unprocessed foods and a big part of that is teaching our kids to make healthy food choices.

Valentine's Day is coming up which means that our kids will be attending school parties filled with cupcakes with bright red and pink frosting, cookies with sprinkles, and chips.  And then there are the Valentines themselves with candy bars and Smarties attached.

But there's a way to eat well during this time! Check out my most recent post on Greeley Moms on how to provide healthy options for your child's school party as well as non-candy Valentine ideas:

What healthy treats are you planning to provide for Valentine's Day?