Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's Almost Over!

So, here are the kids as of Feb. 16, the last day of internet here...

I wonder how much they will have grown over lent?! It won't be too long now, and I will be back. And Gideon will be TWO!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Meal Plans

I need to meal-plan. If not, it would be cereal for all every night!

It goes like this: I sit down every Saturday night with the weekly fliers, my recipe binder, the laptop and my notebook of shopping lists. First I look through my "master list" (which I keep in my recipe binder) of all the things I like to keep on hand. You should make one, it's super-handy! It's a list of everything I need for typical breakfasts (I have a few options that everyone can choose individually from), lunches (I let the kids decide what we all have for lunch each day), snacks, salads and baking. Also things like spices, teas, and household items. I quickly glance through the list and see if we need anything on it. I will do a quick look through the pantry, fridge and freezer to confirm. I write what we need on the shopping list.

Then I look through the fliers and see what's on sale. I see if anything tickles my fancy. Or if anything we use a lot is on sale so we can stock up. I add those things to my shopping list. It also helps inspire my dinners. I then take out my list of meals (also in my recipe binder), and make my dinner plans.

I make a different dinner every night of the month. I write them on the calendar. That way I know what I need to do every day, and can take meat out of the freezer or other prep as necessary. Dave also knows what to look forward to each day, and it ensures that I don't repeat meals. If you give me a past date I could tell you what we had for dinner! I'd just need to look it up in my calendar!

We go shopping early Sunday morning, while the store is stocked full of goods, but before it gets busy. I make dinners Sunday through Friday, then Saturday we have leftovers or pantry food. It helps clear out the fridge for the influx Sunday morning, and saves us the cost of a meal. And it gives me a night "off".

I have a list of over 30 meals we really like. I also try to add new ones every so often. I print out all of my recipes, and keep them in those clear page protector things in my binder. That way they are on hand when I need them, I can just take 1 sheet to the kitchen with me instead of a whole recipe book, and if I spill or splatter anything on them, it just wipes off and doesn't ruin the paper. I used to do 1 new meal every week, but that stopped when I got pregnant with Ruthie, and I kept just craving our regular meals (I still did a different meal each night of the month though). I want to start trying new things again. It's not that hard, really. I bet you could think of 30 meals you like with little effort. Try it, just write them out. Then the internet is a fabulous resource for new ideas. The internet taught me how to cook!

So I decide what meals to have, then add the ingredients necessary to my shopping list (if we don't have them on hand). I try to think of meals that have similar ingredients (like nachos, taco salad, and burritos for example), so we don't have to buy a million different things, and there is less of a chance of things going bad in the fridge, since we will most likely use it all up over the various meals. I will also take a look in the fridge and see what ingredients we do have in there, and think of things I could make with those.

Sometimes I will look up recipes for different baked goods I want to try too, and add any necessary ingredients to the shopping list.

Finally, I ask Dave if there is anything he is craving or wants, and I add that.

And... that's how I do it!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chores Chores Chores

This has always been a FAIL area in my life. I usually come up with a new "plan" every season, and I keep up with it for about a month. Then everything goes to crap again for a couple months, then I come up with a new plan. Repeat repeat repeat.

I've even gotten bored of Flylady, although she did help me a lot in little ways that have stuck.

I quit trying when I got pregnant with Ruthie. In a way it was good, I was able to give up trying to control everything (because that just lead to failure), and in doing so felt a lot less stressed about everything. And you know what? Our place stayed just as clean as it ever was. I just did the cleaning whenever I felt like it, or got the chance.

When we moved to our new house, it took me a month to get everything unpacked and put away. Then, just as I was about to sit down and write up my new "plan", I decided that probably wasn't a good idea. I was about to have a baby any day anyway. So I waited.

Ruthie was born, and things were a little chaotic for a while, of course. My Mom was here and she basically did all of the housework. Once she left, I was feeling really good, and was surprisingly able to keep up with the house. I decided to just see what came naturally as far as a routine. I gave up the need to control everything, or decide what would logically make sense, and just went with the flow. And for the first time in my life, my house actually has stayed mostly clean. Not just when people come over!

So I have decided to write down my routine. Not so I can hold it over myself and beat myself with it when I fail, but just to solidify it a bit more, so I can work on my discipline a bit (a trait I used to pride myself on before I had kids). If it doesn't get done perfectly that's ok, but this is what I'm striving for, so I hopefully don't fall back into my laziness.

My morning routine goes something like this:

~Wake up whenever one of the kids wakes me up, usually 8ish, sometimes later if I'm lucky.
~Feed Ruthie.
~Change and dress Ruthie.
~Make our bed and open the blinds, greeting the sunshine with thankfulness for a new day (ok, I just made that second part up right now, but it's a good idea! But if you know what I'm like in the morning that should make you giggle).
~Go to the bathroom, get 'ready' and dressed.
~Pick up all of the clothes on the floor that must have been breeding through the night (in our room and the kids room). Seriously, how can there be so many clothes when I pick them up EVERY DAY?! Do a quick tidy too.
~Go downstairs with Ruthie and see what everyone is up to. The older kids usually make their way downstairs while I am feeding/changing Ruthie, and they help themselves to the bowl of fruit on the table. But you wouldn't believe what else they can get into in those 10 or so minutes!
~Make breakfast for the kids, always yogurt, and then something else like cereal, granola, toast, or bagels (Gideon will happily sit in his high chair and eat, but Judith never sits, she will usually just take a few bites and then follow me around for the rest of the morning, grazing on her breakfast throughout the morning, until Gideon gets hungry again and finishes it for her). Grab some fruit for myself.
~Vacuum or whatever little chore I have that day (see below). Judith enjoys vacuuming so she will often do it for me.
~Start the laundry for the day.
~Clean up the children from breakfast (if I can catch them), and put away the clean dishes from the night before, if any.
~Take the kids upstairs, change and dress Gideon, and get Judith to dress herself.
~Set the kids up with an activity at the table, like colouring or a game or puzzle, or one of Judith's work books. Eventually this will be "school" time.
~Make myself something to eat, and go online myself and check my email, facebook, blogs etc. (while simultaneously kind of participating with the kids).

Yeah, that is what came naturally! I'm so proud of myself. I found that if I get my daily chores done and laundry started before I go online in the morning, I have a much better day.

Weekly chore schedule:

Monday - Assemble garbage(s) and recycling and put out on the back deck for Dave to take to the alley the next morning. Wash tshirts, pj's, socks and underwear (usually 2 loads, one of which I hang to dry, because I don't have enough space to hang both indoors).

Tuesday - Vacuum living room. Wash diapers.

Wednesday - Clean bathrooms (and any other windows/mirrors as necessary). Wash pants and sweaters (1-2 loads, I can hang all of these usually). Bathe the older kids before bed.

Thursday - Vacuum living room. Wash towels and bed sheets (alternate between our sheets and the kids' sheets weekly, there's usually 1-2 loads between everything). Make up beds.

Friday - Go around with a spray bottle of vinegar and water and annihilate any smears, smudges or splats. I don't get everything every week, but I do what I can, whatever catches my eye, every little bit helps. Walls, doors, door frames, light switches, window sills, cupboard doors, railings, dressers, desks, tables, chairs, toys, etc. Wash diapers in the afternoon, and Dave's work clothes in the evening.

Saturday - Nothing. I don't normally even do dishes. And for supper we have leftovers or quick food from the pantry. It's as close to a day "off" as a mama can get. I do take Judith to her dance class in the morning, but I usually sit and read a book (it's an unparented class), and have a blissful 45 minutes of quiet to myself. Then once my gym membership starts again, I will go to the gym after lunch. I do my meal plans for the week and grocery list before bed, but I don't really see that as a "chore", I quite enjoy it. I do bathe all the kids before bed on Saturday, too, and wash their hair. Yes, they only have a bath 2x a week and get their hair washed once. And I only bathe Ruthie on Saturdays.

Sunday - Groceries are done first thing in the morning (Dave often does the shopping while I stay home with the kids). This is also my big cleaning day. I vacuum the living room and stairs going up before breakfast. Then after I eat I tidy and vacuum upstairs (but only every 2-3 weeks, it doesn't get too bad up there). Then when Gideon goes down for a nap, Judith and I pick up all of the toys in the basement and vacuum down there, and the stairs. Then I sweep and mop the kitchen, and also sometimes the entrance and bathrooms if needed (usually every 2-3 weeks). I also catch up on all the dishes and do a thorough clean of the kitchen, and put away any remaining clean laundry. I seriously spend the entire day cleaning, but that's what I prefer. I like to be able to look at it at the end of the day and feel like I accomplished something (and then not worry about it too much the rest of the week). If we end up going out and doing something on Sunday, then I bump all of this to Monday, which is tricky since I don't have Dave to hold Ruthie all day for me, but I do what I can.

I like having Saturday is my "rest" day, and then Sunday as kind of a "reset" day for the week.

*Gideon goes down for a nap between 2 and 3 (and I wake him up at 5, he'd seriously sleep all day, he gets that from his mama I think). Then I usually put a movie on downstairs for Judith, and try to get Ruthie down for a nap in the hammock (she will sometimes sleep 2-3 hours in there!). If I am successful, I actually get some time to myself!*

*I also try and put "yesterday's" laundry away in the afternoons. It doesn't always happen, but I actually enjoy folding and putting everything away, usually while Gideon naps. If I miss it one day, I can usually double up the next day and get it all away. And if all else fails, I do it all Sunday.*

My evening routine goes something like this:

I usually start thinking about dinner around 4:30 or 5, depending on what it is (I would DIE without my meal plans!). I aim to have dinner ready for 6:30. Although I've often been late with this, especially if Dave is home late so I have to make supper with Ruthie in tow. But since he has been home with his injury, I can be more consistent (well, at least try. I still seem to always be "late" with it). I make most dinners from scratch so it takes a while. I need to learn to do a lot of the prep early in the day so I'm not so rushed in the evening.

After dinner, if Ruthie needs me I will feed her and go online for a bit. The kids usually enjoy playing downstairs after dinner, and it's the only time of day they aren't at my heels, for some reason. If Ruthie is sleeping, or content in the sling with Dave, I will clear off the tables, clean up the kitchen, spot sweep and do the dishes (pots & pans, everything else in the dishwasher which I run usually every 2-3 nights).

Soon I will be going to the gym again 2x a week. Those nights are usually rushed, I try to leave by 7/7:30 so I can be home by 8:30/9. But I need the gym, so it's worth it.

Around 8:30 I will tell Judith that bed time is coming, and she helps me tidy up the living room. This has seriously been the BEST idea ever! Tidying up before bedtime has revolutionized my life. It's so nice in the morning coming downstairs to a tidy living room, and then it's quick to vacuum in the morning too. Judith doesn't always want to help, but she has to at least put her arts/crafts/puzzles/games etc away in the cupboard, and take all of the toys downstairs (so many seem to migrate up every day). This has been really good for her, after fighting with her for a couple weeks about it, she now participates willingly, and often without being asked.

At 9 the kids go upstairs (8:30 on bath nights). Lately, now that we actually have a routine, they go up without a fight. We get our pj's on, brush our teeth and wash faces if necessary, read 3 books on Mommy's & Daddy's bed, then tuck the kids into their beds with hugs, kisses and prayers. Bed time has been going really well lately! It will probably get harder when we transition Gideon to the bottom bunk from the crib this summer, but for now, it's great. I'm so glad I decided to be consistent with bed time. For a long time we just went with the flow, and sometimes the kids weren't in bed until 11 or 12! Now they are in bed with lights out by 10 at the latest every night, and it has improved their attitudes a lot, and made my life a lot easier. Yay bedtime!

After the kids go to bed (Dave often goes to bed at this time too, especially on work nights), I will either do the dishes or go online, whatever I didn't do after supper. I try and be in bed before midnight. Occasionally I will just be too tired, so I'll go to bed with everyone else.

So, this is basically what my life looks like these days. I definitely don't follow this all perfectly, I'm a pretty flexible person and when things come up I can easily deviate from the plan and make up for it later. But this has actually been working out pretty well for me! Hopefully it will last this time...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Cloth Diapers - Revised

My cloth diaper stash has evolved quite a bit since I last posted about it. So I think we are due for an update!

First, let's go over the basics in case there are some newbies out there.

Cloth diapers ain't what they used to be. There are quite a variety out there on the market today, and cloth diapering is gaining popularity. Just google it and you will find all kinds of stores and resources online. The best place to start, in my opinion, if you are serious about cloth diapering is (DS). There are forums there where you can ask questions, and also buy used diapers from other mamas to try out. I got many of my diapers through DS.

I also have bought from EcoBaby Canada, Babes in Arms, kijiji and even garage sales!

Most people say to have 18-24 diapers minimum in your stash. But really, it's up to you, and how often you want to do laundry. I survived a few months with just 14 diapers, and I know a couple people who get by with 10 (and wash them every day).

Cloth diapering can save you a lot of money, or be really expensive. It depends what route you go. You can outfit your baby for about $300, or even cheaper if you buy used, or I've heard of moms who spend over $8000! It costs about $1000 I think to diaper a baby for 2 years with disposables.

There are several different types of diapers to choose from. Here are the basics:

1. Flats. These ARE your Grandma's diapers. They are just plain, flat pieces of fabric. Old school. You put your baby on them, fold them up and pin them, and cover with rubber pants (or some kind of cover). These are the cheapest type of diapers, they last well and are easy to clean. This is the only kind of diaper I have not played with, but here is a link to a blog post, with videos, on how they work:

2. Prefolds. Similar to flats, but with several layers of material sewn together, thicker in the middle, for better absorbency. They are cheap, or easy to make yourself, last long, and are easy to wash and dry. They are not water-proof, so they also require a cover. You can get newborn size, regular, or large.

They are fairly easy to assemble. I fold them in 3, along the sewn lines, then open up the back, put baby's butt over the open part and bring the folded part of the diaper up through baby's legs to baby's tummy, and bring the corners of the open part around baby's sides, and pin or Snappi them to the diaper on baby's front.

3. Fitteds. These look a little more like a "typical" diaper we think of these days. They are sewn to fit your baby, and often will have doublers (extra pieces of absorbent material) that are sometimes attached, sometimes not. They are not water-proof, so require a cover. There are quite the variety of fitteds out there, some cheap, some expensive, some are super-absorbent, some not. Some are adjustable so they will fit your baby from birth to potty training, and others will only fit a certain size so you will have to buy more as your baby grows. They are easy to wash, some are easy to dry, and others may take a while.

4. Covers. Flats, Prefolds and Fitteds require covers. You can also use some covers as, or over top of disposable, swim diapers. There are quite a variety of these too. The typical ones are made of PUL (Polyurethane Laminate). They are thin and waterproof, and fairly cheap. You don't have to wash them after every use, only when soiled, so you only need a handful. They are easy to wash and quick to dry, can be machine dried, but best hung.

You can also use wool or fleece covers. These are not water proof, but they will just get damp instead of soaked (unless you are totally negligent or have an extremely heavy wetter with only a thin diaper). They are breathable, so good for baby's skin. They are fairly expensive to buy, or you can sew them yourself by recycling a 100% wool (or fleece) sweater, or knitting with wool yarn. You can get/make simple covers or wraps, or pants (longies), shorts (shorties), or even skirts (skirties)! Personally I think the wool and fleece covers are super cute. Fleece you can wash and dry in the machines, but you need to wash wool by hand with a special lanolin soap (I use LANAcare). They only need to be washed when soiled though. If they are damp you can just leave them to dry, then re-use them. Wool covers can be really bulky, so sometimes clothes won't fit over top. Which is fine, when there are things like BabyLegs! I have 7 pairs (but no photo, I didn't think of it until now), and they fit all 3 kids. Judith loves to wear them under her pants when it's cold!

(My personal favourite is a Goodmama/Longies combo)

5. Pockets. These are very popular, because they are so simple to use, just like a disposable. They are Daddy-friendly! They are easy to wash and dry. But they are expensive. The outside is like a cover, made of PUL, but there is a lining on the inside, with an opening on one end so you can "stuff" the diaper with an absorbent insert. A lot of pocket diapers are sold with a microfiber insert included. The nice thing about these is, if your child is a heavy wetter, you can add more inserts (even a cut up towel or like my friend uses, a Sham-Wow cloth), or you can buy separate doublers. Hemp is a popular material for doublers due to the great absorbency. You do have to "stuff" them before using, but I don't really find it all that much more work. You can wash them with the inserts still inside, but I don't recommend it. I simply shake out the wet or soiled insert(s) into the diaper pail when I change the baby, then the pail is ready to just dump into the washer. There are many good brands of pocket diapers out there, the most popular being BumGenius and Fuzzi Bunz. I like the BumGenius the best because they are one-size (OS), so they fit from newborn to potty training. Although I've had mine for almost 2 years and the aplix (velcro) is starting to wear out, which is a bummer. I may get them converted to snaps, so they will last through future children. I also like the Fuzzi Bunz because of the snaps (harder for baby to get off) and there is lots of room to super-stuff them for overnights. I also have a soft spot in my heart for all things minky (like, plush soft and furry). The photos below are of a Preston's Pants pocket diaper.

5. All-in-Ones (AIO). These are basically as close as you get to disposable diapers. Very Daddy-and-babysitter-friendly. They are expensive, a little harder to get totally clean, and take forever to dry. No stuffing required, there are absorbent layers sewn in. Some have pockets as well where you can stuff an insert if baby is a heavy wetter and needs the absorbency. The photos below are of a Chunky Monkey AIO diaper.

I also have cloth wipes that were made by a friend using scrap flannel (bed sheets at a thrift store are good for this!), 2 layers serged together. Or you could use old towels cut up, or do a combo of towels, flannel and fleece. You can also buy cloth wipes, or use baby face cloths.

I make my own solution using a drop of natural baby soap, 3-5 drops of tea tree oil, and about 20 drops of calendula tincture in a small spray bottle with water. I keep my wipes dry, then spray them, and baby's bum if it's dirty, just before wiping.

I recommend having a wetbag for outings. I cloth diaper all the time not just at home, and I honestly find it just as easy as disposables. I have a pretty wetbag, but I forgot to take a photo of it! When I'm out I just put the dirty/wet diapers and wipes in the wet bag, then dump the bag into my diaper pail at home. The wetbag can be wiped out by hand (I just use a wipe and the spray!), or thrown in the wash (and hung to dry).

For diaper pails I just have a couple of plastic buckets Dave got from work that were in the trash. You can buy a fancy diaper pail, but you don't need to. Any pail works, as long as it has a lid, and preferably a handle. I rinse mine out after I dump the diapers in the wash and they don't smell too bad. If they do need a more thorough wash, baking soda and vinegar does the trick. Or dish soap. If you want to prevent smells while the diapers are in there, you can put a few drops of tea tree oil on to a cotton ball and tape it to the lid of the pail, and/or sprinkle some baking soda in the bottom of the pail.

When a baby who is eating solids has a poop, simply knock the poop off into the toilet. I use a piece of toilet paper to help it along. If it's really messy I have to scrape it off with toilet paper, which yeah, is really nasty. But not as nasty as having a garbage bag full of disgusting disposables every week! I really want to get a diaper sprayer, I've heard great things about it, and it would make the poop-removal process so much easier.

You can also get diaper liners. You place a piece of it between baby's bum and the diaper. These are flush-able, so it makes poop-removal easy. Just toss the liner and poop in the toilet. It can also be used to protect the diaper from any bum rash cream (although if your diapers are under warranty, any use of diaper cream will void the warranty). Any rash cream or oil will ruin the diaper's absorbency, making the diaper leak.

I do diaper laundry on Tuesdays and Fridays. First I do a cold/cold cycle with about half of the minimum recommended detergent (I use Nature Clean, you HAVE to have a detergent without fragrances or harsh chemicals, or it can hurt baby's bum and wreck the diapers). Then I do a hot/cold cycle with about a quarter of the minimum recommended detergent. It's important to not use too much detergent, or it will not all rinse out, and that will make your diapers stinky (and possibly irritate baby's skin). Then I do an extra cold rinse at the end. I hang everything that has PUL in it, and the rest goes in the dryer on high.

Every 2 months I do a "strip". I do my usual first wash, but add a bit of baking soda (don't do this if your PUL diapers are still under warranty, it voids it). Then for the hot wash I use a bit of Nature Clean dish detergent (you're supposed to use regular Dawn, but I can't find it!). Then I do a full cold/cold cycle after, with a bit of white vinegar in it (again, don't do this if the diapers are under warranty).

Never ever ever use fabric softener on diapers! Fabric softener is just bad news in general, really.

The best way to get stains out is to lay or hang the diapers out in the sun. It does wonders!


Sooooo... now that that's out of the way...

Here's my current stash!

Newborn (Please excuse all the stains, they will be sunned out when the weather gets nicer!)

Unbleached Newborn Chinese Prefolds (I can't remember how many I have, maybe a dozen, or just over that? Ruthie was wearing one and there were a few in the diaper pail as well as these)
2 Little Beetle Size 1 Fitteds (2nds), 6 Gabby's Newborn/Small Fitteds
2 Annie Marie Padorie Small Fitteds, 2 Kissaluvs Size 0 Fitteds, and Home-Made Wipes (not made by me though)

Small Fleece and Knit Wool Home-Made Covers
Little Beetle Small Wool Cover, 2 Bummis NB/SM PUL wraps, and 4 Newborn Motherease PUL Wraps

Here they are all put away. Awww...

Intermediate (These are what Gideon started out in at 1 month, but he was quite the chunk. I will slowly incorporate these into Ruthie's stash as she outgrows the others)

18 Regular Prefolds (there are also 6 more that I am currently using to double-stuff Gideon's night time diapers), 2 Snappis (I have another one but it was on Ruthie at the time), 6 Kushies Medium PUL Covers
2 Small Jamtots Hemp Prefitteds, 2 Medium Wool Wraps (no tags), Preston's Pants Minky/Minky Medium Pocket, RubyDaisy Medium PUL Cover
2 Sandy's Motherease Small Bamboo Fitteds, Medium Fleece Cover by The Eli Monster, Small Fuzzi Bunz Pocket, Medium Fleece Longies by RubyDaisy
Muttigan 3sr Fitted, PUL Medium Cover/Swim Diaper by The Eli Monster, 3 PUL Medium/Large Swim Diaper Covers (can't remember the brands off-hand)

Blueberry OS (cow) Pocket, Medium Chunky Monkey (giraffe) AIO
2 Medium Wool Knit Longies

Toddler (Gideon's stash)

Home-made wipes, spray bottle of solution, 14 BumGenius OS Pockets, 6 Large Fuzzi Bunz (stuffed with insert AND prefold, our night time solution), 3 Large Chunky Monkey Minky Pockets, 4 OS Goodmamas Fitteds , 2 Medium Little Beetle Wool Longies, 1 Large Kushies PUL Wrap, 1 Large Thirsties PUL Wrap

And, just in case you're curious, the newborn stash came to $81. Intermediate was $248. And toddler was $550. Yikes! A lot of them I got used too. So a grand total of $879. But if I were to buy disposables at $17/2 weeks, my total for Gideon would be $884 by the time he was 2 (he will use them longer than that though). And these will all work for Ruthie too, so that is where I am saving the big $.

I hope you found that informative! Let me know if you have any questions.

I don't know why, but cloth diapering is so fun! Seriously, I can't handle the cuteness.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


D as in Dentist.

Judith has her dentist appointment today with the pediatric dentist. At least my mom is here to help. I'm not as nervous about this as I was about Gideon's surgery, but it will still be a difficult day. Judith HATES the dentist. But all 4 of her back molars are rotten to kingdom come. They will need to be fixed or pulled or something. No matter what happens, it won't be pretty, and I'm sure Judith will end up being even more afraid of the dentist than she already is. She will probably need to be sedated, but we'll see. Today is just the check-up, then the solution will be discussed and determined. I feel so bad that her teeth are so terrible. It runs in the family though. Honestly I think I'm more anxious about the bill. We can't really afford this right now, but we don't really have a choice.