Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting Out

Leaving our house is sometimes a huge ordeal. 

It starts by me telling Maeve 100 times to go potty and find her shoes. While she ignores me, I change Finn's diaper, get him dressed and put his shoes on. I also finish getting myself ready and once in awhile have enough time to add snacks to the diaper bag. 

Today the three of us were ready in under 45 minutes and we went out to the garage to load into the van. Finnegan is very attached to his blanket and I always make sure it's with us so I don't have to face the blanket-less tantrum. I got Finn buckled into his car seat only to have Maeve tell me that she had to have her blanket AND her dog. She has recently formed an artificial attachment to a blanket she received as a baby from her aunt. You see, Finn has a blanket and it's not fair that Maeve doesn't get to carry one around too. As for the dog, Finn loved this dog as soon as we got it and now Maeve has deemed it her special dog. 

So I sent Maeve inside to find her special things. At the same time, I let the our real dog inside and put her in her kennel. Maeve was ushered back into the van only to exclaim that she had to pee and was going to pee her pants if she didn't go RIGHT NOW. The only reason she had to go to bathroom was because she was wearing shorts that both zippered and snapped. She felt really cool being able to pull up and fasten her shorts herself. What better time to practice than when we are about to leave. 

As Maeve was running back to the garage, I decided that my bladder couldn't handle a trip to AND from the pet store. I was almost inside when Maeve said that Finn needed his stuffed dog too. So I peed, found the dog that is only special to Finn because Maeve says that it is and because it is a replacement for the truly special dog that Maeve is currently hogging. 

All of this took place in under 15 minutes, but I was very relieved to sit down and finally pull out of the garage.

Monday, March 23, 2009

19 weeks

I am almost 19 weeks pregnant with baby #3. 

When I was pregnant with Maeve, I kept a journal of my pregnancy and wrote in it almost everyday. We took belly pictures at regular intervals and her baby book has pictures and monthly updates until she turned a year. 

When I was pregnant with Finnegan, I attempted to keep a journal in MS Word. I got busy the latter half of my pregnancy because we were doing some major renovations to the house. We didn't buy Finn's baby book until he was a few months old and there are no pictures in it yet. I think I wrote updates until he was maybe six months old. 

So far with this baby, I have done nothing. No journal, no pictures, nothing. It's not because I love this child any less, but I didn't even think about all of this until recently. 

The one thing that this child receives more of than his/her siblings is kisses. Maeve and Finnegan hug and kiss my belly several times a day. Finn gets a huge smile on his face and then sticks his nose into my belly button to love the baby. Both kids pet and hug my belly and tonight I finally had to tell them that is was bedtime for the baby so they'd stop fighting over whose turn it was to hug my expanding waist.

Detergent and Deodorant...Again

The detergent is still great. I use the recommended 1/2 cup in my HE front loader and have no build-up problems. Our clothes come out looking and smelling clean. 

The deodorant is good. Slightly annoying, but good. It works really well as a deodorant. I don't stink even as I'm crawling into bed. The slightly annoying part is getting it out of the container and applying it. I have to scrape it out, roll it into a ball and smear it on my armpits. I spend a lot more quality time with my armpits in the mornings, but I suppose it's worth the extra effort. 

And forgive me if I've already written something similar. I am pregnant and my entire brain is being used by my uterus.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Being Domestic: A Lost Art

I was reading about making my own butter recently and had no idea it was so easy. I bought organic heavy whipping cream and voila! Butter. I involved the kids throughout the process, but they were mostly interested in eating the finished product. I told my mom how easy it was to make butter and she said that she remembered making butter in school. That got me thinking....

If she made butter in school, why didn't she ever make it with her kids? Don't get me wrong - my mother did plenty with us and was a star at playing fun games outside. She also cooked most meals from scratch, although my sister, brother and I usually did nothing to help in the kitchen. In fact, I had no desire to cook much of anything until I had my own apartment in college. I didn't really learn to cook until I got married and I am still learning a great deal about cooking.

I have to wonder though if my mom had done "cool" things like teach us how to make butter if I would have been more interested in cooking. I suppose I'll never know, but it has made me think about homeschooling and the kinds of things I want to teach my children. 

I think being domestic is a lost art. My Sicilian great grandmother made the best pizza I've ever tasted. It saddens me that I will probably never know how to make it. My grandmother was an award winning quilter (well not sure about award winning, but I know she was heavily involved in the quilting scene) and I have no idea how to quilt. Why? What other family talents were missed because I was too busy learning calculus? I'm not saying calculus isn't important, but why isn't the same kind of importance placed on all things domestic? 

I want my children to be able to grow, can and cook their own food. I want them to know how to use a sewing machine and serger. I want them to be able to build structures and want them to know other practical skills to use throughout their lives. 

Being domestic is nothing to hide from or find shame in. I love the fact that I made my own laundry detergent. It was easy and works great. I love that Finn wore two diapers that I made today and they didn't leak or sag. Some of Maeve's favorite skirts are ones that I made with leftover quilting material that had been given to my mother. I am looking forward to sharing my love of the "everyday" with my children and hope that they learn to appreciate the skills of all of the women (and men) before them. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Already 4!

It's hard to believe that in the blink of an eye, by baby girl turned four. 

This is her as Striped Girl, by the way. And yes, she does wear that headband in public. In fact, it's not worthy of being in her hair or on her head unless it makes a statement. 

My personal favorite headband of Maeve's is the light up Christmas tree. 

The King and The Emperor

Mathew and I took our two little penguins to the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo last Friday. We had so much fun exploring the zoo with the kids and their behavior was perfect. I don't get to say that too often. 

I would like everyone to note Maeve's outfit. That is her birthday outfit and if you can't tell from the picture, her favorite colors are green and blue. ALWAYS green and blue. 

And although you can't tell, it is also worth noting that Maeve's shirt is on backwards. There is a small pocket by her right shoulder blade. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cleaning Products

I love vinegar and baking soda and use them in place of every other household cleaning product I've ever owned.

I use vinegar to disinfect my sink and kitchen counter tops, microwave, bathroom, floors and anything else that needs cleaning. Vinegar is great for washing windows and leaves no streaks when wiped off with newspaper. I use undiluted vinegar in a spray bottle, but some use a 50/50 mix with water. When I first started cleaning with vinegar, I couldn't stand the smell and had to use essential oils in the spray bottle as well. Vinegar becomes odorless once it dries and now that I'm used to the smell, I only use essential oil if I happen to have some on hand from other projects. 

For harder to clean things like my stove top and cast iron tub, I use baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda is great for scrubbing and very cheap. 

As many of you know, I have recently started using homemade laundry detergent to clean our clothes. It's nice to know exactly what is in the detergent and it's extremely cost-effective. I use vinegar as a fabric softener and think it's great. I never have static issues either, but that might be because the clothes typically stay in the dryer for awhile. My cleaning products might be efficient, but I am not when it comes to laundry.

I would like to replace my dishwasher detergent with something homemade, but have not started looking for recipes. 

If you want more ideas on how to clean with vinegar, check these out:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Skin and Hair Care

The next area of our lives that we changed are still changing relates to skin and hair care products. 

The Environmental Working Group has a wonderful and very useful site called Skin Deep. Skin Deep lists the toxicity and safety rating of almost every skin, body and hair care product. 

Many baby products and products marketed towards children have poor safety ratings. Thankfully, within the past couple of years, natural products are getting easier to find. Target and a grocery store near my house both carry many Burt's Bees and Dr. Bronner's products. 

I use a 60/40 mix of olive oil and Castor oil to wash my face. I keep it in a glass bottle and it makes my face soft and moisturized without clogging my pores. After Finn was born I tried using an organic moisturizer and it made my skin break out. I've gone back to exclusively using my olive oil mix and am happy. In fact, it's the only thing during this pregnancy that has kept my face from looking like it's constantly peeling from a bad burn. 

One thing I've recently changed is to use a homemade deodorant. It was easy to make and seems promising. I've read about people washing their arm pits with baking soda and then misting or dabbing on some apple cider vinegar. I would rather not have to put that much effort into my arm pits every morning so I'm hoping this deodorant works. 

My next step is to phase out shampoo and conditioner on myself and the kids (and eventually Mathew, but he loves his good smelling shampoo) and use the no-poo method. I seldom use shampoo and have been using just conditioner for awhile now. I tried washing with baking soda and rinsing with apple cider vinegar tonight and was surprised by the results. Apple cider vinegar made my hair just as soft and tangle free as conditioner. Finnegan absolutely hates having his hair washed so I've always only used conditioner on him. I can't see him tolerating baking soda in his hair so I might wait to try the no-poo method on him until he's a bit older. Maeve, on the other hand, loves having her hair washed.

Of course, if you are a fan of shampoo and conditioner just make sure it does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). That is easier said than done though since about everything under the sun contains one of those ingredients. 

Eventually I would like to experiment with more natural toothpastes, but I am  hesitant to give up my Colgate Total. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lead and Plastics

When I became a mother, I became acutely aware of every chemical and hazardous product that entered my house. It became a sort of obsession for both my husband and me and is still a work in progress. 

We started with lead and plastics. 

I was amazed at all of the lead containing products. Plastic or vinyl blinds, for example, contain lead (yes, I know I linked to and old recall, but info about lead in blinds can also be read in the Greenpeace link below). We had five window's worth of vinyl blinds that we took down. The blinds have been replaced with roman shades. Well, mostly replaced because I still have to make roman shades for two windows.  It's been five years now and I haven't found the time even though the fabric is cut and ready. 

We also got rid of all of our Teflon coated cookware (we made exceptions for our two electric skillets), plastic cooking utensils, plastic containers, and plastic cups and bowls. If I am going to buy or use anything plastic, I make sure that it is BPA and phthalate free. It's getting much easier to find BPA free products which is nice since most baby bottles and sippy cups contain, or at least used to contain, BPA. 

Phthalates are also found in teething toys and other baby toys. We either bought wooden toys, Haba is one of our favorites, or teethers made by The First Years which specifically state they are phthalate free. I called several companies and asked about phthalates and PVC (polyvinyl chloride, also in childrens products) and Fisher Price told me that phthalates were perfectly safe and endorsed by Greenpeace. Not true. Of course now it all makes sense because Fisher Price has also been using high levels of lead in all of their products. 

And this was just the beginning...

Detergent Update

I used 1/4 C of homemade detergent today in my HE machine. The clothes came out clean and fresh smelling. 

I made another batch of detergent using Dr. Bronner's eucalyptus soap and some lemon essential oil. It smells really good so I'm going to give my first batch to my brother who has very sensitive skin. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

In the Kitchen

I've spiced up my kitchen with a couple of non-edible concoctions. 

Deodorant and laundry detergent. 

I've been wanting to make my own deodorant for a long time, but it takes me forever to go through a stick because I only wear deodorant if I am going somewhere. Eww gross, I know. I found the recipe on a blog called Angry Chicken. I love that blog and read it when I need craftiness inspiration. 

3 Tablespoons Shea butter
3 Tablespoons baking soda
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 Tablespoons cocoa butter
2 Vitamin E oil gel caps (this was omitted because I forgot to pick some up)
Essential Oil

Mix everything together. Put in microwave for 30 sec. Stir. Microwave again until almost melted. Stir. Pour into container of choice and put in fridge until set. 

Next time I might try it without the cocoa butter because I can't stand the smell. I did add some essential oil (lemon, actually...I love lemon), but I didn't want to add too much just in case it didn't agree with my arm pits. I had enough Shea butter to make a total of eight ounces of deodorant. I poured it into two glass four ounce containers. Tomorrow will be my first day so we'll see how it goes. 

I also made laundry detergent tonight. It was so easy and didn't take long at all. The hardest part was finding washing soda and grating an entire bar of soap. The lady's website says nothing on her page can be put anywhere else so I'm just going to link to it. 

Instead of using the recommended soap, I used a whole bar of Dr. Bronner's. I am hoping it works and doesn't get too sudsy. If it doesn't work, I'm not out much money and will try again with something else. Here's the cost breakdown:

Washing soda (Hy Vee was the only place around me that carried this): $3.19 
Borax: We already had a box, but I think it's $3-5 
Soap: Dr. B's was $4

The cost of all of the ingredients was still cheaper than a big thing of HE detergent. I have enough washing soda and borax to make several batches so the only thing I need to keep buying is soap. I have read a lot of good things about homemade detergents and am hoping it works. I will continue to use regular detergent on our cloth diapers, but I use so little detergent for them that what I have left should last a very long time.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cooking Boredom

I cook most of what we eat from scratch and am getting tired of eating the same things. I sat down to write out my grocery list and have nothing on the list. It doesn't help that I am pregnant and my appetite fluctuates greatly. 

So if you are reading this and have a wonderful recipe to share, I'll be forever grateful. I'll even post some of my favorite recipes the next few days. 

Laundry Detergent

Just for kicks, I'm going to make my own laundry detergent. I don't have a problem with what I am using now, but homemade stuff is cheaper and from what I've read, works better too. If it works, I'll share the recipe. 

Deodorant and dishwasher detergent are on my list of things to make too, although I probably won't get to them this weekend. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pocket Diaper

Finn wore the pocket diaper I made and it worked! No leaks and no sagging. I need to make the insert opening a tad bigger, but I am happy.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Lately, Maeve has been a handful and hasn't exactly been the nicest kid on the block. She would hit her brother repeatedly as soon as I turned around and the last straw was when she hit another kid on the head with a large toy dinosaur. The hit was completely unprovoked as far as I could tell and it led me to think that a) Maeve needs more positive reinforcement and b) more stimulation. 

I started by turning off the t.v. The t.v. had slowly gained presence in our household. It started with the kids watching t.v. upon waking. That wasn't a big deal because it allowed me to get breakfast ready quickly. Then the t.v. was turned on for awhile around lunch time and then again in the evening. It wasn't that the kids were watching a ton of t.v., but it was too much for them. Maeve had become uncreative, unmotivated and was unable to entertain herself without the t.v. turned on. She was stuck in a rut and I hadn't even realized it until recently. 

A beautiful thing has happened in the last three days. My daughter is creative, nice, helpful and interested in all sorts of stuff. I feel like I have my Maeve back. Granted, she still hits her brother on the head from time to time, but those times are becoming few and far between. We've been talking about the four seasons, drawing pictures, playing games and pretending. Maeve was Chef Jacks last night and showed me how to properly smash freeze dried pears using a garlic press. She has done a great job of entertaining herself when I have things to get done and today she gave Finn a hug and a kiss and told him that she was so happy he was not ruining the cake she was creating. 

We've been working more on how to handle frustrations and anger and how to share. I've really been trying to reinforce all of the great things she's been doing and praise her for them. The nice weather this week should help run off some energy and I am hopeful that the interactions she has this week with other kids will be positive. 

I think it's going to be awhile before the t.v. gets turned on again in our house. 

Diaper Progress

I have made 17 fitted diapers and one pocket diaper (far left). I have 29 more pockets to sew and they are proving to be a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. I am also starting to run low on snaps and need to order more. 

My Husband

With a face like this, how could I not fall in love?