Confessions of an Addict

Dear Readers,

It's been too long. I've seen many of you have been frequenting my blog even in my absence. Thank you to the faithful! I have to admit, I have been focusing my creative energy in other places, mainly Pinterest (If you need an invite, message me your email address). Does this even count as an outlet for creative energy? I'm just clicking and repinning the stuff I like. BUT, despite my hubby's daily tirades that Pinterest is of the devil, I feel my life has been enhanced. I have many many projects about the house inspired from Pinterest. And I feel like I'm reading more blogs (instead of less) because of it. It's like a pictorial guide to all blogs, and more often than not, I'm lead to blog posts I wouldn't have found on my own yet they cover topics I'm extremely interested in.

For example, food. I've been cooking and baking. A. Lot. Yikes. Calorie counting beware. I feel like all bets are off during fall. The pumpkins. The apples. The squash. The cooler weather that begs me to turn my oven on. Ahhh. I love it.

So, if you need a little inspiration and a new outlet for your creative energy (I refuse to repin the "Thank you, Pinterest, for helping me feel creative even though I've really been sitting at my computer for three hours" because it's not true), here are some links to my favorite boards right now:

Party Ideas (From decorations to food to themes, ahh, inspiration!)
Homeschool Activities (Mainly preschool stuff but really a little bit of everything including some Montessori-inspired pictures that I adore)
Gift Wrap (DIY ideas for wrapping gifts, making cards, and free printables)
Dinner (Recipes, recipes, recipes. If I've already made the recipe, I've commented below it with my evaluation and suggestions for next time)

Enjoy. And go jump in a pile of leaves. I just love this season.

*photo courtesy of jinterwas


Living Simply

photo courtesy of Horia Varlan

ately, I've been dwelling a lot on the concept of living simply. I read stories like
this of people who limit their possessions to 100 items or less, and I wonder if I'm capable of the same. I don't see any need to do something this extreme, but the principle of reducing, refusing, and rejiggering is appealing.

If you strolled through my home, you'd see a severe lack of toys. Despite the fact that I have two young girls, my house is not overrun with plastic or large toys. I prefer to buy things that stimulate the imagination and leave room for creativity rather than dead-end items that only have one purpose or character to each. Sure, my daughters love going to friends' homes and excitedly running/crawling from toy to toy trying new buttons that flash and make noise and rolling around new characters they don't see often in their own home. And I'm completely fine with that. It's new and exciting for them, and I love to see them experience new things.

Despite friends' toys' newness, I cannot think of a single item in the last three years that my daughter has chosen to cling to, cry for, or desperately want after we leave our friends' homes. In fact, most toys she plays with at others' homes only hold her attention for a few short moments before she's on to the next one. Playtime is generally a race to touch every new toy in the room before leaving.

We've all heard parents lament the high-ticket items they were so excited to buy for their children only to find that a bucket filled with water and other cups and bowls, or an empty box provided hours and hours of child-preferred entertainment. This only reinforces my desire to keep only meaningful toys in our home. Perhaps this will change as the girls get older, but my desire is that the principle will never leave them--money can't buy happiness; enjoy life in the now and the people who surround you.

All this to say, while I make it a regular routine to clear out our toy baskets and throw away unused toys or cheap kid's meal prizes, I see a great disconnect to extend that routine to every other area of my home. With our house for sale, we've filled a rather large storage unit with all of our "unnecessary" stuff to de-clutter our home for show. I can count on one hand, actually, one or two fingers, the number of times I've had to go back to the unit to get something out that I needed. Naturally, this makes me wonder why I needed all that stuff in the first place.

If our home does sell quicker than we find a new one, we've contemplated switching to an apartment temporarily. To be honest, this idea thrills me--a life of less. Less bills. Less cleaning. Less clutter. Less responsibility. It sounds divine, doesn't it? And since my daughters thrive both in the home and outside doing activities of all sorts, I have no doubt they'll conform well to a change toward simplicity.

What are your thoughts, dear readers? Are you appalled at my hypocrisy to simplify my daughters' lives and yet hoard useless items of my own? I'll be honest; I am appalled at myself. And I have every intention of having a huge moving sale once our house sells. Even though I had to put all my stuff in storage to realize how little it means to me, at least I've taken that step, and now I'm ready for the next. How about you?


Need Help!

Dear Lovely Readers,

My daughter is less than two months away from a big diet change to more table food and less monochromatic (i.e., boring) food. She's doing great eating well--almost too well. My grocery bill is growing in leaps. This girl consumes A LOT of food at each meal. So, I'm looking to you for some new, fresh ideas. Here are the big players in our daily diet right now:

Sweet potatoes
Black beans

I'm staying away from rice and flour until age one. She's tried yogurt, but it made her break out, so she's off that until she turns one. Any ideas? Snack ideas are especially welcome.

Thanks so much!


Birdie Birthday Party

I've decided the earliest age to throw a big birthday party is three. Up until now, birthdays were fun, but they were not something my daughter anticipated, got excited about, or really understood in the moment. This year that all changed. I talked it up a lot this year to help her prepare. (Talking my daughter through future events really helps prepare her to get the most out of a situation. I'm not sure if this is universal with children her age or if it's just because she's so shy, but she always does better when she knows what to expect.)

For the past few months, we have been watching the birds through a big picture window by our dining room table. I started to explain what a birdhouse and birdbath were, and she told me she wanted them. I told her she could ask for them for her birthday, so every time someone asked what she wanted for her birthday, she said, "I want a birdhouse and a bath for the birdies." This made picking a party theme easy (and a present theme, for that matter).

My newest addiction is Pinterest. It's THE answer to the question, "What do I do with my old magazines if I don't want to throw them out?" Don't read magazines anymore. Find everything online and save your favorite stuff on Pinterest. You can organize your boards by themes and pin your favorite pictures/inspirations together. Each picture will link back to its original source, so if there's a recipe, DIY project, or more details that you're looking for, all you have to do is click on that picture. Never again do I need a magazine or a notebook.

I. LOVE. It.

And I love snooping through other people's boards to get new ideas. So, I started a party board (this link will only work if you have a Pinterest account. If you want to start one, message me, and I'll send you an invite), and I pinned all my favorite decoration and favor ideas there. I didn't use everything, and I've added a lot of other random party stuff since, but I'm really excited about the results.

The party was a smashing success, and my daughter even thanked me for it afterward. Sigh. Perfect. Enjoy!
Activity: Paint-Your-Own Birdhouses. I found these cheapest at Hobby Lobby with either a coupon or when the unfinished wood was 40 percent off.

This was my favorite area. The bunting is a handmade gift from a dear friend. We have used it over and over again in our home. The DIY egg-carton flowers tutorial is here.

Scattered throughout the trees were these hanging lanterns. The tutorial is here.

My amazing dad, Eric The Balloonman, is a handy resource for birthday parties! These balloon columns were all him. They really made everything look magical. Thanks, Dad!

Cupcakes courtesy of Sam's Club. I can't recommend them enough. Beautiful. Delicious. Cheap. I'm gushing. Seriously.

Let the party begin! Birdhouse painting was a huge success, but I made the mistake of not checking to make sure all paint was washable. Good thing most of the invitees were boys who could take off their shirts ;-)

My hottie hubby (no pun intended) slaved over the grill most of the party. It was in the mid-to-upper nineties for the party, which made the grill the least likely place to want to spend your time. He's my hero. He didn't complain once.

If you want people to attend/stay at your party, my personal belief is you must feed them. And feed them we did!

There was no shortage of help unwrapping presents. Smile.

A few of my favorite shots of the birthday girl.

And one of my favorite shots from the entire party--the aftermath. Party = complete success.

All photos courtesy of my talented mama, Judy. Thanks, Mom!


Baby Food Part 4 . . . and some news!

I'm back! Sorry for the delay between posts. I have some very exciting news, which semi-justifies my delay--we're selling our house! My hubby and I know it's the right time, so we've been working faithfully to de-clutter and spruce up our home. I always vowed I wouldn't save updates to do on my house until I get ready to sell--why not update while I'm living there and enjoy some of the fruit of my labors, right? Well, that has panned out to making the transition to sell a fairly straightforward process. If my hubby weren't working over sixty hours a week, we could've been ready to go in a matter of a couple of weeks, but with a hubby who's not home much (and when he is, he's justifiably exhausted), two little ones under my constant care, and a semi-normal existence, it's been a challenge to get anything, no matter how small, done in a reasonable amount of time.
photo courtesy of kevindooley

Of course, this naturally begs the question, where are you moving to? The answer is simply, I don't know. We're looking for some change--either closer to everything we love in the city, or possibly land on the outskirts. With as little free time as we have, we've decided to take things ONE STEP AT A TIME. First step, prep the house to sell. Second step, find a realtor and put the house on the market. Finally, start doing some research about where we want to live.

Okay, I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, here are some more baby food suggestions and hints I've picked up in the midst of transitioning my baby from nursing to solids.

1. Taste the food you're giving your child. If you don't like it, don't give it to him/her. This is especially true with jarred baby food. Thankfully there's a great new alternative that we've been taking full advantage of--baby food in a squeeze pouch. It's re-sealable so you can use the leftovers later. There's no spoon needed--just squeeze the food into your baby's mouth. And when he/she gets older, he/she can feed himself/herself. My baby's a little over nine months, and she's already got the pouches mastered on her own.

You've got to do some shopping to get the good prices. Our favorite brand right now is Happy Tot because it's organic, tastes really good, and the packaging is BPA free. (Although the new studies on how people are able to so quickly making plastic products BPA free is a bit disturbing. For more information, read this.) We can find Happy Tot in some of our Targets, but not all of them. And it's way cheaper than Plum Organics. Happy Tot also went on sale at Babies R Us recently, so that's a good place to watch. But, the best prices are on Amazon--sign up to be an Amazon Mom, and then use the "Subscribe and Save" option instead of checking out through your cart--there are also occasional discount codes available too).

2. It's easy to feed your baby sweet fruits and sweet orange veggies, but give green a try! Spinach has been really easy for me to incorporate. I can blend raw baby spinach in fruit smoothies, and none of my family--even the big kids (hubby included) are any wiser. I can rub baby spinach with sea salt, drizzle with olive oil, and chop with some kalamata olives, and my nine-month old will eat it without hesitation. As I've mentioned before, I try to incorporate raw foods into my baby's diet as much as possible, and I've found that blending pears and spinach, or apples and spinach is really easy, really healthy, and my baby loves it!

Oh, and I use my Magic Bullet to make all my baby food--it really is magical. Another tip, if it's not blending right away and you need to add some liquid, use coconut water. It has so many more nutrients and good stuff in it than just plain tap water. My firstborn used to drink bottles of coconut water with her meals. She loved it. My second born isn't as excited, but she doesn't mind it blended in her food.

3. As I mentioned before, I'm following Gabriel Cousens's guide to raw baby food. To give you an idea of how we started things, I've give you a really abbreviated list of foods we used. To get the whole list, you'll have to buy the book.

At six months we used a lot of bananas, coconut water, mangos, pears, cucumbers (peeled & blended) and avocados.
LOTS of avocados!

At eight months we added some almonds (soaked and blended with fruit they make DELICIOUS porridges), grapes, olives, and more. Nine months is when we added more greens--kale, spinach, and more. And like I said, you really just need to buy the book to get the full lists and the delicious recipes. Seriously, I eat any leftovers of the recipes I make from this book. They are so yummy!

4. We talked about the dirty dozen before. I want to give you one more tip about using produce that will really set you up for success--and it will help you actually use all of the produce you buy. I think I heard this first on the Rachel Ray show. Wash/soak your produce as soon as you get home and unload the groceries. My routine is to unload groceries. As I'm unloading, I stack all the produce that needs to be soaked by the sink. Once my counters are clear again, I fill my sinks with an apple cider vinegar/purified water mix, and I throw everything in the sinks and let them soak for 30-60 minutes. Bam! It's all washed, so I don't cringe when pulling it out and grumbling as I wash it while rushing to make a meal. Bam! It's ready to eat, so I can just pop it in my mouth when I need a snack.
This is a pretty average supply of produce for one week (about two sinks' full).

What are your baby food tips? I'd love to hear what you've used, what you've found effective, and what you'd recommend to others just starting.

**Coming soon--pictures and details about my daughter's three-year birdie birthday party!


Baby Food Part 3--First Foods, Raw Foods & Keeping It Affordable

So far I've already covered my previous failures and some disturbing new info about feeding babies, in part one of my baby food series. If you're looking for a happier success story and a great formula alternative, check out part two.

And now on to the food!

Most of my baby food journey has been dictated by Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine by Gabriel Cousens, MD. This book is all about raw food, and it has a handy-dandy baby-food section in the back. I, myself, am not a completely raw foodie. In fact, it's a smaller percentage of my diet than I'd like to admit, but that is a long story that I will probably blog about another time. Let's just skip to the end where I see the health benefits of raw food and wish to incorporate those things into my children's lives as much as possible. I don't expect, nor want, them to be completely raw either. But I do want them to appreciate the value it plays in their diet and be willing to incorporate it as much as possible. Plus, raw flavors are so strong and so delicious, I don't want my children's senses so deadened by synthetic processed food that they don't appreciate natural food in its purest form.

Soap box over.

I've been following the guide in the back of Cousens's book for a few reasons:

1. I know it's a great start for my baby's digestive and immune system, and I truly believe these first foods are important to setting my kids up for health success.
2. Since I'm making small portions, the price is even more manageable than it is for me.
3. Everything tastes delicious. If my baby doesn't eat it, I will!

But it's so expensive, right? Here's a bunch of little tips to saving lots:

1. Buy organic based on the "dirty dozen." Add carrots to that list. Gardeners use carrots to clean the soil. Carrots naturally pull the toxins out of the soil--great tip for if you want to clean up your garden; the main reason you don't want to eat conventional carrots! If it's not on the dirty dozen list, then go ahead and buy conventional. Depending on where you live, places like Aldi and Trader Joe's sell produce for insanely cheap prices, making healthy eating really affordable. Also, there are tons of veggie wash recipes available online--or you can make it as simple as soaking your produce in apple cider vinegar/water, or rubbing your produce down with grapefruit extract to get it clean and pesticide free.
2. Take some time to learn your stores. I know the prices and availability of all organic and natural ingredients available from all of the stores in my area, not just the health stores. You can find a lot in Wal-mart and Target nowadays, but they aren't always the cheapest. If it's a store you don't frequent often, be sure to stock up on your favorite items when do go there. A lot of stuff is cheap on Amazon too!
3. It's summer time! Shop the farmers markets in your area. The more local, the less steps between field and your plate.
4. Coupon. Go to coupon classes, even if you don't think they'll apply to healthy eating. You'll be surprised what you can learn about making your shopping more affordable. (E.g., Whole Foods has double-flyer Wednesdays where there are basically two sales going on simultaneously. Match that with coupons off their website doubled with manufacturer coupons and buy in bulk to get their case discount, boom! That's a lot of savings. I save a lot just sticking to their bulk bins too.)
5. If you keep eating the same junk you've always eaten and just want to provide healthy stuff for your baby, you're setting yourself up for failure. First of all, stocking a healthy and junky pantry is expensive. Second, you won't stick with the healthy food because the junky food is much, much more convenient.
6. Get educated. Know what processed foods, dairy, high fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes, fragrances, heavy-meat diets, and more do to your body. When you know what you're doing to you/your baby's body, you'll think twice before you buy/eat it. If you live in intentional ignorant bliss, you will easily derail.
7. Get support. Surround yourself with other people who are committed to eating/feeding their children properly. There's strength in numbers.

More specifics on which foods I started my baby on next time.


Baby Food Part 2--Formula Alternative

photo courtesy of healthaliciousness

I started my baby food journey with my first, we had a less-than-happy time trying to find the right balance. I also tried making almond mylk which is a legitimate substitute for infant formula--please note that I'm not talking about the almond milk you buy in the store--that stuff is full of sodium. Here's a recipe for what I tried making:

Almond Mylk:
1 C raw almonds soaked 4-6 hours in purified water, drain before mixing
3 C coconut water (you can get from young thai coconuts available at Whole Foods, easy to open and fairly cheap . . . or you can get it in the drink section at WF in boxes).

Process all ingredients in blender until smooth. Can warm for babies to same temp as mother's milk. Don't overheat. Let it cool. (I had to pour this through cheese cloth to get the almond grit out).

When I made this recipe, I didn't have a lot of hope for making it work, and I was really overwhelmed with the price of the ingredients I was buying. Three years later, I now know my way around the health food store a lot more, and I know the cheapest organic/raw food prices from box stories to specialty stores. My point is that your success with this recipe is all about attitude. I had a skeptical attitude when I made it, so I was looking for reasons for it not to work. When you're looking for an excuse to fail, you'll always find it.

With my second baby, my supply started to wane around four months again, but this time I did things differently:

1. I demand fed during the day. The more I nursed, the more supply I had for the next feeding.
2. I drank lots of water and went to a fruit/veggie-heavy diet.
3. I took the supplements--all of them. I didn't skimp on them this time. I even drank the nasty tea.

I would've used the almond mylk, but I didn't end up needing it. We made it to six months on breast milk only!
My baby's first-food details coming up in part three.


Baby Food Part 1

In my transition to make healthy lifestyle, especially food-wise, a priority in my life again, I've been putting a lot of focus (and time) on my newborn's baby food. I want to give her the best start possible as she's growing and developing a healthy digestive, immune, endocrine, and all those other amazing systems affected by the food we eat.

A little history . . .

My now-toddler started crying when I finished nursing her around four months. I knew she was still hungry, but my supply just wasn't keeping up. I refused to switch to formula, so I tried a couple of things.

1. I started taking supplements that boosted my supply. They worked, but because they were so expensive, I didn't keep up with them as I should have, and my supply went back down again.
2. I tried pumping at random hours of the night. Since my hubby gets up at an ungodly hour to go to work, if I wasn't already up feeding, I got up with him and pumped.

Both helped a little but not enough. So, I decided that it was time to introduce solids. I went out and bought organic rice cereal, mixed it with what little milk I had pumped, and we were on to solids. Soon I was adding bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, and whatever age-appropriate stage-one organic baby food I could find. I wasn't patient enough to introduce one food at a time, and before too long, her face started breaking out into circular red patches. And later they started to ooze. We switched cereal brands, switched laundry detergents, I made my own food when possible, we eliminated foods, etc., but nothing seemed to work. I finally opted for a teensy bit of steroid cream that final cleared things up. Since then we use sporadic amounts of the cream whenever her now-diagnosed eczema shows up (and it's not just on her face--it pops up everywhere).

Two important things I've learned since then:

1. Studies are now showing that babies' digestive enzymes are actually not capable of properly processing rice and oatmeal for at least the first year of their lives. Since they can't break it down properly, the body does strange things with it to try and get rid of it (e.g., eczema).
2. A good friend of ours has diabetes. He's had it since he was a kid . . . and it showed up soon after he had a steroid shot to treat a bad case of poison ivy. The doctors didn't ever tell him there was a link, but he overheard them discussing it in the hallway.

Needless to say, I've approached feeding my second newborn solids a lot differently. I'll give more details in my next blog. Stay tuned.

**photo courtesy of stevendepolo


My New Normal

Photo courtesy of Vick the Viking

It's a quickie, but I wanted to check in. I got such an overwhelming response of encouragement and advice last time I blogged, I wanted to first say thank you. You gave me a lot to think about, and a lot of new ideas to try. And, there's always the value of knowing I'm not alone. We all (yes, all of us) have our fair share of mama-struggles, and more likely than not, the mamas doing life right next to us are struggling with the same things we are. So, go ahead. Reach out and hug that mama in your playgroup or the one who lives next door. I bet she needs it =)

Also, as I'm sorting out this new "normal" for my life, here are the things I'm trying to make the chaos a little more controlled:

1. I'm writing again. Editing is awesome. It (quickly) pays the bills, and it's a great fit in my busy schedule; but I'm a writer. Lately I've been longing to write. And when I go to writers' conferences and only talk about my editing jobs, I feel like a poser. I want to start submitting my work again, so it starts with writing. A little bit every day. Nothing earth shattering so far, but it feels so good to flex my writer muscle again.

2. I'm following the advice of one of my friends from my last post. I'm trying to accomplish one thing a day: 1 learning activity for my children; one area in the house to clean; one load of laundry. It's helping me feel like I've accomplished something yet keeping me from feeling overwhelmed. I'm not successful every day, but I am getting something done. That feels good.

Okay, gotta go do some writing and then tackle my one area to clean today--the garage! Love you, readers. Thanks again!


Something's Gotta Give

photo courtesy of atomicjeep

I know it's been too long, and I apologize. I've been doing a lot of mental processing lately, and I just haven't made time to sit down and put it down on paper, er, computer. But here I am . . . finally!

Back when I started Editor Joy, I had a newborn baby. Just one. And I felt like I was drowning. Flailing my arms and grabbing for life supports, I could barely keep my head above water. There was so much to do, yet this little helpless infant required so much of my time. I remember desperately asking my friends how they did it, how they got anything done; and no matter what their answers, I rarely found any help or comfort (because, as I later learned, every baby AND MAMA is different).

Now, I look back at those days and laugh at my ignorant self. To think, finding one newborn to be overwhelming and drowning all of my free time. Ha!

The transition to two continues. It's already been over seven months, and while I gave myself months to establish a routine, I'm finding myself rather frustrated that seven months later, I'm not much further than I was when I only had one child to deal with--some days I feel like I've backtracked.

I know this isn't rocket science, but I can't believe I have so much less time for me now. I'm not saying this in a selfish the-world-revolves-around-me way; it's more of a it'd-be-so-nice-to-do-all-the-dishes-and-pick-up-my-bedroom-before-bed way. I just don't have time to do much else than take care of my girls.

I still sound like I'm whining. I'm not. I'm learning. And the lesson that a friend of mine told me three years ago is still kicking my butt--something's gotta give. For the first few months, I gave up (for the most part) a healthy lifestyle. Eat whatever, exercise is optional (which means it doesn't happen), and cook what's easiest. These last few months I've picked back up on the healthy lifestyle, and cleaning my house has been suffering. I tell myself that something has to give, and right now it's the house. But I have a hard time accepting that. I feel restless in a dirty house. I cringe when I see a layer of dust thick enough to write my name in. I gag when I see buildup on my cupboards from severe neglect. I know something's gotta give, but I'm waging a mad war with my type-A personality: I want to pretend I gave up something, but really I want to prove to the world that I can do it ALL. Wahahaha. haha, hehe.


Yeah, House, 240 points; Joy, 0.

I know this is a ridiculous battle. I mean, in twenty years when my kids are grown, and I have oodles of free time on my hands, I won't look back on these years and wish I had cleaned the house more and spent less time with the kiddos. But I am really learning something about myself when I see how hard it is for me to let go of the house.

So, fellow mamas. What is it for you? What's gotta give in your life right now so you can stay afloat?


Maternity Leave

It feels as though not much is getting done around the house nowadays. I've long since lost track of any sort of schedule to follow to clean my house. If laundry is picked up before guests come over, I feel pretty good about myself. The kitchen is overflowing with both dirty and clean dishes, piles of produce ready to be composted, juicer, food processor, extra food (since I don't have the luxury of a pantry), and so much more. The dust in my bedroom is embarrassingly thick. I can barely stay on top of my work. I have little or no time to myself. I haven't exercised much at all in the past few weeks. What is going on? This is not my normal. Where did I go wrong?

The more I've thought about it, the more realize I haven't gone wrong. In fact, this may be my new "normal" for now. Priorities have shifted, and for some reason I thought that when I shifted my priorities, my routine would still look exactly the same. But, the routine has morphed along with my priorities, and this chaotic thing we're told to embrace--change--has left me treading water, just trying to keep oxygen flowing to my head . . . when I actually take time to breathe.

Priorities that have shifted:

1. My girls are my number-one priority at home.
2. Eating healthy has regained a high position on my priority list. I've started incorporating more raw recipes and fresh juices into my menus; and I've cut way back on dairy, breads, and meat.
3. My baby is eating solids.

How that has affected my routine:

1. Unless it's nap time, my focus is on my girls. Housework, editing, laundry, and many other seemingly important items are no match for my toddler's request to "Come here, Mama. I want to show you something." If I'm only working during nap time, that means on a good day, I have about two-three hours to do everything else. So, I edit as long as possible, then I rush about the house trying to pick up, fold laundry, make dinner, and anything else I had on my to-do list for the day. If one girl is off on her nap schedule, all of that goes out the window.

2. Eating healthy requires more time because of the time it takes to plan meals, shop for the best-priced healthy ingredients, prepare the meals, and wash the extra appliances needed to make the food (juicer, food processor, etc.) I love how I feel. I've shed my baby weight--even the ten pounds I held on to from my first baby, and I have more energy. I love when health is a priority. Life is just, well, shiny-er, when you're eating properly.

3. I forgot how much time it would require to add three more feedings per day into my schedule (not to mention making three more meals).

As a mom, I'm more and more convinced that you should give yourself at LEAST six solid months before you try to surface in the real world again. Of course, you can maintain and appear to be leading a fairly normal life for those six months. By no means am I suggesting dropping off the planet, becoming a recluse, or anything else extreme. But you certainly need a decent amount of time to adjust to a whole other human being being a major part of your life. It really takes everything you have--your strength, your wisdom, your power, your insight, your love, everything.

It's a beautiful time, and it's a demanding time. You won't conquer the world or come up with any earth-shattering revelations during this time. But you will be doing one of the most important and powerful jobs you could possibly indulge in. You will be nurturing a new life. And that, is quite an accomplishment.


An apology

A quick apology . . .

Sorry, dear readers, life has taken me by storm, and my blog has been severely neglected. I got busy with life, my kids, my work, my friends, a quick yet powerful trip to Michigan, and now a baby being introduced to solids. It's a messy life but a good one.

I will return. Soon. Very soon.



Cloth Diapers FAQ *Updated*

Cloth diapers seem to be getting a lot of attention and consideration nowadays. I'd almost say it's becoming trendy, but it seems sacrilegious to call something that saves you money trendy. Alas, recently I've been asked a lot of questions about my cloth diapering experience, so I figured I'd do a little FAQ as a reference for all of you who may have cloth diaper questions.

Before I start, let me say there are a TON of cloth diaper options out there. If you ask people which ones they use/like, you're bound to get a myriad of answers. Having ten different cloth diaper brands thrown at you at once is overwhelming and discouraging. So, two pieces of advice for those looking to make their first purchases:

1. Don't buy everything at once. Get a couple of top recommendations and try those first. You'll probably have some disposables from showers/gifts that you can use intermittently while you figure out what works best for you.

2. Sign up for giveaways. There are always a ton of giveaways going on on Facebook and Twitter. For example The Cloth Diaper Whisperer gives away something cloth diaper every Friday on their blog. If you follow @cottonbabies, @diapershops, etc. on Twitter, they also do giveaways, especially if you RSVP and attend one of their cloth diaper Twitter parties. (There's one (#clothdiapers) I know of on Monday nights at 8 PM CST.) If you follow me (@EditorJoy) on Twitter, you can look at my lists to find more cloth diaper handles--my list is called "cloth-diapers."

Okay, FAQ time:

1. Do you recommend cloth diapers, and if so, how should I get started?

Yes, I recommend them, but . . . there are some factors to consider because they are not for everyone. First, your husband should really be on board with you about the diapers. While the mama may be doing a majority of the changing and the washing, there are times when he will be involved. If he always complains about it, it's really easy to let that drag you down. And, when there's a phenomenal blowout worthy enough to write home about, you're gonna want a cheerleader to keep you on track. Second, you will be touching poop. It's not always going to happen, and it's not nearly as bad as some would have you think (more about that later), but if someone's been telling you that cloth diapering is so easy and you won't even notice the poop, they're lying. There will be some spectacular blowouts (there would be with disposables too), and poop will get on your hands (if you're lucky, it'll just be your hands).

Okay, getting started. I am a penny pincher, so when it came time to buy cloth diapers, I opted for all one-size options. This is great once your child reaches about 14 pounds, but before that, one-size diapers look pretty clownish (and they're tricky to stuff into those cute newborn outfits).

You have two options for a successful start: 1) Start with disposables and transition to cloth diapers as your baby grows. For me, I've been showered with enough diapers with both girls that I was covered until they were big enough to fit in their one-sizes. If you're concerned about what's touching your baby's bum, I highly recommend Seventh Generation disposables. They've worked the best for me, and they're reasonably priced. I don't like any of the other chlorine-free options (I think I've tried almost all of them). 2) If you start from day-one with cloth diapers, go ahead and invest in some XS and S sized diapers. You want to get a good fit around your baby's legs and waist, or else you'll be in leak central and wanting to chuck those diapers across the room.

2. Okay, so what about the poop? (Well, I've never had the question phrased this way, but essentially that was what they were asking).

How to clean your cloth diapers:

1. Have a bucket for wet diapers and a bucket for dirty diapers. We bought a plastic bucket with a sealing lid from Lowes and set it next to the toilet--dirties go in there. We now have a big bucket with a filter on it and lined with a huge wet bag in our nursery for the wet ones, but I started with another Lowes bucket; so either works great. When the baby poops, we take the dirty diaper to the toilet and flush the poop. In the beginning, I just swirled the diaper around in the water until it was sufficently clean of all chunks. Now I have a diaper sprayer. I love my diaper sprayer and would highly recommend one, but it's not a guarantee that you won't touch poop or poopy water--I'm just being real with you--our sprayer has jet-force power, and if it's not aimed properly, all the angles you learned in geometry will be illustrated for you as poop ricochets off the diaper and onto the wall, your pants, the toilet, etc. It's gross. You need to know that.

2. After a couple of days (or when your supply is getting down to one-day's worth of diapers), both buckets get dumped into the washer. I run a large cold cycle with a tiny bit of detergent (more on detergent later)--you want as much water as possible in this cycle. Then, I run a hot cycle with more detergent. After that, I run one more cold rinse with no detergent.

3. Any cotton parts are inspected, and if they're white, they're thrown in the dryer. If they're stained, they go out to the clothesline and bask in the sun until they're naturally bleached white. Actually, it doesn't have to be a sunny day. Apparently, it's all about the UV rays. I read a post about a person in Portland who bleaches her diapers in the rain all the time. Also, all covers are hung to dry. DO NOT dry the covers. I've made this mistake. They will leak if you dry them in the dryer.

Detergent: I used to use Seventh Generation Free and Clear detergent to wash my diapers. I didn't see the need to buy a specific detergent for just my diapers. I figured it was a marketing ploy, and I refused to get ripped off (see, I AM a penny pincher). BUT then I found out "free and clear" detergents actually cause buildup on the diapers and cause them to leak. Since then I got some Rockin' Green detergent, and I LOVE it! There are giveaways for detergent all the time. Rockin' Green is on Twitter--so you can follow them to find out where the newest giveaway is.

I have never had to wipe poop residue out of my washer. I've heard people talk about that, but that's never been a problem for me. Maybe they don't rinse the diapers in the toilet first? Who knows. That's gross. Also, I have never used bleach on my diapers. Bleach creeps me out (which probably means I now creep out all my germaphobe readers, sorry). The sun is enough for me. If I ever have smell-problems with my diapers, then they get extra tanning time in the sun. Presto chango. All good again.

3. Which diapers do you use?

I love, love, love my BumGenius diapers. A lovely friend sent me one in the mail, and it was love at first poop. I have a lot of 3.0s, and one brand-new 4.0. I love the 4.0. I love the snaps (velcro will wear out--mine is in desperate need of replacement), I love the fit, and I love the resistance to stains. BumGenius diapers always look good. I have their organic, one-size all-in-ones (AIOs), and I love them, too, but they have to be line dried, which takes a long time, and when they're line-dried, they're pretty stiff. My eldest got to the point where she wouldn't put them on unless I made them soft again (usually had to cover with a pre-fold). I have a small fitted AIO diaper (which actually is not available anymore, but the XS are), and I love it! Because it was small, I could use it right away. And, as someone recently pointed out to me, there is some frugality in buying sized diapers. For example, if your idol is Mrs. Duggar, then sized diapers are for you. Since you'll be using the diapers over and over and over again, they will last longer if you use sized diapers for a short time with each kid as opposed to the entire time with each kid.

I also used pre-folds (the old-school cloth diaper you're probably picturing in your head) with Snappis and Bummi Superbrite covers. These are fine, but I'm spoiled by my other diapers, so I didn't replenish my stock when my second child came.

Another reason I love BG 4.0s is they're pocket diapers which means I'm in control of the level of absorbency. I can use the infant insert for the early months. I can use the bigger insert for when they're bigger. I can use both for overnight. And I can add hemp inserts for even more overnight absorbency.

And I almost forgot, I love the Flip system too! I've got the original and organic versions, and I love them both. The best part about the Flip system is you can reuse the covers as long as the diaper was just wet. I usually let my cover dry on top of the diaper pail until the next changing. Flip covers are also ones to keep out of the dryer--learned that the hard way.

4. Where do you buy your supplies?

My two favorite websites are www.cottonbabies.com and www.kellyscloset.com. Both have a great selection of anything you could possibly need. And there's always a coupon or sale to cash in on. Just sign up for their newsletter or follow them on FB or Twitter to stay current on their discounts.

I'm a big fan of supporting local merchants too! Find a cloth diaper merchant in your area and spend lots of money there. If you're in the Tulsa area, I've heard that Gaga on Brookside is going to start stocking cloth diapers and Rockin' Green detergent. Yay!

5. Do you travel with cloth diapers?

Travel can mean two things: 1) Do you ever leave the house with cloth diapers, or do you always switch to disposable? 2) Do you go on long trips with cloth diapers?

The answer to both is sometimes. For my first baby, I was really timid about being out of the house with a cloth diaper and a potential blowout occurring, so I heavily invested in Seventh Generation (Penny Pincher Tip: You can find coupons on Seventh Gen's site and use them in combo with discounts on Amazon Mom (sign up for it on Amazon) or diapers.com to get good prices and have the diapers delivered right to your doorstep--bonus! You can also combo Seventh Gen coupons with bulk pricing at Whole Foods and get a pretty good deal. Babies R Us also has coupons and sales pretty often).

For my second child, I'm all cloth diapers when I go out. I found it's not much different than changing a disposable blowout, so why bother dropping the extra dollars for disposable? Plus, I've found that nursery and childcare workers are being exposed more and more to cloth diapers, so they don't cringe or freak out when you leave one with them.

When I travel long distance, it's all about the accessibility to a washer and dryer (and how long I'll be gone). If I can wash and have sufficient time to dry the diapers, if need be, in the sun, then I'll take cloth. If I can wash but won't have time to dry in sun, or if I can't wash, I don't take them. Or, if I'm trying to save space in my suitcase (read: baggage fees on airlines), I'll take disposable.

6. What are your must-have accessories?

1. Wet bag. Small one (holds 2-3 diapers) to carry with you in your diaper bag. I highly recommend a wool wet bag. It takes up more room, but it naturally filters smell so poopy diapers are not stinking up your car.
2. Two diaper pails. Cheap ones from Lowes work great, but I LOVE my carbon-filter bucket.
3. Cloth diaper detergent
4. Clothesline. My hubby constructed one in our backyard for me, but you can make pretty much anything into a clothesline. A lot of people just lay their diapers out flat on a table and sun them that way.
5. Cloth-diaper-friendly diaper rash cream. I didn't know about this until my baby was well into her toddler years. The most affordable/accessible option is California Baby diaper rash cream available at Target. Other than that, I can only find stuff online.

Bonus Items:

1. Diaper sprayer. Less poop on your hands. (Plus, it conveniently doubles as a bidet or potty-training-bucket cleaner when your child has the runs or is potty training.)
2. Large wet bag--it lines my beautiful, big bucket so I can just dump the whole bag into the washer if I need to. Plus, if I do travel, I have a bag that will hold a lot of diapers.
3. Cute diapers with fun prints. There are so many options out there. Even discount sites like Zulily sometimes sell cloth diapers. Cloth diapering gets expensive when start buying diapers on a regular basis because they're so stinkin' cute. Control yourself! (But splurge a little sometimes =)

7. Do I really save money?

Click on this link for the most in-depth analysis of what cloth diapers cost versus disposables. I think this even shoots a little high for cloth diapers because you certainly can get away with less than thirty-six at a time. Regardless, you're saving a lot.

8. Where can I learn more?

The Cloth Diaper Whisperer blog is my favorite resource. I've learned SO much stuff there. Cotton Babies has a great blog on their website. And like I've said before, follow your favorite brands/stores on FB and Twitter to get even more info.

I'm sure I haven't covered everything, but that's all the valuable information I can come up with for now. Feel free to post your experiences, advice, favorite resources, links, etc. in the comments section.