Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Classic Diaper Dilemma

Written by Guest Author Kendra Ryckman

I’m no expert when it comes to cloth diapers.  But I’ve been where you are, swimming in a sea of overwhelming choices when it comes to the new world of cloth diapers.  It’s not your momma’s cloth diaper experience anymore.  No more pins and origami folding techniques needed to tackle today’s cloth- unless of course you want them since they too are still around.  I’ll be honest.  I’d love to help you navigate the long list of acronyms and abbreviated lingo found when browsing mommy blogs devoted to cloth diapers (AIO, AI2’s, flats, prefolds, etc.) but even after using cloth diapers for 2+ years I am still the one that needs the help.  But what I can tell you is that although it will take some decision making research, it is worth it and so much easier than the oodles of information will lead you to believe.  AllAboutClothDiapers.com helped me navigate the diaper lingo and has a list of great recommendations to help you get started.

My son in Charlie Banana's one size pocket diaper

I suppose that first you need to decide your reason(s) for wanting to use cloth vs. disposables.  When my daughter was born I quickly fell so in love I had to quit my job (which barely paid me anyway) to spend as much time with her as possible.  Read: we were broke.  Looking at our budget is what peaked my interest in cloth and truthfully is why I continue to use cloth for my son.  It is so expensive, even with coupons (that I never remember to bring), so why pay for disposables when I have a stash of *free* diapers that do just the trick.  So the journey began.  For those of you who are leery of the upfront investment of cloth let me assure you it is well worth the cost.  

The most difficult part is of course deciding what brand to buy.  But I’ve found it’s not the brand that you need to pick but the type.  I started with an entire stash of hybrid diapers (gDiapers).  I loved that they were versatile in that they offered a disposable insert I could use when out and about or when granny came to visit.

My daughter in gDiapers

But here’s the kicker with the g’s. The pieces have to be washed in different temps of water.  This became an issue when I had a pre-toddler that didn’t use as many inserts and I was doing a load of 5 inserts at a time.   Kind of a waste of time and energy.  Also, they are sized so if your baby outgrows them before potty training you’ll need to buy more.  My babies were just tiny enough to fit through potty training.  (Cloth by the way is the way to go for pre-potty training time!  They can feel it and it makes the transition so much easier).  Okay off track.  When my son was born I decided to see if I could find a great naptime diaper.  I bought one of a few different types and ended up falling in love with pocket diapers with snaps (Charlie bananas).  Pocket diapers worked for us because they were husband and grandma friendly in that they went on like a disposable diaper and virtually fool proof to put on.  I liked a few of the others I tried but decided to stock up on my pockets since I liked them so much!  You too may find it easier to choose your favorite after trying a few styles.  The ones you don’t like can be back up or you can sell them on sites like amazon or re-diaper.com.

The other secret to success when it comes to cloth diapering is getting a great routine down.  If you’re swimming in diaper laundry you probably need a better routine.  For me it was having diapers and all diaper pieces and wet bags that can be washed in the same temperature.  At one point I had 3 different temperatures my diapers needed to be washed on and let me guarantee you I was drowning in diaper laundry.  Being able to dump the entire contents of my wet bag into the wash with my wet bag was a big help.  The other big help for me was deciding when diaper laundry day was.  When my son was born and I had two in diapers I washed 3 times a week but now that I have just one in diapers and he doesn’t go through as many I only wash diapers on Sundays and Wednesdays.  Yes, I had to set an actual day of the week because my mind couldn’t remember when it had been 2-3 days since the last load.  Plus this way I always know I’ll have a clean stash of diapers ready when needed.

gDiapers in action
Getting the right tools will also help you successfully implement cloth diapers.  My list of tools includes a dry pail (a trash can with a lid lined with a large wet bag where diapers can hide out until laundry day), smaller wet bags that can fit in your diaper bag when you’re out and about, cloth wipes (might as well since you’re doing laundry anyway) or flushable wipes (think of this…when using cloth you can’t roll up the wipes into the diaper and toss the whole thing.  The poop goes in the potty and wouldn’t it be nice if your wipes could be flushed too?), diaper sprayer (honestly I don’t have one of these but it’s on my list. And in case you’re wondering, for now, whatever poo doesn’t come off into the toilet just gets washed out in the washer), and an awesome diaper cover. 

I’ll leave you with what works for me and my routine because when I finally heard how someone else did it that is when it all made sense to me.  But here is the thing, mommas, it doesn’t matter how I do it or how Sally down the street with her perfect house and kids and husband does it.  What matters is that you find what works for you and makes your heart sing because until you do, it won’t be worth it. 

I use Charlie Banana one size pocket diapers (most of which I bought on sale from re-diaper.com) and gDiapers during the day.  On diaper laundry days (Sundays and Wednesdays) I toss the entire load into the wash and do a pre-rinse on cold.  Then I add the tiniest amount (tablespoon or two) of soap (Tide free and clear powdered detergent) and do a wash cycle on warm/cold.  Then I rinse once more. If they stink or still have soapiness I rinse again.  I hang dry the outside diaper part and put inserts and wetbags in dryer.  For naps I use one insert in a Charlie Banana with a Disana cover or one I made myself (you can find tutorials online).  At night I use Pampers baby dry 24 hr protection. (haha! remember, do what works for you!)

Wool cover I made from a sweater

Good luck and please leave your comments or questions in the comments below!

Kendra Ryckman is a WAHM raising two close-in-age kiddos who love to giggle and make messes.  She teaches skin care and makeup application through her Mary Kay business and helps others live their dream because she believes being a beautiful mommy isn’t a crime but not having a choice to stay home to raise your kiddos is.  Her other obsession is cooking homemade, non-processed meals for her family which includes baking some awesome bread twice a month and shopping her local farmer’s market.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mission RAOK

Adapted from: http://www.thirtyhandmadedays.com/?p=12147&preview=true

Wanting to instill a strong sense of humanity in my children, I've always thought the concept of "random acts of kindness" was a great one.  Then I came across a posting on Pinterest that led me to a blog that led me to adapt these tags below that can be passed from person to person.  I think when a child begins to imagine how their one simple act can create a ripple effect with no imaginable end they will feel empowered by what they can do.  Please feel free to adapt these to your needs and pass them on (PDF download link below)!

Print front and back, cut out, laminate, punch a hole for a ribbon and send your tag into the world!  These could also be printed on two separate sheets of paper or cardstock to create a sort of envelope closed on three sides and open on the top or side for small items (stamps, coins, a funny comic strip, etc).

Adult Version Front & Back

Kids Version Front & Back
I also keep coming across posts on Pinterest for coloring plates with Sharpies and baking to make permanent.  I am planning on making a "RAOK" plate sometime soon (will post when I do).  Fill it with goodies and give it to someone to be refilled and passed on!

Please leave your ideas for small 'Acts' below in the Comments section!

Download a PDF of the tags here!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Easy, Peasy Homemade Baby Food

I used to feel that the people who were making and freezing their own baby food either had too much time on their hands or really loved hanging out in their kitchen.  Now I know that they were actually the ones who were trying to feed their babies with the most wholesome ingredients, without added sugars or fillers, all while saving time, money and introducing their kids to lots of new flavors.

I hope that this page can become a running list of tasty, simple recipes contributed by members of our group- please email the ingredients, preparations, helpful hints and a photo (if you have it) to mamaincontrol2013@gmail.com!


Food Processor or Baby Food Mill?

I was so excited when I found my Beaba BabyCook on Craigslist for $20 because it was missing the steam lid (regular price Amazon $119).  You probably think, "ok, but that piece is likely pretty important".  Right you would be.  However, I found that I could buy a replacement lid for a mere ten bucks, including shipping.  I was armed and ready for baby to come so I could whip up tasty delights by the pound.

Baby did come, but one month into starting solid foods I have yet to use my BabyCook.  Others may disagree (please comment!), but I have found that using a food processor or blender to create large frozen stocks of baby food is much more efficient.  Now, I haven't written the BabyCook off the books yet though.  I think that when I want to steam and puree a serving of something my husband and I are eating for dinner is the perfect niche for it.  Maybe this just means we need to eat more vegetables...

To Organic or Not to Organic?  That IS the Question!

It took me awhile to get on the organic bandwagon, but I have been sufficiently convinced that there are times to buy organic.  One rule of thumb, if you don't eat the outside (eg: bananas), you probably don't need to buy organic.  Or you can go by the "Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen" list:

If you are a little shocked at the prices the first (or fifteenth) time that you shop organic, remember a few things: 1) Your little one is tiny- even the big ones- and they may not be able to process pesticides or other contaminants as well.  2)  You truly are what you eat, so shouldn't we hold good food in pretty high regard?  3) If you buy in bulk (apples in bags, for example) and compare what you get out to the cost of buying regular baby food, you are definitely still saving money.  4) This is a good opportunity to plant a little garden and teach your child about growing organic.  Seeds are cheap, and the lessons learned are priceless.

The Steps in a Nutshell

Some foods require steaming (apples, yams, pears- maybe, maybe not), some require baking (squash) and some no cooking at all (avocado, banana).  But the general idea is pretty simple: peel, dice, cook as necessary, puree and freeze.  Bam, done.  I generally do a whole bag of whatever I am buying and do one or two foods during a weekend day.  In a few weekends before baby begins eating solids you will have a nice variety and stock to last awhile.  The next issue?  Freezer space.

Freezing Food

Once you get the food to whatever consistency you desire, its time to freeze.  Before we get to that I should note that you CAN mix foods with FRESH breast milk before freezing- just don't thaw and refreeze.  Alternatively, you can dilute the food once you thaw it and are ready to serve.  I prefer the former since its one step closer to serving to baby, however, you may prefer adding fresh milk.

Now, remember that steamer lid I had to buy for my BabyCook?  Well, the company, try as they may, sent me the wrong part not once, not twice, but THREE times!  That said, they were beyond gracious and couldn't believe their repeated mistake.  To compensate, they sent me a load of freebies, so I won in the end :)  In my box of goodies were two silicone freezer molds.  I had seen them in stores before, but at $25 a pop I thought it insane to spend that to make baby food.  Now, after using them several dozen times, I would say- even at full price- they are well worth it.  And really, when you consider the cost of buying baby food, its a drop in the bucket.  A cheaper alternative would be to use regular or silicone ice cube trays, just note that the serving sizes will be quite a bit smaller and ice cube trays generally don't come with lids.
Beaba silicone mold with pears. 

I fill the silicone molds to the level I desire (in the beginning I would fill some higher than others, that way I had smaller portions when baby was just starting into the new world of solid food), stick them in the freezer for a few hours, pop out the frozen food portions and toss them into a labeled Ziplock freezer bag (don't forget the date!).  That way the food takes up less room and it frees up your silicone molds for use again immediately.

Store individual portions in Ziplock freezer bags.

There are a few methods of thawing depending on how quickly you need the food.  If you have had the foresight and brain power to think ahead to tomorrow, just put the frozen chunk into a container in the fridge overnight.  Otherwise, as generally is the case for me, I zap them in the microwave for 15, 30 or 45 seconds, depending on the size.  I stop in between to mix and ALWAYS test to make sure the food is not too hot before serving to baby.  Also note that if I think the serving is too big, or if I want to feed Andy a few different foods, I just split in in portions and put the rest back in the fridge (not the freezer) for the next meal.

To Freeze Store Bought Food:

Why would you want to do this?  Well, I got a sample pouch of Ella's Kitchen Organic Baby Food, and though one pouch is supposed to be one serving, it goes a long way with a baby just starting solids.  The package clearly states that you can freeze it, so that was my solution: put wax paper on a cutting board, squirt servings of food onto the wax paper, freeze, pop off the paper and into a bag (see small bag in photo above).


Though a lot of "first foods" that used to be recommended for babies were bland and tasteless, we are now learning that this is not necessary.  Babies taste many of the different flavors we consume from the time they are in the womb and through consumption of breast milk- so don't be afraid to add flavor to your baby's meal.  One easy example, I add cinnamon to pureed apples and pears.  Its probably best to first test foods without these additions so that any issues can be more easily identified.

Note: to prevent browning of fruits you can add a few drops of lemon or lime juice (added flavor too!) or dip slices in a water/lemon or lime juice "bath" before freezing (bananas, avocado).  If you chose not to do this and get browning, the food is still perfectly safe and nutritious, just not so pretty!

In alphabetical order...


Peel, core, dice (I invested in an inexpensive but highly effective tool for this- bonus: you can use it for potatoes or making apple pie!).  Boil in water until you can easily stab with a fork, but not too long they are mushy.  Puree, adding a little of the boiling water if necessary to thin.  Freeze.


See this link for directions on how to open an avocado.  Basics: cut in half by turning around the pit, twist halves apart, hold half containing pit in hand covered by a towel, gently hit the pit with the knife blade, remove pit put by pushing from the backside and it pops easily off, scoop out contents.  Slice, dip in 1:3 solution of lemon or lime juice : water.  Freeze on a sheet of wax paper on a cutting board.  Pop off paper once frozen and toss in a freezer bag.  Note: Will brown fairly quickly when defrosted.

Individually frozen Avocado slices. 


Peel, slice.  Dip in 1:3 solution of lemon or lime juice : water   Freeze on a sheet of wax paper on a cutting board.  Pop off paper once frozen and toss in a freezer bag.  Note: Will brown quickly when defrosted.

Individual frozen banana slices.


Cook according to package directions.  I bought regular barley instead of the kind made for babies so I needed to puree it, and still it was a bit chunky.  It took a few attempts to get Andy to eat it, but I found that a spoon of barley followed by a spoon of something else got the barley down.  I've heard barley is good for regularity so I really wanted to get some in him!  I mixed with breast milk when I pureed and it freezes really nicely.


Peel, core, dice (it was a sad day when I found this fruit was too soft to use my apple "tool").  Since pears are naturally juicy and soft they really don't need much, but I steamed them for a few minutes for good measure.  Puree.  Freeze.  Note: you can add lemon juice to help reduce browning but my kiddo didn't seem to mind!

Squash (Acorn, in this case):

Cut in half, scoop out seeds.  Place "meat" side down on a baking pan with a little water to keep from drying out.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40-60 minutes (until fork can easily pierce the skin).  Scoop out "meat" and puree in blender adding water or breast milk as desired.  Freeze.

Scoop out seeds and bake in pan with water.


Peel, dice.  Boil in water until you can easily stab with a fork, but not too long they are mushy.  Puree, adding a little of the boiling water, formula or breast milk to thin.  Freeze.


In many other countries babies are not fed bland food- from the beginning their foods are spiced with curry, garlic, onion, cinnamon, on and on.  In fact, baby is already used to different tastes from their time in utero and during breastfeeding, so why discontinue the wonderful world of taste when starting solids?  Here is a basic chart I put together because when I am pressed for time I can never remember the amazing varieties of spices and what they go best with!  If you have added suggestions please email me at mamaincontrol2013@gmail.com!


LOVE this page for everything baby food!  From what to serve when to allergy information to recipes to how to puree and store!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Target's Dollar Spot Finds

Heart-Shaped Crayons: Yesterday I made a trip to Target specifically looking for the heart-shaped silicone molds they have on hand during Valentine's ($3 for 2 molds).  I decided to make some larger crayons for little hands to hold (I really can't find anything anywhere that works for babies to explore "coloring"- with supervision!).  I bought three packs of off-brand crayons at Walmart (of course I was again wrong in assuming that they would be cheaper here than at Target...), peeled the wrappers off by soaking the crayons in water for a few hours (this took a little 'thumb' grease but it worked), broke them into small pieces and tossed them into the molds.  Ten to fifteen minutes later at 250 degrees and voila!

If you don't want to buy silicone molds, just line a cupcake pan and you get some pretty neat crayons.

I give credit for this idea to OurBestBites.com where you will find more detailed directions and much more beautiful images.  The one thing I wish I had done was fill the molds with more crayons since they melt down quite a bit, but not bad for a first attempt.  Also note that there is crayon residue left in the molds so you won't be using these for any edible projects afterwards.

Tiny Mailbox: An unexpected find during my venture to the Dollar Spot was this super-cute tiny mailbox ($1).  I thought this would be a great little place to leave Andy messages and little surprises when he is a bit older.  After all, what kid doesn't love getting mail...so what could be better than them having their very own mailbox?  And if he ever decides to give something back to the mail carrier, there is a little flag he can leave up :)  I personalized one side by adding his name in puffy t-shirt paint (Michaels $1.20)...but I still think it needs something more.  Ideas?

What kid wouldn't want their very own mailbox?!
Have your own project made from Dollar Spot finds?  Comment below or email a description and photos to mamaincontrol2013@gmail.com and I will post it here.  Check back for new entries or sign up for email updates!