6.30.2012

Laundry Week: Wrap-Up, Updates and Last Thoughts

Thanks for joining me for laundry week last week!  Also, thanks for bearing with my sporadic posting schedule.  I have a 15 month old and a full time job.  Enough said, right?
In case you missed anything, here’s a recap of last week’s adventure:

Wet Bucket: don’t miss the update on this one or you might end up with a really stinky wet bucket!

Homemade Laundry Detergent: Just this week it has worked on a blowout onto sheets, river mud and watermelon.  Pretreated with some Fels, it took car grease out of a white hat, too!

Line Drying: A friend (Courtney B) and my Mom both gave me the same helpful hint—throw line-dried clothes into the dryer for a few minutes to eliminate stiffness.

Sorting and Putting Away: If only motivation to do this was so easy to come by…

I just realized I promised a technique for folding T-shirts, but didn’t deliver.   I know you were biting your nails and losing sleep over it.  Well, wish and wonder no more!  I learned this from my dear friend Bethany.
Lay T-shirt face down.  I do this step holding it up, but it’s easier to take pictures of it lying down.  However you do it, you want to fold the t-shirt face out.





Fold in one sleeve and then the other






For a long-sleeved t-shirt, just fold the sleeve back and down so that lays vertical on the shirt.
Fold in half bottom to top






Fold in half again bottom to top







Now put your t-shirts in the drawer with the fold facing up

This process makes up to 3 times more t-shirts fit into one drawer!  You can also see all of your t-shirts and tell which is which without rooting through the drawer and messing up all the shirts left behind.  I will never go back to the old way.  When NR was little and had tons of onesies, I folded them in half and placed them fold-up in her drawer so I could see all of them, too.

Well, that’s a wrap for “Laundry Week”!  Thanks for coming along for the ride!

6.21.2012

Laundry Week Day 3: 5 Tips for Folding and Putting Away

Photo Credit
If you're anything like me, you often end up with a ton of clean laundry and feel overwhelmed at the thought of folding/hanging it and putting it away.  I've got some tips for that!

1. Set the Stage: I always make my bed first. This gives me lots of space to organize and make piles.
2. Open the Drawers: If you have a drawer of clothes that don't get folded (read: underwear), go ahead and open the drawer so you can just toss in the clean items.
3. Make Piles: On my bed, I make a pile of clothes that go in the first drawer, a pile for the second, a pile for the shelf in the closet, etc.
4. Hanging Around: If you have the time (and space) and your loads of laundry are this organized, go ahead and put hanging clothes straight on the hanger as soon as you take them out of the dryer.  Then take them immediately to the closet.  If you don't, it might help to save them for last in their own pile till everything else is put away.
5. Baby Steps:  This is the most important one for me!  Instead of dumping everything out in a giant heap, take it one basket at a time.  Fold an entire basket of laundry and then put it away before you even look at the next one.  If I try to fold all the tshirts and then put them all away at once, I end up with three half-full baskets of laundry strewn everywhere from fishing the tshirts out.  Going one basket at a time helps me keep my sanity.

Do-able, right?!  Tomorrow I'll show you an awesome folding system I use for our unruly tshirt drawers!  Until then, have a lovely sleep and a blessed day tomorrow!

6.20.2012

Laundry Week Day 2: 6 Tips for Line Drying

How could you not line dry after seeing sheets rippling in the wind like this?

Welcome to Laundry Week Day 2!  Today I'm talking about drying clothes.  I love line drying!  It's not for everyone and I avoid hanging our skivvies out there for the world to see, but maybe it IS for you!  We even use a hybrid drying process at our house.  Here are both sides of the issue:

PROS:
1. You save energy by not running the dryer
2. Unless you live in Dowisetrepla, clothes smell lovely!
3. Related to point #1, you are helping the planet out
4. If you play it right, you can get twice as much laundry done in a day

CONS:
1. If you have allergies, this might not be the system for you
2. Slightly more labor-intensive than throwing them in the dryer
3. Takes longer to dry--not recommended if you need those jeans in 30 minutes.
4. In all cases, but especially in combo with homemade laundry detergent, line drying doesn't leave clothes fluffy and "Downy Soft"

Some Tips For Drying Laundry:
1. Choose which clothes go where: Z doesn't like his shirts line dried because he doesn't like the feel of them. Like I said above, I don't typically line dry our skivvies.  Sheets and blankets as well as towels are wonderful on the line.
2. Efficency: Like I said in Pros point #4, if you wash a load of "Line Laundry" between two loads of "Dryer Laundry", you get more loads finished in the same amount of time.  Line drying takes longer, but dryer drying takes longer than a cycle in the wash, so you put a load in the washer and dryer at the same time.  The washer takes less time than the dryer, so that load goes to the line.  You put a 3rd load in the washing machine and by the time it's finished, the dryer is ready for another load. (But you never have 3 loads of laundry to do at the same time, do you?)
3. Hanging Laundry: Hanging shirts from the hem instead of the shoulders or the collar helps with those pesky clothespin marks.
4. Switching Line Loads: The best way I've found is to stack two laundry baskets.  When you get outside, unstack them and put the dry clothes into the empty basket.  I often fold the laundry as I take it off the line (If I have the time).  Then hang the wet clothes and restack the baskets.  This ensures that no item ends up on the ground.  You're also not trying to fling half a load of laundry over your shoulders while endlessly squatting and standing to replace items on the line one by one.
5. Give it a shake: This goes for hanging and removing (you know, when you flick it and it snaps like maids making beds in old movies...).  When hanging, shaking the clothes out helps with the wrinkles.  When removing: some bugs, pollen or grass clippings may have found their way onto your clothes.  That good shake will keep you from carrying anything unwanted into the house and consequently into your dresser.
6. Don't forget it!: If you're prone to leaving your laundry in the dryer for days at a time, you might want to set a reminder or rethink line drying.  Leaving your laundry on the line for long periods of time makes line marks in the laundry, gives pests and pollen the opportunity to congregate (no one likes to find spider webs built between their sheets, the sun can start to fade colors and worst of all...a bird could poo on your fresh laundry!

A clothes line is inexpensive to create and no one can deny the pleasure of saving money on your next energy bill.  I am just addicted to the whole thing: the sight, the smell, just feeling "peasant-y".  What do you love/hate about line drying?  Would you ever consider it?  Any more tips out there?

6.19.2012

Laundry Week Day 1: Homemade Laundry Detergent

It’s Laundry Week!

Sorry I didn’t get this started yesterday, but life happens, right?
So today is WASHING DAY (if you missed my post on pretreating/ wet bucket, you can find it here)
The first thing about laundry week that I want to share is about washing machines.  Not all are created equal.  I’m sure most everyone reading this has a washer at their disposal, but maybe you’re thinking of buying a new one.  Please do your research.  Just because a certain washer is the most popular doesn’t make it the best.  Read reviews and definitely talk to knowledgeable sales reps.  I have always had good experiences getting information at Sears about appliances.  Check into the availability and expense of upkeep and repairs—some washers are great until they break and then you have to go on a cross-country goose chase to find replacement parts! 
A few years ago we chose a Whirlpool washer.  My favorite feature is that there is no “load size” indicator.  The machine weighs the load and adds the appropriate amount of water.  No wasted water because you’re not sure if your load qualifies as “Medium” or “Large”.  It’s also energy star rated, which makes this penny pincher happy!
Photo Credit
Photo Credit







Next I want to share my homemade laundry detergent recipe (which I originally found here).  I make a powder detergent with 3 simple ingredients.
1 bar Fels Naptha, finely grated
2c Borax
2c Baking Soda
Combine ingredients, use 1 tbsp per large load
There are lots of recipes out there and a lot of them call for a different ratio than I use.  I have been using this recipe for a few weeks now and am really happy with both the general cleanliness of the clothes and stain removal. 
I use 1 tbsp for a large load and just shake a little out of the spoon for a medium load.  Make sure you adjust the amount used for a smaller load—it does make a difference!  It works fine with cold water, which is all I ever use.  The jury seems to be out on whether this is a safe recipe for HE washers.
You’ll see that the picture shows Washing Soda and I named Baking Soda in my recipe.  Most recipes explicitly say not to use baking soda, that it must be washing soda.  I did some research to find out why.  Both products neutralize odors and both are alkaline—they offset acids.  The difference at which they do these things: Baking Soda’s pH is 8 in comparison to Washing Soda’s pH of 11.  Neutral is 7.  This makes Baking Soda safe for cooking and handling, but Washing Soda is considered caustic and gloves should be worn when handling and it absolutely cannot be eaten.  Don’t let the word caustic scare you.  Washing Soda’s big asset is that it is more powerful against stains.  I have read varying information, but I hear that for cloth diapers baking soda is better.
You may wonder why I didn't start with sorting for laundry week.  Confession time: I BARELY sort laundry.  In general my sorting goes like this: towels/washcloths, heavy clothes, lighter clothes, bed clothes, Nora's clothes.  Sometimes they get all mixed in together.  I don't really see a difference when I take the time to sort and when I don't execpt that the clothes are easier to put away later.  I don't sort by colors for the most part.  Occasionally I'll run a load of whites with some bleach.  If we have something new and bright I'll make sure it's not in a load with white t-shirts.  That's about it.  Consider it your bonus tip of the day!

6.15.2012

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Nora went to the zoo today with daycare, complete with a dolphin show!  It’s times like these that I realize I live near a very big city.

I have logged more miles on my bike in the past week than I did all of last year.  I love being in a small town where I can ride pretty much anywhere I go.  Nora loves to ride along, too.
This is the first time Zach and I have both been employed full-time since getting married.  I had my normal Friday-between-pay-days ball of anxiety in my stomach this morning.  I pulled up our bank account, nervous to see if we would have anything left after we pay our rent and our babysitter today and found enough to pay some other bills.  I am so excited to pay off some bills that have been looming over us for a while over the next couple of months!
Next week is laundry week on the blog.  Don’t miss homemade detergent, line-drying and folding/putting away strategies!

6.14.2012

Making the Switch: Leaving the Crib Behind

If you’ve been following my posts or Facebook, you’ve probably gleaned that NR is no longer in a crib.  I want to share how we came to the decision to leave the crib behind and hopefully it will help if you’re thinking about making the switch, too.
Nora's Bed Today
A lot of people say that when your kid starts climbing out of their crib you know it’s time to make the switch.  For us there are two major flaws with this logic.  First, NR is a good sleeper and a mild child.  I think if we waited for her to climb out of the crib we’d be waiting till she was four.  Second, I didn’t feel like risking a serious fall was the best idea.  Seriously, waiting for climbing is like saying, “when your kid shimmies up the sides, takes a head dive from the top, gets a foot stuck in the rails, breaks a leg and busts their head open, you’ll know it’s time”.  No thanks.  I’d like to make the switch pre-hospital visit. 
Here are two readiness signs that helped us make the decision:
1.       She slept well in her crib.  She put herself back to sleep easily and rarely needed us in the night.  This implied that she would stay in bed instead of getting up and getting us every time she woke in the night.

2.       She played in her crib.  We would often check the video monitor and find her playing in her bed in the morning before hollering for us to come get her.  This made me see that she was growing out of being a baby and was beginning to act instead of react to her situations and surroundings.
We made the jump when we moved.  I know, experts say to stick to one traumatic event at a time, but it just seemed the perfect opportunity.  She was going to have to adjust to the new place, why not adjust to a new bed at the same time?  It would save her just getting used to our new house and then having to adjust to something else new.  The first day we set up her room complete with her new bed.  Then we let her sleep in her pack n play in the middle of the room that night.  She was very out of sorts all of moving day (she was about 12 1/2 months at the time) so I thought a familiar sleep place might help that first night.  Then, the next day we started naps and sleeping in the bed.  We were very blessed and she did great. 
NR just before waking from her first night in her big girl bed.
Part of the reason she did great was that we did not put her in a toddler bed.  We put her straight into a twin bed.  It is low enough she could climb into it by herself and while she could climb down, too, it was no easy feat.  I think this helped her stay in bed those first days.  Now, at 14 ½ months she can climb up and down easily, but she knows she needs to stay in bed.  We have some troubles keeping her in bed at nap time if she’s not particularly tired and have found her on her bedroom floor a couple times (not from falling, from climbing down to play and then falling asleep), but overall she does well.
We skipped the toddler bed because we found it to be an unnecessary expense that only lasts a short time.  Zach and I didn’t die from going straight to a twin bed, so she probably wouldn’t either.  Toddler beds do provide a level of security that a twin bed doesn’t, though, since it’s short like a crib.  At first we found NR all over the bed, even over on the edge sometimes.  Then, I put a heavy memory foam pillow at her feet and it worked wonders.  Now she doesn’t end up at the bottom or the edges because the pillow gives her the illusion of a boundary. (see the pic at top)  So I’m not anti-toddler bed.  They are a fine idea (especially if you already have one).  But I also don’t think they are a necessity for successful toddler sleep.
Cognitively, I think 12 ½ months was great because NR wasn’t pushing boundaries just yet.  She accepted the bed as a good thing because Mommy and Daddy put her there.
On a personal level, I feel that we as a society make our babies stay babies too long.  We often read and are told all the things a child isn’t ready for or shouldn’t do and just take it as gospel truth.   I believe in looking at NR and seeing her potential, the things she’s on the cusp of doing and what she CAN do if I just let her.  Sure, it means some falls and bumps and bruises.  But it also means greater triumphs.  It also means an independent, resilient kid who’s not afraid of the world.  There’s a delicate balance to find between babying our kids and making them grow up too quickly, but I think it’s worth working to find the balance.  If you feel this way, too, I recommend checking out Free Range Kids.  I agree with a lot of what she says and how our laws and society are actually oppressing our kids (and parents) in the name of safety.  Progress is good.  We know to put our kids in car seats, to sleep on their backs and about diseases that used to get kids written off as “bad”.  Some things make everyone’s Mommy Nerve twitch—a big dog, swimming pools, stairs and glass top coffee tables—but we need to teach our kids how to safely handle these situations, not shield them from them.  I know, my toddler is too young to handle some of those, but she’s old enough to learn to hold Mommy’s hand in the store, not to pull the dog’s tail or the cat’s ears and practice eating with a spoon.  OK, I’ll get off my soapbox.
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about what we have done or how we’ve dealt with hurdles, hit me up in the comments!  Is anyone considering making the switch?  What big feats are your amazing kids working on?  Anyone else out there trying to raise a Free Range Kid?

6.11.2012

Wet Bucket

Looks gross, but works wonders!
Hi There!  I wanted to tell you about something I’ve been doing for a couple months now that is making our lives a little easier. 

First, allow me to outline our problem.  I was frustrated that Nora’s clothes and bibs were getting irreparably stained on a regular basis.  Part of it is that she’s a toddler and it happens.  But part of it was our fault.  Stained items didn’t always get pretreated immediately at our house (That’s never happened to you, has it?  I didn’t think so…).  Since the same person doesn’t always do laundry, sometimes it never got pretreated at all. Or the person who switched clothes from washer to dryer didn’t know to check this or that item to see if the stain came out before tossing it in the dryer and setting the stain for all eternity.
So I started a “wet bucket”.  After each load of Nora’s laundry is done, I fill a bucket about halfway with water.  A friend told me about Fels-Naptha as a pretreater and swears that nothing of her daughter’s (20 months) has been ruined when she’s used it.  At just $.97 a bar at Wal-Mart, I was sold!  I use a cheap cheese grater and grate a little off into the bucket and swish it around.  Then, whenever we pull off a strawberry-stained bib, or that white diaper cover that she had a blowout on, I rinse it out and toss it in the bucket.  The water keeps the stain from setting in like it does when clothes get forgotten at the bottom of the hamper and the Fels-Naptha works to pretreat the stain.  Sometimes when I pull things out to put in the washer, the stain is already gone!  When it’s time for laundry, I just add the wet bucket clothes to the wash then clean and refill the bucket and I’m ready to go again.
This is especially great for us because we don’t do laundry every day.  Usually Nora’s laundry gets done about once a week.  Before, that was a long time for a stain to stand untreated or treated and then subsequently dried. 
*UPDATE: I realize now that this sounds like we let the messy stuff stand in the wet bucket for a week.  Not the case.  Throw the wet bucket stuff in with the next load.  If you let it stand more than a day or two it's bad news bears!*
There are a few things that I’ve found DON’T work well in the wet bucket--namely, plastic-lined bibs.  We love plastic-lined bibs at our house because they soak up dribble, but don’t soak through.  However, when left in the wet bucket for a day or two, mildew tends to grow between the layers.  Gross.  I can’t tell you how many of these bibs I’ve thrown out both before and after the wet bucket.  The best solution for these bibs is to pretreat (you can wet the bib and/or Fels-Naptha and rub it straight on) and either wash immediately or hang them up. 
That’s my simple solution!

6.09.2012

14 Month Update

Holy Moly!  Where is the time going?!  Nora is 14 months (actually, 14 1/2 months) old and boy, is she growing fast!

There's hardly a hint of a baby in her anymore--yikes!  She is definitely looking and acting like a toddler more each day.  Since the last time I posted she started day care.  I was apprehensive, of course, and sad that I can't stay home with her, but it has been the best thing for her!  She cried when I dropped her off for the first week, but after that she was always ready to get down and play or at least sit on the chair and eat cheerios.  In the short time she's been in daycare (3 weeks now) she has learned a ton of words and actions--we'll get to details later.  The daycare is in the home of a woman from our church and it's just Nora, the sitter's 8 year old son and another 7 year old boy.  At first I was worried about her not getting enough interaction with kids her age, but she is doing just fine.  And she gets to spend time with kids her age at church each Sunday, so it's not like she's not interacting with other little ones.  They go to the park, go swimming, and lots of other fun activities.  Tina is totally focused on learning, so everything they do is a learning moment whether it's telling her in and out, up and down, left and right, colors, numbers--she's getting it all.  I feel like it's never too young to start these lessons, even if she is a little young for some of it.  We're so blessed to have Tina!


She will try to repeat almost anything we say.  Sometimes she does really well and sometimes not, but she at least mimics your speech pattern and tone of voice, which is hilarious.  She says "beep beep", purple, bee (and knows what it is), up, no, nah, yeah and many others.  She jabbers all the time.

Actions: 
--The biggest change is that she is WALKING!!!  We went to a family's house with girls who are 2 & 5 and it seemed like seeing them running around was just the inspiration she needed.  She took a couple steps that night and took more and more each day after.  She's not quite running, but she gets around pretty well! 
--She continues to get better at climbing.  She can go down the stage steps at church (2 steps) and is working on our front steps.  She climbs in and out of bed with ease. 
--She shakes her head "yes" now as well as "no". 
--She gives kisses and occasionally hugs. 
--She's still a thumb sucker.
--She comes and gets us up every morning.  My little snoozer has become an early riser--usually between 6:30 and 7am.
--She finally learned to suck out of a straw!!!  It has revolutionized our lives outside of the house!

Eating: 
--She will try just about anything.  She has become pickier and has an opinion about what she will and won't eat.  It changes day-to-day.  One days she's all about carrots and the next she will spit them out.  You never know.  She likes peanut butter, cheese, milk, graham crackers, cheerios, recently we've been letting her eat chips occasionally and she does well with them. 
--She is still working on the cup.  I'm trying to just give her the cups with the least guidance (no stoppers), but I worry about staining or stinking up clothes, furniture, etc.  I try to give her just a cup with a spout lid (old-school sippy) when she's in her high chair to get her used to it. 

Challenges: 
--She is still having some bowel issues.  It's always too hard unless we assist with stool softener about every other day.  Recently it's been way too loose, but it's because she has been cutting 6 teeth at once.  She seems to be getting a little less loose today. 
--Speaking of teeth, with these six, she has 14 teeth.  It's been tough, but I think we're in for a little respite from teething soon. 
--She has been getting out of bed regularly.  Sometimes she's just being onery and doesn't want to sleep, but other times it's that she's uncomfortable.  We usually give her one freebie.  We meet any need she seems to have (thirsty, wet, needs Tylenol or Oragel for her teeth, hot, cold, etc) and put her back to bed.  She gets in trouble after that.  Don't turn us in to CPS, but she does get a swat on the leg if she disobeys.  We give her plenty of chance to obey, though.  Usually we stand near her door and if she starts to get out of bed tell her verbally to stay in bed from outside the door.  She has proven that she understands and is capable of obeying, so we feel the little swat is appropriate for her development level.
--She has also started tantrums.  I guess I should thank God that it didn't start sooner, but she has begun throwing fits and screaming.  Yowza.  We do our best to ignore it and feel no shame when she's doing it in public.  Mostly they happen when she is too tired or hungry.  Usually the time in any restaurant between sitting down and the bread or whatever getting to the table is miserable.
--Separation anxiety.  She cried every week when I drop her off at the nursery and even sometimes when I leave a room, especially in strange places like church or a friend's house.  She's a Momma's girl.

Favorites: Now for the good stuff!!!
--She loves to go down slides!  It's all she wants to do at the park :)
--She loves the water.  She kicks her legs and paddles her arms when we're in a pool.  She loves to blow bubbles in the water and doesn't mind being dunked.  She loves to wade in the river that runs through town and pick up rocks, seaweed and look at the minnows.
--She loves to pick flowers.  We can't walk anywhere in the grass without her stopping ten times to pick clover.  It is so cute!
--She loves to play outside.  She would stay outside till it was dark every night.  We try to be out as much as possible and even take picnic lunches and dinners often to the back yard or the park.
--She loves to bike ride.  Her seat is on the back of my bike and we have a great time riding together.
--She loves TV.  We have to really watch her screen time because she loves to watch Sesame Street, Dora, and recently Yo Gabba Gabba.  She dances and jabbers, points and claps along.  It's cute, but could easily get out of hand.  I'm glad she's such a big fan of being outside or it could be an annoying battle to fight.  She'll even bring us the remote sometimes.

Overall Nora is a delight. For a parting shot, here she is with her first ice cream cone.  Enjoy!