My husband and I love those shows where they throw a guy out in the wilderness and he shows how to survive in seemingly impossible situations. The more I watch them, the more I realize that I likely will never need to survive in the Sahara or the Sub-Arctic. I do however find myself feeling on an almost daily basis as if I've been cast out into a strange world full of obstacles to tackle and unknown creatures to cope with. This will be the chronicle of one woman trying to survive the jungles of parenthood.

Friday, July 30, 2010

For the Local Mamas!!!

     Do you live near and/or will you be near the Portland/Gresham or Newburg area on Friday, August 6th?  Are you nursing a baby (or a toddler)?  If you said yes to both of those questions, you should have the Big Latch On on your calender! Come join in to attempt break the record for mamas and babies nursing simultaneously and support breastfeeding awareness.  Check out the website HERE, pick out a venue and show up at 10:00 a.m. (the BLO starts at 10:30 but they're asking mamas to show half an hour early to register and get settled).  There are lots of locations all over the area and it's a great, non-threatening way to promote the truth that nursing is normal to our culture!  If you have any trouble with the link above, the site for the Portland Big Latch On can be found here: http://biglatchonpdx.weebly.com/index.html .  The Big Latch On started in New Zealand and you can find more info on the NZ BLO at NurturingNZ's site here: http://www.nurturenz.com/latchon.php .  There's also a lot of great breastfeeding info in other areas of that site and on their youtube channel.

SAHM Seeking Time to Stay-At-Home!

     I was thinking today as I was loading my two toddlers, the dog and the double jogging stroller back into the car after a long walk out at the dog park today that the term "Stay-At-Home-Mother" is a serious misnomer.  You see, while wondering why I've been so tired lately, it finally occurred to me that we have been out at least once and often twice or more every day since last Sunday for sure.  It may have been longer, I can't remember Saturday.  If we went somewhere Saturday then it's been at least every day since last Wednesday.  I can't remember Wednesday either.
     It is serious work leaving the house with two toddlers.  First I have to figure out what time I'll need to leave in order to get back for lunch and a nap or decide to go after nap which only works if I'm going somewhere that doesn't keep business hours. I have to dress children, change diapers, feed tummies, pack the diaper bag and make sure there are clean, full sippy cups before even heading out the door.  That of course doesn't count showering and dressing myself.  Making our way to the car is always interesting, especially if there's more to take than just the kids and bag or if Sugar, the only one steady enough on her feet to go down the front steps reliably, has left the shoes I intend for her to wear in the car on our last outing.  If I have to take the girls out to the van one at a time, there's a strategy involved as to who's in the better mood and therefore less likely to have a screaming, whiny meltdown in the house while I'm strapping the other one into their seat.  If Sugar's the one waiting in the house I have to be sure I've got the house-key in hand since she'll lock me out. 
     Once you're loaded and get where you're going unloading is usually easier.  Spice goes into her carrier on Mama's back and Sugar either walks or is loaded right into a stroller or cart. (We always park next to a cart return at places that have them.)  After managing both girls through whatever we're doing the loading/unloading process is repeated as many times as necessary to complete our tasks.  Usually there's also at least one diaper change for each girl and at least one passing out of snacks in there too. By the time we get home and finish up that final unloading, not only do I need to take the girls in but usually I need to pee.  Two back-to-back pregnancies with big, low-lying baby girls takes a permanent toll on one's bladder that no amount of kegels is going to fix and I'm sure my neighbor lady has gotten quite the giggle watching me dance around on my front porch with my legs crossed and a baby under each arm trying to finagle the key into the front door before dashing into the house. 
     After repeating this process at least once and often two or three times on an almost daily basis, no wonder I'm tired!   It's amazing how much more exhausting everything becomes when you have two, tiny little hitchhikers assisting at every step.  I really think that a better term than "Stay-At-Home-Mother" would be "Leaves-Home-Frequently-And-Slowly-But-Doesn't-Get-Paid-For-It-Mother"  You know though, I did get to go grocery all by myself a few weeks ago and realized halfway through the store that I was lonely. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Appreciate the Man

     I need to report to you an historic event. Last Sunday evening, we went on a date. Why, you might ask was this such a big deal?  Well, it was our third childless date since Spice was born (one of those was SuperDad's company Christmas party which I don't really count) and the first time that both girls stayed with a sitter for the whole night. Yes, I spent eighteen hours away from my baby. We both survived and I somehow managed to avoid texting to ask how they were doing until morning. This post actually is not about leaving baby for the first time though. You're going to have to figure that one out on your own.
     Instead, this post is about remembering that our spouse's are not just parents. Generally I had thought I was fairly good at this. We try to get a little time that's toddler free every day and we do talk about things other than the kids. We watch movies and "stuff" (I won't get into "stuff", my mother reads this blog. Well, I like to think she does anyway.) It's funny though how something as simple as dinner, a walk and a second-run cheapie movie can change your perspective. (We saw Shrek 4 and I liked it regardless of what the critics may have said). It reminded me that I need to put a little more effort into having fun with my husband and remembering just how much I really like to spend time with him. There were reasons I moved 1800 miles across the country to marry this man and I'm cheating both him and myself if I don't take the time to look at him as the man I fell in love with (albeit in an updated model) instead of just as my husband or co-parent.
     All this just to say, take some time to make things all about you and your spouse. Even if you can't or choose not to leave the kiddos with someone else and get out alone, you can still make the activity all about you and let them tag along for once instead of planning for family. Or take some time after they're in bed to really reconnect with each other over something you enjoyed pre-kiddos as people instead of just parents. I know that I personally need to take time to appreciate the man in my husband. (And if you caught the TMBG reference you get double points.)

(A More Real) Love Story from Anita Renfroe

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Parenting in the Digital Age

     I know that generally speaking, electronics and software aren't thought of as necessary baby equipment and really that's true but I have to say that I love knowing that I have literally thousands of pictures to capture my daughters' first years.  Especially since for some of the weeks in those years I was in such a haze due to dealing with the everyday needs and desires of two babies spaced a mere 14 months apart, one husband who was just as overtired as I was, one severely displaced dog and myself that I don't totally remember all that happened during those vital, growing months without looking back at the pictures.  There's no way I could have amassed such a record of their babyhood without a digital camera and a fair share of the disk space on my computer. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology though we have those beautiful (and some less beautiful as I'm by no means a professional photographer) images.  Also thanks to Google's Picasa software (which you can download for free, I highly recommend it) I can find what I'm looking for in the multitude of shots.
     There is a downside though of having the precious pictures of your children preserved as a tiny bit of memory in a chip somewhere, they're way to easy to lose! I was deleting some duplicate pictures off our camera card the other day from a few months ago that had already been transferred from the card to my computer but never were removed.  Our pictures from the Fourth of July were still on the camera and had not yet been moved over.  I bet you can guess where this is going.  Yes, I deleted one of the new ones.  In fact, it was one I particularly wanted as it was a picture of Sugar gazing up at the fireworks in nearly the same pose that she was in while doing the same on her first Independence Day two years ago.  I was so bummed out.  I had only taken the one shot of that so there wasn't even a similar substitute. 
     Then I thought to google whether there might be a way to restore the photo.  Sure enough, I found lots of people wanting me to pay them lots of money to get my picture back for me and in amongst the ads was a blog post pointing to a free software download specifically for restoring pictures on camera cards.  I figured for free, it was worth a shot.  It took a while for the software to run before I could go in and see what it had found. Wow, was I impressed with the results! It not only pulled off the picture I was wanting (the last one to be deleted from the card) but also all the pictures I'd deleted that day and pictures that had been taken and deleted over a year before (the earliest was from when Sugar was about 7 months old) that hadn't been overwritten yet.
     The software is available free for download here at snapfiles.com and is very easy to use.  Neither I nor my avast! antivirus software noticed any weird tagalongs when downloading. (I love that my virus scanner sounds like something a pirate would say almost as much as I love the fact that it runs much smoother than my old McAfee did.) It does suggest not taking any more pictures on the card or messing with the data until you've run the software so that you don't overwrite the photos you're hoping to save. I would suggest making a new folder for the restored photos so that you don't have to sort through them to find the one(s) you're looking for as you never know how many deleted photos may be lurking around on your disk and it's much easier to delete the duplicates after pulling the ones you need if they're all contained.
     Since accidentally deleting photos is one of those things that is likely to eventually happen to any of us that use a digital camera I thought I'd share my new found trick and suggest that you bookmark either the download page or this post so that if you someday do the same thing, you'll be able to spring into action and save your shot. Now if only I'd known about this back when I mistakenly erased the pictures of my great-grandmother's 95th birthday from my mother's camera card.  (Yes, I really did. Yes, I still feel awful.)
     And now for the picture and couple more thrown in just for fun and grandmas. (Grandmas always want more pictures.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

When it all goes BOOM!

     Happy 4th of July Weekend!  It's officially the weekend for most Americans (our weekends start on Saturdays here, not Fridays so we've got another day to go) and everyone is gearing up for celebrating our nation's birth with food, family, friends and of course fireworks!  Now in general, most Independence day celebrations are designed with families in mind so you'd think this should be an easy one but whoever it was that thought up these family friendly occasions was obviously thinking more about what the kids would enjoy than what would make their parents lives run more smoothly.  Right now I'm busy making a list of all the things we'll need to bring beyond the regular bag of diapers and change of clothes to childproof this kid-friendly holiday.  You'll notice there are NO fireworks on our list, fireworks and kids just are not a good combo, especially when it comes to preserving mothers' sanity.  This is why we go watch a big fireworks display where the professionals are setting them off.
     Emergency Snacks: We usually share a picnic with another family with kids for the 4th of July which makes things somewhat easier as there's no grill for anyone to burn themselves on and anything too foreign is usually left at home but I never can tell when my girls are suddenly going to turn their noses up at the sandwich fixings, chips and bite-size veggies and fruit that they normally relish. I'll make sure to have some wholegrain crackers, string cheese and juice boxes (a rare treat at our house) so there will for sure be something they'll eat to keep the crankies away if they're feeling picky.

     Sun Protection: In addition to our normal concern about keeping their skin safe from the sun, Spice was just started on an anti-biotic that specifically states to prevent prolonged exposure to natural or artificial sunlight.  Because I so often take my one year old tanning. We'll be camped out under our  sun canopy with sunhats, barrier sunscreen (Blue Lizard Baby is our favorite) and hats.
     Water: I've just heard it's supposed to be over 90 on Sunday. Blech. I have the best luck keeping them hydrated by bringing their straw cups to tote around and sip on and then filling extra waterbottles with ice and water to keep filling the straw cups from.  That and filling waterbottles for their water reminds me to fill some for ours too! I always toss in an extra, empty straw cup too because someone always manages to either lose theirs or get it so dirty that I can't get it clean without taking it home for a scrubbing.
     Seating and Containment: We have one of those nifty $6 ground cover blankets that I can never remember the name of for the first time this summer and I love it.  We'll also bring camping chairs for us and the girls and probably just the single jogging stroller.  I'll have a mei tai and a ringsling for Spice if she gets clingy and we'll probably throw one of the superyards in the van to pull out just in case someone decides that staying with the group is over-rated. I know that sounds like a lot but when you're talking several hours in an open field with two hot, overstimulated toddlers up past their bedtime you need options.
     Entertainment: Haven't totally decided what to bring here yet.  We always bring a few books, Cat (Spice's lovey) and a baby doll of some sort and we may stick to that since there will be other kids to play with.  I might throw in some bubbles too and if things get too out of hand there's always my phone, my necklace, whatever I happen to have in my hair and my wallet as the standard backup "toys" of choice.
     Clothing: One change of weather appropriate clothing for every child (two for anyone under the age of one), sweatshirts and leggings/long pants since it always seems to get chilly as soon as the sun is down (and for bug protection) and pajamas for all kids who will be arriving home more than half an hour past their normal bedtime hour.  They WILL fall asleep in the car, you will NOT want to deal with them after you've not only woken them up getting them out of the car but had to rummage around for pjs and then shove their cranky, sleepy little limbs into them.
    First-Aid: Summer is definitely the big selling time for first-aid stuff I think.  We'll have our bug repelling fan thingy just in case the mosquitos show up in that gap of time between the sun going down and the field being overtaken by clouds of smoke from the fireworks. Band-Aids for both real and emotional boo-boos, preferably the kind that are clear or pictured thin, waterproof plastic that covers the whole pad since that's the only kind they'll keep on. Liquid Benadryl, never leave home without it, especially if you have kids or dogs that may eat or play with random unknown things they find laying around on, crawling through or growing out of the dirt. (Liquid especially because it's easier to get into a person or pet whose throat is swelling up due to an allergic reaction.)  Cloth diaper safe rash cream for possible heat induced-rashes (although I will say that switching them into the fleece covers on top of their prefolds when it gets real hot has led to so many less heat rash diaper rashes than they ever got in 'sposies). Aloe for whatever spots on himself my red-headed husband misses with the sunscreen. Anything we need for something more serious I figure we can depend on the fire fighters stationed at the field for the fireworks to supply.
     Ear Protection: Earplugs are a big thing for us with our girls.  Since we're already dealing with one kiddo with compromised hearing (Spice is single sided deaf) I don't chance risking their hearing any further.  It only takes one loud noise to damage a child's hearing and lots of moderately loud noise over several years (think fireworks, sirens at parades, loud music at outdoor concerts) can slowly impair their hearing into adulthood. Make sure ear plugs or sound blocking earmuffs are on your holiday must-bring list too.
     I think that's it.  What's unique to your family's must have holiday gear list? Anything on your list that I should have on mine to make my life easier?
 Pictures are from last year's 4th of July picnic, easily survived with careful planning.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

$10 and Under Cloth Trainers Reviews!!

     I'm apologizing in advance for what is going to be a very long post, but I want to make sure I get all the info in that I was wishing I had while shopping.

     A few months back we switched to cloth diapers from disposables for many reasons (environmental, financial, Spice's 'sposie sensitivity, etc).  I haven't regretted it for a second. Since Sugar is in the early stages of pottytraining though, I wanted something that was a little faster for up and down than a full snappied prefold and cover like we use on Spice.  That and after switching her to cloth diapers we saw immediately how much less she liked sitting around in wet pants when she could actually feel that they were wet and we hope this will help her be more ready to potty-learn than she was in 'sposies!

     I started looking into cloth pull-up training pants and decided in a hurry that we needed something absorbent and waterproof enough to hold at least one full accident so at least semi-waterproof was the first requirement on the list.  I also was amazed at how much some of these things cost!  I'm sure they're great but for trainers that we're only going to use on one child for (hopefully) a few months I just couldn't see spending twice or three times what I did on my one-size pocket diapers that can be used nearly all the way through diapering.  Even figuring in reselling when we were done with them I couldn't stomach the idea of buying a full complement of something like Antsy Pants even though they do look adorable and functional. I decided to limit it to trainers that could be had new for $10 a piece or less with a little shopping around and when buying a reasonable amount of pants for training one kiddo who was still having drastically more misses than hits in the potty department. I tried to figure in shipping too since all but possibly the Gerber pants depending on your area have to be purchased online.  This is for the size my daughters are currently wearing so it may end up being a touch more than $10 per trainer with shipping for some of them in larger sizes. I spent less on several of them as some were second-hand from the forum on diaperswappers.com and some just cost less new.  Rather than buy all of one kind not knowing what would work for us, I bought several to compare and since I couldn't find a very good list of options in this price range online anywhere I thought I'd post my opinions for anyone else who was looking.

     The seven trainers I ended up buying were, in no particular order: Bright Bots Essential Training Pants, Kushies Waterproof Pull-On Training Pant (not the lightweight taffeta variety), QTBunns Potty Training Pull Up (on Etsy), Gerber All-in-One Waterproof Trainer, Gerber Cotton Training Pants w/ Gerber Vinyl Pants, Potty Patty 2 in 1 Waterproof PUL Training Pants, Potty Patty Potty Training Pants - Padded w/ Fleece Cover.  I tried each trainer/combo at least twice and I tried them on both my girls just to test the fit on different kids in the weight range.  Both Sugar and Spice are about 25 lbs but Sugar has 4 inches on Spice so I thought that was a pretty good comparison of a naturally lean kid to one that still has baby chub.  I'm adding laundry info too on how well they did going through the cycle with my regular diaper routine.  It's enough to keep microfiber inserts from developing stinkies so it should be enough for trainers too.  I did turn all the trainers inside out for washing and drying.  A trainer that could hold up to the dryer was a must as with all those layers of padding I'd have a hard time getting them dry in the ever drizzling Northwest otherwise. Most of these are all-in-ones but there are two training pant/cover options. They did take a little longer to put on but I didn't find the trainer/cover sets to take any longer to pull down for pottying as they just come down together.

Number Seven:
Gerber All-in-One Waterproof Trainer-
     These were our least favorite of the seven options.  They are bulky and noisy and Sugar seemed to think they weren't very comfortable either.  These trainers seemed to leak frequently on the first accident even if the whole pad wasn't wet as though the liquid was just running off the fabric if they weren't adjusted perfectly which seems to be totally possible since it is a very tightly woven, slick cotton fabric for the lining.  At first I thought maybe they just needed a few turns in the wash but that didn't seem to help.  They also didn't perform very well in the wash when it came to coming clean after a pooey accident, sometimes staining and more than once needing a second turn through the laundry cycle to remove all the smell from the padding. They do seem to fit both girls equally well, although since the fit isn't perfect with either, you could also say they fit both equally poorly. Also sizing is confusing as we've found a 24 months, a 2T and a 2T-3T option currently for sale in these. There are 2 girl colors, 2 boy options and white.

Number Six:
Gerber Cotton Training Pants w/ Gerber Vinyl Pants-
     The cotton trainer/vinyl pant combo from Gerber definitely performed better than the All-in-Ones from the same.  The cotton trainers are fairly thin but as long as you make a relatively fast catch after an accident has occurred  the vinyl pants do a good job of keeping your home puddle free.  The cotton trainers fit well and I think they'll be a nice last step before regular undies but the vinyl pants are the bulkiest and noisiest of all the trainers we tried.  The cotton pants also wash well but take care not to let the vinyl covers slip into your dryer as they'll easily melt.  The vinyl pants also seem to hold onto the smells from the diaper pail but I think this could be helped by keeping them in a separate container until wash day.  The cloth pants have some stretch and fit both girls well although they are a little hard to get up over the chunkiest part of Spice's thighs and I think a size up may leave them loose in the waistband. There are a handful of limited colors and patterns in each for boys, girls and neutral.

Number Five:
Bright Bots Essential Training Pants-
     I actually really like these terrycloth Australian training pants.  They fit trimly and seem well constructed.  Sugar seemed to find them very comfy and I actually had to put our pair up to keep her from requesting them.  The only reason they didn't score higher is because we're not quite ready for them at this stage of training as the waterproof section is just a large strip down the center which allows for too much leaking with a full pee from her.  I anticipate pulling them back out for outings and naps as an undie alternative when we've progressed to the mostly trained stage.  If your little one is already to the point of being able to stop an accident part way through or if you're mostly just looking for something that's going to keep puddles off the floor but you don't mind having to possibly change clothes if it means faster training, these would probably be a great fit for you.  I just wish they made a fully waterproof option for those who aren't quite ready!  They launder beautifully and are a great fit on both kiddos because of the terry stretch at the sides.  They come in plenty of solid colors, both bright and pastel and are very cute.

Number Four:
Kushies Waterproof Pull-On Training Pants- These are a sturdy, well constructed trainer  The outer fabric is slightly stiff but effective (NO dampness leaks through) and they have plenty of absorbent padding and a soft flannel interior.  They're not noisy and Sugar seems to find them pretty comfy. They are a little puffy due to the way they're seamed and the fact that in order to have enough padding there has got to be some bulk.  The only real problem with them is the waistband.  There is a soft piece of fabric rolled over the top for the waistband that is nice and comfy on the skin which would be fine except it wicks moisture as soon as they pants are wet! Watch closely with these and you'll be ok but they're definitely not the greatest for in the car or anywhere that there's not an easily accessible change of clothes around in case of damp spots.  It's really too bad since otherwise I think they'd make a decent nap/light night alternative even.  The stiff outer fabric does seem to cut down on the fit versatility and these cut in a little bit at the leg openings for Spice. She didn't act uncomfortable but they did leave some redness. These trainers didn't seem to have any real trouble in the wash other than some light discoloration if I we were out somewhere and one sat in the wetbag before I could spray out any ickies with the sprayer.  The discoloration faded easily with repeated washings or sunning. They do come in a few different little colorful prints on white backgrounds or in all white. (I have not tried their Lightweight Taffeta Trainers at this point but, while very cute and although I love the Kushies taffeta wetbags I have, they appear to have the same rolled waistband.  If anyone knows whether these have the same wicking problems or not, please mention it in the comments and I'll add that info.)

Number Three:
Potty Patty/Scotty 2 in 1 Waterproof PUL Training Pants-
     These trainers have a PUL (Polyurethane Laminate) outer shell and soft cotton on the inside with absorbent padding in between. These were comfy, trim fitting and definitely absorbent enough to hold a full accident although I wouldn't want to risk them for nap unless I  knew I'd be able to get baby up as soon immediately when they woke.  Sugar seemed to find them comfortable although they weren't her favorite.  The outer PUL stretches in a way that the other exterior fabrics don't which is part of what allows for the trimness as well as allowing a good fit for both kiddos. I had no laundry issues with these and because they're fairly thin, if I had to line dry and wanted an all-in-one I think this would be the best bet. They do only come in one design, white with little bright pink Potty Patty logos (or blue Potty Scotty logos) printed all over.

Number Two-
Potty Patty/Scotty Training Pants -Padded w/ Fleece Cover:
     Although this is another 2 piece system and therefore a little more work to get on they still get high marks from me for several reasons. First this is the most breathable combo by far since it uses fleece for the water barrier layer.  Then there's the fact that economically they're a great bet.  The trainers are relatively inexpensive and you don't need a full complement of fleece covers as you can reuse them a time or two over a clean trainer as long as they haven't gotten any ickies on them.  Also in the economy column is that many cloth diapering families already have fleece covers like we did (or you could substitute wool, whatever you had in a pullup variety that fit) and could get by with just buying the trainers. Once little one is ready, the trainers could be used without the fleece overs as a stepping stone to just regular panties too. The Potty Patty/Scotty cloth trainers may resemble the Gerber cloth trainers at first glance but there is really no comparison.  These are slightly thicker with better absorbent padding, seem better constructed and are, according to Sugar, "nice and comfy".  They're a good fit on both girls and have plenty of stretch so they fit snugly without leaving marks (read no pee dripping out the leg holes into the fleece cover before it has time to absorb). I use these at night sometimes and just fold a preemie prefold the right width to fit the crotch between the trainer and the cover.  Another extra step in putting on but no more trouble to pull down.  We've never had leaking problems with this combination. I'm not specifically listing a fleece cover brand because I just use what I've got which is 3 Mile High Monkeys soakers and one pair of fleece longies. If you don't already have fleece covers check out etsy or just look for some thickish fleece pants (cut them down if you'd rather have shorts.)  Because fleece covers for diapers come in soaker length (think panties), shorties (shorts), longies (long pants) and skirties (any of the others with a skirt sewn on top) you don't need another pair of pants over this option which can make it very trim.  If you do have both the trainer and the fleece under pants or a diaper cover they can be a bit bulky.  No laundry issues with this one and if you're willing to deal with the two piece thing this is hands down the best pick for the line dryer. The Potty Patty/Scotty trainers don't score high marks in the appearance column (the same blue or pink logos as the waterproof variety) but the huge amount of different styles, patterns and colors of fleece covers that are out there more than makes up for that.

Number One:
QTBunns Potty Training Pull Up-
This was by far the favorite for both Sugar and for me.  These are homemade by a grandma in Alaska who sells online which is a plus right there. Supporting small businesswomen, great customer service, being able to make some custom choices and knowing that if you have a problem you'll get a response is worth a lot in my book. On Etsy "qtbunns" is both the seller name and the shop name.  She appears to have a site being built at http://www.qtbunns.com/ and I believe she sells on E-bay too. The trainers are soft flannel for the interior and exterior with a hidden PUL layer and plenty of padding sandwiched in between.  The stitching is very sturdy and is of an overlock or serge variety instead of stitched and turned which allows for a very trim fit at the hips and waist even with the multiple layers and the generous absorbent padding where it's needed. I think it's this stitching style that also seems to prevent any wicking from the soft inner layers to the outer one.  These trainers have never leaked for us, even during nap or overnight and Sugar, while not a supersoaker, does still have full on accidents overnight.  They fit both girls nicely and were snug at the waist and legs without leaving red marks. We had exactly zero problems laundering these. Even the time that Sugar had a poo accident when we were away from home and they sat in the wetbag in the hot car for hours before I could get them home and sprayed they washed completely clean with no odor or staining. When it comes to appearance these are the best of the bunch. They come in plenty of choices of colors and patterns for the exterior flannel (and if you're willing to wait a bit you can choose your own prints from her selection) and are plain white on the inside where they contact delicate skin.

     Overall, when we do this again (and we will since Spice will definitely be in a bigger size when she's ready to train than Sugar is in now) we'll be going with mostly QTBunns and a few Potty Patty/Scotty padded pants in fleece for spares and days when we really want the breathability.  If you find these reviews useful, have questions about any of the trainers listed that I didn't answer, have anything else to add or want me to try out a trainer that you offer that fits the qualifications of under $10 a pair and waterproof leave comments. :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Not-A-Real-Post Post For You

     I know, it's been a long time since I've posted and  this isn't even a real post!  I promise though, either tomorrow or Friday I'm going to get up a real post.  It's even going to be a long one, a review of several under $10 a pair pull-up waterproof training pants, how cool is that?  How can I be so sure I'm going to have enough of that ever elusive thing people without children call free time to do this?  I have a BABYSITTER for two whole days during the day and for Saturday night. This will be our first night without Spice and our first night away from Sugar since Spice's birth so it's a big deal!  Now if only I can keep my mind off of them long enough to enjoy our date night. He he!
     Anyway, on to today's not-a-real-post post.  It's a video on Vimeo that someone shared on my Facebook and I thought it was hilarious and totally relevant to this blog, so here it is. :) 

Mommy Rhapsody from Church on the Move on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

If It Looks Like a Duck...

   There's something unique about having kids less than two years apart the way our girls are (fourteen months in our case).  I think that the "twibling" experience as they call it over at the Baby Bunching blog is even more intense when you have two the same gender and when you're a parent to twiblings it starts to become easy to spot another family like yours.
     We had a funny run in in Target yesterday with another mom.  I was walking through the women's clothing department scoping out the clearance racks with Spice in the ringsling and Sugar walking next to the cart that she was supposed to be holding onto.  She was having some trouble with listening and she knows that she needs to hold on to either the cart or Mama's hand when she wants to walk through the store so I scooped her up to have what was probably the eight conversation about needing to hold on to my hand or having to ride in the cart as the alternative.  (When you are shopping with two toddlers you ALWAYS take a cart, even with one in the carrier and one walking and not much to buy.  Having somewhere available to tie a stray child down is invaluable in some situations.)  The other mother was a few racks over and smiled when she overheard our little talk and after I'd put Sugar down and we got closer she commented that my kids looked about the same age as hers.  Turns out she has two boys, one and two, who are fourteen months apart and she was enjoying a rare trip out without them.  She said seeing us reminded her just what a treat it was to get an outing by herself! We wished her a good trip and finished up with our shopping but it made me grin that we were so easily spotted as familiar.  It's funny, when you get so used to doing everything with two toddlers you sort of forget how much easier things are when you're all by yourself and just adjust to always accommodating two wiggly little people.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Consumer Reports for Birth?

     I'm forewarning you that this post is about birth, a topic I have a particular interest in since I'm training to be a doula, but I promise it's not gory.

     Women by nature tend to be social shoppers.  It's not enough for us to know the specs, price and features of a product as listed by the manufacturer, we want to know what other people like us who have used it really think of it!  We ask our friends about vacuums, google reviews for food processors, watch talk show segments trialing beauty products and scour magazines for travel stories.  Is it any surprise that when we're pregnant we listen to the stories other women tell us about their birth experiences?
     There is a difference though! With everything else we are listening for the stories of people who are really happy about whatever it is they've got but with birth, often the stories we let affect us the most are the horror stories!  I mean, we certainly don't consciously think "I'm going to find the women who feel they had the worst possible births and do it just the way they did!" but often that's what we end up doing!  If we're truly honest, don't most uf us, upon hearing a woman go into raptures about how fabulous their birth was sort of give an internal eye roll and think to ourselves that she's crazy, or that she must be a little bit of a masochist?  Why don't we instead try to really listen to what she's saying and hear what it is that made her experience different from the nightmare stories?
    Mind you, I'm not of the opinion that there's only one right way to do birth that fits every woman.  I've known women who had unmedicated, vaginal births with midwives who talk as though they've survived a major natural disaster and I've known a few women who had elective c-sections who talk about the entire experience as being blissful and peaceful.  I think what is really important is to listen for stories that are rave reviews of birth and consider being open to different possibilities for our own birth that what we may have pictured and take those stories into account while searching for the plans and goals that fit us and our families.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I Like Cake! (do de do, do de do do do do)

     This post is going to be all about cake.  What exactly you ask does cake have to do with surviving parenting?  Well it's not so much the cake per se, it's more about the making of the cake.  Here's where you start saying to yourself, "I'm lucky if I have time to make a peanut butter sandwich, much less a cake.  Is this woman nuts?"  Just hear me out!  For me, making cakes is both a valuable mama-time experience that I enjoy as well as a useful endeavor that serves a function and saves us money since we'd be getting cakes for various and sundry occasions anyway that would be less tasty, less fun and much more expensive. This alleviates any and all guilt associated with aforementioned mama-time activity!  I know, most people will tell you that you shouldn't feel guilty as a mom for needing some mama-time and they're right but that still doesn't mean I don't feel just a wee twinge when sitting down to watch an episode of Dr. Who on Netflix with my feet up surrounded by two loads of clean, unfolded laundry.
     Now, if baking isn't your thing, then find something that is that fits the requirements of being something you really enjoy as well as serving some sort of useful purpose to your household or the world in general.  Cook new meals, knit diaper soakers, repurpose old furniture, plant a garden, volunteer with animals or whatever does it for you.  You don't even have to be good at it, you just have to enjoy it and feel good about doing it.  I am not a skilled baker.  I make crooked cakes and flatten them with generous use of a cake leveler.  I can't make a rose out of frosting or ice a cake so it's smooth which is why I use a lot of fondant because it's very forgiving and a lot easier than it looks.
     Ok, now on to the cake!  This is a cake I made for my dad's birthday while he was out visiting us.  He's in the timber industry and I don't know how to make a jelly roll for a log cake so instead he got a stump cake.  It's a devil's food cake from a mix with chocolate frosting from a can and homemade peanutbutter cream frosting as filling.  I covered it with a combo of storebought marzipan (for the top and mushrooms) and homemade peanutbutter fudge marshmallow fondant (recipe the very bottom of the post if you want to try it.)  There's coconut grass and the fondant and marzipan has been painted with paints made from gel food colors and green apple schnapps (I didn't have any clear alcohol and water melts fondant.)  I've decided that I don't have to show you the picture of the back where I tried out some "moss" effects and there are two green spots that look sort of like boogies.

Just for fun, I'm subjecting you to a few more past cakes. Remember, this is my mama-time activity so humor me. :)

 These are the guest cake (carrot cake with orange filling and frosting, YUM!)  and Spice's cake for her 1st birthday party.  She was somewhat underwhelmed with the cake.  She sort of picked at it for a few minutes and then decided she'd rather be picked up instead.

This is the cake I made for Sugar's 2nd birthday (at McDonald's as she loves "Burgers, Fries and Milk" right now.) Word of warning for anyone ever considering it, don't use marshmallow creme with fondant, they don't like each other.  That runny stuff that looks like an over abundance of mayo isn't supposed to be there.

We did cake every month for the first year on our girl's monthly birthdays.  I only made a couple of those myself as we usually did really mini cakes or itty bitty cheesecakes so we didn't have cake for two weeks every month.  This was the topper for Spice's 8 month birthday. She had swine flu.

This one was YUMMY! It's matcha green tea and vanilla flavored layers with strawberry preserve filling.  The icing is vanilla and the fondant is matcha flavored too.

Peanutbutter-Fudge Marshmallow Fondant:
I covered a large area of my sanitized, dried kitchen table with sifted powdered sugar mixed with 1/3 cup of cocoa powder, about 14 inches across and an inch deep. You can cover the table or whatever surface you're using to knead on with shortening, but I find it's easier to clean powdered sugar off the table than Crisco and if you use enough sugar, the fondant still doesn't stick.  I coated my bowl (I use a microwave safe ceramic one from IKEA) in vegetable shortening as usual and my spoonula too. Then added in one full bag of mini-marshmallows, about two tablespoons of water and roughly half a cup of peanutbutter and microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the marshmallows are fully meltedand quickly coated my hands with Crisco before pouring the melted marshmallow mixture into the powdered sugar.   I kneaded it together until it felt just a little softer than I'd make regular marshmallow fondant as the peanutbutter makes it a little chewier once it's set. There are lots of good marshmallow fondant recipes and videos online and I'd try that enough to be comfortable with making and using it before trying this one because it is a little harder to work with.  This batch had a nice, mild chocolate peanutbutter flavor that I prefer to the straight marshmallow as it is less sugary tasting and you can knead in as much or as little cocoa powder as you want to adjust color and flavor but I wouldn't add more PB as it would be TOO chewy.  I've also done it without the peanut butter and used strawberry extract in place of the water for a yummychocolate covered strawberry fondant that I make darker.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Grocery Store Survival 101

Just to give you an idea where I'm coming from I thought I'd share an old post off my previous family blog from when Sugar and Spice were 15 months and 1 month old about what a trip to the grocery store is like with two babies.  If you look closely you'll find lots of dos and don'ts sprinkled throughout. :D Looking back I realize that shopping is so much easier now roughly a year later so if you're still at this stage, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The concept of "running to the store" no longer exists for me so it's a good thing SD works there because otherwise I'm sure we'd end up with some pretty interesting dinners when a necessary ingredient was left out because it just wasn't worth the trip to the store. (Like the other day when I was debating about what I could use to frost Spice's 1 month birthday cake that didn't contain any butter.) If we don't need milk or diapers, I don't go to the store until we have a decent sized list going. I thought I'd share just WHY that's the case when dealing with our two little angels by telling about our shopping experience yesterday (the first one out with both girls since the grandparents left.) This was a GREAT shopping trip mind you, about the best I could hope for. We go shopping in the afternoon after nap and lunch are out of the way normally. We try to shoot for being done shopping right around four when SD gets off so he can help us get stuff into the car and then into the house without having to hang out there too long after he's done working. I started getting the girls ready to go at 1:00 p.m., shooting for leaving at 3:00 since we didn't have too long of a list today. We pulled out of the driveway at 3:40. Other than being late however, we were in pretty good shape. Both girls had been changed, the baby had been nursed and Sugar had a snack. The grocery list was totally written and I made sure I had my wallet and crackers in the diaper bag in case Sugar got the munchies. The strategy for getting out the door is to put Spice in the meitai, grab the diaper bag, pick up Sugar and check to be sure she's still wearing two shoes and then grab the keys with whatever spare fingers I can find to lock the door before getting them each buckled in their seats while Sugar is reaching over trying to tickle Spice. Upon arriving at the store (right next door mind you) I have learned to park beside a cart return that has carts in it. Then I get out, grab a cart and after checking to be sure it has BOTH ends of the seatbelt buckle intact and no bent or stuck wheels I throw the diaper bag in and put the buggy-cover on before getting Sugar out and buckling her in and then getting Spice out to tie her into the meitai. Once in the store, departments are hit by priority and temperature. If there are diapers on the list, that's first, otherwise it's just a matter of getting through everything as fast as possible in hopes of finishing before anyone melts down. Then there's the "mommy moments" that I still haven't gotten over yet. According to my mother, my memory and better reasoning skills are never coming back. For example, yesterday I found myself standing in the popcorn aisle staring at two kinds of microwave popcorn and wondering which had less calories, the kettle corn 100 calorie mini bags or the buttery 100 calorie mini bags... Thoughts like this make shopping interesting to say the least. Then at some point Sugar will see SD working down an aisle usually (she's always looking for him at the store, even if he comes with us) and will spend the rest of the trip going "Dad? Dad! Dad, Dad, Dad.." until locating him again. Also, when shopping with two under two, every third person in the store stops to chat. They ask how old the girls are, comment on how cute they are or, and this is my very favorite (sarcasm implied), say "Boy, you've really got your hands full!!" Also fun is the ever popular "You've got two!"  SD says I should say, "What? Where's the other one?" and take off running with a panicked look on my face. As if I didn't know that I had two and my hands are full. Sugar's newest shopping trick is to wait until someone who's had the audacity to pass by us without stopping to wave or comment and then suddenly SHOUT at the top of her lungs, just to see them jump. So once we've finally knocked out all the room temperature groceries on our list and gotten the last of the cold items in the cart, there are usually one or two things I'll notice we've forgotten and have to run back for as fast as possible while Sugar is turning around and banging on whatever frozen items she can reach and thereby thawing them out that much faster. By that time SD is almost always off work (since we never make it to the store as early as we're hoping) and he entertains Sugar while we finish up and check out. Checking out usually takes a while too because the cashier feels compelled to visit with Sugar, ask how old the girls are and of course let us know that "You guys really have your hands full!" Once we have made it back out to where the car is, I unload and strap in the girls, starting with whoever is the least cranky (they were both actually pretty good yesterday) while SD gets the groceries in. At home, I unload the girls while he starts bringing in the stuff and then I work on getting the frozen stuff put away first and then the cold stuff while the girls fuss and then hand Sugar a snack and a drink in her superyard before grabbing the baby to feed. I'm lucky if I get the room temperature stuff put away by bedtime and about the time the last things are in the cupboard is when I'll realize that I've forgotten at least one thing that was on the list. Yesterday it was potatoes. Guess we won't be having potatoes again until next week. :)


Hi! Welcome to my blog. :)  I am a wife and stay-at-home mama to two girls. Our older daughter is two and the younger is one; they are roughly 14 months apart. They will be referred to in this blog as Sugar and Spice respectively both for safety reasons and in the hopes that they won't someday come home from their Freshman year of high school screaming at me because someone found online where their mother described their potty training routine in detail. I'm madly in love with and married to a great man that I'll be calling SURVIVOR DAD (after all, we are in this parenting thing together) or SD for short.  We met online and if you think that's weird, I'm ok with that.  I think it's weird to meet in a bar. The last member of our little family is our 7 year old German Shepherd mix, Echo.  I'm training to be a doula and loved my natural birth (the second one of the two) but will never rag on anyone for choosing an epidural.  I live in the Portland, OR area and love the great Northwest.  You will probably read a lot on this blog about day-to-day life with two toddlers and a dog and how to get through it without losing your mind and also a liberal smattering of camping, cake baking, babywearing, cloth diapering, reading, simplifying life, green living and internet shopping posts. I hope you hang enjoy reading and feel free to leave comments!  After all, if we don't share resources, how will we ever survive parenthood?