Thursday, January 31, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Our Sleep Manifesto

The Handley Family Sleep Manifesto: 
The Greatest Sleep for the Greatest Number

Now generally we don't identify with communist ideals* at the Handley home, but when it comes to sleep, the idea works for us.  Whatever gets the greatest sleep for the greatest number is the way we go.  There are ten bazillion books written on getting children to sleep.  There are countless articles on the undeniable benefits/undeniable dangers of just about every sleep option out there.  Caring parents ONLY sleep with their kids.  Caring parents ONLY put their kids in their cribs.  Caring parents swaddle.  Or feed to sleep.  Or have siblings share rooms.  Or do kangaroo care.  Or bedshare.  Or babywear.  Or do bedtime in a swing.  Use crib bumpers.  Don't use crib bumpers.  Or a carseat.  Or drive their kids around at night.  Or set the car seat on the dryer.  Or give a bottle at night.  Or a pacifier.  Or use an apnea monitor.  Or don't.  

Baloney pants.  

Caring parents figure out what works for them and go for it in a safe and flexible way.  They realize that what works today won't necessarily work tomorrow.  And they don't judge other parents for doing what works for them.  

Some ways we have begged pleaded coerced bored swindled tricked soothed our children into sleep:

On Daddy

On a park bench, homeless style

In the stroller

In the Ergo

On the airplane

Being carried through a cave

Zipped into a plane bassinet

On the floor
On a walk dressed as a flower

In a sling while big brother rides a horse

Great Gramma's lap- highly recommended!

In the baby swing

In a toddler bed

In the hospital

On the kitchen table

Camping, surrounded by stuff bags

In a carseat
Okay- this one definitely does not work

So in what works for you.  Do it safely.  And try to get some sleep.  Good luck!

*Upon further research, I have just learned that "The greatest good for the greatest number" is in fact a Utilitarian quote by Jeremy Bentham, not a Communist quote, as I had previously thought.  Who knew.

Linking up:
Weekend Blog HopFor the Kids Friday 

Yarn Along- Sheep Edition!

My Ravelry notes
My awesome friend, Anna, gave me a few skeins of some yarn- homespun from her brother's sheep farm.  It is really rustic and awesome, and I decided that it would make the most adorable little stuffed sheep for someone's Easter basket.  There is something kind of funny and fitting about taking wool from a sheep and knitting it back into a sheep. It is knitting up quick and easy and I am having fun with it.  Hopefully it will look something along the lines of this:
Fuzzy Mitten Lamb- pattern free on Ravelry!
I am currently reading Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, by Neufeld and Mate.  I picked it up for a nonfiction bookclub through a local homeschooling group (though book club was last night and I certainly did not have it all read.  They didn't mind...the sign of a good book club!)  So far it is pretty good- it definitely hits all the usual attachment parenting ideas.  It is a bit heavy on worst-first what-if thinking for my taste- if your children are more attached to their peers than to you THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND THIS AWFUL TERRIBLE THING WILL HAPPEN.  All valid, but not likely.  But it certainly worth the read.  Note to time get the audio book...then I could read AND knit at the same time...and possibly finish one, if not both, of these projects!

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along today!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

TV Trance

Television Trance

Confession: we don't have a television here at our house.  And we are now homeschoolers.  I realize this pushes me dangerously close to the denim jumper club (but I took a no-frumpy-jumper-oath upon completion of my teaching degree).  It doesn't mean we are "screen free"- we have been known to watch the odd show on our laptops and we let the kids play iPad games- but we do watch very little.  Some days I would like nothing better than to turn on the television for the kids, but generally I don't.  Here are a few thoughts on why...

1) The looks on those faces up there- total-utter-passive-blah faces.  And they would sit there for as long as I let them.  Uncool.

2) When they are staring at the screen, they are not playing together. Though they do like to act out what they watch later, I prefer them to come up with their own imaginary games (and not run around my house repeatedly screaming "Where are we going?  To the big red hill!")

3) Many kids will play while the television is on in the background, but not my kids- especially not Matias.  If it is on, they are there, 6 inches away from the screen.  I think this has to do with his intense personality, but he will stand there and memorize everything on it...which is why we first decided to get rid of the television.  Perhaps after long enough they would lose interest, but I don't really want to find out how long "long enough" is.

4) The rapidly changing input.  As a teacher, I don't know how I can compete with something that blinks, flashes and changes multiple times a second.  I cannot be that interesting, nor do I want to be.  I believe too much screen time can inhibit the ability to focus, and puts the kids into passive, rather than active mode.  

5) The arguments.  Nothing will drive my kids to anger like wanting a show/losing the privilege of watching a show/having to turn off the show when it is over.  Seriously- there is NOTHING that makes them as whiny/screamy/angry.  So we skip it.  

6) When I DO need to really contain/entertain/make them rest, it is magic.  They will move mountains (or at least clean up their rooms) in order to watch a show. 

But what about...

...all the kids who watch television and turn out just fine?
Like I did?  Awesome.  I have no problem with whatever decision other families make.  If it works for you, rock it.  And invite my kids over and let them drool on your tv stand- they will love you for it.

...those days when you just want some peace?  
I miss it dearly and desperately wish I could plop them in front of the television.

...the great educational shows?
My kids do watch the odd PBS show, which I am all for.  In fact, I'd like to adopt Sid the Science Kid.  That said, there are lots of ways to learn letters and reading, and I do tend to believe that most of them should involve actually holding a book.

...your poor uncool kids who don't know the characters? 
Somehow they still know some of them...Thomas, Dora, Super Why.  They hear about them from friends, and choose books with those characters from the library.  And don't get me started on Disney princesses.  Fear not for the fate of licensed characters- they are alive and well in our home!

Friday, January 25, 2013

One Momma's Guide to All Things Baby Gear

Hi all!  Following on the heels of my all things diaper post, I offer you my guide to baby stuff.  This started off as an e-mail to a friend who was heading to register for her first baby, and I decided to expand it to share with the rest of you.  I shouldn't have to say it, but yes yes...people feel strongly about baby gear (though perhaps not as strongly as they do about diapers...?!?!).  These are just my recommendations of things I have used and liked...feel free to disagree (nicely) or leave some of your favorite baby items in the comments.  I love to hear what others use.  So without further ado....

My Top Cannot-Do-Without Baby Items
  • Ergo Carrier
    1) Ergo carrier- I L.O.V.E mine and use it every single day...still...and my youngest is 15 months old.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I could not parent without it, but I sure wouldn't want to! It is good from about 3 months til long after you'd need it. I can still carry my three year old in it. There is a newborn insert you can purchase, but I tend to like a Moby Wrap (well, my homemade knock off) better when they are itty bitties. 

    I know a lot of new moms register for a Baby Bjorn or Snuggli (like I did).  There are two reasons I have come to prefer the Ergo.  First, it puts the weight of the child on my hips rather than my neck and shoulders.  Second, it puts the baby's weight on his butt (he sits on his bottom with his legs splayed...which looks weird, but is comfy for a baby). The Bjorn hangs him straight down, putting all the pressure on his crotch. I know which one I would choose!
    SwaddleMe Blanket
    2) Swaddle blankets- We love the Halo Sleep Sacks (with the swaddling wings) or, cheaper and just as good, the Kiddopotamous SwaddleMe blankets. They both have velcro on them to keep the kid swaddled. All three of ours really loved the comfort of being swaddled...I know some people are against them because they can interfere with breastfeeding, but I never found that to be a problem, and I credit the swaddling with the fact that our babies were happy to sleep in their cribs most of the time.  Obviously, if you want them to sleep with you, swaddling probably isn't the best idea, but it worked really well for our needs.  Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp is an interesting book on calming fussy infants, and he suggests swaddling, so that is where we originally got the idea.  Not like swaddling is a new idea...hello Mary and Jesus!
    This kid' would sleep anywhere swaddled...even in the middle of a room renovation!
    Blankie- any kind will do, but get two!

    3) Blankies- Each of my kids has two, identical blankets that they got the day they were born.  I start wrapping them up in them when I nurse them, and teach them to associate comfort, sleep and mama with these blankets.  When they are tired/upset/scared/away from home or mama, blankie goes a long way.  Wherever blankie is, sleep is not far behind.  And TRUST two and swap them out when you wash them so that they both wear equally.  You won't regret it!

    Much loved blankies
    Pack n Play
     4) Pack n Play- We use ours all the time, and wherever it is, my babies will generally sleep (especially if blankie is there, too). Our kids all slept in our room in the pack n play when they were tiny.  Even now I have it set up in the kitchen as a safe place for Beatrice to play for a few minutes when I need to step away or pull something out of the oven.  She kind of likes being in there (where nobody steals her toys!)  It travels well, and you can pull it out when little people come to visit as well.  Doubles as a ball pit.
    Good for learning to stand up, too!
    Medela Pump in Style
    5) A good breast pump- Don't go with a cheap brand here. I have a Medela Pump in Style that I love.  I have done my very best to use it to death, and yet it pumps on.  They sell Medela parts at Target, which is handy.  Be sure that you get the right size really matters. And along these lines, be sure you find a good lactation consultant or breastfeeding group.  The first months can be incredibly hard and frustrating, so find some expert advice. It is worth persevering through, because after the first few months you'll have many months of happy, easy, free feeding ahead of you.  I think you'll forgive me if I forgo the personal picture of this item.  So onto the next...

    Britax Marathon Convertible Carseat
    6) A Great Convertible Carseat- this is one thing I wish I had registered for.  I got so caught up in choosing the infant carseat that I didn't realize that four months down the line my big ol' baby would outgrow it and I would be shelling out for the next step up.  I have tried several brands and I highly recommend Britax.  I also hear good things about the Diono Radian, though I don't have one. Splurge on the convertible carseat- do not get a cheap will be wrestling with this thing for years...and what you don't pay in cash, you'll pay in frustration!
    See how happy she is that we bought a good brand?  Or is it because we bought a pink one?

    There are a million and one other things you can get for a baby, but these are my personal favorites.  If you see something you never knew you needed, probably don't.  Rubber duck bath thermometers, crib tents, diaper wipes warmers, electric nose suckers, 1000x magnifying nail clippers- all these can be nice, but they are not that important.  Stick to the basics, and then purchase things as needed...aka, register for giftcards!

    Also, don't forget to think about your needs.  Many people told me to take care of myself, which was frustrating because I felt like they were telling me I had to leave my baby, which is tough to do at first. I have come to realize that little comfy pants, a really nice fitting nursing bra, yummy tea or coffee with frou frou creamer, or herbal baths are all things that make me feel taken care of post-baby without needing to leave home.  Certainly get stuff for the baby, but don't forget a few things for yourself as well!

**This post contains no affiliate links, and I have not been compensated in any way for any of these opinions.  These are just things I have used and loved.  Lucky advertising!**

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

One Momma's Guide To All Things Diaper

I have three children.  One thing I know a lot about is poop diapers.  I was just looking back at this delusional adorable post I wrote three years ago when I was just starting out on the cloth diaper road.  Needless to say, since writing that post I have changed thousands of diapers and can speak with a bit more authority about all things baby butt.  There are a million ways to diaper (or not diaper) a baby.  I have tried a good number of them, but certainly not all.  I am sure that for everything I say, I can find someone who disagrees...and for a reason I will NEVER understand, people have really strong opinions about diapers.  Especially cloth ones.  Life is short, people!  I can only speak to my own experience...but I do get asked about this experience a here is the Helen Handley guide to diapers.  (and if you like this, check out my guide to baby gear)
Too many choices!
Part I: What Kind to Use
I use both disposables and cloth diapers.  I love both for certain purposes.  I mainly use cloth, but use disposables when we are on vacation, out and about, during diaper rashes, and at nighttime once the baby is a bit older...I have yet to find an overnight cloth diaper that will reliably hold what a 15 month old can't. 

Disposables: I like Pampers, Huggies, Luvs and Target Brand.  I don't go "lower" than Target brand because I have found them to leak.  One of my kids got a rash from Luvs, so those are not good for sensitive skinned kids.

Cloth: This is more complicated.  There are many, many kinds of cloth diapers today.  I will just tell you which ones I like the best and why.

Fuzzibunz Perfect Size Diapers with Snaps: I like these pocket diapers because they are soft and don't leak.  They dry very quickly in the dryer, and I don't have to flip them inside out to dry (like I did with All-in-Ones).  The snaps do not pill or catch on things like velcro (aplix).  They are not a One-Size-Fits-All diaper- I don't like OS diapers because I find that they are too bulky on a newborn, and by the time the child is old enough to need a very large size, they are too worn out to hold in what they should.  I prefer sized diapers.  Fuzzibunz Smalls have fit Beatrice, who is average sized, from birth to 16 months (7 to 20 pounds) and she still has some room to grow.  You can use them as a swim diaper if you don't stuff an insert in.  Also, they are pretty and cheap.

If you are looking into cloth, I highly recommend doing the "Try Cloth for $10" program at  They send you several kinds to try out, and then you can return the ones you don't want.  This was very helpful for me.  

Babies look cute in cloth diapers!
Part II: Where to Get Them
As I mentioned, Jillian's Drawers is a favorite.  However, I now buy most of my diapers from FuzziBunzSeconds.  They are factory seconds, but honestly, I can't usually even tell what was wrong with them.  I had one that came with elastic that was too loose to work, and the nice lady there replaced it for me immediately.  They cost less than $12 each, and they usually have a buy some get one free deal.  They are not quite perfect...but considering the job they do...that doesn't bother me.

Still waiting for the Diaper Genie to come and empty the darned thing...
Part III: How to Dispose of Them
Those of you who labor under the delusion that I am somewhat crunchy and green may be shocked to learn that I OWN A DIAPER GENIE.  However, I recently got tired of shelling out $7 for a roll of bags, so we have started using regular trash bags in ours.  Google "Diaper Genie Bag Hack" and you'll find lots of instructions.

Sometimes things can get a bit messy.
Part IV: How To Clean Them
This is the million dollar question.  I don't feel that I have this down to an art yet...nor a science...but I have learned a few things.

Our routine: All wet and dirty cloth diapers and cloth wipes go into a wet bag.  I own five wet bags- three purple for "home use" and two yellow for the diaper bag.  That way, when I see a yellow one in the laundry I know it goes back into the diaper bag.  I also have a certain color of cloth diaper that is for the diaper bag for the same reason.

On washing day, I shake out the inserts of the wet diapers right into the washer.  I shake out the inserts of the dirty diapers, and take the dirty part to the utility sink.  I spray them off with a powerful sprayer (get a good one...don't skimp here!)  Yes, there is poop left in the sink...I'm sure you can figure out how to handle that (preferably without much handling).  I throw them into the washer and run a cold rinse cycle.  Then I put in a tiny dash of Charlie's Soap (do not use detergent with fabric softner- it will waterproof your diapers, which is NOT what you want!) and run a hot heavy wash cycle. Too much soap will make your diapers smell.  Then I rinse again in cold once or twice.  I throw them in the dryer on high for about 20 minutes.  Then I stuff the inserts back in and fold them.  I wash the cloth wipes and wet bags in there, too.

Every now and then they get stinky.  About once a month I "strip" the diapers.  First I wash them as normal.  Then I crank up my water heater or pour boiling water into the washer and run them on a very hot wash with a teaspoon of Dawn and a half a packet of this quaint stuff.  I really love the lady on the front of the package.  Then I run them on cold rinse three times and dry as normal.  I also try to hang the diapers out in the sun when possible. 

**I realize that if I immediately rinsed off the dirty diapers and left them wet I would not have to rinse them out so much.  I have tried this over and over and never found a good way to have a pail of water and dirty diapers where my children wouldn't get into it, or it wouldn't stink up the place.  So I just suck it up and rinse them.  I touch a lot of poop.  And I think that really, any cloth diapering mother who says she doesn't is not being fully truthful.  But I don't really mind it, and I think it has strengthened me for all the other gross tasks of parenting (see the segment on potty training below).**

Diaper rash is ugly, so instead, I give you more cute baby.
Part V: Diaper Rash
For some unknown reason, my daughters both suffered from really bad diaper rash.  Like pediatric-dermatologist-appointments-bad diaper rash (which has placed them both on the dermatologist's Botox coupon mailing they got that going for them).  We did a lot of experimenting and determined it had nothing to do with the diapers- we tried every brand of disposable as well as cloth and nothing seemed to make a difference.  Here is my advice on diaper rash.  

1) Do not use rash cream with cloth diapers.  You will ruin them and be sad.  Some people say liners will protect them.  These people lie.  That stuff gets everywhere.  They make rash cream that is safe for cloth diapers...unfortunately it is safe because it does not contain zinc oxide...which is the good stuff in the rash cream.  Buy yourself a tube of Desitin and a pack of disposables.

2) Domeboro Soak is amazing.  You dissolve the powder in water and then soak a washcloth in the solution, hold it on the rash for a few minutes, let it dry, then apply rash cream and a disposable diaper.  It really heals it up quickly.  I get mine from behind the pharmacy counter (no prescription needed), or online.

3) Never search for "diaper rash" on Google Images.  It may seem like a good idea.  It is not.

Judge not, lest ye be judged.
Part VI: Potty Training
Wait until your child is ready.  Not just showing some signs of being ready, but actually begging you to please Mommy, don't make me wear diapers anymore ready.  Do not try to potty train a child because a new sibling is on the way.  Or while you are breastfeeding a brand new baby.  Do not expect night training to happen at the same time as day training.  Don't worry if everyone else's kid is trained before yours.  Save face and just admit now that you will beg, bribe and threaten your child during this process.  You think you won't.  You will.  My mother-in-law told me that potty training her boys was the worst twelve years of her life.  I'm about four years in.  Pray for me.

Also, a child who is zipped backwards into his footed pajamas cannot take off his poopy diaper and sit all over his carpet, toys and air vent.  I have this friend...

Good job!  You made it this far!
Part VII: Cocktail Recipes
If you made it this far, mosey on over to Mommy Needs A Cocktail (or in the case of the pregnant and nursing crowd Mommy Needs A Mocktail).  Good luck!

***There are NO affiliate links in this post- nobody is giving me compensation of any type.  I am merely sharing the brands that I use and love.  Hope it has been useful to you!***

For the Kids Friday
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