Wednesday, September 24, 2014

OK, #clothdiaper Sprayers are Awesome!

A few weeks (or was that months) ago, I wrote about why you could forgo purchasing a cloth diaper sprayer.  I shared many alternatives to sprayers; many of these options are free or inexpensive!  But, here I am telling you that I still love my cloth diaper sprayer and I'm recommending that everyone, at least, considers purchasing one.  I love my sprayer so much that I probably couldn't cloth diaper without it.

So, what's so great about the cloth diaper sprayer? My number one reason is that I use it ALL THE TIME.  Ever since my second child started solid foods, we've needed the sprayer.  I had this misconception that all babies' "#2s" turned to "plunk-able" poos within a matter of months.  My daughter had been this way: she started solid foods and within a few short months we no longer needed the sprayer.  My second child has been a completely different story.  It appears that we're not alone, either.  Here I am, with an 18-month-old toddler, and I'm using the sprayer on a daily basis.  Sometimes I'm using the sprayer 2 or 3 times a day.  It's not my favorite thing, but solid waste must be removed from the diaper before it can be laundered

What I love about the sprayer is that it's fast and it's sanitary.  I don't waste time fiddling with extra pieces, trying to manually swish the diaper, and I can keep as far away from the poop as possible.  The sprayer also helps keep stains at bay because I can remove almost all the poop with fresh and clean water.  I'm certainly not the only one who uses cloth diaper sprayers and some moms even consider a sprayer a necessity for cloth diapering.

What do you think?  Are cloth diaper sprayers really necessary?

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Go Diaper Free: A Simplified Handbook for Elimination Communication #BookReview & #Giveaway

It’s no secret that babies are born knowing they have to urinate or defecate. Babies are also smart enough to dislike being soiled. Yet, we’ve become accustomed to letting our children soil themselves by becoming dependent on diapers. What did parents do before diapers? Just like babies let us know they are hungry or sleepy, babies are also capable of communicating their elimination needs early on. EC or elimination communication offers an opportunity to learn these signals and help the baby trust her instincts to stay clean and dry.

This is the message that Andrea Olson, DiaperFreeBaby Mentor, conveys in her new book Go Diaper Free: A Simplified Handbook for Elimination Communication. Olson has been practicing EC with her own babies since the day they were born. This book is an improved, expanded, and simplified form of Olson’s first book “EC Simplified: Infant Potty Training Made Easy”, which is now discontinued. Go Diaper Free is a step-by-step guide to start EC whether you have a newborn (0-6 months), a mobile baby (6-12 months), or a young toddler (12-18 months). Throughout the book readers are reminded that “EC is gentle, communicative, and follows your baby’s innate rhythms.” While EC can seem complicated, Olson breaks down the basics and encourages the reader to give her baby an opportunity to go potty without letting her waste sit against her in a diaper.

What I loved about this book is that Olson wrote it backward, meaning busy moms can learn how to EC immediately and worry about the history and other background information at a later time. As a mom to an active 7-month-old, I rarely have time for history lessons and just want someone to teach me how to get things done and how to troubleshoot my problems. This book fulfills my needs by providing me with the necessary tools to begin EC with my own daughter the same day I read through the guide. Olson truly takes your hand and helps you learn what to do and how to troubleshoot any problems you may possibly encounter.

Olson shows readers first how to observe and learn when their babies need to potty and then how to use the potty with their babies. During the observation period the parent watched the naked baby’s natural rhythms and signals, including his natural timing. Olson reinforces that “diaper free” doesn’t mean the baby will go naked all the time, but will become independent enough to not rely on diapers. After this observation period, the baby wears undies, pants or a backup diaper. Olson took the time to include Gear Guide and practical instructions on how to use cloth diapers and modified disposables as backup. She also provides flowcharts and color photos, which are very helpful demonstrating the different potty positions and places. Links are included throughout pointing readers to an additional photo gallery, articles, and a free podcast on the Go Diaper Free website.

I was afraid that since both my husband and I work, EC would not fit with our family style. I was enthusiastic to read that EC can be done part-time. In her book, Olson includes a special section on practicing EC part-time.  I truly felt like Olson was talking to me directly. Besides helping the baby be aware of her ability to communicate about elimination, the major goal of part-time EC is to let the baby become familiar and comfortable with the potty through regular exposure. Olson also gives advice on how to work with caregivers and even includes a special letter for daycare that introduces EC, what cues to use, what the baby’s signals are, and what her preferred positions are.

The book was truly a joy to read as Olson’s enthusiasm shows in her upbeat and encouraging style of writing. Before I knew it I was passionate about EC and ready to begin with my own daughter. My one regret is not reading this book sooner so I could have practiced EC from birth so I could have better met my daughter’s needs. If you’re considering or even curious about EC, I suggest you read this book. Maybe you’ll decide to practice EC or maybe you won’t but you will definitely be more conscious of what your baby is trying to tell you.

“And remember...your biggest resources when doing EC are your own HEART and your own GUT instinct.” – Andrea Olson

Andrea Olson is giving away a free copy of her Go Diaper Free Book Package, which includes a copy of the Digital Book (PDF) plus lifetime access to an exclusive Readers’ Website (a $37 value). This Members’ Area includes extra support resources, a troubleshooting knowledge archive that answers 30+ additional questions not covered in the book, a private Video Library, a downloads library with useful forms and logs, and access to a private Facebook Support Group. Enter below (Worldwide)

*This review was written by Cloth Diaper Guru blogger, Agnes. Andrea Olson provided a copy of this book package for her to review.  These opinions are her own and she was under no obligation to provide a review or a positive review. Cloth Diaper Guru is not responsible for prize fulfillment.  This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.
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Monday, September 15, 2014

#DIY Basement Clothes Line

Line drying seems to be somewhat of a forgotten method, but it's really convenient and good for your clothing!  My husband installed a simple clothes line in our basement and we use it all the time.  We line dry all our cloth diapers, jeans, and sports apparel.  I wanted to share some pictures of our indoor clothes line to help give you ideas about how you can install your own indoor line.

We upcycled some old 1X4 boards, but these can be purchased from a hardware store.  On one wall, we were able to attach an 18 inch board horizontally across the exposed wall studs. If you have a finished wall, knock on the wall to find the studs.  You must attach your board directly to the wall studs. Our opposite wall was more challenging because the wall is mostly unfinished. To work this wall, we cut two 2X 4 boards to 31 inches long.  These were secured to wall studs at the floor joists.  We secured another 18" 1X4 board across these boards.

The clothes line cord was purchased from Home Depot for under $10 and we had quite a bit left over from the project.  We attached eye hooks to the horizontal board and knotted the clothes line TIGHTLY around the hooks. You can purchase clothes line tighteners which are little more expensive, but make the knots prettier.  We haven't had any issues with the clothes lines sagging, but you do need to make the knots very tight if you use the eye hook method.

The final height of our clothes line is 6 ft 6 inches.  This is perfect for our family (me,  5'6" tall and my husband, 6'2" tall), but you can adjust the height of your clothes line as needed.  I absolutely love my basement clothes line and it makes line drying possible even in the middle of Minnesota winters.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pushing to potty train: moving beyond #clothdiapers?

A few weeks ago, my youngest child (18 months old) gave me a hint that he may be getting ready to move out of cloth diapers and into potty training. I was cued to this when he started notifying me when he had soiled his diaper.  "A poo. A poo." He would come over to me, wrinkle his nose up, and make a sort of expression that indicate I was to take him immediately for a diaper change.  E's terminology was used interchangeably for wet and poopy diapers... that was often a good way to trick my husband into changing a particularly messy diaper!  Soon, E was using his cue word to indicate he needed to go potty.  This critical association was enough to convince me that we should start giving him some gentle nudging to start thinking about potty training.

I began asking E at every diaper change if he wanted to use the potty.  He always responds, "NO."  Occasionally I get him to go into the bathroom and just "Try it out."  Sitting on the chair (or standing by the toilet) is the equivalent of a success.  I am determined that he should begin getting used to the idea of the potty.  I felt like I was being a little crazy about it, but our older daughter had shown interest (and had success) with early potty training attempts when she was 19 months old.  She took a few months' break, but was fully potty trained within 2 weeks by the time she turned 27 months old.

So why am I forcing my 18 month old to at least consider the idea that he could start using the potty?  There are many reasons, but mostly it's because I think he's capable of beginning to understand the concept.  Pee goes in the potty; not in a diaper.  He has already gotten used to using diapers and there is going to be a period of unlearning that behavior. I also see him displaying some of the signs we expect during the potty training process.  Sometimes I worry that we, as parents, don't give our kids a chance to rise to the occasion.  A child may be completely ready to use the potty, but his parents don't give him the encouragement by letting him make a few mistakes.  I've heard multiple people make comments about how accidents on the carpet are simply not worth the bother and it's easier to continue to use diapers.  Maybe this is true with an 18 month old (you're going to have a lot of accidents), but this mentality is not helping an older child.
What do you think?  Is early potty training possible?
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Monday, September 8, 2014

Sparkbox Toys #Review: #PlayLearnReturn

If you are like most parents, you love to see your kids playing and having fun. There is nothing like seeing your child with a new toy: she explores the toy, identifies different ways to play with it, and maybe even finds a way to incorporate other toys into playing with it.  I love seeing my kids trying new things and stretching their minds.  However, because kids are naturally drawn to "new" things and figuring out all the things they can do with something unexplored, they grow bored of the same old toys.  This is one reason that I am very reluctant about buying toys for my kids: I hate clutter and I know their obsession with the toy will be short lived. That was why I was ecstatic about trying Sparkbox--a new toy rental program that gives kids the opportunity to try new toys.

Toys are sanitized and wrapped for shipping

I was really excited to hear about Sparkbox because I knew there was a need for something like this! Coincidentally, as we were preparing to review Sparkbox, a friend emailed me asking if I had heard of this, "Awesome new company." She wanted my thoughts about the Sparkbox toy rental program versus other subscription boxes we had tried.   Subscription boxes are becoming incredibly popular, but the issue is that you quickly become buried in stuff: stuff that is often lower value, not exactly what you want (or need), and kids can become spoiled by expecting "gifts".  Sparkbox is the complete opposite from this: you keep the toys for as long as you like and return them when you're done (and ready for a new set of toys), you get high value (and high quality) toys that the kids actually want to play with, and your kids can appreciate the value of caring for toys that are "shared." My 4 year old daughter understood the concept immediately after I explained that the toys were, "Kind of like books from a library."

When our box arrived, I opened it before the kids were home from daycare and I was incredibly excited about the contents.  There were four toys: two toys for my 4-year-old and two toys for my 18-month-old.  I knew they were going to have a lot of fun with these items, so I decided to let them open all the toys at once!!!  OK, this may have been a bit crazy.  I could have held off and given them each one toy and saved the second toy for a few weeks later, but they actually played with everything and continued to play with the toys throughout the next few weeks.  I don't think I would have done it differently if I could go back.  As part of our review we got to keep one toy, and we struggled with making the decision about which toy to keep because the kids genuinely liked all the items.

At first, I questioned how we would be able to return the toys: what if there were a few toys that we couldn't part with? My fears were calmed because if you have a toy you absolutely can't part with, you can buy it out of your Sparkbox for about 20% off of the Amazon list price. However, I tried reminding myself that it wasn't the kids whom were struggling to adjust to the "borrowing" concept, it was myself!  The kids loved the Sparkbox toys, but a few of the toys were already getting ignored after a few weeks.  In particular, we received a Green Toys Flatbed Truck that they had been obsessed with for the first week: they figured out that match box cars would fit under the flat bed and there were a few spats over who got to play with the Truck.  However, the focus on the truck soon turned to a focus on Match Box cars and what other things the cars could do.  The Green Toys truck was soon in the corner while they began loading up other vehicles with Match Box cars.  This play process was incredible to witness, but it wouldn't have happened had I been trying to force the Green Toys truck on them (which I may have been tempted to do if I just spent $30 on it--the retail value of the truck).  The truck instigated the play and lead to creative thought: it was a true educational experience.

Fun on the go with the Leap Frog Count and Draw.

While some toys were a total hit, not all toys are going to be instant favorites.  That was the case for the Magic Moves ($21.99 value) toy we received.  This was intended for my daughter, but neither kid really seemed to understand it.  To me, the toy seemed genius and the Amazon reviews are fantastic. It encourages the kids to move like different animals. However, the kids just sat, stared at the lights, and didn't move.  I tried to show them how it was done (thank the Lord there was no video of THAT!).  They thought I was hilarious, but they still weren't interested in "Prowling like a cat" or "Slithering like a snake." They did like to push the buttons and pretend it was a microphone. I was so happy that this wasn't a toy we bought because we didn't need all those extra features when the kids weren't going to participate in the movement activities.

Our other two toys (Plan Toys Dancing Alligator $20 and Leap Frog Count and Draw $34) were pretty consistently played with and really fun.  The alligator was a companion for my 18-month-old, but even the 4-year-old was busy with it.  Both kids were interested in the Leap Frog activity and even I played with it for about 30 minutes!  We were really happy with our Sparkbox and felt like it was a fantastic value.  I love that the kids got to experience and learn from new toys without the added toy clutter and expense. I'm already thinking about getting a subscription for the winter because it can be so painful trying to keep the kids stimulated and happy during the bitterly cold days in Minnesota. Sparkbox would have been perfect for my maternity leave: it would have been something to occupy my daughter with while I was exhausted from caring for the baby.  We also don't often let our kids watch TV or movies, and sometimes I need times where I can be uninterrupted for a few minutes.  There was one day that I actually had two hours to clean and cook dinner while the kids played with the new toys from the box! We also had a peaceful car ride while the kids were occupied with the toys.

You will get a reminder email when it's time to return your toys.  Be sure to save your original box, attach the prepaid label, and drop the box off somewhere that ships UPS Ground. My husband usually mails UPS packages from work, but he didn't want to take it since the box was big and he has to drop the kids off at daycare in the mornings. I was a little disappointed to see that it would cost extra to schedule a pickup from my house, but I didn't look to see how much that extra fee would have been. The mailing fiasco ended up working out because we discovered that there was a UPS store within 5 minutes of our house. Now that we have gone through the shipping process once, it was actually very straight forward and worth it to have the fun of new toys! 

I'm planning to recommend Sparkbox to my friends because this was such a fun, very educational, and it avoided the clutter.  Learn more about Sparkbox and check out the different subscription options: 8 weeks for $23.95 or 4 weeks for $35.95.  After our experience, I'm leaning toward the 8 week plan because it gives you more time to enjoy the great toys.

Disclosure: We got to try Sparkbox for free and keep one toy from our box.  We were under no obligation to publish a review or provide a positive review.  These thoughts are our own.
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