Monday, January 31, 2011

A few more natural solutions to add...

1. While I still use coconut oil for EVERYTHING, I found that it wasn't quite enough to moisturize my dry skin during the winter. So I came up with my own home-made lotion. Now I use it for my face, to keep stretch marks off my humongous preggo belly, and everywhere else. And I can't wait for Abbi Grace to get here because I'm going to smear it all over her tiny body as well. I love it because the ingredients are natural enough to eat. (And I did (by mistake); I licked the spoon out of habit after stirring it in my pot :)

There are a number of oils you can choose from in making your own lotion; these just happened to be the ones I had on hand: coconut oil, almond oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter. You definitely want to use coconut oil because of all the antibacterial, healing properties, and the shea butter is very important as well, because it makes the lotion more thick, rather than just a thin coating of oil. Cocoa butter is a pain because it is so hard, but I wanted to use it since I had it and I do think it helped the consistency of the lotion.

I have no recipe; I just dropped spoonfuls of each of them into my pot on the stove and left it on low for a while till I could stir it up together. (You definitely want to keep the temperature on low so that you don't destroy all the healing and nourishing qualities of the ingredients!) Then I set it out on the counter to cool and finished by putting it in the fridge for a while to solidify. I've done it a several times now without measuring and it always turns out a little differently, but it always works. And my skin has never been happier! I clean my face with olive oil and then put this concoction on it and it just feels so good!

*If you are one who likes to measure and prefers a more precise recipe, you could try out THIS one or THIS one.

2. I started making home-made deodorant. This is probably one of my biggest money-savers because I made just a small amount about 6 months ago and I still have a ton!! I used Lindsay's recipe and it works fine for me. I do believe your body goes through a little change as it gets used to not having the chemicals of store-bought deodorant because I needed a lot when I first started but now only a tiny bit will work just fine.
6-8 Tbsp Coconut oil (solid state)
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch (arrowroot is preferred)
  1. Combine equal portions of baking soda & arrowroot powder.
  2. Slowly add coconut oil and work it in with a spoon or hand blender until it maintains a firm but pliable texture. It should be about the same texture as commercial deodorant, solid but able to be applied easily. If it is too wet, add further arrowroot powder/cornstarch to thicken.
  3. You can either scoop this recipe into your old deodorant dispensers or place in a small container with lid and apply with fingers with each use. Makes about 1 cup. This recipe lasts about 3 months for two people with regular daily use.
For a picture tutorial placing this recipe in an old deodorant container, visit here.
Lastly, I invested in a Norwex enviro cloth and window cloth to simplify my cleaning. I still use my tea tree oil or vinegar solutions for some things, but I am loving the simplicity of these two cloths for everything else! I chose it because it is made out of microfiber cloth with an innovative design that uses anti-bacterial silver particles integrated into the synthetic microfiber, ensure (according to their website):
• Single-celled micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, yeast, and viruses cannot survive or adapt in silver exposure
• Surface-to-surface cross-contamination is eliminated
• Rapidly drying cloths prevent bacteria growth in the cloth itself
(Read THIS review to learn more about it)

Practically , it has worked really well for me! I have seriously never had such clean, streak-free windows before and I love the fact that I didn't have to use any chemicals at all! I love wiping my sinks down with it and knowing that there will be no gross mold or bacteria growing in my towel. I simply rinse it out and hang it out to dry after each use.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Some Favorite Preschool Resources

We haven't done a lot of preschool with Karis yet, but there are a few things that she and Karlie have really enjoyed. (When you have two littles, the youngest seems to learn everything right along with the older!)

1. This Melissa and Doug magnetic chalkboard/whiteboard with wooden letters and numbers:
It comes with some letters and numbers, but I went ahead and bought the extra set of letters because I think it is so important for them to learn the lowercase letters along with the uppercase ones. I cannot tell you how much fun they have had with this! I started with just one letter pair a week and slowly added the alphabet (the vowels first, then adding consonants), along with the numbers. We sit on the bed and I ask them questions as they take turns taking the letters and numbers off. For Karis, I ask questions like, "Which letter says, 'buh?' and "which number is first in line" or "which number is beside the 2?" or "which number is between the 4 and the 6?" With Karlie, I ask more simple questions like where is the "Jj?" or "what sound does the 'A' make?" or "what color is the 2?" They get really excited about their turn and after all the letters and numbers are off, I just let them play with them all. I love that it is magnetic and the letters are wooden rather than cheap plastic!

2. A calendar :
My girls really look forward every day to putting up the new number for the day, singing our days of the week and months of the year songs, and picking the weather for the day. I just use painter's tape that comes off easily to stick everything up there. I love doing the calendar with them because they learn to recognize numbers up to 31, and it helps them look forward to special days and visits from grandparents. I have tiny pictures of their grandparents that we put on the calendar to show when they are coming to visit each month and we will count to it each day. They also get really excited each month when I print out a different (seasonal) picture to use for the numbers. I plan to start doing patterns with the numbers soon (like alternating two different colors for an AB pattern, then adding more colors or shapes when they start to find that too easy). Sometimes I just let them play with the calendar (which is why the weather is all messed up right now :) The calendar has definitely been a fun and easy way to help my girls learn!

As a former pre-school teacher who saw too many energetic and busy little ones forced to sit down and practice writing letters before they really needed to or could even do it without frustration, I have not been in any hurry to teach Karis to write her letters. I want her to find learning fun! So I was excited to find these sand-paper letters on Amazon and quickly incorporated them into our letter book. As we discuss a new letter each week, I make a page for our binder that has a picture of different ways they will read the letter in a book, a little rhyme to help them remember the sound the letter makes, the sandpaper letter, and directions to help them learn to trace (and eventually write) the letter. We pull the book out a few times a week and chant the rhyme and directions and they practice tracing the letter with their fingers. That way, it will be very simple for them to know how to write it when they get the patience and coordination. They love the feel of the sand-paper letters and tracing them is probably their favorite part of looking at our letter book!

4. Before Five in a Row and Five in a Row books -- These books are pricey, so I would recommend getting them at the library, but I really like them. The author chooses some of the best books available, recommends that you read the book 5 times with your child, and gives you ideas of activities to do with them. The B4 book is very simple and a lot of the ideas I could come up with myself, but it saves me the trouble of trying :) The actual 5 in a row series is great, and tries to bring in ideas for all subjects, such as geography, Bible, and even cooking! My girls have really enjoyed each book selection and the things I have pulled from them.

5. Matching puzzles like THESE -- I could have probably posted these with the toddler products because Karlie has been obsessed with them since about 18 months, but the older topics like "opposites" and "rhyming" are great for preschoolers as well. Keep your eyes open because we actually found some similar ones at the dollar store! We currently have "pairs" (things that go together like a hat and a glove or bread and butter), "animal Mamas and babies," "uppercase and lower case," and "rhyming."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

An ode to a fever

As much as I feared getting a fever, I am now a firm believer that when you are sick, a fever is your best friend. I know it doesn't make sense because a fever makes you feel miserable. But it really attacks your sickness and you get better so much faster!

Case in point: Karlie was miserable on Thursday, and Karis and I were miserable on Friday. With the girls, I let the fever run its course like I always do. I never give them Tylenol, because it keeps the body from fighting off illness on its own. Now, their fevers got really high and they were very lethargic and miserable (hard for a mama to watch!) but it worked and both of the girls were 100% better in just 24 hours! It was amazing. I mean, they woke up bright-eyed and bushy-talied and had way too much energy for me :) I was still utterly miserable because I had to make my fever come down anytime it peaked so it wouldn't harm the baby. So I've been fighting this fever for 3 days now.

But I'm still thankful. Abbi Grace is alive and well, kicking me all over like crazy, but staying put for a little while. That was my biggest prayer. Now if she could just give me this next week to regain my strength, stop coughing, breathe again, and eventually try to get my house back in order and rid it of flu germs. Can you imagine how much laundry I have piled up since I haven't done any in 4 days? And it probably won't happen tomorrow, either :) But that's ok. The biggest priority is for me to rest up so that my body will be ready whenever Abbi decides that it is time to come out! Oh, I can't wait to meet her!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Favorites for Toddlers

Baby dolls and accessories -- My girls just love them! I think Karis got her first doll when she about 7 months old and it has been her favorite thing ever since! My girls carry them around and put them in slings and pretty much take care of them all day long! We simply can't do anything around the house without a doll baby :) My girls have been given many different dolls, but they particularly love the Little Mommy Newborn Nursery doll. Keep an eye out for consignment sales, because you can find really good deals on fun accessories like baby doll strollers, swings, pack N plays, and play mats.

Fisher Price Little People and animals -- Oh, how my girls love them! I think they are way overpriced at the stores, but if you factor in how many hours my girls have spent playing with them, they are well worth any amount of money :) But once again, these are easily found at consignment sales and we haven't paid more than $5 for any set. We currently have the Noah's ArkSchool BusFarm, and Alphabet Zoo. We usually only have one set out at a time, and switch them out every few months.

Here are a few of my girls' favorite things:

Puzzles, esp. Melissa and Doug -- Both of my girls have been obsessed with puzzles, and it started at the toddler age. They pretty much taught themselves their letters, numbers, and shapes by doing puzzles with us and asking us to tell them the name of each piece. I especially love the Melissa and Doug puzzles -- they have ones with big pegs for babies, little pegs for toddlers, and big floor puzzles for the older ones. My girls have loved them all!

Books -- My girls would read books with me all day long if I let them. They are always following me around the house and bringing their books with them to look at as I cook and clean. They've always loved books byBoyntonDr. SeussEric Carle, any Mother Goose collectionRaffi and other "singing" books, Curious George books5 Little Monkeys books, and Biscuit books. We've really enjoyed the Alphabet and Pre-reading Skills Bob books, as well as the Big Picture Story Bible. They are currently obsessed with "Alfie and Annie Rose," books by Jan Brett, and "I Spy" books. I could go on and on about our favorite toddler books, but I think that is plenty!

Doll house and people -- Definitely something else that my girls will play with for hours! I love to hear them talking to the people, imagining all sorts of scenarios, and telling me about what each character is doing. We started out with a worn old Fisher Price dollhouse that we found at the consignment sale for $5. Then my folks got the girls this beautiful wooden one with cute wooden people (from Cracker Barrel) for Christmas. Oh, they love it so much!

Kitchen set/food -- My girls love to cook just like Momma! Kitchen sets can be pricey, but just keep an eye out at yard sales and consignment sales :) I LOVE the Melissa and Doug wooden food and this stainless steel pots and pans set that the grandparents gave my girls. My girls have also been known to take their play-doh into their kitchen and make their own food :)

Dress-up clothes -- It is a very rare day that my girls don't wear something from their dress-up bin! Karis is currently obsessed with a ballerina outfit my folks gave her for Christmas and Karlie loves some purple sparkly butterfly wings. They are always putting on their tutus and they generally wear about ten different hats over the course of the day!
StickersItalic These are definitely one of their favorite things to do at the table while I am making dinner. Karlie still has trouble getting them off the page sometimes, but luckily Karis is at a stage where she likes to help Karlie with her stickers. Nina bought them each these awesome Melissa and Doug sticker books last weekend and in just two days, they have almost emptied them! They especially love the "dress-up" stickers (kind of like paper dolls, only they stay in place!) They also LOVE the foam stickers, and my youngest seems to be able to get the backs off them more easily. but get them at a dollar store; they are expensive elsewhere.

I'd love to hear about some of your toddler favorites!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where I get my natural resources

A friend recently asked where I get most of my natural resources, and I thought I would share my answers here in case others are wondering as well. Most of my "natural" remedies, I buy in bulk with friends so that they are cheaper and most of them I get at wholesale prices because I know someone who sells them (about 40% off)... they can be pretty pricey otherwise. All of them I order online
The coconut oil I use for so many things and buy in huge gallon buckets from Wilderness Family Naturals, but you probably wouldn't use that much For medicinal purposes, you will want to get the extra virgin, unrefined, cold-pressed kind. The oregano oil, other essential oils, elderberries, good quality spices, empty pill capsules, and herbal teas I buy from Starwest Botanicals. The Grapefruitseed extract, manuka honey, and probiotics I get from, which is a great place to buy anything natural. I love that they have a flat $5 shipping fee! I buy coconut water from Amazon whenever it is on sale for no more than a dollar a can. I get fermented cod liver oil from Renewed Health.
If you are just getting started and don't want to spend a lot of money, I'd say the easiest thing to do would be get the oregano oil and empty pill capsules from Starwest, and garlic and unpasturized apple cider vinegar (I get Bragg's brand) from the grocery store. If I feel sickness coming, I pop garlic pills and oregano pills 3 times a day and try to drink ACV diluted in water all day long. Those three work really well in fighting off almost anything. If you want to keep from getting sick, I'd say to invest in the cod liver oil and probiotics. I really think that is why my girls have stayed healthy all winter long while my husband keeps getting sick (They take them every day; he doesn't
Let me know if you have anymore questions!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Favorite 6-12 month products

Oh, this age is so much fun! While I don't have any products that I wouldn't want to live without (other than the Ergo, which Hollie already mentioned and is by far the easiest, most comfortable, and hands free baby carrier I've tried), there are several products that I really enjoyed using with my girls. So here they are in no particular order:

Munchkin Blow-up ducky bath -- As soon as they were able to sit up, I switched to this bathtub and the girls just loved having the freedom to take a "real" bath and splash and squirm to their hearts' content. It fit right inside my tub and even left enough room for my oldest to take a bath beside my little one without the fear of her getting mistakenly pushed over under water.

All natural, wooden or cloth teethers -- With my second baby, I started trying to get rid of all the plastic teethers in my house because I didn't know if they contained BPA or not. There are so many great natural teethers out nowadays! They are definitely more expensive, but you don't need that many and they are totally worth it to me. Karlie loved them! Here are a few options: Ringley TeetherGreen Sprouts Blankie Teether,Little Alouette TeethersDad's Wooden ToysMaple Teethers, and there are tons more if you search Amazon or Etsy. Oh, and how about this idea for a teething necklace for Mommas to wear? (Since the baby is going to try to eat any necklace I wear anyways :) I found one on a great sale and it is perfect for when I'm wearing my baby in the Ergo!

The best teether ever: Zo-li Gummy Stick -- The baby can hold it so easily and the ingenious design keeps the teething part from hitting the ground when it falls.

Mesh feeder -- This thing saved me many a meal time when my baby was too little to eat something we were eating but so badly wanted to! She could chomp down and chew as much as she wanted without worrying about the food being a chocking hazard. If she was teething badly I would fill it with frozen blueberries or peas and she would be a happy camper!

Leap Frog Music Table -- I'm not usually all about things that make a lot of noise, but both of my girls absolutely loved this! The legs come off easily, so when the baby was too little to stand, she could still have fun climbing on it, pushing buttons, and making music. Once I put the legs on, it quickly became a favorite thing to pull up on because it was so so sturdy. And it made for a slow walker as well.

Books! I start reading to my little ones from the time they are born, but around this age, they really start to enjoy looking at them on their own. Little chunky one are the best for such small fingers. They also really enjoy books that have texture and/or flaps. Some of our favorites: Touch and Feel AnimalsThat's not my... Usborne SeriesPinwheel Peekaboo puppet booksKaren Katz booksBrown Bear and FriendsDr. Seuss Bright and Early Board Books

Exersaucer -- Both of my girls would go wild in this thing! We always put it in our kitchen and it definitely helped me to get dinner made :)

Munchkin plates, bowls, cups, utensils -- Although I am slowly trying to weed out the plastic in our life and are saving up for this cute stainless steel collection , the inexpensive Munchkin dinnerware is at least BPA free and my kids have loved the colorful designs.