What to Watch

Practicalmomma is generally not one to advocate movies or television for youngsters, but I will make the occasional exception. With Earth Day right around the corner, now is a great time to weave a few lessons about why it’s important to care for the environment. Cartoons, beautiful in their simplicity, are extremely influential on young children, as is evidenced by the abundance of marketed character apparel and action figures seen on today’s kids.

I suggest using this to your advantage by selectively choosing movies that the family can watch together and talk about. Although Wall-E is not a new release, our family only recently put it in our Netflix queue. It arrived yesterday in the mail, and tonight Jibbers and I settled down and watched it. So why am I a proponent of this movie? If you’ve already seen it, you may already understand. If you don’t want me to ruin the movie for you, then stop reading.

Wall-E tells a story of human overindulgence, materialism, and pollution– of our bodies and the environment– in a simple way that even a child can understand. Seven hundred years in the future, humans have completely destroyed the world and are so obese they are dependent on hovercraft to get around. Their need to be constantly entertained and constantly want more is told in a humorous way.

The robot hero and heroine, Wall-E and Eve, help and inspire a few humans to overcome the “problem is too big, so let’s just give up” mentality and return to their ancestral homeland. The humans get a second chance at a real life, learning to respect plants and animals and reconnect with others in a meaningful way.

I strongly suggest that you see this movie with your young children and take this message to heart. In this age of “instant satisfaction,” we are constantly updating our Facebook status and texting back and forth, when we could actually be interacting with those around us.

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Greener Easter

Plastic Easter grass is my enemy. With Easter falling literally two days after Earth Day this year (which also happens to be the day prior to the Great Cloth Diaper Change), I was really hoping people were going to be more cognizant of all the unnecessary garbage that this holiday generates. A quick trip to the grocery store proved this to be a false assumption.

Plastic Easter grass, plastic eggs, poorly-constructed plastic baskets, and colorful cellophane (plastic) wrapping all lined the shelves next to the candy and a few stuffed bunnies. Let me stop right now and again affirm that I am not anti-plastic. Plastic is fantastic. It’s easy to clean, in many cases durable– what riles me up is “use it once and discard it” plastic. Even many of Jibber’s toys are plastic, though we continue to plead each holiday with Nana and Pop to use discretion when purchasing trinkets. So what’s the Easter bunny to do?

Remember back when we were kids and we actually colored eggs? Based on practicalmomma’s age, I am assuming at least some readers will. You know what? It was really fun for me! I suggest trying natural dyes as well– think beet juice, grape juice, and anything else that is really difficult to get out of your kid’s clothes.

Next, the basket. Children do not need a new Easter basket each year. These flimsy baskets usually serve their purpose for one day and end up as pastel landfill material the next. If at all possible, use something in place of a basket that can repurposed and used throughout the rest of the year. You know those canvas storage bins? They work wonderfully, and kids can use them for room organization afterwards. A watering can or a large terracotta planter also work well. If you must go the basket route, practicalmomma suggests starting a tradition and buying a basket that is built to last, one which the kids must leave outside their door for the bunny to fill and hide before Easter morning.

What to fill it with? Shredded junk mail is very colorful and looks almost identical to the plastic grass some people are so fond of. Or, you could opt for the “lining” to be a cleverly folded shirt, pairs of socks, or something else practical. Candy, of course, is a popular Easter treat, but practicalmomma shies away from recommending those giant chocolate bunnies. Perhaps it’s the fitness fanatic in me, but it concerns me that anyone is encouraged to eat one of these in under 3 days time (that’s assuming you don’t eat it all in one sitting). Practicalmomma likes art supplies, including colorful paints and markers, and gardening paraphernalia– seeds, tiny pots, flowering bulbs, artfully arranged, and maybe even a container of earthworms or ladybugs, if your region allows. If you have a space for the child to grow their own garden and play with bugs, this will provide with infinitely more enjoyment (and education!) than cheap chocolate.

Easter heralds the arrival of Spring, and what better time to educate children about the Earth, ecosystems, and web of life we all belong to than when the world is literally being reborn? Don’t be afraid to do something different this year– don’t get caught up in the “quick and easy, buy it pre-assembled.” Although many of you are busy parents, remember that you are setting the example for your children as well. Be a positive role model for the next generation and remember that even the mighty oak begins as a small seedling.

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WAHM Wares

Perhaps I was “late to the show.” My initial experiences with cloth diapers were all with “big brand” names like Bum Genius, Fuzzi Bunz, Kissaluvs, Thirsties, Coolababy… actually, for the first 17 months of Jibber’s life, that’s all I knew. Since my mission to use cloth was not inspired by anyone I knew personally (they all thought I was crazy, in the beginning), internet search terms for cloth diapers directed me these as the best and most practical. And all those gift cards from Target I received at the baby shower (Target is the only big-box store that I know of which stocks cloth diapers, albeit online-only).

Most of these worked out for me; each of these have their own pros and cons, which require their own dedicated post to fully explain. However, frequent reading of Diaperswappers and Diaper Pin must have gotten to me. That, and Jibbers was showing the *occasional* interest in using the potty, and I was in the market for some cloth trainers. I didn’t really find what I was looking for in the big brand cloth trainers, so late one evening, I clicked through a Diaper Pin review to Hyena Cart. Life changed– forever. The prints! The prices! Custom-made?!? What? Was I dreaming?

Yet I was still skeptical. With no quality control team, could these diapers and trainers really be as good as their mass-manufactured brethren? I took a deep breath, entered my PayPal info, and hit “confirm.”

In the coming weeks, I will be reviewing at least 3 WAHM brands: Fashionably Green Baby, Otter Blotters, and Twinkletoes. Do you know of, or are you, a WAHM specializing in cloth diapers or cloth trainers? Please share your information with me and send me a link.

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Kanga Wet Bag

You may find this difficult to believe, but Practicalmomma has been using a diaper pail meant for disposable diapers to store her son’s dirties… for the past 2 years. Well, if you’ve ever tried that, you know why it’s not a good idea. Yes, for 2 years I have been fighting to get the diapers to smoosh down in there and faithfully toting it outside to clean regularly. Why? We received it as a baby shower gift, and having zero experience with cloth diapers prior, I couldn’t really comprehend why it wouldn’t work.

About two months into the struggle, I did briefly look into purchasing an actual cloth diaper pail, but those I found were expensive trash cans with hinged lids. Practicalmomma surmised that the odor that would escape each time it opened might knock her to the ground. Oh, I owned two wet bags, but they were for “travel.” This meant I stuck one in my diaper bag when we were out-and-about.
About a month ago, Practicalmomma’s interest in adding to her stash revitalized, I stumbled upon product descriptions of a hanging wet bag. Based on the photos, it piqued my interest and I looked into it further… A large waterproof bag that could hang from a hook or a doorknob, with a zippered closure? Why, wouldn’t that hold all the dirties without wrestling them in AND contain the stink? How… practical! Sold! Now which one to pick…
 

I bought a Kanga hanging diaper pail– the design and size appealed to me. The colors and prints were pretty great too, since some brands seem to have far more “girly” prints– I’m all about the floral patterned diaper bag (because I’m carrying it), but if something is going to be hanging in my son’s room, it shouldn’t look like Nana’s satchel (my MIL has been known to carry the World’s Largest Purses) or an oversized purse. I chose the “Ladder 6” design, which boasts red fire engines on a light blue background.
 

Contstruction: ***** Fantastic. Practicalmomma has easily fit a large mish-mash of inserts, covers, and pockets in this bag all at once. Kanga claims that it can fit up to 12 dirty dipes (presumably AIOs?) and I’d say that 10 would be comfortable, 12 if you push. I have not tried to fill it to capacity with AI2s, but it has held up to 10 dirty inserts and 3 covers without issue. The top opens up nice and wide and I love the half-circle design. The fabric is soft and flexible, it launders amazingly well, and since the top can be opened almost 360, it hang-dries really fast.
 

Performance: ***** Amazing. Not only has this held all our wet and soiled stuff, containing smells inside, but it’s super flexible. You can actually fill this bag with water and turn it upside down– so long as you’re not directing the water right over the zipper, it holds everything. I’m not sure why or how you’d end up with that much liquid in your bag, but practicalmomma decided to try this, *just because.* It seems awfully durable, but Kanga actually states that it’s biodegradable… crazy, huh?

Overall: ***** Practicalmomma really needs another wet bag, for when this one is in the wash. I’d like to try another brand, but based on this product’s performance and price point (similar sizes by other manufacturers sell for much more), I may just end up with another in a different print.

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EcoBritches Diaper Review

As mentioned in a previous post, I ordered these dipes off of eBay, as they were touting that 100% of the proceeds would be donated to the Red Cross relief effort in Japan. They arrived promptly– two days from order to delivery, I believe.

Feel & Construction: *** They are soft as all get-out. The exterior material feels like a soft cotton T-shirt, while the inner is a grey bamboo fleece. The PUL is on the interior; none of it touches baby’s skin (exposed PUL has never irritated my son’s skin, but I know this is a concern for some mommas). Unfortunately, nothing about this diaper feels durable. I love the “soft” factor, but these appear to have single-row seams of thin thread and I highly doubt they could be used for more than one child.

Sizing & Fit: **** I compared these to my Best Bottoms, which are my “everyday” dipes. They are nearly identical in size and cut when the rise is totally unsnapped. No harm, no foul, but I was hoping that the rise would be a bit higher, since Jibbers has a really long torso, apparently. Depending on the manufacturer, I sometimes prefer aplix over snaps because of the customizable fit, but find that a double row helps keep the diaper in place better and prevents droop. The material is super-stretchy and flexible, which is a plus. Jibbers is approximately 29 lbs, 50th percentile for height, and based on the flexibility of the fabric, these seem like they will fit into the 35 lb range, as they claim.

Absorbancy: *** After five washes, though manufacturer instructions state only 2-3, these inserts did absorb quite a bit of water when poured directly on them. I test inserts in this manner before allowing my son to wear new cloth dipes. I prefer to know what I’m getting into first, rather than deal with the mess that could ensue. However, the fleece interior (which make a stay-dry layer) is still somewhat repellent. I would not use these as an overnight; there is not enough additional space in the diaper or pocket to accomodate an extra soaker or doubler.

How did it hold up to a real child? Well, our son is not a heavy wetter, but so far it has held everything in, including #2. Though there are no gussets around the legs (I am a big fan of gussets), the elastic is secure, without leaving red marks.

Laundering: ** I believe in laundering all my dipes the same way (see “Laundering Cloth Diapers); to do otherwise would be impractical, which goes against everything I stand for. So when I found that the covers still weren’t dry 12+ hours later, I was a bit put-off. I turned the covers inside out to complete the process, because water was collecting between the PUL and fleece lining in the bottom of the cover, thanks to gravity. However, this does indeed mean that wetness stays where it ought to, and not next to baby’s skin. The inserts took at least 18 hours to dry completely– ouch! You’d have to own an awful lot of these and be extremely patient.

Overall: *** Practicalmomma will keep these as backups and for use with babysitters, since pocket dipes are pretty straightforward in their adjustment. However, for everyday use, I will stick with my Ai2s.

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Facebook Fan Contest

When we reach 50 fans on Facebook, Practicalmomma will be giving away one $50 Barnes & Noble gift card to one lucky fan! Like me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Practicalmomma/172816206103612

Good luck!

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Practical and Green Party Tips for the Toddler Set

As I sent out photos of Jibber’s birthday party to friends and relatives far away, I thought about how well everything went. I decided that my prior post was simply not complete enough and I should share with practical mommas everywhere. As a former event coordinator, I know that prior preparation and planning makes for a perfect party. What makes a party a success at age 2? Here is the short list…

Entertainment

Although the park we held our party in has all manner of playground equipment, we also supplemented with balls, sidewalk chalk, and the kid’s favorite– the parachute! Seriously, a parachute is a fairly inexpensive investment for large gatherings of children of all ages. Practicalmomma owns one thanks to her kid’s fitness classes, but recommends one for any parent. They can be purchased on Amazon or other online retailers for less than $30, and they should last you several seasons. Remember that organized activities for the under-4 set are likely to cause more stress for the parents than the enjoyment the children derive from them. Find activities that don’t require “rules,” but emphasize group play.

Photographer

You really want to capture those precious moments on film, right? After all, they’ll only be this little once. Unfortunately, the parent with the camera is often the parent that doesn’t get to “participate” in the party. Trying to serve food, make parent introductions, and prevent injuries (no, you may not jump off of that!) is enough work. Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. Practicalmomma suggests asking a friend with a photography hobby to attend as a favor and take photos. Not only do you get great pics and can still be involved in the party, but afterwards, you can make the photos available online to the parents of party guests. If your friend has a website or even just a Flickr account, they can use this to promote their “business” and possibly generate some new clients.

Preparedness Kit

Are we planning for a natural disaster? No, not exactly, but there are elements to contend with, particularly in outdoor venues. You thought of the food, the decorations, the invites… but there’s much more! Though many of your guests may have planned for these contingencies as well, it is better to be safe than sorry. Make the following available to your guests and make sure you bring plenty of it: bug spray, sunscreen, band-aids, tissues, and hand sanitizer (don’t gasp yet, keep reading…)

If you live in the Southeast, as practicalmomma does, you know that as soon as the weather turns nicer, the bugs come out in full-force. Biting gnats, mosquitoes, no-see-ums… ugh! More than an annoyance, getting eaten alive can end a party pretty quickly. Bring bug spray! Bio Guard, Badger Bug Balm, and Cutter all make natural and chemical-free insect repellents that practicalmomma has found highly effective and non-irritating. Sunscreen. We were blessed with plenty of shade, but remember how quickly children’s skin burns. Ensure that the screen is mineral-based, for little people… Practicalmomma knows of at least three great ones: Episencial, Badger, and California Baby. Band-aids: need I explain? Tissues. Runny noses and boogies, as well as general messes, are commonplace with this age group.. Avoid parental embarrassment (let’s face it, toddlers don’t care) by giving parents something to wipe the kids’ faces with. Practicalmomma knows you’re probably wondering about that last one I mentioned– hand sanitizer. Isn’t that kind of controversial? No, not entirely… practicalmomma stocks Clean Well spray sanitizer for certain situations and suggests you do the same. Clean Well’s ingredients read like a spice cabinet’s labels (i.e. no chemicals, triclosan, etc), yet still kill 99.9% of germs.

Thank-Yous

Practicalmomma says do away with the thank you cards. Although I know Miss Manners would probably be aghast at such a suggestion, they are not practical! They cost you money, your guests and friends read them once, and then they promptly deposit them in the recycling bin (surely none of them end up in the trash, right?). Alternative idea: Have a few photos of the birthday party printed, preferably one showcasing each guest, if possible. Write a short thank-you on the back of the photo (hopefully showing their child having a ball at your child’s party) and give to the parents when you next see them (thus eliminating the need for stamps and envelope paper waste). This is a more memorable token and will likely be kept and possibly displayed, rather than add to the landfill.

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