Archive for the ‘Raising Children’ Category

It’s aliiive!

I’ve decided to revive this blog.  After all, I need it for giveaways and such, right?  It’s been so crazy the past several months, and I feel like things are finally starting to find a rhythm that doesn’t feel like an erratic racing heart.  You don’t know what I mean, do you?  Oh, you do?  Okay.

Part of the reason I stopped writing posts was I simply didn’t have the energy to come up with posts that required thought and research.   So things might be more random around here, but definitely more fun, too. (If I do manage to keep posting!)   Just like Frankenstein, my blog is alive for now, but reinvented with lots of mismatched parts…


So since I have many new subscribers, I’d like to reintroduce myself and my family.

I have three kids – two boys and a girl.  I own two cats and four very overfed goldfish.  We also own a drafty old farmhouse with no heat upstairs and a failing heat pump downstairs.  But I do love the house…when it’s warm outside…lol.  We are slowly renovating, and eventually the boys will move out of the parlor and Baby Girl will move out of our room and they will go upstairs into the three bedroom, one bath space that exists only in our dreams!  Guess who gets the parlor for her studio?  Whoot!


The little buggers:

Thing One

Thing One's first day of preschool

This is Thing One.  He’ll be five in a few months and I have no idea how that happened!   His favorite thing right now is Angry Birds, and given an iPod and two inattentive parents, he will play until he’s cranky and overstimulated.  But he mostly spends his time running around, fighting with his little brother, and loving on his baby sister, interjecting random and repeated requests for snack food, even when I tell him to go get it himself.

Chocolate Cupcake Sneak

Yum, chocolate cupcake for breakfast!

Don’t be fooled by the chocolate facial hair!  It’s not a grown man;  Thing Two is only…well, two.  Two and a third as I’m writing this.  And yes, he snuck out of bed and helped himself to a nice, big, gooey cupcake at 6:30 in the morning.  Thing Two is our handful – our “I-can’t -believe-he-just-did-that” kid.  He is fast and he is smart, so if you come over to my house, please don’t let him see you how to use the deadbolt, okay? It’s the only thing keeping him in.  Ezra is a twin, but we lost the other baby at 8 or 9 weeks (A friend pointed out to me that I need to mention this was 8 or 9 weeks into the pregnancy!) And I think that he may have twice the trouble in him as regular children to make up for it!

See the mischief?

He recently learned both how to strip as well as open the refrigerator doors.   This means there is very often a naked child in my fridge. He also seems to inherently know that if he can make a mess, he can get away with a lot while mommy focuses on cleaning it up!

I’m still waiting from a call from CPS about him.  What will trigger it?  The repeated run-ins (literally) with the dining room table?  The jumping-off-the-couch-and-landing-on-the-coffee-table black eyes?  Amazingly enough, we have never taken him to the emergency room because he’s hurt or bleeding (Thing One is another matter…)

Now, before I get nasty emails saying I don’t watch my kids well enough, I want you to know I do (watch him pull the stool over!…no!  Just kidding!)  But there are three of them and only one of me!  One of these days I will invent some kind of tracking system, but until then, there will always be one hiding in a corner with a snickers bar they stole from my purse while the other distracts me by vomiting on the couch.

Okay, moving on before those emails start rolling in…

Baby Girl

Jump! Jump! Jump!

If ever a child loved to jump, it’s Baby Girl.   This is one of the most recent pictures I have of her – from over a month ago.  My mom believes this is a form of grandparent abuse, since they live 15 hours away.

She’s already 7 months old, and she’s already a Diva.  Boy, does she know how to pull heartstrings with just the right cry. Her brothers love her and every morning come into our room to say “hi” to the baby by jumping on me until I’m semi-conscious saying “Where’s baby?” (Same place she was yesterday…and the day before that – IN HER CRIB!)

She loves to stick her fingers in facial orifices – particularly the nose, and to chew on electrical cords, which she can spot at thirty paces and roll furiously across the floor to gnaw.  (Go figure – the sparkly Christmas tree is untouched, but she has my iPod cord in her mouth…)

Well, then there’s me and hubby.  I am the owner of Wee Essentials, a reusable products company (oh, wow, I know that’s surprising!)  I get behind regularly (as some of you know) so I’m working with one seamstress and coercing talking to another to help out.  I’m also talking to someone about taking on administrative duties like shipping!  Exciting, right?  Well, okay, I am excited!  If I could sew all day, I would, but you all want your orders, so…

Hubby is a musician here in Nashville, which really means he works at a large computer company here for a living and moonlights.   (Nashville is hard, even for the talented!) We’ve been married since 2000 which means we’re an old married couple now, right?  He watches the kids while I work, and occasionally we spend time in the same room together.  Until then, we remind ourselves that in a few years, the kids will be taking care of us and we’ll be the ones hanging out together while they spoon-feed us and wipe our tushies!


Fall Already?

So have you noticed the date?  Tomorrow’s date?  The first day of fall.  How can that be?  Despite above-100 degree temperatures all summer, I’m still amazed at how fast this season went.

And on it goes.

So I had a lot of goals for new product lines this summer, and only one came to fruition, and that only in a special order.  Business has picked up and many times I overestimated how much time my children and my husband would allow me.  Finally, my husband’s job has stabilized (no more schedule changes just as we figure out what days I can work!) and Thing One started preschool.  On the other hand, Thing Two turned two earlier this month and he’s truly acting like a Dr. Suess character.

Some of my recent facebook updates:

“I’m sitting in the living room and I hear this in the kitchen: “No, no no no no! Get your diaper back on! Get your diaper back on and get off the counter!”

“Well, we know that Baby Girl isn’t allergic to any of the ingredients in Goldfish Crackers…sweet little crazy Thing Two thought he was helping me. Scary!”

“So…two days ago Thing Two used daddy’s hair gel as lotion. Yesterday he used our windowsill as his canvas and a ballpoint pen as his paint. Today…nothing. Thank goodness for bulldozers working on the neighbor’s driveway!”

This doesn’t include the pictorial update where he threw a ballpoint pen up on the electric range behind the frying pan while I was cooking – I didn’t see it, but I sure wondered why the eggs smelled like ozone!


Some new stuff with WeeEssentials – I have two wonderful ladies who will be joining me soon in sewing parts of  my pads.  That will help me focus on getting everything else done in a more timely manner!  Most of their pads will be available on my off-Etsy site, (please don’t purchase anything there yet!  The shopping cart is acting up!)  My Etsy site will be mostly devoted to customs, diapering accessories and soap bits, but I will be carrying in-stock items there, too.

And FINALLY!  Don’t forget that when you purchase $50 or more on my Etsy site by MIDNIGHT (CST) on September 30th, 2010, shipping is free!  This applies to custom orders placed in that time period as well!

Resources for dairy-free living

Wow!  I received a great response to my post about becoming the type of mom I never understood – a mom who has kids with allergies bad enough to change the way we live.  I was thankful for the support I received and the warm words from everyone – thank you!

This has been a struggle for me in a lot of ways.  I grew up in a household that didn’t worry too much about what we ate.  I’m sure my mom worried, but what was considered healthy food in the ’80s certainly wouldn’t be as healthy today as we thought it was then.  If nothing else, our meals were balanced and we had all the food groups, but often the entree was made from a box, a freezer bag, or with a packet of sodium-laced flavorings.

When I got married, I started eating more from scratch, both for health and frugality.  But the hardest change to make has been this recent one.

It’s been hard because we’ve had to cut dairy out of our son’s diet.  And it’s difficult because of the way food is made, packaged, and sold – not because we have hangups about eliminating dairy.  There are over 20 names for dairy and dairy products that are acceptable for use in labeling ingredients on food.  Just when you think you have it all, you realize you missed something!

So with the help of the parenting101 community on, who came to my aid last month when I was trying to sort this out, as well as comments from you, my readers, and my own searches, I have compiled a list of resources for those of you trying to live dairy-free, no matter the reason:

Credit-card sized Dairy and Hidden Dairy Reminder Cards

Another Dairy-Free Reminder Card – this one is a little easier to read – thanks Care! – a website dedicated to people trying to live without dairy, both people with allergies and vegans.  I really like this site because it doesn’t focus on why dairy is bad (recognizing that people are coming to the website for different reasons) but provides tips for shopping, recipes, book recommendations, and up-to-date news and information about dairy allergy research.

How to go Dairy Free – an article that outlines some of the substitutes that can be made for dairy products.

Milk Free Pantry – need specific food recommendations?  MilkFreePantry has up-to-date information on the dairy-free foods available at many grocery stores.  This is my favorite quote from the blog: “Every item has been personally taste-tested. Any non-dairy item that tastes like water or cardboard has been denied approval by the Milk-free Pantry. Going without milk shouldn’t mean going without great taste.”

I see the crackers I bought last night for Thing Two made the list!

AvoidingMilkProtein – an interesting read!  Lots of random and fun information from a woman living dairy- and nut-free.

There were a couple of websites that are well-known anti-milk websites that I did not include due to the fact that they read like a conspiracy theory rather than a good, reputable source of information.  I have a hard time believing that any site that carries such a chip on its shoulder about a particular diet or lifestyle will give me accurate, factual information I can use to safely and effectively change our diets.

Other resources:

Managing Your Child’s Life-Threatening Allergies – this came highly recommended to me, even though my child’s allergies are not life threatening.  If anyone has an opinion on this book before I order it, I’d love to hear it!

The Milk-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free Allergy Cookbook – This cookbook was recommended to me by the same person.  I tend to use the internet more than cookbooks (with the exception of my 1979 Good Housekeeping cookbook) but it looks like a good source for recipes.

As always, if you have any more resources, chime in!

I’ve become what I never understood…

It occurred to me today that I’ve become what I’ve always hated.   Okay, well maybe not hated, but never truly understood.

I’m a part of a community online where frequently I hear moms talk about their kids’ allergies and sensitivities.  They would go on and on about how they could only buy food at the Whole Foods Store or wash their kids in triple purified castille soap.  The woes of having to provide lunches because school lunches were full of nasties and not being able to participate in the average birthday party without bringing their own cake.  I was of the opinion that these moms were, well, making it up.  Or at least making it worse than it was. There were too many moms like this to all have kids with real allergies.

But today I realized I am that mom. That mom that finds trips to the natural food store necessary.  That doesn’t let her kids have foods with artificial colors in them, except for momentary lapses in good sense.  The one that cloth diapers and freaks out whenever there’s an ingredient on a bottle of lotion that sounds scary.

We started out pretty laid back.  Thing One was born, and had a few skin troubles and trouble digesting cow’s milk for the first 10 months, but that’s normal, right?  Nothing to make a big deal out of – just keep slathering the lotions and steroid creams.

When I learned about cloth diapering, I quickly made the connection between Thing One’s eczema and the chemical fragrances in diapers.  My niece was reacting to Luvs at the same time, and a connection was made in my brain. Sure enough, using cloth diapers significantly reduced the outbreaks.

Thing One in Cloth Diapers - August 2007

Our first step onto the slippery slope of crunchiness.

Then Thing Two, our second son, came along. At four months old, almost exclusively breastfed, and he was constipated.  No, not that breastmilk poops-once-a-week thing.  Constipated. We watched him scream and grunt in attempts to go to the bathroom, and I wanted to cry just as hard as he was crying.  Don’t even dare suggest we try prune juice.  That was over months ago.  We moved on to the harder stuff  by the time he was 8 or 9 months- children’s laxatives, dried fruit, extra water.  It finally dawned on us several months ago that this might be an allergic reaction to milk products.  Sure enough, removing milk, yogurt, cheese, and other major dairy products helped some.

But he’s still having trouble.  After speaking to the doctor (and getting a prescription strength stool softener) she said that what I was describing was a full milk protein allergy, and that I would have to be careful to check all foods for milk products, including ones you wouldn’t normally think of or know about – whey and casein, for example.  And it occurred to me that daddy, who does most of the cooking and snack handing-out, might be inadvertently giving Thing Two foods that had those things in them.  To top it off, Thing Two also reacts to almonds, with vomit and diarrhea baths.

That begs the question, what can Thing Two have?

So last night we went through our cupboards.  Did you know that Saltines have whey in them?  Or that Spaghettios use cheddar cheese in their sauce?  I bet you didn’t know that even soy cheeses often use cow’s milk whey as the second ingredient.  For the first time in my life, I truly understood why the FDA mandated allergy warnings on all food products – some of those ingredients hiding milk products were completely foreign to me, and without the warning, I wouldn’t have caught them.

Our little demon, Thing Two

And don’t forget the artificial dyes!  It took us only a few tries to figure out that Thing One was highly sensitive to FDA Red 40.  When a normally well-behaved little (then) two-year old boy is screaming and literally bouncing off walls after having a cherry-flavored sucker…well, you figure it out fast.  No more Tylenol for you.

Top it off with the fact that Thing One is very sensitive to synthetic fragrances in bath products and laundry detergents, and Thing Two is sensitive to other chemicals in drugstore brands (though the fragrances don’t seem to bother him…)

Suddenly I’m starting to align myself with all those moms I thought were crazy and overprotective years ago!  Suddenly I see that their attitudes and behaviors were based on trying to do what was right by their children, struggling to keep their children healthy, rash-free, and sane.  It wasn’t about being super-mommy.  It was about self-preservation.

And it’s not easy, because unfortunately, a lot of the world reacts like I did – that allergies and sensitivities are either something to live with or they are not common enough to be worth catering to in the general marketplace. And it’s frustrating to not be able to easily provide the things that would best serve my children without resorting to specialty stores, the internet, and a hawk-eye. It’s frustrating to be planning a pizza party at Pizza Hut with friends in a few weeks and to know that Thing Two will not be able to participate unless I let him eat cheese-less pizza.  And I don’t doubt they used milk in the dough.  We haven’t even approached what we will do for Thing One’s fourth birthday and the cake we will eat in 2 weeks!

So I’ve become one of them:

* I can only shop for Thing One’s groceries at Whole Foods or another natural foods store.  This isn’t a matter of snobbiness.  I still get most of my groceries at Kroger.  But if I want to buy imitation cheese (or even a good goat’s milk cheese) that doesn’t contain dairy, I have to go to the natural foods store.  I couldn’t find a substitute at Kroger, Publix or Walmart.  The same for ice cream, convenience foods like macaroni and “cheese” and many other products.

* Suddenly, the best option for eating is to cook from scratch.  Which sounds really domestic and good housewife (except that I mentioned my husband does the cooking, right?)  But face it – when even the Spaghettios contain dairy, it’s sometimes easier to whip up a plate of veggies, panfried chicken, and a fruit salad for dessert than to navigate the iffy waters of ingredient lists on frozen foods.

* I’m also suddenly considering whether or not the $9.50 bottle of Burt’s Bees is better for my kids than the $10.50 bottle of California Baby.  And not even thinking about the price,  because at least I know it’s not going to break my kids’ skin out.  (I chose Burts Bees this time, by the way, because it smells so good, like my My Baby Love soap bits.)

But…is it just me, or is paying $9.50 for a 12 ounce bottle of baby shampoo a bit insane?

* I’ve become super crunchy for laundry as well.  I stopped using chlorine based bleach,  and started using soap nuts.

*Cloth diapers remove the chemical fragrance reactions from disposables, which has made a huge difference.

*And obviously we have to check food and medicine labels for artificial dyes.  While Thing One has outgrown most of the out-of-control behavior triggered by Red 40, we still notice significant mood changes when he eats things like red M&Ms.

Yes, I think I finally understand.

You might want to check your shampoo.

I’m a bzzagent, which means I regularly receive samples of products and promote them socially if I like them.  (Don’t worry – I’ll let you know if I’ve received compensation for a review!)

Recently I received a bottle of Aveeno Baby Shampoo and Diaper Rash Cream samples to try out.  Aveeno often touts itself as being gentle on babies, so I was excited to try it.  And we did.  We used it as shampoo on the kids in the shower, and as bubble bath in the tub.  It smells great.

At the same time, I noticed that Thing Two, my current youngest, was breaking out in ezcema again.  And this time it was all over his body – his back, his belly, and his legs.  Some of it was the usual bright red, raised rash.  On his back and belly, his skin was rough and prickly, but I couldn’t see anything on his skin.  My kids are constantly breaking out, especially the youngest, so we did what we always do – lotion, lotion, lotion.  This time, to no avail.

About a week after I noticed the problem, I ran across this article on an ingredient found in many shampoos called quaternium-15.  Imagine my surprise to learn that by chemical reaction, the preservative quaternium-15 releases formaldahyde, which according to this peer-reviewed study from the Journal of Dermatology Nurses’ Association and the article I linked above from, is a known carcinogen and can also cause contact dermatitis, which is often mistaken for ezcema.

Needless to say, I threw out the Aveeno Baby Shampoo that day.  I’m happy to say that Thing Two’s back and belly have cleared up, though his (actual) ezcema still remains.


I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again: check what is in your bath products!  Children are especially vulnerable to harmful chemicals – their smaller bodies mean that chemicals will have a great effect on their systems than it would for adults.  Add in the fact that many children soak in the tub far longer than their parents, and the situation can get quite toxic.

So what can you do?  Have you seen what’s on the shelves at Walmart and Target?  Hardly a natural product in sight.

First of all, know the difference between a detergent and a soap.  Soap is made of three basic things: Fats/oils, lye (sodium hydroxide) and water.    Simply put, those three things will make a basic bar of moisturizing soap (and done correctly, there is no lye left in the bar.) Ingredients will only contain oils, water and any additives like essential oils or ground oatmeal.

A detergent bar is most often filled with chemicals that mimic natural soap.   Companies that provide soaps found it was cheaper to produce cleansers that didn’t use expensive oils, and the glycerin made by combining fats, oils, lye, and water is much more lucrative if used in exclusive moisturizing creams.   The problem is, the chemicals used (for instance, sodium laureth sulfate) are often very harsh on delicate human skin and strip the natural oils away.   But no worries!  You can buy the glycerin lotions to replace that moisture!


So what to do, what to do?

Handmade Lemongrass Soap

Handmade Lemongrass Soap

First, we’ve replaced our body washes and commercial soaps with all-natural soaps.  I make ours, but usually we patronize shops on etsy for variety (one I love is Toadstoolsoaps and since you probably aren’t sick of my scents, check out my shop for more natural soaps.)

The kids have their hair washed using soap.  Because it’s all oils, water, and lye, it doesn’t strip their hair like detergent bars would do.  I haven’t gotten brave enough to try this on my hair yet, but since I don’t seem to be having a reaction to the shampoos I have left, and I hate waste, I’m using them up before trying some all-natural shampoos.  There are some great brands out there, and the easiest way to find them is to look for pure Castile soap, because it doesn’t require the chemical preservatives I’ve mentioned  – check out  Earth Mama Angel Baby, and Dr Bronners.  California Baby is another brand that I’ve had recommended to me by the crunchiest of people!

Free Online Educational Resources for Parents

My two boys are almost 4 and 15 months, and I’m always looking for opportunities to help them develop the skills they will need for school.  I really enjoyed school as a child (I was the geeky one asking for additional homework) and I want them to enjoy it too.

One thing that has really amazed me about my kids is how easily they learn and understand technology.  My son was able to play games on my laptop by himself by the time he was three, and recently he showed his grandma how to turn on her own DVD player – one that he had only seen used once before!

Now, I immediately saw this as an opportunity.  I’m also geeky enough to enjoy playing computer games, so I figured my son would enjoy games, too!  And there are so many free resources online, that I don’t have to spend a penny to give my child some fun while helping him learn letters, sorting, and sentence structure.

Some of my favorite websites include:

Starfall – geared toward early elementary age children, it’s easy enough for younger kids to navigate.  I used this a lot when I was teaching English as a Second Language in a public elementary school.  There are even printables for your kids to color!

PBS – an old favorite, my son loves to play with his favorite TV characters.  We don’t have cable, and really, PBS is preferred to any other kids’ station.  (I’m so sad they’ve cancelled “Reading Rainbow,” though!  I was really looking forward to watching it with him!) – TONS of free parenting resources, including recipes, games, crafts, printables.  Right now they have big sections focused just on the upcoming holidays.


More resources:

Dolly Pardon’s Imagination Library – if your area participates, every child under five in your household can sign up to receive a free book from the Imagination Library on a monthly basis.  Now that we’re moving to Nashville, we have a program in our area!  My sister-in-law receives these books for her kids and says they’re great.  If your area doesn’t participate, you can request the program.



There are so many more, and they all escape me at the moment!  Can you think of any to add?


The Cost of Raising a Child?

I just read an article about the government’s calculations on how much it will cost to raise a child who is born this year until they are 17.  Since I have a child who was born late last year, I was shocked to see the number – about $212, 000 ($292,000 if you include inflation.)

$212,000?  I couldn’t believe it. How could what we are spending now equal so much money in 17 years?

Baby E - Will it really cost $292,000 to raise him?

Baby E - Will it really cost $292,000 to raise him?

So I set out to do the calculations myself.

Right now, we pay about $900 for the mortgage, including taxes and insurance.  It’s a bit incorrect to factor in the cost of housing this way, but I divided the cost by four, since there are four of us living here.  However, we lived here when we were three, and if we were two, we’d still probably live here, so I don’t know if I can attribute a full quarter to a child and be accurate.  Nevertheless, I will.

Housing: $225/month, $2700/yr.

Electric runs about $150 a month, averaged over the year: $450/yr. Again, I felt a bit awkward using this number – obviously it’s skewed – I use a lot more electricity than my one-year-old does.

Heating Oil/firewood: about $400/yr per person.

Food: We have a budget of $200 a month, and since we don’t buy a lot of junk food or paper products, it works.  That’s $600/yr per person.

Clothing: I spend more on myself, but for the kids, we might spend $100/yr. Garage sales, clearance, and grandmas are our friends!

Now, so far we are up to a total of $4250 a year per person.  Multiply that by the 17 years the article states, and we get $72,250. Not even close yet!  At this point, I could send my kids to a $30,000 a year school and they will still have room to spare!

But wait!  I haven’t calculated child care or education expenses.  At this point, we don’t have any of either of those.  In the interest of frugality and also my desires to be home with my kids, we decided I could stay at home.  We lose an income but we don’t have certain expenses to pay.  Since we’ve only briefly ever made two incomes in our nearly 10 year marriage, it didn’t phase us to make that decision.

However, to be fair I should include them:  The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) estimates that child care costs for us would be about $500 a child (more for E and less for G, since he’s a preschooler now.)  So that’s $1000 a month until age 5.  Right there, I’ve spent $60,000!  I’m not sure what childcare would cost once they are in school.

I also haven’t included educational costs – school supplies, activity fees, uniforms, supply fees, or any other additional expenses.  I also did not include the cost of furniture (come to think of it, with the exception of a $75 bunk bed, a $10 rocker-glider, and a $30 toy box, all bought second-hand, everything is handed down in both boy’s rooms!) or toys (we rarely buy any – thanks grandmas!) or bedding.

So we were at $72,250 for the 17 years.  I think we could easily add on another $500 for furniture and bedding, and probably $5000 each for toys/hobbies.  I’m just guessing about both, but you know we are frugal and look for deals, or if we need it new, we ask our parents to give it to them at Christmastime or birthdays.  I expect that as the kids get older, they’ll want the more expensive toys – game systems and the games, skateboards and bikes with all the safety equipment, etc.

That puts us up to $77,750. Medical insurance?  Wasn’t mentioned.  I’m sure that would have doubled the total cost listed in the article!  Maybe they are still thinking ahead to a possible socialist-based national health plan, where our taxes would cover it.

So could you spend $212,000 ($292,000 when adjusted for inflation?)  I think you could.  We have a ways to go to reach that projected number, but those little things can add up fast.

What do you think?  Did I miss anything?

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