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Thursday
Aug142014

Balloon-Themed Birthday Party

 

A few years ago, I came across some online rant about how birthday parties all seem to need a “theme” these days and asking what happened to good-old balloons and cake birthdays. I took this person’s ire and Zachary’s love of balloons and knew I’d have to host a “balloon-themed” birthday party for his second birthday.  

We didn’t do a real party for Z’s birthday—we just had some of the grandparents over for brunch. But I love a reason to get crafty and still wanted to make Z feel like the day was special, so I had to do a few fun things for his birthday brunch.

Balloon Birthday Wreath 

Years ago, I covered a straw wreath in burlap and I switch out the decorations for holidays and special occasions.  I had the balloon ribbon in my wrapping stash,  then I added a few half-inflated a few balloons and made a simple sign with a Cricut machine that I inherited from a wonderfully generous cousin.

Balloon Birthday Cake

Nic and I made fondant balloons for the cake and I cut lemon rinds for the balloon strings. It was a lemon cake with lemon curd and raspberry jam filling and cream cheese frosting.

Chalk Happy Birthday Sign

Last summer, I discovered making chalk signs and LOVE this free, easy and high-impact party decoration.

It was a low-key morning, but Z definitely knew it was his special day. I think a few decorative touches go a long way in impressing a toddler (and grandmothers!). 

BONUS:

How adorable is this!? We started the morning by bringing armfuls of balloons into his room and dropping them in the crib. This was a huge hit!

Sunday
Aug102014

Baby Z is Two!

 

Sweet Baby Z,

Good natured. That’s the best way I can describe you. When I think about you, I smile inside.  You’ve definitely become a toddler, with all of the stubbornness and moodiness that entails, but I’m confident you’ll come out of toddlerhood with a smile on your face.

Here are some things that I’ve come to know about you:Birthday balloons!

  • You carry your emotions close to the surface. When you are happy, you bounce with glee, but when you’re mad, watch out! Your daddy has a hard time keeping a straight face during your face-down-on-the-ground, kicking and screaming tantrums. I’m just thankful that they are very short-lived and that you’ve stopped banging your head against hard surfaces when you’re mad.
  • You’re slow to warm in new situations, but you are so affectionate with the ones you love. One of my favorite memories of you this year was one morning a few months ago when I gave your brother a kiss good morning while he was eating his breakfast. I had already given you good morning kisses when I got you from your crib, but that wasn’t enough for you. When you saw me walking away from the breakfast table without kissing the top of your head, you said, “Zachy kiss too please.” It melted my heart. It also made me take notice that you are watching how our family relates and making sure you get what you need.
  • You’re funny. You have excellent comedic timing—like your daddy.
  • You share willingly (please don’t let saying this out loud be a jinx). I’ve never seen a two-year-old take turns with such relative ease. This is likely the by-product of being a sibling, and it makes me so happy to see you and Nic facilitate turn-taking on your own.
  • Eating is hit or miss. For the first year, you were a reliably good eater (except for breastfeeding, which you hated). However, at around 14 months, a switch flipped and you got picky and unpredictable. Some days you’ll still take down 3 bananas in a sitting, but other days we’re lucky if we can get a frozen waffle and some chips in you. I’m chalking this one up to being a toddler and expect you to be a hearty eater again in a few years (fingers crossed).
  • You are a mama’s boy. There are so many people who love you and who you love, but if you got to choose who you’d be with all the time, it would be me. I love this. It can make things difficult, but it’s so worth it.

Zachary, you are a silly ray of sunshine who loves balloons and long walks around the neighborhood. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings out in you. 

Tuesday
Aug052014

You Can Bleach Pocket Cloth Diapers!

 

After 4 years of cloth diapering, I learned something that would have saved me a lot of time trying to de-stink my stash—the vibrant colors of pocket diapers can withstand occasional bleaching!My stash is all ready for its new home.

I bleached my microfiber inserts after our first bought with a staph diaper rash, but it never occurred to me that I could bleach colored pockets and covers. Because I knew I wanted to pass our diapers on to a friend, I had to be confident that the staph bacteria was completely wiped out.  Google saved the day with this forum post (scroll down for the most helpful comments).  Even Cotton Babies says you can bleach them.

WHO KNEW!? In my decades of doing laundry, I thought bleach was only for completely white items like towels and sheets. I had no idea that some colors could hold up to bleach in small doses and when put into the bleach compartment of the washer (DO NOT ADD DIRECTLY TO LOAD). I think the important thing to consider here is fabric--polyester seems to hold on to color better than cotton. My cotton Planet Wise wet bags definitely faded quite a bit. 

I have spent hours and countless gallons of water trying to de-funk my diapers. And although not much makes me happier than seeing all my dipes on a clothesline,  they never end up completely stain free. I don’t love bleach, but I do love the idea of sticking my head into a dryer of clean diapers and having them smell clean. I wish I knew this trick 4 years ago, but at least I can pass on a huge stack of stain-free, fresh smelling diapers.

Speaking of which, I did find a wonderful home for my stash. I was worried that no one would want my diapers because of the staph infection, but I was wrong! One of my oldest friends, and the person who actually inspired me to cloth diaper, just adopted a sweet little girl and she will be wearing my boys’ diapers. Her husband is a scientist and reassured all of us that the bleach has made the diapers clean as can be for their baby girl’s bum. I can’t think of a better home for my fluff—cloth diapering has really come full circle for me. 

Wednesday
Jul232014

Playing Tourist in SF: The Duck Tour

 

Nic LOVES Fisherman’s Wharf. That sentence probably made San Francisco locals shudder. When we lived in The City, Fisherman’s Wharf was the last place you’d find us, but now that we’re parents, our kids have brought us back. Yes, there are tons of other great things to do in The City with kids (Dolores Park, Academy of Sciences, Crisssy Field, etc.), but there’s something about sea lions and the Rain Forest Café that just makes our boys squeal with glee.

When the folks at Ride the Ducks reached out to me, I knew I had to take them up on the offer of a tour for our family (yes, the tour was free, but the opinions are my own). Not only would we be able to catch the amazing amphibious duck boat in Fisherman’s Wharf, but we’d get a tour of The City, and most importantly, get a ride on the Bay. That’s right, this tour goes from land to water to land again—all in the same vehicle!

I tried to take as many pictures as possible, but I was also holding on to a squirmy 2-year-old. Below is an overview of the ride in pictures and text.

 

Check in for the tour is in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf at Taylor and Jefferson. The staff was super friendly.

 

As soon as they saw and heard the duck-bill kazoos, I knew we’d be shelling out $3 each. I’ve added them to our music bin at home and they were worth every penny.

 

We were the last ones on and got a great view from the side and rear windows. Z thought the back windows were particularly lick-worthy. We departed from Fisherman’s Wharf, went through North Beach, China Town, Union Square, SOMA, China Basin, into the Bay and then back along the Embarcadero.

 

 Inside view of the Duck Boat as we entered the water near AT&T Park.

 

 

 My favorite part of the tour was seeing the enormous ships up close.

The views of The City and Bay Bridge were pretty awesome too.

 

Everyone was all smiles on our return trip. Please ignore the hair—we were on the water and it was humid!

So Would I Recommend this Tour?

Yes. Just the novelty of driving through The City in this crazy truck and then going into the water would have been enough for us to “get our money’s worth.” Add in the interesting crowds of people, loads of construction equipment and the awesome soundtrack and historical tidbits, and we were all more than thrilled.

Things to Keep in Mind

I wish I would have brought my Ergo for Z. For 90% of the time, I felt comfortable holding him and that he wasn’t going to leap from the truck (there are no seltbelts/child restraints), but the other 10% of the time I was holding on for dear life. This was mostly in the water. Looking back, I’m sure there was no actual risk, but I would have been more relaxed (and comfortable) if I could have put him in the Ergo.

Bring lots of snacks. The tour is 90 minutes long—it’s action packed, but I was still worried we would have a meltdown. The boys ate the granola bars I packed about 20 minutes in and I was worried that I wouldn’t have a secret weapon should they lose it.

So, if you want to see The City from a new point of view or if you’re new in town, give the Ducks a ride!

 

Sunday
Jul202014

The End of an Era: Saying Goodbye to Cloth Diapers

 

I was hoping to cloth diaper both of my boys all the way through potty training. I came so close! Potty training Z didn’t work exactly as planned, and now he has his second staph diaper rash in the last year. It’s not necessarily cloth-related—staph will grow anywhere warm and moist—but I will need to have him in disposables for a while until his rash is completely cleared up.The cloth diaper that started it all. This was Nic back in 2010.

I was already considering moving him to pull-ups to help with the gradual potty training that seems to work best for him. Now that I know we’ll need to be off of cloth for at least a month, I think my decision has been made for me. I put him in some Honest Company training pants this morning and he really liked his “robot underpants.”

A New Life for the Dipes?

And what should I do with my stash? I had hoped to pass it on to a friend or donate it, but now I’m not sure anyone will want it. After Z’s first staph infection, I disinfected the diapers and he wore them for a year without incident. His current case is certainly not related to the first--he’s likely just susceptible to the bacteria, which is present on everyone's skin. I have the diapers running in a hot wash with bleach as I type and will run that again when it’s done.  Hopefully, someone will still want to take my stash in.

Thanks for the Memories (and the Money!)

I’ll miss seeing my littlest boy with a fluffy bottom. I probably won’t miss washing them (and the California drought might even thank me), but I will miss seeing stacks of freshly folded, brightly colored fluff.

I’ll also miss not paying for diapers. I’m not one of those fluff addicts who drops tons of cash on new prints. I buy only as needed and haven’t spent a dime on new diapers in over a year. But the other day, I ordered a ton of training pants and my husband asked me what the heck I bought from Honest.com for $90. Ouch!

Years ago, when Charlie Banana sent me a huge box of diapers and I cancelled my diaper service, I started saving the money I would have been spending on the service. I set up an automatic transfer for $74 per month, and since I started washing my own diapers I’ve put over $3300 into our savings account.  And that’s not to mention the thousands of diapers that we didn’t put in a landfill.

I am so happy that we chose to cloth diaper and that we stuck with it for so many years. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It’s also amazing to know that through my own personal friendships and through this blog, that I’ve influenced other people’s decision to cloth diaper. I’m so proud to have been a part of the cloth diaper community.