Friday, November 13, 2015

The best reasons to keep the house clean, tidy, uncluttered. It's not housekeeping, it's homemaking.

For the 2015 New Year, I resolved that I would teach my kids to pick up after themselves. Well, unlike a lot of NY resolutions, I actually worked tirelessly on this one every single day through all of 2015.

We came a long way and made a lot of progress, but are still nowhere near where I would like to be. Where would I like to be? I would like for them to pick up after themselves as though they were adult tenants renting a room in my home. When does that happen? Never? Oh, okay. Haha.

Here's what I -- as the mommy -- learned from the experience...

1. Different kids (And adults!) have different personalities ranging everywhere from the kid who needs orderliness to the kid who doesn't give a scrap. We need to show love to each other by understanding this fact about each other.

2. I don't like picking up all by myself, so why would they? So much more fun when we just decide to help each other and do it together. Many hands make light work (even if Mommy has to do the lion's share).

3. Throw something away or let something get destroyed once in a while to keep them on their toes. Hard lessons stick better than just yelling. Older kids can be old enough to be frustrated that they can't wear their favorite shirt because they didn't put it in the laundry. ;)

4. Get rid of stuff. Just have less stuff. Less to put away! Children who learn to hold loosely to material things may be better off, since relationships are the most important thing.
5. Last, but not least, I will not rip my hair out running around like a chicken with my head cut off to please people trying to make my house look ready for Better Homes & Gardens. 
My house is still really messy a lot of the time! But, we are learning what rhythms and rules work for our family right now. There's lots of room for more growth in the coming year!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Humble Receiving Blanket: 15 (Surprising) Alternative Uses

If someone had asked me before I had kids what a receiving blanket is, I would not have had a good answer.
A few years into parenthood, asked the same question I would have said it is something for swaddling baby.
Today, I would have a different answer: say it is not all that great for swaddling but still a very useful tool!

Wait...Why isn't it good for swaddling?
Okay, it works great for swaddling a very tiny newborn OR for a bigger newborn if you have larger receiving blankets. Standard flannel receiving blankets are really small! Too small to get a really good swaddle, in my experience. I wish manufacturers would figure this out and stop taking advantage of my inability to remember what's a good swaddle size.

Different sizes of receiving blankets: the green one is gauze, the blue one is heavier cotton, the flannel print one on top is the type and size that I typically find in the baby aisle.

The standard flannel receiving blanket is very warm. Babies can overheat in a warm room or while being held by a warm body. Just be aware of your baby--feel the temperature on the back of his neck. If you want to keep your baby's temperature warm yet stable, the absolute best way to do this is to take your shirt off and your baby's shirt off and hold him against you! Which brings me to our first alternative use...

#1 Skin to Skin and Increasing Breastmilk Supply
Hold your newborn baby against your chest with her skin touching yours. Put the swaddling blanket over both of you. Breathe easy. Now your newborn's vital signs will regulate perfectly. This skin-to-skin contact can work at any stage for mothers re-establishing breastmilk supply.

Gauze swaddling blankets (made from a light woven cotton) tend to be bigger. They are also much more breathable. Use these to achieve the desired snugness with swaddling without worry of overheating your little one.

#2 Positioning a Baby in a Carrier
When you wear your baby, do you feel that she needs a little lift?
A rolled up receiving blanket can lift a very tiny baby just enough to make it safer for him. It can also lift a larger baby's legs into the the proper M shape to be ergonomic for him.

Experiment with different ways of folding the blanket and rolling it tightly. Folding it different widths lengthwise...
Roll the receiving blanket tight!
#3 Neck Roll
A tightly-rolled receiving blanket in place of squishy, after-market products for the swing, bouncer, or car seat.
This baby's head will not flop to the side with a tightly rolled-up receiving blanket placed on either side.
#4 and #5 Changing Mat and Wipes
Use the blanket as a changing mat that will absorb any stray urine or poo long enough to return home and wash (rather than spilling the urine on baby as the vinyl changing mats tend to do).

I have taken some of my receiving blankets sewn together two layers thick, turned inside out, then top-stitched to make a thicker a pad. I left an opening so that it can be turned inside out if desired.

Cut a blanket into squares. Serge or zig-zag stitch along the edges to prevent fraying.
Economical, reusable, super-absorbent wipes for faces & hands or lil bottoms! Just add water. I place mine on a plate and squirt them using a re-usable condiment bottle from the kitchen. You can also place them in a small plastic tub and fill with water. Essential oils can prevent any mildew. Adding a small amount of oil and liquid soap to the water will make wipes glide and wash across Baby's skin.

Here, I've placed a towel and a flannel blanket on a dresser for use as a changing table at home. Flannel makes great cloth wipes.

In our family, the solid "pink" side goes on the public changing table or the ground. The "print" side with flowers is where the baby goes. Then I fold the solid pink "germy" side in on itself before returning the mat to my diaper bag. This one has an opening and can be turned inside out in case it gets really dirty.

#6 Diaper?!
Use one as a cloth diaper in a pinch. One mom even sewed hers into re-usable cloth diapers, because hey, flannel is absorbent!

#7 Lovey
Offer a flannel receiving blanket as his lovey when going through the "separation anxiety" stage.

#8 A Cape!
Preschoolers love to pretend they are super-hero capes

#9 Blanket for a Baby Doll

#10 Crumb-Catcher
Place a flat one under the car seat in the car or under the high chair in the kitchen

#11 Blanket Games
A small receiving blanket can be great for blanket games when you're waiting with a bored child in a public place. Peek-a-boo, or even games for older kids...

#12 For Bed-sharing Families
A receiving blanket or two laid flat as a pad under a mother and baby who are breastfeeding can help catch any extra breastmilk dribbles (I recommend pre-fold cloth diapers or a leak-proof barrier for heavy leakers).
You can also lift the blanket to transfer sleeping Baby to the bassinet with less likelihood of disturbing her.

#13 Sleep Positioner
In general, I don't advise using any kind of sleep positioning devices. However, if you simply must position a baby (to keep from rolling over or to keep him on his side, etc.), a rolled blanket placed UNDER THE FITTED SHEET is probably the safest way to do so.

#14 Bassinet Prop
Perhaps your baby has reflux or cannot sleep well on a flat surface. You can raise one end of the crib/cot/bassinet slightly by using rolled up blankets as risers on the mattress or under the legs. Slowly remove them over time decreasing the angle until she is comfortable sleeping flat.

#15 Burp Cloth
Your baby will probably spit up on it anyway, so why not fold in half as a comfy, absorbent burp cloth?

Beyond that...what about...
...shoving one under a drafty door?
...stashing them in the car for use as an easy-to-carry sit-upon while you're at the park or a ball game?
...up-cycle two into a pillow case? or cut into squares and up-cycle as a quilt? or crochet a border for ...use as a table cloth or table runner?
...use in place of baby towels at bath time?

And finally, before you really have to throw them out, use them as rags for dirty jobs.
If you have an idea for more ways to use these handy little cloths, please share in the comments!
I am also sharing about the birth of my third child on my other blog today. Be sure to go check it out!

P.S. One more hint: cloth diapers can also be used for many of the ideas listed above!