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Green Living

I never really thought about living green until I got pregnant with Parker. I started to pay a little more attention to labels and was shocked to learn all of the harmful and poisonous chemicals that were in our everyday products. I quickly got overwhelmed with the idea of leading a greener life and realized that I would need to take baby steps. Changing one thing at a time was more manageable as a new mom. Now, after about a year, we have switched out a lot of our cleaning agents in our home, reduced waste with unpaper towels and wash cloths and shop for more local and organic food.

Cleaning & Home
Going Green With Your Spring Cleaning {mini-series}
– Going Green With Your Spring Cleaning: Why?
– Spring Cleaning Schedule
– Green Cleaning Staple Items

Cloth Diapering

While we were never cloth diapering 100% of the time both kids were cloth diapered for awhile. Parker was later on, about 3-18 months, and Caity was early, newborn – 6 months. I definitly recommend it to any family as a way to save money and/or help the environment. I wouldn’t say it’s easier and at times can be a little gross, but man what a difference it can make in your budget, the environment, and even with preventing rashes.

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Favorite Products
purEcosheet review – Reusable dryer sheets safe for infant clothing and cloth diapers!

 

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Green Spring Cleaning Challenge

I don’t know about you but I just can’t get into the spirit of Spring cleaning when there is snow on the ground and the wind is frigid. Mother Nature sure had it in for us this season but eventually it will have to get warm out, right?!?! I decided that even though I am not ready to start my Spring cleaning ritual, I should probably have everything in order so that when the weather does finally turn, I am ready.

Over the last year we have been using some of the recipes I compiled last year for my series, Going Green With Your Spring Cleaning. It was so much fun to do and I am excited this year to go a bit deeper with my cleaning now that we have been in the house over a year. My goal now through the end of the month is to make sure I am well stocked on all of my cleaning agents.
Since last year was the first year I used these recipes I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on their effectiveness and what changes, if any, I would be making this year. Cleaning supplies always seem to be great in the beginning but the real test for me is to see how I feel about them a year later. Overall, I will be using all the same recipes with just a few minor changes here and there. 

I can’t believe how well this cleaner has worked for us. The only thing I plan to change about this recipe is to not put the lemons peals into the containers. It was really hard to get these out! I ended up making a new batch each month and kept one bottle in each bathroom and the kitchen for easy access.

I think I was the most impressed with this recipe and how well they worked. We used them on all of our wood surfaces and they gave an amazing shine and smelled like Spring! I whipped up a batch about once a month since one cloth was large enough to cover all of my dusting needs each time. When I was done I just threw them in the washer with our reusable paper towels and kitchen towels. 
After making this last Spring I had second thoughts about it only because we had found a detergent we liked, Baby Ganics. However, this recipe was so easy to make the yielded enough to last us the whole year. It works really well so I will be making another batch this month. We kept this small container in the laundry room and just filled it up when it was running low. We kept the extra in a sealed 5 gallon bucket in the garage.

 This recipe is so simple and them worked just as well as the ones you can buy in the store filled with some pretty nasty chemicals.  We kept them in a plastic container in the freezer and just popped a few in the disposal when it started to smell a little funky.

I’ll admit, I am horrible with cleaning our mirrors and windows. Even with little hand prints everywhere, it always seems to be at the bottom of my to-do list. This recipe really did do the trick so I am going to try my best this year to stop finding excuses 🙂 We kept the solution in clear squirt bottles and had one in each bathroom and the kitchen along with the all purpose cleaner. 

I am so excited to begin this little challenge for myself and would love for you to join in! Checking back on March 31st when I will be sharing my Spring Cleaning Checklist to help keep me on track for the month of April. In the meantime, visit your local grocery store to get your supplies to make some of the homemade cleaning recipes I talked about above or search out Pinterest for a few of your own! For step by step instructions on each recipe just click the picture.

My Crafting Attic

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2014 Goals

I just love the beginning of a new year and the fresh start it brings. I always feel like I can accomplish anything and pretty much indestructible. My ambitious goals get the better of me mid summer and the rest of the year is just a game of keeping my head above water. I would sometimes jot down a few things I wanted to accomplish but never really developed goals and resolutions. Last year I decided to really start writing out goals to help manage and accomplish them a little better.

It would be cheating if I jumped right into our 2014 goals without reflecting on the ones we had last year. Since it was my first year actually writing out goals I will chalk my success to being slightly naive. That and Rob’s unplanned deployment. You can read the full post here.

Health
This section was a complete flop. While I did make some goals that were manageable and measurable, I just didn’t follow through. While I can honestly say part of that was Rob’s deployment, I certainly can’t blame my entire lack of progress on that. At the same time, other goals were just unrealistic. My biggest health related accomplishment was participating in the Color Run.

Family
Our family was incomplete for part of the year but we did make the best of what we had. Date nights were not weekly as hoped but the ones we had were a lot of fun. We had to reschedule Disney for January 2014 because of Robs deployment. I didn’t count the exact number of items donated but we certainly reached 2,013. 

Parker
This category was very successful. We painted his room, threw him an awesome birthday party, found a nighttime routine and took him to swim classes. The only thing I didn’t get to was making a growth chart for him. I think that will start on his 2nd birthday.

Manager of The Meyer Home
I am pleased with the two things I accomplished here. I made a pretty comprehensive yet realistic cleaning checklist. I also changed out all of our cleaning agents with safe and more natural ones (posts here).

With everything else going on I didn’t manage to get any of the other items below done. You’ll see them again with a list revamping in our 2014 goals below. I am most excited about getting together a house binder, backing up all of my documents and getting ride of our 4 drawer filing cabinet.

Financial
Nope, didn’t stick to a monthly budget or keep track to see if we saved money coupons. You’ll see these again in our 2014 goals with a lot of revamping.

Updates Around The House
While Rob was deployed I facilitated every room in the house getting painted. Even though I didn’t do it myself, it was a lot of work. I also changed out all of the lights, mirrors, door knobs, outlets, switches and plates around the house from gold to silver.

I did finish our laundry room (here), Parker’s room (here) and several things around the kitchen (herehereherehere, and here).

Memory Keeper
So embarrassed about this section. I didn’t manage to get anything done :/ I’ll be reevaluating theses for next year and picking the most important ones.

Personal Development/Cherry Blossom Love
Nope, didn’t read any books or looked at a newspaper. I did attend a blog conference and hosted several giveaways throughout the year though.

Overall, I do have to pat myself on the back. I managed to get a lot accomplished even as a single mom for a few months. If nothing else, I really learned alot about myself as a SAHM and living a life with a child.

Now that I have taken some time to reflect on my 2013 goals, I am in a much better place to figure out what I want to achieve this year. Looking back I realized that there were too many goals to possibly achieve especially with a deployment in there. Knowing that we have another one coming up this year, I want to focus on the quality of my goals this year not quantity. I also wanted to take the time to make sure that I keep them as SMART as possible. I first learned about SMART goals when I was in graduate school. Who would have thought I would find a purpose for them outside of the work place?!?

Family                                                                                                                                  .
Date Nights
Even though we are now parents, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have adult time. This year I want to spend time each week on a date with Rob. For the most part that will be a Redbox movie on the couch with a yummy homemade treat. I would love on a monthly basis to get out and go to dinner and a movie. My local SAHM group created a baby-share point based system that will allow us to do this without needing to pay a sitter. A responsible adult sitter for free? Winner over here!

Bad Language
I am embarrassed to say but this is a problem in our house. Parker is now starting to imitate us so this bad habit needs to change. I will be creating a “potty mouth jar” that Rob and I will be using to help stop our bad habits before Parker can learn them.

Weekends = Family Time
I need to start thinking of my blog, Etsy Shop, Thirty-One and MaryKay as my business(es). Most people don’t work 7 days a week and if they do, it’s not a regular thing. Aside from drill weekends and naptime I want to focus on spending time with Rob and Parker instead of glued to a computer screen. It took this last deployment to realize how precious that time is.

Parker                                                                                                                                  .
Retire Pacifier
Parker has pretty much transitioned himself off the pacifier except for sleeping and long car rides.

Prepare for Potty Training
I don’t believe pushing a child into potty training does any good so I am not in any rush for this. I do want to start research on different products, books and methods so that I have an idea of what we want when the time comes and Parker starts showing an interest.

2nd Birthday Bash
Except this year I am going to cater the food and cake so I can spend more time enjoying the party!

Yearbooks
Luckily, this blog has kept me up to date with Parker’s monthly updates, photos, and milestones. Now I just need to sit down and actually put together his 1 year book and get up to date with his 2nd year. I want to have his 1st and 2nd year books done by July 1, 2014.

Home                                                                                                                                  .
Home Updates
Now that the house is painted I can begin to finish decorating each room in the house. To make it easy and affordable to achieve, I want to focus on a different room each month. I have been slowly collecting

Garden
Rob really wants to plant an actual garden this year with cucumbers, peppers, strawberries, raspberries and spices. He wants to take the lead on this and I am not standing in his way!

Sell/Donate 2,014 Items
Sadly, this is possible even after donating so much last year. This year I hope to focus on donating anything in my closet that doesn’t fit or doesn’t make sense with my SAHM lifestyle. I also need to weed through my craft room and get ride of items that I haven’t used since school.

Financial                                                                                                                              .
Realistic Budget
Overall, we stay in our budget each month but can definitely make smarter choices to save more. This is mostly true for our food budget and eating out. In the past I have set aside $50 a week for groceries. Let’s face it, $50 a week for a family of three just isn’t possible. Perhaps if I couponed my brains out but I just don’t have time for that. I want to set a realistic goal factoring in less meals out. By shopping more store brands and searching for specific coupons we need each week we can save money with a lot less work.

Decrease Utility Bills
I want to get in the habit of shutting off the water and lights when I don’t need them. I am so bad at this right now and I know that every little bit does add up.

Administrative Day
I really need a morning once a week to balance the budget, pay bills, and get all of our home administrative tasks done. If I set aside a specific day once a week for this I will be able to stay on top of  filing things, scanning receipts into our NeatReceipt scanner, putting together a menu/grocery list, and any other admin related items.

Personal                                                                                                                             .
Read the Hunger Games Series
It takes a lot of effort to sit down and read a book. There is always so many other things I can be doing. Especially since it takes me so long to read. My sister and I went to see Catching Fire and she really encouraged me to read the book. I decided to start from the beginning to read the whole series.

Healthier Habits
I am not going to set a specific number of pounds I want to lose this year. Instead I want to focus on some actual things that will help me learn better habits which will result in weight loss.
   – Complete the Advocare 24-day challenge (Started 1/3)
   – Complete the T25 challenge (Started 1/2)
   – Follow WW online after the 24-day challenge is over
   – Stop putting everything before taking care of myself

Get in Front of the Camera
Because I am so unhappy with my appearance, I always find myself behind the camera recording Parker’s life, milestones and accomplishments. I am so disappointed in the lack of pictures I have with my baby boy. He is my whole life and I know I am his even though he can’t articulate that aside from his broke “I love you”, which is to die for I might add.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Looking over these I am excited for the new year and ready to take on some new challenges. As I am writing this Rob and I are on day 2 of the Advocare Cleanse and day 3 of T25. I am hungry, would kill for some french fries and am sore head to toe. At the same time, I am really proud of myself already and it’s only January 4th!

So what do you think? Too ambitious? What are some resolutions or goals you have for the 2014 year?

Baby Proofing Our Home

We started to baby proof the house when P started crawling around 11 1/2 months. Over the last few months we have let him explore freely, took notes, and then researched the best products to keep those trouble areas safe.

Our general philosophy is to let P explore and teach him along the way what he can and cannot touch. At the same time though, safety is our top priority. We also need to be confident in a safe play space for him when we have things to accomplish around the house. Not everything can wait until naptime or bedtime. Hey, some days I just want to be able to pee in peace without hearing, “upa upa upa”.

Here are some areas we focused on and the products we used.

Product Collage

 

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baby gate

We have three very different sets of stairs in our house which made it difficult to find one gate to fit each. We ended up needing to get a few different kinds to meet each need. It keeps P on his toes because the lock on each one is different.

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Since his play area is gated in with the North States Superyard Play Yard we didn’t need to worry about the bottom of the first set of stairs. Occasionally I will let him roam the first floor so I just open the play yard up so it blocks the stairs. I absolutely love this gate and it even made our Top 60 Products For The First Year list.

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North States Supergate Expandable Swing Gate

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This is one of my favorite gates. It keeps P confined to the family room where his play kitchen is. It’s a good change of scenery for him and he likes playing with it while I am cooking or cleaning. It also keeps him out of the kitchen and away from danger while we are cooking.

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Summer Infant Deluxe Top of Stairs Gate w/ Dual Banister Kit  |  Kidco Safeway Safety Gate

Since we had a banister/wall and banister/banister situation for the second set of stairs, we found two different gates. Both open completely and are out of the way when we are not using them. The bottom gets closed when P is playing in the family room. The top gets closed when I am doing things in the bedrooms and P is roaming the third floor.

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Safety First Lift Lock & Swing Gate

This gate/stairs lead up to my craft room. For some reason P really loves climbing this set of stairs so I am glad we went ahead and put a gate up. The pads on the left keep the gate from damaging our freshly painted walls. It also opens out of the way when we are not using it.

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Safety First Wooden Security Gate

I have to say, this gate is a real PITA to get up but it is super convenient for travel or to move around the house. We sometimes put it at the top of the first set of stairs when we let P roam the second floor. We just put a mark on the rigid part to indicate which bar it should be set for which location.

UPDATE: In February 2014 we learned the hard way that a tension gate should NEVER be used at the top of stairs. You can read more about Parker’s Boo Boo #1 here.

Secure Furniture

You can thank my genius husband for this next one. I know they make products that are specifically to secure furniture to the wall but you can buy a 10′ roll of Plastic Pipe Strap on Amazon for $5.24 (Prime).

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We have secured all bookcases and shelving units around the house. We have also secured P’s dresser and changing table in his nursery.

Head & Fingers

These are inevitable, especially with a boy (so I am told) so I decided to watch P closely to see what were our trouble areas. Turns out the bathtub spout and doors were HUGE read flags.

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Skip Hop Spout Bath Cover

P loves the bath and is pretty brave with moving, slipping and splashing around. He is fascinated with the spout and this has prevented several possible incidents. I also like how playful it is and looks pretty adorable on the spout.

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Safety 1st Door Slam Stopper

I will often let P roam the third floor while I tidy up, organize, put clothes away or get dressed. He loves moving from one room to another closing the door (and sometimes locking it). We have these beauties on every door and they are fantastic! When we want the door closed, we just place it on the door knob so they are always close at hand.

Cabinets & Drawers

Even though we don’t let P into the kitchen much, it does happen throughout the week so we wanted to cover our basis with the most important things. In the end, we proofed anything that had sharp or delicate items such as the Pyrex cabinet and cleaning supplies (more on that below).

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Dreambaby Safety Latches

We used a few of these in the kitchen for cabinets with sharp appliances or fragile items. We also used them under all the sinks where cleaning supplies are. I am about ready to also use them on my nightstand drawers because that is P’s favorite thing to get into. They are pretty easy to install and are pretty sturdy.

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Safety 1st Stove Knob Covers | Dream Baby Swivel Appliance Latch

To be honest, I wouldn’t have thought about the oven being a danger zone unless I had seen these items pop up when I searched baby proofing on Amazon. While P hasn’t shone much interest in the stove, he has gone over a few times and these prevented me from needing to rush over to stop him. The Safety 1st Stove Knob Covers are great to keep his hands off and still convenient enough that I am not bothered by them when I am cooking. I almost don’t even notice anymore.

I ended up purchasing the Dream Baby Swivel Appliance Latch on a whim. I hadn’t planned on getting something but it was inexpensive so I decided to go for it. Even though it only got 3 stars on Amazon, I am actually really impressed with it. It even held tight when I opened the oven by mistake with it still locked. P will come over the try to open and pretty much gives up when he feels some resistance. That may change as he gets older but for now, it is serving it’s purpose.

Outlet Covers

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Safety 1st Swivel Outlet Cover | Mommy’s Helper Safe Plate Electrical Outlet Covers Standard

Since we painted the inside of our house and changed out all of the outlet and switch covers, I figured we might as well go ahead and replace them all with child proof ones. We ended up getting two different kinds. The Safety 1st Swivel Outlet Cover  is harder for P to figure out with a swivel motion. The downfall is that large plugs won’t fit with the indented outlet. We primarily used these in high traffic areas, especially in locations like P’s playroom where he is unsupervised from time to time. The Mommy’s Helper Safe Plate Electrical Outlet Covers Standard is a little easier to maneuver with a left and right motion. These outlets are flat and will work with any type of plug so we used them in areas where we plug things in more often. We didn’t intend originally to have two different kids but I am really glad it worked out that way!This is probably one of the areas I was most concerned about. I have read so many scary stories of kids dying from ingesting cleaning products and dishwasher pods. I wanted to find cleaning products that were effective but wouldn’t pose a life threatening situation if ingested. Believe it or not, I found them.

Cleaning Products

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I did a mini-series over at My Crafting Attic back in April about Spring Cleaning. I shared recipes I had found for a window and all purpose cleaner made from a few simple ingredients. I also shared a very simple recipe for garbage disposal pods. I love making my own cleaning agents because I know 100% what they are made up of. Most importantly, if ingested, the ingredients would pose no permanent or life threatening harm.

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We certainly don’t have everything covered in our home and are learning more everyday. For the time being what we have done seems to be working but it will continue to evolve as P gets older and our family expands. My biggest piece of advice is to read reviews but don’t be afraid to try something. What didn’t work for one family maybe the perfect fit for yours. I also think it helped a ton to sit back and watch P for a little while to help identify danger zones. There were some we hadn’t even though of that he picked out. There were also areas we thought would be trouble and P has shown no interest in them!

What have been your favorite baby proofing products? What advice would you give new parents who are starting the baby proofing process?