Attempting minimalism with a toddler

the majority of our toys and books

the majority of our toys and books

My husband and I try to be minimalistic with our possessions, but it’s been a challenge to keep that up once we had a baby! Now that Jack is 16 months old and a toddler, I wanted to update how we’re doing. You can see a post about minimalism with a baby here or about our minimalist baby registry here.

Diapers: we are still cloth diapering which saves tons of money and decreases our daily trash by a huge amount! We love it, and while we had ammonia issues now that Jack is peeing more, the poop is also SUPER easy to clean now that it’s solid- you just plop it into the toilet (or since we do EC Jack poops in the potty most of the time which is even easier).

Food: we do baby led weaning which minimizes the need to buy special baby purees or machines to make purees (although we already had an immersion blender). Jack eats what we eat, or we buy snacks from the dried foods or cereal section of Whole foods (like unsweetened organic corn puffs). We did buy a few stainless steel espresso spoons for Jack and these thick glass shot glasses he can drink from that are hard to break. We’re skipping sippy cups since dentists don’t recommend them, and just use a water bottle on the road.

Clothes: I try to buy as much gender neutral organic clothing as I can so we can hopefully use it for another child down the line. We do laundry about every 5 days, so we try to buy only the amount of clothes we need to last us that long. Jack has a few gender neutral shoes as well.

Toys: I have a secret: Jack prefers to play with things that aren’t even children’s toys ;) We have a few nice wooden toys for him, and my dad has a bunch at his house which they bought. Jack spends a lot of time playing with our pots and pans, kitchen paraphernalia,  putting things inside bowls or ceramic vases, pushing our ottoman around, or playing with our dog’s (nontoxic) balls. I think we have never bought him a toy ourselves, but it’s harder to get relatives not to buy him toys and instead give him clothes or donate to his college fund. We go to the park or library playroom at least once a day, so Jack gets to play with different things there too.

Books: We have a handful of board books, most that were from my childhood and are in different languages so they can’t be found at the library. Once he gets a little older we plan to get most books from the library instead of buying them. (For my husband and I, we almost always buy ebooks now).

Sleeping: We still have our crib sidecared, and in the future may buy some kind of natural full size mattress for a floor bed. We use my old cell phone as a while noise player.

Transportation: We have a convertible car seat in each of our cars, and my dad has one also. I’m storing our Orbit nontoxic infant seat to hopefully use with another baby. We still use the City Mini stroller sometimes, but only maybe once a week.  I use baby carriers multiple times a day though! I love my Toddler Tula and Bamberoo, and also use my ring sling for quick trips to the library (love the pocket which works as a purse). I put Jack high on my back in a woven wrap while I vacuum so he can see what’s going on.

Bath: Jack has showered with me since day one, or sometimes if he just has food on him I’ll do a rinse in the sink. We rarely use soap on him, and put coconut oil to prevent diaper rash and dry skin. He uses our organic towels, we don’t have any special baby bath things. For bath toys we have some bowls and a ball or two that rotate as bath toys.

Babyproofing: we bought some cheap light switch covers and a few string things to keep drawers closed, but other than that we don’t babyprrof most things and instead watch Jack and teach him to “be gentle” with the low-hanging art, or “let’s not touch the toilet water, it’s wet” etc. It’s been working well so far, but we’ll see if we need to change the plan as he ages.

Things we skipped buying: baby gates, baby monitors (we cosleep), a play yard, baby bath tub and bath products, and baby swing.

Boiling cloth diapers to get rid of ammonia

Help! Ammonia in my diapers!

Help! Ammonia in my diapers!

We’ve been having ammonia issues for months now, and I’ve tried Rockin Green detergent, their ammonia special detergent, and Eco Sprout detergent (based on recommendations of natural detergents from friends).

I used to just wash the diapers on one cycle, and I started doing two cycles (one hot, one cold/warm) and a soak beforehand.

But our diapers still smelled SUPER bad after they got pee in them, and the overnight diaper would be scary!

Thank goodness Jack never got ammonia burn, but the idea of that scared me which is why I kept trying different things.

I finally tried boiling diapers over the stove for 15 minutes, and it finally worked!

I boiled them for 15 minutes and then washed them as usual, and they didn’t smell like anything after they got peed on. Thank goodness!

The process was time consuming because I don’t have a huge pot so I couldn’t do too many at one time, but it’s worth it to take care of the problem, and probably only needs to be done once every few months I hope.

 

I’ll continue my usual routine with boiling occasionally (we live in an apartment with paid laundry which is why I don’t do extra rinses and stuff)

  1. Wash on hot with Rockin Green ammonia detergent (open the lid to let the diapers soak for 30-60 minutes when the water is full)
  2. Wash on warm with Eco Sprout detergent with other clothes and things added in, so we can still get out other laundry done without the process taking a whole day
  3. Dry prefolds in the dryer, and hang the covers/pockets with PUL to dry

Review of Soft Star nontoxic children’s shoes

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Note: I didn’t get paid for doing this review, it’s just based on my own experiences

I spent a ton of time looking up companies that make kids shoes that are nontoxic and this one which makes shoes in Oregon is one of the best. I’ve ordered Jack two pairs of these adorable shoes from Soft Star shoes which are nontoxic leather without formaldehyde. I love how eco friendly the company is. Not only is their leather safely processed, but when I emailed them for more information about it they said:

 Our leather is a by-product of the meat industry but we take every effort to use all of the leather (scraps for craft projects, schools, etc). We have a philosophy to  “walk lightly” on the earth and we do everything in our shop to do that.

I debated getting vegan shoes, but they are basically made from petroleum which is not eco friendly or safe for children.

Here are some pros and cons:

Pros:

  • They look like old fashioned adorable moccasins
  • The laces make them adjustable (more than shoes with elastic which didn’t fit Jack well)
  • They are pretty weather safe for rainy days
  • The company has many options such as sandals, shoes with elastic or velcro, and boots
  • You can choose from a large array of colors
  • They are hand made in the USA
  • The company makes shoes for babies through adults

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Cons:

  • The laces take longer to tie up than shoes with velcro or elastic
  • They are a little pricey (this version is $30, but others are $40+)
  • For Jack, the shoes were too easy to pull off, so I punched some extra holes and fixed the problem, but I’m sure that depends on the baby (Jack has pretty chubby ankles so things slide off his feet easily)
  • The soles are flexible but not as flexible as 100% leather shoes, so I think these are best for children, not 1st shoes for babies. The company makes other all leather moccasins that have elastic closure that would be better for babies because they are super flexible, although maybe less weather resistant.
  • softer soled moccasins from soft star

 

Nontoxic children’s balls

Jack with the crocodile creek ball

Jack with the crocodile creek ball

Jack (16 months old) is obsessed with balls, so much so that “ball” is by far his most used word. I of course wanted to find a natural and nontxic ball for him to play with, so I looked into a bunch of different options.

We have a dog that tries to steal and eventually chew up the balls, so I thought of getting Jack some wool dryer balls that are all natural, but I didn’t because of the dog. These for example are even organic, and I bet they would be great for babies since they are soft. You can even make your own at home apparently.

organic wool balls

These natural rubber balls also looked great, but I was worried that they would be too small so the dog could fit them in his mouth

natural rubber balls

There are also some plush organic balls like these, and I’m sure they would be great for babies.

organic ball

What we ended up deciding on was these rubber balls from Crocodile Creek which are made of natural and synthetic rubber because they are the most natural large non-plush ball I could find. I emailed the manufacturer and they sent me information showing that their balls tested free of any heavy metals. It would be better if they were all natural rubber of course, but this seems to be the best option if you are looking for a large ball that bounces. We’ve taken it outside and Jack had a great time bouncing it around. I especially like the world design because it seems educational! We got the 7 inch one which works well for Jack at 16 months.

crocodile creek ball

The other option we use often is letting Jack play with ball-shaped citrus fruits!

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Amazon store is open

I’ve been working on it for a little while, and I finally have my amazon store up and running!

It has links to my favorite baby clothes, gear, toys, and cloth diapers. It’s all the same price as normal amazon but I get a small percentage.

Amazon Store

Thanks for your support and let me know if there are any other categories you think I should add!

-Thais

Easy vegan “sushi” snack

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I’ve been trying to eat more seaweed lately because it’s a vegan source of Omega-3s which are great for your health. Before I had a baby I would buy sheets of nori and roll real sushi with cut up veggies, but that is too time consuming for me to do now since Jack is always running around getting into things. The quick alternative I came up with which tasted great was wrapping some leftover vegetable fried rice in roasted seaweed sheets. It’s really quick and easy to just reheat the rice and put a spoonful in a sheet of seaweed and not have to worry about rolling it perfectly or sealing it closed. They don’t look as nice, but they taste great and are healthy!

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these are the seaweed snack sheets I used

Delicious dairy-free creamy stew (can be vegan!)

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This Brazilian stew has a potato and coconut milk base, so it tastes creamy and amazing! I made it with shrimp since I eat seafood, but you could use mushrooms to make it vegan.

Ingredients:

1 medium potato

2 red bell peppers, chopped

1 bunch of parsley, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 bag of frozen shrimp

1 can of full fat coconut milk

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

Dried basil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons of palm oil, or olive oil

 

Directions:

Cook a medium size potato until very soft. Smash it or blend it in a food processor with a little  coconut milk and salt and set aside. Fry onion and garlic in olive oil. Add parsley and dried basil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and red pepper. Add the  shrimp (I put them under water to defrost first). Add palm oil. Let this cook a little and add the coconut milk. Add the soft potato and let everything cook together .

Serve over rice. I used frozen organic rice because it’s so easy to make.

This tastes even better the next day! It’s also flexible- you can add tomatoes (I just didn’t because Jack is allergic), or other vegetables

Even Jack liked it, and he doesn’t like a lot of food!

Transitioning away from sleeping in a carrier

 

asleep in a woven wrap

asleep in a woven wrap

 

Since he was born Jack has been falling asleep for naps and bedtime in a baby carrier probably 90% of the time. I did it because it was easier to get him to sleep and stay asleep, and I enjoyed walking around with him because I could look at my kindle to pass the time or talk on the phone.

At 15 months, my husband had been wanting to transition him to falling asleep in bed, so my mom was visiting for a week and agreed to help me. I had tried several months ago but it took Jack hours to sleep and was too stressful for me to stick with it. This time though, I think he was developmentally ready and it was so much easier!

Our plan was to do our night time routine (book, diaper change, nurse in bed), play a lullaby on repeat in our room (he sleeps with us in a sidecared crib), keep the room dark, and not let him off the bed. If he cried I would hug him or breastfeed him but not let him leave the bed or carry him. I think this method is similar to the “crying in arms” technique. There is no way I would feel comfortable leaving my baby alone to cry, and even a few months ago I felt really upset about not picking him up if that’s what he wanted.

The first night we let him get really tired and put him to bed at 10pm. He was overtired and cried for a few minutes and then nursed. He alternated crying, nursing, and crawling around in the crib for about 45 minutes before he fell asleep. It was way better than the last time I tried which involved 2 hours of lots of crying (all with me hugging him). The next day we did bed time at 9 and it took about 30 minutes with just a little crying, and the days after that have been just a little crying and then nursing for 20-30 minutes. I’m glad Jack can go to bed without needing to be walked around now, and especially that it felt like he was ready for the change. The next step will be trying to get him to wake up less at night to nurse, but I’m worried that will be really hard!

Update at 15 months

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Jack is 15 months old now, and just within the past week started walking all the time. It’s really mind-boggling and amazing to watch a baby learn a whole new skill like that. It took several weeks of him walking a step here and there before it just seemed to click one day. It was probably the how to walk DVDs we play him… just kidding!

For several weeks now Jack has been switching off and on between mostly 2 naps a day but sometimes just 1. He’s always tired for his morning nap 2-3 hours after waking up, but sometimes he just doesn’t fall asleep for the afternoon one. Then we have a tricky situation where he gets exhausted by an early time like 5pm and I don’t know whether to let him sleep or not. The other day he took a 10 minute nap after breastfeeding at 5, but then stayed awake until 9pm! So I think from now on I’ll try to keep any really late naps to 5 minutes and see how it goes.

Today for example Jack woke up at 7am and napped from 10-11:30. I tried to get him to nap again between 2:45-3:15 and he wouldn’t fall asleep while I walked him around in the carrier, so we skipped the afternoon nap. I took him to the park at 5 to keep him busy and now he’s passed out after breastfeeding at 6:30. Hopefully he’ll stay asleep all night!

Jack’s also been crying more lately and putting his fingers in his mouth so I think he’s getting a canine tooth. We always have a hard time deciding about giving tylenol (all the chemicals and possible side effects vs. don’t want our child to be in pain or never sleep) so I’ve been trying to limit it to once a night. The ingredients list is frightening though- I don’t know why medicine for children needs artificial colors and flavors…

Jack has also started (finally!) eating some more solids, but still not a lot compared to other kids. The things he likes are either puff type textures like cheerio-type things or these baked pea snacks, or mushy stuff in a spoon like egg salad and refried beans. I need to think of some more things to offer him though, maybe that will help him sleep more…

Chemicals found in baby cord blood

This study is a few years old, but I thought it was pretty interesting and appalling. The link has a summary of findings and link to a video which is pretty interesting.

They took umbilical cord blood from babies and found an average of 287 toxins and chemical pollutants per baby, many of which were carcinogens or endocrine disruptions. Many were also banned 30 years ago.

It’s a good reminder to be careful what products you buy for your body, home, and what food you eat.

Women especially are exposed to an average of 168 chemicals when using an average of twelve personal care products each day (men use about half that).

It can feel intimidating when so many things around us are toxic, but this motivates me to make more of an effort to buy organic foods (or cook at home if I can’t find pre-made organic things), limit Jack’s time with plastic toys, vacuum often to get rid of flame retardants in the dust at home, and keep breastfeeding to ensure Jack has a healthy immune system!

Luckily Jack is just as  happy playing with pesticide-free lemons as with plastic balls

Luckily Jack is just as happy playing with pesticide-free lemons as with plastic balls