Monday, September 11, 2006

My Articles

Published in the Fall September 2008 - Online publication AllEars.net Newsletter by Laura Schmitt
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FEATURE ARTICLE

We Were Not Disney People... But We Are Now!

(How Catering to Our Special Diets Won Us Over)

by Laura Schmitt

AllEars(R) Guest Columnist

We were not Disney people. Far from it, in fact. When Eric and I started dating 15 years ago, we considered ourselves a bit individualistic. We watched foreign films, ate ethnic food, listened to music you'd never hear on a radio and so on. With all our might, we ducked and weaved away from the flow of mainstream. When we became parents, we used cloth diapers, I nursed our babies. Heck, I made their baby food, sewed their dresses (OK, only some of them) and we made their toys! Notice a trend here? So how did we end up in Walt Disney World? When did the first addictive bite begin? It all started with a little grain called gluten... let me explain.

As our girls reached the ages of 3 and 6, I began talking to Eric about a family vacation. A BIG one. One that didn't involve us sleeping upstairs from my parents or his. Hmm... this was going to take some planning. I began researching places and we had two BIG criteria to meet.

First, it had to be a place we could drive or fly to affordably. We are smack dab in the center of the country and I was not about to spend $2000 to get to our destination! Chicago and St Louis were both in driving distance, but boy -- wouldn't it be nice to go to a beach? I started looking and wouldn't you know that flights to Orlando, Florida, were cheap. Very cheap! We're talking a fraction of the cost of flying anywhere else in the country! Hmm... maybe the airline was trying to tell us something? Hey! Isn't DISNEY WORLD in Orlando? My husband protested, "We are NOT going to Disney World when Bella is only 3. She is too young. She'll be overwhelmed, overtired, over cranky... over it. No."

OK, but I did say there were TWO big criteria to meet. While cost of travel is big, it doesn't hold a candle to number two. Taylor (our first-born) can't eat gluten or dairy. If you don't know what that means, let me tell you this -- it means she can't eat what everyone else is eating, ever. She ALWAYS has to have her own special homemade foods because everything under the sun has gluten or dairy in it. And to add to that, Mama can't eat it either. If we went to a vacation and got gluten or dairy in our food, we may as well just toss our vacation money into the toilet, because that is the place we'll be focusing on as we spend hours sick. Nope, we can't eat that stuff, and that means we are limited on where we CAN eat. Very limited. As any dedicated organizing mom would do, I started searching. Where, oh where, can a gluten-free, dairy-free family go for vacation? I found two places. A ranch in Wyoming and -- what is this? DISNEY WORLD!

Apparently Disney speaks our language when it comes to food. I began to find report after report of others who enjoyed gluten-free, dairy-free meals all over the World. I nearly fainted when I read that not only could they deal with the meals, but they also had gluten-free, dairy-free breads and desserts around every corner! SOLD! Hot dog, I was going to be free of cooking for five whole days! No homemade rice flour, nut flour pancake making, no gluten-free bread making, no sauteing or baking. I was going to step away from the kitchen and not look back. It was as if something had just gifted me with the dream vacation of a lifetime. But wait -- I could remember hearing the voice of my husband in the back of my joy. What was it he was saying? No Disney? Not Disney? Now Disney? Yes, that was it! He must have said NOW! Book that Disney vacation pronto! Of course that is what he meant. So, off I went to find a resort.

I approached Eric in the evening when the girls were in bed. I came armed with my information on where to stay and when. I told him in my sweetest voice that while I respected his decision to wait until Bella was 5 years old to go to Disney World, my hands were tied. It was the only place we could go where I didn't need to bring a kitchen along with me. And furthermore, Bella would be turning 4 that same month so she would be ALMOST 5, and that is when he said we could go, so it really is about, almost, exactly what he wanted!

He started to protest a bit, I recall, and he repeated his concerns about Bella being too young. But I started showing him pictures of the resort and details of the low allergen foods and a recap of the discounts! My joy was just beaming from within. He was quickly convinced. While Eric doesn't like crowds, he loves his family of women, and he thought that Animal Kingdom Lodge was looking pretty cool. So we were officially booked!

Getting food figured out was as EASY as a gluten-free pudding pie! I just emailed the Executive Chef department of Magic Kingdom and they sent me an email attachment that I treasure as a piece of Disney Magic right in my very own inbox. It was a listing of where and what we could eat that was gluten-free and dairy-free in the World. Wow. It listed restaurants that could easily accommodate us and spots for finding snacks. Oh, how I loved that happy email attachment. Life was looking fine! Now all we had to do was wait a few weeks and we would be on our way.

While we were dining in Disney World, the chefs came to our table at the start of every meal. We found that there were plenty of gluten-free, dairy-free choices and we were feasting like kings and queens. Often, the chefs seemed to enjoy our food restrictions as a fun challenge to mix it up a bit. Maybe cooking the same ol' steak night after night gets boring? Who knows, but everywhere we went, the chefs always made us feel incredibly special and well taken care of.

In the mornings, we headed down to our hotel quick service restaurant, called Mara, for breakfast. I would start by going up to the counter to let them know that we'd need gluten-free dairy-free breakfast. This was the cue for the chef to come out and greet us. Now, I always feel badly about this. I KNOW they are busy back there in the kitchen and I KNOW they really don't love to just up and drop everything to come talk to me, but you would never know it for how nice the chefs are at Disney World. And let me tell you something -- Chef Eddie at Mara was no exception! He brought my daughter gluten-free, dairy-free waffles and he made me dairy-free eggs with fruit. Not only did he hook us up, but he came out to check on Taylor, he asked her if she liked her food, complimented her on her cool endangered animal t-shirt and found out if she was available to date one of his sons in the future.

I liked Chef Eddie. I like people who treat my family so special. I like it when my little girl doesn't have to be the only one left out of things at social events involving food. I liked that she got some extra positive attention in Disney World. And I liked that everyone in my family was happy. What's not to like? (And did I mention I liked the vacation from my kitchen duties? Oh yeah. That was a BIG bonus!)

One of our dinners was a character meal at a place called Liberty Tree Tavern. Now, we come from Iowa, where a good meal consists of lots of meat, potatoes, corn, butter, and probably some sort of pie or cake. We are farm food kind of people, even with our love of ethnic foods. Some things you just can't change. Give me a Thanksgiving dinner and I'm a happy girl. I told our server about our food allergies and a chef came out promptly.

They brought us a ton of gluten-free, dairy-free food. We had ham, turkey, potatoes, gravy made with rice flour, buns, you name it! It was like Thanksgiving on steroids! I was in my childhood joy with a feast before me that was so yummy and nostalgic. Taylor was so easy to feed here, as there were so many gluten-free, dairy-free options to be had! She paused from her eating to say, "Mama, they sure have a lot of gluten-free bread in Florida!"

It was at this meal that we were celebrating Bella's 4 (almost exactly 5) year-old birthday! I asked, with all the hope I could muster in my voice, if they had a cupcake for Bella and a -- gulp -- gluten-free, dairy-free dessert for my other daughter.

Did they ever. I could kiss every person in that place! They brought Bella a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles. She LOVED it with all her might. Chocolate is her favorite, of course. Here was our little Bella. Turning 4 in Disney World. How could we EVER top that? We were so happy that we could give her that moment. That memory. Pluto clapping as her birthday song was sung -- chocolate cake, sprinkles, Mom, Dad, big sister, and Bella in her finest princess style sporting her extremely large birthday button. Her face was pressed back in such a determined smile that new dimples were established on her cheeks that very night. She was so beautiful, perfect, and happy in that moment.

And as if a mama needs more than that to fill her cup of joy -- well, as if I needed or could even withstand any more happiness -- out comes the chef with a gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate brownie in the shape of a little Bundt pan. It was served warm with one large scoop of Vanilla Rice Dream on top.

Perfect. I love those people and those mice, and the dogs, and that Goofy -- all of it. Taylor was so happy to NOT be left out of Bella's birthday dessert. Really, so happy. Taylor is always left out of what the other kids have for desserts. Of course I send her desserts, but hers are always different and not the same. Well, this time she felt that hers was even BETTER! She was so enjoying herself. We all were. I hated for that dinner to end.

With as much fun, joy, and inclusion as we had during our five days at Disney, it was a no-brainer that we'd be going back again. We've been twice since 2007 with another trip planned in 2008! I'm sure it will be our family staple for vacations for years to come. I would like to say we're there because of the rides, the castle, the characters. I'd like to say it is purely for my children. True, the joy that beams from their faces is worth its weight in gold. But how could I be honest without mentioning that Disney World is the ONLY break I get from my kitchen all year long? And what a break it is! We dine like royalty. We are never without a thing when we are in Disney World and my daughter is always included in all aspects of our family vacation. I am so thankful the chefs are capable and willing to handle our allergies and I dare to hope that other restaurants, maybe even here in Iowa, will pick up on Disney's approach to dealing with allergies.

So, we started off in January 2007, skeptical about Disney, but ready to eat some good gluten-free and dairy-free food. Little did we know that we had bitten into a newfound travel addiction that would stretch our imaginations almost as much as it would stretch our budget! What's in store for our family in 2008, 2009? More Disney.

You can bet I'll be back to tell you! We are officially Disney people, now, and there's no stopping us. We have to feed our addiction with small bits of magic, pixie dust, and the occasional overwhelming heaping of joy. You know the kind. The kind that melts tall strong fathers and brings them to a pile of mush... the kind that brings families and friends together... the kind that makes new dimples appear on little cheeks from excessive smiling... the kind that warms my heart and brings a mist to my eyes whenever I think about it. Yeah, we are gonna need more of that kind of magic.


Published in the Spring April/May 2008 issue of Living Without Magazine by Laura Schmitt
Article on Honey as a substitute for sugar with recipes! I don't have the online version, but you can backorder the issue or email me for recipes :)

As published in the Fall 2005 issue of Living Without Magazine by Laura Schmitt

My daughter was a healthy, 9-pound baby when she was born. As she grew older, she developed a plethora of bizarre rashes, had dry skin and frequently suffered from diarrhea. The doctors told us she was fine, and we tried not to worry.

When she was about 17 months and eating normal foods, the diarrhea worsened. I distinctly remember a 7-hour ride when we had to stop many times throughout the trip to wash her and the car seat. Some days, she had up to 15 stools a day. Bathing her every 30 minutes and seeing food come out the way it went in - I knew this wasn't normal.

In addition to the diarrhea, she began exhibiting several autistic traits, which included not wanting to be touched, not making eye contact and not liking to play with other children. Sometimes she would get into a trance-like state, not responding when she was spoken to. There were phases when she would chew and ingest inedible objects. She ate paper from books, gnawed through her clothing, tore apart toys and attempted to eat the plastic. She chewed on anything she could fit into her mouth.

She would sit and play with her toy figures, lining them up precisely in the same direction. Then she would do it again, moving them slightly. She would do this daily for up to two hours straight.

When she was barely one, she could put together advanced 3D and jigsaw puzzles with an ability that astounded most adults. In addition, she knew her letters and numbers by age two and would recite what she saw on buildings and in books. We read to her daily and just thought she was very bright. I was quiet as a child and I thought her antisocial behavior was just shyness.

I could explain away some of these behaviors, but the one I could not justify - and which upset me most -- was her playing with fecal matter. With chronic diarrhea, she had ample material available. I tried every possible approach to get her to stop but I could not get through to her on this. We consulted a range of healthcare professionals but no one could provide an answer to this ongoing problem.

I took dairy out of her diet, then soy. Eventually, I cut out all juice. These changes seemed to help a little bit, but nothing cured the odd behaviors. By this time, the doctor who specialized in learning disorders diagnosed our daughter as autistic.

I turned to the Internet for information and clues. Everything I found seemed to point to autism. That's when I stumbled across the autism diet of no gluten or dairy. It sounded crazy and impossible, but trust me, I was beyond desperate.

We took all gluten out of her diet and for the first time - to our great joy -- her diarrhea stopped. After two months, we re-introduced the gluten and she began getting sick again and the fecal play started up. We returned to the diet and more, removing dairy, soy and other common food allergens, such as corn and egg, based on a blood analysis conducted by ImmunoLab. Our daughter transformed. Within weeks, she became more social, her eye contact improved, her sensory issues lessened and many disappeared. Her desire to line up objects vanished. Her puzzle-working skills were left behind for regular kid-type play. She began interacting with other children. She was finally potty trained (except nights). She started hugging her grandparents and seemed much happier. It breaks my heart that it took me 3½ long years to get her to this point.

As she stayed on the diet, she continued to improve -- but she still had weekly attacks of mild diarrhea and some random spurts of autistic behaviors. It was at this point, when she was 4 years old and had just been through 2 months of full body petechia rashing, that we implemented aspects of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD),* making significant dietary changes. This final push, in combination with the gluten-free diet, made a huge difference. I basically got my daughter back.

We stuck with the SCD changes for six weeks, at which point we slowly began reintroducing the foods that had previously bothered her, with the exception of gluten and dairy. She now eats a healthy balance of pasture-fed meats, organic fruits, veggies, nuts and gluten-free grains. It has now been over 6 months without any significant problems with the exception of two accidental occurrences of gluten in foods that quickly made her ill.

My daughter has lost her autistic traits because of dietary intervention. I realize that this is not the case for many autistic children and I do not want to imply that children can be cured of autism simply through diet. I don't believe that my daughter was truly autistic. What I believe is that gluten is like a poison to her and causes her to act as if she is autistic.

I've struggled with the decision to share our story because I do not want to raise false hope for any parents. In addition, I've been concerned about compromising my daughter's privacy. But as a mother who reached out to every possible medical establishment for help and received none, I know I would have been overjoyed to learn that I was not alone and that there were some things that parents could try. I'm sharing all this now in hopes it might possibly help another mom and child.

Going gluten free saved my daughter from ongoing pain and illness. It was the smartest thing I've ever done for my child and I count my blessings daily.

For more about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, see "A Different Kind of Carbohydrate Diet," Living Without, Winter 2005. Also, check out Breaking the Vicious Cycle. My favorite cookbook and cooking reference has been The Garden of Eating Diet


As published July 2006 in Mothering Magazine "Thinking outside the box". by Laura Schmitt

The chart below works well for our family, but you will have to read product labels and customize the chart to meet your family's specific allergen needs. Never buy a premade product without first verifying that it is safe for you to eat. And keep checking the labels--products can be modified to include ingredients not previously listed. If you have a severe allergy, it is always wise to also verify the packaging process of any product. This will involve contacting the company via telephone and speaking with them directly to ensure that the product is safe for you to eat. Some companies will state on labels that while a product is otherwise free of peanuts, dairy, gluten, or other allergens, it was made using the same processing lines as products containing those allergens--and not all allergens will be listed on the package. To ensure safety, it is best to research and read labels regularly and consistently.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Here are companies that produce some allergen-free foods.

Breads from Anna

BumbleBars: gluten-free bars

Ener-G Foods: gluten-free pretzels, brownies

Enjoy Life Foods: gluten-, dairy-, and peanut-free sandwich bread, snack bars

EnviroKidz: snack bars (read label to check for cornstarch and dairy);

vanilla animal cookies (gluten and dairy-free)

Gak's Snacks: cookies, cake mixes

The Gluten Free Pantry: gluten-free cake mixes

Kinnikinnick Foods: gluten-free cake mixes

Larabars: made of dried fruits, dates, nuts

Lundberg: gluten free rice cakes

Namaste: gluten-free cake mixes

Pamela's Products: cake mixes and cookies, mainly gluten-free,

some containing dairy

Shelton's: gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free hot dogs

www.eatwild.com: pasture-raised beef

Published with 6 recipes (see glutenanddairyfree.com or back issue of Living Without magazine for those recipes) By Laura Schmitt
Low Allergen Lunches that Travel


“Is it Free Mommy? Can I eat it?” My four year old asks as she looks at any new food. Price is not the issue being questioned. What she wants to know is this: is this new and ever tempting food free of gluten, dairy, and soy? Can she enjoy it or is it just another appealing item that gets packaged in the brightly colored pile of unsafe foods that all the children in the world seem to live off of…except her.

If your child suffers from food allergies or intolerances, then you know how challenging it can be to not only provide healthful meals, but also to give the comfort of being a part of all that food encompasses in our society. With a little forethought, there is no reason to be left out. What you’ll find here is an answer to traveling lunches for the food intolerant child in your life. Not only will you be able to provide healthy meals, but with this well planned selection you can keep it fresh, rotating, and perhaps more importantly…appetizing for little ones!

When the world of food eliminations poured onto our family, I was newly frantic in the hopeless feeling that it couldn’t possibly work. What could we eat? Would we starve? How could life go on without all those comforting foods I had grown so dependant on? A shift in my mindset came when a friend told me that while my child had food allergies, food allergies did not have my child. She was right! My daughter is able to participate in any event and food does not change our course of life. We just pack a different bag for the ride.

Picking a bag: When you are choosing a lunch bag, think about the types of foods you’ll be sending and try to acquire all the reusable storage containers you will need at the time of purchase to ensure proper fit. Be certain you are buying lead free bags if you opt for Vinyl. Tin, plastic, paper, PUL, cloth, bento boxes, baskets…the options are out there to fit the personality of each and every child, so make sure you found one that works well for your family, and hopefully one that your child enjoys!
Two sources for more eco friendly lunch bags are
www.reusablebags.com
www.joysearthlygoods.com

Filling the bag: Not only is the outside packaging appealing, but when your child opens their lunch they will be taken in by rich colors and a variety of choice flavors. Spend a little, or a lot of time decorating and arranging the foods to be fun for your children. You can get creative by turning fruits and vegetables into animals or letters to get a giggle out of your sweet. Use their favorite flavors to twist an old idea.

How it works: For each packed lunch, try to include one “Main” item as well as one “Fruit” and one “Vegetable”. “Sides” may trade places with “Vegetables” at times. Make sure your child is getting a good variety of nutritional foods on their special diet. If you are uncertain about the nutritional content of your child's meals, bring your food lists to a nutritionist, pediatrician, or dietician to help you with the process.
Look for thermal lunchboxes or bags that are lead free and contain options for heating or cooling storage areas within! These lively lunchboxes are sure to please.

Below you will find our lunch box travel plan. It is ideal for a diet free of gluten, dairy, soy, and tomato. Substitutions for corn, egg and sugar are well tolerated. For those with nut allergies, you will have to adapt the choices to exclude those listed with nut butters. Food intolerance is a growing occurrence, and while this chart does not account for all food intolerances, we have grabbed onto some of the major offenders in order to help make it easier for you! We do not offer options specifically geared toward a vegetarian diet, as our particular food restrictions prevent us from eating many beans in addition to soy, gluten, and dairy. We find organic pasture raised meats and ocean raised salmon to be important additions to our diet, however, vegetarians can still take many ideas from this and incorporate them with their own “Main” items. Bon appetite!

As submitted to Disney Passporter for Special Needs winter 2007 - a portion of this will be printed in the new book as a tip.
Tips, by Laura Schmitt.


My daughter is on a very strict gluten free, dairy free diet (as are many children with autism, Celiac Disease, or other common intolerances). To plan out our meals in the park, I ordered the free Disney maps from the DisneyWorld website. While I was waiting for the maps to arrive, I emailed the helpful people at the Magic Kingdom with this email address for special dietary concerns wdwmkspecialdiets@email.disney.com

The reply I got came with a listing of the foods we could eat that were certified GF/CF throughout the main parks and resorts. This gave me names of restaurants, samples of foods, ideas for snacks on main street and other great tips. I complied my listing of what we can eat and I took that information back to my maps. Now, any parent of a young child or a child on the spectrum will know that waiting for anything, especially food when a child becomes hungry, is not fun.

I put gold stickers on the different food vendors around the park and I labeled them A, B, C, D etc. Below, I made a key that corresponded with the stickers. For example, one read “A: Pecos Bills Gf/Cf burger, bun, carrots, water.” “B Cosmic Rays Gf/Cf rotisserie chicken” “C: Liberty Tavern Gf/Cf turkey, ham, green beans, brownie, rice dream, potatoes, rolls”. I did this for every eatery in the park, and next to the description of what we could order at each establishment, I included the approximate price for our family to eat there. This was incredibly valuable when someone was suddenly hungry and our plan was to eat lunch at a point on the opposite end of the park. We were able to consult the map, and find a spot nearby where we could easily order safe food. This also sped up the process for us, as we already knew what we wanted when we arrived.

When sitting down at a restaurant (Table Service) we would ask for the Chef and the Chef always came out promptly. We then let the Chef know what our allergy was and also we told them what foods we were interested in ordering. This saved the Chef from going through every possible option, as we had already researched and we knew what would be easy and tasty. We would also order our dessert from the Chef at the beginning of the meal to allow the Chef time to prepare the Gf/Cf dessert item.
Additionally, I planned out our days and made Table Service reservations. This was very smart. At first, I hesitated to go this route because I didn’t know what we’d be doing and when, but it only took one counter service meal at noon for me to realize the importance of Table Service reservations for children on the spectrum (and any overwhelmed and tired child). Waiting in line for a meal was too stressful for everyone involved. The reservations allowed us to go and sit down quite promptly. Our children were not bothered by the noise and sensory input of the character meals, and we found them to be a wonderful break while we ate our meals. While the girls did not care to interact with the characters, they truly enjoyed seeing them while they munched happily on their low allergen meals.

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Crazy For Cloth: The Benefits Of Cloth DiapersBy Laura Schmitt
Issue 116, Jan/Feb 2003

"I wish I could just wrap myself in the softness of my child's diapers!" That's something you've never heard a parent say-unless that parent uses cloth diapers for the child.

Shortly after my first baby was conceived, I became obsessed with finding the best cloth diaper for my money. I no longer concerned myself with events of the day. My prenatal yoga tapes gathered dust as I scrolled through endless websites, absorbing every bit of data ever posted about cloth diapers. I became fascinated with prefolds, fitteds, covers, wraps-you name it. I was committed to uncovering the facts-and now I'm laying them out for you.

Cloth diapers come in two standard systems: diapers with separate waterproof covers; and all-in-one diapers, with the waterproof cover sewn on. Diapers have two variables: fabric and style.

What's Your Fabric?
If you opt for a diaper and separate cover, the diaper will not be waterproof, and its main absorbent fabric will be cotton or hemp. It's best to avoid diapers that blend in polyester or other synthetic fabrics, as they repel water and therefore do not absorb as well as a 100 percent natural-fiber diaper.

An unbleached diaper is one that has never been through the harsh bleach process, so the fibers are in their natural state. This prolongs the life of the diaper, and some will argue that it makes it even softer. Many moms opt to purchase diapers of organic cotton, like those made by Under the Nile, FuzBaby, or Oskri, which have not been treated with pesticides and chemicals in the growth process. Unbleached, organic Egyptian cotton unfolds like a cloud against the baby's bum. For durability, terry is a favorite; thin, soft flannel is almost equally popular.

Hemp fleece, such as made by LizsCloth, Cloud9Softies, and PeacefulMoon, is a blend of cotton and hemp unmatched in absorbency and comfort. Polyester fleece is often used as a top layer in a diaper for the purpose of wicking moisture away from the child's body and preventing diaper rash. Twill is the standard for flat, prefold diapers. It's durable and soft, and fluffs up considerably after several washings, although it can be bulky between the legs. Sherpa is noted for its luxurious feel, but it is blended with 15 to 35 percent polyester.

After choosing a diaper fabric, you'll need to decide on a fabric for the covers. That's right-no more plastic pants to pull up; now you have a plethora of options to keep your baby dry. Wool is a natural, "breathing" fabric that holds in and absorbs moisture, thanks to the lanolin oil in the fiber. A natural, undyed wool cover can be re-waterproofed with lanolin every few weeks, or as needed. Covers made of cotton, another "breathing" fabric, keep cozy cotton against the skin, with a waterproof layer in the middle.

PUL and Ultrex are waterproof fabrics used for diaper covers, with many shapes and options to choose from. They don't "breathe" as well as wool, but they can be tossed in the wash, making them a cinch to care for. Polyester fleece, such as Polar Babies or Stacinator, is an absorbent, soft, "breathing" fabric often used for covers. Diaper covers are available in pull-on or snap-on styles, or with a Velcro/Aplix closure in the front.

The Style Question
Prefold diapers-or, as they're often called, DSQs (for diaper-service quality) diapers-are the standard flat rectangle diapers you may remember from childhood. Nowadays you don't have to pin them, though, if you don't want to. Many of the covers that come in a wrap style, such as Bummis, Prorap, Imse Vimse, or Lambkin, will hold the prefold diaper in place as you fasten the cover in the front to fit your baby's waist.

Contoured diapers were created to make this even easier, doing away with the folding step. Shaped like an hourglass, they fit inside the wraparound diaper cover. Fitted diapers are my favorite for their ease of use and ability to keep everything in the diaper. Fitted diapers will Velcro, tie, or snap around the waist, allowing you to create a snug custom fit for your child. They still need to be covered, but work well with any fastening style. All-in-ones (AIOs), such as Bumkins, are diapers that have the waterproof layer sewn onto the outside. Often used for outings or when you're leaving baby with a sitter, they can take longer to dry and be more costly; in addition, AIOs don't offer the same fitting options.

Once you know which fabric and style you want, you're ready to buy, right? Not quite. We need to talk accessories: liners, doublers, and wipes. Cloth wipes are simply small washcloths used for cleaning the baby between changes. You can easily make wipes from old sheets, T-shirts, or other fabrics you have in your home. For a wipe solution, I use warm water, but some parents like to add two or three drops of an essential oil. Liners and doublers are roughly the same thing: an extra pad of absorbency for heavy wetters or for nighttime use. They come in rectangle and hourglass shapes and in the same slew of fabrics available for diapers. Whether or not you need them, will depend on your child and your diaper absorbency.

Where can we find these diapers, and how much do they cost? The great popularity of disposables often makes it difficult to find cloth diapers. If you're lucky enough to find some locally, you may have a very small selection of diapers and covers to choose from. Fortunately, there are hundreds of on-line venues for purchasing cloth diapers, most of them run by work-at-home moms (WAHMs). For lists of different websites and reviews, visit the following links:

www.clothdiaperinfo.org A newer website dedicated to reviewing diaper brands and companies, and encouraging the use of cloth diapering.
www.borntolove.com - This Canadian site lists diapering companies in Canada and the US. They also sell diapers, and review diapers and diaper companies.
www.diaperpin.com You'll find many company reviews here, and a list of WAHM diaper businesses.

UPDATED RESOURCES

www.thewahmmall.com - A resource for WAHM companies. Check out their Cloth Diapering Directory.

Real Diaper Association - a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, provides support and education to parents all across the U.S. for the use of simple, reusable cloth diapers. They have a great list of resources and support networking available on the site.

Cloth diapers are expensive initially, but in the long run save you a lot of money. The average child goes through 8,000 diaper changes before being potty-trained; at 25 cents a diaper, that adds up to $2,000. So the money you invest in cloth saves you quite a bit in the long run, particularly if you plan on using cloth for two or more children. Many moms sell their used diapers in thrift stores and on-line auctions; a high-quality diaper will resell on eBay or Wahmall for as much as 50 percent of the purchase price. To save even more money on your diaper purchase, look for special offers made by WAHMs, or try making your own; you'll find all the information you need for sewing diapers at www.diapersewing.com.

Washing Up
Many moms have told me that they would love to use cloth diapers but are afraid they require toilet dunking. I've never dunked a diaper in a toilet in the 14 months I've been diapering. I put dirty diapers into a waterproof diaper bag and wash them within two days. Poop diapers get scraped off with tissue paper into the toilet if needed, then squirted with BacOut, a natural odor and stain eliminator. Next, they're rinsed in the washing machine on Cold to prevent stains from setting, then tossed in the hot wash with Bio-Kleen laundry detergent and all the other diapers and covers. (Some exercise caution and wash covers and diapers separately to prevent the former from shrinking.) I've never used bleach, and we have absolutely no stains on our diapers.

If you do have trouble with stains, just set the diapers out in the sun to be bleached naturally. Bleach and fabric softener are hard on diaper fabrics and should be avoided. Diaper covers can often be re-used several times before they are soiled enough to be washed. Diaper services are also a wonderful option for many people; see what's available in your area.

How many diapers you'll need to start out will depend on how often you want to do laundry. I launder daily, so I began with 12 fitted diapers, 12 prefolds, and 6 covers. It worked, although there were days when I longed desperately for more! Start with three or four dozen diapers if you don't want to do laundry every day. Keep in mind that a newborn goes through many more changes than an older child. I bought all sizes of covers at once; if I was in a pinch and my Smalls were all in the wash, I could use a Medium to hold us over until laundry was done.

If you have any questions visit Mothering's Diapering discussion forum where helpful parents are ready to answer your questions.

Using cloth diapers is the best thing you can do for your baby's skin, the environment, and your budget. If you haven't done so already, make the switch, and tell a friend. The moment you throw away your last gel-filled disposable and place soft, warm cotton next to your little one's sensitive skin, you'll know why we cloth-diapering mamas are so obsessive about the fabric.

Happy diapering!

For additional information about cloth diapering, see the following article in a past issue of Mothering: "The Joy of Cloth Diapering," no. 88.

Laura Schmitt and her husband, Eric, are the proud parents of Taylor, the "Sleeping Bean." They are anxiously awaiting the arrival of "Bean Sprout." Schmitt is the WAHM owner of www.SleepingBean.com

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It's a Gift! Creating Meaningful Holiday TraditionsBy Laura Schmitt
Web Exclusive 2003

As I look over the marvelous pile of handmade gifts that lay in front of me, I think to myself "Look out Martha, there is a new crafter in town and she doesn’t even own a glue gun!" I am giddy with excitement over my crafty-ness and I’m further thrilled that I can say our family crafting has not only saved us money, but helped us to cut back on consumerism, recycle, and even better still, it has helped me to re-create meaningful family traditions in my life, as well as create a meaningful set of values to pass on to my children. In this text you will learn how to become a crafting goddess. Don’t be afraid, it’s so easy and I promise you don’t even need a sewing machine or glue gun!

Article continues below

Becoming a crafter saved our family hundreds of dollars every year, and here is how. I have a BIG family, as many of us do. Blessed with a large number of loved ones, I found that holiday spending swirled into a whirlwind of debt that I could not stay on top of. Even when I budgeted myself with a small cap for each family member and close friends, the total dollar amount spent on my family, my in laws, and our dearest friends was outrageous. One summer as I started planning my holiday budgeting, I called it quits! I vowed not to look at another sales flyer or mall sale for a single purchase and to make everything at home instead. Upon hearing the news, my husband gave me the “isn’t that sweet” smile, followed by the “no way are you able to make gifts for that many people” speech. Well I started in September that first year and I was done by November and instead of spending a small fortune, I only spent the small amount it cost me to gather my materials. It was wonderful! For example, gift baskets have always been a big hit for the women in my family. Instead of dropping $20-$50 on a pre-purchased gift basket, I checked out thrift shops and found baskets for 50 cents a piece. I stocked up on about 20 baskets and got them ready for packing! Instead of the overly scented store bath lotions, I bought a gallon of natural lotion in bulk and scented the entire gallon with less then one small bottle of pure essential oils. For soaps, I gathered some vegetable glycerin soap base and used the same pure essential oils and herbs in my home to decorate soaps to give with the lotions. And to complete my baskets, I purchased large containers of Epson salts for scenting with…you’ve guessed it, those original bottles of essential oils! For the cost of 3 gift baskets in the mall, I easily put together 30 gift baskets at home, and I must say…it felt wonderful!

Saving money is well and good, but saving our planet from added garbage and wastefulness is even better. Now instead of coming home with dozens of shopping bags and pre-wrapped wasteful packaging, I came home with one shopping trip of ingredients to create gifts for many. All those old glass jars, cookie tins, and miscellaneous containers I’d been saving over the years suddenly became a valuable commodity in my new craft world as they were new again with possibilities to house so many scrumptious products. In fact, I even took it a step further and made my own cloth bags for wrapping, and decorated brown paper bags at home for items that weren’t getting bagged. Now my cloth bags can be used year after year. This is such an important part of teaching my children the importance of re-using and of being a wise, simplistic consumer. If I cannot demonstrate those actions, they may never truly learn them from me.

Now that we are a family of four, the importance of instilling value in our holiday events has surfaced in a powerful way. With each gift that is given I want my children to know the love and thoughtfulness that should go into it. I want them to learn that we give to those we care about when and what we can to let them know we love them and that we do so without expecting anything in return because it brings us joy to give. When our babies are older, we hope to start a tradition of giving away one gift to charity for each gift received for the children.

These types of values and examples mean so much to me in parenting. It helps to ensure that the holidays are magical and not greed festivals for the kids. As a child, stringing popcorn, creating ornaments, and spending time in the kitchen with my family were all the fun and exciting and memorable times of the holidays. Helping, sharing, and being with loved ones was what it was all about. Now that my kids are getting old enough to help, they can begin the traditions with their mommy and daddy, and making gifts is a tradition that we can start early in the year and work on together throughout. What could be more rewarding?

So, you’re convinced that you want to join the ranks of craft queens, but you don’t know how or where to start? Well, here is a list of ideas for beginner craft gifts that is sure to please!

The Idea List – Getting Started

1. Candles: Make candles and or buy candles and decorate them with dried flowers, using melted paraffin wax to make them stick.

2. Create a cookbook with your favorite recipes and recipes you've collected online.

3. Cookies, Jams, Breads, etc make great gifts!

4. Jelly, Applesauce, Salsa, Herb Vinegar, Oils infused with herbs.

5. Lavender dream pillows or lavender and flaxseed eye pillows.

6. Calendar with pictures of your family and or friends or favorite places.

7. Bath Salts, tub tea etc.

8. Homemade soaps are fun to make.

9. Build a puppet stage and make puppets with felt.

10. Build a simple dollhouse by transforming an old piece of furniture or new.

11. Make fleece throws.

12. Pillows and blankets for living room made by sewing, crocheting, or knitting.

13. Dolls for children are fun to make! Free instructions online at www.SleepingBean.com

14. Basket, stuffed with a strand of white lights inside, put dried flowers and eucalyptus out the top of the basket and a simple fabric bow at top

15. Make Paper, or buy pretty paper and make envelopes, creating a stationary set!

16. Photos in decorated frames make great gifts

17. Brownies, Cookies, Bread Mixes or Dried Soups in a jar or tin.

18. Quillow (quilt that folds into a small pocket and becomes a pillow)

19. Scarves, hats (use fleece for quick easy work)

20. Paint flower pots, give them as gifts with some seeds and a trowel for children

21. Placemats and napkins from cloth

'22. Weave a basket!

23. Bead jewelry

24. Buy a wooden rack/tray/decoration from the craft store, and paint it, tile it, decorate it, get creative!

25. Take some shells and fill them with wax and candle wicks, viola...candles by the shore!

26. Bath kit or massage kits

27. Homemade Liquors

28. Bath Bombs / fizzies

29. Caligraphy (frame a saying, poem, or song)

30. Personalize a journal. Buy a blank book for $3 at the bookstore and insert old postcards, pictures, sayings, poems, whatever! Make it special.

31. Learning boards -you could make a Montessori style board set for very cheap that teaches how to do buttons, zippers, Velcro, snaps etc. You just cut these things off of old clothing and either sew them together onto a fabric cube, stuffed with poly fill, or tack them onto small boards with furniture tacks. You could paint the backs with numbers, letters etc.

32. Doll slings are still kind of fun in cool prints!

33. Or treasure sacks in some print the boys will like with little inexpensive gifts such as coloring books, clay, etc.

34. You can give a child age 3-7 a homemade clay set with the ingredients needed, instructions, and a tool or two to use with it. Then the child can make their own clay, then play with it!

35. A dress up / magic box is a decorated box with homemade simple costumes (a cape, a silly hat, glasses etc). You could put together a theme of some sort and give it as a gift

36. Make a photo album alphabet style book for a child. Make a simple book with paper and string or buy one pre-made and write a letter on each page in lower case. Then glue photos of real life objects from THEIR lives that they know to help with the phonic connection! You can use puffy paint or felt for the letters to give them a texture for learning purposes.

37. Chocolates done fancifully will be much appreciated by your loved ones.

38. Use your favorite fabric to cover a simple book, journal, or photo album. Glue it securely, and add a special message to the beginning page.

39. Do a service as a gift. The old “I O U” coupons are always a welcome gift be it for cooking a meal, giving a massage, or cleaning someone’s car! Get thoughtful with your time.

40. Use the recipes in this booklet to make gifts that your loved ones will go nuts over.

You are prepared with the ideas you need to begin your own crafting adventures and family traditions, and this is just a starting point. The next time your loved one says to you, “How do you find the time and talent to make so many lovely and thoughtful gifts?”, don’t feel obligated to tell them all the wonderful benefits you received from hand crafting their goodies. Just smile and say, “It’s a gift”.

Wife to Eric, Mama to Bean and Bella, and WAHM owner of www.sleepingbean.com. Visit us online for many free recipes for natural bath and body care items to use and gift!

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The Birth
Mothering.com web exclusive 2003

At 6:29am she was born.
Of course she was helpless
and frail
to the path before her, but she was also
determined and
glowing with a newfound warmth.

Her body surged with
changes that shook the
foundation of
self image she may have known.

Cries arose with a welcoming echo
where before
there were many moons of silent growth.

Safe in the newness of
shared body warmth,
she looked for the first time at the
life so attached to her own.

Relief,
joy, and
utter love
swept over her as the
soothing milk
worked relentlessly at arrival to hungry lips.

She needed not a name,
for that was something she had been granted
long ago,
during another birth
where she was the one
joining the world as an infant,
but not today.

At 6:29am a mother was born.

By Laura Schmitt

2 Comments:

Blogger sofisays said...

wow

8:04 PM  
Blogger sofisays said...

Dear Laura,
I have just read your article on AllEars- it made me cry. Your family is lucky to have such a strong and bright mom! Good luck to all of you! Maybe we will see you in DisneyWorld???
~Sofi

8:06 PM  

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