wrapping up another homeschool year

It’s been a while since I posted anything about our bahaySKUL activities. Not that there wasn’t much going on, but the opposite. There has been too much going on in our household, and my plate is brimming full with daily routine as well as the random and unexpected.

It has been an exciting bahaySKULyear indeed. We finished Uri’s first grade and Ari’s second grade at about the same time this August. We have submitted our grades, project outputs and the rest of the boys’ portfolio to our homeschool provider. And now, they’re registered as 2nd and 3rd graders for this new school year! Our household has been filled with nothing but the air of triumph for about a week now. Neither the boys, nor I could get over it just yet. This is a family achievement, after all. And yes, we’ve had pizza and Coke way too many times this week!

What did our bahaySKUL look like this past year?

ari looking through what he calls a 'super high tech' microscope

ari looking through what he calls a ‘super high tech’ microscope

I would say we let it all hang loose. We didn’t really slack off, but our bahaySKUL days were calm and relaxed. For the most part I let the boys make the call. If they want to play first, or read first, or watch a little TV, or have more than one snack break before doing their school work is really up to them. So long as they finish their assigned lesson for that day, which usually just one section/lesson on one subject per day.

As homeschoolers we need to keep record of the boys’ modules, and tests and worksheets, to prove that our children are actually being ‘educated’. But I should say that the “school work” part of our day is mostly for compliance’ sake. Because, as I have observed, real learning happens even when their LifePACS and textbooks are closed. The reason why we keep a bahaySKUL schedule is so that the kids learn to follow some form of structure in their school days. But really, the most education-filled parts of their day are those times that I let them be FREE.

uri with his 'computer'

uri with his ‘computer’

When they choose which books to read, which topics to read about. When they choose to go outside and follow butterfly trails, or try to catch dragonflies. When they play with LEGOs and action figures for hours. When they create their own worlds in Minecraft. When they draw comic strips and create their own story characters. When lunch is extended because of incessant questions about God and creation. When they look after their baby brother while I take a shower. When they say they want to help out with the gardening, or cleaning the house, or grilling barbecue. When they make their own breakfast because I wake up late from working the previous night. When they strike decent conversations with the neighbors, or some of our friends.

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Sometimes it sounds overly cliché when homeschoolers say learning happens everywhere. But it’s true. Learning happens beyond books and test scores. Which is why for this new bahaySKULyear, FREE time is still a non-negotiable. Free play, free reading, free everything will continue to play a big part in our bahaSKULday. Free time is so important for us that when the kids are totally engaged in whatever it is they’re doing (like building a soap box car from the box of the newly-delivered washing machine), I am happy to postpone ‘school work’ for that day in order to maximize such a creative diversion. And this happens a lot of times, hence, it took us a full year (instead of the prescribed 10 months) to complete grade-level requirements. But as I’ve said, this year we really took things slow and steady.

when running errands become an instant 'field trip'

when running errands become an instant ‘field trip’

Takeways from this bahaySKULyear…

I still consider us to be newbie homeschoolers, but our experience from these last 2 years of bahaySKUL have taught us a lot of things, which I think are well worth sharing.

Quarterly planning. Our homeschool provider breaks down required modules to be completed by quarter. At the end of each quarter is a Mastery Evaluation Test (MET) that the kids take supervised by the homeschool coordinator. What has worked for us this year is to make lesson plans (and make adjustments) by quarter. I draw up a checklist of lessons that each child should work on for that particular quarter. So (almost) every bahaySKUL day, they get to tick something off this list. If you don’t know, ticking something off a list is a reward and motivation in itself. By the time everything in the checklist has been ticked off, we start a quarterly review of all lessons. This is done by oral narration, with me asking questions, and with the child answering the questions in the way that he understood his lessons. The oral review is extremely helpful for me to identify which topics a child is having difficulty with. If needed, we go back to specific lessons that are challenging for each child. Otherwise, I give them mock written tests in preparation for taking the MET.

while Turo has a meeting, these boys get some school work done

while Turo has a meeting, these boys get some school work done

Using a boxed curriculum. As I’ve mentioned before, we are using LifePACS by Alpha Omega Publications, as our curriculum for Language Arts, Math, Science, History & Geography and Bible. We use local textbooks by C&E Publishing for Filipino and Philippine studies. It is only this year that I began to appreciate the advantages of using a boxed curriculum. I used to think that using a boxed curriculum can be limiting in terms of scope and depth of study. The previous year, I had a difficult time supplementing our modules. Many times I found myself creating an entirely different lesson plan and activities to replace what is in the module. This was really frustrating and time-consuming, and made me hate LifePACS altogether. But this year, I finally understood how a boxed curriculum is supposed to work. I stuck to the lessons in LifePACS and the C&E textbooks, and let them do their thing. And then I supplement. I look up YouTube videos, use excerpts from classical literature, we go on field trips, whenever we can, we do and learn everything hands-on. But. There will always be times when I am busy as hell, be it project deadlines, or family commitments or having sick people in the household. And that’s when I let the boxed curriculum do its job, which it does, no complaints. So even when we’re stripped down to the bare essentials, we can still carry on with homeschooling, and continue ticking off the boxes that need to be ticked.

the boys made 'library cards' for their collection of books

the boys made ‘library cards’ for their collection of books

Focus on attitude. Raising children with good values and positive outlook is one of the primary reasons we homeschool. We try to give them plenty of opportunities to work as part of a team, whether at home or in sports or with people they’ve just met. We teach them about being accountable to God if they don’t behave well. And we try to model good behavior as best we can. At any given time, I would be happy to postpone finishing ‘school work’ if there is a ‘behavior issue’ that I would like to talk about with my kids. Not being mindful of others, and unintentionally hurting other people in the process. Being disrespectful. Taking things that somebody else is using without asking permission. These are some of the common behavior issues we encounter at this stage of their childhood. When these happen I just have to talk to them about it right there and then.

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While a lot of these ‘behavior issues’ often have to deal with relating with other people, we also give equal focus on independence and self-regulation. We are trying to foster a level of independence where our kids will not ask us unless they really cannot do it on their own. In fact, somebody asking for help when we know they are able to do it or figure it out for themselves is likely to get reprimanded. In this age of technology when everything is a mouse click away, we take pains in teaching children the value of good effort and hard work. We want to raise children who are passionate with everything they do and not doing work ‘for the sake of’. Sloppy school work, or worse, sloppy attitude while doing school work is not acceptable around here. Little by little, they are becoming self-motivated and they are slowly appreciating the new stuff they could learn if they are focused, if they ask questions, and if they turn to other resources (i.e. finding good books on topics they are interested in). Of course, the goal is still to tick off the box so they could do the things they want to do (read: PLAY) the remainder of the time. I mean who doesn’t. I would easily take a productive and enjoyable couple of hours of bahaySKUL over an agonizingly long school day. And besides, almost all of the time outside of ‘school work’ are still learning opportunities around here.

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As a whole, I would say we had a great homeschool year. The boys are happy. They recognize the many new stuff they have learned from bahaySKUL. They have a better attitude towards work. And they have so many plans for what to do next bahaySKULyear. They look forward to advancing to the next level and they are extremely proud of what they have accomplished this year. So now, we are taking a much-needed and well-deserved two-week bahaySKUL break. We start fresh in September, but for now, anything goes for these two.

cloth diapering (6 months up)

Cloth diapers to go

My little boy is now 9 months old, and we have been (almost) exclusively cloth diapering for about the same time. Because there are days when deadlines get deadly, and the diaper laundry sits awhile, and I couldn’t get prefolds and covers to dry before the clean ones run out. I confess to having a secret stash of disposable diapers just for these occasions. They get me through very tough times. The rest of the time, though, my baby is on cloth 24/7.

So how does our cloth diaper stash look like right now? I’m no hoarder of cloth diapers. I would say I have just about enough for nearly a week’s worth of diapers before I need to do the laundry. Except when there’s too much poop going on, which happens from time to time, that washing needs to be a bit more frequent. On the average, baby requires 5 to 8 diaper changes in a day.

Our cloth diaper stash for a 9-month old, 9 kilogram, medium wetter baby consists of:

Daytime

  • 12 Osocozy unbleached cotton prefolds (infant size)
  • 12 GMD unbleached cotton prefolds (yellow & red edge)
  • 5 Bummis fleece liners
  • 4 Flip one-size diaper covers
  • 2 Bumkins one-size diaper covers
  • 1 Bummis Simply Lite one-size diaper cover

Nighttime

  • 3 Cluebebe one-size diaper covers
  • 1 Thirsties duo wrap (size 2)
  • 3 Thirsties stay dry duo inserts
  • 3 Geffen Baby super absorbers plus

Travel/Going out

  • 6 Sassy Star one-size AIOs
  • 1 Thirsties Duo AIO
  • 1 Close Pop-in V2 diaper

Majority of nappies in our stash have hook and loop closure. I just find them more convenient to use and get a better fit. As you would notice, we use a prefolds + covers system, and unlike other AI2 systems, prefolds don’t snap into place inside covers. They have a tendency to bunch up inside the cover, which is why getting a good and secure fit with each nappy change is key to preventing leaky diapers and poop messes.

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cloth diapering with prefolds and covers

We have been using prefolds since baby was born and we love it because it is super absorbent and very easy to wash. They’re not as quick to dry as microfiber inserts, and it usually takes 2 days of line drying for them to dry completely. But aside from the wait time between laundry, they clean really easily, no stinks, and poop stains come off after only a few minutes under the sun. The only downside to using prefolds is they’re not stay dry. So when baby’s nappy stays a tad bit longer on the bum than it’s supposed to, his tiny tush gets itchy and irritated. It goes away after I change baby into a clean prefold. But sometimes I use fleece liners over the prefold for a stay dry barrier against his skin.

organic cotton pre fold inside a cover

organic cotton prefold inside a cover

At night, we use our more generously sized covers with a combination of hemp and microfiber inserts. The fast-soaking microfiber with fleece lining goes on top, with a good quality hemp insert underneath. We use Thirsties and Geffen Baby multi-layer hemp inserts, and unlike the stories I hear from other CDing mamas where hemp gets super stiff and difficult to use over time, our hemp inserts stay soft wash after wash.

For quick trips, we are a hundred percent reliant on AIOs. I consider AIOs the saving grace in my cloth diapering journey. Even when I’m in a rush, it’s very easy to just pull out an AIO diaper from the closet and slap it onto baby’s bum, and we’re good to go. There’s at least 1 AIO + onesie inside our diaper bag by default, for any diaper emergency while we’re out.

From my previous experience in cloth diapering, it seems that our current cloth diaper stash would take us well into potty training. Although, I’m still looking to invest in more good quality and trim AIOs, those that would fit well under clothing like jeans or shorts with no leaks. I also plan to invest in some quick drying hemp prefolds as I anticipate a heavy wetting phase during the cold season.

As a whole, cloth diapering in the past 9 months has been pretty manageable, and for the most part enjoyable. I benefited a lot from joining a local cloth diapering support group, and gained access to low-priced (sometimes used) quality cloth diapers and tips for leak-free nights from more experienced cloth diapering moms. Cloth diapering has become one of my advocacies, and sometimes I wish I’ll be having more children so I would have more use out of the cloth diapers I have now. ;)

slow cooker success

how the slow cooker became my new best bud..

slow cooker seafood pasta

slow cooker seafood pasta

We are 5 months (and counting) without a house helper (the first time in 8 years!). I never imagined I’d be brave enough to fire, perhaps lay off is more politically correct, our house helper of 4 years. But I got to the point when I decided I needed to be in full control of my household and our family life, and that meant cutting off our dependencies on other people. This whole ‘simplifying our life’ has really gotten to me, that many people might think I’m crazy for letting go of our reliable house helper when other families I know are in dire need of one.

Why we decided to fire our house helper, I’ll save for another post. This time I want to share one of my best kept (sanity preserving) secrets for managing a household with 2 rowdy boys and a 6-month old baby, while cleaning, doing the laundry, cooking, homeschooling, managing a business, and working from home full-time. Whoa! That seemed like a lot didn’t it? But thanks to my handy helpers, we do get by with 3 full meals and clean clothes without trampling down on LEGOs on the floor.

I do have a long list of handy helpers (lucky me): my boys who set the table and clean up after each meal, and Turo who cleans the toilet and takes care of the baby half of the time. Unfortunately, there are days when Turo needs to be out of the house, and I’m left with a baby who won’t be put down, and 2 starving little boys at lunchtime, with no free hands to cook with.

My solution: I bought a slow cooker.

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I’ve long been a Cuisinart fan. And I’ve long fantasized about owning a slow cooker. Just before Christmas I got an email for a limited offer of 50% discount on selected Cuisinart products. So while I also wanted a bread maker and a soup maker and a burr grinder, I decided that a slow cooker is what would be most helpful for me at the moment. We have an outdoor kitchen, and it’s nearly impossible for me to cook, even reheat anything at lunchtime when the baby is awake, which he most often is. I hate eating cold food, period. But when it’s just the four of us, me and the kiddos, it’ll take me forever to have lunch at the table.

throw everything into the pot, punch some buttons, and let lunch be ready at lunch time..

throw everything into the pot, punch some buttons, and let lunch be ready at lunch time..

The slow cooker has completely changed the way I cook. Now I prep meals early in the morning, before the baby and the boys wake up, throw everything into the slow cooker, punch some buttons, and peacefully have a cup of tea. By lunchtime, we have hot, freshly cooked food to eat! And when Turo’s not home by dinner time, I simply leave the slow cooker on Warm and we still have hot food for dinner! Can you believe how impossibly simple that is? The best part of it all is that kitchen clean up is a breeze because everything gets cooked in one pot. Easy peasy.

organic for a cause

we’re rooting for local organic farmers (ourselves included), and we get a basketful of veggies in return. sweet.

Today we received our first farm “share” of locally produced organic vegetables. We subscribed to a community-shared agriculture (CSA) scheme where we paid 4 weeks’ worth of seasonal, organic produce from farmers organized by Good Food Community. GoodFoodCo. is based in Quezon City, but recently, a group of young, organic farmers (including us!) from where we live here in Los Banos, thought of replicating this CSA scheme here.

What is CSA and how does it work?

Community Shared/Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. A farmer, or an organized group of farmers, offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Interested consumers purchase a “share” or “membership” or a “subscription”, which is a lump sum amount paid in advance, and in return receive a box/bag/basket of seasonal produce every week throughout the farming season. This arrangement benefits farmers because they get a sure market for their produce and they receive payment at the start of the planting season, which helps to have a stable farm cash flow.

our weekly CSA farm share delivered to our doorstep

our weekly CSA farm share delivered to our doorstep

In the GoodFoodCo. CSA scheme, each share can be one of 3 options: a bayong pambahay (roughly 3.5 kg of cooking vegetables good for a family of 4), a salad pack (roughly 500g of salad greens and herbs, with occasional fruit in season), and a juice pack (a choice mix of juicing vegetables good for approx. 500ml). We are currently subscribed to the juice pack, and this week our basket included celery, cilantro, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, lemons and ginger–all for PhP 370/week!

our veggie smoothie

our veggie smoothie

Nothing beats fresh, organic vegetables, pureed with bananas, papayas and yogurt. That’s our recipe for a high-fiber smoothie, which we usually have for breakfast or afternoon snack. And for less than 400 bucks a week, Turo and I can have this every day, plus a few sips each for our little boys.

Joining a CSA makes getting a variety of freshly harvested, organic produce super duper easy. No need to go to a farmers’ market as you get your veggie load delivered right to your doorstep. It’s also a great way to pack more vegetables into meal planning. Since we’re now only subscribed to the juice pack, next month we’ll subscribe to the bayong pambahay so we can also have fresh organic veggies to cook with. Really, this has simplified our dilemma of eating organic exclusively at a price we can comfortably afford. And soon enough, our farm will be part of this CSA program as we’ll be providing organic lettuce for the salad packs!

Read more about how we transformed the way that we eat and our healthy lifestyle choices from these posts:

The local food project

The food that we eat

Conscious consumption

Small and sustainable

the convenience of cloth

2 months, 10 lbs., 3 different wash routines later, we are still cloth diapering exclusively and enjoying fully the convenience of cloth.

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Our cloth diaper stash from my previous post has gone pretty much unchanged, save for the addition of some AIOs or all-in-one cloth diapers. We’ve decided to use covers and flats and prefolds (no pocket diapers and no microfiber inserts) this time around, and we’re loving this diapering system more and more as the days go by. When baby was a month old, we were dependent on flats as it was basically pee and poop every hour. But now that he’s going for longer periods without pooping, I find myself reaching for prefolds at almost every diaper change. At 2 months, baby poops about 5-7 times in a day, and we’d have no more than 12 diaper changes within a 24-hour period. That’s a lot less compared to 16+ changes when he was a newborn.

Snappi'd GMD prefold

Snappi’d GMD prefold

Our covers are also holding up really well. We are getting by with only 2 covers on rotation, one is a Bummis Super Brite sized small (up to 15 lbs) and the other is a one-sized (8 to 35 lbs) Bummis Simply Lite. I like the stretchiness of the Simply Lite, it makes it super easy to put on and get a good fit. But the Super Brite seem to be more durable, thicker PUL, and a really strong velcro, yet I’ve never had issues with having the velcro snag on other clothes in the wash. Although, the fit of the Super Brite seemed really awkward earlier on, but now that baby is getting bigger, he’s filling it up quite well. We’ve also transitioned from having prefolds in an angel wing fold to just trifolded inside the cover. We only have infant sized prefolds and it’s getting harder to snappi the ends together around the waist as baby grows. I haven’t yet decided whether it would be necessary to buy larger sized prefolds in the later months, but I would definitely need a couple more covers in large size. I’m planning to give the Bummis Super Whisper Wrap a try, as well as a Thirsties Duo Wrap.

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Ira wearing a Bummis Simply Lite cover when he was less than a month old

We had been also been going out more frequently now, although mostly for just 1 or 2 hours. We use an AIO when we’re out, because it’s much trimmer, fits well under onesies, and pretty much works like a disposable diaper would. We’ve only tried Thirsties Duo AIO and Bumkins AIO (Dr. Seuss prints!) so far, and we’re looking to get more AIOs in our stash. It’s Thirsties AIO hands down for us, as I really dislike the tongue-style soaker in the Bumkins AIO. It gets tied up with other long-ish items in the wash, plus you have to stuff it inside a pocket and snap it into place. I’m not happy with all the extra work of having to stuff the other end of the soaker in a pocket  plus it tends to move around, and makes me worry whether it’ll be able to catch baby’s pee or not. If not for the cute Dr. Seuss prints, I’ll happily give our Bumkins AIOs away. I haven’t decided whether to just go and buy more Thirsties AIOs or to still give BumGenius Elemental and Grovia AIOs a try. What I liked about Thirsties AIOs is that the soaker is sewn into place on both ends, no need to worry about making sure that the soaker is snapped correctly, or that it wouldn’t bunch up or move around inside the diaper. The reason why we chose AIOs as our diapering system on-the-go is so that we could practically just slap it on baby’s bum and we’re good to go. If we had to fumble with whether the soaker is correctly in place etc., it doesn’t make it any more convenient than when we’re using prefolds and covers at home.

Ira wearing a Thirsties Duo AIO

Ira wearing a Thirsties Duo AIO

The downside to AIOs is that they’re more expensive, say an average of P1,000 per diaper when bought locally, and more complicated to wash and dry. All of our AIOs stain easier than our prefolds, and stains are harder to take out (means longer sunning time). To avoid this, I place a washable fleece liner on top so I don’t get super stubborn stains on the diapers. Also, they take much longer to dry, 2 days when line dried under the sun, and I have to turn it inside out midway through drying so it dries completely. But I’d like to think of this as the price I pay for the convenience AIOs offer. There are really times when you’d rather just reach for a disposable than a cloth diaper and these are the times that our AIOs save the day. Since AIOs would mainly be going out nappies, and emergency nappies, I’m thinking 6-8 AIOs in our stash would be enough.

When it comes to doing the diaper laundry, cloth diapers will definitely not be as convenient as having to simply throw a soiled disposable in the trash, but it also is not as inconvenient as some think it would be. Let me share with you our laundry routine. I have two baby laundry baskets, a small one for baby clothes so they don’t touch peed and pooped diapers, and a larger one for soiled nappies. I do the baby laundry every other day (without fail). Just enough time so as not to have stinking nappies under the crib. On laundry day, I separate the pooped cloth diapers and wash off the poop. Next I do a pre-rinse of peed and pooped on nappies, with water only. Then I do a separate wash cycle for the baby clothes and the diapers. Everything, except PUL covers, get some sun time to take the stains off and also so the clothes and diapers rinse easier. Even on cloudy days I sun them out, there are still UV rays penetrating the clouds, and it still works on stains. As soon as the poop stains go, yes the magic of Mr. Sun, clothes and nappies go on a rinse cycle (twice for thicker diapers) and then I hang them up to dry. If it’s raining, it takes 1-2 days for the nappies to completely dry indoors. The final quality control is burying my face on the dried diapers just to check if all the pee and poo stink is gone.

Cloth diapering skeptics might raise some eyebrows in doubt whether washing nappies is as easy as I say it is. The answer is a big, resounding YES. I’ve seen and read about stained diapers online, or detergent residue buildup causing stink issues on cloth diapers, or babies getting rashes from diapers not getting cleaned enough. I haven’t encountered any of these issues, and I doubt I ever will. We only have cotton diapers in our stash, no synthetic fibers, which I think is a huge factor. Everything just washes off cleanly and easily.

Just so you know, our water bill doubled during baby’s first month. And we also happened to purchase twice the amount of detergent than we normally would in a month. This was the time that I was still recuperating from a C-section and have left all laundry (including baby laundry) to the househelp with mere instructions on what to do and how to do it.  But now that I am pretty much up and about, my stitches healed, and I’m starting to take charge (again) over my own household, our water bill has gone down to the usual, and our detergent usage, significantly less, although slightly more than when we didn’t have baby clothes and diapers to wash.

There is a learning curve to cloth diapering cost-effectively. But to us, saving money is secondary, to baby’s health and keeping our environment clean and safe.

discovering prefold diapers

Every baby wearing disposable diapers can generate as much as one ton of landfill waste before the age of two.

Readers of this blog probably already know that our family has long been trying to maintain a simple, sustainable and non-consumerist lifestyle. Now that we have a new addition to the family, we attempt to carry on with these principles while raising a newborn.

Why cloth diapers?

The decision to cloth diaper our baby is an obvious one. Disposable diapers may be convenient, but they are also wasteful and expensive. The cost savings are actually secondary. It’s the amount of waste created by using disposables that we can’t live with.

From pockets to prefolds.

In my earlier post, I’ve decided that I would go the prefolds + covers route to cloth diapering this time around. I’m done with pocket diapers and microfiber inserts because of how difficult they are to wash and dry. Next to using flat diapers, I believe this is the next most economical option, both in terms of upfront investment and laundrying cost.

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Ira wearing prefolds + Bummis Super Brite cover

This would be my first time to try prefolds and covers, and also my first time to try cloth diapering a newborn full-time. (Uri was also CD’d full-time before but he was already more than a year old then.) I did my research, had a couple of options on which prefolds and covers to purchase, found local suppliers, but I was hesitant to start buying until I knew exactly how big my baby will be and how much diapers he will likely consume in a day. Back then I wasn’t sure whether I should get newborn-sized or one-sized covers, or what size prefolds I should get.

It’s a good thing I waited until I had given birth. Baby weighed nearly 8 pounds and would already fit small and one-sized covers, instead of the newborn ones. Information online also suggested that newborns average 12 diaper changes in a day, but my baby ended up with around 16 diaper changes in a 24-hour period. So if I had a diaper stash for 12 changes in a day, that wouldn’t have been enough.

In baby’s first week or so, we used disposable diapers. I received 3 packs of disposable diapers as gifts prior to giving birth, and these came in handy during those days that I was hardly able to move coming from a C-section. I also used this opportunity to observe baby’s sleep patterns and diaper consumption, so I could build a cloth diaper stash that was appropriate for his sleeping, peeing and pooping patterns.

Our diaper stash.

When we started building our diaper stash, it started with the most readily accessible and most familiar for me to use – flat gauze diapers. I bought 2 dozen Curity flats before I gave birth. While I know there are a lot of modern cloth nappies nowadays that are far more absorbent and convenient to use, the old-school nanay in me couldn’t let go of the breathability of wearing only a “lampin” during daytime.

Once we got home from the hospital, I started placing orders for prefolds and diaper covers, had them shipped, and pre-washed and prepped them. By the time baby was 2 weeks old, our cloth diaper stash looked like this:

  • 18 infant-sized unbleached cotton prefolds (OsoCozy, GMD, Econobum)
  • 24 gauze cotton flat diapers (Curity)
  • 12 gauze cotton prefolds (Curity)
  • 5 fleece liners (Bummis)
  • 2 diaper covers (Bummis Super Brite, Bummis Simply Lite)
  • 1 Snappi

I hadn’t been able to save any of the cloth diapers we’ve used from when Uri was a baby so I had to buy everything this time around. This cost us a total of PhP6,068.50.

This present stash allows us to cloth diaper our newborn baby full time, washing soiled diapers three times a week. PhP6,000+ worth of cloth diapers might seem expensive at first, but looking closely, this amount is equivalent to only 3 months worth of disposable diapers. The cloth diapers we bought will be used from now until the time our baby is potty trained, say at least two years. Perhaps we will be needing some larger-sized prefolds and diaper covers when he gets bigger, but this would still be minimal cost compared to diapering with disposables full time.

Our CD routine.

During the day, especially when baby is awake, we use flat gauze diapers or locally known here as “lampin“. This means changing every time he pees and poops. This may not sound too convenient to many but as I’ve said, I like the breathability of gauze diapers, and this helps keep baby feeling fresh especially in this warm tropical climate.

In the evenings and during naptime, we use infant-sized prefolds snappied in a bikini twist or angel wing fold to catch runny newborn poop. I place a fleece liner on top so baby’s skin feels dry even after a couple of wettings. Then I use a diaper cover to avoid leaks on his clothes, crib sheets and beddings. I once tried just to lay a trifolded prefold onto the diaper cover, but the cover tends to get soiled when baby poops. If we had more covers in our stash, this would’ve been fine. But at the moment, we’re only rotating 2 covers, so Snappi is the way to go. So far, this nighttime/naptime diapering system has worked for us, allowing 3 to 5 hours between diaper changes.

Washing cloth diapers.

Our diaper laundry routine is pretty straightforward. We use fermented rice washing to soak pre-rinsed gauze cotton diapers overnight so they would be whiter and brighter, before washing with a biodegradable detergent the following day. The unbleached cotton prefolds are soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, before washing with the same detergent. The pre-rinsed gauze cotton diapers and unbleached cotton prefolds, together with the diaper covers can be washed together in the washing machine. After washing, the diapers and covers are rinsed thrice before line drying under the sun.

Even poop stains are easy to remove on both gauze cotton and unbleached cotton diapers. Our usual laundry routine is enough to get all diapers clean, without the need for special stain removers or running an additional wash cycle.

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So far we are getting by with our current minimal stash of cloth diapers. I would have loved to purchase more prefolds, fleece liners and cute diaper covers, but these should do for now. Perhaps when baby is bigger and we will start to take short trips, I would know what else to purchase. But until that time, our CD stash is on status quo.

packing the hospital bag

packed yet still procrastinating…

I am currently on my 37th week of pregnancy, nearly full-term, and I just might go into labor any moment now. I’ve been procrastinating on so many preparations during this pregnancy, but the other night, I felt I seriously needed to pack for when I go to the hospital for delivery. So I was up until way past midnight packing my hospital bag. Here’s a list of the stuff I’d bring once labor comes a-knocking.

Front closure hospital gown. I need something easy to wear, and one that buttons down at the front so it will be convenient to breastfeed.

Nursing bra. I couldn’t find my nursing bras from when Ari and Uri were babies so I had to buy 2 new ones. I just bought the cheap ones, non-cotton, so it doesn’t soak easily. I might end up buying more later when I’m sure what size I should be getting. But 2 bras should get me through my stay at the hospital.

Blanket. It can get super cold after giving birth because of the anesthesia, so I packed a thick blanket, and socks to keep me warm.

Towel. I packed a microfiber bath-sized towel, even when I’m likely not going to be allowed to take a bath just yet. We are huge fans of microfiber, and since it dries super quickly, bringing a bath towel or a face towel is not much of an issue.

Panties. I have a stash of full-sized “granny” cotton panties that I wear under a dress to hide panty lines. I might need them in case I end up with a C-section so the elastic reaches beyond the bikini cut. But I also bought a pack of disposable panties, so I don’t have to bring home bloodied underwear.

Sanitary pads. Speaking of bloodied underwear, I only bought a pack of extra long, overnight sanitary pads. I don’t feel comfortable wearing those super thick maternity pads. So to avoid stains, I also bought a couple of adult diapers, which I won’t wear, but instead I’ll be spreading on the hospital bed, so I don’t stain the sheets.

Slippers. I packed along an unused pair of hotel slippers for walking around inside the hospital. Then I have another pair of comfy going home slippers.

Going home outfit. I chose a long maternity dress, which I no longer wear at the moment because my 37-week belly could no longer fit in it. I assume I’ll have less of a belly after giving birth and that I’m likely gonna fit in this dress when I come home from the hospital.

Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, shampoo, moisturizer, lotion, the works.

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For baby, here’s what I packed.

Baby clothes. From my current collection of hand-me-down baby clothes, I decided to bring longsleeved tie sides, pajamas and matching jacket, bonnets, mittens and booties. I also packed a couple of full onesies that baby could use as his going home outfit.

Swaddling blanket. This special blanket is designed to secure baby’s arms and legs in place, helping him sleep safely and securely by recreating the snugness of the womb. I also packed a couple of hooded towels, that can be used both for swaddling and for drying baby after his first bath in the hospital.

Binder. A binder is a piece of cloth wrapped around baby’s abdomen that is meant to apply some pressure to this area to prevent colic, and also to protect his belly button and his umbilical cord stump.

Wash cloth. I only have a handful of wash cloths but I have tons of bibs, so I’ll be using bibs more for wiping, bathing, et cetera. I also packed some flat gauze diapers also for wiping and as extra blankets for covering baby.

Diapers. I’m lucky not to have to buy disposable diapers this time, because we received several packs as gifts. I’m thinking the newborn disposables we have on hand should be enough to last at least a week or so. After which we’ll happily transition to using cloth diapers at home.

Toiletries. I packed some baby wipes and cotton balls for cleaning baby’s bottoms, a mild baby wash for his first bath, chamomile oil for relieving colic, baby oil for giving baby a gentle massage, and a tall bottle of alcohol for guests to disinfect their hands before getting anywhere near baby on his first days of life.

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I didn’t pack a separate diaper bag for baby. I don’t have one, and don’t plan on getting one. I only stuffed one suitcase for both our things, but I separated all baby stuff by placing them inside zip-lock bags, after washing and ironing.

So at 37 weeks, I’m a step closer to getting ready for giving birth. I know I still have a number of things to prepare but I feel I’ve got the most important ones covered. Also, I take comfort in the fact that the hospital is just a 5-minute drive away, and everything else I could possibly need, had I forgotten, can be bought nearby.

photo-finishing first grade

if my planning serves me right, we will complete our first year of homeschooling this month!

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We are so nearly there. Our first bahaySKUL year completed in 12 crazy months. We are actually quite behind, because the regular school year starts next week, and Ari should be prepping for second grade at this time, but we are still finishing up with the fourth grading period of his first grade. But still. We’re really just counting the days. Doing the final lessons. Taking the last batch of tests. Putting together our first-ever bahaySKUL portfolio. So yeah, we have tons of photos to sort and print and organise, test papers to file, art projects to frame, grades to compute. And this is probably going to take us a couple of weeks more. But seriously, another couple of weeks is zilch compared to the last eleven months of this roller-coaster ride that we call bahaySKUL.

Wow! What a journey it has been for us. I’ve always known that we could do this and how committed we were to this homeschooling thing, despite raised eyebrows and random interrogation by some of our friends and family members. But now that we’re actually just a few tick boxes away from completing all of our first grade homeschool requirements, it’s just surreal. Just s-u-r-r-e-a-l. I can’t even describe how ecstatic I am right now. After the agonizing start to our bahaySKUL, knowing that we actually did it and that we’ll have real, valid and authentic proof that, yes, we are able to educate our own child the way we want to, it’s more than a pat on the back for Turo and I. It could even be a slap in the face to people who doubted we can do this in the first place. But let’s not go there :)

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So while I’m still on a high from meeting with Ari’s homeschool supervisor earlier today and confirming that we are just inches away from photo-finishing first grade, let me share some of the things we learned from our first bahaySKUL year.

Stop control-freaking. I am a self-confessed control freak. I know a lot of women are. I don’t take pride in being one, and I am seriously taking conscious effort to stop being one. It’s a tough lesson learned especially in the early parts of our homeschooling journey. We were new to homeschooling, we just knew we wanted to homeschool, but barely knew what we really needed to do. The thing is, education and learning is a process. What homeschooling offers is a key to unlocking this process of learning. It is NOT a how-to manual, or a tick-box list of things to do that puts a check mark on education at the bottom of the page. There is no one fixed way to get to the end. My mistake at first was that I thought there was. I was scrambling for ingredients and directions like I would in a baking recipe. I wanted to know what the next step would be, without even going through the first. I wanted an answer without even trying to come up with a solution. I was so frustrated at the beginning with our homeschool provider and the curriculum that we’re using because I felt lost without the answers to my questions. How can I possibly teach this topic? How can my child grasp this concept at his age? Why are the tests designed this way?

Thankfully we carried on. If we hadn’t I wouldn’t have realized that homeschooling is not about having all the answers at the beginning. So what if the test questions seemed weird? So what if there are too many topics to cover? Just go through it. Even if what happens next is uncertain. Because what’s important is the process, not the outcome. It’s about dipping your feet in the water first so you’ll see for yourself how warm or cold the water is, something you wouldn’t know if you’re just looking at the water from afar no matter how long you think about it.

Plan but don’t overplan. I have no background in teaching or education. I didn’t know what a lesson plan looked like, or how to make one. I’ve read from other homeschooling blogs how I’m supposed to plan for the school year, but a lot of it didn’t make sense to me at first. When I got hold of Ari’s first grade modules, I prowled at them from cover to cover, trying to segregate the topics and listing down the pages on each topic, so I could teach each topic in one go. Unfortunately, that wasn’t how the curriculum worked. We’re using LifePACS modules and the topics progress a little at a time, so you get chunks of one topic from one module to the next. I hadn’t figured this out at first, remember we were first-time homeschoolers, with zero teaching knowledge, except maybe teaching our kids to walk, and talk and be toilet-trained. But the bottomline is, it’s not practical to plan for one entire schoolyear in one go. Remember learning is a process and there are adjustments to be made along the way. We found it more beneficial to plan for one grading period/quarter at a time. At the end of each grading period, Ari takes a mastery evaluation test, and we would know how much he’s learned, and how we needed to adjust our plan for the next grading period to devote more time to topics that he didn’t quite grasp or just breeze through those topics he’s already mastered.

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Breaks are vital. Another advantage to quarterly planning is that we can take a break between grading periods. Promising to take the kids on a mini-vacation works both as an incentive for Ari to do well on his schoolwork and finish on time and as a reward for a job well done after his quarterly evaluation. At the same time, Ari the student, and us his teachers, get some time of and re-energize as we prepare for the next grading period.

Clue in on your child. Homeschooling is not a teacher-led process. It should be child-led. No matter how many learning goals and objectives we have for our bahaySKUL year, if these don’t match with what Ari wants to and is eager to learn, it’s no use. Homeschool goals should not be imposed by parents but must come from the child himself. Children are not always going to articulate what they want to learn, but we, parents, should take hints on the things that are interesting for our children. On top of that, we should also pay attention if they are having a difficult time learning something, or are not feeling well and too tired to comprehend lessons, or are simply too distracted by something else. The beauty of homeschooling is its inherent flexibility. When there are downtimes, we can easily stash away our books and put it off for the next day. Or you could do marathon lessons if your child is super interested and feels like learning more. And this can happen a lot :)

Ari completing a recipe for arts and crafts

Ari making a recipe of his favourite drink for his arts and crafts project

As brief or as stretched out our first bahaySKUL year has been, it has been an exciting and worthwhile learning process, not just for Ari, but for Turo and I as well. It hasn’t been easy, at all. Maybe at times it seems like it because of all the fun it can get , but homeschooling takes a lot of guts and discipline and commitment, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to build these values as a family through this journey. We can’t wait for Uri to start first grade as a homeschooler and for Ari to start his second year very, very soon.

diapering decisions

after a week of stressing over cloth diapers..

This week started with a hell of a bad news, at least for me. I am easing into the third trimester of my third pregnancy, and finally starting with much-delayed nursery preparations–doing an inventory of baby clothes, equipment, cloth diapers. As I tried to make arrangements for the pick-up of a crib that was no longer used by Turo’s sister, I found out that my stash of Tushywushy pocket diapers were missing. In addition to an electric breast pump, the Tushywushies are some of my biggest motherhood investments. These set of cloth diapers have been used by at least 2 children, from infancy to toddlerhood, and I took pains laundrying and drying them just so they would last long. They cost me an arm and a leg (note: I bought them 5 years ago) but they also allowed me to save on disposable diapers and a LOT of non-biodegradable waste.

I fumed when I learned that my beloved Tushywushies were gone. I’m the type who take cloth diapering seriously. Aside from avoiding diaper rash on my babies’ bottoms, and being more economical, the unforgettable flood of 2009 was a major motivating factor for us to cloth diaper our children full-time (we only use disposables when travelling). So I was in a not so good mood for a couple of hours. And then the cloth diaper system search began. Continue reading

weekend cooking: pizza

 

 

Today is Mother’s Day weekend and we’d rather stay home and avoid traffic jam and the summer heat. This is my last day off because tomorrow I go back to the world of work and deadlines. Also, this could be the last time I could do some dough kneading before my belly gets too big I couldn’t reach the edge of the table :). So homemade pizza it is.

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organic veggie pizza