Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: Bellies and Babies Boutique

I'm very fortunate to have a brick and mortar natural parenting store within thirty minutes of my house. The Bellies and Babies Boutique in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin features cloth diapers and diapering accessories, baby carriers, a wonderful collection of resale maternity clothes, and fantastic classes on everything from natural childbirth to cloth diapering 101.

The Boutique
Don't let the size of Bellies and Babies fool you:  it is a small shop, but you'd be hard-pressed to want anything more in a cloth diaper store.  They carry all of the major cloth diaper lines, cleaning supplies, and they even have a wonderful selection of resale diapers.  Their consignment maternity clothes shop is likewise small but fabulous:  I bought my favorite maternity clothes there and found them to be very affordable, with blouses and pants typically under ten dollars.  The boutique also has a selection of baby slings and carriers, including makes that you don't see at the big box baby stores.

The Classes
I found Bellies and Babies when I searched for a prenatal yoga class, and the class was always small but it really was what ignited my passion for fitness that has grown over the past year.  The class list goes well beyond yoga, reaching out to subjects like natural childbirth, breastfeeding, babywearing, cloth diapering, infant CPR, and more.  My favorite part of the class offerings is that most of the classes are Saturday and evening classes, meaning that working moms get the opportunity to participate (unlike so many other child-centric classes out there).

What I Love
I love having access to a store where I can see cloth diapers and carriers hands-on.  The Internet offers a wealth of knowledge on so many topics, but even the most detailed and illustrated descriptions of the different cloth diaper systems simply don't hold a candle to seeing the diapers up close and in person.  Further, I have always found the staff on duty at Bellies and Babies to be very helpful and knowledgeable.  I never felt like I left the shop with an unanswered question.

Less Than Impressed
My one beef with Bellies and Babies is that their posted store hours seem to be more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule.  As a former small store owner, I totally understand that sometimes things come up and an early close is unavoidable.  However, when your store is a specialty niche, and particularly when it is the only one of its kind in the area, there is no doubt that the clientele comes from afar to shop, and it is really disappointing when you arrive an hour before the set closing time to find the shop closed.  That said, a telephone call ahead is an easy way to remedy that problem - I won't let it mar my opinion of the Boutique.

If You Go
Bellies and Babies Boutique
N88 W16733 Main St.
Menomonee Falls, WI 5305 
Hours:  Tuesday, Friday, Saturday (Learn from my error!  Call!)

Calendar of Classes


Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm just a stay at home mom trapped in a working mom's body.

This week I decided to try sewing Jack a pair of wool longies. Now, everyone who knows me outside of this blog just had to go re-read that first sentence because I said that I was going to sew. I'm terrible at sewing. I have a brand new sewing machine that I haven't even figured out how to set up. I've owned it for nearly four years now and it has never made a single stitch. But I found a pattern for converting a wool sweater into long wool baby pants, and I thought I'd try hand-sewing them. They actually turned out okay, and they are currently keeping Jack's backside nice and warm on this cold winter night. I even got an unsolicited compliment on them when we were out tonight.  Pardon the blurry camera phone photo.

I love stuff like that. I love making home cooked meals for my family. I love gardening and canning. I love baking bread and making our own condiments. I love little arts and crafts and projects. If I stayed home with Jack, I'd give some serious consideration to home schooling.  I picture days filled with educational nature walks, classes at the YMCA, rainy afternoons at the library. 

I think I'd make a great stay at home mom.  Where do I apply?

 I know that somewhere there's a stay at home mom rolling her eyes at my idyllic vision at SAHM-hood, and she'd kill to be able to just pop out for a latte or chill at Barnes & Noble on her lunch hour like I can.  She'd tell me about the reality of the Bad Days, where sleep is nonexistent, babies are fussy and sick, and a shower is as rare as a unicorn sighting.I admit when I know Jack is going to have a rough day, it can feel good to head out the door, battle traffic for the better part of an hour, and look ahead to a ten hour work day.  The grass is always greener on the other side isn't it?

Part of me will always wonder what it would have been like to experience those Tuesday morning mom and baby groups and mid-afternoon playdates.  But my family is exactly as it should be, and while I wouldn't change a thing, I'll still allow myself the occasional SAHM fantasy as I sip my latte in my office.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Favorite Cold and Flu Treatments

It has been a rough week in our house. Both Jack and my husband have sinus infections, bad coughs and terrible flu symptoms. Jack just wants to be cuddled, my husband just wants to rest, and neither can seem to sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time.

Me?  I'm exhausted just trying to keep up with all of this.

So I've been thinking a lot about natural cold and flu treatments and prevention measures. Both of my guys have been prescribed antibiotics for their sinus infections, but when it comes to easing the cold and flu symptoms we need to fall back on old favorites, and a few new ones.

Traditional Medicinals Tea: Organic Throat Coat and Breathe Easy
Even the tea skeptics agree with me on these choices, and I have converted quite a few with these two teas. Organic Throat Coat blends licorice root, slippery elm and other organic supplements to create a tasty and really effective cough reliever. While the taste isn't for everyone - it has a distinct black licorice note to it - it is much better than sucking on sugary menthol cough drops.  Breathe Easy is a little spicier and promotes respiratory health.  When I'm in the heart of a good cold,  I turn to Throat Coat, but when I'm just beginning to feel the symptoms, Breathe Easy is my go-to tea.  I find these at my local grocery store chain.

Ricola Cough Drops:  Green Tea with Echinacea.
As fabulous as that tea is, sometimes you just need the fast relief of a cough drop.  In those cases, I've been turning to Ricola because they actually taste pretty good, and they are just as effective as terrible tasting Halls cough drops.  This week Jack's doctor recommeded a particular flavor - green tea with echinacea - as something to take at the start of cold symptoms to fight the cold as well as once a cough has settled in.  So far, I love the recommendation.

Steam, or better yet, Vicks Vaporizer Steam.
We've always turned to a hot shower for cold, cough and sinus relief.  For very young babies, it is one of the few options available to help ease respiratory ailments.  When Jack was tiny, I'd set up his little swing in the bathroom, close the door, and run the shower hot so he could take in the steam.  Between the sound of the running water, the movement of the swing, and the relief from the steam, it usually put him to sleep.

Just today we decided to take the steam a step further by purchasing a Vicks Vaporizer.  Within minutes of setting it up, my husband felt the first sinus relief he's had in days.  For under twenty bucks, this was a great buy and one that we will no doubt rely on whenever the flu is in our house.

Chicken Soup.
Few things are as cliche as chicken soup for a cold, but there's no doubting that this comfort food provides a whole lot of relief for not a lot of effort.  While a can of Campbells will do just fine, if you want to avoid the some of the sodium, just add some cubed chicken breasts into some chicken broth, cut up a few carrots and some celery, add wide egg noodles, and you have some pretty fabulous soup.

Sleep, or at least, rest.
Telling a sick parent with a sick child to rest is pretty futile, but the bottom line is that rest is what is going give your body the break it needs to fight off what ails you.  Even when other things are pressing, getting enough rest has to be made a priority.  Housework can wait.  Laundry can wait.  Sometimes, work can even wait.  Think back to the adage of those first months with your newborn:  sleep when the baby sleeps.  Your body will thank you, and the dirty dishes won't go anywhere without you anyway.

An ounce of prevention.
Not getting a cold in the first place is far better than treating cold symptoms, so prevention is always the best when possible.  Simple things like hand washing go a long way.  Be conscious of what you touch in public places, and what you touch afterward.  Ever touch a doorknob and then later touch your face?  You have, and now that you are thinking about it, maybe you'll be more aware of it the next time you are out.  You never know whether the person who pushed that grocery cart before you had it just washed her hands, or whether she just sneezed without a tissue.  I'm no germaphobe, but even little precautions like this can go a long way to keeping that cold out of your house.

Stay well, readers.  I have a sick baby to cuddle, some chicken soup to prepare, and maybe even a nap in my future.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Wake-up Story

I blog first and foremost because I love to write, but that doesn't mean that I'm never at a loss for words.  I can't always adequately explain why I do what I do - the canning, the homemade baby food, the cloth diapers.  It is a lot of work, and I'm not a gal that has a lot of leisure time to begin with.  But those things are so very, very important to me, to my family, for reasons that I'm not always that articulate about.

Fortunately, I don't always have to do the talking.

Watch this video.

If you are impressed by what you see there, do visit their website at and learn more about this organization. Their Facebook page is particularly impressive, with readers sharing their ideas and knowledge.  If you've been sensing a theme in my recent posts, I assure you that between the fake blueberries, the other-than-meat taco meat and the antibiotic-ridden honey, I'm really finding more and more reasons to be concerned about what we put in and around our bodies, and I when I can find such a goldmine of ideas and alternatives I'm glad to share them.


Green Mama Blog Hop

I'm pleased to say that I'm participating in the Green Mama Blog Hop this week. If you like reading more about green living for your family, check the blog hop and find some new great sites. Check them out below!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Man's Best Friend.

J.D. "Here Comes the Judge." Rest in Peace, dogman. Thanks for keeping an eye on my mom for the last few years. You were a great companion for her, and you will be very missed.


Thank you, Taco Bell, for making my resolution easier.

As 2010 grew to a close I made a list of eleven things I wanted to do in 2011, and one of those was to avoid fast food for the whole year. I didn't think it would be difficult as we never really ate much fast food, but it is nice when the universe comes together and makes an easy task that much easier.

Thank you, Taco Bell. The news today reported that a lawsuit has been filed against the restaurant chain alleging that less than half of the "taco meat filling" in their beef tacos is actually beef.

Gross. But I'm not shocked. Have you ever looked at their "taco meat filling?" It doesn't look, smell or feel like meat - apparently for good reason.

Let me share a story. If you have a weak stomach, you may want to skip this paragraph. When I was in high school in the 1990s, the local Taco Bell was the victim of a pretty scandalous allegation that one of its employees had defecated into the taco meat mix, causing a number of customers to get sick. I don't believe that was anything more than a disgusting rumor, but the damage was done. The restaurant's reputation took a huge hit. I was more troubled by the fact that, true or not, people had no problem believing that someone wouldn't notice an amount of poo in their dinner. "Shit? Or taco meat?" shouldn't be a tough game to play.

So yes, I am banging the healthy eating drum once again this year. I am really becoming a believer in the idea that we as a nation are making ourselves horribly unhealthy because we are eating so much trash. Between this story, the article on "honey laundering," and everything I've been reading on high fructose corn syrup, I have really spent a lot of time reevaluating my family's eating habits and I'm really happy with the changes we've made. We're making 2011 the year of healthy eating, even if it means we work a little harder for our food, meals take longer to prepare, and we miss out on a little convenience now and again. I think we'll thank ourselves for those little sacrifices.

And, a P.S.! Right after I published this blog, I finally got around to reading about the blueberry scandal. Nothing is safe.


Monday, January 10, 2011


I'm afraid I'm becoming one of "them."

On Sunday I realized that I happened to have a coupon relevant to my grocery list: 50 cents off of a dozen eggs. I shoved it into my pocket, fully expecting to forget all about it by the time I got to Target later that day. Much to my surprise, I remembered both the eggs and the coupon, and as I reviewed my receipt, I realized that I got a dozen eggs for just 47 cents, thanks to my coupon.

47 cents. That's freakin' amazing. The power of coupons!

Some of my Facebook friends have recounted their couponing adventure. They exchange lists and graphs and flowcharts, and bust out their coupon quadratic equations and slide rules to review the Sunday paper. It is intimidating, yet intriguing.

Apparently there's a whole world of couponers out there. I had no idea. There is an incredible number of websites, mailing lists, and books dedicated to the art and science of couponing. Everybody's doing it, baby.

I don't need another hobby, right? Right? Even if it is one that saves us some money?

I think I'll take a pass on this one and just watch the coupon madness from the sidelines.

But Target did give me another coupon for fifty cents off a dozen eggs, so we'll see. We'll see.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Five State Parks for 2011

I must be thinking spring because I've had state parks, state trails, and hiking on my mind all week. In my 11 for 2011 post I mentioned my love of the Wisconsin State Park system.  Aside from the famously picturesque parks of Northern California (which I hope to see this summer) I think this State may have some of the greatest parks in the nation.  One of my goals for 2011 is to visit five state parks that I've never been to before.  My choices:

Aztalan State Park - This park is archeologically significant as it was the home of a native American civilization, sometime before the year 1200.  In fact, there are pretty strong rumors that there is some significant paranormal activity there. This is so close to home that there's no excuse not to see it.

Kohler-Andrae State Park - Said to be among our most beautiful parks, I can't believe this is one I have never visited.  Kohler-Andrae is right on Lake Michigan, so we have all of the amenities of the lake, plus miles of hiking trails and a nature trail.  I'm told that this park also has a great area for sledding, so this may be a winter trip for us. Again, it is too close to home for us to miss out.

Richard Bong State Recreation Area - Yes, the photo of a road sign that says "Bong Recreation Area" isn't a Photoshop - we really have one.  Richard Bong was a renowned wartime pilot, and the park area was actually originally intended to be an airstrip, but the project was abandoned at the very last minute.  While this park offers typical activities like hiking, biking and snowshoeing, it also offers an area for flying model planes, rockets, hang gliders and hot air balloons. 

Devil's Lake State Park.  Whenever we are in the Wisconsin Dells, we opt for Mirror Lake State Park for its beautiful hiking trails and great canoeing, but Devil's Lake is also nearby and has much to offer.  Devil's Lake is also a popular site for rock climbers, and someday I want to be able to give that a try.

Big Foot Beach State Park.  I have been to this one, just once before:  Big Foot Beach was the site of my very first 5K run, but I was the only one in the family who really got to enjoy the beautiful hiking trail.  Big Foot Beach has so much to offer: amazing trails, a beautiful beach on gorgeous Lake Geneva.  This is definitely a day trip for the family this year.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Is this where bullies come from?

A few months ago, bullying was big in the news. Now that we are worrying about bigger things like football and the weather, we aren't seeing as many sensational stories about bullying but obviously the problem continues. Whenever I read about some of the horrible things that bullies have done, I wondered if their parents realized how their children behaved.

Apparently, some do. And apparently, some encourage it.

I read a really heartbreaking blog entry from one of my favorite bloggers entitled Fat Ladies Eat Small Children. A little background on the blogger: She is one of those incredibly gorgeous women who really turns heads. Gorgeous long dark hair, an incredible smile. And, she is overweight. She has talked extensively on her blog about weight loss, and by eating healthy she lost a great deal of weight this year before she became pregnant.

Her blog entry recounts her recent experience at a store where a small girl and her brother were ducking down in their shopping cart so that "the fat lady won't eat them." In her own words:

I was mortified as they pointed and squealed in their high voices: "there she goes, that was close but she might eat us next time" as I pass their cart.

I was shaking and as the tears started to fall and I purposefully went the opposite direction, I could hear that little high voice "Where did the fat lady go Mom?" And the mother replied? "I don't know, I'm sure you will see her again." "Will she eat us mom?" "She might."

My heart goes out to her, especially with all of the work that she has done to lose weight. Overhearing something like that would have torn me right down to my soul.

The children didn't know better. At that age - she estimates the girl was about three - kids don't have a real grasp on politeness, or whispering, and they certainly don't understand that weight issues aren't something to poke fun at. But the mom had a wonderful teaching opportunity that she failed to take advantage of, and she even went so far as to join in with her own jab. That makes me angry. Livid.

What those kids learned that day is that it is okay to make fun of someone's weight. They learned that it is alright to poke fun of someone who looks different from them. And they learned that mom will join right in.

Is this where bullies come from?