Friday, October 29, 2010

BOOKS and BAIRNS: TOS Review: Buckets-O-Fun

BOOKS and BAIRNS: TOS Review: Buckets-O-Fun

TOS Review: Buckets-O-Fun

When I realized last spring that we'd be welcoming a new little person just as the new school year really got going, I knew some accommodations to my plans would be in order. The words for our year are streamlined, efficient, and easy. In other words, I cut out anything likely to cause me more stress than I need on a daily basis. Is it just me, or are most of those things the very elements that kids consider the most fun? You know what I'm talking about. Art projects that require glue, Sharpie pens, and glitter. Edible math manipulatives. And don't forget those science experiments that require trips to out-of-the-way specialty shops so that you can blow something up. ((sigh))

Not wanting to have this labeled The Year We Had No Fun At All, I threw in a handful of craft kits, committed to setting aside time for really fun activities, scheduled some actual art lessons, and prayed that God would provide the rest.

So far, it's working.

Our crafts and experiments have been a hit, even if they haven't been the brainchild of yours truly. Frankly, I am not regretting a single penny that I spent on the DIY mosaic coaster kit that accompanied our study of the Byzantine Empire. And I think that letting someone else worry over finding the right sized paper for drawing up our own coat of arms was simply brilliant.
Sometimes, honestly, the time and trouble saved is worth the effort.

Case in point: Buckets-O-Fun.

Many, many time over our homeschooling years I've concocted slimy, sticky, stretchy goo for my kids to play with. We've talked about some basic chemistry, made a few observations, and then made an absolute mess. It's good stuff, that. 

But really, I don't have the time right now to dig around for a recipe, pull together the ingredients, and research the scientific principles I'd like to get across. Ready made is my friend. And that's the genius of Buckets-O-Fun and their line of YUCK. It's ready to rock. Simply breeze through a quick overview of some easy-to-digest science facts, add water...

... and play...

...and play...

... and play.

All science should produce this kind of reaction, don't you think?

Buckets-O-Fun YUCK comes in an amazing array of yucky textures and consistencies, from Snowy (our favorite) to Saucy. It retails starting at $16 for a pound of the stuff, which will go very far indeed. If my little crew is any indicator, once your troops get done grossing themselves out with the goop, they'll suddenly want to know more about polymers than you can even begin to tell them, so plan ahead and have some library titles handy before you try this at home.

So there you have it/ Science that satisfies the kiddos, requires minimal prep from mom, and ignites curiosity. All while staying sane. Streamlined, efficient, and easy. That's my mantra!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this product for review purposes. Refer to my general disclaimer for more information on my policies regarding reviews.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: bumGenius 4.0 (snaps)

Yes, she slept through the diaper change!

I'm nowhere near a cloth diaper expert. But I am a cloth diaper addict, which means that I'm always willing to pass along my thoughts about the dipes I've tried. Granted, I haven't tried that many--at least not when compared to some of the mommas whose blogs I frequent. But I've sampled a few, and shared about them before. Since Seven has been donning cloth, I've gotten to try a couple of new brands and types of diapers. I thought I'd share my thoughts on them. For posterity's sake, of course.
This is an unsolicited review. I did not receive this product in exchange for my sharing about it. This is a review of an item I personally purchased, so take it for what it is.

The very first pocket diaper I tried was the bumGenius 3.0. And it was fabulous. I loved the ease of use, the relative trimness, the fact that Mr. Blandings had no qualms about strapping them to little bottoms (pre-folds made him skittish), and (of course) their cute factor. What I didn't love was the fact that the aplix tabs rendered them useless a year into my first batch of covers--or the fact that the replacement covers I was sent only lasted half as long before they, too fell victim to curling.

The tabs were my only complaint, however. Everything else about the diaper was as close to perfect as you can reasonably expect. They only leaked on the rarest of occasions. They cleaned up beautifully after even the yuckiest of poops. They were easy to care for. They were, in short, my dream diaper. But again with the tabs ... argh!!!

I knew that if bumGenius ever came out with a diaper with snaps, I'd be first in line to try it out. So it was that shortly before Seven was born, I heard that my dream had come true. bumGenius had introduced 4.0s. And, wonder of wonders, snap closures were an option.

I bought one. Just one. Why? Well, I was afraid that I'd be disappointed, to be honest. I loved the 3.0s so much, and felt so betrayed by the fraying, curling tabs, that I was truly nervous that something might be awry with the 4.0s. 

So I bought one. And I tried it. 

And now I plan on buying a few more.

Why? Because yes, the 4.0 is the 3.0 ... improved. The snaps are exactly what this diaper needed to make it pretty much the perfect pocket diaper. It has the back flap that covers the elastic on the back and hides where the insert goes. It comes with two inserts--a smaller newborn one that works as a doubler later, and the thicker, adjustable one for bigger babies. It's a one-sized diaper, so it can be used from (imo) 11 lbs. and up (although bumGenius says the baby can weigh less, my experience was that Seven was swimming in it until she hit 11 lbs.). And yes, it cleans up like a dream.
This is the diaper I reach for for nighttime use. It holds an amazing amount without leaking, and still keeps Seven's bum feeling dry when I take it off. I simply love it.

I only have two complaints regarding this diaper, and one may not even be complaint-worthy; time will tell. The first issue is that the color I ordered ("bubble") is really not a color at all. It's pretty much white, only with a slightly grey hue to it. That was disappointing. I've since heard that the darker colors are the way to go in this line. When I buy more, I plan on steering clear of the lighter hues and hitting just the more vibrant ones. The second issue is the strength of the snaps. Comparing the snaps on the 4.0 with the other snap diapers I have, I'm wondering if these will hold up as well as other brands. They seem slightly flimsier when compared to other snaps. Shades of aplix gone bad? I'm not sure ... yet.

Still, as I said, this is a go-to, workhorse of a diaper. Seven is currently wearing the 4.0 on the smallest rise setting with the full-sized insert set to small. I foresee a lot of use on this one ... and a few more 4.0s in our repertoire!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Held, four years later

Today--October 15th--is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

In the past, I have sat alone and pondered the emptiness and loss with aching arms and a grieving soul. With shaky hands, I scrolled the archives of my blog until I found this post, which I read solemnly, quietly, waiting for more tears to come.

This year, there were tears, too-- but they were the tears of someone who has been given eyes to see. As I thought about the years of fruitlessness, I pressed my newborn daughter to my breast and breathed in the scent of her sweet baby head. Not my will, God ... but yours.

Nothing can take back the pain I have felt. No one--not even my beautiful little Seven-- can replace the little ones I never got to hold. But it's true: time, growth, and new blessings can ease some of the hurt.

I still remember. I still mourn. But I do so with new hope. I am, after all, still being held.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Be still my heart

Manolin stole my heart from the moment I first laid eyes on him. Keeping in mind that our first "meeting" was in the form of my being handed a studio portrait of him as a three month-old dressed in a little brown monkey costume, I think you can tell the power this little man has over me.

Those big brown eyes ...

 The thumb-sucking ...

The passionate attachment to his ratty ni-ni blanket ...

The all-encompassing joy that lights up his entire face ...

 The pseudo-shy, flirty little boy love that he uses to charm the dickens out of everyone who crosses his path ...

Manolin is nothing short of the epitome of toddlerhood. Unbridled energy, unfettered courage, curiosity in spades, and an appetite for everything the world has to offer. 

People always tell adoptive parents how "lucky" our kids are that they found homes. Take another look at these pictures of Mani ... and tell me--who's the lucky one?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Classic Books and Bairns

Since I'm not posting quite regularly (it's a lot harder to type one-handed than I remember!), I thought I'd link to this classic MG rant. It's an oldie, yes ... but it still makes me laugh to remember the night in question!

All I want for Christmas is my dignity, circa 2007.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hello, my name is Mary Grace ...

... and I'm addicted to cloth diapers.

Who knew that something so simple would create such an obsession? Who knew that something designed to catch youknowwhat could be so much fun?

Having a new baby--a baby girl, might I add--in the house has made this obsession all the more virulent. Turns out that no, I am not above forking out money for pink diaper covers that would be rendered completely useless on a male child. Gender neutral? Yes, please. But can you throw something pink or frilly in there, too?

Friday, October 1, 2010


My birthday gift, three weeks early: the fabulous, fancy, SLR camera I have been coveting for a year. I hold its heavy, boxy black body in my hand, caress the lens, fiddle with one of the countless switches and doodads that adorn its solid sides.

Seven is sleeping on my bed, her pink mouth drawn into a perfect bow, her little brow knit into a serious arch above her flitting baby eyes.

I tell Mr. Blandings thank you with my eyes and my words. I hug him as tightly as I can and kiss him with one of those just-for-married-folks kisses. It is a good feeling, this being loved beyond measure.

"I know it cost a fortune!" I say to him, pulling back and admiring, yet again, the camera of my dreams--the one I will take countless photos of my growing children with. The one I will lug on camping trips, to the zoo, on playdates, to swim lessons. The one that will capture and preserve the salad days of my life.

"You've waited a long time," he says, stroking my cheek.

"A year isn't that long," I smile, thinking of all of the "things" we have decided to wait on or let go. A year, really, is nothing. A camera ... even less.

"Not for the camera," he says then, and glances over his shoulder to where our baby is curled on her side, sleeping blissfully in her pink onesie, wrapped in her striped pink blanket.

A long time. Yes. Four years. Forty-eight months, many miscarriages, weeks upon weeks of ache. Many days, as I journeyed through infertility and loss, I felt alone. I felt abandoned, broken, and forgotten. No one, I was sure, could understand. No one saw the hurt. 

I was wrong.