Monday, December 26, 2011

Tips for Shopping Local

Before the craziness of holiday shopping started I decided to set a goal for myself: to buy all our gifts from local or small businesses.  My decision was partially inspired by the Occupy Movement.  Its encouraged me to examine my purchasing habits and the forces driving the decisions businesses make.  I've come to realize that local and small businesses are more invested not only in their customers, but also in their communities.  It seems like a simple concept, but its not something I have been conscious of before.
I did hit some speed bumps along the way, but over all it was an enjoyable and fruitful experience.  Here are some tips when you set out to shop local/small yourself.

1.  Call ahead.  I grew up with the internet -- I'm used to looking up a business's hours, address, and what they sell with a quick search on Google.  This is not always the case with small businesses.  Take, for example, my search for yarn.  First, it was hard to find a local shop that sold yarn.  When I did find a store, the hours listed online were not the hours in the store.  In fact, I found they were by appointment only when I arrived.  To be safe, call ahead to keep from being disappointed.

2.  Get you shopping done early, especially around holidays.  Some shops I wanted to visit are closed from Christmas Eve to New Years' Day.  When you own a small business you can do that.  Its great to have that long break with family.  However, for the holiday shopper it makes it extremely important to make sure you're not out shopping on Christmas Eve, because more than likely your only options will be big box stores.

3.  Wish lists sometimes don't compute.  If your niece, granddaughter, or daughter has the latest Disney Princess doll on her wishlist, you might strike out with local/small businesses.  Solutions?  See if you can find something on Etsy.com that incorporates themed fabric, or go for something similar, but unbranded.

4.  Along the same lines, keep an open mind.  The wonderful thing about most small/local stores is that you're going to find something unique.  Sometimes its better to go in with as little as an age range and a price limit, than an extremely specific list to keep your options open.  If you have a very specific list, try surfing small businesses online, or set aside the time to hit several local shops to find that perfect something.

5.  Realize you might have to pay a little more.  Yes, shockingly it is cheaper to buy something mass produced in China and shipped all the way around the globe than it is to buy something made by a local artisan.  That's just the way things are, but take comfort knowing the extra dollars you spent are staying local and supporting your neighbors and community.  Plus, I find that local and small businesses typically have higher quality items, so I think its money very well spent.

Next time you venture out to shop, consider buying small or local.  Its so much fun and worth every penny.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Taking a Break

School is catching up to me.  As such I'll be taking a break from blogging for a while (actually, I already started my break).  That doesn't mean no posts -- just no promises of posts.  I do love having this outlet and love to exercise it when I get the chance or need to express myself, however my little free time is being (rightfully) consumed by my family at this point.

On to cardiac pathology.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Apartment Line-drying Fail

Our downstairs neighbor likes to smoke.  Not a lot -- at least not a lot on his balcony.  But it is a pastime he enjoys from time to time, kind of like Izzy's past-time of screaming and running through the apartment.  Normally this is not an issue.  We haven't noticed even the faintest bar-like smell to any of our clothes since we started line-drying them over 6 months ago, even though our drying racks are near permanent fixtures on our balcony.  Therefore, when we were hanging our freshly laundered diapers on the drying rack next to other less freshly laundered diapers, we took no alarm when we smelled cigarette smoke curling up from the apartment below.  Dear neighbor was having a cigarette and would be retreating to his TV and whatever else happens in his living room shortly.

Should have investigated further.

While attempting to take a short nap before I went to work we heard many, many voices outside just below our window.  Dear neighbor has many friends it seems.  Many friends who like to smoke and talk.  We looked out to see billows of smoke rising peacefully from their balcony party -- it was almost like looking into the air above the orchestra after the 1812 Overture.  Gag.

So we (John) carried the racks of clothes inside and as our luck would have it, our nice clean diapers smelled like we let them wander free in a bar pre-indoor-smoking-ban.  Insert feeling of dread.
I honestly could tolerate the talking interrupting our sleep since we were in bed relatively early and aforementioned toddler will probably return the favor at 7am, compounding dear neighbor's hang over.  However, the thought of having to wash ALL those otherwise clean diapers AGAIN made me want to scream.  Or at least stuff dear neighbor's mailbox with smoking cessation flyers and pictures of lung cancers (yah, I know this won't work).

Sometimes living in an apartment simply sucks.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tea Tree Oil (TTO)

Tea Tree.
Copyright Steven Foster
Alternate names: Australian tea tree oil, tea tree essential oil, melaleuca oil
Latin name: Maleleuca alternifolia

Summary: Tea tree oil has been shown to have some antibacterial and antifungal properties in vitro and in small in vivo studies.  It may prove useful for disinfecting wounds, and as an alternative to traditional antiseptic soaps used in the hospital setting.  Small studies have shown it useful as an antifungal.  More clinical studies need to be done to solidify the effectiveness and safety of TTO as a topical treatment.

Acne: A 5% tea tree oil water-based gel has been shown to be comparable to 5% benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of acne with fewer side effects.

Nail Fungus: 100% tea tree oil shows promise as a treatment for toe nail fungus and was as effective as 1% clotrimazole.

Fungal infection: A 10% tea tree oil cream might be effective in alleviating the symptoms of a fungal skin infection, however it was not shown to be effective in eradicating the fungus completely.

MRSA, E. coli, etc: In vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated tea tree oil's effectiveness at eliminating a variety of bacteria, and promoting wound healing in people with MRSA.  It also shows promise as an alternative antiseptic in hand wash, and does not appear to confer resistance, even in bacterial strains prone to acquiring resistance.

Yeast: Tea tree oil may be an effective topical treatment for Candida infections, including albicans and non-albicans.  It has also been shown to be effective against Malassezia furur.

Seborrheic Dermatitis: Anecdote suggests that 5% tea tree oil might be effective in reducing dandruff, redness, and itching associated with seborrheic dermatitis.  I could not find any scientific studies supporting this, however I personally have used 5% TTO applied for 10 minutes once a week to treat my husband's seborrheic dermatitis with success.  It caused some redness and irritation shortly after application, however by the next day my husband reported a decrease in itching and redness that lasted for several weeks.

Warnings: Tea tree oil is for topical use only and should not be ingested.  Ingestion can result in confusion, drowsiness, rash, disorientation, and loss of muscle control in the arms and legs.
Tea tree oil should be used with caution in prepubescent boys as it might cause the reversible development of breast tissue.  It has been shown experimentally to cause small increases in estrogen levels and a small decrease in androgen levels.
Small studies have been conducted in humans to determine the appropriate topical dosage for tea tree oil.  In general, dosages of 1% and 5% have resulted in no adverse events, while dosages of 25% have been shown to cause allergic reactions in some individuals.  

Scientific Babble:  Medicinal use of tea tree oil originated in Australia.  TTO has been suggested for dandruff, acne, athlete's foot, nail fungus, wounds, infections, lice, cold sores, and for antibacterial and antifungal treatments ("Tea Tree Oil").  In a study in Australia, a 5% topical solution of TTO was shown to be as effective as 5% topical benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of mild to moderate acne, although it took longer for the effects of the TTO treatment to be realized (Carson).  Both the benzoyl peroxide and TTO treatment resulted in a reduction in acne symptoms after 3 months of use.  However, the TTO  had fewer side effects (dryness, itching, burning, irritation) than the benzoyl peroxide (44% vs 73%).

In a study comparing the efficacy of tolnaftate (an antifungal) and a 10% tea tree oil cream in treating fungal dermatitis, both were found equally effective in alleviating symptoms, however tolnaftate was more effective in eliminating the fungal infection than TTO.  TTO was found as effective as placebo at resolving the fungal infection.  However, application of 100% TTO was found to be as effective as 1% clotrimazole cream in the treatment of nail fungus.  Both were equally efficient at alleviating symptoms and eradicating the fungus (Bedi).

A 2005 study comparing soft soap and 5% tea tree oil in hand washing soap, antiseptic hand wash soap, and 1% Tween 80 found the TTO combined with antiseptic hand wash soap and Tween 80 to be acceptably effective at eliminating E. coli to be used in a health care setting (Messager).  TTO has been shown to inhibit a variety of bacteria including antibiotic resistant strains (e.g. MRSA, vancomycin-resistant enterococci), C. albicans and M. furfur at concentrations below 1% (Carson, Hammer).  In addition, TTO demonstrates higher effectiveness against transient bacteria as opposed to the bacteria that naturally colonize the skin (Carson). It has the added benefit over traditional antiseptics of being less likely to result in dermatological problems from over use, such as dried, cracked skin, even when added to an antiseptic soap (Messager).  In a study comparing traditional treatment for MRSA decolonization and TTO, there was no significant overall difference found between the traditional regimen and the TTO regimen.  However, the traditional treatment of Mupriocin at decolonizing nasal passages was found more effective than the 10% TTO cream.  The traditional body wash for the decolonization of superficial skin sites and lesions was found less effective than a 5% TTO body wash (Dryden).  A small 2011 study examining healing of wounds colonized by MRSA without signs of infection in the wound found that a majority (8 of 11) of wounds washed with a 3.3% TTO solution decreased in size over the course of the study, many with only short-term exposure.  It did not, however, cause MRSA decolonization of the wounds (Edmondson).  A larger study is needed to confirm the possibility of using TTO as a bacterial decolonization agent and treatment for wound healing.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported three cases of otherwise unexplained prepubescent gynecomastia (breast development in boys) determined to have been caused by various topical products containing lavender oil or a combination of lavender oil and tea tree oil.  In vitro experiments showed that both lavender oil and TTO independently caused a slight increase in estrogen and a decrease in androgens.  In all three cases of prepubescent gynecomastia, hormone levels and sexual development were otherwise normal.  In one instance, an identical twin who was using the same lavender oil-containing products with the exception of a lavender soap did not develop gynecomastia.  Discontinuation of the topical products caused the breast tissue to regress and resolve after several months (Henley).

Topical dosages: three small studies have shown no adverse reactions with the use of 1% and 5% dermal tea tree oil patches.  However, a study of 28 individuals in which a 25% dermal TTO patch was applied resulted in severe allergic reactions in 3 individuals attributed to TTO.  The other 25 individuals completed the study without any adverse effects (Carson).  


Disclaimer
I am not a doctor, nor do I attempt to feign one on the internet.  Please consult your personal doctor or healthcare provider before starting any treatment regimen to determine what will be the best treatment for you, your child, or some other person for whom you are making medical decisions.  Please inform your healthcare provider of any treatments you are taking, including those that fall under the umbrella of complementary and alternative medicine (they are still important).  This article is meant to provide a summary of the information I was able to find in scholarly journals on an complementary or alternative medicine to promote more informed conversations about alternative medicines between healthcare providers and patients.  This is not all inclusive.  Please consult the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine for more information.

References

Bassett, I. B., D. L. Pannowitz, and R. S. Barnetson. "A Comparative Study of Tea-tree Oil versus Benzoylperoxide in the Treatment of Acne." Med J Aust 153.8 (1998): 455-58. PubMed. Web. 3 Sept. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2145499>.

Bedi, M. K. "Herbal Therapy in Dermatology." Archives of Dermatology 138.2 (2002): 232-42. Archives of Dermatology. American Medical Association. Web. 3 Sept. 2011. <http://archderm.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/138/2/232>.

Carson, C.F., T.V. Riley, and B.D. Cookson. "Efficacy and Safety of Tea Tree Oil as a Topical Antimicrobial Agent." Journal of Hospital Infection 40.3 (1998): 175-78.ScienceDirect. Web. 4 Sept. 2011. <http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.med.sc.edu/science/article/pii/S0195670198901359>.

Dryden, M. S., S. Dailly, and M. Crouch. "A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Tea Tree Topical Preparations versus a Standard Topical Regimen for the Clearance of MRSA Colonization." Journal of Hospital Infection 56.4 (2004): 283-86. ScienceDirect. Web. 4 Sept. 2011. <http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.med.sc.edu/science/article/pii/S0195670104000167>.

Edmondson, Margaret, Nelly Newall, Keryln Carville, Joanna Smith, Thomas V. Riley, and Christine F. Carson. "Uncontrolled, Open-label, Pilot Study of Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) Oil Solution in the Decolonisation of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus Positive Wounds and Its Influence on Wound Healing." International Would Journal 8.4 (2011): 375-84. Wiley. Web. 4 Sept. 2011. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.proxy.med.sc.edu/doi/10.1111/j.1742-481X.2011.00801.x/pdf>.

Hammer, Katherine A., Christine F. Carson, and Thomas V. Riley. "Frequencies of Resistance to Melaleuca Alternifolia (tea Tree) Oil and Rifampicin in Staphylococcus Aureus, Staphylococcus Epidermidis and Enterococcus Faecalis." International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents 32.2 (2008): 170-73. ScienceDirect. Web. 4 Sept. 2011. <http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.med.sc.edu/science/article/pii/S0924857908001477>.

---. "In-vitro Activity of Essential Oils, in Particular Melaleuca Alternifolia (tea Tree) Oil and Tea Tree Oil Products, against Candida Spp." Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 42.5 (1998): 591-95.Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. Oxford Journals. Web. 3 Sept. 2011. <http://jac.oxfordjournals.org/content/42/5/591.short>.

Henley, Derek V., Natasha Lipson, Kenneth S. Korach, and Clifford A. Bloch. "Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavendar and Tea Tree Oils." New England Journal of Medicine 356.5 (2007): 479-86. Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavendar and Tea Tree Oils. New England Journal of Medicine, 1 Feb. 2007. Web. 3 Sept. 2011. <http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa064725>.

Kwieciński, Jakub, Sigrun Eick, and Kinga Wójcik. "Effects of Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) Oil on Staphylococcus Aureus in Biofilms and Stationary Growth Phase."International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents 33.4 (2009): 343-47.ScienceDirect. Web. 4 Sept. 2011. <http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.med.sc.edu/science/article/pii/S0924857908004445>

Messager, S., K.A. Hammer, C.F. Carson, and T.V. Riley. "Effectiveness of Hand-cleansing Formulations Containing Tea Tree Oil Assessed Ex Vivo on Human Skin and in Vivo with Volunteers Using European Standard EN 1499." Journal of Hospital Infection59.3 (2005): 220-28. ScienceDirect. Web. 4 Sept. 2011. <http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.med.sc.edu/science/article/pii/S019567010400297X#SECX4>.

"Tea Tree Oil -- Uses, Side Effects, Research." NCCAM. 19 April 2011.  NCCAM, NIH. 3 Sept 2011. <http://nccam.nih.gov/health/tea/treeoil.htm>.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September

I believe in evidence based medicine.  I think hope most doctors do.  However, I also believe that every cure doesn't have to come from your neighborhood Walgreen's.  Our medical ancestors did a great job observing the reproducible effects of certain plants on humans.  They understood willow bark eased inflammation.  They knew coca leaves increased endurance.  There are plenty of 'natural' treatments that exist that deserve as much attention as their pharmaceutical counterparts.  It is important, therefore, for science to lend them the credibility they deserve through research that is as rigorous and unbiased as the kind applied to fancy drugs and funded by deep-pocketed companies.

This month I have decided to focus on caring for my future patient while having a little fun.  I hope to start a personal notebook I can keep with me that will review, with scholarly references, alternative medicine remedies.  My goal will be to review one remedy a week.  What better way to start this off than a lecture on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in my clinical medicine class!  I originally thought that it would be difficult to find scholarly articles on the efficacy and safety of CAM, however I found out during class that in 1998 US Congress established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) under the NIH to support research on the efficacy and safety of CAM.  How convenient.  Oh, and NCCAM funded a Center for Research and Excellence at the medical school I attend.  Go figure.  The professor that was lecturing focuses mainly on the anti-inflammatory uses of resveratrol (the famous wine component) and marijuana (also famous).  The following lecture was given by our local acupuncturist.  Yes, I did have a needle placed, and no it didn't hurt.  Actually, it didn't do much, but it was just so I could see what it would feel like.

As you can see I really do need to let the nerd in me out, cause that doesn't happen enough at school.

Hopefully with the NCCAM as a resource (and a wealth of online journals) I will be able to review at least 4 remedies -- that is, translate what scientists say about them.  Individual results may vary ;)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Month in Review

Oi vey.  This month has gone by too fast.  And now comes the time when I peek in the freezer and find... frozen vegetables, beef, some chicken, and berries.  No milk.

It turns out churning out an extra 5 oz a day is harder than it sounds.  I figured since Johnny was starting solids that would cut out a feeding a day.  I could pop that feeding in the freezer and I'd have 100oz in no time.  Instead he finds it is a good excuse to eat some more, hence his 22lbs, 6month old self.  Fiddlesticks.  Instead of having extra I've been struggling to keep up resulting in midday milk runs.

I think I am going to put this challenge on hold and try again in a few months.  Eat some oatmeal, drink some tea, and let his appetite for milk wane a little bit.  Right now I think the stress of pumping for more than one is too much.

On the upside, washing our diapers by hand is still going well!  There have been some bumps along the way -- we had some bad build up from a non-cloth-diaper-friendly detergent that took some serious stripping to get rid of.  After classes started I had to get used to getting up early to fit in a double load of diapers before going to school.  Our side of the building only gets sunshine in the morning, so we have to get the diapers out early to get maximum UV exposure.  With the brisk wind and dry air we've had lately, the diapers have been dry by mid-afternoon -- perfect.  The highlight of the summer thought was my discovery of bamboo fleece.  It is infinitely softer than the hemp, wash after wash.  I'm in love.  I also found adding vinegar to the (cold) rinse not only made the hemp come out softer, but it also helps the detergent rinse out quicker.  A lifesaver.

Speaking of detergent, I'm the guest blogger on Rockin' Green's blog this week!  So head over there and check it out!  They are our detergent of choice (and not because they sent us a fabulous bag of their Remix, although we appreciate it).  It smells yummy, rinses out easily, doesn't give anyone in my house a rash, and is my go to detergent for getting out tough stains.  This weekend I used it to get blueberry stains out of Izzy's light pink pants.  You wouldn't know she sat on blueberries for 15 minutes from looking at her pants.  I also use it off label for scrubbing the grout in the bathroom.  The best part is my clothes smell like nothing coming off the drying rack.  Just the way I like them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Update

So I'm not as far ahead as I had hoped to be.  We have about 10-12 extra oz in the fridge after I had to throw out about 16-20 because they had sat out too long.

Finding the extra time to pump has been difficult.  We have classes all morning long, then I usually study for 3-5hr blocks in the afternoon.  I don't have a key to the pump room so I've been having to pump in a study room in the basement after hours.  That is getting fixed though.  On top of all of this, Johnny has started waking up in the middle of the night to eat again.  He had been sleeping great most of the summer -- 10-12 hours at a time.  Now we wakes up consistently at 4am, sometimes 11p or 12a too.  He doesn't eat in the middle of the night on the weekends though, and eats less often while I'm in school, so I'm sure its due to my not being around during the day.  As a result I've been more tired and less likely to add an extra pumping session after the kids go to bed.  All I really want to do at that point is go to sleep myself.  If only I could pump in my sleep...

I might try going for high yield this weekend after the stress of my first exam has passed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Big E

My boobs embarrass me.
Okay, not all the time.  Actually, not even most of the time.  Want to crack a joke about them?  Go right ahead! It won't phase me, at least not for long.
However, ask me to talk to someone about making pumping arrangements and my ears turn bright red, my pupils dilate, and my heart starts to pound.  It is my equivalent of standing in front of an audience in my underwear.  You say its a man?  I might faint right now.
I've come to the conclusion it is the fact that I am bringing my breasts to the attention of someone in authority.  As soon as I open my mouth I feel as though they become the elephant in the room (or perhaps "the big E in the room" is a better euphemism...).  It should be like a conversation about taking a break for an insulin shot, but its not because my breasts are sexual.  At least that's what society says.

In grade school it was emphasized that we girls must keep the 4 B's (boobs, back, belly, butt) covered at all times lest an adolescent boy become faint from cerebral hypoperfusion.  We were taught all about menstrual cycles, male anatomy, female anatomy, ejaculation, ovulation, where babies come from, and where to get a prescription for birth control without our parents knowing (believe it), but no one talked about our breasts.  It was touched on a little in  the obligatory "lets pretend this sack of potatoes is your baby" exercise in prophylactic contraception, but the overarching message was that our breasts are sexual.  They are to be used in the art of seduction and as sexual playthings.  That's it.

Its not like I grew up in a house where this was the only message too -- my mom breastfed all of us and formula never entered the equation of child-rearing for me.  However its amazing how deep of an impact it can have when society, pop culture, etc. are repeatedly telling you how titillating your breasts are to men.  When you step out the door of your home that message completely washes away anything else you know.

In the end it makes a perfectly normal bodily function -- lactation -- embarrassing and stressful.

How do we fix this though?  Ban ads that display breasts in a sexual manner?  Have girls run around topless? I don't see either of those happening (and I'm a fan of relative modesty to boot).  Rather I'd love to see more examples of breastfeeding in everyday life.  It starts with women feeling free to nurse in public -- not just nurse ins, but during day to day activities like eating at a restaurant, worshiping at church, or while the kids play at a park.  I don't mean finding a dark secluded corner to do it either -- I mean nursing right there in the midst of things.  I don't think I ever witnessed a mother nursing her child in public before I had my daughter.  If I did, I didn't know what was happening.  I'd love to see examples in the mainstream as well -- advertisements, TV, and media to start.  It would be great to see posters promoting breastfeeding in doctors' offices too.  There are plenty of posters for Plavix and sponsored information kiosks about healthy living.  Why not add just one poster of a mother breastfeeding?

Until breastfeeding becomes as commonplace as Maxim, regardless of how many women breastfeed sexual stigma will continue to overpower the normalcy of lactation.  It needs to change.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hydration

You know that scene in Spaceballs where Lone Star, Dot, Barf, and the princess are walking across the desert and Lone Star and Barf are saying "water...water...water", Dot is saying "oil...oil...oil", and the princess is saying "room service...room service...room service"?  That's what I feel like some days.  Actually most days.  Especially this weekend.
I was working move-in, which meant I spent the entire day Saturday sitting outside in the hot, humid sun wearing long pants, boots, and too many shirts.  By 10am I could feel the sweat rolling down between my shoulder blades and creeping past the curve in my back to pool on my shirt just above my belt.  Gross, yah?  Luckily I have this totally awesome Contigo water bottle with a built in carribbeaner and an automatic seal and... wait, what?  You said I left it at home? Well $#@%.
Under normal circumstances this would be no big deal, but as I have discovered the thirst of a lactating woman is insatiable.  There was an info table giving out free 8oz bottles of water, and the health center table had a snow cone machine, but neither of these were really enough.  I mean, come on -- 8oz is what I give my daughter when she's thirsty.  I am a fully grown woman with an active pair of camel humps for my son.  My usual goal for the day is 120oz.  That's 15 8oz bottles.  I don't have enough pockets for that.
I think I did manage to snag 8 small bottles throughout the day, and I got a Gatorade bottle that I refilled a few times, but it was ridiculously wasteful going through all those bottles, and I felt like a crack addict -- is that water?  A bottle of water?  Can I have some?  Please?  Just one hit, I promise, then I'll leave you alone.
Meanwhile I forgot my cooler and had to dump what I pumped at lunchtime today.  One step back.  However, all Jhonny ate was what I pumped this morning.  One step forward.  I also managed to keep up with him on Saturday, and even get ahead a little bit.  Another step forward.  Keep up like this and I'll get to 100 eventually :)

BTW, I LOVE my Contigo.  Its very easy to use, has a built in carribbeaner so I can clip it on anything, has a wide opening for ice, and has a button you press to open it for drinking, which means no more spills and no more toddler pouring out my water.  It also makes it very easy to pour water from my bottle into my daughter's sippy cup on the go.  Only downside is it's top heavy when empty.  I've knocked it over countless times during a lecture or meeting attracting numerous death stares.  I still haven't learned to lay it on the floor when empty.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pumping

Sucks.

In both senses of the word. The more negative connotation is actually part of the reason why I chose this challenge. Attaching a suction cup to your chest for 30 minutes at a time is hard to get excited about. I'd rather breastfeed my son without a cover while standing in the middle of a crowded room holding a conversation with someone than retreat to a quiet corner with my little beeping machine. I figured if I was doing it for someone else besides my child it might be more bearable. Just a little bit.

Actually, all it has done is keep me motivated. When Johnny was a newborn I started pumping shortly after my milk came in so I never down-regulated appropriately. The result was 122oz of frozen milk in the first two weeks and persistent engorgement. After stockpiling so much I became lazy. Sometimes I wouldn't bother to pump if I was out and John had to give Johnny a bottle. I'd rather be engorged until his next feeding than sit down for 20 minutes. We blasted clear though those 122oz. Recently though I've been making an effort to pump a little extra. The closest HMBANA bank has a minimum requirement of 100oz, so my goal is to have 100oz of excess milk stored in the freezer by the end of the month. That's just 5 extra ounces a day for the rest of the month. I have no idea how much we have in the fridge at the moment -- I just know that I've been keeping a little ahead of Johnny since school started Monday. I have a good feeling about it though.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pain, Boobs, and other things

Its been a while.  I seem to have gotten distracted by other things - sewing, cooking, cleaning, and most time consming pain.  My recent pregnancy left me with a protruding disc, persistent back pain, and leg and foot numbess.  This 2 month process of medical appoitnments has brought me to the waiting room of the surgery center for a big fat shot in my back.  The best part has been that the only pain reliever I can take while breastfeeding is ibuprofen.  Awesome.  That doesn't do much for the numbness and tingling though which lead to constant tripping over things, like the dishwasher and curbs.  The good news is I can't feel the resulting cuts, scrapes, and bruises.  In reality the appoitnments have been enjoyable, despite the pain.  I've met a lot of excellent doctors that love what they do and love their patients.  I just got done with my injection (yes, I'm blogging on my phone on a gurney) and had great time talking to the doctor that did it.  I've said before that becoming a doctor is like entering a fraternity and medical school is the hazing ritual.  Once you say "medical student" the memories start flowing and the commiserating is wonderful.

It has also been fun to see the confusion and mild panic when I ask "so can I still breastfeed my son?".  Which brings me to the other thing I wanted to talk about: boobs.  I was happy to see the headline of my AMA digest yesterday was the new report from the CDC on breastfeeding.  The headline benefit that I've seen the AMA mention repeatedly is that breastfed babies have lower rates of obesity at 9mos, which translates to a lower rate of obesity later in life.  The biggest challenge I see with breastfeeding is community and environment.  We've created over several generations an atmosphere in which breastfeeding is 'weird'.  Case in point: I was volunteering/shadowing at a rural WIC office last week and while standing in the breastfeeding support room surrounded by posters of moms breastfeeding, a fellow medical student pointed at the Medela poster of a mom breastfeeding twins and remarked "that's kind of creepy".  Meanwhile I was thinking "that chick has some mad skillz".  She went on to remark that some of the children in the posters looked too old to be breastfeeding.  They all looked under 12 months to me, which is the goal for WHO and the CDC.  It's this kind of thinking that we need to work to change.  We need to get back to a point where we as a society can see breastfeeding as normal, natural, acceptable, and totally awesome.  It will help to increase breastfeeding rates, which will lead to other great health benefits: lower rates of obesity for mother and child, lower rates of breast cancer in moms, lower rates of illness in infants, better survival rates for premature infants... the list goes on.  So, the next time you see a mother breastfeeding anywhere I hope you at least realize what an amazing thing she is doing for herself and her child.

So, with last month's challenge blown out of the water, and school starting in 4 days (which means back to the pump!), I've decided to challenge myself to pump a little extra to donate.  This is something I've been wanting to do for a while, especially since I haven't been able to donate plasma, so what better time than the present.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 11, July

Good meals have been plentiful this week. I found an excellent recipe for Edamame and Blueberry Salad. Except I didn't really follow it. But I never follow recipes. Not even my own. Anyway, it still tasted good.
I thawed some frozen edamame, peas, and speckled butter beans in the microwave then tossed them in a vinagarette of olive oil, rice vinegar, some maple syrup, some of my Gramma's blackberry jam, and some brown mustard (couldn't taste the mustard... probably don't need it). After it cooled I threw in the blueberrys and some chopped fresh mint and basil. Nom. I loved it, although I think I added too much olive oil. I'd make sure there is as much or more of the other ingredients as olive oil. The awesome thing is that this salad is low in calories, low in fat, and high in fiber and tastiness.
Tonight was Southwest Chicken Salad. John cooked up a lot of chicken last night and seasoned it with lemon juice. Makes for some tasty chicken on its own, but its not very southwesterny. So I sauteed some onions in paprika and jalapeno powder. Yay for a kick! Add some toasted corn torillas with melted cheese and we're good to go. Izzy stuck with her carrots and salsa. Not feeling adventurous tonight. She did try the chicken last night though -- after some encouragement.

In other news, the Cloth Wipes Challenge from Mama on a Green Mission is going spectacularly. I'm definitely a fan of our bamboo french terry wipes over the cotton ones though -- so much softer. I might have to get some more french terry to make wipes and some robes. John has been fawning ever so slightly over the bamboo robes my mom and I made for the kids :) I have to admit -- they are pretty awesome.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Super Stalker Sunday

Ah.  Sunday afternoon.  The kids are napping (thank you swing).  The husband is sawing a log on the couch (thank you nerve pills).  The diapers are soaking.  Perfect time for some online socializing.  Enter the Super Stalker Sunday blog hop.  Take some time and check out some other totally awesome bloggers.  I know that's what I'm doing ;)


And here's a lovely picture to start it off -- a couple years old.






Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 8, July

I am very excited for this coming weeks' meals.  I think for the first time in my life I've actually planned a meal for myself further ahead than a day or two.  Its not that I'm incapable -- its that my natural state of being is spontaneity.  And, while I still love spontaneity in my life, with a 2 year old and a 5mo old I'm finding that some structure and planning has become a necessity.  Otherwise we end up placing an order for Papa John's on a Friday night at 9pm after the kids go to bed because our kitchen is lacking the makings for a complete meal and we are dog tired.
Tonight was some leftover turkey dogs and slaw.  Nom.  John got a head of cabbage and it turns out it is not as much of a pain to cut as one would think.  Here's the tutorial I used, from startcooking.com.  It was easy to understand.  When they say "Stabilize your cutting board" please do.  I nearly injured someone.  I'm not sure if it would have been me or John, but someone would have been bleeding.  And be sure to put your weight into it.  Cabbage, it turns out, is a tough nut.  As for the rest of the slaw, vinegar, mayo, and sugar.  My mother's recipe.  I'd give you the amounts, or even the ratios, but I have honestly have no clue.  And neither does she.  We just toss it all in and adjust until it tastes right.
Overall, not the healthiest, but it sure was quick: 15 minutes.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

30 Days for Change -- July

Happy 4th!  We stayed in and fell asleep to the sounds of fireworks.  Quite pleasant since they were not just down the street this year.
This month our focus is going to be food.  John and I both want to eat better, in part because he is developing all the health accoutrements of middle 30s, namely high triglycerides and high LDL.  Bring on the oatmeal and cheerios!  Thankfully I have youth and genetics on my side, but even those will only account for so many hamburgers and slices of bacon.  Equally (probably more) important, we want to set a good example for our kids and refrain from putting trash in their bodies.  Our aim this month is to try to cook good, healthful, fresh food.  Sometimes this is a challenge during the school year because of time constraints so we are going to try cooking for a week at a time on the weekends.  We are also going to give making our own frozen dinners a shot.  John got me a Lean Cuisine for work the other day (300cal?  For dinner?  Really?  and 980mg sodium?) and I realized that our options for quick dinners that I can take to work or school are extremely limited if I want something healthy and satisfying.  We are also going to try to make use of the Farmer's Market within walking distance of our apartment.  Its a shame we don't shop there more often since it is all local and very tasty food.

In other news, I found the most delicious and decadent brownie recipe the other day.  Too bad we are cutting our desserts to once a week.

Friday, July 1, 2011

June Wrap Up

So the beginning of June I set the following goals for our family:



  • Switch completely to cloth inserts -- no more flushables at day or night, even when I'm feeling lazy :)
  • Devise a night time all-cloth solution for my supersoaker son
  • Switch to cloth wipes
  • Sort out our washing routine -- I feel an experiment with hand washing coming on

I'm happy to say that I think we have hit all these marks.  We've been using the fitteds I made with fleece covers overnight for Johnny with much success.  The fitted diapers are pocket style so they dry easily and we've found stuffing them with 2 inserts works well.  The fleece cover keeps Johnny's clothes from getting soaked and everyone is happy.  We still have the flushables around and I did use them this week to help battle Izzy's rash.  She still has a bit of a rash that keeps coming back.  I might have to strip the inserts and try adding Funk Rock to our washing routine.  Or we could just potty train her.  As for cloth wipes, John and I have been using them every day for every change.  I like them a lot better than the disposables.  Finally, the wash routine: I think this is always going to be a challenge, but I feel as though I have more of a handle on it.  The RNG is getting our inserts clean beyond belief -- after a 10-15 minute soak and several rinses the stains are usually gone.  Tougher stains have sunned out in the time it takes for the inserts to dry.  I actually prefer the hand-washing to our washing machines downstairs.  I know our inserts are getting cleaned and rinsed thoroughly.  Sometimes it is better to just do things yourself!  

I promise there is a video on hand-washing planned.  I forgot that shooting video is not like shooting photos and I filmed everything in portrait when it needs to be in landscape.  Oops.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cloth Wipes, Day 8; 30 Day Challenge, Day 29

The Cloth Wipes Challenge is still going well here!  Loving the wipes and we've now used them out and about several times.  After 3 changes in flushies with generous amounts of A&D and Aquaphor Izzy's rash is gone.  I made a new wipes solution with water, some baby shampoo, and a couple drops of lavender oil.  We have been using lavender oil in Izzy's detangler and in our hand wash and it hasn't been causing her problems so I have high hopes.  We'll see how it goes.

Johnny is still trucking along doing fine.  I went to put one of his 9mos outfits on and it wouldn't snap at the bottom... time to pull out the 12mos.  Whoever is sneaking him HGH needs to stop.  Fer real.

In other news, we've been happy with the hand washer and my arms are looking amazing.  Working on a video to sum up what we've learned this month regarding the hand washer.  Great plans for our next 30 day challenge -- revamping the way we eat!  Nom, nom.

If you're taking part in the Cloth Wipes Challenge, let us know how its going!  Challenging?  Fun?  In-between?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 28

We've been doing well with the Cloth Wipes Challenge and I'm loving the new wipes I made.  They are out of bamboo french terry -- soft, absorbant, and they work well.  Downside -- Izzy's tempermental buttocks decided to break out in a rash. Can't blame it on disposable/unnatural/evil corporation anything this time.  I think it might be the tea tree oil.  Will try less or none of it in the next batch of wipes wash.

In other news, we're trying out the tea tree oil on John's head.  He has seborrheic dermatitis AKA cradle cap (infants) and really bad dandruff (adults).  In adults it is thought to be due in part to a naturally occurring yeast/fungus on the scalp.  Tea tree oil (an antifungal) was listed as a natural treatment for seborrheic dermatitis in adults so we thought we would give it a try.  After making a 5% solution I massaged it in to John's freshly washed scalp and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  He said it "burned... in a good way".  Like lifting weights?  He rinsed his hair afterwards and the angry, flaky red patches looked angrier, redder, but less flaky (hence why I think Izzy is reacting to it).  We'll see how it does after a few weeks.  He had been using Selsen Blue, but doesn't like the smell of the sulfur used in the formula that worked and said it stopped working after a while.

Fun fact, another treatment for seborrheic dermatitis in adults is UV radiation -- hence why John never has a problem with his scalp when he shaves his head!  Definitely a low maintenance easy treatment for dandruff if you don't mind a bald head.

As for infants, I'd shy away from the tea tree oil -- John got some in his eyes and said it burned... in a bad way.  Try a tooth brush and some regular shampoo or olive oil.  Both our kids had/have cradle cap and that is what has worked for us.  In all, it doesn't seem to bother them too much -- it doesn't seem to itch like John's does.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 24 -- Cloth Wipes Challenge, etc.

This will be short because I'm busy holding my breath during the CWS game :)

The wipes challenge is going well.  John and the kids got back into town yesterday and I was galavanting between work and the Keith Urban concert so I changed a total of two diapers in the first two days, both with cloth wipes.  However, we ran out of cloth wipes today!  I guess with two we need more than 9... oops.  I have to make some more tonight after the game.  We ended up having to use the Pampers Sensitive wipes for two changes.  It was a new package and we haven't used that specific brand in a long time and guess what -- BOTH kids broke out in a rash!  Thankfully we had a sample of diaper cream to use on Izzy, and Johnny started breaking out right before bath time.  They are both cleared up and I will be a wipe-making machine tonight if the sewing machine cooperates.

Otherwise, I've found soaking the diapers in RNG helps to get them cleaner.  I was just agitating for 5 minutes and it wasn't working too well.  Now I've been agitating a couple minutes, soaking for at least 10min, then agitating for 3-5 minutes.  Works better and less tiresome for me.

Bottom of the 9th.  Nail-biting time.

GO GAMECOCKS!

Starved for Attention

USA, 2010 © Jessica Dimmock/VII Network

In the US we've done a wonderful job of providing good nutrition to low income families through the WIC program.  For those who can access the program, it provides foods with a high nutritional value -- the types of food children need to grow and develop properly.  In addition it provides good nutrition to pregnant and breastfeeding women too, to ensure even the poorest of children get a good start nutritionally.

Meanwhile we ship corn and soy to third world countries; our 'gift' of food to the world.  Women and children here are given milk, eggs, whole wheat bread and grains, beans, vegetables and fruit (and the ability to get those vegetables and fruit from local farms to boot!).  Meanwhile we pay out the whazoo to grow, package and ship nutritionally empty food to children dying of malnutrition.  In reality, these foods do nothing for a child except make him feel full.  They do not prevent stunting, anemia, or other serious consequences of malnutrition.

USA, 2009 © Antonin Kratochvil/VII
Good nutrition doesn't only help a child to grow up 'big and strong'.  It plays a vital role in preventing death from common childhood diseases, such as a cold.  At the moment, the international donors making the largest contribution to international food aid -- the United States, Canada, members of the EU, Japan, and Australia -- are providing substandard food to children under 5.  Although fortified with some vitamins, these cereal-based products don't meet the minimal nutrition requirements for young children.

Good food is a basic necessity that everyone should have access to.  It prevents illness and helps to grow strong productive adults.  We are wasting our money on nutritionally inadequate food.  If we wouldn't give it to our children, why are we giving it to children that are dying of malnutrition?

India, 2010  © Stephanie Sinclair/VII
So what can you do?  Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF/Doctors Without Borders) and VII Photo Agency have partnered to create a media campaign to raise awareness of the problem of starvation and malnutrition plaguing the children of the world.  In addition, they have created a petition asking international donors to support only programs that respect the minimal nutritional needs of infants and young children, and put access to nutrition-rich foods at the center of their efforts to tackle childhood malnutrition in the worst-hit countries.  I ask you to join me in signing the petition and supporting minimal nutrition for all children, not just our own.  In addition, I ask you to not be silent about this!  Be loud!  Spread the word through your social network(s) of choice: Twitter, Facebook, Meetup, your own blog...  At the bottom of the 'Sign the Petition' page, MSF has a list of ways you can spread the news.  If you're more a fan of face-to-face contacts you can organize your own petition-signing event!  MSF has a petition you can print out for people to sign.  Bring it to your moms' group, girlscout meeting, boyscout meeting, the grocery store, church, sewing circle, the movies -- anywhere you feel comfortable spreading the word.

First, I encourage you to explore the story more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 22

So I've decided to take on the cloth wipes challenge from Mama on a Green Mission.  I had already planned on switching to cloth wipes and there is no time like the present, right?  I made up a wipes solution a couple days ago using my peri bottle from the hospital, filtered water, a little bit of baby soap, and some baby oil.  I made it like I cook, so there was no measuring involved.  I got some tea tree oil from Earthfare yesterday and added it to the wipes because we live in the south and mold and funk is part of life.  The tea tree oil is supposed to help with that.  For wipes I grabbed a dozen or so from the huge stash of baby washcloths from the hall closet.  The nice-almost-grown-up ones will not be touched, nor will the crocheted ones from my mom, pinky swear :).  I have my limits.

There's a twist though...

Today is the first day of the challenge, but Monday I was so rip-roarin' to go that I started using the cloth wipes right away and loved it.  Then yesterday my husband made plans for today to go to his mom's and take care of some stuff up there.  Catch: I'm working 3pm today until 7am tomorrow, and for some reason my boss won't let me take my kids on emergency calls.  Something about safety concerns...

So John left with kids in tow at 1pm today.  Disposable wipes and flushable inserts went along too because John doesn't want to deal with diaper laundry for the short time they will be gone, understandably.

So in summary, first day of the cloth wipes challenge: I changed one diaper and used one cloth wipe.  Fail.  However it was a monstrous set of EBF golden farts.  And I only had to use ONE wipe.  So I think that counts as an epic success :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 19 -- Happy Father's Day!

John shot his first wedding yesterday for a cousin of his and we spent today recovering.  Made waffles for the dear man this morning -- strawberry waffles with homemade blueberry jam (wedding favor -- cute yah?).  I think an Earthfare trip is in order tomorrow to make some wipes wash.  Also need to make another fitted -- the first one I made doesn't fit Johnny as well as it could.  I also found my stash of old T-shirts and fabrics while I was cleaning out the closet.  Score one for thriftiness.  Have a bunch of soakers to run up -- cut the fabric out at work the other night.  Now I just need to find some time to sew.  Maybe tomorrow night.

More importantly than all that -- much love to all the dear men in my life.  John -- the best father I could have wished for our children.  My dad -- simply amazing in everything he does and so selfless.  My grandfathers -- both have done a wonderful job of spoiling me as my father is now doing for my kids.  My godfather -- lacking in the Italian department, but equally as scary to unworthy suitors.  I know if I ever need a dad and can't get a hold of mine he's there to fill in... or supplement when it comes to homecoming dates.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 16

Late again.  Posting that is.  Don't get too excited ;)

We got our Rockin' Green in the mail, so the diapers are all soaking.  Lavendar Mint Revival... mmmm.  The kids are in disposable inserts in the meantime.  The water looks very grungy.  I'm not sure if that's a reflection on my diapers, our bathtub, or both.

I also ran up three soakers this afternoon using some awesome polar fleece I found in the remnant bin.  They are adorable if I do say so myself.  I have having scraps, so two of them have pockets.




Yah, take that Huggies!  My jean-look-alike-diapers are so much cooler than yours!  They are soft and cuddly, like a teddy bear.  You make a disposable feel like that!

My favorite by far is the one with the 'Hanes' waistband.  Again, need to make some more fitteds and make sure these work for Johnny overnight.  Might make some prefolds and invest in some snappis too.  After watching a how-to video I've realized they aren't nearly as scary as they look.  The pins are, but the snappis are not.  The only thing that bothers me is that the snappis don't 'snap'.  They hook.  Or grab.  Or something.  So shouldn't we be calling them 'hookis'?  or maybe 'pointis'?  or 'grabbis'?  I think Sharpie is rightfully taken. Might not go over well either.

My goal next week is to dig through our stack of wash cloths and separate out the cheap ones for butt-wiping duty, a noble and totally worthy cause.  We need to end our addiction to disposable wipes.  I found three in the laundry today.  To top it all off, Izzy is getting confused and put TP in the laundry hamper.  This has nothing to do with the fact she is two.

I'm also going to start looking at recipes for wipes solutions.  I'm thinking something with lavender oil because I would like to use the lavender oil to make a detangler/refresher for Izzy's and my hair.  If I can use it for two things, then its easier to swallow the price tag.  I can just remind myself how wonderfully useful it is :)  I've heard great things about tea tree oil too, so that might be involved.

Last note: we got a Boon Flo today -- it helps with filling the bucket and looks cool.  We were losing half the water coming out of the faucet while filling the bucket because I can't hold it close enough to the faucet to get all the water into our bucket without aggravating my back (I need Boeing to do some ergonomic restructuring in our bathroom... Dad?).  The Flo spits the water out so I can set the bucket down and still catch all the water.  Problem solved, world saved.  My work here is done for today.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 15

First -- funny story.  We haven't done our laundry in a number of days, so we are weighed down with laundry.  We hung as much as we could to dry so the laundry racks were packed.  Thankfully it was pretty dry today so they were on the balcony.  I got the kids down for bed and I'm sitting at the computer and I notice some lightning -- better get the laundry inside.  As I get up to get the laundry I hear Johnny crying.  So I go get him and I walk back into the living room just in time to see the laundry racks slide across our balcony!  A huge gust of wind blew both of our racks to the end of the balcony.  We live in a corner apartment, so it almost blew them OFF the balcony!  I set Johnny down and rushed outside to get the clothes.  I did a quick once over and it doesn't look like we've lost anything, but if anyone happens to see some random clothes blowing about Columbia let us know!

Right now its raining and storming again.  Good, because it will help the night cool off.

In other news, the fitted pocket with the soaker worked great on Izzy overnight.  The fitted is drying -- then we'll give it a shot on Johnny.  Thankfully it did not get blown off the balcony.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

If you're looking for a good series to sit and watch when you have nothing else to do, check out Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on Hulu.  Last 'season' he went to West Virginia.  This time he's in LA.  He's trying to foster real change in the way kids eat in school and the way parents eat at home.  Its great; refreshing, informative, and very honest.  I remember growing up on school lunches that were fast food every day.  It tasted okay, but every day?  I would have loved to have fresh fruit and vegetables instead -- hence why I brought my lunch most of the time.  In all, it will really make you think about where you food comes from and what you are feeding your kids.

Day 13

Finished the fitted.  Made it from an old t-shirt, some bad underwear, and some leftover bamboo french terry.  Had to get some hook and loop and elastic - total cost was under $3. Trying the fitted/fleece soaker combo on Izzy tonight. 

Meanwhile enjoying the thunderstorm.  Was going to go out for cookies or have some delivered from Insomnia, but no one should be out in this weather.  Enjoying graham crackers and peanut butter instead.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 12

Isabel and I made muffins for John:

 

They are blackberry applesauce spice muffins.  Nom.  Now we just have to wait for him to wake up.

And, as promised, below is a picture of the fleece covers I ran up.  I have yet to make a fitted to go under them.  Once I do, we'll see how they work for overnight.  There is a medium and a large -- I wasn't sure which one would fit better.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine..."

Often when it comes to stewardship I often find myself thinking in terms of 'mine'.  How do I use my talents to benefit others?  How do I share my treasure?  How can I be a better steward of my children?  All of this results in unintentionally self-centered thinking.  The world and my impact on it is put in a box, one that ends where I think what is mine ends.

In reality, nothing I 'own' is mine.  That's the point of stewardship.

Courtesy of Merriam-Webster:
steward1 : one employed in a large household or estate to manage domestic concerns (as the supervision of servants, collection of rents, and keeping of accounts): a fiscal agent4
a : an employee on a ship, airplane, bus, or train who manages the provisioning of food and attends passengersb : one appointed to supervise the provision and distribution of food and drink in an institution5
: one who actively directs affairs

None of these definitions say "owner".  So in fact all I 'have' does not belong to me -- not even my children.   Especially not my children.  Lets look at those questions again: 

How do I use God's talents to benefit others?  How do I share God's treasure?  How can I be a better steward of God's children?

Doesn't that open things up a lot more?  My world and what I can do is no longer limited by me and to me.  The one that strikes me the most today is the last one.  When I asked myself "How can I be a better steward of my children?" I was limited to my own children -- two adorable easy to love people.  But God's children?  That's everyone -- my husband, my parents, my brothers, my neighbors, the men lined up outside Oliver Gospel Mission, the annoying lady yelling into a cell phone at the doctor's office, rapists, that guy driving a Mercedes that cut me off last week -- lots of people that aren't so easy to love all the time (though the first three are indeed easy to love!).  And how about being their steward?  We know from Genesis never ask God "Am I my brother's keeper?"  You be in da dog house for that.

Sometimes its easy to know what to do, just not how to do it.  Our health *not so much* care system is a great example of one of the ways we fail as a nation to be good stewards of the least and the not so least among us.  More time and energy is spent devising and protecting methods to make money off of sick people than is spent actually making people well.  There are plenty of people who want to help their neighbor, I would like to believe, but more often than not money, red tape, and inaccessibility get in the way.  Someone has to pay for the tests, the medicines, and the surgeries.  The higher the profit margin, the more those things cost, and the less affordable they become.  Granted, people need to make some money, but there's a difference between making a killing and making a living.  As Lone Star (Spaceballs) would say, "Take only what you need to survive."  The result are low and low-middle income adults who are holding down a job, but still can't afford health insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid.  If these adults get seriously ill or injured, they are screwed. They end up becoming sub-productive members of society and fall further into poverty due to bills for medical care and/or becoming disabled because of the financial barriers to medical care.

This certainly isn't our only call in being good stewards of God's children.  It is a daily call -- one to treat others with respect, tenderness, and care, to help where and when we can, and to always put others first.

C'est en s'oubliant qu'on trouve.

PS: I totally just quoted the Bible and Spaceballs in the same post.  That just happened.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 10

Nothing much has been happening.  The hand washing is going well and I am waiting with anticipation the arrival of our Rockin Green soap.  John thinks I'm weird for getting excited about laundry detergent.  I've got some patterns for diapers floating in my head that involve worn out underwear.  Now I just have to find the time to sew.

My husband also bought me a rose the other day.  Sweetest man ever.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 8... ish

I think we've worked most of the kinks out of our wash routine, and I'm finally caught up on the diaper laundry.  John is getting ideas of grandeur -- now he wants to do all our laundry by hand.  While I admire his penny-pinching ways, we will have to see if we have the time.

Meanwhile I made two soakers tonight from Katrina's Pattern, one medium and one large.  The first one took a little over an hour to make, the second 45 minutes.  The best part was that I used an old fleece blanket that I'm not particularly fond of to make the soakers.  There will be plenty more soakers to follow since I still have lots of blanket left.  Total cost: $0.  My favorite price.

Prince Charming is cooing -- can't miss out on cute baby time.  Pictures to follow.  Of the soakers.  Possibly of the cooing one.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 7

I've done... 4 loads of diaper laundry with the hand washer?  Three or four.  So far so good.  Drying in the sun has definitely helped, along with adding some vinegar to the wash.  A tablespoon of our regular Arm and Hammer detergent has been almost too much -- it takes a few extra rinses to get rid of the bubbles.  I just ordered some Rockin' Green detergent and hope it will work out well.  I've already been impressed with the samples I got from the Great Cloth Diaper Change so I'm getting good vibes.

Bad news is the water-squeezer-outer didn't really work and was a PITA to operate.  I took a bucket and drilled holes in the bottom, then drilled holes in a lid that was too small to fit over the bucket.  I threaded rope through the holes, put the wet inserts in the bottom, then pulled on the rope to squeeze the inserts between the lid and the bottom of the bucket.  Labor intensive, blister producing, and poor results.
Back to the drawing board, or in this case, instructables.com.  I found this instructable for a Non-Electric Laundry Press.  So I took my wash bucket, set it in the smaller bucket I had drilled holes in, and sat on it.  Worked great and definitely easier on my hands.

The diapers still take about 12-24 hrs to dry.  Setting them out in the sun helps a lot, but with the storms recently... can't do it every day.

I'm still working on an overnight solution for Johnny meanwhile.  We have lots of extra T-shirts so I think I might make a T-shirt fitted with a pocket and a polar fleece cover.  Or, if I can find some wool at Goodwill I could use that.

Whoops... I guess this is now Day 8.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 5

Johnny and I took a trip back to Lowe's today to pick up a PVC-free plunger and a few other things.  I got an idea for a way to squeeze the water out of the inserts without tearing apart my hands!  It involves another, smaller bucket, rope, a lid, and power tools.  The last item makes it awesome.  It would have been more awesome had Lowe's still had the sparkley green buckets in stock.  

John and I put together the washing 'machine' and the water-squeezer-out-er today (Note to self: come up with a better name).  Right now I'm running them through their paces to figure out the best cleaning method.  Thankfully we have 5 days worth of diaper laundry to experiment on.  Yay?

Videos and pictures to following pending editing, splicing, and bettering by John.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 4


So there was supposed to be a Day 2 and a Day 3 post, but a storm knocked out the power at our apartment.  The top picture shows the baseball field behind our apartment during the storm.  The bottom picture is the same field, same camera settings while lightning wasn't flashing.  The power came on for a short bit, but then a transformer blew, adding some gorgeous orange and green to the night sky.  On the upside our apartment was blissfully quiet.  No A/C cutting on and off, no buzzing electronics.  I could see the fireflies in the parking lot (I didn't know we had any) and hear the water rushing in the creek nearby.

As I explained earlier the community washers in our apartment building suck in a bad way.  I sensed we had a problem when our dirty diapers were coming out with poo still attached.  I knew we had a problem when the build-up issues started.  I started cleaning the poo diapers before washing them and added a bath rub rinse to our wash cycle and things were still coming out dirty.  After visiting my mom and realizing we were paying $1.25 for the washers to move around a bit and ding, I decided I might as well take on the other two laundry cycles too and stop pouring money into a black hole.
I fielded this idea with John on Wednesday and his response: "I can work on my biceps for you".  Maybe I won't have to do diaper laundry anymore.
So Thursday the kids and I went on an adventure to Lowes to pick up all the ingredients per this instructional blog post at Dirty Diaper Laundry for a camp washer.  We opted for the deluxe version but got the plastic door sweeps instead of the hair-like ones (pictures to follow).  We also picked up a two-pack of plungers because it was the cheapest plunger option (yes, the two were cheaper than the cheapest one!).  Therefore we will experiment: does a plunger with holes in it clean diapers as well as a plunger without holes?
However, Thursday night when I was proudly showing off my haul I happened to read off the label under the recycling symbol on the bottom of the plunger.  "PVC... huh."  Then John's eyes got big "What?  PVC?  As in Polyvinylchloride?  You know that leaches dangerous chemicals?!  We are not cleaning diapers with that!"  So I did what all good researchers do: I Wiki'd it.  I couldn't find any definitive information about off-gassing, however burning PVC releases the chemicals often used to soften it.  I could tell the plunger had softeners in it and since we were planning on drilling holes in it I decided we'd better opt for something else.

So we're going to try to return the plungers and get some cheaper ones at Target.

Side note: the other thing that has been consuming my time this weekend has been my best friend's wedding.  I'm one of his groomspersons so many festivities have been involved.  Highlight by far has been the groomspersons gifts: engraved matching swords with which to defend the bride against anyone who should try to claim her for themselves.  Um.  Totally awesome.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

30 Days for Change -- June

There are many things we'd like to change in our lives -- eating habits, energy consumption, exercise... the list goes on.  John and I have finally decided to do something about it all, Catholic Lent style.  Each month we will choose some aspect of our life to focus on, one specific lifestyle change we'd like to make, and we will make that change, starting with this month.
This month is diapers.  We've already started making the transition from disposables to cloth, but we can do more to green our diaper change routine.  We stocked up on gDiaper covers a couple months ago and made a few cloth inserts for ourselves.  They were not enough though for 2 kids for half a week.  I took advantage of my mom's serger last week and we now have 60 cloth inserts.  Yippee! (No pun intended, but I did lol at myself).
Downside of the visit to my parents' house: I found out the washers in the basement to our apartment complex are shams.  They just add water, shift things around, spin, add more water, spin again, then ding.  They don't actually clean anything like my mom's fabulous frontloader with the sanitizing, extra rinsing, stain cleaning, 2hr 13min cycle.  Since we can't fly to CA to do laundry twice a week I need to figure out some way to actually get our diapers clean.
Here are my goals for the month:

  • Switch completely to cloth inserts -- no more flushables at day or night, even when I'm feeling lazy :)
  • Devise a night time all-cloth solution for my supersoaker son
  • Switch to cloth wipes
  • Sort out our washing routine -- I feel an experiment with hand washing coming on

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Son is Hiding a Water Gun in His Diaper

I swear he just stores it all up in his bladder and lets loose at night.  Its like he's hiding one of those huge Nerf water guns in the folds of his thighs.  gDiapers have been great during the day, but there is a limit to how much you can stuff in them at night, and we've passed that limit.  gDiapers suggests adding a flushie insert to a cloth insert for overnight, and although this works very well I'd rather go all cloth all the time.

I have discovered Fashionably Green Boutique's extra deep gDiaper pouches for Izzy.  They are amazing.  I stuffed two of my homemade inserts in one of these pouches and it lasted Izzy all night long.  I did have to size her up to a L cover, but she's pushing the envelope with the M ones.  And she waddles with her overnight diaper on.  Its adorable.

Johnny has been a problem since he started sleeping through the night.  At first it wasn't too bad.  Then the monsoon came to town.  He would go to bed looking so sweet and wake up looking (and feeling) like we had pulled his diaper out of the river and slapped it on him.  Thankfully he has put on some chunk so he's now in M/L covers, but evidently his chunky thighs are not quite chunky enough for the M/L pouches, including the nice extra deep ones.  We recently won a BumGenius 4.0 at the Great Cloth Diaper Change and it has been working its magic overnight.  Finally a dam for our Amster!  Oh, except for last night.  He's been upgrading his holding tank.  Time to bring out the Zorb inserts.  He's only 3mos so I have a feeling we are headed towards the holy grail of overnight supersoaker shields -- wool covers.  Until then, I'll take the pocket diapers.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Airports

Airports are not kid friendly.  Airports are SO not kid friendly.

The kids and I are out visiting my parents in CA for a few weeks and we all flew out with my mom the day of my last exam.  John and I had taken Izzy out to CA last fall and from that trip we figured out a few things, most notably don't try to carry a walking toddler and her infant carrier through an airport.  Izzy had just turned one but was still small enough to fit in her ridiculously huge infant carrier... barely.  We also didn't check any bags.  Big mistake.

So my mom and I remedied these snafus this time around.  We checked one large bag and my mom's rolling bag, took Izzy's toddler carseat attached to this thingamajig, I wore Johnny in his carrier, and my mom and I each carried a backpack.  The Travelmate was wonderful -- Izzy loved being able to be wheeled around the airport in her own carseat.  It even served as her own perfect little seat when we were waiting at the gate.  Downside: we couldn't wheel it down the aisle of the aircraft, so when it came time to board my mom had to lug the carseat down the aisle spewing "I'm sorry" and "Excuse me" at every passenger already seated on the aisle while I lugged the Travelmate and tried to herd Izzy who was obscured from my sight by Johnny into the correct row.

Okay... so really not so bad thus far.  What really bothered me were the mundane silly things.  I was traveling with two kids in diapers, which meant diaper changes were plentiful.  For some reason many airports have adopted the noveau version of the fold down diaper changer: a counter top, often without a lip, and sometimes next to a sink!  Danger Will Robinson!  At least in the womens' restroom in ATL this was set apart from the sinks.  In one of the airports we had a layover in last fall it was not.  Gross.  Next was the lack of kids' meals.  There was a Moe's in ATL near our terminal so we decided to eat there for dinner.  I tried to order Izzy a Moo Moo Mr. Cow.  "What's that?"  Seriously?  They don't do kids' meals.  McDonalds' and Chick fil a might, but fast food gives her the shits, not to mention it should be the food of last resort.  So Izzy ate all the black beans out of my quesadilla.  Yum.  Finally, there is the sheer volume of random people all crammed into one place.  There were people running, walking, and dilly-dallying to and fro, all a very bad scenario for a toddler that wants to run around completely ignorant of whose legs she might be running in to.  Hello stress migraine.  Hello Starbucks.  Nom.

All in all we survived.  We got to CA safely and without major incident, although Johnny managed to completely blow out his diaper, all the way up his back while my mom was holding him.  He took a little bath in the family restroom.  And wore his sister's pants.  Yes, they fit -- kind of.

PS: AirTran doesn't have preferential boarding for families with small children.  Hence my mom smacking many a passenger in the head with our carseat and the both of us holding up everyone else who was boarding while we installed Izzy's carseat.  Boo.  Not traveling AirTran again until they resolve this.  With the exception of the trip back.  Grr.

Edit: E-mailed AirTran about the boarding issue.  It sounds like they have no intention of changing their boarding policies and suggested we check the car seat for our not even 2 year old at the gate next time.  Right.  -.-  BTW, FAA and AAP recommend children under 4 yoa or 40lbs ride in a car seat.  Great advice.

gDiapers

gDiapers are probably the "safest" cloth diaper for a recovering disposable user.  You can choose to use them with cloth full time and have the option of the flushable insert when you just don't feel comfortable using cloth.

Pros: I love that I can rotate two covers for each of the kids all day long.  If a liner gets dirty I just rinse it out, toss it in the laundry, and get a new one.  In addition these are almost blow-out proof.  I remember washing at least one onesie a week when Izzy was in disposables and still EBF.  Johnny has had one total.  What the liner doesn't catch the covers do a good job of catching.  I usually end up cleaning a minimal amount of poop off a cover once or twice a week.  To me that's amazing.  Also, these are pretty trim cloth diapers meaning that pants fit better and my diaper bag is smaller :)  

I love the flushable inserts.  We haven't had time to build up our cloth stash to a reasonable size, so we've been using flushies from time to time and overnight.  They work wonderfully overnight for Johnny when paired with a cloth insert.

Cons: There is a learning curve.  Most notable is figuring out how to fasten the tabs in the back properly when your child is laying on his/her back.  It also takes some practice to figure out how to get the liner to fit properly in the crease of the thigh.  This is very important for preventing leaks and blowouts.  Also, while we've found the sizing to be pretty good on Izzy, we've hit some trial and error with Johnny.  His belly is on the chubby side and while he's outgrown the small covers he's just a tad to skinny around the thigh for the M/L liners to make a good seal.  The result is a lot of leg blow-outs.  We've resolved this by using small liners with medium covers.  Seems to work for the most part.  

Side notes: we made our own cloth inserts and chose not to use the gcloth.  I made some microchamois/microfiber/hemp fleece inserts and after using them for a month they are my least favorite.  I love Johnny's bamboo velour/bamboo terry/hemp fleece inserts.  They are extremely soft.  We also have some of these Zorb inserts by twinkletoesdiapers in M/L and they work beautifully in gDiapers with less bulk.  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cloth Diapers and Cookie Monster

When we started thinking about cloth diapers, the first the biggest obstacle we thought about was poo.  Not the nice firm toddler poos, or the still icky but not particularly gross BF poos -- no, it was the soft messy I-really-don't-want-to-touch-that poos that came to mind.
It took a while to get over this, and once we did, we figured cloth diapering would be a breeze.

And then came Cookie Monster.
Some background -- Izzy was very into diaper changes in disposables.  She would run to her room, get a diaper (which requires pulling 3-4 other diapers onto the floor), and the excitedly insist you change her.  Then we got our gDiapers in the mail.  The instant we pulled the diaper out of the package she wanted it on.  We didn't have any inserts, but the person that sent us the diaper included two disposable inserts so we were set for two diaper changes.  And for two diaper changes she was happy.
By the time I finished the cloth inserts we had some new gDiapers.  We went through a few diaper changes just fine.  Then the protests started.  The minute John finished putting on a diaper it was off.  "Tight!"  Izzy protested every single time we put one on. We checked and it wasn't tight -- it was loose.  It was ridiculously loose.  She still cried and protested and yanked it off.  Back to 'sposies :(

We kept trying again and again and eventually Izzy would consent to a cloth diaper change, but only after we "ran out" of disposables.  We kept a couple disposables in the diaper change drawer for night time and one afternoon Izzy pulled a 'sposie out and pointed to the front with a big grin on her face and said "Cookie!".  Cookie Monster was on the front.  At first I was perplexed because Izzy doesn't watch TV and we don't have Sesame Street books.  John had been telling her the name of the characters on the diapers and she fell in love with Cookie Monster.  There are 3 or 4 other characters on the diapers, so the 3-4 she would pull out were the other characters she didn't want.  Goodness.
So I got some iron-ons and ironed a face on one of her gDiapers and flowers on another and now she loves them.  Go figure.

Moral: faces are cooler than pretty colors if you're 18 mos old.

BTW: I'm working on making a Cookie Monster gDiaper.