Sunday, October 28, 2012

Name Change?

Or why you should never name your blog after your kids.

I thought I was very clever when I named this blog.  After all, pretty much everything I do and think about revolves around them, even if it is tangentially.  But then we had to go and throw a wrench in things.

We're due with number three in March and my world will no longer revolve around just two little people.  I could just tack number three's name on to the end but since we have yet to pick a name I am not going to even tempt myself to pick one based on how it makes the title of my blog sound.  So don't be surprised if the title changes to something a little more generic over the next few months.  I'll leave the web address alone for simplicity's sake though ;)

Monday, October 8, 2012

God, medicine, and spirit

My mom has a knack for sending awesome articles my way.  The most recent:

A Doctor's Ministry, Bridging Science and Spirit from the NY Times.

First, this man, Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky, has a gift with words.  Two of my favorite quotes from this article:

"The people I care for are imperfect.  And I can't make them perfect."

I think people inclined towards medicine are also generally inclined towards fixing things.  I know I am.  As such, one of the hardest facts to face in medicine is that we cannot simply fix our patients.  They come to us broken in so many ways and will leave broken.  We aren't god.  In fact we are as broken as our patients.  What we can do though is care for our patients -- both body and spirit.

It's important to recognize the body and spirit are tightly intertwined.  Medical education generally tries to isolate the body and focus on physical healing alone -- and that makes a lot of sense, as very few of us are experts in spiritual matters.  But it is hard to ignore the toll physical pain takes on the spirit.  Even if you 'fix' the body, there are still scars on the spirit.  That's something we cannot fix.

Speaking of... my other favorite quote.

"I see children with some amazing deformities.  But God doesn't make mistakes."

While I was rotating through pediatric surgery, my team was consulted on a baby in the NICU with multiple deformities, inside and out.  His heart didn't pump right.  He couldn't eat because his esophagus was connected to his wind pipe.  His arms were contorted.  His fingers were fused.  And his parents had a tough call to make.  Its hard to sit down with a patient, or parents, deliver bad news and still believe that God doesn't make mistakes.  Its hard to know that care is being withdrawn from a one week old and still believe that God doesn't make mistakes.  But for my patients and their loved ones I need to.  For myself I need to.  Those four words are like a life raft in the storm -- they are hope that some true healing will come from brokenness and sorrow.

Those four words are what make our patients perfect.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Biiicycle! Biiiiicycle!

I would have posted the official video, but that's not exactly family friendly.  I might have just listened to the whole song for the first time a few minutes ago too...

On to the point of it all.  It seems the upstate was made for bicycles, or at least the parts we live/work in.  Shortly before moving up here I jumped on a Burley trailer (Encore I think) I found on craigslist.  Best craigslist find yet.  Its fairly easy to pull even with 55lbs of kid and handles the pot holes and railroad tracks around here like a champ.  It is tough to drag up hill -- or worse, get a start on a hill -- but not impossible.

Once we got the trailer, I of course needed a bike.  Three bike shops later I found a nice Giant Sedona.  It sits upright, has front shocks, and most importantly comes standard with the kind of seat I would want to sit on for three hours.  I can also ride it for an hour without back pain, which is a small miracle.

As for actually getting on the road, our little town is perfect for that.  The roads in our neighborhood are two lane and insanely generous and the hills are gentle for the most part.  Added bonus, folks don't drive like maniacs around here *cough*Columbia*cough*.  The recreation complex (PLAYGROUND!) is a 10 minute bike ride away.  We are two blocks and 4 sets of railroad tracks from downtown.  During the summer we braved the heat and rode our bikes to the grocery store and the post office regularly -- a whopping 8 minute ride.  I've been more reluctant since school started, but on nice cool mornings a bike ride to the rec complex is not out of the question.

As for Greenville... oh my does that city love bikes.  When I first heard the buzz about Swamp Rabbit Trail I was picturing mud, trees, and rocks.  Boy was I wrong.  It is greenway, or paved trail that passes mostly through undeveloped natural surroundings and acts as a walking/biking highway for the city of Greenville.  It will eventually stretch from Travelers Rest to Fountain Inn and is only a small part of one huge system of bike/walking trails that the city has planned.  Hopping on the SRT for an after school ride is one of my favorite things to do... when I have time.  I hope to get my kids up there one morning or afternoon for a ride so they can enjoy the scenery.  Shoot, might as well take the hubs too.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Men in skirts

Izzy loves skirts about as much as I do
but sometimes she just HAS to wear one.
Even when its REALLY cold.
I hate skirts.  I always have, even though my mom will tell you she has a home video that will dispute that.  I'm sure there were some bicycle shorts underneath that plaid 90s inspired skirt.  I wore skirts in high school because the uniform shorts looked like the discarded offspring of Grannie panties and boyshorts.  I brought a few skirts with me to piano camp because we had to dress nicely for the mandatory concerts.  Otherwise I have avoided skirts like the plague, opting for raggedy jeans and knee length shorts in the summer time.

It has taken 6 summers of 100 degrees blanketed in 100% humidity, but the South has finally converted me.  Now, don't take that statement the wrong way -- this has nothing to do with the religious or social climate in the South and everything to do with the actual climate. Its darned hot here and I don't feel like denim colored paint-on shorts with my butt cheeks hanging out are really my thing.  Skirts flatter in a conservative way while allowing the lower half my body to practice evaporative cooling unhindered.

Those Scots really had it figured out.  Not only could they moon their opponents playfully before battle, but they could also keep their body at a comfortable temperature whilst cutting off heads -- who doesn't want that?

In related news, Japan implemented a special summer dress code for the office to help save energy.  It reminds me of casual Friday in Hawaii, minus the surfboards and shorts.  I have a better suggestion -- why not capitalize on the wisdom of their ancestors and wear kimono?  Yah, it looks like something your grandparents would wear (because they probably did), but maybe they had a good reason to, at least in the summer.  Its formal and comfortable -- what a concept!  Just avoid bicycles.

So, in the name of saving the earth, how many men will be donning a skirt this summer?  Anyone?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 7: Hindsight 20-20

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

Johnny's ready for bed in a wool
cover, 30x30 flat, and padfolded
t shirt
In my year of handwashing our chosen diaper system of gDiapers and flapped inserts I didn't get very adventurous.  I tried a few other diapers -- pocket diapers with microfiber inserts, pocket diapers with all natural inserts, the Freetime -- but never prefolds or flats.  Everything I tried washed up okay, but I constantly fought ammonia stink and build up whenever I changed detergents or the universe wanted a few laughs.

So would I have opted for flats from the start if I knew what I know now about the benefits and savings of flats?

Short answer: Yes

Flats dry incredibly quickly, even compared to my usual inserts.  I hung out some flats before church this morning and they were dry, thanks to sun and wind, by the time I got back.  During the first two days of the challenge I hung the flats in our living room under a fan overnight (9pm till 7am) and they were dry in the morning.

There are some changes I would make though.   With two kids in cloth it was difficult enough to handwash a days' worth of inserts in one load -- I could only wash 12 inserts at once and they usually went through 15-18.  During the challenge I found I could only wash 6-7 flats per load because of their size (30"x30"). I would probably make some smaller flats specifically for padfolding inside t-shirt flats or covers so I could fit more in a load. My current inserts are 4 layers of fabric, so a 18"x18" flat would be just fine.  They'd probably work pretty well for a newborn too.

Izzy participated in the challenge but opted against
flats for her baby.  Thankfully baby didn't have any
dirty diapers, so Izzy didn't have any washing to do
I would use wool covers.  Wool is harder to come by and it is more expensive, but I believe it is worth every penny when handwashing.  I think it is simply amazing that you can use a wool cover for a week without washing it (unless it gets soiled).  Plus they are a cinch to wash: squeeze, soak, squeeze, hang dry.

I don't think I would use wool for a baby under 6 mos.  I can just see yellow peanut butter poo all over my wool covers 2-3x per day.  Wool usually takes a good 12 hours or more to dry for us.  A set of gDiapers or some wipeable PUL covers would be more cost effective.

I wouldn't change my T-shirt flats.  They were perfect for regular changes and uncomplicated to use.  And they were free.

As for handwashing?

Totally doable.

We handwashed our diapers for a year while balancing my 14-16 hours of school a day, my part time job and my husband's part time job.  We kept going despite my herniated disk and his carpal tunnel.  Do I miss my WonderWash?  Yes.  Its a back saver.  However, if I had to handwash our diapers again with just a bucket and plunger I would happily.

In summary, I have some changes to make to my Handwashing Guide.  And I think I'll overhaul that whole page.  Ho hum.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 6: Its all about the Money

Dinosaur baby
I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

I convinced my husband to switch to cloth only after doing an extensive cost-benefit analysis.  Since I am in school full time (as in 60+ hours a week), we live on loans supplemented by hub's part time job.  A dollar spent today means a dollar plus interest we have to pay back down the road.  We were out to save as much as possible by cloth diapering, but I was only willing to go so far.  I stuck to the gDiaper system so we would have a disposable 'out'.  I conceded to make inserts since it would be cheaper than buying them, but I opted for high quality fabrics for the most absorbency.  We spent about $500 on more than enough cloth diapers to take our two babies from 2 months to potty-training.

For comparison, let me outline the cost of the items I've used in this challenge:

Items Prices
6 t-shirt flats $0
2 high quality home-made flats $12
2 snappis $8
1 One-size wool soaker $25
2 gDiapers $25
2 Fashionably Green Baby Extra Deep Liners $13
2 upcycled fleece covers $2
5 gal bucket $3
Lid $1
Plunger $5
Weatherstripping (to prevent back splash) $3
Sneaky boy in his night-night diaper

Y'all... do me a favor and don't tell my husband about this table.

To be completely fair, my current stash of inserts and covers is huge by comparison since I was cloth diapering two kids at once. If we assume all other things are equal and just compare the inserts, my current homemade flappers ran ~$2.14ea while the average on the flats I've been using is $1.50 -- not a huge difference per piece, but for someone on a budget, 65 cents can make or break a plan.

Day 5: Lessons Learned

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

1.  Flats are awesomely versatile...

Drying by the light of the moon
I use the origami fold to achieve the most coverage and avoid getting our covers soiled.  I padfold flats in our gDiapers for quick uncomplicated changes while out and about.  I use the origami fold with another flat padfolded inside all under a wool cover for overnight.

          but not all are created equal

I made two flats out of bamboo terry fabric and they are incredibly absorbent and handle anything I throw at them.  I've been reserving them for overnight and naps.  Padfolded the bamboo double terry alone holds my son overnight but is extremely bulky.

The t-shirt flats on the other hand... they are trim and great for daytime changes, but they don't hold a lot.  Even 3 padfolded doesn't work well for overnight.

2.  Flats are awesomely cheap...

I made my t-shirt flats from t-shirts I got for free.  Due to the weave of jersey fabric it doesn't need to be finished to prevent unraveling, so quite literally the only thing I did to make my t-shirt flats was take a pair of scissors to some t-shirts.  Many flats can be bought for $1 a piece.

          but not all flats are that cheap

Flats made out of higher-quality fabrics like hemp and bamboo can run between $5-10 each.  I calculated the cost of the 30x30 flats I made and they weighed in at $5 (bamboo french terry) and $7 (bamboo double terry).  That seems steep compared to the other options, but like I said they are very absorbent!  On a limited income, I think the upfront savings when compared to a quality fitted would be worth it.

3.  Flats are awesomely easy to care for...

They rinse cleanly and they dry quickly on the line.  I'm impressed.

          but the key is small loads

I'm used to handwashing 10-15 inserts at once.  I figured I would be able to do the same with flats, but the large amount of fabric flowing around makes that impossible.  Loads of 6 flats plus 4-5 wipes with the bucket and plunger seem to be a good size for me.  If I had more flats I might try 7 or 8, but no more than that.

4.  Flats are great for the bum.  No caveat.

My son had a rash when I started this challenge.  I almost didn't go through with it because of that doggone rash.  He's had it off and on since the moving process started a month ago.  I blame inconsistency.  We switched back and forth between cloth and disposable inserts during the move, I  washed our diapers in three different washing machines in that time period, and with all the craziness he wasn't getting regular diaper changes.  You can imagine I was less than thrilled to introduce more inconsistencies: new inserts, new diapering method, yet another washing system.

Well the rash is almost gone.  Maybe its the rhythm we've developed.  Maybe it was switching to a coconut free rash cream.  Or maybe, just maybe, its those flats.  A flat wrapped in a wool cover breathes wonderfully.

5.  I'd rather introduce possible cloth converts to something else

I've been carrying around a bumGenius Freetime in my diaper bag lately, not to use on my son, but as a show-off diaper.  If the Freetime were a 1950's pinup girl, the flats would be Alexandra Bergson from O Pioneers!.  The flat isn't sexy until you spend some time with it.  If I had ten seconds to make an impression, I'd rather show off the Freetime or a pocket diaper.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 4: Musing on Handwashing

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

I knew before starting this challenge that I would not go back to handwashing unless I had a good reason.  However, after using disposables for a year and handwashing cloth diapers for another year, I know that I'd prefer the latter if those were my only choices.  Kim at Dirty Diaper Laundry talked today in her blog about being adaptable and she got it spot on -- with a little flexibility and determination you can make what seems impossible possible.

Example... when I started college in the south I got a hand-me-down manual transmission car with a broken AC and two windows that wouldn't roll down.  My brother had tried to teach me to drive stick months earlier but I couldn't get the car out of the parking lot.  The car sat at my brother's house for the first couple months of my freshman year until I decided I was ready to try again.  I got it out on the road and that was it.  When summer came the AC was still broken so I did without.  I still drive a stick, but I have no idea how I made it two summers in the south without AC in my car.

Handwashing is the same.  When people found out I handwashed our kids diapers they were amazed, but I really don't find it that amazing.  I did what I had to do, same as anyone else would.  In our daily lives we do things that would seem extraordinary to others but are ordinary to us: waiting tables, calming temper tantrums, changing diapers, cooking dinner for a family of 6, working 80 hours a week.  Its all based on perspective and when your situation changes so does your perspective.

That being said, this challenge is still not easy, nor is handwashing every day.  The plunging wears out my arms, but I know that gets better after a few weeks.  The wringing hurts my hands, but after a few weeks callouses form and that's not such a problem either.  Then there is my back.  I have a herniated disk in my back  has been flaring up recently due to moving furniture and carrying my kids around.  After the kids went to bed last night I helped my brother unload his moving truck so I ended up going to sleep last night with the diaper laundry untouched, then getting up at 6am to do laundry.  I had similar problems with the bucket and plunger over the last year, so I asked for and received a WonderWash for Christmas.  It is about 3-4 times the cost of a bucket and plunger, but well worth it for my back.

Meanwhile my wipes have been sabotaging my diapers.  I think I used too much baby shampoo in my wipes solution and it hasn't been washing out very well.  I ended up filling the bathtub all the way then swishing the 6 flats, draining, wringing, and repeating.  I finally got all the soap out.  I then took all the wipes in my wipes container and rinsed them to prevent further build up.

I did finally run out of detergent too.  Our Rockin Green is still in USPS limbo.  I tried the bumGenius detergent sample on my covers but it was too sudsy and didn't wash out very well.  I didn't have time to run to the store so I worked with what I had at home.  I mixed equal parts borax and baking soda, added 1Tbs to my wash cycle, and held my bar of soap under the faucet for 5 seconds as I filled my bucket with hot water.  It was very scientific.  I finished off by rinsing with some white vinegar.  Everything rinsed out easily and my diapers smell clean so I guess it worked!

How is the challenge going for you? Do you have any tips on handwashing you've learned that you would like to share?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 3: What do I do with those flats?

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  
Flats are something else.  I was initially intimidated by the concept of all the folding that goes into flats and prefolds so I opted for flapped and fold-to-fit inserts that we could lay in covers when we started cloth diapering.  These also have the bonus of being easy for anyone to use.  I did padfold some flats for the hubs to use in the gDiapers today since I spent most of the day hiding in my study hole.  I didn't even expect him to use the flats today, so I hadn't showed him any fancy folds.

I have tried the origami fold on my son with the 'square' flats I made and after I jelly-roll the legs it works quite well.  I think I like the looks of the anteater fold so I might try that tomorrow.

The t-shirt flats I made don't really lend themselves to any particular fold.  When I searched online for tips on making t-shirt flats I didn't find much besides the suggestion that I use XL and larger shirts.  I was aiming for a 30"x30" square for my 25lb 34" 15mo old son and even the one XL shirt I had didn't really lend itself to those dimensions, although I went ahead and cut off the sleeves, then cut the shirt in half.  I've been using that one padfolded in a cover.  I was also working with one large and one medium size shirt and decided I wanted to try something different.  I know its not square, but its one layer and easy to make.

1.  I cut the t-shirts up the sides and across the shoulders to make two 'flats'

2. I folded one side in so that the center of the shirt was about halfway between the edge of the fold and the sleeve seam

3.  I folded that side back so that the fold I just created lined up with the center of the shirt

4. I then did the same on the other side

5.  I folded down the top to thin out the 'wings' formed by the sleeves

6. I folded the center up to achieve the appropriate rise for my son

7. I folded the center up and the wings over, then snappied!

One happily cloth diapered bum!  This is my Great Cloth Diaper Change tee from last year.  I bet our sponsors never thought they'd be getting this kind of publicity!  I folded this shirt so that the graphic on the back would be centered, but it could also be folded in thirds if you don't care.

My kids found plenty of other ways to use our flats.  They had a blast burning off energy before bed!  

I've grown fond of all our flats, though I've noticed the medium t-shirts don't have quite the right rise if I fold down enough to get plenty of absorbent layers for a change.  Large seems to work the best right now.

 If you are taking the challenge, how are you using your flats?  Are you enjoying them?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 2: What does it take?

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

Besides Hulk arms and a strong stomach?

I had magnificent plans to make all the covers and flats I would need for the challenge from what was left of my stash of diaper fabrics.  Instead I spent last week unpacking boxes and shushing my husband as he cursed at Ikea.  At 1am Sunday I had one flat made so I scrounged what I could and this is what I came up with:

My Super Duper Flats and Handwashing Challenge Materials List

The bright green is a homemade flat, the others are t-shirts
2 homemade flats from extra bamboo diaper fabric
6 T-shirt flats from my ridiculous stash of free-but-not-appropriate-for-grown-up-school t-shirts

Snappis we already had to secure the diapers

1 Covered Caboose side snapping OS wool cover(my favorite for handwashing)
2 upcycled fleece covers I made months ago and never used
gDiapers from our everyday stash

Our usual wipes

Never too young to pull
their weight
Our original bucket and plunger that we used for 6mos+ -- I would use our WonderWash but I gave it to a friend who is expecting the day before we moved

2 FROST drying racks we currently use to dry our diapers -- although I have my doubts after putting together our new wardrobe, I generally <3 IKEA. 

Pretty shower curtain -- To hide the diapers soaking in the bathtub
Rockin Green detergent?

.... Sh*t.

I used Rockin Green while hand washing and we still use Rockin Green on all our laundry -- no problem, right?  I noticed we were getting low last week so I ordered a couple more bags on Amazon.  With our awesome Prime 2-day shipping they were supposed to arrive yesterday.  They didn't.  I forgot to change the shipping address on my Amazon account so they are currently being "held [hostage] by carrier" in our old city.  I have enough Rockin Green detergent for one more load of hand washing, a sample of bumGenius detergent, and some borax and baking soda.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the postman.

As for how its going so far... as I was washing last night I realized I should have stripped the t-shirts.  Sure enough Johnny has had a wonderful rash at every change with the t-shirt flats.  He has the bright green flat tonight (fingers crossed it will hold him all night) so hopefully that rash will clear up.

If you are participating in the flats challenge, what are you using?  How is it going so far?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day One or You CRAZY Girl!?!

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

Blur boy in his awesome-possum t-shirt flat
Yes I am.

Just one week after gaining my independence from a year of callouses, poopy backsplash, and Hulk-esque biceps here I am again, by choice.  I've officially lost it.

Actually I do have a few good excuses to be here.  For one I've always been curious about how well different diapers wash up in the hand washer.  Despite hand washing for a year I've never tried flats and hubs won't let me bring anymore diapers into the house without a good excuse.

Secondly I want to prove a point: if you set your mind to it you can cloth diaper your baby.  Obstacles are only as big as you make them.

Lastly, as you may have guessed I am a masochist.

If you aren't taking part in the challenge, its never to late to start or you can check out all the other bloggers participating.  If you already are, check out my guide to hand washing if you need some pointers :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Flats Challenge

Not minutes after we signed the lease for our new house, we were at Sears looking for a washer and dryer.  I haven't lived in a house or apartment with an in-unit washer or dryer since I left home for college years ago, not counting the one summer I spent at home.  Since we moved in last week I have done countless loads of laundry, including diaper laundry.  Its heaven in two metal drums!

And now that I've enjoyed a week without handwashing diapers, the Flats and Handwashing Challenge starts Monday! When I first heard about the date, I thought to myself "I've been hand washing for a year -- I think I'm excused".  Then I thought on it longer -- always a mistake.

One year ago when I was staring at a pile of cloth diapers I wanted to love and a crazy-expensive-barely-working-cause-the-coin-machines-sucked washing routine, the first Flats Handwash Challenge was being blasted through the cloth diapering blogosphere.  It was from the tutorials inspired by the challenge that I learned how to make a camp washer and it was the challenge in the first place that showed me I might be able to make cloth diapering work for my family.  I may not have been the target audience -- although I might have been guilty of not changing my daughter's disposable as often as I should have cause, darn it, its hard to tell when those things are wet -- but the information gleaned in that week-long challenge helped make cloth diapering possible for my family.

So yes, I will be participating in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  I'll be forgoing diaper laundry in my pristine, beautiful ELECTRIC washer for a week, and I promise I will not cry in a corner about it (okay, maybe a little).  Partially as a thank you, partially because I want an excuse to compare flats to our diaper inserts.  And partially because I want to show other mothers that you can make anything happen if it is important to you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Earth Day Diapers

In between my studies I like to get crafty.  I love designing logos, painting, and sewing.  Our house is a little overflowing with things so I've had to find excuses for my 'creative expressions'.  My most recent excuses have been the old serger my Grandmother recently gifted me and the raffle for my local Great Cloth Diaper Change event.

Painted bumGenius Pocket.  Our drying rack was invaluable for this endeavor

Painted gDiaper -- our diaper of choice.  I also used the serger to make some inserts for it.
Broke in the serger making washcloths, hankies, and diapers for Izzy's babydoll.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Getting less carniverous

John gets crazy ideas.  Good ideas, but crazy ideas.

For the first two weeks of Lent this year he gave up refined sugars.  The only sweetener he was using for himself was honey (except on Sundays!).  I think if I had been more supportive (read sacrificing some of my lifestyle full of chocolate mug cakes and stress eating), he would have gone on longer.  Even though no one in the family is reading food labels that closely anymore, those two weeks gifted us with a new awareness of different kinds of sweeteners and amazing refined-sugar-free homemade bread.  That John bakes fresh.  Every week.

ready for the oven
Yah, even if we weren't Catholic, divorce wouldn't be in our future.

Back to the point.  Given this background it wasn't very surprising when John looked at me one evening and asked "you want to give up meat for two weeks starting tomorrow?"

This idea didn't exactly come out of the blue.  We've always known animals raised for massive meat distribution are usually raised in poor conditions, fed junk, and as a result require more junk (medicines) to keep them healthy.  You get out what you put in, just like humans.  John recently showed me a video from Chipotle's website on the topic and since then I've been thinking about moving not towards a meat-free diet, but one that opts for meat from animals raised a smarter, more natural way.  As a side effect, Chipotle has also superseded Moe's on my list of favorite places to get a burrito fast.  Which is a big deal since we had Moe's cater our wedding.

Chosing naturally raised meat has a downside though, one that has prevented us from taking the leap -- its more expensive and takes more effort to locate.  Hence our interest in adding meat-free dishes to our cooking repertoire.

So, I hummed and hawed and we didn't do it, but I did make the conscious decision to eat more vegetarian meals.  For the next four days I didn't eat any meat at all.  I substituted with Tofu, beans and peanut butter.  Shockingly, I didn't really miss the meat.

Recently I decided to choose vegetarian options when we go out.  We still make vegetarian dishes at home too.  I'm kind of enjoying it.  Its forced us to be creative in the kitchen and the results have been tasty and generally well accepted by our children.  Since they aren't huge fans of meat anyway the dishes tend to be more to their liking, especially those with black beans.  They will devour some black beans.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Night-time Cloth Diapering

This blog post was written as part of the Real Simple, Real Diapers Blog Hop celebrating Real Diapers Week, Apr 16th-21st, 2012.

Nothing pees with quite the frequency and volume of a 3 month old who just figured out how to nurse while asleep.

By 2.5 months old Johnny was technically 'sleeping through the night' (no matter what the pediatrician says, sleeping 6 hours is not 'sleeping through the night').  It was kind of nice because I could get a decent amount of sleep, feed him, change him, feed him some more and fall back asleep.  Eventually he stretched out a few more hours until we got to a point where he would cry a bit, I would get him in bed with me, he would latch, and we both would go back to sleep.  Dropping the middle of the night diaper change meant he started soaking through his diapers though.  I liked not getting out of bed in the middle of the night, but I wasn't a fan of waking up in a puddle of baby pee so I needed a solution.

After lots of experimenting we came up with 4 excellent solutions:

1.  Extra deep liner + gpant + 3 inserts = great if you already use gDiapers

My sleeping angel LOVES his lion.  And a dry bed.
Totally not 3 mos in this pic.
We use gDiapers most of the time during the day.  Johnny really needed 3 inserts to make it through the night, which was 10 hours for him.  Thankfully Fashionably Green Baby had just the solution for me!  She makes extra deep snap-in liners to use with the gpant that will hold 3 extra thick inserts.  The liners are made of PolyUrethane Laminate (or PUL) and wrapped with fold over elastic (FOE) so they are very durable.  We still use these today and have been very pleased with them for overnight.  Bonus: the liners we got were blue so when we leave Johnny with a babysitter at bedtime we just have to tell them that the blue liner is for night-time.

2.  GAD pocket semi-fitted + 3 inserts + snappi + Covered Caboose wool soaker = excellent for REALLY heavy wetters or rash prone babies

Even though things were going great with the Fashionably Green Baby liners I had an itching to try some other overnight solutions.  I had heard amazing things about wool and happened to find a couple Covered Caboose one size side snapping wool soakers marked down so I jumped on them.  I picked up some used Green Acre Designs one size pocket semi-fitteds and a few snappis to go with the wool soaker.  I was able to stuff the semi-fitteds with three inserts and that held my son all night.  If he did leak through the semi-fitted, the wool soaker kept our bed dry.  Using this combination we have never had a leak.  Ever.

Johnny's overnight Christmas set including fitted and
wool footies that he wears all the time.
Bonus about wool: I only have to wash the covers every couple weeks.  Washing is simple.  I put 1-2 gal of warm water in a bucket, add 1-2tsp Eucalan wool wash with lanolin, add the soaker, squeeze, let sit for 15 minutes, then squeeze out the water and hang dry.
Also, wool breathes very well so it is excellent for rash prone babies.  If Johnny ever has a rash at bed time I put him in a fitted with a wool soaker and it is usually gone in the morning.

3.  GAD pocket semi-fitted + 3 inserts + snappi + wool pants/footies = excellent for REALLY heavy wetters, rash prone babies, and if you're having trouble putting on PJ bottoms over the semi-fitted and soaker.

The only downside was Johnny's PJs didn't always fit over the semi-fitted with the wool cover.  Plus putting on a semi-fitted, then a wool cover, THEN PJs was time consuming and frustrating with a wriggly baby.  As the weather got colder around Christmas I decided to experiment with making some wool footies to use instead of the wool covers.  I picked up some wool interlock from Natures Fabrics and some cute patterned fleece for the feet.  I modified the Katrina's longies pattern to add feet, used puff paint to add some grip to the feet, and ta-da!  It works just as well as the wool cover and keeps him toasty.  If you'd rather buy some pre-made, there are lots of great options on Etsy.

4.  Swaddlebees EcoNappi + both inserts that come with it + maybe another insert? = simple one-step solution for older/bigger babies and very babysitter friendly

We use this diaper for daytime too because it is
irresistably cute. 
While all of these are great options, wool covers, snappis, and fitteds can be difficult to explain to a babysitter who has possibly never seen a cloth diaper before.  I like to keep things simple for our sitters so I tried several different pocket diapers for bedtime.  While many worked great during the day, if I stuffed them with the three inserts Johnny needed at night, they would gape at the legs.  Then I came across the Swaddlebees Econappi.  It comes with 2 inserts that are both 2 layers of bamboo fleece.  One is meant for young infants and is folded in half for 4 layers.  The second is for older infants and toddlers and is folded in thirds for six layers.  Together they provide 10 layers of bamboo fleece which is enough to hold Johnny through the night.  Since the diaper is designed to hold both the inserts at once it doesn't gape and it holds Johnny all night!

Hopefully this will give you some ideas for cloth diapering your own heavy wetter at night.  It can be done, but you might have to try something completely different from your daytime system.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cloth Diapering and Saving $$ Without a Washing Machine

Real Simple Reap Diapers Blog Hop
This blog post was written as part of the Real Simple, Real Diapers Blog Hop celebrating Real Diapers Week, Apr 16th-21st, 2012.

When you're on a budget you're sometimes limited in the decisions you get to make.  Take for instance when we were looking for a new apartment two years ago and we really really really wanted an in unit washer and dryer.  Like a lot.  Unfortunately that was not in the cards.  Our apartment complex did have coin-operated washers and dryers on site, but $1.25 per load adds up quick.  This wasn't a huge concern until I started considering cloth diapering our second child.  We had done the math when Izzy was on the way and discovered that using coin-operated machines to wash our diapers would make cloth diapering more expensive than using disposable diapers.

Each load in the washer and dryer cost $1.25 ea.  So if we only ran one load of 30 diapers once through the washer it would cost 8 cents per diaper change.  In practice we found we needed to run two loads of diapers through the washer so it cost 12.5 cents per diaper change.  That's already getting pretty close to the cost of low-end disposables.

Long story short, I don't give up easy.  I had resigned myself to disposable diapering Izzy, but I decided we would do things differently with Johnny.  I did the math again and found that even using coin-operated machines, we could break even on our cloth diapers if we diapered Izzy and Johnny from the time Johnny was born until both potty-trained (I guessed 3 years for potty-training).  To help boost savings we invested in some drying racks.

After Johnny was born and we were fully invested in cloth diapering, we found that the coin-operated machines weren't cutting it.  I had to rinse all the diapers beforehand in the bathtub and had to run a second cycle to ensure all the detergent was getting rinsed out.  Even so, our diapers didn't smell clean and our kids started getting rashes.  Boo!

I was ready to give up on the washers but I wasn't ready to give up on cloth diapering so I set out to the great internet encyclopedia to learn about hand-washing cloth diapers.  A year later I'm still hand-washing Johnny's diapers. The savings have been tremendous and it provides great guilt fodder for the teenage years ;).  We cloth diapered Izzy for 6-9 months after Johnny was born and Johnny is coming up on 15 months in cloth diapers.  If you include everything we bought to cloth diaper -- inserts, covers, wet bags, small wet bags for out and about, snappis, drying racks, our hand washer, clothespins, cloth wipes, and splurge diapers -- we've probably spent ~$600 for almost two years' of diapers (and we still have 1.5+ years to go!).  We spent about $1000 on disposable diapers the 18 months Izzy was in disposable diapers.  That's not even counting disposable wipes and rash cream.

The crazy thing is we could have spent less on cloth diapers than we did.  Prefolds and covers are a wonderfully cheap and versatile option, but we were intimidated by them.  They really aren't as scary as they look though.  Because of how frequently I wash diapers (once a day), we could have opted for a much smaller stash too (1/3 the size).

This May we are moving into a house with a washer and dryer finally!  I am not going to miss hand washing our diapers, but I don't regret it one bit either.  I learned a lot in that year and have compiled it all into a small book on hand-washing to hopefully make the information more accessible.  Feel free to pass this along to a friend (or five!) in electronic or print form!

Handwashing Cloth Diapers (no pictures)

Handwashing Cloth Diapers (with pictures)

Monday, April 16, 2012

(Modern) Cloth Diapering 101

Real Simple Real Diapers Blog Hop
This blog post was written as part of the Real Simple, Real Diapers Blog Hop celebrating Real Diapers Week, Apr 16th-21st, 2012.

In case you missed it in my previous post, prefolds, pins, and rubber pants are kind of out-dated.  There are some people who still use prefolds and pins for diapering, but I haven't heard of anyone who uses rubber pants today (my mom and MIL sure did though!).  I think the #1 use for Gerber prefolds today are as burp cloths though and most pins have been relegated to *usually and ironically disposable* diaper cake decorations and other crafts.  

So what do you use instead?  

That is a dangerous question.

AIOs, AI2s, snappis, fitteds, flats, semi-fitteds, OS, hybrids, PUL covers, wool covers, WI2s, AI3s, pockets, liners, prefolds, semifolds, QSFW, SWQSFW (for real), woolies, skirties, shorties, longies, footies, fleece, bamboo inserts, microfiber inserts, hemp inserts, cotton inserts, stay dry inserts, doublers... its as dizzying as learning a programming language or trying to follow a basketball game (the latter of which I will never be able to do unless it is 1/2 speed -- hence my love for football).

I could sit here and regurgitate all the wonderful information available on the web in my own words... or I could give you links to them and some words of encouragement.  For sanity's sake I will give you links and encouragement.  First the encouragement.

1.  If you want to cloth diaper, you can cloth diaper.  Shoot, I didn't even have a washing machine and I made it work.  Don't let anything stop you.
2.  If you only use one cloth diaper a day, a week, or a month, you are making a difference.  In fact, you are a hero.  So don't ever feel like you have to go all or none for any reason.

Glossary Wondering what that word salad above means?
Padded Tush Stats provides an excellent cloth diaper glossary that is constantly growing with new submissions.
Dirty Diaper Laundry has a wonderful list with some pictures too!  Surf the rest of their site for more info about cloth diapers and reviews.

Washing Diapers
It can be done.  Just Add Cloth has a good overview.
I'll be posting later in the week about how I wash cloth diapers.

Blogs About Cloth Diapers (a few)
The Cloth Diaper Whisperer has regular posts from many different cloth diapering parents
The Cloth Diaper Geek is fun to read and I personally find solidarity with other geeky moms.

Other Online Resources
The Real Diaper Association of course!  They have some great resources on their website to get you started.

Local Resources
If you live in the Midlands of South Carolina, check out Carolina Cloth.  Leslie, the owner, will even meet with you so you can see modern cloth diapers in person.
Live somewhere else?  Start snooping your town!  Search the Real Diaper Association directory for a cloth diaper circle near you.  You can also search and Facebook for local cloth diapering groups.  Ask fellow parents and babysitters if they know anyone who used/uses cloth.  You will be surprised what you will find, and being able to talk face to face with a person is invaluable.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cloth Diaper Marketing for the Big Box

I don't often go to big box baby stores. For one, Buy Buy Baby (BBB) and Babies R Us (BRU) are on the other side of town from us.  Plus I have a special place in my heart for the small businesses in town, so I do all my baby shower and gift shopping at small local baby boutiques like KD's Treehouse and my local cloth diaper shop Carolina Cloth.

Given some special circumstances today I was gathering supplies for a project at BBB and BRU.  I started at BBB mostly because I wanted to see what their cloth diaper selection was like.  Last time I was there, in a galaxy far far away, I didn't see much (not that I was looking).  This time, as I was meandering by the bath products I spotted this display in the main aisle.

Click on the image to make it bigger.

For real. 

I'm sure there are some cloth diapering parents out there that use the same pins, prefolds, and rubber pants they were cloth diapered with, but this is the 21st century and even cloth diapers have gotten sprinkled by the technology fairy.

I finally found the diaper section and was pleased to find these displays:

BumGenius!  Lots of them!
Next to the formula?
gDiapers!  But where's the cloth inserts?
Plus, below the line of sight.
I headed over to BRU next and checked out their cloth diaper selection too and to pick up some nylon gDiaper liners since I didn't want to make a second trip for BBB to order them for me.  I found their usually well stocked gDiaper section:

Well stocked with lots of accessories and the important ones, in line of sight.  Take notes BBB.
And this, to the left on the other side of the 'natural disposables':

Its Cocalo, and evidently it has been out since January but I live in the local world so I had no idea.  Cocalo also appears to be a room decor and diaper bag manufacturer... interesting.  At first I assumed it was a pocket diaper and I considered picking one up to give it a shot.  Then I looked at the picture on the back -- it looked a lot like a gDiaper or a stylish and trim version of Walmart's new Mabu diapers.  The package I picked up had already been opened and repackaged poorly so I reopened it to take a closer look and indulge my obsession with consistency.

They reminded me of a gDiaper with a PUL outer and the nylon pouch sewn in. It also had the option of a mostly microfiber trifold insert with a stay dry topper or disposable inserts like gDiapers.  I decided against getting one since I don't like synthetic inserts and the pouch was sewn in.  I like being able to continue to use our gDiaper covers even after a poopy.

So, after my adventure I have some marketing suggestions for the gurus at our national baby-supply chains.

Buy Buy Baby.

1.  Take those darned pins, send them back to the craft section at Michael's and replace them with these.

6 Snappi colors
Snappis! The pin alternative!
 2.  I promise you, most parents who use prefolds to catch pee instead of clean up little baby vomits will want a cover.  Not rubber pants, a cover.  Go talk to your friends at Cottonbabies and they'll hook you up.
NOT these!
These!  And look!  Cute colors!  Yay!
3.  If you're going to carry a diaper, carry everything a parent will need to use that system and educate your employees about it.  Being able to order bits and pieces is not useful for parents who are going to a store to buy everything they need in person.  Nor is it useful to someone shopping for those odd things their crunchy friend has on their baby registry who doesn't know what bits and pieces are important.

4.  Stock cloth diapers by disposable diapers.  Who is going to look for cloth diapers next to the formula?  And place them at eye level to engage customers.  You know there's a science to this.

5..  Finally... kudos for carrying a variety of cloth diapering options.  Just like disposables, one brand or type of cloth diaper doesn't fit every family.  Some of my friends love pockets, others love prefolds, and I love gDiapers.  And for some people their favorite style changes as their kids get older.  The next step is to get a larger variety of brands and types -- maybe some Happy Heinys, or some AIOs and fitteds.

Babies R Us

1.  Where's the variety?  These new Cocalo are like the gDiapers.  Kudos for bringing in a competitor, but it doesn't offer much variety for families that want to cloth diaper but don't like the format of the cover-pouch-insert system.  Try some pocket diapers, AIOs, prefolds w/ covers, anything!  Take a hint from 'that other baby store'.
Cocalo, stuffed.  Different insert, waterproof outer,
sewn in pouch.  Otherwise, very similar.

Stuffed gDiaper, from Joyful Abode who has a great
gWhiz series!
Here's some inspiration:

cloth diaper reviews, cloth baby diapers
B. EcoChic

2.  Kudos on creating exciting displays at eye level in direct geographic competition with disposable diapers.  Also, kudos on bringing in 'gateway' diapers (most people call them hybrids).

Its good to see cloth diapers in 'regular stores'.  As much as I hope this does not drive the small cloth diapering businesses out, this is where they need to be to catch the eye of your average mom and dad who are shopping for diapers.  I hope that a equilibrium can be reached where small businesses still have a large role in marketing and selling of cloth diapers, but big box stores and their customers embrace them as well.  After all, the end goal is to decrease waste and preserve our planet.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Paula Deen and Healthy Eating

I was going to write a post on Paula Deen's recent announcement that she has Type II Diabetes Mellitus and her subsequent deal with Novo Nordisk, but then I read this article by Dr. Andrew Weil on CNN.  It really says it all. Paula Deen, as a celebrity chef known for her unhealthy cuisine and recently diagnosed with diabetes, is perfectly poised to champion healthy eating and living to PREVENT type II diabetes.  She could be a godsend in a country besieged by obesity and thoughtless eating.  Instead she has sold out to a drug company, perpetuating and marketing the concept that we can ruin our bodies, get our magic bullet and keep on trucking.  Its a disappointment that with the power and position to do so much good she has chosen another path.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cloth Diapering is Cheap and Easy -- Apartment Edition

I guess you could title this "Anyone without an in-unit washer edition".
If you've been looking in to cloth diapers, you probably have heard all the raving about 'modern cloth diapers' and how similar they are to disposables in ease of use.  When I first looked into cloth I was pregnant with my first child and we were living in an apartment complex.  I was on board with how much money cloth would save us and how easy the modern cloth diapers were to use, however, when I ran the numbers washing them in the coin-operated machines in our apartment building was prohibitively expensive.  By the time number two came around, Izzy was 18mos old.  I ran the numbers again for the two children and found we would break even by the time they potty-trained, so we decided to give it a go.  After some trial and error we found some secrets to make cloth diapers not only affordable, but cheap and easy without in-unit washers and dryers.

First, ditch the coin-operated machines.  Okay, not completely, but they will be more aggravating and costly than they are worth.  You have two options: the camp-style bucket and plunger method or our favorite, the Wonder Wash from Laundry Alternative.  We used the bucket and plunger method for almost 6 months and I will admit -- its a pain.  Between my bad back and John's bad hands, it wasn't working for us and I dreaded getting behind on laundry.  With the Wonder Wash I can wash a days' worth of cloth diapers in 20 minutes.  I usually do a load a day, but its not a big deal if I get a day behind.  The best part is that you only have to pay for detergent, and maybe water if its not included in your rent.

As for drying, we invested in a couple of $20 drying racks from IKEA and now we dry everything on our balcony, or under the A/C vent if the weather is bad.  Maybe once or twice a month we will use the dryers downstairs to dry our diapers.  We can also use the Wonder Wash and the drying racks for regular clothing, saving even more money.  Paying attention to the types of diapers you are getting will make washing and drying go even smoother.  All-in-ones, which are the closest to disposables may be extremely easy to use, but they will take forever to dry on a drying rack and are harder to clean.  Pocket diapers and all-in-twos are almost as easy to use -- you just have to add an insert -- and will dry much faster and get cleaner quicker.  If you live in a humid climate, natural fibers like cotton, hemp, and bamboo will dry faster outside than artificial fibers.  The fewer layers, the quicker your diapers will dry too, so inserts that fold up or consist of flaps like the Nappy Shoppe's gFlappers are a great option.

Lastly, don't feel bad about mooching your friends' and family's washers and driers.  Whenever we plan an overnight visit with family we ask ahead if its okay to wash our diaper laundry in their washing machines.  I have never had someone turn me down.  I usually give myself a break from hand washing for a couple days before we leave and I have a nice big load when we get there.  I have even used my brother's washer and drier when he offered (he lives in town).  You could use the extra time saved by borrowing their washer and drier to make them a special treat as a "thank you".

If you're balking at the thought of cloth diapering because you rely on coin-operated machines, take another look.  There is a cheap, easy, and effective way to wash your cloth diapers without using those expensive machines!  It takes a little forethought when it comes to diaper shopping, and some investment up front (WonderWash, drying racks, diapers...) but the savings are well worth it.

Disclaimer: I wrote this piece of my own free will, although it was inspired by a current contest going on run by a large cloth diaper retailer.  Given that I don't agree with what I write being dictated by any contest rules, this is not a contest entry and I am not being compensated now or in the future for this post and its contents.  These thoughts are my own and I was not instructed to write anything in here by anyone except the little green men that live in my head.  The links I provided are links to products, tutorials, and information I have used in the past that I have found extremely useful and I hope you will too.  For full disclosure I am indeed one of the self-proclaimed rabid fans of gDiapers, AKA a gMum, and I receive little trinkets from them every now and then however I would be a rabid fan even if I wasn't part of their club.