Odds and Ends

I’m pointedly ignoring Maggie singing a song in her bedroom (about a…tomato? Okay then!) and NOT napping because 1pm-3pm is the Time of Quiet at this particular monkey house. Since I am a Bear of Above Average Brains I assume that her full transition to a big girl bed is also impeding her progress to the land of Nod. When we first moved into our new house, she slept on a spare crib mattress–for a crib we never owned, I might add–that we brought from Hawaii on the off chance Maggie would have to sleep on the floor. This bit of sense proved…well, sensible. However, a mattress placed directly on the floor is entirely too close to all the toys and books we unpacked and the temptation proved to be too much for Maggie-bear. I don’t mind if she plays with a toy or two IN bed because if she’s tired she won’t climb down from an elevated position and will eventually fall asleep; however, simply being able to ROLL out of bed and directly into a pile of toys was a thrill of decadence usually saved for the back rooms and Vegas. I canceled this out by putting her in MY bed, but because the new couch was being delivered in the same IKEA order as her new bed I did not have anywhere to comfortably sprawl during MY quiet time. And I need it. I need my quiet time. Gestatiion, Round 2 is pummeling my expanding self all around the ring and I need two hours to doze on a soft surface and occasionally refresh myself with a hit of tea. Thankfully the balance of life has been restored, Maggie is loving life in her big girl bed (and her free reign to access her toys), and my daily sessions of Tea and (Self-) Sympathy have resumed.

*****

Parenting Pro Tip: It doesn’t matter how many IKEA flat packs and pictogram instructions you’ve navigated since entering the Land of Adulthood. When you see a 20-page pictogram instruction booklet and roughly 80 different parts to assemble together, DON’T START BUILDING YOUR CHILD’S BED HALF AN HOUR BEFORE BEDTIME. Or you know what, do. Maggie was so tired by the end of the process, two and a half hours later, that she crawled into her freshly made–and I do mean FRESHLY MADE–bed, pulled a quilt over her head and dropped off to sleep without a sound.

*****

We have put the iPad away and not used it for over a week. We don’t plan to get it out again until our trip to Dublin next month and Lisbon/Sintra in August. It feels nice to temporarily fire the electronic book-toy-game-babysitter.

*****

A return to cloth diapers: yes, we are still using them. No, Maggie has not fallen in line with the theory that cloth diapered children learn about the potty faster because of the moisture. No, I don’t know why, but my theory is that sitting over an open hole (even in the form of a toddler potty) disturbs her (and I know for damn sure that the noise of a flushing toilet–and a vacuum cleaner, and a food processor, and loud cars, and really anything that makes loud noises in any form) sends her into hysterics. Anyway. Since we are coming into our second year, some of the diapers are a little worse for wear and could either be fixed (by me, whenever I get around to rousing myself to find the needles and thread for new Velcro and elastics) or replaced. I left the decision to Tom, who voted replace. If I had it to do all over again, I’d buy all the same products–the Bum Genius one-size pocket diapers, the newborn prefolds, the nighttime fitteds with Thirsties covers–but I would not buy them with hook-and-loop closures. All the replacements we’ve ordered have snap closures, and I will never go back. The fit isn’t that much better with Velcro tabs, and they seem to hold up in the laundry exceptionally better. So there you go.

*****

It is May 16 and I am wearing long sleeves, long pants, and wool socks. WTF, England? I feel only slightly better knowing my American bretheren in New England are similarly frozen this spring, but golly. Maybe next time we do a tour in a warm locale we should do an in-betweeny climate before moving to an area that shares a latitude with Labrador, Canada. That leather couch we just bought is CHILLY when you plunk down on it first thing in the morning.

*****

I wanted a Storchenwiege wrap since I started researching babywearing when my sister was pregnant with my nephew in 2007-2008. Since this is likely my last ride on the Baby Go Round, I bought one (in Inka, for the curious). I have no regrets. Nor do I regret dropping an iPod’s worth of cash on new flannel sheets from L.L. Bean. Consider my nest snugly and almost completely (with the exception of one or two other baby items I’d like to buy, and oh, yeah, a new CAR SEAT JESUS THOSE ARE PRICEY) feathered.

*****

Ahhh…Maggie is asleep, doll in each hand. Bliss.

Beachin’

We’ve been in Pinellas County for almost three months now, and my darling girl does love the water.  Here, Maggie models the latest in UPF 50 swimwear for the whitest-white-girl-that-ever-did-white set.  Wrist-to-ankles with zinc woven into the fabric, and worth every penny since sunscreen that won’t kill you or give you other cancers costs a mint and thus it makes sense to cover 90% of her body.

Today we went to Madeira Beach for about an hour, a departure from our usual Sunset Beach on Treasure Island.  Maggie has no respect whatsoever for the water–the soaked curls in the photo are a result of her crawling off toward the water’s edge while I was unfolding a chair and nearly getting swept off to Cuba before I caught up to her.  File under “Mothers, Negligent.”

There’s no good segue here: I can’t talk about the oil spill without crying.  I’ve been coming to this area to visit family since I was the same age that Maggie is in this photograph and there is nothing about this situation that doesn’t break my heart.  Parts of the Gulf Coast are going to be ruined for the remainder of my lifetime, possibly the rest of Maggie’s too.  It’s coming this way, I hear; the Panhandle has already been hit.  She’s too young to remember this trip; she may never know how this beach was before the oil.  Unemployment here is already terrible and if tourism takes the expected hit, it will only get worse.  My sister and brother-in-law had hoped to move here within the next few years, but he’s in tourism and truly, there’s nothing for him here if the oil ruins local tourism.  I’ve done what I can, donating enormous bottles of Dawn to cleanup organizations and encouraging others to do the same, but the sick, dropped-stomach helpless feeling persists.

But in the meantime, before the landscape changes, we’re enjoying the hell out of the area.  I’ve declared the remainder of this week and next “St. Pete Appreciation Week” and we’re going to do.it.up.  At least, we’re going to do it up as only as semi-single mother and her demanding almost-toddler can–in moderate doses with lots of sunscreen, hydration breaks, and frequent stops to air-conditioned places.  The Dali Museum, the Sunken Gardens, the fruit winery that makes a carrot Merlot that once sent Tom away gasping and clutching his tradtionalist metaphorical pearls in disgusted disbelief.  (Maggie can be my driver.)  I signed Maggie up for private at-home swim lessons in my parents’ pool so we can get the most out of our water time here and back at home.  We’re going to go all over her daddy’s former stomping grounds (he’s a Floridian born and bred, of course) and see what he saw when he was small.

If she can’t remember how it used to be, maybe Tom and I can remember enough for her.

Imperfect

There are a ton of smug people on the internet. They like to say things like “I would NEVER” and then follow it up with some piece of wisdom that makes average people feel bad. It’s not that what they say is wrong or inherently bad; often there’s a kernel of useful information if you’re willing to crawl through the cloud of smug. But good information often goes to waste if it’s brought to the public by someone unlikable–someone full of The Smug. Being a humorless pill about lifestyle choices is generally a bad call when trying to win converts.

In trying to live a more green life and blogging about it, I sometimes worry that I sound like one of The Smug. It’s hard to explain why I do something without coming off as judgmental of those who do things differently. So here’s the scoop: I’m not perfect (clearly). Our house is not a bastion of ecological living, even though we try really hard. But there are a lot of places that we cut corners or fall down, and here they are in handy list form along with the reasons why I do not plan to convert.

1. We use a lot of canned goods. They are sold in bulk at Costco, we are a single income family living on a government wage. We are secure, better off than most by virtue of living free of credit card debt, but we are not rich and we live in Hawaii with its astronomical cost of living. Also, Tom makes a fabulous pasta sauce from the canned stuff at Costco. When we can afford better, we’ll buy better.

2. I wear daily disposable contact lenses. Could I wear glasses every day instead? Not realistically. I was born with a condition called optic nerve hypoplasia, which varies per person but in my case means I can’t see at all out of my left eye. Statistically, I consider myself pretty lucky that I wasn’t born completely blind in both eyes, but I have little peripheral vision and wearing glasses limits my existing peripheral vision to an unsafe degree (couldn’t drive, for example). The one eye means that a) I am not a candidate for LASIK, and b) I shouldn’t wear monthly or weekly disposables because of the intensive cleaning routine. Daily disposables eliminate the chance of bacteria or fungus getting onto the lens or case and into my eye. An infection could cost me my sight. So, I recycle the blister packs that the contacts are packaged in, but I won’t ever use anything else.

3. Body products. We use method and Burt’s Bees Baby Bee products for Maggie. Us? Bulk shampoo and conditioner from Costco, 365 or Target brand body wash, .99 cent a can Barbasol shave cream. Cost is a factor, sure, but…eh. I like bulk, what can I say? I did convert to organic shave cream and it’s pretty much a life changer, but I haven’t encountered any natural shampoos that really work with my hair. And while I have experimented with straight razor shaving, I haven’t given up on my Mach 3 cartridges.

4. I store Maggie’s applesauce in glass jars and heat her food in glass bowls, but I Gladware-it up to store frozen items.

I’ll add more as I think of them, but where do you cut corners? It’s okay, we all do. Everyone’s just trying to do their best, you know? That just means different things for different people.

Shouts

Quick shout out to Crunchy Clean detergent, which I just ordered last week and which came in today. I got the sampler pack of regular in five scents and a sample of cloth diaper detergent in rosemary-peppermint essential oil. Y’all, this stuff is AWESOME. It’s affordable, environmentally friendly, supports a small at-home business, and smells clean and light and generally fan-frickin’-tastic. Oh, and it works. We decided to make the switch from Tide and I couldn’t be happier.

Prompting the switch was an incident a few weeks ago, when Maggie and I went to Costco to get another enormous bin of Tide powder to replace the one that was dwindling. We gave up dryer sheets in favor of wool dryer balls a few months ago and gave up fabric softener last year, so we have very lightly scented laundry. We turned down the aisle and we were both so bowled over by the harsh chemical scents that we teared up. Maggie had a sneezing fit and I got an insta-migraine. Not something I want permeating my clothes anymore, thanks.

We have guests this week so I’ll wrap this up fast, but I hope 2010 is being nice to you. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled snarkage later this week and I promise I won’t write about my laundry anymore.

ETA: Thanks to the really irritating FTC rules, I should say I didn’t get any money for saying I liked this product. Y’all would know if I got a sponsored post because I would be like “Hey! More people than my mom read this*!”

*Even my mom doesn’t read this. I don’t think so, anyway.

Clothaholic Part 2

In my first roundup on cloth diapering, I mentioned that I was ordering cloth prefolds and Thirsties waterproof covers. Well! After using a few of those, I bought more when Maggie outgrew the extra-small covers. And after having those in rotation, I’m buying a dozen more prefolds and some more Thirsties covers.

Though the tag on the small size says 12-18 pounds, I estimate that Maggie is closing in on 15 (dear lord, where did my newborn go?!) and the covers are still fitting well enough (the tabs almost overlap when they’re on her) that I don’t anticipate needing to go up a size for a while. When she’s big enough to go into medium covers, I’m going to rethink what I’m using under them. I don’t think I will order prefolds in the next size up, and instead will go with cloth fitteds that are quicker to put on wriggly bodies.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and I think if I have learned nothing else about parenting in the last four months (and I assure you that I probably have not), it is that you do the best you can with the information you have at the time. Had I known that I would be working from home I might have gone this route from the start, but we thought she would be in daycare 30-40 hours a week and the BumGenius diapers were the most daycare friendly.

Side note: Actually, had we needed to go through with the daycare thing we would have discovered what Tom’s coworker who was considering cloth diapering found out: daycares around here refuse to use cloth. Period. No negotiation. She even brought one of our diapers in to show them that it was no extra work. They wouldn’t hear it. That kind of shocked me because a pocket diaper for daycare? So easy! No work at all for them! You just put it in a wet bag to go home at the end of the day. It’s not a regulation thing–I checked when we were researching daycare and there are no explicit rules forbidding cloth in the state regs, as long as the parent provides the bag and does all the washing. I haven’t asked but I’m guessing these facilities probably also pressure parents to send formula instead of pumping because it’s easier; I know that she couldn’t send glass bottles for her son’s milk (although that one I sort of understand) and had to go with the BPA-free plastic.

Anyway, digression over. On the second time around–apparently you really *do* forget how much pregnancy kind of sucks–we’ll use a lot more prefolds in the early stages, especially because it saves wear and tear on the expensive BumGenius ones. I have no idea if I’ll be working at home or in an office, but we’ll plan like daycare is a possibility.

In summation: Thirsties covers ROCK for the price. Never even a hint of a leak. (Wool covers are lovely but a) they are not in my budget and b) I do not knit so I can’t make my own. Rock ‘em if you’ve got the cash or the skills, though.) Big thumbs up for the semi-old-fashioned route.

Future World Traveler


Darn skippy.

In other news, we discovered that our closet shelving unit was not bracketed or mounted to a stud in any way, shape, or form. We discovered this when the whole bloody enterprise collapsed after we reorganized. One of the nice things about living the way we do and moving so often is that we can really pare down what we need and take with us. Because we *clearly* need to downsize again, on this go-around we’re donating a ton of bedding, clothing, and my wedding dress to various consignment and Goodwill shops.

On the one hand, I’m sentimental about my dress. On the other, I haven’t looked at it since I got married 2.5 years ago and we certainly made no fuss about Tom’s rental tux, so…donated. I feel better knowing that someone will be able to put it to use either for their special day or theater company or whatever, and if Maggie really wants to see it we have photos. My mother’s wedding dress wasn’t kept and I never felt a sense of loss for not being able to see it in person. Maggie is her own person and I would never presume that she would a) want to have a traditional marriage and wedding in the first place, b) have the same body type as me, or c) not want to choose her own special dress according to her own tastes.

Besides, I’m not entirely sure that it’s real sentimentality about the dress or the fact that it was exponentially more expensive than the tux and therefore my frugal Yankee soul is scalded by the idea of giving it away. There’s really no use in getting sentimental about objects. Everything can break or be lost, ultimately you can’t take any of it with you, and the chances of your next-of-kin caring about something the way you did aren’t very high. Photos, letters, the family silver or crystal, jewelery, that sort of thing I understand. Things that carry tradition through their repeated use, or things given or made by family in order to be passed down. But a dress that’s worn once and then never again? Out the door.

And it feels nice to purge and be light; everything in our home fits in two 8′x8′ shipping containers, and that’s only because the couch needed its own container. That’s what we’ll try to teach Maggie as she grows: don’t buy it if you don’t need it, use it as much and as for as many purposes as you can, and if you don’t use it in 12+ months, sell or give it away if you can or trash it if you can’t. Onward!

Clothaholic

Four weeks into cloth diapers with Maggie, I must say that I really love how it’s working out. There are some things I would do differently, but overall it’s been a great experience. I wouldn’t recommend reading the following entry unless you have a vested interest in doing this yourself, or are just really curious about how we bundle Maggie’s bottom. Some people are adamant about not using synthetics at all in their diapers; I think if our budget had permitted and I was more ambitious, we would consider prefolds and wool covers. As it is, we are a) lazier than those people and b) less concerned with synthetics than with daycare compatibility later on, so we went with pocket diapers–fitted diapers you stuff with an absorbent stuffer in varying thicknesses. Awesome for 3 a.m. changes when I can barely open my eyes.

We ordered about 20 BumGenius 3.0 diapers, which have a fold-down tab to accommodate a newborn’s cord stub. If I could do it again, I would have purchased a supply of newborn size prefolds and then used them as diaper stuffers when Maggie outgrew them, but these worked fine. You can buy these with snap closures to avoid loud velcro waking up the baby, but after watching the entire run of “The Sopranos” on DVD during my pregnancy, Maggie sleeps through just about everything. I prefer the velcro because it gets a snugger fit and Maggie doesn’t notice the noise. She’s swell like that.

Because smaller babies go through more diapers, I got a supply of 8 Happy Heinys size small pocket diapers to augment my stash. Would NOT buy these again. The reviews on them were mixed but the majority skewed positive, so I went with them. Big mistake–the fabric wicks liquid right out the leg holes on the diaper, and more often than not Maggie woke up with a wet outfit (or I got a lapful of baby urine. Rock.). We don’t use them at all anymore and I’m trying to sell them to someone unsuspecting. The only time she has wicking with the BGs is at night and she sleeps longer than I anticipate. She sometimes sleeps for 3.5-4 hours, and if I don’t remember to use the larger, thicker stuffer there’s dampness at the top edge of the diaper. Otherwise, awesome.

Wipes: we have a dozen Egyptian cotton wipes (which I can’t find now on the internet and just as well, I don’t like them very much as the edges curl up too much), a dozen of these flannel wipes, two packs of these Thirsties I got as a gift, and then 30 of these wipes I found on Etsy in various designs (the double wipes, not the singles). Big thumbs up on the Etsy wipes, they scrub well but are still quite soft. The Thirsties work pretty well but I’ve started using them primarily to clean Maggie’s face of spitup (she’s a horker) because they are so soft. I make my own wipe solution just about weekly using a little glycerin soap and a bit of baby oil. So far, so good!

Bags: I have four wet bags, two larger ones to line my pail and two small to carry in the diaper bag. I rotate them when I do the laundry. I have the Bummis bag and the Swaddlebees bag, overall I prefer the Swaddlebees because the material is a bit more flexible but I’d recommend either. If you like lots of pretty colors and patterns, I’d go with the Swaddlebees.

Laundry: soak and prewash on cold, a bit of regular Tide detergent and baking soda in the regular wash cycle on warm, white vinegar in the rinse cycle. Some small stains on the stuffers, none on the diapers themselves. I have a smaller pail so I wash about every day or every other day, depending. I have a big enough supply to go longer and will probably get a bigger pail someday when leaving the house isn’t such a big f-ing production.

Cloth for me: disposable nursing pads are TERRIBLE and leave funky fibers stuck to you. Gross. I bought a half dozen of these nursing pads on Etsy and am quite pleased–worked overnight with no leaking, nice and large, and the fabric is fun. As for other matters, I am convinced my healing would be progressing faster if I had just bit the bullet and invested in cloth pads for myself instead of these awful Always things. I hadn’t used them in years and forgot how much I hate them. Those are also sold on Etsy, cheaper than the kind you might find at Whole Foods. I’m healing well, I just…hate to crinkle. Ick.

So that’s my rundown! I think for future babies I might try to edge out into the prefold world, especially in newborn sizes. As it is I am quite happy with our purchases (save those damn Happy Heiny moneywasters) and hope this is helpful/convincing to anyone on the fence!

ETA: We realized that without the HH diapers, we were doing laundry constantly. (Maggie is a frequent and heavy wetter.) So I ordered some cloth prefolds and waterproof covers after all. Will report on how I like them.

Cloth? Yep.

Tom is a National Parks buff, and whenever we go to a place maintained by the Park Service we always see the signs that say “Take out what you bring in,” or some variation on “Leave the park as you found it.”

How does this relate to our decision to use cloth diapers? We consider ourselves environmentally conscious (with the exception of the nightmarish carbon footprint we leave by traveling so often), but what got us over the “Eeeeew, baby poo in my washer/dryer?!” hump was the savings. Startup with our preferred cloth diapers, which are among the more expensive on the market, is still only about $500-$600. We plan to have two children, so we don’t have to buy them twice–perhaps just buy a few more if they’re both in diapers at the same time, so maybe $700 total. Compared to $2000+ for disposables PER child, it’s a no-brainer. But as for environmental impact affecting our decision, this paragraph from Cotton Babies’ (where I have ordered all my cloth diapers so far, in budget-manageable six packs*) website says it all for us on their cloth vs. disposable options:

“Based on a report from the Women’s Environmental Network, The Real Diaper Association reports:

* Disposable diapers are the third most common consumer product in landfills today.
* A disposable diaper may take up to 500 years to decompose.
* One baby in disposable diapers will contribute at least 1 ton of waste to your local landfill.

Landfill issues are very important. This is a very interesting dilemma facing in Hawaii right now as many of their landfills are either closing or set to close very soon. This article is one of many that discusses this issue. Honolulu has one landfill remaining. Kauai’s only landfill will reach capacity in 2009. Hawaii is running out of places to put its trash.”

We aren’t going to be in Hawaii forever. It’s a tiny, beautiful place. We’d have done cloth anyway, most likely, but this is even more reason to do our small part to help out. As much as we can, being consumptive humans and all that, we’d like to leave Hawaii like we found it and try not to leave 2000+ pounds of baby bottom-related garbage in our wake.

*Yes, I do see the irony in ordering diapers made of cotton, a major source of pesticide and pollution, from a retailer based on the mainland, which then have to be shipped out here in some sort of exhaust-producing means of conveyance. There is no way to bring a child into the world without making SOME kind of environmental impact, and on this one our biological instinct to procreate won out. Well, my biological instinct and Tom’s desire to share the lifetime of suffering of a Philadelphia Phillies fan with a child won out.

May The Force Be With You

In my ever-continuing post-adolescent quest to be cool in at least ONE aspect of my life (and please, God, after my jr. high and high school years YOU OWE ME), I decided to hit Etsy.com and look for cloth wipes there. Etsy is the coolest website on the Internet, an online 24-7 craft fair of amazing things made by very talented men and women. So naturally, I’d rather support someone’s small business than a company like BumGenius when it comes to things like buying cloth wipes. After searching, the quality is uniformly higher–often double-sided and well-reinforced–and they come in a rainbow of colors and patterns; the ones I purchased are plain cream-colored single ply and $12 for a dozen. The prices on Etsy are comparable.

I hit the jackpot with a seller who offered double-sided cloth wipes in a pack of 15 for $15, custom-ordered with any five of the prints on this page. Surprisingly, I did not choose any of the monkey fabrics. I did, however, choose the Darth Vader print at the bottom of the page. (The other four were purple stripes, lime dots, moocow, and camping–for Tom.)

It probably hasn’t done a thing to up my cool quotient (quite the reverse, probably), but I feel a little bit better knowing that while my neighbors are paying extraordinary sums for prepackaged Huggies baby wipes, my baby’s butt is going to be cared for by the Sith Lord.

Hello

Hello, all. Hang-wringing aside, I think I just had to get that last post out of my system. A last regurgitation, if you will, as I have not been ill since I wrote it. I’ve felt kinda sick, sure, and the food/smell aversions continue, but I no longer fear the idea of eating because I know in about half an hour I’ll be sick. It’s a happy feeling.

The source of my nausea TODAY, however, is our first baby-related purchase. Cloth diapering is cheaper than disposables and we are lucky to be able to do that with our baby. However, the initial investment is far greater than with disposables, which are a more gradual suck on your bank account. We decided to go with all-in-ones, which are more expensive than traditional cloth anyway, because we are fundamentally lazy people. We also thought that all-in-ones would go over better with a babysitter should we have to put the wee sprout in daycare. We decided to buy a six-pack per month, starting now, to bring us to the recommended 30 by the time I deliver.

So a six-pack of these lovelies in assorted colors (butternut, grasshopper, clementine, ribbit, moonbeam, and zinnia for the curious–I have no problem dressing a girl in blue or a boy in pink, gender isn’t defined by Crayola after all) and a dozen of these wipes just ran us about $120 after shipping. And yes, Virigina, I am going to wipe my child’s ass with Egyptian cotton, and probably then wonder 16 years from now why my child is asking me to buy it a brand new car. Can you spell P-R-E-C-E-D-E-N-T?

When compared to a $700 billion bailout, it’s not that much, but my goodness, babies are expensive. Especially mine, it would seem.