Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just Writing about Family

As you all know by now, I've lost both my grandmothers this past year. My father's mother died in the spring and my mother's mother in the fall after many years struggling with Alzheimer's. Their passing and our move to Outer Mongolia (otherwise known as Central Florida) has changed my sense of self, ever so subtly and slowly and yet profoundly.

I was talking to my mother shortly after Grandmom passed away and she has been feeling this same shift. It's like now my mother is the grand matriarch and I am... my mother, I guess? I've "moved up" in some sort of not-easily-definable way and am now no longer one of the kids. My kids are The Kids, and my siblings and I are The Adults and my parents are The Grandparents. My cousins, aunts and uncles are all sort of splintering off to their own extended-family units. My aunts and uncles are now someone elses' grandparents, not just aunts and uncles. All this transition is, of course inevitable and expected. The inexorable marching onward of time and all that.

The thing that's hard for me about all this is this sense of losing my grip... losing that settled-in, rooted feeling that has been such a part of me for so long. I'm getting slowly pushed up to the top. I'm moving up, level by level, till I'm the one who's the apex of my own family tree-- J and me. At the top. No longer a safe, settled, protected, cushioned part of the middle. No longer surrounded by cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Now everyone is looking up at us to provide them with a sense of identity, a Heritage.

I think it must be a little lonely at the top. I'm not in any hurry to get there.

join us for free-writing over at the EO!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Life With Boys

Judah is a very absent minded person. Most of the time this can be compensated for by my constant attention to keep him out of the path of cars, off the feet of other adults and out of the way of small children who might be bowled over if he simply walks right into them

But there are some situations where I cannot help him out much. For example, the bathroom. It's a twenty-to-one shot whether he actually pees INTO the toilet as he gazes vaguely all around the room, or possibly inscribes the arc of Superman's leap across the street from building top to sidewalk in pursuit of the latest villain.

Today, on a lightening-fast trip to the toilet (leaving Jamie unattended longer than 45 consecutive seconds these days is like playing Russian Roulette), I stepped, barefooted (it's Florida, after all) into a huge puddle of pee on the bathroom floor. Pants already unzipped, I splashed right. into. it, my jeans cuffs baptized with the fragrant liquid. I screeched, frantically shaking the drops from my foot, hopped out to the kitchen for a rag and some cleaner and limped back, mom-cursing the whole way. As I bent to mop up the deluge, I realize something...

I wasn't the only one who'd stepped in it.



So I spent the next twenty minutes hands-and-knees crawling around from one mud-pee footprint to another, *spray-wipe-blech*, all around the house.

And while I was down there, I figured I might as well try to scrub off the Sharpie marker Jamie decorated with this morning.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Cheap Mama's Guide to Cloth Diapering #4: The Five Basics

1) The Diapers. So after you've chosen your style, or found a couple of super great deals on Craigslist, or connected with the perfect shop on Etsy, the question arises... how many of these things do I need, anyway? My answer... as many as it takes to fill a washer load. Your answer may be different, but for me this thing is about saving money and I'm a stay-at-home mom. One thing I can do is Laundry. I dislike doing it, but I have the resources and the time. I could wash a  load of diapers every day, if I had to and it made sense economically. But what I ended up doing is deciding how small a load I felt was worth the electricity and water and bought enough diapers to fill it. It turns out that lasts me about three days, so I'm doing a medium-sized (for my washer) load of diapers twice or three times a week. It's about 15 diapers, give or take...

2) Diaper pail. You definitely need something with a tightly closing lid. Preferably something with one of those pedal operated lids, where you can step and open. Trust me on this one. A $9 plastic kitchen trashcan from Wally World is fine (I dunno about the metal ones...). No liners, no wet bags, no fancy filters. No need to fork over $45 at Cotton Babies. The main key to keep it from getting stinky is vinegar and water. I pour in about a cup of vinegar and about 6 or 8 inches of water every time I empty the pail. The diapers soak as the pail fills and I dump the vinegar water right into the washer on wash day. It makes a HUGE difference in both the smell in the bathroom (where we keep our pail) and the smell of the diapers after washing.

3) Wipes. I'm conflicted about cloth wipes. They're definitely a money-saver, but boy are they a pain sometimes. The trick seems to be to set up a system for getting them wet in a convenient way. A friend suggested keeping a spray bottle in the changing table, but it doesn't seem to get the wipes wet enough for me. I've tried keeping a container of water on the changing table, but that inevitably gets knocked over. Repeatedly. I've tried wetting them at the sink before I go to change a diaper, but then there's always that sneaky poop that I didn't know was there and I'm standing at the changing table, with diaper half off and Jamie's legs hiked into the air, yelling for one of the kids to come get a wipe and wet it down for me. Not cool. So I tend to backslide into disposables often. Not that I'm recommending you lay down $75 for a wipes kit. No way. Not this cheap mama. Just do like me and chop up an old receiving blanket into squares-- you don't even have to hem them. That way you have them and maybe you'll use them more often than I do.

4) Fleece Liners. These babies revolutionized cloth diapering for me. Let's face it, the real problem people have with cloth diapers is Poop. It's stinky, yucky and we've had hammered into us since birth how gross it is to touch. *shudder* And along with cloth diapering comes a greater exposure to poop. You can no longer wrap a poopy diaper immediately up into a nice sanitary ball, unseen, and unsmelt, toss it into a trashcan and forget about it. No. Now you have to carry it to the toilet, unwrap it, dump it, swish it, slosh it, spray it and flush it down (hopefully). And then you have to take that dripping wet, disgusting mound-- still smeared with vestiges of poop-- and carry it back to the diaper pail. Blech. *shudderagain* But liners change all that. I'm pretty sure God created fleece specifically to repel poop. It's like a super power. The stuff just slides right off, plop, mostly in one piece. Even the worst messes submit to a couple shakes and maybe a little dip. Then you just drop the liner back into the diaper and carry it-- not dripping all over the place, because fleece doesn't absorb water-- back to the pail. Shazaam. It's wonderful. It also protects your diapers from staining and creates a dampness barrier. Remember, fleece is not absorbent. It's not a soaker or a doubler, it's a LINER. It will let the pee through to soak the diaper and keep your baby's bottom feeling dry. You don't even have to buy them! you can just cut up an old fleece blanket (I had several from Sofi and Judah's baby days) from Goodwill. Again, no need to hem.

5) Covers, Snappis. The final things you need are actually only on the list if you're using pre-folds and/or shaped/contoured diapers. Since this requires me to link to a bunch of my favorite brands and discuss some specific pros and cons of each, I'll save it for another post.

Believe it or not, this is really all you need to make it work. Now granted, all the other gadgets can be handy and fun, but these are the essentials. I'd love to have my other cd-ing friends chime in in the com box with their lists of "essentials". What else do you consider to be a basic need? What gadgets can you not do without?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Just Writing

One of the things I've grown to love about Florida is the way the boundaries between outdoors and indoors are blurry, optional, indistinct and reversible. Occassionally we have a day whose chill requires closed doors and latched windows, but for the most part we are open to the sunshine, breeze and the fresh smell of dirt and rain.

Judah is watching a Netflix cartoon version of The Three Musketeers. The sight and sound of a furry green D'Artagnan break dancing with the other musketeers is giving me a stomach ache. I think we're going to have to outlaw this one, despite Judah's love of the sword-fighting scenes.

And, just like that, my time for blogging is past. D'Artagnan has danced right off the screen and now Judah needs me for school and other mommy things.

Perhaps next week I"ll have more time to Just Write...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Cheal Mama's Guide to Cloth Diapering #3-- Where to find them

I'm really stretching it a little to try to devote an entire blog post to cheap sources for cloth diapers. Here's the list, in descending order of price:

1) Etsy

There are a veritable multitude of work-at-home moms making bucks on the side selling diapers on Etsy. Prices range from around $10 (or $6 on sale) to off the charts for super-cute styles, or custom designs. We bought Jude's cloth pull-ups from this shop. Although it seems like she's no longer selling the style we bought.

2) Mom4Life.com

This is a small-time distribution website for natural parenting resources. The reason they work for me is Swagbucks! A 5$ gift card is only 350 swagbucks and two will get you their signature organic bamboo pre-fold and cover-- you pay about $5 shipping. Sweet deal!

3) Amazon clearance

The regular, everyday price on Amazon really aren't any better than buying direct, and they don't have a huge selection, BUT! If you collect Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards, or you find a good clearance sale, you can really get a great deal! We bought our cloth swim diapers there for about $8 a pair and got free shipping.

4) Ebay

I buy on Ebay and Craigslist most often. They are the best dependable deals I've found. Ebay always has pockets for around $5-- shipping included (Hong Kong knock-offs of Fuzzi Bunz). Occasionally I"ll find someone selling extras off their stash with low shipping, too.

5) Craigslist

Craigslist is my BFF. Seriously. Even before I started actually USING cloth with Jamie I ran across a few people clearing out their stashes when they potty-trained their youngest child. I've gotten diapers with plenty of wear left for as little as a buck or two a piece. I bought all my shaped/contoured diapers off a woman for $2 each. It was awesome. I got wool and fleece covers for about $8 each.


Yardsales with cloth diapers are like the Holy Grail for this Cheap Mama. The problem is, of course, you can't often find diapers at yard sales. Most people (as do I) try to make a little back on their investment when they sell off their stashes, so they list them on Ebay or CL for other people specifically looking for cloth diapers to find. But, oh mama! when you can find one! My fav story is some old (reeeeally old) Fuzzi Bunz I bought for $4 each. They worked great for the four months or so that they fit Jamie, despite their age, never leaking-- not once. And THEN. I sold them. For $5 each!!!!!!!!!!! On Craigslist :)

Now THAT'S a Cheap Mama Moment.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Cheap Mama's Guide to Cloth Diapering #2: Pros and Cons

The next thing I want to talk about is the four basic styles- pros and cons. I'm including a guesstimate of what I paid for the ones I bought in each category. Tomorrow I'll get into sources-- where and how to buy CHEAP, then I plan to finish up with a few handy little tips to make it all easier :)

AIO; these are by far the easiest and most like disposables. You don't have to keep track of liners or soakers-- it's a one piece, one step operation. They're also usually the most expensive. And sometimes they leak, because you can't add layers of absorption to take care of nightimes or long car rides and such. And they take For. Ever. to dry in the dryer. FOREVER.  
I only have one of these-- because I didn't like it. I bought it new, on sale, and it came out to about $20 with shipping. Yikes!

Pockets, as I mentioned, are pretty much the same as AIOs. The only difference is that the absorptive part is separate, which means you can add in as much or as little as you need in the circumstance. It also means that you have to keep track of liners and shells and re-assemble the diaper every time you wash. I tend to re-pack them as I fold and put away, but then I still will need to adjust for extra absorbancy, when I want it. Somewhat less convenient. And you do have to actually touch the wet soaker pad to pull it out of the pocket before laundering. But they dry MUCH faster!  
These are my favorites. The ones I bought I found on Ebay for $5 each- no shipping cost. They're knock-offs from Hong Kong, but so far they work great! I also have made several for myself, for about the same price-- but cuter :)

With both AIOs and Pockets, I HIGHLY recommend you find a brand that has FLEECE linings, not flannel or bamboo. Fleece is God's gift to women with a high gag reflex. The poop just slides right off-- I barely even need to swish!! It's wonderful.

Shaped/Contoured diapers are still fairly convenient when it comes to the actual diaper change. You have a diaper-shaped cotton or bamboo piece that snaps around the baby's legs, just like a Pocket or AIO. You can add layers (with extra soakers) for more absorpency. But then you need a water-proof cover and (at least I recommend it) a liner. Ideally fleece. This provides a dampness barrier and, as I mentioned, helps with poop removal. If you're counting, that's a three-piece diaper. Now we're starting to get a little more complex. It's still pretty fast, definitely cheaper and super easy to wash and dry.  
I bought a stash of these (about 10), in excellent used condition, from Craigslist and paid $2 each. I use them often and like them a lot.

With Pre-folds we've reached the absolute bottom rung in price. They also happen to be the most labor intensive at changing time. Also the highest number of moving parts :) You have a rectangular piece of cotton or bamboo, pins or a snappi and a water-proof cover. That's four. It's a little tough to juggle while trying to pin down an active toddler on the changing table. But, like I said, they're C.H.E.A.P.  And you do eventually get a rhythm down-- I've gotten pretty fast with the snappis. And. They're cheap.  
I paid $15 for a lot of 20, I believe, on ebay. I use these when I've not gotten around to washing and I've run out of everything else. This happens more often than you might think...

That's a short run-down of my experience with the four basic kinds. You might look at that list and think you know exactly which one will work best for you. Or not. My opinion is, buy four or five of each kind and try them out for a while before you commit.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Cheap Mama's Guide to Cloth Diapering #1

I've been meaning to write this post for a looong time. A friend is starting her cloth-diapering journey with baby number three, just as we did, so I'm motivated to finallyb put down on "paper" what I've learned about cloth diapering on the cheap. The main thing I want to say is that even if you don't start till the third (or fourth, or more) child, and even if you don't cloth diaper exclusively (we don't) and even if you don't start till the baby's six or eight months old (we didn't), I cannot stress enough:


And also...


Let's start by defining the four basic types of cloth diapers. In general, you have All In Ones (AIOs), Pockets, Shaped (also called contoured) and Pre-Folds. I just listed them in descending order of cost (generally speaking). Here's a link that describes each one in more detail with pics. Here's a quick definition from me:

  • AIOs are pretty much the same as disposable,
  • Pockets are the same as AIO except you add in the absorbent bit yourself (called a soaker),
  • Shaped are pre-folds already cut into a generic diaper-shaped curves,
  • and pre-folds are your basic, old-fashioned nappies from the cave-man age of cloth-diapering-- generally used with the ginormous safety pins (except now they have snappis, which are awesome) and plastic pants or water-proof covers of some sort.

Each of the above types comes either in several sizes, or in a one-size-fits-all style with various snaps and folds and such-like to adjust to your child's growth.

The world of cloth diapering can be totally over-whelming at first because there are literally dozens of different variations on each of those four basic types. I'm really even making it more complicated than it needs to be, because Pockets and contours are pretty much just variations on AIOs and pre-folds.

In addition to all these variations, there are also all kinds of gadgets and labor-saving devices you can purchase, like wet bags and liners and scrapers and sprayers and buckets and flushable wipes. But since this is The Cheap Mama's Guide, I'm just going to stick to what I consider to be the basics and y'all can get all fancy on your own :)

The first thing you should know is that it's not at all necessary to buy an entire diaper system from a single brand. In fact I recommend against it. Cloth diapering is a personal thing-- you won't know what your favorite type is until you try several. There's no point in locking yourself into a $300 investment with a style of diaper that doesn't work for you. Plus, you can do it waaay cheaper my way! I'll whet your appetite by telling you that so far, almost a year into cloth diapering Jamie, we've spent under $75 on our diaper stash.

(more tomorrow!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Just Write

There are marker and pen and scuff marks all over my walls... 

Should I wash them off? Is it worth the time when I know they'll be back on again by the end of the day? Are they some sort of badge of honor for Motherhood (with a capital 'M')? Or just evidence of semi-lazy motherhood (small 'm')?

"Mama, I want a cough drop!" 

Does he really need one? Is all that coughing real or put on to coax out of an un-suspicious mama what my children consider to be just-as-good-as-candy? How much coughing is evidence of a real need for a cough drop? Is this one of those moments to just give in?

"Na?? Mama? Na??" 

Is he really hungry and wanting a snack? Or is he just wanting my attention? If I put cheerioes on the chair instead of picking him up and reading to him, does that make me a bad mom? If he throws all the cheerioes on the floor and I pick them up and put them right on the edge of the table where he loves to grab things, will that buy me another five minutes?

"Mama! I can't do FORTY-EIGHT math problems in ONE DAY!" 

I know she can, but should she have to? Is it too much? Is she getting enough time to just be a kid? Is that even important? Is she learning patience, endurance, wisdom along with her reading, writing and math?

Questions, uncertainties, wonderings swirl around in my head in the midst of all the daily run-around. My mind is on a merry-go-round, a tilt-a-whirl-- the juggler spinning plates on poles.

But what I'm really asking is, can I do this? Am I adequate? Is this working? Will they be ok? Do they know I love them? How can I protect them? Prepare them? What do I do now? How did I get here?

By the Grace of God 

...answers all my questions.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Where I'm From

(apparently I have a problem with commitment when it comes to blog memes. i loved this one right away when i first saw it, but it's taken me months to finally finish it. i love it because it's the kind of thing one can write again and again and it nevers comes out the same way twice. this version tends to weigh heavily on the southern part of my "roots". maybe i'll do another one focusing on my yankee family another day...)

I am from long-handled ice tea spoons, 
From Aqua Net, Cover Girl and Vicks Vapor Rub. 
I am from white-columned front porches, the shady refuge at the end of a sun-baked, flesh-sizzling slate walk.

I am from the dogwood tree, 
The purple iris, 
The towering boxwood  
(all shot through with wisteria, the purple-scented parasite)

I am from music lessons, arguments, apologies and sharing. 
From Fetters and Wilkinses and Olivers-- the long-livers and hard-workers and fast-talkers. 
We raise-our-hand, do-unto-others, work-first-play-later 
and respect-our-elders.

I'm from Sabbath rests, hymn-singing, and posters of sad African children, reminding me of how much I have and the importance of sharing a cup of cold water to drink.

I'm from the Old Dominion, The Mother of Presidents, and I can whistle Dixie in my sleep. I eat my greens with bacon, my grits are extra buttery and my biscuits light-as-a-feather.

I'm from the snapping turtle that missed daddy's toe, 
The time we didn't run away from home 
And brothers who weren't lost in the cornfield after all.

I am from a bent wire tree covered with amethysts,
From the finger-worn neck of a long-loved fiddle, 
From the whispering scent of Jean Naté and a marbled notebook stacked on a well-worn Bible. 

You gift-givers wove all my life around with music and beautiful words. 

I am from all of you.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Just Write

I've been trying to pull together a post all day. In between the Christmas Take-Down, the children squabbles, the cleaning, the cooking and trying to find time to play, laugh and train. Every time there's a pause in the motion and commotion, my brain starts chugging along...

"Jamie is such a passionate child. In the moment of submission to discipline, he will throw himself into my arms with tempestuous wails, bury his little face deep into my neck and cling to me, fingers clutching my shirt in a desperate grip, writhing in the agonies of thwarted will..."

But before I can make it to the laptop, something breaks, or falls over, or spills, or someone yells, or trespasses, or cries... And the idea must be shelved in the library of my memory, perhaps at some point brought out, dusted off and wrestled into a full-length post...

"Fire is so much more than warmth. The gods gave fire to man for protection and safety, light, a sense of belonging and peace, romance and familial love. Home and Hearth. Men have been fighting for it, living for it, longing for it for millennium. A fireplace is worth the space and trouble. Even in Florida."

Crash, splash, yell..........file it away again....

For so much of my life I've defined my self by my memories, my past, my family. And now suddenly I find all that stripped away and I've landed here in a foreign land far away from all that has defined me for so long. I have of necessity had scramble to find ways to define myself by other things. And I've not yet refined that process, haven't yet figured out the New Me. Who is this Florida Resident? I don't know her well yet...

This is why I love the Just Write meme. It gives me a place to file away these fragments where they won't fade away with memories, their place taken by more pressing daily matters. Heather has given busy moms like me a place to lay down the remaining pieces of our creativity for the moment in a safe place, to pick them up again, someday, hopefully, when all the noise has ceased and the uneasy peace of an empty house shadows the corners of our days.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year Begins

Bloggers all over my Google Reader are posting lists of their tops posts from 2011 to close out the old year and kick off the new. I like this idea. I'd join in, but the truth is, this last year hasn't been a real great one for this blog. It's been downright dead around here for the last 12 months or so. One of my New Years resolutions is to go back to blogging more regularly.

So in lieu of a "Best Of 2011" list, I'll just give y'all a list of a few of my favs-- which also happen to be (according to Blogger's handy little stats recorder) among my top ten hits-per-page.

In which I blog about the sacrificial nature of Mothering.

In which I discuss some of our philosophies of child-training:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

In which I make light of an incendiary incident.