Monday, November 21, 2011

Retro(spect) Volume 1

Sometimes life has a way of making you feel wistful for the old days.  I was chatting with my Dad today, who has courageously gone back to school as a full time student, and was reading some heavy (depressing) literature for one of his classes.  He called me just to tell me his missed me, and it got me thinking about all those times from my childhood - the things we laugh about now, that were etched into our memories as classic family tales.  Since my family lives out of state, we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like, but we're still a very close knit bunch.  I am so blessed to be in a family where even if we don't always agree with each other, we love (and enjoy being with) each other always.  Even during the infamous teenage years, when most kids can't stand being seen in public with their parents (or younger siblings), my sister and I would relish the opportunity to spend a special day out with Mom & Dad.

I wish we lived closer, but sharing favorite family memories somehow has the ability to make those miles shrink ever so slightly, just for a moment.  Well Dad, I thought I'd give you something a little more lighthearted to read, in hopes of brightening your day a little, and helping you feel a little closer to your girls.  :)

The Kite:

It was a cloudy, blustery day in March, and I was so anxious to get home I could hardly stand it.  We were returning from a relatively short trip to Wal-Mart.  I say relatively short, because shopping with my Dad was never a quick trip.  Shopping is something of a quest when you go with Dad.  On this particular day, we went in search of a kite for my sister and me.

We had both ended up with identical, pink Barbie kites.  They were perfect.  We got home and, with Dad's help, assembled them.  This was no easy task!  The kites came with flimsy plastic rods that had to be threaded through the backs of the kites in order to give them enough structure to fly.  And of course, there were the tails.  They looked like someone had cut up a black garbage bag with a pair of squiggly scissors, and sneaked it into the kite packaging.  Nonetheless, they were attached to the bottoms of our kites, and with squealing anticipation, we got our jackets on to go outside and test them out.

My parents had recently built a home on the rural side of town, and while we had a large front yard, the landscape was still littered with plenty of trees and across the street, telephone poles complete with large, heavy wires draped in long arches high above the ground.  My Mom logically suggested we wait for a day when we could all go to the park together to fly the kites.  We saw the reason in this.  But what is it to be eight years old without an occasional indulgence in instant gratification?  After all, it was a perfectly windy day, and we didn't have to let the kites get up too high.  Mom consented with Dad's promise of supervision.

So there we were - the moment of truth!  Mom was strategically positioned behind the large picture window in the front of the house, video camera running, ready to forever memorialize the momentous occasion.  Dad helped my younger sister get hers up in the air.  She was, after all, the baby in the family, and the youngest always go first.  Her kite wobbled a little, and then with the next gust of wind was airborn.  She stood with the string, hanging on tight as she giggled with satisfaction.  Then it was my turn.  I stood in the middle of the street, with the string in my hands, and Dad on the other end holding my kite.  "Okay, GO!" he shouted.  We both ran, and there went my kite!  I was giddy!
After a few minutes of sheer joy, the wind began playing games with us.  First, my sister's kite was in peril.  "Run!  Keep it up!" my Dad yelled instructions.  It was no use.  Her kite ended up in the trees across the street.  No matter, Dad came to the rescue.  My sister waited patiently for her kite to be freed from its branchy prison.  Then, disaster struck.  My kite began to flutter in free fall.  I ran, and managed to keep it up for a few seconds more . . . just long enough for it to drift into the trees!  I began to whimper, and Dad reassured me that he would get to mine as soon as my sister's was free.  Just be patient, he said.

I was never one to be associated with the patient type.  Dad was really having a time of it, wrestling the tree's hold on the kite string, but he was winning - inch by inch.  After watching this for a couple of minutes, I decided to give it a go with my own kite.  After all, I was eight years old.  How hard could it be?  I began to tug, gently at first, then a little harder.  My kite budged.  It was working!  My sister's kite fluttered free - Dad had fought the trees and won!  Now if I could just tug a little . . . bit . . . more . . . It was almost free!

Then the unthinkable happened.  My string snapped off!  I crumpled to my knees in utter disbelief, totally crushed.  I wailed in despair "my kite . . . my kite!"  much the way someone wails when they lose a pet, or a loved one.  This was serious stuff, people.  Dad looked in my direction, not really sure what had just transpired.  "It's okay, Amanda - we can get you another one later."  He tried to comfort me, but it was no use.  No other kite could possibly be as perfect as this pink, Barbie, 99 cent kite.  And to make matters worse, my sister still had hers!  No, this was the end.  The end of my happy childhood as I knew it.  I was inconsolable.  I wandered into the house, my vision blurred from tears, and still sobbing, relayed the whole tragedy to my Mom, still behind the window, camera still rolling.  Mom said that it was too bad I hadn't waited for my Dad, like my sister had.  "Sorry, Honey.  Now go to your room until you can get yourself under control."

That's all the sympathy I get?  Inconceivable!  I went to my room, and flung myself onto my bed, sobbing into my pillow.  I would die all alone, without ever having any fun again.

And behold, the peak of my career in childhood melodrama was achieved!  I did, in fact, go on to fly many more kites over the course of my growing up years.  To this day, when the trees have all shed their leaves, you can still see a bit of black garbage bag looking debris fluttering in the wind across the street from my parent's house.  The infamous kite lives on!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Not Your Mama's Cloth Diapers

For those of you who might be interested in cloth diapering, or even for the morbidly curious, I thought I'd share our system. I began researching cloth diapers a few months into my pregnancy, and let me tell you: if you've ever done any kind of search on "cloth diapering" online, it's enough to make your head spin! I waffled back and forth for several months - daunted by my lack of knowledge and the seemingly huge increase in a workload that was already going to rapidly expand with a newborn on the way. There was also the husband-grandma-nursery worker factor. I didn't want to have complicated bulky diapers for helping hands to have to contend with. I was concerned about traveling with cloth diapers vs. disposables, as all of our family live out of state, so any visits require about a 3 1/2 hour roadtrip. Also, while cloth can save significant expenses in the long run, there's a pretty big investment intially.

My husband is very frugal (read: loves cheap!), so as soon as he heard the words "save money" he was completely on the cloth diapering bandwagon, and determined to make it work. I was certainly willing to give it a try - after all, I reasoned, even if it didn't work out, we wouldn't actually be out any money. Cloth diapers hold their resale value pretty well, believe it or not. Anyway, we'd still be spending money on disposables if we weren't using cloth, so I felt pretty safe.

There are several benefits to cloth vs. disposables, and while I love that I'm helping to clean up the environment, honestly my main intention was to cut costs. After researching several kinds of diapers (All-In-Ones, Pocket Diapers, Prefolds, Fitted Diapers, Hybrids . . . etc), we decided on the pocket style diaper. This one is a good combination of ease of use, and cost efficiency. After trying out several brands, we decided on using the Fuzzibunz (seriously, some of these diapers have hilarious names!) One Size diapers. You can check them out here. The obvious advantage to these was the ability to last from newborn through potty training - which means if we have more than one kid in diapers at the same time, we don't have to worry about different sized diapers. Also, these things are ridiculously adjustable! So with a hard to fit baby like mine - who is really long with chubby thighs, they work perfectly. They also work similarly to a disposable, with snaps instead of pins. The downside is having to use a different diaper with each change, but that didn't bother me.

We've been using them full time for about 3 1/2 months now, and it really isn't that much extra work! I am very pleasantly surprised. It's pretty safe to say we'll be sticking with them long term at this point, and I'm glad to do it. We ended up purchasing about 25 diapers, which can get us comfortably through about three days. I do a load of diapers three times a week, and our washer is enormous, so it's easy to fit them all in there.

I run them on a cold rinse cycle first, and then a hot/cold wash cycle followed by another cold rinse.  The company says to dry the inserts in the dryer on high heat, and the diaper "shells" in the dryer on low, but I prefer to hang them to air dry . . . I guess I'd rather be on the cautionary side.  We just have a clothes rack in the laundry room that I use, and on sunny days I'll put them outside.  They dry much faster!  Even indoors, they dry very quickly - it only takes 5 hours max.

After drying, I take all the inserts (made of layers of microfiber) and "stuff" the diapers.  Each diaper comes with a short and a long insert.  We use the shorter ones for daytime, and the longer ones for naps, or overnight.

My daughter is a heavy wetter, so sometimes if we're going to be out and about and I won't have as much opportunity to change her, I add a hemp insert.   The hemp inserts are super absorbent, and nice and thin, so they don't add much bulk.

 They really come in lots of cute colors and patterns too!  It was hard to decide which ones to get.  When they're all stuffed and folded, they look like this:

 The nice thing about these diapers, is that they still fit nicely in my diaper stacker that came with the nursery set.  Then they're nice and handy to grab during a change.

I also keep spare inserts on the changing table, at arms reach if I need to change the absorbancy level.  They have their own bin, so everything stays nice and neat (and out of sight!)

 As far as wipes go, instead of purchasing the expensive "cloth wipes" that are available, I just bought some cheap washcloths from Wal-Mart, cut them in half, and sewed a seam down the unfinished edge.  VoilĂ !  Cloth wipes!  I roll them up, and store them in a plastic container on the changing table next to the extra inserts.  I use a homemade solution of water, baby oil, and baby soap (we use Johnson & Johnson's Head To Toe wash) to keep them in.  They smell nice, feel nice on baby's skin, and get the job done well.

 We purchased a small garbage can instead of a fancy diaper pail, and we use a cloth liner that goes in the wash with the diapers.  It's never smelly, and it doesn't take up a bunch of space.  If the diaper is just wet, it goes straight into the pail, wipes and all - no fuss.

If there's a surprise inside, I rinse the diapers first, and then put them in the pail.  This was one of the biggest turn offs for me as far as cloth diapering goes . . . who wants to deal with that kind of mess?  After all, with disposables, you just wad the thing up, and never think about it again.  That's when I discovered, *drumroll please* the diaper sprayer!

It hooks right onto the side of the toilet, out of the way, and my handy husband even installed it without having a career in plumbing.  It's pretty high powered, so it gets the ick off fairly easily.  There's still the matter of wringing out the diaper, which I felt kind of squeamish about, but I just keep some of these on hand (pun intended):

I keep a box in the bathroom, and also in the laundry room for wash day.  It's a piece of cake!  I never have to touch anything, and so far, my baby has never had a diaper rash, or been smelly.  She'll tell you herself - she doesn't mind one bit!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Being "Real"

The last few weeks have been a perfect example of why I am not very good at blogging regularly!  I have been in the kitchen (much) more than usual lately, baking, and storing away goodies for the holidays.  The cooler weather has also prevented me from spending as much time outdoors, so with more time inside, I have had the itch for crocheting.  By "itch" I mean crocheting-every-spare-minute-I-can-get-my-hands-on kind of thing.  I'm still more on the beginner end of the spectrum, so I've mostly been learning new stitches, and pulling those out, and learning some more.  I have completed a few projects, but I'll save those for another post, another day.

To be completely honest, I haven't felt like I've had much worth saying lately.  I've been reading many of your blogs, and shrank back from writing feeling like I'm not eloquent enough, or witty enough, or interesting enough . . . and the list goes on.  I am often amazed that some of the busy moms I follow are able to find time to post two (or even three) blog posts a week!  It makes me wonder what on earth I'm doing with my day.  After all, I'm not working, and I only have one little love to take care of during the day - many of these incredible ladies have three or four!

Ah, how easily I am ensnared by comparing myself to others.  I haven't lost pregnancy weight as quickly as so and so, I'm not as creative as this person, I'm not as thrifty as this mom, I look so frumpy next to my always put-together friend, I don't know the Bible as well as this person, etc.  You see what I mean?  I'm sure I'm not the only human being to fall into this trap, but it doesn't justify staying here for long!

One of the things I've been challenged by lately in this ongoing process of being shaped by Christ to become who I was meant to be in Him, is to give of myself.  He created me and is still shaping me to be a certain way - different from anyone else on the planet.  Now I'm not talking about some clichĂ© self-esteem "being satisfied with who I am" kind of thing.  This goes so much deeper than that.  I have been created with a unique personality, certain abilities, and physique that is purposed for God's glory, and not my own. 

So much of the time I feel too vulnerable sharing pieces of myself with others because I am afraid it won't measure up to someone else.  This kind of thinking is rooted in my selfish, sinful nature where I feel the need to make myself look good.  And of course, I can't look good unless I look better than somebody else.  I feel like I don't have as much to offer as someone else, so I just don't offer anything at all.

How wrong I am!  God really called me out on this in a recent sermon by John Piper.  God's grace never ceases to amaze me.  Through Piper's words, God gently reminded me:  I have Christ (Romans 8:10).  I have the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  I have the Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:13).  I have spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10).  I am a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  And I am a fountain (John 4:14; 7:38).  So, no excuses!  God has not called me to be the most intellectual, the most educated, the most "relevant," or even the best author.  He only calls me to give of myself - of my soul, not for what I can get out of it, but for His glory.

I still struggle with being a "people pleaser" . . . "Oh, if I write this, people are going to think I'm being 'too spiritual' and it will turn people off."  or  "I know this is how I've been feeling lately, but if I share that, it will make me sound too pathetic."

I want to be authentic!  I want to relax in Jesus and be who I am - struggles and all.  Friends, there is so much freedom in being able to hide nothing!  I hope that the Lord will move all of us, to be fountains - life giving, soul sharing, fountains.  By His sweet, amazing grace, Jesus is shaping my heart to be this way.  I am thankful, and I pray that you will join me!