Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial day

Today was a nice day. I went to the lake with some friends for a picnic. There was bocce and Frisbee and iced beverages in coolers and all that jazz.

As usual in my doom and gloom way I thought a lot about a friend who wasn't there today. A guy I went to high school with was killed in the war in Iraq. His brother put up pictures today of his tombstone with some flowers and such. I think about his longtime love who he never even got up the courage to ask to marry him, let alone actually got married. He died too young. Another friend had a stop loss baby to get her out of the military before a second deployment overseas to a war. Her spouse has been on 5 combat deployments. That's huge when you think about it. It's horrific really. In the Vietnam War one tour oversees was considered enough and going back for a second was rare and discouraged.

My spouse and I were talking the other day about how different things are now than they were once when most young men served in the military if there was a war. Today it's the broke, the directionless, those desperate for college who can think of no other way to pay for it who serve. It is so unfair that we benefit from their sacrifices. It is so unfair that anyone should ask young people to make such a sacrifice.

So as usual, as I do every day, I pray for peace. I pray for peace for veterans who come home broken and wind up homeless. I pray for peace among peoples. I pray for peace for the families of the soldiers who have died in or because of wars.

Here's my sound track for the day too.

The Field
"When you joined the war we were so proud of you
You seemed so grown up, living life the way we taught you
Then your first letter came, it sounded nothing like you
It took all my strength to keep myself from running to you
I don't want no victory, I just want you back."

Penny Evans "They say the war is over, but I think it's just begun."

It haunts me that I live in a time where we send young people to die and for what? It's hard for me to say it has been a just war or that anyone wanted liberating. When my girls are old enough to ask, I won't have even a few words of "they did their duty by serving their country" for them because there's no good that's come from these wars that I can see. I tell the kid that her friend's daddy is a soldier and we pray he stays safe and never has to go to war again because wars hurt everyone.

So in all the joy of a long weekend, remember that we are still losing our young people to wars. Work for peace because it matters.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cloth diapers at 15 months

Can you believe Little Monster is now 15 months old? It's just insane how fast she is getting big. Tonight she said "uh-oh" after she had been crying and I about died laughing. When she is crying we say "uh oh! Did you fall?" and I guess she learned that's what you way when you cry.

So. Many bloggers I read have mentioned cloth diapering. Here's a really nice summary post (that links to other posts on the topic) if you haven't read a similar post. Actually I really found this one helpful too. Over the years I've read many other cloth diaper posts in this vein all over the place.

Brief disclaimer: I do not care one bit whether you use cloth diapers or not, it's all good. Life happens and we do what works for us. I do not expect anyone to be insane and do things my way because it often feels like an eternally uphill battle in many respects. We chose cloth diapers because we are broke most of the time and overall the cost is much lower to do cloth (in dollars and because we are failures at taking out the trash so we need to reduce our trash production wherever possible).

The thing other people haven't written about is using prefolds instead of all in one or pocket diapers. That's something we are doing that is pretty unusual (maybe?) so I thought I'd talk about it (plus I'm in a gloomy mood so I'm hoping it will at least be a break from my grumbling gloom that I hope will go away soon).

Here are the questions I have heard or not heard but seem implied from folks and our answers (along with some pictures because why not?).

How are prefolds different from diapers my grandma used?

What makes them prefolded is the number of layers of cotton. Back in the day, diapers were one thickness (and all cloth obviously) and you needed to fold a bunch to get more bulk where you needed it. Now the diapers are made with a middle third that is double the thickness of the edges so fewer folds are needed or none depending on how you attach them to the baby.

Why would you pick prefolds instead of all in one diapers?

For us the reasoning was twofold. One, it's easier for us to not add a step to the end of laundry like stuffing pocket diapers or even putting away all in one diapers. We get busy, laundry gets left in a basket for a week, and prefolds are easy to grab from the basket, fold in thirds, and stick into a cover. Two is the advantage of each part wearing separately and being able to be laundered in a way that makes it last the longest. We wash diapers in a warm short cycle (this is mostly a rinse) and then a hot wash while the covers only get washed warm with other baby clothes (and the liners too, then they go for another hot wash after the other clothes and covers are removed). This means covers last longer and diapers that wear out or are damaged can be tossed out while we keep the cover. A bonus we discovered is the cleaning power of a cloth diaper. We use them for spills on the carpet, as burp rags for tiny humans, to dust, for potty training incidents, all over the house. It's really handy to know that we have that level of absorbency handy for cleaning up.

Don't all those diapers stink? I don't think I could handle the smell.

I gag every time I wash diapers and throw up on occasion. I gag a lot when I change a poopy diaper so I am not representative of someone who tolerates stink very well. However, we do a few things to cut down the smell. We have soiled diapers in a trash can with a foot pedal, soiled baby clothes and diaper liners and used wipes in a mesh wire basket on the counter because they smell very little. We add baking soda to the diaper pail when it gets smelly and it gets washed out periodically too. When we leave home we use wet bags and the smell is pretty well contained in them.

How do you get them clean? Aren't they really icky?
We use Rockin Green laundry soap and never bleach them, warm rinse with a dash of soap and hot wash with a full dose of soap, and they either go on the line or in the dryer. Our dryer is geriatric so they get dried on low because anything hotter and it overheats and won't work for a week and the repair human who fixed it up last time it quit heating said it's at a high risk of starting on fire at any moment if we use the high heat. Sometimes we dry the diapers twice on low so they are really dry. The covers we turn inside out (well, flip inside out) and put into the warm wash and they generally come clean in only one load.

When it's sunny we dry the diapers on the line. One drying rack holds about 2 dozen large size prefolds or 3 dozen of the small ones. In the winter it took 3-5 sunny days to whiten the diapers but in the summer one afternoon gets out most stains. I discovered recently that clothespins fit right over the rods on the drying racks so that saves some time hanging them up. Here's my laundry assistant demonstrating that her big sister's mini golf set needs to have a hole inside the drying rack.

You can see we have another very short drying rack in silver in addition to the main white one. That's the one we got when the kid was a baby and after umpteen moves, its legs vanished. When stretched it holds 3 dozen large prefolds if it has its legs. Now it holds about a dozen at most but it's my overflow. I think we have between 3 and 4 dozen diapers in circulation. We bought 1 dozen new and 2 dozen used ones retired from the local cloth diaper service and there are some strays from the kid's babyhood around but not nearly as many as I'd thought. I assume I'll discover a box of cloth diapers about the time Little Monster is potty trained since so many things are missing and have yet to be found. 3 dozen would be plenty and it's kind of risky to have so many diapers because we can go too long between washes and still have diapers.

I tried cloth diapers, those all in one things with all the snaps, and I hated them so I sold the lot.

Aside from the diaper portion being a factor in choosing prefolds, the closure for the diapers was a major factor as well. One of us adults has moderate limitations to manual dexterity which makes snaps very difficult. I don't think an all in one diaper exists that comes with the loop and hook closure (ve.lcro is a trade name for this stuff). Combining a hard time getting snaps to work with a squirmy kicking baby just seemed like a bad idea to us so we didn't.

Isn't it a pain in the neck having all those parts to keep track of?

Maybe yes, mostly no. We do covers, trifold the diaper to fit in the cover, add a fleece liner, and attach the diaper to the baby. If we used all in ones, we'd only lose one piece to that trio. It isn't that much effort and only nominally less than if we did all in ones, plus we don't need to worry about doublers or adding special pieces to the all in one.

What about diaper creams? How does that work?

Little Monster has mild eczema and she needs lotion or creams of some sort about 3 weeks a month to keep it in check and stop her from scratching until she bleeds. We started off thinking rashes would be rare and we could just put her in disposables for a day or two while we used the cream but now we've gotten some fleece from a craft store and chopped it into liners that we use with each diaper change.

Wait... what do you use for wipes?

Washcloths. Specifically we bought a big pack of them meant for washing your car at a price of about 40 cents apiece. As they get destroyed by being laundered often we just toss them. I think we started with about 6 dozen and we're down to maybe 4 dozen now (some barely lasted 1 wash though). We also have some plain white washcloths in the mix too but most were the kid's during her diaper years. Many people get all excited about some fancy wipes solution but we don't do that at all. Just plain water for us and so far it works well. Both girls get a rash from aloe so we are cautious about products we put on their skin and try to keep it to a minimum. We have an insulated water pump deal like this except in a really amazing plaid pattern for when the diaper station isn't in the laundry room with a sink like it is now so water is always handy.

What about bleaching or yeast infections?

Some all in ones have in their cleaning directions to bleach them sometimes but that's more because the cover makes it hard or impossible to get the sewn-in liner clean all the way. That's a benefit to prefolds. Unless you do something awful to them like forget to wash them before a week long vacation, there's no need to bleach them probably. If Little Monster is having trouble with a yeast infection we iron the diapers with a very hot iron and lots of steam and that helps quiet things down. Heat kills the nasty yeasts so some folks also use really hot wash water. Our diapers already get washed in water hot enough to kill most yeast so the iron seals the deal (plus obviously the dryer never gets all that hot).

What kind of covers do you like?

We have a variety of covers. Little Monster is a long body baby and relatively narrow as babies go, plus she's in the 25th percentile so she's a petite baby. I imagine some covers that don't work wonderfully for us would be better on a differently shaped baby. We mostly have Thirsties (no affiliate links, I'm much too lazy for that) and Flip covers. We had intended to just get Thirsties but the cloth diaper store was out and some Flips were on clearance so we got some and I think I like them better. Thirsties have the double leg gusset that my spouse likes but I find the inner elastic is worn out now. They also come in size 1 and size 2 so higher cost overall than the Flip that in theory fits all along. We got our first Flip cover about 6 months ago so I can't speak to how it would fit a newborn but my bet is not as well as the Thirsties size 1 did. Despite weighing not much more than 20 lbs Little Monster needs the tallest size in both covers now so I'm unsure they will last her tall body to potty training, but then maybe they will. She's still pretty near the narrowest on all her covers as well. We also have a Sweet Pea all in one cover that is just not at all the right cut for Little Monster so we rarely use it, and a single all in one diaper that I like pretty well and would consider having more of despite the snaps. In the legacy diaper cover category we have a few Bummis covers that are much less awesome than the current models but that got the job done well enough. They were the small size and are outgrown now and we didn't buy any more but not for any special reason beyond sales and easy availability. Somewhere we have the full set of barely-used mediums from the kid's toddlerhood but due to need those may just stay lost.

If you had unlimited money and were just starting out with cloth diapers, what would you suggest?

I really like the multipurpose prefolds so I'd say go with those and pick some cute covers. We've convinced 5 different in-home daycares to use them if they have the hook and loop closure. I prefer the hook and loop closure but I bet the snaps last longer so might be better if you are planning for many children. I would suggest a few different covers to start with (say 4 but maybe 4 different varieties or brands), 3 dozen of the small prefold diapers plus 1 dozen large ones and you can add the other 2 dozen larges and another 2-6 covers over the first few months of babyhood as the budget allows. We have to have at least 8 covers because at daycare each cover is used once and that gives us 2 days' worth of covers if we are behind on laundry. I'd suggest either a big wet bag or a cheap foot pedal trashcan to store soiled diapers and a little one for soiled covers.

Monday, May 19, 2014


I had a skin biopsy a few weeks or months or something ago. In pharmacy school time, it is recent enough that I don't have a scar yet but not so distant as to have been last semester or even before midterms and that's as close as I can pinpoint the event.


Since the stitches went in, a scar has been forming. I have had this same size biopsy a few times now on various patches of skin and I somehow hadn't noticed the time from stitches to scar so acutely as I have now. This scar has been taking way too long to form, I thought.

In the first week while I waited for the stitches to come out I was sure it was infected. It burned, it ached, it bugged me, it woke me up (or other things woke me up and once I was awake I was very bothered by it).  I was sure something must be wrong in how long it was taking to heal. It oozed and all that stuff. I was out of sorts. I went in to have it inspected and it was deemed perfect. The creepy unhealed mess that it was, that was perfect and exactly how it was meant to be at that stage of healing, according to someone who knows what's what after having seen oodles of these.

Lately I've been thinking about where I expected to be now and where I am and if it matters that my expectations were wildly wrong. One of my professors has mentioned to me or us several times about "over the last 3 years" in pharmacy school and stuff about how I finished a requirement (that requires reflection afterward of course) in my first two years so I didn't do anything to meet it this year and it is bugging me. It just grated on my last nerve so much that my bonus year gets glossed over. I didn't finish that requirement in my first two years of school, it took me the full three but here I am at the end of the third year of school after four years. It's also that it isn't just me that it grates when people gloss over the extra time. I think it's about 15% of my class who started with me and is starting rotations soon. It feels rude to me that we get ignored as a group. The dean's pep talk included a "did you imagine you'd be here 3 years ago? Did you think you'd make it? It all goes so fast!" section and I was tempted to walk out. 3 years ago? I thought I'd be somewhere very different than this. I thought I'd get lucky and have the perfectly timed after 2nd year baby and then graduate and have a job and a 2 year old and a 6 year old. Here and now? No job, no 2 year old, no graduation, just a funk where I feel like a screw up.

Anyway, I think that most of what's broken in me is my expectations and that I'm disappointed that life isn't meeting them. I get gut punched when I see someone with the middle child we don't have. It stings a lot when my classmates are having second children during pharmacy school or just after. One classmate has the almost 2 year old we'd have if pregnancy 4 had gone well (perfectly timed for summer break of course) and will have another in the next couple of months, that elusive 2 year spacing I always thought would be ideal. I had thought that I'd have a job now and be studying for board exams and going somewhere. Instead I'm getting ready for my rotations and spending a lot of time away from home. I suppose I just have the itch for change since such big changes were in the plan originally but are delayed some more now. Limbo is a lonely place to be and the bonus year of school has in many ways been one of limbo.

But that pesky new scar that's slowly forming on my arm reminds me that just because I think things should move at some speed doesn't mean they will or that they ought to. I bet if someone had seen thousands of cases of expectations and plans dashed they'd say that sometimes it works out better to have the delay. It is entirely possible that I am impatient and things are moving along at just the right speed. It might even be probable that everything is fine in the big picture and I will get where I ought to be only this way. I'm really looking forward to the scars of pharmacy school healing completely so I can get back to my life or I settle down enough to realize there is no destination to life, that it's all a journey to somewhere we will probably never recognize. Hopefully this year of rotations is that opportunity.