Friday, June 22, 2012

Take me away...

Alone time... Wait, what's that??? Derek and I haven't been away without the boys in two years! Now, I don't mean we haven't had an occasional night just the two of us or anything like that, but we haven't been AWAY (like a mini-vacation or something of that nature). When we first got married, we were broke college kids and didn't have time for a honeymoon after we got married because we had to move just a few days after our wedding. For our first anniversary, my dad got us a weekend at a cabin in the mountains as a gift. It was wonderful being able to get away from it all and reconnect as a couple. Then, when I was pregnant with Ian, we went on our first "real" vacation to Panama City with my dad, step-mom, and younger brother. It was Derek's first trip to the beach and we had a blast soaking up the sun for a week on our last adventure before parenthood. I unfortunately have no pictures from the beach because a week after our return, I was showing the pictures on my camera to some co-workers and accidentally dropped my camera and it erased my memory card. Very sad :(.But that was the last time we went anywhere until Ian was a year old. Because our wedding anniversary is New Year's Day, we always have a hard time trying to plan time away with everything going on for the holidays. So we usually have to plan a trip for our "dating" anniversary, which is at the end of May. Well, when Ian was about a year old, we needed time away, so I planned a weekend in Gatlinburg (about two hours from home) for just the two of us. It was so nice to feel young and again, reconnect as husband and wife, not just Mommy and Daddy. I think sometimes after a baby, it can be difficult to maintain the husband/wife relationship (especially as a woman). You find yourself completely devoted to a new little human who needs you so much more at that time than your spouse, and sometimes the relationship suffers. So a weekend away was just the thing we needed. We came back completely refreshed as a couple. And if my math is correct, it was also the weekend we conceived Evan. He was the best souvenir we ever got :).Well, then we had two kids and no time to go away (and really, no money either, LOL). But my step-dad's boss had a condo which he graciously let us borrow for the weekend and everyone joked that I would come back pregnant again. But we didn't (I don't think I would have ever been able to talk Derek into going ANYWHERE alone with me again if that happened). That was two years ago. And while I have traveled, mostly for our Missions group from church, we haven't been anywhere just the two of us. And I miss my hubby! So for his birthday this year, I am whisking my man away for the weekend. I can't tell you where we're going right now, because it's a surprise for him, and he has been known to take a peek at the blog from time to time. He knows we are going somewhere, but doesn't know where. And he has been an exceptionally good sport about the not knowing part. He really doesn't like surprises all that much and is not much on traveling long distances (and really, anything more than 30 miles is a long distance to him). But I have been thoroughly enjoying the planning of it all. I am a perpetual planner by nature, so planning this trip has been like crack to me. On our list of stops are several historical landmarks (which will probably appeal more to me than him, but I'm planning, so I say it will be fun), as well as a few places featured on the show "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives". He does know about this part and is pretty happy about the food aspect of our trip.  I am trying not to over-plan though, leaving room for the little jewels we may find on the way to our destination. I am planning on staying off the interstate as much as possible, making finding said jewels even easier. What is your favorite thing to do on a road trip? Ours is going to take anywhere from six to eight hours -- depending on traffic and how many times I get us lost. We do have a couple audio books to listen to, as well as the old stand-by, the license plate game. Do you have anything that you do to make road trips special? I'd love some more ideas!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

DIY Disaster!!!

I have been cloth diapering now for over two years. From the start, I used Rockin' Green detergent with great results. Within the last six to eight months, I began making my own laundry detergent for our regular laundry in an attempt to save money. My home made detergent recipe worked beautifully. Recently, I came across a recipe for homemade cloth diaper detergent on Pinterest. I had heard great things about it from people who had regular-type water, so I mixed up a batch since I already had everything on hand from making my own detergent and was running very low in RnG anyway. For about a two weeks, my homemade diaper detergent worked great. I used the same measurements as I had always used with RnG and the same type of wash routine. After a couple weeks, though, I began to notice that the diapers began to still smell after they were "clean". So I tried adding more detergent, and that seemed to do the trick. Then a few washes later, I began to have issues with repelling. So I added another long rinse at the end of my wash. It was beginning to frustrate me. For two years, I hadn't had any issues what so ever with my diapers (while on RnG). So I happened to find a sample of Rockin' Green in my laundry cabinet while organizing last night and used it in yesterday's diaper laundry. And of course, it worked like a charm! So I guess I will be making a trip to my local cloth store or placing an order for some Rockin' Green (in Motley Clean, of course!). I suppose the moral of the story is: if it ain't broke, don't fix it! And from now on, I'll leave the delicate chemistry to the professionals!
Have you ever tried any DIY and had it turn out horribly wrong? I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Out into the Wild Blue Yonder

Last year, I started hiking. I had gone before that, but I started really enjoying it last spring. Ian had just turned three and was potty learned. I thought this would be something we would enjoy together, as mother and son. So we started small, with a trail I know VERY well and have trekked many times. It has a beautiful waterfall and is easily hiked. He loved it and I loved sharing the moments with him.
Fast forward to now. I still love hiking and backpacking, and have made several hikes already this year. Ian has gone with me a few times and the days he comes, I make sure to pick trails with a lot of wildlife and foliage for him to see. But since it's getting warmer, he is now content to just pick a spot on the river and play until it's time to head home. Normally, I am fine just watching him enjoy the water and skipping rocks on the bank. But lately, I find myself wanting to venture out on my own, and go on a solo overnighter and just "be". Unfortunately, my husband is against the whole "being alone in nature with bears and other people to attack me" idea. Really, the idea of going alone doesn't scare me (of course, I haven't ever done it, so I might have a different opinion afterward), it really excites me. I have always been independent and have traveled (often without the company of my parents/family) from a pretty young age. At 14, I went to Brazil on a mission trip with our church. At 17, I was in Washington, D.C. with a group of students who roamed the Hill for a week of mock Congress and meetings with our country's representatives. And at 18, I spent my last high school spring break with a friend driving from East Tennessee to Virginia and then to Atlanta. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the experiences my travels have afforded me.  I have always prided myself in being very vigilant and have always felt confident in my ability to take care of myself in many situations. I understand the there are scenarios you just can not plan for, but the likelihood of many of these situations is remote.
My wonderful husband does not share my love of the great outdoors, or travel in general. He is very much a homebody. And although he doesn't enjoy hiking, he has gone with me on several occasions when I have begged and pleaded. But he draws the line at overnighters. And so, it's in times like these that I really do wish I was a man. If I were a guy, the idea of me going into the woods, alone, for a week, would not raise any eyebrows. But because I am "the weaker sex" (That's a post all on its own!), I can't go and do something I really genuinely enjoy unless someone accompanies me. It really does anger me! In the 21st century, I am still looked at as weak and vulnerable.
Okay, that may have been a bit harsh. I know he really does just worry about me being safe, because he loves me. But this is something that I really want to do. And I know if I really pushed the issue, Derek would just keep his mouth shut and let me go off on my own, but I would never have his blessing to do it. And, I think more than anything, that's what I want. I want him to think I am a capable enough woman that I could handle myself out there all by myself and come home to him safe and sound.
At the very top of my bucket list, you will see "hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail" (not necessarily all at once, but at some point in my life, I want to have hiked the whole thing). But I don't know if I'll ever get that one...
Any other gal solo hikers/backpackers out there? If you have a significant other, how did you get them to be okay with you wanting to go it alone?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Flats Challenge: Days 3-7

Okay, so I realize I didn't post every day like I was supposed to, but I am attempting to correct my mistake. Last week was one of the busiest in my life! I babysat as usual, but just had a couple more kids than I normally do. So along with trying to keep up with three other kiddos (besides my own), I was attempting to keep up with hand washing my flats and covers. I must say, it was not easy. I tried to wait until the end of the day to wash, but then I would have to do two loads to handle all the diapers. So then I tried to wash during nap time, but none of the kids is on the same nap schedule, so that was a no-go. So I then tried to practice EC (elimination communication) with Evan. He is partly potty learned during the day, so this wasn't really a great deal more work. EC seemed to be the best possible route I could go having all the kids around the house. It was work in the sense that we spent A LOT of time in the bathroom, but I think it paid off. I ended up not having to use about half the number of diapers I normally would. So I call that a win.
Now on to the hand washing... Hmm... Well, it's not fun (at least for me). I know a lot of other parents doing the challenge found hand washing to be therapeutic in some way. I, however, did not! I am so thankful that I get to go back to my trusty washer! I like knowing that I could do it, though, if I had to. My diapers did get plenty clean and it did use quite a bit less water than a normal wash load, but I still wouldn't trade my washer in! It is just a major pain in the arms. But that being said, if I did have to do it full time, imagine how buff my arms would be!
Even with all the extra work and all my whining, I'm really glad I did the challenge. I like having this type of experience under my belt as an advocate, talking with many people that would be in this situation on a regular basis. Knowing that, if I had to, I could definitely make cloth diapering and hand washing a normal part of my routine. Having this experience will also come in handy if we decide to go camping for more than just a day or two, or take a vacation where there is no laundry facilities available.
I'm really happy that I finished and stuck with it the whole week. But I'm also really happy that it's over and I get to go back to my trusty pockets! I usually stuff them with flats though, just because they get clean faster and easier than thicker inserts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flats Challenge Day 2: Supples

I've pretty much done this post already, but some things have changed since the last one. I now have an "official" supply list. The items I'm using during the challenge are as follows (plus total cost for items):

*18 receiving blanket flats --- $3.00 (most were gifted, and the rest I got at a consignment sale on 1/2 price day)

*5 homemade fleece covers --- FREE! (we received the blankets I used to make them as gifts)

*5 gal. bucket --- $3.00

*Plunger --- $2.00

*Dawn dish soap --- $1.00 (found a bottle at an overstock store)

*Hand held shower (diaper sprayer) --- $5.00 (found at a yard sale)

So, as you can see, I decided against the salad spinner. It was still within my budget, but I felt it was not a diapering "necessity" as much as the other items. I also decided not to get the diaper pins. We mostly do the "pad fold" because it's pretty much all I have time for. Evan is so wiggly and hates having his diaper changed, so  I just place the folded flat in the cover and slap it on him. And my hubby doesn't mind helping with changes as long as he can just put it on him like an AI2 and not have to do any crazy folding or anything. So total spent on diapering supplies... DRUM ROLL PLEASE... $14!!!! I must say that I'm pretty happy with myself on this. My goal was to spend less than $20 and I rocked it.

Tomorrow: How I use flats

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eight years in the blink of an eye...

Eight years ago today, I graduated from high school. I had been invited to a friend's graduation party and had a bit of time to kill after a lunch with my mom. So I decided to walk around Wal-Mart a little while until it was time to go to the party.
While I was walking down a grocery aisle, a worker stopped me and asked me how my day was going. I said it was good and that I had just left my graduation. We started talking and I thought he was pretty cute. He then proceeded to ask me if I was seeing anyone and if he could have my number. I gave it to him, thinking I'd probably never hear from him. Much to my surprise, he called me that night and we set up a date. And the rest as they say, is history.
We were married six months later. Everyone thought we were nuts (including our parents) because we were so young (19 & 20), and some even placed bets on how long our marriage would last (the average time was a year). But here we are, eight years later. Still very much in love and happy. Don't get me wrong, we've had our tough times and we are still growing as individuals and as a couple. But I wouldn't change any part of our journey. I am so very thankful that the Lord put us in each other's path that day. I can honestly say that I am married to my best friend.
If you had asked me eight years and one day ago what my future held, I had it all mapped out. I was going to go to college and major in history, become a history teacher and probably not get married until I was at least 25. But as you can see, my plans weren't what God had in store for me. And I couldn't be happier...

Flats Challenge Day 1: Why I am participating

Over the course of my two plus years cloth diapering, the question I have gotten most often has to be, "Isn't all that extra laundry hard?" My answer is always the same: "It's really no different than any other load of laundry."
But what about families that don't have regular access to laundry facilities, or those that have to pay per load to wash? How difficult would cloth diaper laundry be for them?
I am from a very rural area in southeast Tennessee. Over 50% of the population is on some kind of assistance or below the poverty line. I personally know quite a few families that struggle day to day to provide for their family's basic needs. It's very sad.
As a cloth diaper advocate partnering with my local birth center, the number one reason I give for cloth diapering is for cost savings over the diapering life of a child. And for many families, this would really help them make ends meet and not have to choose between diapering and feeding their child.
So one of the main reasons I decided to join the Flats Challenge this year is to be able to relate more to the people I advocate to. I want to be able to tell them that you can cloth diaper for little to no cost, using only found items (how I'm doing the challenge), and that hand washing really is doable with little ones running under foot and little time left in the day. I think it will really give me some perspective on what it's really like for some families.
I also want to prove to myself that I can do it. When I first starting using cloth diapers, my husband bet me that I would hate it and wouldn't last a month. You see who won that one! I genuinely love cloth diapering. But would I be willing to stick with it if it came down to me having to hand wash them? We shall see...
Another reason I want to do this is -- and it's kind of off the wall -- my husband is pretty into post-apocalyptic survival. We talk, quite often, about how we would react in different survival situations. We don't have a huge stock pile of food or crazy bomb shelter or anything, but we do have some pretty interesting conversations about what we'd do if life as we know it were to come to an end. That being said, learning to wash laundry, exclusively by hand, would come in very handy if we had no electricity to run a washer and dryer. I know, kind of crazy, but nonetheless, it's a real reason to me :).

Tomorrow: A rundown of my $15 stash. Really, a complete stash for $15!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fighting the Urge

Lately, I have been majorly fighting the urge to shop for cloth diapers. I am on a self-imposed diaper shopping freeze, because 1) we have plenty of diapers, 2) I'm kind of suffering from lackamoola-itis, & 3) Evan is on the verge of being daytime potty learned -- the last of these reasons probably makes me the most sad.
Knowing that this is probably our last child kind of tugs on my heart a bit. Knowing I'll never breastfeed, wear or cloth diaper another child makes me sad beyond reason. I feel like I should still be able to do all these things! Evan should still be a teeny tiny thing, not this 2.5 year old that now talks in complete sentences and knows how navigate my smartphone and play Angry Birds (sad face). While I am thrilled that both my boys are so independent and capable, I still long for the days when they were content just to lay in my arms and look in my eyes. When all they equated happiness with was a full belly, a dry bottom and a nice snuggle.
But anyway... Back to the point. Even though I am fighting the urge to spend on fluff, I still enjoy window shopping (don't we all?). I was on Etsy today and found some ADORABLE cloth diapers that I am seriously considering breaking down and buying based on cuteness alone!
Elephant Walk Reusable One Size Cloth Pocket Snap Diaper
SERIOUSLY, someone go buy these before I give in to the temptation!

The Flats Challenge: Day... Zero?

Okay, so technically, the flats challenge started last night/ this morning. But I had to go out of town for the day and didn't have all my supplies ready to go today for Evan's Granny to use. She keeps extra diapers (non-cloth :/ ) at her house, so she just used them today. But he's in a flat tonight and I'm ready to go for the rest of the week. I machine washed my last diapers this evening and so I'll be a day behind every one else taking part of the challenge. I am, however, taking this challenge to the next level (for me, anyway). I keep my 7-month old nephew at least two days a week and this week, I'll have him three. So along with my own two kids, I'll have another little one to tend to while trying to do my part in the challenge. We'll see how it goes... I'm excited/nervous/anxious to see how hard it's going to be to wash diapers by hand and tend to three kids (plus my hubby). Another great thing, they are calling for rain for a good chunk of the week, so my wonderful clothesline may sit empty :( and this will probably make it even harder when it comes to drying since my drying rack is big, but not THAT big. I may end up trying to wash as I go and see if that is more manageable. We'll just have to find out!
Last year, I really enjoyed reading all the blog posts surrounding the flats challenge. Even though I wasn't able to participate last year, it really was a great learning experience. If you feel inclined, head over to Dirty Diaper Laundry and you'll find a blogroll of all the bloggers participating.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gearing Up for the Challenge

Yesterday marked three weeks until the official start of the Flats & Hand Washing Challenge. As it gets closer, I am getting more and more excited about going old school on the diapering front. And because I am trying to go as cheap as possible, it offers another aspect of the challenge.
As it stands right this moment, my stash is as follows:
* 18 -- receiving blankets. All but seven or eight were left over from Ian and Evan's newborn days and I received them as gifts. The rest, I purchased at a consignment event on half price day. Total cost = $3.00
* 4 -- Homemade fleece covers re-purposed from a of fleece blanket we received as wedding gifts (almost eight years ago). They are no longer suitable to use as blankets because they have gotten pretty tattered and thin from many washings. But I doubled them up and sewed them together and they have made excellent diaper covers. They don't look awesome or anything (because I am far from a grade-A seamstress), but they definitely do the job. I have another blanket that I have yet to cut and sew into covers, so when it's all said and done, I'm hoping to have 8-10 covers. Total cost = FREE!
One of the covers I made.
* 12-15 -- Fleece liners from blanket leftovers. Total cost = FREE!
* 4 -- Diaper pins. I'm going to kick it really old school on the fastening front. Not everyone has access to Snappis and other fasteners, but you can readily find diaper pins at any store. Total cost = $1
* 1-- 5-gallon bucket. I probably could have gotten one for free, but I wasn't sure where to find one, so I broke down and just bought one. Total cost = $3.50 (including lid)
* 1 -- Plunger. I haven't actually bought it yet, but I'm assuming I can find one for less than $5.00. At least, that's the budget I'm giving myself. I have a trip to make to the Goodwill this week, so maybe I'll get lucky.
* 1 -- Travel wetbag. I got it at a seconds sale and it will hold 3-5 diapers. Total cost = $3.00

So, to sum up the total I've spent for the flats challenge... $10.50 - $15.50 (depending on how cheap I can find a plunger).

I'll have to see how the handwashing goes, but I'm going to safely say you can definitely diaper for less than $20!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tiny House Love

In the day in which we live, it can be easy to be taken over by all the new technologies and inventions this life has to offer. I have even found myself longing for the "New & Improved" of things that were probably fine to begin with.
Lately, I have been trying to simplify my life. The older I get, I find I am very minimalist. I hate knick-knacks and clutter (although I struggle with the clutter part). I don't have a whole lot of decorations in my home (which drives my HGTV junkie mom nuts) and I'm really okay with that. A lot of my lack of stuff results from a lack of funds, but I'm okay with that, too.
If you will remember in one of my recent posts, I wrote about how I'm taking the Flats and Handwashing Challenge. Thinking about that has really opened my eyes to other ways I'd like to simplify. I have even become very fond of the idea of a "Tiny House". Google them. They are quite fascinating. To me, the idea of having everything you own and all the people you love being able to fit in a 500 sq. ft. area (roughly) is awesome. I know a lot of people that live in large cities have been doing this for a long time in the form of apartments, but I live in the country, where things are pretty sprawling. We don't have many neighbors, and I kind of like it that way.
The home we live in is a little more than 1600 sq. ft. It is double the size of our last house. The whole time we lived in 800 sq. ft., I felt suffocated. I felt like we were always on top of each other and I never had any time to myself. Most likely, all the lack of space was due to a problem of having too much stuff, but I digress. Even with double the square footage, I still sometimes struggle with finding a place for everything.
I think a lot of my tiny house love comes from a place within that longs to be so organized and simplified that I could realistically fit my life in such a small place and not feel like I'm doing without.
I have been doing a lot better at whittling down our necessities and getting rid of things that we no longer need. But I still see room for major improvement. I think some of my other want of a tiny house is having a place that is just mine. Some days, I long for solitude, a place to just sit and "be". A place that is not marred by Hot Wheels and Legos and Playstation. A nook that is all mine. And hopefully, but this time next year I will have it. I am in the process of turning one of our master bedroom closets (yes, I have two) into my "me room". If I had it my way, I would take my closet (because it's bigger and has a window) and turn it into a sewing/reading nook just for me. It will take some doing, but I'm determined. We shall see what unfolds. Stick around!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Diapering on a Dime

For some, cloth diapering is not a choice, but a necessity. Last year, there was a call to action after an article surfaced about low-income families reusing disposable diapers. It broke many hearts, including mine. Kim from Dirty Diaper Laundry challenged the cloth diapering community to only use flats and covers and only hand wash them for a week, to simulate what things can be like for some families. For reasons I can no longer remember, I did not get to participate (but wanted to badly). I did, however, devour all the blog posts surrounding the challenge. I think it opened many eyes to the hardships some families face when raising babies. This year, I fully intend on partaking in the challenge. I'm gearing up, and I just bought my 5-gallon bucket to use as a camp-style washer. But I am trying to take the challenge to another level and will attempt to "diaper on a dime" using as many "found" items as possible. I will see how cheaply one could really get away with being when it comes to diapering.
Using flats doesn't intimidate me, I got into using them after the challenge last year. And now, I love them and use them everyday. The hand washing, however, does. I am a bit nervous about that part. But having seen the challenge last year, I learned a lot by reading the trials and errors of other bloggers. So I think I can handle it. But I will be updating throughout the week of the challenge and letting you all know how it's going. Right now, I'm trying to get all my ducks in a row to be ready. If you're up to it, feel free to jump into the challenge yourself. The challenge runs from May 21-27.

Excuses, Excuses

Wow, I'm a great blogger... Not! After my last blog, I had great intentions, but as usual, life tends to get in the way. But I've been inspired as of late, and this blog is becoming a priority once again. I look forward to sharing some reviews soon and some of the things going on in our family life. We are hoping to take Ian on his first overnight backpacking trip this summer, so I should get lots of fodder for the blog from our adventures. I am also hoping to reveal a new venture I am starting in our community in the near future. So I have lots in store and will be making more appearances this year than last... At least, that's my goal. And much like the blog, my YouTube has been pretty neglected as well. I hope to change that, too. See you soon!