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!