Monday, February 24, 2014

20 Life Lessons I Discovered in the Dark

So, for those of you who may have missed it, Georgia has had two snow and ice storms this winter (that groundhog knew his stuff this year!). Atlanta seemed to have the worst time of it during the first go-around but Augusta was hit pretty badly with the second storm. The second storm was mostly ice and was much worse than the first for us in the eastern part of the state because of the damage it caused.  There were tens of thousands of people without power for days. Trees littered the streets (and still are piled high in yards waiting for the county's promised free disposal). Ice and snow pretty much never happen down here in Augusta, especially not to the extent it did this time.  In fact, the closest thing we get to something resembling a natural disaster are bad thunderstorms (not impressed? you shouldn't be...).  As a result, our trees are never pruned by Mother Nature. So the ice surprised them as much as it did us humans. Here's some images of the chaos that ensued.
Down Town Augusta even had trees uprooted
Walton Way in Augusta, GA

My little family was without power for 48 hours before we decided to give up the pioneer life of chopping firewood and boiling water in the fireplace and turn tail and run (to my parents of course and just in time to miss the next thing thrown at earthquake!). But not before I learned some great life lessons.  I thought I'd share them here with you:

1. Your hand goes instinctively to the light switch when you enter a dark room, even on your second day into knowing that nothing is going to happen when you flip the switch.
2.  You think that it's hard to find the random things your toddler hides from you when you have power?  I'm here to tell you, it is impossible to find something like a bath tub stopper that your child crawled away with when all you have is a flashlight (even if it is an industrial one).  You might as well get creative and use something else to plug the tub!
3. My husband can actually get tired of splitting wood and starting fires! (I never thought this would happen! Not until pigs fly and the moon turns blue.)
4.  You still have hot water if your boiler runs on natural gas.  This seems like an obvious fact, but it felt like an amazing gift when I was soaking in a tub of hot water after shivering all day!
5.  Mens' socks work as DIY babylegs.  Just cut the end off for little feet to slide through and voila! another layer to keep your baby from freezing. (You may want consent before you cut....oops!)
6.  People always talk about disposables having the drawback that you can run out and have to run to the store...well, with no power, the cloth diaper stash started running low.  Forget the milk and bread and buy some disposable diapers when a storm is headed your way!
7. When there is no power, the warmest place in the house is by the fire.  So, this naturally becomes your living room, kitchen, baby room, etc.  And the changing pad belongs on the coffee table right in front of the fire, of course.  Coziest changing table on earth!
8.  My son refuses lukewarm formula (he spews it from his mouth! Well, that may be a little dramatic but he wouldn't drink much).  Even boiler warm water is not adequate.  He likes his milk hot!
9.  On that vein, you can actually boil water by placing a pot near the fire in the fireplace.  We have a metal ledge around the edge so this may have helped by heating the pot from below too. (And the plastic lid handle never melted, thankfully!)
10. Chinese restaurants are always open.  Always.  They will find a way to have power and open even when nothing else is open.
11.  Nothing tastes better when you are cold and it is dark, than hot anything.  Hot chocolate, Chinese take-out, soup, s'mores... we tried it all and loved it all.  Every single bite and sip. (See #9 and 10 for how to obtain these wonderful things.)
12.  USPS actually does deliver in rain, snow, sleet, and ice.  These four situations are ones I have personally witnessed.  Liam's Valentines Day diaper's arrival was even more exciting in the midst of nothing else to be too excited about.
13. Duck down blankets are a must for survival planning for a home.  It actually feels like you have the heater on full blast when you're under that thing and you fall asleep so easily after shivering all day because you just feel warmth hugging you all over.
14.  My cats fear my son more than cold.  They chose to spend the majority of his waking hours in the coldest room in the house (safely on the other side of the baby gate) to avoid him, far away from the warmth of the fire.
15.  Back-up power supplies are not meant to run space heaters, even for a minute. They make a horrific noise because the circuit is instantaneously overloaded.  Honestly, they are useless in a power outage that lasts more than a few seconds.
16.  More of your neighbors have generators than you may think.  (Really.  Mine do and this is hardly a rich neighborhood.)
17. When all else fails, run home to your parents.  (This is a great life lesson in general!)
18.  Georgia weather is like a pregnant woman's mood can actually be in the 80s the week after a crazy ice storm. (It really was.)
19. Sago palms do not like ice storms.
20. Baby gear for really cold weather is adorable!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cloth Diapering? Insane! (Or So I Once Thought)

This literally summed up what I once thought about cloth diapers: "Those moms are insane.  Cloth diapers are definitely not for me.  This is the 21st century, after all!"

Where did this strong fervor come from?  Probably my mother's stories of cloth diapering my brother back in Hungary in the early 80s.  The basic story goes something like this.  Cloth diapers were not pockets or all-in-ones.  They were squares of cloth that were folded into a triangle shape (with each use), one corner pulled up between the baby's legs and the other two at the hips.  A rubber outer cover was then pulled over the previous layer and tied at each hip.  This obviously would not be an easy process with a squirming baby.

 But worse was the washing.  There was an order to the whole ordeal.  And lots of buckets.  First was the soaking bucket.  After the soiled diaper had all of the solids knocked off of it into the toilet (or dunked if needed), a bucket filled with bleach and water was used for soaking. Each day, the diapers from the previous day were removed from the soaking bucket and placed into the washer.  The washer had no centrifuge so after the wash, the dripping diapers were moved to the bathroom for further rinsing.  A wooden plank was set up across the tub on which a series of buckets of water were arranged.  The diapers had to be dunked and kneaded in clean water 4-5 times to be considered rinsed from the bleaching process and safe for baby's bottom.  Then these diapers (once again dripping) were placed into a centrifuge to remove excess water.  The centrifuge could only hold about 2-3 diapers so this step took some time (and perseverance).  After each had been centrifuged, the diapers were taken outside and pinned to a line to dry.  Once dry, the inserts had to be ironed.  The rule was to iron both sides until baby was 2 months old and then only one side for the remaining months that diapering was needed.

Then came the worst part. Her mother-in-law (my beloved Nagyi, Katalin who was a wonderful woman but VERY particular) would come over and criticize my mom for the poop stains on the cloth.  This was unacceptable, she said.  She told her she would teach her how to do it right and started washing the already clean diapers all over again, this time by changing the soak bucket to one filled with boiling water and bleach (if you recall, we began with just cold bleach water).

My mother says cloth diapers make her feel sick to this day. (And who can blame her?  Entire days of her life were spent folding and tieing and soaking and rinsing and rinsing and rinsing and carrying and dripping and centrifuging and hanging and pinning and ironing...)

With such stories racing through my head and disposables heralded as a sort of women's lib item, one can hardly blame me for never even considering cloth diapers before my son was born. I even remember a discussion I had with a daycare worker a few years before he was born. It was during a rotation in which we spent some time observing in the hospital's daycare.  I remember  discussing fervently how "crazy" one mom was for sending her baby to daycare in cloth diapers. Why scrape and dunk and wash and stain when you can remove and toss?  Who wants to touch poop over and over if they don't have to?!  They must be insane!

But then, very slowly, after I became a mom, I started to open up to the idea.

I saw friends using cloth diapers (friends who weren't insane, if you were wondering).  And the diapers they used were so cute!  I realized how quickly we burned through those $40 boxes of disposables from Sam's Club.  (The trash was also smelly and enormous in quantity.)  I also realized that I dealt with my son's poop outside of his diaper more than I had imagined prior to becoming a mother.  I rinsed the wonderful yellow breast milk goop off of more onesies than I could possibly begin to count.  The thought of dealing with it inside of a cloth diaper became less horrific over time.

I started researching and I came across a wonderful blog post.  One Lazy Mom's Guide to Cloth Diapering. It spoke to me.  I highly recommend it to anyone on the fence about cloth diapering. This post made me feel ready.  It made me feel like I could do it.  It also made me feel like it was ok to try, even if I ended up deciding it wasn't for me.  I suddenly wanted very badly to try.  After all, if a lazy mom can do it and love it, maybe I could too...and save us some money in the process.

The last obstacle was my hesitance to eat the cost of a stash in case I really did hate cloth diapering. $20-30 a piece is quite an investment for us right now.  And I'd need more than one or two for sure.  Minimum four I figured so...$80-90.  Too much  (I would never hear the end of it from the hubby and I would feel quite guilty as well).  Then my friend introduced me to Alva Baby Cloth Diapers.  Not American economy friendly but wallet friendly.  Cheap Chinese diapers for $5 a piece.  I had my in!  I could afford to try them!

So I bought two. (And, yes, I agonized over choosing the designs.  There were so many adorable ones!)

They arrived in 2 weeks in great shape (despite some scary reviews I had read).  It was love at first sight. So I bought four more.  Then four more.  For a few months, 10 was all I had and all I needed since we only used them when I was home so mostly on weekends.  There was a learning curve, but I was hooked!

I had some difficulties with leaking as my son and his bladder grew (more on this in another post) so I broke down and bought a BumGenius 4.0.  I chose them because they are conveniently available at Buy Buy Baby (for which I get tons of coupons) and I had read great reviews.   $14 I could live with now.  I knew I'd use it enough times to more than make up for the cost. The question was, whether they were worth being almost triple the cost of Alvas?

They definitely are!  I've never had any trouble with leaking and it comes with two microfiber inserts.  I use the newborn insert to double up the Alvas so that I can keep them in service (despite that large bladder). I now have a stash of 7 BumGenius 4.0s, 1 Bumpkin, and my original 10 Alvas.

We cloth diaper day and night, any time we are home. (And the hours of a fourth year medical student are much more lenient than they were in third year.) One of the many reasons I can't wait for my year-long stent as a stay-at-home mommy is so I can cloth diaper full time.

Each disposable we use now feels like a waste. We continue to use them though because I just don't have the heart to force the daycare to use cloth on my son.  Because I really do get where they are coming from.  I've been there...."Cloth diapers?  Insane!"