Monday, January 31, 2011

Wheels on the Bus

Many of Tucker's interests have evolved over the past couple of years, but the one interest that has endured totally intact is the Wheels on the Bus song. Tucker continues to be absolutely obsessed. It's the only CD he listens to when it's his turn to pick the music in the car (we do have other choices). He also has learned how to work a little portable CD player I keep out for him at home, and plays the CD constantly. It has become the background music of our lives. I actually am not adverse to it--see how I've become numb!--as long as it's on low volume. Unfortunately, Tucker is in a phase of wanting to turn up the volume on it, which quickly gets under my skin. I'm okay with the Wheels on the Bus subliminally, but not the Wheels on the Bus meets a megaphone.

What is going through his head when he hears this CD? Is it the aural equivalent of his duck lovey? Or possibly the early stages of childhood addiction? Or maybe just really bad taste?

Little boy, one day you might get married and if there is a mother-son dance I will have them play this song for us--what else could possibly express this time we're spending together?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Organizing. Still.

My latest organization project: creating a better clutter-reducing scheme for the kitchen. The first flat space you see when you enter our house is the kitchen island, which functions as our house's control center. What does this mean? The kitchen island becomes the repository for everything we're in the middle of. All the odds and ends of our lives magically flow downhill and end up there. Convenient, but not attractive. (Since the island is the center of the house, when it's cluttered the whole house seems like it's a mess.)

Instead of clearing things off ten times a day, I decided to change my tactics completely. Instead of sorting out flotsam and jetsam, I decided to just create a place to absorb it. Enter wooden bowl. Now whenever there is clutter on the counter, it takes 2 seconds to sweep it into the bowl. Behold, clean counter and no time wasted. Brilliant.

My other organization breakthrough: baskets for our entry cubbies. Similar problem: these cubbies were made for clutter. But the clutter just looked so... cluttering. It took me a long time to find baskets that were exactly the right size (these cubbies are almost two feet deep and apparently only one person in the world makes a basket of the required length and width).

I don't have a picture, but we also installed hooks on the other side of the cubbies for guests' jackets which also tend to end up on the island. (Do I sound overly protective of my island? Hmmmm....)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


All I can say is Tucker loves his sister. He is so good with her, and so attentive, though I do have to watch that she isn't overwhelmed with his affection. These are the toys that he brought her to play with. A little bit of a suffocation hazard if they fell on her, but otherwise absolutely darling.

Parenting: It's never an interruption

David sent me a link yesterday to a blog post by Paul Tripp of the Gospel Coalition entitled "Parenting: It's Never an Interruption." It was good perspective because, obviously, parenting IS always about interruptions. I can't even go to the bathroom without company in this stage of life, much less complete an entire task.

Why then does Tripp say parenting is never an interruption? "You and I must remember that our Lord loves our children more than we ever could, and his commitment to their growth and change is more faithful and persevering than ours could ever be. Because of this, in his grace and love, he will manufacture moments that expose the needy hearts of our children to us. He will faithfully employ the little moments of everyday life to expose to us and our children their need of rescuing and forgiving grace. And he will not do this only at the moments that you feel are appropriate and when you feel most prepared."

Basically, parenting is never an interruption because the interruptions are the most important thing, they are often our best opportunities to train our kids and speak truth to their lives. Unfortunately, they are also so darn inconvenient when my goal is to get groceries or complete whatever immediate but usually less important task is at hand. Tripp writes, "So I’m impatient, discouraged, or irritated not because my children have broken the laws of God’s kingdom, but the laws of mine. In my kingdom there shall be no parenting on family vacation days, or when I am reading the paper on my iPad, or after ten o’clock at night, or during a good meal, or . . . I could go on."

This is a great reminder for me today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

He's wrapped around her little finger already. Literally.

Molly has her daddy wrapped around her little finger, or at least the cord of his sweatshirt. No sense in letting some good attention get away from her!

Look at my new tricks! I can sit in a Boppy seat and bounce in a doorway jumper... sort of, until I decide it's more fun to lean over and suck on the side of the seat.

Firefighter Tucker

Tucker has been sick for the past few days with an awful croupy cough (a cough that sounds like a seal barking). Actually, the bark has gotten a lot better but it was bad on Sunday so we made up a game to help ease his cough.

One of the best things for a nasty cough is to be in a warm, steamy room. So we turned the shower on hot and steamed up the bathroom--but how do you get a three year-old to stay in a bathroom for an extended period of time? You play firefighter with the "smoke"!

Now it takes all our energy to get Firefighter Tucker OUT of the bathroom. But his cough is a lot better. :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Why I am Stopping Using Cloth Diapers

I just explained how I made cloth diapers work for us. And now I'll explain why I'm ditching them.

Cloth diapers aren't bad, but disposables are definitely easier. The parts I dislike the most are:
1) Dealing with solids on cloth diapers when babies get older (there's a big gross factor)
2) Putting the diapers into the wash (yuck!)
3) Taking the time to stuff the inserts into the diapers after they're dry
4) I don't appreciate the cloth diaper aesthetic; they are bulkier to wear so it makes my babies look like pears.
5) The bulky diapers makes my kids grow out of their clothes faster.
6) Disposables do a better job of wicking water away from a baby's skin. Cloth diapers have cotton inserts which obviously are not the best at wicking and their skin just seems wetter when I change them using cloth diapers (result: more diaper rash)

I'm willing to put up with minor inconvenience for a good reason, but when I sat down to calculate my cost savings today from cloth diapers, I was simply appalled.
When I had been thinking about cloth diapers, I had only been thinking about the time cost, not the monetary cost of laundering. It turns out there is a not insignificant monetary cost associated with the laundering process.

Cost of disposables:
I don't use name brand disposables. I've found that the very best diapers you can buy are Pampers, but that Target, Costco and Walmart all have good store brand alternatives. The worst disposables in my opinion are Luvs or Huggies. The cost of disposables in sizes 2 and 3 (which should take us through between 14-18 months) is 14.5 cents a diaper.

The cost of laundering cloth diapers based on our electric rate of $0.08 per kwhr:
8-11 cents a load for detergent
7-11 cents a load for electricity for our well pump to pump the water
25-55 cents for one hot wash and four cold washes
30-40 cents for the dryer electricity

If I average it all out and divide by the average number of diapers in one of my loads (between 8 and 9), the cost for us to wash a cloth diaper is approximately 11.5 cents. This is a whopping savings of 3 cents a diaper from disposables, or 65 cents a week and $34 a year. (If you had to factor in the cost of buying the cloth diapers the equation would become ridiculous, since each reusable diaper costs about $20, though I got my stash on Craigslist for a lot less.)

When the diapers are bigger, the per diaper cost of disposables increases to about 19 cents, and the per diaper savings skyrockets to 8 cents, yielding a savings of $1.67 a week or $87 a year.

I just want to tell you that my time is worth a lot more than that to me.

Of course, this whole post so far is ignoring the environmental trade off between cloth and disposables. With cloth you're not putting the chemicals that are in disposables next to baby's skin. That's great--but not so great if you're giving them diaper rash by keeping them wet.

The big environmental problem with disposables is the space they take up in landfills. Definitely a significant negative. But a thorough life cycle analysis of the issue in the UK has discounted the landfill aspect of disposables, and found that the manufacture of them had bigger environmental impacts. Even so, the study found that given recent reductions in the energy required to make a disposable diaper, the carbon impact (ie energy use) of disposables is actually less than with reusables if you use hot wash water and if you use a dryer (both of which I do). Check out the UK environmental agency's very thorough report on the subject (scroll to the end for their conclusions):

It'd take more than that UK report to convince me that disposables can be better for the environment (depending on how you wash reusables). But it's interesting that the issue is debatable.

Regardless, this is my take on the situation: bye, bye cloth diapers.

Addendum: I think cloth diapers can make sense, if, like my friend Alison said in the comments below, you have big loads of diapers--two kids in diapers at once, and use them 100% of the time, and have a lot of the diapers so that you do loads as infrequently as possible. Big loads, cold water, line drying: that's what makes them work.

Using cloth diapers

I don't like spending money on diapers. They just go into the trash and you have to buy big boxes again and again for a couple years. In Tucker's second year I bought a batch of BumGenius cloth diapers from Craigslist and started using them. BumGenius diapers are a one-size fits all diaper (so you don't have to buy cloth diapers of different sizes as your child grows), and get among the best reviews of cloth diapers. They definitely cut down on the amount of disposables we bought, and diapering with cloth isn't as awful a process as it sounds. I just started using them again with Molly (there are more important things I was doing in her first couple months... like sleeping).

Our cloth diapering process:
We have a plastic storage bin by the changing table that accepts used diapers. If the baby is eating solids, any solids in the diaper need to be brushed off into toilet. If the baby is not eating solids, just put the diaper right into the storage bin. We haven't had a problem with odors because the lid seals tight, but you could put baking soda in there.

We have 10 cloth diapers, which takes me about 3 days to use, and is about 60% of our total diapering. I never use them for the first two diapers of the day, so that I don't have to deal with cloth diapers during our morning excursions... plus, the childcare workers in the gym get confused when they see a cloth diaper. :)

The wash process:
Front loading washing machines are great for a lot of things, but washing cloth diapers is not one of them. The problem is that they are so efficient with water, and cloth diapers are one of the few things that really do need a lot of water to get clean. It's not hard to get the diapers clean in a front loader, but it just takes more cycles.

Cycle 1:
Rinse/drain diapers to get the most offending stuff off (no detergent)

Cycle 2:
Heavy wash with hot water and cold rinse (detergent)

Cycle 3:
Heavy wash with cold water and cold rinse (no detergent)

It may seem counter intuitive, but a big reason a cloth diaper might smell of ammonia is if too much detergent is used. Too much detergent locks in the smell. That's why it's so critical to have the third cycle with no detergent. I've researched whether washing cloth diapers in a washing machine is sanitary, and the consensus seems to be yes and that bleaching the machine is not necessary. But I still feel better having that third cycle so that my washing machine seems more clean for the next load.

The other important part of cloth diapers is getting them completely dry. Because the inserts in the diaper are thick cotton, they often take more time than a normal load and they need to be done on high.

The laundering process sounds really involved, but now that I have it figured out, it isn't bad (we're around the house a lot in the afternoons and evenings which makes it easy to babysit the washing machine).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ben!

My baby turned 11 years old today! I'm going to get a lot of flak for calling Ben "my baby" but he really was the original one--before Tucker, Molly, even Austin. To celebrate his birthday from now on, he's going to start turning a year younger so he can be with us at least another decade.

We celebrated by walking to the river on a long explore. Since the river was not frozen, Ben thought it would be a good idea to go swimming (I don't think he's ever not thought it was a good idea to go swimming), though icicles formed on his fur when he got out. He also found a deer jaw bone that he proudly carried back to the house while Tucker and I sang several rousing rounds of Happy Birthday to him.

This next picture is Ben waiting at our driveway. He waits there for me in the mornings when I'm out, and I find it totally endearing to see the yellow statue in the yard break into a trot when he sees us come into view. But in this picture, we're actually all at home and he's still waiting. He doesn't do this too often, but occasionally he sits at the base of the driveway, staring off into space with his soulful eyes, just waiting. At these times I think that he's taken up his station, waiting for his first master, my Uncle Brian, who passed on in 2004.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Quotes of the Day

"I only need a sock on one foot because only one foot gets cold." -Tucker

"The smoke is coming out of my head." -Tucker, upon transforming into a steam locomotive (which happens nearly every time we walk around the house together, especially going down the stairs).

Monday, January 17, 2011

The good, the bad

Sometimes the little things really make me smile. Let me rant and rave about a few different very little things.

The good:
1) The Flip-It tub stopper. I know, am I really blogging about this? But I hate those little plastic plugs that you use for the bathtub when you live in an old house whose bathtub stopper has gone the way of all things. This little stopper you wedge into the drain once and then just flip it open or closed to let the water in or out. And it's nice and shiny, not plastic and moldy. Oh, and it works!

2) A bent hinge. Seriously. All it takes to keep our door from being unable to close unless latched is a slightly bent pin in the hinge. The slight bend in the pin gives the hinge just enough resistance not to move of its own accord in our totally un-level house.

3) Non-slip rug spray. Whoever has heard of bath rugs that don't have non-slip coating on their back? It's ridiculous. This is what you need to make all your problems right.

And one rant to counteract all this positivity:
*Poly vi sol: Why in the world do you dye a vitamin drop for infants brown? Don't you know that infants spit up all the time, especially when you put non-milk items in their mouth? Not only is this drop brown, but it also stains. Good thinking, product development folks....

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

Austin: Look at the monster truck [really just an obnoxious pick-up truck on lifts] over there!
Tucker: Does it have a mouth? Does it eat?

Apparently Tucker was thinking more about monsters and less about trucks....

Things that make you go huh

Our friends arrived at the recycling center this week to find a new sign.

We no longer accept the following items:

The center wasn't actually closed. The equipment was all in place. The only problem: what was left to recycle?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Things I'm doing in the New Year

No, not injection drugs: allergy shots. I never suspected I would say this, but it's true: I love allergy shots. I'm currently on shot 19 of a course of 26 (not counting 3 years of monthly maintenance doses).

If you've been around me in the past five years, you probably were sneezed on and I apologize. I was so allergic to dust that I could barely get through the day, especially during pregnancy and nursing when I tried not to be continually doped up on antihistamines. But even the newer antihistamines could only take the edge off the problem and reduce my Kleenex usage from three boxes a week to two (I actually never measured this, but it was an absurd amount). I had horrible allergy attacks without fail every Sunday morning when I put on my church clothes, and then at church because of the carpeting and fabric-covered pews. I felt bad taking communion directly from the cup because the person next to me would think I was getting sick when really I had just been sneezing all service because of the dust. One time I had an allergy attack so bad I had to leave work.

Austin has commented that he would never go to a doctor's appointment with two kids in tow. It's a bit bizarre, but my allergy shots have become an activity for us, much like going to the park or gym or library. On Tuesdays when we go, Tucker uses the chalk and plays with the trains. On Thursdays we have a picnic there after Bible Study. If they aren't busy and I get my shot really fast (and only need to wait there for the 20 minutes to make sure I'm not having a bad reaction), Tucker complains because he wants to play longer.

The shots start at 1:1000 concentration, then go to 1:100, 1:10, 1:1 and finally, 1:0.5. Most people only begin to notice a difference after two or three months of shots, once the concentration builds up enough that their immune system starts reacting to it. I had a systemic reaction on my very first shot (a systemic reaction happens in about 1 out of 1000 allergy shot patients, and almost always on a high-concentration dose), which shocked both my doctor and the nurse. After that rocky start, I have to take two types of medicine on days when I get shots just to tolerate them. But the good news is that I started noticing a difference immediately in my quality of life.

Today, a minor miracle occurred: I cleaned the attic with no antihistamines in my system and sneezed twice. It's a whole new world.

The people you meet

Yesterday Austin sold an extra filing cabinet on Craigslist. He finished redoing his office (he knocked a big opening into the wall overlooking the stairs, made a fold-down drafting desk, found an unused cavity in the wall for a small closet, and added a comfy chair). But the big filing cabinet was a space hog so it needed to go the way of all things: to Craigslist.

We've met some neat people on Craigslist, but none quite so unique as the gentleman that came to buy the filing cabinet. He told Austin he was going to use it for food storage. Austin replied that he had thought of using it in the same way (the metal would keep critters out of any food if we wanted to store stuff in the basement like a makeshift root cellar). The man might have thought he and my husband were a little bit more on the same page than they actually were. He started to explain a doomsday scenario connecting Hezbollah in Colombia and the fall of the dollar and insider knowledge regarding the US Treasury department, to the need for filing cabinets for long-term food storage.

Sometimes you just have to say "Huh," and scratch your head.

Yelling at the Light

Sometimes it's fun to yell at the light. Sometimes it's even more fun to wiggle and yell at the light. Molly isn't mad in this video, in case you were wondering, she is just yelling, one of her favorite wake time activities. In fact, at the gym nursery today one of the workers told me that Molly spent a good chunk of time yelling at her (in perfectly good spirits) and it made her laugh out loud.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The kids playing soccer and football

Tucker decided to play soccer with Molly today (later it turned into football). He made a "ball" out of legos and positioned it at her foot so she could kick it over and then he would yell "goal!" or "touchdown!" depending on what game they were playing. He was distracted when the camera came out so you only get the gist of it in this video.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It's bowl time in college football!

Two jokes for you, courtesy of Austin...

Q: What's the same between Virginia Tech and marijuana?
A: They both get smoked in bowls.

Q: What's the difference between UVa and Cheerios?
A: Eventually Cheerios will find a way into a bowl.

Catching Up

I got into a great posting groove a couple weeks ago and impressed even myself with my consistency through Christmas craziness. New Year's craziness did me in, though, and I know at least my mom is complaining of being blog-deprived.

Since my last post we had a fabulous long weekend in DC with my mom celebrating Christmas after our canceled trip to Vermont (note to self: never fly through Philly in the winter).

We hit a lot of major DC attractions, but Tucker told me on the way home that his favorite part of the trip (after GoGo's Christmas presents) was the hotel's swimming pool, complimentary breakfast and the picnic he had on the floor of our room one night. He did have some epic breakfasts--one day he ate three pancakes, four sausage links, cereal and two cups of juice. The next day he finagled FIVE sausage links from me and a chocolate doughnut. The day that we went to the Air and Space museum, he was almost too distracted to enjoy the museum because he knew we had a cup of Fruit Loops in the stroller (which we only took out of breakfast that morning so that the kid would agree to leave his hour-long feast!).

Tucker loved seeing the dinosaur bones at the Natural History Museum--I think it cemented in his mind what dinosaurs are, and how big they are (he watches Dinosaur Train on PBS so he is beginning to really like dinosaurs). His favorite out-of-the-hotel activity was riding the carousel on the national mall, though.

Tucker has aged well in the past couple weeks and developed facial hair.

Enjoying Christmas with my mom.

But that is only part one of our recent adventures. We've been planning on getting a new car by the Spring, but the trip to DC made me get very serious about replacing my Civic with something bigger. With a stroller, a pack-n-play, two kids, a husband, all our bags and Christmas presents, we were simply busting out of the car. And that is without trying to fit the dog! Our criteria for a car was pretty simple: good mileage (over 20 mpg), three rows of seats, AWD, not a minivan, and (preferably) blue, red or green. Unfortunately, there is only one car that meets all those requirements in our price range (or at least what we wanted to spend): the Ford Freestyle.

As I was looking at Freestyles online, I found a low-mileage Freestyle (only 15,000 miles) in Annapolis. Our area of Virginia suffers from a severe dearth of Freestyles, so neither of us had actually even looked inside a Freestyle much less driven it when we trudged up to Annapolis to potentially buy the car. But it was the perfect car on paper, so it was worth a try.

While Molly gazed adoringly at Tucker at Austin's parents' house in Annapolis (see below) we went out to brave the used car lot. After getting worked up all week about the bargaining process, it was actually splendidly simple. A family friend who knows cars better than us checked it out with us, he declared it a great car. Then we told the guy inside the empty dealership we liked it and what could he do for us? He said he could do $1100 off the list price. We were just about speechless as the list price was already really good and we would've paid full price if necessary. So Austin stammered something about replacing the two back tires which are showing a little wear. The salesman said no. So Austin said he'd pay him cash right now if he would do $1300 off. And it was done. It took approximately two minutes.

Our new car

Bonus pictures of Molly