Monday, March 29, 2010

resurfacing

The entire RTS household has been traveling (More on that to come - worst travel experience ever. EVER.) and sick (Possible RSV outbreak at E's school - yet to be confirmed.) and generally off-line for the past 10+ days. It's been nice, in a way, but it also knocked me completely out of the loop. Since returning home on Wednesday, I've stolen hours here and there catching up on blogs which means I've been reading furiously but not getting off the expressway (aka Reader) to comment. My apologies, but I do believe I'm all caught up now.

Since I don't have time to write a proper post right now, I'll just take a moment to address a couple of questions that came up in my comments that I rudely neglected until now:

First, Inlocoparentis asked for more information about how and why we restrict E's exposure to fish. Fish is considered a highly allergenic food, but since we have no food allergies in either of our families, this wasn't really a concern of ours. We are primarily trying to limit his exposure to mercury. So, we give him fish at home, but we're picky about how much and what types, and it just seemed easier to issue a complete ban at school rather than try to get them on board with our system... and this was before the major food issues revealed themselves. :-) If you're interested in more information about safer fish, I have found this article to be simple and to-the-point, and this resource has also been quite handy.

Also, Tireegal asked about the cloth-diaper investment, and no my friend, I wasn't at all offended by your question. :-) Before I answer, I want to say that we did NOT take the cheap route, and you certainly don't have to spend as much as we did to get a very workable system. Cloth-diapers, like most things, easily become a hobby and you can spend pennies or hundred dollar bills on - it just depends on how many bells and whistles you are willing to pay for. In our case, we were able to buy most of our diapers as factory seconds so we paid between $8-12 per diaper. Those same diapers sell for $16-24 as "first-quality" retail. We also bought a lot of used diapers in the same (lower) price range. Used cloth diapers are awesome, if you can find some that have been well cared for, because cloth diapers tend to increase their absorbency through repeated use. The key is just making sure they haven't been abused too badly, because stripping (one technique for restoring absorbency) can only do so much for you! I wish I could give you a more specific answer about the cost, but the range is ginormous. For example, if you were to buy used/second-quality one-size diapers, you could theoretically invest as little as $300 to get from birth to potty-training. Prefolds and covers would cost you even less. On the other hand, if you purchased all new/first-quality sized AIOs, you could easily spend upwards of $1800. Then you have to add the cost of accessories (wet bags, wipes, etc.) and perishables (detergent, wipes spray, etc.) to both of those figures. We rationalized our investment by reminding ourselves that each diaper we bought cost less than a single package of disposables, and we could use them for any future children as well. When we looked at it that way, the bills were easier to swallow. Also, we continually reminded ourselves that it was a high up-front investment, but it would pay off time and time again as we continued to use our diapers, and that has been so true. In the beginning, we sunk a lot of money in to cloth diapers and accessories, but we haven't needed anything new in months, and our only cloth-diaper related purchases now are little things that we buy here and there for fun.

Hope those were helpful answers. If not, let me know and I'll try again. :-)

More posts coming soon about our travel and E's first birthday fun!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dear Mr. Wonderful

Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday, dear Elliot.
Happy Birthday to you.

You are the sweetest boy I've ever known and you make me laugh, laugh, and laugh some more. You are worth every BFN, labor pain and sleepless night. I love you more than you can know!

We took his one year bear picture today. I can't believe how much he's grown. I put all of his monthly pics together in a video - check it out if you'd like to.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My turn for a CD post!

All cloth diapers have a different fit and, in my experience, it’s less about finding a “good” diaper in terms of quality but more about finding one that fits the shape of your kid and your lifestyle well. My kid has a chunky waist and thighs and a low rise, so keep that in mind as you read my thoughts on different brands. I can't think of anything we've tried I consider to be an objectively bad product. It just comes down to personal preference and what works best for you.

E was 8lbs. 4oz. at birth and we still couldn’t find anything to give us a satisfactory fit until he was just over a month old. Everything we had was too bulky and held his legs so far apart that we thought he couldn’t possibly be comfortable. At around 5 weeks, we started him in small-sized fitteds and AIOs and we haven’t looked back.

For the CD-initiated, my language and descriptions will likely be overly basic. I promise I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence. My goal was to write this so that even the most CD-na├»ve reader could make some sort of sense of it. I remember how overwhelming the lingo was to me when we were first starting out!

This post is crazy-long. Feel free to skip to the parts you're interested in, or just skip the whole post altogether. No hard feelings here. :-)

One more disclaimer: My SOLE qualification to write this post is that I am a cloth-diapering mom of a one year old. I have only my own experience to speak from – no specialized training or knowledge – and I have no allegiance to (or financial stake in) one diaper type or manufacturer over another.

How we cloth-diaper:

We don’t use prefolds. They’d be a great option if cutting costs was our primary motivation for CDing, but we’re willing to pay a little extra for the conveniences that money buys us. We primarily use fitteds with covers and all-in-ones (AIOs), and occasionally pockets but usually only when we run out of everything else. We use cloth wipes and a mild solution in a spray bottle.

We wash diapers every 2-3 days. I like to have about 24 diapers that fit E at any given time, and 30 is my ideal. 24 means we have enough to take a full day to clean the diapers (wash-wash-rinse-dry-dry) and we don’t have to watch the machine like a hawk. 30 means we can be even more leisurely about our wash timing and still have a diaper or two left over to keep in the diaper bag.

We use a disposable overnight. We didn’t start this until E started soaking through everything at around 5 months old. He had recently started sleeping 9-10 uninterrupted hours at night and it made me want to pull my hair out to have him wake up just because he (and his PJs, swaddle, and sheet) were soaked through by 2am. At that time, I went on a quest to find a diaper that could measure up to a disposable for overnight use but I came up short. We decided that the benefits we ALL enjoy from E’s good sleep nights and dry wake-ups far outweighed any cons of using one disposable diaper per day. If there’s one thing parenting has taught me, it’s to be flexible and to be willing to ditch principle in favor of practicality. Wait, that’s two things. Where was I?

If you’re a regular reader, you know that we travel a lot. I would say we use cloth diapers while traveling about 50% of the time. It all depends on how we are travelling, where we are staying and how much other stuff we have to schlep there. Fitteds and AIOs take up a LOT of suitcase space. On our first weekend away as a family, we packed one entire suitcase full of only cloth diapers. After that trip, I purchased a set of those vacuum storage bags and we use those to condense the diapers down for transport, which works out really well.

So, what have we tried?

Diapers that need covers:

Kissaluvs fitteds – We tried some size 0s when E was a newborn because they have the snap-down front to go under the cord. They were still way too big. The other thing I didn't like about them was the way they transferred moisture throughout the diaper. It seemed that as soon as E peed in one part of the diaper, it was soaked from end to end, and it didn’t wick the moisture away from his skin at all. E was (understandably) intolerant of this all-over-wet feeling so these were quickly relegated to “laundry day” status.

bumGenius (BG) Bamboo fitteds – These are my favorite fitteds, hands down, and they enjoyed a long run as my favorite all-around diaper. I believe they are discontinued now (why?!) so it may be tough to find new ones. Buy them NOW if you see them! I did a quick search and it looks like a few online retailers still have some stock they are working through. These are SO soft and SO absorbent and they provide my #1 favorite fit of all of the diapers we have tried on E. The leg holes are especially generous. The microfiber soaker (sewn in) is very absorbent and keeps the moisture localized well. We stopped using these quite as often once Elliot became a flight risk during diaper changes because we didn’t want to mess with the second step of the cover. Until then, these were my #1 fave. We still use them whenever a diaper change falls during an uncharacteristically chill five minutes.

Crickett’s hemp fitteds: I tried these on my quest to find a good overnight diaper. The diaper comes with an extra hemp doubler and is SUPER absorbent. I think the whole thing was about ten pounds heavier when we took it off! However, it spread the moisture around the same way the kissaluvs did so E was not a fan. (He’s much better about this now, btw, but when he was little he had no patience for a wet diaper.)

Covers:

Thirsties – When we bought a couple of these during the great diaper stock-up, M dubbed them the future kiddo’s “goin’ out pants” because they were so thin and cute and we loved the colors. We never ended up using them at all. I put them on E a few times but we never got a good fit and I swapped them out in favor of the Dappi Nylon Pants. However, we were always using them over fitted diapers and that is probably why they didn’t rock my world. I have a feeling they would have been perfectly fine over a prefold.


Bummis Whisper Wraps – Ditto comments above. Too bulky over a fitted for my taste.


Dappi Nylon Pants – These are our go-to covers. They’re cheap ($2.50 each), easy to pull on, cover any fitted we’ve tried them with, and scrunch down to nearly flat so they don’t add bulk under clothes. There’s nothing attractive about them, but they spend 98% of their lives under fabric, and we’ve haven’t had a leak yet.

Diapers that do not need covers:

BG 3.0 AIOs – These are the diapers we use most often these days. We send these diapers to daycare because they are the easiest to use. They have a soaker permanently sewn in and an open pocket in case you want to add more absorbency. The fleece lining is really soft and the microfiber wicks moisture away very well. If it isn’t soaked when I take it off, I sometimes can’t even feel whether it’s wet at all just by touching the fleece. The fit isn’t the trimmest, but it’s not overly bulky either. Oh, and I LOVE the ribbit and moonbeam colors. :-) But that goes for all of the BG diapers. (We actually have some 2.0s too, and they work just as well. They don't have the pocket but you can always lay a doubler on the surface of the diaper if needed.)

BG 3.0 One-size (OS) – We use these occasionally, now that E can wear them fully unsnapped, but they’re still the last ones I grab out of the drawer. They were too bulky for my taste when snapped down to the smaller sizes, but I think this would have been the case with any OS. I prefer the minimum amount of fabric needed to get the job done as my chubster doesn’t need any extra padding! These also require the extra step of stuffing – not a huge deal but nice to skip with the AIOs. One minor thing to be aware of with all OSs that claim to take you from birth to potty-training is the wear on the Velcro over time. One solution to this is snap closures. We have some of each, but I feel like I can only get a really good fit with the snaps about half of the time. The rest of the time, he is “in between” snap positions and they’re either a little too loose or a little too tight, so I generally prefer the velcro. Another solution is to replace the Velcro as it wears. BG offers a kit and easy-to-follow instructions on how to do this and my non-existant sewing skills were adequate to get the job done. However, you do need a sewing machine and it is an extra project, albeit a minor one, to factor into your long-term diaper maintenance plans . A final solution, and the one we lazy moms went with, was to bypass the problem by sticking with the sized AIOs. By the time the Velcro starts to wear… Well, would you look at that? It’s time to roll out the next size! So in summary, there is nothing about these diapers that is a deal-breaker for me, but I definitely reach for the sized AIOs first, as a matter of personal preference.

BG Organic OS AIO – Whoa holy hybrid! OS and AIO? Yes indeed, and yes, this does address my preference not to stuff diapers if I don’t have to. Furthermore, these dry a lot faster than the regular BG AIOs because they have a series of cotton panels that separate in the dryer as opposed to one thick microfiber pillow. I didn’t like these as much when Elliot was little because all of that cotton stuffed into a snapped-down diaper was too bulky (notice the recurring theme?), but that isn’t a concern now that he wears them at the largest setting. The one tiny thing that still keeps these from being at the top of my list is that without a microfiber soaker, I find they need to be changed a bit more often (fine at home, less cool when out and about), but I still prefer them to the regular OS and E’s get quite a bit of wear these days.

Rumpsters AIO – These are another diaper I discovered while trying to solve our overnight issues. They didn’t turn out to be our savior for overnight use but I ended up going back for more and putting half a dozen into our regular rotation. These are similar to the BG organic AIO in that the absorbent panels flip away from the rest of the diaper so they dry faster than the regular AIOs. My favorite part of these diapers was their super trim fit – almost like a disposable. They are really narrow between the legs and have a lower rise than anything else we tried. My least favorite part was the laundry tabs. I can’t understand how the same person that designed such an awesome diaper also designed such completely non-functional laundry tabs. The placement of the diaper label is sewn on in such a way that it prevents the hook half of the tab from folding at the proper point to adhere to the loop half. Summary: LOVE the diaper, but be prepared for them to come out in one long, aggravating string after they attach themselves to one another in the wash.

Drybees AIO – I like this diaper quite a bit. The leg openings are roomier than the BG and I like that the Velcro tabs are sewn flush against fabric. It helps prevent the Velcro from curling in the wash and the waistline seems flatter and more streamlined on his body. I also like that the opening to add a doubler is flat across the top seam of the diaper, instead of being under a flap like the BGs. It’s a really small difference but it makes it easier to throw the diaper under the squirming baby and get it on FAST before said baby makes his great escape. I purchased this diaper late in the game (another contestant for Overnight Idol) and we already had more diapers than we needed for daytime use or else I probably would have bought more. Maybe for Baby #2…

Wipes:

BG bamboo – We don’t use these as wipes at all. They are way too thin. We repurposed them as washcloths for bathtime, but really, we don’t even use them for that. I'm really not sure what they might be useful for.

Quilters Nappies – I don't think a cuter cloth diaper accessory exists. These wipes are affordable, they hold up well, they’re freaking adorable, and you get the satisfaction of supporting a talented fellow mom’s business endeavor. Initially, my faves were the flannel/velour and velour/sherpa wipes for their absorbency with the runnier BF poop, but since we moved to solids, I like the knit/velour the best because the fabric is so smooth and soft.

Thirsties Fab Wipes – I’ll admit it, these wipes were not my favorite at the beginning. However, now that they’ve been through the wash a few (hundred) times, they are the wipes I reach for first. They’re a little larger than the Quilter’s Nappies wipes and they have become really soft and absorbent over time.

Accessories:

Planet Wise wet bags – We have three of these in rotation. They are all we use for daycare and in the diaper bag. I couldn’t be happier with them. They have a zipper closure which may not actually work any better than a drawstring, but I feel like it contains moisture better when I’ve got a soaked diaper in there, and the fabrics are really pretty. :-)

Diaper Dekor – We use this as a diaper bin. When we were stocking up, I looked for recommendations on a pail/liner other than the big Rubbermaid-esque tubs and I could hardly find anything online. So, here’s my contribution to the collective wisdom: The Diaper Dekor works with a Planet Wise pail liner. It’s not 100% perfect – getting the bag out is a little more cumbersome of a task than I’d like – but it works and we have no intention of swapping it out anytime soon. Here’s a confession: The lazy part of me wishes it held more diapers. We have enough diapers now that we could really stretch that 2-3 day wash cycle out a bit if we wanted to , but dammit, the pail is full! Now we'll have to wash the diapers on the recommended schedule that will make them last longer and keep the smell down and generally be better for everyone involved. *sigh* ;-)

Planet Wise pail liners – These fit perfectly in the Diaper Dekor. We have two so one is always in the pail and the other is somewhere in the wash cycle – usually drip-drying over the sink in our basement laundry room.

BG diaper sprayer – Oh, the diaper sprayer. This could be a post unto itself. I was firmly, adamantly, whole-heartedly against the diaper sprayer. I couldn’t wrap my head around the physics of it. Every time I pictured the sprayer in action, my mind instantly went to images of our bathroom coated in watery poop spray, followed by a watery poop trail from the commode to the diaper pail in E’s room across the hall. *shudder* We were limping by using a shake/TP wipe technique but the more we got into solid foods, the more we realized this method wasn’t going to work long-term. I did some deep breathing and worked on making peace with the sprayer idea, coaching myself that they wouldn’t stay on the market if they truly produced the results I feared. I also read the comments on this post and decided I was ready to take the plunge. Everything is returnable, right? Well, what can I say… I’m a convert. I can count the, ahem… incidents we’ve had on one hand and they have all been less traumatic than I feared. I think they’ve almost all been M’s, too, so that makes it easier for me to deal with. Ha ha! But seriously, my only complaint about it is that I wish we’d tried it sooner. Prepping the dirty diapers for the laundry is (a) faster, (b) easier and – most amazingly, to me - (c) cleaner than ever before.

Booty cubes – I LOVE these things. They are ridiculously cheap. I think we’re about halfway through our third package which means we’ve shelled out a whopping $17.40 + tax in wipes solution for a supply to last us well over a year. They are made with all natural oils and they smell amazing. We boil water on the stove, pour that into a glass bowl with the cubes and let it sit on the counter to cool. The cubes dissolve on their own. Easy as pie.

Planet detergent – We use this. It works. :-)

Dryer balls – Our drying time went waaaay down when we started using these. They agitate the diapers in the dryer and improve the air circulation in and around the fabric. We actually throw them in with all of our dryer loads now and have noticed a difference in drying time for everything.

The End

Soooo, those are my picks and pans. As I mentioned before, none of these are bad products, some just worked better than others for us. Perhaps some of my least favorite items are your five-star winners. If you had an experience that was different than ours, please feel free to share it. I'm not all that interested in debating my opinions, but I'm all for giving voice to both sides of the story. :-)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

365 days ago

March 11, 2009 was my due date.

At this time last year, M and I were sitting in a restaurant with friends, unaware that we were enjoying our last night out as a family of two. Five hours later, the contractions I'd been having off and on for the past week would become so strong I couldn't sleep through them, and our crazy adventure would be underway.

A few minutes ago, I made a loop through the house to gather up Elliot's toys while M rocked him to sleep in his room. (He's walking now, did I mention that? This means his toys log a lot more miles.) Before that, I pulled out food and diapers to go to daycare tomorrow. After I post this, I'm off to work on a craft project for his birthday party next weekend. On one hand, it's hard for me to believe a whole year has passed, but then I look at how different my life is and it seems even more unbelievable that it evolved so much so quickly.

So yeah, were in first birthday party planning mode, which is surreal. I think we got a late start on sign language but E is signing more, all done and eat. We obviously need to branch out to non-food-related signs now. He's also making admirable efforts to say kitty, juice, banana, duck, turtle, and he says ma-ma-ma-ma-ma all the time but we're still not entirely convinced he's attached it to us. He is obsessed with pushing buttons on anything and everything, and he dances whenever he hears music. It's all pretty darn cute.

There's been a welcome wave of cloth diaper posts on my reader lately and I'm working on ours. Hopefully I'll get it up tomorrow.

Oh and one favor before I go... Anyone have suggestions for nicknames I could start using for M and I? I'm sick of being a single letter. :-) I've looked at lists of constellations, elements, spices, cheeses, plants, trees, musical terms, beach names, and more but nothing has jumped out at me. The best pairs I've come up with are Kiwi and Mango, Ketchup and Mustard, Koala and Monkey, and Kookaburra and Mockingbird. I think the birds are my favorite because they tie into the blog title, but they're also really damn long for frequent typing. And none of them are quite us. Therefore, it is with great faith that I turn it over to the divine wisdom of The Internets. Thanks in advance for any suggestions. :-)