Monday, April 28, 2008

Cloth Diapers Part 4: Fashion Reasons We Use Cloth Diapers

Or, The Aesthetics of Poop-Catchers

Or, My Baby's Bum Is Cuter Than Your Baby's Bum

Having already bored you all to tears with my environmental, financial, and home ec laundry lectures, finally I'm getting to what kind of diapers we use, which are our favorites, and the fashion show!

First of all, as mentioned in comments, cloth wipes are great with cloth diapers because you don't have to throw some things away and some things in the wash; you can just throw the wipes in the pail with the diapers, and they hardly add to the laundry at all. I use the small cheap baby washcloths, although they are not as soft as wipes you can buy or make. I wet them with plain water--warm if I'm feeling kind, but usually I just pre-wet a small stack and keep them in an old plastic container from disposable wipes. You can make or buy solutions or add tea tree oil or scent, but I don't bother (see again: lazy and cheap).

I have a variety of diapers. First we bought the cheapest route: Chinese prefolds and covers. I bought our first diapers with just money we'd saved in change jars and pop cans, by the way; so you could do this quite cheaply. I will admit that at first these seemed really huge and I was no good at different ways of folding to better keep the poop off the covers (it never got on clothes though). But it was mostly a fit issue--once our daughter grew a bit more, a simple fold-in-thirds-lay-it-in-the-cover system starting working fine. This is what I do now most of the time at home and for naps since they're still bulky but very absorbent. Easy to care for since they're 100 percent cotton.

Pins? Nope. I have never even tried using one (though my husband did it with his little brother back in the day!). I did try a Snappi fastener when I was experimenting with folding techniques, but now I just fold in thirds so don't need it. I will keep it, though, because mark my words, a Snappi is THE best thing for cleaning fuzz out of velcro! (Which reminds me to clean my Teva sandals...)

I also have a couple fitted diapers which also need a cover over them (unless you are just chillin' at home and want to let your babe romp in just their cute, breathable diaper). They have nice elastic around the legs which keeps everything in, even with runny newborn poo (or so I hear since we didn't have any of that here). So they're easier and cuter than prefolds but a bit more expensive and take longer to dry.

Covers: I have 3 Bummis Super Whisper Wrap and 1 ProWrap. This is the waterproof layer that holds the prefold on and keeps wetness in. These don't need to be washed after every use unless poop gets on them. So when I throw a wet diaper in the pail, I hang the cover in the bathroom to air out a little bit and use another one next time, just rotating them until they need a wash. That's why you don't need many covers.

When I use prefolds and fitteds I also throw a rectangle of fleece on top of the diaper; that keeps her feeling drier (moisture passes right through fleece) and if she poops, it doesn't stick to the fleece at all. It seriously rolls right off like . . . well, since it's poop I won't give an analogy since most of my analogies usually have to do with food. But it makes everything super easy.

But then we discovered . . . pocket diapers! How can you not love diapers with names like Fuzzi Bunz and bumGenius 3.0? Pocket diapers consist of a waterproof cover-type outside with velcro or snap closure. On the inside is a layer of fleece or suedecloth with an opening at the back to stuff in an absorbent insert. They usually come with a microfiber insert but the beauty of it is that you can stuff whatever you want and however much you want in there--prefold diapers, hemp doublers, an old hand towel, or I hear those microfiber towels sold for washing your car are super absorbent. At night we use two inserts or even really load it up with a prefold and doubler. That's because our girl sleeps 11-12 hours and during that time pees approximately, oh, 11-12 gallons. It's the opposite of what you'd expect, maybe, but we have much more success with cloth than disposables at night.

If you've pre-stuffed your pockets, at changing time you just grab it and put it on like a disposable. The inserts are fairly thin so these do not have the bulkiness of prefolds. The fleece inside keeps your baby feeling dry. And since poop does not stick to the fleece, poop is easy to dump out and doesn't stain them. Ease of use, ease of wear, ease of clean, AND fun cute colors? What more could you ask of a waste containment system?

Now, these diapers may seem expensive at $17-18 each. But keep in mind that you are using them many times, even for more than one child. And the bumGenius 3.0 have an amazing one-size design--they snap down/unsnap to three different sizes so you can use the same diaper throughout your child's diaper years, 8 pounds to 35 pounds. So if they work for you, they're all you need. (Fuzzi Bunz and others come in sizes so you would probably need two or more sets.)

One other kind of diaper: all-in-one. This is exactly what it sounds like--everything sewn together, absorbent part on the inside with waterproof outside, goes on just like a disposable except it's cloth. We have one of these and it's okay, but it takes a long time to dry, and this is an expensive way to go. Really nice for the diaper bag or babysitter, though.

My recommendations: Different people like different diapers and have different budgets (and some have sewing skills to really keep it cheap), but if I were starting over right now, I would probably just buy pockets, and I would recommend the bumGenius one-size. For $400 you (or I) could have an abundance (21) of bumGenius for one child and use those same diapers for the next child to come along because they fit all sizes. If you had two in diapers at once, you might have to wash more often or want buy a few more, but it would be simpler than having a bunch of different kinds/sizes and more cost effective--definitely less painful than buying diapers for two, I'm sure!

I'm telling you, cloth diapers don't have to be big and bulky (though I find no harm in that if it keeps her dry all night). They can be colorful and cute, and I'd much rather see a little bright color sticking out the top of her pants on occasion than a long tail of paper with Mickey Mouse on it. (Must even the pee-catchers be advertisements? She doesn't even watch TV yet but she should be brand-imprinted to like that annoying Elmo?) I'm not going to offer photos here, but my girl frolicking in her pink diaper? Oh yeah, that's off the charts adorableness. My baby's diaper bum is cuter than your baby's diaper bum!

And with that . . . the fashion show! Today's model will be The Cow. Despite her fat tummy and super thin legs, The Cow thinks her diapers fit just moooo-velously!

Here The Cow shows off this year's hot diaper accessory, the Snappi diaper fastener. Pair it with a simple, classic white prefold--instant "Snappi casual"!

For fab fitted fashion, try a Kissaluvs size 1, seen here in a lovely lemony snickety shade.

The Cow is really feeling glamorous in this bumGenius 3.0 one-size pocket diaper, set on medium. Work it, Cow, work it!

If your child has a tail, you can simply stick it out the top.

Ah, freedom of moooo-vement! Doing the splits is a snap in this bold red Fuzzi Bunz pocket diaper.

And in this fun and funky Bummis all-in-one, Cow can even do a headstand!

And . . . that oughta answer the question of What do you do at home when you're not working?

Any tips from you other cloth diaper users? If anyone's thinking of giving cloth diapers a shot, let me know if you want advice--obviously I kind of enjoy this subject!

Cloth Diapers Part 3: Lazy Reasons We're (Still) Using Cloth Diapers

Or, It's Not Actually Quite Easy Being Green

NOTE: Two tips added at end of post.

In my last two posts I talked about reasons to use cloth diapers: environmental friendliness and saving money. If you're like me, you feel good about being good to the earth, but you really feel good about saving money. But you're also busy and practical--things have to work for your life or sorry, we'll find another way to pay for the better way. I hear ya. Whatever our reasons for trying cloth, if it wasn't working for us, we probably wouldn't still be doing it.

And so I'm here to assure you today that cloth diapering is not rocket science. It is a little more work--a load of laundry every few days--but it is not hard. After all, my fancy-schmancy automatic washing machine does most of the work. My mother had to wash my diapers with a ringer washer. And then there's all the African nannies hand-washing for a whole orphanage without running hot water . . . yeah, my laundry routine's not too bad. The hardest part of cloth diapering for me was figuring out what to buy and what detergent to use. Now it's resisting the urge to buy more of our favorite diapers!

Guilt-free note before we go on: Please don't think that I'm one of those Cloth Diaper Nazis who thinks everyone who doesn't use them is so callous to the health of the world and their child that they probably also burn tires in their backyard trash pit and wipe their baby's bum with battery acid. I don't! I realize I'm blessed to be able to work at home where I can throw wash in at odd hours and that this would be harder for those who work full-time/outside the home or for those who don't have easy access to laundry. In those situations maybe I never would have tried it either. But I do think that many people never even think to even try cloth because of misconceptions--that washing uses the same resources (not true), that it's not really cheaper (definitely not true), and that they don't work well and/or are nasty to take care of (read on, my friend).

In a nutshell, here's my diapering routine:
  • Put clean diaper on child.
  • Child soils diaper either immediately or at least convenient time possible (ready to leave house, ready to fall asleep, ready to thrash like a bucking bronco when placed on changing table).
  • Take off dirty diaper, set aside, clean child with baby washcloths wet with water.
  • Put clean diaper on child, release child back into the wild.
  • Take diaper and wipes into bathroom, drop poop into toilet if any, throw diaper into trash can lined with waterproof fabric wet bag.
  • On the third day wash again, in accordance with instructions.

My diaper pail is a cheapo plastic trash can with flip lid. It's lined with a wet bag I bought online. When it's laundry time, I pull out the bag, take it to the washer, and dump everything out by turning it inside out and putting the bag right in the wash too, so I don't have to touch the dirty diapers. I make do without an extra bag to alternate or a smaller one to travel with, though those would be nice extras. We do also keep a small trash can with lid in the girl's room for any disposable wipes and dipes we use. I find this smells far worse than the cloth pail (although having to keep the bathroom door closed all the time because of the little girl's toilet obsession is not preferable).

I do laundry about every three days, or whenever all my favorite diapers/the best overnight diapers are used up. Buy more, wash less often, but only up to a certain point or they will get kind of ripe, of course.

I basically wash my diapers twice: (1) cold presoak/cold wash; (2) hot wash on "stain cycle" that has an extra cold rinse. We have a high-efficiency front-load machine so I use very little detergent, about 1 tablespoon on the first wash, and maybe a few drops of tea tree oil which is a natural disinfectant. For the second wash I don't even have to open the washer, just go out and put in half as much detergent as the first time and restart the washer (time elapsed: 30 seconds. Told you this isn't hard.).

When I first started I couldn't find a great detergent and had a tendency to use too much, which can cause it to build up on pocket diapers (will explain in next post) if not rinsed out well enough. Most detergents today are too good in the sense that they have all kinds of whiteners and brighteners and enzymes (and--again--petroleum products!) which actually build up on fabrics, so you want to use a cheapo store brand powder one or something more natural. At our health store I found Country Save, which is recommended for cloth diapers and as a bonus, environmentally friendly/biodegradable. At this rate the box will last me years, but if I ever use up my other stuff, I'll probably start using it on everything.

When I did have build up problems from too much bad detergent and diaper rash cream (oops! a fish-oil kind got on my pocket dipes), I "stripped" my diapers with blue Dawn dish detergent in a hot wash. I had to do a few washes and extra rinses but haven't had problems since. Once in a while I just use a little Dawn in my second wash instead of detergent--I've even heard of people just using it all the time. Who knew the power of Dawn? (Note: I'm told it has to be Dawn and it has to be the original blue kind.)

Okay, while I've been giving y'all too much information, the washer has been doing all the work for a couple hours. I put down the bon-bons, turn off Oprah, and go throw everything in the dryer except the covers (because keeping them out of the heat will make them last longer). I select for "damp dry" on medium-low heat and return to Oprah. By the time Dr. Oz is done lecturing me about healthy eating, I have finished my ice cream and the dryer has stopped. I pull out everything that's dry--wet bag, pocket diaper outsides, fleece liners, washcloths I use as wipes. Basically everything that's colored comes out and whites stay in, so it's easy. What's left is things with thicker materal that need a bit more time on high heat--prefolds, fitted diapers, pocket diaper inserts. (This may make more sense after I describe my diapers, next post.)

When everything is dry, I take it in my daughter's room and leave it in a pile on her toybox for a few hours or days. But eventually I get some organizational urge and go put everything away. I may or may not fold my prefolds but I usually stuff the pocket diapers so they are all ready to go, easy-peasy all one piece just like a disposable.

I am looking forward to line drying more often as the sun returns to these parts, because (did I mention?) I'm cheap, plus sunlight is a miraculous cure for any stains or odors that sneak through.

And really . . . at least when it comes to diapers . . . what could be more satisfying than this?

Stay tuned for our next thrilling installment, in which we will attempt to answer that most burning of questions: What the heck is a pocket diaper?

EDIT: I forgot to mention two things:
1. Plain ol' white vinegar in the rinse cycle helps with detergent buildup.
2. If poop removal scares you, you can get biodegradable/flushable rice paper liners to lay inside the diaper. Then you just grab the paper and throw/flush it all away. (But if you use a piece of fleece or a pocket diaper with fleece inside, it really does just fall right off anyway. Anything that doesn't, I'm not touching, scraping, or dunking. That's what washers are for.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cloth Diapers Part 2: Cheapskate Reasons We're Using Cloth Diapers

In my last post I showed the environmental reasons why we're happy to use cloth diapers: keeping waste out of landfills and groundwater, avoiding chemicals, saving transportation costs, saving the water, chemicals, and petroleum used to make disposables.

That's great and all, you say. That's a nice thing to do if you can afford it, but isn't it really more expensive? What about all the energy and water for washing? Well, as I noted yesterday, making disposables also uses resources. Meanwhile, laundry is a surprisingly small part of household energy and water use.

As far as our household energy use and diaper costs, instead of some hypothetical your-child-uses-twelve-billion-diapers-in-two-years scenario, let's run our real numbers.

As far as energy and water, I would say our bills have gone up about $10 a month. Of course, since adding a child we are also doing more dishes, cooking more foods, washing more hands more often, plugging in more gadgets, and heating another room overnight. And we have a new high-efficiency front-load washing machine (best baby homecoming gift ever?!), so laundry alone isn't all that much of the increase. Remember, laundering cloth diapers uses about the same amount of water as a person uses flushing the toilet--so whether we're washing or she's flushing, adding a child has already added water use to our house.

Cost of the diapers and supplies we've purchased? Around $350. Add energy and call it $400 if you want. We got going in October, so we've had about 6 months of use. That's $400 ÷ 6 = $67 per month (at this point--obviously the longer they're used, more the cost per month figure drops).

Cost for disposables over that time? Diapers here run about $.20 each. Anna is using 6 or 7 diapers a day (now--younger babies use more). That's about $1.20 to $1.40 per day of diapers, plus the cost of disposable wipes (I use cloth wipes with cloth dipes, mostly). Let's call it 200 diapers, $40/month. Plus wipes, call it $45. By that conservative estimate, we'd have spent $270 over the 6 months we've been using cloth.

I don't even know how much all that Diaper Genie business costs, nor am I factoring in that newborns need a lot more changes and diapers get more expensive as your child grows (bigger diapers, less in box for same price). I am sure we spent more than $45/month when Anna first joined us and realistically would have spent way more on average over time, but we'll stick with $45 for the sake of argument.

Okay, by that conservative math we haven't broken even yet--but we will in just two more months. By the summer we will be enjoying TOTALLY FREE DIAPERING. For the approximately 12 more months before potty training, we will be enjoying TOTALLY FREE DIAPERING (a savings of $540+) . It already feels like we are now, since I don't have to squeeze diaper costs out of the grocery money; I haven't purchased diapers since October even though we still use disposables from time to time when traveling, etc. But the super duper fantastically greatest thing about this is that should we happen to have another baby in the future, through the wonder of hand-me-downs that child will enjoy . . . TOTALLY FREE DIAPERING! Yep, our cloth diapers cost us $350 for one child; that's $175 each if we have two kids; $116 for three; $87 for four; and we'll just keep on having kids until we're making money. Or something like that. (I'm kidding, Mom. Put the toy catalog down.)

Yeah, you have to lay out some money up front to get into cloth. But to me it hurts a heck of a lot less than dropping $20 on a big box of paper products and every time we use one thinking I just threw away a quarter.

Now if only they could find a way to get that kind of savings out of formula!

Cloth Diapers Part 1: Environmental Reasons We Use Cloth Diapers

Or, Saving the World, One Butt-Wipe at a Time

As I mentioned yesterday, we try to do our part for the earth. Or at least make some half-hearted gestures to relieve a little guilt. We recycle, we combine driving errands, we use those crazy corkscrew lightbulbs even where people can see them, we carry around our tap water in reusable bottles (which now, as it turns out, might also be trying to kill us. Oh well.). And most importantly (because above almost all I'm cheap), we try not to blow large chunks of our budget on things we intend to throw away. Especially if they're not even fun, like, say, paintballs or water balloons, but are simply small receptacles for small-human waste . . . aka diapers.

Well la de frickin' da, you're probably thinking. You can feel good about your earthiness; I'm going to feel good about not sticking my hand into a toilet to scrape poop off of rubber pants while bleeding profusely from twelve diaper pin punctures.

Trust me, I feel good about that too--no pins or dunking or ugly rubber pants here. If cloth diapering were too hard, we might have given up. Too nasty, and we never would have started. But those days are gone. Sure, it's a little more work, but only in the sense that there's a little more laundry. As a parent you're dealing with laundry and poop all the time anyway, though. You really build up an immunity to both quite quickly, don't you?

So first of all, cloth diapering is not that hard, and in another post I'll talk more about my diapers and my routine so you can see what I mean. And second of all, for the bit more work it is, I definitely feel it's worth it in terms of money savings and earth savings. I do feel great about using cloth!

To keep the lecture factor down here, let me hit you with some bullet points (source links at end of post):
  • One child in disposables can add 6000 diapers to landfills. Diapers are the 3rd largest consumer item in landfills.
  • Diapers in landfills can put groundwater sources at risk of contamination from chemicals and waste. It is technically illegal to throw human waste into the garbage, but do you know anyone who dumps poop out of disposables? Washing reusable diapers results in the waste being treated in a safe wastewater treatment facility, just like your waste is.
  • How long does it take diapers to decompose? No one knows--no one's lived long enough! Probably 250–500 years. If the pilgrims had used disposables, you could go to Colonial Williamsburg and visit those diapers.
  • The plastic in one disposable diaper uses 1 cup of crude oil. Approximately 7 billion gallons of oil each year are required to feed our disposable-diaper habit today, almost four times as much oil as is estimated to be in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Washing diapers at home about every three days uses about the same amount of water as flushing a regular-flow toilet five times a day. It would be less with high-efficiency washing machines.
  • Disposables are full of toxic chemicals. Ever get those weird gel beads left behind on your babe's sensitive areas? Yeah, that stuff was banned from tampons due to toxic shock syndrome.

The short answer to "why do you use cloth diapers?" is: for the same reasons we don't use paper plates and cups every day. We instinctively know that buying dishes once and washing them makes more sense than continually making and buying paper and plastic dishes. (And no one's even bothered--I hope!--inventing paper clothes, that idea's so silly.)

The other big reason is cost, and I'll go into that next time. But really, even if it weren't cheaper . . . maybe these environmental reasons would still be enough. It's like driving a hybrid: sure, it might take you a while (although less all the time!) to "pay for it" in gas savings, but that's not the only consideration; you're also using less fuel, putting a lot less emissions into the air, and supporting energy innovation along the way--you're paying it forward even before it pays you back. Maybe things shouldn't be all about me and my break-even point. Maybe some things we can save are worth more than pennies.

Just my $.02.

The Real Diaper Association facts page.
A Tale of Two Diapers
The Joy of Cloth Diapers
Cloth vs. Disposables: To Cloth or Not to Cloth?
Diaper Information and Research
Health Concerns
Why Use Cloth Diapers?

And for a different angle on the diaper industry, here's an interesting look at how making disposable diapers smaller changed the industry: Smaller: The Disposable Diaper and the Meaning of Progress.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Going Granola

I have been meaning to post for some time on some of our "crunchier" habits--what better day to finally do so than Earth Day?

I am far from a raging environmentalist, but I like green things as much as anyone. I also kind of like living on this earth, raising a healthy kid, and knowing she can enjoy that healthy life on a beautiful and healthy planet (maybe even live on what's currently the coast without having to build an underwater city). Oh, and I like to save money. FunnyWriterMommy and I joke that our life mottos are: (1) Above all else, I'm lazy; and (2) Second only to lazy, I'm cheap.

So I don't think it's because we're those dirty West Coast hippies now that I have occasionally found myself placing organic vegetables into my reusable fabric grocery bag while babywearing my cloth-diaper-clad toddler. Sometimes it's to avoid filling the landfills with packaging I didn't even want in the first place. Sometimes it's to keep the budget alive--organic baby food is occasionally cheaper on sale than regular anyway. But mostly, I think, it's the mommy thing.

Something happens to us when kids come into our lives. We worry about things we never would have cared about before, like whether our plastic bottles and saran wrap are poisoning us and how to avoid food hormones so our daughters don't start puberty before they start kindergarten. We see parking lots where there used to be fields and wonder where will be left for her kids to play.

Actually the biggest thing bothering me about how we're treating the environment right now is plastic. Plastic, plastic, everywhere! Not just for things we need but for so many unnecessary things like excessive packaging that we immediately throw away and so many things we make or treat as disposable. Our consumption is so recklessly out of control. And do you know what most plastic is made from? Petroleum! You know, the non-renewable resource which also happens to be our main source of energy (and global conflict)? We are using finite, increasingly expensive resource to make things we will throw away, and then we use more petroleum to transport these things across the country and around the world so we can pay to own them for a short period of time before we transport them to a big pile in the ground or ocean where they can sit for thousands of years. Oh yeah, I'm sure that system will work indefinitely.

And so in a few small ways we try to reduce our use and maybe do something a little bit healthier for our girl in the process:
  • home-mashed rather than pre-jarred baby foods--saves packaging, food transportation costs, and money on my grocery bill. It's easy enough and way cheaper for me to cook a whole bag of frozen green beans or a bunch of sweet potatoes, throw them in the blender, and pour it into ice cube trays. One cube equals 2 tablespoons; 6 mix-n-match cubes a day and she's had her veggie servings. I will say it's harder to achieve good results with meat. And no matter who makes it, there is just nothing appetizing about pureed meat!
  • avoid, hand wash, and don't microwave plastics--probably the BPA in plastics thing will never be definitively proven dangerous, but in case those Canadians are proven right, we try to minimize the risk and extend the life of our plastics anyway. I did buy one stainless steel Thermos sippy cup, since my plastic ones were leaky anyway, and it's nice. If we were starting from scratch maybe I'd avoid the plastics, I don't know. (What say ye?)
  • fabric grocery bags--I keep a few tote bags in the car to grab when I go in the store. No danger of the bottom busting out, and our local store has started giving $.05 off per reusable bag used.
  • organic milk--Anna's whole milk is the only thing I make an effort to buy organic, simply because of all the hormones. This is what our doctor said she does for her kid about the same age.
  • the biggie and best for us . . . CLOTH DIAPERS!--It was disposables giving us fits last week. I love love love using cloth diapers, and I could go on and on about why and how. And in a follow-up post, I will!

How about you? Do make an extra effort to do certain things for your kids' health or to reduce your environmental impact? Anything "crunchy" that works for you?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

When We First Saw Her Face

My mom called a while ago. “This is a collect call!” she said. Aw, sweet of her to remember. But I told that joke better than her.

On April 19, 2007, we received our referral of a beautiful Ethiopian girl. “Healthy baby under six months old” had a name. We had a child.

It’s been one year since my heart leapt out of my chest at the words “You have a daughter!” One year since we first heard her name. One year since we first saw her face.

Her baby face has changed so much, yet it can still make my heart leap.

Happy referral day, Yegetanesh. We love you.

Thank you so much for loving us back.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Meanwhile, in the Real World

I have already confessed my addiction to presidential politics, even the horserace aspects. But I might have to reject and denounce my media consumption after the embarrassing waste of two hours which was last night’s “debate” on ABC.

Almost one hour, HALF THE DEBATE, spent on political “gotcha” baloney before they bothered to ask a question about an actual issue affected by government. I expected some “small town bitterness” talk since that was the current discussion. But I did not expect to hear the words, after several other questions about him, “Do you think Rev. Wright loves America as much as you do?” Ah, the former volunteered-for-Vietnam Marine versus United States Senator patriotism-off . . . is there really any good answer here? Except perhaps “flag pins!” because I kid you not, that was also asked.

I half expected Who would win in a fight: Rev. Wright or a Bosnian sniper?

By the time they got to issues, my brain was too numbed to focus on them. Not much loss since the economy discussion centered largely on the capital gains tax—a burning issue affecting few blue-collar factory workers but 99.5 percent of debate moderators—and they also brought out such blasts from the past as gun control and affirmative action which don’t even register on the lists of issues Democratic voters are saying are important right now. Health care is high on that list but was not mentioned at all. Neither were the housing crisis, Afghanistan, education, torture, trade, or the environment. But we covered the flag pin issue!

Meanwhile, in the real world:

Truckers are beginning to protest the cost of diesel fuel, and they could halt the movement of 70 percent of the nation’s goods if they chose to.

Top Bush advisors personally authorized the use of specific interrogation techniques considered by many to be torture, including waterboarding.

Your government now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. This may include collecting and analyzing all electronic communications into and out of a city.

The cost of basic food items are soaring, bringing fear, riots, and hunger. World Bank President Robert Zoellick has said the surging costs could mean "seven lost years" in the fight against worldwide poverty.

But did you hear about those things on the news? Probably not much. There isn’t enough airtime left after making sure we all know the Barack Obama bowled a 37 and had the audacity to request orange juice in a diner.

No, I’m not bitter. Not bitter at all.

So, the questions of the day: How do we make sure we are getting a balanced diet of news and information about issues? Do you trust the “mainstream media” to keep you informed? If not, what are you favorite “alternative” sources of national, world, political, cultural, and other news?

Back to the lighter side: There is always The Colbert Report, which is broadcasting from Pennsylvania this week. Michelle Obama (with whom I am in love) appeared this week and Hillary Clinton is appearing tonight. Who will get the coveted Colbert Bump?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

One of Those 48-Hour Days

Monday night it started. The fussiness. The crying. The angst.

Anna was probably tired from the busy previous week and day before, but she’s also been continuing to grow teeth, and diaper rash struck with a vengeance. (I don’t care what they say—those two are related.) When I made it upstairs for bed I was reintroduced to the laundry lying all over the bed and my corduroys from Sunday with someone else’s chewing gum embedded all up the back of the leg because I’d apparently sat in it and spread it all over myself and, earlier, my couch, which was far easier to clean than all those little grooves. I ignored them. Again.

Tuesday morning Aaron found Anna in her crib in a veritable flood of pee—pjs, sheets, blankets, everything. (Curse you, disposable diapers!) Had to wash everything including the child. Diaper rash was not better, nurse was taking her time calling back, and to top off Anna’s continuing mood, she also had the runny nose we’ve all been having from the spring pollen coating settling upon our region. And you just know a 15-month-old loves having her nose wiped.

On the bright side, she took a really long nap.

This morning we had our ungodly early YL planning meeting, and then I decided I’d start some laundry and finally face the gum-on-the-pants issue. Picking it off was kind of nasty, but it finally occurred to me to use Goo-Gone. It was then that I discovered, in the hall closet, that the shelf was covered in leaked ammonia I’d bought ages ago on a make-your-own-cleaning-products kick. It really didn’t smell clean, though. More like someone peed Pine-Sol. Resulting in a surprisingly powerful contact high.

There’s nothing like going to clean up a mess and discovering another, much worse mess, is there?

Sometimes it’s just one of those days. Those long, long, long days. It’s just another Manic Monday . . . through Wednesday.

Happily, the rash and the girl’s mood have improved greatly today, and life goes on in all it’s messy, ironic, whirlwind glory.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Adoption Taxes and (Re)Funding It Forward

Happy tax filing day! Yeah, I know, that made no sense. At least we have Dave Barry for comic relief.

I got our taxes taken care of a few weeks ago and we already have our refunds. The federal was big but not as big as I'd hoped. We were able to claim the adoption tax credit, but because (a) we don't make much and (b) what I make is subject to self-employment tax, we could only get a portion of it back this year. Self-employed adopters take note: See, when you work for a company, your employer puts in 6 percent and you put in 6 percent toward Social Security, etc. When you are self-employed you put in both parts, 12 percent, and that's not refundable, no matter what credits you have. You can't get back what you didn't put in--OR what you put in for self-employment. And that was more than I thought. Gotta get me some of them business deductions.

We can continue claiming the adoption tax credit over five years, but the really sucky part is that barring a change in circumstances (like winning the lotto or, uh, getting a real job), over five years we still won't get it all back. I hate this because it feels like leaving money on the table--money intended to help those who otherwise couldn't afford it be able to adopt. Like, you know, us. Meanwhile people who make a lot of money will get the full credit back and head off to Disney World. Okay, maybe they won't, and it's their prerogative to visit Mickey if they want to. I really shouldn't complain since we are getting money back plus, you know, getting to live here for almost nothing and all. It just seems like the spirit of the credit isn't working out in application for us. Others who seem to need it less will get more cash back than we will, continuing and exacerbating that they may have cash on hand to adopt again and I can't imagine at this moment how we'll ever pull it off.

I probably would care less about this if I didn't think I hear a giant sucking sound coming from the area of our home's equity. Or is it the gas tank?

I guess I'm grateful we're getting I think $1500 in "stimulus" money in May. Except that I think the whole thing is kind of stupid--that we're basically adding to the debt to do it; that my parents who make gobs more than us will get almost as much and buy nothing that they wouldn't have otherwise bought if they wanted it; that senior citizens who normally don't file taxes had to go through the rigmarole of filing basically a blank tax return; and especially that it cost the IRS $42 MILLION to send us letters letting us know they'd be sending us something else. They couldn't come up with some other way to spread that information? Media or something? I mean, they don't send letters when the terror alert level goes up to orange--oh wait, that's stupid too.

Of course the check will help a lot of families, including ours. I guess we'll see if/how it affects the economy at large. I can't find the blog I read that started me thinking about it, but a few organizations are putting out the challenge: what if everyone who can afford it decided to pay it forward to charities and nonprofits and others in need instead of buying something else we don't need? Can you imagine the difference it could make to a rural after-school literacy program, an urban church with a crumbling building, a meals on wheels program struggling with gas prices? Let's stimulate those good works!

Can you pass on 10, 20, 50, or 100 percent of this extra money? We honestly need to pay down debts with most of our check, but I pledge right now (because I am so totally awesome at making financial decisions without my husband. Yeah!) that we will tithe 10 percent of our stimulus check to something worthwhile. Who's willing to join in?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Grandmas and Grandpas and Aunties, Oh My!

New post--where to start? We've been behaving as though it's summer vacation around here, even when the weather wasn't. My parents were here and it rained every day. Since they left it has been sunny and 65+ degrees. Nonetheless, we managed to play a lot and eat even more. We did the marine science center, some shopping, a little tidepooling (saw the elusive 19-armed sunburst starfish). They really only wanted to play with Anna anyway, of course. It would have been nice to get to the beach more, but my dad is probably glad his suitcase didn't mysteriously gain ten pounds of rocks and shells (it's like my mom's a raccoon and they're shiny things--she can't resist). I'm sure they went home much lighter after leaving us all kinds of books and toys and the awesome Very Hungry Caterpillar quilt my mom made of actual Eric Carle fabric (she's seen "testing it" in previous post) and making a similar deposit of baby schtuff when they met their new grandson, whom they visited after leaving here.

We also got to see my aunt Nancy, who is a retired librarian living the nomadic RV life until she starts her Coolest Summer Job Ever as campground host at Yellowstone freaking National Park(!). She made her way up here from Cali before heading out West, which is obviously east of here, but I'm in denial about that because it just doesn't sound right. So as my parents took off, she and the sunshine were here to keep me from doing boring things like work and pay bills for another day. Can't say I minded. And she bought us steaks, so Aaron sure didn't.

For Friday afternoon bonus slacking off time, we took Anna to her first softball game. The weather was perfect, which you can't always say for Oregon coast softball season--sometimes it is worse than football weather since they built new fields on the windiest plateau in town. She really liked it for about 5 innings but would have liked to hear some more chatter out there. (Waltino, when are you coming back to teach her the finer points of the thinking girl's game?)

Here are some favorite pictures from the week's Anna photography extravaganza!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What My Parents Did on Their Spring Vacation

ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

To be fair, that picture was taken on day 1, jetlag day. Since then we have been running around getting tired without the benefit of naps. It has caught up with the little girl (aka Crankypants) a bit at times although she has been having so much fun playing with Grandma and Grandpa and being out and about with us that she never wants to stop.

I'll post more soon...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Face


Also, if your mom makes you some piggy tails that are kind of crookedey but still really cute, you should totally mash your green beans into them. She will really appreciate it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I'm going to go back there someday.

Let me tell you about our Ethiopian neighbor—okay, future neighbor.

Today Anna and I had lunch with a new friend (met her a year or so ago through a friend) who is adopting from Ethiopia. She just received her referral a couple weeks ago for a beautiful three-year-old girl. (Congrats, R.!) She lives just around the corner and a few blocks down from us.

Did you get that?

Someone else from our tiny little hick town is adopting from Ethiopia. And we are practically neighbors. What are the odds?

And so today I found myself again missing Ethiopia and unable to express why. Remembering the days of nervous waiting for court and travel dates, travel shots, packing lists, treasured photo updates.

I know we’ll go back to Ethiopia someday. But I don’t know when. I really want to sneak my jealous self into my neighbor’s suitcase. I want to smell the mercato on my clothes and hear dogs barking in the night. I want to sing with Kool and the Gang on the van radio and learn to say all of you ladies look lovely tonight. I want to see Solomon and Yezeshewai and the smiling nannies again. I want stand on that bridge in Harar where everything changed.

But it’s not my turn.

My part for now is to encourage and loan electrical converters and stand as evidence that one can indeed survive a 27-hour flight. This is my part, this is my place, for such a time as this. Until such time, perhaps, as another child is born at the right time but in need of a family, for such a time as that.

There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.
Part heaven, part space, or have I found my place?
You can just visit, but I plan to stay.
I’m going to go back there someday.
I’m going to go back there someday.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I am noticing that I have a lot of energy today after getting some exercise three times already this week. Lest you think I’m some kind of healthy person, rest assured that that’s probably more than the last three weeks combined. This morning when my computer was calling me to plunk down and surf away my morning, I was not necessarily convinced that taking a walk would make me feel better than sitting down with more coffee, but having tried it and felt pretty good this afternoon, I have to say that it did. Not that my energy has translated into any great work productivity.

It helps that we’ve had such glorious sunshine. Why oh why is it going to disappear as soon as my parents get here (and probably reappear when they leave)? The weathergods are cruel to me. Although not as cruel as my mother thinks. She’s always talking up the weather at their place: how warm and sunny it is, how the grass is greening up, how pretty the flowers/leaves/snowflakes are. It’s just soooo darn nice! she says. If she’s here and it’s nice, it’s I just can’t believe how darn nice it is! These are the only two options for weather conversations with her: how nice it is in Michigan and how surprising it is in Oregon.

What gives you energy? Quick! Name ten things!

  1. Walking on the beach
  2. Sunshine
  3. A room full of teenagers
  4. Dancing (badly, in private)
  5. Sex (now forget you read that)
  6. Fresh flowers
  7. A freshly de-cluttered room
  8. A friendly debate
  9. Making other people laugh
  10. Blog comments - now gimme my energy drug!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Oddness 4.1

Seen today on drive-through coffee stand sign:

topless baristas

April Fool’s . . . one can only assume.

In other (fake) news:

Obama Heals Hundreds

That is some evangelically funny stuff right there, that Lark News.