Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unfashionable Frugality

I've been thinking a lot about saving money, especially in light of cloth diapering, and all the fun ways to do it. Repurposing items around the house can be fun. We're planting a vegetable garden this year--fun and we get to eat the harvest! I'm even considering baking bread.

There are many other ways of saving money that are harder to brag about. (And really, one should never be boastful about these things anyway, but if it's about sharing fun, what's the harm in that?) Like our dented, uncomfortable old Buick that's hard to move the car seat in and out of. It is by no means a "sweet ride," but it's paid off, it runs, and it saves us money. Same goes for the old manual transmission Ford Focus. It has relatively good gas mileage, gets us from Point A to Point B and, most importantly, it's paid off. The imaginary van I'm drooling over will have to wait for another year because we don't yet NEED another car, and we can get by on what we have, Joneses be darned.

Take also the stroller. I paid nothing for this stroller. My mom scored it at a garage sale and didn't ask me to pay her back. It also came with an infant carrier and two car bases for said carrier. We got a new car seat/carrier (actually a gift) for safety reasons, but it fits with this stroller. But they don't match! The stroller is scratched and dirty! And they don't match! The print is not completely to my taste!

But: Who cares? It works and it was free. We did not have to buy an expensive stroller so that I could push my baby around.

I read this post shared on my Google Reader yesterday. It is so very true. I don't have to listen to or worry about the people who would judge me for driving around an unattractive old car or pushing around an unattractive old stroller. The thing is, I don't hear anyone passing judgments. They might do so silently and I really can't care about that. What's harder to ignore is that voice in my head that says I'm not quite good enough if I don't have nice, clean, new gear. Is that because I might unfairly judge someone else in my exact situation? Or perhaps I'm too harsh on myself. It's not others who can't let go and for whom I'll never be good enough, it's me.

What I would add to The Simple Dollar is that it isn't You against The World. You don't need to imagine that everyone is judging you for driving a beater, for living in a tiny apartment, for not eating out on a regular basis. And you surely do not need to make excuses to them--or yourself!--for making wise decisions with your money. The end!

I resolve to do the same. My infant carrier and stroller do not match. No excuses necessary.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cloth Diapers: Growing the Stash

Now that I am a mother to an outside-baby and my piano student load is reduced to nearly nothing (really--I currently have one student, and that is just fabulous with me), I consider it an important part of my job as a mostly-SAHM to save money wherever possible.

Two of the ways I do that is by breastfeeding and using cloth diapers. So far, baby has not come with much extra regular expense. That being said, we are still building that cloth diaper stash, so that's a bit expensive until said stash is really complete. And then there's the fact that a lot of cloth diapers are really cute and fun to buy, so I have to be careful not to drop too much cash on them. (Babies also need more and more and more clothes and other important supplies, but I shall not further digress in this post.)

So, cloth diapers. They've come a loooong way since I was a baby, and even a long way in the past few years, so if you're first reaction is "Eeeeuuuwwww, why would you do that to yourself?" then read on. And definitely read on if you have or intend to have a baby and would consider the fun and thrift of cloth diapering.

About midway through pregnancy, I starting considering cloth and researched like CRAZY, often spending way too much time Googling and seeking out information on how this works, what you need to do it, etc. I posted inquiries on internet forums, I emailed everyone I know who uses or has used cloth diapers to get their input. Everyone told me something slightly different, but the recurring theme was that it's good to try different things and see what works for your baby.

I've been slowly accumulating my stash since October-ish, and now that I feel pretty set, Lily is outgrowing her smallest diapers. The adventure continues!

For now, this is what I have. Category #1 is relatively inexpensive basics:

  • 12 Unbleached Chinese Prefold Diapers. These are diaper service quality diapers, so they hold a lot more than the package of Gerber diapers found on the bottom shelf at Target. They are inexpensive and useful for when we're just hanging around the house, so I consider them the rice in the greater diaper dish.
  • 3 Thirsties Duo Wrap covers. All three are size one, but as Lily is quite long for her age and weight, I will need to get the larger size soon. I usually just lay a folded prefold in the cover then put it on her. The wrap keeps the diaper in place; no pins required! The velcro enclosure and double leg gussets ensures no leaks. Really, even big poops and heavy wets never, ever leave this cover. The same cannot be said for most disposables we've used. I have found that I'll probably want more than three in the next size.
  • 1 Kissaluvs Contour diaper. I don't love this one, which is why I haven't bought any more. It may need still a few more washings to get to full absorbency, but it doesn't seem to hold a lot and the contour shape is kind of unnecessary and just makes it harder to put on.
  • 3 Snappis diaper fasteners. I just bought these last week, and don't need them much since the covers hold the prefolds, but they work well with the contour. And it's nice to have them on hand when they're called for. Putting on a prefold with a Snappi under the cover ensures the cover will not get soiled, but it adds a complicated step to the diapering process, especially now that Lily immediately thrashes her legs joyously as soon as she's un-diapered. We may need them when she becomes more mobile; we shall see.
Category #2 is Pocket Diapers. Pockets are great but closer to the expensive end of the spectrum. They consist of a PUL shell sewn onto some kind of moisture-wicking fabric that goes against baby's skin. It is then stuffed with some sort of absorbent liner, usually microfiber. Pockets are fairly versatile in that you can add a doubler easily to increase absorbency and the fact that you can unstuff it for laundering means it dries relatively quickly. However, unlike prefolds and covers, the entire diaper is done once soiled--there's no reusing the cover. But pockets are very Daddy- and babysitter-friendly and way easy to use. Here's our stash:

  • 3 bum Genius 3.0 pocket diapers. These are our favorite pockets. They can get completely soaked and never leak. They are easy to use and fit just like disposables, only better. And they are one size, which means Lily can wear the same diapers through toddlerhood, thanks to easy snap-down sizing.
  • 3 Happy Heinys one-size pocket diapers. (Link goes to snaps, we have velcro.) These were a gift and are almost as good as the bum Genius. The velcro is a little harder to get just right and the laundry tabs don't work very well, leading to a chain of diapers in the dryer. I'm very glad to have these, though.
  • 4 Fuzzi Bunz size small pocket diapers. These were another gift and I like them. Lily will outgrow them soon, though, and I don't think I'll replace them with a bigger size. They are the only cloth diapers she's blown out of more than once, and I think it's because it's difficult to get that perfect fit with the snaps. Snaps will last longer than velcro at the cost of good fit, unfortunately.
Category #3 is fancy primo diapers:

  • 1 bum Genius size medium All-in-One diaper. Just like the pocket only sized and the absorbent part is sewn into the diaper. There's still a pocket for adding absorbency. I got this diaper for free with a coupon. I love the color, but my only experience so far is that it takes FOREVER to dry. I put it on Lily for the first time this morning and she immediately pooped in it. So... I think she likes it!
  • 1 Flip diaper with stay-dry liner. I love the idea of Flip, a system that's essentially all-in-two. It's from the makers of bum Genius, so the moisture wicking is great. However, the cover leaves much to be desired and the more I use it, the less I like it. The liner tends to slide around in the cover. Poops inevitably get all over the cover, so I have to wash it too often for my taste.
  • 3 Gro Baby one size diaper system. We also have two extra 2-packs of liners and one extra package of two boosters for extra absorbency. So that's three shells, 5 boosters and 7 liners. We LOVE Gro Baby. They have never, ever leaked or blown out. The aplix allows for a perfect, unique fit. The liners soak up a lot and snap into the shells. If they get wet or soiled, you can remove them and reuse the shell. So easy and the best of everything when comparing prefolds, all-in-ones and pockets. If we wanted to, we could get disposable liners for the shells, but I don't see the point. I would never compost my diapers, and regular 'sposies are cheaper. But it's a great system, and all future additions to the stash will most likely be Gro Baby. It's more expensive than Flip, but it's a better system overall.
And that's the stash for a total of 32 diapers. Next up: accessories and laundering!

Monday, April 5, 2010


Hello, blog! I've taken a three-month maternity leave from you. I'm back, but as always, I can't make promises as to my future commitment to this blog.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! That means Holy Week is over, and boy am I ready for a break.

Our Easter Lily baby will be three months old this Thursday. She's more like a baby and less like a newborn every day, and that's just delightful. I had to play single mom last week. Erich was out of town from Monday morning to Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, this trip coincided with a bad virus I was fighting, so that made the single parenthood that much harder.

Lily is totally breastfed, so every time I knew I was going to be away from her, I had to pump some milk for her. Monday morning I pumped, and Monday evening I left her with my sister-in-law/next door neighbor while I rehearsed the bell choir at church. I returned to her crying for food--the milk I left was only just enough.

Tuesday I decided to hang out at my parents' house. That usually happens about once a week. Getting out of the house to get extra help with Lily is essential to my sanity. My mom and I went to Target to get some necessary items, but we couldn't get them all because my malaise required rest. Oh, and Lily absolutely refused to nap. She wasn't particularly fussy, just wakeful.

And see, at this point, I was only trying to get to Thursday when Erich would be home! Wednesday brought new challenges. I had to make sure I had enough milk to leave with SIL/neighbor for choir rehearsal that night--the Holy Week Mega-Rehearsal. My mom was nice enough to come over beforehand to make dinner, and we ate with brother, SIL, and niece. Then we were off to the rehearsal scheduled from 7-9, but for me actually went till a little after 10. Hey, it's Holy Week! I rushed home to my baby, who, unaware of my exhaustion, continued to stay awake until 2ish, as is her habit.

I really don't know how single moms do it.

Thursday I counted down the hours and Erich finally came home about 3pm. I got some laundry and cleaning done and then we went to church. I was the official director of the choir, the women of the church adult choir. We warmed up then had a little bit of time before the service so I could pump. I helped wrangle the baby as much as I could in between leading the liturgy. After church back at home, I had to practice organ. Luckily, we happen to be housing a pretty nice electronic organ at our house until the church can use it. Erich watched Lily and TV while I practiced for Good Friday.

On Friday, I had to practice at church. I took Lily with me and got there around noon. All that listening to organ music in the womb must have done her well because even though she was awake, she listened patiently while I practiced. She was done about the time I was done, so I took her to my parents' house. I watched her there until it was time to go play for the 4:00 service. I pumped during the sermon. I met Erich back at my parents' house afterward and ate my dad's fried shrimp in between feeding the baby. It was back to church at 6:30 to warm up with the choir for the Tenebrae service. Lily did pretty well. My mom held her while Erich and I led the litany. When the lights went out at the sanctuary was all dark, Lily started squawking. Such a baby, afraid of the dark! So Erich took her out and all was well.

Saturday I got to practice organ at church sans Lily, but not before I fed her! We were back at church again at 6:30 so I could warm up the bell choir, assign percussion parts for The Song of the Three Young Men, and rehearse other liturgical enhancements. After The First Song of Isaiah as the Vigil started, Lily was hungry and I had a long stretch of time when I wasn't directly needed, so I fed her. I snuck back into church in time for "All You Works of God, Bless the Lord." After the baptisms and confirmations, I played organ for the rest of the service. We were done around 9, and I was hungry! We wanted to stop for Mexican, so we got Lily in the carseat and left. She got hungry and very distressed in the car, however, so we had to stop on the way so I could feed her in a parking lot. It was Mexican or bust, so we continued on our way and I was able to eat at home before she needed my attention again. We got to bed late, as usual.

I opted out of the sunrise service. It's just too hard. Erich left at six to play trumpet. I got up, got Lily up around seven (ouch. It goes against the grain to wake up a baby who would have easily slept two more hours.) and got to church at 7:45. I grabbed a quick youth group-sponsored breakfast then left Lily with Erich while I went to warm up with the choir. I had to leave that early to make sure Erich was properly outfitted with baby supplies. Then I discovered I had ten minutes before the 8:30 service started, so I went to discreetly pump in the sacristy. Thankfully the pastor didn't mind. ("Everyone needs their Easter breakfast!") Lily slept through that service, which ended at 9:50. I changed her diaper before the 10:00 service then handed her off to SIL, who gave her the bottle I had pumped earlier.

The choir sang the preservice music and had a prelude after the confession and absolution. Lily quickly finished her bottle and squawked for more. I looked in the bulletin and saw that after the prelude, there was the processional hymn, Kyrie, festival canticle, collect of the day, Old Testament reading... and THEN the big 6-part choral gradual that I couldn't miss. I decided to skip the prelude and whisked Lily to the nursery. She fed in an unhurried manner and was happy. I got her back into church, casually slipped my choir robe back on and was zipping it up as the choir moved into position for the gradual. Smooth!

The choir was done before the sermon, so I took two trips in and out of church to take out the baby and her accompanying supplies. And after that whirlwind weekend, I was done and home by 11am. Erich, who had finished out the rest of the service on trumpet, joined me soon afterward. We were at my parents' house and relaxing by 1pm. And then, I stopped living one hour at a time and realized I worked my tail off in a totally different way from most years. Erich and I couldn't have done it without help, particularly from mom and SIL.

So this post may not be that interesting, but some day I'm going to forget what it was like to tackle Holy Week as a church musician and nursing mother to an almost three-month-old. And then I'll reread this and be like, "Oh yeah. I don't remember that."