A crunchy minimalist’s guide to baby stuff – Part Two

Read Part One here

6-12 Months

Pack N Play: As much as we loved co-sleeping when Cedar was little, by the time he was about seven or eight months old, we ended up having to move him out of our bed and into his own bed in our library/guest room/office.  As he got older, he turned out to be a very light sleeper who would wake up and cry many times a night, stirred out of his slumber by Daddy or Mommy turning over in their sleep or something similar.  At first we had him in a crib that Aaron’s parents loaned us, but it was very large and bulky for our small house.  Also, and most importantly, the room where Cedar sleeps is also the guest room so whenever we would have overnight company, Aaron would have to completely take apart the crib in order to move it into our room for a night or two.  Not fun!  So we decided to just buy a Pack N Play (or playpen or playard or whatever you want to call them!), knowing that it would be much more suited to the size of our little house, it would be insanely easier to transport from room to room, and we could easily bring it along when we traveled.  Trying to find just a simple one without an attached bassinnet, or changing table, or Taj Mahal, proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be, but I finally ended up finding one.  Because it was going to be Cedar’s bed, we bought a mattress to put in it, but I don’t think we’ll bring that along when we travel.  Small, simple…and it works!  Though we’re still working on waking up several times a night, as a general thing we’re all getting much more sleep than we used to…YAY!

Sleep sack: Before Cedar was born, we were given an organic merino wool Disana sleep sack from some dear friends in New Zealand.  I was so excited to get it as I had seen the one that they had and loved the idea for whenever I would get married and have babies.  But when Cedar slept with us, he stayed very toasty from my body heat and our cozy down duvet, so the first time we used the sleep sack was when we went camping when he was about five or six months old.  It worked splendidly and he looked so cute!  We pulled it out again after he started sleeping in his Pack N Play and we never could keep his blankets on him.  The sleep sack was the perfect answer!  Not only did the layer of thick, cozy wool stay on him no matter how much he moved, on cold nights it helped (some) to keep his other blankets on him.  And contrary to popular belief, not all wool is itchy and merino wool is the softest, so he can just wear a long-sleeved onesie underneath the sleep sack.  Because of their ingenuity, sleep sacks in general are pretty popular baby items, but many of them are made of fleece.  I love fleece for certain things, but am not a fan of it for sleepwear as it doesn’t breathe and the baby can more easily overheat while sleeping.  Wool, on the other hand, helps to regulate your body temperature.

Potty seat: At some point I’m hoping to do an entire post on our experience with infant potty training, but for now, I’ll just mention something that made it much easier…Cedar’s potty seat.  We started potty-training Cedar when he was about six months old (kind of late for infant potty training) and having a potty seat to set his chubby bulk on instead of trying to balance him on the normal toilet seat was a life-saver!

“Real Food for Mother and Baby”: This is something else that I’m definitely planning on doing a separate post on so I’ll save most of my gushings for then.  Suffice to say, Nina Planck’s book Real Food for Mother and Baby is one of the best baby books I have ever read!  It was so helpful and reassuring when I was starting Cedar on solids.  And it made it all so simple…just feed your baby real food.  I recommend it to any mother!

Mesh feeder: When Cedar was around five months old, he started to really want to eat what we were eating.   However, he had no teeth yet so I was wary of giving him stuff that was too chunky since he didn’t really have any of way making the chunks smaller and more swallowable.  Enter the mesh feeder.  Fill the mesh bag with food of choice (we usually used fruit since it was easy for him to gum enough to make it come through the mesh…sometimes we put a piece of steak in there, he loved sucking all the juice and flavour out of it!).  Attach to handle.  Give to baby to enjoy gnawing on and banging on the table.  Whoever invented these is a genius!

Sippy cup: I have never liked sippy cups.  I’ve been to too many houses where they are everywhere, and I’ve seen too many kids so attached to them that they can’t drink out of a real cup.  I was determined that would not be my house and those would not be my kids.  But then, real life happened, and I discovered that maybe sippy cups do have their place.  Ever since he was four or five months old, Cedar has been able to drink out of my Nalgene and any normal cup (most babies can drink out of a cup from birth, we just didn’t try it with him earlier).  When he was nursing exclusively, that’s where he got his occasional novel sip of water.  But when he started eating more solids and not nursing very well when we were out (too much exciting stuff to look at), I wanted to make sure that he was getting enough fluids, especially in our hot California summers.  He could drink out of my Nalgene if he needed to, but that was slow and often too time-consuming for him to be interested long enough to get enough water.  And that’s when I broke down and decided to buy a sippy cup!  And mostly due to the fact that most of the sippy cups on Amazon won’t let you choose your colour, and I read too many reviews saying that people ended up with a pink one…this is the one we got (and it’s BPA- and phthalate-free…a definite must for something that Cedar would have in his mouth often!).  And it has worked great the last several months…and I’m now convinced that sippy cups do have their place – in moderation.

Bumkins SuperBibs: These were a recent discovery for us…and one that I wish I had found several months ago.  From gifts and random ones that came with clothing, Cedar had quite the collection of small to medium-sized cloth bibs.  They worked okay, but especially as he began to eat more and more solids, they just weren’t covering enough and I often would have to change his shirt or onesie after a meal even if he had had a bib on!  So I browsed some of my favourite online baby stores (i.e. the ones that sell cloth diapers) and found Bumkins SuperBibs.  Wipeable, washable, covered the entire front of the baby including their shoulders…sounded perfect.  So I ordered some from Amazon and quickly saw just how super they really are…we love them!

Well, that about sums it up…I keep trying to rack my brain to see if I’m forgetting anything, but I guess if I don’t think of it right away, it’s not that important in the long run!

A crunchy minimalist’s guide to baby stuff:
Part One: 0-6 Months
Part Three: An Addendum
Part Four: An Addendum to the Addendum
Part Five: The Boba Baby Carrier
Part Six: The Travel Edition 

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A crunchy minimalist’s guide to baby stuff – Part One

I know that I’ve only been a mama for about ten months, so that doesn’t really qualify me as being an expert in what is necessary for a baby.  However, as I start thinking of preparing for this new little one, I’ve mentally gone over what I was glad I bought (or was given), what I wished I bought (which wasn’t really much) and what turned out to be unnecessary.  I thought I’d compile it all here for anyone who cares to know…and then, if any more friends ask me what I consider essential baby stuff, I can point them to this post and the following one (Part One is about stuff for babies age 0 to 6 months, and Part Two is for ages 6 to 12 months).

As the title indicates, I’m very much a minimalist and have a rather crunchy bent.  So if you’re looking for recommendations on baby swings and playmats (is that what those are called?) and other such paraphernalia, I have no experience with any of that stuff.  I’m not fundamentally against any of that, it just isn’t my style.

0-6 Months

Cloth diapers – When I was pregnant with Cedar, I spent a lot of my down time researching all the different kinds of cloth diapers…I was blown away by how many choices there are!  After thinking about it a lot, and trying to find the balance between simplicity, price and ease of use, I decided to go with Snappied prefolds covered by Thirsties Duos covers.  Prefolds are pretty basic as cloth diapers go and their uses outside of being diapers are endless (they make great nighttime nursing pads for the first couple  weeks, or months, after your milk comes in).  Though I was originally going to go with another diaper cover, I’m so glad we decided to use Duos!  They are a two-sized system (meaning you only have to buy two sizes to last you from birth to toddlerhood) which makes them a lot more economical than a lot of other covers which you end up having to buy three or four sizes by the time your baby is out of diapers.

Though I’m sure there are amazing cloth diaper mamas who can pull it off, I find it rather hard to Snappi a prefold on a baby in the front seat of the car, so we use GroBaby (now GroVia) one-size shells and snap-in soakers when we’re out and about and those work great.  I don’t think they’ll fit Cedar as long as the Size Two Duos will, but they work for now.  We used to use FuzziBunz one-size pocket diapers for nighttime, but lately Cedar has been having issues with raw spots, so we switched our nighttime diaper to a stay-dry doubler in the prefold/Duo combination and it’s been working great!

(June 2011 note: My diapering system has changed somewhat…a more updated explanation is found here.)

Wrap carrier – If I had to choose just one baby item to have (outside of clothes and diapers), it would be a wrap baby carrier.  Pretty much anything else I could make do without, but I found this indispensable with Cedar and I’m guessing it’ll be even more important with the second baby.  The first few months of Cedar’s life, he hated not being held and since I couldn’t sit and hold him all day, I wore him all day.  Wearing him was pretty much the only way I got anything done the first couple months of Cedar’s life.  We started out with a Sleepy Wrap (now called the Boba Wrap), a stretchy wrap carrier, which worked great when he was little.  However, after he was about four or five months old, he got really heavy to wear in a stretchy wrap and so big that it was hard to do much with him strapped to my front (back carries are not considered safe when done with a stretchy wrap).  After a while, we bought a Wrapsody Bali Breeze Freya wrap, a gauze wrap.  This worked great this past summer…it was much lighter than the Sleepy Wrap so therefore worked well with the intense heat of our central California summers, and since it was a gauze wrap and not stretchy, I could do back carries with it.  The Bali Breeze is a thinner wrap and therefore can get kind of “diggy” after long periods of carrying a 20+ lb. little boy in it.  As such, we recently got a Girasol Big Sur, a true woven wrap…and since it’s finally cooled down some, I’ve been able to try it a couple times and it works great!  Its thickness makes it a lot more comfortable to wear for long periods of time and it’s very supportive.

Aden + Anais muslin swaddling blankets: I don’t know where I first heard of Aden + Anais blankets, but I’m so glad that I did!  They sounded great, but I wasn’t sure if they were worth it since they’re kind of spendy for a baby blanket (at the time they were $44 for a package of four).  However, I decided to make them my one baby splurge and they’ve been used every day since Cedar was born…definitely worth every penny!  They’re amazing baby blankets…they’re originally intended for swaddling (and we used them for that all the time when Cedar was really little), but we use them for so much more. They’re quite large (four feet by four feet) so I love using them as nursing covers since they actually cover (and the material is very light and breathable). They’re also really absorbent so we used them to mop up spit-up all the time. And folded into fourths they make a great light blanket for when he’s napping. And now that he’s older, he loves to chew on them (especially the tags!) and doesn’t go to sleep without one.  We’re definitely planning on buying a set for the new baby as Cedar is quite attached to his and with two little ones, it’ll be good to have a couple extra.  I think you can order them through their web-site, but I ended up getting mine through Amazon since they were a tad bit cheaper…but looking at Amazon now, most of them are quite a bit cheaper and they have big selection of prints.

Bed-rail: After deciding that Cedar would sleep with us when he was little, I really wanted to get a bed rail.  My midwife said that Cedar should sleep between Aaron and I, but I wanted to be the one that got to sleep next to Aaron and in order to have Cedar on one side and me in the middle, we needed something that would keep him on the bed. We ended up getting this bed rail…and we loved it!  After looking at a bunch of other bed rails, I really liked that this one not only secured itself to the bed on the bottom of the mattress, but also on the top, so that way you don’t have to stuff towels and such in the crack between the bed rail and the mattress.  And we ended up being able to take it with us when we went traveling…just take it off the bed and attach it to whatever bed you’re staying in.  It’s sort of bulky to tote around, but not any more so than a playpen or something else for the baby to sleep in.

Convertible car seat: A car seat is an obvious baby thing to buy…and I’m not going to say much about ours, just that I’m so glad we got a convertible car seat.  A convertible car seat is a seat that can be used from infancy until booster seat age which means that you no longer need an infant car seat carrier.  We like this because 1) it’s cheaper and less stuff, and 2) both Aaron and I hate infant car seat carriers (and with a wrap, you don’t really need one!).

Backpack: One of Aaron’s mom’s sisters gave us her baby backpack (REI Piggyback) that she used with her son when he was little and we’ve found it really helpful for hiking and such, especially when it started to get warmer here…hiking on a warm day with a warm baby strapped to you in a wrap can be kind of sweltering!  And Aaron is much more comfortable wearing Cedar on his back than his front since he’s used to wearing backpacks.  I don’t know how much they cost, but if people want baby gift ideas, a couple different people could go in on it together.

Jogging stroller:  As a babywearing mama, at first I didn’t really want to have a stroller of any kind.  But then, my mother-in-law reminded me that a jogging stroller would probably come in handy as the baby got older and heavier and it got hotter here in central CA (i.e. you wouldn’t really want to strap a warm baby to you in the summer)…and she was right!  Several women went it together and got us this jogging stroller and it has been great to have in several situations.  As it warmed up, it was nice to put a quickly-growing-heavier Cedar in his stroller and take a walk.  And also, since our “yard” right now is just an expanse of dirt and rock, being able to put him in the stroller and let him sit and watch us work in the garden was very nice.  So it’s definitely not a necessity, but something that is very nice to have.

Well, that about sums it up for the stuff I think is “needed” for an infant.  Like I heard someone once say, pretty much all a baby needs is summed up in MOM, and that’s so true!  However, there are things that are very helpful to have around.

A crunchy minimalist’s guide to baby stuff:
Part Two: 6-12 Months
Part Three: An Addendum
Part Four: An Addendum to the Addendum
Part Five: The Boba Baby Carrier
Part Six: The Travel Edition 

From the archives: Where Edmund was looking

originally posted September 21st, 2008

“‘You have a traitor there, Aslan,’ said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking of himself after all that he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.”
~C.S. Lewis; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I’m guessing that many of the readers here have read The Chronicles of Narnia and therefore know the context of this quote. The White Witch comes to demand Edmund’s life from Aslan. As stated, Edmund is a traitor and as such, by rights, his blood belongs to the Witch. The night before the Witch’s audience with Aslan, Edmund had been rescued from almost being murdered by the Witch, and that morning had a conversation with Aslan that “no one ever heard…[but] Edmund never forgot”.

When I first really read the above quote, I was just dumbfounded by the parallels between what Edmund did and what I often fail to do. I sin…again and again and again…and I beat myself up for it, basically not accepting grace. I listen to the lies…and I also listen to what would be the truth if I didn’t have Jesus’ righteousness covering me.  Yes, I am a traitor, of the worst kind, but that sin, and all the other ones as well, has been washed away and I am clean.  But when I listen to “the Witch”, it takes my eyes off of Jesus and what He has done for me.  However, if I keep looking to Him and not thinking of myself anymore, then it doesn’t really matter what “the Witch” says…I know what Jesus has said…and that’s enough.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~1 John 1:9

The birth story of Cedar Milan

I originally typed this up at my midwife, Marilyn’s, request, to be put on her website, but, not much to my surprise after I saw the finished length, it’s too long!  So, with my wonderful husband’s help, I’m going to work on editing it and whittling it down a bit (or a lot!).  However, I thought I’d post the original here for those of you (like me) who love birth stories.  Those of you who read my post “When His grace was enough” might notice that I copied and pasted some bits near the end from that post…but considering that I wrote that too, I figured it’s not really plagiarism!

On the morning of December 19th, 2009, I woke up much earlier than I wanted to.  Around 5:30 or so, I was awakened by some strange hip pain.  At first I attributed this to sleeping in some weird position somehow comfortable to my eight-months-pregnant self, but after awhile I realised that the pain was coming in waves, accompanied by lower back pain of a similar nature.  I remembered one of my friends telling me that she felt a lot of her contractions in her hips when she was in labour, and as I could feel my uterus contracting, I concluded I must be having some false labour.  False because it was still four weeks until my due date, and with all of the contractions, I could feel that the top of my uterus was still soft, and as such I concluded that my entire uterus wasn’t contracting and therefore wasn’t “doing anything”.  Reassured, I tried to fall back asleep, but could only doze off and on from the pain.

My husband, Aaron, and I got up about an hour later with a dilemma on our hands.  That day was the day of the annual progressive Christmas dinner that Aaron’s family and some of his relatives put on.  We had been preparing for it for awhile, but it was in San Jose, three hours away, and we would be gone all of a very long day.  I was still having a lot of contractions and didn’t relish the thought of a three-hour car ride and then trying to be social.  After much discussion, we decided we would stay home…we were disappointed to miss it, but knew it was the right decision.  After sending our gifts and homemade baklava Christmas plates with Aaron’s family, I headed back to bed, hoping that the contractions would stop.

The contractions continued off and on all morning.  We called Marilyn, who was several hours away at a family function, and she recommended soaking in a warm bath to try to stop them.  The travel trailer that we were living in while Aaron was building our house had a tiny tub and only a six gallon water heater, so we headed up to Aaron’s parents’ house, right next door.  His parents have a soaker tub, so I tried that for awhile, and though it seemed to slow the contractions some, I couldn’t get comfortable.

Throughout the day, we tried that and other methods that Marilyn recommended to us to stop the contractions, but they kept coming back and getting more frequent and more intense (both in length and in pain level).  Marilyn got back from her family function late that night and came over at around 11:30 to check me.  I was already dilated five centimeters.  She finished checking me and then looked at me and said “You’re going to have your baby tonight!”.  I was shocked.  Tonight?!  But…but…I still have four weeks to go!  She seemed calm about it all so I took my cue from her and we started figuring out what needed to be done.

We had planned on having a water birth in our almost-finished new house…Aaron had bought all the bathroom fixtures the day before.  However, with this new development of the baby coming four weeks early, we needed to move to Plan B, Aaron’s parents’ guest room.  His family had gotten back from San Jose about a half hour before so we called them and told them the situation.  We gathered together the birthing kit, sheets, etc. from the trailer and headed up to Aaron’s parents’ house.  Most of Aaron’s siblings (he’s the oldest of eight) were already asleep, but two of his sisters were up along with his parents.  While everyone else set up the guest room and guest bathroom, I paced the living room through my contractions.  It felt so good to be walking!  I had been lying down most of the day in an effort to stop the contractions, but now I finally had the go-ahead to move around and since that helped the pain, I moved!

After about a half an hour or so, the contractions were getting so strong that I didn’t want to move around anymore.  I came into the guest room and lay on my side on the bed, watching Aaron set up the birthing pool (an inflatable kiddie pool that we had bought online).  Marilyn was concerned that we wouldn’t get the pool filled in time, but they did and I was able to get into it when I was around eight centimeters or so.

The pool was such a relief!  I lay back, slightly reclined, with Aaron kneeling behind me outside the pool.  After awhile, I started to get really hot so he would fan me with a wet washcloth and then lay the cooled cloth on my head….it helped.   I started feeling the urge to push, but even though I was almost completely dilated, there was still a lip of cervix in the way.  It wasn’t moving, but then Marilyn (or her assistant, Jenny…I can’t remember who) held it out of the way while I pushed a couple times – pretty much the most uncomfortable thing ever! – and we were good to go.

I had thought that once the baby crowned, you just had to push a couple more times and he would be out.  Well, that was definitely not the case!   According to Marilyn, my pushing labour really wasn’t that long compared to most women’s, but it seemed to take forever.  At one point, I started to feel light-headed and then someone got me a paper bag to breathe into for awhile and that helped some.  Once the baby had crowned, I was so thankful to be in the water as it helped immensely to be able to just float in between contractions, instead of feeling like my weight was pressing on the baby’s head.

Marilyn kept monitoring the baby’s heartbeat every other contraction and at one point, when the baby was almost out, it dropped and as she felt my pushes weren’t going to get the baby out fast enough, she helped by easing his head out.  Once his head was out, one more push got the rest of him out…the strangest feeling!  Marilyn drew him up out of the water and put him on my chest and it was one of the most amazing moments of my life.  He was a little limp, but after several seconds, his tiny limbs start squirming and he let out a few lusty cries. It was 3:16 A.M., December 20th, 2009.

We moved to the bed to deliver the placenta, but it ended up coming out as I was standing up in the water.  Marilyn kept monitoring him, and after a couple minutes was concerned that he didn’t seem to be breathing very well.  After the first few loud cries, he was just whimpering and it kept sounding like he was trying to catch his breath and couldn’t.  Marilyn called the doctor she works with, asked his opinion and they decided our little boy needed to be taken to the local children’s hospital.  The ambulance was on its way.

While we waited, I held my little one close, bundled in blankets and holding an oxygen mask to his face, only taking it away to suction his nose and mouth every so often.  We announced his name, Cedar Milan, to Aaron’s family who was waiting with us.

When the ambulance finally came, they worked on Cedar on the dining room table, inserting an IV into the back of his tiny hand.  We weren’t allowed to come in the ambulance with him, so I kissed him and told him I loved him and then…they took my baby and I didn’t know if he would live until I saw him again.

Due to certain NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) policies, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to see Cedar until a couple hours after he had gotten to the hospital, so after the ambulance left, we stayed at the house for about an hour.  We had hopes of possibly catching up a little on some of the sleep we had lost the night before, but I wasn’t able to sleep at all so I just rested on the couch and I think Aaron caught a couple minutes lying on the floor.

We left for the hospital early that morning, and amazingly enough, I had lots of energy and chatted away with Aaron and his mom, going over all the details of the birth.  Now, I wonder if I appeared unfeeling, but I actually think it was the Lord’s grace upholding me at that time.  If the enormity of what was going on had actually sunk in at the time, I don’t know if I would have been able to hold it together and deal with all that we had to.

We spent the day at the hospital, mostly in the NICU waiting room, trying to doze on the slippery couches, and walking gingerly (on my part anyway) down white corridors whenever we were allowed to see Cedar.  He was doing better than they originally thought he would, and he continued to improve all day, but it still was my baby who was under all those tubes and wires.  Before giving birth, I had daydreamed often of how wonderful it would be to cuddle my little one against me after the excitement of his arrival died down.  Now, all I could do was put my hand through the hole in his isolette and stroke his downy head, watching the fragile up-and-down of his little chest.  Yet again, in all this, there was peace and a strength that could only come from the One who had formed every part of my son when he was hidden inside me.

The hardest part of it all came that evening, when we had to drive home for the night, an hour away from our little boy who wasn’t even a day old.  People near the hospital offered their homes to us, but we had to go and pull together things we would need when we came back the next morning.  We were hoping then to be able to stay at the hospital until Cedar was released, which, we were told, could be anywhere from one to two weeks, at the least, five days.  We knew we needed to go, but the doctors had told us that the turning point would come when he was around 24 or so hours old…that night…and there was nothing we could do.  So we went home, knowing the best we could do for our son was to be ready for whatever would face us the next day.

I remember many tears in the car that night.  Aaron and I held each other and sobbed before we pulled out, and I broke down a few more times on the drive home.  We didn’t know what the morning would hold.

But…there was grace.  Grace for both of us to be able to sleep soundly that night and awaken to hear that Cedar was doing much better in the morning.  Grace for the next four days (much less time than the doctors had originally told us) that we spent in a room in the NICU, trying to catch snatches of rest amidst constant beepings and babies crying and trying to get our little one to eat enough so we could leave.  Grace for when Cedar had to spend a day and night under the bilirubin lights and all we could do to calm him was briefly cover him with our hands.  Grace for the days finally at home, but wondering if his jaundice would ever get better.  Grace for all his problems with learning to nurse and wondering if he’ll gain weight as he should.

And gain weight he did…with a vengeance!  And despite our initial troubles with nursing, he’s now a very chubby little baby boy who loves to eat.  And it constantly amazes me to think how far our loving Father has brought him…and will continue to.

“Green”?!

I find the recent trend toward “going green” rather interesting.  It’s now considered hip to bring your own reusable grocery bags to stores, with the assumption that you’re doing so “to help Mother Earth”.  With any move toward using reusable products, cutting down on your plastic consumption, etc. it is taken for granted that you’re doing this in order to move toward having a better planet.  Well, this may be the case for some or most people, but definitely not for all.

I recently read an exchange in a natural parenting magazine about cloth diapers.  The person writing in assumed that the only reason you would use cloth diapers was because of the environmental impact of disposable diapers.  As such, if you used cloth diapers, you needed to consider the landfill capacities in your area, you needed to look at your diaper washing routine and make sure that you weren’t using too much water, etc.  I really appreciated the response the magazine made to this person.  They brought up the fact that, regardless of the local environmental impact, cloth diapers are always better for the baby so therefore they shouldn’t be written off just because they supposedly might be worse for your local environment than disposables (i.e. if you live in CA where there is a limited water supply).  This is so true!  The main reason that we use cloth diapers is because I really hate the idea of my baby sitting in chemicals for the first year or so of his life.  That and, in the long run, they end up saving you a lot of money. The fact that they may be better for the environment is a nice plus, but honestly it was not a deciding factor in our decision.

A good portion of the blogs I subscribe to with my Google Reader deal with some form of natural living.  Natural eating, natural parenting, etc.  And every several weeks, on one blog or another, there’s bound to be a post along the lines of “10 Easy Steps for Going Green” or “Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Consumption”.  I read these with interest, but find that most times, I’m already doing a lot of the things they mention.  Granted, we haven’t started using reusable toilet paper yet, but many of the other ideas brought up are already going on in our household.  I’m not saying this so that we get the “Greenest House Award” or anything of the sort, but already practicing some of these “green” ideas, make me surprised that it’s somehow considered such a big sacrifice to do these things.  And again, it’s assumed that the only reason you would practice such things would be to decrease your carbon footprint or something similar.  That’s not the case with us.

It frustrates me to hear examples where it is assumed that there will be a lot of hassle accompanying implementing decisions to do things like get rid of paper products (napkins, paper towels, etc.) or transition from disposable to cloth diapers.  Because the truth is…it’s really not that hard!  Granted, in a larger household than ours, you’ll need more cloth rags and such, but it doesn’t mean that your house is constantly cluttered with rags and towels and such.  For me, one of the main factors in our decision to get rid of most disposable products and use cloth whenever possible was the simplicity.  It doesn’t have to be complicated at all.  Some examples…

Napkins: After we were married, we went to World Market and for $20 bought two sets of six large cotton napkins, a green set and a brown set.  We have used these pretty much every day since we bought them and have been so happy with them.  The differing colours help when we have guests over for more than one meal – each family is allotted a colour so there’s not as much confusion about who used which napkin last.  When dirtied, these napkins get tossed in with our regular laundry.

Kitchen towels: In our kitchen we have four sets of a dishcloth, a dish-drying towel and a kitchen hand towel that get changed every couple days.  These towels, especially the hand towel, are occasionally used to wipe up spills, etc. and can be changed out whenever they need to be.  Along with these towels, we have five tea towels that I use in place of plastic wrap for things like covering half-finished pies sitting on the counter or (dampened) putting over a bowl of rising bread dough.  Whenever any of these towels are dirtied, they’re just tossed in the hamper and washed with our regular laundry.

Cleaning rags: Under our bathroom sink, we have a stack of old hand towels and worn-out washcloths/dishcloths.  The larger rags are used for wiping up spills and the smaller rags are used for cleaning the bathroom, spot cleaning the floor, pretty much anything you can think of.  When dirtied, they’re tossed in the diaper hamper and washed with the diapers every three days.

Wipes: Using cloth wipes was pretty much a given when we decided to use cloth diapers.  We bought 24 bamboo terry wipes (the size and thickness of baby washcloths) and have used them for so many things.  Obviously, they’re used with the diapers, but we also use them to wipe Cedar down after meals, wipe the floor under his high chair, etc.  In the diaper basket, next to the dry wipes, we have a quart glass jar that we keep filled with water and a squirt of Baby Bee Shampoo.  When needed, grab a dry wipe, dunk it in the water, wring it out and you’re good to go.  These are washed with the diapers.

Diapers: In our bedroom, on the opposite side of the dresser from the clothes hamper, we have a plastic, lidded trash can that is lined with a nylon laundry bag.  Into this are tossed dirty cloth diapers, wipes and rags.  The lid and the clove oil we use for deodorising it keep most of the smell in.  Every three days, the contents of the bag are tossed into the washer for a cold wash (no detergent), and a hot wash with detergent.  With the exception of the covers and wet bags, the washed diapers go into the dryer to be fluffed (and then hung on the line) or completely dried, depending on how I feel that day.  This is the only “extra” load of wash that we do as a result of using cloth, everything else is washed with our normal laundry.

Pads: Using cloth menstrual pads is kind of considered quite “hard-core”, but for me, it was such a great decision.  I started using them after Cedar was born as postpartum pads and they worked wonderfully!  These too get washed with the cloth diapers, along with my cloth nursing pads.

A big help in using so many cloth products has been organization.  In my kitchen, there are five normal-sized drawers and most of these contain either towels or napkins.  The drawers aren’t stuffed full and everything is kept in neat stacks.  Rags are kept in a neatish stack under the bathroom sink.  Cloth wipes are kept in the diaper basket on the dresser.  The simplicity of this has been a great benefit when you quickly need a towel or rag.  Just open the drawer and grab it…you aren’t left rummaging through a toppling jumble of towels and rags.

This post may have been incredibly boring to a lot of you, but I hope that was helpful to some in showing how simple it can be to use cloth products. And just to clarify, if you don’t use cloth…that’s fine!  I don’t think you’re a horrible person or anything like that.  For our family, I found the simplicity and natural-ness of using cloth made it an easy choice for us, but for some people, that’s not the case.

And if you’re surprised that I could make such a long post out of talking about cloth…well, some of us just have talent like that – or not!

Not when you say “I do”

For us, thus far, October has been full of weddings.  In the past two weekends, we’ve had as many weddings, and while the two weddings couldn’t have been more different from each other, they’ve been filling my mind with thoughts of weddings and marriage and honeymoons and other such lovely things.  And very early this morning, when I was up nursing my little guy, I randomly started thinking of the wedding cards that we gave these two couples.

I really am not a fan of sappy wedding cards.  Judging from the selection at Hallmark, obviously lots of people love them and I’m happy for them, but I just don’t do all those paragraphs of sentiments that basically boil down to the fact that you hope they have a wonderful life together.  And due to that prejudice on my part, finding wedding cards to give to others is sometimes a rather hard job.  But several weeks ago, when shopping for cards for the two upcoming weddings, I came across the perfect one.  A simple front and all it said was “The moment you know you’re married is not when you say ‘I do’, but when you say ‘my husband’, ‘my wife’ and know that it’s gloriously true”.  I plucked two from the shelf and looked no further.

And in my sleepy state this morning, I realised how true that statement is, and in a way, how reassuring it is.  To know that if you don’t “feel married” right after you’re pronounced man and wife…that’s okay.  “Feeling married” will definitely come later.  For weeks after being married it thrilled me to call Aaron “my husband” and to hear him refer to me as “my wife”.  It still thrills me sometimes.

In so many ways, my wedding was all that I had dreamed of, if I had thought to dream of it.  As much as I wanted to get married, I wasn’t one of those girls who had her entire wedding planned out by the time she was 16.  Planning our wedding in three months, when during one of those months I was in Idaho (i.e. separated from Aaron and from the wedding location) was one of the most stressful things I had done up to that point.  However, I have an amazing family on both sides, and the wedding turned out wonderfully…as perfect as anything I could wish for.

But as perfect as it was, I spent most of the day in an unfeeling daze.  I know that sounds horrible since it was my wedding, but I was exhausted and to be honest, I think I was still somewhat in shock from being proposed to three months earlier.  Our courtship was such a whirlwind, and when we were married, Aaron and I had only known each other for seven months and two days.  As such, I still found myself often not being able to believe that this was me.

Aaron and I had decided to save our first kiss for the wedding.  I definitely don’t think that kissing before the wedding is a sin, it’s something that each couple needs to decide before God…but both of us felt that this is what we should do and we were very glad we decided to wait.  So, never having been kissed, I had heard all about how amazing first kisses were and to say that I was excited would have been a bit of an understatement.  However, I’ll be completely honest…I didn’t really feel anything the first time we kissed.  No electricity, no stars in my head.  And, that continued as we kissed for pictures and during the reception and such.  Now, that changed very quickly as soon as we left the crowds of people, but I remember thinking at some point during the meal, “Is this what kissing is going to be like for the rest of my life?”.  It was kind of a depressing thought.

Obviously, that isn’t at all what kissing has been like in the past year and a half that we have been married (and Aaron told me that he definitely felt something at our first kiss!), but I wish someone had told me that maybe my first kiss wouldn’t be so amazing.  Because then I would have known that was a possibility and wouldn’t have thought that what kissing was like in front of hundreds of people was what it was going to be like for the rest of my life.

And in my mind, this relates to the sentiment expressed on the wedding cards we bought.  Weddings are wonderful and all…but it’s perfectly normal to be in such a daze of tiredness and relief and I-can’t-believe-I’m-getting-married-ness that you don’t really feel much at all.  If you can move past all that and really feel every moment of your special day, that’s great…but if you can’t, don’t worry.  It gets much, much, MUCH better when you leave all the extra people behind and it’s just you two.

That’s why honeymoons are such wonderful things.