Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Conversion story

During my first pregnancy, my husband and I started spending a lot of time in the high-priced children's stores, more dreaming than shopping. I looked at the wooden toys, the patterned baby slings, the nursery decor, the Robeez booties... All the beautiful things I would buy if I had the money. (Many items did make it onto baby gift wish lists.)

During one such window-shopping trip, my husband got interested in a cloth diapering kit by Bummis. This one:

Cloth diapers? Really? That was not an option I had even been considering. I took a look at the kit, and gave it a, "Hmm. Interesting." and sort of hoped he wouldn't bring it up again. He did, but only to say it might be cheaper and maybe we should look into it. We didn't. At least, not for a while.

When Nik was born, we brought him home in disposables, and within a few weeks, we had our diapering product loyalties all figured out. Pampers Premium diapers, Huggies wipes. I loved the Swaddlers that Pampers made in their smallest two sizes. Other diapers were papery, and rough. Swaddlers were soft, almost... cloth-like. I was never enamoured with Cruisers though, although I still preferred them to every other brand I tried.

We played the disposable diaper game for over a year, complete with the coupon clipping, points collecting and diaper-chucking of all true diaper players. Every week we put another black garbage bag of stink at the curb for pickup. Even with our supposedly 'odorless' pail, Nik's room started to get that faint dirty diaper smell as we approached garbage day. With each box into the shopping cart, and each bag at the curb, I got more and more curious about the cloth diaper option that I had dismissed so out of hand.

Around the time Nik was 10 or 11 months, I started to meet moms online and IRL who were using cloth instead of disposables. Their diapers weren't the prefolds from the Bummis kit, though. And they weren't the raggedy cloth diapers that I had seen during my babysitting days, either. Their diapers were really quality items, dare I even say, cute! Still, I was hesitant. Nik was nearly a year old, and the cloth diapers I was coveting were expensive... Would it be worth it to switch this late in the game? I had so many doubts. I didn't know a thing about cloth diapering, and I already had the disposable routine down. What if I switched and hated it? I didn't even know where to go to buy cloth diapers. They don't exactly carry them at the grocery store.

Running to Internet research for help, I did find a local web store that sold a number of different styles and brands, but that didn't help much. I had thought the choice was between cloth and disposable. What I quickly learned was that 'cloth' isn't just one option. There are so many different styles of diapers, and different manufacturers, and even different accessories that you may or may not need, that even pricing out the differences in diapering costs for a year got very complicated, very fast. Then, when I started trying to figure out how to wash and dry them, and which detergent to use, I got so overwhelmed by conflicting advice that I let the whole thing drop. Disposables were doing the job. Why complicate things?

Another 3 or 4 weeks of putting that stinky bag of diapers out with the garbage pushed me over the edge, though. I logged on to the local web store I found, and just looked at what they carried. I decided an adjustable-size diaper would be most economical, so I settled on a pocket diaper with snaps, that you could size for babies 8-35 lbs. At the rate that I was changing diapers, I figured I would go through about 6-8 a day, so I wanted 24 diapers - enough so that I wouldn't be doing laundry every other day. And I did the math. The diapers, cloth wipes and detergent for a year came out to about $600. The disposables I had been using, plus wipes and garbage bags came out at over $700, even with the coupons I had been saving. I placed my web order, and we became a cloth diapering family when Nik was 13 months old.

I've never, ever regretted it. I used to switch to disposables for holidays, though, and have regretted that. Things didn't turn out exactly the way that I crunched the numbers, because spent more money on wipes, and accessories like wet bags, than I had planned, but because of cloth diapering I also switched detergents to something cheaper and more environmentally friendly, so I figure it's a wash. And speaking of wash, I have never really minded the extra laundry. It isn't like I have to go down to the river with a washboard, after all. I have high-efficiency front loader in my basement! It is also worth noting that I wouldn't switch my husband or myself to disposable underpants just to avoid the laundry...

Now, if someone even breathes in the direction of being curious about the cloth diaper option, I feel compelled to pull out a fresh diaper and show them how easy it can be. "Look at this cute, comfy, completely unscary cloth diaper," I want to say. "Think of the money you'll save, the garbage you'll avoid! Try it, you'll like it!" Then I realize that sounds a little like I am channelling Sam-I-am, and I tone it back a bit. I still tell them, though, because I wish someone had told me sooner. I love my fluffy butt baby.

Friday, February 12, 2010

From mall to museum

Checking out flyers on a Sunday morning.

I like to go shopping. I like nearly everything about it. I like looking through the flyers, and driving to the store, and finding the good parking spot, and browsing, and choosing, and having something new. I like to be out with people, with the busyness of a crowd. I like stopping off at one store, and then another. I like the food court.

To my detriment, my husband also likes these things. He also likes looking at things we can't afford, and redesigning our home and wardrobes, and the vacations we take... So, between the two of us, we can create quite a little bit of a financial mess. Being neither ignorant of this fact nor completely irresponsible in our reaction to it, we have tried to make adjustments. My mall-walking has turned to thrift-store hopping, and my shopping habit, while down-scaled, lives on.

I recently read Denise Roy's Momfulness. While there were many parts that I enjoyed, that made me laugh, or that made me go, "hmm...", one part in particular stands out in my mind. Roy tells her readers about a monk being interviewed about his move from Eastern or Western culture. He says that in his country of origin, everything is organized around spirituality and prayer. There are rituals and routines in the lifestyle that support the pursuit of spirituality. Then he is asked about life in his new Western country home and says, "It is hard to live in a society that is organized around shopping."

Organized around shopping... Hardly the motto for an enriching existence, and yet, I see my own lifestyle too much reflected in that statement. I dream over things I find on the internet, I know all the good brands, I read the flyers, I watch the sales, I wait for the next paycheque... But a life organized around shopping isn't what I am setting out to acheive. It certainly isn't the life I want to model for my son, and yet, how many hours has he spent in the stroller or a shopping cart, along on one of my not-too-necessary shopping trips?

The new year has recently begun, and spring is just around the corner. In the spirit of this season of renewal, I am aiming to add more shopping-free outings to our repetoire, and we have done not too badly in the last few weeks. We have continued our once-a-week visits to the local library, and have started taking in the storytime for 2 year olds. Nik recieved memberships to 2 local museums for Christmas, and we have used them each once, so far. This past weekend, we took part in the annual Festival du Voyageur, an outdoor event featuring beautiful snow sculptures, that celebrates Franco-Manitoban history and culture.

It is like detox, though, this fighting the urge to shop. When I dropped off a thrift store donation early last week, I still just HAD to go in and look around. $15 and an armful of stuff later... I am not exactly a beacon of self-control. I try to remind myself of the many reasons there are to hate shopping, first among them being those annoying credit card bill deadlines. I also do not want to be sucked into a lifestyle defined by materialism, determining my worth by the things that I buy.

So, I will keep reminding myself to change our outing destinations from mall to museum, from book store to library, from coffee shop to park. And the flyers are going directly into the recycle bin for a while. No sense tempting fate.

Checking out fossils on a Saturday morning.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Knit together

My husband's brother has a daughter that lives in Regina with her mom. She is our geographically closest relative on my husband's side, and we try to make it out to see her twice a year. The most recent visit we had fell on Sinterklaas weekend.

Sinterklaas is the Dutch version of St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus. My husband's father was born in Holland (as was my own mother), and he grew up with Sinterklass visits, and continued the tradition with us, starting the very first Christmas we were married. Sinterklaas comes on December 5th, leaving you to discover your gifts in your shoes the next morning.

My gift this past holiday was a pair of knitting needles, a skein of pretty varigated purple and turquoise yarn, and a book for beginning knitters with illustrated instructions and lots of knitting patterns. I started learning the cast on, knit and purl stitches from the book that same morning, and kept practicing later that day on the car trip home.

My first project was a scarf, which, due to my inexperience in judging size and wool amount, was quickly turning out to be not for me, as I had planned, but for the Winnie the Pooh bear that lives in Nik's crib. Ah, well. I knew that next I would try a real pattern, and could avoid that particular way-too-small pitfall. After learning that I was expecting our second child, a child likely conceived during our Sinterklass weekend getaway, I knew just which pattern I wanted to try. My knitting book had a simple pattern for a very pretty baby blanket - no increases or decreases, just the straight knit and purl stitches I had already learned and practiced, and it turned out a cute grid pattern. Perfect.

I bought the wool at Michaels shortly after Christmas, but didn't start the blanket right away. I didn't want to make the new hobby mistake of just starting projects and never finishing them. I had to finish that darn scarf first! Poor Winnie the Pooh must be cold in just that t-shirt in this dreaded Winnipeg winter. How could I let him down? The new yarn sat with my pattern in my knitting bag, untouched, while I worked on the scarf.

Then one Saturday in late January, I found brown spotting in my underpants. Probably nothing. When it was still happening on Monday, I called the public health nurse, who told me to see someone in a few days if it didn't stop. Still spotting, I bought the right size needles for the baby blanket that Wednesday and cast on the first row.

Thursday afternoon, I went down to my GP's office as a walk-in. Getting up to 16 rows while waiting to see the doctor, I was knitting faster than ever. My doctor sent me home with the next week off work, and instructions to take it easy: "I think it will correct itself if you give it a chance. No lifting. Just rest."

"Alright, " I thought, "I'll just sit and knit."

Sunday morning, I went to church on my own, while my husband stayed home with Nik. The message was about heaven, and the pastor opened with these words from the Eric Clapton song:
"Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven ?
Will it be the same, if I saw you in heaven ?"

The paster went on to comfort the congregation with Scriptures indicating that we would know our loved ones in heaven, and even though the nature of the relationships will change, they will surpass even the best relationships we experience in this life. I gave God a dirty look in my heart. I do not need a sermon about death right now, Lord. Everything is going to be fine.

On the way home from the service, I heard that same Eric Clapton song on my car stereo. It was, unbeknownst to me, just up next in my playlist. I didn't like the omen. That afternoon, I knit my baby blanket. In the evening, when I went to my parent's for supper, I took everything along, and just kept knitting.

Knitting became my plea, my physical prayer. Surely, the baby would HAVE to come if there was a handmade blanket being prepared for it. The Lord would see how I am preparing for this child so much, even in just the second month. Knit 8, purl 8, knit 4, purl 8... My hands moved in my desperate plea for mercy.

On Monday, my spotting turned to bleeding, and by the end of the day it was a full period flow. I knit my blanket. I knit on Tuesday, too, even while trying to keep an eye on my active 2 year old son. Tuesday morning, Nik interuptted me when I was halfway through the 2nd knit row in the pattern. I pushed my knitting far down on the needles, and put it down to read him a story. Then I got busy, and put my knitting away in my knitting bag, planning to finish the row just a little later.

Tuesday evening, just before Nik's bedtime, I had contractions. I knew what they were. Nothing feels like labour but labour. 15 minutes later I had passed the miscarriage I knew deep down had occured days before. As my husband helped me pack some things to take along to the emergency room, he asked me, "Do you want your knitting?"

"No, just leave it," I said. And I have left it. I haven't finished that half-finished row. I haven't even touched it. I just put my knitting bag back into the corner where I keep it.

I know God understands. He is a knitter, too, after all. And when he starts knitting again, so will I.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb."
Psalm 139.13
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