Saturday, August 18, 2012

Clearing a Drain the Green Way

A couple weeks back, I completed the dreaded chore of steam cleaning my bedroom carpets. Yuck. This back-breaking task always reminds me just how disgusting carpet is to me. I clean our carpets a couple times of year and am grossed out every time by the amount of gunk that comes out in the water. This time was no different. Unfortunately, I created a new problem for myself as I dumped the dirty water in my bathroom sink and ended up with a semi-clogged drain. Don't you hate a slow drain? I know I do.

I've never been a big fan of the strong, caustic chemicals that can take care of these things, and our curious toddler makes me even more adamant about not having them in my home. I am also not a big fan of taking the drain apart and cleaning out the p-trap, although that's probably the best way to solve this problem. So, I decided to try to clear the drain using baking soda, vinegar and hot water. I've read about using this little potion but honestly, I was pretty skeptical. I mean, I've seen the nasty crap that came out of my carpet and... Anyway, I put about a cup of baking soda down the drain. I then dumped about a cup of vinegar down the drain and closed it with the plug (making the bubbly solution work it's magic down into the p-trap rather than up into the sink). After doing this, I let the mixture sit while I heated 3-4 cups if water in my tea kettle to a boil. After bringing the water to a boil, I let it sit for about 30 seconds to cool just a bit, then I poured it down the drain.

This concoction seems to have completely fixed my problem! My drain is completely clear again. I doubt this would work if the drain were completely clogged but I will definitely remember this little trick in the future.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I'm the Bag Lady

I've been on a pointed search for a new beach bag (really, more of a pool bag for me).  Between looking online and in every store I can think of, it hit me - I am the bag lady. I mean, it's not like I don't have a bag to use for the pool because I have tons of bags. But I love to have options that will work for many different purposes. I have travel bags, diaper bags, work totes, gym bags, purses for going out, everyday purses, etc. You name it, I have something that will carry it. The abundance of options is embarassing. I think I have a problem.

Thinking back over the years, I think I've always been this way. It all started with my Strawberry Shortcake tote when I was about four. Sure, I was small but it nicely held a couple books and my favorite strawberry lip gloss. You know, the essentials of a kindergartner. Then, I had the purple duffel that saw me through many grade school sleepovers. And who could forget my first set of luggage - it was red pleather. Yes, folks - pleather. I can't say I'm too worried about what ever came of it. I still fondly remember the Esprit bag of middle school as well. It was the cool way to carry your books, even though it nearly broke my back.

My latest fascination is Vera Bradley. I used to loathe the VB bags, thinking they looked so old lady-ish. But then, I started noticing a few patterns that I actually *gasp* - liked! Still, their prices seemed outrageous to me so I didn't get too interested. Then I had a baby and seemed to hate every diaper bag I tried. I saw a VB bag on my local Craig's List that looked like it would work well for a diaper bag and I bought it. I was quickly hooked! The quality is really, really good. And I love that the bags are washable. Plus, there are bargains to be found on them as they've been making them for 20 years and there are lots of retired patterns (I prefer the newer ones, personally). Since that first purchase, I've bought several more bags (sorry, my husband reads this and I refuse to self-incriminate by providing an exact number). Plus, I'm seriously thinking of buying another VB bag to use as my new beach bag. Just one more bag, really...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Getting Down & Dirty With the Truth About Cloth Diapering

Ever since I was a child, I planned on cloth diapering. My parents cloth diapered me and they always spoke pretty positively of their experiences. Add to that, my desire to live with the fewest chemical exposures realistically possible, especially for my baby, and I was all about exploring cloth diapering. When I found out I was pregnant, I envisioned the old fashioned system my parents used - prefolds and rubber pants. I hoped there were better options but was willing to consider these, especially if I could find a way to stay at home with my baby. I quickly discovered that there were loads of options for diapering my child! And that this would be totally doable. There is a lot of false information about cloth diapers which seems to have permeated our modern culture, though. I'm here dispel some of those false ideas. Here goes...

 1. Today's cloth diapers involve rubber pants and other antiquated supplies. Technically, they can if you want them to. But I don't know of a single mama who chooses to use rubber pants. Options abound and diapering can be as easy as you want, with many diapers functioning as a single piece which is used just like a disposable. And with options as adorable and simple as these, who would ever choose rubber pants? See below for images of the Swaddlebees Capri covers, some of my personal favorites! The Capris, like many covers, can fit for a long time. (I bought these when A was around 9-10 months old and I expect they will fit him through potty-training.)

 2. Cloth diapers are unsanitary. Wrong. Diapers should always (in my opinion) be washed in hot water with the proper amount of detergent. This alone will kill most bacteria. A splash of bleach can also be used sporadically (and should be used if there is yeast or Staph infection) if needed. Beyond that, the dryer or the sun will further sanitize the diapers. Did you know that the sun's rays do that? They also help to make stains disappear, which is handy for diapers and kid clothes in general. Cloth diapered kids tend to have fewer rashes and avoid the exposure to controversial toxic chemicals such as dioxins. In recent years, many questions have also been raised regarding the safety of the absorbent gels used in disposables. Furthermore, many cloth diapers are breathable, which is healthier for baby's skin. The chemicals found in disposables are linked to cancer, reproductive problems, chemical burns and skin irritation. 

3. Cloth diapers don't work as well as disposables. Sorry, but this one is wrong too. With any diaper (cloth or disposable), a good fit is imperative! This usually involves trying a few out to find out what works well for your baby. But with the right diaper, the dreaded blowout is rare!. Honestly, my son as yet to have a blowout in cloth. Don't get me wrong, we've had the occasional leak, including poo leaks, but they have been few and far between. Talk to any parent who has used both cloth and disposable diapers and they'll assure you that cloth will win this fight every time.

 4. Cloth diapering is expensive. Did you know that you can expect to spend approximately $2,400 diapering a child from birth to potty training? Please note that this is just the cost of diapers, not including disposable wipes and accessories like the Diaper Genie. Cloth diapering costs vary greatly based on the number of diapers purchased and the brand/type. A baby can be diapered with cloth for as little as $200. There are a plethora of options but a full stash of big brand all-in-ones (one of the most expensive cloth options) only costs $800, so it's still far cheaper than disposables. And the diapers can typically be used through multiple children or sold to recoup some of the original investment - you certainly can't do that with disposables! Many parents (myself included) also use cloth wipes, which saves even more money.

5. I send my child to daycare, so I can't cloth diaper. Not necessarily. From what I've read, laws on this subject vary greatly between states. Some states completely prohibit cloth diapers in childcare facilities (why, I have no idea) while others have little to no regulations on the subject. I've been very pleasantly surprised that every daycare I have used or seriously considered welcomed them. This has shocked me since I live in an area where very few parents use cloth. Plenty of providers will use any diaper you provide but I'm a proponent of using a simple, disposable-like option such as an all-in-one or pocket diaper and always providing a clean wet bag do store them. These aren't the cheapest diapers but they are the simplest to use. I would certainly find out what your daycare's parameters are before buying a stash. offers the full line of BumGenius diapers which are very daycare and babysitter friendly. One of them, the Elemental, is shown below. (Forgive the messy picture, but I wanted to show all the layers, which are sewn to the diaper. Just snap it on baby and go!)

6. Cloth diapering isn't really very Eco-friendly because of the extra electricity and water required for washing. There is certainly extra laundry involved with using cloth but it is only 2-3 extra loads per week, as I wash every 2-3 days. Unless you have multiple children in diapers, you really shouldn't need to way more frequently than this. There are many different scenarios with regard to laundry cost but the actual cost differs greatly based on your cost of utilities. You don't need a fancy washer to use cloth. In fact, the old fashioned top loaders are generally considered the best washers for getting them clean. And most detergents can be used. For us, our utility bill has gone up since having our son but it has only gone up a very small amount (maybe $10-15 a month?). Not all of this increase is related to diapers as he generates plenty of dirty clothes and bedding too. And there is obviously additional wear on your washer (and dryer if you don't line dry). On the flip side, there are never late night diaper runs (which also require fuel and wear on your vehicle). When one considers the paper, water and petroleum products that go into making disposables, shipping them and getting them to and from your home, cloth wins again, hands-down.

Like many things in life (and parenting in particular), there is no right or wrong. Cloth diapering has definitely been good for my family, but I realize it isn't the right solution for everyone. I am obviously passionate about cloth, personally. I just hope that new or soon-to-be parents will consider the issue objectively rather than from assumptions.