Monday, April 30, 2012

Oh, The Things I Deal With...

Several little housewifely annoyances today.

I went to the basement to do some laundry this morning, and saw that the top of the washer and dryer (or is it spelled drier?) were covered with little reddish...things.  They looked like little pieces of dried ground beef.  But for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how that would make sense.  Also, there was a large sticky-looking yellow-brown spill all over the basement floor, which had stained one corner of my "laundry carpet".  That carpet is the one nice thing demarcating my own little "clean cozy laundry area" from the rest of the cold and dingy basement.  I wasn't very happy about the intrusion of that inexplicable stain into my little haven.  A little later, when taking some trash to the outside trash can, I saw a whole two-pound package of ground beef sitting in there (and my money-conscious self was shocked at the waste!).  Alright, what the heck? Obviously, Tom had something to do with all this, and had "forgotten" to mention it to me...

I sent him an e-mail at work to ask him about these three strange occurrences.  I titled it "queries"

1. Why did you throw away 2 pounds of ground beef?
2. Was that dried bits of ground beef that I found all over the top of the washer and dryer??
3. What is that big nasty spill down in the basement?  It's brownish-yellow.  It kinda looks like oil.  Is it your beer?  It's staining a corner of my blue carpet.  Can you clean that up tonight?
As I suspected, it all had to do with his attempt to brew homemade beer on Saturday night (when I was, thankfully, out of the house).  He responded:

1. Why did you throw away 2 pounds of ground beef?  It was really nasty after the cats got into it.  I had pulled it out to use the ground beef bags as big ice cubes to cool off the water in the basement sink, and I just put them on top of the washer when I was done.  I went down a little later to finish cleaning up from the brewing, but the cats had torn into the ground beef bags, eaten a bunch of it, and made a huge mess.
2. Was that dried bits of ground beef that I found all over the top of the washer and dryer??   Must be.  I tried to clean it all up but must’ve missed some.
3. What is that big nasty spill down in the basement?  Mostly hops.  It's staining a corner of my blue carpet.  That carpet is gross.  Can you clean that up tonight?  Yeah, I’ll clean it up more thoroughly tonight.

Ugh.  Who uses frozen food as giant ice cubes?  Who leaves FRESH MEAT sitting out right near where the cats have their food dishes? Who knowingly spills hops all over the floor, and leaves it there?  Oh husband...sighhh.

To make it worse, shortly after the e-mail exchange, the sink into which the waste-water from the washer empties got all backed up while I was washing clothes, and filthy water is now covering the floor (and my rug).  At my kind (and maybe a little desperate) request, Tom will spend the evening in the basement, restoring the area to some sense of cleanliness.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Our Dirty Little Cloth-Diapering Secret: Ammonia Problems

As anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows, I am a huge proponent of cloth diapers.  I have found them to be superior to disposables in every way (except that disposables come out a little ahead in the "convenience" department).  So when I finally had to admit to myself several months ago that our cloth diapers were definitely the cause of a nasty recurring rash that Sly had been getting, I just stayed quiet about it.  I didn't want anyone to start doubting the greatness of cloth diapers, or to be even more intimidated about giving them a try!

But now that I've finally managed to tackle the problem, it's time for me to come clean (just as our diaper stash, after two grueling months of experimental laundry treatments has finally "come clean"!).

I first noticed a problem when Sly began breaking out in all these little bumps in his "diaper area".  They looked pretty unpleasant, and when they got really bad, would crack and bleed.  He was not a happy little man.  I consulted several pediatricians about it, was given various diagnoses and medications which didn't work.  Finally, we were sent to a pediatric dermatologist.  He was certain he knew what it was, and gave us a really expensive medication mixture to use.  But that didn't work either.  When the rash got really bad, I began switching Sly to disposables for a few days just so I could use Desitin on the area (which you aren't supposed to use with cloth diapers, since it clogs up the pores and reduces their absorbancy), and the rash would always clear right up.  As soon as we switched back to cloth, it would return. 

I realized that modern doctors really don't have much experience with cloth diapers, and if the issue was being caused by that, I would need to consult an "expert" in that field.  So I went to my local awesome cloth diaper store.  I described the rash Sly had, and the owner immediately recognized my problem: "ammonia burn".  Yikes.

He asked whether our diapers smelled like ammonia when they were wet, and Tom and I both shouted, "YES!"  That has been an issue for us for a long time now, and we both just assumed Sly had developed really strong pee or something.  But apparently, they aren't supposed to smell like that...haha.

It was explained that when urine dries in a diaper, it can leave behind uric acid crystals which don't get washed out in the laundry.  When the baby pees in the diaper again, these crystals get reactivated, creating immediate ammonia.  As anyone who's used it to clean with knows, ammonia is pretty nasty stuff.  The problem, though, is that ammonia issues can also sometimes be caused by build-up of detergent in the diapers or by bacteria.  So in order to fix it, you really need to approach it from all three fronts.

So then began my long crusade to get rid of the problem.  I hope someone can find this little guide useful.

If ammonia is caused by...

Uric Acid Build-up
To prevent: Pre-soak or spray all wet diapers before throwing them into your laundry bin.  We had only been doing this for poopy diapers in the past.
To get rid of: Strip all diapers (several wash cycles in a row using the hottest water possible).  Try a product such as Funk Rock to blast the ammonia.

Detergent Build-up
To prevent: Use less detergent (see directions on your package - you usally need less than you think), or switch brands.  The water quality in different parts of the country can really affect the ability of different brands to effectively clean your diapers.  Most people need to try a few different ones before they find the right fit.  Also, add a second hot rinse after washing/rinsing the diapers.
To get rid of: Strip all diapers [see above].

To prevent: Follow proper wash routines - a cold pre-wash, a hot wash/rinse using your detergent, and another hot rinse.  About once a month, you can add a Tablespoon of bleach (check diaper instructions and warranties first!) to your hot wash.
To get rid of:  This is the last thing I tried, and the one that finally took care of the ammonia once and for all.  I had to just blast the diapers with bleach.  I poured in about a quarter cup while it ran on hot, then rinsed twice.  Make sure diapers are already clean before you start, and do not put any PUL covers in - JUST the cloth.  The bleach can degrade the water-proofing material on the covers.

The process was frustrating, and required several more phone-calls to the cloth diaper store for suggestions.  But finally, the ammonia is GONE, and now, thankfully, I know how to prevent it.  No more yucky rash for my baby.  No more nostril-burning ammonia smell for us. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

On My Own

Tom's on a business trip this week.  I've been dreading this.  As it is, I usually spend most of the day inside the house taking care of Sly, cleaning, and grading papers for my very-part-time job...and by the time Tom arrives home from work, I am desperate for his company and a change of pace.  I didn't think I would survive this week without knowing I would have some small relief from my typical schedule each day.  So I set about to fill up my calendar with activities.  I am babysitting my cousins-once-removed two days this week, going to a midwife appointment, eating dinner with my dad one night , tutoring one student, eating dinner with my mom one night, visiting a friend and her new baby, and eating dinner with friends one night.  Man - at least Tom going away is good for my social life.

One thing I'm not sure how I'll handle on my own, though, is the litterbox.  Perhaps one of the few things I truly love about being pregnant is that it gets me out of litter-scooping duty for nine whole months!  Now I know some people aren't that worried about toxoplasmosis, and I've heard the rumor that if you grew up with cats, you've probably been exposed to it already and aren't at risk.  But my mom grew up with cats, and got it during her pregnancy with her fourth child, putting my youngest brother in a lot of danger!  So I don't want to mess with it.

Tom tells me I should do everything possible to convince some charitable soul to come over and scoop the litter for me.  Yeah right.  I can just imagine that phone call: "heeeyyyyyyy friend, I have a really big favor to ask.  Would you be able to drive over to my house and scoop a bunch of cat crap into a bag for me?  Thanksomuch."  I'm thinking I'll probably just resort to piling more and more clean litter on top of the dirty stuff, and hoping to smother the smell.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Little Incident

Last night, we had kind of a scare.  I'll spare you the gross details, but let's just say that a large quantity of liquid came out from my...nether regions.  We were worried that my water might have broken.  Being that I'm only 22 weeks pregnant, that would obviously have been a major problem.  The liquid didn't really have much odor, and we couldn't think what else it possibly could have been.

We contacted the midwife on call, and she advised us to come into the birth center right away so she could check to see what it was.  So we had to drag Sly out of bed - after midnight - hop in the car, and head over there.  The midwife explained the ways she would check whether it had been amniotic fluid: she'd use a test strip, look at my cervix to see whether anything was coming out, and take a sample to look at under the microscope.

We waited nervously while she conducted the various tests, but were finally able to sigh in relief when she informed us that they all came out negative.  We were still pretty baffled, though, about what could have happened.  She told us delicately that the only possibility was that it was urine.  Are you kidding me?  I PEED MYSELF?!  Haha.  It's pretty embarrassing, especially since I didn't even feel like I was...going.  But it's also kind of amusing.  The baby had been kicking me really low down all night, and I guess she just put a lot of pressure on my bladder.

Anyways, everything seems to be well for now.  But I should probably start doing more Kegels, as they always suggest, to avoid anymore incidents like this...  ;-)

Monday, April 16, 2012

When Wanting to Do the Right Thing is Annoying

Today I made a quick stop at the supermarket for some fruit and juice, since we were out of both.  I went to a store on the other side of town, since I was on my way to somewhere else.  When the cashier was ringing up my order, I noticed that the little bag of grapes was going to cost $6.41 (!).  I stopped her, apologized, and asked if she could remove it from the order, because that was way too much to pay for grapes.  When I arrived home, however, I discovered that the lady bagging had mistakenly put those grapes into one of my bags anyways.

There was no way, after driving around all day, that I was going to head back across town through traffic to return them to the store.  And I do NOT want to have to end up paying such a ridiculous price for grapes that I didn't want in the first place!  I just stuck them in the fridge to wait for Tom to come home and give me advice on what to do.  He suggested calling the store tomorrow and offering to pay for them.  Ugh.  This is so annoying.  Is that really what I need to do?

UPDATE:  I called this morning, and was happy to hear that I don't need to bring the grapes back OR to pay for them!  They said since it wasn't my fault, to just accept them as a gift from the store.  I'm glad I won't have it nagging at me anymore.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Our House Tour Part 5: The Living Room

Well, we've lived here for almost six months now.  Time to finally continue showing you around!

(Part 1, 2, 3, 4 here)

Not much to say about this photo.  You can see Sly's book basket on the floor by the huge speaker used as an endtable.  Oh, and curtains that I made.  I sorta wish they were twice as wide, so they could have a better drape.  But the fabric was already very expensive.  I got lazy and just tied them with scrap fabric, rather than sewing actual tie-backs.

Our music corner.  We're old-school and listen to a lot of our music on vinyl records.  It works out well, since both of us prefer music of the 1940s-1970s to anything modern.  And vinyl is DIRT CHEAP at thrift stores.  But you might notice the little silver object sitting atop the turntable - that's my iPod, which is loaded up with all the cds we own.  So we can listen to lots of different things.

Our collection of old glass bottles, scavenged from here and there.

This is our home altar.  Inside it, we store all our extra candles, rosaries, prayer books, prayer cards, and some statues.  St. Gerard is out now, since he's the patron saint of pregnancy and childbirth.  I love the icon above, which depicts Christ tenderly touching Mary on the chin.  The roses are dried, and I replace them every time I'm given roses by my husband.

You can see Lance asleep on the couch - a typical scene.  In the foreground is a coffee table that we trash-picked.  It's a little beat up on the top, but I figure it would have gotten that way soon enough with toy cars and such being driven over it.  So we decided not to bother refinishing it.  The lamps (only one seen here) are thrifted gems I picked up a few years ago.

We're hoping to get rid of this rocking chair soon (free to friends! let me know if you're interested), and put some shelving in this corner as a toy storage area.

We picked up this cabinet from a guy on Craigslist shortly before moving.  We thought we might use it to store the stereo, or maybe as the home altar.  It is a vintage tv cabinet which he had pulled the old television screen out of.  The bottom section used to house the internal speakers.

But then we realized - why not just stick our tv inside the tv cabinet?!  The bottom section was perfect for the dvd player.  It's so nice to be able to close it away from sight anytime we like.  So many people have visited and assumed we didn't own a tv!

Monday, April 9, 2012


Happy Easter to all!

Tom and I managed to get to the vigil Mass this year, which we were weren't planning on.  We sorta figured our vigil Mass-going days are over for a long long time, since it's so tough to bring young kids out so late (and tough enough bringing them to Mass at all, even at a more appropriate time!).  But on Saturday, we got an unexpected visit from Tom's sister, so we conned her into babysitting that evening.  I was feeling totally exhausted by 8:00 pm, and wasn't sure I would be able to make it through the Mass, but Tom really wanted to go, so I decided to tough it out.

I love the beginning of the Mass, when the whole congregation is standing in the pitch-black church in silence.  It feels like you're inside the catacombs.  And then the priest enters, carrying the newly lit Easter candle, and chanting "Lumen Christi!"  As he goes, the altar boys help to spread the fire from the big candle to the smaller ones which all the people are holding.  And then the light just spreads in a huge wave to the front and sides of the church.  It's awesome.

I managed to hold it together for that part, and some of the readings.  But during the blessing of the water, I was out.  I slept through most of the Mass!  yikes...maybe vigil Masses aren't so good for mommies, either.

On Sunday, it was nice to have the whole morning free to just relax with the family, though, and not have to rush to church.  Sly got a visit from the Easter bunny, and was already in a crazy sugar-induced rage within minutes of being given his basket.  We tried to limit the amount of candy we put in, knowing he'd be receiving more baskets soon: one from Tom's parents, one from my mom, and one from my dad.

I remembered to hide most of the candy from his sight last night, but I had forgotten a bag of plastic eggs sent over by my dad.  As soon as Sly saw them this morning, he whined for more candy.  I tried my best - really I did - to get him to eat some "real food" first.  I gave him some yogurt and grapes for breakfast.  But he refused to touch any of it, continuing only to point at the candy.

And then - I am ashamed to admit - I did something that I never would have believed possible before actually becoming a mother...I asked him, "do you want to put some candy in your yogurt?"  He nodded vigorously.  Of course.  So I took a small handful of M&Ms/jelly beans/mini Robins Eggs, and stirred them in.  But hey, at least he ate it all up!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Benefits of a Birth Doula

Today, I arranged for us to have a doula for the birth of our baby.  We were very fortunate to be able to get the same doula who helped us out when Sly was born. 

For anyone who's unsure whether a doula really makes much difference in labor, I have to tell you that it really does!  As I'll tell anyone who lets me blab on about it, having a doula last time was one of the best decisions I ever made!

A birth doula is specially trained to support a woman in labor.  In many cases, she has had children herself, and so knows just what you're going through.  She provides some much-needed emotional (and physical) support, suggests different laboring positions, provides a reassuring presence, and helps to ensure that the doctors or midwives continue to stick with the "birth plan".  Stastics show that having a doula shortens the length of labor (who wouldn't want that?!), and decreases the likelihood of c-sections and other interventions.

Once I had decided that I wanted a natural birth with Sly, I knew I needed a doula.  I think such a huge part of being mentally able to go through a natural birth is about having the focus and willpower to work through the pain.  Neither Tom nor I had any clue what that would entail, so I wanted someone there who could help coach me through it!  It seems especially helpful to have some extra help and knowledge in the room during a natural birth, but I'm sure a doula would be a benefit no matter what kind of birth a woman was planning (or not planning!).

We did have a midwife for Sly's birth (and will be doing the same for this next birth), but I had come to realize that they are there primarily in a healthcare role.  Unless you are having a home birth - where I assume there are different expectations for the midwife - her main role is just to make sure you and the baby are healthy and safe.  While I was laboring with Sly, the midwife would come in to check on things from time to time, but until it was time to push, she didn't stay in the room continuously.  I wanted someone who would be with me constantly, supporting me - and that's what a doula is for.

Our doula was awesome.  She stayed up with us all night (and would have stayed much longer, if the labor had kept going).  She suggested various positions I could try to help me be more comfortable, and joined Tom in supporting my weight when necessary.  Once I finally realized that sitting on the birth ball was the only position my body wanted to be in (for hours and hours), she sat right behind me the whole time, rubbing my lower back.  She helped me to stay calm and keep breathing well during each contraction.  When it began to feel as though my pelvis were ripping in two, she offered to gently squeeze the bones together during each contraction (this probably didn't really accomplish anything, but it felt a little better when she did it).  She understood just how huge this experience was for us, and participated in all the emotions proper to each turn of event.  Tom loved having her there too, because, he said, it "took some of the pressure off him."  When he needed to go get a cup of coffee or use the bathroom, he didn't have to feel like he was abandoning me in the room.  Rather than "taking over" what should have been Tom's role, she helped him to know what he could do at any given moment to best assist me.  And then after Sly was born, she took lots of pictures (which we got copies of later), and wrote up a very sweet birth story for him.

She really helped make the experience a positive one, and I just hope the second birth goes as well!