Friday, May 31, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 29)

Ok, these really are going to be "quick" because it's Thursday night and my husband is going to come upstairs any minute and yell at me for "wasting time on the computer" ;-)

A cousin offered to teach me how to quilt.  I've been wanting to learn for a long time, but I have trouble learning crafts out of books, so have been hoping for someone to teach me in person.  But she warned me that it's a very expensive hobby, and I might be better off not even getting into it.  Any thoughts?

The pediatrician told me we should start cleaning Stella's two teeth that she currently has.  Ugh, I know.  And I should also be helping Sly to brush his twice a day.  But I find it impossible to remember!  We really need to make it part of the routine somehow.  Also, I find brushing children's teeth to be very frustrating.  When they're really little, they just munch on the brush the whole time.  And then they get older, and make you lift them up to the sink every ten seconds to spit! (our bathroom is literally too small to fit a stool)

A friend posted this article: Dressing Down a Culture for Refusing to Dress Up.  The author teaches a course called "A Nation of Slobs" - ha!  I would definitely be interested in that.  I'm sure it would confirm my observations about people being much too informal these days.

Tom just came in and said, "Ugh!  You're working on your blog?!" but didn't ask me to stop.  He's busy downstairs again sanding and staining a (solid wood!) dresser my dad trash-picked for us.  Obviously, I am also doing very important and productive things upstairs.


When my dad's mother died, she left behind a type-written memoir.  It's fairly short, but a treasure trove of special memories and family stories.  She hadn't told anyone she was writing it.  It was found in a desk drawer when her kids were cleaning things out after her death.  Recently, I took it upon myself to type up the whole thing on the computer, so an electronic version would exist, and it could be shared with the whole family.  People have really been excited to read it, and many people have said how happy they are that she took the time to record these things.  I fully agree.   

 Re-reading it has been such a pleasure.  It's helped me to "know" my grandmother and grandfather better, and to love them even more (both died when I was a child).  I just love how their personalities come out in some of the passages.  Here's Gram talking about an incident just a few weeks after they'd met, as co-workers:

     When we left, he grabbed another cab and we took Pat home to Oakland and then went to my house.  On the way, he grabbed me and kissed me and said, “I had a great time and I want you to do me a favor.  I want you to promise to go steady with me from now on because I love you and intend to marry you.”  I said, “Man you must be drunker than you look or else you are the biggest wolf I know.”
     He insisted he was serious so I told him to go home and sleep it off and he would feel better in the morning.  I got out of the cab and went right in the house without saying goodnight.  He apologized the next morning for scaring me but said he meant every word he said.

A couple years later...

It's made me think, though, about what kind of records will be left of my life when I die.  Between the ages of eight and twenty-four, I kept a number of diaries.  I still have them all in a drawer of the filing cabinet.  It's been a while since I've read them, but I know that a lot of the stuff in there is personal, embarrassing, and simply...not stuff I would actually want my kids reading some day.  It's not that I intend to leave anyone with a false impression of me.  But I'm not sure that it's a good thing to share all the details of my particular sins and temptations.  Hmm...I don't know...just something I've been thinking about.

My Catholic Moms group has regular bookgroup meetings.  We just finished our latest book (Maria Von Trapp's Yesterday, Today, and Forever - a great read!) and need suggestions for the next one.  Any ideas? 

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Does Homemade Diaper Detergent Work?

Disclaimer: For anyone not cloth diapering, or considering it for the future, this post might not be very interesting for you!

After three years of using cloth diapers, and about six months of having two kids in diapers, I began to wonder if there was a way to save some money on diaper detergent.  So a few months ago, we decided to give homemade detergent a go.  I searched around the internet, and found a lot of similar recipes. 

A good representative example can be found at Moms Everyday:
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1/2 cup of oxiclean

And a very similar one at Fractured Fairy Tales:
1/2 cup washing soda
1 cup Borax
1/2 cup oxiclean
1/2 cup Baking soda

I had to do a little research (via Wikipedia, mostly) into what all these chemicals really did, and whether they were safe for cloth diapers (which need to be treated much more delicately than regular clothes, since their ability to continuously absorb liquids is crucial).

A little glossary:
washing soda = Sodium carbonate.  Water softener and good degreaser.
baking soda = Sodium bicarbonate.  Good at removing odors and stains.
borax = Sodium borate.  Increases the effectiveness of other cleaners.
oxiclean = Sodium percarbonate + Sodium carbonate.  Good at removing organic odors and stains.


Okay, sounds simple enough.  But how does this compare to the ingredients in the commercial brands of diaper detergent?  I looked at the ingredients of the three brands of diaper detergent I have used in the past.

Bumgenius: Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Sulfate*, Sodium Percarbonate, Sodium Alkyl Aryl Suflonate**, and Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate**   
This detergent works well and you get a lot for the price
($15/66 loads/4 lbs)

Rockin' Green: Sodium carbonate, Sodium percarbonate, natural chelating agents**, Sodium sulfate*, biodegradable surfactants**  
I didn't feel like this cleaned the diapers as well, and got used up quickly
($16/44 loads/2.7 lbs)

Lulu's in the Fluff: Sodium bicarbonate, Sodium carbonate, Sodium percarbonate, additional surfactants and cleansers**  
Cleaned well, but didn't stretch as far as Bumgenius  
($15/44 loads/3 lbs)

* Wikipedia says this is used as a filler in powdered detergents
** Ingredients that basically break up the stains and/or help the detergent to penetrate better.


So all the ingredients in the DIY recipe are found in at least some of the major brands...with the exception of Borax (why??).  The only thing missing seemed to be the addition of certain surfactants.  Although, isn't baking soda essentially a surfactant?  I believe so...
I mixed up a batch according to the first recipe, but added about a half cup of baking soda as well.  Everything was found easily at the grocery store with the exception of washing soda.  I really had to search for that.  I tried a number of stores which claimed to carry it on their websites, but had none on the shelves.  Eventually we found some at a local Ace Hardware.  Of course, it's widely available online.  We were just trying to avoid shipping costs, because we're cheapskates...

Three months later I have to report that it's been worth making the switch.  The potential savings is enormous (my rough calculation is about $17/many many loads/11 lbs).  The diapers get "satisfactorily clean".  I can't say that they seem every bit as "fresh" as when we used commercial diaper detergents, but I'm not sure how to quantify what I mean.  Well, let me put it this way: When a diaper has been properly laundered, it should smell like nothing.  Ours still smell like nothing after washing with the DIY detergent.  However, it seems like "the stinkies" tend to set into the fabric about a week earlier than they used to (which just means a tablespoon of bleach is called for in the next load).  I'm willing to deal with that for the huge amount of savings.


Does anyone have experience with homemade detergents?  What did you think?  Do you know anything "bad" about using borax that I haven't been able to dig up?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Not Sending My Pre-schooler to Pre-school

Foil fish idea from 50 Rainy Day Activities
Sly will be three this summer, which seems to be the age a lot of parents are sending their little ones to preschool.  I've been thinking about it a bit - the pros and cons - and talking with some other parents about their decision.  Sometimes I think it would be great for Sly to have more opportunities to learn to get along with other kids (so far, having a little sister has proved not to provide enough practice!), learn new games and songs, and just have a change of scenery.  But we've always planned to homeschool our kids.  It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to send them to a preschool for a year or so, and then teach them at home thereafter.  Additionally, unless we determined that it was essential, we just can't afford to spend the money on it.

Once I was sure we didn't need to enroll him in any official preschool programs, I began to wonder whether I should be "doing preschool" with him at home, now that he's reached "that age."  Things like...I don't know... formal cutting practice with scissors?  Drills in the ABC's?  Whatever it is that kids are "supposed" to learn in preschool??

Part of this worry was the age-old parental concern about my kid falling behind his peers.  But truthfully, a lot of it was coming from the fact that I'm just excited to start teaching him so many things!  I was a teacher, afterall, before I was a mom.  And I love learning.  I kinda can't wait to join the "cool club" of homeschooling moms who go out and do fun educational activities together with their kids. 

But I'm trying to hold myself back from pushing Sly into anything too soon.  He's not even three.  He'll be old enough for all that stuff before I know it, and then I'll just feel sad that he's growing up so fast.  I need to let him - and myself - enjoy his toddler-hood.  So basically I plan to just follow his lead for now, and delve into topics as he develops interest in them (oh no!  I'm starting to sound like an "unschooler" here!  haha).

As I write this, I'm realizing how much Sly has already learned without us teaching it intentionally.  After receiving a dinosaur poster this Christmas from my dad, Sly began talking about dinosaurs a bit.  So I picked up a dinosaur book next time we were at Goodwill.  We read it to him, the dinosaur interest grew, and he started learning all their names.  Then I got more books.  Then the grandparents gave him toys.  Then he started wanting to pretend to be dinosaurs.  Now he requests that Tom read to him from an adult-level encylopedia about extinct animals every night, and he's actually learning from it.  And so on and so on.  And Sly even knows most of the alphabet now, simply because he wanted to know about it.  He points to letters in books or on the computer keyboard, and asks what they are.  He likes to type his own name or other words that I spell out for him in e-mails to Daddy.  And when he wants to learn to use scissors - and I'm crazy enough to trust him with them - he'll learn that too!

Wow.  It's actually somewhat freeing to know that I don't have to create lesson plans, or sit down with him for formal teaching sessions - at least for a few years now - and he will still be learning a ton.  And once he's old enough, I don't need to sign him up for every free activity or educational program at the library or the park just because it's an opportunity to learn something.  Because everything is an opportunity for him to learn something.

So playing outside, trips to the library, playdates, baking with Mommy, making crafts at home...that can be "school" for Sly for awhile longer.


Sly is still ALL about crafts.  I went to Michael's the other day, and picked up some supplies to round out the stash in my craft cabinet: tempera paints, watercolors, pop beads, pony beads, beading lace, some little compartmentalized boxes for storage.  I'm excited to have more options now for doing crafts with Sly.  I justified the purchase by considering that instead of paying to send him to preschool, we'll save lots of money by just doing fun activities with him at home.
I really need a bigger cabinet from all this stuff

One thing I still need is some oak tag.  Does anyone remember that from elementary school?  Construction paper does not hold up to art projects.  The guy at Michael's said they don't sell anything like that, and suggested I cut up poster board instead.  There's gotta be a better answer!  I found that Amazon actually sells some oak tag, but it seems excessively expensive.  Ugh.  Anyone have a suggestion for sturdy paper for crafting?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Happy Sly Day, Mommy!"

Mother's Day ended up nice, but the weather was much colder than expected (low 50's), so we had to cancel our plans for a picnic in the park.  I got a cute homemade card from Sly(/Daddy) and a pair of earrings from Tom.  
You can kind of see the new earrings here.  Sly's in a "hide from the camera" phase right now.

Sly had a running joke all day, insisting that it was actually "Sly Day" instead.  Tom tried to explain that pretty much every day is "Sly Day", and Mommy needs a day.  His response was, "It not Mother's Day, it Sly's Day!  I need a day!" One time he even said to me very cheerily, "Happy Sly Day, Mommy!"  Oh, that little man.

While taking our yearly Mother's Day photo (last year's photo is in my blog header, and eventually I might get around to updating it with the new one), someone must have bumped the camera while carrying it around on the tripod.  The lens casing was dented and it wasn't closing properly, so I called it in a report to the warranty company.  They ended up just reimbursing the entire cost of the camera so I could buy a new one.  It's a bit of a pain, but it should actually work out in my favor.  The "updated" model of the camera comes with a wi-fi receiver so that you can actually upload your photos right to your e-mail or social media sites.  Sweet!  That was one of the biggest attractions for me of owning a smartphone, so now this will help me resist that trend just a little longer [it's for my own good.  I know having a mini computer on me all day would be such a  temptation to idleness!]

I accidentally broke our coffee pot while trying to make coffee after Mass, and that is basically a tragedy in our house.  We drink so much coffee!  Despite it being Sunday and Mother's Day, we both agreed that it was necessary to go out and get a new one right away.  So instead of the nice picnic lunch originally planned, we actually ended up just getting lunch from the McDonald's drive-thru on the way to the store.  I know that sounds pretty lame.  But eating anything out of the house is a pretty rare treat for us, so even ordering off the dollar menu is exciting these days (on my last date with my husband, we went dancing and then to McDonalds for dinner.  Guess which part we were more excited about?)

We also swung by a beautiful old house that's for sale and we're kind of pining over.  No, we're not ready to buy a house yet!  I told Tom to stop checking out the real estate listings (something he's taken to doing the past couple days), because we were just torturing ourselves.  But he left the tab open on the computer...and when I sat down later, I found myself browsing the site too, "just to see."  Anyways, I found this house in one of the few neighborhoods that Tom and I can agree on and well within our price range (assuming we had enough for a down payment, which we don't).  The photos all had me drooling: a big old Victorian house on a corner lot, huge front porch, carving and fancy woodwork all over the staircase with a gorgeous stained glass window, six bedrooms, four fireplaces, moulding galore, spacious kitchen, and in good shape...ahhh.  Almost my dream house.  It just needs a bigger back yard.

While we were out, we also discovered a new Goodwill we didn't know about.  I didn't think that was possible!  We got in ten minutes before closing, so we were very rushed.  But we're both such experienced thrifters by this point, that we managed to fly through, blitzing certain sections, and came home with a few good finds: two of the older-style Usborne books, two short-sleeved shirts for me, a cute dress for Stella, and some replacement Christmas bulbs.  And then my dad invited us all to dinner at a chinese place.  The kids were both bad, but I pulled the "Mother's Day card", and got out of most of the wrangling duties.  Ha.

It's funny....Mother's Day is supposed to be a time for children to remember all that their mother means to them, and to express their love and gratitude to her.  But it ends up doing the same thing in reverse.  As a mom myself now, the day just helps me to count all my blessings and understand how fortunate I am to be a mother.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday Musings, May 6th

Right now...
Sly is in his room for a "nap" (i.e. talking to himself, banging, and playing with toys), Stella is asleep on the Boppy in my lap, and I need to get back to cooking and cleaning, as we are having dinner guests!

This weekend...
My mother-in-law was visiting. We treated her to a home-cooked steak dinner on Saturday, to thank her for doing our taxes for us again this year (she does it for a living, and is always happy to take care of them for us as well).

Stella got her first tooth, finally.  Sly has been copying me, and calling her "Stella one-tooth."  He keeps asking to "feel her little toothy."

I baked some banana cookies on Friday which were fantastic.  We didn't have orange zest, but I doubled the vanilla to make up for it.  

I started caring for my hair according to Curly Girl.  I had heard of this book from a few different people who all claimed it changed their lives.  It explains how to care properly for curly hair in a way that keeps it healthy and looking beautiful.  I always figured it wasn't for me, but when I picked it up last week at the library, I saw there was a section for wavy hair as well.  That's what I have, though I've always used a blow-dryer and a brush to smooth out the waves.  I decided to just go for it, and let my hair do its natural thing for a little while.  Here are the results from day one:
The book says that sometimes, more curls will form after a few weeks. I'm gonna try to stick it out and see what happens.

We needed new tires on the car.  It cost over $500, and that was for the cheapest ones.  Ugh.  And we might not even have the car too much longer.  Should I happen to get pregnant again, we'll need to trade it in for something bigger.  But Tom and I had a rare rare opportunity to spend a few hours alone while we waited for the tires to be put on.  My MIL stayed home with the kids, and we got a chance to walk around and shop for Mother's Day gifts.  Did you know that that's next Sunday?!  Because I sure didn't.

We also got our morning glory seedlings all planted in planters set along the base of our porch again.  We used twice the amount as last year, and mixed the blue and red ones.  We could potentially have some very pretty results come August.

Some plans for the week: 
Having some friends for dinner tonight, joining a friend and her little man for lunch on Wednesday.  Possibly taking the kids to library story time.  They do such a nice job at those, telling stories and singing songs with the kids.  It's like preschool, or at least what I remember of it.  But Sly is always the only kid just sitting there, refusing to do anything. He claims he enjoys it, though.

I also hope to finally finish painting our kitchen table.  That's been in the works for over a week now, and I hate not having a table in there!

If I find some time for myself, I would like to...
Turn some tanktops into nursing tanks! 

Basically, it would just be a way to add stomach coverage so I feel comfortable nursing without a cover in public (this is my goal!  I want to be an apostle for making nursing seem "normal" again, but I still don't like my flabby tummy showing to the world...).  The only difference between these and just wearing a normal tank under a shirt seems just to be that you cut down on the number of straps on your shoulders. 

While I'm at it, I'm also going to cut out the elastic bands from those stupid "built-in bras" that so many tanktops have.  They are designed, I think, for people who are much smaller in that area than I am (especially while nursing), so they just dig in very uncomfortably on me in all the wrong places.

Prayer intentions for the week:
Some friends who are experiencing infertility. 

Something that makes me smile: 
Watching my kids play together.  No one can get Stella to crack up as well as Sly can.  He just has to make a funny sound, or pop out from behind some object, and she bursts into laughter.  So sweet.

Monday Musings is hosted at Patch O'Dirt Farm