Chikungunya – 4, Rollings – 0, And We’re Thrilled!

That’s right folks, the Chicken fever has taken down all of us!

Why on earth would we be so happy about that?

Well, because we’ve been holding our breath this week waiting for Alex to get it. I mean, this kid is outside every day in the work yard with the guys. One of our guards had it, another worker had it, family members of workers had it. If anyone was going to get it in our family, it would be Alex. And yet, he wasn’t going down…

Yesterday as we drove to visit friends Chris and I were talking about how thankful we were that this thing has run through our home in such a mild way. Olivia had the typical case – fever, aches and rash all in that order. But, a couple days later she was up and around again. Chris and I have each basically bypassed the fever, had fairly minor aches and just mostly felt tired. I hardly had any rash to speak of and Chris still has some, but it hasn’t been terrible. The worst of it for me was two nights ago when an aching leg was really uncomfortable and it made it hard to sleep. Since then we’ve both just been taking it easy and resting when needed, but going about our day mostly normally.

In the course of our conversation we wondered about all things viral and if our bodies have maybe, because of past viruses, had some sort of resistance. A major study would need to happen to verify anything like that, and we have zero scientific experience so really it was one of those “I wonder if…” conversations.

As we chatted we kept wondering why Alex hadn’t gone down yet. And then the pieces came together…

A couple weeks ago both kids had boils (yes, lovely sharing time we’re having here…) It was weird that they both got them at the same time, but it’s Haiti and all it takes is an open pore and some nasty water or sweat, so we just dealt with it by giving them both a run of antibiotics. Olivia was better in about 48 hours, Alex took a couple more days. Just after his cleared up he got another one on his leg, and this time it was much worse than the previous one. We started the antibiotics again.

A day or so into the antibiotics Alex was really tired, feverish and just cranky. It lasted about a day. Chris, Yonese and I all chalked it up to the infection in his leg and his little body trying to fight it off. About the same time he would randomly complain about his limbs hurting. In all honesty we dismissed it because he’s been doing this thing where when he gets in trouble he starts telling us about all his body parts that are hurting. In the time out chair for a couple minutes we’ll hear, “My head hurts, my arm hurts, my leg hurts…” The complaints about hurting limbs would be mentioned once and then it was a different body part. And the whole time he was up and playing.

Because this has been going on for the last couple of months his complaints about a constant headache during the same time had me baffled. Was it real? When I asked him where exactly it hurt he would point to the same place. I literally told Chris at one point that I was wondering if we should talk to a doctor friend because I didn’t want to be one of those parents that missed all the signs of their kid having a brain tumor or some major thing like that. Then, the next day the complaints were gone and things were fine.

A day or so after the on and off fever and fatigue there was a bit of rash on random parts of Alex’s body, but in areas like his arms close to his elbows and parts of his back. It didn’t last for more than a day, and last summer he battled heat rash for several months which is the reason he still doesn’t wear more than a diaper on most days. This boy can sweat! We just assumed it was spots of heat rash because things had been warming up again after a nice couple weeks of cool weather.

So, if you’re tracking with me we’ve had fever, fatigue, bone aches, headache, rash and crankiness – and we missed it because we were so concerned about the brutal abscesses on his arm and leg. We missed the symptoms because they matched up to something else that was already going on in his little body.

The Chikun got us all, just not in the order that we thought! I can’t tell you how relieved we are to know that we won’t be facing this stuff as we’re getting ready to hop on a plane. Wahoo! I feel like a quiet stress that’s been hanging in the air, the waiting and wondering has been lifted off of us.

Thank you SO much for all of your prayers and well wishes in the past week. I know this could have hit our home so much harder than it has and we’re grateful that we’ve only had mild cases with all the stuff that’s going on this week.

Please continue to pray for Haiti. Aside from the things I requested prayer for last time, pray that people are given the opportunity to truly be educated about their bodies and how things like this virus spread. I had a really interesting conversation with one of our employees this past week about whether or not the virus was dropped on Haiti for scientific or political reasons. There are a lot of people talking about things like this right now. We had a great chat about natural disasters, like the earthquake, and natural transmission of illnesses like this. Coming from the first world we can so easily take basic education that we receive even as children about how the earth functions and medical things for granted, and it can be easy to forget that many in the world don’t have that same starting place. When you don’t have that basic education, or very little access to it, and lots of natural disasters and epidemics it can be easy to start wondering if there’s some sort of conspiracy going on. Pray that people’s hearts and minds will be opened to hearing the truth of how illnesses like Chikungunya are transmitted and can then learn how to care for and protect themselves, and that those educational opportunities will be available.

Grateful from Haiti,

Leslie

Hello Bloggy, my little friend.

I just got through two months worth of accounting work and it feels so good to get that out of the way! With being sick and then Chris being gone I’ve gotten hardly anything done in the past month. I honestly was taken by surprise when the Shingles knocked out my energy. Was not prepared for that!

Chris came home last Tuesday and we’re all better with him here :) On Monday Olivia was really quiet at dinner so I asked what she was thinking about and she said, “I’m just thinking about 3 days from now.” Prodding her more she said, “I’m just so excited I can’t even talk about it!!!” Yeah, she had, for some reason, decided that it was still three days until Daddy was coming home. I had intentionally been really vague about it because I wasn’t up to having the constant questions about how much longer or dealing with the inevitable melt downs that would come with knowing exactly when. I had just said things like, “next week” and “a few more days” which, in kid terms, could be one day or a billion days. So, knowing that she had decided in her mind that it was still three more days, I decided not to say anything.

The next morning we went about or day as usual, and Chris phoned mid-morning to let me know he had landed. He was hoping to get back in time to go get Liv from school, but because of some vehicle complications Alex and I hit the road, with Chris arriving home a few minutes after we left. He was able to change and start unpacking a bit before we got back. When he heard the car come in he hid behind the door so when we opened it it didn’t go all the way. Olivia immediately whipped it back to see why and found Daddy hiding behind it. Then this happened:

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And this…

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I still feel a little weepy when I look at those. These kids love their Daddy and vice versa. Alex had been in a funk for 2.5 weeks which was super draining on me. He was really clingy, didn’t want to do anything, would ask for something and when I gave it to him told me he didn’t want it or that it was “yucky”. Our little caveman who often eats just as much as a normal adult didn’t want anything. He was just not himself. As soon as he saw Daddy he got this contented little smile on his face and for the next two to three days would just randomly say things like, “My so happy Daddy’s home” and “My love that Daddy’s home.” Melt(Aside: this kid is so free flowing with his sweet comments and verbal love. I regularly hear things like “Mommy, you buful” and “I love you”.)

Nanna sent boots in for the kids. Alex has barely taken his off since he got them. He even talks to them. Like, “Hey Boots! Good night Boots! It’s okay, Boots…”

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And yes, that’s his regular wardrobe. He has a diaper tan, and we have no idea how we’re going to ever get him to wear clothes regularly. Maybe when he starts school…

My energy is pretty much back to normal now and I’m super thankful about that. It’s so frustrating to not be able to do what you want to do.

We had friends come spend the day on Good Friday, then Sunday was our regularly scheduled missionary fellowship bible study day, so we had an Easter potluck and spent time doing communion together. It was a sweet way to spend the day with our missionary family, and time and time again I find myself thinking about how thankful I am for the people that God has brought in our lives. We’ve always had a solid group of people around us and try to make those relationships a priority, but in the last year and a half God has just solidified those more and brought new families into the area that have kids in our kids age range. On top of that there have been a wonderful group of single ladies that we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and who love to come over and hang with us and give us date nights by hanging with our kids. Every single one of these people is a blessing to us.

I had a bit of a laugh last week because there was this distinct moment in St. Marc while I was doing some shopping that reminded me just how much I’ve adjusted to the crazy that happens here on a regular basis, so much so that these events can happen and they just get mixed in with everything else in a day and I sometimes even forget to mention them to Chris. These are the things that would have been a BIG deal when I was first living here and the fact that they just become part of the kaleidoscope that is life here just shows me how much this has become home and how the “abnormal” has become my normal.

I was in town doing some grocery shopping before picking Olivia up after school. Chris had asked me to stop by a parts store to pick up some fuel conditioner for the car. The store that I went to is one of the better ones in St. Marc and is always busy. There’s a guy that fixes tires out front so there are cars and motos and people everywhere. Just being a white woman going into a hardware or parts store here gets enough attention as it is. Literally people whip their heads when I walk by. The guys inside are always surprised that I know what I’m asking for and that I speak fluent Creole. Also things not normal for white women here. I went in, chatted with everyone, bought the stuff I needed and headed back out. As I was walking to my car – literally just coming around the front of it to go to the drivers side door, a dump truck started pulling in. He very much saw me. And he very much did not leave enough space, or stop until I had passed my car. He literally kept driving and was so close that as I quickly tried to scurry around the car the box of the truck brushed my dress. I was shuffling sideways and my butt was touching my car, just to give you an idea of how tight a squeeze it was.

Yeah, I literally almost got run over by a dump truck! (And this is where my mother goes, “Ah! Les!” – sorry mom!)

The best part of this whole story though is not that I didn’t get hit (though that’s a very good thing and something that I’m grateful for!) but rather that the mob of people moving about in front of the store stood in disbelief at what they’d just seen and then they started yelling at the driver. So often there’s such a huge divide between classes and whatnot that we feel like we’re on on own with few times where others come to our defense. We’re often looked to as the ones to blame simply because we’re the foreigners, not because things are actually our fault. It leaves us feeling like everything here is work, because it truly is. In that moment where a mob of people started yelling in my defense I kind of felt like the playing field was not just level, but that we were all playing the same game for a moment. They were upset that he had done something that could have caused harm to anyone. I wasn’t alone in thinking the whole thing was crazy, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t need to come to my own defense. Instead I was able to yell a thank you, wave and get in my car and go.

People that come to visit often comment on our Creole or that Chris and I go and do a lot of things personally rather than sending our staff. We believe in giving our staff responsibility for a lot of things and are always looking for ways to give them more, but we also believe in being able to do things ourselves here. As a woman, I think it’s even more important. More often than not I get compliments on the fact that I speak Creole pretty fluently. People here appreciate the effort because to them it says that we’ve invested ourselves in learning the language of the people. It earns us a lot of respect in the sense that it’s so appreciated. As a woman, I see how men respect me when I can go into a hardware store or something like that and ask for things specifically and tell them in detail what it’s going to be used for. What I love is when I tell them that I’m the one building furniture or needing something for a project that I’m working on. They LOVE that I do things out of the box and they respect it. I like that people appreciate the effort that I’ve put in because I know they see that it’s hard work and I know that it means something to them. It bridges so many gaps that have been here for so long.

A few months ago we bought a used washing machine off of some other missionaries. They had owned it for 8 months and the motor went on it. Chris is handy, which I’m SO thankful for, so he loves situations like this where we can buy something for the mission and fix it rather than having to buy something new and spend more money. He gave the machine a good once over and confirmed that it was the motor, then found a new one online that he brought back with him. Our original plan was that he would do the fix on the new one and we would put it in our house and then move the one in our house down to the round house, because as Chris told me repeatedly, “We’re going to use it until it dies completely!”. The one down there works, but is really old and can only take small loads. I’m so thankful for that old man of a machine though, because time and time again we’ve needed a back up and we’ve been able to just go down and do laundry down there. Like the day after Chris left when the machine in our house stopped working!

Now would be a good time to tell you about the old machine in our house. We bought it off Craig’s List back in 2007, and received it here in Haiti in early 2008 after having it shipped in. It was in great shape and it’s been worked hard! I think the mission spent maybe $200-250 total for the machine and shipping. Great deal, especially since appliances are SO expensive here. Because we live on the ocean the salt and the humidity tend to cause a lot of rust on things. Our bathroom doesn’t have the best ventilation, and that’s where the washer is. Over the years of living up here it’s slowly been rusting apart. Not just outside, but inside too! We literally had the water hose coming into the drum clamped on with a binder clip because the fittings holding the plastic feed rusted away. Pieces of metal would regularly fall off from the drum surround, and if we had to move the machine out for any reason Yonese and I would find ourselves sweeping up dustpans of rust chunks. But the machine still worked great, and Chris said we would use it until it died. As far as washing and the load capacity that it would take, it was still better than the old man downstairs, so we figured Chris would just figure out what the problem was and we’d bring back the parts in the summer and fix it. That is, until he went to move it…

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Proof we have kids – a few dozen Q-tips on the floor…

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You see how the right side of the machine is lined up with the bars on the railing, and the left back side isn’t? Yeah, that’s not because the railing isn’t square or the machine isn’t level – it’s because that whole side of the machine almost fell off when Chris moved it.

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When he started to pull it out from it’s spot in the bathroom, the one side detached from the rest of the machine – because of the rust. He could barely move it because the outside was shifting separately. It left a trail of rust all the way out to the deck and once we could see the back of it Chris was able to see just how bad the rust was. Let’s just say he decided it had finally “died” :) This girl, and Yonese, are super happy with the new washer! And, for a total of $260 (machine and new motor) for an almost new machine it’s a win! Have I mentioned I love having a handy husband?

Here’s another window into life here…

Haiti has been rapidly advancing in the area of cell service and internet options. For the first year or so that I was here we had a few cell phones for the mission, but whoever was leaving needed to take all of them because the coverage would change between companies depending on what zone you were in. Just going 30 minutes away to St. Marc meant two different coverage areas. Now new companies have come in, we have great coverage, access to cheap phones and internet and even the poorest of the poor can afford to have cell phones in the family. We used to have satellite internet, but two summers ago we got back from vacation and our modem was down and the company couldn’t provide an easy fix. The cell companies were just putting out USB internet sticks so we switched over. That worked for a while, but we ended up having issues. About that same time I got an iPhone and when our USB sticks kept giving us issues I figured out how to tether/hot spot on my phone and we eventually switched over to using that for our internet. We could all tap into my data plan and it was a great solution. A couple months ago Chris switched over to an iPhone too so we’ve both had things hot spotted as our means of getting internet access in our house for work and personal stuff.

Then Apple released the new operating system update in the middle of March. Being new to the iPhone world Chris downloaded it immediately before I could warn him to hold off a bit. Whenever there’s a new update there are always bugs and I’ve learned just from watching facebook to hold off and let everyone else get annoyed and wait for the fix releases to come out before downloading it. We rely on our phones for too much here and it’s too important to not be able to use them as usual. Well, one of the bugs was that the 7.1 update wouldn’t let you use the hot spot feature – meaning Chris’ phone was useless for internet access unless he was just needing internet on his phone.

For anyone in North America, you might not even ever look at hot spotting your phone. For us… This meant that we went back to relying on my phone exclusively. If I had to leave for any reason, Chris couldn’t do anything internet related on his computer. No emails, no nothing. On top of all that, we had a very generous friend and board member donate her old iPhone 4 to the mission so we could have an extra. We know Haiti and know that it’s very likely something will happen where one of ours breaks, and since we also use it for internet, having a back up means we can seamlessly keep going with work and everything else. So appreciated! Well, when she got the phone unlocked they updated it at the same time to 7.1 – so the back up phone was useless for anything other than a phone :( Sadness.

For the last month we’ve been trying to figure out ways to fix it, and no cigar. The complaints on the Apple discussion pages were coming in from all over the world from users that rely on tethering/hot spotting their phones. Yesterday Chris, on a whim, checked to see if there were any new iOS updates, and lo and behold there was a 7.1.1. We decided to try it on the back up phone first to see what would happen. It worked! They fixed it and now both phones can use the hot spot again and we have multiple ways of getting internet! Woo hoo.

All this to say – when you just turn on your devices or go online, appreciate the simplicity of just having the service available in a way that doesn’t require electronic gymnastics with no back up support if there’s a problem (and no, being able to call a service desk and have a technician come out to your house within a week of the problem does not qualify as a valid complaint of “no back up support” when you’re talking to people like us, because  you can actually use the words “technician” and “coming to your house” in the same sentence. Here that would be a crazy luxury that we can only dream about.)

Have a happy Wednesday!

~Leslie

 

Monday

The last two weeks have felt anything but productive for me, and it’s funny because it’s not that I haven’t been doing anything. We’ve had a stomach bug, rash and bowel issues going on in our house for various members. Two weeks ago Chris spent two days under the weather, and I was down one day. We had a great weekend, then the kids and I got hit with the same bug so there went the first part of last week.

When I say not feeling productive I guess what I’m saying is that I didn’t get much work done. When I came out of the sick ward I freakishly got this second wind and organized half of our house in one day. Granted, our house is not huge, so we have less stuff, but there were some big projects done, like the storage room… I love walking in there now and knowing where things are, what I need to get, and not having things fall on my head.

Aside from house projects, I’ve been working on some knitting things too. I actually have a pretty big list of stuff I want to get done before the end of the year. Did you know this about me? Not sure if I’ve even mentioned on here that I like knitting. I learned in college from a Martha Stewart magazine article, but never finished that scarf. Last year I earnestly picked things back up and have fully committed. I’ve made a variety of things from dish cloths, a pair of socks, a bag for Olivia (which I hated, by the way), sweaters for my brother and sister in law’s littles, some fun little ornaments and am now working on Christmas stockings. One more to go, and then I can move on to something else. I’ve realized I like variety and totally understand why knitters may have several projects on the go at once. I’m making myself finish these first though because I want them to be all done and ready for when it’s time to decorate for Christmas. Don’t want to be madly finishing one so I can get it up.

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Some teeny, tiny sweaters that will probably be on our tree this year. So hard not to love these!

I have a few more things I want to do before the end of the month. October seems to be my project month, I guess. Stuff like:

  • Work with Yonese and get all the marks on the walls scrubbed off as much as we can. Did this last fall before the property was appraised, but little hands have been busy since.
  • After that’s done, touch up paint around the entire house. It’s been 4.5 years since we moved in, and our walls are off-white, so it’s time.
  • Build a removable shelf to sit above the washing machine so we don’t keep losing things behind it that fall off the side of the bathroom counter. (Our washer is in the bathroom, right next to the sink)
  • Finish sorting the last few cupboards in the kitchen. Did most of them last week and what’s left is simple.
  • Maybe clean and move up another couch???

I do do other things around here besides house projects, just in case you were wondering :) I just haven’t gotten a lot of those other things done in the last week, but hopefully this week I’ll finish some of those things off. It’s my goal to hack through all my back burnered work projects (stuff that has taken a back seat to other things) before the end of November so I can enjoy December and move into the New Year with a clean slate and focus on other things.

On that note, it’s time to get to work! Have a great Monday :)

~Leslie

Weight Watchers: 2 Month Check-In

Today is the end of the second month that I’ve been on Weight Watchers, so it’s time to check-in and do an update!

So far, so good!

Actually, I’m really happy today because when I weighed in this morning the scale showed that I’ve now lost 15 lbs!! And, there were two weeks where I had actually gained a bit, so really I’ve lost more, but had to make up for the gains. I’m .03 shy of my first goal of losing 10% of the overall amount of weight that I need to lose, and the truth is, I know I’m already there, but because of a pizza dinner last night that’s got me feeling a bit bloated up today, it’s not showing on the scale. It was there yesterday morning, though :)

How did this month go?

Well, I got over the six week hump, which seems to be my breaking point most of the time. And, it was a challenge. Funny how that is. But, got through it.

We’ve been battling a flu type thing in our house in the last two weeks, so for weeks 7 & 8, I was still tracking, but my body was wanting comfort foods. You know, carbs, cheese, etc. Yes, normally when people are sick they don’t want those things, but I never claimed to be normal. When the cravings kick in I know I’m into recovery mode. I let myself eat those things, tracked them, and then made good choices like a giant plate of salad one night to account for it.

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, and if you’ve been reading, you know we had a big get together here. How did I decide to handle the holiday and all the food?

I allowed myself to not track for one day. Actually, I decided that I would give myself that grace for any major holiday or my birthday. I know this whole things will not work if I feel guilty or deprived, so I won’t let myself go there. And, I know that one day is not going to be the ruin of all my hard work. I enjoyed dinner last Sunday, and some of the left overs this week, but I tracked them and after a day or so had no interest in them any more. Stuffing is my favorite part of the whole turkey meal, and we still have some in our fridge because it wasn’t worth using my points for.

15 lbs is a decent weight loss, if I do say so myself. Am I noticing any difference on my body?

I’m starting to. I’ve been noticing things for the last couple of weeks, actually. My ribcage area has lost the most probably, and I noticed that my wrists looked slightly slimmer. Tried on a bracelet that I have and it definitely sat in a different place than before, so it wasn’t just in my head.

The other day I put on a denim skirt I haven’t worn in a while that has two buttons on the closure, and without realizing it right away I had done it up wrong by buttoning to the farthest button, because that’s where it fit comfortably. That felt SO good :) That’s been the most noticeable clothing difference so far, though a couple pairs of shorts are starting to feel a tiny bit loose.

So, that’s the update for this month. This next month I need to focus on getting more veggies in because of all my comfort food eating. Need to get the meal plan updated too.

Have a great week!

~Leslie

Enter Me, the Whirling Dervish

You get two posts in one day!!! You’re so lucky :)

Yesterday I slept in a bit to recover from a night up with the kids at various points, and I think it was enough to not only bring me around the sickie corner, but it also must have given me my second wind because somewhere between finishing my eggs and drinking my coffee I decided to tackle a big organization project.

I should back up a second though…

I’ve mentioned that we’re staying in Haiti this year for Christmas. With that in mind, and a few things filling up the calendar, and MY PARENTS COMING TO VISIT (!), I decided to put together a holiday planner/organizer. You know, something to keep gifts sorted, plan certain get togethers and meals, etc. When we have to order things in and plan for several bigger events where I might have to take advantage of trips to Port au Prince, I need to be organized. I just looked around on Pinterest for some ideas, then put together my own pages, printed them on card stock, and stuck them in a binder with dividers for each month. It’s already been really helpful! For example, for the Thanksgiving party, I was able to plan out who was bringing what, what was needed etc, all on one page. Then I could pop it out and carry it around with me as I was getting stuff ready.

In that overall planning process I saw a pin on Pinterest called “50 things to do to organization your home before Christmas”. Or something like that. I pinned it because while we try to keep things fairly organized, sometimes we get busy and there are little things that nag away and we don’t give them the attention they need. I’m also not a spring cleaner, I think because we don’t get that “new” season coming where we want to throw open the windows, air everything out and get the dust bunnies out of the corners. The windows are open every day, and the dust bunnies get attacked regularly. Also, I find September/October is when I seem to want to do most of the organizing tasks around here. I think the coming back from vacation, it’s starting to get cooler, going back to school thing feels like a new season to me, and I tend to have more energy than in the spring when it’s starting to get hot.

Anyway.

I got the idea to take the list as a jumping off point and make an organizing, then upkeep page for each month. Each month has the same tasks on it. October would be the month where any major organization that needed to be done, would get done, then the coming months would just mean quickly revisiting each item to check up on it. If it needs some tidying, it gets tidied. If the organization of the previous month wasn’t working, it can get adjusted. You get the idea. I basically went through each room and thought of what wasn’t typical cleaning and was more of an organizational thing. For example, organizing the kids drawers. This needs to be done monthly. They both get in there and mix things up, and sometimes when Yonese puts clothes away things don’t go where I would put them. So about once a month I take 30 minutes and go through and sort things. It’s also a good time to move anything out that they don’t wear, has stains beyond hope, or doesn’t fit. Anything needing to be moved into rotation does.

One of the biggest, most procrastinated about and complained about projects was the storage room. When we were planning this apartment Otto, our engineer friend who did the designs, added the storage room in. Chris wanted to take it out. I told him it was a non-negotiable because the other house had zero storage built in and I was done with making due. Now we have everything from pantry stuff to fuel conditioner for the Santa Fe in there. Office supplies? Check. Computer parts? Check. Toys and books out of rotation? Check. Craft and sewing supplies? Check. We seriously have a little of everything, and it had gotten to the point where we were just sort of finding a spot and filling it. Things weren’t together, and stuff kept falling on me when I’d go in. I would buy extra things, like ketchup, because I couldn’t see that we already had two in the pantry. I think it had been about 2 years since I’d done a good overhaul. It was time.

So, I started with the stuff closest to the door and went shelf by shelf. Professional organizers say the best thing you can do when organizing a space is to empty everything out, go through it, toss what needs to be tossed, donate what needs to be donated, and decide if what was there and where it was works for you. If not, change it.

I tossed 3 garbage bags of stuff. A lot of it was packaging from consolidating items, or stuff that was broken, outdated, etc. I think when you’re a missionary it’s easy to hold onto things because you might need it “one day”. Things like broken electronics or stuff that’s outdated. Because maybe you’ll need a backup. But then you remember that the reason you got a new router was because they old one didn’t work anymore. Ahem.

So I did it. I went through every section of the room. Took everything out, wiped shelves, sorted, tossed, donated and then reorganized things and even labeled stuff! I realized that the two shelves we have for pantry stuff needed some adjustments. I have a lot of things in baskets already, they just needed some cleaning and sorting. The biggest thing I realized though was that I needed to put the baskets down a shelf and put the stuff that just sits loosely, like cans etc, up a shelf. It’s easy to look down into a basket and see what’s there. I was buying multiples of things, like ketchup though, because I would have had to bend over to see all the way back to the shelf the loose stuff was on. Now that it’s at eye level I can see what we have and what we need easily. The rest of the room saw like being put with like and just basic editing down. Now all the office supplies are on one shelf. The stuff we use the most is closer to the door. Things like that. It’s nice to walk in there and not have things fall on me!

That whole process led to tidying up the cupboard above the linen cupboard, behind our bedroom door, the office shelves (gah!) and our closet. They were all things on the task list, I just wasn’t anticipating doing them all in one day. I realized though, that I’m not one of those people that does 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there like most pro-organizers recommend. I like to take a day and tackle a lot. I feel freer when I do that because I don’t feel like I have another job nagging at me. I LOVE crossing things off the “to do” list. Because of that I literally knocked out half of the list yesterday. I still need to go through my kitchen cupboards and do some tidying and sorting in the kids room, but for the most part I’m done. For the next few months I can go over the list, put things in their places and just stay on top of things.

What always strikes me too, when I do this, is how much was all let out a deep breath. I sometimes think I’m the only one that feels claustrophobic when these things need to be done, but I think it’s because Chris just isn’t as vocal about it. He’s also realizing that what might bug him, like a very full storage room, he’s contributed to. Yesterday as I was going through everything, he was making comments of appreciation. When it was done, he just said thank you, and I knew he meant that he felt like there was breathing space too. I wasn’t going crazy and throwing stuff out, but rather asked him about consolidating and moving some things around so it wasn’t just my project, but something we could both get behind, even if I was doing the work. A few things he just shook his head and said something about not being sure why we even still had the item. I concur. I think we’re both wanting to live more simply, and that means asking ourselves if we really need or use certain things. As our kids get older we’re able to pass on a lot of the stuff that has cluttered our small house. One of the next things to go is our kids dishes. We already use melamine dishes every day, so having extra kid dishes in the house is feeling redundant. Alex is big enough now that he can use regular small forks like Olivia and eat off the same dishes we do. He doesn’t need special cutlery. The only thing we’ll hold on to are sippy cups.

As I’m working through this the thing I keep in mind (or maybe the thing that pushes me?) is the upcoming holidays. I know it might seem crazy since it’s two months until Christmas, but it’s my favorite time of year. I’m looking forward to spending Christmas here in Haiti, even though I’ll miss the typical things we would enjoy back home. I want the time to be fun and restful. I don’t want to feel bogged down by stuff or things that are nagging at me. I can use this time to be going through our house to simplify things so the work load is less. The less you have, and the more organized it is, the less work you need to do. Did you know that I rarely do housework on weekends? I want my weekends to be a time of rest, not a time to get stuff done. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever do it, or that I don’t do projects around the house. I do, but I don’t save it up and do it on the weekend. I think over time as we’ve simplified things and there’s been less work to do, well, there’s been less work to do. When I do find myself doing something, it’s usually sweeping and mopping because the floors are a disaster, or maybe a load of laundry because one of the kids had an issue. We don’t have a dishwasher, so dishes are obviously on the list. My point is, I want to make time to relax and look forward to the holidays, and one of the ways for me to fully do that, is to know that our house is in order.

Do you do any organizational projects in the fall to get ready for holidays?

~Leslie

Happy Belated Thanksgiving Canada!

This past weekend marked Canadian Thanksgiving. We’re a multi-country family with Canadians, Americans and Haitians all represented. In fact, out of the 4 of us, I’m the only one who doesn’t have 2 passports. Chris is a dual citizen and was able to transfer citizenship to Alex. We haven’t done it for Olivia because as an adopted child it would involve an immigration process and gets spendy. I haven’t gotten my green card because I just haven’t needed to. Olivia still has her Haitian passport from when we finished her adoption.

So, we get to celebrate two Thanksgivings in our family. Typically Canadian Thanksgiving is a low key roast chicken dinner at home. We may invite a friend, but that’s usually the extent of it. One year we went to a big Canadian Thanksgiving bash at a friends house where about 20+ Canadians had gathered. There tends to be more American missionaries here in Haiti, so any gathering of large numbers of Canadians are fun.

This year we decided to host Canadian Thanksgiving for our missionary group. The funny thing is there are only 5 Canadians in a group of about 40 :) When we extended the invitation, we weren’t sure how many would come, so we were happily surprised when the RSVP’s started flying in and everyone who had been invited was excited to be there. We did a big ol’ potluck, because our group is good at those.

We decided to try something different to see how it worked out cost wise, and bought two local turkeys. On Friday morning Yonese brought our little friends to work so they could meet their fate. We were a little surprised when Alex quickly grabbed the leg tie on the big one and started walking it around the yard like a puppy.

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In case you were worried that he was in shock after it was butchered, he wasn’t. In fact, a couple hours later I looked down into the driveway to see him walking over from the work yard where the deed had been done, carrying a turkey head by the comb. My first world self almost freaked out, then I remembered that we aren’t living in the first world and if he was okay with it, I guess I could be too. Besides, if we lived on a farm, that would be normal if we had chickens.

We had a great day with all our friends. Everyone chipped in with tables and we had a nice afternoon with great food under the coconut trees. As we sat around playing some games later and then moved on to going around the circle to share something we were thankful for I was kind of overwhelmed with gratitude.

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You see, being in another country full time means you miss a lot of family stuff. For example, my brother and sister in law recently had their second baby, a sweet little girl. I wasn’t there when my nephew was born, and had to wait 4.5 months to meet him. I won’t meet Lucy until next summer. That stuff makes me sad. Holidays are hard too because we know family is gathering back home and we aren’t there. BUT, that said, as I looked around I was reminded of the blessing that God has given us in our missionary family here. When I first arrived in Haiti, Chris and I were some of the youngest members. Less than a year later we were the only young married couple. Then we were the only young family after Olivia came along. There were other people in our age bracket, but they came and went with shorter commitments to Haiti. As I looked around on Sunday I saw 40 people that are a core group in our lives, ranging in ages from 70+ down to the first few months of their lives. Where we used to be the youngest and only young marrieds/family, I now saw several young families with kids of all ages. We have singles. We have newly-weds. We have mid-lifers. We have retirees. We have surrogate grandparent and auntie/uncle types for our kids. We have people we look to as mentors, and people we want to spend time with when we just need to unwind. We have people we can feed into because we’ve done the hard work of settling here and starting a family. We have Canadians, Americans and Haitians – all creating beautiful blended families whether it’s through marriage, adoption, fostering or coming alongside brothers and sisters in Christ. God has truly blessed us with this group, and we’re so thankful for each and every one of them!

It was a wonderful, relaxed, fun afternoon! That evening I got to talk to my brother, and on Monday me and the kids got to talk to Nanna and Pappa. For the first time Alex was really into talking on the phone, which was a kick! There was a lot of excitement from the littles!

Sadly, Monday and Tuesday also got spent as sick days in our house while me and the kids were down with a stomach bug that’s been going around. Thankfully we’re all better now :)

~Leslie

The Weekend Our House Found It’s Personality

I won’t lie. I love Pinterest.

That’s my confession.

Why?

Laundry detergent I can make myself for less money and readily available ingredients. New meal ideas that I can make from ingredients we have here. Seriously, I can search “west indies pumpkin” and come up with a slew of recipes to use the variety of pumpkins we have here in Haiti. People are creative, and they like to share that info. Do you know what you can DIY if you just look for information?

So, I love Pinterest. Because of Pinterest I’ve been inspired to try new things and do stuff I would have just dismissed because I had no idea where to start. It was because of Pinterest that I found the Ana White website, the one that had plans for our fabulous dining table and coffee table. That’s what inspired me to get into building furniture. And, the funny thing is that instead of starting with something simple, like shelves, I decided to go for a coffee table, a dining table and a bed. Nice.

I’ve learned so much through the process of building some of our furniture.

I’ve learned that I can do it. That I can take an idea in my head and actually make it become reality. The plans for our coffee table I followed fairly closely to the ones on ana-white.com. The table was created with inspiration and basic plans, but adapted to fit our needs by adding the slid in extensions on the end.

Our bed? I saw the plans on the website, but fell in love with the original on the Pottery Barn website. I wanted less “farmhouse” and more of the feeling of something “more”. I watched the video on the PB website about how they made the beds and fell in love with the finish and the dark wood. And I love how our bed turned out for the most part. When we move, and have to take it apart, I have a couple minor adjustments to make, but for the most part we LOVE it. For the first few weeks I just kept saying how grown up I felt.

I’ve also learned how to work with what I’ve got. I can’t walk into Home Depot and pick out the nicest wood there for whatever project I’m making. There’s one hardware store in St. Marc that actually has decent wood, and that’s where I get most of my stuff, but even then there are times where I have to be flexible because what might be considered a “finished” board here, would be considered rough hewn back home. I have to account for measurements because a rough board here will truly be 1×4″, not planed down and just called a 1×4. I always have to have a good supply of sand paper on hand and be willing to commit the time to sanding. Often this is where most of my time is spent when I’m making something.

Since I started building furniture last year I’ve also learned what my true “style” is. Or I guess, what “our” style is as a family. We need a home that’s functional and that we can truly live in. Our kids are small. They will abuse the furniture. Having anything that we’re afraid of getting roughed up just won’t work. We’re not those kind of people, either. Chris and I would much rather be living in something comfortable than fancy. I think that living in a space with some element of “beauty” is good for the heart.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that it’s easy to only see the poverty in Haiti and miss the people. In that it’s easy to miss the fact that Haitians, while living in hard circumstances, have a lot of joy and appreciate nicer things. You can go into some of the most humble homes (sticks, mud/clay walls, and tin roof) and find beautiful hand carved cabinets with all the nice things the family holds dear. I remember the first time I saw it and how it struck me. We were in the middle of no where, and from the outside I would have had no idea. While I think the natural tendency when working in a place like Haiti is to live simply, there is value in enjoying your living space, especially if you plan on being there for the long haul.

Chris and I love the feeling of off white walls and big windows. I know that if we were living back in Canada we would be happier in a home with history than a brand new, looks like everyone else’s house. We like character. We have light aqua kitchen cupboards and we love them so much that they will be repeated in part when we move. We aren’t afraid of color, and to have anything otherwise just wouldn’t be us.

We like the feeling of a house that is lived in. We like being able to put our feet on the coffee table. Our coffee table was built with that in mind. I love the Pottery Barn feel of having worn wood and industrial metal mixed with simple white, cotton and twill and little bits of history. Stuff that feels used and recycled mixed with stuff that maybe isn’t. Yet, things being functional. In this sense, Haiti works in our favor. That wood I was talking about? Even after a lot of sanding, it looks “worn”. And, for our family that works so well. Our dining room table has small gaps and ruts – the kind of thing that people actually have to work at putting into their furniture to get that “aged” look. I don’t care if Alex bashes his spoon into it and makes dents. It adds more character. The coffee table is the same and the kids can bang their toys on it to their hearts content. It doesn’t matter.

I love that living here has made me be creative with things, because nothing will be what you want it to be if you get it here. You either make due, adapt or figure out how to make your own. And anything else? Well, it most likely has to come in a suitcase. Slip covers to convert a less than ideal couch or chair. Paint. Thinking outside the box and seeing how to use one thing for something else. For example, I wanted to hang our pots and pans above the stove where they were easy to get to. I hated having to lift a pile every time I wanted the one on the bottom. I decided to have a friend build the shelf and we used a thick piece of rebar painted black to hang things from. I love it. (And case in point about the color in our home…)

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This last week I decided to bust into the wood stash I still had and knock out some projects that I’ve had on my list or in my Pinterest boards for a while. They were all decor related. Back over the summer we finally decided it was probably time to actually print some pictures to put into the frames I had stock piled and put them on display. When we got back I hung some of them, but I had some shelves in mind for the living room for others. Chris wondered why I didn’t just hammer nails into the walls and hang them, but I wanted something that we could change up and move around, add little things to, etc.

Our living room now has shelves with photos. I still have one frame coming that will have our wedding picture in it, but for now we have a smaller version up.

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I decided that while I was at it and had the tools out I might as well do some other things. I made a shelf for above the kitchen window. It’s only function is to hold decor stuff. I was tired of not having character in our house, so I scrounged around and found some stuff I loved, but that we didn’t really use, and put it up there, and made some other things.

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The Open Daily sign and the “r” were hand made, and the rest was scrounged, with the exception of the black frame. That one had a picture in it, then fell and the glass smashed, so it’s going to hold seasonal art.

When I was a kid we had a chalk board in our hall way and we spent hours, maybe days, or our childhood playing on that thing. I was tired of hearing our kids fight and noticed that they’ve recently gotten into this drawing/coloring kick, so thought they would have tons of fun with a huge chalkboard on the wall.

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I looked down the hall to see this hours after it went up.

Since it went up on Saturday afternoon Olivia has reassured me that it is in fact one of the best things ever. I also love the “give thanks” word art above it, and have already knocked something out for Christmas, but you have to wait to see that ;)

One more piece of word art in the kitchen was the icing on the cake. I love this. Just a rough sanded 1×6, a couple coats of paint, some traced and painted letters, then a pass with the sander and a satin varnish. Done.

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Now we just need to get a different clock. The one we had there actually died a few weeks ago. I loved it. It was a red number that cost me $4 at Walmart. The one up now we stole from the round house and it eventually needs to go back there.

So yes, this weekend our house found it’s personality. I keep finding myself walking through the house, catching something new in my eye, and smiling. It feels like home. Not that it wasn’t home before, it just feels like a family with an identity lives here now. And we like it. This morning one of the workers came in to get something and noticed the shelves in the living room and said, “Those are nice! I like the photos.” And I smiled.

~Leslie

My Mom Journey: Dealing With the Weight

It’s been a long time since I posted a “My Mom Journey” post. I’m putting todays post under that category because really, it completely affects how I mother.

Since puberty I’ve had weight issues. I come from tall genes on one side, and Ukrainian genes on another. They’re known as what we all like to call “big boned” people. I’m 5’10”, so I actually carry my weight a lot differently than most people with the same number of pounds on their frame. That’s good and bad. Good in the sense that a higher number on the scale is normal for someone of my stature. Bad in the sense that it’s easier to let that number creep up because it doesn’t look the same as someone who might be even 3 inches shorter than me. And there in lies the problem. The creeping.

Through my life my weight has slowly crept up. I don’t come from an athletic family. My dad is 6’4″ and his whole life heard comments about what a fabulous basket ball player he must be – except he is the first person to admit how awkward he looked as a teenager while running. So no, not a sports family. I grew up playing outside, but the only team sport I ever played was a couple seasons of soft ball.

My weight has always been a self esteem issue, like most people that struggle with their weight. But, in my case, I’m not a binge eater or struggle with major eating disorders. While my weight bothers me, it’s not the only thing that identifies me. Rather, it’s a problem that I’ve been too lazy to do anything about consistently. I have started several times, only to peter out after a while and go right back to my bad habits of eating portions way bigger than I need to, and doing very little activity. It doesn’t help that I actually really love food. I love the taste, the experience and the process of making it. Food is emotional for me in that it comforts and I use it to celebrate.

People who have gone through major weight loss tend to tell you that they finally got to a point where something just “clicked” for them, and the decision to do something about it finally stuck.

A few weeks ago I finally got to that point. And it wasn’t this big epiphany, it was more like, “Okay, this is it.” I know getting there has actually been a process full of thought for me. Because I’ve tried several things in the past I knew certain things just weren’t for me. Stuff like:

  • I hate counting calories. It actually has adverse effects for me when I see large numbers, even if the food is healthy. I feel guilty. It’s strange, but that’s the way it is. And yet, most often the most successful weight loss stories all have calorie counting in common. I get the principle and agree with it, but it’s incredibly hard mentally for me.
  • I hate feeling deprived. Any program where I’m told I can’t possibly eat the foods that I like because they will cause some sort of derailment in my weight loss only leads to disaster. As in, I get to a breaking point where I don’t just fall off the wagon, I throw myself off the side, roll under the back wheel and get left in a dust cloud.
  • I have really lousy will power. I need something that is encouraging, not boot camp style where I feel like I’m not hitting the mark because I miss a work out or something like that.

Over the summer the reality hit me that I was missing out on certain things with our kids because I literally felt like I couldn’t do them. I don’t feel comfortable running, so even running after my kids for some reason is always a check point. What if there was an emergency? Could I respond fast enough? When I had to honestly answer that I didn’t think I could, it was a wake up moment. What about the kinds of activities we can do as a family when we’re on vacation? Is my weight limiting us? The answer is yes. We don’t have a lot of cash to spend on the fun things, so we need to make our own fun. So many free activities revolve around being physical, and yet I was the one not wanting to do those because I didn’t feel I could. That’s a problem. How many experiences are my kids missing, even if it’s just something simple like walking around town and exploring? And lastly, I’m trying to teach my kids how to have a healthy relationship with food at a young age, but what example am I setting? If I tell them they don’t have to clear their plates, but rather can stop when they feel full, yet can’t do the same thing for myself, they will eventually notice that. And how do I tell them that they need to ask themselves if they’re really hungry, versus being bored, when they ask for a snack, if I’m snacking because I’m bored or have an emotional hole that needs filling? I don’t want to be hypocritical.

So, what did I do?

I joined Weight Watchers online. And you know what? It’s working for me, and most of all – I LOVE IT!

This is why:

  • I love the point system. For me this is so much better than tracking calories, yet it’s essentially the same thing. I get a daily allotment of points based on my current BMI (body mass index) that was calculated when I signed up. Tracking points feels like a game, so I don’t mind doing it every day. And, I was able to download the app for my iPhone and our iPad, so it’s easy to track things on whichever device I’m in front of, and it updates to my account so it’s the same right across the board. No need to try and remember things for when I’m in front of my computer.
  • Fruits and veggies are “free” foods, with the exception of a couple things like avocados which have a lot of great things in them, but also have a higher fat content. The point is that WW encourages the eating of as much fruit and veggies as you can during the day, so they encourage you to go to those foods first because they’re the most nutritious. Knowing that those things are a zero point value, I do find myself going to those as options first before something else.
  • You can eat what you want, as long as it falls in your point allowance for the day. I just have to make sure I track it. I haven’t felt deprived at all. If I want a treat, like a piece of cake at a missionary meeting, I eat it, track it, then choose other lower point foods for the rest of the day.
  • There are a ton of great tools like an activity tracker that gives you extra points to use, a recipe builder that calculates the points in a serving, and helpful articles and a community to get connected to – if you want to.
  • It’s affordable. Depending on where you live, the cost is about $20/month. For some reason a couple years ago I thought the cost was higher, so I didn’t consider WW. I’m sad I didn’t now. Rather than look at it as an expense, I’m looking at it as an investment into my health and the life of our family, and in that frame of mind it’s well worth it.

What I’m learning…

Wow. So many things! Chris just saw the title of the post and asked how being on WW affects me as a mom. This is how…

How food affects me. I seriously had no idea just how much what I was eating was affecting me. I knew that there were emotional issues because I felt cruddy about my weight in general, but I had no idea how certain types of foods were affecting my overall mood and how my body felt.

In the last year I’ve been feeling more overwhelmed with life in general. I’m kind of in a fog and not feeling really productive. I felt cranky most days, and would be on edge. Excessive noise would bother me, and I had a hard time feeling calm.

Since I’ve been eating better and not eating as much refined foods like pasta, or carb dense foods like rice, bread etc I’ve noticed a BIG change. When I have eaten those things I’ve quickly seen how those foods hit me. I get really tired for an hour or so after eating pasta, for example. This past week was a training class, so I wasn’t cooking but rather eating a LOT of rice and carb heavy foods. I’ve felt bloated and tired and cranky again.

When I’m making healthier choices I feel calmer. Last night for example, Alex was waiting for dinner and threw his plate on the floor. I was on edge and the noise startled me really badly. I hadn’t felt that way in the past couple of weeks, but had been feeling that way before I started eating better. The first thought in my mind was the realization that I wasn’t feeling calm, and I knew it was because my body was struggling.

Being accountable with myself. The point tracking is working for me. In the past when I’ve tracked calories, because of my weird mental relationship with them, I would find I felt guilty at times, and would skimp on the right portion amounts so I wouldn’t have to see the high number. Or, eventually I would just stop tracking.

This past week I made it a goal to track everything I was eating, as best as I could. I recognized that even while I wasn’t doing the cooking I had some idea of what was in things. I made a great effort to get as close as possible with things in the tracker, to enter the proper quantities of what I was eating, and account for how Haitians cook – like literally adding a tablespoon of oil to a meal in the tracker because I knew what I was eating was grease filled. And then after all that, I gave myself some grace.

What I found was once I knew what the point value was for, say, a cup of rice, I could eat a right amount for my hunger and stay very close to my point allowance. Knowing that it was a week full of heavy point meals, and frankly, heavy meals period, I didn’t snack much but rather left my points for meals instead.

I also paid attention to how I was feeling on a different diet, and the information gathered is really useful! I’ve come to realize that it’s more worth it to feel good, to be in a good mood, and to be able to deal with life better than it was to stuff myself. At the end of the week all I want is good food. Seriously, I made a big salad last night, and this morning there wasn’t a starch in sight when I made breakfast. My body doesn’t want it right now.

All through the week I really worked hard at being accountable with myself. And I’m proud of myself for getting through the week, not feeling guilty, and doing a good job! I really am proud. I feel good about staying on track in a difficult food situation. And, it’s one week! Why should I let one week determine my success or failure?

Learning portion sizes. This is probably one of my biggest struggles, and has lead to the most pounds gained. For most of my life I’ve eaten with my head, not with my stomach. As in, if I think it’s the right amount of food or it tastes good, I will let that override any messages my body might be sending me about what it needs, or when to stop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at a table and chosen to take more, even though I felt full, simply because I thought something like, “It tastes really good, a little more won’t do anything bad,” or, “I might not have this again for a really long time. Better eat it while I can!”

Now that I’m having to be very conscious about portion sizes I’m learning what my body needs to function. What my heart might need is an entirely different thing. Food is for energy and nourishment, not to fill any emotional void.

I’ve switched to using smaller plates when I eat, so that visually my brain sees a full plate of food. That makes a difference for me. It also helps with not feeling deprived.

I am measuring things. What does a cup of macaroni and cheese look like? Or 3 oz of steak? For years I had told myself that I knew, but the truth was, I had no clue. I was lying to myself.

The really interesting thing is that I’m feeling full. I look at the big plates in our cupboard and think, “Those look huge!” and wonder why I felt the need to fill them. Yes, I’ve felt hungry, but it’s a good kind of hungry. The truth is, rarely in the last few years have I allowed my body to feel hunger. And, I’m realizing my body needs less food than I thought it did – if I’m making good choices about the type of food I put into it. Things that used to be the foods that gave me comfort, like cheese and pasta, are slowly doing that less, and I’m happy about that.

Learning to be gracious with myself. I have a lot of weight to lose to get to a healthy weight. That can be very overwhelming when I look at the big picture. Thankfully WW focuses on smaller goals. I’ve been feeling encouraged when I see the scale going down, and being able to see how close I’m getting to the first goal of losing 15lbs.

But, after this week and eating what I have, I gained a bit. Rather than feeling guilty though, I can see the situation for what it is – a time where I was in a situation where I didn’t have the healthiest options in front of me. I can see how that has affected me emotionally, and most of all, I can feel  what that has done to my body. I know I’m bloated up right now, and that while the number on the scale when I weighed in wasn’t what I wanted to see, I can accept it. But, I know that I had a lot stacked against me this week, and I’m choosing to be gracious with myself and focus on the things that are good and working. I tracked everything, everyday. I was conscious about portion sizes. I tried to account for the extra oil. I did some gardening so I got some activity in, and those points earned went towards days where my points may have been over. I paid attention to how I was feeling after eating this way.

The biggest thing is, I know that today is a new day and I can make choices today. I don’t feel defeated like I have in the past, and I don’t feel like all is lost or that I’m just done. Rather, I spent today planning some good, healthy meals and am working on getting back to feeding my body healthy food. Chris and I have talked about what we can change on the class week menu too, so that we’re all eating better through the week.

Getting excited about healthy food. In the past I got frustrated with other plans because we live overseas. I don’t have access to “light” foods. I don’t have access to many of the brand name things that get included in calorie counters. It’s not always possible to eliminate certain kinds of food from my diet.

One of the great things about WW is that it’s fabulous for people like me who love to cook. Most of what we eat is from scratch simply because if I don’t make it, we don’t have access to it. With WW I can input my recipes, how many portions it makes, and get a point value for it that I can use any time I eat it. That’s hugely helpful. And for some reason the recipe builder is just easier to use than others I’ve tried.

Most of our produce is from right here in Haiti, and because most farmers can’t afford it, they don’t use chemicals or pesticides – so most of it is organic. We have a really good variety of stuff available to us as well, and because Yonese has worked for our family for a long time she’s really good at shopping. If she sees something I’ve forgotten to put on the list or she knows we like it, she buys it along with everything else. Our juice is homemade, so we can control how much sugar is in it. Our coffee is hand roasted on site. Our meat is so lean I have to literally add oil to the pan when frying ground beef or it sticks like crazy. We have an endless supply of beans, and a variety of grains. There is really no excuse for us to not eat fabulously healthy meals.

I’ve found myself in a cooking rut lately. I meal plan, but tend to make the same things every month. With focusing on how many points are in food, I’m finding that I want to try new things and see what I can incorporate that I may not have before. I should mention that typically Chris is a meat and potatoes guy, Olivia has recently decided there are things that she doesn’t like, and Alex will eat most things. I’ve already recognized that this isn’t just about me. I’m not going to be cooking separate meals for myself than I do for the rest of the family. So, I need to find good, healthy choices that are tasty and something we’ll all enjoy. I love Pinterest for this! Seriously, there are a wealth of fabulous healthy recipes on there. Even though we don’t see the same seasonal changes here as we would back home, I’m very aware of the fact that it’s September and my brain is all over pumpkin (Haiti’s variety is a cross between a cooking pumpkin and an acorn/butternut squash – super versatile!) and things like stews and soups.

While I’m thinking about the kinds of food I’m eating, I’m also paying attention to how I feel afterwards. I love that in the tracker on WW you can write in how you felt after a certain meal. Did I feel full? Tired? Being aware of those things is helping me to make better choices too. For example, oatmeal is great for our bodies, but it doesn’t keep me full for more than a couple of hours. Knowing that, I can pair up a portion of oatmeal so I’m getting the benefits of it, with a hard boiled egg for the protein that my body needs to feel satisfied longer.

Not hiding. I think anyone that battles weight issues feels shame about talking about them to some degree. It’s cultural. Our North American culture looks down on people who aren’t thin. We tell ourselves it’s all about health, but there are healthy, active people who have more meat on their bones, and there are thin people who have major health issues. I think living in a different culture has caused me to look at my body differently. In Haiti, being bigger is often looked at as a good thing. It says, “I can afford to eat well.” When we got engaged, Haitians congratulated Chris on finding a big woman as a wife. Sometimes I cried, but then got to the point where I knew it was a complement. In Haitian culture it meant Chris could afford to take care of me well. It’s also not abnormal for me to get comments on how beautiful I am, and it’s very normal to see larger women sporting bikini’s here. It makes me realize that the version of “beautiful” that I grew up with is off in many ways because it teaches people to be insecure, rather than confident in who they are as a person, not just in how they look.

Typically I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing everything in this post with many people. But, you know what? I want to. This time I don’t want to be ashamed because I might be worried about what will happen if I struggle along the way. I want friends and family to know so that I don’t have to explain why I might not eat something. I want them to be able to ask how I’m doing and to be able to answer honestly, even when I might be struggling. I guess I just want to be real and to stop hiding behind what’s sitting around my butt, and let my heart speak.

I’m grateful for a couple of friends who wanted to buddy up on facebook, so we can share our personal journeys to getting healthy. We’re all in different places, in different circumstances, with different goals. But, we can support each other by checking in every week and sharing where we’re at – whatever that may be! Yesterday I also shared the fact that I’ve joined WW with a friend here in country who also wants to lose weight. It felt good to share and talk about it, what was hard, what’s working and to be able to encourage each other, and to open the door for that in the future. I’m realizing that one of the mistakes I made in the past was trying to keep my attempt at losing weight a secret, mostly because I was afraid I would fail. If I did struggle there was no one to help me pick myself up, so it was much easier to let it go all together.

I’m so grateful for Chris through this. We’ve had a lot of learning lessons along the way about how we talk about my weight. He’s had to learn that certain things are difficult for me, and I’ve had to learn to communicate those. When I told him I signed up for WW do you know what his response was? The first thing he said was that he was proud of me. The second thing he said was, “Tell me what I can do to be supportive and helpful. If I say something stupid, let me know. If I complain about what we’re eating as a family, tell me to shut up.” I *may* have cried right about then because I knew he meant it. And he’s kept saying it. When I have a good day I can tell him. And when I learn something, I get to share that and see his encouragement. When I’m feeling different like I am right now, we’re talking about those things. I’ve recognized that this process is going to be a big life change for me, and if he’s not a part of that, then we’ll be strangers. But, it takes me being vulnerable through that process, even when I’m struggling and not feeling good. The great thing is that those are the times where he’s saying, “It’s great that you’re seeing those things. Now you know how to do this better.” And I love him for it. Heck, I made vegetarian black bean burgers to have in the freezer for when I need an easy meal for myself and he asked when we get to have them for dinner. He hates cooked vegetables. That’s love.

This is a journey for me, and it’s one that affects every part of who I am and how I parent. I don’t want to hide it, but rather be able to share progress, what I’m learning etc. Especially because I’m doing it in the mission field. How exactly, does that work??? I’ll try to share updates regularly (maybe monthly, or something like that?!?).

Time to go cook dinner! I hope you all have a great week.

~Leslie

Perspective

I feel like coming back from our summer vacation always leaves me feeling fresher and gives me new perspective. Our first few days back last week were full of tidying and cleaning and sorting – things that I just didn’t have the energy for before we left.

Olivia doesn’t go back to school until next month, so I’m trying to find a different rhythm than we have through most of the year because I have one extra kid to keep entertained 4 days per week. She gets lunch at school, so we don’t have to worry about much more than throwing a snack and drink in her bag, and then feeding Alex bits and pieces of whatever we find in the fridge through the day. Having her home means I actually have to think about lunch and do something a bit more pulled together for the kids. Also, she’s just flat out bored right now. The last couple days have given us rain in the evenings, which means the driveway is a mud pit right now. Thankfully the kids have been avoiding it, but it also means they can’t ride their bikes, increasing the boredom… Sigh. I will admit, today I realized I’m more than happy that she is in school these days and that for four days per week we have a better chance of accomplishing work things.

I read a blog post last week that got me thinking about all this balance stuff. Basically the point was that we each need to find what works for us. For some people having a super organized home is what works for them. They have the time and energy to commit to organizing it in the first place, and then to maintaining it over time – because while organization does simplify life in many ways, it still takes regular maintenance.

It got me thinking about what my priorities are around the house. What do I need to have to feel sane, and what is less important? I realized something very valuable – I had been working, at least mentally, a bit too hard to be and do certain things that really just weren’t “me” or “us” if I was really honest with myself.”

I say “mentally” because in many cases I was having conversations with myself about what I “should” be doing or being or focusing my attention on, rather than looking at what really makes us work and what makes us happy as a family.

Let’s talk about the household “state of being” for a bit, because I think this is probably the biggest area for me.

Both Chris and I have parents that have tidy homes. Are they spotless. Nope. But they are tidy with comfortable, open spaces not filled with stuff. Yes, there are little, shall we call them “collections” around the house. Like the mish mash of odds and ends on the phone desk that both of our families seem to have. You know, pens, purses, paper clips, phone cradles and chargers, post it notes etc. For the most part though, it’s clean and tidy. Stuff gets picked up and put away.

How does that translate over to our home, having had that example? Well, I like a tidy house. It makes me feel peaceful. I am SO very grateful that Yonese helps keep our house tidy through the week because it’s a lot of work here. The windows are open every day, all day, and we can literally sweep several times per day and have piles. In hot climates, the outdoors are an extension of your home, so it’s natural that the outdoors come in. We also live in a small space, so when things are crazy, the space feels crazy and then we feel crazy.

I like to walk into my room and see the bed made. I don’t like walking on things. I like to look at the kids room when I walk by and see the floor. I like to look at their shelving unit and see the books with books and the toys with toys. I hate having stuff all over my counters, at least in the places I work in when preparing meals. Overall, I like having a tidy house. Looking at a messy house makes me feel stressed. Chris will tell you, often when he drives visitors to the airport I spend that time cleaning and getting our home back in order after what is usually a busy week of early mornings and late nights. And then, after I’m done madly doing dishes, washing floors, doing laundry and putting things right I sit and enjoy it for the 5 minutes I have before he arrives home or the kids come in from outside and undo everything. But those 5 minutes – bliss!

Saying all that though… I’ve realized in the last week that for this season in our lives I need to not worry so much about certain things, because that worry was actually causing more stress in our home.

We’ve recently been trying to have a lot of conversations with Olivia about taking responsibility for our choices, actions and stuff, and that being part of a family means we all work together to make things, well, work. That means we all do certain things to make our home more enjoyable to live in, to clean it etc. And, we don’t always like doing those things, but they need to be done, and since we all benefit, we all contribute. Some of the things that were stressing me out were the messes left by the kids. So, the solution is that now that Olivia is old enough, she gets to help clean up. Today she cleaned her room after her and Alex had been playing in there. And she did a great job. Along the way she’s learning things like how to know where the top of the sheet is by the size of the seam. She’s also learning that sometimes the “fun” choices lead to not fun clean up, like when you and your brother splash water all over the bathroom floor and you have to mop it up – two nights in a row.

I’ve decided that I’m going to chill out a bit about certain things. I’m going to admit that while I like the idea of having a fabulously organized home where everything is in labeled containers and on shelves lined with pretty paper, that’s just not us right now. Part of having a happy, organized home, is finding a system that everyone is willing to work with. If I’m barking at everyone all the time because they aren’t working with my system, then it’s not working. No one is happy. They feel nagged and I feel unappreciated. Finding a system that works for us is what makes everyone happy. And you know what? I’ve realized we’re actually doing pretty good. Do I have stuff on my counters? Yep, in some places. But I do regularly stop and take a few seconds to sort and straighten and move anything out that isn’t supposed to live there.

For the most part our things all have places to live. After we got back, as part of the unpacking process I sorted through most of my clothes and all of the kids clothes. We stocked up on a bunch of new stuff, so before putting it in on top of the old I sorted out things that didn’t fit, didn’t get worn, or had bad stains. I moved some things around in the kids room to make it work better for us and the phase we’re in, and I cleaned some things out of my linen closet that we don’t need. It all feels good and it helps us function better. And, I try to do things like that at least once a year, especially if we’ll be or have been traveling because we’ve probably stocked up on certain things. If I know what’s there, I know what we need or don’t need.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that we will always have a “junk” drawer, which is really the place in our kitchen where we keep all the things that don’t really fit anywhere else. I actually planned a junk drawer into our kitchen layout. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the bathroom vanity cupboard has needed to be cleaned out for about two years now. I know what’s in it, it just needs some organizing love. And, maybe I’ll get to it sometime, and maybe I won’t. I’m okay with the fact that there will be times where our room gets stashes that need to be cleaned out, and that we probably have sippy cups hiding under the furniture. It’s not worth stressing about anymore. This is who we are. I have to accept the fact that I live with 3 other people, two of which can barely or can’t even wipe their own butts. I have to be reasonable in my expectations of what those little people can do, whether it’s making the mess or cleaning it up. When they get older, they can be more active not only in the butt wiping department, but also in the cleaning up department.

Yes, I’m very much looking forward to moving to a new house when the mission relocates because it will be a house that we’ve designed from top to bottom, and that I’ll have a very hands on relationship with. I’ll be able to build in and designate storage for everything, and then as we move – actually put things in those places so we just start with them being there. That’ll be nice, but it’s also a ways away. For now, I’m going to be happy with what we have, and enjoy it more along with the people I get to do this crazy life with, and worry less about whether there are wet foot prints on a freshly mopped floor.

~Leslie

Our Switch to Cloth Diapers

This weekend we switched over from using disposable diapers to cloth. I wouldn’t typically spend time talking about our diapering choices on the blog, but it’s actually a question I get asked quite often as a missionary mom – What do you do for diapers? I know there are people that are considering or preparing to move to the mission field and have small children and don’t know what they’re going to do, or they may be adopting while already living abroad. And, some people reading may just be interested for interests sake, or considering cloth vs. disposables. Just wanting to share our journey in the hope that it’s informative or helpful to someone.

Why did we decide to do disposables over cloth with Olivia? I mean, for all intents and purposes it would seem that it would have made more sense money wise to go with cloth. And yes, that was true in part, but we had other factors to consider. (I think here is a good time to mention that the rest of this post is based on our experiences and reasons, and not meant to be judgmental to anyone else and their choices in any direction. Just sharing here people, just sharing. Okay, let’s move on :) )

Why didn’t we do cloth with Olivia?
When we were getting ready to welcome a baby into our family I did consider cloth. However, there were things that I knew would make it hard to do.

  1. We didn’t have a washing machine. Each week Yonese would come on Mondays and spend the entire day washing our clothes and other household laundry by hand. I’m sure everyone will agree that it wasn’t practical to hand wash about a 60 diapers per week, especially on weeks where Yonese was doing other things like cooking for training classes and the laundry got put on hold. Diapers don’t hold for anyone!
  2. We didn’t have hot water. Let’s face it – diapers need to get sterilized in some way. The idea of not being able to heat treat them in the wash cycle is gross.

So, we didn’t cloth diaper Olivia. At the time I was able to cruise Ebay and get good deals on diapers where I could get two large cases with free shipping for about $0.13/diaper. We  stocked up before she arrived and then I would stock up when people were coming in since we hardly travelled that first year. It worked at the time. I did the same thing with wipes.

When Olivia was about 4 months old we finally got our first washing machine, so that eliminated one issue – but we didn’t have hot water. Still the same problem. In 2009 we moved up to our new apartment and a solar hot water tank was installed. By then Olivia was already 18 months old, and was actually fully potty trained within a year from that. We didn’t know when we’d be having another baby, so switching to cloth at that point didn’t make much sense.

When Alex came along I asked Chris if we should consider cloth diapering and he quickly dismissed it. We did talk about the money factor, but with my very limited knowledge of cloth diapers and just peeking at things online it seemed like cloth diapers could be really expensive too. We just decided that we would do the same that we did with Olivia and go with disposables because they seemed  easier.

And, it was fine. But there are drawbacks.

  • We have to burn our garbage, and let me tell you – wet diapers don’t burn. All those little gel crystals that they put in them to absorb fluid really work. Except they don’t dry out very fast, and because of it they don’t burn. And we have stray dogs that like to get into the work yard where our burn chimney is. Every morning we go out to staff prayer and see diapers spread around the burn area, then someone has to go shovel them back into the burn pit. It’s gross.
  • It’s getting more expensive. Those deals I used to find on Ebay don’t exist any more. Recently I had switched over to buying store brand diapers from places like Walmart and Target. Those diapers were fine and worked well, but they’re still in the range of $30-35 US/case (for the big boxes)

I think the biggest drawback now, is the cost. When we flew back here in August we checked 6 bags – our 3 free ones, and 3 we had to pay for. We found out at the check-in counter that the second bag fees had gone up to $40/bag. We knew we had almost an entire bag full of diapers and wipes that would last us about 2 months. Paying $40 for a bag of stuff you’re going to essentially throw away sucks.

When we got back to Haiti we had a good talk about cloth diapers again and that maybe we should rethink our previous decision. I started doing some research.

I will be honest – the cloth diapering world IS overwhelming. There are so many options now, and it IS possible to spend a lot of money on them depending on which way you go. I knew that if we were going to do this it had to be cost effective. Alex is already 14 months old, so realistically we would be using whatever system I chose for about another year and a half, and we aren’t planning on having any more kids. I couldn’t justify spending $400-500 on a diaper system. Yes, I know that over the next 18-24 months we would spend way more on that in disposables, but we just don’t have that kind of cash to shell out on the onset.

All In Ones, Pocket Diapers, Prefolds, liners, doublers, hemp, indian cotton… AHHH!

I felt totally overwhelmed when I would think about cloth diapers. My sister-in-law has used cloth with my nephew since he was born and I we have little chats here and there when I see her, but it still felt overwhelming. I think when I hear/talk to most people that use cloth they use a variety of diapers and systems together, and I realized that’s what was confusing me. I knew that Chris would get frustrated with too many options, and I had to think about teaching Yonese how to use whatever we chose, so SIMPLICITY was my second goal, next to finding a system that was economical.

I found the website Pinstripes & Polkadots and it was great. In their Diapering Basics section she does a great job of breaking things down simply. As I was reading the fog cleared. I was able to see the different types of diapers and the pictures showing how to use them so I got a better idea about how each system worked. I could see what would get frustrating for Chris, and compare the costs of each type of diaper.

After looking at all that and a few other online sources I decided that exclusively using pre-folds and covers were going to be the way we would go. I know there are fabulous AIO and Pocket Diapers out there – my SIL uses a whole bunch of them and I have to say, my nephew has a pretty cute looking butt :) But, my goal was cost effectiveness and while AIO and Pocket Diapers have great advantages, they can be pricey on the start up. I think if we were just starting out with our kids and doing cloth I would have gone that way, but since that wasn’t us I decided on the covers and pre-folds.

Pre-folds are the flat diapers that have been pre-layered and sewn so they’re easy to fold. The middle third of the flat diaper usually has twice as many, or three times as many layers as the outside thirds.

The covers for pre-folds are usually made from some kind of breathable fabric with a clear plastic/rubber coating on the inside so they’re leak proof.

After reading a bunch of reviews and looking at what we would need to get started, I bought two different kinds of covers/pre-folds.

The first was a starter kit from econobums (don’t you love the name?).

The package comes with 3 one size fits all* white covers with snaps and a dozen unbleached pre-fold diapers. The goal of econobums is to make cloth diapering economical. Generally speaking, most diaper covers cost anywhere between $12-22, depending on what kind you decide to use. A dozen unbleached (or bleached for that matter) pre-fold diapers cost between $25-35 depending on what size you get, and the type you get (Chinese cotton, birdseye cotton, Indian cotton, hemp etc). So, doing the math, to buy the same thing could cost anywhere between $60-100, depending on how you do it. It was a good way to get some basics at a decent price.

*One size fits all diapers with snaps are adjustable so you can size them up or down and use them for a long time as baby grows. Great invention!

Chris and I decided we would get the bare minimum that we thought we could get away with, try things out, and then get more of the same or different things depending on our preferences and how we liked cloth diapering.

So, to get to that point I added 3 Thirsties Duo Wraps with the velcro/Aplix tabs rather than snap closures:

I also ordered another dozen pre-folds. I chose the Osocozy bleached Indian cotton because they got good reviews. I got the premium size.

I also ordered 3 packs of Thirsties Fab Doublers:

I got the doublers for night time and nap time, and times where Alex may be needing a bit more absorption.

Our Initial Thoughts:
So, like I said, we just started using the cloth on the weekend. But, I can tell you that Chris and I both already love it. This is so silly, but when I was prepping the pre-folds (you have to hot wash them or boil them to get the natural oils off so they absorb more) it was really satisfying to see them all hanging on the line in the sun. It felt good to know we wouldn’t be seeing diapers spread all over the yard every morning. And, I was interested to see what cloth diapers would do for Alex’s bum. He’s had diaper rash of some sort for the last 5 months or so, mostly from the heat and the diapers not breathing well.

So, how do we like using pre-folds?

I love it. I got a system all set up in containers on the top of the dresser where all the pre-folds are, well, pre-folded! :) When it’s time to do a change I’ve found it easiest to lay out the pre-fold the side and get it all set, then I open up Alex’s diaper, take out the wet diaper, throw it in the diaper pail and put the new pre-fold in it’s place, then do him up. I’ve used both types and they’re both great on absorbency, and will only get better with every hot water wash (they fluff up more).

I wondered what the difference was between the bleached and the unbleached, and really, it comes down to preference. The unbleached are said to hide stains better because of the color. The bleached take less hot water prep because the bleaching process strips a bunch of the natural oils off. The directions on unbleached diapers tend to recommend washing them 8-10 times in hot water, or boiling them for a minimum of 10 minutes. I boiled mine because it would take me days to get enough hot water to run 8-10 loads, plus the electricity. I washed the bleached ones in hot water once (even though they recommend 3-4 times), and between the wash and cool rinse I threw in my unbleached pre-folds so they all got rinsed and spun together, then line dried.

How do I like the econobums and the Thirsties Duo Wraps?

Love them.

I will admit I like the velcro/Aplix better than snaps. Because Alex sleeps through the night and I rarely (thank God!) have to get up in the middle of the night now to do diaper changes I’m going to keep the econobums for bed time. Also, the econobums are white. Under most circumstances that wouldn’t be an issue, but for us, it’s an issue. Alex doesn’t wear clothes most days, just a diaper. And he’s mobile. That often means being outside. So, you can see where I’m going with this. The all white diaper covers will be white for maybe a nano second.

I like the econobums. They’re light, stretchy and soft. So, a win for the budget conscious.

As an aside, generally you can swap pre-folds into different covers. Last night I put one of the bleached pre-folds into the econobum cover. Because I got the premium size pre-folds they’re longer and there was too much bulk when it was folded over, so we’ll stick with using the econobum pre-folds in the econobum covers. The Thirsties can still take any pre-fold because they have more room.

We love the Thirsties Duo Wraps too. The main reason that I chose the Thirsties Duo Wraps over other covers was the size. Alex is already about 30 lbs at 14 months. I needed to know that whatever type of covers we bought would last us until we were done with diapers. The Duo Wraps come in two main sizes – 1 and 2. The 1 fits up to about 18 lbs, and the 2 from 18-40 lbs. Most covers say they fit up to about 30 lbs, so they automatically weren’t an option. The Duo Wraps are great! They’re a soft fabric that’s coated on the inside, and yet they have some stretch to them (this was probably the biggest surprise – water proof and stretch!). They have a double leg gusset, so no leaks there, and most of all – they fit great. I actually have one row of snaps closed and they’re still roomy so I know they’ll fit all the way until we’re done with diapers. The colors are great too, and I think are much bolder in real life than they are on the websites I’ve seen.

Chris and I have both commented on how much we like the cloth and that we both had these crazy ideas that it would be really messy and frustrating and leaky and complicated.

It’s not any of those things.

How did I do with quantities?
This was a big question mark floating out there for me. I don’t want to wash diapers every day because we don’t have a dryer. Line drying means we get about one load a day that will dry all the way because humidity doesn’t make for fast drying. I wasn’t sure how many days the two dozen pre-folds would get us through. Ideally I want to do diaper laundry every 3 days. That means having enough diapers to get through the wash day too when everything is on the line.

I knew that I would probably end up getting another dozen pre-folds just so we had enough. A cool little blessing? Yesterday when I mentioned on facebook that we had switched over to cloth a friend, who just so happens to be visiting next month and would have been the one trucking in whatever else I got, sent me a message telling me that someone had donated a couple dozen new pre-fold diapers to her for her to bring to Haiti if she knew of someone that could use them, and did I want them? Nice, huh? :)

As far as the covers go, this morning I ordered 6 more Duo Wraps. Typically people recommend 6-8 covers because you don’t change them with every diaper change, and in most cases can just wipe them between changes. If it’s a poop, then the goes in the pail with everything else. With Alex not wearing clothes most days our covers got dirty fast and we went through 3 yesterday alone. I don’t want to have to rinse them out every day and would rather just have enough to throw them in the wash on diaper laundry day, so having more will work better for us, and like I said, we’ll keep the econobums for night time.

As for the doublers, last night I just used one in the diaper and we had no leaks. I have enough that if we start getting night time leaks we’ll double the doubler! Alex isn’t a big wetter, even at night, so I didn’t go overboard buying doublers until we had a chance to test things out. If we find we need more absorption at night and we’re burning through doublers I’ll order some more. The Thirsties are really soft and I feel good about them being next to Alex’s butt for 11 hours. We’ll also be cutting out the bedtime bottle in the next couple of weeks, so I’m guessing that’ll help with night time wetting if there’s an issue.

This seems simple. Is there more?

It is simple! I seriously thought it was so much more complicated, and I think it can be depending on what system you use, if you’re mixing types of diapers and inserts and stuff like that. Because I decided to do one type exclusively our system is simple.

There are a few more things that I knew would be essential in the success/fail department, so I took measures ahead of time and made sure we started out on the right foot.

Wipes

We still have a some wipes, but not a crazy supply that leaves me feeling guilty about not wiping Alex’s butt with them. When you have kids there’s always a use for them. I’ll probably stick a pack in each vehicle so we always have something to clean up sticky hands (or greasy ones after fixing a tire or something like that).

What didn’t make sense with cloth diapers was using disposable wipes. For me it wasn’t so much the disposable part as it was an efficiency thing.

When you change a diaper it’s so much easier to just throw the wipes right in the diaper, roll it all up and toss it in the diaper pail. If we used disposable wipes with cloth diapers it would mean wiping, throwing the disposable wipe(s) in a garbage can, and the diaper in a diaper pail. It would mean having a separate garbage can and diaper pail, and space in our house is at a premium.

So I got a few dozen Bumkins cloth wipes.

I pre-washed them when I prepped my pre-folds, dried them etc.

There are lots of ways to use cloth wipes. Some people prefer to have a spray bottle or squirt bottle to wet the wipe before use, and others want them all ready to go. Again, because I wanted things to be simple not only for me but also for Chris and Yonese I decided to go with the ready to go method.

Whatever method is chosen, some sort of wipe “solution” is needed or clean up is difficult and can rub your wee one the wrong way. Yes, pun intended.

I did some looking online and found a bunch of websites. You can use really basic things or get more fancy with essential oils and things like that. I obviously can’t run out and buy much of that, so I went with a basic recipe with what I already had on hand.

In a 4 cup measuring cup combine:

3 c water
3 tbsp baby oil
2 tbsp of your favorite baby wash

I took our old wipes container, rinsed it out and put half of the folded cloth wipes in the bottom, then slowly started pouring the mixture over the wipes. You want to make sure you give them a few seconds to absorb the liquid. Put the second half of wipes on top and slowly add the rest of the liquid. It should be enough to nicely wet the wipes down without having them so wet that you have to wring them out. Ours are the perfect wetness and I’ve found myself using them more often because I know there isn’t any alcohol or anything like that in them. They’ve stayed nice and moist too in the container. We just pop the lid open, take out what we need, tuck the dirty wipes in the dirty diaper and done.

Diaper Pail:

Just like everything with cloth diapering, there are a lot of different methods for storing wet diapers until laundry day. I, again, decided to go simple and cost effective.

One of the local grocery stores had garbage cans with a flip top lid on the top. Perfect! I picked one up and we used it as our old diaper pail for the last week.

I ordered two nylon laundry bags to use as pail liners. Now, when it’s laundry day I just have to take the liner out, empty the contents into the washing machine, and throw the bag in too to get washed with everything else, and put the clean bag in it’s place. The ones I ordered have a drawstring on them which is great for tightening the top of the bag around the lip of the can. These are big and will easily hold several days of diaper laundry. Some of the other pail liners I looked at were more expensive and smaller, so this was an economical choice.

To help fight odor I just sprinkled about a tablespoon of baking soda in the bottom of the can. It can be easily rinsed out and changed when needed.

Wet Bag:
If you use cloth diapers away from the house you’ll need a wet bag. A wet bag is a bag that you put your soiled diapers in that won’t leak. You keep it in your diaper bag until you get home, then throw everything in the diaper pail for washing.

I haven’t purchased a wet bag yet because the econobum set came with one. We actually haven’t been taking Alex out a whole lot recently just because it’s been easier to leave him home with someone for the errands that we’ve been doing. I will probably get another one in case the one we have is in the wash.

Swim Diapers:
If you use cloth you’ll want swim diapers. Most cloth diapers and diaper covers say not to use chlorine bleach on them, so using them to swim in a pool is a bad idea. There are lots of places to get swim diapers. This is something I need to get in the next couple of weeks so Little Mister won’t have to go au naturel under his trunks.

Where to Get Stuff:

If you’ve followed the links on any of the stuff I’ve mentioned you’ve probably noticed that they all go to Amazon. There are some really great websites out there that have all the same products I mentioned. Some are bigger companies and some are smaller businesses. My biggest recommendation? Shop around and buy where you feel comfortable. As I said before, Canadians are unfortunately at a disservice because the options for online shopping are fewer, mostly because of shipping and customs issues. In our situation we either have people coming in from the US that can bring stuff to us, or we’re arriving in the US so can have stuff sent to where we’re staying. This gives us way more access to the variety of online shopping options.

The reason I chose Amazon is actually a lot of reasons combined.

First, whenever I compare prices to other sites, Amazon always comes in less expensive. Budget was one of my major concerns. I like the idea of shopping smaller businesses or more locally, but in our particular situation every dollar counts, and a few dollars here and a few dollars there add up to a lot of dollars. If I can save those dollars, I will. Amazon was less expensive on every single item I ordered.

Next, last year when I was going to order disposables I found out about Amazon Mom. When you sign up with Amazon Mom every purchase over $25 qualifies you for a month of Amazon Prime. The perk of Amazon Prime? Free two day shipping on most items. Generally speaking Amazon offers free standard shipping on any order over $25. It’s a nice perk though.

Another nice perk of Amazon Mom? They have promotions that they’ll email you about from time to time that will help save more money. Just this morning I got a code that would give me a one time 20% off my entire purchase. It just so happened I had that order for more diaper covers sitting in my cart, and I had decided to get 5 instead of 6 because I didn’t want to spend the money for the 6th one. You know what? 20% off 6 covers worked out to be the cost of a single cover, so I was able to get 6 for the price of 5. Win!

The other reason I like Amazon is that their returns are easy if it’s an item that was sold or shipped by Amazon. Also, if you do what I did this morning and forgot to add the discount code before you hit the order button you can cancel your order easily if it hasn’t shipped yet.

True Costs:
What are the true costs of cloth diapering vs. disposables?

Well, I can’t tell you about every situation, I can only tell you about our situation. Over the weekend I crunched some numbers.

Disposable diaper use for TWO months:

Diapers:              $70 (approx. for large store brand cases)
Wipes:                $16 (about 2-3 80 count pks/month)
Luggage fees:    $40
Total:                 $126

Cloth diaper costs:

Econobum kit:                           $49
9 Thirsties Duo Wrap covers:  $104
12 pre-fold diapers:                   $33
Thirsties doublers:                    $24
Diaper pail liners:                      $14
Cloth wipes:                              $17
Total:                                        $241

Remembering that every time we have diapers brought in either we or someone else that we reimburse pays luggage fees, ALL of our cloth diapering stuff will have been paid for in 4 months of use.

Isn’t that crazy.

4 months.

4 months of not having to throw our money in the burn pile. Seems like a good investment to me!

You’ll notice that I didn’t include the diaper pail in this and that was for two reasons. First, we already had a diaper pail in there, it was just smaller than I wanted. Second, because I opted for a garbage can, when we’re done the whole diaper stage the garbage can will be put to use somewhere else at the mission, so it’s actually a furniture expense.

Let me know what you think!

~Leslie