Tuesday, May 31, 2011

2011.05.31 - Gratitude

Today, I feel grateful for:
  • Awesome family & friends
  • Potty Patty training pants and El using the same dry pair all day
  • Hummingbird Bakery's red velvet cake
  • A wonderful intimate bbq at our house yesterday
  • Coming home today to find all the dishes washed and table and counter cleared by Hubby (He has a hard time getting around to chores so this is indeed spectacular, especially since this act was unprompted. Muah!)
  • El being able to wish me a happy birthday this weekend or in her words "Berday, Mommy!"
  • Children's Wonderland in Vallejo
  • Parents who are no longer together who can co-parent civilly and graciously or at least attempt to do so for the sake of their kids
  • Deep breaths
  • Only 6 more days of school left or 9 more work days 'til summer vacay!!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

What I learned from the Flats & Handwashing Challenge!

Woohoo, I'm finally done with Dirty Diaper Laundry's Flats & Handwashing Challenge! (For info about the challenge, you can view Dirty Diaper Laundry's site, my blog post about my preparation, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, & Day 7. )

Call me strange but I found this challenge to be really enjoyable. There was something meditative about handwashing diapers, as generations and cultures around the world have done and still do. I loved finding how quickly the flat diapers dried and how easy they laid flat and folded compared to wrinkled dryer-dried flats.

It was AMAZING to view all the McLinky'd blogs and follow the other participants in this week-long journey together. I found out some great tips from them and was inspired by so many innovative parents. One mom, Heather of Milk Bubbles, challenged herself further and even transformed everyday items around the house (i.e., t-shirts, a rain poncho, and fleece scarf) into diaper apparel for a total cost of $0!

Would I do it again?

Only if I have to. =) As much as I took pleasure in this challenge, I totally missed all of El's cute pocket diapers. And I also missed my washer and dryer and how super simple it is to wash diapers. Seriously, I find it easier to wash diapers than I do regular clothes laundry as there is no sorting of colors or folding. I'd rather do diaper laundry than any other load of laundry and would sooner do this than any other household chore!

I do foresee needing to hand wash as we get to the point of "potty learning." It would be super wasteful to only wash one or two diapers in one load per week. I imagine I could rinse out any wet diapers or training pants before tossing into the diaper pail and then washing with the whites. However, with soiled diapers, I would much rather hand wash those individually than mix them with our clothes, even though I know that I wash the diapers cleaner than any other load of laundry.

I have and will continue to hand wash while traveling. And in a dire case of an emergency, God forbid, I know that I am prepared to handwash diapers and even clothes.

Did I really only stick to the rules of FLATS ONLY, 5 COVERS, AND HANDWASHING ONLY?

I sure did handwash!!! Granted, I didn't wash everyday, as was recommended (or at least every other day) and had actually been able to go about 4 days before needing to wash. I ended up washing 4 times with my last time being last night, though I could have just waited until this morning to wash in the morning. It's not that I had an exorbitant amount of flats as I realize that I'm not able to locate a handful at the moment that are probably at one of the grandparents' homes. If I were to do this challenge all over again, I would use 1.5 dozen rather than 1 dozen.

BUT, the reason I didn't need to wash the first four days is because of El's trips to Grandma and Lola's house. There were a couple of occasions in which I picked up El in either a disposable training pant or pocket diaper. Also, Lola admitted handwashing a couple of the diapers herself and probably the poopy ones. Lola and Grandma are nice enough to rinse out #2s before tossing into the wet bag for me. Lucky me! There was not one single time that I had to deal with any soiled diapers. =) That could be why the challenge was cinch for me! That and El only used about 3-5 diapers per day.

I do admit, however, that I used more than 5 diaper covers. With house hopping between both Grandparents' homes, it really is necessary to leave sets of clothing, diapers, etc. at each house. My fave cover, the Thirsties duo wrap cover in Blackbird print, was left at Grandma's for most of the week. I ended up picking up the Blueberry Coveralls cover for the rest of the week. In total, I used about 6 covers.

What did I learn?

Most people think of cloth diapering as flat/prefold diapers that need to be pinned with rubber pants as a cover. They also think that a professional weekly delivery/washing service or having access to a washer/dryer is necessary. Both these assumptions are WRONG!

For many struggling families, it is difficult to purchase food on the table, much less disposable diapers. Many of those folks don't know how much they can save by cloth diapering and/or don't have the education about how cloth diapering can be simple and doable.

I learned that it is totally possible to have a complete diaper stash for less than $100. I paid about $50 for the supplies I used this past week. You can cloth diaper full-time and wash them by hand. It is actually easier than I thought as I spent no more than 25 minutes per load of cloth diapers.

However, I know that for a single parent, especially if there are multiple children, an extra 25 minutes might be next to impossible. Disposables might be appealing BUT with what I know now, I think it would still be totally worth it to use cloth. It could mean a difference of between $1500-$3000 for the time each child is in diapers!!! And the supplies for one child can be passed down to the next.

How to Cloth Diaper for Dirt Cheap!

If I was really pinching pennies but still had $100 to spend, I would purchase the following to diaper one child: (I could make smaller purchases of these items to slowly build up to this stash)
  • 3-4 dozen flats/prefolds
  • 6-8 newborn covers
  • 6-8 one size covers
  • 2 Snappi fasteners
If I had absolutely NO money, I could still cloth diaper for next to nothing with the following:
  • 3-4 dozen flats/prefolds made from old t-shirts, old bedsheets, etc. repurposed into flats (either from my own family's clothing or at the local thrift store) and receiving blankets (most folks get tons of these at their showers but these can also be purchased very cheaply at thrift stores)
  • 2 Snappi fasteners purchased second hand on diaperswappers.com
  • 6-8 covers, either the Dappi brand which are very affordable or second hand from diaperswappers.com, baby consignment sales; fleece pants as waterproof covers after the baby is done with the exclusively breastfed poop stage
This is more than enough for 3-5 days between washings. I would handwash and hang dry each cover as it got soiled and rinse each diaper thoroughly until wash day, bringing the massive load to the laundromat. Otherwise, I might consider buying a "wonder wash" or a "breathing washer" to wash at home.

After the Challenge

Kim of Dirty Diaper Laundry has encouraged all the participants to consider donating their flats and other types of diapers to charities, including Giving Diapers, Giving Hope. I plan to make a donation as all the diapers not currently being used by El are being used by friends for their babe and we also plan to use these diapers for the next one, when the time comes.

She also recommends volunteering our time to teach classes or workshops at local community organizations, such as the WIC office, churches, and food pantries. Though I can't spare the time right now, this is something I might want to do down the road. Whenever people ask about cloth diapering, I am always eager to send them to the right resources and have an email that I forward to them.

In our own home, I know that we will continue to use flats. We normally use flats padfolded into pocket diapers and flats padfolded into covers. I see myself using the flats padfolded into covers more often now so as to allow El to feel wetness better since our Bumgenius pockets have a stay-dry lining. We'll be doing this for the next couple of weeks until school gets out and I'm on summer vacation. At that time, we'll be officially starting potty training!!!

Check out other participants' blogs!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 7: Flats & Handwashing Challenge

Today is Day 7 of the Dirty Diaper Laundry's Flats & Handwashing Challenge. (For info about the challenge, you can view Dirty Diaper Laundry's site, my blog post about my preparation, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, & Day 6.) Woohoo, it's officially the last day of the challenge however you might notice that the image above lists the 30th as the last day. Kim has apologized as this is an error. As I'm having so much fun during this challenge, I plan to go through Day 8 with the possibility of going back to washing and drying via machine in the evening.

Yesterday was a fun-filled day! It was one of my old high school buddy's daughter's 5th birthday. They recently moved into the most gorgeous condominium community and held the celebration in the clubhouse. Driving into the gated community felt like driving into a luxe Las Vegas hotel. Even the clubhouse was lavish! It was huge and included a large "living room" with fireplace, dining tables that converted into card tables, a gaming room (perfect for poker night), a large kitchen with the biggest sink and fridge I've ever seen in real life, and the most awesome indoor pool. Despite it being chilly and rainy (Booo!!!! It's almost June in NorCal for crying out loud!!), you felt transported to the tropics in this atrium that was pleasantly humid.

Outside rain

Grub! Check out the posh digs in the background.

Indoor pool

My friends had encouraged us to bring swimsuits but I doubted we'd be swimming in the overcast weather, assuming incorrectly that the pool was outside. Plus, El isn't a huge fan of water above belly level, especially if her feet don't touch the floor or if she's not able to cling onto someone like a leach. However, seeing all the little kids, who happened to be all girls with most being 5 and younger had her looking on with envy. El has swam in just a diaper cover before so I knew the lack of swimwear wouldn't be a problem. I stripped her down to her undershirt, removed the padfolded flat from the Flip cover, and snapped her back into the cover into an impromptu "swim diaper." (*Note: Chlorine Bleach is not supposed to be used on PUL diapers as this supposedly destroys the waterproof layer and elastic. I guess that the levels in a pool aren't damaging but cloth diaper companies would discourage it. I make a point to rinse really well right after, as you should with bathing suits.)

I didn't bring any swimwear but there were plenty of adults around willing to carry her around the pool. She's usually pretty anxious in the water but she quickly warmed up. I had never seen her so comfortable with a stranger, let along in 3.5 ft deep water. She even hung onto an inflatable tube correctly and kicked her feet around with no help. I was amazed!!!

Floating like a champ!

I thought she would be too scared to ride this dragon floatie but she loved it!

Jumping off the ledge is a fun little game for El

We ended up taking her shirt off to keep her warmer, since she wasn't completely submersed.

After about an hour, I interrupted her pool time to let her auntie (we call every adult either auntie/uncle, lolo/lola, i.e. "grandpa/grandma," or ate/kuya, i.e. "older sister/brother" in our culture) get some of her own solo pool time. I didn't have a towel and had considered using some spare clothes in El's diaper bag or even my jacket. Then it occurred to me to use the most absorbent items we have, CLOTH DIAPERS, OF COURSE!

A prefold or even a microfiber insert would have been just fine to soak up the moisture but the flat was almost a perfect towel for El's tiny body. I used two just in case the one wouldn't be absorbent enough and quickly realized one would have sufficed.

These flats dried her off even faster than a towel.

That's one more reason I LOVE CLOTH DIAPERS; they double as swimwear and towels!

Wet Flip cover & undershirt and slightly damp towels.

I didn't have an extra plastic bag so I decided to roll up the Flip and shirt with the flats.

This made for easier transport!

Although the day before, I thought I wouldn't have to wash diapers the next day, I was wrong. I pulled out one spare diaper when we got home and couldn't find any other clean ones. As El was fast asleep in the car parked in the garage, I decided to wash the day's diapers as quickly as possible downstairs. I could have used the guest bathroom but knew from the first time handwashing during this challenge that the sink is way too small. I chose the kitchen sink. (Before your yuck reflex is triggered, I scrubbed the sink before and after handwashing the diapers. Plus, there were no poopy dipes today as El had finished business in the toilet this morning.)

I used one basin of the sink, plugged with the stopper, for the pre-rinse. Drained the basin and wrung the diapers out really well, then added a squirt of dish soap for the hot wash.

Costco brand dish soap. Best natural dish soap I've found and very affordable!

I agitated with diaper with gloved hands for about 3 or 4 minutes before draining the sink and ringing out each diaper thoroughly. I plugged up the larger basin and laid each flat out while the basin filled with hot water.

Last rinse

As I filled up the basin, I realized that there were no bubbles. I found this odd as dish soap is notorious for suds, which is why almost all front loading washers have it explicitly written into the manuals NOT to use dishsoap. It is awesome for "stripping" diapers of any residue as it cleans very well.

There are bubbles where the stream hits the water but no sudsy bubbles!

Even after agitating the water, I didn't find any bubbles!

Imitating the agitating arm of a toploading machine

As clear as can be!

I speculate that the reason for the clean rinsing dipes is due to my thorough wringing out of the diapers after the initial rinse and after the hot wash with soap. I was able to do a very good job of wringing due to the grip of the latex gloves. I also found it much easier to agitate the diapers with a wider and more shallow area to work in, rather than the garbage pail used the other night. All in all, it took me about 13 minutes from start to finish to wash 5 flats and a cover (which I washed first and didn't photograph). Kid you not! And I'm sure it'll probably take less time to dry these flats than the ones from the other night since they seem to be much less damp. If I had to handwash diapers, I think washing in the sink with dish soap and latex gloves is the way to go!

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Today, I feel grateful for:
  • awesome family & friends
  • El's ever growing vocabulary. Just last night, she started saying "okay" and "oh" in the correct context. She'll even repeat syllables, if you ask her too.
  • Kim of Dirty Diaper Laundry for dreaming up the idea and the fellow bloggers participating in the Flats & Handwashing Challenge
  • Hummingbird Bakery's yummy cupcakes
  • scribbled on sticky notes left in surprising places
  • a lazy Saturday morning alone with El
  • hoodie sweatshirts that have "ears" attached to the hood
  • Legos
  • a clean sink and dishes all washed, courtesy of Hubby
  • reviving my point-and-shoot camera and commitment to keep up with photo cataloging and sharing

Day 6: Flats & Handwashing Challenge

Today is Day 6 of the Dirty Diaper Laundry's Flats & Handwashing Challenge. (For info about the challenge, you can view Dirty Diaper Laundry's site, my blog post about my preparation, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, & Day 5.)

This morning, I admired the dry pile of flats and cover that were hung dry yesterday. I inventoried the diaper bag and noticed there are no spare diaper covers left except for the one clean Flip.

Padfolded flats and Flip diaper cover

I'm not sure where the Swaddlebees cover is and I knew that two covers were dirty. I decided to quickly handwash El's covers upon her waking and washed the other two covers to hang dry. They take about a minute each to wash and I don't even bother with using cloth diaper-friendly soap and opt for whatever is nearby. I've used dish soap and hand soap. Hopefully, they'll be dry in a few hours before we leave the house today.

One great way to prevent diaper rash is for a baby/toddler to spend some time each day bottomless or in a natural fiber diaper with no cover to "air out," especially when the weather warms up. Since I'm trying to spare covers as much as possible this morning, that's what we've been doing!

Down the stairs, bottomless

As much as I love padfolding flats into cover, there are times where I do find it nostalgically enjoyable to fold up flats in the various traditional folds.

Here's a picture tutorial of the Neat Fold, modified:

Step 1: Lay out flat diaper with point down. (El never fails to jump on any laid out fabric!)

Step 2: Fold up bottom corner towards middle.

Step 3: Fold top corner towards middle.

Step 4: Take left corner and fold across so that top edge of "flap" aligns across top of folded section.

This is what the flat should look like.

Step 5: Repeat step 4 with the right side. This is actually the end of the steps needed to make the traditional Neat Fold but I'm not a big fan of how bulky the middle is and prefer a thinner crotch area.

Step 6: Fold in left side towards middle.

Step 7: Fold in right side towards middle.

Step 8: Pull out left corner.

Step 9: Pull out right corner. (Notice the great "poop pocket" this creates.)

Step 10: Lay baby on top of diaper and pull center panel up.

Step 11: Fold down rise, if needed.

Step 12: Pull up right corner and "roll in" to make for a trimmer fit across hip, if desired. (This will create more of a "bikini cut" rather than a "boy short" cut.) Pull "tab" across middle.

Step 13: Repeat step 12 for left side.

Step 14: Adhere snappi fastener. Done!

I like to check each side for any gaping and will roll in any loose edges.

Notice the nice tight fit.

A very trim fluffy bum!

Back side, showing the "poop pocket."

Trim fit through the crotch.

Another front view.

I know this sounds like a lot of steps. This is one of the more involved folds, especially since I've modified it. But it fits soooo well, distributes the layers in all the areas El needs, and still takes less than a minute from start to finish. Another great thing about being able to keep her coverless is that we'll immediately know if she's wet and change her right away, something we're trying to do as we embark in official potty training once school gets out this summer.

My most favorite reason for going coverless is easier clean up after meals!

El's fave breakfast: scrambled eggs

Check out other participants' blogs!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 5: Flats & Handwashing Challenge

Today is Day 5 of the Dirty Diaper Laundry's Flats & Handwashing Challenge. (For info about the challenge, you can view Dirty Diaper Laundry's site, my blog post about my preparation, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 & Day 4.)

Today was "date morning." Hubby and I had a chance to catch the first showing of "Hang Over 2" in Emeryville, as he had to meet up with some clients just before. Grandma kindly watched El that morning and then she and the rest of my family went to have lunch together at Cache Creek where Dad could gamble a bit to celebrate his bday. This gave me plenty of time to finally catch up on laundry, both regular and handwashing diapers.

After the experience of handwashing in a teeny tiny sink in Day 4, I knew I wanted to use a bigger vessel for the larger load of diapers. I didn't have a bucket, which is what most of the other participating bloggers seem to be using. I thought to use one of our hampers but those are vented and have holes in them. Then I thought of using one of our 13-gallon garbage pails. I had used one to soak clothes in before so I knew this would work. El's diaper pail is actually the same thing and MUCH cleaner than our garbage pails so I opted for this.

I popped off the lid, took the pail liner out and brought it into our shower. I began to fill it with cold water for the first "pre-rinse" of the diapers. I added the dirty dipes, which included 8 flats, one small prefold, two covers, a small wetbag, one pocket shell, and one training pant. I didn't want to use our plunger as the agitator per Dirty Diaper Laundry's "camp style washer" directions. I needed something that was long, thin, and sturdy. (That's what she said!) I thought of using a broom handle and then I saw it... El's toy sword! This fit the bill!

13 gallon garbage pail & toy sword

Once the pail was about 2/3 full of water, I used the sword to agitate the load. I ended up also reaching in with one hand to provide more agitation, as the sword seemed to be mainly squishing the clothes to the bottom. After, I dumped the entire load out onto the shower floor and rung out all the diapers. I filled up the pail again, this time to about half the capacity, added detergent (about 3/4 T of Crunchy Clean detergent) and hot water. I agitated with my hand and sword again. I dumped out the load once again and rung the items out before tossing them back into the pail and added hot water for the final rinse. I made sure to ring the items out really well. I realized then that I should have used gloves as my hands felt like they'd be dry afterwards. In all, it took me about 20-25 minutes to wash this load.

Since I was doing laundry and was about to take a shower anyway, I was actually stripped down to my birthday suit. In the middle of the load, I realized that I hadn't really thought things through enough as I would still need to hang the items dry. I made sure to be as stealth as possible as there are a couple of windows that are viewable to one neighbor's house. As I did the day before, I hung the items along the banister and baby safety gate. I also used the shower door for the wetbag.


down the stairs

With this many diapers, I wasn't sure they would dry in a timely manner as just a couple of diapers had yesterday. I wanted to get as much air circulating so I opened as many windows as possible in the area and turned on the window fan that was running the day before. I also added another fan that I laid against the opposing wall. Since I knew the Swaddlebee's cover and training pants would take the longest to dry, I brought them closer to the window and fan.

window fan above Hubby's desk

window fan against the wall, next to Hubby's charging station

The flats dried in about 3 hours and the rest dried in about 6 hours. Not bad! And I have plenty of diapers for tomorrow so I don't anticipate needing to wash. =)

Find out some awesome tips on using flats and handwashing on the blogs of other participants!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 4: Flats & Handwashing Challenge

Today is Day 4 of the Dirty Diaper Laundry's Flats & Handwashing Challenge. (For info about the challenge, you can view Dirty Diaper Laundry's site, my blog post about my preparation, Day 1, Day 2, & Day 3.)

This morning, I was able to wake up about an hour before Hubby & El. It was time to do my first handwashing of El's flats and covers, which I was a little excited to do. (Odd, I know!) I decided to wash in the guest bathroom sink downstairs to avoid waking up the two. Boy is that sink tiny!

I've washed in tiny hotel bathroom sinks before so this was no different but I quickly realized that I would normally wash those every 1-2 nights. I was even lucky during the last trip since the bathroom had "his and hers" sinks so as I would fill up one sink, I agitated the load in the other sink. It would take me about 15-20 minutes normally to handwash dipes during trips. This was my first time with a larger load of diapers as I haven't washed for about 5 days so there were quite a few diapers more.

I started by gathering all the used diapers into the plastic baggy that had yesterday's used dipes. (I normally use "wet bags" but for some reason, I have only been able to locate 1 out of the 3!)

my temporary wet bag and about 4-5 days worth of used diapers

I knew better than to use bare hands but couldn't find any more nitrile gloves, opting for the kitchen sink gloves and brought those to the guest bathroom. I also brought down my Crunchy Clean detergent from the laundry room, which I absolutely love! I decided to wash the covers first, as those are the easiest to wash. I could only fit about 2 flats at a time to handwash in the sink.

covers and one lone pocket shell

Here are the steps I took:

Step one: Rinse in warm/hot water. (This load had no soiled dipes, otherwise I would have started with a cold rinse to avoid setting any stains. In 21 months, I have yet to get a soiled diaper stain!!!) Fill up the sink with water. Swish the items around. Drain the sink. Wring out the items.


Step two: Hot wash. Add about half a tablespoon of detergent (which I later realized was a bit much and should have been about 1/4 T) to the sink and fill up basin with hot water. Agitate with hands for about a minute. Drain the sink. Wring out the items.

hot wash with detergent

Step three: Rinse in hot water. (You can also use cold/warm water but hot water tends to rinse cleaner and faster.) Fill up the basin with water and swish items around. Agitate. Drain the sink. Wring out items.


Step four: Repeat as necessary until water is free of bubbles.

I notice that my second set of flats that I washed had a ton of bubbles. I realize that one of the flats was used to wipe up a spill that El made when she was blowing bubbles yesterday. This load didn't even need any laundry detergent and needed about 4-5 rinses. They sure are clean though! (Using a tiny bit of dish soap is actually one way to "strip" cloth diapers if there is any soap/residue buildup and diapers begin smelling or repelling.)

bubble city!

I am always checking to be sure the diapers are clean so after each rinse, even the first "pre-rinse," I would do a quick sniff test. Flats are so dang easy to wash that after the initial rinse, there was no odor whatsoever. That was before the soap! So I know these dipes are truly clean.

Step five: Wring out water as much as possible. (This is actually the hardest part of handwashing but isn't a real biggie.) Hang over stair banister and child safety gate to dry.


morning workout in my nightgown. =)

For more air circulation, I asked Hubby to turn on the window fan that is in our loft, which is just at the top of the stairs. At first, I thought it would take forever for everything to dry but after about 3 hours, the flats were almost 100% dry. The covers were about halfway dry. I know flats dry super fast but even this impressed me!

makeshift "clothesline"

I ended up moving these two items to the baby gate upstairs to be closer to the loft window.

Including the prep work and hangdrying, it took me about 20-25 minutes to wash all 4 used covers and 4 flats. I haven't yet decided if I should wash the other items and today's items tonight or with the next load. I know I should be sure to rinse the diapers out if I plan to wait a couple more days between washing. It's also a good idea to rinse out any diapers with elastic or PUL (i.e. covers, fitteds, pocket diapers) if you're not washing every 1-2 days as I've read that the urine can wear out synthetic diapers sooner. 100% natural fiber items (i.e. flats, prefolds) are not picky so pre-rinsing isn't necessary.

I ended up only being able to wash 4 flats and 4 covers. There were still a couple of flats, a prefold, pocket diaper, and pair of training undies to wash by the time El woke up. If I were really to hand wash on a full-time basis, I know I would have to make the commitment to do so more often than just every 4-5 days, like this time. There should have been a few more diapers but due to my error in not informing the grandparents, they ended up using other types of diapers. I believe my mom had washed at least 2-3 diapers during this time. She ended up telling me that since El doesn't really use so many diapers, she ends up hand washing them anyway. So not necessary but I'm grateful nonetheless!

And maybe because today is my birthday, El finally let us film a diaper change. =)

Padfolded flats preloaded into covers make for speedy diaper changes!

Check out the blogs of other participants below!