Monday, January 20, 2014

Better than Never

In 2012, I swore I was going to do cloth diapering.  Or at least, give it a shot.  But the kidlet didn't like it--he couldn't bend his legs at the hips, and I was flummoxed by how to get the poop out.  So after a few tries, we threw in the towel and went with disposables.  And this worked pretty well, for a while.

In recent months, though, he's moved up a half-size in diapers, from what here is called a 4 (7-18, or 7-15 kg) to a 4+ (9-20 kg).  This isn't because he's gotten that much heavier--he's been at 11 kg for quite a while, now.  It's because he's getting longer, and partly because, well...we've been having blowouts with the 4 diapers. I could regale you with horror stories of shit-stained babies at 3 am, but that would be a lie, since a) he doesn't poop at night and b) the blowouts aren't that bad, but they do warrant changing everything he's wearing, and that can be kind of irritating if happens 90 minutes before his bathtime.

But my main reason for switching to cloth is simple economics.  I am too lazy to go to the Kruidvat, which is the only place that carries 4+ diapers in the voordeelpakken that makes it economical to do disposables, and too cheap to spend the almost-€8 the not-voordeelpakken cost every time we need to get more.   And, since I was already doing laundry every other day or thereabouts, it made sense to launder a few extra diapers along with everything else.

And I have to confess, I'm kind of kicking myself for not having figured this out sooner.  It's not difficult, even though I've had to resort to the enormous-honking safety pins designed for diapers (the snappies started coming loose and biting into his leg after he'd been crawling around for a while). The dilute bleach solution that I keep the diapers in (until wash day--I use what cloth-diapering moms call the "wet bucket" method) smells only faintly of bleach, which isn't unexpected for a bathroom.  It did take a few tries to figure out how to handle poop*, but now that I've got a method to the stinkiness, it's easy. So stinking easy, I'm really wondering why I didn't stick it out earlier.  Especially when I remember how much money we've spent on diapers.

We're still keeping the disposables around, though:  they're handy for longer trips to town and travelling, and I don't want to wake up at 5 am to change the diaper of an uber-cranky kidlet when he realizes he's wet.  Still, it means that we've cut our disposable use down to 1-2 a day, and for that money, even I can stand buying the smaller packages.

*What works best is to flip the diaper so that the inside bulges out, and stick that in the stream of a flushing toilet, and keep a spatula by the bucket to scrape off whatever's still there.  Then dump the whole thing directly into the dilute bleach solution.  The bleach inhibits bacteria; I've heard you can also use vinegar, as well.  On wash day, chuck the diapers directly into the wash, add whatever other laundry you're doing, and flush the water of the wet bucket down the toilet.  If you normally run a cold load, remember to turn up the heat.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Eye of the Tiger

This isn't a personal journal, but it is something that's been going on for a while, and I just thought I'd share it, because I think we've all been there, done that.  And it'll end with a bit of insight about what it takes to get fit, lose weight, eat healthy, and basically resuscitate your New Year's resolutions again.

In October of last year, I bought a gym membership to kickstart a fitness program of sorts.  At that time, the idea was to take some classes, use the weights to get stronger, and work out on the ellipticals for a while because my knees hated running more than usual (I have flat feet). And then, about two weeks after I joined, I went for a run (4 k according to Google), and it was like the clouds of my fitness funk parted and the light of glory shone down on me:  my knees didn't hurt, I wasn't completely out of breath after 300 meters, and I got it again--what's known as your "second wind", when you've run past the point of exhaustion and suddenly everything clicks again and you're flying.

So I thought:  Problem solved, I can run again.  Except I couldn't, not really, not yet, anyway.  I made the amateurish mistake of building up too quickly.  My knees began to hurt like hell again, especially when climbing the stairs carrying the kidlet.  And then there was the matter of weight:  I'm not going to lie and say that it wasn't a factor in this undertaking, because it is actually the main reason why I elected to start running again.  Between breastfeeding and keeping up with the kidlet, most of my pregnancy pounds dropped off pretty quickly, but I still had five more pounds to go when it all just stopped.  All the running and gym classes and weights that I was doing wasn't budging the scale.

Now, at this point, I could have just given up.  And had I not already announced of Facebook that I would be running a 10K in May, I probably would have.  Public announcements can be a great motivator to find a different route to your eye of the tiger.   After a while, I came to the conclusion that I needed to take it slow, and go back to running the 3 k route for a while, so that my muscles would have time to gain strength and equilibrate (one of the main causes of knee pain in runners is an imbalance between your hamstrings and quadriceps--a lot of runners are comparatively weaker in one set of muscles than the other).   I needed to start doing crunches again, because strong core muscles are the basis for good running technique.  And the Christmas money I received would cover a decent pair of running shoes.   I haven't bought anything yet, as the current pair still have a couple months left in them, but I'll definitely need to replace them soon.

I also realized that I had to change what I was eating.  I'm in my thirties, now--it was foolish to expect that I would snap back into shape the way I did when I was 18.  My diet was always pretty healthy, but there were still chips and cookies sprinkled in there, a lot of bread and white flour, and drinking a lot of juice.  I stopped buying chips and cookies (the kidlet still gets his baby biscuits), and began buying nuts and dried fruit from the halal butcher, making my own snack mixes.  I started buying zero-calorie sodas--I know, I know, water is best, but the fact is I like a bit of flavor to my drinks.  I wasn't going to stop drinking juice unless I had something similar to replace it--and frankly, eliminating the chips/cookies was already taxing my willpower enough already.  I am still in the process of incorporating lentils and beans, and decreasing the starches, but so far it's been going pretty well.

But the biggest help has been my husband, who (for no apparent reason) decided to see if he could complete a 100-push-ups-in-8-weeks challenge.  And who talked one of our friends into signing up for the Zevenheuvelenloop in November--15 k of scenic, Dutch countryside and getting your @$$ whomped by runners from unlikely places on Earth (everybody knows the Ethiopians and Kenyans, but Japan?).  With us--and this was before I'd committed to the 10 K.  He hasn't asked me once for a bag of chips since this started, and he's been more than accommodating when it comes to staying home with the kidlet so that I can squeeze in my runs.

And finally, finally, all of these things have slowly started to do the trick.  The scale is finally moving.  I feel a lot better now, and I'm noticeably less moody and more patient with the kidlet.  Life is good.

The moral of the story?  Figuring all this stuff out took me three months, one tweak at a time.  Sometimes it was one step forward, two steps back--I tried, for about a week, eating a high-protein diet, but quickly discovered that I'd rather not-eat than cook two separate meals (the kidlet, for all his baby-fat, is at a perfectly healthy weight), which meant that I didn't have the energy to work out.  You have to figure out what works for you.  Give things a week or two, try to get into a groove.  If you can't, there's no shame in dropping it and moving on to the next thing--provided that you keep moving towards your goal.

The other moral is to have support.  I am fortunate that my husband decided that he, too, would get back into shape with me (though, honestly--the guy has never been out of shape).  We work well together--sometimes in the evenings, we trade off, first I go for a run, and then he goes for a run.  I endeavor to make tasty, healthy snacks--and he enjoys them, and doesn't buy chips to tempt me.  But the strange thing is, even though I know the guy and we love each other and all that jazz, it still took me a lot of courage to work up the guts to tell him, "I'm joining the gym, and getting back into shape."  Part of it, I suppose, is due to the fact that any previous attempts to exercise and diet were actively sabotaged by my mom, who to this day lives in mortal terror that we don't eat enough.  Part of it was also working out--for my own sake--how our intertwined lives would work, now that I was off doing my own thing.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Circle of Life

I bought pretty much everything for the kidlet secondhand, or else people gave us things as gifts.  The fancy-pants stroller, which turned out to be suitable as a jogging stroller, was a scant €50.  We committed highway robbery when we bought the changing table.  The crib was gifted to us.  I bought all of the kidlet's clothes from moms looking to unload their kid's clothes.  I'm fairly certain that his current set of clothes were at least thirdhand, based on the wear and tear on the patch and the gentle fade of the onesies.

I am fairly certain that there is a cadre of stuff, for babies to kids of about five or so, that just floats around Marktplaats, getting passed around from one family to another.  Somewhere on Facebook or bounced around on Gmail is a picture of some little kid wearing the shirt that the kidlet wore when we got married (oh, did I forget to mention that?  I got married last year).  There's a kid who remembers being taken on walks in our stroller.  Someone played with his keys.  And now, someone else is going to get his keys again, and his pots (one of the few things I did buy new).  I'm passing on the bottles, as well (I asked if they wanted them, first).

Yes, friends of ours are having a kidlet--their first.  And between his almost-unworn clothes and his barely-played-with toys, there's a ton of stuff we have that we can't wait to get rid of.  It's a relief, really, except they elected not to find out the gender of their baby, so we still can't lose the obviously-boy things.  We're giving them a lot of baby clothes, a couple of toys, a package of wipes (the nice-smelling ones), and muslin sheets--giant squares of thin white fabric that are just incredibly useful, as emergency bibs, or a layer between your kid and a public changing table, or a towel, or an emergency cloth diaper.  They're also getting our Moby--there was a bit of a debate about it, because it is expensive, but then we figured that, if we do have another kidlet, all the money we'll have saved by having stuff already will offset the cost of replacing it.

Some people may think it's cheap, giving used baby stuff.  Personally, we were glad for whatever baby things people wanted to give us, regardless of how many babies had used it before.  And if you think about it, it's not like the baby's going to know that he wore secondhand clothes for the first year of his life.  The baby doesn't know that his toys were played with.  And a lot of the stuff--the clothes, the toys--get so little wear-and-tear that it's a shame to toss them when another family can use them.  But mostly, I think the little bit of connection is nice--when you buy new stuff, you don't know who made it, you don't really care.  But when you buy or get stuff secondhand, you have to at least get acquainted with the seller, you know who used it before you, and there's a history to it.