Money Sucks

•April 18, 2014 • 4 Comments

This is going to be a whiny post. Proceed and your own risk.

We found out what our tax returns will be. Mine is less than I expected, though I should have been expecting exactly what I got. I changed my W-4 at the beginning of the year so they’d take out less and I’d have more money each month. Well I did have more money, about $200 month a more, and so I got about $2400 less back on my taxes. The math adds up, and I was preparing myself for the reality of it, but I suppose I was hoping for a miracle. Mi.Vida was the one who got all the “extras” this year, more months of paying interest on our mortgage (12 instead of six), another kid to claim, etc. He did get more back than last year. Combined we got about the same as we did last year. It’s a good deal of money, it just doesn’t feel so big because we were expecting more.

I’m obviously putting mine toward my debt. After I do that I’ll still have about $4000 on cards that are currently accruing interest and $2500 on cards that won’t accrue interest for about six months. I was hoping to put some of MV’s refund toward my debt as well, but that won’t be happening because we have to deal with a plumbing issue in the tenant’s unit. We’re not sure how much it will cost yet, but I’m guessing it’s going to be quite a lot of money. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s as much as his refund, in fact.

All this means we won’t be having our wedding party this summer. I’m really disappointed about it. My parents offered to help us with it (they offered to pay for it, actually, but I don’t think they realize how much it will cost to rent a space in the city and provide food and drink for the amount of people we’d want to invite). I’m hoping my parents will just give us the money they would have spent on the party, so we can put that toward my debt. I honestly don’t know what they’ll think about that. It just doesn’t seem appropriate to have a big party when we can’t even pay off our credit cards, but I’m embarrassed to ask them for the cash. They don’t really know how bad a place we’re in financially.

Ugh. This sucks. I know it’s not really that bad, and that it could be so much worse. I know millions of Americans have it so much worse. We’re not losing our house. We’re not uninsured, nor are we drowning in medical debt because we weren’t uninsured. These problems are not insurmountable. It will take time, but we will get back in the black. It’s going to take longer than we expected, and we’re going to have to make some sacrifices, but they are the silly kind of sacrifices that don’t matter much in the end.

Yes it sucks not to celebrate our long awaited marriage with our friends and family. But a lot of things suck a lot worse. We have our children. We have our families. We have our home. We have our health. We have each other. The rest isn’t really necessary, and I’d be better off remembering that.

Cloth Diapering with a Front Loader

•April 17, 2014 • 3 Comments

Okay, so I am slowly, slowly working my way through a post that I think will be relatively interesting, but it’s taking me forever. In the meantime, I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time, because it took me ages to figure out a good system for keeping the smell out of my cloth diapers while only washing them twice a week. This system also seems to have done away with our persistent diaper rash problem, so it’s a double win. I know most of you don’t cloth diaper, so please skip this post (because truly, it will be BORING), but I want to put it up there for those who do cloth diaper, in case they may find it helpful.

Our cloth diapering situation:

- we have a mixture of Kawaii baby pocket diapers (both day and overnight heavy wetters), GroBaby/GroVias and a set of bamboo inserts.

- We use fleece liners to protect diapers from creams and to protect Monito’s skin from wetness.

- My in-laws watch Monito during the days and are willing to use cloth diapers for us.

- We have a front loading washing machine.

- I work outside the home (80% of full time) and can only wash cloth diapers 2x a week (every 3.5 days, instead of the recommended every 2 days)

- Our son has very sensitive skin and we battle eczema and diaper rashes constantly.

- We were having really bad odor problems–the diapers smelled very strongly of ammonia when wet.

- I had tried four different detergents, and while they all worked well for a few washes, eventually the smell returned

Dirty Diaper Storage System

- I take apart diapers (remove inserts from pockets/covers) after I change them. I keep pockets/covers in a hanging wet bag, fleece liners (and the washcloths I use to wipe his skin) in a separate, smaller, wet bag and urine soaked inserts in a diaper pail (I just got the ubbi and I really like it so far). I separate them mostly to save space; the diaper pail doesn’t have the capacity for 3 days worth of shells and inserts, and since the inserts smell worse, I put them in the pail and leave the pockets/shells in the bag.

(Also, my inlaws keep their dirty diapers in a wet bag with a zipper.)

- I rinse poopy diapers with a sprayer into the toilet. I keep them in an old tupperware by the bathroom until I’m ready to wash the diapers. They generally don’t smell if they’ve been rinsed, and Monito doesn’t poop much, only once ever 1-3 days, so I never have more than three poopy diapers in the bathroom at once. Sometimes I bring them down to the laundry (in the garage) if I happen to be going down there.

Soaking/Rinsing/Washing System

- On Tuesday nights I soak the pockets/covers and the inserts. Since they are already separated, and because they don’t fit in one bucket, I soak them separately. I use big buckets (from Home Depot) and fill them with cold water, 1/4-1/2 cup of powdered Calgon water softener (cheaper than the liquid stuff), a tiny bit of mild detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda. I use an agitator to mix them up with the water before I let them soak. I keep the fleece liners and washcloths separate throughout the process (they sometimes have creams on them, and the creams have to be kept separate from the rest of the diaper pieces or they will hinder their absorbency).

- On Wednesday, when I get home from work, I empty the buckets and put the pockets/covers and inserts into the washing machine. I ring out the inserts by hand before putting them into the washer. I put vinegar in both the detergent compartment and the softener compartment of the machine (about 1/2 cup total) and then run a “quick wash” load on cold. This rinses the diapers well with vinegar (which is necessary to offset the pH change created by soaking them in baking soda) and gets all the water out of them before they are washed.

- When that run is done, I add the wet bags (which haven’t been soaked in baking soda) and do a big load. I put 3/4 (of the recommended total) cap of liquid Calgon water softener (the powdered stuff clumps in my detergent compartment) and 1 scoop of Nellies Laundry Soda in the detergent section of my machine and run a Cotton/Normal load, on Warm. I also switch the spin cycle to the highest and the “soil level” to the highest (to add agitation time), plus I add 2-3 extra rinses. (These are all options on my LG washing machine.) The whole run takes almost two hours!

- When that load is done, I hang the pocket/covers and put the inserts in the dryer. If it’s sunny on Saturday (I wash the diapers on Wednesday and Saturday) I will hang the inserts in the sun (this further disinfects and helps remove stains/smells).

- I soak the fleece liners and washcloths separately from the diapers (only for a few hours) and then do them on a separate quick run or with the towels. I have enough fleece liners to last a whole week.

Assembling Diapers

- I assemble all the Kawaii pocket diapers at once, and give them to my inlaws on Monday and Thursday mornings. I assemble the GroBaby/GroVias and overnight diapers as I use them.

 

So that is my system. I think the thing that has really made a difference in the smell situation is using the Calgon water softener when I soak and wash the diapers (evidently our water is very hard, and the build up of minerals makes the diapers smell, and makes them less absorbent) and soaking them in baking soda. I also wonder if the vinegar rinse helps keep away diaper rash (it’s one of the ways you treat diapers when you have thrush).

Either way, this system works really well for us. It’s hard to get diapers clean using a front loader (because the diapers are never fully submerged in water), but soaking/agitating seems to help. Now my diapers smell great, even when they’re dirty. I was just noticing that the diaper pail doesn’t even smell bad when I open it (it used to be abominable), and Monito hasn’t had a diaper rash in over a month, so this system clearly works really well for us.

I hope this post is helpful to someone. It’s the product of months and months of research and trying different things until I finally found a solution. It’s a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it to keep over a thousand disposables out of landfills. It’s also saving me money, since we already had everything from using with Osita.

Do you use cloth diapers? What system works for you?

Advice needed

•April 16, 2014 • 9 Comments

So I’m at the point where I’m not emptying my breasts fully at all when I pump, so the milk I’m pumping is not nearly as fatty (lacking the hind milk) as it would be normally. Should I be mixing breast milk with formula moving forward, so that Monito is getting enough fat to fill him up? I’m worried he’s just getting the thin fore milk and it’s not enough for him by itself.

Any thought on this?

PS: this is so crazy uncomfortable. I’m glad I have a week off from work to get through it, but picking up Monito is excruciating. Anyone know how long I should expect this to take? Blerg. This blows.

Wordless Wednesday: Swings

•April 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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{I’ll be explaining the watermark in a post later this week. I hope it’s not too obtrusive.}

Almost Done

•April 15, 2014 • 7 Comments
A Saturday morning haul. Pretty impressive, huh?

A Saturday morning haul. Pretty impressive, huh?

In exactly one week, Monito will be six months old. I am officially tapering down my pumping. I’m also officially experiencing ALL THE EMOTIONS.

The overwhelming feelings are of excitement and relief. Mostly I just feel so, so happy to finally be done with this, to finally have my body back, to finally get my breasts to stop hurting EVERY. WAKING. MOMENT.

But there are other emotions there too. Fear is one. I’m afraid that I’ll gain a bunch of weight when my body is no longer burning 350-400 calories a day making milk. I’m already having some very acute body issues, the idea of gaining 10-15 pounds (like I did when I stopped breastfeeding Osita) is terrifying (that is not hyperbole).

There is also guilt. I could keep doing this. I have the milk. It only requires three pumping session a day, totaling 90 minutes. Pumping would provide my son with breast milk, and save us $150 a month. Maybe I should just take one for the team and keep this up, indefinitely (or until he turns one).

Except 60 of those 90 minutes I’d be sleeping, and an hour of sleep is a very precious thing. And if I divide $150 by the number of hours spent pumping, my time wouldn’t be worth a whole helluva lot. ($3 an hour. Wow.) Once I’m done pumping I could spend that time cleaning my house, working out on the precore, making and eating a decent meal. And sleeping. (Did I mention sleeping?)

And of course, none of this takes into consideration the pain, or being able to go back on my meds, which are the mail reasons I need to stop. My breasts have hurt for six months. I need them to not hurt anymore. And I need to take my ADD medication again, so I can be a better teacher, a more present mother and a more attentive wife.

There are so many good reasons to stop, and yet a part of me keeps screaming, but he doesn’t turn six month until next week, if you taper now there won’t be enough milk to get him there!!!! At which point the other, not crazy, part of me yells back, IT’S FIVE OR SIX DAYS GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF WOMAN!!!

So yeah. All that screaming in my head is fun.

{Seriously, why does breastfeeding bring out the Grade-A 100% certifiable CRAZY in me?! THE FUCK!?}

So yeah. I’m feeling ALL THE EMOTIONS, but mostly I’m just relieved, and thankful. Thankful that I was able to make it this far. Thankful that now I can quit. Relieved that I reached my goal. Relieved that it’s finally over and I can move the fuck on with my life.

Today I pumped at my regular times, but didn’t do any squeezing or massaging of my breasts (and pumped about 2 ounces less a session because of it). Tomorrow I’ll pump a little less than I did today, and so on throughout the week until hopefully, by Monday, I won’t have to wake up at 5:30am to pump. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

{Oh, and I wanted to report that Monito’s pediatrician confirmed my (and all of your) suspicions that 36-40 ounces a day (and a bottle an hour) was too much. She recommended up to 32 ounces total in a day, and said that he should be able to go 2-3 hours between bottles (she thought three hours was appropriate at six months old). The conversation with my in-laws went… as well as could be expected. The final take away–after many awkward exchanges–is that I’ll get him on a new schedule this week, and let them know what it is next week. So far he’s been able to stretch his feedings to two hours, and is still sleeping through the night when he only gets 30-32 ounces, so it shouldn’t be too hard to make the necessary changes.}

And now I’m off to pump. I definitely feel more uncomfortable than I normally would at this time, but I suppose that is the point. It’s so hard to stop doing all the things I’ve done all these months to keep my supply up. It’s hard to do a 180 and start attempting the opposite. I know this week will be tough, but I also know I’ll feel good at the end of it. Wish me luck.

Was it hard to know when to stop breast feeding? How did you make the decision?

Wistful

•April 14, 2014 • 7 Comments

At kid-centric places–like playground and children’s museums–there are pregnant bellies everywhere. I look at them wistfully. Sometimes I’m reminded of the sadness they used to inspire, the way they knocked the wind out of me, left me gasping for breath. How my mind would automatically wander to desolations of “what if?” and “when?” and “why?” Sometimes I’m reminded of the fact that I was recently pregnant, and how miraculous that felt, but also how scary.

{I would say that I remember being pregnant, but it’s not quite like that. I have the hardest time actually recalling what it felt like to be pregnant. Try as I might, I can’t quite capture how it felt to rest my hand of my belly, or heave my hulking weight out of bed. I see those things like scenes in a movie, but I can’t remember actually experiencing them myself. It surprises me because I’m barely six months out from living it–that’s not very long!–but I suppose it’s such a foreign experience, that it fades from memory rather quickly. It makes me sad.}

When I see a pregnant woman, I wonder if she feels scared. I wonder if she worries about preterm labor or stillbirth. I wonder if the glory of her pregnancy is overshadowed by her fear of how it might end.

Sometimes I see pregnant bellies and I wonder what story they have to tell. I wonder how many pregnancies that woman has experienced, if she’s ever lost one. Or two. Or three. Or more. I wonder how long she tried to conceive. I wonder if she has other children, living or gone.

Sometimes I see pregnant bellies and I just smile, and wish them well.

We found out we were pregnant last spring. Recently I’ve been reading through some of those early posts and I have been struck by how humbled I was, how grateful. There is awe threaded through every word of the posts written after our surprise BFP. I could hardly fathom it was happening. I felt like the carpet had been pulled out from under me, everything I believed about the world was turned on it’s head. For once, my life was being hijacked by a blessing, instead of a tragedy. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.

There is also fear in those early posts. My words aren’t floating in a sea of it, as they were in the early weeks and months of my second pregnancy, but you can feel the current of it gently tugging at my words. Sometimes I rode with that slow, churning current, other times I forceable rowed against it, but was always there, threatening to pull me under if I ever fell off my buoy of hope.

Sometimes I see pregnant bellies and I think, what a lovely time that was, and another voice has to remind me. You were scared. Always you were scared. Even at your most hopeful, there was a part of you that was terrified. Don’t let yourself forget how scary it was. Don’t romanticize it into something it wasn’t.

It was a terrifying time. But it was also wonderful. It’s hard to reconcile the two–there’s that cognitive dissonance again.

When I read a blog post about pregnancy loss or stillbirth, I feel incredible sadness for the person who has been devastated by the loss, but I also feel this overwhelming relief that it’s not me, and it won’t ever be me. I am so relieved to put that all behind me, to walk away from that intense fear, to never have to revisit it again.

And yet, it’s sad to think my family building days are over. There will be no more pregnancies, no more anticipation of another person joining our lives. Having a baby is the epitome of new beginnings, and new beginnings are awesome. I love change, and there is no change more thrilling than pregnancy and birth.

I could keep writing in circles like this, but we all have better things to do. I suppose that is the point though, that my mind just keeps circling around these same points and I can never seem to find a place to land. I loved being pregnant, I reveled in the joy of having another child, and yet I’m incredibly relieved that the possibility of pregnancy loss and stillbirth are behind me, and I’m grateful I’ve walked away from my child building experience relatively unscathed.

In the end, none of it really matters. We are done having babies, but I’m going to see pregnant women until the end of my days. I’m assuming the way I respond to them will change over time, until someday, they won’t inspire much of a response at all. Until then I’ll just have to roll with the punches, and hope they don’t knock the wind out of me.

Do pregnant bellies still affect you? Do you think they always will?

In the absence of a coherent narrative: BULLETPOINTS!

•April 11, 2014 • 7 Comments

I want to write a real post. I have a lot of topics I want to tackle, but I can’t seem to find the time to develop a train of thought. I hope to hash out a few of them this weekend, when I’m finished with this month’s copyediting. Oh, and next week is Spring Break! So I’m sure I’ll have time to write then. In the meantime, bullet points, so I can get some of these little thoughts out of the swirling mess that is my head.

- Friday morning is my last 5:30am pumping session. I am so excited about this fact–I can’t wait to be done pumping. I start weening next Tuesday. Bring. It. On.

- My psychiatrist already wrote the script for my ADD medicine. I almost got it filled today when I was at Kaiser canceling my independent subscriber plan, but I was worried that if it were lying around the house, I’d just start weening right away. (I also think it will be $20 cheaper on my new Kaiser plan, and I don’t have a card for that yet.)

- I ordered a four canister case of formula for Monito today. It cost $100! And, if Monito continues at his current rate of 36-40 ounces a day, it will last us less than three weeks. {Is 36-40 ounces too much? He was drinking 25 ounces a day until my in-laws started watching him. They have been offering him a bottle every hour, and he takes them easily enough, so my ILs assume he’s hungry for them. But when he’s with me he can go 1.5-2 hours between bottles (and that seems like a reasonable span between 4oz bottles). What are your thoughts? I emailed his doctor, because I literally think I’ll need a “doctor’s note” to get them to start feeding him less. 40oz of formula a day just seems like too much. Blerg.}

- My poor boy has been really out of sorts lately. He’s drooling a ton, and pulling on his ear a lot, so I assume it’s teething, but I don’t feel anything coming in. I got him an amber teething necklace and it should arrive tomorrow. I hope it helps. He won’t let me put him down, and if I leave the room without him he completely loses his shit. I know he hit a big wonder week not long ago; I think between that, and the teething, he just needs a lot of mommy time right now. We’re becoming more familiar with the ring sling–it really helps with the hour before his bedtime, when I have to make Osita dinner and get her to eat it. I can’t believe he’ll be six months old in less than two weeks. That is crazy.

- I finally told Mi.Vida about all the credit card debt. (Did I mention that I hadn’t disclosed the severity of it? Yeah, awkward…) He took it in stride, though I could tell he was concerned. I don’t think he realized how little I was making during maternity leave, and how hard I was being hit by those unexpected insurance bills every month. He feels confident that we’ll be able to pull out of this quickly, and that we’ll stay afloat more easily now that we’re saving so much every month. I hope he’s right.

- We’re continuing to write down all our expenses. We’ve never made it this far. I hope the results are enlightening. Knowing I have to write down a purchase, and revisit it later, definitely makes me think twice about what I’m buying.

- I’ve been wanting to write a post about how petty I feel like I’ve been lately, but I can’t seem to commit an entire post to it. (Does this reflect a certain self-compassion, or an unwillingness to be honest with myself?) I will say that I am trying to combat this pettiness with empathy and it’s working, for the most part, but I still catch myself thinking petty things, like, “I’d comment on this post, but she never comments on mine,” or, “Why am I always helping so-and-so at work out when she never even thanks me for it?” I always follow up these tit-for-tats with a reminder that I’m not always great at XYZ thing I expect someone else should be doing, or try to put myself in their shoes and think about what I’d want if I were them, and usually it snaps me out of it. But I still have the thoughts in the first place, and it makes me sad, ashamed and embarrassed. I expect more from myself, and frankly, I should.

- I really am trying to comment regularly on a lot of blogs. Sometimes I’m successful at this, sometimes I’m not. Please know that I’m doing my best, and every day I think I get a little bit better.

- I was supposed to see a really funny comedian tonight with a friend from work, but at the last minute the show was cancelled. I’m super bummed about it, more because I was looking forward to the chance to hang out with the friend from work, than for missing the comedian.

- Lately I’ve been experimenting with the idea that I don’t have to be attractive. If I could detach myself from my desire to look differently, I’d be a much happier person. I’m trying to determine why exactly I feel the need to look good, or why I define “good” so narrowly. This self-exploration has inspired some interesting trains of thought. I hope to write more about this soon.

I have to head to bed now. It’s late and I’ve been getting very little sleep this week. I can’t wait to sleep in all next week. (By sleep in, I mean get up after 6:30am.)

What thoughts are swirling around you head of late?

 
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