Diaper dilemmas and nursery goings-on

There are some things in life I don’t get worked up about. Like fashion/the latest gadgets. Black Friday is wasted on folks like me. Or things like pro basketball/baseball/football. What can I say? I like college sports. There are however some things that I predictably get worked up about, such as politics, organic/local food, people who can’t figure out that driving in the snow is not difficult, and the newest one: diapers. Who knew a person could have a mini existential crisis over something as trivial as diapers?

I’ve known for a while now (even before the unexpected pregnancy) that I wanted to use cloth diapers. I noticed the craze a few years ago and decided to see what the big deal was. Turns out most disposable diapers contain nasty chemicals like dioxins (carcinogenic), sodium polycarbonate (removed from tampons because it was linked to toxic shock syndrome… but it’s OK to put in diapers?!), Volatile Organic Compounds (sound familiar? VOCs are the nasty, stinky chemicals in paint that we’re all trying to avoid!), as well as dyes, fragrances and petroleum. And these chemicals cause issues as mild as diaper rash and as serious as reduced fertility and cancer. Definitely NOT what I want touching a baby’s sensitive skin!

Armed with this knowledge, a few months ago I set out on my cloth diaper search (which are also known for causing less diaper rash and for helping kids potty train faster because cloth diapers don’t wick moisture away so the child knows he or she is wet). Here were my criteria: 100% cotton soaker pads (preferably organic), manufactured by a small and environmentally conscious company, with good reviews from users, and made in the USA.

Well, three outta four ain’t bad.

I looked at a number of cloth diaper brands, such as Gro-Via, BumGenius, Apple Cheeks, and FuzziBunz, among others (I can’t even remember them all, but it’s probably about a dozen). Turns out some of the companies don’t use cotton at all, but rather polyester even in the soaker pads. Not so soothing on baby’s bum. Others didn’t seem to be designed very well. And guess what? NONE were made in the USA. Sigh.

In the end, I decided to go with Gro-Via (though I started out my search a BumGenius fan). Gro-Via diapers are made by a company located in Bozeman, near where I live. They’re made in China, but the company has a commitment to employing women at fair wages in modern, safe factories. And at least some of my money (and the money of friends and family helping me buy the diaper package) is staying in my community. The soakers are 100% organic cotton. But before this decision was made, I felt a lot of frustration about being unsuccessful in finding a well-made cloth diaper made in the USA. But then again I feel that same frustration frequently with all sorts of products. Here’s another way to get Americans employed again: Move manufacturing back to the U.S.

This was definitely not something I thought I would agonize over like I did! But now the diapers have been purchased and they’re in the washing machine (I have to wash them 5 times or so before baby arrives so they become fully absorbent). And it’s a good thing too because we’re getting close to Baby C’s arrival! As of tomorrow, seven weeks!

And something else I’ve noticed is that just about every single one of my friends with new babies have chosen to go the cloth diaper route, as well. My mom and mother-in-law have their doubts, but well, there have only been three generations in disposable diapers and many, many more generations in cloth.

In other news, Shawn and I have gotten the nursery nearly finished. It’s still cluttered, but such is the fate of small apartment dwellers who need the second bedroom to pull triple duty as storage space, guest bedroom and nursery. And even though I still have pangs of sadness over the fact that Baby C doesn’t get a beautifully painted room with top-of-the-line furniture in a home my husband and I own, now that we’ve gotten the changing table and crib assembled and pictures on the wall, I like the way things are coming together.

Here’s the nursery to-do list from before:

  • Find hardware for and assemble crib, or purchase and assemble new one
  • Finish mobile, hang (on hold until after finals week)
  • Hang pictures
  • Launder bedding, blankets, towels, diapers
  • Set up rocking chair (second-hand from my step-mother, but in perfectly serviceable condition)
  • Assemble changing table, get changing supplies ready
  • Find curtains to block out light during daytime naps, hang (waiting until I have about $25-$50 just lying around… which is infrequent)
  • Acclimate kitties to baby things (no cats in cribs!) (Haven’t noticed this to be an issue yet… from what I’ve read, allowing the cats to explore the new furniture so they aren’t curious about it helps. If I do notice they’re getting in the crib, we’ll try to vinegar trick. Still kicking around getting a net thingie to put on the top of the crib so there’s no way the kitties can jump in with Junior.)

I had a baby shower the day after Thanksgiving and it was a lot of fun. I loved seeing many friends and family members, especially since we aren’t going home for Christmas and Shawn and I live so far away in the first place. And everyone was very generous. I received numerous adorable kiddo outfits (highlights were the “My dad is turtley awesome” outfit with a turtle on it and the Nebraska-themed “Throw the bones” onesie with crossed bottles on it), soft and fuzzy blankets, beautiful books, money to put toward the organic crib mattress, a Boppy pillow, baby monitor, and some gorgeous blankets made by my grandmother and mother-in-law. Truly, we are blessed.

Update: Here’s a photo of the picture collage above the crib. I’ve had lots of requests to see them!

Clockwise, beginning in the top left corner, the pictures are: A woodcut of a moose in a pond by a local artist, a photo of Shawn as a little boy, a photo of a train in Loch Shiel, Scotland (more recently known for its role in the Harry Potter movies), a print of a kingfisher I picked up in London, a Scottish highland cow, and a photo of me as a little girl. In the middle is a picture of a leafy sea dragon and a weedy sea dragon (in the seahorse family) we picked up at the Monterey Bay Aquarium this past summer.


Decorating the nursery: A lesson in appreciating what I have

Note to self: Stop looking at pictures of nurseries online. It only upsets you. You can’t paint the walls, you don’t have gorgeous (and ridiculously expensive) furniture and the tiny room also doubles as a guest bedroom (with an already full-to-bursting closet). Stop coveting the giant, beautiful nurseries of folks who obviously have loads of dough. Focus on making this little space beautiful in your own way. And in the end, remember that your baby isn’t even going to notice any of it.

The above has become a bit of a mantra for me. I’m as much of a sucker for the beautiful magazine spreads of nurseries in Pottery Barn as the next pregnant woman (and we’re a little bit nuts, if you hadn’t noticed from your interactions with pregnant women). So even though this is completely a first-world problem (I mean, c’mon, my child will have his own room, which is heated in the winter, and all the modern amenities of life in the developed world), it’s still a buzz-kill to look at those lovely photos and then look at what I’ve got to work with. So mornings like this one, I need to hop off the self-pity train and focus on what really matters (which includes not going into debt!).

I’ve got an 8×10 bedroom. The walls are white (at least that means blank slate and they’re not some hideous maroon or something). There is a closet (but it’s full of storage). Nearly half the room is taken up by our guest bed. I’ve got a small three-drawer white dresser that was my father’s when he was a child. It’s sturdy, even if it could use a coat of paint (and it’s officially winter in Montana, so it’s unlikely to be getting that coat of paint until, oh, June, unless someone would like to let me borrow their garage and a belt sander). The window lets in loads of light.

I’ve got small pictures I’ve collected over the years that I’ve framed, such as a block print of a kingfisher from England, a picture of Highland cows from Scotland and a picture of a steam engine, also from Scotland. I have a framed painting by my grandmother of a barn in a mountain scene. I have a framed print of a yellow lab (little boys are made of puppy dog tails after all…). I have a small print of leafy seadragons (they’re pretty much the coolest animal ever — look ’em up) from the Monterey Bay Aquarium that gives my husband and I no end of delight. We have a couple extra frames from our wedding that we look forward to filling with baby pictures.

I’m making the mobile for above the crib myself. I found a darling pattern online and I’m nearly finished (though I’ve been nearly finished for a month now… time to truly finish it!). I sewed a bunch of little birds that have one fabric for their backs and heads, and another fabric for their stomachs. They will perch on some sticks we picked up near the headwaters of the Missouri. We’ll hang the entire contraption from the ceiling with fishing wire (rated to far stronger than it needs to be because I’m paranoid). I may also wrap ribbon around the fishing wire to spruce it up a bit. Undecided on that bit. It’s things like this when I need to ask myself: What would I look back on and say I enjoyed more? Hours spent scouring websites for the perfect above-crib mobile, or the hours I spent making one myself? As a friend of mine eloquently put it: Babies know love, not brand names and price tags.

We’ve hit a snag on the crib, however. We bought the crib and crib mattress at a garage sale this summer for $40. Unfortunately, the crib did not come with hardware and I stupidly did not get the woman’s phone number to contact her about whether or not she ever uncovered the parts (she was moving). So, we’re a bit bamboozled at how the crib goes together on closer inspection (we figured it would just take furniture screws… how naive). I’ve e-mailed the manufacturer to see if we can order parts, but the crib is probably 10 years old and who knows if the company still makes those parts. Frustrating, and possibly $40 down the drain (though I suppose we could sell what we have on Craigslist to someone who can figure out the assembly). If we can’t get hardware or create our own system with the help of a local hardware store (and it needs to be a good system… I’m not putting my baby in a jerry-rigged crib), it appears I can find another crib for pretty cheap at Target. I breezed through the local maternity store today (you know me and supporting all things local), and well, Target undercuts that store by $400 on cribs. And at this time in my life, that’s going to win out.

Otherwise, things are coming together. I have a great collection of picture books started (mostly from my childhood, and some I’ve recently picked up), and a couple of stuffed animals, too. I also have my baby blanket (well, the third incarnation or so), and a beautiful locally made bamboo blanket (it never loses its fuzzy texture even after lots of washing). I’m sure gifts from my baby shower will round things out. Fingers crossed the cloth diaper package works out! My mother-in-law has sent us a number of outfits (we are set on 0-3 months!). We have a hiking backpack that we plan to get a lot of use out of in the coming summers.

Instead of focusing on how much more beautiful the nursery could be, I’m going to focus on what still needs to be done, all of which is easily completed. Here’s my list (am I missing anything?):

  • Find hardware for and assemble crib, or purchase and assemble new one
  • Finish mobile, hang
  • Hang pictures
  • Launder bedding, blankets, towels, diapers
  • Set up rocking chair (second-hand from my step-mother, but in perfectly serviceable condition)
  • Assemble changing table, get changing supplies ready
  • Find curtains to block out light during daytime naps, hang
  • Acclimate kitties to baby things (no cats in cribs!)

I’ll be sure to post pictures as we get things checked off the list! Oh, and here’s something else to be grateful for: Both my husband and I have an entire month off (last two weeks of December, first two weeks of January) to prep the nursery and enjoy being together, just us.

So, since this is the month of Thanksgiving, it’s time for me to be thankful for what I have, not covetous of what I do not (and frankly do not need). Having less stuff means less stuff to store and less stuff to move. This little boy will be provided for and loved.  And that’s what really matters.

Finishing the projects I’ve begun: It’s harder than it seems!

In our second bedroom (which is ever so slowly becoming a nursery for our baby boy… speaking of baby boy, Oct. 23, which happens to be my first anniversary, we’re T-minus three months!), I have a shelf in our closet piled with fabric and yarn and quilting books and embroidery hoops. Also on those shelves are at least four unfinished projects. And it’s time to start ticking those projects off my list! I’ve got two quilts in various states of done-ness and I’m pondering attempting to sell the finished products. Which I have my doubts about because I’d ideally like $700 each for them. Sounds like a lot, I know, but in each quilt is, oh, $250-$300 worth of fabric, plus the many, many hours I’ve put into the quilts. So folks, frankly, that’s what they’re worth. Maybe I’ll put them up on Etsy and see what happens. Wouldn’t mind the extra money in my pocket, though!

But anyway, two other projects I’ve been working on because they’ve been moved up in priority is a mobile for above the crib and a pillowcase that I will take to the hospital with me. The mobile, which features little stuffed fabric birds perched on sticks, is about halfway done. I’ve got six of the planned eight birds sewn, waiting for stuffing. I need to go stick hunting (yay excuse for a hike! not that I need an excuse…), and then assemble the mobile. It’s going to be bright and lovely and I’m really excited about it. Especially since we can’t paint the room, the colors will help the room feel more like home for our little one.

And I’m proud to report that the pillowcase is done!

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at a friend’s house sewing my fabric together. She was working on a darling trick-or-treat bag for her niece (it looks like a piece of candy corn! so cute!). Needless to say she is a much more competent and much faster sewer than I (and I have major sewing machine envy!), but I completed my pillowcase project. As I said, I plan to take it to the hospital with me when our son is born. I’ve heard from other friends who’ve had children that many of the photos taken of our little family will feature the pillowcase in the background. Plus the pillowcase will add some color and life to what will no doubt be an otherwise pretty sterile, boring environment.

The body of the pillowcase is a plum color with a floral print. The accent is green and the cuff is a pretty teal. And I think it’s lovely! I’m totally into the personalized pillowcases, even if they don’t match the sheets (though luckily, in my case, the pillowcase actually coordinates quite nicely!)

Alas, the pillow project has spurred another project: a pillowcase for my husband. Luckily he’s not big on lurking around fabric stores like I am so maybe if we can avoid being in a fabric store together in the near future, I can focus on finishing all my other projects instead of starting a pillowcase for him with fabric he’ll pick out.

Next project to finish is a quilted stained-glass Christmas tree advent calendar wall hanging. I took a class with my sewing friend and while her tree wall hanging thingy is about ten seconds from complete, mine it woefully just a bunch of fabric scraps pinned together. So that’s next! And hopefully in time for the Christmas season.