Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Sanctification of Parenthood

And so begins the sanctification of parenthood. Not that it hasn't already been happening, but now it begins in earnest! See, our little angel is a little sinner. A little sinner who has inherited her Mama's temper. Up until now, when something hasn't gone her way, little Miss Emma has simply cried. Like a couple of mornings ago when I was attempting to load the dishwasher while she was doing her darnedest to unload it. "No", says Mama, with resulting sobs from the baby girl. She obeyed, which I think is why she cried, because she flat didn't want to. Only a couple of days later, & she's added in a slap & emphatic "Unh!" when she doesn't get her way. She's sitting in the way of the door she's trying to open . . . slap, "Unh!" to the mean, uncooperative door. Josie comes up to me while Emma's in my lap . . . slap, "Unh!" to the attention-hogging dog. Mama tells her to be gentle & "we don't hit" . . . slap, "Unh!" to the controlling Mama who dares correct her (which makes the correction have to take place again). This is a mirror to me because I often have outbursts of anger. If there's any sin I struggle with, it's anger. When I hit my head on the washer, or when the limp shower head sitting in the tub suddenly springs to life & sprays hot water in my face, or when I have no counter space in the kitchen because I haven't had time to clean it, or when it's taking 2 years to get her down at night because of all the little "going-to-bed" tasks that have to be completed, I respond with anger . . . all true stories. Poor Emma's got her own sin nature, she doesn't need me displaying my own for her to copy! She needs me to learn to control my anger so I can teach her how to control hers. A task which requires my reliance on God. I am convinced that the more I'm reading & meditating on His Word, the more I'm in communion with Him, the more His Word & His Spirit will dwell in me & change my behavior. Which, of course, demonstrates to Emma how to rely on God to help her overcome her own sin. And then, when I fail & allow my sin nature to control me, I need to model repentance for her. She needs to see me admit my sin to God, her Daddy, & her & ask for forgiveness. She needs to see me trust God's promise that I am forgiven in Christ. And she needs to see that I believe His promise to continue to perfect & sustain me. My hope is that one day, when I look into the mirror that is my child, I'll see Christ's reflection gazing back at me. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Adventures in Cloth Diapering

When I was researching cloth diapers just before Emma was born, the following questions almost made my head explode!

Which kind of diaper? (There are dozens!) How many?  Which cover & how many? How many wetbags? How often should I change her? When should I use liners/doublers? Should I use a spatula or sprayer? How often should I launder them? How do I launder them?

We planned on using cloth from the beginning, but life with a newborn was more overwhelming than I had anticipated. Everything was new, & the idea of adding the tasks involved with cloth diapering was daunting. It seemed so much easier to wrap it up & throw it away. So, we started out in disposables, intending to make the switch once Emma was out of the newborn size. But, we found it easier to just continue as we were, so here we are using cloth diapers for the first time on our 14-month-old daughter. Needing to save money, we decided to finally take the plunge, & I am so glad we did because - strange as it may sound - I love it! I love knowing that there are no more chemicals & dyes next to Emma's skin. I love knowing that, in the long run, I am saving money for my family. And I love pulling freshly laundered diapers out of the dryer, clean & ready to be used on my precious girl's hiney. I know from personal experience that making the change can be overwhelming, so I would like to share what I've learned so far as a complete novice, in hopes that I can help other newbies in a very small way.

Okay, so from one greenhorn to another, if you need advice in choosing a cloth diaper, I highly recommend you running over to Kitchen Stewardship for some incredibly in-depth reviews, including videos. She solved all of my exploding-head issues! Which is definitely a good thing! As for our own experiences, because of the reviews on KS, I knew that 2-pieces were a good fit for us. ;-)  I liked the idea of just folding up the prefolds & using the cover to hold them in place. I further decided on the Econobum covers because they adjust as Emma grows, plus they're a good quality at a lower price. I was excited when my box of goodies came in, & I have to say that my enthusiasm hasn't abated!

Alright, so I've just given my choices to answer my "which kind of diaper & cover" questions, so let me tell you what I've discovered so far about the others. Upon advisement, I forget from where, I ordered 2 dozen red-edged & 1 dozen brown-edged prefolds. That has been good advice! With the ones always packed in the diaper bag, plus those waiting to be used or laundered, it's been the perfect amount. Emma wears the red-edged, with the brown being the next size up, & I've only had to use them a couple of times while the others were washing. As for how many covers, I initially ordered 7, but very quickly sent for 3 more because I almost ran out on laundry day. 10 seems to be the perfect number for now. Finally, I have found that 2 small & 2 large wetbags work well for us. I keep one large as a trash can liner (not closed, which encourages fruit flies), & dump this into the wash with the diapers. I replace it with the other large bag, because she's going to have wet or dirty diapers while the laundry is going, & I need somewhere other than the bookcase to put them. I chose 2 small ones so that if one was in the wash, I'd still have the other available if we go somewhere or to hold soiled covers. 

Now, how often should I change her? I had some trouble with this initially. It was an adjustment, because disposables don't have to be changed as often. Also, it's been harder for me to tell that she needed a change. Apparently, the cotton holds in odors better! A plus, but definitely an adjustment. And, unfortunately one that made our little ladybug's hiney break out in the worst diaper rash. She was red, raw, & obviously in pain, & I was very upset with myself. So, I grabbed my kitchen timer & set it next to her changing table. Every time I finished changing her diaper, I set the timer for an hour. When it went off, Emma got her diaper changed (only once has it been unnecessary). It only took one day using the timer to figure out how often I needed to change her. Normally, it works like this: she gets 3 diaper changes in the morning - 1 when we first wake up, 1 right before sitting down to breakfast, & 1 just before her morning nap. We follow the same pattern between her morning & afternoon naps, & again between her afternoon nap & bedtime. All told, she gets between 9 & 10 changes a day. And, it should be no surprise, no more diaper rash! Some will say you don't have to use any sort of diaper rash cream with cloth diapers, but I always slather coconut oil on her, & it works perfectly! We also keep Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm on hand, as it works well, too - & not just on diaper rashes. Both are safe on cloth diapers. When Emma has a wet diaper, I toss the diaper in the pail & hang the cover wrong-side-out over her bed railing. I keep 2 covers in rotation, so I simply grab the other one off the railing to use. If her cover is soiled, I simply put it off to the side until I can clean it (more on that later). While I'm on the subject of changing her diapers, let me address liners/doublers. My sister by marriage gave us a lot of their cloth diaper collection, so I already have these, & I use them 3 times a day - before each nap & before bedtime - to pad her diapers & give extra absorbency. As for storing all of these goodies, I have one basket to hold my diapers & another for the covers & liners.

Spatula or sprayer? I started out using a spatula, but have happily moved on to a sprayer, albeit an unconventional one. You've got some choices here to make, & it may depend on the configuration of your bathroom. Some people make their own sprayers or purchase them. I honestly had one picked out, but we're trying to save money, so I grabbed an empty cat litter bucket, & I use my detachable shower head on the massage setting. I set the bucket in the tub, hold the diaper over it, & spray it with hot water. All of the contents go into the bucket, which then gets poured into the toilet. Thanks to a tiny bathroom & a long shower head cord, I'm then able to hold the bucket over the toilet while I spray out anything that got left behind. Then the diapers go into the wetbag to await laundry day. 

Which brings me to the last questions. As for how to launder them, I will refer you to Green Mountain Diapers, who will send you a comprehensive guide with your order. I highly recommend it! In our own home, I wash the diapers every Monday, Wednesday, & Saturday, with diaper covers being washed the evening before & laid out to dry overnight. The covers are washed once on warm for the long cycle. Because of my washer's settings, the diapers are essentially washed twice, always with detergent. The first go-round they receive a short warm wash, & the second time I set it for the long hot wash*. I've only bleached targeted areas** once & rewashed those diapers separately. I've also used 1/4 cup vinegar in the final rinse once to make sure all of the soap was removed. Once they are done washing, I put them in the dryer on normal heat*** (due to the wetbags). Then I fold them in half & store them in their basket. That's it!

If you're new to cloth diapering like I am, or are considering it but find it daunting, I hope this has been helpful & encouraging. I am the sort who gets overwhelmed by new things, & I can let that hold me back. But I can say with confidence that cloth diapering is just as easy as using disposables once you have a system that works for you. And you'll save money & feel good about the fact that cotton is next to your baby's bum instead of chemicals. Happy diapering!

UPDATE (April 2015):  I highly recommend that you do NOT use the settings I did as a newbie (see * above)!  It took a little while, but my red-edged diapers began to fray & come apart, & I am 100% certain this was due to my "targeted bleaching", "hot wash", & "normal [drying] heat".  The lining on my wetbags all came off, not a one of my red-edged diapers can be used with our next baby, & my diaper covers are now pretty much useless as far as holding in wetness.  So!  Now, there is no targeted bleaching whatsoever; if there are persistent stains, I put a little bleach in the whole wash, but this is extremely rare.  I wash on a WARM setting, not hot.  Drying happens on a low setting &, of course, never includes the diaper covers.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My God Will Supply Every Need

Dear Anonymous,

I can't begin to thank you for blessing us so profoundly! I don't know who you are, but God does, & I know that your sacrifice brought Him glory, honor, & pleasure. When Michael opened up the card simply signed "Phil. 4:19, Love y'all" & then pulled out $200, he was moved to tears. It can be easy sometimes, because of our wayward hearts, to forget that God is with us in a trial. It's easy sometimes to lose faith. I know that God moved you to send us this encouraging card & money, & I thank you for responding to His leading. Your sacrifice was just like God wrapping a comforting arm around us & whispering lovingly in our ears, "I'm right here. I know your struggle. Trust Me to take care of you." The money is helpful, yes, but in giving it, you gave an even greater blessing in this reminder. Oh, the strengthening of our faith that occurred in that moment! For this & for helping to provide for our needs in this challenging time, you have our everlasting gratitude! From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you, & we pray fervently that God will bless you as you have blessed us. 

The Boyds

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our Appointment with the Neurosurgeon

Today was Michael's appointment with the UAB neurosurgeon, & all things considered, it was a good experience. For starters, the doctor was fabulous! He spent a very unhurried half hour - at least - with us, & gave us very detailed information about Michael's condition & the surgery we could be facing, including the risks & healing times. My expectation was that he would push for the surgery - after all, that's where they make their money - but that's not what he did at all. He laid out our options with absolutely no pressure, even saying that he didn't feel strongly about either course, & encouraged us to take some time to think it over before coming to a decision. He even gave us direct numbers so we would have no trouble getting in touch with him. Needless to say, we were quite impressed with him!

Okay, so here's the situation. We have two options: a spinal steroid injection (that the local neurosurgeon said he couldn't have) & surgery. There are a lot of factors for us to consider here - the amount of time Michael's already been out of work (6 weeks), how much medical leave he has left (6 weeks), the risks of the surgery, our finances, the likelihood of the effectiveness of the shot, his job security, etc. We basically made the decision according to the calendar. If we choose the surgery, Michael would be out of work around 10 more weeks. While long-term disability will have kicked in by then, his job would be gone, because they only hold his position for 12 weeks total. We have 6 left. If we choose the injection & it works, he could be back to work in a couple of weeks. No need for the long-term disability, & his job is secure. The worst possibility is if the shot doesn't work, at which point we'll have to go forward with the surgery, but with a further delay. Then we're looking at him being out of work for another 12 weeks, with no job to go back to once he's cleared. We're trying not to let our minds go there, though. So, we are going with the injection, praying that it does work. My understanding is that he will eventually have to have the surgery; the injection is a band-aid, & doesn't fix the problem long-term. But perhaps we can get ourselves into a better situation in the meantime.

A thousand thanks to all of you who are praying for us & who have checked up on us. Your lovingkindness means more than we can put into words. Please continue to pray that we would rest in God's sovereignty & love, that our faith in Him would be strengthened, that the shot will be effective quickly, & that God would open up avenues of income so we can pay our bills. Thank you, & may God bless you all. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Well-Intentioned Lie

I saw a purportedly true story today about a teacher encouraging her students to make the most of their education because soldiers fought for them to have that freedom, that right. Sounds like a wonderful story, but to be perfectly honest, it irritated the snot out of me. Why? Because this teacher wanted to instill patriotism, determination, & a love for learning, but it was built on a lie. Let me break this down:

1.) No American soldier has ever fought a war or battle of any sort to defend our "right" to an education. Once upon a time, citizens had to fight to receive an education, but those battles took place in the legal system. They were never fought by our soldiers. 

2.) Education is not a "right" that we have to defend or protect; it's forced on us by our government. Don't believe me? Keep your children out of school & see how long it takes before a truancy officer visits your home. Does such a thing happen if we choose not to exercise our right to speak or carry guns? Those are rights, education is compulsory.

3.) We have a false patriotism in this country that is sickening. We pull out our flags on the 4th & our "support the troops" mantra when it suits, but we spit on the freedoms our soldiers & Founding Fathers DID fight for every time we vote in another big-government, power-hungry politician who is devoted to taking away those freedoms. We champion them in sentiment while spitting on them in practice. It's disgusting.

Do I sound angry? Well, I am. I'm angry with my fellow Americans who mistake loyalty to America with loyalty to our government. I'm angry with my fellow Americans who would rather let the media tell them what to think than to educate themselves. I'm angry with my fellow Americans who think that they have the right to take away my rights simply because they don't want them for themselves. I'm angry with my fellow Americans who vote selfishly & with others who are apathetic, because they're saddling my children & grandchildren - as well as their own - with the consequences just like previous generations did to us. Finally, I'm just flat fed up with my fellow Americans who play at patriotism while desecrating the values & principles that this country was founded upon. 

True patriotism is found in those who fight for the truth at great personal cost. It's found in those who fight to safeguard the freedoms & rights of others that they may not agree with. It's found in those who know that in a truly free society, the freedoms of others may mean that they are sometimes offended or that someone will choose something different from them . . . & they fight for the preservation of those freedoms just the same. True patriotism is costly, it's hard, it often means being ridiculed or maligned, & it should never be confused with loyalty to a government. Nor should it be a punch line built on a lie to make a point, however well-intentioned.