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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Saving and frugal living

BJ and I have a lofty goal.  We want to pay off our 30-year mortgage in 7 years*.  Sounds ridiculous, right?  How do we plan on doing that?  By simply doubling our mortgage payment every month**.  Well, the idea is simple in theory.  Much more difficult in practice.

Our first challenge was to figure out how our bank works.  We knew it would be much easier for us if we could just pull out one mortgage payment every paycheck, instead of trying to pull out a double payment once a month.  So at first we just started sending in a payment every paycheck, figuring the extra would just go to principle.  (That's how it has worked with my previous car and student loans anyway.)  Alas, I was wrong.  They just started crediting the extra payments to future months.  So right now our next loan payment is technically due, I think, in May or June.  3 or 4 months ahead.  I called to see if we could just put our extra payments to principle or set up a bi-weekly payment plan, but they said to do that we'd have to go through a 3rd party, which we didn't really want to do.  So instead we just started putting one mortgage payment into savings, then the next paycheck we'd pull it out and make one double payment.  Then our loan got sold.  So I went through the whole thing again with our new bank.  (Well, except I called first instead of just sending in the extra payments to see what would happen.)  Same story.  Except with them I could set up a bi-weekly plan.  But they wanted to automatically pull it from my account.  I'm funny this way, but I don't like other companies to pull money out of my account.  I like to pay my bills.  I have bill pay set up with my bank to make payments for me.  But if I want to change a date or amount, I have the power to do so without having to call up someone else.  So we're still doing the savings account method.

The next step was to cut unnecessary expenses.  We went through all of our bills to see what was necessary and what we could live without.  We've done this in many stages.  Every few months we reevaluate.  Especially when BJ was in school and we thought he was doing grad school, it was amazing how much more we could cut each time.  We'd think we were living on bare bones, but then I'd do our budget and realize how much money we didn't have, and we'd find somewhere else we could save.  Sometimes you just have to be creative.

For example, we're currently feeding 3 of us on $100 per paycheck (every 2 weeks). We don't eat out often; we use cloth diapers; we make our own baby food; I breastfeed; we drive an old car; we only have one car (that is paid for); we get the cheap/free phones when we "upgrade" our phones. (We would gladly cut our cable, but it's part of our HOA fees. [sigh])  Basically, we have cut every corner we possibly can to save.

We realize, though, that if we make paying off our mortgage our life, we're going to get really discouraged really fast.  So that's not the only place we put our savings.  For one, we also have various ING savings accounts (a 6-month emergency expense fund, a new car fund***, etc.) that we contribute to monthly.  But we go a step further.  We still enjoy life while living frugally.

We keep up morale while making these sacrifices in three ways:
  1. We have a goal. We're trying to pay off our mortgage ASAP so that we can save ourselves the interest we would have paid. Also, we will have our monthly mortgage payment to ourselves instead of sending it off to someone else 23 years sooner, simply by doubling our mortgage payment every month. So whenever I'm eying that new (fill in the blank) I remind myself that I can have that and more in just 6 more years (and a few months).
  2. We have a wish list that we add to whenever we think of things that we really want to buy, but can't justify right now. Not only does it make a great list for birthdays and Christmas, but we also allow ourselves to splurge here and there by buying something off that list. We don't do it often, but knowing that we don't have to do without everything for 7 years makes it a whole lot easier to say no to the little things along the way. 
  3. BJ and I each have a separate ING checking account (as well as a joint checking account). Each paycheck we pay ourselves a little something and we can do anything we want with that money. If I want to splurge on a box of chocolates or buy an album on iTunes, I can. If he wants to buy new software for his computer or go rock climbing, he can. We are not held accountable to each other for what we buy with that money. It's a lot easier to save "our" money when I know I have a little bit of my own to do anything I want with.
It's still really hard, I won't lie. I do grow tired of having to pay such close attention to the cost of everything at the grocery store. And waiting for months for things I really want can be discouraging and hard. But it makes me feel good to watch my mortgage drop so much faster (and even more so to see my interest payment get a little bit smaller every month), and to simply know that I will have saved so much more money over the years. I like to dream of what I could do with just our mortgage payment when I get to keep it.  We could go on a cruise every month!  I could have a greenhouse!  Oh the library we would have.  (Now, what we would actually do with that money is a different story.  There would be a lot more charity-giving and saving for retirement going on.  But dreaming is really fun, especially when a wee bit absurd.)  Being self-reliant, I think, is one of the biggest confidence boosters you can get.  There's just nothing like seeing the money you saved and knowing that you did that.



*Of course, this is largely dependent upon if we're still living in our condo in 7 years, if we've sold it, are renting it, and if we have moved, how much our new mortgage is.  But since we don't know that, we are just going to try to pay off as much as we can now so that we have more equity for a new home, or have enough paid off so that we can afford a second home while renting out this one.
**I'm not saying that everyone can do this.  Even if you have the money to pay double, the amount of time it will take off your original loan depends greatly upon how much money your loan is, how much you have left on it, how much your payment is, and most importantly, your interest rate.
***I read a blog recently that suggested that you buy a car you can afford with cash.  Even if you have to downgrade.  (Luckily, we already own our car, so this step was easy.)  Then for a year, continue to make car payments into a savings account.  At the end of the year, sell your car, take that amount plus what you have in savings and upgrade.  Repeat until you have a good, reliable car that will last you for many years to come.  Then continue to make car payments to yourself, but put them into CDs or mutual funds.  Instead of having an eternal car loan where you always have a nice car, but you're paying a lot into interest and never own your cars, you live with less-than-perfect cars for a few years before you get a nice car, but you're never, ever paying interest.  In fact, you're earning it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to hang a picture frame with paper and dental floss

We were recently given a very nice drawing of President Monson, so Tianna went out today to buy a frame. Nicer picture frames have a cord on the back that you can use to hang the picture, but this one just had two triangular hooks. This is inconvenient; you have to place the nails in the wall at exactly the right width, and actually getting the frame on the wall is more difficult. The hooks tend to snap up flat against the frame, and even if they didn't, you can't actually see what you're doing.

Well, I have a solution. Two actually.

To place the wall mounts correctly, first hold the frame up to the wall. Position it where you want it and use a pencil to lightly mark the top corners. After marking the position on the wall, take the frame down. Find (or cut) a piece of paper as wide as the frame and lay it flat against the back of the frame, so that the top of the paper is against the top of the frame. Poke small holes in the paper where the frame's hooks are. Now put the paper up to the wall, lining it up with the marks you made on the wall previously. With a pencil, mark the wall through the holes you made in the paper; now you have marks on the wall exactly where you want your wall mounts.

I can't take credit for that first idea; Tianna found it on a blog a few days ago. But this next part is all my own.

Once you have your wall mounts placed, you need to actually get the frame's hooks on the mounts. Cut a length of dental floss about a foot wider than your frame. (String would probably work as well.) Thread the floss through the frame's hooks, and then hook it through the wall mounts. You'll probably need two people for this part. Have one person pull the floss taut and flat against the wall; this should pull the picture frame toward the hooks. Once the floss is fully taut, the hooks should be exactly lined up with the wall mounts. Just slide it on, and you're done!

We did this twice tonight (I ended up having to move the mounts because it wasn't as centered as we wanted it), and it worked flawlessly both times.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day!

BJ and I had a talk about Valentine's Day a week or so ago about what it means and what we wanted to do with it. BJ had the complaint that he felt like Valentine's Day was all about proving his love, which he thought (and he was right) that he did on a daily basis. Why should there be a day set aside in which he has to prove his love to me? I thought that was a very valid point. So I pointed out a different way to look at it. Instead of it being a day to prove our love to each other, it could be a day that we celebrate our love together! I like this idea a lot better. It takes a lot of pressure off of both of us, and neither of us have to feel like we're lame because we didn't do anything spectacular on Valentine's Day. Instead, we could simply relax and enjoy our time together and make the celebration of love fun.

Breakfast was simple. Pink, heart-shaped pancakes! Mmmm. Oh, and orange juice in red cups.

I had to be a bit more creative for Kessa's breakfast. Pears and strawberries! Pink!) She was also wearing pajamas with hearts on it, and her "I love my Grandma" bib. (Grandma, will you be her Valentine?) (Yes, both Grandmas.)) Man, she just ate that pink stuff up!

After her breakfast, she snacked on Cheerios. They are not pink, but man, she loves her some Cheerios.


After breakfast, BJ and I swapped gifts. ("What?! I thought you weren't proving your love! THAT'S WHAT GIFTS ARE FOR!!" Nonsense. We both made something small that we could both enjoy and cost next to nothing.) BJ made me a video of pictures and videos starting with us dating and ending with Kessa set to "At the Beginning" from Anastasia. It was adorable. It was really fun to reminisce through all of the things that happened between now and then, laughing periodically. Thanks, BJ!

video

I based my gift off of this blog post. I planned a date for us for every month for the rest of the year. Each one was represented by a picture inside an envelope. It included mostly free/cheap things and one big splurge. Everything from a temple night, to rock climbing, to Hale Center Theater (the splurge).

For lunch Kessa had beets. Can you get more red than beets?

Kessa wore her Valentine's dress to church today. I wore a red short-sleeved sweater and BJ wore a red tie.

We made our Primary class Valentines. Awwww. Aren't we fer cute? (Pretend this is printed on cardstock, the same size as a business card.)
For dinner, we stuck with the red food theme. We had a tomato vegetable soup, harvard beets, and biscuits (with the option of strawberry jam).

By the end of the day, Kessa was plumb tuckered out.


Happy Valentine's Day!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Giggling

But don't worry. All of the Not Happiness is made up for tenfold with the Giggling. View these videos as proof, if you don't believe me.

This is the Homer's dog, Jax. He will chase that ball all day long if someone will keep throwing it. Kessa loved it. Unfortunately, I was only smart enough to bring the camera out during the tail end of it as her giggles were calming down.
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This phenomenon has only ever happened twice. But I was giggling as much as she was whilst it happened.
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Oh man, Kessa loves going upside down. (Tragically, another tail-end video. And please forgive my fake giggle. It was making her laugh, too.)
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And apparently she also loves balloons. And Sarah. (You can ignore Shawn in the background. He came with us to FHE and didn't realize that we were making a video.)
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Not Happy

Sometimes Kessa is Not Happy.

This makes us Not Happy.

Getting into things

Now that Kessa is mobile, she's much more likely to get into things.

Like her books:



Or the diaper bag (which is always filled with goodies) (aww… cute bumGenius):

Or her toys:




Or the TV stand (which houses all of the fun things.  Like remotes!  And Wiimotes!  And Mario Kart wheels!)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Finger Foods

Kessa is figuring out how to pick up finger food. It is rather entertaining. Although she is much better now about getting things between her thumb and forefinger, it has been a talent she has had to develop. For example, check out this video. Please note that half of the Cheerios end up in her fist, on the back of her hand, or in her seat, etc.
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Snow!

Ok, BJ loves snow a lot more than I do.  Let's just be totally honest here.  He sees beauty; I see cold.  But there is one time that we can both agree on the beauty of snow… tree branches covered in snow.  Especially from the comfort of my front window.




My new (old?) hobby

My mom tried to make me into a good old-fashioned homemaker. I balked at it. She taught me how to sew, cook, crochet, knit, etc. And like any rebellious teenager, I did just enough to satisfy her, but not enough to gain any real skill in it. And like any rebellious teenager that grows up into a responsible adult, I regret that now. I wish I could go back and glean from my mother's knowledge. I wish I could spend those years developing those talents so that I could just be totally awesome at them now. But I didn't. So now I'm having to relearn all the skills my mom so valiantly tried to teach me. And when I start doing them, I realize that I love doing them. Turns out, I really want to be an old-fashioned homemaker. Who knew? (Sorry, Mom!)

My current hobby that I'm relearning is crochet. I've always been good enough to make a quick hotpad in an hour or two, but that's about as far as it went. A few months ago I saw a really cute picture of a baby wearing a crocheted hat and I decided that I really wanted to make Kessa a hat. So I got on Ravelry.com (which you have to join a waiting list to become a part of, but my friend Katya talked me into joining ages ago, but I'd never done anything with it) and looked up free crocheted baby hat patterns. And then I started crocheting. And I have to admit, I'm quite pleased with the result.

After I made my first hat, I realized it would be much cuter with a flower on it. So I looked up flower patterns. But instead of sewing it on, I decided to attach it with a baby alligator clip, which allows me to switch out what flower I have on the hat on any day. The first set I made I gave to my cousin for a baby shower gift. I was well pleased with the result. Then I made three more for sisters in my ward (both of my visiting teachers and also my visiting teaching companion, all of whom had babies this winter) and then I made two more for my newest niece, Aimee.

I do have several hats and flowers that didn't make the cut. But that's what learning is all about, right? One of them turned out just fine, but it was intended for Kessa and was just simply too large. Remember how her head was in the 1 percentile? Yeah, I have to make her hats smaller. But I think she's finally growing into it. 3 or 4 months later.

Then one day while cleaning I happened across a pattern for a stuffed bumblebee. I was intrigued. I just happened to have the yarn from BJ's Mega Man afghan leftovers, so I started crocheting. By the next day I had that done, as well as a stuffed bird. And then a stuffed kitten in pajamas. I'm currently working on a baby triceratops (not pictured). These also make me quite happy. (Side note: Kessa was rather intrigued with the bird. So I let her play with it. She entertained herself for quite some time by putting the wing in her mouth, biting down, then pulling the wing out through her clenched teeth. Which is why the bird looks as though he is accusing the bee of doing something wrong in the picture.)

I'm toying with the idea of selling the hats, flowers, and stuffed animals as a way to earn a little extra money. If any of you would be interested in buying any, send me an email*.


*(My first and last name, all one word, at gmail.com)

Things that are not Kessa

Dear Ryan.  The next few posts are for you.  Here is proof that we have a life outside of Kessa.  (A life which she is a large part of, sure.  But not specifically revolving around her.)

This'un will be about our church calling.  BJ and I are Primary teachers!  We teach the 11-year old class (all of them will turn 12 at some point during the year).  Last year we had all boys until the very end of the year when a girl moved in.  This year we have mostly girls with a couple of boys that come here and there.  Both years have been a lot of fun.  We have enjoyed our Primary class.  I'm really excited for this year because we're teaching Old Testament.  Adult Sunday School is great and all (no, really, I really enjoy it) but Primary allows me to teach stories.  Sure, we teach doctrine and how to apply it to your life, but our main focus is stories.  Which makes me very happy.  Very happy indeed.

We are also focusing on learning the Articles of Faith.  Last year we thought about this in… oh… December.  Maybe November?  Either way, we didn't have a whole lot of time.  So we didn't try to memorize all 13.  Instead we had them learn #4 and #13.  They didn't get it perfect, but they did pretty darn good, considering.  So to reward them, we had a party.  We watched Up and ate popcorn popped on our stove top (thanks to a wedding gift popcorn popper).  It was a lot of fun and the kids really had a blast.  Which is good, because we're doing it again this year.  Except we're doing all 13 Articles of Faith.  Hopefully this party (which includes some of the kids we have this year still) will serve as motivation.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Just an interesting fact.

Today Kessa is the same age I was when BJ was born. I guess I should be on the lookout for newborn boys...

Happy 8 month birthday, Kessa!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Standing!

Kessa has always loved to stand. Always. From the time she was a newborn, she would often stretch her legs, refusing to bend them in order to sit. She just likes the view from higher up, I guess. Maybe it's a good thing that she'll probably be tall.

One day I walked into the living room to see BJ on the floor, grinning. "Look at Kessa!" And to my surprise, she was standing on her own. Oh, sure, she's leaning against the couch, but still. She's not old enough to do that. (Nor has she done it since. She's stood while leaning up against couches and chairs with her belly leaning on them, but never facing away.)



Nor did it last long. "Catch me, Daddy!"

Moving

Kessa was pretty adept at rolling. One day I watched as she rolled herself all the way down the hall. She stopped only when she got distracted by the laundry hamper.
But then, she started figuring out how to get up on her hands and knees.

Now let's look at some videos of her progress. (Because I'm a mom, and I want to show such things, whether you care or not.)

This was January 12. She was just figuring out how to get up onto her hands and knees. She could do it, but it took awhile.
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By January 17th, she could get up pretty quickly.
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By January 20th, she could get around, even if you can't really call it crawling.
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Since then she has definitely increased in mobility. She still isn't crawling, but she can certainly get wherever she wants to go. Typically she's whining while crawling over to Mommy. She's a bit needy now. But at least she can get over to me on her own.

Bouncer

Damian and Kim let us borrow their bouncer for Kessa. And boy, did* she love it!
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(Sorry for the sidewaysness of this one. I'm too lazy to fix it.)
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* Now that she's so close to crawling, she really doesn't have as much interest in it. Either that, or because she's teething and really needy. Which means that being in the bouncer means that Mommy isn't holding her, which is NOT ok.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kessa loves her Papa

In the south, grandpas are often known as Papa.  My dad's heart is in the south.  His ancestors came from there and he served his mission there.  Thus, we like to call him Papa.

Kessa loves her Papa.

She loves to play with him.  And all the toys that come with him.  Like his coat strings.  Giddy up, horsey!

Sometimes she likes to just sit next to him and play.  (Socks are very fascinating, didn't you know?)

Until, of course, she spots his hat.  Uh-oh, Papa, you'd better pay attention!

Op!  Looks like Kessa won and got Papa's hat.

It's not the first time, though.

Although Kessa loves to play with everything about Papa, sometimes she'll play innocent.  Even when caught in the act.  "Glasses?  What glasses?  I don't know what you're talking about."

Pbbbbbbttttth

This is how Kessa feels about all the pictures and videos we've been taking of her lately:

And she does it all the time.  Maybe it's because I stick my tongue out at her so often to make her laugh?

Yes, her nose is still orange due to her love for carrots and sweet potatoes.  Also due to the fact that any store-bought mixed baby food includes either carrots or sweet potatoes, so it's difficult to temporarily eliminate them from her diet.  Don't worry, I'm working on making my own baby food so that I can regulate that better.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cloth diaper review - 8 months

Warning:  This is a very long and detailed post about cloth diapering.  If you do not care about such things, I would highly recommend that you skip this post.


Inspired by my friend, Carly, I have decided to write up a cloth diaper review.  Kessa is almost 8 months old and we have been using cloth diapers since she was about 2 weeks old.  So how have things been going?  Do I regret my decision?  Am I loving it?  How about since Kessa started eating solids?  Well, let’s talk.
We have been using bumGenius 3.0 AIO (all-in-one) diapers.  Basically, that means they do everything that a cloth diaper does.  It’s on the high end of cloth diapering.  Yes, that means they cost more, but for us, it was worth not having to worry about pins (or other devices to keep a diaper closed), folding, covers, etc.  And it also means that babysitters are more willing to use them.  Instead of having a cloth diaper with a plastic cover, it has a fleece inside with a PUL (a type of waterproof fabric) outside.  There is a pocket between the two where I put in inserts.  (I do this after I wash them so that they’re all ready to go when it’s diapering time.  Babysitters, etc. do not have to worry about stuffing diapers.)  They are one-size.  Kessa wore the same diapers at two weeks that she’ll (hopefully) be wearing when she potty trains.  There are adjustable snaps that change the size of the diaper and the inserts so that the diapers grow with her.  And they’re durable enough that I should be able to use them with multiple children.
Our experience?  Mostly good.  Yes, we’ve had some hiccups and complaints, but I don’t regret my decision at all.  So, let’s discuss the pros and cons.
Cons
  • Laundry tabs.  bumGenius 3.0 diapers close with velcro.  Because of this, there has to be a way to secure the sticky tabs in the laundry so they don’t catch on everything.  So they put laundry tabs on the diapers.  It appears to be a kind of fleece or something that the sticky side of the velcro sticks to.  And for several months, it worked just fine.  But slowly I noticed that here and there a laundry tab would stop sticking.  The sticky part would catch on the other diapers and start pulling threads off of them.  More and more laundry tabs stopped working and soon I would pull out long diaper chains out of my washer.  I remedied the problem by just sticking the tabs to the velcro I close the diaper with, essentially turning the diaper inside out.  But that was annoying.  So I contacted Cotton Babies (the manufacturer) and the allowed me to return the defective ones.  I’ve actually returned the majority of my diapers now in two batches and I plan on sending the rest of them back soon.  (They’ve all just taken their time to loose their stickiness.)  In good news, their customer service is great and I haven’t had any hassle at all with the returns.  (The diapers come with a 1-year warranty against product defects.)  And even better, the replacement diapers actually use velcro for the laundry tabs instead of fleece, or whatever it was.  So now the laundry tabs work wonderfully.  Overall, though, I probably wouldn’t recommend velcro closures.  I think I’ll try snaps next time.
  • Leaks.  I still don’t know if it’s the diapers that are prone to leak, or if it’s just Kessa.  I’m leaning towards Kessa, because we’ve been putting her in disposables at night for months now, and she leaks out of those probably 4-5 nights a week.  One of the problems with adjustable-sized inserts is that you have to fold over the insert, creating bulk on just one end.  The worst is the middle size, because the fold is maybe an inch long.  So it really pushes out either the front or back top of the diaper, depending on how you put the insert in.  The problem with pushing the diaper out is, obviously, the increased potential for leaks.  Kessa tends to leak out the front (I assume thanks to gravity and Kessa’s love for being on her tummy) so at first we put the fold in the front, figuring it’d give extra room to absorb, but I’m starting to wonder if it contributed to the leaking, so I switched them to the back and so far I think it’s making a difference.  She also tends to leak around the legs.  I’m not sure if it’s because the inserts are rectangular, so they bunch up easier, or if I just don’t put them on tightly enough around her legs.  Or, again, perhaps it’s just her shape.  Not sure.
Ummm… that’s about all we can think of for cons.  Two cons aren’t really that bad.  (Yeah, they’re annoying cons, sure.  But there could be so many worse.)
Potential Cons
  • Solid waste.  Ok, so as cloth diapering goes, I think we got lucky.  One of the biggest fears of switching to cloth is dealing with stinky diapers.  Before babies starts solids, you can just throw the diapers straight into the washer.  But after they start solids… well, you’ll notice a big difference in their stools.  Time to pop them in the toilet! I say we got lucky because I think I’ve had to “scrape” Kessa’s diapers … maybe two times.  And really, it was still solid enough that I could just use a wad of toilet paper to scrape it off and not even get my hands dirty.  The downside is the cause.  Kessa is easily constipated.  So while we have other problems dealing with major discomfort for her, it at least has made cloth diapering much easier for us.  I’ve never had to even longed to have a diaper sprayer.  This may change in the future, who knows.  And it may be very different for anyone else.
Indifferent
  • Laundry.  This may be a con for someone else, but I really haven’t had much of a problem with it.  Every other night after Kessa goes to bed, I throw a load of laundry into the washer while I do other things.  I let them dry while I sleep, and in the morning I fold them and put them away.  Sure, it doesn’t always work so smoothly.  Sometimes I forget.  Sometimes I’ve sent 9 diapers to be returned so I have fewer diapers to work with and have to wash them daily.  But overall, it’s a good system.  Laundry has never really been a task that has bugged me.  (Unless, of course, I have to use a laundromat.  But that’s an entirely different issue.)  And in the case that I don’t get them washed in time, I keep a stock of disposables on hand for nighttime use, so I can use those in case of laundry emergency.
  • Travel.  Some people balk at the idea of using cloth diapers when on the go, at church, etc.  Sure, they take up more room in the diaper bag, but other than that, I don’t see how it’s any different than disposables.  A disposable you throw away, leaving everyone else to smell it (man, there was a horrible one in the mother’s room in church on Sunday); a cloth you put in a plastic bag or a wet bag in your diaper bag that keeps out the smell until you can get home to put it in the diaper pail.
Pros
  • Cost.  Ok, admittedly it’s a much larger up-front investment.  But in the long run, it saves lots and lots of money.  I’ve been really curious as to how much money we’ve saved, so I’ve been keeping track of every load of laundry I do, what day it was and how many diapers I washed.  I’ve then put those in a very elaborate spreadsheet to figure out how many diapers I’ve “paid off.”  Or, in other words, when would I have spent the same amount of money buying disposables?  The one thing I haven’t factored in is the cost of washing and drying.  Yes, I know that’s a big factor to leave out.  I just haven’t yet taken the time to figure it out.  Someday I want to do a post on the cost of cloth diapering, in which I will include that.  So the following is cost of diapers only.  Also, it should be noted that I was pretty frugal in figuring the cost per diaper of disposables.  I looked up the cost for buying Huggies at CostCo in their largest quantities so I could get the cheapest price.  (Mostly because I knew I would have done something similar.)  So, cost of Newborn diapers was $0.39/diaper (They don’t sell those at CostCo and babies don’t go through hundreds and hundreds of newborn diapers anyway.  So that was the Walmart price, I believe.)  Size 1 were $0.16/diaper and Size 2 were $0.19/diaper.  (That’s as big as Kessa has gotten.  I’ll post prices for bigger sizes when I do my more detailed blog later.)  We’ve gone through approx. 773 cloth diapers in that time.  (The first few weeks I wasn’t keeping as detailed a log.  Also, keep in mind we have had a few weeks (vacations) where we’ve used disposables, not cloth, and that we use disposables at night.  This number is solely for cloth.)  Those 773 diapers would have cost us $240.90 in disposables.  We spent $300.58 to buy cloth (I averaged $15.03 per diaper.  That includes shipping), so we haven’t paid for all of them yet, but we have paid for about 16 of them.  So… probably another month or two and we’ll break even (minus cost of laundry).
  • Carbon Footprint.  Ok, this definitely isn’t my main motivation for cloth diapering.  But I have to admit, it’s kind of nice knowing that I’m not filling up landfills as much as I could be.  Especially when I realize that we’ve used 773 cloth diapers.  Yipes!  That’s a lot of diapers.
  • BJ doesn’t have to take out the garbage as often.  And we never have stinky diapers sitting around, waiting to go out.  
Ok, so there aren’t that many pros, either.  I guess the question is whether the vast amounts of money I’ll save in the long run is worth having to deal with leaks.  Especially since she leaks in disposables, too.
The observant reader will notice that at one point I said, “I think I’ll try snaps next time.”  (No, I’m not pregnant.)  We did not buy the recommended amount of cloth diapers.  (Something like 32!  Which I think is ridiculous.  I don’t go through that many between washes since I wash every other day, as recommended.)  We bought 20 total, two of which were size X-small.  Effectively, we have 18 diapers.  Thus, we won’t have enough to have two babies in diapers at the same time.  As I highly doubt that Kessa will be potty trained before Baby #2 arrives, I will have to buy more cloth diapers.  I won’t have to buy as many, since Kessa doesn’t go through all of her diapers between washings, so Baby #2 will be able to share diapers with Kessa.  But I will have to buy some.  I like bumGenius well enough, but I do think I want to try some other brands.
And just because I don’t think this post is long enough yet, [rolls eyes] let’s talk about cost a little bit more.  One huge turn off for many people is that cloth diapers are a much larger up-front cost.  I spent $300.  For disposable diapers, that cost is spread out over 7.5 months (assuming you spend $40/month on disposables).  $40 every month is a lot easier to swallow than $300 all at once.  Even if you can see the long-term cost benefits, many people simply don’t have $300 to spend on diapers.  I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately, actually.  For those of you who want to cloth diaper, but just can’t pay the $300 up front, I think I’ve found a solution for you.  (At least, those of you thinking about it while you're pregnant or before you become pregnant.)
When your precious little one is born, you’re going to start forking out $40/month for diapers, right?  That’s just the way it is.  So, what if you started saving that $40 every month while you’re pregnant?  In 7.5 months of pregnancy (or less if you use less expensive cloth diapers), you could save up enough money to buy all of the cloth diapers you will need. Even better, once the baby is born, keep pulling that $40 out every month.  Put it in a high interest savings account (or mutual fund, or whatever tickles your fancy) and use the money that you would have spent on disposable diapers to start funding your baby’s college education.
Just think.  You could spend $1,440 on diapering your kid* … or you could extend that by 7.5 months and spend $300 on diapers and put $1,440 into an account to earn interest for your child’s future.**
*Assuming $40/month for 3 years.
**For the record, I’m not trying to sound snobby or anything.  I wish I would have been this smart.  As it stands, I just barely had the idea and just opened an ING savings account today to do just this.

I love you!

Many babies suck on pacifiers.  Many suck their thumbs.  Kessa sometimes does both of those, but more often, she passes them up for something better.  Love.  That's right, she signs "I love you" while sucking her fingers.  And she has since birth.  That's because she loves me so much.  Obviously.

Here she is about an hour after birth:

And here she is over Christmas:

New Years Eve

Every New Year's Eve, my (BJ's) family has a special dinner. We missed it last year because we were up with Tianna's family still, so we made sure to make it this year.

The meal is called Butter Yaki. We pull out the electric fry pans, melt a bunch of butter in them, and then load them up with bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, soy sprouts, and thinly sliced beef. And probably a couple other vegetables I'm forgetting. Each person has a bowl of sticky white rice, a small bowl of soy sauce, and chopsticks. You grab some cooked food, dip it in your soy sauce, and then let it drip over the rice and eat away. It's pretty good, and definitely a unique meal. We sit on the floor around a coffee table and celebrate the New Year. There's usually sparkling cider too, and often a broadcast of a classical symphony performance.

It's pretty fun. After the meal we played games until midnight and then went to bed.

Sorry, no pictures this time.

Harry Potter dinner

Every year for Christmas Eve*, my family has an ethnic dinner.  Typically it's from where a family member just got off their mission (or in my case, where I spent a semester abroad).  Two years ago Travis and I did an Israeli dinner.  Last year BJ was in charge of a Spain dinner.  This year, we didn't have any missionaries, foreign outings, or new members of the family.  Luckily, Travis and I** had a brilliant idea several months ago.  Harry Potter!  Perhaps many of you don't know, but I am a huge Harry Potter fan.  So a Harry Potter themed dinner was right up my alley.  We had pumpkin juice, butterbeer, pumpkin pasties, cockroach clusters, crystallized pineapple, treacle tart and chocolate wands (the wands were made by my cousin, Stephanie.  They were chocolate filled chocolate crepes.  Holy goodness. I maybe ate way, way, way too many).

Although such a meal would be quite appropriate for lunch on the Hogwarts Express, we decided it probably wasn't healthy for Muggles like us.  So I searched the books for Christmas day meals and put together a menu from that.  We had turkey, roast potatoes, cranberries and peas.  All in all, it was quite delicious.  And now, for highlights!

Kristen, Spencer, Parker and Tamra all enjoyed their dinner, washed down with butterbeer.

Damian also really enjoyed his butterbeer.

Taegen, on the other hand, preferred a good swig of pumpkin juice.

But his favorite were the cockroach clusters.

Kristen seconds that motion.

With such a successful dinner, something had to go wrong.  That's just the way things go.  The crystallized pineapple was, by far, the most time-consuming entree.  Weeks before Christmas I started boiling the pineapple in sugar water.  Every night.  The weekend before Christmas Mom took over.  She was down in Utah and took the pineapple home with her to start drying it in her food dryer.  All went well until I showed up at the house.  In my efforts to cook and clean up, brilliant Tianna moved a couple of loaves of bread onto the food dryer.  Turns out, putting plastic-wrapped bread on top of the vents of the food dryer is Bad News.  A) It dries out the bread and B) It melts the food dryer.  Ummm… sorry, Mom!  In good news, the pineapple still tasted good.


*The last few years we've opted to have our "Christmas Eve" dinner on another night.  This year was no exception.  Since Jalin and Co. were going to be in town, we pushed back the dinner until they could be there.
** I'm pretty sure that I should be exempted from being in charge of the Christmas Eve dinner for the next many, many years, seeing as how I have done the last three.  I think Travis gets exempted from the next many years since he did two of the last three.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Aimee's photo shoot

Travis was also enlisted to photograph a blessing photo shoot for Aimee. Check out his awesome camera.  But… umm… I think he got the wrong subject.

Ah.  There we go.  Much better.  (Seriously.  That camera.  You see why we pick him to take our pictures?)

And now for the final product!*

Awww… isn't she fer cute?

*Disclaimer: this photo was not taken by Travis.  It was taken with my mom's camera (which, unfortunately had a slight smudge on the lens) leaning over Travis' shoulder.  Travis was using a large format camera that was not digital and thus he has to develop the film (gasp!  Who does that?!) and so I'm using what I have.