Friday, June 7, 2013

Bear with me.....good things to come

To whomever out there that is following my blog posts.  I have been working on a website that I am really excited about.  I found that through my blog, I wasn't able to share the information the way I envisioned it.  So, bear with me.  Good things are coming.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Meat We Eat

The food we eat in our home has been changing.  What sent my family over the edge to be more conscious of what we were eating was the infamous pink slime stories that spread like wildfire through the media a little over a year ago.  I have always been interested in eating organic, but my husband was a bit resistant due to cost.  Though, once we started to read more about what is in our food we became concerned about our health and especially our children's and began to slowly switch.  Unfortunately, we met challenges along the way in finding "organic" foods that were not severely over priced and not doable with our graduate student income.  Within the past six months we have done our research, found what works for us and have  fully made the switch.  It feels good and tastes good.  I also feel GREAT about what I am feeding my kiddos.  

We live in a small city in northern Indiana where you would think that due to the fact that most of Indiana and the surrounding states are very rural and farm driven that you would have quality meats and vegetables in the grocery store.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Thank goodness for us, we recently were blessed with a Whole Foods which has simplified our grocery shopping.  Anyway....here is some of the information we gathered regarding meat that has convinced us to make the switch to "organic"!

MEAT:
As most people know, (at least I hope most know) our grocery stores today are filled with meats that come from mass producing factory cattle, chicken and pig farms.  Animals at these farms are treated very inhumanely and fed food that is pumped full of antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease, and growth hormones to make the animal grow twice as fast and much larger than they are naturally supposed to. You should consider watching a couple documentaries that my husband and I have watched in the past two years that have opened our eyes to something that we were not completely aware of and has greatly swayed our interest of where our food comes from.  This is the biggest problem among Americans.  We need to care about what we are eating, where it comes from and what the ingredients are!


Chicken
For those of you that don't realize what is happening, an easy way to see an example is to take a moment to compare the size of chicken breasts in your local grocery store.  There are typically a couple options; some big name companies "conventional" chicken, or "natural" and "organic".   Take a moment to compare the size of the different chicken breasts next time you go grocery shopping.  You will notice the big name chicken breasts, i.e. Tyson or Perdu are HUGE.  They are not a normal size chicken breast, and bigger does not mean better.  The huge chicken breasts don't have any flavor, and they are a strange texture before cooking, and after cooking they are tough.  The chickens that are raised the "conventional" way are terribly mistreated.  They are placed in huge barns where there is little sunlight.  Many never see more light than what comes through the door way when someone comes to supposedly care for the chickens.  Each chicken has no room to move, they are fed grains that are heavily laced with growth hormones and antibiotics.  Several of the chickens die due to their living conditions.  The "natural" and "organic" chicken breasts, on the other hand, are much smaller.  The size that a chicken breast should be.  If you go with an "organic" chicken, by law, they can not be fed antibiotics or injected with growth hormones. Now, there is controversy as to the treatment of these chickens as well.  Typically, if it is a big name company, they are fed the healthy diet, but are still treated poorly.  Do your research about where your chicken is coming from so that you know exactly the quality of life they have and what they are being fed.  It feels good to know!



Along with poor meat quality, the egg quality is equally effected.  Hens are kept in very tight cages.  In some situations, they clip their beaks to prevent cannibalism among the hens, as well as wing clipping.  So, the hens are mistreated and they produce low quality eggs.  Organic free-range eggs are much larger, the yolks are a deeper yellow and the flavor is far and wide much more rich than an industrial hen egg.  Again, do your research prior to buying so that you know exactly where the hens are raised and how they are cared for.  


BONUS: The color of the yolk does not reflect the nutritional value of the egg.  The color of the yolk varies depending on the diet of the hen.  
  



Poultry Farming Wikipedia - free range, organic vs. factory farm conditions

  
Beef
Now, let's talk about ground beef.  Not only is the beef coming from factory farms where the animals are treated poorly and fed hormones and antibiotics, but as it is being ground into ground beef, they are adding a filler commonly known as  "pink slime".  "Pink Slime" is also known as Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB).  They use the excess of the cow that normally wouldn't be used in ground beef and break it down through a process that uses heat in centrifuges to separate the fat from the meat in beef trimmings.  The resulting product is exposed to ammonia gas or citric acid to kill bacteria.  It has been reported as of March 2012, 70% of the ground beef sold in the U.S. contained "pink slime".  Ground beef is also allowed to contain as much as 25% of the additive.  Since last March 2012, many supermarket chains have committed to not selling ground beef containing pink slime, although, I would still ask the butcher before you buy.  Last time I asked, there was only one type in the case that was "pink slime" free, and it was much more expensive.  It's certainly worth the price.   The alternative is buy your own steaks, and grind your own meat.  We have started doing this, and it is amazing how tasty our hamburgers and ground beef recipes are compared to the already ground meat at the store. 

You also have to think about your steaks and roasts as well.  It is the same issue that we have with chicken.  "Conventional" beef is poorly treated animals pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones being mass produced and shuffled into a factory to be processed and shipped across the country to restaurants and grocery stores.  The meat does not taste good, is tough and not juicy.  It is often beginning to turn brown prior to the sell by date.  I will say it again....do your research.  Be aware of where your meat is coming from and how it was raised.  

Pink Slime Wikipedia
inhabitat.com
Pork
Pig farming is another issue.  The pigs are kept in very inhumane living conditions.  The sows are repeatedly bred, and confined to very tight living quarters to prevent squashing the piglets.  The piglets have their tails cut off to keep from the other piglets from biting them which would lead to possible infection.  They are in caged areas, no straw or grass to lay in which they would normally root around in and keep them from the interest of biting one another.  The piglets are then weaned far to early from their mother in order for the mother to be bred again, and to feed the piglets a diet to fatten them up much faster than they would naturally.  Pigs are very smart animals, and studies have revealed that they do become depressed in such poor living conditions.  This won't be the last time I say it.....find out where you meat is coming from.  Research their living conditions  and what they are fed. It makes a tremendous difference.  

Humane Society - Pigs - More information about pig welfare


Ways to Change
We have an unrealistic perception that the animals we eat come from farms like this:


Unfortunately, these images are not reality for what is in most grocery stores.  

Next time you are shopping for meat, have a conversation with the meat counter attendant.  Find out where your meat is coming from.  Ask if there is pink slime in the ground beef.  You will be sadly surprised that it is still sold in many stores.  If your options are not up to your standards, start researching your communities options.  Find a local co-op and buy locally raised meats directly from the farmer.  It is quite rewarding buying food from the person that has cared for and raised what you are putting on your table.  You feel good about your choices and what you are feeding your family.  

Factory Farm Map - find out how factory farming effects the animals and the environment

Green-Blog Post about Factory Farming - Great post in more detail on factory farming

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Fluff Experiment


A funny thought just came to me.  I am performing experimental research similar to my husband whom of which logs many hours in a lab and analyzing data, though, in the end, he will receive a Ph. D in Nuclear Physics.  I, on the other hand, am just starting out with my experimental work.  I, most certainly, am running a constant experiment within our home. (Well, kids in general are little experiments to most parents!)  Anyway, here is my first "paper" that I would like to publish regarding my recent findings in cloth diapering!  




CLOTH DIAPERING AND WASHING WITH SOFTENED, MINERAL HEAVY WATER AND BATTLING YEAST

A thesis presented 
by 

Dana

to
the wonderful people that choose 
to follow and read my blog

for a degree of 
Doctor of Eco-Friendly 
in the subject of 

Cloth Diapering

Home Changing Table and Laundry Room University
April 2013


Contents

1. Test Subject; "Little Guy"
2. Diaper Decision
     2.1 Diapering Accessories
     2.2 Wash Routine
3. Ammonia Stink
     3.1 Attempt to Eliminate Ammonia Stink - Round 1
     3.2 Attempt to Eliminate Ammonia Stink - Round 2
     3.3 Attempt to Eliminate Ammonia Stink - Round 3
     3.4 Attempt to Eliminate Ammonia Stink - Round 4
4. Yeast Rash
     4.1 Cj's Butter PLUS
          4.1.1 Amid the Yeast
     4.2 Yeast in the Diapers
     4.3 Burt's Bee's Diaper Cream
Conclusion

List of Figures
Fig. 1 Toddler Test Subject
Fig. 2 Curel Itch Defense Lotion
Fig. 3 Gentle Naturals Baby Therapeutics Eczema Wash
Fig. 4 Bum Genius 4.0 Pocket Diaper
Fig. 5 Thirsties Duo Pocket Diaper
Fig. 6 Happy Heineys Pocket Diaper
Fig. 7 Bum Genius Diaper Sprayer
Fig. 8 Planet Wise Pail Liner
Fig. 9 Hefty Touch Top 13 gallon Trash Can
Fig. 10 Rockin Green Soft Rock Diaper Detergent
Fig. 11 Bum Genius Fleece Stay Dry Liners
Fig. 12 Rockin Green Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer
Fig. 13 Cj's Butter Plus
Fig. 14 Precious New Born fluff bum
Fig. 15 Burt's Bee's Diaper Ointment
Fig. 16 Bum Genius Diaper Detergent


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


I want to dedicate this post to my husband who is in the beginning process of writing 
a Ph.D Physics thesis, and my two cloth diapered children
who have supported me and allowed me to keep going even
when the going was tough through my cloth diapering journey, thus far.

CLOTH DIAPERING AND WASHING WITH SOFTENED, MINERAL HEAVY WATER AND BATTLING YEAST

ABSTRACT
     Cloth diapering may come easy to some, but has been quite a challenge for many.  Through my experimentation, I have discovered the best way to remove build up in my diapers that was causing two types of rashes on the test subject; ammonia burn and yeast.  



Chapter 1
Test Subject; "Little Guy"
Fig. 1
     My test subject is a 2 year old male (Fig. 1), whom we will further refer to as "Little guy".  He has atopic dermatitis, also referred to as eczema.  As an infant, his eczema was all over his body, but now, at the age of 2, is focused on his sweet little face, specifically his cheeks and triggered by low humidity and various allergens; cats, dogs and consuming chicken.  His eczema is treated externally with Curel Itch Defense lotion (Fig. 2) and Gentle Naturals Eczema wash (Fig. 3) and internally when the flare up is persistent, with Hydroxizine.  These particular products are used due to results of a previous experiment.
Fig. 2
Fig. 3



                         











Chapter 2
Diaper Decision
     Since I would be diapering a 2 year old and I wanted to ease into cloth diapering, I wanted the transitions to be easy.  Pockets seemed to be the best fit for our family because when they are all together they are like putting on a disposable diaper.  They were also better fit our price range compared to all in ones (AIO's).  

The diapers I selected to use are pocket diapers with microfiber inserts.  Bum Genius 4.0's (Fig. 4), Thirsties Duo Pocket diapers (Fig. 5) and Happy Heineys (Fig. 6).
Fig. 4
Fig. 6

Fig. 5

2.1 Diapering Accessories
     The cloth diapering accessories I chose to use in order to make the experiment easier are: 
Bum Genius Diaper Sprayer (Fig. 7), Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner (Fig. 8), Hefty touch top 13 gallon trash can (Fig. 9) Rockin Green Soft Rock Detergent (Fig. 10) Bum Genius Fleece Stay Dry Liners (Fig. 11)

Fig. 9
Fig 7
Fig. 8


Fig. 10
Fig. 11



                         







2.2 Wash Routine
    All diapers, after being removed from my Little Guy, were placed into the (dry) diaper pail after the insert was removed from the diaper.  If it had been a poo diaper, the poo was sprayed off into the toilet by means of the diaper sprayer (Fig. 6), and the diaper was then taken to the diaper pail.  Once in the diaper pail, diapers were washed every other day.  The amount of diapers to put into the wash was typically around 10-12.  
    In my top loading washing machine, I would place 10-12 diapers and the diaper pail liner evenly around the agitator.  I would set the wash size to the maximum setting and the water temperature to cold.  Then I would run an initial cold rinse with no detergent.  After the rinse was complete, I would then add 2 tbs of Rockin Green Soft Rock detergent, switch the water temperature to hot and the wash cycle to the the longest wash cycle with two cold rinses.  Once washed, the inserts and pail liner were put into the dryer on low heat for 70 minutes and the diaper covers were hung to dry.  


Chapter 3
Ammonia Stink
    Initially, the previously stated wash routine was working , though, after roughly a month, I began to have a barn yard stink upon opening the dryer, and not much longer after that...ammonia issues.  At first the smell was strong in the diaper pail.  Then the smell was strong as soon as my little guy urinated, and what triggered the search to find a fix was when the ammonia was causing ammonia burn on his heiney!

3.1  Attempt to Eliminate Ammonia Stink - Round 1
     The first thing I tried to remove the odor was to do as recommended by Bum Genius, a bleach treatment.  Though many diapering companies advise against this practice, since a majority of my stash consisted of Bum Genius, I tried it.  I added it it into my bleach dispenser of my top loading washing machine and added the same amount of detergent as I normally do.  It seemed to have worked, but in the end, it only worked for that one wash cycle.  My little guy wore the diapers fine without problems, but then after going back to my normal wash routine, once he urinated in them again, they STUNK!  So.....I lost this round of the battle.

3.2 Attempt to Eliminate Ammonia Stink - Round 2
     Secondly, I tried to use vinegar.  I had read on many blogs about how the effects vinegar has on ammonia.  It helps to neutralize the ammonia.  I used it in a similar fashion as the bleach.  I ran a cold rinse cycle, hot wash cycle with 2 scoops of Rockin Green Soft Rock detergent and a 1/4 cup of vinegar added to the wash water.  The result was less effective than the bleach, and unfortunately ruined the PUL in one of my Happy Heiney's diapers.  :(  I have lost again!

3.3 Attempt to Eliminate Ammonia Stink - Round 3
Fig. 12
     I then decided to turn to the Rockin Green GURU.  After discussing my challenges I was experiencing, she suggested I try Funk Rock by Rockin Green (Fig. 12).  It is a product to help strip your diapers and really eliminate ammonia build up. It kicked the ammonia stinks butt!  But only for two wash cycles.  :(  Then I consulted with my local diaper retailer, and she said that I should only have to use Funk Rock a max of once every 6 months.  Too much could and would damage your diapers!  Woops!  I had blown through an entire package and a half of that stuff!  Round three goes to the diapers! :(

3.4 Attempt to Eliminate Ammonia Stink  - Round 4
     So, my local diaper retailer sent me home with a sample of Rockin Green Classic Rock, and that certainly didn't help.  They stunk bad!  My water was softened, so the Classic Rock was not effective.  At this point, I had red ammonia rash on my little guys bum regularly, and the diapers just didn't seem to be getting clean.  They were crunchy feeling.  So, I read, and read, and read everything I could.  I decided it was time to strip my diapers.  No, they weren't repelling, but there had to be some sort of build up in those little nappies!  I boiled my inserts to my pocket diapers, and there it was, plain and clear to me.  They were full of detergent.  As I boiled them, suds were coming to the surface of the water.  I boiled all of the inserts for 30 min.  I then threw them in the wash, dried them in the drier and VOILA!!  Like new!  For the shells, I stuck them in my kitchen sink with some blue dawn dish soap, and the hottest tap water and I stirred them up repeatedly, then rinsed, rinsed, rinsed with cold water before tossing them into the wash as well.  It was a miracle!  Right when I was about to give up, AMMONIA WAS CONQUERED!  It took 4+ tries over the course of 3 months.  I found the solution!



Chapter 4
Yeast Rash
    My nappy happiness was short lived. During my moment of ammonia conquering ecstasy, a new rash emerged.  It wasn't your normal everyday red spot from a toxic poo that is zapped by your average cloth diaper safe cream. This was a nasty one.  Bumpy and in clusters.  This rash didn't want to go away.  It was persistent, and even when I thought it was gone.....it would return! So, back to the drawing board for me.

4.1 Cj's Butter PLUS
   Immediately I went from my freshly boiled and non-ammonia diapers to.... :( DISPOSABLES:(   I then turned to my favorite cloth diaper cream company for their yeast zapping diaper cream.  CJ's Butter PLUS (Fig. 13).  I went through almost an entire 18 oz. jar of it, over the course of 2 more months and that darn rash would calm down, but it wouldn't take it away completely.  Grrrrrrr!  I was really ready to give up on the idea of ever cloth diapering again.  Most would have abandoned cloth 2 chapters ago!  
  
Fig. 13


Fig. 14
4.1.1 Amid the Yeast
    During the time that I was treating my little guy for a yeast rash, I delivered our third baby boy (Fig. 14), whom of which I planned to cloth diaper after the cord stump fell off.  I had arranged to rent newborn cloth diapers, but was nervous that I simply didn't know what I was doing with cloth, that my water just didn't like diaper detergent and I wasn't meant to do this.  I persevered and went ahead with the rental program and successfully cloth diapered my newborn without stink or rash issues which gave me hope.  I realized it wasn't the diapers, or something I was doing.  It was my son...little guy, and his dreadful toddler pee and poo.

4.2 Yeast in the Diapers
     At times I would have the rash almost gone with the Cj's Butter Plus, so I would start using the cloth diapers once again.  Prior to doing the proper research, I didn't even think about the fact that the yeast was still in the diapers!  So, I did extensive research before the yeast execution!  I wanted to attack with a full brigade of yeast killing weapons!  My weapons of choice were bleach, hot water and grapefruit seed extract!  I washed the already clean diapers in a load of hot water and cup of bleach.  Then I washed them again with 50 drops of grapefruit seed extract, (far more than the recommendation, but I was out for blood, and wanted to make sure I killed those little yeast spores).  I rinsed with cold water 2 times, then dried on high heat for 30 minutes.  I proceeded to use the grapefruit seed extract for the next two washes.  This took care of the problem.  My infant was wearing them with no rash problems whatsoever.   

4.3 Burt's Bee's Diaper Ointment

Fig. 15
     By coincidence, I had left my Cj's Butter PLUS at my brothers house after a weekend trip and I was so worried about what I was going to do for the yeast rash.  I dug around in my arsenal of baby products and found a sample of Burt's Bee's diaper ointment (Fig. 15).  After one application, it was like magic.  It quickly kicked the yeast's butt!  :)  I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  It was glorious!  After even confirming that the rash was for sure yeast by our doctor, he advised to continue the use of the Burt's Bee's diaper ointment until it was gone!  It was amazing!  I had won this battle!  (***There have been mixed reviews on Burt's Bee's Diaper Ointment and it's use with cloth diapers.  It is quite thick, and in my own personal opinion, I would avoid using it to prevent repelling.***)  


Conclusion
     Since the Burt's Bee's discovery and the elimination of ammonia, I have continuously cloth diapered my infant who is now 6 months old without any wash or rash troubles.  As for my 2 year old, we come and go with cloth diapering.  I have found that it is simply because of his strong toddler pee and poop, and because I have only enough cloth diapers to diaper 1 child, and a close to potty training toddler, I have chosen to use disposables on my 2 year old :( .  Though, recently, after communicating with some cloth diapering mommas, they suggested rinsing pee diapers just like poo diapers in order to pre rinse the concentrated amount of stinky strong urine out.  I will give that a shot, and see how far I get.
Fig. 16
    Also, after my detergent battle with Rockin Green, I have since switched to Bum Genius Brand Diaper detergent (Fig. 16), and it is working very well for me and my wonky water.  








**I hope that my diaper experiment doesn't scare anyone away from trying cloth diapers.  I feel so much better using them than to be putting more disposable diapers into landfills than I have to.**  

Each time fluff is on one of my babes bums, that's one less sposie in the dump!   





All images in this post were found through google images

     



Friday, April 12, 2013

Catching Up and Stretching Out!

Holy Moly!  Time has been escaping me!  I hate that I have not posted in over a month!  Ugh! Well, with trying to get into a routine, along with normal life occurrences getting in the way, i.e., Easter, illness, a death in the family, and hubby out of town... that really shakes things up and throws absolutely everything off.  I have had the most enormous laundry pile up that I have ever had and I am still not out of the woods with that.  The baby has been diagnosed with severe infant eczema which became terribly inflamed after I had consumed an abnormal amount of coconut (darn samoa girl scout cookies). Finding that coconut triggers it led to looking at the labels of EVERYTHING I consume since he is exclusively breastfed, as well as everything that touches him,  like our detergents and skin care products.  It's been a chore, but he is looking tremendously better.  So, we have been busy, busy in recent weeks, to say the least.

Anywho, now that we are all healthy again after a nasty cough and sinus thing passed from one family member to the next, my husband and I are trying to incorporate yoga into our evenings after the kids are in bed.  From the first time I ever attended a yoga class, I knew I was in love.   It is so relaxing, and you feel amazing after you are done.  I was lucky enough to take a prenatal yoga class with my last pregnancy.  Participating in that after not doing yoga for years reminded me how much I love it.  It also helped my labor tremendously!  My husband on the other hand is not your typical "yoga" guy.  He prefers to go to the gym and use free weights, machines and run, though recently with work and 3 kiddos, he just can't seem to work gym time into his daily routine.  So, a compromise for him is doing yoga with me in the evenings, even if its for only 30 minutes.  It is a great way to wind down at night.  With only doing it for a short time, I am feeling better and so is my insanely nonflexible husband who has found that he enjoys it as well.  Who knows, maybe this will lead to something we continue to do for many years to come.  Hey, maybe dropping in on an instructed yoga class could be a new date night option!  We shall see!  In the mean time, I just hope we stick with it!


Namaste

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Setting an Example

Looking back to my personal goals of the year, the two that I seem to keep pushing towards the  back burner are yoga and zumba.  NOT GOOD!  After reading a blog post of a high school friend about her goals and challenges with losing baby weight and just being active to set an example for her daughter, it struck a cord with me.  I have never thought about my lack of physical activity and how it influences my children and their future.
  
Growing up, neither of my parents were the type to work out.  My mother was busy raising the three of us, and I certainly know, that alone is daily exercise, but she never deliberately set aside time to work out.  My father was also busy working hard to provide for the family, and simply had no time to work out either, though his job as a boilermaker was a very physical job.  Aside from that, they always encouraged us to participate in sports, and we certainly did.  I played t-ball/softball from 1st grade through my senior year in high school, along with volleyball and basketball in elementary and middle school.  I ran track somewhere in there as well.  My brothers did the same.  As kids, we played outside all the time.  Though, once I was in high school, sports is where my exercise routine stopped.  In the summers, I had ZERO interest in going for a run or swimming for exercise, and into my adulthood, I still have ZERO interest.  I don't know if the lack of deliberate exercise by my parents had such a profound effect on me or not.  Maybe I am just the couch potato type.  Who knows. 

As parents, we are always worried about what our children see us doing and don't want them to have the same habits as us, like biting your nails, or for some smoking cigarettes (WHICH I DON'T DO...just an example people).  But what we don't think about are the examples of what we are NOT doing, like getting off our butt's and exercising.  The reason for exercising doesn't have to be to lose weight either.  It is to be healthy and fit.  I have been thin my entire life.  By no means am I interested in losing any more than five pounds, which will bring me back to my pre-baby weight.  At the same time, even though I have always been tall and slender, that doesn't mean I am in tip top physical shape.  I have been blessed with some great genetics that allow me to stay thin.  As I said, I put ZERO effort into my physique.  To be completely honest, I eat like a line-backer, and still don't gain a thing.  It's just me.  And just because I am naturally tall and thin is no excuse to be a couch potato either.   Especially because I don't want to raise three other couch potatoes.  So, in the month of March......I will start checking off my list, STARTING WITH ZUMBA!  It should be easy to fit into our new daily routine, which is getting up and getting our 4 year old ready for school.  Getting my tush out of bed to do that is an achievement in itself for this night owl/late sleeper.  Let's hope we can get this Zumba train moving!  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cutting Luxuries

With my husband being a graduate student and me being a stay at home momma, money is tight.   Very tight.  Although, from the outside looking in, it doesn't appear that way.  We live comfortably.   Comfortably within our means, that is!  It is all about prioritizing, saving, and being able to resist the urge to splurge.  When you are used to spending more, it is hard to adjust to spending less.  But when you see that you don't need certain thing as much as you once thought, it feels good to have more money in your pocket than to just be blowing it.  

My husband and I have forced ourselves to spend wisely since the day we got married.  At that time, we had moved across the country to BEAUTIFUL San Diego from a middle of nowhere Indiana town.  We had our wedding money, and a little bit of savings.  To start off our marriage, we didn't take a honey moon, which our wedding money would have definitely covered, but we knew we would need that as we got on our feet.  Really, that is the purpose of wedding money, to help you as a new couple...not to blow on a luxurious vacation.  That a little harsh....but let's be real, if you don't have well paying jobs and you take all of your wedding money to fund a fab vacay, then return to a not so fab financial situation, clearly your priorities are out of wack.  Ok...I am getting a bit opinionated.  Anyway....so we were in SD with wedding money, small savings, a mattress, computer desk, wedding shower gifts and one car.  The car was my car from high school, and was paid for by my parents.  We had found one of the least expensive 1 bedroom apartments in the area.  $1,000 rent.  That's cheap for San Diego.  My hubby was a new graduate student and I luckily found a spa job quickly.  With our combined income we were not making much.  Sadly to say though, we were making the most in that year than we ever have in our 7 1/2 years of  marriage.  We look back to those days now....3 kids later, as the glory days.  :)  Through that year though, we were very frugal with our money.  We furnished our apartment from IKEA with about $1,500.  Our TV was purchased with a Best Buy gift card we received as a gift.  Instead of buying the super new, super expensive flat screen, we bought a $350 dino TV.  At the time flat screens were new on the market, and very expensive and still today, we have our old dino tv.  (We haven't splurged on a flat screen yet.)  We wisely grocery shopped.  With only one car, we were saving on our fuel costs.  My husband biked to school or took public transportation   We didn't go shopping for clothing unless it was something we really needed.  We had my beauty school loan payment, but that was only $50 a month and my husbands loans were deferred.  Since we started our lives like that, we have continued to spend this way, and it has allowed us to buy a house and have 3 children.  If more people knew what we make, they would think we were NUTS!  Money doesn't buy happiness though.  Our little family is our happiness.  

Along the way, we continue to make changes to improve our spending.  We have observed that with our cable and cell phone bills that we aren't using them as much as we should for what we pay.  So, we thought about what channels we tend to watch the most.  What channels are we willing to sacrifice and so on.  When we thought about it, we realized we pretty much watch local channels, some sports (which are a distraction to my hubby's thesis progress), and Nick Jr./Disney (which our kids watch WAY too much of).  So, we evaluated our tv options.  We were paying $80 a month for cable.  We found that if we buy an antenna (one time payment of $45) for local channels and pay for HULU Plus ($7.99 a month) and stream it through our Nintendo Wii, we eliminate an $80 a month bill.  That's roughly $865 we save in one year.  Gosh....why didn't we think of this sooner!  

As for our cell phones, we are not like the average 28 and 29 year olds that have data plans and use our phones all the time.  There are some months where I use my cell phone a total of 15 minutes, and it was talking to my husband, so we used mobile to mobile minutes.  (SIDE NOTE:  We communicate with each other and most of our family through our apple Ipad and Ipod's Imessage in wifi zones or our land line making our cell phones for emergency purposes only.  Secondly, our Apple products were gifts/replacements for our old dead desktop computer...still no splurging!) We are currently paying about $80 for our family cell phone plan.  I know that is nothing compared to some.  My parents cell bill is over $150 a month with my brother tacked onto their plan.  So I know we have about the cheapest plan possible with contract phones.  For us, we knew this was an unnecessary expense.  We are paying so much for something we use so little.  So after looking into it, we found that through our current cell company, At&t, they were able to give us new sim cards for free to become pay as you go customers.  The sim card option is awesome because that eliminates the need for new phones.  The ones we have work fine, why replace them.  So, once the sim card is in place, we are paying $10 per phone a month for pay as you go cards.  10 cents a minute, 20 cents per text, no data.  Exactly what we need.  So, we are saving $60 a month from cutting our cell phone bill.  That's $720 a year.  AMAZING!  In total, between cutting cable and our cell plan, we are now saving $1,585 a year!  Isn't that amazing.    

When other graduate students that are single, living on the same income as our family of 5, complain about not having any money, I just want to say, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME"!  I guess it's all about perspective and priorities.  As a family of 5 with the small income that we have, we are considered a family in poverty according to our government.  We are far from poverty.  My children have full bellies, we have two vehicles, a very nice heated and cooled home, closets full of clothes, electronic devices, internet, a washer and dryer.  We are far from poverty.  Sadly people out there with the same income and same family size do seem more poverty like due to poor spending habits.  Again, it's all about prioritizing and spending wisely.  

Think about your spending habits and how you could make changes to save money.  Separate your needs from your wants.  Maybe sell a car if only one of you are working, car pool to work if you live near a co-worker, bike to work, cut your luxury costs from your home, shop at Good-will and other thrift stores, never buy full price, cloth diaper your kiddos, make your own cleaning products, downsize to a smaller place with lower rent.  The list could go on.  

I will admit I have my moments where I wish I had more money.  I find myself saying occasionally, "If I only had $100 more, or if our yearly income was only $5,000 more.  At the end of the day, that isn't what matters.  We are doing ok right where we are!



"I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich." 
~Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford, "Identity Crisis," M*A*S*H

Monday, February 11, 2013

Checkin' off the list

The list of goals hanging in our kitchen is working.  Having it there for all to see helps me to not forget about it.  

Last week was busy.  You can tell by looking at my house.  It is quite a mess with loads of laundry to catch up on, but who cares.  Last week I did a lot of emailing back and forth to my 4 1/2 year olds new preschool!  It's official, he is starting this week.  We are so excited to be accomplishing one of the goals set for him.  He is excited as well!  

On the mom side of it, now that the time is here, it makes my heart hurt a little.  I've been crying a little here and there....I won't deny it.  With three kids in our tiny house, for the past year, I would dream of the day that I would be able to send him off to school for part of the day for a little bit of relief.  Don't get me wrong, the relief that will soon come with him attending preschool will be welcomed with open arms.  But, it is sad that my little guy is not so little anymore.  It makes me feel guilty that I didn't do more fun things one on one with him in his first 4 1/2 years of life.  I hope that he looks back at this time and thinks it was fun.  I admit that I have taken for granted this time with my first, as if he was going to be home with me forever.  I know I am not sending him off to college just yet, but it's the first step along the way to his independence.  And for heavens sake, he is only going to be gone for a few hours a couple days of the week and I can see his school from my front yard, but it will still be tough.  He won't be in my care.  I am putting my trust in people I barely know to watch and teach my beautiful boy who has spent only one night away from me EVER!  I have to look at the positive though.  Even though he has been tethered to me since birth, we have raised quite an independent little man who is ready and willing to go out into the world of preschool with no hesitation.  When we went to visit the school, he was freaking out a little, but once he saw all that preschool had to offer, he was ready to fly.  My husband and I could have left him there right then, and he wouldn't have cared.  It hurt just a bit, but the joy in his eyes and his big boy confidence makes up for my momma pains.  I will make it through.  All mommas do.  :)

As for the rest of the week, I was busy researching what prefold diapers and diaper covers I would like to buy to build up my stash some more, as well as researching ways to cut our monthly luxury costs; i.e. cable/phone bill.  Let me tell you, that is a chore and it's  hard to let go of things that are nice to have, but you don't NEED.  I sat at the computer all week.  I will tell you all about my findings, and what works for us soon!  

I leave you with a poem....



Momma B




Friday, February 1, 2013

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....Mac n Cheese Please!

Here we are at February 1st.  As for my goals of the year, on my end, the only one accomplished so far is working on this blog.  SUCCESS! As a family, even though to an outsider it would appear that we haven't had much going on in January, we have been making slow changes.  

Along with the normal day to day shenanigans of my kiddos, we have worked on paying close attention to the food we are buying.  Buying less processed foods, and more organic, whole foods.  Again....this is a very slow transition as we find things that we like to change our eating style.  Especially when you are so used to buying a lot of convenient garbage.  I am having the biggest struggle with this because I hate cooking.  My hubby is the chef in this house, and I am far from sous chef.  My cooking level is still college dorm style.  Ramen noodles and mac n cheese.  I will persevere.  Not only for my own health, but especially for my children!  So far I have eliminated everything that has been hiding in the confines of our cabinets.  Anything that is old enough that you don't remember when you bought it, and still appears to be good, can not be good for you.  GONE!  

We have kid's so there are some things that I will still indulge in, but with an alternative.  I have to admit, I have a very deep love for boxed mac n cheese.  Shapes to be exact.  This is total no, no territory for the direction I want to move towards with my eating habits, but as they say, old habits die hard!  So without eliminating my dear friend, I have switched to a different "healthier" brand of mac n cheese.  
    Back to Nature Mac and Cheese.  I love this stuff!  I find it to taste much better than Kraft.  Also, you use less butter and more milk, which is how I altered my Kraft mac anyway.  Because it is more pricey, I consume less of it as well.  It is an occasional lunch for the kids and myself as apposed to a overly regular menu item.  So there you have it, another step in the right direction.  

Along with our new grocery adventures, I am also reading so much about a more natural lifestyle, and it is so overwhelming.  At times you feel like the steps you are taking aren't enough.  I have to keep reminding myself that this is a slow process and that I can not change my habits overnight.  Financially, I can't suddenly change everything at once either.  I want to change for my family, but I also want to be helping those around me along the way by shopping locally, and not supporting MEGA companies that treat their employees and our environment terribly.  So much research is involved, but in the end, I know it will pay off.  I just have to stick with my mission of SLOWLY increasing my level of "crunchy"!  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Goals of 2013

So, we are getting a late start on our goals of the year, but hey....I have three kids under the age of four.  Making the list in itself is a completed goal.  

Last year was the first time in my life that I ever made a new years resolution.  It was simple.  Visit my 91 year-old grandmother once a month.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Well, living an hour and 15 minutes away was the first challenge, along with the cost of gas increasing ALL THE TIME.  Let me remind you....at the time, we were a family of 4 on a graduate student stipend.  UGH!  Now we are 5!  YIKES!  Anyway, I was successful in visiting her monthly until early September.  After that, I was expecting our 3rd baby at the end of  October, and I remained close to home until he was born.  She only had to come to me one time, then we saw each other over the holidays.  So, in the end, I did manage to see my grandma at least once a month the entire year, whether I went to her or she came to me.  I think my first time at a resolution was a success.  So this year, I am broadening the idea of resolutions to family goals for the year.  For my husband and I, there will be different categories, and for the kids, theirs will be selected for them, and very simple and realistic.  The kiddo's goals will also involve, for some, more effort on my end than theirs, but it is still their goal.  

So here it is folks.  Our family goals..  I have this hanging in the kitchen as a constant reminder of what we would like to achieve individually and as a family in the year of 2013.  



Brian’s Goals
Professional: Start & Complete Thesis
Find a Post Doc/Job
Personal: Get back in shape

Dana’s Goals
Professional: Start and Maintain a blog
Personal: Zumba -3 times a week
Take Yoga Classes
Parenting: Exclusive cloth diapering
Exclusive homemade baby food
Work on cooking
Gentle Discipline

Landen’s Goals
Start Preschool
Learn to write name with out help

Nolan’s Goals
Be potty trained by Christmas
Work on alphabet & numbers

Gavin’s Goals
Breastfeed for a year




What are your goals or resolutions of the year?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"Crunchy" Revolution

Here we go.....my first post!

Blogging is something that has appealed to me for quite some time, but I simply couldn't come up with an idea to blog about.  It was something on my mind regularly.  You would think I have enough inspiration within my home.  I have three growing boys under 4.  My husband is wrapping up his Ph.D. in nuclear physics.  I stay at home with the kiddos, and spend WAY to much time on the internet "pinning", shopping, reading blogs and using Facebook.   Finally last week, it came to me.  In the past year, our family has been slowly evolving towards a more natural, eco-friendly lifestyle, sometimes referred as a "crunchy" lifestyle.    It is something that is certainly a work in progress.  I love calling it "crunchy".  The term "crunchy" recently came to me while reading a blog post on The Leaky Boob .  She describes herself towards the middle of the post as a certain level of "crunchy", which is exactly what we are.  We aren't full blown "granola crunchers".  We are our own variation of one.

Pinterest has played a major role in our "crunchy" revolution.  I have learned about making my own household cleaning products, including laundry detergent, window cleaner, soap scum remover, etc..  I have discovered various inexpensive products that I can use in my daily hygiene routine that are simply found in the grocery store aisles.  My most recent favorite is coconut oil!  In the past year, I also began cloth diapering our 2 year old.  It hasn't been easy, but it is worth it, and the diapers are so cute!  Pinterest has helped me through the challenges with tips and tricks on maintaining the diapers.  Needless to say...THANK YOU PINTEREST!

The food we eat in our home has been changing along the way as well.  The quality of meats and vegetables in the local grocery stores and big box stores is not good.  At the same time, we can not afford to go 100% organic on a graduate student stipend with a family of 5.  So, we have made some alterations to the things we buy, and how we prepare our foods along with a few important organic items.  A perfect example, we buy organic root vegetables.  Root vegetables tend to suck up more pesticides and toxins than other fruits and veggies.  

So, this is just the beginning or our "crunchy" revolution.  I look forward to discussing in more depth about the changes we are making in our home as well as sharing with you stories about my day to day adventures as a stay at home momma to 3 boys.  Here we go!


Momma B




The Leaky Boob:
Breastfeeding = Breastfeeding