January 2011

People frequently ask me questions about how we adopted, what professional we used, what a homestudy involves, etc.  A friend recently asked me to do a post about our experience with the process. 

 For our first adoption, we were very new to the process, so we hired a non-profit, full-service agency to help us.  They completed our homestudy, counseled us as we created our adoptive parent profile book, matched us with an expectant mother, took care of the hospital, insurance, and delivery issues, completed our post-placement visits per state-law, and handled our finalization.  It was nice having only one entity to deal with for the process.

For our second adoption, we had a similiar process.  We hired the same agency, however, we lived in a different state this time, so we had to hire a third party to handle our homestudy and post-placement visits.  The agency handled everything else for us. 

For this recent adoption, we felt a bit more confident in the process, so we decided to go partly independent.  Our state requires that a certified agency handle the legal aspects of an adoption and counsel the expectant mother, however, we are allowed to do a great deal on our own.  As a result, we found a good agency that specialized in homestudies and “designated adoptions.”  Since their involvement with the expectant mothers and birthmothers is very limited, it cut the price by more than half.  They completed our homestudy, then we branched out on our own to match for a baby.  We networked by telling everyone we knew that we were adopting.  After a lot of research, we also decided to put a profile on an adoptive parent profile website.  This is a website that often shows up in internet searches using the term “adoption.” Expectant mothers can browse the profiles of couples wanting to adopt, select favorites, and contact the ones they are interested in.  Within 3 months, we had been contacted by several women, including R’s birthmom.     

You can read the posts about our adoptions here. 

I tried to keep this post brief.  If you still have specific questions or want more information on domestic infant adoption, you can check some FAQ’s here, or leave your question as a comment on the blog, and I will answer as soon as I can.

What a week this has been!  If you want to catch up, go to the “Adoption” posts and read to your heart’s content.  I want to note that, when referring to the young girl we have been working with, I will only use generic terms.  This is out of respect for her and the discreetness necessary.

Wednesday evening, I had spent several hours baking meals to freeze for the sitter while we were at the hospital, and my kitchen was a wreck.  I was trying to do some straightening up before bed, when the phone rang around 10:30 p.m.  S and I looked at each other with an “is this it?” look due to the time.  S answered the phone, and sure enough, birthmom was in labor.  I don’t know if the stress of the impending induction caused it or what, but she was at the hospital, already at 5 cm dilated, and wanted us there.  (Maybe it was everyone’s collective prayers for a natural delivery?!) I ran and got dressed, started packing some last minute items, and called the sitter.  Within 30 minutes, we were on the road.  I felt terrible leaving my kitchen such a disaster, but, obviously, we had our priorities!  S set the cruise on the speed limit, and we drove the hour and a half to the hospital, where we met the soon-to-be mother and some of her extended family.  She had already had an epidural, so she was fairly comfortable.  When the contractions began getting worse, we headed to the waiting room, where we spent the next 3 hours. 

Arriving at the hospital around 12:30 a.m.

It was rather humorous that every man related to this birth found a way to sleep (including S).  They were stretched out on chairs, loveseats, and even the floor.  All us women, on the other hand, try as we may, could not get a wink of sleep.  We sat, we watched TV, we paced the floor, and then we repeated the process.  For 3 hours.  I was the only woman not directly related to the birthmom, so the others kept going in and out of the delivery room, while I stayed in the waiting room.  Thankfully, they kept updating me when they returned. 

Very late...or very early, depending on how you read the clock at 4:40 a.m., after no sleep in almost 24 hours.

Finally, just after 4:00, I saw a lot of commotion starting around her room, and shortly after, I heard the baby cry.  I quickly woke up S, and birthmom’s sister came out of the room to tell us it was a girl, and we could come in after the nurses got everybody cleaned up.  It was almost 5 a.m. before they were ready for us, but we walked in and found the birthmom holding her.  She looked up at us, smiled, and offered the baby to me.  It was love at first sight!  Baby was perfect in every way, and sleeping soundly. 

Me holding R for the first time.

S holding R for the first time.

A photo I will always treasure of us, holding R, and her birthmom, right after delivery. I blanked her face for privacy purposes, but it is a photo I will always cherish.

R in her bassinet.

S and I took a few pictures, and eventually, the nurses needed to take the baby to finish doing what they do with newborns and moms.  We returned to the waiting room, where we spent the next 2 hours. Around 7, the birthmom’s family needed to leave and go to work, so we were left with her and the baby.  The nurses decided it was time to feed baby, and I was invited back into the room.  Birthmom wanted to feed her, but wasn’t sure how, so I helped her get set up with a bottle and baby.  I stayed, burping baby when necessary, as birthmom didn’t feel comfortable doing that (or diaper changes).  After the bottle, both mom and baby decided they wanted to sleep.  I wasn’t allowed to leave with baby, as she technically still belonged to the birthmom at this point.  So, I laid her in the bassinet, and left them to rest.  Let me tell you, after months of waiting, and the anticipation and excitement relating to the birth, laying the baby down and walking away is a hard thing to do! 

Around 8, a nurse came and gave me an arm band.  Let me explain.  In most delivery wards, there will be 2 hospital bracelets allowed for each birth.  Typically, the bracelets would go to mom and dad.  In the case where there is no dad, the mom can decide who gets the other bracelet.  In our case, the birthmom asked the nurse to give it to me so that I would have equal access to the baby.  After putting on my arm band, the nurse asked me to take the baby and she would set me, S, and baby up in a room in post-partum while birthmom rested.  We eagerly did so.  Of course, the nurse had to get birthmom’s permission to do this, but birthmom understood that baby needed care, she was unable to, and she wanted rest.  So, she agreed to let us take her. 

We spent the next few hours in a room together, just enjoying looking at her, holding her, and of course, falling in love with her.  At this point, I had been awake for over 24 hours, so the times are a little fuzzy in my brain.  Around 10:30, birthmom woke up and they brought her into a seperate post-partum room.  I noticed that her room and our room both had a “STOP” sign posted on the door outside, unlike other rooms.  The nurses explained to us that we were under heightened security.  The birthmom was concerned that the birthfather’s family members may try to show up and cause trouble.  So, any visitors to our rooms either had to be escorted or know the password to get past the nurse’s station.  Great.  Anyway, after they got birthmom settled into her new room, she asked to see the baby.  I took baby to her, helped her feed her again.  Later, when she decided she wanted to be alone with baby for a little while, I returned to my room, and S and I both crawled into the little post-partum bed and managed to sneak in about 30 minutes of sleep. 

Throughout the afternoon, birthmom’s family came and went, we spent time with them off and on, we handled diaper changes and burping, while they handled feedings, and we all generally got to know each other better.  This is an amazing family, just full of love for this little girl.  Even a great-grandmother came to visit.  With arthritic fingers, she had hand-knitted a beautiful baby blanket.  Then, around 3 in the afternoon, we got a very unexpected and devastating phone call. 

I can’t go into much detail, but essentially, there was an issue with the birthfather’s paperwork, and the agency was nervous about whether the adoption would be able to finalize.  They recommended we put the baby into “cradle care,” which is basically a privatized, specialized version of foster care (without state involvement).  They didn’t know if she would be there for days, weeks, or months. You can’t imagine how that hit us like a brick in the chest!  I was fully prepared for taking this baby home, and I was fully prepared for the possibility that birthmom could change her mind and take the baby home with her instead.  I was not prepared in any way for the possibility that the baby would be put into cradle care and not go home with either of us!  Just the thought of her not having a real mommy put me to tears.  S and I had to talk about some things and call the agency back.  We talked, we prayed for peace and direction, and he called them back.  I just kept crying off and on.  The agency needed us to talk with birthmom about the situation and call them back again.  Unfortunately, at the time, her parents were not with her, but the situation was urgent.  So, her sister, who was there, quickly called her parents, and then we explained the details of the situation to birthmom while we waited for her parents to arrive several hours later.  The next several hours were an emotional time for everyone.  Birthmom and I both sobbed, as we held each other, each for our own seperate, yet similiar reasons.  She had her heart set on us taking her baby and giving it a loving home.  We had our hearts set on doing just that.  She was in no way prepared for bringing baby home with her, and yet, like us, the last thing she wanted was cradle care or any other temporary arrangement.  We found ourselves caught between a huge rock and a hard place, and couldn’t quite figure a way out.  As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, the nurses who were witnessing the tears, but weren’t sure what was going on, felt compelled to call the hospital social worker.  So the worker came up, talked with birthmom privately–which was not a good thing seeing as how she had no one with her for support, and didn’t fully understand the situation to begin with.  Then, the social worker came and talked to S and I.  It was quickly obvious she was very misinformed about the issue at stake, and was giving us incorrect information and counsel.  To further compound the situation, the nurse assigned to birthmom and us that day, decided she needed to be involved.  As sweet as she was, she had no business in that room while we were being counseled, but continued to hang around and occasionally offer her two-cents and opinions and theories–all of which were not even remotely related.  Finally, after getting a bit of info from birthmom and seeing how she felt about the whole thing, her parents arrived.   We got to talk with them for a while and explain what was going on. 

On one hand, we wished that the agency was doing all this talking, but then again, I guess it is technically an independent adoption which puts more responsibility on us.  If there was a positive to be found, it was the fact that this whole situation created a tremendous opportunity for us to not only build the foundations of a good relationship with the baby’s birthfamily, but also to really evaluate the calling God had given us and how far we were willing to go to answer that call.  Late that evening, the agency’s birthmom counselor finally arrived.  Surprisingly, she had not been warned of any of the drama that had unfolded that day.  She had simply come thinking we were going to do some papework to prepare for the consent to be given the following morning.  She was floored by the news we shared.  She proceeded to step out into the hallway and call our adoptive parent counselor, as well as the agency director who had given us the bad news initially.  After spending about an hour on the phone, she returned to the room where we had all gathered, and we got things sorted out as best we could.  It boiled down to the fact that the burden of the decision was on us.  The baby was to be released from the hospital the next morning.  The birthfamily could not find any way possible to take the baby home and make it work for birthmom to parent.  So, we had to decide whether to take custody of the baby under legal-risk pretenses, or send her to cradle care for an unknown amount of time until the legalities were sorted out.  S and I talked and prayed some more, realizing now that it was not just the baby that would be affected, but our current children as well.  If we took her, were they old enough to understand what a legal-risk situation was?  In the event she had to leave us at some point in the next year, how would they handle that, as young as they are?  How would we handle that?  The more we talked and prayed, though, the more we knew there was absolutely no way we could turn our backs on the baby or her birthmom.  As devastating as it may be to lose her one day, we realized it would be far more devastating to just walk away, and send her to a temporary home.  So, we agreed to take the risk, take the baby home, and allow the courts to handle the details.  I don’t know if it’s right to read into things, but the relief we could see in the birthfamily’s eyes when we told them we would still take her helped us feel we had made the right decision.  You could easily see their thankfulness in their eyes, as this was a family that loved this little girl every bit as much as we did, and they wanted only the best for her. 

That evening, things gradually calmed down, and birthmom’s family and S had to leave to return home for the night.  That left me, birthmom, and the birthmom counselor from the agency.  Just as she was about to leave, birthmom requested the baby, and then she broke down again.  The thought of giving the baby up finally hit her.  I left the room and the counselor talked with the birthmom for awhile.  Afterward, she came and told me the birthmom wanted to have some one-on-one time with baby for a while, and then wanted me to take her for the night so she could rest.  Birthmom had me take the baby out about 45 minutes later, and, after an emotional day, we said “Good-night.”  By now, it was around 10:30, and with the exception of that little 30 minute nap in the morning, I had been awake for over 36 hours.  I was exhausted, I was emotional, and my brain was hardly functioning at that point.  Predictably, baby decided she was done sleeping.  For the next several hours, everytime I was just about to doze off, she would start crying.  Finally, I felt terrible after all we had been through, but knowing the next day could prove to be equally emotional, I called the nurse and asked her to take the baby for just 3 hours.  That would give me a really solid power nap, let baby have her awake time in the nursery, and we could go from there.  So, that’s what we did, and I got probably the best 3 hours sleep of my life.  Before I knew it, the baby was brought back to me and ready to eat.   I was able to feed her, and since the nurses had taken the opportunity to do some more of the newborn stuff they do, baby was exhausted and more than ready to sleep.  I was able to sleep for the next couple hours, only waking once to feed her.   At 7:30 Friday morning, birthmom called my room and requested I bring the baby to her. 

I got up and took her in, and got her all set up to feed the baby breakfast.  I spent the next 3 hours or so with birthmom, getting to know her more, sharing laughs and stories, and sometimes just sitting quietly staring at the little miracle in her arms.  We discussed paperwork that had to be completed.  Before we knew it, her and the baby had both been examined by the docs, and were ready to be discharged from the hospital.  S soon arrived with Nana and the kiddos in tow, and on birthmom’s invitation, they got to visit with their new sister for the first time.

The kids and Nana meeting R.

JR feeding R

N shocked everyone with his attentiveness and gentleness with R. He was absolutely smitten with her!

A was also smitten with her, and was very gentle when he held R. He kept asking to "pet" her.

Big sister M holding her little sister. Her smile says it all!

Nana holding R.

Birthmom’s family soon arrived and S and I took the kids from the room to give them some time to say goodbye, while we waited on the counselor to arrive for the final, official paperwork.  The rest of the day was spent with S, me, and Nana entertaining our kids and spending time together, while the birthfamily spent time with the baby. 

The toddler boys napping on my hospital bed as we wait.

At one point, the birthfamily requested we let them borrow the outfits we had brought for newborn pictures, and they spent some time dressing her up, taking as many pictures as possible, and someone, at all times, it seemed, was crying.  Around 2, the birthmom counselor arrived, and the paperwork was completed.  Final pictures were taken, and we all left the family again to say their final goodbyes.  This was Nana’s first experience with an adoption situation and a birthfamily, and I think she cried as much as the rest of us!  Around 5 p.m. on Friday evening, R was turned over to us in the entryway of the hospital, and we buckled her into the car.  S and I said our goodbye’s to birthmom and her family, with lots of hugs, promises of e-mail updates, photos, and even periodic visits.  Then, we got in our cars and drove our seperate ways.

There is absolutely no way to explain the emotions of what occurred over the last 2 days.  Even now, as I look at our new little girl, I have to remind myself that it is possible we could lose her at some point in the next year.  This is where we have to have faith that God has called us here and put us in this situation for a reason.  We do not yet know what the outcome will be, though we know we already love her with all our hearts as though she were born of our blood.  We can only pray that everything will work out legally and this adoption will finalize just like our other 2 did.  At the same time, though, we know that we have gained an extended family of sorts, as we have developed a close relationship with her biological family, and we have come to love people that we otherwise would not have had the opportunity to.  Despite the roller coaster of emotions involved, this has been a time of spiritual growth, growth in our marriage, and growth in our personal characters, and for that we can only be thankful. 

So now, as one waiting period has come to an end, another has just begun.  Now, we wait on paperwork to go through and be processed, we wait to find out if we get to keep this little angel, and we wait to see if the adoption will be finalized.  In the mean time, we will love her as our own, and we will be thankful for every moment we get to spend with her.

Introducing: “R”, born 1-27, 7lbs 9 oz, and 20.5 inches. We just got home, she is in our custody, and now, it’s up to the courts. 

I have so much to say, but after an unexpected natural labor all Wednesday night, a delivery very early Thursday morning, and a very dramatic and tear-filled couple of days, I am now runnning on very little sleep.  Stay tuned for her amazing story, as I will try to post this weekend.  Thank you for your prayers.  God has truly blessed us with an absolutely gorgeous and perfectly made daughter.

 “For You formed my inward parts;  You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  Wonderful are Your works,  And my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You,  When I was made in secret,  And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;  Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;  And in Your book were all written  The days that were ordained for me,  When as yet there was not one of them. ”                  –Psalm 139:13-16

This recipe has a become a household favorite, and never fails to receive numerous compliments from guests!  It is relatively easy, and absolutely delicious!!

(photo coming!)

Beef Stroganoff

  • 1 lb. beef tenderloin, stew beef, or ground beef (trimmed, and chopped into 1 inch cubes if necessary)
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 med. onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. brandy (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried, crushed tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1.5 tsp. dried dill
  • 1.5 tsp. dried parsley

In 12 inch skillet, melt butter over med. heat, add beef, and cook until just browned on both sides.  With slotted spook, transfer beef to bowl, and set aside.  Using butter and beef fat in skillet, stir in onion, and saute’ until tender–about 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup broth and paprika, and cook, stirring, until onion is very tender and somewhat translucent–about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms, lemon juice, brandy, tarragon, salt, pepper, beef, and remaining broth.  Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is thoroughly cooked and most of liquid has evaporated (you only need about 1/2 cup remaining)–about 20 minutes.  Stir in dill and sour cream.  Heat through, but do not boil.  Serve over egg noodles or rice. Garnish with parsley.  Enjoy!!

The expectant mother we are working with had another doc appointment today.  Unfortunately, her labor has not progressed in the last week, and because they feel she is over the 40 week mark, the doc scheduled an induction.   Of course, she could always go into labor before then, but if not, she will be induced on Friday morning.  My  mom is going to come stay Thursday night so we can leave early on Friday morning.  The soon-to-be birthmom wants us there as soon as we can get there.  I know inductions can potentially take a while, though, so now I have to come up with things to keep us busy for the day.  At this point, it looks like we will spend the time in the waiting room.  The great news, however, is that it sounds like the hospital will be providing accomodations for us in post-partum as well.  That means we will potentially stay at the hospital, and perhaps even have baby in the room with us.  We’ll see what her birthmom wants as time passes and emotions kick in. 

So, hopefully by the weekend, we will have a baby in our arms!  I can’t wait!!  Now, I just have to get well so I can more easily handle the coming sleepless nights…..

Ever notice how some things occur with the absolute WORST possible timing?  Our level of planning usually helps prevent such unexpected occurrences.   Not this time.  I am expecting a baby any day now, and I am sick!  So is the rest of the family.  In the history of our family, I don’t think we have ever had more than 2 people sick at the same time.  Usually, illness makes the rounds, jumping from one person to the next over the course of a week or two.  This time, we all woke up Sunday morning with minor head colds.  I immediately put all but the youngest children on regular doses of cod liver oil and elderberry, and everyone on oranges and raw milk to boost the immune system a bit.  Seems to be working, as the kids have not gotten any worse.  S seems to be getting over his now.  I think he had his worst day on Monday.  Me, yah, not so lucky.  I am miserable.  I have a vaporizer by my bed, homemade body cream to douse my chapped nose in every night (works very well, actually!), and lots of Kleenex handy.  I am thankful, as I know I could be a lot worse than I am.  Thanks to God and our health, when we get sick, it is usually relatively mild (comparatively) and short lived.  Still, though, the coughing, sneezing, stuffy head, blah, blah, blah, without the Nyquil (or whatever medicine the commercial is for)  is no fun at all!  

The part that has me nervous is that what is considered a common head cold in children and adults, is often the same virus as what causes RSV in infants.  My last 2 kiddos got RSV–simultaneously.  N was around 3 months old, and A was around 12 months.  A was OK for the most part, with just a bit of a cough, but for N, it was downright scary.  Our days consisted of frequent breathing treatments, and monitoring N.  Infants exhibit the signs differently, and he became quite lethargic at one point.   I am soooooo praying we all heal up quickly, as I do not want to risk this new little one contracting RSV.  I want to give her the best start possible.  Now to heal up…..

N, 18 months, modeling our new cloth diapers.

Several months back, I officially made the switch to cloth diapers.  I feel like I am probably the last person on earth to figure out the ins and outs of this topic, but since I have had several friends and strangers ask me questions about cloth diapers recently, I figured it might make a good post topic.  While I have not gone through the entire infant stage yet, I have learned a great deal about cloth diapering these last few months. 

First, I can tell you a bit about our diapers and the system we have found to make things easier around here.   We use Fuzzi-Bunz cloth diapers.  I must preference this by saying that I did absolutely no research on diapers, and have no idea how these compare to other brands.  The sole reason I have these is because my neighbor’s children had outgrown them, she was encouraging me to use cloth, and offered to sell me hers at a great price.  I bought them.  That being said, I have been very happy with our diapers. 

While my limited research since has shown that other brands are very similiar in characteristics, here is a brief overview of ours.  The diaper itself is actually pretty hi-tech!  It consists of a “shell” with the outer side being a fabric lined on the inside with a waterproof coating, and the inner side being wool to wick the moisture away from baby. 

diaper shell on left, liner on right

The back of the diaper has an opening to slip the absorbent liner in and out easily.  I could be wrong, but I think I read somewhere that the liner is something like wool with a cotton interior.  It is fairly absorbent in any case.

Unlike the old cloth diaper pins, this diaper has snaps all over the front to allow you to adjust the diaper as baby grows.  I can honestly say it is very adjustable!  My 24 pound toddler wears the same size as my 34 pound toddler (though the bigger one won’t fit too much longer). 

I have had no problem with leaks around the legs.  The only issue I have had with leaks is with my older toddler.  He has a bit of a drinking fetish, and pees like crazy.  As a result, despite our limiting his fluid intake, he soaks the diaper overnight, and it would leak out around the top.  In this case, I finally found that if I took a second absorbent liner, folded it in half, and stuffed into the front of the diaper, while leaving the first liner as normal, then the extra layers prevented leaks.  It does create a bit of a bulky diaper, but that doesn’t seem to bother him, and it saves me a lot of laundry! 

With three exceptions, cloth diapering is really not much different than using disposable diapers.  Those three exceptions include dealing with the dirty wipes, dealing with the soiled diapers, and dealing with the ammonia smell between changing and laundering. 

I quickly realized how habitual it was to wipe baby, drop the dirty wipe into the disposable diaper, roll it up, and toss in the garbage.  Quick, simple, and mess free.  At this point, I am still using a standard diaper pail, for lack of other ideas.  I keep it beside the changing table, and just toss the wipes in there now, rather than the diaper.  It works, but I would like to find a better option that doesn’t use all that plastic. 

As far as the dirties, I know a number of people who simply dump the diaper into the toilet, perhaps even swirl the diaper in the toilet water (giving it sort of a pre-rinse), and then toss it into the laundry diaper pail.  Before we potty-trained, I did not have a great deal of success with this dumping and swirling technique.  I am bit particular about having the diaper, ummm….shall we say “chunk-free?”  So with our next baby, I have every intention of having a designated “diaper spatula” stored near the toilet to actually scrape the waste off.  I think it will make life much easier. 

The ammonia is much easier to deal with.  The severity of the smell will actually depend a lot on your child’s urea production and the time it sits before laundering.  Some of the diaper manufacturers actually sell a specially lined laundry bag to lock in odors while the diapers sit.  We have chosen not to invest in this, rather we use a good old-fashioned bucket, and bottle of vinegar-water. 

When we take the diapers off the baby, we remove the liner, lightly spray both sides of the liner and the wool side of the diaper shell with the vinegar water, then just drop it in the bucket to sit until laundering.  Mine generally don’t sit more than 24 hours though, as I do at least one load of laundry almost every day.  I just toss the diapers and liners in whatever load I am washing at the time. 

So there you have it.  Cloth diapering 101.  Here are some other tips based on my very limited experience:

  • Cloth diapers will not swell up like disposables, so you must remember to change them frequently.  If you go too long between changes, you will risk yeast or bacterial infections taking hold of baby.  Trust me, we learned this the hard way.
  • Some of the fancier cloth diapers with wool pads and waterproof linings cannot be bleached.  You also have to be careful to use a mild detergent (homemade detergents are also fine).  You may be able to sterilize them by boiling them in hot water and/or vinegar for 20-30 minutes. 
  • Vinegar is excellent for neutralizing the ammonia odor while the diaper is waiting to be washed, or when sterilizing.  If your child has a pretty high level of urea/ammonia, and you spray the diaper with you may hear or even see a bubbly fizzing occur (picture hydrogen peroxide on a dirty wound).  Don’t be concerned.  This is simply a chemical reaction between an acid (vinegar) and a base (ammonia), as it neutralizes into a salt water.  Quite fascinating, actually!  Great homeshool science experiment!
  • Do not soak your diapers with the vinegar, unless you are going to wash it soon after.  Vinegar is an acid, and it could potentially break down the waterproof lining of the diaper and/or the diaper itself.   A very light spray is all it takes, and that ensures the chemical reaction will occur to turn it from acid into salt water, which is relatively harmless.  I even run it through a laundry cycle after the occasional boiling in vinegar water just to make sure all the acid is out. 
  • Cloth diapers that can’t be bleached do have stains.  It is a fact of life, and you just learn to deal with it.  If the diaper is clean and smells fresh, it’s safe to use.  If you have concerns, boil it once in a while.
  • Cloth diapers can be a bit of a nusance on outings.  You have two choices, both of which we have tried.  First, you can take ziploc bags to seal the used diapers in until you get home and can clean them.  Second, you can use disposable diapers during outings.  Both options have pros and cons, and you have to decide what’s right for you.  We learned to utilize both options, depending on how long the outing was.  If I only had the potential of 1-2 diaper changes, I generally preferred the cloth diapers and ziploc bags.  If the outing was longer, I used disposables so I wouldn’t have to carry dirty diapers around all day. 

So, if you have been considering taking to the plunge into cloth diapering, I recommend you go for it.  It will be different, but it is very doable.  It is better for baby, better for the pocketbook, and better for the environment!

Hoping to learn about composting, shortly after we moved to CO, we purchased a vermicompost (composting with worms) system.  You can read details about that system, which has found a permanent home in my dining room, by clicking here.  It has been a wonderful way to dispose of food leftovers, cooking scraps, and so forth.

Notice the rich, dark soil mixed in with the last handful of food scraps.

It took us a while to work out some of the kinks, however.  One issue we had was that our directions for the system instructed us to mix the food items with 30% shredded paper.  At first, we loved being able to use up our shredded paper this way, but we soon realized the worms were eating the paper instead of the food scraps.  I called a friend of mine with more experience with vermicomposting, and she instructed me to replace the paper with coconut core.  We did as she instructed, and VOILA! the worms began eating the food.  After a few weeks, I had a beautiful bucket full of rich, dark soil (aka worm castings).  My indoor plants loved it!  The worms began multiplying like crazy, and we thought we were set.  Over time, though, we ran into a few more problems.

I started having a very small (I should emphasize VERY small) problem with fruit flies coming out of the container.  Now, this is a known problem if you overfeed the worms, but we only feed our worms about once or twice a week to ensure they eat it.  For whatever reason, though, we still noticed these little flies in the kitchen.  Another problem we encountered was the worms, who are supposed to move UP in the trays to each level of food as it is added, prefer moving DOWN the trays and staying in the rich soil, resulting in extra time needed for them to eat the food scraps.  I wondered if the food tray was too dry while the soil was moister, and tried watering down the food a bit, but nothing changed.  As a result, we started experimenting.  We found that if, about once a month, we simply rotated the “working” food tray down to the bottom, and the richest, most composted soil tray to the top, then the worms would distribute themselves more thoroughly throughout, and the food composted much faster.  A problem we have not yet found a solution to is seeds in the food.  Mind you, vermicompost is incredibly rich, nutritious soil, and, as we discovered, seeds absolutely thrive in it!  I lifted the tray recently, about a week after tossing some squash scraps into it and found they had really sprouted:

This is actually a big problem in vermicomposting, as the worms will not eat living plants.  So, we have to check the trays regularly.  Anytime we see that seeds have sprouted, we take a set of shears and cut them down to soil level.  This, in addition to the lack of sunlight, seems to kill off the plant enough that the worms eat it over the next 2-3 weeks.

The biggest problem, though, and the main reason for this post, is that the worms, great as they are, do not eat nearly enough scraps for our family of 6!  With a handful of food only once or twice a week, we were still left with more scraps than we knew what to do with.  We also realized that every week, we were cleaning out our rabbit cages, and throwing away wonderful fertilizer in the form of paper, hay, wood-chip bedding, and rabbit waste.  We started contemplating a solution to this waste issue, and decided once again to experiment.  We remembered we had a full-size aluminum trash can in the garage from my horse-feed days.  We pulled it out, tossed in a handful of rich vermicompost and worms to get the process started, then began just tossing all food scraps and rabbit waste into the can.

The goal here was not to vermicompost.  We wanted to learn more about regular aerobic composting.  However, this type of compost requires oxygen and bacteria.  The bacteria necessary is found in any organic substance (to include food scraps), but nutritious healthy soil is just loaded with it.  By adding healthy soil to a new compost pile, you can speed up the process, so that is what we did.  By adding worms to the pile, they crawl around and help distribute oxygen to the pile.  The downside is that this type of composting can produce a tremendous amount of heat, which worms hate (the heat will kill them), however, if done correctly, supposedly, the worms will simply move out to cooler areas of the pile when the compost gets too warm for them.  That is why I put the soil and worms in the bin.

We started this compost bin about 3 months ago in our garage.  Amazingly, despite the waste, ammonia (from rabbit urine) and rotting food, there is little smell coming from the bin.  This is due in large part to the ratio of food and nitrogenous materials (the smelly stuff that produces liquids during decomposition) to carbonaceous material (wood, paper, hay, etc.–which absorbs smell and liquids).  We have found carbonaceous material helps TREMENDOUSLY!We keep a lid on the bin to futher reduce smell, but it isn’t on very tight to allow air to flow better.  To further oxygenate the pile, we have to turn the pile about once every week or two.  Again, this isn’t entirely necessary, as food will rot and compost just because it is an organic material and that’s the way God designed it.  Regular turning, however, distributes the bacterias, heat, oxygen, scraps, and soil in such a way that it can cause the waste to turn into compost in a few months rather than a year or two.

After 3 months, our bin was finally too full for me to turn by hand (time to get a pitchfork!).  As a result, I haven’t turned the pile in 3 or 4 weeks.

A trash can full of waste with high hopes of healthy compost in a few months!

I was needing more space to put food scraps in, and I was also very curious as to what was going on deep in the bowels of this bin.  So, I convinced S to turn it for me.  So, he carried the can outside, and dumped it onto a tarp to turn it by hand.

Notice the 2 distinct layers from the bin. The bottom layer is well into the break-down process, while the top layer contains a good deal of carbonaceous material. It has not really heated to the point of decomposing yet, so it is pretty much in its original form, just as we threw it in.

It was fascinating to see the changes that had taken place.  Obviously, the bottom layer is older, and has had more time, but the distinction between the layers (dark and moist vs. light colored and dry) also shows where it was when I last turned it.  The bottom half is very evenly decomposed, rather than in layers (due to the frequent turning), while the top half has almost no decomposition going on yet.  S noted that the pile, though not hot, was significantly warmer than the surrounding air.  It is obviously working properly, and now that it is stirred, it will likely heat up even more, thereby composting even faster!

Decomposing organic materials. We can still tell what some of the food scraps are, but they are very close to breaking down completely. Any little pressure, and things just fell apart.

S was a bit cold, so he didn’t spend any time looking for the worms.  I assume they are in there somewhere.  After he stirred the pile thoroughly, he dumped the tarp back into the can, and returned the can to the garage.  I will continue adding food to the top now that the decomposing properties are more evenly distributed, and we will probably do the dump-and-stir again in another month or so.  Just for the record, yes, I am aware they make fancy compost containers that spin easily, etc.  However, first off, we are waaay to frugal (aka cheap!) to buy such a contraption, and secondly, ultimately, I plan to have a normal compost pile near the garden.  I just can’t while we live in base housing.  I’m making do temporarily.

This is a fun experiment, and really fascinating how this whole process works.  While I look forward to the day when I can have a regular outdoor compost pile like most folks, for now, I am making the best with what I CAN do!

The white bassinet is in our bedroom, and has just been sitting there waiting for baby for a week now.  Today, as I peeked into it, my heart just melted at what I saw….

No, we don’t have a baby yet.  Rather, I discovered that M had been playing in my room at some point.  She had carefully tucked her baby doll into the bassinet, and covered it smoothly with her favorite blanket.  I thought it was cute, but didn’t think too much of it as I peeled away the blanket to fold it and have M take it back down to her bedroom.  That is when I discovered what her baby doll was wearing.

I have purchased 3 little girl outfits–a sleeper, a casual 3-piece outfit, and a little dress.  All 3 were neatly packed into our hospital bag, ready to go.  We are going to let the birthmother choose which to use in the hospital photos she wants.  Apparently, at some point, M had gone into my bag and taken the sleeper (which she had picked out at the store), and dressed her doll in it.  I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t get the call today, or I totally would have grabbed my bags and run, not having a clue that the sleeper was already in use!  Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but smile at the pure sweetness of my little girl’s excitement.  I pray everything works out.  Then, I asked her permission to undress the doll and put the sleeper back in my bag.

Absolutely nothing new to report in the baby realm.  I received a very general e-mail from the expectant mom this evening, as is typical most days.  I can only assume there are no new developments.  We will just keep praying though that she delivers before her appt. on Tuesday so she can avoid an induction. 

The good news is, I don’t have to fear my husband’s predictions anymore!  He seems to have been wrong on this one.

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