Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Greener Life

Over the past year, I have bit by bit changed some things in my life/household/family that has enabled us to live more resourcefully and frugally.  I was felt concerned about the waste in my life, and caring for our planet, which God has given to us stewardship over and while I'm sure I have plenty of room for improvement, I just thought I'd write about some of the changes we've made and how the adjustment has been.

Susie in a Econobum diaper -- so cute!
1. Cloth diapering -- this is probably the biggest step I've taken.  Last year I had $30 free to spend at a local little store that sells a small variety of diapers because of a Living Social deal, so I figured it was a no-loss venture!  If I didn't like them, I could resell them or pass them on, and not lose any money.  Well, I liked them better than disposables right away!  I had one bumGenius and 1 pack of Econobum (which is a cover that comes with 3 prefolds) so I could try out a couple different styles.  It wasn't long before I invested a bit of money in 2 more Econobum 3 packs (they were only $11.95!) and then a friend shared some extra prefolds and made me another cover, and suddenly I was cloth diapering Susie full time.  The adjustment was not hard at all.  I imagined that she wouldn't fit her clothes anymore because of the CD booty she now had, but actually that wasn't a problem, and she wore more skirts and bloomer-type shorts as summer came.  By the end of the summer, Chip was big enough to wear cloth diapers as well, and so I had 2 in CD!  The main problem (for me) was how/where/when to wash them.  We don't have a w/d in our home, which is one reason I had shied away from trying CD earlier.  My kind friend Sarah (who had lent me some extra prefolds) lets me wash them at her house weekly.  It's not as easy as if I could do them at home, but she does live nearby, and often lets me throw them in with her diapers.  She even stripped them for me!  I never would have guessed how much I prefer cloth diapers to disposables, but I really do!  I love how much money I've saved, I love reusing them over and over and feeling like I'm putting $ in the bank each time I put one on, and I LOVE my kiddos CD booties in them. :)  Susie pretty much self-potty trained, and I do think CD was a huge part of that -- she had learned to hold it so she didn't feel the wet.  I could go on and on about cloth diapers, but I'll draw the line there.
2. Switching to Norwex -- for sure the 2nd biggest change in our greener life is using Norwex products.  6 months ago I hosted a party for my friend who just started selling Norwex, and earned quite a few products for free, and I am HOOKED!  This company sells household and personal care products that aren't made from chemicals.  Among other things. I have several microfiber cloths that I use with water to clean the house with, and I use their detergent for our laundry.  My other favorite product is a mattress cleaner I spray on our beds/pillows/upholstered furniture that has greatly improved our sleep because we aren't coughing and sneezing from the dust and dust mites anymore!  I really think switching to Norwex has helped Chip's eczema because it's reduced the allergens in his environment.  I do not have to buy paper towels or household cleaners anymore and I'm SO glad I don't have a cabinet full of poisons for my kids to discover.

3. Natural personal products -- my friend and I made our own deodorant which I think works pretty well.  I use coconut oil to moisturize (I just started using it for Chip, but borrow it myself too!) most of the time -- though I do still enjoy Bath and Body works lotions!  I use the Norwex toothbrush and Tom's of Maine toothpaste -- but I think I may try making my own toothpaste as well before too long.  These things are all cutting down on the chemicals in our house and also are really cost-effective!

4. Sewing/upcycling/reusing -- I'm a pretty novice sewer, but I did make a set of cloth napkins out of a bedsheet to expand what we already had.  Now we use cloth napkins almost exclusively!  I'm trying out a few more sewing projects because I do like making things with my own hands rather than buying disposable items (like birthday banners and tablecloths for my kids birthday parties -- they are special and reusable!). I also sewed myself several sets of nursing pads.  Probably the biggest reusable part of our life is the kid's clothing.  The majority of what they wear are either hand-me-downs, from our church's Essentials room where I can get free second hand clothes or if they are purchased by me, I frequently buy them at consignment sales.  Obviously this is a big money saver!  I find I'm pretty picky about the new clothing I buy because I know I can usually find at least SOMETHING usable for free!  I only buy a few special items or necessities.
Got these second hand for Susie and now Chip wears them

Do you have any greener life ideas for me to take on next?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Kisses from Katie

I finished reading Kisses from Katie in the middle of the night last night because my 11 month old was awake and so was I.  I've read her blog for a couple years now, and have been taught by her lessons in motherhood, suffering, and loving in Christ's name.  I was eager to read this book and learn about her whole story.

Katie Davis lives in Uganda, where she moved after high school to serve the poor and suffering (mostly orphaned) children there.  Several years later, she has adopted 14 orphaned little girls and works long days feeding, caring for medical needs (she has to look up how to do things online since she doesn't have medical training) and visiting the poor and needy in their affliction.  She is certainly being the hands and feet of Christ and the stories of human suffering that she has seen first-hand -- and so often been instrumental to help relieve -- are astounding.  Her ministry, Amazima, pays to enroll extremely poor children in school, provide the uniforms they need as well as school supplies and medical care.  She also feeds the children at least weekly in her house -- hundreds of them!

While I don't necessarily share all of Katie's views theologically (she often talks of missing God's will or being in the center of God's will), she is clearly being used by God in a place where most of us would not even want to VISIT.  Reading about her life shows me how very easy mine is.  I see how it is petty to complain that my baby woke up last night. . . because he wasn't awake dying of hunger or fighting HIV, so my care for him was pretty easy.  I often lament not having a washer and dryer, but I am only caring for a family of 4, not 15, and not in a place where everyone gets really dirty each day.

I'm so thankful for Katie's work and her writing!  May the Lord bless this modern-day Amy Carmichael in all her endeavors!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Holy Week and Coloring Eggs Naturally

This year I spread out my "Holy Week" celebration a bit so that we did some Easter-focused activities over the course of Lent.  But this week, a few special activities seemed the most appropriate (such as the Easter mountain, which I am planning to do tomorrow). On Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday by waving palm branches and singing and painting a picture of Jesus on a donkey.

Just beginning -- not too messy yet
Today we colored Easter eggs, and I made the dyes out of vegetables and fruits with some water and vinegar added.  I liked not buying the chemical dye since my kids are so young and apt to put the colored eggs in their mouths, and lick their fingers while dyeing them.  I took the whole operation outside so it was handy to just let the drippings run off the table and then pour out the cups in the grass.  The bees were pretty interested in the grape juice dye that was covering the entire area, but fortunately Susie was (in her words) "pretty brave of bees". :)

The dyes were really easy to make, and CHEAP since I just used stuff I had on hand.  I found the recipes I used here, and adjusted a couple of them.  I chose what I made based on what I already had, so I didn't have to go buy anything.  We did brown (coffee with a bit of vinegar), purple -- which turned gray/blue (grape juice with vinegar), orange -- this one turned out the best (simmered onion peels), blue -- which didn't look much different from purple (frozen blueberries) and yellow (spinach simmered in water -- I made this up myself because I had wilty spinach on hand).  The main drawback is that to get a deeper color at all, you had to leave them in a long time, which is a little hard with a 2 year old who kept grabbing the white eggs and popping them in cups and then popping them back out. 

But I still think they turned out pretty, and since Susie didn't know the difference, she wasn't disappointed that they were lighter colored.  She LOVES them, and LOVED the activity.  I gave her total freedom to play around with them because I wasn't concerned about the mess or her tasting them.  So as we leisurely colored eggs, we talked about how the colors made me think of Jesus (grape juice was perfect because we've been teaching her about the Last Supper so much). I will totally do this again next year!  

Finished product!

I let them play with them for a bit after we were done
Final note -- I did get the book Petook, and I liked quite a bit, but I think it was a little too old for Susie.  The wording is kind of flowery, but on part of it, I just told about the story and pointed at the pictures.  Maybe in a couple years it would be worth buying, and certainly if you have school-aged kids.

Tomorrow is big for us, since we are traveling this weekend -- so we're fitting in a bunch of stuff early.  We're doing the Easter mountain, and having a special Easter supper to celebrate.