Chapstick and the Cold that Just Won’t Quit

I’ve been MIA from my blog for a while because of a combination of two reasons. First of all, last week, I made the mistake of forgetting a brand new tube of chapstick in the pocket of my jeans. I didn’t discover my error until I found the, then empty, tube in the bottom of my dryer and all the clothes covered in greasy stains. This doomed load of wash included two pairs of my husband’s Dockers pants (so much for Stain Defender) and five work shirts. Needless to say I was not pleased. I lost three days of my life trying to remove those stains. In the end I was able to almost completely remove most of the stains and fade the remaining ones enough that the clothes were still wearable.

The day after that fiasco ended I came down with the worst case of sinus congestion I probably ever had. It’s been going strong for four days, no end in sight. I can honesty say I’ve barely breathed out of my nose for four days and my ears have been closed up for two. Nothing seems to make a dent. So I am in survival mode, if that, while my very supportive husband helps me care for our daughter and try to keep the house from falling down around our ears.

Hopefully I’ll be back posting regularly soon. Stay tuned for a series in the month of March on my participation in Project Simplicity on Simple Mom!

 

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Something I NEVER thought I’d be Blogging About: Reusable Menstrual Products- my reviews

I’m going to begin this post with a warning. This is a post dealing with feminine product choices. If you know me in real life and/or are male, consider yourself forewarned. If you think this may distress you or affect our in person relationship, please, by all means, DO NOT READ THIS! Now that I have warned you, we’ll be moving on.

For the past few months I had been toying with the idea of trying out reusable menstrual products. This is not something I ever thought I would consider doing. I thought it was gross, creepy and frankly, disturbing.  But as a cloth diaper mom I realized how much cloth diapers were saving us money and I wondered if I could do the same with menstrual products. I have always had irregular cycles so I don’t have to deal with menstrual products as often as most women, but I also have heavy cycle. So when I buy them, I have to buy a lot. I hate how much they cost, I hate how they feel and I hate disposing of them.  I have been trying to pursue a greener lifestyle in concert with frugality. I’m not going to spend more to be greener, but I’m happy to reuse and avoid buying new whenever possible.

The first aspect of reusable menstrual products, also known as mama cloth, I decided to investigate was cloth pantiliners. I’m one of those women who use pantiliners on a daily basis. I have been doing this since I was a teen and I have to use a specific unscented brand or I have a bad reaction. That being said, I was distressed at the thought of how much money I had spent and waste I had produced in panty liners alone in the last 15 or so years. I began investigating my options. I was a bit distressed at how expensive many of the popular products seemed. I really wanted to try Lunapads and Gladrags, two popular brands but both were very pricy not to mention shipping. I did the math and figured out it would take me five or more years to break even. At least one of the points of this was to save money. Then I discovered that I could buy a three pack of Fuzzibunz liners for $11 and a three pack Gladrags liners for $22 on Amazon.com. While the Gladrags still seemed too expensive I went for it.

Fuzzibunz $11 on Amazon.com (now $15) with free shipping

Fuzzibunz pads are made with the same quality as their diapers. But I quickly learned that I preferred cotton for daily wear rather than micro-fiber. I was also distressed to find the pads too short for any real use. My daily use disposable panty liners are 8 inches long, these were barely over 6. They slide around too much and the microfiber was sweaty. But I was pleased at how washable they were. Let’s just say they didn’t exactly do the job I bought them for.

GladRags $21 for 3 from Amazon.com with free shipping

GladRags were definitely more comfortable from a breathability perspective. But I felt the construction was not a sturdy as I’d hoped. They seemed like they might wear out too quickly. I had read marvelous reviews of the Gladrags pads, but mixed reviews on the panty liners. I guess now I know why. They did slide around a bit, but not as much as Fuzzibunz. They were longer too, around 6.5 to 7 inches, but still too short. There were also too narrow. When I snapped them onto my panties the center panel was bunched up, and I only wear a size 6 or 7 panty. I can’t imagine how these would work for a larger gal. I will continue to use them, but I still wasn’t completely happy, especially with the price. If I had ordered directly from the GladRags website I would have paid closer to $29 for three panty liners, plus shipping!

Etsy Seller: Caroline’s Creations – 3 pack for $8.99 (now $9.99) with free shipping

Then I decided to take a risk on Etsy.com. I found a seller who makes 8 inch pantiliners and I could get a three pack on sale for $8.99 (usually $9.99). This seemed like a phenomenal deal, especially since she offers free shipping on any order. So I took a risk and ordered a three pack. My husband was getting slightly annoyed at me by this point since he thought the whole thing was a little weird to begin with and was concerned about how much money I was potentially putting towards this endeavor. But my risk paid off. These pads were wonderful and so much more economical. The flannel was soft, the size was perfect and they almost never bunched up or moved around. The seller even pre-washes the fabric so that they shouldn’t shrink when washed (which is what happened with the Gladrags). Yes, they do feel different than a disposable panty liner, but after a couple of days I hardly noticed anymore. I actually missed them when I had to start using disposable pads while traveling over Christmas. All of a sudden the  disposable pantiliners seemed itchy and uncomfortable. Sometimes the cloth pads do still move around, but so did my disposable panty liners from time to time. At least with the cloth I don’t have any hair being pulled out by sticky adhesive. Ouch!

I wish I could recommend this Etsy seller to all of my friends (that is assuming I could even bring up the discussion given that most of my friends think I’m crazy just for using cloth diapers). Her shipping my fast, the quality of her items was great and she even included a coupon to use off my next order. I recently ordered more pantiliners and some menstrual pads from her. While I haven’t had a chance to try out the pads yet, I was again pleased with the quality of work and service provided by this seller. Check her out at http://www.etsy.com/shop/ericmandybarnett?ref=seller_info . I absolutely love this seller! I can’t say enough about her products, her prices and her service. She even custom created light colored pantiliners for me. They ended up being a perfect match for my favorite pale peach panties.

Check out Part 2

Being a Stay-At-Home Parent is a Huge Sacrifice and I Did It Anyway

I recently read two articles that address the long term financial difficulties of being a stay at home parent. Katy Read’s Regrets of a Stay-at-Home Mom presents the view of a now divorced single mother without a full time job, lamenting her choice to stay home and/or work part time 14 years ago. She blames herself, society and pressure from family members for a choice that she now says has crippled her career and financial future, possibly permanently. Jonathan Liu of Geek Dad responded with his own take in Stay-at-Home Parenting Backlash: “Opting In” or “Opting Out?”.

This is a loaded issue for many parents, particularly women. But I think what it emphasizes most is that how you raise your children is not a decision to take lightly but it is still YOUR decision. I tend to lean more towards Geek Dad’s opinion that parenting is a huge sacrifice and only the seriously naïve and deceived among us fail to acknowledge that going in to it. We know it could theoretically cost us millions of dollars (assuming we have the kinds of jobs that would net those high wages anyway). But we are willing to lay all of that down for the sake of our children.

There is nothing wrong with continuing in your career path and sending your kids to daycare, if that is what you really want. I never sought to be a big time career woman. I went to college because I love to learn and I recognized the importance of a college education in both future job possibilities and becoming a well-rounded human being. But I didn’t go into deep debt to do it. I studied English not because I thought it would net me a high paying salary but because I love to read and write and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I knew that if I wasn’t willing to work in a major city and work the tough novice reporter hours I wasn’t going to climb the ladder. So I opted to work low paying jobs, many of them not in my field, in favor of supporting my husband while he went back to school. I could have commuted 2 hours of Philadelphia or 3 hours to New York City, but my quality of life mattered more to me. My work was just my work, it wasn’t my life. I always knew that if we were blessed with children, I would be a stay-at-home mom, if at all possible.

I left my best paying job to date to stay at home with my daughter after she was born. I actually had the opportunity to return to my old job part time when she was about 9 months old and I turned it down. Part of me regrets that now, not because I really wanted to go back to work outside the home, but because of the financial aspect. It would be nice to use my extra income to pay off my husband’s student loans. I’m still considering this a possible option, but my husband is very much against it. He thinks that the benefits of having a parent at home full-time far outweigh the financial sacrifices. For the most part, I agree with him. The only way we even could afford for me to work part-time outside the home is if my mother watched my daughter for free, because day care would wipe out any money I was making anyway. If it was necessary for survival we would do this, but I don’t want to burden my mother unnecessarily.

For some families a balance can be found, with one parent working from home some or all of the time. In other cases both parents working full time and full time daycare are the only option or the preferred option. But any decision needs to be made knowledgeably and consciously.

I wish I was still bringing home a regular paycheck, but I made a conscious sacrifice, one that I hope I don’t look back on in 14 years and regret. As a child of a stay-at-home mom, I have no regrets that my mom was at home with me and my sister. My dad had a good job, so we were lucky, but at the same time we didn’t drive new cars, have cell phones, or go to Disney World. My parents made very careful choices with their money so that we could have everything we needed, some of the things we wanted and still have my mom at home with us. I don’t regret the missed vacations, name brand clothes or expensive toys and gadgets. I will be forever grateful that my mom was there whenever I needed her. I only hope I can do the same for my children.

Greener and Cheaper: 4 Green Living Tips That Can Save Money Too

In the last six months, I have been trying to cut down on the number of waste products we use in our home. Since we already cloth diaper, I was seeing the huge savings and wondering what other areas I could apply the ideal of reusable is greener and reusable is cheaper. However, my husband and I have a deal. I can make green additions to our lives as long as they cost the same or less than what we are already doing and as long as I don’t require him to participate. He has jumped right on board with the cloth diapers and has supported my decision to cut down on paper towel use, but he hasn’t joined all of my green/frugal living projects.

Below are several of the ways I have found to save waste and save money. These are not my unique ideas. In fact many of them are old ideas from a previous generation now being recycled and called “green” when at one time they were the standard way of living.

Bring back the hankie

There was a time in the past when a well bred lady or gent was never without a clean pocket hanky. While that time has mostly past, however, I think it still has great potential for both green living and frugal living. Thanks to the low daytime temperature of our home, runny noses are a daily reality and we go through boxes and boxes of tissues. The generic work OK, but they are definitely rougher on the nose than the nicer name brands. Last winter, the constant wiping of my nine month old daughter’s nose with tissues seemed a ridiculous waste. So I started using extra baby wash cloths. Soon I found myself carrying one or two in my pocket or my purse for nose wiping on the go. Even better, if I forgot to empty my pockets there was no inevitable white tissue explosion in the washer and dryer. I took a tip from Cheap Like Me and decided to cut up some of my own “tissues” out of old T-shirts I was going to turn into rags. I can also grab a cloth wipe in the pinch, though they are bit thick. At some point I would also like to invest in some old fashioned style hankies to carry when I’m out of the house. I’ve been slowly decreasing our household tissue use to the point where I hardly ever have to buy them. This however, is something that only my daughter and I do, as my husband finds it gross.

Ditch the disposable napkins

I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner. I always said I wanted to get cloth napkins but when I compared what we paid for our store brand paper napkins to the cost of buying cloth it would have taken us two years to break even. But when my grandmother was breaking up her house I was gifted some linen napkins that she didn’t use anymore. They aren’t the easiest to care for, and they probably should be ironed (something I really don’t do), but they do work. It has been a bit hard for my husband especially to get used to. They do seem too nice to use and he keeps worrying about staining them. But I haven’t purchases paper napkins since we got them. I do still have a small stash in the cupboard that he digs into occasionally, but I try to pretend they aren’t there. Once those are gone, I have my eye on a set from Sam’s Club. I can get 24 napkins for between $16 and $19, which is cheaper than I’ve seen anywhere else. Though my sister recently purchased some at Goodwill, four for $1.

Reduce Paper Towel Use

I’d like to give these up all together, but my husband reminds me of the few cases where we might really use them, such as working with raw meat or cooking bacon. We have cut back on both of those things thanks to our smaller grocery budget, but his point was taken. So I bought one large pack at Sam’s Club last fall and my goal is to make it last until next fall, if not longer. The rest of the time I use old wash cloths and rags for cleaning. This was again inspired by my daughter. When she began eating solid foods, I could foresee how many napkins or paper towels we’d be going through a day so I pulled out a pack of cheap wash clothes I had bought for wiping her up during the spit up days. I used these to wipe her face, hands and high chair tray after meals. Soon I started digging through drawers to find other old towels, micro-fiber cloths and rags to use for cleaning. I have almost completely eliminated paper towels from my cleaning routine. The key is accessibility. If the paper towels are in a hard to reach place but the cloth towels are nearby, I’m sure to grab the cloth towels first. Then I just do a load of cleaning towels (along with hankies and cloth napkins) at the end of the week with hot water and a small squirt of plain blue Dawn dish soap, so I know everything gets clean.

 

Green your cleaning products

The first portion of greening your cleaning products is to use rags or towels instead of paper towels. However, there is more that can be done. Our culture has hooked us on disposable cleaning products and highly toxic cleaners. I’m not against preventing disease by good hygiene, but we’ve become near germaphobes. Every cleaner has to be guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and better yet have bleach in it, or we don’t want to use it. But, it really isn’t necessary to use such strong chemicals for simple household cleaning. Lately, I’ve become more concerned about the strong chemical fumes produced by theses cleaners than the germs that might be missed if I used a milder cleanser. Recently a friend told me that she using vinegar, baking soda and water to clean almost everything. I thought she was crazy, but I figured that if she could do it, (she is a major germaphobe) I could. But there are also other cleaning products you can make at home. I found some great recipes at http://blisstree.com/live/25-safe-non-toxic-homemade-cleaning-supplies/. I use a lemon thyme herbal cleaner in my kitchen for general cleanup. Baking soda and vinegar unclog my slow shower drain. A sprinkle of baking soda and a swish of the toilet brush every few days keep my toilet clean. I only rarely pull out the bleach based cleansers anymore, and that’s when I’m dealing with possible raw meat contamination or serious mold. But I’ve discovered, that like so many other things, if I keep up with the cleaning, less work is required, and milder cleansers work just fine.

I got totally hooked on Swiffer Wet Jet last year. It worked much better than the Clorox Ready Mop I had been using and was approved for use on hardwood floors. But I hated buying the pads and dreaded when I would need to refill the spray. But I found a couple of old micro-fiber towels under my sink that I had totally forgotten about. These work perfectly with a wet or dry Swiffer and I just wash them afterwards. I’ve given up buying the flushable toilet brush wands and have gone make to using a traditional toilet brush. While I haven’t tried it yet, I’ve been told that a solution of vinegar and water works as well as the Swiffer wet solution.

Living green or living frugally is not an all or nothing proposition. Every small step made makes a difference. You just need to figure out what works for your lifestyle and your budget.