Simple Living

Me and My Lunette

I’ll begin this post with a warning. This post will be massive TMI for most people. If you are male and/or know me in real life and think you would be at all disturbed by a post discussing women’s menstrual product alternatives that I personally use and details about my menstrual cycle, then I encourage you PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS.

Now that we have that out of the way, I’d like to share my recent experience with the Lunette menstrual cup. I first heard about menstrual cups, or at least the concept of them, several years ago when a friend mentioned trying Instead. She said it was a strange experience and not one she would like to repeat. I thought nothing more about the idea until I started researching cloth diapers and I discovered that many cloth diaper sites carry natural menstrual products too, such as cloth pads and menstrual cups. Again, I categorized both as, I’ll never go there. But as my previous posts can attest, I did, in fact, go there. I now use almost exclusively cloth pads, even during the postpartum period of my last pregnancy.

cynthia-250x250Finally in 2011, I decided to take the plunge. I was recovering from a miscarriage and decided that perhaps I would try using a menstrual cup during the cycles between my recovery and trying to get pregnant again. I did a lot of research including a great website comparing practically every model out there. (I mean seriously, apparently there are as many, if not more, brands of menstrual cups as there are brands of pads and tampons).  What finally did it for me was that while I was poking around the Gladrags website one day they were having a sale on the Lunette cup, which is the one I was seriously considering, even though practically every cloth diaper website I order from carried Diva Cup almost exclusively. Plus Gladrags was offering free shipping and I liked the wine color, Cynthia. Lunette offers a range of colored cups as do many of the menstrual cup brands. Lunette also names all of their colors after various ancient goddesses. It does make the whole thing a little more fun (though hardly, “Have a Happy Period” fun, to quote a maxi pad manufacturer). Anyway, it seemed less gross than the possibility of staining a clear cup. So I ordered it. I chose a model two because I have had children and I tend to have heavier cycles.) This is only a guideline set in place by Lunette however. Each menstrual cup manufacturer sizes their products a bit differently and each woman’s body is unique. Unfortunately finding a good fit isn’t an exact science.

Then I got pregnant and never had a chance to try it. So it sat in my drawer until recently, when finally, after almost two years, (during most of which I was either pregnant or breastfeeding) I finally got my period. I was immediately excited to try my Lunette cup so I pulled it out of my back of my drawer (where I kept it handily hidden from my husband in the hopes that he would forget I had ever purchased it) and prepped it.

Insertion was surprisingly easy. I expected it to be awkward if not painful. But actually it was only a little more awkward than inserting a tampon. The Lunette cup is made of pretty stiff medical grade silicon so keeping it folded for insertion requires a pretty tight grip. But I didn’t have any trouble, and it opened right up, just like the directions said it would. But if you find you are having trouble the Lunette website offers a video with nine different folding methods you can try. Once it was in properly, I couldn’t even feel it. I used to find tampons uncomfortable unless my flow was really strong but this was fine. I see why some women say that they sometimes forget they even have their period.

selene2-500x500I did have a little bit of leakage on a heavy day when the cup was almost full and I had to change it more than I imagined I would (The size 2 Lunette holds approximately 1 oz when filled to capacity) on the heavy days. The whole process was a little messier than I would have liked, but manageable. In my case I seemed to be inserting the cup too high, so getting it out was a little more awkward, but then again I always found removing tampons messy and awkward too. (Plus I constantly lived in fear of getting a batch of faulty tampons where the strings would detach). I had a big leak when I got out of bed after the first night using it. After 12 hours in, the cup was overflowing, but this was also my first period in almost two years so I’m not surprised that it might have been unusually heavy.

Mostly, I kept forgetting I had it in unless it overflowed. (I say overflow rather than leak because I haven’t really had any major leaks except for when the cup has been filled to capacity. Some women find that they don’t have leaks even when the cup is full but that hasn’t been my experience) But again, none of these issues were new. I had all these problems when I used to use tampons also. I did however notice less cramping, I barely had to take ibuprofen at all, and I was someone that used to take four every four to six hours and still be in pain. (This could be a feature of my post child bearing cycles though. I did have similar experiences during my last periods between pregnancies, though I don’t think I used anything but cloth pads during those cycles. Some women feel that the lack of chemical exposure from disposable pads and tampons helps lessen the bloating and cramping).

So after one cycle, I’m definitely a fan of Lunette and menstrual cups in general. I’ve found it easy to use, or at least as easy as tampons. Discomfort was less and mess probably about the same. I would never wear one without some kind of back up on a heavy day, but I was always the same way with tampons too. I love that I don’t have to purchase vast quantities of disposable feminine products anymore, and I feel good about no longer putting those chemicals on or near my body. I wish I had discovered Lunette sooner.

I recommend that if you are interested in finding a more eco-friendly option to tampons and want the possible freedom from the bulk of pads, research menstrual cups.

Aine cup-500x500

Categories: Green Living, Simple Living, Women's Health | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Being Cheaper and Greener, Possibly Weirder Too

In the last year I’ve made some significant changes in my personal hygiene routine, particularly the products I use. After doing research I was concerned with the various toxins in products as well as the overall cost. I wanted to find ways to use products that would be healthier for my body, but also less expensive. I discovered that many of them could actually be found in the grocery store. While my husband is all for saving money, he thinks this whole process has also made me a little weirder.

Coconut Oil: This has become my moisturizer of choice, as well as a great diaper rash cream. It is greasier, but if applied sparingly works quite well.

Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: For now this has been my go-to winter nighttime moisturizer. I don’t usually use it during the day because it is heavier.

I have been somewhat concerned about the lack of SPF in these natural moisturizers so at least in the warmer weather when I’m outside more I’m consider substituting the California Baby SPF lotion, if I can find a more budget friendly price on it somewhere.

The Oil Cleaning Method– Mix any favorite essential carrier oil (such as Extra Virgin Oil Oil or Almond Oil) with Castor oil. Apply to face. Wet a wash cloth with steaming water, ring out and apply to face. Let wash cloth sit on face until cooled. Repeat and wipe any residue off of face. My husband still laughs at me when I do this, but I’ve found that it actually works rather well. The whole process of deliberately putting oil on my skin seemed counter intuitive after years of acne issues, but this doesn’t seem to cause any additional acne problems (though it is a little hard to tell during pregnancy) and my skin is definitely less dry than when I was using acne washes. I’ve stuck mostly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil because it is easy to find at our regular grocery store and relatively inexpensive. For more on the oil cleansing method check out this article on Simple Mom and the included links.

HoneyWash– Ideally I should be using raw honey or some other organic equivalent, but instead I grabbed what I had in my cupboard which is quite old. I had to dilute it just to get it into a manageable texture so I’m probably not getting the full benefits of this wash. I apply it to my face and then rinse off and dry with a wash cloth. But I alternate it with my OCM and it leaves my skin feeling dry in a few spots (which, frankly, every single face wash I’ve ever tried has done), but mostly gives my skin a nice texture. But if I leave any on, it does leave sticky spots.

No Poo Method

When I first heard about this I thought it was crazy. But I decided to give it a try. It was a process of trial and error that certainly wasn’t helped by my pregnancy hormones. (My hair gets very strange during pregnancy, including a very flaky scalp that even strong dandruff shampoo can’t get rid of).

My current method is to boil two cups of water and then add 1 TBS of baking soda. I let it cool and make sure it is completely dissolved before I pour it into bottles to store in my shower. I discovered that our hard water makes it necessary to boil the water while mixing in the baking soda, otherwise it leaves awful white residue in my hair. I still get flakes sometimes, but it’s mostly the result of my pregnancy scalp or if I measure wrong when creating the mix. Sometimes I experiment a little bit with the mixture to see how it affects my hair.

I started out using lemon juice as my “conditioner” because I thought vinegar would make my hair greasy. But as my hair adjusted I began using diluted white vinegar, and now finally diluted apple cider vinegar. I still use white vinegar if my hair has gone too long between washes other wise I’ll end up with greasy hair. But I find that the apple cider vinegar helps prevent flakes and gives my hair nice texture and color. I currently wash my hair every two to three days. This is a huge breakthrough for me, since I was lucky to be able to go 24 hours without washing my hair before. But it has been a long road. There were definitely times when my hair drove me crazy during the last year or so, and a few times I wanted to give up. I occasionally alternated my routine with California Baby Tea Tree oil shampoo, since it’s non-stripping and sometimes I would still wash my hair every day. But the vast majority of the time I’m pretty happy with my hair now, assuming that the flake problem continues to improve postpartum. I didn’t struggle with any hair problems during my No Poo method transition that I wasn’t already dealing with. The current dandruff shampoos weren’t working. Other shampoos didn’t leave my hair clean for longer than 24 hours. So I figured I might as well stick it out, since I was saving huge amounts of money (especially considering the supply of half full bottles of shampoo in my cabinet that I abandoned during the last few years when they stopped working, including the lovely smelling Organix tea tree oil and peppermint shampoo. Unfortunately it worked no better than the others). For more info check out Simple Mom and her recommended resources on this topic.

So there it is. Most of my toiletry products are now purchased as basic ingredients at the grocery store. I haven’t bought myself traditional shampoo or conditioner in over a year, even longer since I purchased moisturizer and I haven’t even had to repurchase any of my new greener ingredients, though I’m about to buy more apple cider vinegar, which is quite inexpensive. It has definitely saved money, probably made my body and household a little greener and to my husband’s credit, perhaps made me a little weirder too. But I think I’m OK with it. After all, after transitioning to cloth menstrual pads, it doesn’t get much stranger than that.

Categories: budget, Green Living, Simple Living | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scared Parenting: What if I can’t afford it?

It seems like every few months another news outlet discusses how expensive it is to raise children. Articles like this present the rising national average cost of raising children as a terrifying prospect. However, I would argue that the rising American lifestyle is also to blame. There is nothing wrong with parents who chose to spend $12,000-$13,000 per year, but don’t let those numbers be a barrier to having your own children. The article only briefly touched on a few specific areas of child raising. But as we all know there are ways to save in all of those areas.

Gas prices

The price of gas affects everyone, not just parents, but families do tend to drive larger cars. I guess I would argue, seriously consider how important fuel efficiency and the price of gasoline are when choosing your car. We inherited a 2000 Buick century which gets decent but not great gas mileage. With the imminent arrival of baby #2 everyone is asking when we are getting a minivan. The answer is, when we can afford one. We can fit two car seats in the back and I try to minimize the amount of child stuff I haul around. So for now we’ll manage. Combine errands, or try to walk or bike more. Consider that today’s child is more sedentary than ever, it wouldn’t hurt to take a family walk to the store instead of getting in the car to drive. Given how long it takes to give everyone in and out of car seats, I might not even take that much longer.

Food prices

The article specifically mentions the cost of box cereal. So don’t buy box cereal, or at least not name brand ones. Sugary cereals have been traced to the rising rate of child obesity. In our house it’s mostly my husband who eats box cereal (aside from my random pregnancy craving for Lucky Charms) and I’ve been trying to encourage him to switch to oatmeal in the winter months; much cheaper and healthier. I’ve taken to making a large batch of baked oatmeal at the beginning of the week and then he cuts and reheats a square each morning, which saves quite a bit of time. My daughter likes it too, though she calls I oatmeal cake. Making simpler meal choices made from real ingredients, assembled from scratch whenever possible is almost always cheaper than buying the packed “kid friendly” items most stores feature.  Yes, the cost of basic ingredients is going up, but it is still cheaper to buy flour and sugar than boxes of cereal.

Cost of Child Care

We all know that child care can be extremely expensive. The above article notes that the cost of two or more kids in child care may actually cost more than rent or mortgage payments for many families. There is no easy answer to this dilemma. Finding low cost but safe childcare accommodations is a struggle for many. Suggestions include extended family care, home care and kid-swap/shared childcare. I know several families where a grandparent, aunt or uncle does the primary daytime care giving. There are various ways of handling this. In some cases no money changes hands. Many retired grandparents love being with their grandchildren and can’t imagine taking money for caring for them. Other families make some kind of set financial arrangement that is affordable, but hardly market level compensation. The extended family household is another option. Unemployeed or retired relatives live in the home and contribute to the household by providing childcare.

Homecare can be another good option that tends to be less expensive than a larger daycare center. I know several moms who care for one or two additional children, close to the age of their own. The children enjoy being together, thus giving the overseeing parent more time on his or her hands, which makes the lower compensation worth it. Other options include working part-time and sharing childcare with someone who works a different shift. This kind of kid-swap can work well as though as the details are well worked out in advance. In some cases, this may work within the same household. Some couples specifically find jobs with opposite shifts so that one of them will be home at all times to care for the children. This can be rough on the relationship, but does save on the cost of childcare.

The biggest suggestion given in this article is to save money in anticipation of having children. This is obviously always good advice. But there are so many other things that can help families bring down the cost of raising children. I honestly don’t know if these articles are designed to scare would-be parents and discourage having children or to make poorer families decide to have fewer. I dislike articles that give only raw averages without breaking down the numbers better. There is no mention of the fact that breastfeeding or cloth diapering could save thousands a year or discussion of the fact that every item sold at Babiesrus is not a life necessity. If you really want children, look objectively at your finances and see if there is a way to make it work. It may mean making big sacrifices, like one parent delaying career advancement by staying at home full or part-time, or making life style alterations like cutting back on cable, cell phone and eating out bills. Try not to let the sticker shock keep you from your dreams of a family.

Categories: Family, Finance, Simple Living | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

After the Storm

We are still recovering here after the storm that hit the northeast U.S. knocked our power out for almost 3 days. I know some people had it much worse than we did. I actually managed pretty well the first two days but on day three when we were being told it could be two or three more days until power was restored, I melted down. All I could think about was all the food in my fridge and freezer that I was going to have to replace. Food bought on sales with discounts and coupons that I can’t reproduce. We were lucky enough to still have the heat of our gas fireplace and could do some limited cooking with our gas range, as long as you didn’t need to take anything out of the fridge.  But I just got tired of it and bailed out to go to my sister’s house for few hours. But fortunately our losses ended up being less than we thought. Most freezer items were preserved and my losses from the fridge are recoverable, though frustrating. I’m still catching up on undone laundry (I was able to do a couple loads at my sister’s house that were sitting wet when the power went out) and we finished cleaning out the fridge last night.

There is something about a major power outage that makes you reevaluate dependence on technology. I remember how quiet the house was at night. All those various electronic devices in the house make tiny amounts of noise that we don’t even notice, until they are gone. My husband and I both did quite a bit of reading, which we enjoyed. Though I’ve discovered that reading by candlelight is entirely overrated. The drafts coming from our poorly insulated windows made the candles flicker like strobe lights. The eye strain was so bad that I gave up in favor of a flashlight to read by. I enjoyed the appeal of a less technology based life (though we probably have less than most to begin with). I didn’t enjoy having it forced on me, but I liked some of the simplicity that came out of it. No arguing with my daughter about watching TV. Though she really missed the music we usually have playing around the house. We went to bed at a reasonable hour because it was dark, we were tired and there was no TV’s or computer’s to veg-out in front of. I’m not about to take a vow to give up technology, but I do think it helps to be aware of how much we let technology rule our lives. The phone rings, cell phone texts arrive, email pops up, new facebook messages to deal with; our lives our filled with maintenance of technology. Maybe healthy limitations, setting aside quiet times and places to focus on the simplicity of life without all those technological interruptions, can help us to better appreciate the value of life without technology.

So after this experience, while I’m grateful to have my laptop back, I’m also hoping I can push myself to spend more time on activities like reading to and coloring with my daughter, keeping up with my own reading, bible study and prayer life, as well as quality time with my husband. Because I discovered what can happen when we neglect technology for a few days. We survive, the world keeps turning, and in the end our lives may be a little better for it.

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The Ultimate Decluttering and Transformation Project: Back Bedroom becomes Big Girl Room

We only have three bedrooms in our house and the smallest is only big enough for a crib, a dresser and a glider. Nothing else. So when our two year old began to get too big for her crib (she is tall for her age), we knew that putting a twin bed into her room wouldn’t be an option. We considered buying a toddler bed, but since we anticipated needing a crib (and its corresponding mattress) for a new family member in the relatively near future anyway, we decided it would be better to move our daughter into the back bed room.

Our back bedroom is a combination office/guestroom/dumping ground for items without homes. It has been the eyesore of our home constantly (except when we actually had guests) since we moved in almost four years ago.

 

I wanted to redo the room for a little girl, but allow the expensive portions of the décor to grow with her.

First we emptied the room and its closets. I purged the linen closet leaving some of the sheets and towels in there, but mostly just sheets for my daughter’s twin bed and her own towels. But I do still use the top shelves for seasonal linen storage. We bought a wardrobe on sale at IKEA which we set up in the unfinished attic as off season storage for coats and other clothing. A few items (such as my knitting supplies) moved into the closet of my daughter’s old room, what we now call the “baby room.” But most of it went to the attic. This fall a major attic purge is on the agenda, but I can’t ask my heat hating husband to deal with 90 degree+ temperatures in our attic in July and August.

We pulled my old twin bed down from the attic and purchased a new twin mattress and box spring. We were lucky enough to find a very nice set that was on clearance for less than half of the usual price (about the same or less as the cheapest mattress in the store). We got an old dresser from my sister’s basement and a book shelf from another part of the house. A lamp from my parents’ attic provides basic lighting, but we definitely need more. While I was tempted to purchase a little girls bed linen set, they were all so expensive and I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted anyway. The bed linens are also cast offs from when I lived at home. They were still in good shape and the ivy pattern will be age appropriate for a long time, if not indefinitely. (I picked them out when I was 15). I bought a set of Beatrix Potter wall decals from Amazon.com. These were a really easy to apply and my daughter loves them. A few small decorative items from my childhood plus the complete Beatrix Potter Box set rounded out the room.

By far the best part though, is the window seat. There was this large gap between the two closets that seemed to be nothing but wasted space. We used to store file drawers there. I had the idea, my husband and brother-in-law did the building and for less than $50 my daughter has an adorable window seat and a nice big storage box for off season blankets, freeing up more closet space. I may add a cushion later.

The room still needs work. We’re hoping to add a few more outlets and some more lighting. But finally, the most cluttered room of the house has become the cutest. Our daughter loves it and gets excited each night about sleeping in her “big girl bed.”

 

Categories: Organization, Parenting, Simple Living | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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