Hoovered It

It’s pretty rare that I write a blog post about stuff I love.  So, when I do, it means I have used this for a while, and REALLY love it.

I don’t want to let the chance pass me by to sing the praises of the incredible piece of household machinery that is the Hoover Windtunnel Max. (It’s official name is Hoover Windtunnel Max Multicyclonic Bagless Upright, but that sounds a little stuffy for a vacuum if you ask me.)

I received one of these vacuums as a gift from someone who felt my duct-taped 7-year-old Bissell was an embarrassment to humanity.  Even though I consider myself the Messiest Housewife In The World, if I do clean, I want to do it right.  That’s why I was ridiculously overjoyed to find this package on my front step this April:

So, when I put the thing together (like three little clicks and one screw to tighten), I put it through its paces.  I immediately carried it downstairs by the cleverly positioned recessed handle underneath the canister, and straight into the lion’s den.  My children had spilled about 5 lbs. of rice out of their sensory table three months before the previous week.

Like the sound of those delightful fizzy firecrackers right before the grand finale, I vacuumed the offending area for 15 or 20 passes (5 foot square).  And I got this:

Oh. My. Goodness. The Windtunnel Max sucked up 5 lbs of rice. Hoover, take me away!

I had forgotten what the carpet in the basement felt like without the disturbing sound of rice squinching deeper into the floor.  Oh my goodness.  Sweet carpeting is not ruined.  I carried it one-handed with a little effort upstairs and swung by the kitchen garbage to empty the canister.  It was a snap, opening cleanly from the bottom with the touch of a button on the top handle.

It was time for a head to head test.  I wheeled out the squeaky old Bissell canister upright, which now had the feel of a dinged up Kia next to a Cadillac, and vacuumed the TV room. I followed up with the Hoover. I then apologized to the children for spending the last seven years making pretty lines in the carpet without ever actually vacuuming. The Bissell canister was filled with these little dust bunnies, and the Hoover…well, let’s just say I was so embarrassed, I didn’t take a picture of it.  What I can tell you was that as I rolled it over the carpet that leads in from the backyard/sandpit of despair, all I could think of was that scene in The Green Mile when John Coffey sucks the black bugs out of people.  The little window at the floor bristle lets you see the dust physically being lifted out of your rug with an oddly entrancing spectacle.

Next I hit the entryway for the final test of greatness: The Stair Attachment.  My version is the P.A.W.S. pet hair specific one, which means instead of bristles, it has little paddles that ACTUALLY ROTATE on the stair hose brush.  It did a great job, with visible debris in the freshly cleaned canister.  In addition, when I pulled out the hose, I noticed the floor bristles automatically stop turning.  Because I’m the numbskull who always seems to jam her toes under the brushes while reaching to suck a spider into a death of Helen Hunt proportions, I really appreciate the effort.  There’s also a snazzy, easy lever to turn off the floor bristles with your foot when you get on a vacuuming roll and don’t want to stop the momentum from the living room shag right onto the kitchen tile.

What I didn’t tell you was that between every room, the kids were fighting over who got to press the cord rewind button.  Best. Fun. Ever.  Somehow it goes at the perfect speed so that it doesn’t pistol whip you in the calves like the old school Electrolux one my dad got from a farm auction when I was 8.  I think I still have bruises.

The one thing I am having a hard time with is remembering that you turn it on with your thumb on the handle (which folds for easy storage).  I spent the first few days trying to use my feet to turn it on and resemble a confused pioneer woman, bobbing and weaving conspicuously around the newfangled mechanical broom looking for the “on” switch.  The front-placed moving stair attachment actually stays on really well during use, but the little detail brush may pop off if it isn’t seated just right.  Which gives the vacuum a 98/100 on my list.  Still an A+.

They also make a a swankier bristle-based upgrade for those who don’t find they spend a good portion of their cleaning time unwrapping pet hair from their attachments.  Because I happen to know one of the engineers who designed it,  I can tell you that these vacuums out-compete the over-hyped Dyson, for a fraction of the price.  And as of right now, you can buy the one Amazon with free shipping for well under the retail value of $199.99.

But Jaime, you say, every new vacuum works well, right?  I have been using this vacuum for 5 months now, and while its (washable) canister interior has gotten a little dustier (no, I haven’t cleaned it), the Hoover Windtunnel Max Multi-Cyclonic Upright Canister vacuum still works like a charm.  I would recommend it to anyone.

One corner down, three more to go.

Modern Cloth Diapering Orphanage Guide

My husband and I do emergency preparation, and one of the aspects we have considered is using our modern cloth diapers in the event of an emergency situation, where we have no power.  I have adapted that to focus on what the needs of an orphanage might be, with access to wash facilities, but not dryers.

1)   What is a modern cloth diaper?

A pocket diaper will best meet the needs of an orphanage because of its stay-dry capability (only microfleece, which repels water, is touching baby’s skin).  In addition, it dries very quickly (2-4 hours dry time on average relatively humid weather) because the absorbent insert is a separate component.

Components of a modern pocket cloth diaper (clock wise from the top: 1) Pocket-style opening for traditional insert 2) Soft microfleece lining keeps baby dry 3) Mini-gussets keep messes contained 4) Durable snaps for an adjustable fit 5) Waterproof outer layer

2)      Will the ones I buy online hold up to twice daily washings?

In a word: NO.  Don’t let anyone tell you that the newest, pretty, on-the market cloth diapers are made to last.  They have beautiful fabric, but the PUL is a much lower quality than what was available 5 years ago.    They MUST be line dried, but still, the waterproof plastic layer will eventually separate from its cloth front, leaving a leaky diaper that needs to be thrown out.

3)      So why are you suggesting this?

Because there ARE still old-style Fuzzibunz to be found.  They can be found brand new, in limited quantities from the online Fuzzibunz seconds store.  They are about $11 per diaper (compared to $18 new style), and run just a little smaller than the traditional Fuzzibunz mediums.   But they are made from a higher quality PUL.  The better PUL feels more like canvas when scratched from the cloth side, while the buttery soft feel of the new PUL will not hold up as well.   *Note: for users in the US, Fuzzibunz has just rolled out a new lifetime warranty for their diapers, so if you have easy access to a great cloth diaper supplier, go for the great, beautiful prints!*

The sturdier kind can be recognized by their pointy tabs:

Old-style, pointy-tab Fuzzibunz brand pocket diaper

The REALLY old kind has rounded edges and this tag: Old-style, original Fuzzibunz--can't bust 'em!

Also look on craigslist.  Used is fine.  The oldest diapers in my stash (on their third kid now) are pointy tab Fuzzibunz that have been used for 2 years before we got them, and three years since we’ve had them, washed every 3 days for 10 months out of the year).

4)      But what if the elastics break and the diapers start to leak because they are too loose?

A good used diaper will still have some bunch in the elastic.  Worn out elastic can be easily repaired with a bobby pin, a new piece of elastic, and a needle and thread to tack down the edges.  Make sure you include repair supplies in your package to an orphanage.  See the tutorial below:

5)      How do you put the diapers on?

It’s a snap!  Some diapers come with Velcro enclosures (Sometimes called “aplix” or “hook and loop”).  Avoid these ones, because they will need major repair after a hundred washes.  The ones with snap attachments are the most durable.  Here’s a diagram:

Step 1) Place insert inside of the pocket.
Step 2) Slide diaper under baby and pull up front.
Step 3) Snap sides to the front of the diaper

6)      So what do I use for inserts?

What’s great is that the diaper itself holds the shape of the baby, so the inserts can be made from any thin, cotton or microfiber material on hand, folded in half several times to make an absorbent rectangle.  Drying time for such makeshift inserts is significantly reduced (when the rectangle is shaken out and hung flat, 4-8 hours), compared to what comes with the diaper (a pre-sewn, multiple layer rectangle of microfiber material, 8-10 hour dry time).  If the orphanage currently cloth diapers with traditional pre-folds, they can be used as a part of the insert rotation, too.  I would suggest having 10 insert pieces for every 6 diapers.  Old receiving blankets, t-shirts, Birdseye flat diapers, and microfiber hand towels work best for both absorbency and dry time.

Birdseye flat diaper, dries more quickly, but must be folded before use.

Prefold Diaper has double-layer of material in the center, takes longer to dry.

7)      What do I do when they are soiled?

Take a pillow case and line a garbage can with it.  This is now a washable hamper bag.  Take the diaper off of the baby.  If only urine, hold by the top end over the diaper pail/pillow case garbage can.  Shake insert out.  Drop emptied pocket diaper in next.  Done.  If there is poop, two options remain—wash the diaper out by dunking in a toilet, or dump solids into a separate garbage can for disposal.  Proceed as above.

8)      How do I wash them?  Can they be sanitized?

The first step is to rinse the load of diapers, pillow case, inserts, and cloth wipes out in cold water.  This removes the majority of the urine and feces.  (A wet pail is not recommended because the PUL lining will weaken if left in water for extended periods of time.  This initial cold rinse does a thorough job if done within 36 hours of when the diaper was soiled.)  The next step is to restart the wash with a full hot cycle.  If hot water is not available, a small amount of bleach (about 2 tablespoons or 30 mL) can be used.  This will possibly decrease the life of the PUL on the diapers, but germ control is more important.  Any powdered detergent will do, but 3 tbsp (45 mL) is an appropriate amount of detergent for a load-full of 15 diapers and 15 inserts.  If a dryer is available, only the inserts should be dried by machine.  The diapers can be laid flat (microfleece side up) or hung to dry.

9)      This seems like an extra step to me.  Why not just get a water-resistant cover for our current diapers?

That is certainly an option.  There are modern PUL covers that will work very well and are washable.  But, the advantage of the pocket diapers is the stay-dry lining.  Our goal is to have a diaper that is faster to put on and also keeps the baby’s skin dry, reducing diaper rash.  In a cloth-only diapering system the absorbent material holds the urine on the skin.  After one urination, they need to be changed.  In pocket diapers, after 2 urinations, they will reach their maximum absorbency.  Absorbency can be increased by adding a second insert for naptime and overnight, but the protective effects of the microfleece layer are reduced every time the diaper becomes saturated.  For this reason, some people use disposable diapers for overnight use, and reduce costs by using cloth diapers during the day.

10)   How many diapers will we need?

A child 5 months and older needs about 5-6 diapers per day.  If the diapers are washed three times daily (morning, afternoon, night), the large number of inserts (which take a long time to dry by comparison) will be ready to go into the diapers that were last used at night by early afternoon.  Let me show you a sample use schedule in which a groupa of 10 children has 60 diapers and 100 inserts:

Time Diapers/Inserts Being Worn Diapers/Inserts Being washed Diapers/Inserts Air Drying Diapers/InsertsReady to wear

Night

10/20

(each diaper uses 2 inserts overnight)

20/30

(from last 2 changes of night)

20/30

(drying overnight)

10/20

7AM

10/10

10/20

0/0

40/70

11AM

10/10

0/0

20/30

30/60

3 PM

10/20

(each diaper uses 2 inserts for naptime)

20/20

0/30

30/30

7PM

10/10

0/0

20/50

30/40

Night

10/20

20/30

0/30

10/20

So, while disposable diapers are convenient when available, having 6 pocket diapers with approximately 10 inserts on hand for each child will keep babies dry, cut back on diapering costs, and reduce the wash load for other bedding and clothing items.  Hopefully we can help keep these precious angels drier and diaper changes quicker while their caretakers are freed up from the inconvenience of changing bedding and treating diaper rash multiple times a day.

Be Strong. Rock on.

As many of you have seen via Facebook, we have an auction going on right now to bring little Thadius home.  Two of the many amazing items up for bids have been generously donated by Andrew Banar of Group Hug Apparel.

Andrew was born with Down syndrome, and an irrepressible zest for life.  One day, when his cousin was going off to college, Andrew decided he wanted to go, too.  He needed to raise some funds, however.  His mom, Karen Pickle, suggested taking one of his rock and roll sketchings and turning it into a t-shirt design.  They have used much of the funding received to support various charitable organizations.

Any t-shirt from the website and infant onesie in our auction feature Andrew’s own artwork, and are sold by a company he owns.   To keep up with the many adventures of Group Hug Apparel bringing joy, fun, and rock-star status to events all over Canada, click here: Group Hug Blog.

Imagine how you could help Andrew change the world by sharing his story and his message, one t-shirt at a time.  Be strong.  Rock on.  With friends.

Avon Calling!

If you aren’t familiar with Avon’s fantastic line of personal care products, jewelry, make-up, and more, now is a great time to check them out.

California-based representative, Melissa Condon, who loved our little Thadius from the start, has offered us an amazing opportunity. She has offered us all of her profits for this quarter. But the quarter ends this Monday, August 27.

Would you consider looking at Melissa’s Avon site to see if there is anything you might buy at Target anyways? Any Christmas gifts that you could take care of now? I am hoping that, because she is offering all of her personal financial reward for her efforts, we could knock her sales goals out of the park.

Right now sun and bug care, Skin-so-soft products are half off, and there is always free shipping.

Please click here or the image below to browse all of the exciting Avon products and finish your Christmas shopping early!

Heavy Work

**Our Auction to Bring Thadius home is now live!  Please check out our 50+ items, including an incredible hand-blown glass vase, Hoover vacuum, Ergo baby carrier, Gently used Halloween costume swap, Russian Language program, Silpada gift card, jewelry, and much more!***

Today was our third day at Vacation Bible School in our church.  With my three big kids and two “nieces of the heart” attending, I figured I better strap Hoss on my back and participate.  I have been stationed with the three-year olds as self-appointed potty master, spontaneous game provider, and conversation starter.  I love it.

The best thing about it is a little boy in the group who just reminds me so much of JR at 3.  He needs to wander sometimes, has to touch things–ok, everything– and interrupts with brilliant ideas.  For fun, let’s call him Matt.  Matt is simply not designed for the contained movement /quiet listening activities that an indoor class requires.  He can do it, sure, but only for short periods of time.

I seriously love him.

The other kids (even bouncy Lumpy) are content to sit and listen to a story while Matt’s feet are tapping out heavy metal drumbeats on the floor in front of him.  What on earth are we supposed to do with a child like Matt?  Like my JR?

Heavy work.

Little story for you.  Sometimes a woman in labor is interrupted by getting in a car, an unsettling nurse or doctor, or having an anxious relative in the room.  If this woman’s body secretes an adrenaline rush, it can take 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or a whopping dose of Pitocin, no comment) to overcome its effects.  Vigourous activity refocuses the body.

Antsy kids are very similar.

You can start disciplining them (“Sit still, Matt”), physically redirecting them (“Hold my hand now, Matt”), or punish them (“You’re going to have to leave the room if you can’t participate, Matt”).  But, you’ll fail.  The thing that reverses the antsy-ness in these kids is heavy work.  All of my kids need this some days.

I didn’t always call it “heavy work.”  I learned the term in this incredible adoption book, which should really be re-packaged as a plain old parenting book, The Connected Child.

I watched the practice of it through two amazing adoptive parents who committed fully to helping their son overcome his destructive behaviors.  It works like this: instead of making our expectations more clear to a bouncing, distracted child, my husband and I try to put their muscles to work.  Here’s how we do it.

1)  We set the task.  Note, no correction, I go to kid, and make the offer, no preamble.  A distracted child has a very hard time knowing what will bring him back down to earth.  This can be:
-“I really need someone to move 12 logs from the woodpile next to the shed.”
-“Can you please pull this laundry basket filled with all the books on the floor upstairs to your bedroom?”
-“Can you take all of the cans and put them in this box for me?”  

It has to be weird enough that the kiddo is intrigued.  Also, it can’t just be just a running activity or a large body-movement activity.  Those activities seem to ramp my kids up and encourage more distraction, with the calm alertness following maybe 30 minutes later.  It needs to have some resistance to make it count.  By setting the task for him we are also ferreting out true “energy overload” from disobedience. (The disobeying kid will refuse in a nasty way…well, my kids will anyway.)

2) Let go of any expectation that kiddo will return to a chilled-out state immediately.  Let him do heavy work until the group starts a new task.

3) Don’t make a big deal of it.  Thank him, and move on. Defend him if other kids ask what that was all about: “JR was just helping me with something.”

Today we were two hours in, and fresh from the creative (light) play room, where there was no splashing allowed at the water table and you could use playdough while sitting only. This meant music time was doomed from the start for Matt.  The problem came on suddenly, and I intended to step back, as one of the counselors was his regular babysitter. But I intervened when he was cornered, and about to be begged to sit and listen.  

I approached them and asked Matt to push the chairs across the carpet for me, which he could accomplish soundlessly and out of the line of sight of the other kids.  Without hesitation, he complied.  He moved heavy wooden chairs one side to the other five times while I stood back and “ignored” him.  The teacher, however, noticed, and came up to correct Matt, leaning on the chair he was about to start moving to get him to stop.  I don’t fault her at all.

The traditional model of good teaching means full compliance from every student, to ensure the knowledge is transferred and none of the other children are distracted.  But Matt is three years old.  He has ages to put in place the ability to override his body’s need to move in a way that is deliberate and calorie-burning and with great purpose.  But, he also has a good three years to be corrected, disciplined and pushed before he is ready into this desired outcome.

I came up to our teacher a half-second later, and briefly explained he was doing the work for me.  It really wasn’t fair of me to spring such a radical idea on her, directly in her line of sight, while she was in charge of the whole class.  She did smile indulgently at me, and continued the class, like it was part of the plan. Wonderful woman.  But, I thought it was worth the risk of insulting her, because Matt was so, so good at it.  When he initially refused to sit down, he wasn’t asking for unstructured, special exemption, breaking the rules time.  He was asking for something he could do with his body that would let some of the anxiety he was feeling burn itself out.  

At craft time, 10 minutes later, he sat down, was engaged in the craft, and was just part of the class.

And I felt really good.  Actually, egotistical parent that I am, I came here to brag about it.  But, mostly, to give you, and your kid, another tool. Our children were designed to learn with physical movement and play at this age.  We are transferring so much knowledge into them at such a young age, desk time is considered more and more valuable.  Maybe these ideas will let our classroom-bound little ones have access to heavy blocks instead of light-weight cardboard ones.  Or carry weights in relay races instead of light batons.  Or have full-weight balls to hurl at a target instead of lightweight foam balls to gently toss. Are we truly trying to teach our children that they must always be gentle? I’m not.

Heavy work can be lifeline for children who have not yet mastered homeschool or traditional classroom expectations of impulse control, contained play, fine-motor skills, and good listening.  I hope that someday when they are able to do these things, they will not be defined by the discipline and stigma of who they were as preschoolers.

A Church Family

The idea of a church family seems silly to someone who isn’t a part of one.  We are very fortunate to be part of one.  Today we were able to share our story with our whole congregation, through a “Stories from the Pew” flyer we were invited to write.  An excerpt:

Sometimes Catholics feel like they are limited in doing mission work.  Our examples of Mother Theresa and devoted priests seem to indicate, even at a subconscious level, that we regular people, working a full-time job could not possibly achieve anything big unless we take time away and immerse ourselves in building a house for hurricane victims and the like.  Well, Britt and I have chosen to become missionaries, and we have one full-time job and 4 children ages 7 and under between us.

…When we saw Thadius on the website for the international Down syndrome adoption ministry, Reece’s Rainbow, we were at a loss.  Could we do the impossible for him?

…Sometimes, when we’re not too late to mass, or wrangling a child in the entryway, we hear this song.  In it, we hear God’s voice, which has helped us to love our Thadius like He has loved us:

Without seeing you, we love you.

Without touching you, we embrace.

Without knowing you, we follow.

Without seeing you…without touching you…we believe.

Our church has supported us with a generous donation to our adoption of Thadius.  They are also donating space for a spaghetti dinner and silent auction to be held this fall.

We are looking forward to the day when Father Dale will baptize our precious little boy, with all of the children of the congregation splashing in the water, scaring their parents in the pews by leaning in just a little too far.  This church is home, because when our little boy is in our family, he will be welcomed in this family, too.  We have evidence already.  Our children are welcomed at Mass, and we will drive the half-hour for the sense of belonging we feel there.

Stopped by the State Rec area for a picnic and some play time. This may be our first full-family photo since May, and Lumpy still isn’t smiling. It’s going into the dossier, anyway!

For people who are just viewing this blog for the first time, I would invite you to read our Adoption Story so far.  It will take you through the most important posts.

If you feel called to help, please take a look at our Adoption Fundraising and Giveaways.  If you are also in the Saginaw Bay region, feel free to send me an email to biglittledays @ gmail dot com about more details on the spaghetti dinner.

***

See yesterday’s post if you’d like a (very good) chance to win $50 Disney Dollars by welcoming home a member of our Armed forces by supporting his daughter’s adoption fund.

Welcome Home

Today a man came home.  A husband came home.  A dad came home.  To the three women who share his name.

Two little girls and one happy Dad…and Mom, who always gets to take the pictures.

And tonight, a daughter is still far away.

You see, the Dismuke family is bringing home Mika, now named Josie, a sweet baby girl from Reece’s Rainbow.

Michael has spent the past 12 months deployed to Kuwait.  He first saw Josie’s face via an email from his wife, Heather.  And he said yes.  And she said yes.  And Heather not only took care of her two biological children on her own for the past 12 months, for the last 5 months, she has been assembling all of the adoption paperwork on her own.

Heather is a woman who gives with an open heart, and her husband has said yes with an open heart, and now I am asking you to do the same.

I have offered Heather the next two days off while I mind the store.  I am going to be her fundraising pinch-hitter until Monday at midnight EST.  Heather has put together a great giveaway–with a Keurig, people, how awesome!  But, to show how much we appreciate all the Dismukes have done this past year, as a family, in service to our country, and now in service to little Josie,  the BLD’s are adding $50 Disney Dollars to be given away to one person who donates at least $10 to the family’s tax-deductible FSP between now and Monday at midnight, EST (1 entry for each $10, 8 entries for $50, 20 entries for $100).  Heather will get an FSP report from Reece’s Rainbow to get the donor list.  Feel free to leave a comment below or on their blog with a message of encouragement or thanks for the Dismukes.

Right now the Dismukes’ fund reads $1750.  I would love to have that read $2500 when Heather and Michael next check in.  Not because they’ve asked us to, but because we’ve asked them to let us.

It’s what we can do to say welcome home.