Poverty and God

One of the things I love about Grateful Moms of Many (GMOMs) is our diversity and the welcoming spirit of our blog to everyone.  That being said I am a Christian and know that many of our readers are as well, so when the topic of poverty and God would not leave my mind recently I felt that there would be many among you that would be interested in the subject too.  This post is in no way intended to disenfranchise any of our readers.  This post is intended only to shine a light on a problem I see within the Christian community that I simply could not remain silent about any longer.  ~Sasha

“I am so frustrated.  My family obeys God, we help the hungry and the homeless, we give to the church in time and money.  We constantly search to do God’s will but still we are poor.  I don’t understand why so many have so much and yet God sees fit to keep us in this financial crises.”

I have seen and heard the above statements so many times, worded one way or another, by my fellow Christians. Over and over again, even by my own mouth at one point, we cry out “Why God?  Why, am I, your faithful servant, condemned to struggle when I have been faithful and my neighbor prospers and yet does no perceivable good?”  Then in the same measure I watch as their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ tell them to have more faith, to pray more, to work harder and waste less.  They tell them how if they obey God then they will be rewarded and that if they are not then something in their lives must be displeasing God.  Why else would they be poor?  Occasionally one might remind them that only God knows the true condition of the heart and we should not do good works on earth expecting treasures that are instead waiting in heaven.  But never do I see or hear what needs to be said.

It is not a sin or a punishment to be poor.

Let me say that again just in case it wasn’t clear the first time.

It is not a sin or a punishment to be poor.

Some how, in ways I can not even begin to fathom, it has become popular opinion in the Christian faith that while God loves the poor he is just waiting for them to shape up so that he can heap piles of cash on their heads.  Too often I have seen entire congregations pass judgment on anyone below the poverty line.  It is simple in their minds.  To be rich is to be in God’s favor and receiving his blessings and to be poor must mean you are out of favor and undeserving of his blessings.  Thing is… that just isn’t biblical.  So what does God have to say about the poor and the wealthy?

In James chapter 2 versus 1-7 (NIV) we are told that to judge a man and treat him poorly because of his lack of wealth and “filthy clothing” is to “become judges with evil thoughts”.  Further more it says that the rich are the very ones that have been exploiting them and that God has chosen those that are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him.

How about Christ himself, what was his opinion?  We have all heard the story of the young wealthy man who came to Jesus and asked what it was he need do to get eternal life and then after being told to follow the commandments the man tells Jesus that he has already done that.  Then what does Jesus tell him to do?  “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me. ” Matthew 19 verse 21 (NIV)  And what is the young man’s reaction to this news? In verse 22 it tells us  “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”  Then Jesus lays on us perhaps the most famous biblical words on wealth of all time.  “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19: 24-25

Over and over again you read stories of how very hard it is for the rich to follow God and what of the poor?  Help them, feed them, do not despise them, give to them, do not neglect them.  You see time and again stories of faithful followers of God that are very poor, despite finding great favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Luke Chapter 12 (NIV)

15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Also of course is the story Christ told in the presence of the pharisees in Luke chapter 16 of the rich man and Lazarus… we don’t even get the rich man’s name.  What we do get though is a story of a man being very wealthy and out of God’s favor and a man being very poor and being in God’s favor.

So am I trying to say that God hates rich people?  No, clearly not.  But what I am trying to say is that neither does he hate the poor.  I want to see a change for the better in the Christian community.  Too often I have come into a church to see all of the wealthy seated proudly in the front while the poor are patted on the head and sent out of sight.  Too often have I seen the cold judgmental eyes as the offering plate is passed around or a young woman tries to hide how little she is able to put in the offering.  Why do we do this?  It isn’t biblical, so why do we allow it to continue?  This is my challenge to you my fellow Christians, stop judging the poor, your savior didn’t.  Just stop.  It really can, and should be, that simple.

*In addition to the above thoughts I would like to add something that happened to me while I was studying these things.  I went to the store and while I was selecting my groceries I overheard one delivery worker speaking to another about this very topic!  I heard the end of the conversation as I passed by and had to ask him for the scripture reference he was quoting.  It truly summarized what my husband and I have prayed for many years and now I try to meditate on the words and include it in my prayers as often as it comes to mind.  I will share it here in the hopes that it will be bring clarity to others as well.

Proverbs 30

8b give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

A Tale of Two Educations: The Motivated Learner

Yesterday I told you about my oldest daughter Mazzy and her educational story.  Today I would like to talk about my second daughter Lydia.  When Lydia was three years old her brother Tristram was a newborn. Remembering how much Mazzy had loved her play based headstart and preschool we decided it would be nice to send her to the same school giving me a break during the middle of the day.  I was crushed when at orientation I discovered that they had lost much of their private funding and had to fall back on public funding to keep the school open.  Now that the school was financed by government funds they had to restructure their program to fit into the No Child Left Behind standards and the differences were jarring.  We quickly decided that we would keep her home instead, not wanting academics pushed on her too early.  This reasoning would prove ironic with what would later happen.

Lydia, at 3 years old.

At this time I was still working hard at teaching Mazzy how to read and had bought the book Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  Lydia showed interest in me working with her sister and so I decided to give her a try with it and see how she did.  I knew in the back of my mind that too much focus on academics at an early age was not good for children but didn’t see any harm in it as long as she was interested and I wasn’t forcing it.  I was amazed at how quickly she picked up on the lessons and the next thing I knew she was reading.  I bought some more materials, booklets aimed at kindergarteners, and she flew through them in just a few short weeks.  I had been so frustrated with the difficulty in teaching Mazzy that I grasped on to Lydia’s success like a drowning man grabs a life-preserver.  Everything I attempted to teach her she would instantly learn and apply to the world around her.  Complex scientific terms for middle schoolers, got it.  Math several grades ahead of her age, no problem.  She was reading at college level by the time she was eight years old and doing highschool level history and science.  Sounds great, right?  Sounds like a homeschool mom’s dream.  There was a problem though, Lydia didn’t know how to play and what was worse she started showing signs of deep depression.

It was the summer she was nine years old when our cat Elinor had kittens that I first truly started realizing that maybe I had done something wrong.  While the other children cuddled with them and rubbed their soft fur against their cheek Lydia sat in front of them with a clipboard and pen.  She had decided she wanted to chart their growth and behavior in association with time spent with their mom and original birth weight.  There was a part of me that was very proud of my little budding scientist, but there was this other part of me that whispered that I needed to watch her closer.   The more I observed the more concerned I became.  She no longer laughed and rarely played, there was never any real joy in her eyes and she avoided conversation.  Slowly she began to open up to me and finally she confessed to me she had thought of suicide.  My world stopped and my heart broke for her.   I immediately made her an appointment with a child psychologist.

The appointment was severely disappointing as the woman clearly had no idea what to make of my precocious child that asked questions like “But how do we know we are really here? Rene Descartes’s philosophy “I think therefore I am” seems weak to me.”  The only advice the psychologist offered was that we should put her in public school, not only that but in the grade deemed by her age so that she could be around “normal” kids.   When I asked her if she felt like it would be even harder on her there with the differences and boredom with the material all she did in response was shrug.

After this I turned to the internet for help.  I found our states Association for Gifted Children website and started asking questions and looking for help for our daughter.  Through this I was able to get in contact with a doctor that is frequently used by association members for evaluation and psychological counseling.  Unable to make it upstate for a direct visit we had a lengthy phone consultation where he explained that depression is a common problem with children like my daughter and he gave me some ideas on how to help her.  That with some other data I researched led me to a plan on how to get the spark back in our little girl.  We stopped all studies for a year with her and focused on learning to play and have fun.  We planted a flower garden, we read fairy tales, we played with dolls and spent nights under the stars making up new  constellations with funny names, rolled down hills and got dirty in mud puddles.  Slowly she began to laugh again, she began to heal.

Now several years later she has complete control over her education and delights in it.  Some things she kept on with, she still loves classic literature.  Some things she cast to the side, turns out she hated Latin.  Most important she is happy and enjoys life.  It was a hard lesson for me, but one well learned, that education is so much more than just how much knowledge you can acquire.  It is just as important, no, more important to have your child stop and smell the flowers than to teach them how to diagram one.

This girl of mine. Smart, beautiful, strong and most importantly happy.

A Tale of Two Educations: The Reluctant Learner

My oldest daughter, Mazzy, went to headstart and preschool at this really wonderful independent school in our community.   The focus was on social skills and learning through play and we loved the teachers and volunteers.  Every day Mazzy was so excited to get on that little bus and head off to play with her friends.  I was still working at the time and so was relieved that she loved her school so much.

The following year when she started kindergarten we saw a dramatic change in her behavior.  Our once happy daughter quickly became sullen and prone to tantrums.  It was around this time that we started receiving letters from her school telling us that they had issue with our daughter about… well about everything.  She was too dependent on adult interaction, she wasn’t consistent with her letters, she talked during class, didn’t listen during instruction time.  What was worse she was having problems with the other children teasing her.  She was much larger than the rest of the kids standing a good foot taller than most and because of this several of the kids decided she must have been held back and took to calling her names for this as well as her larger size in general.   Rather than try to fit her into their program (which we found incredibly restrictive) or continue subjecting her to childish cruelty we chose instead to withdraw her from school and begin home instruction.

Mazzy age 5

Not being very familiar with homeschooling I made the mistake of trying to imitate school, at home.  Over the course of the next couple of years we spent several thousand dollars on reading programs alone.  I would work and work with her and we made no progress.  We made puppets, sang songs, watched videos and tried program after program and though she knew the individual letter sounds could not blend them together to do any actual reading.  It was during this frustrating time that I started researching the works of Raymond and Dorothy Moore as well as other styles of home learning.  Once I understood that the ability to blend was a developmental milestone that you can not force I laid off on the instruction and focused on lots and lots of reading aloud and fun lessons in science and history that including lots of dressing up, messy projects and just good ol’ fashioned learning through play.  From time to time I would feel discouraged and wondering if I was making some great mistake and then finally when she was nine years old she found some books at the library that she liked, a manga series, and wonder of wonders she read.  At first it was still slow and I worried that maybe I needed to do something more with her but thankfully I held my peace and let her continue at her own pace now knowing my daughter better and understanding that if she was to master a new skill it would have to be under conditions of her own choosing.

Her love of manga led her to anime.  It didn’t take long before she discovered that the story lines were often different, and the plot more interesting, in the original language and so took to watching anime in the original Japanese with English subtitles.   If you have never watched a subtitled Japanese anime let me tell you those words fly by fast!  Before I knew it Mazzy could speed read with the best of them.  She has now moved on, at her own choice, to learning Japanese (thank you Rosetta Stone) so that she can watch the movies/shows without any complications with the language barrier.

The next great concern was with Mazzy’s spelling.  Not knowing any other way I had started her instruction the same way I had been taught.  Here is a list, study it, in a week we will have a test.  Also like me she did not do well with this type of instruction and often her inability to spell well was a cause of massive mama guilt and embarrassment.   It was during this time that her older cousin introduced her to on-line gaming.  It didn’t take long for her to realize that in order to be able to effectively communicate with her group she would have to dramatically improve her spelling and learn to type.  At this point you can probably guess what happened, she learned both of those skills.  At her own pace and through her own force of will she greatly improved her spelling and can type as fast as me and I worked in data entry.

Recently I was curious how she stood compared to her peers, which I think is a common concern/worry for all homeschoolers from time to time.  I asked her how she felt about it and she agreed that she too would like to know so I ordered her a test preparation booklet for admission into private catholic highschool and was not sorry to have done so. For the most part she found the majority of the material easy and flew through it.  She was a little behind in math, but not terribly so.  Interesting thing that math, she recently has taken an interest in it as she would like someday to run a homeless shelter and recognized that she would need to know how to do her own accounting.  I have no doubt, now that the fire has been ignited, that in no time she will be soaring through her math studies as well.

Every now and again I wonder how things might have turned out had I not pulled Mazzy out of school.  There is of course no way for me to know for sure, but I truly believe we made one of the best decisions of our lives by homeschooling.  I think of the confidence my daughter has.  I ponder her impeccable moral character and her genuine love for the people around her and those that she will some day meet.  I reflect on her creativity and the way she has been able to practice self-expression through her appearance over the years.  Then I realize that all of that could have been squashed and replaced by a broken being, not just by the school but also by my own insistence to fit her into a mold that she was too grand and complex to fit into.

This is Mazzy now, I don’t remember knowing anyone this calm, focused and well rounded at 15 years old.

Tomorrow I will talk about my second daughter Lydia and the very different path we went down with her, the mistakes and the triumphs.  There was still so much I needed to learn about not trying to fit education, or people, into the boxes we create for them.

Flats and Handwash Challenge, Day 5: What I Have Learned This Week

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world! 

‘There are still 2 more full days left of the challenge after today, and I will continue to participate, but I will be taking the weekend off from blogging (I also have a diaper-making workshop to run tomorrow!), so this will be my last post about the FHWC (until next year, assuming my baby doesn’t potty-learn by then!).  Although I participated in this challenge last year, I changed things up this year (partially due to what I learned from last year) and made even more discoveries!

  • So, first of all, I learned that handwashing diapers takes even less physical labor than I thought — and this is after already participating in this challenge once before!  I was able to get my diapers very clean with just some swishing with the laundry paddle, and a good long hot soak in the tub (<–that always makes everything better, doesn’t it? ;)).  No more standing hunched over the sink, scrubbing away with the washboard.  (I should mention that I have a bad back.)
  • Having less diapers than last year meant I had to wash more often, but that, in turn, made the act of washing take less time (and thus less physical energy).  Even though the blankets I used were much larger than the flour sack towels of last year, the new, lazier 😀 way I washed them made it seem like even less work anyway, so it didn’t matter!
  • By sitting on the edge of the tub with the laundry paddle (like paddling a canoe!), I was able to switch sides when my back started to hurt, thus evening out the strain.  The soreness from the handwashing was not as bad as it was last year at the sink, where I was hunched over.
  • By incorporating a soaking period (which I do even when using the washing machine), it not only required less actual agitation (and no scrubbing!) on my part, but it allowed me more freedom with my time.  It took about 10 minutes to get everything set up for the soak.  Then I was free for a few hours.  Then it took about 20 minutes to do the rinsing, wringing, and hanging.  Then another several hours of freedom.  Finally, another 10 minutes to take them down and fold/put away.  AND, unlike baking bread, you can actually leave your house between the 3 stages of work!
  • I have once again proven to myself that it is very much possible to use cloth diapers very little start-up cost AND no washing machine.  Unlike last year, when I said “maybe” when asked if I would consider doing this full time if I needed to, my answer now is ABSOLUTELY!  This kind of thing can seem so daunting from afar, and I know a lot of people think those of us who are participating in this challenge are nutso, but it really isn’t as bad as they think.  It just takes a little dedication.  And with the rewards of using cloth, no matter your initial reasons (our initial reason was sensitive skin and going broke diapering twins!), what’s not to love?  You are saving thousands of dollars AND helping protect the environment!  I don’t know about you, but those two things are VERY high on my priority list.  A little extra back strain and time out of my day for something I love and think is important?  Of course.  🙂

Click the link below to see what other participants have learned this week!

Flats and Handwash Challange, Day 4: How I Handwash

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world! 

Last year, I used the “sink with hands” method.  This year I have tried something different: the bathtub.  I did a combination of a laundry paddle for agitating, and my hands for wringing.

I am using a “wet pail;” a 5 gallon bucket that I had run some water into.  I keep the bucket in the bathtub and run a little more water into it every time I add a dirty diaper.  This is how I washed them on Tuesday (Day 2):

I dumped the whole thing into the bathtub and let it drain out a bit, all while filling the bucket with clean cold water.

Then, I poured the bucket of clean water over the lump of wet, dirty diapers, as sort of a second “prewash.”  I squished them with my hands to help squeeze the water out.

Then, I turned on the water as hot as it would go, plugged the drain, and added All Free & Clear (up to line 2), about 2 tablespoons of Oxiclean, and a capful of Calgon water softener (we have hard water — my nemesis!).

I used my wooden laundry paddle to swish and stir the diapers around so that the detergent was mixed in well in the water and the diapers.

Then we went on a playdate.  🙂

When we got back, the dipes had had a good soak, and the water had cooled to room temperature.

I’d had my washboard ready, but the nice long hot soak had been sufficient, even for the one dipe that was pooped in (I had rinsed it before tossing it into the wet pail via the “dunk and swish” method in the toilet).  So, I just gave the whole lot a good swishing again with the laundry paddle.

Last year, I scrubbed everything, and it was very hard on my back.  This year, I wanted to find the laziest way possible to get the job done, and I figured that the swishing, soaking, and more swishing would be sufficient for the pee dipes and wipes (and the one PUL cover I used for overnight).  Seems like it was more than sufficient, even for the poopy one!

I then unplugged the drain and let the water drain out, and wrung everything out, plopping it right back into the shallow end of the tub.  I then turned the water on as hot as it would get, re-plugged the drain, added about a cup of white vinegar, and let it fill (about halfway).  Swish again for a minute or so, then let it drain.

Repeat rinse, only this time, no vinegar, and warm water instead of hot (I didn’t want to burn myself when I picked them up in the next step!).

After draining the water out, I picked each item up and wrung the excess water out.  Then I put them all in a basket and hauled it outside to my wooden rack.

I snapped the dipes out, and hung stuff up as best I could, considering that most of the “diapers” are several inches bigger than the bars on the rack.

A few hours later, they were dry, and I could fold them up and put them away.  🙂

This method takes about 5-6 hours from start to finish (depending on how long the soak is and how fast things dry), but the actual work takes only about a total of 45 minutes, divided into 3 different segments.  (It reminds me of baking bread!)  It is less physically demanding than the way I did things last year, so that is good.  Now hopefully we don’t develop a stink, or I will have to tweak this method.  If I was doing this full time, I might boil the diapers occasionally to remove bacteria and build-up.

~ Michelle

*Click below to see other participants’ thoughts on handwashing!*

Flats and Handwash Challange, Day 3: How I Use My Flats

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world! 

So as you may know (from yesterday’s post), I am using (rather crudely) homemade cotton flannel swaddling blankets as my flat diapers.  And, in yesterday’s post, I pretty much told you how I am using them.  But let’s take a closer look:

*This is one method of using the blanket-diapers.  I have to tweak the method depending on the blanket because they are inconsistently sized.*

I have a large square of fabric.  I fold it into quarters, placing it with the edges at the top and one side.

I fold the front corners over so that the wings in back are still at full length(/width?) and the front corners touch the other side at an angle.

I lay the baby on it, and fold the front flap up between her legs.

I gather the sides so that they overlap in the middle, and pinch the flap and wings together between my fingers and thumb.

I use the other hand to put my super awesome, super sharp, locking diaper pin in (I have been holding it in my mouth this whole time).  I secure the pin, through all three sections (12 layers of flannel), and voila!

I pull the wool soaker over it all and we’re done.  🙂


*Click the link below to see how other participants are using their flats*

Flats and Handwash Challenge, Day 2: What Supplies Am I Using?

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world! 

Last year during the FHWC, I used flour sack towels and Thirsties covers.  This year, I have decided to change things up a bit, because when it came time to experiment with folds and such, I found that my baby has grown quite a bit over the past year, and I was finding it difficult to figure out a way to use those old flour sack towels in a way that would be effective.  I really wanted to be able to use my regular wool covers, but that requires using a fastener on the flat.  I absolutely loathe Snappis, by the way.  My baby is now 18 months old and weighs about 27 lbs.  I couldn’t for the life of me figure out a fold that would give enough rise and enough absorbancy where it counts and still be able to be fastened with a Snappi or pins.

So, my solution?  Receiving blankets.  Well swaddling blankets, actually.  I have quite a few swaddling blankets that I made last year for my big baby who liked to be swaddled up until she was about 10 months old.  I couldn’t afford those lovely Aidan & Anais ones, which were the perfect size for a big baby (and nice and thin, so they aren’t too hot), so I took it upon myself to be resourceful and try to solve my problem with things I already had on hand.  Fabric.  Soft, cotton, flannel fabric.  I was not interested in anything fancy, so I simply took a pair of pinking shears and cut large rectangles of flannel.  I was not too strict with the measurements, either.  Most are 36″x45″ (a yard cut of standard fabric, with selvages intact).  I washed them and trimmed the strings off, and now they have soft, fringey edges.

I had made about 6 of these swaddling blankets, and as I sat pondering what to do about my dilemma with the flour sack towels, they popped into my mind.  I have recommended folks using receiving blankets as flats before, because 30″x30″ is a standard size for both blankets and flat diapers (genius?).  The 30″x40″ ones are even better for a larger baby, because they can be quarter-folded and used just like a prefold.  The blankets I made are a bit larger than that, but I figured I’d try them out and see if I could make them work.  I found that quarter-folding them and then laying my baby on them with the longer part horizontal (unlike with a prefold, where the longer part is vertical — running up and down the child’s body) works great.  This way, the rise was not too long for her, and there was plenty of room for a fastener.

I brought out the diaper pins (like I said, I detest Snappis).  With some of the blankets, I am even able to get away with one pin in the middle, since there is enough fabric on either side to overlap in the middle, and I just pin through all 3 sections (which ends up actually being 12 layers of flannel, but my pins get through it easily).  Yes, there is a lot of extra fabric, and if I were to use this as my regular diaper system, I would take some measurements and trim the blankets down to a more practical size (and zig-zag the edges for a cleaner look, like the one pictured above).  But for now, I’m leaving them be. I liked the way this worked so well that I went to my sewing room to pull out more flannel and make more of these swaddling blankets!  I think I now have an even dozen.  Perfect!

The best part of this (other than there is a lot more absorbancy and softness than the flour sack towels) is that I get to use my wool soakers!  And the extra fabric is no biggie, because the way my soakers are made, there is a lot of coverage of the bum and upper thigh, so all of that fabric the blankets leave around the legs fits just fine under the soakers, even though I do tend to tuck some of the excess blanket in with my fingers after pinning.

Oh, and another best thing: such adorable “diapers!”

Other than the blankets and wool soakers, I am using my flannel wipes (most made by me, some out of the same fabric as the blankets) with my homemade wipe solution (1/4 cup each of Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Castile liquid soap and organic olive oil, filled up to 1 gallon with water).  For the handwashing part, I have an old-fashioned washboard (like the one pictured below) and 2 wooden drying racks (like this one). Last year I used old-fashioned lye soap to wash with, but this year I think I will try actual laundry detergent (All Free & Clear is what I’m using these days).

~ Michelle

Click below to see what supplies other participants are using!

The 2nd Annual Flats and Handwash Challenge, Day 1: WHY Am I Doing This?

Last year, I participated in the 1st Annual Flats and Handwash Challenge, hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry (you can read my post about it here).  There were about 200 participants last year.  This year, for the 2nd Annual Flats and Handwash Challenge, there are about 500!  So, why am I doing this, especially since I already experienced it last year, I do own a washer and dryer, and I have 5 children to tend to (the younger 4 of which are home full time)?  Why do I want to take the time and energy to switch from my normal diapers (cotton fitteds and wool covers) to flat diapers, and then handwash them???

Well.  First of all, it’s fun.  It changes things up a bit.  It’s a challenge.  When I was a little girl, my favorite books were The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I must have read each book 6 times, maybe more.  I have even re-read them as an adult, and we are currently reading them to our children at bedtime (something that will keep us busy for months to come!).  So, as you might imagine, I was(/am?) a little obsessed with the pioneer period.  And how did the pioneers do their laundry?  Why, by handwashing, of course!  So, you see, by participating in this challenge, I get an excuse to play pretend as an adult.  😀  I even use an old-fashioned washboard.  But that’s just the fun part.

On to the business part.  The real point of this challenge is to prove that cloth diapers can be used by those who do not have washing machines at their disposal.  And since flat diapers are the LEAST expensive type (averaging $1 each NEW), it is easy even for those on the smallest of budgets to acquire a decent sized stash for the price of a week or two’s worth of disposable diapers.  Then they don’t have to buy any more – EVER!  (Well, that’s not entirely true — diapers do wear out, but again, flats are super affordable, so even replacing them as they wear out will barely make a dent in the budget!)

I founded and co-lead a local cloth diaper group.  Its purpose is to educate families about cloth diapering; from the different options available to how to use and wash them.  By participating in the FHWC (again), I am able to be a local, in-person witness to the possibility of cloth diapering in the face of two challenges: thinking you can’t afford cloth diapers, and/or thinking you can’t use them because you don’t have a washing machine.  Of course, there are those that simply do not want to handwash, and that is understandable.  You really have to be committed to cloth in order to be willing to do this kind of thing full time.  But when your budget is so low that you have to choose between buying diapers and buying food or paying your utility bill (I’ve been there!), you have a problem.  Some parents have begun to keep their babies in disposable diapers much longer than they should, or even try to wash out and reuse them!  All in the name of saving money.  What is with this madness??  This practice is unhealthy for numerous reasons.  They end up sitting in their own filth, which is just plain unsanitary.  There are also toxic chemicals in disposable diapers.  Why would you want to prolong their exposure to them?

There is a simple solution: cloth.  No money? Flats.  No washer?  Handwash.  I am taking this challenge to help prove that it is doable.

Tomorrow I will tell you what kind of materials I am using this year — I have tweaked things a bit since last year.  Stay tuned!  🙂

~ Michelle

To see why others are taking this challenge, click here (and scroll down to the linkys at the bottom of the post).

The Lost Art of Chill

You know that part in the movie The Alamo when Davey Crockett, as played by Billy  Bob Thornton, looks at the screen and says he is a screamer?  Well, I have a confession, I am a screamer too.  Honestly I am just a loud person in general. If I am happy I squeal with delight.  I laugh with my mouth wide open and my head thrown back.  I don’t cry, I sob.  So it would make sense that my loudness would carry over to when I am angry or upset.  Thankfully I am rarely genuinely upset and am very slow to anger, but once you get me going…

There was never rage or violence in my voice, just lots and lots of volume and frustration.  Due to that I had never really thought about the effect this had on the people around me until I started seeing myself reflected back to me through my children.  I would watch them scream a fit when they would get angry and to my embarrassment it took several years before I finally stopped asking the question “Where do they get this from?” and started taking responsibility for what I had inadvertently taught my children to do.

Once I realized that we had a problem I started a personal self improvement program that would help me police my response to anger. Below I will share with you all some of the steps I have taken and found effective.  Along the way I will share some songs that I find particularly helpful in my journey of learning the lost art of chill.

Xavier Rudd – Messages
1. Record yourself.  Ask your husband, your older children, your best friend, whoever you are around a lot and you feel free to be yourself around, to quietly record you on their phone or other handy device the next time you go on a big giant rip over something stupid.  Play back this tape to yourself until you can accept that yes that really is what you sound like.  This will probably be the single most effective step you take.
Zee Avi – Just You & Me
2. It’s true what they say old habits die hard.  So give your loved ones the tools to help you.  Explain to your children what you are trying to do and let them know that there are going to be days when you just forget.  If they are old enough now would be a great time to explain to them what a habit is.  Ask for their help in helping you remember that screaming when you are upset is not ok for them and so it is not ok for you either.
Now let’s be honest here, kids looove an opportunity to tell parents what to do and if given a chance they can and will go overboard.  In comes the code word.  Pick a word or words for your family that will be an immediate trigger in your brain that you are slipping into melt down mode and that you need to chill.  For our family it is “I’m Watching” feel free to use it but honestly it does work best if it is something personal to your family and situation.  Oh and please do caution your loved ones that over use of the code word will ruin its effectiveness.
Ingrid Michaelson – You and I
3.  Find ways for you to chill when you’re getting to your boiling point.  A few things that worked well for me was to first learn to become more aware of when you are merely a little hot under the collar vs. steaming mad.  This will take practice and time.  Once that is identified fall back on your list of chill.  Don’t have one of those?  Well of course not, at least not yet. But number 4 is going to help you with that.
Awolnation – All I Need
4. Make your personal list of chill and keep it on you at all times.  If you think it will help print off copies and place them in strategic places in your environment.  The dashboard of your car.  The inside of your kids closet for when you are searching for that missing shoe. Next to the computer.  Wherever you feel you are going to need it most.  Remember yours is going to be different from mine, it needs to be the things that calm YOU down. Below is my list to be used as a point of reference.
  • Look at your child and remember they are the one and only them and you only get one shot at raising them.  In life there are no re-do’s!
  • Listen to your chill album.
  • Change the environment.  Go outside, different room, stand on your head.
  • Ask yourself why you are angry.  Are you being selfish or lazy?  Is this a real problem or just annoying?
  • Remember that you do not get to pick your child’s memories.  At any moment you may be making a permanent lasting impression.
  • If you have already screamed remember it is ok to apologize and then explain why you are angry.
  • Is there a way to take a break from this situation?  Then do it.
  • You have permission to be angry or upset, you do not have permission to blow your top.
  • If it is not a real problem then LET IT GO and go do something fun with them instead.
Yael Naim – New Soul
5. What is a chill album?  So glad you asked.  For me music can have a very soothing effect.  If the same is true for you then make a play list of songs that can almost instantly put you in a good mood.  Your list should change around as often as your current favorites change.  I have a few tried and trues that stick around but for the most part there are usually at least one or two new songs that get switched out with older ones monthly.  The songs I have been sharing in this post are from my current chill album play list.
Middle Class Rut – New Low
(Video not appropriate for young children)
Need more?
  • Try forming a new habit, this time a good one, of daily meditation or prayer.
  • Are you a stay at home mom? Get outside, yes, every day.  Even if it is only to check the mail, just take a moment to notice the clouds or the scent of freshly mown grass.  Anything to connect you to a larger world than just the one inside your own four walls.
  • Find a hobby that relaxes you, practice it as often as possible.
  • Give yourself permission to get a babysitter and go out for a few hours.  I personally have a very short list of people willing to watch my 7 children for me, I think the sheer numbers scare them.  Even so it can be done if you are determined.  I usually average about 2 times a month sans kids, which is arguably not much but certainly better than never.
  • Print out photos of yourself during happy moments with your loved ones, real moments during your life not from a photo shoot.  Frame them around your house with little reminders stenciled on the glass or frame.  Remember this moment.  Happiness is a choice.  Make your days worth remembering.  Don’t have any of those type of photos?  Then take them as soon as possible.  Your children deserve to have a lasting physical memory of you with them during their childhood.

My three-year old daughter, Elizabeth. She is also a screamer by nature.

Michael Franti & Spearhead – The Sound of Sunshine
In closing I would like to address something very important.  Failing to have ever learned proper anger management is a very common problem and nothing to be ashamed of.  Something else that is very common and nothing to be ashamed of is a mental health condition.  I have dear loved ones and very close friends that have various mental illnesses.  That does not make them a bad person, or me a better person.  It does not make them weak, nor does it mean they love their children any less than I do mine.  If you suspect that your anger may be something beyond your control please seek help.  I have watched lovely human beings crumble to near collapse only to rise like a phoenix with proper medication and therapy.  You have a right to be happy and your children have a right to see you that way.
One of my sisters is schizophrenic and I love her very much.  I wish every day that we would have known to get her help sooner before her life was nearly destroyed.  Please, if you need help reach out and get it.
You do not have to suffer needlessly.
1-800-950-NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill helpline)
*This post was originally posted by Sasha on her private blog One Rich Mother as part of a Mindful Mama Blog Carnival hosted by the every peaceful and inspiring Zoie that writes the blog TouchstoneZ.

Because Sometimes It Is Someones Fault.

Ryan and Susan Gatti’s baby girl  Rebecca will never live a normal life and it is Dr. William J. Erwin’s fault.

Teresa Bailey’s baby boy died and not only was it Sharp Mary Birch Hospital’s fault but they also tried to blatantly lie about it.

Dr. Leonard Bienkowski is responsible for the death of Sandra and John Ketterman’s baby boy Benjamin.

If your baby died or was injured due to negligence what would you do to make sure that the parties responsible were held accountable?

What would you do if someones incompetence was the direct cause for the death of your baby?

How far would you go to see justice served and to make sure no other mothers and babies were put in harm’s way by those responsible?

What lengths would you go to make sure that yours was the last baby to die under their watch?

What if the person in question was a well-respected and trusted health care professional in your area and  many of the women you know have had babies with them and LOVED the treatment they received?

Now take all of those questions and apply them to a homebirth setting with a C.P.M.

What would you do?

For many reading my blog, I just made you uncomfortable.

I know that I just made you uncomfortable because when I first had to ask myself that question I felt the same way.  It is sort of an unwritten rule in the AP community “Thou shall not complain about thine Midwife.” and you are absolutely not supposed to take said midwife up against a review board to try to get their licence revoked.  It may be an unpopular belief in the natural birth and AP community but sometimes a birth does need intervention.  Sometimes a peaceful loving atmosphere and a confident relaxed mother is not enough.  And when those “sometimes” situations happen you need to know that the person that has your back knows what to do.  And when that person fails you and your baby through incompetence you need to be able to have action taken against them so that they can not hurt anyone else.  After all shouldn’t the true test of someones competency be when something goes wrong and not when everything goes right?

The answer to all of this should be easy, but for many of us it is not.  This subject is wrapped up in so much baggage that our combined checked bag fees could pay off the national debt.  The conflict comes because women are sick and tired of being told how to birth.  We are tired of the doctors and nurses that have grown complacent and lazy in the medical field looking at us like we are a product on an assembly line.  We are fed up with hospitals telling us we have to lay down with our feet in stirrups to push our babies out, sick to our stomach with being told we are not going to “win a medal” for having natural childbirth and for us to shut up get the epidural and go along with the program.  We want to scream in frustration at the doctors who really do believe that 39 weeks gestation is “close enough”.

For many of us we can no longer tolerate even one more birth were we are told to be quiet, lay down, take this, gown up, zone out and let them do all the “work”.

What I am afraid has happened is that in our zeal to improve care and empower women during birth in the U.S. that we have overlooked some things that are wrong with our alternatives.  The medicalized birthing world has a way to report negligent doctors, nurses and hospitals. Many easy to understand and to find tutorials can be found online outlining how to seek justice when mistakes are made in the medical community.  For the most part you will receive an overflow of compassion and genuine concern from those around you when you take your ob/gyn to court for malpractice that resulted in the death of your baby.  So what can we do if we need to report a health care professional in the homebirth community?  How will your friends and loved ones, that fight for and support homebirth, react when you put your homebirth midwife up for review?

I have reason to believe that it may get pretty ugly if you do.  Why do I believe this?  Because of my dear friend Liz and her and her family’s painful story of baby Aquila‘s birth and death and everything that has come after.  You would think that after what happened there would have been an outcry, from at least her local homebirth community, to have her midwife go under review and receive fitting disciplinary measures.  Sadly that is not what has happened.  She has been shunned, black listed and even booed at the hearing concerning her own child’s death.  What is more even the homebirth community at large has criticized her for being too outspoken and of being unfair to her midwife by sharing her story.

For those interested in the status of this case the previous minutes can be found on the Texas Midwifery Board website.  Liz’s case was heard in June (item 7) and again in September.

So why do I care enough about all of this to stick my own neck out for criticism by writing this?  I, after all, did not lose a child.  I don’t live anywhere near where her midwife practices. I didn’t have a homebirth go wrong, shoot I have never even had a homebirth at all.  I am, however, an advocate for natural childbirth and medical practices that treat birth as a beautiful natural act.  Basically the question is how is it any of mine or your business?

It is our business because it is important to support those who are being ridiculed and defamed unjustly.  It is important to not be so caught up in a cause, such as natural childbirth, that we lose sight of our goals.  Because if we turn against each other when one of us are at our weakest and most vulnerable it does not show our strength it shows a glaring weakness.  If the natural birth community will not demand that we hold the people that we trust with our and our babies lives accountable then how serious can we really expect to be taken?  Let us, please, hold homebirth professionals to at least the same level of accountability as we do our ob/gyn’s and other health care providers.  Let’s support each other, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Liz and Gabriel Paparella’s baby girl Aquila will never share this world with us and the Texas Midwifery Complain Board needs to hold her midwife accountable.