Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nitty Gritty

I find in parenting that the more more firm I am on an idea, the better it goes for me. On second thought this applies to life in general.

Take natural birthing. I was very firm on having a natural birth, but even more so I read books on it, practiced techniques, briefed Avram and made him help me practice techniques. And I had two natural births (although on the first one, when we first got to the hospital, I asked some random nurses aid for an epidural. She was a sweet young thing, and as I pleaded for some pain medication from her, I'm sure in her mind she was thinking, "and this is why I'll never have children." However, well-briefed Avram that he was reminded me I didn't really want pain medication, and after I calmed down and relaxed, and the nurse on duty, who happened to be like my second cousin once removed by marriage, but also more to the point happened to be a certified hypno-birthing instructor helped me to cope with labour and all was well.

Or nursing. Not that we haven't had hiccups in the whole matter (or thrush, or milk blisters, or bitings. Lots of bitings recently), but nursing was one thing that I was bound and determined to deliver on. And thus far, I have.

Co sleeping. Another parenting issue that I felt strongly about - in favor of. We co-slept with Lydia for the first fifteen months (until I weaned her), and with Elisheva for the first eight (I knew she could sleep through the night at that point; she's a much calmer baby, and I was right.)

Also, no corporal punishment. I'm sure every reader is thinking, "duh" to themselves at this point, but a generation ago, or two or three this would have been an obvious parenting technique to use. And although I personally don't believe in it, I think our parents, and great grandparents turned out into well balanced people (at least mine did - I can't really speak for yours), even with and perhaps because of their corporal punishment.

I don't believe in the cry-it-out method for little babies (the older they are the more I believe in, because then they understand why you're leaving them, and what they need to do - sleep, that is), but I also have known plenty of well-adjusted, stable families who use this method.

All of the above parenting techniques have never been hard for me to do - I believed strongly in them, and when the going got tough, even if I had small waverings, like the time I asked for an epidural, or when I read a parenting book when Lydia was two months old that said that co-sleeping with your kids was horrible, and cry it out method was the only way to produce happy children, and that listening to Instincts was wrong, because what basis did motherly instincts have next to science?, and Avram came home to find me bawling on our bed, holding Lydia and telling him what a horrible parent I was (he had told me not to read the book, that I wouldn't like it, but I'm not always good at hearkening to him). But the more strongly I've felt about a matter, the less I've ever wavered, despite what I read/talk about with other Moms.

Which finally brings me to my point. Conversely, the more confused I am about some parenting method, the more blown about I am by others. Same with everything (which I'll get to in a moment concerning buying houses).

Let's talk about cloth diapers. I got the idea of using them from my Mom, who used them all on us, and my sister, and the fact that they are more green to the environment. They also are supposed to be cheaper (my Mom says after using them on the first one, since you don't have to pay set up costs after the first time). And so while in England I determined to buy cloth diapers if we moved somewhere with a washer and dryer. Which we, finally as of three weeks ago, have. So I switched over. Over the summer, when we were living with Avram's parents I put Lydia in cloth diapers for the last couple weeks we were there. It was great! Of course, his mom was changing about half her diapers, and Elisheva was still in disposables (we couldn't find diaper covers in her size), and Lydia still wore disposables for bed, per Avram's mom's recommendation.

Using them this time around? Hasn't been so great. I don't have hardly any fancy diapers - just the basic prefolds. And having been used to using disposables I have a hard time remembering to change the cloth ones often enough. And I was sick enough of changing two cloth diapers to try (seriously try, with a naked toddler, and what we'll call the Great Poop Incident of 2009 that occurred in Lydia's bedroom, all over the floor) potty training Lydia. But Lydia, bless her, has had a slow, uphill battle in recognizing her body's signals. She's not willful, and it's not a power struggle for her. She loves underwear, she loves her toilet, and she's game for sitting on it. She thinks a simple sticker stuck on a chart for successes is the ultimate in rewards. But....after three days training, she went back to diapers (although we still have her sit on her little toilet every day. And she has more training vocabulary than ever before). [Potty training is another method I am blown about by the winds of friends, acquaintances, family members, and books I read. In the same day I may be heard to say, and believe, that Lydia will train when she's ready, and I shouldn't rush it for artificial deadlines, and also that it's time to train Lydia, that three year olds are old enough, that I need to just follow the method of sitting on the toilet every hour and it'll all fall into place.]

As well, Elisheva, who had been sleeping completely through the night, began waking up ever couple of hours. Not fun. Finally two nights ago we tried putting her in a disposable at five am, because we were out of other ideas as to why she was so upset. And she went immediately to sleep. And slept in her crib until 8:30 in the morning. And then last night, in a disposable, she slept through the night again.

But then I remember the landfills. And the cost of buying diapers for two children every month. And as the washer currently washes a load, I remember that it's really not all that hard to dump a load in every day or two, and that so what if that's a lot more body products I get up close and personal with - I'm already up to my eyeballs in poop as a mom enough as it is. But then I remember how I dreaded changing times. Not because they're that bad in the individual, or that much harder. But Lydia doesn't like her diaper covers, so will try and bargain for no cover. And cloth diapers need to be changed so much more often (which I'm really bad at remembering, so often their clothes will get wet, so we usually go through two outfits a day currently).

I find myself secretly hoping that our electrical bill will be phenomenal, and then I'll be able to secretly justify buying diapers. Because as of yesterday, I started putting the girls in disposables again. I know my fickle ways enough to not promise this is a permanent change, and that I'll never move back into cloth again. More that at this very moment, I lack the fortitude to be a cloth diaper woman. I am shamed. In talking to my sister Camilla about this on the phone yesterday, I told her that one of the reasons I hadn't switched back to disposables yet was that I didn't want to have to post it on my blog, after having been all pro green (I still use reusable grocery bags; does that help? And we only have one car, which according to the calculator that the Government puts out (which was really neat-o and you should all visit) almost half our emissions originate from our having a car, even driving it as few miles as we do a year. Sadly, recycling, while helping offset emissions, helped a lot less than I hoped it would. So lesson learned? If you're a two car family, and if you can, get rid of one car and you'll already be a lot more environmentally friendly).

Camilla didn't understand why I felt a need to put it on my blog at all, but I feel I have a responsibility to all of you to not only tell you about matters I feel strongly about and that go well, but also when things in my life don't go so well. Not that I need to be negative, but I do need to be honest. And things ain't going so well. Except that now they are, because my kids are back in disposables, and I feel a great peace of mind, or at least I would if I didn't worry that all of you would be secretly laughing up your sleeves at me, and thinking that you always thought I was a bust anyhow. So don't laugh up your sleeve at me, okay? Okay.

The other area of my life that I'm wishy-washy about (yes, I know you're thinking, "there's more? Haven't we had enough true confessional of Thora yet today? Well, my kids are asleep and Avram's gone, so you'll just have to bear the brunt of my over analyzing mind, so tough. Plus I once wrote a blog post for three hours straight, that equaled out to more than eight pages long single spaced (it was my birthing post for Elisheva), so this is nothing) is about house buying. Four days ago I decided that we most definitely should and would buy a house next year. I had been talking to women in the ward about how a house is a good investment, and we would be here for another five years, and renting wouldn't make sense for that long, and they completely supported me in buying a house, and pointed out all of the advantages of one (these same women also made me feel better for Lydia not potty training yet (which really, really helped me), so it's not their lack of judgment, it's my lack of backbone for any decision I make).

I came home and I looked up houses on the Internet, I began figuring out house payments on various mortgages, and Avram agreed if I left him alone until the end of January that he would come back with his professional opinion on house buying, after I had giving him some time to consult with others and to read about it all.

Fast forward a few days, when I read a "How to Escape the Bondage of Debt" book that my Dad and stepmom gave us for Christmas (it wasn't personal; they gave it to all their kids), and as I read the chapter on Mortgages, I became aghast at all the ways you can end up paying a lot of extra money, pointless money, for a really long time. What with points, and closing costs, and escrow accounts and 80/20 mortgages with interest only payments on the 20 and balloon payments, and then of course there are adjustable rate mortgages. Yesterday I had two different conversations with two of my sisters about their mortgages, and both of them had at least one of the money sucking mortgage problems. Then I got on the computer, and using amortization calculators, figured out how much equity we would build in a house (not taking into account any raises in a homes value, since you can't count on that either way) over five years, and it was a very small and depressing number that wouldn't even offset any closing costs.

Meanwhile, I also took the time to tabulate all of our debt, and figure out where we are with it. It's only student loan debt, and it's basically all not earning any interest, and meanwhile we're paying $250 a month on it (well to Avram's grandpa, who lent us our rent money in England, and over the next two years we're paying it back). We're $33,000 in debt (okay, so I know it's gauche to write out money amounts, but honestly, I think I may be a gauche sort of person.). It's all schooling debt, but if we continue to pay it off at $250 a month until Avram graduates, then we'll only have $15,000 left. At that point if we can pay $500 off a month, we'll be completely out of debt within three years. Three years. That sounds very nice and appealing to me. But if we buy a house, that extra money would have to go to mortgage payments, where we wouldn't even be making enough equity to break even at the end.

So now I am gung-ho let's pay off all our debts and everything will be lovely. Who needs a house? Me, not me. I love apartments. Plus....(I know, can there be any more? There can) Avram is currently applying for a fellowship for next year with no teaching responsibilities (otherwise he'll be teaching next year for his stipend, which isn't a bad thing either because then he'll get to probably teach a class on Egyptian and Sumerian mythology, and how cool is that?), and if he gets it, and if they allow it, etc, etc, we'd go to Israel next year and Avram would spend the year studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Which adds another whole aspect into the home buying/debt paying off/neither but we're having a world experience in Israel merry-go-round of my life.

See, and I've always wanted to go to Israel. My journals from college, besides always mentioning, at least five times a page, wanting to marry Dennis, my missionary, (whom, in case you're really slow on the uptake, I did not marry, as my husband's name is Avram), also incessantly talk about various plans I have to visit Israel. None of them worked out, but this was a major guiding influence in why I did a study abroad to Egypt, which in turn accounts for 8,400 of said previous debt, although I can't be all mad that I went, because it was in Egypt that I realized that I truly wanted to marry Avram, and I broke up with the then RM Dennis and got engaged long distance to Avram (someday I really should write this story down. If I get anyone to ask me nicely I just may. Hint, hint). But as I told Avram, one of the reasons I married his was that he would take me to Jerusalem someday. And I'm completely serious on this, too. And it would be a paid for trip, since he would still receive his stipend there. And more important than my deep yearning in my omphalos for the great omphalos of the world, Avram really needs to study lots of Biblical Hebrew, and Hebrew University is the best place in the world for that. And it would be great for him being more competitive when it comes time to apply for Jobs.

But....packing up all of our stuff, again? Moving a family of four across continents, with minimal luggage each, again? Jumping through the hoops of visas (at least we have our passports), and airfair (we're talking about $5,000 for the whole family) and trying to find a completely furnished apartment, not to mention we really like being settled here in Ohio, and although we'd come right back the next year, it would be a lot of bother. And I like my stuff. I really, really like it. I like having couches, instead of just two chairs, and I like having a queen size bed instead of two twins pushed together, and I like my wall hangings and my decorations and, and, (okay, I know I'm just whining now). Life in England often felt very, barren, because we had so little, and in England we were living mainly off of debt, and so we never went almost anywhere or did anything because then we'd have more debt, so I spent a lot of time sitting in our attic flat, staring out the window, on the Internets (hello to the birth of my now waning Internet blog addiction). Not to mention I was pregnant most of the time we were there.

I remind myself that I shouldn't be old and stuffy and materialistic, and who wouldn't pass up the opportunity to travel internationally and experience other cultures (my husband, that's who. He's not a fan of travel. Although he loves studying about other places, and thinks it's neat to actually partake of other places - it's all the associated travel and headache and being a stupid Yankee monkey that he hates), and that this time we wouldn't have to go into debt, and that I wouldn't be pregnant (because I wouldn't. Which would mean that our next kid would liably at least three years younger than Elisheva, which makes me sad, but that's life I guess.)

Of course, this is all preliminary, and probably today Avram will come home and say that this fellowship, even assuming he gets it, can only be used on the OSU campus, and that's why I haven't written about this before, although he began applying on Monday. But I'm nothing if not a preliminary person.

So in summary; potty training and sleeping through the night were the diapers that broke the cloth diaper's back, and we're back to using disposables. Also, I'm wishy washy person, because sometimes I want a house, and sometimes, especially currently, I want to pay off all our debt as soon as possible, and finally sometimes I want to do neither, but instead do a second international jaunt, this time to Israel, although secretly I'm a wimp and never want to move again.


  1. I am so glad I am not the only person in the world who is wishy washy. Only my type of wishy washy makes me never do anything. so...your two steps ahead of the game. (I just felt like using that phrase, and I am not sure if its actually what I mean to say, but your doing alright!) I love you!

  2. ahhh a good ol thora post. i love you! I always wanted to go to jerusalem too so i think you should go. and it will be a big huge anoying thing to get there and find housing and such but in the end i think you will enjoy and not regret it. but seriusly good luck arranging all of it! I am stressed out about just moving to oklahoma and then three months after moving to texas and it involves no airplanes or new cultures or languages. Although i must admit the part that is really stressing me out is the part where i have to deal with my stupid house. so yay for apartments. i wish we were in one of those instead! right now if we sold our house after owning it for 18 months and buying for 163k and selling for 164k we would actually come out negative 6k. and i hate that we are going to lose that 6 k if we sell. when we were in an apartment everyone said it made sence to buy a house. no one told me about all the closing costs to get in and then to get out again and things like you basically are paying all taxes and interest and blah blah blah and a verry small amount of the money actually goes to principle. so we actually would have more money in savings if we stayed in an apartment. i will never buy a house again unless i will be in it for at least 10 years because other wise its not worth it financially and not worth it for the hassle of selling ( which i have to do for sale by owner because i cant afford the 10 grand for a real estate agent)

  3. my goodness i am a long winded commenter. sorry!

  4. I like your long posts a lot :D

    Thanks for the info about housebuying -I had no idea. I'm going to look into this some more.

    And I agree with all of your parenting choices.

    p.s. my mom used disposables overnight on at least her younger babies.

  5. Just remember, these are the days you'll look back on when all your kids are moved out wishing you had just slowed down and enjoyed them when they were little. :) I keep telling myself that.

    P.S. Jessica and I are playing the whole house game as well. My advice: go to Jerusalem if you can. Otherwise you will always regret it.

  6. I am trying to claim the blessing from the temple which says I will be able to discern between truth and error. I've been trying to diet and eat more healthy. I am getting the eat more healthy but my body doesn't realize it is supposed to lose weight in the process. I more I read about it, the more I am overwhelmed with diverse opinions and feel more and more confused--hence wanting to claim the temple promise. The kind of struggle/confusion you are going through seems to be a common one throughout life.

  7. I totally agree with you on the diapers. Cloth ones are green and you are super awesome to try them. But if they don't work, then don't guilt yourself over them when you have a reasonable alternative.

    I also agree on the car. One or zero is best. But zero is hard. So one.

    I am more with Avram on the travel thing myself, but do agree that you should go to Israel if you get the chance. Although I hate travel, I'm already planning my next leave in Australia.

    And since you may be leaving in a year, I'll agree with the house. We bought a house for the 3 years we were in Austin, and then sold for 50K more than we paid. Great return on investment, eh? Except when we added up repairs, taxes, realtor fees, mortgage interest, and improvements to the Texas house, and compared to the cost of renting in Austin, we found we basically broke even. I'm still glad we bought -- I liked repainting and decorating and turning the house into my own. But it wasn't a good *investment*.

    So I'd only jump into home buying if you want to, if you'll be using it, if you have time and inclination to do repairs and maintenance on your own, and if you have enough of a down payment to avoid bad loans. Not an investment.

    Anyway, that's my $0.02 on home buying.

    (Holy cow this is a long comment! I'll stop.)

  8. Why don't we get together more often (actually, Jeff and I are probably going to invite you guys over tonight... if I recover from a REALLY long week of babysitting by then)? We talk about almost the exact same things-- especially buying a house. We were sure we would move here and only stay in an apartment for a little while until we found a nice condo or small home to buy. When we got here, though, we realized that not only can we NOT go into debt at all if we don't buy a house, but we can a save a little bit in the meantime. Renting is just so easy too. We never have to fix anything. We only pay for electricity. I don't know if I could handle the responsibility of managing a house (read: house, not home, as I am trying really hard to manage a good home). Also, Jeff is applying for a grant that would take our family to the Czech Republic next year so that sounds a lot like your Jerusalem thing. Growing up is fun to do.

  9. Think of it as being flexible. Take it from a gutless flip-flopper, flexible and eclectic are excellent adjectives. Use them often.

  10. Co sleeping. I'm intrigued. We're in a one-bedroom right now and we're exploring our alternatives. I tend to be more holistic in things, so your parenting ways intrigue me. I also tend to be a big fat chicken. But most everything you've talked about so far I've at least considered: natural childbirth, cloth diapers, etc. But co sleeping is new to me. Would you care to expound on your opinions? Either in blog form or email me? (tiannahomer at gmail) (Warning: if you email me, I may end up asking you about the other stuff as well...)