Washing cloth nappies – rinse, lather, rinse repeat

Washing nappies is a regular occurrence in this house (obviously) – I tend to do a load every 4th day as that makes the most sense for me to make sure that I have the nappies I need (I only have 5 night nappies and I like to have one spare just in case there’s an overnight change needed) and that I don’t overloaded the washing machine to make sure the nappies get a good wash. I’m really glad that this time around I’m not having to do a wash every other day – if you can afford it it’s definitely much nicer to have a bit of a break before having to wash-dry-put-away again…

There is a lot of advice about washing cloth nappies out there and a fair bit is outdated as vinegar is still mentioned a lot as a softener (great if you don’t mind rotting your bamboo nappies but honestly just don’t do it!). Finding a washing routine that works (and if it results in stinky nappies it’s not working) is definitely an important part of successful cloth nappying for me.

Our current detergent – I don’t exactly know why I chose this one but it’s working well so I’m not changing it!

On that basis, since our nappy wash routine is working for us, here’s what I do and why:

  • used nappy’s are stored in dry nappy buckets whilst waiting to be washed – the buckets contain the smells and are easy to clean;
  • when it’s time to wash the nappies I put them all in the machine – checking that laundry tabs are folded back on those that have velcro fasteners and that any poppers are undone (to prevent any pulling in the wash);
  • the nappies then go on a cold rinse cycle with the wash cycle turned off and a spin of 800 rpm – this gives a first pass to cleaning any pooey nappies without setting stains by using heated water;
  • I then wash the nappies on a synthetic cycle (lasts about 1 hour 40 minutes) at 40°C with a super rinse and the spin set to 800 rpm again – I use a full cap of detergent, I’m firmly in the camp that believes that nappies washed with minimal detergent will start to smell because they are dirty, nappies are full of wee and poo and I like to wash that out;
  • finally the nappies go on a final cold rinse cycle (to make sure that they are thoroughly rinsed of all detergent) at a 1000 rpm spin to get as much water out as possible to save on drying time.

Once washed nappies are line-dried (if at all possible – it’s brilliant for bleaching out any stains!) or tumbled or hung on the airer as appropriate. If you’re using cloth nappies what works for you? I think I’m a little superstitious about my routine now – I don’t want to change anything because I really don’t want to end up with stinky nappies…

Tales from the toy library

Eli playing with a great toy library borrow.

We have a local toy library. It’s a great idea – for a small fee each year you can borrow up to 5 games and toys each month. There’s a good selection, lots of baby toys as well as games and puzzles for older children.

It’s especially good for borrowing the types of toys – rocking horses, walkers, baby swings – that are expensive but aren’t really used by kids for long enough to justify the expense if you’re watching the pennies. Plus you get to see if your child actually likes a particular toy that you perhaps were thinking of buying to save yourself a costly mistake when it turns out they hate it.

Today was our monthly visit (with some baby group friends). The volunteers were on good form as usual – I’m not sure about other toy libraries but ours is primarily staffed by well-meaning middle-class women of a certain age (and apparently at least one man but I’ve not met him). When you arrive someone eventually notices you are there and demands your name and marks you in the register. All records are paper based and index cards contain all the details of the items you have borrowed along with your contact details. If there are more than one or two people borrowing/returning items chaos begins to descend. At least one volunteer will begin to flap as index cards are sought and names are muddled. I have learnt to stand back and wait because eventually calm will return and once items are returned new items can be sought.

A non-competitive game…

I particularly like to borrow games for the big kids – there’s a handful of Orchard Toys games available and these have generally been good fun (at least the first few times, perhaps not the hundredth). The one month return rule benefits me here as I can return games before they become too annoying to play again and get something new. Today I spotted something that I had to bring home – Snail’s Pace Race bills itself as a ‘non-competitive game. My kids are somewhat competitive – I wanted to see if they would thwart the worthy aims of this game.

The basic idea is that you shake the dice and move the appropriately coloured snails forward depending on the colours you roll. You try to work out which will win and the participating children cannot win nor lose themselves. Lex thought this was fun. Tilly had a tantrum because the pink snail was not winning. I suppose at least they weren’t competing against each other, only Tilly competing against the other snails… Perhaps next time I’ll borrow ‘Pop to the Shops’ again as, despite being competitive, the only tantrums were thrown when I refused to play again (and again and again).

The toys I borrowed for Eli are more successful. He enjoys the ring stacker and a good-sized bead frame. Despite owing a lot of baby toys already, Eli’s interests are slightly different to his older siblings’ and this resource means a range of toys he will love at next to no cost to me – win, win.

So, another month and we’ll be back to the toy library, I wonder what we’ll find then?

I enjoyed my job, it’s a pity it cost me more than I earned

I had my desk all personalised and everything (picking the stickers off the monitor took ages)…

When I left university I worked for a temp agency doing a bit of data entry and then, in the November (about a month after I had been offered the job) I started work full-time as a web developer within local government. I worked there, within the web team (eventually as the senior developer), for almost 11 years. On the last day of August, my last day of maternity leave, my notice period ended and my resignation was complete. I’m now a stay-at-home-parent for the forseeable future.

Choosing to resign was a difficult decision, on the plus side I:

  • liked my colleagues (except for the evil cow who tried to have me disciplined for doing my job because she was unhappy at her incompetence being highlighted in any way – yes I’m still a bit bitter, does it show?), Eli’s middle name is in remembrance of a fellow team member who passed away far too young;
  • loved the work.

However, when it came to the negatives:

  • I had to travel, by car, for at least 2 hours each day (a journey of 50 miles each way) – on a bad day, the journey could take 3 hours one way;
  • the above evil cow colleague – picking up her slack was quite irritating (I did try to support her for years but she had no intention of gaining skills and preferred getting others to do her work for her) and the grievance procedure she brought against me whilst I was very pregnant was particularly unpleasant (yes really, still a bit bitter I bet you didn’t notice);
  • local government is bureaucratic and slow – old servers, old software, no investment…
  • I didn’t actually earn anything by going to work – I effectively had to pay to go to work.

It’s the last point that swung the decision – before I had children I was in a decently paid job, after children it started costing me to go to work. I was not entitled to any help towards childcare costs and by the time I had two children my childcare costs were equivalent to my salary – and I still had to pay for petrol and car parking whilst at work!

For a while it seemed important that I maintain my career – after all when the kids were all at school childcare costs would reduce and I could start to earn again. After Eli though it just didn’t seem worth it any more, especially with the government freezing my pay for years… I really enjoyed my maternity leave and not having the stress of travel and working was lovely. So I quit. We may now be entitled to some tax credits – I may actually have more disposable income by not working!

The current situation is silly – why should it make more sense for me to stay home than to go to work? Why should I have to give up a good position with generally good pay and conditions just because childcare in the UK is so expensive?

Siblings with a bit of rivalry

Obligatory first day of school year photo – Year 2 and Reception.

My big kids like to compete with each other – if they’re not racing each other to the top of the stairs it’s a competition to see who can finish dinner first or hug Eli the most…

Generally we try to discourage the competition because it invariably ends in tears especially considering the amount of cheating that goes on. It doesn’t stop the kids being competitive though, particularly Lex who is driven to be first in everything even if it is a race to the bottom.

The competition is hotting up though in one arena – swimming – where Tilly is gaining quickly on her older brother. It’s always been important to me that my kids learn to swim well – I am half South African after all – and so both big kids have had lessons for a while. Since starting on the ‘proper’ stages (rather than the waterbaby/duckling levels) Lex has taken on average just over 2 terms to move to the next stage (he’s now on his second term of Stage 3). His lessons involve him trying to get to the bottom of the pool (not generally a regular requirement), mucking about with the other kids and trying to be the one who gets to sit on the pool ladder. Needless to say, listening to the teacher is low on his priorities and so, despite lots of early potential (and stern words from his mother), his progress is forwards but slow. Tilly is a bit different.

Tilly likes to please the teacher, listens, copies and observes. I had a bit of a quiet proud mummy moment when she was moved to Stage 1 before she had even started school. When she then passed that and was moved to Stage 2 she proved how hard she had worked over the previous term. Of course now we have an issue (for Lex) in that Tilly (age 4) is only 1 stage behind Lex (age 6).

Today was the first day of the new swimming term. I had forgotten Tilly’s goggles and so she spent most of her lesson trying to scrape the water off her face but was ever so proud that she’d managed to open her eyes under water. Lex swam like a demon. A couple of minor instances of silliness but on the whole a lot of determined swimming. He doesn’t want to end up in the same class as his sister and that is a distinct possibility if he doesn’t pull his finger out. Sometimes a bit of sibling rivalry helps you find your focus (I’m sure his teacher will be relieved).

Organisation is not my middle name

School starts tomorrow and I think we’re ready (just). I was somewhat smug earlier in the summer as I had 90% of the kids uniform bought, I’d ordered name tags and was quickly gathering the remaining uniform we needed. Unfortunately my natural tendencies towards procrastination took over and, well, today I actually did the hard work.

I’m currently nursing a mild repetitive strain injury from ironing labels onto two piles of uniform. That’s two hours of my life that I won’t be getting back and which I spent standing, moving an iron on and off of items of clothing, holding it 10-15 seconds at a time and repeating the action three times for each item. Perhaps I’ll go back to scribbling the kids’ names in biro on the labels – less resilient but much, much easier.

Having actually labelled the clothes I then needed to put it away. This sounds like a simple task but, if you’d ever seen either of my big kids’ rooms you would know that this first required me to clear a path to wardrobes and chest of drawers and the chance of me standing on a small, painful piece of Lego was still guaranteed. At least I had enough hangers – always a positive to be found.

I also found Lex’s PE bag (hidden under a pile of clothes in his wardrobe) and his recorder. The PE bag would have been easy to replace if it had stayed lost but since his plimsolls – the only size 12s we could find in town on the one day we had between him notifying us that his were too small and his next PE session – were hideously expensive (for plimsolls) and had. to. be. found. The recorder has been hidden all summer because I am a bad parent who thinks the sound of recorder practice is a form of parental torture.

So, it’s been a slightly chaotic, stressful day but we’re ready and I did have a couple of moments of school readiness brilliance over the summer:

  • most of the uniform was bought at the start of the summer (before the previous term had even ended!) and was on sale and all required sizes were in stock;
  • I ordered name tags (for the first time ever) in plenty of time (always waited too long before) and in the right quantity;
  • we went to try on shoes the week before school was due back and had enough time to order in the shoes the kids wanted (actual store selection was rubbish) and I ordered in the right alternative sizes (Tilly’s fit fine but Lex needed a half-size smaller than he was ‘measured’ as).

Roll on the new school year and I promise next year to not leave everything to the day before (ha, ha).

My daughter loves babies (especially yours)

My daughter loves babies. She loves to cuddle them, carry them, play with them, kiss them and otherwise smother them with attention. I remember being the that child too. The girl who my mum would introduce to friends with babies as ‘M, she loves babies’. I remember cuddling my baby cousins for hours, following my aunt upstairs as she went to feed them and helping at bath time. I would vie for the attention of the smallest guests at the various parties and gatherings we were dragged to as kids – taking turns with other children who loved babies. I was never scared of handling babies and I’m sure that helped me when I had my own little people to look after.

I remember all of that and how much I learned about baby care by being so interested and then I have to deal with a four-year old who ‘just want[s] to be his mummy!’. Poor Eli, she just wants to love him and I have to repeatedly say things like:

  • ‘Put him down!’
  • ‘He’s crying – that means he’s not enjoying that’
  • ‘Please let him play with his toys’
  • ‘I don’t think he wants a cuddle right now’
  • ‘Your brother is not a doll’

Of course, no matter how much Tilly loves her little brother, she loves your baby more. Eli after all is part of the furniture, your baby is like a new toy – unknown and probably smaller. I’m sorry. I am trying to teach her about personal space but it’s taking time. I know that when it’s your second, third, tenth baby you find it easier to relax in the face of her obsession with touching, cooing and toy rattling in your baby’s face (and tell her when to stop). When it’s your first I fully appreciate how big Tilly looks next to your tiny baby and how uncoordinated and dangerous she appears.

I know she’s got a few years of growing before she’ll be trusted by you to cuddle her baby for more than a few seconds but I promise that she’ll have made sure that she has loads of practise by then. My daughter loves babies and yours is most definitely the cutest she’s seen.