Monday, March 31, 2014

Goodbye Bottles, Hello Little Girl

I didn't think I'd ever feel any nostalgia over a baby growing up, yet as I put E3's last bottles in the dishwasher recently, there was a tinge of sadness.

It was a marker of our baby growing up. Sippy cups are replacing bottles and cow milk supplementing the breast milk on which she subsisted her first year. Yes, she still wants Mommy when available, but when she's not E3 is quite happy with a cup of milk or water.

As a side note, if you've never been the caregiver for an EBF (entirely breastfed) baby, it's quite different. There were constantly bottles of milk in the refrigerator, and as emptied they needed to be washed and given to Mommy to refill, even if I really didn't need to run the dishwasher. There was frozen milk in the freezer, an emergency standby supply, just in case. A lot to keep up with sometimes, but never any formula to mix, and once I got used to the different handling methods, it was great.

Beyond that, there was the fact that she absolutely, teetotally refused to eat baby food of any kind and the best we could determine it was because she didn't need it for anything. As a result, there was none of the sitting before a high chair trying to entice an infant to eat, no spoons knocked in the floor, no far flung vegetables or nasty bibs. No, when she began eating it was only the things she could put into her mouth and her first food of choice was crackers and gnawing on organic apples.

I've never been a big fan of tiny babies. Their utter helplessness, neediness, and inability to grasp what has happened to life as they knew it from the time their little brains engaged until birth always overwhelmed me. I spent six weeks home with my two children when they were born, and was dying to get back to work before I totally lost my mind. Yet, when I was working from home and my daughter began having children, I took on the dreaded task of time alone with tiny people again. Not once, but three times, each time dreading it as much as if I'd never spent time with a baby.

I much prefer them after they're functioning in an upright position, so any trace of regret at the tangible end of infancy is a bit baffling.

A bit of it, I'm sure, comes from the feeling that she's the last grandchild. There was always that expectation that my son would find himself and then find a woman (preferably in that order) and have the children he wanted and I had already girded my loins to be grandma babysitter again. Now I know that won't happen.

Part of it is that just as losing bottles means she's growing, it means I'm getting older as well. So are her sisters and everyone else I care about as far as that goes. All too soon the house where I never had any time because of three demanding little girls will be the house where I have too much time because I'll still work from home and they will all be off at school.

Just as five or six years ago, I could not have imagined how my life would be today, I cannot imagine how my life will be in five years when they're all marching through the doors of a school each morning instead of being dropped off at Ma's house. But then again, that's not necessarily a bad thing, because other than the tsunami that losing my son has proved to be, the last five years have been a worthwhile adventure.

Still, putting away the bottles is a mixture of relief and nostalgia.

No more bottle parts to take apart and sanitize in the dishwasher, no bottles to heat, no forgotten milk to worry about. But at the same time, no more long snuggles over a bottle that segues into a nap, no sweet milky breath and milk drunk babies with a pleasantly baffled expression.

Instead, I have E3, who has already mastered climbing onto the craft table and yelling for help, who chose "bad" as one of her first words, who generally melts into tears and drama if she even senses the word "no" in your voice. I have the crayon chewer who nevertheless feels she should be part of coloring activities, in fact of all activities that involve her older sisters. The still dark-haired child who usually looks so much like her mother, then assumes an expression in which she becomes a whole different person.

Yes, I'm sad to bid goodbye to the baby who was so different from her sisters, but I'm also anxious to meet the little person she is fast becoming. I want to see where she fits in the puzzle of her family life, the niche she fills between her sisters, the role she takes as her own as she grows.

So as I wash and put away the last of E3's bottles, I'm trying not to dwell too much on what is behind us. We still have a lot in front of us and much to learn about one another, just as I'm still learning about her wonderful sisters. Yes, the baby is really gone, but the wonderful little girl taking her place will be even more fun and more of an adventure.

Besides there's nothing that says she absolutely has to be the last baby. (Don't get me wrong, oh daughter of mine. That does not mean we need another to fill her place now.) I know people who are caring for their great-grandchildren. So while I'm in absolutely no hurry to see our little girls grown, I guess I'd best take care of myself in the meantime.

We never know what the future will hold.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Going Crunchy Starting at the Top

I started out what I found later to be a journey to crunchy living by ditching my shampoo a year ago.

I could preface that by saying I've always had a love/hate relationship with my hair. It's thick and curly and was totally not the hair to have in the '70s when I was a teenager and the plethora of conditioners and styling products most curly haired folks use today was unavailable. I remember the thick, unruly mop it was most days and my first shag haircut. I still remember trying to get my locks to wrap around a brush to use a blow dryer for the Farrah Fawcett look -- I also remember the boy who nailed it every day. But that's another story.

Somewhere in my later high school years I despaired of ever getting along with my hair and cut it off -- myself. I watched the stylist cut my mother's hair and began doing it for her. It's a wonder, I guess, that I now groom dogs instead of people but somehow I was never led that way.

Instead for years I regularly cut, colored, and highlighted my own hair and that of my children, neither of whom ever had professional care for their hair while they lived at home. That just makes it somewhat ironic that my daughter's mother-in-law is a master cosmetologist and my granddaughters have always had their hair professionally trimmed.

Sometime in my 40s I stumbled -- one might say literally, since I had fallen and broken my right arm and was in a cast past my elbow -- into professional hair care. I could not wash my own hair and, one step short of going insane, went to a stylist to have whoever was available do it for me. One thing led to another and I had highlights and regular blow drys, consistent professional care not just for the six weeks I was in a cast, but beyond. All that ended when I went in and the man who'd been doing my temperamental hair handled it as though he'd never seen it and I wound up with bad streaks and straw.

After that I tried a few other stylists but not with any regularity and the end of my journalism career, the loss of the easily wasted income and no need to look professional for the folks I encountered every day ended all that.

But professionals aside, I have never finished a bottle of shampoo and gone back to the store for another bottle of the same kind. The same for conditioner. In fact, I seldom finished a bottle of either because they would never quite do what I wanted and some new product would catch my eye. Gels, mousses and other treatments faced the same fate. Nothing made my hair happy for long.

When I began building my Kindle library with free books (I now have hundreds and have paid for very few and may never borrow from a brick and mortar library again) I found a book entitled Hair Gone Wild by Diane Kidman (the link is to the paperback version)free one day and downloaded it. When I started reading, her hair sounded much like my own and I was inspired to ditch my shampoo, conditioner and everything else I used on my hair. I went with natural alternatives I found in her book for everything and loaded up all my products and gave them away.

I went no-poo. Following Kidman's advice, I mix about a tablespoon of baking soda into water in an old conditioner bottle. That's my wash. It's applied to wet hair, worked in and left for about a minute and a half (or while I wash my face in the shower). After it is rinsed out, I follow it with a splash of apple cider vinegar diluted in an old coffee cup. That's it. I'm done.

I'll admit I missed the wonderful fragrances of shampoos and and to a lesser degree the lather (but since I'd already dumped sulfate shampoos there was less of that any way). But my hair became healthier, more manageable, and occasionally even shiny without products.

As time went on, I've added to my repertoire. I have aloe vera gel (the big bottle of pure stuff you might get for a sunburn), which is great for an itchy scalp. Dealing with dry hair early in the winter, I found a recipe for a spray made with aloe vera, glycerine diluted with water,(ratio of 1:1:2) and a few drops of essential oil, that is on hand for times my hair and scalp have just been dry. I also keep a big bear of honey in the shower and often dilute a handful and work it through my hair -- called a honey-poo. Honey dissolves in water and is not sticky in your hair and is also a great facial. A bit of coconut oil in my palm works great on a frizzy day.

My hair's texture is the best it has ever been. It is slick and generally soft to the touch, although it still has a mind of its own as far as what the curls will do on any given day. The post shower hair loss I'd always experienced stopped almost immediately -- you know the big wad that fills up your comb and drain, it's gone. Although it had never worried me because I have so much hair (thanks to genetics from my dad's mother, the Amburns or Burchams one), seeing less hair come out told me it was better for my hair.

Thanks to my daughter and my introduction to crunchy blogs and Pinterest boards, I'm expanding into new products and finding new ways to naturally nourish my hair. I keep baking soda, vinegar and honey in the bathroom and don't expect I'll ever buy shampoo or chemically treat my hair again.

I know her results have been different as she loved her hair with shampoo and products, and not everyone's hair is the same. I had no hair adjustment period as the book warned me, my daughter is still looking for the right mix for her mid-back length hair (but even she's noticed less on her comb and admits regular commercial shampoo isn't the best option).

So if you're never really happy with your hair, considering healthier lifestyle options all around, or wondering what the heck the ingredients in your shampoo may actually be doing to you, consider going crunchy. Look for some resources, free or otherwise, and jump in. You may be glad you did.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Wrestling with My Guilt And Losing

When you lose someone to suicide or drugs, when they push the self-destruct button on their lives, it's much like a blundering suicide bomber has invaded a family gathering.

While they are the only ones who die, what's left are the walking wounded. We shuffle around one another trying not to step on someone's feelings and all suffering from the same emotional trauma. For the most part, we don't talk about our pain, or in this kind of death our guilt, because we know everyone else is hurting, and so what has already wrecked us becomes a wedge in our family.

We're all mourning the death of someone else -- a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, a stepson -- and at the same time each and every one of us thinks 1) that we should have been able to do something to save them or 2) someone else in the family should have done something differently. It tears us apart in a hundred different ways that go beyond the fairly simple fact of a death.

This morning I realized that often times by putting my thoughts into words I've been better able to deal with them, even if I wind up being repetitious, so I'm taking a stab at guilt -- beyond anger to remorse and a black tide that wants to swallow me whole.

Rationally, Ethan was an adult, free-minded individual who made his own choices. Telling myself that simple fact over and over does not change how I feel.

There are times when I'm drowning in regrets over things that, even had I done them differently, come with no guarantee of a different place today. Hindsight is not, as they say, 20/20.

So to get them off my chest, to perhaps find a measure of freedom from them, here's what I regret today, the questions that plague me:

Why did I let his father off the hook? No child support and no visits. Why didn't I force him into one and nag him into the other? Two weekends when Ethan was big enough to care hardly count as being a father. They lived only a few miles apart the last couple of years, yet... no, this is where I want to blame someone else and this is my guilt I'm wallowing in.

Why didn't I realize he was different in ways that needed help? Why didn't I recognize that the hesitancy and reluctance to enter a lot of situations meant there was something going on in his head that could have been corrected? Why didn't I force him to take some of the Duke TIP programs that would have stretched his mind beyond local friends and the boundaries of his school and home? Why didn't I insist on the AP classes when he started high school, so that he might have found more excitement in learning? Why didn't I do more to broaden his horizons beyond the two close friends who later traveled the path of addiction with him? (And now I remember encouraging him to go home with other kids after school and during the summer, I remember the arguments over AP classes, I remember how quickly he fled from the TIP brochure, how he sat silent during counseling sessions. I remember his joy in excelling at skateboarding with his friends, wild sleepovers when they were as normal as boys could be with dirt and sweat and random mischief.)

Why didn't I realize when he called me at work and I was on deadline and what he wanted to talk endlessly about wasn't even important to him, that there was probably something on the autism spectrum going on in his head? Why didn't I see that neediness for me and his general asocial behavior as a symptom of something more than just a teen uncertain about his direction and unwilling to follow the herd? Why didn't the counselors he did spend time with see through his brilliant bullshit and help me find the real problem?

Why didn't I realize that his friend wasn't experimenting with drugs alone? Why didn't I keep his room clean so I would have quickly found the evidence of what he was doing? Why couldn't I find the time to spend more time with him, even if it meant forcing him out of his world and into mine more often? Why didn't I learn to play the video games he liked once he cast aside the ones I could handle? (And I remember the fights, trying to clean his room and learn the games I couldn't understand, the frustration of watching who he was becoming.)

Why didn't I find a way to make him come home and do what he should have been doing at 16? Taking driver's ed, going to class, getting a job? (I tend to forget how hard I tried when I'm on my guilt trip.)

Why didn't I make him go to rehab? Never mind that I know it doesn't work until the person going wants it to work, and he claimed he never wanted to stop and never asked for help. At least I'd have the bills to assuage my guilt.

Why did I make him move out after graduating and finally getting his license? Why did I think making him take responsibility for himself would help? Why was I afraid I'd wind up like some of the murders I covered with a grieving son crying because he was drunk or high and shot his mother? Why do my most vivid memories often include his rage and my fear, and my uncertainty still over what might have happened?

Why couldn't I make him see what a wonderful, beautiful, delightful person he was when he was drug free? Why wasn't that enough to make him want to become that person all the time?

Why didn't I see him every chance I had? When he was in jail? When he lived only 10-15 minutes away? When I could have seen him or held him, why didn't I go out of my way to make it happen?

Why didn't I drive and get him more and take him to do things? Even if it meant a 30-minute drive and him deciding he didn't want to at the last minute, or not even coming to the door, so that I could just turn around, at least I'd know I tried.

Why didn't I say yes, I'd buy him anything he wanted for Christmas, even though he was virtually homeless and needed to be worrying about something other than a PS4, the last time we talked? He still wouldn't have gotten it, but that last conversation would have held a different place in my memory.

Why didn't I say do a welfare check or have it done myself when my mom was worried about him nearly a week before he was found dead? He was probably already dead, but at least I could have seen him to say goodbye.

Why couldn't love save him? Why couldn't I? Why weren't my prayers enough for God to heal him? Was I so bad that what I sought couldn't be given? Did I do something that punished my child in his life and me with his death?

There it is, my guilty questions that I pull out regularly for self flagellation. When I look at them rationally, there was really very little I could do differently. The boy/man I was dealing with wasn't some malleable person to be easily pushed and pulled in the direction I wanted him to go. I wanted him to think for himself, to be an individual, to make his own choices so they would be his to celebrate or regret. I did not know that although he proclaimed himself a loner, he was in fact a part of a very small, unhealthy herd and craved their support and companionship even more than being true to himself. I often think now that the failure to be true to himself was what killed him, what drove him to escape himself and travel a dark and ultimately lonely path to destruction.

When I look back at these things I have to remind myself that they didn't happen in vacuum where only he and I existed. When he was young, I had a tough demanding job that meant long hours but also kept a roof over our heads and food on the table. Then I was struggling with losing my career and trying to build a business to help pay the bills I'd always had money to pay. For years now I've worked 7 days a week and had no vacation. I've become a grandmother and been responsible for the workday care of three small children. I have a home, a husband, a yard, and in good years a garden.

I didn't know the hourglass of his life was going to run out before I had time to get through the other stress in my life. I always thought he'd get tired of the way he was living, instead of deciding that was the way he was going to live until he died.

I never thought he'd be gone at 23 and that all the love and life and laughter that he brought to every family gathering, that he could muster up for special occasions, would be gone.

I don't want to admit my powerlessness over life and death, and so instead I choose to wrestle with my guilt occasionally. I hope one day to put more of it away, but there will always be a bit left because I am his mother, and a mother takes care of her children, somehow, beyond rhyme or reason or even rationality.

That's the legacy of his death that I'll carry to my grave.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Envious of Those Who Have What I Lost

We are told not to covet in the Bible, so I know it's wrong.

But sometimes, I'm so envious of mothers and sons that it hurts. I want that back, even if it is some "that" I never really had. I wanted those moments with my son, those moments stolen by bad choices and addiction, those moments forfeited to confusion and fear.

A group of healthy young men sitting together at church doing what healthy young men do can push me to tears. A mother hugging her son makes me turn away in pain. Boys of all ages make me want to reach out and somehow save them, but of course teens and young men are the worst. They bring back the loss along with the dreams.

I gravitate toward those wounded like me, those who have lost children, especially sons, to illnesses or sudden tragedies, or who are struggling with the knowledge that the phone call I got could be the one they get tomorrow. We huddle together when we meet, or we reach across the miles to one another through Google+ and Facebook and prop each other up as we try to stumble through our lives. We're like lepers, hiding our disease so we can blend in with the rest of society, but only truly safe and able to be ourselves when we are together and can let down our pretenses that life is anywhere near what we want it to be.

We're a secret society, like Masons, where everyone knows you're a member, but they don't really know what you do. There's no secret handshake or special ring to wear and we don't have benefit pancake suppers where the rest of the world gets to visit our special hall, but there's one hell of an initiation ceremony and it's a lifetime membership with dues paid daily.

We all wish we weren't members, but we wouldn't force anyone to take our place even if we had the option, because it's that horrible.

All the same, we look at other mothers with their "normal" children, particularly those at or near the age when we last held our own, and it's hard not to be covetous of someone else's life.

Sometimes that life is one we know only through that same social media that connects us with one another. It's a friend sharing the fact she's had a meal with her son, that her son is home from college for spring break, that he's getting married, or had a birthday. It's those little, everyday things we expected to happen or took for granted and never thought a thing about that break our hearts because they're as gone as the snow that fell earlier this week and vanished by midafternoon, leaving nothing but memories and mud.

Yet I know, even as I covet these moments of celebration, that they aren't the whole picture, and they may be hiding secrets as painful as those I once hid.

One of my new friends (a probationary member of the club who is still living a life where she clings to hope) posted a picture of her son's birthday not long ago. He was just a year older than Ethan would have been in a few weeks. The post made me cry, because he was here to celebrate his birthday and there was probably a family get together and hugs and love and all the things I miss so badly.

She messaged me a few days later that he was losing his battle with drugs again and the thread to happiness was unraveling.

It was easy, when I saw her happiness, to forget for a little while that fear she lives with every day. The fear I lived with for years; the fear that this time he won't come back and there won't be more birthdays or holidays or hugs or even tomorrows. Her honesty reminded me of all the pain, and I wouldn't trade places with her for the chance to hold Ethan one more time and then lose him all over again. The road this far has been too hard for me to ever want to start over.

So I watch other mothers hug their sons while my own ache to do so, trying not to envy them their moments when I don't know their reality or what their life holds. Instead, when I get the chance, I urge them to hug their children, boys and girls, and savor the moments because none of us knows how suddenly the future can be snatched away.

None of us knows when we'll be left with what we really had all along, our dreams and memories, our prayers and faith, and the task of making it through another day struggling to figure out what it all means with empty arms and no one to lean on but each other and God.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Random, and Not So Random, Joy in My Week

There have been times this week when my joy didn't seem as random.

I was doing things that should bring me joy, and they did, but lately that has been no guarantee. Of course, the joy wasn't always as expected.

There was a joy event -- a shopping trip to Winston with my friend and, as I call her, soul sister. Now, I'm not a shopping person and I hate to drive in Winston, but then she did the driving (score one joy) and we weren't doing a clothing shopping day, we were going to Costco and Trader Joe's and Starbucks and Krispy Kreme.

Other than being accused of actually being sisters because of some resemblance, our lives are on very different paths, but we connect in ways that are important and care about one another, even if there are big differences. It was beyond joyous to spend an afternoon talking, laughing, and indulging ourselves in the purchase of such things as large bags of dried cherries, dark chocolate quinoa bark, mega containers of greens, and an assortment of other goodies that each time we pull them out to eat will trigger a memory of the trip.

Of course, even had we not bought anything -- which some people would have considered a totally wasted trip -- it would have been a joy just to be be out, to be with someone to talk to, and to enjoy the weather which was spring advanced by a week or two from where we live.

The joy I would have liked to have captured on camera came earlier in the week, but late in the day, when I was tired, frustrated, and just wanted to be done, not going to the drive through at Dairy Queen because E1 had a coupon from school for a free child's cone.

That was one of those events that should be fun, but wasn't expected to be because it was 7:30 at night, we'd just finished the Awanas program at the nearby church, and I'd had the two small Es since before 9 a.m. that morning. I didn't want to do it, but I had mentioned it and they were insistent.

My SUV isn't ideal for a group of children, or maybe it is. E1's seat is in the center of the back seat with her little sisters on either side, because she can do more to get herself in the seat, even though the whole arrangement is a pain. When we got the cone I pulled over in the parking lot and began rotating it between the two bigger girls, both within a stretching arms length.

E3 promptly pulled her paci out and did her "I want that noise," so that she, too, became part of the rotation. But the cone was going down slowly and I wanted to get back to their mom's workplace to be ready to hand them off. That meant I needed to drive.

I gave E1 the cone and told her to share. That was when it got special. Driving down the road in the growing dark I listen to her patiently handing the cone to E2, then holding it for E3 to get a bite. It was that kind of magical time little children sometimes share when they aren't fighting over toys or pushing one another around and I couldn't even see it because I was driving.

Of course, then the top fell off the cone in E1's lap and I was really glad I asked for extra napkins -- even more so when I saw E3's face. But it was all good.

There were more random bits of joy through the week as well.

1. E3's happy exclamation when she saw the jogging stroller making its first appearance of the spring. She loved it last summer, but I didn't really think about her remembering it so enthusiastically. I took the two little Es for an after lunch stroll/jog Friday afternoon when it was t-shirt weather and remembered what a good workout it was. Of course, big dogs including Pedro went along and he did fabulously with the stroller despite having never been around one.

2. Watching E2 play big kid and help a toddler swing as her big sister used to help her. It's one of those two child swings and one who knows what she's doing can make it work for both. There were grins and squeals of delight from both.

3. Getting two large trees taken down. Usually, my husband and I do our own tree cutting and sawing -- I love running a chainsaw. But between his six-day work schedule and the fact that he broke his arm four weeks ago, we had two trees still standing that I did not want to go through another summer with even though I hated to give either of them up. One was a giant, damaged poplar that shaded the kennel yard and worried me every time a summer storm blew through because it lost a limb that didn't heal and was weak. I hired someone to take it down, and it also took down a section of fence and damaged some pavement, but it's down and the building is intact. The second was a beautiful maple that just provided shade in the wrong place, casting a dark shadow over the level spot where we pop up a pool in the summer. It had to be gone before we put the pool up this year and we gave it away for firewood to a friend/neighbor who dropped it perfectly in my front yard. I helped him cut it up and have nothing but brush and a stump to remember it by.

4. Flowers that simultaneously made me cry. The crocus and budding daffodils pictured above were planted by Ethan at the homeless shelter where he lived and were shared by the shelter on Facebook. They're a reminder of what's gone, what's left behind, and that a lot of people remember and cared about him. My own flowers bring me joy as well, but those are special, even if I never actually see them with my own eyes.

5. One more unexpected snow day. Yes, I'm totally over winter. Yes, I've seen enough snow. But as of now, it's not sticking to the roads, it's falling in big beautiful flakes and sticking to everything and I think I'm gonna take my camera, bundle up and go outside. Hoping this is winter's last hurrah.

So look for joy where you don't expect it, and where you do, even if you're tired, frustrated, and would just as soon be doing something else. I'm working to not let the blinders of grief keep me from seeing the good and letting them help me heal. Today, it wasn't as much work as some weeks, but that doesn't mean I think I've turned a corner, it just means one good week to celebrate.

Monday, March 24, 2014

In Defense of Social Media

For a person my age (cough, cough) I think I'm pretty social media conscious.

So after listening to a police officer speak about the dangers of social media, while I had to agree that unfettered access by children and teens can be risky, I still had to disagree.

I don't have to worry about starting an argument. He nor his wife have Facebook and I'm pretty sure Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest aren't part of their lives either. The same cannot be said for me, although there are days I hardly look at it and most of my access is in the early morning or at nap times.

Truthfully, he did have some good points. It would be easy to miss life if we're too busy keeping up with all the social media that we can access. We could be so busy bragging on our kids' achievements that we miss the really important stuff they do. We could be so wrapped up in finding the perfect recipe for dinner that we don't cook, or that next wonderful craft project for the kids that keeps us from just sitting down and making a fun mess. And it's definitely easy to type the wrong thing in a moment of anger and cause a firestorm among a circle of friends when what you really need to do is talk to the friend you're angry with, or if they are not really a friend, remove them from your circles.

For children and teenagers, there is an additional risk because not everyone using the sites is really who they claim to be. They can make connections with people who don't need to be in their lives, be exposed to things they aren't prepared to deal with, and, through trust or emotional moments, overshare in ways that make them vulnerable and may haunt them and their friends for a long time. Manipulated by a predator, angry kids can be further turned away from their families and wind up in a dangerous place. That is where parenting comes in and I'm saying don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think controlled and monitored access at an age appropriate time is better than a ban, but then the officer in question has a 3-year-old so that isn't an issue for him.

What happens when the child is older and has had no access until he's at a friend's home where there aren't even any guidelines? To me that child is way more vulnerable than if he'd been raised with some constraints. When the whole experience of social media involves sneaking around and is therefore titillating, how much easier will it be it take it a step further? Suddenly he's as at risk as the woman who makes a blind date through an on-line dating site, assuming he is as good looking and successful as he claims to be, and then gives him her address.

In general, I had to agree with the points he made about social media and our children. We do need to be aware, be savvy and keep up.

But I don't think we do that by denying them or ourselves access -- obviously.

For friends and families far flung across the state, the nation, or sometimes even the world, social networking is a convenient way to stay in touch. While my closest family is in and out of my house on a near daily basis, my parents, sibling and cousins are a state away, my in-laws are hours away, and we're all living busy lives. Facebook allows us to touch base with each other within seconds and much more regularly than we could by trying to plan a visit. We can keep up with how one another's children/grandchildren are growing and the highlights of life. Phone calls let us keep up with the less celebratory events.

Facebook has also allowed me to find a few old friends and there's some solace in even that gossamer thread of connection. No, we don't talk or visit, but we share a common history, moments when we were the potentially at-risk teens fumbling through high school and trying to figure out what life would mean for us. No, we may not really know one another's lives through social media, but we do know we've survived, we share some of our lives' moments moving forward.

Anyone living in a rural area, isolated by the work they do or by health, finances or even something as suddenly life changing as retirement, can find a connection to the world in social media. It can keep a person from feeling so alone as they deal with the issues of their day.

Even busy people with active lives can find something in social media and the virtual community bulletin board it provides. They can keep up with events involving their church, club or civic organization, or even news that affects their community. They can ask for and give encouragement in tough times, and find prayers, jobs, community resources and places to turn when their immediate circle of friends and family doesn't provide the support they need.

In my case, and for people like me, it has been a lifeline.

When Ethan died in December, it was a way to let people know -- my friends, his friends, people I could have called and people I had no way to reach.

As another grieving mother put it, within minutes I was receiving a virtual hug from dozens and dozens of people. No, it doesn't take the place of the real hugs and shoulders, but reeling in the aftermath of tragedy, a virtual connection is far better than being alone.

In the days, weeks and months since that time, it's been somewhere I could go every day for an extra dose of support to get through whatever life was throwing at me. Because of where I live and what I do, I'm often isolated and alone (well, from adults at least) and I'm certainly not going to spend all day trying to find someone who has time to talk and understands. I don't have time to attend a support group for grieving parents. But I can reach out through cyberspace and connect with people who are stumbling through the same heartache and we can help keep one another going.

I have friends who have lost children and they have been tremendous support for me. Ethan's addiction made his loss just a little different though, and created different issues for me as a mother. Because of social media, I've been able to share that aspect of my loss as well. I've made new friends who are dealing with addiction, or sometimes the aftermath of losing that battle, and we support one another. Many of us have gone beyond virtual friends and we've cried together on the phone late at night, or stood talking and crying in a parking lot. I've prayed for them and wept for them and I know they've done the same for me.

Even imagining where I'd be today without the outlet of social media is impossible. I no longer accept the idea that we cannot be friends, reach out to, be influenced by, or make a difference in the lives of people we can't drive to visit. And I do not believe that it is always, as some people do, a bad thing.

Among many other things, the last three months have taught me that isn't true.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Bathroom Cabinets Look More Like My Kitchen

Following my daughter down the crunchy path has turned out to be way more expensive and interesting than I ever thought it would be when I threw away my body wash two years ago or ditched my shampoo last winter.

At the same time, I realize that once I buy the start up products that I need for some things, I don't have to buy those commercially produced products any more and have ingredients on hand to last a while, so I'm saving a ton of money long run.

And I'm not putting things I cannot pronounce, let alone understand what they are or what their long-term effect on my health may be, on my body.

I was tempted the other night to use a commercial Shea butter I bought a few weeks ago.

After all, it smelled so good and had been kind to my skin through the time since I bought it. Then I started squinting my eyes to read the tiny ingredients included beyond the Shea butter that my skin needed. Why did I want two kinds of alcohol and what was that other stuff? I scooped the contents of the jar out and dumped them into the trash.

I saved the jar for some homemade Shea butter, of course.

The search for already proven recipes has turned me into a Pinterest addict, but that's another blog. I've also discovered the ground already plowed by pioneers and regularly visit a couple of other blogs for tips and recipes (Wellness Mama and Almost Exactly being my favorites right now).

The fact of the matter is that many of the things I need for my new experiments come straight from the kitchen. Olive oil, baking soda, honey and apple cider vinegar are not only kitchen staples, but regular stars in my bathroom. My husband complained about going to the shower for my honey container the other night and had to buy more. Sorry, I use more honey for conditioning my hair or washing my face than I generally need in the kitchen.

Coconut oil has the same problem although no one but me cares. If I can slip some of that extra healthy fat into a recipe, it's a good thing, but I'm way more likely to use it in the bathroom. So far I'm just putting some of it into a smaller container that I store in the bathroom and keeping the huge jug somewhere else. The gallon jug of vinegar likewise stays in the kitchen, and I refill a small bottle in the bath regularly.

Beyond my basic hair wash (1 tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in an old shampoo bottle of water followed by a splash of vinegar diluted in an old coffee cup for a rinse), my first excursion into DIY natural/crunchy products was deodorant.

Yes, we've all become accustomed to not sweating and having armpits that are gloriously dry, but I've read enough questioning of the ingredients and the basic principal to cast doubt on my use of the handy 48-hour stick. Our bodies are designed to sweat and short-circuiting that process because we don't want to smell bad isn't necessarily a good thing. Plus the ingredients used to do so are by no means "natural" and I've even seen things questioning a link between antiperspirant and breast cancer. So all that said and no science to back it up, I decided to make my own natural deodorant on the grounds of it would definitely not hurt.

The ingredients are 3 T coconut oil, 3 T baking soda, 2 T Shea butter and 2 T arrowroot, along with whatever essential oil a person likes for fragrance. I love lemongrass and already had some on hand, but I had to order Shea butter and arrowroot. (Amazon has absolutely everything)

I followed Wellness Mama's recipe and put the oil and butter in a glass jar which I sat in a pan of water on the stove to heat. The ingredients melt and then you stir in the baking soda and arrowroot and add enough essential oils for the fragrance you want.

My results, however, didn't match hers, which were perfectly shaped little cupcakes or repackaged in old deodorant bar tubes.

Nope, mine was closer to the old Tussy deodorant that I used when I first started feeling the need to make my underarms smell better in middle school.

I guess citing Tussy deodorant, which I'm sure hardly anybody uses any more, although I was surprised to find it is still available and has been since 1925, dates me a bit. It was my mother's deodorant, so what came easiest to hand when I needed it myself. I don't remember ever buying it on my own, but I do recall it being a cream in a small jar that you applied by hand.

While Wellness Mama's recipe indicated I would have rather solid bars, my concoction bled through the cupcake liners and I finally wound up putting the whole recipe into a baby food container. It's not quite solid but would probably work in an old deodorant tube if I waited until it began to reform before pouring it in.

The real question is, does it work? Granted it's only March, so sweaty days are mostly a dream, but I've made it through a few back-to-back PiYo and Zumba classes without feeling like I couldn't raise my arms any more for fear of knocking anyone out. I tossed my commercial products in the trash, and I'm trying to remember my daughter's warning to not apply for at least 10 minutes after shaving (baking soda deodorants can cause a rash, who knew?) but otherwise happy with the result. The initial investment is a bit, but the recipe itself is a breeze and will last a good while. Plus, I'm set up to do it again any time -- if I don't use all my Shea in lotions or the arrowroot in cosmetics (pending experiments).

I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, March 21, 2014

It's Just Medicine, Right? What's Wrong With That

Sunday evening I'm going to talk about my son's addiction at my church.

I sit down and try to think of what I'll say, and I feel like I don't know where to start, or how I'll get through it. But I know it's too important of a chance to pass up, because if just one kid understands the danger is real, or if just one parent or grandparent recognizes the threat, then it will be worth any emotional upheaval. It is part of who I need to be to go forward. Part of my purpose as Ethan's mom is trying to keep other moms off this same path.

I'll be following the local police chief who will be talking about the dangers of medicine abuse, but beyond that I don't know what he'll be saying. I just know I'll be putting a face on what, with him, will be something a step removed for most people.

But what do I tell them?

What were the first signs of trouble? What can they look for that I wish I'd seen? Will knowing make a difference?

I have to hope it will.

I still wish with every breath I breathe that I could put my finger on the moment things went wrong and change it somehow.

Was it the sad, wild little boy that quickly became one of his best friends in the second grade? Should I have looked at him like the rest of the world as a little boy whose daddy struggled with depression and whose mom tended bar and eventually left him and his dad for another man? Instead I saw a little boy who was lonely and who we could let into our lives sometimes, as long as he knew we had rules that he didn't have at home. We took him to the circus and let him stay over sometimes. When they were older, they went down the path of drugs and alcohol, huffing gas and petty crimes together.

Was it something in his behavior that I should have seen and sought therapy for when he was small even though he never had any problems before high school? He was just a smart, quirky boy, and I'd been a smart, quirky girl and I thought he was like me, fine with being the person that he was.

Was it his other best friend from a "normal" home? The boys were back and forth so much that I know there were times we felt like one extended family. His parents probably thought Ethan was the bad boy in their quiet, shy son's life. They went down the path of addiction together and only one made it out alive, and I've never had the nerve to ask whose idea it was to begin with, because I'm afraid it was my son's. And I would never blame the other boy if it were his, because they were just children really.

Was it when I let him not go to church because my parents had dragged me to church for almost 21 years? After I got married I didn't darken a church door except for Christmas and Easter because I resented my old church where all that was ever preached was salvation and once I had that, I didn't see the point. Ethan knew God, he was radiant on his baptizing day when he went below the surface in the cold mountain river on the first day of winter and emerged a new boy. I couldn't tell him there was more, because I had never learned it either.

Was it when he was caught shoplifting cough syrup and I practiced "tough love" because he was already out of control? The officer thought it was for the alcohol, although there wasn't enough to get drunk. If I had only known it was dextromethorphan and that it wasn't just medicine, it was a drug. Instead of a weekend in jail, would counseling have helped? But I didn't know about DXM then and what it could do. We both learned the hard way.

Was it me? Did I not try hard enough to give him boundaries while at the same time giving him wings? Because I never had wings, only a safe cage when I was a child and I so badly wanted him to have a different life. I didn't want my children to feel like they had to flee home to grow up. I wanted them to make their own decisions and sometimes make mistakes while they had a safe place to land.

Was it because I'd already dealt with addiction and realized it was beyond my control? So I never sent him to rehab when he didn't want to go. I never went through his room or his pockets and tried to destroy whatever it was he was using. I stood helpless on the sidelines as his life fell apart because I had prayed until I felt God was tired of hearing my supplications. I left it in His and Ethan's hands, because once it took root that's where it was all along.

Was it because even when I found the blister packs, when Ethan was virtually crippled by seizures from chronically overdosing on an over-the-counter cough medicine that he was shoplifting, I still didn't realize it was how addictive it was? I thought that once he'd pushed himself to a point where he saw a problem, he was still rational and intelligent enough to stop. I thought the seizures and the car wrecks and the psychotic breaks were bad enough that my smart, capable son would be able to quit.

Was it loving him too much? Always answering the phone even if he was in a rage and I was in tears when I hung up, or even worse in some ways when there was something so wrong that he was in tears and I couldn't understand what he needed; trying to treat him like he was normal and celebrating the good days and special times like we were still a real family.

The fact is that there was no one moment, but all those moments together. Things I couldn't have known would be a problem and things I couldn't or wouldn't change. At the same time, with more forewarning, I have to believe that people can make better choices and be more proactive. We cannot count on our children to avoid a danger we don't even know exists.

So as parents we have to be vigilant, even if things go wrong and ultimately we feel guilty and wish we'd done something different or something more. We cannot throw up our hands and watch a generation consumed by our society and its desire to escape reality with video games, drugs and paradoxically "reality" TV. We have to try to save our children, one by one, knowing that we may make the wrong choices and that ultimately what happens is up to them and God. We have to make sure they have God in their lives so that, perhaps, they will recognize that it's not just on them to straighten out all alone when things go wrong. And because if there is no healing for whatever is broken on this earth, we as parents can try to accept that they can find peace with our heavenly Father.

Beyond all that we have to know our enemies. They come in so many forms, so many lures that will take our children away from all of the bad times and let them forget who they are for just a little while, until they've forgotten for so long that they cannot remember. We have to know that they come not just in the wrappings of crime and bad neighborhoods, not just in dealing with people that they recognize from an early age are not folks they want to call friends. They come in the guise of friends, who offer them a safe escape. They come from the shelves of pharmacies, grocery stores and discount chains. Our newest enemy comes from our own homes and we give it to our children or take it ourselves not recognizing its potential for harm. It's medicine, prescription and over the counter, and we think it's safe and good. So do our children.

Somehow, in the end, that's what I have to say.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Learning to Live with a New Kind of Pain

It's amazing sometimes what we can learn to live with. Or without.

Most of the time, we could probably rush to a doctor and find a pill to treat whatever the problem was, or at least make living with it more comfortable. After all, there are pills for going to the bathroom too often, or not enough, treatment for low testosterone or low estrogen, erectile dysfunction, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, pain, depression, sleeplessness. You name it, modern medicine can offer a pharmaceutical treatment for it.

It may not always correct it, but it often means we aren't quite so bothered by it.

Or we can learn to live with it.

The thought crossed my mind the other day when a twinge of tendonitis shot out from my elbow as I was undertaking some random chore. "Hey, I hardly notice that any more."

When the tendonitis first came on a couple of years ago, it was debilitating. My elbows ached, especially my right one. I bought a sleeve I could microwave or chill for relief, braces to wear when I was using my arms a lot, pain relieving lotion, and 12-hour arthritis strength pain relievers. I was unable to do things I liked to do because my arms hurt so bad and if it was rest they needed to heal, that wasn't happening. I had small children that needed to be picked up and helped to do things, big dogs who liked to tug on their leashes while being walked.

I was not a weekend athlete who could ice it down and rest it until I needed my elbow again, or even a professional athlete who could get a doctor to give me something to help it heal while I stood on the sidelines. I had a life to live that didn't give me time off to cope, so I just kept on doing what I had to do and after a time, it didn't hurt so badly.

Or if it did, I just ceased to notice.

Except for those random times when I focus on my elbows, use them a certain way, or poke and prod at the tenderness. Then, by gosh, I know it hurts and I may have to take a little time to let the pain ease.

I'm beginning to discover that losing my son is in many ways the same.

I may go days without breaking down and crying for what is gone. Ethan may seem at times unreal, just a name that echoes in my mind and is tattooed on my wrist -- an engraving on a necklace. He becomes as two-dimensional as the photos on my wall, a remembered ache that that happened a long time ago and doesn't really hurt any more.

Then a food, a laugh, a dream, a song happens, memories rush in on a wave of tears and my arms ache with a different kind of pain longing to hold him and my heart feels as though it falters in my chest. Sometimes I can take a few deep breaths and swallow the pain back down and sometimes I can't. Sometimes I have to take time out and poke and prod at the memories, ride the waves of grief and allow myself to be sidelined for a while in the heartbreak.

All in all, however, I'm learning to live without him and with the tears and faltering of my new reality.

I have a life to live, even if he is no longer in it. I don't have time to stop and figure out how to cope, I just have to do it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Finding Joy Is An Exercise Worth Repeating

Once again I start out my search for random joy in the last week when I'm not feeling particularly joyous.

It's like going to PiYo when I'm not feeling very limber, or Zumba when I don't really feel like dancing for an hour. It's like getting on my exercise bike when I don't really want to sweat, like putting on my shoes and gathering up leashes when I don't eagerly anticipate a stroll with my dogs.

It's an exercise that at some point during the procedure makes me feel better.

Like my physical exercise routines, once I get warmed up, it doesn't actually hurt as bad as it seems like it will. At some point I usually start to enjoy it: I can flex that far; I can remember the dance steps; I can push myself that long; the sun feels good and my dogs are happy. By the time I'm finished, I realize how much better I feel and I recommit myself to doing it again.

So, looking back, on a day that isn't nearly as spring-like as I'd like, what brought a smile to my face last week?

1. Starlings bathing in a puddle. The change in time means we're traveling the roads with different amounts of daylight, so instead of taking the girls home from gymnastics in the dark, it was still light out as we headed down South Main Street. There, in a random beam of sun, a group of starlings were taking a late, and chilly, bath in a puddle in someone's driveway and I smiled and realized I had smiled at something so trivial.

2. My cuckoo clock chirping. Even though the clock had kept near perfect time for more than six months after a trip to the repair shop, it started randomly stopping recently. I missed its chiming out the hour, but wasn't ready to spend any more money on making it work for such a short time. I took it down and oiled its little wheels again and although I've not got it quite calibrated to accuracy yet, when I hear it chirp out, it is a bright point. Also, the girls from 1-3 love it.

3. E3 snatching a cupcake from her mom. It wasn't even a dessert cupcake, just the ones I make for my breakfast. They started out with a recipe that I probably found on Facebook and are centered around a few overripe bananas, oatmeal and mini chocolate chips. No flour, oil, eggs, etc. It's like a really small bowl of oatmeal baked in a cupcake wrapper and I can pull it from the refrigerator and heat it up for breakfast without a lot of forethought. The recipe has evolved to include rice protein and the last batch had instant cinnamon apple oatmeal as well because I didn't realize I was out of the old fashioned kind. When Mom offered the baby a bite of hers, E3 emerged with the cupcake and Mom had to get another. We now call her "food ninja." Oh, and cinnamon and apples may be a recurring addition because they are extra yummy.

4. Getting a day that was both warm and dry enough for me to work in the garden, just a little. I bought a used tiller a couple of springs ago and it is a monster to operate and takes as much room as a tractor trailer to turn around (well, maybe not quite that much but a lot compared to the Mantis I sold) and I love it. It always cranks on the third or fourth pull and will chew down anything. I ran it through my blackberry patch, which had quit producing berries or canes, and a couple of swipes across the garden. I love the fresh turned soil and have high hopes for a better season this year.

5. Rain that smelled like spring. (Yes there's a theme here in that I'm tired beyond words of winter.) I know everyone doesn't notice it, but I can tell the difference between growing season rain and winter rain. One day last week I stepped out the front door and didn't even know it was raining but I smelled it and it smelled like growing things. It made me happy, even if it was more rain.

6. Toad eggs in my goldfish pond. I haven't heard any spring frog or toad songs, but while I was milling around the yard Saturday I discovered a clump floating among the dead leaves. Granted, those on top will wind up frozen and not hatch, but the little creatures think it's spring and I'm all for it.

7. Deer. Deer have been a random source of smiles several times and it's a shame I really want to kill and eat one. All the same, twice during the last week they've surprised me by flashing their white tails and suddenly being in a field where I would not have seen them at all had they just stood still. Once I was dog walking and the neighbor's dog (who I call Black Jack after a favorite blackberry wine from Slightly Askew) went bounding after them. My dogs agreed with me that they were too far away and instead walked home with me.

8. Reminding myself that having fun at E2's gymnastics class is more important than doing everything right. That means this grandma winds up doing handstands, jumps and rolls with her granddaughter, because that makes us both enjoy the class so much more. I'd rather see a big smile on that little face than see her do a perfect flip any time.

9. My granddaughters crying that they wanted to go home with me. OK, I'm not happy they were crying and hanging around until they were over their sudden separation blues threw me behind, but much of the time lately I don't feel like a very good grandma. Having them want to spend more time with me, while I didn't want it to make them sad that I was leaving, made me feel better about who I am with them. Perhaps I'm not the utter failure I often feel like I am after all.

10. Icicles. Little people don't generally spend a lot of time outdoors in icicle weather, but while we were loading up to go home Monday, I pointed them out to the bigger girls and they were intrigued by the bits of frozen water hanging on my car. They wanted to touch them and taste them. E1 said I had popsicles on my car, which was just too cute.

There, a few memories to make me smile after all. I hope if your week has been tough you can still find some of your own. Stretch your memories, treasure your good times, it's a worthy exercise at any time.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cleaning Out a Flower Bed Is Like Recovery

Saturday afternoon, I spent a good hour or more reclaiming a flower bed.

It wasn't a matter of pulling weeds, I was actually pulling what started out as an innocent little vine in a container planting given me by a friend more than a decade ago.

The plant was variegated vinca minor and it seriously should come with a warning. It's almost as bad as the honeysuckle vines that insinuate themselves into everything. Maybe it is just my soil, or the fact that most of beds are set in perennials so I don't have to disturb them, but what was once a well behaved vine dripping over the side of large container had seriously run amok.

And I had let it.

As I pulled, dug and fought to clear it from around the azalea, dogwoods, irises, day lilies and hosta that are more welcome in the flower bed, it struck me that it was much like a bad habit, an addiction, sin even.

It started out innocently enough. It was pretty and caused no problems were it belonged. Kind of like indulging an all you can eat buffet or a cold beer now and then, enjoying a compliment from a coworker, experimenting with a drug -- it was nothing to worry about. It was enjoyable, attractive even.

Then it slopped over into areas where it didn't belong, creeping down the side of the pot toward the garden. That would be when you're eating the buffet every time you go out, getting drunk on a regular basis, flirting with the coworker, or beginning to enjoy getting high.

That's the time I should have nipped it in the bud. It would have been easy to pull up those few random strands that had taken root in the garden. But they weren't really hurting anything and I wasn't even sure they would survive the winter -- what potted plant does? So I left them and they lived and grew.

Like those bad choices, they were still manageable as long as I kept a close eye on what was happening. Each growing season I pruned and pulled and let them be the filler plants in my flower bed and they still didn't look bad. Their leaves were a pretty green and white and their flowers small and purple. They still seemed innocent and something I could control.

But last summer, the double whammy of a new baby to care for and the often less than spectacular weather mean that my careful monitoring of the situation lapsed. It was like the stress of life, which can cause you to drop your guard about that occasional habit you've allowed yourself to indulge in, and the next thing you know you're somewhere you never expected to be.

When I walked by the flower bed on my way to my future strawberry patch Saturday, all I could see was the vinca minor. It was draped over the top of the azalea, hiding the early signs of iris and day lily sprouts, masking any potential hosta growth. Without any attention for just a short time, it had taken over -- like finding your clothes don't fit and you don't remember how that happened, or that you've slipped into an affair with that coworker, or that you've got more than just a problem with drinking or drugs because you're addicted and your life is falling apart.

What really made me compare the vine to the problems of life was how hard it was to get rid of it. It wasn't just a matter of pulling a few plants like it would have been had I realized its potential for taking over. It was hard work and digging and pulling and damaging everything around it. It had kept the sun from the azalea, wrapped its roots around lilies, caused me to dig into hosta to pry it free. Good things, the plants I wanted in my flower bed, were damaged by its presence and injured by what it took to get it out. Because I had ignored its potential, it had taken over.

It wasn't pretty, it was ugly and overshadowed all the good and even after all my work and effort I know it's not really gone.

The flower bed looks good right now with the first signs of the plants that belong there peeping through the leaves. It's like our lives can look when we've lost the weight, ended the affair, finally gotten clean and sober. But that ugliness is still waiting to take over if we forget how easy it was to slip.

I'll have to spend all of this summer and maybe a few summers to come watching that flower bed and pulling the first signs of a variegated leaf or judiciously using a pesticide spray. I may even pray that the weather is in my favor, so that I have time to take care of it.

I know people who have worked so hard to get back to the life they wanted, then just want to enjoy it. Ethan was, I guess, one of those. He would get the addiction out of his life just like I did with the flower, purging it from all areas, and then whew, he was done. But it doesn't work that way. Keeping away from the drugs meant he needed to watch for any signs -- a new friend who was using, a desire to linger near them in the store, too much time alone thinking about how it used to feel to be high -- just like I've got to watch my flower bed. After months of being clean and wonderful to be around, of rebuilding the life he'd wrecked with drugs, getting his body back into shape and mending fences, he'd relax and soon we were all heading down that same path again. Until everything that was good in life was gone. Until he was gone as well.

It's the same for any bad habit. Even after you put in all the work and pain of getting it out of your life, making sure it doesn't make it's way back requires vigilance and a lot of prayer, because we're not really strong enough to do that kind of "weeding" on our own. It's not over when you quit, because that can too often turn into a pause, not actually stopping.

So I'll be keeping an eye on my flower bed, and praying for people who are trying to clean up their own weed patches, that we can all root out what is causing ugliness and hurting the things we care about, even if it means that we have to keep working to enjoy the beauty we know is there.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Diapers: Going Cloth Isn't Quite What I Expected

My daughter recently announced she was switching to cloth diapers, going on about the lifespan of used diapers in landfills and the horrible impact on the environment. It seems each baby generates about two tons of diapers during his or her disposable diaper days, and those diapers, stored in landfills, are expected to take 250-300 years to decompose.

That's means their old poop is still around long after they, their children, grandchildren, and a lot of generations that won't remember their names have come and gone. Good grief.

At the same time, talk of cloth diapers made me I recall my own cloth diaper days.

Not the days when I wore cloth diapers, God forbid, I cannot remember that long ago, but the days when she was small and I started out my diapering journey with cloth diapers.

Even then, I didn't have to learn to fold diapers correctly, the different patterns to put the most diaper where the most volume was likely to be generated depending on whether you were diapering a boy or girl. My own diapered days were totally basic, washed and hung on a line, folded and stored for use. Not quite the beat with a rock in the river, scrubbed with a washboard, or run through wringers, but still the dark days of diapering convenience.

Nearly 30 years ago when I decided I'd use cloth diapers to be kind to the environment and save money, padded inserts had been added to the cloth so there was something to catch what they produced. There were little plastic pants to wear over the diaper and keep clothes and surroundings dry. Special diaper pins had to be both kept handy and out of baby's reach. I kept a diaper pail with water and borax in the bathroom/laundry room to hold the soiled diapers after they were rinsed in toilet or sink until they were washed. Each morning in addition to clean diapers, I carried a plastic bag to the sitter's so she could rinse and store the used ones. After doing the laundry in the washer, I dried the diapers on the clothesline in the back yard letting sun and wind do the work.

All the same, despite my initial commitment, my cloth diaper days didn't last. At some point it simply became too much work and the disposable ones, despite the fact that I had to nag my husband into hauling them off because we didn't have trash pickup, became more convenient and economical in the "what is my time worth" category. Of course, I was a new mom and soon exhausted by the demands of working in journalism and sleepless nights with the baby who was not eager to give me a break.

I hoped for better luck for that grown baby with her own little one and prepared myself for dealing with cloth diapers.

When E3 arrived with her behind cloth-diapered, I was looking at a totally different creation.

Where are the safety pins, the folds, the plastic panties?

Nope, today's ultra modern cloth diapers are an all in one creation and one size fits all as well, at least by the time they arrive at my house to be put to use. There is, in fact, a diaper liner that is flushable when too soiled or worn for reuse, an absorbent pad that catches the liquid and, most importantly, a two layer diaper cover into which the pad slips, the liner is inserted, and which has an outer layer that resists moisture and either velcroes or snaps to fit the baby.


So we've been in cloth diapers for a few weeks now, not exclusively because they still aren't up to the absorbency factor of disposables when it comes to overnight, and because the bulk amount she ordered to get her through a week hasn't arrived yet. I use one disposable at nap time and she uses one overnight. We've still significantly cut our landfill contribution.

It's also much easier to make sure E3 is situated and fitted correctly with the cloth diapers. Maybe it's just me, but three babies later and I'm still finding that I lay the disposable diaper with the front under her butt and have to turn it around because the tabs are going to be unhandy to wrap around her back. Also, the adjustable fitting and elastic around the edges have pretty much eliminated the diaper blowouts for which E3 was well known (I still remember the Friday night fiasco in the playroom and the trail of poop).

Of course, I'm not doing the bulk of the work, just rinsing a little and tucking the diapers in the now zipper closed dry to wet bag, which is pink and white with a moisture resistant liner, that has replaced my old plastic baggies. I can pretty much handle that phase after a few corrections on the proper method for this new diaper generation.

E3 seems happy with the change as, just as E2 could only wear a certain brand without diaper rash, she is now free of the rash that followed consumption of raisins, which she loves. Of course, we've also changed diaper ointments, but that's another story. Diapers, it seems, are just the first step in what has turned into a journey to a greener lifestyle -- what is now termed "crunchy."

So I'm joining the journey and the first to admit that E3's booty does look adorable in a cloth diaper.