10 books I’ve carried with me

This post originally came from a Facebook meme that’s been going around: name 10 books that have you’ve carried with you and don’t take too long to think about it. Normally I ignore stuff like this (“If you don’t forward this post, you’re a terrorist!” “If you don’t copy  and paste this post, I’m going to unfriend you!”), but it’s about books, so I couldn’t resist. It was a good exercise and I tried to follow the instructiosn by not thinking too much about it, so I missed The Giver, but other than that I haven’t thought of any other books that I would’ve added to the list. Apologies to my Facebook friends, who will have already seen the list.

If you are interested in seeing how the masses responded, Facebook has compiled the data here. There are some great books on the list, and the only one that gave me pause was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but since my first and favorite way to experience that story is via the radio drama, I don’t really think of it as a “book”.

So here’s my list, alphabetical by author (because picking 10 was hard enough, and I sure as heck wasn’t able to rank them!). One thing that helped me narrow down the list was thinking about which books I have physically carried with me over the years and miles, and which books continue to survive my frequent library purges.
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – le sigh. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)
2. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey – since I’ve had the privilege of living in cultures very similar to the one Jesus inhabited, I’ve long felt that the western world misses out on alot of the cultural context of the Old and New Testaments. This book gives some great context for Jesus’s life. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – such a great story about the power of books and the dangers of censorship. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)4. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – this represents the entire Christie oeuvre, which has given me hours and hours of reading pleasure. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)5. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George – this is a great children’s survival story which not only features a non-male, non-white main character (gasp!) but handles incredibly adult themes very deftly and in an age-appropriate manner. This is definitely due for a reread. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)6. The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis – this again stands for the whole Chronicles of Narnia series, and is probably my favorite of the bunch, though the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a very close second. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)7. 1984 by George Orwell – this book has stayed with me since I snitched it from my older brother’s assigned reading list in high school. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)8. Harry Potter by JK Rowling – such a fun story! (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)
9. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers – possibly my favorite book of all time. Layers upon layers of depth, and I discover something new about the book or myself everytime I read it. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)10. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein – what can I say? The fantasy by which all fantasy is measured. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble)What about you? What 10 books would make your list?*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Why is it so hard to write a good cozy mystery?

Why is it so hard to write a good cozy mystery? I asked this first out of frustration – it seems that every new series I try is just not that good – and then out of genuine curiosity. Cozies are one of my favorite genres, and I feel like I’m running out of new authors to try. I recently read a trio of cozies: Just Desserts by Mary Daheim, Murder on the Rocks by Karen MacInerney (both of which are the first in their respective series, and set in bed and breakfasts), and Deadly Valentine by Carolyn G. Hart. For all three of these, I kept getting pulled out of the story as I was constantly noticing things that could have been done better.

Deadly Valentine was probably technically the best of the bunch, but was so littered with references to other mysteries, detectives, and their authors that I kept getting distracted. I love mysteries (obviously) and it’s always fun to see books you love referenced in other books, but keep it down to a few per chapter, not a few per paragraph! In places it was almost unreadable. Also (mild spoiler alert) I found it hard to believe the sheer percentage of married couples who were cheating on each other, which I guess was necessary to provide possible motives for the suspect pool, but seriously, we are talking upwards of maybe 85% of the couples you are introduced to are cheaters.

Murder on the Rocks was maybe a little less well constructed than Deadly Valentine, but I enjoyed it the most of this bunch. It was just…pleasant, which a cozy by definition should be. The only thing I found to really annoy me (and this is by no means unique to this story or author) was the main character’s attraction to her neighbor has to be mentioned every time he comes up. We get it. She thinks he’s cute. I don’t need to hear about his striking green (or whatever colour they were) eyes every. single. time. Or hear about how well he fills out his jeans with every step he takes (or every move he maaaaaakes). If I were suspected of a brutal murder and was looking at the loss of my freedom and livelihood, I’m not going to be spending my time staring dreamily at my neighbour’s butt. That being said, I would probably read more in this series. It was interesting, and pleasant, and not terribly stressful.

Just Desserts I was very disappointed by. I’ve heard Mary Daheim recommended a number of times, and she has about a billion books out, so I was expecting great things. Not only did it suffer from the “we get it, she thinks he’s cute” syndrome mentioned above, but there were a number of other problems I had with it. First and foremost was the info dump in the first few pages. Character names, backstories, all are dumped immediately into our laps without context. I have a hard enough time remembering the names of people I know, much less fictional ones. If they’re all thrown at me in a few paragraphs, I’m just not going to be able to keep up, and then I spend the rest of the book trying to remember who was who’s sister, or cheating ex-boyfriend, or uncle’s roomate’s cousin’s dog sitter. I didn’t find the main character compelling or sympathetic, nor did I find the supporting characters to be so. In short, as I said, disappointing.

So why is it so hard to write a cozy? I think it has a lot to do with finding the right balance in many different dimensions.

  1. The right amount of suspense and violence: it’s a bit strange that we relax by reading about fictional people being murdered, but there it is. It should have enough tension to keep us hooked and want to know whodunnit, but not so much gore that we have trouble sleeping at night.
  2. Characters who are interesting and quirky without being caricatures.
  3. Enough characters to provide a reasonable suspect pool without overwhelming readers.
  4. A realistic reason why this amateur sleuth is a) investigating at all (instead of the police) and b) has the skill set or information base to do so.
  5. Providing enough clues so that the reader has all the information to solve the case while making it hard to do so. There is nothing more annoying than solving the case on page 30, and then watching the heroine flounder about for the next 300 pages.
  6. Love interest: this could be a list in and of itself, but the author has to create conflict or tension between them, create reasons for them to be thrown together, reasons why they’re not together, balance developing the romance with solving the mystery, etc.
  7. Follow what is essentially a very rigid plot structure while coming up with a unique twist to entertain readers. I think this is part of why so many cozies have a “quirk” to try and differentiate them from other series. A bed and breakfast setting, or a talking animal (I can’t quite bring myself to read those, but maybe I’m missing out), a friendly ghost who helps solve mysteries, etc.
  8. Provide an exciting ending where the heroine ends up in danger before unmasking the perpetrator while not making her do something really stupid and out of character (“Sure! This timid librarian is going to sneak into the mafia’s underground fortress in the middle of the night to try and get the last piece of evidence needed to convict.” or “Sure! I think you might have killed someone a few days ago, but I’d LOVE to meet for coffee by your abandoned coal mine! What’s that? Don’t tell anyone where I’m going? But of course not!”)

So that’s my list of why I think it’s hard to write a good cozy mystery. I’ll try to keep it in mind the next time I find myself frustrated with my reading material.

Do you read cozies? Who are you favorite authors?

Tools of the Trade: Magazines

Last year for my birthday/Christmas (they’re very close) I was given some gift cards and some cash (sweeeeet), and I did something different with it: I bought two magazine subscriptions: National Geographic Traveler and Real Simple.

I LOVE magazines, and getting them in the mail every month or so is like getting another present all over again. Magazines are great if you only have short chunks of time to sit down and read, and I find they often inspire me to seek out books to read as well. Real Simple has book recommendations in every issue, and Nat Geo Traveler will often include book recos related to the places they are featuring.

Of course, you can use the library for magazines, or only buy them when a particular issue strikes your fancy, but I’ve found the subscription to be one of those little splurges ($10-20 for a year) that gives me a ton of happiness.

Get it:

Nat Geo Traveler: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, National Geographic. P.S. When my kid’s older, I’m totally getting him the Nat Geo Little Kids magazine, but I do not promise not to hog it!

Real Simple: Barnes and Noble, Real Simple

Do you subscribe to any magazines? Have you ever?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (1969)

Bottom line: Meh.

Rating: Recommended if: you’re doing a tour of classic sci fi authors.

Blurb:

When the human ambassador Genly Ai is sent to Gethen, the planet known as Winter by those outsiders who have experienced its arctic climate, he thinks that his mission will be a standard one of making peace between warring factions. Instead the ambassador finds himself wildly unprepared. For Gethen is inhabited by a society with a rich, ancient culture full of strange beauty and deadly intrigue—a society of people who are both male and female in one, and neither. This lack of fixed gender, and the resulting lack of gender-based discrimination, is the very cornerstone of Gethen life. But Genly is all too human. Unless he can overcome his ingrained prejudices about the significance of “male” and “female,” he may destroy both his mission and himself.

Review:

I was really excited to read this book, as I’ve heard really great things of Le Guin, the book is generally really highly reviewed, and it won a Hugo AND a Nebula award. I ended up being really disappointed. I think overall, if I hadn’t had such high expectations, I might have enjoyed it more than I did, but not by much.

Basically, the entire book was a heav-handed exploration of the question “what would society be like if there were no gender?” The world she created was quite interesting, and the basic conflict set up was how cultural differences impact communication, which is something I’ve always found fascinating. Even the action/survival part of the story – once we finally got there – was enjoyable. However, everything came back to how sex works in this society, and its impact on the culture.

It’s a book that’s supposed to make you stop and think about gender and sexuality in our own society, but being a naturally stubborn person, the more you hit me over the head with something, the less likely I am to want to acquiesce. I think this book would have been much more impactful, to me at least, if the themes were more subtly woven through the story. I wanted the world and the two different cultures we met with to be more fleshed out. I wanted to get a better view of the relationships between the main characters. I wanted the action to be better paced (instead of people sitting around talking or walking through the snow for half of the book, then suddenly a bomb goes off and Stuff Starts To Happen).

There was so much going for this book that I wanted to like, but for me it just never managed to come together. I felt like it was trying too hard to be Intellectual. Obviously, millions of people (including the voters of the Hugo and Nebula panels) disagree with me. It was a book I felt to be worth the read, especially if you’re interested in exploring some of the early-contemporary sci fi authors, but it wasn’t a book that I could ever get totally immersed in, or couldn’t wait to pick up again when I put it down.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of A Fine Romance (2013) by Susan Branch

Bottom line: A peaceful armchair journey for a rainy afternoon.

Rating: Recommended If you’re in the mood for a vicarious wander through southern England.

Review:

The full title of this book is, “A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside” and you will do just that, I promise you. For anyone who has been to England, this book is like one long nostalgic sigh. You get to travel along with the author through her handwritten and illustrated journal, enjoying the English countryside. Of course, it will stoke your wanderlust, if you are of that type, and you may have to remind yourself, “Self, if you went to England, it would NOT be via the Queen Mary 2, and you would be taking a toddler and an infant on at least two plane rides of 12 hours, and would most likely be staying in hostels with said young children.” But it’s nice to dream anyways, and A Fine Romance is a lovely dream. Best read with a nice cuppa and a biscuit or two.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Book Review: Matt Archer: Monster Hunter by Kendra Highley

Bottom Line: A gritty YA fantasy definitely worth the read.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Fourteen-year-old Matt Archer spends his days studying Algebra, hanging out with his best friend and crushing on the Goddess of Greenhill High, Ella Mitchell. To be honest, he thinks his life is pretty lame until he discovers something terrifying on a weekend camping trip at the local state park.

Monsters are real. And living in his backyard.

But that’s not the half of it. After Matt is forced to kill a strange creature to save his uncle, he finds out that the weird knife he took from his uncle’s bag has a secret, one that will change Matt’s life. The knife was designed with one purpose: to hunt monsters. And it’s chosen Matt as its wielder.

Now Matt’s part of a world he didn’t know existed, working with a covert military unit dedicated to eliminating walking nightmares. Faced with a prophecy about a looming dark war, Matt soon realizes his upcoming Algebra test is the least of his worries.

His new double life leaves Matt wondering which is tougher: hunting monsters or asking Ella Mitchell for a date?

Review:

This is one of those books that languished on my Kindle for a very long time. I’d grabbed it on sale, but just didn’t get started on it for one reason or another. Then I found myself stranded in an airport for several hours one Saturday morning – WITHOUT my toddler – and I have to say, those were pretty much the most relaxing hours I’ve had since December 2012, when said toddler entered my life. I sat in an airport restaurant, drank my weight in tea, and read Matt Archer: Monster Hunter.

It was very, very good. It’s the classic YA tale of a normal teenager finding out he has powers, and must use them to fight for his family and his world. However, there were a few things done differently that I thought elevated it above the general YA fantasy offering. I loved that adults are fighting the evil as well, and they are mostly skeptical of bringing this kid into the mix. It seemed much more realistic than say, the Percy Jackson books, where the issue of “but where are all the adult demigods and why aren’t they doing anything?” is pretty much glossed over. I also loved its international outlook. Matt’s an American kid, and the story is based in America, but instead of everything happening in the states, there are incidents popping up all over the world.

Another issue I have with some YA fantasy series is that so often it feels like watching an old school video game. Each book is a level, and you have to make it to the end of the level to fight the boss, and then you start a new level with its boss,  then at the end of the whole game, you fight the big boss. Each book neatly wraps up one year of school or a summer between school years, with the bad guys conveniently making their move during finals or right before school starts up again, depending on the series. And while I understand authors wanting to contribute to the overarching series plot, while giving readers closure during the individual books as well, it so often just feels contrived. Matt Archer’s plot moved along in a very natural progression. He’s fighting monsters, and he’s also going to school, but it didn’t feel like the monsters were timing their attacks around the school year.

Ranting aside, Matt feels like a very realistic teenage boy. He’s likeable, has character flaws, and reacts in a very believable way to all the weird stuff that has now become his life. I loved his family and friends and hope we get to know them better.

The author, Kendra Highley (who I can claim to know slightly through the power of social media – and is a lovely person as well as talented author), was in the process of releasing the fifth and last book in the series while I was reading the first, so I’m excited to have a completed series to plow through as time, energy, and budget allows. I am a little nervous to do so because this book started off grittier and more intense (and with an older protagonist) than many YA series, and I’m guessing it follows the pattern of becoming darker as the story progresses. I don’t handle stress all that well in general, and definitely not when I’m pregnant. I mostly want everything to be rainbows and sunshine and unicorns. I’m pretty sure people are going to die in this series…people I like. Oh well.

If you like YA fantasy, this is a book that must not be missed!

Get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Family Fridays – If Everybody Did

Book: If Everybody Did (1960) by Jo Ann Stover

Category/Age: Picture Book (Older)

Blurb:

The hilarious and terrible consequences of everyone doing his own thing are portrayed by author/artist Jo Ann Stover in If Everybody Did. Children and adults alike will enjoy this precautionary tale with its concise rhyming text, and amusing illustrations.

Review:

This book resonated very strongly with me when I read it as a child. The basic message is that if everybody acted selfishly, the world would not be a very nice place. Even today, when I see adults exhibiting discourteous behaviour, this book pops into my head and I want to smack them upside the head with it, then force them to read it cover to cover.

<Side note: this was especially true when I was taking public transit every day to work. I wanted to write a special version just for adults on the light rail: “What if everybody put their bags on seats when the train was full? What if everybody screamed profanities into their cellphones? What if everybody put their feet on the seat so no one else could sit down there? What if everybody told long explicit stories about their latest medical issues?” >

Written in 1960, it is more timely than ever, especially for a generation that is being told they are special snowflakes and the only thing that matters is their own happiness. This book shows the consequences of everybody making small choices that negatively impact others, and then what would happen if everybody made choices that positively impacted the world, and how it would be a much nicer place for everyone.

It manages to do all of this while being fun and not preachy, no mean feat. I was shocked to discover that I didn’t have it, and it is on my list to buy the next time I snag a Barnes and Noble coupon.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

I’m baaaaaack!

Well, it’s been a few months, so welcome back to the blog! I hope to be bringing new content on a more regular basis. At least more regular than every three months or so! I’ve taken the summer off because I’m pregnant again (yay!) but have been feeling really sick (boo!) and tired (double boo!). I’ve been going to bed ridiculously early, which is probably good for me and the baby, but between that and chasing after a todder all day, I haven’t had a lot of time to read. However, I did manage to sneak a book in here and there over the summer, in between sweating and moaning about how hot it was, and I hope you’ll enjoy what I’ve got lined up for the next few weeks.

To kick things off, I’m recommending my favorite pregnancy book: Expecting 411 (Amazon, Barnes and Noble). I found this while pregnant with my first, and I really liked it. It’s conversational without being annoying, and informative without being alarmist. I like the paper version better than the e-book version, since it’s easier to flip through when you have a specific question. I found it a helpful guide to pregnancy, and keep meaning to get the others in the series, particularly Toddler 411 (Amazon, Barnes and Noble), but I’ve been too busy chasing after said toddler to actually sit down, buy it, and read it! The toddler years are fun, but they sure are exhausting!

What are your favorite pregnancy/parenting books?

 

Review of The Martian by Andy Weir (2012)

Bottom line: Highly recommended for sci-fi fans and/or survivalists.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review:

Wow, that’s a long blurb. I won’t say much about the story, since it’s all pretty much covered. I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s sci-fi meets the good old-fashioned survival story. The character of Mark is completely realistic and charming, and I like that in this survival story, it’s actually believable how the main character has the knowledge and skills needed to survive.

There are a lot of f-bombs in here, but frankly, it fits his character and the man has been stranded on Mars. Some interesting stylistic choices are that it’s mostly told through Mark’s official NASA log/journal, which works much better than I would have thought, and Weir gives a LOT of detail and numbers on how exactly Mark is going about survival, including oxygen input, water consumption, etc. I kind of loved those things since it gave a realistic feel to the proceedings, and I’m a numbers nerd anyways. I asked my husband (NOT a numbers nerd) who’d liked and recommended the book to me and he said he just kind of ignored them.

There are a lot of secondary characters, and at first I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. However, as the story progressed, I became impressed at how he was able to fill out the characters in just the few quick strokes we get from Mark’s journal, or the glimpses we get as we watch them try to bring Mark home.

This is a really fun book, and the best contemporary sci-fi I’ve read recently.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Family Fridays – the Non-Weirdo’s Guide to Cloth Diapering

Well, it was earth day this week, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about poop. I’m coming out of the closet and taking a stand: I cloth diaper my baby! I thought I’d write up the Cloth Diapering for Non-Weirdos guide to hopefully give a little nudge to any parents who might be on the fence about trying it out.  Why non-weirdos? Well, I’m not really sure, to be honest. There’s a stigma that people who cloth diaper are weird – it’s the strange choice, the not-normal thing to do. My favorite conversation about cloth diapering happened with a man, who when told we were cloth diapering, just stared at me and went, “why?” in a tone of voice implying I’d somehow taken leave of my senses.

This might seem like a fairly rational response (it’s certainly not uncommon), but what makes this interaction particularly hilarious is that this man was, at the time, living in a Winnebago heated by a wood stove (he’d hacked out part of the shell for the chimney to fit), on the other side of a river that had to be either forded or kayaked across (no road/bridge), growing his own crops, raising and slaughtering his own meat, and using an outdoor composting toilet with a door but no walls. It says something about where society is when this kind of man thinks cloth diapering is weird. (His wife informed him that they would be cloth diapering when they had kids.)

So – why DO I cloth diaper my son? I’m not really a crunchy granola hippie type, but I do try to conserve where I can. When those areas also save me money, I get especially excited. So I do it because it saves us money, it’s better for the environment (it takes a lot of water to wash the diapers, but I believe this is better overall than importing from halfway across the world, then putting into landfills, every single time I change a diaper. In our global economy, people forget that India and China are actually quite far away, and that big container ships are really, really bad for the environment), there’s no weird chemicals or artificial scents pressed right up against his man parts, and they’re really, really cute. Also, I’ve found that they leak less. We’re not hardcore about it – when travelling or when he goes to mother’s day out we put him in disposables and don’t worry about it. I think parenting should be a realistic mix of idealistic goals and practicality. Strive for your ideals, but do what works best for your family and move on.

Here’s our current cloth diaper setup. We have 19 BumGenius 4.0 Snap Pocket Diapers, 2 PlanetWise Large Hanging Wetbags, 24 Thirsties Hemp Inserts, and 12 Thirsties Fab Cloth Wipes (if we have another kid, I’m buying a whole bunch of these and throwing out all my other baby washcloths. They’re SO SOFT.)

IMG_1799Why, yes, that is a nerdy math diaper. Squee!

I really love the website Kelly’s Closet (all the links above are to them), and buy most of our cloth diapering supplies from them. They have fabulous customer service, a great rewards program, and a big enough selection to find what you want, but not too big that it’s overwhelming. You could buy all of these supplies there for full price for about $500, and that does not include sales or rewards or volume discounts. I haven’t found that our utilities went up when we started cloth diapering, so that hasn’t been much of a cost for us. We do buy special cloth diaper detergent, and I think we’ve bought maybe 3 bags of that over the last year, for an additional $48. So all told, you could spend $550 for the first year of diapering your child, plus the second year will be free except for laundry and detergent costs. And the diapers will also last through multiple children.

We’d tried Fuzzibunz (yes, everything in the cloth diapering industry has a ridiculous name) previously, and found they just didn’t fit our son very well, so we switched to BumGenius when he was around 4 months, and they’ve worked fantastically (he’s currently 15 months). The BumGenius diapers are a “one-size” which means that theoretically you can use them from birth (though you’d have to have a pretty big newborn) to potty-training. You start with them on the smallest setting and the “newborn” insert (the inserts go in a slot/pocket in the diaper which is why they’re called pocket diapers), then as your baby grows, you change the snaps to a bigger size, and as he starts to pee more, you can change out the newborn for the regular insert, then you end up using both inserts together. We just had to buy the Thirsties inserts because he was starting to saturate and leak out of his diapers, but these inserts (coupled with the BG regular insert) will give us more time before he outgrows the diaper capacity (oh, and we use a regular insert plus two Thirsties inserts for overnight – no more wet baby in the morning!).

So a typical (wet) diaper change is as follows, take off wet diaper, and remove the wet inserts, then toss the whole shebang in the PlanetWise wetbag that’s hanging nearby. Then use either a disposable wipe or a cloth wipe wet with some water, or water/soap mixture (I keep an old handsoap dispenser by the changing table for this purpose) and clean him up. Toss disposable wipe in trash or toss cloth wipe in the wetbag. Snap a new diaper on the baby, either using or not using a disposable liner, and you’re good to go! If there’s only wet diapers in the diaper bag, I typically don’t zip it up, but if there’s a poopy one in there, you WILL want to zip it up. (Side note, these wet bags are awesome. I have a medium sized one I use as a laundry bag when we’re travelling and they do an awesome job of holding in leaks and smells and the usual gross baby stuff.)

One of the things that scares parents off of cloth diapering is the poop. Yes, poop is gross. Babies in general are pretty gross. Yes, you will end up touching poop no matter how you diaper your child, which is the common response from the cloth diaperers. However, I’ll be honest with you – it is more gross to deal with a poopy cloth diaper than a poopy disposable. But not that much grosser. With a poopy disposable, you just toss it in the trash (which, by the way, you’re not supposed to do, and yes, I know that everyone does it). With a poopy cloth diaper, you generally want to remove as much poop as possible from the diaper before putting it through your washer. (If you have a baby, there will be poop and pee going through your washer anyways, I promise you that.) You can use disposable liners, some of which are flushable, or some people use diaper sprayers or scrapers to put the poop in the toilet. Sometimes I just swipe at it with a disposable wipe to get the bulk off. Then you remove the inserts and dump everything in the laundry bag. Occasionally my son will go through phases where he’s pooping on a schedule, which is awesome, because then we’ll just use a disposable diaper for the poopy time. However, if he’s not on a schedule, we typically use the disposable liners in the morning (higher probability poop times), and just the plain cloth diapers later in the day, dealing with the consequences as necessary. As I said, it’s grosser, but not really that much grosser.

When it comes time for laundry, I unsnap the bag from the door handle, and invert over the washing machine, dumping everything in, including the bag. (You don’t have to touch anything gross at this point). I run a cold wash, no soap, no extra rinse, then soak it overnight. Then the next day I run a hot wash, with cloth diaper detergent (Rockin Green), and an extra rinse cycle. When that’s done, I’ll either hang up the inserts or dry them in the dryer, and I always hang up the shells (the colored part of the diaper). Since we’ve been using the hemp inserts, it takes two dry cycles to get them dry (they hold a LOT of water!), or some combination of hanging and drying. While this is happening, I’m using the second wetbag as our diaper pail. Once everything’s dry, I’ll assemble the diapers – some for day, some for night (with the extra inserts), and carry them up to his room, where they sit in neat, adorably colored stacks. Once a month, I throw in some bleach as per the BumGenius guidelines, and twice now (over a year) I’ve “stripped” the diapers – there was starting to be a build-up of smells, so you wash the diapers with Dawn dishwashing liquid and then do a bunch of rinses and the diapers are as good as new.

IMG_1797A good overall picture of our cloth diapering setup. I hang the nighttime stuffed diapers off the edge of the basket so it’s very clear which ones are which.

If you hate laundry, cloth diapering is not for you. Laundry happens to be about the only chore that I don’t hate – I mean, really, you put nasty, dirty things in a magic box, go away, and when you come back, they’re clean! Awesome! Also, I have a SpeedQueen washer and dryer, which I love more than words can express. The whole process does take a lot of time, it’s true. BUT – not much of that is hands on time. I’m a stay at home mom, so for me to walk downstairs a couple of times to hit buttons on the washer is not a strain. I’d say it takes maybe 3 minutes to set up the initial wash cycle (this gets rid of any solids and washes away a lot of the pee), another 2 minutes to go down and start the soak cycle, go to sleep, wake up the next morning and spend 2 minutes closing the lid so the soak cycle drains, then 3 minutes to go down and set up the hot wash cycle with detergent. Maybe 7 minutes to separate out the shells, inserts, and wipes,  and hang some and put some in the dryer, then another 2-5  minutes to go down and either restart the dryer or hang up the inserts to finish drying. It takes maybe 10-15 to assemble the diapers (mostly depending on how distracted you are while doing it) and bring them back upstairs. So I’d say, generously,  it’s an active 37 minutes every two days. Most of that is me walking up and down the stairs – our main living areas are upstairs and laundry is downstairs.

So that’s our routine. I find it to be totally worth the initial monetary investment and the continuing time investment. An added perk for me at least is that I have a very sensitive nose, and the artificial scents in disposable diapers can give me a massive headache. Plus, cloth diapers are really, really cute*.

IMG_1801*I told you they were cute. In my defense, I do normally put pants on him.

One last bit of advice for those of you thinking of trying cloth diapering is that you can’t really dip your toe in the water with it. You don’t really know if it’s going to work for you unless you have a full day’s worth of diapers and can test out your washing routine. So I recommend using a store that offers (like Kelly’s Closet)  a 30 day trial period, where you can buy all the diapers you need, and try it for a couple of full cycles (there is a bit of a learning curve) to see if it’s going to work for your family. If you hate it, or it feels like too much extra work, send them back in and get your money back. Life is too short to do things you hate.

Have you cloth diapered? Would you ever consider it for your kids?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.