Moving from a roach infested apartment

It was a crazy summer. It was equal parts wonderful and really, really hard. The hardest part was moving out of our roach infested apartment. With my anxiety levels charged up from the growing infestation, just weeks into my new job and return to full time work, I planned our move. We had a month of overlap at both apartments, which we needed so that we could be careful and intentional all along the way.

We were very scared of bringing the roaches with us, so we painstakingly inspected and cleaned everything before packing it in big blue moving bins. Husband and I agreed that even though we had stretched our budget to its limit (past it really – borrowing from a very wonderful person just to be able to pay the security deposit and first month’s rent), it would be better to leave behind anything that we couldn’t be absolutely sure carried no bugs or their eggs. Our motto was “When in doubt, throw it out.” We really wanted to be sure that we never had to go through this again.

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My mom came to help us pack, and I was so thankful for her help, especially with the kitchen, which was the worst part. I think we must have seen hundreds of roaches both dead and alive while packing the kitchen alone. Many would scurry away when we opened a cabinet drawer, or we’d find them crawling around in nesting bowls. It had gotten so bad that we didn’t even have to shed light on a dark area – we’d regularly see them crawling on cabinets, walls, and counters, even in the daytime. So gross. With the distance that comes from being out of that place, I can now clearly see how BAD it was.

The moving process took longer than I’d hoped. We had both the old and new apartments for a whole month – because I was eager to get out of there and because the move was extra intense with the eradication work. As we approached the final weekend of our overlap month, I looked forward to closing the book on the infested apartment for good.

Then the bargain movers I’d originally hired for the last Saturday of our overlap month told us they were delayed for 4 hours before finally telling us they weren’t coming – “you cancel” the foreman texted me. We sure as hell did not! So I spent the next morning calling movers until I found one who could come the next day, for about 3x the price.

My husband and I took the day off from work and went back to the old apartment one last time. We did a final assessment of which furniture was safe to bring. After I sprayed clorox on a joint in a wooden table only to see a handful of baby roaches come crawling out, we decided to cut our plans even further, bringing almost nothing.

The movers were running late and it was near our daughter’s bedtime, so I took her while Husband oversaw the movers. I went back to the building later to bring him something and snapped the below pictures of all of our furniture in the trash.
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In the end we brought the bins, the bed and metal frame, my daughter’s bed, the nursing glider, a glass and metal desk, two folding chairs, a desk chair, a metal baker’s rack, and a still boxed shelving unit extension from Ikea. That’s it! No dressers, no tables, no bookshelves. There was almost nowhere to unpack our stuff to, and nowhere comfortable to eat. But it was worth it, to get out of the old place.

Our new apartment is big, sunny, and mostly bug free. A few days after the movers brought our stuff, I saw 3 or 4 cockroaches around the apartment. I was so scared that we had brought them with, but I felt that it would be just more than I could handle, and I just shut down my emotions on it, imagining it was someone else and not me. We put out bait traps and sealed the gaps around the doors and hoped for the best.

I’m happy to say we haven’t seen many in the weeks since. I hadn’t seen any until this morning when I found a dead one in the sink. Husband says he saw one in the kitchen too. But I believe this will be ok. The apartment is caulked and sealed so there is no good place for them to nest, and they will not survive.

We are slowly furnishing the apartment. I’d say we are being responsible by only buying what we can pay cash for, but the truth is we maxed out all of our credit just to make the move happen, so we have no choice. We bought a nice new convert-a-couch and a cheap folding table that we fancy up with a table cloth. I put some basic metal shelving in the closets so that we had a place to unpack our hobby supplies, which take a whole closet. We have less than 10 bins left to unpack out of the original 45. We are looking at dressers and toy storage next. In the meantime, we use the other bins for surfaces and toy and clothes storage.

Despite the incomplete furnishings and decorations, I am so happy about our new home. My anxiety levels dropped within a week or two of closing the chapter on the old place. I am so happy that I can comfortably use our kitchen without fear of what I’ll encounter every time time I move something. It’s changed my habits and routines – I can now relax at home with my family in a way I hadn’t at the old place in months. I feel relieved and comforted to be home and I love spending time there with my husband and daughter. It was all worth it.

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Diving into cloth diapering

After deciding that we would try cloth diapers and acquiring several different types, I had to figure out how to prep them. We had a pay per load shared laundry room in the basement and a Haier portable washer in our apartment for which we were waiting for a replacement part.

For brand new cloth prefolds, they recommend you wash them 5 or 6 times to wash away the natural oils and get the fibers to a more absorbent state. Paying for and doing that many loads of laundry in the shared room in the basement was unappealing, so I decided to try the boiling method of prepping the prefolds. I filled my largest put with water and heated of until boiling. I then added 3 diapers, put the lid on, and boiled them for 20 minutes. Afterwards I brought the hot diapers to the bathroom and hung them up to try on my nifty new hanging drying rack. The water was a bit yellow with the oils, so I dumped it and started again.

Meanwhile, I hand washed the one brand new all in one bumgenius free time diaper. It was a dark color and the package recommended washing separately at first.

Later in the day, after I’d finished boiling all 12 Osocozy bleached Indian cotton prefolds, I went down to the laundry room and the them in the washer with some soap nuts. I put it on heavy spill and extra rinse so they’d hey add much time as possible. I also put all of the pocket diapers and inserts and the all in one in another washer with their own little bag of soap nuts. Once those loads were done I threw them all in one dryer, added extra time, and let them tumble around in there. Later I stuffed each of the pocket diapers and I made room in my diaper drawer for this new stash. By the end of the day we were ready to go with our cloth diapers!

That night I put Precious in the all-in-one. The next morning I was eager to see how it had performed and was quite happy with the results! It was wet on the inside but had not leaked and she did not look pink. Great!

Over the next few days we did have some learning experiences. I put a prefold and a cover on her for one of her usual poop times, and it was my first time trying the “angelwings” fold with a Snappi diaper fastener. That was not a good idea! I had not put it on well and the poop got everywhere.

The other nights since then I have tried different pocket diaper set-ups. One night I forgot to add a second liner. There wasn’t enough absorbency and she soaked through the diaper. Another night I put two microfiber liners in, and they absorbed most of it but I hadn’t placed them so well inside their pocket and there was a part in the back that with just the pocket diaper and no liner and she leaked through that area. Two of the nights we used a brand of pocket diaper without an inner leg gusset and they have given her a bit of rash at the leg opening, which by the way has been more on her leg itself than at the hip area where you would expect it to fall. Last night I tried one microfiber and one cotton/hemp liner, but that leaked too. I’m going to try the all-in-one again tonight.

During the daytime though I am super happy with them and I think we just need to figure out the right night system for us. I have done the dirty diaper laundry once in the shared facilities and then once with the portable washing machine once the replacement part came. Doing the laundry with the machine and then hanging in our bathroom was super easy and with that system we should save around $50 to $75 a month over disposable diapers and wipes.

Her diaper rash does seem to be improved but it’s not gone yet. We’ll see what happens as we keep trying!

Deciding to switch to cloth diapering

Have you thought about making the switch to cloth diapers but hesitated for one reason or another? Up until recently, so did I. But after a bit of learning and prep, on Sunday I put my baby in her first cloth diaper. It’s been a few days and I’m pretty happy about it so far.

Having used cloth diapers at one of my nanny jobs several years ago, I seriously considered using cloth for my baby as I was planning for her arrival. I wanted to do what was best for my baby, for our bank account, and for the environment. At the same time, I didn’t want to take on more than I could handle. We live in a nyc apartment with a shared laundry facility in the basement, so the cost and effort involved in doing laundry is significant (though not as much as it was at our last apartment where the nearest laundromat was a couple flights of stairs and several blocks away).

I researched cloth diapers and ran the numbers, and found that at $4 per load to wash and dry our laundry, the cost savings of cloth would have been negligible. There might be a little savings after additional kids, but there would probably also be extra accessories and laundry cycles for prepping and stripping the diapers that I hadn’t accounted for, and in the end the cost difference would be on the order of $100, which didn’t seem enough to convince me to make the commitment to such regular laundry.

Meanwhile the various environmental analyses, when considering the energy and water involved in doing the laundry, didn’t come out as convincingly in favor of cloth as one might expect.

The third factor, diaper rash, was something we couldn’t assess until the baby was here.

So I registered for disposables, put several cloth diapers in my “baby idea list” on amazon, and didn’t think about it again for a while. The baby came and we used disposables and tried to get through those first few bleary-eyed months.

Whenever I met New Yorkers who were using cloth for their babies, I would ask them about their laundry set up. Most admitted they weren’t saving much money with it and that they did have quite a laundry routine.

But then one day I met someone who said she had installed a portable washer in her kitchen, so she wasn’t paying per load of laundry. Excitedly, I asked her to tell me more. It turns out she had a Haier portable washing machine which uses a regular outlet and connects to the kitchen sink. I’d never heard of such a thing but it seemed it might make cloth doable for us.

In my neighborhood of Washington Heights we have an active local parents listserve, so I kept an eye out for someone to post a used one. When someone finally did I snapped it up. We brought it home and I used it for a few weeks, trying to do both the baby and adult laundry with it. It works great, and is easy to use for the small baby items. I found however that with the load size and need to find space to hang dry, I couldn’t keep up with the adult laundry with it.

Meanwhile, my daughter got to a point where she was waking almost daily with some rash, despite generous applications of Aquaphor or Boudreau’s Butt Paste and regular treatment with Triple Paste. So, I toyed with the idea that it was time to try cloth.

I asked my husband what he thought, and he said it was a great idea. His mom had switched to cloth for him because of his sensitive skin, so he felt it would be natural to do the same for our baby.

I turned to the listserve again, posting a request for used cloth diapers, and acquired about a dozen pocket diapers, 20 inserts, and several all in one’s for only about $50. What a great deal! I also had put some prefolds and covers in our Amazon cart and when my husband needed to buy something else he went ahead and ordered them.

So about a week later I had all the supplies and was ready to get started. I’ll post soon about how I prepped and what I’ve learned in the first few days.

Housing court tomorrow

Tomorrow members of my family will face the housing court judge who will decide whether to grant them an extension to pay or to unequivocally move forward with eviction. Considering that the three of them live in a bronx apartment that costs less than $1000/ month and they’ve been there over two decades, this is extremely distressing. You can’t house 3 people for 1k in many places here. It’s unheard of, and it’s only because of rent control that they pay so little. Once they are kicked out, they will have to pay going rates.

Now you might say, why do they need to live in NYC? Can’t they move somewhere cheaper? I don’t see how though, because none of them can drive or afford a car, and 2 of them are disabled so there’s no chance of learning to drive. The only places I can think of that aren’t in the city but allow a person to meet their needs without a car are assisted living facilities or in downtown locations of other cities, but neither can house 3 people for under $1k, as far as I know.

So, where does that leave them? I wish I knew.

Meanwhile, it’s not easy to pay our own rent, and the hot water disappeared again yesterday and isn’t back yet. We pay about $1.1k/month for the privilege of living in an apartment (near the subway at least, albeit the end of the line) that has been burgled twice in 6 years and, lately, loses heat and/or hot water about 10-25 times a year.

And still I know we are lucky in some ways, as there are Americans who have it worse. Americans who live in slums, shacks, trailers, and homeless shelters, who despair at the prospects of a jobless future, who cannot feed their children.

What a luxury it seems to be worried about deficits and taxes.

City dwelling & CO2 production

Today I looked at this cool slideshow from Scientific American.  In particular I liked this image:

City dwellers produce, on average, less CO2 from fossil fuels than suburban or rural residents, who use vehicles and outdoor equipment more.

City dwellers produce, on average, less CO2 from fossil fuels than suburban or rural residents, who use vehicles and outdoor equipment more.

This is one of the things that I love so much about living in New York City.  I use only public transportation, mostly subways and occasionally buses, which are part of a clean vehicle fleet.  The taxis, while not yet upgraded by and large, are at least beginning to be overhauled to clean vehicles as well. I don’t own or drive a car, I never buy gasoline, and my husband, a life-long New Yorker, doesn’t even know how to drive.

Admittedly, my apartment building, which is not a designated “affordable housing” unit but is nonetheless mostly low income residents, is woefully wasteful in its degraded and leaky plumbing system.  But I don’t have a yard, a lawn mower, a need for sprinklers, or many rooms to heat, cool, or keep lighted.

While I sometimes consider what it would be like to move to a house with a yard for raising our future children, I can’t imagine making the transition to living in a sprawled community that requires a car to go anywhere.  I like it better here, in the city, where I can use only public transportation, and enjoy the many public parks with the rest of my community.

You can’t live on $500k in this town? Bull.

I just read this article in the NY Times, on the effect that a plan by Obama to cap top executive pay at $500k for banks accepting bailout money will have on these executive’s lifestyles.

And I just had to write a post, because nothing pisses me off more than some of this crap. The author nears the article’s conclusion with this:

The total costs here, which do not include a lot of things, like kennels for the dog when the family is away, summer camp, spas and other grooming for the human members of the family, donations to charity, and frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity, are $790,750, which would require about a $1.6-million salary to compensate for taxes. Give or take a few score thousand of dollars.

I read a NY Times magazine article during the election season on Obamanomics, and found that I really felt good about his economic policies, ideals, and views.  His positions are probably the closer to my own than those of any other politician, and certainly any president or even major presidential candidate, ever.  One of the things in the article that stood out to me was the tenet that society functions the best, driving production and increasing economic success, when the top executives of a company make about 25x more than the bottom employees.  So if the lowest employees at the bank make $40,000 a year, then the top employees should make about $1 million.  In that case, the $1.6 million/year that the article is claiming is needed to lead the common lifestyle of a bank executive is roughly 50% more expensive than it should be for all of the employees and the company to perform their best.

The article goes on to explain the need to fit in with other bank executives:

Does this money buy a chief executive stockholders might prize, a well-to-do man with a certain sureness of stride, something that might be lost if the executive were crowding onto the PATH train every morning at Journal Square, his newspaper splayed against the back of a stranger’s head?

The man would certainly not feel like himself on that train, said Candace Bushnell, the author of “Sex and the City” and other books chronicling New York social mores.

“People inherently understand that if they are going to get ahead in whatever corporate culture they are involved in, they need to take on the appurtenances of what defines that culture,” she said. “So if you are in a culture where spending a lot of money is a sign of success, it’s like the same thing that goes back to high school peer pressure. It’s about fitting in.”

My response? Ok, but the point is, your bank failed and is looking for a government bailout.  You need to suck it up.  Top executives are supposed to earn the pay that they receive, and banks that need bailouts, regardless of how common that may be, failed in their jobs.  So what’s the harm in instating laws to encourage them to work towards success in order to earn the money they make?  That’s what capitalism is supposed to be about.  When they’re able to give themselves huge salaries regardless of whether they lead their companies towards success or complete failure, capitalism isn’t working the way it was meant to, and I’m pretty sure that’s not the capitalism that people like my father hold so dear.

Even if they’re rare, there are a number of chief executives who lead successful companies without living such extravagant lifestyles.  As far as I know, Warren Buffett, one of the most successful men in the world, is one of them.  Obama’s plan would be hoping to help change the culture of the self-absorbed members, not trying to sink companies in need of a bailout by sinking the self-esteem of their chief executives.  Maybe when they lead their companies to overwhelming success through good decisions and leadership, they can start making over $1 million again.

These people can’t live on $500k in this town?  I live on $50k in this town.  Maybe I should be teaching them a few things.

The organizing bug

Well, it’s summertime, and somehow it seems that for me summer and home organization/improvement seem to go together.

Last year, I renovated the bedroom – painting the walls a lavish, dark red, and adding real bed and dresser furniture, care of my lovely momma. There are still a few upgrades I want to add to the bedroom – a new mattress, for one, a few more bins/baskets for some excess clothes we tend to keep out, and some wall art. I dream of getting this nice space-saving sewing workstation, too. Admittedly, it’s not the same color as our current bedroom furniture, but it folds up small (essential in a NYC apartment), and it’s on wheels, so I can easily wheel it out to the living room if the hubby is sleeping. Maybe I can get it later this year for my birthday (I’ll be 25!) or our 2 year anniversary.

This year, Husband and I are both spending lots and lots of time at home. He’s been working from home for a year and a half now, and now it looks like I’ll be joining him. I work from home many hours a week on T! stuff, and I also do data analysis for the lab from here too. If I start pursuing freelance science writing, I’ll be doing that from home as well.  This also means we use the kitchen more since I’m home more to cook and prep food. (Husband typically feeds himself, but rarely chooses to cook anything elaborate.) We’ve accumulated a fair number of things that no longer fit on our various media shelves, and we also have new business related things that we need to store. So I’ve been thinking mostly about how I can upgrade the living room and the kitchen.  Finally, I’ve also just been thinking about what our living patterns have evolved into and how we could make more efficient and fun use of our living space.

So today I made up an organizing list. I started by writing out everything I could think of that needs a place to store. I categorized them by room, including closets as rooms. Then I thought about what we actually use daily, monthly, or only seasonally, and planned the storage location accordingly – making the things we use most often the most easily accessible. Next, I considered what would be the best storage solution for each item – drawers, boxes, bins, or shelves. I chose drawers or open-lidded boxes or bins for things we use often, and boxes and shelves for everything else. Things used only seasonally will be stored in lidded boxes on high shelves, in closets and out of the way.

I’ve picked out items and made a plan for everything. Now to buy the storage furniture and containers – a little at a time. Even though I can’t buy it all right now, I enjoy planning and organizing so much that I don’t care. I ordered a little bit of it, some really cheap organizers from Amazon.com, and I’m on my way to more efficient living…