Monthly Archives: August 2008

Eight Months, A Million Sleepless Nights, One Diaper Shop – Priceless

It was back in December when I sat up in bed in the middle of one wet, dark and cold night, shook Lukas awake and said “I know what we can do!” I think it was precisely because I jolted him awake that my husband, groggy and mumbling, agreed to start selling cloth diapers. The element of surprise cannot be overrated.

The idea of the side gig was born out of necessity. Both writers, we had spent several years trying to weather out the precursor to the perfect storm that eventually brewed for our family – a suffering media industry, a mortgage crisis for which we nearly became poster children and the cost of bringing two precious babies into the world. Instead of eating beans every night and renting out a room to a stoned college border, I thought throwing together a little home diaper business could close the financial gap and make life a bit more comfortable. I envisioned myself hosting little gatherings once or twice a month on the weekends where I would show off fabulous cloth diapers, and moms emailing out of the blue to order stashes of 36 diapers at $700 a pop.

Little did I realize how much time, effort, frustration and emotional turmoil can be involved in “throwing” such a venture together. But the reality soon began to emerge. I wanted a little online store that was different than what was out there already – a site that was edgy and cool and easy to navigate. And of course I, with no HTML or e-commerce skills, wanted it built for $500. I started out wanting to sell just Fuzzi Bunz, the diapers we first started using on Punkernoodle One and fell in love with. I quickly got diaper lust and had to have all the other great stuff out there, too. So I spread my allegiance around, which was good because I had lots of other diaper brands to comfort me when my beloved Fuzzis informed me they were not accepting new retailers – one of dozens of tiny heartbreaks.

As winter melted into spring, boxes of diapers filled what was once our dining room and the design of our Website inched forward. Our usual bedtime moved from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., and my dreams were filled with hot-pink polyester and organic hemp confections. Challenges abounded, from a trademark dilemma with our name to the ever-growing need for MORE TIME.

While we waited for our national online presence to make itself known, we started making real sales to wonderful local mamas and papas, who were beyond thrilled to have a place in Seattle where they could touch and learn about cloth diapers. And something else happened: As the realistic pace of starting a home business set in, Lukas jumped ship to a new job that brought in more money and turned the diaper shop from a financial lifeline to a slightly more fun experiment, a step on the path to a potentially different lifestyle down the road.

So it’s been 8 months. We have a temporary Website that directs local folks to our home showroom, where on evenings and weekends we’ve sold cloth diapers to a quite few babies, some who’ve rolled around on our floor squealing and some who waited quietly in utero. We have a determined and dedicated store designer with her own small-business dreams who may, just maybe, get our shop open in a few weeks. We have a deeper appreciation for family businesses of all size and shape, but especially for those run by parents trying to  create something good, and perhaps a little indescribable, for their children. Oh, and we’re finally carrying Fuzzi Bunz, which now sit stacked by the dozens in our dining room – I mean diaper shop – in all their fuzzi glory. Hopefully someone, somewhere, will buy them.

Punkernoodles Run Wild

Our little Punkernoodles are growing up fast.

Punkernoodle 2 is running wild. She has this strut she does, sort of a waddle-like trot that kicks in when she’s feeling like showing a little attitude. Like when she doesn’t want to give up her toothbrush to put it away, or she has a piece of chalk that she’s been sucking on and knows that I’m going to take it away, or when she’s trying to run ahead of me (Why do little kids always want to cut in front of you? I’m always tripping on them!) She’s learning new words every day. You just point at something and tell her the word a couple of times and she repeats it back to you. Her language skills are exploding. I love it. Her mind is so powerful at this age. The learning that they do is so far off the charts. I just try to imagine what it would be like to take it all in and learn everything at once as an adult. Impossible! 

Punkernoodle 1 is at a different place. It was amazing to see her break out of her shy mold the other night when we had a neighborhood block party for National Night Out. A couple of neighbor girls who are 7 and 6 decided they wanted to play with her and take her under their wings. It was the first time she got to play with big girls. She ate it up.

They all went on their bikes to the next street over (I went along too) where the folks over there had rented an inflatable obstacle course. At almost 3, Punkernoodle1 was by far the smallest kid bouncing through. She couldn’t have done it without her new friends helping her along. They encouraged her, they shouted her name, they told the flying-missile boys who were shooting all over the place to watch out for her. They pushed her up over a climbing wall, they dragged her under a tunnel and, most importantly, they talked her through it. She loved it. It was such a neat experience to watch her figure out what to say. It was obvious she was “trying to be cool.” At one point later, when they came over to see the playhouse I had mostly built (that’s another story), Punkernoodle 1, trying to talk big, asked the girls “do you want some food?” One of the girls said “No! We just ate” in that big-girl don’t-be-silly way. (We had all just eaten as part of the block party). Trying to be fast on her feet, Punkernoodle 1 said, “No, not you, Ginger (our dog).” I loved that she tried to play it cool like that.

The kids are having a blast in the (finally) heat of summer. They’ve been to the best toddler summer spot in Seattle – the Greenlake wading pool – a few times, most recently with an inflatable taxi we bought despite our better judgment and the knowledge that it was made in China and probably covered with toxic chemicals. It’s hard to say no when all the other kids are floating on giant dolphins, boats and turtles. Punkernoodle 2 spends most of her at-home time in just her diaper, waddling around in a cute new hot-pink Fuzzi Bunz with that sweet little strut. She’d rather be naked by a longshot. Like I said – smart girl.

– Lukas

My Husband is a (Cloth Diaper) Savant

Tonight Lukas was entering inventory for the diaper biz – a process that is still very much an experiment (writers really aren’t known for their math skills). Usually, as he enters sales (yes, we’ve been getting some!) the process goes like this: He picks up a receipt, studies it intensely for about 20 seconds, then turns to me and says “What is this?”

I can’t really blame him. The lingo is complex. It’s vast. I think they’re developing a specialty in this at Yale’s language department. And of course everything is abbreviated, so diaper-savvy moms can talk faster about more diapers in chat rooms and at busy play dates. OS, AIO, organic cotton velour prefolds, AI2, pocket hybrid, SWW froggy pond….

I do have to say that Lukas bought into the cloth-diaper idea right away, when I was preggers with Punkernoodle #1. He grew up with Hippie parents. But it was I who delved into the world of cloth, figuring out the difference between fitteds and contours, checking size ranges, crunching numbers and reading up on the dozens of companies putting out good dipes. Lukas mastered the diapering itself, while not necessarily knowing the name or details of the items he was covering the babies’ bums with.

Until I came up with the crazy idea to sell them. Which leads us to the breakthrough tonight, when Lukas read a receipt that said HH OS red. “Happy Heinys One-Size?” he said casually, typing quickly.

Is the surge of pride I felt a little weird? Maybe. It’s not like this makes him a cloth diaper genius. But I do feel like, compared to most other dads out there, my girls’ papa is a diaper savant of sorts. He thinks cloth diapering is cool, and rightly so. He cares that we make a good choice for our kids and their planet every day. He can say “Mums Bums” without blushing. He coined Punkernoodle Baby, so he can tell other parents that it’s not a scary, freaky choice.

After this, he’s going to the Diaper Olympics. And I’m dressing him in a pink medium GAD with a KN loopy and a side of testosterone.

$300 Diaper???

It’s true. There is a cloth diaper that has sold for almost $300. And no, it is not made of gold. Or crack. It’s a hot topic in the cloth diapering world right now. Said diaper shall remain unamed, but anyone who’s been using cloth diapers for a little while and also uses the Internet will know to which mama-owned company I’m referring.

The madness has been building for months, until it recently reached a crescendo when, during an online auction, a hand-tye-dyed bamboo fitted diaper sold for $296 plus shipping. It was a bit of an anomaly – the diapers from this company usually go for a much more reasonable $100. Each. But auctions of the cloth confections create what could be construed as mass hysteria when, prior to the almost-secret relase of a miniscule new batch of dipes, stalker mommies wait by their computers to pounce. These auctions have been known to crash the HyenaCart server, where the wearable art is sold.

Cult following? Duh. Warranted? I’m not sure. But my curiosity has grown larger than my reason, so I caved last week and bought one of these fitted-organic-bamboo-velour diapers from a mom on www.diaperswappers.comwho had probably hunted it in a fit of cloth-diapering competitiveness and then had second thoughts when hubby asked where the grocery money went. I DID NOT spend $300, or even close. I couldn’t even dream of scoring a print – the real status symbol among green-minded, big-spender mamas. So I settled for a $40 natural with colored outer stitching and coordinating snaps. A couple of days ago the puffy bundle arrived, soft as a newborn lamb, its shiny new pumkin-colored snaps calling to me. 

……So? You ask. Was it half it’s cracked up to be? Can the baby wear it for 79 hours straight and not feel wet? Does it change itself, and cook breakfast and do the laundry while it’s at it? The answer is …. I don’t know. That’s right – $40, months of hype, and we haven’t tried it yet. My excuse is I have to wash it first and I haven’t gotten around to the laundry yet. The truth is it might just be too pretty.

I could always frame it and put it on her wall…