Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Best Worst Diaper Story: The Portland `Diapercicle'

Judah gives `no more diapers' a thumbs up

A very triumphant moment: The donning of the underwear

I took the kids swimming twice today at our Hilton Head Island resort's indoor pool and was thinking how nice it was not to have to hassle with a swim diaper. One thought led to another and I was reminiscing back to that fateful day in Portland, Ore., in 1990 when we transitioned from cloth diapers to plastic diapers. For some reason, I had this desire to share my story. This story originally appeared on my 12 Kids and ... Counting? blog back in 2009. I've edited it and updated the blog post but if you like a good diaper story, er maybe it's more if you like a 'bad diaper story,' then you're in business. Enjoy!

Jan. 16, 2009 -- 12 Kids and ... Counting?
We've been changing diapers for 19 years.* That's 19 years straight. Surely that puts us up in some sort of record category. A lot of that time we've had two cute little rumps in diapers. I tried to do the math on it and by my calculations (Warning: I'm a journalist whose last dalliance with upper level math was as a high school sophomore, so any mathematical undertakings are subject to ready suspicion.) we've changed in excess of 60,000 diapers.**

I'm going to let that marinate for a minute. Ruminate on it even. Sixty-thousand. Diapers. Probably more.

I work at home so I've changed diapers in a pinch while writing articles on deadline, interviewing sources, even while telling my editor why I might have gotten something wrong in a story I just filed ("Dude, I was changing a diaper. Cut me some slack, eh?") I'm not sure what size of dumpster 60,000 diapers would fill, but I'm sure it would be an extraordinary sight. In a disgusting sort of way, I reckon. With a 9-month-old and an un-pottytrained 2-year-old in the house, we're still going strong diaper-wise. I've got plenty of bad diaper stories. What parent doesn't?

But here's my best `Worst Diaper Story.' We got married at the onset of my senior year of college, circa 1990, and lived in this drafty little 3-bedroom shack, er house, in North Portland. It was a tough neighborhood. A few houses down was what I called a “24-hour pharmacy.” The cops and others knew it as a “drug house.”

Being young and idealistic and in a perpetually tight spot financially, we found ourselves in a cloth diaper phase. It’s admirable to be young and concerned about the environment. But we got over it.*** 

In the aforementioned cloth diaper phase, we stored the soiled diapers on the back porch in a plastic 10-gallon pail with a lid on it. It worked out just fine until February, when an Arctic Blast hit Portland. We're talking sub-zero wind chills, ice everywhere and the city at a virtual standstill because Portland is wholly unprepared to deal with snow.

Inevitably, we ran out of cloth diapers during the height of the Arctic Blast. In a heroic deed, I bundled up, trundled out to the porch and grabbed the pail and headed down to the basement to the washer and dryer, risking frozen digits, limbs and certain frostbite.**** The washer was a top-loader and when I went to dump the diapers in the wash, out came a ... frozen solid brick of diapers. A full-blown diapercicle. "Clunk," it went on the washer.

When the initial shock and horror wore off, several thoughts went through my head. "Do I get a blow dryer and thaw it out?” That seemed rather unappealing, for some reason. Not to mention it was a completely misguided use of a blow dryer.

“Do I grab a hose?" was another, thinking maybe I could squirt some water on it and thaw it out. Of course, the hose was frozen solid so that was pretty pointless. 

I was at a loss. This wasn't in my “Parent Handbook.” I couldn't Google “frozen solid brick of diapers" and "how to thaw out" because Al Gore hadn't even invented the Internet yet way back in 1990. Let alone that the guys who invented Google probably weren’t even born yet.

I looked around the basement. Hmmmm. There's a hammer over there. I grabbed the hammer and went to work, taking apart that brick one whack at a time. The worst part about it? The frozen slivers of, well, you can imagine what sort of projectiles came flying at my face. After the first whack or two I was shielding my face with my left arm and swinging away with my right. 

I conquered that diapercicle and wrestled those frozen solid butt hugging pieces of cloth into the washer. I remember feeling triumphant. Against all odds I had overcome the ravages of the dreaded Arctic Blast. Perhaps — hopefully? — the only guy in Portland who had to attack a diapercicle with a hammer to survive the unforeseen effects of winter’s icy tendrils. 

Needless to say, it wasn't long after my battle with the cloth diapercicle o’ doom that we changed to plastic diapers.

*Since this article was published, we went six more years in diapers. Which makes it 25 years straight. 
** Since this article was published, we revised the estimated diaperage total upward with the additional 6 years of diapering to somewhere between 75,000 and 90,000. Give or take a few … thousand.
***Before and since this article was published, we remain/remained environmentally concerned.
We recycle. We don’t fertilize our yard with harmful chemicals. We prefer paper over plastic. 

****Since this article was published, I realize I am prone to exaggeration. It’s called “literary license.” Deal with it.

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