Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Life Changes, Vivi Grows Up...



...dishes take longer, involve more messes, involve a clothing change...
...dishes area fun highlight to the day, giggles are inevitable, and we stay cool splashing....

Yep, I don't think babywearing while washing dishes is something I'm going to get away with anymore. Not since she discovered she can be more involved. Observing over mommy's shoulder was good stuff....better than playing alone. But choosing between that and splashing water everywhere? The answer's obvious for a one year old. We made lots of fun memories doing dishes while I was wearing her- now here's to many years having fun doing dishes together in a new way....because my baby girl's growing up.

My in-laws have an awesome three-sink/two-faucet set up in their kitchen, so when Viv and I were doing dishes over there yesterday, I plopped her in one of them, which she loved. She had so much fun being right in as close to the action as possible. I think we just might have to make that work with our oddly-divided sink! :-)




Doing dishes twice in a day....first with mommy, then with daddy...Ben, like the amazing guy he is, virtually always does the dinner dishes, which, depending on how fast Vivi and I cooked/cleaned, and how ahead of the game we were (or how wrapped up we got in playing outside or working on projects), can sometimes be quite a job- so Vivi gets to enjoy dishes during the day with me, and in the evening with Ben.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mothering Two

In anticipating this baby’s birth, and especially since a friend just gave birth to her second baby, I’ve been thinking a lot about being a mommy to two. At first, I was really, really looking forward to having a newborn again, and I still am. But even more….I’m looking forward to having a newborn and Vivi.

Newborns are so much fun…with their tiny fingers and toes, their adorable bums, their downy heads, their soft skin, and their sweet baby scent. I can’t wait to have a baby I can wear all day long again. I’m looking forward to sharing the breastfeeding relationship with a helpless newborn again. I’m looking forward to wearing this baby while I do everything in my day-to-day agenda.

But, Vivi’s at an adorable stage, and while 5 months will change her, I know she’ll still be at a super fun stage- one I wouldn’t want to trade for anything. She’ll probably be climbing on chairs and “helping” me with everything. She’ll most likely have a huge repertoire of signs under her belt, and probably be talking a lot more by then, too. She’s such a gabber, I know she has a lot to tell about, so as soon as she can put it all in words and signs, there’ll probably be no lack of conversation between the two of us! And though she’ll be more active and independent, she’ll probably still need to be worn, for the sake of mommy snuggles. It’s just the way she’s wired- and I love it. Nursing Vivi is so much fun, too- just not very modest.

If you put the two together, I think you’ve just created heaven on earth. Getting to snuggle the baby into the sling or wrap while Vivi stands next to me helping to knead dough or wash dishes. Nursing both at once. Or nursing the baby while reading to or playing with Vivi. Or nursing Vivi and spending some one-on-one time with her while the baby naps. Snuggling the baby on my front and Vivi on my back to go for walks. Watching their relationship unfold. Teaching Viviana how to be gentle, and watching as they discover each other. As the baby grows, playing on the floor with both of them…helping Vivi learn to share. When warm weather hits, spending time outside, all three of us together. Waking up in the morning with my three treasures- Ben, Vivi and baby- all lying next to me. Watching both my angels sleep. Seeing how they’re similar, and how they’re drastically different…watching each one’s strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies shine through. Yes, my friends….heaven on earth.

And I’m really looking forward to the babymoon. Vivi and I will be working hard this fall to get ready for it, so we can enjoy a nice, long, relaxed season of just being together. Newborns grow so quickly, and Vivi will probably need plenty of extra snuggles as she adjusts to the new phase of life…both of which make good excuses for preparing ahead and enjoying a leisurely month or so. It should be a ball!

I know…it won’t all be dream-like. There’ll be rough days….there’ll be nights when both babies need me all night…there’ll be spots when both are cranky and desperately need individual attention. Times when I can’t get either to sleep when they need to. Times when I’m too tired to lug around 35-40+lbs of baby.

Yes, I do know it won’t be fairy land. I understand that there will be difficult days- that’s why I’m fully stocking the freezer and pantry beforehand, and will continue to do things ahead on our good days- if I was going in blindly, I wouldn’t do things like that. So that firstly we can be lazy and hang out for a good while after the baby’s born as we soak in our new life, and secondly so that on the rough days my babies will be all the responsibility I have. And I know…that even there, I’ll get overwhelmed sometimes- because as it happens, I’m not super woman. I know sometimes I won’t be content to not get everything done. I know I won’t like letting the house slide to messiness some days because I decided my focus needed to be my babies. But that’s okay. Those facts can help me to prepare better for the challenges at hand, but there’s no reason for them to steal my dreams.

I’m sure plenty of you are laughing my ideals down to the ground by about now. You think I’m crazy, because after all, I have no idea. And in a sense, you’re right- all I have to go on are the dreams God’s given me and my experience as a mommy to one. But on the other hand, I can’t help but feel that you’re wrong. Because although life will change drastically, how it plays out still depends almost entirely on my attitude. On how I handle it. God didn’t design life with two littles to be miserable, of that I’m certain. He intended for children to grow up in loving, happy, nourishing homes, so they can flourish and fly. There just isn’t room for misery in that picture.

And because- people assured me that marriage would be so difficult, in a negative sense. They were wrong. They assured me pregnancy would be miserable and difficult…but they were wrong. They assured me that I had no idea about giving birth, and it was a terrible experience worthy of horror stories….and they were so wrong. People assured me that life with one baby would be very difficult and time consuming- that it wouldn’t all be like you think it is and there’s crazy ideas you just can’t hold on to (you know, certain plastic contraptions are just vital to survival)…and they were wrong. Oh, sure, there were challenges with each…but they weren’t at all the way people tried desperately to get me to see them. I think I’m starting to see a trend, here- I don’t understand it exactly, because I can’t understand why someone would want to make my life- and my children and husband’s lives- miserable. I just know I’m not tied in any way to replicating those lives. I wouldn’t have any business being pregnant if I did play out my mothering that way.

God planted dreams in my heart, just like He did with Vivi. And I don’t think He planted them there just for me to let them be crushed with negativity and stress. No- He planted those dreams to give me new ideals…something to strive for. To show me His ideals for our life. To show me how I can best invest in my children’s lives. And- He planted them to give me something to strive for on the hard days. To be able to remember when I let my ideals down…to be able to go back and try again. To cling to when I want to give up…when I don’t feel like carrying on my ideals. Because all that will happen…I’m not perfect, and if so much depends on my attitude, I have great control over what our life looks like…but also, great potential for failing sometimes.

So…those ideals might sound absolutely crazy- and until they can be played out, sharing them might make me look like a fool. But I can’t afford to drown in the negativity people would have me thrown in…and so I swim above, at risk of looking like a fool. And though I’ll do my best to be graceful with you if you try to drag me under, I won’t, anymore, just listen and act like you’re right. It isn’t kind, loving or just to my babies. My babies need me to hold fast to my ideals, for their sakes. Vivi doesn’t need to live with a mother who coats herself in fear for the next 5 months. And neither baby needs to live with a mother who steps into the next level of life already at a huge disadvantage, just because of my negative, fearful attitude.

If, on the other hand, you want to share with me what was hard, and how you conquered it, I’m very interested in hearing. I’ll listen with open ears, and consider what you have to say. If you offer advice that goes against what we believe, and what our ideals hold, the advice might not linger, but I will listen. If a certain aspect of tandem nursing was more difficult than you anticipated, I’d enjoy being prepared. If you found things that worked well for you, I’d love to hear. Like I’ve said, I’m all about preparing ahead. I’m all for considering what my challenges might be and preparing for them. I’m a planner, and I like to think through challenges and how best to conquer them. So, I do want to hear about the difficulties- I want to prepare, and I know when I’m there I’ll want to know I’m not the only mom who has long days. I just don’t want them to be drenched in negativity, with the seeming intent of dragging me down.

I’m an idealist, and so I cling to the very highest I can find, the deepest dreams God gives. Not so I can be the perfect mom, and not because I’ll be able to live the ideals out perfectly, everyday. But so I always have something higher to strive for…so I can keep reaching upward….so I have a fast reminder when my focus or attitude is slipping…so I can read God’s dreams for me, and hold them tightly when life isn’t all roses…so I can be the very best I can be- even if that isn’t ever perfection.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Joy of Babywearing

During a few-week phase of my first trimester with this pregnancy, I did very minimal babywearing. I was exhausted all the time and nauseous part of the time. Ben was doing all the shopping, we ate plenty of Pizza Hut (for some reason, I just can’t make homemade food sound good during the 1st trimester!), and housework was minimal. I was still with Vivi all day, of course…we spent lots of time playing on the floor together. And she enjoyed playing at my feet when I was cooking or something. That’s something she still enjoys now that I’m back to normal- she’s just getting to an exploratory stage of life, and enjoys playing and getting into cupboards.

The “dry” season of wearing gave me a vivid reminder of how much Vivi loves being worn. Viviana still needs to be worn. She needs the closeness and to feel my body. She loves to play and is growing up, so she doesn’t need it all the time- but she does need some.

One day, in the middle of those few weeks, I had an unusually energetic day, so I decided to wrap my 23 ½ lb. Vivi on my back and get a bunch of housework done. As soon as Vivi saw me lay the wrap on my bed, and I put her on it, she starting squealing, squirming and laughing. It was so precious to see how excited she was to be worn again. She was even still and good while I wrapped her. She spent the whole hour or two of being worn snuggling into me, laughing, gabbing, waving her arms, and having a blast. So did I- I was so blessed to be able to meet my daughter’s needs and have such a beautiful reward.

Another time, I put her in the ergo. She was so peaceful and content to just nestle into me. I love getting to snuggle with my baby girl while doing stuff around the house!

Now, life’s back to normal….and she still loves being worn. I’m back to wearing her everyday, and we both enjoy the snuggles. I can’t wait to have a newborn I can wear all day again, along with still wearing Vivi as she needs…in the meanwhile, I’m enjoying snuggles with my Vivi, in between playtimes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Going Green, week five- don't buy what you don't need

-This one will be short too, to make way for Vivi’s birthday post!-

Basically, the title sums it all up…it really is as simple as not buying what you don’t for real need. It helps with keeping an organized and clutter-free home, too!

Stores center around promoting their stuff, so you buy it. They come up with as many needless items as they can, promote and advertise, and suck us into buying it. They run “great deals”, and especially in large corporations, they do price it dirt cheap…so that we think, “That’s just such a great deal! I should get it just in case ___.” Not only is it causing unneeded clutter (which means it takes more time to manage your home), and wasting money, it’s also hurting people and the environment.

I’ve been thinking about this one quite a bit since this past weekend, when I ran to Walmart with my mom. Looking around, I just thought “Wow….this is so ridiculous!” So much stuff and waste and consumerism. So much of the big guy being able to buy everything super cheap so the rest of us can have for less than it’s worth. It isn’t something I’ve thought about excessively before, but I want to strive for more changes in the way I shop…like avoiding more of the big guys. I don’t think I’ll be implementing it fully by any means, or at least, not any time soon, but baby steps will make a difference. We do some things- during the summer, I shop at a local farmer’s market. When I didn’t shop there, I often bought local produce from a nearby grocery store. But I know there’s other changes I can make, too….it’s hard to figure out where to draw the line, and I’m not sure what it’ll be for us, because some of the changes I could make will mean paying more- a “consequence” to fair trade. I’m used to being able to get stuff dirt-cheap….we all are. But I’m feeling challenged, like I should be paying for products what they’re worth, instead of getting cheap junk that’s hurting someone else. Like I should be getting more local. Like I should avoid the big guns. We’ll see where it goes for us…baby steps, we’ll find ways to make it work, and I’m sure it’ll be a richly-rewarding journey!

If you have a minute, watch this excellent video…Ben and I both thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated it: The Story of Stuff.

Happy First Birthday, Viviana!

Dear Viviana,


Happy 1st birthday, Sweetheart! It’s hard to believe you’re already a year old….this year has flown by so quickly. But not so fast that we haven’t made many beautiful memories to cherish and look back on. As I think back over the past year, I feel so overwhelmingly blessed that God chose us for each other. It’s so special to see all the different ways in which you needed me to be your mommy…and I needed you, my daughter. You’re my greatest treasure, Vivi!


At 9:37 am a year ago, I was holding you in my arms for the very first time. I was already in love with you- but seeing and holding just made me fall deeper. You were so perfect, so amazing…and I couldn’t believe God had given you to daddy and me.


We cuddled and rested the first weeks. I could barely take my eyes off you; I would hold you and just gaze at you all day long. Daddy held you lots, too- he loves his little girl so much! It was so special to just hold you and thank God for you, realizing that you really were mine. You were a couple weeks old before it ever occurred to me to try putting you down somewhere…not that it mattered, you needed 24/7 touch as a baby, so the tries didn’t go anywhere- except about once a week, for 20 minutes, which I would use to spend some time with just Daddy. But- I just didn’t really consider the possibility of laying you down- you were so beautiful, so helpless, so dependent, so needy.


Mostly, the first few months of your life were filled with beautiful memories. But there were a few struggles, too. You were a fussier baby, and had your first cry spell when you were less than 24 hours old. I felt so helpless…like I was being a bad mom, because I couldn’t find anything that soothed you. I tried nursing you, and holding you against my bare chest. And Daddy spent a lot of time walking you. Eventually I learned that so long as I was doing my best to comfort and soothe you- to be there for you- the fact that you were a fussy baby didn’t make me the world’s worst mom.


You adored your daddy- you still worship him. Every morning the first few months of your life, you would fall asleep on his chest while he worked at the computer, and I was taking a shower. You looked so sweet asleep up there. You didn’t like very many other people though, until you were a few months old.

The older you got, the more balanced you became, and by the time you were a few months old, you were a social butterfly. Everyone enjoys you, and you’ll smile for anyone you meet! I was telling Daddy the other day that although you’re only a year old, you’ve brought smiles and joy to so many lives- friends, family, strangers. Your personality is truly beautiful, and I know God’s going to use it in huge ways. You use your enthusiasm and joy to light up many people’s lives- mine and daddy’s, first and fore most, but then, many others.


Before we knew it, you were becoming more alert, holding yourself up better, and in general, growing up. We enjoyed a wonderful fall together as a family. You were (and still are!) quite the talker, with lots of stories to tell. At a year, you still don’t get around much. You can roll over and scooch, but even those methods you don’t use much. You’re content to just stay in a similar area and play with what you’ve got.


I have so many precious memories stored away of you….middle-of-the-night wakings, early morning family snuggles, the way you lit up the first time you saw a squirrel, learning new signs, laughing and being silly together, wearing you through life, watching you and daddy play, watching you explore new things, seeing you figure life out… There have been so many days when I’ve felt overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness as I hold and watch you. You’re a precious treasure, Viviana, and you’ve forever changed our lives in all the best ways!

Love,

Daddy and Mommy


A Prayer For You: Father, thank you so much for this beautiful girl you’ve blessed Ben and me with. Help us to know how best to parent her…give us the wisdom and patience to meet her individual needs, to reach out to her. Help us to reach her heart- to cultivate and capture it. Thank you for the many ways she brightens up everyday….thank you for entrusting her to us, and allowing us to taste of her beauty. Help us to continue to grow in our relationship together over the upcoming year. Help me to meet her needs even when she has a new sibling…help me to see the joys in everyday, and not get stressed, thus effecting Vivi negatively. Thank you for Vivi’s smiles and enthusiasm for life…her special personality, and the way she loves openly.


Well....I tried doing the pictures chronologically, but it put them all in backwards....so that's the way they're staying. Chronologically backwards. :-)























Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Baby Signing

There are tons of books on baby signing available, as well as lots of information on the internet. I read or scanned probably at least 20 books (which does include some board books) when Vivi was a baby, when we were pretty decided we wanted to plunge. Some of them were particularly helpful, but it’s certainly not necessary to read very much, because signing with your baby is so simple. It isn’t a complicated science or anything that requires a thorough education. I also really enjoyed the scientific aspect- reading about research and the benefits of signing. For the most part, I’m not going to get into those right now, other than touching on some of the aspects that were our main reason for choosing to sign.

I can’t speak from someone who’s thoroughly through it- someone who has 3 children, all great, early talkers. Vivi being only a year, we’re still in the early part of the process. But we have seen some huge benefits in our family already, as well as ways it has specifically and tangibly helped Vivi. So mostly, I’m just going to share how we’ve been blessed.

In a nutshell, these are some of the biggest points we decided to follow in baby signing, which are considered musts in most baby signing books. Pick just a few (3 or so) signs to start with, and consistently sign those. Sign them when you’re getting ready for the activity (or whatever it is), when you’re doing it multiple times, etc. Really connect the sign with the object/activity. For example: for teaching “eat”, we might show Vivi her high chair with food ready on it, and ask her if she wants to eat (sign, too), then we put her in and say, “Yeah, we’re eating!”…and we would comment about eating a handful of times throughout the meal. Make sure you say the word along with signing. You want them to be able to connect signs with speaking, since with a “normal” (hearing) baby, signing will eventually switch over to talking- or at least include talking, depending on your final goals. Some families like to continue signing and use baby signing as a base for expanding and learning more. We’re hoping to go this route, and encourage our older children to still sign- so long as I can keep up! Never, ever withhold something because a baby doesn’t sign it back to you. It might take a while before baby starts signing, and if you start very young, it could take months. Even after they start signing, they may or may not always sign it back to you. Signing is not something that gets disciplined- it’s a tool to communicate. Get excited with them when they sign- babies love being clapped for! If baby isn’t repeating the sign “correctly”, continue to model it accurately for them, but don’t correct their signs. Eventually, just through seeing you, they’ll perfect theirs. Several of Vivi’s signs have already moved through multiple levels of accuracy as she tries to copy me. And lastly, have fun!

As parents that believe treating children like people is of utmost importance, communicating with our children is very important to us. We believe that what children have to say is just as important and attention-worthy as anyone else. But it can be hard with a 10 month old, or even an 18 month old. Some children even don’t start talking well and clearly till they’re 2 or older. And this can lead to a lot of frustration- especially on the part of the child, but also for the parent. So baby signing appealed to us instantly. It seemed like a great idea to have a tool we could use to communicate with our babies at so young an age. It totally fits with me to find a way that Vivi can communicate her needs, wants, thoughts, desires, excitement, etc., with me. We love sharing life, and communication is a huge part of that. It’s so much fun having mutual communication as a part of our sharing life, now! Each stage has so many special aspects, and it’s definitely exciting to be able to communicate so much with Vivi.

We signed sporadically throughout Vivi’s babyhood, but didn’t get serious about it till she started tantruming a lot, all of a sudden. Thinking through the various possibilities and causes of the tantrums (because she never has before, and she was well-rested when she started down that path), we considered frustration with not being able to communicate. That was our kick into consistent signing. We chose to start with eat, play and light. We chose eat and play because they’re large parts of her day, and also needs/desires we thought her likely to communicate. We chose light as a fun one, because Vivi has always been really fascinated by lights. Sure enough, she loves telling us about every light she sees now! Since then, we’ve added all done, drink, outside and potty (because, yes, signing has even led to some beginning potty training :-)). It doesn’t matter what signs you start with; just pick ones that are relevant to you and your baby. Once Vivi masters a sign (I don’t know what “technically” qualifies, but we’re going with, once she signs it without any prompting, to communicate something), we start a new one. The rate at which she picks up signs is getting faster, although some take longer than others- and there are some signs she’s been signing back at me for at least a couple weeks, but which she still hasn’t started signing of her own accord yet. Most babies eventually get to a rate of one new sign a day, and though we haven’t yet, I suspect we will. Vivi loves having the ability to communicate with us, and gets really excited when she can use a sign to communicate, and we understand.

To get back to the tantrums- they’re gone. Just like that. She still has an occasional one over something- like when she’s exhausted and I’m trying to get her to sleep and she’d rather not be laying there. But for the most part, it seems all she needed was peaceful methods of communication. I’m sure as she gets older, and into more trouble, we’ll have some tantrum issues along the way, when she can’t have things she wants. But for now, it enables us to communicate which eliminates a large source of tantrums.

The first time she signed of her own accord, she was in the middle of a tantrum. It was a few days, or maybe even a week or two, after we started signing consistently. Ben was holding her, and she was perfectly happy, while I got dinner ready. Neither of us caught the connection till after the fact, but she started throwing a fit when I started cutting up food on her tray. Ben asked her what she wanted and told her that she didn’t have to scream. She seemed to think for a moment, then signed eat. Ben responded to her, acknowledging the need, and she was perfectly happy. Outside of tantrums motivated by severe tiredness, I think that was about the last one she had.

It makes me so happy to have a way to communicate with Vivi, so that she doesn’t get frustrated. It’s so fun to see how excited she was when she first realized she could use signing to tell us what she needs. It’s also helped eliminate some impatience issues we were having….like when I’d put her in her high chair while I was still cutting up her food, thus not having it all ready. I’m not sure why she stopped being so impatient, but I wonder if it’s because she’s fully confident now that I do know what she needs and understand her, and therefore will meet those needs. It’s really special to be able to communicate with Vivi even though she doesn’t have the coordination to speak in clear words yet…and it makes life happier and easier for all of us.

All that makes me wonder how many babies get spanked or otherwise punished for throwing fits that could easily be stopped just through a parent taking the time to teach them to communicate in a way that works for the baby. And it’s kind of scary to wonder how close we were to being one of those discipline-happy parents. I’m just grateful God spared us from that direction, and has given us the tools to teach Vivi how to communicate peacefully.

All that to say….we’re enjoying both our signing journey, and the fruit of it! If you try it with your little ones, I hope you’re as blessed as we’ve been!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Glamour

I wonder how many parents go into parenthood unarmed, with this vague idea that there are certain glamorous aspects to parenting. And at first, it might well appear to be so. Especially in homeschool circles, it’s the “Godly” thing to do to get pregnant. Everybody and their uncle congratulate you and are thrilled for you the first time you get pregnant. Most first-time moms are center stage the whole 9 months. Everyone wants to know how they’re doing, what they think of pregnancy (and generally, how miserable they are), birth plans, nursery plans, etc., etc. You get at least one baby shower, sometimes more. Then the birth day finally arrives, and again, everyone wants to see pictures. Tons of people visit, wanting to see your first baby, and lots even bring meals. And the first month or so you’re totally caught up and enamored by this precious little one, hardly able to believe it’s actually yours.

But suddenly, somewhere in there, things change. Suddenly it doesn’t work to stay places till 11 pm. You find yourself rejecting invitations you would normally love to accept, because it’s past baby’s bedtime. You tell friends that this activity or that doesn’t work, because it falls at naptime. The number of diapers you change soars into the hundreds, and it’s not quite so new and fun anymore. Dishes pile up, and babies have fussy days. Teething kicks in, and you spend days and nights soothing a fussy baby. You walk around in zombie mode, because the most consecutive sleep you got the previous night was 30 minutes. As the baby gets older and becomes a normal part of life, others aren’t as excited about all the new milestones. Growth spurts, illnesses, long days, frazzled nerves, cranky babies… And then, your womb is filled again. And this time, it’s not quite so exciting for everyone else. You won’t be quite so coddled and center-stage. A few close friends will ask how you’re doing, but no one else really cares. Baby number two arrives, and there isn’t quite the rush for everyone to see him there was the first time. After all, they’ve already seen one of your babies. You might get a few meals, and you might not…there isn’t the novelty and need for an excuse to visit the baby, this time. Baby number 3 goes further down that line, and just try being pregnant with number 10, and see what kind of reactions you’ll get.

I’m not saying it’s always like that. Nor am I implying it’s been that way for me this time around, or that I regret not getting all the attention we got when I was expecting Vivi. The people that care about me still want to know how I’m doing, and how the pregnancy is going….but they wanted to know about me when I wasn’t pregnant, too. The people that love Vivi most still get excited about all her new milestones. Vivi’s still as precious as she was when she was a newborn, and I still catch my breath and enjoy just watching her. And honestly, parenting never was about the glamour for me. We’re still enjoying it just as much as we did when we started this journey, over 1 ½ years ago…more in fact, because everyday uncovers new blessings.

No, it isn’t glamorous…it isn’t sparkly and untouchable like a beautiful diamond….it doesn’t put me at center stage or make me popular or looked up to- if anything, it’s removed me from society. Instead, it’s a soft, beautiful joy….like a perfect day. It’s like uncovering new secrets and treasures in an open field, or deep in an undiscovered wood. It’s like peeking around a tree to discover a patch of violets you never saw before. Every day grows more beautiful, as I add more items to my collection- tangible, touchable items. No, they don’t all sparkle, but they’re far more beautiful than that, and I cherish the memories we’re making. Someday, when all the children are grown, and I am (hopefully) surrounded by grandchildren, I’ll miss this…and I’ll look back through old scrapbooks and read old journals and relish the memories. I’ll be grateful that my job in life never was glamorous- because my reward is much richer, my memories much deeper. If people pursue parenthood for the glamour, not only do they end up sadly disappointed, they also miss out on such incredible wealth and depth and beauty. Their children miss out, too.

Parenting involves many sacrifices. Sorry to burst your bubble if you were pursuing parenting with glamour in mind. Parenting is beautiful, but it’s a deeper beauty than diamonds. And if you’re ever going to get anywhere near discovering the deepest depths of it, you have to understand and embrace the sacrifices. If you can make this one step- tossing out selfishness and embracing sacrifice for the sake of your children- you can find rewards that are unimaginably beautiful. I know, because I’m tasting. I don’t know fully yet…it’ll be a great many years before I can understand the full depth…but as much as I can with 1 ½ or so years of parenting under my belt (and that counts pregnancy), I know.

I might write a lot about sacrificial parenting, and being willing to sacrifice your desires for the sake of your children, but it isn’t to elevate me. Because honestly, usually it isn’t that hard. It’s a lifestyle Ben and I decided to embrace a long time ago, and so it’s just life. It’s the way things are, and we don’t feel sorry for ourselves, or feel like we’re missing out on the “great” life when we have to make little sacrifices. No. I write firstly because I desire so much for other children to experience the joys of living with sacrificial parents….because it’s so important to me to see children treated like people. And I write secondly that other parents may taste the joys we taste- the inexpressible joys that come when selflessness can become a part of day-to-day life. This is important to me as well, because if the people I see day in and day out are any indicator of people in general, most people miss out. And that’s terrible….parents could not only be giving their kids so much more, but also getting so much more out of their lives, and they don’t, because they’re still clinging to glamour and selfishness. They’re still mourning that life isn’t as it used to be…still trying to cling to the old life, make this new life as much like it as possible. In the process, they hurt their children and they hurt themselves. They might get to hold onto some aspects of their old lives…but the sacrifices they absolutely have to make will hurt them far worse than they would if sacrificing and embracing the new life’s challenges and joys were the norm.

And no….even if you do live life with abandon, and do chose a sacrificial love for your children, it isn’t always easy. I would venture to say it’s easier, and even often easy. But not always. Sometimes it’d be fun to stay out later at an event. Sometimes it’s frustrating to not get to carry out evening plans with Ben because I had to spend the whole night getting Vivi to sleep and/or back to sleep. Sometimes, the sleep loss catches up with me, and I wonder if I can handle it. Sometimes, I’d like to shut my eyes and imagine away everything I’m behind on, in hopes a fairy maid will come and do it all. But those are the hardest days. And they don’t happen everyday, or even every week….unlike the blessings.

And the blessings….are so deep, and so wonderful, and so exquisitely beautiful….that I honestly don’t know how to put them into words. I don’t think I can put them into words that someone who hasn’t already embraced this journey would understand. They come in the small things, like whispering grass…small things that light up this mommy’s whole day!

It’s living with a little girl who is so happy and cheerful, so well connected and emotionally stable, so beautiful and content….because of the choices we’ve consciously made for her. It’s watching her sleep- seeing her sweet lips curl into a partial smile, watching her chest move up and down, admiring the way she clasps her hands like an angel- and knowing this little girl is ours, our gift from God. It’s communicating with her through sign language- enjoying her fast growing repertoire, and trying hard to stay ahead of her. It’s having conversations while we go for a walk, discussing all the beautiful things we see. It’s knowing that Vivi loves and trusts us. It’s seeing her develop and grow everyday. It’s sharing life together. It’s realizing Vivi’s a real person, and as such, enjoying time with her as much as I’d enjoy time with my mom or any other adult. It’s spending countless hours sharing small joys. It’s seeing her light up when she learns something new, or discovers she can communicate clearly with us. It’s seeing her excitement when we prepare to do something she enjoys, like heading outside. It’s seeing Vivi sign “play” excitedly when she sees that Daddy’s getting ready to start their daily job (filling up the vaporizer) together with her.

It’s knowing that this is where God has me. It’s realizing that nothing else in the world could offer rewards as great as mine. It’s laughing just because life is that wonderful. It’s living stress-free, because I’m enjoying this life of mine. It’s enjoying today while looking forward to tomorrow…and looking back on yesterday with fond memories. It’s conquering a large to-do list with Vivi on my back or at my side…enjoying good company and a productive day. It’s feeling small kicks in the womb, or noticing a growing belly, and smiling with thankfulness for this new life God’s blessed us with. It’s anticipating the upcoming birth. It’s planning for a super-long babymoon, and making plans for how Vivi and I will prepare beforehand to make it possible. It’s looking forward to being a mommy of two, and enjoying lots of relaxed time together with my 3 favorite people.

It’s living…loving…sacrificing…enjoying. It’s beautiful, deep and magnificent. It’s my life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Going Green, week four- eliminating disposable cups, plates and silverware

I thought about writing about cloth menstrual pads this week (and advertising me :-)), but due to a busy schedule, and other things I'd rather spend my time writing, decided to go for something short and sweet.

Let’s talk about paper plates, plastic ware, and disposable cups. We’ve used these very minimally since getting married. However, it’s only been since last summer that we’ve set out to completely eliminate them. Prior to that, we used them for our big Christmas open house parties. I believe we might’ve also used them for traveling when we headed down to Florida. Since deciding to switch over completely, we’ve hosted two semi-large gatherings…we had both our families over (around 30 people), and our annual Christmas open house (60 or so people). Otherwise, we’ve hosted various small things, but those were all under 20 people. We also elected for regular ware during our 2-week hotel stay for Ben’s schooling, and various picnics.

And- it really wasn’t as hard as one might think. You just have to make a party out of clean up! Its surprising how fast it goes if you can get a couple of people going on it. For the open house, we washed a small stack of dishes midway through, since we were running out. Afterwards, we had someone stick around and help with the clean up, including dishes.

My in-laws use regular ware for their potlucks every Sunday, which includes somewhere between 20 and 40 people.

I really hate buying a large stack of something just to throw it away, so this decision sits really well with me financially. But we also love the fact that hosting a big party no longer means a huge bag of garbage!

If it’s a new idea to you, baby steps might help. Consider trying not using them for your next picnic, or next party, or whatever next thing you might typically use them for. See how it goes…try it again. Don’t pressure yourself, and work towards making small steps.

Or maybe you’re the type of person who needs to just get it out of the house and make it not an option. I know I’m that way….because most of the switches we’ve made really aren’t that hard, but for whatever reason, when the thing that seems most convenient is right there, it’s easy to go for it. If it’s not, I don’t think twice.

I also realize that it’s a much easier decision for us to make, being a small family of 3, than for a family of 12 or 15. Being able to start out now, as our family’s growing, is a huge advantage, because by the time we’re a large crowd, we’ll be so used to living this way it’ll be total habit. Camping with regular ware will just be how we do it. But if you’re a large family and considering camping without disposables for the first time, it could be really intimidating. Baby steps might help….do what you can, and don’t sweat what you can’t. Eventually, you can get there, just like a growing small family will eventually get to the large family place without garbage. It’s just going to be a process.

What do you do to eliminate waste?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vivi's Birth Guest Posted at Memphis Misfit Mama

If you haven't been around long enough to read Vivi's birth story, pop over to Memphis Misfit Mama where Chalise shared Vivi's birth story- along with a couple pictures not included on our blog. All week Chalise will be featuring various birth stories so be sure to stay tuned over there!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Valid

It’s much easier to make parental sacrifices and meet your little one’s needs selflessly when the need seems “valid”. Like staying up most of the night with a little one who doesn’t feel well. But when the need doesn’t feel “valid”…it can be a lot harder. Such as a night this past week, when, for no apparent reason, and even though Vivi acted very tired and never got hyper, it took over 2 hours to get her to sleep for the night. But as it turned out, she woke up with a cold- a cold that was probably beginning to bother her the previous night, even though I couldn’t see any symptoms. Suddenly, her need felt valid.

A thought hit me the other day. Something that is somewhat repetitive of what I write about a lot on this blog, in meeting your children’s needs, including emotional needs. But it hit in a new and inspiring way: every need of my daughter’s is valid. Sometimes, I might not see the validity of it till later, like our rough night. Sometimes, I might never see the validity of it. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are valid needs.

And when I say needs….I’m not talking just diaper changes and feedings. I mean every time she cries. I mean the nights she wakes up every 45 minutes. I mean the times when she’s clingy and fussy. I mean the times when she wants to spend the whole day nursing at her ripe old age of 11 months. I mean when she makes it obvious that she’s tired early in the evening, putting an end to our evening plans. I mean the times she takes hours to put to sleep. I mean the times she gets scared by too much hub-bub and needs to be taken away from a social situation.

As an attentive, caring parent, most physical needs are easy to see. It’s easy to see when a child’s sick, hungry, tired, etc. But a lot of people have a much harder time with the emotional side. Which makes sense…sometimes, those needs aren’t as tangible….which perhaps leads to them not feeling “valid”. Sometimes the reason for it isn’t seen till later, sometimes it’s never seen. You may never understand why your baby needed to be up every 30 or 45 minutes throughout the night. You might decide she simply didn’t, and resort to cry it out in frustration. But what if your baby really needed the extra emotional connection with you? Perhaps she’s more active and spends more of her day away from you. Perhaps that particular day she was separated from you more than usual. Maybe something happened that jarred her, causing her to need to extra emotional output from you.

As parents, we need to trust our instincts, and trust our children. We need to trust that all their needs are valid, not just the ones that seem valid to us. We need to believe that for some reason, extra care/attention/whatever is a real, tangible need for the child, and whether we see it or not, it will pay off.

Although, if actions speak louder than words, some parents really seem to believe this, it isn’t true that babies are nuisances on purpose. They don’t make it their life goal to keep you up all night so you’re nice and irritated. They don’t see how many ways they can come up with to pull you away from your “good time” just so you miss out. They aren’t annoying (unless that’s how you see them), and they aren’t trying to manipulate you into a miserable existence. They’re babies, and children, and they’re conveying needs.

As parents who’re very concerned about our children’s emotional, as well as physical, needs, this has always been a priority for us. I could tell you countless stories of times Vivi needed us, even though I couldn’t necessarily see why or what was wrong. Stories of times when she needed to go to bed extra early, and it interrupted our plans and what we wanted to do. But, there’s too many, and they aren’t really needed. See, they happen everyday. Everyday, our children have needs that will inconvenience us if that’s how we want to view it. Everyday, they depend on us and reach out to us to show them the love they need to feel.

I remember a time when Vivi was 6 weeks old, and we went to a CHEO convention (homeschool convention in Ohio). She was with me in the ergo most of the day, and all her needs were seemingly met, and she was happy, so I slipped into the next session I had made plans to hear. As we were pacing the back of the room, she started getting fussy within a minute of being in there. We went out, and tried going back in a few minutes later, since she seemed perfectly content again. Same thing happened. As it turned out, she was trying to convey to her mommy that she just needed some connection time. Being held all day wasn’t enough, she needed my full attention. So, she and I found a quiet spot (which wasn’t difficult, because most of the crowds were in sessions), and enjoyed some mommy and daughter time. We laughed and talked and gazed at each other for close to an hour, till Ben, my mom, and sister were done with their sessions. I love this story, because of how clear it was that she was trying to reach out and connect emotionally. You don’t always see it so clearly at 2am. :-) Similar stories have happened many times since…and it’s always heart-melting to see her reaching out to me.

I want to be the mom who sees all her children’s needs as valid.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Going Green, week three

Going Green, week three

Welcome back! This week I’m going to dig deeper into cloth diapers. Hopefully this will be helpful for those of you considering cloth diapers (or maybe for convincing those who weren’t previously interested :-)), but are unsure of where to start. There is so much information in the cloth diapering world. When I first got started, it took me a long time to wade through it all and figure out what was what exactly. Since then, there’s still been some trial and error in figuring out what exactly I love and what I don’t. Everyone has their own favorites, and their favorites might not become yours. I’ll mostly share information about why to cloth diaper, how, the options and care…including my opinions and what I do. Enjoy!

Why Cloth?

In today’s society, not only are disposable diapers readily available, it’s typically assumed you’re going to be using them. Unless you’re dirt poor, everyone assumes you’ll take advantage of such a great- and relatively inexpensive- convenience item. So if you decide not to, people will ask why….they might even ask if you truly can’t afford disposables. So- having a good idea of why you’re doing cloth is definitely a positive thing.

Firstly, it’s healthiest for your baby. It’s more comfortable and it’s better for their health. I personally never liked sitting in plastic-y pads….before switching to cloth, it was the thing I disliked most about my menstrual cycles- even more than the bad cramping I experienced. But, comfort aside, disposable diapers are made up of a highly toxic chemical, dioxin, as well as others. They also contain sodium polyacrylate, which is why they’re so absorbent. This was used in tampons previously, till it was linked to toxic shock syndrome. Do you really want all those nasty chemicals on your baby’s bum? The issues just get worse the wetter the diaper gets and the more the sodium polyacrylate expands. Which is to say, if one of the reasons you choose disposable over cloth is to change less often, you really should consider changing at least as often as cloth moms do. If you’ve ever waited so long to change that you found tiny gel pieces on your baby’s bu, that was sodium polyacrylate- and who know what else. As a mom who tries to live a healthy lifestyle and eat healthy, whole foods, I was horrified when reading some of the chemical specifics just a few months ago, that I had ever put a disposable on my baby’s bum. I can’t believe I put all those nasty and dangerous chemicals right up against their skin- and where they’re getting wet; thus releasing more chemicals. Yuck! Needless to say, barring a family crisis, we won’t be buying disposables again.

Secondly, if you’d like a nice personal benefit for the ride, you’ll save yourself tons of money. Even the most cheap-skate person, who can roll in the best diaper deals, will probably spend over $1000 on disposable diapers for one child. How much you spend on cloth depends on whether you make them yourself or buy them, and where you purchase them from, as well as how many you like to have, and could range from $100-$500. If you spend the upper end, your savings may only be $500. But at the end of the spending, you should have diapers that are still in excellent condition. If you intend to have more children, your cloth diapers should last through several, suddenly increasing your savings by multiple thousands. If not, you can sell the diapers on Diaper Swappers or a similar site, or to a friend, and get something back on what you invested. I don’t think anyone’s going to go dumpster-diving and pay you for their finds.

Thirdly, consider the environment. Some cloth diaper users are really passionate about this, many cloth diaper for one or both of the above reasons. But when you consider how many diapers get thrown out per child, we should all be a little bit concerned about this. You don’t have to be a “radical green” or make it your life’s job to “save the planet”. But cloth diapers are a simple way to eliminate tons of waste. Diapers don’t readily compose. Current estimates suggest each diaper could take up to 500 years to decompose, and with the number of diapers the United States goes through per year, that’s too many. I recently read that over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce the disposable diapers one baby needs for one year. And that is just in production. That’s not the diaper itself- just the waste that goes into making it.

And lastly, they’re cute. They really just are…I love cloth-diapered babies! Also, they’re extremely easy to use, taking up a matter of minutes per week- something we can all spare. These aren’t the old days of pins that poke babies and are a hassle to use, and rubber pants. See the “care” section below for more details on what cloth-diapering entails.

Different Options for Using:

I’m a full-time cloth diaper user, and knowing what I know now (especially on the health end), I could never go back to being anything else. That means that for nighttime, going out, road trips, etc., cloth is what we use. But, that’s just our decision. It doesn’t get me the heroic mom reward or anything. (That, by the way, definitely goes to a friend who full-time cloth diapered all 9 of her children, even camping, the old fashioned pins and rubber pants way!) I just feel like I need to utilize what I know to the best of my ability…and that means no yucky chemicals being smeared into my babies’ bums!

However, if the idea of full-time cloth diapering is overwhelming to you, consider implementing it on a part time level in some way. There’s lots of ways to implement it so it works for you! You could, for instance, be mostly full-time, but take disposables on vacation and use them for a few days after the birth of a baby. Or you could use disposables at night, and cloth otherwise. Or, if you want to just start out on a really easy level, try using cloth at home and disposables any time you’re out.

I have previously used cloth diapers for road trips. Our family spent 2 weeks in Virginia for Ben’s schooling in December/January, and I used disposables the whole time. After that long of using them, I was slightly concerned about how easy it would (or wouldn’t!) be to swing back into using cloth when we got home, but as it turned out, we loved going right back to it, and I was so grateful to have her in her nice, soft, chemical-free cloth. Now I know more about the chemicals and effects and all, so our next Virginia trip, this summer, we’ll be taking the cloth stash along. We will also (hopefully) have a couple family trips, so we’ll be trying out cloth on the road then. I took cloth to a weekend retreat I was in charge of a month or so ago, and we didn’t have a lick of problems. It felt good to know my baby was still being diapered in the best, instead of that I’d given into my own laziness.

It sounds like a big deal to make the total switch- but as we’ll discuss in the care section, below, it really isn’t. Once you try them out, you’ll find it’s only a matter of extra minutes per week- and with all the benefits of cloth, that’s totally worth it. I’ve found that the best way to totally eliminate disposables is to not have any available- if they’re not there, neither is the temptation….you just do what you do. If you don’t have options, it really doesn’t feel like a problem to just do cloth. I do have some strays around that were previously an occasional temptation- but not knowing what I know now.

*True story of a time I used disposable and wished I used cloth: When Vivi was 6 weeks old, Ben and I, along with my mom, teenage sister, and baby sister, went to CHEO- a homeschool convention in Ohio. Since we were going to be gone for the whole day, I decided to do disposable diapers, since I had a gift package. I thought it’d be better to not have as much bulk to carry around, and, though I usually change often no matter what she’s wearing, it’d be nice to have something she wasn’t going to leak out of because I waited an extra 15 minutes till the seminar I was in was over, to change her. Well- we didn’t have any pee leaks- but she pooped 4 times, and every single time leaked all the way up her back, creating a huge mess that wasn’t so very easy to deal with under the circumstance. Baby poop never, ever leaked up the back of cloth diapers. A couple times when she was tiny, it leaked out the legs, but that’s a much less messy deal. And, I had occasional pee leaks. But gosh, those would’ve been a whole ton easier to clean up than the poop leaks. Next time: cloth all the way- if for no other reason than my convenience!*

What Kind Do I Need?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here- which is part of what can make it so confusing. For different reasons, everyone will have different favorites. I like some of the different ones for different times of the day/activites. There are 3 main types of diapers, with plenty of hybrids.

A quick note on terminology and diaper make-up for the novice:

-Soakers/inserts are the layers of fabric (typically in between the fabric touching your baby and the waterproof outer layer) that soak up your baby’s pee. These are made out of a wide range of fabrics, most that you would buy are made out of some type of polyester microfiber. I make mine with hemp fabrics. The key thing is that it’s a fabric that absorbs.

-PUL is a waterproof fabric commonly used as the outer layer (or the cover in the case of a 2-part diaper) of your diaper.

-Most all diapers close with either Velcro or snaps.

-We’ll get into the different types of diapers and what they are below, but there are three main ones we’ll discuss: all-in-one (AIO), Fitteds and Pockets.

Size: There are two options here: you can buy/make all the fixed sizes (newborn, small, medium, large), or you can do one-size that adjust to be useable for all or most sizes.

One nice aspect to doing sized diapers is that you don’t have extra bulk on a little munchkin. For this reason, I chose to go with sized diapers. I like having them be as trim as possible, and doing sizes allows this. I also think that when I have two in diapers, it’ll be easier to have different sizes for each, so I can easily tell whose is whose and not have to readjust a one-size to fit one kid or another. The obvious down side is having to have more diapers and needing a place to store the ones you aren’t using.

Some of the one-size diapers have really great designs where they aren’t creating a lot of extra bulk. Others have more issues. I personally would particularly avoid an all-in-one one size diaper, because for your smaller babies, you’re basically just folding up the extra part of the diaper (including the soaker) and having it stick out in front. That makes it awfully bulky, which I just don’t like. Pocket diapers, where you use different size soaker inserts, and either pull the diaper tighter with elastic (my favorite design thus far) or snap it up with snaps on the front, are a good diaper option for one-sizes. Another issue is that most one-sizes don’t adjust quite small enough for a baby under 10ish pounds, and depending on how big your baby gets prior to potty training, they may not be quite big enough at the end. An obvious benefit is that you’ll need fewer diapers, because the same set will last for most of your baby’s needs. This means not only that it can be a cheaper route to go (these will be a little more expensive, though), but also that it’s less unused diapers to find storage space for. Some of those benefits are negated slightly if you have multiple children in diapers at the same time. On the other hand, some find it convenient for their toddler and baby to be able to share the same diapers.

Because we’re just starting our family, and Lord willing, would love to have many children, I think the cost/number of diapers doing sized will eventually balance out and equal with one-sizes. This is because even cloth diapers eventually wear out and need replaced. One-sizes, that are used for 2-3 years straight, will wear out faster than a diaper that’s used, say, 6-18 months. However, if you don’t plan on having more children, or if you only want to cloth diaper part-time, one-sizes might be a great option for you, so you don’t have to invest in a whole wardrobe of cloth diapers to only use part of the time, or with one child. On the other hand, you might just find yourself hooked faster than you anticipate!

Regardless of what you do, if you plan to be a full-time cloth diaperer, you may find it helpful to have some sized newborns and/or smalls to use before your baby’s big enough to use one-size.

Styles- All-in-one (AIO): An AIO diaper is just that….all in one piece. Essentially, it’s just like a disposable diaper, except cuter and softer. You put it on the same way, and either snap or Velcro it closed. After it’s dirty, you toss the whole thing in the laundry, wash, dry and use again. The soaker layers are sewn into the diaper, in between the inner layer touching baby and the PUL.

The biggest benefit is how easy it is to use. There’s hardly any learning curve, and there’s no extra time putting on extra pieces or “assembling” diapers after washing.

The biggest drawback is that because the soaker is sewn inside, these take forever to dry. Most likely, you’d need two full dry cycles, whereas other diapers should only need one. Another drawback is the inability to control how many soakers are in there. Some kids are massive super-soakers (including mine!) and need more layers, even if you change them hourly. Some companies (and patterns) solve this issue by leaving an opening just like pocket diapers for you to stuff extra inserts in as needed.

I have a couple AIO diapers, and enjoy using them. Since I only have a couple, I just lay them over a chair to dry after the first dry cycle, and use them as my last diapers, 2-3 days later, which is about when they’re finally dry enough. It should be noted that the natural fabrics, like hemp, do take longer to dry, and if my soakers were polyester, they’d dry faster. They’d probably also dry faster out on a line than hanging over a chair. I personally would never want my whole stash to be AIOs, because of the dry-time issues. I push how long I can go between washings to far to be able to futz around with 2 dry times or the number of hours they’d take on the line. Plus, I don’t want to use the extra electricity.

Pocket Diapers: A pocket diaper is very similar to an AIO. When you put it on the baby, it’s all one piece and fastens the same way. The only difference is there’s an opening (usually at the back of the diaper), and you stuff your soakers into that instead of them already being sewn in.

The biggest positive to pocket diapers is how fast they dry, while still being convenient and easy to put on. Another plus is being able to adjust the amount of soakers to fit the needs of your child. Like the AIO, not only are they easy to use, but being a one-piece deal (as opposed to fitteds), they eliminate a lot of the bulk people associate with cloth diapers. The biggest- and only that I can think of- drawback to pocket diapers, is the time it takes to stuff them. It really isn’t all that long, but minutes are minutes in the world of a busy mom. Depending on how they’re made, some diapers are easier to stuff than others. Fuzzi Bunz, for example, are a wider diaper, which I really like, and which makes it much easier to have the room to stuff, thus making the job a fast and painless one. It also take a second to remove the soaker after the diaper’s wet/dirty, but that’s hardly worth mentioning.

At least ½ of my medium and large diapers are pocket diapers, and I really love them. I love the ability to change absorbency, as well as how fast they dry. They fit Vivi well without a lot of extra bulk. My sizing is similar to the Fuzzi Bunz, so being wider, they’re fairly effortless to stuff. Vivi and I enjoy spending 5 or so minutes folding diapers together every other morning, and stuffing my pockets is a part of that routine.

A hybrid between pockets and AIO- quick dry flaps: This design can be a bit harder to find in the realm of pre-made diapers, although they are out there. And if you make them yourself, it’s really easy! It’s the perfect cross between AIOs and pockets, eliminating all the problems with both. My mom adores these diapers. Basically, it’s the diaper without any soaker inside (like a pocket with the soakers taken out)- except, it has a flap (or two flaps) sewn on top of the diaper, made of several layers of soaker fabric. The very top layer is made out of something comfortable for the baby’s bum. They dry fast because the soakers flap around, but the soakers are right there and attached, so they don’t require any effort. To adjust the soaker numbers, you can add a lay-in soaker underneath the flap if necessary. The only downside I’ve heard some people mention is that they prefer a completely smooth surface on the inside of their diaper, which you don’t achieve when you have a piece of fabric laying in there. This is not a comfort problem at all; for the woman who mentioned it, it was solely an appearance preference. Also, if you’re particular about how clean you get your dirty diapers before washing, it can be more of a hassle to have to wash the flap and the diaper in the toilet, when the poo’s still fairly runny. I’m not all that picky, so I haven’t had issues. Also, you need to be careful about the fabric your soakers are made out of if you go this route. Microfiber, for example, is so absorbent that if it’s left touching a baby’s skin, it will actually dry it out in its attempt to “do its job” and soak up any moisture. This is obviously a problem! So, either make sure there’s no way the under layers of the soaker can touch the baby’s skin (even if things slide a little), or choose fabrics that don’t cause this issue.

I have quite a few of these in the medium/large sizes, as well, and enjoy them greatly, for all the reasons mentioned above. My newborns and smalls are exclusively made this way (except nighttime diapers, which we’re getting to), and I wouldn’t go any other route with diapers that small. The smaller and narrower the diaper, the harder it is to stick your hand in to stuff it, so quick-dry diapers are definitely the way to go in my opinion! I love this for the smaller diapers, and it was effortless to stick an extra soaker under the sewn in one.

Fitteds: Fitteds are a two-part system. Typically, there’s some type of inner diaper that isn’t waterproof, and then you fasten a waterproof cover over it. There are many different designs for the inner diaper- some fold in various ways, some look just like an AIO or pocket diaper without the waterproof outside, some just wrap around and don’t use any fastener. You can also use the good old fashioned diapers in here. The cover is usually 1 layer of PUL, sometimes with another layer underneath it, with fold over elastic all around the edges. It fastens with snaps or Velcro.

Because of the two-part system, fitteds are often a bit bulkier than other options. They also take a bit of extra time to put on and take off. With all the newer frills, like snaps, they aren’t difficult or complicated like the old two-part systems. On the benefit side, you don’t need as many covers as you do inner diapers, because unless poo leaked onto the cover, or they had a massive pee that got on the edges of the elastic (which would probably only happen at night or if you don’t change your baby much) you can reuse it through several diaper changes. This makes fitteds a very economical option. Because of how the cover fits around the diaper, these are much more leak-proof than other diaper options, which is a great feature.

I have a handful of fitteds in every size, which I use for nighttime. There is no way I could put enough soakers in Vivi’s pocket diapers to hold in how much she often pees. But with fitteds, I almost never have a leak! Not even when she was younger and would sleep 13-14 hours and nurse hourly! I sometimes use them during the day, too, especially during seasons when she’s peeing a lot more. I definitely want to have some extras on hand for road trips, too, when it isn’t feasible to change her as often. I don’t think I’d want my whole stash to be fitteds, because I like the trimness and convenience of pockets- and because, whether leaking’s an issue or not, keeping Vivi dry and changing her as she wets is important to me…so, except at night and in special circumstances, I don’t need the leak-proof ability. However, I definitely wouldn’t be without at least a handful for nights, traveling, etc. I can’t imagine doing without these!

Different Brands: There are so many brands out there, especially when you factor in all the smaller companies run by moms. I don’t personally have any experience with the different brands, because I make my own, so I asked a friend to share her opinion. Holly does frequent reviews, so she’s gotten to test tons of different brands. Probably the best way to find your niche is to just plunge in and try something. DiaperSwappers is a good place to get used diapers at good prices. Etsy is a great place to go if you’re interested in supporting moms.

Here’s what Holly said: “Oh my, as far as diapers, there ARE so many I love. I am partial to Fuzzi Bunz (pockets), because they were my first, and their sizes seem to run big which can be a big help. My favorite big names though are Rumparooz (pockets)...a bit expensive, but worth every penny. Although they have a bit of a low rise which cuts the sizing down in age range. Bum Genius (pockets) are great as well. GoGreenPocketDiapers has really nice pocket diapers for extremely affordable prices...not all the flash, but adorable designs and they work wonderfully. For All-In-Ones, I LOVE the new itti bitti diapers...they are so lush and soft, and work amazingly well, but again, a bit pricey. And my favorite momma shop has to be BittiBumz on Etsy. Her diapers are really cute (fleece AIO's) and work really well. Ack, there are just so many I love, that I could honestly rave about each one in their own way. But those are probably the tops I would recommend first.” Check out her cloth diaper section to see her reviews on more brands!

How Many Do I Need?

This depends on how often you want to do laundry. It’s really nice to be able to pull out three days, but every other day works well, too. Newborns go through 8-12 diapers a day, so you want a minimum of 24. For smalls I found I still needed about that many….maybe more like 20-22. Around mediums, she started peeing less often, so we were only going through about 8 diapers per day. Right now, though, Vivi’s still in mediums and we’re going through at least 10, sometimes more- she’s nursing around the clock and drinking a lot, so she’s peeing often. Larges should be about the same as mediums, and possibly as few as 6 diapers a day. It just depends on your baby, and how often you’re going to change.

How to Care for your Diapers:

Taking care of cloth diapers is so simple! I don’t do anything complicated- I don’t even get my hand in the toilet.

When I’m changing Vivi, instead of tossing her diapers in the garbage, I just toss them in a giant wet bag- a bag that closes with Velcro and is made out of PUL. You can also use a 5-gallon bucket. I don’t put anything in it- just the diapers. Having the bag able to close, or having a bucket with a lid keeps the room from smelling at all. So- that part doesn’t take any longer than disposables. If they’re pocket diapers, I pull out the soakers, but that really doesn’t take any time. I wash my diapers first thing in the morning, usually, after Vivi wakes up, so I can wash all her fitteds, since I have the fewest of those. I dump the contents of the bag in the washer and run a cold rinse. Sometimes, I put vinegar or baking soda in, but more often, I don’t do anything. This takes under 30 seconds. When the rinse cycle’s over, I put in my soap (and sometimes vinegar or baking soda), turn it on a hot/cold wash cycle, and leave. Total time: about 20 seconds, max. When that’s done, I usually put my diapers right in the dryer. If your washer doesn’t do enough rinses, you may find you need to run an extra rinse cycle first, which would take you about 10 seconds. Putting in the dryer and turning it on probably takes 30-45 seconds. You can also line dry, which takes longer, but is a good financial and environmental choice. I would like to get back to doing this more….I just always end up waiting too long to wash diapers and run it really tight on time. :-) When they’re dry, Vivi and I get them out of the dryer, dump them on my bed, and have a folding party. We probably spend around 7 minutes, or sometimes up to 10 minutes…but that includes all the time we spend being goofy, throwing stuff around, and generally having a great time together. They go in a basket on my dresser and are ready for use for the next few days. My wipes, by the way, get washed with my diapers, too- quick and painless. I don’t fold them, just stack them in a pile that gets stuffed in the basket. I keep a small stack wet (in a Tupperware) so I don’t have to wet a wipe every time I change Vivi’s diaper, or have it when we go out and may not have access to water. That’s about 1 ½ minutes I spend on the wash cycle, and under 10 minutes folding, which I do while having a great time with my daughter. The maximum amount of time I would spend on cloth diapers per week, then, is about 30 minutes. And part of the reason it takes me so long to fold diapers is because of all the different kinds and sporadic soakers I have, so I end up sorting diapers/soakers before actually putting them together. If all yours are the same, or at least all the ones you stuff are the same, you wouldn’t have that issue. If all of yours are AIOs, it’d probably take you about 3 minutes to fold a load.

Occasionally, you may notice your diapers are leaking more than usual- or maybe they have a bad/strong smell as soon as your little one pees. Or, possibly, your diapers still smell out of the washer/dryer. In this case, they might need to be stripped. All this process is, is doing several washes without soap, to rid the diapers of any soap/other build-up. After washing your diapers normally, so they’re clean, run a hot wash cycle with nothing in it. If you have a top-loader, check the diapers during the rinse cycle, when there’s extra water. Make note if it’s sudsy (make sure to notice if it’s really suds or if it’s just bubbles from the moving water). If it is, run another wash cycle when this one’s complete. Continue till the water’s perfectly clean. I have a front loader, so I can’t really see. So, I do about 3 complete wash cycles. If your washer lets you do hot rinses, you can also just run several rinses instead of the wash cycles. I’ve only had to do this once, with one of my sizes, but depending on your soap and water, it may have to happen oftener for you.

A note about laundry detergent: I use Charlie’s Soap, both for cloth diapers and my other laundry. I’ve heard some mixed things about them recently, so I may be looking around when I run out, but I’ve been really happy thus far. A lot of people are also thrilled with Rockin’ Green, made especially for diapers.

What about going out with cloth? Easy-peasy! I stuff a small wet-bag (same concept as above, except it only holds 6-8 diapers, depending on how well I stuff it) in my diaper bag along with my container of wet wipes and a handful of diapers. Her dirty diapers go in the wet bag. It’s also a great place to put wet/dirty clothes! That’s it….it really isn’t any different than disposables. And if she poops, I don’t have to worry about finding a trash can so it doesn’t smell up the van- the wet bag locks the odor in.

For most types of diapers, it doesn’t take any longer to change than a disposable, but what about how often you have to change? Like I’ve already mentioned, it strikes me as cruel to leave a child I know is wet in their wet diaper, whether it’s disposable or cloth. I don’t care if it’s going to leak or not, or if, by leaving it a ½ hour, I could go through less diapers, because there’s room to pee again without it leaking. So, for me it’s not an issue. Plus, if you’re concerned about your child’s health, you’d probably rather they stay 10 minutes longer in a cloth than in a wet, chemical-laden disposable. All that aside, if you feel differently, then yes- you might have to change your cloth baby more often. If your priority is squeezing as much as you can get out of a diaper, you’ll get more out of a disposable. However, I know people that take the “wait as long as I can” mentality with cloth, and still go quite a long time without leaks. Vivi’s a super-soaker, and always has been. So usually waiting for her to pee several times wouldn’t be a good idea, unless I have a lot of extra clothes lying around. Sometimes, her diaper isn’t very wet. Especially when she was younger, there would be times when she was barely wet, and I probably could’ve “gotten more” out of the diaper if I so desired. But that’s not my style. So for me, it doesn’t take any longer….for you, it might mean an extra diaper change or two per day.

Like I mentioned in the fitteds section, I do realize there are times when you can’t change as often. At night, I’m not going to wake Vivi up to change her. On a road trip, it isn’t practical to make Ben stop every hour just so I can change Vivi. These are times when I want something more leak-proof, and will use it just so I can go longer. But if there’s any way I can change Vivi, I will.

Wrapping it Up

If you’re new to the cloth diapering world, I hope you’ve been able to pick up some ideas of where you want to head. If you’ve never considered it, I hope I’ve peaked your interest. Regardless of where you’re at, I hope I’ve given food for thought without offending. I don’t think I realized till this week that cloth diapering has become a passion for me, above just something we do. :-) If you have questions, shoot!