My Top Ten Mama Must-Haves.

Exactly one year ago I was making a baby registry.

I was six months pregnant and dreaming about her little face, the nursery and all the other things that make up my life now (the real thing has proven harder but significantly better than my daydreams).

I spent hours registering. Pouring over options. Trying to guess what would be necessary and what wouldn’t. All of the items on this list won’t be necessary for everyone – but, in the early days of life with a baby who slept better with motion and needed lots of time with dad & mom well, they saved our lives.

1) The Moby wrap

When I say Evie lived in the Moby wrap for her first two months of life I mean she lived in it. We wore her all the time. I desperately bought the wrap late one night at Toys R’ Us (on one of my first babyless outings after she was born). It was the instant solution to us getting some sleep and, honestly, I loved wearing her – she’s still in it occasionally but, at eight months old, has a lot of exploring to do ;).

Added bonus: You’ll feel like a samurai warrior rapidly twirling the ends of the wrap around. Wrapping a baby in it 4-6 times a day means you will get impressively fast at it.

2) Slippers

We brought Evie home on the first day of fall. Winter weather and, for once, snow came quickly and, as any mother can tell you, socks on a newborn are an oxymoron. Evie was given the sweetest pair of slippers (thanks Johnny & Ryan!) that she wore for next oh, six, months – she couldn’t kick them off and they kept her little toes warm. Win win.

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Dreamin’

3) Aden & Anais Bamboo Swaddles

These are hands down, without competition, always and forever my favorite baby blankets. We were given one at a baby shower before Evie was born (thanks, Whitney!) and I loved it so much it came to the hospital with us. They’re super soft, lightweight and oversized so I’ve used it as a swaddle, nursing cover, carseat cover and blanket.

This week I finally purchased a few more – that’s right, we went from owning one to owning four of these swaddles. I’m giddy.

4) The Rock & Play Sleeper

When Evie was about three months old we realized that one of the biggest reasons she slept well in the swing was because it was elevated.  

Enter the rock & play sleeper.

I wish I’d known about this from the get-go. It’s lightweight, portable (nice for switching her from our room to the nursery or for going on road-trips!) and it not only kept her elevated but snuggled her in on each side (something she’s always loved).

For a next baby I’ll skip the bassinet/cradle phase and just use this.

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5) AlvaBaby Cloth Diapers

I’ve already written a pretty lengthy post about my love of these diapers. Affordable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly? Yes please. We’re going on four months of exclusively using them and they’re still holding up perfectly! They’re available from Amazon and the AlvaBaby website

Two cautions: I’ve heard from a few friends that they’ve seen pretty crazy price fluctuations in the Amazon listings for the diaper bundles (I’m guessing the bundles are being sold by a second-seller trying to make a profit) AND there are apparently some knock-off version of AlvaBaby diapers being sold (which is kind of funny since the Alvas are basically a knockoff of Bumgenius diapers. It’s like the six degrees of Bumgenius). The knockoff Alvas don’t have the AlvaBaby tag sewn on the side – if you order them and that’s missing, get your money back!

It sounds complicated but, if you can sort through the marketing and ordering annoyance that comes with ordering off-brand  – you can get a good product for cheap!

First time in cloth :).

First time in cloth :).

6) Summer Infant 3-Stage Super Booster Seat

As soon as she had some decent head-control (for Evie that was around 8 weeks old) she was ready to SEE EVERYTHING. We carted this little chair everywhere – restaurants, small group, vacation, the kitchen counter, the dining room table, the bathroom counter, church.

At first she’d only be in it 5-10 minutes at a time but, as she got older, she’d sit in there for an hour or more watching me cook, get ready to go out, or playing with the attachable play tray. Personally I prefer to this to the Bumbo. It has a higher back which means she could use it earlier and it comes with the straps and playtray (so no extra cost for them)!

7) Swaddle blankets & Carseat blanket

Your need for these items will probably depend on the season and the size of your baby. Evie loved being swaddled – she instantly slept better when she was snuggled up in something (which was probably due to the fact that she weighed 7 lbs when we brought her home!).

At first we used the SwaddlePod ( pictured on the far left – I found a brand new one at a thrift store for $3.00!). I loved this blanket because there was no wrapping involved and it unzipped from the bottom which made nighttime diaper changes a lot easier.

When she got a little bigger (and a lot stronger) we switched to the Miracle Blanket (pictured in the middle). It was a little hefty in price BUT made the difference in her sleeping four hours or 45 minutes. So…worth it.

When Evie was about four months old and rolling everywhere we started the process of transitioning her out of the swaddle – we used a Zipadee-Zip (pictured on the far right – which I loved! It kept her safe and warm). She used that for about six weeks and it helped her adjust to sleeping in just her jammies. She’d been proudly swaddle free for almost two months now ;).

Also, a baby in the Zipadee-Zip attempting to pick things up is the cutest thing you’ll ever see.

Our carseat blanket was made for us by a dear friend (thanks, Marie)! It was perfect for the cold weather as it kept her warm and much more secure than trying to clip the buckles over a puffy snowsuit!

This picture cracks me up – she was grumpy because she wanted to eat but…her little furrowed brow. I can’t even handle it.

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8) Coffee Grinder

Yup. You read that right.

My little $17.00 coffee grinder that we got as a wedding gift has been the best tool in making baby food! It purees soft fruit or steamed veggies with liquid in about 30 seconds. I grind up whole rolled-oats with wheat germ to make for Evie instead of baby oatmeal and I use it chop of meat or cheese into smaller pieces for her. WONDERFUL.

Take that $60.00 Baby Bullet.

9) Head supports

Since Evie spent a lot of time in the swing/carseat/rock & play we bought two head supports to prevent her getting a flat-spot on her head. Worked like a charm!

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10) Nursing Pillow

I have to admit. I didn’t purchase a nursing pillow ahead of time and wouldn’t have afterwards unless a friend offered me her Boppy to try (thanks again, Kate!).

It saved my back. Seriously.

A nursing pillow for a baby who can’t support their own head is a must – it was also great as Evie was learning to sit up! We used the Boppy brand pillow but there are several good ones out there.

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Honorable mention: The Boppy Lounger. 

Evie actually slept in the Boppy lounger for a while (it fit perfectly in the cradle we were using). If I’d known about the Rock & Play Sleeper it would probably have served the same purpose but, another bonus of the lounger was that we could easily carry her around the house! Until she was strong enough to move on her own it made a cozy resting spot :).

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So, that’s my list! There were a few other things we used but, for the most part, these have been the ten items that have helped us along over the past 8 months. I’m not being paid for any advertising or clicks – they just genuinely made this list because they were that valuable, haha.

What’s on your list?! :)

On Mothering.

Mothering.

The dictionary definition of motherhood is spot-on (for once) and stunning in its profound simplicity; “to bring up a child with care and affection”. That’s all there is to it and yet, oh, how much is encompassed in those two words! 

Care and affection. Care and affection. Care and affection.

It would seem, and my incredibly limited experience at being a mother would affirm, that there is a profound difference between being a mother (a role. a title.) and mothering (a literally lifelong calling – should you choose to recognize it as such. And, if you don’t choose to recognize it that way, you have misunderstood mothering).

Care for a child is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. “Care” is teaching every life skill from how to swallow sweet potatoes to the slow, laborious process of tracing the over-sized block letters that make up their name. Caring is the process of creating healthy fear – of busy roads, bears and stinging bees and modeling resilience in the face of disappointment, loss and the inevitable griefs that accompany living life with an open heart. Care is helping a tiny person who knows nothing about life, safety, their own physical needs, dreams, faith, boundaries or relationships learn every.single.thing they need to know to build a life. Hopefully, whatever occupation or education is pursued, it’s a life defined by holy surrender and unconditional love – both of which lead to true freedom.

Care is spending 72 hours of your limited time on earth teaching a small person that they cannot keep trying to put your glasses down the air conditioning vent. Three days. Three days (or way more) of your life that you will never get back helping a child begin to understand they can’t lick the garbage can.

That’s the un-glamorous, irrefutably important, courageous, behind-the-scenes, slowly transformative work of mothering that is the most innate part of the job description and that makes up significantly more of your day’s percentage of time then any Instagrammable moment.

And, all of that physical care doesn’t even fully touch on the emotional side. It doesn’t even cover the moments at night when you lay in bed, picturing them in their crib, and everything inside you wants to run and cradle them close to your chest. Because you know the moments are making days and the days are growing into months and the entire process of mothering and caring for her is going so fast it makes you want to break down and cry (which is also probably leftover pregnancy hormones because the physical process of balancing back out post-baby is a beast). It doesn’t cover the way your heart feels like it will explode with joy when she sees you coming down the hallway and falls over herself and her blocks trying to crawl to you as fast as she can because literally all she wants in the entire world is to be in your arms. It doesn’t cover the low moments  – the sheer exhaustion when you haven’t slept more than two hours in a row for a week or are trying to recover from delivering a child from your body or welcoming a child into your home.

It seems that a mother’s ability to care for a child necessarily grows with the knowledge of  who that child is.

When Evie was put in my arms I loved her as My Daughter. I loved what I knew of her – which was that we’d been counting the seconds to her arrival. Been staring at her sonogram wondering who she was, listening to her heartbeat, musing about her future. But I didn’t love her the way I do now and I don’t love her now in the same way that I’ll love her in the future.

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After experiencing the last eight months with her I love her as Evie.

I love the way she sleeps on her belly with her bottom in the air. I love the little birthmark on her back. I love the way her tiny mouth puckers in to a perfect “O” when she is about to cry. I love that, out of her entire container of blocks, she’ll always pick up the white, circular one first ( I’m certain she hopes that it’s a large cheerio). I love the careful way one, exploratory finger will gently poke at each new things she finds. I love that she still falls asleep the fastest when she’s being held to my or her dad’s chest. I love the sheer joy that bubbles out of her when she sees Tom walk in the door at the end of the day. I love the scent of her – her milky, soapiness with a hint of heaven. I love her determination and desire to explore her world.unnamed A mother’s other job, affection, is just as significant.

Affection. Affection is transformative knowledge. The communicated belief  that this small person is valuable. That their fears are valid, dreams worthy, purpose innate and life full of beauty. Regardless of appearance, race, sexual orientation, gender, disabilities or challenges. Affection is the foundation for a child’s confidence and ability to love. And, while no child is perfect (a truth they need to know as well) every child needs to know, HAS to know that they are loved and accepted as they are. As they are. 

My heart aches deep inside at the knowledge that many children never experience care and affection from a mother. That’s another topic for another day – but it’s significant motivation to extend a mother’s heart to more than just my own children. Mothering skills can be a gift and a blessing to far more than just biological offspring.

Care and affection.

That, that is why mothering is (rightly) heralded as a high, hard calling. It’s the only “job” I know of that is so thoroughly unrelenting in its responsibilities and so binding in its contract. Someone else could care for Evie’s physical needs, sure, but no one else can mother her. It’s my scent she knows, my body she grew in, my breasts that feed her, my voice that calms her and my arms that comfort her.  I am anything and everything she’ll associate with the word mama.

Mothering is transformative in a unique, permanent way. Giving yourself to the process of caring for and teaching affection to a child is a sacrifice. It seems that some choose it and, for others, it chooses them. Some accept it, some do not (though, that doesn’t negate their title of mother). Some come by it through a pregnancy, others through opening their hearts and homes through adoption. For some the process of trying to become a mother is the most painful and difficult journey they’ve ever walked while, others, seemingly don’t have to give it a second thought.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about mothering it’s that mothers need encouragement and support.  While babies are born, mothers are made. Made through a thousand nights of looking for a pacifier in a darkened nursery after two hours of sleep. Made through the experience of a thousand fears and concerns over the course of ten months of pregnancy or countless months waiting for a biological mother to choose you for the task of mothering and for a child to be placed in your waiting home. Made through sacrificing your very skin for the sake of someone smaller. We can’t do it (and shouldn’t do it) alone.

There’s so much to mothering that it only makes sense for it to take a lifetime. I think to feel prepared for mothering is impossible – the complexity, nuances and time-consuming nature of mothering make it a journey you learn as you walk the road. Sometimes you fall in potholes, sometimes you sprain your ankle. Sometimes you skip along in the sunshine. One day at a time, imperfectly, persistently with breaks for sanity when you can and one-sentence prayers for patience and wisdom when you can’t. It’s on the road that you recognize the resiliency of children and bless their forgiving nature a thousand times over. It’s when you beg God for courage – should anything ever happen to your heart that beats outside your body, exposed to so much unpredictability, anger and pain in the world.

Motherhood is humbling.

You suddenly realize how very little you know and how very much there is to know. You also realize (sometimes not until a little later) that it’s ok not to know everything. Or rather, you realize you don’t and won’t know everything and you can either panic over it or be ok with it and move ahead as best you can. You realize that the wisest place is on your knees and that simple faithfulness is sometimes the best gift you can give your baby. You begin to realize, when some of the fog of sleep-deprivation lifts, that you are being transformed. That mothering has a higher, holier task than “just” raising a child. You thank God for choosing you to be a mother to this child, you beg Him for the wisdom and grace to be worthy of it.

You also realize, one day in late May when your teething daughter finally falls asleep for a nap, that you’ve been thinking about all these things for the past four months and, even though you’re tired too, you really need to write them down. So you do. And there they stand, a marker, a memorial stone, a testimony to where you are today on your own journey of mothering.

The Magic.

Evie’s growing up.

While far from a teenager and even farther from an adult she’s not that far from a toddler and then a child. She’s a busy, curious seven-month old that want’s to see everything, touch everything, examine everything and be…well, everywhere.

I love that about her.

I love the sheer energy that makes her little legs kick against the stroller bars. I love the way her entire face lights up when she smiles. I absolutely cannot get enough of her face, when she’s happy her entire body wriggles with sheer joy. I love the speed with which one pudgy hand can reach the pen, glass of water or book that is just out of her reach (but not quite far enough). I love the way I can tell what she’s pondering by the million little expressions that flicker across her face. I love how her little arms are learning what a hug is, clinging tighter and tighter to mom and dad’s neck. I love how fascinated she is by the snaps on her diaper, picking curiously at each one (one day she’ll succeed in getting it off and I may not love that…as much). The way she takes every.single.toy out of her basket and spreads them in a perfect circle around her little body, the way she thinks that anything that moves near her is playing peekaboo – the curtain fluttering, the cat running past – all of them get her happiest smile. The way she grins at a single cheerio that fell on the floor and her determination as she desperately front rolls, flips and wiggles her way to it

This girl is one of God’s greatest gifts to me.

There was a brief time in my life when I wasn’t sure I wanted to have children. As silly as it sounds to me now, for those months I really wrestled with whether that was something I wanted and God wanted for my life – then, one night the struggle resolved so suddenly. I was driving home from a friend’s house around Christmas of that year and, while waiting at  stop sign, this thought hit me: if I don’t have children I can’t introduce them to the Chronicles of Narnia. That little thought made me stay parked at the stop sign in tears (I’m nothing if not ridiculously sentimental). Tom wasn’t in the picture yet and I really had no idea when I would marry or have children – I just knew that I personally wanted the privilege, responsibility and joy of introducing little people to the world (and, obviously, the world of Narnia ;)).

Fast-forward five years and I find myself a married woman of almost 27 with a baby that makes my heart swell with a God-inspired loved when I look at her.

Lately, I find myself thinking – what do I want to introduce her to? What do I need to introduce her to? Her awareness is growing, her comprehension is growing, her understanding is growing. My role as her mamma has already shifted from “just” physical caretaker as I carried her in my body, to nurturer and source of comfort as I (and the safety of her daddy’s arms) was all she knew the first few months of her life, to beginning to build on those things and becoming even more of a teacher to her little heart.

There’s so much I want her precious self to know.

I want her to know that the true magic of childhood doesn’t cost a penny.

It’s not at Disney World or the toy aisle of Wal*Mart. It’s not in having a huge bedroom of her own or eating at all the best restaurants.

The magic of childhood is something she can experience every day.

I want her to know the joy of holding buttercups under her chin and the skill of packing a baseball helmet with snow to make a snow turkey. I want her to know the sticky frustration of pine sap between her bare toes and the way you can always smell honeysuckle before you can see it.

I want her to know the true freedom that comes with knowing when to say “no” as well as “yes” and the importance of boundaries to protect herself and those around her.

I want to model a tender heart.

A heart that draw boundaries but doesn’t create barriers out of fear or anger – a heart that is tender enough to be broken because a heart that can’t be broken also cannot fully love.

I want her to experience the anticipation of the non-seasons, those moments in between the changes, the coming of fall with chilled air and vividly hued leaves and the anticipation of spring with its floral breezes and crescendo of blossoms.

I want her to know that the world does not revolve around her but that she’s an irreplaceable, indispensable part of it.

I want her to see Jesus.

I want her to be able to look past the mistakes of Christians (and, sometimes, the outright, painful wounds) and see Christ. If she can do that she will find a faith that sustains her.

I want her to know how to handle fear. To remember to breathe through the shock of loss (which, inevitably, will come) and to allow herself the space to grieve when she needs it.

I want her to laugh wholeheartedly. To persist through the nightmare of learning to tie her shoes ( ;) ), to go to bed ecstatic that it’s almost Christmas and counting down the days until we get to do our family tradition of decorating a gingerbread house (a tradition that started two years before she was even born). I want her to find her peace in the holy hush of advent and the soaring joy of Easter.

I want to introduce her to bobbing waves in the ocean, melting Italian ice, making popcorn on the stovetop, the importance of saving money, the need to eat healthily, how to make envelopes and write her name. Tom and I want to create a home for her and our future babies that is full of grace and boundaries, love that disciplines, exploration and respect – paradoxes the Gospel makes sense of.

I want her to see the endless journeys she can take into books and the way her imagination can make anything interesting.

There’s so much she has yet to experience: her toes in the ocean, the thrill of flying, picking out an outfit for herself, making her bed, plunging her hands into the sticky yeastiness of bread dough, eating watermelon in the summer, picking dandelions, puddle-jumping, pushing a shopping cart, running up a hill so fast she can’t breathe, saying a bedtime prayer, playing dress up decorating cookies, getting a letter in the mail, holding her baby brother or sister, picking out shapes in the clouds, helping wash the dishes, dancing around the living room.

I love seeing her eyes light up at life, I want to be there every step of the way to soak in the magic with her.

This parenting thing is something I feel inadequate for every day but wake up eager to do at the same time.

I’m new at it, I’m only at the beginning of the journey – but by God’s grace there are many days yet to come. As I’m already learning, the days full of little moments add up to make a big impact. We only get one today, only one right now and I want to live them faithfully and well with her.

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On her first picnic :).

Life Lately.

It took typing up a silly post about cloth diapering for me to realize how much joy and identity I find in writing. I feel I haven’t fully accepted, grieved or processed something (anything) until I’ve found a way to put it into words. It’s a necessary challenge for me – the act of pairing emotions or experiences with the  strings of letters that come closest to matching them.

So much has happened in the past six months I’m not sure where to begin summarizing (though, the goal isn’t necessarily to share the entirety of my experiences – that’s both too extravagant and, I feel, too vulnerable for an unknown audience).

So, what then? What if not summarizing?

Describing? For some day when the moments that made up today are a memory that I think of with a fond, longing ache in my heart?

I know there are many things about this season of my life I want to always remember (though, I don’t feel I could forget them even if I was choosing to do so).  These feel like the best days I’ve ever had? Will they be?

I want to remember the scent of my baby daughter’s hair when she’s fresh from her bath; the way her skin smells like powder and honey. I want to remember the sleepy weight of her small body, worn out from knocking over (and over and over) her block towers, as she nurses herself into a nap – the last thing she remembers is the scent of mommy and taste of milk.

I want to remember the light in Tom’s eyes when he walks up the front path at the end of the workday. The way he sometimes stops to knock on the window and makes faces at me through the bushes. The way he still looks at me after three years of increasing familiarity – with love and longing. I want to remember the stubborn, red curl that twists by his left ear and the way he drops his lunch bag on the floor so he can immediately lay on the floor and make his baby laugh.

Sometimes I think if I could stop time at any point it would be now – during the years when our babies are young and so are we. If only being unspeakably grateful for things was enough to let you hold on to them forever.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I’m 26 going on 27 not 26 going 77. I don’t know why but, since I was small, I’ve been acutely sensitive to the passing of time. When I look at my daughter I can see her walking, writing her letters, becoming a big sister, falling in love and getting married…it’s as vivid as the hands I see typing this post. I can see her daddy in another twenty years. Laugh lines more creased around his eyes, heart full of even more love.

I can see myself.

A mother more times over (please, God) but a wife first. I can see the sacrifices my body will make to give life to someone smaller. I can see the way my heart will always walk around outside my body in the form of my husband and babies. I can see it all. I can see the woman I want to continue be for Tom; the partner, companion and lover.

I can see the time passing and I know, all too soon, It’ll be past. It’s a challenge to myself to do the small things that make big differences today. 

To speak the loving words, to spend the five minutes snuggling the child, to plant the herbs, to pray together, to find joy in the littleness of these days of small things, to choose the path of peace instead of offense, to pet the cat, to write the email, to spend moments in silence becoming instead doing.

More than ever my heart needs its God. Not one of small stories or tidy boxes but one strong enough to sustain me in the face of grief and be my reason for celebrating. He is there and I’m continuing to learn him in a new way through new stages. I want to remember how this process of breaking into new territory feels. Will I ever understand all His ways? No. Not in their fulness. Lately he has chosen? permitted? not intervened? in ways I don’t understand – my heart aches for friends going through losses. His blend of power and reticence, action and restraint seems so paradoxical at times.

Despite my questions, I want to remember this season too. How divinely alright it felt to be nothing other than exactly who I am today. Questions, fears and all. The way it felt to be journeying with my daughter as she discovers daffodils, the sensation of carpet on bare feet and raindrops on her face. The ever-growing comfort and strength of my hand in Toms.

When I die, when all of these remembrances are tomorrow,  I want to be all used up.

I want everything I have; every ounce of bodily strength, every bit of passion, every possession to be given away to someone who needs it more.

What is the purpose of life if not to pour yourself out like an offering for someone else? To give comfort to one who feels alone? To grieve with one who has an aching heart? To put yourself and your preferences to the side for the sake of another?

I want to remember.

“This is the true joy in life — being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one… being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.” 
~ George Bernard Shaw
 
hope
 

Reviewed: Alvababy Cloth Diapers.

So, I’m diving back into blogging after a three-month hiatus with a post about…cloth diapers.

I understand if this is only of marginal interest to the faithful ones who read this blog. However, if you’re a mom (or mom-to-be) who is considering cloth diapering – well, this is for you.

I was a reluctant convert to cloth diapering.

It has been on my radar since before Evie was born and I’d decided for and against it multiple times. My sleep-deprived mind went around and around on it – Pro’s: money saved, environment conserved, cute diapers. Con’s: start-up cost, extra work.

Finally, about six weeks ago, we made The Decision. We were going to cloth diaper. I was encouraged watching a few friends who seemed like they still had time to occasionally shower while still being a cloth-diapering family (i.e. it apparently doesn’t take up every second of every day). We’d been saving an Amazon gift card to help with the start-up expenses should we choose to cloth diaper and, finally, all the stars aligned to indicate it was time.

I went online to order and BOOM discovered there are 43r6943758123845=375 brands and styles of cloth diapers – not to mention an entire vocabulary you need a codebook to decipher (stripping? it’s not what you think. doublers? not just for twins).

I spent the next five hours of my life researching cloth diapers.

Eventually, I limited it to what I could order off Amazon (due to the gift card). In doing so I found Alvababy which, as best I can tell, is an off-brand version of bumGenius. The bumGenius brand diapers are excellent quality but, with prices ranging from $14.00 -$18.00 per diaper and, not enough time to slowly save or buy on sale, they were out of our price range.

(Sidenote: if you’re looking for discounts on the bumGenius brand keep an eye on this site - oh, and this one for deals!)

In researching Alvababy I found that they were the same pocket style that I liked (for newbies – like myself six weeks ago- pocket style diapers have an opening (i.e. pocket) between the diaper lining and the waterproof exterior – you stuff it with an absorbent insert). Alvababy diapers come with either one or two rows of snaps. I strongly prefer the style with two rows of snaps because the second row allows the diaper to be tightened snugly around the legs (versus just around the waist).

So, on to the review.

Somehow, miraculously, these diapers made me a fan of both the Alvababy brand AND cloth diapering.

1) Price: The most expensive diaper I could find on the Alvababy website is $6.99 (average price is around $4.80 a diaper). If you’re a last-minute convert to cloth-diapering (or just trying not to spend a lot) these are an extremely affordable selection! Bundling different diapers can make you eligible for different discounts and, if you purchase 20 or more, free express shipping!

I tried to find a graphic that accurately expressed the amount of money saved by cloth diapering. I’m sure one exists but I feel like most of the ones I found exaggerate the amount disposable diapers cost in an attempt to push people towards cloth diapering (most moms I know will not be paying full-price for name-brand disposable diapers).  It IS safe to say that it’s undoubtedly cheaper to cloth diaper. That much I know. We spent a total of $170.00 on our cloth diaper system – that was for a total of 18 diapers, 50 inserts, three wet bags (one large, two small), a drying rack and a large container of the detergent needed to wash the diapers. Minus our $100.00 gift card it cost us $70.00 for a permanent system of diapering. I’m sure that over time I’ll have to replace a diaper or two but, the money saved over the course of a few years and multiple kids in diapers will add up significantly.

2) Variety: The selections are abundant and CUTE. Oh my word. In addition to an array of solid colors and great prints and patterns you can get different snap styles and a lot of different types of inserts (bamboo, hemp, bamboo charcoal, microfiber, fleece, suede). For your viewing pleasure I’ve created a small gallery of some of the prints.

3) Durability/Quality: With spending only about $5.00 per diaper this was obviously my biggest concern. These diapers really did  exceed my expectations. They’re well-made and properly sewn. I chose the microfiber lined diapers with microfiber inserts and purchased a total of 18 diapers (two bundles of solid colors and one bundle of prints off Amazon) and have been throughly pleased over the last month that I’ve used them.

Thanks to the double-row of snaps I’m able to adjust the diapers for a snugger fit –  because Evie is a longer/leaner baby the second row of snaps allows for a tighter fit around only semi-chubby thighs (on the blue diaper you can better see the second row of snaps I’m referring to) which has led to very minimal problems with leaking (more on that below). The diapers are easy to stuff – for nighttime I put two inserts in Evie’s diaper – depending how often she wakes up to nurse either 1 or 2 double-stuffed diapers take her a full twelve hours (she wakes 1-2 times to nurse over that twelve-hour period). During the day, when the diapers only have one insert, I change her every 2-3 hours and we don’t have trouble with leaking.

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My single “con” regarding Alvababy diapers would be in regards to their quality control. Both bundles of solid color diapers came with 12 inserts – we were also given some inserts as a shower gift before she was born which led us having 40 inserts before my patterned diapers/inserts even arrived.

This turned out to be in our favor. Dun dun dun.

Pictured: The inserts I received with the solid-color diapers (on bottom) and the ones that came with my patterned diapers.

Hmmm.

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I tried the smaller, rounded inserts out of curiosity (expecting they would probably leak) and, sure enough, they did. As you can see in this picture below they don’t even match the shape of the diaper! Since I only received six of the small inserts (and we already had so many) I didn’t bother mailing them back –  I just assumed Alvababy meant to gift me some cleaning rags in addition to the patterned diapers ;).

From reviews that I’ve read Alvababy does seem to have a good return policy – if this happened with a larger shipment of diapers or inserts it doesn’t seem there would be a problem returning/exchanging them. I’m glad that I did receive some of both inserts – if all my diapers had smaller inserts I would probably have returned all assuming the entire brand was poor quality.

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4) Care: My other great fear with cloth diapering was the amount of time I expected to spend on them. It’s true that cloth diapers take more time than disposable diapers BUT it’s a difference of maybe one hour a week? Even with only 18 diapers (which is on the low-end of “suggested amounts”) I only have to do a load of diapers every other day. Evie uses 1-2 diapers at night and 5-7 during the day which means we have plenty to only wash diapers 3x a week (sidenote: cloth diapering a newborn, which I did NOT do, would equal more frequent washing, more staining due to meconium and more stuffing because of the smaller inserts needed. It’s totally doable but just a FYI that this review/estimations are what I’ve found as a cloth diapering mom who started with a five-month old).

I pre-washed my diapers/inserts  3x before using them the first time – reviews I read said that absorbency increases each time until the 8th wash. I didn’t notice a distinct difference but…at least my diapers were extremely clean ;).

When diapers are soiled I separate the insert and diaper and put both pieces in a large wet bag I have hanging next to the changing table (I have small wet bags for the diaper bag when we’re out). I haven’t found it necessary to do any soaking or pre-washing for my diapers (occasionally, for a really messy one I’ll wash it out. Note: have a pair of plastic gloves on hand).

For daily care I do a cold rinse, hot wash, cold rinse with Charlie’s Soap (which smells weird but keeps detergents etc. from soaking into the diapers and lessening their absorbency). I DO wash my diapers, inserts and wet bags together – over the past month I haven’t noticed any problems with the diapers elasticity lessening etc. I tumble dry the inserts and line dry the diapers. Once dry, I stuff all the diapers – this is the most time-consuming part – but still takes less than ten minutes and re-fill the diaper bin. DONE for the next two days.

When it’s sunny out I put the diapers on the porch, on rainy days they dry in my living room. The sunshine helps keep them white (I have very light stains on 1-2 of my inserts but none on my diapers). They dry quickly and fully either location.

Diaper day!

Diaper day!

Like I said, it adds maybe an hour a week to my schedule? Three ten-minute periods of stuffing diapers. An extra thirty-seconds per diaper change to do up the snaps and maybe fifteen minutes spent putting diapers in the washer, transferring them to the dryer and hanging them on my drying rack. I spend more time per-week washing dishes than diapers.

Is cloth diapering for everyone? Nope. Should you feel guilty if you choose not to cloth diaper? No. Cloth diapering doesn’t make you a better parent it just keeps a little extra money in your pocket. If the tradeoff of extra work for extra money is worth it to you, do it! If not, don’t!  Either way you choose, I hope this review helped to answer some questions – if there’s anything I missed feel free to ask it below!

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Cloth diaper booty – AHH!

In summary:

As Alvababy’s website promises: “check out our many colors and prints – bright colors bring happy and harmonious feeling to baby and make diapering enjoyable!”

The harmony these diapers have brought to my home is hard to find words for. Place your order today.

P.S. writing this post has made me realize how much I miss blogging. More please!

For Thomas: On the Occasion of our Second Anniversary.

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Sweetheart,

This year has changed our lives.

Last year at this time, just a day before our first anniversary, we found out we were expecting our precious girl and now, as I write this, our three-month old daughter is asleep next to me.

((Oh wait, a pair of tiny, blue eyes just popped open ;)).

The last twelve months have held so many memories and special moments we’ll never forget (not that we want to).

Thank you for being by my side through all of it.

For us, 2013 started off with our highly anticipated, carefully saved for trip to Cancun. I know thousands of people go to Mexico for vacation every year….but I’m convinced our trip was the best. Literally, every time it comes up, I  can’t help but to burst out smiling. I could talk about the memories for hours. If there is such a thing as a completely perfect week, well, I lived it.

I’m not 100% certain what made it so special – maybe that is was the culmination of a year of planning? Maybe that we had the tiny, cherished secret of our daughter? I know part of it was because we both love to travel and explore; finally getting to share that with you was a dream come true. I’ll always remember the nights of card competitions, the evening we spent sitting on the beach in a pouring rainstorm, running up and down all 17 flights of stairs in our hotel, your attempts to communicate in Spanish with the hotel staff, dragging our deck chairs into the shower to make our own sauna, evenings learning Hindi, dressing up for dinner dates, paying $1.00 to ride the bus all over, your patience as I dealt with early pregnancy nausea and fatigue, eating steak as a thunderstorm rolled in over the beach, the ridiculous Elvis impersonator at the hotel, vanilla milkshakes and cappuccinos, sleeping on 1/2 of the king size bed (after a year in a double we weren’t used to that kind of nighttime real estate).

Someday we’ll go back (hopefully) but, until then, thanks for these special memories.

I love being your travel buddy.

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The rest of 2013 can be summed up in one word, Evie (or as you call her, “my little daughter”). Your love for her makes me cry – the way you light up when you see her is only overshadowed by the way she smiles when she sees you.

There really aren’t words to describe how much joy she’s brought into our lives.

The days now are much more chaotic, loud and complicated (going out requires more planning than it ever has) but, it’s all a small price to pay for the increase in laugher, love and sheer joy that fills our home. I never knew how many little milestones there were to celebrate with a baby (or how indescribably fun it would be to share all of that with you). I love watching you cheer on every little accomplishment she has and the determination you have for her first word to be “alligator” (I still think you should have a backup word).

I love being parents with you.

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I think, after two years married and three years together, I’ve finally figured out my favorite thing about you (this year anyway):

You find the same level of joy in playing a game of Scrabble on a Thursday night at our kitchen table as you do when getting on a plane to Mexico.

I think the reason we have so much fun together is because we don’t need the big, extraordinary things to have a great time (which is good because, now that we’ve started having children it’s all about the small things ;). It’s enough right now for us to try a new flavor of ice cream and experiment with painting Christmas trees on rocks – I will forever treasure your kind, joyful spirit. You celebrate my daily, little accomplishments and encourage me in my new role as a mamma. Your determination to find joy and choose contentment in every stage of your life inspires me.

Happy second anniversary, honey. I have no idea how it has only been two years – we’ve crammed a lot in! Thank you for being my best friend, Hindi language partner, primary source of affirmation, lover, fellow Christmas enthusiast, bookstore nerd, enjoyer of the small things, prayer partner and cuddle buddy.

I love when you come home from work and get excited trying to guess what dinner is by the way the kitchen smells, the nights we keep each other awake for an extra hour because we can’t stop laughing about absolutely ridiculous things. I love your determination in figuring out new puzzles and solving electronic problems, the careful way you finish the craft projects you start and  how excited you get over Aldi’s pizza and the mere thought of going out for Indian food. I cherish the way you whisper a prayer over your daughter as you tuck her in at night and the comfort I know I’ll always find in your arms.

I’m so grateful that your first instinct in conflict is to press forward and figure it out (not to give me the cold shoulder the way I, wrongfully, can do to you) – your attitude helps keep such warmth in our marriage. I know (because we’ve told each other at least one hundred times) that the togetherness of our marriage is the thing we treasure most. We’re each other’s secret keepers, comfort and all-around favorite person.

“so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep”.

I cherish your strength of character and faith.

You help calm my anxiety and tendency to overthink everything by reminding me of the simple reality that “He who promised is faithful”. Things in our two years haven’t been picture perfect. We’ve had our share of expected and unexpected difficulties but both God and you have been constants in my life and, for that, I am deeply grateful.

I love you, Tom Sylvia and I LOVE being your wife (though the role is more familiar now the magic of it still hasn’t worn off).

-C

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The Days of Small Things.

The days are filled with small things.

Tiny milestones where the miles are more like inches and the stones the size of pebbles. Your accomplishments are written in big letters on the to-do list to make it seem like you’ve finished more (why do you feel the need to justify doing only the little things to yourself?). It’s noteworthy when you answer one email, make the bed or pack a lunch. How many times have you brewed a pot of coffee only to be called away for three hours before you get a cup? Too many to count.

The nights are hardest. Bedtime no longer means anything, it might be a thirty minute break or it might be a five-hour one – your life is lived perpetually on call (exclusively breastfeeding a baby is not for the faint of heart – if you’re not nursing you’re still needed to pump and provide the milk). Even when you’re not breastfeeding the nights are achingly long; somehow daylight makes everything seem more manageable even if you’re exhausted. Especially, when you’re exhausted.

Some days nothing works. Some days mamma’s arms are all that fix it. Some days she needs to eat every few hours. Some times the tears don’t have an explanation (hers anyway, your’s always do). Some days people get upset because they haven’t heard back from you (these people usually don’t have a newborn) – it’s hard to explain that it’s not that you didn’t have time but that your brain literally couldn’t think about whatever it was they asked you in the first place.

Some days it’s just hard.

The times when all you want to do is have a back-rub from your husband without being interrupted by sudden cries. The days when you wish there was a magic button that would promise you 3-4 hours of sleep (often the swing does but you’re worried that will create “dependency” on it because They caution against that). The days when you hope to God that you timed everything right so you can make it to small group without a hungry, tired or inexplicably fussy meltdown (then it happens anyway). Some nights your husband sleeps on the couch because he has to get up at 4:30 and, as luck would have it, his alarm will go off just as you and the baby fall back asleep. You miss him. The bed feels cold and empty. 

There are days where you second guess everything you’re doing and hope you’re not creating bad habit patterns that will take an eternity to break. You ponder everything because you’re responsible for the safety of this little person and They vehemently insist you should swaddle, should not swaddle, should lay the baby on their back, should lay them on their side, should allow a nightlight, should always cover the windows, should let them nurse to sleep, should never nurse them to sleep because they’ll expect to fall asleep that way until they’re in college, let them cry, never let them experience stress. Above all else, make the right decision the first time so you don’t do permanent damage. Mothering in the age of the internet is a minefield of opinions.

Some days you wonder if it will ever not feel like survival mode? Will she ever prefer her crib to her swing? Will we ever sleep more than 4 hours again? Will life ever resume even a tiny sense of normalcy? Will you ever be able to go out without bringing eighteen baby items (not for a long time)?

Then the reframe comes.

You remember why you’re doing all this.

For the safety and growth of a tiny little person who is new to everything in the world. For her who instantly cries more softly when she sees her mamma because she knows someone who loves her very much is coming. For the knowledge that this little person has an eternal soul that you’ve been gifted with the privilege to help shape.

You remind yourself that an unhappy child doesn’t always have a solution other than time. That their tears and refusal to sleep doesn’t always mean you did something wrong and you don’t need to spend countless hours racking your brain for a way to fix it. That people have raised children for thousands of years before they had access to the millions of opinions on the internet (a blessing and a curse) and that you can trust your  parenting instincts and love for your child.

You focus on the literally overwhelming love you have for this little person (a love that makes you immediately tear up when you think about it). The joy you get watching her nurse, when little blue eyes are fixed in wonder on your face. On the way she smells after a bath, the adorable sniff she gives when she’s concentrating on something, the spastic way her tiny hands and feet move without her control. On the gummy grins that get broader every day and the way she gives the sweetest smiles in her (rare) moments of sleep. You can’t get over her. Will never get over her. Her dimples and chunky baby thighs have permanently changed you. You celebrate every little milestone with her – laying on the floor, next to her daddy, you both watching her roll over and go cross-eyed discovering her hands. You see the utter joy in his face when he looks at his daughter and the indescribable happiness she brings both of you. Suddenly you want twelve more of these little people.

You think about the way it felt when her arms and legs wiggled in your womb and can see the same motion patterns when she wiggles around on her blanket. You remember that you’ve never seen a twenty-year old asleep in a swing and instead celebrate the fact that she now sleeps with it on low-speed instead of high and usually spends at least half the night and all her naps in her crib. Baby steps.

You see a day coming all too soon when she’ll say her first words, take her first steps and experience her first heartbreak. Your own heart aches to think of her feeling pain of any kind – yet, to keep her from it will make her brittle not strong, fragile not brave. What you do know is that she’ll never go through pain alone. You will be there for. Her family and the God who made her will be with her (she doesn’t know Jesus yet but you pray for it every single day).

Someday she won’t need you like this. But today she does.

Someday she won’t rely on you for everything. But today she does.

You can see a day in the distant future (and yet, coming all too soon) when you’re at breakfast with the man who cradles your heart. Time has lined his handsome face yet the same impish sparkle that you fell madly in love with still twinkles in his eye – all the children are grown and gone and, once more, it’s just the two of you.

The baby days are long gone and you long for just one more moment of holding your newborn close. For the feel of their tiny body pressed to your breast and the chance to see the overwhelming happiness on their face when all they see and all they need is mommy & daddy. You know you’ll feel that way because you feel that way about your pregnancy – just one moment more of this precious life snuggled under your heart.

But it’s not to be, the days are so fleeting (even when, in the moment, they feel eternal).

The thought is enough to give you strength to savor today, even when the taste is a little bitter. To press that child close to you and say another prayer over their sleeping body. To beg God for courage to persist in patience through the crying.

You should have been in bed an hour ago but sometimes you need to take the time to write everything that’s been bottling up for a month. So you sit, under the multi-colored light of the small Christmas tree, with the sound of the baby monitor as background noise (silently thanking Graco for the swing you hear gently clicking away). You blow a kiss to your husband who is sound asleep on the couch and thank him for his willingness to take the couch even though his back is sore and let you have the bed. You beg your beloved cat not to shred the carefully wrapped gifts (which is the only thing you’ve really accomplished in a few days).

Finally, to end the day you sit for a long time on the shower floor. The water a liquid prayer, washing away frustration, sadness, loneliness and exhaustion.

Today the little graces abound and, in the days of small things, they are enough.