Newborn Cloth Diaper Reviews

Miss Esther in a Rumparoo Little Joey newborn cloth diaper!

Miss Esther in a Rumparoo Little Joey newborn cloth diaper!

We were so blessed to have Miss Esther Louise join our family in June! She entered the world weighing 7 pounds, 5 ounces and 18.5 inches long. We decided several months prior to her birth to give newborn cloth diapering a try.

We cloth diapered our other two girls from about two months on until they were potty-trained. We love cloth diapering and we especially love how much money it has saved us over the years. To read an earlier post about our decision to use cloth diapers, click here. Pre-Esther, our stash was made up of Gro-Via cloth diapers. They have held up incredibly well through our first two daughters use and we are planning to use them again with Miss Esther. Gro-Via cloth diapers, like most one-size diapers, do not start to fit a baby well until he or she reaches about eight to ten pounds. Once baby reaches that weight range, they are great. Prior to that, we used disposable diapers with our babies.

When we initially started to research newborn cloth diapers, we were surprised there were not many reviews of newborn cloth diapers. So, here’s our experience with using a few different types of newborn cloth diapers. We decided to try a few different types since we could not find any one particular brand that stood out as “the best”. Knowing how many diapers newborns go through in a day, we decided to buy pre-folds and a few covers along with a few newborn all-in-ones (AIOs). All-in-ones are cloth diapers where everything is just one piece. Think of them like a disposable diaper, but all cloth. Even though AIO’s are the easiest option, we did not want to commit to buying an entire stash of AIOs for two reasons. First, cost. It seemed ridiculous to us to pay on average $15 per diaper for something that would only be used for a few weeks. Most newborn cloth diapers only go up to 12 lbs. Secondly, we could not find enough information for us to feel confident buying several diapers of the same brand. We were afraid of spending a bunch of money on an entire stash of one brand of newborn diaper and then once we tried it, it not fitting properly or leaking. So, we opted to get a variety of diapers to try out. For AIO’s, we ended up getting two Blueberry Newborn Simplex, two Rumparoo Little Joeys, one newborn Gro-Via (new style), and four newborn Gro-Via’s that someone gave to us (old style). For prefolds, we bought 24 newborn GMD prefolds along with one newborn Thirsties Duo diaper cover and four Rumparooz Newborn diaper covers.

After using the diapers for almost a month and a half, here are our thoughts.

We had high hopes for the Gro-Via newborn AIO since we love our regular Gro-Vias so much. However, these were our least favorite diaper as both the new and old styles leaked out the legs almost every single time we used one. The legs always ended up wet on the old-style Gro-Vias, while the new style Gro-Via diaper let liquid out of the leg gussets. The problem improved some in the new style Gro-Vias once Esther was up to around 10 pounds because her legs filled out the openings more, but the diapers would still occasionally leak out the legs.  The Gro-Via’s were very trim and cute on, but I would not buy these again in the future because of how often they leaked. They are made for babies 5-12 lbs and fit Esther well from the time she was born (7 1/2 pounds) until about 11 lbs when the waist got to be too small. These diapers were easy to care for and had a normal, one cycle dry time.

Here is Esther in the old-style newborn Gro-Via AIO. Esther is nine pounds in this picture.

Here is Esther in the old-style newborn Gro-Via AIO. Esther is nine pounds in this picture.

Gro-Via Newborn AIO Super-Trim!

Super trim Gro-Via Newborn AIO!

The inside of the new style Gro-Via Newborn AIO is nice and fuzzy!

The inside of the new style Gro-Via Newborn AIO is nice and fuzzy!

Here's Esther in the new style of the Gro-Via Newborn AIO. She is approximately ten pounds in this picture.

Here’s Esther in the new style of the Gro-Via Newborn AIO. She is approximately ten pounds in this picture.

Let’s face it. Newborns need their diapers changed a lot. So, the bulk of our stash consisted of prefolds. We bought a dozen Green Mountain Diaper (GMD) newborn, organic cotton prefolds. It was more economical to buy a few newborn covers and a bunch of prefolds than to have an entire stash of newborn all-in-ones. There was no need to change the diaper cover every time, unless it was soiled. Just wipe the cover down with a damp cloth and it is ready to go again. We never used prefolds prior to this and were amazed at how easy they were to use. A few times we did the fancy jelly roll when we used them, but found even when we folded the diaper in thirds and laid in on the cover, it worked just fine. We did not have any issues with leaking and there really was not much of a difference between the Thirsties and Rumparooz covers in terms of trimness or functionality. The Thirsties Duo Snap cover does have a higher weight allowance though so it can be used longer than the Rumparooz Newborn cover. The Thirsties Due weight range is 6-18 lbs, while the Rumparooz Newborn cover’s range is 4-12 lbs. The fit of the prefold/cover combo was the bulkiest out of everything we tried and they were slightly more time-consuming, but overall we were pleased with the value we got out of our prefolds. These dried just fine in one dryer cycle.

We usually folded the pre- fold (GMD newborn size, organic cotton pre-fold) into thirds and laid it in the diaper cover.

We usually folded the pre-fold into thirds and laid it in the diaper cover.

Although these were bulkier than the AIO's, they never leaked!

Although these were bulkier than the AIO’s, they never leaked

We were excited to try Rumparooz Little Joey Diaper. Out of all the diapers we tried, it was the softest by far. It also fit our little one the best when she was on the smaller end of the weight range for this diaper. It is advertised to fit babies from 4 to 12 pounds. We found that it fit Esther really well when she first started to wear it, but started to fit her awkwardly when she reached around 9 pounds. This diaper did a good job containing most messes, but it did leak occasionally, especially once she hit nine pounds or so when we had to switch to the larger snap setting since it was getting to be too tight around her waist. When we switched to the larger setting, the diaper fit her well in the waist at that point, but it gaped some on Esther at the legs, making it more prone to leak.  The diaper was slightly bulky and did take at least two dryer cycles to completely dry.

Lil' Joey Newborn AIO

Lil’ Joey Newborn AIO on Esther (almost 9 lbs)

Photo courtesy of http://www.kangacare.com/Lil-Joey-Cloth-Diapers--2-packs_p_15.html

You can see how super soft these diapers are on the inside! Photo courtesy of http://www.kangacare.com/Lil-Joey-Cloth-Diapers–2-packs_p_15.html

Out of all the diapers we tried, our favorite was Blueberry’s Newborn Simplex. We had no leaks with this diaper. It was super trim and very absorbent. Plus, it fits from six pounds up to sixteen pounds, which is one of the highest weight allowances for a newborn AIO. At $18.95 per diaper, it was the most expensive newborn diaper that we purchased, but well worth it, especially since it has a greater weight range so a baby can wear it longer than the other newborn AIOs. The inside of the diaper is 100 percent cotton, and the diaper dried just fine in one dryer cycle.

You can see how the cotton inside goes right up to the edges of the backing, which made the diaper leak proof!

You can see how the cotton inside is sewn right along the edge of the backing. So, the leg gussets are a bit thicker than the other diapers we tried. This made such a difference and prevented anything from leaking out the legs.

Blueberry Newborn Simplex on 10 pound Esther.

Blueberry Newborn Simplex on 10 pound Esther.

Nice and trim!

Nice and trim Blueberry Newborn Simplex!

Here is how we ranked the newborn cloth diapers we tried from our number one top choice to our least favorite.

  1. Blueberry Newborn Simplex
  2. Prefolds with diaper covers
  3. Rumparooz Little Joeys
  4. Gro-Via Newborn AIO

If we had to do it all over again, knowing what we do now, we would still opt to have the majority of our newborn cloth diaper stash consist of prefolds with covers. With the amount of diapers a newborn goes through on a daily basis, it is a lot more economical and the prefolds with covers were just as leak proof as the expensive Blueberry Newborn Simplex. We would still want to have a few Blueberry Newborn Simplex diapers on hand though for when we are out and about because they are easy to use, fit fabulously for a wide range of weights, and leak proof (oh, and did I mention they have the most adorable patterns too?). Here is what we would buy if our budget was $200 for newborn cloth diapers, we would buy 24 newborn GMD prefolds ($25 per dozen), 4-5 Thirsties Duo Snap covers ($12.75 per) or Rumparooz newborn covers ($10 per) and four to five Blueberry Newborn Simplex ($18.95 per). If we only had $100 for newborn cloth diapers, we would stick with the prefolds and covers and skip the Blueberry Newborn Simplex diapers to give the most value for the money. Happy diapering!

This post was shared at Raising Homemakers.

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Wholesome Living Hotel Challenge Home Again!

Today, I am writing this post of the wholesome living hotel challenge series from our home. We found out we were able to head home a few days after my husband’s store opened. Turns out, the grand opening was such a success my husband was told he did not need stay on location for the typical requirement of two weeks. Instead, we stayed a few days after the store opened and were able to return home yesterday night after the girls and I had stayed in the hotel for a total of eleven days.

I will most likely write a few follow-up blogs as a part of the series, but I will not be posting “live” from our hotel room anymore. I am incredibly thankful to be home again. I admit, I almost cried when we walked through our front door.

The most difficult part of the trip was our lack of sleep. Most of which was because of the fire alarms. The alarms gave our girls horrible nightmares and, from day one (when five alarms went off for the hotel’s annual alarm testing), our girls were terribly frightened to go to sleep. They could see the alarm on the ceiling each night and at nap time. Anytime they heard a beep of any sort, they woke up in tears. There was only one night during the eleven days we were there when the girls slept through the night completely. Most nights, we were up with them in the middle of the night for at least a few hours or the girls would end up in bed with us if we could not get them back to sleep. Even if the girls were in bed with us, it still took some time (on average-an hour) to get them to calm down enough to sleep.

The best part of the trip was getting to see my husband at his store on opening day. It was a blessing to see his success and him in action at work. I am so thankful he has a job he loves.

The best part of the trip, wholesome living-wise, was successfully learning to cook in such a tiny space. With only two stove burners, microwave and a dishwasher, cooking on a regular basis for a family of four was quite a challenge. I am proud I we were able to have so many “home-cooked” meals during our stay. We ate thirty-three meals while we were there and only ate out five times total. Granted, eleven of those meals were from the hotel’s breakfast buffet, but we tried to have mainly healthy foods from the buffet. The hotel had a fabulous made-to-order omelet station, which was wonderful. So, if we account for the breakfast buffet, really, we were only responsibly for twenty-two meals and five of those we ate out. Not bad. We only had one fast-food purchase and one pizza delivery. The other meals were at sit-down restaurants where we ordered responsibly. Yes, we could have made all our meals in our room, but there is a time and a place for eating out and enjoying a break from cooking, and so we did.

The worst part of the trip, wholesome living-wise, was my re-addiction to baked goods. Even though Starbucks does not serve any foods with HFCS, artificial flavors or dyes, etc., I still do not think their foods quite meet the definition of wholesome. But, they do pair oh so well with coffee and there was a Starbucks right across the street from our hotel. When I am stressed (and I was for most of this trip), I crave warm drinks and baked goods. It’s awful. I caved far too many times to a baked good to go with my afternoon coffee on this trip. Actually, now that I think about it, I only caved four times (and those four times happened to be on the last four days we were there…), but still. I am disappointed in myself.

It feels surreal to be home again. Driving around, getting groceries this morning with our girls, I kept thinking to myself, “Did we just do that?” “Was that a dream?” “I can’t believe we just did that!” Isn’t it amazing the things God brings us through? Since we have been back (e.g. this morning), I converted our daughter’s crib to a toddler bed (since she was already in her own “bed” at the hotel) and packed up our cloth diapers. She is asleep right now in her “new” big-girl bed and potty-training starts up again bright and early tomorrow morning! I am excited for these two new adventures and thankful we can work on them in our very own home!

In closing, our three year-old daughter was praying today for our lunch and during her prayer, she prayed, “and God please bring us more good adventures…” So be it!

Wholesome Living Challenge Day Ten

Day ten: There is nothing like being stuck in a tiny space with your kids to show you where your parenting skills need work and where your parenting skills are bearing good fruit in your children’s lives. In many ways the past week and a half has felt like we are living in a fishbowl where everyone can peer through the glass and see our family round the clock. Whether it is neighbors, housekeeping, front desk or maintenance, there are plenty of people around to watch our family at all hours of the day or night.

Sometimes we have neighbors in the room next door or across the hall. Then, I worry they hear all that is going on in our room. If I know some of the rooms around us are occupied, I try to keep the noise down in our suite, hoping not to disturb anyone. Keeping kids quiet all the time is quite a task. We also see the guests in the hallways and breakfast.

Just this afternoon, I had to take Moses out for a potty break. He had to go right during our lunch so I got his leash and the girls and I went mid-lunch to take him out. We ran into a guest in the hallway and I instantly realized I should have wiped our youngest daughter’s face before we left our room. She had been eating blackberries at lunch and thought it was funny to take the blackberries, put them up to her eyes and pretend she had blackberries for eyes. It was cute, but messy. When we were talking with the other guest, I realized our young blackberry comedian looked like she had been in a boxing match or fallen down a flight of stairs. She looked like she had two black eyes. I tried to think of a way to creatively work into our conversation an explanation why her face looked so bruised, but could not come up with anything without it being awkward. So, I just prayed the guest would not notice. The guest was busy chatting about and petting our puppy so I do not think he noticed. Of course a few hours after the fact, I realized I probably could have said something like, “Yeah, Moses is great to have around. He does a great job cleaning up after these two. I bet he will love to clean up the blackberries off my daughter’s face once we are back from his potty break.”

Then, there is housekeeping. They get an intimate, up-close look at our rooms every time they come in to clean. On the days I know housekeeping is coming, I frantically dash around tidying up. I clean throughout the day, but the puppy is constantly pulling toilet paper off the roll and shredding it about the rooms. The girls have their limited supply of toys out and about, and seems just before housekeeping arrives the girls decide to pull out all their toys or clothes. Despite my diligence in attempting to keep up with my two girlies and the puppy, it seems there is always just one more thing to pick up.

The front desk has been quite helpful and friendly, but the front desk staff can hear when our girls choose not to obey us and instead take off running and squealing down the hotel halls. This happens about once a day. They also see our children at breakfast where my husband and I daily work with our children on eating the foods they were given. I am sure the front desk has heard us often tell our children something like, “No, you cannot have a chocolate covered donut for breakfast” or “Please do not dump your milk all over your eggs or drink syrup right from the bottle.” Actually, a few of the front desk employees have chatted with me about having to tell their kids the very same thing, so I know this is not just my imagination. They have admitted to me they have heard us at our breakfast table.

One of the front desk clerks also saw us last night when we requested a new room key. I had forgotten to lock the upper bolt on our door and our daughter opened our door for Moses to go “out”. Moses dashed out the door and down the hall. I darted after him and the girls darted out after me, laughing hysterically. All four of us ended up locked out of our room just as our pizza delivery guy (yes, I caved a second time and ordered pizza) was coming down the hall. Moses made it down two hallways and nearly to the front desk before I caught him (I was delayed in my chase because I had stop and politely tell the delivery guy to wait just a minute, we would be right back). The pizza guy was very kind and thought the whole thing was hilarious. I do too, in hindsight.

This adventure has been a humbling experience. We are not used to living our life around so many people. For the most part, I have enjoyed the interaction with others. Most people have been gracious when our children are not behaving as well as they should. Many, many people have congratulated us on our children. Not because of anything special our children did. They merely congratulated us on having children. The first time it happened, I did not know what to say. I was surprised. I have heard parents congratulated right after a child is born, but never a few years after a child is born.

After staying here several days, I realized our children are just about the only children here. In ten days, we have only seen three other families with children. Two of those stayed just one night. The other family has been here for a few days I think. There are several guests who have been here quite some time for whatever reason. These “regulars” have wholeheartedly accepted our children and seem to enjoy having them around to observe. I do not think it is because we have exceptional children. I think it is because these people, who are living away from their homes, are not used to seeing children around. They have laughed at our children’s antics and sympathized with us when our children were having trouble sleeping because of the fire alarm.

I tend to think of life in a fishbowl as people always looking at us being critical. In our “regular” non-hotel life, we have always tried to be transparent with those around us. We have an open door policy at our house and often have people over. We have the same expectations for our children in public and in private.

One of the greatest blessings of this trip is being able to see how others view our children. Peering into our glass fishbowl, they see children. Little people who are able to bring joy, laughter and a smile to the face of even the grouchiest of guests without even trying. Children bring wonder back to our lives.

As a mom, I often lose sight of the beauty of childhood. It gets lost in the daily grind of cleaning up mucky messes, training, and making sure everyone is healthy, clean and fed. At times it is hard for me to pull my head out of all thousands of details involved in taking care of children and look at the big picture.

Life in a fishbowl is not just people staring in at us. It is also us staring back out at them. Instead of the critical eyes, I almost always expect to see, I saw eyes that, for the most part, recognized something in my children that I often overlook or take for granted: their value as children. I love my children. I do. Allow me to explain. These people saw my children from outside the fishbowl. They saw our children for who they are as people. They did not see our children in light of how many things need to be done to to take care of them or what areas of our children’s character need strengthening. Outside the fishbowl, these people saw our children simply as children and that, I must say, is refreshing and rejuvenating. I need to do a better job of balancing these two perspectives.

This adventure has also shown us areas where our diligence in parenting our children a certain way has brought forth good fruit in our children’s hearts. I have noticed more than ever the various character attributes of each of our children. Indeed, it seems those attributes have been magnified during our stay in our itty-bitty hotel suite. Much like being able to see the big picture, knowing our children better is always a wonderful thing. Even if there are areas of our children’s character that need work, knowing our children and how they tick gives us a better idea of how to parent them. It takes spending time with our children to know them and since we have had a lot of extra time here, I feel as if we know our children better than when we arrived.

So, here at the end of day ten, I am thankful for:

-Lots of one-on-one time together
-Somehow being able to laugh instead of cry during some of the more challenging moments of our trip
-Slow blinks and sleepy smiles
-Books
-Chance to workout on some fancy equipment
-Squeals of laughter from our girls
-All the crazy and brilliant ways our girls have decided to amuse themselves while we are here

Wholesome Living Challenge Day Eight

Today on day eight of our stay, my husband opened a new store for his company. Although he has been a district manager for several years, this was the first time he has ever opened a store. I am incredibly proud of all his hard work. He has been working insane hours getting everything ready for the store’s grand opening, while I have been busy looking after our girls and puppy by myself in our hotel room. I have been trying to keep the girls busy so they would not notice their Daddy’s absence.

Today was grand opening! The store opened smoothly and right on time this morning. When the girls and I stopped by the store it was packed and the who’s who of the company were there to welcome shoppers to their store. I am thrilled the store is open, but I am more excited for our life to get back to normal. We still have to stay by the store for the first few weeks until it gets on its feet, but the grand opening stress will at least have subsided a bit. Hopefully we will also return to our normal practice of eating most meals together as a family. This means, I have meals to plan and grocery shopping to do.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, we are trying to continue to eat wholesome foods while we are away. The girls and I typically eat healthy, but simple meals when Daddy is not around for dinner. Think organic peanut butter and homemade jam (e.g. little to no raw sugar) on sprouted or sourdough bread type of simple. The past three days have been filled with these type of simple meals (except for our Taco Bell lunch). Yesterday we made a trip out to Shunpike Dairy for our milk. We had a blast. The weather was warm and in addition to getting our week’s supply of milk, we also got to see the farm animals. We even saw a wobbly, baby calf who was born right before we arrived. The girls were thrilled. One thing I love about shopping directly from farmers is directly supporting real people (e.g. the human interaction). I enjoy supporting local businesses. I feel more like a part of a community if I am actively contributing our money (votes) to local businesses I love. There was a young lady working at the farm who showed us around and encouraged us to explore and stay as long as we liked. She also told us about a zoo right down the road. I have been in a few box stores since we have arrived and I have not gotten a recommendation from anyone about places to go or things to see during our visit. Granted, I never asked. Why? Because most of those types of stores are just not conducive to long conversations. Cashiers are usually evaluated by how quickly they can ring items and this often takes precedence over their customer service skills. Box store, locally-owned store and direct-from farmer options are all useful in their own ways, it comes down to what people prefer and value.

I decided to take the young lady’s zoo recommendation. I took the girls to the zoo and enjoyed a beautiful, warm day. The Trevor Zoo is a part of The Millbrook School. It is the only zoo in the United States (and maybe the world) run by and on the grounds of a high school. The Millbrook School is a private prep school and costs a whopping $49,000 per year, plus books. As a part of their high school experience, students work at the zoo. While we were there, we were passed several times by students hurrying to the main animal clinic take care of their responsibilities at the zoo. Responsibilities mainly consisted of feeding the animals and cleaning out their cages. The zoo itself was lovely and it’s location breathtaking. Although small, it was a delight to visit. I doubt we would ever consider (or make enough) to ever send our kids away to a private prep school for high school. However, I was incredibly impressed with the students. They were some of the most pleasant, responsible teens I have ever met. It was obvious they had been given a lot of responsibility, but the teenagers all seemed to thrive under such expectations. It gave me a lot to think about.

So, today, on day eight I am thankful for:

-The chance to wander.
-Mason jars! Ever since a friend of mine brought me flowers in a mason jar I have been in love with their simplicity and usefulness. The milk we bought from Shunpike Dairy came in half gallon mason jars! I have never seen a mason jar so large. I am going to hold onto them and use them as decorations in our home.
-Car rides and their ability to lull children to sleep while Mama drives and sips on a latte.
-A perfect grand opening for my husband’s new store.
-Our girls behaving wonderfully while they were introduced to Daddy’s bosses.
-A chance to catch up on some reading and blog on a regular basis.

Below is an image of The Millbrook School’s campus.

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*This post is shared on Raising Homemakers.

Wholesome Living Hotel Challenge Day Six

Today, on day 6, our girls had Taco Bell for the very first time ever. Until today, we have done very well sticking to our wholesome eating practices and making most of our meals in our mini-kitchen.

This morning we went to the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum. It aptly served its purpose (okay, so maybe it was my purpose) of tiring the girls out, but, unfortunately it tired me out too and so…I caved. I just did not have the energy to whip up something for lunch. So we paid a visit to the Taco Bell drive thru. At the very least, I am thankful our girls ate some meat. They have not been eating a lot of meat recently and I was pleasantly surprised and pleased when they happily ate the soft tacos I ordered for them. So, exactly one day after our three year old smartly told her Daddy, “You shouldn’t eat Donald’s, it’s bad for you,” we had our own fast-food splurge.

Tacos are a messy food to eat, especially on the floor around a coffee table with toddlers who have not quite mastered the fine art of eating a taco. Have I mentioned before that we have no broom or vacuum? Initially I had thought staying in the hotel would be great because the hotel would do all our heavy duty cleaning for us. But, then a few hours after our arrival (and first meal at the hotel), reality hit. I realized there was no way we could live with the insane amount of crumbs our children produced while contently munching away on meals and snacks. Even though the hotel would faithfully clean our room on a daily basis if we asked them too, it would not be enough to keep up with all the crumbs. At home I vacuum or sweep certain areas of our home at least three times a day. Our room was disgusting after a single meal at the hotel. How would we live without a vacuum?

We had an unexpected answer for our crumb dilemma. Enter Moses, our newest family addition. We had been researching and planning getting a puppy for our family since the summer time. We paid for and picked out our puppy before we knew we would be out of town for so long. When we found out we would be out of town, we had our puppy for a month or so and decided to bring him along. I am so very glad we did. He is now about twelve weeks old and has been a tremendous help keeping up with the crumbs and messes.

It has been challenging having a puppy along for sure, but he has made it worth our while with his wonderful clean up skills. I do think he gets a little bored being in the same two rooms, but this has been a good opportunity to work with him on how to walk on a leash. When it is warm out, like today, we take him on long walks. Since he is so little (only about seven pounds), he does not take up much space either. We were supposed to have a room with a sliding door, but that did not happen. So, one of our wonderful challenges has been taking Moses out to the potty. Thankfully, we are on the ground level, right next to the exit. Still, I do not feel comfortable taking Moses out by myself and leaving the girls in the room alone, especially when the girls can open the door to let themselves out. So, we all go to take Moses potty. The first day or two it was quite challenging because it was bitter cold outside, at times in the single digits. Anytime we had to take Moses outside, I had to bundle everyone up in their heavy winter gear just for a five minute potty break. Now that it’s a bit warmer (and supposed to stay that way), it has not been as bad and the girls and I even enjoy taking Moses out on walks around the “block” (our hotel’s exterior) a few times a day.

For every obstacle we have faced so far in our grand hotel adventure, we have had many blessings and pleasant surprises. Tonight, we experienced our sixth fire alarm here. The day we arrived five alarms went off over the course of two hours because the hotel was conducting its annual fire alarm tests. Since then our girls have fearfully asked us before every naptime and bedtime if the fire alarm is going to go off. Each naptime and bedtime, the girls lay in their beds and stare up at the fire alarm blinking on the ceiling above them, wondering and asking if it is going to go off. We have had to constantly reassure the girls that it was just a test and everything is fine. Tonight, however, it was not a test. It was real.

I was getting the girls into their pajamas when the alarm started to go off. I have no idea if this is the norm for fire alarms in hotels, but this particular hotel’s alarm is terrifying. It is deafening, piercing and horrifying to hear, even for me, an adult. As soon as it started to go off, the girls jumped into my lap, petrified, screaming and crying. They were paralyzed with fear and refused to do anything besides cling to me. Even Moses was whimpering and trying to hide underneath me. Knowing it was not a test, I hurriedly finished getting my daughter’s pajamas on, hooked Moses up on his leash, slipped on my flip-flops, grabbed a room key and got out of our room. All the other guests were out of their rooms and in the hallway. I found this reassuring since I was hoping it was not just our room’s alarm going off, that would have been incredibly embarrassing! Ha! Once I conferred with another guest that the alarm was indeed going off in all the rooms, I felt at least a little bit better knowing it wasn’t something in our room that had caused all the ruckus. There was no fire and no smoke that we could see so we all headed down to the front desk. There we met up with the rest of the hotel’s guests. We crammed into the dining room, reception area and nearby halls. The front desk clerk told us there was nothing to do but wait. The alarm was only going off in the rooms. The hallways and front reception area were only a tad bit quieter than the insane noise blaring from our rooms.

The fire trucks came. The police came. The lovely elderly woman next to me leaned over her walker and told me that last week the alarm went off and it was due to a broken pipe. Moses got a lot of attention and we waited- Me in my mix-matched pajamas complete with socks and flip-flops, my one daughter in my other younger daughter’s pajamas (she was “trying them on” when the alarm went off), and my other daughter, in her adorable pajamas, chewing on Moses’ chew toy (don’t worry, we bought it for him but he has yet to chew it, our girls have confiscated it and pretend it’s a binky). What a sight! At least we were easily approachable I suppose. We talked with several different people and the girls got to interact with a few other kids. I got to hear about other people’s dogs and then after about thirty minutes, the alarm went off. The front desk clerk announced there was no fire and we could all return to our rooms. We have no idea why it went off. I am slightly worried our room is going to flood in the night or something of that nature. Still, it was an entertaining evening. We enjoy meeting new people, and, best of all, our girls were so worn out from all the hoopla that they went right to sleep as soon as they laid down that night. For the first time in six nights, they did not ask if the fire alarm was going to go off. They did not look up at the alarm and watch its blinking green light. They simply drifted. Peacefully. Calmly. Quietly.

This post is shared on Raising Homemakers.

Wholesome Living Hotel Challenge Day Five

Today is day five of our hotel adventure and day two of our girlies napping as usual. We have settled into our own routine. This week I am hoping to take the girls out on a few mini-adventures over the next few days. It has been interesting to see how we have all adapted to our new environment.

Our biggest struggle so far has been teaching our girls a completely new set of boundaries. Our hotel room is not childproof. Our girls had to learn what areas of our rooms were off limits and what areas they are free to explore and play in. In some ways this has been difficult. At home, we have well-established boundaries and the girls know the boundaries and, for the most part, are content to stay within those boundaries (ahem, pots and pans cupboard). There are also areas at home where we can store things that are inaccessible to the girls (at least for now). Here every cabinet and storage space is easily accessible, except for the kitchen cabinets above the stove. Frankly, I have a tough time reaching those as well since I am short. We have had to come up with some creative ways of storing things that are usually out of our girls’ reach, such as razors, vitamins, and such.

Prior to this trip, I somehow forgot how crazy life can be when in a new living environment with little ones. When we visit relatives or friends, usually they have taken some steps to ensure the rooms we will be in are somewhat childproof. But, here potential hazards seem to lurk around every corner. When our girls are awake I have had to diligently watch them. Thankfully, this is not hard since our square footage is limited. There are not many places they can go where I cannot see them. Still, it reminds me of the days when our oldest daughter was little and we were just discovering what we needed to do to childproof our home in conjunction with working with our daughter to teach her where she could or could not venture.

I do have a small toy area set up for the girls in our room. I decided to bring only a few toys: blocks, books, and a few dolls. I figured we would keep it simple and all of those items can be used in multiple ways. I also brought along alphabet cards and a matching game to pull out on special occasions. Everything can be stored neatly (dolls end up in bed with the girls just about every night, blocks in their box and books in their bag). This has made clean-up time quick and easy for the girls.

Our youngest daughter (21 mo.) has gotten too big to sleep comfortably in a pack and play. So, for this trip, we decided to get a toddler air mattress for her. It is the first time she has slept in anything like this. At home, she is still in her crib. The air mattress is like a typical air mattress, but it has built in rails on it. We are planning to transition her over to a big girl bed once we return home and were hoping this would be a good way of training her to stay in her own bed. At first, she was confused and did not understand she was supposed to sleep on the mattress. After she understood she was supposed to sleep on it, she happily realized she could get on and off the mattress at will. She thought (and still sometimes thinks) it is hilarious to escape off her mattress. The first night or two, I thought it was not going to work out. But, we continued to work with her and she is slowly but surely understanding the concept of staying put and sleeping on her own bed. Our other daughter has been happily sleeping on the pullout couch without any trouble. Both girls and the puppy have taken a few days to get back into their normal sleep patterns.

I did not think that moving into a smaller space would require more effort on our end to keep things tidy. But, it does. It forces us to clean up all the time or it incredibly chaotic. With only four place settings, dishes must be done after every meal and usually after snack time. With only two burners, one skillet and one saucepan, meal prep must be completed as planned (yes, burner and pot usage needs to be planned in advance most of the time) or the meal is ruined. Beds must be set up and taken down each day. Books and toys must be put away or there is no place to eat. We have discovered living in a small space demands round the clock tidiness.

So here at the end of day five, I find myself thankful for many things about this trip:

I am thankful for the ability to learn new things and grow where God has me.
I am thankful our family can be together.
I am thankful for made-to-order omelets each morning.
I am thankful for an unlimited supply of coffee.
I am thankful for meeting new people and the kindness of strangers (and hotel employees).
I am thankful for a warm pool and a renewed passion for swimming laps.
I am thankful for small treasures found in precious moments- snowflakes atop my daughters hair, the soft snore of my child finally falling asleep after fighting a valiant fight to stay awake, and the warm rays of sunshine as a cold spell finally comes to an end.

*This post is shared on Real Food Wednesday and at Raising Homemakers.

Aside

Hidden Ingredient Frustration Sparks Homemade Cheese Cracker Endeavor!

“I have a market stand over here,” I overheard my two-year old daughter telling her sister the other day.  “This is my family over here,” she proudly announced, still talking about her market stand. Our girls (ages one and two) love going to the farmer’s market each week. We always look forward to discovering what our CSA farm has available each week. This week our fun new food to try was Bok Choy (otherwise known as Chinese cabbage). I have found myself relying more and more on our CSA for items other than our evening vegetables. We have our CSA fruits, veggies and herbs for breakfast, snacks, and lunch too.

I recently discovered our favorite on-the-go snack, Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies, has MSG in it. The MSG in the tasty bunnies is not labeled as MSG on the package, instead it is hidden under the “yeast extract” ingredient label. Yeast extract contains MSG (see here for more information regarding Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies ingredient labeling). I admit I am a huge supporter of buying organic fruits and veggies. However, there are lots of organic foods available that are terrible for you. Junk food is still junk food, even if it is labeled “organic”. Food prepared in certain ways (even with quality ingredients) is still not good for you.

All that being said, Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies were the one item that we thought was relatively safe. After all, the crackers are baked using only ten, non-GMO ingredients. On the surface, all the ingredients seemed wholesome. When I discovered MSG was hiding in our girls’ favorite out-and-about snack, I was overwhelmed. It was the only store-bought/processed snack that was on our “approved” list for our family. After I got over my initial shock and frustration, I realized we would have to do a better job figuring out wholesome snacks for our family.

We already make so much from scratch and the thought of making one more thing was a bit overwhelming. However, continuing to give our girls MSG was simply not an option. I started to think about quick and easy snacks for ourselves and started to look at our CSA stand with fresh eyes. Suddenly, the cucumbers I would typically turn into pickles or put in a salad became the perfect snack for our girls. The more I looked around the stand (and the rest of the market), the more I noticed an abundance of snack ideas. Our girls are still a bit young to munch on the stereotypical carrots and celery sticks snack (choking hazard), but they certainly love fresh raspberries and cherry tomatoes. After unloading our market goodies from the car the other Saturday, I walked into the kitchen and found both girls munching on raw cabbage leaves! How is that for an impromptu, easy snack?

For days when I know I am going to be out and about and need a snack for the girls, I have figured out how to pack some of the fresh fruits and veggies so they do not get squished, mashed or destroyed in by the girls and their antics in the car. I have also been making my own cheese crackers using a recipe our babysitter shared with us. I had always been intimidated to make crackers in the past, but the Annie’s MSG fiasco gave me just enough indignation to motivate me attempt to make crackers, which, it turns out, are not so hard to make after all. Plus, guess what key ingredient of homemade cheese crackers we can buy at our local farmer’s market? Cheddar cheese! Hooray!

I usually mix up a batch of the dough and then store it in smaller batches in the freezer. Typically, I take the recipe below and divide the dough into thirds. I realized one-third of the dough equals about one cookie sheet full of crackers. This is enough to last our family several days. So, I use one-third of the dough on the day I made it and then pop the other two, one-third increments of dough in the freezer and then pull out as needed. The frozen dough takes a bit of time to thaw so I usually pull it out of the freezer the night or morning before I want to use it. Then, it is ready to use by the afternoon. This recipe is cheaper than buying Annie’s crackers, tastier to eat and very easy to make! Plus, you can customize it with all sorts of spices and other ingredients to make your own delicious variety of crackers!

Homemade Cheese Crackers

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup flour (we use whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cold water

Pulse everything except water in a food processor until dough resembles coarse sand. Add in water, one tablespoon at a time until mixed well. Remove dough from processor and divide into three flatten balls. Cover each ball with plastic wrap. Chill in fridge for twenty minutes (or put whatever you are not planning to use in the next few days in the freezer). Roll out dough as thinly as possible on parchment paper (crackers will puff up while baking if the dough is not rolled thin enough). If dough starts to stick to the rolling-pin before it is thin enough, simply put the rolled-out dough in the fridge on the parchment paper for a few minutes till it firms up a bit. Then, pull it out and continue to roll it out to desired level of thinness (1/8″ is the goal). Use a pizza cutter (or whatever else you would like to use) to cut dough into desired shapes. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes or until crispy.

Enjoy!