The Campout

It’s been a week. Monday we had a lengthy appointment at a specialist’s office for one of the kids. Tuesday night a different kid started to look potentially sick. By Wednesday the child was for sure sick, diagnosed and treated by a dr and we self-quarantined ourselves for the remainder of the week. As long as we wake up tomorrow and no one else is sick, I think we should be in the all clear. Hopefully.

Since we had to cancel our weekend plans, Ryan decided to do a backyard campout with the kids on Saturday. It was the first time any of our kids have been camping.

Even though it was in the backyard, everyone basically stayed outside most of the time. Ryan even had everyone stock up on water and such so it would be as much like “real” camping as possible. Half of them did end up inside with the twins and I for the overnight part while the other half roughed it in the tent with their Dad all night.

After not having a single night of good sleep this week, (good being defined as at least one three hour uninterrupted stretch), I decided it’d be beneficial for the twins and I to be on project make up sleep the night of the campout. The plan was to go to bed super early in hopes of capturing the elusive three hour stretch (or more). It ended being a failure but we made a valiant attempt anyways.

Since my brain doesn’t function so well on such little sleep, I’m going to share the rest of the campout excitement with you in pictures. Except for my favorite line this weekend courtesy of four year old Esther. At one point some ash was floating from the campfire into the wind and Esther looked around puzzled before announcing “Mommy, it’s snowing!”

The twins weren’t too interested in the festivities. They slept through the outdoor fun and woke up as soon as we got inside. Go figure.

Early morning hot chocolate

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Nothing but Fun

This week has been a much-needed time of refreshing and, in general, crazy amounts of fun.

Joshua finished up his last week of ELL camp. He enjoyed it a lot and since we’ve had two weeks already, he’s gotten into a nice rhythm of getting up and ready to go in the mornings.

Myla and Elle have been busy with VBS at church all week. They’ve had a blast and every day came home bursting with excitement over what happened that day.IMG_6574

Last night all nine of us went to the VBS tailgate party. The twins are typically fussy in the evenings so we weren’t sure how it’d go. Can you believe we ended up staying the entire time? I brought along a few bottles and basically rotated feeding one in the stroller and bouncing the other on my lap during most of the party to keep them happy, but we did it! Yay! Joshua and Esther tried cotton candy and snow cones for the first time. IMG_6744We weren’t sure if Hudson has ever had either one, but he was thrilled nonetheless.

We got home around dusk and chased fireflies for a bit. Joshua told us it was the first time he’d ever seen one in person. So, everyone was catching fireflies and racing over to show him the magic and wonder of a firefly.

Hudson and Esther have had lots of fun in the mornings after we drop the girls off at VBS. I also used this week as an opportunity to work with Hudson and Esther on walking with Mommy and the double stroller while we are out and about (in my mind I’ve been calling this their walking boot camp). We’ve got our method down and they’ve done a really good job. We like to practice things like this with our kids in low-stress places so they know what to do when we go out and about as a family.IMG_6582.JPGWhen Myla was little and had gotten too big to ride in the grocery cart, Ryan would take her to the grocery store to buy just one item to help her learn how to walk and stay with us in stores. This was born out of my terror, as a newer mom, that Myla would somehow escape my hand, while I was pushing a cart with baby Ellie in it, run through a parking lot or store and get injured or abducted or some other heart stopping scenario. This practicing ahead of time tactic has continued for each of our kids for various things. It seems to work better for our family when we teach them things ahead of time so they know expectations beforehand. It takes a bit more time initially but in our minds it’s worth it, especially as our family has grown. Check it out…by the end of the week, the big girls thought it was cool to hold the stroller too (e.g. that’s how much I was talking it up to Hudson and Esther all week)…IMG_6733.JPGSince the kiddos were having such an exciting week with camp and VBS, I figured we’d just make the whole week one big hoorah so we also had a few play dates right after everyone was home from their morning adventures. It was such fun! Bedtime was a breeze this week and it was lovely catching up with friends.

Perhaps the most spectacular news this week is the twins have had not just one, but TWO nights where they’ve BOTH slept for six hours straight at the SAME time. This means this Momma slept for six hours straight too! I am pretty sure this deserves a celebration or party of its own…

Running to Joshua

Two years ago to the date we sent a letter to China declaring our intent to adopt Joshua. The journey to Joshua was not an easy one but God was faithful to guide and direct our paths to Joshua in his perfect timing. During our adoption journey, I blogged on our fundraising website. So, in honor of hitting the two year mark, I’m stealing and reposting here our original post where we share the news about deciding to adopt Joshua. We are so thankful he is home.

An Open Hands Story – July 1, 2016

How do we even begin to tell this story? How can we explain the ways the Lord changed our hearts these past few months? How do we explain how all the roadblocks and delays turned into a divine appointment to see just the right picture at the exact right moment in time? There are so many details and so many things that have happened these past few months. We are sure we’ve left something out, but alas, let us begin our story. This is a story about open hands, tear-streaked faces and a God who so faithfully guides our path.

A few months ago our adoption doctor told us that some families just see a picture of a waiting child and know that it is their child. His words stuck in our minds. We must not be one of those families, we thought. We had scrolled through many children during our waiting while waiting season. That’s why we are adopting from Uganda we rationalized. We don’t get to choose. Our agency calls us with a child/ren they’ve identified for our family and then we run with it.

In March, the Parliament of Uganda passed a bill that would make international adoption from Uganda much more difficult, if not impossible. The bill would become law if the President decided to sign it, but no one knew at that point what would happen. He may sign it. He may not. He may send it back for revisions. So we began the waiting (to hear about the law) while waiting (to be matched with a child/ren in Uganda) phase. Our adoption agency recommended we look at other country’s adoption programs and identify a back up. We opted for Poland since it was one of the only other programs our agency had for which we met all the requirements. At our agency’s urging, we signed up to get notifications for waiting children in Poland since we had not yet been matched with any children in Uganda. Somehow we also ended up getting notifications for waiting children in China as well. Strange, we thought, we don’t want to adopt from China. We don’t even qualify for the China program.

While we were in our season of waiting while waiting (March to end of May), our hearts slowly began to change. Before then, we’d been set on Uganda. When Ryan and I first met in 2003, we both had a burden for orphans in Uganda because of the poverty and unrest there. We’d heard devastating stories of children and it broke our hearts. In 2014, when we felt led to start our adoption journey, we decided to pursue adopting from Uganda. However, after we started to see all the children who were sitting on lists around the world just waiting to be adopted, our hearts began to break for them as well. Some of the children had been waiting for years. Most of the children had pretty major special needs. We thought back to when our social worker was sitting at our dining room table in New York and asked us what special needs we were open to. We took a look around at our three little ladies under age six and replied back, “Um. Minor ones.” In our minds, we would be adopting two toddlers from Uganda suffering from malnourishment. We wanted to adopt from Uganda. We wanted mostly healthy children. We want. We want…we had it all worked it all out in our minds…

The conversations we had with our social worker about special needs replayed in our minds as we saw the waiting children. When we’d started this process, we didn’t want it to be about us. In the “about us” section on our application to adopt we’d written: “It’s a joy to open our hearts and home and serve the Lord wherever He guides.” This entire journey we’d wanted to have open hands with whatever God had for us, but we were in limbo, waiting. We started to wonder if maybe God had a different plan than the one we had imagined in our minds, but we hadn’t felt led to leave Uganda. There was no clear closed door yet and no clear direction to leave.

We had a lot of discussions during this time in limbo, and, kept coming back to the basics of the reasons why we wanted to adopt. We wanted to provide a loving home and family to a child who had none. Why did we feel led to adopt a child internationally? We wanted to bring a child to America who may not have access to things, such as medical care, in their own country. Because of our experience nearly losing our middle daughter when she was a baby, hospitals are not as terrifying for us. We know God carries us through the hard moments and so we knew if God led us to a child with special needs, he would be right there with us. Our hearts were shifting…Maybe Uganda was just our jumping off point and all the roadblocks and setbacks during this process was to lead us to a child at just the right time. We kept telling ourselves, “open hands”. Open hands. Open hands. We still had no clear direction. We were just waiting to see what God was going to do.

April 14, the most beautiful smile we had ever seen came across the China waiting child page. We don’t qualify for China we thought to ourselves and this child is major special needs. We can’t do major special needs right now. We wrote it off. All day that day, people who had met this child when they had traveled to China to adopt their own children kept commenting on the listing. A waiting child listing may get one or two comments about how cute a child is and requests for more information, but that’s usually about it. Lots of comments on a post are pretty rare. Seven days later, more comments on the child’s listing. Our interest was piqued. Who was this child? Nine days after the original listing, even more comments showed up, “I couldn’t help thinking about J. For anyone who is open to adopting an older child, this little J is a gem. I hope a family finds J soon.” And “I completely agree. I pray daily that this child’s family sees J”. We had never seen a listing get so many comments. Crazy, we thought. Surely, J’s forever family would see the listing soon. And, we went back to waiting.

May came. The President hadn’t signed the bill. We still had no clear direction one way or another. So, we stayed put, waiting. May 18, we saw J’s picture again. This time it was featured on a write up about a particular special need. The write up was on our agency’s page and then on another larger adoption site too. “What is up with this child?” we thought to ourselves. Why do we keep seeing J everywhere? Why can’t we get J out of our minds? Curious about J’s need, we clicked on the article. We were surprised. The article shared a lot of information about J’s need and it didn’t overwhelm us at all. In fact, we could see it working out pretty well. The next day our hearts were in pieces as we read, “Oh, how I hope the right mama sees this precious child!” in the comments section and “J’s smile lights up the room”. Yes, that smile, we thought. It does light up the room.

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First picture we ever saw of Joshua.

Two weeks later, we piled all of our kiddos in the car and headed back East to visit family. First stop was a water park. The kiddos loved it. It was noisy and bright and had all sorts of excitement for our little ones and, in all the chaos, we got word that the Ugandan President signed the bill. It would become law. Our hearts sank. It was done. We mourned the entire fifteen hours back to Illinois in between the many potty and Starbucks stops. We saw J’s face again on the way home. We re-read all about J’s special need, and dared to talk about maybe, just maybe J could join our family. There was only one glaring large obstacle. We didn’t know if we qualified for China. When we started the process, we didn’t think so, but maybe, just maybe we did now. The next day we called our agency. We filled out more paperwork and sent it in to find out if it was even possible for us to switch. We found out later that day, we qualified. We were ecstatic. Did we want to see J’s file? Did we want to talk to someone who has met J? Yes. Yes. We were nervous. Excited, but also terrified to know more, lest it turn into yet another closed door.

That evening we talked to a Momma who had met J a year before and had been praying for him ever since. For a solid year, she’d asked everyone she knew if they wanted to adopt J. She had convinced our agency to put J on their waiting child list and in April they did. She had been praying the right family would see it. This Momma had just gotten back from a second trip to China to adopt their second kiddo and had gotten to see J again while she was there. She excitedly told us all about J. The smile. The personality. The story. J wants a family. J wants to come to America. J wants to walk. No other family has even asked for J’s files. The people at the orphanage are telling J, if J wants to be adopted, J must walk. So, J practiced. And practiced. And practiced. J just started using a cane. J is nervous and wobbly, but determined to walk. We wanted to know more about this happy child she described and anxiously awaited J’s files.

The day after we talked on the phone with this momma who had been praying and praying for J, we found out Uganda may not be a closed door after all. There was a chance we could still continue there if we wanted. We were stumped. That evening, on Wed., June 1, we got J’s files. We sat at our computer and cried huge tears. J was beautiful. All the waiting, all the setbacks, all the delays brought us to this place- staring at the picture and videos of this breathtaking child with a smile that melted our hearts and courage- oh, my. Courage, resilience and such perseverance radiated from J. We knew. We were going after J. 

We didn’t know how it was all going to work out. We still didn’t have clear direction to leave Uganda. If Uganda was still a possibility should we leave? All our paperwork for Uganda was done. Since there was a chance we could travel quickly to Uganda, should we adopt from Uganda first and then go after J? We had no answers. We had discussion after discussion with each other and with our agency as we prayed for direction. We sent J’s file to our adoption doctor, thinking maybe there was another special need that maybe they didn’t include in J’s file. Maybe the doctor would advise against adopting J. He seemed like a grouch when we’d talked to him in March. He probably only recommends adopting healthy kids, we thought to ourselves. Instead, on Father’s Day morning, we read, “…I love J’s smile. J seems like a survivor, who strives to overcome, and that is also good…J looks like a child you can help grow into a great adult.” We were shocked. Amazed. Overjoyed.

A week and a half later, we got the clear direction we’d been so desperately praying for. Crystal clear direction. Leave Uganda. Go after J. We called our agency the next day. On June 24, 2016 we made the switch to China. China. Wow. We are going to CHINA!!!! Our minds were blown and peace, such precious peace, flooded our hearts and minds. There just aren’t words to describe how crazy excited we are to be adopting J. We are beyond thrilled, completely blown away, and we cannot wait for you to meet this little person.

Since we made the call to switch, God has been opening such doors for J. A day after making the switch, were able to talk to a specialist who came up with a treatment plan for J. We wrote our letter of intent to adopt J and sent it off to China. IMG_4338We were able to update all our documents for our home study in a week (that’s a huge pile of paperwork and five doctors visits in case you are wondering)! We have to have another visit with our social worker and then our agency will be able to update the home study for China. We are still around nine months away from being able to travel, but we are hoping and praying doors continue to open for us to go to China sooner. J has been waiting for several years and will wait a few more months until we are actually able to bring J home.

We started out in Uganda, because we thought that’s where the greatest need was, but two delays, one roadblock and much soul-searching later, we realized that our heart is not to adopt from Uganda. It’s not to adopt from Poland. It’s not to adopt from China. It’s to adopt wherever God makes a way and to adopt who ever it is God leads us to. And, on June 1, 2016 God led us right there. All the road blocks, all the setbacks and delays all orchestrated by divine hands to lead us to see the face of a beautiful child in a land we didn’t even think we could adopt from. A face that is older than we would have ever searched for if we had started out in or switched to China. This story unfolded just the right way and in just the right timing for us to see J. We are so thankful we did not switch countries any sooner or any later. It all happened at just the right time. Open hands. Open hearts. Here we go.

 So, with tear-streaked faces, but overjoyed hearts, we must write:

Dear Uganda. Thank you for being our jumping off point. Thank you for helping us see just how desperate the plight is for so many children around the world. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to grow in patience and trust. Thank you for teaching us to leap.

The time has come for us to part ways and take another huge step of faith in a different direction. There is a little child in China who desperately wants to come to America. J is asking for a family. So sweet Uganda, it is finally time in our journey for us to run. J is not able to run to us, so we choose to run to J. Arms open to whatever the future may hold. To run confidently and boldly where we have been led.

Dearest Uganda our paths are going a different way. Your amendment bill is a wonderful thing for the children of Uganda in so many ways, but we have been led on a different path away from your red soil. Maybe one day we will finally be able to meet, but this is not the season for us. Take care of those precious little ones. Put agencies and laws and people in place to protect them. We cheer for you. We cry for you. As we part ways, we know you were our inspiration on this journey and though the finish line will not be on your soil, it will still make a difference. It will still forever alter the life of at least one little child, for it was this journey towards your soil that God used to ultimately lead us to J.

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Gotcha day July 11, 2017

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

If you’re interested in the behind the scenes story from Joshua’s other momma – the one who prayed and prayed for a family for him – you can read about it here:

An End to Far Too Long

It’s been awhile. Two years to be exact since I blogged here last. I realized the other day it has been far too long.

Much has happened during the “far too long season”. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. We went from a family of five to a family of nine in less than a year thanks to bringing home our two boys from China and the recent birth of our twin girls.

Last weekend we had newborn pictures taken of our twins and as I was sitting there watching the photographer work her magic to ensure each pose turned out exactly how she wanted it, I realized I miss creative expression. In all the craziness of international adoption (two and a half year long process), moving to a new state, adjusting to life with two new children, doing life pregnant with twins, having the twins early and all the craziness of their six week NICU stay, and finally re-adjusting to life with twins once they were discharged from the hospital, I haven’t had much time for writing anything besides in my journal and even that’s been a bit sporadic. The thoughts have been there but the time to write it all out has been rather limited. I love blogging because it’s sort of like a digital scrapbook. I’m terrible at paper scrapbooking, but I can do the written kind.

I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to write, but I’m hoping to get back in the habit as we do life with our seven kiddos. I love sharing what God is up to in our lives and I love being able to look back and see his fingerprints.

So here we go…

Let’s start with summer. It’s close. So close I can almost taste the freshly picked strawberries. We put in our garden last weekend. By that I mean, Ryan put in the garden, with the kids help, while I supervised the twins in their stroller and acted as a consultant for where to put everything. This year we will be growing: kale (of course!), beets, broccolini, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, green onions, cantaloupe, sweet peas, cucumbers and brussel sprouts. All of this in addition to apples, grapes, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, our beloved plants that return year after year. When we moved here, there were already several apple and pear trees, along with a well-established grape vine.

baby grapes

Aren’t these baby grapes growing along our fence the cutest?

Year by year, we’ve added a few new plants here and there. I would love it if we eventually had enough berries growing around our property to make a few batches of jam to go with the grape jam I usually make from our vine. We are most likely a few years away from reaching that goal, but hopefully we will get their one day. This year it is looking like we will get a ton of grapes! The vine is already covered with itty-bitty grapes. I cannot wait for them to come in!

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.

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