Thank You (For the Work)

“Here are more clothes for you to put away, son.”

“Thank you, Mama!”

“You can wash the dishes, daughter, and I will rinse.”

“Thank you! I like this job!”

“Would you like to clean the kitchen floor while I clean the dining room floor?”

“Yeah! Thank you!”

My children thank me for giving them work. They work eagerly and enthusiastically. They perform the task to the best of their (albeit limited) abilities. They smile. Sometimes, they even sing while they work.

Do I thank my Father in heaven for giving me work? Do I work with eagerness and enthusiasm? Do I always try my best, even if I am working on a new skill? Do I smile and sing with joy?

Little children want work. I would argue, even, that they need it. They gain fine and gross motor skills, an appreciation for the work others do for them, useful life skills, physical stamina and strength, mental fortitude to stay on-task, and good personal habits.

In fact, we all need work. But somewhere along the way, many of us lose our desire for it. We grow weary and bored of menial tasks. I urge you to look for the joy in such chores; see your tasks from the perspective of a 2- or 4-year-old.

What fun to play in bubbles while washing the dishes! What kind of pattern can be seen in the water as the floor is mopped? How many articles of clothing can be carried at once? How many hymns can be sung in the time it takes to hang the laundry?

And then, thank your Father for the work He has given you. Whatever task He has set before you — motherhood, a career, homemaking — thank Him for it, work diligently with eager hands and a joy-filled spirit.

And don’t forget to smile.


Preschool: Trying Something New

I wrote about my easy-going preschool at home approach with Sprout. The method worked and Sprout was happy to “do school” most days until she got through the first of the dollar store workbooks she was using. That book was all about shapes and colors. The other three books were about numbers, letters, and handwriting… and were basically all writing practice. That’s where we hit a wall.

Sprout can write several letters on her own, but she struggles writing in a confined space. She doesn’t have the fine motor skills for that just yet. She became frustrated having to write on every single page, and began to protest school.

Curriculum Change

That was my clue to evaluate what we were doing and make a change. I bought an “official” preschool curriculum for 3-4 year olds. I knew it would begin with pages she could complete very easily, but I wanted the slow skill-building that such a curriculum offers. The dollar store workbook approach had no progression of skills.

We intend to use this publisher for most of our kids’ schooling (of course, being mindful if things aren’t going well or if it doesn’t suit a particular child), so it was the logical choice for preschool. There is a kindergarten (preschool for 4-5 year olds), and then it begins with first grade. According to current education laws in my state, Sprout will need to start kindergarten at age 5, which will be in 2019. So, I’m kind of starting her a year “early,” but I’m doing so with the plan to stop and evaluate with each set of books she completes. Maybe at 5 she will be ready for first grade work. Or maybe she will need another year of kindergarten work. I’m comfortable with either option and am in no rush to get her beginning first grade early.

Other Changes

Since we would begin a new curriculum, I considered it a great time to implement some other changes, too.

More Structure

I have always let Sprout decide whether we would do any school work each day. That works great when the school work is fun, but less so when it is challenging or new. My goal is to complete at least 3 pages per day, 3 days per week.

Also, we will begin our school time with prayer. I introduced Sprout to a simple prayer structure some time ago, which we will use for school time. I ask her to think of one thing she is thankful to God for and one thing for God to help her with. I sometimes feed her ideas, if she is struggling to think of something.

Bible Memory

I have wanted to introduce Bible memory work to Sprout for a long time. She has, like most children, an excellent memory. She remembers scripts from entire cartoon episodes, and she knows several kids’ songs and hymns. I know she is capable. It seemed natural to use before-school-time to work on this.

Then, I wasn’t sure where in the Bible to start. She doesn’t have the comprehension skills to memorize single verses of a broader story — it wouldn’t make any sense to her. Where can one find short, 1-2 verse sentences that are mostly single ideas? Proverbs, of course! So we are beginning in Proverbs. For now, I’m going to see if she can memorize one verse per week.

Record Keeping

Record keeping isn’t required in my state, for now, and especially not at this point when her schooling is optional. However, I considered it would be a good habit to begin. I will keep her daily records until she learns to read and write, then she can keep her own. This also provides us with some accountability to Nate and makes recalling our school day much easier.

I chose a small day planner. In each daily box, I write her praise and prayer request, which Bible verse we worked on, and which workbook pages she completed. On the monthly overview page, she puts a sticker on the day we have done school work.

Occupying Myself

Finally, I needed an occupation for myself during her schooling. I can’t work on house chores because she needs frequent assistance; and don’t want to work on house chores because the kids enjoy helping me. I found that being unoccupied while helping her with school caused me to over-praise her and to hover over her, giving too many reminders.

My solution is to do my own studying of the Bible during that time. I can be near her and ready to help when she needs me, but while she works on each page, I can read and busy my own mind. It worked wonderfully today, kept us all happy and calm, and I’m looking forward to the study time.

Fun Activities

Doing school work 3 days per week leaves one day for grocery shopping and, eventually, a library visit, and one day for something fun. I want to use our fun day for crafts or even some low-gear science “projects.” Having the time built into our schedule should help me feel less overwhelmed, I think.

Final Thoughts

This was our first day with this new approach, but I feel very encouraged by how well things went. I will try to give a progress report in a few weeks and let you know how it is working out!

The Kiss That Melted a Mama’s Heart

The Background

hair and bows and books

hair and bows and books

Since the holiday traveling ended, Sprout has had some sleep issues. I can’t pinpoint a single specific cause, there is just so much going on right now. I think it is a combination of teething, natural sleep regression, and separation anxiety possibly spurred by our travels. Whatever the cause, she has been up more during the night over the last few weeks than she ever was as a newborn.

I have been attempting to balance patience while instilling new sleep training with mercy in getting through genuine teething pain and discomfort. I’ve felt guilty, at times, of being too harsh with her. And then other nights, I feel like I have done her a disservice by letting the training take a back seat. I have cried tears of frustration and anxiety, wondering if I’m doing the right thing or just making everything worse.

But you know, sleeplessness will do that to you.

The Redemptive Story

fingers that hold

fingers that hold Mama’s heart

This morning, after a night of fewer, but still many, wakings, I brought Sprout to our bed with me. I knew she would not go back to sleep, but I just needed to close my eyes a few more minutes. [I should say here that she was safe, could not fall off the bed. Also, I’ve never been able to sleep with her in bed with me, so I did not fear that I would inadvertently doze off and leave her “unattended” on the bed.]

She babbled and rolled from me to the wall, and back again. She laughed and chewed her pacifier. Then she grew quiet, and I felt her scoot towards my head. She was close enough for me to smell her sweet milky breath.

Then, she blessed her mama with the gentlest kiss in all the world. I opened my eyes just in time to see her smile softly. And then she rolled back toward the wall, mumbling about “bad-oh” again.

My eyes filled with tears as my heart puddled in my chest. I stroked her soft hair and kissed her forehead before she had the chance to scoot away. And I thanked God for her right then.

God’s Love in One, Sweet Kiss

This little kiss means more to me than that darling girl could ever know (at least until she has her own little darling, perhaps). In one swift moment, I was reminded of so much.

Every minute spent rocking the teething pain away is a deposit in her love-bank. Every hour I don’t sleep is an investment in her. Every step back to her room to return a thrown pacifier or enforce training is a step of love. Every lullaby-hymn at 2 AM is sung right into her soul, laying a foundation for her to someday know the sacrifice and love and mercy and grace wrapped up in the Cross.

Now, I am wondering… how many minutes has God spent soothing my pain? How many hours has He invested in my life? How many steps has He taken to enforce discipline in my life, with love and mercy and grace? How many reminders has He given me of His ultimate sacrifice and what that means for my future beyond this earthly existence?

I cannot count them.

room to learn, explore, and grow

room to learn, explore, and grow

And now I pray that God’s mercy and grace and love would flow through me to her. I pray that God would give me strength and diligence to thrive in what is only the beginning of Parenthood.

I pray with a bursting heart of thanksgiving, adoration, and awe for this little life.

She Mothers: Breastfeeding Confessions

tiny toe pictures are easiest to take when baby is eating!

tiny toe pictures are easiest to take when baby is eating!

I am pro-breastfeeding. I’ve nursed Sprout since day one and would not change that decision if I had to make it ten times again. If asked, I would encourage an expectant mother to breastfeed or a nursing mother to keep working at it, even when she wants to give up.

I am not pushy about breastfeeding, though, in that I support the right of every mother to decide how to feed her child. I do not consider myself a breastfeeding “advocate,” nor would I claim to be passionate about it.

As we approach the 6-month milestone, I’ve reflected on the difficulties we had in the first few months of our breastfeeding relationship. Things have improved drastically, and I want to share my experiences with the hope of encouraging some other expectant or new mother to continue nursing, to be determined about it, even if it is difficult. Though I know there are rewards I’ve yet to reap, I think I am over the biggest hurdles now. And trust me, the grass is way, way greener over here!

The Dreaded Nipple Shield

I hope to write more in detail about my experience with the nipple shield in a post of its own, but let me just say this: if you have not needed a nipple shield, count yourself blessed. If you are an expectant mother, don’t let the following frighten you (you may not need a nipple shield). And if you are currently using a nipple shield and wondering when (or if!) it will end, then take heart! your baby will most likely be able to nurse without the shield by 12 weeks.

I know, that sounds like eternity when you are dealing with tablespoons of milk leaving huge spots on your pants on the one day you decide to try nursing in public and a baby who is not coordinated enough to latch on his own, but is coordinated enough to knock the shield off just as you are bringing him in to latch. Yes, it is frustrating. Yes, I know what you are going through. We used a nipple shield for the first 8 weeks and, as I’d read would happen, Sprout was suddenly able to latch without it. (No, I didn’t believe the stories either, but really! it did happen just like that!) It was a miraculous, heavenly gift, for sure. I did cry, and I did text/call everyone who knew I was struggling with the shield so I could brag on little Sprout. It took an additional week to wean her completely from it, but we’ve been shield-free ever since. Trust me, momma, it will happen!

Clogged Milk Ducts

Why yes, it is as painful as it sounds! I experienced this twice in Sprout’s first month of life. Both times, I believe the clogs became infected because I had flu-like symptoms and a fever. I was able to resolve the issue by nursing baby on the affected side almost exclusively, getting lots of rest, increasing my water intake, and waiting it out. {Some cases of infection may require antibiotics, but I was able to heal without them, thankfully.}

The best advice I have for avoiding this issue is to nurse often, relieve engorgement if you have that problem, and be careful about tight-fitting clothes. After the second bout with clogged ducts, I realized that sleeping in my loose-ish, non-underwire nursing bra was the culprit.

Yikes! I’ve Sprung a Leak!

My last two “confessions” are going to sound so mild compared to clogged ducts, but leaking was very frustrating for me. Since I could no longer wear a nursing bra to bed (see #2!), I frequently woke to puddles of milk and was washing the sheets all. the. time.

Add to that all the times I sprayed poor Sprout (or myself!) in the eye, and this problem just about made me want to switch to bottle-feeding! If you are struggling with it, please know you are not alone. Also know that your breasts will figure out how much milk baby actually needs and will likely calm down after a few months.

Growth Spurts and Cluster Feeding

When I was pregnant and reading all about breastfeeding, I frequently came across posts about having a baby attached to you 24/7 in the first few weeks. And while I wouldn’t go that far, Sprout did like to “cluster feed” in the evenings for the first couple of months. Right around the time I would need to cook supper, Sprout wanted to eat. And when I was halfway done, she’d want to eat again. And when I had my plate ready (finally, yum!), she wanted to eat again. And we’d start the movie and, you guessed it, Sprout was hungry. She would often nurse every hour for about 4 hours in the evening. So tiring!

One way I was able to at least cook supper was to pump every morning and keep a bottle in the refrigerator for her. Nate would give her the bottle if she was needing to eat while I was cooking. It was often not enough to fill her up, but she was then able to wait another 30 minutes for me to finish cooking. And some days, Nate just wrapped up cooking supper for me so I could sit down and feed the wailing child!

She outgrew the newborn cluster feeding behavior after a couple of months, and we had a blissful four weeks during which she nursed every 3-4 hours during the day and was sleeping through the night. Score! And then she hit the four-month growth spurt and wanted to nurse all the time again, even during the night. Sigh. Thankfully, that only lasted a couple of weeks, so we are back to very regular nursing… until the next growth spurt, anyway.

I hope I have not discouraged any new or expectant mothers out there. You CAN (most likely) breastfeed. It is difficult, but it is so worth it! It is a unique relationship with your baby that no one else can replicate. My intention with this post is for you to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, greener pastures on the other side, and blissful nursing yet to come if you can stick with it a while longer!

I don’t mean to offend any formula or bottle-feeding mothers out there! All moms have special relationships with their babies; there is no one else like momma. But the closeness that breastfeeding encourages should not be devalued in the effort to not offend.

She Mothers: Diaper Decisions

We use cloth diapers.

I think for most people, that statement conjures images of plastic pants, washboards, and frozen diapers on a clothesline in the dead of winter. Fortunately, cloth diapers have changed a lot in the past few decades (and so has laundry technology); there are cuter, more convenient, less leaky options for moms. But perhaps most impressive, is the variety of choices. There are flats, prefolds, exposed-PUL covers, covered-PUL covers, pocket diapers, all-in-ones, snaps, Aplix, Snappis, locking-head diaper pins, Boingos. Is your head spinning, yet?

There are articles upon articles, sites upon sites, blogs upon blogs, and videos upon videos explaining every conceivable (and inconceivable) cloth diapering term, product, category, and accessory. Rather than run down the basics, it will be easier to tell you what I use and my satisfaction with those products. I know people want to ask questions when I say, “I use cloth diapers.” I can see it in their eyes. The wheels are turning , their curiosity is piqued, and they really want to ask. Often times, though, they know so little about modern cloth diapers, they don’t even know what to ask.



The Products I Use

I use Cloth-eez Flat Birdseye Diapers that are 100% unbleached cotton in the small/one-size option. I fold them using the “origami fold” and pin them on Sprout with Slide-Lock Diaper Pins from Green Mountain Diapers. This is the actual diaper portion of Sprout’s under-garments: the absorbent layer. These are probably what you imagine when you think of cloth diapers.

Over the flat diapers, I use a Mommy’s Touch Snap Cover. These are “one-size” covers that fit from birth to potty-training (well, sort of, but I will explain that below). They have rows of snaps for an adjustable rise and leg openings. This is the waterproof layer that is meant to contain the mess. They are put on similar to a disposable diaper with wings that snap in the front. Yes, you can still buy pull-on plastic pants, but these are much less… erm, messy. Plus, you get a more trim fit with these flashy modern covers.

For wipes, I use Unbleached Flannel Wipes, also from GMD. These are single-layer squares of 100% cotton flannel fabric with serged edges. To moisten the wipes, I use a homemade solution of 1 part witch hazel to 2 parts water with a few drops of tea tree oil (per 24-30 ounces of fluid) that I keep in a spray bottle. I adapted this “recipe” from several I saw floating around the Internet, removing several unnecessary ingredients. The water is the main moistening ingredient. The witch hazel keeps the water from mildewing in the spray bottle, and is a strong anti-oxidant and natural astringent. Finally, the tea tree oil provides a hint of clean scent and some supposed antimicrobial properties. Some people are sensitive to this oil, and I was prepared to discontinue using it should a problem arise, but I have seen no adverse reactions in Little Bit.

Product “Reviews”

I have been very satisfied with the Cloth-eez Flat Birdseye Diapers. After stripping (a process of removing the natural water-resistant oils in the fabric to increase absorbancy and softness), they were mostly square, very soft, and very absorbent. I am happy I chose flat diapers over prefolds or other diaper/cover combinations (pockets, all-in-ones, etc.) because they wash easily and dry quickly. The sun bleaches them excellently, removing stains and odors. I use the “origami fold” for now and fold them before putting them away to make for faster diaper changes.

I absolutely love the Slide-Lock Diaper Pins I bought. They are very strong, sharp pins that slide easily through the fabric. I started storing them in a bar of soap, which makes them slide even better. I have never had a pin come un-locked. I felt confident in my pinning abilities after just a few diaper changes, and I am glad I chose these over other fasteners (Snappi, Boingo) because they are inexpensive and less likely to break.

I am also happy with my choice of diaper cover, the Mommy’s Touch brand one-size snap covers. Though they are advertised as fitting “one-size fits most 10-30 pounds,” I did not use them until Sprout was about 12 pounds. (*More about fit issues below.)I have only had two leaks, but I  blame myself in both cases. The snaps feel durable, as does the fabric. They are more expensive than many other covers, but that is due to the double layer of cotton with the PUL inside. Nothing but cotton touches the baby. I intend to re-purchase this same brand of covers should I have to replace these some day.

*Technically, these covers did fit Sprout when I first tried them on her at about 5 weeks, 10.5 pounds. However, there was so much fabric in the crotch that the diaper reached her knees, and she could not bend her legs or set her feet on the ground when laid on her back. This brand does make a newborn size cover (bonus: it has a snap-down rise for the umbilical stump), and I intend to purchase them if we have another baby. This go ’round, I tried to save money by only getting the one-size covers, but I ended up buying disposable diapers for about 3 weeks while we waited for her to grow into them (we received disposables at our baby shower which got us through the first few weeks). Six weeks of disposables cost twice as much as 6 of the newborn size covers.

There is not much to say about the Unbleached Flannel Wipes I use. They are very plain wipes that wash easily, dry quickly, and fit into a disposable wipes tub folded in half. I fold them in such a way that they pop-up from the tub like disposable wipes. It should be obvious, then, that they would fit into a wipes warmer, if we had one and wanted to keep them pre-moistened and warm. They have become slightly crooked after many washes, but that is an antithetical issue.

Those are the products I have been using, excluding other accessories like the pail liner (Kissas brand) and wet bag (Mommy’s Touch brand). Both are pretty straight-forward and have served their prescribed purposes well.

bright sunshine is The Best treatment for odors and stains!

bright sunshine is The Best treatment for odors and stains!

Cost (‘Cause Everyone Wants to Know!)

Most people are curious about the cost of cloth diapers. I spent roughly $250 on all diapers and accessories. If I had purchased the newborn covers I mentioned in my “reviews” (and I definitely wish I had!), I would have spent about $325, and we can round that up to $330 for the cost of washing three times per week for three months. To put that in perspective, I would have spent about $130 on disposable diapers and wipes in the first three months. And I would spend that same amount in the next three months… and by Sprout’s first birthday, disposable diapers and wipes would have cost us roughly $520. Now, how many potty-trained one-year-olds do you know? 😉

Overall, I’m still satisfied with my decision to use cloth diapers. At this point, I can confidently say that I have no plans to switch to disposables. Now, ask me again in a few months when Sprout’s poo is no longer water-soluble…