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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.


My kindergartener is having a blast in school. He’s learned to read and write multiple sentences at a time. His math skills are on point. He loves all of his “specials” equally. Oh, and he’s socializing like crazy.

As a matter of fact, it’s so prominent that it made an appearance on his report card.

And while I totally agree with and support his teacher (he needs to focus more and talk less), I feel it’s a valuable thing for him to be learning. Communication and social skills are pretty important…when done at the right times. 😉

As a grown-up, I feel like I’ve gotten worse at socializing. I’m awkward at topic choices, always second guess whether I offended someone when sharing my opinions, and stumble over my words darn near constantly.

The more that we, as parents, stay in and avoid seeing friends, the harder it becomes. But, I’m here today as a painfully introverted person who was once voted “most outgoing” in high school to say that we must keep trying; we need to “hang out” more.

We give all we have to our kids. We feel more daily stress than many in generations before us. We juggle our work, meals, practice schedules, play dates, and more. Add the isolation of being a new parent and it’s true; we’re simply not filling our own buckets. This isn’t good for us OR our families.

As I write this, I’m admiring the fresh, new, albeit “Mom safe” shade of paint my nails are newly sporting. My husband took all three kiddos to his parents’ house so that I could get my nails done with my sister and grab a bite to eat, bless him. It’s the first time in countless months and was literally what my sister and I “gave” each other for Christmas.

My sister is my best friend and while we chatted plenty about our awesome kiddos and juggling our respective responsibilities (no one said you’re not allowed to vent), we also found time to reminisce and talk about totally non-family-related stuff. It was great (as were the sweet potato fries).

When she dropped me off, we vowed to “do this more” and even start walking together (another excuse to socialize with a health bonus to boot) in the spring. I skipped into my house feeling lighter and reenergized.

So, to you I offer these bits of advice:

Make the time and share the wealth.

Just start with one quick hang-out, then start scheduling more. The positivity that you feel will be passed along to your kids and partner. Just be sure that it’s a two-way street and your significant other has a chance to hang, guilt-free, with a buddy soon, too.

Pick the right friend.

Some people steal our happiness and send us into a negativity spiral. Life is simply too short and your time too precious to allow them to poison you. This is why picking someone you’re totally comfortable with (like a BFF or sister) may be an easier start than, say, a new colleague or an old friend who gossips non-stop.

Schedule it and make it a priority if you need to.

When you force yourself to hang out, it gets easier every time you do it. Even if the first time is a quick coffee together or asking someone to hang a little while during naptime, the length of time doesn’t matter as much as it being quality.

Play dates can be Mom dates.

It’s actually advised to let kids play independently together during play dates so they learn how to solve problems and think for themselves. I remember when my mom would bring me to play with a friend and she’d have tea in the kitchen with his mom (her friend from high school). They didn’t hover, they got some time to decompress, and we grew up relatively well-adjusted. Wins all around.

Do like the older generation did.

One of my favorite books from college was called Bowling Alone in which it described how Americans have become less involved socially and politically since the beginning of the 20th century. Think about it: adults used to be in bowling leagues, have weekly bridge games, and join clubs. As you’re able to secure a sitter or just as your children get more independent, make it a point to join something that interests you, or at least have friends over for a regular game night. My husband and I met doing community theater so we’ll jump back in when we can, but a game night with nearby friends sounds like a blast.

Get the kids involved.

My husband recently mentioned getting a projector to hold summer movie nights for some kids in the backyard and I jumped at the idea. Giving kids a group activity and hanging out in the back with the other grown-ups is fun all around.

If all else fails, pick up the phone.

My 12-year-old self would balk at me, but I hate talking on the phone as an adult. However, I find time on my way to work to check in with my mom a couple times a week and it puts a spring in my step to hear her voice, to give her updates on the kids, and to stay abreast of the latest family news. I guess phones aren’t so bad if the right person is on the other end.

So, we’d love to hear your favorite way to socialize sans social media (which often doesn’t feel like“real” socializing much anymore,does it?). Is it a gym meet-up? A quick run for coffee? A weekly book club? Let us know how you’re filling your need for adult interaction in the comments!

The most common questions about cloth diapering revolve around laundry. How do I get them prepped to use? What’s a good wash routine? Do I prewash? Rinse? Hot or warm? Line dry?

Well, our customer service guru, Jessica, addressed many of the basics of diaper laundry in a recent #ThirstiesLive discussion and we’re ecstatic to be able to share her topic with you here today. For more great advice and cloth diaper topics, be sure to check in with the Thirsties team every Friday at 1PM MST on Facebook and 1:45PM MST on Instagram for #ThirstiesLive.

You can find this information and much more at our Customer Center section of our website, as well. (The pull-down area will allow you to find your specific concern.)

First things first, though.

Prepping Diapers

Before using cloth diapers, it’s important to launder them properly. This will ensure that any natural oils are removed from the product and your diapers are sufficiently absorbent to keep baby dry.

That said, synthetic diapering materials and products (often including covers) only need one warm wash with detergent. However, diapers and inserts that contain hemp and/or organic cotton will need at least three warm washes with detergent.

Air drying between prep washes fluffs the fabric and helps attain absorbency.

Your Basic Wash Routine

Before laundry day, there are steps you can take to make laundering your diapers simpler and to help your diapers have a longer lifetime. Be sure to remove all solid waste before placing your diapers in a wet bag or dry pail.

Also close your diapers’ hook and loop laundry tabs.

When dealing with overnight diapers, you may want to spray them (whether soiled with a solid or just a liquid).

Thirsties recommends washing every other day, but just be sure not to go more than three days before washing. For a top loading machine, a max load size would be 18 to 24 diapers. For a front loading HE machine, launder 12 to 15 diapers max load size at a time.

The Main Event

Cloth diaper laundry doesn’t have to be complicated. If you just remember that it’s a 3-step process: 1. prewash 2. hot wash 3. extra rinse.

Prewash
Start by prewashing your load on warm with small amount of detergent, if desired. Depending on your machine, this can be a prewash cycle or a quick wash cycle. The Real Diaper Association recommends a warm prewash to aid in removal of waste and a cold prewash aids in stain-lifting, so choose depending on your needs.

Hot Wash

Next, run the load on heavy in hot water with detergent. When choosing detergent, consider temperature (which should not exceed 130 degrees). Also avoid white or sanitize cycles because they are hard on diaper components.

Agitation is another important factor. Use enough water so that the diapers have room to move around. Don’t use too much water, though, so that the diapers are unable to agitate together. When looking at it, it should be more of a “stew” than a “broth.”

Extra Warm Rinse

This one’s pretty self explanatory. Just do a final rinse in warm! Easy as that.

Dry
The best choice for a long-term life of your diapers is air drying. If you’re hoping to make your diapers last for several children or just want to treat them the best, consider using a rack or hanging system to dry your diapers.

When using a dryer, anything with TPU or elastics should be dried on low. Prefolds, inserts, AIOs, etc may be dried on medium. It may surprise you to know that a monthly 15-minute hot dryer cycle is good for diapers’ lamination. Oh, and consider adding wool dryer balls or a clean dry towel to all dryer cycles.

We hope that these suggestions will help you master your own cloth diaper laundry. Again, these are just the basics and there are sometimes exceptions, but this should provide a good starting routine.

I really love how the month of February has turned into a month all about showing love. Of course, I do believe that it’s super important to show your appreciation and affection to your closest love on Valentine’s Day, but there seems to be a bit of a backlash against the whole romantic aspect of the holiday. How can a day built around love be so polarizing? But, there you have it. It is what it is.

That said, I think that between the fact that January is a rough month for lots of people (overwhelming resolutions + goes on forever + COLD + dreary = wop wop) and February is when Valentine’s Day pops up, people welcome more hearts, love, and appreciation into their lives when the calendar flips.

So, today I’m sharing some ways that you can show your family some extra love when Valentine’s Day rolls around. Feel free to take an idea or two…or to share your own ideas in the comments below!

Flowers and candy…or some other silly show of love. After my father passed away when we were kids, my grandfather kind of took over the role of showing my sister and I what a gentleman looks like (much like our dad was in real life). This included the gift of a card, heart-shaped box of candy, and single rose every Valentine’s Day. It sounds cheesy, but a memory like this will last a child their whole life long. Even just a flower centerpiece at dinnertime every year could be a special thing to mark the day. And it’s surprising how a child will remember the small things.


Do a heart craft or make dessert – together! Our 5- and 2-year-old love helping in the kitchen. Even if it’s a boxed brownie mix or pre-made cookie dough, making something together is a great way to connect (plus, eating it is pretty fun). You could also make some sort of heart craft, be it a garland of hearts to decorate for dinnertime, just heart cut-outs that the kids can color and decorate (this is probably a good time to pull out the dreaded glitter), or just coloring a picture of your family. I shared a few different ideas here, too.

Have a date with your family. It doesn’t have to mean going out (although it totally could if you want to), but just spending a special evening together with your family having a favorite meal slows everybody down enough to think about how lucky you are to have each other.  

Show your appreciation for their uniqueness. Not that we don’t tell our kids that we love them already, but sometimes we get busy and it falls to the wayside. So, you can do this verbally or you can get creative. Be specific about what’s so special and awesome about your kids. Cover their bedroom doors with hearts that each say one great thing about them, or give them a jar filled with sweet truths (they can pull one out every time they have a bit of self doubt or just a bad day).   


Watch a sweet, fun movie together. Make some popcorn and throw some pillows and blankets on the floor. Let your child pick out a movie or give them some suggestions to choose from. I like the suggestions here and here, but of course depending on your little ones’ ages, feel free to go younger (or older). (I’m loving the idea of Lady and the Tramp, The Parent Trap (the original is my favorite), and The Sound of Music. We’re clearly into classics.)


Read some “love” books. There are SO many family-friendly books that talk about love. Here’s one list…here’s another good one. (Someday had me crying in the middle of Barnes and Noble recently!) Sometimes a book can tell others how we feel better than we can, y’know?

These are just a handful of ways to show your family some love on Valentine’s Day. If you’re interested in any other Valentine’s Day activities, check out some of our old posts, like these cute DIY Valentines

 

As a lifelong Northerner who plans on staying one for the duration, I still have an annual battle with the depths of winter. In line with darn near everyone else who has to deal with lengthy bouts of whipping winds, snow measured by the foot, and cold that makes the inside of your nose STICK TO ITSELF, I have to mind freak myself into coping with the blues that accompany the harshest season. I’ve discovered two tried-and-true coping mechanisms that work when these feelings set in.

Every year, I seem to fall victim to seasonal depression and, like clockwork, my mind subconsciously finds the same ol’ ways to pull me out; namely escapism and acceptance.

While I can’t (and don’t necessarily want to) truly escape, my mind pushes me to crave summertime. Even the visualization of looking forward to something is enough to pull me out of my slump. Summer is also when my family (and many others) puts its hard earned-and-saved funds to good use in the form of a modest vacation or two. I’m talking a 3-4 hour car trip (max) for a night or two at a reliable, kid-friendly hotel with a mix of family fun, food, culture/history, and sometimes a beach thrown in for good measure. I’ve also toyed with the idea of a camping adventure at a cabin in the Adirondacks.

So, this time of year is when I start my research. The excitement of planning our fun is almost as invigorating as the trips themselves. So, picturing the accommodations, making an itinerary to meet our family’s needs, and simply thinking ahead about the change of seasons (“this, too, shall pass”) helps when digging out of yet another snow storm.

*Picturing sunglasses, shorts and sandals, stops for ice cream and hotdogs, and smearing on sunscreen. Okay, maybe the sunscreen’s not so fun, but still.*

The second coping mechanism I’ve learned relatively recently is acceptance, meaning go ahead and find out what you actually like about the season and embrace it. I try hard never to complain about winter itself because, well, I choose to live here specifically for nearby family and for the four distinct seasons – warts and all. (That doesn’t apply to family…er, generally.)

So, if you enjoy being active and don’t mind the cold, go for walks, build snowmen with your kiddos, try out skiing or snowshoeing, go snowmobiling…whatever sparks joy.

And please don’t say that there’s nothing you like about winter because I get it! However, you can still take full advantage of the inactivity of the season by staying in. Get your hygge on! Winter is nothing if not COZY. Bask in the warmth of a fire, snuggle with your kids under a huge, fluffy blanket, enjoy the escape of a good book, or partake in the guilty pleasure of a movie with a big mug of hot cocoa. Animals are smart; take their lead and create your own comfy den of hibernation.

And if your kids are climbing the walls due to winter boredom (we can relate, children!), check out our post on indoor winter family fun ideas.

You could also stick your nose up at winter by being uber productive. Use the indoor nature of the season by getting all those little indoor house projects done. We’re doing any painting or fix-it projects that we can (y’know, when the three kids allow us time to do so, ha) so that we don’t have them hanging over our heads when things thaw out and we get back outdoors to have fun…and do our outside chores. 😉

Oh, and if you hate the cold (and since we all have to go out into it at some point), the best weapon is preparation. Nice, heavy coats, insulated gloves, stylish hats (I’m totally a knitted beret girl), soft scarves, and tall, heavy-duty boots can do a lot to make the weather a non-issue – both physically and mentally. I know that sounds like a big “duh” suggestion, but I can’t count how often I see grown adults not properly suited (literally) to handle the winter weather…and it’s kind of ridiculous. Even on a blustery day, this is often enough to make the weather far less of an annoyance.

And, of course, if you find yourself growing truly depressed during this season or any other, your best bet is still to let your loved ones and doctor know and to seek out professional help. There is absolutely zero shame in getting yourself the help you need, and you’re far too important NOT to be in your best mental state possible; for yourself and for your family. Believe me, I’ve been there throughout my life. We need you.

So, how is everyone else faring with winter this year? It’s been a crazy one for folks who don’t normally get super cold or super snowy weather, so we’d love to hear what YOU do to battle the particularly harsh aspects of winter (ie the winter blues).

I recently discovered the term (and accompanying book) “fifth trimester” to describe the transition of returning to work after having a baby. While the fourth trimester, or “lying in” period, is the time you’re able to bond with the baby and focus on healing yourself, the fifth trimester is all about returning to relative normalcy.

Every trimester brings with it its own challenges, but the fifth is arguably the most challenging. The physical exhaustion that a newborn brings along with the return to a faster pace can take a huge toll. However, this is nothing compared to the emotional challenges of leaving one’s baby behind, oftentimes with a stranger.

I just returned from maternity leave, myself, this past week. While it’s my third child, it doesn’t get any easier. One of the only things that helps ease the pain – as with many of the challenges of each of having kids – is the realization that it is a phase and it will get easier.

I’ve also recognized that my saving grace this time around, especially when we have to juggle it with the normal day-to-day stresses of having older kids – making meals, school drop-offs, sitter drop-offs, groceries and errands, household chores, etc etc etc – is self care.

Self care sounds like a cliche catch phrase (and, to an extent, it is) these days, but a couple of articles gave me a new view on it. The article I prefer most is this one, which talks about the fact that “self care” is just as much about doing things that are good for us, whether they’re enjoyable or not. (It’s kind of like eating broccoli…with the occasional ice cream treat for dessert.) Combine this with the gentle views of this article, which are about self-advocating, giving yourself the time you need and deserve, and taking care of yourself as much as you do your family, and you get to the heart and the good of self care.

So, here are some self care tips that have helped my mindset when returning to work that will hopefully help you if you’re entering your “fifth trimester”, as well:

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. When it comes to my actual workload, I’m easing back into it by prioritizing the “needs” versus the “can be done later” tasks. At home, dishes come before laundry, a clean table comes before vacuuming, and family time comes before social media time. Important doctor appointments get scheduled, less important appointments that can wait are pushed to the back burner. It’s helpful to boil things down to their essence and let the rest rise as steam.

Pick and choose your favorites. Guilty pleasures are no longer guilty, but there’s not time for all the “that fills my cup” activities I’d like to do. So, while I may not have time to get to a yoga class, I can try to fit one in at home here and there using YouTube. I have a list of podcasts I’d like to listen to or YouTubers I’d like to watch, but I pick my favorites to pack more of an enjoyable punch. There are only so many hours in the day, so make the time count by picking your absolute FAVORITE self care activity to best rejuvenate YOUR spirit (not the hip ones just because others seem to cherish them).

Be your own advocate. In most (if not all) states, there are rules and laws in place to help us in our journey back into the workplace – namely, regarding expressing breastmilk. If you hit a wall with your work, be politely firm that this is a necessity. Luckily, I didn’t come up against any issues, but I have in the past and I know that the views of fellow workers or bosses (whether female or male) are a bit…antiquated. So, read up on your state’s laws and inform your workplace administrator, as well.

Schedule and make the most of your time. Much as picking only your favorite self care activities helps use your time wisely, creating a daily schedule and making the most of your time helps alleviate the mental stress of the constant fluttering in your brain. I’m getting up earlier (ugh) and using every minute until I finally sit down and nurse the baby one more time before bed. My time after bringing my son home from school is taken up with getting his homework done, checking his folder, getting his snack, water bottle, and some of the kids’ lunches set up for the next day, making dinner, showering, and setting out the next day’s outfit. In the morning (when, let’s admit it, we’re often still in too sleepy a fog to actually make decisions), it’s much easier to ASSEMBLE lunches than it is to start from scratch or decide what I’m going to make or wear that day. This may be a pain, but it’s SO helpful to my state of mind.

Allow yourself downtime. It’s hard for people who don’t have kids (or who are from a different generation) to understand this. My husband returned from his two-week “paternity leave” and had messages that said, “Hope you had a nice vacation!” and “Hope you’re feeling well-rested!” Seriously. So, when you tell friends you need some downtime or opt out of a family event to have some quiet(-ish) time at home, people may scoff that you’ve HAD “all this time off.” Don’t fall victim. For all the mental and physical stress you deal with during work days, you need the solitude and peace of your own time to decompress. Consider this your permission slip!

Find the joy during the day. This is another taboo topic, especially since it’s hard to admit that there’s ANY joy when you’re missing your baby, but our emotions don’t live in a vacuum; we’re allowed to be melancholy with a twinge of fun or happiness now and then. For example, simply being able to get into the car without the added heft of a carseat, anxiety of a fussy baby, and worry that goes along with bringing another human being along with you can be so freeing. So, while I may miss the heck out of that little squish, that one action of leaving the house is SO MUCH EASIER and I take a moment to appreciate both things: the love and yearning I feel for my baby but the caretaker who allows me that moment of independence. It’s okay to have a tear in your eye when you leave but to recognize the exhilaration of freedom. It’s. Okay.

If you’re heading back to work, I shared some additional tips my last time around that might be helpful. Be sure to chime in down below as to how you handle leaving your little one or vent about any fears you may have. We’re all here to listen and hold each other up, in good times and in bad!