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Written by Mama Monday

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

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‘Tis the season to show others how much we care with a token from the heart! Or, at least, that’s what we hope to do.

When you’re a cloth diapering family with a little one at home, so often we end up with gifts that don’t accurately reflect our values and wishes. While we’re grateful for whatever we receive and the thought behind it, getting things like chemical-laden baby toiletries (which we don’t want to throw out, but also don’t want to put on our baby’s skin – or in contact with our cloth diapers) put us in a sticky situation.

Here are some of the items that I have given (or have considered giving) fellow cloth diapering families at Christmastime:

A Cloth Wipe Kit – I have a handful of friends and family who cloth diaper but who have been on the fence about using cloth wipes. This is the opportunity I take to show that a) I understand their plight and b) they can try it out without having to purchase anything themselves. So, a handful of wipes (use Thirsties’ amazing wipes or just a package of nice, organic baby washcloths) and a spray bottle of Booty Luster packaged prettily in a sweet little basket makes for a thoughtful gift.

A Cloth Diapering Care Kit – If you’ve helped out after a family welcomes their newborn home, odds are you’ve helped with laundry. If so, think about the kind of detergent they use (or start up a conversation of “I’ve read so many different opinions on washing cloth diapers; what’s your method?” in a totally casual way) and package it up along with some wool dryer balls and maybe a diaper pail liner and you’ve got a thoughtful, practical gift option.

Cloth Diapering-Friendly Balms – No matter what you give, toss in your favorite diaper rash treatment. Our favorite happens to be Booty Love, but even if you use a homemade option, include a little bottle and the fact that you “get” the whole “cloth diapering thing” will warm the recipient’s heart.

Your Absolute Favorite Diaper – Whether it’s a Thirsties or not, a new cloth diaper is an AMAZING gift for any cloth diapering parents. (We, of all people, know the value of a good diaper, and knowing that it’s got your own personal stamp of approval means the world.) Consider the new wintry Thirsties prints, Scarlet and Winter Woods for a festive, fun twist.

An Adorable Wet Bag Gift Bag – No matter what you give, skip the wrapping paper or gift bag in favor of a wet bag – it’ll reduce waste AND give the parents a great additional gift. And, by the way, remember that wet bags aren’t just for storing dirty dipes! We use ours about a hundred different ways.

Diaper Service – If you’ve got the funds and are in an area that offers it, try looking up a reliable diaper service to take the chore away for a month or so. My uncle did this for my mother after each of her four children and it was a lifesaver, she recalls. What’s more thoughtful than that? (Just make sure that they adhere to the warranty of the family’s favorite diapers to avoid voiding the warranty.)

A Thoughtful Gift – Odds are you know why the family cloth diapers. We all have a different reason (we appreciate the cost effectiveness but also the eco-friendliness), so take this into account when purchasing any gifts. If the family values practicality, don’t go overboard with a million toys and outfits – try the “one toy, one book, one outfit” approach (or just one of the above if you’re not as close; I only do this for family, usually). If the family is eco-conscious, make sure the toy is either made of recycled materials, has strict EPA standards, and/or is made from eco-friendly materials. In general, use your cloth diapering knowledge to help inform your gift selection.

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What was the most thoughtful gift you ever received? We’d love to hear some additional ideas in the comments!

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We’re a family that likes to read. (Well, our one-year-old is juuust getting interested in books, but we’ve read to her brother since he was two weeks old, so it’s old hat to him. I’m a librarian but I give all the credit to my husband – he’s the one who reads most of the time.) In particular, we like to rotate our favorite book titles around through the year. My husband and I get just as excited as our son when a new season or holiday is around the corner to share some new stories.

While the old familiar classics are awesome favorites – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, the Grinch, The Polar Express – we’ve got a new list developing with some more modern tales.

So, just in case you’d like to try something new with your family, I’m sharing a handful of fun, fresh story ideas, just in time for the holidays.

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Here Comes Santa Cat – A cat who doesn’t speak (and has a slightly negative attitude)? How does THAT make a special holiday story? Trust me. Not only is it hilarious, it’s touching. An instant fave.

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas – If you have a fan of princesses and sparkles in your house, this book is perfect.

Dream Snow – Be sure to get the one with audio on the back page – it’s downright magical! That’s all I’m saying. 😉

Curious George: Christmas Countdown – George counts down the days to the big event, just like many of our little ones do!

Lil Rabbit’s Kwanzaa – A cute, fun way to introduce this special holiday to any child.

Olivia Helps with Christmas – Olivia is like many kids these days – she knows her mind and does things in her own, outgoing way. See how this works out when she helps with Christmas festivities.

Snowmen at Christmas – Along with its popular partner title, Snowmen at Night, it poses the question, “What do snowmen do when our backs are turned?” This time, throw Christmas in the mix and it’s a fun story any kid will love.

Olive the Other Reindeer – I actually just had a teacher use this book for a cute compare/contrast. Pet dog Olive hears the beloved song and decides she simply MUST be a reindeer, much to the surprise of Santa. Absolutely adorable.

A Couple for the Older Kids and Adults – I couldn’t leave these ones out. The first became a family favorite years ago when we stumbled upon it and had a read aloud at a Christmas party. The second, well, I used to read this at my last school and while it’s super verbose (read: lots of big words) and goes over the head of even the wisest 6th grader, the last page always has them scratching their heads and shouting, “Wait a minute!! Is this real?!” Judge for yourselves!

How Murray Saved Christmas – A hilarious story (with equally humorous illustrations) about a guy who doesn’t get the whole Santa gift giving thing (presumably because he’s Jewish) who is forced to take over for the big guy after an elf-induced accident. Written by an award-winning writer for The Simpsons.

Red Ranger Came Calling – At points, you want to give the kid in this story a good long time out. At others, you realize what a lonely life he must have and are thisclose to feeling badly for him. Regardless, watching his redemption by telling a white lie (yes, you read that correctly) mimics an older child’s attempts at grasping at the last straws of belief and Christmas spirit.

What’s your family’s favorite holiday book? We’d love to read your faves with our families.

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Hey, all! My family and I are in the throes of a big move (the only we’ve ever undertaken with kids and cats in tow) and, boy, do I give credit to all you military families and otherwise multiple-move families out there. My husband and I have said in a sing-song, we’re going crazy time, “this stinks!!!” (but in less G-rated terms) several times over the last weekend.

I thought it’d be helpful to share some of the tips we’ve heard and some that we’ve stumbled over ourselves for anyone who may be dealing with a similar blessing (because, for all the annoyances of a move, it’s usually due to a happy circumstance…at least, it is for us). There are even a couple of Thirsties product shout-outs that made our packing all the easier.

Ask for help. Friends, family, co-workers – whomever you have to bug, don’t be shy to ask for moving help. It’s kind of like wedding invitations; assume that 5-10% won’t be available (sometimes more). We were lucky because we had a bunch available for our first load (yeah…we have too much stuff) and a second group who were able to come in to relieve the tired first round of guys (and remember that women are just as able-bodied to help move, too).

Oh, and that doesn’t count those extra family and friends who’ve helped paint, fix, pack/unpack, organize. Every bit of time given takes so much off your shoulders, seriously.

Make it easier on the kids. For some children, it’s tough to see all their belongings packed away and to realize they’ll end up at the new house. Plus, leaving an old house can bring up terrible sadness (heck, it did for my husband and I).

So, try to be gentle and understanding when your child shows an issue with the transition (sometimes with tears, sometimes with acting out). Have them help pack a box or two of their own and help label it (younger kids can put some stickers on the box that they can look for at the new house), put aside a few of their beloved toys to have at the ready to provide some consistency and comfort, and spend time amidst the chaos to play or spend time with them.

And for their sake and yours, on moving day, have a trusted relative or friend watch them at a neutral locale. My mother in law provided normalcy because they’re used to being with her and have their own beds/toys/rooms to nap and play in. It was perfect; they missed all the chaos.

Use whatchya got. Packing is a weird beast. Anything that makes things a little more contained helps. So, I actually used a couple of my favorite Thirsties products to help get my act together. (And I need all the help I can get, ha!)

First, for all those little things – baby socks, little girl hair accessories, ahem MY hair accessories, etc – I used some of my clean Thirsties wet bags. It actually made me smile to unpack them because, well, I love my prints, but also because they were some of the few items I could actually easily put my hands on. Win!

Secondly, my diaper pal liner was PERFECT for packing those things you don’t want to get dirty if they, say, fall on the way to the truck. I fit in a ton of our blankets in mine, but you could use it for towels, pillows…even the dirty laundry (no judging here!).

Make room for comfort. Yes, it’s important to get the priorities out of the way (for us that involved refrigerated food and getting the kids’ beds set up), but with all the stress and overwhelm of seeing EVERYTHING YOU OWN packed up and dumped in another location, be kind to yourself.

This meant, for us, getting our cable set up and listening to Christmas music while painting/prepping and now as we unpack. It could also mean setting up a reading book with your favorite armchair or setting up your office.

Ours will also entail watching one of our favorite old movies and eating homemade popcorn…even if we’re still surrounded by boxes.

Remember most things can be changed. Ugh. Decision making isn’t my favorite thing ever in the first place, but when I’ve got 10 guys asking where to put things or figuring out paint colors or where to put everything in your kitchen, it’s easy to get paralyzed.

But it shouldn’t be. I finally realized every time I had a question tossed in my direction that I needed to ask myself whether it was permanent or not. Even beyond that would be, “is it something that one person can change on their own?” While we had the “muscle” available, certain larger things were placed where we wanted them, but everything else could be adjusted.

Whew. What a relief.

Find the humor. As crazy as things get (and sometimes helpful personalities clash in how they’d do something), humor happens. Revel in it.

Isn’t that a motto for parenthood, too?

We’d love to hear your own favorite moving tips, big or small, too!

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Family get-togethers can be awkward. Relationships that have evolved from childhood can have weird dynamics. People say things they wouldn’t normally say to a friend, colleague, or stranger right off the street. The differences between family members show clear rifts.

Then, the dreaded topic is brought up.

That’s right. Cloth diapers. (Why? What did you think I was going to say? ;-))

Obviously, people are dealing with some high emotions this year more than any other as the holiday season enters the radar. I thought I’d share some humorous and/or downright blunt talking points to use when a family member judges your choice to cloth diaper. They’re meant in all kindness and with humor – since we know that many families and friends are very supportive of cloth diapering – but may give you a good chuckle to consider using any for any of those eyebrow-raising aunts who’ve argued with you over your choice to cloth diaper.

The trick? USE HUMOR TO DEFLECT…AND JUST A TOUCH OF SNARK:

“You mean they make ones you can THROW OUT these days?! Mind. Blown.”

“Thanks for your thoughts. It’s so neat that my child’s excrement makes for such interesting dinner conversation!”

(To aunts/uncles/parents/grandparents, after listening to all their thoughts.) “Thank you so much for your advice. Now, what did your parents use to diaper you?”

“You think this is crazy? You should see our co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby-led weaning, babywearing house! Cloth diapers are no big. Now, have you tried my my homemade kimchi?”

“Between you and me, they’re really more for me than for the baby. I’m addicted to the adorable styles!” (Hey. Sometimes brutal honesty is a unifier!)

“I appreciate your thoughts on the diapers, but we appreciate them for their cost savings/eco-friendliness/cuteness…” (Fill in the blank with your favorite, honest to goodness cloth diapering reasoning.)

(To someone who’s already a parent who brings up the “poop issue.”) “Wait…don’t all parents have to deal with poop regardless of the diaper they choose? Or is your Johnny’s poop somehow less gross? This is fascinating…”


And only to be used when encountering an extreme staunch cloth diaper detractor and you’re experiencing a “break glass in case of emergency” moment:

“So…who’d everyone vote for?”

(Just kidding. That’s never acceptable.)

 

Hopefully you won’t have to use any of these (but if you do, be sure to say it with a smile) and that your holidays are fun, low-key, and completely devoid of all those keep-it-to-yourself awkward (or downright infuriating) topics!

We’d love to hear your best comeback to anyone who has questioned your cloth diapers! Share your favorite for others who truly understand your pain.

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With one child, you immediately see how quickly the passage of time happens. You can’t believe that, in what feels like a mere second, your little immobile, helpless bundle of softness turns into your favorite, funniest, wisest, silliest real-life person. I’m still blown away with the level of awareness that a 4-year-old can possess at times while maintaining a pure innocence that I protect and cherish at all costs.

After your second (or third or…) child, however, this passage of time is magnified tenfold. You don’t have the time to contemplate all the changes as they’re happening. By the time you appreciate the rolling over your little one has mastered, she’s cruising along the coffee table. Before you know it, she’s pushing away pouches in favor of REAL food when you can remember that she – recently – stuck her nose up at baby-led weaning. You see your kids interacting and snuggling and sharing toys without being told to and in those brief moments, amid your exhaustion and frantic pace-keeping, your heart simply couldn’t be more full.

This is my current state of existence in motherhood. Our little daughter, Harper, is officially a year old this past weekend.

That’s the sound of my mind exploding.

So, I thought I’d share exactly how we go about planning a simple birthday party that will be just as special and fun as her brother’s first (y’know, when I had more time to, like, make everything – including decorations – from scratch) while still juggling life. Because in the middle of these kids growing up, we’re also closing on a house this week, trying to get ahead of the holidays (since life will = moving boxes for quite some time), and work and life in general don’t slow down for anything.

Here are my best tips after doing this rodeo a few times now:

Pick a theme. Believe me. A theme is your bestie. I get the eye roll sometimes for picking a theme, and I understand why. A theme makes it seem like you’re going overboard. But, actually, a theme helps me to mentally organize and NOT let things get out of control.

For example, for Harper’s first, we’re doing A Very Hungry Caterpillar shindig. This gives me a super clear direction for the food (everything except the pizza is listed off on every page! Not that we’re doing ALL that food, but it helps), a color scheme, and invitations.

Keep it simple. After picking a theme, brainstorm some ideas that go along with it. Then, pick your favorite, say, two or maaaaaybe three.

In our case, I’m printing off a few small signs out of cardstock that will go with the food (On Monday, he ate one apple…), creating a simple green and red caterpillar to hang on the wall, and giving the handful of kids that will be there goodie bags with a wind-up green caterpillar, crayons, and maybe some candy. Super simple.

Use colors more than trademarked stuff. Have you ever noticed how expensive all the character party stuff is?! It’s crazy town. And the worst part is that when you’re done with it, it’s hard to reuse (unless you keep a stash of mismatched stuff for pizza nights…which is a great idea).

For our theme, we’re using two tones of green (a lighter and a darker) along with red. I got one tablecloth for a super long table that’ll be green, some red plates that were leftover from my son’s Dr. Seuss birthday (you can tell I’m a librarian)…you get the idea. We’ve reused some of our decorations for years, from handmade poufs to a cheap chalkboard sign, because they’re generic enough to work in many ways. Oh, and we skip the balloons and request that our guests do so, as well – they’re horrible for the planet.

Accept help when offered. This year, I’ve been lucky enough to have my mother, mother-in-law, sister, and brother/sister-in-law all offer to bring something. It’s crazy how helpful that is. I used to get a little, um, controlling about things (I’ll admit it) but I’ve learned to go with the flow. I still made her smash cake and did some ordering of the pizzas and some cupcakes (see? I used to make EVERYTHING – organic and “real food” – myself…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Her smash cake is organic, at least. ;-)) and little odds and ends, but it’s such a strain off my mind to have it equally disbursed.  

So, make a list of your menu and divvy it up. Even if you only have one family member or friend offer to help, it’s still a little less you have to do. Or if you have a crafty friend, go ahead and ask if they can hook you up with some simple decorations.

Let the kids be kids. I’ve learned that maybe one or two really simple activities are all kids need and the rest can be left up to them. Whether it’s a game you already own that fits the theme or just a quick print-off of a coloring sheet, that’s really all you need. Kids are great at making their own fun, so don’t overthink it too much.

Whatever it takes to make it a special, memorable, but low-stress event, great!

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What tips do you guys have to add that make your family’s birthday parties easier?