Saturday, August 11, 2018

how we built a cloth diaper stash on a budget

I have realized I'm incapable of writing a short blog post - but that's okay, right?

There's so much to say about cloth diapering that this will probably end up being divided into several posts. Today I just wanted to talk about the research we did into cloth, why we decided to do it, and how we built our stash on a budget.

Starting when I was about 24 weeks pregnant, feeling more confident everyday that we were actually going to meet our baby this time, I began gathering baby supplies and outfits and doing research on baby carriers and diapers. I knew I really didn't want to do just generic disposable diapers for health reasons, but cloth seemed intimidating. A quick glance into the world of natural, biodegradable diapers showed we'd be spending our life savings for poop-catchers that might possibly start bio-degrading while still on Ellie's bum, so even though I know they're getting better all the time in terms of not leaking and staying in one piece, the price didn't make sense for us.

Sooooo. I started researching cloth. Cautiously. Skeptically. And the more I read, the more doable it seemed. I presented it to Josh as an option, and he got really excited about not just the health benefits long term for not having chemicals and plastic on our baby's little bottom, but how incredibly cost effective cloth is.

I spent hours on Pinterest and mom blogs, reading everything I could. Here are two easy-read articles that explain the basics of cloth diapering and really helped me get my head around the options we had.

"Everything I Know About Cloth Diapering" by Bonnie Christine
"What You Need to Cloth Diaper" - Modern Bottom Babies

my cloth diaper Pinterest board

After doing research, we decided we wanted to go with the economical option of prefolds and covers. We wanted to be able to go two days without washing, so I figured we needed about 24 prefolds and 8-12 covers. I also read up on different brands to see which types of prefolds and inserts would be the best investment. I decided to also try to find some specifically newborn sized waterproof covers, just so during those early weeks the diapers wouldn't be too bulky on baby.

Very quickly I discovered that Green Mountain Diapers have what are considered to be the best prefolds on the market. And I found two brands of covers I thought we'd give a try - Thirsties and Buttons. Thirsties are pretty internationally known and a very loved and reliable company in the cloth world. Buttons are a smaller company, and I love how surprisingly soft their covers are on little people's skin, and how sturdy they are. We use both brands with Ellie and love both! We also ended up with two Bummis newborn diapers, and we love those too.

waterproof cover, prefold, and fleece liner - this is what we use for Ellie's changes every day
I started looking on Facebook Marketplace and different buy/sell/trade (BST) groups for those specific brands to see if I could find some gently used diapers to start with, so we didn't have to pay full price. I also kept track of how much I paid for everything, since I had a goal of keeping our initial investment at or around $200, more for the fun of it than anything, but also to keep us from spending too much in case it didn't work out for us.

My first purchase was a set of four newborn covers and two newborn fitted diapers from a lady on Facebook, who was gracious enough to mail them to us. We paid $6 a cover, and $2 for the fitteds, and that included shipping, so a total of $28. Because newborn covers are only used for a short time, it's easy to find them cheap second hand in almost like-new condition, and they'll last through many children because they're used so infrequently.

Second purchase, I found a lady selling the prefolds I needed, in the brand I wanted, in TWO sizes! We saved on shipping (prefolds are heavy!) by driving an hour to meet her, and paid $35 for 36 barely used prefolds in size small (24) and medium (12).

We hit the proverbial jackpot when I found another mom nearby selling the newborn size of prefolds we needed, twenty-four of them, plus six extra-small covers (one size up from newborn) AND a set of five higher-end pocket diapers, and some snappis (rubber closures for prefold diapers). I only wanted the prefolds and covers, but when I met her to pick them up, she said she really wanted to get rid of the whole lot and gave me it ALL for $30. Pretty crazy and TOTALLY worth it! Just ONE of those pockets new was worth $25, for perspective. Anyways - I was pretty pleased!

SO. At this point, we had everything we needed to diaper Ellie from birth till probably 3 months old, just needed a few bigger "one size" covers that would grow with her to 9 months or so. Bare minimum. Total investment at this point was $93. Not too shabby at all!

I started researching to find the best one size (OS) diapers that would fit the best, last the longest in terms of quality and size. As I searched, I discovered that cloth is a very real WORLD within itself....with almost a cult following for every brand. It's a little insane, a lot hilarious, and really fun. I'd find a really cute cover and then discover it's limited edition from last year and sold out everywhere and if you find one on a Facebook group it'll probably cost you TWICE the retail...crazy! It's kind of fun though, as long as you don't get too far down the #buyallthediapers money pit...which I'm constantly in danger of slipping into because #CLOTHISCUTE - so cute. Dangerously cute. Watch out.

I waited for a sale and bought six brand new Thirsties covers for $9.50 each (they usually run about $11-$15), so a total of $50. Then I ordered one new Buttons cover on sale as well, for $7.50 plus shipping, so $10 on the nose. We were also given a Buttons cover as a gift. We still only have two total right now, and definitely want more! They'll last to potty training, which is pretty amazing.

We also got some accessories - a set of diaper pins, a wet bag for dirty diapers, and two hemp inserts to add to diapers so they'd last longer at nighttime. Total of that purchase was $26.

Total investment: $179

So at this point we were COMPLETELY set. Honestly didn't need anything else. "Need" being the key word in this conversation, haha! Did I mention cloth diapers are an adorable, cute money pit? Now that I was part of these Facebook groups, I started seeing new releases and new diapers, and learned quickly that if I liked a print (especially Thirsties - they go like pancakes) you have to jump on it. So I ended up being THAT cloth diaper mama and jumping on two new diapers on "release" day just because I thought they were cute, and honestly it couldn't hurt to have a couple more covers. So we welcomed three more brand new covers to the stash. (Total: $38)

"Main Squeeze" and "O2 Revival" - my first two "limited edition" purchases...and two of our favorites now that Ellie is here

As we got closer to Ellie's birth, and felt more confident in our investment, Josh decided if we were going to do cloth, let's go all in and get EVERYTHING we need to make it easy on us to get started. We only had one wet bag, and not a very big one at that, so we literally bought #allthewetbags. Wet bags are washable and wonderful for storing dirty diapers until wash day. We found that Buttons sells on Amazon, so we stocked up. We bought two large, one medium, two small, and someone had given us a gift card for Ellie, so they were technically free. (total would've been $45) I was skeptical we needed that many....but um, now that Ellie is here, we do. Two big ones to alternate in the nursery, our two mediums are for our bedroom for night diapers, and the two small ones alternate in our diaper bag, and honestly we use them ALL. Worth the investment in our eyes for sure.

Then, during a really tough week of pregnancy when emotions and stress were running high, I found out I had won a cloth diaper giveaway. Y'all, it is SO WORTH IT to enter all the giveaways - just keep entering, and you'll be so grateful you did! I won two covers in two brands I'd always wanted to try, plus a set of six bamboo prefolds, and six of another brand of prefolds, plus another large wet bag (which Josh hates cause of the weird print haha). I cried when the box was such an incredible gift. The bamboo prefolds we use for Ellie overnight, and they're amazing cause they absorb so much more than the regular cotton, and they're SOOOOOO soft!

Total investment: $217

We'd done it! Met our budget goal, and had enough diapers to be completely SET possibly until Ellie is potty trained. To give you some perspective...that $217 was spread out over five months, taking advantage of sales, coupons, gift cards, giveaways, and second-hand deals.

A box of Pampers cost about $25, and lasts about two weeks we found. Sooo...that's eight boxes of diapers to basically equal our entire cloth investment - which will last Ellie at least until she's one, and then can be used again for FREE for our next children. Eight boxes = approximately two to three now that Ellie is six weeks old (and we've been doing cloth for a month) we're over halfway to having our cloth pay itself back, which is CRAZY. And we've already kept 150+ diapers from hitting the landfill to decompose for the next several hundred years so that's awesome as well! We'll probably have to buy a few more covers as Ellie gets bigger, but still, once it pays off, and now that we know it WORKS, buying covers that will last through multiple kids is easy to justify *wink* (good thing, since once again...all those new cute prints coming out all the time...)

Also, cloth has resell value - remember that! You can almost always sell off covers and diapers that don't work for you as long as they're in useable condition.

Just last week we placed another order to get her a little reusable swim diaper, and some more hemp inserts for overnights and some liners. I would HIGHLY recommended getting liners as well, they keep the moisture from bothering your baby, and since Ellie knows INSTANTLY when she's wet and starts fussing, it saves us from having to change her every 30 minutes ha! They also keep your prefolds or diapers from getting stained. Fleece liners are cheap, you can even make them yourself - a quick Pinterest search can help with that.

So. That, in a very long post, is how we built our small but mighty stash on a budget!

For those y'all curious about brands and product names, here's the official list of the stash we actually USE for Ellie on a daily basis. She goes through three or so covers each day, and usually one or maybe two at night, so we get through all our covers each week pretty consistently. She's already outgrown the two Thirsties newborn covers - totally worth having for those early weeks but not worth paying full retail since they only last that long. (reason ten thousand to shop second hand!)

Our stash:

2 newborn Thirsties sized covers
2 newborn Bummis "whisper wraps"
4 extra-small Thirsties sized covers
8 Thirsties Size One duo wraps
1 Thirsties Size Two duo wrap
2 Buttons One Size covers

2 newborn Nicki's fitted diapers
24 newborn Cloth-eez/GMD prefolds
24 small Cloth-eez/GMD prefolds
12 medium Cloth-eez/GMD prefolds
6 DiaperRite bamboo prefolds

20 Bummis fleece liners

6 Thirsties hemp inserts/doublers
5 Buttons wet bags
1 Thirsties wet bag

Diaper pins

Our favorite places to shop for diapers online - most of these have reward points systems and free shipping at low thresholds - double win for trying to stay on budget!

Kelly's Closet
Diaper Junction
Nicki's Diapers
Buttons Diapers official website
Green Mountain Diapers

NOTE: I didn't start cloth with Ellie until she was two weeks, because she was so tiny even the newborn covers swallowed her up AND she was pooping through 10+ diapers a day and I really didn't want to change that many, haha. At two weeks, I started about 50/50 cause I didn't do cloth at night right away. Now that she's six weeks we're at full time. We were given several boxes of disposable diapers which have been a huge blessing when she was little little, and during these recovery weeks and when I had surgery and couldn't do laundry. It's always nice to have a few on hand, or in the diaper bag - nothing wrong with that :)

 Thirsties "Birdie" duo wrap on the left, Buttons "Meadow" one size cover on the right

Well, this post got so incredibly LONG so I'll save our wash routine and storage for the next post. It's so fun to finally be able to share about cloth diapering - I've been waiting for so long, hoping it would work once Ellie was born, and I'm SO thrilled that it does! Also, news flash, clean up and washing has been a breeze so far, so stay tuned - if I can do cloth, you totally can, ha!

Oh, please ask any follow up questions you might have in the comments or on my social media - I love interacting with y'all!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

ellie's birth story

oh this post is a long time coming - my FIVE-week-old little girl is sleeping her in sling on my chest, as I stand up to type this so she won't wake up. *wink* Ah, newborn mothering at its best. this post turned into a small book, so buckle up!

in the weeks leading up to Ellie's birth, especially the final month, it started to sink in that "by this time next month" I would have a baby in my arms....but with a birth story between us. I wondered so often how it would all happen, and even though I wasn't even a little bit nervous, I was so crazily curious and would get butterflies just thinking about it.

if you follow my instagram, you know there was some slight uncertainty as to my exact due date. I knew I was due somewhere between June 25-30, from traditional counting I was due June 29, and all of Baby's ultrasound showed him/her measuring at least a week or ten days ahead of schedule every time, so I had an ultrasound due date of June 22nd. Honestly, it helped me not get antsy because I had in my head that Baby could be due anywhere from the 22nd to the 1st of July without being super late.

 hehe, TIRED mama, so ready to not be pregnant anymore - June 17th.

On Tuesday, June 19, I woke up feeling strangely motivated. I'd been having the normal pre-labor symptoms for a couple weeks it felt like - BH contractions, baby dropped, all the usuals. But that Tuesday, nesting hit like a truck - and being a usually....less motivated human being *hehe*....I noticed my unusual urge to get projects done. I was down in our garden at 6am pulling out weeds and mulching pretty much of all it (yes, now that seems crazy haha), went to hang out with friends for the morning, and came back with my sister-in-law to make all kinds of food stuffs. I was also feeling incredibly nostalgic for my tour kiddos and turned on some songs we used to listen to, and was doing a dance they taught us when it sparked a contraction that was decidedly NOT a "practice" contraction....

And so began a WEEK of early labor that tried every ounce of patience I'd saved up over the course of nine months and made us a thousand times more ready to meet our little rainbow.

Tuesday I just stuck it out all evening, hoping something would kick in for real in the next day or so. On Wednesday I went to see my midwife, she said I was definitely in early labor and I was progressing, and we decided to call my mom and my sister so they would have time to get here before the birth. Well, baby didn't come that day...or the next...we walked our lane, I bounced and bounced and bounced on the birth sister ended up having to go home, but my mom decided to stay and see if baby would come. Every day or so my midwife would check me, and labor kept going consistently, but progress was slow, even though it was steady.

unimpressed. ha.

On Saturday, we took a rest day - no trying to progress labor, no thinking about what day Baby would come. Mom and I went to Augusta to go shopping. By evening, contractions were the real deal and coming close together - but it was so late at night that my midwife didn't want us to go to the office, so we headed to the hospital so she could monitor contractions and check progress. We were there a couple hours, then went home again, hoping we'd be back Sunday.

final bump photos - left was in Augusta, right was right before we left for the hospital the first time

But no, duh of course, ha. Day by day, things were getting more intense but not progressing as far as we wanted. Finally, after a very very long day on Monday, Josh and I took Tuesday to spend time together, pray about our options, and take a breather. My midwife had a castor oil concoction, and after going out on a date on Wednesday, and a good night sleep, I took it at 4am on Wednesday morning. Contractions started getting intense at seven in the morning, by eleven I knew we were close to going to the hospital but I wanted to stay at home as long as possible. We finally checked in around one in the afternoon, and my midwife broke my water around two.

I know many of y'all reading this are birth junkies and might have a bajillion questions (I know I always do) and so feel free to follow up about any of this, and I'd be happy to answer in more detail why we decided to help my body push over the edge into active labor instead of waiting it out. I know I'd be curious too *wink*

Labor was intense - my midwife is amazing and Josh and my mom and I were pretty much able to do whatever we wanted in my room. I labored in the tub for a couple hours, on the birth ball, and just walking in the room. So many times I felt like I was at the end of my ability, but I kept telling myself I could always do one more contraction, and the thrill of knowing my baby was SO CLOSE kept me going.

My birth experience, especially for a first time mom, was absolutely amazing. My midwife loves Jesus, loves moms and babies and birth, is an incredible educator, and spent eight months preparing me with all the information I needed, and encouraged me so much and so well. I felt very in control, and so empowered, and so grateful to have her with me. I gave birth in a hospital, but everyone there is so used to her, and honored all of my requests for the birth and post-delivery, even when things went wrong afterwards they all worked as hard as they could to give me everything I wanted in regards to our baby. I really wasn't sure how it would work to do a natural, unmedicated, low intervention birth in a hospital would be, but it exceeded my expectations and I'm forever grateful to my midwife for all she did for us.

Eliana Hope ("Our God Has Answered") was born at 8:30pm after forty minutes of pushing. Honestly it didn't feel terribly long, but there were so many times we thought she'd be here the next push but she wasn't...and we found out why. What I remember from those moments at her birth is seeing her big beautiful eyes staring at us, how stretched out she looked, her purple skin, and Josh's shocked and excited voice in my ear, "It's a GIRL!" (y'all, not finding out gender ahead of time was the BEST! I'd do it again in a heartbeat!) Sweet Ellie was born with the cord wrapped very tightly around her neck, and it seemed that the cord then kept the amnionic fluid in her lungs from completely emptying during birth. She was purple, and after three minutes on my chest with us rubbing her back, she was crying a raspy sort of cry but not what we wanted to hear. They took her from me to work on her next to the bed, but after twenty minutes I heard them call the NICU team to come, and around nine they took her up to see if they could get her stabilized. I was still in shock (the best possible kind) that I had a daughter, and was starting to settle down from the birth. I'm so grateful I was able to give birth unmedicated, because I was so alert in all these moments and didn't feel out of it as we made decisions and talked through what was going on. We didn't hear anything for a couple hours actually -  I just tried to rest and recover and hope for the best for her. My Mama was praying, and I trusted that Ellie was getting the best possible care.

They initially thought Ellie would only need to be in the NICU for a couple hours. Around 11pm we finally heard more, and they said she'd need to stay for at least forty-eight hours because they did an x-ray and saw the fluid in her lungs and ran tests that would take that long to get back from the lab. She was already on a bit of an antibiotic in case she had an infection. Josh got to go up and see her then, and he took pictures for me.

I wasn't able to go up to her because around 10pm, they brought a sandwich in for me to eat, and when I sat up to eat it, the whole room spun and I almost blacked out. Turns out, I was losing blood badly and they had to call my midwife back from home. What followed I barely remember - except what they had to do to stop the hemorrhage hurt worse than labor and I was sick to my stomach and holding onto my mom and screaming and my midwife had tears in her eyes. Oh, my midwife is also a nurse-practitioner, which was an immense blessing during that awful couple hours because she was the one able to help me and be in charge, a familiar face and a familiar heart in charge of my care. By the time I was starting to feeling mildly okay, Josh was coming back from visiting Ellie. It was really scary - really really scary. If you ask me when we're having our next'll be when the memory of the hemorrhage fades...cause for weeks after her birth when people would ask "how did it go?" all I could see was Ellie's purple face and hear myself screaming as they tried to stop my bleeding. Yeah...birth amnesia hasn't quite erased that yet. *grimace*

Around 5am, I was strong enough and so so anxious to see my baby (who I STILL couldn't believe was a girl - seriously y'all I've never been so surprised in my entire life) so Mom and I went up to see Eliana for the first time. I wasn't able to hold my sweet girl because of her breathing apparatus and IV, but they were changing out her mouth piece so I got to see her face and it started sinking in that our baby was HERE and OURS. Around 11am, she didn't need the CPAP machine and was on just a nose cannula for oxygen, so I was able to begin breastfeeding.

not the most flattering photos, but this was our real life...constant exhaustion and 
trying to stay awake to feed a baby who wasn't hardly hungry...

The next four days we spent in the hospital recovering. Clearly not what we had originally planned, but because I was so weak from the blood loss it was actually a blessing to be there extra time and have the help as I got back on my feet. My mom was an absolute saint, sleeping at home every night and driving back and forth to hospital every day, running errands and bringing me ice cream :) Josh was amazing, sleeping on the couch, helping me do EVERYTHING, waking up with me every three hours all night and all day and wheeling me down to the NICU so I could nurse Ellie. It was exhausting, and a whirlwind, even though it felt like years and like we were in a different world than everyone else. I was surprised at how calm I stayed during the entire thing - especially the hours after Eliana's birth. This was our rainbow baby, the baby we had waited for for almost two years, and she wasn't with us....I remember telling Josh so many times during those days, "This isn't right. She needs to be here." But we prayed for peace, and Jesus gave it to us. There were some tears, yes, but anxiety never reared it's ugly head, and for that I'm grateful.

my FAVORITE picture of our baby girl from that first day - 
already starting with the smirks and the side eye that we love so much

I have such a different respect and empathy now for families in the NICU. Our experience was short and entirely positive with no set backs, but during those long nights of trying to get Ellie to latch and just holding her and crying that I couldn't take her back to the room with me, I was surrounded on all sides by preemies and their families - coming faithfully every night or every morning, in the wee hours often, to watch, hold or just touch their babies through incubators. It broke my heart to even imagine having to actually go HOME without Ellie - and that's what these families were doing every day. Ellie's nurses were a class of angels and her doctor did everything he could to get her with us as soon as possible, and our experience there was so precious because of that wonderful team. Her nurses dressed her in cute little outfits once her IV line came out on Friday, tied bows in her hair, and I was so blessed to know they were loving on her when I couldn't. They are a highlight, and we will never forget them!

Eliana got to spend all day Saturday with us in our room, and Saturday night, and from there on things got better so quickly. I felt better having her close to more nights of hearing babies screaming in the rooms around us and laying awake in disbelief that after all we'd been through I'd still never heard my baby cry. Those first few days at home, if Ellie would scream, we'd just let her for a while sometimes and listen and watch her - grateful for her (now) healthy lungs and her baby cry we'd been longing for for so long.

We bundled up and left on Sunday morning, July 1st, around ten in the morning - surreal to just walk out with her, no special instructions, completely whole as if nothing had gone wrong. It wasn't until we were a few minutes down the road, when "God is so Good" came on our playlist, that I broke down for the first time as the adrenaline of the past four days began to wear off and I just sobbed as I looked down at my precious girl and just praised Jesus that she was ALIVE and that we got to take her home.

"ellie's song" - I'll never hear this song without remembering that drive home

Something really special - her coming home outfit we chose had been made for her and given to us by a sweet friend from church...back in DECEMBER. In December when none of us even had a clue if she was a girl or boy, or what her name would be...and here the onesie says, "He Answered" and I didn't even realize till I was dressing her in it that Sunday morning at it's the meaning of her name. Wow. Talk about Jesus going before us. I'm still in awe how every single breath and every minute of her life since conception has been ordained and protected by her Savior who loves her more than I ever could. She is a miracle. A MIRACLE. And He is so good.

heading home!
In the days and two weeks that followed, as we both had our follow up appointments, it sunk in just how intense and scary our experience was. I dealt with some of the "baby blues", and I think a lot of that was just grieving aspects of her birth story...especially not being able to hold her skin-to-skin after birth, and not nursing till the next day...those precious moments I had dreamed of for months just didn't happen, and that was hard. When I saw my midwife for the first time since the birth, she kept reminding me how sovereign Jesus is to make sure we were in the right place at the right time, and that all things work together for good. Even our decision to help my body go into active labor with breaking my water was so clearly Jesus ordained - Ellie needed help, and He knew she needed to be born that day and not wait any longer, and I'm so grateful we had the peace to move forward with that even though we had no idea anything would be off. I had a completely low-risk pregnancy, nothing to indicate anything would go wrong at delivery, and I would've been a no-question candidate for a home birth if we had chosen that...but just thinking about what could've happened...yeah. I choose not to dwell on that too much. My midwife and our hospital team probably saved Ellie's life, and possibly mine, and I'm just so grateful Jesus guided us through the right decisions during the entire pregnancy up till the final moments.

Ha! So there's our intense story of our precious rainbow baby's birth. She's been a mover and shaker from the womb, and we knew she'd give us a run for our money, and she certainly did. We are so grateful to have her home with us now, and for no lasting repercussions from her eventful delivery. Almost six weeks later, I'm still recovering, but we're getting there and every time I look at her precious little face, I know it was absolutely worth every bit.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and love for us as we've been on this #journeytoourrainbow, and for welcoming our Ellie Hope with such joy. She is a miracle in every possible way, a joy to our hearts and a delight to our lives and the lives of so many.

As always, I LOVE talking about birth and pregnancy and everything in-between, so if you have any questions or want to follow up about anything I shared, feel free to message me on Instagram or comment! Now that our baby is here, I want to share in more detail about pregnancy after loss, birth after loss, preparing for birth, and postpartum, as well as products we can't do without for myself and for Ellie. Please drop your suggestions on what posts you'd like to see next! I love you all so much - and for those of you who have been reading this blog since I started it as a crazy 15-year-old, can you believe I'm a PARENT now??!! Hahahaha I can't...I don't know where the time went, and it's so surreal to be holding my own daughter in my arms when the last baby I blogged about was my baby SISTER nine years ago. Anyways, enough nostalgia...time to go snuggle my nugget before she gets too big too fast!

Until next time,

Sunday, April 22, 2018

baby kicks and a mama's heart

**NOTE: we don't know if Baby is a girl or boy, so that's why I say "they", it's just easier than "him or her" everytime - WE ARE NOT HAVING TWINS** (just clarifying a frequently asked question)

A friend asked me today what my favorite part of pregnancy has been so far. It's hard to pinpoint one particular thing, especially since I spent the first 20 weeks or so trying not to be excited and just survive and keep baby alive, and now that I'm starting to enjoy it, I'm in the large-as-a-whale stage and ready to have this kid. It's been a ride, ha!

But the reality is, I LOVE being pregnant. It's why we didn't quit after two losses. It's why I know I'll miss it once this baby comes. Every day I'm in complete awe that another little human being is growing INSIDE of me, with a personality and a story and a spirit all their own. I'm ready for this pregnancy to be over, simply because it feels like I've been pregnant with my "first" child for over a year and a half in my heart, but I know that it won't be terribly long before I'm ready to do this again, because I really do love it, so so much.

So. My favorite thing? Feeling my baby. Being able to rub their little head and back when they get a little crazy and settle them down even while they're in my womb just by gentle touch. Feeling them react when their daddy talks to them. The full blown party they throw when I'm playing piano with the worship team or simply having any music playing loud. Rolling my eyes when they start going nuts if I lean too much against the countertop while washing dishes, or roll over in bed to the side they don't like best, or bend over a funny way...basically when I do anything that cramps their style in the slightest (we're thinking this kiddo is going to be VERY opinionated, if womb-activity is any kind of indicator). This child has been an incredible comfort to their mama during what's turned into a crazy season in our lives - being able to just curl up in our big chair with a blanket and just "spend time" with our Baby is balm for a weary soul.

I was listening to old episodes of a birth podcast this week, and a sweet woman was sharing her story of pregnancy after a very difficult second-trimester loss, and the emotions she went through in the waiting time after her loss until she was ready to carry another pregnancy. I've not really heard someone articulate those feelings as well as she did - especially when she described choosing no pain medications during her loss (which is what I did also), and then waiting until she was emotionally ready for a new baby and a new pregnancy, not still hoping somehow deep down for her baby she lost instead. That really resonated with me, because it's something I've struggled with so deeply...and felt like it's not quite fair to the beautiful child I'm carrying that I still miss their older siblings so terribly much, and I'm always calculating how old they would be now, and what milestones they'd be hitting. Grieving is a still a learning curve - and I'm giving myself grace for each new twist it brings. This baby IS loved, IS special, IS wanted, and the more I focus on that, the easier it is for me to celebrate their life, instead of just missing the ones we lost.

So that's why my favorite thing about this pregnancy is my Baby's kicks and rolls and bony elbows and knees in my ribs and stomach and everywhere else. Because it's through those interactions, those ways they touch me and I touch them back, that I'm learning the child I'm carrying. They aren't Jeremiah, they aren't Daniella. They have their own name (which we already have picked, ahhh!!!), their own purpose, personality, and eternal soul. And as their mama, I'm learning it already. And the deeper I learn their little spirit, the deeper I heal from the past, and the more prepared I am for the future.

Nine weeks left, little love, my little "double" rainbow. We are SO. READY. to meet you.
all photos from our BEAUTIFULLY perfect maternity shoot with Jess Lapp - I can't stop looking at them!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

butterflies and rainbows and Resurrection

This is pretty raw from my soul today...I know that sometimes it seems like all I write about these days is my pregnancies...which honestly makes sense since that's been my life the past year and a half. But I'm seeing such an intense beauty and a depth of the Gospel that's come from these experiences that I can't help but share - just like I know that parenting and life and marriage and homemaking will gradually become my topics of choice as the years go on. And so here again, from my Mama's heart, is how the Lord is using this current season to shape my view of Him, and give me a deeper understanding of His heart and His love for me, for my family, and for us as His children.

I was in JCPenney today, picking through the clearance racks trying to find a couple pairs of newborn boys shorts to round out our little one's wardrobe in this final trimester. I've tried to stay on the conservative end and not buy too much since the ultimate surprise of finding out whether we have a son or a daughter is being saved till the moment of their birth, but I've also tried to grab things I do like that ARE practical here and there for both a little girl or a little boy or items that can go either way...cause let's be real, who DOESN'T want to shop for baby clothes?!

As I was searching, I found the cutest little summer baby girl romper...covered in rainbows and frills and just about as precious as it gets. As far as I could tell, they only had it in sizes 6months and up, which would be too big for this little kiddo anyways...but I couldn't hardly pass it up. Deep down in my gut, I'm so sure this baby is a boy, and I've already gone overboard once or twice with little girl stuff this pregnancy anyways, so even though I kept coming back to it, I left it on the rack. I can't see rainbows without thinking of my rainbow babies (for clarification, a rainbow baby is a baby born after a loss - so technically Daniella AND this baby were/are both "rainbows") and I hope I never have another rainbow baby in my lifetime, so if this baby does end up being a boy I don't know if I'd ever use that outfit again, and I just couldn't really bring myself to buy it...

Real quick, some background on my current emotional state (*tired smile*) -

This has been a particularly emotional week of pregnancy for me. Start of the third trimester. Preparing for a move (just down the driveway really from our little basement cottage to a mobile home). Still feeling like I have a million years of pregnancy left. Hitting the I've-been-pregnant-for-12-months-of-the-past-18 milestone that I've been dreading. And while I've been soaking up all the cuddles with Daniella's little due date buddies at church these days, it makes me miss her so much more than ever.

I watched a birth video on YouTube this morning, as I'm starting to slowly get my mind in a place to process and prepare for laboring with a live child in just a couple short months I've found that visualizing the type of birth I want is helpful for my heart. Yet, as I watched this particular video, I realized the mother had gone through some kind of trauma before, because even though the birth was normal and uneventful and unmedicated, she seemed very anxious. And then as they shared their story, I realized their last child had been born with unknown breathing issues and a previously unforeseen cleft palate, and while she's okay now, the minutes immediately after birth and the hours and days postpartum had been very scary. This, their next and third child, ended up being TOTALLY fine, but as SOON as she gave birth she was gasping out questions, "Is he okay? Does he have a cleft lip? Is he breathing?" and when they laid her perfectly health baby on her chest, she started sobbing almost hysterically from relief and joy. I burst into tears just watching it....feeling all the emotions that rattle around in my heart daily come to the surface that was on my mind all this morning...just how even if this baby comes into the world completely uneventfully, it will be the most emotionally charged moment I've experienced to date...finally holding a child of my own after a year and a half of pregnancy, essentially.

Rabbit trail, yes. Bear with me.

rainbow over the farm last week - actually the first real rainbow I've seen since finding out we were expecting a third time
So. Back to JCPenney.

When I got home from the store, one thing led to the other, and I was in tears in Josh's arms, just aching and grieving and guilty and happy and tired all at once. No one can really tell you what to expect when you're pregnant again after back to back losses and no living don't even know yourself what each day will bring. It's no one's fault it's a roller coaster - it just IS. Heck, PREGNANCY is! You're excited, you're happy, then you feel guilty for being happy, then you feel guilty for feeling guilty, and then you just cry. And add hormones. Peace out. *facepalm*

As I cried, I realized that when I almost bought that outfit earlier today, I almost bought it for Daniella. Not this baby. She would be six months old this summer. She was my rainbow of hope, my little girl. This baby I carry now has a story all their own, and I LOVE THEM so dearly, but my heart is still aching for my butterfly girl who first gave me so much hope, and for my firstborn - Jeremiah's would-be first birthday is just weeks after my due date with his littlest sibling.

Josh reminded me as I cried, that how we view this journey we're on is really also how we should view Christ's saving and redemptive work for us on the cross. This weekend at church we celebrated communion together in a beautiful, powerful way, and during the morning service, our pastor reminded us all of the sobering details of Christ's crucifixion...the kind of sermon you don't really ever like hearing, but it's so important to remember what Christ went through for us.

But we never ever STOP THERE. We don't stop with the pain of it all. That's not why He died. We share His death - we weep when we think of Him bearing the pain of the cross just like we would bear it. He felt it like we would. His identity was stripped away, His dignity, His very life blood drained. And yet why did He allow it? So that we could bear His identity, His honor, and take His life as ours. (read Isaiah 53, and just glory in how everything He bore was so we could be healed!) He never intended for us to just sit and cry and grieve at His's part of the story, but we immediately look ahead to the Resurrection that brings all the pieces together. It's because of His LIFE that we have LIFE - without the Resurrection, the Gospel dies.

But He was pierced for our transgressions;
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with His wounds WE ARE HEALED. - Isaiah 53

Those truths have been sinking so deep in my soul this week anyways, and to realize that my alternating grief and joy over my children is the same. They're in heaven now - completely whole. Healed from the brokenness that choked out their short lives on earth. And they don't want their Mama to only ever grieve their absence...their stories are part of our hearts, our lives, and we will always wonder what would've happened if they'd stayed with us in this life...but Jesus is giving us hope, redemption, doesn't mean the tears don't fall sometimes, but it does mean there's no guilt in keeping our eyes looking forward with Hope. What brings honor to their memories is our continuing to walk in that Hope of Resurrection, that LIFE abundant we still have access to, even without them.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." - John 10:10

Because that's the Gospel. Jesus died for this grief too. And He rose for this hope too.

My little elephant and my little butterfly are with Jesus. That's a tragedy and pain that as a Mama, I'll never forget. I think of them every single day. I wonder what they'd be like. What our life would be like. It still hurts. It does.

But I'm carrying a hopeful little Wild Child, who's rolling around with gusto as I type, who has their own story, and who needs his or her Mama to keep her eyes on what Jesus is reclaiming, rebuilding, and restoring with His Resurrection Life. He or she has just as much of a journey and a purpose that's unfolding, one that has sometimes been overshadowed by fear or by guilt or pain...but that is just as worth celebrating as we did their older siblings. Every time I buy clothes, prepare for his or her arrival, or celebrate their life, I'm not only loving them, but honoring their siblings.

from my maternity photo shoot with "Wall-E" earlier this month - thank you Jess Lapp
As we move deeper into this Holy Week and Passover leading up to Resurrection Sunday, that's the truth I'm ready to have wash over me, that I already feel lapping at my toes. I'm ready, so ready, to live for eternity every day, with my heart unwaveringly fixed on the Resurrection.

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep...." - 1 Thessalonians 4:13

"The saying is trustworthy, for: if we have died with Him, we will also live with Him..." - 2 Timothy 2:11

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! - Psalm 27:4

Fear was buried with Jesus this week, guilt was buried with Jesus this week, and what brings Him the most glory is believing fully that they will NEVER rise again...

because only He did that

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

meal planning and maintaining a healthy lifestyle on a budget...for lazy people

Good evening errybody!

I promised this post on my instagram story a few weeks ago, and I'm pretty proud of myself for getting it up in a decent amount of time. (*fingers crossed this actually goes up today*)

As many of you know, Josh works in agriculture and construction as part of a family-run business, so as the good wife that I am learning to be, I do my best to help us live as cost-effectively as we can in our daily lives - which then in turn enables us to take fun trips and splurge on new and exciting things as money and work and time allows.

We are by no-means a true "crunchy" family, but we care about what we put into our bodies, we care about where our food comes from, and since Josh spends his days working his heart out outside in the fields or on the job, and I've spent most of our marriage growing tiny humans, our diet and our nutrition, and bodily and mental health are very important to us.

I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi - a great low-price grocery store that is based out of Germany but has stores all over the United States. Another similar store would be Lidl (we have one of those too, but since Aldi has everything I need I rarely go there), and if you're really good at hunting around and have the patience to hit multiple stores in one run, you can actually find similar deals on produce at places like Ingles, Kroger, or even Wal-Mart. So if you don't have an Aldi, I'm sorry....*hehe* BUT. It's not impossible to feed your family in a healthy manner on a budget that can't handle a weekly Whole Foods run.

I've found in this season, especially with morning sickness (so glad that's over with for now!) and lack of energy in the evenings in particular, that meal-planning and my crock pot are my best friends. I am NOT a naturally organized person, and not a planner by any definition, but I *am* emotional and easily discouraged by what I feel like I can't do, and by sitting down and making a list of meals for each day and keeping to a schedule and a grocery list every week I've saved myself a lot of anxiety and I get the double satisfaction of eating food that tastes good AND that's good for my little family.

I didn't really keep track of prices of any of this food, unfortunately (once again - NOT ORGANIZED) and I threw out my receipts already, but you keep the following numbers in your head as you scroll through my meal plan, it'll help you guesstimate:

Weekly Aldi Run: $50-$60 (produce, dairy products, snacks, etc.)
Monthly Aldi Stock-Up: $60-75 (regular groceries plus meat for freezer meals and re-stock on items I don't run out of every week)

Monthly Grocery Budget: $200-$250 (give or take...seriously y'all, I'm so bad with numbers)

These numbers have actually been going down since I started sticking more faithfully to the meal plan, which I'm thrilled about! Each week a little give or take, since we do eat mostly fresh produce so that runs out or goes bad quickly, but this weekly/monthly budget also includes dish soap, paper products, etc. so I'm pretty pleased with how we've been able to stick to it.

Okay! So on to the actual meal plan!

We've stuck with this same plan for almost a month now, and it's been wildly successful for us, so I don't really deviate from it much.

this whiteboard has saved my skin - SO MUCH LOVE.

So here is my meal plan. It's basic, it's simple, but it makes sure we get all the right food we need, and in decent quantities, both for me and Baby and for Josh. It's all food we love, and each recipe allows for variations if I so choose, or they work plenty well on their own.

I'm going to go through each meal/day real quick so you can see how I do it, how much prep these take, and links to the recipes I use.


First of all -


Not listed on the meal plan, but we do eat breakfast! (mostly - oops *sheepish grin*) We ALWAYS have several dozen eggs, usually a tub of granola, milk, yogurt, a package of sausage or bacon, and bagels and cream cheese on hand every week, so Josh just grabs what he wants early early before he goes to work, and I'll make whatever Baby is in the mood for when I get up later. We usually have pancakes or waffles from scratch on the weekends, with natural maple syrup and peanut butter - so mostly healthy *wink*

Josh is also a master smoothie maker, so he usually makes a smoothie every morning as well. For those, we always have bananas, frozen fruit, spinach, peanut butter, and yogurt on hand. The frozen fruit I don't have to buy but every two weeks or so, peanut butter about the same.

Okay. Now starting on the meal plan:

lunch: crockpot BBQ and rice
Y'ALL. I found this amazing lady's blog who has literally dozens and dozens of meal plans for crock-pot freezer meals. More meal plans than I can process without feeling overwhelmed. I actually used her meal plans for a few weeks when I had terrible morning sickness, and was so blessed by how straightforward and practical they were!

Here's the link to the meal-plan sessions: 31 Freezer Prep Sessions
And these are the meals we've loved most - 8 Healthy Crockpot Freezer Meals

Her recipes feed a family a bit larger than ours, so I adjust the recipes as needed. Josh and I will eat about a pound and a half of meat (chicken or beef) for a crockpot meal, so that's what I adjust them to. I always have two BBQ chicken and two chicken fajita crock pot meals in the freezer at any given time, and I usually stock up on the meat that I need during my once-a-month Aldi run, or if I see meat is on sale at Ingles.

supper: leftovers
obviously this looks like the beginning of the meal plan, so why leftovers? because inevitably there's food left over from the previous week, and it's nice to get a fresh start on Monday, so we try to eat out of the fridge on Sundays as much as we can. Often we'll have rice leftover from the previous week, and our favorite leftover meal is fried rice with eggs, veggies, any leftover meats - served on tortillas or by itself or with a salad.

lunch: leftovers
NOTE: "lunch" usually refers to Josh's lunch, which he has to take with him to work, so on Monday he'll take any leftovers still leftover, OR I'll make him a panini - deli meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc. with a salad. The man eats salad like it's going out of style, and he will literally put ANYTHING on it...easy enough for me, ha...

supper: salmon, broccoli, and corn
This is an "eat out of the freezer" meal - since Mondays can be a little hectic, and Tuesday is often my grocery shopping day so sometimes we are low on produce by Monday evening.

I buy salmon frozen, and I always get wild-caught. I don't worry terribly much about organic or all-natural labels for fish, but I stay away from tilapia and other farmed fish and stick with ones that are overall more healthy. Broccoli I've found frozen and organic, which is great, it never goes bad *hehe* sometimes I'll switch out broccoli for asparagus.

The corn we have overflowing out of our freezer is from our very own farm - I'll either prepare it with salt and pepper and garlic, or add a block of cream cheese and make creamed corn. Yummy!

Tuesdays are arguably one of our busier days each week, since I usually have bible study in the mornings and then go grocery shopping, so it's nice to have simple meals today.

lunch: sandwiches 
sandwiches for Josh, and sandwiches for Liza! My favorite is an open face with avocado, tomato, and hummus spread on whole wheat or sourdough toast - yum, yum, yum!

supper: beans & rice
self-explanatory....and cheap. We eat a lot of beans, lentils, and brown rice now. I either prepare it in the crockpot, or do it on the stove, but if you're cooking beans you HAVE TO REMEMBER TO SOAK THEM THE NIGHT BEFORE (or morning of) otherwise you'll have a lovely shock when you go to make supper and realize you have to make something else, hehe. Thinking ahead isn't my strong suit, but I make sure to check the meal plan before bed each night in case I need to pull something out of the freezer or soak something for the next day.

I cook about a cup of rice, a cup (or a little more) of pinto beans, or a cup of lentils per person - that's a tad too much for me, close to enough for Josh, and give us leftovers. If I'm doing it in the crockpot, I'll do whatever the recipe calls for (usually for a family of 4-6) so we definitely have leftovers for the next day.

Liza's Pinto Beans:
1. soak beans overnight
2. cook beans according to bag directions, usually simmering for a couple hours till tender.
3. while simmering, add
                  1 onion, diced
                  4-6 slices of uncooked bacon, optional (chopped with scissors)
                  1/2 to 1 lb. ground beef or turkey, optional (cooked to the side in a skillet, then added)
                  salt, pepper, fresh garlic and chili powder to taste

that's it! and it's so crazy good....FAVORITE.

Oh, and once again, we eat a salad on the side. Mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, dressing, etc. OR, if we want to make it more interesting, we turn it into taco night, pull out tortillas, salsa, plain yogurt (instead of sour cream), chips, cheese, hot sauce, etc. and doctor up the beans and rice that way. Or we make taco bowls. It doesn't have to be boring!

lunch: bean & rice, or pasta
depending on the leftovers situation from Tuesday night, Josh will take cold beans and rice to work (they can't heat anything up - good thing it's good cold!) or if it's in the crockpot he can take it in the thermos hot - win, win. IF we don't have leftovers, he'll do a sandwich and salad. And he probably does a salad no matter what, anyways.

Wednesdays I'll either make pasta for me, depending on how hungry I am (I'm eating a lot more these days, and sometimes carbs help fill me up if I didn't have a big breakfast or Baby hit a growth spurt or whatever) or I'll have another open face sandwich, or even scrambled eggs. I'm kind of sporadic...which is why it's helpful for me to have options on hand, and some sort of plan to stick to, so I don't NOT eat 'cause I can't think of anything. (which happens. *sigh*)

supper: sweet potato soup
this was a favorite of the Morali growing up, and I love it just as much now as I did then. Sometimes I have chicken to put in, sometimes I don't, but here's the basic recipe.

PSA: Seriously y'all, if you've ever watched Liza's Cooking Show on Instagram, you know I have NO IDEA how I actually cook - I just throw stuff in and it turns out good 90% of the time, so if you want a more specific recipe, go to Pinterest.
Crockpot Sweet Potato Soup
1. peel (or don't) 3-4 medium sweet potatoes, maybe around 2lb total or so (more if they're tiny, like the ones I had to buy today, or two if they're the GIGANTIC ones I just finished using up from Josh's mom's garden) Chop them into bite size pieces, then go ahead and put them in the crockpot with about three or four cups of water or chicken or vegetables stock. They shouldn't be swimming in it, but you want them to have enough to soften them up.
2. saute an onion and a handful of minced garlic cloves, then add that to the crockpot
3. add 2-3 diced tomatoes, or a can of diced tomatoes if you want.
4. add two cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces, if youhave them. If not, it'll be vegetarian, which is totally great.
5. add 1/2-3/4 cup peanut butter - if it won't stir in, just let it warm up and check on it in a couple hours and stir it some'll dissolve eventually.
6. season with whatever spices you like best - I use salt, pepper, a little cumin, and a little ginger.
7. Cook until the potatoes are cooked - I've found that low for about 8 hours does it, so I start it around 10am and it'll be ready when Josh is ready to eat.

Note - a lot of sweet potato soup recipes call for it to be blended up. Yuck. No thanks. I like to have all my flavors individually, so the way we make it is way more of a "sweet potato stew" than a soup. It's thick, it's not runny, and you could almost eat it with a fork.

Surprise, surprise, we usually eat this with salad, or garlic bread, or both. Or by itself, if I wasn't with it enough to pull something else together, which happens.

lunch: sweet potato soup.
we literally always have leftovers of this. for days. and days. because I always make a ton on accident. (side effect of never measuring anything)

supper: lentils and rice
this has become my favorite meal of the week. I found this amazing crockpot recipe that I actually FOLLOWED (*round of applause*) and it's so's the link: Slow Cooker Brown Rice and Lentils.
Okay I lied. I didn't put parsley or sherry in cause I don't have any. But other than that, I followed the recipe, so you can still be proud. *wink*

lunch: sandwiches or leftovers
nothing new here :)

supper: crockpot fajitas (freezer meal)
Friday evenings are busy for us, since we both work at our local youth center that night, so crockpot is required. I have whole wheat tortillas on hand always, and we'll use plain yogurt for sour cream, and we'll pull out the greens and anything else we like to fill them up. Easy enough, and it's comforting to have something hearty and warm to come home to if it's late.

Saturdays are our ONE sleep in morning each week. So we spend ALL morning either sleeping or hanging out in bed, drinking coffee and being lazy. So breakfast turns into brunch, and we usually only eat two big meals on Saturdays. So breakfast for lunch it is, and it's always the bomb-diggity 'cause we're TOGETHER!

supper: grill out/bake chicken or burgers, roasted potatoes, or pasta
Pasta is also one of our go-to Saturday evening meals if I didn't buy meat to bake or grill. Our favorite is either alfredo (if we're feeling's easy on a cheap meal plan to eat too many carbs so we try to stay balanced, hehe) OR doing a fresh pasta with olive oil, tomatoes, olives and garlic - my personal favorite. Once again, good cold or hot, perfect for leftovers for Sunday afternoon or Josh's lunch on Monday.


That's the whole week, y'all!

I will add, despite my best efforts, inevitably plans change, we'll eat scrambled eggs for supper, and move on. No big deal. Or something doesn't cook right, or Josh gets home crazy late, or crazy early, or meetings come up with church and we grab a bite to eat in town - it just depends. But having a bare-bones list like this helps me stay on track SO SO much, and helps make sure we're getting everything we need each day to stay healthy and fit.

Our main snacks around the house are chips and salsa and hummus, and dried fruit and peanuts or almonds or both.

We also make our own salad dressings to avoid the unnecessary sugars and preservatives in store bought. I've found some amazing, easy recipes all over Pinterest and I'm always trying new ones!

We also ALWAYS have fresh, frozen, and dried fruit on hand for yogurt, smoothies, lunch fillers and snacks - the more you can train your body to crave what's good for you when you're hungry, the better you'll feel! Being pregnant, I'm always looking for healthy or healthIER fats and carbs, and avocados, bananas, dried fruits, nuts, etc. or granola bars with those ingredients have helped me stay gaining weight in a healthy way and feeling energized instead of sluggish.

Once again, we eat a salad with almost every meal, we eat eggs basically every day for breakfast, and some kind of super-ingredient-packed smoothie. Both of us have trained ourselves to drink a lot of water (I drink about 94-100oz per day), and we don't have soft drinks or anything but hot tea and coffee in the house. (except for the occasional La Croix). Drinking water and staying away from processed sugar helps a whole lot in maintaining a basic healthy lifestyle, and we stay pretty illness-free, and other than being pregnant and all that entails, I've never been in better health :) It's worth it to pay attention, to eat as naturally as possible, and to avoid fast food and processed food as much as you can!

I hope this was helpful for y'all - a glimpse into a our crazy kitchen, my unorganized life and our balancing act of budget and healthy living. Let me know if you have any questions about anything, and if you have any suggestions for easy, healthy meals, or ways you doctor up/variate the meals I shared above, feel free to leave a comment! I love getting ideas from other people.

Until next time!