February 27, 2014

cloth diapers.

After about 10 months of cloth diapering, we certainly feel like experts. It's amazing how much you learn about the cloth diapering world once you're changing them a bazillion times a day ;)

I've had a couple cloth diaper posts sitting in my drafts for a while but have never pulled the trigger to finish them. I guess because there are a lot of great resources on the Web for new-to-cloth parents who are looking for information (see list below) and I wasn't sure that I had anything useful to add to the (multitudes of) conversation on the topic. I do periodically get asked about our cloth diapers, though, so thought that a general overview/update on how they get used in our lives would be good :)

I find that a lot of people are curious/fascinated about cloth diapers, whether they're parents or not. It's funny that something that would have been so mundane only 50 years ago is now such a hot topic in parenting circles. I remember one conversation I had with my Mom while I was pregnant...talking about cloth diapers, my Mom said, "I remember your Nana thinking disposable diapers were so wonderful when we first had you. She would love to change your diapers because the disposables seemed so much better to her after years of cloth diapers, diaper pins, leaks and laundry." Well, let me tell you now, if the choices we had faced when deciding on how to diaper involved any sort of diaper pin, honey, I would have been in line at Target as quick as my Prius could get me there to buy as many cartons of disposable diapers as my cart could carry. I can't imagine the boundless irritation that trying to pin a diaper on a wiggly baby would have created in my life and I am so glad that we don't have to do it that way anymore. (If, by chance, you are reading this and you use diaper pins in your clothies, BLESS YOU. Please, teach me your ways of patience and virtue.)

Answers to some common questions I get about how we live with cloth diapers:

How many do you have? 
We have a total of 25 diapers but we started with 15 or so. Once we got into the daycare routine (5 go to daycare every day), we decided that having a few more to throw into the rotation would make my laundry schedule a little lighter. If you don't have a child going to daycare and/or don't mind doing a load of diapers every day, you can probably get by with 13-16 total.

What kind do you have? There are so many choices!
 All of our diapers are all-in-ones made by Bumgenius. We have a mix of Elementals and Freetimes and even though the Elementals are the ones we started out with, we like the Freetimes SO much more. I originally picked the Elementals because they are made with organic cotton inserts and we do like them a lot, they're just not our favorites. After switching to the Freetimes (post-redesign of the Elemental of which we were really not fans...), we have found that they fit Alden's string bean body better and are easier to clean (since the inserts are only sewn on one side as opposed to both sides in the Elemental). The Freetimes also dry faster.

How often do you wash? Don't you do so much more laundry?!
I now do a load of diapers and wipes (we use cloth wipes, too- most of the time. maybe I should write a post on that, too) every other day or so. Some weeks I'll do a load two days in a row but other times we may be able to go two whole days before we need more. A lot of it has to do with the rhythm of when they get used and what time of day they get washed.

I wash them on a hot cycle, with an extra rinse and the soil level set at high. We use Charlie's powdered laundry detergent and I love it. Although, I'm kicking around the idea of making my own the next time I run out...we'll see what happens. Every few loads I throw some vinegar in as well to help keep the diapers smelling nice. I also strip our diapers roughly every 3 or 4 months to keep them in top condition. I dry ours in the dryer (a lot of people only line-dry but the Elementals would take 8 years to dry on the line & Mama don't got that kinda time ;) on the medium heat setting for an hour and a half.

I (like a crazy person) kinda enjoy laundry so it has never been a chore that has bothered me. Well, I'm not sure my Mom would say the same about my teen years-but as an adult, it's one of the chores I really and honestly don't mind doing. (unless we're talking about folding sheets...then, I would rather scrub the floors with a toothbrush) So maybe if you really can't stand doing the laundry, then cloth diapers aren't your best bet.

Why do you choose to make it harder on yourselves? Changing diapers is so time consuming already. 
First, I don't feel that cloth diapering takes any more time than using disposables would. I never have to make a trip to the store for diapers (which means I also never have to remember to stop and pick up diapers, which is nice) or take the time to make an online order/set up an online subscription for them to be delivered. I do laundry all the time anyway, so adding one more load every other day has just slipped right into the routine and I don't even notice it anymore. Also, with today's cloth diapering technology, I can change Alden's diaper just as quickly as someone using a disposable. Actually, on the few occasions we have used disposables for one reason or another, it takes me longer to put on the disposable because I'm so used to the cloth! I think it's all about what becomes your normal.

I will admit that now that we are firmly in the "solid waste" stage (sorry, non-parents. babies are gross ;), there is heavier time commitment on our part to get the diapers ready for the wash. This is because we use our diaper sprayer to clean out the solids (into the toilet) before throwing them in the wash. Although, I will point out: You are technically not supposed to throw solid waste containing disposable diapers in the trash either. A close reading of laws regarding solid waste disposal in most areas will show that, really, we're all supposed to be dumping solid waste into the toilet before tossing diapers in the trash.

What's your number one reason for using cloth?
This is hard, because I think there are two reasons that battle for the number one spot.

The first is cost. Cloth is simply cheaper. We'll spend, over the course of Alden's diapering years, thousands of dollars less than we would have using disposable diapers. Add in the fact that we can use these same diapers for a second (or third, if you have them quickly enough and take care of your diapers) child and the savings climb even higher. You buy the cloth diapers once and then all you spend is the cost of laundering. Since we have high efficiency machines and buy laundry detergent in bulk (plus, my potential future homemade laundry detergent plans), our cost to launder is very low on a yearly basis.

The second (but, really, tied) reason is that we are passionate about controlling the amount of trash and waste we create and contribute to the world. We never have trash bags full of disposable diapers in our trash cans which means there are less disposable diapers sitting in landfills. We try to use cloth wipes at home as much as we can so we reduce the amount of wipe waste we create as well. We're also not contributing to the continued manufacturing of disposable diapers, which uses lots of chemicals and resources. While, yes, the cloth diapers we own were also manufactured using resources as well, we feel like the cost is offset by the fact that we only buy them one time, as opposed to many times a year. We generally have a goal to make sure our recycling bin in full at trash time and that our garbage can is as empty as possible- cloth diapering really makes sense for this aspect of our lives.

There are lots of other reasons, too. I don't like the idea of wearing a pair of weird-smelling plastic underwear all day, so I figure Alden appreciates the soft cotton as well. I want to expose his skin and body to as little chemicals as possible (especially important now that we know he has especially sensitive skin) and cloth diapers allow me to do that. We have had less blowouts and leaks with cloth diapers (though we wouldn't have known that before Alden was born and we did have to buy these hemp inserts to increase nighttime absorbency). Also, they're just really darn cute :) A little baby booty in a fun cloth diaper cover is smile-inducing no matter what!

Are there any drawbacks or things that have been more complicated than you thought? 
We had some challenges last year with keeping Alden's skin dry enough to prevent him from reacting to his urine. He has very sensitive skin, though, so most babies don't need any extra troubleshooting in this area. We also know now that Alden's food allergies were contributing to his diaper-area skin issues and since we have gotten those under control, we have seen MUCH less irritation. We ended up adding a fleece liner to all of his diapers (simple fleece from the fabric store, cut into diaper-sized rectangles) to help; since the fleece wicks away the moisture, it has made a huge difference in his skin.

Also, if your baby ever needs any kind of medicinal cream, diaper rash cream, barrier ointment, etc. there are only certain ones that are considered cloth diaper safe. Over time the use of ointments and creams can cause a residue to build up in the cloth of the diapers and will start to decrease absorbency. This can be fixed by stripping your diapers (we use the Dawn process, described here) but stripping takes a lot of extra time so using cloth diaper safe products is a great way to keep your diapers in top condition. We use plenty of non cloth diaper safe products on Alden since he has so many recurring skin problems but since we use the fleece liners, it keep the products from touching the actual diapers and we don't have a problem. Lots of people buy or make diaper liners to use when their baby needs a rash cream or barrier ointment (there are disposable options you can buy or you can cut up an old t-shirt!).

Now, here's a list of some great online cloth diaper resources:

An overview post at The Art of Simple on cloth diapering.
Another great resource post at The Eco-Friendly Family.
Cloth Diapering 101 at Kelly's Closet.
Some general information from CottonBabies (where all of our diapers have come from)
Great, overall resource. My Cloth Diaper Stash.

Also, look to any local parenting groups or diaper groups in your area for great face-to-face information on starting to cloth diaper or for any tips and tricks they may have. This is also a great way to find out if there are good options for buying good-condition used diapers in your area. Lots of families choose to pass their diapers along to families who need them for MUCH lower prices than new cloths will cost. I know in our area, we have a fantastic parent community and I often see people selling their like-new cloths for 75% off of retail prices.

Please share this post with anyone you know who's interested in cloth diapering!

stay tuned for updates on Alden's 11th month (oops, a little late on that one), yogurt making and bread baking, and some other fun stuff.

much love, L&N

February 26, 2014

The Crazy Winter of 2014

Maybe this isn't going to seem so crazy in 20 years because it sure seems like we've seen more of these weird winter storms in recent years but, for us Georgians, this year has been at the top of the list for crazy winter weather!

We missed school/work for something like 6 days in a two week period and February was already half over by the time we got back into a routine.

It's still fun to look out the window to see a snow-covered backyard in the morning so having a few days at home to enjoy it was nice. I will say that being cooped up with a one year old gets pretty old pretty fast. Alden is so used to going to school and interacting with lots of kids his age that I think he was pretty sick of us after a 6 days in a row of being stuck in the house :)

It was so great to watch Alden's first experience in the snow. He was so curious and interested in what was going on. After the first inch or so was on the ground, he took to it like a fish to water. Crawling everywhere, picking up the snow, playing in it- it was really fun :)

1st dusting of the season

1st time in the snow!

snow selfies :)

intently watching the snowflakes

1st taste of the snow...


figuring out he can pick it up :)

And that was only the first storm! A couple of weeks later we got another storm and were iced in for about 3 or 4 days. We were really lucky and kept power the whole time and had no trees fall or major house problems arise from the cold, ice and snow. Plus, because our power stayed on, I was able to work for two of those days and our team was able to finish up our NIH grant proposal. I can't imagine how crazy life would have been if we hadn't been able to work remotely! Thank you, modern technology! :) 

The second storm was not as much fun to play in since it was a lot more ice than snow but we still managed to get outside a little. No photos of little man this time :( We only spent a few minutes out each time because the ice was thick and slippery and once it started getting slushy we didn't want to let Alden play in it. 

our salted deck so the dogs could walk through

the melted snow lake in our backyard that re-froze the next night

slushy, gross, icy mess

It was a great time to get some things done in the house, though! We got Alden's closet completely reorganized and sorted through bins and bins of old baby clothes. I got some other organizational projects done around the house and we were able to really solidify Alden's new nap schedule. There's always a silver lining, I guess ;)

I wonder what next winter has in store?!

much love, L&N

February 24, 2014


It's still surreal to me that my baby boy is one year old. It feels like yesterday we were bringing him home to meet the puppies for the first time and changing tiny little newborn outfits (a million times a day. amiright, new mamas?).

There is so much to say but I'm tongue-tied about where to start. It's absolutely amazing how many changes happen in the first year- physical, emotional, intellectual- for baby and parents. We've watched Alden go from a helpless blob to an active, personality-filled little boy and there have been SO many wonderful things along the way!

I joked with Nick that one of the things that made me feel like a Mom was getting the invitations ready for Alden's birthday party. For so much of the time as a new parent, you feel like you're figuring it out as you go and, only slightly, staying ahead of the game ;) Then, all of a sudden, you wake up one day and really feel like someone's Mom. "Mama" feels different to me than "Mom"- I've always been Mama, but Mom took a little longer. Maybe that doesn't make sense to anyone else, but I think I'll always remember the moment (as I was stuffing invitations into envelopes) when I looked up and said (for the millionth time, but with no less amazement), "Wow, I'm someone's Mom". 

Over the past year there have been moments of every emotion possible. Lots of exhaustion, bits of frustration, fear, irritation, and annoyance. There have been days where I felt so overwhelmed I honestly didn't know how I was going to manage one more day, days when I was so worn thin that I wanted to climb into bed and sleep for hours. But then, there are the moments of total joy, pride, laughter, entertainment, and unconditional, limitless love. The days when I find myself looking around and thinking, "how did I manage to get the exact life I wished for?!" Days when I could cry because I am so completely happy and am completely secure in the fact that I am just where I belong. It's this crazy, roller coaster of emotions that is parenting and we're still figuring it out but, all in all, I am loving the ride :)

We celebrated Alden's actual birthday on the 3rd with a quiet day at home. Since Alden was sick (coincidentally, so was Nick on his 1st birthday), we kept everything really low key and let him sleep and get some extra cuddles. After a whole day inside, we finally ventured out to the park once Alden seemed like he may be feeling better. We had a nice, relaxing time watching the big kids play and letting Alden get some fresh air while he, reluctantly, cruised around the playground. Even though it was short-lived, we were happy that Alden got to do something fun on his big day. By the time we got home and Alden ate dinner he was so tired and feeling so bad that he didn't even get to eat his birthday cake :( Instead, he took a bath and went to bed early; but not before Mama and Daddy sang him a special Happy Birthday :)

a break from the fever means play time with my new trike! 

birthday park time :)

even when he's sick, he's still adorable :) 

much love, L&N

February 22, 2014

Alden's 1st Birthday Party

our amazing little birthday boy :) 

I'm finally here to share Alden's birthday party! It seems like the month of February is trying to mess everything up. We started it out wonderfully, with family in town and Alden's birthday to celebrate, but then Alden was sick (for his party, his actual birthday, and for THREE more days after that) with some kind of weirdo virus (gotta love daycare :/). Then, we had two weeks in a row with totally bizarre weather that kept us out of school and work, which is crazy when you have a 1 year old at home to entertain. We finally feel like we're getting back to some semblance of normal and I've found some time to get back to the blog. 

Party details! 

We hosted his party at the Bloom community space in the historic Chase Park Warehouses not far from downtown Athens. We knew before sending out invitations that both sets of grandparents would be in town and that Alden's aunt and uncles may be joining us as well so we decided from the outset that our house would be too cramped for everyone to be comfortable. If his birthday was in the warmer months, we could have opened up the house and mingled on the deck, etc. but with all the doors needing to be firmly shut against the chill outside, the Bloom space was the much better option. If you're local and haven't been to any of the activities that are hosted there, make sure you check it out! The space is big and bright, with tons of toys and space for littles to run and play. There are even twinkle lights strung across the ceiling- such a perfect addition for our little celebration :) 

We invited lots of family and friends and were so happy to see everyone that was able to come! Alden was thought of by so many people, near and far, and we are incredibly grateful to have such wonderful people in our lives :) 

The party was monster themed but I reigned myself in while reminding myself that a 1 year old's party surely shouldn't (or needn't) be extravagant. I'm usually a pretty easy going entertainer but, for some reason, this party made me a little nuts ;) I kept thinking, "This is his first birthday party. ever. And he's only going to turn 1 once." I wanted it to be sweet and memorable for us and to make sure that he could look back at the photos and know that we were so excited to celebrate him. I will say, that even though there was less Pinterest involved and a few more store-bought elements than originally planned, there was much more love and celebration than I could have asked for. Mission accomplished! :) 

We bought the invitation image on Etsy from The Trendy Butterfly. They customize the image and email it to you so you can print it yourself or have it printed at a print shop. The Etsy shop also offers printing services but we wanted to give the printing business to a local shop that I've worked with before. Bel-Jean is a really wonderful place with a great group of people working there. They are SO easy to work with, will help you out with everything from paper selection to design changes, and are really affordable. We'll definitely use them for anything we have printed in the future, they did a great job!

bad image but I needed to edit it...they were adorable printed! 
Since Alden's birthday is so close to Christmas, he's pretty well-stocked in the toy department. We have always wanted for Alden to have as many books around as we did when we were kids, so we decided to include a little note asking people to gift books for Alden's library instead of toys. I worried that it would be tacky or distasteful but after talking with lots of local Mamas, I felt better. I learned that in our community having more toys than necessary is a common concern (as I'm sure it is for lots of parents everywhere) and many people have done something similar to curb the amount of presents their babes get. Our guests were happy to oblige and Alden got some really wonderful books to add to his shelves! 

It reads: Alden's toy chest is filled and his closet is packed. Our little man would be thrilled to add more books to his stacks. Help us fill up his nook and please, instead of a toy, bring your favorite book for the birthday boy!

The party was mid-morning so we could accommodate baby schedules so we did brunch food; bagels with varied cream cheeses from Athens Bagel Co. (we got the lox, regular, and bacon/chive-all delicious!), cheese grits with sausage (a recipe my Mom brought, everyone says it was wonderfully Southern), hummus with veggies and pita, a chicken salad (two kinds- my Nana's recipe and a curry chicken salad that Nick's mom makes) and pimiento cheese (from Marti's, a local favorite) platter with crackers, fruit salad, a monster yogurt (we dyed it green :) bar with granola and fruit, and, of course, yummy sweets! I made a batch of dairy and soy free coconut cupcakes for Alden and I (decorate like monsters!) and my Mom brought some custom made monster cookies from a local (to them) baker in Alabama. We also got a small Publix cake, decorated in the party colors, so that there would be some "regular" cake for the non-dairy allergic guests ;) Publix makes the best cakes! 

As for decor, I had big plans but with Alden getting sick and guests coming into town (along with a heaping dose of February sneaking up on me like crazy!) made me rethink what I could actually accomplish without going crazy and still enjoying the weekend. It's amazing what buying a felt birthday banner can do for your sanity ;) We were originally going to do some confetti filled balloons with letters to function as his birthday banner but ended up not doing it. There were enough complications while making it that when we found an adorable felt banner at Target, we jumped on it and saved ourselves the trouble. My Mom and Mother in Law even filled about 25 balloons with handmade confetti (that Nick and I had given ourselves carpal tunnel cutting the night before) in case we decided to use them. I'm glad we didn't kill ourselves to make it because there really wasn't anywhere to hang it once we got to the room and realized that the wall space was well-filled. I kept the balloons, though, and they'll definitely find a place at a party in the future! They're too cute not to use :) It worked out perfectly because the Bloom space is already decorated and feels really put-together. I didn't feel like we needed to add much at all. 

I originally wanted to do some monster printables and to have a "year in the life" photo table with Alden's monthly photos and some other snapshots, but a sick baby and time with family won out over the hours those crafts would have eaten up :) 

Now for more photos! 

little man was really into the balloons. he wouldn't leave them alone!
playing with the balloons...

reaching for the balloons...

"oh wait, there's cake? Dad, hold my balloons."

first time eating cake...not sure what to do with it...


"OK, I like this :)"


with wonderful friends!

Alden and his BFF :)

with more wonderful friends!

with Mimi and PopPop

with Grandma and Far Far

our Centering group! :)

Centering babies

Alden mingling with his party guests :) 
All in all, we had an amazing day celebrating our one year old little boy! A huge thank you to our parents for all of their help with the party and for coming into town to celebrate and to our friends who came and sang to our little guy!! :) We had such a blast!

much love, L&N