the lowdown on cloth diapers

In honor of making our world a more beautiful place and the upcoming celebration of our planet, I thought I would write my thoughts on our experience with cloth diapers.

I should probably preface by saying using cloth diapers is not for everyone.  And, I will stand-by using cloth diapers and breastfeeding.  And, while our boys love their vegetables and fruits and eat a wholesome meal most days, there are times when they eat hot dogs for lunch and fish sticks for dinner. It seems as though it is hard to be a parent this day in age.  There is so much pressure about the way to feed your child, sleeping locations and methods, and how to discipline them.  It is a wonder why our mothers looked less stressed and more care-free without social media!  With that said, I adore all the different methods of parenting and truly believe no method is better than another method.

earth day 01

I get asked quite often what led us to use cloth diapers.  The decision was quite simple.  We wanted to save money on the cost of diapers and cause less waste to our environment.  We try to be as “green” as possible in our home, and we thought this was another way to continue protecting our world.  If using cloth diapers is not for you, like I said, no. big. deal!  There are other eco-friendly options for using diapers.

earth day 02

For newborn cloth diapers, we actually did a rental through a local favorite called Teeny Greeny.  We paid a $300 deposit.  The rental was for 24 cloth diaper covers, 24 liners, and a package of cloth diaper detergent.  It was $12 per week.  We only used the newborn cloth diapers for twelve weeks.  At the end of our rental period, we could choose between receiving store credit and the first six weeks of our rental free or we could receive the difference of deposit and our rental for the ten weeks in cash refund.  We chose the store credit since we wanted to get more cloth diapers!  It was a great option, and Heather at Teeny Greeny was amazing.  She made the entire process quick and easy.  And, the covers and liners were of excellent quality!

After the newborn period, we used BumGenius as our choice.  We had quite a few from when Noah was a baby, and we loved the brand.  We spent around $300 for the BumGenius diapers and liners.  However, Heather introduced us to a newer brand that we have fallen more in love with as it provides extra support for leakage.  We use Thirsties Duo Wrap.  And, they come in fun colors and prints for a VERY affordable price.  We use separate liners that we bought when we did cloth diapers with Noah.  We place the liners in the cover and snap it all together.  It really is not much work from placing a disposable diaper on a baby.

earth day 03

When washing the cloth diaper covers and liners, we place the load of diaper covers and liners in the washing machine on a cold water rinse cycle.  Then, we wash it once again with cloth diaper detergent on a hot water cycle with an extra rinse cycle.  To dry the covers, we hang dry them or we place them on an energy-efficient setting in the dryer; for the liners, we place them on medium to high heat in the dryer.

earth day 04

With Nikhil, we have to use disposable diapers at nap and night time (this kid has an overactive bladder!) to avoid leaks from happening which also was waking up our little love in the middle of the night.  And, I do remember using disposable diapers at night with Noah near the end of our cloth diaper use (around 2 years).

We used cloth diapers until Noah man was potty-trained, and we loved our experience!

It did take quite a bit of teamwork, but we can honestly say it was worth it to say that we are saving our planet, one cloth diaper at a time.

earth day 05

Happy (early) Earth day, friends!

  

good reads: love unending

It was our last mini date before we were about to walk hand-in-hand into the hospital and welcome our sweet, baby boy.  I looked at him with a number of different emotions and teary eyes.  Promise me, our marriage will not change.  He nodded his head, and then we pinky-promised the very core of us would not disappear.

Becoming parents changed us from the inside out.  We began to wear our hearts on our sleeves.  We had this fire inside of us to want to be our best in order to make the tiny human we welcomed into this crazy world to be full of milk and joy.  And, it felt at the time, we placed everything in our lives before our marriage.  Somewhere in the first six months, I realized my best friend and husband felt more like, dare I say, a roommate.

What I failed to see was our marriage was a different kind of wonderful in the midst of chaos.  It was the way we connected during those more challenging months.  The way we fell into each other’s arms with a glass of wine and a good conversation after a day of a teething babe.  The way we would all pile into the recliner and laugh over our sweet baby’s snores.  Or the way we worked as partners-in-crime to teach Noah a new skill and the gratitude we felt for the other.  There is something amazing to be said about watching your better half love on the little life you created together.

Our marriage after becoming parents has certainly not been perfect.  We work hard EVERY single day.  And, we have learned through the years, if our marriage is not thriving, our family is not as happy and strong.  I came across some of the best marriage advice I had read in awhile through Becky Thompson blog post that went viral in the fall.   Her father’s advice changed the way I approached my marriage with Bryan each day.  Every day I wake up, I tell myself that it’s the first day I am married to your mom.  A few months later, a sweet friend recommended a book by none other than Becky Thompson: Love Unending.  This book, oh my word, spoke to every inch of my mama-loving, wife-loving heart.

It speaks to every woman, not only mothers, who need the simple reminder of how to love and appreciate your husband.  Much of the dynamic of our relationship changes once we get too comfortable or have children enter in the picture.  Speaking for myself, there was a time I would greet Bryan with tears instead of a kiss and let’s just say my tone during the day would not be pretty.  Reading this eye-opening book inspired me to continue loving my husband the same way I did when we first started dating.  At the start of this year, we made it a priority to have date nights, enjoy dreaming about our future, and planning fun adventures for just the two of us again.  And, I love learning from Bryan how to love unconditionally.  I am in awe by the way he never looks at my flaws and forgives easily, characteristics I am embarrassed to admit I need to work on.  I can honestly say after implementing some of the advice she wrote about in her book, I feel our marriage has flourished in newfound ways.   We respect one another.  We laugh loudly and smile with our eyes.  And, we speak with kindness.

My hope is our marriage leaves a mark, a legacy on our boys’ hearts.  To want the kind of marriage where you never want to stop holding hands.  The kind of marriage where you always side with your better half, no matter if the person is right or wrong.  The kind of marriage where you listen intently to their stories.  And, the kind of marriage where you truly feel like you are the lucky one.

love unending

 

 

 

 

 

  

saying yes to my health!

Have you ever felt like you were standing in quick sand about to face plant?  That was me at the end of 2016.

I was failing in all aspects of my life.  And, there was a time where I felt as if the walls were closing in on me.  I was lost.

So, I prayed.  I prayed like crazy for a big change.  And, indeed, a big change happened.

With my new job came a promise I made to myself at the start of 2017.  To say yes to the mental, emotional, and physical pieces of my health that would allow me to feel whole again.  I can honestly say this is a working progress.  However, I know to be the best wife and mama to my boys, I need to carve out some time for mama bear.

(Insert the Shefy Shake for my new game plan in life!)

For my mental health, I have been determined to get five to six hours of sleep.  (We are beyond blessed to have two AWESOME babes who sleep through the night and even sleep in on the weekends.  However, I am hoping to have Nik on breast milk until he turns one.  Which means getting up in the middle of the night to pump.  Crazy, perhaps, but it is a decision I have made and it 100% worth it to me.)  Bryan and I are convinced we can conquer the world (or at least have more patience with one another and the boys if we are better rested.  Much easier said than done when you have jobs, chores around the house, and two very active boys and a pup to chase around each night.  Yet, I do notice a difference on the days I get less than five hours of sleep.  Let’s just say, nobody should invade this mama’s bubble on those days.  I have, also, decided to make time once or twice a month to meet a girlfriend for a drink or dinner.  Leaving my babies and losing extra time with my hubby is difficult to me; I just love being around them.  However, a good conversation with a friend is sometimes what I need to lift up my spirits and feel recharged.  Along with time out with girlfriends, Bryan and I hired a babysitter we found through our church.  Can I just say she is AMAZING?!?  We made a pack for us to not get warped into only being daddy and mama around the home.  Sometimes, we need to sneak out to have fun just the two of us.  Although, it can be pricey, it has been a game changer for our marriage.

With my emotional health, I decided to invest time in a few hobbies I miss dearly.  Reading has always been the best way for me to unwind from a crazy day.  I love reading autobiographies and uplifting books as well as almost all fiction novels (except the thrillers…this mama does not do thrillers!).  It is crazy to think I have read more books this year already than last year combined.  Another hobby I got back into was writing on this space.  It has been neglected for quite some time.  But, I find it very relaxing to share my thoughts, bring a smile to someone’s face, and encourage others to know they are not alone in this crazy, beautiful world.  To go along with my writing, I decided to start documenting our daily lives and adventures with this camera.  I wanted a camera that would be light and easy to carry during our outings and travels.  It has truly been the best gift.  I have come to realize the boys are growing up way too fast, and I want those memories frozen on photographs to always remember what our lives looked like-the imperfect, messy kind of living I adore.

The physical part of my health has been the most challenging.  Finding time to work out with two little ones is difficult.  However, I am slowly finding ways to give myself time to exercise for twenty to twenty-five minutes.  Somedays, it may involve the boys playing in their playroom while I exercise in the eyesight of them.  And, other days, it may involve powering through hearing one crying and the other one upset about his baby brother touching his leg or his car (insert eye roll).  I believe alternating between a few great workout videos I can do at home and running on the weekends has given me the balance I need to feel energized throughout the day.

As for the eating piece, I am working on it.  I went from eating EVERYTHING in sight while I was pregnant to being careful how I consume food.  Not because of a weight issue but more from a nutritious stand point.  I am still pumping, which means everything I eat also goes to Nik.  Call me crazy, but I do not want my sweet baby boy having artificial sugars and ingredients in his diet.  During the week, I make healthy choices by eliminating processed sugars (except for the piece of dark chocolate I eat after dinner each night) and most processed foods.  Being gluten-free, this is much easier because most of what we eat at home is cooked from scratch and packed with vegetables and protein.  And, we love teaching Noah man by example to make healthy choices when it comes to food.  He may not like everything we put in front of him, but kid can eat some brussels sprouts and salad like a CHAMP.  Saturday is our “indulge” day.  We either have a date night out or in with take-out from some of our favorite restaurants around town.  Speaking of favorite restaurants…my new favorite bakery is Nothing Bundt Cakes.  I recently discovered Kansas City has gluten-free bundlets, and it has been so. very. good dangerous.  As I am slowly approaching my mid-thirties (deep breaths, Shef), I am learning how important it is to make healthy choices for my body to make it to one hundred years old.  (Bryan and I intend to do everything in our power to make sure we do not leave the world before then!)

I have hit my breaking point one too many times.  One of which led Celiac disease.  I know how short life is from being a therapist for the geriatric population.  The best advice I receive countless times from this population is to Take care of yourself.  When I was twenty-five years old, I was told for the second time I might have cancer.  I remember immediately asking for a second chance from God.  I promised I would make better life decisions.  I would not let my life get out of control and to a point where my organs would begin failing on me (which is what was happening).  You would think I would have learned my lesson at that time.  Since then, God has given me many chances.  I was in the same predicament four months ago.  And, it finally occurred to me.  It is this chance that I need to make myself a priority and essentially treat myself.  Otherwise, I will not be able to enjoy this beautiful life I was given with the people who are my everything and my world.  They are who I live for, and without them, I literally cannot breathe.

Here is to choosing a vibrant life full of happiness and good health!

health

Because as the saying goes, If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

  

good reads: the magnolia story

Raise your hand if you fell in love with Chip and Joanna Gaines in the first five seconds of watching their show Fixer Upper?!  (Hand raised.)

Ya’ll, I must have been hiding under a rock because I recently discovered this show.  And, I am hooked!  I do not know if it is the way Chip adores Joanna and his fun personality of Joanna’s amazing taste in design (and fashion) and the way she loves her family with a down-to-earth heart, but I can see why they are known for being one of America’s biggest sweethearts.

The show itself has inspired Bryan and I to change the way we approach our hunt for our next home in the near future.  We always thought we would buy new.  However, after watching their show, we have looked into buying a home in which we could add value AND make the exact way we imagined the place we would continue raising our sweet, little tribe.

One of my most favorite kind of reads are autobiographies.  (I should have been an anthropologist!)  I love hearing and reading stories of people, their failures and successes, and the journey that helped shape them into the person(s) they are today.  I stumbled upon The Magnolia Story by the Gaines.  Let me just say, it spoke to my heart on many different levels.

magnolia

Their story was very humbling to read.  The life they created was 110% backed by God’s plan for them.  Before each risk they took, they prayed.  They listened.  And, when they struggled (which was quite a bit), they always, always, always had faith it would work out.  We’re living proof that sometimes even the messiest stuff and the biggest mistakes can take you someplace wonderful.  It was uplifting to read how much they supported one another and the compromises they made to ensure their end goal, happiness.  As someone who sometimes get lost in life, I found these words especially comforting, Letting it all go is freeing.  (And, it’s cheaper too.)  I am learning that getting our intentions right simplifies our decision in life and changes perspective.  And, in the end, what it’s all about is thankfulness and contentment.  Amen, sister.  Amen.

This book.  It gave me energy.  To keep dreaming big.  And, if I find myself at a roadblock or an unknown (and sometimes scary) path, to trust and have faith God has a plan.  He always has a plan.

Another great read to add to the list if you have not already.  You will love this dynamic duo even more!

I will leave all of you with these beautiful words by Joanna…

Because the key to everything Chip and I have learned in our life together so far seems to be pretty simple: Go and find what it is that inspires you, go and find what it is that you love, and go do that until it hurts.  Don’t quit and don’t give up.  The reward is just around the corner.  And in times of doubt or times of joy, listen for that still, small voice.  Know that God has been there from the beginning-and he will be there until…the end.

Happy dreaming, friends!

saying yes to my health! I the art of making lemonade - […] dearly.  Reading has always been the best way for me to unwind from a crazy day.  I love reading autobiographies and uplifting books as well as almost all fiction novels (except the thrillers…this mama does […]

  

thank you, dave ramsey.

If you would have told me six and half years ago, we would be have experienced the amazing feeling of being debt-free twice,  I would have literally laughed.  But, here we are, debt-free.  And, it is simply amazing.

While we were engaged, a good friend introduced us to the brilliant teachings of Dave Ramsey.  He encouraged us to start as soon as we were married.  So, we read Total Money Makeover.  We were inspired and ready to take on the challenge of living a debt-free life.  Blindsided by the downfall of the economy, I had lost my job as a structural engineer in 2009 when the recession was at its peak.  Shortly after losing my job, I started a photography business.  Out of the blue.  As in I did not know what the “M” on my camera stood for and I almost threw my computer out of the window thanks to not having a clue how to use Photoshop.  I was 110% self-taught.  To this day, I still look back at that period of time in amazement.  Photography was the start of an unknown, yet wonderful path.

With the blossoming of my photography business, I also decided to dip my toes into going back to school to get my master’s in elementary education at Rockhurst.  I always dreamt of teaching little ones.  So, I did.  For two semesters.  But, something felt off.  The education field was falling apart in the areas we lived near, and I did not want to end up in the same boat as I had a year ago.  So, I prayed.  Well, would you believe three weeks after we got married in the summer of 2010, Bryan lost his job?!  We were now newlyweds who were living off two unemployment checks.  We were lost.  Stumped.  And, scared.  Really, really scared.

We stayed unemployed for nearly four months.  We considered leaving the Midwest and making moves to the south or even overseas.  We learned how to live smart with our money.  To stretch a dollar as far as it could go.  To live with less and be grateful for the roof over our head.  What I remember most of that time period were the nights that we would be on our knees praying.  Praying for guidance, for peace, and for jobs.  We literally handed everything over to God.  We knew this was out of our hands and we needed to put our faith and trust into God.  Oh my, did he take care of us!

Bryan found a contracting engineering job.  And, I found a job as a recruiter for engineers for the company that employed Bryan.  They were not our ideal jobs, but they helped us get back on our feet.  We will always remain eternally grateful to this company.  As soon as we had steady paychecks coming back into our checking account, we decided to buy a house.  We went house hunting for about a month.  We found the most charming home in the cutest area of town.  It had everything we wanted including a sunroom (something I have always dreamt of having in our home).  We put an offer in.  And, while we waited for our offer to be accepted, we both came home that evening feeling uneasy.  Something again did not feel right.  We sat down and had a good conversation that evening.  We decided with everything that had happened, buying a home was not the right choice for us.  We wanted to travel the world while it was just the two of us.  And, we REALLY wanted to re-visit the idea of becoming debt-free.  So, we called our realtor and asked to retract our offer on the home.

We worked hard that year.  Really, really hard.  We lived on one income.  Being unemployed prepared us for our debt-free journey.  Thankfully, Bryan’s job was taking off, and my photography business was flourishing.  In the midst of our full-time jobs and wedding/lifestyle sessions, I decided to start taking pre-reqs to apply for Rockhurst, this time to achieve my newfound dream of becoming an occupational therapist.

It was eighteen months to the date from when we started our new jobs that we became debt-free.  We paid off close to $70K of debt.  I quit my full-time job as a recruiter, we celebrated our second wedding anniversary in Europe for two weeks, moved to an adorable apartment on the Plaza, and I started OT school full-time.  I knew there was a reason as to why God had placed us on a debt-free journey.  Because three months into the program, we found out we would be expecting a surprise blessing nine months later.  Being debt-free gave me the ability to finish OT school while having the added expenses of our sweet little man and daycare costs.  Y’all, He seriously does know best.

When I graduated from OT school, I remember seeing this dreaded number stare back at my computer screen.  It was quite large.  72K.  And, I remember thinking, no way can we do this again.  We have a baby AND daycare expenses.  But, we made a pack once again.  To live on one income.  To work hard.  To live as simple as possible.

We found out another little blessing would be arriving in the summer of 2016, which gave us all the more fuel to chop away at my school loans.  And, would you believe we paid off $72K of student loans from Rockhurst and went debt-free once again within two year two months prior to his arrival?!  We spent the remainder of the time building our other saving and investment accounts up.

People ask us how we did it.  And, we tell them, it was not easy.  We held off buying a house and new cars.  We cut back on eating out.  I did not get to shop near as often as I would have liked.  We did have fun and set aside money for us to continue to travel, which helped when we felt like giving up on paying off our debt.  However, if we had to do it all over again, we would not change a thing.  It was worth EVERY sacrifice we made

So, really, how did we do it?

We followed Dave Ramsey’s seven baby steps:

  1. Emergency fund of $1000 in the bank
  2. Pay off all debt (largest to smallest)
  3. Set aside 3-6 months of expenses
  4. 15% of your income into retirement savings
  5. Save for college funds
  6. Pay off your home
  7. Live and give like no one else!

The first time we did the debt-free journey, our household income was not very high.  As our income increased, our budget never changed.  We always made sure we lived well below our means.  (We still do to this day!). There are a few of Dave Ramsey’s steps we did out of order.  For instance, we did step #1 and #2, but we skipped over step #3 until we became debt-free the second time.  Then, we completed step #3 and saved twelve weeks of income for my maternity leave (which we did not even use!) before Nikhil arrived.  (Since I had started a new job, I was unable to get a paid maternity leave.)  Bryan is the only one currently contributing to his retirement, and we are not worrying about step #5 quite yet.  Instead, we are saving like crazy to buy a home and make our mortgage payment as low as possible.  Also, we hope to buy a newer, full-size SUV for our family and a truck for B in cash.  And, we do give back quite a bit to charities and our church.  Once we purchase our home and car, we will go back to working on step #4, #5, and #6!

We have seen debt trap our family and friends, and we have seen the fear in their eyes from being held back from their dreams.  Our hatred for debt grew during those years leading us to be gazelle intense.  We became passionate to live a life without debt.  We had (and still have) those weekly discussions about our finances and our budget.  There were times we would grow weak.  And by we, I mean me. (Guilty as she raises her hand in the air.)  Getting lazy with our finances was not going to happen.  If you plan on becoming debt-free, being serious about sticking to your budget is important, friends.  I promise you will be grateful you did when you reach your goals!

Our debt-free journey led to me being able to work part-time and being more at home with our babies.  While we are huge Dave Ramsey fans for our big picture plan, we also are fans of Alexa von Tobel of Financially Fearless: The Learnvest Program for Taking Control of Your Money.  She has this 50/20/30 plan that you implement monthly in order to find a happy balance between living life to the fullest each day and planning carefully for your future.

  • 50% of your take-home pay is for fixed expenses (mortgage, car payment, utilities, gym memberships, and cable-Netflix and/or Hulu included.
  • 20% of your income is for your future/debt (retirement, college fund, debt, credit card, and even if you are saving for a down payment on a home).
  • 30% of your income is for happiness (travel, restaurants, entertainment, gas, groceries, and hobbies).

If you have not read this book, add it to the top of your reading list.  Her company has also created a website/app that allows you to have all your financial debt/assets in one place to keep track daily, weekly, and monthly.  Her thought process is pure genius.

My hope is that our story puts a fire in the heart of someone else or a family who is wishing to do the same.  I can say after being on the side of lost and fear, it is truly a remarkable feeling to breathe easier and know we have the freedom to live our life any way we want.

Thank you, Dave Ramsey.

debt free

(four years ago in the French Riviera with my love)

You just have to ask yourself, are you willing to sacrifice for a short period of time in order to dream big and reap the rewards for the rest of your life?!

“Live like no one else so you can live like no one.” -Dave Ramsey

And, that is exactly what we did!