Advice to Large Family Parents

Being a large family can be very lonely. People stop inviting you over. You try to understand. You are an entire party in and of yourself now. It feels like you’re only invited to a party last minute when someone realizes they don’t have great guest numbers. Or maybe you have stopped accepting invitations. You feel like you are just too much and so you stop showing up. Either way, the result is feeling lonely. Here are a few tips for that:

– Stop waiting for invitations and start inviting people over. Maybe it can’t be weekly, but it could be monthly. Your house may not be spotless or quiet, but I bet it is fun and lively. Perfect for a party! Invite friends to eat at your place. Host holiday celebrations on your own. Rebuild your community network by being the host.

– Stop saying no to the invitations that are offered. If someone invites your whole family over, they’re accepting the crazy that comes with a large family. They probably really do want you there. You don’t have to feel bad about it being a little hectic. By all means, try to make sure your kids are completely squirrelly, but accept the invite if you can.

– Start asking family to visit you. It really can be a lot to take 8-12 people into someone else’s home. It can be a lot to take one toddler into the home of someone without kids. But instead of just skipping out on family stuff, ask them to come to you. It is easier to fold a few extra people into a big table than a lot of people into a small one.

– Reach out to other parents you might know and work out moms and dads nights out. Let all the dads hang with the kids at one person’s house while all the moms crash another. Then next time, repay the favor.

– Meet up with friends in public places to eat. Take the pressure off anyone feeling the need to host a large crowd. It can be expensive to take a large family out to eat. It can be stressful, especially if you never do it. But kids typically learn good eating out manners by having the opportunity to develop them by eating out. Consider hitting up a pizza place where you can buy a few large pizzas instead of somewhere where you order a meal per person. Or meet in a park one afternoon with some coolers of ice cream.

You may have to get a little more creative about gatherings and you may have to put aside some hurt feelings over why people don’t want you to come over anymore. But you can still create an awesome community and you don’t have to be lonely.

Another issue a lot of large families face is feeling weird. You perpetually feel like you don’t fit and like you don’t belong. Here are some tips:

– Your family is large. Intentionally, unintentionally on your part, God gave you this family. There is no changing it, only accepting it. You need top accept your family and not feel embarrassed about who you are. I know a lot of large family parents who are perpetually embarrassed about being a large family for one reason or another. This just makes you feel so much worse when the random stranger makes a heartless comment or when a family member passive aggressively slights your family.

– Be proud of your family. Go beyond just accepting it. Rework your inner narrative and be proud of the family God gave you. Embrace and celebrate what makes you different.

– Make new friends. I actually give this advice pretty often. When you feel bad about your life because of the people around you, it usually isn’t time to change your life, but change your friends. Make friends with other large families or at least people who respect your family. When you have six kids, you won’t feel weird at all if you hang with moms who have eight.

– Accept that your family is different in the best way and stop trying to fit the 1.5 kid mold of our culture. There are restaurants I won’t visit, not because I don’t like the food, but because the environment isn’t conducive for a party of 9. There are things large families cannot do and it is easier and happier to just accept those things than continually try to make a square peg fit into a round hole. Family memberships that only include 4 children are never going to be for us. Baseball teams that schedule something every single night of the week are never going to work when we’re balancing schedules for 9 people. Large families come with our own benefits. You can have an entire ball team with just your family. You don’t need anyone to come over to have the best game of hide and seek ever. You can get a group discount without begging another single person to join you. Embrace the benefits. Shake off the small family mold.

– Surround yourself with things that encourage you. Listen to podcasts that help you embrace your role as a parent of many. Read blogs and books that encourage you in your role. Follow other large family moms on Instagram. Link up with others like you around the country on Facebook. Use social media to help encourage you. Make it a point to surround yourself with encouragement for your journey, not someone else’s.

– Our God does not put any shame on your family. Any shame or guilt you feel about your family is not of God. Reject it. Stomp it under your feet in Jesus’ name! Our God says children are a blessing. Our God says you are blessed. Our God says be fruitful and multiply and you have obeyed. The shame and guilt of this world is not from our God. Put that mess behind you. “Get behind me Satan!” Know who you are in Him and know how blessed your family is to Him.

– Don’t get a chip on your shoulder about your family. Be proud in who you are without turning that around as judgement on others. Some families are smaller and that doesn’t make them less that you, just different. Take from that well of grace you’ve been given and show the same. Too often our security in our own life turns and judges others for not being like us. We cloth diaper, so everyone should. We grind our own wheat for bread, so everyone should. We have ten kids, so everyone should. Be as accepting of other families as you hope they are of you. Judgy people are miserable. Don’t be miserable. Be confident in yourself. And love others.

Then there are the practical considerations. The idea that your house must run in a certain way because you are a large family. You read large family books and the main portions are about organization and you feel, well, completely unorganized.

– Know that the authors of all the large family books are not trying to shame you for being a hot mess mama with a lot of kids. There is this perception that all large family moms are these super organized women who run the house like a well oiled machine. Then we feel guilt and shame because we don’t measure up. These women had no intention of shaming you. I mean, I don’t know them personally, but I’m thinking the best of them here. They are sharing their systems to try to help a mama out. They found what works for them and they just want to share it in case it helps you out, too. If it doesn’t help you, don’t do it!

– The best system is the one that works. We all know large families do require a little more thought about the average family because that is just the way life works when you’re adding more little cogs to the works. You’ve got more plates to keep spinning, so you’ve got to figure out how they spin. I don’t think this applies specifically to large families. I remember the first few times I had to venture out in public on my own with two babies. Even something as simple as how to get out of the car and into the car had to be a well thought out process. Who goes in first? Can I leave that one in the car while I walk around to the other side? If I take him out and put him in the stroller, then I’ll have to turn my back on the stroller to get her out but if I take her out first, I’ll have the same problem in reverse. I think parenting just takes a little more thought and the more kids you add to the mix, the more complex things tend to get. You do you, though.

– Be willing to adjust. You find the perfect laundry system and it works beautifully for about 7 months and then suddenly, it just isn’t working. And I know you bought 16 color coded laundry baskets. But if adjustments need to be made, adjust. You don’t have to rework the entire system (preaching to myself here), but you can make changes to make it work. And know, you’ve got about 7 months of bliss while it works and then you’ll be back here again.

– Your version of organized may not look like someone else’s. It is fine. You do you.

– You can’t change your family or the personal dynamic of your family, so when setting up systems for the flow of the household, keep in mind you can’t change the people in the household. If your toddler keeps reaching for the same vase over and over again, it can be tempting to try and change the toddler instead of just moving the vase. You know what is important to you in terms of character building and boundaries with your kids, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about trying to change my kids into someone they are not to make a system work. My kids do not wash clothes. I am super anal about how certain items are washed and on what settings. I’m really picky about the order of importance of things washed. So, I don’t have them wash clothes because they can’t be me in washing them. Instead of trying to change them into little versions of myself about washing clothes, I choose to set up the system so I do all the washing. (They put them away and I choose not to look at how they end up in the drawers.) That is what works for us for now. Just keep in mind that you can change your systems, but not your people.

– Know your priorities. Your priorities might look a lot different than mine. But know what they are so you can live as intentionally as possible. The more people you put in a family, the more opportunities there are for things to take your resources. There is only so much time in a day. There is only so much money in your bank account. Knowing your priorities will help you say “yes” to the things that matter to you enthusiastically and “no” to all the rest without guilt.

– Embrace Costco. Or Sam’s. Or BJ’s. Or whatever buy in bulk place you have near you. I did not want to go that route for so long, thinking, “Who needs a flat of toilet paper?” The answer, of course, is that I do. I need a flat of toilet paper. Now, some things are not cheaper in bulk, but many things are. I don’t know what I would do without bulk string cheese now. Embrace it. These places are made for you. When you start noticing how few Pop Tarts come in a box, time to start thinking about that Costco membership.

What advice do you have for large families? Leave it in the comments!


Let’s Talk About Cheap Amazon Diapers

So, if you’re at all like me, you see these super cheap cloth diapers on Amazon and you wonder, “Are they any good?” Plus, they make some awesome prints! I was gifted a few different brands, so I’ll give you the scoop on the ones that I tried.

First, I think a lot of the brands are the exact same. It appears that they are just rebranded by each company. So, don’t fret over Art of Life diapers or Alva diapers- they are the same. Buy whichever you think are cutest. I tried three brands. Art of Life, Alva Baby (with two different labels), and EcoAble. You’ll also see these, these, and these, which all look exactly the same. Now, the AoL and Alva diapers were the exact same since they were both pocket diapers. The EcoAble were a little different since they are All In One style. We’ll revisit those EcoAble diapers in a different post and focus on the cheapie pockets today.

The Art of Life and Alva diapers are identical. The tags are different, but the actual diaper is the exact same. Same dimensions. Same materials. Same efficacy. The Art of Life tagged diapers actually came from a company named “Lil Bit”, or at least that is what the inserts said. I’m telling you, they are all the same. I actually couldn’t find the AOL tagged diapers to link, but I swear they are out there.

How do they compare to a standard cloth diaper? I’m comparing them to a BumGenius pocket diaper because that seems very run of the mill basic to me. You can see from the pictures that the cheapies are much larger. They also don’t have any interior PUL foldover. The inside fabric is similar, but the cheapies are much rougher feeling. The outer fabric on the cheapies is much thicker. It is a TPU rather than a PUL. So it isn’t as thin. It isn’t breathable at all. And it doesn’t feel as soft.

But do they work? Well, yes and no. I tried both the microfiber inserts and the fancy charcoal inserts. I saw zero difference between those two. They both seemed to work the same. The inserts are actually so similar to my BumGenius inserts, that I now can’t tell which is which on my microfiber inserts.

The problem I have with them is that they are using the exact same size insert as the BumGenius pocket diaper. You can see that they are much bigger than the BumGenius pocket diaper. This means that the insert doesn’t cover all the way across. The inserts get bunched and move around a bit more because they don’t fit the space. I have had many leak issues, specifically through the stitch lines around the legs. Same inserts in the BumGenius diapers and they don’t leak.

So, I switched it up a bit. I tried out my Green Mountain Diaper prefolds instead of the microfiber or charcoal inserts. Because I could pad fold them wider, they worked like a charm. Zero leak issues using prefolds instead of the inserts they came with.

So, yes they work, but you need to modify the system a little bit. These also snap a bit different from the BumGenius. Instead of two parallel snaps, they use two snaps side by side on the top row and then a hip snap on the bottom row. I don’t see a difference with the snaps in how they function. They are just a bit different. But other diaper companies use this triangle snap system, so that isn’t weird or new. Just different from the diaper I’m using to compare.

So, is it worth it? It depends on your situation. If I had gotten these when I first started cloth diapering, I would have deemed the experiment a failure because of leaks. You really do have to work a bit harder to get these not to leak. And that means buying prefolds, so they aren’t as cheap as they seem. However, if you’ve got prefolds and are wanting some “easy” diapers for the sitter or grandma or whatever, these are excellent diapers for that use. They don’t make good overnight diapers. These aren’t so bad that I am looking to off load mine. But I am glad I have more than just these in my stash. They do make some really cute prints. These are my out and about daytime diapers and I now stuff them with Green Mountain Diapers prefolds. On the lowest setting, the small prefold fits well. On the largest setting, you’d need a large prefold.

These started fitting Daisy when she got around 10 lbs. They were a little big on her then, but they did work. I’d say 12 lbs. and up is probably the more reasonable size.

** This post does contain affiliate links. Using affiliate links does not cost you more, but it does help me out. I do receive a small commission when you purchase using my links. **

BumGenius Flip Review

I’ve been cloth diapering a long time. So I have seen how diapers evolve. New brands starts. Old brands fade out. Old brands come out with new stuff. The Flip certainly isn’t new, but it took me a while to try it. I’m just going to be up front. The All In Two* concept was a total fail with me. I tried it when those first came out and they just were not my thing. So the Flip always seemed to be a combination of an all in two concept with a prefold and cover concept.

* All In Twos are diapers that have an outer cover but the insert is meant to be changed as needed, reusing the cover. This is usually done by having an insert that snaps or Velcros into place. It differs from the pocket because the Insert sits directly against the baby’s skin and there is no “stuffing” involved.

I was never very interested in the Flip, despite really liking BumGenius diapers and really liking prefolds and covers. But then some Flip diapers found there way into my hands and I figured it was time for me to try them.

Naturally, I’m comparing the Flip to my favorite diaper cover, The Rumparooz cover. That seemed logical to me. Now, I probably should have grabbed a brighter color to take photos of, because this particular color (this is the color Sweet) clearly doesn’t photograph well. I am reviewing both the aplix version and the snap version, but only took pictures of the snap because I hate aplix, though I did try it.

So, the Flip is essentially a diaper cover with a large front flap and back flap for you to place an insert into. You just tuck the insert under the front and back flaps. There are a variety of inserts. I tried the stay-dry insert and the organic daytime insert. I did not try the disposable insert. (I’m just not into half cloth and half disposable diapers. Those aren’t a need for me.)

I did not like either insert. They both leaked, even with a very small baby. Neither were absorbent enough, even after extensive prep. And I gave these things a several month trial. This is not a review based on one use. I tried them with my Green Mountain Diaper prefolds, and those worked a lot better.

The Flip covers are really wide. You can see them here with a BumGenius pocket diaper (the blue patterned diaper) and the BumGenius Freetime (in the color Kiss). The Flip is wider than both. I think they use the same pattern, but the Flip isn’t getting sewn the same way, so you’re gaining a half inch in the width of the diaper. I have very fat, short babies, but the Flip was far too wide in the crotch.

This shows the width of the Flip on the bottom with a Rumparooz One Size diaper cover on top. It is much wider. So, on a small baby, that meant I had to tuck the legs in a bit or the diaper would be from her knees to her belly button.

One thing I dislike about BumGenius diapers across the board is the lack of the double gusset. It was especially problematic on a diaper cover to not have that second gusset to hold in #2.

Also, the Flip only has elastic in the back. (Well, that applies to all BumGenius diapers.) So, there were definitely leaks from having a little too much room in the waist.

They also didn’t work like you think they would. For a small, EBF baby, every time she pooped, it got on the cover. I find this true every single time I pad fold a prefold. It just isn’t my preferred method, I like the prefold wrapped around them so I have double protection from leaks.

Now, in a Flip, you can ignore the front and back flaps and just use it like a regular cover, which is what I ended up doing most of the time. However, the flaps can’t be wiped off like a regular cover, so I found that I only liked using it once or twice before I felt like it was dirty. With other diaper covers, I can usually get 3-4 uses out of them before they just feel dirty. (You wipe them out with a wet wipe after use and let it dry while you use another one.) So, instead of going through 2 diaper covers in a day, I was going through 5 (at least).

Also, I still hate Velcro. I gave the aplix (Velcro is the brand name. Aplix is the generic name. Like saying “facial tissue” or “Kleenex”.) a try. And while they weren’t evil in the wash and kept stuck to their tabs as they should, I still hate the way they wear. Even though BumGenius rounds the edges of their aplix, they are still really stiff and uncomfortable against the baby’s skin. And they will still get snagged on their clothes or yours if they have half a chance. And the aplix starts looking worn out really fast. Snaps look new for a long time. Aplix look ragged very quickly.

Now, the price is where Flip users are usually really happy. Right now, they are running $12.95 to $14.95 a cover. I’m not even going to discuss the inserts, because I think the Green Mountain Diaper prefolds are much better regardless (and they are cheaper). But the covers are a little less expensive that my favorite cover. (Rumparooz are $14-$16 a cover depending on print.) However, I require twice as many Flip covers because they get dirty so much easier and quicker! I can totally get by with 6 covers and 24 prefolds with the Rumparooz covers. However, with the Flips, I would need 10 covers and 24 inserts to be washing at the same frequency. (Every other day.)

So, not a fan of the BumGenius Flip covers. They aren’t terrible. They work for the most part. Are they the first diaper I reach for? No. Are they what I would recommend? No. Are they the cheapest option? No.

* I used small Green Mountain Prefold diapers with the Flip snapped down small. When it is unfolded all the way, a medium Green Mountain prefold is what I found to fit.

** This post contains affiliate links. I do earn a small amount of money when your use my affiliate links to purchase items using these links. **

Lent 2018

If you’re looking for my annual Lent family devotions, they are in book form this year! I was coming up with a way to make the family devotional more user-friendly. Scrolling through an entire week of blog posts is a bit messy. It is free, but it is messy. Then, I had this idea to add a personal devotional for moms to the front. In pitching the idea to The Pastor, we kind of thought, “Why just moms?” So, I enlisted his help in getting both a full 40-day devotional for all people and a 40-day family devotional written. We then put it on Kindle for ease-of-use. (It is also available in paperback if you’re not a digital person.)

The entire thing is really cohesive: The personal devotions and family devotions tie into each other, so you’ll all be walking the same spiritual path together. And as usual, the family devotional includes activities to do! Fun!

The theme of this year’s Lenten devotional is Refocus. Lent is a great time to look over everything and evaluate if you’re living the way you think you should be living. “Does my life reflect Christ?” It’ll challenge you to reevaluate where you put your time and money. It will ask you to reevaluate your priorities and commitments. Basically, it is going to step all over your toes and probably make you uncomfortable and you might even hate me for it. Or… you might refocus your life on the cross and do big Jesus-work this coming year. I think it’s worth the risk.

If you want a free devotional, all my previous years of Lent family devotions are still available here on the blog. Since Lent is always 40 days, always starting on Ash Wednesday and always ending on Easter, any of these can be used any year.

Lent Family Devotional 2017 – This family devotional looks into the life and ministry of Jesus.

40 Holy People – This is a Lenten devotional looking at the lives of those who have followed Christ with great courage and wisdom.

Fruit of the Spirit Family Devotional – This is not a Lenten devotional, but you can use it during Lent if you’d like. It is 9 weeks, so it is a little longer than Lent.

Click here to buy this year’s Lent devotional on Amazon.  My hope and prayer is for families to come together around a table and talk about Jesus. So, whatever you chose to do this Lent, be it using Refocus, using one of the free devotions on my blog, using another devotional book, or just reading through a book of the Bible together after dinner— make sure that you don’t miss Jesus during this season. Let the season bring you closer to Him and closer to your family.

ESV Illuminated Bible Review

I might be a little bit of a Bible fanatic. I am always looking at the new Bibles coming out soon and admiring them. When I saw that Crossway was releasing the ESV Illuminated Journaling Bible, I was immediately obsessed. All the pictures just looked so beautiful! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Just know the pictures don’t even come close to capturing the beauty of this Bible! Crossway made this Bible in 4 editions. This is the green hardcover version. You can also get a burgundy imitation leather or navy blue cloth bound hardcover. They also had a black topgrain leather version that is no longer available. And yes, they all feature the beautiful gold patterns on the cover. The green hardcover, this one, has a book jacket. The other three have a slipcase box. I’m honestly never a fan of either and both end up getting tossed in my house.

Each book of the Bible has a beautifully illustrated title page. Every illustration in this Bible is shiny gold. It is a best of both worlds kind of journaling Bible. It already has beautiful, finished illustrations. But it also has plenty of room to add your own illustrations or notes.

As you can see, there is a bit of ghosting in the margins. The paper is thick for Bible paper, but it is still Bible paper. It is thick enough that you don’t have to be precious about which highlighters you use. I find Crossway journaling Bibles to be thick enough to color and even paint on. It just takes a little practice getting your paint thin enough or your paper prepped so it won’t bleed.

There are small illustrations in the margins throughout the Bible. They are all so pretty. You could leave this Bible on your coffee table just to flip through, it is so lovely.

You can see that even though it is full of beautiful gold illustrations, there is still room to add your own doodles, art, and notes. The margins are completely blank, but I still think this would make an excellent Bible for someone who wants a beautifully illustrated Bible, but is more of a note taker. You can also see that the pages lay pretty flat.

Really, the only “extras” in this Bible are these pages at the end (there are more than pictured) that have pictures of each book’s cover page and a brief explanation of the art you see there. I would absolutely love to have these as art prints to frame on the wall, but there are so many! But they are so beautiful! I just want them out where I can see them all the time. But there are no maps, no concordance, no topical studies. This is just a single column ESV Bible text with wide margins and lovely gold illustrations throughout. Very simple. Very beautiful.

This Bible ended up being so much more beautiful in person than I imagined, which was a difficult task because everything I had seen was amazingly beautiful. The Illuminated Journaling Bible is just so beautiful and such high quality. This is just another great way to fall in love with God’s Word.

**This Bible was sent to me from Crossway Bibles free for review. I am in no way obligated to give a favorable review. Because I received this item free for review, none of the links in this post are affiliate links.**

Word Before World

I’m scrolling through Instagram when I wake up this morning and come across a hashtag that gets my mind rolling. #wordbeforeworld . Now, this isn’t the first time I had seen the hashtag. I have seen @wellwateredwomen posting it for several days now. But it was the first time I stopped and took note.

What is the first thing I do when I wake up? Usually grumble about the kids already being awake and lament how late I stayed up the night before. But the first thing I usually choose to do after pulling myself out of bed and getting ready for the day is grab my iPad and start checking social media. I choose to plunge into the world first. Always. The Word part normally comes when I’ve done everything else I need to do for the day. Sure, we get into the Word every morning during Morning Basket time, so I guess I could count that. But before I even do morning basket, I’m checking my social media accounts.

Of course, my mind went to Deuteronomy chapter 6. The people of God are being told not to forget who they are and what God has done for them. They are to teach their children, talk of them in their house, talk of God’s commands walking around going about their day. They are to write them on the doorposts of their houses. And they are to think of them when they lie down and when they rise up.

It got me thinking of the giving of the first fruits, something we remind ourselves when we tithe. We give God the first of what he has given to us. So, what is more valuable than our time? The days, hours, and minutes we have? Why wouldn’t we give the first of our time each day, too?

Essentially, when I choose social media before getting into the Word of God, I’m stating my priorities for the day. Connection, news, self-image- all those things we tie up in social media- I’m saying those are the most important for me. I’m saying that my FOMO (fear of missing out) on the world is more important than my FOMO on God.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with social media. I think we, as Christians, need to remain engaged in social media as a way to influence our culture. But as all our youth pastor’s warned us, we need to be careful of how we let it shape us. So, I’m not saying we should all pull away from social media. I think a host of evangelism can be done through a screen in our culture.

I am saying that I found myself guilty this morning. I realized I’ve not been putting first things first. I’ve been putting them last. When there is time. At the bottom of the to-do list. And those priorities will never stand. The Word will never shape me because I’m not letting it take the rightful place in my life. That is not anyone’s fault but mine.

I had thought of New Year’s Resolutions in abstract terms. I knew I needed more discipline in my spiritual life and my physical life, so I was just going to abstractly focus on discipline. I now realize an abstract one word focus isn’t going to get me where I need to be. Sure, it will help me think of where I need to be. But I need action steps. I need firm commitments to being disciplined.

So, with discipline as my word of the year, my first practical step is going to be Word before World. That is my first firm commitment to the process of being disciplined. Word before World. I will seek Him first.

Merry Christmas!

Of course, I needed to add my obligatory Christmas photo. It almost didn’t happen this year. I should probably switch this to a Christmas Eve thing. Christmas morning, I usually have them do it right after we read the Christmas story. But the toddler was being a maniac and the baby needed to eat. So, I put it off. And put it off. And put it off.

Christmas night, while we were getting ready to watch a movie, The Pastor reminded me that we hadn’t done the picture yet. He sent everyone off to put their Christmas jimmies back on while I got the camera stuff ready.

While I was getting the camera on the tripod and troubleshooting a thousand things (because the camera, quite honestly, is in need of replacing), I sat in someone’s pie that they had left on the hearth. I didn’t realize this until I stood up and went to grab another SD card and the plate of pie, that had hung on for a few steps, fell into the floor. By this time, the kids are rounded up and ready, so I just proceed with pie butt. My remote wasn’t working, so I had to do the self timer and dash bit, grabbing the escaping toddler on the way.

I was also very tempted not to post them this year because I’m not happy with the way I look in them. I just had a baby 2 months ago, and baby weight just doesn’t fall off for me. But, I decided to post them anyway. I wouldn’t be fooling anyone by not posting them. If you’ve seen me in real life, you know what I look like. By not posting them, I’d only be deleting a moment of history for my family. I’m not going to do that just because I’m unhappy with my weight. It isn’t worth it. Looking back over the previous years, I realize that I miss the photos that I tossed because I didn’t like how I looked. There are holes in the family record because of my vanity. Seems dumb when I look back and wonder where certain year pictures were.

I quit editing my photos to make my house look perfect a few years ago. Now, I’m not going to hold back in posting the ones where I look like a train wreck. Just going to post anyway.

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Previous Christmas Morning Pics:


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