Good Enough Parenting

If you follow me, you’ll know that I have made the foolhardy decision to go back to school. Because, you know, homeschooling seven kids and being in full-time ministry isn’t enough on a person. I clearly lacked the pressure of deadlines and lamenting over formatting issues in the wee hours of the morning in case my toddler isn’t keeping me up enough. Smack dab in the middle of my struggle to be everything to everyone, I get to take a lifespan development class. Now, I was really not looking forward to knowing all the ways I was currently messing up my kids’ lives. I’d really rather just keep my head down and get through this degree program.

And right on schedule, as I dove into lifespan development for the third time (I’ve had lifespan development classes before from other perspectives), I was ready to feel bad about the stress I am putting my family under right now. At first, I got that— the guilt. Infants rely on the steady care of a single caregiver and are upset when that is disrupted. Sorry Daisy. Preschoolers need adequate scaffolding to help them acquire new and deeper skills. Sorry Pippin, can’t scaffold for you, Mama’s got to write a paper about it instead. School aged children need security and patience with close monitoring as they learn new skills and begin to see themselves as others see them. Sorry Topher and Ransom, I don’t have time to monitor your mud pit fun, I’ve got papers to write. You get the idea. Everything is a slap in the face when you feel like you’re messing everything up— especially when you’re a mom of seven in school full time.

Then I came across the work of Donald Winnicott. He was an English pediatrician and psychoanalyst who voiced the idea of the “good enough” parent. I’m going to be grossly simplifying his work and pretty much just talking about a singular aspect. I’m imagining that if you were especially fond of psychoanalytic theory of infant development, you’d likely be taking the class I’m taking or reading a much longer book about the topic. (And just as a point of interest, the class ended up being extremely interesting and insightful. I feel like I only scratched the surface and would need another year to follow all the little rabbit trails my brain made.) For Winnicott, children didn’t need perfect parents. Children needed someone they could count on, but that someone didn’t have to be perfect all the time, they just had to be good enough. They just had to show up, love the kid, and do their best. Winnicott said that was the best kind of parent.

In today’s “perfect parenting” world, where parents feel judged every time they turn around, a world where parents spend so much time comparing their own parenting (and life) to what they see on Instagram, it is a breath of fresh air to read an expert tell us we only need to be “good enough”. The idea that everything bad that happens to our kid will be our fault is never flipped. If I’m responsible for all wrong roads my child may take, I’m also responsible for the right ones. And really, according to Winnicott, if I show up and do my best, my kids will turn out fine. Winnicott realized something our society won’t mention. Moms are people. They come with their own burdens, insecurities, and issues. Learning to be there for a child while still being a real person isn’t the easiest task for some people. And if you’re showing up, trying your best, and meeting the kid’s needs most of the time— you’re doing a good enough job of it. Not all of us can be Instagram perfect. We can’t have the perfect house with everything in various shades of white and grey. (How do you people keep white couches clean with kids?!) We can’t all be stay at home moms with endless budgets for all the kids enrichment activities and the “right” toys, clothes, and baby gear. We can’t all have all organic everything from the local farmer’s market. Life is messy. Life isn’t always ideal. The good news, according to Winnicott, is that we don’t need all those things. We need to pay attention most of the time. We need to provide security most of the time. We need need to learn to sacrifice, but it is okay for life to not be all sacrifice. We won’t get the mothering thing right every single time. The good enough mom knows this and can give herself some grace, learn from her mistakes, and move on. 

So if I have to delegate some schooling tasks to Dad for the next year, that is okay. If afternoon reading time has to be audible books, that is okay. If my cooking slips to eating PB&J a little too often, they will survive. If I’m not sewing them cute clothes and instead slipping them into hand-me-downs, I doubt they’ll notice. I’m here. I’m doing my best. The kids will be alright, I’m good enough. 

Not About “Me-Time”

There is this myth in our culture that we have to look out for number one in order to get anywhere successfully. “Put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others.” It sounds like such wise advise. It sounds like wisdom. 

People hop from church to church because they aren’t “fed”. Even worse are those that use multiple churches to meet all their own “spiritual” needs. Sunday morning here, Bible study there, women’s group over here— using what they consider to be the “best” of each “option” to build their perfect spiritual atmosphere. 

There is a very big book industry based on this concept. You’ll find options to fit every person, every religious affiliation, every type of person. Moms need “me-time”. Christians need “me-time”. Women need “me-time”. It sounds like wisdom. 

Sometimes, what sounds like wisdom, isn’t wisdom at all. 1 Corinthians 3:19-20 (CSB) says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, since it is written, He catches the wise in their craftiness; and again, the Lord knows that the reasonings of the wise are futile.” This message of “me-time”— looking out for yourself first— that isn’t the Christian message at all. In fact, it is pretty much the opposite. As Philippians 2:4 says, we are to look out not for our own interests, but the interests of others. (If you want to argue the “not only” portion, do yourself a favor and look up the MOUNCE Greek translation on Bible Gateway and see that the “not only” has no Greek underneath, because it isn’t in the Greek. See Dr. Kinlaw’s The Mind of Christ for more on that subject.) 

Christ says, to find your life, you have to lose it. He doesn’t say that, to find your life, you need to set aside an appropriate amount of me time in order to better “center yourself” for that life. Nope. Following Jesus is dying to self. Anyone who loves his life will lose it. Jesus is full of paradox. Things that sound like wisdom are foolish. The last will be made first— not because it is fair, but because that is His way. Those who lead will serve. Those who seem wise will be fools. If you really want to live, you lay down your life and let Him live through you. 

I’m not saying to neglect your health. I’m not saying that anything you do “for yourself” is sinful. I am saying that perhaps we need to look a little closer at the wisdom of the world and not accept it just because it sounds like wisdom. Check it against what God says in His book. Check it against your cultural assumptions. (Gym time is a luxury not afforded to many in this world. If you equate your gym time with personal righteousness, you are saying something about who can and cannot be righteous according to your gospel.) 

If I find myself looking for the religious experience that best suits me, I doubt I will find it. If I’m not being “fed”, perhaps the issue is that I’m not out in the field sowing. (“He who does not work will not eat” could apply to spiritual feeding, as well.) Perhaps I need to stop treating church like a spiritual gym and more like the meeting together of the people of God. 

When I am tired as a mother, the Bible does not tell me that luxury (through gym time, manicures, shopping, hair appointments, massages, etc.) is the way to find rest for my soul and strength for my task; the Bible tells me that in my weakness, He will be strong. It tells me that I can rest in Him and His promises. The Bible tells me that I will not work alone and that my work in making disciples of my children is His great commission. I could write an entire book on the blessing of being a mother and the amount of grace I’ve received from letting God work in those tired, busy times— but for today I’ll save you all of that. What I will say to the fellow mother who is struggling, feeling weighed down— the answer isn’t “me-time”. The answer is Jesus. Throw your full weight of burden on Him and watch Him transform it into something beautiful, meaningful, and redemptive.

Be careful, dear friends, in listening to what seems like wisdom. There is nothing wrong with going to the gym, getting your nails done, getting a massage, etc. There is something wrong if you equate those things with what it means to be a godly person. There is something wrong if you see those things as your “right”. There is something wrong if you are so focused and intent on those things that your are putting them first. This isn’t a call to martyrdom— to smear yourself in ashes and sackcloth to prove your righteousness. This is a call to take up your cross and follow Jesus. This is a call to stop thinking about yourself so much and start thinking about how you can serve others like Jesus.

Wild Explorers Club Review

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I came across the Wild Explorers Club through Wild and Free. It seemed like a really good fit for our family. We don’t have the time for Scouts or whatever variation of that you present. With Wild Explorers, we could get outdoors and earn some badges in our own time. All the kids could participate. It seemed like a really good fit.

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The program cost is $14 a month. You get a monthly magazine, which is really short but has no ads and very high quality paper and printing. My kids really enjoyed the magazine. You also get a patch when you enter the program and additional patches when you finish each level. You only get one patch per subscription, but can buy additional patches for additional kids. We did it as a family activity, so the family was earning patches, not the individual. The assignments come available one at a time once a week. If you get behind, no worries, the assignments are still there for you to complete.

Each assignment has a short video for the kids to watch. I was able to play ours on the TV via Air Play. There is also a checklist for each assignment, which you can print or view on a tablet or computer. The video quality is really good. The handouts are good quality and consistent in how they look.

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There are 10 levels to complete. Our family has only completed the first two levels. With their old system, you had no way to look ahead and see what assignments might be coming. With the new system, I can sign in and see all the assignments, I just can’t access them until it is “time.”

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My kids loved Wild Explorers at first. They were really excited about it and excited to get outside hiking and observing nature. However, the program doesn’t really have as much outdoors as I anticipated and I eventually decided to cancel based on seeing the upcoming assignments and realizing that some of them would be impossible for our family and there wouldn’t be as much Exploring as I initially expected.

There are 10 levels and the levels get longer as you go. I broke down the number of assignments and if they were indoor or outdoor. I also took note of assignments that would cost us extra to complete assignments, because we don’t always have extra money budgeted for these sorts of things.

Level One- Wolf- There are 4 assignments, so you complete your first patch pretty quickly. Two assignments are outdoors, one is indoors, and one is half in and half out. The first assignment did cost us extra because it is making your adventure pack, where they tell you all the things you might need and you build your pack. Even using backpacks we had lying around, we still purchased pocket knives, compasses, first aid supplies, etc.

Level Two- Bobcat- 8 assignments. Three indoors, four outdoors, and one half in and half out. We had already purchased a compass, so we didn’t need to buy one when we came to an assignment requiring it. But one assignment was to try an exotic food, so we did take all the kids out to eat, which is expensive. We could have purchased ingredients for a special exotic meal at home.

Level Three- Bear- 8 assignments. Five indoor assignments, three outdoor assignments.

Level Four- Elk- 8 assignments. Seven indoor, one outdoor. These included some things that would be very difficult to do. Sell something and donate the money- that is a lot of work on me as a mama. Find out how to help a child in need in another country. Go to an animal shelter. These may or may not be things you can actually do. I can’t actually go to an animal shelter because of severe allergies, so that task wouldn’t have been able to be completed.

Level Five- Fox- 8 assignments. Seven indoor, one outdoor. There was at least one assignment in this batch that we could not do. (Go to work with a parent.) One assignment was to do a behind the scenes tour at a museum, farm, or business- which could be cost prohibitive depending on what your chose.

Level Six- Bison- 12 assignments- All twelve are indoor assignments. One assignment has the kids start a book club. One has them start their own library. These are not things the kids can execute on their own and they may or may not be things I wish to begin in my home.

Level Seven- Beaver- 12 assignments. Two indoor, six outdoor, and four that could be either. One assignment would cost you money to go to a zoo or aquarium to see an exotic animal. Two others may cost money (a picnic and historical site tour) depending on where you live and what you have available to you.

Level Eight- Owl- 12 assignments. 11 are indoor, 1 could be either indoor or outdoor. One would cost money, since it involves taking a craft type class.

Level Nine- Hawk- 12 assignments. Nine are indoor, two are outdoor, and one is half and half. You’ll be buying and collecting a lot of craft supplies for this level.

Level Ten- Eagle- 12 assignments. Ten are indoor, two could be indoor or outdoor. This level would be completely cost prohibitive for us to actually complete. There would be no way we could complete it. One assignment is to apply for your passport. One is to go on a boating trip. One is to take a trip by train. One is to go to another country. One is to take a guided tour. You get the idea. If you are not already planning a trip out of the country, this one is going to be a bit ridiculous. Unless you happen to live on a border, go on lavish vacations already, or are already planning to leave the country- this one is just not achievable by the average kid.

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Wild Explorers was an excellent idea. However, it ends up being something we just don’t have the money to complete and don’t really have the desire to do a lot of the indoor activities.  I’m pretty bummed about needing to cancel, because my kids were very into it and we devoted the time and money in getting through two levels. But knowing the kids will never complete two of the levels, and knowing half the assignments are things we have done before or will be doing anyway, it just seems like a waste.

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So, I’m going to have to make up my own version so my kids can continue their own Explorers Club. But Wild Explorers did not work for us. It is a really pretty program, but the actual assignments are just not going to work for our family and they just were not quite filling the need we needed them to fill.

 

Kindergarten Math Box

Last school year, in addition to our Kindergarten Math book that we used, I also made a Math Box for my little guys. I was super pregnant at the beginning of the year and then had a newborn, so I knew I would need something easy to grab and execute to help them with math. I found so many awesome ideas for math games and activities on Pinterest, so I simplified what I found and put everything in these neat little drawer system.

I had some specific pre-made activities, but I also had extra supplies for additional ga,es and activities. This is at the end of the school year, so you can see it held up quite well. And it was super easy to pull out and use.

My first drawers were for these little containers that I found at Hobby Lobby, colored Pom-poms, and little grabbers I found in the kitchen section at Wal-Mart. I colored a side of each box, so we could dump the Pom-poms out and sort them by color. Or we could practice making patterns. Or we could practice counting or adding. They were a lot of fun and the grabbers made it even more fun.

I had another drawer with a similar activity. It was my ice cream counting. I got these wooden cards at Hobby Lobby and drew an ice cream cone and number on each with a Sharpie. (I used the front and back of the card to use less cards.) Then we used our fancy grabbers to “scoop” the Pom-Pom ice cream onto the cone. They loved this one. We used it for some adding, too.

I used more of the wooden cards to make these number cards. One side had the number written out, the other side had the numeral with dots. We used clothespins to cover the dots as we counted. We also used these for addition and subtraction.

I purchased pre-colored popsicle sticks for this drawer. I wrote on the sticks with a Sharpie. We used these to make shapes and count the sides of shapes.

My pipe cleaner drawer was a bit of a mess. I maybe should have put them inside a sandwich bag. Live and learn. Some pipe cleaners were labeled with washi tape with numbers on them. You put the number of beads on the pipe cleaner that the tag says. We also used beads and pipe cleaners for patterns. And we used pipe cleaners to make numbers.

One drawer just had card games in it. We would pull out the cards and play a game! This was one of their favorite drawers. And miraculously, the cards ended up all together and in really good condition.

I also had some extra supplies. I did make wooden tags with each of their names and then write the letters of their name on clothespins so they could learn to spell their own names. We used the Pom-poms as manipulatives. They used clothespins and extra popsicles sticks to build three dimensional shapes. Overall, the math boxes were a big hit.

ESV Family Devotional Bible Review

The last few months, I have been using this Family Devotional Bible from Crossway. I wanted to use it for a little while before I gave my review of it. So, I’ve been pulling it out during family devotion time. I have the hardcover edition, but it is also available in blue or brown imitation leather.

Now, when I think of a family Bible, I think of an heirloom quality Bible. Something pretty and significant. I don’t think of a picture Bible. But this is not necessarily intended to be that stately family Bible. This is far more practical. It is a Bible a younger family can walk through together during family devotion time. I’m not sure if you’ve gathered this or not, but I am a very big advocate for family devotions.

This Bible has plenty of full color pictures. Now, the colored ink on the Bible paper does wrinkle the page a little bit. I’m not sure if you can tell from this picture, but there is a rippled texture throughout the picture pages. While the paper is thicker than standard Bible paper, it still didn’t hold up perfectly with the ink. But the pictures are beautiful.

They aren’t childish cartoons, you have these beautiful illustrations throughout. They do remind me a little of the Bible storybooks in doctor’s office waiting rooms, but I love the illustrations in those, so it works out.

There is a small amount of ghosting on the backs of picture pages, but they don’t interfere with being able to see the pages. It is very light on footnotes.

The devotions are the real highlight of this Bible. It has these interspersed throughout Scripture. They are with the Scripture you are talking about. I really like the questions they give. They are directed enough to stay on topic, but open ended enough to give real thoughtful discussion. Smaller kids won’t benefit from the questions as much as older kids, tweens, teens, and you will. I think that makes these devotions great for a family with a wide age range. While I wouldn’t say this devotion would be ideal for families with only teens in the house, it becomes ideal for those who may have a teen or two along with a younger kid. With the younger kids, the story and illustrations are going to be where they gain the most. For older kids, tweens, teens, and parents- the discussion is where you gain the most. If you have younger kids, you may want to skip the discussion or go light on it. But if you have kids who are older, definitely make sure you leave time for the discussion questions.

The devotions focus on the hero type stories in the Bible. You won’t find a single devotion in the book of Psalms, for example. They are Biblically based and don’t really veer into any specific theology. They stay focused on the Bible stories.

30 devotions are in the Pentateuch. (None in Leviticus.)

24 devotions through the historical books.

0 devotions through the books of wisdom.

2 devotions in the major prophets.

1 devotion in the minor prophets.

56 devotions are in the Gospels.

14 devotions in the book of Acts.

1 devotion in Philemon.

1 devotion in Revelation.

(For a total of 130 devotions.)

It is reasonable to think you could go through all these devotions in one year. And you can go through them in any order you wish. You could start at the beginning. Or, if you’re starting later in the year, start with the Gospels to get further into the life of Jesus around Advent time. You can go straight through or jump around. They do tell you what page the next devotion can be found at the end of each devotion, but there is also an index in the back where you could pick the devotion that best fits you right now. (Either fits what your preacher talked about this week, fits where you are in the liturgical year, fits what you are studying in school, or just fits where your mind and interests are right now.)

I love the ESV version for kids. It is on a 10th grade reading level, so it still has a poetic, non-childish feel. But when read aloud, it is easy for them to understand in modern language.

There are 8 really nice maps at the end of this Bible. I like how they illustrated them. They are very interesting for kids, but also easy for them to understand.

Overall, I have really enjoyed this Bible. I think the devotions are excellent for a wide range of ages. The illustrations are beautiful. The Scripture is right there with each devotion so you’re not flipping around to find what you’re reading. The ESV version is a great read aloud version of the Bible for kids. I think this is an excellent resource for families. I wouldn’t say this Bible is a good Bible for kids, but rather as a family resource.

**I received this Bible for free in exchange for my honest review. I am in no way obligated to review it favorably. **

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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.

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