How I Got My Daughter's Cloth Diapers for Free: Swagbucks

For more than four years, I've used the search engine Swagbucks instead of Google for the main reason that you earn points when you use it. You can save up those points and then cash them in for all kinds of prizes, my favorite of which is for gift cards.

Recently, I shared on about how I'd saved up a bunch of my Amazon gift codes earned through Swagbucks to purchase my daughter's cloth-diaper stash, as modeled on my cute daughter above! I also wanted to share that testimonial here, as well. (And if you aren't familiar with Swagbucks, you can read my thorough guide to getting started and using Swagbucks here. And you can sign up for it here!)

Here's my testimonial about using Swagbucks to pay for my daughter's cloth diapers, as featured on
I have been using Swagbucks for the past four years, saving up my points and always cashing them in for Amazon gift cards. This perk came in handy recently as I saved my codes for a couple of months (cashing in enough each month to get the $25 of Amazon gift cards) to purchase a cloth-diaper stash for my now-newborn daughter.

I’d always known that I wanted to cloth-diaper my children and after doing a lot of research before she was born, I found all the essentials could be found on Amazon. I picked out six diaper covers (Thirsties brand) and two dozen high-quality, unbleached prefolds.

On Amazon you can make a baby registry and once your due date draws near, they email you a code to get 10% off any remaining items on your registry. That discount alone made for a great deal but since I’d saved up my Swagbucks codes, the deal only got sweeter: I was able to get my daughter’s entire first year’s worth of cloth diapers (and some cloth-diaper friendly laundry detergent, too!) for absolutely nothing out of pocket!

It took a couple of months to save up enough of the codes to cash them all in, but it was worth the wait because now I don’t have the dreaded cost of months’ worth of disposable diapers to worry about. (Not to mention my daughter sure looks cute in them!) And all it took was simply switching my search engine!
Sign up for your own Swagbucks account to get started earning your way toward free gift cards, or read more about my experience using Swagbucks.

(By the way, you can check out everything else that was on my baby registry here. Sometime soon, I want to revisit that post and update about which products ended up being my favorites!)

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P.S. One More Thing, Claire…

P.S. I was just thinking about those first two letters (here and here) that I wrote to you, Claire, and I wanted to add something.

Yes, those early days were rough and tough and trying. But lest you (or anyone else) gets the idea that I blame you for them, I want to assure you that I do not.

When I was pregnant with you (even before I ever got pregnant with you, in fact), I prayed that having you would sanctify me. I prayed that raising a child would chisel out the hard parts of my heart that would otherwise remain hidden, that it would draw out the rotten parts and bring healing and holiness to the deepest recesses of my soul. I so wanted that that when I drew up my Goals for Motherhood (which you can read about here), I included:

"Let motherhood sanctify me and submit myself to its purification process."

In fact, that was the goal that was at the very tip-top of that list.

And so it must be recognized that God took me up wholly and more than I’d ever anticipated on that prayer. I truly believe that those (these?) hard days are actually from Him. Not as punishment (because I was a difficult baby, too, Claire!), but really, truly as a gift.

I can say that now that I’ve walked through them and finally found some reprieve. I can say that now that life is feeling easier, now that we’ve made it out of that stretch of days-on-end crying bouts.

But I think that’s how life is sometimes. You can’t appreciate the beauty in the hardship until you’ve walked (or trudged or limped) through it and can see the edge of the shore gleaming in the distance. The shore of Hope. Then you look back on all the adversity still fresh in your wake and, only then, can see the silver linings that glimmered and glinted all along.

And so as I look back over those times in the not-so-distant past, I can see God working in them. Teaching me to deny myself and really start to learn what self-sacrifice looks like. To deny man’s supposed knowledge and look to him for wisdom. To let loose my grip on control and better learn to roll with the punches and make the best of them. And how to accomplish an absurd amount of things while nursing.

So I have seen my heart melted—toward you, toward life, toward God. I have seen myself learn to trust God more when life gets hard, to trust that he allowed me these hard times because he knows I can handle them, that I can press and hold on and make it to that distant shore with my faith intact, refined. And he has allowed them because he knows they’re worth it.

And that is what I’m most excited about, Claire. To see where you end up. Where this journey takes you. To see you grow and flourish and become that woman that God created you to be. And that he called me to help usher into this world. I promise you I will do my best. And when that fails, God will—as he already has—fill in the gaps and carry us both through.


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A Look Back at Claire's Second Month

Claire is now three months old and feels like I’m just now getting a chance to breathe and start to process these past three months. While they’ve been really hard, I also wanted to make sure not to forget them completely, so—with the benefit of hindsight and some (much needed!) time—I wanted to preserve them in some after-the-fact monthly updates, written to my daughter, Claire.

(In case you’ve forgotten, I also wrote letters to Claire while I was pregnant, so I thought it made sense to continue that theme and have these updates written to her, as well. Also, here's a look back at Claire's first month, if you missed it.)

So, here’s the second one, looking back at Claire’s second month:

Dear Claire,

Your second month of life turned out to be just as hard as the first. Except maybe it was harder because we no longer had out-of-town guests coming in and helping with you and your dad had finally gone back to work following his three-week paternity leave. Then it was just me and you, and we both struggled through that.

I think what got us was that around the end of your first month, you woke up. Those big blue eyes of yours popped open and they decided to stay open. You became alert and once you were, you didn’t want to do anything else. You wanted to be awake and seemed to have forgotten how to fall asleep. No matter what I tried, you fought that sleep and you fought it with tears of agony and misery and yet you still would be awake. Hours and hours and hours later. Until you were exhausted and finally gave in to slumber. There were days when you were awake and fighting sleep from 8am until 4pm.

What got you to sleep one day wouldn’t work the next. Sympathetic family members bought us all kinds of products that promised to knock you into sleep. Sometimes they worked, but usually only a time or two and then we had to try something new. My favorite memory of this time (only in hindsight, of course) was when you wouldn’t stop crying and go to sleep so your dad started to jog around the kitchen holding you until you fell asleep. Around and around the kitchen you two ran.

Oh boy.

So you can see why I only lasted about two weeks after your dad went back to work that I knew I needed to call in reinforcements. Thus, when you were only 5.5 weeks old, we hopped a plane and flew up to Ohio where there was more of that village to pitch in to take care of you. (And of course, you did splendidly on the plane. Always out to prove me wrong, right?!)

Fortunately, we started learning how to get you to sleep. (More of a jiggle than a bounce paired with a Wubbanub pacifier, in case you've forgotten.) And you started taking multiple naps a day. Sometimes you still liked to fight your sleep, but those bouts began to subside.

And then you started smiling and grinning with more and more frequency. One day, after you’d had a nice, big meal, you started talking to me, “Oooohh.” It was only a few times at first but you began giving your vocal chords a break from crying and exercising them more for talking and cooing. We were all happy for that!

So it was that your second month marked a transition from the hardest of days to the clouds starting to part and blue skies looming in the distance. The days were still a struggle and I still felt like I was in survival-mode to make it through the day, but I could feel that parts were starting to get a bit easier (the very refrain I hated to hear when I told people how hard it was!) and some days, we were able to gather more good moments than bad, moments that I so very dearly needed, that gave me hope—in you, in God to get me through this, in us.

With two months down, we were finally starting to find our footing in this mom-and-daughter thing, finally find our rhythm in this beautiful (but still sometimes awkward) dance of love. Good thing it’s a slow dance!

Love always,

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A Look Back at Claire's First Month

Claire is now three months old and feels like I’m just now getting a chance to breathe and start to process these past three months. While they’ve been really hard, I also wanted to make sure not to forget them completely, so—with the benefit of hindsight and some (much needed!) time—I wanted to preserve them in some after-the-fact monthly updates, written to my daughter, Claire.

(In case you’ve forgotten, I also wrote letters to Claire while I was pregnant, so I thought it made sense to continue that theme and have these updates written to her, as well. You can read more about the monthly letters while I was pregnant here.)

So, here’s the first, looking back at Claire’s first month:

Dear Claire,

I’m writing this letter looking back at your first month now that you’re three months and full of smiles and coos and everything adorable. I’ve needed that much time and space because, honestly, this first month of your life was rough. Probably as rough for you as it was for me, because you pretty much spent the whole time crying. And crying. Or at least, that’s how it felt to me at the time.

Fortunately, you’ve always been a really cute baby. So when you wouldn’t stop crying and I started crying too, I’d look at your dad and sob, “But she’s so stinkin’ cute!” I developed a theory during this time that the more difficult babies have to be cute to make up for the battle scars parents earn while trudging through the hard times. (Spoiler: It is nothing less than a miracle that at three months, I would not consider you a difficult baby anymore. In fact, the other day I was talking to you and found myself saying, “You are such a good baby!” It took me by surprise that I could seriously and sincerely say that. Thank the Lord for that!)

I think the reason things were so difficult from the beginning is that you are a strong baby. Strong physically but also temperamentally. There’s a wonderful feist in you that I can sense already budding. We noticed it when you were fresh out of the womb holding your head up. I never had to worry about really supporting your head because you’ve always been so strong. And then we saw it in your communication—you were not one to sit back and be silent. You let your discomfort be known and known and known.

At the time that was difficult, but I know in my heart that it will make for a wonderfully independent, strong woman some day who will be brave enough to move mountains and make waves and shake things up. I can see the seeds of those possibilities in you and I do thank God for them. I prayed so much to have a child who could change the world—and I know that potential exists in you.

I started keeping a list of some of the milestones you reached during this time and here are a few highlights:
  • Your dad and I gave you your first bath when you were one day old.
  • You outgrew the size “newborn” diapers on day three. You wasted no time growing up!
  • On day four, you took your first walk around the neighborhood.
  • Two days later, your umbilical cord fell off.
  • On day seven, you tried on your first cloth diaper. (Your daddy told you looked like a sumo wrestler, but I thought it was super cute!)
  • When you were 10 days old, we took you to my favorite park near our house. It’s a passive park that’s kept as natural and wild as possible. The walkways aren’t even paved. (You slept the whole time nestled up to daddy in your Ergobaby carrier.)
  • When you were 19 days old, we took you to church for the first time to celebrate Palm Sunday, and then you went to your first restaurant. You did great and slept almost the entire time!
  • So well, in fact, that when you were three weeks old, you and I ventured out to your first trip to the grocery store and our first trip alone together. That was another success!
  • At the end of the month you made your first coo while you were playing under your activity gym and smiled for the first time at Mr. Monk who hung by the side of your changing table.
So there were lows during these early weeks, but there were also highs. More that I can see now than I could then, I think. And for that, I am utterly grateful. For you, I am truly, utterly grateful.


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Happy Father's Day: A Post for My Husband

It’s my first Father’s Day married to a father.

Mother’s Day was only a month ago, and yet everything still seemed too new to even spend more than half a minute ruminating over the significance of the day. There was still a baby to be held, diapers changed, and food to be made.

But now, just a month later, Father’s Day is completely different. I can sit here and look back over these past three months that have made my husband and I into parents, into mothers and fathers.

When my husband and I first started dating, I remember our first real conversation. It was on the phone while I was driving back from visiting my best friend an hour-and-a-half away. We talked that whole drive, and then more and more as I sat in my driveway, not wanting to hang up or let that conversation slip away. When we finally did hang up—after talking about life and love and hopes and dreams—I remember thinking clearly: That man is going to make for an incredible father.

I am fortunate enough to say, five years later, that I could not have been more right.

From the moment Claire was born, my husband was a natural at this parenting gig—even in spite of how difficult she proved to be. It was he who had the patience to get her to sleep and the calm to get her to stop crying. He changed so many diapers that it felt like weeks before I ever took over the task. From day one, he was a Daddy and took to the task without hesitation, cuddling our daughter, fawning over her, pouring love all over her.

And in the midst of all that, he also took care of me. Because as I’ve mentioned before, I was something of a wreck during those early days of motherhood, when the sound of Claire's cries ripped and shred my soul to pieces. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced but her stress stresses me, her misery makes me miserable, her cries bring me to tears. And so, I suffered alongside her as she tried to acclimate to this big, bad world of ours.

Yet my husband was there for me, a constant source of encouragement to me. There’s a post-it note he put on the inside of our bedroom door reminding me, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). He encouraged me day after day, held me when I cried, comforted me when I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a terrible mom because all she did was cry.

He was my stronghold during those dark days, always pointing me back to the Lord and reminding me of His goodness and faithfulness. He truly was the hands and feet of Jesus to me and Claire both during those days. He showed us God when both of us were too exhausted to look for Him ourselves.

And so, on this first Father’s Day, I wish to tell this handsome man of mine: Thank you. I love you. I am the luckiest wife in the world, and our daughter is the luckiest girl in the world. Happy Father’s Day!

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What My Daughter Needs the Most...

When my daughter, Claire, was about a week old and we were barely getting any sleep (I was clocking about three hours a night in those early days trying to console her crying), I was desperate. Without any time to wait for books to be mail-ordered, I went to the library and checked out half a dozen books on “fussy babies” and “how to get your baby to sleep.”

As I mentioned before in this post, one of the decisions we made about that time was to not feel tied down to what the “experts” say about raising a newborn. We decided to follow our own instincts, to listen to her and to remember what the Lord, alone, has asked of us as parents. And life became a lot simpler.

But in that desperate run to the library, I came across a book: Baby Hearts by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn. It’s a scientific look at the emotional needs and lives of babies, from birth up to three years old. By looking at research and studies done in labs and controlled experiments around the world, the authors help parents understand what factors affect how a baby feels and how those earliest interactions and feelings can affect a baby for the rest of his or her life. Because, the authors say, what a baby feels during their first year even can drastically impact them for the rest of their lives. Pretty powerful stuff, huh?

As I was reading through it, one of the things they stated at the beginning of the book was that what researchers have found as the best predictor of a person’s healthy emotional state later in life can be traced back to the amount of attachment they feel toward their parents during these early months.

I read and reread that section: “….we now know that children’s experiences during the first three years of life have an enormous effect on every aspect of their emotional lives thereafter. Forming a strong bond with his or her baby must, therefore, be every parent’s first and foremost goal. This emotional bond, or secure attachment, as it’s referred to by child development professionals, is considered crucial to emotional well-being because it establishes children’s ‘working model’ for future relationships…”

It confirmed what my husband and I had already decided: That it was more important to us that we tend to her heart rather than get caught up in things like sleeping X-amount of hours a night or spacing feedings so many hours apart. Sure, it might be awkward if she is older and can’t sleep through the night for a slumber party, but that pales in comparison to ensuring she feels safe and secure in our love.

I feel the need to add a caveat like, “Of course I don’t mean that X or Y or Z,” when it comes to routines and sleep and everything else. But rather than go through all that, I’ll trust that you know what I mean. That as parents, while establishing healthy habits and helping her get settled into this wonderful-but-weird world of ours, the main objective of what we’re doing must be on her heart, not on these other things that will likely fall into place on their own anyway.

So, I’m writing this in the moments after holding my daughter in my arms until she fell asleep peacefully and placed her down in her bassinet. And I don’t feel guilty about it, one bit.

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Getting Honest: Motherhood is Really Hard

A couple of months in now, Claire and I are starting to really get into a good rhythm. One where I have started to learn her quirks and how to work with her personality and needs rather than fight them. One where I am learning how to manage and balance life with an infant.

But as I look back over the weeks that led up to this point, one of the things that has helped so tremendously get to this point is one simple thing: Honesty.

Because it is hard.

So hard that I got to the point where I had to pack up and take my baby girl with me back to Ohio (where my parents live) so that I could have more round-the-clock help taking care of her. So hard that I started crying when I was at a post-baby shower for Claire at our church and supposed to be giving an update about life was going for us at that point.

As a new mom, I so desperately wanted to love this life of mine and float on clouds and mush-and-gush about my baby. But one afternoon, as I sobbed over not being able to get my baby to stop wailing, I finally couldn’t deny it any longer: I needed help. I couldn’t do this on my own. Mothering was harder than I’d ever imagined.

And so I called up my husband and my parents and told them how I was feeling, and you know what? The support I received released my fears and soothed my heart. I discovered that when I allowed myself to be honest, rather than fear appearing like a failure as a mom or like life has to be honky-dory.

With my baby in-tow, we boarded a plane and I spent the next three weeks with family, passing her off when I couldn’t soothe her and having someone else watch her while I rested. Slowly over those weeks, as I was able to get rest and watch others try to soothe her (and also fail at it!), I was able to become more of the mom I wanted to be: A happy mom. Because before I admitted how hard things were, I honestly wasn’t as happy as my daughter deserved.

But the little act of being honest opened the doors for that. It allowed me to be vulnerable and to realize I’m not alone and the façade that we see prancing around in baby stores and diaper commercials is just that: a façade. It may exist in reality for some parents, perhaps those with “angel babies” or those who are natural baby whisperers. But for the rest of us? I’ll say it again: It can be hard.

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{ photo source }

Three Months Old and Full of Personality

Oh, my daughter.

It's been three months since she first came into this world; three months for me to begin to get to know her; three months for me to watch her blossom into her personality; three months for me to be enamored by that emerging personality.

I've always found it interesting that babies prove themselves independent creatures--their own persons--from their earliest of days. Straight from the womb, they have their own temperament. Mom and dad can influence it, help it, hinder it, encourage it or scourge it. But it is a temperament created all of its own.

So I've eagerly watched my little girl and tried to put my finger on this personality of hers. From her earliest days, we described her with the word "intense." In some parenting books I've read, they call it "high-needs" or (the kinder, gentler moniker) "spirited." When she was unhappy, she was really unhappy. When something aggravated her, it really aggravated her. When she was content, she was happy as a clam.

And now, as she grows and spends more and more time awake and alert, that still remains the case: When she's happy, she's giddy. When she's curious, she's so much so that she won't go to sleep (for hours and hours).

She has passion and feist that I can see already, a penchant for experiencing life deep down into her bones.

And while she still sometimes needs to be cuddled to sleep, when she's awake, she is no clingy baby. When she's awake, she doesn't want to be cradled like a baby; she wants to be sitting, standing, propped up to look around. She's happy to entertain herself for enough time for mama to have breakfast and get dressed and catch up on my morning emails. During that time, she just lays there and looks around, cooing and mesmerized by this world of hers.

I can already see an independent spirit budding in her, just waiting until her feet can take her places so that she can explore at will, rather than just sit and watch.

And so, my baby is growing. She is coming into her own, and I am in awe of it, every single day.

(And yes, that photo is actually of Clarie. It's taken this long for me to finally get some decent photos of her. But it was worth the wait wasn't it?)

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