Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful and warm, bright and beautiful, precious and perfect holiday this year. I'll be back at the beginning of the New Year with new posts. In the meantime, I hope each of you are able to enjoy it and feel the love of the Lord through all the hustle and bustle, cookies and cakes. Merry Christmas!

P.S. I have been loving reading this board book to Claire lately: Jesus, Me, and My Christmas Tree. Of course she is too young to understand it, but I love the way it intertwines all the traditional decorations of the Christmas tree (lights, ornaments, presents underneath, etc.) and links each one back to Jesus and the significance they have to him. It will definitely be a staple in our Christmas and Advent preparations for the next couple of years to come!


My Favorite Cloth Diaper For a Perfect Fit (And a Chance to Win Your Own!)

One of the most difficult elements of cloth diapering is getting your diapers to a perfect fit. So many of them are created to pull double- and triple-duty by fitting a baby at various stages of growth so that you only have to buy minimal diapers. With most diapers, you change the diaper's size by moving the snaps along the legs or waist to make them smaller or larger. While this is great for cost-savings, inevitably, a child will fall somewhere between the snaps and for a time, the diaper will be too small or too large, while you're waiting for her to grow into the next size.

Which is why when I found out about SoftBums diapers, I was really excited! They have gotten rid of using snaps to size the diaper leg openings. Instead, they offer a "Slide²Size" feature that allows you to get a perfect fit around your baby's legs (where most leaks occur). Plus, this will accommodate babies  from 5lbs up to 35lbs! The "Slide²Size" feature is basically an elastic ribbon that runs along the legs (see photo below). You can reach inside the diaper and there's a tiny drawstring toggle that you can loosen or tighten to get the perfect fit. Tuck the toggle back inside the diaper out of baby's reach, and you're good to go.

The ability to get the best fit possible is an incredible feature to me, because when you do, you experience significantly fewer leaks with a properly fitting cloth diaper than you do with disposables. I love that!

They sent me one of the SoftBums Omni diapers to review to try this feature out for myself. Here's what it looks like on Claire:

It did take me a bit of trial-and-error to get the slides in the correct position so that the elastic around the legs were tight enough to keep in leaks but loose enough to be comfortable on her without leaving red marks. (I did find that to have the diaper tight enough to keep leaks in, she did have some pressure marks around her thighs, but they don't seem to bother her.) The diaper comes with suggested lengths for how long the elastic should be, depending on the size of your baby's legs, to ease this process, though.

One of the other features I like about the Omni diaper, in particular, is that it offers you more flexibility with how you use it: You can put it on over a prefold (which is the typical way I cloth diaper). Or, you can purchase SoftBum's "pod system" which are basically microfiber pads that snap into the diaper so that they stay in place. There's a pocket in the back of the diaper that you can stuff the pod into, making it a pocket diaper. You can also just lay the pods (or folded prefolds) on top of the diaper lining so that you can reuse the cover again until it's soiled. (Find out more about the Omni System from SoftBums here.)

I love all the options! It really allows you to experiment and figure out what system works best for you. Do you want to prefold and use it as a diaper cover or stuff and use it as a pocket diaper?

Plus, the interior is nice and soft against baby's skin. I am loving the microfiber terry that lines it and that the pods are made of, which help wick moisture away. (That is why SoftBums diapers protect against rash, and according to their website, prevent up to 80% less rash than disposables!) I found that the microfiber worked so well that sometimes I couldn't even tell if she'd wet her diaper or not. I love that effectiveness and can only imagine how much more comfortable it is for her sensitive skin!

All in all, I loved the versatility of the SoftBums Omni diaper and would wholeheartedly recommend it to others who are interested in cloth diapering. Fortunately, SoftBums is offering one Life Blessons reader the chance to receive an Omni diaper of their own. Simply leave a comment on this post telling me which SoftBums diaper you would choose, and I'll select a winner on Saturday, December 28. Find out more about SoftBums diapers and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

My First Time Trying an All-In-One Cloth Diaper (And a Chance to Win Your Own!)

When it comes to deciding how you're going to cloth-diapering, there are lots of factors to take into account, but usually it will come down to one of two: Cost, or Convenience? For my foray into the cloth diapering world, I chose to go by cost, which is why I ended up choosing prefolds and diaper covers.

But if you really want to make cloth-diapering as convenient as possible, then you're probably going to go a different route and select all-in-one diapers. These are about as close to the ease of using disposables as you're going to get: You just put take a clean cloth diaper and put it on your baby, and when it's soiled, you peel it off, drop it in your wet bag until laundry day. There's no tying or wrapping or scraping or pulling apart. You really do just put it on and take it off and then throw it in the wash.

That makes it so easy (which is part of why I clung to disposables for so long), so I was always intrigued by them and wondered if I should have forked out more money to get some all-in-ones for my stash. Thirsties is one of the top cloth diapering companies (also the company that makes the diaper covers that I used with my prefolds), and they offered to send me one of their Thirsties Duo All-in-One diapers to try out.

One of my favorite things about Thirsties diapers is that they come in a variety of adorable colors and prints, so for my review diaper, I chose this tree-adorned print, which looks pretty cute on Claire, if I do say so myself:

The interior of the diaper is really soft and made of microfiber terry cloth, which is so absorbent that I've had a hard time telling if it's even wet. I like this because this shows it's wicking moisture away from Claire's bottom, which should keep her more comfortable and has helped keep diaper rash away, without having to resort to rash creams. (Which is good, because you can only use cloth diaper-friendly rash creams when you're using cloth diapers, otherwise you can risk voiding your warranty.)

Like Claire's other diapers from Thirsties, these come in two sizes; one for when babies are smaller and this larger size from when they reach 18lbs, which Claire has just graduated into. Since she is at the small end of this diaper range, it still is a bit bulky on her and getting the snaps configured so that they aren't too tight but still tight enough to eliminate leaks has been a bit of trial-and-error. We had leaks while I tried to figure that combo out; oftentimes the diaper would look like it was tight enough but once she wet, we discovered it wasn't!

Once we finally figured that combo out, the diapers have worked quite well. Another feature I have always liked about Thirsties is that they have a double leg gusset, which provides another barrier for eliminating leaks and I think is one of the key reasons why so many people stick with Thirsties and why I've experienced so few leaks when I used their diaper covers with prefolds.

The only other disadvantage I've found is that these take longer to dry, since you're encouraged to let them air dry rather than put them through the dryer. (Compared to the ease of routinely throwing my prefolds into the dryer since there aren't any fancy parts on them.) This is something to consider when you're factoring in how many diapers you'll need to last you between loads and to account for the longer drying times.

Surprisingly, they aren't that much more expensive than the diaper covers. If you're willing to do laundry more frequently so as to buy fewer diapers, the cost difference can get pretty close, which honestly surprised me, as I'd always expected all-in-ones to be quite expensive. These are $16.50 each, compared to my diaper covers that cost $12.75 a piece. (Find Thirsties Duo All-in-One cloth diapers on Amazon.)

All in all, I thought these all-in-one diapers are great for convenience, especially now that Claire is getting squirmier and squirmier on the changing table. The faster the better is our mantra these days, and these really do speed up the cloth-diapering process! I also loved the microfiber terry interior that wicks moisture away; I think that's my absolute favorite element of this diaper because it seems so good for her skin, which is one of the main reasons I have continued to cloth diaper. (Read more about the Duo All-in-One Cloth Diapers from Thirsties here.)

As I build up my stash for Claire as she continues to outgrow her smaller cloth diapers, I would love to continue adding all-in-ones like these! And, fortunately for you, Thirsties has offered to give one of these all-in-one diapers away to one Life Blessons reader. To enter to win, please leave a comment on this post sharing which Thirsties diaper you would choose. I will choose a winner on December 28. (And if you don't win here, make sure to check out their blog, where they offer giveaways every Thursday!) You can also keep up to date on the latest with Thirsties by visiting their website or following them on Facebook and Twitter.

My Cloth Diaper Essentials

This week, I'm talking about my experience cloth diapering my daughter from birth.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made the decision when I was pregnant to start off my cloth-diapering journey using prefolds and diaper covers. This is the most economical way to cloth diaper because you can buy high-quality prefolds at less than $2 a pre-fold and you only need a couple of diaper covers, which cost about $13 a piece. (For me, I ended up not having to pay anything out of pocket for almost all of this entire cloth-diaper arsenal, which you can read more about in my post: How I Got My Cloth Diapers for Free.)

These are the items that I've been using and that have made the process easier on me. So far (after nine months of off-and-on cloth diapering), I'm happy with all these purchases!

Cloth Wipes: If you remember, I shared about these before Claire was born and was impressed even then at how soft they were. Now that I've had the chance to use them (over and over again), they are one of my favorite diaper essentials, whether I'm cloth diapering or not. I keep a spray bottle of water at hand and will spritz Claire or the wipe to moisten, and it typically only takes one wipe usually to clean her off. I like that there are no chemicals, which is especially important when we're fighting diaper rashes!

Prefold Diapers: I purchased 24 of these prefolds, but now think that I could have gotten away with 18 because I don’t like letting Claire sit in a dirty diaper for long and I have always used disposables overnight. Depending on how often you’re willing to do laundry, I bet even 12 would suffice. One of my favorite things about using prefolds is that they can withstand so much abuse. With the other kinds of cloth diapers, you have to be careful about using bleach and diaper creams because they can corrupt the diaper’s waterproof liner. But these provide a thick barrier (and I only used bleach when I was doing a load of just prefolds) to protect against that. I also rarely had a leak. Now that Claire is getting bigger, I don't have to always pin them against her, but can just fold them into thirds and lay them in her diaper. Soon, I will need to buy some of the next size up, though. I'm saving up my Swagbucks for then!

Diaper Covers: You layer these over prefolds, and they provide a waterproof barrier. The great part about these is that you only really need to wash them once they’ve gotten dirty. Because my prefolds were so thick, that rarely happened, so I could use a single cover all day (longer, even, if I got lucky) before it got soiled. You simply wipe it down after each cleaning and put it on over the prefold. You can also select different closures, and while the Velcro aplix was easier to position, I did find that it started to give away after just a few uses. The snaps are now my preferred closure. These diaper covers come in two sizes; one that should last baby's first year, and the second for when she's bigger. While this makes getting a tight fit easier, it still can be elusive and take some trial and error to get the fit just right.

Snappi Cloth Diaper Fasteners: These are the easiest way to fasten prefolds. I've never had to use a diaper pin, thanks to these! (They have teeth that help them hold on to the prefold, kind of like an ace bandage. While they might mess up lower quailty prefolds, they haven't done any harm to mine.)

Wet Bag: You have to have somewhere to put the dirty diapers until you wash them, and that's where the wet bag comes in. It's waterproof, so you can put the soiled diapers in and not worry about them dripping anywhere. I like this one because I just hang it on the side of her changing table and when it's time to launder, just unsnap it and dump the contents directly into the washer.

Cloth-Diaper Friendly Laundry Detergent: It's important when you're cloth diapering that you choose your detergent wisely, because it can void your diapers' warranty. This was recommended by the brand I chose (Thirsties) as well as on an independent cloth-diaper site that ranks nearly every kind of detergent. I only use it when I wash her diaper covers so it has lasted a long time. (For her prefolds, I just use some regular homemade laundry detergent, another reason I love prefolds!)

Getting Back on the Cloth Diaper Wagon

When I was pregnant with Claire, I fully intended to cloth diaper. I was cloth diapered, and I watched my mom cloth diaper my siblings. It was normal to me. I looked at the bags of dirty disposables and the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle mantra I’d learned as a kid cringed within me. I looked at the bags and saw money literally get thrown into the trash.

So I planned to cloth diaper.

If you’ve ever considered cloth diapering and looked into it very much, you know that there are tons of options—so many that it can feel overwhelming. I spent a couple of days researching all of them, reading reviews, figuring out the differences between prefolds and covers, all-in-ones, and pocket diapers. Some people swear by this brand while others found it utterly failed on their baby.

I was at a loss about what to pick, especially as my daughter was still in utero and had yet to make her preferences or even her squirmy, long and lanky body-type known.

So I went with the option that proved most economical and practical given the chance that I was taking a bit of a risk picking a system without having a clue what would work for my baby. I ended up deciding to start off with pre-folds and diaper covers, which are the cheapest route to go. (Even cheaper if you are able to get your cloth diapers for free like I was, which you can read about here!) I picked some high-quality diapers (you can see them specifically on my baby registry) and prepped them (which means you have to wash them multiple times, or boil them on the stovetop as I did, so that they’ll readily soak everything up). I folded them and had them at the ready for when she was born.

It was then that we met this little girl of ours, and on top of all the crying and clinging and not sleeping that came with her, cloth diapering flew out the window. Disposables are just so easy! Considering my husband was already doing all the household duties including cooking and cleaning, I couldn’t really justify heaping another one on him, in addition to his full-time job.

But after a couple of weeks, that pile of prefolds and the brightly-colored covers beckoned me back. Reminding me that there is more to motherhood than ease and convenience. And it is something I do truly believe in. So I regrouped and made it my goal to have her wear them at least as often as she was wearing disposables—so half-and-half. It was a good way to ease back into things.

Around this time was when we boarded a plane and came back to Ohio for extra help. Again, cloth diapering flew out the window because we were away from home. Then when I came back, she got a yeast diaper rash that would not go away, so I halted all cloth diapering until it was clear. That took a month. And then soon after that, we moved up to Ohio, permanently.

So you see, there have been many excuses and only a half-hearted attempt at cloth diapering. Still, in spite of all the hiccups, I still believe in it. I still think it’s financially wise and good stewardship of our resources. I think it’s good for my daughter’s skin to avoid the chemicals that are in even the most “natural” of disposables. And like I said before, it’s what is normal to me. Cloth diapering just “fits” my personality, my parenting so well.

Which is why I’m climbing back on the cloth diapering wagon, and I’ll be sharing more about that in a few different posts this week.


"Lift Your Hands to the Lord for the Lives of Your Children"

It was the middle of the night, when Claire awoke screaming.

When she was first born, everyone said I’d learn what her cries meant. I never was able to discern a “hungry” cry from a “wet” one from a “sleepy”one, but there was no mistaking this one: It was a cry that signaled distress, fear, terror. Shrill and clear, I knew it was a nightmare.

So I put my hand on her back, hoping that might comfort her. Still she cried. I sang a lullaby over her and rubbed her back. The cries did not stop. I whispered, “Shh, it’s okay,” in her ear. Still she cried. I picked her up and rocked her, hoping that would break the nighttime spell. But still she cried.

Having run out of my tried-and-true motherly tricks, I began to pray out loud over her, “Dear Lord, please…” As soon as those words fell from my lips, her cries ceased.

I held her in awe as she quietly nestled back against me.

The Lord didn’t even make me finish my prayer, which was going to be, “please heal her.” All he required was that I think to pray and begin to do it for my daughter. He wanted to heal her, to comfort her even more than I did. Even though it was something she wouldn’t remember when she awoke, even though there wasn’t really anything wrong with her. It still mattered to him.

But, it seems, that what mattered even more was my reaction. How would I respond? He wanted me to bring this to him. To watch him love my daughter.

I was recently reading in Parenting from the Overflow and she shared this verse that spoke so clearly of this encounter:

Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord.
Lift your hands to Him for the lives of your children.
- Lamentations 2:19

I wish I would have thought to pray for her first, before going through all the other motions. But seeing how clearly nothing worked until I prayed, it amazed me even more. That love, that fatherly love for this small, spunky nine month old in a world filled with nine month olds. He stoops down to each one and comforts their little hearts, showing us all that Jesus really does love the little children of the world.

Dear Claire: 9 Month Update

(I've been writing monthly updates to my daughter, Claire, documenting all the changes that come with the passing weeks. You can catch up on past letters here.)

Dear Claire,

Oh, Claire. That little girl that we once referred to as “spirited” has given way to one who is full of spunk—and I love it. You are so much fun right now! You have the biggest, goofiest grin that lights up your whole face. You babble and blow bubbles and raspberries. You click your tongue and pop your lips. You are just pure joy to watch as you marvel at the world. Pure, pure joy.

Still no walking, yet, but you are perfecting your standing up. You regularly let go and stand up all on your own, usually because you want to multitask—holding a toy in one hand and suck the thumb on your other hand. It’s hilarious and adorable all at once. Your Mimi timed you once and you stood all on your own for more than thirty seconds! I can only imagine walking will be here before we know it.

This month you went through a phase where you started to show off a more introverted side: When a stranger would make eyes with you, you often would bury your head against me and bashfully divert your gaze. Though you’ve been in the nursery since you were six months old, you started to protest about 45 minutes into service when you realized we weren’t around. So for a couple of weeks, I’d come in and join you and once you knew I really was nearby, you’d go back to independent play and the other kids would come running to take advantage of the new storytime reader. Fortunately, last week you made it through the whole service without a peep.

If you asked your Mimi about yourself, one of the things she would say is that she’s never met a child with such a good appetite as you have. You were never a picky eater, gobbling up carrots or pureed corn, avocados or acorn squash. Here recently, though, you have started protesting fruit purees though. I feed you a spoonful and you squash up your little face, purse those lips and cough like it’s sour grapes I’m feeding you. Time and again, I’ll taste them myself to make sure, and they are always yummy. I think maybe you’re at the stage where you want real food, not just purees, so I’ve started sitting you in your high chair with finger foods for the picking: Cheerios, steamed carrots, pieces of toast, banana chunks. You seem to enjoy that, although you’re still not eating as much as it seemed you once were. (You still love, love, love rice cereal though. I think you’d eat that all the time if I let you.)

You still will not keep socks or shoes on your feet. We are constantly pulling your pants up because your waist is so tiny and your legs so long that you’re always stepping and crawling out of them. I am wholly anti-onesies now, thanks to the fact that you are such a squirmy-wormy. Trying to fasten even a trio of snaps after a full diaper change is like wrestling a fish. Not worth it. Consequently, you often wear the same outfit for a couple of days sometimes just so I don’t have to take on the task of wrangling you into a new one.

You love to tear up phone books. (I kept a miniature one just for this purpose. You still find the big one and prefer it.) You love clearing your GP’s shelf of DVDs and VHS tapes, throwing them all to the floor. You get a sparkle in your eyes when you survey the next thing you want to take on—the cat walks into the room, a remote sits on a low table, I leave my iPod unattended. You are stealthy and undaunted by height or distance, constantly amazing us at when you end up uncovering. Which is why we have to be more and more careful what falls to the floor because you inevitably find it. The other day it was a rubberband. Then it was an insect in the car. (And the only reason I know that is because there was a wing stuck to the side of your mouth afterward when I realized it. Gross.)

In essence, you keep us on our toes with your vivaciousness and zest for life. And I love it. I adore this spunky side of yours. I adore the joy and exuberance with which you approach the world. Even when you wake up from a nap, there’s no downtime. You’re ready to go, bouncing up and down, squealing with delight. I love it. And I love you.


Redeeming Motherhood: Elizabeth's Story

Redeeming Motherhood is a series of posts where women open up about some of the struggles they've faced as mothers and how the Lord has redeemed those situations and brought beauty from them. Check out all the posts in the Redeeming Motherhood series here. (And if you want to share your own story of hope and healing, please check out the bottom of the post for instructions!)

Many thanks to Elizabeth of E, Myself, and I for sharing her insights in today's Q&A! Someone recommended her blog to me when I was pregnant and I've been an avid reader ever since. Especially when I combed through her archives and found out that her son (now two years old!) wasn't the easiest baby either. Hearing her experience helped me breathe a sigh of relief during that time when everything with Claire was so, so hard. And so here she is, sharing more about the struggle of comparing our child to other children.

Describe one of the hardships you’ve faced as a mother. What made this time so difficult?

When Sam was about 14 months old, he wasn't talking (or showing any signs of language development) at all.  I think I knew, logically, that this wasn't really a big deal.  He had had a number of ear infections and it was "normal" for little boys to be a little delayed in their speech.  However, for some reason, I let this relatively small thing turn in to a very BIG concern for me.  I spent WAY too much time on the internet and the rest of my time worrying and looking for "signs" of a larger problem in my boy. 

Instead of enjoying little milestones (like his first steps, etc.), I made lists of things he did and didn't do.  I checked off "warning signs" and called the pediatrician regularly.  Even things that were meant to be "fun" like play dates and our weekly music classes became opportunities for me to obsess over the ways Sam was "behind" or "different" from his peers.

What were some of the emotions you were feeling during this time?
It honestly all feels a little silly and dramatic to me now (it has been more than a year and Sam seems to have "caught up" in pretty much every area since then); but, at the time, I was SO afraid.  I worried ALL the time and carried around a heavy load of anxiety and stress.  In some ways, I was totally consumed by my fears that something was "wrong."  I could.not. let go and focus on all the wonderful, perfect things about Sam.  Everything felt like a test.

As they tend to do, my old insecurities of not being "good enough" snuck back into my heart and mind.  This time, they reminded me of the medicines I took when I was pregnant and the the emergency c-section I had, they whispered to me that I didn't spend enough time reading to him, or praying for him, and, somehow, they convinced me that if I had just done this or not done this, things might be different now.

I was ashamed that I didn't think my son was "perfect," and that I wasn't enjoying this season of his life. I felt alone; and, if I'm really being truthful, I felt like God was playing a game with me - like He didn't take my worries and fears seriously; and, almost, as if He was enjoying watching the control-freak in me squirm a little.

On the outside, I told myself (and others) that God was in charge; but, on the inside, it was still all about ME.  I found little bits of hope in telling myself that I could handle whatever came my way; but, I wasn't willing to completely let go and give my worries over to God.

How did the Lord speak to you during this time? How did he bring redemption or healing to you?
For whatever reason, this whole period of worry and fear came to a peak over a three day period in September.  I really don't remember now what triggered this ultimate "breakdown" for me; but, I spent two FULL days in a dark place.  I cried and cried out to God for help and strength.  Finally, I was beginning to realize that I was NOT strong enough to deal with the unknown on my own.

At the end of the second day, I took a walk with Sam in the stroller and talked to one of my best friends on the phone for a long time.  She is a pediatric physician's assistant, so my initial call to her was mostly to talk "medical" and get her "professional opinion" on whether or not my fears seemed legitimate.  She listened patiently to me as I cried and read off my laundry list of worries, and then she said... "Elizabeth, I think God just wants you to surrender.  He has brought you to this crossroads where you have to choose to trust Him even when you don't know the outcome.  The outcome doesn't matter."

Up until that point, my prayers (however desperate they were) to the Lord had been to make Sam OK.  To make whatever my fears were unfounded.  But something clicked in that conversation, and I began to give up a little bit.  I knew that my prayer couldn't be "I trust that You can fix this;" but, "I trust that You are bigger than this.  That You are still good no matter what."

Is there a Bible verse that you think speaks poignantly to this experience? It can be one you clung to during that time or that, looking back, seems particularly fitting.
The next morning, which was the third day, I decided to turn to the Word (which I hadn't done in a while).  I had the YouVersion app on my iPhone, so I just opened that and went to the spot where I had left off several weeks (months maybe?) before.  I was in Hosea, which I remember thinking was a very weird place to start, but I went with it.  This was the first verse I read...

“He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us; that we may live in his presence.” (Hosea 6:1&2)

Again, in the grand scheme of life, my worries were NOT that big of a deal.  But, God used even them to heal and redeem me. Through this experience, He reminded me once again what it means to live in His PRESENCE - not just vaguely aware that He is there - and to trust Him with all the unknowns of my life.
Sam didn't start talking for almost another ten months; but, my worry stopped that day. It wasn't that the same "signs" didn't exist; but, I didn't care anymore.  At least in this one area of my life, I had finally learned to surrender and trust that God was in control regardless of the circumstances or the outcome, and I didn't have to be.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Elizabeth is wife to her high school sweetheart Jeff, momma to two-year-old Sam, and English teacher to 75 ninth, tenth, and eleventh graders.  In her "free time" she moonlights as a blogger at E, Myself, and I where she chronicles her journey into adulthood and her attempts at salvaging a tiny bit of her former “Type A” self. She writes about being a working mom, teaching, organizing, decorating, party planning, and The Bachelor, and she’s not afraid to laugh at herself when necessary. Elizabeth is passionate about connecting women and helping them find freedom in living their real lives with honesty, humor, and a strong cup of coffee.

If you are interested in contributing to the Redeeming Motherhood series, contact me with your responses to the questions in this post. Include a short bio and a photograph, if you like. It's not necessary to have your own blog, just a heart and a story to share!

{ photo source }

Growing Up and Celebrating the Multitude of "Firsts" in this First Year

It is incredible how quickly this year of Claire’s has flown by, and how many milestones she’s already bulldozed past. So many of those “firsts” are still so fresh to me. Her first bath, the first time I found her rolled over in her crib. The first time she laughed (while watching me brush my teeth when I spit into the sink, no less). The first time she had solid food. Taking her to to the swings at the playground for the first time. Her first airplane ride, her first trip to church, her first tooth.

The list of her “firsts” continues to grow longer and longer; right now we are on the verge between being able to stand up on her own and take a real first step. (In this photo, she's letting go of the cabinets, standing on her own, and then going back to the ground to finish crawling over to me. Does that count as a step?)

As each "first" passes, it is proof that she is growing by leaps and bounds before my very eyes. It is a humbling realization, to be able to look back and see how far we’ve come. And then to realize we have so much ahead of us, so many exciting changes that I really am excited about! I cannot wait to hear her talk, to know what she’s thinking and dreaming about and interested in. I cannot wait to snuggle with her on the couch and watch a good PBS movie with her or sit around the dining room table and make crafts.

There is so much to look forward to in this process of watching her bloom and come into her own. I think that’s what makes each of these “firsts” of hers so exciting: They are the next steps in that lifelong process. And so, I endeavor to savor each one. To not gloss over it in favor of looking to the future, nor yearn for those that have come and gone. But to try to appreciate each one, to appreciate this current stage of life and the beauty inherent in it.

To help me do that, Pampers Swaddlers sent along a package full of products designed to celebrate some of these "firsts" in a baby's life: a walking toy that helps (and entertains) Claire as she learns to wobble along on her own, little trinket boxes for memorializing a lock of hair from her first hair cut and losing her first tooth, a book to record her first words, some of which you can see in the photo below:

That's because right now, Pampers Swaddlers is celebrating a first of their own: the Swaddler diaper is now available in sizes 4 & 5. In celebration, Pampers is hosting 30 days of giveaways, with a grand prize of free Swaddler diapers and wipes for a year. Enter for daily prizes on the Pampers Facebook page here. They are also hosting a #SwaddlersFirsts Twitter Party on Thursday, December 5th at 9pm EST, where you can win great prizes (including those outlined below), so RSVP and join in here, as well. Keep up to date with Pampers by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

Plus, they are also offering one Life Blessons reader the chance to win their own prize pack like the one I received for Claire, which includes:
• Baby’s First Friend Plush Doll
• Baby’s First Tooth and First Curl Treasure Box
• Baby’s First Words Book
• Baby’s First Steps Push Toy
• Pampers Swaddlers diapers

To enter, please leave a comment below by Tuesday, Dec. 10, along with a way to contact you, if it isn’t visible in your profile. This review was made possible by Double Duty Divas and Pampers. I was provided the featured product free of charge to facilitate my review, but all opinions are 100% mine.
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