For the Joy Set Before Us | Parenting in Seasons of Greater Sacrifice

Inside: a closer look at keeping joy in hard parenting seasons

Keeping Joy in Hard Parenting Seasons

Sure, sacrifice is always a part of motherhood. But you know those seasons that just really take it out of you? The ones that would look completely different without the instruction and favor of God? THOSE are the seasons I’m talking about today.

For some moms, that season may be all the time. Maybe you have a child with special needs. Maybe you’ve been blessed with many children, and they rotate going through those really tough seasons. If that’s you, I want to start off by encouraging you as you read. The days are long. You’re exhausted. Every bone in your body may be begging to quit. But you just keep trucking because if not you, then who?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:9-10 (ESV)

You will reap a harvest. What kind, only God knows.

Greater patience?
A firmer reliance upon our Lord?
A flourishing relationship with your children?

Maybe (likely) even all of the above. But we can know that any time we are doing what the Lord through scripture has called us to do, there will be fruit of one sort or another.

Photo by Daria Obymaha on

Let’s trust Him and His word enough to endure and do what He said in the face of the (sometimes seemingly mountainous) difficulties.

Keeping Joy in Hard Parenting Seasons

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Stick with me. I know this isn’t the main focus of this verse. And yet, during my own difficult parenting seasons, THIS is one of the verses I’m often reminded of.

…for the joy set before Him, He endured

Jesus is our example in all things. And for the joy of saving His people, He endured far worse than anything I’ve had to face. Yet, during my own struggles, I tend to take my eye off the prize and lack joy because of it.

What is the Joy Set Before Mothers?

When we have a poor attitude, motherhood can feel like a thankless job. An exhausting job. A draining job. And no one seems to see all the little things that go into being “mom.” It’s easy to get hung up on feeling unappreciated. Or like what we’re doing doesn’t matter. Or like we’re doing it all wrong anyway. It’s so easy to get ensnared by a bad attitude in this mom life.

Our children are watching. They know when we are joyous to have them around and when we lack joy. They know when we’re annoyed with their presence and when we’re excited to see them in the morning. And all of it is affecting our relationship with them.

THAT is the joy set before us in motherhood: our relationships we’re building with our children and the eternal fruit that can grow from them.

Photo by Josh Willink on

Relationship is Key for Discipleship

In the Word, we see God’s design for the family and how He uses it to bring about His will and His glory. In the family, one of our greatest tools for accomplishing the will of God is discipleship.

Our relationship has a direct impact on our discipleship. In fact, there is no discipleship without the foundation of a good relationship. Is it our goal to raise our children to the glory of God? Are we training them up? Then we need to be intentionally sewing into our relationships with them without becoming weary and impatient.

In the world, it’s almost trendy to be a tired, annoyed, complaining mom. Women have become internet famous by talking and joking about the lack of joy they have in motherhood. They are applauded for complaining about their children to the world.

But here is what God says:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:3-5

Children are a blessing, a heritage! They’re the legacy we leave behind and our greatest work. Train, sharpen, and discipline them so you can send them out with the way of God in their hearts. That’s the goal and something that the world just doesn’t understand.

Photo by Maria Lindsey Content Creator on

During these seasons of greater sacrifice, it can be easy to get into fleshly thinking instead of focusing on what’s really important. But we can persevere by looking to the joy that will grow from all this hard work. There is no guarantee that our children will come to Christ even if we do train them up in His way to the best of our ability. But we have much to go off of in scripture that shows it’s normative for God to redeem the children of believers. 

The parent-child bond is one that the enemy loves to attack because it’s one that is so important and can be such a pure representation of God’s love for us.

Sacrificing to protect that relationship means that we’re tending to our bond with our children. Like tending to a garden. So even during these harder seasons full of plowing and weeding and digging out stones, we can have joy in knowing the fruit that will come from it.

The Example We Can Look to

Going back to our example of Jesus, He sacrificed Himself to atone for our wickedness and secure our adoption into the family of God. He was able to endure the cross–Him who knew no sin BECOMING SIN, drinking the cup of God’s wrath, and facing the shame that belonged to His beloved–because of the joy of what His sacrifice would accomplish. He would save His own from the bonds of sin and death, securing our redemption and eternal life in Him.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

In our homes, our sacrifice means sewing into our family bond, putting the love of one another above our own needs, and creating a family where our children can trust us to understand what they’re growing through and guide them into truth. Not only does that bring them closer to us, but it also shows them the love of God. It gives them a picture to compare to the Savior and loving Father we’re trying to teach them about.

Thank God for His grace! Because without Him, that would be a tall (and impossible) order. But with Him, we have the grace to grow.

What season are you facing right now? If you’re struggling through a hard one, know you’re not alone! And you’re doing blessed work. One day you will reap a harvest. Do not give up!

Until next time,

Like this post from Planting Vineyards? Pass it along with the social share buttons above and below!

Homeschooling a 2-Year-Old || Our Early Preschool Daily Flow

Homeschooling a 2-Year-Old

Since first writing this post, the materials we use have shifted. She absorbed most of the information quicker than I expected, so I did a follow-up over on the NEW blog (geared specifically toward homeschool, parenting, and simplifying family life). Check it out HERE!

Homeschooling a 2-year-old *may* sound like overkill.

But our little Arwyn LOVES to learn. At first, Dave and Ava videos on YouTube were enough to satiate her thirst. But as time went on (and my urge to homeschool grew), it was clear that a more structured daily learning flow would be a good fit for us. If your little one loves to learn, this may be a good route for you too!

Watch this video from our channel, Smith Party of 6, to see some of the activities we do in our early preschool!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. It’s a win, win!

Our Daily Tot School Flow

Here’s a general breakdown of our homeschooling time:


Our day starts out with calendar time. This usually happens during breakfast before the big kids leave for public school. Every day, we review what month we’re in, the date, and the year. We also go over the days of the week and talk about which day it is. Then we talk about seasons, the temperature, and the weather. Finally, we get specific about any holidays that may be close, activities that we’ll be doing for the day, and how the kids are feeling.

ALL of that is included on our Melissa and Doug calendar. To see a closeup of all the pieces, be sure to watch the YouTube video I’ve linked above. You can purchase the calendar from Amazon here:


Next we’ll do Bible. We have a verse each week that goes with the stories we’re reading. We use the book below as our guide. I love it because while it doesn’t follow what the Bible says word for word, it says things in such a way that it really paints a picture for little minds. You can hear me read a snippet of it in our YouTube video!

After Bible, we quickly go over the Water for Our Growing Hearts. Don’t know what that is? Check out this post where I talk about it:

Back-to-School Prep

Toddler Learning Folder

Next, we get into the meat of her daily work. By this point, we’ve taken the older kids to school, so this is our one-on-one time. We use a learning folder that I purchased and downloaded from Jady Alvarez, a fellow homeschooling mom on Teachers Pay Teachers. In the video, I detail some of the activities we do in the binder and do a quick flip-through.

Purchase the binder from Jady A HERE

*I was in no way paid to sponsor this product. We just love it!!

I try to break up the activities we do throughout the week. So while we do letters every day, we alternate the other pages we work on like numbers, colors, shapes, and continents.

Hands-On Activity/Craft

After working through her binder activities, she usually needs something that requires a little less acute focus. We take this time to either do a craft, a coloring page, a painting activity or something similar. Some days we’ll also do a fine motor activity to help her start gaining the skills she needs for handwriting.


For some reason unknown to me, all my kids LOVE flashcards. For Arwyn, we’ve been focusing on animals so far this year. We have a fairly large deck of different classes of animals, and I’ve divided them into 3 sections:

  • ones she knows
  • ones we’re working on
  • and ones we haven’t started yet

During this time, we also use her name packet that I made (and you can see in the video) to help her start recognizing which letters make up her name.

Something messy outside

I try to switch gears with her as much as I can to keep her engaged. Homeschool is something I want her to enjoy, not dread! So after flash cards and her name, we go outside and play. This usually entails side walk chalk, our water table, bubbles, or a messy sensory activity. If you need some sensory ideas, check out my Homeschool board on Pinterest.

And that’s a wrap! After that, were usually done for the day.

Other Things I Incorporate


Reading is a big thing in our house. The kids have always loved books, and Arwyn seems especially inclined toward them. So reading is a part of every day for us, whether it’s during our school time or dispersed throughout the day.

While she’s a little young for worksheets, she does enjoy a wipe clean workbook that I got from Amazon. It’s nice because she can practice her writing and tracing skills over and over again without using up paper. We just wipe it clean, and she can do it again! You can find it here:


As I mention in the video, Arwyn is a big music kid, and songs help her learn. Our family is big on music too (that’s actually part of the story of how my husband and I got together), so we sing pretty much all day, every day. From random tunes about what we’re doing and silly songs at play time to worship songs or showtunes, our house is constantly full of music. So we use a lot of songs for school time too. Some are even songs we’ve just made up to help teach whatever it is we’re talking about.

Like I mentioned above, she’s enjoyed Dave and Ava videos on YouTube since before she was even a year old. If you’ve never seen them, they’re vividly-colored videos set to revamped nursery rhymes or learning songs. I recommend them for anyone with small kiddos.

That’s a Wrap

And that’s it! Do you have anything else that you do to teach your 2-year-old?

Until next time,

Sharing is caring! Like this post from Planting Vineyards? Use the social share buttons above and below!

The Back-to-School Preparation that’s Most Essential for Our Kids

Back-to-School Prep

It’s that time.

Kids are headed back to school. You’ve got their backpacks, crayons, glue sticks, and erasers. Their back-to-school clothes and tennis shoes are tucked in their closets.

And while all of that is a necessary part of attending school outside of the home, there’s something much more important.

The Question

Are their hearts ready?

It’s the question many Christian parents may find themselves asking. Before I began homeschooling, it was the question looming in my mind.

Thankfully, there are still great teachers who love our kids and are passionate about guiding them in learning. My mom used to be one of them (until her retirement), so trust me when I say our choice to begin homeschool had nothing to do with a lack of appreciation for the good teachers out there.

Pray for Our Teachers | Back-to-School Prep

While their teachers may not be a concern, you may often wonder about the impact made by other students (and the impact they make on others too). Don’t think I homeschool because I want to shelter them from it. Effective interaction with others is too essential to our lives for that.

No, we shouldn’t seek to keep our children from potentially problematic interactions. But we should want to prepare them for it.

  • Prepare them for the child who tries to convince them to do they things they shouldn’t.
  • For the child who’s sitting alone because no one else wants to be their friend.
  • For the child who tries to make others feel inferior.
  • Or the child who feels inferior themselves.

If public or private education is what you’ve chosen, prepare them to be out among the broken, fleshly, dark world.

Essential Back-to-School Prep

So what exactly are we doing to get them ready for the school year?

1) Biblical training and discipleship

Preparing our kids for the errors of the world starts with teaching them the truth. Here are a few ways we’re training our children up:

Family worship
Bible study
Scripture memory
Psalm and hymn singing
Daily prayer

They can learn from an early age that God’s Word is the basis for all truth, and that glorifying Him is the greatest call for all of humanity.

2) Pray for them

Praying for our children is something I do daily.

But in special preparation for the school year, you can also pray:

  • that they will not be conformed to the pattern of the world
  • that the Holy Spirit will embolden them to exhibit strong character, especially when it’s hard
  • that they will be anxious for nothing
  • that they will turn to God and you, as their parents, when they need help
  • that they will be an example for other kids, in whatever ways they are gifted
  • that they grow daily in the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control)

A quick note: let your kids hear you praying for them.

I treasure those verses in John when Jesus is praying because I get to read something that He prayed with all of His people (including me) in mind. And of course, it’s a comfort knowing that He always intercedes for us.

Similarly, we are the hands, feet, and mouths of Christ in our homes. We are the ambassadors of Jesus to our children. What does hearing us pray for them stir in their little hearts?

I love having people in my life who pray for me. But there’s something very special about my mother telling me she’s prayed for me.

3) Open the conversation

If we really want our kids to get it, we need to just talk to them.

Talk to them about peer pressure and bullying. Let them know what they should do if they see someone else being unkind. Encourage them to be kind to those who don’t have many friends. Teach them the importance of disagreeing with others firmly but gently.

Of course, modeling these types of behaviors for them goes far. Do you want your daughters to know gossiping about their friends is sinful? Make it a point not to gossip. Want to teach your young men not to push other boys into things that violate their conscience? Talk to them about it at home and make sure you don’t do that with others. Want them to respectfully disagree with others who have differing opinions? Make it an everyday practice.

If we want our kids to have strong characters, it starts with us.

Take steps to model the behaviors you want them to exhibit (if you haven’t already).

I don’t know how much time you have before your little ones head off to school. Or maybe they already have. Even if that’s the case, it’s not too late. Let’s all do what we can to help our little lights shine.

How are you preparing your kids for this school year?

Until next time,

Sharing is caring! Like this post from Planting Vineyards? Pass it along with the social share buttons above & below!

3 Simple Summer Unit Studies for Your Curious Preschooler

Preschool Unit Studies

UPDATE:: If learning activities and homeschooling are up your alley, check out my NEW blog, Smith, Party of 6. Over there, I post about homeschool, parenting, and simplifying family life.

The summer sun is out, and the world is full of life! But the kids are also out of school, and now, we have to figure out ways to keep them learning. Use it, or lose it, right?

AND we also have to get our little soon-be-schoolers prepared for life in the classroom.

So here, you’ll find some short and sweet unit study ideas to get those brain juices flowing in your little one. Each unit is designed to be spread out over one easy and fun week. They only take 1-3 hours of the day, depending on how in-depth you and your kids want to go. And you can choose to get all of the day’s activities done at once or break it up into morning and afternoon activities.

We opted to break ours up. It’s great because the activities don’t take so long that the kids lose focus, get bored, or are bombarded with too much information. So they stay entertained and educated at the same time.

(Psst.. If you homeschool your kids, these units would be great to do during the year too! Just use these ideas as a starting point, and build from there.)

In addition to these activities, my kids also practice their letters and numbers, either by writing them on different surfaces (i.e. paper, chalkboard, dry-erase sheet, etc.) or by using a sensory tray like this one.

Outer Space

Preschool Unit Studies

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. You get awesome products you want/need, and I’m rewarded for bringing you to those products. It’s a win, win!

Day 1

You’ll notice that I have a different song for every day. I don’t know about your kids but mine are in love with music, so starting off each lesson with a fun song gets them engaged and interested in the topic of the day! We kick off this lesson with “I’m a Star” by the StoryBots. You can find any of the resources I’ve used by clicking the links throughout this post!

On day 1, we also read Pete the Cat: Out of This World. My kids love Pete the Cat, and it opened up the opportunity for us to learn about some spacey stuff like astronauts, gravity, and comets.

And what’s better than topping off your first day learning about space with staying up late and looking at the stars in your back yard? Parent bonus points for using a telescope like this one.

Day 2

Song: “I’m so Hot” by the StoryBots

What better way to learn than with lots of hands-on activities? You can find a Montessori-inspired one by exploring how planets orbit the sun, at Gift of Curiosity. And at Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls, you can find a fun science experiment about what melts in the sun light. Finally, wrap up your day by making cute sun catchers from Rainy Day Mum.

Day 3

Song: “Time to Shine” by the StoryBots

Read: The Berenstain Bears on the Moon (by the way… do you remember these books being called the Berenstein Bears? If so, you’re totally not the only one. There’s a whole crazy theory. Look it up!)

Kids learn best through play. So a fun way to talk about the difference in gravity on the moon versus Earth would be to play freeze tag with a twist: everyone has to move as if they’re on the moon!

Round off the day with this fun moon dust painting activity from Learn-Play-Imagine.

Day 4

Song: “A Beautiful, Beautiful World” by the StoryBots

There’s a good chance your little one loves sensory bins (or will, if you’ve never heard of them). They’re simple, foster kids’ imaginations, and are super easy to throw together. You can just buy little toys from Amazon to stock them with. And you can steal this idea from My Mundane and Miraculous Life.

Every child in the world also seems to be obsessed with slime (and making it) right now, so you could strike up a conversation about the Milky Way Galaxy by making some galaxy slime from Schooling a Monkey.

And of course, a simple and free activity to talk about our very own planet is to go take a walk and enjoy it. Talk about the life all around us that is unique to our planet and you wouldn’t find on the others.

Day 5

Song: “We are the Planets” by the StoryBots

When I was a kid, I LOVED the Magic School Bus books and show, so I was excited to pass it on to my little ones by reading The Magic School Bus Lost In The Solar System. Afterward, we came up with as many space words as we possibly could. Pulling from their memory bank helps to solidify what they’ve learned throughout the week.

Finally, you can end your space journey by having your kids paint their own planets and name them!

The Deep Blue Sea

Preschool Unit Studies

Day 1

Song: “Big Blue Whale” by Dance ‘n Beats

Read Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef. Afterward talk about coral and other questions your little ones may have. Next head over to The Science Kiddo to recreate their fun and easy science experiment on salt water density. Round out the day with making puffer fish paintings using a bouncy ball like this activity on Crafty Morning.

Day 2

Song: “Baby Shark” by PINKFONG

It can be hard to get little minds to understand how big something really is. Today, start off with doing a fun activity to show your kids how big a great white shark really is! Take some easily removable tape, and make a shark like this one that’s 13-21 feet long (depending on how much space you have). Then they can take turns lying down inside the lines. Get at a good angle (like standing on the stairs), and take their picture.

Next create this sand and water sensory bin from Fun Learning for Kids, and let them have at it! Maybe throw in a few shark toys while you’re at it to keep the theme going.

Finally, make some cute shark hats like these from Glue Sticks and Gumdrops and use them to play freeze tag (with a twist). Whoever is wearing the shark hat is it. All other players are the “fishies” and have to try to swim away! Of course, this only works if you have more than one child. If not, you can find another silly way to play with your newly-made hats.

Day 3

Song: “Numbers Song: Counting Fish” by LittleBabyBums

Read the much-loved story, The Rainbow Fish. Then do this cute craft from Crafty Morning to let your kids make their own rainbow fish. And because sensory bins are much fun, let them play in this sea foam sensory bin from The Crafting Chicks.

Day 4

Song: “5 Little Octopus Jumping on the Bed” by TinyDreams Kids

Give your kids an idea of what the different ocean zones look like by recreating them in a jar with this activity from I can Teach my Child. You can use this time to talk about different creatures that live at the different levels.

Next, print out this cute sea animals memory game from Adventure in a Box, and sit down to play. Afterward, test their fine motor skills by making these simple octopus crafts from Buggy and Buddy.

Day 5

Song: “Submarine” by Bounce Patrol Kids

Read Pete the Cat: Scuba-Cat (because obviously, there’s one for every occasion). Afterward talk about oceanographers, marine biologists, and other ocean-based professions. Then wrap up the day (and the ocean unit) by taking a big cardboard box and making your own yellow submarine like this one from Little Tiny Learner. Ask your little one about what animals are outside the submarine windows and what ocean zone he or she is diving down to (anything to make that info stick!).


Preschool Unit Studies

Day 1

Song: “Tyrannosaurus Rex” by the StoryBots

Read If You Happen to Have a DinosaurThis book has all kinds of fun examples of different dinosaurs and is perfect to bring up the difference between carnivores and herbivores. You can even talk about your own diet in your home (as your kids will most likely want to do).

End the first dino day with this fun frozen dinosaur eggs experiment from Little Bins for Little Hands.

Day 2

Song: “Velociraptor” by the StoryBots

Jump into the day by measuring dinosaur footprints with this activity from The Many Little Joys. Just like shark day during ocean life week, this will give your kids an idea of just how big some of the dinosaurs were.

Take a little break by making an herbivore snack, consisting of your kids’ favorite fruits and veggies. You can let them help out by taking a trip to the farmer’s market and letting them pick which yummy plants to buy.

Afterward you can all sit down to do a little crafting and make dinosaurs from basic geometric shapes like this idea from Little Family Fun.

Day 3

Song: “Triceratops” by the StoryBots

Today, you can revisit our favorite kitty by reading Pete the Cat: Cavecat Pete.

Afterward, dive into a discussion on archaeologists and paleontologists by doing a fun dinosaur bone dig. My son got one for Christmas that he loved doing! You can find it on Amazon.

Day 4

Song: “Apatosaurus” by the StoryBots

Get your little ones outside early in the day to dig in the sandbox or a sensory bin for little dinosaur toys. You can even find those at a local dollar store. Or reuse the ones you hatched earlier on in the week! Afterward, come back inside and do some simple worksheets like these from Easy Peasy and Fun. Wrap up the day by getting their little hands messy with paint. Make a handosaurus like these from Fun Handprint Art.

Day 5

Song: “Stegosaurus” by the StoryBots

Read The Dinosaur Who Lost His Roar. Afterward, get your little dinosaur up and moving by using a movement cube like this one from Creative Little Explorers to choose dino moves. End out the dinosaur unit by making fossils like these from Learning 4 Kids.

Now Obviously…

These aren’t going to be enough to get you through a whole summer. But they sure are a great start! And not every week has to have a unit study.

One thing that would be cool… if you’re taking a vacation, use wherever you’re going as inspiration for a study of your own. Find ways to make it come even more alive for your little explorers.

The Best Tip

My very best tip to give you while doing these preschool unit studies: just have fun with it!

I’ve been known to get uptight when things don’t go according to my plans. But man, that sucks the joy out of everything.

If you have high expectations, get frustrated easily, and lose patience, it’s going to show. And your kid is not going to enjoy his or herself. And they definitely won’t enjoy learning.

Just breathe. There’s no pressure to teach them everything they need to know right now.

Create a fairly casual atmosphere and just let the experience be fun. Don’t expect to follow everything I included here OR to only do what I included. Use these ideas and tailor them to fit your little tribe.

Let their curiosity take the front seat this summer!

Until next time,

Sharing is caring! Like this post from Planting Vineyards? Pass it along using the social share buttons at the top and bottom of the post.

Cloth Diapering 101 | Your Comprehensive Quick-Start Guide

.Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

How to Start Cloth Diapering

We’ve recently started cloth diapering our youngest daughter and will be doing the same with our new baby boy when he arrives. And I am a fan of the fluff! But there’s definitely a learning curve with all of the info.

?  The different forms of cloth diapers
?  Brands
?  Sizes
?  Fabrics
?  General care & washing

It can be a lot to take in! So if you’re interested in how to start cloth diapering, consider this your quick-start guide to help you learn all the basics and send you on your way to becoming a fluffy butt pro.

Fair warning, we’re about to talk about poop. A lot.

The Most Popular Types of Cloth Diapers

Don’t think these 3 types of cloth diapers are the only ones available. There are plenty of others! These are just the most popular forms of cloth diapers to get you started.

(P.S. I love them all! ♥)


How to Start Cloth Diapering

Lots of moms adore these because they’re just so easy. The inserts you need already come sewn-in, meaning that there is no stuffing or prep to put them on baby.

The downfall: the inserts sewn into the diaper aren’t always absorbent enough or can easily slip to the side and allow your baby’s piddle to leak.

So what brands are the best? We use Smart Bottoms and Imagine, both of which work great!

Pocket Diapers

How to Start Cloth Diapering

These are awesome too! The diaper is a cover with just a fabric pocket on the inside. This enables you to put whatever inserts you prefer into the pocket and play with different combinations for absorbency. We’ll talk more about the differences in fabrics for your inserts in just a minute!

We use Rumparooz and ALVABABY. AlvaBaby is the cheaper option, and they’ve never let us down!

Covers with Prefolds or Flats

How to Start Cloth Diapering

This method is super versatile (and it’s the cheapest way to cloth diaper)! The diaper cover is completely empty (no pocket or anything!), and you put whatever you want on the inside. (Well, almost whatever you want. Microfiber inserts aren’t good to use with covers because microfiber should never be left against baby’s skin!)

The big plus with this way of cloth diapering is this: if baby only pees, you can take the insert out, wipe the cover out with a baby wipe, and just put a new insert in. No need to switch covers unless it gets poo on it, meaning less laundry for you!

You can use the prefold or flat by folding and wrapping it around baby then pinning with classic diaper pins or devices like the Snappi. Or you can just fold it up and lay it on the inside without anything to hold it in place like I do (see the picture above). The choice is yours!

ALVABABY, Rumparooz, and Imagine all make covers that are super cute, effective, and easy to use!

What do the Sizes Mean?

There are two basic sizes when it comes to the majority of cloth diapers. You can either buy them in:

  • Newborn or
  • One Size

There are also training pants, but those won’t come until later on.


Newborn sizes usually fit babies up to 15 pounds, meaning they don’t last long, and for the rest of your diapering career, you’ll be using one-sizes. For this reason, some moms suggest skipping the newborn size altogether. I mean, we do get lots of diapers in the hospital, and a family member or two is bound to buy you some for your baby shower.

Plus, some moms claim that meconium–that gross, black tar poop–can be hard to get out of your cloth diapers. Some cloth diapering mommas opt to just use disposables in the beginning until one-sizes fit their little ones. Or at least until the sticky black poo phase is over.

Still, others choose to cloth diaper from day one in newborn covers with prefolds and say the meconium comes right out. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with buying and cleaning!

I’m personally going to use disposables until the meconium is all done and then switch to newborn covers made by Rumparooz with prefolds.

One Size

Like I said, these are the diapers you’ll be using for quite a while. They’re highly adjustable to make it through all the growing your little girl or guy will do. The front is covered in snaps to adjust for leg room, height, and circumference of your baby. This is great for making sure that their diaper is tight enough to prevent leaks but not so tight that they get angry red marks on their legs and waist.

How Many Cloth Diapers Will I Need?

Ah, the famous question. But it really depends on:

  1. How many kids you’ll be cloth diapering
  2. How often they need to be changed and
  3. How often you feel like washing your cloth diapers.

I currently wash mine every two or three days, and I’m only diapering one child (for now). She only uses one diaper at night and usually 5 diapers during the day. Add a few diapers to have while the others are going through the wash, and it’s good for us to have right around 20 diapers for her.

With our newborn coming soon, we’d need to at least double our stockpile if I’d want to keep my laundry schedule! But since I stay at home and do other loads of laundry every day anyway, we opted to just start washing them more often after he arrives.

You can use the same formula to figure out how many cloth diapers you’ll need:

How to Start Cloth Diapering

There are so many fabrics! What’s the difference?

It’s awesome to have so many choices of fabrics for your cloth diaper inserts. But what exactly is the best fabric for you and your little one?


Microfiber is super cheap and often comes with whatever cloth diapers you order. But while it’s absorbent, it doesn’t hold as much as some of the other inserts. For that reason, it may be best to double up and put two inserts into your baby’s pocket diaper at night. Plus, as I mentioned above, it can’t go in plain covers since it can’t touch baby’s skin. So overall, they’re inexpensive and get the job done but are best to only put in pocket diapers.


Natural and easy to come by, cotton is always a good choice. Many moms even make their own inserts from old cotton sheets or t-shirts. So if you’re looking for the absolute cheapest way to cloth diaper, it’s using plain covers with cotton inserts. Even the cotton prefolds that you can buy are fairly inexpensive.

For cotton prefolds, I recommend OsoCozy. They come in small, medium, and large sizes. And don’t be fooled by how big they are when they come in the mail. This organic fabric shrinks after washing.


Ah, bamboo. It may be the most perfect fabric there is for cloth diapering. But it can also be a little more expensive. 100% Bamboo inserts are super absorbent and all-natural.

They’re great to use at night when baby will go a while without being changed!


Hemp is the most absorbent fabric of them all. The only downfall is that it absorbs slower than the others.

I love to use them in combination with other inserts. For example, I’ll put a Thirsties hemp insert (they come in small and large sizes) under a bamboo or microfiber insert in a pocket diaper at night or if we’re going on a road trip. That way, the liquid hits something that quickly absorbs first but the hemp is below it to soak up any extras before we have a chance to get baby’s bum changed.

Dirty Diaper Storage

So after your little one goes #1 or #2, what happens to the cloth diaper?

First, take out any inserts you may be using. This will make doing laundry easier for you later since all the inserts need to be taken out of the covers or pocket diapers while they’re washed.

Next, dispose of any poo. When they’re little, this means rinsing the cloth diaper off (although many moms choose not to rinse breast milk poo out of diapers). As they get older and their stool becomes more solid, its fairly easy to just make it roll right off into the potty and flush it.

For occasions when they need to be rinsed, I LOVE my cloth diaper sprayer By Easy Giggles! It attaches directly to the tank of your toilet. You just hold the cloth diaper over the bowl and spray! When it’s all rinsed, just flush the toilet, and voila! All done. It’s also helpful to have a spray shield like the Spray Pal to keep anything, ahem, “unpleasant” from spraying back at you or onto the surfaces of your bathroom.

Finally, put all diaper parts into your dry pail, pail liner, or wet bag (if you’re out and about). They’ll stay there until it’s laundry time.

Note: some people use a wet pail, where they store their dirties in a watery bath. I don’t suggest this! They can be a breading ground for bacteria.

Washing Basics

There’s lots of info out there about washing your cloth diapers. So I’ll simplify it by sharing my personal washing routine.

How to Start Cloth Diapering

Other Resources

For a list of detergents and the pros and cons of each, head over to Fluff Love University’s Detergent Index. It includes pretty much any detergent known to man. Their chart will tell you if your detergent is recommended for use and any special instructions for using it. For example, it may be a weaker detergent, meaning you need to use a little more of it to clean your diapers well.

If you have hard water, you’ll also need to add Borax or something similar to your wash routine. For more info on that, you can visit The Monarch Mommy’s blog post about washing cloth diapers in hard water.

Extra Tips on How to Start Cloth Diapering

It can be handy to keep a small pack of disposable diapers in your child’s size if you plan on having relatives watch your child who are not comfortable with cloth diapering.
Desitin may be your go-to bum cream but DO NOT use it with your cloth diapers. Instead, Grovia makes a bum stick that works great and is safe your fluff. You can find their Itty Bitty Magic Stick on Amazon.
You’ll likely need a larger diaper bag than what you would normally use, especially if you’re also using cloth wipes.
Chemicals like bleach, baking soda, and vinegar can be hard on cloth diapers and even cause the fabric to wear down and tear. And they’re not necessary! I steer clear of them all.
 DO NOT use fabric softener or dryer sheets with your diapers. They can cause a build-up that will make them less absorbent.
Any inserts or all-in-one diapers with organic fabrics will need to be washed 8-15 times (you don’t need to dry them in between) before use so that they reach their full absorbency potential.

Are you taking the cloth diapering plunge? Or maybe you already use cloth diapers and have a few tips of your own? Either way, I’d love for you to drop a comment!

Until next time,

Sharing is caring! Like this post from Planting Vineyards? Pass it along with the social share buttons below.

The Best Bible Study Tools and Resources

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Bible study tools

Want to start studying the Word of God but don’t really know where to start or what tools to use?

There are a lot of resources out there, but it can be hard knowing which Bible to choose (not all translations are created equal) and what tools you actually need vs. ones that are just fluff.

Here are my personal favorite recommendations for what to use while studying the Bible.

Choosing a Bible

Naturally, to study the Bible, you’ll need a Bible. There are lots of digital resources out there, which are great! But I personally like to have a hard copy of the Word, too. There’s just something about physically holding any book, and for me God’s Word is no different.

Study Bibles can be a great way to go. They often offer historical context and other tidbits to help their readers better understand the scriptures.

There are two study Bibles I highly recommend. One is the Key Word Study Bible in the New King James version. It pulls out key words and phrases and shows their usage throughout Scripture based on the original Hebrew or Greek meanings. It also gives definitions for each one. It can be very helpful for understanding the intended meaning of whatever I’m studying.

The other is the Reformation Study Bible. It includes commentary that has been edited by a team of 75 doctrinally sound pastors and theologians, led by the late Dr. R.C. Sproul.

Great Bible Translations

Some great, solid Bible translations include the:

  • New King James Version (NKJV)
  • Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
  • English Standard Version (ESV)
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • The Amplified (AMP)

I DO NOT recommend the Message or the Passion Translation. The Mirror Bible is also starting to gain traction. All three of these are extremely problematic and should not actually be considered translations of the word of God. I used to recommend the Passion Translation on this blog, an action for which I am deeply grieved.

For more information on why, check out Mike Winger’s channel. He has several thorough videos on why it’s not a translation and how it forces poor theology onto the word of God.

You can access an entire playlist of his videos on why it’s problematic here.

The Bible App

Even though I adore my study Bibles, it’s also great to read other translations and get a clear picture of what’s being said. For that, I use the Bible App where nearly any translation I can think of is at my fingertips.

A word of caution: as I mentioned above, not all translations are created equal. Choosing a reputable, theologically sound translation is important and will potentially affect the way you see God in His word.

The Bible App also has some cool features like highlighting and notes (especially helpful for those who don’t like highlighting and writing notes directly in their hard copy Bibles). There’s even a section for devotional plans, if you’d benefit from one of those.

You can also access the Bible online by following this link.

A Bible Concordance and Dictionary

Sometimes our connotation for a word or they way we think about it taints our view of what’s being said in scripture. Bible concordances–like the Strong’s or ones found on Blue Letter Bible–make it easy to find the original usage behind whatever word we’re looking at.

Blue Letter Bible is a wealth of information when it comes to concordances (and lots of other helpful information on each passage). It’s online and completely free, which makes it even better! If you’re looking for software that’s comparable but a little more “beefy,” for lack of a better word, check out Logos.

Bible Study Tools has the Strong’s concordance available online that you can find here. We have a hard copy at home that my husband purchased long ago. If you prefer that method, you can find the Strong’s on Amazon.

Often even more helpful than a concordance is a good Bible dictionary to really hash out the meanings of each word. My favorite one is online, and you can access it here for free!

Historical Reference Guides

It’s a good idea if you don’t have a study Bible (or even if you do) to have some sort of book that tells you a little bit about the history of whatever you’re studying. While there are lots of internet resources for that, it’s important (as always) to make sure the information you find is actually credible.

Historical Reference Guides Bible Resource

It’s probably best to find a book that you like on Biblical history, arranged in the same order as the books of the Bible.

If you do decide to go the online route, Bible Study Tools has a list of resources they recommend that you can find here.

A Bible Study Notebook

Aside from the Bible and resources to give you historical context, you may want pens, highlighters, sticky notes, and sticky tabs to write down and organize your thoughts.

It’s also a good idea to have a notebook or binder (that’s what I do) specifically dedicated to your Bible studies. If I don’t use a binder for all of my Bible study notes, they end up being scattered amongst other papers in our home office and are completely useless.

Helpful Teaching Ministries

There are lots of teachers out there claiming lots of different things about the Bible. But just because they use scripture to back themselves up doesn’t mean they’re interpreting it the way it was meant to be interpreted. A survey of church history shows us the different errors that have arisen over time that the church fathers and others through the ages vehemently rejected.

Unfortunately, many are led astray by doctrine that isn’t sound. At one point in my life, I had no idea where the things I believed truly came from. I thought that because the teachers I listened to used Scripture, they were right. I thought that the people who didn’t agree just didn’t understand the mysteries of Scripture like those I listened to.

Boy, was I wrong.

If you’re looking for sound biblical teaching and want to gain an understanding of church history and how to properly read the Bible without forcing previous interpretations onto it (how to let the word speak for itself and in the context of itself and history), I highly recommend a few teaching ministries.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will get you on the right track. The first three come from generally the same interpretive lens for reading Scripture–reformed theology. The last does not share their viewpoint fully. However, he has a wealth of information on his channel that helped me immensely when I was unlearning lies I had been taught.

All of the ministries above have verse-by-verse studies–done in context–that are fantastic and will help you in your own study time to understand proper exegesis (getting the intended meaning from the passage).

Did I miss anything? What other Bible study tools and resources do you like?

Until next time,

Sharing is caring! Like this post from Planting Vineyards? Pass it along by using the social media share buttons below.

The Purge: How Throwing Out Our Stuff Made us Happier

Decluttering Toys

There I was. Again. Sitting crisscross applesauce in an endless pile of Legos, Barbies, stuffed animals and train tracks… and I thought to myself is it even worth it to have all this STUFF?!

If you can relate, decluttering toys and other junk may be just what your family needs too.

Three times a week I sat in the same spot on the floor, directing my two oldest children (ages 4 and 2) on how to sort through the insane chaos that was their room. Since we’ve started renovations on our two-year-old’s bedroom, the two of them have been sharing a space. It has not been working. Every day, I was filled with dread as I climbed the stairs. It was so bad I wanted to avoid going up there altogether.

But their room wasn’t the only problem. Their toys often overflowed to the living room and dining room. Our unsightly pile of shoes next to the front door was less than welcoming. The dining room table was less of an eating space and more of a clutter catch-all. In general, it felt as though I could never catch up to the ever-growing exhausting mess created by our unending sea of “stuff.”

The Realization

When talking to other people about the never-ending work of being a stay-at-home mom, it was often chalked up to “that’s life with three kids.” But did it have to be?

I personally felt that if we had more organizational space like shelves and bins, I would be able to breathe. This wasn’t necessarily wrong. But I was avoiding the true issue. Then I read this blog post on Motherly and had to face the music.

To give you the short synopsis, the article covers an experience this blogger had when she realized that tending to all of her family’s “stuff” was taking away her joy as a mother. They had so many things which they flat out did not need that it became overwhelming. She wasn’t enjoying her kids, and her kids weren’t truly happy either. Sound like anything you’ve got going on? It really hit home for me.

We needed to purge our stuff.

More stuff, more problems #declutter #organization #home

Much like the author in the above article, my happiness was stolen every time I stared into the abyss of my children’s toys. The majority of my stress stemmed from their room. It was even so overwhelming for them that it seemed they didn’t even know how to play.

Does it ever seem like your kids’ toys have 12,000 little pieces that you as an adult aren’t even sure what to do with? Of course, at two and four, it’s hard to keep track of it all. Of course it was getting lost! It should have been no surprise that my kids were losing sight of what it meant to play and instead were adopting a mess-making attitude toward play time.

To My Surprise

So, I grabbed the box of trash bags and headed upstairs with a little less dread than usual. Instead of doing this purge while the kids were gone, I opted to include them in the cleansing process.  What happened next was completely shocking for me.

I expected tears. I thought I would have to persuade them. This was going to be a stressful day, but they would learn about letting go of excess and giving to others, right?

But there were no tears. There was no need for persuasion. There was no stress.

We actually had fun.

How We Did It

First, I made it clear anything that was put into a bag would be leaving our home permanently.

  1. We designated one of the bags as trash. It would be filled with anything that could not be given to someone else because it was either broken or had lost pieces.
  2. The second bag was for donating. This bag would include anything that they didn’t want but thought another child might like.

After I explained what each of the bags were for and that anything they wanted to keep could be put into their toy boxes, they automatically got to work.

A Lesson From my Littles

I was surprised at their willingness to get rid of toys I hadn’t even dreamed they would purge. But it taught me about which toys were truly important to them and which ones I was holding onto for my own reasons.

For example, they each chose to donate a couple of things they had just gotten for Christmas. I was taken aback. But you just got these! Are you sure?

“Yeah, Mommy. I want to give it to a kid that doesn’t have any cool toys.”

It's amazing how much I can learn through the eyes of my kids #momlife

That’s when I realized: I had wanted to teach them about charity by including them in this process, but instead they were teaching me. What was my problem? After all, I was the one who had wanted to do this. What good was keeping a toy if they didn’t like to play with it? I certainly didn’t want to discourage their newfound heart for giving. Reluctantly, I allowed them to throw anything into the donate bag that they insisted they weren’t interested in.

Suddenly, the weight started to lift from my shoulders. We picked up momentum and began filling up bag after bag until only their favorites were left in their room. Then my husband loaded it all up the van, and we drove off into the sunset to be rid of our excess stuff forever. It was freeing.

And it Didn’t Stop with Decluttering Toys

It also trained my eyes to see other “stuff” we didn’t need. Soon, our shoe pile was eradicated, and our dining room table could once again be used for family meals. Don’t get me wrong–the house is still a work in progress! It will be some time before we’re 100% organized (if ever). But the purge has brought a new sense of ease in our home.

If you’re feeling like organizing your junk is a constant struggle, I highly recommend it. And if you include your kids in the process, they may just surprise you.

Until next time,

Sharing is caring! Like this post from Planting Vineyards? Pass it along by using the social media share buttons below.