Oct 202015
 

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Q turned 3 back in July, but she was in diapers full-time until just a few weeks ago, when she had surgery to correct a problem that caused her to be incontinent. She’s a little over 35 pounds now, so in the months leading up to her surgery, she started to outgrow the one-size diapers she’s worn since she was a baby. I wanted to make some new ones that would fit better, but since I knew that she wouldn’t be in diapers much longer, I didn’t want to make giant diapers that wouldn’t fit The Baby for years (if ever).

I decided to try out the Rocket Bottoms step 2 pattern. I bought the pattern years ago, and have sewn up the step 1 version (which fits from newborn to about 20 lbs) a couple of times, but never tried step 2 (18-40+ lbs).

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It worked out perfectly. I sewed it up as a pocket diaper, with a PUL outer and microfleece inner. One of my pet peeves with many of my homemade pocket diapers is that they are hard to stuff. With this one, I made the pocket opening very large, about 8″. And the pattern itself has a good amount of width through the crotch. It’s super easy to stuff.

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It fits really well. She actually wears it on the next-to-largest setting, so she even has some room to grow.

These aren’t the best pictures because I was too lazy to pull out our big camera to capture non-blurry pictures of a perpetual-motion preschooler, but they’ll give you an idea on fit.

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I cut out a couple more of these but never got the chance to sew them up before her surgery. Oops. I’ll get around to them, one of these days. I’m pretty sure these will fit The Baby on the smallest setting within a few months, so I don’t feel like it’s a waste to sew these up even though Q is now mostly potty trained.

Aug 202015
 

Tomorrow marks my return to work after my fourth and final maternity leave. I’ve been so lucky to have the opportunity to take a total of 1½ years out of the last 8 years away from work, to focus on my family and bond with my babies.

I’ve learned a lot during my time away. If I could go back in time and give myself some tips prior to starting my first maternity leave, here’s what I’d say:

It’s okay to love being on maternity leave. After my first baby was born, it took me a while to truly disengage from work. In retrospect, I realize that was because I lacked confidence. I lacked confidence in my abilities as a mom, so I escaped back to my job — something I knew I was good at — whenever I could. And I lacked confidence in my decision to return to work at the end of my leave, so I tried to enjoy my time off as little as possible, to prove that returning to work was the right choice.

Over the course of that leave, I realized I was good at being a mom, too, which allowed me to finally settle in and truly enjoy my time with my baby. My return to work after that first leave was rough, for a variety of reasons, but I made it through that transition period and got to a happy place at work. I realized that I could be happy being at home with my baby and happy being a working mom. Enjoying my maternity leave — even recognizing that I could be happy if I didn’t return to work  — doesn’t mean that returning to work is the wrong decision.

Coming to those realizations helped me disengage from work much faster on my subsequent leaves, so I could soak in the time with my family.

Don’t stress about pumping. During my first maternity leave, I stressed about building a good freezer stash before returning to work. I failed miserably and went back to work with barely any milk in the freezer.

I discovered that this is OK, even preferable. You just need enough milk in the freezer to get through your first day back at work — probably about 12-15 oz. On your second day, you will send what you pumped on your first day. On your third day, you’ll send what you pumped on your second day. And so on.

In fact, even my tiny freezer stash nearly got me in trouble, when I started relying on it to cover shortfalls in how much I was pumping vs. how much my baby was eating. This article explains why this is problematic. I had the same problem and nearly killed my supply about two months after my return to work. Luckily, Christmas vacation came when I was days away from having to supplement with formula, and two weeks of nursing full-time got my supply back where it needed to be. But I’ve been wary about using my freezer stash ever since.

Ironically, I’ve put far more milk in the freezer on my subsequent maternity leaves. With my second and third leaves, I knew I’d have some overnight business trips after returning to work, so I made sure to have enough of a freezer stash to get my baby through 4-5 days without me. With this most recent leave, I’ve pumped primarily to donate. But even though I like putting milk in the freezer, I know I don’t need to kill myself to do so. I usually pump once a day, before I go to bed, and get anywhere from 2-6 oz. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up.

Spend extra time with your kids. All of them. This is actually more applicable to my subsequent leaves than my first one: While parental leave is intended for bonding with a new baby, I actually enjoyed getting to spend extra time with my older kid(s) just as much, if not more. Perhaps my most enduring memory of any of my leaves is of taking Noob (age 2 at the time) to ride DART trains during my parental leave with Q. Noob was/is obsessed with trains, so the three of us (Littles was in kindergarten full-time) would just go and hop on a train. No destination in mind. Just enjoying the ride, and the time together.

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We did keep the older kids in school during my second and third leaves, albeit part-time, rather than their usual full-time hours. But this most recent leave coincided with Littles’ summer vacation from school, as well as changes in schooling for Noob and Q come fall (Noob going off to kindergarten, Q moving to a new preschool). That meant we didn’t need to send them to preschool all summer just to “hold their spot.” We pulled out Noob at the beginning of June, Q at the beginning of July. We also welcomed a new au pair at the beginning of June; she provided an extra set of hands, which is really helpful with four kids! It all came together to give us the flexibility to tackle all sorts of summer adventures.

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To myself, before my first maternity leave, I say: You’re in for the ride of your life. Enjoy it.

 Posted by at 12:46 am
Aug 042015
 

It’s been… gosh, years since I’ve done a Make-It Monday post. I’ve never really gotten back in the swing of things with sewing since we moved to Seattle. Especially when we moved into a new house late last year where I no longer have a sewing room. All my sewing stuff went into a closet for the first few months. Finally, a month or two ago, I got a secretary desk set up in our dining room, which is perfect because I can keep my sewing machine, serger, and basic supplies in there and easily pull them out when I want to sew, but hide them away when I don’t.

I had to do a quick project at my husband’s request last week, and it motivated me to tackle a few other easy projects. First up was sewing a couple of liners for our diaper pails.

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I used the directions from this tutorial to sew this pail liner. The fabric is PUL that I bought from Joann’s years ago, probably back when Noob was a baby. Funny story about it: This was the first kind of print PUL that Joann’s ever carried… and they laminated the wrong side of the fabric! So the shiny/waterproof side of the PUL is the side with the “right” (bright, vibrant) side of the fabric. Joann’s quickly discovered that this makes it pretty useless for diapers, and so they clearanced it out, which is when I bought it, probably for $3 or $4 a yard. That’s a fraction of the price of normal printed PUL. And it’s just perfect for pail liners, because the shiny side of the PUL is what shows.

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The one minor modification I made to the tutorial was to use fold over elastic (FOE) for the top of the bag, rather than making a casing for regular elastic. I’ve used FOE on diaper covers before and I don’t normally like sewing with it: I find it tricky to work with around the curves of a diaper, and it gets snagged and pilly in the wash. But it’s so easy to use on a pail liner because you just have to sew it on in a straight line, and who cares if it gets a little snagged? All you have to do is cut the FOE to the length you want (I made it a few inches shorter than the diameter of my pail), fold it over the top of the pail liner, and sew it on with a 3-step zig zag while stretching it slightly. Done.

I made two of the pail liners shown above for the pail in my baby’s room, so one can be in the pail while the other is in the wash. I used dimensions similar to those in the tutorial, but the resulting liners are huge for my little diaper pails. So I’m making some smaller ones for the pail in my toddler’s room. The fabric is about 18″ wide before sewing. It barely fits in that pail, but it does work! And it allows me to get three pail liners out of 1.5 yards of fabric. I’ve sewn up one so far.

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It’s great to finally use up some PUL and FOE that I’ve been moving around for years, and these pail liners are a huge improvement over the pillowcases that we’ve used in the past.

Jun 112014
 

I’ve mentioned previously that we relocated to the Seattle area around Christmas of last year. The primary impetus for the move was that my husband got a new job. Since my job is not location-specific, it was no problem for me to keep it through the move. It was about a 30-second conversation with my manager, along the lines of: “We’re moving to Seattle at the end of the year for my husband’s job.” “Okay. Cool.”

My organization does have an office and a fair number of people based in the Seattle area. After nine years of working remotely, including six years on my current team, I was actually excited to have the opportunity to go into the office a little more often. Working from home was wonderful for integrating work with my home life, but career-wise, I was starting to feel some of its limitations. My organization is super-supportive of remote workers (in fact, my manager, his manager, and his manager all work in different cities), but there are times when there’s just no substitute for being there — and when that happens, there’s not always time or budget to book a plane ticket.

At the same time, I wasn’t sure I could handle jumping back in to working full-time out of an office, after enjoying the flexibility of working remotely for so long. The move seemed to give me a perfect opportunity to head in the direction of more office time, but at my own pace. Many of my co-workers in the Seattle area chose to work from home at least part-time. I figured I could start with 1 or 2 days a week in the office, and maybe increase to 3 or 4 days as time went on.

We got through the move and on January 6, I showed up for my first day of work in Seattle. As it so happens, we had training that week, on a new software development process that our team was getting ready to implement. The trainer really stressed the importance of face-to-face communication whenever possible.

This obviously posed a challenge for an organization with a significant number of remote workers, and we discussed various ways to compensate. But we also agreed that since we do have a lot of people in the Seattle area, we should take advantage of that. No more working from home. Everyone was expected to be in the office during “core hours” (10 AM to 4 PM) at a minimum, 5 days a week.

This was really hard at first. We were still settling into a whole new routine as a family, which was a time where I really could have used more flexibility at work, not less. My husband’s office is under 2 miles from our home while mine is 12 miles away, so he struggled with suddenly needing to be the one to wait at home if a contractor was coming or pick up a sick kid from school. My 3 year old, accustomed to being able to see me every day after preschool, had a hard time understanding why Mommy wasn’t around as much anymore. He asked me every day if I could stay home rather than go to work.

At the same time, I was starting to grow in my job in ways I had never dreamed of. The daily interaction with my teammates really energized me. Yes, there were frustrating days when I wished I could escape back to my quiet desk at home, away from everyone. But for the most part, it brought a new dimension to my work that I enjoyed.

I also discovered that that interaction allowed me to have much more of an impact on others. We have amazing collaborative technology at our disposal — instant message, video conference calls, giant touchscreens that allow for whiteboarding with remote co-workers, and more — but at the end of the day, interacting via technology is fundamentally different, in ways that are primarily negative. This didn’t matter as much back when I first started working from home: Early in my career, as long as I was smart and worked hard, I could get a lot done, without needing to interact much with others. Now that I’m one of my organization’s senior leaders, it’s less about what I get done and more about what I help others do. And I can definitely help others do more when I’m physically sitting next to them.

A little over five months in, I continue to enjoy the increased office time from a pure job/career perspective. It’s still a challenge from a work/life balance perspective, but it’s gotten easier over time. In a few weeks, we’re going to move offices, to a building that’s only 2 miles from my home. I think that will help a lot.

So, do I regret my time spent working remotely? Do I think everyone should work out of an office full-time? No, and absolutely not. In particular, my years of working remotely coincided with a critical period in my career, as I was climbing the ladder within my company to reach the principal level. The number of women in technical roles at my company is low in general, but it’s particularly low at the principal level. Perhaps part of the reason is that for many women, that critical ladder-climbing period in their career corresponds with an equally critical period at home, when they’re having children. I think back to the months immediately following my return from my first maternity leave, almost 7 years ago, when I was still figuring out the whole “being a mom” thing, my husband was working 80-hour weeks, my family and friends were thousands of miles away. I was stressed and exhausted and miserable, and I desperately needed the flexibility afforded by my work-from-home position just to make it through each day. Would I have made it through that period if I had had to show up at an office every day? I honestly don’t know.

I’m glad I did make it through, so I could get to where I’m at now — physical-location-wise, career-wise, and life-wise. I think my company is glad, too. Win-win.

Apr 062014
 

This post is part of a series on finding child care.

You mentioned in part 2 that you were reluctant to commit to the idea of an au pair for a long time. Why?
In short, because I was scared. I had two big fears about hosting an au pair. The first was that we’d choose one who didn’t work out. Of course, this is a risk with any child care provider, but getting rid of an au pair brings its own unique set of issues: S/he might have to live with us for a week or two while looking for a new family. (Awkward!) S/he might have to leave the country. Etc. Thankfully, we didn’t have to go down this road with Anna.

The second fear was around sharing our home. Frankly, this is probably my least favorite part of hosting an au pair. It’s not Anna’s fault in the least, but it’s difficult for me to really relax and feel 100% at home when I know there’s another adult around. Still, the convenience of having her there far outweighs the inconvenience, so this has been less of an issue than I feared.

What has been the best part of having an au pair?
There are so many little things that are great, like the close bond that Anna has with all the kids, and all the extra help she gives around the house. I love that she does the kids’ laundry; that’s a huge weight off my shoulders. When one of us is traveling for work, it’s nice having the option to go to the grocery store after the kids are bed (with Anna keeping an eye on them), rather than having to find time during the workday or go with all three kids in tow during our very limited evening hours.

Probably the biggest unexpected benefit of having an au pair came during our recent move from Dallas to Seattle. Anna chose to relocate with us. This gave us an extra pair of hands during the move itself, which was tremendously helpful. In addition, it meant that we didn’t have to find child care for Q at all, nor did we need to find immediate child care for Noob. (We knew we wanted to find a part-time preschool for him, but we were able to wait till after we got here to start that search.) That saved an immeasurable amount of stress.

Speaking of the move to Seattle, how has it changed things with regards to Anna?
Probably the biggest change is that my husband and I both work out of an office most days now, so we have to account for our commute time in Anna’s hours. She also needs to pick up Littles from school. A typical day now looks like this:

7:00 AM Wake up, wake the kids up, breakfast, pack lunches and school bags
8:00 AM My husband leaves for work. I leave with all three kids to do school drop-offs.
8:45 AM Anna’s official start time. I get back home with Q somewhere between 8:45-9:00. (We do school drop-offs by bike, hence why it takes a while.)
9 to noon We’ve found some fun activities for Anna to do with Q, e.g. storytime at the library (in English and Spanish!) and a local toddler group.
Noon Anna picks up Noob from preschool. They all return home for naps.
3 PM Littles’ school ends. Anna picks her up or another mom walks her home, depending on the day. The kids play at home or Anna takes them to one of the nearby parks.
5:15 PM Anna is done for the day. My husband is usually home by this time, since he starts work earlier; sometimes, I stay a little later at work. Dinner prep, playtime, etc.
6:30 PM Dinnertime, followed by baths, books, and bedtime.

Total time = 8.5 hours/day or 42.5 hours/week, leaving us with 2.5 hours for a date night or other activity.

The house situation has worked out okay. Anna now uses a shared bathroom, unlike in Texas, where she had her own bathroom in her room. It is not what I’d prefer but it’s working out fine.

Cars have been a bit of a challenge. In Texas, it was fairly easy to ensure that Anna had a car to use during the day, since one if not both parents were almost always working from home. Now, that’s not the case, and Noob’s preschool is far enough away that it’s tough to expect her to walk there to pick him up on a regular basis. So, I’ve started commuting by bike/bus just about every day. I really enjoy it, it saves us a lot of money on gas, and it frees up a car for Anna’s use. Win, win, win.

Will you host an au pair again?
Absolutely. In fact, we recently extended Anna for a second year, so she’ll be with us through next February. And we’re considering continuing to host au pairs for at least another year or two past that. We’ll see… but regardless, we’ve really enjoyed having Anna here, and would definitely recommend the au pair program to other families looking for child care.

Nov 122013
 

This post is part of a series on finding child care.

In a previous post, I explained that we chose an au pair, “Anna,” to care for Q (and for the older kids) after my husband’s and my respective parental leaves. She’s been here for about eight months now and it’s working out really well. I’ve already done posts on au pair logistics and on choosing an au pair. Now I’d like to talk more about day-to-day life with an au pair in the house.

What kind of space does Anna have in your house?
An au pair must have a private bedroom with a window and a door. S/he does not need to have a private bathroom. In our current house, Anna has our former guest room, which has an attached bathroom.

As I mentioned in another post, we are preparing to move to Seattle. We’ve rented a house and are still debating who will go in which room, but it’s looking like Anna’s bedroom will be on the first floor, and then she’ll use a bathroom on the second floor, which will not be private. I’m not thrilled with the setup (I would have preferred to find a place with an en suite bathroom like she has now) but I think it will work.

What about a car? How does Anna get around?
There is virtually no public transportation close to where we live, so Anna really needs to drive everywhere, both on- and off-duty. We have two cars, but chose not to get a third car for Anna’s use. Instead, she uses the smaller car when she needs it. This hasn’t been an issue. When she is on-duty, one of us is almost always working from home, so there’s a car available for her to do Noob’s preschool pickup. When she is off-duty, typically at least one of us is home with one or more kids, or we are all out doing something, in which case, we can take the larger car, leaving the smaller car for Anna. There have also been a handful of occasions where we’ve rented a car in order to leave a car at home for Anna, but this has not happened with anywhere near enough frequency to justify purchasing another car.

In Seattle, there will be a lot more public transportation close to our home, so I think it will be even easier to coordinate things with two cars.

What were Anna’s first few weeks like?
They were crazy! Well, I guess that’s par for the course in our household, but Anna’s first few weeks were particularly crazy.

With Au Pair USA, the training program always ends on a Thursday evening and the au pairs fly to their new homes on Friday. We picked Anna up at the airport on Friday evening… and my husband was back at the airport early Saturday morning to fly out for a business trip. He got home Friday night and then it was my turn to fly out early Saturday morning for a business trip of my own.

I do not recommend this type of schedule for au pair’s first two weeks. Haha. But we warned Anna about it before her arrival and pointed out that if she could get through these first two weeks, the rest of the year would be a breeze. And she hung in there.

At least one host parent needs to be at home at all times during the au pair’s first three days. I planned a quiet weekend at home after Anna’s arrival, so she could settle in and I could start showing her how we do things. By Monday, she was feeling comfortable enough to take charge of Q for a few hours while I worked from home (as I usually do). Still, I worked a lighter-than-usual schedule that week so I could do school dropoffs and pickups, show her things to do with the kids, go through the nighttime routine, etc. Everything I could think of. She took it all in stride and by the end of that first week, and certainly by the time I got home from my trip, she was operating pretty independently.

The biggest challenge during those early weeks was that Anna didn’t feel comfortable driving yet, so the driving load fell exclusively on my shoulders, and then on my husband’s. That piece didn’t start to get better until we were both home and could share the driving load and could work with her on driving.

What does a typical day look like now?
When my husband and I are both in town, a typical day looks something like this:

7:00 AM Wake up, wake the kids up, breakfast, pack lunches and school bags.
8:15 AM One parent takes Littles to school while the other stays home with Noob and Q.
8:45 AM Anna starts with Q while one parent leaves to drop Noob off at preschool.
Noon Anna brings Q to me to nurse, then feeds her lunch and puts her down for a nap.
2 PM Anna picks Noob up at preschool and brings him home. (Luckily, since at least one parent is almost always home, she’s able to leave Q at home napping.) He sometimes naps but usually plays with Anna.
3:30-4:30 PM, depending on the day One parent picks Littles up from school and either brings her home or takes her to an extracurricular activity.
5:00 PM Anna is done for the day. One parent typically starts working on dinner while the other plays with the kids.
6:30 PM Dinnertime, followed by baths, books, and bedtime.

Total time = 8.25 hours/day, or 41.25 hours/week. This leaves us with nearly four extra hours that we can use to get Anna to watch the kids for a date night or other activity.

Right now, my husband is traveling frequently and so a typical day looks more like this:

7:00 AM Wake up, wake the kids up, breakfast, pack lunches and school bags
8:15 AM Anna starts with Q. I leave to drop off Littles at school. Sometimes Noob comes too, sometimes I swing back home to pick him up to go to preschool, just depending on his mood.
2 PM Anna picks up Noob at preschool.
3:30-4:30 PM, depending on the day I pick Littles up from school and either bring her home or take her to an extracurricular activity.
5:00 PM Anna is done for the day. The exception is Wednesdays, when Littles has gymnastics till 5:30, and so Anna stays with the younger kids until I get back home with Littles at around 6 PM.
6:30 PM Dinnertime, followed by baths, books, and bedtime

Total time = 9.75 hours on Wednesdays and 8.75 hours on the other days, or 44.75 hours for the week.

So Anna doesn’t work mornings, or nights?
Nope. Just because she lives with us 24/7 doesn’t mean that she can work 24/7. As I mentioned in the logistics post, she’s limited to no more than 10 hours a day and no more than 45 hours a week. And since we rely on her to care for Q full-time, that ends up consuming most of her hours.

If you need help mornings and nights, and you don’t need full-time care during the day, an au pair is a great option. For example, if all of our kids were school-age, we might have Anna work 7 to 9 AM and then 3 to 9 PM. Finding a nanny to work those kinds of hours would be tough, but it’s pretty reasonable for an au pair. But if you need help mornings and nights and during the day, you would probably be better served with a nanny.

Well then, what does she do in the mornings/evenings? Sit around and watch as you run around doing everything?
Not exactly :) In the mornings, she stays in her room until whatever time she needs to start work.

In the evenings, it depends. She might take classes, run errands, go out with friends, or just hang out in her room until dinnertime. Sometimes — particularly if the kids ask — she’ll continue to play with them. Of course, when this happens, it’s a big help to me, but I cannot expect her to help with the kids when she’s off-duty, so I never, ever plan on it.

For example, tonight, Q (who normally puts herself to sleep without a peep) decided she wanted me to hold her until she fell asleep, on the same night that Littles was super-tired and wanted me to read her stories right away so she could just go to sleep, on the same night that Noob needed to know right now exactly how God created Mommy and Daddy and Littles and Noob and Q and everybody. And my husband was out of town, and Anna had already worked a 10-hour day with the kids, cleaned up all the dinner dishes (which is already going above and beyond; she’s only required to do the kids’ dishes), and said good night and gone up to her room. As much as I could have used an extra pair of hands… she was off duty, and I fully respected that.

There’s a good AuPairMom post on this topic, with lots of great comments.

What about after the kids are in bed?
I was a little nervous about this prior to Anna’s arrival. I have very little time to myself, or alone with my husband, so those few hours between when the kids go to bed and when I go to bed are precious! I had visions of having to spend them entertaining Anna, or having her plunk down on the sofa between my husband and me to watch a movie :) That’s not the case at all. She usually does her own thing while we do ours.

You mentioned that she takes classes in the evenings. Can you explain more about the education requirement and how Anna has fulfilled it?
Yes, this is another thing that I was nervous about prior to Anna’s arrival, but it’s been really easy. As mentioned in the logistics post, we must pay up to $500/year for Anna to take classes at an accredited institution. She wanted to take English classes, so we found some classes at a local community college. They cost $125 per session (four weeks of four 2.5 hour classes each week), so she’s able to take up to four sessions with her stipend.

In my next post, I’ll give some final thoughts on the au pair experience.

Oct 252013
 

This post is part of a series on finding child care.

In a previous post, I explained that we chose an au pair, “Anna,” to care for Q (and for the older kids) after my husband’s and my respective parental leaves. She’s been here for about eight months now and it’s working out really well. My last post went over some of the logistics of hosting an au pair, including differences between an au pair and a nanny and costs. This post will focus on the process of choosing an au pair.

How did you find Anna?
You can either find an au pair through an agency, or you can pre-match with an au pair directly. We went through an agency. The agency we used was Interexchange/Au Pair USA.

I don’t have any first-hand experience with other agencies, but from what I understand, the basics of finding an au pair through an agency are the same: Search the agency’s database of au pair profiles, which include tons of detailed information on each candidate. Find a candidate (or multiple candidates) that you like. Interview via email/Skype. Make your final selection.

While that’s the general idea, each agency does have its own twists on the matching process. For example, Au Pair USA allows you to place a candidate “on view” so that other families cannot contact him/her at the same time. With other agencies, you can potentially end up fighting with other families over the same candidate. There are positives and negatives to the different approach. For example, a non-exclusive approach can make it hard for you to “compete” with other families if your situation is less desirable. If you’re asking an au pair to care for an infant full-time, and she’s talking to other families who only need care before/after school, she might decide to go with the “easier” situation. But the upside is that a candidate who chooses to go with the before/after school situation probably wasn’t the right choice for your family anyway — and it’s better to figure that out during matching vs. after your au pair arrives!

Pre-matching is a little different. In that case, you find an appropriate au pair candidate on your own. Many families use the GreatAuPair site. The au pair still has to be sponsored by an agency in order to come to the USA, so you apply to an agency as a “pre-match” and point them to your chosen au pair. They handle the visa paperwork, etc. The benefit here is that you save on agency fees. The drawback is that you must do more legwork on your own to find and screen candidates, since the agency won’t do any screening aside from ensuring the candidate meets the requirements of the program (right age, English speaker, etc.)

What kind of information did the agency provide on candidates?
I’m sure this varies from agency to agency, but Au Pair USA’s in-depth dossiers (available once you put a candidate “on view”) included the following:

  • The basics: Name, age, gender, email address, Skype info, etc.
  • Country, languages spoken
  • Education and child care-related training
  • A detailed breakdown of previous child care experience, including the setting (nanny, daycare center, school, etc.), number of hours worked per day and per week, and a description of duties. I found that it was important to look not just at the total number of hours but at the detailed hours breakdown. Babysitting for 4 hours a day once a week for 5 years vs. working in a daycare center 8 hours/day 5 days/week for six months both add up to about 1000 hours worked, but given that we needed someone to care for an infant full-time, I looked for candidates who had experience doing full-time child care, not just regular babysitting.
  • Other (non child care) work experience. Again, I placed a lot of emphasis on finding someone who had worked full-time.
  • Driving experience (daily, weekly, occasional)
  • Swimming experience (beginner, intermediate, advanced) — important to us because we have a pool and swim a lot during the summer.
  • Child care references and personal references. This included verbatim free-form answers directly from the original referrer (translated to English when needed) as well as notes from a local representative’s conversation with the original referrer.
  • Notes from the candidate’s interview with the local representative, including things like level of English fluency (scale from 0-10; I don’t remember seeing any candidates lower than a 6, presumably because lower-scoring candidates would have been filtered out earlier in the process), appearance, and overall impressions.
  • A “Dear Host Family” letter from the candidate. This was completely free-form, so the candidate could talk about whatever s/he wanted, from discussing previous child care experience to talking about hopes/dreams for his/her time in the USA and beyond.

What made you choose Anna?
Fundamentally, an au pair is a child care provider. As with all child care providers, I find that one of the biggest challenges is teasing out the assumptions I make about how my children should be cared for — assumptions that may or may not be shared by my potential provider. For example, when my baby has a hard time settling down for a nap, I prefer to hold/rock, rather than putting the baby down and leaving him/her to “cry it out.” When I was a new mom, I assumed my child care provider would hold/rock as well, and so I had a tough time when Littles’ first nanny allowed her to cry it out instead. Now I always ask potential providers how they would handle a situation where my baby is not settling down for a nap.

Au pairs add some additional wrinkles to this, because: 1) They come from a different culture, so assumptions that are fairly common for us as Americans may not be common at all in their culture, and 2) They live with you, so there is a whole additional set of assumptions to tease out, e.g. what is your level of tolerance for mess around your house? Do you see your evening time (after the kids are in bed) as being reserved for you/your spouse/work/etc. or do you envision yourself hanging out with your au pair at that time?

Ultimately, we chose Anna in much the same way that we chose our previous child care providers: We looked for a caregiving style that meshed with ours, and put a heavy emphasis on “gut feel” during the interview. See my previous posts on choosing Noob’s provider (11-23 months), choosing Littles’ provider (12-23 months), and choosing Littles’ nanny share (4-11 months). I also did a lot of reading on the AuPairMom blog, which is a great resource on au pairs specifically, and also helped me identify some of my own personal assumptions about how an au pair might fit in to our family.

Is there anything you would have done differently in the matching process?
Yes, absolutely. I learn new things to do/ask about every time I go through a child care search :) Some things I would have done differently while searching for an au pair:

  • I would have given myself more time to look. One of the neat things about an au pair as opposed to many nannies or even many in-home daycares is that you can pick one months in advance. We started looking in October, for a mid-February arrival. But I was reluctant to really commit to hosting an au pair for a while (for reasons I’ll get into later) and so we ended up coming down to the wire and formally matching with Anna on the last possible day. I wish I had had more time to look over profiles and talk to candidates.
  • I would have applied to and searched at more agencies. We only applied to Au Pair USA and Euraupair, and I never even looked at the Euraupair candidate pool. Mostly due to the previous point :) And also because I wasn’t sure that it was okay to apply to multiple agencies. The comments on this AuPairMom post make it clear that lots of people apply to multiple agencies, that it’s totally fine, and that it’s generally a good thing to have a wider candidate pool to choose from.
  • I would have done more pre-screening over email. When I found a candidate profile that I liked, my next step was to request a Skype interview. But Skype interviews were tough because most of the candidates I interviewed didn’t speak English as a first language. Their answers to my questions were sometimes unclear, or not as in-depth as they might have been had they had more time to think about/prepare/translate the answer. Certainly, a Skype interview is a must before hiring a candidate (Au Pair USA requires at least one), but I think it would have been better to do a lot of pre-screening via email, when candidates could take their time responding, and then choose a handful of promising candidates to interview via Skype.
  • I would have dug more into each candidate’s driving experience. Anna had a license and had driven with kids before when she worked as a nanny in Mexico, so I assumed driving wouldn’t be an issue. But when she first arrived, it was clear that she needed some work on driving in the USA. She wasn’t comfortable driving the kids for the first few weeks, which meant that my husband and I had to shoulder more of the driving load than we expected. Luckily, we have jobs that are flexible enough that we were able to do that, and we found a Spanish-speaking driving instructor to help Anna get more comfortable driving, and she now has no problems driving here. But if we hire an au pair again, I’ll definitely utilize the awesome list of questions in this comment on AuPairMom in my email pre-screening and interviews.
  • I would have scheduled her arrival to overlap with the last few weeks of my husband’s parental leave. We flat-out didn’t have time to do that (again, related to the first point above), and so poor Anna got thrown into the deep end during her first week of work… but I’ll get into that in my next post :)
Oct 242013
 

This post is part of a series on finding child care.

In my last post, I explained that we chose an au pair, “Anna,” to care for Q (and for the older kids) after my husband’s and my respective parental leaves. She’s been here for about eight months now and it’s working out really well.

We get a lot of questions about her and au pairs in general, so I figured I’d tackle some of the common ones. In the post, I’ll focus on the logistics of hosting an au pair.

What is an au pair? What is the difference between an au pair and a nanny?
You can hire anyone you can get to show up to your door as a nanny. S/he can be any age and have any amount of child care experience. You can find one on your own or through an agency. You can hire one for 5 hours a week or 50, pay them $5 an hour or $50, employ them for 5 months or 50. In short, it’s completely up to you and the nanny to agree on terms of employment.

The au pair program is much more rigidly defined, at least here in the USA. (Many other countries offer au pair programs as well, but my discussion will be strictly limited to the au pair program as it works in the USA.)

  • Au pairs must come from outside the USA, and they must be sponsored by a State Department-approved au pair agency. (There are about 20 such agencies.)
  • They must be between the ages of 18 and 26 when they arrive in the USA.
  • They can work no more than 10 hours/day and 45 hours/week. They must have 1.5 days off per week, including at least one full weekend per month.
  • They are paid a weekly stipend regardless of how many hours they actually work. The stipend amount is defined by the State Department.
  • They initially commit for one year. A family can choose to extend their au pair for up to one additional year, but after two years, the au pair must return to his/her home country.

What is the cost to host an au pair?
I hate bringing this up as one of the very first topics I discuss regarding an au pair, but I know when we’re looking for child care, there’s what we can pay and… well, what we can’t (or more accurately, what we don’t want to). It doesn’t make sense to pursue options that are in the latter bucket.

Au pair costs can be confusing to calculate because there are a bunch of different fees involved and they do vary by agency and some other factors. Here’s a rough breakdown.

Fee Who/When Paid Amount
Agency fees
Includes the family application fee, candidate identification and screening, matching assistance, au pair visa, airfare to/from the USA, a State Dept.-required training program upon arrival in the USA, and services of a local community coordinator (also called an LCC or LC) at the au pair’s final location
One-time fee, paid to the agency before the au pair’s arrival Varies between agencies, but most are in the $7000-$8000 range. I found most agencies were constantly running promotions for about $500-$1000 off the agency fees.
Au pair weekly stipend
The au pair’s regular salary
Paid weekly, directly to the au pair State Department mandated, currently $195.75/week. (A handful of programs require a higher weekly stipend, e.g. Au Pair in America’s Extraordinaire program.)
Educational stipend
Used by the au pair to take classes at an accredited institution. This is a requirement of the program.
Varies depending on the classes your au pair takes. Anna has been taking English classes at a local community college in 4-week sessions, and we pay the college directly at the start of each session. Up to $500 for the year
Au pair airfare from initial training program to your location
I believe most agencies do their training program in the New York City area
One-time fee. Au Pair USA let us book the travel ourselves, so we booked directly with the airline. Other agencies require you to use their travel agency, and pay them directly. Varies. We used frequent flyer miles, so this was very cheap for us.
Room/board
Au pairs must have a private room with a door and window, and access to a bathroom (can be shared). You also provide food.
Ongoing Varies. We had the extra room already, and haven’t noticed a huge increase in our food costs, so I’d say this is pretty minimal for us.

All told, expect to spend in the $17,000-$18,000 range for the year (51 weeks, since you don’t pay for the first week of training), or about $330-$350 per week.

That’s a lot of money.
Well, sort of. Here in Dallas, daycare for Q would have been in the $150-$200/week range for in-home, or the $200-$250/week range for a daycare center, so an au pair costs substantially more than that. But, in our case, that would just be for Q; we would still need to pay for after school care for Noob (which costs about $50/week) and Littles (about $80/week), plus holidays, summer vacation, etc. In contrast, the au pair fee is the same regardless of the number of kids you have.

Au pairs also compare favorably cost-wise to a nanny. Those start at about $10/hour here, so we’d be looking at $400-$450/week for full-time care. And honestly, we’d probably have trouble finding a nanny to watch up to 3 kids at that rate.

Also, Dallas is a relatively low cost of living area. Au pair costs are the same nationwide. Back when we were living in the San Francisco Bay area, we paid $340/week for Littles’ nanny share, so about the same as what we pay for au pair care — and that was for just one kid, for only 36 hours/week, and it wasn’t even 1:1 care like Anna provides! We’re getting ready to move to Seattle, which is another area with a higher cost of living, and we’re talking about continuing to host au pairs long-term because it’s much cheaper than child care for multiple kids.

Ultimately, though, it was the convenience factor that sold us on the au pair program… but I’ll get into that in another post.

Are there any other costs to consider?
Admittedly, we’ve paid more than what I’ve quoted above to host Anna. Probably the biggest additional cost has been vacations. We are not required to include Anna on our vacations, but we see her as part of the family and so it feels funny to think about leaving her behind. This is part of the reason why we decided on a vacation destination this year that we could drive to: It kept the costs down. As I noted in that trip log, it also turned out to be nice having an extra pair of hands to help out, so we did get something out of it as well.

Since we need Anna to drive the kids (and since having any sort of social life in a spread-out place like Dallas really requires being able to drive), we also added her to our car insurance and paid for some driving lessons when she first arrived here. I think this ended up costing about $500 total, for the year. Some families provide a car for their au pair. Again, this is not a requirement, and we chose not to do that. It’s worked out fine. It is rare for us to need both our cars at the same time, so we can usually make one available to Anna when she needs it.

We’ve also given her a little random spending money, like some money to get set up in her room initially and a little bonus before she went on a vacation a few weeks back. Once again, not required, just something we wanted to do.

Now that I’ve gotten all that boring logistical stuff out of the way, my next post will talk more about the matching process.

Aug 272013
 

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Noob at 2.5 years and Littles at 5 years, practicing their back floats from ISR classes

All three of our kids have now been through Infant Swim Resource lessons, also known as ISR. These lessons focus specifically on teaching kids the skills they need to survive if they fall into water unexpectedly.

A lot of parents think that kids can’t be taught to swim until they are at least 1 or 2 years old, but ISR does amazing things with babies as young as 6 months of age. Here is a short video of Q at 11 months old during her “winter clothes test,” which is the culmination of an ISR class series. Since many kids who accidentally fall into water do so while fully clothed, kids in ISR classes practice swimming… fully clothed. Q is wearing a diaper, long sleeve onesie, jeans, shoes/socks, and a winter coat.

Although the name is Infant Swim Resource, ISR actually teaches kids up to age 6. While babies like Q just learn to flip to their backs and float, toddlers and preschoolers learn the “swim-float-swim” sequence: Upon falling into water, they start swimming, turn to their backs and float to take a breath, then turn to their bellies again to continue swimming. They repeat this sequence until they reach a wall or another safe place. Here is a short video of Noob swimming in our pool at 3.5 years old, turning to float on his back when he needs to catch his breath.

Littles has done both “traditional” swim classes and ISR. She took swim lessons as a baby (6-11 months old), before we learned about ISR, just as a fun activity for us to do with her. We stopped when we moved from California to Texas, and didn’t resume formal swim lessons until we enrolled her in ISR last summer, shortly after her 5th birthday. Most recently, over the last few months, she’s been taking lessons through a learn-to-swim program offered by a local swim team, to work on the competitive swim strokes. Here are some of the differences I’ve noticed between her traditional classes and ISR classes:

Traditional swim lessons ISR
Both of Littles’ classes were 30-minute group lessons. Lessons are only 10 minutes long, but they are 1:1, so kids do a lot of swimming in that time!
Both of Littles’ classes were weekly. Classes are 5 days a week. The idea being that kids learn skills faster when they practice daily.
Littles’ classes as a baby required parent participation. This is typical for infant/toddler swim classes, up to about age 2-3. 1:1 with the instructor at all ages; no parent participation. (Parents can always watch from the pool deck.)
Session lengths varied from a few weeks to a few months. Completing a session does not necessarily imply that a kid can swim independently, so most kids end up taking multiple sessions (potentially spanning months, or years) in order to learn those skills. An initial ISR class series is 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the kid. During that time, even non-swimmers learn to swim independently, and then they are done. Refresher series (1-2 weeks) are recommended annually, but not required.
Both swim programs offered different levels of classes for different ability levels. The lower levels focused on getting comfortable in the water, and the higher levels focused on developing swimming skills. ISR flips this progression around: Kids become comfortable in the water by learning to swim, rather than before learning to swim. The idea being that it’s dangerous to have a child who is comfortable in water but unable to swim.
During her classes, Littles worked through a well-defined progression of swim skills. Littles worked through a well-defined progression of swim skills in her ISR classes, too. They don’t just throw the kids in the pool and expect them to figure out how to swim :)
In Littles’ classes as a baby, the emphasis was on fun. We sang songs, played games, etc. No songs or games here. The fun comes when they know how to swim.
In Littles’ current classes, she is learning the competitive swim strokes (freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly) Learning strokes is not a goal of ISR classes.
In both of Littles’ traditional classes, there was little or no crying, since being comfortable in the water was a primary goal. Many kids do cry during ISR classes, especially younger kids, especially at the start of their class series. This doesn’t mean that the instructor is cruel or insensitive to their needs, that they are being pushed too far, or that they will hate/fear the water. My kids often cried through their entire ISR lesson… but were all smiles when we went into the pool to play later that day. They just didn’t always love practicing their swimming skills, just like they don’t always love being buckled into their car seats — but I still make them do both, because it’s my job to keep them safe.
Littles’ classes as a baby cost about $20 per lesson. That was in California, but that’s also common for group swim lessons here in Dallas. Her current classes are a steal at about $11 per lesson. Noob’s and Q’s ISR lessons this past spring worked out to about $19 per lesson.

 

I’m always vigilant with the kids around water, but knowing that even baby Q has some basic swimming skills gives me so much peace of mind. Living here in Texas, where summertime highs regularly top 100 degrees, we are around pools constantly. I don’t worry as much about our own pool: We have multiple safety measures in place to keep the kids out of the pool unsupervised, and it’s easy to keep track of them when they are the only ones in the pool. I’m much more nervous around public pools and especially private pools at other people’s homes. I will never forget one pool party when Littles was about 3 or 4, before she went through ISR lessons. We were getting ready to leave and stopped briefly to say goodbye to some friends. I reached down to take Littles’ hand and… she wasn’t there. I immediately looked to the pool. She had decided to climb inside a baby swim ring, all by herself and was bobbing happily near the side of the pool. There were lots of adults in and around the pool, but no one saw her climb in. Thank goodness she managed to do it safely, because if she had slipped or missed the ring, she would not have known what to do.

And thank goodness for ISR classes, which have helped teach all three of my kids exactly what to do in a situation like that. I hope they never have to use those skills, but I’m so thankful that they have them, just in case.

To find an ISR instructor in your area, go to http://www.infantswim.com. If there are currently no instructors in your area, you can also request to be added to a wait list, so ISR knows of your interest. And if you have questions about ISR, feel free to comment on this post. I am in no way affiliated with ISR aside from having spent a lot of time poolside during my kids’ lessons, but I’m happy to share our experience.

Aug 192013
 

I guess this isn’t really a “Make-It Monday,” more of a “Fix-It Monday” :) I got a ton of BumGenius 3.0 one size pocket diapers for cheap off craigslist. They were in pretty rough shape. One example:

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It may not be real obvious from this picture, but the front velcro/aplix was super pilly, the elastic in the legs was loose, the tabs were curling… this diaper had definitely seen better days. But the PUL was good (I’ve owned tons of BGs over the years and can count on one hand the number that had PUL issues) so with just a bit of effort, I was able to turn it into something much more usable — and much cuter!

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These basic techniques can be used to fix up just about any kind of pocket diaper.

Step 1: Let ‘er rip
I started by grabbing my seam ripper and pulling off all the “bad” stuff I wanted to replace.

First up was the elastic. There are lots of different ways to replace elastic, depending on whether you prefer hand vs. machine sewing (I loathe hand sewing!), whether the elastic is sewn down in the casing vs. just tacked down on the ends (BG’s have it just tacked down on the ends), whether the elastic is easily accessible via the diaper’s pocket vs. sewn inside an AIO or fitted, etc.

What I did was carefully remove a few stitches around one end of an elastic casing. In this picture, I’ve drawn over the remaining stitching in black. You can see how there are stitches missing from the very end of the casing.

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Through the hole, I could see where the elastic was tacked (sewn) down. I pulled the elastic out through the hole and snipped it close to where it was tacked down. Then I removed a few stitches around the other end of the casing, pulled the elastic all the way out, and snipped it again. I repeated this until I had removed the elastic from both legs and the back.

Next came the velcro. If a diaper just has icky tabs and/or laundry tabs (the piece on the inside of the diapers to which you stick the tabs when laundering), I replace those, which is really quick and easy to do: Pull off the old ones, sew on new ones. Do not use Velcro brand hook/loop tape. It sucks. You’ll want to order the good stuff from an online store that specializes in diaper-making stuff, like Wazoodle or Diaper Sewing Supplies. Another option is to order the Cotton Babies refresher kits, which include precut aplix tabs and laundry tabs (as well as elastic), and are only $1 apiece with free shipping. That’s more expensive per yard/inch/whatever than bulk aplix, but if you only have a few diapers to fix up, it’ll wind up being a lot cheaper overall.

Here’s how I pull off the tabs. I cut them in half, which makes it easier to get in there with my seam ripper. Ewwwww, look how gross that old tab was.

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Now, this diaper had an icky front aplix strip too, and that strip is really hard to replace. It’s much easier to just convert the diaper to a snap closure. So, I went ahead and carefully pulled off the entire front aplix strip.

Here’s the stripped-down diaper. (In this picture, I know it looks like there’s still elastic in the casing, but there’s not — the legs/back have just been scrunched up for so long that they stay that way!)

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Step 2: Getting snap happy
You can use either a snap press or snap pliers to add snaps. I have both. The pliers are much cheaper, but I strongly prefer the press for doing snap conversions. I find that when I use the pliers, I can’t “smoosh” the front snaps at quite the right angle, so they are hard to snap closed. The press works flawlessly every time. That said, the pliers do work OK so if you don’t want to invest in a press, the pliers are definitely a workable option.

I’ve done a lot of BG snap conversions, so I have a snap template, traced onto vinyl with all the appropriate markings so I can get things lined up right. (There is a good template here to get you started.) I even added a row of sockets to my template vinyl so that I can snap them in to the top row of rise snaps and keep the template from moving around too much.

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It is hard to see in that picture, but there are holes punched in the vinyl for the snap holes. I took a washable marker and marked through the holes in the vinyl. I find that my marks usually aren’t quite straight, so I take a yard stick and draw straight lines across the diaper and use those as guidelines when placing my snaps. My top row of snaps is about 1″ down from the top of the diaper, and the bottom row is another 1″ down from the top row.

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For this diaper, I chose pink snaps. If you want your snaps to match your diaper, KAM Snaps sells matching snaps for the other BumGenius colors (besides white, obviously). Look for the colors that start with “BG.”

Anyway, once I finished the front snaps, I brought the tabs around to the front (like I was fastening the diaper) and felt through the tab for where the underlying snaps were. Then I marked those locations on the tab.

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All done. So much better than that old yucky aplix.

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Step 3: Ruffles have ridges
The pink snaps were a good start, but I wanted to spice up this boring white diaper even more. I decided to add a snap-on ruffle to the back. Snap-on ruffles are awesome: They are super easy to add to an already-sewn diaper (a sewn-on ruffle is easiest to add before you sew the diaper together), super easy to remove if you don’t want a “fancy” diaper that day, super easy to put on a different diaper, etc. I got the idea from this tutorial, but I made a couple of slight modifications.

I measured about 1″ above the end of the leg elastic. The diaper was about 10″ wide at that point. I made five marks, about every 2″, starting 1″ from each side.

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I put a strip of PUL behind this line to reinforce.

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Then I added a snap at each mark. I used white sockets, so that they would not be very noticeable when the ruffle was detached.

Next I moved on to making the ruffle itself. For the backing, I took a strip of PUL 9″ wide (remember, my outermost snaps were about 8″ apart) and 4.5″ high. I made a mark 1.5″ down from the top.

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I folded up the bottom of the PUL strip to the mark, with shiny sides together. I used a glue stick to baste it down.

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I flipped the strip over, so that the folded-up piece was on the bottom. I drew three vertical lines to divide the width of the strip into quarters, roughly 2.25″ apart. Then I made three horizontal lines. The first was about a quarter inch down from the fold, the last was about a quarter inch up from the raw edge (I could see it through the fabric), and the third line was a little less than halfway between the other two.

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Next I moved on to the ruffles themselves. I made them out of strips of PUL, 18″ wide (i.e. twice as long as my backing) and 3″ tall. I drew vertical lines to divide them into quarters, too. (Yep, I goofed on my original lines on the top white strip…)

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I did a basting stitch (0 tension, long stitch length) down the middle of each strip, then pulled on the bobbin thread to create the ruffle.

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Working with the first ruffle, I pinned it down to the backing strip so that the center of the ruffle matched up with the first horizontal line I had drawn. I lined up the vertical lines on the ruffle with the vertical lines on the backing strip — this helped ensure I had distributed the ruffle relatively evenly.

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Then I sewed down the ruffle along the basting line. And repeated all this for the other two ruffles, sewing them along the other two horizontal lines.

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The ruffle looked great… the back, not so much. Crooked stitching, etc.

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So I folded up the bottom part of the backing strip over the top part (where all the stitching was) and topstitched it down. Way better.

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Then I placed the backing strip over the snaps on the diaper back. I felt for the location of the snaps on the diaper and marked them on the backing strip. I added the snaps to the backing strip, in the wider of the two gaps between ruffles.

The end result!

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Step 4: It’s elastic… boogie woogie woogie
I had to pull the pretty ruffle off and get back to work finishing my fix-up job. The last remaining piece was to replace the elastic. There are lots of different ways to do this. I’ve described what I’ve found to be the easiest way for me, but your mileage may vary.

Remember how I had unpicked the ends of the casing to cut out the old elastic? Now I sewed them back up, leaving just enough room to get the new elastic in. Again, in these pictures, I’ve drawn over the remaining stitching in black to make it more visible.

This is the front of the diaper. The casing has a very defined end here, so I sewed up to the point where the stitching “turns” perpendicular back to the edge of the diaper. This left the end of the casing open.

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In the back of the diaper, the casing “trails off” to meet the topstitching. So I just left a hole around where the old elastic was tacked down.

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I cut the elastic. I use Wazoodle elastic and love it, but you can definitely use the elastic you can buy at Joann’s, even Walmart. Just make sure you get the stuff that says it’s chlorine safe and suitable for washing at up to 200 degrees F. BumGenius diapers need 1/4″ elastic.

As for length, the elastic that comes in the repair kits from Cotton Babies is 4.75″. I like having a bit more of a tail to work with (if you tack down too close to the end of the elastic, it’s liable to pull through the stitching and come loose), so I added .75″ to each end, for a total of 6.25″. I marked off that extra .75″ on both ends.

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I put safety pins on both ends of the elastic.

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I inserted the elastic into the casing at the back of the diaper. The marks I made on the elastic came in handy for making sure I didn’t twist the elastic inside the casing. Here, I’m putting it in with the mark up/facing the diaper inner, so it better come out the other end with the mark up/facing the diaper inner…

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I used the safety pin to move the elastic down the casing until the mark at the other end of the elastic was about to disappear into the casing. See that little bit of blue about to go into the casing?

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I removed the safety pin and stitched the casing closed on that end, taking care not to move the elastic around before I got it sewn down. I went back and forth a couple of times, as this would be the only seam holding that elastic in place! Here’s the sewn-down elastic:

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I finished pulling the elastic through the casing, scrunching up the diaper as I went. I pulled it way through so that the mark on that end of the elastic was visible.

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Then I stitched that end of the casing closed as well.

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Close up of the casing:

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I repeated that process to replace the elastic in the other leg and the back. The back elastic in a BG is the same length as the leg elastic.

Step 5: Admire!
And there you have it… a complete overhaul!

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