Apple and Pumpkin Season is Upon Us

Posted 09-8-2015 at 02:08 PM by Agla

Dollarphotoclub_65161614

 

If I didn’t know that Fall was upon us by looking out the window or the calendar I would know by the constant advertisements for everything pumpkin and apple flavored advertised in print and media. Instead of fighting the pumpkin and apple trend embrace it!

Here are some fun things you can do, make or taste to make the most of this time of year.

– Bake a pie. It really is much easier than you think and there are videos and recipes easily accessible online. Little hands can mix ingredients and help with the dough. Not sure if you know how to crimp pie dough? Fold over the sides and call it a tartlette instead.

– Add Pumpkin or Apple to Anything. Muffins, pancakes, waffles, soups there are so many recipes that can be enhanced by adding some apple or pumpkin.
– Go to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard. Don’t have one in your area? A corn maze or hay maze will do in a pinch.
– Have an apple tasting. There are many varieties of apples. Buy several and have a tasting. Which do you prefer? What words would they use to describe them?
– Wear some Fall colors. Put away the neon green and bring out the orange!
– With your kids, do some apple or pumpkin themed crafts.
– Check out books about pumpkins and apples for your kids from the library.

I would love to hear what type of activities DS members do during this time of year.

Diaper Swapers

Closet Organization: Fall Season

Posted 09-7-2015 at 02:05 PM by Agla

 

Dollarphotoclub_59966405

For some of us this is the time where we have to open our closets and figure out what needs to be put away, given away and put out. This can be a daunting project and there are many ways that this task can be approached. I am going to share some of the ways I have learned to get this task done through the years.

Keep, Store, Give Away
Anyone that has watched a home organization show is familiar with the sorting technique in which you quickly assess your items and sort them into three categories: Keep, Store and Give Away. If you are looking at an item for more than 30 seconds still debating if you can get use out of it then the item should probably be in the Give Away pile. For parents that are thrifty another category for sorting can be made titled “Sell/Trade.”

When the Weather Is Temperamental
Some of us have the joy of living in areas where the weather can change from one second to the next. I’ve learned the hard way that putting all the summer things away as soon as the weather cools can be a mistake. For example, yesterday it was 90 degrees here. Today, one of my kids left the house wearing shorts, a long sleeve T-shirt, and a fleece, because it was much cooler. To keep your organization time and frustration level to a minimum I suggest doing your closet change over in stages.

First, clear out the items that are overtly summer related. Things like your 4th of July T-shirts can be cleared out. Most tank tops can be cleared out with the exception of those that you can layer as the weather cools. Clear out items that are stained or damaged as well.

At this point I would make sure that long pants and sweatshirts are also accessible so that they are available for cooler mornings and evenings.

Keep shorts out as they can still get some wear as the seasons change but gather them in one location so that they can easily be gathered and stored when the weather gets too cool.

Hand Me Downs
Here is where things can get a bit complicated. For some reason kids grow like weeds in the summer. As you go through the closet make sure that the items still fit and assess what is about to be grown out of. If your same gender children are close in age and born in similar seasons then it does make sense to keep clothing to hand down. Just keep in mind that trends do change, the build of children vary and so do their tastes. You usually won’t lose if you hold on to classic pieces. I have one gender neutral nautical themed sweater that has been passed down for fourteen years. I prefer sorting hand me downs by size and season and using storage containers I keep in the basement. I know others that keep separate sections of closets. The storage method will vary based on your space and the amount you need to store.

Is There Too Much?

One of the things that can make a closet change overwhelming is when there are too many items to deal with. Realistically, the clothing needs of a school aged child are not huge. If you are swimming in clothes and are constantly frustrated by your efforts to organize it all then it might mean that it is time to purge and free yourself of items that are creating more work for you.

Saving Money on Back To School Clothes

Posted 08-5-2015 at 10:02 PM by Agla

 

Once again, it is the time of year where moms are hitting the stores, searching everywhere for back to school deals. One of the biggest expenses is the inevitable money that needs to be spent on clothing, after the growth spurts that take place in the summer. Here are just a few ideas on how to make your back to school clothing budget stretch:

Buy in the Previous Season
One of the best ways to save is to plan in advance. Many basics can be purchased for great prices during clearance sales and then put aside for future use.

A few years ago, I found basic navy hooded sweatshirts for $3 a piece during a clearance event. I purchased the sweatshirt in a couple of sizes and stored them. The sweatshirts have gotten lots of use and since it was a basic non-trendy item my kids will be wearing those sweatshirts for years to come.

Familiarize Yourself with Your Local Thrift and Consignment Stores
I happen to have several thrift and consignment stores in driving distance. I have seen the traffic in these stores rise exponentially as living costs have increased. Unfortunately, prices at these type of stores have also risen but they still beat traditional stores for some items. However, you have to be familiar with the cost of quality items because in some instances it is more cost-effective to buy new.

At a national chain children’s consignment shop I found a pair of boys dress shoes that retail for $75 or above. The shoes looked as though they had never been worn, and they cost only $8. I also found a brand new, with tag, Janie and Jack boys shirt for $4. The full retail price for the shirt was $34.

Clothing Discounter
There are many stores that specialize in selling off season clothing. Sometimes the only reason an item is considered off season is because full price retailers have introduced the items in different colors for the new season. The older colors are then moved to discounters.

Recently, I purchased a pair of men’s pants at a department store. I bought the pants while they were on sale and I applied a coupon I found online. Later that day I found the same pair of pants at Marshall’s in a slightly darker khaki color for a few dollars less than the price I paid without the hassle of waiting for a sale or coupon.

Watch for Sales and Coupons
There are coupon experts out there that can make a “dollar out of fifteen cents.” I am not one of those people, but I do search out coupons and sales before going out to make any purchases.

Many retailers mail out or email coupons periodically and waiting for those coupons can make the difference between saving money and overspending. Combine your coupon with sales or by buying items that are on clearance to extend your back to school budget.

Despite my planning ahead I sometimes find that I have to purchase a last minute clothing item. I recently needed to buy shorts for my son before a trip. I walked into the store and immediately suffered from sticker shock. I looked around some more and I found shorts that were actually closer to my price range. Once we figured that the shorts were a good fit and decent quality I calculated that the sale price combined with a store coupon. The combination of the sale and coupon bought the shorts down to exactly the amount I had budgeted to spend.

Use the Diaperswappers FSOT Forum

The Diaperswappers forum has a section of the sale and trade forum dedicated to children’s clothing. Members will often list clothing that their child has outgrown that is good quality and a good price point.

For example, there is currently a pair of Mini Boden lined cargo pants listed in our forum for $15. These pants retail for $54 new.

Back to school clothing shopping does not have to break the bank. By planning your purchases carefully, and familiarizing yourself with the various ways that clothing costs can be reduced, you will be able to hopefully enjoy your back to school shopping instead of worrying about your budget.

Simpler Is Sometimes Better

Posted 07-24-2015 at 04:02 PM by Agla

I spent three days making one batch of rolls this week. Each day there was another step in the process to complete. Once the rolls were baked and everyone had a chance to taste them I asked, “Were these rolls better than the rolls that take me only a few minutes to prepare?” My husband admitted that he liked the taste of the simpler rolls. Like other areas of our life I realized that I get better results when I stick to a simple routine. Here are some ideas on how to simply things in any household:

Simplifying Your Wash Routine
In a family, the laundry beast can get overwhelming. There were years that I refused to buy any white clothing, because during that time I felt like I was constantly swimming in laundry and separating whites and darks was just too much to deal with. As well as buying no white clothing, I also simplified the laundry by reducing the number of items in my family’s wardrobe.

For my diaper laundry I realized that after trying several cloth diaper specific detergents and different laundry additives I found that the one that worked the best for me and my machine was basic Tide detergent with a couple of extra rinses,

Simplifying Your Menu
I love to cook and try new recipes but I know that there are people that struggle with menu planning and meal preparation. I see the same people attempt to elaborate recipes with several ingredients in an attempt to improve their cooking. Once while watching a TV cooking show I watched three different chefs gasp with delight. What caused their reaction? One of the contestants had placed a fried sunny side egg on top of the meal he was being judged on. Good simple basic ingredients can go a long way to making a meal taste good. Good basic cooking technique are also important and can elevate most ingredients from ordinary to delicious.

Keeping Your Home Tidy Simply
Simply put, “The less you have the less you have to clean.” This seems obvious but many people spend a great deal of time dealing with the clutter that has accumulated in their home. Get rid of things that are not being utilized. Have proper places to store things so that anyone can pick up something that is out of place and know where to put it. These are small steps that can help keep a home neater and less cluttered.

I would love to hear from DS blog readers about the ways they have learned to simplify. Please share your tips and tricks in the comment section below.

Road Travel With Toddlers

Posted 07-23-2015 at 12:51 PM by admin

road travel with toddlers

Car Travel With Toddlers

Are you hitting the road this summer with a little one in tow? If so, there will definitely be some planning involved. Over the years, I have learned how to pack and travel efficiently with babies, toddlers, school aged kids, and now teens. And each age requires something different. Today I’m focusing on traveling with toddlers.

Pack heavy:  I know this seems like overkill, but I promise you, you will thank me. If you have the room in your vehicle, pack heavy for the toddlers on your trip. Games, snacks, change of clothes, their favorite pillow, animal, sippy cups, wipes, napkins, toys, snacks….yes I mentioned snacks twice! They are important to having a happy toddler. I highly suggest checking out a local dollar store for new toys that will keep your toddler engaged, without breaking the bank.

Independence: Toddlers love their independence. Consider packing their own separate backpack full of their own things.

Break it up: Back in my college years, my goal was always to get to my destination as fast as possible. Which meant, little to no stops. This is very hard with a toddler. They need to get their energy out. Plan stops at parks, restaurants that have play areas, or just open fields so they can stretch their legs (you too!) and get some exercise.

Avoid rush hour: No one likes to be stuck in traffic, including toddlers!

Sleepy Time Travel: Leaving at night so your toddler sleeps through most of the drive is a great idea. As long as the drivers are not drowsy too. Make sure if the driver is drowsy, you pull over immediately. If it’s a short trip, driving through naptime is a plus as well.

Electronics: While we try to discourage too much time on electronics, long car trips is the exception in our home. Investing in a TV/DVD Player combo is definitely worth it. You can stop at Redbox machines along the way for cheap movie options. If the TV/DVD Player is not in the budget, there are options. Pick up a fun CD full of singalongs or stories for your toddler to enjoy on the trip.

Clean up: Do not forget all the clean up supplies. Pack plenty of napkins, wet ones, disinfectant, plastic bags, and more in case of spills.

 

 

HAPPY TRAVELS!

Like the Brady Bunch but Not Really

Posted 06-19-2015 at 11:33 AM by Agla

As a child I watched the Brady Bunch and dreamed of being part of a big family.  I didn’t realize that I would eventually become part of large family but, unlike my childhood fantasies, I ended up playing the part of the mom instead of one of the fun-loving kids.

Having a larger family isn’t exactly how it is pictured on television. I’ll go over some of the major differences between my family and the Brady Bunch:

I don’t have a maid.  Alice on the Brady Bunch was an awesome maid that cared for the children as if they were her own.  The house was immaculately clean and there was never a stray toy in site.   I get to clean everything on my own until the kids are old enough to pitch in.  But unlike Mr. Brady who was always too busy working in the office for housework, I have a husband that does help clean.

I don’t have the equally gender balanced family.  The Brady’s had exactly 3 boys and 3 girls.  My household is boy heavy.  I’ve been living toy cars, wooden trains, and Lego for over a decade and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.  Luckily, I had one daughter so that I at least had a small window of shopping in the girl’s section.

My kids weren’t already potty trained when I got them.  The Brady’s became a family by blending two families with older children.  I had to diaper and then potty train all of these kids.

Our problems don’t come in increments of one that are easily resolved in a half hour period.  In the short time I’ve been sitting down to write this piece I’ve had to deal with a broken lightbulb, lost sneakers, fighting over snacks, helping put on socks, and a toilet that won’t stop running.

Even though my life doesn’t match that of the Brady Bunch I will always appreciate the show for leaving me with the impression that a large family could be loving and supportive of each other.   Even when we have our worst days I have never wished for a smaller family.  I’m grateful that I was able to get positive messages about larger families as a child. Thank you, Mrs. Brady!

 

Help! I Want to Cloth Diaper but I Have No Money!

Posted 06-19-2015 at 10:35 AM by Agla

One of the most asked questions that we get on our forum is how to cloth diaper on a very limited budget.  While many people choose to cloth diaper to save on diapering costs there are many who struggle with the initial investment needed to create a stash.

Here is a sampling of some of the most popular inexpensive diapering options available:

Flats

Flat diapers are an inexpensive but useful diapering option that can be used for a large range of sizes.  There are now “elite” flats that come in gorgeous fabrics but the budget minded cloth “diaperer” can make their own flats by using fabric that might already be in the home.

T-Shirt Flats-  Old t-shirts can be cut and made into flats.  T-shirt material will roll at the edge when cut but will usually not fray, which makes the t-shirt flat one of the best inexpensive options for those that do not feel comfortable sewing.  If absorbency is a concern an inexpensive doubler can be added for extra wetness protection.

Receiving blanket flats-  Thin receiving blankets are also an inexpensive solution.  They can be purchased new for as little as $2 a blanket and usually they can be found at tag sales or thrift stores for even less.

Flour Sack Towels- These are an option that have gained some popularity as people realize how versatile they can be and how easily they can be found.  Once you are done using them as a flat diaper then you can use them pad folded in a cover, as an insert or even as a doubler.

Covers

There are now cover options available to fit every type of budget.  But if those options are still out of reach there are some basic and functional cover options that require minimal investment.

Upcycled Wool- Wool sweaters can be used to make soakers and longies (wool pants.) With my fourth child I got busy recycling old wool sweaters to make longies to wear over CDs.  It was surprisingly easy and I ended preferring some of my upcycled wool to wool that I purchased new or had made.  Several soakers can be made from a large sweater and absorbency can be increased by sewing an additional layer of wool into the soaker area.

Fleece-  Fleece soakers and longies can be made inexpensively by upcycling old sweatshirts or buying yards of fleece while on sale.  Fleece can also be used as a stay dry liner.

Training Pant Covers-  Otherwise known as Gerber pull on (although I’m sure there are other brands) are a basic no frills pull on cover.  They cost about $2 a cover and are now being sold in prints as well.

The cloth diaper industry has gone through a transformation in recent times, but the changes and innovations have come with increased prices, or, in some cases reduced prices but questionable business ethics.  Fortunately, there are still ways that a parent can choose to cloth diaper while keeping out of pocket expenses to an absolute minimum.

 

Cding: The Quest for the Perfect Solutions

Posted 06-19-2015 at 10:22 AM by Agla

I came across the word “skincaretainment”  used to describe the enjoyment that skin care enthusiasts take in finding, testing and sharing information about skin care products.  I found the term amusing not only because the word fit exactly the concept of what draws people to skin care forums but because I felt that the concept had so much in common with our cloth diapering world.  We already have created the word “Cding,”  which is not only an abbreviation for cloth diapering, but is also a term that covers the experience, enjoyment and sometimes frustration of finding products that fulfill our specific cloth diapering needs.  While skin care enthusiasts look for the perfect facial wash or nighttime cream, cders look for the following perfect solutions:

The Night Time Solution-  This would be the perfect combination of diaper, soaker/insert and cover that allows baby to wake up in dry clothes and bedding.

The True AIO-  This would be the all-in-one diaper that would ideally take your child from the newborn stage all the way to potty training.

The Perfect Wash Routine- The perfect ratio of water: detergent accompanied by the most efficient number of rinses.

The Best Fitted- The fitted diaper with the most absorbency and the best fit.  This diaper would contain most blowouts but would not so bulky that it would be distracting.

The Best Cover- The cover that would be the most pleasing to the eye that lasts through repeated washings without losing efficacy.  It would also have the most effective closure system and the best fit so that they are comfortable to wear while still keeping everything in.

A parent may find the perfect solution only to have to start the quest again when the solution doesn’t work for the next child.  Still we continue our research and eager trips to the mailbox because for many of us cloth diapers are more than functional, they are also an entertaining hobby.

Winter ABC Game

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:09 PM by Ellen

Learning the letters of the alphabet is an important skill for young children. Rather than drilling them with flash cards or having them learn their ABCs by rote, make learning the alphabet fun while teaching social skills like learning how to take turns. This ABC game incorporates learning about forest animals and a craft with letter recognition, so it will help keep your child interested. If you keep the activities fun, your child will continue to learn ABCs and other skills with greater enthusiasm.

This ABC game refers to a bear that lives in a cave. To introduce the activity to your children, you may want to start by reading a book about bears and their natural habitat. One example is, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” by Michael Rosen. Your local public library will have other titles available. Read the book a few times so that you and your children are familiar with the story and that bears like to eat fish. (This will be important later on in the ABC game.)

Make a cave craft

Materials Needed:
• Small boxes (about the size of tea boxes)
• Brown construction paper
• Glue
• Plastic bear figure (Gummy bears are an option)

Instead of having the kids cut strips of brown construction paper to cover the boxes to make a bear cave, give them some practice for their fine motor skills by having them tear strips of the paper instead. Once they have enough paper to cover their boxes, they can glue them on.

It’s not necessary for the cave to look wrapped up neatly like a Christmas gift. It’s a cave, after all, and there are no perfect corners in nature. If you have a child who is a perfectionist, reassure him or her that the idea is to cover the box with the strips, but not to make it look “too” neat.

Once the bear cave has been completed, you can use it for the Winter ABC Game.

Winter ABC Game

Materials Needed:
• Blue construction paper
• ABC fish (magnetic letters) – you can also draw letters on paper or cut them out of magazines for the game

This game is for two players. Each child takes a turn being the bear. At everyone’s turn, the bear growls as loud as he or she can and says, “I’m hungry for a J (or any letter that is displayed on the table) fish”. The other player finds it and gives it to the bear, which is then placed in his or her cave.

• Next, the second player has a turn and gets to be the bear. He or she has the chance to growl and ask for a letter that is in the “water”. Players may need encouragement to wait patiently while the other person looks for the letter that has been requested and not to “help” or interrupt.

• This activity can be varied by using numbers instead of letters. Small figures of animals or people could be used to teach vocabulary about wild animals, farm animals or different professions. You can also use colored stones, pompoms or other small items to mix up the game and make it more challenging for your children. Write some simple words on cards to practice sight recognition once your children are old enough to learn to read.

• This ABC game is simple, yet can be used in a number of ways, using most any animal. Young children will likely have a lot of fun being the bear and being able to “roar” when it’s their turn – something normally not encouraged to do at home.

You can even expand the game to talk about what types of animals the bear would and wouldn’t be likely to see when he emerges from his cave in the spring. This simple game can be the foundation for a lot of learning for your children, starting with their ABCs.

Snow Salt Tray Sensory Play

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:06 PM by Ellen

Are you looking for a way that your children can play in snow without the hassle of getting them dressed in snowsuits, boots, hats and mittens? It’s easy – just make your own snow salt tray for sensory play. This activity can be used in a number of ways to keep it interesting and it’s something that your children will find soothing.

Why sensory play is important to children
Sensory play is not simply about touching items. Through these types of activities, children learn how to examine objects, categorize them and ultimately make sense of the world around them. This is where they learn about different textures, scents and tastes.

Your child will no doubt spend some of his or her time developing gross motor skills by walking, running and jumping, but developing fine motor skills is also important. These skills allow us to perform activities like writing, doing up buttons and laces, using a keyboard and other skills.

Sensory play helps children develop these skills by allowing them to practice their fine motor skills. Through their play, they are opening and closing their hand to pick up objects, pinching things between a thumb and forefinger, pouring, manipulating sand or “snow” in this case by allowing it to run through their fingers. All of these motions are controlled, which takes practice if a child wants to be able to move an object or the snow where he or she wants it to go.

Kids are completely focused on what they want to do during the activity, rather than the actual skills involved in making their hands perform it. If they need more time or they have to repeat something to get the results they want, there is no particular pressure on them. They just try again. These activities allow them to keep on practicing these important skills without realizing they may need to work on them. Learning while having fun is one of the best ways to develop any skill.

Making a snow salt tray
Materials Needed:
• Epsom or table salt
• Small animal and bird figures, cars and trucks, buildings, people, shapes, trees, etc.
• Colored blue glass gems or marbles/construction paper (to make water)
• Scissors or markers/pencil crayons
• Container at least two inches deep

You’ll need a container so that the “snow” doesn’t make a mess in your home. Anything that you have on hand can be used – a mixing bowls, flat cereal bowls, a deep platter or baking dish, a divided serving tray, etc. Simply pour about an inch of salt into the bottom of the container – indoor snow!

If you want to add a water feature with your snow, use colored blue glass gems or marbles and place them in a separate container or section of your container. You could also have your children color or cut up a piece of blue construction paper to represent water.

Playing with a snow salt tray
There are many ways children can play with the snow salt tray, so let your little one get busy!

• They can tell a story or create an adventure by making hills and valleys out of the salt. The animals and birds might enjoy walking or jumping in the snow or taking a dip in the “water”.

• During play, your child is touching the Epsom salt, feeling what it’s like to have it run through his or her fingers. These textures are important and many children enjoy this type of activity.

• You can also use the snow salt in a different way by hiding some small objects in a large bowl of salt and inviting your child to find them using their hands in a type of snowy treasure hunt. Can they identify a shape or a small toy only by touch? Try it and have some fun with it.

• With the variety of figures and objects that can be incorporated into the “snow”, this activity can be changed in a number of ways. If you are reading books about snow or life in the Arctic or Antarctic, you may want to incorporate similar figures to the snow salt tray to bring the book characters to life. Your child will find it easier to relate to the idea of animals and people who live closer to the North and South Poles by connecting such stories to creative play.