Sep 202013

checklistRoutines are a life raft for me in the chaotic world of parenting.  I’ve created a routine checklist for my daughter’s before school, after school and after dinner tasks, and the link for it is at the bottom of this post if you’d like to download it and customize it.

Before using a checklist, I found that my relationship with my preschool-aged daughter involved a lot of me telling her what to do“Unpack your backpack.  I said, unpack your backpack.  Now we’re going to eat a snack.  No, you can’t play yet, it’s time for shower.”  Once she was in Kindergarten I felt like she was ready to start helping around the house with chores.  But in order to get her to complete all her tasks, I had to constantly nag her: “Don’t forget about your cleaning chores… did you feed the cat yet? Now set the table.  I said, set the table. Your backpack is still waiting to be unpacked, do that before you take a shower…” It seemed like every afternoon devolved into an exchange of accusatory looks and frustrated outbursts on both our parts.  My goals were reasonable: I wanted teach my daughter to take responsibility for her tasks, but my strategy (constant reminders) was making us both miserable.

Enter the routine checklist, which we started using when she was four and a half.  I worked on the list together, so that she could take ownership of it.  With the checklist, my daughter knows what is expected of her, and can monitor her progress by checking off the boxes next to each task.  (Each task has an icon next to it so that children can use the checklist even if they don’t know how to read.  For instance, “Pack backpack” has a picture of a backpack next to it.) If I see that she’s gotten off track, I remind her to look at her checklist.  Instead of a ordering her around, I just say, “What’s next on your checklist?”

Now, I won’t lie, the routine checklist hasn’t solved all of our battles.  She’s in first grade now, and in the morning tends to be s-l-o-w to complete each task when getting ready for school, and the checklist hasn’t made any difference there. And in the afternoons she’s not that interested in doing chores, so I do get my fair share of eye-rolling sent my way, not to mention the dramatic slump-shouldered walks as she drags herself from one task to the next, glancing over at me to make sure I’m witnessing her misery.  But I do feel like using routine checklists has made a difference in my relationship with my daughter, because our arguments (and there are still many!) are more about the fact that she doesn’t want to complete her tasks, and not so much about her being angry at me for ordering her around. And don’t we all get frustrated with our list of to-do’s from time to time?  She’s learning that life is challenging because we all have tasks of some sort that we need to complete each day, but she’s also learning that she can get through it if she makes a list and works through it step-by-step.

The downloadable checklist is in Microsoft Word so that you can easily customize it to fit your own routines and expectations.  If you have trouble opening or editing the document, leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to help you (note that for some reason weird formatting can result from opening the document in read-only mode: to remedy this, select “Edit” or “Print” and you’ll get the original formatting).

Free Downloadable Daily Routines Checklist for Children:

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Mar 142013

There’s a renaissance in cloth diapering going on right now.  Cloth diapering has always been the most frugal and environmentally-conscious choice for parents, but cloth diapers have also been 1) less convenient to use than their disposable counterparts and 2) yucky to clean, which is why they had been rapidly declining in popularity for the last 40 years.   No so anymore- advances in technology have transformed the cloth diapering landscape.

Soft, woven waterproof fabric has replaced vinyl diaper covers, Snappis have replaced diaper pins, and thank goodness diaper sprayers have replaced toilet dunking.  Numerous companies have taken advantage of these new technologies to create cloth diapers that are convenient to use, easy to wash, and completely adorable.  If you’re interested in using cloth diapers on your child, here’s an overview of the different types of cloth diapers that are available.  I’ve used links to Amazon product pages so that you can see pictures of the diapers I’m describing, as well as read reviews about them and find out pricing.

Types of All-In-One Diapers (AIO)

Let’s start off with the ultra-convenient “All-In-One” style of diaper (also called, “AIO”).  An All-In-One is a one-piece leak-proof cloth diaper that Velcros or snaps around the baby.   They have the look and function of uber-stylish disposable diapers, but instead of throwing the diaper out when you change your baby, you throw the whole diaper into your diaper pail and wash your diapers every 2-3 days.  All-In-Ones are so convenient that they tend to win over spouses, grandparents, babysitters, daycare centers, and anyone else who might not be initially enthusiastic about cloth diapering.  They come in countless irresistible colors and patterns, and use super-easy snap or Velcro-like closures.  Depending on the brand, they are either “one-size,” meaning they fit from birth to potty training, or sized.

Popular brands include:

Types of All-In-Two Diapers

All-In-Two diapers are two-piece cloth diapers that require one extra step compared to all-in-ones: you place a cloth insert into a cover that is specially designed to hold the insert in place.  Being able to separate the insert from the cover after the diaper is soiled makes all-in-twos arguably easier to wash and faster to dry than all-in-ones.  On the other hand, after you’ve laundered your all-in-twos you do have to take the extra step of matching your inserts to your diapers, whereas all-in-ones will be ready to go straight after drying.  There are two main types of All-In-Two diapers: pocket diapers and hybrid diapers, and within those two types some brands are one-size (fitting from birth to potty training) and others are sized.

Pocket Diapers (All-In-Two)

With a pocket diaper, the insert stuffs into a pocket in the cover.  When the diaper is soiled, both the cover and insert are washed together.

  Popular brands include:


Hybrid Diapers (All-In-Two)

The “hybrid” version of an All-In-Two is comprised of a leak-proof cover that an absorbent liner snaps, or is placed, into.   The advantages over pocket-style All-In-Twos are: 1) there is no stuffing of uncooperative inserts into snug pockets, and 2) there are many instances when the baby has only soiled the liner, so you can change the liner without having to change the cover, making these especially convenient on-the-go.

Popular brands include:

  • GroVia Shell (one-size, choice of cotton, microfiber, or disposable snap-in insert)
  • BumGenius Flip (one-size, choice of cotton, microfiber, or disposable insert)
  • gDiaper (sized, choice of cotton/microfiber insert or flushable insert)

Types of Prefold Diapers + Snappis + Diaper Covers

Of all the different types of cloth diapers, Prefolds are the cheapest option.  A prefold is a rectangular cloth that you place on your baby, secure with a Snappi, and then cover with a leak-proof diaper cover.  You don’t change the cover every time- just the soaked prefold- so you only need approximately 1 cover per 4 prefolds.  Prefolds and covers can be washed together in a washing machine, and dried in a dryer, though line drying the covers will help them last longer.  Prefolds are the type of diaper used by diaper services, so if you aren’t interested in washing cloth diapers yourself, you can subscribe to a diaper service that will pick up your dirty diapers every week and drop off cleaned and sanitized ones.

Popular brands include:

Types of Fitted Diapers + Diaper Covers

Fitted diapers are the same essential concept as prefolds, in that you secure them around your baby and then cover with a leak-proof diaper cover.  But instead of being a rectangular cloth that you secure with a Snappi, fitted diapers are form-fitted and have snaps or Velcro to secure them.  Because they are form-fitted they have a reputation of being the most bombproof of all diapers, in terms of being able to contain the biggest of poop blow-outs and heavy wetting without any leaking onto clothes.  The downside is that they are bulky- you can tell this just by looking at the two images above.  The entire fitted diaper, pictured on the left, has to fit inside the diaper cover pictured on the right.  Despite this bulkiness, many parents swear they are the best cloth diaper option because of their prowess in containing leaks.  Popular brands include:

So there you have it! I’ve tried to give you an overview of all the different types of cloth diapers that are available.  Hopefully this list has helped you make sense of all of the options out there.  Keep in mind there are many other brands out there besides the ones I highlighted, and it could be helpful to visit your local cloth diaper shop and see the diapers in person.  You can also make your own cloth diapers, or buy homemade ones on Etsy.

 Do you use cloth diapers already?  Are you thinking about using cloth diapers?

Sep 222012

[Expired] I’ll Follow the Moon by Stephanie Tara is free right now on Amazon.  It’s a Moms’ Choice Award honoree and a Chocolate Lily Award winner.  It’s not too often that high quality children’s books come up for free. This is an Amazon Kindle ebook, but even if you don’t own a Kindle you can still enjoy it by downloading it for free to your computer (PC or Mac), iPhone, or iPad. The instructions for doing so are included under the “Buy Now With 1 Click” button. PLEASE BE AWARE that the price is currently $0.00 but that could change at any time, so always check the price before clicking Buy Now.

Hurry, these promotions don’t last long.  Let me know what you thought of this book!

Sep 212012

I’m always looking for inspiration as I walk that fine line between balancing our budget and keeping our lives fun and interesting.  The internet is a treasure trove of frugal living tips, and I’ve rounded up five good frugal living articles that I came across this week.  Remember, living frugally isn’t about saving money for the sake of saving money, it’s about saving money so that you can spend it on what really matters to you.

This round-up of “good reads” is a weekly feature of other people’s ideas, but don’t forget you can also check out all of my articles on managing your money, setting goals, menu planning, organizing, and lots of other stuff! :)

Sep 202012

Seven Slings is giving away free baby slings (regularly priced $40) while supplies last.  You just pay shipping.  Their slings are the simple over-one-shoulder type, which I liked using when my daughter was 0-4 months old.  Some people like using them all the way up to toddler age, but I preferred other carriers when my daughter was older.  Anyway, if you’re interested in scoring a free baby sling, use promo code SMARTMOM.

Sep 122012

SMART SCHOOL TIME RECIPES: The Breakfast, Snack, and Lunchbox Cookbook for Healthy Kids and Adults is free right now on Amazon, and rated 4 and a half stars.  I haven’t read it yet but the reviews say it’s got lots of good lunch ideas for kids and adults.  It’s an Amazon Kindle ebook, but even if you don’t own a Kindle you can still enjoy it by downloading it for free to your computer (PC or Mac), iPhone, or iPad. The instructions for doing so are included under the “Buy Now With 1 Click” button. PLEASE BE AWARE that the price is currently $0.00 but that could change at any time, so always check the price before clicking Buy Now.

Hurry, these promotions don’t last long.  Let me know what you thought of this book!