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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

I have distinct memories of celebrating Independence Day as a kid.

Sometimes it involved going to a parade. (My family was all about marching bands; all 4 kids were Mohawk Marching Mohicans and our grandparents were Marines…marching was kind of in our blood.) Sometimes it involved using sparklers. Sometimes it involved a barbecue. Sometimes it involved trekking out to watch fireworks.

But, what I remember the most was always, ALWAYS watching the Boston Pops concert on TV followed by “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (which my sister and I would inevitably fall asleep on the floor – on a sheet – and have a sleepover to).

Weird the things we remember, huh?

Well, I’m trying to figure out activities that we can try out much like my mom did that turn into traditions that work for our family. Low-key fun that means we can all enjoy the “Happy Birthday, America!” celebration without too much planning or work on Mom and Dad’s end.

Here’s a handful of last-minute ways to up the fun factor for your Fourth:

Primary Printables’ 4th of July Scavenger Hunt – This is a fun family activity for everyone that’s simple (and free!) to do at a get-together. If you’re not going on an outing, you can edit and adjust it to meet your needs.

A Little Pinch of Perfect’s Cupcake Liner Fireworks – I love this idea if your little one’s too young to enjoy waiting up for fireworks (I’m envisioning at least one meltdown and a bunch of over-tired behavior issues with our kiddos!). Have them make their own neat fireworks. Oh, and if your child’s too young for scissors, you can cut a bunch and let your child choose and glue them on the page.

Crafty Morning’s Fireworks Straw Craft – This is another way to let your kids safely make their own fireworks at home! I’ve also seen this done with squishy spiked balls and toilet roll tubes cut with slits. Use whatchya got!

Domino’s Easy Recipes – Am I the only one who can always be found hunting down just one more recipe last-minute to complete a meal (especially when entertaining)? This offers over 30 amazing (and mostly kid-friendly!) recipes that you can throw together quickly. I’m eyeing some of the fruit ideas, but there are seriously some mouth-watering recipes here to round out your menu!

Little Bins for Little Hands’ July 4th Slime Science Activity – SLIME. It’s SO a thing. As an educator, I can vouch for how uber-popular this is with even the older kids (although I think that it’s a great sensory activity for kids…even if I can’t wrap my head around the obsession quite yet). This stuff is special July 4th-themed, so your kids might just be thrilled about it. Plus, you can play with it outside while the adults are grilling or inside if the day turns rainy.

Or just chill out at the pool and do your own thing. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy the day!  

Either way, let us know how you’ll be spending the holiday and we hope it’s a happy, healthy one!

Our daughter is now 19 months old. One of the cool things about this age is that the clothes (and, to an extent, our daughter!) are leaning away from baby-ish stuff. Less onesie-style tops mean regular shirts and tees. Add this to the heat of summer and that means showing off our cloth diapers!

I’ve noticed online that there are differences of opinion about whether or not little ones should go places without pants (ie only in a top and diaper, maybe a pair of sandals). Some think that they’re only babies and there’s no harm in it; others don’t feel kids are “fully dressed” this way and it’s simply not appropriate.

Well, there’s no right or wrong answer. As with most things in parenting, it’s totally your choice and there will always be someone to disagree. Ain’t THAT the truth?

In our case, if we’re heading to visit someone’s house (particularly for a get-together like a birthday party or barbecue) or out to run errands, we’ll dress her up a tad more with a pair of shorts, skort, or COMFORTABLE dress. (We are not into frou-frou whatsoever. Harper seems to be leaning towards the tomboy, fearless realm, so frills just trip her up more.) But, if we’re hanging out at home or know that the kids will just be running around someone’s backyard and it’s HOT, I’m fine with showing off a fluff bum!

I actually have some tops that work awesomely with our Thirsties diapers. Today we’ve got a “model-less fashion show” (it was naptime…plus, logistical nightmare ;-)) of some of my faves!

Fun & Feminine – White Cherokee top with eyelets (Target) & Alice Brights

Cool Cat
– Cat & Jack kitty shirt (Target) & Iris

Floral & Festive
– Carter’s hand-me-down dress & Poppy

Creatures Galore
– Mixing it up with a Cat & Jack snail top (Target) & Meadow Land

Cool Treat
– Cat & Jack ice cream top (Target) & Moss
(there’s a minty blue scoop if you look closely!)

A Day at the Beach
– Jumping Beans fishy shirt (Kohl’s), Koala Kids tropical top (Babies R Us) & Moss

Get into Nature
– Jumping Beans butterfly top (hand-me-down) & Billy Buttons

So, there you have just a few combos I’ve been trying out lately. I also like mixing up solids with ANY top, whether it “matches” or not. Because, after all, what other time in life can you get away with still being super cute while not matching one single bit?

Are you in the “pro-pants” or “free legs” camp? Feel free to let us know in the comments! Remember that this is a judgment free zone, so opinions of all sorts are welcome!!

I haven’t seen a movie in an actual movie theater in awhile. When I say “awhile” I actually mean a super long time. Like, before our son was born…and he’s going into kindergarten in the fall. Pretty sure it was Toy Story 3 (and, man, did I bawl!).

But this doesn’t mean that our family doesn’t watch movies. Our older son (and, now, our daughter, who insists on doing EVER-Y-THING he does and more) sees old Disney movies at his grandparents’ houses and we have a handful of family-friendly fare we keep on hand.

By far our kids’ new favorites (and, in turn, our new favorite) are usually high quality (no scary stuff), just the right length, super inexpensive, and fit into our schedule wonderfully. We just pop some popcorn, pull up some blankets and pillows, and dive into PBS Kids Family Night every Friday on the PBS Kids channel. (You don’t even need fancy schmancy cable for it – just the super basic version, which is what we have. ;-))

You may think anything PBS is kinda lame, and if you’re not into their kids’ shows yet, it might not be for you. But our kiddos each have their favorites – our daughter Harper LOVES Daniel Tiger (and don’t tell him we know, but our son Hadley still does, too!), he prefers Wild Kratts, they both love Arthur and Sesame Street, and we all love Odd Squad (especially my husband, to be honest).

So, each Friday at 7pm we know that they’ll be offering an hour-long movie (which is the PERFECT length for their attention spans and bedtime) that’s essentially a super long version of an episode of one of our favorites. Now, if we happen not to be excited about the offering for that week, we’ll either do a family activity together outside the house that evening or watch an old movie that our kids enjoy. Either way, we’re putting in some solid, relatively relaxed family time.

My favorite moment so far came the Monday after we’d had our first “Family Movie Night.” Hadley was getting ready to go to pre-K that morning and said excitedly, “I can’t wait to ask Connor* what he did for Family Night!!!” as if it was a holiday and EVERYONE celebrated it. It was definitely a teachable moment but also showed how important our Friday night ritual became to him pretty quickly. It really has been a way to relax and come together as a family at the end of a hard week.

It’s so cool to see the love of PBS programming that my husband and I appreciated as children (and now as adults when we enjoy programs like Sherlock and Downton Abbey – may it rest in peace – or American Experience and Antiques Roadshow) being loved and embraced by our own kiddos now.  

Is there something that you do as a family – whether it’s a game night, a “no devices allowed” policy, or a super simple movie night – that helps you all unwind and appreciate each other on a regular basis? We’d LOVE to hear your ideas in the comments!

*Not his real name.  

We’ve been talking a lot about summer fun (can you blame us?!) lately. Today I thought I’d share my favorite uses for our Thirsties wet bags during summertime. Of course they’re ideal for and sold as dirty diaper containment on-the-go – which they’re AMAZING at. You’d be surprised at how little stinkiness sneaks out!

I’m so proud that my husband is the one who came up with the idea for this blog post. I know we use our wet bags for a bunch of uses, but he’s the one who reminded me how much easier it is to use them when we travel or make a trip to the beach. So, a shout-out to him for reminding me of all the cool ways we’ve used our Thirsties bags!

* In these examples, the wet bags have been cleaned to high heaven (and I often give the insides an additional wipe with a natural cleaning solution). They come clean really well and I’m honestly not concerned that there’s any huge germ/grossness factor since we roll up our cloth diapers pretty tightly and dump out as much poop as possible into the toilet, anyway. Just a little PSA. 😉

Swimsuit storage – The #1 alternative use for wet bags is to still use them for a “wet” purpose – namely, to contain swimsuits after some fun in a lake, pool, or water park. I’ll often pack the swimsuits dry into the wet bag (sometimes even splitting them up – one with my husband’s trunks and towel, one with my suit and towel, etc so that we just hand out the bag to each person to make changing easy) then we’ll toss the wet stuff back in when we’re done.

I pop this stuff right in the wash when we get home to avoid any mildewing or anything. Easy peasy!

Side note: Did you guys KNOW that Thirsties is releasing their own adorable swim diapers this week?!?! Check out their Facebook page for more details!!!

Compartmentalizing packing – Kind of like how I separate everyone’s swim stuff into a bag, I’ll use the wet bags to organize our luggage and car packing a bit. I’m not a crazy organizer, but I’ve found that putting things together – often times in a sturdy, space-saving wet bag – helps me put a hand on what we need way quicker and not have loose items rolling around the car.

So, this could be a bag for beach toys, a bag for fruit and other snacks. Any of those sticky, spillable things – the lotions, sunscreens, baby wash, toothpaste – often get their own bag. However it works for your needs, go for it.  

Activity bags – Like I just mentioned, having bags for certain tasks or items is super helpful. Well, putting kids’ favorite activities into their own bag (maybe assign each kid a different print or color) is another strategy we use to keep things not only contained but less stressful on trips.

An example would include favorite action figures for our older son, a mess-free marker coloring book (you know about those, right?? Lifesavers) and some extra paper for the imagination, a favorite book, and I usually grab a cheap “extra” toy or travel activity that’s brand new to them that adds an element of surprise (and gives us some extra quiet time from the backseat).

Dirty clothes – When I’m packing, I always make sure that we’ll have an extra wet bag (whether we pack it individually or we empty one along the way) that can contain dirty clothes. Now, I don’t normally do ALL the dirty clothes this way, but super stinky or gross items get their own bag – and by the end of the trip, any extra clean clothes tend to end up in their own CLEAN wet bag to avoid getting mixed in with the used stuff.

A quick picnic bag – Picnic baskets are such a sweet idea, but they’re not always a practical choice. If it’s a last-minute lunch at a park, we’ll often grab some items from the fridge (especially if we’ve got a kitchenette while traveling) that we can all split and just go. While it doesn’t work exactly like a cooler, it contains any moisture (like from a water bottle) and makes for a super portable meal.

I’ve also tossed frozen water bottles in a bag along with a couple of cool ones and they’ve stayed nice and cold all day (and recycled the plastic later – I prefer zero waste when possible, but sometimes we have to improvise when traveling).

There are seriously SO many ways you can use these things. An added bonus is that sometimes another parent will admire the print of my wet bag and it starts up a nice conversation about cloth diapers. 😉

We’d LOVE to hear your favorite uses for wet bags in the comments!

My husband and I used to visit local farmers’ markets more frequently before we had kids. (We all used to do a LOT more things before kids, didn’t we?) As much as we said life wouldn’t change when kids came along, they did. Of course.

But, while we don’t go as frequently or to as many markets as we used to, we still make it a point to go. Usually when things warm up (we usually make one concerted effort during winter, but it’s mostly meat and root vegetables – or brought in from out-of-state), we scope out the weather for the weekend and, if it looks good, put off the weekly grocery shopping until after our favorite local farmers’ market on Saturday morning. And off on a family adventure we go.

Here are just a handful of my favorite reasons we bring our family to the farmers’ market:

– Way more fun than grocery shopping. Depending on how you feel about grocery shopping, a trip to the farmers’ market usually rates higher on the “fun” scale. It’s assumed you’ll socialize with the farmers, and oftentimes this congeniality spills over to the other patrons.

Oh, and so many people bring their friendly dogs and kids. What’s more fun for kids? (Aside from free samples…)

Doubles as a play date. It’s a great place to meet another family and casually peruse the offerings. There’s usually enough space for kids to play (some of our markets are in parks but our “main” one is in a large paved area – still enough breathing space for kids to goof around), and usually a kid-friendly food truck for snacks or beverages.

And I can’t count how many people we know that we run into anyway! It kind of turns into an impromptu play date, regardless (for parents AND kids).

– Doubles as mealtime. Speaking of kid-friendly fare, ours usually has at least two food trucks and one beverage truck in addition to the amazing fresh goodies available. So, if we don’t feel like having breakfast beforehand, we can buy a baked good at one of the vendors or a “breakfast bowl” from a food truck. Or, if we want to grab a quick lunch at the end of our shopping, we’ll split a brick oven pizza (seriously, we’re spoiled) or natural hotdog or quesadilla. And the fresh-squeezed lemonade is even more amazing since they also serve local coffee (for the parents who need it to, y’know, keep going).

As fruit becomes more and more plentiful (I’m talking to you, berries!), our kids will down a carton in one sitting, so that alone works for a quick snack. Add some freshly baked bread and grass fed cheese and you’re picnicking like the best of ‘em.

– Broadens the family’s culinary scope. Last weekend, our son picked out these greenish purple heirloom tomatoes instead of regular cherry ones, spinach (which normally he’s not into), and devoured a pizza with whole pieces of basil without flinching. That wouldn’t have happened at home.

Let’s just say that between being able to talk to the farmers about their food and simply making these foods available to them, our kids are becoming braver about their food choices. (The fact that there aren’t a million processed food aisles surrounding us helps, too.)

– Teaches children about the food system and sustainability. It takes baby steps to live sustainably, doesn’t it? From using cloth diapers to choosing reusable grocery bags to picking foods that nourish our bodies more sustainably, it’s those small choices that eventually add up to an overall philosophy – we want to treat the world and ourselves with kindness.

Well, the farmers’ market is a great, hands-on way to not only tell our children but SHOW them how our choices impact the world. I explain to my son why we go for the organic fruits and veggies, or why we care about grass fed and free-range eggs, meat, and cheeses. If we just bought these things without involving our kids, it wouldn’t pass the meaningful decision-making along to them. They feel invested and I hear our almost 5-year-old making decisions with reason now. It’s a valuable lesson all around.

– Shows kids what a community is – and the importance of supporting it. So many of our farmers and vendors know and remember our family – and it’s not just because my husband and I have been visiting them for years. They talk directly to our son and daughter and call them by name. They care that he’s excited about starting kindergarten and comment on how tall she’s getting. They remember our favorite foods and point out whether they’re available. It’s heart-warming.

Watching as people meet each other and socialize (and are able to ask questions about their food), it reminds me of what communities truly are. We may see friends when we’re there, but everyone feels connected whether a stranger or not. Seeing the huge range of people alone makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger.

And sometimes forking over a little more money knowing that you’re getting a quality product that will nourish your family on a higher level, and that the money will be going directly to a family working hard to produce that item, is way easier and more fulfilling than a trip to the market (although we do budget accordingly).     

So, do you have a local farmers’ market you like to frequent with your family? What’s your favorite thing to do there? Are you all about the produce? The crafty vendors? Or do you like it to double as a social event as much as we do? I’d love to hear in the comments!