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Written by Mama Monday

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

back-to-school meal tips title

Depending on your neck of the woods, school is either underway or just about to get underway. Whether you have an older child already attending school, you or your partner may be educators, or perhaps you’re just getting back into the swing of dropping your child off to daycare after a lax summer schedule, things are getting a tad…hectic.

My family’s favorite – FAVORITE – season happens to be autumn. We got married in October. We relish apple and pumpkin picking, leaf peeping, and enjoying the comfort foods that come with brisk fall days. We even have a certain affinity for particular music and movies when the season hits. And don’t get me started on pumpkin spice and knee-high boots.

It’s kind of hilarious because as much as we’re all over the whole autumn thing, we also go through some anxiety when things pick up speed post-summer. My husband works for a college, so his schedule shifts a bit, and I’m a school librarian who’s just starting a new adventure at a whole new school district, and our son is starting preschool, so this year, in particular we’re feeling the crunch of time.

There are different reasons for the craziness. Stricter schedules, the intensity and stress of work, and, of course, the flux that occurs every and anytime our son goes through a new transition. And, for some reason, it’s the things that should be simplest that seem to be the biggest time suckers. I call into evidence Exhibit A: meals.

Food. Lunches and snacks and healthy breakfasts and, oh yeah, dinner. Argh. It shouldn’t be so hard, should it?

So, I’ve dug up some ideas (many of which I’ve tried and loved in the past) to simplify things this fall. Tips to get us down to providing nutritious meals and snacks without the extra stress. Y’know, so we can get back to drinking pumpkin spice lattes and corn field mazes…and lesson planning. *wink, wink*

back-to-school meal tips

A slow cooker is your friend. Definitely not just for the old ladies at the church bazaar anymore (why is that the visual I get of a Crock Pot?), these real food recipes are just for the slow cooker to save you time and maybe even your sanity. With a little prep the night before (or even done well in advance and grabbed from the freezer), you’ll just set and forget the machine in the morning only to come home to an awesomely scented home and ready-to-go meal.

Prep now, eat later. In other words, strike while the iron is hot to get some basic prep work out of the way. Cut veggies for lunches, snacks, and salads, make soup to divvy up into lunches throughout the week, or even pack the non-perishable items for lunches a bit early. Even just chopping veggies turns your kitchen into a Food Network set – all you have to do is cook! Every little bit helps.

Cook once, eat twice. Similar to the last tip, this is a “do some extra work when you’ve got the time” concept, but even easier. Say you’re making your turkey veggie chili (this is my family’s favorite recipe). How much longer will it take you to double it? Not much. Just pack away the rest in a gallon plastic bag in the freezer and thaw it to eat on a busy night.

There’s nothing wrong with simple recipes. Remember that wholesome meals don’t have to be 5-star experiences. When packing lunches, give yourself an equation to meet your child’s needs: protein, dairy, fruit, veg (or whatever you know your child will eat), and maybe a small treat thrown in. So, at our house this could mean a ham and cheese wrap/PBJ sandwich, yogurt/cheese stick, apple/banana/raisins, carrot/pepper sticks, and maybe a muffin or granola bar.

Find a system that works for you. Some people swear by meal planning. Others prefer to just wing it and choose from a list of tried-and-true meals. There’s no right or wrong way for your family. Just figure out what works for you and go with it. I recently saw a tip that suggested packing an unused over-door shoe organizer with snacks for the family, and another friend had a great version: just number 2-3 small bins and load them with snacks (say, a variety of fruit in one, several types of granola bars or bags of air-popped popcorn in the next, then say “choose one from each bin”). There are tons of great ideas for your family to try out.

Store bought isn’t a bad thing. Repeat after me: “we are none of us perfect and something’s gotta give.” There ya go. Permission to cut a few corners. There are healthy options on the store’s shelves, too. So, folks, buying packs of organic applesauce or relying on a weekly rotisserie chicken or tomato sauce filled with real ingredients isn’t just fine; it’s admirable.

Don’t forget breakfast. It’s so, so easy to say, “I just won’t eat breakfast today” when things get busy. While I couldn’t actually skip breakfast myself (I get hangry!), my husband frequently does, so I’m hoping to work on some make-ahead grab-and-go options. For our kids this means stockpiling pancakes and homemade muffins to pack in with their lunches for the sitter; for the adults (my husband’s carb-free), it means making some crustless quiche in muffin tins, some plain yogurt parfaits, or smoothies. There really is time for breakfast if you make it in advance!

So, these are some of the tips that I hope to try out this fall to calm the crazy a bit. What are your favorite meal/snack ideas to simplify our lives a bit? Be sure to share in the comments!



aplix v snaps

Isn’t it funny how habitual we humans can be? Sleeping on a certain side of the bed. Only listening to a particular genre of music during a particular season. Eating pasta with a piece of bread to sop up the sauce. We all have our “thing.”

And when it comes to cloth diapers, the attachments continue. But, one of the popular debates that people seem totally split on is all about attachment – attachment of the diaper to the bum. By that I mean the good old conversation: snaps vs. aplix.

There was a time when there wasn’t much of a choice: safety pins with pink duck heads or plain white ones? Yeah. Pins were king.

But, now with the popularity of AIOs and pocket diapers, lives have been made easier with the addition of built-in attachment devices. In all this ease, though, it has made the choice of which to buy a little more complicated.

I actually own some of each type because, admittedly, I’m an indecisive person to the max. But, it actually has helped in some respects and I find myself reaching for the different kinds in different situations. In other words, there’s pros and cons to each.Snaps or Hook & Loop (2)


Normally, I’m a snap girl. They seem to hold up the best over time and, I dunno, I’m just biased. But do you know the best time to forego the snaps for hook & loop? NIGHTTIME.

Yup. Those midnight (and 3am…and 5am…) changes during which you start questioning your life choices and can’t see your hands in front of your face (not because it’s dark but because TIRED HAPPENS) are perfect for the super easy, non-snap-counting-necessary aplix diaper. Just pray that  sccccrrrrunching sound doesn’t further wake your little one.

Another reason to keep those easy affixers around? Grandparents. Ones who were once experts at wielding sharp pins without shedding a drop of blood are now totally flustered by these darn finicky snaps. (Mind you, I think snaps are amazing; this is just my mom I’m alluding to here.)

And it’s not that caregivers aren’t highly intelligent, but it is nice to make their lives easier, especially if they’ve grown accustomed to disposables. And what’s most like a disposable? Hook & Loop.


aplix versus snaps

So, what about your family? What’s your favorite? I thought I’d set up a little poll to find out, but I’d love to hear your reasons for your favorite style in the comments!

Which is your favorite way to affix a cloth diaper? free polls



Last week, I opined about our 4-year-old son heading off to preschool. Along with this, I shared some ways for parents to help children with a smooth(er) transition.

This week, however, I’m addressing another emotional factor: our babies are growing up! I could easily be one of those bloggers that yells at you to put on your big kid panties and suck it up…but I’m going through the ups and downs, myself, and I totally feel for you! Sheesh, Mean Bloggers of the World, have a heart!!

Anyhoo, parents. We see things the littles don’t. We recognize the huge changes that have come between bouncing baby boy (or girl) to tall, relatively coordinated, full-of-questions “big kid.” Our hearts melt when we see kindness in our little buddies, or cringe when they say something blunt (and kinda mean) to a stranger at the grocery store. (Happened just last week. Oh, the horror!) It may be such a short time that this child has existed on this planet, but man their development has been explosively fast!

So, it’s no wonder we can get a little teary (and, at the same time, excited) when school pops up. You know it’ll help them to have some independent time away from Mommy or Daddy (just as it’ll be good for you to have some “free time” – if it can be called that – without them nearby) and that they’ll have a blast learning new things and making new friends, but along with new experiences comes the first time that they’ll be experiencing things WITHOUT YOU. You won’t be there to protect them from harmful words and thoughts. You won’t be there to kiss boo-boos. Even watching them finally pinch the crayon or pencil in just the right way will be out of your grasp.

It’s tough.

Here are just a few tips for coping with the change, for us. The parents.


Meet your new partner-in-crime: the teacher. While you don’t have to get buddy buddy with Teacher, you should realize that their goals are very much your own. They want to care for your child and see to their needs, from basic to educational. As an educator, myself, I can tell you that on a daily basis I look for ways to HELP every child, whether it’s in a learning realm, a social realm, or a physical (“I forgot my lunch!”) realm. We live for your kids.

So, keep an open dialogue with them. Respond to notes or make time to speak with them about concerns. If you cultivate an open dialogue early on you’ll have an easier time as years go by. Mutual respect gets everyone a lot further and offers everyone involved an open, positive environment.

Cut yourself some slack the first few weeks. I find that when I’m in an emotional rut, I need to do my best not to make things more difficult on myself until I’m back to my usual self. This doesn’t mean totally dismissing my daily responsibilities, but rather not overloading the family’s schedule with unnecessary activities, making family favorites to eat (but not over-complicated meals), and not forcing myself to do heavy duty cleaning tasks. It also involves utilizing shortcuts like slow cooker meals to help.

Then, once we’ve found a balance, back to fitting these “extras” in I go!

Plan some family time on weekends. Sure, there’s cloth diaper laundry to catch up on and yard work to do and about a thousand other things on your to-do list, but try to cut out just a little slice of time for your family to do something fun. After an entire summer of vacations and playing, it’s hard to transition to “all work, all the time”, so whether it’s a visit to an apple orchard or just some one-on-one Lego time, recharge those batteries together. Filling your “bucket” on weekends helps you get through those long days apart (okay, even if it’s half a day here and there).

Get your child involved at home. Even before preschool starts for our family, I feel like we’re often running around doing chores and activities that don’t allow us to spend quality time with our son (having a baby tends to add to that feeling of being pulled in a dozen different directions). And, to be honest, he’s not a patient person. Can’t imagine where he comes by that. *ahem, ahem*

So, think about what you’re doing and see if your child can help. Working on laundry? Plop down with your basket and have him help you fold. Making dinner? Have him tear lettuce or wash dishes (one can wish, right?). While you’re at it, strike up a conversation. There are no rules that say quality time can’t be achieved over mundane tasks.

Ask your child’s teacher if there’s any way you can help. If you have extra time to spare (believe me, I know most of us don’t, no matter the circumstances!), ask if your child’s teacher would like a hand at all. Most facilities have assistants on staff, but perhaps a “classroom mother” who could help organize holiday parties and help keep other parents in the classroom loop may be a constructive way to get involved.

However, if the teacher isn’t interested (there is such a thing as too much help and too many hands), don’t take offense and cheerfully let her know the offer stands. You may even be called upon at a later date.

Allow both sides of your child’s world to meet. Whether it’s for your child’s birthday party or just a play date, allow your child the possibility of having a classroom friend over. You can get to know other parents and grow more comfortable with the fact that your little one is blossoming into a little social butterfly.


We need to recognize that transitions can be tough on everyone – whether it’s on the part of the child, the parent, or both – and that it’s okay to acknowledge the difficulty. But, the lesson everyone needs to take with them is that transition can be an exciting part of life that everyone needs to learn how to handle. Whether it’s bringing your infant to a sitter for the first time (traumatic!) to sending your child off to school to teaching your child how to drive, every transition marks a triumphant moment in a young person’s development. As a parent, don’t forget to take the time to pat yourself on the back for helping your child reach each new phase.

And, yes, it’s still totally okay to cry.

What advice do you have to share with any parents dealing with this phase in their child’s life? We’d love to hear in the comments!



Our 4-year-old son is finally starting preschool this fall. I say “finally” because a lot of people have chimed in that their little ones were in “school” by two or three. We’ve been lucky to have our little man stay with his grandma everyday but it’s time to give him some fun opportunities – and a chance to make friends who aren’t grown-ups!

Regardless of your circumstances, though, by the time your child is ready for school, you’ve learned that any transition boils down to a BIG DEAL for your little one. Potty training, scary big kid beds, new siblings – it all brings some big emotions for a child to deal with.

So, today I’m sharing some of the tips I’ve stumbled upon as both a parent researching ways to handle things and as an educator who has seen the best and worst “first day of school” experiences.

Oh, and hopefully some of these ideas will help whether your child is three or thirteen!


Discuss the change (but not too much). It might be devastating to just drop a child off to school with no knowledge of it in advance, but over-discussing may create added nervousness.

Watch for cues that it might be time to make the convo brief. If your child clams up or gets fidgety, ask if they’re nervous. If so, give them the chance to discuss their concerns – or drop it for later. We all cope in different ways, and kids are no different.

Plus, there is often an orientation in advance for students and their parents to meet their teachers and learn routines, which helps in the world of “don’t talk to strangers.”

Get them used to the new schedule. If your child already goes to daycare, he or she may be used to the mad dash to get out the door. Now that there are things to remember (backpacks, possibly snacks or lunches, show-and-tell assignments, play clothes), it’s even more important to get things organized to keep things in the morning smooth sailing.

One way to do this is to start getting your child up closer and closer to their new “normal” time now. Eat breakfast at the new “normal” time, as well. Kids crave structure, so getting the routine set up will help alleviate some of the meltdowns and issues.

There’s no right or wrong way for your child to respond. You may have expectations for how your child will handle things, but don’t push them – he/she may take your anxieties on as their own.

Maybe your child will cling to you on Day 1. Maybe they’ll do great for the first week then suddenly show signs of apprehension. Or maybe they handled pre-K fine but kindergarten is a mess. All totally normal. And you’ll all get through it. Really. I never saw a crying child head to class after the first couple of weeks and I’m often amazed at how far the worried kids came by the end of the year.

Talk about other kids. One of the neat things about sending your child off is finding out about how they interact with other kids. Well, this can also help your child get through their nerves.

Telling your child that all kids (and even teachers!) are nervous about the first day of school will help validate their own emotions.

Keep things happy. Don’t just focus on the changes, but the positive things about going to school. It should be fun with new friends to make, things to learn, and fun experiences to have! And just in case the first few days are rocky, be sure to offer joy-filled comforts at home, like an extra book during story time or a date at their favorite restaurant come Friday.

Read a book. There are tons of “first day of school” books that are perfect for getting ready for the big day. Here’s a couple of great lists to try, from Scholastic and Noodle!
Oh, and no worries! Next week I’ll be sharing tips for helping moms and dads to cope with this big change. 😉 (So, yeah, I’ll essentially be talking to myself. “You can do this, mama…you’ve got this….”)

Do any of you parents of older children have some advice to add? It’d be awesome if you could share in the comment section!


Depending on what part of the country you may call home, the end of summer is very near or well underway. No matter which way you shake it, we’re over the halfway hurdle.

Raise your hand if you’re as bummed as I am about that fact.

Well, just to lift up our spirits, I thought I’d share a handful of ideas to help make the most of what’s left of it. Sometimes by this point there’s a bit of a drain and it’s tough to figure out how to use everyone’s free time best. Feel free to pick one or several; the ultimate goal is for low-stress fun!

Go on a local day trip! Who says all vacations need to be weeklong treks? Pretend you’re a tourist and research your area as if it’s the first time you’ve heard of the place. You may be surprised at what you find!

For example, my area is small and on the depressed side. However, we have historical and natural gems to visit – like a state park system larger than the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Great Smokies National Parks COMBINED, the nationally renowned Baseball Hall of Fame, great kid-friendly beaches, and tons of other small nuggets to try out, it tells me that no matter where you live, there’s something to do some place. Seriously.

Bonus link: I love these tips for planning a “daycation.”

Get wet! It’s been HOT, hasn’t it? Like, super hot. Sure, you could sit in the air conditioning to cool off, but it’s way more fun to get outside

It can be simple like setting up a water table or sprinkler, or as grandiose as heading to a splash pad or water park. No matter what you do, make sure YOU get in on the action, too!

Bonus link: How to make your own simple water table at home!

Make some cool treats. Y’know that “hot” thing? What cools you off better than nice, cool, sweet treat? Popsicles, smoothies, ice cream, slushies – the sky’s the limit, and if you make them at home you’ll know every ingredient (unlike when you buy them at the store or from the ice cream truck guy).

Try some of these recipes and, of course, get the kiddos involved if they’re big enough!

Connect with your kids by reliving your own childhood memories. We all have different memories that pop out in our heads about summer as kids. Depending on your child’s age, pick one that you can share with a new generation. Just remember that it’ll never be exactly the way it was when you were a kid, so it’s all about creating new, just-as-good-but-different memories.

It can be as simple as having a “picnic” lunch on the living room floor or sleeping on top of your blanket with your head at the end of the bed (we didn’t have A/C as kids so I think this was to be closer to the ceiling fan, ha!) or as silly as a water gun fight or firefly catching. Making s’mores or going fishing, whatever it is it’ll be fun to see it through the eyes of your own little ones this time.

Hit the movies. Okay, this may only be me, but my spouse and I haven’t been to a movie in a real theater in – wait for it – FIVE YEARS. We went before we had our 4-year-old (pretty sure it was before we were even pregnant), life got in the way, and then we had our now 8-month-old. Considering we’re two movie lovers (and that my husband has written/directed several of his own), that’s absurd.

Why haven’t we gone? Either it’s too big of a time sucker of a date (dinner? Yes. Dinner + movie? Slow down, there, shotgun.) or there’s nothing to see or, y’know, newborn, or it’s just easier to watch an old DVD in our PJs at home…the excuses pile up.

So, why is summertime a great time to take in a flick? Firstly, it’s air conditioned. Secondly, many local theaters have free family movies (sometimes mid-morning during the week) that are perfect for kids who haven’t quite got the etiquette down. It’s way more laid-back and low-stress to practice our, say, not talking at the screen when, you’re surrounded by other like-minded families. Plus, did I mention FREE?

We hope you’re enjoying your summer so far and having tons of fun with your loved ones.


We’d all love to hear your suggestions for simple summer fun in the comments!