Monday, September 15, 2014

#DIY Basement Clothes Line

Line drying seems to be somewhat of a forgotten method, but it's really convenient and good for your clothing!  My husband installed a simple clothes line in our basement and we use it all the time.  We line dry all our cloth diapers, jeans, and sports apparel.  I wanted to share some pictures of our indoor clothes line to help give you ideas about how you can install your own indoor line.

We upcycled some old 1X4 boards, but these can be purchased from a hardware store.  On one wall, we were able to attach an 18 inch board horizontally across the exposed wall studs. If you have a finished wall, knock on the wall to find the studs.  You must attach your board directly to the wall studs. Our opposite wall was more challenging because the wall is mostly unfinished. To work this wall, we cut two 2X 4 boards to 31 inches long.  These were secured to wall studs at the floor joists.  We secured another 18" 1X4 board across these boards.

The clothes line cord was purchased from Home Depot for under $10 and we had quite a bit left over from the project.  We attached eye hooks to the horizontal board and knotted the clothes line TIGHTLY around the hooks. You can purchase clothes line tighteners which are little more expensive, but make the knots prettier.  We haven't had any issues with the clothes lines sagging, but you do need to make the knots very tight if you use the eye hook method.

The final height of our clothes line is 6 ft 6 inches.  This is perfect for our family (me,  5'6" tall and my husband, 6'2" tall), but you can adjust the height of your clothes line as needed.  I absolutely love my basement clothes line and it makes line drying possible even in the middle of Minnesota winters.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pushing to potty train: moving beyond #clothdiapers?

A few weeks ago, my youngest child (18 months old) gave me a hint that he may be getting ready to move out of cloth diapers and into potty training. I was cued to this when he started notifying me when he had soiled his diaper.  "A poo. A poo." He would come over to me, wrinkle his nose up, and make a sort of expression that indicate I was to take him immediately for a diaper change.  E's terminology was used interchangeably for wet and poopy diapers... that was often a good way to trick my husband into changing a particularly messy diaper!  Soon, E was using his cue word to indicate he needed to go potty.  This critical association was enough to convince me that we should start giving him some gentle nudging to start thinking about potty training.

I began asking E at every diaper change if he wanted to use the potty.  He always responds, "NO."  Occasionally I get him to go into the bathroom and just "Try it out."  Sitting on the chair (or standing by the toilet) is the equivalent of a success.  I am determined that he should begin getting used to the idea of the potty.  I felt like I was being a little crazy about it, but our older daughter had shown interest (and had success) with early potty training attempts when she was 19 months old.  She took a few months' break, but was fully potty trained within 2 weeks by the time she turned 27 months old.

So why am I forcing my 18 month old to at least consider the idea that he could start using the potty?  There are many reasons, but mostly it's because I think he's capable of beginning to understand the concept.  Pee goes in the potty; not in a diaper.  He has already gotten used to using diapers and there is going to be a period of unlearning that behavior. I also see him displaying some of the signs we expect during the potty training process.  Sometimes I worry that we, as parents, don't give our kids a chance to rise to the occasion.  A child may be completely ready to use the potty, but his parents don't give him the encouragement by letting him make a few mistakes.  I've heard multiple people make comments about how accidents on the carpet are simply not worth the bother and it's easier to continue to use diapers.  Maybe this is true with an 18 month old (you're going to have a lot of accidents), but this mentality is not helping an older child.
What do you think?  Is early potty training possible?
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Monday, September 8, 2014

Sparkbox Toys #Review: #PlayLearnReturn

If you are like most parents, you love to see your kids playing and having fun. There is nothing like seeing your child with a new toy: she explores the toy, identifies different ways to play with it, and maybe even finds a way to incorporate other toys into playing with it.  I love seeing my kids trying new things and stretching their minds.  However, because kids are naturally drawn to "new" things and figuring out all the things they can do with something unexplored, they grow bored of the same old toys.  This is one reason that I am very reluctant about buying toys for my kids: I hate clutter and I know their obsession with the toy will be short lived. That was why I was ecstatic about trying Sparkbox--a new toy rental program that gives kids the opportunity to try new toys.

Toys are sanitized and wrapped for shipping

I was really excited to hear about Sparkbox because I knew there was a need for something like this! Coincidentally, as we were preparing to review Sparkbox, a friend emailed me asking if I had heard of this, "Awesome new company." She wanted my thoughts about the Sparkbox toy rental program versus other subscription boxes we had tried.   Subscription boxes are becoming incredibly popular, but the issue is that you quickly become buried in stuff: stuff that is often lower value, not exactly what you want (or need), and kids can become spoiled by expecting "gifts".  Sparkbox is the complete opposite from this: you keep the toys for as long as you like and return them when you're done (and ready for a new set of toys), you get high value (and high quality) toys that the kids actually want to play with, and your kids can appreciate the value of caring for toys that are "shared." My 4 year old daughter understood the concept immediately after I explained that the toys were, "Kind of like books from a library."

When our box arrived, I opened it before the kids were home from daycare and I was incredibly excited about the contents.  There were four toys: two toys for my 4-year-old and two toys for my 18-month-old.  I knew they were going to have a lot of fun with these items, so I decided to let them open all the toys at once!!!  OK, this may have been a bit crazy.  I could have held off and given them each one toy and saved the second toy for a few weeks later, but they actually played with everything and continued to play with the toys throughout the next few weeks.  I don't think I would have done it differently if I could go back.  As part of our review we got to keep one toy, and we struggled with making the decision about which toy to keep because the kids genuinely liked all the items.

At first, I questioned how we would be able to return the toys: what if there were a few toys that we couldn't part with? My fears were calmed because if you have a toy you absolutely can't part with, you can buy it out of your Sparkbox for about 20% off of the Amazon list price. However, I tried reminding myself that it wasn't the kids whom were struggling to adjust to the "borrowing" concept, it was myself!  The kids loved the Sparkbox toys, but a few of the toys were already getting ignored after a few weeks.  In particular, we received a Green Toys Flatbed Truck that they had been obsessed with for the first week: they figured out that match box cars would fit under the flat bed and there were a few spats over who got to play with the Truck.  However, the focus on the truck soon turned to a focus on Match Box cars and what other things the cars could do.  The Green Toys truck was soon in the corner while they began loading up other vehicles with Match Box cars.  This play process was incredible to witness, but it wouldn't have happened had I been trying to force the Green Toys truck on them (which I may have been tempted to do if I just spent $30 on it--the retail value of the truck).  The truck instigated the play and lead to creative thought: it was a true educational experience.

Fun on the go with the Leap Frog Count and Draw.

While some toys were a total hit, not all toys are going to be instant favorites.  That was the case for the Magic Moves ($21.99 value) toy we received.  This was intended for my daughter, but neither kid really seemed to understand it.  To me, the toy seemed genius and the Amazon reviews are fantastic. It encourages the kids to move like different animals. However, the kids just sat, stared at the lights, and didn't move.  I tried to show them how it was done (thank the Lord there was no video of THAT!).  They thought I was hilarious, but they still weren't interested in "Prowling like a cat" or "Slithering like a snake." They did like to push the buttons and pretend it was a microphone. I was so happy that this wasn't a toy we bought because we didn't need all those extra features when the kids weren't going to participate in the movement activities.

Our other two toys (Plan Toys Dancing Alligator $20 and Leap Frog Count and Draw $34) were pretty consistently played with and really fun.  The alligator was a companion for my 18-month-old, but even the 4-year-old was busy with it.  Both kids were interested in the Leap Frog activity and even I played with it for about 30 minutes!  We were really happy with our Sparkbox and felt like it was a fantastic value.  I love that the kids got to experience and learn from new toys without the added toy clutter and expense. I'm already thinking about getting a subscription for the winter because it can be so painful trying to keep the kids stimulated and happy during the bitterly cold days in Minnesota. Sparkbox would have been perfect for my maternity leave: it would have been something to occupy my daughter with while I was exhausted from caring for the baby.  We also don't often let our kids watch TV or movies, and sometimes I need times where I can be uninterrupted for a few minutes.  There was one day that I actually had two hours to clean and cook dinner while the kids played with the new toys from the box! We also had a peaceful car ride while the kids were occupied with the toys.

You will get a reminder email when it's time to return your toys.  Be sure to save your original box, attach the prepaid label, and drop the box off somewhere that ships UPS Ground. My husband usually mails UPS packages from work, but he didn't want to take it since the box was big and he has to drop the kids off at daycare in the mornings. I was a little disappointed to see that it would cost extra to schedule a pickup from my house, but I didn't look to see how much that extra fee would have been. The mailing fiasco ended up working out because we discovered that there was a UPS store within 5 minutes of our house. Now that we have gone through the shipping process once, it was actually very straight forward and worth it to have the fun of new toys! 

I'm planning to recommend Sparkbox to my friends because this was such a fun, very educational, and it avoided the clutter.  Learn more about Sparkbox and check out the different subscription options: 8 weeks for $23.95 or 4 weeks for $35.95.  After our experience, I'm leaning toward the 8 week plan because it gives you more time to enjoy the great toys.

Disclosure: We got to try Sparkbox for free and keep one toy from our box.  We were under no obligation to publish a review or provide a positive review.  These thoughts are our own.
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Monday, September 1, 2014

Cloth WORKS! Grand Prize #Giveaway Celebration

Nissa from Cloth Diaper Guru blog is a working mom and she is celebrating getting a new job!  If you're a busy parent, you know that Cloth WORKS! Cloth Diapers save money and they are great for the environment.  Cloth diapers can also be used in daycare centers.  Visit Cloth Diaper Guru blog for lots of tips on being a cloth diapering and working parent, and read Celeste's recent post for great how-to advice about cloth diapers and daycare.

Cloth Diaper Guru is inviting you to celebrate with us.  But, this isn't just any celebration: this is a huge, $200+ Giveaway to celebrate cloth diapering and working moms.  Let's learn more about our sponsors:

Johnette's Jams: Two Jamberry Wrap Sheets and a Manicure Set ($42)
You might think you don't have time to look fabulous, but every mom can have perfectly manicured nails, with Jamberry!  These nail wraps stay on for two weeks (up to 6 weeks on toes) and they do not chip. Tip: host a party and receive free products!

Ella Bella Bum: Custom Cloth Diaper ($30+)
Do you want a one-of-a-kind cloth diaper that is impressively photo worthy?  Sam from Ella Bella Bum has done it again with this gorgeous cloth diaper.  Ella Bella Bum diapers are so sought after, you might need to stalk their Facebook page to have the opportunity to purchase one.

The Parenting Patch and Give it Love: $50 Gift Card to Nicki's Diapers
Two of our favorite sites are teaming up to give you the opportunity to have your own shopping spree at Nicki's Diapers. If you aren't already following The Parenting Patch and Give it Love on Facebook, you should head over and return the love.

Green Team Distribution: EcoNuts, Diaper Dawgs Spray Collar, and Changing Diapers Book ($38)
Cloth Diaper odors? Be gone!  EcoNuts are a must-have for cloth diapers and clothing and Agnes recently fell in love with this new laundry solution (read her review). Make cloth diapering more fun and less messy with a Diaper Dawgs Spray collar.

Smart Bottoms: Cloth Diaper Wet bag and Stay Dry Fleece Liners ($23)
Keep your baby dry and comfortable with these fleece diaper liners, and store soiled diapers in style.  Smart Bottoms diapers and accessories are made in the USA!

Cloth Diaper Guru and Kelly's Closet: BumGenius 4.0 ($17)
You can never have enough cloth diapers!  We love our affiliate partners at Kelly's Closet and are excited to have the chance to give away a top-rated cloth diaper--especially one that worked well for our kids.


Cloth WORKS!
Open to US and Canada* Residents 18 yrs of Age and Older
Falsified entries will be removed, entries from sweepers will be disqualified (play fair and have fun)

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*Sponsors and Cloth Diaper Guru blog reserve the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value if the winner is from Canada or if the original prize becomes unavailable. Kelly's Closet selects the solid color cloth diaper to provide (winner may select gender). Participating bloggers are not responsible for prize fulfillment.  This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, or Instagram.
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The Working Mom's Guide to Cloth Diapers

Heading back to work? If you've been using cloth diapers at home, you may be wondering how you can make them work at daycare too! In our Working Mom's Guide to Cloth Diapers, we share 10 tips for success with cloth diapers at daycare.

cloth diapers and daycare
Original image by stockimages via

10 Tips to Using Cloth Diapers at Daycare

  1. Keep it simple for your provider: If you're planning to return to work, plan your cloth diaper stash accordingly. It can be fun to test out a number of brands and styles of cloth diapers, but your daycare provider won't thank you if you leave them guessing about how to use the diaper or get a proper fit. When you build your stash with daycare in mind, choose a single style (all-in-ones and pockets are usually most user-friendly) and aim to use only one brand if you can. If your provider is unfamiliar with cloth diapers, offer to demonstrate how to put on and change them. Hook and loop closures can be the easiest for those that are unfamiliar with cloth diapers, but your provider may not care (mine happily took snaps!). If you prefer snaps but your provider seems confused with them initially, some moms suggest sending a diagram showing which snaps to use, and others use "snap blockers" to take the guess-work out of getting a snug fit.

  2. Send more than you need: How many diapers you will need will depend a lot on your baby's age and elimination habits. Ask yourself, how many diapers does your child go through in a day at home? Be sure to send at least 2 or 3 more than you think you need. Some providers will ask you to leave a few extra diapers with them in case you forget or don't send enough one day.

  3. Stock up on Wet Bags: Ask your daycare provider to put wet and soiled diapers into a zippered wet bag that is stored inside your diaper bag (or clipped to it). If you can, ask about day care rules before you start: Some daycares prefer to bag each dirty diaper separately (and some centers may even require it), while others prefer a single large bag to store a full day's worth (that can be up to 8!) of dirty diapers.

  4. Make clean-up easy for yourself at the end of the day: Your daycare will not rinse or dump diapers (nor should you expect them to!) Use disposable/flushable liners or a diaper sprayer to make clean-up a bit easier for you. If you use a liner, pick one that doesn't shift around too much when you lay it in the diaper, since this can frustrate providers. We definitely got our money's worth from our cloth diaper sprayer after my son started daycare. Our childcare provider would pack the dirty diapers straight into the wet bag, and I would spray them all off later. I chose to do this after my little one was in bed for the night. Depending on the fabrics you use, won't want to leave them too long or stains can set in. If stains bug you, stain-resistant soakers are a must! Bamboo fleece and cotton velour can stain easily, while minky and suede cloth are less likely to stain and also clean up easily with a sprayer. If you do get stains, hanging your diapers out in the sun will usually make them white again.

  5. Make cloth diaper laundry part of your daily routine: Remember how when you first started out with cloth diapers, most people told you they would be a lot of work? And remember how, after you established a laundry routine and got over the newness of it, it didn't seem like that much work at all? That's how I found it was when I started using cloth diapers at daycare, too. Yes, there's a bit of clean-up required, and you need to wash and pack them in your bag each morning (even better if you can do it the night before!) but cloth diapers can work for you even once you return to work. When I asked on my Facebook page, several moms said that they wash cloth diapers one day, and assemble them the next. Make it a habit to put the diapers in the wash while you prepare dinner, and then into the dryer before baby goes to bed.

  6. Choose Your Baby's Wipes Wisely: Unless your daycare is especially cloth friendly, they will not likely accept cloth wipes. If you are using disposable wipes, coose a brand that won't disintegrate in the wash, since some will inevitably end up in the laundry! I actually preferred cheaper store-brand wipes, like the Teddy's Choice ones from Loblaws (a Canadian grocery store chain) since they didn't have a lot of added chemicals and scents, and they didn't gum up my Velcro diapers if they ended up going through the wash.

  7. Label your diapers: Many day cares require all items to be labeled. Even in home-based daycares, labels are important if more than one child is in clth diapers. I found permanent ink was messy and less than permanent. I love the tag mate labels from Mabel's Labels because they stay put but can be removed, and they are small enough to stick to my diaper's care labels, rather than directly to the PUL or brand labels. If you place the label in an inconspicuous place, be sure your provider knows where to look for it!

  8. Manage diaper rash disasters proactively: Ask in a cloth diaper Facebook group about using cloth diapers at daycare, and you will hear at least one horror story about a cloth diaper never being the same after an over zealous child care provider slathered baby's bottom in zinc-based rash cream and then plunked that bottom in a cloth diaper. I've been there, and I can tell you that diaper rash creams can be nearly impossible to scrub out of a cloth diaper. (I used Dawn dish soap and a lot of elbow grease, and I did get most of it out.) send your little one with a cloth diaper friendly rash cream such as Earth Mama Angel Baby, Balm Baby, or Grandma El's (labelled with your baby's name of course), or pack a couple of disposable diapers in the bag with your zinc-based cream for occasions when your provider does need to treat a rash. And please, remember (even when it's hard to remember!) that no one intentionally wrecks a cloth diaper - it really is just an accident!

  9. Have a Back-up Plan in Place: You never know when something may come up, whether it's a minor emergency, an unexpected late night at work, or a few sleepless nights in a row. A few disposables might be just the thing you need to maintain your sanity while you get back on your feet. If your baby has a sensitivity to the chemicals in disposables, consider flushable inserts, such as those made by g-Diapers, which have fewer ingredients to worry about and can be stuffed inside cloth shells.

  10. Do your research: Whether it's state, regional, or just child care center policies, make sure you take time to familiarize yourself with your child-care provider's expectations. Day cares may reject all-in-twos, as some regulations require a full change (not just an insert change) every time. Having trouble convincing your child care provider? Check out the list of regulations for all US states here.

Do you have a little one in daycare? Will you use cloth diapers after you return to work? What tips can you share?

About the Author

Thinking About Cloth Diapers

Celeste Ireland is the author of Thinking About Cloth Diapers. Every parent wants what?s best for their baby, but many parents don?t have time to do tons of research. Cloth diapers don?t have to be hard, but with so much information available, they can seem overwhelming! Thinking About Cloth Diapers is a website that was designed with busy parents in mind. Full of well researched articles, Thinking About Cloth Diapers has helped many new parents find the information they need to get started with cloth diapers.
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