Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Home-School Your Kids This Summer

Summer is looming. It may not seem so with the lingering cold temperatures and the constant rain in the East Coast, but it’s coming. While summer is fabulous in many ways, those of us with children at home understand the challenges that 3 long months with no school can present. Especially this summer.

Like many of you, I have to cut back this year on summer camps, babysitters, and vacations. So how do we get through this summer without going crazy? Without our kids dying from boredom, atrophying in mind and body, and feeling every pinch of the economic crisis?

Ladies, it’s time to home school. Just for the summer.

And like any good teacher, you need a Plan. A Lesson Plan. Just as a teacher prepares for a successful semester in the classroom, you can be preparing now for a full, enriching, fabulous summer with your kids that you will always remember.

So let me dust off my old teacher’s hat and share my strategies on how to prepare a lesson plan (or “Unit Plan” would be more accurate, for you teachers out there):

-State your objectives. What is your goal for your kids this summer? What kinds of things would you like your children to learn or develop? Reading? Manners? Social skills? Empathy? Nature Awareness? Concentrate on just a few and write them down.

-Set up “classroom rules”. All good teachers are able to get their students to behave much better than they normally do at home. They set high standards, and have clear consequences and rewards. At home, we can (and should) raise the bar, too. If the rules are coupled with a fun weekly reward, the kids should rise to the occasion.

-Do your research and grab your calendar. This is the fun part. Go online NOW and read your paper. Write down anything and everything that sounds interesting and fun that’s coming up this summer. Where we live in Virginia, there are tons of outdoor festivals, state parks, free concerts, library story times, pick-your-own blackberry farms, you name it. Not to mention all the regular museums and tourist attractions we tend to ignore. If you write these things on your calendar, you will avoid having to think when asked the question, “Mom, what are we doing today?”

-Team Teach: Let some of your friends in on your new strategy, and work together. Invite other kids along on some of your adventures, and allow other parents to reciprocate. Ergo, your free babysitting.

-Have an “emergency lesson plan” folder. Veteran teachers always have a backup plan for when the VCR breaks, the activity ends early, or something just plain doesn’t work. At home, we also need to have some contingency plans for rain, illness, or just miserable humidity and heat. Start a file with ideas that appeal to you.

-Read. Every teacher will tell you that this is the key to success- not fancy camps, exotic vacations, golf lessons, or tutors. Just read. Go to the library. Have a set time the kids read each day, with and without you.

We can all have a wonderful summer, despite (and I argue, because of) our lack of economic resources. By taking action now, we can ensure that our kids will want for nothing in terms of education, activity, and attention – even without spending a dime.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Praise of Bad Days

We have had a terrible day. Today, our family dog, “Cooper”, had to be put to sleep. Yes, he was old and in pain, but I’d known him for longer than I’d known my oldest child. He was my firstborn, and my beloved only child for years. Then, when my oldest human child was diagnosed with asthma, we had to send Cooper away to live with my parents. That may have been the hardest parental sacrifice I’ve made to date. And now he’s gone, and I wasn’t there to say goodbye.

Yes, it’s been a bad day. Sure, people have had worse- much, much worse, but it was still pretty crappy. So, needless to say, I didn’t feel much like writing today, and thought it would surely be a waste of time anyway.

But then I realized that maybe this is exactly the kind of time in which I should write. Exactly the kind of time when some of the greatest masterpieces, epiphanies, and feats of courage and greatness have occurred-during the bad days. Every war seems to inspire fabulous volumes of poetry, literature, art, and music. Most major religions were founded during “times of troubles”.

Come to think of it, even the most appreciated art itself seems to be about bad times…and what people do about them. Heck, everyone knows a comedic film is incapable of winning an Oscar- we need war, addiction, infidelity, illness, pain, poverty, paralysis, death.

So what is so special about pain?

Pain draws people together. Success, happiness, contentment, talent, health…they’re what we all desire, but they can actually separate us from each other. They can foster resentment in others and self-centeredness in yourself.

But pain? That’s something we can all relate to, and something that forces us to need each other. It equalizes us, humanizes us, and humbles us.

The great ones are those who recognize this fact and put it to good use. Instead of ignoring the emotions, burying the memories, or building up walls, they feel and think their way through it until it can be explained and expressed in a way that reaches others.

The great ones can express and share empathy, and empathy is what we are all seeking in our friendships, our art, our spirituality. Someone or something that can put into words what we knew we were feeling but couldn’t quite express.

And empathy never comes from the good days.

So don’t wait for the good days to do something good. Don’t squander the pain, mistake, heartbreak, depression, sickness, boredom, frustration, or failure just in order to “get over it” quickly. It could be the greatest gift you have to give.

I won’t go so far to say you should “rejoice in your suffering”…but maybe I’m finally starting to understand that phrase a bit more.

Goodbye, sweet Cooper.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wait Just One More Day to go Shopping

I’ve been amazed recently by just how much food I have in my pantry that I never seem to get around to eating. Instead, I just serve my family the same old favorites, over and over, and the rest of the non-perishables meet the same fate as the “other 90%” of my closet: they gather dust and take up space.

So I’m trying a new trick to stretch my budget that seems to really be working. When I absolutely have to go to the store, I wait one more day.

This practice has turned out to have multiple benefits. First, the obvious. Spending $150 at the grocery store every 8 days instead of 7 will result in an annual savings of $978. But what I’m also finding is that I’m getting more creative in my cooking, eating a greater variety of foods, forcing my kids to try new things, and throwing away less.

So how would this practice translate to other purchases? Would waiting one extra day to buy everything result in significant savings?

Definitely. First, there’s the elimination of the “impulse buy.” By waiting that one extra day, you may forget about the purchase altogether. In that case, you obviously didn’t need it to begin with.

But what if it is something you really need, and now? The extra 24 hours may force you to find an adequate substitute already in your possession. In fact, I’ve often found that I already owned the very thing I thought I needed to go buy when forced to look within my own house. Embarassing. Other times, by simply mentioning to a friend “tomorrow, I’m going to go buy (fill in the blank)”, I’ve suddenly found myself the new owner of exactly what they were getting rid of. The Universe is funny that way- if you ask, you’ll often receive.

And if after 24 hours you do find that you still need to go shopping, you will have possibly had time to research a better price, pare down your list, or couple the shopping trip with another errand- all resulting in saving time, money, and gas.

So, don’t feel like you can never get what you need. Just wait one more day for it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wasteless Birthday Parties for Kids

My daughter brought up the subject of her upcoming 4th birthday on the very day that my husband was laid off from work. Perfect. Now, as I was desperately trying to scrape together a revised, even-more-stripped-down-than-usual budget, I had to add “fantastic birthday party” to the extra column of our budget spreadsheet dangerously labeled “miscellaneous”?

How could I pull this off without letting someone down: my stressed-out husband, my trusting daughter, or my own conscience that rebels against the abhorrent waste that surrounds the mega-business of the party industry?

My salvation came from 2 unexpected sources: my grandmother’s estate, and my daughter’s words.

First, my daughter. Far from being immune to the Great Marketing Machine, my daughter wanted a “Barbie Rapunzel Birthday” with all the little girls in her preschool class. Here we go- the plates, the dream castle, the plastic and goodie bags and themed games and on and on and on…right?

No. When questioned further, my precious 4-year-old-to-be clarified that a Barbie Rapunzel Birthday meant that you had a Barbie candle on your cake.

Seriously? That’s it? CAN DO, sweetie. One Barbie candle. Check.

The second lifeline came from something I initially begrudged: my inherited “demitasse set” from my late grandmother’s estate- you know, those tiny, tiny little fragile teacups you never see anymore. Too nice to give away, too fancy for my usual style, too small for my monstrous caffeine requirements.

But quality. And fancy. And completely useless unless used. Even if it’s by clumsy little hands that may break one or two in the process, these cups were meant to be used, and now they will be, in my daughter’s Barbie Rapunzel - Fancy Dress Birthday Tea Party. It’ll be fabulous, fancy, and completely free of waste. And free of destructive boys.

My daughter’s true wishes revealed and the gift from my grandmother provided me two lessons about how to avoid wasteful spending, energy, and consumption in children’s parties: 1) Our children’s wishes are simpler than we think, and 2) the best inspiration for a party can come out of desire to use something great you already have.

What do you have at your disposal that would make for a great party? A huge sandbox in your backyard for a beach party? A chef’s kitchen perfect for a cooking party? A large garden for aspiring gardeners? A trunk full of flowered hats? A collection of old 45’s for a sock hop?
Give your possessions a new life rather than condemn a bunch of paper and plastic to an instant eternity in a landfill. The only person that will notice the lack of costly disposable extras will be you

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How the Irish Saved Entertaining...for me

This St. Patrick's Day, I am going to honor my husband and relatives living in the Emerald Isle by passing on the secret to their famous hospitality- a secret that has saved me countless hours of work and anxiety, and countless dollars (or Euros) in grocery bills.

The Irish are famous for their hospitality because they never make it about themselves- only about being glad to see you.

When you are received into an Irish home, it is warmly and without apology about the mess, decor, or lack of space. Until the 1980's, no one in Ireland had any room to spare that could be designated for "entertaining", so you simply cleared off the papers from the kitchen table and pulled up chairs.

And when you sit down at that kitchen table, you are immediately offered 3 things, and usually 3 things only: tea, cookies, and sandwiches.


No cooking, no waiting, no scurrying around. Right there, plopped on the table, is a teapot, some milk (you must, must accept milk in your tea...otherwise you'll look like an ignorant Yank), cookies (usually store-bought), and a plate of sandwiches, cut into fourths, that you just grab and stuff into your mouth.

Irish entertaining is hospitality at its purest. By it's very nature, it can't be about your home, your fabulous cooking, your obvious effort...it's just about the conversation and the joy of being together. No ego involved.

Your host actually enjoys herself, and talks to you the entire time without scurrying around the kitchen. You can sit for hours talking, actually enjoying yourself, because there's never the feeling of putting anyone out.

This menu is appropriate for any time of the day, any day of the year.

So, today as you remember your green and your Guiness, also remember to pick up a box of tea (Barry's Gold Blend Irish Tea is our favorite, found in World Market and some grocery stores), some good cookies (Cadbury's are acceptable), and basic sandwich fare, and you will be truly ready to offer Irish hospitality at its best.


Friday, March 13, 2009

When kids need to HAVE something when they DO something

I never feel deprived when I can’t have something, but I feel ridiculously sorry for myself, or my kids, when we can’t do something.

Back when we were dating, my husband and I agreed that we would always choose doing over having, when it came to our spending priorities. So, we do lots of cool things, in my opinion, without having to feel like we have to also buy things to have in the process.

For example, we ski all the time, but with pretty old gear. We travel the world, but camp, stay with friends, or choose “quaint” over “fabulous.” We go to concerts, events, day trips, even theme parks, without having to get the t-shirt, the poster, the expensive lunch, or the souvenir.

Then along came our kids. Of course we want them to see and do, and so they have.

But….kids seem to need to have when they do. And there is a multi-billion dollar industry that knows this. Everywhere we go, we have to walk through a gift store to reach the exit sign. At every outdoor event, there is someone selling a $12 balloon or $15 spinny light thing that will break in the car on the way home, and every other kid has got it. And in addition to the spinny thing, they need the sugary thing.

What starts off as a quality, affordable family outing can turn into a depressing pile of plastic, sugar, and credit card debt, just so the kids can “get something.” It’s enough to make you not want to go anywhere at all.

Then one day, a friend of mine brought along a bag of lollipops to keep in the car after a day at a theme park. Low and Behold, the promise of that one lollipop at the end of the day allowed my kids to turn a blind eye to every “make your own sand sculpture out of colored edible sugar” stand we passed.

Could it be this easy? Are kids that cheaply bought off? The answer is YES, and the younger they are, the cheaper. They just need Something, and if you bring that Something along with you instead of buying it there, you will spend almost nothing.

Here are the Somethings that have worked for my kids, and I encourage you to stock up now for your next special outing. Just DON’T give these things to your kids all the time, or the magic will be ruined:

bag of lollipops
glow sticks
popsicles (for when they get home)
a turn taking pictures with your digital camera
a turn holding the flashlight
a wrapped toy from the dollar store (lifesaver at Disney World!!)
their own notebook and crayons to keep a journal

Yes, it would be great if kids didn’t need these things every time they got to do something, but they’re just kids, and I myself am tired to trying to completely fight that concept.

When they get older, I am going to give them a set amount of money to blow at the beginning of every season, and when it’s gone it’s gone. They’ll learn quickly.

But right now, I love being able to spoil them with a 20-cent glow stick when we’re out late at night. They couldn’t be happier.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Traveling "Windows of Time" for Young Families

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, we love to travel. Every year, my husband and I get away by ourselves at least once (thank you Mom!), give each other several opportunities to go off on our own, and then drag the kids around everywhere else.

Some vacations have been more successful, of course, than others, and some have been a downright waste because the kids were not at an age where they could appreciate it or make it remotely fun for us.

Oh, if only I had known then what I know now.

As it turns out, I have discovered that with one notable exception (you’ll see), it is always possible and fun to travel with your kids, provided you pick the right vacation for each “age window.” Since my oldest is 8, I can’t give first-hand advice on what to do with teenagers, so will stop there. But please, please heed my advice if you are a brand-new family starting off, because, again, I would have loved to have known then what I know now:

A non-crawling, nursing baby: Oh, please, please, don’t squander this time away! You have no idea how easy a baby in a bucket who cannot crawl or fuss about solid food is to travel with! Now is the time to visit family and friends (especially ones who will help you nap). Now is the time to travel abroad. Go for it! Please do not wait until your baby is “a little older” and crawling or walking before you take her on a plane and in public places with dirty floors!

Crawling baby, eating baby food: This is honestly a very hard time to travel. Your baby wants to crawl, but there are few places in public where this is safe or sanitary. Your baby cannot eat regular food, so you have to lug around or buy baby food everywhere, and if you’re traveling abroad, it can be very difficult to find your brand. And don’t even try the beach- babies hate it at this age and will eat sand within the first 10 seconds. And everything else. This is a great time for friends and family to come to you instead of the other way around.

Toddler: This is a great time to take a vacation that interests you, the parent. Toddlers need to be able to run around (planes are challenging), and see things, but they are pretty easy to please. This is NOT the time to take them to Disney World or plan another “fantastic” trip for that child to enjoy. They won’t appreciate it, and you’ll be disappointed. I made this mistake when I took my then- 15 month old son on an “educational” trip to Washington, DC. After a full day of the Smithsonian and the National Zoo, the only things he showed interest in were the ducks at the zoo and riding the escalator. Could have done that at home!

Child, ages 3-5: Now your child cares about and appreciates his surroundings. He will love the beach, though will prefer the hotel pool. Disney World is debatable, though my 3-year old loved it. This age can still be easily entertained, so you could combine a trip you would enjoy with small side adventures for the kids, and they will be thrilled.

Child, ages 6-9: This is a golden time for kid-oriented family vacations. Your kids are in school full-time now, so you’re actually craving, and needing, more quality time together. They will remember, cherish, and enjoy it. Plus, they’ll be a real pain if they are bored on a less child-focused trip. Now, they want to be with you, want you to play with them all the time, and have an unlimited supply of energy. Load up on the memories and enjoy.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Redefining "Down Time" - Part 2

A few days ago, I talked about how I get my best creative thinking done when stuck in an airport terminal, doctor’s office, or boring lecture- time I would have previously defined as “wasted down time” before I realized what a gold mine of productivity it could be.

Today I want to talk about the other forms of “down time” that occur in my daily life that I’ve learned to reclaim as ultra-productive:

Time in Transit: The number one way I’ve eliminated this as down time is by walking everywhere humanly possible, turning it into my zero-carbon workout. But when I do need to drive (and when I run and walk, actually) I use it to clear my mind to make room for the random inspiration to hit. I write it down when I reach my destination (I even keep a notebook in the stroller). And if a child is with me, that is focused conversation time- no radio if the trip is under 10 minutes.

Waiting in a parked car (often for a child to get out of practice, etc.): This relatively short period of time is perfect for the 2-minute burst of kindness, organization, or friendship. By keeping a tote bag filled with greeting cards, my backlog of Cooking Light magazines, my day planner, and my file folder broadly labeled “to read”, I can give short but important tasks my full concentration, provided they are ones I can quickly put down.

That awkward 20 minutes before you need to be somewhere: If I am at home with this amount of time left, I know there’s no point in trying to concentrate on anything, so I clean. Very fast. I get tons done because I know there’s a definite end to it (I don’t particularly like cleaning), and it’s fun to race the clock. If I am away from home, I call my mom. She’s somehow always available to take my call, and 20 minutes is enough time to listen as well as just talk.

The line at the grocery store: I learned this one from “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson. Instead of getting annoyed by the length and perceived human causes of my waiting time here, I’ve started to use it to observe without and learn from the people around me. It’s fascinating. Carlson calls it being an “anthropologist” in your own home town. It’s wonderful training on becoming less judgmental, impatient, and self-absorbed.

When other people are wasting my time: The useless board meeting, the acquaintance who corners you in the store to talk, the repairman who leaves you waiting for hours. This is the hardest area for me- I am not known for my patience. But I am learning to play another mind trick on myself to not only make this time productive, but to keep myself from exploding from rising blood pressure. I imagine myself as a therapist or a consultant, and then try to analyze WHY this hold-up in efficiency is happening, and what I am supposed to do about it. If it’s because someone is feeling lonely or avoiding her next activity by spending time with me, then I believe I was meant to be there for that person at that time. If it’s because a process or institution is inherently flawed, then I can learn from its mistakes to avoid them in my own life. Either way, the time can provide some precious lessons.

Again, I keep seeming to come back to the issue of control – something I have a hard time letting go of. No time needs to be wasted, as long as we fit the activity to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and give up the iron-clad “to do” list we composed that morning when we had a perfect vision of how every minute of the day would go.

Connect to your surroundings rather than fight against them, and you’ll find that every minute of your day can be filled with purpose, joy, and meaning.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Redefining "Down Time" - Part I

As I write this, I am sitting in an airport, waiting for my flight out of Dallas to go see friends in Colorado. Yes, I am without the kids. And yes, I am doing an internal happy dance right now. I'm so excited to see my friends my and am anticipating a fabulous few days.

However, the part of the trip that I was to talk about now is NOW…waiting in the airport. This is actually the leg of the vacation that I was anticipating the most: the time, by myself, in the airport and on the plane.

In the four hours since I kissed my gorgeous kids and husband goodbye, I have come up with concepts for 47 blog entries, planned my entire summer, and finished “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell – the incredible book that’s been sitting by my bedside table for months.

And I’m only halfway to Colorado.

Why has this time that so many other people dread become such a goldmine of productivity and creativity for me? Because I knew it would be, and I was prepared for it.

The realization came in my mid-20’s that I was at my creative best when I was stuck somewhere I didn’t really want to be, by myself, for a relatively long period of time. Boring and unnecessary lectures, doctor’s waiting rooms, airport terminals.

With a single thought, I erased a huge chunk of my life that I had previously defined as “down time” and replaced it with hyper-productivity.

So, now that I’m in the airport typing away, I have to ask myself, “Why can’t I get this much done in the hours after the kids are in bed?” I’ve decided the answer has to do with control. Right now, I am not completely in control of my situation or surroundings, so I have to turn off that part of my brain. As it turns out, that part of my brain, the part that scans every inch of my “domain” at home in order to mentally print off my exhaustive “to do” list…that part hinders my creativity.

But the airport, and the doctor’s office, and the lecture hall are not my domain. And I don’t find them particularly interesting, so they don’t distract.

The key to making sure these moments happen is to be prepared to recognize and utilize them. Had I not had a pad and pen, this time would have been wasted. Had I purchased the indulgent vampire novel I was eying in the airport bookstore, this moment never would have happened. Ditto for the Texan microbrew that was calling my name at the bar.

Take a moment for yourself and find the “down time” in your life that could be reworked and rethought. It could be totally different from mine. Then prepare for it. Get excited about it.

Tomorrow, I will write about the other forms of down time in my life that empower me to other kinds of productivity, besides creative thinking.

And by the way, I wrote this entire post during the walk between Gate A11 and C31, sitting down to write between thoughts, all the while surrounded by people who look bored out of their minds.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Living Off Winter's Harvest

We're in the midst of an "economic winter"- there's no denying it. There are no blantant opportunties blooming around us. No low-lying fruit to effortlessly pick off. No abundant harvest to reap.

It's winter, and we're all feeling it. As with all animals, it's time to bunker down, conserve, and ride it out in the faith that spring will come. And some of us are facing a much harsher climate than others.

However, nature has a way of providing animals a way to survive this season. For some, it's excess fat. Others: a stash of acorns. Still others, a long sleep.

Yes, it's winter for us, but we what many of us are forgetting is that we have also just came off a large harvest. While our money stash may no longer be there, we probably all still have a lot of STUFF that we've built up and never used. Stuff we've ignored, wasted, underappreciated, or squandered.

So now's the time to find that stash in your home and not just survive on it, but enjoy it. If you're anything like me, you'll be shocked at the amount of stuff you have hidden in your home that will carry you for a long time, in many different ways:

  • Food: Start here. Go through your freezer, pantry, and frig and make a list of all the ingredients you have. Then try to plan an entire month's worth of meals from it. With the exception of a few quick trips to the store for a very few items, I bet you can do it. If you need help, http://www.cookinglight.com/ has a feature where you can enter an ingredient you already have, and get a list of recipes using it. And remember, none of us facing bankruptcy or forclosure is too good for cheap coffee, frozen vegetables, or domestic beer!

  • Toiletries: Inventory the half-used bottles of shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, hairspray, etc. and put them all in one place. Then use them. And they don't have to be your favorite brand.

  • Clothes: Now is the time to Bolddiscover the otherItalic Bold90% of your closet. Spend an indulgent afternoon trying on absolutely everything you own, but, contrary to former advice, not with the purpose of getting rid of what you don't like, but in order to like what you already have. Make it work. And if some things seem out of date, try just changing the shoes and the belt- that can instantly update the whole look.

  • Entertainment: This is probably a gold mine for you. Remember all the classic novels you bought and never read? The unfinished crafts in your basement? That huge pile of old music CD's? Pull them out and make yourself a pile, vowing to get through them before you go "consume" anything else. I will never, ever get through the great books I thought I couldn't live without...and never opened.

  • Kids' Activities: BoldKids are even worse than we are about ignoring the abundance of toys and treasure around them, so they will need our help in this. It's all about the presentation. I went around my house and gathered up all the overlooked toys, books, coloring books, and crafts, and put them away in a closet. Now, every time my kids express boredom or criminal deprivation over not having something new, Voila! They appreciate the "new" toy (even if they recognize it) more than ever before. A good lesson for all of us.

Have fun with this. How wonderful that all of those purchases that seemed so important at the time are finally getting their day in the sun! And never overlook the positive environmental impact you are making by using what you already have.

In the words of Sheryl Crowe, "It's not getting want you want, it's wanting what you've got."

-The Wasteless Mom

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lean Mom, Fat Mom

This is a tale of two mothers- and no, one is not skinny and the other overweight. Let's say they both have rockin' bodies. Both have two kids. But one is "lean", and the other "fat" in her daily habits, which results in major differences in the waste of time, money, carbon emissions, and productivity:

Fat Mom:

Objective: This mom needs to take her oldest kid to and from school, take care of her younger child, exercise, get a few items from the store, and get the house clean. Typical day.

Her Solution: Fat Mom packs the kids in the car, drives to school, idles in the carpool line, drops the kid off, and drives back home. Here, she has a sitter waiting for her to watch the toddler. Mom drives to the gym, where she gets on an electric treadmill to run. After her workout she gets back in the car to drive to the store. She parks, walks inside, shops, puts food in plastic bags, walks back to car, turns car on, drives home. Pays sitter $12/hour for the 3 hours she was gone. Also writes and mails check to gym for membership dues. Cleaners show up to clean house, so Mom packs toddler back in car to run some unnecessary errands to get out of house due to noise and chemicals used while cleaning. Buys a few unnecessary things. Drives home, pays cleaners. Drives to school to pick up oldest child, idles in carpool line, drives home again. Orders takout for dinner because had no time to cook.

Lean Mom:

Objective: Exactly the same as Fat Mom.

Her Solution: Lean Mom packs blanket, sippie cup, water, and a backpack in the bottom of double stroller, and run/walks both kids to older kid's school. Bypasses carpool line. Mom then walks toddler to grocery store, putting food items in stroller, then in backpack at checkout. Walk/runs home. She and toddler safely clean house together using non-toxic cleaners. Uses extra time to play with toddler and cook dinner together. Puts toddler back in double stroller with a snack, walks back to older child's school, again bypassing carpool line, and walks home.

The Breakdown:

Pretty obvious.

Both moms ultimately met their objectives, but do you see how the Fat Mom actually sabotoged hers by the use of the "luxuries" of her car, sitter, cleaning service, and gym?

The Lean Mom not only saved TONS of money, but met her daily objectives faster and better. Lean Mom eliminated all down time from her schedule. She got exercise not only from walking, but cleaning, too. Her toddler spent her day outside in fresh air, talking to her mom, and free from toxic chemicals. And Lean Mom helped save the Earth.

Can you imagine how much waste could be elimated if we could be Lean Mom just one day a week?

-The Wasteless Mom