Archive for the ‘Family Life’ Category


How can you make Father’s Day special for a new dad while you’re sleep-deprived and have no time to shop? Honestly, I don’t even really remember our first Father’s day celebration as a new family, but after consulting my husband, these are the things he was most wanting back in those early days of parenthood.

Framed photos. Snap a couple shots of baby with dad (and grandpa too, if he lives close), print them out, and slip them into frames for an easy, but special, gift. If you have more time on your hands, make a bound photo book online.

A personalized picnic. Whether it’s gourmet potato chips or homemade pasta salad, your fellow has a few special entrees that may not cross the dinner table on a regular basis. Pick them up, pack them up, and head out for a hike..or just an afternoon at the park.
Date for father's day
A date. Every dad (and mom!) deserves some time off. Create a homemade gift certificate for an afternoon or evening out. Do a babysitting trade or perhaps leave your tot with family so the two of you can hit all of his favorite pre-baby hang-outs. (The picture above is of a special date we had six months ago. We hiked the same trail we took on our first date!)

An Ipad. My husband claims that this gizmo is extremely practical for fathers taking the 3-5am shift. Sitting in the rocking chair while watching sports highlights made those late nights infinitely more bearable. This seems to be the least sentimental and the most expensive item on my idea list, and yet it is the thing that my husband most adores.

Do you have special Father’s Day traditions in your family? Any glorious gift ideas to share with the rest of us?

Our sloping backyard is full of lilies, winding paths, and decorative rocks without any space for swings or a trampoline. In the past my kids have found it hard to run spend hours in the garden without breaking into whining fits.

This summer, a few simple tricks have changed the entire dynamic.
Involving Kids in the garden
Adopting a plant: The kids each got to select a few special flowers and one apple tree each from a nursery this spring. They helped with transplanting the new additions and have been very excited about watering and watching as blooms appear. Sometimes just asking them to go check on their plant is enough to get them outside, where they become distracted enough by blue jays and beetles to stay outside. (The picture above is from four years ago when my son was happy to drag his monster trucks through the garden for hours.)

Hunting for treasure: At thrift stores I pick up loads of colorful marbles or trickets and then hide them all over the back yard. The kids spend extended periods of time searching for loot (each having their own territory to avoid turf wars) and then hang out on the deck comparing and trading their treasures. When they later forget about said loot, I collect it from the corners of their bedroom and hold another treasure hunt!

Picnicking with popsicles: Sometimes just offering them a home blended popsicle (full of hidden vegetables and healthy fruits) is enough to get them out in the backyard.
Fairy House
Building fairy houses: Gathering up moss, twigs, and tiny flowers for fairy domiciles is something that can capture my children’s attention for hours. One house can easily start a fairy sub-development, which means that I get more time to garden!
A child's garden spot
Making a personalized garden spot: As you can see, at our old house, my son’s favorite spot was always in a tree. I haven’t done this yet at our new house, but am planning on letting each of my kids pick a special place in the garden that they can make their own. We can put down a stepping stone for them to sit on, ring it with the shells we collect from the beach at Grandma’s house, and finish by planting some of their favorites nearby. I would be happily willing to put cheezy gnomes, dragonflies or other such garden art if it meant they were excited about their garden spot.

Running through the sprinkler: Okay…this actually might not work in my garden, since the kids may have to hurdle over day lilies to get a good pace up, but maybe this will be possible someday!

Blowing bubbles: A classic! Use a homemade bubble solution recipe to make your own stuff. It’s such an obvious idea that I often forget it!

Moving worms: I know this sounds slightly weird, but my kids love digging in dirt, finding worms, and then moving them to their favorite plants. Since they know worms help break up soil and make room for roots to grow, they are certain that this is hugely beneficial to their adopted plants. (I’m not sure it’s beneficial for the worms…)
Bug scavenger hunt
Doing a bug scavenger hunt: This doesn’t have to be sophisticated, but giving young children a list of four different bugs and letting them search under rocks and bushes can take a very long time. (Again, this translates to hours of watering/weed pulling) Also, no bugs have to be caught and kept in glass jars…only to die tragic deaths later on when we all forget about them.
Sweet peas
Eating straight out of the garden: I don’t expect to get a harvest of sweet peas, blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, because I know they’ll be consumed before they ever make it to the kitchen. It is a thrill for my kids to literally eat the fruits of their labors and wonder at how much better garden food tastes than anything we buy in the store. That’s enough to get them back out there next spring!

Have you make a science out of getting your kids involved in gardening? What other tips do you have to help get your people in the garden for hours on end?

Looking for a simple, thoughtful gift for Mother’s Day this year?

The Pearhead Canvas Print Set is such a great idea! If you have multiple children, you can have each make a print, or simply make one print for each member of the family. The canvases come already primed with brightly colored paint, ready for you to make your prints! At just 19.59, this is a terrific gift that you can display for years! (And if you have more time than money, you could easily do this yourself by buying supplies at a local craft store.)

If you’re as overwhelmed by framing as the rest of us, digital frames like this Coby Widescreen Digital Frame for about $25, can help you spend less time printing and framing and more time watching all your favorite images flip by. Disclaimer..this is NOT greener than a traditional frame, but more practical for families with limited time and growing kids.

Let your child make a stepping stone for mom for less than $12! (and it may be even less expensive if you hunt down the materials at a hardware store.) Midwest Products Kids Garden Stepping Stone Kit is just $11.00 and will be a fun memento tucked in amongst the zucchini and cucumbers in your veggie patch.

(Shameless marketing plug coming…) For moms-to-be, our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, is a fantastic gift. It’s currently on sale for about $8.00 on amazon and is packed with recipes for homemade baby food, green product recommendations,and facts about buying and caring for cloth diapers. We’re completely biased, but it’s the book we both wish we would have had as expectant mothers.

What is the best Mother’s Day gift you have ever received? We hope that this year you at least have the time to put your feet up, sip a bit of tea, and maybe even enjoy something as decadent as an afternoon nap.

Can you answer this question for me? I’m baffled by baby registries that include requests for designer diaper bags. Like this Kate Spade Diaper Bag, below that costs $418 dollars. That’s more than I spent (total) on cloth diapering both my babies!

Important disclaimer: I live in Eugene, Oregon where Birkenstocks, yoga pants, and french braids are considered high fashion. Maybe if I did live in a more urban area, I would feel the pressure to have a top of the line diaper bag. But really, when I think of the conditions that a diaper bag has to endure (without giving specifics, but mentioning the word “blow-out”), I can’t imagine investing so much in a bag. (Especially when it can’t be thrown in the washer!)

If you enjoy changing diapers while wearing a vintage western jacket with leather fringe, I think the above Timi and Leslie Diaper Bag is just perfect for you. And at just $159, it’s a fraction of the price of the first option!

The Skip Hop Duo Double Diaper bag is infinitely more practical, and costs just $59.99.

We opted for a beach bag with pockets, like the one above, that will cost you $4.99. That left us plenty of money to buy a few wet bags for cloth diapers(below) and a changing pad. Total cost, far, far less than any of the above options! (and washable!)

Did you find a diaper bag that was worth the investment? Did you use a backpack or some bag that you already had? Thanks for your diaper bag tips!


I’ve known for years that smoothies are a great way to slip spinach, cucumbers, squash and other veggies into my children’s diet. I get to clean out the remnants of my produce drawers and everyone feels like they’re getting dessert. The smoothie mustaches are just a bonus! (This photo was from last summer…before I had totally forgotten the magic that a blender can create!)

So why is it that I so often forget this simple trick?

Luckily Rebecca’s last post bolstered my memories of smoothie success! We whirled up brown bananas, greek yogurt, peanut butter, honey, and cocoa and my children declared all day how delicious their “milk-shakes” were. We poured the leftovers into popsicle molds and the kids were beyond thrilled to eat “fudgecicles” for breakfast. Victory for all! Thanks for the reminder Rebecca!

Have I crossed the line from a grounded, green mom to a neurotic hoarder who simply can’t discard anything? Help me decide!

A cold bit of crust from my son’s grilled cheese sandwich stares at me from an otherwise empty plate. Why toss it when it can provide me with sustenance and save my bokashi bin from having to digest another hunk of food?
A. I’ve already eaten lunch and am not remotely hungry.
B. These “recycling efforts” have caused my belly to grow while my pants are inexplicably shrinking.
D. Eating this gross bit of cold, partially gnawed sandwich will not save the planet.
E. All of the above.

That Robin’s egg blue sweater in my closet has only been there for a year. Why would I get rid of it when I could still get so much use out of it?
A. In the past 12 months, I’ve worn it twice.
B. The sleeves are two inches too short, it’s endlessly itchy, and I detest wearing it.
D. On a half off sale at a thrift store, I paid just three bucks for it.
E. All of the above.

Every month we end up with a tiny sliver of soap in the dish. Why would I discard them when I can melt them down, put them in the blender, and remold them into fresh bards of soap?
A. With two small kids and a nearly full time job, I barely have time to brush my teeth, let alone engage in multi-step soap projects.
B. I could just stick that sliver onto a new bar of soap, and my life would be infinitely easier.
C. Elaborate soap sliver recycling efforts may not make as much as an impact as other simple things I could do.
D. All of the above.

The annoying singleton socks that lurk in my son’s drawers serve no reasonable purpose. Why get rid of them when then could make several dozen multicolored puppets?
A. Spilling out of his desk drawer are 56 recycled sock puppets from an art project two weeks ago.
B. It is endlessly annoying to nudge random socks out of the way every time we search for clothing.
C. These socks have been without pairs for so long that they no longer fit my son’s feet. In fact, some may be baby booties.
E. All of the above, and more.

Can you tell I’m trying to overcome some extreme non-wasting tendencies? My inner hoarder would rather re-purpose every single item in our home, but the walls are closing in! Do you struggle with the urge to save/repurpose everything versus the need to maintain some sense of order?

My three-year-old took the above picture while nestled into our bike trailer on a multi-mile afternoon bike trip. Our Schwinn Trailblazer, which has served us dutifully as a double stroller and a bike trailer, is still going strong after six years of heavy use. Now that our six-year-old is finally riding his bike independently, we no longer have to strap both kids into the trailer and let them fight over the limited territory. My three-year-old now gets the whole thing to herself!

We bought our Schwinn bike trailer used on craigslist for $100 and it has served us well. But would we have enjoyed the higher-end bike trailers like a Burley D’Like Bike Trailer for $575? Or a Chariot Cabriolet Bike Trailer for $449?

Families that use bike trailers for transportation on a daily basis may want to invest in a top-quality bike trailer, but it’s well worth looking for a used model. Today on craigslist I found a slightly used Burley D’Lite Bike trailer for $115(That’s about $450 dollars less than buying a new one!). And the best news? A family could buy the trailer used, enjoy it for five years, and sell it for almost exactly the same price. Most secondhand pieces of top quality gear, if well-maintained, will re-sell for a similar amount to their purchase price.

So, in my experience, no matter what bike trailer will best meet your family needs, it’s worth the extra time to search for a used model. Do you have a bike trailer that you adore? Do you think it was worth the extra investment?

Of the nine months that a woman spends building a baby, she’s really only sporting a baby bump for about six of them. So is it worth investing money in some high quality maternity clothes? The adorable A Pea in the Pod dress below is $178. Would you go for it?

Unless I was planning on having twelve more children, I can’t see shelling out that much cash for a dress I would wear a handful of times, especially since used maternity clothing is in such great supply. If I hit the half off sales at my local thrift stores, I could end up with top quality garments for about $3 apiece. If no one knows that my clothes come from Goodwill, and I get to save a few hundred dollars on a maternity wardrobe, why wouldn’t I go for it?

Being a teacher, I’m not required to be at the height of fashion while pregnant, but I actually loved the pieces that were handed down to me by friends or picked up at secondhand shops. I know we live in thrift store heaven here in our college town, but Ebay is also a great outlet for quality maternity clothes at a huge discount.

And since it might take awhile to get your pre-baby body back, secondhand shops are also a great place find a transition wardrobe. I headed to thrift stores for the first time when I was pregnant, but after purchasing a transition wardrobe I loved and then dropping the weight, I realized that I never wanted to go back to retail. I’ve been outfitting my casual and professional wardrobe with gently used clothing ever since!

Are you planning on buying new maternity wear or have you found a source for used clothing?

My first childbirth experience was the most painful, beautiful, and surreal 9 hours that I had ever known. But I hadn’t anticipated the fact that labor is just the first (very intense) part of the long transition into parenthood. My heart was throbbing with love for my baby, my ego was adjusting to the fact that I had to surrender everything–including sleep!–to this tiny being, and my exhausted body was trying to adapt to nursing and early parenthood.

And…I wished I would have stocked up on a few essentials. My midwife brought over a tube of Lansinoh Lanolin to sooth my bleeding skin after my son nursed for hours on end. Lanolin is also a great ointment for diaper rash and skin irritation, but it’s especially wonderful to help new mothers as they begin breastfeeding.

Hot baths were a treat that I tried to fit in whenever possible and Epsom Salt helped with post-pregnancy swelling and discomfort. It was difficult to give myself time, but I also realized that my physical recovery would help me feel better and give me the energy to make it through those difficult nights.

Oftentimes families are showered with meals during those first few weeks with a newborn, but I didn’t realize how thirsty I’d be because of breastfeeding. My husband went out and bought me a dozen bottles of Knudsen’s Recharge along with a bag of crushed ice and some drinking straws. It felt like such a treat to be surrounded by delicious, convenient beverages…especially at 3am.

Due to my extreme thriftiness, I can’t say I would have sprung for the Aimee Gowns Original Bra-less Nursing Gown, but I would have been happy to receive it as a gift! I spent a lot of time in pajamas over the course of the first month with my children, and a great deal of that time I had guests. Having really good quality loungewear with a built-in bra would be nice.

More than any of these items, it was wonderful to have people there to hold my baby while I napped or to cook us dinner. But I have to say that I look back on a few of these luxuries as survival tools during that first few shocking weeks. What were your favorite items during your early days as a parent? What do you give other pregnant friends to help ease their transition to parenthood?

An intelligent and resourceful friend of mine has delicious, home-cooked meals delivered to her door four nights a week. The cost? Utterly free! She joined a neighborhood Meal Co-op and now cooks dinner just one night per week.

How does it work? The one night she does cook, my friend has to make enough for five families. But since she’s making five batches of the same dish, it’s much easier than cooking separate meals for her own crew every weeknight. The group of families set up rules, contributed to a fund to buy enough large dishes, spices and materials for each family, and they were on their way. They suspend the co-op over the summer and during the holidays, but it runs smoothly for most of the year.

Do you do meal swaps with neighborhood family or belong to a meal co-op? It would be a FANTASTIC situation for a family with a very young baby! Would you recommend it to other families? I do wish we could join a meal cooperative, even if it was just for a few nights a week!

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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