Category Archives: planet parenthood

Family Questions for Estate Planning

Wills are the type of task that every parent wants to push off until tomorrow…or next year.  We’ve been making progress (slowly, but surely) on our   goal of updating our “last will & testaments.”  This time we’ve hired a lawyer, and we’re finishing all the estate planning documents: power of attorney, advance medical directive, and a last will & testament.

Our original wills were done on the cheap. We used a will kit software purchased by friends’ parents who helped us wade through the questions and get everything prepared. The beauty of taking on the task with another couple is that we had each other to sign copies (you need two signatures of people not listed in your will). Having your will signed may seem morbid, but we actually signed on New Year’s Day (with Mt Hood in view!) We were just relieved to know that in the case of an awful accident on the way home that our kids would go to our chosen guardian, and we wouldn’t leave family in a lurch.

Speaking of guardians, choosing who might raise your family is often a tough choice. There are lots of different factors to consider, and this article on 10 things to think about when choosing a guardians is very helpful. The number one issue in my mind is family values: who  can come close to honoring your values in raising your kids? Here’s a good perspective on choosing a guardian from The Simple Dollar, you can see just how personal the decision really is. Our lawyer (and friend) advised us to consider whether we want our estate guardian to be the same person and our custody guardian.

In our case, my Twin Sis is a shoe-in for the role (minus the globe trekking job 😉 But life can change quickly, so it’s important to keep tabs on who you choose. We chose Hubby’s sister as “back-up” guardian, since she was the only sibling without a family (but wanted kids!), just four years later she’s married and has two beautiful girls. And who knows, my Twin Sis may go “Angelina” on us and suddenly adopt a tribe of kids from where ever she happens to be in Africa at the moment…stranger things have happened 😉 But seriously, in our case we also trust her manage our estate and raise our kids if need be.

There are some big questions to answer, which is why many parents continue to put it off…

Do you have a Last Will and Testament?
Is it up-to-date?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Sugar Mama Scenario

My latest finance endeavor has been to create a budget scenario for becoming the “sugar mama” for our household.  Hubby is facing a potential lay off , and we are preparing ourselves for the potential of surviving on a single salary . Apparently we’re not alone, and the recession has created a rise in sugar mamas.

Truth be told, Hubby has always wanted to start his own business, so this could end up being a financial opportunity in the long run.  But in the near term, it means deeply assessing our expenses and separating the fixed/unfixed/discretionary/non-discretionary spending. 

From my initial scenario, my salary could just barely cover our monthly spending. There are two significant catches though:

First, it covers no child care costs. I’ve talked about child care costs being equivalent to a second mortgage, and since our mortgage has gone down our monthly child care tab is now more than our mortgage Our child care expenses will be going down significantly in the fall when  Big Guy will start Kindergarten…down to $335 per month since Oregon doesn’t fund full day Kindergarten! 

Second , we’d have to   sell our car …more on that tomorrow.  

Personally, I’m more concerned about the family impact of having no child care more than selling our car. It’s not that I don’t trust Hubby to be a wonderful Daddy 24/7…it’s really that there would be very little time for him to focus on starting the business that he’s anxious to get started. Any stay-at-home parent can attest to the challenge of accomplishing much beyond the rigors of childrearing. There other factor is that I think Girly really benefits from socializing in her classroom, and it would be a big adjustment for her. Although, in reality it would be a big adjustment for all of us.  

We tease that I was the sugar mama when Hubby and I first met, since I was making more than him at my part-time job. I paid for a trip to Utah for spring break, and the nick name stuck for a while. But becoming the primary bread winner is a whole different situation, and even though I know several moms in this situation, I’m still playing out the various scenarios in my head…surely more update to come…

Are you a “sugar mama” for your household?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Potty Talk

Our Girly is growing up fast, and I’m proud to report that this weekend every poop went in the potty! She’s had three successful weekends of consistent potty use…so I’m finally ready to share without feeling doomed to jinx our good fortune. Now we’ll just need to practice some patience until she transitions to a classroom with a potty (although her teachers are willing to try potty visits). 

After two years of washing two loads of poopy diapers every week , I am more than ready for her ditch her diapers!

But as you can see by her proud smile, we can’t claim too much credit for her potty readiness…it really is her choice. We also give my parents full credit for potty training Big Guy, we called it potty boot camp: he went to visit for five days and he never went back to diapers!

I do have a few pointers thought for parents who haven’t been through potty training yet:

  • Splurge and buy a true potty and a toilet seat ring – some kids highly prefer one over the other, and you just don’t know until they try them out. Plus, if you have a second bathroom, buy a second set – chasing after a potty is the last thing you want to do with a ready/willing potty user!
  • Stickers aren’t exactly eco-friendly – I think they sure beat the options of buying/washing diapers. We sure don’t scrimp on stickers and always put one on the potty chart and one on their hand to remind them of going potty.
  • Potty books are a big must, and we have a few in each bathroom. I bought a few new, but I’ve found several more at the Goodwill for $.50! There are lots used online too. These are my favorite potty books:
  • Buy second hand – like everything, potty training is a phase that won’t last (we all hope!), so splurge on books and stickers instead of a new seat if you can avoid it.
  • T here are a few eco-friendly potty options now too: who knew you could buy a Bamboo Potty Seat? It’s also nice to see that the Eco-friendly 3-in-1 Potty  and “Natural” potty  are quite a bit cheaper than the conventional plastic potties.

We do use disposable diapers on between diaper washes and on trips, and I prayed the last time I went to Costco that it would be the last pack I would ever buy!!

Lastly, while not a prerequisite to potty training, both our kids are still enamored by our new water friendly Toto toilet. The high efficiency flush is certainly more impressive and the slow self-closing toilet lid seems to work like magic!

What are your potty tips?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Snow day…well sort of!

Snow is pretty rare in the valleys of Oregon, and we only really get a snow event every few years at best. In great anticipation of the “big” snow day that we are expecting, I’m frankly not focused on our finances at the moment.  Instead I’m reminiscing about childhood snow days, which are priceless.

I recall the bunny hill that seemed so treacherous, and the numb feeling of thawing out after finally retreating to the warmth of home. Hot chocolate was a must, along with soup and grilled sandwiches. I must have been an early feminist, because we always insisted on making a snow woman 🙂 

Snow days also have a funny way of changing our priorities, and suddenly nothing seems as important as savoring the snow and playing as hard as possible. I’m looking forward these kinds of traditions and memories for my kids.

Last year I wrote about cheap ways to enjoy a Winter Wonderland.

I also found a couple some fun snow day ideas on ParentDish, Snow Day Fun, and 5 snow day favorites.

As it turns out there really wasn’t much snow to celebrate, but it has been fun fantasizing…

How do you celebrate the snow?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Kids Learn On Transit

I always focus on the environmental and economic benefits when  I’ve talked about our avid bus riding family, and it is true that we save a lot of money this way. But I haven’t mentioned the many learning/social perks we experience on our daily bus/MAX adventures.

I used to call people I met on transit my “bus/train friends”, but with a family I’ve taken to calling them our “bus community.”  As any parent knows, kids are great icebreakers. People are always ready to strike up a conversation if you have a child in tow.   When our Big Guy was a baby, I called the women who would coo over him his harem. Now Girly has her own group of friends she loves to wave and say hello to…the high school boys really love the attention 😉

No matter which bus we catch, we almost always cross paths with someone we “know”. Last week I met several regulars who we hadn’t seen in a while who mentioned how big the kids are getting. If I get on the bus without one of the kids people will ask if someone sick, and I’ve even been approached while waiting by myself with people asking where the kids are!

But beyond the social aspects, there are lots of other lessons.

Bussing teaches kids geography – our kids know our neighborhood and city from riding transit. They don’t go from one curb to another in a bubble, but know the street names that the bus drivers call out. He showed his Auntie the whole way to his school on the and led her to the post office too!

Taking transit helps kids experience the environment – kids love seeing the world anew each day, and ours just love crossing the river each sunrise and sunset. Girly waves emphatically as she calls out “wa wa”. They also get to experience all the weather of the seasons…we love dry weeks like this one!

Exercise – we all get a little exercise from riding the bus. We only have a 2-3 block walk, but from small kids and parents with lots to tote, this is enough to feel like a trek. Plus, you’ll often see me running with Girly on my hip to catch the next bus…she giggles hysterically every time too 🙂

You may think it’s a stretch, but taking transit can teach early reading and math skills. Big Guy knows all the bus names and numbers, loves reading the countdown until the comes…”only four minutes Mommy!!” I have no doubt that as his time telling skills get better, he’ll be figuring out what time need to catch the bus on time – talk about real life problem solving.

There are occasions of unsavory urban activities on the bus, but I’ve never felt unsafe. In fact, the closest was when a belligerent woman was having a hard time staying in her seat and other rider quickly came to aide to make sure she didn’t come any closer. And earlier this winter the front porch of an abandoned house at our bus stop temporarily became a defacto shelter, but it was really just another teachable moment. I love the fact that they see people from all cultures and socio-economic classes, they are all part of our community.

While we haven’t gone car free, I really appreciated this article about how  transit is good for kids . I knew that I was making the right choice when we happened to be in stuck in a car in traffic, and our Big Guy spotted some buses and shouted “Mommy there would be a lot more cars with those buses! They take away all the pollution!” That’s an important lesson at any age.

Now you may be thinking, sure bussing is fun for kids, but how does Mom/Dad manage it? My mantra is snacks – must have lots of snacks, plus water, and a cloth handkerchief. Sometimes we bring books or toys, but typically we just talk, sing songs, and enjoy each other’s company. I’ll take cuddling with my kids any day over driving downtown!

Riding the bus is a priceless routine for our family.

Lastly, here’s another perspective from my favorite transit mom blogger called “The sane person’s guide to bringing kids on public transit.”

Do you ride the bus with your kids?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.