Eco Baby Shower

Last fall I hosted my first baby shower, and it’s hard to believe this weekend is his 1st birthday party! I’ve also been to two showers this week, so I’ve been thinking more about them.

Baby showers are an important milestone, and way to show support for the family-to-be. I remember being overwhelmed by the love and friendship that came with ours. But I also think there’s a lot of room for greening up this right of passage to lessen the impact and deepen it’s meaning.

It truly takes a village, and people want to help host. Recruit close friends to set up and clean up, and any other talents they may want to share. Prepare in advance and try to share the work load.

Invitations – Go paperless with an e-invitation. I used to send with E-vite, but I was recently turned on to Socializer. It’s free and green.

Decorations – Keep the decorations s imple. My favorite is decorating with a clothesline and baby clothes. If you want centerpieces, create them around baby items they can keep – like reused books standing up or a homemade lovey. A co-worker created towers of blocks in Danish for our shower, and I was so surprised. Now Girly plays and learns from them almost two years later, much better than something that goes in the trash!

eco friendly baby shower Games – Go with a more personal approach. Know your guests and tailor any games to a mixed age or co-ed group. For the co-ed shower I threw, the parents-to-be answered questions about their childhood in advance and guests guessed the answers. At another friend’s shower where I did the games, the theme was “A Star is Born,” so I taped the names of famous mothers on the backs of guests to guess as an icebreaker. Guests also tried to guess the baby names of celebrity stars. I gave organic/free trade chocolate bars as prizes.

Non-Games – Don’t feel like you have to do traditional games, many of which are honestly quite wasteful and not very meaningful to the expecting parents. While many groups may not be comfortable doing a more spiritual blessingway ceremony, you can still go a little deeper. Create something together for the parents. Share stories.

Gifts – Let guests know that reused gifts are welcomed. Since having a plentiful supply of used kid stuff, I’ve been giving a combo of reused and new. Here’s a short list of my favorite gifts:

Beyond the shower – Create a meal train for the family to get meal delivered 2-3 times a week for the first month, or after they return to work. This can be the most valuable gift ever!

I’m hoping that my experience will help you plan an eco-friendly shower. The Oregon Environmental Council has a fantastic resource, with an entire Tiny Footprints Baby Shower how-to kit.

Have you hosted an earth-friendly baby shower?

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

I heart REI

I think the outdoors is in my blood, maybe it’s because my grandfather started kayaking in his 70’s  and my other grandfather spent his weekends photographing Yosemite . I worked at the Outdoor Program through college, and spent virtually all my spare money buying outdoor gear and traveling. When Hubby and I met, we were a match made for the outdoors.

With kids and a family budget to stick to, it means that REI trips are rare. The high end brands are still too rich for my blood, but the quality of the REI brand itself is really unbeatable. Both of my rain jacket (one light weight, one for cold weather) are a few years old and in perfect shape. 

  1. It’s the only true corporate scale co-operative. 
  2. I love getting an annual dividend of 10%.
  3. REI-outlet is a great place to shop online sales.
  4. Buy the “generic” REI brand and you’ll be happy you did.
  5. If you’re not, they have the best return policy on the planet – no questions asked.
  6. Shop semi-annual Garage Sales of slightly used returns and you’ll really score.
  7. Shop out of season, stocking up for the next sport year if it’s a must-have.
  8. Like anywhere, go with a shopping list and steer clear of temptation…which is plentiful at an indoor playground like REI. 

Now that we have a family of campers, our gear are more practical than adventuresome. We also try to only purchase what we need, which is why we didn’t visit REI the entire camping season. We went this past weekend to pick up some rain pants and brighter lights for rainy weather bicycling. 

I’m also an REI fan, because they are way ahead of the green business curve in designing eco-sensitive products. Remember, green is the new black.

Check out this interview on Corporate Responsibility at REI

Are you a co-op member of REI?

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

Family Outings

Over the past long weekend we made fun family outings a priority. I’ll give a recap below, but first let me share some of my favorite places to find cheap local family activities:

We started off the weekend by taking the train to the Children’s Museum, with half price admission as a reward for Big Guy’s summer reading program. Later we enjoyed an evening with friends who we’ve been rotating dinner play-dates for the past few years. We have a tradition of bringing the host a bottle of wine in the same cloth bag time after time, and it’s always a casual experience. Dinner play-dates are the simplest way to enjoy the social element of a restaurant in the comfort of friends, without paying for dinner x4. 

The next day we had a nice morning outing to REI (I’ll share more tomorrow), where I used my co-op dividend on some much needed rain pants and new bicycle lights. Hubby got a new pair of Columbia pants which are like his weekend uniform. I looked around for potential holiday presents for the kiddos, but stuck with our list. Keeping to a shopping list is perhaps our most effective was to save money.

Saturday began with our usual walk to the community pool for swim lessons. Then Girly and I headed to a friend’s baby shower (more on that topic later in the week too.) The “Boys” hung out watching football all afternoon, and then we all went out to watch the Ducks stay undefeated. Our dinner wasn’t necessarily expensive, but it always amazes me how much appetizers and beer can add to your tab. It was worth it though.

Our last adventure of the weekend was another tradition of sorts, going to check out the model railroad show that only opens in our neighborhood in November. The members are true train enthusiasts and this year Girly was thrilled to see the miniature cho-chos.

This was an extra long weekend, but it’s easy to see how much fun family outings can be without costing much.

What family outings do you love to share?  

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

Child Care & Illness

Every working parent is warned about how kids in child care centers have perpetual runny noses, but until you get dreaded “sick call” again and again, you just can’t relate to how much stress it causes. We are lucky to have pretty healthy kiddos, but those calls still come far too often. We rotate our on-call parent duties, but it’s a stress on the whole family.

I was fed up this week when my Girly was sent home with a low grade fever and a cough (we’ve also been dealing with dietary issues, so this pushed me too far).  I certainly don’t want my kids spreading diseases, but common colds are called that for a reason.  Our kids attend a wonderful child care center, and I know they genuinely care for their health. But the national accreditation has strict requirements and little room for flexibility.  In my frustration I did a little Googling, and it turns out that a recent study showed that  50% of child care directors sent children home with mild illnesses .  

I consider myself “lucky” enough to have sick leave, and a policy that allows me to use up to 40 hours of my own sick leave for my children year (the quotations are supposed to hint at my disdain that Americans haven’t caught on to the whole European safety net idea!) But I wasn’t surprised that between two kids, my 40 hours maxed out in September (so Hubby’s been on full-time sick call.

Oregon has a better policy than most states, but many families still aren’t using/aware of the leave. I also appreciated this quote about how deep rooted this problem is for family finances:

“The majority of our work force lives paycheck to paycheck; taking a day off is difficult and the fear of losing a job is huge,” said Leslie Hammer, a professor of psychology at Portland State University who is working on a study of how supervisors affect an employee’s health and ability to care for their families. The solution is not just about money, but a combination of training supervisors to support family-friendly policies and give employees control over their work time to solve problems themselves.”

And yes, there are some days where I relish being able to stay home a snuggle a sick child, but I’d rather save that for true illness.

How do you deal with absences due to sick kids?

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