No Bad Blood for Taylor Swift

Dear Taylor Swift,

I never would have thought that, at age 42, I would be writing an open letter to a famous person, much less a 25 year old young lady who is one of the most popular performers in pop culture right now. Yet, here I am, trying to not sound like an anxious 13 year old who can’t figure out how to say his own name when the pretty girl at school says “hi”. I’m writing you today to tell you how much I appreciate you. You see, I have six kids who are currently 20, 16, 13, 10, 5 and 2 years old. (The 10 year old is the only boy.) They are all T. Swift fans. When we’re in the van driving somewhere and there’s nothing good playing on the radio all I have to do is ask one of my kids (or do it myself) to put on some Taylor Swift songs. Doesn’t matter which one. They’re all popular with my kids. Within seconds everyone is singing along, belting out the songs with smiles on their faces. The thing is, I’m belting it out right along with them! As a 14 year veteran Stay At Home Dad I’ve had to put up with scores of artists who are questionable in their musical talents or abilities or taste in what passes for music. Please don’t get me started on the ridiculously raunchy and revolting nature of the lyrics of many of the Top 40 songs over the years. One of the things I love about your music is that it’s not only pleasant to listen to from a musical standpoint, but the lyrics are able to tell a story without being graphic or unsafe for my children. Thank you! Being classy never goes Out of Style.

On a road trip a few months ago my youngest daughter (then 21 months old) was having a tough time and was really fussy. As soon as I asked my 15 year old to put on some Taylor Swift she stopped her fussing. Everything (has) Changed as the first measures of “22” filled the airwaves as my baby’s mood became a State of Grace. Seriously. 0708_taylor_swift_autographs_970-630x420Your tunes also provided some fun bonding with my 15 year old just a couple of weeks ago on a hour road trip from our house in Washington to Multnomah Falls in Oregon. We decided it would be fun to learn the lyrics for your current hit Bad Blood (featuring Kendrick Lamar). At first I tried to learn the rap but couldn’t quite get the rhythm down, so my daughter learned the rap while I did my best T. Swift impersonation in my falsetto. I think that we may have permanently scarred my 10 year old son who had to endure hearing us (mostly me!) singing that lovely song over and over again at least a dozen times in a row. I’m going to think of that fun car ride every time Bad Blood comes on the radio from now on.

Two years ago when you came to play your Red concert at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington, we were lucky enough to score a pair of tickets from one of my oldest daughter’s friends. My then 14 year old daughter chose me to attend the concert with her and we both had a great time. I know that 40 year old men are not your target audience, but I’ll happily admit that it was a fantastic experience. Having attended several other concerts with my girls over the years I can say that yours was by far the most enjoyable experience for me. No offense intended to Lizzie McGuire Hillary Duff or Justin Bieber. I left the concert thinking that we had actually gotten our money’s worth and was glad that my daughter liked your music so much.

My family’s love of your music began at least 5-6 years ago when my oldest daughter, now 20, discovered you and your music. At the time she was just learning to play guitar and was also going through some of the difficulties associated with being 14 and tall. You inspired her by simply being you. You publicly embraced your own quirkiness and awkwardness and height while putting out some incredible music. She was tremendously inspired by you and recorded covers of several of your songs on her YouTube channel. swift14f-1-webBut even more inspiring than your music has been how you have used your success and stardom as one of the most popular artists in the music industry. While I can’t possibly pretend to actually know who your are, if your long list of good deeds is any indication, it appears that you have A Perfectly Good Heart. Many famous people seem to forget the rest of the “common” people once them achieve their stardom. It seems that you’ve been able to buck that trend by showering countless people with your kindness and generosity. (Click here for an article about some of Taylor Swift’s good deeds.) Sure, the monetary gifts to help people in need are nice and attract a lot of attention, but the fact that you interact with people on social media to encourage them shows just how much you care, especially because those interactions don’t receive the same fanfare. As a father of five girls I hope that they will use their lives to build others up and encourage them in whatever ways they can. Thank you for showing my daughters and my son that it’s cool to be kind.

Finally, thank you for making the transition from teenage break-out star to full-fledged superstar without going through any embarrassing public spectacles like other recent stars have done. I appreciate the fact that you’re not drinking and driving, on drugs, in and out of rehab and other stuff like a lot of stars who make that trip from teenager to adult along a very bumpy path. It’s refreshing to see someone remain true to herself. Your parents should be proud of their hard work in raising you because you seem to be comfortable in your own skin doing what you want to do, not what others think you should do. I hope that my girls will be as strong as you as they mature into young adults. Thank you also for taking the time to remember where you came from professionally. My oldest daughter has been impressed by your willingness to confront Apple and other recording industry giants over their greedy business practices which don’t hurt you as much as they do the smaller artists. Again, thanks for living your life with such integrity.

1418267354-taylor_swift_1989I know that you’re coming to Seattle in a few days to play at Century Link Field. We live 45 minutes away to the south in University Place, near Tacoma. If you have the time in between your arrival to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and your concert duties my kids and I would love to show you around. The famous flying fish at Pike Place Market or the Space Needle or eating fish ‘n chips at Ivars. Maybe my daughter and I could even regale you with our rendition of Bad Blood. Thank you for being you, Taylor Swift.

Sincerely,

Carl, a.k.a., Big Cheese Dad

PS-In 1989 I was a junior in high school. Ha!

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Book Review and Giveaway: Dads Behaving Dadly 2

I’m pleased to announce that I was one of my blog entries was included as part of the book Dads Behaving Dadly 2: 72 more truths, tears and triumphs of modern fatherhood.

Tallest SAHD/blogger in America!

Tallest SAHD/blogger in America!

You might recall that last year I wrote about being included in the first Dadly book. Co-authors and fellow Stay At Home Dads Hogan Hilling and Al Watts enjoyed the book writing process so much that they did it again and were gracious enough to include my story among the 72 in this second book. Both of these books were written by dads about pretty much anything and everything that relates to being a father. I’ll give you fair warning, though. Have some tissues within reach because the stories these guys share can will evoke some pretty emotional responses. We all had different experiences with our own fathers, some good, some bad, but the submissions in both books will move you and motivate you to be a better dad (or mom, I guess). While this book can be read in short bursts, if you’re like me at all you’re going to have a hard time putting it down once you start. Right from the Introduction by Al Watts, the President of the National At Home Dad Network, you will be drawn in as he shares about what happened to his then 11 year old daughter on a horse trail ride at Yellowstone National Park. Then the 72 stories are divided into seven parts as follows.

  1. Our Fathers
  2. Becoming Dad
  3. Built Dad Tough
  4. Do It Yourself Dad
  5. Imperfect Hero
  6. The Good, The Dad and The Ugly
  7. Proud Dads

My submission was placed in the last section and it’s entitled Actions Speak Louder.

It’s an edited and expanded (hopefully even improved!) version of one of my blog posts from 2014 in which I shared about my oldest daughter who is talented singer and songwriter. The very condensed version is that she wrote a song, recorded it on her phone and sent it to me across the country since she moved almost 2,000 miles away after high school graduation. The song moved me to tears because it helped me to understand how my actions as a father had impacted my daughter a few years prior as well as at that moment. (I’m purposely not telling the full story here because I really want you to get the book for yourself.)

Look, do yourself, or any dad in your life, a favor and get this book. If you’re looking for a meaningful and motivational gift for Father’s Day this is a great book to get. If you didn’t get the first Dadly book then grab both of them. You can go to the DadsBehavingDadly website and buy the book(s) directly from Hogan and Al or through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. There is an e-book version available through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The links are all on this page. If you buy directly from the Dadly website you’ll get $5 off the regular price of each individual book or even more savings if you buy both books at once.

GIVEAWAY: If you have read this far (THANKS!) then please leave a comment here on my blog page or my BigCheeseDad Facebook page to be entered to win a copy of this book. I will select one winner at random at 10 pm (Pacific time) on Father’s Day (June 21, 2015) to receive a signed copy of Dads Behaving Dadly 2.

Five Photos, Five Stories. Day Three: Kissing Daddy

I was recently nominated by my fellow Stay At Home Dad and Dad Blogger friend R.C., who writes at Going Dad, to participate in a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories, in which I post a photo and story (fiction or non-fiction) daily for five consecutive days. (Note: I had good intentions to do a post on five consecutive days but I chose time with my kids and sleep over blogging. And I’m okay with that.) It sounded like something that would be a fun to share with my loyal readers here on my blog. Today I nominate my friend and fellow SAHD Chris, who blogs at DadNCharge. 

Day Three: Kissing Daddy

KissingDaddy

Butterfly Kisses

This picture is just over two years old and I chose it for today because that lovely little girl giving her daddy (ME!) is celebrating her fifth birthday today. There really is no story behind this picture other than my daughter decided to plant a kiss on my cheek when we were at Titlow Beach on Puget Sound in Tacoma, just south of the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge. My mom happened to be visiting from out of town and thankfully had her camera at the ready. This wasn’t a staged shot and I didn’t even know that this picture existed until months later when I happened to see it on my mom’s Facebook page. All I can say is that I love everything about this picture. In fact, I’m going to simply let this picture carry its weight in words (it’s worth a thousand of them, right?) and gracefully bow out by wishing my sweet and sassy little girl a happy birthday. I love you with all of my heart, for ever and ever.

Five Photos, Five Stories; Day One: Sisters

Sister love

I was recently nominated by my fellow Stay At Home Dad and Dad Blogger friend R.C., who writes at Going Dad, to participate in a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories, in which I post a photo and story (fiction or non-fiction) daily for five consecutive days. It sounded like something that would be a fun to share with my loyal readers here on my blog. If you would like to be nominated please leave a comment below and I would be happy to oblige.

Day One: Sisters.

These two sleeping beauties will each celebrate a birthday in the next ten days, turning 5 and 2. As a SAHD I have had the privilege to watch their relationship grow closer and closer over the last couple of years. While they can squabble like any siblings do, they have become pretty good buddies. Little sister J absolutely adores big sis M and loves to do pretty much anything that she is doing. Dress up, dolls, puzzles, reading, art, dancing, swimming, playing at the park or YMCA, and watching football and making cookies with Daddy. They love to do life together. I’m so excited to watch these two grow up together, although I’m slightly nervous about the mischief they’re going to make together in about 10 years. I snapped this photo of the two of them snuggled in bed together yesterday morning. They slept most of the night in that sweet embrace. When my wife and I decided to try to add on to our already-large family of four kids back in 2009 it was with the hope that we could have two more kids who could become friends since there would be an almost six year age gap between kids 4 and 5. At this point it appears that our hopes and prayers are being answered in the most spectacular way possible. I cannot imagine our family without these two little girls. God obviously knew what he was doing when he blessed us with them.

Happy Birthday, my dear girls! When you read this in the future I hope you know how much your mother and I love you. I prayed for you to be a part of our family and thank God for you every single day. I look forward to many more years of love and laughter as you both grow up. I love you forever. ~Dad

Farts are Funny and Six more Life Lessons from my kids

Over the last couple of months I’ve been trying to really pay attention to my job more than the distractions in my iPhone. Since I’m nearing the end of my 14th school year as a Stay At Home Dad that means my “job” is really my kids. I realized that I had been prioritizing such worthy endeavors like Facebook, blogging, Twitter, Trivia Crack, Words With Friends and the latest sports talk on the radio or the ESPN app. Even though I justified it as only a few minutes here and a few more minutes there, it added up to a less than satisfactory job performance in my own mind. I don’t want my children to think that they are less important than whatever was holding my attention on my phone. As a result of being more present and mindful in my day-to-day life I’m learning a few things that perhaps I’d been too distracted to fully appreciate before.

Farts are Funny. Yeah, I went there right away. Couldn’t hold that one in any longer. (Get it?) Not my farts, mind you. But when my kids let one fly it’s pretty much the most hilarious thing around. How many times have you seen a princess/ballerina playing with her baby dolls pause her play to rip one? I have on an almost-daily basis. Not only that, then she has to comment about how loud it was or how her tummy suddenly feels better. No shame at all. You’d think she was a fifth grade boy, not a precocious almost five year old. Yeah, those of you who know me in real life know that these apples didn’t fall far from their tree.

I love you, Daddy. While my almost two year old isn’t saying those words yet she is able to communicate it pretty effectively by her desire to snuggle with me. I used to use that snuggle time to play on my phone. Lately I’ve just been snuggling her, basking in her unconditional love and adoration and smelly morning breath. There’s something so special about those first few moments after I take her out of her crib in the morning; how she lights up with the biggest smile and literally dives into my arms, burrowing a hole into that spot where my neck and shoulder meet. I’m soaking that up as I know it’s not going to be like that forever.

Games. Games. Games. 

Victory!

Victory!

Instead of checking email or blogging or playing on my phone I’ve been choosing to play more games with my kids. You might recall that I recently wrote about how I beat my kids when we play games. Shortly after writing that blog post my ten year old son finally beat me in the board game Carcassonne. My four year old became interested and he and I taught her how to play and she beat us both in her first game! Just a couple of day

s ago my son crushed me in a game of Monopoly, proudly bankrupting me as he ended up with more money than the bank. I love the quality time we spend together playing games, especially when they earn a well-deserved victory. That victory smile and sense of accomplishment is terrific.

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Camel ride at the zoo

What do you want to do? Instead of trying to be some sort of super-intuition daddy I just ask my kids what we should do today. One week it meant going to the zoo three days in a row. It’s good that we live only ten minutes away and have a membership. Sometimes we stay home and bake cookies, put together lots of puzzles, read lots of books, color, play games, or go to the park or open gym at the YMCA. But in whatever we’re doing we are doing it together and I’m keeping my phone in my pocket or, gasp, even in my backpack/diaper bag. I’m saddened to see so many parents missing out on what their kids are doing at the park or indoor play areas because they’re paying attention to their phones instead. I’m that parent who is awkwardly playing “grounders” with my kids on the play equipment or climbing up the tall slide after my kids have asked me to join them. We even go to the beach close to our house for the sole purpose of throwing rocks into the water.

Turn the radio off? Wait, what? Turn down for what? (Yeah, I have teenagers!) Instead of blasting music all the time in the car with my kids I’ve been trying to listen to the never-ending questions of my four year old. She’s become very curious about how different things are made and often asks me to explain it to her as she observes things while we’re driving. Daddy, how was the Tacoma Narrows Bridge built? How are signs made? How are houses built? How are roads built? Are we still in Washington? How are cars made? How was the world made? Did God make the world? How?I could go on but you get the picture. So, I try to explain to her, using vocabulary that she could understand and concepts that make sense to her, the answers to her questions. I was feeling pretty pleased with my efforts on our fifteen minute trip to Costco today as I explained to her how roads were made. It helped that my dad was a civil engineer who worked for the city where we lived during my childhood and that the road in front of my childhood home was resurfaced one summer when I was probably about 10-12 years old so I witnessed exactly what happened. Upon completion of my explanation, my perceptive daughter showed wisdom beyond her years by asking me,

Daddy, do you really know all of these things or are you just making it up?

Seriously. Come on, have a little faith, you little stinker!

IMG_0584

Classics made hilarious by inserting the word toot at opportune times.

Toot Toot. On a recent road trip I was mindlessly playing on my phone while my wife drove and our kids kind of passed the time away, not really doing anything. After her prompting (I love you, honey!), I found some board books that I keep in the car for my almost two year old and began to read them aloud. Only I changed one word as I read them. I added the word “toot” (as in, fart) in place of the word “whistle” in the book Whistle for Willie. I know, it’s kind of juvenile, but, like I wrote above, farts are funny. And you have to know your audience. It’s kind of like playing Mad Libs but with well-known children’s books by beloved authors like Eric Carle, Ezra Jack Keats and Margaret Wise Brown. My kids were cracking up when I read Goodnight Toot, The Very Tooty Caterpillar and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Toot. Of course, now my daughter wants me to read like that all the time. I hope this passes quickly.

Slow Down. Sometimes Most of the time I need to just slow down and let my kids be kids. Let their natural curiosity explore the world around them. Just a couple of days ago this point was driven home for me by my little girls.

Decorating the white flowering bush

Decorating the white flowering bush

We were walking back to our van after playing in the Open Gym at the YMCA. My four year old was being kind of pokey and I was absentmindedly asking her to move faster and hurry up. I was already thinking ahead to trying to get a few chores done at home before I had to get my 15 year old from school in an hour. Only then did I notice what was making my daughter so slow. She was carefully picking up blossoms that had fallen from one of the shrubs and decorating a smaller shrub. Pretty soon my almost two year old joined her big sister and the two of them happily decorated the smaller bush like a Christmas tree. What once was a bush with only a small number of white flowers soon brandished pink, red and purple blossoms. It was fun to see them playing together like that and I was reminded once again of how much I have to learn from my own children.

Sultan of Swat

This is a tough post to write but I’m going ahead with it because one of the reasons I started this blog about being a Stay At Home Dad was to use it as a way to be reflective about what I’m doing as a parent. To learn from both the successes and the failures. Over the 14 years I’ve been a SAHD (and the six years before that as a middle school teacher) I’ve done a pretty decent job of keeping my cool. I’m a pretty laid-back guy and I try my best to be patient with everyone, especially my children. Any parent knows that kids can really test you and pester you and do stuff that shouldn’t get on your nerves, but it still does. It’s my experience that this is exacerbated for the at-home parent of small children who often deals with the seemingly endless requests to do this or that from the moment the little ones wake up until the moment they (finally!) go to sleep. Sure, I try to get my little ones to learn patience but, well, herding cats sometimes seems like it might be easier.

Well, rewind to a few days ago, Thursday, to be exact. It was a routine Spring day for us that was highlighted by a trip to a local park to enjoy some of the nice weather.

Playing at the park

Playing at the park

We had an early dinner without my wife, who stayed late to work, so we could be on time to meet her at my 15 year old daughter’s high school water polo game at 6:20 pm. Even though my M, four year old, very thoughtfully served some spaghetti to J, her 22 month old sister, while I finished cooking dinner (yeah, that onesie may not ever come clean), we were on target to leave the house to be, gasp!, ten minutes early for the game. The final hurdle to conquer was changing the J’s diaper. Piece of cake for this seasoned veteran. Or so I thought. As I laid J down on the changing table I noticed M trying to climb up the end of it. I asked her to please get down. Moments later M was standing bedside me at the changing table, trying to tickle her sister. I asked her to please stop. (I’m patient and well-mannered, thankyouverymuch!) Within the next 30 seconds as I was trying to wipe J’s butt and place the clean diaper under her I must have asked M three or four more times to please stop poking, tickling or otherwise prodding her sister because every time she did that her sister would twist her body impossibly as only toddlers on changing tables can do and I’d have to rearrange the diaper all over again. Exhale. I could feel myself getting a little worked up as I asked, for the sixth time in about a minute and a half, for M to Please. Stop. Touching. Her.

SWAT! 

8d8718e763a4a1392f460e9efec731ed35ea1a2eThat’s what I did to her hand as she reached to poke, tickle or prod her sister that one last time. It wasn’t a “hit”, but it might as well have been. And in that moment of frustration I lost my patience with my adorable four year old and violated one of my cardinal rules of parenting: never, ever, under any circumstances, lay a hand on my child in anger or frustration. I felt like smelly poo. How could I have done this to my child? She pulled her hand back and looked into my eyes, giant tears already forming in her eyes. Not as much from the physical pain but more from the fact that I’d swatted her hand out of frustration. I dropped to a knee to be at her eye level and immediately told her how very wrong it was for me to do that to her and I asked her earnestly to forgive me. Through her tears she nodded yes and, as we embraced, hot tears flowed from my eyes as they burned my cheeks. We talked about it some more right then as I finished getting the diaper on J and while we headed to the car.

It’s been just over 48 hours since I became, in my own mind at least, the Sultan of Swat. And I’ve been beating myself up over my lack of self-control and momentary lapse the whole time. It cannot happen again. Period. There is no room to justify my actions by thinking, “If she had listened in the first place…” Nope. Not even remotely an excuse. Yet, I have to be able to forgive myself in order to move on. M forgave me so now I need to do the same. Yet, I can still learn from this experience. While I am a pretty patient parent, I need to realize that I do, indeed, have a breaking point. If/when I feel myself approaching that point I need to do an internal “lemon squeeze” like my kids were taught in elementary school or slowly count to ten. Looking back on this particular incident, I should have counted M using the 1-2-3 Magic discipline system that we’ve used with all of our children for the last 15+ years. (I think I’m going to reread that book this week.) Had I done that, the situation would not have escalated and there would have been no swat. In the end, I have to learn from this mistake, forgive myself and remember that I’m not perfect. After all, imperfection is part of the human condition.

The Days After Earth Day: 10 ways your family can be more eco-friendly all year long

April 22nd was Earth Day, the one day each year that we pause to really think about how we could take better care of our beloved third rock from the sun. Maybe your kids had a little “Earth Day” program or lesson at school. Maybe they sang “Happy Earth Day” and colored a nice picture. Or even took a pledge to be better conservationists. But when the calendar turns to April 23 and beyond, what will we really do to make a difference that lasts beyond one day? Well, if we all made a few simple changes it could have a profound global impact. Here are ten easy ways that my family celebrates Earth Day…every day of the year!

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It’s okay to leave the lights on if this is your house

10-Turn off the lights. When you leave a room turn off the light(s). Yeah, if you’re a parent, you probably feel like you’re constantly following your kids around and turning off the lights after them. I’m mean enough to make my kids (once old enough) to go back and turn off the lights themselves. It builds a good habit for later in life. Also, if there’s enough natural light then maybe use that instead of the overhead lights. Or just use one lamp instead of a larger fixture. Small changes will add up quickly.

9-Programmable thermostat. For just a few dollars you (Yes, you! I’ve done it myself a few times and it’s easy.) can install a thermostat that you can program to automatically set back to a lower temperature when you leave the house or go to sleep and then raise it when you return or wake up. Not only is it good for the environment, but it’s also good for your wallet. If you’re really into it like I am, you can even keep it a couple of degrees lower during the day and wear a sweater or sweatshirt.

8-Compost food scraps. Toss those peels and other discarded food scraps in an outdoor composter instead of the trash or sink disposal. You can do the same thing for leaves in the fall if your city doesn’t collect them. After a little while you’ll have some excellent organic fertilizer to spread in your garden.

7-Use re-useable containers for left-overs. Of course it’s obvious to do that at home. But why not take them to a restaurant? Even though it makes our teenagers cringe from embarrassment, we’ve used them when going out to eat as a family, as our little ones often don’t finish their meals.

6-Reusable bags. Because I often forget the bags at home (hey, at least I remembered my kids!), I actually keep a stash of reusable grocery bags in my van. My wife recently got six mesh bags for produce items that would usually be placed in plastic bags. They’re washable and easy to use. Our kids each have their own lunch bags for school lunches so that we’re not going through hundreds of paper bags each year.

5-Cloth diapers.

Cloth diaper baby

Cloth diaper baby

My oldest turned 20 a short time ago. So, that means that we’ve been cloth diapering our six kids for over two decades. With our first four we used the old cloth, safety pins and vinyl wraps. The modern cloth diapers are pretty slick and don’t involve pins. For the record, I never once pricked my kids with a pin while changing thousands of diapers as a Stay At Home Dad these last 14 years. Too bad the same cannot be said for my fingers.

4-Recycle. I know it’s obvious, but just do it. We even take it to the next level by bringing items not collected on the curb to the local recycling center. That also includes plastic shopping bags (see #6 above) which can often be dropped off at grocery stores. It’s worth the tiny bit of extra effort to keep these items out of the landfill. On a recent three-day road trip my 13 year old was looking for a place to recycle an empty box. Finding none, she asked if we could bring it home to recycle it. It’s second nature if you start early with your kids. Bonus: my 10 year old suggests using the empty plastic shopping bags as a trash can liner.

3-Pick up litter/trash. As a parent, I recognize that my kids are always watching to make sure that my actions match up with my words. With that in mind, I routinely pick up trash that is lying around when we’re out in public. It’s especially rewarding when my kids see me doing it and then excitedly copy my actions. Tip: carry a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer with you. Update: I was telling my 10 year old son about this blog and he told me that on our recent trip he picked up an empty water bottle from the ground at a park and put it in our trash/recycling bag to bring home. I didn’t see it happen but it makes me proud to know that my kids are following the example of my wife and me in picking up trash.

2-Buy local. Grow local.

Eating sugar snap peas right off the plant. Yummy!

Eating sugar snap peas right off the plant. Yummy!

Even though it sometimes might cost a little bit more, I like to buy items made or grown locally. We’ve purchased a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from a local farm for each of the last 13 years. Visiting the CSA farm creates an opportunity for our children to see where some of our food comes from so they can begin to learn that it doesn’t magically appear in the grocery store or in our  fridge.

In fact, we also have a modest garden of sugar snap peas, strawberries, beets, herbs, tomatoes and lettuce/chard/spinach (not sure which of those last three will actually grow). The kids help me to build the garden boxes, prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water and weed as needed, and then harvest the crop. I love it when they walk out to the garden and help themselves, knowing that they (literally) had a hand in growing that food.

1-Reuse. Repurpose. And reuse some more.

My baby painted that cardboard M as part of a Mother's Day gift.

My baby painted that cardboard M as part of a Mother’s Day gift.

We reuse things over and over. I used to think it was weird to save old moving boxes and packing paper. Guess what? The kids love to make forts and tunnels with the boxes and both the cardboard and packing paper work great for painting and other art projects. Then the painted paper can be repurposed as wrapping paper for friends or relatives. Our kids get new clothes when needed, but there’s certainly no shame in admitting that some of the outfits my 20 year old wore as a child have made it all the way to kid number six. It’s pretty impressive in my mind that some of the stuff lasted that long. My wife also is a queen thrift store shopper with a keen eye for high-end brand-name clothing for dirt cheap prices. Why pay the crazy amounts for a brand new outfit that your kid may or may not like or wear when you can save money by reusing? Sheets, t-shirts, towels and other fabrics can be washed and repurposed as rags or wipes. We haven’t had paper towels in three years. We made reusable wipes for our baby that work just as well as disposable ones. We bring water bottles on road trips instead of buying plastic ones. And then we often refill them at rest stops and gas stations along the way. Starbucks and other coffee shops often have reusable cups that both save the environment and your pocketbook.

Bonus-Backyard chickens. IMG_2590We’ve kept a flock of backyard chickens for about six years now and I love it for many reasons. The quality and freshness of the eggs is amazing and store bought eggs pale in comparison in color, taste and health benefit. The chickens are good for the environment because they will eat a lot of our food scraps that would either be trashed or composted and repurpose it into wonderful eggs.IMG_3297 They also naturally eat pests, aerate and fertilize our lawn, and further our children’s understanding of where our food comes from. Keeping chickens is far less work than I had feared and quite a rewarding experience with my children.

With the exception of the backyard chickens, the rest of the ideas listed above are pretty easy to incorporate into your daily routine if you make it a priority and a habit. If you have young kids make sure to explain what you’re doing and ask them to help keep you (the parents) accountable. Not only will they learn the new behaviors but they’ll be watching you extra close and will love to playfully remind you to shape up. Let me know if your family does any of these ideas or if you have additional ideas of your own.