Monthly Archives: September 2012

Being a Green Soccer Mom

My son loves to play soccer. He says it’s mostly the running, so he’s in a running club as well. It’s great exercise for him as well as fun. His team is about where I like it for his age – they win fairly often, but lose enough to learn that lesson too. He has a coach who isn’t excessively strict – I’ve seen some coaches freak out when their team isn’t winning, screaming at the kids and generally setting a bad example, so this is highly welcome. At the same time, the coach is strict enough to push for good effort.

The trouble with soccer is some of the stuff involved. Many things we’ve been able to use from season to season – cleats, shin guards, the soccer ball, but other things generate waste every week, especially the after game treats the parents take turns providing.

Now, there’s only so much you can do about waste when you’re not always the one providing treats. The typical treat bag includes a juice box, some treats, and often enough some small, plastic toy. They get really wasteful, and often are unhealthy, as cookies are a far more common snack than the fruit usually provided when I played soccer as a kid.

About the only thing you can do about it is make sure that what you provide is a little healthier. We always put in sliced oranges for treats, and most of the kids really like them. No little toys either – not like they last anyhow. We still give juice boxes, as a nice drink is important after the game, and the kids have usually finished the drinks they brought with them by the end of the game.

If you like, you can talk with the other moms about alternatives for snacks to improve matters for your team. You may encounter a lot of resistance – the kids do love the treats they get now, after all. It’s still worth a try.

You can be picky about what your child brings for his or her drink during the game. It’s not the healthiest, perhaps, but my son still likes his Gatorade for during the game, so we buy the powdered mix. Cheaper than buying the bottled stuff, and easy to put into a reusable bottle.

Don’t forget sunscreen. Get a good brand, and make sure your young soccer player uses it, as well as any of the rest of the family coming to the game.

Aquarius Reef Base Petition

I enjoy reading a few comics online, Sherman’s Lagoon among them. Yesterday I noticed a note beneath the comic about the upcoming closure of the Aquarius Reef Base. This is an underwater ocean research station funded by NOAA. It’s being closed due to budget cuts. I’d like to suggest that you sign the petition to encourage NOAA to keep the base open.

Ocean research matters. There’s a lot we’re still learning about our oceans, and with all the problems we’re having with the environment, learning to protect the oceans is vital. Take just a few moments to fill out the petition in the hopes that ocean research can be continued at Aquarius Reef Base.

You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap!) Book Review

I was sent a copy of You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel to review on this site. It’s about simplifying your life to a much greater degree than most people, and the satisfaction she found by doing so. She and her husband had a tiny, 128 square foot home built for them after going through various stages of cutting down on the stuff they owned, and really enjoy their new lifestyle.

Obviously, a house that small isn’t for everyone. But going for small houses doesn’t have to mean you choose one of the extremely small ones – you have to consider your family. But even if you want to simplify your life to a lesser degree, this book has some useful ideas. A small house for my family would have to be somewhat larger to accommodate our three kids, but could still be significantly smaller than the place we’re renting now.

Tammy and her husband did all this in stages. She recommends various programs, such as the 100 Thing Challenge, to help you get rid of a lot of the excess in your life. She also points out that getting rid of things and learning to make do with less is a huge help in getting rid of debt.

Tammy and her husband also go without cars. They ride their bikes most places, or use a Zipcar or public transportation for greater distances. This is a part I really enjoyed, even though my family isn’t at a point where going down to even 1 car would work very well. We’ve done the one car thing, and it worked for a number of years, but given the poor public transportation where I live, and other issues, it won’t happen again for a while. Which is a pity, because I really enjoyed it and the money saved was really helpful.

There’s also a reminder to give of your time, not just money and things. Volunteering is a wonderful way to bring some extra meaning to your life and to make you grateful for what you have.

Many readers will also enjoy the personal stories shared in this book, not just by Tammy, but from other people who have simplified their lives.

Perhaps most important, Tammy emphasizes the benefits your personal relationships can gain from a simplified life. In my family, electronics aren’t allowed at the dinner table, but they can certainly get in the way of everyday interaction at other times, yet we have fewer gadgets than a lot of people I know. Going for a more simple life can also include a commitment to spend more time actually paying attention to those around you, not just being physically there.

What’s really wonderful about this book is that simplifying isn’t made out to be some complex process. It’s broken down into steps that you might picture yourself doing if you’re so inclined. Habits can be changed, but it’s not easy to change a bunch of them at once. Changing them over time is far easier. There’s no expectation that you’re going to go straight for a small house, but there are many tips for a variety of ways to simplify your lifestyle.

6 Fun Fall Field Trips for Your Family

Fall is coming, the weather is cooling off in many places (still HOT here!), but there’s still lots to do outside as a family. While availability and practicality depends on where you live, there are still a number of outings you can take as a family in the fall.

Obviously, any indoor field trips such as to museums work at any time of the year; what I’m focused on here are more seasonal field trips to consider.

1. Leaf Collecting

Fall is one of the best times of the year to collect leaves. Some leaves turn truly amazing colors, and are really fun for kids and parents to collect.

One important consideration is that you must collect leaves where collecting is allowed. It’s not allowed in all areas. Be aware of any restrictions on collecting leaves in parks and other areas, and of course respect the property of others. It may “just be a leaf,” but if you aren’t supposed to collect it, don’t. Close up pictures of leaves may make a good substitute for leaves you can’t take home.

2. Apple Picking

Apple picking is big in my area. There are some very nice local orchards, and the variety of apples is delightful. The cost to do this may or may not be better than what you’d pay at the grocery store, but you’re having the experience of picking the apples too, which can make it all worthwhile. Some apple orchards also have other activities available.

3. Visit a Pumpkin Patch/Farm

I don’t really mean the pumpkin patch in the city, where it’s all prepicked pumpkins stacked all over the place. If at all possible, go where the pumpkins are grown. We have a truly amazing one by us that grows a lot of their own pumpkin varieties, including some really unusual ones I haven’t seen elsewhere.

4. Other Farms

Take a look at what grows in your area and see if now is a good time to visit. Farms can be very interesting in the fall. Farms can have fun activities for the whole family. is a good resource for farms that allow you to pick your own produce.

5. Go Hiking

Do you have a favorite place to go hiking? Take some hikes during the fall to see how it changes with the weather. This field trip can be done repeatedly to really get an idea of how things change as fall progresses. Make sure to take pictures, especially of places and things you can compare as the weeks go on.

6. Go Birding

Kids love to watch birds, and the cooler fall weather makes for a pleasant time to look for them. While it’s not in fall, consider participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count in February. Now could be a good time to practice identifying local birds so you’re ready.

Walking to School Encourages Children’s Independence and Responsibility

My kids have been back in school a couple of weeks now, walking themselves there without me. They’ve always walked to school, as we live within a quarter mile of their school, but in years past one or the other has been at an age where I had to handle the pickup. Now they’re old enough to walk on their own. This, I believe, is great for their independence and responsibility.

I did walk them the first two days of school. Those are the days when everyone’s getting used to the school, and things were just plain hectic around the school. We had people parking their cars around the corner from our house because the school lot and the rest of the neighborhood was so full. Even more so than the rest of the school year, I refuse to drive them the first days because we’d end up parked in our own driveway for the best possible spot.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy letting them walk on their own. Parents taking their kids to school are sadly not always the most alert for pedestrians, even when those tend to be other children. But I’ve taught my kids to be extra careful crossing near the school, and fortunately there are often other students and parents crossing at the same time.

That’s just one way walking to school encourages independence and responsibility. They have to decide when to cross a rather busy street to get to school. The street is only busy during the times people are dropping off or picking kids up, but during those times it’s really busy.

They’re also responsible for getting to school on time this way. Once they’re out that door, they can’t rely on me to remind them to keep moving, no matter what neat things they want to investigate on the way.

I also see benefits in how happy my kids are. They’re so proud to walk to and from school on their own, something I was allowed to do much younger. They have house keys for on the off chance that I’m not home when they get there (I don’t expect that to happen, but one can’t always plan for things) or if I lock the door and don’t hear the doorbell. They’ve had those for a while, actually, but now they have more chance that they’ll actually be used.

I know that we’re lucky. Not everyone lives all that close to their children’s school, or in neighborhoods safe enough to allow kids to walk there on their own. We have these advantages, and so mine walk rather than get driven to school. It’s fun, healthy and saves quite a bit of gas. Given the amount of traffic I’d have to get through, it’s also faster than driving them to school in our situation.

This is something I really encourage. Having kids walk to school has a lot of benefits. It’s really worth it if it’s a possibility for your family.