Baby Steps

Impact Dash-Baby Steps

I am excited to announce a collaboration between Da Eads and Impact Dash. Some of you may have heard me talking about this but I have been holding out on making an official 'announcement' until the piece was in print. Something about seeing your name officially printed makes it way cooler. Am I right?

So how did this come about? Well my friend Erin over at came to me with an oppurtunity for a website she was currently collaborating with. They were in search of a 'mommy blogger' to chronicle the life of a green parent. At first I was green? But then I started thinking...well I try! I started recycling right after Lily was born, my new years resolution (which I am rocking out!) was to start using reusable bags, and I honestly wanted to use cloth diapers...I did. I just couldn't bring myself to do it! So hey what the heck right?! So started the journey of the a wanna be greener parent.

My new monthly column 'Baby Steps' will feature ways to make small changes as a parent that have a big impact. 'Baby Steps' is built on the idea that not all parents are part of the 'green movement' and are at a loss when it comes to beginning an environmental awareness with our children. Everyone knows the Eads family is not the symbol of green but we still try to make small changes to reduce energy consumption and waste. Usually this not only has an environmental impact but an economic one as well (hey I have to get Michael on board some how)! So this will chronicle some of the things we do and how we try and teach Lily what she can do. Because I have always stood by the belief that it is my responsibility to teach Lily and mold her into the a better person. My first piece centers around the idea that we always want better for our children and teaching and building these steps into their lives is a step in that direction.
I hope you enjoy!

ImpactDash was founded on the idea that an individual’s small choices can add up to have a huge effect. ImpactDash isn’t one expert’s opinions, but rather many voices tackling the issue of climate change in ways that we can in our everyday lives.

Baby Steps

As we teach our children life lessons, we learn a few ourselves.

Stephaine, age 2

Lily (Lil'E) and Mom, Stephaine
Honestly I was never into the ‘green’ movement. If it didn’t bleed red, white, and blue we didn’t support it. Sure, I recycled growing up but only because the military bases I grew up on gave bins and it required little effort. We never talked about why we did it or the side effects of not doing it. And organic food? If that existed in the Piggly Wiggly near Grandma’s house, I never knew about it. We grew tomatoes like good southern women do. Of course my mother sprayed them with a horrible concoction of toxins on a weekly basis. BPA wasn’t bad or even discussed, and cloth diapers were something my great grandmother used before disposables were available in rural North Carolina. We never learned, we never talked and we surely never acted on our environmental impact.
Then I became a mother. I cannot pinpoint exactly what changed. Hormones are an interesting act of nature. They make you do crazy things… like think about the future. Gone were the days of living in the moment and instant gratification. Now I could no longer just worry about my future, but had to consider what it meant for my daughter’s future. Whatever changed it was like a light switch flipped. Would the things that I love about the world still be the same for Lil’ E? Or for her daughter? I felt if we continued on the path we were following, it wouldn’t be. All of sudden I heard what everyone had been talking about for years. All of a sudden I cared.
I realized I wanted better for her. But don’t we all want better for our children? Yet when you ask the average mother what they wish for their children as adults, do you think the first thing they say is a cleaner planet or even sustaining our current state? Doubtful. You get cookie cutter responses of happiness, love, health, education, or financial freedom. I even asked my beloved hippie guru and she gave me the motherly response of ‘total bliss in what she loves.’ If the hippie mom didn’t give me the environmental answer, who would? Maybe that is part of the problem. Modern mothers are so wrapped up in the latest parenting trends, milestones, and new age discipline that we lose our way.
But when you want to act, and you really start thinking about the how, it is a bit overwhelming. Where do I start? What can I do? Do I have time in the midst of my life as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and the ten million other day-to-day responsibilities I juggle between home and work? There is so much information to process. It literally makes my head spin. But the answer is simple. We must. Because if we don’t act then we haven’t given our children the ‘better’ we long for as parents.
With the birth of a beautiful baby girl I am starting a journey to ensure she gets the ‘better’ I desire. It is a slow journey. One that consists of sifting through tons of information from every angle imaginable, then putting it in a language and form she can comprehend. But it is a journey I want Lil’ E to share with me. I want her to understand our impact, and that even she can make a difference. I want her to be greener than her parents ever thought of being, and to lead by example so that other children will follow. You may think this is a big dream to have for a 19 month old, but I am sure she is up for the challenge. After all she will have a partner to travel with.
Baby Steps is a regular column that follows everyday mothers in their attempts to make sustainable choices for themselves and their families. Baby Steps chronicles the joys and surprises of motherhood — with a green twist.
Check it out!

Toddler Earth Day
April 22, 2010

I have been a little slack on posting my two latest pieces on Impact Dash. Please stop by and check them out here. Trying to explain Earth Day to a toddler is complicated, so why not start at the ground level, literally.

Toddler Earth Day
by Stephaine Eads
Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Everyone told me Lil'E was too young to understand Earth Day, and as far as the big picture is concerned, I agree. I cannot sit a two-year-old down and explain climate change or the layers of the ozone. Yet, I wanted to do something with her at the Saturday play date in honor of the day. I came up with the idea to help her plant some vegetables or flowers after she showed interest in helping me weed the flower garden. When I found this adorable Sesame Street Kit at Lowe’s Home Improvement, it sealed the deal. If you want my little girl to be interested in something, slap Elmo on the front and she is sold.

This type of kit is a great resource to get a small child into the spirit of Earth Day. If you don’t want to buy a kit, simply purchase a few Jiffy peat pallets, seeds and plastic kid-friendly gardening tools. They should be easy to use and bright and colorful enough to hold a small child’s attention for the ten minutes it takes to set up the seedlings. I also recommend a handy green house dome (sometimes these come with peat pallets).

By simply adding warm water to the Jiffy peat pallets and covering the seeds with the resulting soil, you can teach toddlers the simple lesson of where plant life originates. In a seed! While planting the sunflower seeds I showed Lil’E a bloomed flower and explained that eventually with a little love (aka water and light) this seed would become the pretty flower she saw in front of her. She giggled in delight at the idea. I also explained that once the flower started growing we would plant it next to her swing set for everyone to enjoy.

The highlights of the activity for Lil’E were the mixing of the dirt after the addition of water to the peat pallets and the sprinkling of the seeds in the soil. I did have to assist with the covering of the seeds, which brings to light that an adult should supervise this activity at all times. Especially if your child is prone to placing items in their mouths. I had to explain more than once that the shovel was not a spoon.

Not only did she learn about the seeds and growing flowers and vegetables, but she now has something to look forward to when we get home everyday…watering her flowers!

Toddler PlayDough
April 15, 2010

Ever wonder what is in Playdough? It is best not to ask becasue no one knows. See below of April's Baby Steps Column or go here Pliable dough that’s not just non-toxic, it’s actually edible — and kind of delicious.

Toddler Playdough
by Stephaine Eads
April 15th, 2010

My daughter received a basket of gifts from my in-laws for Easter. One of the goodies inside was Play-Doh. I hadn’t really thought of giving Lil’E Play-Doh up to this point, and I was excited to see how she would react. Well, she was interested in it alright, interested in eating it. Lil’E was never the toddler that explored with her mouth, so this was uncharted territory for me. She teethed early and the worst case scenario was her using a hand as her teether. This left me perplexed as to what to do. She was enjoying herself so I didn’t want to take it away, but I needed to make sure what she was eating was safe. My biggest issue was trying to figure out what she was eating!

The packaging was very vague as to its contents. It assured that Play-Doh was non-toxic, but did warn that it contained wheat. This did not make me happy. If she is eating it, I wanted to know what was in it; so I set out to find a solution. I went as far as researching on the manufacturer’s website. This is what the Hasbro site stated:

The exact ingredients of PLAY-DOH compound are proprietary, so we cannot share them with you. We can tell you that it is primarily a mixture of water, salt and flour. It does NOT contain peanuts, peanut oil, or any milk byproducts. It DOES contain wheat. PLAY-DOH compound is non-toxic, non-irritating & non-allergenic except as noted: Children who are allergic to wheat gluten may have an allergic reaction to this product.

When I mentioned this problem to my mother, she laughed as I complained about Lil’E’s Play-Doh ingestion. Apparently Play-Doh was not purchased often in our house. Then, just like that, I had a recipe in my inbox for what she described as ‘Yummy Play-Dough.’

Yummy (and Safe) Play-Dough

3 1/2 cups peanut butter (creamy)
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 cups honey
4 cups dry milk powder

In large bowl combine together peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar. Beat in honey and fold in milk powder. Divide into portions and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

Could that be easier? There was no extra plastic packaging, and I had everything in my pantry already. I have to admit it was hard not to sample the concoction while molding a miniature puppy for Lil’E – at least I knew what was in this recipe! Now, this play-dough is only for children that have already been exposed to peanuts and honey with no known allergies. If your child does have a peanut allergy or you are nervous about the introduction of peanuts, try this alternate version:

Non-peanut Play-Dough

2 cups water
2 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup salt
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Bring the water to a boil in a sauce pan, remove from heat and set aside. Whisk together the flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a large bowl. Stir the vegetable oil into the flour mixture using a spoon. Pour the hot water into the bowl and continue stirring. When the dough is cool enough to handle, turn it onto a lightly-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, approximately 10 minutes. Store unused portions in refrigerator.

This recipe is a little more complicated and not quite as yummy, but you still get the fun and the peace of mind knowing what is going in your child’s mouth. For a little extra fun add a drop or two of food coloring.

Kids Consignment
Part 2: Selling
By Stephaine Eads
March 14, 2010

There are two huge consignment sales in my home state of North Carolina that I attend yearly. I whirl through the aisles grabbing cute dresses and plastic kitchens like a pro. But, this January I did something I had not done in the past: I sold items. I was a little nervous at first because I felt like it would be a lot of work. I would usually just throw the items out at a yard sale for a quarter each and they would disappear. But, since I love to consignment shop, I could not forget the benefits of consigning. First, you get to shop early at most sales by consigning the minimum number of items. This was a huge incentive for me as I do most of Lil’ E’s clothing and big toy shopping on consignment. Second, you are going to get more money in the long run; even after the sponsor’s cut of profits you are going to get more than that yard sale quarter. Third, the consignment sale I was participating in could donate the remainder of my unsold items to a local women’s shelter. This way, I was guaranteed a clean attic at the end of the sale without the hassle of dragging the leftovers to Goodwill.
As Lil’ E outgrew clothing or toys we stored them away in our attic. To date, I have been hoarding my items with the dream of another child – justifying packing all the items away by saying I would easily reuse them with the next child. But, then I ran out of room. I refused to give up my Christmas decorations for one more pair of daisy-embroidered jeans, so I needed a plan that did not involve buying a bigger house. Then, I learned any infant toy that did not involve Lil’ E’s excersaucer or playmat was a waste of space in our household. Why would I pack up the toys that she never played with or the toys that I found so annoying I hid them? Then there were the outfits such as the parka that had zero use in the North Carolina winters. With this in mind, I decided to consign in a spring sale to clean house.
The only items housed in our attic are Christmas decorations and tons of baby items. My husband pulled no less than ten to fifteen bins and bags from our attic to sort through. I found myself wondering how she ever wore all of these. It took a solid day’s work to sort through all of the clothes and toys. Some items were a no-brainer to keep, such as the fore-mentioned excersaucer and playmat. But, the bin of stuffed animals and fifty plus onesies had to go. Also, I found that the wipe warmers, infant toys, and clothes that weren’t a favorite or sentimental were a waste of valuable space. This is honestly the hardest part – deciding what can go and what can stay. If you have the dream of more children then this is tough. If you are done being a baby incubator, then dump it all. I dream of that day. The day I can go up and grab it all! Then, I will be able to purchase that nine foot Christmas tree I have had my eye on. Once you know what is staying and going, then you can start the administrative tasks involved in consigning.
Every consignment sale has the same basic process:
1. Consignment sales require that you preregister to sell. This is your first step. Upon registration, you should be given a seller number or a type of ID. This is how the sponsor knows if your item sold and for how much. The same number will be on all or your price tags.
2. Review the seller information/guidelines. This is where the seller fees, the percentage of sales you will receive and the guidelines for acceptable items are located. Just a general rule of thumb: the clothes need to be in good shape (i.e. no holes, minimum to no stains, and free from missing buttons, etc.) – just think: would you buy a shirt that was stained with baby vomit? Probably not. The average seller fee is anywhere from 10-25 dollars per seller and the sale keeps a third while you keep two thirds of your total sales. For example, if you sold $200 dollars worth of items, and the seller’s fee was $15 dollars, you would get a check for approximately $118. The consignment sponsor would keep $66 dollars profit and the $15 dollar fee.
3. Make sure you read the fine print. Some sales donate remaining items to charity or have a minimum price for items (i.e. $3.00 minimum for shoes). My favorite consignment sale requires tags be printed on a certain paper from Office Max and in a certain color. Other sales may require you to use wire hangers and will toss your items if they are not done per the guidelines. Also, most sales have 50%/75% off days and if you don’t want your clothes sold at discount you have to price tag them in a certain color. All this information is captured in the fine print of the seller information.
4. Once you read the fine print and guidelines, you can begin tagging. This is the most tedious part. These are usually generated automatically using an online link. They will have your seller ID and a place for a description and price for each item. Basic supplies for tagging are wire hangers, zip ties, safety pins, card stock in color specified by sponsor, gallon size Ziploc bags, clear packing tape, and a sharpie. It sounds like a lot, but after the initial investment the supplies should last you through more than one sale. Print your tags and begin attaching to items. Clothes tags are usually done with the zip ties and other items with the clear packaging tape holding them onto the item.
5. After tagging is complete you can drop items off at times specified by sponsor. A tip about this process is to print the map prior to drop off. As the seller, you have to drop the items off in their designated selling areas. For example, clothes are sorted by gender and size – it helps to have that pre-sorted and ready. A map of the area should help you achieve this more efficiently. Bring a stroller or wagon to carry your items around for sorting.
Those are the basic steps to selling but a few trade secrets exist as well. For example, I don’t recommend anyone selling until you have shopped a few times. A few things you pick up while shopping:
1. Get a feel for the prices. I typically price about 50-65% off retail price. That pretty much guarantees the items are purchased during the sale.
2. Look at how clothes are hung and tagged. You want to secure them in a way that they won’t fall off the hanger and two piece outfits don’t get separated. This is why zip ties and safety pins are a consigner’s best friend. I zip tie every piece of clothing to a hanger so it cannot fall off. I safety pin bottoms to tops, etc.
3. There is a trick to shoes at every consignment sale. Bring a few paperclips and hang them in the shoe area. By bending the paperclip it creates the perfect shoe hanger for a pair that is zip tied together. Some sales use Ziploc bags and clear packaging tape for shoes. It just depends on the sale.
4. Observe the quality of the items being sold. You will notice at the end of the sale the stuff that is left is usually not clean or in bad shape. Even worse, it may be priced extremely high for the quality. Clean up items as much as possible before selling.
These are all items you pick up by shopping. That way you are prepared for your first selling experience. I have to admit after my first sale I took about $130 dollars worth of stuff and only ended up making about $35 after fees, supplies, and sponsor profit. But, I got a lot of items back. I then realized that I was pricing too high and the items I got back would not sell at those prices. Lesson learned. Now, I have a better feel for what an item can be sold for. When I consigned the following sale, I hardly got any items back. I might have room in my attic for that Christmas tree by next year!

Consignment Sales
Part One: Shopping
By Stephaine Eads
February 22, 2010

Consignment sales are popping up all of the country from churches to local mother’s groups. The basic concept of a consignment sale is families selling their gently used children items at a centralized location. The sponsor keeps a cut of the profits and the families get a check for their sold items and the satisfaction of a clean closet. The primary difference between a consignment sale and a consignment shop is the length of the sale. A typical sale last less than a week, has a larger selection, and boasts lower prices than a shop.

There are more reasons than simple economics to consignment shop. Consignment sales reduce waste by reusing toys, clothes, and shoes. Furthermore, little to no packaging waste is present from these items. Most toys are out of the package and ready for play. But we must not forget the personal benefit of not having to assemble the toys and fight with the torturous twisty ties. After all these are a parent’s arch nemesis.

I remember exactly when my Mommy friend introduced me to the world of consignment sales in February 2008. I was six months pregnant with my daughter and determined to raise her on a limited and eco-friendly budget. My friend Baker said she had just the place for me: consignment sales. I didn’t even know these existed in a context other than my local thrift store. But Baker had been consignment sale shopping since she was pregnant. With her recent decision to be a stay at home Mom, she found it a necessary task to help maintain their current lifestyle. She now volunteers and sells at a handful of sales around the area.

When I walked into the warehouse style building it was liked I had walked into the pearly gates of Mommy heaven. But heaven was a bit overwhelming. Every item imaginable for children, newborn to teenager, was within view. I was an amateur at the time, and just wandered around grabbing what I thought was a good deal and throwing it into a stroller. I remember looking over at Baker and wondering how she seemed to be doing so much better than me. Of course her daughter was six months old at the time and she had obviously been to more than one of these sales. With list in hand, and a sense of focus, she trucked on and ended up with more than one envy-worthy deal. Over the year I have become quite the professional consignment shopper, and can clothe my child for an entire season for about 150 dollars. This includes holiday dresses!

There are some definite tricks of the trade to be a successful consignment shopper. This is not an instance you can go in blindly and wander the racks for the deals as I once did. At least not if you want to come out with items you actually need. Here are a few secrets to effective consignment shopping:

1. Early shopping. Look into early shopping opportunities. For example, a lot of sales will let volunteers, sellers, first time mothers, mothers of multiples, or pregnant mothers shop a day early. Just search the website and register. This guarantees you get the best loot and the crowds are smaller.

2.Map. Obtain a map of the sale layout. This is especially useful in larger sales. This will keep you focused and prevent aimless wandering. The sales are fairly busy so keeping focus is important in the madness.

3. Lists, lists, lists. Pre-plan by making a list of all your needs/wants. For example, in January I look for spring/summer clothes for my toddler including shorts, short sleeve shirts and sandals. Sales are usually bi-annual and seasonal making this task easier. Be as detailed as you can by listing the number of a certain item you need (i.e. five pairs of shorts, two pairs of jeans, white sandals). Use your map to locate where listed items are located and plan accordingly.

4. Research. If your kid loves the kitchen at Susie Q’s, note the make and model and tuck it away. Even better look up the retail price, that way you know if you are getting a good deal. It is not unusual to see a few of the same toy with different prices. Knowing in advance the new price will help you determine if it is a good deal for the condition it is in.

5. Think Big. Big ticket items should be your first stop. I remember when I was looking for a wagon for Lil’ E it was impossible to find. This is a hot consignment buy. Clothing should be your last stop. Just like any good sale, the good stuff goes first!

6. Think Fancy. I buy all of Lil’ E’s special occasion attire at consignment sales. Every Easter, Christmas, or portrait dress has been second hand. The reasoning? These are items your kid only wears once. That means the other kid probably only wore it once as well. They are always in great shape, and they are easy to spot on the racks. I usually don’t pay more than $5-15 dollars for a dress on consignment where at retail prices would cost me no less than $50. Don’t forget dress shoes!

7. Bring a stroller and reusable bags. Carts are not usually provided so this is an excellent way to cart your goodies while shopping. If you are just clothing shopping a large reusable shopping bag is extremely handy. Also beware that some sales charge you for bags, and they are mandatory for security reasons. If you bring your own you can avoid the added cost.

8. Bring a friend, but leave your children at home if you can. The lines can be long during core hours so be prepared to wait. A friend to chat with, or divide and conquer, can be a valuable tool. If you do have to bring your children, be prepared with entertainment such as a favorite book, and a few snacks.

These combined with a little bit of practice can help you to be an effective shopper. It is very easy to be overwhelmed or get wrapped up in the excitement of it all and end up with a huge pile of items you didn’t necessarily need. If you do feel overwhelmed just refer back to your list and ask yourself if you really need it.

Remember to wash all of your clothes when you get home, and wipe down all toys with a disinfectant prior to play.