Baby gifts I wish you wouldn’t give me

 
Since I’ve been on a bit of a parenting theme, I thought I would share something else I was passionate about in that vein – gifts that I  would rather not have that nevertheless seem to be very commonly given.  Followed by some useful suggestions if you are considering gifting to a family with a new addition.  Here is my list of “no-no’s”:

1). Newborn sized clothes (and other clothing mishaps):

It might seem to be the most intuitive gift you can give a new baby, but it really is not that helpful.  Many of us know someone that has had a baby and given us some hand me downs.  Chances are we already have a good stash of clothes to fit the baby by the time he or she arrives.  If you really must buy us clothes, consider buying in the 6-12 month range, and purchasing from a second hand store.  Some of us who have big babies don’t even end up using our 0-3 month clothes for very long.  Furthermore, there really is no need to buy “new” clothing items for babies at this age, as many items in the thrift shop will be new or like new anyway.  Some people’s babies completely bypass certain wardrobe items based on seasonal inappropriateness of sheer size of the baby when they were born.  It is just super wasteful to buy new items when you can re-use.

And if you do buy us clothes, please consider buying us functional items.  We don’t need fancy dresses and awkward coveralls that will just sit in the drawer because they are difficult / impractical to use. Get us some onesies, soft pants, or zippered sleepers.  Do not even consider buying me something with buttons.  Snaps I will tolerate.  Buttons?  Seriously, it’s 2015 here.  Take a look at the item and see if it will be difficult to get on and off of baby, or if it will impair their movement at all.  If the answer to one of these questions is yes, it will likely just sit in the drawer and go to the thrift shop.  

Finally, please avoid buying things that say “little princess” or “Daddy’s MVP” – just no.  It may sound cute to you, but many of us don’t like to genderize our kids this way.  Best to buy items that don’t have text at all, just fun colours and patterns please!

2).  Thick polyester blankets, those “blanket & buddy” sets, and stuffed animals in general:

You know what I’m talking about.  Those god awful thick, sweaty sets that come with a blanket and a matching stuffed animal, or any other such mishap.  Babies don’t do well in polyester blankets.  They don’t allow baby’s skin to breathe.  Cotton / natural fibres only, please.  And we don’t need a matching stuffed animal to go with it.  In fact, just no stuffed animals in general.  Especially if I have an older child as well, because then it just ends up in their already massive collection that began when they were a newborn getting matching stuffed animals and blanket sets.  And everyone thinks we need a blanket, so we end up with 10 blankets that take up half the closet.  If you are going to buy us blankets, go for the Aden & Anais swaddlers or other such muslin lovelies.  Especially because they are too expensive for me to justify purchasing myself!

3).  Baby related knick knacks:

It’s sweet and all, but it’s just another thing that I have to dust, and that eventually may get thrown on the ground and broken by my children.  There is going to be enough baby related stuff around that serves a functional purpose, that I don’t need to add to the clutter with a decorative item.  Please just leave that stuff in Pier 1 and walk away.  Walk.  Away.

“So what can I get you, then?”

Well, I am so glad you asked.  If you know someone with a new baby and you want to help out by gifting, here are some ideas for you, in addition to the suggestions already mentioned above.

1). Money.  Seriously, write us a check.  So many things come up last minute that you weren’t expecting.  You may have bought something that didn’t work out and need to purchase a different item.  There are so many large items that you need as a new parent that you can’t expect any single person to fund in their entirety, so it’s nice to pool money towards these things.  Not to mention just the ongoing costs of things like diapers or a diaper service, formula for moms who are unable to breastfeed, food for that super hungry new breastfeeding mama, childcare costs……the list goes on.

2). Food.  Come by with some yummy take-out.  Prep us some freezer meals.  Give us some restaurant or grocery store gift cards.  We always need to eat, and it is so lovely to not have to worry about cooking a meal when welcoming a new addition.

3). A quality toy or activity for my older kid.  Read: an educational and preferably quiet toy or activity, hopefully not composed of cheap plastic.  Or better yet, come take him out to the park to play.  He is likely feeling neglected with all the extra attention going to baby.  Showing him some love is showing some love for the new baby, as the emotional balance hangs by a thread in the early days.  The more balanced everyone is feeling, the more quality time can be invested into the new life.

4). A one of a kind, handmade item for baby.  If you really feel the need to give us a token for the new arrival, consider purchasing something that is special, ethically sourced, and uniquely crafted – or handmake yourself.  Again, make it something that baby can use later on and not just for a few days in the early weeks (ie. don’t knit me a sweater that only fits up to ten pounds – if you put that much effort into something, I want to be able to use it)!  One beautiful idea of something to purchase is a Bamboletta doll or something similar (there are many beautiful creations for babies on Etsy).  Something unique and made with love, that this child would use for years to come.  And something we definitely could not afford to purchase for ourselves!

I hope this list helps you in your search for that “perfect gift” for the new arrival in your life.  Your loved ones will thank you for your thoughtful consideration, and you will feel satisfied that your gift is being used to it’s full potential!  Happy gifting 🙂

Stop buying me plastic junk!

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So today, after going through much of my house in preparation for a move, I really felt motivated to write a thought piece. A thought piece on all the junk I’ve been finding in my house, and my plan to avoid more of it in the future!

Let’s start with a list of all the utter junk and garbage I have been finding in my house:

1). Half used, expired, and unusable personal care products (largely leftover from my pre-DIY days).
2). Expired and half used medications.
3). Broken, random plastic items like toys & parts from toys, parts, lids, thingamajiggers that belong to nothing, that “I wonder what this is from?” kind of junk. The kind of stuff you keep for three years, throw out, and then discover what it belongs to three days later.
4). Tupperware containers without lids, and lids without containers. Poor lonely storage items without their romantic partner.
5). Random computer parts, accessories, and old broken cell phones.

The list DOES, unfortunately, go on. However, I am going to stop there, as I think you can get a sense of the kind of stuff I mean. The kind of stuff that really mostly cannot be recycled, up-cycled, or anything. Just garbage. Yes, a few of the containers from personal care products can be recycled, but things like lotion and toothpaste tubes, lip balm dispensers, and all of those lovely impossible to clean, random plastic items are just going to the LANDFILL. And that bothers me, a LOT.

What also bothers me a lot is that I have not been in control of how a lot of these items have entered my home. You know what a lot of people like to give as gifts? Bath and body products! I have never really figured this out. Most people have very personal tastes in these kinds of things to begin with, not to mention skin sensitivity issues, etc. But people seem to love to dish these things out come gifty time. And you smile and nod and say “Ooooh and ahhh, this smells yummy, yada yada…..” But I then am left thinking, great, another lotion to stick in my cupboard. And plastic packaging to eventually hit the landfill. (Ironically, I did give some of my homemade products to family members this year, but all in glass containers, and not wrapped, and with a “love it or lose it, at least you got a nice mason jar” kind of attitude).

Not to mention when you have a toddler, and people then find it entertaining to give your kid crappy little dollar store toys that break in a week, overpackaged big, silly electronic items that flash and are super annoying (and then eventually hit the landfill), and horrible books involving Elmo and other television characters that I have to then sit and read over, and over, and OVER to my very enthusiastic young son.

If you have noticed a pattern here, it’s that I am really, really tired of bringing stuff into my house that I don’t really care for or even use, and then have to shoulder the burden of eventually throwing it in the trash or try ridiculously hard to find an obscure recycling centre for it when it eventually breaks down.

What I am really trying to say is: STOP BUYING ME PLASTIC JUNK!

In fact, please do not buy me anything at ALL with any kind of plastic or non-recyclable material in it unless I have specifically expressed a personal interest in owning it, to you. Directly. I try very very hard to minimize my use of plastic in my house, but it makes its way in there anyway, and then I feel guilty for trashing it.

This is why I make my own personal care and home cleaning products. (Among other reasons, of course). This is why I buy wooden OR second hand toys for my kid. I buy food products in glass or paper packaging if at all possible, and I bring my own bags to the store. I research the products I bring into my home very carefully, considering all sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives before purchasing something. I cloth diapered my child. I use cloth menstrual pads. I compost all of my food waste and use biodegradable garbage bags for any waste that does make it to the trash bin. If I take a drive, I make sure to get everything done in that location all at once, to minimize my footprint. I use a regular vacuum, a regular broom, and regular cloths to clean up messes. No swiffers or paper towels here.

All of this takes some additional effort, and I would hope that people who know me would understand this, but it sometimes doesn’t seem to be the case. I find that many people just don’t think about things like this to this level of scrutiny. I don’t mean to be rude, I don’t mean to be unappreciative, (really, really I don’t) but I really need to stop this influx of plastic into my house, because I am drowning in it. So it is my plea to everyone to please help me with my goal of plastic reduction – this is the biggest gift to me you can give.

Some ideas for gifts to give to us plastic free folks who may challenge your gift giving creativity once in a while:

1). Experiences – Buy us a membership at a place we regularly visit. Movie tickets and a babysitting offer for a night out. A night at the symphony. Something we would probably love to do, but likely wouldn’t buy ourselves, or would appreciate not having to budget for.
2). Bake or cook for me – I would love some of your home baking or cooking! One less meal I have to cook is a big blessing.
3). Buy me a plant for my garden – Please make it one that is easy to care for, and buy it in a compostable or biodegradable pot.
4). Buy me a gift certificate to my favourite Natural foods store, book store, or soap making store. And iTunes. Good ol’ iTunes bucks, we loves us some good new tunes to drown out the children’s songs constantly twirling our brains. Oh, and can you see if they sell gift certificates in paper or electronic format? I don’t know why they started making all gift certificates look like debit cards, but it is extremely unfortunate for our planet.
5). Offer to watch my kid for a bit – Mommy and Daddy don’t get much alone time that doesn’t involve household chores or being too exhausted to do anything at all. We would love for our kid to spend time with you so we can rest our weary minds and return to parenting with our creativity and patience topped up!

Oh, and if you buy me flowers, PLEASE do not bring them to me wrapped in three layers of plastic! Egads! It breaks my heart to have these wonderful, natural, fragrant lovelies brought in my house, only to be shrouded in something that is destroying the good earth they were grown in.

Want to buy something for my kid?

1). Buy him a class or an experience – Yeah, I know it’s more fun for YOU when you give him something flashy that he oogles at immediately after you give it to him. But in all likelihood, he will get more enjoyment (and intellectual benefit) from participating in an activity or event that he enjoys. And we won’t have to factor it into our budget!
2). Buy him wooden, educational toys – Okay, so you want him to have something physical. First of all, you might want to check with me about what he is into lately, as his interests do vary from time to time. Then find him something made sustainably and out of natural materials. Healthier for him, too!
3). Buy him a quality book – By quality, I am hoping it doesn’t involve a cheap storyline with hashed out TV characters. I really don’t want to hear what Elmo has to say for the 100th time.
3). If it’s gotta be plastic, and I have ASKED YOU for it (remember, I have to have asked you for it if it involves plastic) buy it on craigslist – Please, if I have asked for something that involves plastic, can you try your best to find it second hand for me, and then brag to me about the wicked deal you got? I would love that, and my kid can’t tell the difference between new and used toys anyway.

Oh, and please, no more tea. My tea cupboard is ridiculous. Yes, I have a tea cupboard. An entire shelf devoted to tea. I could open my own tea shop here.

Hopefully, if you feel the same way, you can share this article with your friends and family. I am saying it for you, so maybe they won’t take it as hard 😉