Monday, May 23, 2011

Meet Our Newest Team Member, Claire Williamson!!!

I can't tell you enough how excited we are to have Claire taking over our Tallahassee region.  Never than before have I felt like the mission of Ecological Babies is going to continue to sustain itself, even without my presence (sigh!).  I anticipate Claire's customer service to outshine mine and put my complete trust that you will all welcome her with open arms to our EB community.  Some of you may already know her, as she is an active member in Tallahassee.  Below is her response to some of my questions I asked her to share with you.  I love how she's so open & honest and can relate to so many of us making stepping stones to living a more sustainable life. Serendipitously enough, I recently discovered Claire's son Grant was born only 3 days after Ecological Babies' launch date!  I can't help but wonder how much more we're connected and share similar paths. Maybe you will too....

Here's Claire in her own words...

Hi Everyone!  I am so excited to introduce myself as the newest member of the Ecological Babies team.  I know I am not the only one sad that our friend Jen is moving so far away, but I am thrilled for her family and the opportunities this move will provide for them.  I’ve got some big shoes to fill, but I look forward to the opportunity to pick up the reigns here in the Tallahassee region and carry on the mission of Ecological Babies – Simplicity, Sustainability, Community.

My husband Nathan and I moved to Tallahassee in July 2005 from Nacogdoches, TX so that I could attend graduate school at Florida State University.  I graduated in 2007 with a Master of Music degree in oboe performance.  I’ve been a musician most of my life, and enjoy many different creative outlets.  Most of my musical opportunities these days come in the form of freelance gigs around town, and the occasional out of town orchestra concert.  Locally, I play with the Tallahassee Winds, which is a non-profit community ensemble.  My husband Nathan teaches drama at Deerlake Middle School, and we are both avid volunteers at Tallahassee Little Theatre.  However, he’s the one on stage, and I’m usually behind the scenes sewing costumes or working in the box office. 

On September 25, 2008 we welcomed a precious little boy into our lives.  Our son, Grant, is the light of our lives and keeps us running from dawn till dusk!  When he was born I was working at Tallahassee Little Theatre doing marketing, and briefly entertained the idea of bringing him to work with me.  I gave it the old college try for about 6 weeks, at which point it became painfully obvious it was not going to work.  I was firmly committed to being the one to raise him, and couldn’t bear the thought of taking my constantly nursing, wanting to be held all the time little boy to someone else for the day.  We crunched numbers, pondered and prayed, and decided we could make it work, so I resigned from my full-time job at the theatre and became a full-time mom. 

One of the many ways we decided we could trim our budget was to give cloth diapers a whirl.  I had an old friend in Texas who tried them for a while, and at the time she was my only resource, and a meager one at that since her foray into cloth-diapering lasted less than a month!  When Grant was tiny I was a regular attendee at the breastfeeding support group at A Woman’s Place, where one day I had the great fortune to meet Jen Starks.  She told me about her business, and I was intrigued.  My son has always had a very active bladder.  Come to think of it, all of him is active so it shouldn’t be a surprise!  He peed all the time, and cried to be changed immediately.  We were going through two dozen diapers disposable diapers a day, and it seemed like such a waste of money to buy something, have your kid foil it up, and then toss it in the trash.  Not to mention I was getting really tired of throwing out all those bags of trash, and at the time we were living in an apartment and the trips to the dumpster were getting really old really fast.  I made an appointment with Jen to have a consultation, and she graciously let us come on a Saturday so that my husband (who was totally on board!) could come with me.

We were hooked on cloth from the get-go.  We didn’t buy them on the spot, but went home loaded with information and hemmed and hawed about what to buy.  Since we had made the decision to drop to one income, we wanted to spend wisely.  Finally we decided to go with mostly prefolds and covers, with a couple all-in-ones and pocket diapers to use when we were out.  As I mentioned, Grant peed a lot and demanded immediate changing, so getting anything super-absorbent (or fancy and expensive!) wasn’t really a draw, since even at night if he was even slightly damp he wanted changing – pronto.  The biggest issue I had to overcome was what I fondly refer to as the “poo factor.”  I was not entirely convinced that the poo would rinse out in the washing machine, and had visions of a layer of poo stuck to the drum of my washing machine that would then surely leave a layer of poo film all over all of our other clothes.  Surely we would need a separate washing machine!!!  Well, lo and behold, it really does wash out, they don’t make your washing machine gross, and wonder of wonders, they don’t even stink!   

To a mother considering making the jump into cloth-diapering, the best advice I can share is just try it!  For a relatively small investment (you can get a days worth of prefolds and a cover or two for less than the cost of two mega boxes of Huggies), you’ll have enough diapers to at least try it out.  I would almost guarantee that after giving it a week you would be hooked like I was, and like so many others have been.  When you have a baby, you deal with poop and extra laundry no matter what type of diaper you use, so why not choose one you can use over and over and save for the next tiny bottom that comes along?

The choice to cloth-diaper our son was initially done for mostly economical reasons, but little did we know that it would be the catalyst in a chain of future decisions to create a more sustainable, “green” life-style for our family.  The longer we did it, the more we noticed our thinking towards many other aspects of our life slowly changing shape.  We made small changes over time, often not even thinking about them until looking back.  For example, one day it dawned on me I hadn’t bought paper towels in over six months.  That was in 2009, and I haven’t bought any since!  We changed our eating habits and our purchasing habits, and while we have come very far we still have far to go.  The path towards sustainable, green living is an ever-changing one as more research comes available, as more green products and organic food becomes available and more affordable, and also, we must admit, as public opinion changes.  Our generation has a huge undertaking ahead of us as we work hard to counteract what was once seen as progress – the integration of chemicals and disposable products.  Taking steps toward green living and stepping away from the conventional and familiar can be intimidating, but I look forward to the opportunity to help enact such change and help parents like me see things in a new light.  


Jen & Claire

p.s. You can now reach Claire at!

Ecological Babies, llc 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ecological Babies' Top 3 Recommended Events this Weekend!

Here are our top 3 recommendations for this weekend:

1.  Tour of Gardens (Maclay Gardens)- Saturday from 10-5pm.

2. Healthy Mama, Healthy Baby 5k Walk/Bike/Run- 10:30-1:30pm

3.Prophecy School of the Arts' Annual Student Showcase

Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Summer Fun Contest-Best Smoothies!

Ok, to kick off the warm weather lately, I thought we could cool things down with a smoothie contest.  Post your favorite smoothie recipe and where you found it in our "Albums".  Then everyone will get to try out the recipes and vote for them.  The person with the most "likes" and comments (total between them) will win one of our new Kinderville Silicone Ice Molds.

We often freeze leftover smoothies in these for a sweet treat later.  Can't wait to try these and add them to our smoothie list.  :o)


Good luck & have fun!



Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Simplify Your Diaper Bag

Holy smokes!  I just cleaned out my diaper bag (can't tell you that last time that happened) and it's no wonder I can't find anything in there...ever.  My diaper bag has become a dumping ground for random items I need during each trip, yet I don't make the effort to clean it out right after a trip.

I found single socks, random toys, 3 chapsticks, spare clothes, spilled Easter candy, 3 pairs of sunglasses, extra pair of shoes, sunscreen, receipts and way too much more to list individually.  Recently, I've thought that I need a  bigger diaper bag.  Not today!  Today, I completely cleaned out my bag (literally, as my diaper bag is going through a wash cycle right now!) and am going to attempt to be better at keeping it at bag. I really only need a few things in there for each outing. Instead of thinking that I'm saving time by keeping a bunch of things in the all the time, I want to lightly pack the bag each day (or the night before) and cater it to our plans for the day.  Not only will I be carrying a lighter load but I will actually be able to find what I'm looking for in there with ease.  I can't tell you how many times I didn't think I had an item in there that I wanted only to find it deep in the bottom of my bag buried under junk.

What's in YOUR diaper bag?

If you'd like to ditch the idea of a "diaper bag" all together, I have an alternative suggestion.  Pack a wet/dry bag for all your diapering needs.  In the dry part, put only the amount of diapers necessary, a onesie, & wipes.  Once the diaper has been soiled, you put it in your wet part of the bag.  Then all you need is a small purse for your belongings.  If you plan on only changing the diaper in the car, leave it there until you do the change.  It feels so freeing to only carry around a small purse these days.  Sometimes, I even stick my credit card, ID, and phone in my pocket and do errands.  It's wonderful!!!

Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Celebrate our Motherhood!

Ah, Mother's Day.  Why can't you come every Sunday? :o) I officially like Mother's Day better than any other holidays (even my birthday).  I feel no pressure to plan my day or think about how I'm getting older but can just stop and "feel the love."

It's also my favorite because 2 years ago on Mother's Day weekend, I found out I was pregnant with Tyler.  What a special gift for the weekend!  If you've been reading any of my recent posts, I've been in a great space mentally and I can see the impact it has had on my relationship with my 2 kids.  The amount of quality time I spend with them directly impacts the well-being of everyone in the family.  But I have to admit, I'm wondering if I can keep up the momentum.

I have been doing a few things these past 2 weeks that have been KEY to how things have been going.
1.  Organized-With all the purging I've been doing, I've also be organizing the heck out of everything I want to keep and use in my house.
2.  Efficiency-I've found a few tricks that has saved me a lot of energy and time, so I'm not completely exhausted at the end of the day. For example, I've set up routines for laundry, dishwashing, cleaning up toys.  I've integrated them into the day, so it doesn't all wait for me at night.  I really can't believe how much I'm able to accomplish.
3.  Preparedness- I cannot tell you how much of a difference getting things prepared the night before does on my days.  I'm not a morning person, expecially when I never seem to have enough sleep.  I've been packing lunches, putting things in the car that I need to do the next day, getting my coffee area all set up for easy access, meal planning, and coming up with a couple activities I want to do the next day.  HUGE difference in my life.
4.  Taking Care of Myself- Eating breakfast, green smoothies, more yoga and time  for myself at the gym.  It's like taking a big breath of fresh air.  I am a new person when I meet my own needs.

Despite all this, I can tell you that I have put in more "floor time" and intentional time with my kids than ever.  For example, I spent about an hour just having fun with Tyler on our hammock.  I thought to myself, why don't I do this more often?  We played hide and seek, colored, did puzzles, read books, shared nice meals, went out for frozen yogurt, and all today.  It blows my mind away.

Today, I love being a mother.  I hope you have a wonderful day full of love and laughter.



Friday, May 6, 2011

Ecological Babies' Top 3 Recommended Events this Weekend!

Hopefully the weather will continue to be as beautiful as it has been these past few days.  If so, I know we'll be outside as much as possible savoring these last few days before the heat sets in.  Don't forget sunscreen!

Tallahassee Downtown Book Fair- 9:30-2pm
-This event supports our local library book sale, features local authors and musicians, has food and sounds like a wonderful day outside in our community.
For more details:

Kidsfest at the Fairgrounds- 10am-4pm
-A fundraiser for Kids Incorporated, this is a great family event.  It has kids activities, live performances, lots of tables of local businesses, and a great way to meet other families.
For more information:

Blue Crab Festival in Panacea- 10am-9pm
-Our family attended this festival last year and had a pretty good time.  It's a little bit of a drive, so I recommend bringing a picnic blanket, some of your own snack food, and devote a solid chunk of time there.  They have live music, bounce houses, kids activities, vendors, and a lot of food.  The food, however, is a bit like our festivals downtown-a lot of grease.  BUT the seafood is excellent.  Be prepared to spend some money on the food.  I also love that it's located right on the coast with a beautiful view.

For more details:

What's on your agenda this weekend?

Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Counting My Blessings!

I can honestly say that this week hasn't gone as smooth as last week. Brian just finished up his faculty position on Sunday.  Oddly enough, having Brian home has been a bit of an adjustment period. Who's doing what, when and who's going to tackle some extra time with the kids.  Our balanced has been thrown off.  But like any new adjustment, we get through it and find our rhythm again.

When I get caught up in some of the trials of the day, I often lose sight on what's really important on a grander scale and just how good I really have it in my life.  Today, I'm going to stop and write down some of my greatest moments today I was gifted.  Life is truly good once I can pull away and admire it's beauty.

1.  My son, Tyler, is source of much love and joy in our family.  Today, he was on a kick of going to each family member (and a visiting stranger!) and giving kisses.  He particularly loved giving kisses to my daughter and seeing their growing relationship makes my heart swell.  Sigh!

2.  Rita Clare's sense of self-assurance and maturity astounds me.  For a 3 year old, she understands more about the world and just needs a few extra skills to keep up with the confidence that she can do it all.  The other day, I had the WORST experience ever as a mom.  My keys got locked in the car with both my kids inside.  Yep!  I can feel my heart beating faster just thinking of the situation.  First I called my husband in a panic and told him to rush to me (I was at home).  Then as I'm trying to explain to RC what happened, I decided to try and see whether she could unlock her seat belt.  My first instinct was, "Wait, I don't want her to know how to do this!"  But we calmly walked through it and she DID it!.  I was so proud of her.  She saved me!

3..  My husband surprised me with delivered flowers as an early Mother's Day sentiment.  It stopped me dead in my funky mindset and I couldn't help but recognize how lucky I am that I'm in a great marriage.  We have our stumbling blocks but I'm so grateful for a good life partner who sometimes is a bigger believer in me than myself.

3.  I'm so grateful that I live somewhere that I have access to all the things important to me: clean water, fresh food, a safe community, great preventative-minded family doctor, freedom to live a life of autonomy, kid's nights at restaurants :o), and supportive/unconditional love from friends.  

I have a million more but these are the top tier.  What are some of your blessings today?

Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Monday, May 2, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

This is a phrase that has struck new meaning this morning. In particular, the second half-"want not."  Recently, I have been posting about my journey toward a more simple life and it has been an indescribably freeing experience.

A chosen life of simplicity is not one of sacrifices.  Instead, it is living life the way you want it, to the fullest.  It's the freedom of staying in those precious moments far longer than you can imagine. It's empowering. This past week, I have been repulsed at what possessions I just couldn't let go of that "cluttered" my home and my mind.  Clothes that I might "someday" fit into, candy that has been around for months, little "trinkets" filling in space and collecting dust, books I read a long time ago that I thought I MAY someday want to read again (and didn't!), baby toys that were never really a hit but couldn't let go of (that future baby might like it??), and more.

All these things carried emotional power over me.  The life of consumption is an endless drive that takes over my mind, drains my financial resources, and crowds my space.  Today, I looked at my small bathroom and for the first time, I thought it was the perfect size and looked beautiful with absolutely nothing on the surfaces. I took a few moments and admired the colors, the way the light shown in, and how clean I felt as I stepped out of the shower.  My mind was still.

As I embrace a more simple life, I don't want many things.  The idea of going to Target or another box store that tries to fill my head with "needs" seems unpleasant.  this is completely different from how I normally feel when I head to Target (excitement over deals, etc).  I've stopped thinking I might need something in CVS or Publix a while back, as most of their items aren't what we use or consume.  There's an occasional item or two, but on the whole I drive around not interested in most of the stores.

Does it bring the opportunity of quality time with my family? Am I REALLY going to use it enough times to justify it's need in our home?  Can I borrow something like this from family, friend, or a neighbor for a short period of time?  What happened to our community life?

I've decided this past week, that big warehouse stores like CostCo isn't right for our family anymore.  Sure I save a dollar or two on Cheerioes, easy to make meals, organic broccoli and carrots, etc. But I don't need 4 boxes of crackers (Even the ones I like) taking over my storage or 10 pairs of socks b/c it's a good deal.  I definitely spend more when I'm there, but more importantly, I'm tricked into thinking I need items in there and I don't.  The bulk buying usually has more packaging too.  I'll let my favorite stores buy in bulk and only pick up when we immediately need.  Right now, I have the luxury of it being so close to me (literally down the road).

Buy 1 Get 1 Free at Publix? The $1 section at Target?  No thanks.

Hoping you find the beauty in your moments today,


Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Steps Toward More Simplicity

This past week, I have been shedding excess possessions at levels I never imagined.  I'm fortunate in that our moving process has sparked new energy to organize and see what we don't need anymore.  But beyond that, I've realized that all this clutter and extra "stuff" is sucking up attention and energy away from my children.  I'm not even aware of it but I've realized that I've been full of restlessness that has kept me running, yet I'm exhausted from it. Waste of energy, if you ask me. Regretfully, I haven't really been enjoying the time spent playing with my kids as much as I like to and often when we play, I think about what I still "need" to do.  Yuck!

First of all, someday I hope to reach a point where my happiness isn't based on my accomplishments.  It's ego-based and mostly causes me disappointment because I can never "do" all the things I think I need to do.  When people ask me how I'm doing, the first word that pops in my head is BUSY....What???  Instead, I'd prefer my first thought to be AWESOME, or NEVER BEEN HAPPIER!  I lose touch with people because I get so wrapped up in all my to do lists and that includes my kids. :o(

As the layers of excess has been slowly removed from my home, I'm spending more time using the toys/tools I actually like to use with my kids. Bye bye crappy plastic toy that I kept around because we got it as a gift years ago!! The drawers aren't filled with a mess from things just thrown in there.  I don't have to search through all the items I don't like, we don't use, or doesn't work well. Now I'm only keeping the things of use or will keep for a short period of time (following the geniune interest of my kids).  What a great feeling!

Another thing I've been doing is working on simplicity of my time.  I don't need an action packed day.  We can do things...but much slower. For example, the other day after I dropped my daughter off a preschool, my son Tyler in tow), I decided to stop by our closest library to pay a little fine I had.  Well, the library wasn't going to be open for another 10 minutes.  Waiting 10 minutes shouldn't be a big deal, right?  I honestly considered driving to the bank first and then to come back. I didn't REALLY need to go to the library.  I then looked around and thought, maybe I should walk around a nearby store to kill time.  Kill Time???

But then I stopped and thought, here's a great opportunity to slow down and enjoy these short moments with Tyler.  I put on some nice music, rolled down the window, and blew bubbles in the car.  Tyler LOVED it.  I even had a great time!  I want more of these moments.  I don't want to spend my days doing things FOR the kids and wait to have "me" time.  I want to spend the day WITH the kids with us all having fun.

In just this short week, I have already noticed a difference.  Instead of feeling proud of my accomplishments off my to do list, I'm feeling grateful for my wonderful children.  Instead of trying to get them both to nap at the same time so I can be alone, I'm enjoying their staggered naps and the special time we get to share with each other.  We've been dancing and singing, playing games, taking slow walks, and genuinely enjoying each others company.

Granted I still need some space for myself too.  And I'm a little manic about wanting to get rid of more things in our house.  It's a work in progress but am grateful for this next mindset.

One happy mama,


Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887