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Tonight my wife is holding the Quarterly Stickholder’s Meeting of the Cortina Babysitting Co-op.

Yeah, WTF? (as Steve Harman would say, ‘wow, that’s fantastic!’)

Last year I wrote about building community within your community and discussed the various ways that my wife has rallied others in our local community to get to know each other, stay involved and serve each other.  It really has been amazing and it has created a community that makes it hard for anyone to leave.  I recently went through some thoughts of moving and we couldn’t find anything weighing heavier than the friends we’ve gained in our community.

Babysitting Co-op CurrencyOne of those things used in the neighborhood is the Babysitting Co-op.  You see, when we moved in, we had one child (2 years old).  We didn’t know anyone really and starting meeting people through neighbors, church, etc.  But it quickly became apparent to my wife that she needed some free time to do things when our daughter was either napping or when she just didn’t need a screaming child darling angel with her, like trips to grocery, hair appointments, whatever.  She started doing some babysitting swapping with others.  She would watch someone’s kids on Monday, they would watch our daughter on Tuesday, etc.  We also instituted date night co-op, where 4 couples would enter into an agreement that once a month you would watch 3 other couples’ children so they could go out.  It worked out pretty well for a while until everyone’s families started growing too much…we essentially had a free babysitter 3 weekends out of every month.

This grew into a broader co-op utilizing this service.  The currency is popsicle sticks.  Large ones represent one hour of time, smaller ones are half an hour.  The cost is one stick/hour/child.  It has grown to quite an ordeal now that they only allow people to enter into the co-op once per quarter, hence the Quarterly Stickholder’s Meeting.  Tonight, everyone in the co-op shows up and bids for the shift they want.  Aside from the random "I need a sitter for 2 hours this afternoon” requests, they have instituted ‘shifts’ so that you are essentially always guaranteed to have someone to watch your kids from 9am until 3pm, Monday through Friday.  There are also weekend shifts for date nights as well.  So when you watch someone’s kids, you earn sticks.  You then trade those in for someone watching your kids, etc.  It’s a barter.  It’s a very safe system where you are in control and everyone knows everyone anyway.  If you don’t like Sally and don’t want her watching little Bobby, then you don’t accept her offer.

Anyhow, tonight’s meeting (as I was put in charge of minting new sticks [read: stamping]) reminded me of this incredible resource that has grown over the past few years and how much of a machine it is in our neighborhood.  Weird, but helpful.  And it works.

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