Monday, March 31, 2008

Buy Nothing Challenge

Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008

Click through if you're game for an exercise in controlling your consumption for the month of April. Crunchy Chicken's at it again! A bunch of bloggers who are fumbling towards a greener life (ok, that's me, lots of them have actually made great strides!) are publicly committing to buying nothing for a whole month. Obviously, food and medicine are fair game (although I think I will try to eat as much as I can from the stores we've got -- and buck up, little immune systems! When I was a kid, we didn't even *have* amoxycillin). I keep talking about trying to stop consuming -- this is just what I need!

xo Read more!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Monday Memes Part I

Hey, I told you I was a navel-gazer! I was tagged by the Ex-Ex-Patriate's Kitchen (I know, excellent name, right? excellent writing and ideas, too) with a meme so here's a random Q&A 'bout MamaBird:

Ten Years Ago
Ten years ago I was a new teacher working on a masters degree in education at UC Berkeley. I was newly married, and a few months shy of acquiring our beloved furry friend, Xerxes. Living in Oakland, in a sweet, sunlit cottage with a trumpet vine we had to battle to keep off the roof, jasmine crawling over all our railings, sweet peas rampant on the walls, and a dim sum bakery with sticky rice-banana leaf and black bean paste buns within striking distance.

What's On My To-Do List
Getting my baby a passport and my five year old ballet slippers. Filing all the papers that have accumulated in my life since this baby was born. Reading 17,000 books and blogs. Finding the elusive balance between work and parenting. Figuring out how to force myself to find the time to exercise. Starting seedlings for the garden. Sending a care package to some tiny penpal friends we've made. Calling my grandmother. Coordinating the DC Cares visit to my kid's elementary school. Figuring out how to donate a high chair to the victims of the Mt. Pleasant fire. Making edible playdough, and basic muffin/pancake mix. Baking bread. Learning to sew on a machine. Seeing an old friend who's in town. Trying to assemble my composter that composted the directions on how to assemble the composter.

If I Became A Billionaire
Money is freedom, in my book. I would create incredibly interesting, challenging, part-time and flex-time jobs for parents that tapped into the reserve of talent chafing at the bit to tackle important issues but wishing to focus on their families to boot. I would pay top dollar and harness some brilliant consultants to make sure the project would sustain itself *and* provide equitable returns for all participants. Then I'd hire someone to help me assemble my composter.

Three Bad Habits

  1. Bad guesstimator. For instance, when I took my daughter to a gymnastics birthday party today, I brought not one, not two, but three books to read in ninety minutes. I am a fast reader. Not that fast. Also? I like to chatter. Pages read? Zero.
  2. Avid reader. To the point of neglecting ah, how do I put this? The domestic sphere.
  3. Overthinker. I live very much in my Head, lots in my Heart, could stand to live more in the Actual World Right Now.

Five Jobs I Have Had
  1. Stamper out of plastic feet for an orthotics company (think heavy machinery and thumbs without feeling for many months).
  2. Database manager/info systems manager for a social services agency
  3. Public speaker for The United Way
  4. Produce prepper at health food store
  5. Tutor for Upward Bound

Five Things About Me
  1. Orangatuan-armed
  2. Anchovy-loving
  3. Herringbone-braiding
  4. Pile-making
  5. Single eyebrow raiser
I'm going to pass the baton to Mommies Think Too, our partner blog for the Little People Care Package Swap. We are so excited to mail our package and get yours, too!

P.S. My belly? In my dreams. Photo courtesy of Imaspy at SXC.
Read more!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Things I Love About Moms I Know

I love this thread on DC Urban Moms and Dads. My contribution's below - add your own in the comments (consider it an early Mother's Day homework assignment if you like, only you get to appreciate every mother under the sun, not just yours! no limits!)

Things I love about moms I know:

I love the stay at home mom with 3 kids under the age of 5 whose little boy peed right out the leg of his shorts in the feed store who did not even get one iota of upset with her boy or even try to clean it up, just moved right along patting his head. I love laid back parenting.

I love the mom with a little girl who had unexplained seizures for days when she was one that only showed up like a little frozen blip in her expression. This was a working mom who asked her nanny if she saw them (she didn't) and then pressed on even though everyone she talked to thought she was imagining things. When the doc confirmed it -- when he gave her the meds-- he said how astonished he was that she picked it up, that most kids weren't diagnosed until age 7 or 8 when they can articulate themselves better. I love moms who are so in tune with their kids and don't doubt their hunches.

I love the mom who called her own mom, sobbing, from the ambulance when her kid was on the way to the ER because his bronchitis made his lungs collapse and her tiny one year old baby was in danger. I love moms who need and love their moms *and* their babies. Also stories that turn out well (the baby is fine).

I love the mom who's agonizing about whether or not her child is struggling with a physical/developmental barrier to writing, who's not sure whether she should push her kindergartner or even do anything about it because she believes so wholeheartedly in play and social/emotional growth but also is competitive and the other kids are writing! writing words! why isn't my kid writing stories! and yet she has the most amazing imagination! I love moms who are smart and empathic and love their kids and realize the part our adult egos play in parenting.

I love the mom who's raised her one child solo and vents to me about how her daughter argues with her constantly or worse, ignores her and doesn't visit or call (I am the one with daughter's remorse, trying to explain the madness of being an evil, unappreciative child) and still does things like quietly take a second job just as she could retire ("just for 8 more years") so she can send her daughter to graduate school, or help her buy a house. I love moms who sacrifice uncomplainingly and continue to love their kids even when their children are ingrates (thanks, mom!).

I love the mom who talked me into sharing her community garden with her even though I fought tooth and nail telling her I didn't have time, the mom who calmly got me down there with my 2 kids in the dirt and sat back, smiling, as we all got to plant lettuce seeds and muck about. Who cares if we grow anything? I love moms who reach out and connect with other moms in the fog of parenting.

I love the moms in my neighborhood I barely knew who brought me meals and hand-me-downs when I had my first child.

I love the dad who lives by the dog park who, when we walked by with our newborn (mind you we'd walked by 5,000 times with our dog before this) in the bjorn, RAN out of his house, yelling, "Congratulations! I'm Sam's dad!" like he was welcoming me to the friendliest subculture on Earth, which he of course was: kind parents.

Photo courtesy of Garrison Photography/sxc.
Read more!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Toxic Animal Feedlot Emissions Need To Be Reported -- Tell the EPA

There's big money lobbying the government on behalf of big meat operations. Time to speak up!

If you're short on time, save the articles referenced below, and cut and paste the following email asap (the deadline is Thursday, March 27, 2008) to express your disapproval of the EPA's plan to loosen already-lax reporting requirements for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs - those giant farms packed with animals raised for our dinner tables). You may remember the story about the entire family killed in a manure pit in 1989 after succumbing to methane fumes? Well, the toxic gases escaping from giant animal feedlots are contributing to global warming and pollution, as well as endangering farm workers.

Tell the EPA you want clear reporting of hazardous air emissions by CAFOs by emailing - make sure that you reference the docket ID in both your email subject line *and* the body of your email. The talking points below are from the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

re: EPA Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-SFUND-2007-0469

1. CAFOs emit significant amount of hazardous air emissions, including ammonia, methane and other volatile organic compounds. These emissions can threaten the health of rural residents and neighboring communities. EPA does not have the authority to deny rural residents and communities the protections of CERCLA and the Community-Right-to Know law.

2. CAFOs can take steps to reduce and control ammonia and other hazardous air emissions from animal waste. The CERCLA-EPCRA reporting requirements provide an incentive for CAFOs to improve their management of hazardous substances and include the cost of that control in their business plans. EPA should not ignore its legal duty to protect the public from hazardous air emissions for the special benefit of CAFOs.

3. EPA is well aware of the dangers posed by other on-farm sources of hazardous air emissions. EPA does not propose to change the reporting requirements for releases of hazardous substances to the air from any other source other than animal waste at farms. For example, releases of ammonia from ammonia tanks most still be reported. Ammonia releases from animal waste pose the same hazard to public health and the environment as releases from ammonia tanks. There is no legal, scientific, or rational basis for EPA’s decision to favor the CAFO industry with this exemption.

For helpful action alerts and summaries of other agricultural issues, check out the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. Read more!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Baby Speaks Canine?

Our four year old child is an invaluable baby translator. Na-na-na-na bah-bah-bah-bah da-da-da-da. What did he say, girl? He said he wants some more blueberries, Mom. Most of the time, her suggestions keep the smaller child happy, and since said baby can't be bothered with sign language any more than with the pesky gutteral talking business, she's our best bet. Lately, though? I've been wondering if both children speak canine. Where is Temple Grandin when I need her?

On a rotating basis for the last, oh, fifteen months, my children and pet have succeeded in cracking open the depths of my slumber and testing my mettle in the wee hours. Let me note up front, this is no CIO debate. I have no desire to wake the sleep demons in the universe. I'm just noting the uncanny frequency with which the children and animule seem to be able to tag-team the adults in our household.

For example, last week, the baby woke up in agony about 2-3 times a night for the first couple days. Extra bottles and snuggling for him, agony and sand in the eyelids for me. What did I find when staggering down the stairs at 6am with selfsame chirpy child? Dog vomit. Nothing like a slimy pool of hurl between the toes in the morning. I swear, I saw the baby try to high-five the animal.

Then, mid-week? Our girl began waking. Bad dream? Check. In the morning? Shredded diaper fished out of the trash and harvested of pungent, potential snacks (talk about reuse). Aaaaigh! Later in the week? Sore throat, coughing, general need to snuggle and test-drive the adult pillows in the Parent Bed in the pre-dawn. In the am? Homemade honey-wheat bread crumbs marking the spot where critical fodder for lunchbox PB&J's once sat. Aaaaigh.

Again, is this animal receiving midnight messages? Do he and the children have this worked out in advance? Is it a non-verbal, pre-human language? Are both camps simply smelling the weakness of the adults in response to sleep deprivation? Maybe it's my imagination that they seem to have an elaborate baton-passing system to determine who's going to torture me next.

This is, after all, the dog who got couvade when I had morning sickness with my first child, the dog who triggered waves of competitive vomiting between the two of us when I was, horrifyingly, working from home and trapped in his proximity during my daughter's pregnancy. This is also the dog who, if the children are blissfully both in good health and sleeping soundly without disruption through the night, inevitably begins to either whine frantically or dry-heave at the back door.

He's always been much more than a dog; he sits in our glider upright with his muzzle tossed back to one side like a grandfather dozing in his rocker. And our daughter certainly considers herself kin to the animal; when she was about two she memorably announced: "I'm a little bit Baby, a little bit Big Girl, and a little bit Lab." In the end, I think, that's the piece that matters. They're closer than most. Whatever it is they speak--whatever the common currency for my torture--it's a shared language, a sibling-like mind-meld of loyalty and love. And that, of course, speaks volumes about the importance of the furry one in our family life, vomit or no.

Originally posted at DC Metro Moms. Photo courtesy of SXC.

Read more!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Letting Go and Just Saying No: Eco-Thrift via Organization

Discardia is happening right now -- let's join in! To celebrate Spring, clear out old clutter and ideas and make room for the new: new ideas, new life, new (truer to one's) self.

Discardia is the time to get rid of things that no longer add value to your life, shed bad habits, let go of emotional baggage and generally lighten your load.... One thing you might like to consider is the idea of culminating the Discardian season with a particular act of letting go. For example, on the Discardian new moon you might decide that you won't buy anything or bring anything into your home and that you will instead just enjoy the fact that you have enough. (metagrrl via LifeHacker)
Definitely my kinda holiday. I love how the stars align sometimes to reinforce mutual objectives. In my case, organizing, thrift, and ecological awareness all dance together like elusive plums almost within my grasp. But no guilt here, just excitement at the baby (feotal?) steps I've taken and those I plan to tackle. If you know me IRL, you know that I am about as messy as a person really can be in this universe. I love the creativity that spontaneity can bring, and I won't give it up. I love sacking laundry in favor of a walk in the woods. Yet I also want to honor the side of me that loves structure and order. I truly believe that organization can free you up to be creative. I want, therefore, to fine tune my balance between the two.

Here are some resources I've gathered to help me build structure into my life:
  • Getting my mind around valuing what we already have is a key part of my strategy; I find that whenever I organize and purge -- be it toys or clothes or kitchenware -- that I rediscover old favorites. I use what I keep more effectively because I can access it, I remember where it is, and I've consciously chosen to have it. Rotating our toys -- both within our house and among friends and family -- also increases their entertainment value.
  • No Impact Man recently interviewed BC Professor Juliet Schor, author of Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture and co-founder of the Center for a New American Dream. As they discussed America's planned obsolescence-based materialistic culture, Schor mused, "If we treated the material as sacred, we might become more spiritual about the way we consume and that might help us solve some of our problems." I like this image. Valuing, even revering the items we choose to keep in our homes. As we've chosen to live in a small space, this resonates with me. With a couple kids, we are at the point that we have to consider our physical surroundings.
  • This post links basic principles of leading an organized life (acquiring less, purchasing items of high quality so you can use them for longer, trying to use virtual storage/bill-paying, simplifying, saying no to things you don't need, and downsizing by giving away or selling your unused stuff) with a basis for respecting the environment. Reminded me of the great quote by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, who, when asked if he wanted a goody bag for his keynote speech at an enviro conference, said, "Thank you, but I have everything I need." (via Treehugger)
  • A Parent Hacks post on the Top 20 Tips for Organization, Kid Optimization, and Happiness included the following promising tips: attitude-wise, remembering to be on your kid's "side" when defining a problem with entropy (ie the child is never the problem); creating toy libraries so the next toy to be played with has to be checked out; using timers to easily carve out manageable chunks of time for children (we do this for toy cleanup/tooth brushing with intermittent success and I'd like to build on this); and creating calendars so that even small children can visualize the flow of their days.
In general, I'm finding that to really change our habits, instead of reacting to the chaos, I have to step outside of what I think a house ought to look like. A small example? I work in our living room since our baby sleeps in our former office. But I hadn't adapted to that reality. Now that I've cleared out an entire bookshelf of parenting books (smile) to allow for filing and office organization, every horizontal surface in our living room isn't covered with papers. Another example? Slapping up 5 hooks at my kid's height so that she can hang up her own backpack and coat when she comes in the door. As it turns out, the hooks don't punch holes in the wall by the back door. They don't look strange. What they do is empower my child to take control of her own environment. Today, after hanging up her own coat (and her brother's!), she walked around the house "picking up and organizing" without my asking!

What do you have in mind for this season of lightening your load?

Read more!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Organic Ownership

Some great graphics came out recently to show the parent ownership of organic companies. Can you say gobbled up? Do you know who makes your fair-trade organic chocolates? Why yes, that would be the same people making your Twizzlers. Really interesting info and wonderfully presented for those of us who are visual learners.

Check out this animated graphic (takes about a minute to load) and these charts illustrating the organic industry's structure via the NYTimes blog Well. Philip H. Howard, Michigan State University assistant professor of community agriculture, recreation and resource studies created the graphics.

See also this visual representation of organic ownership (Howard again) in Good Magazine. Read more!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Eco Easter Excitement

Hey, peeps! Are you bristling with excitement about Sunday's highly-anticipated diorama unveilings? Did you make the mistake of eating some of your supplies? Need to recover from the dye-and-preservative overload?! Check out the following ideas for natural Easter egg dyes and decorations:

I so totally want to do this next year (note to self -- must start at least one week ahead of time if not two): wheatgrass for the Easter basket. (via Ecobites)

To eat: hard-boiled "ruby eggs" -- they're dyed with beet juice and look lovely. You need to let them soak overnight and you only need the juice, so I'm thinking I will make beets tomorrow with extra water and then have simple beet salad around (olive oil, sea salt, and lemon) with the purply eggs. Mmmmm. (ruby eggs via A Veggie Venture)

To go in the basket: fresh spring vegetables. Gotta hit the Saturday farmer's market 'cause the big bunny comes early on Sunday. We've done this from the get-go, so my daughter associates Easter with both chocolate (from her grandparents) and fresh spring nibblings. Such a time of renewal, with fertility eggs and tender shoots.

And, I have to say I haven't tried the natural food dye ideas out yet but found a great post just this morning warning me that beet juice (my old standby!) doesn't dye the egg shells. Whoa, nelly, serendipitous timing! (via Slow Life France)

Here are other links I have collected on enviro Easter -- hope they help you play around with nontoxic color and green rabbiting this weekend:

Read more!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How to Rescue Your Mood

I've got a good Friend... No, really, it's not a wink wink situation! And this person has got a job they're not really loving because the direct supervisor seems to not realize what a terrifically smart and funny person Friend is, doesn't respect said Friend or see what a freaking superstar Friend is. It's an evil scenario, which, if you've been there, beats down your self-esteem something fierce. Here's the challenge: Friend asked me today for any tips and tricks I have to pick myself up, to lighten my mood during the day. Friend can't leave this job. Not possible in Friend's life scenario. So I've got to help Friend fake it until Friend makes it. Either out of the job or out of caring about Evil Supervisor.

I have another friend who's completely gifted in letting stuff roll off his back. Like water off a Mallard's feathers. Nothing brings this guy down. And not 'cause he's clueless. This guy is super smart and has great social skills. He just makes everyone feel comfortable and at ease. Part of it is self confidence and part of it is just not taking much to heart.

So how to emulate Mallard (aside from getting a temperament transplant)?

What do I do to cheer myself up during the day? I drink herbal tea in a special mug a dear, dear friend gave me that says "Breathe." I reflect on the good health of my family. I read funny blogs when I get a moment at the computer. I call someone I love. If I can't talk to them, I send an email. I stop thinking about whatever's bothering me and force myself to live in the moment. I repress my vortex of negative thoughts (I am pretty sure this is heresy but stuff those feelings down!). If I can't stop vortexing about what ails me I force myself to think through what it is I want to accomplish in the situation before I allow myself to react. I try to picture the positive outcome I want and then work towards it with what I say and do.

Here's my personal checklist of mood enhancers (tapwater is gratis). Please join in if you've got any ideas for how to rescue your mood if you're stuck in a tough situation.

  • Sleep. Get enough. Go to bed early. I cannot emphasize enough how this affects my mood.
  • Kick the caffeine, alcohol, white flour, and sugar. Or become a monk, whichever is easier.
  • Focus on the kids. Small people are usually entertaining.
  • Get childcare to get an occasional break from said small people.
  • Get a pet. Snorfling an animal releases stress.
  • Exercise. No excuses.
  • Have more sex.
  • Get outside in the fresh air.
  • Invite people over as much as possible if you're an extrovert and take time to recharge if you're an introvert.
  • Garden.
  • Listen to music you love. Dance like a fool. Sing along, loudly.
  • Lose yourself in a good book before bed.
  • Eat good food that you cook yourself.
  • Call your friends (yes, that means me, too) and vent to us.
  • Get together with said friends.
  • Do craft projects with and without the kid (this Friend has an Etsy store).
  • Meditate.
  • Do yoga.
  • Wear nice clothes to boost your confidence.
  • Cut yourself some slack and banish the scale to the closet. You are healthy and beautiful.
  • Take a hot bath.
  • Set manageable deadlines for yourself (making it through an hour? a specific task? of productive work without focusing on negative thoughts) and reward yourself with a five minute break during which you completely screw off and enjoy some type of brain candy.
  • Maintain relationships with former supervisors/coworkers who valued you to remind yourself of your excellent craft.
  • Keep networking, keep your resume sharp, and remember that this job won't last forever.
  • Let it roll off your back (I am a duck! I am a duck!)

    Love you, Friend!

Read more!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Out of Iraq Now

I hope that on Wednesday, March 19, on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I can have a sense of immediacy and concern about the men and women we do not see returning from combat, men and women who risked their lives for a war I believe was based on a lie. There was no tie between Al Qaeda and Iraq. There were no WMD. It's time for our troops to come home, and as I say those words I'd like to also recognize the incalculable sacrifices made by people I know and respect. The premise for the war may be bogus but their sacrifice has been all too real.

These are the heroes I know:

  • I'd like to say thank you to my sister-in-law's family, who sent their Marine son to Iraq for two tours of duty. As my daughter said on the 4th of July after he returned, "Thank you, Uncle G, for making sure we can be free."
  • I'd like to say thank you to my friend and neighbor, an Army Reservist who not only fought a tour of duty but then set up a business that makes it easy for people to support the troops with the everyday dollars we spend.
  • And finally, I want to thank my uncle, a retired Air Force General, for all the unspoken sacrifices he's made for our country and the freedom of the ones I love (including being shot down over enemy territory during another difficult conflict).
It is with these faces in mind -- the living faces I know -- that I say it's time for our troops to come home.

MoveOn is organizing candlelight vigils across the country tomorrow in case you'd like to commemorate the five year anniversary with others who'd like to see our troops come home:
The war in Iraq has gone on for nearly five years. The unbearable costs at home and abroad keep mounting. It's clear that Americans are ready for a real change in direction.

On March 19th, tens of thousands of people across the country will gather to observe the fifth anniversary of the war with candlelight vigils. We'll commemorate the sacrifices too many families have made, and the billions of dollars wasted in Iraq that could have been better invested at home..

Join us at a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, March 19th. Honor the sacrifice. Change our priorities. Bring the troops home.

Read more!

Atonement: Using Guilt for Good

My post for today's Mommy Guilt Topic Day is up at DC Metro Moms -- about channeling our guilt by making amends. To others but especially to ourselves as parents. What does a parts car have to do with guilt? Find out over here.

Read more!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Grocery Store Wars

Love, love this Grocery Store Wars video with Cuke Skywalker, Obi Wan Cannoli and my fave, Chew Broccoli. Exactly my brand of nerdery. Many thanks to Bean Sprouts for sharing. Apparently the vid is about 4 years old so forgive me if you saw it long ago.

Read more!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Goods for Girls

I've been meaning to explain the Goods for Girls button on my sidebar for ages. And fortuitously, while I have been dilly-dallying, they've gotten an easy cash donation process up for those of us who don't sew!

This is one of those no-brainer situations where a)it's a great cause, b)the person involved is skimming approximately zero off the top, and c)it's easy to give. If you're looking for a worthwhile place to give your green (or your hand-sewn organic flannel sanitary items) look no further.

Crunchy Chicken, an environmentalist mom (which is an understatement - she's amazing) who blogs from Seattle, got motivated when she heard about a huge Proctor & Gamble campaign to give out free, plastic-wrapped tampons in Africa. Great idea, she thought, poor execution (and holy ulterior motive). Most women in these areas are currently using rags, and cultural practices may or may not support tampon usage. Even more importantly, as Crunchy points out, most of the villages in the regions affected still burn their trash.
In many areas of the world, access to adequate menstrual supplies is difficult to come by. Many women and girls rely on rags, newspaper, camel skin or nothing at all for their menstrual needs. A lack of sanitary pads can be a big barrier to a girl's education.

It may seem difficult to comprehend for many women who have easy access to a varied source of supplies, but we can all appreciate how difficult life would be without them. Imagine trying to go to school or work without protection. For many, it brings life to a halt.

Providing disposable supplies creates an additional burden on some communities where solid waste disposal consists of burning the garbage. Since many disposable feminine hygiene products contain plastic, incineration potentially creates an environmental and health hazard.

Thanks for reading!

Read more!

DC Metro Moms

Hi folks, I just wanted to tell you that I will be contributing to DC Metro Moms and have my first post up -- check it out! Read more!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Children Are Greener than Green

Don’t you just love your little leprechauns? All zero-population-growth qualms aside, I have to say that the little people I know are awfully green. Why, may you ask?

Well, most kids I know are water conservationists: they passionately hate showers and baths. Because of their heightened awareness of the shortage of potable water worldwide, of course. Most kids I know go even further and help their parents to conserve water. By shrieking in horror when you disappear behind the non-vinyl hemp shower curtain, toddlers keep your shower time to a mere 17 seconds -- one or two times a week.

The little green ones are also food politicos who’ve been keeping tabs on the news: they want to eat PB&Js 24-7 as a vegan, lower-their-food miles statement (I swear I heard my 4 year old asking if that was local jam…).

The baby enviros also want to wear the same clothes every day and they don't care if they are dirty. Reuse, baby! They can run around in 20 below wind chill in a t shirt (so don't blame them if your thermostat's high) and they would really rather walk than barf in that car while you burn fossil fuels, mom. They really can't get their mouths around those disposable plastic water bottles anyways so you'd better bring a refillable metal sippy for your Baby Greens. They fuel the hand me down chain (everything once worn by an older cousin has indisputable cachet) and finally, our little leprechauns would be happy playing in the recycling (toilet paper trumpet, anyone?) if we'd just let them.

If you’re not ready to just sit and bask in the reflected green glory of your offspring, here are some resources for environmentally friendly St. Patrick’s Day celebrations:

Lucky fruit salad and other natural green food ideas (homemade spinach pasta, anyone?)...

Not-fake-chemical green dye (for the cupcake frosting!)...

Slow food alternatives to corned beef and cabbage (like Shepherd’s Pie, mmm)... and a

Wiki for "Organic local solar powered booze"!

Happy St. Patty's Day! I’d love to know the ways in which your kids kick your enviro arse!

*Photo courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski, SXC

Original DC Metro Moms post.
Read more!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Three Is the Magic Number

Easy, peasy. Help out mothers who walk miles every day just to make sure their kids have clean water. Turn your lights off for just an hour to mark your awareness of global warming this month. Here are three upcoming events that make it easy to show you care.

1. World water day is on March 22nd. As our press whirs with news of pharmaceutical traces in municipal water supplies, it makes sense to channel our angst towards global water safety. As GoodyBlog 'splains,

World Water Day was started by the UN with the hope to cut in half the number of people who live without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation by 2015. It's inspired by the example of women in water stressed countries who often walk 6 miles each day just to get water for their family. And even though it's hard to image anyone living without the basic need of clean water, more than 1 billion people around the world lack safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation services.
You don't need to live in a city with a participating march (NYC, LA, Seattle) to be involved. You don't even have to give money -- you just need to sign up online.

2. Another World Water Day action campaign called the Tap Project aims to fund UNICEF programs that will make sure kids have clean water to drink (via A Mighty Appetite). Did you know that more than 5,000 kids a day are dying from water-borne diseases?
The little known truth is that lack of clean and accessible drinking water is the second largest worldwide killer of children under five. To address this situation, a nationwide effort is launching during World Water Week called the Tap Project, a campaign that celebrates the clean and accessible tap water available as an every day privilege to millions, while helping UNICEF provide safe drinking water to children around the world.

Beginning Sunday, March 16 through Saturday, March 22, restaurants will invite their customers to donate a minimum of $1 for the tap water they would normally get for free. For every dollar raised, a child will have clean drinking water for 40 days.
3. Earth hour is on March 29th (hat tip to Grist). More than 100,000 people have signed up to turn off their lights and electrical equipment for one hour.

Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming. This simple act has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world. As a result, at 8pm March 29, 2008 millions of people in some of the world’s major capital cities, including Copenhagen, Toronto, Chicago, Melbourne, Brisbane and Tel Aviv will unite and switch off for Earth Hour.

*Photo courtesy of xymonau at sxc.
Read more!

Wrap it Up: Art at Kid Level

I'm in love with cheap and easy. Generally more enviro (using what you have, buying less), low maintenance, what's not to like?

Thought I would share our morning adventures on the living room coffee table since for some reason I would never have thought to do this myself, simple as it is.

Our friend Metadog used to do this daily with her toddler. Just cover any low table with paper (we used rolls cause we have lots stashed away but brown bags would be great too if you've got 'em) and let the kids go crazy!

Today we used crayons and paint dotters and rollers. Both kids got in on the action. This was really our baby's first extended experience with messing around with colors. He's still pretty mouthy so we had to keep an eye out for him shoving art supplies in his mouth.

EGirl really enjoyed herself and jumped into chattering, imaginary play as she painted and drew.

This is a wishing well, on the road to Australia.

It's the road to freedom.

We're going to save the finished pieces to use as wrapping paper.

What are your cheap, easy (and green) play options for kids?

Read more!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lovely Lunches

Lynn from OrganicMania asked me to reminisce about my halcyon Berkeley food days after her posts about school lunch reform got me musing about times past. Thanks for the opportunity to guest post!

...In my students' minds, the crisp lettuce in the field we skipped through on our journey was just as fascinating as the computers that awaited amidst the stacks of books at our local library. It was 1998, and most of the young men and women loping past the garden had no access to computers at all (many had just arrived in the country). But it was the vegetables that held their attention. On a field trip off-campus with an English Language Learner class, I couldn't help but marvel at the audible excitement and interest over the garden and its teen gardeners. Teacher Patti Rathwell got her students into King's school kitchen routinely, brought food into the class to illustrate everyday concepts, and the students' families brought in delicacies representing cuisines from all over the world to mark special celebrations. Speaking over a dozen languages, the premium form of communication among our students was laughter, gesture, and the anticipation of flavor.

In 1998, I was a student teacher from UC Berkeley's MUSE Program apprenticed to two classrooms at Martin Luther King Middle School. The nascent Edible Schoolyard program, started in 1996 by a collaboration between Chez Panisse and the school (via the Chez Panisse Foundation), was thriving by the time I landed at King. As I recall, the kids called it the "Peace Garden" and every one of the kids I taught, from middle school second language learners ranging from 6th to 8th grade, to the 8th graders in my humanities class, was itching to get their hands dirty. You could almost see the infusion of energy into the crops. These kids were fascinated with what their peers were creating, with their bare hands and brains. They longed to be outdoors, to work with the soil. But even more, they longed to be in the kitchen, chopping and slicing and mixing and...eating! I've never seen such a worthwhile channeling of teen squirm in all my life.

I've been thinking about the Edible Schoolyard recently, as I face the reality of public school lunches here in DC for my daughter and her friends. I'm heartened by the fact that Berkeley, and other schools like Wisconsin's Appleton Central Alternative School (ACAS), have adopted programs harnessing the power of delicious and satisfying food to improve not just health but performance. Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, by Ann Cooper and Lisa Holmes, is a riveting book that chronicles success stories like the Edible Schoolyard and Appleton's ACAS, while giving parents concrete suggestions: healthy recipes and contact info for organizations working to effect change in lunch programs.

One school that's crafted a school environment rich in healthy food and a focus on physical education is Appleton's ACAS (which banned vending machines and instituted fruit-and-vegetable rich breakfasts and lunches). Appleton has quantifiably documented the impact of providing "nonchemiccally processed foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables." Improvements seen include: more focused on-task behavior, increased cognitive development, fewer health concerns, fewer discipline problems, better attendance, and better nutrition outside of school.

Wouldn't it be great if all of our schoolchildren (many of whom rely on school breakfast and lunch programs as their primary source of nutrition) got a side of nutrition education and sustainable agriculture with their salad bar lunch?

Where to look for more info about transforming your own school? Check out the following organizations for ideas.

*photo courtesy of Dawn Allynn at sxc (see more of Dawn's work here.)

I'm a guest writer for OrganicMania today -- go check it out!
Read more!

Friday, March 7, 2008


OK, this totally falls in the category of things that ought to be easier to do. I'm talking about buying safe sand for our kids' sandboxes.

I've heard before that there are dangerous types of sandbox sand, in fact, I've successfully bought washed river sand before because it's supposed to be safer (you know, the smaller bags of sand, the ones that cost 4x as much, and get snapped up in the first day they're put out?). But we had a few fabulous sunny days last week, and my kids are now addicted to being out on our patio playing in the 'box, so I thought I would run in quickly and grab some fresh sand before the waves of Asian Tiger mosquitos hit. It's early, right? It's not like I am trying in August so I should have a stab at a couple of the 14 bag-supply due to hit the DC area. After hitting up one hardware store and two garden supply stores, I am left with a resounding sense of frustration and it's not that I didn't let my fingers do the walking.

Can anyone please tell me why it is acceptable to have this warning label on a product labeled Play Sand? Marketed to children?

"This product contains small amounts of crystalline silica (CAS 148 08-60-7), a common mineral found in natural sands and stones. Excessive inhalation of respirate silica dust may cause cancer and lung disease. Avoid breathing dust. Wear appropriate respirator in dusty areas. First aid: move to fresh air." (emphasis mine)

The Green Guide basically says to keep your kids out of the sandbox (and off the asbestos laden pressure treated wood playsets for that matter). I can't do that. I mean, I survived sitting in the back of my parents' wood-paneled station wagon (the one with the rusted-out bottom floor we used to poke our feet through to run in place, Flintstones-style, at stoplights). So obviously I cannot deprive my children of the basic pleasure of sand. I just want either the sand manufacturers or the various sand-selling establishments in our area to wake up and realize there's a supply and demand issue here with the Safe Sand. (And a shout out to Strosnider's Hardware -- they don't have any safe sand but the manager actually thanked me for raising the issue).

The Berkeley Parents' Network has helpful archives, as always, on the subject, but we're still playing in the maze of tree roots in our former-fish-pond-of-a-sandbox (hey, you have a magnet of a drowning hazard in your backyard, you make lemonade).

Anyone know where to purchase safe sand?

Read more!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Kitchen Tricks

Today's post is all about the kitchen: recycling, reducing waste, and getting the most out of our food in the first place.

How about upcycling those annoying little produce stickers by mailing them to an artist in Colorado (via Emerald City) so he can make some more sweet Warhollian pics? Perfect project for little recyclers, eh?

Speaking of harnessing your trash, Terracycle's an eco-business that sells worm poop in recycled containers. You can sign up to sell them your used drink pouches, cans, yogurt containers, and energy bar wrappers. Sounds like a perfect school project. Or just a project for all of us with worthless recycling options. (via fellow DCUM WrekeHavoc)

Check out They Call You Mommy's post on produce to stop the crisper drawer rot festival (less waste plus more veggies + fruits in you!). Did you know you should store tomatoes stem side down? Basil at room temperature?

How to wash that basil? Those tomatoes? Whip up some homemade veggie wash with this recipe from The Dollar Stretcher.

Speaking of veggies, Culinate had an interesting piece a bit ago about how cooking some vegetables actually enhances their nutritive value. The research is incomplete, but the idea that all veggies are healthier raw isn't true across the board. Broccoli actually gains carotenoids and cancer-fighting compounds when steamed.

If you blow it and end up with some slimy green refuse? And your composter's still not assembled because your instructions decomposed? Where to put that wet trash if you've been using cloth bags? Hmmm? I know you faced this dilemma when you stopped getting bags at the grocery store! Here are two great threads that pose various solutions (biodegradable bags are generally agreed to be impractical for wet trash, hence the dilemma). One's at Emerald City (one commenter suggests keeping wet trash in a plastic bag in the freezer so it doesn't smell, hmmm, that spot's taken by my vegetable stock stash, thank you but maybe you folks have the room) and one's at Ask Metafilter. The AM thread has practical, helpful comments, including a breakdown (pun intended) of anaerobic decomposition and some complicated systems for balancing wet and dry trash.

Last but certainly not least, check out this supremely awesome Table of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad so you can have some clue how long that onion dip can sit in your fridge. (via bblog - 2 weeks.)

*photo courtesy of
Read more!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Little People Swap

Anyone else hankering to break up the winter doldrums for their little 'uns? Want your kid to get a care package from some *other kids*? Check out this great pen-pal-type idea at Little People Swap, set up by a couple of friends and mommy bloggers (see full instructions at The Mama Chronicles but I've put the essentials below).

"You do not have to pick out a theme but that would probably be helpful as you pick items to send. It would be best to stay away from commercialized themes like Elmo, Barbie, and such. Instead a good theme might be make believe, mail, library, art, etc. You can make, buy, or send gently used items. If you choose to spend money then the upper end should be about 10 dollars plus shipping (this does not include the value you have of anything you choose to send from your home or your the value of your time.) The swaps will be organized by family groups. So you may have 2 children and swap with a family that has 1 or more children.

Things that should definitely be included in your package:
A picture of your family or at least the kids
A postcard or map of where you are from or photograph of your city/ house
A note, either written or dictated and transcribed by an adult

The commitment for this swap is :

1) email your partner introducing your family and answering a few provided questions

2) one package shipped by April 1

3) either an email thank you or send a thank you card
in response.

If you choose to do any more that is up to you. But this is the minimum.

To join in send an email to megandmag(at)gmail(dot)com In your email include your name, the names of your children, their ages and genders, your location, and how you heard about the swap. The deadline to sign up is March 10 or when we reach 50 number of participants, which ever comes first. My co-conspirator and I will try to match up similar age families, but can not make any promises."

Check out her site if you're going to participate; she has some great ideas. Read more!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Your Life In Six Words: Navel-Gazing Haiku

Join me in quick, pithy reflection.
What six words capture your essence?
Your cleverness may win bathtub fun.

Apparently Ernest Hemingway thought his best work was this six-word story: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Can you sum up your thoughts in six words?

The winner of the highly subjective SurelyYouNest Haiku Contest (probably awarded to whoever can make me snort a beverage through my nose) will win three fizzy bath bombs (I'll post the recipe soon, we're learning how to make them!). Enter as many times as you want. I will arbitrarily pick a winner within a couple weeks.

Can't resist passing on this challenge-- got soft-tagged by The Cleaner Plate Club to think of My Life in Six Words. I personally twisted the assignment to write parenting haiku but you can bust the categories wide open. It's your life!

I love the idea of a wide open meme, so I am tagging YOU (yes, you, the very person reading this). Write your own navel-gazing haiku (6 words, not traditional haiku) and blame it on MamaBird (if you're a blogger, link back so I can read your post!). If you're not a blogger, put your haiku in the comments (or email them to me - I will post them there for you).

If you're into this compact genre, check out Treehugger's six word contest entries and this recently-published book, compiled from a six-word contest held by Smith writing magazine. You can also see some of the more famous entries from the book here at the WaPo. My favorite?

"Well, I thought it was funny."
Stephen Colbert

Without further ado, here are some MamaBird reflections on parenting:

Dog was not baby in training.

Baby girl, baby boy: living love.

Exhort, commiserate, hug inspiring little people.

Forage, nurture, protect, nip with teeth.

Wipe butts, noses, tears, be snuggly.

Wet baby kisses: irreplaceably gross awwwws.

Babies trump movies, sleep, peeing, hobbies.

Babies turn grandparents into silly putty.

Relax. Your child is not you.

Let her be her own self.

Tiny smiling faces worth any sacrifice.

Exercise by far the best drug.

Keep patting, Mama, or I'll cry.

Need bottle, bath, bed NOW. Waaah!

Poor dog, after baby? Not alpha.

Wrote, taught, birthed, wrote, thought.

(...and, probably my best lesson learned...)

My way or the highway? Mistake!

Photo courtesy of Duchesssa (yes, that's three s's) at sxc.
Read more!