Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Celebrating a Green 4th of July

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July! Whether you are at home or with friends, here are some green ideas to help you celebrate:

Have a picnic: Pack up some sandwiches and finger foods, grab a blanket and find a nice spot in the shade. You don’t have to travel farther than your backyard, if you want to avoid holiday traffic. The best part is that you don’t have to turn on your stove or oven.

Make your own giant soap bubbles: The general consensus is that Dawn dish soap is the best, and don’t forget the secret ingredient: glycerin.

Enjoy homemade popsicles: If you don’t have popsicle molds, just use a dixi cup! For an extra-patriotic treat, try these Red, White and Blue Creamsicles.

Have a watermelon seed fight: Be sure to buy a seeded watermelon, so you have some ammo. Pinch the watermelon seed between your thumb and index finger, aim, and squeeze. With a little practice, you’ll be hitting your mark in no time.

Cool off in a kiddie pool or sprinkler: Or if you’re feeling fancy, a Slip N Slide

Have a backyard movie night: Pop some popcorn and get out the blankets!

What activities do you have planned for Independence Day?

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  • Filed under: Family Life, General
  • It’s a Girl!

    Big Sister in Training

    Big Sister in Training

    We’re happy to announce that there is a new Green Baby on the way! We’ll be welcoming a little girl into our lives in the beginning of November. We’re very excited that our family is growing and that Franci is going to be a big sister!

    Since my belly is growing by the day, I’ll be posting about pregnancy more often. Write what you know, as they say. They also say that each pregnancy is different, and that certainly is the case. As anyone with more than one kid knows, there’s little time to rest and relax your swollen feet when you’re chasing after a toddler! It’s going to take a lot of organization to be even half as prepared as the first time around.

    Besides preparing for another home birth, we need to prepare Frances for her role as big sister. As a younger sibling, I have no idea how to begin! I’m sure that’s a topic I’ll be revisiting here later.

    In the meantime, we’re looking forward to a fun-filled summer and plenty of changes come fall!

    Losing a Loved One

    Four Generations

    Four Generations

    We had a sad week here at The Green Baby Guide, because Rebecca and I lost our grandmother and Frances and Audrey lost their great-grandmother. Caroline Frances Best Kelley, known as Tutu to her family, was an amazing woman with a big heart and a welcoming smile, and she will be missed by many friends and family.

    I’ve been taking Franci to see her great-grandmother once a week since before she was born. No matter how she was feeling, or how tired she was, she always lit up when we walked in the door. She loved to hear about Franci’s new tricks and kept up on all our activities.

    Although I’m so glad that Tutu got to know Frances, I’m sad that Frances is just a little too young to remember all the time she spent with her. On her last few visits she would say “T-t-tu-tu” on our way to the front door, but I don’t think she’ll notice that we stopped going over to her house.

    In some ways, Franci’s age takes the burden off of us to explain death, loss, heaven and all those tricky topics. If she were older, I would probably make use of one of these books to help explain the situation.

    Have you had to deal with a similar situation with your kids? What helped or what would you do differently next time?

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  • Filed under: Family Life, General
  • Review: Amazon Mom

    Amazon Mom

    Amazon Mom

    Most of you have probably heard of Amazon Prime, but have you heard of Amazon Mom? It gives you all the perks of a Prime membership (free 2-day shipping, access to the Kindle lending library, and free instant video streaming) plus 20% off Subscribe & Save orders of five or more.

    (For those of you not familiar with Subscribe & Save, here’s how it works: Whatever items you’ve subscribed to are delivered by the first of the month at a 5% discount. You can cancel at any time, skip deliveries or have items delivered every two months, or six months, or whatever you decide.  If you don’t cancel the subscription for an item, it is automatically delivered on the schedule you’ve set but you get a warning email with plenty of time to postpone or cancel subscription items.)

    The thing about a Prime membership is that you kind of have to work for it. If you order a couple things a month, it’s probably not worth it. But if you’re like us and live in a smaller city where we can’t buy a lot of our preferred items, it’s possible to make it a good deal. We’ve been Amazon Prime members for years now because we order so many household items online that our UPS driver knows us by name.

    You don’t have to be a mom to sign up for Amazon Mom, but you do have to have enough space to store whatever you buy.  You often have to buy cases, or at least packs of two.  The trick is to be creative and thorough about figuring out what you can order through Subscribe & Save and making sure you have at least five orders each time you choose to have a delivery. Sure you can order dishwasher detergent, but keep in mind you might end up storing a few bottles.

    This also means you have to be good about keeping your subscriptions up-to-date so you don’t receive too much organic baby food or too many OxiClean Max Force Gel Sticks too often. (Then again, if you have a baby you can never have too many of these.) When the end of the month approaches, I log in to see what items are scheduled for delivery and arrange things so that I hit the magic number “five”. I may have an extra case of Chlorine Free Diapers or a bottle of Multi-Vitamins to store, but it’s worth it. If I’m close to five subscriptions but not there, I can always round it out with coffee or tea or toothpaste. You get the idea.

    While Amazon Mom may not be for everyone, it’s worth it for moms who love a good deal but are too busy – or too tired – for the store.

    Baby Names

    Still No Name

    Still No Name

    One question I’m often asked when friends meet Frances for the first time, is how we picked out her name. To be honest, it wasn’t easy! It may have been the most difficult parenting decision we’ve had to make so far. In fact, Frances was a week old before our midwife finally had a name to put on her birth certificate.

    There are tens of thousands of names out there, so first we narrowed the field down to family names. We thought it would be fun for Franci to have a connection to our heritage in the form of her name, so we knew we wanted one name from my family, and one from her dad’s. It turns out, this really narrowed down the choices. Maybe even too much! The most unique names, like Malvina, were quickly vetoed by both of us.

    If you’re not set on family names, there are books out there that can help, such as The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby. Or you can scour the Internet’s many websites, like Nymbler, for ideas. Rebecca posted some “green” baby names for Joy back when she was expecting her little girl.

    We cross referenced our name choices with the Social Security Website to see how popular the names have been over the years. As much as we loved some names, we didn’t want our daughter to forever be known as “Olivia S.” or “Sofia with an ‘F'”.

    Next we did a Google search for their meanings. There are also plenty of books and websites out there dedicated to Baby Names. Frances means “free”, which is how we always hope she feels. It also means “French”, which I liked because my maiden name is French. Less meaningful was Olivia, or “Elf Army”. Although I love reading fantasy novels, I’m not sure I’m into them that much.

    We also considered nicknames associated with each choice. I’ve always thought Franci was a cute nickname, whereas Mal was a bit of a deal breaker.

    In the end, it came down to compromise. My husband graciously conceded I could have the final say, as long as he got final say on our next baby. I might regret my decision later, but I’ll just have to fight that battle when we come to it.

    How did you pick out your baby names? I always love to hear naming stories and my mom-to-be friends want to know too!

  • Filed under: General
  • Raising A Moral Child

    The New York Times had a great article last week on Raising a Moral Child, written by Adam Grant. I think it’s worth sharing and talking about because it seems like it is becoming an increasingly difficult task. Why is it that the more information and resources we have, the harder it is to ensure that our children are thoughtful and hard working?

    Before reading the article, I was under the impression that it’s more important to compliment the behavior of the child than the character of the child. Research is showing the opposite, however. So next time, instead of saying, “thank you for helping,” say, “thank you for being such a good helper” and you might find your kids repeating their kind actions more often.

    Happy to Help!

    Happy to Help!

    Another important point the article brings up is that guilt is different than shame. Grant says, “Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing.” Guilt is a feeling that can be changed by changing your behavior, but shame runs so deep you can’t get past it. None of us want our children to feel like they are bad people, so instead of expressing anger or withholding affection when they misbehave, it’s better to voice our disappointment and explain, “why the behavior was wrong, how it affected others, and how they can rectify the situation”.

    Grant also points out that the old tenant, “do as I say, not as I do” is as ineffective as ever. Research proves this. He cites an experiment in which school kids earn tokens for winning a game and have the opportunity to donate some of the tokens to a child in poverty. The children most likely to give, and who gave the most even weeks later, were those that watched their teacher give tokens to a child in poverty without saying anything about it. You might think that the students who not only saw their teacher give, but heard her lecture about giving might be the most generous, but this wasn’t the case. Kids who only witnessed the generosity, and weren’t preached to about it, were more likely to be generous months later.

    I thought Grant’s article was so interesting, I might have to pick up his book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success In the meantime, I’m going to make sure I praise Franci’s character and lead by example, instead of merely lecturing about good behavior.

    What are you doing to make sure your kids grow up to be kind, thoughtful and helpful? What methods do you find to be most successful?

    Review: Airbnb Vacation Rentals

    Airbnb Rental

    Our Recent Airbnb Rental

    We were out of town earlier this month and instead of staying in a hotel, we booked a rental through Airbnb. For the same price as a suite, we ended up with a whole house! It was a dream, and we plan to use Airbnb every time we travel.

    There are a million things that make staying in a house better than staying in a hotel. First of all, everyone had their own room. Frances slept soundly during her naps and at night and we didn’t have to worry about tiptoeing around her crib. Secondly, I was able to make her fresh food in the kitchen, and we cooked several meals while we were there, which saved time and money.

    One unforeseen bonus was that unloading and loading the car was so much easier than usual. We didn’t have to lug our many bags through a hotel, and then park the car in some big lot. Parking was free and just steps away from the front door.

    Often times hotels are crowded into one area of town that may or may not be a desirable location. Perhaps if you want to be near the airport or close to low-end chain restaurants, a hotel is a way to go, but we wanted to be in a trendy part of town that has no lodging but is within walking distance of tons of shopping and restaurants.

    Especially if you have kids, going with an Airbnb rental can give everyone a little extra space that will make a vacation that much more relaxing. Our house had a huge backyard that would have been perfect for playtime (if the weather had cooperated). I noticed there was even a croquet set in the closet I would have loved to use, if it hadn’t rained the whole time.

    Unlike some of the other vacation rental companies, Airbnb provides a bit of guarantee things will go as planned. For one, you pay the company directly, and they pay the rental owner. So if you have any issues with your stay, you can appeal to Airbnb and they will moderate.

    Reading the reviews of a rental are essential before booking, since they will tell you how good the rental owner is at communicating and how accurate the rental description and other details are. Writing your own review after your stay is highly recommended, especially if you want to have a good reputation as a renter (leaving a good review prompts the owner to write you a good review). Just because you want to stay some place, doesn’t mean you will be approved. And if you are disrespectful of the rental, don’t expect to be approved next time. The owner will leave you a bad review and warn other rental owners off you. The system is pretty self regulating that way, as long as you are diligent in reading the reviews and going over the house rules.

    One thing to keep in mind when renting a house or apartment (as opposed to staying in a hotel) is that you will have to do some chores before you leave. They are not really a big deal, and only take a few minutes. You’ll probably have to load the dishwasher and start it. The beds will need to be stripped and the washer started with sheets and towels. And you might have to take out the trash. Other chores, like making up the beds, sweeping or toilet scrubbing, are covered by the cleaning fee.

    All-in-all, it’s totally worth it if you are traveling with kids, or as a group. The freedom of being in a private space and the amenities provided (like a fully stocked kitchen) ensure that we’ll be using Airbnb in the future, as long as there are rentals available at our destination!

    Air Purification System

    Air Purification System

    I love being surrounded by living things, so we have always had a lot of house plants. In my opinion, you can never have too many. It turns out that there is more to having house plants than enjoying their greenery year round.

    In 1989, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America did a two-year study that proved indoor plants are successful at removing benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air. You can read a good summary of the study here. The house plants most effective at removing these chemicals are Bamboo Palm, Chinese Evergreen, English Ivy, Gerbera Daisy, Dragon Tree, Corn Plant, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Chrysanthemum and Peace Lily. These are all easily found, often at the grocery store or hardware store, if you’re too busy to make an extra trip to a nursery.

    If you have children or pets but want to enjoy the beauty, oxygen production and air cleaning properties of house plants, you may want to choose varieties that are not poisonous. While most toxic house plants aren’t that bad (they cause skin irritations or stomach aches but won’t kill you), it might not be worth the risk. Check out this website that lists safe and toxic house plants.

    Even if you don’t have poisonous plants in your home, it’s a good idea to teach your kids to look but don’t touch. You never know what kinds of plants they will encounter outside or at someone else’s house.

    Are BPA-Free Plastics Safe?

    Not Safe Enough?

    Not Safe Enough?

    I remember getting rid of my trusty Nalgene bottle when BPA-Free became the big thing.  I tried switching to stainless steel, but couldn’t stand the taste.  I’ve finally settled on glass, but it’s not always the most convenient.  Frances is still at the stage where every sippy cup gets tossed on the floor when she’s through with it, so unless I want to hold it for her it has to be plastic.

    I figured as long as we stuck with BPA-Free sippy cups, I didn’t have to worry too much. Well, it turns out that recent studies are showing that other plastics are just as full of estrogenic activity as BPA when put through the same cell-based tests. Since the plastic industry isn’t required to test the chemicals that have replaced BPA unless there is proof that they are harmful, consumers have no idea whether or not these new plastics contain endocrine disruptors.

    It seems to me that no one is in a big hurry to vet the new plastics. I mean, if each new plastic is proved harmful, what are we left with? There is no way that plastic is going away any time soon. Even I loathe to give up plastic completely, since the ten minutes Franci drinks from her sippy cups is ten minutes I get to spend cleaning or eating or blogging.

    Fortunately, there are tons of great alternatives to plastic these days. Many of the new glass bottles have rubber sleeves that protect them from normal use. Although I haven’t found a glass sippy cup I’m willing to trust, we do like our Dr. Brown’s glass bottles.

    Last year I tested out several glass water bottles and found that Aquasana
    bottles are the cheapest and easiest to drink out of. The best part is that my drink never taste like plastic or metal!

    My favorite water bottle

    My favorite water bottle

    Instead of storing leftovers in plastic containers, we’ve switched to glass. It’s actually more convenient, since most are microwave, oven and dishwasher safe.

    We may not be able to cut plastic completely out of our lives, but at least we can limit our exposure.

    Are you worried about BPA and other plastic chemicals?

    Fluoridating Your Baby

    Use Fluoride Toothpaste!

    Use Fluoride Toothpaste!

    Second to vaccinating, the hot-button issue with conscientious parents today is whether or not to give your child fluoride.

    If you live in a municipality that has more than 400,000 people, your water is most likely fluoridated. There are also plenty of communities whose drinking supply naturally has fluoride, especially if you live in the west. The only way to know how much fluoride is in your water is to read the Consumer Confidence Report that the EPA requires each community water system to provide. (search “Consumer Confidence Report” and your town name to find your local report).

    There’s a lot of propaganda out there on both sides of the issue. Groups like the Fluoride Action Network cite a myriad of studies that “prove” how “dangerous” fluoride is. They make no concessions that fluoride can be beneficial, despite evidence that it is one of the only substancs that can actually re-mineralize teeth. They tend to showcase communities that have toxic levels of fluoride occurring naturally in the water that cause wide-spread bone-density issues. While it’s true that some water sources have too much fluoride, the excess is actually removed from water in industrialized places.

    Topical fluoride application is more beneficial than ingestion, modern studies are showing. Dental fluorosis is one of the first signs of too much fluoride, and looks like white spots on the teeth. It is caused by consuming too much fluoride while the teeth are forming under the gums. Low-income communities have higher rates of fluorosis not from the water supply, but from canned food and juice.

    However, fluoride makes teeth resistant to acid so that the bacteria can not dissolve them or cause cavities. Which is why the American Dental Association recommends that you use a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on your baby’s teeth as soon as they come in.

    From all the research I’ve read, there isn’t much point in ingesting extra fluoride. In fact, it can cause permanent discoloration. That’s an inconvenience, but not dangerous. It would be impossible to digest a toxic amount of fluoride in a community with water fluoridation, so don’t waste time worrying about that. If you want to avoid dental fluorosis, eat fresh vegetables instead of canned, and don’t drink fruit juice.

    Instead, focus on the topical application of fluoride if you want to prevent cavities. In fact, the wide-spread use of fluoride toothpaste has done more for the decline in cavities than Community Water Fluoridation ever has.

    As for Franci, I’m not going to give her any more of her fluoride supplement. Instead, I’m going to start using a grain of rice sized dot of fluoride toothpaste when I brush her teeth. She’ll end up ingesting some of it any way, which will be enough for those adult teeth buds that we won’t see for a few years.

    What are your views on Community Water Fluoridation? Do you give your kids fluoride supplements or use fluoride toothpaste?

  • Filed under: Baby Care, General
  • The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
    Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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