Summer’s Bounty

U-pick Tomatoes, Yum!

U-pick Tomatoes, Yum!

There’s no better time than summer to enjoy locally harvested fruits and vegetables. We’ve lived a lot of places that have farmer’s markets and CSA shares year round, but Northern Nevada is not one of them. Our growing season is relatively short, from June to September, so we’re trying to make the most of the delicious produce that is coming our way.

We’ve had wonderful experiences with CSA’s over the years. You receive a box of fresh, local produce on a schedule. Not only do they ensure you are eating foods in season, but they encourage you to think outside the box and try new things (kohlrabi, any one?). The best way to find a good one is to ask around your community, or search LocalHarvest.

Farmer’s Markets are so prevalent it seems hard to find a town that doesn’t have one these days. They are fun to visit and your patronage helps support local farms, but you do pay a premium for whatever finds its way into your basket. The USDA keeps up a pretty good list of Farmer’s Markets around the US.

If you have the inclination, nothing is greener than having your own garden. Whether you have a few standing pots full of tomatoes, a raised bed with a few plants or a large plot, you’ll get to enjoy fresh vegetables without leaving the house. If you don’t have room for one, you can find a community garden to dig around in.

Are you into locally harvested fruits and vegetables? Do you grow them yourself or frequent a farmer’s market? What’s your favorite source?

Unsupervised Children

Too Young to Walk Unsupervised?

Too Young to Walk Unsupervised?

By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the mom that was arrested for leaving her 9-year-old daughter at the park while she worked. Since it hit the news, it’s sparked quite the debate about leaving kids unsupervised.

My friends and I remember playing at the park, walking to school, and going to the corner store without an adult at that age. Perhaps we weren’t alone for as many as 6 hours, but we certainly didn’t have cell phones. When I talk to my parents and other people their age, they remember being even less supervised. Are things really that less safe nowadays?

Statistics show that stereotypical kidnapping (where the child doesn’t know the abductor) rates have not increased over the last 25 years. The US Department of Justice concludes, “Teenagers were by far the most frequent victims of stereotypical kidnappings”, according to their 1999 study. The study also concluded that there are an estimated 115 stereotypical kidnappings a year as of 1999, whereas the rates were twice that in 1988.

There are an estimated 58,200 “nonfamily abductions” per year, where the victims are not considered “missing”. It’s more like they were detained by an acquaintance (or disgruntled boyfriend) for a time. NISMART has a great description of the difference between these kinds of abductions. The FBI estimates that 367,500 children are abducted by family members per year. As Free-Range Kids so glibly puts it, “Your safest bet is to leave your child with a stranger”.

Maybe it just feels like there is more stranger danger because news travels fast in the information age. These accounts don’t make it easier to decide how much freedom to give your children.

At what age do you think kids should be allowed to play unsupervised at the park? Do you let your kids walk to school alone?

Stockpiling Redux

Let's get cooking!

Let’s get cooking!

We bought an upright freezer during my first pregnancy so I could prepare a bunch of meals ahead of time.  By the time Frances was born, we had 100 dinners and at least as many lunches stashed away.  Just over a year later, we finally finished them off.  

In retrospect, it was actually more helpful the older Franci got. When she was a newborn, I could just strap her to my back and cook away. It wasn’t until she got more active, and I went back to work, that the freezer meals really came in handy.

Now that I’m just over half way through the next pregnancy, it’s time to get down to the business of filling the freezer up again. If I thought it was nice to have prepared food at hand when we had one kid, how about when we have two!

If you’re wondering my secret to having enough pans to hold all the meals, I do have a trick up my sleeve. I line each pan with parchment and spray with cooking spray before filling it up. Once the dish is frozen, I use the parchment handles to pop out the meal. Next, I peal off the parchment and slip the meal into a food saver bag. I vacuum and seal it, and the meal is ready to store in the freezer for up to 2 years! Then I put the greased parchment back in the pan, and fill it up again for another round. I usually fill 4 pans at a time, so it can take two or three days to get the whole batch frozen.

Some of the meals I made were more popular than others, so I’d like to make a bigger variety this time. Maybe a dozen different meals instead of 8. Here’s what I’m planning to make: Chile Verde, Shepard’s Pie, Pasta Sauce, Black Bean Soup, Tortilla Soup, Lasagna, and Chicken Pot Pie. As you can see, I’m short a few ideas.

What’s your favorite meal to make ahead and freeze?

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?

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?

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!

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!