Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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
  • Confessions of a Parent



    Being a parent requires a lot of sacrifices and compromises, most of them on the part of the parent.  Every once and a while it’s your baby’s turn to make the compromise.  This often results in a great story to be told to other parents, grandparents, and your spouse! If things can’t go as planned, they may as well be good for a laugh!

    Last week I confessed that Franci sleeps in a second-hand drop-down crib. It gets even worse! Some of your kids may have rooms “as small as a closet”. Frances doesn’t have a room: she actually sleeps in our closet. The space is just big enough for a full-sized crib, so she sleeps with hangers full of clothes looming above her.

    She’s actually slept in several closets in the past year. One time while visiting family, we didn’t bring our portable crib and so she slept in a large tupperware. Which we put in a closet. It was nice and dark and very quiet, and she slept like, well, a baby.

    So, fess up! What’s your biggest confession?

    When Babies Mimic Animal Behavior

    A girl and her dog

    A girl and her dog

    Frances has always been curious about our pets. She loves to crawl over to our dog and give her pats and pets. Before we could get Franci to reliably say “Papa”, she could tell you a puppy said “arf-arf”.

    Since she’s so in-tune to our dogs, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when she started barking along with them. If someone knocked on the door, she would happily join in on a round of alarm barks. What really came as a shock was the time when the UPS truck could be heard rounding the corner, and Franci started barking even before the dogs did!

    I’ve heard of dogs teaching babies to crawl and go up and down stairs. You can find videos of dogs teaching babies to play fetch, and even one of a cat teaching a baby how to walk!

    Have your kids learned any skills from your pets?

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  • Filed under: Family Life, General
  • Stockpiling Update: Year End Review

    My freezer four months later






    Happy New Year everyone! It’s time for me to take stock of the deep freeze and see how we did. We didn’t manage to eat all the freezer food, but we came pretty close.  Like most yearly goals, all we needed was another few days!

    Here’s the run down: The door used to be full of side dishes and lunches, and now it’s full of breastmilk, so I don’t really count that. The middle shelf has quite a bit of baby food at the moment, but the way Franci eats it will be gone quickly.

    The bottom shelf used to be full of meat, but now it contains butter, nuts and nut flour, and chocolate. Basically, things that don’t have to be refrigerated but since a full freezer is an energy efficient freezer, I might as well store them there. [While technically I am stockpiling baking ingredients, I can’t bring myself to count them as such since I can’t go out and buy them at a moments notice (being specialty items).]

    The one question I get most often is whether or not we got sick of the meals. I chose some pretty good recipes that our family considers comfort food, like Lasagne and Chicken Pot Pie. So the answer is No, with one exception. I’m sick of roasts! I think the shelf would be empty if not for the roasts. I’m not a fan of pot roast, and it seems like any related cut tastes the same to me once you slow cook it with carrots, potatoes and onions. And it is surprisingly hard to come up with recipes that don’t end up tasting the same! I tried one Asian version, and it was a failure. So if anyone has a recipe for slow cooked beef that might be less traditional, please share!

    I may have failed my goal of finishing the freezer meals by the end of the year, but I feel pretty good about the progress. I hope I’ll be able to declare victory by the end of the month!

    Black Friday

    Get in line!

    Get in line!

    Do you plan on hitting the shops today? Or were you lined up last night with a belly full of turkey waiting for the doors to open. Maybe you are in your slippers on the couch with your laptop open and credit card near by as you read this post.

    I’ve never been that interested in Black Friday, my self. I’ve been an off-peak shopper for years, since I have no patience for lines and I like to get my errands done as quickly as possible. I find the whole concept pretty fascinating, and I’d love to hear what you consider to be the pros and cons of Black Friday shopping.

    How do you feel about Black Friday? Are you boycotting the stores or are you trying to be the first in line to get the best deals?

    Waking up to a sick baby

    All better!

    All better!

    Frances can no longer sleep through the sound of a single dog bark, but doesn’t wake up after vomiting all over herself?  Motherhood is full of surprises!

    This morning Franci awoke at her usual time with her usual smile and giggle, accompanied by a little surprise for her dad: a huge pile of dry vomit. At some point in the night, she had puked in the crook of her arm while on her stomach. The dried chunks covered her face and hair, and her sleep sack and pajamas were cold and damp. Whatever made her sick worked it’s way out of both ends, because her diaper was in a similar state of affairs.

    An infant getting sick in the middle of the night isn’t big news, I’m just incredulous that she slept that way for hours! And that she didn’t even notice upon waking up. The smell alone was enough to make me cry. That and the thought that my poor baby slept in her own barf. Maybe she wasn’t upset because whatever made her stomach turn was short-lived. Her temperature and temperment are completely normal and if you ignore the load of bedding tumbling in the dryer, it’s like none of it even happened.

    Every parent has at least one good vomit story in his or her repetroire, so let’s commiserate. What’s your best tale of puke?

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  • Filed under: Baby Care, General
  • Stockpiling Update 4

    costcoFailure, thy name is Costco.

    In an attempt to empty our deep freeze enough to defrost it, and because of my stockpiling reduction quest, we’ve been putting off a trip to Costco for months. It’s been so hard watching the coupon books come and go and to NOT jump in the car to stock up on coconut water or ziplock bags, but until this weekend I remained strong.

    Finally, we could wait no longer.  Well, the dogs couldn’t anyway, since their food comes from Costco. So we made a family trip to our favorite warehouse store and filled not one, but TWO carts! So now the fridge is full and the one empty freezer shelf was filled. I just couldn’t help myself! The holidays are coming, and I am determined not to run out of butter or pecans this year.

    The only upside is that we managed to avoid buying even one package of meat, which is a personal best. I couldn’t avoid stocking up on parchment paper, however, since like Christmas, it only comes around once a year.

    Stockpiling Update 2

    That’s some classic stockpiling!

    I have a good report this time around. The freezer is looking a lot more empty this month, despite the fact that I was out of town for quite a bit of it. I can’t claim credit for most of the reduction in stock, because my husband spent 11 days eating every meal out of the freezer (well, the two meals a day he eats).

    By the time I returned home, I was so busy with the imminent start of my new job, I went to the grocery store once all month. Finally, the freezer is doing its job: providing meals when I don’t have time to cook. Even Frances has been doing her part, eating from the bag of sweet potatoes I froze in the spring.

    The downside to not buying fresh produce is that we haven’t been eating as many fruits and vegetables. I finished off the last of the asparagus soups and ratatouille I made last summer for lunch, but I’ve been slacking on the vegetable sides with dinner. We’re finally getting some veggies from my parents’ garden, so I think the tide is turning.

    I’ll be so sad when the summer stone fruits and berries fade along with the warm evenings, so I better enjoy them while I can. I guess I’ll start off September with a long over-due trip to the grocery store!

    The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
    Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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