Thursday, February 25, 2010

Check it off!

Here's what happens when you are a mom and a blogger - you forget what you wanted to write about. Every day there are moments where I think "ha - that is something to explore!" and have an idea in my head of a great post. By the time I sit down, it is gone, and I stare at a blank screen while the minutes tick away and I could be doing something else while I have my amazing 20 minutes of both kids sleeping. And then you get to read mundane nonsense!

I'm home with the kids. Yeah we keep busy and have lots of things that we do scheduled and unscheduled, but I do have some time to get things done for the moms group, preschool, around the house and all. The time I have to do housework is in little tiny slivers - a few minutes here and there, along with the tasks that the kids can help with during their playtime. I'm a list writer, so if it isn't on a list, it doesn't get done. I've actually been known to add things I've already done to a list just so i can cross them off. There are little scraps of paper all over the place with partially crossed off lists on them. I prioritize (who doesn't) and in addition to the things I need to do, I have the things I want to do. Sometimes the things that need doing can get shoved down the list in favor of things I want to do.

So I grocery shop, cook, do laundry when it really needs doing, clean up big messes, but leave small ones. I like to do things well, so if I clean (and that "if" is quite a big one) than I do it really well. Cleaning out a room completely in order to reorganize and scrub it is a dream. Of course, that is a world I no longer live in - I have a few minutes here and there to get something started or finished and if I don't do it immediately I forget what it was and it never gets done. Honey is great at pitching in, and has his own way of doing things. As pleased as I am when he tells me he has cleaned the bathroom, upon further questioning I find that no, he did not clean the shower door, and no, he did not clean the floor around the toilet, and no, he did not wipe down the outside of the toilet. So my version of cleaning might be different, which is maybe why I always feel like I have unfinished business. Honey and I also have different priorities. He may decide that he will spend a half hour cleaning the hall and family room carpet, when I'm feeling like our kitchen is a pit.

Well, I've come up with a perfect, completely compulsive, anal retentive solution, and it is working! We now have a chart in our cleaning closet with a list of chores to do each day. So on Mondays all the bathrooms get cleaned and there is a line for each part of that - wipe down baseboards, clean shower doors, dust light fixtures...etc. Tuesdays is the bedrooms, Wednesday is the family room. You get the idea. Each day when I have a second, I can look in there and see what needs doing that day. Once it is done, I check it off. Honey can do the same. I'm finding that I get something done every day, and whether it is a lot or a little, I feel like I've accomplished something because I have checked it off the list! I know whatever Honey is choosing to do is something that I will appreciate since it is on the list. It's a fabulous thing! Our house is pretty clean after a week of sticking to the list, and this week it has been easier to do since we got the big layer of grime off last week. So yeah, it is a little insane that this is making me so happy, but if it works...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Getting bigger...

My kids are getting big. No really. Not big like large, but big like mature, older, capable, independent. It makes me so proud that they are such great little people, but it makes me sad and scared as well because I know they will soon go off and do their own thing and I'll fade into the background.

I've been really interested to see how Peanut does at preschool. The first month, we had school here and I was the teacher, so it was all fine. This month we are at another child's house with his mom as the teacher, and it was reported that my little Peanut was super quiet the first day. The families involved in our little co-op share pictures and a blog about school, and I can see that Peanut has her fingers in her mouth for some of the photos. She spent a few weeks at the beginning of ballet class with her hands in her mouth, but I didn't expect it with familiar children and adults - familiar as in kids she has seen every week for the past year or so! The change in territory seems to be enough to shake her confidence.

I saw something else interesting. At home, she loves playdough, but really needs and wants an adult to manipulate the dough for her, helping her make beds and animals and blankets and loveys (yes - that is a favorite theme). At school, she looked as though she independently played with the dough more than usual. The other day, she was working on a puzzle that she usually enjoys doing with me or Honey. I walked into the room and she had 1/2 of it done on her own, and she suddenly became helpless and whiny. She said she needed help, couldn't do it, and generally got upset. When I walked away, she was fine and back to her work. She did the whole thing on her own! Hmmmm. Looks like having her in other environments with other teachers is a MUST - otherwise, I'm afraid she will continue to rely on me when she is really quite capable.

This morning, Peanut got a new pink sparkly tutu. She slept through the night all week, and got enough stars on her chart for a prize. She was wearing her dress right away, and only changed to go out to play in the snow (yes - there is still snow). She is beyond proud of herself, and loves her new dress!

Pumpkin continues to work on sleeping in his own room. He has been doing great, but he is waking up often since he is now cutting one of his front teeth. We've managed to keep him in his crib almost all night every night with a few quick night nursings in our bed (it's just so much more comfortable this way!). He is really enjoying his meals now - black beans and butternut squash for lunch today - and eats more than I had anticipated. Our grocery bills are on the rise.

He is really perfecting his balance and mobility - he is now pulling up on moving objects, like small cars, grocery carts, me, and letting go with one hand and sometimes two. He is a pretty fast crawler which is my saving grace as I think he will prefer speed over height for a while longer. He's waving "hi", clapping his hands, and loving to play games with his big sister. He laughs and chuckles when she does peek a boo with him. He is so different than she was as a baby. He loves balls and things with wheels, and loves to make noise and really chew on his toys. It's not like he has a different set of toys than she did either - we've had trucks and planes and balls since Peanut was born - she just veered towards the babies and pumpkin is really working the cars.

Gosh they are sweet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Peanut's sleeping chart seems to be working really well - we are down to maybe twice a week night waking, which is a far cry from 4 times a night. She gets mail and stickers as well as a star on her chart when she sleeps through the night. At the end of the week, she can "win a prize" with enough stars. She is waking up saying "I slept the whole night! I think I have a sticker!" and more often than not, she is right. When she hasn't got mail or a sticker, she'll tell me that she woke up twice or daddy had to come in or whatever the reason. At this point, she really gets it. She's happier, I'm happier - the chart is a hit. We have taken the next step in establishing a more sane household, and are working Pumpkin back into his crib all night. He was in there for at least half the night for a while and then somehow it crept back up to sleeping with us almost all night, and I was really getting no actual deep sleep, which makes for a very crabby mommy.

For the past two nights, we have implemented a sleep routine and bedtime for Pumpkin, and it has been going pretty well. He has staying in his room both nights, and we have tended to him 4-5 times each night, sometimes for a minute and sometimes for an hour. He nurses at night, so there are times when he needs to eat, but those are becoming further apart too. It is really amazing to see that if you give Pumpkin the opportunity to fall asleep on his own, he can and will. He used to easily go down for naps and night, but I think he got into a habit of relying on mom and dad to do all of his soothing for him. We've been telling him: "we know you can fall asleep on your own", "it's so hard, but you can close your eyes and relax", "I know you are so tired and need your sleep", "I'll be back if you need me", and "I'm so proud of you", before we walk out of the room. I feel like believing it is possible is maybe more than half of the solution. If I believe he is able to fall asleep without me holding him, then he will. And he does. And I know from experience with Peanut, that it will continue to get easier for him to do so, and he will sleep for longer stretches. Just last night, I heard him wake up at around 6am, let out one cry, and then go back to sleep.

OK, I will admit that I am co sleeping drop out. I loved having my babies close when they were in the co sleeper, and before they were really mobile. It's really a different story for me once the baby is rolling and crawling. Pumpkin is so active that he could easily crawl up and out of a co sleeper by now, and can definitely climb over whatever barrier we set up for him in the bed. He can, and he will, so it is truly unsafe for us to fall asleep if he is restless. In addition, if he is close to me, he holds my chin, nose, hair, cheek, ear...whatever part he can get and fidgets all night. So even if I felt he wouldn't crawl away, I am still being mauled by an 8 month old, and can't sleep at all with his sharp little nails digging into my eye. I am really jealous of those families that are able to safely and restfully sleep together, but we are just not one of those families. Although I haven't slept well the past two nights, I have slept more comfortably without worrying that he is too close to the edge of the bed, or crawling up to the headboard. I also realized that in order to keep Pumpkin in a safe spot, I was always sleeping on one side which was really wreaking havoc on my neck and shoulder. I'd love to get back to my morning workout routine. I hadn't been able to do that because I didn't want to leave him in bed with Honey alone and one side of the bed completely open for falling, and transferring him successfully to the crib was clearly a pipe dream. So, yeah, we can't co sleep and be patient, well rested, thoughtful parents.

Here's hoping that a little sleep is all it will take to be more patient!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Asthma - No just the mattress!

A month or so ago, a friend called to ask for my advice. Her almost 3 year old was coughing at night and she had just been diagnosed with asthma. Her pediatrician put her on medication that she was to take for the next several weeks. Since this made my friend a little uneasy, and she is seeking to live a healthy life overall (aren't we all), she wanted to know what else she could do, what she might look for, any ideas for her daughter. Well, I said I'd ask around, but meanwhile she should look in her environment. As we talked more and brainstormed what might be contributing to the coughing, I mentioned that she may want to look at her mattress. A mattress with less chemicals may be something to try since she was only coughing at night, and it turns out, only in her own bed! When she slept in her mom and dad's room, in the bed or on the floor, she didn't cough!

That day, my friend bought a new organic mattress. Her toddler has not coughed since, and my friend is elated! She can't stop talking about this, which makes me happy because she is spreading the word about environmental health for our kids. I'm so glad the mattress did the trick! And I'm so glad she asked for ideas.

This experience just reinforced for me the need to demand safer products for our children and ourselves. If we all assume that asthma requires medication and are not clued in to look for sources other than our own body systems, we will continue to allow products with toxins to off gas in our homes and think we are "just sick". I was introduced to an organization called Healthy Child Healthy World whose mission reads: "We are igniting a movement that inspires parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals." Here is their video, A Wake-Up Story. Share it with your friends and family, if only to get them to think about what they and their children are exposed to every day.

A Wake-Up Story from Healthy Child Healthy World on Vimeo.

Nursing Our Future - HMN does me proud!

Once again, I am proud to be a mom. A holistic mom. A nursing mom.

This beautiful video made me cry when I watched it. I am so pleased that moms can and do nurse freely without concern for what others may say. It is clear from these pictures that you have to know what you are looking for to see that a mom is nursing in most instances. I have given a waiter my order while nursing and he never had a clue. With my second baby, it is so automatic to just nurse when he needs to eat - I continue with whatever i am doing and can get him into position and feed him with one hand. I do remember early on with Peanut how I looked around to see if anyone was watching me when I "had" to nurse her in public. I was not concerned enough to stop nursing, but I can see how the pressure from others might force a new mom to throw in the towel and switch to formula or a bottle before they may otherwise choose to. When I see a mom nursing a looking a little timid, I always try to give her a smile or some words of encouragement. I will truly rejoice once breastfeeding becomes all about feeding and not so much about the breast. Hopefully this is a step towards making that happen.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 12, 2010
CONTACT: Nancy Massotto, Executive Director

New Video Highlights Nursing Mothers

Caldwell, NJ – Inspired by a recent article in the Herald Sun (Australia) reporting that young women are reluctant to breastfeed their babies due to fear of public embarrassment, the Holistic Moms Network has launched a new project to highlight the beauty and confidence of breastfeeding women. HMN members from across North America submitted photos of themselves proudly breastfeeding their children – everywhere from the Eiffel Tower to the Brooklyn Bridge – for the Nursing Our Future video featured on the organization's website.

"Breastfeeding is one of the greatest gifts a mother can give to her child," says Executive Director Nancy Massotto, Ph.D. "Nursing offers babies enormous health benefits – physically, psychologically, emotionally, and sustainably for the planet. We want young women to embrace a culture of breastfeeding and to become informed about the benefits for moms, for children, and for the planet."

The Herald Sun report indicated that more than half of the Generation-Y men and women polled did not want their children breastfed in public for fear of embarrassment. Despite the World Health Organization's recommendation to breastfeed until at least six months of age, 75 percent of the study's young women stated they were unlikely to do so.

"It's such a shame!" says Dr. Linda Folden Palmer, author of The Baby Bond and new Holistic Moms Network Advisory Board Member. "I actually never saw a baby breastfeed in my 37 years before I nursed my own. I suppose my Chiropractic training helped me to feel comfortable displaying myself breastfeeding, though I almost never saw another nursing mother. One day a nervous mom sat beside me and my 10 month old nursling and started breastfeeding her own child. After several minutes, she turned to me and said she was so excited, she felt so free, that she had never done this before and I gave her the courage to breastfeed publicly! From that point on, I was on a mission to let others see and learn about nursing, everywhere I went. HMN's new effort is aligned with that passion."

Empowering mothers is a cornerstone of the Holistic Moms Network's mission and through the non-profit organization's Chapters, parents gather to offer one another support and advice while also learning about holistic living options from local practitioners and guest speakers. "Being involved in this organization has made me feel accepted in so many ways, and has helped me grow as a person and a parent," says Laurie Cunningham, a member and Co-Leader of the Northern Virginia Chapter.

Breastfeeding is one of the many interests shared by the organization's members, although not all members nurse their babies. "We are a very diverse population and we each make a variety of health and parenting choices," states Dr. Massotto. "We encourage holistic and natural choices, such as breastfeeding, but understand that not all options are available to all parents." The health benefits of breastfeeding are clear and widely supported in the scientific literature. Organizations, health care professionals, and government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), are "committed to increasing breastfeeding rates across the United States."

"One of the barriers for many young mothers is a lack of awareness about breastfeeding as well as a culture that is not particularly breastfeeding friendly," argues Dr. Massotto. The Holistic Moms Network hopes to raise awareness by showing young women images of breastfeeding and to help them find the support and encouragement they need to continue.

To view the Nursing Our Future video, visit the Holistic Moms Network's website at or on their YouTube channel at Breastfeeding mothers are also encouraged to share their personal breastfeeding photos on the organization's Facebook page at

Special Thanks
Our thanks and gratitude to the many Holistic Moms members who shared their inspiring and tender breastfeeding photos for this project; to HMN National Team Member Julie Wagner for putting them all together in a beautiful montage; and to breastfeeding mom Catherine Marie Charlton for her moving music.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's in your wallet?

When did I move to Vermont? Oh, I guess I didn't - we wouldn't be cooped up in our houses in Vermont - they know what to do with all this snow. It's another story here - no one knows what to do with it all. We got 30+ inches in the last storm over the weekend, and another storm hit us last night - it is still snowing. I finally got out yesterday and took Peanut to the farmers market to run around with her friends and get some vittles.

The streets feel like rural gravel and dirt roads - even some of the main streets are still snow packed and rutted. People are either driving like they are petrified, or absolutely insane. I had to swerve to miss a guy driving in the center of our bumpy, icy neighborhood road, cigarette in one hand, cell phone in the other, going a good 20 miles over the speed limit. On the flip side, getting onto the highway after a woman going 3 miles an hour flashing her brakes the whole way was no picnic either.

Today it seems that everyone has given up. We are all still in our pjs. Peanut is sitting in front of the TV. Most days, that magic box isn't turned on until 4pm if at all. Our neighbor who was out there shoveling every few hours the last storm is no where to be seen today. The plows have driven by, but the plows are raised. It's hump day, and we have all decided to wait it out this week and start fresh Monday.

What else is there to do except clean and organize? Pumpkin is growing so fast I can barely keep up with him. I take stuff out of his closet and unload a new box of the next size in. Thank goodness for friends and family with clothes to pass on! I try to pass on as much as we can too, so now I have baby clothes all over our bed - nice little piles "consignment", "freecycle", "donate", "for baby ___", which is great except that the piles will stay until any of the takers can come and get them. So my attempts to be more organized are thwarted - I have just created more junk that is out in the open instead of neatly hidden in a closet.

We did finish our taxes, and cleaned out a bunch of old files. I closed out a whole slew of store credit cards yesterday. I am going to be excited on the day (in the very far future) when i can pull a credit report that won't be 50 pages of stuff. Once these accounts get purged we should have a nice short clean document. (WARNING - do not try this if you are in any way looking to take out a loan in the near future - they HATE it when you have multiple closed accounts) This credit purge is just the next step in greening our lives - we've been going to paperless billing on anything we can, and really don't shop in the stores we had cards for that often, if at all. Many of the accounts I closed hadn't been used in a few years. As I piled up these old cards to be shredded, it occurred to me that we are wasting an awful lot of plastic with everyone getting new cards issued every year or two for almost everything. We have gift cards, insurance cards, credit cards, membership cards.... Where do they go and what can we do with them besides chuck 'em?

Most gift cards and credit cards are made from PVC, much of it virgin. Of course, PVC is not the most environmentally friendly material to start with, so either having card made from something else or cards made from old used cards are the best options. Some companies are using corn based plastics, biodegradable cards, and electronic gift cards. Most of us will chop up our credit cards so we can protect our information - these can still be recycled. Once they are used and there is no $ value remaining, gift cards are not a threat to your security or identity. Instead of leaving them in a drawer or your wallet or tossing them in the trash, consider reusing or recycling them. Earthworks is a company that will accept and recycle your plastic cards. They also provide companies with recycled material for gift cards, so green businesses can take advantage of this and avoid contributing further to the PVC pile up. Some stores are now accepting their old cards back for recycling as well, but be sure you ask as many will just toss them in the trash.

So what can you do? Use cash. Avoid those cards if you can, but if you must, there are some ways you can make an impact. Reload the cards you do use - no one needs a new Starbucks or Barnes and Noble card every holiday season. Next time you buy or use a gift card, ask the store about the material it is made from and whether they accept them back for recycling. Who has time (or the chutzpah) to do this? Well, how else can you make a change except by making the time to do it? I called three companies today to ask about the gift cards in my wallet. JC Penny had no idea whether their cards were PVC or recycled or another more earth friendly material. The customer service representative did say the cards can be reloaded, but he also said that they do not recycle their cards, they just toss 'em. The person I spoke with at Gap, said there is something special about their cards but she did not know what it was. Their online site reports that Gap has developed gift cards made with 88% recycled content. Gap gift cards can be reloaded and recycled, and the Gap stores will also accept your other cards for recycling. I spoke with a sweet Starbucks representative who said they are working on this issue, but have yet to find either an alternative to PVC for their cards nor enough locations for recycling. Of course, you can reload your Starbucks card. In my very brief search online, I found that you really have to dig to find out information about this. Companies who do use alternative materials and recycle their cards should be shouting it from the rooftops. Instead it is hidden beneath a bunch of other random corporate policies.

The idea of sending your credit card off to be recycled is a little scarier, although really, how is it better to throw it in the trash? Ask your bank for your debit and credit cards; do they use alternative materials, can you continue to use the same card forever, do they accept them back for recycling? When you look in your wallet, you will realize there are plastic cards galore - membership cards, licenses, grocery club cards, library cards... Talk to your gym manager about their membership cards, your county about the library card, your grocery store, the DMV. If you work in a store or company that uses or provides cards of any kind, bring it up to the management. Discuss it with your friends and family and resolve to coordinate gifting so as not to add cards. Use the service the Gap offers and drop off all your used gift cards there for recycling! In my wallet alone there are over 4 ounces of PVC cards. It may not seem like much, but it adds up fast. The number I've seen thrown around is 75 million pounds of PVC from cards goes into the waste stream every year. Let's try to make that way less!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Unplanned Landscaping

I do like the snow. I have to admit, I have wished for more of it during my time living here in Virginia. I've pshawed when schools close, rolled my eyes at drivers who won't go out in an inch of snow, lost patience with the multiple mentions of black ice... in New York we built igloos at the bus stop. Please people. So perhaps this is my fault - we have had so much snow this winter it's crazy! The last few snows have been fine - enough to have fun and play in, but the roads got cleared pretty easily and everyone got back to work fairly soon.

Peanut has loved playing in the snow! We just finished our first month of preschool where we learned about winter and snow, so we've read every snow related book, done experiments with snow melting, made clouds out of cotton, found animal tracks in the snow and made snow angels. She's got a lot in her head that she wants to do right about now, and seeing the snow makes her chomp at the bit! Here's some pics of the last storm - she found a stick (like Peter in The Snowy Day) and made tracks with it. She made her snow angels, and just really loved being out there. You'd never guess she was 25lbs with all that gear on.

When it began to snow yesterday, it was exciting! It began fast and furious, and Peanut started talking about going out to play. With the forecasters saying two feet or more of snow, I gently reminded her that if we couldn't play outside we had tons to do inside.

Well, she's 2. You can't just tell her it is too deep. We got all bundled up this morning, and went outside. I carried her down the deck stairs and when I was knee deep in snow (yes - knee deep) I plunked her down. She decided to go back inside and play with daddy and Pumpkin. Good plan. So I trudged around in the snow, cleared off the vents and mechanicals for the house (again - Honey did that a few times last night) and went around to check out the yard. Our crazy dog came along, sticking to my heels like glue in the path I made.

Last night we had begun to notice some of our trees were pretty low to the ground. We also heard some cracks and creaks as the snow continued to pile on and knew we'd lose some trees. One is really close to the house and leans our way. I got a little freaked out before I realized that we were being given an opportunity to landscape differently. I keep saying how I want to expand the garden, and lament where some of the trees are. Here you go - they are not there anymore! Honey went out a few times to scope it out before we turned in for the night trusting that we would wake up house intact. One of the funniest parts of last night was that every time we looked out our front window, our neighbor was out there shoveling - "got to keep ahead of the storm". Yeah. At midnight? We just stayed in our warm house and surveyed the scene.

On my expedition around the yard this morning - it felt like an epic journey - I did break a sweat out there - I found several trees down, some about to go, and our fence crushed in a few spots. We had planned on replacing the fence - now I am so glad it was at the bottom of our list! I'd hate to have trees fall on a brand new fence!

The scariest part of all this, is that these photos are from 8:30am, and it is now 2:30 and STILL SNOWING! I have had visions of going completely stir crazy by Monday if it just keeps coming down. At least Pumpkin is napping now. Peanut is in bed, singing and talking to her babies, and intermittently calling for someone. She's convinced she needs to pee, poop, blow her nose, get a drink, and have a snack rather than sleep.

We've pulled out all the stops today to ensure that we don't go nuts. I'm scheduling our days up with art projects, activities, snack times, and more so Peanut has plenty to do and doesn't become a TV watching zombie who refuses to sleep at night. This morning, we painted in the "museum" as Peanut calls it. We have paper taped to the walls in out downstairs hallway that the kids used for preschool artwork. We've added quite a bit to the masterpiece today. We also had a craft time and decorated our small snowmen, again leftovers from preschool (it worked out great for us, huh?!). Even Honey got into that one. Peanut directed him where he had to put stickers and a hat and all on his snowman. Sadly, I think these are the only snowmen we will be making for a while. The snow was perfect for sculpting, but it is just too deep! Maybe once we can get out on the deck, we can make a real one.