Monday, October 29, 2007

Pumpkin Carving Time

Halloween is so close you can taste it! If you didn't carve your pumpkins yet, tonight or tomorrow night is a good time to do them. They will still be fresh on Wednesday and it won't leave much time for the squirrels to get to them.

When picking out your pumpkins:

Examine the rind.
It should be firm, uniform in color, and free of cuts, bruises, and blemishes.

Make sure that the stem doesn’t look brown and dry. And don’t use the stem as a handle, since even a healthy one can break off. Pick up a pumpkin by its base instead.

Give the pumpkin a knock. A thumping sound means the pumpkin is solid, with no internal defects, rot, or soft spots.

For ideas on what to carve, check out these sites -has free patterns

Some of my favorites:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Book: Raising Baby Green

A new organic parenting book hit the shelves last month and it has been getting some rave reviews. Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care is a self proclaimed "comprehensive guide to help environmentally conscious parents make healthy product and lifestyle choices".

So who is the author Dr. Greene? Intel named him Child's Health Hero of the Internet, and he has already published one book prior to this one, From First Kicks to First Steps. That's great and all, but doesn't really impress me much. What is more impressive to me is that he is a father of four and a practicing pediatrician. I hate when doctors stop practicing to just write books and sell stuff, being in the office and seeing patients keeps things in perspective and fresh.

While writing his book Dr. Greene kept in mind that we don't want to break the bank in the movement towards organic. Here is Greene has identified 5 foods that will make an impact and are easy to switch. Courtesy of NYTimes:

1. Milk: “When you choose a glass of conventional milk, you are buying into a whole chemical system of agriculture,'’ says Dr. Greene. One recent United States Department of Agriculture survey found certain pesticides in about 30 percent of conventional milk samples and low levels in only one organic sample. The level is relatively low compared to some other foods, but many kids consume milk in large quantities.

2. Potatoes: Potatoes are a staple of the American diet — one survey found they account for 30 percent of our overall vegetable consumption. A simple switch to organic potatoes has the potential to have a big impact because commercially-farmed potatoes are some of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables.

3. Peanut butter: More acres are devoted to growing peanuts than any other fruits, vegetable or nut, according to the U.S.D.A. More than 99 percent of peanut farms use conventional farming practices, including the use of fungicide to treat mold, a common problem in peanut crops.

4. Ketchup: For some families, ketchup accounts for a large part of the household vegetable intake. About 75 percent of tomato consumption is in the form of processed tomatoes, including juice, tomato paste and ketchup. Notably, recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup.

5. Apples: Apples are the second most commonly eaten fresh fruit, after bananas, and they are also used in the second most popular juice, after oranges, according to Dr. Greene. But apples are also one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables. The good news is that organic apples are easy to find in regular grocery stores.

Dr. Greene's website is full of even more useful information.

Nursery Decor + Trend: Birds

If you browse the style blogs like I do, you have probably notice a lot of retro bird prints and textiles. They certainly are cute and apparently hip too. Here are some great items that you can decorate a unisex nursery in.

Start with a Flights of Fancy mobile from Orange Button

Bird Crib Bedding in pink/orange

Get a personalized name banner. These birds come in all kinds of colors and patterned fabrics.

This adorable poster counts from 1-20 in colorful birds.

You can add some plush toys around the room

For a more sosphisticated look, you can use Birds in Flight wall graphic
Pick from 32 colors. 25 decals ranging in size from 5" by 4.5" to 22.5" by 7.5"

Monday, October 22, 2007

How Quickly They Pick Stuff Up

Infants and toddlers are amazing in their ability to learn vast amounts in a small amount of time. Their vocab starts with just repeated monosyllabic sounds (da-da is often first) and then grows so fast that you can't keep up and next thing you know they are putting together sentences.

But vocabulary isn't the only thing they are picking up in 18 months. Check out this article from CNN. A mother of two young children had her kids tested for industrial chemicals in their blood and the results were rather unsettling. She speaks on her younger son's results; "He had two to three times the level of flame retardants in his body that's been known to cause thyroid dysfunction in lab rats."

How is that possible? Dr. Leo Trasande, assistant director of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City , speaks on the issue.
"Pound for pound, they eat more food, they drink more water, they breathe in more air... And so [children] carry a higher body burden than we do.

Rates of asthma, childhood
cancers, birth defects and developmental disorders have exponentially increased, and it can't be explained by changes in the human genome. So what has changed? All the chemicals we're being exposed to."

What can parents do? Do their best to reduce unnecessary plastics, food preservatives and chemical cleaners and try not to worry. Our children will still likely live long happy lives as the life expectancy rate has only been increasing over the last 150 years.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Baby Sling... and Hammock

I was looking at this sling company today, didymos, and in their photo gallery I found several examples of sling-use that I had never seen or thought of before.... using it as a baby hammock!

Fussy baby not wanting to sleep in the pack 'n play? Rig it up so the baby can sleep in a hammock.

Out camping, hiking, or enjoying an afternoon in the park? Let the baby take a nap in a tree- just tie up the sling into a hammock. Genius.

The President and Birth Control

For the second time, President Bush has appointed a chief of family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who is against birth control. Susan Orr was appointed Monday and will soon have control of $283 million in annual grants. But what does a conservative who is against contraception do with $283 million that normally go to helping low-income families with contraceptive services and counseling. Will it all go to counseling now?

Orr is replacing Eric Keroack, a physician who resigned in March, who was heavily criticized for working at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that opposed the use of birth control.

I leave the comments to the best commentator on the web, William Saletan of Slate, who writes:

The new appointee has argued that federal employees' health insurance should not have to cover contraception, "because fertility is not a disease. It's not a medical necessity that you have [contraception]."

Pro-choice reactions: 1) You've got to be kidding us … again. 2) Pssst, right-wingers! 98% of women use contraception! 3) Way to go, geniuses—expect more abortions.

Conservative rebuttals: 1) The new appointee didn't oppose contraception per se; she just wanted "to allow federal employees the option to choose a health benefits plan that did not include family planning coverage." 2) It's not just a moral issue; some employees don't want such coverage "due to their age." 3) We're for "consumer choice of coverage" and "keeping family planning truly voluntary."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Halle Berry's Green Baby Plans

Halle Berry is planning on being an environmentally conscious mom. She told People magazine that, "I'm working on the nursery, but it's all going to be organic and eco-friendly... There are so many things out now that you can use. I'm going to really try hard to make it all organic!". She added that, "They even have organic disposable diapers now that you can use".

What diapers is she talking about? Well, there are a couple options in the "organic disposables" area.

Seventh Generation Disposable Diapers: They are made in the US- which is good for both the US economy and for reducing use of gas and oil for the product to get to store shelves. They are free of latex, prefumes, dyes, and TBT (tributyl tin). They are made of chlorine-free materials and hypo-allergenic.

Tushies: "The Gel-Free Alternative Diaper" claims to be free of gel, latex, prefumes, dyes, TBT, and GMO. The diapers use chlorine-free woodpulp instead. But I'm not convinced. They say right on the website, "Because Tushies Diapers do not contain a superabsorbent, parents will change diapers more frequently". So you are creating more waste then? If you are throwing out more diapers than regular disposables, I don't really see the environmental advantage here.

In the end, while I am glad that people are using more Earth-friendly materials, it still seems like the Prius answer to things. It sounds great and perhaps feels like you are helping the cause, but there isn't much there. The Prius isn't all that environmentally friendly- the batteries and lifespan of the car make it not as friendly as say a TDI Jetta which gets 40 to 50 mpg. In the same way, while organic diapers sound great, they aren't really helping- after all they still are disposable. Energy is going into something that is shipped, bought and worn for a very short period of time and then thrown out. It's like someone saying they use Earth-friendly paper cups. It doesn't make sense. Use something that you can wash and reuse!

This is why I am a huge advocate for cloth diapering. A few quick points from

"disposable diapers continue to fill landfills around the world... by contrast, washing organic cotton diapers at home uses surprisingly little water: 6% of a household's total water usage for top-loading washers and 3% for front-loading washers... In the summer, we use more water to keep our lawn green than we do to wash our diapers"

Not only that, but they are cheaper!

Diaper Type Total CostBased on 6,750 diaper changes Price Per Change
Cloth diapers (washed at home)$778.0512¢
Cloth diapers (diaper service)$2,133.0031¢
Disposable diapers$2,530.0037¢

Monday, October 15, 2007

Today: Blog Action Day

Today, October 15th, is Blog Action Day. Blog Action Day was created for bloggers to unite on a single important issue and get information out there on it. For 2007, the topic is the environment. There are so many ways and so many resources out there that it is hard to decide what to write on, but I think the easiest, simplest thing for everyone to do is remember the three Rs and for parents, the N.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Narrate.

I bet you are doing more for the environment that you realize. You have just gotten used to the small changes you have been making over the years- but your little ones may not know why you do the things you do or even notice that you are doing them. So take the two seconds to tell your children what it is your are doing and why it is best for the environment. Just a few examples, I'm sure you'll get the picture...

"We are carpooling with the Smiths to soccer because it saves gas and reduces CO2"

"We turn off the water while we brush our teeth to keep from wasting it"

"We use dish towels instead of paper towels to reduce waste and save trees"

Happy Blog Action Day folks!

Nursery Idea: WonderWalls Wallpaper

This great company out of London has two great things going on. 1) They have an adorable line of children's wallpaper and borders and 2) They will print custom wallpaper for you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kate Winslet: Smart Mama

I read a quote from Kate Winselt today, not sure how old/new it is but I found in refreshing either way. In reference to teaching her daughter positive body image:

"I’ve just started subtly telling Mia, ‘I love my belly. You and Joe came out of there. I’m proud of my belly and I’m proud of my hips. I love my body.’ “I want to give something to her that is empowering so when she comes into her teenage years she feels confident in herself."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Stroller, Stroller Made of Gold

When you think of a limited production of a classy mode of transportation- you probably think of luxury sport cars. But now there are also luxery strollers in limited production as well.

The Mamas & Papas of the U.K. made a limited edition Ziko Gold stroller- there were only ten ever made. Want to see one? Gwen Stephani has one of those 10.

Another British company, Maclaren had to come out with one too. There were only 20 Maclaren GB Type Au: The Luxury of Leather with the Bling of Gold strollers made. The black leather, the gold tinted carbon fiber stroller even has a detachable solid 9k gold Maclaren diamond logo on the cellphone pocket.

Meet Panwapa, The New Muppets

Sesame Workshop launched a world-wide video initiative yesterday called Panwapa. The aim of the new Muppet crew is to celebrate cultural diversity and "foster a foundation for global citizenship and community in children around the world".

Panwapa means "here on this earth" in Tshiluba - the national language in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Panwapa website has a Word of the Day and Place of the Day feature to highlight countries and cultures from around the world. It also has an interactive globe where kids can 'visit' kids from around the world.

Kids can make their own Panwapa profile of sort by making up their own 'flag'. They pick their favorite food, animal, sport, musical instrument, activity and craft. These icons are then displayed on their flag to hang outside their virtual house. They can collect a variety of cards- a card from each country they visit, a card for each interesting animal they encounter on their visit or by completing a treasure hunt. As you can see- there is lots to do on this in depth website. The site is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin and Japanese.

The full Panwapa video program is being released through iTunes for free (gotta love the free educational stuff) and in January 2008 Panwapa vidoes will be available for free via PBS KIDS Sprout’s video-on-demand service.

Below is Whoopie Goldberg with Elmo and Azibo at a news conference to announce Panwapa in New York yesterday.

Kids Cough Meds are Going, Going, Gone

Drugmakers are voluntarily pulling children's cold medicines off the market today. Consumer Healthcare Products Association said withdrawal was prompted "out of an abundance of caution" and insisted that the products are still safe if used as directed. This move comes after medical experts asked the FDA to consider a full ban on all over-the-counter children's cold medicines as they believe that there is more risk of harm then there is benefit.

Items being pulled off CVS shelves today and soon other pharmacies:

Johnson & Johnson Pediacare Infant Drops
Tylenol Concentrated Infants Drops
Wyeth’s Dimetapp Decongestant Infant Drops
Novartis’ Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips
Prestige Brands Holdings’ Little Colds Decongestant Plus Cough

Dr. Ari Brown, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, she told MSNBC, "Usually what we recommend are saline nose drops, humidifiers and time... Truly, these cold viruses, [and the] flu will go away on their own. If you just give it some time, a little TLC and lots of saline nose drops, your child will do just fine." Other doctors have also recommended throwing any infant cold medicines you have at home out. For more alternatives to cold medicine see NPR's article.

Best Halloween Goody Bag

illumiNITE is a patented "retro-reflective technology" that is applied to sports gear, dog collars and leashes and other products that need to be seen in the dark. As the illumiNITE explains,

"Millions of microparticles called sataLITE DISHES® reflect light back to the originating source. Unlike conventional reflective strips or trims, illumiNITE® can be applied over the surface area of a product to reflect back a silhouette profile that is easily recognizable as a distinctive human shape. illumiNITE® can be combined with a broad range of other fabrics and fabric coatings to offer outstanding body comfort and climate protection."

What does that have to do with Halloween? Well they have applied this reflective material to a Halloween candy bag. When headlights or flashlights come across this bag the whole bag will reflect letting people know loud and clear the whereabouts of the bag carrier. It's pretty cute, holds up to 5lbs and is only $9.99.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Halloween Seal of Approval

There are tons of Halloween costumes out there- generally I am a fan of home made ones, but I did find some that were both adorable and affordable. So I present the top 3:

Peanut Infant costume:

Lil Dino Triceratops

Baby Clown Fish

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Nursery Idea: Chalk It Up!

Chalk boards are great items for functionality and decoration. Kids can doodle all day with easy clean and no wasting of paper. Parents can find many uses for them too: label things, do a mural, write down reminders, teach kids to write their own name... the list goes on. While it may seem during pregnancy and the first few months that it will be an eternity until your baby starts crawling, walking, let alone drawing- let me assure you that it will go by very fast. Before you know it, that nursery of yours will need to also serve as a playroom. Check out these cute options for putting some chalkboard space in.

Found on Delight
Peel and Stick Chalkboard Tree. 30" Chalkboard tree decal and 13 birds you can move around.

From Target. They have all kinds of cute chalkboard bins and buckets in several colors.

From Genius Jones. A chalkboard table, complete with center storage for chalk.

And of course there is the more permanent option of painting a wall or furniture with chalkboard paint. The thing to know here is that you aren't limited in colors. It doesn't have to be black or green! It can go with whatever colors you are already using. Martha Stewart's recipe for colored chalkboard paint.

Custom Colors How-To
Start with flat-finish latex paint in any shade. For small areas, such as a door panel, mix 1 cup at a time.

1. Pour 1 cup of paint into a container. Add 2 tablespoons of unsanded tile grout. Mix with a paint stirrer, carefully breaking up clumps.

2. Apply paint with a roller or a sponge paintbrush to a primed or painted surface. Work in small sections, going over the same spot several times to ensure full, even coverage. Let dry.

3. Smooth area with 150-grit sandpaper, and wipe off dust.

4. To condition: Rub the side of a piece of chalk over entire surface. Wipe away residue with a barely damp sponge.

Finger Printing in Cafeterias

A recent Time article talks about a new trick that school officials have began using to speed up lunch lines- finger print identification. What is the advantage? In Boulder Valley, Colorado the children couldn't remember their 6 digit ID numbers they had to give to get lunch. It would save time for kids and also help out those who forgot their lunch money. Colorado isn't the only place using this new technology. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia kids are asked to use finger scans to pay for lunch and prove class attendance. Parents, not surprisingly, are not happy about this. It seems to be too personal a form of ID, too risky in a world where ID theft is already a problem.

Michigan and Iowa have passed laws prohibiting schools from scanning fingerprints of children. Illinois law now requires parental consent to get a child's fingerprint. What is interesting to me is that legally teachers in public schools must be fingerprinted. Even substitute teachers must submit two forms of ID along with fingerprints in order to teach in a school district. This goes along with a criminal background check in many states. It is comforting to know teachers who are in close contact with lots of youth are screened and records are kept in case there is ever suspicion of something illegal. And it works to the teacher's benefit too- their fingerprints may end up protecting them from false accusations.

So why is it OK for teachers to be fingerprinted and not students? Teachers are there voluntarily. They chose to teach, they want to be employed. They have a contract and get paid. Children's fingerprints are not there for legal matters- they are for the convenience of school staff and lunchroom efficiency. That isn't a good enough reason for me.

You want to speed up the lunch line? Give kids a plastic ID with a bar code. The bar code can be scanned just as easily, they can wear the ID on a lanyard around their neck. But kids will inevitably loose their IDs. Yeah, they probably will. They're kids, and that's fine, a new ID card can be printed up for them. It will still speed up the process and it won't feel as much like a violation of privacy.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Cold Medicine Conundrum

This month the FDA Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee will meet to discuss the safety and effectiveness of cough and cold medicines for children. FDA has warned that children's cold medicines can be harmful if more than the recommended amount is used and are investigating whether the benefits of the medications outweigh the potential risks. In a 356 page review that was published Sept 28th, experts asked the FDA to consider a full ban on all over-the-counter, multisymptom cough and cold medicines for children under the age of 6. Whether or not any policy action will occur will be announced on October 18th. Until then Doctors Ian Paul of Penn State and Danny Benjamin of Duke University give suggestions on treating colds without medicine.

As reported by NPR:

-Always encourage a child by telling him or her that colds are usually short-lived, and that they will feel better in a few days.

- Products containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol; or products containing ibuprofen, such as Motrin or Advil, can make a sick child more comfortable, when given in the proper dose.

- Saline nose drops or warm steam from a shower can help ease decongestion. Of decongestants and cough medicines on the market, Benjamin says, "There is not anything out there that is effective."

- Ensure the child drinks plenty of fluids.

- If the child is not getting better or is getting worse, reevaluate his or her condition.

- Both doctors emphasize the importance of reassuring the child by providing affection, comfort, and understanding. Benjamin says, "In our household we use a lot of tender loving care."

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Grandpa/Dad. Blurring the Lines

The headline reads "Grandad to Father his Own Grandkid" and the gut reaction becomes "HUH?!". A 72 year old British man was asked by his son and daughter-in-law to be a sperm donor since the son has not been able to get his wife pregnant. The couple wanted the child to have the same genetic material as the father, and since he has no brothers, the grandfather was the only male available to donate such genetic material. However, because the grandfather is 72, the donated sperm will not be as good as young sperm. The chances of IVF failure, miscarriage, autism and Down's syndrome are all higher.

If the couple is concerned with genetic material, why wouldn't they choose healthy anonymous sperm over grandpa's? How are they going to explain to the child that he is a half-brother of his own father? What are your thoughts?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Future in Finger Painting

Mia Fineman of Slate magazine reported recently on young Marla Olmstead who sold more than $300,000 worth of paintings before the age of 5. It all started when a family friend hung one of Marla's paintings in a local coffee shop, next thing we knew she had a solo gallery show. 60 Minutes then aired a piece about Marla suggesting that her father, a night-shift manager and an amateur painter, had a hand in her success... and sales came to a halt. Now the whirlwind journey is documented in My Kid Could Paint That by Amir Bar-Lev. It all brings interesting questions to the table, as Mia Fineman asks better than I can,

"Does it matter that she has no knowledge of these artistic precedents, and most likely, no clear concept of "art" itself? Is Marla a prodigy or a primitive? Can a work of art transcend the intentions of its maker? If a child can make great abstract paintings, does this mean that modern art is itself a hoax, a high-culture con game?"

Do you think children can be true artists? Must art be derived from years of life experiences, love, heartache, disappointment, success, failure, or can it just be what it is? Pretty colors and swirls...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Cutest Baby Shower Invites

Throwing a baby shower for a sister, cousin, friend- whoever can be both fun and stressful. If you are like me, part of the fun part is picking out the cute invitations. Here are some chic ones I have seen recently:

From TinyPrints:

From SweetBabyDesigns (also in pink/brown):



Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Double the Fun

It has long been told that twins run in families, and that more often then not they skip a generation. But how does this hold up scientifically?

Certain genes can predispose a woman to release more than one egg at a time, which would lead to a greater possibility for fraternal twins. This gene can be passed on, so it is indeed hereditary. But what about identical twins? A fertilized egg splits in two producing two children with the same DNA. In that case, scientists have no answer. There is no gene that influences this occurrence and so it is thought of as coincidental if identical twins appear in the same family. As for skipping generations? It's a myth. Passing down the gene that leads to hyperovulation (and hence fraternal twins) can be passed down through the mother or the father. When it is passed down through the father- it appears as though a generation was skipped, but it is simply because the father doesn't ovulate so it goes unnoticed.

For resources on twins: created by parents of twins, for parents of twins. Sharing parenting information and experiences among parents who are expecting or raising twins or multiples.

Twin List: Mailing list, FAQs, tons of resources links listed by topic.

National Organization of Mother's of Twins Clubs: founded in 1960 for the purpose of promoting the special aspects of child development which relate specifically to multiple birth children.

Twins Magazine: "the premier periodical for parents of multiples, from twins and triplets to quadruplets, quintuplets and more! Published six times each year, TWINS™ Magazine is the "bible of parenting multiples," loved by moms and dads of twins and higher-order multiples since 1984."