The Big Green Parenting Experiment

raising a healthy family in a toxic world

cloud dough!

Winter has already got me stir crazy so I’ve been trying to come up with creative ways to keep us both sane during the day. (Not that reading the same book over and over isn’t my idea of a good time…) We are just starting to get into arts and crafts, you know… eating crayons, crumpling paper, etc. so we have more options these days.

Today we did a hands-on activity which was really fun. It’s called cloud dough! This is all over Pinterest so I can’t really credit one person. It took me all of five minutes (ok, maybe 10) to make and kept us entertained for a half hour or so! The mess is minimal and super easy to clean up.

Here’s what you need:

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All purpose flour
Baby oil
Shallow plastic container, preferably with lid
Measuring cup

The recipe for the cloud dough is 8 parts flour to one part baby oil. I used 8 cups : 1 cup for ours. Simply measure the 8 cups of flour into your container, followed by one cup of baby oil. Knead with hands until lumps are mostly worked out and everything is well incorporated. It will feel like very soft sand which is moldable. Voilà! Cloud dough!

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I completely zoned out while I was kneading our dough. It was so soft and relaxing that it was almost meditative. This would account for the extra five minutes of prep time! We had a great time playing, molding and digging in it. The mess was easily cleaned up with a small broom and dustpan. I bought a shallow container with a snap-on lid from target ($5) so it is easily stored for next time. I’m not sure what the shelf life is or if it’ll dry out over time. I’ll keep you posted. My guess is we’ll definitely get our money’s worth of fun out of it!

Here are some pics from our fun with cloud dough. Enjoy!

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new for 2013: RIE parenting

The new year has me thinking about goals and perhaps changes for the big green parenting experiment. As a new-ish blogger, it can be challenging to find that perfect niche.

I love writing about sustainable living and parenting in a green way. These are both very important to me and I plan to continue to include those topics. I have plenty more ideas, information and fresh Friday recipes to share when CSA season starts back up again.

For 2013, however, I plan to dive into a parenting concept that is relatively new to me. It’s called RIE (resources for infant educarers). The approach is based on ‘honoring infants and young children as equal members in relationships.’ (RIE.org)

I was introduced to the concept by a friend who recommended that I follow Janet Lansbury on Facebook. After reading some of Janet’s work, I am ready to dive in and put these ideas into action. When my daughter was born I hadn’t really considered what ‘type’ of parent I would be. I stumbled upon attachment parenting after we discovered that Schy had reflux and was sleeping in our bed, on one of our chests at night. From there I started researching co-sleeping and naturally, discovered attachment parenting. This parenting style seemed natural for us and we agreed with most of the prominent ideals involved: co-sleeping, breastfeeding, not wanting her to cry and generally meeting her every need in order to create a loving, trusting bond.

I do still believe in certain aspects of attachment parenting but am coming to resent others. Perhaps it’s just because the principles aren’t working anymore. And maybe they never truly worked and we are just realizing this now that Schy is old enough to start expressing herself. I am falling in love with this RIE approach and am excited to shift my focus from being a slave to my baby to meeting both of our needs.

I’ve just ordered the book ‘Dear Parent: Caring For Infants with Respect’ by Magda Gerber, founder of RIE. I am so looking forward to further understanding her concepts and putting them to use. I feel this is exactly what the big green parenting experiment needs and I am SO excited to share what I learn, what works and what doesn’t. I’ll be starting off with an outline and some basics of RIE so you can familiarize yourself with the principles involved. As always, feedback, advice and experiences are welcomed as I embark on this new parenting journey!

Stay tuned for this exciting addition!

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26 acts of kindness: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

I know, I know… It is taking me forever to post these! I haven’t forgotten. I would love to blame the holidays but they’ve been over for some time now. I know I’m not the only who needs time to restore normalcy after the holiday madness, right?!

Lets continue with our kindness, shall we?

kindness: act 8

This was an awesome day! It was awesome because we had an act of kindness come back to us, as well as performing one! I had an important event to attend, so Schy & I went out to Boscov’s to get some of my favorite mascara that I was out of. It was a cold, icy day here, so in honor of Dawn Hochsprung (06/28/65), we stood by the door after we entered and held the door open for multiple people who were also coming in from the cold. Schy thought that all of this door holding was hilarious and her laughter brought a smile to almost all of their faces! It was sweet to see her brighten the day of others.

While at the Estée Lauder counter, the woman searched and searched for the mascara to no avail. (Apparently this is their best seller. Who knew?) She looked in different locations, high and low, determined to find what I had asked for. She asked if we had a moment, which we did, and she scurried off. She returned with a promotional sized mascara and lash primer and said “you can have these!” I was so delighted. I thanked her so much and let her know how appreciative I was for her taking the time to find that for me. I think someone as giving and selfless as Dawn would approve!

kindness: act 9

That same day, I spread kindness for Madeleine F. Hsu (07/10/06) by offering a ride to someone who was attending the same event that I was. I was hesitant at first, but there was no reason not to, especially since we live so close to each other and were going to the same place. I thought of little Madeleine, extended the invitation and it was graciously received.

kindness: act 10

Today we hit the kindness jackpot at our local supermarket. I honor of Catherine V. Hubbard (06/08/06) we spared some change for the customer in front of us. His order came to $5.26 and he was frantically searching for 26 cents. I could sense his embarrassment as I reached into my coat pocket and felt a bunch of change. I handed the 26 cents to the cashier and she smiled. He must’ve said thank you 4 or 5 times before leaving. Thanks for the inspiration, Catherine!

kindness: act 11

Same supermarket, same line… we were just picking up some almond milk and a couple vegetables. Next up, Chase Kowalski (10/31/05). An elderly man joined the line behind us with just one item, a small container of milk. I asked the cashier if I could pay for that, too. She looked at us kind of blankly and said “really? Ooook”. I said “yes, we are paying the kindness forward.” She scanned his item while he was opening up his wallet, not realizing what was going on. We grabbed our bag and left without looking back. I hope that even this small gesture made him smile, as well as the cashier when she told him that his order was paid for! This small gesture, made for Chase.

kindness: act 12

One more for today, in honor of Jesse Lewis (06/30/06). While I was strapping Schy into her carseat, a small elderly woman rolled her shopping cart up to the car next to us. By the time I was finished buckling, she was closing her car door after loading up her groceries. I reached out and asked if I could return the cart for her. It wasn’t far, but it was cold (14 degrees here today!). She simply said “thank you, dear” and climbed into her car. I returned the cart, thanks to Jesse, and returned to my car as she was driving off, giving me a wave. It is so rewarding to help someone in a small way. I drove home from the store feeling so happy today, and with the Sandy Hook victims in my heart.

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holidays with toddler: notes for next season

The holidays are such a wonderful, magical time of year. Having a child puts a whole new exciting, and sometimes stressful, spin on things. We had a really great season filled with love, family, baking, delicious food, really delicious wine, toys and celebration. But all good things must come to an end and I am quite relieved that it’s over. At least until next year.

I wanted to make some notes of things that I’ve learned in an effort to have a smoother, even more enjoyable holiday season with toddler next year.

In no particular order:

1. No batteries! I wavered on this for this year, but there were some really great musical toys that we asked for for Schy. And she loves them, especially the woofer guitar. We did only receive a couple of battery operated toys this past year, but next year we are going battery free! Although she loves her guitar, she loves her new bristle blocks even more and they let her own creativity shine. Children learn so much more from toys that involve imagination, problem solving and creativity. Don’t you think that it would be cool to see the gifts people come up with? No list, no rules– just no batteries. Plus, battery free toys are a lot more fun and interesting for us to watch (and join in!).

2. Gender neutrality. Don’t get me wrong, we do own pink things. And Schy does have a particular fondness for bracelets. I was somewhat shocked on Christmas when a family member referred to Schy’s new blocks as ‘girl colors’. They’re just colors: blue, pink, green, yellow. I’d rather my daughter grow up feeling comfortable with any color toy (or otherwise) she chooses without being referred to as ‘girly’ or masculine. I’m not banning pink from the house, just moderation. The gender stereotypes, especially in toys, is outstanding. We try to buy gender neutral toys as much as possible and hopefully we can get everyone else on board too. At least until Schy can voice her own personal choices.

(My favorite color is blue.)

3. Give the child a break. The holidays are overwhelming for us as adults. Imagine how it must feel to a small person who is in the spotlight most of the day. Exhausting to say the least. It’s so easy for our little ones to become overstimulated with all of the people and toys and noise. I found that taking small breaks for a little quiet time were extremely beneficial for us. Schy is still nursing so it gave us an opportunity to slip away into a guest room and have some quiet time together. It gave us a chance to reconnect and for me to let her know how well she was behaving, sharing and interacting. It was peaceful and centering for us both. It’s amazing what a short quiet break can do. I plan to keep this one in my pocket for years to come.

4. Don’t stress. Our children feed off of our energy. When we’re stressed, they are likely to be stressed, which makes us more stressed… and so on. Relax. Enjoy. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember the things that are important during the holidays and teach them to your children. No one is going to remember that the ham was a little dry or that you forgot the eggnog. Everyone will remember the quality time spent together. Isn’t that what we want our children to learn? The holidays can be stressful, but we can manage that stress for the happiest holidays possible, for ourselves and for our most precious little ones.

There you have it. My list of ideas for enjoying, not just surviving, the holidays with small children. I’m feeling positive about taking on another round of the holidays! Of course, I would love to have an extra long, sunny summer in between.

Wishing everyone a spectacular new year filled with peace and happiness.

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