The Big Green Parenting Experiment

raising a healthy family in a toxic world

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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the four gift rule

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Christmas is fast approaching and there’s one thing that is on everyone’s minds. Gifts. So, what do you think of this four gift rule? Do you think that gifts and wish lists have gotten out of hand?

I don’t ever ask for much, nor have I ever, really. But I guess I do remember feeling jealous over other kids who had been completely spoiled for Christmas. I usually try to go the thoughtful or handmade route and this year will be almost exclusively due to the ol’ budget.

Schy is only 15 months old and doesn’t watch television, so we haven’t yet had to deal with the child who wants it all. But that time will come. And, man, kids want so much crap! I had no idea how much plastic bull$@*# my house would be filled with. Combine this with the ridiculous amount of packaging… ugh. It’s an aspiring green parent’s worst nightmare. So wasteful. All they really want is pots and empty paper towels tubes anyway.

So I read this four gift rule somewhere and I thought it was awesome! People go so overboard and totally miss the spirit if the holidays. Parents literally trample each other on black friday Thanksgiving for the hot toy of the minute, only to be tossed aside as soon as the next thing comes out. It’s madness. Shameful, really.

I’m really considering this rule for our family. I haven’t spoken to the husband about yet, so we’ll see what he thinks. I think it’s a good guide to keeping the gifts in check. And there’s still room for just a little spoiling since those wants can get pretty expensive. (Thanks Apple!) Christmas isn’t about how many gifts you get. It’s about giving, family, spending time with the ones you love. Oh, and cookies!

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this! Do you practice a ‘rule’ for gift giving? How do you help your children understand what the holidays are about without going overboard with gifts? Please share!

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Review and GIVEAWAY: Zenoobi.com

I was very excited to be contacted by Zenoobi.com to do a review of their fabulous site and one of their products. If you’re unfamiliar, Zenoobi is an eco-friendly and organic online retailer offering merchandise that ranges from baby and kids to furniture and household items. After exploring the site I was thoroughly impressed with the variety of merchandise that they have to offer.

At first glance, the site is very well-organized and offers a perfect balance of simplicity and variety. It is extremely easy to navigate and very user-friendly. It is apparent that the website is thoughtfully designed for a pleasant shopping experience. I had a very good first impression of the site.

I loved browsing the various products that they have to offer, from adorable organic baby clothing to my personal favorite, Aden + Anais swaddle blankets! (If you don’t already own at least one of these, now is your chance! Great gift, too!) There are a variety of natural bath & body products including the Earth Mama line, unique toys and crafts and even furniture for your little one or the nursery. And if that’s not enough for you, they also offer a large selection of natural cleaning products, bedding and household items.  Zenoobi.com carries an array of reputable names such as Happy Baby organics, Mrs. Meyers cleaning products, GreenToys, thinksport and many others.

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Zenoobi.com carries a fantastic selection of items for mama’s and mama’s to be. I received a bottle of Earth Mama Angel Baby Happy Mama Spray to try out. I haven’t tried many aromatherapy type products so I was eager to give it a shot. Described as ‘bliss in a bottle’, this spray is specially formulated with a blend of oils to be uplifting during stressful times and to curb pregnancy nausea. As the mother of a toddler, I used it for the former. The fresh citrusy scent is indeed uplifting! A spritz in the air or on the wrist and it really does give a refreshing feeling of calm. I’m sure the deep breath helps too! I obviously didn’t get to test the effectiveness on nausea. I have a hunch that it would depend on the woman as we all have very different aversions during pregnancy. I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a try if I should ever find myself pregnant again. I thoroughly enjoy this ‘bliss in a bottle’ and look forward to having it handy when we get further into toddlerhood and I need burst of serenity now!

Zenoobi.com is a great site for those, like myself, who like to support eco-friendly retailers. Based on my experience thus far, I would highly recommend giving them try. If we all did our part to select environmentally responsible products and support retailers like Zenoobi, the world would be a better place!

HOW ABOUT A GIVEAWAY???

Zenoobi.com is generous enough to be offering one of my lucky readers a $20 gift code for their site! Great time to pick up one of those sweet swaddle blankets I was raving about!

You will get one entry for each of the following:

1. Like Zenoobi on facebook and leave a comment about the giveaway. Bloggers be sure to ‘like’ from your personal FB page for it to be counted.

2. Like the big green parenting experiment on facebook and leave a comment. (Again, from your personal account.) if you already like the bgpe, leave a comment saying so to receive your entry.

3. Sign up for the Zenoobi.com newsletter and mention it in one of the above comments.

All entrants will receive a gift from Zenoobi.com, so please be sure to leave your comments so I can contact you! Who couldn’t use an extra $20 towards gifts right now? I know I could!

Zenoobi.com also states that they plant a tree for every order placed! How sweet is that?!

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day 13: 30 days of thanks

Today I am thankful for the internet! What an unbelievably amazing source of anything and everything you never cared about! We are so lucky to have so much information at our fingertips. I remember, loooong ago, we had these giant sets of dusty books to use as references. How inefficient was that? There are so many things that have been improved thanks to our glorious internet. I’m able to share pictures, shop, look up recipes and research any current obsession in minutes. And all at the same time if I like. It’s such an incredible wealth of knowledge and I truly do not know what I would do without it. It is such a wonderful, powerful tool. I use it all day, every day and am always discovering new ways to use it. I am thankful for all of the things that the internet allows me to do and I look forward to what’s still to come.

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travels with toddler

Autumn has been so unbelievably busy for us this year! Birthday parties, weddings, interviews, international travel… and that’s in addition to all of the other craziness that comes along with having an active (& perpetually teething) toddler!

We just returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic where my sister-in-law was married. And if you spoke with me at all over the past month, you know that I was VERY stressed leading up to the first big flight with a 14 month old. Eek!

Well, all that stress was for naught because things could not have gone better! After plenty of googling, surveying and preparing, we successfully made it there and back without a single tear or fuss! Phew! I wanted to share what worked for us to help ease the mind of pre-travel stressed parents like us. Trust me. It can be done.

The advice that I received the most was to pack new toys. Little people are intrigued by new things that they haven’t seen or played with before. While I was shopping for the trip I picked up a handful of new things which cost me about fifty bucks. It didn’t amount to much and the more I looked at it, the less confident I felt that it would keep her occupied for a total of six hours of flights (each way). I returned everything. My advice: pack new objects, not necessarily toys. When I returned those toys, I hit up the dollar bins at Target. I always walk right by these things but they are a gold mine for cheap, interesting, who-cares-if-it-gets-lost-or-broken type stuff. The most successful item purchased was a sheet of fall themed sticky gel window decals. Schy literally played with these things for an hour or more at a time. She stuck them to the tray, unstuck them, moved them, stuck them to the window, etc. We used about a third of a sheet on the way there and another third on the way back. We still have some left. They cost one dollar. Enough said.

Some other ideas that worked well were slinky jr’s AND their boxes ($1 each from the same target bins), multi-colored jelly bracelets ($1 for about 20), wikki
stix
from the craft store (about $6), finger puppets & squishy koosh creatures from a local toy store (~$2.50 each). We also brought plastic links, a roll of painters tape which we didn’t end up using and a cuddly puppy for naps. And don’t forget how much fun can be had with a plastic cup or two! Flight attendants are more than happy to supply them.

Next, new books. I did splurge for 7 new books at Marshall’s that were about $4 each but we get TONS of use out of books, so that is always money well spent. Again, the newness thing is intriguing. Reading new books is equally refreshing for parents also!

Snacks!! Plenty of snacks! We carried on more than she could’ve possibly eaten, but better to be safe. Organic puff snacks and a spill proof snack cup are perfect for traveling. And of course, two sippy cups… in case something happens to one. You never know.
We packed the toys in a shoulder bag IN a carry-on so we could just take the whole thing out and keep it handy. It worked very well and made clean up easier as well.

Some other random tips…
Our layovers were short (~1 hour) and by the time we all used the restroom, had a diaper change (LOVE the family restrooms!) and stocked up on water it was basically time to board again. We did, however, pack a ball to play with in the airport. I tried to find an inflatable beach ball but couldn’t find one anywhere so I just grabbed a medium-sized bouncy ball at Target for a buck. We didn’t end up using it but it would’ve been handy if we were delayed, etc. We also packed a U-shaped neck pillow which was awesome for naps! I was able to prop Schy’s head up while nursing and napping and I don’t know what I would’ve done without that thing! Pack the Tylenol, just in case. We didn’t end up using it, but we did carry it on. You never know how little ears will react to the pressure change until it happens. We tried to have Schy nursing, eating or drinking on ascent and descent but even the one time that she wasn’t, she handled it well. All babies are different. It’s definitely best to be over prepared.

We opted not to bring a stroller. She is not much of a sitter, so we figured that it would be more of a headache to lug around. This worked out fine. The layovers were quick and we had no trouble carrying her. Others I have spoken to thought that I was crazy for not bringing one but it worked fine for us. Multiple people recommended a portable DVD player as well. Schy isn’t a TV watcher so we didn’t bring one. We did have an iPhone loaded with her favorite kid tunes, though we didn’t end up using that either.

After all of the stress before the trip, things went wonderfully. Our little girl is a natural jet setter and we are already trying to figure out where to fly next! We need to squeeze one more trip in while she is still a lap baby!

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20. man made. #fmsphotoaday

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most annoying toy suggestions? calling all mommies!

This may seem a little off topic and hypocritical of me after my proclamation to boycott Toy R Us and all things wasteful, BUT it’s in the name of some good old-fashioned (harmless) mommy revenge.  Any and all feedback will be appreciated and considered!

Today I need to beg the help of all of my mommy blogger friends!  As you know, our little girl turned one this past week.  She is one very lucky little girl and received LOTS of birthday presents, many of them toys.  Unfortunately, one of these toys has turned out to be THE most annoying thing in the world and Stephen and I have been singing this annoying little tune ALL WEEK.

Here’s what it looks like…

Schy won’t ride it or even let us put her on it.  Instead she just stands in front of it, holding the handle bars, pressing the button repeatedly and dancing to the irritating tune, which is pretty cute… the first 3 or 4 times.  Here’s how the annoying little tune goes:  “let’s start her up and let her run, get ready to have some real good fun, it’s clear to the left and clear to the right, so put her in gear and hang on tight!”  OH.  MY.  GOSH.  I swear that this song plays in my dreams, it’s been the last thing I hear at night and it’s the first thing that I hear when I wake up in the morning.  Schy received this little gem from her Aunt, who happens to have a daughter just 5 months older than Schy.  By now I’m sure that you see where this is going.

Stephen and I are determined to find an even more annoying toy for our niece for Christmas.  This is where you come in.  Since I don’t have all of the time or patience in the world to get out there and test every annoying toy, I’m hoping that you all can help!  I know that every parent has gotten their fair share of these toys, at least one. Which toy has driven you to the brink of insanity?  If you have any suggestions for the most annoying toy for a 20 month old, please let me know.  This will really help me narrow down my selection so that I can find that “perfect” gift for my niece… and sister-in-law!  I really, truly appreciate your help!

In the meantime… “let’s start her up and let her run, get ready to have some real good fun, it’s clear to the left and clear to right, so put her in gear and hang on tight!”

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