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 convertible car seat debacle

We have reached the point where we need to make the transition to a convertible car seat. Schy is a pretty tall girl and while she still has some room to grow weight-wise, she would probably be more comfortable in a non-infant car seat. I had been doing some research and was somewhat alarmed at some of my findings. It’s amazing how much more serious health and safety becomes when we are talking about the littlest people in our lives.

Based on friends and family recommendations, I decided to focus on the Britax line. We have had pretty good luck with Consumer Reports in the past, so I went there first. Out of the top ten “greater than 40lb. harness capacity” seats, Britax holds seven of these slots, including three models that are actually tied for the number one slot. Not bad. This rating includes crash protection, ease of use, rear facing fit to vehicle and forward facing fit to vehicle. After weighing these ratings, size and price, along with some other consumer reviews, I narrowed it down the Britax Marathon.

I was pretty satisfied with my choice and started to price them out. WELL, this lead me to Amazon.com, which is generaly where I start when I am comparison shopping. Naturally, I started to read reviews there, also. To my horror, one of the reviews stated that this car seat was among the most toxic on the market, along with multiple other Britax models. You have GOT to be kidding me. Seriously???

Apparently the Britax seats tested positive for high levels of bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants) and chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers). Wow. I was in complete disbelief! We are quite anti-chemical, hence trying to rid our home of them. This just wasn’t going to fly. I was pretty devastated having already done all of my research.

I did a bit more digging and came across this list from healthystuff.org of the best and worst car seats of 2011. Sure enough, the Britax Marathon was on there, not once, not twice but THREE times! WTH?!
I then noticed that it seemed to be certain colors, mostly the blacks and greys… Jet Set, Platinum, Solstice. I searched for information regarding Azalea, which was the color that i had decided on, but couldn’t find anything. I guess that’s a good thing? Think no news is good news? *frantically biting fingernails* It really just blew my mind that there could be such high levels of toxic chemicals in these car seats where our precious angels spend so much of their time. You don’t even have to be a treehugger for that to freak you right out. I was immediately concerned for all of the friends and family that own, use and swear by this car seat everyday! Do they know what they’re exposing their children to? I tried to figure out what to do. Take a chance that the Azalea is safe? Jump ship? Abandon the Marathon?

I decided to start researching from scratch. In the process of starting over I stumbled upon this article which states that Britax and Orbit, whose seats are known for high levels of toxic chemicals, are eliminating the use of hazardous flame retardants containing bromine and chlorine by the end of 2012! Hallelujah! That is awesome!

So, guess who just ordered her Britax Marathon? This girl! What a roller coaster of an experience. The moral of the story fellow parents, treehugger or not… do your research! There is no way that I would knowingly subject my little girl to high levels of toxic chemicals for any reason. We should seriously all take the time to research anything and everything that our babies are exposed to. In a world where unexplainable diseases and disorders are running rampant, we need to be the first line of defense for our children. It may not seem like a big deal now, but who knows what effect this type of exposure could lead to years down the road. I’m not paranoid, just cautious. I’ll save the paranoia for the teenage years!

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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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