Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Real Tips for a Healthy Home

After last night's soap-box entry, where I put the fanatics of the Natural Parenting Facebook page on blast, I figured I best back myself up with something that's actually useful. Now that I've laid claim to being a "real" parent, versus a "natural" parent, how about we start talking about some real ways to make some real changes, in our real lives? 

Most of these ideas were not my own, but I thought it might be nice to compile them into one list. Please, help me out here by adding your own suggestions - here in the comments section, or on my Facebook page. I want this to be a team effort. Less yelling at each other, more working together and all that. 

So here we go. 

10 Real Tips for Making your Real Home Real Heathy:

1. Replace your disposable paper products with linen versions. This is something I'm in the process of doing right now. In fact, I spent the first half of nap time today researching cloth napkins, like these, made from recycled cotton. 

2. Stop using plastic tuperware. Buy glass. Not only does glass last longer, you eliminate the risk of exposure to lots of nasty chemicals, including BPA. While many manufacturers of plastics are starting to go BPA-Free, they aren't all there yet. So why take the chance? 

3. Replace your plastic utensils with wood. Again, reduce your risk of chemical exposure by going with a natural material, instead of something man-made.

#2 & #3 are courtesy of the Eco-Friendly Family; a fabulous blog that my sister-in-law introduced me to. 

4. Use, all-natural, unbleached coffee filters. They are better for the environment, and better for your health. We did this a few months ago and noticed absolutely no difference in taste. These actually advertise a better tasting brew than the traditional white filters. 

5. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle. 

6. Throw away your Swiffer. Use a classic mop, or an eco-friendly version like this, and make your own cleaning solution. Try this very basic recipe, courtesy of The Daycare Lady

1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
1/4 cup washing soda
2 gallons tap water, very warm

7. If you absolutely cannot break-up with your Swiffer, make your own covers, like these from Heather at Dollar Store Crafts. 

8. Make your own laundry detergent, like this version from blogger Why Not Sew

10. Stop using plastic grocery bags. Invest in reusable bags to take with you. Some stores even give you a credit of up to .5 for each bag you bring (each time).

And don't just stop at the grocery bags! I recently purchased these mesh bags, and I love them. Stop putting your (very expensive!) organic food into plastic bags. These are washable, breathable and a much healthier alternative!

For an organic cotton mesh version, check these out. 

Replace plastic sandwich bags with these adorable reusables from Kohl's.

11. Add your suggestions!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why I Am No Longer a Natural Parent

A few weeks ago I was delighted to sit and have a nice conversation with one of my sisters-in-law, about what it means to be a parent these days. How some ideologies on the subject seem to come and go, in and out of style, much like everything else in the world. How hard it is to live up to ridiculous standards, and how we always seem to be each other's worst critics. (Moms in general, not her and I. I'm her biggest cheerleader, and I like to think she has my back.)

We agreed that we find ourselves parenting now, in a much "crunchier" environment than our parents raised us in. Back then (waaaay back in the 70's) it was much more "in style" to do things like formula feed your newborn. And man - when those disposable diapers hit the market it was a considered a god-send! 

Of course, everything being full-circle in life, we find ourselves now at a point in time where formula feeding is likened to child abuse (much like fast food?), and using disposable diapers lands you in the ecology hall of shame, right alongside people who drive gas guzzling SUVs, and fly in private jets. Carbon footprint is the buzz word, and on the parenting side of this movement we hear phrases like "Natural Parenting" and "Eco-Friendly Families". Buzz words that have taken on a life of their own. 

Right around the time I was making the transition from this being "just another Mommy blog", to a more green-focused version, I started liking a bunch of social media sites related to this idea of Natural Parenting. One fan site, on Facebook, is most aptly name "Natural Parenting". It's a sister site to The Stir, or Cafe Mom. And it is the very site responsible for my now immense resentment of the term "Natural Parenting". Yes, that's right - immense resentment

What I learned in the very few short months I was a fan of this Facebook page is that no matter what, you will never win. You will never be the best Natural Parent you can be. Ever. You will never live up to this pie-in-the-sky standard that was created somewhere in the 4th dimension, otherwise known as "cyber-space". You know that place I speak of; where every parent is the best parent ever, and if you don't agree with everything those best parents do, well then, you're not worthy of even sharing their eco-friendly green space on this planet. 

In order to gain access to this elite group of parents, you best be willing to go all out. We're talking cloth diapering with only the finest bamboo products, breastfeeding until at least junior high, co-sleeping until high school. Don't even THINK about vaccinating, use only organic foods, organic clothing, earth-friendly cleaning products, and hybrid cars (at the very least!). And, ultimately sell your soul to the idea that ANYTHING LESS THAN THIS IS JUST BAD PARENTING. And yes, it must be said in all caps. That's what we DO on social media, when we really feel passionately about something! We YELL-TYPE.

The thing is, my snark... it's not much of an exaggeration at all. Don't believe me? Let's just look at a few of the gems I've recently picked up. 

How about this status from our friends at NP: 

"I'm a Natural Mom because __________ " (fill in the blank!)

Followed with responses like:

"Make my own baby food and use cloth diapers. Plus we have been researching vaccines and only have been allowing one a month starting at 6 mths and only the ones we approve."

(Did I mention that good parents also receive PhDs in internal medicine? At the very least!) 

"I gave birth naturally, I breastfeed which is natural, I allow my children to wean naturally, and I kept their peepees all natural"

(Honestly, I'm not even sure what that last part refers to, but I'm guessing this is will now become a circumcision debate as well.)

Or how about: 

"I had a homebirth with a naturopathic doctor and I don't use shampoo anymore."

(See that!? No Shampoo! That, people, is called dedication.)

And my personal favorite: 

"My baby only gets the best vitamins, pharmaceutical grade manufacturing facility vitamins and uses the only self preserving technology skin care line for her bath time."

(Part of me hope she's being sarcastic, although sadly I do not think she is.)

That's just one topic, posted earlier today. If you browse the page long enough, you'll find so many other gems, in arguments about vaccines, cloth diapering, even politics. Remember how Big Bird made the news a few weeks ago? Well, according to the Natural Parenting fans, it's a good thing Romney wants to do away with Big Bird and his brain-eating companions on Sesame Street - after all, you should be READING to your kids every minute of every day, not plopping them down in front of a television set! DUH!

One commenter even suggested taking those poor kids of yours to the library, instead of watching so much Big Bird. Too bad she missed the memo that the library is also a publicly funded entity, just as PBS is (and NPR, and Planned Parenthood, and WiC…). But I digress. I think you get the point. 

The level of one-upping, back-patting, arguing, and name-calling on these sites has just completely turned me off to the idea of commiserating with like-minded people about being the best parent I can be, within my means. It's not a lifestyle, as I sadly realized - it's a competition. And not one I want to be a part of. 

So, The Stir, or Cafe Mom, or Natural Parenting… you can keep your fanatic fans and daily pissing competitions. I'll be over here, enjoying the Calm in the Chaos. Living life in a world where Big Bird is a fun distraction on a rainy day, disposable diapers saved my (baby's) butt in more than one scenario, and where decisions like whether or not to vaccinate are still personal, private choices

Since I no longer qualify as a "Natural Parent", I'll gladly just remain a *REAL parent.

Oh, and just as a fun little after thought - for all the "natural parent" fans out there who claim to use nothing but organic foods, never serve their families any processed junk, and are solidly against corporate America and the government… you might be tickled to find out who actually owns your beloved "Natural Parenting" site. 

From Wiki:

CMI Marketing Inc. primarily makes money via advertising revenue; their clients include leading mom companies like General Mills, Kmart, P&G, Nestle, Coca Cola, Kellogs, Johnson & Johnson, Target, Unilever, Dell, Chase, Samsung and dozens of others. They also have investors, as noted in the online newspaper MediaPost Publications; in 2007 the companies Highland Capital Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson invested some $5 million in the company.[17]
Since the end of 2008, CMI Marketing has been growing. CafeMom reaches 8.1 million unique visitors (ComScore, July 2011) and more than 20 million unique visitors to the CafeMom Plus Network.[18] CafeMom Plus is a network of mom-oriented websites who are in partnership with CafeMom, including: Birthday Partnership Ideas; Coupon Cabin; Education.com; and Families.com.

*As a disclaimer, I am still striving, every day, to find the Calm in the Chaos. I've not given up that fight. I've only given up on a few particular sites relating to the issues I find important, because they waste my energy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hey Moms, Spit for Research. Please.

Just as soon as I saw myself diving head first back into this blog with nothing short of a renewed fervor, Princess Crabigail fell ill. Ill enough to warrant a few days on the pediatrics floor at our local hospital. Which, of course, made me stop thinking about all else except leaving the hospital.

It's always a sobering, eye-opening experience, spending time with the children and families you meet in the hospital. This was our second stay in her short two-and-a-half years of life, and we were in for pretty run-of-the-mill kid illnesses; this time it was croup. The first time was for a stomach virus.

It's watching the kids dealing with cancer, severe allergies, birth defects, and all other debilitating illnesses that really make me really stop and realize how lucky we are. How incredibly vulnerable we are. How there really is no rhyme or reason why, either. It can happen to anyone, at any time.

But there are things we can do to product ourselves, each other, and our children. Those are the things I'm starting to dig into with this very blog. And as timing would have it, just before Crabigail got sick, I happened by chance upon a survey for a genetics study on Spina Bifida.

Taking on-line surveys is one of the ways I pass time when my husband is traveling for work, or when Crabigail's going through a sleeping spell, or when I just need something to do. One day a few weeks ago, I chanced upon a this survey about birth defects, and I signed up to receive a test kit to collect some saliva to be tested for the study. The basic criteria I met was: 1. I'm not currently pregnant, 2. I've had at least one "issue free" birth, and 3. I was willing to spit in a tube.

To see if you qualify for this very important research, please visit SBG Genetics to learn more about the survey, or click Enroll at the top of the page. It's a very small thing you can do that could make a big difference.