Monthly Archives: April 2012

Things That Bring Happiness

A focus for me this year is being tuned in to the energy in my house and life and making changes when needed.  I’ve recently mentioned that I’m working to keep my writing energies strong by taking necessary breaks to keep my life in balance, on my own terms. I’ve found that when I’m in my head a bit too much that stepping back and doing other satisfying things can bring my life back into a better sense of balance and can help renew my writing focus.

Here’s what I’ve been enjoying lately:

Whole Living Magazine:  We got this for free as a reward from our Stonyfield Farms yogurt purchases and I love it.  Full of informative articles on everything from health to gardening to parenting to food, it is just a refreshing sort of read.

Doc Martin:  My neighbor turned me onto this show and we have quickly flown through two seasons.  I can’t help but love the combination of brutal honesty and a good heart that is the enigma of Doc.  And the small town thing set in England; too fun.   My husband claims I’m addicted; and it is true that it’s my preferred method of unwinding these last few weeks.

Finally completing the embroidery project I’ve been working on for over a decade; a wall hanging to go in a children’s room with retro sixties animal designs.  I’m adding a quilted backing and edging, then I’ll post it to show.

Playing grocery shopping with my daughter:  stay tuned for this as a forthcoming post.

Working on two writing projects:  for a local paper and also a division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Dept.  It felt good to spend my writing energies talking about something else besides myself this month and I was able to lend my words to help out some other folks as well, which is satisfying.  I am glad to have some other opportunities to build my writing portfolio and I’m thankful to the universe for providing them to me!

Having some extra down time with my little gal taking naps in her big bed instead of on my lap; I was able to work on some writing, browse some blogs, organize my sewing boxes, and watch a movie.  It was blissful!

Attending my favorite quarterly consignment sale and scoring some good loot that included a three dollar farm set, a lovely spring dress for $1.75, a pair of brand-new Crocs that my daughter can wear at the beach and in the sprinkler, and our household favorite, a rather large toy model of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon along with his friend Hiccup.  Hearing my daughter ask:  “Where’s Hiccup at?”  as she hunts down the figurine in our house this week has been so cute.

Finishing the dishes during a particularly long stretch of independent play by my daughter this week; so satisfying to have a moment to think and finish a task and also so good to see her creating play in her own mental space.

Connecting with two good women friends that I haven’t seen in a while; we’ve all been a bit busy since the fall and it was such a renewing experience to spend time with them and their little ones.  We used to get together weekly when our children were babies and we’ve been missing each other.  It’s a lovely feeling to pick right back up where you left off with girlfriends after a period of business.

Making chocolate muffins with my little gal at her suggestion after she saw them in a book.  We looked up this recipe by Nigella Lawson online, and let me tell you, they were YUMMY!  V has the hang of pouring and mixing pretty well down now, so we are starting to talk about big and small measurements.  I show her the difference between the different size tablespoons, teaspoons, and cups and say the size.  We talk about how if we need ¾ cups of something we can use three ¼ cups; she helps count them out.  We are beginning to read off the ingredients from the recipe (she has done this activity in Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer books and loves it).  I think our next baking project will be apple pies, one of my favorites.  V’s favorite is the chocolate chips that go in the muffins; she picks them out despite my advisement to eat the whole muffin to enjoy the melted ones sprinkled ALL the way through…

Celebrating the arrival of the anthology containing a wonderful poem written by my husband.  I’m so proud of him!  He’s a beautiful and thoughtful writer.

And the visit of my mom, brother, sister, and niece.  It was short but we packed a lot of love and laughs in a short time!

Next week, I look forward to finally catching the Hunger Games on a long awaited girls’ night with a friend, starting work on either a Star Wars pillowcase for my daughter or a bright yellow and blue apron for myself with a bit of fun found fabric from a white elephant gift bequeathed to me by my aunt.  I also hope to plan some playdates with our friends and enjoy some time outdoors.

 

What is bringing you happiness lately?

 

 

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Peeing Like a Man and Other Recent V-isms

I find that the Two’s are full of moments that I want to capture, so I can remember them years from now.  All the funny mannerisms, quirky one-liners, and adorable habits keep us smiling.  And the two year old ‘tude will make you stifle a smile, leave you dumbfounded, or praying that they work out the feistiness in their early years.  I find myself wanting to share so many stories during the day with my out of town friends and relatives, so I’m consolidating them in a post of recent V-isms.  I just can’t help it; I love her!

The other day, V and I were talking about the plan for the afternoon.  A  fave catch phrase of hers is “That’s my plan and my idea!” which I think stems from our efforts to discuss and plan our days together.  This afternoon’s plan included lunch while watching part of Shrek, water color painting, visiting the potty, then going to pick up Daddy from work.  V asked if I would watch Shrek with her, and as I hadn’t yet prepared my lunch, I told her that I had to make my lunch and do some work in the kitchen, but then I would join her.  Ever helpful, my little gal states:  “And we need to dust and vacuum too.  It’s a little dirty in here.” I had to say I felt a little sense of camaraderie and maternal pride after hearing that line; it’s well known that I’m a bit…well, meticulous.  This was mixed with some dismay that my house was disorderly enough even for my two year old to notice. I’m glad to note she’s my partner in de-griming…

One evening this week, after M told a mischievous V that if she did not behave, he would come tell me that we weren’t going to be able to go on an evening walk together, he came in the other room sort of dumbfounded, to report that V had sassed back, “Go for it!”  This does not bode well for her teen years.  We aren’t even sure where she could have picked up that phrase used in that context.  Sigh.

Another disciplinary issue we are facing this week is what to do about licking.  V’s new favorite thing to do, is walk up, grab your face between her little hands, go in for a presumed kiss, then SURPRISE, lick the entire side of your face and laugh hysterically.  I just can’t bring myself to time her out for this, but am at a loss of what to do besides sternly stating, “V, we DON’T LICK people!”  To which she responds, “I rub it in for you,” as she wipes her hands over the wet spot.  Ah.

We rented the movie “Happy Feet” a few weeks ago, and enjoyed a leisurely Sunday morning, all snuggled up on the couch watching it together.  While I’m pretty sure the themes of the movie were lost on V, she did get the idea of penguins dancing, especially when Mom and Dad tried to learn the special feature dancing moves with the penguin choreographer following the show. She loves to show off her new “happy feet,” by putting on dress shoes and tapping around on hard floors and even on chairs.  And clomping around in Mom’s high heels; that’s pretty cool now too.  I think she’s a bit cuter than M and I were clunking around doing our tap, heel, shuffle.

Our viewing of “Happy Feet” has led us to further our studies about penguins.  We’ve checked out some great penguin books from the library.  We learned where penguins live, and followed up with a look at our playroom world map the next day, where V proudly learned to say “Artica!”  I’m digging the map thing, as we’ve been talking about where our family members live after recent visits and think a map of the US is a pending purchase.

V  has been doing a great job potty training; the past few weeks, we’ve moved mainly to big girl underwear (except during some outings, naps, and overnight) and we celebrated her efforts with a potty party, complete with cake, signs, and Star Wars themed napkins and plates.  Ever savvy, V now is angling for multiple potty parties, or at least cake after a diligent effort.  There seems to be some confusion between the potty party and her birthday; both of which she believes should happen on an ongoing basis. And in one mortifying moment this week, she started stripping in the library following her story time class, to show her librarian friend her new big girl panties.  I didn’t want to stifle her enthusiasm, but pulled her discreetly to a corner to talk with our librarian, who has known her since she was 8 weeks old.  I am, however, left wondering how to teach a two year old the nuances of who and who not to show your panties without crushing her pride in her new achievement.  Remembering a shame-filled moment when a four year old me excitedly showed off my new panties on the kindergarten school bus, only to be chastised by older passengers, I’m going with letting it go for now.

Another potty related story:  today our little mimic decided she was going to try to pee like Daddy.  She pulled down her drawers, faced the potty, strutted her little bottom over the basin and did her business while standing, faster than I could pick up my jaw to say… “V, girls don’t go potty that way…”  Well, maybe they do.

One last bit you can’t help but “awe” about:  a lot of love shared by V and her little cousin during a recent family visit.  These two adored each other, and are well on their way to becoming fast friends.

A and V hunting for Easter Eggs

A and V hunting for Easter Eggs

Any cute-isms you want to share about your little one?  This is the place!  Feel free to leave their new news in the comment section!


Help The Ripple Effect 2009 find a better tagline! Cast your vote

Hi all:

I made a decision early this year not to publish unpublished poems on my blog, as I then cannot submit them to literary journals or magazines (I hope to do more of this at some point!). With that decision in mind, my former tagline “Prose and poetry reflections on motherhood, politics and life”  seems to be no longer a good fit.  Especially since I rarely feature political pieces.  And I have dads who read, so it’s not all about motherhood either.  So, you can see there are many reasons to make a shift.  I invite you to share your favorite tagline choice for my blog by participating in the poll below.  While I can’t guarantee the one with the most votes will be my choice, I do want to hear your thoughts as readers!  Thanks for helping me make this decision and please offer other thoughts if you’ve read my About page.  Many thanks!


It MIGHT Be Easy To Be Green…To Clean Green That Is!

"Green Babies Rule!"

In the spirit of continued green living, I hope to share a series of posts about my efforts to make our household more Earth-friendly.  Please note I’m not an expert in this area, just an average housekeeper and mother trying to change up some things; if you have recommendations or information to share; please feel free in the comment section.  Learning is the important focus here!

When we had V, we started babyproofing, and while babyproofing, I became concerned with all the toxic chemicals that were present in our home.  From makeup, to medicines, to cleaners, they were everywhere.  After happening upon a copy of Green Babies, Sage Moms, I learned that many of the household products we use are not only dangerous because of possible ingestion, but also that many of the ingredients and fragrances contained in these products are inherently toxic, linked to cancers, asthma, and neurological disorders.  I hope to post on the topic of health care products soon, as we made some major changes in that area, but this post will focus on the changed cleaning routines we implemented.  After reading this book, I went through a massive sweep of our house, discarding any cleaner or personal product that could be replaced by a healthier, more Earth-friendly alternative.  For me, protecting the Earth goes hand in hand with protecting my family; when I do the latter, I’m often choosing the healthier alternative for the former.

You can find many green cleaning options if you do a little research.  I chose to replace our cleaners with some simple alternatives that I use for almost every cleaning job in the house:  white distilled vinegar and baking soda, neither of which is toxic to small children.  I also tore up old shirts which I use along with cloth diapers as cleaning rags; I wash these and reuse. I’ve eliminated massive use of paper towels and Clorox wipes by reusing rags and cloths, though I probably wash a load or two of cleaning rags per week.  A tip is to squeeze water out of cleaning rags and let them dry over the edge of a plastic clothes basket before putting in the basket, so you don’t end up with a wet, molding mess until you accumulate enough rags for a load.    For the kitchen, instead of germ infested sponges, I primarily use brushes that can be thrown in the dishwasher to clean, and dishcloths that I wash and reuse.  I do own a kitchen sponge, but only for the tough jobs that require some vigorous scrubbing.  A note for either dishcloth and sponge users: wash your cloths out, do not let them sit saturated with dirty water, balled up and festering in the sink or soaking in a dirty dishpan (man, that skeeves me out and I see so many people doing this!)  Also, use a rag per job; do not use your toilet rag to then wipe the countertops, or vice-versa.  One area, one rag is my rule for minimizing the spread of germs.  Start from cleanest area (top of toilet tank, toilet seat) and work to dirtiest (behind the seat, around the rim under the lid).

For toilets:  I sprinkle baking soda then spray with a 50-50 percent vinegar-water solution that I keep in a spray bottle.  I let it sit and froth and bubble, then scrub.  I disinfect the seat and outside of the toilet with the vinegar spray and a rag which I wash and reuse.  Do not premix the baking soda and vinegar solution.  Apply them separately immediately before use.

For showers, tubs, and stainless steel kitchen sinks:  I use baking soda and spray vinegar here as well.  For mold or mildew problems, you can use “Natural Enzyme Based” Earthworm Mold and Mildew Treatment.

For countertops:  Vinegar will stain marble countertops.  I use Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface cleaner with an active ingredient of Thymol (from Thyme oil).  I also use hot soapy water on a clean rag.  Remember, if your rag is dirty, you are spreading germs.  Frequently change out your rags and dishcloths.

For dishes:  For handwashing, I use Ultra-Palmolive Pure and Clear which has no dyes or fragrances or Baby-Ganics’ Dish Dazzler.  Incidentally, Baby-Ganics makes a great line of cleaning products that are “naturally non-toxic” and great to use around children.  I’m still on the lookout for a good dishwasher soap; I find that some of the less toxic choices leave a film on my dishes.  Any suggestions?

For stinking kitchen sink drains, you can use lemon juice.  I also grind up old orange or lemon peels in my dish disposal to clean out the scent.  Citrus oils are good natural cleaners, and I know there are some products that are citrus based, though I haven’t used them.

For laundry:  I use a few products:  Allen’s Biodegradable Liquid Laundry Detergent, which is fragrance free, gentle, and recommended for washing cloth diapers, Ecos (without fragrance), and a good old fashioned cup of baking soda.  I have read that you can use baking soda alone, 1 cup per load, and that will be sufficient.  We tried this for a while, and our clothes were clean, but I’m struggling to let go of the concept of detergent for ultra dirty toddler wear.  Try it out and see what you think!

For floors:  We have really old, stick-sheet linoleum floors, but they are easy enough to clean.  For a while, I was hand-washing using aforementioned Palmolive dish soap and a bucket of hot water, but I found a new gadget that makes my life SOOO much easier in between serious de-griming efforts.  It is the Rubbermaid Reveal push mop.  It has a canister you can fill with your own cleaner (I use vinegar) and a washable, reusable pad (goodbye, fume-filled, wasteful, Swiffer mop).  This is great for every day touchups and quick mopping.  Nothing beats the hands-knees-rags clean, but this will eliminate most of the spills and splatters that come along with kids and cooking in the kitchen.  Also, for rubbing shoe scuff marks off of the floor, besides the old tennis ball trick, you can use an old ripped up sport sock and rub the spot right off without any cleaner.

Dusting and polishing: There is a good recipe in the Green Babies, Sage Moms book for a furniture polish made from vegetable or olive oil and lemon juice.  I’ve made it and used it; the only issue is it doesn’t keep well, so only make enough for that use.  I tend to use damp cloths for dusting, which I wash after use.

For windows and mirrors:  I use a 50-50 percent vinegar-water solution in a spray bottle, a dry rag, and a decent amount of elbow grease.  You can also use old newspaper and vinegar as well for a streak-free shine, but elbow grease is the key!  This same solution is also great for faucets and showerheads.

Some other cleaning products that I’ve heard about:  Borax and Castile Soap.  I plan to look into these options and do a little more research about how and whether to use them.

My non-green cheat:  Clorox or Lysol wipes for those truly gross jobs.  I am working to deprogram myself from thinking that disinfecting means using harsh chemicals, but for cleaning up chicken goo on the counter, or really funky toilet messes (I have a potty training two year old), I sometimes cheat and use a disinfecting wipe.  This is my cleaning weakness, and I am proud to say that I have significantly reduced my reliance on these products since I’ve started my new regimen.

Overall, the cleaning switch has been great for our budget too.  Reusing rags instead of Clorox wipes and paper towels for cleaning is a huge savings.  Purchasing gallons of vinegar and bags of baking soda (you can get huge bags at Costco) saves both on packaging and also on expensive cleaning products.  I still use some of the premixed cleaners, but less frequently, so our expenses are reduced.  Going green (or greener) is a win-win-win for my family, my home, and our budget!  What are some of your green cleaning tricks?  I’m always interested to learn more!

References:

Green Babies, Sage Moms:  The Ultimate Guide to Raising Your Organic Baby by Lynda Fassa, http://www.greenbabies.com/gbsm.html

How Clean Is Your House by Aggie MacKenzie and Kim Woodburn

(While they aren’t strictly about green cleaning; they do have some tried and traditional tips for house cleaning that rely upon less toxic and more environmentally friendly methods.  Just don’t let their exacting standards stop you in your tracks; those of us with small children aren’t likely to achieve their level of sparkle and shine!)

 Healthy Child.Org :  This blog was a new find in doing some research for my post; I’m so excited to find it!

Disclaimer:  Um, none!  I would love to have some of these companies pay me to advertise products I believe in, but, it isn’t happening yet, so be assured, these are my own preferences and I’ve received no money to push them on you.


Loving Kids Loving Earth: Books and Activities to Help Your Kids Celebrate Earth Day


Books

The Earth Book by Todd Parr:

I think Todd Parr ranks high on the list of my favorite children’s authors.  His gentle messages and bold illustrations draw children into his books; my own two year old daughter reads (asks me to read) them over and over.  Parr’s Earth book talks about ways in which small children can help protect the Earth.  My daughter’s take away from this title was to shut the refrigerator door to save energy; any book that can get a two year old to conserve energy is worthwhile in my opinion!

Earth Day by Linda Lowery:

For elementary school aged children, this book talks about the history of Earth Day and gives examples of things that children can do to celebrate the day.

S is for Save the Planet: A How-to-Be Green Alphabet  by Brad Herzog:

For elementary aged children, this book uses the Alphabet to talk about ways that we can help preserve our natural world.  For the older child, there are thorough explanations and facts to explain each green suggestion.  The pictures are realistic and appealing and a list of web resources is included at the end of the book.

10 Things I Can Do To Help My World by Melanie Walsh:

The title pretty much sums up this book, which is a simple list of things children (and adults) can do to help respect the Earth.  There are fun picture cut outs and shapes that will appeal to children and simple concrete explanations to accompany the 10 actions depicted.

A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry:

A Caldecott Medal winning tale perfect for toddlers and early readers that talks about the wonder, beauty, and function of trees in a delightful and appealing way.  The language is simple and easy for small children to understand.

 

Activities

*Have your child help you sort recycling; I have my daughter put items to be recycled into our recycle pile.  This helps small children develop good recycling habits and learn what items can be recycled.

*Plant a garden, a houseplant, a seed cup, a tree.  While the size of the plant matters in terms of carbon dioxide reduction, it doesn’t matter in terms of the lesson for children.   Digging in dirt, learning what makes a plant grow, building a relationship with the Earth is a positive learning experience that children can build upon.

*Pick up trash in your local playground or neighborhood. (Make sure children are supervised so they aren’t picking up sharp or dangerous objects and thick work gloves are always a good idea!)

*Keep track of how often your children turn off lights in a week (use a sticker chart) and plan a special outing or reward at the end of the week.

*Give your child the task of making sure you have reusable bags packed when you go to the grocery store (if you’re like me, you often forget them at home or in the car!).

*Make recycled cards for holidays from old greeting cards; this is a fun art project as well!

*Visit your local farmer’s market with your child and have them help you pick out fresh vegetables for the week’s meal.

*Take a nature walk; talk about the plants, trees, bugs, and animals that you see.  Check out some books about them to learn more.

*Go to the store with your child to purchase LED bulbs and then replace the ones in your home.

*Have your child write their own Earth Day story or draw a picture of how they want to protect and preserve our natural resources.

What is your favorite Earth Day activity?


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