Eco Wrap – My Family, Gardening, and Earthopoly

by Tiffany in Homeschool

friday wrap upTGIF! Have an awesome weekend everyone!

I had a wonderful vacation in Florida recently. My family stayed at a resort right next to The Magic Kingdom. Of course we had fun at the Disney parks but I think the kids enjoyed Sea World and the just hanging out at the pool the most. I was really excited to get home though…Florida was HOT and dry. It really made me appreciate Ohio more. I was downright giddy when we pulled up to our house and it was cool and rainy.

I have been slow to blog lately…I have been gardening, spring cleaning, preparing for guests from Mexico next week, and doing a bit of fiction reading. I wrote about why I love being a work at home mom and the Twilight series of books I have read on some other blogs. I’ve also been organizing files and pictures and getting a new computer up and running which is always fun…not. But here is pic from vacation:

Paige wearing Mickey Mouse Ears


Okay….interesting links for the weekend.

First up I loved a post from The Good Human about planting a row for the needy. When I was making new year’s goals in January this was a goal I had…to plant extra and give the surplus to the needy. It is a truly awesome idea for helping out the needy in your community. It is incredibly easy to just plant a bit more than you need and then donate to food banks or shelters in your area. If all the small family gardens were to do this imagine how many mouths we could feed.

My garden is looking GOOD! I have plenty of lettuce and spinach ready to eat now. Still growing is cabbage, zucchini, cucumber, beans, tomatoes, squash, and watermelon. I still have a lot of planting I need to get done NOW.

lettuce garden

The rest of the yard looks beautiful too. I LOVE spring!

red flower

I ran across a link to a cool game called Earthopoly. I think I need to buy this. Players become caretakers of a variety of global landmarks and charge other players carbon credits for landing on them. Convert the carbon credits into clean air and help the fight against global warming! The paper is recyclable and the printing is done with soy-based inks.

The game is full of plenty of helpful information and educational for players of all ages. The game won’t change the world, but it can help educate us all in ways in which we can. I especially love the game board pieces…things like a piece of wood, a Lima bean, a shell, etc. It looks like a great game for the family.

I am anxiously awaiting another eco game…more on that when we get a chance to play.

As I stated in my last post I am officially a homeschooling mom now. Woot! I pulled my son from public and notified the superintendent of my intentions. His teachers were actually excited for him and they gifted us with tons of reading books, workbooks, math books for the next few years, etc. This week I need to make a portfolio to keep track of his progress and meet state requirements. I am also hitting yard sales looking for fun learning items. This week I picked up books and a very well maintained flute. I am hoping that one or more of the kids will want lessons. Fun times ahead. This week we are hoping to visit a science museum, go to a National park, see a play, and visit some Indian caverns.

Homeschool link love for this week: A great post about learning outside with sidewalk chalk.

In other family news…I had a tragedy in my family…well it feels like one anyway. My last co-sleeping child has moved out of my bed and into her own. I can’t even tell you how depressed I have been about that. And people say attachment parenting and co-sleeping creates dependent children…hogwash! It creates dependent parents is what it does! LOL.

Oh well, another article I liked that natural moms should read this week is about vaccination and the future of the process…like aluminum toxicity, immunosupression, allergic and asthmatic Conditions, and future Pandemics/Epidemics.

And it is time for me to say goodbye for the weekend. I am seeing a movie this afternoon and my daughter is expecting her new big girl bed to be delivered. :(

So what is new with you?


Eco Friendly Crafts for Kids

by Tiffany in Crafts

Tomorrow I officially withdraw my son from public school and our homeschool journey begins…sort of. IDIY Kids book have many activities and fun things planned for the summer that will be highly educational but we aren’t calling it “school”. One important facet of this will be crafting and creating but I admit we can get carried away consuming supplies so I want to emphasize recycled crafts and projects.

Many times parents marvel at the items children will choose to play with for amusement. From pots and pans to empty boxes children have been known to select these creative toy choices over the slicker mass produced and marketed toys costing many times more. I almost never have to recycle boxes because my son scoops them up and uses them in his art projects before I can blink. ;)

In this age of eco-friendly living, it’s perhaps time for more parents to engage children in the joy and spontaneity of crafting and playing with eco-friendly toys. Eco-friendly toys are ideally made of recyclable or reusable material and should not contain any toxic substances.

Here are some ideas for eco-friendly toys/projects you can create.

The Big-Empty-Box-Racing-Car-Track

Small children love their little match box cars and other similar sized mini vehicles that they can push around the house. So why not recycle the available boxes at home and turn it into a racing track!

First start collecting those boxes. The next time you purchase a big item that comes encased in a big box – hold onto it! When the creative mood strikes you, unfold the carton box and pull out your markers. You and your child can then decorate the sides of the box with roadway lines and even other cars for more interest and fun. Then flatten your artwork out on the floor and rev up your engines!

Smaller boxes can be used to make small houses and decorated with paint, scrap paper, and popcycle sticks. Toilet paper rolls can be used to make turrets on a castle. When you have enough houses you can have a small town.

Organizing Can be Fun

It doesn’t take long to have an empty cereal box in a house with kids. Take that empty cereal box and ask your kids to turn them into magazine organizers. Tell your kids this is their opportunity to design some neat pieces for their room. They can then store their favorite books or magazines in a box that reflects their personality. Use wrapping paper or recycled homework to cover your cereal boxes.

Old Objects Can Make New Treasures

Do you have any old hardback books you plan to donate? Why not cut a section out of the middle to house secret treasures? It is something kids will cherish for a long time.

Old clothespins can be made into dolls with a bit of scrap fabric for clothes, some yarn for hair, a marker for the face, and some glue.

Make a kite with sticks, string, paper, and streamer.

A book I highly recommend is D.I.Y Kids. It encourages the design it yourself spirit of homemade arts and crafts. This important for instilling creativity and discouraging consumerism. The book is FULL of design concepts and artwork created by real children. It teaches them about binding their own books, sewing their own clothes, making dolls and toys, and many other cool projects. Each project has step by step instructions. Each project is also rated by difficulty, time, mess, and cost. Most of the projects are aimed at children ages 7-12. This book was a big inspiration to my two oldest kids.


Helping Kids See Past Commercialism

by Tiffany in Children

A little girl walking in the woods

Childhood obesity is at an all time high and kids are killing each other over the newest technical gadget or fashion craze. Are these the after effects of too much commercialism? TV is encouraging a sedentary lifestyle that is seeing our kids developing habits that foster obesity.

Not only are TV programs monopolizing our children’s attention and imagination (or what’s left of it) but the commercials are too. Even if a child eventually loses interest in a program he’s watching the commercials keep him glued with boisterous messages and music promoting products and an image of what is hip or cool today.

Commercialism is everywhere making it very hard for parents to control. Visit your nearest theater and you are bombarded by commercials for the first 20 minutes of the show. Large companies “buy” placement in the movies and television shows to make their products look cool. I suspect cigarette companies do this. Commercialism is also in our schools and in “sponsored” educational materials sometimes given to our kids. I recently read about one school system that had McDonald’s coupons on the report cards. But what if you don’t want your children to accept blindly that these institutions and products are beneficial to us? How do we keep these values from infiltrating our households?

While this may seem monumental parents can play a significant and role in keeping commercialism at bay for their kids. Here are some ideas:

  • Teach by example. If you resist consumerism you will be able to teach with conviction to your kids the merits of resisting consumerism.
  • Sew your kids clothing and teach them to sew as well. This eliminates the logos and brands issues associated with store bought clothes and it teaches kids a valuable craft. Kids might also find they have a talent for designing. At 16 years old I remember making myself a vintage gown from a 1940s war era pattern. It is gorgeous and people raved over it…there was nothing like it available at stores and I LOVED that. Don’t sew? Take classes…at your local fabric store….its never too late. Your kids could also take classes.
  • Try turning off the TV for a week. Then try 2 weeks. Then have a discussion about the merits of having a TV when quality news and entertainment can be obtained elsewhere. I follow and unschooling philosophy as far as TV and movies go. I don’t have restrictions or limits but yet we don’t watch that much TV…the key is to provide alternatives that are vastly more fun and entertaining.
  • Expose kids to other media – like art/surrealist films, art exhibits, public lectures on topics that might interest them. We are BIG on art in my house. We have all the supplies I could need for just about any project. This week my oldest painted a half dozen beautiful landscapes, he made several 3-D pictures, a Mardi Gras style mask for me, and a Pinata for his Dad for father’s day. All I did was supply him with the means. I have had to cover his bedroom floor in cheap scrap carpets because the paint gets EVERYWHERE!
  • Teach your children to be independent thinkers who do not follow. Visit your local library and introduce them to great people in history who were independent thinkers (develop your own list based on your heroes or talk to the librarian). This is one reason I have such issues with public schools. The teachers generally don’t like independent thought and being challenged by their students…even in first grade I can already see this. Even in art class my son tells me the teacher has rules about the techniques one uses to paint or color…WTH? There are certainly some great teachers out there but there are also plenty of bad ones with control issues. I don’t want my children to “conform” or be “conditioned”. This is why I encourage freedom of expression in our home and we don’t get hung up on societal expectations or arbitrary rules.
  • Encourage your kids to get involved in creative play. Introduce them to great outdoor games like hopscotch, four-square, hide and seek, double-dutch skipping, jumping rope, dodge ball, soccer and a host of other neighborhood games that will keep your kids busy and “physically active” for hours. The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls are good places to start looking for ideas.
  • Grow your own food and involve your kids. Discuss the strong connections in the natural world and how our actions impact them. Most kids haven’t a clue about where food comes from and why 80% of what you find at the grocery store doesn’t even resemble real food.
  • Encourage your kids to think about social issues outside of themselves. Help them to be empathetic and to have concern for the needs of the most vulnerable in your community. Discuss ways in which your family can help out a person in need. Go through the house and put together a bag of food items that you can take to the local food bank.

Get Your Dream On Without Toxins

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Natural Mattresses for the Family

When I think of what I want my bedroom to be, I think about a serene and tranquil place that I can retire to after an exhausting, activity filled day. I think the bedroom should be a place of calm and relaxation…a place to unwind and think quietly about anything that is on my mind. It needs to have windows to let in natural light and cool breezes, it needs to have good lighting to read by, and above all it needs to be a place that is natural, safe, and conducive to good sleep.

Sounds good in theory right? Well, this is actually a tall order these days because many of the items in your bedroom might be dowsed with chemicals that can affect your health and your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Last night I was watching the news…which I hardly ever do, weird….but they did a feature on flame retardants and human exposure to them. A female politician in Orgeon (I think) had her blood tested for flame retardant chemicals and the results came back that she has 19 different flame retardant chemicals in her blood. She is now working to ban some of the worst offenders as independent studies begin to show that these chemicals are more dangerous than the chemical industries would have us believe and humans and animals alike are being exposed in massive doses. Moms are passing these chemicals on to their babies in breast milk even.

Mattresses today are required by law to have fire retardant materials in them to allow consumers more time to get out of their homes in the even that there is a mattress fire.While that is the goal, the exposure that consumers may have to fire retardant materials in the mattress may be leading to the same potentially lethal outcome.

Boric acid, a household product often used to kill roaches is now being added to some mattresses to help them pass the government’s flammability test.Other chemicals being used include antimony trioxide a flame retardant chemical which has been dubbed by consumer groups as a “probable carcinogen.” The ones we hear about most are the Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs.

These chemicals are in a variety of products. A news story show demonstrated that my daughter’s exact car seat was an example of a car seat that has these chemicals. But the culprit products we are exposed to most would have to be mattresses. Conventional mattresses contain toxic chemicals which leach out into the air over time (off-gassing). Also children’s pajamas are usually doused with flame retardants. We spend MANY hours sleeping and the chemicals in the products we are laying on are being breathed into our lungs and absorbed into our skin and bloodstream.

So ready to get a good night’s sleep? What we need is a toxin free bedroom.

Think about it. We spend a third of our lives in our bedroom sleeping. Now we might eat organic foods, clean with non-toxic chemicals, exercise daily, etc. but we might be might be ignoring the health hazards of the place we spend a third of our lives in. This just doesn’t make sense. This has been on my mind today because my last co-sleeper has been mentioning wanting her own bed….so time to buy a new bed and mattress for her.

So where do we get started? Well, we need to get rid of airborne allergens and chemicals like dust mites, mold, mildew, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)….things that can cause long term health problems and disrupt our sleep. We also need to replace products contributing to this problem with “cleaner” ones.

Renovate Your Bedroom:

Mattress: This is one of the biggest must-haves in a natural, healthy, and organic bedroom. Conventional mattresses are made with materials that were grown under heavy pesticide use. They are also heavily sprayed with flame retardant and stain fighting chemicals. Foam cushioning might also contain PBDEs or petrochemicals that off-gas chemicals. The waterproof liner you might be using has more chemicals still. That is a heck of a lot of chemicals to be sleeping on and breathing in every night.

The alternative to these toxic mattresses are natural or organic mattresses and covers. Eco-friendly and healthy mattress suppliers offer mattresses that use materials that are often renewable, all natural and not toxic to humans.

So what are your alternatives?

Organic Cotton Mattresses – Nearly one-third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used for every pound of cotton harvested. It is not hard to see why organic cotton is the better choice. Natural and organic cotton ventilates body heat, offers more comfort, and is more durable than typical synthetics used in conventional mattresses. The batting does not contain petrochemicals either. Some people feel that organic cotton mattresses are bit stiff but a wool bed topper should do the trick and many come with wool wrapped around the coils.

One to consider: Green Nest Quilted Innerspring Mattress

Organic Wool Mattress – This fiber offers firm support and it is also a natural insulator and helps regulate body temperature. In the winter, wool traps the heat that your body produces. In the summer, wool helps you stay cool as it is able to absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture and still remain dry to the touch. Wool is also very comfortable to sleep on. Wool is also a natural flame retardant. Natural organic wool is produced without the use of hormones or pesticides and it is sustainable because it is merely shorn off of sheep. Surrounding the organic wool is organic cotton which serves to make the mattress softer. It does require more care than a conventional mattress though.

Natural Latex Mattress – Natural rubber (a completely renewable resource) is harvested by tapping the milk (sap) of Hevea brasiliensis. The sap is whipped up and turned into latex foam and is a sustainable resource because sap can be collected from the trees up to 180 days per year and the tree heals within an hour. Natural latex is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, dust-mite proof, and very comfortable to sleep on. Wrapped around the rubber core there might be a layer of organic wool which serves as a fire retardant and regulates moisture.

To consider: Green Nest Natural Rubber Mattress.

Don’t get sticker shock when you look at what some of these mattresses cost. Save up to buy one if you have to…purity has its price. The mattresses I mention above are VERY reasonably priced. If I linked to the ones I REALLY think are tops they would run $4000 and up. Frankly I wouldn’t be willing to pay that price myself until I no longer have little kids who would spill juice on them.

For your young ones there are also natural crib/toddler mattresses. Make sure to choose a mattress made with organic cotton filling. Also pay attention to the substances used in the mattress cover that will be beneath your child. Many crib mattresses are covered in materials made with highly toxic vinyl/PVC. An environmentally friendly alternative to toxic vinyl/PVC is Polyethylene.This environmentally friendly plastic is used throughout the food packaging industry for its non-toxic properties and its recyclability.

Here is a bassinet mattress.

Conventional mattresses have that awful off-gassing property which puts us at great risk of being exposed to potential carcinogens over a long period of time.Organic mattresses are made of products that are natural, often renewable and aid in repelling dust mites (which can’t survive in many of the materials used like rubber and wool).Remember our beds and bedrooms are where we spend a good deal of our time so investigate your eco-friendly mattress options carefully.

If you are not ready to buy a natural and organic mattress then you might look into an organic mattress pad. They provide a thick, natural barrier that goes on the top of the mattress.

Wool Fill Organic Mattress Topper

Organic Wool Mattress Pad

Sheets and Bedding: Sheets are usually what your skin is connecting with when you sleep and they have the potential to be laden with chemicals and flame retardants too. Select sheets, blankets, and duvet covers made with untreated or organic cotton, wool, or bamboo. You can get natural fiber bedding in a variety of exciting styles and colors. Happy Planet has organic flannel and sateen sheets.

As for crib sheets my absolute favorite sheets for crib/toddler mattresses are from Kee-Ka. Their sets are so beautiful and they are organic. We have the Monkeys and the Cupcakes sheet sets and some of the chocolate blankets. They really stand up to heavy use and they super soft. My son loves the designs too. I keep emailing them begging for the cupcake sheets in King size…but so far no dice.

And lastly don’t forget the house plants and the air purifiers to clean the air in the home and bedroom so you can breathe easy at night. Sweet dreams!

Also…see my article about natural, organic pillows.


He’s Not Autistic, but…

by Tiffany in Book Reviews, Health & Healing

Not Autistic But...I read a really powerful and valuable book for parents this week called He’s Not Autistic, But… How We Pulled Our Son From the Mouth of the Abyss by Tenna Merchent, M.H.

I was initially drawn to this book because 1. The author’s son was on the autism spectrum like mine and 2. the author believes that vaccines caused or at the very least greatly exacerbated her son’s condition just like I believe was the case with my son. The author shares her journey to heal her son in non-conventional and alternative ways when industrialized medicine was not able to do a darn thing for him. And guess what…she found the healing she was looking for…the healing that conventional doctors say doesn’t exist. She did pull her son from the mouth of the abyss. The book touched me and made me cry. I wish every parent could read it and be forewarned. I made the decision to forever alter my own son’s life on the second day of his life when I allowed a Hep B vaccination shot and I sent him further into a darker hole with each subsequent vaccination until FINALLY one sent him over the edge and almost into a body bag. The realization that vaccines did this was of little comfort though as my son lay in a hospital bed hooked to a respirator. I can only hope that with books like these, that more parents will realize this is risky business.

It is also a good book for people who want to learn about what alternative medicine has to offer. The author not only healed her son but she was sick as well and she healed herself and has since become a Master Herbalist and is pursuing her N.D (Doctor of Naturopathy) degree. Interestingly she believes that her sickness…aluminum toxicity and a yeast overgrowth were passed on to her son in utero and this what what set him up for all the problems he had…allergies, autism spectrum, Candida, speech delay, sensory issues, etc. I say HAD because her son is now CURED.

In the beginning of this book Merchent gives us a long list of the behaviors her son exhibited that clearly showed he was at risk for autism. Then she goes on to describe issues facing most autistic children that must be addressed, allergens and yeast. Many kids on the autism spectrum are allergic to milk, corn, soy, eggs, and wheat. They also have yeast build-ups in their bodies. Surprisingly though Merchent mentions that aluminum in our bodies is usually the cause for the yeast imbalance. Aluminum kills off the good bacteria and then sets us up for an imbalance. Aluminum just happens to be found in tons of prescription medications for children and adults. It can also be found in many food products and of course, cans of soda…which Merchent drank religiously. Merchent points out that we will not be able to get yeast under control unless we get rid of the aluminum first and she explores this in depth in subsequent chapters. Merchent basically believes that she had an aluminum problem, in large part due to a diet soda habit..she passed that on to her son who received aluminum from other sources including vaccines, and meds given to him to fix his illnesses contained aluminum and so and so on. Very interesting stuff.

This is only the tip of the iceberg though…seriously you have to get his book, especially if you plan on having more kids…or even if your not. I will not be having anymore but I still went to town on this book with a highlighter and notes in the margins. It has some seriously important health info.

For instance, Merchent shares the three things that can really set your child up for autism that happen before they are even born or at birth and two of them are interventions. She also shares her experiences with painful nursing despite the fact that she was doing everything right…the cause was yeast overgrowth and she describes the symptoms of yeast overgrowth you may not even know you have…she had it for years and never knew. She also talks about sensory integration issues that her son had and seem to quite common nowadays.

The vaccines chapter I read all the while nodding my head in agreement. Vaccines are connected to SIDS, seizures, learning disabilities, and autism. My son was injured by a vaccine and 3 of those 4 things affected him in some way although only one affected him severely. She made a sobering statement at the end of this chapter that I identified with:

I am one of the lucky mothers; my son recovered from the damage caused by shots.

I hear you Tenna. I am one of the lucky ones too. When I think of what could have been…well I don’t like to think about it.

Her chapter on allergies really got my wheels turning. Her son would walk on his tippy toes and bang hisIs this Your Child? head against things if he had chocolate. My youngest son doesn’t have bang his head but he does walk on his tippy toes quite a bit and it has always bothered me because typically it is a sign of autism. He is also almost 28 months old and doesn’t speak. I need to read the book she referred to as the allergy Bible, Is this Your Child? by Doris Rapp, M.D. I wonder if my youngest could be allergic to something that is delaying his speech and causing the tippy toe walking. I just ordered the book they are only a couple bucks used, at Amazon.

Merchent walks us through the first year and a half of her son’s life and her experiences with his doctors. After reading about it I want to track them and slap them silly. This kid had TONS of problems and all they cared about was giving him vaccines. They also acknowledged after much time that he did have allergies to several foods but advised his mom to feed him those foods anyway so he would gain weight. I was furious just reading about what she went through.

As I said though I have only scratched the surface. There is some great information about allergies and aluminum that EVERY person should read….especially if you get sick often, have Candida or suspect that you might, have allergies, or if you drink soda from a can. I put this book down and immediately started looking for a Master Herbalist to visit in my area.

I highly recommend this awesome book: He’s Not Autistic, But… How We Pulled Our Son From the Mouth of the Abyss by Tenna Merchent, M.H.