Greener Mother’s Day Gifts

by Tiffany in Green Holidays

Mother’s Day has become yet another commercial holiday were you are encouraged to buy people “stuff” they don’t need. Of course I am not going to to complain about ANY day where moms get some extra props and receive gifts from a loved one. I just think we need to think a little about the woman on the other end of the gift a bit more. A green mom especially might be more sensitive to all the unnecessary waste associated with these holidays. Flowers won’t last and they may have been doused in chemicals. Fancy lotions might have a bad rating on the Skin Deep Cosmetics database. But if you take into consideration what a green mom values, and what type of gifts they would actually use… then you can come up with a few sure fire ideas.

Mother’s Day is About Love Not Gifts – You may find that no gift is required at all. Time and love can be gift enough. This can be accomplished with homemade cards, a nice breakfast cooked by someone else than mom, maybe a movie, a bike ride, a walk in the park, etc. It might also be a good day to break out those season passes to the zoo or a local museum. The gift of time is low impact and very meaningful. Mom’s day doesn’t have to be about elaborate gifts.

The Gift of Service – I know this mom would really appreciate gifts of service rather than physical gifts and yes, I have read The 5 Love Languages. For moms like me a great way to say I love you would be to give me a break from my duties by cleaning the house, cooking meals, and letting me have a day off. A gift can still be worked in there with a certificate for cleaning or childcare services. Some moms might also like a gift certificate for day spas and massage parlors. Services are more eco friendly usually, than accumulating stuff.

Previously Loved Gifts – Green moms usually don’t mind used items. Most times you will find we LOVE thrifted and second hand finds. Perhaps Mother’s Day might be the perfect time to shop that antique mall that she loves to visit and buy her some antique table or bed linens, a Jadeite mug like those she collects, or some other vintage treasure she is sure to love.

Something To Make Mom’s Job Easier – I know that some moms bristle at the idea of getting a vacuum or some other cooking or cleaning gadget for Mother’s Day but green moms usually are not among them. This is closely related to gifts of service… if it makes our lives easier it is a good gift, period. The idea of an iPad or a smart phone is lost on me but a Vita-Mix, a Kitchenaid Mixer with a dough hook, or glass refrigerator dishes… those will make my daily life easier and they make good sense.

What do you think? What gifts will be the biggest hit with green moms?


Build a Dream Playhouses Review

by Tiffany in Natural Product Reviews

We have owned several cardboard toys from mini treehouses and castles to spaceships to actual child size play houses. I like cardboard because it is recyclable or compostable and durable enough for kids to fully enjoy it before it needs to be tossed. You can also paint them all sorts of groovy colors and customize the way they they look.

These days my kiddos are playing with a cardboard ice cream truck courtesy of Build a Dream Playhouses. They graciously offered to send us one on the house and I knew my kids would get a kick out the truck as opposed to their other (but equally fun) cardboard toys.

It came in a fairly large but skinny box and my kids loved playing with that too. I had my husband put it together cause that’s how I roll. It took about 10 minutes I would say. We noticed right away that the truck comes out of the box plain so that it can be an ice cream truck like we have OR an ambulance… it came with a few extra pieces for that, if you want to go that direction. That is why they call it The Imagine Wagon as opposed to the Ice Cream Truck.. pretty clever I think. This giant truck sat on our kitchen table for about a week while I painted in spurts.. with the kids helping of course. I picked the yellow and teal color scheme for the truck and my daughter chose the ice cream flavors.

We used water based acrylic paints and it dried very fast. It was also pretty easy to paint since we had it up on a table. The most time consuming part was painting the ice creams on the side of the truck.. the sno cone, ice cream cone, ice cream sandwich, and the popsicle. They had to drawn by hand but it was easy enough after I printed some vector images off the computer and then traced them onto the truck. Then I painted over where I traced and voila. I think they came out very well. My oldest son claimed that I was a big fat liar for claiming I was not artistic. Ha! I would not go so far as that but it was a nice if not slightly insulting compliment. They still need to paint the inside dash with markers and it will be all finished.

After it was all painted it hung out in the garage for far too long as we waited for a non rainy day to play with it. But that sunny day finally came!

They LOVE it! But I knew they would. I also figured it would draw other kids and boy did it. At least half a dozen other kids made their way over to play with it in just a few minutes. It was a big hit. They all took turns pretending to order their favorite items.

My only criticism is that the big Popsicles on top come off really easy when it moves or the wind blows. The sides can cave in a bit when kids move around it from inside, like they are driving. The design in those two ares could be a tad sturdier. Stickers would nice for parents that don’t want to hand paint the ice creams but in the end I am glad I had to paint them. It was a lot of fun.

There are many other options other than the ice cream truck too. My kids woulds also dig their lemonade stand, their play kitchen, and their space rocket. In fact we may need to buy that space rocket or Cosmic Cruiser as they call it, soon. I see a lot of open ended “pretend” play with these toys, which is the best kind. I also love that they were designed by a Cleveland Dad, very cool. These playhouse definitely get an enthusiastic thumbs up from us!

Buy the The Imagine Wagon (Ice Cream Truck ).


Are You Eating the 30 Healthiest Foods?

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

Healthy eating is such a subjective thing. Or is it? Everyone has their own ideas of what is healthy. Many swear by tofu and I think it is a bad idea. Others think that fat is the devil and I think no such thing. Can we ever agree? Well, I do happen to agree for the most part with Real Simple magazine’s list of 30 healthiest foods… not that they are the healthiest per say but it is a pretty good list of healthy foods. I thought it would be fun to go through their list and see how regularly my family is eating these foods.

1. Mushrooms – Eating these weekly. This week it was baby portabellas and oyster mushrooms.

2. Walnuts – Monthly at best. My kids eat them more than I do.

3. Peanut and Almond Butters – No peanut butter but we do have almond butter and sunflower seed butter. My kids eat some daily usually. I may have a spoonful once a week.

4. Quinoa – Used to eat this weekly but since going grain free I have eliminated it. I really miss it though!!!

5. Almonds – We used to make homemade almond milk several times a week but have fallen away from that now that we have local, fresh cow’s milk available to us. But we do have the almond butter.

6. Blueberries – Weekly. I put a small bit in our green smoothies and my 5 year old eats frozen blueberries like M&M’s. I had to go out this morning to buy some in fact, because I knew he would request them first thing. In the summer we will have fresh blueberry compote for breakfast a couple times a week.

7. Eggs – We eat about 2 dozen a week from our local farm delivery service. They are pastured eggs with deep orange yolks… yum!

8. Spinach – Weekly. I put at least a cup of spinach in our smoothies.

9. Wild Salmon – Yes, once a week usually.

10. Chicken Breast – Sometimes. Good on salads but I usually eat wings or drumsticks when I eat chicken, with the skin on.

11. Avocado – Not very often and in the summer only. My kids don’t like avocados much unless I mix it with cacao and make chocolate pudding. I want to eat more though.

12. Sweet Potatoes – Only in winter but we do have them a couple times a month during that time.

13. Barley – No

14. Whole Grain Pasta – No.

15. Oatmeal – No.

16. Skim Milk – Nope. I usually buy 2% or full fat. Unless it is in kefir or yogurt the kids are the only ones who drink it. Skim milk should not be on this list either.

17. Lentils – No, don’t like them much either.

18. Bulgar – Nope.

19. Sardines – On occasion.

20. Kiwi – A couple times a year maybe.

21. Olive Oil – Sometimes. We usually use coconut oil.

22. Kale – Weekly in smoothies. I alternate between kale, chard, collards, turnip greens, and wild greens.

23. Kidney Beans – No.

24. Chard – Weekly in smoothies.

25. Edaname – Nope.

26. Pumpkin – In the fall only.

27. Oranges – Weekly usually. The kids love them.

28. Non Fat Greek Yogurt – Yes to Greek yogurt, no to non-fat. I eat 2% or full fat Greek yogurt every single day, first thing in the morning. Once a week for my kids.

29. Broccoli – Weekly.

30. Black Beans – No.

I would add carrots, green beans, snow peas, more greens, blackberries, and coconut oil right off the top of my head.

How did you do? See anything you would remove from this? Or Add?


Coping With Birth Pain Naturally: How My Wife Birthed Pain Free

by Tiffany in Birth & Baby

Guest post: Jeremy Dyen

When I asked my wife, when she was pregnant, what she thought about natural childbirth, she told me she was uninterested.  She planned on using an epidural to deal with the inevitable, and horrible, pain.  She worked as a physician in a hospital at that time, so I know she welcomed whatever other procedures would alleviate pain, make the birth go faster and, most importantly, ensure a healthy baby and mommy.  I didn’t press the issue, figuring it’s her body, and her choice.  That was that…  Or not.

As it turned out, my wife birthed with no medical intervention and no drugs, in the comfort of our own home.  We switched from a hospital birth to homebirth in her last trimester.   Both she and our daughter were completely healthy.  My wife birthed without pain.  She says the birth was intense–the most intense experience, perhaps, of her life.  But it was not painful.

She opted for a natural birth because we learned about lots of the benefits:

  • Avoid the cascade of interventions resulting from using an epidural, such as pitocin, vacuum, forceps and C-section.
  • Not being hooked up to monitors meant my wife could move around and be in more comfortable and optimal birth positions.
  • Avoids tearing that often results from timed/forced pushing.  That kind of pushing is used when an epidural makes it hard for a woman to feel her contractions.  In natural birth, your body definitely knows when to push.
  • Optimal levels of oxytocin.  Oxytocin is a powerful hormone that stimulates the uterus to start the birth process. Oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone,” is integral to breastfeeding and bonding between mother and baby.
  • Natural birth is highly empowering, and seems to tap into an instinctual and primordial rite of passage for mother and baby.

So, how did my wife go from wanting a hospital birth, with epidural, to a pain-free homebirth?  There are a lot of factors, and a lot of ways a woman can deal with fears and pain around and during childbirth.  Below I have a list with a lot of the physical things you can do to reduce pain.  But in looking back on our experience, I think the two biggest contributors to my wife’s positive birth were:

1. Strong support and community: Having close friends who were home birthing gave us a real foundation of support. Having that support was so helpful.  We were able to explore things together.  It was great to be able to bounce ideas and feelings off of each other–to share facts or tips we each found.  I think a positive support system is integral, but unfortunately is missing in many cases.  The great thing is that the support system has continued into our family journeys.  Having friends who are similarly minded about attachment parenting, breastfeeding, cloth diapers, nutrition, education–even if we don’t share the exact goals–is invaluable.  That support provided a lot of reassurance for my wife, and it’s my belief that support and reassurance helped to alleviate stress and fears she had about childbirth.

2. Guided hypnosis and affirmations: I never imagined that these two things would play such a strong role in the birth of our daughter.  But, in fact, they created a strong positive, inner support system.  My wife listened to her Birth Class Hypnosis CDs daily (and I often did too).  These really were like a deep relaxation escape in her day.  Most importantly, they helped her re-create her vision of birth from what she saw as the most painful experience of her life, to an experience of joy.  Maybe that sounds like some new agey voodoo or something.  I was a doubter in lots of ways.  But, for my wife, it really worked.  Those guided hypnosis CDs, along with repeated affirmations, made my wife realize that she could birth without fear, without drugs, and as it turned out, without pain.

The idea of using hypnosis, imagery and affirmations to reach positive outcomes, has actually changed our lives.  Like the strong support and community from exterior sources, this strong inner support is often missing for people.  We’re so into this notion that we created a free guided imagery mp3 to share with others.  In fact, I’m now certified in hypnosis, and my wife will have her certification soon.

Other Pain-Free Birth Tips

There are definitely other things my wife did that contributed to her positive and pain-free birth.  Of course, neither of us would say, “If you do all this stuff you will have no pain.”  These things just worked really well for her, and for many other women.   At the least, I’m sure they are helpful in managing pain, so we want to pass them along.

During Pregnancy:

  • Kegal Exercises – This basically involves contracting and relaxing the pelvic muscles.  Kegals strengthen those muscles, making laboring and pushing easier, and reducing the chances of tears.
  • Prenatal Yoga
  • Nutrition:
    • Lots of water.
    • Not much processed food; not much salt or sugar; lots of protein; lots of greens.
    • Taking a natural prenatal supplement.  She used NewChapter Organics Perfect Prenatal.
    • Red Raspberry Leaves (brewed as a tea) – Not only is this a great, natural source of vitamins A, B, C, E, calcium and iron, it also tones the muscles of the uterus.  Strengthening those muscles will reduce pain during labor and after birth.  It actually helps the uterus function without tension, making birth easier, and often faster.
    • Nettle Leaves (brewed as a tea) – My wife took this to ease swelling and cramping in her legs and feet, but it is also known to reduce pain during and after birth.  It’s also a great source of vitamins A, C, D and K.

During Birth:

  • Good birth positions: I think a homebirth, or birthing center birth, provides the best venue for optimal birthing positions.  They both allow for a lot of freedom of movement, because you’re not hooked up to monitors or other medical machinery.  My wife found standing, and more upright positions, the most comfortable.  Gravity is your friend :)
  • Birth tub, bath or shower (water, in general).
  • Hydration from water, tea, and a natural Gatorade-type drink called Recharge (to replenish electrolytes).  Or try this:
    • ⅓ cup honey or maple syrup
    • ⅓ cup lemon juice
    • ¼ tablespoon calcium tablets crushed
    • ¼ tablespoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 quart filtered water
  • Resting in between contractions.  This will keep your uterine muscles from getting exhausted.  Exhausted muscles are often pained muscles.
  • Keeping your mouth/jaw relaxed and loose.  There is a strong connection between the jaw and the pelvis.  Keeping the jaw loose will keep your pelvic muscles loose.  When your muscles are loose, you’re not fighting against your body’s natural ability to birth.
  • Not being constantly monitored: Our midwives really let my wife labor on her own.  they would check on her, and make sure things were okay.  But in general, they stayed out of her way.  So, she wasn’t getting all stressed out about beeping from monitors, or a doctor or nurse telling her that things aren’t moving along quickly enough.

Perhaps it’s odd that a man is trying to convey the importance of choosing the best birth setting for you, or that a man is talking about pain relieve in childbirth.  What do I really know about it?  I certainly have no idea what it feels like to be pregnant, to birth a baby, to nurse a baby or to be a mother.  But I watched my wife experience a huge connection, an trans-formative empowerment and an amazing joy.  And I am positive, with every fiber in my body and soul, that that birth experience has made her a better and stronger mother.  I think that the numbers of women that dilute that experience unnecessarily is very sad, and I think it is a beginning point for a lot of societal problems we currently face (but that is another article in and of itself).  So, it is my hope that we shift the trend of medicalized birth to one that is more in tune with the way this all too important rite of passage was meant to be.  I think more women will consider that if they know that birth is not something to be feared, but something to look forward to.

Jeremy Dyen is a musician, husband and father living in Philadelphia.  Currently, he and his wife have a Free Childbirth Tips Video Series, and a Free 10 Minute Guided Imagery Download you can access at FearFreeBirth.com.


Green Games for Earth Day and Beyond

by Tiffany in Children

Looks like I have some new games to add to my mammoth post on green board games. Educational Insights was kind enough to send me a trio of their educational, green games for my children and I to play with for Earth Week and beyond. All 3 games are printed with vegetable ink on recycled paper. They have wood and paper pieces, no plastic and they are really rather sparse in gadgets and “stuff” overall. They are very much minimalist games. Another plus is that all three have a nature theme going on.

Number Hunt – The game board is a jungle. The object is move through the jungle using the wooden die to roll numbers. You add the number on the die to the number on your current space, do the math, and move along the path to the finish line. Some spaces have no number. Instead they have a collection of bugs that need to be counted so you can figure out the number value of that space. It is great for preschool age kids (like my little guy) who are working on counting and my 7 year old enjoyed it as well, even though the math was a little to young for her. My kids also like that this game and one of the others uses the same paper “pieces” so they could be the same character for both games. My youngest son was the fox and my daughter was the owl.

Reading Roundup – As the name would suggest this game encourages reading and word recognition. My ten year old son even played with us because the overall theme was fun for a more advanced reader too. Each player gets five cards that lay face up in front of them.

Each card has a word on it and you move through the game board trying to land on spaces that have the matching words. The spaces with words are attached by lassos but you have to move in one direction. It is strategic because you need to plan your moves ahead so that you can hit all your words and turn over the corresponding card. Once all your cards have been turned over you need to follow the lassos back to your home base, each player (up to 4) has their own. It is easy enough for younger kids but the strategy part might need to be learned. Taking your words out quickly, while moving on the board as little as possible, is really the key. Very enjoyable though! I even liked playing this one.

Woodzy Words – This game is much like Pick Up Sticks, everybody remember that classic? Well these sticks are bit more substantial and they have words on them but the principle is the same. When you successfully pick up one of the sticks you read the word aloud and when you are finished you need to make a sentence with all your words. Continue to play until you bump another stick or get stuck on a word. The player with the most sticks at the end of the game wins. The cool part is that the words are 30 Earth-friendly vocabulary words like habitat, ocean, soil, etc. We really enjoyed playing this one as well.

All 3 games rock but I would LOVE to see advanced versions of the first two… because I do think they are phenomenal for education and learning during play. They get an A+ here.