Archive | May, 2012

A Gift Only My Son Could Give

Sometimes you need to remember that out of the hectic parts of our life, a glimmer that all of the extras we do and the time we spend with children is important. I learned this today from my eight year old son. I have been feeling extra busy these past few weeks with being on the go a lot with kids activities and a busy online life. I’ve been nominated as one of the top 30 bloggers in Vancouver via Vancouvermom.ca and it’s a huge honor for my site. If you have time, voting is a snap and I would love the support by clicking here and selecting Mommy Footprint.

So life is exciting but extra busy. I’m a mom so the busier days normally result in one thing accumulating in our house – clutter!  Clothes not put away and always paper from art or homework. I take on a normal amount of mom guilt when I’m not cleaning enough so when my son walked over to me today and said “You know what people would say if they come over to our house?” I could feel the guilt rise in my throat because I knew the answer coming was going to be “messy”.  He was going to say “if people came over to our house today they would think it was messy!”. I continued with my project and tried to ignore the answer that was coming. But instead he said “rich”. I asked him why people would think we were rich if they came over to our house?  He answered “they would think we are rich because we have things like peacock feathers and you can’t even buy those!”

He was looking at the peacock feather we found at a farm last summer that is proudly taped to our hallway wall, over canvas art the kids made of their favorite summer memories last year. I stopped and just grabbed him and said thank you!!. . .  because even with the clutter and mess, my child thinks that a person would be envious of our home because we collect priceless treasures from our adventures. We do that together and amidst the busy schedules, messy floor, and busy mom, my child appreciates the small stuff and that is a small extension of me. I suddenly found myself feeling positive and hopeful that I am doing some things right in my parenting journey and feel blessed that it’s my child that gave me that gift today.

Here is a picture of the wall that money can’t buy!

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Clothing Mis-labelling Leads To Composting Problem!

I’m not a patient person so for me to write this article over a month after first contacting a major clothing manufacturer with a simple question is really amazing for me! But since it’s been a month with no response, other than the standard “customer service will contact you”, I think I’m free to discuss something that very few people have thought of. How are companies able to label clothing as 100% cotton when they have glitter, sparkles, and plastic in hard form and plasticized on clothing? It’s obviously not 100% cotton and has been mislabeled by every single large chain retail clothing store. The company I approached for an explanation was The Gap. They are one of two stores that got me thinking about this question. The other store was Walmart but since I’ve noticed The Gap has a higher price point with clothing I thought I’d start with them.

The question has been building in my mind for years because when I receive clothing from Walmart for my children I start to itch from looking at the clothing tag label. There is almost always polyester in the PJs and with my kids having skin sensitivities including eczema, I’ve just learned to avoid their clothing. But because I don’t shop often in malls, but when I do go in, my awareness of materials and textiles in really heightened. Me walking into a Mall by myself  is crazy..my senses are high, my awareness of everything going on around me and I always notice changes the Mall has made. The last time I walked in my jaw hit the floor with a large screen TV (I mean it was HUGE) and there are girls walking the cat walk in fashion (I’m guessing) that’s sold in the Mall stores. I couldn’t believe this was on when so many young girls are at the Mall with their parents. You can keep the magazines and TV away from kids with this subject matter but walking into a Mall they need to see super skinny girls wearing high fashion? It’s ridiculous.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this article..I’m getting off base. I was at the Mall shopping for a suit for my son who was celebrating his 1st communion. I headed into my usual stops which included The Gap. I’ll admit that the girls’ clothing in The Gap can be a weakness because they do an amazing job with colors and themes I love like feathers, peacocks, woodland animals, etc. But I started noticing that almost every single t-shirt had plastic attached to the front. And some shirts didn’t just have the plastic decals attached to the front…some actually had tiny repeating rows of plastic bits hanging off the front of the shirt. Out of a possible 25 styles I found two that were silk screened with a design…and they weren’t cute designs. I asked the sales girl how you would even care for a t-shirt in this style since it shouldn’t be heated with all the plastic on it..she politely looked at me like I’m from Mars and explained it could be line dried. <grin>

I left The Gap and started thinking of all the stores in that Mall that sell clothing tagged 100% cotton that clearly isn’t. In an age of transparency why doesn’t that include our clothing? Especially when it’s obviously incorrect? We all know that cotton items can be composted. This is when labeling really becomes important. How can I compost a shirt with a huge PVC decal ironed onto the front? Let’s put aside the fact it’s off-gassed in my dryer at high temperatures over it’s life span. If that shirt isn’t ripped by the time my kids are done with it – of course it will be donated or given to a family that will wear it. But, what happens at the end of that shirt’s life when I’m putting it into our city compost? That compost is being used to grow food and we need to start thinking of what is ending up there.

And this final point of composting is why I don’t rejoice in listening to other people talk about the clothing they purchased at huge discounts with cross border shopping. It is the reason I’m trying to save up to purchase a few t-shirts for myself this summer but I want silk screen designs made from veg ink. It’s not because I try to spend more money than needed…I just know that always shopping based on cost and not with a story is usually a bad thing for the environment. In a few years when I’ve worn my new shirts over and over again and it’s time to purge, I can put them into the compost and know they will truly break down and decompose. This may sound strange to people but it makes me feel good. Shopping at a Mall can’t be avoided – I need to go there a few times a year for special items, but I way prefer to shop with people that have thought about how things are made and labelled.

I encourage you all to ask this question next time you go into the Mall. Ask questions. It’s only going to be after thousands have asked that something might change.

I leave you with some inspiration I found on Vancouver Island in Ucluelet by Pina. Her little print shop has a story and it’s pretty awesome – so are the designs including feathers, eagles, and wolves all printed in her studio in earth friendly ink.

 

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How To Clean Your Vehicle Without Chemicals!

The sun is shining and it always seems to emphasize dust – especially in a vehicle. My van is a typical mom mobile – it is for the most part really, really messy. Today we deep cleaned our van and I realized this is another area of our lives where traditional, toxic gimmicks advertising ‘cleaning’ and ‘freshening’ are not necessary!  Here are a few simple steps for cleaning your vehicle’s interior without products that contain formaldehyde, phthalates, or fragrance that off-gass into the small confines of your van or car.

Eco-friendly Interior Vehicle Tips

Grab your Dr. Bronner liquid soap. I’ve written about this gentle, organic, fair trade, made in the USA product so many times. But it is my all-in-one household cleaner that also works great on a vehicle’s interior and exterior. Load up a soapy bucket of water with a few squirts of Dr. Bronner (scented or not) and dust the dashboard and any other hard plastic parts of the car. Eliminating dust is important because dust carries lead, phthalates, and can easy be blown around in the small confines of a vehicle. The rag picks up the dust and dirt and leaves behind a wonderful scent – my favorite scented Dr. Bronner soap is the almond scented liquid soap.

How would you ‘air freshen’ your vehicle? Certainly not by purchasing a traditional air freshener seen in any nearby gas station. These contain synthetic fragrance that besides for giving you a headache, contain phthalates once they are hung and start off-gassing your vehicle. There is a must simpler way; dust using a vegetable based soap with essential oil or simply add essential oil directly into water and dust. Or the most obvious – open your car windows and drive! I blurred the below picture so not to pick on any specific brands but it’s the shelf that represents any gas station in North America and they are all filled with synthetic ingredients.

Interior car windows also need cleaning so before reaching for that bottle of Windex that contains carcinogens that will blow through the small confines of a vehicle, grab a squirt bottle with a few drops of essential oil/water mix and your microfiber window cloth or newspaper. You will have streak free, clean windows without using toxic window cleaners. For people that love fuzzy dice or Angry Bird stuffies – give these friends a monthly freshen with a  trip into the freezer or put in direct sunlight to eliminate dust that will collect on these rear-view window or dashboard friends.

My interior van carpets probably take the biggest beating especially with kids eating in the car. All four of my kids recently discovered spits for the first time this baseball season…my van’s floor looks like the under belly of the bleachers at the field. <grin> Before we head to the gas station with the high intensity suction, a sprinkle of baking soda works to absorb carpet odors in the carpet. My kids love to sprinkle baking soda so it’s a great activity for them. I would recommend using the high suction gas station vacuum and then following up at home with a Dyson or HEPA filter if your kids have bad allergies or asthma. The high suction vacuums are great – but I noticed they blow a lot of dust around so it’s great to follow up with the Dyson.

Time to make your dashboard shiny! Traditional wipes or dashboard sprays that are used to ‘polish’ the hard plastic are no longer needed!  Just like cleaning my stainless steel kitchen appliances, I put some olive oil on a paper towel and wiped down the dash and plastic cup holders in the back of the van. My kids helped and thought this method of cleaning was brilliant! I’ve only tested the olive oil polish on our plastic dash board, if you are trying to a different material, test first in a small corner of the dash to ensure it doesn’t stain or discolor your dash.  I have to say – this is the best tip for reducing toxic cleaning supplies with cleaning your car’s interior  – my dash board is shiny and looks fantastic. No smell either – even with parking the van in the hot sun all day.

 

Picture of my shiny dashboard:

After following these few steps – you’ll have a shiny, clean, car interior without any toxic fumes! We saved the bucket of Dr. Bronners from the interior because it also works great on the exterior of the van. It’s important to understand in a small space like a vehicle that freshening the air with traditional methods is a really bad idea. Any ‘sprays’ like Fabreeze are horrible for human health – read this funny post to understand how I view products like this near my children. You can avoid blowing formaldehyde around your car interior with doing more than ‘masking’ odor… which is all these air deodorizers do by simply opening your window. And with the method of wiping away dust, you are also removing other toxins like lead and VOCs that are carried via the dust sitting on your dash. I would love to hear back from anyone that tries the olive oil method of polishing your dashboard. Remember not to polish the wheel – it does make it slippery and you want to avoid that when driving!

To learn more about Eco-Cleaning Tips for your home – read here!

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The Interpretation of Cell Phones

I want to share two sites/articles that really got my attention and I reference them almost every day of my parenting journey. Have you ever heard cell phones referred to as a ‘shut up toy’? It’s basically the idea the parents are quick to give children or toddlers their phones to keep them happy in moments of boredom. I read this article just before Christmas and I was actually contemplating buying my twins an ipad for Christmas because they were spending a lot of time at hockey rinks watching their older brothers and noticed a lot of younger kids had them. At this time my oldest son was also getting in the habit of asking to play on my iphone when he was bored. This article and just the reference of shut-up toy really made me think of the message I was sending by passing out electronics when my kids were bored. I really was telling them to shut up and stay quiet by doling out a phone. I explained this to my older son who then begged me to stop reading articles from the internet<grin>, but I looked him in the eye and told him “I don’t want to shut you up”. And I looked around the hockey rink and realized without the distraction of electronics, my kids would color, draw, play hide and seek, and engage in play with the other rink kids. The moment one of them cracked open an ipad, ipod, or phone, the kids just totally zone out. My thanks to the author Michele Whiteaker because she saved me from a bad purchase and brought a new term to my household that explains perfectly how I feel about handing kids electronics to shut them up. And it might take my 10 year old 20 years to admit it, but he stopped asking to play on my iphone almost immediately after I explained what the article stated and if he was to be given ‘honest juice’ I think he would tell you it made him feel good to have someone that would rather engage with him than shut him up.  But it will be a long time before he would admit such a thing!

The other article that really brought me to my knees while reading is linked through a great Fan Page called The Hands Free Revolution and if you’re active on Facebook, this is a page to follow! The words from this site are encouraging parents to spend less time on cell phones and more time engaged with their children. Before you do an eye-roll, have a read at this article called How To Miss A Childhood. I don’t think it’s written to increase the guilt that we as parents already carry, simply to make us aware of how electronics have surrounded us and are distracting us from events we don’t want to miss. I needed a few reminders about making sure my children know my love for them deserves to be uninterrupted. I’ve already made a few changes since reading the article I was so inspired.

There was another article on the Hands Free Mama site called Six Words You Should Say Today. I really enjoyed this article too and have started trying to translate what always turns into long drawn-out confessions of love every time my children accomplish anything, and cutting it down to 6 simple words.  “I love it when you sing.”  “I love watching you do gymnastics.”  “I love watching your beautiful smile.” I’m trying to build self esteem with my children and I think this is a great way to keep compliments simple and perhaps more meaningful to a child. I also took to heart not going into extensive detail with my children’s performance so that it’s misinterpreted – keeping it simple is a great way for me to ensure my message stays positive from start to finish.

These two writers are talking about unplugging from the norm and how we interact with children and electronics once we’re out of the house. Both caused me to take a moment and think – rather then just following what everyone else is doing and to look through my children’s eyes at how my actions might be interpreted.

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Am I Mom Enough?

Have you seen the latest Time Magazine article? It’s gained a lot of attention, and I don’t like to give sensationalized writing more attention but with the timing of the article published right before Mother’s Day I need to write about it. The article title  ‘Are You Mom Enough’ alone has really upset me and wow did Time ever miss the mark of the article’s message. Here is the cover for those that have missed it:

Is this really appropriate for a magazine the weekend before Mother’s Day?  Seriously? Just the cover’s picture would suggest that unless you are skinny, with perky boobs and breast feeding (apparently in public), you are not ‘mom enough’. Too bad Time felt they had to make mothers feel worse about themselves when we should be celebrating all moms – not sensationalizing the latest hot spot in social media about attachment parenting,  nursing toddlers and nursing in public.  Why do I think it a pure insult for all mothers – even those that follow attachment parenting principles, breast feeding, and beyond? In my 8 years of nursing children, I have never nursed standing up…it’s not natural and quite frankly would have been painful for me. The model/mom/actress on the cover does not represent a mom that has birthed children and nursed for several years – it’s just not a realistic image. It’s an insulting enough picture to moms that have breastfed babies into toddler hood – I can’t image how the words and picture would make a mom feel that wasn’t able to breast feed. Probably similar to how I feel when I read articles about having C-sections not being equal to the natural childbirth experience and therefore (without meaning to) make me feel like’ I’m Not Mom Enough’. Mothers don’t need any reminders of ways we are not ‘mom enough’ because we already remind ourselves daily of things we could do differently and improve…constantly beating ourselves up internally and why? Because we are mothers – all doing the best that we can. Constantly inundated with visuals, Pinterest, and social media that makes us doubt everything we’ve done along our journey as mothers. I feel it when I hear moms talk about recipes I could never manage, sewing memory blankets or books, crafting and teaching pres-preschoolers to read. The competitive nature of parenting doesn’t need any fuel including an act as intimate as nursing your child.

As parents we need to focus on the positive aspects of our journey and understand that if you’ve had a child, through your body or not, you are ‘mom enough’. For any mom that has gazed at her child and already wondered ‘Am I Mom Enough?’ – let me reassure you that you already are.

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