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Archive for September, 2008

I love Barack Obama. There, I said it. My love affair with Obama began on a cold, February morning in 2007, when he announced his candidacy for President of the United States.  I had read and heard about this young Illinois senator in the Nation and online, but before 2007, I really didn’t know much about him. I remember watching his speech during the 2004 Democratic Convention and thinking to myself, “finally, a new voice in the DNP!”, but 3 years went by and I don’t remember reading much about him other than his stance on the war in Iraq.

I have been following politics very closely now for about 10 years and besides Russ Feingold, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Boxer and a few others, there has hardly been a politician in my day that I even respect, let alone love. Then arrives Barack Obama, whose words are powerful, they are inspirational, and they are hopeful. I believe that if there is any politician who can restore this sham of a democracy we call the United States, it is him. If given the chance, I believe that he will restore dignity, honor, and respect to the oval office, which has been long overdue in this country.

So why do I love Obama? Well, even though we do not see eye-to-eye on every issue, I believe Obama is a true public servant. He entered into politics not wanting to play games with the good-ol-boys of Washington, but to stand for real change that was in the best interests of AMERICANS, not his checkbook. And when it all boils down to it, that’s what matters the most… in fact that the reason the presidental office was established in the first place, not to rule with an iron fist and declare war on the constitution, but to protect the PEOPLE and to make decisions with their best interest in mind. That’s what I love about Barack Obama.

Critics want to say he’s inexperienced;  they want to say that we don’t know enough about him, that he’s an “elitist”. If you don’t know enough about him, you haven’t been paying attention. His life story has been plastered over every cable news channel for the past 4 months and as far as experience goes, I’ll take my chances on a Harvard Law School magna cum laude ANYDAY over 22 months in a gubernatorial seat… and that’s just McCain’s Vp. Comparing srictly the two candidates, McCain has no executive experience either.  (Remember, George Bush was a governor and look how far that got us!) What ever happened to intelligence? Is that not a quality that we look for in a leader? As I watch interviews with Sarah Palin, it appears not. It that who we want helping to run this country? I hope not. As far as being an elitist….please. Since when is growing up in a single-family home on food stamps make you an elitist? Where I come from, not knowing how many homes you own makes you an elitist, not your intelligence or your ability to bring yourself out of poverty. And those are just a few more reasons why I love Barack Obama.

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Seattle vs. Portland

So, I have been meaning to take a break from the baby business and write a post on Seattle. Well, here it is… sorta. Having spent two summers here in Seattle, my husband and I decided to venture down south and see what Oregon is all about. We decided to take a mini-vacation down to Eugene, OR. On the way, we stopped in Portland for a day and took in as much as we could while we were there. On the way back, we took the scenic route through the Colombia River Valley near the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail just outside of Portland. While my short visit to Portland and my 15 months in Seattle by no means make me an expert on either city, I figured I would give my “outsiders” opinion on the two.

Scenery: The Pacific Northwest is one of the, if not THE, most beautiful part of the country. It is a place where snow covered mountains literally meet deep blue seas; where waterfalls are abundant, and where a breathtaking vista is a stone’s throw away. Likewise, both Oregon and Washington are gorgeous. However, when it somes to strictly comparing the to cities, Seattle wins handidly. Now I may be biased having been here longer, but when you are in Seattle, you are surrounded by deep blue water and snow peaked mountains alike. Everywhere you look, you see trees, parks, lakes, etc. In Portland, there was definitely an abundance of trees and parks (the park lining Park St. actually trumps anything downtown in Seattle), but besides the murky Willamette River…not too much water. I would take sitting outside on Lake Washington or Puget Sound anyday over the riverfront in Portland!

Eats: When you think of good food, Seattle is probaby not one of the first cities to pop into your head, but if you live here or have travleled here frequently, you would be amazed to find excellent local good eats! From Vietnamese to Italian to Arabic, Seattle has an abundance of local as well as world cusines. Since living here, I have even experienced Hong Kong food. Those stone pots are delish!!! When we visited Portland, we loved how they had all of the steet vendors downtown. And these vendors were not just selling hot dogs and pretzels!! They were serving food from all over and it smelled and looked awesome. Had I ahd known, I may have skipped lunch at JAke’s crawfish, although the crawfish were yummy. So as far as food goes, I would say that they are probably tied when it come to quality, but Seattle is a bigger city, so there are more choices.

Vibe: When I visited Seattle for the first time, I though to myself, “Wow, these people are really laid back!” When I visited Portland for the first time, I wish I had a take-back for my comment on Seattle. When it comes to easy-going, Portland takes the cake! I think that on the surface Seattle seems casual, but when you start really looking at people’s attire and attitude’s, you begin to realize that yes, everyone is wearing jeans and jackets, BUT they are designer jeans and expensive jackets! Don’t get me wrong, Seattle is no L.A when it comes to fashion; in fact they are nowhere even close, but it seems that many Seattleites are well off, and it definitely shows…perhaps not in Dolce and Prada, but in $5,000 road bikes and $600 North Face jackets. I am sure there is some of that in Portland, but it doesn’t make up the masses. I saw people riding bikes, but they were Schwinn’s not Gary Fischer’s. I saw people with their babies everywhere, but they were in Graco’s and not Bugaboo’s.

Things to Do: In this category, there seems to be an even tie. Both cities are less than an hour from the Cascades. Both cities are close to great outdoor parks and forests; Portland has Mt. Hood and Seattle has Mt. Rainier. The coast is also not too far from either city;  its about 2.5 hours from Seattle and perhaps a little closer in Portland. Oregon and Washington are both home to hundreds of winerys and brewerys, and both are full of museums, historic sites, and local shops.

The bottom line is … visit these cities!!! They are great anytime of the year (despite the critics), and unless your my dad,  you just might want to stay clear of the beaches in December. (He’ll never hear the end of it)

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Cloth diapers seem to be growing in popularity these days, and there are a lot of good reasons why. Even before I was pregnant, I knew that if I had a baby one day, I would be looking into a alternative for disposables. However, when I actually found out I was pregnant, thinking about the whole cloth diapering thing was a little gross. What do you do with all the poopy diapers??? It didn’t sound fun, not that changing any kind of diaper sounds fun, but you know what I mean. So when I initially went to buy my first set of cloth diapers, I didn’t go crazy. I bought a few fitted diapers and a few pocket diapers and decided to just try the whole thing out before I committed 100%. And, How did it turn out youask? Well, they ended up being so incredibly easy that I have continued to buy more and more of them, and am now soley cloth diapering (and wiping) my son. I figured, I am doing laundry anyways, why not throw in some wipes? 🙂

Six months later, looking back at the whole process, the most daunting task has not been washing diapers, but the initial research that when into “uncovering” all of the cloth diapering jargon (and believe me, its overwhelming). Not only are there a plethora of companies that make cloth diapers, there are many different kinds, colors, materials, etc. It’s enough to send those on the fence about cloth straight back to disposables. In these next few paragraphs, I will attempt to simplify some of the craziness that is cloth diapers.

So, what with all the different types?

Pocket diapers: These work like disposables except that the absorbent inner layer can be removed. This makes for easier drying time, and a custom amount of absorption. You can stuff the diaper with various different liners (also called doublers or soakers, depending on the thickness) depending on how much of a wetter your child is, or if you are using them for overnight. Most pocket diapers come with at least one liner, some with two. You can also buy liners individually if you find more absorbent ones than the ones that come with your pocket diaper. These are the type that I use the most. I like that the layer that touches my baby’s skin is made of fleece so the moisture is pulled away, or wicked, from my baby’s skin. They are also a lot slimmer compared to some of the other types of cloth diapers I have seen. The most popular brands of these are Happy Heinys, Bum Genius, and Fuzzi Bunz.  

Fitteds: These are a 2 part dipering system. The first part is the actual cloth diaper. The cloth can made out of hemp, bamboo, or cotton, depending on the brand.  I have even seen blends (cotton/hemp, hemp/bamboo, etc.) . Like the pocket diapers, they can be closed using either snaps or velcro. SO, you put it on your baby like you would a regular diaper, then you put a diaper cover over the fitted diaper to make it waterproof. I use a lot of these diapers as well. They are a little bulkier than the pockets, but super absorbent.  Personally, I love Kissaluvs. They work perfect with a Bummis Whisper Wrap (the cover I use). What’s great about these is that even if anything leaks out of the fitted diaper (which it rarely does) the cover catches it!. I even use it with some fleece liners that I made, so the wetness wicks away from his body. Some other brands I have heard great reviews about are Bamboozle and Motherease. These do take a little longer to dry.

Contours: These are also a 2-part system. YOu need an inside diaper and a cover. They are similiar to the fitteds except the inside part is contoured to your babies bottom, not fitted. So basically, there are no elastic legs, no snaps, no velcro. You just wrap it around your baby and put the cover over it so it stays in place. These are cheaper than the fitteds, but you probably have to go through more covers, since they don’t contain everything as well. Imsevimse and Kissaluvs are two brands I know of.

All-in-Ones: These are most like a disposable. The name says it all. No stuffing, no covering. You just put the diaper on, and throw it in the diaper hamper when you’re done. The one down side to these is that they take FOREVER to dry! Many of the companies I listed previously make these, but here’s a picture of one.

Prefolds: These are the diapers out great-grandparents used. You all have seen one at sme point in your life. They look like this. As you see in the picture, there are a few different sizes, and colors. They are also made with various thicknesses and various materials (cotton, hemp, etc). These are the cheapest option to cloth diapering. I have heard that some people use Snappis to keep them in place, some use good old-fashioned pins, and some just use a really good cover that keeps them in place. I don’t have any experience using these, but they are definitely the most economical option!

But what about the price?

All diapers are expensive, and whether you are buying disposables or cloth, it’s simply the last thing you want to spend your money on. I cringe when I think about all of the money we’ve spent on diapers, and it’s only been 6 months! Anywho, the bottom line is that cloth diapers are cheaper. A combo of pockets and fitteds will cost you anywhere from $400-$600 depending on the brands and types. If you choose the contour/ pre-fold route, you’re looking at anywhere from $200-$400. (200 being the bare-bones minumum). A friend of mine recently bought an entire lot of all-in-ones sized newborn to toddler for 100 bucks, so the range is definitely vast. In comparison, disposables will cost you $30-40 a month. When you multiply that by 36 months (the average kid is potty-trained around 3), that’s over $1000! Even if yor child is potty trained by 2, its still $750 at the least. A great way to save even more with the cloth diapers is to find a company that makes a one-size diaper. (Bum Genius, Mother ease, and Bella Bottoms are a few that I know).

How do you wash and care for these things?

Easy. Since I use pockets and fitteds, I have two diaper hampers: one for the liners and fitteds, one for the covers. (You are not supposed to store them together). One of my diaper hampers is a bag that hangs on a doorhandle and can be thrown in with the diapers to clean. Very cool. So every 3 days, I dump all the diapers in the bag, bring it to the washer, and dump everything in (including the bag). I never have to clean or rinse out anything. I prewash with cold, wash with hot and a tablespoon of Charlies Soap (the best detergent ever!!), and rinse. Done. On sunny days, I sunbleach them to dry, but most of the time I just throw everything in the dryer for 40 minutes and fold. The pocket diapers actually dry a lot faster (like 15 min) but some of the liners and fitteds take longer.

How do I travel with them?

On day trips, I stuff a few in my diaper bag and go. You can either buy a wet bag to hold the dirty diapers, or you can use a plastic bag. On extended trips, you can do the same, with a much bigger wet bag and more diapers OR you can use the Aussie-invented G diapers, which is what I do. I will admit that the first few trips I went on, I just used disposables; a friend of mine had a super-fast grower and grew out of diapers before she could use them all, so I used those. G diapers are a cross between cloth and disposable. They have a cloth outside and a disposable inside that you can either flush or dispose of as you would a regular diaper. I choose to toss them because most places don’t have that great of plumbing. The great thing is though that they 100% biodegradable! The only thing you have to wash are the covers and you dont have to carry around dirty diapers!!!  I have 4 of them and that seems to get me through any extended trip I’ve taken. Those smart AUstralians!

Whew!!! I know that’s a lot of info to digest, but there’s more out there if you are interested. If you want to know more, check out cloth diapering 101 in my links. That resource really helped me out. If you live in the Seattle area, one of my favorite stores for babies, Birth and Beyond, hold classes about once a month.  They are super-helpful if you need help getting started. If you have any questions, shoot me an email or leave a comment and I’ll be sure to respond. Good luck and have fun 🙂

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While Liam and I were in Florida, he also got his first two teeth! Dad said that he better not get any more before we got home to Seattle, but I assured him that if there is any milestone to miss, it’s a teething infant. First steps, crawling, first words; none of those include screaming. I must say though, he has done very well with the whole teething thing. I was afraid that he would be in so much pain that I would be tempted to give him Tylenol, but it seems that as long as I carry him around, he’s been relieved with just taking Hyland’s Teething Tablets. ( A word of caution with Hyland’s teething products, while the homeopathic tablets are great, I did notice that their “teething gel” contains parabens, so be careful!).

I must confess that preparing for the whole teething process was a bit scary for me. I heard horror stories from friends, read horror stories in books; none of which I looked forward to experiencing first hand. I knew that I wanted to research and try as many natural remedies as I could find before giving him Orajel or Tylenol and so far, I have been pleasantly surprised with the results. Here are a few home remedies that I have found useful:

  1. A cold carrot. A friend of my mothers recommended a frozen carrot and I thought it sounded like a pretty good idea. However, while frozen carrots are great, thawed carrots are a little mushy and a little cold to handle. Since he only has two little teeth, there is no worry about him biting off a piece that he could choke on.
  2. Clove oil. Put 1 drop of clove oil in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and massage it on their gums. Clove oil has a pleasant taste and natural antiseptic properties. CAUTION: I read that excessive use can cause blistering, so always make sure it is diluted in oil and do not use frequently. I use it once or twice a day.
  3. Licorice Root Powder. You can find it at your local health food store with the bulk spices. All you do is mix a little with water and make a paste to put on their gums. It helps reduce redness and swelling and you don’t have to worry about overusing it.
  4. A frozen washcloth. I don’t think I need to explain. If you don’t have time to freeze one, take a few ice cubes, wrap a washcloth around it and tie it somehow so the cubes don’t fall out. Liam’s gram put one together when we were in Florida and it worked great!
  5. A wooden teething ring. I was able to get one made for me by WoodenTreasures on Etsy. The man was super-nice and the teething ring is beautiful! You already know how I feel about plastics, so I feel way better letting him chew on that over a plastic ring (even if it is PVC free).

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Home Sweet Home

I would like to take small break from pesticides and plastics to talk about a great little vay-cay I was lucky enough to get to take. I took an 11 day trip down to Ft. Lauderdale, FL to spend some much needed time with friends and family. The main reason for the trip was the marriage of two good friends. One, I have known since the very young age of 14, the other, and even younger age of 11. Needless to say, we have shared just about all there is when it comes to a friendship and I love them both.

While I was super-happy to be able to attend the wedding and reunite with some old high school and college friends, I was even happier to be able to introduce Liam to his uncles for the very first time.  They were all so awesome with him, it was great! I hope they had as much fun with Liam as he did with them 🙂 Better prepare for Liam as a crawler!

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Plastics. They are everywhere. We walk on them, sit on them, eat off of them, talk into them, drink out of them, and right now, I am typing on them. They are filled with chemicals we cannot pronounce, they can be dangerous, and they are scary. Raising a child in a plastic-filled world is even scarier. As I began my quest for the facts on plastics, I was completely overwhelmed with the information I discovered. Here is just a tip of the iceburg of facts I came across:

  • A plastic milk jug takes about a million years to decompose
  • Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour, all of which is made from virgin material
  • An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash, much of it plastic is dumped in the world’s oceans every year
  • Nearly every piece of plastic EVER made still exists today.
  • Many chemical additives that give plastic products desirable performance properties have negative environmental and human health effects, including direct toxicity, endocrine disruptiors, and carcinogens
  •  Its estimated that over 10’s of thousands of seabirds choke or get tangled in plastic debris (including domestic waste and disused fishing gear) and about 100,000 seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, other marine mammals and sea turtles suffer the same fate, although some scientists believe this figure to be much higher.

While the American Chemistry Company would like us to think that plastic is completely recyclable, the fact is, it isn’t. Most recycled plastic goes into making items like plastic lumber, textiles, and parking bumpers, all of which are unrecycleable. So its makes sense to hear that every 20 years, the amount of plastic we use doubles. When plastic is burned, it releases hazordous chemicals into the atmosphere, that cause severe health problems for those exposed. Have you ever burnt a plastic spoon on the stove? Not a pleasant smell. Little did you know, you were also ingesting hazardous chemicals. What exactly ar these dangerous chemicals you ask? Well here are just a few…

Bisephonal A or BPA – This chemical is a component of polycarbonate; that clear, hard plastic used in the manufacturing of baby bottles, reusable sports bottles, the lining of canned goods and dental fillings (to name a few). It has been linked to various cancers, early onset of puberty, Type II diabetes and neurobehavioral changes in offspring exposed in the womb. BPA is a hormone/endocrine disruptor. What many don’t know is that it actually mimics the hormone estrogen. It can interfere with the normal functioning of the hormone (or endocrine) system by duplicating, blocking or exaggerating hormonal responses. This can produce a wide range of adverse effects including reproductive, developmental and behavioral problems. It leaches into our food supply by ingesting foods and beverages contained in plastics bearing a #3 or #7. For more on BPA go here.

PVC- Commonly referred to as vinyl, is extremely hazardous. PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash.  Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. It has been linked to various cancers, reproductive issues, and weakened immune systems. Its found everywhere: shower curtains, carpets, childrens toys, teethers, car seats, computer keyboards, etc. One way to be sure if the packaging of a product is made from PVC is to look for the number “3” or for the letter “V” inside or underneath the universal recycling symbol. This means that the product is made of PVC. Soft flexible plastic products that are made with PVC often have a distinct odor. Children can be exposed to these chemicals, such as phthalates, by chewing on vinyl toys. Often times if I am unsure about an item, I just refuse it, rather than take the risk.  For more on PVC go here.

Polystyrene (PS)Used in Styrofoam containers, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, take-out food containers, plastic cutlery, compact disc cases.  Leaches styrene, which is also an endocrine disruptor mimicking the female hormone estrogen, and thus has the potential to cause reproductive and developmental problems; long-term exposure by workers has shown brain and nervous system effects; adverse effects on red blood cells, liver, kidneys and stomach in animal studies. It is found in plastics marked with a 6.

So now the biq question is “what can I do?” Well, here’s a few tips that I generally go by when it comes to plastic.

  • Use Aluminum canteens instead of polycarbonate bottles for your drinking water. They can be found just about anywhere. Sigg and Kleen Kanteen are two I know offhand.
  • Steer clear of plastic baby toys. If you must buy plastic, make sure that it is PVC and BPA-free. Check out The Soft Landing on WordPress, she has a lot of good info. You can always ask or research the company as well.
  • Choose items packaged in glass if you have a choice. (The other day I made my peanut butter selection based on this)
  • Use cloth bags to do all of your shopping. I generally have a few I use for the grocery store, one for the library, and a few for the mall. If you happen to forget your bag, most stores have them for 99 cents at the register.
  • Avoid at all costs heating plastic in the microwave (this includes plastic wrap). This is when chemicals are found to leach the most.
  • Avoid plastic cups, utensils, and plates for meals. There are many alternatives out there (bamboo, glass, etc)
  • Limit your Ziploc bag use. WHile I must admit, I still use the freezer bags, I have stopped using sandwich bags. They make awesome sandwich wraps online, and Tupperware (although plastic) is a much better, reusable alternative.

While going completely plastic free is next to impossible, I feel that it is very possible to be conscious about the choices we make for ourselves and our children.

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