Monday, December 1, 2014

On Ferguson, Privilege, Race and Society

America, we have a problem and it's not pretty.  There is a culture of racism stewing and I think the worst part is that it crosses all racial boundaries.  To be honest, it feels that this latest event was inevitable. There was going to be a crux, a flash point, and all hell was going to break loose.  The unfortunate thing is that this incident, this rallying point, was by all known evidence an unfortunate yet justified application of self-defense.  There is no one thing to point to here; every side shares blame in today's broken society.  Despite our desire for quick sound bites and easy to digest information, this story of a nation crying out with hurt and begging for healing is complex and nuanced.

Cultural and social revolutions tend to start with an injustice. Throw in a little authoritarian aloofness, mix thoroughly with oppressed populace and ignite with one person or party willing to stand up for themselves.  If we're going to talk about race, then the obvious analogy is Rosa Parks.  Here is where things get sticky.  Ms. Parks was ignoring an unjust rule in an oppressive society.  She was standing up to being treated as a second class citizen by peacefully refusing to move.  Michael Brown was not doing any of those things.  He was, allegedly, identified as a suspect in a recent robbery and when confronted reached into the officer's car and punched him in the face and after being drawn on made a move for the gun the officer was carrying. [1].  What we have is a young man who made some very poor decisions that lead to his death.  By all accounts, this is where this story should end.  Taken in a vacuum, there is nothing more to this story.  However, because of the conflict escalation that soon occurred along with the staggering difference in the demographics between the citizens of the town of Ferguson and the representation and authority figures, the situation has been entered as part of the national zeitgeist.

I see many posts, articles and memes on social media with anecdotal counterpoints such as "Here is a story of a black man killing a police officer" or "Here is a white man killed by black police officer and the media isn't giving this any coverage" or  as I've pointed out "This "innocent kid" was not so innocent and his death was justified." The problem with all of this is that there is a greater point being missed.  Our fellow non-white Americans feel oppressed every day.  They feel like the world is out to get them and their best option is to "act white."  The saddest part to me, is that I see a lot of these posts coming from other minorities.  It's like being brown is better than being black in our culture.  At worst, we get shitty excuses to be refused service or accused of being a lazy people.  Maybe we get told to swim back across the river.  No one really assumes we are all criminals or that we're just waiting for you to turn the wrong corner so we can jump you.  Even a reasonably well dressed black man will be given a second glance or maybe he will make you tense up or cross to the other side of the street.  God forbid, he be wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Then, you just assume he's carrying and on his way to or back from enjoying any kind of criminal activity.

Young, black people grow up being told that the world will not treat them fairly, that most people will assume he is up to no good.  This is further reinforced quite literally every day when people do exactly that.  You don't think he noticed you move to the other side of the street?  Maybe he wouldn't have if you weren't the fourth or fifth person today to do it.  People talk about white privilege without ever defining what it is.  People tend to think of it as an excuse that minorities use to justify their, frankly, poor decisions.  At times it can be exactly that, however ask yourself when you get stopped by a police officer, exactly how sure are you that you are going to walk/drive away from that encounter?  If your answer is over 80% or you've never really thought about it. Then, it's a nice world you live in.

"Every black male I've ever met has had this talk, and it's likely that I'll have to give it one day too. There are so many things I need to tell my future son, already, before I've birthed him; so many innocuous, trite thoughts that may not make a single difference. Don't wear a hoodie. Don't try to break up a fight. Don't talk back to cops. Don't ask for help. But they're all variations of a single theme: Don't give them an excuse to kill you." [2]
That article has a lot of first hand accounts of talks that people have to have with their sons to make sure they come home alive.  If you've never had this talk or had to have this talk with your child, that's a privilege.  People tend to think of white privilege as things they were handed because they aren't black.  If you have that attitude, then it's easy to say "Nobody ever gave me nothing for being white."  The real story of privilege is all the daily adversities you don't have to face because you aren't black or brown.  Some of us are lucky, we're brown and living in a white world and we more or less blend in.  I have no problem admitting I was raised white. I self-identify as white.  People for the most part treat me that way.  I don't face bald-face prejudice and racism very often. That may be because I'm well spoken or it may be the people I hang out with.  Either way, I live in a bubble where I'm treated fairly and not judged by the color of my skin for the most part.  The things I face are more subtle.  A cashier will speak Spanish to me assuming I don't speak English so when I answer them in English with a slightly exaggerated Texas accent I get to see a face that progresses from shock, to relief, to slight embarrassment.  Sometimes people speak slowly to me until I open my mouth and reveal I do understand what they're saying.  I honestly don't want to drive through Arizona because if I get pulled over I have no documentation that says I'm not illegal on my person, but really that's my biggest worry.  I don't have to deal with assumed guilt or confrontational stances by default daily.

It seems to me that it is becoming acceptable to be covertly racist or maybe it just always has been.  Posting things like "white people don't riot when they're mad" is missing the point.  First off, if white people are rioting it's generally because they're happy (see championship celebration riots across this country).  Second, pointing out that people of a different skin color don't riot when they're mad deflects.  It takes the fact that these people are mad and dismisses it by saying "they should handle it better."  You know what when my son gets mad he throws his toys across the room and beats his head against the floor.  That doesn't change the fact that he was genuinely upset in the first place.  When you see someone posting a story about a white kid gunned down and the lack of coverage you are ignoring the fact that the coverage really started after the violence between the local police and the people protesting peacefully had already erupted.  Instead of pointing out all the contradictions and dismissing the situation, first take a few minutes to recognize the underlying problem and find ways to address that.  This is a nation being torn to bits because we spend so much time looking at our differences.  And yet, we have a history of surviving and coming together to achieve wonderful things despite those same differences.  We just have to choose to embrace each other rather than climb over the most bodies so our message can be heard the loudest.  We can heal from this but it will only be done when we recognize there is a wound that needs healing.



Thursday, October 4, 2012

The First Presidential Debate of 2012

I'm not sure this goes in a mommy and daddy blog, but it is something of a passion of mine.  Also, being parents, it's important to us to take an interest in the future of our country.

I have been on record as saying that I'm not voting for either party this election, because I don't believe either party actually has a good solution.  I'm still strongly advocating for and promoting Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party as the Candidate I'm voting for.  He is on the ballot in 47 states and is fighting lawsuits to get him on the ballot in the remaining 3 states.  He can technically win the election and I feel should be allowed on to the debate stage.  There is a whole history of the Commission of Presidential Debates and how they are jointly sponsored by the Republican and Democratic parties and it is in their interest to keep third parties out.  That's not what I'm here to talk about, but I would encourage you to do some digging on your own and see how the system is rigged.  Go see that we have more than two choices and look to see what you can do about it.  As long as Americans view that they can only identify with one of two teams then those teams will move further and further apart and we that are in the middle will feel increasingly isolated from both parties.  I'm trying to leave all of that behind and look at this debate objectively as if these were my only two choices and to ask the questions of what really happened and what did they say?

I suppose first I must paint a picture of my debate experience.  I got up yesterday at 6:30 AM like usual, took a shower, got dressed and got in my car, but instead of heading to the office I drove to Tulsa.  I had some work to do in our Tulsa office and Oklahoma City office.  I got to Tulsa a little after Noon and was there working on the systems until about two.  I then drove down to "The City" (I don't know if they really call it that in Oklahoma but it makes me laugh to myself), arrived there around 4:00 or so and did some work in the office for about an hour.  I then met my sister and her person for dinner and we had a good chat.  I ended up heading home around 7:00.  I'm saying all this to say that it had been a very long day with a lot of monotonous driving and I was in the car for the entire debate.  So, I listened to the whole thing from start to finish.  I had to jump around AM stations until I got past Ardmore, then I could pick up NPR in FM and listened to that the rest of the way in.  I was wide awake and engaged for the whole thing.  Everything they said held my attention and kept me interested (as much as you can pay attention to something while simultaneously driving carefully).

I didn't get the experience of seeing the debaters.  From what I hear, though, Obama seemed to just "be there" and Romney looked like he wanted to be there and was excited to get the chance.   The picture I've had painted for me is that Obama seemed annoyed at the nuisance of having to debate.  I can't speak to personal experience of that, but  I just wanted to throw that out there.  On some level it makes sense.  I mean, by all account Romney has spent every spare moment for the past 3 weeks preparing and  practicing for this moment.  I would hope that he was good.  I think on the Ticket (yes, sports radio) they pointed out that Romney's full time job is to try to win this election, whereas Obama's full time job is to be The President.   For Obama it very much was something that he had to take time out of his schedule to do.  I know he gets a lot of flack because he golfs a lot and does various other things that make it seem like he's "not there," but I'm pretty sure during all of his activities he's plugged into what's going on and decisions that need to be made.  Sometimes the best thing you can do for a tough decision is to take some time out and go reflect on it while doing something that doesn't require a ton of mental energy.  So, I see why he might feel burdened by having to debate, however I feel that letting that show was a mistake.  The debates are dog and pony show and you have to bring your A-game even if you feel that you have the election in the bag (as the polls are starting to show that he might).

Both candidates threw out a lot of numbers, figures and "facts."  Romney spent a lot of time saying that he didn't approve of a $5 Trillion tax break.  Obama was trying to say something along the lines of we have a $1 trillion deficit and this (f'n) guy (read that in a Bronx accent) wants to cut revenue by $5 trillion making a $6 trillion deficit.  That's a mathematical ghost game.  The actual number is more like $500 million/yr which is still a lot but is obviously easier to balance than $5 trillion/yr.  The thing is the budget is a 10 year budget which is where the number comes from ($500 million * 10 = $5 trillion).

Amazingly enough, both candidates actually agreed 100% on WHAT needed to be done, just now HOW to do it.  Romney gets knocked a lot for not bringing specifics to the table, and you know what? I've been one of those people.  However he said something last night that many people seemed to have glossed over but which made me completely rethink how I look at him.  I think it was when he was being asked about how he would work in a bipartisan manner to get his agendas accomplished.  Actually I may be stringing together two different things he said but that tie into the same idea.  If that's the case, maybe more people would have caught on to it if he had said them at the same time.  He said (paraphrasing) that when he was Governor he would, every Monday, sit down with the leaders of both parties and have an open discussion about the issues the state faced and brainstorm on ways to fix them.  He also said at some point that the way he Governed was to come up with the principles of what he wanted done and would convey those to the legislature and let them hash out the specifics on how to get it done.  I think that right there is the key to understanding Romney and his "lack of a plan."

I would use the analogy that Romney is a hands off CEO whereas Barack Obama is more of a micromanager. We've seen that President Obama's way of getting things done is to listen to what both sides have to say and construct a plan with his advisers and his party leaders and say "Ok, we crafted this using bipartisan ideas go pass it."  Having reflected on this every since hearing the way that Romney would do it, I think this may actually be why the Republicans are pissed off.  It's like a CEO of a company talking to half of his executives coming up with a step by step plan for the next year or 6 months or whatever and then handing it out to all of his workers and saying "This is what I want you to do, this is how you're going to do it and this is when I want it done by.  I'm going to keep checking up on you making sure you're doing it my way and I don't want any arguments from you.  Any protests you may have you can save them, just shut up and get to work."  Would you want to work under those conditions?  The legislature has been elected (hired) to make the laws for this country but President Obama has come in and essentially told them, I know how to do your job better than you.  I think this may be a product of him not having been an executive before. He has always been a legislator.  He is a smart man and has a good background in creating and crafting legislation, but he hasn't learned how to delegate that work to the people that are there to do exactly that.  I would bet dollars to donuts if he sat down with leaders from both parties and said "Here's my vision  (affordable health care for everyone), here are the constraints (control insurance premiums, no denial for pre-existing conditions, everyone CAN get coverage), go get it done (this session)."  He would meet with a lot less resistance.  This was a huge light bulb moment for me, personally and no one seems to be talking about it.

So if you take Romney's method, then he doesn't NEED details.  He's leaving the how to the people elected to do that job.  All he needs to do is come up with guiding principles and ideas that he won't compromise on and then turn the legislature loose to legislate.  He doesn't have to know the intricate details of exactly which loopholes to close or exactly what the tax rate will be.  All he has to say is "Look Congress, go balance the budget of the next X number of years, do it by leaving revenue (taxes) where they are but reduce exemptions and deductions, if you can, lower taxes for the middle class and small business owners, don't lower taxes for the super rich (we're doing alright), don't cut military spending unless you absolutely have to and do what you can to help people help themselves."  Then let them go do it. It's a case of 400 minds are better than 1 (or 5 or whatever).

I think that America is too obsessed with who "won" the debate.  I don't really think that's the point of these things.  The point is to get your ideas out there in a clear, articulate way and let the voters decide for themselves if they like what you have to say.  Framing these debates as a contest that someone can win, devalues the ideas being presented.  I think the candidates did a good job of expressing how they are different.  I'm not going to comment on what I think of each approach, I'm simply outlining them.  Obama's plan to cut the deficit is a balanced approach between increased revenue (more taxes for the "super rich") and cutting wasteful spending.  Romney's approach is one of only cutting spending and potentially cutting taxes.  His argument is that if you cut taxes for middle income families (he specifically said he wouldn't support MORE tax cuts for the wealthy but he wouldn't increase their share either), more jobs will be created and thus more people will be earning money and the net effect on your revenue is that it will go up.  That's actually the general philosophical difference on the economy between the Dems and 'Pubs.

I may have more to write later, but I think that sums up some of the major things I took away from the debate that I really don't hear people talking about...  Please feel free to comment, I just ask that you keep it respectful as this is a sight for Mommies and Daddies!!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Modern Mom's Guide to Babywearing (Newb's Edition)

What is Babywearing? 
It is wearing your baby, of course, in a sling or carrier.
To the modern mother, it's kind of a parenting style. As Attachment Parenting started gaining popularity, so did the practice of babywearing. Attachment Parenting (AP) is all about nurturing the bond between parent and child, which is facilitated by wearing them often from birth through toddlerhood. That's not to say women are wearing them 24/7, many just do it when it's convenient and they are on-the-go. Anyone can do it, not just AP parents. In fact people have been doing it for centuries around the world. It's starting to get popular again, and there are more options now than ever.

Why Do it?
It is very convenient. I can GET SHIT DONE when I wear my baby. When Olive was a wee thing, I would put her in the Moby Wrap and clean up, even breastfeed her while she was in there. Those are things you can do with any ergonomic baby carrier. It took some practice, but it was so worth it.
Those car seats are super awkward to carry around and aren't that safe when you are going out. Have you tried putting them in shopping carts? Accident waiting to happen. Leaving them sitting on the floor is a hazard for everyone. Wearing your baby to the store is very easy and of course, you look so cute when you do it. People will inevitably comment on it, too.
Babies worn in slings are happier. They don't fuss as much.
You are getting a great workout when worn properly.
Slings and carriers are great for bonding with dad, grandparents, etc.
It is super fun! I love finding new ways to wear Olive as she grows and she loves it too.

How safe is it?
The safest place for your baby is right on your body. You know exactly where they are. This is especially helpful when your kid reaches toddler hood, because they have a safe place to retreat.
DO NOT WEAR YOUR BABY IN A MOVING CAR. EVER. Seems like common sense, but you'd be surprised.

What kind is best?
I have tried a lot of different carriers...
My advice: stay away from the "Bjorn style" carriers or other front-facing carriers. They are HELL on your baby's spine and hips, as pointed out in more and more studies like this one. The dangling legs position is what you don't want. Of course, I didn't know this when I wore her here:
Olive dangling by her bits :(
Honestly, this was before my babywearing education. There just isn't much talk about it out there. Hopefully this will be a lesson to all of you! If you wouldn't want to dangle by your bits, don't make your baby do it. It wasn't very comfortable for me to wear her for very long, either.

On to the Good Stuff:
Note in all the following carriers, the babies are in a seated position with their knees parallel to their butts. This is what you want! All the babies are within kissing distance of their wearer's face in the front, or can peek over the shoulder in a back carry. Also what you want!

Buckle Carriers

Great for Beginners with older babies ($90-$135)
I was introduced to the magical world of Ergonomic Carriers by my good friend Ginna. She has an Ergo, which I consider to be AMAZING. These are intended for babies 4 months and up, but they have infant inserts you can buy for smaller babes. Can run pretty expensive but you can probably find a used one out there for less. They come in oodles of adorable prints. Worth every penny, IMO. There are other similar brands, too, like BabyHawk, Beco, or Pikkolo.    

They look so comfy, don't they?

Mei Tai  

Intermediate ($75-$135)
Not to be confused with the tropical drink (Mai Tai), these things are very refreshing as well! They are a bit trickier to learn than the buckle style, because you gotta tie it on, but they are so versatile! Here are some instructions on all the carries you can do. 

Popular brands are Kozy, Wrapstar, Ellaroo, and BabyHawk (my fave).

Ring Sling

Affordable beginner option best for older babies ($35-$100)
This is definitely a go-to favorite of mine because it really is the easiest for me. I slip it on, slide baby into it from my shoulder, and cinch it up snugly. I keep it in my car at all times for when I gotta run into the post office or something. I use a Maya wrap, in a large size so I can drape the end over her head if it's raining. Plus it has a pocket!! Instructions!! 
I should have the fabric pulled farther over  her bum, like to her knees.
 Her arms don't need to be tucked in, either.

Stretchy Wrap 

Great for one-carrier family ($45-$140)
The stretchy wrap that I have is the Moby Wrap. I love this thing! I got it as a baby shower gift from my friend Amy and I would recommend using it when it's not too hot outside, since the fabric + baby heater + you = sweat. It is awesome for wearing from birth to toddler, though. I would say that it offers the best UV protection, as well, since it covers the most skin. Plus there are a million ways to wear the thing. 
Aww what a good Grammy :)

Woven Wrap 

Experienced users ($35-$145)
This is a carrier-collector's favorite as there are some GORGEOUS fabric options out there. Woven wraps can be made from Silk, Organic Cotton, Linen, etc. and of course, the colors are to die for. They are much cooler than stretchy wraps, very strong, and can be worn from birth to toddler. But there is a steep learning curve, so don't think you can jump right in without practice. Some brands are Girasol, Gyspy Mama, and Ellaroo. 

This is just an introduction to the world of babywearing. With all of these options, no matter what, please please please read all the instructions before using them and do some research on what will fit your baby the best. Some work better for newborns than others, so that is a big factor to consider. 

Strollers while travelling are a pain in the ass, so why not try a wrap or sling for your next trip? Even the most expensive carriers are cheaper than most strollers and way more fun and convenient! 
Just give one a try, I promise you will fall in LOVE. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Educate Yourself: a letter to my daughter

Dear Olive,

When I was a little girl, I was taught a simple truth. Everyone must look within themselves to find confidence and happiness. I was kind of goofy and awkward with big ears and a big cheesy grin on my face All. The. Time. So, my confidence was a bit shaky. Funny, because now I think those features are beautiful as I see them in you.
I'm sure I don't need to point myself out. 

I stayed awkward for a very long time. Sure, people would tell me I was "cute" but I always thought of that as an abbreviated way of saying "I find your looks agreeable, but not to my taste." It didn't help that my older sister (Aunt Sarah) has always been incredibly beautiful and smart to boot, who can compete with that? Of course, now I realize that okay, I wasn't a model, but I was unique. I was a total goofball straddling the line of social embarrassment and it made me different and interesting. I like to think that I have finally learned to appreciate my beauty. 

But this isn't about now. This is about the time before that. I'm talking about when I decided my lot in life would be centered around making myself as educated as possible. I would live my dream life even though I wasn't blessed with the Movie Star Looks. A lot of fairy tales start with a "beautiful princess" with some kind of flowing hair or sparkly frock or something. Why can't they start with a "wickedly smart princess" with a high-powered career?
 I made some goals for myself. Some not so realistic, mostly because I was under the age of 10. I'm sure you will come up with some crazy awesome goals, too, and will accomplish most if not all of them. You are my child, you know. It's important to have goals, they remind you what is important. 
You too can be this smart! 

One. I would go to a really good college. Two. I would become a doctor of some sort, perhaps a brain surgeon (not sure why I picked that one, maybe because it seemed to be the most difficult?) Three. I would adopt a child because the thought of childbirth totally grossed me out. I would teach her several languages. Four. I would marry an incredibly handsome and mysterious man who was some kind of wealthy artist (HA!). Five. I would use his wealth and my wealth to buy a stable and horses for my sister, in case she didn't already have it, being a world famous equestrian horseback rider. 

Accomplished Goal #1 with your Daddy and Aunt Sarah by my side.
So there you have it, the actual career was switched out periodically, but it was always something that would require a LOT of education. I enjoyed school. I was pretty good at it. It didn't matter what I looked like, it was a way for me to feel good about myself without the subjective eye of others. I felt incredibly confident in my "smarts" mostly because my parents did a good job of praising me when I had good grades. They didn't pressure me too much but knew when I needed a kick in the pants. This is what you can expect from your father and me. When you find something that makes you feel good about yourself, we will support you 100%, no matter what it is. The best way to find what you love, is to educate yourself. READ lots of books. At least once in your life, spend the whole day in the library just exploring all the different genres and build yourself a fortress of novels to read all summer. There are seriously entire universes to explore in those things! GO on adventures. Go to the zoo, to the museum, or a painter's studio. See what other's are doing with their lives and it might spark something in you, too. OPEN your mind. If you let anyone tell you that you can't do something because it's too hard or just plain weird, you might miss out on something good. Want to join the circus? That's pretty awesome. So awesome, someone might feel jealous and tell you to scale it down a bit. You know what you do? Go out and practice your cartwheels, you're gonna need them for your audition. 

Our Wall of Education (hard to see, but that's Sherlock)

So, essentially all this ranting is to reiterate the advice that I am giving you... educate yourself, my dear. I'm not going to tell you that you need to go to college to be happy, because that is a lie. There are a lot of really smart people doing really awesome things without a college degree. It is up to you. You may be just as goofy and awkward as your mom, but you will have the tools to live out your goals and find the confidence within yourself. Your goals will change a lot with time, and while mommy never did become a brain surgeon or buy horses for Aunt Sarah, she did have you which is SO much better than any goal she could have dreamed for herself.

To my greatest accomplishment, I love you
Tracey (Mama)  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

DIY: Easy Peasy Bath Products

DIY: Easy Peasy Bath Products 

I don't know about you guys, but I am sick of buying beauty and cleaning products with crazy ingredients I can't pronounce. Oh, and the super expensive "natural" alternatives? I'm no sucker. For just a little bit of work and a fraction of the cost, you can make your own products that are safe, effective, and very simple. Here are some tried-and-true recipes I've acquired and tweaked according to what works for me. Most of the recipes are based on a mix of Tsh Oxenreider's  Organized Simplicity, Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, and plain old trial-and-error from my dear Crunchy friends. Feel free to pass it on to your friends and family and experiment with them. It's actually pretty fun and rather addicting...

For Your Hair & Body

Shopping List for your whole family: 
Baking Soda
Vinegar (Apple Cider or White)
Coconut Oil
Stevia powder
Peppermint Extract
Witch Hazel
Shea Butter
Almond Oil
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Dr. Bronner's Pure Castille Soap
Squirt Bottles
Ground Oats
Powdered Milk

Hair Cleanser:
1 tbsp Baking Soda to 1 cup of warm water.
Add Baking Soda to a squirt bottle and fill with warm water. You can keep the squirt bottle in your shower...shake it and squirt it into your roots! Scrub it in, rinse it off, and follow with the vinegar rinse (see below). 

Hair Conditioning Rinse:
1 part Apple Cider Vinegar or White Vinegar to 4 parts warm water.
Combine the vinegar and water in a squirt bottle and keep in your shower along with the cleanser. Squirt it through your hair (avoid the roots) and comb it through. Rinse it off immediately or your hair might end up greasy pretty quick. 

2 tbsp. Coconut Oil
2 tbsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Stevia powder
2-3 drops peppermint extract
Mix it all together and store in a small jar with a lid or an empty squeeze tube. Just use it like any other toothpaste! 

Deodorant Mist: 
1/2 cup Witch Hazel
1 tbsp. Baking Soda
splash of Dr. Bronner's Pure Castille Soap--any scent (I prefer the Tea Tree Oil kind)
1/2 cup Distilled Water 
Combine ingredients into a spray bottle, then just shake and spray! I like to use a recycled body mist bottle, as the mist is much finer and dries quicker. This mist is so much more refreshing than any deodorant you have ever experienced and it is non-irritating! 

Oh, and...
Shaving Cream! 

For more info on "No-Poo" (going shampoo-free) check out my other post.  

For Your Baby

Like most moms, I obsess over what products to use on my child. Baby's skin is so new and sensitive, you really ought to research what every ingredient is and how it can affect them. You'd be amazed by how many "baby products" on the market right now are not good for babies. Steer clear of anything containing parabens, fragrance, Propylene Glycol, SLS, or Dioxane. Even "Unscented" or "Fragrance-Free" products can contain phthalates to mask odors. Use less products. It seems pretty obvious, but babies don't need to be slathered in creams and powders. The skin they are born with is *usually* perfect and won't need much more than a bit of warm water and a washcloth to clean. As they get older, though, they get messier. So then you need to use a little soap. Here is a cheat sheet for soaps that are currently on the market, by SafeMama: Cheat Sheet PDF.

If you'd like to make your own cleanser, so you know exactly what your putting on your baby, try a nice little Bath Milk Recipe. This one comes from a DIYer at

Baby Bath Milk:
1 cup powdered milk
1/4 cornstarch
1/4 cup finely ground oats
2-3 drops lavender or chamomile essential oil
Mix them all together into a shaker style bottle. Sprinkle a little bit into warm bath water for  baby! 

Baby Bottom Cream for cloth diapering:
1 oz Coconut oil
1 oz Olive Oil
1 oz Shea Butter
1/2 oz beeswax
5 drops grapefruit seed extract
3 drops your choice of essential oil
Use a double boiler to melt down the coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax followed by the olive oil. Mix it well, then transfer it to a mixing bowl to let it cool. Just before it reaches room temperature, add the grapefruit seed extract and essential oil and mix it with a hand mixer or a whisk until it is "whipped". If it is too runny, just add more beeswax. This is cloth diaper safe and antiviral, antifungal, anti-yeast, antibacterial, and highly moisturizing! 

For Your House

These recipes are very basic and have been around for as long as houses have been cleaned. Mix them up with care, as cleaning chemicals can have toxic reactions if mixed improperly (i.e. bleach and ammonia can create toxic fumes). 

Baking Soda 
White Vinegar
Powdered laundry detergent 
Washing Soda 
Squirt bottles

All-Purpose Disinfectant:
3/4 cup of bleach
1 gallon of warm water
1 tbsp powdered laundry detergent
Wash surface with solution and keep it wet for 5 minutes. Rinse and let dry. You can use this pretty much anywhere in your home, but avoid using it on metal fixtures). 

Mild All-Purpose Cleaner:
4 tbsp. Baking Soda
1 quart warm water 
(optional) A few drops of essential oil
Wipe surfaces with a sponge soaked in the solution. This is great for the fridge or trash cans as it cleans light soil and deodorizes. 

Mild, Gently Abrasive Cleanser:
Add enough drops of water to Baking Soda to form a paste. Can remove crayon from walls and shine your sink! 

Strong All-Purpose Cleaner:
Add 1 tbsp of ammonia and liquid laundry detergent to a pint of water. 
Add 1.2 cup Washing soda to 1 gallon warm water
Can be used in kitchens or bathrooms, but shouldn't be used on fiberglass or aluminum. 

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: 
1/4 cup Baking Soda 
1 cup White Vinegar

So, there you have it. All pretty simple recipes and all made with stuff you know is safe. Buy some ingredients and try a couple out. Come on...I've done most of the work for you! 

Thank you, again, to all my friends that helped compile these awesome recipes! Crunchy mamas are so helpful!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Our adventures eating plants

On 2/20/2012 we watched a documentary called "Forks over Knives." It was your typical "Modern food is making you sick and fat" type documentary, but something about it clicked.  I don't know that I'm completely convinced by some of their suppositions and premises, but the overall theme of it was eat a whole foods, plant based diet to become healthier.  If you would like to watch it, it was an interesting watch and they state their reasons and conclusions.  To make a long story short, though, I told Tracey "If you want to try that I'm on board."   I'm one of, if not the pickiest eater that I know.  This was no small statement for me, but with Olive being born and me turning 30 soon I wanted to make a choice for a healthy lifestyle so I could be around for her as long as possible.  I don't smoke and don't drink that much.  In fact, we rarely keep beer in the house, I just don't drink it.  It isn't for any type of moral choice or reason, I just don't find the occasion to drink beer that often, it's not something i consume on a "just because" basis.

The next day Tracey went out and bought a bunch of stuff for vegetarian dinners and we established two ground rules. 1) If she makes it, I'll try it. 2) We're not gonna be "those people" who refuse to eat what someone else cooked for them because they're vegetarian.  I understand that some people have been vegetarian for so long that their bodies can't process meat anymore.  I'm not saying that if you refuse someone else's cooking your a bad person or anything like that.  For us, we just wanted to live our life our way and still be able to hang with other people and the foods they ate.  The way it's ended up working out is that 7-10 meals at the house every week are vegetarian guaranteed. That includes Dinner M-F and Lunch and Dinner on the weekends.  Sometimes we get some fast food or go out, sometimes we cook some chicken or fish.  The point is we have changed our diet and our lifestyle to have our meals based around the plants that are in them, not the meats.  When we do eat meat, it doesn't feel like "cheating" because we're not on a diet.  We've changed our lifestyle to be vegetarian with occasional meat.

It's been almost 4 months now since we switched.  I've been keeping all of this in for that 4 months because for one thing, if it didn't work, if we went back to our old ways I didn't want to be a public failure.  Being a private failure is good enough for me.  Also,  I wanted to have a long term perspective on it.  Now, I didn't do what documentaries do and get a checkup with a bunch of blood work before I started to give out comparative numbers.  I didn't do that because this is a lifestyle choice, not a let me show you how awesome it is choice.  The reason I'm speaking about it now, really is because people lately have been telling me how I look great and have lost a lot of weight.  They want to know what I do and how much I exercise, etc.

I really just want to tell everyone my story and what has worked for me, where I'm at and where I want to be.  I don't really have a master plan, I'm just seeing where this all takes me.  So here are the numbers I do have.  I started weighing myself daily (mostly) on 2/21.  I weighed 195 then,  I weigh 175 now.  In 16 weeks, I've lost 20 lbs or about 1.25 lbs a week on average.  I think the on average part of that statement is the important part. Some days are "better" than others and some weeks are "better" than others.  I've found the important part for me is don't stress about the numbers.  If you know you're eating right the numbers will follow.  If you have a few days where you don't eat all that well, then get back on track, the numbers will follow.  It's important to look at your personal goals, whether that be lbs or inches on a macro (long term) level.  My 35 jeans were starting to get tight on me, my 34's now fall off my ass.  My goal was never to lose weight or get slimmer, it has always been to get healthier. Losing weight has just been a happy byproduct of that because I was overweight and storing a lot of extra fat.

I had gone to the doctor at the end of march for some allergy and sinus issues and my BP at the time was 125/85.  Not terrible, not great either, but given this was 5 weeks after we started this plant based foods thing it made me wonder where i was at.  I went back 6 weeks later for a second sinus infection (my sinuses suck) and my BP was 121/81 and that was literally 15 minutes after drinking a giant soda from Wendy's (yah I know terrible if you're going to get measured).  Even so, that's real close to normal, so I'll take it as a win.  I'm going back for a full workup around my 30th birthday because, it's just time to get that sort of thing done and doing it around your birthday makes it easier to remember. I'm interested to see the results.

This lifestyle might be for you and it might not, but at least give it a look see if it interests you.  I see so many people trying to lose weight by cutting things out of their life completely and that seems to me to be an extremist view of the world.  It's almost a level of obsession and fanaticism.  I think anything in moderation is ok (edible food wise, i wouldn't recommend low levels of cyanide in moderation).  I've seen people starve themselves or deprive themselves of the things they love.  Look, if your solution to losing weight is "go hungry" 1) don't focus on "losing weight" focus on being healthier 2) "go hungry" doesn't sound healthy.  Tracey and I are full every day at dinner because plants are filling and yummy.  I still have Whataburger on occasion   Hell, today I had some Wendy's 'cause I just forgot to bring lunch to work.  I'm not stressed about it, because I know it's a blip on the radar.  I can moderately indulge in my guilty pleasure foods and it's no big deal because my lifestyle as a whole is healthy.  These aren't slip-ups or cheating or even scheduled "cheat days."  I just go about my life and eat what I want, but what i want to eat is usually vegetarian.

I'd like to take a moment  to thank my wife, Tracey.  She does most (99.99999%) of the cooking at the house.  She feeds our family and without here I wouldn't have the time or the energy to make this change.  It's been great so far and I hope she knows how much I appreciate her and her culinary efforts.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Something to Do.

I'm not sure how I came to the decision of making a doll for my little doll, Olive. Just kind of picked up some scrap yarn, a crochet hook, and started playing. I wanted it to be something that would be soft and cuddly, but stand the test of time (and toddlerhood). I think at first I was planning to make a little ball but I was struck by a bolt of confidence and creativity. So one row at a time, I sculpted a little person. She's made from a blend of angora and acrylic, stuffed generously with love...errr Polyfill, but whatever. 

I just finished mopping the kitchen and bathroom floors. I'm not going to tell you the last time I did that, but believe you me, it was time. Olive is sound asleep, so I'm taking a break for a Geppetto moment. I stitched in little emerald green eyes, leaving the tails out for some lashes.

Business has slowed down a lot for me, so I'm trying to keep up my skills (and spirits) with some pro bono pieces. I was asked to provide a giveaway item for a "Diaper Drive" hosted by Sno Pea . They raise money to give needy families the cloth diapers and education they need, so they don't have to choose between food on the table or diapers. This is such an important cause to me, as I am cloth diapering for economical reasons, and I know there are so many families who resort to unsanitary means of diapering because they don't know about cloth. If you have a moment and a couple bucks to spare, please send them a donation here

Anywho, here is the wool soaker I designed for them, just need to add the leg cuffs.
 I call it "The Centipee Soaker". Get it? Centipede? Pee? Oh nvm.  

I used a technique called "Fair Isle" knitting, maybe you've heard of it. It's a technique for working two or more colors of yarn in the same row by carrying them together. You can do all kinds of patterns this way, and makes a really nice warm fabric. My problem was holding the two strands of yarn at the same time. Some people can knit with one in either hand, but I'm a "thrower" (carry yarn in my right hand) so I felt too clumsy for that. Unfortunately, as you work the yarn, they two strands become tangled really easily and slows everything down. So, I made this as a solution :

It's kind of crappy, but it works. It is just two paper clips that I had to wind around my finger and make little carrying loops for the yarns to run through. I know I can buy this for like $2, but my philosophy is "what's the point in buying something if you can make it?" Besides, it only took like 10 seconds. 

Well, that's all I got for now. I'm starting to get really antsy so if you know of anyone that would like a handmade knit or crochet item of any kind, please hit me up. I am also interested in donating items to a charity giveaway of some sort. 
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