Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stealing a Post

It's not often (okay, it's been never) that I've used my blog to round up support for a person facing difficult times. Now is the time. WhyMommy has allowed me (and you!) to re-post her post on inflammatory breast cancer. She has it. My extended family has also been touched...scratch that...ravaged by IBC. So drop WhyMommy a line at her blog Toddler Planet and feel free to five-finger discount her post. It's the right thing to do.


WhyMommy's Post on Inflammatory Breast Cancer

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Updates - The Worm Bin, The Compost Pile and The Ultimate Recycler

It's been quite some time since I've updated you on my husband's worm bin creation. You may remember that the design was a winner (recycled Tidy Cat litter tubs) but the result was a disaster. I am proud to announce that Green Husband's worm bin is now a success. He kept the design the same but this time went more slowly, being careful not to overload it and giving the worms plenty of time to do their work. I can attest that the bin is now teaming with worms. The second tub contains very rich worm muck and the final bin contains that crazy worm tea. Green Husband uses it to water our potted tomato plants.

Another success is his compost pile. As you can see our vegetable scraps and coffee grounds have composted to a nice, rich, dark dirt - again adding nutrients to our tomato plants.

And finally, The Ultimate Recycler. Several months ago Pip and his Granddaddy spent three hours in Granddaddy's workshop building a birdhouse. When we got it home and up, it was not long before a sparrow took residence and had babies.

Now they have flown the coop, so to speak, so it was time to clean out the nest for the next family. We found feathers from other birds, strips of blue tarp, some plastic wrappers, hay, grasses, and dryer lint.

Thank you, Green Husband, for providing me with so much content for Gift of Green! ; )

Friday, July 27, 2007

Un-Green Addictions - Please Help!

I have several addictions, shall I call them, that are quite un-green. Here are five of them in no particular order. I welcome suggestions or alternatives:

1) Addicted to Ziploc bags. For snacks. For clean diapers. For dirty diapers. For paperwork I don't want to get wet. For clothes that are already wet. I am addicted to Ziploc bags.

2) Television. Not me. My children. Or shall I say, I have *let them* become addicted to television. Can I make some excuses? My children, when they are in my home, do not watch television unless it is PBS Kids. Otherwise, they watch videos of television progams. When do they watch these shows? At 5:30 a.m. when they are up and I am basically not. During food preparation time (lunch and/or dinner). When they have had an extremely active day and want to chill out. I also happen to think that they do learn some important things from television. I know there are quite a number of you, like The Not Quite Crunchy Parent, who have some excellent reasons *why* children, especially those under two, shouldn't watch television. I don't want to start a debate - I am looking for ideas for television alternatives, especially when it comes to providing children with "down" time and/or some unsupervised play ideas for two children under three. (Although, just to show me up, my children are quietly drawing as I blog this.) I need more than, "Try books." or "How about coloring pages." I would like to know exactly how you utilize these methods; what's your story?

3) The Buying of the Lunch. Not only is this a money-waster, but when I purchase my lunch from the cafeteria at work, whether it be from the hot food line or the salad bar, it comes in a single-use only plastic container. I can't help thinking as I toss the packaging I just purchased 15 minutes prior, "And so ends the life cycle of the food storage container." Waste. Reasons why I don't make my own lunch: sheer laziness and a rush out the door in the a.m. I am addicted to the buying of the lunch.

4) Kraft Singles: Not just Kraft singles, but several other foods that are not just "convenient" but in my mind have some kind of memory associated with them. Grilled cheese just tastes better with Kraft singles. Individually wrapped slices be damned. What's your "comfort" product?

and finally

5) McDonalds. There. I've said it. McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds. I have created my own monster. It's my fault. The children like the french fries and those G-d-forsaken toys from China. I need your help. Do you have a "special" (do you "think" I use the "emphasis" quotes "enough"?) treat for the kids when you're on the road that diverges a bit from your everyday fare?

Update: I have to share some link love immediately after seeing Mom Go Green's latest post. Prepare to be amazed.

Update to the Update: Is it Sailboats Made of Recycled Materials Week and I wasn't told about it? Look at this awesome offering from SusieJ.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Give My Regards to BlogHer

Tell her that I'll soon be there...just not this year.

Safe travels and fun times to all my readers heading to Chicago!

Your Gift of Green Writer,


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

10 Green Things You Can Do With Your Kids This Week

I. am. home. with. the. kids. For those of you who are SAHMs, you may begin laughing at me now. My daycare provider is on vacation, ergo, so am I. Although I am slightly inexperienced at this sort of thing (yes, that was Pip who streaked the playground today - wince, sorry all!), I am really enjoying this time at home with my children.

Here, so far, are 10 green things we have done since last Friday.

1) Draw with magic markers. "But on what?", you may ask. Or not. One of the benefits of working outside of the home is the reams and reams of paper sent to the office recycling bins. I say, turn that bad boy over and you've got some perfectly good paper for your budding artistes.

2) Visit the local nature center. This is kind of no-brainer, but you don't have to limit yourself to what is inside the nature center. Some centers have discovery backpacks or their equivalent that contain items such as magnifying glasses or crayons and paper for sketching. Use it on the trail or path to help guide your little explorers.

3) Turn over a log. Good night in the morning have you ever seen what's under a log? Warning: not for the bug-faint-of-heart. We found termites, beetles, prehistoric-sized worms, assorted larvae and other sources of protein. The kids were fascinated. Caution: logs can be heavy. My toe will testify to that.

4) Nature bingo. Create a 3 x 3 table as a word document and insert some clip art or cut out some pictures from a magazine instead. Then, armed with a clipboard and pencil, check off the items as you spot them. For those of you in region 7, here are my nine picks: box turtle, duckweed, ferns, tree stump, pine cone, salamander, toad, animal footprint, nut or seed.

5) Picnic in the Park: Doesn't have to involve wicker hampers. Sometimes an organic cheesestick or bag of pretzels will do. Just get down on the ground. Don't be shy. Anyone know of any eco-friendly picnic blankets? My white capris will thank you.

6) Get wet. Around these parts we have small parks with playground equipment that shoots water in random patterns. The water is recycled when it goes down the drain, coming right back up again. Sure beats filling up that kiddie pool.

7) Take a trip to the Farmer's Market/Natural Foods Store. Can I just write two words: free lunch. My kids can exist on samples alone, but the number of toothpicks they go through is counter-eco-conscious, so I do try to buy in "bulk".

8) Do a bit o' gardening. Unfortunately, due to the zone 7 drought conditions, this year's vegetable garden is limping along, not to recover. This does not prevent us from finding the two or three snow peas that have managed to beat the odds (only to be eaten by us) or to dig up all our planters and toss the dirt on the lawn. Okay, scratch that second idea...don't do that. Measly crop or bumper, there is just something about seeing your kid eat a pea straight from the vine.

9) Hit the yard sales. There is nothing more exhilarating than telling your children that they can have any. toy. they. want. At 1.00 a pop, who's counting? What better way to reduce (no packaging), recycle (their Groovy Girls fad, your treasure), and reuse (Need I mention the Dora backpack AGAIN?).

10) Eat a honkin' piece of watermelon. And chuck the rinds into the compost bin with wild abandon.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Yoga A Go-Go

It pretty much started as a lark. I had taken home a new book from the library where I work (ah, the employee perks) on yoga for people recovering from cancer treatment. I selected this book because the photographs demonstrated the poses nicely, the model had, in my mind, a realistic body-type, and because the poses, I thought, would be more conservative, rather than extreme. The photographs also showed the "beginner" version, along with an intensified version. One afternoon, with Sprout and Pip swinging from their Diego-induced vines, I took out the book and "taught" them two poses: Child's Pose and Bow and Arrow. They did them with ease and remembered how to do them correctly even after a few days. Hmmm. Maybe I was on to something.

Several weeks later, their 80-something ; ) Great Granddad, a lifelong yoga-practitioner, came to visit. They demonstrated their poses and Great Granddad taught them a new one: The Stork. Again, they seemed to enjoy learning new poses and I think part of the appeal was just in learning the names of the poses.

Today I wanted to unglue Pip from the computer, where he had headed after Sprout went down for a nap, so I popped in a free DVD that came with a yoga mat that I had purchased. Slowly Pip came round the corner and by the end of the video, he was doing Cobra and the other simple, gentle stretches. When the DVD finished, he rolled up my mat and told me, "That video wasn't bad."

I know virtually nothing about yoga. I have taken a single class here and there. I always feel that I am not working hard enough or working too hard, and I seem to have that classic obsession that I am some how not doing it "right." Yet seeing my children do some "yoga" has made me realize that it can just be about the names of the poses, just about having fun doing the poses, and maybe getting a little physical benefit on the side. Why do I make such simple things so complicated? Why does it take my children to remind me that sometimes it's just about the fun of it.

In any case, yoga for my children is something I think I will pursue. And maybe I'll find something in it for myself along the way.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A New England State of Mind

In the random flotsam and jetsam of donations that pass through my library, there is an occasional gem. This week's gem was the July/August issue of Yankee Magazine, which I have not see in oodles of time and sports a new, breezy format. The editor, in his "Letter to Our Readers" column quotes Henry Beston, the author of The Outermost House. I reprint it here:

The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of the outer ocean on a beach.

I think that about says it all. What nature-writing have you read, if at all? I confess that I have not read much, but if Gift from the Sea counts, I certainly recommend it. Any suggestions for starters?

With the number of Kids and Nature posts, and the yet to be read "Last Child in the Woods" I hereby declare the upcoming month of August Month of the Outdoor Child in the Wannie-Greenie household. This is going to be pretty freakin' tricky considering that the month of August in my neck of the woods is about as hazy, hot, and humid as you can get...but soon September will be right around the corner and you know what that means...shudder. Fortunately, my kids love the outdoors, but I would like to read some new and clever ideas. Today we spent the morning at a park nestled in the woods, shaded and cool. It was a short walk from one of our areas fabulous nature centers, so we stopped there briefly but decided the small turtle pond was more interesting. Living up to its name, the turtle pond revealed a turtle taking a dip, covered in some clover-leafed-looking algae (can anyone tell me what type of algae it was? Perhaps it wasn't algae after all? It looked like little clovers floating on the surface of the water). Sprout, Pip and I watched the turtle emerge from the pond and amble off back into the woods. Turtles are surprisingly fast, wouldn't you know. I'm sure two loud toddlers hand nothing to do with that.

Won't you stop by EnviroMom's site and leave your suggestions for their new Outdoor Child segment of their website?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Green with Envy

I am so envious of those of you who are not staying up to write a final paper for a continuing education class. I'm getting too old for this! I'll be final-ized by Saturday and will celebrate with a farmer's market shopping spree and a new post.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Barefoot in the Blog with Books

Nancy Traversy and Tessa Strickland founded Barefoot Books in 1993, fulfilling their mission "to cultivate creativity, encourage independence and celebrate cultural diversity" through their company and its products. Based in Bath, England and Cambridge, Massachusetts, with their bricks and mortar store located in Porter Square (for all you familiar with the "T"), Barefoot Books is also committing itself to a more green way of practicing business and by aligning itself with selected "environmental partners". With impressive press online and in print and kudos from actors and activists alike (Levar Burton is my fav of course), Barefoot Books is enjoying some very popular publicity. Recently featured in Inc. Magazine, Traversy takes us through the history, joys and challenges of the birth of this woman-owned company. But how would a few of their books stand up to the test of an unshowered wanna-greenie like me?

What's This? A Seed's Story, written and illustrated by Caroline Mockford, is a simply-told story following a sunflower seed through the seasons. The illustrations, in broad, bold acrylics, feature an adorable girl and her marmalade cat. My children enjoyed following the seed's story and especially like looking for the kitty on each page. What's This? would be an excellent way of introducing young children to seeds and of leading into a project where they actually plant a sunflower seed of their own!

A Forest of Stories was too advanced for my children, but what a wonderful book this is for older children and adults. Written by Rina Singh, with illustrations bordering and interspersed among the text by Helen Cann, A Forest of Stories, is a collection of seven tales celebrating the magical properties of trees. Each story begins with an illustration of the tree and a description of some of its characteristics. The illustrations, done in graphite, collage and watercolor, convey the uniqueness of each of the different cultures highlighted: from the cherry blossom tree in India to the pomogranate tree in the Moroccan desert. The inspiration for these stories came from several sources which Singh lists at the end of the book. A Forest of Trees would make a wonderful gift or addition to your folktale library.

The next book is an interesting example of where the recommended grade-level of a book (4-8) clearly has no bearing on the interest-level of a book. Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon, I felt, was way too advanced in concept and reading-level for my 3-year old. In fact, when he wanted me to read the book to him, I had to gloss over much of the text (Herb being chained in a dungeon, knights being chomped) but Sprout was fascinated by the illustrations and this quickly became one of his most requested "reads." I "read" the book to him by pointing out familiar concepts, such as Herb's vegetable garden, and by describing to him what was happening in the illustrations (to a point). This book is a quirky read with fun illustrations that aims to teach tolerance about alternative lifestyles (vegetarianism that is!).

Whole World, illustrated by Christopher Coor, is a richly illustrated hardcover edition of the tune "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." This 32-page book comes with a CD tucked into the front cover which features Fred Penner singing this traditional gospel spiritual first written by the African American composer Margaret Bonds. This book features brilliant colors and drawings in a folk-art style of children from all different ethnicities in different regions of the globe. Additional nice touches include a list of 10 ways to help reduce global warming and brief descriptions at the end of the book about the ecosystems described within the book. A percentage of the money earned from the sale of this book goes to Barefoot Books' environmental partners. Sound like a perfect gift or something you'd like to buy for your own kiddies? Well, I am pleased to offer Whole World to one lucky Gift of Green reader. Simply leave a comment on my site by midnight Eastern time, Wednesday, July 18th and I will randomly choose a winner. I am willing entertain commenters from Canada as well as the U.S. and oh, what the heck, you Brits can enter too as Barefoot Books jumped the pond.

Disclosure: I was contacted by Barefoot Books and asked if I would like to review some of the items from their catalog. After reviewing their website, I decided take them up on their offer. I was not paid for this review, but I did receive four books at no charge. You can bet your bottom dollar that I would not be including a review of their products, at their request, if I did not agree with their philosophy or if I did not care for their books. I do not give any information to Barefoot Books about my readers. So got Barefoot in the Blog with Books. It's okay!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

No, Seriously. The Dishwasher is Dead.

We are being given $240 by our home warrenty company to buy a new dishwasher and even with the debate over handwash versus dishwash, we are going to take the money and run. So where do I start?

EnergyStar.gov has some good information, but then they go ahead and give me a list of recommendations like this. Now wadja have to go and do a thing like that?

Thankfully, TreeHugger came through with some suggestions on how to green your dishwasher. And then there's ye olde Consumer Reports to help is in our final decision.

Any advice? I've got some research to do, kids!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Great Green Gardening Goes Ga-Ga in Toddler Trainers!

Have I mentioned I love alliteration?

Okay, now here is a fun little project that takes no time at all (or no time at all for your husband - I'm the IDEA-man, he's the EXECUTION-man. Without him, I'm worthless. But I digress).

We took some old shoes that don't fit my little Wanna-Greenies anymore, slapped in some soil from our (my husband's) compost heap, planted some green bean seeds, and no kidding, it must be the traces of organic sweat still lingering from my children's feet, this bad boy popped up in two days:

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Veggie Adventure

There are several reasons to visit the blog A Veggie Venture.

First, we all seem to be having a SLIGHT problem with the Kale included in our CSA boxes. Have no fear. Kale is just one of the many, many CSA box oddities that veggie evangelist Alanna tackles in her blog that began innocently enough (don't they all) when, she writes, "For a year, I cooked a vegetable in a new way every single day. Now A Veggie Venture delivers veggie inspiration from Asparagus to Zucchini, from simple sides to vegetable salads to soups and even desserts." So that in itself is reason enough to add A Veggie Venture to your links to like.

Secondly, see that adorable little tomato to the left? Alanna commissioned that "badge" for all of us farmer's market frequenters to use as we please! As that crazy Molly Shannon used to say on SNL, "I love it I love it I love it!" Thank you, Alanna!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Books We Like

In my humble opinion, there is really no better gift for a child than a book. Sure, they won't go ga-ga over it in the thrill of the unwrapping moment - they will play with the battery-operated flotsam and jetsam first. But in the quiet hours, after the party-goers have gone home and things have settled down, they will time after time crawl into your lap and say, "You read this to me, Mom?" If you read it, they will come.

There are so many books for children that focus on the outdoors and the natural world, but my particular favorites are all illustrated by a very talented artist living in Massachusetts, Leslie Evans. She is owner and operator of Sea Dog Press "the production studio for Leslie Evans Illustration. The Press in question is a Vandercook #4 Proof Press, an ideal machine for printing relief blocks, such as linocut, woodcut and wood engraving. The press was formerly used to proof linotype." Her work is done entirely by hand and need I tell you how nice it is to support a woman owned and operated business?

Of all her work, my favorite is actually a series: Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn, feature clever alphabet acrostics written by author Steven Schnur. Leslie's hand-colored linoleum-cut illustrations are so evocative of the seasons they represent and capture their essence so precisely, that after reading Winter you may actually pine for those colder days even in the midst of summer! The glossy pages are beautiful to look at and are wonderfully detailed.

I purchase all four books at once and give them as a complete set for birthdays, holiday gifts, and even to newborn babies. I also own a complete set for my children. These books, and others illustrated by Leslie, can be purchased directly from Amazon. You can never start reading, and appreciating beautiful art, too soon! I leave you with an acrostic from Leslie's book, Summer:

Of tiny
Stinging insects
Quick to strike
Unsuspecting victims
In the
Of mid-

Dora Goes Green

Next month is Sprout's birthday and I am as much a slave to "themed" birthday parties as the rest of us...actually...scratch that. I LOVE THEMED BIRTHDAY PARTIES! There. I said it.

As much as I would just like to call her birthday "green" and call it a day, the girl is in l-o-v-e with that cute little explorer Dora. Remember the Backpack who we found at the yard sale for $1.00? It has now become her handbag. Did I mention it talks? If you do not have a child who is a member of the pre-school set, this post may read like "Blah, blah, blah, blah, green, blah, blah blah, blah blah." I apologize in advance.

But I digress.

So, I have decided that Sprout's birthday theme this year will be Dora Goes Green. Although, have you noticed...Dora is already very green?

1) She almost always walks everywhere.

2) When she and Boots do not walk, they either carpool (Tico's car) or take the train (Azul).

3) Her cousin Diego works at his parent's animal rescue center and Dora has helped him rescue baby bears and baby jaguars on several occasions.

4) Her Map recycles himself.

5) Dora fixed Backpack with duct tape (aka sticky tape) when his strap broke, thereby eliminating the need to purchase a new one.

6) Dora rarely, if ever, wears a different outfit. I can only imagine how eco-friendly this is. And Boots only wears boots! Now THAT'S saving on water and laundry detergent!

7) Dora seems to get A LOT of exercise and rarely eats. Not sure if that is entirely healthy, but I am sure she has great HDL levels.

8) Dora is bi-lingual.

9) Dora hair is a nice low-maintenance bob. I'm sure this saves time in the bath and on shampoo consumption (okay, these are getting weak, I realize that).

10) As far as I can tell, Dora does not use plastic grocery bags.

Okay, okay, things got REALLY lame at the end there - but in any case, I'm on my way to plan Sprout's Dora Goes Green birthday party!! Can you help us plan a Dora Goes Green birthday party? GREAT! Thanks for helping! Gracias!

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Not So Green-Related Perfect Post

When I first starting cruising the Internets, trying to find my way in the blogging world, I happened to stumble upon a mom who writes. Don't know what made me stop at Mom Writes seeing as there are so many other moms out there doing the exact same thing - but I believe it was because, as I once told her, her blog seemed sunny and bright. I will confess that I read every single one of her archived posts. Yes, Mary, I was the one that totally messed up your stats for approximately two weeks. Mary was the first blogger who replied to a personal email of mine and she even wrote a post just for me (I like to tell myself that anyway) about how to manage Tots on Trips.

I've never nominated anyone for a perfect post, the brainchild of Suburban Turmoil and MommaK, but I thought it would be perfect to nominate one of Mary's for the month of June. I know she has been having her ups and downs over the past few months which is why I nominate "When the worst that can happen is nothing at all" It's not really a green post, but sure, healthy living both physically and mentally is very green. So there.

Keep on writing, Mary! You are still bright and sunny.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

When...(as an aside)

When you put your 3-year-old down for a nap and when you go upstairs to check on him and when he's not in his bed and when you know he's not downstairs because he can't open the safety gate and when you check under his bed and when you check in your bed and when you check in the closets, out the window, in the bathtub, in the toilet, when you wake up his sister from her nap and probably the neighbors from screaming his name, before you call the police, check the dirty clothes hamper. You know, the upright one with the lid on it. He might be in there. Asleep.