Thursday, May 31, 2012

TerraCycle and The Flip Flop Brigade

While I realize the title of this post sounds like a children's book, I'm actually writing to share with all of you my newest project!

I have recently joined TerraCycle, which is an organization based on the premise of eliminating the idea of waste.  They have done this by creating recycling programs for items that were previously hard or impossible to recycle.  Anyone can sign up to join their "brigades" for free, and then start sending them waste.

It's brilliant.  And nearly 30 million people around the world are participating, keeping tons of waste out of landfills.

TerraCycle was started in 2001 by a 20-year-old Princeton University Freshman named Tom Szaky, and his company has become one of the fastest-growing green companies in the world.  They take the waste units that are sent to them and have turned them into 1500 different green products which are sold to retailers such as Whole Foods.  Anything that they can repurpose and keep out of a landfill, they will take!

So where do I come in?

I've joined one of the brigades.  The Flip Flop Brigade, to be exact.

So, I am collecting flip flops.  And I need help.  I only have five pairs that I can send in--and I need twenty more before I can send them a box.  I will take any flip flops, from any retailer.  Once I get these sent in, I will receive some coupons to use at Old Navy--and I will pass these on to donors.  So please, check your closets, and let me know!  I will come to you.  If you live far away and would like to send them to me, please email me at amandalynch16@gmail.com and I will be in contact:)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Guest Post: What Should You Do When Your Child Hits?

The Semi-Organic Mom's Note:  Unfortunately, I don't really have a good answer for this question, so I apologize for misleading.  But hey, this isn't even my post!  It belongs to my friend Jay who attended the University of Florida with me back in the day.  Jay and I became parents right around the same time, and he is one of my nearest and dearest friends.  He has a gorgeous almost two-year-old and is one of the most devoted dads I know.  But right now, he's having some struggles...


My name is Jay. I am a proud single father of a daughter, Madison. She is very cute friggin adorable. For instance, if you ask her, “How old is Madi?” She will usually respond, “Almost Two!” Her mother and I share custody 50/50, I see her every weekend, and I enjoy almost every moment of it, with one exception…

Three weeks ago my sweet, sweet child hit me slapped me across the face. I was picking her up to take her to her room to change her diaper, and she slapped me. I was shocked. No, I was horrified. No, it was worse. I was both horrified and shocked! My darling angel was no longer darling nor an angel, but a hitter. I grabbed the hand that struck me and told her something along the lines of, “We don’t hit Daddy. That hurts Daddy. You need a time-out.” So, I stuck her in the corner and tried to come to terms with my little slugger.

Like most single parents I had one thought:  “This was something she must’ve learned from her mother.” Just like the term “French fries,” or her pointing at my television and saying, “Te-Te!?” or even running from the bath butt-naked and wet, repeatedly yelling “Naked Boo-ty!”  I thought this was yet another thing I would get to deal with. It was just one more of the many joys of being a single dad. (Side note, I watch maybe 5 hours of TV a week and eat drive-thru twice a month, and neither of those things have ever involved Madi.) Eventually, however, I learned the ugly truth. I was the first victim of hitting.

I was heartbroken; I know I’m not the perfect parent. I’ve been known to spank the dog for too slowly getting out of the kitchen, but I never hit out of anger.  The fact was, my kid got angry that I picked her up, and she hit me because of it. So, I did what any normal person under 35 would do.  I Googled “how to stop your child from hitting”. They offered all sorts of positive suggestions from stopping the hit before it starts, to telling the child not to hit because it hurts Daddy, and everything in between.

Dear reader, if you’ve stuck with me this far, I ask you this. Do you have any personal experience with this?  What are your tips and/or tricks for “how to stop your child from hitting”? Thank you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Do You Pin?

So, I'm kind of obsessed with Pinterest.

Yes, I too have fallen victim to the online bulletin board that has quite possibly become an even bigger timesuck than Facebook.

I love Pinterest for a lot of reasons, however.  First off, it gives me a great way to file away websites that I come across and think, "Ooh, I should check this out!" but then I normally forget.  But Pinterest makes it so easy for me to think, "Oh, right!"  On my online pinboard I have a bunch of links to parenting websites, recipes to try, and fun craft ideas to do with Bug and Cat.

It's also a good way for me to showcase my obsessions:  I have boards dedicated to dresses, desserts, books, and my ideas for my impending 30th birthday (which I am insisting must be themed after The Hunger Games).

But something that I really love about the website is it gives me insights into my friends.  Via Pinterest, I have learned that some of them dream about making it big on Etsy; some of them plan to homeschool their kids (and heck, I might enlist them to teach mine, because some of the ideas and activities they have on their boards are AWESOME); and some of them have a whole catalog of fabulous places and spaces that they want to travel to.

Plus, I'm using this website to shamelessly steal some of their decorating ideas:)

Want to follow me?  Find me here!  I can't wait to check out your pins as well:)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Guest Post: Tips For Making Your Own Organic Shampoo



The Semi-Organic Mom's Note:  I am pleased to have another post from contributor Ann Dillon!  Here she gives some advice on making your own organic shampoo.  


Many of us nowadays are into using organic shampoo. Some use organic shampoo with the aim to help save the environment, while others want a safer solution for their hair. Whatever our reasons may be, there are many choices out there and so it’s hard to find the right organic shampoo brand.  Perhaps you are tired of trying one brand or another, and you just want to find an organic shampoo that is capable of giving you healthy, glossy hair in addition to the lovely scent.   But did you know that you can make your own organic shampoo?

Using a Castile Base
By combining olive, hemp, and palm oils, you will be able to create a castile soap. Unlike glycerin soap, castile soap is unique because the glycerin is left in the formula, producing soap with higher moisturizing capabilities. You can use either the liquid castile soap or a grated solid castile soap melted into a hot herbal tea as your base. As the melted castile soap mixes to the hot herbal tea liquid, it will then provide the cleansing action that you need for a shampoo. Use one part soap to one part tea to make your shampoo.  Make sure, though, that the castile soap you are buying is labeled organic.

Add Some Herbs
While your organic shampoo is composed of fifty percent castile soap and fifty percent herbal tea, you can add some herbs to it. Choose those you need from a shampoo and make sure you buy only the organic ones. Here are some suggestions for good herbs to add:
  • Rosemary is a good addition for a more refreshing feel because rosemary is a stimulant.
  • With the ability to control oil production, lavender is perfect to add to your organic shampoo to prevent your hair from being too oily.
  • If you want your hair to look and feel light, add chamomile to your organic shampoo because it develops light hair.
  • If you want your hair to look dark, sage is a good choice.
You can also choose herbs to add according to their scent. However, it is also important to know what you can get behind those lovely scents. With the lavender, for example, the smell is wonderful, but it’s counterproductive to use if you have dry hair, as it will dry your hair out.  However, if you have a naturally oily scalp, then this is ideal because it controls the production of oil.
You can use either fresh or dried herbs.   Just make some adjustments on the amounts accordingly. Most of the organic shampoo recipes have specific quantity stated. However, it is ideal to increase the quantity because fresh and dried herbs are not that concentrated. It is sometimes ideal and cost-efficient to use essential oils instead of those fresh and dried herbs because the oil form is highly concentrated with herb properties, and you will only need a small amount for your shampoo to be effective.

Oils
Other than herbs, it is also good to add a dash of oil to your homemade organic shampoo. This will aid the need of extra moisture and silkiness of your hair. A few of the known oils you can add to your organic shampoo include:
  • Olive Oil, which brings some weight to your hair because it tend to be heavy
  • Avocado Oil is good for even fine hair because it is light enough
  • Coconut and Jojoba Oil
  • Regular Vegetable Oil
One must note though that if you have fine hair, reduce the oil so your hair will not be greasy. If your hair is fine and if you are using the essential oils instead of fresh or dried herbs, reduce the use of oils or do not add any. Keep in mind too that when using your shampoo, shake it well before using because oil and water do not mix.

Other Additives
Aside from the organic ingredients mentioned above, Rudy Silva, a natural nutritionist suggests the use of organic sulfur to add in your homemade organic shampoo. Make sure to use the MSM or methylsulfonylmethane form though. Organic sulfur is known to help increase the strength of your hair. You can also choose to add vitamin E into your mixture or tea tree oil so your shampoo will have astringent properties. Please note that additives are sensitive to temperatures. Therefore, it is best to add those after your mixture has cooled down making it as your final step.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Websites I'm Reading, 5/27

In the few moments of spare time that I get, I am constantly checking out parenting and writing blogs.  Here are some that I'm reading this week:

WritRams--my friend Jackie is amazing.  She writes.  She parents.  She runs The Prime Parents Club (where I write as the Eco-Friendly/Green Living Contributor).  Somehow she managed to write a book on how to make money from your blog.  Click here to visit Bloggers Earn Bucks. She's also busy saving the world with her Monkey Do Project.  You don't know Jackie?  You should.

My Boss is Teething--my buddy Jen runs this blog.  She and I actually took Bradley classes together and her son is younger than Bug by a day.  She has great parenting advice, and she was recently the star of a Walmart commercial!  (Yes, I still hate Walmart)

Potty Training Concepts--What can I say?  Two kids in cloth has gotten wearisome.  Bug is very excited about potty training.  We picked out big boy underwear and he is keen on watching us use the potty, flush the potty, and he likes to alert us to when he goes poop.  So here's hoping!

And in other news, my baby is six months old today!  Happy 1/2 year to my amazing Cat.  How much life has changed in six months!  You smile, laugh, coo, pull my hair, and definitely let me know your opinions on matters.  The love between you and your brother is incredible already, and I am so blessed to have such a sweet little baby.  I can't imagine life without you, lovey--our family feels complete with you in it:)



Enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day Weekend!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mom Time #1

One of the hardest things about becoming a mom for me was the complete lack of time to myself that I had in the beginning with Bug.  Something that Jon and I struggled with in the early months was who should do what, and it seemed that I was doing everything.  Part of this was because I wasn't communicating to him what I needed, and once we figured out how to work together as parents, things got a lot easier.

Nonetheless, I spent very little time with my friends, or one on one time with my husband, and it definitely took it's toll.

While people will tell you that it's all about balance, that's simply not true.  Balance is (for lack of a better word) bullshit.  You can't do it.  So, the bulk of my energy is tied up in my children, which is where it should be at the moment.  As they get older I will be able to step back a bit, but I don't want any regrets about this time.  

But what about the other stuff?  

Well, lately I've rededicated myself to my blog.  I want this blog to succeed and I want to get my messages out there.  I have been working on networking and I'm pleased to say that in the past month my traffic has DOUBLED.  But this takes effort, and I have been especially appreciative of my guest posters.  Incidentally, I am more than happy to take on guest posts at this time.

I've also been working hard on my book.  My editor got it back to me last month and I went through the edits and fixed it and now...it's rather pretty.  I am still pursuing publishing (but more on that later).

The point of this post is every Saturday I am going to look back on the week and see what it was that I did for fun, or in pursuit of my goals.  So, here's what happened last week:

1.  I got a blog post up every day of the week.  Yay!

2.  I finished THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS for book club.   I really, really enjoyed this book.  Not my usual style (I prefer fiction, or soap-opera-y history).  

3.  I have been reading a book on publishing and researching my options.

Oh, and I lost two pounds

Good week.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Update on the Boys

It hit me today that Cat is almost six months old!  Where has the time gone?  Seriously?

Well, let's see.  What's been going on with my crazy zoo?  Well, the good news is, my boys adore each other.  It's really cute.  You can tell how much they love each other by the smiles that light up Cat's face when Bug comes into the room, or when Bug grins at his brother and starts talking to him in that special voice he reserves for Cat and Cat alone.

I'm looking at this picture and I'm realizing that even though it's from only a few short weeks ago, so much has changed since I took it!  For starters, Cat no longer fits in that baby seat.  We bought Bug a Harness to Booster and we moved Cat into Bug's old Convertible.  I got a little nostalgic when we put away the infant seat, and wondered if this was the last time we'd be doing that.

Just to clear the air, I have absolutely no compulsion to have a third kid.  None.

But I'm not ruling it out, because the last time I said something like, "Oh no, no more kids for a long time," I wound up knocked up and staring at a pregnancy test going, "Huh."

Cat's development has been absolutely astounding to me.  Unlike Bug, who was very sure of his place in the world and had absolutely zero interest in crawling before he was ten months old, Cat is totally on the go.  He doesn't like to sit still. If I lay him on his back on his changing pad, he immediately starts scooting backwards.  When I place him on his tummy, he kicks and flails and is desperately trying to figure out how to crawl.  I'm not super sure how I feel about that.  I guess it means I am going to have to make sure that Bug doesn't leave food all over the floor.

The thought of two mobile children to me sounds like the plot of a very bad horror movie.  So I try not to think about it.  I find that denial is a great coping strategy--although, as you can see from the picture on the left here, Cat is considering bypassing crawling and going straight to walking.  That thought gives me hives.

 I have no idea what he's doing here.
As for Bug, well, since he turned two in February he's also been making some changes.  The Terrible Twos have hit him hard.  Some days I get Dr. Jekyll, other days it's Mr. Hyde in full force.  Most of the time he's still my sweet little boy, but man!  There are days...like yesterday.  Bug's vocabulary has really picked up in the last few weeks.  He hadn't really said too much before, but suddenly he's started to figure out that if he vocalizes what he wants, he gets it a lot faster.

Or sometimes he doesn't get what he want, even though he's been very specific.  And this makes him mad.

So, yesterday we were at the mall with some friends when we decided to stop and get some lunch at Chick fil a.  Right after I paid for my food, the cashier assured me that they would bring the food to our table.  Bug was in the stroller and Cat in the Ergo, and as I made my way to a table in the back of the restaurant Bug pointed and said, "Way?"

"No, sweetie," I said.  "We're going to go this way."

And that, my friends, was when my son had the most epic tantrum I have ever seen him have.  He began screaming at the top of his lungs, and pointing at the way he wanted to go.  Every so often he would catch his breath and say, "Go?  Way?" and when I would say no, the screams began again.  It was probably the most embarrassing moment I have ever had in my parenting career, and I couldn't even look anyone in the eye after we left.

And then, of course, when we got to the car and I plopped his behind in his booster seat he was, again, my cute and sweet little boy.

It's so weird, being a parent, because even though the two of them pull some rather epic shenanigans, I can't help but think at the end of every single day, no matter how bad it's been, that I am so grateful for these two little guys.  God has truly blessed me, and I love my boys so much.  So very much.  So, I guess I'll take the occasional tantrum and remember for every one of those, there are twenty sloppy wet kisses, twenty big toothless grins from my baby, and countless hugs.  Every day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why I Use Mama Cloth

This post is probably only for the ladies:)

So, when I was in college, I started using tampons.  My periods were super heavy and I had days where I had to use a tampon AND a pad simultaneously.  Gross, right?  Anyway, it was right around that time that I went on the pill to try and combat my ovarian cysts, and then I started having major gynecological troubles.

It seemed like every other month I had a yeast infection or a UTI, for no reason whatsoever.  I was on a vicious cycle of antibiotics and it was truly frustrating.  I took probiotics, I changed my diet, but nothing. By the time I got married I had a horrific headache from the whole business, but what choice did I have?  

When I went off the pill, interestingly enough, the yeast infections and UTIs were less frequent.  Hmm, I thought.  And then I started to notice there was a direct correlation between months when I used tampons and months when I did not and developing some sort of irritation down there.  Even when I went to just using the pads, I still had an occasional issue, but nothing compared to when I was using tampons as well.  

After I had Bug and I switched him to cloth diapers, I switched to using cloth menstrual pads for myself, and I haven't looked back.  I haven't had a single UTI or yeast infection since.  And I was one of the lucky ones.

You see, my side effects from using tampons and disposable pads were mild.  Some women aren't quite as fortunate.

Some women can develop Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) from the use of tampons--in fact, over half of the cases of TSS in the United States every year come from tampon usage.  It occurs when the bacteria Staphlococcus Aureus produces a toxin which is released into the bloodstream.  This particular toxin can quickly overtake the immune system, leading to kidney failure, collapsing lungs, and cardiac arrest.

Survivors of TSS can have lingering side effects, including loss of hair and fingernails, gangrene, extreme fatigue, short term memory loss, and permanent kidney and liver damage.  This is serious stuff, folks.

So, what's the deal?  What is it about tampons that causes TSS?  Well, first, let's have some good news:  apparently tampons made with 100% organic cotton, or other natural ones like sea sponges, have never been linked to TSS.  However, according to the blog You ARE Loved, which was started by mom Lisa Elifritz after she lost her 20 year old daughter, Amy, to TSS, vaginal tampons made with synthetic fibers, especially viscose rayon, provide an effective breeding ground for the TSS-1 toxin.  

Do you want to hear something really scary?  A few years back, certain fibers were banned from being used in tampons because of the link to TSS.  Well, those same fibers are still in disposable diapers.

Anyway, like anything else, TSS is something that if you are educated about it, you can avoid it.  Don't only use tampons.  Make sure you change your tampon every 4-6 hours at least.  If you start to feel like you have the flu while you are on your period and are using tampons, then go to the doctor.  Make sure you get bloodwork done.  Take care of yourself.  Be your own advocate--TSS might not be something the doctors consider.  The earlier you catch TSS, the better your chance of surviving it.



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rough Couple of Days

When I became a mom of two, I knew it wasn't going to be easy.  I mean, the moment I found out I was pregnant with Cat was one of the single scariest moments of my life.  I had just figured out what to do with the first one--what was I going to do with TWO?

But somehow, I have muddled through.  Before I knew it, we started having more up than down days, and the boys and I settled into something of a routine. I am even starting to feel like myself again.

But then yesterday, I had one of those days that led Jon to come home and find me curled up in the fetal position on the couch.

My children have decided that it's unacceptable to sleep past six in the morning these days.  Totally not a fan.  But, it is what it is, and on the plus side, it usually means that they go down easy for naps and they go to bed early, which I fully support.  So yesterday morning, around 10:30, they both were exhibiting signs of tiredness, and I was pretty beat myself, so I announced, "Alright, boys!  Bug, Mommy, and Cat are all going to take a nap together."

Ah, yet another example of my self-delusion.

So, I changed diapers, and then I got Bug situated on my bed, which seemed to be working well.  He arranged the pillows and snuggled up, his eyes starting to droop.  I started to give Cat his bottle, and his red little eyes started to close...

...until suddenly he opened his eyes wide and began to scream.

Oh, did he scream.  Bloody murder, he screamed.  For half an hour.

To his credit, Bug sort of just laid there, staring at the inconsolable ball of hysteria, right up until the moment I got Cat to take his paci and start to drift off.  That was when Bug decided he had had enough of everything, as he sat straight up and boldly proclaimed, "NO NAP!  NO NIGHT NIGHTS!"  And just to make sure I fully understood how serious he was, he said this over.  And over.  And over again, as loudly as he possibly could.  Which caused Cat to wake up and begin screaming again.  For another half an hour.

Once I finally got Cat asleep in his bassinet, I marched Bug into his room and let him play in there while I dozed in his bed.  So yes, Bug.  There was no nap.  No night nights.

But hey, today was a better day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guest Post: What to Look for in a University

The Semi Organic Mom's Note:  It's never too early to start thinking about college.  Bug has a 529, and we are in the process of setting up one for Cat.  Here are some tips for those of you who are closer to that next step than we are: 




College is right around the corner for many high school juniors and seniors. It can be daunting to pick out the place where you will spend the next four (or more) years, and there are so many things to factor in, from cost to program of study. However, there are basic guidelines you should follow when applying and finally picking your university. Pay attention to this list to help find the best fit for you.

1) Do Your Research
You should research the school’s reputation to get an idea of what it would be like to learn there. The Princeton Review issues a wonderful list each year ranking the top schools in the U.S. They cover everything from partying to professors. Use this guide as a way to discover more about any school you are interested in attending. Is it a research school, or does it have a strength in the performing arts, or the hard sciences? Are you happier to focus on just the things you like, or do you want a well-rounded education that’s flexible if you change your major down the road (and almost everyone does)?

2) Alumnae Success
Ask the school what percentage of recent alumnae have found jobs soon after graduation. You do not want to attend a school that does not prepare you for your adult life. If a school has a poor student-work rate, then you may want to consider the reasons why. Get in touch with the professors in your department and also speak with representatives from the Office of Admissions.

3) Location, Location, Location!
You will be spending at least four years at university. You at least want to make sure that you that you like the area surrounding the school. Are you a city person or do you love the beach? Do you want to live in party town where everything revolves around your school, or a bigger environment, where you can experience more outside of college life?

4) Student Life
Perhaps the single most important thing at a university is the quality of student life. This means everything from cafeteria food, professor quality, clubs, sports, to even the students themselves. Basically anything that will affect your life while at school is earmarked under this category. For example, is the student government, staff and faculty receptive to the well being of the students? Is there any diversity at all (and don’t just base this on pictures in the brochures)?

5) Living Situations
Check out the dorms and apartments in the area. Note if they are new, spacious or affordable. Also, note whether it’s a commuter campus (does everyone go home on the weekends?). How soon do you have to move off-campus, and is rent a racket?

6) Programs of Study
Find out what programs your school is known for. A quality school will have many ranked programs, not just one or two. The best schools have highly ranked programs all over the spectrum, from biology to cinema to political science. Also, look for the number of foreign languages available. If a school offers more than a couple dozen, you will likely have nothing to worry about. If they only offer Spanish, French & German, you’ll probably be in trouble.

7) Cost versus Scholarships

This may very well be your deciding factor, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When it comes down to it, if a school has not offered you a decent financial aid package, do not go. The economy is bad and there are no guarantees in life. You do not want to be a hundred thousands dollars in debt as a young graduate. You can always ask a school to give you a better package if a similar school has offered a more competitive one. Do everything you can to get as much money as possible. Average debt for an undergrad is around 30k, but that doesn’t mean you have to match that.

Overall you need to feel comfortable at a university. Visit the campus and sit in on a class. Talk to students how the feel about the university. Trust your instinct and you will end up having the best four years of your life!

Marissa Tyler writes about parenting, saving money & frequenting www.homeinsurance.org.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Guest Post: How to Be a Supportive Parent


Supporting our children is an important role that parents should take seriously. Of course, depending on the age of the child, support can mean many different things. Being supportive of a very young child could be as simple as telling a child how great his drawing is and posting it on the refrigerator. Supporting an older child such as a teen may be something more on the lines of listening to them when they have a problem or making a tough choice, even if that means they don’t like it. As a parent, we should always acknowledge our child’s needs but be smart about what they really need. Here’s what you should know about support.

Affection and Love
You may be surprised at how meaningful a hug, cuddle, or a smile can be. Really, something so simple can go such a long way to make your child feel confident and loved. Children like to be loved, touched and talked to. Tell your children every single day that you love them. That love needs to be an unconditional love, supporting them no matter what they are going through or what is going on in their lives. When your children know that they have your support, they will more than likely come to you with their problems.

Praise Your Kids
Treat your child like an individual person. If they have brothers and sisters, treat them uniquely. Let them know you see their difference in who they are and that you want them to pursue their own personal goals and dreams. When your child does something good, tell him about it! Praise them and make them feel that you really did take notice in their accomplishment. Let them know that it’s okay to be different and unique, and that they don’t have to be in with a specific crowd to be special. Teach them what is wrong and what is right at a young age, so they learn how to make good choices. Teach them to be leaders, and not followers.

Don’t Criticize
When your child does something wrong or acts out, let them know that this behavior is not acceptable, and give them good alternatives. Don’t criticize them and cut them down. Being assertive, but speaking with kind words to explain what they did wrong and why it was wrong, helps them learn important lessons. Don’t reprimand the children in public either. Take them aside in a private place, so you can talk to them without humiliating them in front of others.

Consistency
Reinforce rules and let your children know that they will see consequences for their actions. If you do have to punish your children, let them know why and what they did wrong. If you tell them there is a consequence for a rule and they break the rule, be consistent and follow through with the punishment.

Always listen to your children. Hear what they have to say and support them, right or wrong. Always be honest though. It is definitely possible to be both supportive and honest, even if you disagree with them or their actions. Your love and support will help to raise a much more confident, adjusted & happy child.

Tyler Danerick writes about parenting, family finance & frequenting websites like www.creditreport.org.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Guest Post: Ten Tips for an Organic Pregnancy


The Semi-Organic Mom's Note: I am so excited to share this guest post with you of the Top 10 Tips for an Organic Pregnancy by Ann Dillon. These are all wonderful suggestions and if you are looking for ways to go organic, they are a great place to start!

Top 10 Tips for an Organic Pregnancy
A more organic way of life is good not only for our health, but also for the environment. Being organic is especially important during pregnancy. Here are the top 10 tips for an organic pregnancy:
Food – As pregnant women, we are subject to eat healthy foods for the benefit the mom and the baby’s health. Make it a habit to choose organic foods from your vegetables to your fruits to fish to dairy and more. When buying your fruits and vegetables, make sure that the ones you buy are farm raised, without pesticides. In this way, you ensure that the fruits and veggies you will eat are free from harmful chemicals and are safe for you and your baby. For your fish, choose organic, farmed fishes like salmon and trout. For your dairy, make sure that your milk comes from a farm-raised cow. For your eggs, make sure chickens are farm-raised too. When pregnant, you should stop drinking alcohol as well as beverages that contain caffeine.
Water – Make it a habit to drink from the tap if you have clean source of water. If not, try to use only PUR or Brita filters. Also, make it a habit to use glass instead of plastic. If using plastic water bottles is necessary, make sure that your plastic water container is recyclable so you will not toss it off to landfills after emptying its contents.
Bathroom – Proper hygiene is important during pregnancy. Pregnant women tend to shower more frequently. Take time to install an eco-friendly showerhead in your bathroom so you can enjoy bathing and saving water at the same time. In addition, take off those plastic shower curtains you have in your bathroom--they are made of PVC and you do not want this to be around with your baby when they grow up, as PVC shower curtains are not safe to be in our landfills. Choose a shower curtain made from eco-friendly bamboo.
Air – Let your homes filled with fresh air instead of those coming from your air conditioning units or heaters. Open your doors and windows for at least 10 minutes a day and let the fresh air circulate inside your house. However, if you are living in more polluted areas like in big cities, try to open your windows in times when there is less traffic so the air coming in is clean. You can also try to place some planters in your windows. Plants can filter air and produces fresh clean air, which will be safe for you and your baby.
Kitchen – Pregnant women need to eat more often. Make your kitchen free from kitchenwares that are made of Teflon or are non-stick. These types of cookwares are known to cause cancer. Instead, go for those made of cast iron. If you do not like it because it is kind of old school, you can go for cookware made of glass or stainless steel. In this way, you are not only cooking for you and your baby’s health but also for the safety of the environment. Glass and stainless steel made cookware are now widely available too.
Beauty Products – While pregnancy can be hard on a woman’s self-esteem,  pregnant women should understand that majority of the beauty products contain harsh chemicals that can harm their baby. Salicylic acid and alpha hydroxides are just a few of the many harmful chemicals found in the majority of beauty products. Take some time to remove your toenail polish and use brands that has the least amount of chemicals. Take some time to check the label.
Contaminant Test – Have your home tested for possible contaminants like carbon monoxide, lead, radon, and more. Cover your home’s cracked lead paints with fresh and eco-friendly paints. They are widely available today in many home improvement stores. Organic paints are low on VOC and some of them are even zero VOC. These kind of paints also comes solvent free, non-toxic, and odorless. They are safe for your lungs and to the environment.
Home Cleaning Products – Eco-friendly home cleaning products are now widely available in the market and through direct selling. If you are currently into toxic house cleaning products, consume them all first because throwing them might just pollute your surroundings then start buying your eco-friendly home cleaning products right after. Eco-friendly home cleaning products are ones that do not contain bleach, ammonia and other toxic chemicals.
Use Organic Maternity Dresses – Though it can be a little hard to achieve, buying organic or eco-friendly maternity clothes is not impossible. Many stores nowadays care for the environment and take the initiative by selling organic products. You can opt for buying maternity clothes and shirts that are made of organic cotton. Some even are selling organic clothes made from bamboo. Organic clothing is comfortable to wear and is so soft that will not irritate your skin.
Be free from crumbling foam cushions – It has been known that another harmful chemicals that can cause harm to a woman’s breast milk and umbilical-cord blood are fire retardant, which are present in foam cushions. To enjoy an eco-friendly pregnancy, it would be best if you will get rid of these types of cushions on your furniture and bedding. In this way, you are keeping you and your baby’s health safe.

Ann is a mother of three who loves blogging about pregnancy. She provides tips on how to get pregnant to couples who are trying to conceive. She contributes pregnancy articles to various blogs sharing her experience on pregnancy and health care.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful moms out there, including mine.  This is my first one as a Mommy of two and I am feeling super blessed right now.  I love these two boys so much:)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Thoughts on The Mommy Porn

So, true confessions time.

I read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

::hangs head in shame::

I'll be honest, it's very hard for me to stay away from books that have a lot of hype involved.  And several times, this has brought me some fantastic reading.  A skeptical 17-year-old me picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and fell completely in love.  12 years later, while nursing my youngest child in the middle of the night, I devoured The Hunger Games trilogy.  I'm currently thoroughly absorbed in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I positively adore (seriously, you should read it.  It's like a science lesson and a soap opera rolled into one!).

On the flip side, this predilection for popular prose also induced me to read the Twilight series, which I had a hard time stomaching anyway thanks to the dishwater heroine Bella, the fact that every other line in the book was about Edward's breathtaking beauty, and then when I got to the climax of the fourth book--well seriously, folks, what WAS that??  But because I am the way I am, I insisted on reading all four of them.  And then shaking my head.  I thought to myself, where are the strong heroines in YA lit anymore?  Where's Charlotte Doyle? You have no idea how relieved I was to discover Katniss.  Or Maggie Stiefvater's Grace.

But I digress, as usual.

So anyway, Fifty Shades came to my attention a few weeks ago, when I read an article describing it's popularity and labeling it as "Mommy Porn."  Ugh.  That title totally rankled me.  I just...as a stay-at-home mom I get enough people talking to me like I'm some sort of idiot.  "Oh, you have a blog?  And you want to get your novel published?  That's cute.  How sweet, Amanda."  While nobody's actually gone a step further and patted my head, I frequently wind up bracing myself for it.  Or I could go on about how many people have told me I should get a real job, but I won't because that's a separate blog post.  But anyway, the quote in the article that I read that really got me (and you can read it here) was the line that said, "Kids have never seen their mothers reading so much."

Really?  I mean, really?

Oh yes, all of us SAHM sit around all day, eating our bonbons and reading our mommy porn.  Shoot, if that was how it really was, I totally would have jumped into motherhood a long time ago.  ::eyeroll::  And none of us have any brains.

Look, I get why Fifty Shades is so popular.  Once you get past the terrible writing, it's very hard to put down.  It's kind of like crack.  And a bad car wreck.  You seriously cannot look away, although I think toward the end of the second book I was skimming through all of the sex scenes--I mean, Anastasia can only have so many mind-blowing orgasms before I started going "just get to the point, already!"  And while Anastasia is annoying on so many levels, she at least stands up for herself.  And the truth is, a lot of us moms do need an escape.  I'm lucky in that I know what mine is--when I have a hard day, after the kids go to bed, I can usually lose myself in a book.  Or in my own writing.  Sometimes I take out really hard days on my characters, I admit it.  But so many moms don't have a good escape.

Mommyhood is lonely.  I hadn't really thought about it that way until I read my friend Jordan's blog post the other day.  But it's true.  I have watched a lot of my friends struggle to redefine themselves in their new roles as mothers, and attempting assimilation between who you were before you had a kid and who you are as a mom isn't easy.  Having Bug terrified me.  When Jon went back to work, I stared at my heavily jaundiced, bright-eyed newborn and I seriously remember praying every day, "Dear God, please don't let me accidentally kill him."  My first few months with Bug were extremely rough, because I didn't have any other mom friends in the area, firstly, and secondly because Jon went overseas for two months a few days after Bug turned 3 months old.  So I was alone.  With a 3 month old baby.  With very few resources to turn to.

Needless to say, there was a fair amount of crying involved.

Thankfully, around Bug's 5 month birthday, I met my mom group and life got a lot easier.  I had friends who, even if they parented in a completely different way, were there for me.   These ladies really overwhelmed me with the love and support that they showed me during my pregnancy with Cat and then the subsequent first few weeks out of the hospital--and I am so grateful for them.

And so, when I admitted that I was reading Fifty Shades, these ladies took that friendship one step further and agreed to jump on the Mommy Porn bandwagon with me.

I kid, of course, but a lot of the women in the group have read/are reading it, and I guess now I do understand why so many women have been into it.  I mean, there's plenty to laugh at, and the sheer ridiculousness of the plot makes for fabulous discussions.  It's fun to have something we're all reading, that we can all make references to and laugh about.  And I think as long as you don't take it too seriously, it can be good for you in a lot of ways to have something like this to escape to.  (My husband, for the record, thinks it's kind of hilarious that I read these books.)  We all need an escape from the ever-present flow of diapers, spit up, and children screaming "NO!" at you when you insist it's time to change their diapers (oh Bug, I cannot WAIT to potty train you).

So that's my take on it.  Laters, baby ;)



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cloth Diapers: This Is How We Do It

Bug, Cat, and I had a fun day today--we wound up going to an impromptu playdate.  Even better, Cat slept peacefully in my Ergo for the bulk of the playdate so I actually got to chat with my friend Jordan, and make sure Bug didn't attempt to kill himself (or Jordan's daughter) on the playground that we went to.

But when we got home, it was time to face facts.  Diaper Laundry Day had arrived.

So, moment of truthiness.  I love cloth diapers, but I rather dislike Diaper Laundry Day, which sucks, since it comes every 48 hours.  But, it has to be done, and hopefully in the not too distant future I will be doing it for only one child (yes, Bug is showing signs of being ready to be potty trained!  PRAISE JESUS!).  But what does it look like?  How does it go?  Is Diaper Laundry Day a daunting task that should put you off of cloth diapers?

No.  Duh.  I mean, shoot, if I can do it, anybody can.  So here it is:

Today, Diaper Laundry Day began before we left for our playdate.  I put the diapers in the washer with three tablespoons of Rockin' Green detergent and let them soak in the hot water for the 2-3 hours that we were out. This is not a necessary step, but I like to get the diapers going on days that I leave the house so that way they are set to go when I get back in and I can just turn the machine back on.  So, we went out, did our thing, and came back home and I turned the machine back on.

Then I switched to cold water and ran another cycle, and then I spun the diapers out.  Now, conveniently, before the diapers finished their cycle, I had achieved this:

Yes, he is using my T-shirt as a blanket.  Shut up.
What I wasn't counting on was coming out and finding this:


Poor Bug!  He didn't take a nap earlier and I guess he had just passed out on the floor.  But on the plus side, I was able to hang up the diapers in relative peace.  Voila!

As you can see, I have my drying rack in the upstairs hallway with a towel underneath so the water doesn't drip and make my carpet all moldy.  I don't really have time for moldy carpet.
Neatly folded diapers and extra inserts.


The BumGenius, Happy Heinys, One-Size Fuzzi Bunz, and Smartipants all belong to Cat; Bug is exclusively in Large Fuzzi Bunz these days.  And speaking of Fuzzi Bunz, I have some really cool news!  I am now a Fuzzi Bunz affiliate, so if you are going to buy these diapers please buy them through this link right here.  I mean, I have TWO kids to put through college now, so I need all the help I can get.

Phew!  Well, Cat is (hopefully) down for the night now, so I'm going to watch some Glee and maybe go to sleep?  What a concept!

5 Tips For Helping Your Children Deal With Bullies


The Semi Organic Mom's Note:  Today we have another guest post from Adrienne Chilton, on a subject I haven't had to deal with too much yet, which is bullying.  While I know all of us would (at least, I certainly would!) love to think this won't happen to our children, it's very commonplace.  Here are some strategies for dealing with bullies:



We parents try to protect our children from everything possible, but sometimes we cannot thwart every threat. For instance, it’s very hard to protect them from bullies. The best thing we can do is give them tips on how to handle the situation on their own, until we can help out. Here are the best tips to give any child.

1. Adults
Tell your child that if they are having problems with a bully, they should tell an adult that they can trust. They can tell a teacher, parent, staff member at school, an aunt, an uncle or even an older sibling. Perhaps even inform those you know that you told your child they could count on them. Different things that an adult can do are talk to the bully themselves, talk to the parent of the bully, or even talk to somebody high up at school (i.e a teacher, guidance counselor, principal or dean). 

2. Groups
You child should go everywhere in groups. Since a lot of bullies will not bully another child if they are with a group of other children, this can literally be a life-saver. There is safety in numbers, and this is especially true at night or in unfamiliar locales.

3. Stay Above the FrayTell your child not to provoke a bully, because there’s nothing to gain. A lot of them time, a bully is simply jealous of your child being able to do something that they cannot do or wear something they want, so ask your child if they know what this might be, and if that’s the case, then nip it in the bud. If someone tries to provoke your child, teach them to ignore it.

4. Extra Precautions
They are called safety key chains. There are many different types, but there two major ones to look for. The first type is for when you feel unsafe because of somebody bullying you or following you. All you have to do is pull on the key chain and then a siren will sound that can be heard for miles. The other type is just like the key chain that you would pull but instead it’s a key chain that has a button on it. You will be able to get these for your children to have them place where it will be easy to get too, if needed. In my opinion the best place to have it is on the belt loop, but you could also try a keychain. Another good idea is a whistle – usually these are meant to ward off assaults, but they can be equally effective in preventing bullying.

5. Silence = Bad
Always make sure your children know that silence is the worst thing out there when it comes to bullying. Whether it’s being done to them or they witness it happening to others, they must speak up. Speak up to anyone, anytime. Not preventing bullying  is just as bad as bullying, and speaking up could save a life.

Adrienne Chilton likes to write about parenting, finance & saving money at www.travelinsurance.org. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Otter 501 Viewing Party

And we're back!  It's been a crazy three weeks in my household, as everyone (except me) got sick.  Bug got a wicked, wicked cold, which he passed onto Cat, who got it and turned it into an upper respiratory infection.  Not to be outdone, my husband picked it up, and he is now finally recovering from a sinus infection.  I've been swimming in a sea of testosterone-laden illness, and am so glad that they all seem to be better.

So anyway, now that Bug is over two, I let him watch TV sometimes.  Not a lot, but during necessary moments like when I am putting Cat down for a nap and I can't trust him to be alone downstairs by himself.  I usually only let him watch Disney and Disney Junior, which in some ways kind of stinks because all of those shows have extremely catchy theme songs.

But anyway!  Digression!  My buddy Jacqueline Wilson, who runs Prime Parents Club (which I write for) as well as WritRams: Writer Ramblings on Parenting Imperfectly recently hosted a giveaway on her blog, and I won, which is exciting since I never win anything.  So I won a copy of the movie Otter 501 and a bag of popcorn!  In honor of me actually winning something, we invited my friend Jessica and her two kids, Eva and Jacob, over (Eva is Bug's little girlfriend; Jacob and Cat are going to be BFFs because they simply have no other choice).

In between screaming babies, Bug proudly announcing that he had pooped, and his and Eva's attempts to get upstairs, we managed to watch the movie, which featured some extremely cute otters.  It was actually a really compelling story, one that got me right from the beginning, as it featured a baby otter (the titular 501) who got separated from her mother at only a few days old, and was rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program in California.  The baby otter was paired with a surrogate mother who took her on and spent months teaching her the skills she would need to survive in the wild.   The movie goes through 501's journey from when she arrives in the otter ICU to her eventual release.

The story of 501 was narrated by Katie Pofahl and presented as a series of Facebook video posts, which was actually really cool to watch.  Katie, an aspiring marine biologist who was volunteering at the aquarium during 501's stay, was a part of 501's rescue and training, and her affection for the little otter (who she thinks of as "Marina" toward the end) is very cute to watch.   


I found myself inwardly chuckling during the movie because the rescue team had the same concerns for 501 (named so because she was the 501st otter rescued at the Aquarium) that you do for a human baby--they wanted her to gain weight.  They also had to dress in clothing (dubbed "Darth Vader garb") to cover themselves and be less accessible to the otter, as apparently otters bond with humans very quickly and if they do so they generally have trouble surviving in the wild.  After six weeks in the ICU, they introduced  501 to a female otter named Toola who took 501 on as her own and spent about seven months teaching her how to survive.

I was pretty floored by the instant acceptance of 501 by Toola, who set straight to work bonding with 501 (they were so cute swimming around!).  It was just incredible to me that this otter would immediately adopt a baby with no prompting.  I was also shocked to learn how depleted the otter population really is--the enclave that they were filming in California is dwindling, as are the other otter habitats around the world.

Overall I really enjoyed the movie, and Bug did too--for the parts he sat still to view.  I think once he's a little older he'll be more into it.  The otter images are cute, and Katie is a fantastic narrator--she is engaging and warm, and her enthusiasm never seems forced.  The movie is also a great teaching tool in that it shows the impact on the environment that we have, as well as demonstrating what others are doing to try and fix that.  The movie is definitely worth a watch.  You can check out the theatrical trailer here, and they will be doing showings in San Francisco, Monterey, and Berekley beginning this Friday.