Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday Tangents ... Recycled Paper Stationery

© Ewa Walicka - Fotolia.com

One of my passions is stationery. This, naturally, runs counter to my goal of trying to reduce my overall paper consumption but I cannot resist a beautifully handwritten card or thank you note (don't get me started on my penchant for writing utensils).

So I was thrilled to learn that my friend/designer Tori Higa has incorporated recycled paper into her vintage line. Tori's inspiration comes from a bounty of vintage fabric she inherited, which she uses deftly to highlight her whimsical sketches - such a creative way to "reuse" if you ask me.

Tori has a great ability to capture personality as well so I asked her to design a custom set of thank you notes for my sister-in-laws recent birthday. I think they turned out great!

Congrats to Tori and her team for going completely green! All THS vintage fabric cards are now printed on recycled paper - even the envelopes!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Back to work

Today is my last day of maternity leave. I never quite imagined this day, what I would do with my time or how I would feel. Actually that's not true. As much as I love my job, I knew I would never want this day to arrive. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a stay at home mom. My mom was one; it's what I know.

Countless people have literally stopped me in the street to tell me to cherish each moment because it goes so fast. Somehow it didn't resonate. Then all of a sudden here I am. It went SO fast.

The Babe will be attending daycare. This is not something I ever imagined I'd do either. We contemplated hiring a nanny but I wanted to be able to work from home, and if you've been reading this blog at all you can only imagine how impossible it would be to get anything done with the Babe and a nanny hanging out in my makeshift office.

I went to the Babe's daycare today to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for his first day. His teachers are delightful. His playroom cheerful. His crib already waiting for him. I still cried the whole walk home.

I realized my sadness is not from fear or worry - he will be well cared for. I'm simply nostalgic. I want those first few weeks back when it was all new, scary, overwhelming and exhilarating. I wish I was sitting in the cab on our first ride home from the hospital when he was so small he wobbled around in his car seat. The special outfit we bought him to come home in was actually loose. It seems like an eternity ago.

Just another lesson in why it's so important to live in the moment and relish the small things I guess. So with that, I'm signing off to enjoy a few quiet moments with the Babe on our last precious day together.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What's lurking in that bottle of Kiehl's?

My favorite thing about bathtime is how good the Babe smells afterwards. We've been using Kiehl's Baby Gentle Foaming Hair & Body Wash for weeks. It smells, in a word, delicious. I had the good conscience to check out the ingredients today, a bit afraid of what I might find. Yep. You guessed it. Parabens, PEG and a few other multi-syllable chemicals I can't pronounce. Yikes.

I decided to check out the Skin Deep website to see what I could find out about the product. "Skin Deep is a safety guide to cosmetics and personal care products brought to you by researchers at the Environmental Working Group. Skin Deep pairs ingredients in more than 37,000 products against 50 definitive toxicity and regulatory databases, making it the largest integrated data resource of its kind. Why did a small nonprofit take on such a big project? Because the FDA doesn't require companies to test their own products for safety."

Turns out, nothing. Kiehl's baby products aren't (yet) in the database. But I was able to see the results of 33 other Kiehl's products and many received a hazardous rating, which does not bode well for my baby wash.

Skin Deep features a full section on baby care, which I found useful to identify some other options for bathtime. Here are my results for baby shampoos, ranked in order of toxicity.

I also had some Aveeno Baby on hand so checked to see if this product was better/worse for the Babe. Despite the "natural oat formula" this product receives a rating of 4 (out of 10). Full results are here.

I haven't decided whether I'll toss both bottles or what. I'll probably finish the Kiehl's until I can get a rating for it. The Aveeno hasn't been opened yet so perhaps I will donate to a women's shelter. If you have ideas for me, let me know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Out of the box baby games

The Pod is currently a disaster area. The Gymini is splayed in the middle of the room, assorted teethers and rattles dot my path. Lately, the toys that used to entertain the Babe are no longer interesting to him.

These days he is preoccupied with his fingers. He interlaces them only to unwind them again. He spends minutes staring in contemplation at his thumb before plunging it into his mouth to rub against his funny little gums. I figured I could put him down on his mat to conduct this investigative work, and I could free my arms for a blessed 15 minutes. This worked for a couple of days but when he grew wise to my plan he started to fuss. I thought maybe he just wanted to be upright so I sat him in his bouncer. This worked for just one day and he started to squirm and wriggle his way out of it. To save him from his contortionist ways, I unbuckled him and propped him up in the Boppy on my bed. Ahh...now he had full view of the goings on in the Pod, and he could even see out of our big window.

Still, he squirmed and fussed.

In part frustration, part exhaustion I collapsed onto the bed beside him, my face just a few inches from his. He began to babble melodiously. He rolled part way over to face me and grabbed my chin with one hand and graized my cheek with the other. I guess he just wanted my full attention, the type of interaction that doesn't come in a box. We laid there for about 20 minutes chit-chatting. Then I sat him upright against my knees and slid them up and down - he gave him a wide, toothless, drooly grin each time I raised him up. Such easy entertainment!

I've worked these little games into our routine, along with a few renditions of Itsy Bitsy Spider (full disclosure: I had to google the words and stumbled on this slide show on BabyCenter) and Wheels on the Bus. We even invented a game of stare down the closet doorknobs in which he stares at the shiny silver knobs for a few seconds and then lets out a screech. Priceless. Literally.

Mommyhood is an intensely humbling experience if you ask me. I thought by reading books and having stuff that I'd be able to take care of the Babe well. I didn't realize that I could give him more joy with so much less.

I've found a few helpful resources on the web that describe "games" to play with babies:

BabyCenter's weekly list of games
HUGGIES Happy Baby

Check out CityMommy.com

My friend Andrea just introduced me to a great online community called CityMommy.com. What I love about CityMommy is that it's a local network. Currently, CityMommy has networks for LA, Miami, etc. Each market has its own directory, groups, message board and a ton of other great information. I'm currently lurking in the LA community until the NYC community starts.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day 2 with the gDiapers

So far, so good. The Babe leaked through the liner a bit overnight but since he went about 12 hours without being changed, I think that's pretty good. The insert was soaked; I'm not sure I love the idea of him sleeping with a wet bum. I joined the gDiaper Yahoo! Group in search of a little moral support. Tons of ideas for using different inserts - like hemp - posted here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Confession of a Disposable Diaper Junkie

I've been using Pampers. And Huggies. Snug n' Dry. Swaddlers. Gentle Care. We've tried all the brands and all the varieties. The truth is - they work. We've had very few overnight leaks, very few blow outs. And when you can barely stand you are so tired, they are far too convenient. But this is not the commitment I made to raising the Babe. After months of filling landfills with some potent little bombs, I'm finally coming clean. Here is how we got into this mess anyway:

Blame it on St. Vincent: At the hospital
The nurses at St. Vincent's used Huggies - no doubt through an effective marketing arrangement with the manufacturer to get samples into the hands of unwitting new mothers. During my hospital stay, I don't recall changing more than one diaper. And the one time I did change the meconium filled bomb, my older brother (bless him) was there guiding me. Who was I to argue?

Learning the ropes: Week 1
Changing the Babe was like a NASCAR pitstop. I don't actually watch NASCAR so I'm not sure if those cars even stop but whatever the case, we moved swiftly while hollering commands back and forth. Huggies was still the brand of choice. We used the Gentle Care style. I vowed that once his umbilical cord dropped off we'd try something different.

Trying to break the habit: Weeks 2-5
Umbilical cord dropped off. Huggies stayed on.

During week three, I upgraded to a bigger version of Huggies. The guilt started to set in. Maybe I could just use them at night, I thought. Or maybe just on outings when we knew we couldn't manage a mess.

At some point during this period I bought Seventh Generation diapers for newborns. They are the shade of cardboard so they make you feel better about your decision. But (there is always a but), they were rectangle, not at all the shape of the Babe and they continually drooped in the back. I changed so many outfits while he was wearing those that I gave up and gave the rest away.

I then tried Nature Babycare on the recommendation of a friend. I must have been optimistic because I ordered two big bags of diapers and a case of wipes. Here is what I like about this product: "It has an exclusive 100% chlorine free absorbent material and the material against the baby's skin is based on corn instead of plastic like traditional diapers, 100% compostable, breathable and extremely kind for the baby. The packaging is 100% compostable and based on corn." Marketing speak aside, I cannot attest to the efficacy of the product. The diapers are also shaped like rectangles. The marketing team at Kimberly Clark got it right when they created the HUGGIES Brick Baby ad.

(A side note on Seventh Generation and Nature Babycare wipes: I really liked both products. They are both fragrance free and chlorine free. They are also not as wet as conventional wipes which seemed to give the Babe diaper rash. We continue to use the Seventh Generation wipes. In fact, I just bought a massive case from Diapers.com.)

Have diaper, will travel: Weeks 6-8
We went to Orlando and Miami on two separate trips. How could I possibly start a new diaper routine? I rationalized

Last Spring I wrote about gDiapers , which is a pretty revolutionary concept in diapering. "Little g's" are rewearable pants (think Pull-Ups) and a flushable, compostable insert that can also be tossed after each use because it decomposes in a few hundred days as opposed to 500 years. They are made of 92% cotton, 8% spandex and no elemental chlorine, perfumes or latex. I'd read tons of online conversations between moms who were buzzing that these were a great alternative to disposables. When I was just six months pregnant, I proudly bought a starter kit.

Right around week nine I finally gave the little g's a try. The first few uses were great - no mess. I can't say I used the little swisher stick to flush the insert; I just popped the soiled insert in the garbage. On about the fourth night the Babe had a massive blowout and I promptly gave up. I think the Babe had just outgrown the newborn size which fit up to 12lbs. I found this frustrating because it meant having to buy new little g pants.

Present day
My husband asked me the other day what happened to the little g's. Guilt officially set in. I decided I would not purchase another case of disposables until I really gave this a shot. In case you are wondering, I decided not to cloth diaper before I had the Babe. If I had more space and a place to keep the soiled diapers, I probably would have tried, but with a changing table in the living room and no circulation in our bathroom, this is one compromise I just couldn't bring myself to make.

So now that the Pampers and Huggies have run out, I'm vowing (publicly this time) to give the g's another shot. I just jumped onto the gDiapers site and see they have some very cool new colors. I guess if the environment isn't motivation enough, consumerism may get the better of me.

If you've got ideas for me, or if you've tried other products you think I ought to know of, please drop me a line!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Eco-friendly baby clothes

The Babe has received some pretty fabulous gifts in his short life. Two of my dear friends gave us eco-friendly baby clothes from babysoy and Hanna Andersson.

"Babysoy is the 1st company in the world to create baby's newborn wardrobe using soybean protein fiber." In case you were wondering, soybean protein fiber is the leftover pulp from tofu, soymilk and other soy products. You can instantly tell from the site that it's an environmentally conscious marketer. The mantra STYLE + NATURE'S SOFTNESS seems to say it all.

Over at Hanna Andersson, the green story is a bit harder to find. Because I'm a nut and I read everything on every label of every product that enters this house (um, studio), I was intrigued by the Hanna Andersson tags claiming 100% pure organic cotton. The company, which has Swedish roots, embraces a European ecological certification process called Öko-Tex (sounds like echo-tex) Standard 100. In order for a garment to receive certification "every fabric, button, thread and zipper must pass rigorous tests for over 100 potentially harmful substances."

Suprisingly the website doesn't have any content about this on the home page. Given all the green marketing today, AND the fact that mommies are increasingly discerning about the products they purchase for their families, I'd say Hanna Andersson has a pretty good story to tell. It took me a few clicks to find it in the About Us section. You can read more about the process here: Öko-Tex.

"All you have to do is walk out the door"

Thanks to my friend Jen for sharing an article from The New York Times I apparently missed (shame) which profiles Manhattanites who are living small. I love the premise of this article because I don't feel so alone; knowing there are families sleeping in their closets gives me a little joy.

One mother, who lives with her family in what is described as an over-sized one bedroom, is quoted as saying that they can still have a little bit of a life in their cramped quarters: "All you have to do is walk out the door.” It's so true. I know on days when the Pod is a total tip, I haven't showered, there are stacks of unopened mail...whatever...I instantly feel better if I can get out, circle the block and breathe in that oh-so-fresh New York City air.

Storey's article makes another important sociological point about just how hospitable Manhattan has become for parents like us: “Big cities have become a series of neighborhoods that can and often do approximate small towns,” said Kathleen Gerson, a professor of sociology at New York University.

Read it: Move Up? Move Out? Families Squeeze In

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday Tangents ... On the road again

The Babe and I are just about to head to JFK bound for sunny San Diego. This is his third plane trip in his short 11 week life. I should probably buy some carbon credits to offset his impact.

This is the first trip, however, that I am taking on my own. I have rehearsed collapsing the Bugaboo countless times. I've even done it with the Baby Bjorn on to simulate how I will collapse the stroller while wearing the Babe. I'm still a tad nervous that I'm going to be one stressed out mama standing in line futzing with her oversized stroller and irritating a bunch of hostile New Yorkers. But I'll survive.

What is perhaps more worrisome is the boatload of stuff I am bringing with us in addition to the stroller. I managed to cram it all into one large suitcase but it is far too much for a six day trip. I'll blame it on the Medela pump that is taking up half of my suitcase.

The only "green" aspect of this trip is the Babe. He's wearing it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bumps and Bruises

I have nine bruises. Two on one elbow; three on another. Two on my left knee. One on my right thigh. And one on the back of my skull. I can't actually see that last one but I swear it's there. I feel like I've been in a street brawl. Not that I've ever actually been in a street brawl, but I imagine this is what it feels like. All I have been doing is walking around the Pod. I am constantly stepping over something to reach something else, moving this to make room for that, and finding new crevices in which to pack some more stuff into. Small living is TOUGH.

The Pod these days resembles an obstacle of sorts. Before the Babe was born, we vowed not to become a slave to baby stuff. We don't have all that much. In addition to our furniture, we have a Tiny Love Gymini, a Maclaren rocker, and an old workout mat that we put blankets on for tummy time. Between that and the stroller that is parked by the door, there is virtually no square footage left to walk. Couple that with the fact that I am often holding the Babe and left to maneuver one-handed, and it is not a pretty sight. We're cramped. And we're wondering how much longer we can live like this. (Already, I know!)

While laying beside the mat this morning during tummy time, I whacked my elbow on the corner of our glass coffee table. Ding. While scooting the Bugaboo out of the entry way so I could drag in the laundry bag (one-handed - man that thing was heavy!), my knee collided with the side of the closet. Ding Ding. Then, while reading to the Babe in a our lounge chair, I cracked my head on the side of his dresser. Ding ding ding.

By 4 o'clock, the Babe and I are both exhausted. I pop him up over my left shoulder (which is also suffering from three months of carrying), and head to the front of the room to the narrow path between our two closets. This is the one place in our studio that is dark and removed from any visual distractions. At least that is what I think. The Babe, who was droopy-eyed just a moment ago, is now screeching like a cross-between ostrich-monkey at the closet door knobs. I cannot fathom what is so interesting about the small, shiny, silver knobs. Baby bling, I guess? Perhaps he was switched at birth with one of J. Lo's twins.

Clearly the Babe doesn't appear to mind the crowded space we're living in. My patience is tested but if he's happy then I guess I can learn to manage.
The Babe chillin in his crib.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Buying a greener laptop

I'm not sure when it happened - it may have been when I downloaded the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy or uploaded the umpteenth picture of the Babe that finally did it - but my much loved Sony Vaio laptop seems to be kicking the bucket. It keeps powering down and sending me low virtual memory messages that read like a Dear John letter. It might just be time to get some more memory. Or a Mac.

At the Consumer Electronics Show last year, green was the word on the street. Manufacturers of all stripes introduced energy efficient technologies for the home, the car and in personal electronics. Not much of a techie myself, I'm finding it a bit hard to research laptops that might have some green credentials.

This past June, Greenpeace released their annual electronics guide.
The guide "ranks leading mobile phone, game console, TV and PC manufacturers on their global policies and practice on eliminating harmful chemicals, taking responsibility for their products once they are discarded by consumers, and their impact on the climate. Companies are ranked on information that is publicly available and clarifications and communications with the companies." Sony and Sony Ericsson score the highest among dozens rated, making me feel a little sentimental about my Vaio again.

If you happen to find yourself hunting around online for new electronics or home/office supplies and want to consider a green(er) purchase, I've found that Super Warehouse features hundreds of products with EPA Energy Star certification. For many of us today, we're trying to find simple solutions to cut down on our overall energy consumption. I remember back in the day when Mom's washing machine had the gleaming blue star on it. I was floored by the wide range of electronics that now feature the seal. Buying products with the Energy Star is the easiest way to feel good about your purchases.

I performed two searches against Super Warehouse's vast inventory: one using the term "environmentally friendly" and another with just the acronym "EPA". Both searches called up hundreds of products: color laser printers from dozens of manufacturers including Brothers, whose products feature a reduced size and smaller footprint; HP scanners for all those pics of the Babe; Apple laptops and yes, even the newer Sony Vaios.

For a list of categories that feature the Energy Star go to: EnergyStar.gov

Happy Searching!

Green Cleaning

I broke down about three weeks ago and hired a cleaning service I found in Real Simple magazine called Maid Brigade. I was dubious that the Pod would get as clean as I could make it. The steep price of $80 an hour also didn't seem recession-friendly. The Maid Brigade claims to be the "ONLY national house cleaning service that is Green Clean Certified™," a certification process the company has devised. I've found from my own research that consumers tend to be dubious as I about a company's own certification or rating process and prefer to have a third party (think Green Seal, Fair Trade, LEED, etc.) rate goods and services. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the promise of a home that was friendly to my family and the environment and scheduled a visit.

And boy was it a brigade that arrived! The Maid Brigade has a policy of sending two housecleaners per job "for safey precautions and efficiency" I was told by the sales manager on the phone. They also arrived with two huge bags of equipment and "green" supplies. They were extremely professional (they came with a binder detailing the particulars of my job: 525 sq ft; hard wood floors; big 'ol mess in the kitchen; icky bathroom). I made a few small requests, gave a brief tour (how long does a "tour" of a studio take anyway?) and left with the Babe in tow. Ninety minutes later we arrived back home to find a sparkling version of the scrubby Pod I'd left behind. I took a deep breath - not a wiff of any toxic fumes either.

In September, Green Seal announced that it is working on a green standard for house cleaning services, to be titled GS-49. Green Seal sought out Maid Brigade to help them write their standards - a huge pat on the back for the Brigade.

I just discovered the Brigade's website also features Green TV with videos on green cleaning tips, featuring expert Annie Bond.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Eating in the Dark

Last night we ate dinner in the dark. No, this was not my way of saving on electricity, as green as that may have been. No, this was our way of not waking the Babe. Ridiculous? Read on.

When we first brought the Babe home he was a champion sleeper. I thought he simply took after my husband who can sleep at any time, at any place and through any amount of not-so-ambient noise (vacuuming, frying food, jack hammers, you name it). Everyone told me babies sleep a lot but ours slept a LOT and I figured he was special - every new mothers right. Then, when all the relatives left and my husband went back to work, the Babe stopped sleeping. Rocking a 10-lber to sleep everyday took all of my patience and about an hour for a precious 15 minutes of down time.

Over the last few weeks the Babe's daytime naps have improved. By that I mean, he takes them! Now, I can gently rock the Babe a bit, put him in his crib and he will slowly put himself to sleep for a good 2 hour stretch. Trouble is, he's a tremendously light sleeper. Last night, when we finally sat down to dinner at 9 pm after a leisurely walk in Central Park, a bath and a story. I had dimmed the lights by his crib (and our coffee table where my healthy dinner awaited) to soothe him. Looking forward to a quiet evening, we clicked on the TV.

And then ...

A wimper. I scrambled for the mute button ... Another wimper. I guess the flickering from the TV was flashing into his crib.

So there we sat. Barely talking. In the dark (ok it wasn't pitch black but still). I keep asking my friends when the Babe will finally sleep through the night but in a way I'm dreading the moment he drops off at 6pm not to wake until morning. I'll turn into a librarian or something - constantly shushing people. Will I be able to cook dinner? Talk on the phone? Type?

Who knows. For now, I'm too sleep deprived to worry about it.