Summer Camp is just around the corner for all three of my kids. They’re headed to an overnight camp far away from home. This will be the first year for my youngest. My boys will be joined by 7 cousins for four weeks of fun.
We’re in the thick of packing and it looks like a bomb went off in our house. There are piles of clothing, sleeping bags, and underwear everywhere. Somehow everything will make its way into a duffel bag by the time we need to head out the door. Right?
Here are a few must-haves for anyone heading to summer camp (*affiliate links):
I’m a big fan of Mabel’s Labels for labeling clothing. Everything that goes to camp has to be labeled or it won’t make it home. Unfortunately, even with labels something is always left behind. My favorite labels are Mabel’s Labels Tag Mates, which stick directly onto the clothing tag and don’t come off. This year I decided to get the Limited Edition Camp Combo Packs, which includes a variety of labels (the shoe labels are awesome!).
Mabel’s Labels has a deal for Groovy Green Livin readers. This exclusive code is valid for $2 off any Mabel’s Labels purchase with the exception of Loot Bags & Write Aways. This code can’t be combined with any other promo offers and expires on June 30th 2014. Enter APY5SG2V at checkout.
Badger SPF 30 Sunscreen is a new formulation which isn’t greasy and is easy to apply. We started using it last year and it worked really well. HERE are a few other favorite sunscreens, perfect for those summer camp days in the sun.
I recently spotted Acure Organics Shampoo on the shelf at my local Whole Foods Market and decided to give it a try. Our entire family has been using Acure for a few months and we all love it. It’s an easy container to pack for summer camp-very flexible.
I’m sending all three kids to camp with a DEET free bug repellent. We’ve been using Buzzaway for a few years and it really works well. If you’re looking for natural ways to treat bug bites take a peek HERE.
Toothpaste is a tough one. They’re going to be brushing with Redmond Earthpaste Toothpaste.
I love the peppermint flavor. Every ingredient is safe to swallow!
When spring hits in New England it hits hard. We always laugh because spring usually sticks around for a week or two and then we dive head first into the heat of summer. But for now it’s spring and we’re all enjoying sports and other outdoor activities after a long winter.
With the arrival of spring comes an overwhelming number of landscaping trucks lining the roads. Each one competing for the neighbor’s lawn business. Each one promising to make your lawn the greenest of them all.
On my morning run I noticed many lawns with this sign poking out of the green grass.
Along with the sign comes the overpowering smell of pesticides.
There’s something ironic about those small signs poking out of the super green grass. The sign is small. So small that you need to get up close to read it. There’s an outline of an adult, a child and a dog. According to the yellow card we should all keep off the grass.
I run through neighborhoods. I live in suburbia. The neighborhoods are filled with people. Children and pets are everywhere. How can we possibly keep off the grass?
What will happen if we don’t?
What’s the Problem with Synthetic Pesticides?
The synthetic pesticides we’re using on our lawn are filled with toxic chemicals. A chemical cocktail that’s meant to kill weeds and other non-desirable additions to a perfectly manicured lawn. These harmful pesticides end up flowing into lakes, streams and oceans and ultimately end up in our drinking water.
Our kids play outside and hopefully roll around on the lawn. If your kids are like my kids they get dirty and their skin comes in direct contact with the dirt, plants and grass.
For the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone would want something so toxic on their lawn.
Lack of Regulation
This is another important reminder that just because something is on the shelves in the store doesn’t mean it’s safe. Unfortunately that’s the way our broken system is currently set up. There are virtually no regulations in place to keep us safe. The synthetic products we’re being encouraged to put on our lawns are filled with harmful and frightening ingredients.
Not something I want my kids rolling around on.
Pesticides and Our Chemical Free Lawn
A few days ago a lawn care company took the time to knock on our front door. Our lawn looks that bad.
The company employee suggested we use their services to whip our lawn into shape. Their services included multiple sprays and pesticide applications.
When we let him know that we already use an organic lawn care service he suggested we get an immediate refund.
My neighbors might disagree (although many of them have their own sea of yellow), but my dandelions mean more than just a pretty yellow covering. They’re symbolic of a safe lawn for my kids and all kids to play on.
What You Can Do
Take your shoes off. In our house we are attempting to contain the toxin filled outdoors by declaring our home a “shoe free” zone.
Don’t use pesticideson your lawn and garden. Use nothing or find a brand or company that uses only organic ingredients that are safe for pets and people. Be prepared that your lawn might not look perfect, but you’ll be making the world a bit safer for all of us.
Where do you fall in the pesticide v. pesticide-free lawn care? Do you use pesticides and fertilizers? Or do you have a chemical-free lawn?
My oldest just turned 13. How could that possibly be? He’s 5’5″ and pretty much towering over my 5’3″ self. I’m watching him closely now. Watching and waiting for changes. It’s going too fast and I don’t want to miss a thing.
I think back to the days when we were trying to get pregnant and the many years of infertility. So long ago, yet the memories are ingrained.
Creating our family didn’t come easily. We were forced, as many are, to place a tremendous amount of thought into whether or not we wanted to bring children into this world. Infertility will do that to you. We made a conscious decision to start a family and found our way through both adoption and natural childbirth.
Now here we are-13, 11 and 9 years later-in a world which my boys will soon inherit. A world filled with toxins, chemicals and other poisons that are making our children sick.
New Report Says Environmental Chemicals Could Cause Infertility and Other Health Issues
The nation’s largest groups of obstetricians and fertility specialists just came out with a report saying our daily exposure to environmental chemicals could be harming our reproductive health.
I’m not sure this is new news? But it is coming from a group with a lot of klout so hopefully it will attract more mainstream attention.
The report also said that virtually every pregnant woman is exposed to at least 43 different chemicals and some of those chemicals can make their way directly to the fetus.
And it’s not just about women and pregnancy. The report pointed out that pesticide exposure in adult men has been linked to sterility and prostate cancer.
Most Americans Have Traces of BPA in Their Urine
The report uses BPA, or bisphenol-A, a hormone disrupting chemical, as an example. BPA can be found in the lining of some metal cans, on cash register receipts and in some plastics.
Exposure to BPA, used to make the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans, has been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Childhood exposure is of concern because this endocrine-disrupting chemical can affect children’s hormonal systems during development and set the stage for later‐life diseases.
The president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dr. Conry, is advising common sense.
Common Sense Isn’t Enough
“There’s only so much people can do as individuals and families to limit chemical exposures,” said University of Washington public health dean Dr. Howard Frumkin, an environmental health specialist not involved in the report
That’s right-there’s only so much we can do. Using common sense isn’t enough.
These are the real issues: Why should the burden be on a pregnant woman or a family trying to conceive? Why isn’t our government protecting us? Why are these products allowed on the shelves of our stores filled with chemicals that prevent us from getting pregnant or are making our children sick?
My Infertility and Pregnancy
I think back to those many years of trying to get pregnant. The bouts of crying and conflicting emotions when a friend or family member became pregnant. A feeling of happiness for those I loved and a sadness for what I didn’t have.
Common sense is my middle name. I spent those years struggling with infertility and eating well and taking care of myself as best I could. But I still wasn’t getting pregnant. The rational side of me knows that there are many different causes of infertility and the environmental component is just one piece of the puzzle. Pregnancy finally did happen, but nevertheless I still pause and wonder if my years of struggling with infertility could have been avoided if our consumer products were safe once they hit the shelves.
And then I think about all the countless others struggling with the same unexplained infertility and unexplained illness.
You Can Help
Congress is considering updating our laws on toxic chemicals and as they do it, they need to hear from you, me and thousands of other Americans why this issue should rise to the top of their list of priorities.
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is collecting these personal stories to keep the pressure on our elected officials and will hand-deliver them to Congress in Washington this fall.
I’ve been focusing recently on which sunscreens are safe and which sunscreens don’t leave a trail of white paste behind, but I haven’t spent any time on what you should avoid when choosing a sunscreen. There are so many sunscreen ingredients that make me cringe, but there’s one type of sunscreen that makes me run for the hills. Spray sunscreen.
While spray sunscreens are convenient (I’m the first to admit that!), the FDA is reviewing their safety. I know how challenging it is to get sunscreen on a toddler. I have vivid memories of my three boys resisting sunscreen for many years. I wish I could say that it’s gotten better as they’ve gotten a bit older, but it’s still a struggle. What I will tell you is that spray sunscreen is not the answer.
Many spray sunscreens-especially the aerosol sprays-contain ingredients that don’t belong on your skin. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is very concerned about inhalation of nano-sized and micronized zinc and titanium in spray sunscreen. When you spray sunscreen you are likely to inhale the fumes and this is a much more direct route of exposure than when you apply the sunscreen directly to your skin. It goes directly into your lungs.
The EWG suggests that “if you want the benefits of a mineral sunscreen, choose a zinc- or titanium-containing lotion ….”
If you just can’t bring yourself to ditch the spray or pump sunscreen make sure you never spray sunscreen around your face or mouth. When applying spray sunscreens on children, pay attention to the wind and spray in a direction that won’t blow into their faces. Lower your inhalation risk by applying it on your hands and then wiping it on your face.
Although the dangers of spray sunscreen are still being investigated, why risk exposing your children to inhalation of harmful chemicals? Switch to a safe, non-toxic sunscreen and have a fantastic summer!
A playgroup held my world together back when my three boys were babies. At one point I had three boys under the age of three. I didn’t plan for babies so close in age. Life just worked out that way and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Looking back it was laughable. The piles of laundry, the dishes, the lack of time for showering and general hygiene on my end. However, I will say those three boys were kept sparkly clean at all costs.
My job practicing law was on hold. Little did I know at the time it would be a permanent hold. I was home most days wishing for a parenting manual and trying to cope with a lot of testosterone. While I listened to the ‘goo’s’ and the ‘gahs’ my brain was craving something more.
Joining a playgroup
I don’t remember exactly how it all went down, but I ended up joining a playgroup with families that had kids around the same age as mine. We found a time and day that worked for everyone and met at a different house each week. Our playgroup was unique in that most of the kids had a younger sibling-so everyone had someone to hang with.
Our kids parallel played at first and then over the months actually began interacting with each other. While the kids were playing I had one eye and ear listening for crying or conflict and the other focused on listening to the wise words of the other mothers in the group. They were my saving grace. Filled with advice, support, humor and unconditional acceptance.
The kids bonded at our weekly meet-ups
Yes, our children learned to socialize and share, but truthfully this once-a-week play date was as much for me as it was for them.
Playgroup gave me a reason to shower
Showering was way down on the priority list when my kids were babies. There were days when it just didn’t happen. On those playgroup days it was almost a sure thing. I craved feeling clean and somewhat like an adult. My Lululemon pants were so happy to get a break.
We met week after week and talked about everything under the sun. There was advice swapping, school tips and most of all time with fabulous friends.
The kids are all in 5th grade now with their younger siblings in third. They all go to the same school and continue to cross paths in classes and activities. Some have remained very close and others a bit more on the periphery. One thing that they will always have is a playgroup bond. These kids have known each other since they were essentially babies.
I know I’ll always have is a special connection to each and every mom from this amazing group. We still manage to get together occasionally-usually without kids-to catch-up on life and to swap stories about ways to navigate through the confusing school years.
“A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly,takes all patiently,defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably” William Penn
The flu shot was part of my annual routine for many years. I remember the trip to the doctors office, rolling up my sleeve, turning my head to the side and squeezing my eyes shut tight in anticipation of that slight prick in my arm. I didn’t think twice about getting the flu shot. Then it all changed. I began to research and ask questions. A few years ago I stopped getting it.
Why I don’t get the flu shot
I’m a firm believer in no judgment on this site or anywhere else, provided the choices are within reason. Whether or not you get the flu shot is your choice. I’m willing to share with you my reasons for not getting the flu shot, but they’re my reasons and don’t have to be yours.
Formaldehyde is used in the flu shot to kill viruses or inactivate toxins during the manufacturing process of the vaccine. Formaldehyde (remember that awful smell from biology?) is a known carcinogen (cancer causing).
Thimerosol is used in the multi-dose vials of the flu vaccine. Thimerosol contains mercury, which is known to impair neurological and immune systems. Yes, the amount in the flu shot is small, but I’m not interested in adding a known toxin to my body.
I know what you’re thinking-there’s another side to this argument. How about getting the flu shot and protecting those around me from getting the flu that I’m bound to catch and share with the world. I get it. But it’s a choice I’ve made and I ask you not to judge me.
Here’s the true kicker for me.
Ohio workers are fired for not getting the flu shot
Yep. You read that headline correctly. An Ohio-based health center fired 150 of its workers the Wednesday before Thanksgiving for not complying with a mandate that every member of the 10,800-person staff get the flu shot.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, fourteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws requiring health workers to get the flu shot. Generally, an exemption is allowed for religious or medical reasons.
Getting the flu shot is my choice
I don’t know about you, but this Ohio company’s mandate and decision to fire its employees doesn’t sit well with me. Whether or not I chose to get the flu shot is and should remain my choice and should be yours too. Thankfully I’m self-employed and can continue to make that decision without any repercussions. But what about all the people out there who fall under the mandate?
I’d love to hear what you think. Should companies be allowed to force employees to get a flu shot?
A while back I made a resolution to eat sustainable, locally grown food as much as possible. I’ve done my best, but it’s next to impossible to grow or find seasonal locally grown food year-round in New England. When those cold winter months kick in there’s not a lot growing in our area and we have no choice but to depend upon local markets to bring in produce from other places.
I want my kids to know where their food comes from
The supermarkets neatly package our food and everything is ready for immediate consumption. As we’re going up and down the aisles we generally don’t give much thought to where our food comes from. Most food travels far to reach us- from another state or another country. The grocery store knows no seasons-you can buy organic strawberries in December although they were grown in June and corn throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong-I’m very grateful that this produce is available year-round, but I want my kids to understand the difference.
Ways to connect with food
Many years ago we joined a CSA (consumer supported agriculture). Every week our box is filled with interesting fruits and vegetables grown on a local, organic farm. My kids are interested in what comes in the box each week and it gives us a chance to talk about where the local, seasonal food is coming from.
I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and spent many Saturdays going to the incredible farmer’s market. It happens to be the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country. Now that I live on the East Coast I’ve discovered small farmer’s markets while on vacation and larger markets in neighboring towns. Farmer’s market’s can be found through out the world and they range from large to small, but they all have one thing in common: farmers selling directly to consumers without a middle man. When you buy direct from a farmer you’re recreating a connection between the land and the food you eat.
Grow your own
We decided this year to carve out a small garden in our yard and grow some of our own vegetables. HERE are a few photos of the beginning stages of our garden. It’s extremely small since we don’t get very much sunlight around our house. But that small patch of land has a few plants that are growing like crazy.
I know that our garden isn’t going to be a big producer of veggies and it’s not going to impact our weekly shopping list. Our kids are my motivation for planting a garden. They scan the garden daily looking for something ripe enough to pick. When they had friends over this week they all picked one cucumber and divided it into 5 pieces to share. It doesn’t get much better then that.
Check out this incredible plant in our garden. My friends on Facebook and Twitter helped me figure out what it is. Can you guess?
Finally we are seeing small vegetables growing on this gorgeous plant. Can you see what they are?
How do you connect with your food? Do you grow your own, go to farmer’s markets or join a CSA?
This post ispart of the another fabulous Green Moms Carnival carnival hosted this month by the wonderful Abbie of Farmer’s Daughter. Be sure to stop by Farmer’s Daughter next week for lots of great information on ways we can all work towards becoming more food independent.
I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I continue on my journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I just might stop to make some noise about issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I fight for a safer world for all of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes in your life can lead to a non-toxic, healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.