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Archive for Green Families

February 16th, 2017

Books to Read Aloud With Your Kids About Diversity

Books to Read Aloud With Your Kids About Diversity Groovy Green Livin

Long gone are the days when we all snuggled up in bed and read aloud. When my kids were younger they used to love reading books together before bed. It was our nightly ritual regardless of where we were. Our bookshelves were overflowing with a wide variety of books, which at times made the book selection process somewhat drawn out but worth it.

Once the teen/tween years hit that snugly, pre-bedtime ritual was cast by the wayside and independent reading took over. Although I know that’s completely normal, I still miss reading books aloud together. Now our reading “together” consists of being in the same room and reading different books at the same time. And that’s a rare occasion. I guess that’s what happens when you have teenagers.

It turns out that all that reading aloud with our kids may actually help them in the long-run. A new study was just released by Scholastic which stresses how important it is to read aloud with your kids. According to the study:

“One of the most important things parents can do, beyond keeping kids healthy and safe, is to read with them. That means starting when they are newborns and not even able to talk, and continuing well beyond the years that they can read by themselves. Study after study shows that early reading with children helps them learn to speak, interact, bond with parents and read early themselves, and reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to caretakers, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world.”

When choosing books to add to your family library, Liza Baker the Editorial Director at Scholastic says it’s important to look for books that have “culturally or ethnically diverse story lines, settings or characters.”

Here are a few favorite read aloud books with a diversity theme:

It’s OK to Be Different by Todd Parr
Books to Read Aloud With Your Kids About Diversity Groovy Green Livin

It’s Okay To Be Different was one of our favorite books when my kids were little. This book is for the younger crowd and addresses acceptance, understanding, and confidence. The bright, bold and colorful pages along with the silly pictures will hold any young child’s attention. Hopefully, this book will spark plenty of family discussions.

All Kinds of Families! by Mary Ann Hoberman
Books to Read Aloud With Your Kids About Diversity Groovy Green Livin

All Kinds of Families! addresses what it means to be a family. It introduces children to non-traditional families and how you can make a family out of anything. All you need is love.

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ted Lewin
Books to Read Aloud With Your Kids About Diversity Groovy Green Livin

One Green Apple eloquently shares a story about a new kid in school from a different country who doesn’t speak the same language as her classmates. Farah, a young Muslim immigrant, takes a trip with her class to an apple orchard. As the class works together to make apple cider she finally begins to connect with the other students and starts to feel that she belongs.

Chocolate Milk Por Favor: Celebrating Diversity With Empathy by Maria Dismondy Illustrated by Donna Farrell
Books to Read Aloud With Your Kids About Diversity Groovy Green Livin

When a new student who doesn’t speak English shows up at school this book, Chocolate Milk, Por Favor: Celebrating Diversity with Empathy, shares the importance of friendship and kindness.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Books to Read Aloud With Your Kids About Diversity Groovy Green Livin

Wonder a must read for the 8-12-year-olds (and everyone older).  Auggie, a 10-year-old boy is like all other 10-year-olds except he has a facial deformity. After being homeschooled his entire life he’s sent to public school in 5th grade. This book asks us to reevaluate what the true meaning of “normal” really is. A fabulous story of friendship and fitting in.

Here are a few more favorites to read together:

Do you have any favorite books about diversity? 


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Disclosure: Some links on this page are affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you I may get a small commission if you make a purchase. 
September 8th, 2016

3 Safer Laundry Detergents

 

 

3-safer-laundry-detergentsEvery summer all three of my boys go to sleepaway camp. When they come home their duffle bags are a disaster. Clothing is jammed inside mixed together with sand, dirt and other surprises. Laundry is one of my least favorite activities, but when my kids come from home from camp it’s a must.

When it comes to laundry detergents, some really are safer than others. Making your own is always the best option but isn’t for everyone (like me!). Instead, I’ve opted for investing the time to find safer brands that actually work.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Better Life Laundry Detergent, Lavender Grapefruit

I’ve been using Better Life products for many years. Better Life Laundry Detergent contains no harsh chemicals and has a lovely scent that’s not overpowering like so many conventional detergents. It works great on colors and fairly well on whites and received an “A” in EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

 Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder

Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder is amazing. I was introduced to this brand last year at ShiftCon. After meeting the founder and hearing her story, I was hooked.  This detergent doesn’t contain harsh chemicals, dyes and synthetic fragrance, toxins, preservatives, and GMOs. It’s also safe for septic systems and High Efficiency (HE) washers. I really want to try their Molly’s Suds All Sport Liquid Laundry WashIt received an “A” in EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear

GreenShield Organic USDA Organic Free & Clear Laundry Detergent is a staple in my home. It was created by a dad on a mission to protect families from the harmful chemicals found in most cleaning products. Their products are certified organic, which means that their products must contain 95% or higher organic ingredients. It received an “A” in EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

What’s your favorite laundry detergent? I would love to hear!


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our FREE Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 Disclaimer: Please know that if you make a purchase using a link on this page, I may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you), which in turn helps support this site. None of the companies I promote on this page have paid me, I just really like their products. Thank you! 
December 8th, 2014

Mom Detective: The Truth About Nonstick Pots and Pans

The truth about nonstick pots and pans. Groovy Green Livin

As many of you know I’m the “Mom Detective” over at Moms Clean Air Force. This post was originally published over there. Enjoy!

We live in a culture where fast food has become the norm. You don’t have to look far to find a drive-through on most corners throughout the country. Cooking hacks and simple recipes boasting  prep times of under 15 minutes are in demand because we, as a culture, are looking for convenience and simplicity.

The same holds true for our cookware. Many kitchens are filled with nonstick pots and pans, which are loved for their ease and convenience when it comes to cooking and cleaning.

Nonstick finishes have come under fire in recent years due to the toxic fumes emitted when the cookware is exposed to high heat. Those nonstick advantages are taking a backseat and many health conscious families are now opting for a safer alternative.

The Science Behind Nonstick

Most nonstick pots and pans are metal pans (such as aluminum pans) coated with a chemicals from the Perfluorinated chemical or Perfluorochemicals (PFC) family. One of those chemicals is the synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is another chemical from the PFC family and is used in the process of making PTFE.

Teflon is a brand name (DuPont trademarked the process and the chemical in 1945) for a the man-made PTFE.

The Problem with Nonstick

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), toxic fumes from the Teflon chemical released from pots and pans at high temperatures may kill pet birds and cause people to develop flu-like symptoms. When nonstick pans are overheated the coating may begin to break down and toxic particles and gases can be released into the air that we breathe.

The Issue Then Becomes How Hot is too Hot? 

Knowing that nonstick surfaces can release toxic fumes when they’re heated at high heat isn’t enough. The question now becomes:

How do we know when our pots and pans are too hot?

I would venture to say that most of us have no idea how hot our pots and pans are when we’re cooking.

The Environmental Working Group commissioned tests conducted in 2003 showed that in just two to five minuteson a conventional stove top, dry cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases.

Nonstick Pots and Pans and Your Health

Studies in humans found that workers with exposure to PFOA have higher risks of bladder and kidney cancers.Another study showed that PFCs have been linked to infertility in women. Chemicals from the PFC family areassociated with smaller birth weight and size in newborn babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation and weakened immune defense against disease.

Safer Alternatives to Nonstick Pots and Pans

There’s good and bad news. Thankfully there are safer alternatives to nonstick cookware out there, but even the safer options can sometimes be problematic.

Cast Iron

Using the cookware that your grandparents probably used is a great alternative to Teflon. Cast iron is known for its durability and even heat distribution. The downside of cast iron – most cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned after each use and this makes it not as worry-free as other alternatives. It also can leach iron into your food. If iron in your diet is an issue cast iron might not be the best choice for you.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a mixture of several different metals, including nickel, chromium and molybdenum, all of which can trickle into foods. Leaching will happen only if your stainless steel cookware is dinged or scratched and the amount of leaching would be small. Cleaning your stainless steel cookware can be tricky. Soaking after use and before scrubbing is a must. HERE is a simple way to clean stainless steel.

Ceramic 

Ceramic cookware is considered safe and easy to clean in the dishwasher as long as it has zero lead content. It’s important to check any pans with glaze for possible lead. According to the National Institutes of Health, “any ceramic cookware bought in another country or considered to be a craft, antique, or collectable may not meet FDA specifications, and should not be used to hold food. Test kits can detect high levels of lead in ceramic cookware, but may not detect lower levels that may also be dangerous.”

Glass

Glass cookware is an option if not exposed to extreme temperatures. Most glass is inert, nontoxic, and safe unless it has a coating. If there is some form of coating, it’s important to confirm that there’s no lead present.

Our current chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, is badly broken. It allows chemicals, like Teflon, onto the market without adequate safety testing. It’s time to change that.

TELL THE SENATE: WE NEED STRONGER TOXIC CHEMICAL STANDARDS

See more HERE: How to Choose Healthy Pots and Pans


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photo credit: m kasahara via photopin cc

December 2nd, 2014

Top 10 Favorite Family Board Games

Groovy Green Livin Favorite Family Board Games

There’s nothing like spending time playing a great board game over vacation. Puzzles are not really my thing, but the rest of my family gets into them. Set me up with a good board game and I’ll sit for hours. With the holidays rapidly approaching and a long vacation in the not to distant future, I’m predicting hours of entertainment will be needed.

Here are a few of our favorite board games

Disclaimer: There are some affiliate links in this post. *

There’s no doubt a good board game makes a great holiday gift for the entire family. And an added bonus: they’re guaranteed to keep your kids away from their screens for a while.

MONOPOLY

For many years we played Monopoly Junior and now we’ve finally graduated to the real deal: Monopoly. This board game provides hours of entertainment. And I mean hours. There are many versions out there, but I’m a classic monopoly fan.

HEDBANZ

HedBanz is a pretty hilarious game for all ages, although the 8-12 age group seem to really love it. Everyone wears a headband with a card on it facing out. Ask “yes” or “no” questions to figure out if the cartoon on your head is an animal, food or man-made object. Be the first player to guess what you are and win.

COMOTION: The Competitive Game of Simultaneous Charades

CoMotion is a great game for the entire family. Think charades with some added twists. Players throw the dice, pick a card and act out a word or phrase. It’s a race against the clock and you could end up acting out words at the same time as the other team.

BLOKUS 

We’ve been playing this one for a few years and it never gets old. As each player adds a piece to the board each new piece must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but only at the corners. Play with up to 4 players.

THE SETTLERS OF CATAN

The Settlers of Catan board game is a popular choice with my three boys. I have to admit that I’ve never played. Players try to be the dominant force on the island of Catan by building settlements, cities, and roads. It’s a trading and building game with a fairytale theme. Players have to gather resources to build settlements and cities.

COLORKU

Colorku Solid Wood Game is a Sudoku-like wooden board game with color marbles instead of numbers.

QUORIDOR Classic Game of StrategyGroovy Green Livin Gifts for Tween Boys

Quoridor was a big hit on the beach last summer. Quoridor is a fast-moving strategy game that is similar to chess insofar as players move pawn-shaped pieces across the board. The difference is that there are wooden fences one erects to block the progress of and force a different route upon an opponent.

TELESTRATIONS

If you like the game “telephone” you’ll love Telestrations. Telestrations has players draw what they see then guess what they saw. You can only imagine where this ends up. Hilarious fun!

SORT IT OUT

Sort It Out  is on my list to try this year. Players are asked to arrange lists of measurements, events, weights, and stages into the correct sequence. Everyone plays on every turn so there’s no sitting around and waiting. It just won the “Game of the Year” award at the TOTY Awards.

WITS & WAGERS

Wits & Wagers takes Trivial Pursuit to the next level. It’s a trivia game that lets you bet on anyone’s answer. It allows you to guess the answer you think is the closest to the choices you are given. This board game can accomodate anywhere from 4 to 20 people.

What are some of your favorite board games?

Looking for a few fabulous gifts for a boy ages 8-14? Here’s my list of 20 Holiday Gifts for Tween Boys. Also check out my 15 Tech-Free Gifts for Tween Boys. 

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 Disclaimer: Please know that if you make a purchase using a link on this page, I may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you), which in turn helps support this site. None of the companies I promote on this page have paid me, I just really like their products. All opinions are my very own. Thank you in advance.

photo credit: wwarby via photopin cc

November 21st, 2014

The Importance of the Family Dinner

Groovy Green Livin Family Dinner
This post represents a compensated editorial partnership with The Family Dinner Project. All storytelling and opinions are, of course, my own.

When my kids were small having a family dinner was no big deal. It was easy. There wasn’t any arranging needed. Back then our dinner hour was on the early side- anywhere between 5:30 and 6:30 pm. Most nights we were all home so eating together happened routinely.

Times have changed. My boys are now 14, 12 and 11 and that 5:30-6:30 time slot is filled on most days with multiple activities. Somehow we still manage to make our family dinner time work. It’s inconsistent at best, but we scramble and find the time to sit, eat and catch up. Some nights this happens slightly after 8 pm and other nights we just can’t make it work. But we always make a strong effort to carve out those few minutes to break bread together. And sometimes that’s all we get- those few minutes. But it’s so worth it.

Why Finding the Time for a Family Dinner is So Important

According to The Family Dinner Project:

Over the past 15 years, research has shown what parents have known for a long time: Sharing a fun family meal is good for the spirit, brain and health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family meals with the kinds of behaviors that parents want for their children: higher grade-point averages, resilience and self-esteem. Additionally, family meals are linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression. 

Groovy Green Livin Family DinnerThe things we’ve learned at the family dinner table are priceless. I’m not sure I’d know who danced with who at the school dance or the long list of bad words with incorrect meanings that they learned at summer camp if it wasn’t for that big batch of shared chili. There are times when the giggles still take over, and those three boys feed off of one another throughout the meal. As frustrating as endless giggles can sometimes be, I wouldn’t trade those giggles for the world. I can’t seem to shake that someday those boys won’t be sitting nightly with us during our family dinner.

Not only do we try our best to eat together, but we also belong to a CSA and we cook together. Cooking together is a fantastic way to spend some quality time in the kitchen, creating cherished family conversations.

I’m lucky enough to have found an organization, The Family Dinner Project, that supports and provides resources for family dinners. And they’re in my neck of the woods-Cambridge, Massachusetts!

The Family Dinner Project’s mission is to inspire families to enjoy food, fun, and conversation together.

#familydinnerforward contest!

The Family Dinner Project has a very cool contest lined up and I’m hoping you’ll participate! Between December 2-16, join the kick off of #familydinnerforward, an initiative (and fun contest!) to inspire families to give – within the family to one another and/or to those outside the family.

To participate in the #familydinnerforward contest here’s what you need to do:

  • Snap a dinner/giving-related photo and share it via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #familydinnerforward.
  • You can share as many photos as you like and all photos tagged on Twitter or Instagram with #familydinnerforward between December 2-16 will be entered to win prizes from Lenox!
  • Two winners will be drawn at random and will receive four 4-piece plate settings of the Lenox Entertain 365 pattern of their choice (estimated value of $344-400 depending on pattern chosen)!

US entrants only. Be creative! But here are some examples of dinner-oriented acts of giving you’re welcome to use:

  • Cook (or buy) a meal for a neighbor or someone in need
  • Invite someone for family dinner.
  • Collect and donate food items to a food pantry
  • Help deliver meals via a community organization
  • Cook a meal together at home, where everyone has a job (this is a gift to the
    person who primarily does the cooking!)
  • Give the gift of meaningful conversation (check out the conversation starters about #GivingTuesday HERE)
  • Talk about giving during family dinner and show us what you decide to give this
    season

I have no doubt that eating together really makes for better-adjusted kids….and better adjusted families. The combination of family meals and the concept of giving- what could be better? Take some time to join in the #familydinnerforward fun and help inspire others to do the same.

How many times each week do you eat together as a family? 

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 This post represents a compensated editorial partnership with The Family Dinner Project. All storytelling and opinions are, of course, my own.

photo credit: cafemama via photopin cc

November 10th, 2014

Why You Should Never Put Plastic in the Dishwasher

Groovy Green Livin plastic in dishwasher

Have you ever accidentally opened your dishwasher in the middle of a cycle? It’s like an instant facial. The steam and heat emitted are enough to make you jump back and close the door quickly.

The water is hot so your dishes are cleaned with minimal elbow grease. Did you know the water must be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit and not more than 150 degrees Fahrenheit for the best cleaning and to prevent damage to the dishes? That’s hot water!

What do you put in your dishwasher?

We have a relatively new dishwasher and for some reason it seems smaller than our older version. I still do my best to jam as many dishes into the dishwasher as I possibly can for a single load. Everything from plates to glasses to flatware goes right in without much of a rinse.

Over the years I’ve really weaned myself off of plastic in the kitchen. I’ve tried hard to reduce the amount of plastic touching our food in any way. For the few plastic items still remaining, they get washed by hand.

My rule: never put anything plastic in the dishwasher. And here’s why….

Heat and plastic are a bad mix

Repeated wear and tear on plastic, including running plastic through the dishwasher, could cause BPA, Phthalates and other chemicals to leach out of the plastic when heated.

Hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics. Heating the plastic (stressing it) may cause more leaching of the chemicals. 

Phthalates

Phthalates are chemicals used as softeners or plasticizers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC, vinyl) products and can be found in hundreds of products: pre-2009 toys, wallpaper, cling wrap, shower curtains, plastic PVC containers, nail polish, perfume, blood bags, cosmetics, personal care products, shampoos, carpeting, wood finishes and insecticides (the list could go on and on).

Phthalates have been shown to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm counts and some preliminary studies show that they may be causing a slow and steady demasculinizing of men. Other studies have linked phthalates to liver cancer and breast cancer.

Unfortunately manufacturers aren’t required to list phthalates on products. Look out for “PVC,” “V” or the”3″ recycling code on the bottom of anything plastic.

BPA

As many of us know by now BPA is bad news. It’s a hormone-disrupting chemical that’s been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

And if that wasn’t enough there’s more:  “BPA-free” doesn’t mean it’s safe“. As new alternatives to BPA are popping up all over the place we have little information about their impact on our health.

The Bottom line

Hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics.

Plastics are more likely to leach toxic chemicals when they’re heated or exposed to light.

I think I would rather hand wash plastics than risk those nasty chemicals leaching into my food.  How about you?

Are you ready to hand wash those plastic dishes?

 


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photo credit: Skakerman via photopin cc

June 12th, 2014

10 Summer Camp Essentials for All Ages

Groovy Green Livin Summer Camp

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):

Clothing Labels 

Groovy Green Livin Camp Supplies

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.

Sunscreen 

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.

Shampoo

Groovy Green Livin Shampoos
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.Groovy Green Livin Camp Supplies

Bug Repellent

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 

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!

Chapstick

My kids actually requested chapstick this year and it’s on the packing list as “optional”. I’ve been using Eco Lips Sport Spf 30 Organic Lip Balm Tube Groovy Green Livin Camp Suppliesand just bought a few tubes for them to take with them to camp.

Stationary 

Writing letters has to be easy or you may never hear from your children. Last summer my son sent us several letters….without stamps. They never arrived! This Fold Over Stationery Set is perfect. No envelopes needed. There are two options: Tie Dye Fold Over Stationery and a Sports Fold Over Stationery Set.

Body Lotion

Emily Baby & Adult Skin Soother (Unscented) Groovy Green Livin Emily body lotionis the absolute best for eczema.  Love this stuff. My son also swears it takes away the itch of a mosquito bite.

Bug Bite Relief

Bug bites and summer camp go hand-in-hand. Try All Terrain Natural Kids Itch and Rash Cream to help relieve the itching.

Bar of Soap

A bar of soap is always on the packing list for summer camp. Tom’s of Maine Moisturizing Bar is heading to camp this year. We’ll just have to wait and see if anyone actually uses it!

My list changes a bit each year. Here are a few summer camp favorites from years past:

What are your favorite summer camp essentials?

*Some links are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase. Thank you for supporting this site!

photo credit: bruna camargo via photopin cc

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, writer, mom of three boys and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Join me as we work together to make the world a safer place for all.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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