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
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.
The 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.
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
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?
This post represents a compensated editorial partnership with The Family Dinner Project. All storytelling and opinions are, of course, my own.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.