50 posts categorized "Healthy Families"

urbanMamas Episode 6: Tamara Rubin

February 08, 2015

Below is a partial transcript from the urbanMamas Podcast Episode 6 where we welcome Tamara Rubin, Executive Director of the Lead Safe America Foundation and creator of the documentary, MisLead: America’s Secret Epidemic. Tamara is a Portland mama to 4 kids, 2 of whom were lead poisoned in 2005.

Click here to listen on iTunes. Click here to listen direct.

Links and resources for lead testing your home are available at the bottom of this transcript, as well as how you can help support MisLead and increasing awareness of the prevalence of lead in our schools, homes and environment. Please help this information go viral. Share this post on your Facebook page, email it to your community groups, your daycare, your school, your local legislative office, and help us fill a petition to get 100,000 Portland parents on board with demanding we fund lead clean up in Portland Public Schools.


We’ll start with the Icebreaker Hat

Tamara: "If you had to move out of Portland, where would you go and why?" Well actually I've been having a lot of difficulty with the Portland Public Schools, and the school system keeps referring my son to schools with lead hazards. And since he has medical fragility and has a compromised immune system from being poisoned as a baby, I don't want him to go to a school with lead hazards and his doctors have said he shouldn't go to a school with lead hazards. But the PPS says "Well, all of the kids here are going to schools with lead hazards, so why should your kid be any different?" And so I've been looking desperately for a school without lead hazards, and we've interviewed at several schools. We just found one in Lake Oswego that we, hopefully, may get a transfer to. And if that doesn't work out, I might have to move to L.A. because they have a publicly funded public school that is a safe school for autistic kids on the spectrum, anywhere on the spectrum, from pre-K to early 20s. And is free, but if you live out of district it's a $20,000 a year private school. And it has integrated therapies, like occupational therapy, speech therapy, focused learning for any deficit areas like reading. And it's like a magical school. And so I would go to L.A. and try to find a place to live in the L.A. unified school district so my kids could go to school for free.

R: Let's talk about lead!

K: So, you have this documentary, MisLead, and you've been working on it for awhile now.

T: Yeah, I've heard from other documentary filmmakers that the average documentary gets produced in about 4 years, and some take 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years. And so this is now the beginning of our 4th year, we just hit the 3 year mark in December. I feel bad that aren't getting this message out faster, but also I'm going with the limited funding I've had to work on the film, and we're doing something that I don't know that any other documentary has done, is we're trying to make a feature film that hopefully will be shown in theatres and will have a Hollywood and NY premiere, but we're doing it completely on donations. So over 900 people have donated something, either time or a dollar or $10,000 to help pull this together.

K: $10,000. Good job whoever you are!

Continue reading "urbanMamas Episode 6: Tamara Rubin" »

Striving to compete: to be a role model for my girls & boy

May 12, 2014

As my kids get older, I realize more and more how they are watching me intently when I set goals and work hard to meet them.  I have daily goals (do 5 loads of laundry today, go to the supermarket), but I want them to see me striving for more lofty goals.  Recently, I made the decision to peruse a senior position at a new organization.  I went through a long interview process, and I would debrief with the family all along.  At the end of the day, I negotiated it all to go my way, from start date to work-at-home expectations and from salary to job location.  I was proud of myself, so proud, and they were proud of me, too.

I am a mama runner, and all of my “brfs” (best running friends) know that I have a problem with commitment.  “Let’s run this marathon or that half!”  Registrations ensue and I remain silent on the matter.  

Running a race is a huge commitment of time and money.  Each race sucks at least $50, plus there is picking up race packets plus showing up on race-day early.  That is all time I just don’t have.  Then, there’s the actual training.  What if I don’t have the time to fit on that 12 mile run this weekend if the kids have tournaments, events, practices, birthday parties or other commitments? 

Continue reading "Striving to compete: to be a role model for my girls & boy" »

I said this to my daughter: "I feel fat"

May 05, 2014

I was having a water-retention day, just an unconfident and unenergetic day.  My 13-year old daughter was watching me get ready, waiting for me.  I put on a pants and a shirt, and the words just slipped out of my mouth: "I feel fat".

The moment I felt the words slip away, I regreted it.  I wished I never said it.

I am physically able and fit.  I have the privilege to be strong and the privilege to have time to dedicate to running, biking, and yoga.  I am not fat.

I never want my girls to feel like we are judged by our shapes.  It was the wrong statement for me to make; it is a class of statement I often try to refrain from making.  It gives my girls the wrong message.

This is my mama regret of the moment.

Treading the Water Debate: Dare I Mention the"F" word?

May 03, 2013

20036_269862607555_5594117_nBack in August when there was a rousing debate on fluoride on urbanMamas; I was pretty ambivalent about the issue. Like many, I drew on my own experience growing up with it to make my judgement. Drinking tap water and perhaps many other fluoridated beverages, showering and bathing in it daily for over several decades and not thinking much of it other than what I was told from my dentist - fluoride helps to prevent cavities and dental decay. And yet, I was still very surprised at the strong opposition to fluoride among friends and acquaintances here in Portland. I found myself unintentionally in the middle of the issue many times and was not able to respond to the many reasons why fluoride is bad.

When you read and hear about the case against fluoride it is alarming - industrial waste byproduct, toxic, causes cancer, infertility, lower IQ, doesn't help cavities, and the list goes on. It made me really wonder if I had been led astray all these years by my dentists, doctors and other public health professionals. But rather take the sound bites, tweets, Facebook posts at face value, I felt the need to check the sources. And what I continually found is that those snippets of "facts" that were shared so freely by anti-fluoride supporters weren't quite capturing the conclusions of the research studies.

Continue reading "Treading the Water Debate: Dare I Mention the"F" word?" »

Daylight Savings: Do it again (or stop)

March 11, 2013

I hate the time changes, and as I write this my children have gone to bed an hour late and I am terrified I'll be ushering the boys into school tomorrow, shamefaced, late again. I have never seen the point and wrote about this last year.

This year lots of scientists have been writing about it, pointing out "our bodies... will experience a disturbance...  one that can affect our mental and physical health. The reason lies in the clash between sensitive, eons-old biology deep within our cells, and human-imposed time-keeping traditions that are barely a century old. Twice every year, when we “spring forward” and “fall back,” our bodies must do battle between “sun time” and “social time.”"

It's always been advertised as an energy saver, but that's no longer true (if it ever actually was). "The proportion of total energy that is used for lighting is miniscule compared to other, time-independent uses like factories, computers, nuclear plants, airport radars, and other facilities that run 24/7. Energy companies themselves have measured the effect, and have concluded that DST does not save energy." Because we're "essentially jet-lagged for a few days" we experience higher rates of car accidents, workplace mishaps, inefficiency, and depression.

Continue reading "Daylight Savings: Do it again (or stop)" »

Walk and Bike to School: Know Your Way Around *and* Be Happy

May 20, 2012

A new study illuminates why pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets are so important, not just for the health and environmental impact of neighborhood residents but also for kids' fear and sense of overall well-being. As the post in The Atlantic points out, "Automobile collisions disproportionately kill kids, for starters. Heavy traffic also prevents them from playing on their neighborhood streets. And communities with limited opportunities for walking and playing outside have been shown to have higher rates of childhood obesity, which can lead to serious health complications in later life."

But the new study by Bruce Appleyard, a Portland-based urban planner and designer (and son of an urbanist who famously showed how heavy traffic in a neighborhood increases disconnection, disatisfaction and loneliness) talks about ground-level concerns, the ones I have a lot with my own kids: knowing their way around and being happy in the place where they live.

Bruce showed that kids in low-traffic, walkable neighborhoods remembered more features of their neighborhoods and remembered playing in more parts of their neighborhood than kids in high-traffic neighborhoods where they spent more time in cars. What's more, they simply liked their neighborhoods more and felt safer (according to the "cognitive mapping" techniques he used). He wrote, "In sum, as exposure to auto traffic volumes and speed decreases, a child’s sense of threat goes down, and his/her ability to establish a richer connection and appreciation for the community rises."

Later, he went back to the high-traffic neighborhood after it had undergone improvements in walkability and bike infrastructure. They knew more about their neighborhoods, and, he wrote, "Before the improvements were made in the heavy-traffic-exposure neighborhood, many children drew expressions of dislike and danger associated with automobiles and were unable to represent any detail of the surrounding environment -- possibly feeling overwhelmed by the threats posed by the automobiles. After the improvements alleviated the exposure to these threats, there were indeed fewer expressions of danger and dislike, indicating a greater sense of comfort and well-being."

I've thought about trying this experiment on my own kids, having them draw maps of the neighborhood (without scientific rigor, given that I know next to nothing about cognitive mapping). I think it would be a great way to celebrate Walk and Bike to School month.

Run and Bike for Mother's Day

April 05, 2012

Looking for something active to do on Mother’s Day? Check out two great events. First, our friends at Adoption Mosaic are hosting the 4th Annual Run Mama Run 5k and 10k at Mt Tabor. There is a preview walk/run on Saturday, April 7th. Details here.   

More interested in biking? Then check out Cylo Femme at the NE Sunday Parkways.  Addtional information at BikePortland and Sunday Parkways.

Timing is such you might be able to both.


Health insurance stories: What's yours?

March 27, 2012

I don't know about the "I Like Obamacare" meme that the Obama administration is pushing as the landmark legislation comes before the nation's supreme justices. Sure, I like "Obamacare," a.k.a. health care reform, but I definitely don't love it. I'd much prefer a single-payer health care system (a.k.a. socialized health care). All the arguments against it, or most of them, are also arguments against our current system. Take rationing. Today we ration health care to the wealthy and the people with professional jobs. Take long lines. Have you ever sat -- with a legitimate emergency -- in an emergency room? OK, then, you know that long lines are already here. My last visit, for stitches, took us six long hours. The procedure took 10 minutes.

I really believe that many of the woes attributed to "big government" and a "welfare system" could be alleviated with single-payer health care; for one thing, it would be easier to get birth control, so many families could be planned instead of just happening to families not equipped to deal with them. For another, bankruptcies would be greatly reduced; our nation's bankruptcies are more frequently caused by medical bills every year (20% in the first half of 2011, not counting those bankruptcies with medical bills as a factor). Another thing: every time we chat about "radical homemaking" or other ideas that center around the concept of spending more time at home with our kids, health insurance comes up. It hamstrings us, ties us or our spouses to jobs we may not love, because we can't imagine affording insurance without it -- or because we or our kids have chronic diseases that would preclude us from getting good private insurance.

In my helter-skelter, pie-in-the-sky, best-of-all-possible-worlds dream for the way our country could be with single-payer health insurance, we'd have more mobility, more happiness, less debt, more time to pay attention to our kids, and more making choices for the right reasons. More health, of course.

I thought it would be interesting to think about the whole debate going on right now in the Supreme Court -- which, according to pundits watching the courts today, is going to be struck down on very weak legal grounds and very strong political ones -- in terms of our own stories. How has health insurance influenced your life? What decisions have you made simply because of health insurance? What is YOUR pie-in-the-sky idea for how the system should work?

Here's my story:

Continue reading "Health insurance stories: What's yours?" »

#EndDaylightSavings Time?

March 13, 2012

I did everything right: I got dinner ready early, kept the boys off screens on Sunday night, turned all the clocks back before I went to bed Saturday so we would wake up Sunday as if it never happened -- as if the time change was a chimera. We went through the day, keeping to our normal Sunday schedule where I only put the time in quotes in the quiet and safety of my stubborn brain (which had kept me up late Saturday night writing, and late Sunday night too). Still: I'd gotten them all asleep a little early than the normal quote-bedtime-end quote. That should do it, right?

I found out how wrong I was when I woke up at "7:51" a.m. this morning, nine minutes before Truman's final bell rings. It's only a half-mile away, but when I tried to wake him I was resoundingly unsuccessful. I barely managed to get Everett ready by the time his transportation arrived at "8:15"; we were just late, late, late with Truman, and as I walked him into the cafeteria at "8:50" for breakfast, I said that I guessed we were early for the old, dear, departed time!

Continue reading "#EndDaylightSavings Time?" »

Once obese, always obese: Can we prevent it in the first place?

January 19, 2012

At the turn of the year, we love to make resolutions.  Many might like to make resolutions of the health variety: I resolve to eat better, I resolve to exercise more, I resolve to lose weight.  A few weeks might go by, and our resolutions might slip.  In fact, over a third of resolutions are broken by the end of January.

Then, there is a twist.  On January 1st, the NYT ran an article discussing new studies in the realm of obesity: once obese, are we always obese?  Some studies show that we can get stuck in a fat trap, once fat.  Obese individuals who successfully lose weight will only regain all that weight (and more, possibly) in due time.

Depressing?  Yes.

What can we do about it?  Well.  There is much focus now on "upstream public health", tackling the root of the cause, preventing the fatness before we even enter (and get stuck) in the "fat trap".  This got us thinking about programs that affect our children, making sure that programs are designed to keep them active, to make sure they have access to healthy food, to help them be safe when active.

We live in a busy, complex world.  Our lives can be overwhelming.  How can make living a healthy lifestyle easy for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, etc in our modern world?  Our lives are complex, and the environments that shape our health behaviors are too.  Work, school, urban or rural infrastructure all of these these can attract us to or deter us from eating more fruits and vegetables and moderate exercise.  How can we make this utopia of walkable/bikable cities with access to affordable fresh produce for all a reality for all?  What do we, as parents, see to be barriers to that reality?  What do the experts think we can do to change?  What are your top priorities for change?  What do you do in your day-to-day life as small steps toward keeping the family healthful?

* Keep the conversation going at a screening & panel discussion of "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead", next Monday, January 23, 6-9pm at Living Room Theaters.  100% of proceeds of the $35 ticket go towards EcoTrust's Farm to School program.

Pushing toward activities with the littles: Yea or Nay?

November 15, 2011

We seem to have entered a period of hibernation. Last year at this time, we were excitedly participating in wrestling three days a week plus weekends, and Lego club, and I was biking the boys three (plus) miles away to school, and I barely had time to breathe. I spent most of my winter feeling that I should have gotten up earlier or stayed up later. I rushed everywhere.

This year Truman is at a much closer school, and not in any after-school clubs. I've been trying to get Everett re-enrolled in school after several months of a homeschooling respite, but... ok, a story for another day. Let's just sum up: no Lego club. And after a very busy fall of coaching for me, I asked the boys if they wanted to do wrestling club again this year. "Ummm... I'm tired," said Everett. You mean, every day you're tired? "At wrestling. I just think I'd be tired." Truman? "Well... maybe... I think 'no.'"

They are still getting over very bad colds (so am I, a punishing week-long feverish exhaustion whopper, so I'm giving myself until next week to make any decisions). And they're young enough -- six and nine -- that their future athletic careers can still be saved. There are plenty of Legos at home, along with running around the block and up the hill and jumping/climbing/showing off their amazing ninja moves. Activity level is not the problem. My feeling that I should, if I were a good parent, have my kids in at least one or two activities each, is the problem.

How do you feel about pushing your kids into activities (sports, art, music, science, whatever) that you think will benefit them -- but they're "too tired" or otherwise unmotivated to do? Do you have to insist on activities, or do they beg to do them? In your opinion, is hibernating, for either one long winter's nap or a few years, OK?

Of School Fundraisers

October 20, 2011

Och! School fundraiser season is upon us, and if you want to get my blood boiling, ask my five-years-ago self to have my kid sell frozen cookie dough and cinnamon rolls in order to earn cheap prizes probably made in China. Go ahead, make my day!

But when Truman brought home the fundraising forms last week -- Delicious Delights! like the Thaw-and-Bake Blueberry Muffins ($16) or the Pizza Pail ($16, too), full, I was sure, of all kinds of ingredients I try to avoid, not to mention expensive (win a Sling Shot Plush animal! a plastic crawling bug! A Tornado Mug!) -- there was a bit of a surprise. The PTA letter that accompanied it judiciously mentioned that the school would get 40% of the proceeds from the sale of these caloric firebombs; or you could write a check and the school would get 100%.

So, I was getting ready to write a check for $20 (with "donation in lieu of fundraiser" in the memo line) when I saw a comment thread from another Portland Public Schools mom. She was lamenting the state of her PTA's fundraiser, which hadn't been accompanied by a letter like mine. Another mom on her thread said her school (in the area, I assume) had given parents a donation goal for the year -- $500, plus fundraisers.

Meanwhile, I'm helping the cross country team raise money to go to invitational meets and buy uniforms. Nearly all the money for sports is now provided by parents -- the coaches' salaries and the cost of buses come from the sports fees, and fundraisers pay for uniforms, and the Booster Club pays for end-of-season "banquets" (which are usually potlucks) and awards. Volunteers often end up paying for the privilege through t-shirts and Chinook Books and (in my case) babysitting. When I do the math, I realize that high school students who are involved in a few activities do pay $500, plus, a year for the privilege of going to public school.

What is there to say about this? Sometimes I feel like the school year is one big revolving hit-up. I'm hitting other parents up for Chinook Books for cross country while they're hitting me up for Run for the Arts laps while the schools are hitting us up for snacks and boxes of tissues while my friends' school are hitting me up for Burgerville and Pizzicato fundraising nights. I remember writing at least five or six checks for field trips last year. One of the cross country runners rolled his eyes and said, while we talked about the lap-a-thon we are planning for Friday, and the book sales, and the other money-raising ideas, "why don't we just ask people for one check?" Indeed.

Why don't we? Wouldn't it be easier and simpler? At the beginning of the school year, principals could come out to us and say, "we need $12,000 per kid for what we want to do. The state gives us $10,800. Pay up (if you can)." Obviously, we all couldn't afford to make up the difference. But at least we wouldn't have our kids pushing sweets and pizza and those endless forms at us -- the kids could focus on doing arts and PE and (I don't know) reading and math and not on raising money for it.

If you ran the world (or even just your own PTA), how would you fix it?

Granola Bars, Cereal, Lunch Meat & Bread: my love/hate relationship

September 20, 2011

Having recently moved, my new neighborhood supermarket is Safeway in addition to a small, great local produce stand.  I find myself accomplishing my supermarketing tasks very, very slowly.  Not only do I try to enjoy the time without kids (when I am able to escape to market without them), but I am stuck on the labels.  I look carefully.  

Granola bars: the 70% organic CLIF bars run over a buck a pop but a box of the Quaker Oat bars ("now made without high fructose corn syrup" the box boasts!) will give you 8 for $2, if on sale.  The economics are compelling.  The kid CLIF bars usually run about $0.75 each, still significantly more than the ones I usually consider "candy bars" more than anything.  I struggle.  Do I have time this week to make my own (this one being the favored recipe so far)?  The wrappers.  I think about the wrappers.  Can we make an art project out of the wrappers?  Make a reusable shopping bags for holiday gifts?

Cereal: this is a treat in our household.  The poor children beg for it.  I sometimes look past the high fructose corn syrup (why do Rice Krispies need HCFS as a sweetener?) and reason that the iron-enrichment is worth it.  Why not?  On special, we could get two boxes for a few dollars, compared to the one box of my preferred brand of "natural" cereal.  What are your preferred O's?  Does it break the bank?

Lunch Meat: Oscar Mayer was on sale.  And, as I was humming "my baloney has a first name, is O-S-C-A-R....", I was thumbing the list of ingredients: ham, water, sugar...... sodium nitrite.  Is sodium nitrite bad?  Well, it could be.  But, it also does good in preventing botulism.  To be sure, though, the meat processing industry have indeed found ways to make us lunch meat that do not include sodium nitrite.  I've seen it at the store "No Nitrites", but it's just a bit too expensive.

Then, the bread: we have had long conversations about our decision-making process on the bread.  We look for lower sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, more whole grains, no enriched processed white flour (but wonder bread can be so good!).  We look for loaves under $5, please!  Under $2!  There are so many things to consider.

Between choosing these four items and whether or not I buy them, I could easily spend 45 minutes. It is a balance, and we all have our own ways that we juggle the cost, the convenience, and the health impacts.  What frustrates me to no end is how much I feel bombarded to buy the cheaper varieties, which often end up being the less healthy options.  How easy it is, though: cereal for breakfast, meat sandwich for lunch, granola bar for snack.  That's half of the day's meals, taken care of with just a few dollars and a few boxes.  It's not a decision I feel good about.  To eat out of stuff that has been previously wrapped no longer feels right to me.  That's just me.

When I go to the market, I wonder: why is it so hard to buy whole fresh foods?  Why do many factors push us to buy the convenient food, the cheaper food?  How can I continue to afford the whole food if it is priced higher than the processed food?  All of these things, I wonder, in my love/hate relationship with granola bars, cereal, lunch meat and bread.  It's a luxury to be armed with all the information we have, to have the time to ponder these questions, but I know I'm not the only one thinking about these things.  

Our Food, Our Bodies: Supporting our Teen Girls

September 07, 2011

When my first two children were born girls, I often wondered how they would feel about their bodies and their food when they were older, in the teen and pre-teen years, when we can be so susceptible and vulnerable to all sorts of pressures.  I kept those thoughts in the back of my head; I had a long time before we would think about those issues.

Well, the time is now.  My eldest turns 11 in a few weeks.  I have recently noticed a huge surge in her eating, and her sweet tooth has gotten sweeter.  Her junk food magnet has gotten stronger. And, her appetite has gotten bigger, much bigger.

When Sarah posted recently about school lunches, Sheryl mentioned some thoughts about her 14-year old high-schooler:

Something I worry about is the whole peer pressure/body image/I don't know what to call it that goes on with girls in her age group. My lean, athlete of a girl has always eaten big, hearty, (mostly) healthy meals, with meats and veg and fruit and grains and dairy. Just recently I noticed she checks herself and eats much less when she's with her peers, and tends to shy away from higher calorie and/or fat foods. 

Indeed, I have started to notice that my big girl packs piddly lunches and comes home with a lot of it uneaten.  She goes on to state how "HONGRY" she is once home and will eat lots.  LOTS!  Often, she's so "hongry" that she'll devour food in mass quantity, almost eating like an animal.  If she's so hungry, what is it that keeps her from eating more at school?  Does she have too little time now in middle school to eat?  Is her food too complicated to eat (too much utensil food)?  Or, is it embarrassing to eat?  Is it better to just hang out?

I rode my own roller coaster with food.  Always an athlete, my appetite was always huge.  I recall being able to eat a whole pizza by myself when I was ramping up on calories in my early growth spurt.  But, I hit a point where body image started to play a part, wanting to always stay svelte.  I recall being able to eat a whole cake.  I also recall being able to then regurgitate it all out into the toilet.  That was a dark, confusing time.

Never wanting to support an unhealthy approach to food, we have spent the past decade encouraging our girl to eat a variety of healthy foods.  We have offered treats on a regular, but not daily, basis.  We have learned about ingredients in our foods.  We have sat down for mealtimes, where we all eat a balanced plate.  We try not to pressure.

What is your approach to food with your girls?  How do you discuss it at home?  Books to suggest for girls in the 10-20 year old range that might offer them support and guidance when it comes to food and body?

Sunday Meal Planning: Back to the Lunch Grind

September 04, 2011

I start every school year thinking this will be the year I win my kids over with the homemade lunches. And every year, I end up giving in to the siren song of the cafeteria (last year, it was the second week of school, when Truman came home with a bill -- he'd been getting both a cafeteria tray and his lunchbox every day). Certainly, I've loved being here in Portland, where school food is undergoing a serious revolution, and, most days, the children will have ingredients from local farms on the menu.

However, as the photo above (taken at a field trip near the end of school last year, so we've got to give them some slack for brown bagging necessities) indicates, there's a lot of room for unhealthy choices. As hard as I try at home to steer my children clear of refined sugar, preservatives, processed flours and other highly-processed foods: if Truman has a choice, it's chocolate milk every day, and, judging from this small window on school food, no one eats the good stuff like grapes.

So I'm trying to get it right this year.

Continue reading "Sunday Meal Planning: Back to the Lunch Grind" »

Treating lice in really thick hair

July 31, 2011

Every time I hear of a lice infestation, I get sick to my stomach just thinking about that happening here in my house. I have some children who get apoplectic with rage at the thought of me washing their hair. I have others whose hair is just so thick and gorgeous and tangly and precious that the best -- but untenable -- strategy would be the head shave (several friends have gone that way with boys as the simplest and most direct). I am a little obsessive about my worries, and regularly check their hair when I see itching or lice-sized pieces of dirt in their hair.

Everett came home from his Aunt's house late last night after a sleepover, and this morning he said, "my head is really itchy. Do you think I have lice?" Surely not! A few seconds later, the diagnosis was in. Lice: everywhere.

We started with the laundry (hot water over 130 degrees plus a hot dryer, says the CDC) -- all his bedding and clothes are going in. Then we headed to the bathroom to see what we were dealing with. I wanted to get as many of them out as I could before I went shopping -- I didn't want to go shopping until I checked urbanMamas for advice. It took me over an hour just to get him fully disentangled, using cider vinegar as a dousing agent (because, whether or not it would kill the buggers, at least it couldn't hurt anyone if it didn't). Several suggestions we shave his head were met with "no, NEVER."

According to what I've now read, the best approach is just to do a lot of picking (great). The CDC and most mainstream sites seem to agree that the best approach is Rid (or similar) treatment, followed by regular picking with a metal lice comb, once again after 8-10 hours and then every 2-3 days. Retreatment with the Rid is only suggested after 8-10 days, when eggs could have conceivably hatched (the stuff doesn't kill eggs). Commenters on urbanMamas, however, suggest that the shampoo doesn't really work; it doesn't get them all, so you just have to keep re-treating. Listerine seems to be a very popular choice (and what the hell, I'll try it) even among others on the internet who say they tried everything, even a series of mayonnaise treatments (sorry, not trying that).

Lice life cycles are 28 days from egg laying to hatching, which is why daily or every-other-daily combing is recommended for a whole month. They can't live without blood and scalp temperatures for more than 1-2 days, so obsessive housecleaning is said to be unnecessary (though bedding, hats and clothes are possible ways to spread the bugs). The general way to contract the bugs is head-to-head contact; and how many times have I seen my three boys, along with the neighbors, cuddled with all their heads touching, playing Minecraft or Angry Birds or Pokemon? Too, too many times.

For the other two boys -- who were, luck would have it, away from home at Grandma & Grandpas for two days prior to the infestation -- I'm going with a tea-tree oil treatment as a prophylactic. I'll let you know how it works in my boys' thick, tangly hair: and if you have other advice for me, please share!

Coming Soon....Montavilla Food Cooperative

May 23, 2011

We love to talk about food...buying clubs, farmer's markets, canning, dinner on a budget, and CSAs. We are food-obsessed. When Marisa recently emailed about the efforts to bringing a food coop and buying clubto Eastside Portland, how could we not share? She writes:

As a soon-to-be Mama, I'm very concerned about food options our community has access to and supporting our local farmers & small business community. Luckily we live in a city that embraces local and organic food and have access to such a great variety of options. However, Eastside Portland, beyond SE 82nd is considered a food desert. We as a community are trying to gather people together so we can open a Food Cooperative store front, the newest venture since Alberta Co-op! We have a location in mind and are fund raising now to get the support and capital to make this a reality for this up and coming neighborhood. You can read more about our efforts on our website: www.montavilla.coop.

Bob's Red Mill is our biggest sponsor for this event and we will be working with an organization called JOIN to bring the community's attention on the needs of teen homelessness. We will also be selling FOUNDING MEMBER SHARES to the store front at the pancake breakfast. Basically if you buy a share, you become a member and have a vote on the location of the store front.

Please feel free to send this flier to anyone who may be interested in Food Cooperatives, Loves Pancakes or Rummage Sales, or just wants to help. If you want more information about our organization please feel to contact me by phone (510) 333-2041 or email marisa.peden@gmail.com.

It Starts Here: Multnomah County's Healthy Living Initiative

April 01, 2011

A recent report on the healthiest counties in Oregon shows Multnomah county ranking in the middle.  Not all of us are fit and mindful of our sugar intake.  The Multnomah County Health Department recently launched the “It Starts Here” Campaign for a healthy, active Multnomah County.  “We are promoting healthy eating and active living as a means to combat obesity and its many associated health consequences. You can learn more about our campaign at our website multco-itstartshere.org.”

Mc billboard kid 030211

How does this image make you feel?  16 packets of sugar?  WOW, is that how much is in a bottle of soda?  The County is working on an outdoor advertising campaign to raise community awareness about the health burden of obesity and the effects of hidden sugar, particularly in sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks, and sugar-sweetened juices.  Care to share your input?  Click on the image <above> to complete an anonymous survey.  The county appreciates the input!

Do you or your kids drink soda?


Radiation: Don't Worry?

March 23, 2011

Most of us parents were young during the Chernobyl accident, and have vivid memories of our first exposure to the story of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can still see, in my memory, terrible black-and-white photos of the devastation in Hiroshima. It was so inhuman; there was so much humanity. Exposed, its surface melted away. And the concept of the invisible threat, the sickness that eats away at you from inside, insidiously: how can it not stay with a girl?

Now we're faced with the crisis that will be our own children's Chernobyl, perhaps: the earthquake and tsunami that devastated so much of northern Japan, and the developing crisis as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant deteriorates. I took my boys to Seaside yesterday with my parents; Truman was so terrified of the idea of a tsunami that he kept going back to Grandpa's truck (there's a story there about the policemen who decided I was a very bad parent because I was spending more time calming everyone's fears than making sure I had eyes on all three boys -- a story for another day that I'm sure I'll tell soon). Everett got scientific and figured out how he could estimate the power of the waves through scientific observation, calming his own fears of one of those waves going Japanese on him.

The short answer to this crisis coming to Oregon shores, as I've learned after lots of research into Walletpop stories on radiation danger and sushi, is not to worry. About this, anyway; any radiation that gets here is at least a million times below toxic levels. Japan exports almost none of its fish, and whatever it would export wouldn't be any more dangerous than a mercury-laden river fish. (We in Oregon actually export a ton of fish and other products to Japan; it's an interesting story, too.)

There's plenty more to worry about. I'm freaking out on a near-daily basis about pesticides and the dangers of exhaust; I'm pretty sure it's part of the reason I struggle so with my boys. Other people are really concerned about radon in their homes; evidently, it's potentially a far, far worse source of radiation than any nuclear plant -- although you can have your radon levels tested and there's a fix. Other friends are having some big worries about lead contamination -- in the paint, in house keys, in the soil, in old furniture you hadn't suspected, in lots of jewelry little kids might get their mouths on (even though it's not meant for kids -- funny how that works). A bunch of us are very concerned about BPA and other plastic-based endocrine disruptors.

And another thing. I got an email which led me to this post I wrote forever and a day ago about radiation exposure of parents and how it affects the yet-to-be-born offspring. I didn't do a lot of research at the time and didn't follow up beyond the post. But I still haven't dismissed it. The mama who found my post wrote,

My dad had polio as a small child and was treated in an iron lung chamber. My aunts recall the doctors believing the radiation exposure is what caused his numerous bouts of cancer. My dad passed away at 40 after battling cancer most of his life.

All this attention on radiation has me wondering if I've been exposed, and what that potential danger could be. And, of course, if I could have passed anything along to my children.

I'd love to talk with someone locally about this. I don't even know where to start or what kind of doctor to call to get checked.

Do any of you have experience with this sort of thing? If you have ideas for how this mama can get tested for the markers of inherited radiation -- if that could be a problem -- please chime in! And tell us what's keeping you up at night with this disaster; I can't stop thinking about my parents' house, that would surely fall in an earthquake and slide into the Nehalem River; wouldn't my 1912 house crumble, too? There's just so much to worry about, you hardly know where to start.

Proposed HB 2228, ban for kids on parent's bikes and trailers, thinks wrong

January 13, 2011

Update: Jules Bailey tells Bike Portland he and Greenlick have agreed to alter the proposed bill to instead call for a study of family biking. I've written asking Greenlick apologize for jumping into this conversation by demonizing parents who choose to put their children on bicycles (and comparing this to the seatbelt debate in the 1950s); I hope he does so.

Representative Mitch Greenlick has sponsored proposed House Bill 2228, which would make it illegal to carry children aged six and under on bicycles, including trailers and trail-a-bikes, punishable by a maximum fine of $90. He tells Bike Portland he did it to keep children safe; while he has no statistics on children's death, he does have a study on adult males, who often are injured when they crash on their bike. He said, "if it's true that it's unsafe [for a four-year-old to ride on his parent's bike], we have an obligation to protect people. If I thought a law would save one child's life, I would step in and do it. Wouldn't you?" His email address is rep.mitchgreenlick@state.or.us; his district office phone number is (503) 297-2416. (He represents NW Portland; Jules Koppel, (503) 986-1442, represents my SE neighborhood. Find your representative here. Katie wrote this letter, inviting Rep. Greenlick to Kidical Mass on Saturday. Here's another letter.)

The four of us who founded urbanMamas didn't all start out six or seven years ago as the things we are today: competitive and eager runners, whole food-conscious, green-minded, three-kid-having, family bike activists. It's happened, as much because of the place we lived and the people we live around -- we're co-inspirators, I've said -- than because of any special long-held personal conviction. The conviction, it's grown on us, and some of it grew like a weed, accidental, perhaps meant to be after all. Native to Portland, Oregon, we're sure.


Biking has become for all of us a personal freedom, an identity, a way of glorious life. It's frugal and emission-free and it changes the dynamic of risk for transportation; instead of putting everyone else on the road in danger, we're putting only ourselves and our children. Given the statistics -- the by-far-and-away-crazy leading cause of death for children is automotive accidents, over a thousand kids die each year and many more are badly injured -- our risk is miniscule. I've looked for statistics on death as bicycle passenger, and can't find them. Julian describes the data as "entirely without denominator." Surely, one day a child or even a dozen will die as passengers on bicycles, probably in a collision with an automobile. It is guaranteed that another thousand children will die next year, and the year after that, as passengers in cars.

Continue reading "Proposed HB 2228, ban for kids on parent's bikes and trailers, thinks wrong" »

Portland redeems school lunches, breakfasts

September 16, 2010

I've been downright cynical about the fate of school lunches. The breakfasts have often been the worst: plastic-wrapped greasy sugar-or-salt balls, was my verdict. While there may have technically been "nutrition," protein and carbohydrates and some pass at vitamin enrichment, I suspected breakfast from McDonald's would have been healthier.

Today, I dropped my children off late at school and there was a big basket of leftover breakfast in the office. Monroe got one, too, and as we headed home I checked it out. The Zac O Mega-bar had me at "northwest fruit filling" and the insurmountably reliable ingredients list which was filled with stuff that's in my kitchen, not the contents of a chem lab. Yes, there's still sugar (zoinks!) but I was pleased with the whole wheat flour and oats, the molasses and honey. Fairlight Bakery in Vancouver makes the treats, and uses Shepherd's Grain flour from northern Washington, a sustainable farming cooperative.

It smelled good -- smelled real! -- and tasted great.  Today's lunch is macaroni and cheese; I've got a call in to ask further, but a lot of effort has gone into making more food from scratch, so I'm hopeful.

Continue reading "Portland redeems school lunches, breakfasts" »

Drive Less, Save more... Lives

September 02, 2010

Crash3 As it comes to a close, I'd like to bring up a subject that's come to the forefront for my family this summer. Not once but twice I've been in car-car collisions, one that involved my whole family.  Both times I was a passenger and not a driver.  Both times there was thousands of dollars of damage, but our health and lives were spared.  Both times, I saw it coming.  Some might think this was an advantage, but I sort of felt it was a curse.  You see, since I've started riding my bike to get around town more, I've become especially tuned in to what's going on around me.  

4718678460_57e37fe904_bAs of yesterday, the Bicycle Transportation Association's (BTA) Bike Commute Challenge has begun.  I'll be honest; I've been tracking my commute miles since last September, but this September I will definitely be coming up short.  Instead of biking the 25 mile round trip I will probably spend a short amount of time on the bike and most of it on the bus, getting out to Gresham and back.  I just can't make the trip in a reasonable amount of time, since I'm nearly 30 weeks pregnant (no lung capacity left!).  But I still feel the need to try and reduce car trips.  Is it because I want to drive less and save more?  Well, money may be part of the equation.  Reducing emissions is also important to me.  But in my mind, a much larger part is something you can't quite place a value on:  The lives of our children.  You can eliminate as much BPA from their immediate environments, avoid antibiotic and hormone injected foods, but the number one cause of death for children is not obesity or illness.  It's car crashes.

That's right, according to the CDC Car crashes are the number one cause of death for children and happen at an even higher rate for teens.  This came to my attention early last month when a fellow bicycle rider and parent pointed out this article: "Mom, are we there yet?"  Can you imagine it's safer to walk in NYC than in Portland?  OK, maybe you can, but it really is statistically apparent that fewer cars means fewer deaths by car.  Sure, there are risk factors you can influence, like using safety equipment (and using it properly:  See CDC website for more info).  You can buy a really "safe" car.  These things will improve your odds, if you're in a car.  But what if you are on foot, or on a bike? Only less automobile traffic will reduce the incidence of deaths from car crashes.

So when you think a trip by car is unavoidable, remember the potential price that we all pay in one way or another.  Is the risk truly acceptable?  Are we going to keep muttering "what a tragedy" every time someone dies from a car collision?  Or is it time to realize that we are extraordinarily lucky to have so many transportation infrastructure options here in Portland.  Is it time to learn to use the ones we have, and look into getting the ones we need?  Have you and your family re-evaluated how you get around these days?  Or is it just too overwhelming to even begin?  Even if it is overwhelming, what would it take to convince you to try?

Nuggets, pink milk, and party pizzas taking the fall

April 09, 2010

I've been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (along with a lot of you, I know) and I can't tell if my blood is boiling hotter than my tears are stinging, or vice versa. During the third episode last Friday, I was in need of a good noseblow by the end. I think it was the stunning failure of Oliver to inspire anything like interest in real food in the kids in episode two that hurt the most, and it was the chicken nugget bit that had people talking. I wrote about it: "When he showed children how chicken nuggets are made -- grinding up the least desirable parts of a bird, gloppily straining out the bones, and adding flavorings and fillers -- he expected them to refuse to eat them. Instead, after having cried 'ewww!' and 'gross!' they each asked for a patty, answering his bewilderment with: 'We're hungry!' ...

"Though part of Oliver's stunt was pure fiction -- 'Thankfully, chicken nuggets in this country are not made this way,' he clarified before heading off to cleave a carcass into pieces -- it's part of a wider movement that's calling out processed fake food by name and calling for it to be eliminated from children's diets." What surprised me was how many of the people I know (and plenty I don't) started talking about how chicken nuggets were now off their family's menu.

There's a lot not to like in Oliver's show. There are the cafeteria workers, who grumble and complain when Oliver dares to bring real chicken and potatoes in need of a peeler into the kitchen, where the comfort food comes in a box and needs only to be heated up. There are the rules that say Oliver's many-vegetable pasta "isn't a cup and a fourth" of vegetables (he has to serve fries with his healthy fare to make it up) and that every meal needs to have "two breads" even if those breads are both halves of an extremely processed, nutrition-bereft pizza crust and that schools need to have "two kinds of milk" which often means milk that's been colored pink and sugar-added. There is all that sugar, so much sugar that Oliver himself has been making special note of it. In that post on Moms Rising, he writes, "Ask a pediatrician (or a teacher for that matter) to identify the biggest enemy of child’s health and they will answer,” sugar”. You put beautiful little kids in school, 180 days of the year, from four to 18 and nearly every choice offered to them is some version of junk food."

And there's the grocery store, where the aisles are packed with sugary treats disguised as healthy food. There's the "Froot Loops" and the happy-dippy commercials stacked five solid in our kids' favorite TV shows, the ones that say cheerfully, "part of this good breakfast!" (I tell Everett, overhearing one, "you know, that's not really a good breakfast..." "I KNOW, mom," he replies.) There is the yogurt (even the organic stuff), whose makers feel it necessary to pack it with so much sugar that one eight-ounce serving is as much sugar as the AHA recommends kids have in a day. There are the "fruit snacks," the lemonade which has no lemon juice, the trail mix with so many ingredients I have to look twice to see if there are really raisins and peanuts.

There are our kids, who eat a bunch of candy on Easter or when a well-meaning aunt or uncle stops by, or we ourselves let them go crazy at Starbucks' pastry counter, and then proceed to act horribly, fighting over Froot Loops and Skittles and Petite Vanilla Bean Scones until we cover our ears with our hands and scream, "no more candy, EVER!" (Is that just me?)

In all this craziness, I'm happy to see that more scrutiny is being placed on the harmful quality of junk food, poor quality meats, white bread and the abhorrent state of the "reimburseable meals" provided in our schools. It seems hopeful. It also seems crushing: how many cafeteria ladies will have to be convinced that kids might eat broccoli if we keep offering it to them? How many hard decisions will have to be made -- no chocolate milk, french fries once a week, a re-categorization of "food" in the food stamps even -- how will we pay for it?

Continue reading "Nuggets, pink milk, and party pizzas taking the fall" »

Jamie Oliver, fresh food, and changing our (doomed) destiny

February 23, 2010

I think we've all heard these statistics by now, right? We're raising the first generation of kids who won't outlive their parents -- their life expectancy is 10 years less than ours. Obesity will cost $150 billion this year -- 10% of our health care costs -- and that's projected to be doubled by 2020. Diet-related diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and many cancers, are by far and away the biggest killers, far worse than even auto accidents. Why?

Jamie Oliver, in his TED talk that has everyone talking, has pegged a couple of culprits. Fast food is one; sugar is two. And we're starting to realize that it's not just high fructose corn syrup that's bad; it's all kinds of processed sugar. Even that "raw" brown sugar in the sweet brown packets. Sugar in the chocolate milk (it's truly terrible; one carton of the stuff has more sugar than the American Heart Association suggests a child have in a day, and more than soda), sugar in the yogurt, sugar in the breakfast cereal, sugar in the ketchup, sugar in the peanut butter and the jelly and the bread, sugar in the pizza sauce for goodness' sake.

And where is this killer food being served? In our schools, first. Even when fresh local cooked-on-site food is available, there's an alternative that includes yogurt, chocolate milk, chicken nuggets, pizza. In our homes, second. We're killing our kids. (Not just other people. Me. Everett's lunch yesterday: yogurt and "I don't want to talk about it any more.") What's more, in many classrooms Jamie's visited, kids don't even know what fresh food looks like. A radish is maybe celery, maybe an onion; an eggplant is maybe a pear; one kid doesn't recognize a potato in its skin. Jamie doesn't mince words: we are, he says, committing child abuse by feeding kids this junk.

His takeaway is this: "I wish for everyone to help create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, to inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity."

How can we do this? Here's one way: to cook, really cook, from scratch. I don't mean "a can of this and a can of that" from scratch; I mean carrots and potatoes and cabbages and dry beans. Take our kids into the kitchen (even if they're just playing with the water in the sink while you peel and chop); take them to the market; buy vegetables and fruits whole; plant a garden (you can put peas and spinach and lettuce and broccoli raab in now!). Here's one recipe I've been making that's easy, easy, cheap, and delicious -- Everett likes it just plain but I dress it up with plain yogurt, hot sauce, and some braised kale or cabbage:

Continue reading "Jamie Oliver, fresh food, and changing our (doomed) destiny" »

Do you drink soda?

February 22, 2010

Just a week behind, I finally got around to reading an article in the NYT that considers treating soda like tobacco - through taxes, warning labels, and big public awareness campaigns to discourage consumption.  Also recalling a recent (California) study that linked soda consumption to obesity, it made me consider my own soda consumption, both as a child growing up and now as a parent.

Growing up, soda was the drink of choice in the household once my brothers and I were in the elementary years.  My parents drank a lot of soda.  We, the children, we allowed to drink Sprite but weren't allowed to drink Coke.  "It has caffeine; it's bad for you!"  It was my body-image issues that led to counting every calorie when I was a certain age, which is when I stopped drinking soda.  All the empty calories!  In my adulthood, I drank diet soda from time-to-time.  I recall having a Diet Coke every afternoon during my second pregnancy.

Our girls have rarely had soda.  There are some birthday parties where soda may be the only option, and - while I have suggested they try it - they have never liked the stuff.  Last fall, the family gifted me a carbonator for my birthday, to fuel my love for soda water, and - as a special treat - we have also made some cherry-flavored (cherry extract, sugar, water, and some CO2) soda for the kids.  But, even that, they don't so much love.  Sometimes they girls will tell me, coming home from playdates, that their friends offered them soda with their snacks.  All in all, though, we don't seem to be big soda drinkers.  We don't buy the stuff.

Do you drink soda?  How much?  A serving or two a day?  Maybe once in a while when you go out?  Maybe never?  How about the kids?  When did they first have soda?  Do they like it and ask for it?

Had it with BPA? Tell Salem to ban it already.

January 31, 2010

DSCN0229 I don't know about you, but I've been angry about bisphenol-A (BPA) for years (literally). It's in our bodies, in food and beverage containers (among other things, like retail receipts), and it ain't good for us.  Especially babies (and pregnant women).  The U.S. FDA *finally* acknowledged some concern about this toxic chemical a few weeks back, but plans to study it for a few more years before doing anything more than studying it - some more.  Well I for one don't have time to wait.

Which is why I'm so thrilled about Oregon Senate Bill 1032, which would phase the toxic chemical out of all reusable food and beverage containers (think: baby bottles and sippy cups) and formula cans and baby food jars (single use) intended for children under 3.  'Bout time.

You can help pass this bill - it's easy!

If we don't tell our state legislators that we're tired of BPA and support this bill, how will they know how important it is to us?  Simple: they won't.  So here's what you can do:

  1. Email your state representative and senator NOW (just need your zip code).
  2. Better yet, call 'em.  All you have to say is, "Hi my name is ________ and I urge the representative/senator to vote YES on SB 1032 to ban BPA.  Thank you."  It's that simple. And that quick.  Get the phone numbers here.
  3. Join us this Thursday in Salem to show our legislators how much we want this.  Activistas will be there from 1 to 3 PM to "pack the hearing room."  Thanks to the Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) for bringing this bill so far and spearheading this grassroots effort.
  4. Join OEC's Healthy Kids Network to stay current on action opportunities  - and their excellent eco-healthy home tips.

Industry lobbyists want this bill to fail.  Do you?

urbanMamas snack: The recipes that changed our lives

January 21, 2010

Never one to shy away from an opportunity to hyperbolize food, I was enthralled with my neighbor Camellia's email today, asking me to try a recipe for raw, vegan "brownies," and write about them here in the context of life-changing food. What, she asked, are the simple, healthy, delicious recipes we couldn't feed our families without? 

Immediately, I thought of my favorite shortbread cookies, made with measures of brown rice flour, whole wheat flour, and white flour; honey; and plenty of butter. They put me at peace despite the fat content; it's all whole "real" foods and it's giving us the sweet cookie fix we all crave with a hefty dose of whole grains and none of the processed sugar I've come to fear. I also love the "recipe" Truman and I devised; stir together plain hazelnut or sunflower butter, honey, and a few drops of vanilla, eat with a spoon (that was breakfast today). And of course, there are zinemama's zucchini carrot muffins, shared with us just yesterday (great way to use up frozen grated zucchini!).

As soon as I have 20 minutes to shell the walnuts (gathered, appropriately, from the enormous tree behind her house), I plan to try these out; she, like me, had been treating herself regular with pieces of chocolate bar and these -- with only the whole-foods sugar of the dates -- are a far less compromising luxury. And if you like these, also try the homemade "Lara Bar" recipes here and here. Please, share your recipes that delight both kid and parent alike with their delicious wholesomeness! Camellia's and my recipes are in the "more" portion of the post.

Continue reading "urbanMamas snack: The recipes that changed our lives" »

Avoiding depression for kids and families

December 22, 2009

We're struggling a lot with depression and anxiety here; my husband's afflicted, and so is my oldest son. More and more lately, I remember my parents worrying about the depression of one of my sisters, who has thankfully grown into an emotionally-balanced adult. Around this time of the year, it's always compounded, and speaking from experience I know that trying to enjoy the holidays with a loved family member predicting the imminent end of the world as we know it is a challenge, indeed. Sara writes:

I've posted before asking for advice about depression-proofing my daughter. She's now five, an articulate, silly, curious, thoughtful kid with a decidedly negative personality. She seizes on the negative elements of every experience, and creates huge drama-tornadoes of misery and despair. I am very concerned that she is going to grow up into an unhappy adult, the person (we all know this person) who sucks the joy out of everything. We spend a lot of time talking to her about this, trying to guide her toward more positive ways of thinking ("you're talking about the problem; do you need help talking about a solution?"), etc., and it has helped a lot at various times, but... not now. Now it just seems to be making her feel worse, like not only is the (in my opinion) minor inconvenience that she's experiencing Absolutely The End of The World, but she's also A Terrible, Terrible Person because she can't look at it positively. It is clear to all of us that this is her personality, not just a phase (though being five is NOT easy, so there's some phase-y-ness in there, too). She is never going to be a glass-half-full person. I don't want to change who she is, and I don't actually think there's anything wrong with inclining to the negative. I just don't want it to be all she is.

So I need your help, community. How can I help my daughter grow up to be at least a not-miserable person? How can I help her learn more positive approaches without communicating to her that her feelings (and her basic personality) are wrong and bad?

What advice do you have for Sara? If you also have family members struggling with depression and anxiety, how do you find your way to a happy holiday for you and the more cheery members of your family?

Healthy Meals on the Run

September 20, 2009


I've recently found myself entering the world of the "soccer mom".  Though my spouse is the one that has been taking the lead on coordinating schedules for practices and games, this will soon change.  With two working parents, two kids participating in soccer, two evening practices per week, and game day on Friday evenings and Saturday...you get the picture!  Juggling schedules for picking up the kids from school and daycare is one thing, but to try to fit in a nutritious supper on soccer days is mind boggling. For us, there really is not even slack in the schedule to allow going home to prepare a meal and feed the kids before practice. This leaves me wondering how others cope with afterschool activities and feeding the family.  I'd love to hear your meals-on-the go ideas.  Do you feed them post practice or do you try to squeeze it in before?

Swine Flu Vaccine: Will you?

August 27, 2009

With the school year around the corner, I am struck thinking about the passing of germs and viruses running rampant, as it does every year as flu season approaches.  This year, however, beyond the typical question of the flu shot "yay or nay?", I am starting to think of the H1N1/swine flu shot.  Have you discussed this with your health care practitioner?  Decided whether or not to get the swine flu vaccine?  An urbanMama sends the timely email:

I'm wondering what other families are going to do about the swine flu vaccine that's being offered this year. I've never had a flu shot, and am not too keen on the idea. But I have a new baby and a three and a half year old who is starting preschool next month. I hate the idea of all of us being sick with a highly contagious, nasty illness. I'd love to hear what other mamas are doing.

For more info on H1N1, check out the CDC's site on swine flu.  And, to find a flu clinic near you, check the American Lung Association site or Oregon's SafeNet site.

Siggs do contain BPA after all

August 22, 2009

2436157847_8c15ba7bd2 Two years ago, we had a lengthy on urbanMamas on SIGGs and there seems to be many fans out there.  After making the switch to SIGG water bottles a few years ago due to the all the press about BPA, guess what?  It seems the company has fessed up to the fact that the water-based epoxy liners used on bottles pre-2008 contains trace amounts of BPA. They do state that even with the trace amounts through extensive testings revealed no leaching of BPA.  Despite this, I feel completely mislead.  It's not entirely about the money I spent on replacing our Nalgenes, but more about being completely disappointed and frustrated as a consumer and mama trying to pick the best eco-healthy choices for our families. But now what?  Will you continue to use your pre-2008 SIGGs, replace them, or??

Michael Pollan on feeding children

July 08, 2009

I've long subscribed to a variant of the theories out of Take the Fight Out of Food, an excellent book I recommend to those who are suffering from food issues. While I don't always execute my theories quite as they're devised in the ideal parenting lab that is my brain (ahh, if only I could be the perfect mama I have designed there!), they've been working pretty well for me. Essentially, the concept is to present a variety of healthful food options, and occasional treats, constantly expose your children to new foods, but never make a big deal out of what they actually eat. Don't set up "good" and "bad" foods; use words more along the lines of "foods that make your taste buds happy" and describe the physical benefits of other foods; protein gives you strength and makes your brain work better, etc. (And along the lines of our sweets conversation, Donna Fish, the author, has a great post on how to handle dessert battles here.)

So I was thrilled to read this interview with Michael Pollan, one of my writerly food heroes, about his now-16-year-old son and his past food issues. He was a "white food eater" when he was young; he'd eat chicken, potatoes, bread, rice, and nothing else. Upon reflection, Pollan believed this was due to his need to reduce sensory input (he doesn't say it, but I wonder if the boy was diagnosed with a sensory integration disorder). In fact, it was his son's "tortured" relationship with food that got him interested in writing about it.

About two years ago, Pollan's son began to suddenly expand his food repertoire, and after working in a kitchen for a summer began cooking seriously, and is now a "food snob" who makes a port wine reduction to go with the grass-fed steak his dad cooks for dinner. (I can only dream.)

It's a relief to a mama like me.

Continue reading "Michael Pollan on feeding children" »

Sunday Parkways 2009: How was it for you?

June 23, 2009

This year's Father's Day coincided with the second annual Sunday Parkways, the first of three.  We started the day by hosting a little pre-ride gathering where families from the neighborhood & beyond came by to check out one another's bike gear, test it out, and let the older kids ride solo on a one block stretch of the parkways near our house.  For me, the most magnificent aspect of this year's Sunday Parkways is how completely comfortable I felt letting our girls, ages 5 and 8, bike alongside their friends, aged 6 to 9, well ahead of us.  We had few worries about oncoming motor vehiclesIMG_1977.  They didn't want to stop!  They kept pedaling and pedaling and pedaling along.   The crowds were not too thick, so they were able to maneuver quite easily.  The route was relatively flat and intersected with just a few major intersections, where the kids knew to stop and wait for direction from the officers directing traffic.  Really - they would have ridden the entire 7.5 mile loop again if we'd've let them!  It was a great exercise in freedom and independence on our neighborhood streets.  It felt wonderful to see the community taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Apparently, with all our riding around, we missed plenty of action, from music and free tune-ups to bike play parks and more.  Check out the complete coverage on bikeportland.org.

Zinemama in a comment on another thread mused:

I'd love to hear other folks reactions to the Parkways. It felt a lot shorter than last year and a lot less crowded. It was fun, but for me some of the excitement about last year's event was missing. Maybe we were there at the wrong time of day (earlier in the day)?

Did you walk, bike, or play at last weekend's Sunday Parkways?  How was your experience?  If you weren't able to make it, there are still two more Sunday Parkways planned: one on July 19th in Northeast Portland and one on August 16th in Southeast Portland.  And, please, consider volunteering for Sunday Parkways.  The event's success relies on the contribution of many, many volunteers.

Cupcakes & ice cream & pie...oh my!

June 16, 2009

Cupcakes I had one of those moments of parenting clarity the other night when my six year old asked, "Mama, what's for dessert tonight?".  An innocent question, but very telling of his mother's love of sweets and how often we eat them in our house.  While I make sure that my kids eat balanced meals and get plenty of healthy foods, I'm also pretty liberal with the daily baked goods and the ice cream treats (good thing that chocolate and candy don't do it for me or we'd really be in trouble). 

It's kind of incongruous given that I examine the hidden sugar content of all of our grocery purchases pretty carefully, but maybe I'm just subconsciously trying to make room for all the other sugar I'm giving them!  I love making (and eating!) muffins and cookies together, picking my son up from school and going to Saint Cupcake, or telling the kids we're going to Staccato Gelato after dinner. I rationalize all of this  a bit by making them share or giving them minuscule serving sizes.  So mamas, what is the sugar philosophy in your household? Just for special occasions or part of the daily diet? 

Kaiser offers free insurance for kids

May 11, 2009

We've seen this in a number of places, but thanks to ProtestMama for sending it along to us as well:

Kaiser is offering free health insurance to grade K-6 children attending Multnomah County public schools.
Kaiser Permanente, in partnership with schools and the Multnomah Education Service District, is offering free health insurance to grade K-6 children attending Multnomah County public schools.
The insurance is free — there is no premium — but families must pay a small co-pay for office visits and prescriptions. Once enrolled, children are covered through age 19 if they remain in school.
To qualify, children must meet three main requirements:

  • Attend school – Children must attend a public school in Multnomah County. Charter schools and publicly funded alternative programs also qualify.
  • Grades K-6 – To enroll, children must be in grades K-6. Siblings can also be covered if they are age 3 or older (through 12th grade).
  • Income – Families must earn 250 percent or less of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, this is about $4,600 per month, or $53,000 per year.

Kaiser offers the insurance as part of its community benefit program, which, among other goals, seeks to expand access to medical care for the uninsured. About 4,000 children already are covered through this no-premium plan; Kaiser and MESD want to double enrollment by the end of the year.
In addition to the Kaiser insurance, the Oregon Health Plan offers low-cost health insurance to children from families that earn up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

According to the latest census data, 107,000 Oregon children — about one in nine — lacked health insurance in 2005-07, the latest period for which data are available.
For questions about the Kaiser program or the Oregon Health Plan, or to enroll, contact MESD: 503-257-1732, speterso@mesd.k12.or.us.

The one in which we start cooking from the box (and garden)

March 21, 2009

It's time.

Today is the first day of the Portland Farmer's Market for the 2009 season, and chatting with other urbanMamas I discover that lots of you are expecting your first box of food from a CSA sometime in the next several weeks. And there are questions, mostly, what do I do with this? This weird knobby vegetable (if it's huge, it's celeriac; if it's tiny, it's a Jerusalem artichoke; both should be peeled and can be diced and used in soups or gratins); these four heads of cabbage (one for braising, one to chop and put in soups, two for kim chi, of course!); this enormous quantity of kale (rinse well, chop roughly, and put in a large cast iron or stainless steel pot, with several cloves of whacked garlic, a glug of oil or butter or bacon fat, and some salt, cook, stirring often, over medium heat until almost crispy, put in everything or serve alone).


But let me start over. I am here to help you with your quest to cook more vegetables (and the occasional fruit) and figure out what to do with what seems like way too much of something. Also, it would be good if your children ate some, too. Each week (or thereabouts) when I come home from the market I'll write a post about something that's in season and link to some recipes I love, and present a few for you. If you've just received a CSA box or a gardening neighbor's gift, or harvested a bumper crop, of some particular vegetable, leave a comment and I'll try to come up with some great (and easy) ideas. And hopefully I'll have a few sentences of gardening too.

This week, I'm getting a second round of peas planted outside, and a few kinds of onion seed; a bed of lettuce; and hopefully some carrots and potatoes, too. I'll start tomatoes, jalapenos, celery and artichokes inside -- this year I've promised myself I'll use a flourescent light to help them germinate, we'll see if it works out! What are you planting, harvesting, buying, and eating this week? I need to make some of the aforementioned kim chi, so I'll be picking up an extra cabbage or two at the farmer's market, a jar of jalapenos, some carrots, and some collard raab. I love that stuff.

Local lunch on Think Out Loud - TODAY!

March 20, 2009

198913552_1a10c91521 If you can't make the national Farm to Cafeteria conference this weekend in Portland (drats) but are interested in the topic, you can learn what's going on and weigh in on OPB's Think Out Loud today, Friday 3/20 from 9 to 10 AM.  The title of the show is Local Lunch, and here's how they describe the issue:

Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup may not seem like the advance guard of a revolution, but that's exactly what Representative Brian Clem (D-Salem) is hoping for. Along with Rep. Tina Kotek, he's sponsoring House Bill 2800, which would provide up to $19 million in state money for schools that spend some of their federal dollars on Oregon food. What's Oregon food? Anything that was "produced, packaged, packed or processed" in the state. This is where the grilled cheese sandwiches come in.

Portland Public Schools is one of two districts taking part in a Kaiser Permanente-funded pilot program to see what happens when schools are given seven extra cents per meal to spend on local lunches. PPS chose to concentrate those pennies into monthly "local lunches" (grilled Tillamook Cheese sandwiches and Pacific Natural Foods' tomato soup were on offer this week). Gervais Schools decided to spread their grant money around more broadly. According to a recent report, the grant money triggered more in-state spending from the schools' existing coffers: grants of about $66,000 dollars turned into more than $225,000 spent on local products. What's more, argues Clem and other Farm to School supporters, that money in turn will itself have a multiplying effect as it makes its way around the state. The result, they say, will be healthier students, healthier farms, and a healthier economy.

If you can't listen this morning @ 9, you can always catch the rebroadcast tonight.  And of course you can join the conversation online, too - they regularly raise questions on the show that were posted online.

PS - They had another relevant show earlier this week on what books, plays, and other media are appropriate for school, and which are being censored right here in Oregon.  Check it out.

Smoking in the car with kids: Should it be illegal?

January 31, 2009

2279778407_0a9e48748c It's not every morning that I've read the paper by 7:30 AM, but this morning the stars aligned in our house and I made it through all 6 pages of The O (OK, slight exaggeration on the 6 pages).  Maybe you saw it too?  The short piece about the debate in Salem over a bill proposed to make smoking in cars with kids illegal. 

No doubt we all have an immediate, sort of gut reaction to this.  But after reading the full article (instead of just the headline, my usual M.O. these days), it proves to be an interesting debate with a bundle of pros and cons.  Like:

  • Declaring something illegal sends a strong message.
  • Will everyone call 911 when they see someone smoking in the car with kids?  Clogging the lines for emergencies?
  • Is it just a tad too far for government?  How is it different than car seats? 
  • 4 other states have this law (!): Arkansas, CA, ME, and LA.  WA is pondering it.
  • Is education effective enough to be a real alternative?
  • What would the penalty be?
  • Would kids report their parents? (I added that one)
  • The adverse health effects are significant and not at all in question.
  • More than once I've been annoyed that I can't decide when it's appropriate to leave my kids in the car, that I am penalized because some parents make bad decisions with occasioanlly tragic outcomes.  But in this case, if you're a non-smoker it simply doesn't affect you.  Easier to support a law that affects someone else, right?

The bill (H2385) had its 1st hearing in the legislature last Friday.  House Transportation Committee members want more info before scheduling a vote on the floor of the House.  Read the bill here and contact your legislator if you've got a strong opinion.  I'm torn.  Leaning toward yes, but sorting out the issues.  I'm about as liberal as they come, but I weigh heavily government intervention into personal decisions.  You??

[Thanks to flickr for the pic, the title of which is 'child abuse.'  Guess someone has a strong opinion!]

Turning Over a New Year's Leaf: Snacks

January 06, 2009

149063984_1c413bdbbe New year, new resolutions? An urbanMama needs your suggestions on healthy but yummy snack ideas.  She writes:

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, exactly, but I do want to make 2009 a year of healthier eating in our family. Does anyone have either websites or resources to recommend re: healthy kid/family eating, or specific suggestions of healthy snack favorites? Our kids are in the 6-8 year old range.

[Photo courtesy cafemama.com]

Stomach flu: What to do

January 04, 2009

All the families whose tweets I've been reading this past week have seemed to come down with the stomach flu that struck my entire extended family this week (Monroe rung in the new year by throwing up all over me at 1:30 a.m. January 1, and then it just spread). It's extremely contagious, if my family is any indication, but seems to affect the smallest people first.

I've consulted the family pediatrician and the internets, and here's what I've learned:

  • the stomach flu (which could be any of a number of different viruses) has an incubation period from four to 48 hours
  • the disease can be picked up by hand-to-mouth contact with vomit or poop, through kissing a sick baby or sharing a cup or sucking on the same toy
  • washing hands thoroughly, for at least 15 seconds of vigorous rubbing-together, is the best way to prevent transmission (though if you're caring for a child with the disease, it's hard to avoid it)
  • once you've got the disease, avoid eating or drinking anything while you're vomiting.
  • babies and toddlers can be tried on about an ounce of breastmilk or Pedialyte after they've gone for an hour without throwing up. For older children and adults, a few ounces of water, Gatorade or Pedialyte.
  • check for signs of dehydration: fewer than three wet diapers / trips to the bathroom in 24 hours; dry mucous glands in the mouth, compared to well family members; no tears when crying. If you think your child is dehydrated, take him to the hospital. Pregnant women and babies are most vulnerable to dehydration.
  • after four hours without throwing up, it's safe to try bland foods. I've heard differing opinions on what is best and would love to hear your advice; toast, bananas, applesauce and rice are popular options, and chicken broth and chicken noodle soup are also recommended.
  • one pediatric nurse recommended foods high in fat to recover from the diarrhea that usually follows the vomiting, such as toast with butter, whole milk, ice cream, fatty meat, and whole milk yogurt, and to avoid foods high in fiber, such as dried fruit. There seem to be two very different schools of thought here though.
  • the illness can last between 24 and 60 hours, but you could be contagious for quite a while afterward. In my family's experience, the vomiting lasts 12 to 24 hours (and a bit longer for the younger babies) and the general achiness, fatigue, and light-headedness goes on for as much as three days.

Is your family sick too? Any helpful hints or advice?

urbanMamas snowed-in health hotline

December 23, 2008

Monroe_poxy My sister Hannah just called with a concern; her baby, Angelica, has had a diaper rash for several days, and a fever for the past few. Today she developed a rash on her stomach and Angelica, 15 months old, has been very fussy. She needed advice; she's been calling the pediatrician's office but the line has been busy.

I advised her to see if she's been overbundling Angelica (her power was off yesterday) and switch to breastfeeding only; maybe Angelica's having an allergic reaction and at least that will reduce her exposure to new foods. It couldn't be chicken pox, we decided, as it didn't look like the pox; Angelica's had her regular vaccinations; her only exposure (to my children) couldn't have caused it as they've all either had the pox or been vaccinated long ago. Twitter friends offered the possibilities of thrush, roseola, or hand and mouth disease.

Then it occurred to me that, if Hannah's struggling with a not-necessarily-emergency problem, many other are too, and as doctors' offices aren't answering their phones with great regularity, we'll have to work together to figure it out. So here's an open thread to ask each other for advice (and give yours to Hannah if something occurs to you). I'll start it off: Monroe broke his front tooth in half this weekend (well, in 1/3 and 2/3 vertical chunks) after launching himself face-first into a stack of cookie sheets.One of the chunks is wobbling back and forth and our local dentist office is closed; he hasn't been crying (though he's worked himself a mark near my nipple -- ouch!) and I figure we may as well wait out the storm before getting it looked at. Any problems I should look out for?

Toxic Toys on Today's 'Think Out Loud' on OPB

December 17, 2008

3108321913_679d30bf20 We've talked about Nena Baker's book The Body Toxic before, but it's worth mentioning again since she's going to be on OPB's Think Out Loud talk show this morning @ 9 AM (and reboradcast at 9 PM, if you miss it and aren't the streaming type).  OPB describes the show:

Parents have a lot to consider as they brave winter weather to purchase holiday gifts for their kids. In addition to tough economic times squeezing their budgets, many parents still worry about traces of toxic materials in toys. 

The massive recall of lead-tainted toys in 2007 also lead to new laws. Earlier this year, Washington passed a law instituting the most rigorous toy safety standards in the nation. A new federal law called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act goes into effect in February. The federal regulation provides stricter bans on lead and phthalates (a chemical found in plastic) in toys and also requires manufacturers to test their products in order to prove they are free of these toxins.

There is some opposition to the new law. Small, independent toy makers and the stores that carry their products say the testing requirements will drive them out of business because they won't be able to afford to test their products. They are calling on lawmakers to modify the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act before it takes effect. Two nonprofit groups also take issue with the law and have filed suit against the Consumer Product Safety Commission, saying the new law will not prevent retailers from selling banned toys that they already have in stock.

Are you shopping for toys this holiday season? Do you make or sell toys? How do you ensure the toys you create or purchase are safe?

Tune in & listen - Nena's super knowledgeable and Emily Harris has a habit of getting at the heart of an issue.  How ARE you dealing with this issue - obsessing over every purchase, tossing your hands in the air because it's too big to worry about, or truly unconcerned?  Do tell. 

Think out loud: Childhood Obesity

November 19, 2008

This morning, the OPB call-in radio program, Think Out Loud, will discuss the issue of childhood obesity (at 9am and 9pm).  According to the Oregon State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program, one in four of our children are overweight.  The proportion of overweight children in our state is increaing.  The percentage of children who don't eat enough fruit & veggies is high (60%).

Despite the fact that we like to model good behavior with all our biking, homemade food, and additive-free cereal or bread choices, obesity remains a reality in our community.  The Think Out Load episode explores:

Have you struggled with childhood obesity? Are you the parent of an overweight or at-risk kid? Are you a teacher or school counselor? What barriers do you see for kids who are fighting the battle of the bulge? Who is ultimately responsible for preventing childhood obesity?

Feel free to listen, call in, or discuss here or there.

OEC tackles our body toxic: Let's help!

November 13, 2008

Bodytoxic_3 Last night I had the pleasure of attending an Oregon Environmental Council event to hear local author Nena Baker talk about the toxic chemicals in everyday things.  If you haven't already picked up her book, The Body Toxic, at Powell's, I highly recommend it.  It's a wealth of info about environmental health in understandable language.  I reviewed the book on Enviroblog awhile back. 

Once you've read the book there's no doubt in my mind that you'll want to support OEC's two environmental health bills in our 2009 state legislature: the Oregon Healthy Schools Act and the Children's Safe Product Act.  There is great info about both of these bills on OEC's web site, and a super easy way to stay plugged in.  All you have to do is sign up for their Healthy Kids Campaign.  They'll keep you informed about these two important, groundbreaking bills and their progress in getting them passed.  And if you're game to lend a grassroots-hand, let 'em know.  Our parent voices are critical to passing these bills.  Here's how they describe the campaign:

By signing up today, you can help us win new protections for our kids. Here’s what we’re going to do: you’ll receive updates, resources, and tips on how you can create a healthier environment in your home. We’ll also give you the tools to connect with your friends, neighbors and family so that we can make sure our state legislators know that these issues are important, common-sense action that we can all agree will help protect this place we call home. So, sign up below – let’s get started!

As someone who has been more than a little wound up about these issues lately (who me??), I'm thrilled to see OEC taking this on.  The time is now, mamas, and together we can capitalize on a unique window of opportunity.

Chlorine in indoor swimming pools: Do you care?

October 03, 2008

212647451_4b6936861a_m_2 We've chatted before about where to teach the kids to swim.  It's hard enough to find a pool that is convenient and in your budget that offers the kind of classes you like on the right day at the right time, you know?   

But add to that the fact that chlorinated indoor pools can have adverse health effects, and it seems near impossible!  I've heard there are some indoor saline pools in town with children's lessons, but am not sure of their safety, either.  How did you go about making this decision?  Does the possibility that indoor chlorinated pools might cause asthma give you pause, or not?  I'll confess that it gives me pause - after 5 years hauling the kids to chlorinated indoor pools!!  Here's an excerpt from the Enviroblog post I read:

"A 'state of the science' report presented by researchers from premier academic institutions and government regulatory agencies from the U.S., Canada, and Europe summarized findings of 18 different studies that all noted an association between attendance at chlorinated indoor pools and increasing frequencies of allergic disease and asthma.

Similar health concerns are noted for Olympic swimmers, pool workers, and lifeguards who spend a lot of time by the poolside. Moreover, the increased use of swimming pools by the very young has increased their exposure to potential respiratory irritants within the indoor swimming pool environment."

If you are concerned, there are some tips in this post to assess pool health and minimize exposure.  What does Portland Parks & Rec use? 

Sunday Parkways, a HIT!

June 24, 2008

*photo courtesy Jonathan Maus, www.bikeportland.org

For months we'd been waiting with bated breath for the day had 6 miles of neighborhood streets, car-free.  When the day finally came, we could hardly believe it was true.  We joined thousands of other bikers and walkers to take back our streets.  The streets were packed!  The feeling was overwhelming, and everyone on the street shared some healthy fun.  I felt wonderful with the feeling that my 7-year old could ride her bike freely in the streets, not having to worry about a car zooming past. 

Were you there?  Share thoughts?  Did you and your family have a great time?

How Do You Entertain a Sick Toddler?

May 24, 2008

Lovely spring rain we're having these days, huh?  While we seem to be mostly over the hump of flu season, the cold weather doesn't give the little ones or their mamas a break.  Ximena recently wrote us to commiserate with those that have been dealing with toddler ailments.  She emails:

My 21 month old baby has been sick with a super nasty flu these past days. This mama is tired, very tired and baby is in no condition to be outside playing so, we have done the unthinkable - watch movies on the TV.  I never planned for this, but here I am with few nights of no sleep, a sick sweet toddler who didn't have TV viewing time at all...ZAZ...I got a video! and all he has wanted to do is nurse nonstop and lay in bed watching the same movie over and over. I must be over the scare of his sickness since I am preoccupied with the TV viewing habits we are having these days (3days).

Please tell me what else do you mamas do when your toddler is sick, you are tired to death and going outside to play is not an option? We have a very tiny patio and yes we've been playing there when we can.  We read books but I am a zombie-mama. I am  also worried that I have encouraged something I didn't want (TV/video time) and now I won't be able to "wean" him out of it. Yes, I am greatful we are over the worst part of the flu (thank heaven - I have been sick myselfl thinking it was something else) and now want some few ideas of some easy to do activities for a zombie mama with a toddler while we are getting better and can't be outside.

Taking the Battle out of Teeth Brushing

April 24, 2008

My two little girls toggle between being extremely independent  and wanting to be babied.  This is especially the case during teeth brushing time. Most days they  "must" do it themselves usually by sucking off the toothpaste (we use Tom's of Maine, for this reason) and chewing on the brush a bit.  Brushing is especially difficult for my 2 1/2 year old who truly believes that she does a fine job with her 5 quick strokes. We have talked about tooth bugs. We have talked about the practicality of taking care of our teeth. Sometimes this works but usually we let it go or they have some change of heart. I don't believe in coercing them into doing anything so creative ideas are always welcome for those few "must do" activities.

A mama writes:

How do you get your very young ones to brush their teeth? How old was your child when s/he starting brushing?

My 17 month old pinches her little lips closed at the mere suggestion. She seems interested when I brush my teeth, but will not even try to brush her own. I’ve tried every trick I can think of to make it fun, and even feigned disinterest (perhaps too late). Can you help? Does she need to be brushing now?

I have heard that when the first tooth pokes out, you can start some form of "brushing."  We regularly began once the girls ate foods. As far as "advice" for getting the deed done, I have heard that the taste of toothpaste can be extremely difficult for small ones. Perhaps a mild all natural brand like (Weleda or Tom's) or no toothpaste. I do feel making it a part of the daily routine is important even if they don't brush every time.  What has worked in your home?

Eco-Party: Some Change Will Do You Good

April 22, 2008

Dsc_0171 It's Earth Month, and like any good Portlander I'm doing my share to learn and try to put into practice the earth-friendly mantra of reducing, reusing and recycling.  I got an Energy Trust home review and attended an Eco-Party in an effort to become more environmentally aware.  I patted myself on the back smugly and thought, what a good steward of the earth I am.  And then I got the Home Eco-Party Checklist with about 50 questions covering habits ranging from waste reduction and recycling, toxics reduction, and energy/water conservation.  As I filled out the checklist that smugness that I felt earlier lifted quickly and I wondered if I would leave the party forced with wearing a scarlet letter.  That letter would be a reminder that every time I used a disposable diaper I was knowingly destroying the earth with every stinky diaper I tossed in the trash; and that everyone would know that my family doesn't buy all organic produce.  Who knew that those individual little boxes of raisins that my littlest one (see picture) loves so much would be now a guilt-inducing purchase?  The story continues over at Activistas.

Take the Walk + Bike Challenge to Your School!

April 21, 2008

2289995925_40f4d85cf6_mWe know that all of the talks of bike and the Portland bike culture can be a bit alienating for some, but here's an opportunity to take the baby steps needed to bike and walk.  Need a little inspiration?  Sponsored by the BTA:

Oregon Walk + Bike to School has an exciting event happening in May. For the first time ever, we are extending the spirit of Walk + Bike Day into an entire month! In the style of the BTA's successful Bike Commute Challenge, all over the Portland area elementary students will be challenged to walk or bike to school as much as they can over the month of May. Once a week, a school champion will gather student scorecards and find out who's walking and biking! 

This event can be as robust or as simple as suits your school. Oregon Walk + Bike provides: posters, small incentive items, student scorecards, and tips on making your event successful.  Every student that walks or bikes at each registered school is eligible for raffle prizes. The winning school will receive a free class of the BTA's Award-Winning Bicycle Safety Education curriculum in the fall of 2008 (up to 32 students).

Continue reading "Take the Walk + Bike Challenge to Your School!" »