Parenting

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by Wendy Gabriel

It’s kind of impossible for me to believe that my first born is already seven years old. Yet last Saturday, we celebrated that very birthday. We were blessed to have her party at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s organic farm in Wisconsin. The day could not have been lovelier.

Daughter are angles sent from above to fill our heart with unending love.  ~J. Lee

Happy Birthday my little miracle!

Some of my favorite photos and photo blogs:
Twilight Earth’s Photo Sunday
Mother Nature Sunday Gallery: Beaming Flowers from Love Earth Always
Photo Terri
True to Words’ Friday Photography
Twin Cities Photo Blog

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by Wendy Gabriel

My youngest daughter recently turned three years old. This is the first birthday we are celebrating in our new home so it’s was our first party without Grandma, Grandpa, cousins, aunties and uncles. I wanted it to be amazing. As we were planning the party, and making it as green as possible, I found drinks to be the most challenging. Since I wasn’t having the party at my home, I didn’t have filtered tap water. Wine and beer wasn’t an option (for adults) due to the venue. I wasn’t going to tote all of my glass pitchers to the play place. I wasn’t going to buy bottled water and I refuse to buy soda. I care too much about the health of my family and friends to ply them with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Read more about HFCS at High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Yes, It IS That Bad! and Sugar May Be Bad But This Sweetener Is Far More Deadly by Dr. Joseph Mercola.

Off to the store. I found some yummy organic juice in pouches for the kids. Now for the adults. I grabbed a few bottled organic grape juices and organic cranberry-blueberry juices. Then called my husband to whine about to discuss the choices I had to work with…

His advice was to try to get outside myself and think about what our guests would like to drink. Good advice but, again, I’m not going to buy soda for anyone. I’m sure many of you are reading this and rolling your eyes. Here’s a little peek into my thought process: how was the product produced, how is it packaged, what kind of waste will be left, how healthy is it, will anyone drink it and so on. Finally I saw a huge bottle of Lipton Green Tea with citrus. It wasn’t organic and I wasn’t thrilled it was packaged in plastic not glass but it had an official looking seal saying it contained natural antioxidants. Hmmm. I was in a hurry and completely frustrated so I made a rookie mistake. I didn’t read the ingredients on the label. I was dazzled by the perceived health and drinkability of it.

When I got home and remembered to read the label, here’s what I purchased (ingredients from label):

Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Sodium Hesametaphosphate, Green Tea, Ascorbic Acid, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Potassium Cinnamate, Honey, Calcium Disodium, EDTA, Caramel Color, Yellow 5, Blue 1.

Sugar content is 21 grams per serving!

And to really irritate me, here’s the big print on the label:

Lipton Iced Tea with naturally protective flavonoid antioxidants is a better choice when you want great tasting refreshment. And our recyclable 1 gallon bottle has a flex handle design to deliver a smooth pouring experience.

“Here my special guests… I couldn’t bring myself to pick up a few bottles of soda, so I got you something just as bad for you… Thanks for coming”.

Lesson learned.

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by Wendy Gabriel

Like millions of parents, I had my wake-up call when I was pregnant with my first child. The goddessesThe wake-up intensified when my second daughter had a less then favorable reaction to her Well Baby shots when she was one years old. At that point I began looking at everything that went into, on or around my daughters little bodies. I was horrified at some of the toxins that are prevalent in a baby’s world.

One of the places I’ve found to have incredible and timely information for parents is Healthy Child Healthy World. They are an organization you can depend on to have the health of our children forever present in their minds and hearts:

We’re trying to wake-up as many people as we can to the issue of chemicals in everyday products and get them engaged in our community to vote with their dollars in the marketplace and vote with their voices when push comes to shove with the flurry of bills being introduced to Congress this year.

What’s more important than the health of our children? Wake up!

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by Wendy Gabriel

Dr. Alan Greene and his wife, Cheryl Greene, are two of my favorite people I haven’t yet DrGreene.commet in person (although my parents met Dr. Greene at an organic farming conference and said he’s just as wonderful in person). 

Dr. Greene gratiously agreed to be a part of my Four Questions series. Here’s the three-part interview I did with him:

  • Four Questions with Dr. Alan Greene: Part I
  • Four Questions with Dr. Alan Greene: Part II
  • Four Questions with Dr. Alan Greene: Part III
  •  
    Now for the really exciting part, they’ve asked me to write for the Perspective blog series they have at DrGreene.com!

    Part 1 of a five part series was published today. Here’s the link: Simple Green Tip #1: Green Eating. If you get a chance, would love to have you click over and give it a read (and leave a comment if you feel like it).

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    by Wendy Gabriel

    Alicia Voorhies is an RN who left the work force to spend some time Alicia Voorhiesrecharging. She worked as Director of Nursing for a non-profit organization caring for people with developmental disabilities in a home-based setting. Alicia found herself feeling a bit burned out, decided to take a nice long sabbatical and ended up never going back.

    Alicia founded The Soft Landing in April of 2007. The website is dedicated to educate busy parents about the most prevalent environmental toxins harming our children today.

    How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?

    I’ll admit that I’m not the greenest girl in town, but I’m learning to make one change at a time little by little. I’m very aware of environmental toxins and their affect on my family’s health, so I work hard to decrease our exposure to lead, endocrine disrupotors and other major offenders in our daily life. I also focus on reusing everything we possibly can to lower the amount of waste we create.
     

    As a huge fan of The Soft Landing, I love the story of how your site was conceived. Can you share your journey from RN to founder of The Soft Landing?

    Fast forward to December 2006, when I was first introduced to Bisphenol-a (BPA)… It all started when my sister moved with her family from our Midwest town to the East Coast. She called me one morning after taking her son to their new doctor, where she was promptly told to immediately throw out the clear, hard plastic baby bottle she was using in his office. She was seriously concerned that she was dealing with a doctor who was off his rocker, so she turned to me, the medical research geek for help. I set out that day to prove him wrong. Instead, hundreds of medical studies would only prove him right. The more research I poured over, the more I began to see a pattern of chemicals leaching from plastic to disrupt the delicate endocrine system – especially in children. I knew we needed safer options right away and began searching for a non-polycarbonate baby bottle. I quickly realized how limited the information was and how few options were available. At that time, there were only two brands being marketed as BPA-free. Beyond that, I was left swimming in an endless sea of unlabeled plastic! My mission became clear and we opened the doors to The Soft Landing in April of 2007.
     

    It’s so wonderful that you’ve gathered your research about toxic plastic into a Guide for feeding your baby safely. It should be read by anyone who has, or will have, a baby in their life. What is some of the information we can find in your Guide?

    You’ll learn about the most common chemicals that have been linked to endocrine-disrupting health damage, clues to identifying them in household products and tips to help you avoid them with ease.

    What would you say to a parent who asks your advice about buying safe toys for the upcoming holidays?

    It’s shocking to comprehend the vast amount of untested, unsafe chemicals that are used in our children’s toys. I would recommend steering clear of BPA in any teether or toy made to be mouthed. I would also suggest avoiding all PVC toys, as it’s a well-known hiding place for phthalates, lead and other volatile organic compounds (VOC’s).

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    by Wendy Gabriel

    Little Greek goddess had a few days off school last week so the Gabriel girls packed up and took a road trip to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s farm. We were surprised to wake up to snow on Thursday morning. October 15th and snow in Wisconsin is a recipe for tons of fun.

    The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? ~J.B. Priestley

    Chickens love snow too
    First snow and snowman of the season

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    by Wendy Gabriel

    Baby Greek goddess has not yet met an accessory she doesn’t like and, somehow when you’re two, the look works.

    It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure. ~Coco Chanel

    Accessory definition from Dictionary.com: an article or set of articles of dress, as gloves, earrings, or a scarf, that adds completeness, convenience, attractiveness, etc., to one’s basic outfit.

    Baby Greek goddess and her accessories                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
    Some of my favorite photos and photo blogs:
    Twilight Earth’s Photo Sunday
    Mother Nature Sunday Gallery: Beaming Flowers from Love Earth Always
    Photo Terri
    True to Words’ Friday Photography
    Twin Cities Photo Blog

    by Wendy Gabriel

    Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Ideal BiteChristopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a different favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.

    GREEN TIP: Have a fun, safe, healthy and green Halloween.

    I don’t need to tell anyone how unhealthy and expensive Halloween can be. Let’s endevour to make it fun, safe, HEALTHY (or, at least, healthier) and GREEN this year.

    The Costumes:

    Don’t spend money on poorly made plastic, unnatural fiber costumes that are thrown away before the last candy corn is devoured. Instead create your own with items you already own. Or, take a trip to your local resale shop and let your imagination run wild. Once Upon A Child, for example, has gently-used costumes for sale.

    More resources:
    Last Halloween I blogged about making your own costumes, Make Your Halloween Green.
    Jenn Savedge with Mother Nature Network has some great ideas for easy eco-costumes, Green Halloween costumes.
    Greenfeet has some great ideas for a Green Halloween including some great homemade costume ideas.

    The Treats:

    Instead of unhealthy candy treats, hand out organic candies, pencils, stickers, crayons, fake tatoos or small toys.

    More resources:
    Beth Swanson at Kiwi Magazine unmasks The Scary Side of Halloween.
    Halloween’s Hidden Impacts by Julie Starkel, MS, MBA, RD

    The Trick or Treating Bags:

    Your Trick or Treat bag could be anything. Use your imagination. You could use a bucket, purse, basket or cloth bag that you decorate to enhance your costume. For example, this year my littlest is going to be an adorable piggy (note: costume was a gift from Grandma for our oldest daughter many years ago). The treat “bag” she’ll be using is a little decorative silver bucket that we use for storage, it looks like a farmer’s feed bucket. Perfect.

    The Decorations:

    Use natural decorations like pumpkins, squash, gourds and hay bales. And when, for example, your pumpkin has done it’s duty as a jack-o-lantern, toss it in the compost bin. Or buy decorations that can be used year after year. You’ll save money and the environment.

    My Green Side’s weekly website pick:

    Green Halloween
    Green Halloween is a program of Treeswing, a Seattle non-profit working to reverse the trend of childhood obesity. Through innovative programs and partnerships, Treeswing improves the health of children and is working toward building generations of healthy, active communities. Learn more at www.Treeswing.org.

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    by Wendy Gabriel

    Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious. ~Unknown

    Harvest time
    Baby Greek goddess
    A sign of fall
    Some of my favorite photos and photo blogs:
    Twilight Earth’s Photo Sunday
    Mother Nature Sunday Gallery: Beaming Flowers from Love Earth Always
    Photo Terri
    True to Words’ Friday Photography
    Twin Cities Photo Blog

    by Wendy Gabriel

    Katherine Center is an author, wife and mother. Her second novel, Katherine CenterEveryone Is Beautiful, was featured in Redbook and got glowing reviews from People magazine and USA Today. Kirkus Reviews likens it to the 1950s motherhood classic Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, and says, “Center ’s breezy style invites the reader to commiserate, laughing all the way.” Booklist calls it “a superbly written novel filled with unique and resonant characters.”

    Katherine’s first novel, The Bright Side of Disaster, was featured in People, USA Today, Vanity Fair, the Houston Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News. BookPage named Katherine one of seven new writers to watch, and the paperback of Bright Side was a Breakout Title at Target. It was also optioned last fall by Varsity Pictures.

    Katherine’s essays about motherhood have appeared in Real Simple Family and in the anthology Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers on the Mother-Daughter Bond. She has just turned in her third novel, Get Lucky, and is starting on a fourth. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two young children.

    How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?

    We are big composters. We compost everything–bread, tea bags, coffee grounds. I even dump out my old coffee in the garden. We keep a mixing bowl on the counter and just fill it up as the day goes along, then dump it in the mulch pile before dinner and wash it with the dinner dishes. This summer, I went out of town and saved a bag of compost to drive back with me in the car because I just couldn’t throw those banana peels and egg shells away! I love knowing that I’m keeping our scraps out of the landfill, and I love the idea that it all just magically turns back into soil.

    We also have a garden with lots of native Texas plants and herbs in it. It’s fun to think about plants not just as decorations but as functioning parts of our yard’s ecosystem that attract wildlife to the garden. We have hummingbirds, tons of bees, and many monarch butterflies. The kids love it! Though we’re very laissez-faire with the garden and never put chemicals on it or even water it much!

    We also do lots of little things, like take re-usable bags to the grocery store and try to use re-usable stainless bottles for water instead of plastic. I have many things I’m not yet doing that I’d love to do, too. I’d love to paint our roof white–it’s so hot down here in Texas!–and I’d love to have a rainwater collection system to save rain runoff for later. I also love to fantasize about keeping chickens in the backyard.

    You mentioned that you recently watched Food Inc. How, if at all, has this changed how you look at food?

    A lot. It confirmed a lot of things that I suspected about what’s going on with the food system in our country, but it also shocked the heck out of me with very vivid things that I hadn’t even imagined. I was especially horrified by the industrial system’s treatment of animals. The idea that we are voting with our dollars for local food or not, organic or not, has really stayed with me. I’m very mindful at the grocery store about supporting organic and humanely-raised food.

    We’re also not eating at restaurants as much anymore. Houston is a huge city with every type of cheap, delicious food you can imagine. But ever since seeing Food, Inc. (and also reading the companion book), we’ve really tried to eat at home as much as possible, cook from scratch, slow down, take our time with food and meals. My kids are very interested in gardening, and we’re looking into joining a Community Supported Agriculture group, too, at some point.

    I have read all of your books and have loved every minute of them. As an author what is your view of devices like the Kindle?

    Thank you! I’m undecided about all the changes going on now with books. I have an affection for tangible objects, like books and pages, but people sure do seem to love their Kindles! We’re definitely in the middle of a revolution that will determine how people find, read, and experience stories. In theory, anything that makes it easier for people to access books and stories is probably good, but I have no idea what things will look like–for authors, for the publishing industry, or for readers–on the other side…

    What have you found is your biggest challenge to living a sustainable lifestyle?

    Living in Texas! Three things in my home state put me at odds with mother earth on a regular basis. One, it’s hot as blazes here a good 6 months out of the year. Two, Houston is a sprawled-out, driving town. It’s almost impossible to get anywhere or do anything without a car. And three, the mosquitoes are so bad down here they make you want to slather yourself in poison. That said, we are trying! And the older the kids get, the easier it seems to get!

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