Roses and Thorns

February 22nd, 2010

Say what you will about President Obama. He’s too liberal. He’s not liberal enough.  He needs to move to the center. He’s doing just fine. Whatever. But here’s what we can all agree on:  his family is cute.

So when I saw a Parade cover story  about the adorable Obamas, of course I read it. It was one of those “soft” pieces for which the White House press office was so roundly criticized, right around the time of the Inauguration.

What struck me about the article was a simple story about their family dinners. Each person at the table takes turns sharing the best thing that happened to them that day (the rose) and the worst thing (the thorn).  The joke was that Obama’s daughter Malia thought her dad had a “thorny job” as president.

Source: Freefoto.com

Source: Freefoto.com

We adopted the Roses and Thorns tradition a year ago, and it’s been a blessing for our family. It is such a low pressure way to find out what’s going on in my second grader’s life.  Our 3-year-old doesn’t understand the concept of thorns yet, but he does eagerly share his roses.

Apparently The First Lady has been telling the Rose and Thorns story again as part of her new anti-obesity campaign. As this great post explains, Roses and Thorns not only helps families connect, it encourages the proper expression of emotion – so that we talk about our feelings rather than eat them away…

Rose and Thorns…have you tried it yet?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

10 Tips for Avoiding Recalled Toys

December 3rd, 2008

Do you see what’s on that paper lying next to those cute toy trains? A recall notice for those very same trains.

Those My Little Train Toy Classics were so darn cute that I picked one up to admire it. And it was cheap too – less than $2.

But those cheap toys always give me pause. So many of them have been linked to recalls and lead paint. So I decided against purchasing one, even though I’m not prepared to spend loads of money on an all natural, organic alternative.

As I was leaving the store, I noticed a recall notice on the bulletin board near the exit. I picked up the recall notice and ran back to see if these were the same trains. After taking them all down from the display, I brought them over to the customer service desk, showed them the recall notice, and explained that they were selling recalled toys. I expected an apology, or at least an expression of concern from the store personnel…but their response didn’t satisfy me. My immediate reaction was to send out this irate Tweet to my Twitter network.

The next day I called the store manager, and asked him if he was aware of what had happened with the recalled toys the evening prior. He wasn’t. No one had yet bothered to tell him that they had recalled toys on their shelves. He assured me that there was no way I could have purchased a recalled item, because the item would not ring up at the register. He also told me that it was likely that just a lot of the item that was recalled, and that the items on the store shelf were probably fine. Well, no. I checked the Consumer Product Safety Commission website and in fact, all of these toy trains have been recalled due to a choking hazard.

It’s tempting to buy cheap toys – but it’s not worth the risk. They’re often full of toxins (just ask my friend with a toy testing gun, The Smart Mama). And even if they’re safe, they usually don’t last very long before they break.

Few of us can afford to buy all natural, organic toys all the time. So what can you do? Here are ten tips:

1. Before you buy anything, go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and check the recall list. The notice on the toy trains came out the very day I saw them on the store shelf! (And five more alerts have come out since that one was issued!)

2. Shop consignment stores. You won’t believe the number of high quality wooden toys you can find, some still new and in the original packaging. In the DC area, I like to shop at The Purple Goose and Wiggle Room.

3. Ask your friends for their cast-offs. I have one dear friend in Florida who mails her son’s hand-me-down clothes to us. There’s no reason you can’t get cast-off toys too. (I’d like to get in line for cast-offs from the son of natural toy expert MC Milker of Not Quite Crunchy Parent!)

4. Check yard sales, especially in what my mother used to call “the high rent district.” That’s where you may find gently used, natural and organic toys.

5. Zwaggle is a great source for parents to swap gently used toys.

6. Freecycle is full of environmentally conscious people who love to recycle. These are the same people who are likely to have purchased high quality toys. Post a query requesting your child’s dream toy. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get it for free!

7. Look for discount coupons on line. Simply google the name of the toy and “coupon,” and see what turns up. And here’s an easier way you can save some money on high quality, natural toys. To save 10% off your first order at Natural Pod, just use coupon code GCM08.

But these are only temporary steps. The only way we will keep junk toys out of the store aisles is by exerting pressure on government to strengthen the regulations governing toy safety and inspections. Here’s what you can do:

8. Call or write your Congressional delegation and tell them that you want more resources devoted to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency tasked with ensuring the safety of our children’s toys.

9. Write to your state and local representatives too. States like Washington and Oregon are ahead of federal law it comes to protecting our kids from unsafe toys.

10. Align yourself with organizations that are lobbying the government on behalf of children’s issues. Groups such as Momsrising lobby for passage of laws that help protect kids not only from recalled toys, but from toys containing unsafe levels of chemical toxins.

How are you going to handle toy shopping this holiday season? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Green and Organic Savings Friday: Coffee, Water Bottles and Phthalate-Free Bath Toys

May 9th, 2008

Welcome back to Green and Organic Savings Friday at OrganicMania! Sorry for getting this post up a little bit later than usual this morning, but with two sickos in the house (DH and Big Boy), things are not going exactly according to plan! I’m sure all of you can relate.

Last Friday, we focused on organic tea. This week, the coffee drinkers get equal time. OrganicMania has blogged here about the fabulous biodynamic espresso beans and coffee available via mail order from Café Altura. It’s a great buy at $11 a pound, including shipping. We splurge on this coffee because DH is a coffee snob. (And I admit I’ve become one too).

sams-choice-fair-trade-organic-coffee.jpg

But for some folks, coffee is coffee is coffee. They want Fair Trade coffee, but $11 a pound is too expensive. Well, how about $5.88 per pound? I haven’t actually tried this Sam’s Club Fair Trade coffee, but I haven’t seen a better deal. If any of you OrganicManiacs™ out there have tried it, please leave a comment and tell us what you thought! I found this on a scouting expedition the other week to check out Walmart’s organic lines, which have been getting a lot of press. (Yes, if you ever see a Mom with two kids and a Treo snapping pictures in your local store, that’s me! Say hello!) I also reviewed Walmart’s display of Clorox Green Works products during that same trip, check that out here.

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Of course, there’s been a huge amount of press lately about the BPA and phthalates leaching into plastic bottles, sending Moms out to the stores in droves looking for eco-friendly green alternatives. The problem is that doing the research to replace your existing water bottles and bath toys can seem like a nearly full time job! If I can save any of you some time with these tips, it would make me very happy!

If you’re anything like my family, you had about 30 or 40 little plastic bath toys floating around your bath tub. They were so cheap, they seemed to invade the house. Well, one advantage to replacing the Cheap Plastic Crap bath toys with phthalate-free bath toys, is that they’re so much more expensive, you won’t have a boatload of them invading your house! But don’t make the same mistake OrganicMania did initially, and buy them separately for $5 to $15 a pop (ouch!) Instead, you can find reasonably priced tubes or boxes of Safari phthalate-free bath toys for around $8 to $10 for 10 to 12 bath toys. Here‘s one spot you can order them – and they’re on sale. Or, if you happen to be at the Delaware beaches, check out Big Boy’s favorite bookstore, Browseabout, which has a great selection of Safari toys – that’s where Big Boy scored his new bath toys.

And finding that perfect BPA-free water bottle? Well, I haven’t found one yet that’s priced right. So in the spirit of reduce, reuse, recycle, here’s what I’m doing….reusing a glass Honest Tea bottle.

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Did you find any great deals on green and organic products this week? Leave a comment and share!

COMMENT NOTES – NEW COMMENT FORM EXPLANATION: (Sorry for caps!) I’m experimenting with a new program from Mr. Linky. If you are a blogger and want to link to this post from your blog and show a link back from OrganicMania  (which Technorati will count), please leave a comment in the box marked comments and when it asks for URL, leave your URL post where you will link to this post.

If you just wish to leave a comment without linking, leave your comment in the regular WordPress comment box.

Sorry for any confusion – first time through with new technology!

Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

McDonalds on Eco-Friendly Happy Meals

April 1st, 2008

Every parent knows that being stuck on the road with a hungry kid is a dilemma. It’s so hard to find healthy fare on the road that even some Green Eco-Moms find themselves in McDonalds. More importantly, most American kids eat at McDonalds. Think of the huge environmental impact McDonalds could make by greening the Happy Meal and replacing the Cheap Plastic Crap Happy Meal toys with an eco-friendly alternative toy!

The Wall Street Journal recently published a report about McDonalds Corporate Sustainability Blog. I wasn’t familiar with McDonalds environmental initiatives, so I checked out their blog, and left a comment suggesting McDonalds could do even more for the environment by introducing organic Happy Meal selections and eco-friendly Happy Meal toys.

Take a look at McDonalds response via this link.   And let me know what you think by leaving a comment below!

And by the way, their response came 13 days after I left the comment! (The date doesn’t  show up on their blog, but I have it via email).  

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Check for Toxic Toys While Shopping: Text Messaging

December 15th, 2007

Now you can send a text message from your mobile phone to check a toy’s status in the Healthytoys.org database. How cool is that? Just SMS text healthy toys [toy name] to 41411. Check here for more details.

New Toy Safety Website Launched

December 5th, 2007

Just in time for the holiday gift giving season, Healthytoys.org, a new toy safety website, launched today. Backed by The Ecology Center and a coalition of environmental groups, the site allows consumers to view toys that contain dangerous chemicals, such as lead, PVC, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic, mercury, chromium, tin, and antimony. What a list! Anyone else out there wondering how and why we’ve allowed this to go on for so long?

You can nominate a toy to be tested, with the promise that its nomination should appear on the site within a few days. Readers will vote on which toys should be tested first. The site is incredibly feature-rich, so plan to spend some time exploring it. The website has been overloaded — it was incredibly busy today — a sure sign that parents welcome the assistance in sorting out toy safety issues.

And if you find Healthytoys.org helpful, you can make a donation to support the site.

– Lynn

Copyright Organicmania 2007

Happy Birthday, Baby Boo

November 9th, 2007

Reduce, Reuse, RecycleHow fast a year goes by. Today my little baby boo turns one. Unlike his big brother, who was born five years ago, this little guy has been raised primarily on organic and biodynamic foods.

This morning he showed Mama that in the spirit of “reduce, re-use, recycle,” there’s more than one use for an empty gallon container of organic milk. It makes a great plaything! No need to worry about toy recalls with this approach.

Seriously though, regarding the recalls – The Parent Bloggers Network is leading a great effort with Consumers Union  to raise awareness. Visit Consumers Union  to find out what you can do to protest the situation and hopefully make a difference.

– Lynn

Copyright Organicmania 2007

Parents® Magazine Just Doesn’t Get It

October 16th, 2007

They really don’t get it. The editors over at Parents® Magazine must not understand the angst that real parents feel about the spate of recent toy recalls involving lead paint and myriad other defects. How else can they justify their November cover story on “52 Hot Holiday Toys?” The article promotes more of the same Expensive Plastic Crap (as opposed to Cheap Plastic Crap) that has been marketed to parents for years.

I love Parents, I really do. It’s one of the few parenting magazines I still subscribe to after 5 plus years of the Mommy gig. So when my new issue arrived Tuesday, I opened it eagerly, and to be honest, I was shocked by what I read. I really thought the article would at least include some eco-friendly toys. Perhaps a few organic stuffed cotton animals? Some hand crafted wooden toys? Something without plastic or paint?? C’mon! Parents are screaming for non-traditional toys this holiday season. I’ll even confess that in my sleep deprived state I may have missed the promotion of eco-friendly toys (DH is out of town and darling baby is teething all night long). But if Parents is promoting eco-friendly items somewhere in this issue, they’re sure not making them stand out from the rest of the editorial and advertising content.

Actually, to be kind, I think the editors probably do get it. I saw the cute pictures of them with their adorable offspring. It must be the advertising chieftains who don’t get it, or if they do, they were afraid to do something different this holiday season.

So dear readers, what say you? Please leave a comment sharing your favorite sources for eco-friendly toys, and then I’ll do a compilation post combining my research (to come) with your suggestions.

UPDATE 11/9/07 – The Parent Bloggers Network is leading a great effort with Consumers Union to protest the seemingly never-ending saga of toy recalls. They are looking for 30,000 volunteers to visit stores nationwide. Visit Consumers Union to find out what you can do to make a difference.

– Lynn

Copyright 2007, Organicmania

Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap

October 15th, 2007

Today is Blog Action Day, and bloggers throughout the world are uniting to discuss the environment.

I’m asking you to join me in the campaign to Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap. If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the little plastic snakes, tops, rings and other assorted JUNK that show up inside your home once your child starts attending birthday parties and school fairs.

I don’t know a single parent who likes this stuff. Not a one. In just one hour Sunday, I had two parents approach me to complain about Cheap Plastic Crap. Brian bemoaned the fact that he hates the goody bags that his kids haul back from birthday parties and Liz told me that she feels like her “second job” is picking up all the Cheap Plastic Crap littering her playroom.

But picking up all the Cheap Plastic Crap only extends the battle against this stuff. Because where does it go once it leaves your house? It’s not recyclable, so it goes to landfills, where it leaches plastic toxins into the earth.

The best way to prevent the encroachment of Cheap Plastic Crap into your playrooms and ultimately into our landfills, is to Just Say No. But what to offer your little darlings instead of Cheap Plastic Crap? Here are 10 ideas for little replacement trinkets to give out as prizes at school carnivals and to stuff into goody bags (if you must). Now go do it. Join the Campaign to Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap. Leave a comment here on OrganicMania saying you’re onboard!

10 Ways to Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap
1. Run a book exchange. Ask everyone to bring old books from home, and mix it up. Everyone leaves with a new book.
2. Bake cookies and use those as prizes. If you’re running a school fair, this is a two-fer, because the baked goods always seem to end up being sold for half-off in the last hour of the school fair.
3. If your kids are old enough, teach them why Cheap Plastic Tchotchkes (you may not want to say crap in front of your kids!) are bad for the environment. Your kids will probably have tons of ideas for things you can give away.
4. Coins. Foreign coins, and cool US coins like the dollar coins and US state quarters are popular with kids.
5. Similarly, US and foreign commemorative stamps and first day covers make great prizes.
6. Wooden toys for goody bags. Admittedly, these can be expensive, but there are parents who spend $5 or more on goody bags. Why not give away something like one awesome wooden racing car instead of a bunch of mass produced plastic junk? You can get handcrafted wooden mini-cars for $5 each at Vermont Wooden Toys.

7. Customized wooden nickels for school fairs. These are really cool. Maple Land Mark, another fine Vermont toy maker, will customize wooden nickels for your school or organization. You can get 250 of these for under a quarter!
8. Postcards. These don’t have to be new. In fact, old ones with writing can be more interesting to kids. They can read the messages and play imaginary games about the postcard’s people and places.
9. Maps. Not the fancy, laminated maps which aren’t recyclable. Think instead of the free paper maps given out by tourist boards.
10. Origami kits are fun and unique. Just look for kits with simple packaging – or make your own – so that you don’t end up with a lot of plastic lamination along with your paper!

Have fun! And let me know if these tips work for you or if there are people out there who will fight for the right to keep their Cheap Plastic Crap!
– Lynn

3/31/08 Update: Looking for more eco-friendly birthday party favors? Check out these great ideas from Enviromom!

Copyright 2007, OrganicMania