Friday, December 2, 2011

There's a new Prius in town

We recently bought the new 2012 Prius v Five. Not to be confused with a regular Prius with the Technical Package 5. The Prius v is a stretched out version of the much loved Prius. After driving the car for about a month now, we definitely love it. We were trying to decide between a Ford Escape Hybrid, a Jetta Wagon Diesel, and the Prius v Hybrid. There are probably many of you like us. We wanted more cargo space than a car offered, but we still wanted great gas mileage. I would describe the cargo space of the Prius v as a combination between the Wagon and the Escape. We needed something that would be tall enough for our chocolate lab mix, and it definitely is.

Why did we choose the Prius v? It came down to several things, but one of them was the interior of the Technical Package 5. The interior is something called SoftTex, and is low-VOC, and this was important to me. The air in new cars is extremely polluted because of all of the synthetic materials, and I didn’t want munchkin to have to breathe that in constantly. It was also tall enough for the beast. The inside of the cargo space measures about 36 inches, which was way taller than the 30-31 inches in the Jetta Wagon, but I feel like the Prius is also longer than the Ford Escape. The seats in the Prius v are definitely more comfortable than those in the Escape or the Wagon in my opinion. The back seat moves forward and backward, and reclines, so it is extra comfortable for traveling adults.

What do I love? Pandora streaming through the speakers, and opening the doors, and starting the car without  getting my keys out of my diaper bag. There are a few things that I would change if I were to have any say so in the 2013 model. We REALLY love the safety features that Volvos are famous for. I also love the fact that some of their interiors are Oeko-Tex certified, a step above low-VOC interiors. Some Volvos have a blind-spot warning system that alerts you if there is someone in your blind spot. I thought this was pretty cool. It is a shame that diesel isn’t even an option in the U.S., because they had a lot of good things going for them. Anyway, I would make the interior Oeko-tex certified, and add the blind spot warning system. I would also add an AC outlet in the rear seat like so many cars are doing these days. Lastly, I would also make the car automatically unlock when you put your hand on either of the back doors. Currently if you touch either of the front doors with your hand while the keys are in your pocket, the car will unlock, but as a mother, I always go for the back door first because I am putting the munchkin in.(minor details!)

Oh, and as far as gas mileage goes, we drove down to Savannah and back, and averaged 40 mpg. Around town, I average 48 mpg, although this would probably be higher, if I wasn’t always sitting in parking lots with the car running, waiting for Terra to wake up!

With a down payment, we are able to make most of our car payment with the money we save in gas from not driving our truck, so it has really worked out for us. The only other thing I would say is that many people complain about not being able to see out of the rear window in the regular Prius, but that isn't a problem in the Prius v! Happy car hunting!

Let me know if you have any other questions about the car, I would love to help!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I need what?!?

Newborn babies are so small, and yet that big box retailer around the corner would have you believe the list of things you need is never-ending. So I will give you a list of what we needed and what we did without (a ton!) We have definitely made do with the minimalist approach! Save some money, and avoid buying something until you are absolutely sure you need it!

What we didn’t need/ haven’t bought:
1)      A stroller – seriously! After we spent some time in China we decided we were going to try to get by without one (because not very many people had one over there) and so far we haven’t needed it. (We do have a jogger, but I will get to that)
2)      Play mat/gym thingy – I am not even sure what they are called, but we didn’t buy one, and I don’t think T feels like she missed out!
3)      Exersaucer - We didn’t buy one for three big reasons. 1- we didn’t have space 2- some studies show that too much time in them can be bad for their hips. 3- that is a ton of plastic that will end up in the landfill!
4)      Bouncer – Again, we didn’t have space, but we did just fine without it!
5)      Swing – Some parents will swear by these, but again, we did just fine without one.
6)      The bumbo chair (I think this is what it is called) – Your child will learn to sit up just fine without it, I promise!
7)      Wipe warmers and special trash cans for dirty diapers - We just have a wicker basket with a waterproof liner. If you really want warm wipes, you could always keep an old coffee thermos that spits out water with warmed water ready for a dry washcloth.
8)      Crib bedding set. I am actually not sure why these are even sold anymore  when the general consensus states that the bumpers are dangerous.
9)      Shoes – Okay you might want one or two pair of soft-soled shoes for pictures, but don’t go overboard, because they can just wear socks until they start walking!
10)   Bottle warmers-we just use warm water out of the tap in a glass jar to warm milk when we need to, and many kiddos don’t mind it cold!

What we have needed/used the heck out of:
  1)      Her carseat. This is one area that we really didn’t want to skimp on. We chose one that was Oeko-tek certified because many of them are toxic, and we knew she would be spending lots of time in it

2)      A glider - God bless the person who invented this chair. It was really helpful when T was fussy and I wanted somewhere comfortable to nurse her. We bought it used on Craigslist. Eventually I am going to make a new cushion for it – another post!

   3)Changing table – Again, many people find it unnecessary, but we still change almost every single diaper on it. Our absurdly large pile of cloth diapers needs an organization system. If you were using disposables you could probably get by without one. On another note, we did buy it used on Craigslist for $20.  

 4)     A good crib and mattress - We didn’t want to buy our crib used because of the numerous recalls, but also because we really wanted  a crib made with non-toxic materials. We didn’t want off-gassing of VOCs while munchkin was dreaming of sugar plum fairies. We did however, buy her organic mattress used. It cost about $600 new, and I figured anyone that would spend that much on a mattress, probably took care of it.
    5)      Highchair – Some people just go straight to the booster seat when they start solids, but we found a highchair that is completely recyclable, and it was a good deal (even if it is neon green!)  T likes sitting in it while I am making dinner and what not. 

6)      Video monitor – many people may say they aren’t necessary, but we love ours (even in our tiny two story duplex). I have also been able to mow the lawn with it while she was sleeping and keep a constant eye on her. You probably want a monitor of some sort.
7)      A good breast pump. Even though I only work a few hours a week, having a good breast pump makes it that much easier to pump milk for when I will be gone. Further, it makes it easier to pump in my short break at work!
8)      A jogger – we found the super jogger used on craigslist for $15 and it works like a dream. We go for walks or jogs nearly every day, so it was an absolute must!

   9) Pack-n-Play- Many people do not need one, but we have two large dogs who are very clumsy, and with a very limited space, it was pretty much a must so we could rest easy that T wouldn’t be trampled. You can find these used on Craigslist. Ours came from my lovely SIL!
  10) A carrier (or two or three)- It takes most parents several tries before they find the perfect carrier for them. We literally used our moby every single day for the first few months. Now we have graduated to a sling and an ergo, and I am about to buy a woven wrap. Your area may have baby wearing meetings where thoughtful mamas get together and help you choose the right carrier for your kiddo, so look for one of these to try several out!

And finally, a good camera or phone that takes videos, because you are definitely going to want to capture every little smirk, smile, and coo!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Aren't they gross?!

This is what many people ask when they find out we cloth diaper. Well, to be honest, the idea seemed gross to me at first, too. Now I can just reply, aren’t disposables gross?

Seriously, though- do you know how many chemicals are in that disposable diaper that is on your baby’s bum for 24-30 months of his/her life? People choose to cloth diaper (CD) for a variety of reasons. Some choose to CD to save money, and boy will it save you money! Some choose to CD because it is better for the environment, and some (like me) choose to CD to keep so many toxins away from baby’s new skin.

We have officially been cloth diapering since day one, and haven’t had to use a disposable once. I feel like after almost 12 weeks of changing and buying (and selling) cloth diapers, I can finally write a post about it!

I had already decided that we would be using all second-hand or organic clothes, and when I went to look for organic disposable diapers, I realized they didn’t exist, and so the decision to do cloth was easy!

So let’s talk about the chemicals for a minute.


This organic compound is created when paper products are bleached, so there are small amounts present in almost all disposable diapers. It is thought that the amounts present won’t affect the baby, but they bioaccumulate in the body, they are a known human carcinogen, and can increase one’s risk of cancer, so why take the risk? You will likely accumulate more dioxin exposure by eating animal products, but that is completely off-topic.

Sodium Polyacrlate

This is the gel that absorbs 200-300 times its weight found in disposable diapers. It was also removed from tampons because of a possible link with toxic shock syndrome. True story.

Tributyl-tin (TBT)

TBT is a highly toxic chemical for marine animals, causing endocrine disruptions. The chemical does not break down, and is correlated with increased fat cell growth for fetuses in the womb, and also in frogs and mice.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) we talk about these all the time, but again, according to EPA, the following are health effects: “eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness.”

There are also fragrances and dyes used in disposable diapers that have the ability to cause skin irritations.

So there you have the health reasons why I chose to cloth diaper – we can talk about the environmental effect of disposable and cloth diapers in another post!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

No Pain Meds?!

No Pain Meds?!

AND you aren’t going to a hospital?? This was the reaction from almost all our friends and family when we shared our decision to have a natural birth. I am pretty sure a lot of them even thought, yeah, whatever, when the time comes, you will take the epidural. Before we got pregnant, or even tried to get pregnant, I thought that I wanted a natural birth, but after we got pregnant so quickly I began researching all my options, and knew that a natural birth was the best choice for everyone.

It took a little while for J to be on board with my decision, and we actually fought about it briefly (and we NEVER fight about anything), but after I shared all my research with him, he was just as sure as me that it was the right choice for us. He was understandably worried about complications for me and for the baby, but the truth is that complications for a normal, healthy pregnancy are rare, and complications usually arise after multiple interventions in the hospital.

We considered a home birth first, but found a local birth center, and decided that was the best choice because they had a huge jacuzzi (we don’t even have a small bathtub in our 1 bedroom place), and we read plenty of stories about laboring in the water helping with the pain- so I made my first prenatal appointment at the birth center, and the rest is history. For the record, though anything the midwife can do at the birthcenter, she will be able to do at your house, and either location is great if you are considering a natural birth.

There are many benefits to birthing with a midwife, either at home or in a freestanding birthcenter.

We chose a midwife because:

They will not induce with pitocin, or try to ‘hurry’ the labor along with pitocin. Pitocin is a synthetic version of the naturally occurring hormone, oxytocin, which is released during orgasm and breastfeeding. Pitocin is used to make the contractions much stronger, and it will make the contractions more painful, often making them double-peak or occur without breaks in-between. This increases the likelihood that the mother will want or receive an epidural. Additionally, it is given through an intravenous drip, therefore, the mother is then resigned to the bed to continue going through contractions. After having gone through labor myself now, I can tell you the last place I wanted to be during contractions was in the bed, on my back. Pitocin also increases the risk of fetal distress, because the stronger contractions can push down on the umbilical cord, decreasing oxygen supply to the baby.

Moreover, it will interfere with the body’s natural ability to produce oxytocin, but will not create the bonding behavior associated with oxytocin, because it is unable to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Once pitocin is started, either to induce or augment labor, it is highly likely that other interventions will follow. There are many risks with epidurals and cesarean sections, so we decided the best way to avoid the epidural and the c-section was to avoid the pitocin, and the best way to avoid the pitocin was to go through a midwife.

Another benefit of a midwife over an OB is the fact that the midwife will be present during the entire labor, while the OB will likely check on you periodically, or may only be there to “catch” the baby. Our midwife was wonderful, and let us have privacy at the times that we wanted it, but was there to help talk me through contractions when I felt I couldn’t go any further.

The most frustrating part of the whole experience was the insurance company – our birth was ¼ to ½ the cost of a hospital birth, but was considered out of network, so we had to pay for everything up front, and will now have to wait to be reimbursed for a portion of it. You have to love our nation’s health care that promotes more expensive options, and then claims they have nothing to do with rising costs.

The rest of the blog is the my birth story if you are interested :)

Terra’s story:

I had timetable braxton hicks start on Thursday April 7th about 5-6 minutes apart - Friday night they turned into real contractions, but were a little irregular. They kept me awake most of the night, and Saturday morning around 4:30am I could no longer sleep - they were about 4-6 minutes apart, and I woke J up saying we are going to have our baby this weekend!

We tried to go about the day with business as usual, trying to rest and walk a lot. I tried to sleep that night, but was unable to. At about 9pm, I placed myself on the birthball, and went through contractions like this for several hours. At about midnight, I was no longer "smiley" and the contractions were about 3 minutes apart, so we decided it was time to go to the birthcenter.

The contractions continued 1-3 minutes apart at the birthcenter, and I was able to sway my hips through them on the footboard of the bed for several hours. My midwife was encouraged saying we must be making progress because they were so frequent and strong. Around 5am I asked her to check me, but not tell me if I was less than 5cm. She checked and said we were almost 5cm. My water had not broken though, and I still hadn't lost my mucus plug. The contractions were pretty strong at this point, and I was beginning to get tired.

At about 8:30am, I was really tired, and beginning to not handle them all that well, so J and I got into the 2 person jacuzzi, and labored there for several hours. Sometimes the contractions slowed down for me (about 6-7 minutes apart) so I was able to rest a little in between them. BUT, when we got out of the jacuzzi, they got really intense really fast, and I really questioned my decision.

At about 2:30pm, I was beginning to doubt that I could really do this. My midwife offered me a mild narcotic, nubane, that would allow me to rest for about 2 hours, but I had a really hard time making the decision, and so we got back in the jacuzzi and labored there for a while, deciding that the narcotic was not what we wanted. She told us she only had offered it maybe 3 or 4 times in her 40 years of practice, but she believed I needed the rest if I was going to continue. I was afraid that Terra would be groggy afterwards, though. I had gone my entire pregnancy without even taking Tylenol or Advil, and I didn't want her to have drugs now.

We got out at about 4:00pm, and for the next several hours, I really didn't think that we could finish the labor. We had tons of food, but I couldn’t really bring myself to eat anything other than some oranges, so my energy was also getting low. Luckily we had taken Bradley classes, and J was amazing and kept reassuring me that we could finish. He also kept trying to put food in my belly. At 6:00pm, I asked my midwife to check me again and break my water if I was far enough along. She checked and I was about an 8, so she broke my water and stretched me to a 9. The contractions got even stronger, so I got in the shower for a bit, and when I got out, I began pushing on my hands and knees supported by J or the birth ball.

I pushed for just over two hours (all on my hands and knees) and at 9:23 pm, Terra was born. J caught her and handed her to me through my legs. I couldn’t believe how big she was! She began rooting and nursing immediately! The midwife and birth assistant left us alone for 30 minutes and then brought us dinner - we took care of measurements and went home after a couple hours.

Terra was amazing the whole time! Her heart rate never faltered, and we called her the little timex!

We were out and about within days, and I walked the dogs when we got home from the birthcenter at 2am (just don't tell my midwife!)

Great resources on natural births.

Orgasmic Birth-documentary and book

Pregnant in America-documentary

The Business of Being Born-documentary

Ina May Gaskin - Midwife and author

Bradley classes- the classes J and I took to achieve a natural birth

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Second-Hand Smoke and Mental Disorders in Children

Second-hand smoke is not only bad for your child’s physical health, but a new study shows that it has negative effects on their mental health as well. A study published April 4, 2011 in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine shows that there is a possible correlation between second-hand smoke and mental disorders in children aged 8-15. The researchers examined cotinine – a biomarker produced when the body metabolizes nicotine- levels in children and adolescents aged 8-15 years and found that levels were positively associated with several symptoms of major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and conduct disorder. Second-hand smoke exposure has already linked to physical health effects including sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory complications, dental decay, metabolic syndrome, otitis media, and asthma. However, this is the first study to examine a nationally representative sample and mental disorder symptoms. Just one more reason not to light up around children!

For more information, see the Los Angeles Times article.

For more information on smoking and the facts, see the CDC website.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Apples and Endocrine Disruptors

What are you ingesting with that apple besides nutrients?

A study published February 10th, 2011 shows that many chemicals and fungicides used on fruits and vegetables are acting as male hormone disruptors. The study was funded by the European Commission and was completed by the University of London. The scientists studied 37 pesticides that are in heavy use in Europe. Many of these are also widely used in the US. 30 of these 37 pesticides were found to alter male hormones.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a program known as the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, which requires some chemicals found in food and water to be tested to understand if they interfere with estrogen, androgens, and thyroid hormones. However, this program has been slow to produce results due to pressure from the chemical industry and controversy over the testing methods. Additionally, a number of the pesticides that the University of London researchers found to be hormone disruptors are not currently in the EPA program. The researchers state that much of the current research on pesticide use is focused on chemicals that are no longer in use, and more research is needed to understand important links between reduced male fertility and testicular cancer.

What does this really mean?

Even though it has been shown that these chemicals are indeed male hormone disruptors, it is unclear how the pesticides will behave in the human body at the quantities ingested on fruits and vegetables. It is likely, however, that fetuses and infants are more at risk due to exposure in utero and through breast milk because their reproductive systems are rapidly developing. For more information on the endocrine system and endocrine disruptors, you can visit the Natural Resources Defense Council website.

So what can you do?

Obviously we want to purchase organic produce whenever it is available, but not only is not always available, it is usually more expensive than conventional produce. We have all become accustomed to being able to purchase whatever produce we want, no matter the season. I can be terrible about this! I love berries and oranges, and during the winter it can be nearly impossible to find organic strawberries or oranges. My solution during the winter when farmers markets are closed is to buy frozen organic produce. It obviously doesn’t taste the same, but it is a close second.

Also, if you, like me, and most others are on a limited budget for food, refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list that outlines the 12 items of produce you should try to consistently buy organic. Think apples, peaches, pears, berries, bell peppers to start with. They have a handy shopping guide found here that you can keep with you until you know them by heart. >For more information, please see here.

PS – per my best friend’s request, I am supposed to be working on a similar pocket guide to help you avoid the worst chemical offenders in cosmetic products – more on this soon!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Vegan Valentine Comfort Food

GOOD cheese enchiladas.

That is all I wanted last night. Well that, my bed, and some Lucy re-runs. As many of you know, I am a vegan, and have been for some time. Actually this February marks my two year anniversary of being a vegan. Veganism brings a ton of sustainability to your life, but that is for another post.

Being pregnant and vegan brings challenges unknown to someone whose body has not been taken over by hormone surges that make you say and do crazy things. Now, I haven’t had cheese for two years, but my pregnancy has brought more cravings for this substance that would undoubtedly wreak havoc on my intestines than you can imagine, and last night after my sweet husband said the wrong thing, all I wanted was cheese.

Ooey- gooey- cheese.

He ended up making a great vegan potato-broccoli-kale soup, and I made a vegan carrot cake, and by the time I went to bed, I was no longer craving the cheese enchiladas, but getting there was a different story.

Our Potato soup:

1 small/medium bag of organic yellow potatoes

2 small organic red onions - chopped

4-5 small organic garlic cloves - chopped

Organic broccoli - chopped

Organic bunch of kale - chopped

Organic bunch of dill - chopped

Organic vegetable broth

1/4c. – 1/2c. oatmeal (uncooked)

1/4c.- 1/2c. soy creamer

2 tbsp canola oil

1. Scrub potatoes and cut into small chunks. Add vegetable broth until potatoes are covered. Bring to boil in vegetable broth and reduce heat. Cook until soft.

2. Sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add all ingredients to potatoes and broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat 10-20 minutes.

3. Use immersion blender to blend. Add soy creamer. Let simmer over low heat 10-20 more minutes.

I got the recipe for the vegan carrot cake here. I made a tofu-cream cheese frosting that didn’t set up quite like I wanted, but everything did taste amazing. I also substituted half of the oil in the recipe for applesauce

I know most of you would say why don’t you just cheat once, and have some cheese? But this is a very slippery slope. I have to admit that the reason I haven’t cheated in the past two years has more to do with all my wonderful friends, co-workers, and family members that have supported me in my decision to go veg. I have amazing people in my life who have gone out of their way to make sure they respect my decision by having vegan choices available for me. In the beginning I felt extremely guilty about people going out of their way to make something special for me, but now I just realize that these meals are the best comfort food anyone could ever ask for.

And we won’t talk about how all Terra wanted when I woke up this morning was a piece of that carrot cake.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!