The longest lines of year

I just spent 45 minutes in the post office, packing up then lining up to ship my gifts off. They say it’s the busiest post office day of the year. It figures I’d choose it.  And that I completely missed the warning reports. Ha.

It was with great relief and a smile of accomplishment that I got back into the car. But it got me thinking about why my gift shipping philosophy changed this year. For years I would order gifts online and have them shipped directly (generally for free) to my family and friends. But after a few years of this I was disappointed with the “gift wrap” option and the lackluster package that landed on a doorstep and I found that I actually missed the wrapping and the gift tag writing. I missed that extra bit of holiday cheer I got to share by personally wrapping and sending my gift. So this year I spent an extra $65 just to ship the gifts. Kind of ridiculous but it seemed important. And I don’t regret it. 

I do, however, appreciate those small businesses that take care in making the packages they ship out, especially around the holidays, extra pretty.  We do it for every hide & cheek order. Other companies do too, of course. And last week I was struck by just how beautifully Yuzen Box does it for their packages. Part of this subscription box company’s philosophy is to make everything beautiful, including the way you feel as you sample their array of LOHAS products. I used the aromatherapy sleep drops the first night I got them and just showered with the shower bomb yesterday. The chocolates were, of course, sampled right away. You can give a one-time gift box or a monthly subscription and either way you can rest with reassurance that it will be consciously curated and perfectly packaged. And that they will deliver smiles to whomever you choose, without the added and dreaded post office line.  

Happy gifting this season. It is what it’s about after all. Remember the greatest gift of all – our savior – by giving thoughtful, reflective and love filled gifts to those who mean so much to us. 

  

  

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Sitting in the air

So many areas of parenting come down to two different camps…cry it out or go-to and soothe, sippy cup or no-lid cup, cloth diapers or disposable…

I’ve found that this is also the case with travel.  There are those parents who wouldn’t dream of getting on an airplane with their kid(s), and others who do it all the time.  We are of the latter.  We’ve been traveling with Silvia since she was about 4 months old and Isla earned her wings at 8 weeks.

I take a lot of extra precautionary measures to make sure they stay well through the shuffle (because it does means recycled air, germ exposure and often loss of sleep) and so far we’ve been blessed with no major issues.

Do what works!  Note the shoe to make the headphones fit and the cheerios necklaces.

Do what works! Note the shoe to make the headphones fit and the cheerios necklaces.

A few days ago I did what a lot of moms would throw me into the asylum for; I traveled ALONE with my two littles.  Silvia, I knew, would be a gem.  She’s a pro at this, afterall.  She knows how to put on her noise canceling headphones.  How to buckle her seatbelt.  How to put up and down her tray table and ask the flight attendant for some apple juice, no ice.

Isla is at that “I’m a walker” stage and wants to be constantly on the move.  So, she was the wild card.

Los Angeles to Detroit.  Not the shortest flight possible but far from the longest.  Plus we had the promise of Mimi and Papa’s comforts waiting for us on the other side.

photo 1

Isla trying out my headphones.

Everything started off great.  We made it through security and to our gate without a hitch.  (except that Silvia refused to carry her own backpack so I was stuck with Isla in the Bjorn, plus 3 bags across my back and shoulders…I’m still sore from it.  We made it on the flight and, though I was worried about the 2 seats in a row of 3 to which we were assigned, a complete and beauty of a mom took up the remaining seat and helped me with things like opening cracker packages and disposing of banana peels while my hands were busy with one or the other.

So for four hours we sat, and paced the isles a bit, and sat some more, in relative peace.

And then, as I watched the digital airplane make its way closer to our destination on the little seat-back screen, I celebrated when I saw that we only had 20 minutes left in the flight.  Silvia was showered with kisses for being such a good helper.  Isla was praised for her patience (despite no more than 4 minutes of sleep).  My new mom friend was thanked profusely.  And I even gave myself a little pat on the back.

And then it all went downhill.

“Due to weather in Detroit we have been directed to enter a holding pattern and will be doing so for at least 20 minutes.”

GROAN.  20 minutes left just turned into 40.  I don’t like moving backwards.

But wait….there’s more….

“Unfortunately we don’t have enough fuel to hold in the air so we are being diverted to Cincinnati where we will land and refuel, then take back off again.”

Cincinnati?! Like 4.5 hours south by car, Cincinnati?! DOUBLE GROAN!

But wait…..yes, there’s even more….

[upon landing] “Everyone must de-board the plane….blah….blah…..blah….”

By that point our crew had expired and we had to wait on a new crew to come in and fly us on a new plane which, as it turned out, wouldn’t arrive for another 5-6 hours or take off for another 7.

So off to negotiate the whole re-booking, stand-by hoping, airport feeding, more dirty bathroom hopping dance.  All on my own, with two littles.

NOT the best day.  And yet, somehow, it was filled with blessings.

The woman who helped on the plane and became my partner in the airport.  The airport lounge woman who went out of her way to find milk for me to give to Isla.  The people at the gate in Cincinnati who were also waiting to go standby on a flight that would still get them to Detroit before the next day, who actually applauded when my name was called because they felt so badly for the woman flying alone at nearly midnight with two small children.  The airline man who actually walked all of my bags onto our rebooked flight while I managed two very tired pups.  The flight attendant who moved us around so that we could have a whole row to ourselves on that second flight because she could see how badly the girls needed to sleep.

So happy to be here.

So happy to be here.

The thing that I’ve found about mothering, is that, yes, it’s about putting yourself aside and sitting so that someone else’s needs (most often a little person) can be met first.

But it’s also about opening your eyes a little farther to see the good that’s happening all around.  Your babies are growing.  They’re learning new words and skills.  They’re earning grades in school and achieving athletic markers you could never dream of.  That is goodness.

And people are willing, more than willing in fact, to lend a hand if only you’ll let them.  People are good.  Life is hard, but people are good.

And I thank God for that.

Worth the wait.

Worth the wait.

In the end, we made it to Detroit someone just shy of 1:00am.  Silvia and Isla ate chicken, brown rice and home-grown green beans in the car on the ride to Mimi and Papa’s (airport food just doesn’t cut it for these two).  And thought they didn’t get under the covers until 2am, they were troopers all the way through.  Isla didn’t cry one second until the final hour and Silvia stayed chipper throughout.  And I…?  Well, I chose to step up to the plate and “sit” for my girls.  I didn’t cry or moan or get mad at the gate agents who said nothing could be done except to wait for 7 hours.  I went with the flow.  I assured everyone that it would be fine.  And it was.  And I think that I was repaid in spades by being allowed to glimpse once again the good in people and the good in my girls so clearly.

Timing is everything

I finished a book the other day that took me about 5 times as long to read as usual.  The timing just wasn’t right.

I bought all the ingredients to make a recipe and they’re all still sitting there.  The timing just wasn’t right.

I started a blog a few years ago but then didn’t post anything on it for a loooong while.   (have you noticed?!)  The timing just wasn’t right.

I’m struck over and over and over again, especially as a mom, how timing is everything.  It’s all about timing when you potty train your child.  It’s all about timing when, and in what order, you introduce solids to your baby.  It’s all about timing when you first put your toddler into a big kid bed and expect to him to stay there (kind of….for 5 minutes at a time, at least).  And it’s about timing when you wean your nursing baby.  Is she ready?  Are you ready?!

So what does this mean?  It means we need to greet these landmark moments with a little bit of grace.  Yes, they told me I should take the pacifier away from Silvia when she turned two but as soon as I did her wonderful sleep habits went about the window and after 2 weeks with little to no sleeping, I caved.  I stood there in her room, tears running down both of our faces, and asked, “If I give you your nightie back, will you go to sleep?!”  She nodded and I retrieved it.  She slept and I sighed.  Was I a failure?  Was she doomed to have buck teeth all of her life?  Nah.  I just waited a few more months until the idea was novel again, until we had made it through a cross-country move, but before her baby sister was born, then I tried again.  This time it worked.  This TIME it worked.  Timing is everything.

Now my number two is strung out on the pacifier and I’m not even stressing it… yet.  It isn’t time.

Here’s what I’ve decided.  If timing is everything, we should either time everything (pick the right time) or just let the time pass (until it suddenly feels like it is the right time).  You’ll know.  And if you don’t, it isn’t the right time yet.

 

A day in pictures

Maybe it’s because I’m pregnant again, maybe it’s because we just moved across the country and I’m finally feeling settled; whatever the reason I find myself relishing in the long, quiet days that Silvia and I have together.
Yesterday was one of those days and I happened to have my camera (aka: iPhone) with me at every turn.

Here is a look at our day:

leaving

When we left the house Silvia had to take as many friends and toys with her as was humanly possible.  And managed to carry them with her all through the grocery store.

After stopping by an open house (the real estate market is INSANE) we had lunch in a park overlooking the ocean.

After stopping by an open house (the real estate market is INSANE) we had lunch in a park overlooking the ocean.

Then went for a little "hike" down the "mountain"Plenty exciting for a 2-yr-old.

Then went for a little “hike” down the mountain. Plenty exciting for a 2-yr-old.

Next it was home to bake cupcakes to celebrate Makana's would-be 10th birthday.

Next it was home to bake cupcakes to celebrate Makana’s would-be 10th birthday.
We lost our sweet Makana girl very suddenly, just over a week ago.  She almost made it to her 10th birthday.  And we miss her immensely!

We lost our sweet Makana girl very suddenly, just over a week ago. She almost made it to her 10th birthday. And we miss her immensely!

 

But last night we celebrated Makana and sang Happy Birthday to her...

But last night we celebrated Makana and sang Happy Birthday to her…

But that night we celebrated Makana and sang Happy Birthday to her...you could say it was the icing on the cake of a beautiful day.  …you could say it was the icing on the cake of a beautiful day.

Twas a night in Connecticut

03065EC7-000F8513I’ve been intentionally avoiding some of the ongoing coverage of the Connecticut school shooting. As a pregnant mother of a small little girl, it’s just more sorrow than I can handle right now. But this, from the body of an email, I had to read… and was this that made me cry.

I know it will be too religious for some, and to those I’m sorry if it offends. That is certainly not my intent. But if it offers hope and encouragement to some others, than it has been rightly posted.

’twas 11 days before Christmas, around 9:30

when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.

their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.

they could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.

they were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.

they remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.

“where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.

“this is heaven.” declared a small boy. “we’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”

when what to their wondering eyes did appear,

but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.

He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.

then He opened His arms and He called them by name.

and in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring

those children all flew into the arms of their King

and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,

one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.

and as if He could read all the questions she had

He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”

then He looked down on earth, the world far below

He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe

then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,

“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”

“may this country be delivered from the hands of fools”

“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”

then He and the children stood up without a sound.

“come now my children, let me show you around.”

excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.

all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.

and I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,

“in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

Holiday Sit

Nativity_tree2011It’s been a crazy few months; learning I was pregnant and deciding to move half-way across the country all within a week or two will create a little craziness! And then came the packing up and the moving…then the home search and unpacking. Finally yesterday, I heeded my own advice and I sat for an hour. Silvia was down for a nap. For once my computer wasn’t screaming to me. So I picked up my kindle and sat down to read. Of course this pregnant lady could only stay awake for about 20 minutes, so a nap happened in there too. But even when the phone woke me up after only a few minutes of shut eye, I felt 100% refreshed. It was a good reminder of how much we all need to rest and recharge, even for only a few deep breaths, every day, especially during these crazy holi-days.

Ask and You Shall Receive

imgresAs moms, we have a right to stand up for the health of our families.  In fact, it’s more than a right, it’s a responsibility.  I’ve built a career (one that is mostly sidelined right now as I stay home with Silvia) around promoting, educating about, and helping people fight for healthier, more natural products and ways to live our lives.

Which is why a few months ago I posted a petition asking people to demand that Graco remove harmful chemical flame retardants from their children’s products…things like stroller and car seats.  They listened!  All it took was the ask.

Then this week because the people at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics asked, Johnson & Johnson has announced that it will reformulate its products and remove some of the “chemicals of concern” found in their adult and baby personal care and cosmetic products.

Now, inspired, Seventh Generation is calling on all personal care and cosmetic companies to “follow the Precautionary Principle” and remove all hazards from all products.  They say there’s no reason it can’t be done since, “we’ve been providing parents and others with products that supply peace of mind for 25 years.”

And now, it’s up to you!  What will you ask for?  Safer parks in your neighborhood?  Cleaner air in your city?  Purer drinking water in your state?  Stricter ingredient and labeling standards  in your country?  More love in your world?

Just ask!  You’ll be surprised by what you’ll get.

Graco to ban chemical flame retardants

Today I have a reason to celebrate!  A few months ago I launch a Change.org petition asking Graco to eliminate its use of chemical flame retardants in their children’s products, and nearly 4,000 of you signed it. Graco is one of the nation’s largest children’s product manufacturers, selling nearly 1 out of every 3 baby gear products purchased in the U.S.

I started this petition because after the birth of Silvia, it blew my mind to learn that toxic flame retardants are in the foam of so many of the products where babies spend so much of their time: strollers, car seats, nursing pillows, and more. I strongly believe no mother should have to wake up and realize that she bought, or was given, the wrong item. And that the very thing she thought was keeping her baby safe, is in reality harming her child’s health.

The really good news today is that Graco heard our concerns and responded with positive news.

Graco clarified that they have committed to ban and monitor hazardous flame retardants that have been used in children’s products, including cancer-causing Tris and Firemaster 550, ingredients no parent wants their child to come into contact with.  I learned this during personal conversations I’ve had with them and partner organizations Healthy Child Healthy World and the Ecology Center.

Together we applaud Graco Children’s Products, Inc. for taking critically important steps to make their products safer for children by phasing out the use of a number of toxic chemicals from all of their products.

Graco has committed to ban and monitor four Tris and related chemicals, specifically:

  • “Tris,” chemicals including TDCPP (Tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate) and TCEP (Tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate).
  • TCPP (Tris (1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate) is structurally similar to the “Tris” compounds.
  • All three Tris chemicals are either carcinogens or suspected carcinogens.
  • Firemaster 550, a chemical mixture containing ingredients that have been targeted for review by EPA due to widespread exposure and potential health risk, is also on Graco’s ban list.

At the same time, we are challenging Graco to take additional steps to become an industry leader by making healthier and safer products that no longer contain any hazardous flame retardants and implement a system to assure that safer chemical or non-chemical alternatives are being used now and in the future.  As next steps, Graco should:

  • move to provide complete disclosure of chemicals contained in their products;
  • implement an alternative assessment practice to assure that new chemicals which go into their products are inherently safer and lower hazard; and
  • fully consider the environmental and human health impacts as new products are conceived of and designed.

Please join me in thanking Graco for their leadership in eliminating these toxic flame retardants and encourage them to take additional steps to make their products safer from chemical hazards. Send an email message to Graco Children’s Products CEO, Kristie Juster today!

Since the petition launched in April, the Chicago Tribune has published a blockbuster series of articles detailing the deceptive campaign by the tobacco and chemical industries to require furniture and baby product manufacturers to saturate foam with toxic flame retardants, even though they don’t effectively prevent fires. As a result, millions of pounds of chemicals linked to problems including lower IQ, reproductive disorders, learning disabilities, and cancer are used in our sofas, car seats, mattresses and more each year.

The situation is intolerable for parents and anyone who cares about healthy children and healthy families.

Thanks to you, we now know we no longer need to be concerned that Graco products contain four of the most toxic flame retardant chemicals. And that’s a victory we should all savor!

Here’s to healthier families everywhere!