I am reading a book called The Other 90% by Robert K. Cooper. In Chapter 18, he talks about being a “champion of lost causes.” In that chapter he writes, “Imagine yourself years from now at the end of your life. Your children and grandchildren are gathered around you, and one of the youngest ones asks you what you did in your life to make the world better. What will you say? Your answer will surely be shaped by the lost causes you fought for, or failed to fight for.”

I have a friend that I like to debate with, and the other day he told me that all our conversations are the same. We debate, he challenges what I say, and in the end we both have to agree that “the world is screwed either way, probably won’t change, but it would be nice if it would change.” I had the book with me and he pointed to the title of that chapter and said he understood why I liked the book. Maybe I do like to champion the “lost cause”, but even though trying to change things seems often like a lost cause, I still think it is really important to try.

Before I read this book, I had been thinking about how important it is to me to be able to say, on my death bed, that while I was here I at least tried to make the world a little better.  I do not want to have to say that I came here, used things up, contributed not much at all, and then left again. So, I decided to write out what I would like to do to achieve that. What legacy do I want to leave… as in… how will I have tried to leave the world a bit better (perhaps than I found it) or how will I have tried to leave the lightest footprint and a positive footprint on the earth for future generations?

This is my (perhaps idealistic) list:

I want to be a good wife and mother. If I fail to be this, then I fail in a lot of ways. This matters the most.

I want to be a positive presence for other people and I want to support people to become their best selves and be a supporting voice when it comes to them achieving whatever their dreams are. I want to help others realize that they can dream big and that many of the limitations they think they see are not really there. Three people in my life who have shown me how important this is (by supporting me) are my Dad, my husband, and my always optimistic and supportive friend, Samantha Hardin.

I want to help people by sharing what I know and what I have learned so far from my studies and experiences. Writing articles and books seems like a good way to do this. I can reach more people. If I write certain articles or books (which I want to be in line with my values and not just geared to make money) and they even help one person, then I have helped one more person than would have otherwise been helped.

Raise my children to also think like this and teach them to be introspective / reflective, live consciously, positively and lightly and to follow their own dreams and talents. If I can raise my children like this, then perhaps they will raise their children like this and the benefit of more people in the world attempting to live like this multiplies with each generation. (Cycles of abuse and negativity get passed down through generations, so I think this can be passed down instead!)

I want to try to consume less and be conscious of what my family and I consume. Using natural products, growing some of our own food, buying organic, reusing things, buying used, etc. are some ways we can live more lightly on the planet. When it gets tiring or I want to give up for convenience I can reflect on some of these things:

  • For every cloth diaper or towel I wash, one less ends up in the dump for future generations to deal with. There is also a lot of waste produced in the manufacturing and transport process needed to make and sell these disposable things.
  • For the time spent learning to garden and growing some of our own food, that much less food has to be grown elsewhere and delivered to my house using oil and other non renewable resources. I am also making use of the land I already have and not letting it just sit there. If I grow things organically and thoughtfully, my efforts can actually improve the soil over time.
  • For the time I spend cooking healthy food from scratch, I achieve several things. I can teach my children how to eat well and take care of themselves, I can choose not to support a food industry that doesn’t make healthy food (for us or the environment), and I may also be saving money for our future and contributing less to the amount of energy needed and wasted by factories to make all these complex food products and ship them. I am also taking care of my own health and the health of my family.
  • When I buy things used or I reuse my own things, I am saving one less thing from the dump and extending its usefulness. I am also practicing frugality and saving money for our future.

This is not everything I want to do, but remaining conscious of why I do certain things definitely makes doing them easier. When I am tired and don’t feel like chopping carrots or doing another load of laundry, thinking about the reasons behind what I am doing can certainly help to rejuvenate my efforts.

Additionally, if I have a voice that can reach many people, I believe I am obligated to use it to bring awareness to a variety of different causes. Likewise, if I have the money and the time, I should use some of that in the service of different causes I believe in, too. Donating time or money to different organizations / charities should be done if you have some extra to give.

Well, that is all I can come up with for now. I am sure some people will read this and think that it is crazy, idealistic, and pointless, but most of us will never be Mother Teresa, Ghandi, or any other famous champion of “lost causes.” Despite this, we all have the power to do small things and bring something positive to the world every single day. None of us are perfect and we might not always do the right things, but we should use the power we have to do some good and leave the world a bit better off than it was when we arrived.

Resources:

The Other 90% by Robert K. Cooper

The Other 90%

I am reading a book called The Other 90% by Robert K. Cooper. In Chapter 18, he talks about being a “champion of lost causes.” In that chapter he writes, “Imagine yourself years from now at the end of your life. Your children and grandchildren are gathered around you, and one of the youngest ones asks you what you did in your life to make the world better. What will you say? Your answer will surely be shaped by the lost causes you fought for, or failed to fight for.”

I have a friend that I like to debate with, and the other day he told me that all our conversations are the same. We debate, he challenges what I say, and in the end we both have to agree that “the world is screwed either way, probably won’t change, but it would be nice if it would change.” I had the book with me and he pointed to the title of that chapter and said he understood why I liked the book. Maybe I do like to champion the “lost cause”, but even though trying to change things seems often like a lost cause, I still think it is really important to try.

Before I read this book, I had been thinking about how important it is to me to be able to say, on my death bed, that while I was here I at least tried to make the world a little better. So, I decided to write out what I would like to do to achieve that. What legacy do I want to leave… as in… how will I have tried to leave the world a bit better (perhaps than I found it?) or how will I have tried to leave the lightest footprint and a positive footprint on the earth for future generations?

This is my (perhaps idealistic) list:

I want to be a good wife and mother. If I fail to be this, then I fail in a lot of ways. This matters the most.

I want to be a positive presence for other people and I want to support people to become their best selves and be a supporting voice when it comes to them achieving whatever their dreams are. I want others to help others realize that they can dream big and that many of the limitations they think they see are not really there. Three people in my life who have shown me how important this is (by supporting me) are my Dad, my husband, and my always optimistic and supportive friend, Samantha Hardin.

I want to help people by sharing what I know and what I have learned so far in my studies and experience. Writing articles and books seems like a good way to do this. I can reach more people. If I write certain articles or books (which I want to be in line with my values and not just geared to make money…) and they even help one person, then I have helped one more person than would have otherwise been helped.

Raise my children to also think like this and teach them to be introspective / reflective, live consciously, positively and lightly and to follow their own dreams and talents. If I can raise my children like this, then perhaps they will raise their children like this and the benefit of more people in the world attempting to live like this multiplies with each generation.

I want to try to consume less and be conscious of what I do consume (and my family consumes.) Using natural products, growing some of our own food, buying organic, reusing things, buying used, etc. are some ways we can live more lightly on the planet. When it gets tiring or I want to give up for convenience I can reflect on some of these things:

For every cloth diaper I wash, one less ends up in the dump for future generations to deal with. I also save the world from all the waste produced in the manufacturing process needed to make these things.

For the time spent learning to garden and growing some of our own food, that much less food has to be grown elsewhere and delivered to my house using oil and other non renewable resources. I am also making use of the land I already have and not letting it just sit there. If I grow things organically and thoughtfully, my efforts can actually improve the soil over time.

For the time I spend cooking healthy food from scratch, I achieve several things. I can teach my children how to eat well and take care of themselves, I can choose not to support a food industry that doesn’t make healthy food (for us or the environment), and I may also be saving money for our future and contributing less to the amount of energy needed and wasted by factories to make all these complex food products and ship them. I am also taking care of my own health and the health of my family.

When I buy things used or I reuse my own things, I am saving one less thing from the dump and extending its usefulness. I am also practicing frugality and saving money for our future.

This is not everything I want to do, but remaining conscious of why I do certain things definitely makes doing them easier. When I am tired and don’t feel like chopping carrots or doing another load of laundry, thinking about the reasons behind what I am doing can certainly help to rejuvenate my efforts.

Additionally, if I have a voice that can reach many people, I believe I am obligated to use it to bring awareness to a variety of different causes. Likewise, if I have the money and the time, I should use some of that in the service of different causes I believe in, too. Donating time or money to different organizations / charities should be done if you have some extra to give.

Well, that is all I can come up with for now. I am sure some people will read this and think that it is crazy, idealistic, and pointless, but most of us will never be Mother Teresa, Ghandi, or any other famous champion of “lost causes.” Despite this, we all have the power to do small things and bring something positive to the world every single day. None of us are perfect and we might not always do the right things, but we should use the power we have to do some good and leave the world a bit better off than it was when we arrived.

Ode to Breasts

August 26th, 2010

I would like to write an ode to breasts, but I will settle for a short post.

Image from the ad "Ode to Boobs"

I’ve been thinking a lot about breasts lately and what they mean to me, and, what they mean in general. Not just sexualized breasts, or artificially “enhanced” breasts (which, might I point out, strangely resemble nothing so much as the engorged breasts of a brand new mother), but real breasts. Real breasts whose real purpose is to nourish new life.

I’ve had a love / hate relationship with mine ever since they started burgeoning at the beginning of my pregnancy. No one really informs you how much they might change. How your small maiden nipples grow large and take on funny shapes when stimulated. The whole nipple turns into a target that baby is going to aim for to get nourishment when her vision is still newborn poor. I used to just have to lift my arm up to wash my chest in the shower, but now, buxom as I am, I have to lift my breasts as well. They hang in a way they never have before. At first, it really bothered me. They felt so heavy and ungainly. I wanted my lightweight, easy to manage breasts back. These are not breasts that allow you to easily sleep on your stomach. They are not even easily contained. They are however, a lot like warm inviting pillows. My husband and I cuddle and I can literally comfort him against my ample bosom. Even better, I know I will comfort and nourish my children with these new breasts.

They are also not just purely maternal breasts (though I challenge here the very definition of “maternal”.)  They may bring both pleasure and pain when I nourish my babies with them, but they will also still be a sensitive area on my body that can bring me pleasure when my husband and I make love. I think this duality breasts have really bothers a large number of people in our Western society. It is back to that whole Madonna / whore dichotomy. Women, as the sensual beings they are, had to engage in sex to achieve pregnancy. Sex is an integral part of the story of how new life is created, grown, and nourished. As her sexual self, maybe she can identify with all the oversexed images we receive of women every day in our culture. She enjoys putting on her lacy lingerie and reveling in her sensuality. But, when the baby arrives, what cultural images are we inundated with?

The biggest one I think of is the virgin Mary holding her son and gazing at him lovingly. The VIRGIN Mary. It makes me laugh it is so absurd. Other than that, we see images of supermodels who have their children and miraculously get right back to their ideal airbrushed selves on the magazine covers. Sometimes they are holding their newborns and smiling, usually wearing something that is more modest than they usually wear on those covers. All the other images I think I am expected to relate to include mothers gazing down at their babies with eyes filled with love, surrounded by pastel colored things (that the advertiser would like me to buy, no doubt.)

Where do I go, the woman and the lover, when the baby arrives? Where does our culture have a place for me, Bethany, the entire woman? The mother, the lover, and all the other things that make me me? Is it taboo to breastfeed my baby and then make love to my husband, breasts still leaking milk? I think it sounds beautiful and wonderful. We created this amazing child, I am carrying her for all these months and helping her to grow, and soon I will nourish her with my body, after her birth. My husband and I should continue to celebrate the love we have that caused her to be created in the first place! So why is it that a mother’s body is not the image we see when we gaze upon images that are supposed to remind one of how sensual women are? Who is more sensual than the mother? The mother is the epitome of what a sensual woman is.

My nipples leaked for the first time the other day. I had been waiting for it. For some reason I never could really believe that they would produce anything. When they did, I couldn’t stop smiling and I was laughing and showing my husband the miracle. The thought that kept going through my mind was, “They work!” A few weeks ago, we found a lump in my left breast. I had to get a needle biopsy done on it (my husband sat next to me, held my hand and calmed me, and gave me a preview of just how great he is going to be when I give birth.) For two weeks, the specter of “cancer” hovered over us, and we were afraid. It turned out to be a fibroadenoma, which is a benign growth some women get, especially during pregnancy. This event made me doubt the level of my own health. For some reason, perhaps because of my previous health problems, I have continually doubted my body’s ability to create new life during this pregnancy. But each ultrasound and sound of my baby’s heartbeat, each felt kick, each drop of clear fluid coming from my breasts, and the daily growing of my belly and body defies my doubts. I am left in awe of the entire process.

This whole pregnancy has been an emotional roller coaster. Some days I feel so big and tired, and I just want my old body back. But other days, I am simply in awe of the amazing thing my body…no, that I, am doing. On those days I feel like I am channeling the goddess, a living symbol of all that women are and all that we have been and will be. I am of the opinion that our source does not have a gender, but I scoff at the long held notion that God could ever be the “father”. If God has a gender, she is a woman. She is the mother of all creation and women are ones made in her image. When I feel like this, I want to share it with all my sisters. I want them to feel the same wonder and pride that I feel when I reflect on being a woman. I want them to embrace their changing (and likely permanently changed) bodies and celebrate what it is to be both a woman and a mother. I want them to recognize how amazing they are and what they are doing is.

Interesting Resources:

“Ode to Boobs” Ad, for breast cancer awareness (source of image, top left): Youtube Video of Ad

Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts by Fiona Giles

Barefoot, Pregnant AND in the Kitchen! (and proud of it)

Ah, the learning curve.  Struggling to master a thing (and persevering until I do) is not something I have long acquaintance with. I am exhausted right now, my plantar fasciitis is acting up, and I feel a bit frustrated. I spent the day doing things like making chicken stock for the first time and baking my first loaf of real bread. I don’t know if my endeavors were successful, but they were challenging for me and I am not even done with them yet. (EDIT: My bread is edible and Juan and I find it quite tasty! Also, my chicken stock looks and tastes like chicken stock should! Hooray!)

I was never challenged in the crappy schools I went to, and when I finally was I didn’t even know what to do. I think the very last time I was challenged as a child was when I attempted to learn how to play softball in the 4th grade. I had never really played a sport before and was always the last kid picked in gym class. I begged my mom to let me play softball and she finally did. I worked so hard to be good at it and my dad practiced endlessly with me. I played for a few years and I was never amazing at it, but I definitely did improve. The next time I remember being challenged was maybe in math class in high school some time when I missed enough days to fall behind. I didn’t rise to the challenge, though, I just did enough to get by.  At that point, I no longer even remembered that working hard at something that was challenging to me could have a great payoff. You try and fail so many times as a little kid and you don’t usually just give up. But, if things get too easy for you as you grow older, you forget the benefit of finding new challenges and working to overcome them. (Parents, please heed this. You want your kids to be challenged, regularly!)

The first time I was ever really challenged in adulthood was in an R&B girl group I was in. I was required to memorize songs that I thought were way above my skill level and then to sing them as perfectly as possible several days later… a cappella. I had to stay on pitch and with the beat despite not hearing the song. And I did it. I spent hours and hours working so hard on the songs. I’d play the same runs over and over until I could finally hear what the notes were. I am talking 10 hours at a time glued to my cd player. I also was a horrendous dancer when I got to the group.  I cried when they made me show them my idea of how to dance with some sex appeal.  It was bad. The other girls had to spend hours working with me and teaching me choreography and how to look good when I danced. I slowly got it, though, and I eventually was able to pick up stuff a bit more quickly. The girl group didn’t work out, our producer was a psychotic jerk, and I realized LA and the music industry was not for me, but I did learn something wonderful about the value of hard work.

Hard work definitely can pay off. You just have to be patient and realize you are going to screw up and make mistakes. I think I am something of a perfectionist and the thought of having to live through mistake after mistake is really frustrating to me. I’ve had to be extra kind to myself when I tackle new things. My websites have been a pretty big challenge for me. The learning curve is ridiculously steep.  Just when I start getting the hang of one thing, I realize I need to learn something else, too. I’ve spent endless hours messing around with the code for my sites, playing around in Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, and reading tutorials for a lot of things. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve also learned a lot. I’ve been working on my sites for one year now and they are nowhere near where I wish they were. But… that is because I made plenty of mistakes, backtracked often, and have at times redone everything. I know I am light years ahead of where I was just last year, whether I have something concrete to show for that or not.

This whole housewife thing is going to be much the same. I feel kind of angry at my family for not teaching me how to do basic things like sew, clean, and cook. My mom let us help with sugar cookies once, and my dad taught me how to make fish using aluminum foil, spices, and a lemon. My friend taught me how to make this really good roasted chicken. Guess what I am good at cooking? I also don’t know anything about plants, I still can’t sew, and I am always calling my mom or dad to ask questions. I google this stuff more than anything, though.  But it still sucks. Cooking, for instance, would be better taught in person, not in a “how to” format in an article online.

I can’t really blame my family or anyone else, though.  Didn’t the Women’s Rights Movement help get women out of the kitchen and into “fulfilling work”?  That is what I was taught. Raising children and doing work in the home was drudgery and something you got away from so you could have a fulfilling career in a well-paying field. I think my parents though I was going to become a doctor or a lawyer or something and really “fulfill my potential”. I think I thought so, too. I despised anything having to do with the word “housewife” and told Juan way before I even married him that I would absolutely not be a wife that cooked or cleaned for him. Well that was all crap and my priorities have definitely changed. There is much to be said for being able to sustain yourself. Growing your own food, making food from scratch, and understanding how to have a clean and welcoming home is extremely important. We all rely so much on corporations to provide all these basic things for us that we end up living to work instead of just working outside the home to help us live.  It gets expensive when you buy all this processed food, bottled cleaning products, and other convenience products you don’t actually need. And the cost of paying other people to raise your children is also ridiculously high. I’ve started to realize that being able to have one parent at home to help raise the children is important for the child and for the overall health of the family.

My first attempt at homemade chicken stock

Anyway, the last few days have been a series of ups and downs. I felt so proud of my chicken the other day, and the fact that we got several meals out of it. Today, we’ve been pretty busy. We went to Ross and got a bunch of stainless steel cookware (we have almost totally eliminated plastic and aluminum type cookware, bowls, utensils, etc. from our kitchen.) We both wandered around looking for a sieve. The only reason I knew what that was was because I looked it up in google images beforehand. So so sad. I did quite a lot of research before attempting to make chicken stock and bread. (Questions I found answers to include: What exactly is cheesecloth? Can I just throw the giblets in? Why are there so many different types of flour? What is a good bread to start with? Is the pot I already have big enough for this? Do I make a sachet or just throw my herbs in? etc.)

I got home and set up the chicken stock. I found out I needed yeast, so I went to the store to buy some.  Juan helped me mix all the ingredients for the bread after that. We bickered over different things. We are both way too critical of the way the other does things in the kitchen.  (I am always freaked out about accidentally getting cat fur or something in the food and it makes me a bit crazy. It doesn’t matter how clean the kitchen is, this cat we have sheds everywhere and I hate it.) I made this really complicated and frustrating salad while I was starving, and then as soon as I sat down to eat the timer went off for the bread dough. I was so excited when I saw how the dough rose the first time. It was like magic to me. Then I set up my table for kneading the dough, put my hands in and panicked because I realized I have no idea how to knead bread dough. So I got flour all over my laptop keyboard as I loaded a YouTube video on kneading bread and Juan came into the kitchen to show me because apparently he has kneaded dough before.  Ugh. Just. Sad. It was just like this when I was learning to clean my house and learning how to make my own cleaners. It will no doubt continue to be like this for cooking and when I have the baby and learn all about that stuff.

So, learning curve blues today, but the things worth having are worth working for and these skills, I believe, are well worth having.

The first edible bread I've ever made! (braided herb bread)

I just wanted to write a quick post on hypothyroidism in pregnancy. It affects a lot of women in every stage of life, especially in pregnancy and afterward, and many of them remain undiagnosed for way too long. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include: fatigue, inability to lose weight, digestive issues, menstrual issues or infertility, cholesterol issues, depression, neck discomfort, muscle and joint pains, cold hands and feet, “missing” or sparse outer third of eyebrows, dry skin and hair, puffiness in face, brain fog (can’t concentrate, can’t remember things) and many more.  A more complete list is here and I recommend checking it out even if you only think you might have one or two of the above symptoms. Being pregnant with undiagnosed hypothyroidism can seriously harm both the mother and the fetus.

I recommend all pregnant women ask their doctors to monitor their thyroid function during pregnancy.  This is not currently standard practice, so you do need to ask. I am going to the doctors next week to request a dosage increase. My gynecologist thinks that as long as my thyroid test (the main one is TSH) says I am within “normal” range, I do not need to increase my dosage. I believe this is crap, so I am appealing to my endocrinologist on the matter. I am preparing a one page print out with bullet points to illustrate my case and bringing the abstracts from several scholarly articles to back up my point of view. This may seem like overkill, but not if you’ve ever had to debate your doctors! I have had to. Your doctor is your teammate in your quest for health, not a dictator. You are your own best advocate and you need to remember that.

If I felt amazing pre-pregnancy with a TSH at .40, then there is absolutely no reason why we should allow my TSH to continue climbing just because it is still within “normal” range. Hypothyroidism in pregnancy comes with too many risks for that. Being within “normal” range simply means that you have a TSH that falls within the average TSH range of people without thyroid problems. If I already know what TSH I feel good at, we no longer need to rely on a broad range based on averages. It is ridiculous to. We have specific information based on my specific case. Allowing the TSH to rise is like asking for problems.

If you are struggling to lose weight after pregnancy and you are struggling with symptoms like fatigue, ask for a thyroid test and look at your TSH yourself. A lot of women actually develop hypothyroidism postpartum (if they haven’t already developed hypothyroidism in pregnancy) and it is a condition you must be on medicine for. Do research on hypothyroidism, and also know that your lab test will likely say the “normal” range for TSH is .5-5.0. This is outdated. It ought to be .3-3.0.  If you have a TSH above 3.0 and/or you have symptoms of hypothyroidism,  appeal to your doctor or go get yourself a new one who will treat you.

I had untreated hypothyroidism for something like 5 years and it was hell. No doctor caught it. I had to figure it out myself.  I wrote an article for Associated Content on my journey to get a diagnosis for my hypothyroidism and there is more information there. If you have hypothyroidism, you need treatment and there is high chance you may need treatment for life. Don’t be scared by that, either. It is just a pill you take every day and it makes your quality of life 1000x better!

*Oh and, please, for the love of God- If your doctor puts you on thyroid medication for a few weeks, re-checks your TSH and says it is fine, and then proceeds to take you off the medication because your TSH “is fine now”…. run the other way! I have actually heard of this happening to people I know.  The medication is needed to keep your TSH at a normal level. Doctors who pull this need to be investigated for stupidity. The test is within normal range because you are currently on the medication. You did not “fix” the problem by taking medication for a few weeks. It is possible that hypothyroidism in pregnancy could get better afterward, but you should still be monitoring it. In any other case, you still need it and likely will continue to. Get thee to a good endocrinologist.*


Other Resources:

Thyroid- About.com – Writer is Mary Shomon, a great thyroid patient advocate

My Search for a Disgnosis

This article covers safe baby toys that are free of toxic chemicals that could harm your child. Ever wonder which toy companies put potentially dangerous toxic chemicals in your children’s toys?  Now that I am pregnant, I am wondering, so I spent the last several hours doing research on non-toxic baby products and toys, and the information seems to be spread far and wide.  Phthalates in toys can leach out and get into the baby’s system, and we have all heard about recalls due to lead in toys. I am going to cover the major companies and their policies about toxins in their toys, and then share with you several great companies that I found that sell safe baby toys.  A lot of these are also eco friendly toys, too, which is great.

Update! September 2012 – This guide is now the best resource for safe and eco-friendly toys on the internet!

Some of the major chemicals I am trying to avoid here include PVC (vinyl), phthalates, BPA (bisphenol-a), flame retardant, and lead. Finding safe baby products like shampoos, soaps, and lotions is a breeze, plus I can reference EWGs awesome Skin Deep Database if I need to. It is great.  It is the toys, strollers, carseats, playpens, and all other assorted baby “gear” that I am having a hard time with. I have, however, successfully tracked down some really good toy manufacturers that make safe baby toys. In the future, I will focus more on the “big” items, like strollers, carseats, etc.

I first started researching safe baby toys. I wanted to know how safe my “antique” My Little Pony dolls and Fisher Price Little People sets were. The answer seems to be, not very. I feel pretty bummed about this. My mom saved so many of my toys, and so many of them likely contain things I am trying to avoid. The My Little Pony dolls most definitely are made with PVC- they even have that “new shower curtain / rubber ducky” smell when fresh out of the box. The Little People are basically ancient plastic (can’t trust that, can I?) and apparently a choking hazard to boot. (Though, I don’t understand that part. My sister and I had no issues whatsoever choking on Little People. Maybe we were older when we started playing with them.)

Two of the biggest Toy manufacturers are Mattel and Hasbro. They seem to own just about all the most popular toy brands out there. Some of these include: Barbie, G.I. Joe, American Girl, Fisher-Price, Playskool, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and a lot of your favorite games.

I do believe that the major companies have removed phthalates from anything that is meant to go in a baby’s mouth (like teethers), but other than that, I don’t know that they have done much. Also, not all teethers and the like you find in stores are actually phthalate-free. The laws in the EU are much better than they are in the U.S. when it comes to providing safe baby toys. We still haven’t caught up. Mattel gave a promise to remove phthalates from its toys for children under 3, back in 1997, and to try to make toys with plant-based plastics in 1999.  But I can’t really find anything more recent, and you would think Mattel would be really promoting that their stuff is PVC and Phthalate-free, right? Especially with all the Chinese factory lead recalls they faced a few years ago. It would be good PR for them.

Oh! Binary Barbie!

(While researching this, I discovered “Computer Engineer” Barbie. She is brand new. Her shirt is covered in 0s and 1s -binary code- that translate into “Barbie”. I’m, uh, feeling really weak right now. The girly geek in me very much wants this PVC Barbie doll for herself…It also does seem like a great message to send to girls, but of course, it would be a lot nicer if the toy was free of toxic chemicals!)

Hasbro definitely uses PVC and makes no apologies for it. From the Hasbro site:

“Hasbro…firmly believes that toys and childcare articles made from PVC and softened with phthalates pose no health risk to children.”

They believe this, though they say they do follow the regulations imposed by different countries. Good for them, but I still think they are smoking crack if they think this is a good answer. I guess they are hoping no one watches videos like the one I posted in my article on phthalates.

So, I don’t really know if I can trust the major toy companies, especially for the first few years of my child’s life, when they are most likely to be putting all their toys in their mouths. If they were trustworthy, I don’t think a lot of other eco-aware mommys out there would be searching around for safe baby toys. They wouldn’t have to if they could be easily found at every toy store. I have discovered a few companies that make toys that are free of PVC, Phthalates, Lead, BPA and Flame-retardants. I doubt that every single baby toy is perfect, and it seems like a lot of companies inevitability have recalls for one reason or another, but this is the closest I’ve come to finding safe baby toys that, for the most part, shouldn’t put your child in close contact with any dangerous chemicals. I also believe we should “vote with our pocketbooks” and reward companies that are trying to be socially responsible.

All of the links and pictures below open up in a new tab to the toy or company page on Amazon.com.


Safe Baby Toys Company List

PVC-free, Phthalate-free, Lead-free, BPA-free and Flame-retardant-free


  • Plan Toys – I love this company. They are going to be my replacement for Little People and plastic play food for my kids.
  • Tiny Love – This company makes safe developmental / educational baby toys.  They have mobiles, toys for carseats, and activity centers that I really like. They say that they do not have any lead, phthalates, PVC, BPA, or flame retardant (in the cloth) in their products. I will be definitely be buying these!
  • Earthentree – Wood toys made from a sustainable source. Small company from WA, but carved in India by artisans and painted with eco-friendly natural vegetable dyes. (So, no lead paint!) Fair trade, which is great.  The company actually cares about their workers. These toys are recommended for older babies, as some of the pieces are smaller. I think I will definitely buy some of these beautiful safe baby toys eventually. I want to reward a company that is trying to be so socially responsible.
  • Lego - Lego offers…. Legos! I think we all know what those are. Fun blocks to build interesting things out of.
  • Edushape (Some stuff may be made with PVC, but be phthalate free) Edushape offers a lot of foam type toys for play and bath time.
  • Green Toys – These are really cute. Good for “playing house”. Tea Set, Tool Set, “Chef” Set, and even some fun stuff for the sandbox or beach. They also have have kid’s jump ropes, frisbees, and gardening sets.
  • Olli Olbot – Very cute cloth toys for babies. Italian Company.
  • Sevi – A bunch of different kinds of toys. Italian Company. Extremely cute little wooden pull toys and children’s musical instruments.  Also some practical things, like alarm clocks and toothbrush holders. (The only “bad” thing I’ve read is that some of  the pellets in the stuffed animals are made of polyethylene, but I haven’t seen too much concern over that. These pellets may be in either Trudi, Sevi, and/or Olli Olbot.)
  • Trudi - Super cute and safe stuffed animals! I love them. Italian Company.
  • Wow Toys – Sold by Ravensburger on the US Amazon site. UK Company. Cute plastic safe baby toys. They have cute little plastic people and toys that definitely could replace Little People. Amazon has some stuff, but you might have to search around for different sets.
  • Spielstabil – Lots of plastic kid’s toys. Stuff for outside play, like a garden / sandbox set, and play food and accessories. All PVC-free (see exception.) German Company. (Exception: Duck from bath set item no. 3704 and squirter animals from baby water fun set item no. 7524 include PVC, but  are phthalate-free.)
  • Green Sprouts – Teethers, Rattles, and other small baby toys. They also have things like cups, bibs, bottles and blankets. All their stuff is BPA, PVC, and phthalate-free. No word on whether or not they use flame retardant.
  • Wonderworld Toys – Many products made from environmentally friendly rubberwood, non-toxic water based paints and biodegradable fabrics. A lot of the toys are very cute and look like they’d fall under “developmental toys” for babies. Company in Thailand.

When I was doing research, I really loved some of these awesome safe baby toys and definitely plan on buying them for my own kid(s). Here are some of my favorites.

Plan Toys

Cute Eco Play House from Plan Toys!

I think I have found a replacement for the Little People! I absolutely love these toys. Check out the eco-friendly house. ;) Besides the houses, people, and other components for a whole town, they also sell really cute play food. I now have an alternative for all that plastic play food stuff and the Little People my mom has been keeping in storage for me.

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Green Toys

Phthalate-free and BPA-free tea set from Green Toys

Ok, well… I might be having a boy, but if I am having a girl… How cute is this tea set? They also sell a tool set and some other really adorable toys.

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Tiny Love

Tiny Love Gymini Super Deluxe- Lights and Music

Tiny Love Sweet Island Dreams Mobile

Tiny Love Activity Ball

Tiny Love makes safe developmental toys for babies. I love their stuff. I was looking for an answer to the mobile / activity center and I think I have found a good one. Tiny Love says that all their stuff is free of PVC, phthalates, lead, and even flame retardant. I am planning to buy a lot of toys and things from this company.

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Trudi

Trudi Plush Rinaldo Owl 7"

Hmmm… this cute little owl sure would look perfect on baby’s bookshelf, no? ;)

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More Resources:

Safbaby.com

The Nation – Toxic Toys

The Soft Landing – A good website for specific products and questions.

Only duck from our bath set item no. 3704 and squirter animals from our baby water fun set item no. 7524 include PVC, but they are phthalate free, of course.

In the mythology of many different cultures throughout history, there existed a triad of goddesses. They represented the phases of a woman’s life as well as the phases that the people experienced in their everyday lives. The Goddesses were seen in phases of the moon (which also coincided with a woman’s menstrual cycle before we flooded the planet with artificial light.) They were associated with the birth, death, and re-birth cycle of nature. Later, male deities would start to represent this triad, but in the beginning, the cycle of life was clearly associated with women and their natural ability to bring new life into the world,  just like the earth that sustained the people of the time. These three Goddesses were (and really, still are) the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone.

The Maiden

The Maiden represents the start of a woman’s menstrual cycle and puberty, and all the changes and new beginnings she will experience as she becomes a woman. She is also represented by the waxing moon. I imagine that in times past, this was a pretty exciting time for a young girl. Getting one’s menstrual cycle would have been a rite of passage. Today, unfortunately, a lot of young girls don’t feel proud about it. They feel confused and often their parents aren’t generally comfortable celebrating this change with them. (This is usually because the parents of these young girls experienced the same type of silence from their parents when they went through puberty.)

I know that in my house, when I hit around 11 or so years of age, my parents rented this cartoon video about puberty in boys and girls and sat me on the couch by myself to watch it! I think I knew for a long time that I would someday bleed each month, but I was terrified of it and didn’t want it to happen. I had gotten the impression that it was messy, dirty and a “curse.” Parents often won’t even use the proper word- vagina- with their girls, although I really have no idea why. When you put together the subtle clues in our culture (douche commercials to “fix” the “problem”?) and the vibes given off by uncomfortable parents, young girls just really aren’t getting a positive message about their femininity. As many of us know very well, this confusion and insecurity surrounding our newly more feminine bodies can have negative consequences in a lot of different areas of our lives. From gym class to learning how to have relationships with men – the attitudes we are taught to have can negatively affect us.

The Mother

The Mother represents fertility and abundance and a coming of age for the young woman. The Mother brings new life into the world and enters a new phase in her life. She is represented by the full moon. Ancient people saw childbirth as an amazing and wonderful event. They drew parallels between a woman’s ability to give birth and the rebirth of the earth each Spring (as well as the birth cycles of wild animals.) The Mother was in no way severed from her sexual self. The Mother was obviously a very sexual and fertile being, else how would she have conceived?

Our society’s relationship with Motherhood is definitely a different one. On one hand, we do think pregnant women are beautiful and that giving birth to new life is a beautiful thing. On the other hand, the pregnant woman is severed from the sexual self that got her there in the first place. We can definitely blame the influence of the virgin mother Mary for this dichotomy. When “Father God” religions started to take over, the feminine was marginalized, even demonized. It is not an accident that while Goddesses were being worshiped far and wide, a new religion taught that the feminine representative in the Father-God’s first garden was the cause of “man’s fall.” You remember what her punishment was. A painful childbirth! So, anyway, we now have weird virgin-whore issues when it comes to sex and then becoming a Mother.

Additionally, we have the problem that our culture puts youth on a pedestal. The time of the Maiden is revered, with the tighter body and perhaps perkier breasts. Women are placed on display like pretty objects and we are bombarded with the idea that we are worth less if we can’t measure up. This, of course, sells a lot of products, but it is extremely damaging to women. It actually hurts men, as well. Men also buy into this ideal image of beauty and it seriously damages many relationships between men and women. I think that in some cases, some men have a hard time even loving real women, because real women very often don’t fit the “ideal” (sometimes even fake) standard of beauty exhibited by the man’s favorite supermodels or porn stars or whatever. But I digress on that point, because I could write a whole post on how damaging this stuff is for men, too, and I probably will in the future.

When you become a mother, there is a good chance you will not be looking like your “Maiden” self ever again, and that is to be expected. But it is still hard for the Mother. As you’ve read in my past entries, I am struggling with my changing body myself. I’m scared of sagging breasts and and a tummy that may not be flat again. I really want to love and accept my body and celebrate it for the life-giving ability it possesses. Even though I know my more negative feelings about my changing body are just due to social conditioning, they are still difficult to combat. Our society has a very unfriendly attitude toward women and their attractiveness, sexually, once they pass the Maiden stage.

The Crone

The Crone represents a woman after she goes through menopause. She represents endings, wisdom, and yes, even death. She is represented in the waning moon and is the life cycle coming to completion. The idea of a “Crone” may not conjure up the most pleasant images, as the official definition isn’t flattering at all, but I think of the Crone phase as a place of wisdom. If a woman is able to age gracefully, gains knowledge throughout her life and learns from her mistakes, and then spends time being introspective about these things, I believe this time is a time of great wisdom for her. She will be a wise woman that the less foolish among the young can look to for guidance in their own lives. Of course, our culture has forgotten the wise woman in its quest for never-ending youth and the phase of the Maiden.

I am nowhere near this stage of my life yet, but I know that my own mother is approaching this phase, as are all the mothers of other people my age. I think it is a rough time for women. If they are able to age gracefully, they may embrace their gray hair and celebrate this new phase of their life. Or maybe they will keep their natural color, but they will begin accepting that the youth and beauty they once enjoyed is passing away and that it is now time to enjoy their golden years and perhaps help their own daughters in their Mother phase and their granddaughters entering their Maiden phase. Again, it is hard for women.

We see older actresses being cast aside, yet George Clooney, for instance, is only seen as getting more handsome as he ages. It is a nasty double standard. Women may have a very hard time letting their youth go. They may turn to a lot of plastic surgery and other methods to try to stay young looking. As I’ve stated before, this is a pretty normal reaction in a culture that says the ideal woman is the woman who looks like a slim young teenager! I have seen women go both ways. Some women just give up it, it seems. They don’t exercise or eat well as they get older. Perhaps they are merely tired after all the years of struggling to live up to this ridiculous “ideal.”

Other women start the plastic surgery, etc., to keep their youth and when I see it, part of me feels sorry. It seems to me that these women still have their self-worth very wrapped up in their looks. After perhaps 55 or 60 years on this earth, one would hope they could realize that their beauty is inside and that they have much to offer to those younger than they, in the way of guidance. I am not trying to be judgmental in a negative way, as I may very well be that woman who does turn to plastic surgery when I get older, but I suppose it just makes me feel sort of sad. I feel sad that even when a woman reaches the phase of her life where she might enjoy grandchildren and retirement, she might still be struggling with body image and her own femininity. If it doesn’t end then, does it ever?

Then, though, there is a third type of older woman. She ages gracefully, she stays as active as she can and celebrates her body, and she readily acts as a mentor to younger women, imparting wisdom to them. I know women like this, and while I am sure they may still deal with the same feelings we all do as we go through life’s phases, I really admire their strength.

My journey through the phases of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone may have had the effect of making you sad, depressed, angry, or maybe just curious about how ancient people used to live differently. I know that learning about this stuff has made me feel all of these things, but it has also caused me to change. I’ve tried to dig deeper within myself, as well as to seek outside resources to try to re-align the way I think about being a woman and how I act as a woman. Here are a selection of books that I have found helpful on my journey thus far. They are all on Amazon.com.

Books / Resources:

These are more scholarly books that I used when I did the research for various research papers in college:

These are more personal:

If you have body image issues or food issues this is the one and only book I would ever recommend. If you’ve ever struggled with emotional / compulsive overeating, anorexia, or bulimia- this book is a must-read.

If you were raised a Christian or in another religion featuring prominent male figures without real feminine representation, this book is pretty good, too.

Other Resources:

Wikipedia Entry- Mother Goddess

I really really want to learn how to cook. I think this sudden desire stems from the fact that I want to feed my children really well, and I want to introduce them to all kinds of healthy foods. Foods that I didn’t discover until I was grown up.  Now, I am definitely no domestic goddess and I even warned my husband before he married me that I couldn’t cook and hated cleaning. I can’t even sew (luckily he can!)

I took two music classes (chorus and violin) the year my school offered home ec. My husband cleans and a lot of the meals I cook are already at least half-made when I buy them. Juan has suffered few quite a few interesting attempts on my part. (German stew, fish in a terrible orange sauce, rice noodle stir fry concoction, my attempt at haluski- buttery egg noodles with cabbage, and ugly birthday cake attempts.)

He claims he doesn’t remember any of these meals, but I do, and I remember they were pretty terrible. I even tried to follow recipes, too. I really love food and I really appreciate food that some people would consider “gourmet”. I wouldn’t say I am really a foodie, but I could see myself becoming more of one as I get older. Some of my best memories with my dad include our trips to Wegman’s (when we lived in Pennsylvania), where we slowly made our way through the grocery store, picking up things that looked interesting and good. We’d check out fresh artisan breads and baked goods, interesting fruits the other grocery stores didn’t carry (UGLI fruit, anyone?), yummy sounding dips (lobster or crap dips), cheeses, and more.

I liked going to the international foods section and seeing all the imported foods from Italy, France, Greece and elsewhere. I have always wanted to travel, but so far I haven’t actually gone anywhere outside of the U.S. We were planning our first trip to Europe (Juan has traveled before, though), before I got pregnant. It will have to wait, now. I think food is the way I travel without traveling. Traveling around the U.S. has been pretty cool, though. I’ve lived in different parts of the country, and every place has its own special foods and tastes.

Food in Pennsylvania

Where I grew up in Pennsylvania, there are strong Italian and Polish influences. Lots of tomatoes, cheese, meats, and pasta dishes. The Polish influence brings in potatoes, cabbage and root vegetables. Some of the best dishes in PA include pizza (especially Old Forge style!), hoagies (cheesesteak!), pierogies, potato pancakes, and haluski. PA is basically the snack food capital, with tons of different amazing stuff produced there. I have a huge list of things I love with Middleswarth Bar-B-Q chips, Tastycake products, and Auntie Anne’s pretzels topping that list. There is great food where I grew up, but the downside is that a lot of it can be unhealthy for you. When I moved out to the West Coast, I was introduced to cooking with all fresh ingredients and new taste combinations.

Old Forge Style Pizza

Food in Washington, Oregon, and California (Great West Coast Food)

I lived in Washington, but I was right across the border from Portland, Oregon, so I’ll say both places taught me more about food. Burgerville is this amazing fast food restaurant  Read the rest of this entry »

A few days after I got pregnant, I went through the majority of my make-up and personal care products and researched them to find out which ones were safe and which ones were not. In the U.S., chemicals are not tightly regulated at all, and a lot of dangerous stuff makes its way into our consumer products. The FDA doesn’t regulate the cosmetics industry at all, and so the cosmetics companies are allowed to put whatever they want into their products. Chemical companies do not have to prove their chemicals are safe. The only way a chemical gets taken off the market is if it is shown to be unsafe. (And it is a little too late then, isn’t it?) I will be covering the topic of chemicals in consumer products a lot on this site, so for now, you can reference this article from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) if you would like to learn more about the hazards found in personal care products.

For my research, I used EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. They have tested thousands of personal care products and have rated them based on the levels of hazardous chemicals found in them.

I kept track of everything as I researched it, and I am including my list here. Perhaps it can help you get an idea of how your cosmetics score.

My Makeup List

0-2 low hazard, 3-6 moderate hazard, 7-10 high hazard

Read the rest of this entry »