Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Your kid's a what-a-tarian?

My daughter recently had her 9-month Well Baby check-up. Where those 9 months went so fast, I have no idea. But I'm happy to say she's right on target with her growth and meeting her milestones. Her motor skills are developing nicely and she is at a very healthy weight. I had those common parent questions for her pediatrician. When do we start brushing teeth? How many BMs should she be having a day? When do we introduce the sippy cup? How much should we be feeding her? The doctor patiently and thoroughly answered all of my questions. And then we talked about Layla's diet.

I'm a vegetarian and have been one for 17 years now. I was not raised a vegetarian, however. Ironically, I was the queen of meat for a very long time. No hamburger was ever safe around me! But when I became a teenager I decided to try my hand at vegetarianism. Initially it was for the challenge, but when I researched how animals were treated in the processing of meat and the effect it has on our bodies and the environment, my resolve to put off meat was strengthened. No more hamburgers for me, not the beef kind at least. Over half a lifetime later, I'm now a mom and it is my preference that my daughter also abstain from meat. Now, I know someone in our family is going to offer the girl a chicken bone or something, and while I'm not totally fine with that I don't think I'm inclined to freak out about it either. But as far as everyday living is concerned, I do want my daughter's diet to be vegetarian. With all the hormones they pump into food these days, I'm really not trying to buy my child's first training bra when she's 5 years old! My husband is a meat-eater and is concerned about Layla's protein intake. Honestly, I am, too. Like I said, I wasn't raised vegetarian so I don't know what it's like to feed a small child vegetarian food when they are already notoriously finicky at that age. Getting them to eat balanced meals is difficult enough without dietary restrictions.

I looked to her pediatrician for advice on the subject. Firstly, I'd hoped she'd validate my wishes for Layla's diet and allay the fears of other family members concerned about proper nutrition. Secondly, I needed some direction on what foods to introduce and when. She was so reassuring and totally supportive of this choice. She said that we already consume too much animal protein as it is and gave serving suggestions, like cooking beans a little longer than normal so that the skins are softened and easier for Layla to chew. She said soy was okay, but to introduce it over a period of a couple of days to make sure Layla isn't allergic. Nuts are a no-go until she's a year old, and after that we can give her soy, almond, or rice milk. I feel really blessed to have such a supportive pediatrician for Layla.

I know there are people all over the world who raise vegetarian children. But it's not entirely easy when everyone -- and I mean EVERYONE -- around you eats meat and feeds it to their kids. I imagine we'll have to endure questions about how we feed her and if we're giving her all that she needs. But she's perfectly healthy and incredibly smart, so I'm expecting that her development will speak for itself.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Taking a lesson from the Boy Scouts

My husband recently had a birthday and the family celebrated by going out to eat at one of his favorite restaurants. When we got to the place I looked in the diaper bag to get Layla's dinner and to my horror I had forgotten to pack it! With few options, I found myself hoofing it through Chinatown in DC, trying to find a drug store or grocery market where I could buy some baby food. When I finally found one they had all of three baby food options -- and as you can imagine I could forget about finding anything organic or all-natural. I eventually gave up, bought some Cheerios and applesauce, and headed back to the restaurant.

One of the first and most important lessons I learned when I became a mother and when I embarked on living a greener life is that our obsession with convenience in this society is a tree-hugging mom's worst enemy. Natural, organic, and non-toxic options don't often abound when you're out, even in a progressive metro area like this one. It pays to be prepared. Yeah yeah, I know that's advice suitable for all aspects of life, but it's especially pertinent now that I have an unpredictable child and am picky about how I care for her. I decided to list a few things I simply can't leave home without because I likely won't find them easily in stores if I forget them. In Layla's baby bag, you'll usually find:

Happy Baby Organic Puffs -- Layla mastered the pincher grasp a few weeks ago and can now feed herself (yay!), but even before then these were her favorite things in the world to chew, next to mommy's locs. I like to have these on hand because she's teething and prefers textural foods. so when the baby food runs out and she still wants to much, these are perfect. And they're organic!
Gerber Organic Baby Food -- We're loving on green beans, apples, and pears mostly.

bumGenius One-Size Pocket Diaper -- I like to use these diapers for outings because I never know when I'll get to change her while we're out. These have a fleece lining that wicks away moisture into a removeable insert. Layla can wet these a few times and not have the discomfort of feeling it. So I have a much happier baby when I'm running errands. bumGenius Flannel Baby Wipes -- In addition to using cloth diapers, we also use cloth wipes. Personally, I don't bother with the fancy wipe solutions some manufacturers sell. I just put a small drop of baby wash and some water in a zip bag and soak the wipes in that. It's gentle on Layla's skin and one cloth wipe goes so much further than one disposable wipe. And I also use them to wipe her face or nose and to wipe my hands if I can't get to a bathroom sink.

Wahmies Wet Bag -- This is where I stash dirty diapers, soiled clothes, and used wipes until I can get them home to wash them. The inside is made of PUL and it zips closed, keeping odors and fluids in. And those are sock monkeys on the bag. I'm not even going to tell you what I thought they were at first. *hmpf*
The Diva Cup -- Obviously for me, because you just never know. Before I got pregnant my cycle was like clockwork. I always knew when to expect it. Now because I'm nursing it's all over the place, and I expect it to be that way at least until I wean Layla. So, while I make sure she's covered, I gotta make sure I'm covered as well.

Aside from some other basics like hand sanitizer and extra socks, these are some of my diaper bag essentials. If any one of these things is missing when we go out, then it's not a good time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How can a mama keep it "diva"... in an eco-friend manner?

Allow me to be just a little bit conceited for a minute...

I'm hot! I mean really, I'm HAWT. I've always thought I was cute, but admittedly I haven't always acted like it. And since Layla was born I've let a few things fall off, mainly my self-care and pampering time.

When I was little, I remember thinking my mother was Miss America. To me, she was the prettiest woman in the world. She took great care of herself, and even still today she does. She gets her hair done regularly, does her make-up every day, and always wears the nicest of outfits. Growing up, she took me to the salon to get my hair done every week and always made sure I had nice clothes. I dress my own daughter to the nines. I make sure the ribbons in her hair coordinate with her dresses. I match her cloth diaper covers to her outfits. She always looks like a little diva-princess. Me on the other hand, I haven't deep-conditioned my hair in entirely too long... and I need a trim BADLY. I haven't had a manicure in at least a year. I haven't had a facial in even longer than that. Make-up? Fuhgettaboutit! I'm lucky if I can manage to slap some Chap-Stik on my lips in the morning. I'm ashamed of how I've neglected myself.

I want my daughter to grow up knowing it's okay to take care of yourself. It's okay to sneak in a pedicure while you're running errands. It's fine to put on make-up even if you don't have anywhere to go. It's perfectly acceptable and sometimes even necessary to give yourself a sea salt scrub during your morning shower. Yes, I make sure she's well-taken care of, but I need to do a better job of leading by example. She needs to see mommy taking care of mommy, because nobody will treat you better than you treat yourself.

I came across a wonderful company called Soul Purpose. They are a "socially responsible" company that specializes in "highly differentiated, natural and botanically based beauty and wellness products." The founder, Nadine Thompson, used to be affiliated with a similar company whose products I once used, but that company has since folded. Since Soul Purpose had her name and stamp on it, I knew the products would be great. So I placed an order for a few items and I was NOT disappointed! The products -- from the solid perfumes to the body scrubs -- are wonderful... and eco-friendly! Oh, my personal favorite is the Zanzibar Girls Club perfume and body set. That stuff is sexy, honey!

I was so impressed with the company that I even became a consultant! I think what I'll do periodically on my blog is feature a few items that I particularly love. In the meantime, you can do a little shopping at the following link:


If you see anything you'd like to try, be sure to use Consultant ID# YNGSP202716 when you place your order. And you can always connect with me if you have any questions. There's absolutely no reason NOT to take care of yourself, no matter how busy life gets. I'm learning that lesson day by day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I've been featured on ReuseThisBag.com!

It came to my attention yesterday that my blog had been featured in last week's Friday Link Round-up on ReuseThisBag.com. Check it out!


To the good folks at RTB, thank you so much! Oh, and since that last post I've already had to buy ANOTHER reusable bag. *sigh*

Stop the judgment!

I had an interesting conversation with a sisterfriend yesterday. She'd read my blog entry about the Lunapads give-away and thanked me for bringing up the subject. Her daughter was born about a month after mine and since her cycle returned she'd been using cloth menstrual pads... but was afraid to tell anyone. She and I both cloth diaper our babies, so we've often vibed about cloth diapering and other green parenting methods. But she was hessitant to talk openly about her cloth pad use because she was afraid of being judged. She's seen how people have reacted in disgust when the subject is breached. And some members of her family and community had been vocal about their feelings on her methods before. When you set out to do something a little different or unconventional, sometimes people will look at you funny and label you for it. This sort of hearkens back to my whole "Black Folks Don't..." discussion. She thought if she mentioned that she uses cloth pads, people wouldn't be very understanding of her choice and decide that she's going too far. So to save herself the scrutiny, she just chooses not to mention it.

This brings to light the issue I've had with setting out on this journey: the judgment from both ends of the spectrum. Some people have kind of written me off as a "hippie" or "new age" for trying to do some things more naturally. Amazingly, some fellow "Christians" (notice the quotation marks) have even labeled me a pagan. That's a whole other blog entry in itself! But on the same token, some people who I look to for green living advice are often ultra-militant about their lifestyles. They absolutely cannot stand to see anyone neglect to recycle, use disposable diapers, or drive non-hybrid cars. On one messageboard, I saw a mother basically slam other moms for using plastic baby bottles and letting their kids play with plastic toys. She only uses glass bottles and wooden toys because of the threat of chemicals leeching out of plastics. Seriously? If I use a Playtex nurser I'm less of a mother than you? Come on, people!

In general, people -- especially moms -- are just doing the best they can. My journey has been about finding simple ways I could make my family a little "greener"... one at a time. Yes, I encourage others to try some of the things we've implemented, but they're certainly not the ogres of the world if they don't want to do things my way. I don't even think like that. This is a place for sharing and education, not judgment. Barking at people won't make them change, and dismissing them won't stop them from doing what they will. We could enrich each other's lives so much just by opening our hearts and minds and choosing understanding over judgment.

Actually, I wish my friend had shared her methods earlier. It would have saved me a lot of research, exploration, and confusion. We had a very informative talk and she gave me so much guidance on an issue about which I'd been curious. In her vulnerability, she helped me. Imagine how many others she might have helped already. I can't thank her enough for that, and I'm reminded once again of how we can let our judgement and other people's judgment keep us all in bondage. That's not a lesson just for green living. It's a lesson for everyday living.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I feel like you're taking advantage of me

I need to clean my house. No seriously, I do. I'm not the greatest of housekeepers in the first place, but especially now that we have a little munchkin I've gotten really bad. I just don't have the time, energy, or interest anymore. Imagine the laundry pile from my previous blog entry. Now imagine that pile in every corner of your house. That's how much I've neglected my chores lately. It's time to bust a move and bust some suds!

When I first found out I was pregnant with Layla I started looking for ways to reduce toxicity levels in our home. I didn't want anything harming the development of my little growing fetus. That led me to look into greener cleaning options, namely some "environmentally friendly" cleaning products from widely-known big names. I won't state the ones I used, but you know them when you see them in the stores -- "Green Cleaning Product" made by [insert popular name brand here]. They looked nice and they smelled a lot less toxic than their non-green counterparts. But if you read the label, the ingredients are so ambiguous. What is "plant-based cleaning agents" supposed to mean? And then to top it off, they color the products green so that you REALLY know you're making a positive impact on the environment. I'm not saying that all or any of them are being dishonest about their product's environmental friendliness, but I can't help but think I'm being had. Can you say "Greenwashing"?

Because I believe living a greener life most often means returning to simplicity, I'm now looking into home-made cleaning formulas. I figure I'll choose a room at a time to explore some of these methods and then post my results. I'm looking to Green Living Ideas to find some of my recipes. Today I'll start with the kitchen.

All Purpose Surface Cleaner - Mix together equal parts white vinegar and salt. Scrub surfaces with a natural cleaning cloth.

Cookware Cleaner - Coarse salt does wonders for scouring copper pans and ceramic baking dishes.

No-Streak Glass Cleaner - For sparkling mirrors and windows, combine 1/4 cup undiluted white vinegar, 1 tbsp cornstarch, and 1 quart warm water. Divide into spray bottles. For a lint-free shine, wipe dry with a sheet of crumpled newspaper or a coffee filter.


MOMMY TIP: I have some old birdseye cotton diapers I used to use as burp cloths for Layla. Some of them came apart at the seams during a wash one time, so now I use the plies as cleaning rags. These can work great for windows and glass and it's a good way to re-purpose something you have. See, Layla's already helping mommy with the housework!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Can it be that it was all so simple then?

I'm meditating on the Mason jar today.

I remember having Mason jars in the house as a kid. I remember my father canning rice, cereal, and grains in them. We never made preserves, but I remember my parents telling me stories of how their grandmothers would make preserves and can them in Mason jars. It's not uncommon in the South to see people sitting on their porch, drinking lemonade out of Mason jars. Like many black folks, we drank everything out of them. The Mason jar has worn many hats in America's households. They're humble, yet versatile.

The Mason jar, for me, is the quintessential symbol of reusability -- and a perfect example of living green in a simple way. I don't know anyone who's ever thrown away a Mason jar. You always found another use for them, whether it was poking holes in the lid to create a habitat for fireflies or filling it with water, putting a potato in it, and watching the leaves grow into a lovely plant for your kitchen. A lot of our inventiveness for Mason jar uses came out of necessity, as most of us historically didn't have much disposable income and had to find mutliple uses for common household items. People like my family who came from humble beginnings didn't have to "go" green... they were green.

It occurs to me that "going green" isn't about finding what's new. It's about rediscovering what's old. It's about returning to a time before our appetite for convenience led to our pillage of the planet. And for the average person, living a greener life saves money as well as resources, which is important to all of us in this economy. I'm so glad I can enjoy the luxuries my family enjoys today. I'm thankful to God that I have more disposable income than my parents had at my age. I'm glad we can live in a nice home, drive nice cars, and have a mutlitude of conveniences at our fingertips. But I don't want any of that to come at the detriment of my family or the planet's health. So if giving up a few shortcuts here and there means we're all better for it, then it's more than worth it to me.

I think we have a lot to left to learn from the Mason jar.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hey, ladies!

Okay, this blog post is strictly for my ladies, although you men may want to pull up a chair and possibly learn a thing or two.

When it's that time of the month, what do you use? Have you ever considered using cloth products for all your menstruating needs? I've only recently considered this route since Auntie had stayed away for so long after I had Layla. But now she's back (yay!) and since I cloth diaper Layla it only makes sense that I practice what I preach, right? It's incredible how much we ladies impact the environment with our sanitary products. Did you know that the most common piece of garbage that washes up on beach shores is plastic tampon applicators? YUCK!

One of my most favoritest blogs, ClothDiaperBlog.com is giving away a Lunapads intro kit. Pay them a visit and enter the contest:


Have an open mind... save the planet AND money. Peace, blessings, and happy menstruating!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bag Lady, you gon' hurt yo' back!

I have a bad habit of accumulating plastic shopping bags. When I come home from the grocery store, I put my food away and end up with a huge pile of bags. Growing up we always reused them as liners for the small garbage cans in our house, so I never throw them away. However, my husband and I don't use them for trash that often. We use them sometimes to clean out the litter box, but usually when we take out the trash we dump everything into one large bag. That includes the contents of the few small trash cans we have in our house. We really don't even use those shopping bags as trash can liners, so I'm keeping all these old bags for nothing. And I don't care what kind of fancy plastic bag storage system you buy. They NEVER look neat when you put them away.

I've issued myself a challenge: no plastic shopping bags for the rest of the year.

Besides the fact that they are terrible for the environment, they are cluttering my house! So I decided simply to not use them anymore under any circumstances. Thankfully, most stores now offer reusable bags for shopping. I like to think it's because we're becoming more concerned about the planet, but truthfully the stores can save money if they encourage shoppers to reuse bags. They don't have to pay for as many plastic ones.

But now I have another problem. I'm scatterbrained and very forgetful these days and I never remember to bring my reusable bags! What do I end up doing? I end up buying more reusable bags while I'm at the store. I even tried keeping a stash of them in my trunk, just in case I decide to make a last-minute stop at Target or something (I'm an addict!). But what happens is I'll use the bags in my trunk, take my loot home, and forget to put the bags back in my car. Inevitably, when I get my next Target jones -- because I so often do -- I have no reusable bags with which to shop. And I end up buying more. Even worse, sometimes I forget they're in the car altogether (like today) and I buy new bags when there are perfectly good ones already in my trunk.

So the mountain of plastic bags is quickly turning into a mountain of reusable ones. Saving the planet as always, yet failing to save space. One of these days I'll get it together.

ETA: And it just dawned on me that even though I took the time to spread out all my bags, take a picture of them, upload them to Blogger, and type out this whole entry, I STILL didn't bother putting them in my trunk once I was finished! What is wrong with your girl?

Check out my Sister-In-Law's blog!

My sister is a dynamic woman of God, full of wisdom and power. She just started a blog, and though I admit my bias I must say that it's amazing! Please visit her blog and vibe with her (I'll meet you over there).
My So-Called Christian Life

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Girl, you know black folks don't...

You know, over the years as I've explored ways of living naturally I've had my "blackness" questioned many times by my own people. When I became a vegetarian, I got comments like, "Girl, as much poke (pork) as black folks eat? You gonna want some fried chicken in a minute!" Some people genuinely didn't believe me and would encourage me to just "eat the sausage" anyway. When I stopped chemically straightening my hair, people would say, "You'll never get a job like that. You know [white] folks won't take you seariously if your hair is nappy." Not surprisingly, when I got pregnant and started to embrace more natural parenting methods like low-tech birth and cloth diapering, I got comments like, "You're gonna get sick of them cloth diapers," or "Most women have an epidural. Your mama had an epidural. You'll be hollaring for that epidural, watch!"

I've learned it's not my "blackness" that they question. It's the appearance that I think I'm too good to do what my people had been doing for years. Why isn't the way we've always done things good enough for you?

Thankfully, I find that most people I know who are of my generation support natural, eco-friendly living and many practice it themselves. It seems I mostly get the sideways comments from my elders, sadly. I was speaking with a lady in my church who saw me feeding my daughter some Happy Baby Organic Apple Puffs.

She told me she would tell her daughter-in-law about them because she's so "picky" about what her child eats. I could hear the condescension in her voice when she said, "picky." It made me laugh, because I'm that "picky daughter-in-law" who feeds her baby organic food, breastfed exclusively for 5.5 months, wears her regularly instead of using a stroller, only uses cloth diapers, and prefers not to let her have table food or certain snacks until she's a year old. I smiled, looked her in the eye, and said, "She should be picky."

The funny thing is that when you set out to do things naturally and are successful, the elders are often amazed. When we visited family in Ohio the other weekend, I swear I brought Layla's entire diaper stash with us. My aunts and uncles marveled at how far cloth diapers have come and how easy it was to work with them. They were sure we would have given up on that by now. But seeing how we raise her naturally, and seeing how healthy, happy, and well-adjusted our daughter is, they understand it now. My aunt even told me she was proud of me.

Eventually, the elders accepted my diet and have seen how heartily I can eat with no meat on my plate. They got used to my hair and even begged me never to cut it. And now when they see how we raise our little tree-hugger, they seem to get it. Maybe these new-fangled black folks with their new-fangled ideas and practices might have something here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Water water everywhere/ nor any drop to drink

Our water heater busted yesterday, springing a leak that's saturated most of the bottom level of our home. After waiting until 10:30pm (yes, PM!) for the plumber to come look at it, we're now left with no running water and a bill for a new water heater. That means we have no water for cooking, bathing, laundry, or even to flush the toilet. Let me tell you, if you've never had to pee in a Vitamin Water bottle in your own bathroom because you couldn't flush your toilet, it's a pretty humbling experience. Our saving grace is the water cooler in our kitchen, but of course we're limited in how much water we can take from there. I think I washed up in the smallest amount of water I've ever used for bathing this morning, about 3 cups. You never miss your water 'til your... you know how the old adage goes.

It made me think about the millions of people around the world who have to go through much worse than this every day. One sixth of the entire population has no access to clean drinking water. Imagine how that is, having to travel long distances in harsh terrain to fetch water that's probably going to make you sick because it's infested with disease. Around the world, criminal warlords hold water hostage, keeping it from the general population for ransom. Lack of clean water has public health and socio-economic ramifications. In areas were there is drought, no water means no crops for you (or the animals you depend on for food and income) to eat. Your health, safety, livelyhood, and future are in jeopardy, all because of something as simple and essential to life as water. As a person of African descent, it breaks my heart that the problem is most prevalent on the African continent.

At the end of the day, I can go to a family member's house to shower. I can go to the grocery store to buy food. I can even buy a nice 1-liter bottle of Aquafina to quench my thirst. My water problems are mere inconveniences. But there is a mother somewhere with a child as young mine who will probably die because of the lack of something I take for granted.

We can do something to help. One person can drink for 20 years from a contribution of only $20. I hope you'll join me in making a donation to charity: water (http://www.charitywater.org/) and help bring clean, sanitary drinking water to those who need it most. As for the Anderson household, I think we'll be much more considerate of our water use in the future, having a greater appreciation for the most basic of human needs. I wonder how clean I can get with a one-minute shower.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm just going to put it out there...

Okay, I'm making myself vulnerable here. I've decided to share something so personal, so shameful, that I rarely ever tell anyone about it. It's been an embarrassment of mine for a very long time, and quite frankly I'm still not over the shame of it all. But for the greater good, I feel it's best I share this most abasing aspect of my life. *deep breath* Alright, here goes...

This is our laundry pile. Garment upon garment of washed, yet unfolded clothes. Some of them were washed just yesterday. Others were washed weeks ago. Instead of folding them or hanging them in the closet, every morning we go down to the lower level of our home, rummage through the monstrous pile, and hope we find something suitable to wear to work. Let's see that again, shall we?

Wow, it looks even more monstrous from that angle, doesn't it? I'm really very ashamed of the way we treat our laundry. Why am I sharing all of this? Because I want to prove a point. I'm an avid proponent of cloth diapering and the number one concern/objection I get from people I talk to about it is that they don't want to do all the laundry that comes with it. They insist that they can barely keep up with the laundry they have, so they're sure they'd never be able to wash diapers regularly. However, as you can clearly see from the pictures above, neither I nor my husband are particularly on top of our laundry game, yet our daughter's diapers always manage to look like this:

Look at the contrast! How is it we can manage to keep her diapers washed and folded neatly, yet our clothes are left to sort themselves? I really wish I had the answer to that question, but I do know this: Even the most laundry-averse of us can successfully cloth diaper our children. No, I don't particularly like doing laundry, but in all honesty I haven't found washing and caring for her diapers to be all that cumbersome. In fact, it's become pretty routine at this point. And besides, anyone with kids is going to spend more than their fair share of time in front of a washer and dryer. Those munchkins dirty everything they wear... constantly! So I find the "I don't wanna do laundry" argument a bit curious, given the amount of laundry most parents do on a daily basis anyway. From one laundry-phobe to another, it's really not that bad.

So, there's all my business out in the open for everyone to see. I hope someone's found it helpful. Oddly, I feel a little better now having admitted I have a problem. It's kind of liberating!

Friday, May 1, 2009

My Father... The Original Environmentalist

My dad shared something interesting with me today. He saw the baby in my banner with the leaf diaper and felt the need to tell me how people would do their business and wipe their behinds with leaves in the rural area where he grew up. Since apparently there's a shortage of toilet paper in the woods (who knew?) they had to do what they had to do. And according to him, since they weren't tearing down trees to make rolls of T.P., they were being kind to the environment. Um, that's a little too green even for me.

My dad's philosphy: It's better to be green than brown. Thanks, dad. Thank you for such pearls of wisdom. I'll have to pass them on to your granddaughter one day... that is if she can stomach them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu -- How we're ALL connected

I believe... scratch that, I KNOW environmental discrimination is real. Even though I'm seething, I'm going to try to keep this entry succinct and short.

Right now the entire world is on edge because of the recent outbreak of a new strain of the swine flu virus. Officials have suggested that a 5-year-old boy from La Gloria, Mexico may be "patient zero" in this latest outbreak. There is a large pig farm near his village, one that is notorious for untreated pig waste that regularly poisons the air. La Gloria is upwind of the pig farm and its mountains basically trap the polluted air emitted by the farm, also contaminating the water supply. Many many people in La Gloria have been sickened recently, and Edgar Hernandez, the 5-year-old "patient zero," had positively tested for the H1N1 strain of the virus, though others in the same village tested for a more common flu strain. The company that owns the pig farm claims no workers or pigs there have been sick, and the Mexican government does not believe the H1N1 strain originated there.

The boy is the first known case of this new strain of swine flu, but the strain has since spread throughout the world and we are now at near pandemic levels. But here's the thing that bothers me: La Gloria residents had long complained of widespread sickness and tainted air and water. Why didn't anyone listen? Let's just assume for a minute the Mexican government is right and the strain did not originate from the neighboring pig farm. But the pollution it generated probably still contributed to widespread disease and made it very difficult for most people in La Gloria to ward off even the most common infections. So transmission of the H1N1 strain would have only been facilitated -- all because of POLLUTION. But hey, La Gloria residents aren't the most affluent in the nation. It's not the most glamorous of places. It's tucked away somewhere in the mountains and only 3,000 even live there. Why should anyone have listened?

Why should anyone have listened to low-income parents in the Bronx when their children were getting asthma and pneumonia at alarming rates -- at the hand of systematic pollution?

Why should anyone have listened when a 1997 study found that working-class minority neighborhoods were most likely targeted for hazardous waste disposal?

Why? Because however remote and contained we may think a problem is, it still has the potential to have far-reaching -- often global -- effects. We are all connected, whether we're in Mexico or Malaysia. The world is once again reminded of what happens when we fail to consider "the least of these." But this time will we listen?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Goin' Places...

We have a couple of family trips coming up. The first one is a weekend trip to Cleveland to visit my mom's side of the family. They haven't met Layla yet, so this is their introduction. The next trip is to a family reunion in Charleston, SC this summer. Now, these trips are making me incredibly nervous because 1) I've never travelled a significant distance with a baby and 2) Layla is cloth-diapered, so I don't yet know what I'm going to do about diapering her.

I think for the Cleveland trip I'm going to bring her cloth diapers because we're staying with my aunt who has a washer and dryer. Plus we're driving a minivan so we'll have plenty of storage space. But the Charleston trip is a different animal because we'll be flying, provided my husband can swallow his fear of planes. They give you enough crap about checking multiple bags as it is. Imagine us trying to cart our entire stash with us on a plane ride. Not happening! We'll also be staying in a hotel and as good as the Marriott's laundry service may be I'm sure they don't wash cloth diapers.

I'd heard of gDiapers a few years ago before we had our girl.

I've never tried these for Layla, but I think they may be an option for the SC trip. They work similarly to the prefolds and covers we use for Layla, but the liners are flushable. I've heard people find preparing them for flushing a bit cumbersome (you have to tear the sides, pull the liner apart, and swish it in the toilet... all fun stuff!). But I figure if it keeps waste out of landfills, I don't mind the extra work. Plus the company claims the liners break down in a landfill in 90 days, as opposed to the 500 years it would take for disposable. I wouldn't consider them for long-term use, however, because they do contain SAP. That's the polymer used in conventional disposable diapers and it has been linked to gynecological problems in girls later in life. Also buying the liners on a regular basis would get a little pricey I imagine, which negates the money-saving benefits of cloth. But for our travelling purposes, these look like they might be a good option. I hope I'm right.

I think I just need to get past my overall nervousness about travelling with a small, unpredictable child. Pray for me... PLEASE!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Earth is the Lord's...

...and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)

Happy Earth Day, everyone! As a gift to the earth and its Creator, the Anderson household is now officially 100% wind-powered!

Thanks to utility de-regulation, power customers can choose their own energy supplier. I contacted Washington Gas Energy Services (a supplier for our electric utility) and signed our account up for their CleanSteps(sm) 100% Wind Power program. It's a few cents more per kilowatt hour than we're currently paying, but the price is fixed throughout the year, so we won't have to deal with the rate jumps that often come in the summer. I feel really good about this decision for our family and for the environment. And I expect it to actually save us money in the long run. Easy on the planet. Easy on the wallet. It's a no-brainer decision.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I knew there was a reason I joined Curves!

Besides shedding this baby weight and trying to gain more energy, apparently my recent weight loss quest has a greater environmental impact. A recent study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests that thinner people are easier on the planet. Why? Because the transportation of overweight individuals as well as the overproduction of food contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. No lie... the story is on CNN.com. I guess now when those exercise machines start to kick my butt, I can find motivation in the fact that I'm doing something good for the planet. Oh, and I'm improving my health, too.

Watch Oprah on 4/22!

Just a quick check-in to encourage everyone to watch tomorrow's episode of Oprah. She'll be tracing our garbage as it makes its way to the landfill and she'll also be talking about how going green can help our pockets. What better reason int his economy to go green than to save money? As they say on TV *ahem*, check your local listings.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Composting, anyone?

So, I've never composted... ever. My family never did it growing up and up until about two and a half years ago when my husband and I bought our townhouse I'd always lived in apartments with no land on which to compost. Composting services aren't readily available where I live, so you sorta kinda need a patch of grass somewhere if you want to do it. Hubby and I by no means have a large yard, but we do have just enough to start composting. And it can only help our already pitiful law. I think it's something I want to do, but where in Sam Hill do I start?

I know I need one of these thingies:

A Garden Composter. This one is available on Amazon.com for $70 and is made of 100% recycled plastic. According to the product description, it "has a patented venting system to maintain proper temperature plus an animal resistant lid and sliding bottom door for easy, mess-free compost dispersal." We definitely need a bin that's animal-proof, as we have no fence and a Jack Russell Terrier living next door who loves to escape from her yard and play in ours.

So, what do I do with all the composting scraps before they go into the bin? Between our recycle bin and regular trash can, we don't have much floor space for a composting bin in our kitchen. And our cat has enough trouble staying out of the trash as it is (probably looking for old cat food cans) and would have a field day with a compost bin. I saw this on the HGTV Green Home 2009 special yesterday and I think it's a must-have for when we start composting:

A 1-Gallon Odor-Free Countertop Composter. You put all your composting scraps in this bin until they're ready to go to the large bin in the yard. And it goes right on your countertop or anywhere else in the kitchen. It also has a carbon filter in the lid to reduce odor. And the best part about it: it's CAT-PROOF!

It seems simple enough, but I'm still nervous. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cloth Diapering and Babysitters - Dispelling Some Myths

My daughter started with a new day care provider yesterday. My sister-in-law sends her boys to this woman and I absolutely adore her. She's warm, friendly, organized, and very good with the children. Her day care is set up very similarly to school and the kids receive structured education taylored to their developmental level. So she doesn't just "watch" the children, she actually teaches them as well. She goes out of her way to provide for them and to show the parents her appreciation for their business. I can sing her praises all day long, but initially we ran into a snag.

When we were considering switching our daughter to her day care, my husband asked her about her policy on cloth diapers. She told him she did not deal with cloth diapers. We have cloth diapered Layla from birth for many reasons. The most important reason, for me, was environmental. Babies have between 6,000 to 9,000 diaper changes during their diaper-wearing years. That's 9,000 dirty diapers per child in landfills, taking up to 500 years to biodegrade and slowly leaking untreated human waste into the ground and ultimately into the water supply. I cringe when I think about it! But in addition to the environmental reasons, we've chosen to cloth diaper because it's cheaper and it's healthier for baby. For me, putting Layla in disposable diapers for an extended period of time was not an option.

We use a number of cloth diapering methods, including pocket diapers for babysitters and grandparents. Those diapers are functionally no different from disposables and are built the same way. We've chosen bumGenius 3.0 One-Size pocket diapers for Layla.

It doesn't get much more user-friendly in the world of cloth diapers than this. I decided to plead my case to the new day care provider. Initially she expressed concern about state regulations against using cloth, however in the state of Maryland there are no regulations against it. In fact, the diapering procedures given to day care providers have guidelines for the use of disposable AND cloth diapers. We described the kind of diapers we use to her and she was pleasantly surprised that there were no pins involved. That was the source of the apprehension all along... she didn't want to get stuck! Who could blame her?

My friendly advice to parents considering cloth diapering in day care: First, get familiar with your state and local government policies. Don't let any care provider tell you using cloth diapers are against state policies if they are not. Second, consider supplying day care providers with easy-to-use cloth diapers, such as all-in-ones or pocket diapers. Making it as easy as possible for them usually negates their objections. Third, stand by your reasoning for making this decision about your child's care. If you've determined there are no real legal or functional obstacles to using cloth for your child in day care, yet the care provider continues to object, consider finding another provider. I can't imagine too many day care providers passing up steady income in this economy.

In the future I'll write an entry about our cloth diapering methods, including pictures of our "stash."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's Looking Mighty Green at the White House!

My daughter and I were privileged to get tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll this year. Obviously, I was excited because this is the first one the Obamas have had since the President took office. But I'm additionally excited because this year's Egg Roll (sounds like a Chinese dish when you say it like that) was decidedly green! The theme for the event was "Let's Go Play" and encouraged children to engage in physical activity and healthy living. The souvenir egg this year is the greenest in history, containing 33% less paperboard that last year's egg and made of wood from sustainable forests. It's also printed with vegetable-based ink. Here's the design:

Layla got the orange one, but I was hoping to pick up a pink one instead. Oh well, I guess I'll just order a box of all the colors.

I just wanted to share some photos from the event yesterday...
Word Girl

Layla fell asleep. I was afraid she'd miss the whole thing.

Eventually, she woke up and began reaching for everything... as usual!

The White House... of course.

The Obama's herb garden. I so love that they have a garden!

Ziggy Marley. I'm still psyched I got to see him!

There were a lot of educational opportunities, like this egg matching game. Kids had to match the eggs to the animal that laid them. Great nature activity.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Layla's Favorite Home-made Baby Foods

Mrs. Cocoa Confections asked if I would share my experiences with making home-made baby food. I have to give credit where credit is due... I get a lot of my recipes from http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com/. They not only have great recipes, but they also tell you about the nutritional content of different foods and when they should be introduced. Definitely worthy of a bookmark if you intend to make your baby's food yourself.

Here are some recipes Layla likes:

Sweet Potatoes
I prefer to bake her sweet potatoes, mainly because I can leave them in the oven, run off to do something else, and they never burn because the delicious smell always lets me know when they're ready. Plus if you bake them a little longer than you intended, it usually doesn't hurt them. In fact, it can make them more tender and workable, not to mention sweeter.

To bake a sweet potato in the oven, scrub it very well with a brush under running water. Take a fork and poke holes in it for ventilation. Wrap it nicely in aluminum foil and bake it at 400F for about 45 minutes (I usually leave mine in for an hour).

Once you take it out of the oven, let it cool down and then cut it length-wise. The "meat" should be really mushy already and you can easily scoop it out with a spoon. If it's not mushy enough, wrap the potato up and bake it a little longer.

Scoop out the potato and spoon it into the Magic Bullet cup or food processor. You'll then add your water. When I use the Magic Bullet, I usually fill it with just enough water to be level with the sweet potato pulp. Remember, you can always add more water, but you can't take any of it away so add it gradually until you get the desired thickness for your baby. Blend it until you get an even consistency and serve it to baby!

Green Beans/Peas/Carrots
I use the same method for all of these vegetables, and Layla loves each of them. I use frozen veggies for the convenience, but of course you can use fresh veggies if you choose.

Take a small sauce pan, add about a quarter of a cup of water (you don't need much more because the vegetables have their own water), add about 2 cups of frozen veggies and bring them to a boil. Once you get a rolling boil, turn down the heat and simmer them for about 10-15 minutes or until they're tender. Cool them and puree them in the Magic Bullet or food processor, adding water until you reach the desired consistency.

Steaming your vegetables helps them retain their nutritional value, so you may prefer that method to boiling. You can also microwave, but I would not suggest microwaving ANY food for baby.

Those are just a few of the most commonly-used recipes in our household. Making baby food is really easy to do, and it's cost-effective as well. You tend to pay less for a big bag of vegetables than a bunch of jars/containers of prepared baby food. Remember, most baby foods can keep in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days, so plan your baby's meals accordingly. And if you plan to make your own baby food, it helps to invest in some serving-sized storage containers like these:

These are Stay Fresh Baby Food Containers and can be purchased at http://www.onestepahead.com/. Of course, you can always re-use old store-bought baby food jars and containers, which is what we do.

Well Mrs. Cocoa Confections and everyone else, I hope this helps you out!

Color your Easter Eggs NATURALLY!

Happy Good Friday, everyone!

My girl Whitney Pointe in Virginia sent me this link. If you color eggs for Easter, consider giving those dye tablets you buy at the supermarket a rest this year and try some of these suggestions. Although if you get a little nostalgic at dye-stained fingertips and the smell of vinegar, feel free to do it the old-fashioned way. *wink*

Take a look at Jeanne Winter's blog, where she did the same and it turned out great!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I have a pet peeve...

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why some people regard organic foods as luxuries. I understand the price of some organic foods make them cost-prohibitive for many people. However, I don’t understand why food grown the way it’s supposed to be grown, free of some of the harmful additives commonly found in food, should somehow be reserved for only the most affluent of us.

For those who may not know, there is a program by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC. Their mission, according to their web site is “to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, & children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care.” WIC is actually a very wonderful program that provides nutrition education and encourages new mothers to breastfeed. It also has a Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program that encourages the consumption of locally-grown foods from small farmers. It fills in the gaps for many women and children who may not otherwise have access to nutritional food and information.

For all the good it does, however, WIC has some shortcomings. It is a program of the Food and Nutrition Service, yet each state has its own individual guidelines on how to administer it. Currently, organic foods are not approved for WIC in most states. Some states may approve only certain organic foods, such as organic milk. My state, Maryland, currently does not include ANY organic foods on their WIC-approved list. While some state agencies have argued that organic foods are no better for you than non-organic foods, most states cite cost as the determining factor of whether or not organics are included in WIC food packages. And if you’re vegan, well, you may be even more out of luck because soy and rice milk are not on the approved list at all. I cannot stress the amount of good WIC does for the health of women and children, but I think they’ve dropped the ball here.

To fail to include organic choices on the WIC- approved list of foods is to tell “low-income” families they do not have the option of optimizing their health and well-being. Why should WIC families be excluded from potentially the most beneficial of foods, especially when there is research to support the assertion that organics are in fact healthier dietary choices? How can you tell a mother that because of her socio-economic status she cannot give her children every possible nutritional advantage? Many WIC families also receive food stamps, which can thankfully be used for organics and non-organics. But depending on your allotment amount, your food stamps may still not be enough cover the cost of organic choices. So, again, families are limited in their options.

Considering that one in 10 African-American mothers receive WIC benefits (as opposed to one in 16 Caucasian women), I’m even more concerned. Not only are organic choices off the table for most of these moms, but studies have suggested that WIC counselors are also less-likely to encourage African-American mothers to breastfeed. Therein lay the suggestion that WIC might even be systematically marginalizing a segment of the population in a very fundamental way – after all, if you don’t have your health, what have you? I know that’s a strong statement, but the fact remains that WIC could do a lot better by mothers and children, especially those who are African-American.

I’ll continue my thoughts a little later because I’m getting a little irritated just thinking about this. Perhaps we can vibe in the future about how to light a fire under the proverbial behind of WIC to get some of these things changed.

Blackened Baby Food

One of the challenges of trying to raise a green baby is the amount of preparation required. Oh, I don’t dislike it at all. I think it’s totally worth it. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge sometimes.

Mornings are hectic in any household with young children and it’s usually best if you do all your preparation for the day the night before. You know, make sure the bag is packed, the food is ready, the bottles are washed… things like that. But if you’re a procrastinator like me, your preparation usually spills over to the morning – that’s if it doesn’t take place completely then.

I make almost all of Layla’s baby food. I like the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what’s in my baby’s food, having made it myself. Plus even some of the "all-natural" or organic baby foods you buy in grocery stores look really overcooked and overprocessed to me. Are peas supposed to be brown? At any rate, we keep frozen and fresh organic vegetables in the house expressly for her. Making her food usually requires lightly cooking some veggies and blending them in the Magic Bullet with a little water. Okay, I have to digress for a second – whoever invented the Magic Bullet is a certified GENIUS.

I mean, they should be nominated for a Nobel Prize, seriously. This thing has made my life so much easier, even before we became parents. My husband is a kitchen gadget freak and when he initially brought it into the house I turned up my nose. But once I saw everything it could do – from smoothies to coffee grinding, and now BABY FOOD – I was sold. If you don’t have one, just get one on general principle. End digression here.

Anyway, making Layla’s food is an activity better suited for the evenings because you have to cook the veggies, blend them in the Bullet, let them cool, and then chill them in the refrigerator. But I could not get myself in gear the other night and yesterday morning I just threw on some peas and carrots, thinking I’d have time to take them off the heat a little later and blend them. Yeah… that wasn’t happening at all. I got Layla out of bed to change and nurse her, but she wanted to nurse for half an hour! Usually she’s done in no more than 15 minutes. Of course, since I have severe “mommy brain” these days and had moved onto another activity, I totally forgot I had veggies on the stove. After about thirty minutes on high heat, my sweet husband came into the kitchen, took them off the stove, looked at them, and asked, “Uh, were you still trying to use these?” The peas and carrots were stuck to the sides of the pot and burnt to a crisp! Thinking it’s a little early to introduce her to Cajun food, I had him put on a new pot of green beans and tried very hard not to kick myself.

Moral of the story: Always plan ahead. You never know what curve balls life and your baby will throw at you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Meet the Andersons

The loves of my life

Meet my precious family -- my husband, Carter, and my daughter, Layla. Carter and I were married on June 2, 2007. The next year we welcomed our First Born on August 25, 2008. To me, they're enough reason to try to save the world.

What can I really say? They are the reason I do much of what I do. There are plenty of mornings I wake up and don't feel like going to work. I don't always want to wash bottles or fold diapers. I don't always want to go to the grocery store after a long day of working. I don't always feel like picking up dinner or cooking. But when I look at those faces... *sigh* I find the motivation easily.

Having experienced the unique love of motherhood, I can't help but look at all children -- and all adults -- through the eyes of a mother. When I look at someone, I know somewhere somebody feels the intense love and devotion for that person that I feel for my daughter. People may wonder why I even care about the planet to the extent that I do. Well, I care for your mother's sake. Everyone's child deserves to live in a nurturing environment. And every parent should be able to give their child a livable home. I want my Baby Girl to grow up able to enjoy and appreciate the seasons. I want her to catch lightning bugs in the summer and learn about the cycle of life. I want her to know what fresh air smells like. I want her to enjoy all that God created for her to enjoy.

Green parenting is conscious parenting. It's my goal to be conscious of what I put in her body, on her body, and in her environment. I feel I owe it not just to my child, but to mothers everywhere who love and want the best for their babies.

Who is this lady and what is she talking about?

Wow, where do I start?

Well, first I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Tawnya Anderson and I live in Maryland with my husband of almost two years. Most people call me by my middle name, Denise, but my daughter just calls me “mmmmmma ma ma ma ma!" Speaking of my daughter, her name is Layla and she is seven months old. Personally, I think she’s the most adorable baby on the planet, but I admit I’m biased.

Layla’s birth changed my life in so many ways. I’d always considered myself a pretty healthy and “green” person. I grew up in Hampton, Virginia, and the Hampton Roads area is a very environmentally conscious region. I remember when the city first implemented its recycling program when I was a child. All residents were required to participate, and if your recycling bin was not at the curb on collection day you had to pay a fee. As a result, I’m a faithful recycler to this day. I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years because I feel it’s a healthier and more earth-friendly way of living. I bring my own bags to the grocery store (when I remember). I respect nature deeply and I guess you could say I’m a stereotypical tree-hugger. However, having my daughter opened my eyes to so many other aspects of green living that I’d never considered. If you’re not a mom, let me tell you that motherhood makes you worry about and research EVERYTHING. And I found that when I became a mother I got increasingly concerned about the environment in which my daughter would be living. I’d like for this blog to not only be a place for me to chronicle my experiences trying to raise a “green” baby, but also collaborate with others about how we can all live a little greener.

Additionally, I’d like to for this blog to function as a place for advocacy and social awareness. I’m African-American (if you couldn’t tell by my profile picture), and I am incredibly disturbed by the lack of environmental concern or awareness among some (by no means all) members of the African-American community. Moreover, it pains me that more people don’t realize how marginalized communities specifically are negatively impacted by pollution and ecologically unfriendly practices. I will be exploring issues of environmental racism in this blog. I am also a devout Christian, and one of my biggest pet-peeves about the church is its failure to address environmental issues. I believe our faith calls us to be good stewards of the home God has given us, especially when we consider how our neglect of the planet affects “the least of these.” Through this blog I intend to lovingly take communities of faith to task on the subject.

While I have some strong views, I do intend to express them with as much respect and tenderness as possible. It is not my intention to present my lifestyle as the ideal to which all people should strive. By no means do I have it all together, so if what you’re doing is working for you, then I’m all for it. I have nothing but respect for people of differing views and I invite all to connect and vibe with me, even if we disagree. All I want to do is inspire thought and invite others to consider how these things affect them, their children, and their world. So with that, I welcome you and look forward to connecting with you!