Buying a shirt = a donation to save women’s lives. Can you do this too?

After researching and writing my recent BlogHer/Global Giving project posts about Afghan women and the people of Darfur and then reading Her Bad Mother‘s post about women and children in Nepal and Denise‘s post about the HIV/AIDS stigma in South Africa, I began racking my brain for a way that I could make a contribution to the GlobalGiving projects other than just blogging about them. I love to raise awareness for issues, but I often lack the funds to make monetary donations.

I’m going to change the worldBuy a shirt, donate to GlobalGiving
Since I can’t donate money already earmarked for living expenses, I had to find another way. After giving it some thought, I decided to donate a percentage of all sales from my two online stores
* Attached At The Hip
* Cute As A Bug
for the duration of the BlogHer campaign – from April 7 through Mother’s Day, May 11. Have you been eying a shirt from one of my stores for a while? Maybe the popular I make milk. What’s your superpower tee for yourself or a friend or an I’m going to change the world shirt for your little tree-hugger? Now is a great time to make that purchase and help support a good cause too!

Will you join me?
I’m asking those of you with online stores, Etsy shops, etc. to consider doing the same thing. Or, if you run BlogHerAds on your site, consider donating a portion of your commission from April. You could even auction something off on your blog and raise money that way. If you’d like to participate and donate a portion of your sales to one of the GlobalGiving causes to improve maternal mortality and save women and children’s lives, please leave a link to your store (or blog if you will donate part of your BlogHerAds commission) in the comments. I will keep track of the links and post about the participating bloggers/stores later in the month.

Thank you! 🙂

Is your child’s sunscreen doing more harm than good?

The Centers for Disease Control recently came out with some bad news for nearly all Americans who use sunscreen. A recent study shows one of the commonly used ingredients in most sunscreens (for adults, children as well as babies), a chemical called oxybenzone, has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. In fact according to the study, 97% of Americans are contaminated with this chemical. Another study has showed oxybenzone is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Also worth noting is “oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin.”

Boy in the sunNo FDA regulations
The last time the Food and Drug Administration reviewed the safety of oxybenzone was in the 1970s. It republished its evaluation in 1978, and announced plans to develop comprehensive standards for sunscreen safety and effectiveness. However, it’s been 30 years now and the Agency has yet to issue final regulations. “Instead, it encourages manufacturers to follow draft guidelines that the Agency has delayed finalizing at the behest of the sunscreen industry. As a result, sunscreen manufacturers in the U.S. are free to market products containing ingredients like oxybenzone that have not been proven safe for people.”

No special safety standards for children
What really frustrates me is that many sunscreens are marketed specifically for babies or children, and one might expect that because of this they are somehow “safer,” yet they contain the same chemicals as those sunscreens made for adults. There are no special safety standards for babies/children’s products.

Additional cautions must be employed when considering the effects of oxybenzone on children. The surface area of a child’s skin relative to body weight is greater than adults. As a result, the potential dose of a chemical following dermal exposure is likely to be about 1.4 times greater in children than in adults (SCCNFP 2001). In addition, children are less able than adults to detoxify and excrete chemicals, and children’s developing organ systems are more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposures, and more sensitive to low levels of hormonally active compounds (NAS 1993; Janjua 2004). Children also have more years of future life in which to develop disease triggered by early exposure to chemicals (NAS 1993). Despite these well-documented concerns regarding children’s sensitivity to harmful substances, no special protections exist regarding ingredients in personal care products marketed for babies and children.

What does this all mean? Is YOUR child’s sunscreen safe?
If you haven’t yet familiarized yourself with the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database web site, I highly suggest you do so. Products from skin care to baby care, from make up to hair care and oral care (and more) are ranked on their hazard level.

Skin Deep lists 607 skincare products containing oxybenzone. Please check the list to find out if yours or your children’s is on it. Again, I’m frustrated and disturbed that one of the worst sunscreens on the list is one specifically for babies – Walgreens Baby Sunblock.

California Baby sunscreenSo what IS safe?
Here is a link to a list of the sunscreen best bets for kids.
I was relieved to find the brand and type we have been using since Ava was about 9 months old – *California Baby SPF 30+ Sunscreen Lotion Everyday/Year Round – is on the list (the California Baby Sunblock Stick is also on the list and might be easier to apply. I’ll be looking into getting some of that, especially since we’re nearly out of the lotion.). I’m thankful that many of the mommies I know (which is where I got the recommendation for California Baby in the first place) do their homework when it comes to safe baby/child skincare products.
*You can purchase California Baby sunscreen and other products at health food stores like Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage and apparently Target carries it too, or order directly from the California Baby website.

Avoid these ingredients:

  • Oxybenzone – In sunlight, can produce allergy- and cancer-causing chemicals
  • DMDM Hydantoin – Allergen and irritant that can form cancer-causing contaminants
  • Triethanolamine – Allergen and irritant that can form cancer-causing contaminants

Safe Sun Tips

  • Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the greatest amount of ultraviolet light exists.
  • Wear Hats. Each inch of hat brim can lower your lifetime risk of skin cancer by 10%. A hat brim of four inches or greater is recommended.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Sunglasses with UV-blocking filters are very important.

Final thoughts
It’s frustrating when the groups that are supposed to be looking out for our health and that of our children let us down, but it’s things like these that reaffirm my belief of questioning authority. The best piece of advice I have is to arm yourself with information and trust your instincts. If dousing yourself or your child in chemicals doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. Find another way. In this information age where so much is available to us at the click of a mouse, it can be easy to find healthier and safer alternatives. Knowledge is power.

For more information, please check out: Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

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Hint of spring (BSM 4/14/08)

Spring is finally in the air around here, and we enjoyed a nice weekend. 🙂

Went to “work day” at Ava’s preschool on Saturday and helped plant flowers and do other yard work before enjoying a potluck lunch. It was more fun than I was expecting and it felt good to get my hands in the dirt.

Sunday was a beautiful day with temps in the 60s and lots of sun. The kids played outside for much of the day. The spring-like weather inspired me to wash the windows on the house and do a little pruning of some of our bushes.

We’re expecting more weather in the 60s and 70s this week and I am thrilled. 🙂

My best shot for the week is of the lone daffodil in our front yard.

Daffodil in the yard

Head on over to Mother May I to see what everyone else has in store for their Best Shot Monday posts.

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Green Tip of the Week #18 – The Story of Stuff

This week’s green tip is to take 20 minutes and watch The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard. With Earth Day just around the corner, I think it’s important to take a look at all the stuff we have in our lives and the The Story of Stuffstuff we might want to buy in the future and become aware of exactly where it comes from, what’s in it and who/what is affected by it’s production. Warning: This video will make you think.

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

After hearing about it for ages, I finally took the opportunity to watch it a couple days ago and I’m really glad I did. It’s a video I think EVERYONE should watch (yes, that means you and you too!) and reflect on the next time we go to make a purchase.

What are you waiting for? Go watch it. 🙂 Then come back here and tell me what you think about it.

Spreading her wings and leaving the nest*

My daughter Ava has slept in the same bedroom as me every night for the last nearly four years now. As a newborn she started out in an Arm’s Reach Cosleeper next to Jody’s and my bed, then transitioned into our bed around four months old. When she was two years old, we bought her her own bed, which we put next to our’s to expand our family bed in preparation for the birth of Julian and adding another person to our cosleeping arrangement.

For the most part, cosleeping (or sharing sleep) has been a great experience for our family. I’ve always loved the secure feeling of knowing my children are close by and safe. If they ever cry out or are sick in the middle of the night, I’ve been right there to comfort them. Mornings full of kisses and snuggles and goofing around in the bed are times I cherish.

For the past few weeks, Ava has been saying she’d like to move into her own bedroom. I admit I was rather surprised to hear it coming from her. We’ve talked before about her getting her own room once we move into a larger house (someday), but never pushed the issue in this house. I figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

After she mentioned it a few times, weeks apart, I thought we should take this request seriously and respect it. So last Friday we moved her mattress (not her whole bed) from our “family bedroom” to the “kids’ room,” which has always just been a room to store things – dresser of their clothes, a glider, diapering paraphernalia and some toys.

Ava is very excited about her first night in her own room - 4/4/08Ava was very excited to be moving into her own room. She declared that she was going to go to sleep all by herself and “no mama milk tonight!,” something she’s said more than once lately, but has yet to follow through on. 😉 (I’m gently encouraging her to wean by her fourth birthday in June.) I thought that was a little much to try to tackle all in one night, but since it was at her urging I figured we’d give it a try and see how it went. She soon acquiesced and asked for mama milk and for me to lay with her while she fell asleep (which is our usual bedtime ritual). Before she went to sleep, Jody and I reassured her that we were there if she needed us in the night, and Jody put down a sleeping bag on the floor next to her mattress just in case. We slept with both bedroom doors open so if she woke up, she could easily wander into our room.

After she had some mama milk, we talked for a bit and she fell asleep. I took my time getting up that night. It was a little hard for me to think that my baby girl was growing up and taking the first of many steps towards independence. I laid in bed with her and whispered that I loved her. I gave her three extra kisses before I got up and left her sleeping contentedly in her very own room. It was bittersweet. I snuck back in there a little while later to snap a picture (had to) and cover her back up.

Soundly sleeping in her own room - 4/4/08Around 2 a.m. we awoke to Ava yelling “Mommy” and she came running down the hall towards our room. Jody met her in the hallway and carried her into our room, where she said, “I don’t want to move back in here.” So Jody took her back to her room and slept next to her on the floor.

We made a big deal about her first night in her own room the next day and told her how proud we were of her.

That night, not wanting her to feel like she had to stay in her own room if she didn’t want to, I told her we could move her mattress back into our room if she wanted, but she was adamant that she wanted to sleep in her own room again.

She’s been sleeping in her own room now for the past week. She tends to wake up and call out for one of us around 3 or 4 a.m. most nights at which point Jody goes in and sleeps next to her on a second twin mattress that we got off Freecycle this week. Other than that, the transition has gone really well. She is happy to be sleeping by herself and has no plans to move back in with us. Gulp.

I am very proud of my little girl. While this transition was a little harder on me than I think it was on her, I know that we’re doing the right thing. I feel lucky that we had such a great co-sleeping relationship for the first 3 3/4 years of her life and that she was able to move on to her own room when she was ready.

It’s hard to watch your children decide they no longer need you with this or that, but at the same time it’s also rewarding. We give them wings so they can fly.

Just don’t fly too far yet, honey, k? 🙂

*Alternate title: “Proof that AP kids really will sleep in their own beds someday” 😉

Cosleeping Resources
Kellymom: The Family Bed
Attachment Parenting International: Engage in Nighttime Parenting
The Natural Child Project: Cosleeping
Berkeley Parents Network: Co-sleeping: The Family Bed
Mothering: Sleep articles
The Natural Child Project: Articles on Sleeping

Help Afghan women safely birth healthy babies

You may or may not have read that yesterday Lisa Stone announced that BlogHer has teamed up with Global Giving in an effort to save as many women’s lives as possible between now and Mother’s Day. There are several worthwhile causes to support, and myself and others will be blogging about them all month on BlogHer. One of the projects is helping Afghan women safely birth healthy babies.

Afghan women and children

In the country of Afghanistan a woman dies of pregnancy-related causes every 27 minutes of every day. That’s 53 women every day and nearly 20,000 women per year or 1,900 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the World Health Organization, in 2000 Afghanistan had the seventh worst maternal mortality rate in the world.

In the province of Badakhshan, “a woman faces almost 600 times the risk of dying in childbirth than do her counterparts living in North America. Of the thousands of infants left motherless, 75 percent will perish either during, or soon after, delivery.”

One of the reasons for the abysmal mortality rate is gender discrimination. In Afghanistan men are seen as superior to women and sons are preferred over daughters. This translates into high rates of female illiteracy and malnutrition. Because of the preference towards sons, daughters are often married off early, while they are still children themselves. “More than 40 percent of Badakshani women are married before the age of 15 and often long before their immature bodies can cope with both the demands of sex and the rigors of childbirth. Girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s.”

The terrain of the country is also a problem. Eighty percent of the population live in rural areas which translates into remote and rugged terrain, where roads are poor or don’t exist at all. According to the Population Reference Bureau, only 14% of births in Afghanistan are attended by skilled personnel.

Because many women are without access to basic reproductive education, let alone modern methods of family planning, they are unable to choose when and how many children they have. The contraceptive use among married women, ages 15-49, is just 10%.

This Global Giving project for Afghan women can make a real difference. Creating Hope International and the Afghan Institute of Learning offer “lifesaving health services and medical interventions to pregnant women and babies through three rural clinics in Afghanistan, including on-site baby delivery for high-risk cases. CHI/AIL also educate women about their reproductive health so that they can make healthy choices during pregnancy and delivery.”

I think it’s important to note that the project is sensitive to Afghan culture and works with the community leaders before any programs are implemented. According to Global Giving:

AIL uses a culturally sensitive approach in providing health education and health services to Afghan women and children. They provide education and services in local settings that are safer and easier for women to access. They use mobile clinics to reach patients who cannot safely travel to the nearest health clinics. They employ female health providers because of a cultural preference in Afghanistan that women receive health care from other women. AIL works with community leaders and local men before implementing new and historical controversial programs, and begins new programs only at the request of communities.

As a result of this project 12,000 Afghan women will receive pre- and post-natal care, midwifery, family planning services, education on women’s reproductive health, delivery kits for home delivery, and assessment and intervention for high-risk pregnancies.

To learn a bit more about the Afghan women’s project and the role AIL is playing in education, take a look at this video of a birth attendant training class outside of Kabul: Afghanistan: New Births, New Hope.

A donation of $25 means 20 women will have improved quality of life through reproductive health care and education. For $50, 40 women will have healthier babies because of reproductive health care and education. And for a donation of $85, one woman will be trained as a community health worker and will assist 9,000 women annually. It’s amazing how such a small amount from us can make such a huge impact in the lives of people half-way around the world.

BlogHers Act NowTake action:
Now I pass the torch on to you. Please consider donating, adding a button or a widget (check out my right sidebar) to your blog and/or blogging about this project to help spread the word. If you do any of those things, be sure to leave a comment (and a link to your post if you blog it) below. Together we can make a big difference in the lives of so many women and children.

Filler

I got sick of seeing those first thing in the morning pictures of myself at the top of my blog so here I am posting a bit of nothingness to fill the void. Truthiness is good for a day, not for a week. :oP

It’s not that I don’t have something of substance to write about. I do – too much, in fact! I was just looking at the posts I’ve started, links I’ve bookmarked, and topics I want to write about and I’m at more than 50! My problem is that I don’t have enough time to write about everything (or anything on some days). Anyone else run into that?

Like right now, I really want to write about the exciting adventure we had this weekend when Ava decided – all by herself – that she wanted to sleep in her own room (after co-sleeping for the first 3 3/4 years of her life). But I don’t have time to elaborate right now, so that post will have to wait for another day.

There’s been a lot going on in the world regarding mommy bloggers that I’d like to blog about. First there was the fiasco with Johnson &Johnson’s Camp Baby (which, based on all the live Tweets I read, actually looks like it turned out to be a pretty good, albeit unusual, time), and then the mommy blogger meet-up with Katie Couric, all the while BlogHer’s Business Convention was going on.

There’s also been some bad news (death, heart attacks) in the blogging world. Stress can kill ya in any job. Bloggers aren’t immune.

I’d also like to write about how to be a better blogger (not by writing posts like this one – LOL), but I have two kids hanging on me and I can’t linger (and all of this news about blogging and stress is stressing me out!).

And then there are a ton of green links, tips, and other minutia that I’d love to share, but again, no time.

So there you have it, a short post full of nothing in particular, but now you don’t have to look at my sleepy face anymore and I know you’re thanking me for it. 🙂

The Truthiness of the Matter (BSM – 4/7/08)

Ever since Sweetney did her Truthiness Self-portrait post about a month ago, many women I know from around the ‘net have joined in to share themselves – no shower, no hair brushed, no makeup, no teeth brushed – first thing in the morning too.

I took these pictures over a week ago and have been holding them hostage onto them, but the time has come for full disclosure. Here I am – the “real me” – moments after I woke up (oh, and my little friends joined in too).

Me in the morning - March 2008 Me and Ava in the morning - March 2008 Me and Julian in the morning - March 2008

Head on over to Mother May I to see what everyone else has in store for their Best Shot Monday posts.

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Green Tip of the Week # 17 – No more phone books

I’ve gotten a bit lax in my green tips the past few weeks, but I’m armed with tips galore and will be bringing them to you weekly once again.

phone bookThese days we can look up just about anything and everything online. Does anyone even use their phone books anymore for anything other than a child booster seat? 😉

Did you know you can opt out by removing your name from thee pesky phone book delivery lists? It’s quick and easy and saves a tree!

Click the button below to sign the Yellow Pages Paperless Petition and Official Opt-Out Registry (includes Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States):
Click keys, save trees.

Locally here in CO, I’ve heard you can also call these numbers to get your name off the list. Not sure if this applies elsewhere in the US:
DEX: 877.2 GET DEX
Yellow Book: 800.929.3556

What do you do with all of the phone books you’ve collected over the years? Recycle them, of course! Check with Earth911 to find the phone book recycling center nearest you.

Just a reminder, Earth Day is April 22 this year. I will be doing a special Earth Day post/giveaway prior to the big day, so keep an eye out for it. 🙂

Have any green tips you’ve recently learned? Please email them to me and I may include your tip with a link to your site or blog in a future post. 🙂

I ain’t buyin’ it

When I saw Crunchy Chicken’s latest challenge – Buy Nothing (with the exception of food, medications or other essentials) for the month of April – I said heck yeah, I am down with that! I’d actually been considering joining Mamas on The Compact for a two-month stint, but figured this would be a little bit easier and a good trial run for me since it’s just for a month. (And I’m a little chicken nervous about committing to longer than that, especially since summer is coming up and we might be planning a couple trips.)Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008

Of course, wouldn’t you know it, the very first day (April 1st) I ran into a dilemma with the challenge. The kids and I went to pick up Jody from work and decided to go out to eat before heading home. But hmmm, is going out to eat allowed I wondered? It’s food, which is allowed, but the act of going out to eat does seem sort of extravagant. Too bad I didn’t have Crunchy Chicken on my speed dial. Decisions, decisions.

As luck would have it, the first two places we tried to go were closed anyway. The first was Alexander’s, my favorite healthy Mexican food place in Boulder, which has apparently gone out of business. 🙁 What’s up with that?

Next we tried Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli because we had a coupon. We parked two blocks away, fed the meter, then walked over only to find a note on the door – “Closed at 3 p.m. today for company meeting.” On April Fool’s Day of all days. I thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t.

I decided the fates were conspiring against us and a dinner out was not in the card and was ready to just give up and head home when we passed a health-conscious restaurant called Turley’s that includes some local food and organics on their menu. I commanded Jody, “Just go to Turley’s,” and he did. 🙂

After all of that, I’d like to say that we had a nice, relaxing dinner, but in reality the kids were tired, Julian was not content to sit in a high chair, and the whole meal was very rushed (but tasty).

Feeling a bit guilty about my possible failure on the very first day, I sent Crunchy Chicken an email asking for clarification if going out to dinner counted as food or not. She said she was a little unsure about that herself, but basically concluded that it can be allowed but it depends on where you go, what you are eating and that no disposable packaging is involved. So, McDonald’s (eww anyway) – definitely a no. A restaurant with healthy food and no disposable takeout containers – OK. I can deal with that. I will confess that we brought home a small cardboard container on Tuesday, but I recycled it.

If you feel you are up to the challenge, you can still join. Head on over and sign up to Buy Nothing. If you absolutely need something non-edible or not essential to growing your own food or for your survival, you must acquire it by borrowing, bartering or buying it used. If you buy something new that is non-essential, Crunchy Chicken will have a Sunday Confessional post for everyone to spill the beans.

Good night and good luck. 🙂