Sunday, August 21, 2011

How Can a Lunch Box Hug?

I recently read an article in the newspaper about “Waste-Free Lunches.” My immediate reaction was first, “Hey! I’ve been doing this for years!” But then I realized I am not in the majority. You’d be amazed at how many people, even in our green trailblazing state of California, are still not even recycling. This conversation is always worth renewing, and renewing and renewing, until it becomes second-nature to every living human being.

As a working mother, I pack my own lunch a few days a week. For years, it hasn’t crossed my mind to use anything other than plastic containers. I don’t even have to think about it anymore. I actually feel guilty for those times I do pull plastic baggies out of my drawer!

I’ve been packing my son’s lunch in the same insulated lunch box for 4 years (his dad did just buy him a new one. You know how rough kids are on things ;) Inside the box, are 2 to 3 plastic containers that hold a sandwich, a fruit and crackers, or some variation thereof. His water goes in a metal water canteen that he can re-fill anytime throughout his school day. One thing you need to consider as a parent: Young children cannot open most plastic containers. If they can, it hurts their fingers or whatever’s inside goes flying as the lid pops off. The best solution I have found for this is Snapware® BPA-free airtight plastic containers. Little fingers can easily unsnap each of the 4 flaps that secure the lids to each container.

My son attends an Environmental Science Magnet elementary school. They are continually moving forward in their waste-free endeavors. At their annual walk-a-thon fundraiser this past school year, they traded in their water bottle donation requests for water-station volunteers to assist kids in re-filling their reusable water canteens. We saw almost zero plastic water bottles that day. That is something to be proud of.

Waste-free lunches are a perfect starting point to teaching our children to be eco-friendly. Now, I don’t ever have to ask my son to save anything from his lunch box. He just knows to. I still wash and re-use the zip-lock baggies from time to time. I know what they say about the risks of it, but busy moms have to resort to them on occasion for various reasons such as time, rushing, clean dishes, etc.!! When that’s the case, I used to ask my son to be sure to bring them home. He used to ask “Why?” He doesn’t ask anymore. He doesn’t have to be told anymore. He just knows now to do it. He usually brings everything home to be sure it can’t be saved or re-cycled. I love it.

Share with us your story!

The newspaper I first read the waste-free lunches article in listed some resources for waste-free containers. I’d like to direct you to them as well. Here are a few local companies who are producing all kinds of eco-friendly lunch containers:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Bear Hug - From Winnie the Pooh!!

I can't help it. I have to talk about these books from Disney. I am specifically going to address Oh Bother! Someone's Messy. It is a short, simple, but very endearing story about a messy little kangaroo who doesn't want to keep his (or her) room clean. His mother begins by feeling frustrated about the disorganized room and decides to back off and let Roo decide when his own room needs cleaning. Through a series of experiences, Roo learns that keeping his room clean and organized not only makes his mother feel better, but his friends and even himself as well.

I think we can all relate to this. When I was a child, my mother put a door hanger on my bedroom door that said "This room is a CATastrophe!" (We are cat and dog people) And now that I am a mother myself, I am amazed at how my 6 year-old son walks into the house, sits down, takes off his shoes, leaves them exactly where they left his feet, removes his socks and literally throws them down the middle of the hallway. The first time we read Oh Bother! Someone's Messy, my son and daughter cleaned the entire playroom to the best of their abilities. I get the book out every so often to remind them of the importance of not only having a room organized, but picking up after themselves as well. It has turned into a fun activity that I can take advantage of a few times a month. They are children, after all. You know they'll get tired of it if you keep using the same 'ole trick every time!

It is truly a lesson for all children, but this story touches a parent's heart and mind as well. I strongly recommend you give it a try. I am confident you'll soon be ordering more of the series, like I did. Please click here to visit to browse and read about the entire collection. Have fun!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Grandmother's Hug

These past several weeks have been tough. My 88 year-old grandmother passed away just over 2 weeks ago now. The good news is that she didn't suffer. The bad news is that she is not in our lives anymore. She was with us, living on her own, still managing her business and making her mark on my own children's lives up until the very end.

I lived 15 minutes away from my grandmother all 39-1/2 years of my life. I was lucky enough to grow up swimming, having slumber parties, graduation parties, and celebrating all holidays at her and my grandfather's home. I even lived with them for close to a year. They took us (my mother, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) on multiple camping trips and adventures to Disneyland in a motor home people dream about. I cannot imagine how I am going to feel come July 4th, Thanksgiving, and the grand highlight of the year - Christmas.

These days, not many of us are lucky enough to have our own children get to meet and enjoy knowing their great-grandparents. Though my daughter and niece are probably too young, my son and nephew will always remember learning to swim in her pool, playing pinball and pool in her basement, and tearing open presents under her tree on Christmas Eve. I knew I was lucky. I didn't think I took her for granted. But now that she's gone, I long for more time, more words, and more memories.

My grandmother was not the most social woman, but her door was always open. Her home was always clean. Her cabinets were always full of every kind of food; from breakfast to dessert, to midnight snacks and a drink for everyone. Her face was always smiling with delight for her visitors; from the first step through her front door to the last wave as we drove out of sight upon departure. The example she set for me instilled a strong value of family and unconditional love that I only hope I can make far surpass my own time here on Earth. In short, Grandma, I love you. Grandma, I miss you. Grandma, thank you. Grandma, I will make you proud. Grandma, I will carry on your legacy. The profound influence you have been on me goes far beyond my ability to communicate it into words. Rest in peace and please give Grandpa a hug for me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hugs 4 Life

I'd like to do something a little different for this post. I want to talk about a girlfriend of mine, Julie, who I have known for about 9 years. In that time, she has evolved from a gorgeous, confident, intelligent and successful single woman, to a beautiful, confident, intelligent and successful married, stay-at-home mother of 2 daughters. She is one woman who has always stood out as a role model to me no matter what phase of her life she may be in. One trait that I admire most is her committment to charity causes. When I first met her, she organized a group of more than 10 girls to volunteer at the Sacred Heart to prepare food boxes. We then moved on to prepare for their annual Christmas event, which included assisting families gather gifts for their loved ones. Following that experience, she went on to continue her own personal volunteering as well as work for a non-profit organization. Over the years, she has remained involved in important causes. Not only that, but she is teaching her children to do the same. They are right beside her every step of the way. They have even taught me a thing or two about Veteran's Day ;)

Julie has a history of breast cancer in her family. She is diligent about her own health. With that, she has discovered a new purpose. I'd like to share with you her upcoming challenge. Please join me in supporting her as she Hugs 4 Life.

"Dear Friends & Family,

I am writing to tell you about an extraordinary event that I am participating in and to ask for your help.

On Saturday, June 4th, 2010, I will join countless others in Swim 4 Tomorrow, a one-mile fundraising swim to benefit Bay Area Breast Cancer Network's work in the fight against breast cancer. This will be a powerful and inspiring day of hope in the fight against this devastating disease.

I am calling my swim, "A Mile for Mary" in honor of Mary Canepa, whom my children lovingly refer to as, "Grandma Mary". Several years ago, Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer. She won that battle, as well as a few others, but is now fighting another ugly form of cancer.
The money raised by Swim 4 Tomorrow supports BABCN's work of organizing and coordinating diverse efforts to prevent, combat and ultimately cure breast cancer, which threatens the life of one in eight women.

This year, my goal is to raise $1,000. Please help me reach it by sponsoring me to swim in Swim 4 Tomorrow. Whatever the amount, your donation will go a long way towards providing hope for a healthier future for all women and their families.

If you, or anyone you know has been touched by any form of cancer, I would gladly place your/their name on my cap, along with Mary's. The more names I have on my swim cap, the more angels will be with me in the water.

Thanks so much for your support, and for joining me in the fight against this terrible epidemic.


P.S. All contributions are tax-deductible. Please make your check payable to Bay Area Breast Cancer Network and mail it to Julie (1633 Babero Ave., SJ, CA 95118) no later than May 15th.

Bay Area Breast Cancer Network (BABCN) is a non-profit, organization committed to finding the cause, prevention and cure for breast cancer through Education, Support and Advocacy. Formed by a small group of breast cancer survivors in 1990, BABCN was created to increase awareness about breast health and breast cancer, provide information and support services to women, and positively effect public policy at the State and Federal level. We are proud of the difference we are making for women and families and encourage you to take advantage of our programs and services.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hugs Unexpected

It’s those small moments that seem to count the most with our children. I spent an hour one evening sitting with my 6 year-old, 1st grade son while he did his homework for school. He did it all by himself. I just sat next to him, watched, and stepped in when he felt stuck. At bedtime that night, I asked him what his favorite part of his day was. He replied, “Doing my homework with you.” My heart melted. I hugged my son without even realizing it.

I could have been folding laundry. I could have been doing dishes. I could have been reading a magazine, working on the computer, or preparing dinner. But on this particular evening, Kyle had my completely undivided attention. Don’t get me wrong. I am all over the board with how tuned-in I am with my son when he does his homework and other activities. There are times my 2 year-old daughter is running around and has her own “homework” to do. There are times when I am scrambling to get the house clean, laundry folded, dinner prepared and pets fed all within the hour. There are times when my mind is not 100% focused on my son. Does that make me a bad mom?

I don’t think the message here is that to be a good parent, you have to commit 100% of your active attention to each child every time they engage in an activity. The point I am trying to make is that giving undivided, undistracted attention to your child goes noticed, and in the most unexpected situations. It is important that we as parents look for a healthy balance between our daily practical responsibilities, our needs as adults and making our children feel like the most important things in our worlds.

It’s those unexpected hugs that can be the most impactful. Please, share one of your moments with us. We all need the encouragement.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Babies Love a Green Hug

Babies! Babies! Babies! We can hold them and hug them all day long. But what do you think is the most impactful hug we can give them? Yes! A Green Hug! There are countless ways we can get our newest angels on Earth on the Green Brick Road to conserving our planet. Let’s start this New Year out with a big, healthy commitment to educating ourselves on how we do it.

The Great Diaper Debate: Disposable, bio-degradable and cloth, Oh My! Buying your standard disposables is definitely the most expensive, long term, and least earth-friendly, but very convenient and easy to find in stores. While bio-degradable is a bit more costly at the store, tossing them into your regular landfill defeats the purpose, as decomposition requires sunlight and oxygen to effectively break down; 2 characteristics that are greatly compromised when piles upon piles of waste are thrown on top of each other. Dumps are not currently equipped to handle separation of types of trash, or compost piles, so bio-degradable need to be taken to a commercial composting site (contact your local waste management facility for help with this one). There is also the risk of contaminating ground water through soil absorption. Buying from companies who make diapers from recycled or post-consumer materials is a fantastic option. Using cloth diapers has consistently gotten easier and easier, and overall, least expensive. They’re made with Velcro® or snappy clips, eliminating the need for difficult and prickly pins. The weekly chemicals and water required to clean them properly are actually the same as running 1 to 2 loads of standard laundry per week. A good local source outside of your home is Tiny Tots Diaper service in Campbell. Their machines are more efficient and handle more than our home washers. They do use bleach but water treatment plants don’t mind a bit of this chemical to help with odor at the plant. Also available are flushable liners (but this brings us back to the bio-degradable debate) to make it even easier. These bio-degrade within approximately 8-20 days (verify your plumbing capabilities before jumping into this one - some precautions may need to be taken to prevent drain clogging, and some septic tanks can’t handle them at all). One common tip in all of this is that solid waste from any type of diaper should be flushed and not thrown in the trash. Yes, that is correct. Human and animal feces alike should not be thrown into landfills. They should be flushed down a toilet for proper sewage treatment.

Breast vs. Bottle: I am not sure I need to get into the proven medical benefits and cost-savings of using breast over formula. I'll let you decide what works best for you. I am specifically addressing the environmental impact in this post. But do I really need to? Breast feeding leaves no waste, period. There are no bottles. There are no formula cans. There are no microwave steam bags to clean all of your supplies. Just a few extra burp cloths and breast pads to assist with leakage! One side note I do have to add: I breast fed my babies as long as I could, and they are, thankfully, extremely healthy. Unfortunately, I could not satisfy their appetites on my own by the time they both were about 9 months old. And trust, me, I tried everything (especially with baby #2) to keep my milk supply up. I had to give in to their hunger, so they were completely on formula between 9-12 months of age. I do, however, want to say something about formula-fed babies. I am the very healthy result of a 100% formula feeding mother (along with my 2 older siblings) and I continue to be one of the healthiest, minimal-to-no allergy-suffering people I know. So there is definitely no judgment going on either way from this camp.

We all know how important our environment is to the future of our children, our children's children and so on. Writing about this topic in a blog can be a true challenge. There are countless topics on sustainability that I haven't even touched on yet. I will really be relying on your input to give this subject it's due attention. What other green hugs do babies love?