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What does record breaking heat, a meat festival, pig hats, water sprinklers and family naps have in common?
Not much really, other than being the highlights of our scorching weekend.

interesting name, delcious sandwichesJust like last year, we went to the annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party. It was hot, crowded but of course, the festival boasted a lot of meat. Because of the heat, we spent much less time waiting in the atrocious lines. We opted to go to the much shorter lines to grab our sandwiches and hide in the shade. We ended up going with the Checkered Pig. And wouldn’t you know? They were from Va. Figures 🙂 Delicious BBQ sandwich. Their Slaw got a thumbs up from the slaw connoisseur himself.

Pig hatWhen we weren’t forcing him to wear pig hats for photo ops, Jack quietly napped in his stroller, as we trudged through the shoulder to shoulder crowds in Madison Square Park. I was fine since I’m so used to ridiculous crowds. Jeff, on the other hand, was getting frustrated because of all the intolerable variables. (who could blame him?) After we ate our meaty treats, we found our retreat in the form of a playground and water sprinkler. The two of us took our turns playing in the sprinkler with Jack and the other kids. I could see the glimmer in Jack’s eye– the forward-looking dreams of running alongside of all those big kids and splashing THEM in their faces.
admiring the sprinkler

Sunday, as I’m sure most of you experienced, was just as hot. Since we spent a majority of the day outside in the furnace that was NYC, we decided to take refuge in the AC. We hung out at Starbucks in the morning after church, where we met a prospective weekend babysitter, but other than that, my guys and I sat in front of the AC and fans.

And to think, it’s only JUNE!

Since I’m discussing weekends, I wanted to mention how I was on Google Calendar “organizing” our social calendar for the coming weeks. With a few trips coming up, some friends coming into town, various work obligations, family stuff and a few gatherings, I was mentally overbooking ourselves. But while I was going over these various dates, I realized just how much our lives have transitioned…and with whom we’re surrounding ourselves.

Social lives don’t stall with the addition of babies, like I feared it would. Instead, it goes into full gear and into offroad terrain.
We’ve found there’s so much more logistics involved when orchestrating nights out; I totally see why people stop socializing all together. Figuring out the childcare, who are we meeting and where, does it fit into bedtime schedule? It’s hard, but as much as we love to hang out, what it comes down to is that sweet, silly little boy.

Unapologetically, on the weekends, we’re a tight little unit, just the 3 of us. It’s hard for us to make plans if they don’t involve the 3 of us. Jeff and I still find time to do things together, like our weekly date at the bar around the block. We try to find time to hang out with different friends (back home and in NJ.) Maybe we don’t go out together, or maybe not the entire night, but we try to make it happen. Often times, when we’re out, just the two of us, all we do is talk about the boy. Like other parents feel about their kid(s), he’s our world. He is our fun.

Once upon a time, a fun weekend may have included lots of booze and late nights. These days, there’s still booze and late nights, just at a different degree. Enjoying a quiet afternoon and napping together at home is our idea of fun.

Lame to some? Perhaps.

Fun takes on a whole new meaning after having a kid…and there’s no apologies for that.

As the old adage says, no good deed goes unnoticed.

While I may often joke about my crazy family, in all seriousness, I lucked out by scoring a mildly stable husband. I always tell people he’s the world-saving kind. Some may think I’m exaggerating, but really, there’s so much truth behind that.

No, really.

While I was out chasing Paris Hilton with my cousin, Jeff was being his usual philosophical self and doing his part to “save the world.” In specific, he was reaching out to one of his mentors who happens to be one of the most influential people in his life– even to this day.

from the mouth of babes

This perspective speaks volumes and is applicable to everyone.

“When you are tired, go to work. When you are frustrated, go to work. When people are trying to keep you back, keep working.” In the sense of the corps, work is practicing for perfection. In the sense of life, it is the same. Keep working to make yourself better. At work. At home. Wherever we have not achieved perfection, keep working. And since perfection is unattainable, keep working.

Quick background: participating in band is often mocked and pegged as uncool. But in reality, when people go on to pursue their talents and get involved with organizations like YEA, the world truly does become a better place…all thanks to hard working educators like George Hopkins.

Let’s just hope Jeff’s world-saving charisma rubs off on our kid. Somehow, I think it already has…

P.S. support young musicians and performers! It’s a worthy cause 🙂

I’m a bit late on this, but as they say, better late than never!

It’s Children’s Book Week this week, and from what I’ve read, school libraries, bookstores and others are celebrating with various reading-related events. It looks like there are various happenings in NYC for Children’s Book Week, so hopefully, there are some celebrations going on at your local libraries and book stores.
I know I’ve mentioned my obsession for books before, but I truly do believe books are the gateway to creativity. I love how our nephews and nieces love reading too. Michael and I like to compare notes on our shared love for reading. He told me awhile ago how he sometimes likes to “sneak” past his bedtime just to finish a book. Sounds like something I did just the other week! My sister in law left my a voicemail a few weeks ago to tell us that when she was going through Brandon’s book bag, she found the book we got both boys for Christmas. (Since the boys are the same age, we like to get one of the same gifts so they can interact together as cousins. And with this book, we told both nephews that since Jack is their baby cousin, it was their job to “teach him how to be a boy.”) Anyway, my sister in law was so tickled that Brandon carried this book around every where and had notes all throughout the book. In the day and age where kids seem isolated, thanks to the internet and video games, Jeff and I were pretty touched that a book could warrant a special part in our newphew’s busy life.

reading timeGetting lost in a book makes me forget about all the stressors in life, even if it’s 20 minutes at a time. With Jack at such a fun age, I love introducing new books every chance I get. I can’t even begin to describe how big my heart gets when a squirmy Jack will sit on my lap, lunge for a book and settle down with me, the minute I start to read. Honestly, I could be reading the Macy’s sale paper–it makes no difference–he seems to appreciate the idea of reading. And it turns out, according to Jack, his boardbooks make for for great teethers.

With tons and tons of books out there and in honor of Children’s Book Week, I thought I’d list a few of our favorite baby books.

Boynton Books
The Going to Bed Book- This is our nightly ritual. Even when Jack’s in mid-meltdown on the way to sleep, the minute I open this book, he calms down and lays next to me as I read it to him. I almost fall asleep after I say, “and they rock and rock and rock to sleep.”
ABCs-Boynton’s ABC book is such a hit! I really want to believe that Jack likes interesting-sounding and very articulated words. Perhaps, it’s because he loves to watch lips and grab them. Who knows? But, Vicunas Violining is always a line that makes us giggle. Vicuna? C’mon, if an ABC book leads me to googling about an animal I don’ t know about, it’s a keeper!

I Love You Stinkyface

The title says it all! The illustrations and the outlandish theme and importance of unconditional love in this book make so much sense to us!

Who are you Baby Kangaroo?
I bought this at an Earth Day festival, so this is a new book to our library. I love how this doggie goes around the world to find more about a Baby Kangaroo.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See?
This is yet another classic well known for the illustration and simple dialog. The vibrant colors of Carle’s art is just as fascinating for me as it is for the boy!

And finally, for future purposes for me and for those of you who have big kids, I read on Parent Hacks via Jen Robinson’s book page, a good way to encourage life long love for reading is to let your kids choose Let Young Readers Choose their Own Books.

So, what books do you guys love?

Being green doesn’t have to be synonymous with extra $$green.  In fact, there are countless ways to be more eco-minded, where in some cases, you don’t even have to spend a dime.  All you have to do is take baby steps!

I did a search and compiled this list:

  • At work and home, Go paperless when possible. Request to be removed from mailing lists for any unwanted catalogs, newsletters, magazines, and junk mail. Visit newdream for more information.  Think before you print.  It is said that the average U.S. office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year.
  • Recycle. Recycling goes beyond paper and plastic.  Just about any kind of paper you would encounter in an office, including fax paper, envelopes, and junk mail, can be recycled. So can your old cell phone, PDA, or pager.  Check out Collective Good.
  • Watch what you drink. If you can, switch to filtered drinking water to reduce bottled-water waste.  At the very least, get larger jugs of water instead of all those bottled waters!
  • Eat Less Meat. Especially beef. The Worldwatch Institute says growing numbers of intensively farmed livestock are responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and account for 37 percent of emissions of methane, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of CO2, and 65 percent of emissions of nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas, coming from manure.
  • Take shorter showers, and use less heated water.
  • Buy Energy Star Appliances. It’s the mark of approval from the federal government. See the details at energystar.gov.  And with those energy-efficient appliances, run them only when you have full loads
  • Reuse or go secondhand. Before purchasing something, ask yourself if you already have it or something similar that can be reused. Can you buy it secondhand at a thrift store or on Craigslist?
  • Get/Give Stuff (for) Free If there’s something you need only once or twice, don’t buy it. Borrow and return it. Go to http://www.freecycle .org and join a local group to exchange or borrow stuff.
  • Go to the library! Instead of buying books that you might only read once, consider this:  there’s this glorious place I used to call my 2nd home– the library.  Even though you have to return them (on time!), the books are free.  Borrowing from libraries, instead of buying personal books and movies, saves money and printing resources. Consider donating the money saved to your local library.
  • Buy Local Buying anything imported across an ocean means a container ship transported it. Just one container ship traveling one mile produces NOx emissions equaling 25,000 cars traveling the same distance. Foreign manufacturers often use carbon-intensive industrial and environmental practices that are illegal here. Many imports are made in sweatshops where people labor in dangerous work environments and aren’t paid fairly. Reducing the demand for imports not only reduces our carbon footprint but also sends a message to big business that we want better for everyone.  Farmers markets, especially in the summer, are havens for the most fresh, delicious and local produce.
  • Don’t be a slave to convenience Even if dinner takes an extra 15 minutes to prepare, you’ll be ok…We’ll all be paying later for using convenience foods like packaged mixed salads, because they use a lot of resources to produce.

List compiled from Metroactive and Worldwatch.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!
Though our family has made some progress since going green, we still have leaps and bounds to go. Nevertheless, every step–big or small– makes a difference.

Earth Day, to me, surpasses green tv shows being advertised on the sides of city buses. It goes beyond the trendiness of being green for a day. It’s not about buying something just because it says it’s organic or because it says that it’s natural. earth day love

Being eco-conscious is about knowing what all of that means, and how it will effect future generations. A greener lifestyle isn’t just about bringing the canvas bags to the store or buying swirly lightbulbs. It’s about knowing the significance of renewable energy and conserving natural resources.

Many of us enjoy our daily conveniences, but it goes without saying that the toss-away, disposable mindset our society embraces has detrimental effects. Instead of buying big giant plastic toys, disposable consumer goods, toss-away conveniences, think sustainable, reusable and renewable. Being green is often viewed as a costly lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to be. In the grand scheme of things, being green shouldn’t be dictated by the almighty dollar.  The more mainstream all of this becomes, it becomes more attainable and more accessible.

Being green, to me, is about making indelible decisions that will impact, and hopefully, influence my child, my husband and our family.

Jack loves greenBeing green transcends the marketing campaigns and self-absorption of years past. As I’ve said before, many of my friends have observed greener lifestyles for some time now.
Best said by Five for Fighting, “We’re all we’ve got on this bouncing ball!”

Al Gore I’m not, but based on your emails, my little corner of the internet seems to be impacting a few. It’s a start. If not for our generation, make smarter, more environmentally-conscious choices for future generations.

Jack thanks you. (with open-mouthed drooly kisses, of course.)

More to come and a few giveaways too.

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about the love Jack has for his transitional cup. In case I haven’t, let me just say this child LOVES this cup. He thinks it’s so great, he will go on a baby hunger strike if we don’t give him his sippy cup while eating his food. (well, as much as a feisty 6 month old can) While we only fill this “magical” cup up with a few ounces of water to go along with his solids, I can’t grasp why he loves it so much. Perhaps it’s the alarming brightness? Maybe it’s because he’s thinks he’s cool when he uses his “wings” to get the water out? Or maybe it’s because of the novelty of this whole new development— I just don’t know.
Well, whatever it is, I’m glad he loves it as much as we do.

Jack hearts his cupThe kid has awesome foresight and he doesn’t even know it. As a newborn, he rejected some bottles we were given. Those bottles are now confirmed to be grouped in the polycarbonate bottles that are creating a lot of media buzz.
And now, as we turn the corner into 7 months, the kid is so enamored by this wonderful transition cup, which happens to be a Born Free BPA-free sippy cup. It’s one of the most highly regarded baby items in our home right now.

My kid’s foresight aside, the terms, polycarbonate bottles and BPA, have been in the news quite a bit these past few weeks. Just last week, The Today Show did a segment called, The Truth About Bottles. The show overviewed the dangers of certain plastic bottles which contain BPA.
That show created so much hysteria buzz, they did a follow up segment the next day to clarify some questions.

This report about Nalgene bottles being pulled made me feel the need to post the stuff I’ve found over the past few months as a new mom. But most importantly, The Times reported today that Canada is at the forefront and is moving toward banning bottles with BPA.

The health minister, Tony Clement, told reporters that after reviewing 150 research papers on B.P.A. and conducting its own studies, his department concluded that the chemical posed the most risk for newborns and children up to the age of 18 months. The minister said that animal studies suggest “there will be behavioral and neural symptoms later in life.”

This talk about polycarbonate bottles and BPA is not new news. Many researchers and blogs have been talking about it for years. It just so happens that it’s permeating mainstream media outlets and now, consumers are starting to pay more attention.

The GreenGuide said:

A 1999 study of polycarbonate baby bottles published in the Japanese Journal of Health Sciences found that new bottles, washed gently before using, leached 3.5 ppb of BPA into water, while extremely worn and scratched bottles leached levels of BPA as high as 28 ppb. Another 1999 Consumer Reports analysis found that BPA migrated from polycarbonate baby bottles into simulated formula when the formula was boiled inside the bottle for 20-30 minutes. And several scientific studies have reported that bisphenol-A can leach from plastic when heated, exposed to acidic solutions or after prolonged use. And baby bottles aren’t the only place BPA is found, a 2007 survey done by the Environmental Working Group found the chemical in formula as well.

HealthyChild.org, a nonprofit organization who are dedicated to protecting the health and well being of children from harmful environmental exposures, say:

Since the late 1990s, there have been allegations that the chemical industry has distorted science to show that BPA poses no threat to human health. The allegations of bias have carried over to the government’s current evaluation.

When we’re bombarded by so many tests, research and reports, what are we, as consumers, supposed to do? While we all try not to over-parent, I do believe its in our best interest to be educated consumers. As the saying goes, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

As the reports and research are flooding in, what does it all mean? I’m no expert here, but my livelihood depends on thorough research. And as always, I need to understand.

My personal research dates back to August 2007, just weeks before the boy was born. There’s a ton of research and reports out there, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed. So what does it all mean? Here is what I found:

What is BPA?

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice define Bisphenol-A (BPA) as a high-volume production chemical used to make epoxy resin and
polycarbonate plastic products, including some kinds of water bottles, baby bottles, and food storage and heating containers. It is also used in the lining of metal food cans and in dental sealants, and is an additive to certain plastics used in children’s toys. The chemical was first developed as a synthetic estrogen and was later polymerized to produce polycarbonate.

How is BPA harmful?

Bisphenol-A mimics estrogen activity and is known as an “endocrine disruptor,” a chemical that interferes with the hormonal system in animals and humans and contributes to adverse health effects. Bisphenol-A also causes a variety of impacts through mechanisms of action that are
probably unrelated to estrogenic properties.environment california

Bisphenol A is a developmental, neural, and reproductive toxicant, Environment California says. From their thorough report, Toxic Baby Bottles, they found that:

* Scientists have linked very low doses of bisphenol A exposure to cancers, impaired immune function, early onset of puberty, obesity, diabetes, and hyperactivity, among other problems.
* For example, in one recent study, a single, low dose of bisphenol A administered to a newborn rat resulted in hyperactive behavior.
* Bisphenol A is most commonly used to make clear polycarbonate plastic for consumer products, such as baby bottles. Through use, this plastic breaks down and leaches bisphenol A into liquids and food to which it comes into contact.

* The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found bisphenol A in the urine of over 95% of people they tested.
* Alarmingly, the median level of bisphenol A in humans is higher than the level that causes adverse effects in animal studies.

What do we do?

Environment California says,

Parents have the right to know about chemicals in the products they purchase for their children. In the absence of good government regulations, but armed with the knowledge that some chemicals are a cause for concern, parents can take a few simple actions to limit their child’s exposure to these and other toxic chemicals.
At the store, parents should select baby bottles that are made from glass or a safer non-polycarbonate plastic. At home, parents should avoid washing plastic dishware with harsh dishwashing soap and hot water, which may allow chemicals to leach out of the plastic.

Environmental Working Group makes these suggestions:

Nipple: Start with a clear silicone nipple.
Latex rubber nipples can cause allergic reactions and can contain impurities linked to cancer.
Bottle: Use glass.
Plastic bottles can leach a toxic chemical called bisphenol A (BPA)
into formula. Avoid clear, hard plastic bottles marked with a 7 or “PC.”
Water: Use filtered tap water.
If your water is fluoridated, use a reverse osmosis filter to remove fluoride, which the American Dental Association recommends avoiding when reconstituting formula. If your water is not fluoridated use a carbon filter. If you choose bottled water make sure it’s fluoride-free.

What is being done?

The government said they are investigating BPA in Infant Formula Liners, but much more needs to be done. Most importantly, Canada has banned the BPA bottles. It was also reported in the Times that NY Senator Charles E. Schumer, said in a statement that he intended to introduce a bill that would create a widespread ban on B.P.A.-related plastics. It would prohibit their use in all children’s products as well as any product use to carry food or beverages for adults.

What is safe?

As EWG suggests, avoid clear, hard plastic bottles marked with a 7 or PC. so what baby bottles does that leave? I know Born Free, Green to Grow, thinkbaby Bottles and Medela Storage System are all safe.
The Soft Landing, one of my favorite blogs, has done some great reports. The recently posted Learning Your Way Around BPA.

ZRecs, another of my must-read resource blogs, has a great lineup of safe(r) bottles and cups.

And if you need even more links, here are even more sites that I’ve compiled:

Plastic Chart
Bisphenol-A Free.org
ABC report on BPA
The Green Guide
Breastfeeding Blog
Chicago Tribune’s Julie Deardorff

Mama Knows Breast
Nature Moms
Baby Bargains-BPA Free Product suggestions
Plastic Bottles Suck- Babble
Baby 411 consumer alert

We received an interesting note from our insurance carrier last week. In the form of an itemized list of all the procedures, medication, room and board involved in bringing the boy into the world late last September, the insurance company reminded us of the mounting costs of having children and the insanity that is medical care.

As I said before, it’s no wonder we and many other couples make a conscious decision to prolong having children.

The phrase that I heard many times throughout my pregnancy, “You’ll never be ready to have kids” should be reworded to say, “You’ll never be ready to face the mounting costs.” Because, let me tell you, I believe more than anything, we were beyond ready for our kid. Nothing could ever prepare you for the staggering costs of healthcare.
Thank God for insurance.

Nevertheless, just as we anticipated, having Jack was our ultimate investment.

After all is said and done, the cost for bringing Jack home is in the $30-40K range.

*blink*  *blink*

Read the rest of this entry »

Jeff likes to tell people that “he doesn’t believe in sending/giving flowers.”

noflowers.jpgPeople, that’s a polite Jeff-ism for, “you ain’t getting any flowers!”

No, for real.

I’m not going to lie, once upon a time, I was one of those people that eyeballed the flower delivery guys on the street, and considered tackling them for those pretty orchids and hoped they’d come to my office.

But seriously, fresh cut flowers look so pretty upon receipt. After all the effort put into growing these pretty flowers, the resources to keep it alive, not to mention the pesticides, the effort in cutting and arranging, then packaging, transporting, then sending to the recipient; after all is said and done, you have a lifeless bouquet.

Pretty, but not so green. Unless they are potted plants, sustainable, locally or organically grown, fresh cut flowers aren’t the greenest of gifts.

Many people I know have ditched the Hallmark holiday all together or celebrate in a more subdued fashion. Or better yet, they celebrate all year long.

Vday Bouquet circa 2006I’ve gotten my fair share of gorgeous flowers for which I’m so grateful. But at this day and age, at least for us, flowers and candy don’t seem very applicable. This year, I have a pair of smiling faces staring back at me.

And without a doubt, the squealy affirmations of affection and requisite group hugs are way more valuable than any store-bought flower.

You can’t beat that.

Flowers or not, happy Valentine’s day, everyone!

heart2.jpg

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want to make your own heart? go here

I hope you’re wearing your red today.

In case you haven’t heard, today is National Wear Red Day. It’s the day where everyone is encouraged to wear red to raise awareness in heart disease, specifically among women.

I’m sure you know someone who was affected by heart disease in one way or another. My grandma, who was very much my 2nd mom, passed in 2002 after a long battle with various ailments following a severe stroke. While she may not have succumbed to heart disease, after her passing, I made it a personal mission to become more aware about stroke and heart disease. Thus, I became an advocate for the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

Did you know heart disease is the number 1 killer of women?

Go RedAs ASA says, the color red and the red dress now stand for the ability all women have to improve their heart health and live stronger, longer lives. In some cases, heart disease can be prevented. Education and awareness go a long way.

Even if you missed the memo about wearing red, find out what you can do to support the cause.

P.S. Macy*s is offering a 15% discount to those that participate in National Wear Red Day.