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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Create a Summer Bucket List

Each summer my kids and I create a summer bucket list. This is our list of what we want to do.  We realize that we won’t be able to do everything on our list ever year, but it gives a starting off point for planning our Friday Family Field Trips.  I am always surprised at what my kids want to do each year. We dream big but keep in mind that we won’t be able to do everything on the list every year, but it gives us a plan. I am a planner have I mentioned that before?
On this year’s Summer Bucket List we have the following
  • Go to Lego World
  • Visit with Friends
  • Go to Woodward Park
  • Go to a minor league game in OKC
  • Learn French (Pi)
  • Get my front aerial (Peanut)
  • Read 100 books
  • Go to a big water park with a wave pool
  • Go to the Drive In Theater
  • Learn German (Peanut)
  • Try water skiing/wake boarding
  • Camp out 
  • Make our Own Ice Cream
  • Save up $25 (Pumpkin)
  • Tie Dye
  • Try Glue Batik
  • Go Berry Picking
  • Go swimming at the Creek – Blue Hole (50 degree spring feed creek/stream – best on days that are above 100 degrees)
Do you make a summer bucket list with your kids? What is on your Bucket List?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Problem with the Smell of Clean


What does clean smell like? Ask most people and they will tell you it smells like lemons, or spring rain, fresh air, or  clothes dried on the clothes line.  but many of these so called “scents”  are artificial fragrances Manufacturer’s of cleaning products know and understand this too. Why do you think they allude to these scents in their products and advertising?  Many cleaning products have added fragrance.  Many fragrances are made up of a complex cocktail of natural scents and synthetic chemicals, many of these are petrochemicals. Even many so called green cleaning products are not really all that green.
Why do manufactures add fragrance? Fragrance is a key component to cleaning products – as it is often what distinguishes one product from another, and what creates brand loyalty. Companies take great measures to ensure that the fragrance is experienced fully by the user. Our sense of smell is one of strongest and we associate memories with certain smells,  Chemists, manufacturers and product companies know this.  If something does not smell clean how will we know that it is clean? Once a upon a time ago my husband helped a friend with a cleaning business. They cleaned with vinegar but before leaving a place they would spray in the air a little bit of Pine Sol. . Yup it was just so that there was the ‘smell” of clean. They got more referrals and compliments when they sprayed the bathrooms for the smell. The clients thought if it smelled clean then it was truly clean. 
The scents added to cleaners do not enhance the cleaning ability of most cleaners. Quite the contrary many fragrances can cause more harm than good.   Among the chemicals that are used to produce fragrance are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions.  Also in the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues. These include diethyl phthalate, a chemical found in 97 percent of Americans (Silva 2004) and linked to sperm damage in human epidemiological studies (Swan 2008)
Currently the United States does not require manufacturers to disclose the ingredients in fragrances, including the fragrances in cleaners, as this is considered proprietary information.
What can you do if you want to avoid chemical  fragrances that can cause problems ranging from allergies to cancer? 

  • Make your Own Cleaners – personally if it is not safe enough to put use on  my body I will not use it in my house.
  • Check out EWG they will soon be coming out with a data base of Cleaners but for now they have a Hall of Shame List for Cleaners, check it out make sure none of yours are on here. Surprisingly some  so called “green” cleaners are on here.
  • Use Alternatives for Chlorine in Cleaning

For More Reading.
Dirty Secrets - What's hiding in Your Cleaning Products
Physicians for Social Responsibility
EWG  Cleaners Hall of Shame

Tell me do you have a favorite Cleaner you like to use? It is safe?

this post is linked up with Your Green Resource

Crock Pot BBQ Pork Tenderloin

Crockpot BBQ pork
This is such a great way to enjoy some Fix and Forget it BBQ, I happened to have a pork tenderloin but you could very easily use beef. My lovely pork tenderloin came from my meat share from Natural Farms.
  • pork tenderloin
  • allspice
  • cumin
  • 1-2 onions, sliced
  • molasses  1/4 cup
  • apple cider vinegar 1/2 cup
  • 1 can of tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced

  • I prepared a dry rub for the pork made up of cumin (for a nice smokey flavor) and allspice. I feel that allspice is the perfect match for all pork.
  • Brown pork in a cast iron skillet
  • While the pork is browning begin to prepare the BBQ Sauce, it will cook in the crock pot right with the pork. To prepare BBQ Sauce combine in the crockpot
    • 1 can of tomatoes, diced
    • 1/4 cup of molasses
    • 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
    • generous shake of cumin
    • genius shake of allspice
    • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • While meat is browning add the sliced onions to skillet and begin to sauté them.
  • When meat is browned on all sides remove from cast iron pan and add to crock pot.
  • Continue to sauté the onions till translucent, add 2 tsp. of molasses to the pan and 1 tbsp. of cider vinegar to the onions.
  • Add the onions to the crock pot.
  • Cook for about 4-6 hours or until meet is fork tender.
I served it with German Potato Salad ,Marinated Chick Peas and Corn on the Cob. Alternatively you can use Carolina Style BBQ Sauce

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day–We Remember

On Memorial Day we take time to remember, we remember those who fought for us but we also remember those who have gone before us. This year Memorial Day happens to fall on my Dad’s Birthday.
He was the first born in his family. His own Dad passed away when he was just 14. At the age of 16 my father dropped out of school to help support his mother, brother and two younger sisters. He was making a good wage in construction at the time thanks to a nice Hurricane over the summer.
He was a hard working man, a man who would become the 2nd hand man to several business owners, running their daily operations. Without the benefit of a college or even a high school degree.  He later went on to build his own successful business and his dream home.
Even though he was busy building a house, working for other, and then building his own business he always made time for family. Whether it was his nieces and nephews or his own baby who needed him, he made time for Brownie Fly-ups, soccer games, dance recitals, and Boy Scout Trips. He never missed an important event. He was often there to help, whether drive the bus on a boys scout trip or lay sod for the High School Soccer field (even when none of his kids were playing for them.)  As much as he loved his kids, it is possible he loved his grandchildren even more.
In August of  2007 my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer, he had a particularly aggressive form. Yet what what was still most important to him was spending time with his family.
Disney trip
Dad, Pop, we will miss you.and light a candle for you on this Memorial Day – Birthday.

Friday, May 25, 2012

7 Quick Takes–Summer Time

Did you know that priests and seminarians have to provide their own transportation? Rosario’s brother is a seminarian in need of a car, and like a good sister Rosario is doing what she can to help. Last year we helped out Marise who wanted to be a nun. (She needed to pay off her college debt before entering the noviate. Vocations are diminishing in part perhaps because young men and women must be debt free to enter. If you are so inclined to help out visit Rosario’s site here.

Peanut went for fittings this week for cheer team. It still has not sunk in that I am the mother of a bona fide Cheerleader. Not just any cheerleader but a Oklahoma Cheerleader. This is serious business here in Oklahoma, right up with beauty pageants.l
Speaking of Pageants, Peanut who likes to compete in every sport under the sun has decided that she wants to add the competitive sport of pageants to the list. And believe it or not Daddy has said yes. It is a local pageant put on by the Chamber of Commerce. Daddy even said yes to the dress. We found it on deep discount. it was more than I wanted to pay. My budget was for $20,  but Deacon G convinced Peanut to pony up the difference. She is eager and motivated to do this pageant.  Why do I do these things? Quite frankly we are hoping to get this out of her system. As little girls she and her sister liked to play dress up, we used to keep a bin of dress up clothes. When I asked her why she wanted to do a pageant, she gave a very appropriate response of she wanted to dress up and maybe win a crown. I am very comfortable with her doing the pageant because we have opted to go classic with her other other outfit and did not spend more than $5 on that one. She looks happy in the dress doesn’t she? Did you ever participate in any sort of pageant? I never did but I had friends who did.
katie dress
We have been enjoying a little down time here. Our summer started last Friday and we are taking it easy till June. By taking it easy I mean we have enjoyed trips to the library, chess club,  vocal coaching, dance classes and committee meetings for Catholic Charities. I know not so much down town, but we have been enjoying sleeping in.
I forgot how much teenagers love/need to sleep in. Something about their physiology changes and they all of the sudden need more sleep than babies, and their sleep cycles change so that they need their sleep in the morning not at night. Our teenager is happy to go to bed at 9pm and will sleep in to 9-10am (secretly I think she is staying up reading books). Our little Peanut will soon be 12 and she is going through a growth spurt, eating and sleeping all the time. We are quite happy that she is finally growing. She has always been our petite one. When she was in 4th grade she could still wear clothes she wore in kindergarten. Just this week we measured her and she is now 5’2”. I literally was worried because she was running smaller than me at that age. I know we moms worry about things needlessly.
Pumpkin and I have been enjoying morning hikes picking blackberries along the way. We have wild blackberries growing along our fences here.. Somehow the black berries never seem to make it back to the house.  We can hardly wait for the pears though.
Growing up Memorial Day weekend was the kick off to summer. My grandparents lived next door to us and they had a pool which they would open on that weekend. No matter how cold it was we always took advantage of the pool. As kids we did not care, water was water to us. I could never understand why the grown ups did not swim with us. Now I understand completely. I will not go swimming unless it is over 90 degrees outside. (I know I have lived in Oklahoma too long.)
Not only did my grandparents open the pool we often did so with a big Memorial Day Party. You see my Dad’s birthday was May 28th. This always seems to fall on Memorial Day weekend. We would have the proverbial “cook out”. I think my favorite food was the marinated shaved steak, and my grandmother’s clam chowder, this was in Rhode Island after all.
Do you have a favorite Memorial Day Tradition or Favorite Memorial Day Food?

for more 7 Quick Takes check out Conversion Diary

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Surviving Summer with Young Teens


Last year I wrote about surviving summer with kids. I love summer and look forward to it every year. I love all the extra things we can do since we don’t have school. Now that the kids are getting older but that doesn’t mean that summer fun or learning is over. If your teens are not quite old enough to enjoy the benefits of having a “real’ job there is still a lot they can do.  Young teens and pre-teens still like to have fun, and are not necessarily ready to stay home on their own all day with nothing to do.  They also benefit from sticking to a schedule. You don’t want them to sleep the day away do you?
So what can you do with Young Teens this summer?
  • Free Movie Days at the Library or local Movie Theaters – kids this age still enjoy going to cartoons. Check to see if your local theaters have a free or low cost movie series in the summer.

  • The Neighborhood Pool or Community Pool- What kid does not enjoy going to the pool. By the time kids are 11 –14 they are probably not taking swim lessons anymore, but would enjoy going to the pool.. For us the pool has the added benefit of having life guards, something our lakes do not have here in Oklahoma.
  • Host a Get Together at Your House  - Believe me you don’t need much to make this age group happy, some water and some fun, a pool is not necessary though it helps, but hey then you have to play life guard. A tarp some water balloons and some squirt guns are all you need. Through in some popsicles and everyone is happy.
summer 2010 034
  • Host a sleepover – My kids are always asking to have friends sleep over during the school year. No need to have a birthday party just ask each of the kids to bring a snack and a movie to share, or better yet have the sleep out in the back yard, your tent probably does not get enough use anyway.
  • Set up a small tent as a getaway for your young teen – This was one of my favorite retreats when I was a kid. My parents bought me a cheap pup tent and helped me to set it up in our back “woods” (still in view of the house) I would spend hours out in the tent. Whenever my mother sent us outside to play this is where you would find me when that summer I was 11.
  • Start a Business – many young teens can’t wait to earn money, they are the perfect age to start a lawn mowing business, dog walker, babysitter or a creative business.
  • Have a Photography Scavenger Hunt – do this as a group event or even share it on Facebook for friends who can not attend.  For those teens who are old enough to be on Facebook.
  • Make Your Own Ice Cream – you can use the Ziploc baggie method or any variety of ice cream makers
  • Have A Tie Dye Party – recycle those stained t-shirts by tie dying them.
  • Job Shadow Someone -  Find someone who has a career you would like to try on for a day. Ask them if you can shadow them for day.
  • Go to the Park or Playground yes, even big kids like the playground. Try a new one for a change of pace. One of our favorites doesn’t even have “playground equipment’ instead it has rock formations. All of my kids 8-14 love to scamper all over it.
  • Go Explore the City Around You –Head Downtown or to other areas of your town or city you have not been to before.
  • Let them Stay Up All Night – No not every night but just once. perhaps on the Summer Solstice. They love the idea of staying up all night at this age. They will soon learn that it is not as glamorous as it sounds.
  • Volunteer – There are plenty of volunteer opportunities for even young kids. Our local food  bank accepts families as volunteers.
  • Go Stargazing  - Locate a local astronomy group and see if you can meet up with them. Some amateur astronomer clubs have amazing telescopes and they just might let you use them.
  • Go to a Water Park -  Now that the kids are older I can actually enjoy going to a water park with the kids and they are old enough to enjoy it too.

  • Go to a Minor League Baseball Game – These can be quite economical. Our local team has $2 Tuesdays. Any home game on a Tuesday is only $2 with $2 concession stand items. A family (of 5)  outing for under $20 including food? Better yet some minor league teams have free tickets for different groups on special nights, scouts, little league teams.
  • Go for a Hike – Hikes can be had anywhere, our favorites are around our property but growing up we used to go out for “hikes” in the adjacent woods. For older kids a longer hike can be enjoyed.
  • Learn a New Skill -  older kids can still learn new things, like crocheting or knitting or sewing.
  • Work on a Scrapbook/Photo Album – This past year I turned over the scrap booking efforts to my children. Yes you read that right. I have given them their pictures and mementos to scrapbook themselves.

What are your ideas for surviving Summer with Young Teens? Add them in the comments below.

For more ideas on surviving summer with kids of all ages and a simple summer schedule check out this post.

Going Green Made Easy


As Kermit the Frog said “It ain’t easy being green.”, but id does not have to be hard. There is so much that a green lifestyle encompasses sometimes it is hard to know where to start. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. Sometimes there is contradictory information out there. At times we feel guilty if we don’t do it all but just by making one small change we are part of the solution. Just by making small changes even one at time we can make a difference.  So how do you get started? Really anywhere is okay. But if you need some ideas then read on.
  • Use cloth bags  when you go shopping be sure to put them back in the car. One way to remember them when you go in the store is to put something like your coupons. shopping list or purse in the trunk with the bags.

  • Drive your car less – for someone like us who lives out in the country this means I sometimes wait to get something or do without for a little while. Most nights Deacon G drives through town on his way home from work and can pick up things for us. Driving less means coordinating errands and kids activities. We schedule everything on the same night. Scouts, Dance, Soccer Chess Club all happens on Tuesdays, hence our crazy Tuesdays.
  • Get Stainless Steel Water Bottles – These will be BPA free and you can refill them, they will quickly pay for themselves even if the Labrador eats the lids. (yup it has happened.)
  • Turn up the Air Conditioning and turn down the Heat. Set your AC above 72, we comfortably set ours at 78-80, depending on the outside temperature. In the winter set your heat to about 68 degrees or lower. Better yet get timer and set the HVAC system get the temperature to a comfortable range when you are at home. When you leave home you can turn it off or have it revert back to a less comfortable range.
  • Consider Composting – you don’t need to have acreage to do this. It can be done in a small yard, even at a town house. Not sure what to compost, then check out 36 Things You Can Compost.
  • Go Meatless Just Once a Week – Many people regularly go Meatless on Mondays (Meatless Mondays, anyone) and millions of Catholics go meatless on Fridays.
  • Take you Lunch from home – using a reusable bag and containers of course.
  • Hang up your clothes to dry. – if you don’t have a clothesline you can use a drying rack. Even if you only hang up your clothes in the warmer months you will reap many benefits, the least of which is a lower electric or gas bill.
  • Buy Local,  Buy in Season – this cuts down on transportation costs as well as helps support local farmers at the same time. The Farmer’s Market is a great place to Shop Local, but even some regular grocery stores will feature local foods.
  • Recycle – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. – Start with the reduce, buy less, and buy things with less packaging. Reuse what you have, before you recycle it try to find a new use for it. Up cycle it first. T-shirts can be made into bags for shopping. Recycle is not just for the curbside you can find new uses for clothes and furniture too.  Try out your local Free Cycle Group.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Surviving Summer Vacation with Kids

kids in garden - smiling
this is an update from a post first published last year (2011)

Eek! How am I going to survive Summer vacation with my kids? It is hard to believe that summer vacation is upon us. In FACT it is HERE!  My kids are home today. So what’s a mom to do?

Have plans. (and back up plans)

Don’t wait for things to happen. (I will be giving my kids a free week where nothing is going on). They have an extended day at school so they hardly get the down time. Now does that mean they will be watching TV next week? , not at all.  But will  they have no schedule? Not at all. it means they will have no activities or camps schedule for this time.  It will be a time for them to relax and unwind from a year of learning.

Have a Schedule – but be flexible it is Summer after all

This is as important as having a plan. I find it gives me freedom knowing what I will be doing without waiting to see what will happen.  Now depending on your activities your schedule can be more or less lose. I like to keep my kids on a basic daily schedule as well as a larger weekly one. A typical schedule for us would look something like this for us.
Daily Skeleton Schedule
  • 9am    Everyone must have breakfast by this time- the kitchen will close for maintenance(read cleaning)
  • morning chores
  • 12 –1 lunch time
  • 1pm  book time
  • 3pm snack, mom tea time
  • 3:30  afternoon chore time
  • 7pm dinner
  • 9pm all kids to bed, yes all even the teenage ones (Mom needs time to be with Dad and to work)
Weekly Schedule would look something like this unless it is a camp week.
  • MondayArts and Crafts at home day
  • TuesdaySwim day – home or out and about
  • Wednesday – is a Free day for the kids
  • Thursday Library Day- They have free programs and a summer reading programming where the kids free vouchers for local attractions and restaurants
  • FridayFamily Field Trip Day
  • Saturday – Family time
  • Sunday – Church time  
Plan Some fun activities
Family Pictures - 11-09 073
We like to plan some fun activities to do as a family and with our friends. I like to have a yearly Tie Dye party, We will plan an outing to the lake or creek with friends, or the drive in movie theater. Activities don’t have to cost a lot and it allows us to get together with friends and connect over the summer.  It started out as just something that I did with my kids and grew to include about a dozen families.  
Don’t let learning go out the window during summer breaks.
While we don’t usually do structure school during the summer we continue to learn. We do the summer reading program at the Library and my older children will be picking a summer project to work on this summer. Pi would like to study French  this year. I will be starting Pumpkin (8) on chapter books this summer. We will be doing a summer book challenge. In years past I have gotten work books for the kids for the next grade up, I am not sure if I will do this with Pumpkin this year. You may be asking why if my children have been in school all year do we do summer learning?  It is important for me that my children know that learning is a life long pursuit and does not stop once you leave school.
 Try new things
summer 2010 035
 A few summers ago the girls tried a triathlon  for the first time. They absolutely loved it. This year they want to do a “Mud Run”.  Last year we let Pumpkin do his first triathlon
Visit with Friends
Family Pictures - 11-09 015

This should be self explanatory but so often we get busy in our lives and don’t leave time for socialization. Plan time with friends.. Pack a picnic dinner and attend a free concert. Go to the drive-in (if you still have one) with some other families. It is great fun for everyone. Hold a block party or a barb-b-que,

Get away as a Family
You don’t have to go far, and it doesn’t have to be a long trip. Perhaps a weekend away. Camping counts if you like to camp. The idea is to spend time together as a family. Just with the ones who live in your house. Sometimes we just go camping in our back 5 (acres). When the kids were little it was far enough away from the house that it was special. We “hiked” there and set up the tents, cooked outside. Last year we took a quick weekend away and stayed at a monastery(very cost effective and family friendly - think youth hostel)
Visit Far Flung Family

Summer is the perfect time to spend time with family who live further away. Take a road trip or if you are lucky find some cheap summer fares. Last year we sent our 13 year old on the “tour de family” . She visited all the cousins and grandma, each for about a week at a time.
Have a theme week
Pick a theme around something that is happening. In the past we have had Olympic weeks, and with the Olympics coming up this summer it would be a fun one to do again.
Set aside rest time
Everyone needs rest time. Remember it is called R & R – “Rest and Relaxation”. I try to build down time into our schedule on a daily and weekly basis. Even big kids need time to just kick back and relax. When the kids were little it was a daily break time now that they are older we keep one day a week as an at home day.  I make it a point to take the last two weeks before school starts as a time to slow down all the activities and get ready for school.

Take Advantage of  free and low cost events in the community
One of my favorites. On bad weather days we are sure to take advantage of the free movies or $1 movies that are at local theaters.   We absolutely love to attend the free summer concert series around town. I can’t think of a better way to expose your kids to a variety of music styles for next to nothing
Consider Day and Residential Camps for the Kids
Many communities have low cost day camps at community centers and churches. My kids love being able to go these camps. Social creatures that they are. They love the classes and silly songs that come along with camp. As they have gotten older they enjoy going away to residential camps. These camps don’t have to cost a lot of money and often they do have scholarships or camperships as they are called. I know of one young lady who has gone to horse back riding camp each year by simply selling girl scout cookies.
Consider Hosting an Exchange Student or Camp Counselors.
Growing up my family hosted French Students almost every summer from the time I was 14. It was a great experience for our family. Last summer we hosted 1/2 of the teaching team from Totus Tuus at our home. These college students spend their summer teaching the Catholic Faith to children in a fun faith filled curriculum. I have had friends sponsor soccer coaches from England who teach at summer soccer camps.  Nothing makes summer go by faster than increasing your family for a short period.

Summer always seems like a long span of time for us, until we start doing all sorts of things. Just be careful it is very easy for your summer to get overbooked and not be the relaxation you were looking for. What are your plans for surviving summer vacation with the kids this year? 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Less is More Challenge the Bathroom and Laundry Room


These are rooms that are often neglected.  Perhaps for some of us we have multiple bathrooms, and a separate laundry room . When is the last time you tackled these rooms? It is time to streamline the bathroom. When was the last time you got rid of the clutter in there?
  • Check your towels are they all still in good shape? It might be time to turn some of them into cleaning rags.
  • When is the last time you went through the medicine cabinet? Now is a good time to make sure there are no expired medications in here. (now would be a good time to restock any needed medications)
  • Clean out those shampoos and bath products, how many do you need? Even if you have natural products it is real easy to accumulate more than you can use, even if you make your own.
  • Do you have any mystery items in the bathrooms? I recently found a leg brace that I used 3 years ago when I tore a ligament in my knee. I don’t think I need that but my dear husband thought we should hold on to it n case anyone else in the house needed it.

  • How about the laundry room. How many laundry baskets do you have? Some days it seems like I need another one then other days I am tripping over them.
  • How about the laundry detergent, do you make your own. streamline it and make it in bulk.
  • Clean out under the sink and get rid of the extra cleaning products. If you haven’t already make the switch to more natural cleaners, better yet go with white vinegar or try making your own.
How is your Less is More Challenge Going? What is the strangest thing you have cleared out?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer Sunscreen Safety

I learned a valuable lesson the other day. It does not matter what you do for sun protection if you don’t use it, a sunburn can happen on a coolish (60 degree) morning if the sun is shining before 10:30am.  You see, we are a family of fair skinned people here, despite the fact that my husband and children are Cherokee. They all have plenty of freckles. I guess the Irish genes can out on top. one.  As a kids my husband and I ran free in the summer without a care and I know that I had burns so bad that my entire back would peel.
Are Sunscreens Safe?
The jury is still out on this one. the FDA pushed back the compliancy requirement for a news set of guidelines (33 years in the making) meant to urge manufacturers to more clearly label their products and toss out misleading terms like "sweat proof" and "sunblock." But even the now-delayed FDA guidelines, says EWG, fall short in some important ways.
Believe it or not sunscreen users are actually more likely to get burned." The common thought behind this is , that sunscreen gives the wearer a false sense of security. How is that? People who wear sunscreen are at a higher risk for getting burned because they are more likely to spend a longer period of time in the sun.  Additionally most people do not wear sunscreen properly, you should be apply about 2 oz. every 90 minutes. If that is the case a day at the beach or lake or ball park would mean a tube of sunscreen per family member for the day.
The latest report by EWG shows that only 25% of all sunscreens are considered safe. That means that the vast majority of sunscreens (75% of them) contain ingredients that are harmful.
Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen
EWG lists several ingredients to be wary of and avoid.
  • The Environmental Working Group and other toxicology experts believe that oxybenzone is linked to hormone disruption and potentially to cell damage that may lead to skin cancer
  • retinyl palminate. -Government-funded studies have found that this particular type of vitamin A may increase risk of skin cancer when used on sun-exposed skin. However, these reports have been in mice and evidence has been inconclusive for humans. says this ingredient does not make sunscreen more effective, and until definitive research is available, consumers should avoid sunscreen products containing retinyl palminate.But the EWG researchers found the initial findings of an FDA study of vitamin A's photocarcinogenic properties, meaning the possibility that it results in cancerous tumors when used on skin exposed to sunlight.
What to do?
  • Read the labels, and avoid oxybenzone and Vitamin A (or retinyl palminate).
  • Use Mineral Sun blocks sparingly
  • Cover up – Do you remember Slip. Slap, Slop? Slip on long sleeved clothing, slop on sunscreen and slap a hat.  Hats are de rigueur  for us whether gardening, at the beach, soccer fields or on a hike. We keep some in the car and some by the door. When we go off to swim at the lake or pool we are often seen wearing long sleeves or at least short sleeved cover ups.  Yes I have been known to wear a hat in the pool or lake and sunglasses too.
  • Avoid the peak hours 10-4 or stay in the shade if you can.
  • Don’t be fooled by cloudy days, I got my worst sunburn while biking around Block Island as a teen on a cloudy day. I was as pink as my shorts that day.
  • Check out the EWG list of safe sunscreens before you go out.
How do you deal with summer sun and fun?


EWG only deemed 9 percent of lip balms, 7 percent of makeups, and 9 percent of moisturizers fit for consumers. The culprits? The overuse of oxybenzone, which has been linked to hormone disruption (though the FDA doesn't have a problem with it), and a form of Vitamin A called retinyl palmitate, which has been linked with skin tumor growth

7 Quick Takes

My girls are picking out names for their children, Can’t say as I blame them, I had Pi’s name (her real one) picked out looong before I met my husband. She is name after my grandmother, well actually the nickname my great grandfather gave her. Her given name was Mary, but her father had a pet name that she was called till the day she died by family members. I can remember being somewhere around 6th grade and thinking I will name my first daughter that, and so I did. Now my daughter’s are making lists of names they want. So far we have a
  • Etienne for a girl even though it means Stephen in French Pi has decided to name a girl this. Stephen is believe it or not a family name that has gone three generations on my side and the name my husband was given as a Benedictine Oblate. (the girls are fighting over this name.)
  • Solange – this name sound exotic but it simply means “sun angel”
  • Antigone – seriously, she likes the name but did not know the story behind it.
  • Lourdes –  after Our Lady of Lourdes
  • Adara -
  • Ruby
  • Ryan – for a girl
  • Etienniana – the feminine form of Etienne
  • Logan
Did you pick out names for your children when you were younger? Did you keep those names when you eventually had children. 

A picture turned up of me this week on Facebook. Yup they are out there, you never know when someone else will dig up a picture of you. I can’t remember the year and I don’t recognize the picture. But I do know that the purplish jean “suit” that I was wearing was one of my favorite school outfits. But what blew me away was the gold tights. Seriously the ‘70’s had some serious styles going on.
Lisa 4th grade
Peanut is our self declared athlete. Now don’t get me wrong all of my kids have done sports but this child chomps at the bit to compete. We have to put limits on her participation. We have limited all of our kids to one activity outside school and one team per season at school. Now our Peanut has been watching the commercials for the upcoming Olympics. She is trying to figure out what sport(s) she can do that would get her to the Olympics. For now she has settled on Track and Field. We will be sure to let you know if she makes it.
She is making great strides in Track too.  The first picture is from a road race we did last August. The second pic is from track and field with a coach at school. She was so determined to run track that she ran 7th grade track as a 6th grader going to practice with the coach after school. Can I say thank you to her coach enough?
IMG_7357katie track

Peanut is our self proclaimed athlete, she thrives on the competition, and would be involved in 3 or 4 sports if (a) we let her (b) we had the time (c) we had the money. We actually have to tell this child NO we won’t let you do dance, gymnastics, track, cheerleading and soccer all at the same time.  I know we are horrible parents. How is she supposed to get to the Olympics? or get a college scholarship if we don’t push her in sports? I have news for you. Less than 2% of all High School athletes end up getting sports scholarships at NCAA school. Additionally kids who over train in sports and especially those that specialize in a sport early on end up with injuries. Worse yet the injuries are happening to children at younger and younger ages. It is not uncommon to see kids as young as 10 and 11 with sports injuries needing surgery.
Our solution has been to have our children involved in no more than one physical activity per season per child. We prefer sports that have a break too, after we need family time and kids need time to play. Limiting activities has helped us as a family, to spend less, have more free time and be able to enjoy spontaneous things. It is hard to enjoy an evening outside as a family if you have practices/lessons every night of the week.
Joshua awards 2nd grade
School is out for Summer!  Yup there it is. We will be taking a couple of weeks to regroup and enjoy doing next to nothing before our busy part of summer begins. I am praying that it will be a relax full time for all of us. I am so proud of my kiddos. They all brought up their grades from last semester, but what is most surprising in my little boy who I had such great concerns for as a toddler pulled a 99 in math this semester and got an award for the highest math grade. His teacher even started giving him 3rd grade math after Christmas.  I did not think it was possible to bring up a 98!  The girls did wonderful too, winning awards in various subjects too. I am proud of all my kids.
My daughters will be entering High School (Pi) and Junior High (Peanut). I gave them talk about when they are allowed to date.
moriah katie easter 2012DiamondDance24Katie Fashion Show
As you can see by the photos above this is of great concern to their father. He would be happy to send them to a convent or at least an all girl Catholic School. To their credit my girls  not interested in dating. Pi who is 14 won’t date till she finds a boy who is mature enough. Peanut (11) still thinks boys have cooties. (mom is quite happy). Funny enough when I asked my youngest daughter at what age she could date, the 8 year old boy said 14. I reminded him that the older sister was already 14. So he upped the dating age to 16 then 18. I love that he is looking out for his sisters, even though he is younger.
Speaking of the son 8 years old he is a romantic really he is. I can’t believe it. I am not sure how he came by it. I mean my husband is very sweet but he is a very practical man. My son on the other hand is a Knight in Shining Amour ready to protect the virtue of his sisters.

for more 7 quick takes head on over to Conversion Diary. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Mom Competition–Are you in it?


It did not start with the recent Time Life Cover nor will end there. Mom’s are competing all the time. “My child is brighter, prettier, better athlete, talked earlier, read earlier, walked earlier.” These mom’s have children of all ages. It starts from the time the baby is born. “Junior slept through the night at 3 weeks old’. “Little Eustace is feeding her self at 6 months old.” “Abbie is 6 and can prepare her own breakfast".  “Buford, just got into Harvard'”.
It doesn’t seem to matte what the topic is, whenever moms get together competition happens. Even if you think you are not competing you are still counted as in the race.
I admit that when my girls were toddlers I was involved in some mom groups and I would compare my girls to the other babies all the time. I wanted to know how they measured up. Even when I wasn’t making such observations out loud I was making them in my head. “Oh my, little Alyssa is potty trained at 18 months, I better get started on Pi.” Never mind the fact that Pi was ahead on some other developmental milestones, I wanted her to surge ahead on everything.  I will admit it I am a little competitive. All right, more than a little, but not at everything. When Pi was a baby she surged ahead on all milestones, by 9 months old she was walking, and talking in 3 word sentences.  She was not even a toddler, I believe she skipped those years and just went from baby to being a little person. (She has always been more mature than her peers). The fact that I had a child who who milestones ahead of time (except for sleeping and eating) did not help me stay out of the Mom competition. I got sucked into it. 
But a great thing happens when you have more than one child, you learn that each child develops on its on schedule. They reach milestones at different times and they develop different talents.  I have witnessed that my kids have each developed their own

Why do Moms Compete?
  • Fear and pride drive them at the same time, as well as a good dose of familial narcissism. We are proud of our kids so we brag, we are afraid someone else’s kids are better than ours, For goodness sake “Ryan was potty trained at 9 months”. We are filled with self doubt that we are not good enough moms if our kids do not do it all.
  • Our culture sets up a troubling dynamic between women – mothers or not. Comparing ourselves to one another is a mainstay embedded in the fabric of our lives. Being a mother seems to cause insecurities to rise up  for women as they deal simultaneously with  joyous, daunting, rewarding, and vulnerable journey that is parenthood. Women are often taken aback by the sheer amount of time and  energy  being a parent requires, leaving little room for pre-motherhood activities.  (Dr. Zucker is from the authors of the new book, Good Enough is the New Perfect.)
  • Parenting expert Wendy Mogel, author of “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee,” says part of what’s fueling the mom judge-a-thon is what psychologists call “displacement.” The world is a scary place, and we can’t control things like the economy free-falling. But we can control our choices as a parent – so we attach way too much significance to them.
  • Being a mom is job that does not pay so we measure our accomplishments via our children's’ accomplishments. How our children are doing is a measure of who we are. When our children reach a milestone or do well we relish in that achievement and add that to our crown.
Decide Not to Compete
Make the decision not to compete with other mom. Take yourself out the game. Once I decided not to compete my life became easier. My kids did not have to be the best at anything/everything. I just wanted them to be happy. So when Peanut decided to quit gymnastics to pursue dance I was happy to assist her in that. I am all for kids trying lots of different things to find what makes them happy. My goal is to raise happy well adjusted kids, if my kids want to compete in something then it is up to them.
I am happy when my kids succeeded in what they choose to do, but I do not get my sense of well being from my kids and their successes. When my kids fail I help them to succeeded. we work together but it is not a reflection on me.
Compare not Compete
Comparison can be good however, it will alert you to the child that is running behind and may lead you to early testing that can help. Pumpkin had delayed speech, though our family doctor was not worried, after all he had two older sisters and was a boy and all of his motor skills were on target. We had some early testing for him and it turned out he was significantly delayed in speech.
I refuse to compete but have noticed other moms making the comparisons to me, I am different I am trying to be like most moms at our little school. I went to college, but stay home. We live simply but yet our kids are involved in lots of free activities. I go and do with my kids. So what do I do when moms make a mention of their kid, trying to get a bite out of me? I don’t bite back. I let other moms mention my kids, it is not that I don’t promote my kids, I am their biggest advocate when they need it. But rather I let my kids be who they are.
In the end when we compete as moms we devalue our children and their accomplishments and milestones become mere checkmarks and trophies for us. Do we really want all those trophies or to enjoy the experience. .

How about you have you ever competed as a Mom? Do you wish to opt out of the competition? It is never too late.


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