Guest Post for the Washington Post (!): How gardening can help build healthier, happier kids

I love gardening so much that I nicknamed my kid after a plant. (No, Sprout is not his real name. Yes, I’ve had people ask me that.) So of course, it was natural for me to continue it when I had kids. And like all things that I both like and are good for sustainability, I love to write about it!

So I was thrilled to bits when the Washington Post accepted my piece on the science of why you should garden with your kids. As I researched the article, even I learned a lot about the benefits of getting outside, having a healthy relationship with germs, and eating fruits and vegetables.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

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When our cherry tomatoes blush red each summer, my son eagerly plucks them from the vine and pops them in his mouth. He points at random plants and proudly declares, “That one’s mine!” And occasionally, he yells in panic as the hose from the rain barrel overflows his tiny watering can.

Admittedly, gardening with kids isn’t always idyllic.

But even when it’s chaotic, it can be tremendously beneficial.

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Read more of How Gardening Can Help Build Happier, Healthier Kids over at the Washington Post’s On Parenting section!

How To Make Your Camping Trip With Another Family Awesome

How to Make Your Camping Trip with Another Family Awesome. Going camping with two families? Check out these six lessons learned that helped us have a great time! (Photo: Campfire in darkness.)

A trip with cabins, right?” asked my friend. She was responding to my message about a camping trip our family was taking in a few weeks with her husband and son.

“Hahahaha. No,” I answered. I thought it was a joke; it was not. Knowing her general dislike for the outdoors, I had assumed she wasn’t coming. I was wrong.

Changing my tune, I said, “Well, cabins it is then!”

That was just one of the many ways I learned to tweak our routine and expectations to accommodate our first camping trip with another family. Because of the following lessons learned, our family ended up having a great time.

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New Green Parenting Facebook Group and Contest!

Green and Sustainable Parenting. Green Parenting Facebook Group. (Photo: Left side, child digging in a box of dirt, middle: trees, right: Children marching with a sign saying 'We march for our wild and wonderful world' on the back."

Are you a green parent or want to be one? I’ve launched a Green Parenting Facebook group just for you! Okay, not just for you, but for you and other folks like you.

The Green and Sustainable Parenting community is a group of parents and caregivers who are trying to live environmentally and socially sustainable lives. To build a clean and healthy environment for all kids, we engage in everything from lifestyle changes to political activism. We’ll be sharing thought-provoking articles, challenges, and lessons learned.

To kick it off, I’m running a contest! I’m giving away a copy of the new book Dirt is Good, about the importance of kids getting exposure to the outdoors and germs. I recently interviewed the author and his publicist sent me a copy. Head over to the Green and Sustainable Parenting Facebook group to find out more.

Here’s What We Should Do About Phthalates in Mac and Cheese Instead of Food Shaming Parents

What We Should Do About Phthalates in Mac and Cheese. (Photo: Rows of boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese on a shelf.)

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart on Flickr.

“So now we can’t eat mac and cheese. Is there anything we can feed our kids?!” That was the cry heard across the land from moms and dads who read the Scary Mommy or New York Times articles on phthalates in mac and cheese.  Both of the articles are based on a report put out by a coalition of environmental groups concerned about toxic chemicals in processed food. (If you want to be super data-geeky, here’s the actual data.)

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My Post-Baby Bathing Suit

My Post-Baby Bathing Suit. When I was looking for a bathing suit after my second son was born, I was actually looking for so much more. (Photo: Black and white striped bathing suit on a checked comforter.)

I stood in Target, looking for something on the shelves that they never carried and never will. In theory, I was there for a bathing suit. My first post-baby bathing suit since my second son arrived in the world. As I hadn’t lost the baby weight yet, I needed one so that I’d be ready for a family trip to Cape Cod. But like so many bathing suit searches, it was about much more than a piece of fabric.

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Guest Post: An Unexpected Tour of the Adirondacks

What do peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, surprising canoe trips, and bad decisions have in common? This story, involving one of the adventures Chris and I had in the Adirondacks far before we had kids. Misadventures Magazine was lovely enough to publish An Unexpected Tour of the Adirondacks!

Here’s the first three paragraphs:

A crying girl, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a supermarket parking lot. Not exactly the elements for an epic summit. But having missed the turn-off for our hike, we were now on the wrong side of Lake George in upstate New York, eating the lunches we were supposed to be having on the peak.

By the way, I was the crying girl.

“This is your fault!” I pouted to my then-boyfriend, Chris, even though I had the map. I curled up in the passenger’s seat of his Civic, my tears falling on my bread. “If you hadn’t been speeding…”

Be sure to read the rest at Misadventures Magazine!

7 Tips for Bringing Kids to Ethnic Restaurants and Others Without Children’s Menus

“Where do you want to eat?” Anyone who has ever gone to a restaurant with their family has faced this question, probably followed by a drawn-out conversation about likes, dislikes, convenience, and whatever dish you got there last time. If you have young children, you may automatically exclude whole categories from consideration. You may never even consider bringing kids to ethnic restaurants and others without children’s menus.

But if you’ve always longed to check out that new Indian place but don’t want to spend money on a babysitter, there may be hope. It’s actually easier to bring kids to restaurants that don’t specifically cater to families than you think.

While it may seem intimidating, I’ve successfully brought my toddler to restaurants that specialize in a variety of cuisines, including fancy Italian, Ethiopian, Peruvian, and Japanese food.

Here are a few tips that can help:

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Birthday Parties: Learning to be Flexible as a Mom

Birthday Parties: Learning to be Flexible as a Mom; My son's fourth birthday was stressful as hell. And yet I learned a lot about adapting to unexpected circumstances. (Photo: Kid blowing out candles on a birthday cake as a man lights them.)

The band-aid was the first sign of trouble.

My parents, my in-laws, Chris, and I were all rushing around, trying to set up Sprout’s fourth birthday party. A few days earlier, Sprout had badly cut his ring finger and now the band-aid was peeling off. Like all children, Sprout takes his band-aids Very Seriously. While we have a plentiful supply of Thomas the Train band-aids at home, my current stash was limited to Star Wars. “Look, I have Star Wars band-aids!” I exclaimed, trying to work up an adequate level of enthusiasm. “I don’t want Star Wars band-aids! I want Thomas!” he cried. After much whining, including an exclamation of “I don’t want to watch Star Wars!,” my mom resolved the situation. She offered to “make” a dinosaur band-aid from a plain bandage and dinosaur stamp.

This dramatic arc was solid foreshadowing for the rest of his birthday party.

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Pedal Bikes and Responsibility

Pedal Bikes and Responsibility. Moving from a balance bike to a pedal bike is a big jump. Was my four-year-old ready for it? (Photo: A kid riding down a sidewalk on a balance bike.)

“Where are you going?” I yelled at Sprout across the playground as he zipped around on his balance bike. “I told you not go back there!” My words echoed off of the wall of the building that my son just disappeared behind. My face dropped into a frown as I waited for him to emerge from the other side. When he came around, I walked up to him and said, “You are not using your bike for the rest of the day.” Of course, he broke down wailing.

Another day, Sprout wheeled his bike down the sidewalk near our house, feet flying. But this time, he dragged his sneakers along the pavement when I yelled, “Stop!” Coming to a halt, he waited for Little Bird and I to catch up, despite his fidgeting hands showing his desire to go, go, go! As soon as we reached him, he was off again, speeding ahead but listening for my call.

As I decided whether or not to buy a pedal bike for his fourth birthday, I thought about what side I should weigh more heavily. Was he responsible enough for this present or not?

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