3 boys – a guessing game!

What two things do the three boys in this picture have in common? No, they aren’t related. And yes, that’s Julian in the back in the orange, white and blue and Ava is standing next to him, but she doesn’t have these things in common with the boys. (If you know me in real life and know the answer to this question, please don’t post a response. Thanks!)

3 boys and Ava

The answer will be revealed on Tuesday, Aug. 21. :) Happy guessing.

1 bag at a time – a contest/giveaway

Vitamin Cottage reusable bag

UPDATE: The winner of the bag is Ellen L. Freeman! Congrats!

A few months ago, I was shopping at Vitamin Cottage (the only natural foods store in my city) and I noticed that, in addition to their usual canvas grocery bags for sale, they also had some new reusable bags for sale and they were only $.99 each. While I’d always wanted some of the canvas bags, I couldn’t justify the price, so instead I would just reuse my plastic bags time and time again until they wore out. However, with these new bags selling at only $.99 a pop, I could refuse no longer and bought several.

I later discovered that the bags are part of the 1 Bag at at Time project. Check out the site, it’s pretty cool.

From 1 Bag at at Time:

Each of our bags is designed:
to replace 2 paper bags or up to 4 plastic bags each time it is used.
to be used weekly for two years or more.
to replace up to 416 plastic bags over its entire lifetime.

So far, 1 Bag at a Time has sold over
600,000 reusable bags

Over the next 2 years, these bags together will save:
249.6 million plastic bags.
Enough petroleum to drive a car 17,828,572 miles.
Up to $42,432,000 in disposal costs.
That’s enough money to pay 891 full time teacher salaries!

These bags are wonderfully sturdy and durable and were so worth the cost. I use them whenever I shop at Vitamin Cottage as well as when I go to the other grocery store (Safeway). I’ve actually received several compliments on them by the checkers at Safeway. They are so impressed with how sturdy they are and how much more food you can fit into them. :) I tell them to go to Vitamin Cottage and get some for themselves. ;) Maybe I should tell them to tell their manager so that Safeway can start selling them too.

These bags are so functional I use them for more than just grocery shopping. Just today I used one for our towels, a diaper, clothes and some snacks when we went swimming with some friends at one of the city pools. They are so handy!

On one of my recent trips to Vitamin Cottage, they were giving away a free bag if you already had one or more, so I saved mine (it’s brand new and never been used) and would like to give it away to someone who can use it. It looks just like the one pictured above.

All you have to do to enter the contest is leave me a comment stating something “green” that you are doing to help make the world a better place. Please make sure you include a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. If you want to mention the contest and link to it on your blog, that would be super cool, but not required. Contest ends at midnight on Aug. 25 and the winner will be selected at random and announced later that day. Thanks! :)

What to do with the misfit toys?

misfit toys

Having a baby who puts everything (and I mean everything) in his mouth right now, I’ve been thinking more and more about the toy recalls and decided to take a closer look at the toys we have to see exactly where they were made and to make sure we don’t own anything that’s included in the recalls.

We don’t really have much in the “character” toy department, so I felt pretty confident that the recalls didn’t affect us. However, I went to Fisher Price’s recall page and found one of our toys – the Little People Animal Sounds Farm – on the list! I was a little panicked because Julian loves to chew on those darn farm animals, but I checked our model number and it was not affected by the recall (which was for loose screws on the stall doors anyway, not lead paint). Whew!

Anyway, as I looked through the kids’ toys, I was surprised to see that the vast majority were made in China, including brands like Fisher Price, Lamaze, and even Melissa & Doug (which I wrote about here). (I’m not sure about Ryan’s Room toys yet. I sent an email to the company to ask where they are made.)

We have a few HABA toys that were given to us as gifts and those are nearly the only thing I feel good about letting 8-month-old teething Julian chew on these days.

Ava and I decided to weed out some of the old made in China toys, including all of her plastic play food and dishes (another favorite of Mr. Julian to chew on), and filled up an entire Vitamin Cottage bag. Piling the dishes, food and other toys into the bag, I couldn’t help but think of the Misfit Toys from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I could picture all of these made in China toys ending up on some island somewhere singing softly, “We’re on the island of misfit toys…” Almost makes me feel sorry for them. (Hey, I’m a softy and a dork.)

So my question is what should I do with our misfit toys. They weren’t included in any recalls, so I don’t feel the need to toss them into the garbage and clog up the landfills. They are just toys that I don’t want in our house any longer. Ones that I hope to eventually replace with some better-quality wooden toys. Should I give them away on Freecycle or try to sell them? There’s a huge community baby/kids’ sale coming up next week at our fairgrounds, so I could try to sell them and make some money to help buy new toys. I’m already planning on consigning a ton of clothes (though I need to find the time to prepare them all of the sale still – eep!).

What do you think? What would you do or are you doing with any of your made in China AKA misfit toys that you want to get rid of?

Don’t forget to sign the MomsRising online petition to tell Congress and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): “Testing children’s products for toxic chemicals must be a priority. No more toxic toys and children’s products!”

P.S. I’m having another contest soon. Will post details later today. :)

New nursing necklace

I’ve been on the lookout for a jade necklace (specifically for the properties jade is supposed to possess) for a while now, but was unable to find anything I liked until recently.

Back when I had the “I make milk…superpower” t-shirt giveaway here last month, a woman named Paty (who I know from a “crunchy” message board) submitted a picture to me of her child nursing while playing with a nursing/breastfeeding necklace around her neck. I noticed from her signature that she sold necklaces so I took a look at her site – Paty’s Loveys. I emailed her back and told her that I was looking for a jade necklace specifically and she tracked one down for me in no time. Paty provided great customer service and was very prompt in responding to me.


The necklace is just what I was looking for, is adjustable and very sturdy and should hold up as a nursing necklace (i.e. something for Julian to play with while he nurses) wonderfully. :)

Mommy likes it and Julian enjoys it too!
jade nursing necklace julian chews on the nursing necklace

In addition to nursing necklaces, Paty also makes and sells waterproof bibs, changing pads and wet bags (for cloth diapers), as well as blankets.

Tots, toys and toxic paint don’t mix

As parents, we do the best we can to ensure our children have the very best start in the world. We may breastfeed them, make their baby food from scratch, buy organic and whole foods, childproof our homes, teach them not to talk to strangers, and a myriad of other things. We trust that when we buy age-appropriate toys for our children, that they will be safe and not pose a choking hazard nor contain toxic elements like lead-based paint. Apparently we are trusting the wrong people.

Photo courtesy juhansonin
Photo courtesy juhansonin

Stephanie of Adventures in Babywearing wrote an interesting post yesterday about her desire to start making homemade gifts for children in light of the recent toy recalls – first with Thomas & Friends and lead paint, then with Fisher Price toys and lead paint and now with Mattel and a concern over magnets and again, lead-based paint. (Are you sensing a disturbing trend here?) All of which, I must add, are made in China. She then brought up the possibly lesser-known fact that Melissa & Doug toys are also made in China.

For those of you unfamiliar with Melissa & Doug, they make educational (including several wooden) toys. We only recently discovered them, but are big fans of them in this house.

I bought Ava the Melissa & Doug Cutting Food set for her birthday this year. She likes to play with it, as does her 8-month-old teething brother Julian, who loves to chew on the pieces of food. I figured they are made of wood, so they’ve got to be better for him to chew on than plastic (with who knows what kinds of chemicals in it). But in light of this scare over toys made in China perhaps I am wrong to assume that.

I checked the label on the bottom of the Melissa & Doug Cutting Food crate to verify that they were made in China (which is true) and also saw “All Melissa & Doug* products are carefully crafted by hand, using non-toxic coatings, and meet or exceed all U.S. toy testing standards.” That is a relief. However, the fact still remains that even the toys you are buying because you think they seem more natural, like wooden toys from Melissa & Doug, are being mass produced (under apparently sub-par safety standards) in factories in China. According to an MSNBC article, “…about 80 percent of toys sold worldwide (are) made in China.” 80 percent!

So where do we go from here? What can we do to product our children?

1) Stay on the lookout for product recalls Since most of us can’t afford to get rid of all of our children’s toys and start anew, we need to be on the lookout for any new toy recalls. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission site is a good source for recall information.

2) Sign petitions to help bring about change. After the recalls for the Thomas toys and then the Fisher Prices toys, MomsRising created an online petition to let Congress and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) know that, “Testing children’s products for toxic chemicals must be a priority. No more toxic toys and children’s products!” You can sign the petition here.

3) Buy “green” or Made in the USA toys — Here are a few resources to help you get started. Willow Tree Toys sells European Waldorf wooden toys that encourage creative, imaginative thinking. While some of their toys are made in China, they state, “We have received safety assurances from the toy companies represented in our store. The products are lead free, non-toxic and have passed all European and American safety tests.” You also have the option of searching their site for toys made specifically in the USA or in Europe. Green Toys Inc. “makes a line of classic children’s toys constructed of bioplastic made from renewable, sustainable resources like corn (yep, you read that right). This will help reduce fossil fuel use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improving the overall health and happiness of the planet. All Green Toys Brand products are manufactured and assembled in the USA!” Still Made in USA is a site with a list of several toy and game companies that are Made in the USA. I’m bookmarking this one. What a great resource!

4) Test for lead paint This might seem a bit extreme, but it’s always good to know your options. If you want to test any of your children’s toys (or anything else for that matter) for lead paint, there’s a kit – LeadCheck Lead Testing Swab Kits – that you can purchase. I’m sure other kits are on the market as well, but this is the first one I came across. Also thanks to Steph, I found out about a new blog called Not China Made.net“an exploration into the dangers of trading with China.” There is a lot of eye-opening information over there (some of which I’d already heard about) that will certainly make me think twice about buying China-made products. To help spread the word about the blog, they are currently having a contest and offering a $50 gift card to AmericanApparel.net. Remember, whether it be toy recalls or anything else in the world, knowledge is power. Be vigilant, arm yourself with information and help protect your kids.

*Edited to add: I wrote to Melissa & Doug last night to express my concerns about toys made in China and lead paint and here’s what they had to say about their product…

Hi Amy – Yes, we definitely appreciate and understand your concern. Please be assured, we test for lead VERY frequently. It’s quite possible to make great quality children’s items in China, which meet all safety regulations, but the key point is that you have to test and inspect very frequently to be sure that your factories are always following your instructions explicitly. I assure you that’s exactly what we do. From our experience, the key to doing this correctly is not simply to insist that your factories follow your instructions, but then to go one step further and to AUDIT, INSPECT, AND TEST very frequently. That is the most important part of the process, and it’s something our company has always taken VERY seriously. Thanks again for asking, and for your support also. Your Dedicated Customer Service Team Melissa & Doug, Inc. 800-284-3948 Monday-Friday 8:00-5:00 EST

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