10 Simple Ways to Green Your Thanksgiving

First there was 10 Simple Ways to Green Your Halloween. Now here are 10 Simple Ways to Green Your Thanksgiving and reduce your impact on the earth. Pick one or two or do them all. Every little bit helps. :)

1. Be aware of the amount of packaging in the foods you purchase. For example, instead of buying a can of pumpkin to make a pumpkin pie, buy a pie pumpkin. Instead of buying a ready-made pie crust, make your own from scratch.

2. Just say no to environmentally destructive factory farms. Buy a free-range Heritage turkey or go meatless.

3. Buy organic. Buy local. Whenever you can, buy organic foods. Organic foods aren’t just better for your health, they are better for the earth and animals as well. If you can buy local foods and reduce your meal’s carbon footprint and support your local economy, all the better.

4. Use a cloth tablecloth and cloth napkins. No disposable paper products.

5. Use real plates, glasses and silverware. If you don’t have enough place settings for all of your guests, ask them to bring their own. Again, the trick is not to use any disposable paper/plastic products.

6. Centerpiece. Use things from around the house to make a one-of-a-kind Thanksgiving centerpiece. Have your kids help! Or if you must buy flowers, make sure they are organic.

7. Eat your leftovers. Make sure you put away leftovers in a timely manner into the refrigerator or freezer. If you don’t think you will eat them all, send some home with your guests.

8. Compost your table scraps.

9. Recycle anything that can be recycled.

10. Be thankful. Don’t forget to express your gratitude for all that you have, including the earth.

Related posts:

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3 Years Old, a love letter

Dear Julian,

It’s been three years since you made your surprise entrance into my world, dancing your way into our lives and into my heart.

You’re such a sweet child. I love watching you and Ava play together and hearing you tell her that you love her. You don’t always get along and you can get quite feisty when you want to (yes, you are strong-willed just like your sister and your mother), but you are a gentle soul.

You enjoy your fair share of rough housing and got your first stitches last week to prove it. Well, not quite. Actually the stitches were the result of an accidental fall into a coffee table, and while I hope they are the only stitches you ever have to get, as I watch you jump off the furniture wildly, I’m afraid they may not be the last. As a result of the coffee table fall, you are celebrating your third birthday with a black eye.

There are little things that you’ve said over the past few years that always make me smile. You’ve grown out of saying “elphalent” (elephant) and “ee-thare” (either), but you still say “their chothers” (each other) and I love that. I don’t want to forget all of the cute sayings, but I know that if I don’t write them down like this, sadly I will.

You go to preschool one day a week now, and although you have separation anxiety for a moment or two when I drop you off, you have transitioned into Miss G’s class remarkably well. I’m so proud of you.

You make me smile. You make me laugh. I love your “nose cozies” and silly faces.

You also challenge me. Both you and Ava make me want to be a better mom and a better person.

I’m happy that I’ve been able to nurse you the past three years. I don’t know when our nursing relationship will end, but I think that “na-na” has definitely helped you get through some illnesses, nourishing you both physically and emotionally, and I’m thankful for that.

I find it hard to believe that you, my baby, are three years old today. It simultaneously feels like you were just born and that you’ve been a part of our lives forever. As we say goodbye to the toddler years, I look forward to seeing the boy you become.

I’ll never grow tired your response when I tell you, “You’re my best boy,” which is “You’re my best girl.” I love being your best girl, Julian. :)

Happy third birthday, Jules. I love you.
— Mommy

Photo credit (for the second picture): Linda King

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First stitches – Wordless Wednesday

On Monday afternoon, Julian took a header into the corner of the coffee table at my sister’s office. I had just left and missed the trauma, but returned momentarily after my sister called me and we piled into the car and took him to the ER. Julian got 7 stitches above his left eye and was quite the little trooper.

In the ER, before stitches:

Later that day at home, after stitches:

In the moment, it wasn’t hard to be present for my little guy as he was restrained and stitched back up, but when I think about it now, after the fact, it makes me feel sick to my stomach. I hope I don’t have to go through that again anytime soon. You hear me, coffee tables?? Stay away from my kids’ heads! (We actually retired our coffee table to the basement years ago.)

I’m happy to report that Julian’s been acting just fine since the incident. His eye is mostly swollen shut, but it’s not affecting his desire to play and be his goofy ol’ self.

Ava decided to commemorate the occasion by drawing a portrait of Julian with his ouchee.

Julian gets his stitches out on Saturday – two days before his 3rd birthday. :P Happy birthday, wild boy!

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Reducing holiday stress for your kids

The holidays are supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” yet for many people they might as well be known as “the most stressful time of the year.” We often think of stress as something that only affects adults, but it can play a significant role in the lives of children as well, especially around the holidays.

There are a lot of changes to children’s routines during the holidays, from visits from unfamiliar relatives to traveling, from an influx of sweets to over-scheduled days and late bedtimes. All of these things can take a toll on the wee ones.

Rather than accept that tears, tantrums and troubles (which are all normal child reactions to stress) are a necessary evil of the holidays, you can follow some tips to keep your kids (and yourself) feeling a bit more carefree. I can’t guarantee there won’t be any tears or tantrums, but it will be less likely to be from stress and more likely to be your typical childhood tears and tantrums.

10 Ways to Reduce Kids’ Stress has some helpful tips such as:

  • Stick with the routine as much as possible. Keep stressful holiday shopping and eating out to a minimum; start preparing for Christmas early to avoid holiday anxiety.
  • Talk to your children about traditions and spirituality. If you believe in Christ, focus on the real meaning of Christmas – and trusting God. If you have traditions, explain why they’ve stayed in your family.
  • Bring a favorite blanket or stuffed animal if you’re staying with family over the holidays. A bit of home will reduce your child’s holiday anxiety.

Another tip they add that I think is really important (and often difficult to do) is:

  • Give ’em time – Allow lots of time so you don’t have to rush from point A to point B, unnecessarily stressing everyone out. Allow time for potty breaks, diaper changes, unexpected car sickness, getting out to stretch, etc.
  • Keep ’em fed – Pack lots of healthy snacks for the kids to eat while you drive/fly.
  • Keep ’em entertained – Pack a variety of toys, games, books, coloring books, markers (Crayola Color Wonder markers and books are great for travel because the color only shows up on the special paper). You can even wrap small presents for the child to unwrap on the way. You might also consider investing in a portable DVD player so the child(ren) can watch a movie here and there.
  • Keep a good attitude and your sense of humor and your children will likely follow suit.

There are more Tips for Airplane Travel with Small Children at Mother Words.

Another tip that I really like is to learn relaxation techniques with your children. This will serve you both well during the holidays and throughout the year. The article Holiday Stress! Are children affected? states:

Colds are contagious and so is stress. Children are affected by stress of their own and pick up on family stresses. This includes holiday stress. So how do we promote calmness in our family and increase our chances of staying healthy during the holidays?

The Mental Health Association recommends counteracting stress by maintaining a positive outlook, focusing on activities that take your mind off your worries and taking time to relax.

Instead of telling your child to go “calm down” this holiday season, I invite you to give them the tools they need to manage stress and anxiety. Introduce your children to breathing, visualizations and affirmations during this holiday season.

All you need to do is read a relaxation book to your child that shows them how to manage their own energy, stress and anxiety. Play a guided imagery CD that’s creates calming images. Sit down and write affirmations with your child. Make it fun by hiding your positive, calm statements in your pockets or under your pillows. Take time to look in your children’s eyes as they speak to you. Try it for 10 minutes a day. Sit still and hold their hand as you listen to holiday music. Watch the ripple effect of calmness as it makes its way through your family.

In Midwest Moms’ post How to Avoid Thanksgiving Stress, she has some suggestions on how to make introductions between your kids and unfamiliar relatives a little less stressful for the kids.

I have found it is best to give children a chance to “make friends” with new relatives in whatever way they are most comfortable. Sometimes that means that it will take time to warm up to someone new.

When you are introducing someone to your child, do so in a way that reveals important information about the new adult — not potentially embarrassing information about your child. Saying, “Aunt Doris used to fly airplanes!” can intrigue your child and get them to ask questions.

We usually make the introductions easier on our kids in two ways. We arrive early, so they’re meeting people one-at-a-time. And we arrange to meet relatives we know well and all walk in together. It can be a lot less intimidating to meet people when you are already surrounded by friends.

In Jolene Park‘s recent guest post on Mile High Mamas called Beat the Holiday Stress, she suggests the use of Rescue Remedy both for adults and kids (and even pets). Jolene notes, “Rescue Remedy is part of the Bach Flower essences, which are extracts from flowers and used to balance emotions. They can be purchased in any health food store.” Personally, I’ve used Rescue Remedy for both myself and my children and highly recommend it.

No matter what your plans are this holiday season, try to remember to keep your own stress level down and your sense of humor up and your kids will benefit as much as you will.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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Happy birthday, Sesame Street!

Thank you, Sesame Street, for providing entertaining and educational quality programing for the past 40 years. I enjoyed growing up watching Big Bird, Grover, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie and the gang, and I love that my kids can still enjoy them (and other lovable characters) today. Unlike other shows on television (even on PBS which is the only station my kids watch), I know I can always trust Sesame Street. I often find myself wanting to watch it too. (I can’t say the same about other kids’ shows.) ;) This is one show I hope never goes off the air.

Happy 40th birthday, Sesame Street. Here’s to 40 more years!

Ava says, this post has been brought to you by the letter Q and the number 5. She would also like to share that her favorite character on Sesame Street is Zoe. Julian’s favorite is Slimey the Worm. :)

BPA, its everywhere you don’t want it to be

This weekend as my friend Melissa was showing me her cool pressure canner and all of the foods she’s canned with it, we started talking about the presence of BPA in most store-bought canned goods. The presence of BPA (bisphenol-A) in canned goods is something I’ve known about for a while, but one of those things I try to ignore because I still buy a fair amount of our food in cans, including all of our beans (black, pinto, Great Northern, kidney, garbanzo, etc.), tomatoes, tuna, salmon and some soups.

After reading this NY Times op-ed piece, Chemicals in Our Food, and Bodies by Nicholas D. Kristof, I’m rethinking my canned good buying habits.

Consumer Reports magazine tested an array of brand-name canned foods for a report in its December issue and found BPA in almost all of them. The magazine says that relatively high levels turned up, for example, in Progresso vegetable soup, Campbell’s condensed chicken noodle soup, and Del Monte Blue Lake cut green beans.

The magazine also says it found BPA in the canned liquid version of Similac Advance infant formula (but not in the powdered version) and in canned Nestlé* Juicy Juice (but not in the juice boxes). The BPA in the food probably came from an interior coating used in many cans.

*Which you are already boycotting anyway, right? ;) No? Here’s the Nestle Boycott list.

What’s the problem with BPA?
It’s a synthetic estrogen (an endocrine disruptor) and has been linked to everything from childhood behavioral problems and breast cancer to obesity, infertility, and genital abnormalities, and possibly diabetes and heart disease as well. In other words, it’s a chemical you likely don’t want in your or your children’s bodies, yet “more than 92 percent of Americans have BPA in their urine.”

So sure, I’m buying mostly organic foods in those cans, but what good does it do us if the organic foods are chock full of BPA? Ugh.

Julie at Terminal Verbosity recently wrote about the new findings and has some suggestions on how you can reduce your BPA exposure.

  • Stop buying canned goods” – Use your crock pot to make beans or soups instead. Both generally freeze well.
  • Check your hard plastic food receptacles” – Or switch to glass food storage containers (I recently got a set at Costco for a under $40 I think.)
  • Beware plastic toys, especially teethers” – You’d think our children’s toys would be safe from this chemical, but nope, they’re not.

Julie has further information on these suggestions and links in her post.

The more I learn, the more I think I’m finally going to have to bite the bullet and start cooking my own beans and freezing them. I know it’s not hard (Tara @ Feels Like Home has tips in her post How To Prepare Dried Beans), it’s just one more thing that I don’t want to add to my list, however I think the health payoffs are definitely worth it. We’re exposed to enough harmful chemicals in our environment without having to eat them too.

Edited to add: If you’ve ever been concerned about possible lead leaching into your food from your crock pot, you’ll want to give this a read! Check out another post from Julie where she has several of the leading brands of crock pots tested for lead. (Spoiler alert: it’s good news!)

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