Kindergarten! – Wordless Wednesday

This is one of those “not quite Wordless Wednesday” posts. ;)

I snapped this picture with my iPhone of Ava at our “meet the teacher” night Tuesday. She starts kindergarten Wednesday morning and will be going two full days and one half day each week. The first day is a full day.

I’ve been filled with a mix of emotions (excitement, nervousness, sadness, happiness, pride, and even close to a panic attack this evening) about my girl starting kindergarten and I hope to write about it soon. This new school is such a big change from what Ava’s used to (a Waldorf home-based preschool with eight kids at the most). Yet I have a lot of confidence in her ability to adapt, make friends and fit right in. She’s proven to me on so many occasions that she is fully capable.

And so, although I might have my worries, I will be strong (at least outwardly), put on my proud mama smile and let her spread her wings. After all, that’s a mama’s job, right?

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

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Green Moms Carnival – Back to School Edition

If you liked my last post about turning back-to-school lunches green, you will LOVE this month’s Green Moms Carnival (which is celebrating it’s one year anniversary) where the topic is Green Schools. Head over to Organic Mania for the full list of 28 posts on greening schools – it’s got everything from child care to healthy, waste-free lunches, from school supplies to edible schoolyards, from home schooling to college!

With this much great information from the top green bloggers on the ‘net, you’re sure to find something useful.

Turning back-to-school lunches green

This post is part of the Green Moms Carnival, which, this month, is focusing on greening up your back-to-school routine.

People often think “going green” means you have to spend a lot of money. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Making school (or even work) lunches green doesn’t require a huge outlay of cash. In fact, by packing eco-friendly lunches, you are more likely to save money, your children are more likely to eat healthier foods, and you are taking care of the earth by producing less waste. It’s a win-win-win!

Time is often an important factor when it comes to packing lunches (at least it is for me). And while some of the following suggestions take time to prepare, if you do your prep work on a weekend, you will have food conveniently ready to toss into lunch containers throughout the week(s) ahead.

When shopping for school lunch foods, be mindful of greenwashing – “a term used to describe the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly.” Just because a product claims to be “natural,” contain “whole grains” or even “organic” doesn’t mean it’s healthy or what it claims to be. Read labels carefully. The more processed food is and the more ingredients it has, the less likely it is to be healthy whether it’s organic or not. I mean seriously, organic Oreos? Give me a break!

If you buy individually packaged foods, like organic fruit snacks, how green are you really being? Think about how much plastic and packaging is involved there. A great alternative is to make your own organic fruit snacks. If you can use locally-grown fruit from your own garden or farmer’s market, all the better. Package them in a reusable container like these reusable sandwich bags found in the Cool Mom Picks Back to School Guide and you have a tasty “green” snack ready to go!

Far better than buying food that contains a label is to buy label-less food, like fresh produce! Chopped fruits and vegetables, paired with a dip or nut butter, bring color, taste and healthiness to every lunchbox. Try to choose fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown locally whenever possible. You can even buy large quantities of in-season fruits or veggies and then dehydrate them to throw into lunches year-round.

Granola bars are another great snack, but when you buy them from the store they are often full of unwanted ingredients, additives and preservatives and come with excessive packaging and waste. When you make them yourself, you control what goes into them and you significantly cut down on trash or eliminate it all-together. Check out these tasty do-it-yourself granola bar recipes below. You are sure to find at least one that your kiddos will eat. Some don’t even require baking! Make a batch on the weekend and you are set for lunches for the week. Put them in a reusable container and they are good to go.

Nuts are a great protein-filled food that can easily be packed into lunches. I just read a post by a woman on Freecycle asking for used Altoids containers. She said she uses them to pack nuts in her kids’ lunches. What a great idea! If your school has a no peanuts policy, ask if other nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans or walnuts are acceptable.

Does your child like yogurt but you don’t like all of the waste (recyclable or not) produced by individual cups? Here’s another thing you can make at home (even in your crockpot), then scoop into your reusable container and you’re set. If you run short on time and have to buy yogurt from the store, buy it in the larger containers, then scoop out the desired amount into your child’s reusable container. Again, less waste.

If your child’s school doesn’t have the option for them to compost their leftover food (perhaps you can inquire about it and get a system started), ask them to bring home their leftovers rather than throw them into the trash so you can either save them if they are salvageable or compost them yourself. This will also allow you to gauge how much and which foods your child ate for lunch.

Along the same lines, check with your child’s school to see if they have a recycling system in place. If not, find out how you can get one started.

Michelle at What’s Cooking blog has an entire post chock full of ideas to help your child eat healthy school lunches. Some of her tips include:

  • Keep in mind that your children don’t have much time to eat…so pack foods in small portions that are easy to eat, so they have time left to play.
  • Let your child help you select a cool lead-free and reusable lunch bag or lunch box. Pick up a few reusable containers that will fit inside – this will prevent food from leaking and getting smashed, and will help you avoid using disposable items like plastic bags and foil.
  • Pack a reusable drink container instead of juice boxes, juice pouches, cans, and disposable plastic bottles.
  • Buy in bulk instead of purchasing pre-packaged items.
  • Whenever possible, pack lunches the night before.

Michelle also has some great tips for sandwich alternatives, thermos treasures, and container combinations that kids can assemble themselves.

Looking for more lunch container ideas? Check out:

  • Lunch Bots Uno and Duo
  • Kids Konserve which contains a page with a lot of information for schools, including a waste-free challenge to earn or save money for their schools. (Use code: crunchy for 15% off your Kids Konserve purchases through Sept. 30, 2009)
  • Retro Housewife put a list of cute reusable containers, utensils and cloth napkins for back-to-school waste-free lunches
  • Kellie at GreenHab has also put together a nice selection of lunch boxes

There ya have it. Turning your school lunches green is healthier, less costly and better for the earth, and probably even more fun. If you have money-saving green lunch tips or kid-friendly recipes, please post your links in the comments.

Related posts:

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Make sure you head over to Organic Mania on Monday, Aug. 10, to find out how other Green Moms are greening their back to school routine in this month’s Green Moms Carnival.

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National Healthy Schools Day – April 27

National Healthy Schools Day – What you can do to make sure no child’s health is left behind

A Guest Post by Janelle Sorensen

When my husband and I first toured schools to find the one we wanted to enroll our daughter in, I’m sure I was silently voted one of the strangest parents ever. Why do I feel I was secretly endowed with this title? Because every room and hallway we were taken through, I sniffed. A lot. And, according to my husband, I wasn’t terribly discreet.

I didn’t have a cold or postnasal drip. And, I’m not part bloodhound. I was simply concerned about the indoor air quality. My daughter was (and still is) prone to respiratory illnesses and I wanted to be sure the school she would be attending would support and protect her growing lungs (in addition to her brain). For many air quality issues, your nose knows, so I was using the easiest tool I had to gauge how healthy the environment was.

While air quality is a significant issue in schools (the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that at least half of our nation’s 120,000 schools have problems), parents are also increasingly concerned about other school health issues like nutrition and the use of toxic pesticides. Many schools are making the switch to healthier and more sustainable practices like green cleaning, least toxic pest management, and even school gardening. What they’re finding is that greening their school improves the health and performance of students and personnel, saves money (from using less energy, buying fewer products, and having fewer worker injuries among other things), and also helps protect the planet. It’s truly win, win, win.

To highlight the issue, the Healthy Schools Network ( coordinates National Healthy Schools Day. ( This year, over three dozen events will be held across the country (and more in Canada) on April 27th to promote and celebrate healthy school environments.

What can you do? Healthy Schools Network recommends simple activities such as:

You can also help support the efforts of states trying to pass policies requiring schools to use safer cleaners. (Or, initiate your own effort!) There are good bills pending in Connecticut, Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon. According to Claire Barnett, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network, the key pieces to promote on green cleaning in schools are:

  • Not being fooled by ‘green washing’ claims—commercial products must be third-party certified as green (to verify claims);
  • Understanding that green products are cost-neutral and they work; and,
  • Learning that “Clean doesn’t have an odor.”

She encourages parents and personnel to tune into one of the archived webinars on green cleaning (like the first module for general audiences) at

The fact of the matter is that whether you’re concerned about the quality of food, cleaning chemicals, recycling, or energy use – schools need our help and support. Instead of complaining about what’s wrong, it’s time to help do what’s right – for our children, our schools, and our planet.

What are you going to do? There are so many ideas and resources. Find your passion and get active on April 27th – National Healthy Schools Day.

Additional Resources:

Janelle Sorensen is the Senior Writer and Health Consultant for Healthy Child Healthy World ( You can also find her on Twitter as @greenandhealthy.

Ask President-elect Obama to make breastfeeding a priority

This morning President-elect Barack Obama reaffirmed his strong commitment to health care reform. The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) believes that breastfeeding is an “essential public health issue” and should be a high priority for the incoming administration. In light of this, the USBC has created a petition urging President-elect Obama to make breastfeeding a high priority. The petition is up to more than 6400 signatures and growing.


USBC points out that beyond the numerous health benefits to both mother and child, breastfeeding also provides “significant economic and environmental benefits for families, employers, and society.” According to the USBC (definitions in parentheses are mine):

Excess health care costs totaling more than $4 billion must be paid by the U.S. health care system each year to treat otitis media (middle ear infection), gastroenteritis (infection or irritation of the stomach and intestines), and necrotizing enterocolitis (an acute inflammatory disease occurring in the intestines of premature infants) – childhood diseases and conditions preventable or reduced by breastfeeding. When prevention of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions is factored in, the potential economic benefits of breastfeeding are significantly greater.

The petition calls for President-elect Obama to:

1. Instruct the Surgeon General to issue a statement in support of breastfeeding urging all sectors (governmental and non-governmental) involved in supporting women, children, and families to improve their breastfeeding policies.

2. Enact a national paid family leave policy.

3. Endorse the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes as well as the Global Strategy for Infant & Young Child Feeding.

4. Ask the Federal Trade Commission to monitor infant formula marketing.

5. Ask the Food and Drug Administration to include labeling on powdered infant formula warning that it is not sterile and providing instructions on how to properly reconstitute it.

6. Highlight the benefits for employers of workplace breastfeeding support programs as part of your program to promote flexible work arrangements.

7. Urge all insurers to cover lactation care and support services.

8. Approve an increase in breastfeeding support funds for the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), especially to support the peer counseling program.

9. Instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to recommend that all hospitals achieve the Baby-Friendly designation.

10. Ensure that emergency management agencies are trained in breastfeeding support and have breastfeeding supply kits available for distribution in emergencies.

If you agree, I hope you will sign the petition too.

Also this morning President-elect Obama appointed former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Director of the new White House Office on Health Reform.

In his remarks, Secretary-designate Daschle appealed to Americans to play an active role in health reform by signing up to lead a health care discussion — a series of meetings everyday people are hosting, in which they’ll gather ideas and report back to the Transition’s Health Policy Team. The team will then incorporate the results into its recommendations for the Obama-Biden administration. He said it’s up ordinary Americans to “share their ideas about what’s broken and how to fix it” by leading a health care discussion.

This looks like another great opportunity to impress upon the incoming administration the need to make breastfeeding a priority.

Angela White at Breastfeeding 123 remarks, “What if politicians learned of something they could do to lower health care costs yet improve infant and maternal health at the same time? Doesn’t that sound like something everyone could and should get behind?”

Marijke from Womb Within says:

Although we know about the benefits of breastfeeding and that it helps lower healthcare costs in so many ways, encouraging and offering much needed assistance to new mothers who encounter problems is still not a priority in the United States.

The government had produced a plan and came up with realistic targets, Healthy People 2010 Breastfeeding Targets, that were only met by a few states. (If you click on the Healthy People link, that gives you a pdf document report card.)

2010 is just one year away (wow, that snuck up on me!) and, according to the “breastfeeding report card,” there is still a lot of work to be done to meet the breastfeeding targets.

API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International, and Tanya at Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog are also encouraging people to sign the petition.

Heather at A Mama’s Blog recently wrote a post about melamine found in United States infant formula and then a follow-up post about the FDA’s “irresponsible” response to the melamine where they state that trace amounts of melamine are safe. She points out that beyond the health benefits, there is the added peace of mind that comes from breastfeeding because you don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals, like trace amounts of melamine, showing up in formula, as has been the case first (in larger amounts) in China and now in the United States.

It is my hope that President-elect Obama will take the petition seriously and, with the help of Tom Daschle, make the positive changes needed to create an environment where not only can we achieve our national breastfeeding targets, but women and their families can be successful in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals too.

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Guest post: Diane Wiessinger in Israel on Breastfeeding Language

Hi, readers of Crunchy Domestic Goddess. My name is Hannah and I blog at A Mother in Israel about life with my six kids, parenting, and homemaking, along with social commentary about life in Israel. I also volunteer as a breastfeeding counselor. Last week I attended a conference with breastfeeding expert Diane Wiessinger. You can read my introductory post here.

Israel, aside from being a center of international conflict, is a developed country of seven million with a high birth rate. A lactation consultant told me that in her town of 30,000, enough children are born to fill six kindergarten classes every month.

In Israel breastfeeding is the default option, at least in theory. You don’t hear much about the choice to breast or bottlefeed, and mothers are expected to nurse in the hospital. But hospital routines are rigid, and in some cases babies still sleep in the nursery at night–with the mother needing to request a wake-up call that may or may not happen. Babies often get one or more bottles in the hospital. Outside of hospitals formula companies promote their products freely, even though Israel is a signatory to the WHO Code of Marketing Substitutes.

Israeli mothers receive 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, up from 12 thanks to a recent law. Fathers can replace mothers at home after the first six weeks. Mothers also get a “nursing hour,” working one hour less daily, for an additional four months and in some cases up to a year of age. (Bottle-feeding mothers get it too.) La Leche League and other volunteer organizations are active, and the number of IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) has grown exponentially, but medical professionals lack knowledge and most mothers don’t make it past a few weeks or months.

A few years ago, several babies died because one type of imported soy formula lacked Vitamin B1. This caused a temporary upswing in breastfeeding rates. Unlike in the US, nursing in public is barely an issue.

One of Wiessinger’s talks is called, “Watch Your Language.” When discussing the talk with friends, I found that moms get defensive when they hear about the risks of bottle-feeding. But by exploring the connection between language and breastfeeding, we don’t mean to chastise mothers for giving formula. Mothers are subject to many pressures and make decisions that work for their families. Mothers who wean early are the last ones we should blame.

We need to change the way our culture looks at breastfeeding. The breastfeeding rates of the United States and Israel are behind those of other western countries. Since babies and mothers are fundamentally the same, the problem must lie in the culture.

In her talk Wiessinger showed how the language used to talk about breastfeeding ultimately harms mothers and babies. We use imprecise language because we are afraid: Afraid of making Continue reading Guest post: Diane Wiessinger in Israel on Breastfeeding Language