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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

The first day of summer!

The first day of summer!

After a month straight of rain and grey skies (which is very rare for Boulder, Colorado) the first weekend of summer vacation finally feels like summer. It’s sunny and in the mid-80s. The kids are at the neighborhood pool with Daddy and right about now, I’m hoping he’s applying a second layer of sunblock to any exposed patches of skin.

I recently read a blog that listed the 11 Worst Sunscreens for Kids and I was dismayed to realize we actually have what they are calling “The Worst” in our cupboard right now.

Putting sunscreen on my kids is probably the only thing I don’t like about summer. They whine, protest, wiggle and run when tell them it’s time to put it on. Maybe that’s because they don’t understand the cause and effect of “Not wearing sunblock” and “Getting a painful sunburn.” They’ve never been sunburned, unlike their sun-spotted mother, and I aim to keep it that way.  But because they don’t really understand the importance of wearing sunscreen outside, they don’t feel as inclined to cooperate as they might otherwise. In fact, it might be easier to apply an even layer of lotion on a ticked-off, greased piglet who is trying to get away than to put it on my children. I don’t know how many times they’ve gotten sunblock in their eyes because they squirm when I am trying to cover their faces. Sunblock and eyes are not a good mix ever for anyone involved--the Sunblocker, the Sunblockee, and anyone else whose trip to the beach or the pool depends on everyone in the group being adequately slathered and preferably, not screaming in pain.

I’ve yet to find a sunblock that meets all of my requirements:

  • Non-toxic
  • Organic
  • Doesn’t cost a fortune
  • Goes on quickly and evenly

It also needs to meet my kids requirements:

  • Doesn’t make them white and pasty looking
  • Doesn’t sting eczema flare ups
  • Doesn’t run into the eyes

The best sunblock I have found, that meets all but a few our combined prerequisites for perfection, is Sierra Madre Sun Cream. It looks and smells so delicious, sweet and creamy with a light citrusy scent, that I almost want to spread it some toast and eat it. It doesn’t sting my children’s sensitive skin, it’s fairly waterproof, it all-natural and non-toxic. The kids do complain that it makes their skin white (that would be the zinc, which is a physical blocker and one of the best ingredients to look for in a sunblock), it is rather thick and pasty but it rubs in well but unfortunately, it costs a small fortune. We use it as often as we can but sometimes, we do resort to the chemical concoctions in a pinch. I’d rather risk possible long-term effects of the chemical exposure than the immediate effects of a nasty sunburn and the long-term risks of skin cancer and sun damage.

We’ve also avoid sunburns by:

  • Wearing SPF clothing
  • Wearing SPF swimshirts
  • Wearing wide brimmed hats
  • Staying inside during the hottest, sunniest parts of the day
  • Wearing sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection

How do you keep your little ones from getting sunburned? What is your favorite sunscreen?

 

Click here for the EWG’s (The Environmental Working Group) list of 217 Best Beach and Sport Sunscreens.

To many of us, Memorial Day Weekend is a time to kick-off summer with BBQs, parties and family get togethers. But while we’re tossing frisbees, playing horse shoes, filling up the kiddie pool and making sure the cooler is stocked, let’s not forget all of those families who are spending Memorial Day in a different way: grieving for their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, uncles, aunts and cousins who lost their lives, their limbs, their eye-sight or their ability to walk and talk, serving our country and protecting our freedoms.

As a mom of three whose husband often comes home late from work only to have time to help with bedtime and then is off again early in the morning, I can’t imagine having my husband  deployed for months or years at a time. The soldiers who serve our country do not just risk their lives for us, they sacrifice every day by missing the births of their children, milestones, first lost teeth, holidays, graduations and things many of us take for granted: like reading a bedtime story, kissing a boo boo, or changing a diaper.

So today, instead of writing a blog about an experience I haven’t had, I’ll simply say this: Thank you for the sacrifices you make to support the soldiers you love and thanks to the soldiers themselves for the work they do to keep American civilians safe and free.

Are you a military family? How are you celebrating Memorial Day? And since I don’t have an appropriate picture to post of a Military Family for this blog, please feel free to share yours. We salute you!

 

I have three children, two girls and a boy, and all of them have very different personalities. I was just thinking back to their first year of life when they were reaching milestones like rolling over, sitting, crawling, clapping, walking and talking. Both of my girls were verbal very early and Cooper, my youngest and only boy, was much less so. What’s interesting, however, is not when they started speaking, but what each child’s first word actually was because I can now see that the word each child said first is representative of their personality today.

Lauren’s first was “Dada.” She began saying “Dada” at around ten months and would point at her daddy and smile as she said it over and over. Today Lauren is a people-pleaser. She loves to make her dad proud of her and she lights up when he praises her.  She’s a class clown, an actress, an extrovert and very popular with her school peers. It makes sense that her first word was a way for her to connect with a very important person in her life.

Kate and Bear 2011

Kate and Bear 2011

Kate’s first word was “Dog.” When Kate was born our 110 pound Rottweiler/Shepard mix named Bear was still alive. Kate would point to her and shriek and smile and say “Dog! Dog!” She also loved to point at and name any dog we passed on a walk. Today Kate is my emotionally fragile child, my most empathetic child and a care-giver. She picks up on the emotions and pain of others, and she cannot watch a show if it involves suffering or dying animals (neither can I!). She shines when she is around animals and seems to need the silent unconditional love that only a dog can provide. Dogs don’t judge or correct or criticize or care if you were just naughty. They just want to love and be loved. No matter how imperfect you may feel inside, a dog looks at his human and only sees the good things.

Cooper’s first word was “Ball.” Being the youngest and the only boy in the family, Cooper has been exposed to all kinds of girl and gender neutral toys and books. However, by design, he has come out fitting every stereo-typical boy trait there is. He loves all sports, he is interested in anything he can throw or kick, and he’s a natural athlete. We’ve had friends tell us he’ll be a high school soccer or basketball star for sure. He probably will be. From about one and a half, he’d watch others and then seem to unconsciously mimic their  form.  Even as a teeny toddler he was taking the two or three dribbles players always take before a free-throw, set his feet, bend his knees and then throw the ball in an upward arc toward the basket. He’s left footed and right handed and he continues to be very focused on sports and well, balls.

Are my children’s first words simply a coincidence or am I reading into their significance too much? Maybe. But I do believe children are motivated to verbalize things that they care about. Many children’s first word might be Mama. That’s certainly a no-brainer. Identifying the Center of Your Own Personal Universe is the perfect first word to master. What was your child’s first word? Do you think it reflects anything significant about his or her personality?

While perusing Facebook lately I’ve noticed something surprising over the past few days…the Anti-Mother’s Day Trend. There are several blogs, comments and rants all based on the wrongness of celebrating this day. Why? For a multitude or reasons—like the pain it brings to those who have lost their mothers, or to mothers who have lost children, or because some people had horrible, selfish mothers or because some seem to think it put’s Mothers on a pedestal and discounts the relevance of women who are not mothers by choice or circumstance. I say, “Lighten up, people!”

Photo on 3-26-15 at 8.48 AMTo me, Mother’s Day is not “All About Me,” and it’s not “All About My Mom.” I sent her a card, I gave her a call. She’s an amazing and inspiring woman who I cherish every day, no more, no less on Mother’s Day, than any other day of the year. And what did I do today? I worked my butt off. Did my family wait on me hand and foot? No. I was the cook, the maid, the nanny and nurse all darn day just like I always am. My husband did projects around the house and frankly, I was glad he did because being in a new house means there are still about 100 projects left. Sure, I got some home-made cards and an extra hug and that was enough. Maybe our family is missing out on a new sort of Mother’s Day that is like an all-day holiday celebration where Mom is pampered and lavished with gifts. Maybe other families were bathing their Mom’s feet in precious oil, fanning them with peacock feathers and feeding them grapes while they lounged on a chaise…but not here. I was just a mom and my kids were still kids. They still bickered a little, they still whined a little and I never sat down once.

Maybe the problem, for those who don’t like Mother’s Day (and I imagine they don’t like Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day either) is that it is simply a day that they feel brings attention to something that is painful for them. The Mother-Child relationship, be it healthy and loving or toxic and abusive, is something every human being on this earth has. You might not have a child but you most definitely have a mother. Do you need to celebrate her? Only if you want to. Or maybe they are sick of the blatant commercial consumerism involved in yet another holiday that involves cards, gifts and flowers. But I wish they wouldn’t make the mistake of reading too deeply into the fact that others celebrate this one day.

Most of the Mothers today, who were given cards and flowers or chocolate (or burned scrambled eggs and pancakes in bed), aren’t feeling like Motherhood has made them into some sort of Superior Beings or that Women Without Children are Missing Out. We’re really not. What we’re feeling most of the time is a mixture of being exhausted, overwhelmed, under-dressed, anxious, insecure and guilty because we’re trying to live up to a standard that isn’t realistic. We’re too busy worrying that we might get fired for being pregnant or taking off work when a child is sick too often. We’re trying to fix lunches, do laundry, break up fights, clean poop off the floor and deal with tantrums because “we cut a sandwich the wrong way,” or “put juice in the wrong color cup.” If a child is a pill in the grocery store, we get glared at or told to “control our children.” We get criticized for breastfeeding in public and we get criticized for not breastfeeding. Mothers don’t really feel superior– EVER. So for one day out of the whole year, frankly, I think somebody noticing all that we do is NICE. That’s all. It’s nice. It’s not necessary. It’s just nice.

I’ve said many times to my own competitive daughters “Just because I said something nice about your sister doesn’t mean I don’t love you too.” Just because someone else is celebrating a mother, it doesn’t make it a statement about you, or your mother, or your children, or lack thereof. If the day brings you pain, I am sorry. But I imagine seeing mothers and their children in the grocery store, at family reunions, at school and everywhere else you might come across them in life, is painful too. One day, I will lose my mother. And, though I can barely type the words, it’s possible I might lose a child. I can’t see into the future. But I vow, that no matter how much Mother’s Day might feel bittersweet or painful for me some day, I won’t ever shame others for celebrating it. It’s just a day.

Have you noticed the Anti-Mother’s Day Trend? What do you think of it?

Minivan: a personal-use van with unibody construction sharing an automobile platform in a one-box or two-box configuration — often featuring sliding doors for passenger access and configurable, stowable or removable seating. Taller than a sedan, hatchback, or a station wagon, the minivan features a shared interior volume that can flexibly reconfigure to prioritize either seating or cargo volume, with rear cargo access via a liftgate or tailgate. (Wikipedia)

My 2012 Honda Odyssey

My 2012 Honda Odyssey

It’s been a little over a week since my 2005 Chrysler Pacifica was (cough, cough) retired due to a mechanical issue. I replaced it with a 3 year old Honda Odyssey…one of the many makes and models of the Infamous Minivan. Minivans have gotten a bad rap. For instance, if a Subaru Outback were a person, it would be a chiseled young guy wearing new running sneakers and holding the leash of a grinning chocolate lab. A Toyota Camry might be a young professional sales woman who is working her way up the corporate ladder and sporting a power suit. A pick up truck might be a bearded man with a baseball cap and a tattoo on his upper arm. And the Minivan, ahhh, the minivan. Be it the Toyota Sienna, the Chrysler Town and Country or the Honda Odyssey, the minivan would be the Frumpy Mom, wearing old yoga pants and a coffee stained shirt, who is hauling around a load of loud-mouthed, sticky-fingered, crumb-dropping kids. Wait, that does sound like me! But guess what? I LOVE MY NEW MINIVAN.

Bring on the minivan jokes. I can take it. Here are the things I love most about driving my new minivan:

1) I love that it DOES NOT have a TV. My Pacifica came with a TV/DVD player built in and I hated it. That little device caused more fights and more screaming than any person trying to concentrate on driving should ever have to deal with. We don’t need a TV in the car when the kids are strapped in because they are strapped in. I need a TV at home when they are free to roam about and I actually NEED them to sit in once place and stare like zombies.

2) I love that I can fit 8 people in it. In all honesty, I am not planning on driving 8 people around in this thing very often, but if I need to, I can. It will be especially great when grandparents are visiting or for carpooling to and from school with friends.

3) I love that the seats come out. We have an SUV that also seats 8 but the middle row is fixed. The only way you can access the third row is to climb over the middle row or to climb into the back hatch. It’s a tight fit. And the seats get muddy with all the climbing. Very muddy. Since we need to haul three kids around on a regular basis, we’ve taken out the middle seat in the middle row of the van. This means we have an aisle for our oldest to walk down to get to her seat. This “walkway” also provides an important buffer between our second and third children. It’s harder to hit your sister when you are separated by an aisle and each strapped into pilot seats.

4) I love the sliding rear doors. Let me say that again. I. Love. The. Sliding. Doors. Oh, how these doors have made my life easier. Dropping the girls off at school used to involve our tiny first grader trying to push open a heavy door while holding her backpack and being pushed from behind by her impatient older sister. Now both girls can easily get in and out of the car themselves and I don’t need to get out to either open or close the doors. I just push a button. So easy. I only wish I had gotten a minivan sooner. How hard is it to put an infant seat into a car with a heavy door trying to shut on your arm? Or what about walking back with your child and your cart full of groceries, only to realize that you actually can’t open your doors wide enough to get your child into his car seat because someone parked so close the doors won’t open? That has happened to me more than once.

So to anyone who has said they are too cool for one of these practical, sleek and awesome grocery-getters, I say–anything that makes life a little easier for busy parents is cool enough for me!

What do you think of minivans? Do you love them or hate them?